A Road Less Traveled

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

                                                               From the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

An Unknown Prophet Showed Up

A lot of unforgettable events took place at the All Stars Reunion but none left a greater impression than the unscheduled remarks of an unnamed believer from only God knows where. All we know is that he appeared unbidden and uninvited and was without ecclesiastical rank or theological education. Truth be told, no one had ever heard of him and he was not mentioned in the program or even included on the list of invited guests. He simply insisted that God had invited him to the reunion and he would not be denied.

Mene! Mene! Tekel! Upharsin!

The setting was a planned debate but what actually happened was far different! Far different indeed! Just as the program was getting underway a voice was heard ringing out from the rear of the auditorium. “Mene! Mene! Tekel! Upharsin!” This offended just about everyone and caused no small amount of indignation.  That strange utterance meant “You are weighed in the balance and found wanting! Your kingdom is taken from you!”

The Writing Was on the Wall

Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson Belshazzar was an unworthy heir to the throne and the finger of God had miraculously written those very words on a wall to let him know his time was just about up (Daniel 5:25-28) The church fathers knew what this phrase meant and they knew it was directed right at them!

The church fathers wanted to have the intruder arrested but the “Roman Guards” were enjoying the show so much that they wouldn’t cooperate. The audience held its collective breath while he walked right up to the dais and stood at the podium without even asking for permission! It was all so unexpected that no one had time to stop him. A hush fell over the room when he began to speak and though he didn’t talk long his words lingered in the air long after he left. Here is what he had to say:

Where is the Key of Knowledge?

Hear me out! Today you are faced with a choice about what path you will walk. I came here on an ancient highway prepared for souls who long to see the face of God. God Himself invited me here and this is what He told me to say. You claim to understand the deep mysteries of God but you have only erected towers of dogma that darken counsel by words without knowledge. You have taken away the key of knowledge! You do not enter into the Kingdom yourselves and you hinder those who seek the entrance.

The Keys to the Kingdom of God

Here is the key that you have obscured. Here is the key that was given to the Apostle Peter because he had rightly seen that Jesus is the Christ, Messiah, and Son of the living God! This is the key! It is the only key! The truth that unlocks the kingdom of God is the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God! He is not more than this and He is not less.

God Knows How to Express Himself!

You are not free to add anything or take anything away! If you add to it God will add terrible plagues to you. If you take anything away God will take your name out of the Book of Life (Revelation 22). You are not to go to the right or go to the left (Joshua 1:7). You must not fall short of or go beyond these words. Do not pretend that God does not know how to express Himself exactly as He chooses!

This is Eternal Life!

Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) It is enough to know Jesus Christ the Messiah and His Father the God of Israel! There is but one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.  He declared, “No one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27) Jesus said nothing about the threeness of God, not a single word! Ever.

You Say God is Three. Jesus Says God is One.

You have parsed your words and created new ones as it suited you! You have constructed your creeds but deny the simple unbending creed of Jesus Himself. Here is the creed of Jesus and the creed of His church! “Hear Oh Israel, The LORD our God is one Lord!”. This is the first and greatest commandment! This is the teaching of Jesus! The Father is God and Jesus is His only begotten Son. God is not Triune… He is One! Jesus is not the Second Person in a Trinitarian Godhead, He is the only begotten Son of the One True God. You insist that God is Three and Jesus insists that God is One. Who then shall we believe?

God Will Tear Down Your Dogmas and Traditions!

Many believers have accepted your pronouncements but Jesus does not. You have constructed your grand temple of religious dogma and tradition but God will surely tear it down! Your theological creations are not strong enough to bear the weight of His glory! It is time to abandon your own words in favor of His! You will not find favor among men but you will find favor with God.  It will not be easy but you will find companions along the way and in the words of one modern poet, someday you will discover that “It has made all the difference.”

The Broad Highway of Religious Tradition

No nation ever risked crossing a barren desert until God called His chosen ones to do just that! No people ever walked through the sea until God called Israel to a distant shore. No disciple ever dared set foot on the waves until Jesus beckoned Peter to join Him ON the waters! It is a narrow way that Christ calls you to walk. You were not destined to travel the broad highways of religious tradition.  There is another way that proclaims just One God and His only Son the Messiah! Many have gone before you. They are little known among men but well known to God. Today He calls you to set your feet on a path that is less traveled than the one you have known.

At Least Now You Have Heard

And then… in all the uproar that followed he quietly slipped out a side door and was not seen again. That’s just how it is with those who are born of the Spirit. They are like the wind that blows where it wills. We hear the sound of it but don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. Some will listen and take heed. Others will ignore what they hear. But at least now you have heard.

PS: Someone once wrote that the voice of prophecy is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. That’s probably why it has always been so unpopular.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Marvel and Worship… or Analyze?

Jesus astounded those around Him with miracles. An especially exciting one was The Transfiguration when Peter, John, and James went with Jesus to a high mountain to pray (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2- 8, and Luke 9:28-36). Jesus was transfigured by a great light and his clothes became white as light. Then before Peter, John, and James also similarly appeared Elijah and Moses. They were terrified at the sight and the voice of God when He said “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Jesus consoled the three and told them to not be afraid. They marveled at seeing Jesus in a heavenly light.

The great theologian Thomas Aquinas considered The Transfiguration “the greatest miracle.” This is as it ought to be. But being a theologian, Thomas could not leave well enough alone and simply marvel. No, Thomas, as theologians are wont to do, launched off into a statement about the hypostatic union opining on how Christ’s human body became one with the essence of His divine glory. This is brought up at length, and I mean length, in his impressive work Summa Theologiae. Specifically Thomas dissects The Transfiguration in his Question 45 which is answered in four Articles each of which has three or four objections and three or four replies to the objections. All together that is twenty-eight lengthy paragraphs (a lot longer than these) plus eight more points and commentaries. This is a long way down the bunny trail from marveling, but it has given theology students 750 years of headaches.

Most of the miracles Jesus performed were of healing – and bringing back from the dead cannot be topped. They, though, relate as much to the act of faith as the act of healing. When the ruler’s daughter died and the mother touched the cloak of Jesus, He turned and said, “Your faith has healed you.” (Matthew 9:18-26). Luke 7:11-18 describes Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead. The onlookers did NOT analyze the hypostatic union but rather were filled with awe and praised God.

Other notable miracles were feeding the five thousand (men that is plus the women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:15-21). Another time he fed four thousand (men plus the women and children) with only seven loaves and a few small fish (Matthew 15:32-39). Maybe the most remarkable was Jesus walking on water with Peter (Matthew 14:28). Let’s not trouble Aquinas with this one. Suffice it to say Thomas had an awful lot to say about what God knows and doesn’t know and the essence of His being. In the future we will have great fun with his Summa Theologiae.

Maybe we don’t know as much about theology as Aquinas, but neither did Peter. Some think it’s a wonder Jesus did not pick a disciple a lot smarter and more articulate than Peter. But, for some reason Jesus chose Peter to be a fisher of men. On a windy night Jesus walked on the sea out to the disciples’ buffeted boat. At first they did not recognize Jesus, but He called to them. To Peter He commanded “Come.” As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he too walked on water. But as he looked to the storm Peter began to sink and Jesus saved him (Matthew 14:31). Then in verse 33 those in the boat worshiped Him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The disciples were awed by the power Jesus had over the sea and marveled. John did not say, “I understand your hypostatic essence did not sink in the waves, but how can it be, Lord, that your body stayed above the water? Does your essence dictate your substance?” It’s too bad the disciples were not theologians equipped to ask these pertinent questions.

The disciples, and those around Jesus, marveled at the miracles, were in awe of them, and worshiped. It was as simple as that. They did not pull an Aquinas and philosophically reconfigure a simple message using Aristotelian logic. They were simply primitive Christians that marveled and believed.

Copyright 2021 by Greg Hallback