Saturday, February 22, 2014

Commentary: With the Rich and Famous

 With the Rich and Famous

Last week I made the mistake of giving a title of the lesson that it did not have.  I called it discipling the outcasts.  The real title was “Jesus and the outcasts.”  This week’s lesson does not use the verb discipling either.  It is entitled “With the rich and famous.”  This is not, I believe, a trivial matter.  Most of the other lessons that talks about categories of people talk about how to make them disciples.  We have covered in the previous weeks the Biblical definition of disciple, and what it implies.  Can this definition apply to the outcasts, the rich and the famous?  The chosen titles for the lesson seem to be giving an incorrect understanding that these categories of people will not be disciples. 

The woman at the well told everyone about Jesus, so did the man freed from demons (John 4: 28 – 30; Mark 5: 19 – 20).  Then we have Nicodemus and Joseph of A.  Ellen White says about Nicodemus,

When at last Jesus was lifted up on the cross, Nicodemus remembered the teaching upon Olivet: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." The light from that secret interview illumined the cross upon Calvary, and Nicodemus saw in Jesus the world's Redeemer.  …  After the Lord's ascension, when the disciples were scattered by persecution, Nicodemus came boldly to the front. He employed his wealth in sustaining the infant church that the Jews had expected to be blotted out at the death of Christ. In the time of peril he who had been so cautious and questioning was firm as a rock, encouraging the faith of the disciples, and furnishing means to carry forward the work of the gospel. He was scorned and persecuted by those who had paid him reverence in other days. He became poor in this world's goods; yet he faltered not in the faith which had its beginning in that night conference with Jesus.  {DA 177}

Nicodemus became a disciple of Christ in all the sense of the word.  Now, we need to make sure we understand that although the words of Christ to the woman at the well were different from the words to Nicodemus they are in essence the same concept.  Christ used words that each of His listeners would understand.  The woman at the well understood the Gospel from the perspective of Living water.  Nicodemus understood it from the perspective of being born again and light versus darkness.  These two metaphors are not that non-relatable.  Fetuses are in darkness in the womb: once born they are exposed to the light. 

Once born, the fetus cannot go back in.  Imagine a fetus that could rationally think.  He starts setting goals and making plans for his tenth month in the womb.  Then all of the sudden he is born.  Whatever goals and plans he had will never be.  It is a new world.  It is a new life.  New goals and plans must be set and made for the new life.  Such is the new birth experience.  The life in the womb represents, in this metaphor, the life of the flesh.  The life outside the womb is the life in the Spirit. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The problem with many of us is that we refuse to leave the womb.  It is warm, cozy, and comfortable – like the Shunamite’s room when her lover comes knocking (Songs 5: 1 – 3).  We like its darkness.  Consider what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3,

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

John 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 

This is the problem with Laodicea.  It prefers to live in deception. It prefers its spiritual blindness.  “If I cannot see it, I do not have to deal with it.  I do not know, therefore, I should not be held response.”  If a man is diagnosed with cancer, and refuses to know what he has, the disease with still kill him.  The death could have been prevented if the man would have chosen to hear the diagnosis, and chosen to undergo its treatment.  What is the problem with Laodicea?

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Like Nicodemus, Laodicea is living comfortably in its delusion, unaware of its true condition and how it makes God feels.  God wants so much to heal Laodicea. We read God’s plea on the following verses,  

 Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

This message is akin to the young rich ruler.  “You think you have all that, but you lack one thing.  Therefore sell all you have, and give it to the poor, and follow me.”  It is a call to discipleship.  We are Nicodemus.  We are the young rich ruler.  Christ’s plea to them is His plea to us.  

Raul Diaz