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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part IV: Triumph Over Death

Chapter 27

Manhood Perfected

Though He were a Son,
yet learned He (the meaning of) obedience
by the things which He experienced,
and being made perfect
He became the author of salvation
unto all that obey Him.

(Hebrews 5:8,9)

     The Incarnation brought to view man as God planned him to be. Adam was created for that kind of manhood. And this potential, which in the First Adam was lost, was fully realized in the Last Adam. He not only made that manhood a reality, but by his sacrifice of it, made our recovery of true manhood possible. This is the "apprehension" Paul was striving to achieve (Philippians 3:12). It is this "image of the Son" to which the Christian is to be conformed (Romans 8:29).
     The perfection of the Lord Jesus as Man is the indispensable prerequisite for our redemption. Unless He is MAN, He cannot be our substitute: and only if He is perfect can He BE a substitute: otherwise He must bear his own guilt. The perfection pertains equally to his spirit as it does to his body. The perfection must be total. In Him we see the potential of man realized fully physically, spiritually, morally, intellectually. The character of the Lord Jesus Christ as He walked across the stage of human history is entirely uninventable. It is simply not possible to fashion such a figure out of human imagination. As someone has put it, "The creation of such an individual would be a greater miracle than the fact itself." And Renan, skeptic

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though he was, admitted frankly that it would take a Jesus to forge a Jesus.

     The Gospels especially, but the whole of the New Testament also, are full of illustrations or allusions to the sinless perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter, who was the activist among the disciples, could say with characteristic enthusiasm, "He did no sin" (1 Peter 2:22). Paul, who was the thinker, could say reflectively, "He knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). John who seems above all to have loved the Lord so deeply (John 13:23 and 21:20) exclaimed with adoration, "In Him was no sin" (1 John 3:5).
     He was without spot or blemish, a Man among men, blameless in everything He did. In the presence of the elite intellectuals of the times, He was flawless in all his thinking. In a day when society in the Roman world was falling as low in its moral standard as it had ever been, He displayed a purity in Himself that was almost terrifying in its luminescence. Added to this extraordinary spiritual quality of his nature was his personal "presence." Men were awed by it. So powerful was it that He could in righteous anger drive out the entrenched and hardened moneymakers in the Temple precincts, overturning their tables and spilling their greedy wealth on the ground and not one of them had the physical courage to oppose Him (John 2:1316).
     Yet his humanity was perfectly natural in its development. There was nothing of unnatural progress in Him: He was first the child and then the man. He learned by the experiences of life, and his understanding kept pace with his years. Thus as a child we find Him being subject to his parents. As a youth He learned his trade and knew the satisfaction that comes from a thing well done. He knew that the yokes He made would not be burdensome in themselves. Thus even as his bodily development was perfectly natural, so was his character entirely human in its expression according to his age.
     When He reached manhood, his character was tested in two ways: He knew the pressures that come from the vulnerabilities of human flesh (weariness, hunger, thirst) and the temptations constantly requiring one to choose the right. "In all points" He was tempted, though always from without, never from within.
     At the very beginning of his public ministry, after a particularly wonderful event when the heavenly Father had audibly announced Him to be his beloved Son, came a severe trial. For forty days He was tempted by Satan to use "worldly" methods to fulfill his mission. We presume that as Man He did not know exactly what was involved in obedience to his Father's will. His temptations were real. We are told that He "learned obedience by the things He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). Satan was vanquished in the wilderness but he only departed "for a

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season" (Luke 4:13). Every situation presented a choice: and in every situation He demonstrated complete obedience.
     It was as Man that He displayed perfect obedience. In the First Adam the experiences of life had turned innocence into guilt and knowledge: in the Last Adam the experiences of life had turned his innocence into virtue and wisdom.
     What stands out in the Gospels particularly is the unfailing demonstration of his moral and intellectual perfection: in a word, his wisdom. For wisdom is by nature a combination of intelligence and purity (James 3:17).
     We are constantly amazed at his extraordinary skill in dealing with the traps that were set by his enemies as they sought to undermine his authority and neutralize the exposure of their own miserable behaviour. They sought again and again to place Him in what can only be described as "impossible situations." And it must be admitted that they were very clever about it. Yet He seemed always able with ease to turn the tables upon them and discomfit them utterly. But, be it noted, never by evasion of the real issues at stake and never by the sacrifice of a moral principle.
     Consider, for example, how He dealt with the question of whether tribute money should be paid to the Roman authorities or not (Matthew 22:17ff.). "Is it lawful," they asked, "to pay tribute unto Caesar?" They reckoned that if He should say, "No," they would be able to accuse Him before the civil authority and thus have Him arrested and put out of action. If however, He said, "Yes," they would turn at once to the crowds who were eagerly listening and say: "See! He believes we must continue to be subservient to these taskmasters who oppress us! Can such a man possibly be our promised King?" He was, in short, on the horns of a dilemma. This was not a matter of private decision to be wrestled with in secret and answered later, or solved perhaps by a subterfuge which might serve for the moment. The answer was demanded at once in the full hearing of bystanders who stood ready to publish it abroad.
     And what did He say? He turned to his detractors and asked them to show Him one of the coins they used as tribute money, a coin indeed of Roman mintage which was their accepted means of commerce. And when they produced one, unsuspectingly, He asked them a simple question: "Whose image and superscription hath it?" They replied, still not realizing the trap they were getting themselves into, "Caesar's." "Then," said Jesus quietly, "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." How wonderful! How simple his answer, but how complex its implications: and what a perfect rejoinder it was.

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     Consider another example. As the end of his ministry drew near, He had entered the Temple and for a second time cleansed it of the commerce that continually blighted its spiritual mission. The authorities were infuriated but really helpless to intervene, for what He did was right and they knew it! So later on, they cornered Him and challenged Him, saying, "By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?" (Matthew 21:23ff.). And Jesus answered them, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell me, I will in likewise tell you by what authority I do these things. . . .  The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or of man?" And they reasoned with themselves saying, "If we shall say 'from heaven,' He will say unto us, 'Why then did ye not believe him?' But if we say 'of men,' we fear the people; for all the people hold John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus and said, "We cannot tell." And He said unto them, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." A greater than Solomon was here.
     Consider one further illustration which so impressed some of the bystanders that they never asked Him any more such questions. In Luke 20:2740 is an account of an incident in which the Sadducees (who did not believe in any resurrection) came to Jesus and said and here I am abbreviating this rather long passage "A man is required to take upon himself the duty of husband to his brother's wife if he should die prematurely. Suppose one brother after another dies, after each has taken over this duty for the same childless widow who has survived them all, whose wife will she be in heaven?" Whose indeed!
     Jesus said that there is no need of marriage in heaven so the question is meaningless. Then He added, "But touching the matter of resurrection, ye do err. If there is no such thing as resurrection, how could God be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which you yourselves admit He is? He is not the God of the dead but of the living and therefore Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must be alive!" It was then, we are told, that certain of the scribes observed, "Master, thou hast answered well." What a tribute this was from a group among whom were some of his bitterest enemies. And we are told that after that "they dared not ask Him any questions at all."
     Never once had He failed to put his detractors to flight not by ridicule nor by evasion, but by what the Greeks would surely have called a sweet reasonableness and an appropriate seriousness . . . their definition of the ideal temperament in perfect man. They had to admit that He had beaten them at their own game, effortlessly.
     Perhaps the most crucial test of all was that of which we have the details in the disputed passage of John 8:111. Admittedly, it is not merely prejudice but scholarship that has, today, put a question mark

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against these verses. But surely, if there is any place in Scripture where we ought to be guided by the spirit of a passage rather than its disputed history in deciding whether it belongs in the canon of inspired writings or not, it is here. It seems to me that the whole atmosphere and feeling of this beautiful incident is so perfectly concordant with all that we know of the Lord's dealings with men that it should be included unless the reasons for its exclusion cannot possibly be gain-said. And in this matter, we do know that the reasons for its exclusion in some of the older manuscripts was because of the feeling that adultery was being condoned. But surely this is not so.
     The passage is luminous with the beauty of the Lord's Person, with the reflected graciousness of God's mercy. And it provides us with such an unequalled example of the meeting of righteousness and peace (Psalm 85:10) where circumstances otherwise seem to stand so completely against it, that it has the strongest possible claim upon our acceptance of it.
     It is hardly necessary to set forth the details. A woman, taken in the very act of adultery and therefore by Mosaic Law explicitly worthy to be stoned to death at once, is brought before the Lord. "Moses said that she must be stoned," they pointed out, "but what do you say?"
     What could He say? There seemed only one answer possible. She was proven guilty; she was not denying it; she ought indeed to be stoned, there and then. But can you imagine the Lord standing by while a woman, contrite enough neither to deny her guilt nor to ask for mercy, was mutilated to death (how else can one describe it?) by stoning, before the very eyes of Him who was everywhere recognized for the quality of his mercy? Yet how could He possibly consent? To consent would be to deny mercy, even though unsought: to forbid was to undermine the Law of Moses, divinely given and everywhere honoured even if only in the breach of it as the standard of God's righteousness.
    Jesus stooped down, we are told in verse 6, and with his finger began writing in the dust. What did He write? Perhaps the names of her accusers? Jeremiah 17:13 may possibly tell us something about this, for there it is written: "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters." And was He not already identifying Himself as that very fountain?
     Consider the Lord's position here. With men, forgiveness is the plainest of duties for we are all in the same position of needing forgiveness ourselves. Not one of us is "without sin." The righteousness of the law does not rest with us and is not therefore in danger when we,

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who are unrighteous, overlook the unrighteousness of other men. But with God forgiveness is the profoundest of problems. How can God forgive the ungodly and still sustain the moral fabric of the Universe? How can He be just and yet justify the deeds of the unjust (Romans 3:26)? How can He wink at any one sin without in that instant destroying the whole basis of morality in every other area? To forgive once merely as an act of mercy and without in some way requiring the payment of a penalty is to destroy righteousness, to abandon moral truth, to justify the unjustifiable, and to remove all restraints against wickedness. What, then, could Jesus do without betraying everything for which He had come to give his very life?
     Straightening Himself up He acknowledged their verdict, for He said to them, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her." And then He again leaned down and continued to write on the ground. It is important to recognize that his words had a precise meaning to the woman's accusers, for it was required by law that the official accuser be the one to cast the first stone. Not one person could bring himself publicly to claim the sinlessness which the Lord had now made the sole justification for casting this first stone. And so, one by one, as He continued writing on the ground, they unobtrusively left the threatening circle of men surrounding the woman, from the oldest to the youngest, until not one of them remained. She was left alone in the midst of the disciples and the curious crowd.
     Jesus again straightened up, and when He had looked around, He said, "Woman, where are these thine accusers? Hath no man accused thee?" She replied, "No man, Lord." And Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more."
     Surely here is a most beautiful example of the extraordinary presence of mind of the Lord Jesus Christ in a situation which must have appeared to the disciples a moral impasse. In reflecting upon these wonderful demonstrations of wisdom and moral courage, we have to remember that they represent but a tiny fragment of what must have been occurring every day of his active ministry. Whether it had to do with political relations with Rome, the economics of the Temple services, doctrinal matters among the religious parties, or with moral issues in society, all were handled with complete propriety and superb finesse. And, be it noted once again, never by evasion of the real issues nor the sacrifice of a moral principle. Was there ever such a man as this in human history! Was there ever a man so qualified to be called upon in due time to judge the world?

We turn now to the matter of his personal relationships which demanded not merely intriguing or clever or intellectually satisfying    

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answers in the crucial moments of human encounter, but righteous answers as well. And not merely righteous answers but righteous responses. There must be no excess but no waste either, no indifference but nothing inappropriate to the occasion either: nor must there be any contradiction in the over-all pattern of response. It must be all of a piece. Our goodness is piecemeal, there is no consistency or wholeness to it. It is always a patchwork. As Isaiah 64:6 puts it so accurately, "All our righteousnesses (plural) are as filthy rags." This is our way. By contrast, the righteousness of God, which was perfectly expressed in the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of truly human behaviour, was a garment woven in one piece. He is "the Lord our righteousness" (singular: Jeremiah 23:6). Look, then, at the moral glory of this Lord as witnessed in some facets of his daily circumstances by the beautiful balance and harmony of his judgments.
     We see it in his relationship with his mother. He knew when to acknowledge her claims upon Himself whenever they were appropriate (Luke 2:51), to resist them when they were sought inappropriately (Luke 8:21), and to recognize them unsought when it became Him to do so (John 19:27).
     In every need He perfectly suited his response, rebuking any appeal that resulted from a lack of faith (Matthew 8:25); but instantly meeting the need of a man whose faith encouraged him to say, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean," and He said at once, "I will . . . be thou clean" (Matthew 8:2,3). He knew perfectly when waste was justified and when it was not. With reference to Mary who expended a costly ointment to refresh his feet, He said, "She hath wrought a good work on me. . ." (Matthew 26:10), while rebuking those who suggested her devotion was wastefully misplaced. But with reference to the thousands who had been miraculously fed, He said, "Gather up the crumbs that nothing be wasted" (John 6:12), where men would otherwise have taken no such steps.
     He asked men to watch with Him, as though to underline the reality of his humanness (Matthew 26:38): but never to pray for Him, as though He had need of an advocate with the Father. Nor did He ever ask forgiveness of anyone. But how could this be unless He never offended unrighteously? The best of men are always those who are most conscious of their own unworthiness and their need of forgiveness. We do not like people who do this too often, perhaps because it reminds us that we, too, ought to be asking forgiveness of one another. So in a manner of speaking, confession of the need for forgiveness is evidence of an inherent goodness. Never to ask for forgiveness could be a sign of total PERFECTION or of total DEPRAVITY. The verdict of history tells us that it was not total depravity but perfect goodness in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ. He never at any time showed

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the slightest evidence of pangs of conscience or the least awareness of having done anything unworthy. Either He was perfect or He was unbelievably evil. But we know that in the end, although men did their very best to find whereof to accuse Him, they utterly failed in their purpose.
     He never permitted anyone who was unworthy to bear Him witness (Luke 4:41). This is a telling circumstance, for the very best of men suffer from a certain prideful awareness of their own public reputation and cannot resist accepting the compliments of the less worthy. Were it not so, hypocrisy would disappear, for hypocrisy is only the compliment which vice pays to virtue and which the most virtuous among men, unfortunately, are not unwilling to accept. The Lord Jesus never accepted it unless those who proffered it also acknowledged his true identity (Matthew 19:17).
     He never excused his actions, no matter how badly misunderstood, even by his friends. When He slept in the boat and a great storm arose to threaten its other occupants, they cried out, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). But He did not apologize to them for sleeping: He merely rebuked both them and the storm, to their utter amazement. When the crowd pressed closely around Him and a woman with faith and a desperate need touched the hem of his garment, He asked, "Who touched me?" His disciples asked Him how could He possibly raise such a question in the circumstances, but He did not answer them (Mark 5:30-32). When upon another occasion, they found Him talking to a woman of Samaria, a woman apparently of doubtful virtue, they did not dare to ask Him why He was talking to her alone nor did He offer any explanation (John 4:27).
     When Lazarus died while He delayed his coming, He made no attempt to explain his "failure" to come to their aid in time, though Mary's observation "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:32) was certainly a pretext for just such an explanation. One supposes that He might at least have satisfied her with some "excuse" if only to give her peace of mind. We would have done so, no doubt, even if we had to tell a lie. He did not. He remained silent as to his reasons for delay. Yet He shared Mary and Martha's grief very deeply (John 11:34, 35), even though He knew He would be undoing the tragedy within the next few minutes.
     The picture which emerges from such silences is not, strangely, a disappointing one. It leaves one only in amazement and wonder, and it reminds us so forcibly of our own eagerness to excuse our actions because they border so frequently upon the inexcusable, and we are insecure. This was not true of Him.
     We cannot hope to exhaust the testimony of the inspired record which is like a treasure chest out of which God is constantly allowing

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his children to extract new gems, and we know for a simple fact that the record itself is only a tiny fragment of what might have been written had it been the intention of God to make the record complete. As John says at the very end of his Gospel, the earth itself could not have contained the volumes which might have been written (John 21:25): while Luke said of his Gospel account that it was, after all, only a beginning (Acts 1:1).

     We have been talking here about the Lord Jesus Christ as Man. His wisdom, his power, his miracles, everything about Him as He walked among men, was the unfolding of the potential wrapped up in and acted out through truly human capacity. I think it wonderfully opens up the record which we have of the Lord's doings in the Gospels to bear in mind that so much of what He did was done as Adam. He did not of course forgive sins in his human capacity, but as God. But many of his miracles indeed, perhaps all of them were the work of a Person who was acting as a perfect man, and would have been possible for Adam (and his descendants) to have done equally, if sin had not entered.
     We know this from many passages of Scripture. Nothing would have been impossible to perfect man with a correspondingly perfect faith. It is our faith that proves the barrier. This is clear enough from such broad statements as Matthew 17:20; 21:21; Luke 10:19; John 14:12, and other parallel passages. We could move mountains (literally) did we have perfect faith. We simply do not know what a perfect man with a perfect faith might have achieved we have only an inkling from what we witness of the activities of the Lord.  C. S. Lewis rightly says, "Whatever may have been the powers of unfallen man, it appears that those of redeemed man will be almost unlimited." * It is true that man as he now is, even when he has been redeemed, has powers far beyond what he displays. The trouble is that he has not the faith "beyond imagining" which is prerequisite to this greater display.

     Does this sound absurd? Well, consider Peter's experience of defying gravity! In Matthew 14:2234 we have the account of the great storm that overtook the disciples when the Lord had sent them on ahead across the Sea of Galilee to return to Gennesaret after the feeding of the five thousand on the opposite shore. As they toiled to keep afloat, Jesus suddenly appeared through the blown spray and the roar of the waves, walking on the water. They were naturally afraid, for in such a situation a figure calmly riding out the waves without

* Lewis, C. S., Miracles, New York, Macmillan, 1947, p.140.

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visible means of support must have seemed like a ghost. But the Lord called to them above the wind and reassured them while yet some feet from the boat.
     Impetuous Peter, at once recognizing his Lord and seeing the "impossible" being done, said "Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water." And the Lord simply said, "Come!"
    Now the wonderful thing about this is that Peter, in perfect faith, stepped over the side of the boat and walked on the water also! By faith he, too, defied gravity. But only so long as his faith was perfect. The moment he had doubts, gravity began to take over and, being (like so many other fisherman then and since) unable to swim, he cried out for help as he began to sink. The Lord Jesus immediately stretched forth his hand and caught him . . and rebuked him for his loss of faith. Once his faith had failed, even the Lord could not help him except physically by carrying his weight. He did not therefore say to Peter, "Float, man, float!" It had to be Peter's faith, and Peter's faith had collapsed.
     Does this mean, then, that Peter and you and I could, in an emergency, walk on water? Yes, I believe it does, if we only had faith just as we could move a mountain into the sea if we only had perfect faith. But, realistically, we do not have that kind of faith as normal to our daily walk, and we have therefore learned our limitations and, sadly, come to accept them and live with them. But had Adam never sinned . . . what wonders might we do, yet without surprise!
     Consider the significance of another somewhat similar event recorded in Matthew 14:15 f., just prior to Peter's experience of walking on the water. Here we have the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Notice how this miracle was prefaced. First, we have the situation of several thousand people far from any source of food and long after mealtime. The disciples, for some reason, were anxious to have them sent away before it was too late and the shops were closed. But Jesus said, "They need not depart; GIVE YE THEM TO EAT"!
     What a challenge. . . .  But they did not rise to it. The feeding of such a multitude was clearly beyond their resources which were composed of five loaves and two fishes. What they did not have were the resources of faith. But I think that if they had really understood the Lord's meaning and acted as Peter later acted in stepping out of the boat onto the water at the Lord's command, they would have performed the miracle which the Lord then performed for them in multiplying their physical resources. For there is surely no question that the Lord Jesus performed the miracle, not in his role as God, but in his role as perfect man exercising a perfect faith. Such faith is clearly creative.
     Later on, in Acts, many such miracles of healing as the Lord had

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performed were indeed performed by the disciples, too. Although for reasons which may not merely reflect a diminishing faith, such signs and wonders gradually declined as the years went by. Whether this was due to a certain shift in the economy of God or merely a growing coldness among God's people, is a point hardly to be considered here. But certainly so long as the main thrust of the presentation of the Gospel was to the Jewish people such signs and wonders accompanied their preaching. Redeemed man obviously has residual powers of which we have little experience. What of unfallen man? To this potential of unfallen man we have the witness of the life and work of the Lord Jesus.

     The Lord Jesus Christ was indeed Adam restored to view: not only as Adam, but even as his descendants might have been if he had not fallen. The humanity of the Lord Jesus had been tested in the crucible of daily experiences in all kinds of circumstances but He had learned perfect obedience. He could say truly, "I do always those things which please my Father" (John 8:29).
     Three times we are informed that God was pleased with his Son, the Man Christ Jesus. When He was twelve, at the time of the Passover He had stayed behind in Jerusalem, and for two days Mary and Joseph anxiously searched for Him. We read that, returning to Nazareth, He "was subject unto them" and that as He grew in wisdom and in stature, He also grew "in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:51,52). Thus long after He had reached the age of accountability, He still had not displeased his heavenly Father.
     When He was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23), He entered into his public ministry which was initiated by his baptism. Once more, God declared that He was well pleased with Him (Luke 3:22), attesting to the continuance of his perfection.
     Almost three years later, when his public ministry had been tried to the full, Jesus one day took Peter, James, and John up to a mountain top where, before Moses and Elijah, the heavenly Father again affirmed that He was well pleased with his Son (Matthew 17:6). He was now ready for "graduation" into glory without experiencing death.
     In Him, then, was Manhood as planned, Man perfected to maturity, human nature finally and fully expressed as God intended it to be in the first place. What the First Adam might have become in an unfallen world, the Last Adam did become in a fallen one. The innocence of the First Adam was destroyed and his manhood lost by his disobedience. The innocence of the Last Adam was turned into virtue and his manhood was made perfect by his obedience. He was indeed a MAN altogether approved of God (Acts 2:22).

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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