WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 3

Here we continue with the third installment with a review of John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man? The previous two installments can be found by clicking on the links below.

We have been going through Ortberg’s book two chapters at a time. Since Election Day is just before us, I had hoped the next two chapters would be relevant, and they are.  Chapter 5 concerns how we should regard knowledge of the truth. Chapter 6 is about Jesus’ example of grace and humility.

Everyone Needs To Know The TRUTH

Chapter 5 begins with these words.

Jesus spent most of his life as a blue-collar worker, crafting benches and tables. Then one day he decided to change jobs.

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890
The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1890 (from here)

Imagine. You are a carpenter, an ordinary carpenter in a poor village. Then you decide to become a rabbi, but not just any rabbi. Imagine as Ortberg describes the results of your first sermon.

Sitting down is the traditional teaching posture of the rabbi — the scholar-teachers of Israel. When Jesus sat down, he was proclaiming his new occupation. He claimed in his first message that God is a Gentile-lover ready to embrace anybody. Jesus claimed to know this. By the end of his sermon the congregation was so furious that they drove him out of town and attempted to throw him off a cliff. They resisted his knowledge.

Ortberg goes on to explain the importance of rabbis in Israel. The Jews had become the People of the Book. That book held the Jews together as a people, and the rabbis taught the Book.

As if He had written it, Jesus taught from the Book, and his disciples — His apostles — made His teachings famous. They added new chapters. They explained the Book was about Him.

Jesus taught to change lives — to change hearts — and He taught everyone. Unlike what our education system does in our secularized age, Jesus sought to instill values and morals, not just knowledge.

Ortberg cites Jesus’ final command to his disciples.

Matthew 28:18-20 New King James Version (NKJV)

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

So Jesus’ followers did something unheard of. They taught everyone, both men and women, slave and free.

Moreover, Jesus’s followers expanded their search for Truth beyond the confines of one small Book, believing as Augustine did, “All truth is God’s truth.”

In their search for knowledge of God’s truth, Christians made their monasteries into universities. Even in America, our first universities were Christian seminaries.

America’s education system originated in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yet oddly enough, these very same universities now have almost nothing to say about Jesus. Why? Where did we go wrong?

What Makes Someone Great?

Chapter 6 describes the difference between aspiring to greatness (in human eyes) and attempting to serve God.

There are two ways to think about a meaningful life, says Georgetown University professor Francis Ambrosio.  One is the way of the hero; the other is the way of the saint. In the Greco-Roman world, what was admired was the hero. A hero is somebody who overcame obstacles to achieve his full potential or excellence and therefore to receive status, honor, and recognition. Life is a striving for this recognition.

Ortberg, using comparisons we are with familiar with today, describes the Greco-Roman world as thoroughly hierarchical and status conscious.  Christians were an affront to such people. Their hero — their Redeemer — died ignominiously crucified on a cross, and Christians proudly served this Redeemer, slaves to a slave? Thus, the way of the saint competed with the way of a hero. In fact, even today that competition continues.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio. (from here)

Can you imagine how Jesus’ disciples reacted to these words?

Matthew 20:26-28 New King James Version (NKJV)

26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The way of the hero is our natural inclination. That God would die a humiliating death upon a cross for our sake defies explanation. That’s what it means to be The Savior? Even Jesus’ apostles balked at the idea. Only after the resurrection did they believe.

Who wants to be a great slave? Yet Jesus taught that we should gather titles only as opportunities to serve, that true heroism involves sacrificing our self for others, not for our own self-aggrandizement.

A Thought For Election Day

What passes for conventional wisdom from the broadcast news is that we vote based upon pocketbook issues. Perhaps that is true, but such narrow-minded foolishness is destroying our constitutional republic. When Christians vote, we have an obligation to vote for the good of our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen. If our leaders have to twist our Constitution into a pretzel to get what we want for our self, then what we want is wrong. If we have to rob our neighbors or even our own children to get what we want for our self, then what we want is wrong.

When we require our leaders to lie and steal for us, our government will not protect the rights of our family, friends, neighbors and countrymen. That kind of government will only make beaten slaves of us all.

Jesus gave us an example of what a leader should be, full of truth and grace. He taught and served both the great and the humble with equal grace and humility. He gave of Himself. He did not steal and give what belongs to others. He gave His own life, not the life of another. When we vote, we must remember we have a duty to imitate our Savior. We can be charitable following the example of Jesus only if we give from our own heart.

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