The Education of Jesus Christ

The Education of Jesus Christ

Few events in the Bible were as pivotal as the moment humanity first chose to disobey God. I don’t think it’s possible to sufficiently describe the weight of the decision to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. That single decision ultimately turned the universe around. Because of that decision, God the Son came down to earth, became flesh, died as a human being, and would remain a human being forever. That one decision brought a change in the Godhead.

 

One decision changed everything. But since “everything” is so nondescript, it would be useful to focus on one particular change that sin caused. In the book Education, writer Ellen G. White wrote:

Adam and Eve had chosen the knowledge of evil, and if they ever regained the position they had lost they must regain it under the unfavorable conditions they had brought upon themselves. No longer were they to dwell in Eden, for in its perfection it could not teach them the lessons which it was now essential for them to learn. In unutterable sadness they bade farewell to their beautiful surroundings and went forth to dwell upon the earth, where rested the curse of sin. (Emphasis mine)

 

It says that because Adam and Eve chose to sin, they brought upon themselves an unfavorable condition. This condition was not purposeless, however, since it was a means through which they could regain their first position.

 

The second sentence contains what is, for me, a truly groundbreaking concept. It says that because of sin, the perfection of Eden could not teach them the lessons they needed to learn anymore. Is there anything better than perfect?

 

The Ideal Classroom

When I think of the ideal classroom to learn and to study, I naturally think of a perfect environment. By perfect I mean in its totality. No evil, no violence, no suffering, nothing negative at all. In other words, it is something like Eden. Yet in God’s estimation, this perfect place was not suited anymore for the education of Adam and Eve. Perfect wouldn’t do any longer because they sinned, and with sin came a whole nature that was incompatible with how God and the sinless worlds operated.

 

That decision to disobey God was more than just a wrongful deed. It transformed the entire nature of how we, human beings, learned. The whole mechanism for us to go from not knowing to knowing, unlearned to learned, changed. Before sin, a perfect environment like Eden was the ideal venue for learning. But that perfection became unfitted for sinful men.

 

But couldn’t we see the truth in that statement? Don’t we say this a lot: suffering, struggles, and failures teach us the most? Yes, happy moments teach us too, but when it comes to an accelerated track to learning and gaining wisdom, we get our curriculum from the school of suffering.

 

And so Adam and Eve moved to dwell on earth, which by implication was now the fitted classroom to their sinful nature. God seemed to have a lesson for them, for humanity to learn, and He was adamant that this lesson was learned. Before sin, Eden’s perfection was the means to learning this lesson. But as a Good Teacher, He didn’t impose the same method categorically. When His students changed, He too changed His classroom, His approach.

 

The Education of Jesus Christ

Given this backdrop, ponder with me the import of this verse in Hebrews:

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8.

Jesus Christ learned through suffering.

 

First, Jesus Christ learned. “Though he were a Son,” the Omniscient God the Son, he learned. When Jesus put on the garb of humanity, He did not access that omniscience. Instead, He humbled himself to not know everything, and after a season of time, to learn and know them, just like we all do.

 

Second, the way that He learned, in particular the lesson of obedience (the lesson that God wanted Adam and Eve to learn in the beginning), was through the things that he suffered.

word_education

 

Here’s the marvelous thing. Because Jesus did not sin, He did not have to get on this education track that required suffering as textbooks. He was perfect. In other words, perfection like the one in Eden was the ideal classroom for Him to learn.

 

But when Jesus came down to earth and put on the garb of humanity, He set aside that first education track and adopted the one that we, sinful human beings, had to be on. Why? Hebrews 5:9 says, “And being made perfect,” through obedience, and before that, through suffering, “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” He did this so that we could obey and follow His example.

 

O to marvel at the incarnation of Christ…

All the world’s a classroom is my personal slogan. But such is the nature of this classroom: glorious at times and horrendous at others. Its history has bright and dark periods, and noble and despicable characters in it. But in the divine arrangement, this is to be so for now so that I can learn what I need to learn, until one day, I can transfer to the heavenly classroom. On that one day, I will be changed, so that I will not have to learn through suffering anymore.

 

Yet even more beautiful is the fact that God himself joined me in this imperfect classroom and went through the education that I have to go through, at the very least, so that I know that he is a High Priest that can “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” (Hebrews 4:15) What a marvelous God.

 

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Hebrews 2:9-11

The One That Tops The List

This Is My Story, part 9, the Finale.

This day, thirteen years ago, marked the beginning of my publicly declared and lifelong commitment to follow that lovely Man whose likeness cannot compare to any other. Did I know inside out what that commitment would entail, or understand the full import of following Jesus? Absolutely not. But there’s such thing called growth, and the thrill of being surprised.

Sure, there should be research and thoughts before making any commitment, but if one insists in knowing 100 percent of everything that would happen afterwards, what’s the fun in that, right?

The impact of the Gospel, of knowing God, His kingdom, and His righteousness, has been pervasive in my life. It is true that there have been many moments of God’s special gifts and miracles, but what amazes me even more is His influence that is steady, His work that continues for years, silent, unglamorous, but radically transforming me into a newer and newer person.

It’s like He is planting a seed in me and waits for it to grow. Slowly, but surely, life transforms that seed into a tree, but one does not necessarily see the evidence of that life until years after. And once evidence starts to pile up, hindsight provides the opportunity to say, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Gen 28:16.

The Gospel has changed me, in character and in personality. It has weaved new relationships and rejuvenates old relationships (here, here, and here) that multiply my joy in this earthen life. It has given meaning to my education that is higher than any common ambitions, and it has expanded my world beyond anything I ever dreamed before. The entire world is open enough to learn from, malleable enough to impact, destitute enough to joyfully serve, and rich enough to enjoy. God wants to take the Gospel to all corners of the earth, and because I am His child, He takes me on this global ride as well. I am on a path of infinite growth (again, a plug for the book Education), and God will not stop being my Teacher until eternity.

But wonderful though they may be, they still pale in comparison to the one gift that is so incredibly, fundamentally central, without which any of the others would not be possible. This gift is Jesus Christ Himself, His sacrifice, and the forgiveness of sin.

Since the focus of this blog series has been on God’s blessings, perhaps it makes me look more saintly than I really am. The truth is, I’m still wretched, still poor, still selfish, and still needing grace, more than ever. The core reality of my day-to-day existence is written in this poem, which is why I am most thankful about God’s amazing grace.

When God came into my life, I changed from being a sinner to being forgiven. And this forgiveness still happens everyday, every moment. Nothing compares to the thought that a sinner can stand in front of a holy God, blameless. How can that be? That difference is Jesus Christ, the mediator.

I’ve enjoyed many added benefits to following Jesus, but they are accessories that follow the first, most important step. For to gain Christ, and to gain only Him, is to gain all.

Teach Me To Dream

Teach Me To Dream

This Is My Story, part 7
 

If you asked me during my early college years what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d tell you: to be an ordinary, good person. You know, do good things in life, graduate, work, get married, have a family, et cetera. I once asked my dad, who worked so hard to send me to MIT, whether he would be OK if after I graduated from college I did absolutely nothing with my degree. Actually, he said he would be fine with that, since there was more to life than a degree.
 

While there was profound truth in that statement, my mindset wasn’t as deep then. Since the pressure was off, I felt essentially excused from having high ambitions. I wanted to go through life as inconsequentially as possible, as quietly as possible, not causing any stir, whether good or bad. Besides, I thought Christians were not supposed to be ambitious.
 

Which was why when I heard that GYC 2003 theme and read the originating quote, “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children” (Education, p. 18), my life philosophy was turned upside down.
 

You’re telling me that no human ambitions can equate God’s ambitions for His children?
 

I had to re-think a lot about how I approached life. I thought I had reached some decent heights in life, but God said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Come up higher.” New heights started opening up to me, things I had never imagined before.
 

With others involved in the Boston area campus ministries, I started doing things (of consequence). First as a participant, then slowly, I learned to get excited: “What about this?” or “Oh we can do that!” The most mind-blowing thing about all of this was the realization that I could actually do something for God and His cause! I was not inconsequential, and campus ministry gave my life so much meaning. I could be ambitious not for ambitions’ sake or the world’ applause, but for God, which was the only thing that mattered! I canvassed for two summers and the thought of an ordinary life grew dimmer by the day…
 

After undergraduate years, I spent a year as a missionary intern at C.A.M.P.U.S. to minister to public university students. There, my paradigm was further shaped. One of the resounding themes during the C.A.M.P.U.S. missionary training program (MTP) was the assertion, “You can change the world.”
 

The first time I heard it, I was like, “Yeah, right.” No one had ever said that to me before. “Me? Change the world? Pff.” But then they kept saying it, until slowly I started to believe them.
 

The thing that made it believable was because it was said in the context of Jesus Christ. The phrase “You can change the world” is energizing by itself, but without substance, it really is just a self-help, self-motivating type of mantra that will eventually fade away. No, the full phrase that was repeated at MTP and that stuck with me was, “Change the world by being changed.”
 

What does that mean? It means that you don’t change the world by your energy, loud voice, charisma, leadership skills, campaigning, or efforts. The key to making an impact in the world, a true impact that will last for eternity, is to be changed in the inside.
 

Think about Jesus. He did not start any organization, He did not have any degree, and at the end of His life everyone forsook Him. His life was simple, devoid of pomp and glory. But He changed and still is impacting the world, thousands of years after His life on earth. It was the force and nobility of His character that rippled through the ages.[1]
 

The impact that will matter in heaven’s accounting comes only when Jesus changes and transforms a person in the inside, to be like Him in character. This is the prerequisite that will only give meaning to the eloquence, charisma, and these other accessory skills. Once that happens, with God by your side, nothing is impossible.
 

Fewer things can resonate with a youthful soul than dreaming the impossible. “You’re too young to know that certain things are impossible, so you do them anyway,” says the character William Pitt in the movie Amazing Grace.
 

Now, one of my favorite things to do is get together with like-minded friends, and with some Häagen-Dazs mango sorbet to fuel the brain, start a “dreaming session,” thinking and brainstorming about things to do to address what’s lacking. Many a project has come out as a brainchild. Some fell through, some took off, but in all of them there were fun, excitement, and passion. I mean, the joy of finding things that excite your very being, that you don’t want to go to sleep and you can’t wait to wake up, is indescribable. Life is so much more meaningful this way.
 

The last thing I want is an ordinary life. I can’t go back to a dreamless life. I have no straight plans or visions of how my life should be, because I want to be surprised. I want to always say yes when God calls me to a higher ground, and I want to see impossible things happen.
 

When I gained Christ as a Teacher, He taught me to dream.

 


[1] Read “One Solitary Life” by Dr. James Allan Francis.