Was Jesus too negative?

dscf1444c-cThe Sermon on the Mount is widely regarded as one of the most influential speeches in human history.  This world has been made so much better through the centuries as men and women have applied these teachings of Jesus to their lives.  The sermon is truly a masterpiece from the Master Himself!

But one thing seems to have been rarely noticed about the sermon:  It is overwhelmingly negative.  Any honest, unvarnished look at it, uncolored by our modern negative view of negativity, would reach this conclusion.

Don’t believe me?   Just look in Matthew’s account for yourself.

In chapter five Jesus corrects a great number of misconceptions that His listeners had heard.  He repeatedly uses the words “you have heard that it was said…but I say unto you.”  He is basically telling people that what they’d heard and thought before was either no longer valid or just flat wrong.

In chapter seven, Jesus tells His listeners that few will go to heaven, and that many will walk the broad way that leads to eternal destruction (7:13-14).   He also says that many who call Him Lord will not enter the kingdom of heaven because they practice lawlessness (7:22-23).  Ouch!  That’s some negative preaching!

But chapter six of Matthew’s record contains an absolute onslaught of negativity, made conspicuous by Jesus’ repeated use of the command “do not.”

  • “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (6:1 )
  • “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (6:2)
  • “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (6:3)
  • “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (6:7)
  • “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (6:8)
  • “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (6:16)
  • Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” (6:19)
  • “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (6:25)
  • “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'”(6:31)
  • “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (6:34)

In case you weren’t counting, that’s TEN TIMES in this one chapter that Jesus begins a command with “DO NOT!”  How could such negative words make such a positive impact? Could it be that some of us are positively wrong when it comes to negativity?  Could it be that positive change is effected as much by the things we avoid and subtract as by the things we add and pursue?  WHO KNEW?!?   Jesus did.

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The Deity is in the Details

  Romans 1:4 tells us that Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”  The resurrection of Jesus, more than perhaps any other single event, demonstrates to mankind the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth.

  People being raised from the dead, while not an everyday occurrence in Bible times, certainly happened occasionally.  Jesus raised Lazarus, the widow’s son at Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and perhaps others (John 11; Luke 7:11-15, 22; 8:49-56).  None of these individuals are thought to be “gods” because they were raised from the dead.

  The case of Jesus is plainly different.  As Jesus lies in the tomb, there is no human standing outside calling him to come forth, no one taking Him by the hand and commanding Him to arise.  His body lies alone in Joseph’s new tomb and the tomb is sealed and closely guarded.  No human even witnesses His actual resurrection — when the angel rolled away the stone the guards “became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4).  Jesus’ resurrection was accomplished directly by the power of God.  The fact that “God raised up” Jesus is declared many times in the Book of Acts (2:24, 32; 3:13; 4:10; 10:40; 13:30, 37).  And it is this fact that identifies Jesus as the Divine Son of God.

  The resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred in such a way as to leave men with physical and testimonial evidence of it.  The details of this evidence give us striking proof of the authenticity of the resurrection, and thus of the Deity of Christ.  Consider the following details:

  • The tomb was new and no one had been laid to rest there before (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51).  There was no possibility of getting Jesus’ body confused with the remains of another, or failing to remember where it had been placed in a tomb that housed many corpses.

  • The tomb was sealed with a large stone and guarded. (Matthew 27:60-66).  Grave robbers or others could not have taken the body.

  • The grave clothes were left neatly in the tomb. When Peter and John went into the tomb after the resurrection, they “saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” (John 20:6-8).  Who would steal a body and take the time to unwrap it and neatly fold up the clothes?  Who would not take the expensive grave wrappings if they had been raised from the dead? (Perhaps Someone who knew that He would never need them again!)

  • The scars in Jesus’ resurrected body were examined.  On the very evening of the day He was raised, Jesus appeared to His disciples and “showed them His hands and His side” (John 20:20).  While wounds in the hands could be observed on anyone who had been crucified, Jesus’ wound in His side was somewhat unique.  It offers gruesome evidence not only of His identity, but also of what His now living body had once endured.

  • Many saw Him alive.  The number of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection makes it all the more credible.  In a court of law, facts can be demonstrated on the basis of two or three reliable witnesses.  Many, many more than that saw the resurrected Christ, including the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Cleopas, James, 500 brethren at once, and finally the apostle Paul.

  The detailed and reliable evidence we have been given for the resurrection of Jesus should make it all the easier to believe that it occurred.  And believing in the resurrection of Jesus is the key to our salvation and the cause for our commitment to Him. “Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14).

— Steve Klein

Immersed in Jesus

  baptizedinChristWhen a person immerses himself in something, he totally surrounds himself with it. He spends time thinking about it and making plans around it.  It occupies his mind, utilizes his energy and expends his resources. 

  People can immerse themselves in many different things.  Some are immersed in hobbies, recreation or sports such as hunting, fishing, college football, baseball, golf, racing, collecting, or gardening.  Others are immersed in their work or school.  Some are immersed in their children or grandchildren.  When a person is seriously sick, it is easy to become immersed with health concerns. 

  As Christians, “we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).  Most of us understand that the word “baptized” means “immersed.”  But what we may not have thought much about is the connection between being immersed in water and being immersed in Jesus.  The apostle Paul puts it this way in Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Those of us who have been “baptized into Christ” are to have put Him on like a garment.  We are to be covered up with Him — immersed in Him. 

  By itself, immersion in water does nothing to change a person’s life.  But when that immersion is the beginning of being overwhelmed with Jesus Christ, lives are truly changed.  Baptism into Christ results in a person being raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This new life is one that is immersed in Jesus.

  Every sinner needs to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  But every one who is immersed in water is thus obligated to live a new life immersed in Jesus.  Are you immersed in Him?  “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

— Steve Klein