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What’s the Risk?

The Adult SS Guide has given us a galaxy to contemplate, not only one star—all focusing on our Lord’s mediatorial work as the Grace Giver.

This week we look again at that sad, distraught victim of womanhood who had tried everything that medicine had suggested for at least 12 years. She had been living with that dread word, “incurable.” She had heard and seen the many who praised this remarkable Galilean who had been doing wonders for others, and the wild thought came to her: “Is there any hope for me?”

She wiggled her way through the crowds. But the crowd was so turbulent and noisy, she knew she could not get Jesus’ attention.  Her exhausted faith was only strong enough to touch His garment. But something happened that changed her life and gave hope for so many for centuries after.

Yet, many others in that crowd must have bumped against Him. But Jesus stopped! He had time and desire to speak to His new friend, “Who touched Me?” Was she embarrassed? Of course, plenty! But she knew something wonderful had happened to her! She could have tried to vanish but Jesus was ready to give the bustling crowd a great lesson: “Your faith has made you well!” (NKJV)

Wow! Where better has Jesus or anyone else focused on the divine-human co-op plan?  It works every time that it is tried! The essence of the gospel! Of course, the lady had no ability to save herself but she did have a willing will and Jesus did His part of the deal—human trust and divine response.

Faith is that word along with grace, that has divided Christianity since the first century—and that is why Paul and James had to clarify how faith works. No, not a pagan idea wherein one could think or say something to one’s god and expect a miracle. No, neither the shortcut that many Christians have made when they raise their hands to show that they accept Jesus as their Savior but not Jesus as their Lord who now empowers them to overcome temptation of all types.

This is a “come to Jesus “ moment every day of our lives as we realize more and more of  known duty—it always becomes clearer and inviting if we will it: “Your faith has made you well—go in peace.”

But not many days hence and those pressing crowds were ready to shout, “Crucify Him!” How many of us really know what is possible in our own hearts? When push comes to shove? (Ask Cranmer and Ridley as they encouraged each other on the burning stakes in front of Oxford University. Ask those today who are being murdered for their faith in certain Muslim countries!) Some people through the centuries have known the peace of faith in the midst or horror.

Those other daily titles in our lesson say it all: “Laid Aside His Garments,” “Nor Rend His Clothes,” “Garments of Mockery,” “They Parted My Garments.” Could any language better emphasize our Lord’s “emptying Himself” ―His reason for becoming the Mediator for all created intelligences? From beginning to end, Jesus has revealed Himself to angels and to earthlings as the greatest story rarely told—the story of lowliness, the mystery of self-reduction or self-erasing.

I know we are space limited but perhaps we can pause for a few moments and think about our Creator’s risk in creating thinking individuals, angels or humans.  Think of the risk that God looked at as He desired to love His creation (Rev. 13:8).  Any attempt to reveal Himself, His glory, His character, involved moving between the invisible world and the visible (to us and to angels) for obvious reasons.  To share His love He had to “go down.” To reveal Himself, He had to go all the way down to His created intelligences, first the angels, then to humans.

The summit of love is always humility and a person who is humble takes considerable risk. All those who try it know what I mean.

Some may ask, “What’s the risk?” The risk of being misjudged, especially by one who is proud.  Think of the Pharisees who scolded Jesus for eating with sinners, etc.  That’s why Jesus had to face the sniping as others tried to keep Him down to their level: ”What good thing can come out of Nazareth?” In other words, He is no better than I am. Why should I pay attention to Him? Pride has no problem with those on the same level or lower!

Exactly what happened in Heaven when Jesus became the angel’s Mediator! His job was to talk about His Father in heaven.   All went well until Lucifer began to compare himself with Jesus, the Archangel. After all, Jesus was more interested in revealing love (humility and grace) than in falling back on the power card—His majesty as Creator.  But this humble outreach, this revelation, was misinterpreted.

All this became a trial for Lucifer as it does for each of us―-if our hearts are not melted, they become hardened.  Only at this point did the Father feel forced to reveal all the facts. He set forth, before all the heavenly hosts, the true position of Jesus and how this relation sustained all created beings. When Jesus did not “prove” His case, the Father stepped in.  Jesus would still exercise His power but in all this he would not seek power or exaltation. It was love that would exalt His Father’s glory by revealing love in all its forms—that’s what God wants all His children to do for everyone’s good.

But all this clarification caused a conflict within. Pride and desire for supremacy flared (after all, he was chief of the angels before Jesus slipped into the realm of the visible). He didn’t really appreciate all the high honors he did have. Why should be accept this new order?

And the Great Controversy began: truth against jealousy, envy and hate. To accept the truth as outlined by the Father God is a call to “bow down.” But Satan turned inward and forever. The deadening poison of the self-centered. The ultimate cause of spiritual suicide, then and now! The rejection of sober-minded realism. The acceptance of vanity/pride—the attitude of the illusionist—willful sentimental emptiness. The Great Lover pleading with the Ego-centric one.

How did it happen? He didn’t understand how the Archangel had or could or would “lay aside His garments.” He reasoned that the Archangel’s long-suffering was a sign of His inferiority—His mercy was misrepresented. So he thought, “See, he is no better than I am. Perhaps I can climb over him.” But then that pagan thought of being as wise, or wiser than God flooded his mind until it created a dark, awful gulf. One-third of the angels drifted into that dark abyss where “reason” overcame reality: why did Jesus veil His so-called divinity? Perhaps Lucifer is right—Jesus was “low” as they were, not just humble, and they treated Him accordingly.

And then of all things!! Satan, now, had to watch his hated antagonist continue to “go down” into that new world called Earth. Wherever He went He constantly pointed away from Himself to the Father. Then He became a little baby. This was that point of lowliness where He could really reveal God and vindicate His name.

This is where Paul caught the drama: “But made Himself of no reputation [Gr: emptied Himself] . . . . He humbled Himself and became obedient . . . even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:6,7.  How far down did Jesus have to go to get our attention and to die for our sins.

It is today just like it was in heaven and in Judea 2000 years ago: a heart decision as well as mental acknowledgement. Everyone must face the lesson this week, knocking at the door of everyone who has that great gift of free will. We see it everywhere—different reactions when faced with lowliness. It forces a decision. What would you do if you were among the angels and Jesus, the humble, lowly One was holding out His hands?  We melt or we are hardened!

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