Monday, July 15, 2024
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The greatest man ever to be born on earth: Advent Sharing

Jesus is the greatest but unfortunately, the most misinterpreted man ever to be born on earth. For instance, the mushrooming of hundreds of denominations, with their own interpretations, theories and doctrines each claiming to hold the truth of Jesus.
What makes Jesus, the greatest? First of all, Jesus was truly human and truly divine. He was a king yet chose to be born in a lowly manger and not in a palace. He turned the usual understanding and practices of human life upside down. For example, the Jews and we pray for long life thinking or believing that longevity is a blessing while shortness in life as a curse but Jesus corrected that God, our creator, is only pleased by the quality of our lives and not by how long we live. The Jews and many others did not have the concept of heaven or eternal life. It was Jesus who demonstrated by his short life of just 30 years that there is a better and glorious life after our earthly journey. In effect, He brought hope of everlasting life to the hopeless. Jewish elite demanded their subordinates and servants to wash their feet and serve them but Jesus, who is addressed as master and Lord, washed the feet of his disciples and told them to wash each other’s feet. He also said that the greatest among you must be the servant of all; in other words, we are all asked to be humble in our lives if we desire to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
He preached that the greatest commandment in life is love but he was killed in the cruelest way possible by crucifixion for preaching Love. And when he died he was buried in a tomb which did not belong to Him. The only drink he received while hanging on the cross was not a drink to ease his pain but a vinegar to double his agony. The only gift he received in his life were two thieves for companionship while hanging on the cross; one on his left who ridiculed Him and the other on his right who pleaded for forgiveness and a place in heaven which Jesus granted and the other gift was a tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea, to lay his lifeless body. His only belonging in his life was his garments his foster father Joseph might have bought for him and even that too was taken away by the soldiers by casting lots to fulfill what the scripture says: “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lot.”
Then He preached that, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” To make us understand this truth, Jesus said, “If you want to enter heaven then you must love your neighbor as you love yourselves and the other secret is to be like little children if we are to enter heaven. This is the gist of his whole preaching. Contrary to this simple teaching, what is being preached in our churches happens to be just the opposite. For instance, the preaching that we are saved by faith and grace alone which is neither logical nor biblical because this is not what Jesus preached and that is why such teachings are also not found in the gospels either and not even in the letters or Acts of the Apostles. To recognize this anomaly, we must know who brought about this doctrine. This theory, as we all know, was propounded by a Catholic monk called Martin Luther, a German Augustinian monk in the 16th century.
History tells us that Luther seemed to have a very excessive fear and anxiety about his salvation. Therefore, he could not reconcile himself, mentally, with the challenges of life as he was suffering from an undue fear of life and terrified as to whether he would be saved or not and the reason behind this inordinate mindset was because he held a very poor understanding of man itself. For him man was wretched, nasty, evil and all good works of man was filthy in the eye of God and hence he concluded that man was incapable of saving himself except by faith alone through the infinite mercy of God. But contrary to his false understanding, the Bible says that God is all loving and created us in his own image and likeness and that we are all his beloved children. In contrast to Christian understanding of God as a loving father and we, as his children, Islam teaches that Allah is God and that all Muslims are his slaves. Luther appears to have held the Islamic view of man.
While in this state of mind, Luther stumbled upon the Letter of St Paul to the Romans 3:28 that says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of law.” This suited his troubled mind so much that he, thoughtlessly, concluded that “man is justified by faith alone and not good works”. He was not aware that he was misinterpreting the text itself. Paul never said that man is justified by faith alone nor did he condemn “good works” because without good works there is no way for man to show that he is a child of God. Paul was only clarifying the confusion arising from whether non-Jews becoming Christians has to come under the purview of “the works of law” meaning the cultural practices of the Jews like circumcision etc. Paul, in a letter, clarifies to them that the works of law was necessary for the Messiah to be born out of it but now that He is born, the more important for us is not the works of law but to have faith in the Messiah.
The sad part of misinterpretations that took place during the various centuries of the Church resulted in the formation of many faulty theories and doctrines by individuals which not only crippled the actual teachings of Jesus but also gave birth to the fermentation of many divisions in Christianity even giving birth to Islam. You may be surprised to know that Islam, founded by Mohammad (570-632 AD) around 600 AD, was born out of heretical teaching of the Arabian Christians who preached monophysitism.
‘Monophysitism’ (mono means one) was propounded by Eutyches in (440 AD). He was a monk of the Orthodox church in Constantinople who taught that Jesus has only one person saying that his divine nature absorbs His human nature. According to this reasoning, if we say that Jesus is only divine then human beings cannot follow His teachings since it will be impossible for humans to imitate. And if we say that Jesus is only human then we would not have believed him at all. That is why this teaching was condemned by the Church as heretic. It was also opposed to the Christian doctrine of Trion God. Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, the doctrine of Salvation by faith and grace alone propounded by Luther in 1517 AD had been a result of a faulty understanding of man and Paul’s letter to the Romans which only gives rise to further faulty ideas like “we are saved already and so we do good works” this in turn gives rise to an attitude of pride and self-righteousness among believers. Against this very attitude, Paul in Romans 10:6 cautions, “Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven?”, he says that this is to bring down Christ, instead of exulting Him”. And besides, when people say their prayers they say “Lord, I, the most insignificant and wretched member of this gathering is submitting a prayer”. Is this not an insult to God our heavenly father who created us in his own image and likeness and here we are telling Him that we are wretched and filthy? People are saying it unknowingly so we are not blaming anyone. But, I appeal to all of you, as intelligent people, to use your reasoning ability more alertly that we may be free from all these anomalies.
We are on the brink of celebrating the greatest spiritual event, the birth of Jesus. To welcome him worthily, we all need to have the correct understanding of his teachings and commands in order to have abundance of life, grace and joy. For those who desire to have the correct understanding of Jesus and his teachings, you will find them in the gospels and not in the letters or Acts of the Apostles, for these are, though important, yet they are only footnotes to the Gospels.
Jonas Yanthan