Until He was 30 Jesus lived a hidden life with His family in Nazareth. He was unknown to the world except for the neighbours who lived close by. We have seen the lesson that He taught in this way – namely, that it is in and through our family and daily work that we make our way to God. Christ has sanctified the family and work.
But since His life, work, teaching and death were a message – a saving message – not only for His neighbours in Nazareth, but for all people of all ages, Jesus had to leave His home and make public this message of life.
The life and deeds of Jesus are narrated in the four Gospels of the Bible. They describe a great variety of events and talks. Some of these descriptions are extremely moving. The reader, with an open mind, cannot fail to be touched by them in the depths of his/her heart.
Other events described are astounding. They are not easily believed. They would be quite impossible unless this man is someone extraordinary, unless He has powers that mere men do not have, unless, in fact, He is Himself God.
So much depends on the reliability of the Gospel accounts that tell Jesus’ story that the reader should ask himself / herself whether they are genuine history or not. As for the documents themselves, versions have been
unearthed in different times, and yet each version agrees with other copies found elsewhere. An easier test can be made by the reader of the Gospel himself / herself. It is to see whether the language and style used to describe the events of Jesus’ life seem extravagant and wild - and therefore suspicious – or whether they are sober and matter-of-fact.
Many ancient and modern stories describing miracles and strange deeds make the critical reader at once suspicious because of the style of writing.
The Gospels, written by four men, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, who were either eye-witnesses of the events they describe or the companions of eye-witnesses, are written in a very plain language. However, in putting down the eye-witnesses’ accounts of the events in the life of Jesus, the authors of the Gospels were not concerned with every minute detail of the events described. These writers were concerned with the deep and saving message that Jesus came to offer to people through His words and actions, His life, death and resurrection. At the same time the authors did not disregard the details in enshrining the message. Rather, they used just enough of details to express faithfully and truthfully the life and teaching of Jesus.
Hence we should not treat the Gospels as purely scientific accounts of the history, geography, politics and culture of the Jewish race. They were never meant to be that. They are recorded religious history.
The reader of the Gospels will himself / herself be the judge of what he / she reads. All what he / she is asked to keep is an open mind, and not to pre-judge before reading them carefully. As he / she reads, he / she can ask himself / herself whether these words are the words of simple, straight-forward men describing events that they witnessed.
John, who is the writer of one of the Gospel accounts, describes his first meeting with Jesus. One day, as he was walking along with a friend, someone pointed out Jesus to them.
Then (in John’s own words), “They followed Jesus. Turning and seeing them follow Him, Jesus asked, what do you want? Master, they said, where do you live? He said to them, “come and see”. So they went and saw where He lived, and they stayed with Him all the rest of the day, from about the tenth hour onwards” (John 1, 37-39).
We can take as our motto in these pages those simple words of Jesus, which are really an invitation to us to “come and see.” We shall just take some incidents and some words of Jesus Himself from the pages of the Gospels. We shall come and see. We shall quietly follow His invitation.
We can see only very few events here. But if you have a Bible or copy of the Gospels, you can read for yourself all the events recorded. Many people find rich and satisfying food for their daily meditation in taking a page or a small section of the Gospels and reading quietly. You can read quietly with a prayerful question in your mind: Is there a message for me and my life in these lines? Is God speaking to me in these words?
Our pilgrimage through these pages up to this point has shown that all man’s troubles, all evil come from his worship of self. The younger son followed the desire of his own self, and brought ruin on himself. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, refused to recognize that everything they had - even their own selves - come from God. They followed self and they brought ruin on themselves and on their children.
I can go further and stop for a moment to reflect on some evil deed that has been done to me by someone else. I see at once that the one who wronged me has thought only of his own self.
If I have the courage to look into my own heart and examine some evil deed that I have done in my own life, here, too, it is clear that it happened because I worshipped my own self - because I was selfish.
Evil and sin are the worship of self to the contempt of God. Jesus came to conquer sin, to deliver sinful man, to deliver you and me from the slavery of sin, from the claims of self and selfishness. And so we shall find unselfishness in His every act and word. We shall find Him teaching us to forget self and so escape from the slavery of selfishness - which is what sin is.
“A grain of wheat,” Jesus said, “must fall into the ground and die, or else it remains nothing more than a grain of wheat; but if it dies, then it yields rich fruit. He who loves his life will lose it; he who is an enemy to his own life in this world will keep it, so as to live eternally”. (John 12, 24-25).
An incident in Jesus’ life shows the beauty and spiritual treasure in love and unselfishness towards another.
“It happened one day that a lawyer rose up, trying to put him to the test `Master, he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus asked him, `What is it that is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ And he answered, `You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul, and your whole mind and with your whole strength; and your neighbour as yourself.’ You have answered right,’ He told him; do this, and you shall find life.’
“But the lawyer, to prove himself blameless, asked, `And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus told him this parable (story) as His answer:
“A man who was on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho fell in with robbers who stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. And a priest who chanced to be going down by the same road saw him there and passed by on the other side. And a Levite (another Temple servant) who came there saw him, and passed him by on the other side.
“But a certain Samaritan (from a race despised by the Jews) who was on his travels, saw him and took pity at
the sight. He went up to him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine into them, and then mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him. And on the next day he took out two silver pieces, which he gave to the inn-keeper, and said, `Take care of him, and on my way home I will give you whatever else is owing to you for your pains.’
“Which of these, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who had fallen in with robbers? And he said, `He who showed kindness to him.’ Then Jesus said, `Go your way, and do likewise.’ (Luke 10, 25-37)
Each of us can very easily put this teaching of Christ to the test. For an experiment I can be a Good Samaritan to someone in need whom I meet today or tomorrow, I shall do an act of kindness. It can be something small - even a kind word or greeting, perhaps - but it should cost me something.
The writer makes one promise: if you do this, you will experience a deep joy and peace as a result. To complete the story you should offer your kind action to God as a prayer; and you can be sure that He will accept it.
Jesus Christ never showed Himself to be unconcerned with the ordinary everyday human lives of people. He showed kindness and sympathy for people in details and events of their lives that may seem small buy which mean so much to all of us.
One day He was invited to a marriage feast. But let us read the words of John who was present:
“Two days latter there was a marriage feast at Cana in Galilee; and Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus Himself and His disciples had also been invited to the marriage. Here the supply of wine failed; whereupon Jesus’ mother said to Him: `They have no wine left.’ Jesus answered her, `But woman, why do you trouble Me with that? My time has not come yet.”
“And His mother said to the servants, `Do whatever He tells you’. There were six water-pots standing there, as the Jewish custom of ritual washing demanded; they were of stone, and held two or three “matka” each. And when Jesus said, `Fill the water-pots with water,’ they filled these up to the brim. Then He said to them, `Now draw, and give a draught to the master of the feast.’ So they gave it to him; and the master of the feast tasted this water which had now been turned into wine. He did not know where it came from: only the servants who had drawn the water knew that.
The master of the feast, then, called to the bridegroom and said to him, `It is always the good wine that men set out first, and the worse kind only when all have drunk deep: you have kept the good wine till now.’
“So, in Cana of Galilee, Jesus began His miracles, and made known the glory that was His, so that His disciples learned to believe in Him” (John 2, 1-11).
Thus the first miracle that Jesus did was a very simple and human matter. He did it to help a young man and his.
bride at their marriage to save them from embarrassment before their guests. He is concerned not with His own self but with how He can help others.
God is interested in us in our daily lives. Religion is not something only for a special day of the week or for special feast days, since God is close to us always. We have to find God in our daily life, in our family, in our work, in our free time, in our dealings with others. Otherwise religion is just like a shirt or a “Chadar” that can be put on or off, but which never really becomes part of my life.
Following our principle in these pages of, “come and see”, we can now listen to Jesus Christ as He explains what genuine prayer is and the simplicity with which we should approach God.
It is said that many good people have turned away from religious worship and from God their loving Father because they saw men who claimed to be His special followers acting and praying in a proud, inhuman way.
When we go to God and speak to Him, we do not need to pray in strange words – in Latin, Sanskrit or ancient Persian. The best words are the simple words that come from our heart, which are completely honest and say just what you and me feel in our hearts.
One day Jesus told the following story to make this point clear:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee (a religious leader), the other an ordinary man. The Pharisee stood upright and made this prayer in his heart, `I thank you, God, that I am not like the rest of men, who steal and cheat and commit adultery, or like this ordinary man here; for myself, I fast twice in the week, I give alms. And the ordinary man stood far off, he would not even lift up his eyes towards heaven; he only beat his breast and said, `God be merciful to me; I am a sinner.’ I tell you this man went back home higher in God’s favour than the other. Every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, and the man who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18, 10-14)
When we think of the greatness of God and remind ourselves of all the wonders in the universe that He has made with such ease, we may, perhaps, feel afraid to approach Him. How can such a weak creature as I know myself to be, how can I dare to call on that great God?
An incident in the life of Jesus chows how easily He can be approached. And I shows the tremendous change a mere meeting with Jesus can make in a person.
“He had entered Jericho and was passing though it; and here a rich man named Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, was trying to distinguish which was Jesus, but could not do so because of the multitude, being a man of small stature. So he ran on in front, and climbed up into a sycamore tree, to catch sight of Him, since He must necessarily pass that way.
“Jesus, when He reached the place, looked up and saw him: `Zacchaeus,’ He said, `make haste and come down; I am to lodge today at your house.’ And he came down with all haste and gladly made Him welcome.
“When they saw it, all took it amiss: `He has gone in to lodge, they said, `with one who is a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood upright and said to the Lord, `Here and now, Lord, I give half of what I have to poor; and if I have wronged anyone in any way, I make restitution of it four-fold.
“Jesus turned to him and said, `Today salvation has been brought to this house; he too is a son of Abraham That is what the son of Man has come for, to search out and to save what was lost” (Luke 19, 1-19).
Christ has come to save those who know themselves to be in need of a saviour. It is always the proud and the self-righteous who criticize Him for mixing with sinners. These people are tied up in the claims of their own self. They are so blinded by their selfishness that they cannot see their own real need.
The man who truly knows his own self, and who sees just where he stands before God, can say with the common man in the temple: “God be merciful to me; I am a sinner.” Such a man is like the person who is sick and knows it. He goes to the doctor. He has a chance of finding a cure which the one who does not admit his need, does not have.
The most dangerous sickness is worship of self because it so completely blinds a man or woman to everything except self. And that puts one in a very narrow and small world.
Another day Jesus told a story that shows clearly the failure of the man who raises his own self to a position where this is the only interest and concern in his life.
A man’s life does not consist in having more possessions than he needs. And He told them a parable: “There was a man whose lands yielded a heavy crop; and he debated in his mind, ‘what am I to do; with no room to store my crops in? Then he said, this is what I will do; I will pull down my barns, and build greater ones; and there I shall be able to store all my harvest and all the goods that are mine; and then I will say to my soul, Come soul, you have goods in plenty laid up for many years to come; take your rest now; eat, drink and make merry’ ’’.
“And God said, `You fool, this night you must render up your soul; and who will be master now of all you have laid by?’ Thus it is with the man who lays up treasure for himself, and has no credit with God” (Luke 12, 15-21).
That man relied on his own self. He thought he could plan everything, but forgot the very basic fact that no man - however rich or powerful – is the Lord of life and death. Only God is that. Hence the wise man bows before his true circumstances and faces up to facts.
Now it is time again to sit quietly alone with your thoughts. We are not studying mathematics or geography. We are studying religion – which is your relationship with God. There is a personal question to ask oneself here; is God speaking to me in these events from the life of Christ? Is there a message for me from God in all this?
Lord Jesus, in these pages, You have said to me, “Come and see.”
I am trying to do that with an open mind, and honest mind.
I prefer to be like Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see You
Than to be like those Pharisees who criticized You for mixing with sinners.
You showed Yourself interested in ordinary family matters at that marriage.
Help me in my family and in my work.
You praised the Good Samaritan.
Help me to think not of self, but of others.
Show me the true path that leads to the Father.