Book Review XXXVII: Jesus The Greatest Life of All

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Another book from The Ink Room.
Finally had the time to read and review it. 
A fantastic biography and analysis on the life of Lord Jesus!
Shall we begin the review?

Who is Jesus?
He went around healing the sick, creating miracles and forgiving sins.
Surely, mere human being has no authority to forgive sins.
Only God does.
It is up to us to either accept or reject His claim.
We cannot stay on  the fence by saying He is an important historical figure or good moral teacher.

Lord Jesus was born miraculously in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mary, His mother, willingly offered her body to bring the Messiah into the world.
She had to endure shame: how could a virgin conceive?
Joseph, His adoptive father, willingly took Mary as his wife to protect her from public scorn.

Lord Jesus merely laid aside His divine attributes when He was born in a manger.
He was the rightful heir to the throne, yet He entered into the world in a stable.
It was His humble entrance into the world, in the presence of shepherds who were social outcasts.
Through the person of Jesus, the kingdom of God and humanity finds representative.

Different people responded to Lord Jesus in various ways.
Simeon, an elderly worshiper in the Temple, recognized baby Jesus as the Messiah.
The magi came and worshiped Him, presenting gifts.
Herod tried  to murder Him.
When He was 12, his parents looked for Him all over the place though they could have found Him immediately in the house of God.
When He was 30, He was ready to start a ministry.
John the baptist was first hesitant to baptize Him.
Yet, Lord Jesus wanted to make baptism a door way to a new kind of life.
He called Peter to follow Him. Peter did and that was the start of his life calling.

Lord Jesus first had to face temptation in the dessert.
First was the the temptation to turn stone into bread. Basically it is to test whether someone trusts God in basic needs.
Second was the temptation to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple.
However, to require God to prove His promise is the positive proof one does not trust Him.
The third temptation was the offer of the splendor of the world if Lord Jesus would worship the devil.
However, Lord Jesus overcame the temptation of material possession. 
He then taught the multitudes of abundant life in Him. He is not against us having money. He is against money having us.
After all, from the eternal perspective, material possession is insignificant.
The abundant life He offers starts with being born again of the Spirit.
This abundant life is the life above guilt, worry and shame.
It is the life to please God and not men.
It is the life full of faith in the face of impossibility. It is the life full of contentment from God alone.

In Lord Jesus’ time, the Pharisees twisted God’s law. Their favorite is the law concerning Sabbath.
Originally, Sabbath was a day where humans can rest and enjoy time with God.
However, the Pharisees made it so burdensome by creating a list of prohibited works.
Lord Jesus rebuked them. Since He is the Lord of the Sabbath, He took the Sabbath back from them.
He invited the people to come to Him, not to any religion. He then offered His yoke which represents:
-exchange of religious legalism with lifelong rest of the soul.
-invitation to learn how He forgives, ministers and connects to the Father.
-invitation to reject slavery to religiosity, wealth and anything else which burdens us that we may become slave to Him (and that is the true freedom).

During the Creation week, there was always concluding remark on the first until the sixth day when God created.
However, on the seventh day, God ceased from all His work. There was no concluding remark. His Sabbath remains open even until today.
And He invites all of us to enter into His Sabbath rest.
It means we believe in His promise because He cares for us.
Rejecting His invitation means we rely on our strength. Since our strength is limited, this spells trouble.

When God created the universe, He placed certain laws of nature. 
He rarely uses miracle. However, when He does use it, it is to divinely validate certain events.
In Lord Jesus’ time, engineers and architects utilized tricks to generate the appearance of miracles, such as turning water into wine. 
They did it for monetary gain.
Lord Jesus, on the other hand, created miracle out of compassion.
He displayed power over the trivial, distance, time, forces of nature, insufficiency and even death that we may believe that He is the Son of God.

When Lord Jesus lived as  regular human, He healed the sick.
He empowered His disciples to do the same.
As we can read in the New Testament, the divine healing is always instantaneous, permanent, obvious and free of charge.
This is in stark contrast with modern day faith healers whose motivation is solely money and not compassion.
Five laws of divine healing:

  1. There are two categories of sin: original and personal

  2. Original sin introduced suffering, sickness and death

  3. Sometimes sickness and death are direct result of personal sin

  4. Sometimes sickness and death are not related to sin at all

  5. It is not God’s will that every sickness be healed.

Apostle James taught that when a person is sick, the elders of the church should pray and anoint him/her with oil.
This was the therapeutic oil.
Modern day equivalent for that is to pray and seek medical help.
God may or may not heal us of our disease here. Even if He does heal us, we will eventually face death one day.
Nevertheless, He promises us eternity with Him. That is the ultimate healing He offers.

One parable that is very close to the heart of the Jews is the parable of the vine.
In the Old Testament, God called Israel His vineyard.
However, no matter how much God cared for the Israel, they did not give him the fruits (which was justice and righteousness) due to Him.
Lord Jesus came to take the place of Israel. He is now the Vine of the LORD.
Lord Jesus invited the believers to abide in Him.
As a branch receives nutrient from the vine and naturally produces fruits, the believers should abide in Christ, receive His life and produce the fruits of Christlikeness.
Apart from Christ the vine, the believers cannot do anything to produce these fruits.

Lord Jesus did not come to please the majority.
He came to declare the truth.
This truth offended many around Him, clearly dividing who was for or against Him.
Firstly, He proclaimed the truth to the crowd.
They wanted Him to be the Messiah who would set them free from Roman empire.
Yet, He refused as what they truly needed was a Savior to rescue from them from sin.
Secondly, He rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy as they nullified the law of God for the sake of their tradition.
He also drove the merchants out from the Temple of God as they committed corruption and lies even in the Temple of God.
Lord Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites for they like to show off their dedication to God and to teach people to follow God.
Yet, their heart is far away from God.
Like Lord Jesus, there are times believers have to stand for the truth fearlessly.
At first, we should use kind approach. If it does not work, we must be bold to proclaim the truth.
We may have to sacrifice in doing so. Nevertheless, God will reward our boldness, if not in this life, then in heaven.

Judas Iscariot wanted nothing less than Jews’ independence from Roman empire.
He eagerly wanted Lord Jesus to rise to the throne. After all, the people wanted to make Him a king.
However, Lord Jesus chased away the multitude. In addition, He explained that Messiah would suffer and die.
Disappointed, Judas secretly plotted to betray Him.
Throughout his discipleship under Lord Jesus, Judas lived a double life. 
On the outside, he appeared trustworthy enough as a treasurer of the group.
In the inside, he stole the money. In fact, his plan to betray the Master even allowed the devil to enter him.
A few lessons we can learn from the life of Judas Iscariot.
Association with godly people doesn’t guarantee that we will be godly.
Secret sin is deadly and it effectively twists our moral value.
We must confess and repent from any secret sin.

In total, Lord Jesus experienced 6 court room trials: 3 Jewish and 3 Roman trials.
All of them were unfair trials even under Jewish and Roman regulation back then.
In the first 3 Jewish trials, for example, the council of Sanhedrin was supposed to argue for acquittal.
However, they violated their own rules by pressing their case against Lord Jesus.
After all, Lord Jesus went against the corruption of the high priest.
At first, they could not charge Him based on His teaching. Even the supposed witnesses did not give consistent testimony.
Finally, they found a charge against Lord Jesus which was His claim to be the Messiah.
This is a flawed charge. His Messiah-ship does not come with insurrection against Rome.
However, in Jewish mind, a Messiah is also a leader of revolution against Rome.
Similar to Lord Jesus, we must be prepared to suffer injustice in this fallen world though we have stood for the truth.
Our Heavenly Father will vindicate us in His time.

The last 3 Roman trials Lord Jesus experienced revolved around 4 figures.
Pilate, Herod, Pilate’s wife and the mob,
Pontius Pilate became the procurator of Judea through trickery.
He ignored the truth for the sake of his political ambition.
When he faced Lord Jesus, he realized He was not guilty at all. 
He attempted his best to deliver Him from death penalty. 
He really thought the mob would prefer Lord Jesus to a criminal such as Barabbas.
However, when the mob pressurizing him politically, he gave in.
He would rather keep political power than the truth.
Some people are like Pilate. They acknowledged the truth but they traded it for power or money or relationship or comfort.
Herod wanted to see a sign performed by Him. He wanted a thrill
He did not even bother to seek the truth of His case.
Some people are like Herod. All they want to enjoy life’s pleasure without wanting to know the truth at all.
Pilate’s wife was superstitious woman. 
She had a dream about Lord Jesus and she wanted Pilate to stay away from him.
Some people are like her. They accepted the truth of Christ along with any other truth or philosophy.
However, this is just superficial belief that does not transform the character.
The worst group of all was the mob. They completely opposed the truth.
Similarly, some people reject the truth and try to suppress it.

Crucifixion is the cruellest death sentence ever invented.
The Roman soldiers reserved the punishment for the runaway slaves, deserting soldiers, freedom fighters and the worst criminals.
In fact, they were so skilled in controlling the amount of suffering or when the victims would die.
Lord Jesus endured the lashing by the soldiers and he was not able to carry the cross on His own.
The soldiers ordered Simon of Cyrene to carry it for Him.
At Golgotha (Place of the Skull), the soldiers stripped Him naked to heighten the shame.
They then nailed His wrists and foot on the cross.
He now had to cope with 2 sources of unendurable pain: from His hands and His legs.
Hanging on the cross caused the shoulders to feel dislocated.
He then support to place His weight on His nailed legs. Eventually the leg muscle cramped.
In addition, He had difficulty in breathing as He could inhale but was powerless to exhale.
This process was repeated over and over.
At last, Lord Jesus said the word "Tetelestai!", meaning He had paid the debt of sin in full.
As He died, the ground beneath the cross cracked and the soldier exclaimed "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Let’s imagine how Barabbas must have felt at this time.
By right, he was the one condemned to death.
Yet, Lord Jesus took his place.
In his right mind, Barabbas would not have said, "No, thanks. I would rather suffer agony on the cross."
Similarly, we are all like Barabbas as we have transgressed against the commandment of God.
We deserve death, yet He took the penalty of our sin.
Surely no one will ever reject this sacrifice of Lord Jesus.

As it was nearing Sabbath period, the soldiers had to hasten the death of the victims.
They broke the legs of the two criminals, causing massive blood loss.
However, they did not break His legs as He had already died.
The women quickly prepared for His burial in the tomb.
For some others, even after the crucifixion, the religious leaders were still worried about the issue of resurrection.
They placed soldiers to guard the tomb as they wanted to prevent the disciples from stealing the body.
However, on the third day, earthquake came and the angels came to the tomb. 
The large stone at the entrance of the tomb was rolled away and the soldiers fled.
Angels told the resurrection to the women who were about to anoint the body of Jesus.
And at last, Lord Jesus appeared to disciples.
A particular attention was on Thomas. He doubted the resurrection of Christ.
While it is easy to criticize him, we should understand from his perspective.
He was disappointed deeply when he saw the cross.
Yet, he did not want to be disappointed for the second time when he heard the rumor of resurrection.
In the end, Lord Jesus appeared to him and healed his disappointment.

The resurrection of Lord Jesus signifies the victory over death, darkness and demons.

Two disciples, one of whom is Cleopas, did not witness the resurrection of Christ.
As they went to Emmaus, they were feeling dejected and disappointed.
They had been hoping Lord Jesus to be their Messiah. In the end, He died.
The disillusioned disciples tried to make sense why their expectation of Messiah came to a tragic end.
Suddenly, Lord Jesus joined them as a stranger but they did not recognize Him.
Lord Jesus spoke with them and helped them overcome their disappointment.
Firstly, they were disappointed because they could only see the issue from human perspective, not from divine perspective.
Secondly, their own agenda determined their expectation.
Thirdly, they failed to acknowledge the resurrection.
Hence, there are important life lessons we can draw here:
First, we have to view life from God’s eyes.
Second, we have to surrender our expectation to God and exchange it with God’s plan.
Third, we we acknowledge resurrection and stake our future upon it.

Peter was a self-driven, passionate, outspoken person.
However, his relied on self too much. His passion proved a failure as he denied Lord Jesus under pressure.
As he waited for Lord Jesus in Galilee, he went back to his old occupation as a fisherman.
It was a night of fruitless toil. Yet, Lord Jesus created a miracle by giving them a large catch of fish.
He then asked Peter if he loved Him with agape love.
Yet, Peter could only love Him with phileo love
The same thing with the second question.
In the third question, the Lord asked him if he loved Him with phileo love.
Peter did.
Through these questions, Peter came to admit that his self reliance to passion is inadequate.
At this point, Peter was a broken man. Yet, Lord Jesus restored him and entrusted to him the responsibility to shepherd His sheep.
Lord Jesus was not looking for perfection. He was looking for a willing vessel thought it was a broken vessel.
For a moment, Peter was distracted and asked what would happen to John.
Yet, Lord Jesus emphasized that as he followed Him, the sheep would follow him.
Similar to Peter, we need to recognize our inadequacy and to to rely on God before we can fulfill our destiny

In the first meeting at Galilee, Lord Jesus tasked His disciples to make disciples of all nations.
He is very intense with the Great Commission, though He is relaxed about the method, depending on each one’s energy and creativity.
At the second meeting at Judea, He gave them His power through the Holy Spirit.
The presence of the Spirit in the believers’ lives proves that they are legitimate citizens of God’s kingdom and they are co-regents with the King.
With that empowerment, all believers are to be witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem (family, friends, neighbors) , Judea (country), Samaria (cross cultural, different faith and races) and to the ends of the earth.
In Great Commission, while God does not need our help to accomplish His plan, He does want us and invite us in this great enterprise.
The Lord has His eyes on the entire world. We can participate in fulfilling the Great Commission through praying for the missionaries, supporting them financially or even going for mission trip.
As  a church, we must not be too comfortable inside the 4 walls that we forget to win the lost.

Though Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, His prediction came to pass.
Roman government defiled the temple and took much money from the temple treasury.
The Jews then rebelled against Rome.
In AD 70, however, the Roman soldiers broke through the walls of Jerusalem.
Fortunately, most of His disciples had fled to Antioch.
With His prediction of fall of Jerusalem came to pass, we now notice His other predictions of war among the nations and finally His promise of the second return.

What is His second coming like?
He will physically, not figuratively, appear in the clouds accompanied by an angel’s loud voice and trumpet blast.
Those who are dead in Christ will rise first, then all believers will wear glorified body (body which never falls sick or dies).
Then, all believers will meet the Lord in the air.
We may grieve now over the death of loved ones.
However, death is just temporary separation as long as our loved ones die in Christ.

God created the world originally as a good world. No evil existed.
Due to the sin of Adam and Eve, evil came in and twisted every good God had made.
When Lord Jesus returns, He will come again in power and judgment.
He will rid the world of evil and restore the original good creation of God.
He will come as the king of the whole world.

For those who reject the grace of God in Christ Jesus, they will go to the place of eternal torment.
Hence, if you have not accepted Christ, wouldn’t you consider accepting Him?

You can purchase the book here:
https://www.theinkroom.com.sg/products/the-greatest-life-of-all-jesus-paperback-english

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Posted February 12, 2017 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Book Review, Charles R. Swindoll

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