Friday, August 21, 2009

"What Shall I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?"

Only Luke records these words, which Jesus spoke “privately” to his disciples. Then he entertains a question from “a certain lawyer” who “tempted” Christ with a question. Those are key words. He then gives them the much-loved parable of the Good Samaritan. (For additional information on why Jesus taught in parables, see Matthew 13:1-3, 10-17, 34-37; Mark 4:1-2, 10-12, 33-34; Luke 8:4, 9-10).

Joseph Smith also said, “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” (TPJS, 276-7). That’s a good key. The question with which the learned lawyer tempted Christ was “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

My earlier post today answers that question. We teach others they must accept Christ as their Savior in order to come unto the Father and obtain eternal life, the same life that the Father lives. Which underscores this fact: Only repentant sinners qualify for eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom.

Even though this parable is often used to illustrate what Christ does for us (acting like the Good Samaritan in the story), we might re-examine the parable in light of this doctrine. There are multiple layers of understanding in parables, just as with all good symbolism like the symbols we find in the temple ceremonies. The most elemental level of understanding in this parable is that in order to gain eternal life we must be good neighbors, like the Good Samaritan, to all with whom we come in contact.

But the underlying theme that brought forth this parable from the Savior was His declaration of His true identity to His followers in the midst of His enemies. He knew the wickedness of the Pharisees and lawyers (scribes), and He knew they were blind as to who He really was. He knew the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Levites, and all the Jewish priests would pass Him over. He knew they would treat His teachings with disdain, disavow His miracles, pass by on the other side and leave Him for dead on their avowed self-determined way to eternal life. He knew only the lowliest and most humble of souls would succor Him, receive Him and accept Him as Messiah and Redeemer.

As the Promised (but in reality, “rejected”) Messiah, He died of the wounds inflicted by the hands of His enemies who ironically were His brothers, the Jews. They delighted in His death. They even conspired to compel the Romans to make it happen, since they had no authority to inflict the death penalty as Roman subjects in Palestine. In their conspiratorial determination to put an end to Christianity altogether through their blind allegiance to their own false religion, they never could see the vision of their deliverance in Christ’s mission among them.

In other words, the Savior was trying to show His closest disciples in the presence of His avowed enemies, the Pharisees who could not see, that they must accept Him as the Messiah in order to have eternal life. That’s why He commended his disciples who could see who He was. His disciples had brief glimpses while He was in their midst of the vision of the Messiah that all the prophets before had longed to see fulfilled. Yet in the end, even His apostles had a hard time seeing it. As late as the eve of His crucifixion at the Last Supper, and even after His crucifixion and resurrection they were still trying to grasp the significance of His teachings that He was really going to die and be raised to life on the third day. We have the benefit of 2,000 years of hindsight to understand.

I wonder if we would really have seen it any clearer had we been there, but who knows?

Sometimes our missionaries seem determined to prove every doctrinal point from the Bible, such as attempting to prove the Father and the Son are separate and distinct. The gospel of John is best in illustrating that physical reality.

Repeatedly, Christ declares He has been sent by the Father. He obviously has a separate body like the Father’s, because Christ is on Earth, his Father is in heaven. To see one, Christ affirmed, is to see the other and to know They are alike though They are individual beings.

Here’s a scripture chain in the book of John that I developed to summarize Christ’s own words on the topic. The Father sent the Son to Earth to be the personification of everything that the Father would have done Himself if He were here. These teachings clearly illustrate the separate nature of their bodies, because Christ was sent by the Father, but also demonstrate their singleness in purpose, plans and intent. They speak as one, They think as one, They do as one, though They are separate and distinct physical bodies of flesh and bones:

John 4:34: My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 5:19-20: The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

John 5:36: For the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

John 5:43: I am come in my Father’s name.

John 6:38: For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 7:16-17: My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

John 7:28: I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.

John 8:28-29: When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

John 8:49: I honour my Father.

John 14:6-11: No man cometh unto the Father but by me; He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; I am in the Father, and the Father in me; the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

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