When applying for a job. one normally has to write a CURRICULUM VITAE. and append the names of two REFEREES, who will be willing to give a confidential CHARACTER REFERENCE on one’s behalf. On receipt of the C.V. and the two CHARACTER REFERENCES, the Employer decides whether the Applicant suits his needs better than any of the other numerous applicants. I suppose this system has been used in more or less this fashion for thousands of years with slight modifications.In this paper I would like to write a CHARACTER REFERENCE of our Lord, based on the evidence provided in the four gospels. Of course, such a reference is not needed, especially by me! God forbid that I should feel the need to supply one. But my purpose is to glorify the Son of God, and I sense the propriety of that. At the start of our Lord’s ministry, and just after His baptism. a voice from heaven declared. “This is my Beloved Son. in whom I am well pleased.” Here is the definitive word of God the Father in the position of our Lord’s “Employer” saying that His Son was ideally suited for the tasks that lay ahead. The gospel writers do not tell us who heard this voice, other than the Lord Himself. But the message from heaven required another ear to hear it. The fact that it has been recorded suggests that John the Baptist heard it and made it known to others.
At a later time in His ministry, the Lord took three of His disciples up a mountain, where He was transfigured before them. The disciples then heard the Father’s voice saying, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him.”They were awe-struck and fell on their faces. God the Father was saying that His Son’s progress had been wholly satisfactory.
Just before the crucifixion, at the time of the raising of Lazarus, the Lord prayed and said, “Father, glorify Thy name.” And a voice came from heaven. saying. “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Nobody else in the crowd heard the words. They thought it was thunder or the voice of an angel. God the Father here sets the seal on His Son’s ministry. He started well. He continued well, and He finished glorifying His Father’s name. As the “Employer”, God had chosen One who absolutely, completely, and unreservedly fulfilled all that He desired.
Because of these three “heavenly interventions” declaring God’s pleasure in His Son, we have no need to underscore the Lord’s character in any way. In fact anyone who writes about the Lord Jesus in a derogatory manner must face God eventually with a sense of shame. The fact that our Lord promised forgiveness to all such, does not exonerate us from blame if we cast aspersions on the divine character.
May we investigate an aspect of our Lord’ s character to demonstrate the worthiness that gave His Father such pleasure? I believe that in so doing we shall find pleasure as well.
In reading the gospels I have often noticed how frequently the Lord insisted that people refrain from advertising Him. “See that you tell no man.” “See that no man knows it.” “See that you tell it not in the town.” To whom was He addressing these words? In each case a person had just been healed. Some were blind, others deaf and yet others had been lepers. In the case of Jairus’s daughter, she had just been raised from the dead. Such references are particularly frequent in Mark’s gospel.
For a long time I have been somewhat puzzled by our Lord’s words. Surely I thought, He must have known how utterly impossible it would be for a blind man not to announce his new-found sight, or a deaf man his ability to hear at last, or the leper to display his perfect flesh to the delight of all? And what about Jairus? How could he keep quiet when everybody knew that his daughter had died and been raised?
And the gospels make it abundantly clear that few if any kept His word. They went and published abroad the wonders and the marvels that they had witnessed. How then are we to understand the Lord’s insistence on keeping quiet? In Matthew 9:27 we read of two blind men who came to the Lord for healing. After they had received their sight, we read that Jesus“straitly charged them” (Greek = sternly admonished them) saying “See you let no one know.” But once they had left Him, “they spread abroad His fame in all that country.” So much for the “stern admonition.”
I can imagine these two men, able to see at last, and in a pitch of excitement, walking about, even running, and telling everyone that they can see. Their friends and relatives would stare in amazement, and want to know how it happened. It is too much for human nature to reply, saying. “I’m sorry, it’s a secret. I’ve been told not to say anything.” And what is more, I am quite sure the Lord knew that too. I don’t believe for one moment that He expected people to keep quiet about the amazing miracles He performed.
Let’s have a closer look at the raising of Jairus’s daughter. The ruler of the synagogue’s servant approached the Lord, saying that it was too late. Jairus’s daughter had died. Undeterred, Jesus walked home with him, and saw the crowd of “professional mourners” outside the home. making obscene wailing noises. “She is not dead, but sleeping,” the Lord announced, which changed their wailing into mocking laughter. Inside the house He ordered everyone out save the father and mother and three of His disciples. Taking the girl’s hand He said, “Talitha koum“. (meaning “Little maid, wake up.”) Immediately she awoke and stood up and walked, to their utter amazement. But the Lord cut short their wonderment and amazement by saying, “Give her something to eat.” And finally He sternly ordered them not to make known what had happened.
Why did the Lord handle the matter in this fashion? In all probability He just walked out afterwards with His disciples saying nothing to the jeering crowds and the wailing mourners. He allowed them to continue their mockery. I am assured of this. He would never have “strictly charged” Jairus to keep quiet and then splashed it into the open Himself on leaving. The whole episode was handled in such a way that people were left to believe that the little maid had not really died at all, but just needed healing.
I think that, more than on any other occasion where a miracle had been performed, this one displays the REASON why our Lord behaved in this fashion, and once the lesson has been learned, we shall be the wiser ourselves.
Jairus and his wife were allowed to witness the resurrection of their daughter. They KNEW what had happened, and I doubt very much whether they hushed it up afterwards. After all, everyone knew that the little girl had died. Therefore the Lord chose to have her father and mother present, as also Peter, James, and John. These five witnesses were needed. The glory of the Lord was manifested, and these five were the privileged witnesses.
But immediately after the “Great event”. the Lord deflects their attention from the event itself to the needs of the child. who required some nourishment. It is all beginning to add up. The purpose behind it is gradually emerging. He did everything to deflect attention away from Himself! THAT is the vital point.
Now we must ask ourselves what lay behind this necessity. Why should the Lord want to deflect attention from Himself? And the answer is simply that of PRIDE. He knew the temptation that accompanied success and wanted to squash it flat before it had a chance to grow. Maybe some of my readers will object to the thought that the Lord could have been subject to pride. But I think we have very cogent reasons for believing just that. Let me explain.
At the start of His ministry, we are told that “The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” And after the forty days of fasting, the Devil suggested that He could throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple, thereby demonstrating that He would not be hurt. To what purpose was this temptation? To make our Lord into “an attention-getter”.To draw attention to Himself, to declare His divine origin, and gather the crowds to worship Him for His public display of miracles. And there is no doubt about the effectiveness of this method. The world is full of those who delight in drawing attention to themselves in one way or another, but in every case it can be attributed to pride, which God cannot accept.
If the Lord was impervious to such temptation. then the Devil would not have put it into His mind. We are therefore made to attend to this vital fact, that our Lord was indeed “Tempted in all points like ourselves. and yet without sin.” He nevertheless knew the power of pride. He knew and knew keenly, that success is always accompanied by the temptation of pride.
Let someone who has had similar experience speak. Here is a man who has led a godly life, and just occasionally has prayed for healing. and the Lord has answered from heaven in a dramatic way. What follows? There is the immediate temptation to think. “God has answered My prayer. God is therefore pleased with ME, otherwise He wouldn’t have healed this person.” The result is a notching up of credit points, whether consciously or unconsciously, instead of realising that all such spiritual gifts, when operated, are “charismatic”, in other words “gifts of grace,” and as such have no reference to the person’s worthiness. Indeed. by the very meaning of the word “grace”. they come as “God’s love to His undeserving creatures.”
Yes, our Lord was subject to the temptation of pride EVERY TIME HE PERFORMED A MIRACLE. and it is my studied belief that this was an ongoing battle that He had with Satan throughout His ministry. The miracles were necessary as hall- marks of His person and ministry. “If you cannot believe my words, then at least believe Me for the works’ sake” He said on one occasion. Satan was continually at hand to try to make Him fall into the temptation of pride. And the greater the success of His mission, the greater became the temptation. The ladder of success is attended by ever greater possibilities of falling, the higher one climbs.
Now we can return to the scenes of our Lord’s miracles, and assess His remarks once again. Immediately the healing has occurred, He strictly charges the person not to say anything. He doesn’t expect the person to keep the command, but this isn’t the important thing TO HIM. The immediacy of His charge relates rather to the deflection of the temptation to pride that afflicts Him. Knowing how strong the temptation is, He deals it a death-blow at its inception. rather than allowing it the slightest foot-hold of entrance into His being.
In other words, in all these examples, we are witnessing our Lord’s continual struggle against sin. Some people say that our Lord was “not able to sin.” But this is not true. Rather should it be said that He was “able not to sin.” As the author of Hebrews tells us, “Though He were a Son. yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Truly “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 5:8 & 4:15) Each one of us knows, by experience, the wretchedness of being a fallen creature. But the Son of God knew the pain more acutely than any of us. He was tempted to a degree that none of us can ever know, yet He overcame at every point.
This I believe to be the reason why our Lord so frequently told those He healed to be quiet, even to say so with great force. It immediately deflected attention away from Himself and saved Him from the terrors of pride. Satan was at all times ready to afflict Him with this greatest of all problems. It was the cause of Satan’s own downfall in the heavenly regions in the beginning. We read in Ezekiel 28 that he was created perfect in all his ways until iniquity was found in him. How did this come about? “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. and you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness,” declared the Lord. (Ezek.28:17) “For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Host High.” said the Lord through Isaiah. (14:13)
In absolute contrast, the Lord Jesus was already ONE WITH HIS FATHER in heaven, but as Paul tells us in Philippians 2, He left the heavenly regions to “become of no reputation, to take upon Himself the form of a servant, to humble Himself, and be obedient to death, even the death of a cross.” Let us worship Him because of this. Let us realise the extent of the struggle He had against the sin of pride throughout His three years of ministry and see His true greatness emerging against the background of a multiplicity of miracles.
Once, many years ago, I asked the Lord for the gift of healing, because I saw it as a useful tool in persuading people to believe in God. I was denied that gift. The servant of the Lord who ministered to me said that I should read John 15. “Abide in the Vine.” I was unhappy with this decision, even though I had to accept it. But now, many years later, I thank the Lord for His decision. I can see in retrospect that it would have been the greatest single factor to bring about my downfall. Because God is caring and doesn’t want His children destroyed by pride, He withholds power if He knows that it will destroy the one who holds it. I give this as a personal word of testimony. I do not suggest that the gift of healing should NEVER be given. Some men may be able to handle it without fear of pride. But in my case, the Lord saw otherwise.
Here is the end of the matter. I have tried to show how great was the ministry of our Lord in respect of His handling of miraculous power. The understanding here revealed, has been granted to me quite suddenly, by the help of one of my daughters as she studied with me, and I want to thank her, as also the Lord Himself for His kindness to us both.