By Femi Aribisala
There is only one man who has ever lived that can speak words of eternal life and that man is Jesus.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I know Jesus’ words in the bible are actually his words. My answer is to ask my interrogators if they have actually read the words of Jesus. If they say they have, I ask them to go and read them again. Then I ask in return: “What kind of person do you know who talks like that?”
Lovers of life
The very first time I read the parable of the Prodigal Son, I reached the conclusion that the person who came up with it must be from another planet! In that parable, Jesus describes this world as a country far from God. He categorises life on earth as wallowing in a pigsty. The Prodigal Son died immediately he left the Father for this world. He was only “born again” on his return.
This is clearly the perspective of someone whose kingdom is not of this world. Jesus’ point of view is significantly different from the Mosaic one of “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). When Moses says: “choose life;” the life is the Law and the Covenant designed to improve living conditions here on earth. But when Jesus says: “choose life;” his emphasis is on life after death.
For this reason, Jesus’ words are despised by lovers of this life, which include the overwhelming majority of Christians who nevertheless claim to be followers of Jesus. Christians deal with Jesus’ words essentially by ignoring them. Jesus is that favourite uncle we go out of our way to avoid. When Jesus’ doctrine proved too difficult to stomach for many of his disciples, they left him; never to return. He turned to the twelve apostles and asked them: “Do you also want to go away?” However, Peter answered him and said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68).
When we listen to Jesus, we reach the inevitable conclusion that his words are not the words of this life. Indeed, his words pointedly disregard this life. No man, preoccupied with this life, would say such things as: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25). Such words belong to another life that is not of this world.
On earth, Jesus had a romance with death. His one obsession was to return back to the Father in heaven. Therefore, his words discount this life in preference for the real life awaiting us after death. Jesus insists we should lose in virtually everything pertaining to this world, in order to gain the totality of the world to come. He says we must lose our life; “hate” our parents and relatives; call no one on earth our father; deny our self, take up our cross and follow him.
Some soldiers sent to arrest Jesus were so spellbound by his words that they could not fulfil their assignment. When queried, they exclaimed: “No man ever spoke like this man.” (John 7:46).
Words of temporal life
Man’s words are inevitably temporal but God’s words are implacably eternal. Jesus said to the Jews: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8). This shows the words of Moses are not the words of God. They are not from the beginning. Jesus says: “Till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). Nevertheless, this means the word of Moses will ultimately pass away with heaven and earth. But the word of God is eternal. Jesus says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).
Christians have great difficulty understanding these simple distinctions because of all the confusion about Paul. But Paul’s words are not eternal. Paul is preoccupied with exercising control over men. He is mindful of church politics; how women and men should dress; whether men should be circumcised; and how and when offerings should be collected. Such minutiae are the self-serving words of this life.
There is only one man who has ever lived that can speak words of eternal life and that man is Jesus. Jesus is the only man who lived before his birth. (John 8:58). No such claim can be made of Paul. Jesus says to Jews: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.” (John 6:48-50). Paul may be many things to many Christians, but it cannot be said that he is the bread of life. If Moses does not qualify with his manna, neither can Paul with his epistles.
Only Jesus came down from heaven to deliver to us the undiluted and unabridged word of God. Jesus says: “I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:49-50).
Today’s Christian pastor is no different from a politician looking for votes; courting public opinion by making promises of better electricity, better social-services, better everything. The motivational preacher gives the keys of the kingdoms of men. Seven keys to being a millionaire. Five keys to running a successful business. What they all offer is panacea, with varying degrees of success, to gaining this world. But Jesus discounts all this. He asks rhetorically: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Jesus draws sharp distinctions between the temporal words of men and the words of eternal life. Temporal words have no spiritual value. They only address the carnal issues of life. Eternal words, on the other hand, are spirit and life; they nourish the spiritual aspects of a man’s being. In a discourse with a Samaritan woman by the well of Jacob, Jesus highlights the distinctions: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14).
The evidence indicates most Christians have yet to receive this living water. We are still thirsty. Moreover, our thirst is not for the righteousness of God. Our thirst is for the vainglories of this world. Pastors continue to deceive Christians that Jesus will provide us with the vanities of this life. However, Jesus’ insistence is quite the contrary. He is determined that we should relinquish everything that justifies us before men; everything that is highly esteemed by men. (Luke 16:15). Indeed, Jesus says to us, one and all: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33).