257 – THIEVES AND ROBERS II
Jesus Christ, before his death and resurrection, never directed his doctrine to anyone but to his people, the Jews. Let us look at what he said when he sent the twelve disciples: “Jesus sent these twelve out, and commanded them, saying, ‘Don’t go among the Gentiles, and don’t enter into any city of the Samaritans. Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matt. 10:5-6). And then, “But he answered, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Jesus, born in flesh, was the Messiah of Israel. He declared it himself when he dialogued with the Samaritan woman, that one who had had five husbands. When she said, “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah comes,’ (he who is called Christ). ‘When he has come, he will declare to us all things’”Jesus said to her, “‘I am he, the one who speaks to you’” (John 4:25-26). And the apostle Paul reveals that Jesus was part of Israel, only according to the flesh. “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers’ sake, my relatives according to the flesh, who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises; of whom are the fathers, and from whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 9:3-5). So, the message of Jesus was only for the Jews, and the subject was the Old Testament and the history of the Hebrew people.
When he said, “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them” (John 10:8), the word “sheep” indicated the flock of God in the Old Testament. And when he referred to thieves and robbers, he spoke of the false prophets, false priests, false kings, and false princes. Jesus was not speaking of other religions. Those who Jesus could frame as thieves and robbers were the priests, for they received the tithes and offerings taken from the people and lived in luxury. The tithes were for the maintenance of the temple and provision for the priests and Levites. Jehovah said,“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house” (Mal. 3:10).
Another that could be included was Solomon, who charged violent taxes from the people of Israel. It was so much that, after his death the people went to Rehoboam asking him to relieve them from such heavy burden. They cried out with these words: “Your father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make you the grievous service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, lighter, and we will serve you” (1 Kings 12:10-11). The son of Solomon, Rehoboam, received wrong counsel from the young people of his time, and the following counsel was the answer he got as a course of action for the people: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. Now whereas my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:10-11). This was the artifice used by Jehovah to divide the kingdom in two. Could those be the thieves and robbers? It is possible that they were not, for the message of Jesus Christ is a transcendent message. Jesus preached the disregard of possessions and riches of this world (Matt. 6:19-20; 19:16-21).
When speaking of thieves and robbers Jesus was speaking of the power of psychically castrating men: the power of robbing the attributes inherent to the human nature. For example, Paul reveals that everyone who is under the law is a slave: “Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don’t you listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:21-26). The text is clear. The law of Jehovah produces slaves, that is, people who are not in the control of their lives; that is, they are not free; that is, they do not have a will.
One of the main functions of Jesus Christ was that of delivering the Jews from under the yoke of the law of Jehovah. In the same letter to the Galatians Paul explains: “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:1-4). Jehovah, through the Law, castrated and slaved his people Israel; and Christ has the power to deliver them from this wicked yoke, restoring their strength, memory, understanding, will, and power of decision.
Jehovah did not allow free initiative. We take as examples the children of Aaron, the high priest. Nadab and Abihu, his sons, took their respective fire pan, put fire in them, placed incense on it and brought a strange fire before Jehovah, who had not told them to do that. Then there came fire from before his face and consumed them, and they died before Jehovah (Lev. 10:1-2). It is evident that Nadab and Abihu did not do it with the purpose of disrespecting Jehovah, but to please him. They found different incense and thought that it would add personal value to their worship, but they were mistaken. Jehovah forces people to act mechanically. There was not any life in those rituals. This is the reason why Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “You worship that which you do not know” (John 4:22). It was a blind worship. The people of Israel were blind. And who made them so? Jehovah himself did. When he presented himself to Jehovah, the prophet Isaiah received from him the gift of blinding the people. Jehovah, then, told him: “He said, ‘Go, and tell this people, “You hear indeed, but don’t understand; and you see indeed, but don’t perceive.” Make the heart of this people fat. Make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed’” (Is. 6:9-10). The Old Testament is made of pictures, but the people did not know any of them (1 Cor. 10:1-6). It is full of allegories, that is, parables, but the people did not know any of them (Gal. 4:21-26). Adam is a picture, but not Israel, and for the shame of Christians, not even the Church knows who he was the picture of (Rom. 5:14). The Garden of Eden is a picture. The four rivers that bathed the garden are pictures. No one knew anything, not even the priests, or the prophets. They were all blind. “‘For Yahweh has poured out on you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, the prophets; and he has covered your heads, the seers. All vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is educated, saying, ‘Read this, please;’ and he says, ‘I can’t, for it is sealed’” (Is. 29:10-11). The people had become so blind and impotent, that the Messiah came, and they did not recognize him, although they had so many prophecies telling of him. The people, the prophets, and the priests had all been reduced to a system of prohibitions, and repetitive and forced rituals that annulled them psychically. They were made slaves. Paul called it a spirit of slavery (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:21-15). They were plundered and robbed in what is most precious in men: the freedom to think, choose, judge and act. When Messiah came, they did not recognize him, because a thick veil had been placed over their hearts (2 Cor. 3:15-16). Only Jesus Christ can deliver them from this yoke and give back to them the gift of free though and action: the gift of freedom (John 8:36).
by Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira