"Must"

 by Tom Wacaster

Have you ever noticed how many times the word “must” is used in reference to some felt necessity on the part of our Lord? Here is a small sampling: “But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent” (Luke 4:43).  “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up” (Luke 9:22). “Nevertheless I must go on my way to-day and to-morrow and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). “But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation” (Luke 17:25). “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down for to-day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with the transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfillment” (Luke 23:37). “And he must needs pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). There is more, but I think you get the picture.

Here is one more for your consideration. It is in Luke 2:49: “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Knew ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” It is in this passage that we get a glimpse of our Lord when He was a mere 12 years of age. His mother and father had been to Jerusalem for the Passover, and when they started home somehow Jesus was left behind. I do not find that hard to believe. I once left my daughter at church, drove the short distance home, and it was not until someone from the church building called that I even missed her. We had taken two cars to church that morning in anticipation of some guests coming for lunch right after services. I presumed she rode home with her mother, and her mother presumed she would ride home with me. Still, this passage in Luke 2:49 intrigues me. One thing that interests me is that these are the first recorded words spoken by our Lord. Notice one word in that response of our Lord to His parents: “Must!” From the few references mentioned above you can see that He used that word on several occasions. Sometimes it was “I must.” Other times He would say “The Son of man must!” Do those words not suggest some kind of constraint? Oh, yes, indeed they do! I think Jesus recognized the moral and spiritual constraints to which He had willingly submitted – not because He had to, but because He wanted to. It was not something He did – it is what He was! When it comes to those words, “I must,” consider the following.

First, I see in the life of Christ the must of obedience. It seemed to come naturally with Jesus. He was subservient to the Father’s will in every situation, and in the face of every obstacle He encountered. Jesus stands before us as the example of obedience, for it is in His footsteps we are to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). His obedience grew out of a heart so in tune with the Father that submissive obedience became as easy as breathing. I came across this quote some time back. Written by James Hastings, it touches on the point now under consideration:

Religion is meant to make it a second nature, an instinct – a spontaneous, uncalculating, irrepressible desire to be in fellowship with God, and to be doing His will. There is no obedience in reluctant obedience; forced service is slavery, not service. Christianity is given for the specific purpose that it may bring us so into touch with Jesus Christ, that the mind which was in Him may be in us; and we too may be able to say, with a kind of wonder that people should have expected to find us in any other place, or doing anything else. As certainly as the sunflower follows the sun, so certainly will a man, animated by the mind that was in Jesus Christ, like Him find his very life’s breath in doing the Father’s will.

Can you, dear brother and sister, say without hesitation that “I must be about my Father’s business” as did Jesus?

Second, I see in the life of Christ the must of duty. Before you accuse me of contradicting what I said in the first point, let me assure you such is not the case. The must of duty focuses on our sense of responsibility. Too few in our generation want to accept any responsibility. It is always “someone else’s fault, not mine!” It seems to me that folks in Portland, New York City, Minneapolis, (or any of the big cities now under siege) have missed the concept of responsibility. Our entitlement mentality (supported and encouraged by liberal politicians) has produced a nanny state that is being consumed with growing debt and lawlessness. The must of duty is inseparably linked to the must of obedience. This is because obedience recognizes a superior authority and accepts the duty that goes with that recognition. Why do you think our Lord said, “I must work the works of him that sent me” (John 9:4)? It is because the must of obedience compelled our Lord to accept responsibility and fulfill His divine duty as our Savior. That quite naturally leads to the next point.

Third, I see in the life of Christ the must of love. Why do parents sacrifice so much for the good of their children? This is not the dummy question for the week. You know the answer. It is because love compels them to do so. Without the must of love, the duty and obedience we render would be void of any value. Is that not what Paul taught us in the opening three verses of 1 Corinthians 13? “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” Why did Jesus leave heaven, come to this earth, and die for our sins? It was because of the must of love.

Finally, I see in the life of Christ the must of sacrifice. A man may sacrifice in the absence of love, but it is impossible for a man to love without sacrificing. “The Son of man must be lifted up” (John 3:14). That our Lord “must suffer many things, and be killed” (Mk. 8:31) was a message communicated to the disciples on numerous occasions. There is a certain sense of sadness in these words of Jesus. I do not think Jesus was reluctant to sacrifice. This is because of the love He had for lost humanity. Nor do I think He was attempting to shirk His duty. As one author noted: “He must die because He would save, and He would save because He loved. His obedience coincided with His pity for men, not merely in obedience to the Father, but in compassion for the necessities of sinners.” Our Lord’s ‘must of sacrifice’ demands that we likewise die to self. Unfortunately, as an unknown author noted, “People will argue for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it - anything but live for it.”

I will close with the following observation. There is a song in our hymnals that most of my readers probably know the lyrics by heart. One of the stanzas reads thus: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands by soul, my life, my all.”  That, my friends is the ‘must’ for which our Lord felt, lived, and died.

The Certainty Of Things

 by Tom Wacaster

 

I have started in earnest my next volume of New Testament commentaries. This one is going to be a study of the Gospel of Luke. Having titled my two-volume work on Matthew, “The Majesty of Jesus,” and my two-volume set on John, “The Magnificence of Jesus,” it is my intention to title this work, “The Manhood of Jesus.” The very title should give some indication of the focus of Luke’s biography of the life of Christ. In this article I want to focus on some words in Luke’s prologue. The first four verses in our English translations contain a remarkable literary and theological sentence. All four verses in our English translate one single Greek sentence. Written in ‘koine’ Greek, Luke’s prologue incorporates much of the language of the Greek historians and physicians. There are four things Luke tells us in this prologue: (1) He names his subject - those things of which Theophilus had been instructed; (2) he gives the sources of his information - the “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”; (3) he describes the method of his work -  to trace those things accurately and in order; and (4) he reveals the purpose of his writing - that Theophilus might “know the certainty concerning the things wherein” he was instructed. It is this last point that is the focus of this article.

 

The word “certainty” (v. 4) is derived from the Greek word ‘sphallo,’ meaning “to totter” or “to fall.” In this verse the verb has the prefix ‘a’ which negates the action of the word. The full knowledge contained in Luke’s account will prevent Theophilus from tottering. That same truth is echoed throughout the New Testament. Take, as an example, Paul’s words to Timothy: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The power to save the souls of men, and to keep them saved, resides in the inspired word of God. Peter expressed the same truth with these words: “For if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10b). Luke was writing this first volume of his two-volume work, with the marked intention of providing Theophilus full knowledge of the life of Christ. Others had evidently attempted to write about the life of Christ, but they were lacking in orderliness and factual accuracy. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Luke would present to Theophilus an orderly discourse that rings with “certainty.”

 

The books of the New Testament, from the Gospels to the final revelation to John on Patmos, though differing in style, are marked by this characteristic of certainty. I submit to you that this is one of the things that separates God’s word from all the literary works of Rome, Greece, Europe, the “age of enlightenment,” right up to our day and age. The writers of the Old and New Testaments believed that what they wrote was the word of God. Of this they were certain. Without a single exception, those inspired authors wrote, not from mere probabilities, speculation, or educated guesses, but from a firm belief in what they wrote, and from Whom that message originated. The Bible is not folklore or romance. Such writings do not have that ring of certainty of which I now speak. C.S. Lewis addressed this very point. So far as the writings of men, he noted:

 

I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading...If he tells me that something in the Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read...I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like the Gospels (Christian Reflections, 154-55).

 

Sir William Ramsey sought to disprove this “certainty” in Luke’s Gospel, but in his research  he discovered that Luke was a “first-rate historian, not making a single error in the numerous details he was able to check” (Geisler, Answering Islam, 245). It is this certainty in their writings that gives us hope. For if the writers of the New Testament had expressed any doubt, any hesitation, or hint of disbelief, it would not produce the courage, faith, and determination in those who imbibe their writings. It is the divine principle that a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Now consider the fruit of God’s word. Alexis de Tocqueville, after carefully observing American life in 1830, wrote:

 

There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation on earth.

 

The concepts of life, liberty, and justice stem from the principles contained in the Bible, which principles were the foundation of Western civilization. Our society’s present fetish with “cancel culture” mentality is seeking to remove not only our rich heritage historically, but spiritually as well. They do not realize the Pandora’s Box they now attempt to open. For well over half a century forces have done all within their power to eliminate God and the Bible from our society. Little do they realize that the Bible has done more for good than any other book in the history of man. This is because of that certainty held forth in God’s word. If the devil can succeed in getting men to doubt the authenticity of the Bible, all hope will be vanquished, and the end result is too horrible to imagine. What is playing out on the streets of Chicago, Portland, and New York City (to name but a few of the places) is the fruit of uncertainty, hopelessness, and despair that has filled the void left by the absence of God’s word in the lives of those of whom we speak. What will happen if forces now underway to cancel our Christian heritage succeed on a broad scale across this nation?

 

In their book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born,” James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb list some of the contributions the Bible and Christianity have made to civilization: Hospitals, universities, literacy and education for the masses, capitalism and free-enterprise, representative government (particularly as it is has been seen in the great American experiment), separation of political powers, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, discovery of the New World, elevation of women, benevolence and charity, the “Good Samaritan” ethic, higher standards of justice, condemnation of adultery and homosexuality and other sexual perversions, high regard for life (both born and unborn), the civilization of barbarian and primitive cultures, codifying and setting to writing many of the world’s languages, greater development of art and music, countless changed lives morally speaking, and the eternal salvation of countless souls.

 

I ask you: “Why have men embraced the words contained in the New Testament?” It is not because they believed the Bible was a myth, or folklore. They embraced the teachings of the Bible because of this ring of certainty that runs through its pages like a fine thread. And because they were certain of what they wrote, we can be certain of the hope that is held out in its pages, and march onward with the Sword of the Spirit in hand, and tell others of the certainty of the promises it holds out to all those who will follow and obey its precepts.