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This is Part 3 of the Jesus Christ in His Own Words series:
All the prophets have striven to make love manifest in the hearts of men. His Holiness Jesus Christ sought to create this love in the hearts. He suffered all difficulties and ordeals that perchance the human heart might become the fountain-source of love. Therefore we must strive with all our heart and soul that this love may take possession of us…. - Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, pp. 218-219.
In the last two articles in this series, we looked at a prophecy made by Moses in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:6-8) that was fulfilled by Jesus in the Gospels (John 5:45-47) -- a fulfillment confirmed by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (3:19-26). These verses established that:
Jesus Christ claimed to be the Prophet like Moses foretold in the Torah. Jesus claimed that He, like Moses, received His revelation from God “face to Face”—something He confirms in John 6:46. His disciples, including Peter, understood Jesus as being part of a series of Divine Revealers of God’s word. (See also, Hebrews 1: 1,2)
Growing up as a Christian, I was taught that Jesus’ word was the final one -- that there would be no further revelation of God’s word until the “End Times”. Nearly two thousand years after this supposed cessation of our dialogue with God, my questions to any clergyman who would listen were: “Why would God speak to mankind directly only once, so long ago and for so short a span of time? And why would His sole communication take place at a time when we lacked the ability to effectively record and spread His message?”
Further, if God had, as Peter says in the third chapter of Acts, been sending His Messengers “since the world began”, why did He stop? Surely, we needed His guidance now as much as ever -- or more, since our capacity for self-destruction had grown exponentially.
My introduction to the Baha’i Faith—and through it to Islam, Buddhism and other faiths—suggested that revelation had not been limited to Christ’s mission here on earth, or even to what we think of as the Abrahamic religions. Moreover, my Baha’i friends suggested that Christ’s own words would testify to this.
My exploration of what the Baha’i Faith taught (which was more an attempt to refute it) led me to a careful, prayerful reading of the Bible. I was especially struck by what I read in Matthew chapter 7. Here, Jesus asks HIs listeners to understand the sort of God His Father is by considering how we -- mere humans -- treat our children:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:7-10.
I thought about this passage, for the first time ever, as more than a comforting reference to God’s love. Can you imagine having several children, yet showing only one of them your love? Would you feed, clothe, and educate one child, while the others went hungry, naked, and ignorant, or were doomed to cobble together scraps of food, clothing, and knowledge, not from you directly, but from your favored child? If a human parent really did those things, most of us would consider him a criminal. Yet, I had believed that this was the way God behaved.
I had to ask myself: Would God give the Bread of Life to only one favored people and give stones to all others? Would He send His Word to only one nation at one time in all the history of the world, and allow false prophets to claim all others? If I believed Christ’s word, then the answer was a resounding “no”. It seemed clear from Jesus’ words and deeds that, as Peter said, “…God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
I had been taught that Jesus’ was the last revelation from God until the end of all things. Yet who among us can imagine that a human parent would speak to his child once when he was quite small, then utter nothing more and offer no further guidance or words of love until the child was on his death bed?
If we, who are imperfect, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more so does the God Christ revealed know how to give gifts to those who ask?
Read the previous article in the Jesus Christ series - Jesus Christ: The Way of God
Read the previous article in the Jesus Christ series – Jesus Christ: Face to Face with God