More about Jesus

Cramming for the Final Exam?

If you love me, you will obey what I command.
—John 14:15, NIV

How sad it is to be the kid who studied the wrong chapter for the final exam! Has it ever happened to you? When it is over, you make the unsettling discovery that everyone else thought the exam was easy, even though you found it quite difficult. Then you find out that the test was on Chapter 11, and you spent the night cramming Chapter 9.

Sometimes teachers will announce the general scope of the final exam. Sometimes they give even more specific clues about the content of the test, and sometimes they even give out the questions and let the students take them home to complete. We as Christians have something easier than any take-home test in high school: We have been given—in advance—not just the questions, but the answers as well! What could be easier? Yet some people still study the wrong chapter, some people still practice the wrong skills.

Some people live as if Jesus had said:

     Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
     Jesus replied: “‘Study the Bible with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Defend true doctrine against heretics and unbelievers.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
—Matthew 22:34-40, Reversed Fractured Version

Yet the actual words from our Lord’s lips are these:

     Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
     Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
—Matthew 22:34-40, NIV

Some people conduct themselves in daily life as if Paul had said:

     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am qualified to be a preacher, but not a pastoral counselor. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I have at least done the essential things. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I have done my very best, and that is all that God expects.
—1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Reversed Fractured Version

What Paul really said was this:

     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
—1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV

I saw a cartoon a long time ago that showed an old woman, sitting on a porch, reading the Bible. Two kids were walking by. One said to the other, “That’s my grandma. She’s cramming for her finals.” That just goes to show how widespread this misunderstanding is. A lot of people are boning up on stuff that won’t even be on the test! They study their Bibles as if Jesus had said the following:

     “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will seat them at individual desks and pass out exams. Each person will have forty-five minutes to answer multiple-choice questions on the Bible, religion, and family values. Then he will grade their papers and separate them one from another as a teacher separates the honor students from the flunkies, and he will place the honor students at his right hand, but the flunkies at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for you have passed your final exam!’ Then the honor students will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we study?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, each time you read the Bible—even though you were daydreaming and not paying attention—I graded you on a curve. Each time you attended church, you gave yourself a bonus point. Each time you hated the sins of the unworthy, you got extra credit.’”
—Matthew 25:31-46, Reversed Fractured Version

Compare the Reversed Fractured Version with Jesus’ actual words:

     “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
     “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
     “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
     “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
     “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
     “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
     “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
     “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
—Matthew 25:31-46, NIV

If you were going on an expedition to Antarctica, you wouldn’t pack a bathing suit and a surfboard and leave out the insulated boots. You would agree with me that it is important to pack the right stuff. Most travel brochures contain suggestions about how you should prepare yourself for the trip. Jesus’ travel brochure for the Second Coming is no different in this respect.

So if you know how to pack correctly for your vacation, you should also be able to pack correctly for your eternal destiny.