Unification News for April / May 1999

Divine Principle, Mission of the Messiah

Vol. 3 - Part 6

The perfection which Jesus attained was to expand from him to his family and disciples. From there the nation of Israel and the entire world were to gradually evolve into higher and higher levels of moral and religious consciousness, modeled upon Jesus' example. We know, however, that this did not happen. Not only did John fail to support him, but, because of this, most of Jesus' fellow Jews failed to support him as well.

Indeed, when Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah finally came to the people, he was most sadly treated, particularly by the religious leaders. Some of the people listened to Jesus and often marveled at him, but their response was often focused on his miracles and healing rather than the truth he brought.

A few came to recognize him by the truth of this words, but the priests, scribes, and Pharisees, perhaps threatened by Jesus' works, consistently criticized his teaching as being contrary to the law of Moses. They viewed his miracles as coming from Beelzebub, the devil. (Mt. 12:24). they denied his Messiahship by saying that he blasphemed in referring to himself as the Son of God. (Jn. 12:33). By their frequent condemnation of Jesus, this leadership element alienated the people from him. Ultimately they bribed one of his disciples to betray him.

How can you believe?

In this hostile context, Jesus was clearly not able to disclose all that he wanted.

"We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (Jn. 3:11-12).

We may imagine that the "heavenly things" Jesus wished to share consisted of advanced knowledge concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. However, he could not convey such information to the people, because they did not believe in him.

The Gospel records indicate that Jesus did virtually everything possible to persuade his people to recognize and believe in him. He had preached about the Kingdom of Heaven he had come to establish. He frequently performed miraculous works in the hope that the people might see who he was. He had loved them with his whole being. Nevertheless, critical elements of Hebrew society failed to accept him as the Messiah, and repudiated his words and works. Matthew reports and angered Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." (Mt. 11:21).

Jerusalem, the city of the Temple, had rejected Jesus, the true temple. He wept: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate." (Mt. 23:37-38). "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes . . . because you did not know the time of your visitation.") Lk. 19:42-44).

His return

Jesus endeavored to make his fellow countrymen recognize him by his words, his works, and his prayers, but it was all in vain. In this context, Jesus began to speak of the return of the "Son of Man." Jesus did not mention a Second Advent from the beginning of his ministry. He did so only after it became apparent that his primary intention--that of inspiring the construction of a physical and spiritual Kingdom on earth--could not be realized.

Jesus was denied and crucified by God's chosen people--the very people who had fasted, prayed, offered tithes, prophesied, served God faithful, and longed for the Messiah throughout their suffering. However, let us be hesitant to blame the Jews of those times. If we had lived then and seen Jesus with our own eyes, quite possible we would also have denied him. This is particularly true in light of the fact that for many Jews there was apparently a missing element--Elijah--in the messianic formula.

The course changed

With the slowly developing conviction that his primary task of Kingdom-building was becoming less and less possible, Jesus was forced to change his course. A critical event in this transformation was Jesus' experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. Luke reports that at one point Jesus went upon a mountain to pray, with Peter, John and James accompanying him. During his prayer, Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, and his inevitable suffering was revealed to him.

"And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem." (Lk. 9:30-31).

Peter and the other disciples were heavy with sleep and were not fully aware of what had transpired. Peter's exclamation: "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for the Elijah." (Lk. 9:33) reflects his excitement at the spiritual manifestation of these two great figures, but he had missed the whole point.

The Gospels indicate that about this time, Jesus began to intimate to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem and be killed. Significantly, the disciples were shocked. Matthew tells us that Jesus' chief disciple Peter was so alarmed as to exclaim, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you!" (Mt. 16:22). Peter, as an intimate of Jesus, would probably have known what Jesus' intentions were. The obvious implication is that Jesus' remarks concerning his suffering were upsetting because such statements were in complete contrast to everything Jesus had taught up to then.

Although to the outer circle of followers, Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God only in parables, to his intimate disciples he revealed more. Luke records Jesus as telling his disciples: "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables . . . " (Lk. 8:10)

Taught by Jesus, his close followers knew that Jesus was working to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. With this knowledge, John and James once asked Jesus: "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." (Mk. 10:37) Regardless of such petitions, on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, Jesus had resolved to confront the imminent crisis. He had to take an alternative path, the path to the cross. Thus he was diverted from the victorious course prophesied by Isaiah.

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