HOME, SWEET HEAVEN INSTALLMENT #31

Chapter Twenty Nine

Jacob and Moira had thoroughly enjoyed the respite from fighting given them by the cessation of the Russian-led conflict and the subsequent emergence of Israel intact and now recognized by her people as truly blessed by God. They had used this time wisely to more fully integrate themselves into each other as a complementary team, putting the extraordinary bond they shared into use in their presentation of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah to a multitude of their countrymen. They often went on such missionary journeys to the Galilee area and into Jerusalem and the West Bank cities of Hebron and Ramallah. On many such occasions they were joined by others from Dafna, but at other times they preferred to go by themselves, considering those times to be mini-vacations in which they enjoyed the differences in people, scenery, the restaurants, and their overnight accommodations along with the pursuit of their mission.

Half of their free time was spent on the Temple Mount, watching the pace of construction of the Third Temple, which awed them with its beauty. So many Israelis had converted to Christianity, however, that Jacob and Moira began to wonder whether the ancient temple practice of slaughtering animals would actually resume once the temple had been completed. Perhaps, even though the Messianic Christians realized that the animal sacrifice had always pointed to Jesus and were no longer necessary since He had made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, they would allow the practice to continue out of respect for tradition.

The other half of their free time was spent on the odious task of helping to bury the bodies of the dead invaders, a seemingly endless job that not only stank to the point of intolerability but carried with it the danger of radiation poisoning. Yet the couple, like many other Israeli citizens, considered it not only a duty but an honor to the mercy of God to be alive to carry it out.

On rare occasions Jacob and Moira would make the trek down to Gaza to visit their old companions Sid and Mary, another happily-married couple who were engaged in the task of rebuilding the area that was so devastated by the Palestinians when they were granted the formerly-lovely place by an ill-advised Israeli government. The restoration was quite far along, and when they visited, the two couples spent much of their time on the beach swimming and collecting sun tans. At least once on every such outing Sid would laughingly tell Jacob to keep himself away from the odd bullet, referring to the time Jacob was shot in the chest by a bullet from a would-be terrorist. That little drama would invariably be followed by a clinging hug from Moira.

One day while they were enjoying an idle day of sun at the beach, Jacob looked over to his lovely companion with a question on his mind. “Do you think that Jesus ever went swimming?”

“What kind of question is that?” she replied. “He made the ocean. He made the water that’s in the ocean. In fact, He made the molecules that make up the water, and the atoms that . . .“

“Okay, enough. And then you’re going to ask why He’d need to swim in the first place, since He can just walk on the top. That’s not what I’m asking   I’m thinking of what He did in an experiential sense while He was on the Earth. What He tasted, or felt. Did He enjoy the sun like we’re doing now? Did He get to feel His body surrounded by warm water? What did He know of His own Godhood. How far did He go in His kenosis?”

“I can’t answer that intelligently, dear. How can anyone possibly know what went on in Jesus’ mind during His incarnation.”

“Agree. But I’ve read a large number of accounts, many of which diverge rather extensively from what Scripture itself teaches. One that did agree with Scripture was particularly appealing. It was written some time in the 1920s, as I recall, by a professor by the name of Alva McClain. In his article he said something that really stuck with me, something to the effect that it would be infinitely better to give up the notion of his absolute attributes than his moral heroism. That statement alone fits perfectly with Earl’s notion of God’s omni-attributes being subordinate to His primary attribute of His willingness to give them up for the sake of selfless love.”

“What a beautiful thought!” Moira remarked.

“Yeah. McClain’s concept of Jesus’ kenosis makes sense in terms of the Scripture he cited as driving the entire controversy over how much Godhood Jesus maintained in His human form.

“Which is?”

“Philippians 2, verses 5 through 8. Here, I have a Bible in the backpack. I’ll read it to you.” He extracted the Bible and started reading:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

“McClain differentiated the form of God from the intrinsic nature of God,” Jacob continued, “the nature of God being His transcendent attributes as well as His personality. The implication is that in His kenosis, his emptying of Himself, Jesus did not give up His Godhood, but just His form, which is the exercise of Godhood. What He really gave up was the independent exercise of Godhood, voluntarily and in perfect obedience to the Father’s will restricting any manifestation of Godhood to that specifically willed by the Father through the Holy Spirit. That restriction included His knowledge as well as His actions, which means that He was fully aware of His Godhood, but voluntarily maintained, in humble obedience to the Father, any actions or knowledge that wasn’t in perfect conformance to the Father’s will. To me that makes perfect sense, and it emphasizes Jesus’ selfless nobility.”

“You’ll have to revisit the issue in more austere surroundings. I’ve absorbed as much as I’m able to, and right now I can’t help but think of that beautiful water in front of us. How about a dip?”

That evening the two couples went up to Jerusalem to attend the ceremony in honor of Simon ben Gideon, the courageous soldier who had risked his life to save the children trapped in a burning building during the Russo-Israeli War. Jerusalem was packed with people wishing to add their own presence in support of the countrywide expression of gratitude for his selflessly heroic act.  The four crowded in best they could as the Prime Minister recited the soldier’s brave deeds, adding that ben Gideon had come to his country’s aid at precisely the right moment like David and his namesake Gideon before him, when all appeared to be lost and Israel desperately needed a champion. Proclaiming ben Gideon to be the very champion Israel needed, the Prime Minister draped a wreath of flowers on his shoulders and then placed a crown of olive twigs on his head in keeping with the millennia-old symbol of military valor. He kissed the man’s cheeks and turned him around to face the crowd. “Men and women of Israel,” he proclaimed, “I present to you the savior of our land!”

“That’s going a bit too far,” Moira murmured in Jacob’s ear. “We saw with our own eyes what happened. It was all God’s doing. I’m not saying that the man isn’t brave or shouldn’t be honored for what he did, but to claim that he saved Israel . . .“

“Yeah, what next?” Jacob broke in. “Are they going to make him the Messiah?” He was bumped in the shoulder by the woman next to him, who had overheard his comment. When he turned toward her, he was greeted by a vicious glare. “You’ll shut your mouth if you know what’s good for you,” she snarled, pointing to the large man standing beside her.

They were interrupted by a commotion on the makeshift stage. The cluster of dignitaries behind the Prime Minister parted to permit the entrance on-stage of the Chief Rabbi, a Levite from among the community of orthodox priests who had been waiting for their entire lifetimes for the privilege of constructing the third and final Temple of God on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Now was an unprecedented opportunity: Israel’s primary enemies had been vanquished and the great Temple could now be built without meaningful opposition. The Chief Rabbi strode up to the Prime Minister, who deferentially withdrew himself, and moved over to stand behind ben Gideon. He gently turned the man around, gazed into his eyes, and kneeled before him. The sight of the religious potentate kneeling astonished Jacob and Moira, and much of the crowd with them. When he found his voice, he whispered in Moira’s ear, “I was only joking before, but I think that this is actually going to happen!” He turned to Sid, who was standing next to Moira, and they rolled their eyes in unison.

The Chief Rabbi stood and addressed the crowd. “This is a momentous day in the history of Israel,” he began. “I proclaim Simon ben Gideon to be our long-awaited Messiah, the Savior promised by our prophets, by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah. Represented by King David and represented by our Gideon of the past. By . . .“

He was drowned out by the noise of the screaming crowd. He patiently waited until the clapping and shouting began to die down, and then continued. “Our Messiah’s presence leads to another great and holy event. Wc can now start to erect our Temple.”

The crowd erupted in jubilation once more. When the noise dimmed again, ben Gideon took over. “Fellow Israelis!” he said loudly, and the crowed quieted in response. “I thank you for your recognition. I am indeed the one for whom you have been searching, and I myself proclaim a new era for our nation. But I must humble myself. As our orthodox religion implies, I cannot claim to be God. That singular attribute belongs to one person, and one person alone, the man you already know as the former president of the North American Region and who has now ascended to the position of GLOW. But through me, we of Israel have the unprecedented honor of serving GLOW as priests in fulfillment of his kingdom. Sons and daughters of Abraham! Very soon, with your help, we will begin anew to honor the tradition of sacrifice to your God and to mine. We shall restore the covenant, so dear to us all, the sacred transaction between God and our father Abraham and thus enter an era of endless blessing. Let the building begin!”

Once more pandemonium prevailed as the enthusiastic cheering began afresh. Jacob tugged at Moira’s sleeve. “Let’s go,” he said to her.

“You bet,” she replied, motioning for Sid and Mary to come with them. “Something’s terribly wrong about what he said.”

“What he said?” Jacob answered as they distanced themselves from the crowd. “Not a whole lot of kenosis there, although he did deny his godhood. But that’s not right either. Interesting that we were just talking about that. That’s not the only thing wrong with this scene. The very fact of his claim to messiahship is extremely wrong. He couldn’t be the Messiah, because the time window of the prophecies has come and gone. Furthermore, Jesus fulfilled that title so completely that there’s no room for another. But the biggest problem with the whole business is that since Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross, once and for all in our behalf, there’s really no reason for the continuation of animal sacrifice. And GLOW? From what I’ve heard about him and his unmitigated arrogance, there’s certainly no kenosis there either.” He turned around and received another shock. “Look at that, will you?” he said, stopping short. Following the lead of the Chief Rabbi, the people were now on their knees in worship.

“So now we have a messiah who’s not God, and a God who’s not the messiah,” Sid quipped, as they turned back and continued walking away from the spectacle. “I wonder how that strange theology will affect the Messianic Jews.”

“Probably not at all, except for a disgust with their fellow Jews for falling for such a blatant falsehood,” Jacob replied. “Their acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah in the face of Jewish tradition required them to give some serious theological thought to the matter. It would take me too long to list the contradictions in Scripture that this evil arrangement entails. The only part of Scripture that it agrees with is the end-time scenario.”

“Time to hit the road,” Wisdom said, walking with them. “Meaning to get yourselves in gear and head back to Dafna. But this time, Sid, you and Mary will want to go with them. Now scat.”

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