“Israel had been a favored people; God had made their temple His habitation; it was ‘beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.’ Ps. 48:2. The record of more than a thousand years of Christ’s guardian care and tender love, such as a father bears his only child, was there. In that temple the prophets had uttered their solemn warnings. There had the burning censers waved, while incense, mingled with the prayers of the worshipers, had ascended to God. There the blood of beasts had flowed, typical of the blood of Christ. There Jehovah had manifested His glory above the mercy seat. There the priests had officiated, and the pomp of symbol and ceremony had gone on for ages.” 576. [All page numbered references are from The Desire of Ages by Ellen White.] What was the condition of this favored people when their rightful King came to save them?
God had chosen Israel to reveal God to men, “But the Israelites fixed their hopes upon worldly greatness.” 28. After the return from Babylonian captivity, schools were established “to teach the principles of righteousness. But these agencies became corrupted.” 29.
Finally, the people who God chose to reveal His righteousness to the world became the agents for its destruction. “They had hoarded the living manna, and it had turned to corruption. The religion which they tried to shut up to themselves became an offense. They robbed God of His glory, and defrauded the world by a counterfeit of the gospel. They had refused to surrender themselves to God for the salvation of the world, and they became agents of Satan for its destruction. The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan . . . The ordinances which God Himself had appointed were made the means of blinding the mind and hardening the heart. God could do no more for man through these channels.” 36.
Just when this great deception had reached its height, God sent His Son into this world to save it. “At the very crisis, when Satan seemed about to triumph, the Son of God came with the embassage of divine grace . . . the Deity was glorified by pouring upon the world a flood of healing grace that was never to be obstructed or withdrawn till the plan of salvation should be fulfilled.” 37.
When Jesus came, what was His work? “It was His work to reach the multitudes who were in ignorance and error. He gave His lessons of truth where they could reach the darkened understanding. He Himself was the Truth, standing with girded loins and hands ever outstretched to bless, and in words of warning, entreaty, and encouragement, seeking to uplift all who would come unto Him.” 298.
“Jesus ministered to the vast multitudes that gathered about Him.” 349. “The Saviour’s teaching moved their hearts as they hung entranced upon His words.” 716. The sick, the lame and the blind flocked to Jesus. The dying were laid at His feet. He healed the sick, cast out devils and raised the dead. His power was felt in the hearts of men. They recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all that had ever been given.
“Those who received the heavenly instruction He was always ready to impart were greatly blessed. As the multitudes followed Christ through the open fields, He unfolded to them the beauties of the natural world.” 524, 525. “Multitudes who were not interested in the harangues of the rabbis were attracted by His teaching.” 205.
After Christ was rejected in Judea, He moved His work to the seaport towns along the Sea of Galilee. At first His work among them seemed very successful. “To those busy towns about the Sea of Galilee, heaven’s richest blessings had been freely offered. Day after day the Prince of life had gone in and out among them. The glory of God, which prophets and kings had longed to see, had shone upon the multitudes that thronged the Saviour’s steps. Yet they had refused the heavenly Gift.” 489.
How could the multitude that had “hung entranced upon His words,” refuse the heavenly gift of love? Evidently, the satisfaction that comes from hearing a powerful, truth-filled sermon is not enough. Even the sermons from the lips of Jesus did not keep the multitude. How did it happen that the multitude turned from following Jesus? How could their love turn to hatred and their praise to curses so quickly?
One of the main reasons the multitude rejected Jesus was because He did not come the way they expected Him to. They looked upon the priests and rabbis as “the church.” They always believed that the Messiah would come through the priestly system. But they looked on Jesus work as an innovation. Webster’s defines that to be: “the introduction of something new,” “a new idea, method or device.” You could say that the people looked at the priests as “the” organization and they looked on Jesus as a “new” organization. Oh yes, they were impressed with Jesus, but they did not surrender their lives to the truth He taught. They failed to see that the church is where the truth is.
Multitudes of Jews began rejecting Jesus even when they were impressed with Him. They made the fatal mistake of not realizing the absolute authority of truth. “They were impressed by the divine authority of Jesus; but with them the influence of the priests and rulers was paramount. They regarded Christ’s mission as an innovation, and questioned His right to interfere with what was permitted by the authorities of the temple.” 164. They stifled their convictions of truth because Jesus had offended them, and fell back to their pre-conceived opinions of how the Messiah was to appear.
The multitudes loved the blessings that Jesus came to bestow. But, to deny self, to endure ridicule and hardship, they would not accept. They “did not desire to see the cross in the work of Christ.” 415. But Jesus was very explicit. He said, “whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:27. “If men could have had the world with Christ, multitudes would have proffered Him their allegiance; but such service He could not accept.” 383.
The cross is not optional if one is following Jesus—it is a part of salvation. “They must walk in the narrow path traveled by the Man of Calvary, if they would share in the gift of life and the glory of heaven.” 391.
“When the crowds follow, and the multitude s are fed, and the shouts of triumph are heard, their voices are loud in praise; but when the searching of God’s Spirit reveals their sin, and bids them leave it, they turn their backs upon the truth, and walk no more with Jesus.” 392. “When truth is brought home to the heart, they see that their lives are not in accordance with the will of God. They see the need of an entire change in themselves; but they are not willing to take up the self-denying work. Therefore they are angry when their sins are discovered. They go away offended.” 392.
Because Jesus’ work was regarded as an innovation and He required His disciples to bear their cross—the multitude s rejected their Creator. Rather than an innovation, Caiaphas and his associates were viewed by the multitude as the highest authority on earth.
Caiaphas was seeking the same things the multitude was—worldly greatness and honor. The Jews wanted dominion over the Romans. They were very willing to have Jesus as their king if He would give them a piece of the pie. But Jesus could not accept their allegiance on these conditions. “Multitudes who desired to exalt Him to the throne today would turn from Him tomorrow. The disappointment of their selfish ambition would turn their love to hatred, and their praise to curses.” 383.
The multitude s ended up following Caiaphas rather than Jesus. Caiaphas was predicting a Messiah to appear who would give them worldly blessings. The priests taught the people from the Bible, that the Messiah would give them riches and honor. To the multitude, it seemed much easier to follow Caiaphas than to walk on a path of self-denial and hardship. Their pre-conceived opinions of truth, were stronger in their minds, than the truth it self. Martin Luther correctly said: “I feel more and more every day how difficult it is to lay aside the scruples which one has imbibed in childhood.” The Great Controversy, 143. Not a few of the multitude who had once praised the name of Jesus eventually raised the awful cry, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” The multitude pressed by Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, called for the crucifixion of Christ. It is never safe to follow our pre-conceived opinions.
When the multitude turned away from Christ there were only a few who remained. It was to these few, who were willing to deny self and follow Christ, the Rock, that He spoke these words. “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18. There is no foundation that can be laid than what is already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11. Jesus Christ, in His humiliation and self-denial, in His agony and death on the cross, is the foundation of the true church and the Christian’s hope.
“In the presence of God, and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of hell, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself,—His own body, for us broken and bruised. Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of hell shall not prevail.” 413.
There are very few who are willing to follow these conditions in order to be a part of God’s church. Notice in the following paragraph that only those who choose Jesus in His self-denial were referred to as the church; the great multitude and even the Sanhedrin were excluded. “How feeble the church appeared when Christ spoke these words! There was only a handful of believers, against whom all the power of demons and evil men would be directed; yet the followers of Christ were not to fear. Built upon the Rock of their strength, they could not be overthrown.” 413.
Not the multitude , but only the few who were willing to take up their cross of self-denial are Christ’s church. Not the evil men who are fighting Jesus’ followers, but the meek ones are His church. Even the disciples of Jesus struggled with this concept. It was foreign to everything they had ever been taught by priest and rabbi. The disciples believed that Jesus would take over the temple and reign as Israel’s King. “That the hatred of the priests and rabbis would never be overcome, that Christ would be rejected by His own nation, condemned as a deceiver, and crucified as a malefactor,—such a thought the disciples had never entertained.” 415.
When Jesus was on earth, “the disciples were still far from understanding Christ’s mission. The opposition and misrepresentation of the priests and rulers, while it could not turn them away from Christ, still caused them great perplexity. They did not see their way clearly. The influence of their early training, the teaching of the rabbis, the power of tradition, still intercepted their view of truth. From time to time precious rays of light from Jesus shone upon them, yet often they were like men groping among shadows.” 412.
The disciples were slow to comprehend that the entrance to Christ’s church was through the door of self-denial. “It was to Peter a bitter lesson, and one which he learned but slowly, that the path of Christ on earth lay through agony and humiliation. The disciple shrank from fellowship with his Lord in suffering. But in the heat of the furnace fire he was to learn its blessing.” 416.
If the disciples, who listened for three years to the greatest teacher this world has ever know, could not understand—what about us? How often are we, like the disciples, groping among the shadows? Does the influence of our early training, the teaching of the rabbis, the power of tradition, still intercept our view of truth today? Our pre-conceived ideas are so difficult to get past. The only way to understand is in learning to bear our cross.
The Church Today
Like the Jews of old, God raised up Seventh-day Adventists to represent Him to the world. As temple and priests were to minister God’s grace and truth to the nations of old, so we were organized for service to give the Three Angels’ Messages to the world. God organized us through the special guidance of His last day messenger. We, too, have been a favored people. But time has passed and as a people, we have let the truth slide. In fact, many who call themselves Seventh-day Adventists are fighting the truth as the Jews did in Christ’s day. “These men who refuse to receive truth, interpose themselves between the people and the light. But there is no excuse for any one’s refusing the light, for it has been plainly revealed. There is no need of any one’s being in ignorance. We must clear the King’s highway; for God will remove hindrances out of the way. God calls you to come up to his help against the mighty. Instead of pressing your weight against the chariot of truth that is being pulled up an inclined road, you should work with all the energy you can summon to push it on. Shall we repeat the history of the Jews in our work? The leaders of the people in the time of Christ brought all their power to bear against the work of Christ, that His way might be hedged up. The people must go to God for themselves, and pray that all wrong impressions may be removed from their hearts,—pray that the word of God may not be clouded by men’s interpretations.” Review and Herald, March 18, 1890.
Here is another warning, which should be ringing loudly in our ears. “The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ—how the enemy sought every occasion to take control of the minds of the Jews, and today he is seeking to blind the minds of God’s servants, that they may not be able to discern the precious truth.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 406.
Satan succeeded with the Jewish nation as a whole. There was a small remnant who followed Jesus, but as a whole, the nation was lost. We are given graphic descriptions of the Jews before Christ’s first coming. Since the prophet saw again and again the similarity of our position to theirs—could this description of them fit us? “They robbed God of His glory, and defrauded the world by a counterfeit of the gospel. They had refused to surrender themselves to God for the salvation of the world, and they became agents of Satan for its destruction.” 36. To apply this description to Seventh-day Adventists leaves one reeling and could not be considered except by the special warning from God’s messenger.
We cannot demand of God to finish the work the way we think it must be. It will be finished very much out of the natural order of things. Those who are fighting the truth will have no part in it. There is no set of men whom God is forced to use. When He came the first time, He was not forced to use the priests of His day. Rather God is looking for the meek of the earth, those who do not bow to human authority, but submit to His authority.
Multitude s of Seventh-day Adventists are seeking for the original power we had when our pioneers first gave the warning message. We speak of the “good old Seventh-day Adventist message.” We long for it but seldom hear it. Once again God has sent messengers with a call to repent. They have instructed us in the “old [historic] paths, where is the good way.” Jeremiah 6:16. The multitude loves this preaching that has power. We love to sit entranced listening to the words of truth. It makes us feel that we are still on the right road.
But, we reason, no matter how wonderful the truth is—the work cannot be finished without the “regular channels,” these “irregular channels” are only an innovation. We still want to stick with what is established and not stake everything on some innovation.
Worst of all, the reformation preachers call for obedience to the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible. That means self-denial, health reform and all those reforms. That would be too embarrassing. We would not want to be a fanatic!! Unbelief takes possession of the heart. It “will ever find excuse for doubt, and will reason away the most positive proof.” 386.
We conclude that we will continue to listen to the wonderful messages based on the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible. But we would not want to put all our eggs in one basket. So we reason on and on until we are ready to follow Caiaphas—the symbol of human authority.
Who to Follow?
It is no small question one asks, who wants to know if he is following truth. Many times various forms of this question were asked of Jesus. Yet, even with His clear answers, few ended up applying His answers to themselves. “Christ’s humanity so completely veiled His glory that it was difficult for even His disciples to believe in Him; and when He died on the cross, they felt that their hopes had perished. As Christ told them the things He must suffer at the hands of wicked men, He said, ‘If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?’ Luke 23:31. If they do these wicked acts to your divine Lord, what will they do to those that bear the testimony that He came from God, that He was God in human flesh?” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 393.
Jesus spoke of His time on earth as the time of the green tree. “By the green tree, Jesus represented Himself.” 743. The time of the green tree was a time when the world could see the embodiment of truth and righteousness in human flesh. The living Messiah, the Creator, the Saviour of the world was in their midst. They could walk and talk with Him. A whole nation of millions of people were expecting the Messiah to appear. Yet when He was on earth, there were very few who followed Him to the end. “At one time there remained only eleven and a few faithful women.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 138. Even though it was difficult to believe, these few stayed with Jesus. The only safe place was with them. To be in Jesus’ church is always safe—even though it was only eleven men and a few women. To be out of it is always disastrous.
However today we are in the time of the dry tree. Jesus said, “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry”? Luke 23:31. Jesus was the express image of His Father. And still people rejected Him, the way, the truth and the life. But, God’s messengers today are faulty human beings. Today there is not even a living prophet among us. We truly are in the time of the dry tree. This question comes with pounding force upon us: How can we find the track of truth today, since so few people found it in Jesus day? We are not going to find truth by making our decisions from our pre-conceived opinions of truth, or from the scribes and Pharisees, it will not be found at the university or even in the pew at the churches of today.
The only place to find the truth seems below our dignity: “When man is willing to be instructed as a little child, when he submits wholly to God, he will find the truth in His word. If men would be obedient, they would understand the plan of God’s government. The heavenly world would open its chambers of grace and glory for exploration. Human beings would be altogether different from what they now are, for by exploring the mines of truth men would be ennobled.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 114.
To follow the truth, we must respect God’s messengers. Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1. We are here commanded to follow along with a messenger when he is following Christ.
Who Not to Follow
It is not safe to follow Caiaphas or anyone who follows Caiaphas. That is anyone who puts tradition above the commands of God. The one who wants to be recognized and honored in this world is never safe to follow. The Lord will show us who not to follow. “Before the great trouble shall come upon the world such as has never been since there was a nation, those who have faltered and who would ignorantly lead in unsafe paths will reveal this before the real vital test, the last proving, comes, so that whatsoever they may say will not be regarded as voicing the True Shepherd.” 1888 Materials, 1002.
The question comes, “What about Nicodemus?” Was he safe to follow? Nicodemus was safe to follow once he started following Christ. But I would rather have been by the side of Matthew and Peter than Nicodemus. As long as Nicodemus was following the ideas of Caiaphas, it would be dangerous to follow him. What about the “great company of the priests [who] were obedient to the faith?” Acts 6:7. They were unsafe to follow until they started following Jesus.
There was one, a respected scribe, to whom Jesus said: “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34. He understood something about righteousness and the inability of man to obtain it through his own works. But until the scribe followed Christ, he was not in His kingdom. “The scribe was near to the kingdom of God, in that he recognized deeds of righteousness as more acceptable to God than burnt offerings and sacrifices. But he needed to recognize the divine character of Christ, and through faith in Him receive power to do the works of righteousness.” 608. Not even the sincere scribe, who was commended, was safe to follow. Jesus said concerning the churchmen of His day: “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” Matthew 24:3. Jesus did not instruct the people to follow error: “Jesus bade His hearers do that which the rabbis taught according to the law, but not to follow their example.” 612. Evidently, they sometimes taught the truth.
Those who follow Caiaphas will be found undermining God’s messengers. They will use any means to turn the multitude against the truth. “The Pharisees had sought to condemn Him as a Sabbathbreaker. They had tried to arouse the Herodians against Him. They represented that He was seeking to set up a rival kingdom [new organization], and consulted with them how to destroy Him. To excite the Romans against Him, they had represented Him as trying to subvert their authority. They had tried every pretext to cut Him off from influencing the people.” 538.
Caiaphas offers an easy road, one of worldly greatness, of full churches, large crowds and great honor. But the end of that road is destruction. Caiaphas promised that Jerusalem would be freed from the Romans, but the Romans destroyed it and its inhabitants.
“Christ came to save Jerusalem with her children; but Pharisaical pride, hypocrisy, jealousy, and malice had prevented Him from accomplishing His purpose. Jesus knew the terrible retribution which would be visited upon the doomed city. He saw Jerusalem encompassed with armies, the besieged inhabitants driven to starvation and death, mothers feeding upon the dead bodies of their own children, and both parents and children snatching the last morsel of food from one another, natural affection being destroyed by the gnawing pangs of hunger. He saw that the stubbornness of the Jews, as evinced in their rejection of His salvation, would also lead them to refuse submission to the invading armies.” 577. Those who follow Caiaphas or even his followers, are stubborn to their own destruction.
Followers of Christ
The followers of Christ eventually end up faced with the cross. The cross of reproach and loneliness looks hard to carry at first. But in lifting the cross we find it lifts us. “As you lift the cross of Calvary, it lifts you. Bearing the cross after Jesus, following in His consecrated, self-denying footsteps—only thus can you find salvation.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 25. “We are to lift the cross, and follow the steps of Christ. Those who lift the cross will find that as they do this, the cross lifts them, giving them fortitude and courage, and pointing them to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1095. In full surrender of our will to God we find the only path of real happiness. As we come to partake of His sufferings we revel in His love. “It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature. What food is to the body, Christ must be to the soul. Food cannot benefit us unless we eat it, unless it becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of no value to us if we do not know Him as a personal Saviour. A theoretical knowledge will do us no good. We must feed upon Him, receive Him into the heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His grace, must be assimilated.
“But even these figures fail to present the privilege of the believer’s relation to Christ. Jesus said, ‘As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.’ As the Son of God lived by faith in the Father, so are we to live by faith in Christ. So fully was Jesus surrendered to the will of God that the Father alone appeared in His life. Although tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world untainted by the evil that surrounded Him. Thus we also are to overcome as Christ overcame.” 389.
Jesus invites us to pick up our cross and follow Him. “Whenever men reject the Saviour’s invitation, they are yielding themselves to Satan. Multitudes in every department in life, in the home, in business, and even in the church, are doing this today.” 341 Today is not the time to follow the multitude. It is time to be a part of the faithful few who follow Jesus when the multitude forsake Him for Caiaphas. It is the time to take up our cross; for only those are His disciples—His church, and only Jesus’ church will go through.