Life Is Complex. Jesus Makes It Simple.
I love how God makes things beyond our human ability to fathom understandable to us: things of God and the profound spiritual realm that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. He does this through the Holy Spirit.
“No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him–but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 9,10 NIV).
But it is not just the hidden things of the spiritual world that are beyond our ken; even our life in this world escapes our ability to grasp its full meaning.
“That which is, is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?” (Eccl 7:24 RSV),
“I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it” (Eccl. 8:17 NIV).
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl 3:11 NIV).
All these scriptures, plus many more, make it plain that unaided man cannot fathom on his own what life is all about–at least not in its fullness. He needs help. Man sometimes thinks that such help can be found in religious writings, such as the law as revealed in Scripture. But even though this law comes from God, it is powerless to bridge the gap between man’s understanding of reality and that reality itself, that is, God.
But “what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son” (Rom. 8:3 NIV).
God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was sent to this earth to bridge the gap between man and God, including not only the gap created by man’s sin, which he bridged by his death on the cross, but also the bridge between man’s faulty understanding of God and reality and the true nature of that reality. Jesus is the teacher that man needs to understand life.
That is one reason God sent his Son into the world, to show helpless man what his own existence is all about, to teach man. Jesus came to give to man that which all his reasonings and efforts cannot produce for him: understanding of life.
Jesus harshly criticized the unbelieving Pharisees in his day when they continued to look elsewhere for this, even when they looked to the holy writings of God, the Scriptures. They were so bound to their human tradition of thinking that the written words of God were their salvation that they could not see those words find their highest manifestation in the One God sent from heaven: the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. That was why he told them:
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (Jn. 5:39,40 NIV).
These foolish men were content merely to study life, as revealed in the Scriptures, and which are meant to point us to Jesus, the living Word of God, rather than to actually take that living Word into themselves and thus have life. They thus actually worshipped the written word of God rather than the actual living Word of God. This is part of the sad consequence of the tragic fall into sin when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree in the Garden–the Tree of Knowledge.
Ever since, the pursuit of knowledge has been one of the key pursuits of mankind. Simply knowing has been seen as the key to power and advancement in life. This appeals to man’s vanity and pride, for in this pursuit of knowledge, it is up to the individual to press on and apply one’s self to attain this knowledge. This worldly way even wormed its way into the church, as heresies such as Gnosticism emphasized knowledge and simply knowing about Christ rather than actual union with Christ into his holiness and fullness of life.
Knowledge alone will not bring one into fullness of life. Only the union into Jesus will, the union that comes about through faith in him.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10 NIV).
Nevertheless, there is still a place for knowledge and for teaching. The huge difference is who is doing the teaching. Is it from man’s mind alone and his reasonings about God and reality? If so, God has this to say about that:
“You do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 Jn. 2:27 NIV).
It is in Jesus that we find the answer to our quest for the meaning of life and to receive life at its fullest. He is to be our teacher, not the writings and mind of man. That is one reason he came, to teach us about God. Jesus said:
“Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me” (Jn. 6:45 NIV).
We come to Jesus to learn from him about God, so that he can teach us. But many things in this world can hinder us from doing that. We are all familiar with the story of Mary and Martha (Lk. 10:38-42). When Jesus visited their home, Martha became distracted by all the preparations needed for serving the guests–the duties of this life–and she became upset when her sister Mary did not help her but instead sat listening at Jesus’ feet. But Jesus told Martha that in all of life, only one thing is needed, that Mary had chosen this one thing, and that it would not be taken from her (v. 42).
“Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (Jn. 6:37 NIV).
“It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God'” (Is. 54:13).
Jesus is God (Jn. 8:58, Col. 3:16-19). When God himself is in your house, teaching about life and reality and God, surely the proper response is to set aside all other responsibilities and sit down and listen to him.
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (Jn. 12:8 NIV).
There is a time and place for every duty of life. “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:9-11 NIV).
It is indeed a beautiful thing to work for God. Service to him is an offering indicating reverence for him. But even this can be done with a wrong attitude or at the wrong time. Many is the pastor or missionary or other believer who started out serving God with a heart full of love but who, over the years, had that service turn into a burden hard to bear. But the reason it has become hard to bear is that we are the ones who have chosen to bear it, instead of letting Jesus bear it.
“I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket” (Ps 81:6 NIV).
Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Mt. 11:30). If his burden is light and becomes heavy, what went wrong?
The causes can be many, but chief among them must be a taking of the eyes off of that one thing needful in life, which is he who is life itself, Jesus Christ. Martha took her eyes off of Jesus and onto the duties of the house and serving the guests. She sank beneath the burden. Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked around at the storm and he sank beneath the waves. It can happen to anybody. What is the secret to not letting it happen to us?
Jesus revealed that secret. Our great teacher has taught us the secret to taking the complexities of life and reducing them down to one thing: focusing on God alone. He himself lived out this principle. He said:
“By myself I can do nothing” (Jn. 5:30 NIV).
“The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing” (Jn. 5:19 NIV).
Could it be that Mary was simply following Jesus’ example, of not doing anything that she did not see her heavenly Father doing? Jesus told Thomas that “whoever who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9 ESV).
When Mary saw Jesus sitting in her home, she saw the Father: God was in her house; she saw him there–because she saw Jesus.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us–that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 1:1-3 ESV).
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20 NIV).
So Mary seemed to be aware of the greatness of the guest in her home and wanted to give him the greatest attention and honor that she could. She did this by putting everything else aside as of lesser importance and devoting her entire attention to him alone. Now, it wasn’t that Martha failed to recognize who Jesus was, only that she failed to recognize the proper way to express that recognition. She thought that serving him by taking care of the guests was the right way. So she went about elsewhere in the house, apart from Jesus. But Jesus has said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5 NIV).
Martha’s problem wasn’t that she didn’t love Jesus or didn’t try to show it; it was that she tried to do it apart from Jesus, and apart from Jesus, we can do nothing, no matter how much flurry of activity we make. Martha got caught up in the complexity of life, with all of its demands upon us.
Jesus is thoroughly familiar with complexity; after all, he is God–not only the most complex entity that exists but the most complex or profound that can exist. He is the most complex of complexities.
Scripture says that God is spirit (Jn. 4:24). No human being really understands what this means to exist as a spirit being, because we are flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became flesh and blood, to be a bridge between these two modes of existence, a bridge between God and man.
But though we may not be able to comprehend in its fullness what it means to be spirit, we do know this much: A spirit being is a simple being–simple not in the sense of being easy to understand or only a basic building block of something else, but simple in the sense of being a complete totality in and of itself, with no outside dependencies required and no internal parts. God’s simpleness refers to his constituency, which is undivisible spirit, not to his being some mere cell that makes up a greater whole; he is the greater whole. Only a spirit is capable of being God because only a spirit, if it is infinite, is capable of being everywhere always–and that is one of the definitions, if there be such a thing, of God, one of the requirements to give any meaning to that word. That is why the psalmist says of God in Scripture:
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Ps. 139:7,8 KJV).
“‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:24 NIV).
God is simple. He simply is. And he is everywhere. Jesus, as God, put aside some of his divine attributes as spirit so that he could become flesh and blood and so be one of us.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:14,15 NIV).
Mary and Martha knew the experience of having this most remarkable man/God in their own home. But what is even more remarkable is that you and I and every believer in Jesus has this same experience.
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him'” John 14:23 NIV).
This is true not only in our physical dwelling place, our home or abode, but in our physical body, the dwelling place of our own spirit. It is there, in our body, our soul, and our spirit, that Jesus comes to make his home with us. Incredible!–but true. Complex beyond understanding. But we don’t have to understand it, only grasp it and hold onto it, touch it and feel that it is so and know that it is so in a knowing that goes far beyond intellectual sensing or reasoning. We know it in our spirit because our spirit responds to the presence of the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ. This is far too profound for intellectualizing and reasoning, but it is God’s way.
“For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:19-21 NIV).
It is so profound and complex as to be beyond anything of man’s ability to comprehend. Yet in Jesus, it becomes so simple that even a child can respond to it–even a child too young to have reasoning powers at all: a child in the womb, as when John the Baptist responded while yet in his mother’s womb.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk. 1:41 NIV).
“Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Ps. 22:9,10 NIV).
In fact, not only has God made the complex and profound so simple that even a child too young to reason can respond in trust and faith to the Spirit of God, Jesus declared that we must receive it as a child–or we will not receive it at all.
“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven'” (Mt. 18:2,3 RSV).
Man makes the simple complex by designing rules of religion and intellectual requirements for faith. Jesus makes the complex simple–so simple that a child, even an infant, can have faith. But this is faith that is relational, not intellectual–the huge mistake that many in the church make by insisting that a child cannot believe. Intellectually, no, perhaps not. But certainly relationally he or she can–and that is the very kind of faith that Jesus says we must have to enter the kingdom of God.
How I thank the Lord for making the complex simple!