Bible studying with the intention to understand is highly commendable. But, there is more than just understanding Biblical details. The principle of understanding requires application. Yet, one cannot understand, without certainty on the workability of Biblical information. The applicable standard for all is substantiated in mercy.
Time and money are spent on useless things—especially those associated with wealth. Yet, there is truism in that a person leaves everything of material value, at death. The call of mercy requires placing value on other people’s happiness and deliverance. The purpose of Jesus was to show us the way. The question that needs answering without hesitation is: Which way did Jesus show humanity?
That way is as directed to the Father, from where life exists. The state of humanity is currently premised on death—originally pronounced on our ancestor, Adam. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2: 17) (ESV).
When God speaks, the God-fearing people ought to pay attention. However, without knowing God, it is impossible, to pay attention. Yet having known God, one appreciates that it is impossible for God to make mistakes. What God utters with His own mouth is as sure as the certainty of the rising sun, tomorrow. A truthful person can never have any problem with that. Bearing in mind, that humanity was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27).
Therefore, when truly believing God’s word, it is impossible to deny that humanity died after Adam’s eating of the forbidden tree. The death of humanity occurred at that specific moment, immediately after Adam had eaten the forbidden tree. This requires careful analysis of the following passage of Scripture, to appreciate both the implications and the significance of death:
“He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ ……To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’
And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’“ (Genesis 3:11-20) (ESV).
At that stage of hiding, the couple had succumbed to death. They could not give straight answer to God’s question. The forthright answer could not come from those having fallen into the state of death. Bear in mind that earlier, God had, actually, warned Adam of death, to occur immediately after eating the wrong fruit. This was just as true as any pronouncement made by God being regarded as true. The being of Adam, died at that specific moment of eating the wrong tree, while his physical body survived for another 930 years.
The key to understand the riddle, lies in recognizing the following truths, as unveiled after Adam’s eating of the wrong tree: 1) the physical body is not the actual being, who is spiritual—as created in God’s image. That spiritual person is outside time and space. 2) The definition of death implies degeneration into eventual demise. 3) Immediately after Adam and his wife had lost their beingness, they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (verse 7).
- The physical nature of humanity is different from that which was created in God’s image. Jesus clarified this, after the incident at the temple: “So the Jews said to him, ‘what sign do you show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21) (ESV).
Clearly, the body of Jesus—referred to, as the temple—was not Jesus. That body is what was killed by the Jews on the cross, but the actual being of Jesus was not killed. Jesus’ state of being could not be seen physically and cannot be likened to anything created—as resembling the Creator—also not likened to anything. When talking to one desiring to follow Him, but wishing to first bury his relative, Jesus said: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60) (NIV).
The by-standers could not understand what Jesus was talking about. I suppose many people, still do not understand what Jesus was talking about, even today? But, Jesus stood guided by the fact that the entire humanity died, after Adam had eaten a forbidden fruit. Of course, everyone understands that death means cessation of life and a dead person is not conscious of what goes on, around him. This is the current state of humanity, without Jesus—who declared that He was the way, the truth and the Life.
- Death, itself—according to human imagination—is characterized in the decomposition of the physical body. This can be observed through our departed loved ones. What is undeniable is that there is no single physical human who can escape the phenomenon of death. Physical humans die, just as Adam died. The time factor, as to how long one can survive in the physical body is immaterial, as death comes, one way or the other.
A child born today can live—but only for a few years. The same child could survive for as many as 100 years. But, what is one hundred years, compared to eternity? Having died at the point of eating the forbidden tree—made us all unaware of our true identity. That lack of knowledge causes humanity to chase after material things, thereby forfeiting their potential discovery of their true identity—leading to eternity.
When observing such reality, it is not hard to understand why, to His disciples, Jesus declared: “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24) ESV).
The death of humanity is enclosed in physical existence. The only way to come out of that trap is by renouncing the appetite for surviving in physical condition. But this requires a systematic approach—charted by Jesus through the damning cross. This is why it will always be a Herculean task to assist a person in apathy. Life does not appeal to such an individual, anymore. That person can be observed as no longer willing to listen to the words of encouragement. To him, death would have become the only solution.
Those taking comfort in physical nature, cannot imagine the existence of any other better comfort than they seem to currently enjoy. They desire to remain in such trappings of illusion. The rich young man—who refused the offer of eternal life as enunciated by Jesus, can be the typical example. The young man walked away on Jesus—unbelieving of the idea to renounce wealth. But, for how long did he enjoy the effects of his wealth? And where is he today?
- Immediately, after having lost their divinity, Adam and Eve sought for temporary ideas to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). That phenomenon of nakedness, was a condition of death that the couple had come to experience—having lost their eternity. They had inherited falsehood—as assuming that life was in physical nature—unaware of their eventual return to the ground. This is the state that makes it impossible to extricate humanity from such an appalling condition of ignorance.
It is not difficult to perceive that what makes it difficult to come out of that trap is pride. The man in the condition of death, as delineated by Adam, finds value in temporary solutions, instead of focusing on permanent solutions. That shortsightedness is not different from the corrupt politicians—taking comfort in feeding themselves without considering the consequences of such sinful behaviors.
Their short existence on earth, would have become the only purpose of survival—as to them, the idea of eternity becomes farfetched. Their true identity would have become completely occluded in sinful conditions. They regard anyone bringing the idea of eternity to be their real enemy. A good friend, to them, is the one bringing ideas that sustain them in such corruptible conditions of existence. There is no other way to, actually, take them out of that reality, except mercy—charted by none other than Jesus Christ.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24) (ESV).
Jesus also used the parable of the Good Samaritan, to illustrate what mercy implies. Mercy is, actually, the only principle that leads to life. When Jesus said He was the way the truth and the life, he meant that those desiring life, ought to behave like Him. In their condition of death trap, humanity cannot be brought back to life, through any other means, except through the idea of mercy.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). (ESV). This is probably the only Scripture that ratifies the purpose of the New Testament. The question of who should practice the aspect of being merciful, does not arise, as Jesus simply said; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”
All this has got nothing to do with Law-keeping, or anything else, except being merciful. Every human being around us needs mercy, regardless of his/her sinful condition. The only thing to bear in mind is that the aspect of mercy, itself, does not appeal to the person preoccupied with covering his/her nakedness. Such a person finds value, only in seeking to attract respect from other people.
The parable of the Good Samaritan, as used by Jesus, shows a man preoccupied with helping a person in despicable condition. This is unlike the religious priest and the Levite, passing by—projecting justifications for inability to offer help to such a victim of robbers. Many reasons can come to mind—as justifying the inability to help the needy. This is because mercy is not conducted under the auspices of the law.
Mercy comes from the inner person—not observable by physical eyes. That person cannot be likened to anything, just as the Being in whose image the person was created cannot be likened to anything. The provisions for the restoration into eternal life, are delineated on the principle of mercy—being the only route towards escaping from the trappings of sinfulness.
Interestingly, mercy is well-understood in Christian circles. There are many Christians known for practicing mercy. Unfortunately, most of those Christians are susceptible to exposure to the trappings of self-importance—through adulations from fellow humans.
Therefore, mercy is applicable only on one condition: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1) (ESV). This is why Jesus also instructed His disciples thus:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4) (ESV).
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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