Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home

ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 114
May 2000

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND


Boxes filled with old papers and faded black-and-white photographs, bureau drawers crammed with yellowed and torn memories, dog-eared paperbacks, cherished bits and pieces of events well-lived. Collect together the scattered evidence and you have the portrait of a life.

What remains at the end of a life is the collected evidence of what that life was: what it accomplished, how it affected the lives of others. Closets bulging with tattered memories since forgotten tell the tale of the one who placed them there so long ago. Letters penned in ink long since faded, annotated snapshots stuffed into albums, childhood mementos pasted together, broken and torn--all comprise the journal of a person's life.

The books we've left on our shelves; the quiet trinkets we've placed in our underwear drawer; the notes we've jotted in the margins of cookbooks and cherished letters--all these paint a portrait of who we have been and what we have stood for. They give evidence for what was important to us.

It is inevitable that we will leave something behind, so it is also inevitable that those remaining will be left with the evidence for our life. No life leaves behind a vacuum; everyone leaves a trail.

Easter is the pinnacle moment in a year of remembering a life well-spent, a life that has, in one way or another, affected virtually every life that has followed. The Easter season, more than at any other time of the year, is when we open the cluttered closets of our memories and sift through the evidence for our salvation through Jesus Christ. From Thursday through Sunday morning, as if representing a compressed version of His entire life, we have opened the album containing His humility, His anguish, His sacrifice and ultimate victory over the grave. From the Last Supper, through His arrest, trial, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection we have seen, in compressed form, the entirety of Christ's life--a digest of His purpose in coming to earth in the first place.

Jesus left behind the evidence for His life in the words penned by His biographers--and in the lives of those who carried on His mission. He left behind the evidence for His life in the memories of those who sat at His feet, listening to His unearthly wisdom. He left it in the experiences of those who walked with Him along the dusty paths of Palestine. And He left it in the lives of all those who gazed upon His tortured body, left hanging upon the cross, and in the joy felt by those who discovered His empty tomb.

Jesus left behind no drawers stuffed with mementos, no faded photographs of Him arm-in-arm with His mates. Jesus left no essays of His own, no comments in the margins of a favorite book. We haven't even His signature upon a legal document.

What He left behind, instead, were the lives and memories of people; He entrusted everything He was--everything He accomplished, everything He stood for--to them.

Synthesis of Faith

There were twelve men in Christ's inner circle. Many more attended His steps, absorbed His teaching, even supported Him financially, but into the lives of those twelve Jesus invested more of Himself than in any others. Many years after He left them, two of those closest disciples--Matthew and John--wrote their versions of His life. Around the same time a Greek physician and disciple of the apostle Paul--Luke--set down his methodical account of Christ's life. But the earliest account of the life and ministry of Jesus belongs to a young associate of Paul, son of a woman in whose house the early church met in Jerusalem--John Mark.

So here were four different men, with four different perspectives on the Man who was God. They all knew Him--or knew of Him--in different ways. Two were close by Jesus for the span of His earthly ministry; one may have been around Jesus, on the fringe of His followers, an impetuous young man; and one probably never met Jesus at all, but compiled his systematic chronicle as would a modern historian: by research and interview.

Before he became one of Christ's disciples, Matthew, a Jew, was by trade a tax collector for the Roman government.

John, son of Zebedee, was a fisherman called from his nets by the Savior, and, along with Peter and James, was one of the disciples dearest to the Lord.

Luke was a Greek physician who traveled with the apostle Paul, and along with his gospel account, wrote The Acts of the Apostles.

John Mark was the son of a wealthy Jerusalem family who was probably present at Jesus' arrest, then was instrumental in the early church.

These men wrote four different accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. Each writer emphasized something different about the God-Man; each man, as well, wrote a little of himself into the text. The four gospel accounts are not pure history, nor are they pure biography; not one of them is meant to stand alone as the be-all and end-all for proof-text for the Son of Man. They are, instead, an integral part of the synthesis of factual history, personal experience, and Spiritual anointing that becomes, in each human heart, a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Discrepancies

Some people are troubled by the apparent discrepancies between the four Gospel accounts. In some cases, the reader is left wondering which to believe: Which version is the correct story? The answer is simple: All of the above. Consider the following illustration:

Frank has a friend named Harry who attends the same church where he worships. Frank knows Harry quite well, but only at the church. He is a deacon, and head usher, and when Frank sees him, Harry is always dressed in his Sunday-go-to-meeting suit. Harry is gregarious toward visitors, sings the hymns lustily, and is studiously attentive during the sermon.

During the week, however, Harry works as a mechanic in the local railroad diesel shop. He wears overalls, and generally spends his days covered in grease and oil. His hands are rough, some of his fingernails smashed, and there is dirt in the fine cracks of his flesh that will never come out. Harry is a hard worker, and his mate, Robert, respects him for his commitment to a job well done.

Harry lives alone, and, except for church every Sunday, doesn't socialize much. He doesn't make a lot of money, but with few other expenses he regularly sends a generous check to an orphanage in a nearby town. The administrator of the orphanage has never met Harry in person, but through the letters he has sent along with his checks, she has come to learn that he, too, was an orphan, and that his childhood included much sadness.

If asked to write a short biography about Harry, each of these three people--Frank, Robert, and the orphanage administrator--would tell a different story. Each story would contain material that only that person knows, but would also contain some overlapping information common to all the writers' experience. Even the common material, however, would be slightly different from the next, since it would be interpreted by individuals with different experiences and perspectives on the subject.

Yet each biography would be telling the story of the same man--and each would be true.

A Servant Heart

In the first church we joined in California, the pastor liked to play golf. Because he left the church not long after we arrived, I can't give an accurate picture of the whole man, but in the time both of us were there, I don't recall him ever getting his hands dirty. He left the impression with me of being rather above it all--and of favoring golf sweaters over suit and tie.

This pastor was replaced by a country boy who was in many respects his opposite. This new pastor was quick to lend a hand. Wednesday afternoons he could be found in the kitchen helping to prepare the evening meal. When the newspapers collected by the youth had to be loaded into the van and taken to a place of disposal, he was there to do the job.

This pastor was a servant.

In the same church there was an elderly lady, the unofficial matriarch of the church. She always sat near the front in every worship service, nodding sincere encouragement to whomever was leading from the platform.

She was a woman of venerable dignity and great Spiritual depth. So I was a little astonished, one Wednesday evening, to peer through the window into the Primary department and see this rather elderly woman physically involved with a roomful of boisterous children. Instead of finding her perched majestically out of reach, directing the session with the quiet dignity that her station in the church would permit, I found her in the thick of the fray, grabbing unruly kids, sweating from the August heat.

This woman was a servant.

To John Mark, Jesus was, as his account begins, the "Son of God." But more than anything else, Jesus was to him a man of action. Mark opens his gospel without the preface and historical background of Luke, without Matthew's listing of Jesus' Jewish lineage, and without the mystical pre-creation verse of John. He doesn't even bother telling how Jesus was born. Mark's gospel begins with Jesus already moving at full speed: by the ninth verse of chapter one Jesus is baptized; by the fourteenth, Jesus is "preaching the gospel of God."

There is an energy about the story told by Mark--events happen "immediately," and the characters move quickly from scene to scene. There is a lot of horizontal movement, with little vertical contemplation. The Jesus in Mark's gospel is a ministering servant, not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Because this gospel was written for Roman gentiles, it is a story with universal appeal. One need not be familiar with Jewish history or its Law; one need not be a sophisticated, well-educated Greek; one need not be a philosopher, comfortable with lofty, spiritual concepts to read and understand Mark's gospel. It was written so that the common man might know that God came down to man in flesh: to help, to heal, to serve.

It is the Jesus in Mark's gospel who attends my deepest needs. He is the one who is so quick to reach down and embrace me when I am hurting, when I have failed, when I have really blown it. He understands that I am fragile, that I am made of dust that is disrupted by the faintest breeze. He is the one who listens to the wails of my grief, the joy bubbling out of the deepest regions of my heart, and our quiet conversation as we walk together in His garden.

Continuity

Citizens of England, Norway, Jordan or Denmark may be perfectly comfortable with the idea of a king, but there is no such tradition with the citizens of the United States. In fact, the roots of our republic, both historical and philosophical, are deeply imbedded in rebellion against a king--indeed, most forms of authority. We're an independent lot, imbued with the DNA of self-determination. (Some of us are even uncomfortable with the concept of a president!) A good republican says, "Just leave me alone to make my own way!"

Along with our Constitution, we have our first president, George Washington, to thank for this. Popular sentiment would have permitted him to become an actual king, but he insisted that

Indeed, the strong foundation of a democratic republic is not in its first leader, but in its second; the critical moment is not the president's inauguration, but his departure from office. It was the peaceful transition from George Washington to John Adams that set the precedent for those that would follow. So the concept of a king--a monarch with absolute authority--is something to which the typical citizen of the United States would not be friendly.

Yet the Christian, regardless his country of origin or residence, has signed away all authority for his life to the Lord Jesus Christ, the divine king. He is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Lord of All.

Matthew's Gospel is rooted in the Old Testament--in fact, it was originally penned in Hebrew, then translated into Greek. In Matthew's account Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Messiah, the King. The book begins with the Jewish genealogy that led from Abraham, through David, to Joseph, the "husband of Mary." The first narrative is not about Jesus or Mary, but Joseph.

The text of this Gospel is peppered liberally with quotations and references to the ancient books we refer to as the Old Testament. Jesus Himself draws upon the Old Testament: all three of His responses to Satan, during His temptation in the wilderness, are direct quotes from Scripture.

The Jesus in Matthew's Gospel is the focal point of continuity with the ancient beginnings of the Judeo-Christian faith--indeed, creation itself. It serves as the perfect first book of the New Testament; though not the first written, it is an eloquent bridge, linking the New with the Old.

And even an American can embrace the King in Matthew's account.

Son of Man

His flesh began as any other: male seed and female egg joined and nurtured in the human womb. But God the Son required the purity of a sinless birth. So the seed was from the Holy Spirit, and the egg was from a virgin. The two came together and became a baby. And the baby was named Jesus.

If we can imagine what God looks like, we might, since He is spirit, imagine Him in the shape of a spiritual being: radiant energy, a hovering pool of light. If the Father decided to send God the Son down to be the Savior for mankind He might choose to send Him down in His native form. So the Son of God--as a floating pool of light--would come down to earth, live among humans for a while, then be executed by the Jews and Romans. Mysteriously, the death is only temporary, and forty days later the globule of light would return to heaven. After the initial shock of His appearance had worn off, we wouldn't be surprised by anything He could do. After all, He was just radiant energy; the cross could not kill radiant energy.

But Jesus did not present Himself as radiant energy. He presented Himself as a rather normal human being. The baby Jesus was real. No china doll, He burped and spit up and filled His diapers like every other baby before or since. He was human--flesh and blood. He was born of a woman, grew and slowly matured as a typical child, and did not even present Himself as Deity until he had been on earth around thirty years.

The Son of God had to become human so we would see His death and resurrection as a miracle--so we would know that, even though packaged in typical, normal flesh, He was truly, the Son of God. The Son of God became flesh because only as flesh could He die--and mankind could only be saved if He did.

In his Gospel, Luke emphasizes Christ's humanity. Where Matthew, the Jew, began his account with Christ's kingly line back to Abraham, Luke, the Greek, includes Christ's genealogy back to Adam--the first man.

More than any other of the Gospel writers, Luke sets the life of Jesus into a context of family, beginning his account with the parents of John the Baptist. John will be not only the prophet to announce Christ's arrival, but he is blood kin. The story of the birth of Jesus in Luke's Gospel is tender, intimate, and very human. One can almost smell the stable, and feel the weariness of the travelers. One can see the baby lying in His crude surroundings, wrapped in strips of soiled cloth.

But Luke also emphasizes that this man Jesus will be the Savior of the world.

In His first public announcement of His purpose in coming, Jesus quoted Hebrew Scriptures that spoke of the coming Savior:

The Jesus in the Gospel of Luke the physician is the hope for every man and woman, no matter their race, creed, or country of birth. His roots, along with ours, are traced back to the first man. So this Jesus, of lowly birth in a stable, is--while very God--our brother and kin. Through His salvation our birthright is the same as His.

Son of God

If the Lord Jesus had a best friend, John was it. This was the disciple "whom Jesus loved," the disciple who "was reclining on Jesus' breast" at the Last Supper. It was into John's care that Jesus gave His mother, Mary, as He hung dying on the cross.

No one on earth was closer to Jesus the man than John--which makes it surprising that his Gospel account would emphasize the deity of Christ. We might expect John to be the chronicler of the rich humanity of Jesus, but, instead, his purpose is to prove--through the telling of His miracles, teaching, and works--that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Perhaps because he lived the longest, and wrote his Gospel so late in life, John's account of Jesus' life has a lofty, supernatural feeling to it. Where Matthew takes us back to Abraham, and Luke takes us back to Adam, the apostle John takes us back to the time before Creation in one of the most beautifully written passages of the whole Bible:

It is as if by being so close to the person of Jesus, John came to understand in a profound way His deity. And therein lies the lesson for each of us: When we get to know Jesus, spend time with Him, rest upon Him in those moments of deep need, we come away from the experience with a more complete, authentic picture of who He is.

Jesus is the Man of action, the servant always ready to help when help is needed. He is the long-awaited Messiah, the King, the fulfillment of ancient prophecy come in the flesh. And that flesh was perfect, utterly perfect, and worthy of the sacrifice the Savior made on our behalf. But most of all, Jesus was the Son of God, truly all of God in flesh.

He is the living Son who breathed the air of this world, but now reigns in the lofty heights of the eternal throne. He is the spotless lamb, before whom all people will eventually bow.


[COPYRIGHT] [SUBSCRIPTION INFO] [OTHER TITLES]

Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home

Issue No. 114
May 2000

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Aspects is Copyright © 2000 David S. Lampel.
Permission is hereby granted for this original material to be reprinted in newsletters, journals, etc., or to be used in spoken form. When used, please include the following line: "From Aspects, by David S. Lampel. Used by permission." Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION
Aspects is published monthly in printed and two e-mail editions: plain text and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. For a free subscription, contact us by any of the following methods.

To Contact Us
Phone: 515-462-1971
Postal address: 2444 195th Trail,
Winterset, IA 50273-8172.
Internet address: dlampel@dlampel.com

Back Issues
Back issues of Aspects are archived on the World Wide Web; go to http://dlampel.com and click on "Aspects".

Contributions
Aspects is distributed free-of-charge. If you wish to contribute financially toward this ministry, then we want you to know that your contribution will be an encouragement to us, and will be applied toward the expenses of postage and materials.

Other Resources

You are cordially invited to discover the many Christian resources available at our Internet site.

At http://dlampel.com/ you will find periodicals, e-mail list subscriptions, dramatic resources and completed projects--all archived in their entirety.

At our web site you may read all publications and subscribe to those you wish to receive on a regular basis.

You may also review all of our His Company scripts, download them for immediate use, or submit an order for printed versions.

All resources and publications are made available free of charge.

    Periodicals
    Aspects is our monthly devotional journal. This eight-page publication has been published since 1990--via the Internet since 1994.
    Frequency: Monthly
    Editions: Print, Ascii, Pdf

    Seeds of Encouragement is published every Monday morning as a brief, simple reminder of God's presence in our lives.
    Frequency: Weekly
    Editions: Ascii

    Reflections by the Pond offers thoughtful considerations of life, nature, and the world in which we live from a Spiritual perspective. It is published every Wednesday.
    Frequency: Weekly
    Editions: Ascii

    Songs for the Heart is our newest offering, published every Friday. This brief devotional includes thoughts based on hymns, choruses, or psalms.
    Frequency: Weekly
    Editions: Ascii

    Dramatic Resources
    At the His Company web site visitors will find a complete catalogue of dramatic and musical resources that both illustrate Scripture and proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

    All scripts and worship resources are included in their entirety, ready for immediate download. Editions: Print, Ascii, Pdf

    Completed Works
    Also available at our web site are several completed resources, including...

    In Unison is a 19-article series on worship--written especially for worship leaders and the choir.
    Editions: Ascii, MSWord

    Knowing... is a series of brief devotionals for understanding the God of heaven through the lives of those who called upon His name.
    Editions: HTML