My dear Brethren: Grace and peace through our Beloved Master!
Comes again the time of year that we consider the birth of Jesus. However, at the outset we would say that nowhere in the Bible are we told to remember His birth, although He emphatically told us to remember His death – “This do in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
Most of our readers know that December 25 is not the correct date for Jesus’ birth. This date has been plucked out of thin air; the Atonement Day type and other Scriptures inform us that He was born on the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month – Tishri – Tishri being approximately our October. But we would not haggle about the exact date. We are persuaded that the Christian world does receive some moral uplift and spiritual encouragement through the observance of His birth; and we readily join with others in the observance. Many in Christendom reveal a milder and more pleasant spirit at that time. Quite often we have noticed people on the street humming some sort of Christmas tune; and we are happy to make this observation.
“WE SEE JESUS”
Coming to the analytical phase of this subject, we make note that if we ask many believers, Do you see Jesus? – That is, do you understand Him? from many we would receive a ready answer: “Of course, we do!” So we would now offer our own analysis of how we “see Jesus.” And we would present some comment by the Apostle Paul in Heb. 2: 6-9: “One in a certain place testified (Psa. 8:3-9), saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast put all thing in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
To present a proper foundation for our analysis we would first quote from the Gospel of John 1:1-5: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was a god. This was in a beginning with the God. through it everything was done; and without it not even one thing was done, which has been done. In it was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shown in the darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not.” This is taken from the Emphatic Diaglott translation; and the following is a footnote from that same translation: “This term (the Logos) should be left untranslated for the very same reasons why the names Jesus and Christ are left untranslated. As every appellative of the Saviour of the world was descriptive of some excellence in his person, nature, or work, so the epithet Logos, which signified a word spoken, speech, eloquence, doctrine, reason, or the faculty of reasoning, is very properly applied to him. See 1 John 1:1, for a clear and useful comment by the Apostle John on the proem to this gospel.”
And further from John 1:14, Dia.: “The Logos became flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, a glory as of an Only-begotten from a Father – full of favor and truth.” Also, from Phil. 2:5-7, Dia.: “Christ Jesus, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God, but divested (emptied) himself, taking a bondsman’s form, having been made in the likeness of men; and being in condition as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Note now the exact language found in Psa. 8:3-9: “Made a little lower than the angels.” This description in both texts is identical, so we would apply the geometric theorem, “Things equal to the same things are equal to each other.” To make this very plain: two half dollars equal one dollar; four quarters also equal one dollar. Therefore, the four quarters are the exact equivalent of two half dollars – equal to each other. Here is clear Scriptural proof that Jesus was a man – “made flesh” – “a little lower than the angels.”
THE DUST OF THE GROUND
“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) Not the identical process, but a similar one, may be given for the Man Jesus. When He came to birth from the Virgin Nary, he began to partake of the foods common to man, and grew into a man – the exact duplicate of Adam – when He was thirty years of age, when he presented Himself to John in the River Jordan on the day He was thirty, the age at which the Jews reasoned, with Scriptural authority, that their males reached full manhood.
To analyze this a little further: Presently, the grass grows from the earth – the dust of the ground; the grass is consumed by the flesh-producing animals, which in turn are eaten by man. All of these things are the direct result of “the dust of the ground.” Thus, are we all formed from “the dust of the ground” – even as Jesus was; and the record is clear enough: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19) Thus, at the age of thirty Jesus was in every detail an exact duplicate of Adam when “Cod breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”
By this statement we do not infer that God was thirty years in producing Adam. But the moment he was animated, Adam was the exact image of Jesus when He was thirty. “The son of man came to give himself a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) The word ransom is from the Greek anti-lutron, which means an exact duplicate, a replica; therefore, Jesus had to be an exact duplicate of Adam – no more, no less – that He could provide the ransom for Adam, which none of the other human beings was able to do. “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Psa. 49:6,7)
“That disciple whom Jesus loved” reveals the intimate acquaintance and understanding that the Apostles had of Jesus: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands felt, concerning the word of life (the Logos); and the life was made manifest, and what we have seen we also testify, and declare to you the aionian life, which was with the Father, and was manifest to us.” (1 John 1:1,2 – Dia.) “Our hands felt” – here the Apostle reveals the intimate relationship which he had had with our Lord when He was on earth – a comradeship of the closest nature.
“We behold Jesus.” It is in order to stress here that the Apostle does not say, “We behold Jesus Christ.” And there is good reason for this. When the angel was speaking to Joseph, the advice was given: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) Here is one scholar’s comment on the name: “The name Jesus means the salvation of God. For Joshua among the Hebrews is salvation, and among them the son of Nun is called Joshua. The name Jesus is above every name.”
However, from birth to His baptism by John in Jordan our Lord was known by the single appellation Jesus, and not Jesus Christ. Christ means anointed; and He did not become the ‘anointed’ Saviour until He received the Holy Spirit without measure at His baptism in Jordan. Therefore, it was not Jesus Christ who was made “a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”; because the Christ – the Anointed – was not sacrificed on the cross, but merely Jesus, the perfect man. Had Jesus the Christ been nailed to the cross, He would have offered much beyond what the man Adam had, because Adam was never anointed with the Holy Spirit; he was simply “a living soul” – a man from any viewpoint. Christ was not “lower than the angels”; and, when He said on the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46), He was referring to the spiritual life that had begun in Him at Jordan, which was raised from the tomb three days later, when “God supremely exalted him, and freely granted to him that name which is above every name .... that every knee should bend, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those beneath; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11) He now “sits at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)
VARIOUS NAMES AND POSITIONS
Logos – During His existence our Lord has held three positions in relationship to God; and these various positions are indicated by the various names He has had. Before His first advent to the earth He was known as the Logos – the Word. And as the Word of God He was the principal agent of God’s creation; He was second to God, but above every other creature in Heaven or earth. As such, the Bible tells us, “without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3) As such He was a spirit being, not capable of description with our limited knowledge. Before his deflection, Lucifer was described as The son of the morning” (Isa. 14:12); but the Logos was superior to that, because Lucifer came into existence through the agency of the Word.
Jesus Christ – When the Logos came to earth, and became Christ Jesus, the situation is vividly described by St. Paul: “Christ Jesus ... made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ... became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8) The Diaglott translates this in much finer style: “Christ Jesus ... divested himself (He laid aside His high position, much the same as a man might take off his coat), taking a bondsman’s form (a slave’s position), having been made in the likeness of men..... he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
“In The Likeness Of Men” – He had the appearance of a man, although a most unusual likeness of men – so much so that Pilate exclaimed in admiration, “Ecce homo” – “Behold the man!” (John 19:5) And St. Paul writes of Him: “He was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) although Pilate saw the excellent features of a most unusual man, he could not see that Jesus was “without sin.” Yet Jesus’ sinlessness had set Him apart from all men. All of us find description in the words of David: “Born in sin, shapen in iniquity.” (Psa. 51:5)
Express Image Of God’s Person – Presently, and henceforth forever, Jesus occupies a third position, described by the Apostle in Heb. 1:3: “the express image of God’s person ... the right hand of the majesty on high.” In Heb. 2:9 we have the subject of this treatise – “We see Jesus – a little lower than the angels”; but in Heb. 1:4 it is stated that He is now “so much better than the angels.”
Scores of names and titles are used in the Bible in discussing Jesus; but we shall offer just a few of them here: In Rev. 1:8 He is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending ... the Almighty”; in Rev. 22:16, “The bright and morning star”; in Isa. 51:9, “the arm of the Lord”; in the Song of Solomon 3:1, “Rose of Sharon and The Lily of the Valleys”; and 5:10, “the chiefest among ten thousand”; In John 8:12, “the light of the world ... the light of life”; in Luke 1:78, “the dayspring from on high”-, in 1 Tim. 6:15, “the blessed and only potentate ... the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords;” and in Heb. 13:20, “that great shepherd of the sheep.”
Four Great Offices – The risen Lord is now the possessor of four great offices, in which He is to do a certain work for the human race. There are many subdivisions of these four, but we shall not go into that detail. These offices are presently operative only in a very limited way; but He will come into the full glory of them all when He establishes His reign on earth – “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.” These offices are Biblically stated as follows: The world’s Prophet – “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you..... him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you” (Acts 3:22); and the world’s High Priest – “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 5:6); the world’s King – “Thou Bethlehem..... out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2); the world’s Judge – “The Lord cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” (Psa. 96:13) In treating of just these four, we do so because each of them is close companion to God’s four great attributes – Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power; and we shall offer brief comment on each of these descriptive pairs:
World’s Prophet – The word prophet in Acts 3:22 is from the Greek ‘prophetes,’ from which the English word prophet is derived; and it has the meaning of public expounder, or teacher. And to be a good teacher, one must be endowed with Wisdom. Thus, the Lord’s office of Prophet is readily linked with the Divine attribute of Wisdom. In making this statement we should be alert not to confuse wisdom with knowledge, because wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. It is well stated, “Knowledge is power”; but this is true only if we know what to do with knowledge. Also, it is a sound observation that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Knowledge in inexperienced hands often causes great disaster – in the laboratory, in construction, in the operation of intricate machinery, etc. But we have strong Bible assurance that our risen Lord will know perfectly what to do on every occasion, and how to do it. Thus, it is properly foretold of Him: “The government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor” (able to advise and counsel in every situation). (Isa. 9:6)
World’s High Priest – The office of a Priest is to forgive and bless. Therefore, we are counseled in Heb. 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy (forgiveness of sins), and find grace (blessing) to help in time of need.” All of this is clearly an operation of LOVE: therefore, we team the High Priest with the Divine attribute of Love.
World’s King – “Of the increase of his government and peace (kingdom) there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom there shall be no end, to order it with judgment and justice from henceforth even forever.” (Isa. 9:7) In the operation of this kingdom the Divine attribute of Power is self-evidently coupled.
World’s Judge – “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation ... Judgment will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies.” (Isa. 28: 16,17) It needs no elaboration to declare that the Divine attribute of Justice is the fitting counterpart of the World’s Judge.
Analysis Of The Four Offices – Now further comment on the foregoing:
Teacher wisdom – He who discerns clearly teaches clearly. Of the Teacher it is recorded: “Jesus needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:24,25) And His crushing answers to all the tricky questions of the Scribes and Pharisees offer ample proof that Jesus did know what was in man. Therefore, “He taught them as one having authority.” (Matt. 7:29) Concerning the Jews St. Paul said: “Israel hath a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2) Quite a contrast to the knowledge that Jesus had! The Egyptian proverb goes well here:
He who knows, but knows not that he knows, is timid;
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is ignorant;
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool;
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise,
The great World’s Teacher knows, and knows that He knows. “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.” (Isa. 53:11) And the Apostles stressed this point concerning the true followers of Jesus: “We know of whom we have believed. We have known him.” (1 John 2:3) “We know that we are of the truth.” (1 John 3:19) And the philosophers, the comics, the ignoramuses all have had their play on this subject – some of it good and sound. As one of them has put it: “It’s not what we don’t know that hurts; it’s what we know that ain’t right that floors us.” This truth may be emphasized in politics, religion, finance, patriotism, etc. One of our present-day philosophers said of Jesus: “He is the greatest teacher of all times.” Also, one of the poets has contributed an excellent bit on this subject:
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne –
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own,
However, we know “When thy judgments are in the earth (when the Great Teacher supervises the teaching) the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9)
Priest-Love – The great love-work that Jesus will accomplish is well expressed in Hos. 13:14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: 0 death, I will be thy plagues; 0 grave, I will be thy destruction.” Of Jesus, our Priest, it is written: “Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” (Heb. 5:10)
Of Melchisedec it is recorded that he was a Priest upon his throne; that is, he was not subservient to any earthly power – which is an excellent description of our High Priest Jesus. One author gives us this description: “Melchisedec, King of Salem (probably Jerusalem before the Jews conquered that country after their Exodus from Egypt) and priest of the Most High God. Jerusalem means city or foundation of peace or safety, so that Salem is an appropriate abbreviation. In Salem also is God’s tabernacle (Psa. 76: 2), God’s dwelling place in Zion. Melchisedec as described in Heb. 5:10, was without father, without mother, without genealogy. This means that his pedigree is not recorded. He is further described as having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, of whom it is testified that he lives. It is not known whence he came, or whither he went; he is a type of undying priesthood. When thus our Lord was made a high priest after the order of Melchisedec, he held a higher office than the Aaronic priesthood.”
It is a sad record that all movements, religious, governmental, or political, have been relatively pure at the outset. And almost all of them have followed a very fixed pattern as the years have come and gone. Regarding religious movements, they have gone through three stages: Priesthood, Priestcraft and Priestgraft. The pristine purity of the early Christine Church under the leadership of the Apostles is a thing of beauty, earnestly striving for the welfare of its adherents. But the Apostle Paul said that already in his day “the mystery of iniquity doth already work ... whose coming is after the working of Satan... with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:7-10) Much the same could be said for the Jewish Church. When it was organized under Moses at Sinai, Aaron was the ideal priest. “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5:4) But by the time Jesus had arrived the noble ideals of Aaron had disappeared; the priesthood had degraded to the bottom of the dirty barrel – priestgraft. “My house shall be called the house of prayer: but ye (the Scribes and the Pharisees) have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt. 21:13)
Judge-Justice – One of the classic Scriptures describing Jesus as Judge administering quick and perfect Justice is found in Isa. 11:1-5: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”
The most just and well-intentioned of our Courts today must judge according to the seeing of the eyes and the hearing of the ears. Thus, some guilty go free, and some innocent are convicted. That is the best we have today; but that will not be so when the Great Judge administers Justice. We have “the sure word of prophecy” to verify this conclusion: “God hath appointed a day (the 1000-year day – shall “reign with him a thousand years”—Rev. 20:6) in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:31) Indeed, “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) Often do our judges favor the strong, and burden the weak. A man’s face may be pushed out too far, or in too much; thus, our judgment is often based on the “outward appearance.” It is a recognized truth that the very rich, the very powerful, or the highly educated find it almost impossible for them to receive a fair appraisal of themselves from others, because their position strongly influences the judgment of their admirers, or their enemies. Let us consider the case of Pilate: He admired the fine physical features of Jesus; thus, he said to the Jews: “I find in him no fault at all.” (John 18:38 – repeated in John 19:4) But the “envy” of the Jews was so pronounced and clamorous that they prevailed. Thus the law is often decided through prejudice, trickery, oratory or brute force. And the doctrine “Might is right” often prevails. We close the Justice feature of “We see Jesus” with Isa. 28:17: “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
King-Power – As King over all the earth Jesus will exercise the Divine Attribute of Power. Since the time that historical records began to be kept men have striven to improve their living conditions; and, while some progress has been made in certain respects, yet the overall picture is well described by the Prophet Isaiah (1:6): “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
It is a sage observation that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. And the Bible emphasizes this in classic and emphatic fashion. In Dan. 2:26-44 there is portrayed the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar’s metal man – head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron. Here is given us a picture of the four universal empires as viewed through the eyes of man. And Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar: “Thou 0, king art a king of kings... a kingdom, power, strength and glory. Thou art this head of gold.” (vs. 37,38)
But the seventh chapter of the same book these same kingdoms are described by four beasts: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and “the fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it.” (7:7) In both instances the four universal empires are described – Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The last of these Rome – is well portrayed by the iron legs, as history is replete with the records of “the iron rule of Rome.” But in Dan. 4:17 there is this terse summarization of all of them: “The Most High setteth up over it the basest of men.”
And as we consider Nero, Ivan the Terrible, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the emperors of Rome, etc., we recognize the truth of this statement. They were conquering heroes in their time; but they do not appear at all favorably when compared to The Prince of Peace! The shibboleth of the Roman rulers was: Without slaves there can be no leisure; without leisure there can be no thinking; without thinking there can be no progress. And history bears sad testimony to the rough time many of those Roman slaves had. And one of the heads of our own Government made the remark not so many years ago: “The average man is so dumb you can tell him anything.”
It is a proper analysis that the human race is divided into three groups – the magnetics, the repulsives, and the neutrals. The magnetics are a very small minority, but so are the repulsives. It is seldom we see a human face of such disagreeable appearance that we instinctively turn away from it. But some secular writers – not overly religious – have been caught up with the magnetism of Jesus; and one of them in his impelling way treats of the wife of one of the high rulers in Palestine at the time Jesus was being tried and led to the cross. She said to her husband: “O, Lodbrog, I have seen him; and I cannot forget his wonderful face. Save him, and I will go with you anywhere to the ends of the earth.” But the husband answered, “I should save God!” Jesus was indeed magnetic, “The common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:37)
“We see Jesus” with the eyes of our understanding; and we can join with St. Paul in his superb exclamation, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor. 9:15) With this comes our warm wishes to all for a blessed Holiday observance.
Sincerely your brother,
John J. Hoefle Pilgrim
Reprint of No. 306, Dec. 1980