Remember Jesus Christ

By Charles R Erdman

Chapter 2 - Jesus Faces Jerusalem


Some years ago a book was written with the title The Man Nobody Knows. The purpose of the author was to show that Christ is commonly supposed to have been a weak, harmless, helpless man, who was properly symbolized as a “Lamb,” whereas He really was strong, fearless, undaunted, and correctly designated as the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” Whoever else may have held such a false conception of our Lord, the mistake never could be traced to the evangelist Luke. In his portrait of the Ideal Man, the most prominent feature is that of courage. When Jesus is seized by His hostile fellow-townsmen at Nazareth, when the mob was about to murder Him by throwing Him down from the brow of a hill, Luke tells us how “He passing through the midst of them went his way.” Or, when He was advised to leave the country as Herod was seeking to destroy Him, He defied the king with these words of bold rebuke: “Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.”

The courage of Christ, however, is set forth most impressively by the very structure of this Third Gospel. In Luke some ten chapters are devoted to the record of the last journey of our Lord toward Jerusalem. Matthew devotes two chapters to this period, Mark only one, but over his unique narrative Luke places the inscription: “He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Again and again we are told what He saw awaiting Him in that city — the scourging, the mockery, the crown of thorns, the hours of agony, the darkness of death. During all those long days of journeying, of teaching, of healing, of unselfish service, He saw clearly on the horizon the outline of a cross; yet fearlessly, with unhesitating, unfaltering steps He pressed on toward the doom that was before Him. All the heroisms of history pale into insignificance when contrasted with this incomparable courage of Christ.

As, in memory, during the days between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, we review the closing scenes in the life of our Lord, we too are facing toward Jerusalem. Therefore, no more fitting messages could be found than the chapters in which Luke records those “last journeys.” The material is surprising in its variety and extent; much of it can be found in no other Gospel; all of it is pertinent to the season of Lent.

For example, as the story opens, He who was about to suffer so pitifully from the cruelty and injustice of men, gives an impressive example of forbearance, of patience, and of kingly dignity. His way was to lead through the borders of Samaria; so “he sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.'* This refusal of hospitality was a gratuitous insult. It was due to a mean and provincial prejudice. These Samaritans were jealous that Jesus, and the large number of His followers, planned to visit the Jewish capital and not their own city of Samaria. “When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them? . . . But he turned, and rebuked them . . .. And they went to another village,” for there is no place among the disciples of Christ for anger, or intolerance or revenge.

“As they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” Evidently he was moved by his emotions. He felt the excitement of the crowd. He imagined it would be a glad adventure to appear in the company of the Great Prophet; but he had not considered that it might involve sacrifice and hardship. For this reason Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Christ wishes no one to follow Him rashly. Discipleship is worth any price, but the Master wishes each volunteer to count the cost.

“He said unto another. Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” He may have meant, merely, until his father was dead and buried he would be needed at home. However, our Savior regarded the reply as an insincere excuse, and He said, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Those who had never heard the call of hrist might be left to the care of the spiritually dead, but the invitation to follow Christ involved the possibility of proclaiming a message of life. Surely the most tender tie must not keep one from accepting the summons of the Savior.

“Another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house/* Here was indecision and a desire for delay. Our Lord replies, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.*' One who sees clearly the glory of a Christian life and then turns back is self-condemned. He is unfit for a place in the kingdom.

During these last short weeks of His life, our Lord realized that He could reach with His glad message only a small fraction of those in His land. He was eager to have His gospel more widely proclaimed. Therefore He “appointed other seventy also, and sent them . . . into every city and place, whither he himself would come.** He exhorted them to pray “the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.** All who truly remember Christ should share His desire for a wider and more speedy preaching of the gospel, and in word and deed express their eagerness for a greater number of workers. When the Seventy returned, rejoicing in the results of their labors, the Lord saw in their success a prophecy of the final defeat of all the powers of darkness. He bade His messengers to rejoice not only in their success but in the fact that they were His servants and certain to share in His triumph.

A lawyer, who knew that God requires one to love his neighbor as he loves himself, sought to justify his lack of such love by some false view of what it is to be a neighbor. Our Lord convicted him by the parable of the Good Samaritan. When the priest and the Levite neglected a poor suffering man whom the robbers had wounded, a despised Samaritan cared for him and gave him most generous relief. Jesus showed that a neighbor is not merely a man who needs your help, but also one who helps your need.

One of His last journeys brought Jesus to Bethany, where He was received as a guest in the home of Mary and Martha. Both sisters sought with equal devotion to honor the Master. Mary sat reverently listening to His teaching, but Martha became nervous and irritable in preparing for Him a needlessly elaborate meal. Jesus gave His word of loving counsel: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” So He teaches all His disciples, that quietly seeking to learn of Him may be more pleasing to their Lord than a wearisome round of devoted activities.

During these last days of His ministry the Master gave His disciples frequent lessons in the school of prayer. He taught them by His own example; He taught them by a form which is commonly known as the “Lord's Prayer,” and by such precepts as “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”; He also taught them by memorable parables. Among the latter may be mentioned the story of the friend who was given bread at midnight because of his importunity; thus the followers of Christ are encouraged to perseverance in prayer.

Then there is the unrighteous judge, who, to escape the annoyance of an injured widow's repeated pleas, grants her the justice she deserves; how much more will a loving and merciful Father give heed to the cries of His own children. Humility and penitence are conditions of prevailing prayer. Thus the self-righteous Pharisee, who proudly thanked God that he was “not as other men are,” is contrasted with the Publican who cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” and who "went down to his house justified rather than the other.”

The most familiar and appealing of all the parables of our Lord is that of the Prodigal Son. No parable could be more relevant to the Lenten season, which is designed to secure repentance and spiritual renewal. Many who in self-will have been living far away from happiness and home, disillusioned, disgraced and in distress, have been turned by this short story to find a loving pardon and a royal welcome in the Father's home. Much, too, can be learned from the elder brother in the parable. He has never left the house, but really has been living far away, feeling for his father neither sympathy nor love. Will he repent; will he give heed to the father's pathetic plea; will he accept the riches and the fellowship and the joy which his father is eager to give?

By His parables the Master is giving instruction not only in prayer and penitence, but also in the use of worldly possessions. The Prodigal shows how wealth may be squandered; the Dishonest Steward how it may be unjustly employed; the Rich Man and Lazarus how it may be retained selfishly and cruelly.

Some days earlier Christ had given a warning against covetousness. It was enforced by the parable of the Rich Fool. The man in the parable was rather embarrassed by his increasing wealth, and he felt quite secure for the future. “I will pull down my barns, and build greater . . . . And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

On the other hand, the Master would have His followers free from anxiety. He drew His lessons from the beautiful book of nature. If God cares for the birds and clothes the flowers in their loveliness, will He not supply the wants of His children? Therefore they should not be anxious about food and clothing, for the Father knows their need of these things. They are to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, humbly trusting that these necessary things will be added unto them.

There must be no carelessness as to that kingdom, either in its present form or in its future glory. The invitation to a Christian life was compared, in a parable, with the summons to a Great Supper. Those who declined to come gave flimsy excuses which showed their absorption in selfish interests and a complete disregard of the one who had offered to be their host. So to refuse the call of Christ is to indicate a blind indifference to what He has to offer and a failure to appreciate the joy of fellowship with Him.

In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, there was one who did realize the fullness of life which our Lord was able to bestow; but he was not willing to sacrifice his riches in order to secure what he needed and really craved. His was a fateful and deliberate choice; his was the “Great Refusal.” Christ does not always demand the sacrifice of wealth, but He does teach us that nothing, however precious, must be allowed to stand in the way of fellowship with Him.

As Christ passed through Jericho He rescued a man who was endangering his soul by the way in which he was increasing his wealth. Zacchaeus was a “publican,” a collector of taxes. That he was notoriously evil, we do not know; but publicans secured their income largely by extortion, dishonesty and cruelty; and as Zacchaeus was “the chief among publicans” and as “he was rich,” his character was not above suspicion. However, he seemed to have an impression that there was in life something better than wealth. “He sought to see Jesus,” and he was surprised that Jesus called him by name. Still more was he surprised that Jesus knew his need. Most of all was he astonished to find himself accepting Christ as his Master and entering upon a new life. This was his confession: “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” Then came to him these words of assurance: “This day is salvation come to this house . . .. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

During His last journey toward Jerusalem our Lord, again and again, predicted the sufferings and death which there awaited Him; but He also foretold His resurrection; and, moreover, announced His future coming in glory. In view of that return. He gave extended exhortations to watchfulness. It was with this in view that He narrated the Parable of the Pounds, the last lesson which Luke records as delivered when Jesus drew near to Jerusalem. Its purpose, in part, was to correct a false idea that “the kingdom of God should immediately appear”; but further to show what really is meant by “watching for the Lord's return.” This should not suggest mere idle dreaming but active service. “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.” To each of ten servants he gave an equal sum of money, telling them to trade with it until he should come again. When he returned he found that one had gained ten times the amount entrusted, another five, but a third had allowed the treasure to lie unused. Then those who had been diligent received proportionately large rewards, but from the unfaithful servant his treasure was taken away and he received only a severe and merited rebuke.

By this significant parable, our Lord taught His disciples that, while looking for His return, they must make wise use of every instrument and opportunity to serve Him. He has entrusted to His followers not only wealth, but time and talents which should be employed to advance His cause. The greater the faithfulness the greater will be their rewards; not to use is to lose the entrusted treasure. Those most accustomed to “remember Jesus Christ” will surely be those who are most faithful in employing His gifts, and will be most joyful in expecting His return.