In this presentation the aim is to attend to two thematic questions that address human behaviour on issues of life and death. The first thematic question is: “In all my toiling on this planet have I ever been happy that I lived?” The second one is: “In all my toiling on this planet, have most people been glad that I lived?”
The entire chapter of Deuteronomy 28, shows that God provided the Israelites with simple choices in their behaviour. They were expected to obey God’s commandments, if desiring to positively fulfill the answer to the first thematic question. Let us use Exodus 20:8-10 as an example:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns” (ESV).
Keeping the Sabbath day Holy, like other commandments, ensured the receipt of physical blessings from God. To be happy, you simply needed to observe God’s Laws. The labour aspect in this Scripture is in conformity with a curse given to Adam: “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.” (Geneses 3:19) (ESV).
In other words, Adam and his offspring would be expected to engage in hard-working, all the days of their lives. This would be the only way of them coming to terms with the first thematic question. The focus would be on self, more than other people. The only problem is that such hard-working would be as futile as described by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:18-19:
“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity” (ESV).
The Israelites, however, had some hope, through the Sabbath observance: “Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:16-17) (ESV).
The outlined sign signifies something special—as would come at a later stage, for the Israelites. Unfortunately, for them, when what had been signified eventually came—they remained blind to it. Those Jews religiously desired to continue with Sabbath observance Law, even as its fulfilment had eventually come to be:
“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it” (Luke 16:16) (ESV).
Interestingly, those forcing their way into God’s Kingdom appear as still languishing under the curse of Adam (Genesis 3:19)? It seems that such people assume that God’s Kingdom is attained through their own effort? Let us now find out the behaviour of Jesus, concerning Sabbath-keeping Law:
“And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18) (ESV).
Specifically, the Israelites were obsessed with two concerns: Jesus’ failure to keep the Sabbath Law and calling God His own Father. Unequivocally, Jesus pointed to the fact that He worked, just as His Father worked.
The obsession to work, as applicable in Law, pointed at positively answering the first thematic question. But, unlike the six-day-week Jewish work, Jesus’ work focussed on serving humanity. In other words, Jesus engaged Himself in positively answering the second thematic question: “In all my toiling on this planet, were most people glad that I lived?”
Jesus’ behaviour was not different from that of the Good Samaritan, as recorded in one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 10:25-37). His concern—displayed as overriding everything else—was serving humanity. This is as further reiterated in Matthew 23:23:
“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” (Matthew 23:23) (ESV).
Clearly, the weightier matters of the law can be fulfilled by a person whose mind-set is obsessed with the second thematic question: “In all my toiling on this planet, were most people glad that I lived?”
Those Jews’ other concern was to do with Jesus’ calling of God as His Father. As far as Law was concerned, the Jews were right in assuming that no human could equate with God. As not knowing that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath sign, indeed, calling God His Father would be problematic to them.
Their prophetic Scriptures clearly pointed at Messiah’s coming, as would restore God’s Kingdom. Humans were created in God’s image, implying that God would be their only Father. As far as God’s Kingdom is concerned, God remains the Father of humanity—none else (Matthew 23:9).
The problem with the first thematic question is in focusing on temporary fulfillment of what would be desired. To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus promised the living water that quenched thirst for eternity (John 4:13-15). Nonetheless, Jesus provided pertinent answers to the Jewish questions:
“Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:28-41) (ESV).
Were they telling the truth in that Moses gave their forefathers Manna? Just like everyone in our age, most people love idolizing those with information, ahead of Jesus. They love quoting scholars and other renowned sources, in their Christian endeavours. Jesus had to lament:
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) (ESV).
If I happen to have been the first one to see an elephant and you have not. I would describe the elephant to the best of my ability. But as long as you would have not seen that elephant, your certainty about its structure would still be questionable.
For instance, it would be proper for you to quote my name, when talking to others and say: “According to Andrew Masuku, an elephant is a huge animal with a trunk.” I would then be regarded as an authority, concerning the subject on elephants. Basically, this is how information is interchanged in academic circles. Scholars are, accordingly given glory, ahead of Jesus.
However, if I took the person who would be ignorant of elephants to the zoo, my authority on elephants would not be necessary. It would be irrational for the person having also seen the elephant, to keep quoting my name: “According to Masuku, this is how an elephant looks like”
There may not be any other Scriptural reference necessary to reveal Jesus’ authority, except John 6:28-41? The Jews knew of the miracle of Manna which God had temporarily provided, to their forefathers. That Manna was as temporary as their forefathers were no longer there to testify of it.
Lest we overlook the most pertinent question, as originally posed by those Jews: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Unfortunately, those Jews failed to discover that they were no longer under Adam’s curse (Genesis 3:19). Hard-working for the rest of their lives—only to be interred in their graves—had become archaic. Jesus had brought the restoration of God’s Kingdom, for their own advantage.
Whoever believed in Jesus would have fulfilled everything necessary for human survival. This is why, elsewhere, Jesus insisted that His disciples were not supposed to worry about what to eat or what to wear. Except to first seek God’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34).
In Jesus, the bread of life had come to humanity, and that life would be for eternity. The problem with the Jews emanated from mistaking Moses as the desirable bread of life. They could not fathom Jesus being the one.
For true Christians, Jesus is the only bread of life. There is no need, even to idolize the early Church apostles. Today Christianity is sadly fragmented among various denominations. This is because founders/leaders of those respective denominations take Christ’s position. Jesus would not be in picture, and this is the hallmark of deception in Christianity.
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12) (ESV).
Confusion lies in inability to distinguish between living in flesh and living in the Spirit. Jesus represents Spiritual significance, as opposed to physical things, which are inferior. In other words, one cannot be physical and yet be seen exalting himself over others? This would be the folly of all ages.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:9-11) (ESV).
To be in Spirit, implies taking the position of utmost humility. Jesus’ humility was displayed when He washed His disciples’ dirty feet (John 13:12-13). He emphasized this point of humility throughout His teachings. The missing link is caused by those treacherously taking up His position—assuming the positions of being Bread of life—instead of Jesus.
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28) (ESV).
What is most intriguing is: With all this information, as recorded in Scriptures, why would anyone dare take Christ’s position—going about misleading people? Jesus is the only Bread of Life and should never be substituted for anything, regardless of how sincere anyone can be.
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.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99