Jesus Was Unpopular
We want to consider the example of Jesus in His earthly life as a model for the holy life that He wants us to live.
As we look at the life of Jesus, we see that, God not only sent His Son to die for the sins of the world, but the way He lived on earth is to be a demonstration to all of us as to how God wants man to live. We see His humility and we see His holiness. His was a life that overcame sin; it was a life of purity. What was the source of this?
Jesus' holiness came out of a life of meditation on the word of God.
We read in the scriptures, in Luke 2, that when He was 12 years old, He knew enough of the scriptures to even confound the great scholars of His time. And remember, in those days, there were no printed Bibles like we have today; People did not have a Bible in their home. Nobody had a Bible in their home. The Old Testament was handwritten and only the synagogue in the village or town would have a copy. Only rich people could afford to have even portions of the Old Testament with them.
So, it was only those who listened carefully, when they were being taught by the Rabbis in the synagogue, could know what the scripture said. And Jesus listened as a little boy. Remember, He had emptied Himself of all that supernatural ability He had as God. He came as a little baby. The Bible says He grew in wisdom. In other words, His growth was just like ours, growing in the knowledge of the word. Only thus could He be an example for us. From that meditation on the word of God, He saw and understood what the Father wanted, just like we can understand it. He saw that the word of God spoke more than what was written on the surface. He dug deep. The Bible says that, if you dig as you would dig for hidden treasure, only then that you will find the knowledge of God.
To have a superficial knowledge of the Bible is easy. You can read the Bible like you read a physics book or a chemistry book and get knowledge. But to know God through His word, that is quite a different thing.
And that came to Jesus through, not just by meditation, but also by obedience to what He saw and heard in the Word. If you are a pastor, you are in great danger of reading the Bible only to get messages, or reading books in order to prepare sermons, or listening to tapes to get points for your sermons. That is a very dangerous practice because you can be more interested in what you have to say to other people than what God has to say to you.
Now the best way to prepare a sermon is, first of all, to hear what God is saying to you and to obey that, and then from your life speak it forth as a message for others. Then it has gone through you. The word of God is like a two-edged sword. One edge must cut you before you can use the other edge, to expose sin in another. When Jesus meditated on the word of God, He found that there were a lot of things there which are completely contrary to the traditions that were being practiced by people in His time.
It was not just meditation on the Word but also Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus lived just like us. His holiness came out of a life of meditation of God's word and being filled with the Holy Spirit. If we follow in His footsteps, we too would get revelation on His word and our life will come to holiness, genuine holiness, getting in line with God's thoughts. The Bible speaks about our mind being renewed that comes through meditation on God's word.
When He saw that God's word proclaimed a certain standard and certain thing, He preached that even though His preaching ran counter to or against all the popular traditions of His day. Jesus did not go forth as a scholar or as one who had graduated from some Seminary with a doctorate. He went forth as One who had meditated on God's word in secret, lived in secret and heard God speaking to Him through the spirit. He spoke forth the word as a prophet, not just as a preacher; He proclaimed it faithfully. This is what made Him expose the hypocrisies and the worldliness of the Pharisees. Now, the other people couldn't see that; other people just blindly thought that the Pharisees were spiritual people. Jesus, not only exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, He exposed the doctrinal error - the wrong interpretations of the scriptures that the Sadducees held.
Jesus' holiness is seen in the fact that He never sought to be popular in His preaching.
It is a tremendous temptation to those who give out the word to seek to be popular. If you preach things that offend people, you won't get gifts; you won't get invited to dinner. But then, you won't proclaim God's word faithfully as well. All who proclaim God's word must proclaim it prophetically as the mouthpiece of God. That is part of holiness. Our holiness needs to be seen not only in our life but in our words. We must be absolutely true to God. Holiness is manifested in not seeking to please men but to please God.
There was a time, when even His enemies told Him, as we read in Matthew 22:16 in the Living Bible: "Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any mans opinion: for thou dost not regard the person or appearance of men." Those of you who are priest, when you are giving a hominy, I want to ask you a personal question. Can it be said of your preaching that you are honest, and you teach the truth regardless of the consequences, and without fear and without favour? That is the type of preaching our world needs to hear in every Parish. That is how Jesus was. If we looked at Jesus, we would see that we have to be like Him in this area.
Jesus had a tremendous zeal for the purity of God's house. You know, when people beat Him, pulled the hairs out of His head and face - His beard, and ill-treated Him in so many ways, called Him the prince of devils, He never got angry. He never said anything. He just accepted it. You could do anything to Jesus personally, and He would never say anything; He would just forgive you. But when He saw God's house being defiled by people trying to make money in the name of religion, He was a different person. It says in John 2:15 that He made a whip and He drove them all out of the temple. He said,"Stop making My Father's house a house of business." Then His disciples remembered what was written in the scriptures, in the Old Testament, "Zeal for Your house will consume Me." Righteous anger burned in Him.
Do you know the meaning of the verse in Ephesians 4:26 where it says, "Be angry but do no sin?" There is a command in that verse asking you to be angry. Now, we always thought that anger is a sin. Anger is a sin in certain situations. In certain other situations, as it says in Ephesians 4:26, we must be angry. How to know the difference? We can know the difference from the life of Jesus. When was it He was not angry? When they insulted Him, spoke evil of Him, slapped Him, beat Him, pull the hairs from His beard, spat on Him, crucified Him, He was never angry. He said, "Father, forgive them." When was He angry? He was angry when God's house was being defiled; when poor people were being exploited; when the Pharisees and the elders of the synagogue would not allow Him to heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day.
So, we see the type of anger that we need to have is, when we see God's house and God's name being dishonoured; when we see poor people being exploited. And when is it we should never be angry? When people insult us, harm us, exploit us, and do all types of evil to us, and speak all types of evil to us. So, in anything concerning ourselves, we should never be angry. But when it concerns the purity of God's house, and the way people exploit others, then we need to be angry.
Unfortunately, in the world, it is the other way around. It is tragic. People in the world get angry when it concerns them. When they see God's name being dishonoured in the Church, they are not angry. That is exactly the opposite of how it was with Jesus. Jesus was angry when it concerned God's house. There is an anger that is holy, and there is an anger that is sinful. When Jesus used the whip that day in the temple, He was not bothered whether people misunderstood Him. He was not bothered what even His disciples thought about Him. He was only concerned about the purity of God's house. He didn't lose control of Himself. He was in perfect control of Himself. He was not diplomatic either. He didn't go to those people, who were changing money, and say, 'Will you gentleman please move your table?' He never said anything like that. He turned the tables, made the coins run here and there, and chased the sheep and the oxen and the birds, all out of the compound. Yeah, that wasn't a gentlemanly thing to do. But when it came to the purity of God's house, Jesus was fiery. He came to bring a sword and He used it unsparingly. It cut, it wounded, and it hurt, and thus the Father's glory was manifested.
So holiness in the life of Jesus brought Him a lot of misunderstanding, opposition and persecution. It is the same in the world today. You are not going to be popular if you live a holy life.
I mean, if you are only thinking in terms of paying your taxes, washing people's feet, doing what is right, and never exposing sin in Christendom, then you may be popular. Then you are being diplomatic. But if you follow Jesus all the way, your holiness will lead you to expose sin. The Bible says, in Ephesians 5, that we must, by our life, expose and rebuke the works of darkness. Jesus' life was the most beautiful, the most orderly, the most peaceful, and the happiest life this world has ever seen, because He was only interested in pleasing God. He was not interested in pleasing a single human being. He didn't care about people's opinions.
Do you know that you and I can live such a life? Do you long for such a life? Why don't you bow you head right now, as you complete reading this devotion and pray a simple prayer. Say, "Lord Jesus, I have been trying to please men too much. Forgive me. Help me to follow You and seek to please You alone."