If I recall correctly, Terry Greene is 34 years old. Jesus never attained that age. To some of you who are young, Terry Greene may seem very old to you, but to those of us of more mature years, he’s still a child. He’s still very young, his face is unlined, his body is just filling out with maturity, or whatever. Seriously though, in my business, one of the things that I do is to draw wills for people. And oftentimes parents defer the age at which inheritances are received beyond that age because they think their children are not mature enough to receive their inheritance.
Of course one might say that it was different in Palestine 2000 years ago, it was difficult too. It was different because we say, the land was full of famine and pestilence. Because the life expectancy for the average man may have been only 35. But that’s a misunderstanding, it seems to me. We have a faulty picture probably about the age of the population. The short life expectancy was primarily due to deaths in infancy. There were plenty of old people around when Jesus lived and preached and died. He, I’m sure, appeared to be a young man during his ministry. We know nothing about his appearance, at least we know nothing about his appearance from Scripture. We are reduced
to drawing some weak conclusions about things like, well Zacchaeus couldn’t see Him, and he had to climb a tree to see Him, and therefore Jesus must’ve been short. Or that He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass, and that’s a small animal, so he must’ve been under the average weight. But somehow, I can’t conceive of Jesus being ugly, or ill-formed, despite those passages in Isaiah where we read that: “He had no form or comeliness that we should desire Him.” Or, in the 52nd Chapter of Isaiah where we read that He had a “marred visage”. I think those Scriptures had to do with His appearance on the cross, in His death. I think Jesus must’ve been arresting in His appearance, striking, fascinating, magnetic.
Consider some of those verses in the 2nd Chapter of Luke, just two, the 40th Verse of the 2 Chapter, “And the child grew, and became strong in Spirit, filled with wisdom, and the Grace of God was upon Him.” And the 52nd Verse, and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” I think that Jesus was well thought of as a child, it says so here, and he was in favor, not only with God but with man.
Consider the behavior of Peter and Andrew, who prior to the day of Pentecost were not always pillars of conviction and courage. Jesus saw them on the seashore and in the account in Mark doesn’t say that He preached to them, He says “Come and I will make you fishers of men.” And what did they do? They dropped their nets and went after Him.
After all, Jesus was the Son of God, but He was also a man and we read that men were made in the image of God, and because of His relationship with His Father, isn’t it more likely that He more closely approximated that image than we do. I know one thing about Him, He led a very turbulent life, and I think the turbulence in His life, the masses of people that He attracted, were chaotic, the mob scene, that followed Him around was attributable not only to the miracles that He performed, but also perhaps to His arresting countenance.
Consider, if you will in Mark 1 starting at Verse 45 we read that “The leper went out and began to publish it much and to spread broad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was out in desert places, and they came to Him from every quarter.” In the second chapter: “And again He headed into Capernaum after some days and it was reported that He was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, not so much as about the door. And He preached the Word unto them. And they came unto Him bringing one sick of the palsy who was borne by four.. And when they could not come near unto Him for the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was, and when they had broken it up they let down the bed in which the sick and the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, ‘Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Consider that scene, a mob of people tearing the roof off the house, four men lifting a body down inside.
Imagine the chaos and the clamor.
Consider the situation of the man afflicted with the unclean spirit at the gathering country. This man, a single man in Mark, is described as a man who has broken his shackles, living in caves and mountains and wilderness like a wild animal. Everybody is frightened of him. Jesus causes the unclean spirit to leave that mind and to go into the body of the swine. But read closely, there were 2000 swine, they had keepers, they belonged to somebody, and when that spirit went in to 2000 swine there was a stampede, greater than one you’ve ever seen in a western movie, only there were hogs involved, and not cattle. 2000 hogs ran down a steep place and choked into the lake, and the keepers of the swine ran off. As a matter of fact, they were so frightened of Jesus that the multitudes finally came back and asked Jesus to leave. The man in whom the evil spirit was found said I want to go with You. And Jesus said to him: stay behind, and let them learn of the compassion of the Lord, or words to that effect.
But my point is, those two scenes which I just described were typical of His Ministry. It was chaotic. Dust flying, animals moving, people yelling, to get to Him and touch Him. The only time He had any privacy was when He went off into the wilderness. Despite all of the above, this Man was meek and lowly. This Man creating scenes causing a man to lose his whole herd of swine, no small loss, 2000 swine. I wonder if they were kept by a Jew, maybe there is some punishment involved there. But despite all that we read that Jesus was meek and lowly. What do we mean about that? More about that later.
It’s difficult to have fellow feeling with Jesus because the account of His life is so short. We only know Him in His official capacity, so to speak, as Savior of the world. We know Him in the intellect. It’s easier to know Him in the intellect than it is in the heart because we learn from Him in a few pages in a book, and not very many pages of description there. We know Him intellectually, but His Message we must know in the heart. It must move the heart or we have been unsuccessful as Christians. We at least must be moved to that extent.
About His childhood we know very little. We know He had a family, and at the age 12 He was discussing Scripture with the sages of the day, but apparently not in any know-it-all way, He was asking questions, they were answering questions, they were amazed at His answers, but they were not, so far as we can tell, put off by what He said. He was a curious, natural bright child, mature beyond His years, but still unremarkable, it seems to me in some ways, because when the caravan set off for home after leaving Jerusalem a whole day went without Joseph and Mary missing Jesus. He must’ve been playing with the other children. They must have had some thought about it, and it must’ve been the kind of thought that is associated with natural children. And of course when they discovered when He was missing they spent three days looking for Him. Really, all we know about His childhood after that was that He grew in stature and wisdom, and He was in favor in the sight of God, and in the sight of man.
Another reason why Jesus is difficult to know, is not only the shortage of information, but also because He is different from us. I don’t mean that He’s different in the sense that He’s of a different nature, and I don’t mean that He’s different in the sense that He lived in the Middle East 2000 years ago, and everybody then was different from the way we are now, their whole lives were different. His nature was the same, the testimony on that subject in the Bible is overwhelming, but the difference is the responsibility imposed upon Him. At age 12, He said to His parents: “Wist thee not that I must be about my Father’s Business?” Early in His life somehow He knew that the fate of the world was on His shoulders. Somehow He knew early in His life, that He was responsible for the salvation of the human race, and responsibility changes people, it makes them different from you and me. You know how responsibility affects you in your life, you know how you change when you enter into business, or get married, or your father dies and you have to assume responsibility. It makes a difference. And of course He had responsibility beyond our comprehension.
In experience, He sometimes seems to be callous in His treatment of His own family. We know He wasn’t callous, and we know He did have tender feelings for His family, we have particular testimony of John that while He was on the cross He gave the disciple whom He loved the care of His mother. He had that concern. But even that passage is so brief that it’s difficult to flesh out the man. We don’t know if He laughed, we do know that He wept, He wept when He learned of Lazarus’ death, but I did think He did laugh, and I think He did have joy as a child. He must’ve had at least the joy that came from learning and for seeing that He learned the Old Testament Scripture as a child would learn it, only faster and better. But again, we only know Jesus in His official capacity most of the time, or we only know the public Jesus, much like we only know the public Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or the public Herbert Hoover.
Another difficulty sometimes comes because we sometimes make Jesus one dimensional. It is in the nature of man to over-simplify, or to wish to simplify things. Everything is complicated, we want to make it simple. We hear things like “What do you think of when you think of Jesus?” Or, “The outstanding characteristic of Jesus was love.” We do the man Jesus a disservice when we think of Him in this over-simplified way, because Jesus was many things.
Let’s come back to meek and lowly. Jesus didn’t grovel along the ground. We stumble at words. Being meek and lowly did not mean that He did not have the courage of His convictions, could not be angry, aggressive, assertive. He was all of those things, but among other things, and probably most significantly, He was not pretentious. He understood what He was. Again, we stumble on words. This word “pretentious.” What does it mean to be pretentious? Was David pretentious when he wore the kingly garb? I don’t think so. But a commoner would be pretentious if he put on David’s robes. We live in a world where kings are accorded honor, and the trappings of royalty, that’s not pretension. It’s only when someone who is not entitled to those trappings assumes them that he’s pretentious. It’s not pretentious for example, to have table manners. We’re not animals and we ought not to act like them, but oftentimes we stumble on words.
Jesus knew that He was a man, subject to frailties, easily tempted, easily led astray, weak, imperfect, subject to illness, subject to death, subject to decay, and He didn’t pretend to be anything else. The Pharisees, whom He loathed, were pretentious. He considered them to be the “Children of Gehenna.” The children of destruction, who led the people astray because they pretended to be holy, sanctified, set apart, righteous. Particularly righteous. And they were righteous because of the meaningless works which they took so much pride in performing. Being pretentious has dogged the steps of humankind since its inception, from its beginnings on the earth. Everybody is capable of self delusion, which goes along with pretension. It has dogged the footsteps of those associated with the truth for its whole history. They get off on the wrong track. It is our job, though most of us are ill-equipped to perform it, to ferret out the meaning of obscure Scripture. To make rules, when the Scriptural basis for the rules is unclear. Sometimes our pretentious scholarship, I suspect, is a stench in the nostrils of Christ. I say this at a time when we’re hard quipped to excuse the lack of Bible study and we use any excuse to avoid it. But I say it advisedly.
In Mark, the briefest of the Gospels, Jesus was a grown man right at the beginning. So we didn’t waste a lot of chapters with describing his early life. The book only has 16 chapters, and here we are in Chapter 9 of Mark, the 9th verse, this is right after the Mount of Transfiguration, when they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged Peter, James and John that they should tell no man what they had seen until the Son of Man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying to themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean. Now the only other reference in the Gospel so far, to sensitive Gospel information is in the previous chapter, the 8th Chapter of Mark, along about the 31st to 33rd verses where he talks about to his disciples that He is going to be killed and in three days rise again.
Two chapters earlier, in the 6th Chapter of Mark Jesus had charged the 12 to go out two by two and preach something to people. What was it that they were supposed to preach, since here we are three chapters later, in the 9th Chapter, learning some sensitive doctrine that one would have thought they would have been supplied with when they went out to preach three chapters earlier, much time earlier. Well, its clear that what the message was for the people to go out, let me read it to you. The 6th Chapter of Mark, 12th Verse: “And they went out and preached that men should repent, and they cast out many demons, devils, and they anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” So they told them to repent. That word in the New Testament has a special meaning, in the message of John and the message of Jesus. “Repent” literally translated means “have a new mind.” Have a new mind, don’t have a mind like the Pharisees anymore. Recognize yourself for what you are. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and you’re ill prepared to enter into it because you’re weak and miserable and sinful, and you think you’re righteous. So, have a new mind. And to prove the authenticity of that message they were given the right to perform and did perform miracles.
But I stray from my subject, “The Man Jesus.” Another characteristic that Jesus had was courage, going against the grain. Overcoming the coward in Himself. Being willing to stand up and be counted. One Man against the Roman world. One Man against the Jewish world. One Man against the Greek world. One Man against the world of ideas. A better word to describe that characteristic is fortitude. Because he wasn’t courageous just once, it was required of Him to be courageous all His Life. He was put in fear of death all His life, put in fear of physical harm all His Life, but He didn’t turn from His duty. Now He had the same problem about this that we have about Him. Intellectually He knew that God would save Him until the end, I suppose, but in His Heart He had fear. Intellectually we know Jesus, but in our heart we sometimes forget Him.
The final characteristic of Jesus that I want to mention, and there are many others I could discuss, is compassion. In Mark the 1st Chapter, the 40th through the 42nd verses, when He cured the leper, the leper, looking up at Christ, seeking His help, it says “Jesus moved with compassion, stretched forth His hand.” Seven times in the Scriptures Jesus was moved with compassion similarly. This is the quality He seeks to instill in us. The paramount quality. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, which I’d like to read to you, but time does not permit it, He talks about the Good Samaritan, who does what the Jews wouldn’t do for this poor man. And He concludes the parable with: “Go now and do likewise.”
How did it all end for Jesus? A few verse starting at the 34th Verse of the 15th Chapter of Mark: “At the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice saying ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani’ which is being interpreted ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And some of them that stood by, when they heard it saying ‘Behold, He called Elijah.’ And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar and put it on a reed and gave him to drink saying, ‘Let be.” (This is a Scofield Bible), “let Him alone” “Let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down. And Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the spirit, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing Him saw that He so cried out and gave up the spirit, he said ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God.”
In John it is recorded that what He cried out was “It is finished!” This was a scream, He screamed and He died. And the world has never been the same since.