It is easy, given the cultural trend of our age, to read the words of Jesus concerning tradition (Matt. 15: 1-6) and then climb up on our high horse and engage in a rant. “Yes, he is beating on tradition,” we say. “Giving it what it deserves.” “Tradition is out; the forward look is in.” But this would be a mistake and a careless reading of the passage. Tradition of course has its pitfalls. It can be dangerous and damaging. But in assessing it we must pay attention to the counterbalance found in a verse like 2nd Thessalonians 2:15.
At a glance it would seem that Jesus did not strictly uphold all the laws of the Old Testament. Although both Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 state that in a case of adultery both adulterers should be stoned, Jesus refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). On the other hand, Jesus told the leper He cleansed to go show himself to the priest (Matthew 8:1-4), enjoining thereby a process that involved obeying ritual laws of cleanliness.
Each semester in my Christian Ethics class, I have a unit on the Ten Commandments. I used to assign a reaction paper in which each student would write on how Ellen White’s exposition of the Decalogue affected his or her understanding of any two out of the final six commandments. The results were predictable yet frustrating: The vast majority of students used Ellen White’s comments to conjure up a near-infinite number of ways a given commandment could be broken, would plead guilty to breaking the command in multiple manners, and then conclude that the commandments were impossible to keep.
Whenever I discuss the cost of discipleship, I have a rather large bias. I suppose it was triggered when reading Oswald Chambers’magnificent devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. One of the central themes that drills throughout his writings is the unavoidability of death in our discipleship to Jesus. Here’s an extended quote from January 15:
There is just no escaping it . . . harvesting is hard work, often involving very long hours under the intense sun in order to bring the crop to market. I experienced this first-hand when I would get up at 1:30 am in the morning in order to load four trucks with twenty-five tons of alfalfa hay each, often under 110 degree heat in the Sacramento Valley of California.
In the teacher’s edition of this week’s lesson study, there is an exercise titled “Jesus Chairs the Nominating Committee.” The instructions are to write the list of current church offices, such as children’s Sabbath School teacher, social activities director, elder, deacon, greeter, church clerk, etc. on a white board for a discussion of how essential these positions are to the mission of the church, and what would Jesus do with a list like this?
Our topic for this week is “Discipling the Nations” and the most obvious place to start is with the Great Commission which is found at the end of Matthew’s gospel. “Go make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) is perhaps its most well known phrase. The Greek word for “nations” here is “ethne” where we get our English word “ethnic” from. Thus the Great Commission goes far beyond the 200 plus nations that are in the world today and encompasses the many thousands of ethnic groups which are currently inhabiting and moving all over the globe.