Friday, April 03, 2015

“The Coming of Jesus”

Insights #1 April 4, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Coming of Jesus"
For the week of April 4, 2015
This quarter we will study the Gospel of Christ according to Luke. Luke covers the beginning of Christ's life as a man on earth to the ending of His life by crucifixion followed by His death and resurrection from the dead. He also informs us of Christ's divinity and His mission of redemption.

Luke first composed this book as a letter to a fellow Greek, his friend, by the name of Theophilus (Luke 1:3). (The book of Acts is written, by Luke, to the same man, see Acts 1:1). Luke explains how he did his research for writing the gospel of Christ. First of all he wrote that he would set "forth in order" the faith of the Christians (v.1) and that he had gathered information from "eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word" (v. 2). He wrote that he "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first." This is evidence of a good historian.

There is further evidence that Luke was a good historian. He wrote about the historical context of the birth, the life, and the death of Jesus. He gave names of leading participants as well as other people in addition to dates and places.

Not only was Luke a historian, he was also a scientist – a physician. Paul calls him "the beloved physician," and named him as among his "fellow-laborers." (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24). In his letter to Timothy Paul wrote, "Only Luke is with me." (2 Timothy 4:11).

Paul sought Luke out as a helper because of his skill as a physician. They both worked for the spiritual, as well as the physical, well-being of people they met, as God directed them. Luke did "double service as a physician and a gospel minister." (Evangelism, p. 544). God's ideal for medical missionary work is a combination of medical and pastoral workers together working as a team. In a class I took in Public Health entitled "Historical Perspectives of Health," we learned that many of the "Church Fathers" were also physicians or were associated with them.

However, during the Dark Ages medical work was taken out of the hands of Christian physicians by the Church in those centuries devoid of light. This led to medical as well as religious disaster during the middle and late Dark Ages. It was a period of social, intellectual, spiritual, and physical decline. Medical historian Ackerknecht comments that during this period, "The hands of time had been turned back a thousand years." (Erwin H. Ackerknect, A Short History of Medicine, p. 82.) He says further, "The Middle Ages are placed in time between two great epidemics:  the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death" (Ibid, p. 91).  In between these two devastating bubonic plagues there were famines, diseases, lesser plagues, moral corruptions in addition to many superstitions on the part of people. Illness and death under the papal system was a way of life. "Estimates of the number who died range from a very conservative one-fourth of the total population to as much as three-fourths" Reuben Hubbard, Historical Perspectives of Health, p. 135.

Some Christians, in order to show their sanctity, never bathed. Because personal hygiene was mostly unknown, people became infected with vermin. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in 1170. When the monks undressed him for burial they found lice everywhere in his undergarments "like boiling water." (Arthur Swinson, The History of Public Health, p. 19).

When the gospel was beginning to be restored, the health of the body was seen to be important. Protestant reformers, such as John Wesley and Sylvester Graham (healthful Graham crackers came from him) were health reformers as well as pastors. The union between medical missionary work and gospel work will be restored in the everlasting gospel proclamation of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12. Medical work is the arm that opens the door so the body of redemptive truth can enter the lives of individuals and groups of people. "The medical missionary work is to bear the same relation to the work of the third angel's message that the arm and hand bear to the body. Under the direction of the divine Head they are to work unitedly in preparing the way for the coming of Christ." (Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 160).

The Gospel of Christ will end as it began, united with the medical missionary work as demonstrated by pastor Paul and Luke the physician.

Concerning Luke's qualifications as a medical historian, Bettmann, writes, "The doctor speaks in the Gospel of St. Luke. The most cultured of the evangelists was known as St. Luke the 'beloved physician,' and Christ's deeds were described by him with literary skill and medical insight." He continues, "The many accounts of miraculous healing are told in St. Luke more fully than in any other gospel with understanding and in a language that only a doctor would use." (Otto L. Bettman, A Pictorial History of Medicine, p. 49).

Luke's use of medical terms of his day is observable in his book as he describes physical afflictions instead of laymen's language used by the other gospel writers when describing the same sicknesses. The Greek expression, "suffering from a fever and dysentery" (Acts 28:8) or "attacks of gastric fever" are "medically exact and can be vouched for from medical literature." (Adolf Harnack, Luke the Physician, pp. 176, 177).

In the incident of the man with leprosy, Luke wrote, "Behold a man full of leprosy." (Luke 5:12).  Mark says simply, "a leper came to him" (Mark 1:40); Luke, the physician, is the only gospel writer to note the advanced stage of the disease of that man "full of leprosy." When describing the man with palsy, Luke wrote, "a man who was paralyzed" (Luke 5:18) instead of "a paralytic" as in Mark 2:3. There are many such examples we will read about during this quarter.

In our lesson today we see the deep interest of God in sending His angels to minister to human beings. Angels came to the shepherds and announced the glad tidings of joy and of salvation in the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-13). It was Gabriel who gave names to John the Baptist and to Jesus. (Luke 1:13, 31). From a human standpoint it was impossible for Elizabeth and Mary to conceive a child. Elizabeth was too old and Mary was a virgin. But "with God nothing" is "impossible." (Luke 1:37). Both Mary and Elisabeth realized their inadequacies. And so with us. As we realize our deficiencies we may claim this promise today.

"God's work is done quietly, and only in quietness and confidence do we have strength. Great things are expected of us, but since with God nothing is impossible, so nothing is impossible to him that believeth; and with the accomplishment of the greatest and most glorious work boasting is excluded, because that work can be done only by one whose sense of his own weakness and inability to do anything forces him to depend wholly on God." E. J. Waggoner, The Medical Missionary, Vol. 14, p. 166.

"With God nothing shall be impossible." "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for You." (Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:17). Knowing this, you and I may with confidence obey the Lord's exhortation: "Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:5).

Consider as we close, the good news from the Holy Spirit, through the uncle of Jesus – Zacharias – the message of salvation in Christ: "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets … that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life." (Luke 1:68-75).
-Jerry Finneman