Summary: Whose child are you?
I certainly do not want to imply any disrespect for one of the greatest hymn writers of the church; Charles Wesley, who gave us, among many others, such grand tributes to the majesty of God as “And Can it Be”, and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”.
But I do have to object to the overemphasized picture of a neatly coiffed, sad-eyed pathetic and subdued ‘Jesus’ that has for so many generations been fostered by the church on an otherwise largely ignorant public, as found in the words of one of Wesley’s oldest, “Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild”, which begins,
“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee”
Not that I do not understand that what he had in mind was the tender love of Jesus who cares for His children, but when I read the Gospels I see very little of this kind of Jesus and in fact I think I would go so far as to say I do not see this sort of Jesus at all.
Because in His most tender of moments there is an underlying strength and absolute confidence in His words and His actions that belies the foppish, almost feminine, non-confrontational image that has come down from the Renaissance and hung on the walls of so many churches throughout the years.
If there has been any time in history when Christ ought to be demonstrated to society not as a lamb but a lion, it is today and for more than just one reason.
People in the church and out of the church are living in paralyzing fear of both real threats and perceived threats to their lives and their well-being, and these fears and uncertainties cannot be addressed and dealt with by anyone less than a powerful and courageous Savior.
The flipside of that coin is that these same folks, and by that I do not mean some particular segment of society, but all of society, here and across the seas, need to know that there is a God who will come in judgment, and He is described more accurately in the 19th chapter of Revelation, and it is He to whom they will ultimately give account.
And while a solitary overemphasis on His tenderness and mercy will diminish Him in the minds of the disobedient, an emphasis on His power and might and His imminent coming in glory to judge and to reign can only open the door to speak of and be exposed also to His mercy and compassion.
Any fop can extend a limp-wristed show of amity and will be seen as nothing more than what is on the surface. But when a powerful and physically imposing man holds out a hand in friendship and in help he is immediately recognized for his kindness and gentleness.
Melville had some insight that I think is applicable for us here, in the midst of his very detailed and lengthy description of Moby Dick (he had an entire chapter on the tail). Here is what he wrote:
“Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the magic. Take away the tied tendons that all over seem bursting from the marble in the carved Hercules, and its charm would be gone…When Angelo paints even God the Father in human form, mark what robustness is there. And whatever they may reveal of the divine love in the Son, the soft, curled, hermaphroditical Italian pictures, in which his idea has been most successfully embodied; these pictures, so destitute as they are of all brawniness, hint nothing of any power, but the mere negative, feminine one of submission and endurance…” Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”, chapter 86, The Tail
There is a striking example of this magical combination of strength and tenderness in the words we did not read this morning, that immediately precede our text. It is the well known account of the woman accused of adultery and the calm control in which Jesus masters the situation and saves her from harm and introduces her to grace.
Now at this point you may be beginning to wonder, if you paid any attention to the sermon title at all, what all this has to do with the testimony of fathers.
It is only this. Jesus, who was day after day confronted by the leaders of the Jews who challenged His authority, challenged His teaching, and finally began to insult Him openly and even threaten His life, met these people head on as the Lion of Judah. He said the things, not that they wanted to hear, but that they needed to hear.
In verse 51 of our text He said, “…if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” and knowing above anyone the eternal implication of that truth He, as God, could do no less than cut right through to the marrow and splay evil and ungodliness wide open for all to see so that some might repent and obey in faith.