“Avraham became the father of many nations; his descendants inherited this land, Eretz-Isra´el, in which we now live,” Benjamin said.
“His name has become known all over the world and certainly God has both blessed and cursed the nations based on how they dealt with his chosen people.” Benjamin paused.
“But can we truly say that all the nations of the earth have been blessed through Isra´el?” Benjamin looked at his grandfather.
“The Rabbis would say that we have been chosen to carry God’s Law to the ends of the earth,” Gamaliel said. “That is the blessing spoken of here.” He tried to make it sound important, Benjamin could see, but it wasn’t convincing.
“And we have seen how the world has accepted this great revelation of the Law,” Benjamin said, his eyes glinting. “We have seen how it has shown Roman law to be weak and self-serving; how it has inspired nations to come to Yerushalayim to sit at the feet of our wise men and learn how to manage the affairs of the nations.”
“There was a time –”
“Yes, grandfather, there was a time, but no more. Please forgive my lack of respect. It is true that there is nothing wrong with the Law. It is holy and perfect and is a source of healing for the nations. But, grandfather, the nations could not look into the Perfect Law for being blinded by the sin of the guardians of that same Law.”
Benjamin almost bounced from his couch.
“It is not just the Law that the nations needed to see but the living, dynamic fellowship between God and his people that the fulfilling of the Law made possible. Without that holy fellowship, the Law has no power or appeal.” Benjamin was standing, his hands spread out, his palms outward, looking, appealing, to his grandfather for assent.
“So you believe, young Benjamin, that Isra´el has not fulfilled her calling?”
“You, yourself, believe that, grandfather. You have told me so, in secret, many times.”
The startled glances of those left in the audience who were still awake was a mute testimony to the fact that the night still held a few surprises. But Gamaliel didn’t seem to notice. He was staring at nothing, and Benjamin knew that he was looking deep within himself, examining his heart and studying every word that he was saying. He had seen that look before.
“Yes, I suppose that’s true, but it still vexes the soul to hear it.”
Benjamin waited for the question to be asked.
“Was Isra´el then a hindrance to this great plan of redemption that you speak about?” Gamaliel avoided Benjamin’s eye as if he feared the answer. “Was she a curse to the nations instead of a blessing?”
“Not at all, grandfather,” Benjamin said. “Not because Isra´el was so faithful, because we know she wasn’t, but because Adonai Elohim, Himself, was faithful. Isra´el was an example to the world, whether good or bad, a mirror of the sin and deception of the human heart even under the blessing of God. Isra´el would be used by God to bless the nations despite herself. Without the Law and without the demonstration of Isra´el’s need for something more than the Law, the work of the Maschiach would not have been understood. Without the sacrifices, without the Passover, without the covenants, the curses and blessings, the Laws to regulate our lives and worship, who would have understood what happened that night when the Light of the World died upon a cross outside the Holy City like thousands of others before and after Him.”
“But how does that change the human heart?”
“From the inside out,” Benjamin said. “By dealing with sin once and for all on the cross, it is possible for us to receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Presence of God. We become human temples for God to dwell in. That is what will, in the end, change the human heart. Because of the cross, not only is the punishment for sin taken care of, but we are also made truly holy before God, even though we continue to sin. The sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross was sufficient for all of our sin, past, present and future. He not only accepted the punishment for our sin but became sin for us. We are not simply pardoned but, in fact, receive the righteousness of Yeshua as our own. We are now holy as God is holy, as Yeshua was holy.”
“That is hard to believe and even harder to accept, my son.” Heads nodded in sleepy agreement.
“Yes, it is hard to accept, grandfather,” Benjamin said, “but it is the only way. If we are not made truly holy, we cannot receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh. It is the only way that God can fellowship continually with us without the interference of sin, though we would sin.”
Benjamin stopped suddenly, checked by a more powerful force within. He waited, wondering in the growing silence what he should do. Then the crucial question came.
“Do you have the Spirit of the Living God within you continually?”
“Yes, Bubba, I do.”
“You dare to compare yourself with Elijah, Samson, even King David?”
“Yes, grandfather, it is so. Not because I am worthy, for I am not. But David was a shepherd, an adulterer, a murderer. Samson a womanizer. Elijah prone to despair and depression. Were they worthy to receive the Spirit? No more than you and I, and no less. It is by God’s grace and for His purposes that they were filled with the power of His might. And that is how it is with me.”
“But you claim to have the Ruach HaKodesh continually,” Gamaliel said.
“Yes, that is so.” There was nothing else to say. It was so because of the grace of God not through any merit of Benjamin’s. But his grandfather knew that.
Gamaliel remained quiet with his own thoughts, and Benjamin looked at him intently. When his grandfather stopped asking questions there was a problem. It was almost as if there were some invisible wall that he couldn’t get past, some barrier that stopped him from moving forward and accepting the truth. There was very little left to say, and his grandfather seemed to grant all of the major points of his argument but there it stopped. Benjamin could not seem to penetrate to his heart.
Yes, that was it. His heart was still closed.
Adonai Elohim, have mercy on my grandfather.
Benjamin prayed into the moment of silence that had fallen on the group. He remembered something that Nathanael had told him. It seemed so long ago. What had he said? Oh, yes. Only the Ruach HaKodesh could penetrate the heart. We are only witnesses to the truth, we have no power to make someone believe.
Benjamin started to panic but then he remembered something else his mentor and friend had told him. The prayer of a righteous man has weight with God and prayer mixed with love and grace is always heard.
Benjamin began to pray in more earnest than ever before. The moment was now. There would never be another opportunity like this one.
O Lord God, chesed, chesed, have mercy. Work your redemptive power in the heart of my grandfather. O Lord God, have mercy.
Gamaliel looked up at him. The silence had gone on too long. Benjamin picked up the thread of his argument where he had left off, one part of his mind in constant, earnest prayer while the other tried to bring the story to an end. There really was nothing more to say.
“But how is God to have fellowship with His people if their hearts belong in their very essence to the Evil One. The people’s hearts must change, their dead natures restored to life, forgiveness must somehow be accomplished without the death of the people themselves.”
“And there, right there, at that point, God showed us how much He loved us. To save us from death, He died for us. To save us from hell, He endured hell for us. He sacrificed Himself in our place, as our substitute. God sent the most precious thing He had, His Son, to take upon Himself both pain and death on the cross so that all the world could believe in Him and in this demonstration of His love fulfilling His justice and be forgiven.”
The last words Benjamin would speak on the subject reflected the first words that he had spoken at the very beginning.
“Grandfather,” he said, his words clipped and precise as if he were reciting a creed, “I believe that Yeshua bar Joseph of Nazaret is the Maschiach, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins to restore all men to fellowship with their Creator.”
It was the truth. It was the only truth that mattered.
Benjamin slumped back on his couch. Did it all make sense? Did anyone understand what he was trying to say? Gamaliel seemed to be deep in thought, his head bowed low and Benjamin watched him out of the corner of his eye.
Benjamin was tired, and he wasn’t sure why. He could feel the lethargy growing in his bones and his eyelids growing heavier with sleep. He shook his head heavily as he tried to think. For one sudden, terrible moment he was desperate to stay awake. Bubba needs me right now. Stay awake, Benjamin!
But then a soothing calmness came over him and he relaxed, somehow knowing that his grandfather was now in the hands of a wiser teacher.
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The Temptations of the Cross by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.