Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Right and Left (07/31/14)
- TITLE: The 'Right' Side of Jesus
By Bruce Phenix
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Because in the ancient world the left hand was usually regarded as weak, awkward and clumsy, and was sometimes associated with theft, deceit and stealth, the left-hand side was often considered unlucky, wrong or perverse.
Thus the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 10:2 says, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left,” and the reference in Jonah 4:11 to the 120,000 people in Nineveh “who do not know their right hand from their left” is probably to their ignorance of God’s laws. Nevertheless, ambidexterity was highly prized, and the skill of left-handed slingers is specially mentioned in Judges 20:16.
Without apparent distinction between right and left, Proverbs 3:13-16 states, “Happy are those who find wisdom… Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour.” For the author of Proverbs long life, riches and honour may naturally accompany and crown a person’s wisdom, but in the New Testament none of these things is regarded as an unqualified blessing for the Christian.
To live healthily and happily into old age is almost universally desired, and yet in Mark 8:35 Jesus says that those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for his sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. And while the wise will no doubt employ their riches to do good, in Luke 21:1-4 the widow’s mite is more in Jesus’s estimation than all the Temple gifts of the rich. As for honour, we may think of Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6:22-23: “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven.” The Christian looks not for long life on earth but for the inheritance of eternal life, not for material wealth but for the “unsearchable riches of Christ”(1), not for the honour accorded by fellow human beings but for fellowship with God through Jesus.
In Matthew 25:32-46 Jesus describes the separation of the sheep from the goats, that is, of those blessed by God from those who are accursed, when the Son of Man “comes in his glory, and all the angels with him” and sits on his royal throne. Significantly, he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. The sheep and the goats are unaware of their worthiness and unworthiness respectively, but Jesus explains that what they did – or failed to do – to care for the least of his brothers, any fellow human being, they did – or failed to do – to him.
Jesus was crucified with two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. According to Luke 23:39-43 one criminal derided Jesus, but the other rebuked him for it: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” to which Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” We do not know whether this man was on the right or the left, but we may be certain that at the end of his life (perhaps a short one), although a despised criminal, he was on the ‘right’ side of Jesus.
(1) Ephesians 3:8
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