Category Archives: The Personality Of Jesus

The Personality of Jesus 2

LG Sleiman

8th January 2021

It could well be said of our Lord Jesus Christ that the Beatitudes represent the heart of His message. The Beatitudes are at the heart of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount which is, in turn, at the heart of His entire life.

If the birth of Christ represents the dawn of a new age of grace and truth for mankind, and if the cross and resurrection represent the climax of Christ’s mission, then we may say truly that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (St Matthew, chapters 5-7) is at the centre of His life—yes, at the very heart of His message.

Who can fathom the depth and beauty and glory of the Beatitudes? We speak in human words and we understand things in human concepts, but the Beatitudes embody the wisdom, love, and power of God.

For just as God came down from heaven when He spoke with Moses, heard His peoples’ cry of oppression, and freely chose to deliver them out of Egypt and into “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3: 7,8), so too did the Son of God descend from heaven, take on human nature, and freely chose to deliver His people from the darkness of sin and death and into an eternal heaven of peace, joy, and life.

Nowhere do we find this free gift of God so beautifully and so eloquently embodied as in the Beatitudes of Christ.

For Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Christ mentions no condition, cost, or qualification. He simply says that “the poor in spirit” will be given “the kingdom of heaven.”

The Lord seems to be saying that He wants to give these souls everything for nothing which, according to a human way of thinking, defies all logic.

So we might ask, what does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?

It has often been said that poverty of the spirit equates to detachment, but I would like to take a different approach.

Consider, on the face of it, that the “riches” of the spirit are peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, humility, purity, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and others of the like. Now let’s read that verse again with this same thought in mind:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Christ seems to be saying: “Blessed are those who have no peace, for they will be given the peace of heaven. Blessed are those who have no joy, for they will be given the joy of the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who are not loved, for they will find the love of their eternal Father in heaven.”

The Lord’s face emerges ever more clearly and distinctly in His words.

If we fail to recognise how extreme and radical is this promise of Christ, I think we will miss the actual meaning of His words. Think about this: no one in the world of human affairs expects to be given everything for nothing.

Yet here the Lord seems to be saying that those who are the most impoverished, the most abject, the most abandoned—it is precisely these who will be given the riches of the spiritual world, the joys and blessings and graces of the kingdom of heaven.

Though these words of Christ seem to defy human reason and common sense, we have to ask, why would God choose to give us everything for nothing? Is it really true?

After all, Jesus said: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

This looks like a contradiction—it looks like the Lord is saying that the price for eternal life is the imitation of Christ: “…let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

But it is not a true contradiction.

If we reflect that nothing a man or woman can do can actually merit the reward of an eternal life of love and glory with God, this begins to make sense. The gift of eternal life is not a reward for our deeds–for nothing we can achieve, humanly speaking, is worthy of the free gift of God.

Christ asks us to imitate Him, not in order to earn our reward in heaven, but so that, through cooperation with His will, we may find His friendship and find ourselves transformed into His likeness, ready and well disposed to enter heaven.

The Lord can only dispose us for heaven with our cooperation (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18); He cannot do so without our cooperation. As Saint Augustine said, “The God who created you without your consent will not save you without your consent.”

The gift of eternal life and the eternal glory and happiness of heaven remains a free gift. God gives us everything for nothing. We can say in truth that we do not deserve and can never earn such infinite kindness on the part of our Lord and God. And this still defies all human logic.

But if we consider that we were created out of nothing by the hand of God, that He freely brought us into existence and called us into His friendship, that He loves us with a divine Love because we are the work of His hands, that He owes us nothing but wants to give us everything, then we might begin to understand the divine “Logic” of the Beatitudes.

All that Jesus asks is that we open our hearts to Him, that we believe in Him, that we allow Him to love, save, and sanctify the creatures whom the Father has given to His only begotten Son.

And now, if we read them again with this kind of “Logic” in mind, we might enter a little more deeply in the beauty and glory and majesty that shines from the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.” 

(Matthew 5:3-12)

The Personality of Jesus 1

 

LG Sleiman

Latest revision: 8:30 pm, 24th January 2021.

The Lord’s personality is so multifaceted, so much deeper than the most profound depths, and rich with unexpected graces, virtues, and incomprehensible love.

The Lord is so much greater than our ordinary experience, so much greater as the Creator is above His creatures, that any present experience we have of Him seems only to be another stage disposing us for even greater knowledge.

How can we come to know the Lord when He is ineffable, mysterious, all powerful?

How can a mere mortal come to understand the God of creation?

When Job sought to understand the reason why God had allowed him to suffer so many losses, wounds, and tragedies, the Lord did not give him a direct response, but instead put a series of questions to Job:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” (Job 38: 1-13; 16-18; 19-20)

With these words the Lord indicates to Job, among other things, the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator–a distance that human strength alone cannot traverse.

But we need not fear, for Jesus taught us that He is able to overcome such an enormous distance:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)

The Father sent His Son into the world in order that the Son may reveal the Father to whomever He chooses: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

But on the way to the perfect knowledge of the Lord we can already begin to know the Lord by degrees, already begin to discern certain attributes of His personality from the Scriptures.

Here we observe, for example, that the Lord’s personality is marked by profound spontaneity, depth, and originality. His character embodies so many contraries, such as justice and mercy, power and humility, gentleness and wisdom. His love is unconditional yet uncompromising.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was infinitely gentle, patient, and merciful with sinners, the weak and abandoned, the lowly and impoverished; yet He was very severe, exacting, and just with those considered great and knowledgeable, the leaders of the people, and the proud and arrogant.

Consider His words to the Pharisees who, after Christ had healed a blind and mute man, accused Him of being in league with the devil:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

When Jesus declared Himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12) the Pharisees, not believing in Him nor accepting His authority, argued with the Lord and justified themselves by claiming to be the children of God. To which Jesus responded:

“If God were your Father, you would love me: for I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me. Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stands not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” (John 8:42-44)

While teaching in Jerusalem on the eve of His Sacred Passion, knowing what was about to befall Him, Jesus warned the chief priests and elders of the people:

“The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:43)

A brief reading of the Gospels will show that there are many other instances in which Jesus was very exacting and very severe with His interlocutors.

On the other hand, we find that Jesus was infinitely compassionate, gentle and merciful with those who were weak, forsaken, oppressed, and bound by sin. Christ did not hesitate to dine with sinners, to rescue the woman caught in adultery, and to forgive the thief on the cross who had been a sinner all his life.

For Jesus did not come to “break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick.” (Matthew 12:20)

Regarding the whole world, the Scripture says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

And for those who had lost their way, Jesus said: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:3-5)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is tireless in seeking out His lost sheep.

Regarding those who work very hard and are weary, Jesus called: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

So we see that Jesus did not apply the same ‘measure’ to all persons, nor extend Himself to everyone in the same way, for He “knew all men”, and “he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man.” (John 2:24,25)

He was infinitely gentle with some, and extremely strict with others. Why so? 

The Lord explains: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48)

Jesus wants to save everyone: the strong and the weak, the humble and the proud, the honest and the dishonest, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil, but He cannot apply the same “medicine” to all.

Each one needs only to open his or her heart to the Lord Jesus who must, as the all wise, all loving, and all powerful Son of God, administer the right medicine to each one, working tirelessly so that everyone might come to believe in Him, for faith in Christ is the door to eternal life. (John 20:31)

And so the words of the Scripture ring more and more true, the more we realise the ways of the Lord, and the heights and depths of His wisdom:

“With the loyal thou dost show thyself loyal; with the blameless man thou dost show thyself blameless; with the pure thou dost show thyself pure; and with the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse. For thou dost deliver a humble people; but the haughty eyes thou dost bring down.

“Yea, thou dost light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. Yea, by thee I can crush a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:25-30)