Friday, November 30, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue L

The Most Important Man in the Middle East

This week Egypt's Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat is named the Most Important Man [click to read] by the 'other' weekly news magazine.While we agree, he's important, we still think Binyamin Netanyahu, Bashar Hafez al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are at least equally important. The region's unrest has indeed spanned centuries. Resolving the intertwined conflicts and conflicting interests in the area will require the participation of all her leaders.

THYME looks at the history of the region and concludes that, for people of Faith at least, there is the distinct possibility of someone more important. As Christians prepare to celebrate Advent, their hearts contemplate the life of a simple man who walked this land... simple, and yet bringing to mankind a conundrum of epic proportions. Was he but a simple rabbi with a profound message, or something more?

We sing 'Joy to the World' [click to read] at Christmas time, often missing the implications of a hymn that is actually about the Second Coming of Christ, an event seen in prophecy where G-d's Messiah will establish His Kingdom forever.

"Joy to the World , the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King;

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." -- Isaiah 9:6-7

"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found."

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations." -- Isaiah 61:1-4

Messiah or Madman? The Problem of Prophecy

When Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, and said: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing," He caused quite a stir among his contemporaries. When he claimed the role of G-d's Messiah, he was no longer a simple teacher. Was he a fraud, a deluded man or worse?... or was He indeed who he claimed to be?

"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." -- Isaiah 53:1-5

Indeed,  prophecy anticipates this rejection, His death and resurrection and defines it as part of His mission.

"Jesus said, ‘The Father and I are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp." --  John 10:30-39

C. S. Lewis' Trilemma: Who is this Man?

"Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was G-d. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of G-d, or one with G-d: there would he nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of G-d. G-d, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that. you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is G-d, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be G-d.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of G-d: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and G-d. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 51-52.

C. S. Lewis was a skeptic and an Oxford scholar. His honest scholarship led him to conclude that Christ is indeed who He says He is. Josh McDowell, a journalist, also set out to disprove the Gospel message. Instead, he ended up writing a book called Evidence that Demands a Verdict. In it he lays out a compelling case for Jesus the Christ.

Here is a challenge as we enter the Christmas season; we should familiarize ourselves with the message of Messiah and prove it for ourselves. Our culture conspires to distract us from such simple contemplation, but the rewards are great for those willing to make the effort.


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