Jesus was sitting on the slope of the Mount of Olives. He had just walked out of the Temple in Jerusalem after verbally blasting the Pharisees. Many of us see Jesus only as the gentle Jesus. We see the painting of him surrounded by children. We see him feeding thousands. True, he was gentle. But he had another side we must see if we are going to know the whole Jesus. He could get angry.
He had an emotional experience in the Temple. He lashed the Pharisees for being too concerned with the letter of the law and not concerned enough with the spirit behind it. Jesus had become angry with them. He called the Pharisees hypocrites, vipers, miserable frauds, and serpents. He told them they were so mixed up they would hunt the prophets and wise and learned men he would send to them from town to town and kill them.
They had been in the Temple with him. They had heard his sharp words. They were obviously concerned. They didn't want to make any of the mistakes the Pharisees were making. Jesus turned serious. It was just two days before the Passover. In a few days he would be crucified. He didn't have much time left to teach his disciples.
The disciples were concerned about the final judgment Jesus had mentioned. They weren't certain they understood. They asked Jesus how they would know it was coming and how they should prepare for it. Jesus said many things in response to their questions. In concluding this conversation he came back to his favorite theme – love. Jesus reminded them of what the Pharisees had ignored. Every individual is of supreme worth in the eyes of God.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to remember this, even about ourselves. Sometimes we don't think of ourselves as being of supreme worth in the eyes of God. Sometimes we feel the opposite, that we are really not very much in the scheme of things. Many people in our churches seem to think what we need convinced of is our sins. What we need convinced of is that God loves us on a very individual basis. This gives our lives meaning.
On this day with his disciples Jesus went beyond the fact that God loves each one. He said the final judgment will be based, not on love alone, but how we put love into action. "And the king will reply," Jesus said, "I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me." It is all in Matthew 25. Our feelings and actions towards others are important to God because of what God is helping us to become. He desires that we break out of our shells of self-righteousness and self-centeredness.
Have we ever thought about how we grow? Only unselfish acts of love help us grow toward what God wants us to be. Greed, theological beliefs or institutionalized religion matter little if not reinforced by love, compassion and concern for others.
This week's question: Who, besides Isaiah, saw the Lord sitting on his throne? Last week's question: Who had a beef against a Greek silversmith named Demetrius? Answer: Paul (Acts 19:23-41
(Robert Lind is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. He may be reached at this newspaper or at firstname.lastname@example.org)