It’s the Holy Week for Christians, and I reverently remember our Lord, Christ Jesus. In the quiet of my domain, I search the Bible for answers to my questions such as what was Jesus’ real ministry on earth? Did Jesus practice a religion or was He a rebel who rode off into the desert eluding Roman authorities?
Jesus spread the principles of entering God’s kingdom to all walks of life in Galilee, Capernaum, Judea, and Nazareth. He started at about the age of thirty at the River Jordan near Bethany-across-the-Jordan where He called His first five disciples. Though our Savior was Jewish, his ministry often taught parables and verses from the “sacred books” which we know today as the Old Testament. But, sometimes He referred to the Hebrew Bible, specifically the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the Torah, and the Book of Psalms.
As you may detect, Jesus disdained religious discord. He wanted people to love one another and love God. This was the basic concept of all His messages and the only way to heaven. Love and kindness is not a religion but an emotion, so He reached listeners through relationships rather than synagogues. When we integrate the theory of one religion into our life, God’s lessons often become overshadowed by hypocrisy, hatred, and division. Today’s religious persecution of humanity is such an example of this concept. Instead of loving one another and maintaining the state of our hearts, we fight to the end defending our religious rights. This was the exact reason Jesus’ ministry remained non-denominational – one church under Christ Jesus.
The parables Jesus taught became His primary method of speaking His Father’s words. He rarely used texts out of scriptures nor explained or commented on them. He considered this “preaching,” not teaching; instead, He left Himself open to interpretation and offered a story for listeners to ponder and ask, how can this get me into heaven? The Parable of the Mustard Seed was Jesus’ favorite.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF JESUS’ MINISTRY
At the core of Jesus’ ministry were a few critical impressions which He consistently shared with everyone; foremost was love. Believers asked Him occasionally which commandment was the greatest, and His response stood with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.” His second favorite was, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the nucleus of everything right and perfect in the world. Jesus taught examples of love and compassion by healing the sick, restoring eyesight, and feeding the hungry. But, He emphasized loving our enemies for even though they are wicked, they also need love. “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”
Forgiveness was the second most important concept to Jesus. He spoke we must repent of sins and ask God for forgiveness so God may forgive our wrongdoings. Jesus claimed we must forgive every time we are wronged. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Jesus also warned His listeners not to judge others since we are all sinners. Though born sinless, He still had mercy and compassion for mankind. He often told the story of an adulteress woman about to be stoned to death (found in John 8:1-30). Jesus told her accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” They all departed and Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”
WEALTH AND POVERTY
Jesus did not speak it is a sin to be wealthy, only that we give our riches back to the Lord and others in need. He spoke of the affluent becoming too attached to material possessions for when we die, our “objects of happiness” will mean nothing. Christ used the example of a rich man who lived by all the other commandments, and he approached Him to find out how to have eternal life. Jesus replied, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man became very sad because he could not part with his riches. Jesus later told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Doesn’t say much for the Powerball today, does it?
Let us analyze your strength, as a Christian, in this situation. If Jesus were to come to you today and ask you to give up your home and all possessions to follow Him, WOULD YOU DO IT? If the answer is yes, you may find eternal salvation in heaven. If the answer is no, it is time to question your faith and love of money and objects. What means more to you – living as one with God, now and forevermore, or exploiting the riches which cease after you die and you stand in judgment by the Lord? Will it be God or your self-centeredness?
Jesus learned of hypocrisy by observing the Pharisees. They prayed in the streets and always attended the temple, but the inside, their contemptible hearts were made of stone. He loathed hypocrisy in any form. Our sovereignty to God is a private matter and not to be exploited in crowds. You may ask why this is imperative? Because we are sinners, our actions often fall short of God’s requirements. If we expose our praise and inner thoughts of God to outsiders, yet our daily activities show different, we become deemed a hypocrite and severely judged. Many non-believers will not follow the church because of this very reason.
Jesus often taught the nature and power of prayer. He emphasized “The Lord’s Prayer” and said it was not for show but a private matter. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Prayers are to be directed to God the Father only, not angels, saints, or Mary. Jesus considered chanting of prayers to be of pagan roots, now observed in Catholic and Orthodox churches. He asked we use prayers to develop a close, personal relationship with God.
Do we see the irony in Jesus’ instruction on praying? How many large churches, today, organize huge crusades and festivals to bring people closer to God? How often do we receive an invite on Facebook to join a Watch Party where someone is screaming out the name of the Lord and asking for forgiveness? The idea churches adopted prayer methods against Jesus’ teaching is quite a dose to swallow. They walk in total disregard of the foundation of God’s word!
Christ Jesus tested and prevailed in His ministry of love, right down to His last days. He was a sinless mortal man leading the way for humanity to follow in His footsteps. Yes, Jesus paid the ultimate price for His beliefs in love.
On this day, Good Friday, I plead my faith to Him, under the cross which He brutally hung on for me and all sinners. I also pray my Father will bless my ongoing ministry for all who come searching to fill a void in their heart with our Lord, Jesus Christ. And finally I pray, friends, you find God’s peace and love on this holy weekend. www.danabicksauthor.com