2-4 The Passion of Jesus
The Son of God also has feelings. It was Alfred Norris who first brought to my attention what he called " the sufferings of the risen Lord" , the ongoing passion of Jesus. That He, in Heaven, can be crucified afresh by the apostacy of His brethren on earth. He goes through it all again, in His feelings. So many times the New Testament labours the point that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. And yet Stephen sees Him standing- when he prays. The Lord Jesus was passionately involved in mediating that prayer. We need, each of us, to spend time seeking to construct in our own minds an imagination of the person of Jesus. How He would have spoken, His body language. For we are to be His followers to the extent of being caught up in some kind of personality cult in this man, this more than man. We need to read His parables again and seek to hear once more His original tones, and experience anew the vital qualities of force, conflict, passion and authority which there were in the historical events. For this man, this Son of God, must live in our lives. We must be ever sensitive to His feelings for us, His involvement. He cannot just be a black box in our minds, a mechanism for offering prayer to God. He who is, right now in Heaven, is He who was 2000 years ago, the sinless lamb of God who walked around Galilee, who wept over Zion, who loved little children, who so felt for the parents of the sick ones, who beholding the self righteous young man " loved him" , feeling that involuntary upwelling of fondness and delight in a person. And this Jesus is who He will eternally be at His return. This same, living, crying, laughing, passionate Jesus who walked the lanes of Galilee is the One we will meet in judgment, and the One we will eternally live with in a relationship that will never, and could never, become just the same old scene. And in that sense, we begin the eternal life with Him right now. For the passion of Jesus is as real as it was and will be. In Ps. 4:8 David spoke of how God “only makest me dwell in safety”, or, makes me dwell in safety alone. The very same Hebrew words occur in Dt. 33:28 – Israel will “dwell in safety alone” in the Kingdom. David felt that even in the midst of hardship, this time of Kingdom blessing had come for him internally, in the peace of his own mind. Likewise in our lives the essence of the Kingdom can come. We live the eternal life now.
A Passionate Future
The passionate nature of God is to be expected, seeing that we are made in His image. And it was so clearly reflected in the passion of Jesus. We can reason back a tiny little bit…from how we are, to how He therefore must be. For, we are in His image and likeness. This, James says, is why we shouldn't curse our fellow man, we should respect her or him…because they are made in God's own image. We must respect not only their bodies but their feelings and sensibilities, which are also broadly modeled on those of God Himself. Our blessed Hope consists in being given God's nature. We will not, therefore, become passionless robots, working out an endless stream of administrative actions in God's Kingdom. For His nature isn't like that. Forget, for one moment, that 'the rich man and Lazarus' is a 'difficult passage'. Focus on how Lazarus is " in" Abraham's 'bosom' or chest (Lk. 16:23). This doesn't mean literally inside it. He was 'in' Abraham's arms, on his chest; and this is explained to us in v.25 as meaning that Lazarus was receiving " comfort" at the same time as the rich man was experiencing torment. Mic. 7:5 uses the same figure of being " in" a man's bosom to describe how a wife is held by her husband. And Lam. 2:12 uses it again to mean 'receiving comfort'. This is what the Kingdom will be like, especially immediately after our reward. For this is what the parable is about- the rich man will not be eternally tormented, his torment will be on knowing the reality of the fact that he stands there rejected. But while he is temporarily tormented, some poor beggar brother is getting comforted by Abraham. Both of them with Divine nature. Abraham holding the other brother to his chest and comforting him. And, in passing, this would interpret for us John's words in Jn.1:18: " The…son, who is in the bosom of the Father" (after His ascension). After His ordeal, Jesus was as it were receiving comfort from His Father. There was and is an emotional bond between them. And so there will be between us all in the Kingdom.
We will have our arms around each other. Comforting and congratulating. Laughing and crying. In the streets [or, the rubble] of Jerusalem. Who knows how it will actually be, but something like shaking our heads all the time, images of the old life flashing back, now understood in a totally different context… grinning, crying, remembering the old times, hey that's the prophet Isaiah there…and…well…there's Natasha…I last saw her at Bible School…and I remember…we had hard words with each other…wretched man that I was… OK, we don't know how exactly it will be. Imagine it how you like. My simple point is that there will be the emotions of joy, sorrow, surprise, grief, anger, satisfaction, elation…for these are all parts of God's nature which we will then partake of.
The parable of Lk. 16 goes on to say that there will be those who will want to cross over from rejection to acceptance, and also- and note this- there will be some who will want to go the other way to save those in the group of the rejected- weeping, screaming, gnashing their teeth as they will be (1). But it won't be possible for them. Even in Divine nature, some of us will have the desire to do the impossible- to save those rejected. It will be rather like the Angels in the time of Ahab suggesting their plans of action to God, but they were all turned down except for one. To have Divine nature, as Angels do, doesn't preclude having emotional thoughts. Nor does it mean we will have 100% understanding of God's ways beamed into us.
Thus before the Lord of the harvest, having received the 'penny' of salvation and Divine nature, those who thought they had worked hardest complained that those they thought had done less, were still getting a penny. They were rebuked, but they still had their penny (cp. salvation; Mt. 20:11). The subsequent comment that the first shall be last might imply that they will be in the Kingdom,but in the least place. Robert Roberts wrote that he was certain that the only response of the saints once they are given Divine nature will be to break down in tears. And I agree with him. And the passion of Jesus may mean He does likewise. Being Divine doesn't mean you don't cry- in whatever way Divine beings cry. Which is why, in some ways, there are tears in Heaven as we pass through our vales of tears down here. Some will be in the Kingdom who have big questions about the justice of God even then (Mt. 20:12,13 " friend" ); some will sit in the Kingdom in " shame" because they thought they were greater than other brethren (Lk. 14:9- cp. the elder brother?)- i.e. self-imposed shame and embarrassment; some remonstrate that a highly rewarded brother already has ten pounds, and surely doesn't need any more exaltation (Lk. 19:25). This all suggests that even after our acceptance at the judgment, we may be more 'human' (or whatever word I should use) than we may now imagine. More emotional, more seeking towards understanding, with a greater potential for eternal growth, than perhaps we have thought. Divine nature doesn't mean being passionless. Whichever hymn writer called the Kingdom " passionless renown" just, quite frankly, got it wrong [or was trying too hard to rhyme his words]. Because God is passionate; and we will share His nature.
Life More Abundant
The tears that will be wiped from our eyes are those associated with " the former things" of this life, and also the emotion associated with our acceptance. But it can't be that it means we will never have the emotion of sadness ever again. For God is made sad, grieved at His heart, even now. And we are to share His nature. Consider for a moment the emotion which we will feel after being granted Divine nature. Malachi says we will be like stalled animals, who are fed, fattened, kept in small dark pens to be killed…who then suddenly break out into the daylight, and go prancing away through the meadows. This will be our leap of joy and taste of true freedom. Yet the Father will have to comfort the faithful in the aftermath of the judgment, wiping away the tears which will then (see context) be in our eyes, and give us special help to realize that our sinful past has now finally been overcome (Rev. 21:4). " Enter into the joy of thy Lord!" sounds like the Lord may have to encourage us to get over this stage of weeping, and enter into the sheer joy which He has, that we've finally made it. " Come…!! You blessed of my Father! Enter the Kingdom…!" sounds like something similar. Now all these things are highly emotional. Yet we will have God's nature. He therefore has just the same capabilities as we will have. And, He exercises them right now.
Real life with such a wonderful God, both in this life and in that to come, will be anything but boring. It is and will be the most wonderful, supreme, dynamic, ultimate experience in all of existence; made all the more gripping in that we do not and never will completely understand this wonderful God of ours. This is what makes our relationship with Him so compulsive. We see His emotion and passion. We respond to it. We don't understand Him to the end. He leads us to think we do, and then we find how little a portion we have heard of Him. Like Job, we feel He crushes us like a lion, and then shows Himself marvellous unto us in grace. We must be sensitive to His feelings. Those feelings which we see through a glass darkly. And He sees our passions and feelings and is sensitive and responsive to them. He knows us totally, but we do not know Him to the same extent. He leads us on, deeper into Him and His personality and being. And we realize ever more deeply the extent of His knowledge and design of us and our little lives. Words and phrases run out in trying to articulate in words the sheer wonder of our relationship with Him. Particularly is this so with the window all this gives into the passion of Gethsemane, the intensity of the relation between Father and Son there and on Golgotha. Into the tragedy of God at that time. Of those things whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent. Our life with God in Christ is so, so much more than just knowing a set of doctrinal propositions, or turning up at 'church' a few times per week. Lying on a bed dying of cancer, in small town USA to the top floor of a Moscow apartment block, to an African or Indian village…feeling trapped in the routine chores of early motherhood, or in the demands of high pressure employment…for all of us, there is more than excitement with knowing and dealing and at times struggling with this wonderful God of ours. Praise Him, Praise Him, for all that He is, and was, and ever will be to us, for all that we have seen and known of Him, and all that by grace He will yet reveal of Himself. Praise Him, for who He is! For His desire to save us eternally! And seek, with passion and commitment, to please Him whose heart bleeds for us!
(1) We assume too quickly that the Lord's reference to the Angels carrying Lazarus to the bosom of Abraham means 'straight after his death'. But not necessarily so. He died, was buried, and then at the Lord's return, the Angels will carry the faithful to judgment / the Kingdom- they will go forth and gather the elect. The rich man would only be thrown into Gehenna at the last day, as Jesus so often taught elsewhere. The only element of accommodation to, or parody of, existing Jewish beliefs was in the rich man asking that Lazarus be returned from the dead to warn his brethren. And this element is doubtless inserted into the story by the Lord as a prophecy of how even His resurrection would not convert those who did not truly listen to the Old Testament.