I would like to take the magnifying glass, and zoom in close on our Savior. Page 50 Confrontation 1971 states “Christ was our example in all things.” And since he is our example, I believe that we need to understand, with the aid of God’s Spirit, what Jesus was for us, in the different areas of His life. What He wanted us to know regarding the victorious Christ-like life, that every one of us can live in the here and now.
We are all familiar with the circumstances regarding His birth. I am going to fast-forward to his childhood and youth, which was spent in a little mountain village, the obscure and despised Nazareth.
As a child, Jesus had an excellent disposition. His willing hands were ever ready to serve others. He had a patience that nothing could disturb, and a truthfulness that would never sacrifice integrity.
The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words, which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel, He was now taught at His mother's knee. As He advanced from childhood to youth, He did not seek the schools of the rabbis. That which was regarded as superior education was the greatest hindrance to real development. Under the training of the rabbis the powers of the youth were repressed. The Jewish teachers gave their attention to matters of ceremony. The students minds were crowded with material that was worthless to the learner, causing them to be cramped and narrow.
His understanding of the Scriptures shows how diligently His early years were given to the study of God's word. He who had made all things, studied the lessons, which His own hand had written in earth and sea and sky. He gathered stores of scientific knowledge from nature. He studied the life of plants and animals, and the life of man. From His earliest years He lived to bless others.
The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. Nazareth was known for its wickedness, and Jesus was placed there, where His character would be tested. He was constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. Jesus was subject to all the conflicts, which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.
Satan was relentless in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. Satan left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation, as was our Saviour.
The parents of Jesus were poor, so He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and privation. This experience was a safeguard to Him. In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Jesus was never heard to say, “I’m bored.” He was wise to discern evil, and strong to resist it.
For nearly thirty years He lived among the wicked inhabitants of Nazareth. This fact is a rebuke to those who think themselves dependent upon place, fortune, or prosperity, in order to live a blameless life. Temptation, poverty, adversity, is the very discipline needed to develop purity and firmness.
As Jesus worked in childhood and youth, mind and body were developed. He did not use His physical powers recklessly, but in such a way as to keep them in health, that He might do the best work in every line. He was not willing to be defective, even in the handling of tools. He was perfect as a workman, as He was perfect in character. By His own example He taught that it is our duty to be industrious, that our work should be performed with exactness and thoroughness, and that such labor is honorable.
God appointed work as a blessing, and only the diligent worker finds the true glory and joy of life. Listen, the approval of God rests with loving assurance upon children and youth who cheerfully take their part in the duties of the household, sharing the burdens of parents. Such children will go out from the home to be useful members of society.
It is because they seek to evade the discipline of work that so many youth are weak and inefficient. They may possess precious and amiable traits, but they are nerveless and almost useless when difficulties are to be met or obstacles surmounted. The positiveness and energy, the solidity and strength of character, manifested in Christ are to be developed in us, through the same discipline that He endured. And the grace that He received is also for us.
Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
Jesus drew the sympathy of all hearts by showing Himself capable of sympathizing with all. The atmosphere of hope and courage that surrounded Him made Him a blessing in every home. And often in the synagogue on the Sabbath day He was called upon to read the lesson from the prophets, and the hearts of the hearers thrilled as a new light shone out from the familiar words of the sacred text.
During all the years of His stay in Nazareth, He made no exhibition of His miraculous power. He did not seek any high position and He assumed no titles. His quiet and simple life, teach an important lesson. The more quiet and simple the life of the child, the more free from artificial excitement, and the more in harmony with nature, the more favorable is it to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength.
Jesus is our example. It is in His home life that He is the pattern for all children and youth. He lived to please, honor, and glorify His Father in the common things of life. He was doing God's service just as much when laboring at the carpenter's bench as when working miracles for the multitude. Every youth should follow Christ's example of faithfulness and obedience, in their own home. Even scrubbing toilets should not be considered a task beneath a child’s dignity.
Among the Jews, when a Hebrew boy age 12, he was called a son of the law, and also a son of God. He was given special opportunities for religious instruction, and was expected to participate in the sacred feasts and observances. Like all devout Israelites, Joseph and Mary went up every year to attend the Passover; and when Jesus had reached the required age, they took Him with them.
For the first time the child Jesus looked upon the temple. He saw the white-robed priests performing their solemn ministry. He beheld the bleeding victim upon the altar of sacrifice. With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God. He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service. Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly. Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life. The mystery of His mission was opening to the Saviour.
Absorbed in the contemplation of that which He witnessed, He separated Himself from His parents. He sought to be alone. When the paschal services were ended, He still lingered in the temple courts; and when the worshipers departed from Jerusalem, He was left behind.
Joseph and Mary hoped that He might be led to reverence the learned rabbis, and give more diligent heed to their requirements. But Jesus had been taught by God, so that which He had received, He began at once to impart.
Jesus presented Himself to the Rabbis as one thirsting for a knowledge of God. His questions were suggestive of deep truths, which had long been obscured, yet which were vital to the salvation of souls. While showing how narrow and superficial was the wisdom of the wise men, every question put before them a divine lesson, and placed truth in a new aspect. The rabbis spoke of the wonderful elevation which the Messiah's coming would bring to the Jewish nation; but Jesus presented the prophecy of Isaiah, and asked them the meaning of those scriptures that point to the suffering and death of the Lamb of God.
The doctors turned upon Him with questions, and they were amazed at His answers. With the humility of a child He repeated the words of Scripture, giving them a depth of meaning that the wise men had not conceived of.
The rabbis knew that Jesus had not been instructed in their schools; yet His understanding of the prophecies far exceeded theirs. In this thoughtful Galilean boy they discerned great promise. They desired to gain Him as a student, that He might become a teacher in Israel. They wanted to have charge of His education, feeling that a mind so original must be brought under their molding.
The words of Jesus had moved their hearts as they had never before been moved by words from human lips. God was seeking to give light to those leaders in Israel, and He used the only means by which they could be reached. In their pride they would have scorned to admit that they could receive instruction from anyone. If Jesus had appeared to be trying to teach them, they would have disdained to listen. But they flattered themselves that they were teaching Him, or at least testing His knowledge of the Scriptures. The youthful modesty and grace of Jesus disarmed their prejudices. Unconsciously their minds were opened to the word of God, and the Holy Spirit spoke to their hearts.
They could not but see that their expectation in regard to the Messiah was not sustained by prophecy; but they would not renounce the theories that had flattered their ambition. They would not admit that they had misapprehended the Scriptures they claimed to teach. From one to another passed the inquiry, How hath this youth knowledge, having never learned? John 1:5 “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
Joseph and Mary, in their departure from Jerusalem had lost sight of Jesus, and they didn’t realize that He had stayed behind. There was a lot of confusion as they left the city. On the way the pleasure of traveling with friends and acquaintances absorbed their attention, and they did not notice His absence till night came on. Then as they stopped for rest, they missed the helpful hand of their child. Supposing Him to be with their company, they had felt no anxiety. Young as He was, they had trusted Him implicitly, expecting that when needed, He would be ready to assist them, anticipating their wants as He had always done. But now their fears were roused. They searched for Him throughout their company, but in vain. They remembered how Herod had tried to destroy Him in His infancy. They bitterly reproached themselves.
Returning to Jerusalem, they continued their search. The next day, as they mingled with the worshipers in the temple, a familiar voice caught their attention. No other voice was like His, so serious and earnest, yet so melodic.
In the school of the rabbis they found Jesus. Even though they were relieved, they could not forget their grief and anxiety. When He was with them again, the mother said, in words that implied reproof, Luke 2:48 "Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." Luke 2:49 “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”
And as they seemed not to understand His words, He pointed upward. On His face was a light at which they wondered. Divinity was flashing through humanity. On finding Him in the temple, they had listened to what was passing between Him and the rabbis, and they were astonished at His questions and answers.
And His question to Mary and Joseph had a lesson. "Wist ye not," He said, "that I must be about My Father's business?" Jesus was engaged in the work that He had come into the world to do; but Joseph and Mary had neglected theirs. God had shown them high honor in committing to them His Son. Holy angels had directed the course of Joseph in order to preserve the life of Jesus. But for an entire day they had lost sight of Him whom they should not have forgotten for a moment. And when their anxiety was relieved, they had not censured themselves, but had cast the blame upon Him.
It was natural for the parents of Jesus to look upon Him as their own child. It was difficult for them to realize that He was the Son of God. They were in danger of failing to appreciate the blessing granted them in the presence of the world's Redeemer. The grief of their separation from Him, and the gentle reproof which His words conveyed, were designed to impress them with the sacredness of their trust. In the answer to His mother, Jesus showed for the first time that He understood His relation to God.
Jesus did not ignore His relation to His earthly parents. From Jerusalem He returned home with them, and aided them in their life of toil. He hid in His own heart the mystery of His mission, waiting submissively for the appointed time for Him to enter upon His work. For eighteen years after He had recognized that He was the Son of God, He acknowledged the tie that bound Him to the home at Nazareth, and performed the duties of a son, a brother, a friend, and a citizen.
From Jerusalem alone with Jesus, He hoped to direct their minds to the prophecies of the suffering Saviour. Upon Calvary He sought to lighten His mother's grief. He was thinking of her now. Mary was to witness His last agony, and Jesus desired her to understand His mission, that she might be strengthened to endure, when the sword should pierce through her soul. As Jesus had been separated from her, and she had sought Him sorrowing three days, so when He should be offered up for the sins of the world, He would again be lost to her for three days. And as He should come forth from the tomb, her sorrow would again be turned to joy. But how much better she could have borne the anguish of His death if she had understood the Scriptures to which He was now trying to turn her thoughts!
If Joseph and Mary had stayed their minds upon God by meditation and prayer, they would have realized the sacredness of their trust, and would not have lost sight of Jesus. By one day's neglect they lost the Saviour; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us; by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Saviour's presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost.
In our association with one another, we should take heed lest we forget Jesus, and pass along unmindful that He is not with us. Listen, when we become absorbed in worldly things so that we have no thought for Him in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, we separate ourselves from Jesus and from the heavenly angels. These holy beings cannot remain where the Saviour's presence is not desired, and His absence is not marked. Listen now, this is why discouragement so often exists among the professed followers of Christ.
Many of us attend religious services, and are comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, study and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. Often they feel that God has dealt harshly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence. Has this been your experience? How to we turn this situation around? Through meditation, watchfulness, study and prayer. You cannot be sober and vigilant when you are drunk with the cares of this life.
The Spirit of Prophecy encourages us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. Taking his life point by point, and letting the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. Then as we dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will become more alive, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.
As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be "changed into the same image from glory to glory." 2 Cor. 3:18.
And since the Father’s plan for reaching the hearts of needy, sinful dying men today is based on using His children to share His love in the world, the gospel in its most dynamic form consists of loving people well. Loving them where they are and as they are. This is pure evangelism at its best.
A failure at loving is serious because it could jeopardize someone’s eternal life. It may cut off what would have been God’s opportunity to draw a man or a woman to Him at a time when that person needs Him most. Many people today find it difficult to believe that a God who they cannot see, loves them, when people they can see have never loved them in any significant way.
Guilt, fear, terror and deep anxiety are increasing. The cancers of hatred, class envy and jealousy, rebellion, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, religious bigotry, corruption and violence proliferate daily as evil has taken on a keen aggressiveness, a dramatic boldness. The results can be seen on the surface, but the effects go deeper than the wrong acts done, the laws that are broken, the morals ruined and the disrespect shown.
It is not the ethics of the sin explosion that should cause the greatest concern to God’s people today, something far worse is eating out the heart of the unfortunate inhabitants of planet earth today.
Jesus spoke of what it was in Matthew 24:12. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
We have not been given the primary task to bemoan and lament over the increasing tide of evil on every hand, because it accomplishes no good. The challenge before us is to bring the gospel, which is the good news about a God of love, to this last generation that does not know what love is, because the exploding force of wickedness has practically wiped it out of human lives today.
We desperately need to have the love that only comes from the source of all true love, that we may share, in this world, that which will match the abounding wickedness of the day. In this final sliver of time, we must help people experience this sort of love through us – in depth. We cannot, we must not fail at loving people, old and young, unconditionally as did our example Jesus, who lived to serve and died to save.
We are God’s tools to win souls, and every day we are presented with many opportunities to love someone to Jesus. What about all the precious souls that crossed your path last week? Have they seen Jesus in you? What about all the precious souls that will cross your path this next week?
In closing, there is a counterfeit love movement that says all you have to do is love Jesus and believe and you will be saved, leaving obedience as not relevant to salvation. This is a common, confusing doctrine throughout the Christian world, even finding its way into Adventism, and causing many to relax their guard, even welcoming the new theology. But brothers and sisters it is nothing more than another slug of wine from the never empty cup of iniquity in Babylon.
God has a true message of love and it commands obedience to His law of love, the Ten Commandments. Jesus wrote them in stone on Mt. Sinai and He kept them throughout His sin free life. For our example, He has made it possible, by God’s grace, to receive the power to live a life without sin. His command, John 14:15. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
By faith we accept Jesus as our Savior, by faith we receive the power to obey Jesus as our Lord. It is love…it is love.