Does it seem odd that Paul wrote “Remember Jesus, raised from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8) to a dedicated minister of the gospel?
Earlier he had testified that no one on his staff was equal to Timothy. Why should a man like that need a reminder? Remember Jesus? Timothy must have spent most of every day either teaching his church about Jesus or sharing Jesus with the unbelievers in his city.
If we step back a little, though, and consider the history of God’s own people, it doesn’t seem so strange.
The long habit of forgetting God
God chose to reveal himself to one family out of all the families on earth. He led them to Egypt, and then he led them out with a mighty display of his power. He led them to a mountain where he spoke to them in an audible voice.
Within a month, they forgot.
God instituted a system of sacrifices and ritual cleansings so that the people could remember. He called one tribe out of that family to officiate at the worship rituals and take care of the sacred objects, and called one family out of that tribe to be priests.
The priests forgot God sooner than anyone else in the entire nation.
The law God gave contained a curse for forgetting God. When the people forgot anyway, they suffered exile, but God in his grace allowed them to return to their homeland. He gave them synagogues where they could hear regular preaching on his word and learn the requirements of the law.
The rabbis became so careful about observing all of the details about keeping the Sabbath, the dietary restrictions, the ceremonial washings, and all the rest that they forgot God and began to despise the people who were less careful
Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry
Finally, God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world. Unlike anyone else God ever sent, Jesus always remembered God.
The Jewish leaders cared more about ritual purity and about the nation’s status as God’s chosen people than they cared about God. They hated Jesus and had him executed.
Jesus rose from the dead, but instead of staying behind to guide his friends and followers, he returned to the Father in heaven and sent the Holy Spirit.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus established his church and gave it gifts. He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).
But just as there had been false priests, false kings, and false prophets for centuries before Jesus came, false prophets and false teachers quickly arose within the church.
When persecution arose, even some of Paul’s closest associates forgot Jesus in order to preserve their own skin.
Breaking an evil pattern
If Timothy needed to be reminded to remember Jesus, then so do we. Only by consciously remembering Jesus can the church ever break the evil, forgetful pattern established by the generation that first heard God’s voice from the mountain.
We have all known good times and bad times. In good times, it is easy to enjoy them, assume they’ll last forever, think we somehow deserve them, and forget Jesus.
In bad times, it is easy to notice that our prayers are not answered the way we want as quickly as we want. Jesus did say that trouble would come.
It is easy to become frustrated and angry and forget Jesus. The Bible has given us stories of the Old Testament Jews falling into idolatry, the New Testament Jews falling into a cold and judgmental legalism, and some of the earliest church leaders falling into failures of their own.
As individuals and as a body, we must break that pattern every day. Otherwise, the church in our time will become as dead as the Jewish priests ever did. There is only one way to succeed where they failed.
Remember Jesus, raised from the dead.
Photo source: Public domain, from Wikimedia