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The Jesus Scandal

                                  

When the ancient idolatrous Jews made their idol, the golden calf, they proclaimed, “"This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" (Exodus 32:4).  When Aaron saw it, “he built an altar before it.  And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:5).  In other words, they proclaimed a holiday, a feast day, in honor of their manmade god, the golden calf, which they were deceived into thinking was the one, true God.

This paper is entitled, “The Jesus Scandal.”  It raises the question, who is the one, true God?  Who is the true Jesus Christ?  Is He the baby Jesus in a manger celebrated by professing Christians throughout the world at Christmas?  Is He the man portrayed by artists?  Or is He someone else? 

Yes, indeed Jesus was a baby.  He is God incarnate.  The apostle Paul tells us that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).  The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  If Jesus were a baby today, his family likely would have a photo album that would give his relatives great delight and sentimental feelings as they reminisced his infancy. 

Yes, indeed Jesus was a man and historical figure.  Jesus “began His ministry at about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).  He is both fully human and fully God.  He is God and man, the second person of the Trinity. 

Jesus was indeed a man who walked this earth, but He did not necessarily look anything like the Jesus portrayed in the paintings of Him (or in the Jesus movies, dramas, and passion plays).  No one can know what the man Jesus looked like because God did not choose to reveal a picture of Him to us.  Therefore, any artist’s rendition of Jesus is merely an idol and a falsehood.  We cannot make an image of God, as this is forbidden by the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6).  Furthermore, we should not even attempt to make an image of the earthly man Jesus, for if God wished for us to do so, He would have given us a portrait of Him in His all-sufficient revealed Word, the Bible. 

But who is Jesus Christ now?  The resurrected Christ is He who lives and reigns and is described at the end of the Bible.  At the culmination of redemptive history, God left us with this symbolic “image” of the Jesus Christ who is and forever shall be: 

Revelation 19:11-16: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (NKJ).

What Christian holiday celebrates this Jesus?[1]  Who worships this Jesus?  This is the true Jesus who lives and reigns now.  Jesus Christ is no longer a baby; He no longer is the man who walked this earth for thirty-three years.  The baby Jesus grew up and became a man. Jesus the man was murdered; He was crucified unjustly upon a Roman cross.  Why do American Christians worship the Jesus who was and not the living Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords who now rules and reigns? 

Jesus is not just a martyr to be remembered like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., or John Lennon, whose birthday or death day many Americans celebrate.  Jesus never asked us to celebrate His birthday or dwell on His death one day a year, as many people celebrate their child’s birthday or go to the gravesite of a loved one on the anniversary of their death.  Jesus Christ is not a plastic helpless baby like we see in many nativity scenes; He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).  God’s Word does not compare Jesus Christ with a bunny rabbit; He is the Lion and the Lamb (Rev. 5:5-6). 

Yes, we are to remember the historical truths of Jesus’ birth, but God never told us to celebrate it.  Yes, we are to remember His death and crucifixion, but not just one day a year on Good Friday.  He told us to remember it often as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper: “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24).  Yes, we are to remember Jesus’ resurrection, but not just one day a year. 

Christendom teaches us that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Good Friday celebrates the death of Jesus on the cross, and Easter celebrates His resurrection.  Yet, in Scripture, these holy days are never mentioned (except for the confusing insertion of the British English word Easter in the King James translation of the Bible in Acts 12:4, which modern English translations rightly translate as Passover).  In God’s Word, Jesus’ birthday was never called Christmas; the day of His death was never called Good Friday; His resurrection day was never called Easter.  In Scripture there is no holy season called Lent nor any command for Christians to keep the Passover. 

Christmas was a mass invented by the Roman Catholic Church.  Good Friday was a superstitious day of fasting invented by the Roman Catholic Church.  Easter (Eostre) was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility.  Lent is a Roman Catholic season of fasting.  And the idea of a Christian Passover that Christians must observe was a teaching promoted by the Judaizers, a heretical Christian sect opposed by the apostle Paul in the New Testament book of Galatians. 

In His Word, God did teach us to set apart the first day of every week, Sunday, as holy to the Lord.  It is the Lord’s day, the Christian Sabbath (Rev. 1:10; Gen. 2:2-3; Exod. 20:8-11; Isa. 58:13).  And God warned us not to set apart other days, months, seasons, or years as holy (Gal. 4:10). 

Christ “died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3); all faithful pastors and teachers must proclaim “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  The church must also proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If Christ had not been raised from the dead, our faith would be worthless, and we would be without the hope of eternal life (1 Cor. 15:17).  We ought to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection the first day of every week, for every Sunday is the Lord’s Day. 

Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays attack two sacred ordinances of Biblical Christianity—the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper, as they set up humanly-invented days and symbols as holy, which God never instituted in His holy Word.  The humanly-invented, liturgical, church calendar is very dangerous; it distorts Biblical Christianity, nullifying the word of God by the traditions of men.  Jesus condemned the religious hypocrites of His day, called the Pharisees, for this very thing (Mark 7:8, 9, 13; cf. Matt. 15:9).

God is not honored by the clever imaginations, devices, and inventions of men.  God is not to be worshipped according to presumptuous human whim.  God has revealed to us in His Word His will for our lives.  He has revealed how He is to be worshipped and served in spirit and truth (John 4:22-24).  Humanly-invented worship is false worship (Col. 2:23). 

It is scandalous that Jesus is being sentimentally adored as a baby and remembered as a man who suffered unjustly, but He is not being remembered as the resurrected Christ described in Revelation 19.  This Jesus seems nearly forgotten.  And yet He is the true Jesus who is and forevermore shall be, the resurrected Christ who sits at God’s right hand.  Does the Jesus scandal disturb you?  It should.  It should grieve our hearts. 

It is scandalous that Jesus is being continuously humiliated as churches portray Him as a helpless baby and a naked man on the cross.  Jesus suffered enough at Calvary; why should He be crucified again and again?  The Bible never gives us such graphic images of the crucifixion as we find being promoted today.  How presumptuous it is for people to think that God is honored by this reenactment of His cruel suffering at the hands of the wicked.  Just as the Roman Catholic Church claims to offer up Jesus’ real, physical body day after day in their mass, so evangelical Christians are offering up His body to continued ridicule in their plays and movies.  They are glorying in Christ’s humiliation far more than in His exaltation.  Jesus died, but now He is risen.  Let us live in light of the resurrection; let us exalt the resurrected Christ who God raised from the dead on the third day, who ascended up into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, and who will come again to judge the world.

What does the Lord Jesus think about those who profess His name reminiscing over His false baby pictures and dwelling upon artists’ renditions of how He might have looked as a man but virtually never meditating on His present reality as King of kings and Lord of lords? 

What does the Lord Jesus think about modern Christians’ refusal to obey Him as Lord? 

In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed the Church to teach His disciples “to obey everything I have commanded you,” which did not include observing a manmade calendar of holidays based on events in His life nor reenacting His crucifixion (Matt. 28:20, NIV).  He said that whoever “has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:21).  This makes sense, for God says that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).  God cares far more about whether we obey Him and His word than what we do to please Him out of our own good intentions.  He is not impressed with external rites and ceremonies; true religion is from the heart, by the Holy Spirit, and in accordance with God’s all-sufficient, never-changing Word.  The Bible is the “word of truth” (2 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 1:13; 2 Tim. 2:15; Jas. 1:18).  And Jesus says that this word of truth is what all Christians must live by (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4).

Jesus warned in the sermon on the mount: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matt. 7:21-23).

So let us fall down and worship the one, true Jesus who reigns!!!  Let us celebrate Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:11-16).

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[1] Some professing Christians may claim to celebrate this Jesus on “Christ the King day,” which is the last Sunday of the manmade liturgical calendar, preceding Advent.  Unlike Christmas and Easter, most Americans have never even heard of such a holiday.  Obviously this “holy day” has not yet caught on and become popular in America.


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