LESSON 8 *May 17 - 23
The Intensity of His
Lesson graphic

Read for This Week's Study:

Matt. 4:4; Luke 2:40; 6:12; John 4:34; John 17; 1 John 2:6.

Memory Text: 

   "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:6, NIV).

Adventists are a peace-loving people. We feel elated when the church or its members get positive press, when everybody thinks we are good. But how might we react if we woke up one day to find huge headlines in the media branding us as losers, disrupters, or insurrectionists? Would our sense of assurance and confidence in God be strong enough to sustain us? We admire Jesus after the fact; but do we have any idea what it meant for Him to be vilified and demonized by the highest civic and ecclesiastical powers of His day?

In the end we see Him manhandled by Roman soldiers: "They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. . . . Then they led him out to crucify him" (Mark 15:17-20, NIV).

What prepares a person to endure such physical and psychological abuse without cracking? How does a person remain steadfast and calm when the whole world turns against them—with not a shred of visible human support in sight? For Jesus, the answer lay in His communion with God, in the intensity of His walk with Him—which forms the subject of this week's lesson.  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 24.


The Early Years (Luke 2:40)

As we have stressed already, we know very little about Christ's early years. We hear about His birth and very early years, including the visit to the temple at age twelve (see Luke 2). But that is all, until His baptism by John at the start of His public ministry, when He was "about thirty" (NIV; see Luke 3:21-23).

Nevertheless, it is possible to look at His life, as we know it, and draw certain reasonable conclusions in respect to the spiritual foundation that gave it support. If we assume from our own experience that the stability and strength we see in Jesus during His public ministry did not materialize overnight, nor arise from shallowness and superficiality, then we are bound to conclude, again from our own experience, that they sprang from an intense walk with God.

Read again the story of Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:39-52). What things are found there that help us understand the spiritual foundation upon which the young Jesus grew? Also, what role did His parents play in His growth?  

Incredibly, these passages (apart from the birth narratives) are all we have on the first thirty years of Jesus' life. Furthermore, biblical scholars estimate that the vast majority of the Gospel materials center on the final week of Jesus' life, making them (as has often been said) "Passion narratives," not biographies, as such. They were produced, evidently, for the well-defined purpose of shining the spotlight on the two critical events of the Christian faith: the mystery of Jesus' birth (the Incarnation) and the significance of His death and resurrection. Between these two events we see His unselfish life of service and sacrifice. And we correctly may assume that the focus and dedication we see in His public ministry represent the flowering of a relationship with God that was consistent, deeply personal, and intense.

What principles can we take from this story that we, in our own context, can apply to ourselves and our own spiritual life?     


At the Start of His Ministry (Matt. 4:4)

Following His baptism, Jesus goes out into the Judean desert for 40 days, to pray, to reflect upon His mission. Perhaps none of us studying this lesson has had any personal knowledge of what that means. Here we come face to face with an intensity we can hardly grasp, a spiritual concentration much beyond our usual experience, a pursuit of intimate closeness with God that leaves our mouths wide open.

But the explicit reason for this wilderness foray was for testing (Matt. 4:1; cf. Luke 4:2), and the tempter was on hand to take advantage of the opportunity. Using the Savior's extreme hunger as his tool, he desperately tried to drive a wedge between Jesus and His Father, to wrench Jesus' firm grasp on God, to break the intensity of His walk with Him, to intrude upon the intimate closeness.

How does Jesus' response, as revealed in the following texts, show the intensity of His walk with God? What can we learn from this that we can apply to ourselves? (Matt. 4:3-10, Luke 4:3-12).  

To understand what is going on here, we need to keep in mind Jesus' unique status in the whole scheme of salvation. He was the spotless Son of God. Coming into the world in human nature, He had to live completely above the sinful sphere, not just for a day, but for His entire time with us. He was to struggle as we do, to be tempted as we are, yet He had to remain immaculate. We might compare it to going through thirty-three years with your computer, writing articles, doing homework, answering letters, and never making a single mistake, never needing to use the delete key or the undo feature; or like going through a course in algebra or physics, and getting every problem right; or playing the piano for thirty-three years without ever hitting a wrong note.

That was Jesus' lot. He came not just to set an example in selfless living, but to die as the sinless One, and thereby bring salvation to the planet. Hence His total concentration, the utter intensity of His walk with God; nothing could be taken for granted, nothing left to chance. A single misstep, and the game was over.

Imagine what it must have been to have never sinned, not even in thought, during His whole life. That is what righteousness is all about. Dwell on what you owe to Jesus, Who offers you what you could never attain yourself.  


In His Life of Prayer (Luke 6:12)

Jesus lived for prayer. His public ministry began with an extended period of special prayer and communion (as we saw yesterday); and the record indicates that He returned from the experience supercharged with living power (see Luke 4:14). It would have been unnatural for Him to go a single moment without lifting up his soul to God, without experiencing that living connection between Himself and Heaven. And what we find is that although His was a life of continuous communion with His Father, before every major event or development He took time for special supplication.

How do the following passages demonstrate Jesus' reliance upon God for guidance, direction, and strength during moments of high importance, stress, or danger? In each case, note the special event in question:  

Matt. 14:23 (compare vss. 24-33)

Luke 6:12 (compare vss. 13-16)

John 17 (compare 18:1-3)

Mark 1:35 seems to be describing not just one instance, but rather a pattern, when it speaks about Jesus rising "a long while before daylight"(NKJV) and going out to "a solitary place"(NKJV) for prayer. He began each day with God. But times of special need increased the tempo. Luke 6:12 informs us that Jesus spent the entire night in prayer on a mountainside immediately preceding the selection of the twelve disciples, apparently from among a larger group of followers (see Luke 6:13). Before His jaw-dropping walk on the lake, He had taken time out for a period of intense communication with His Father. And during the Passion Week, as He faced the Cross, Jesus offered an intense supplicatory prayer, for His immediate disciples and for His people to the end of time.

Take another look at Jesus' great prayer in John 17. What elements of a deeply personal walk with God do you find there? What events drive you to your knees? What has been your experience with the power of prayer to sustain you? How might you better improve your prayer life?  


Intensity for Mission (John 4:34)

For American poet Robert Frost, the woods were "lovely, dark and deep. . . . But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep."

Jesus lived with the constant awareness of the darkness in the woods around him, always deep, but never lovely. Like the poet, He constantly was aware of having miles to go before He slept, so much to do in so little time. "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day," He said, "the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4, NKJV). We see this mission intensity in His encounter with the woman of Samaria. Suddenly, in the presence of this needy soul, He forgets all hunger and all thirst, totally consumed with the mission at hand.

Meanwhile, the woman, entering into the excitement of the encounter, abandons her water jar and rushes to the village to spread the news of the most focused character she has ever met. The disciples return to find Jesus silent and pensive, praying for the success of this brand-new contact.

When they told Jesus to eat, what did He answer them? (John 4:32-34). How should we understand those words? What message can we take from them for ourselves?   

What do the following passages say about the intensity of Jesus' passion for His mission? John 9:1-12, 35-39; 12:27-36.   

Jesus' sentiments in that last passage are pregnant with meaning. They came following a request by certain visiting Greeks to meet Him (John 12:20-22), a request that opened up before Him the possibility of personally taking the message of the kingdom beyond His native Palestine to the far corners of the earth. But He knew that to do so would run counter to the most vital aspect of His total mission, to give His life as a ransom for the nations. Hence, He follows with those powerful words about a kernel of wheat falling into the ground (vs. 24), symbolic not just of His own sacrifice but of the principle that all who follow Him must have a full commitment to the will of God, regardless of whatever the personal cost might be.

What has been your own personal experience with what it costs to follow Jesus? Why is the cost cheap enough, no matter how expensive it turns out to be?  


Our Own Walk With God (1 John 2:6)

Read prayerfully the above text. What is the principle there for us to follow? Realizing, as we have in previous lessons, that we cannot (and should not) do everything that Christ did, how do we, nevertheless, make this text real in our own lives? In what ways are we to walk as Jesus walked?  

The idea of walking with God has its roots in hoary antiquity. Perhaps the first explicit biblical reference to the idea comes in Genesis 5:22, 24. Verse 24 says: "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away"(NIV). The Hebrew word for walked there appears in a form that implies a kind of continual, ongoing walk, something that happened all the time. Whatever his faults and struggles, Enoch kept a consistent walk with his Lord.

We, as Christians, have the opportunity to do the same. However, it is so easy to let other things get in the way of that walk.

Wherever you live, whatever your culture, what are the things that so easily can hinder your walk with God? Too much leisure time? Too much distraction? Too much to do? Too much work in order to just survive? Once you identify these concerns, what practical steps can you take to try to prevent these things from hurting you spiritually?  

Read what Jesus said in Matthew 13:22. What is He saying there that, in many ways, is the essence of what we are talking about today? Thus, it is clear that none of these things can really be a valid excuse for losing our way, because the Lord already has foreseen them. How crucial then that we, to the best of our God-given ability, make the daily choices, as Jesus did, to keep our walk with the Lord intense and ongoing. Why should we give the tempter anything at all to hold onto, and thus turn us away from Jesus?



Further Study:  

  "It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit"—Ellen G. White, "The Passover Visit," p. 83, in The Desire of Ages, p. 83.

"In every possible way Satan sought to prevent Jesus from developing a perfect childhood, a faultless manhood, a holy ministry, and an unblemished sacrifice. But he was defeated. He could not lead Jesus into sin. He could not discourage Him, or drive Him from the work He had come to this earth to do. From the desert to Calvary the storm of Satan's wrath beat upon Him, but the more merciless it fell, the more firmly did the Son of God cling to the hand of His Father, and press on in the bloodstained path"—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1130.  

Discussion Questions:

     The grudging compliments paid to Jesus in Matthew 22:15, 16 speak of Him as a person of integrity and truth, as unswayed by people's office or power. What would people say about you? Could they offer you a similar kind of compliment? What about on a larger level, the level of your local church? Is it as willing to help the lower stratum of society as it is to try to impress the higher-ups? What does your answer tell you about changes that need to be made, if any?  

   As a class, go over what you wrote down in Thursday's lesson regarding the things that can hamper your walk with the Lord. Compare notes with other class members. What did you list in common? What were the differences? Even more important, how can you work together to help each other get past these challenges? What practical help can you give each other?  

   In Matthew, Jesus frequently is mentioned as spending time on mountains and teaching on mountainsides. Finally, He is transfigured on a mountain (Matt. 17:1-9). This association with higher ground is meant, perhaps, to signify the daily closeness Jesus experienced with the higher realms of reality. What are the ways that we, as a church, can work together to reach, in a sense, the upper regions, even while intensely engaged in the valley below?  

I N S I D E Story    
The Drenkard and the Tailor

I was a drunkard, and my drinking robbed me of everything. But a humble tailor helped me find my way back from the edge of hell.

I live in Mozambique. I kept my drinking a secret until my wife and I were married. I hoped to stop drinking, but I was powerless, to stop. The harder I tried to stop, the worse my drinking became. My wife threatened to leave me if I did not get help.

I went to a witch doctor, but he could not help me conquer my addiction. Sometimes I was so drunk I beat my wife. Finally she left me.

Desperate to stop drinking, I bought a Bible and began attending church. One Sunday on my way to church, I met a tailor working in his roadside shop. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"To church," I replied.

"Why are you going today?" he asked. "Yesterday was God's Sabbath day." Curious, I stopped to talk. The tailor told me that God has the answer to my problems and offered to teach me from the Bible.

The tailor could not read, but he knew the Bible. He sat down beside me, opened a notebook filled with Bible references, and pointed to one. "Look this one up," he said. I found the Bible verses and read them. Then he explained to me what they meant.

We read many Bible texts, and the tailor explained each one to me. Finally he told me to read Exodus 20. I read the Ten Commandments and suddenly I realized that I was finding truths I had never known.

I asked the tailor what church he belonged to, and he said he belonged to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He told me where the church was located and invited me to visit. I thanked him and promised to be in church the next Sabbath. I then continued on to the Protestant church to tell my friends what I had just learned and to invite them to come to the Adventist church on Sabbath.

The next Sabbath I found the Adventist church and worshiped there. In that church I found God's peace and the power to overcome alcohol and tobacco. It took some time, but with God's help, I never smoked or drank again.

My drinking cost me everything-my job, my wife, my home. But God has given me my life back. I am happy in Jesus, and I have invited my friends to find Jesus as well. At least 15 have come to know God's truth and joined the Adventist church because I shared with them what God has done for me.

Your mission offerings help bring the gospel to thirsty souls everywhere.

FULGENCIO CHALUFOIA shares his faith in Chimoio, Mozambique.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission
Web site:  www.adventistmission.org

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