Divine Madness Needed

Our concept of the "lowly Jesus, meek and mild," as some of the artists and hymn writers depict Him is rudely shattered when we read the New Testament.

J. E. BYNUM, Pastor, San Francisco Central SDA Church

 It is not to be wondered at that the scribes hated Jesus. But "the com­mon people heard him gladly" (Mark 12:37). These two differing opinions were to ulti­mately prove the ingre­dients for crucifixion.

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:28, 29).

The scribes were teaching for doctrine the traditions of men. They had surrounded the law of God with a multitude of mi­nutiae. Religion, under their direction, had become lifeless, drab, colorless, and a round of guilt-inducing ceremonies and sacrifices, rather than satisfying contact with God. So it was axiomatic that Jesus of Naza­reth would clash with the scribes and Phari­sees.

Dynamite or Dew?

Our concept of the "lowly Jesus, meek and mild," as some of the artists and hymn writers depict Him is rudely shattered when we read the New Testament. For we find that His words fell on His hearers more often like dynamite than like dew.

And to a people hungering for something tangible, something absolute, something vi­tal and meaningful, the voice of divine au­thority was a welcome voice indeed.

But to those who split theological hairs, and spun abstract philosophies, the voice of authority was competition that could not be tolerated.

Almost every point of the Sermon on the Mount begins: "It hath been said by them of old time . . . but I say unto you!"

Tangling with entrenched religious tradition? Yes. Dangerous? Of course it was dangerous. But He spake as One having authority!

Fearless of Lepers, Spies, and Traitors

The authority of God has a dramatic effect on the bearer of divine credentials. In reading the accounts of Christ, we see that He had no trace of fear. He never hesitated to touch any loathsome leper. On more than one occasion He walked through the midst of a rioting mob; He slept through a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee; He faced spies and traitors, King Herod, and Pontius Pilate with an equanimity nothing could shake.

"Fear not them which kill the body," He advised His terror-stricken disciples. His words were prophetic. Jesus Christ still is a recruiter of men who will pattern their lives and work after His kind of ministry.

"He spake as one having authority." His authority was His own because He was one with God. And His authority can be ours because we seek a similar self-surrendering and power-enfusing oneness with God.

How much we preachers need this au­thority. When we stand before the people we need to have our souls filled with the Spirit and power of God. Should it not be said of us as it was of our Christ: "They were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power" (Luke 4:32)?

Luther Forbids Death

Martin Luther spake as one having au­thority. He had to, in order to nail those denunciations on the church door.

In 1540 Luther's good friend, Friedrich Myconius, lay dying. Luther received a fare­well letter from him written with a weak and trembling hand. Immediately Luther sent back his reply:

"I command thee in the name of God to live, because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church. The Lord will not let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me.

"For this I am praying. And may this be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God."

The dying man had already lost the power of speech when this letter arrived, but within a short time he was well again. Myconius survived Luther by two months.

Jesus spake as one having authority. His speech was so different from that of the scribes. The contrast astonished the peo­ple.

Though our world has turned many times since then, human problems and basic needs are still the same, though modern men often like to think they are more re­fined and sophisticated.

Preachers Not Politicians

Everywhere people are still searching for something absolute. They are looking for someone with divine self-confidence who can spell out right and wrong; who can tell the world that the gospel is not an improv­ing society, but a coming kingdom. We need preachers, not of politics, but preach­ers of righteousness. We need a voice of au­thority echoing through the ministry.

Jesus spake as one having authority. What does it mean? It means speaking with a vital, urgent conviction that probes into a man's very soul.

When we meet people, we need at that very instant to convey with our words, our actions, our concern, and our own personal integrity that we believe we are doing the most important work in the universe. Our own souls should possess an uncontainable message to others, which says: "I want you to meet Him who means everything to me!"

When we leave they should say of us as was said of the Master: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32).

Sane or Insane?

I remember discussing this matter of au­thority with a modernistic minister who scorned, "the Adventists who always run and hide in the Bible." "We have minds with which to think. That is designed to be ultimate authority," he continued. When I reminded him that the human mind was limited by sin and could not be always re­lied upon to choose the best course, he sneered: "Maybe you have lost your mind."

Perhaps he had a point. For if it is sanity that has brought the world to its present state; if it is sanity that has produced the social order in which we live; then we need to be different, even if it is called madness.

Balaam in a moment of remorse and inspiration declared:

"If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?" (Num. 24:13).

In Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan, some soldiers are talking about the Maid of Or­leans. One of them says: "There is some­thing about the girl. . . . Her words and her ardent faith in God have put fire into me."

His captain replies: "Why, you are al­most as mad as she is." And the soldier stub­bornly continues: "Maybe that's what we need nowadays—mad people. See where the sane ones have landed us!"

Pentecost Insanity!

It would be tremendous if we had the kind of insanity the disciples had at Pente­cost. First they were accused of drunkenness; then they were called insane. For Spirit-filled men are so rare in the world they are often misunderstood. But cowards were transformed into heroes and three thousand souls were converted in one day.

No matter how persuasive, a group of fishermen, tax collectors, and housewives could not have performed the feat of con­verting that multitude merely on their say-so. What happened was that an ever-in­creasing number of men and women met Jesus Christ for themselves. And the chain reaction of response to the divine authority of His word was miraculous.

Sell Your Car for Books

A number of years ago when I was a col­lege student I was sent out for a day to work with one of our most successful col­porteurs.

I was interested in the way he would lis­ten to all the objections of the prospective customer and then refer to the automobile sitting in the driveway: "You would do well to sell your car and buy these books." It took some conviction and sincerity to say those words with authority.

As God's colporteur talked and took the order I noted the power of his words. Then he went out to his automobile to get an­other book and left me momentarily alone with the customer. The astonished man turned to me and said: "I have never heard anything like it before!"

Isn't that exactly what they said about Jesus? "Never man spake like this man" (John 7:46). Isn't that what should be said of His ministers today? But we need to meet Christ for ourselves first. Then we too may speak and teach "as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

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J. E. BYNUM, Pastor, San Francisco Central SDA Church

November 1965

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