Who Am I? Part 7

In another essay I presented his Jewish and Roman trials as a kind of ultimate tempting of the flesh of Adam and an ultimate proving of the Holy Spirit which descendedin bodily form like a dove[1] upon Jesus the Christ or Messiah.  I characterized those trials as a time “when sinners, Jerusalem, the whole world, perhaps even the created cosmos were in extreme danger of falling into the hands of an angry God.”  I want to continue with his crucifixion.

Nail me to a cross and I’m stuck there but Jesus said (John 10:17, 18 NET):

This is why the Father loves me – because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again.  No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will.[2]  I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again.  This commandment I received from my Father.

It says to me that at any moment throughout his ordeal of ultimate humiliation Jesus, yehôvâh in the flesh of Adam,[3] could have decided that enough was enough, sat down at the right hand of his Father in heaven and been none the worse for wear—personally.

As they led him away, Luke recorded in his Gospel narrative, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country.  They placed the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus.[4]  Matthew and Mark recorded the same incident.  I might have assumed that He was too holy to carry his own cross except that John recalled Jesus carrying his own cross (John 19:16, 17 NET).  Apparently the One who said, If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,[5] was too weak to carry his all the way to his crucifixion.

Two other (ἕτεροι, a form of ἕτερος) criminals (κακοῦργοι, a form of κακοῦργος) were also led away to be executed with him.[6]  Isaiah had prophesied, he was numbered with the transgressors,[7] though he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.[8]  But with the words ἕτεροι κακοῦργοι δύο Luke captured (See: ἕτεροι; Luke 11:15, 16) the social reality of Jesus as one of three criminals condemned to death by the duly authorized governor of Judea.  His punishment was neither cruel nor unusual under the prevailing standards of their socially constructed reality.

A great number of the people followed him (Luke 23:27-31 NET):

among them women who were mourning and wailing for him.  But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For this is certain: The days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’  For if such things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink.  But after tasting it, he would not drink it.[9]  There they crucified him along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.[10]  But Jesus said, “Father, forgive (ἄφες, a form of ἀφίημι) them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[11]

Jesus, naked[12] on the cross, looked down as the soldiers who crucified Him took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.)  So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.”  This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.”  So the soldiers did these things.[13]  David (1 Samuel 16:1 – 1 Kings 2:11) had prophesied, they look and stare upon me.  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.[14]

Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.[15]  It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.[16]  That would be the second morning since the night of his arrest with little or no sleep for Jesus.  The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others.  Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”[17]

Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.”[18]  Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic (Ἑβραϊστί; literally, in Hebrew; NET note 67), Latin, and Greek.  Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”[19]

Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross!”  In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law – were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!  Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe!”[20]  He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”  The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.[21]  One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”[22]

This is the point in the story where I wished Jesus would come down from the cross as more than twelve legions of angels came screaming out of the sky to the tune of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries to kill everyone who mocked Him.  Actually it is the ideal of the Sicarii—walking up to an “enemy” (anyone who disagrees with my “truth”) plunging a long knife into him several times and melting away again into the crowd—that appeals to the sin in my flesh more than the straight-up warfare of the Zealots.  Cowardice prevented me from ever actualizing the murderous intentions of my heart.  And until the moment that sentence formed in my mind I hadn’t thanked God for that fear.  All this may help explain why years of imitating the Pharisees felt like a step toward godliness to me.

But the other [criminal] rebuked him [the former criminal], saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”[23] as a door of hope opened (Hosea 2:14-17 Tanakh).

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.  And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.  And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD (yehôvâh, יהוה), that thou shalt call me Ishi (ʼı̂ysh, אישי); and shalt call me no more Baali (baʽălı̂y, בעלי).  For I will take away the names of Baalim (baʽal, הבעלים) out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.

As confessions go, And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did is nothing compared to Achan’s confession (Joshua 7:19-25 Tanakh)

And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day.  And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

I wonder now whether Achan and his sons and his daughters, after suffering the punishment of criminals, face an implacable Judge or a merciful Savior, not because of the merits of Achan’s confession but because of the merits of that Savior: But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.[24]

Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”  He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!”  From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.[25]

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.  At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”[26] that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[27]  After six hours on the cross Jesus lamented his loneliness even as He affirmed his confidence in the Scripture, written for his comfort (Psalm 22:6-18) for the very moment He prayed it (Psalm 22:1, 23, 24 Tanakh):

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.  For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.  But the rest said, “Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.”[28]  After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture [Psalm 22:15]), “I am thirsty!”  A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth.  When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!”[29]  David had already spoken for Jesus’ failing breath (Psalm 22:25-31 Tanakh):

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.  All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.   For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.  All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.  A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

The temple curtain was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  And after he said this he breathed his last.[30]  The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.  And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised.  (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)[31]

Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”[32]  And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.[33] 

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? Jesus asked.  The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.[34]  And in the letter to the Hebrews we are encouraged: Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.[35]  I tell you the solemn truth, Jesus promised, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father.[36]  For, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[37]

The Gospel harmony I made to write this essay follows.

The Crucifixion

Matthew Mark Luke

John

So they took Jesus, and carrying his own cross…

 John 19:16b, 17a

As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross.

Matthew 27:32

The soldiers forced a passerby to carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country…

Mark 15:21a

As they led him away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country.  They placed the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:26

(he was the father of Alexander and Rufus).

Mark 15:21b

A great number of the people followed him, among them women who were mourning and wailing for him.  But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For this is certain: The days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’  For if such things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Luke 23:27-31

Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him.

Luke 23:32

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”)…

Matthew 27:33

They brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which is translated, “Place of the Skull”).

Mark 15:22

So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull” …

Luke 23:33a

…he went out to the place called “The Place of the Skull” (called in Aramaic Golgotha).

John 19:17b

…and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink.  But after tasting it, he would not drink it.

Matthew 27:34

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

Mark 15:23

When they had crucified him…

Matthew 27:35a

Then they crucified him…

Mark 15:24a

…they crucified him there…

Luke 23:33b

There they crucified him…

John 19:18a

…along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33c

…along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.

John 19:18b

[But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”]

Luke 23:34a

…they divided his clothes by throwing dice.

Matthew 27:35b

…and divided his clothes, throwing dice for them, to decide what each would take.

Mark 15:24b

Then they threw dice to divide his clothes.

Luke 23:34b

Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.

Matthew 27:36

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

Mark 15:25

The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others.  Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”

Luke 23:35-37

Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

Matthew 27:37

The inscription of the charge against him read, “The king of the Jews.”

Mark 15:26

There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”

Luke 23:38

Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.”

John 19:19

Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

John 19:20-22

Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.)  So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.”  So the soldiers did these things.

John 19:23, 24

Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads  and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!  If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!”  In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law and elders – were mocking him: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!  He is the king of Israel!  If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him!

Matthew 27:38-42

And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross!”  In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law – were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!  Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may see and believe!”

Mark 15:27-32a

He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!”

Matthew 27:43

The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Matthew 27:44

Those who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Mark 15:32b

One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”  He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!”  From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.

John 19:25-27

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.

Matthew 27:45

Now when it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

Mark 15:33

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, because the sun’s light failed.

Luke 23:44, 45a

At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.  But the rest said, “Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.”

Matthew 27:46-49

Around three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  When some of the bystanders heard it they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!”  Then someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone!  Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down!”

Mark 15:34-36

After this Jesus, realizing that by this time everything was completed, said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty!”  A jar full of sour wine was there, so they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop and lifted it to his mouth.  When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!”

John 19:28-30a

Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.  Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:50, 51a

But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last.  And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Mark 15:37, 38

The temple curtain was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  And after he said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:45, 46

 

 

Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30b

The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.  And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised.  (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)

Matthew 27:51b-53

Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”

Matthew 27:54

Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Mark 15:39

Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

Luke 23:47

And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.

Luke 23:48

Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance.

Matthew 27:55

There were also women, watching from a distance.

Mark 15:40a

And all those who knew Jesus stood at a distance, and the women who had followed him from Galilee saw these things.

Luke 23:49

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Matthew 27:56

Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  When he was in Galilee, they had followed him and given him support.  Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were there too.

Mark 15:40b, 41

 

[1] Luke 3:22a (NET)

[2] The words free will were added by the translators to the Greek word ἐμαυτοῦ translated my own.

[3] Romans, Part 55; My Reasons and My Reason, Part 5; Romans, Part 38; Fear – Genesis, Part 6; Who Am I? Part 2

[4] Luke 23:26 (NET)

[5] Matthew 16:24 (NET)

[6] Luke 23:32 (NET)

[7] Isaiah 53:12b (Tanakh)

[8] Isaiah 53:9b (Tanakh)

[9] Matthew 27:33, 34 (NET)  David Mathis offers the following explanation in his blog post “The Wine Jesus Drank” on desiringGod.

[10] John 19:18 (NET)

[11] Luke 23:34a (NET)

[12] Stephen Ray, “Was Jesus Crucified Naked?,” Defender’s of the Catholic Faith

[13] John 19:23, 24 (NET)

[14] Psalm 22:17b, 18 (Tanakh)

[15] Matthew 27:36 (NET)

[16] Mark 15:25 (NET)

[17] Luke 23:35-37 (NET)

[18] Though it differs slightly from the synoptic Gospels I’m going with John’s account because he, the disciple whom [Jesus] loved, was actually there (John 19:25-27) near enough to read it.

[19] John 19:19-22 (NET)

[20] Mark 15:29-32a (NET)

[21] Matthew 27:43, 44 (NET)

[22] Luke 23:39 (NET)

[23] Luke 23:40-43 (NET)

[24] 1 John 1:9 (NET)

[25] John 19:25-27 (NET)

[26] I had thought and written that this was Aramaic.  E. A. Knapp in his article “Did the Messiah Speak Aramaic or Hebrew? (part 2)” on Torah Class online disputes that.

[27] Matthew 27:45, 46 (NET)

[28] Matthew 27:47-49 (NET)

[29] John 19:28-30a (NET)

[30] Luke 23:45b, 46 (NET)

[31] Matthew 27:51b-53 (NET)

[32] Mark 15:39 (NET)

[33] Luke 23:48 (NET)

[34] John 14:10 (NET)

[35] Hebrews 12:3 (NET)

[36] John 14:12 (NET)

[37] Galatians 5:22, 23a (NET)

Who Am I? Part 6

I wrote:

It’s axiomatic to me that Jesus didn’t utilize his own godliness, but trusted the Holy Spirit that descended like a dove from heaven, andremained on him.[11]  Otherwise, Jesus’ invitation and command, Follow me,[12] is little more than a cruel joke.

And:

As I’ve written before it is axiomatic to me that the way Jesus loved us was through that same love He received from the Holy Spirit that descended like a dove from heaven, andremained on him.[43]  He prayed as much to his Father if one has ears to hear: I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love (ἀγάπηyou have loved (ἠγάπησας, a form of ἀγαπάωme with may be in them, and I may be in them.[44]

And:

As I’ve written before,[20] it is axiomatic to me that Jesus’ holiness was from the Holy Spirit rather than his own divine nature.  Otherwise, his command and invitation, Follow me, would be meaningless to sinful human beings.

In the movie Casper there is a comic bit when Casper (voiced by Malachi Pearson), a friendly ghost, gets excited to show Kat (Christina Ricci), a living girl, a secret laboratory.  He takes her by the hand and leads her into a place she can’t follow—through a wall.  In the beginning that’s almost all I meant by my “axiom.”  Jesus wasn’t commanding us to follow Him somewhere we couldn’t go.  In fact, before He began to make appearances through walls behind locked doors He said plainly, Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.[1]

Over time though my “axiom” has come to mean so much more: When I am anything less than Christlike I no longer think: “Oh, He is God and I am not.”  Instead, I know that I am living according to the flesh (Romans 8:5-11), that I’ve fallen away from grace.  One would think I would know better by now but apparently I do not.  It alerts me that it is time to stop relying on myself and get back to trusting Jesus, relying on his Spirit.  But that weight deserves something weightier than an axiom.  Jesus said (John 14:10 NET):

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?  The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον).

Translating ἔργα miraculous deeds isn’t wrong.  Now when John heard in prison about the ἔργα Christ had done[2] Jesus described those deeds this way: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.[3]  This is a list of miraculous deeds including the act of proclaiming good news (εὐαγγελίζονται, a form of εὐαγγελίζω) and the good news (εὐαγγέλιον) which was proclaimed.  None of it happens apart from the Holy Spirit.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) than these, so that you will be amazed.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.[4]  Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth (John 9:1-7 NET).

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) of God may be revealed through what happens to him.  We must perform (ἐργάζεσθαι, a form of ἐργάζομαι) the deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime.  Night is coming when no one can work (ἐργάζεσθαι, a form of ἐργάζομαι).  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated “sent”).  So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.

But the adjective miraculous shouldn’t blind us to the less showy ἔργα the Holy Spirit residing (μένων, a form of μένω) in believers performs (ποιεῖ, a form of ποιέω) all the time:

It was after eleven Sunday night.  I had to get up early to catch a flight Monday morning.  My neighbor was listening to some speed metal.  The bass vibrated my bed.  I had every right to be angry, didn’t I?  I, as a composer, had given up music because it kept me too connected to the sensuality of the world.  (Never mind that I wasn’t that good at performing or composing music.)  As I lay there beginning to simmer a self-righteous snit, that still small voice reminded me that Monday was Memorial Day, a holiday for my neighbor.  All I really needed to do that day was get up, get to the airport and fly to my destination.  After that I’d be off, too.  All the while the Holy Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control washed away my self-righteous anger like a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.  And to top it off, the very moment He won that skirmish with the dead and dying flesh in my body the song ended, my neighbor turned off his stereo and went to bed, just so I didn’t miss the point (Matthew 5:15, 16; John 3:20, 21 NET).

People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) and give honor to your Father in heaven.

For everyone who does evil deeds (φαῦλα, a form of φαῦλος) hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) have been done in God.

When I live according to the flesh I become a puffed-up weakling, Satan’s fool.  When Jesus was overcome by the flesh of Adam He was still God: He cursed the fig tree and it withered and died (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25).  I find it difficult to understand Jonathan Edwards’ portrayal of God to his congregation in his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in the light of Paul’s letter to believers in Rome (Romans 8:31b-39 NET):

If God is for us, who can be against us?  Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is the one who will condemn?  Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Still, I do see a time when sinners, Jerusalem, the whole world, perhaps even the created cosmos were in extreme danger of falling into the hands of an angry God.  Jesus was no demigod: half-man, half-god, super-man, inferior god.  He is fully man and fully God.  As a human being I might wonder if it is worse to suffer abuse or watch as my son is abused.  But God the Father did not partake (μετέσχεν, a form of μετέχω) of the blood and flesh of humanity, the weak link in this chain.  The arresting officers tied Jesus up (John 18:12), tempting the flesh of Adam to resist.  If I succumbed to the flesh and cursed officers arresting me I would just make them angrier with my foul noise.  But Jesus is also God.  If He had succumbed to the flesh of Adam and cursed the arresting officers they would have withered and died.

Jesus was questioned first by Annas (a former high priest himself) the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.  When Jesus answered, one of the high priest’s officers who stood nearby struck him on the face (John 18:22).  Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.[5]  The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death.[6]   The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”[7] 

“I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”[8]  So they accused Him of blasphemy and condemned Him to death (Matthew 26:65, 66; Mark 14:64).  They spat on Him (Matthew 26:67), blindfolded him (Mark 14:65) and played a guessing game, saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ!  Who hit you?”[9]  Now the men who were holding Jesus under guard began to mock him and beat him,[10] following their leaders, oblivious to the potential harm they risked to themselves or the entire created cosmos.

After Jesus instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ[11] he began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law.[12]  When it was early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus to execute him.[13]  They led Jesus away to their council and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”[14]  Caiaphas had given them the key to getting Jesus to accuse Himself: If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.[15]  Then the whole group of them rose up and brought Jesus before Pilate.[16]

They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal.[17]  So Pilate came out to them but said, “Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him according to your own law!”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We cannot legally put anyone to death.”[18]  They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation (Matthew 23), forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22) and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.”[19]

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.[20]  But with two lies and their own belief that the Christ would be a political/military revolutionary who would overthrow Pilate and his Roman overlords, the chief priests with the elders and the experts in the law and the whole Sanhedrin[21] transmuted their (false) charge of blasphemy into a Roman capital crime.

Privately, Jesus comforted Pilate: My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities.[22]  Publicly, when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond.[23]  Pilate had found no basis for an accusation against (Luke 23:4; John 18:38b) Jesus, but he did see a possible way out (John 18:39, 40 NET):

“But it is your custom that I release one prisoner for you at the Passover.  So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”  Then they shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”  (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

John wrote of Jesus, yehôvâh become human flesh: He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him.[24]  In fact, they persisted in saying, “He incites the people by teaching throughout all Judea.  It started in Galilee and ended up here!”[25]  Galilee was Herod’s jurisdiction, so Pilate sent Jesus to Herod.  The chief priests and the experts in the law were there, vehemently accusing him.  Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him.  Then, dressing him in elegant clothes, Herod sent him back to Pilate.[26]  Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them (Luke 23:13-16 NET):

“You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When I examined him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  Look, he has done nothing deserving death.  I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

I’ll finish this essay with a Gospel harmony to capture some of the drama.

Matthew Mark Luke

John

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged severely.  The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe.  They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck him repeatedly in the face.

John 19:1-3

Again Pilate went out and said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no reason for an accusation against him.”

John 19:4

Then the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to release a prisoner for them, as was his custom.

Mark 15:8

So after they had assembled, Pilate said to them…

Matthew 27:17a

So Pilate asked them…

Mark 15:9a

“Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?”

Matthew 27:17b

“Do you want me to release the king of the Jews for you?”

Mark 15:9b

(For he knew that they had handed him over because of envy.)

Matthew 27:18

(For he knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of envy.)

Mark 15:10

As he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent a message to him: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man; I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today.”

Matthew 27:19

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas…

Matthew 27:20a

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas instead.

Mark 15:11

…and to have Jesus killed.

Matthew 27:20b

So Jesus came outside, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  Pilate said to them, “Look, here is the man!”

When the chief priests and their officers saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  Pilate said, “You take him and crucify him!  Certainly I find no reason for an accusation against him!”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!”

When Pilate heard what they said, he was more afraid than ever…

John 19:5-8

But they all shouted out together, “Take this man away!   Release Barabbas for us!”  (This was a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder.)

Luke 23:18, 19

…and he went back into the governor’s residence and said to Jesus, “Where do you come from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.  So Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me?  Don’t you know I have the authority to release you, and to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin.”  From this point on, Pilate tried to release him.

John 19:9-12a

Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus.

Luke 23:20

The governor asked them,  “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”  And they said, “Barabbas!”

Matthew 27:21

Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?”  They all said, “Crucify him!”  He asked, “Why?  What wrong has he done?”

Matthew 27:22-23a

So Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”  Pilate asked them, “Why?  What has he done wrong?”

Mark 15:12-14a

But the Jewish leaders shouted out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar!  Everyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar!”  When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus outside and sat down on the judgment seat in the place called “The Stone Pavement” (Gabbatha in Aramaic).  (Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon.)  Pilate said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, here is your king!”

John 19:12b-14

But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time he said to them, “Why?  What wrong has he done?  I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death.  I will therefore flog him and release him.”

Luke 23:21, 22

Then they shouted out, “Away with him!  Away with him!  Crucify him!”  Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your king?”  The high priests replied, “We have no king except Caesar!”

John 19:15

But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”

Matthew 27:23b

But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”

Mark 15:14b

But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified.

Luke 23:23a

And their shouts prevailed.

Luke 23:23b

When Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but that instead a riot was starting, he took some water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.  You take care of it yourselves!”  In reply all the people said, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

Matthew 27:24, 25

So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted.

Luke 23:24

Because he wanted to satisfy the crowd…

Mark 15:15a

Then he released Barabbas for them.

Matthew 27:26a

…Pilate released Barabbas for them.

Mark 15:15b

 

He released the man they asked for, who had been thrown in prison for insurrection and murder.

Luke 23:25a

But after he had Jesus flogged…

Matthew 27:26b

Then, after he had Jesus flogged…

Mark 15:15c

…he handed him over to be crucified.

Matthew 27:26c

…he handed him over to be crucified.

Mark 15:15d

But he handed Jesus over to their will.

Luke 23:25b

Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

John 19:16a

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head.

Matthew 27:27-29

So the soldiers led him into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort.  They put a purple cloak on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on him.

Mark 15:16, 17

They began to salute him: “Hail, king of the Jews!”   Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him.

Mark 15:18, 19a

They put a staff in his right hand…

Matthew 27:29b

..and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!”

Matthew 27:29c

Then they knelt down and paid homage to him.

Mark 15:19b

They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head.

Matthew 27:30

When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27:31

When they had finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes back on him.  Then they led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:20

 

None of Jesus’ accusers, persecutors or tormentors withered and died.  As He told his disciples, the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.[27]  I’ll continue this in another essay. The rest of the Gospel harmony I used to write this essay follows.

 

Matthew Mark Luke John
Then they arrested Jesus…

Luke 22:54a

Then the squad of soldiers with their commanding officer and the officers of the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus…

John 18:12a

…and tied him up.  They brought him first to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  (Now it was Caiaphas who had advised the Jewish leaders that it was to their advantage that one man die for the people.)

John 18:12b-14

While this [John 18:15-18] was happening, the high priest [Annas had been high priest before his son-in-law] questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.  Jesus replied, “I have spoken publicly to the world.  I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple courts, where all the Jewish people assemble together.  I have said nothing in secret.  Why do you ask me?  Ask those who heard what I said.  They know what I said.”  When Jesus had said this, one of the high priest’s officers who stood nearby struck him on the face and said, “Is that the way you answer the high priest?”  Jesus replied, “If I have said something wrong, confirm what is wrong.  But if I spoke correctly, why strike me?”

John 18:19-23

Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered.

Matthew 26:57

Then they led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests and elders and experts in the law came together.

Mark 14:53

…led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house.

Luke 22:54b

Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.

John 18:24

But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard.

Matthew 26:58a

And Peter had followed him from a distance, up to the high priest’s courtyard.

Mark 14:54a

But Peter was following at a distance.

Luke 22:54c

After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome.

Matthew 26:58b

He was sitting with the guards and warming himself by the fire.

Mark 14:54b

When they had made a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.

Luke 22:55

Meanwhile Simon Peter was standing in the courtyard warming himself.

John 18:25a

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death.  But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward.  Finally two came forward and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Matthew 26:59-61

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find anything.  Many gave false testimony against him, but their testimony did not agree.  Some stood up and gave this false testimony against him:  “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days build another not made with hands.’”

Mark 14:55-58

Yet even on this point their testimony did not agree.

Mark 14:59

So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer?  What is this that they are testifying against you?””

But Jesus was silent.

Matthew 26:62, 63a

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer?  What is this that they are testifying against you?”

But he was silent and did not answer.

Mark 14:60, 61a

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.

Matthew 26:63b-64a

Again the high priest questioned him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Mark 14:61b

“I am,” said Jesus…

Mark 14:62a

But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed!  Why do we still need witnesses?  Now you have heard the blasphemy!  What is your verdict?”  They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.”  Then they spat in his face…

Matthew 26:63b-67a

…“and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy!  What is your verdict?”  They all condemned him as deserving death.  Then some began to spit on him…

Mark 14:62b-65a

…and to blindfold him…

Mark 14:65b

…and struck him with their fists.  And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ!  Who hit you?”

Matthew 26:67b-68

…and to strike him with their fists, saying, “Prophesy!”

Mark 14:65c

The guards also took him and beat him.

Matthew 14:65d

Now the men who were holding Jesus under guard began to mock him and beat him.

Luke 22:63

They blindfolded him and asked him repeatedly, “Prophesy!  Who hit you?”  They also said many other things against him, reviling him.

Luke 22:64, 65

When it was early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus to execute him.

Matthew 27:1

Early in the morning, after forming a plan…

Mark 15:1a

When day came, the council of the elders of the people gathered together, both the chief priests and the experts in the law.

Luke 22:66a

Then they led Jesus away to their council and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”  But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?”  He answered them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “Why do we need further testimony?   We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Luke 22:66b-71

They tied him up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

Matthew 27:2

…the chief priests with the elders and the experts in the law and the whole Sanhedrin tied Jesus up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Mark 15:1b

 

Then the whole group of them rose up and brought Jesus before Pilate.

Luke 23:1

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman governor’s residence.  (Now it was very early morning.)

John 18:28a

 

They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal.

John 18:28b

So Pilate came outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”  They replied, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate told them, “Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him according to your own law!”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We cannot legally put anyone to death.”  (This happened to fulfill the word Jesus had spoken when he indicated what kind of death he was going to die.)

John 18:29-32

They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.”

Luke 23:2

Then Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Matthew 27:11a

So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Mark 15:2a

 

 

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Luke 23:3a

So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

John 18:33

Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me?”  Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own people and your chief priests handed you over to me.  What have you done?”

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”  Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

John 18:34-37a

Jesus said, “You say so.”

Matthew 27:11b

He replied, “You say so.”

Mark 15:2b

He replied, “You say so.”

Luke 23:3b

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king.

John 18:37b

For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  Pilate asked, “What is truth?”

When he had said this he went back outside to the Jewish leaders…

John 18:37c, 38a

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”

Luke 23:4

…and announced, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.

John 18:38b

But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond.  Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?”  But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.

Matthew 27:12-14

Then the chief priests began to accuse him repeatedly.  So Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say?  See how many charges they are bringing against you!”  But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Mark 15:3-5

During the feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whomever they wanted.  At that time they had in custody a notorious prisoner named Jesus Barabbas.

Matthew 27:15, 16

During the feast it was customary to release one prisoner to the people, whomever they requested.  A man named Barabbas was imprisoned with rebels who had committed murder during an insurrection.

Mark 15:6, 7

But it is your custom that I release one prisoner for you at the Passover.  So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”  Then they shouted back, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”  (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

John 18:39, 40

But they persisted in saying, “He incites the people by teaching throughout all Judea.  It started in Galilee and ended up here!”

Now when Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  When he learned that he was from Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who also happened to be in Jerusalem at that time.  When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some miraculous sign.  So Herod questioned him at considerable length; Jesus gave him no answer.  The chief priests and the experts in the law were there, vehemently accusing him.  Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him.  Then, dressing him in elegant clothes, Herod sent him back to Pilate.  That very day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other, for prior to this they had been enemies.

Luke 23:5-12

Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When I examined him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  Look, he has done nothing deserving death.  I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

Luke 23:13-16

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged severely.  The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe.  They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck him repeatedly in the face.

John 19:1-3

[1] John 13:36b (NET)

[2] Matthew 11:2a (NET)

[3] Matthew 11:5 (NET)

[4] John 5:20, 21 (NET)

[5] John 18:24 (NET)

[6] Matthew 26:59 (NET)

[7] Matthew 26:63b (NET)

[8] Mark 14:62 (NET)

[9] Matthew 26:68 (NET)

[10] Luke 22:63 (NET)

[11] Matthew 16:20 (NET)

[12] Matthew 16:21 (NET)

[13] Matthew 27:1 (NET)

[14] Luke 22:66b, 67a (NET)

[15] 2 Timothy 2:13 (NET)

[16] Luke 23:1 (NET)

[17] John 18:28b (NET)

[18] John 18:31 (NET)

[19] Luke 23:2 (NET)

[20] 1 Timothy 1:15 (NET)

[21] Mark 15:1 (NET)

[22] John 18:36a (NET)

[23] Matthew 27:12 (NET)

[24] John 1:11 (NET)

[25] Luke 23:5 (NET)

[26] Luke 23:10, 11 (NET)

[27] John 14:10b (NET)

Who Am I? Part 5

During my Christmas holiday Grandmother described her simple faith to me: Jesus died to save us from the god of the Old Testament.  She didn’t want me or any preacher or any church or the Bible to confuse her simple faith in her simple gospel.  It was an eerie inversion of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians: if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell (ἀνάθεμα)![1]  I reaffirmed my belief that yehôvâh/Jesus (John 8:56-59 NET) died and rose again from the dead to save us from sin (1 John 2:1, 2 NET).

Daughter asked me to pray for the fruit of the Spirit for her as she dealt with Mother.  I reaffirmed that the fruit of the Spirit was not detachable from the Holy Spirit who is given (John 7:37-39 NET) to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah] who has come in the flesh (Matthew 16:15-17 NET).  I also told her that the Old Testament never actually questioned the existence of the two goddesses and one god she had chosen to worship instead of Jesus (yehôvâh come to earth in human flesh) but referred to them as demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-18 NETyehôvâh opposed.  I assured her I would pray that she would turn to Jesus, receive his Holy Spirit and bear the fruit of his Spirit.  As I remember she had an ugly encounter with Mother.

Mother lost her job recently.  Ever the optimist she consoled herself with the idea that it would be easier to file for bankruptcy.  During my business trip as I read Luther’s “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” she texted a question: is pedophilia mentioned in the Bible?  I texted back that I was working everyday but wanted to give her question the attention it deserved: “I don’t know exactly what your question is,” I wrote, “but mine is why?  Why was an eight-year-old girl sexually assaulted by her father, not just any eight-year-old girl, but you.  If it’s okay with you I’ll share my thoughts as they come.”

She texted back: a green heart emoji.

As I studied the law I was reminded of my wife’s words when she wanted a divorce: “I don’t like your [masochistic] sexuality, and when I do I don’t like myself.”  I used it as a kind of preface to my remarks to Mother: “It wasn’t malicious, but somewhere I strayed from a desire to love her into a selfish desire to use her to satisfy my own sexual desires.  So human (male) selfishness is probably as good an answer to why as any.  It doesn’t answer the larger question of why did God allow me, or your father, to carry out those selfish desires, but it’s a start.”

Then I continued with a brief survey of the law:  The concept pedophilia doesn’t appear as a class of sins.  Skeptics take that to mean that God approves or, more likely, doesn’t exist.  I assume that laws were meant to prohibit sins practiced at the time the laws were given, though I find it somewhat difficult to believe that pedophilia never came up.  “God’s attitude revealed in the law is that…a man is married to the woman he has sex with – period.  This is even true in the case of rape (Deuteronomy 22:28, 29).”

“Women take offense at this because they see it as forcing them to marry their rapists.  (Actually a woman’s father could refuse the marriage—Exodus 22:16, 17—and I think he would make that determination according to his daughter’s heart.)  Remember the point of Scripture: For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law (Galatians 3:21b NET).  Law gives us knowledge of sin, prohibits and punishes sin and, if possible, inhibits sin.  Men rape women.  Being married to one’s victim defeats every advantage of rape and might inject a moment’s pause into all but the most heinous acts.”

I quoted Leviticus 18:22 to cover male on male pedophilia, and men are not “to approach any close relative to have sexual intercourse with her” (Leviticus 18:6 NET), especially not a woman and her daughter (Leviticus 18:17).  I found no age of consent in the law but quoted yehôvâh’s allegory from Ezekiel 16.  He raised the people of Jerusalem like an abandoned baby, first as a daughter and “later” as his bride.  “Later” was sometime after, Your breasts had formed and your [pubic?] hair had grown (Ezekiel 16:7b NIV).  “I assume,” I texted, “that this reflected the ideal of captured female children.  Sinful men probably did not live up to this ideal in all cases.  So, yes, unequivocally, your father’s actions are sin in God’s eyes.”

Then I got really personal:  “Why you?  I have some thoughts developing, none of which have anything to do with some defect in you that makes you deserving of such treatment.”  (I knew she had gotten some advice like that from a Christian psychologist.)  “Give yourself a break.  You got a skewed view of life at a very young age.”  I promised to continue studying and to share what I discovered.

She was taken aback that I had compared myself to her father.  She informed me then that she was getting involved in bringing awareness to the issue of pedophilia and simply wanted some biblical info.  She thanked me and wrote that there was no need for any further information.  Then I regretted using the word molested for the way I had treated my wife.  The only coercion my wife had felt was the compulsion of spouses not to deprive each other.  I hadn’t intended to minimize what Mother had suffered as a child, but had recalled my own understanding of masochism (fig. 3) and realized I had become a sadist by my own definition.

fig. 3

As I read her text again something else caught my ear: “I am not sure where that came from but it was not from me.”  Mother thought she had triggered some painful memory in me, or that I was accusing her of doing so.  “No, you didn’t do anything to cause me to recall these things,” I texted back.  “When I think about the law I can’t help but think about where I have fallen short as well.  Your Dad and I are different in degree perhaps but as I thought about cause, selfishness seemed readily apparent.”

By the time Mother sought retributive justice[2] against her father she was a rebellious, promiscuous teen girl; he was an adult male, retired police officer and Sunday school teacher.  He and his defenders all but convinced her she had imagined the whole thing.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network quoted a 2005 CDC study, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study: Data and Statistics:as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.”[3]  Is it any wonder Mother thinks she might fare better in this world with a more feminine deity? 

In “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” Luther/Graebner wrote: “The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair.”  I was once alive apart from the law, Paul wrote believers in Rome, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive and I died.[4]  He wrote this after affirming that the law is lord (κυριεύει, a form of κυριεύω) over a person as long as he lives.[5]  I think Paul meant that he could live and feel fairly good about himself if the law was not foremost in his consciousness but when it became foremost again sin became alive and I died.  So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death![6]

Tempting as it is to speculate how a retired-police-officer-turned-Sunday-school-teacher responded to law when his teenage daughter attempted to prosecute him, I’ll stick to something I know—my own reactions while perusing the law to the memory of abusing my wife.  I didn’t feel guilt, terror or despair.  Jesus died and rose again from the dead to save me from my sins.  I have confessed my sin, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.[7]  I’ve apologized to my ex-wife.  Now I feel nothing more or less about it than as a fact.

In the past five years I’ve blogged over a thousand pages about the religious mindLuther/Graebner dealt with it in one paragraph[8]:

Those who do not know God in Christ arrive at this erroneous conclusion: “I will serve God in such and such a way. I will join this or that order. I will be active in this or that charitable endeavor. God will sanction my good intentions and reward me with everlasting life. For is He not a merciful and generous Father who gives good things even to the unworthy and ungrateful? How much more will He grant unto me everlasting life as a due payment in return for my many good deeds and merits.” This is the religion of reason. This is the natural religion of the world…There may be a difference of persons, places, rites, religions, ceremonies, but as far as their fundamental beliefs are concerned they are all alike.

In my own defense I’m not trying to base my insights into the religious mind on my own authority or Martin Luther’s or Theodore Graebner’s.  Mine is an “attempt to distinguish the mind of Christ from the ordinary religious mind” using “the sharpness and precision of Scripture.”

Historian Yuval Harari described how the religious mind has helped human beings find meaning in their lives[9]:

You can think about religion simply as a virtual reality game. You invent rules that don’t really exist, but you believe these rules, and for your entire life you try to follow the rules. If you’re Christian, then if you do this, you get points. If you sin, you lose points. If by the time you finish the game when you’re dead, you gained enough points, you get up to the next level. You go to heaven.

People have been playing this virtual reality game for thousands of years, and it made them relatively content and happy with their lives.

Mr. Harari went on to predict the eventual triumph of the religious mind: “In the 21st century, we’ll just have the technology to create far more persuasive virtual reality games than the ones we’ve been playing for the past thousands of years. We’ll have the technology to actually create heavens and hells, not in our minds but using bits and using direct brain-computer interfaces.”  But these computer simulations will never grant a continuous infusion of Jesus’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and control, the righteousness that fulfills the law, to any player of any virtual reality game. 

Again, I’m tempted to speculate whether a retired police officer became a Sunday school teacher to “get points,” hoping “God will sanction [his] good intentions and reward [him] with everlasting life…as a due payment in return for [his] many good deeds and merits.”  But I only know that he has never granted his daughter the dignity of acknowledging that she was sexually abused by him.  And I’m reminded of Jesus’ distinction between those who have been born from above and those who have not (John 3:19b-21 NET):

…light (e.g., Jesus Himself, God’s one and only Son, John 3:16-18 NET) has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (πονηρὰ, a form of πονηρός).  For everyone who does evil deeds (φαῦλα, a form of φαῦλος) hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.

Without a confession everything I’ve written about Mother’s father would be hearsay in a court of law and potentially libelous.  Apart from God’s direct intervention (Joshua 7:10-22) law is so weakened by the sinful flesh of human beings (Romans 8:3, 4) it can’t even provide retributive justice for the weakest among us.

Mother attended a rally in Washington, DC recently encouraging lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate what is now being called pedogate.  I heard the tale of a presidential candidate’s involvement with child sex cults last fall and dismissed it the same day as electioneering.  (In the U.S. citizens are asked to distinguish and vote for the lesser of two evils.)  Though Mother’s belief in this conspiracy theory surprised me at first, I realize she is one of the 1 in 4 women for whom the unthinkable is also the actual.  As I began to look into the tale myself I found only a story[10] so far, a potboiler of a political thriller but a story all the same.  I hope it’s not a true story.  If true it is πορνεία,[11] perpetrated against enslaved children, practiced on a scale inconceivable since Israel’s army entered Canaan.

If I begin to believe this story my persistent prayer for justice may need to change.

Who Am I? Part 6


[1] Galatians 1:9b (NET)

[2] An interesting article by Samantha Schmidt in the Washington Post online highlighted news coverage of an “accomplished, international human rights lawyer” seeking retributive justice for “victims of Islamic State rapes and kidnappings.”  The lawyer happened to be female.  The news coverage focused on her yellow dress, her baby bump and her famous husband rather than her message.  Though Ms. Schmidt’s article does an admirable job of presenting the female lawyer’s accomplishments, her message—retributive justice for “victims of Islamic State rapes and kidnappings”—still gets short shrift and left me to wonder if I would ever have heard about it at all if the accomplished female attorney was anyone other than Amal Clooney, the beautiful wife of George Clooney. Nine days later under the headline “Former ISIS sex slave demands justice for Yazidis” CNN found a way to tell more of the story.

[3] Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, under the heading “Child Sexual Abuse Myths and Facts.”  A CDC site Veto Violence listed child sexual abuse (male and female) as 21% as of March 31, 2017.

[4] Romans 7:9, 10a (NET)

[5] Romans 7:1b (NET)

[6] Romans 7:9b, 10 (NET)

[7] 1 John 1:9 (NET)

[8] Commentary on Galatians 4:8, 9

[9] Yuval Harari on why humans won’t dominate Earth in 300 years

[10] Here are two other sources for the story: https://steemit.com/pizzagate/@son-of-satire/the-debunking-of-the-new-york-times-debunking-of-pizzagate; http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=60679

[11] The development of my own understanding of the meaning of πορνεία in the New Testament can be traced in the following essays: Immorality; Adultery and X; Adultery in the Law, Part 1; Adultery in the Law, Part 2; Adultery in the Law, Part 3; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 1; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 2; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 3

Who Am I? Part 4

I spend a large portion of my Christmas holiday with three post-Christian women I’ll call Grandmother, Mother and Daughter because of their relationship to one another.  I call them post-Christian because they were all professing Christians at one time.  Grandmother still calls herself a Christian.  She means a non-Buddhist, non-Hindu, non-Jew, non-Muslim who believes in Jesus.  Her ex-husband was a Baptist Sunday school teacher who abused her, and Mother as a child.  Daughter is the most non-Christian, vocally pagan of the three with Mother falling somewhere between.  Their transformation began with a desire for a more feminine God.  I regret now not taking Mother’s question more seriously.  I didn’t understand at the time that this desire would lead through Mother Earth to a Mother Goddess and on to full-fledged paganism.

I pointed out that yehôvâh (יהוה) created male and female: God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) created humankind in his own image, in the image of God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) he created them, male and female he created them.[1]  I talked about the meaning of El Shaddai (ʼêl, אל; shadday, שדי) and a few other references to God as feminine.  But I emphasized that the general understanding of God as masculine was due primarily to the fact that we are all feminine in relation to the operation of his grace through Jesus Christ.

I am accepted among them as the kindly, odd, somewhat benighted, old man who studies the Bible in his spare time, so ordinary conversation—what’ve you been up to?—offers many opportunities.  A recent conversation with Grandmother and Daughter turned naturally to Jesus’ dying thoughts on the cross.  I read Psalm 22 aloud.  Daughter was visibly, tearfully moved and vocally overwhelmed that David could write such exact knowledge so many centuries before Jesus was born.

I spoke of God having mercy on whoever he chooses to have mercy and hardening whoever he chooses to harden.  I said I had been considering how, and told them the story of two prophets, Nathan and John the Baptist.  When Pharisees and Sadduccees, religious leaders, came to be baptized for repentance (Matthew 3:11, 12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:15-17) John said, You offspring of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?[2]  And he challenged them to put their works religion to the test: Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance[3]

What I didn’t say but will record here for my own memory’s sake, whether these particular Pharisees and Sadduccees were directly responsible or not, John’s words were not secret and would have tended to harden the resolve of the religious elite to kill Jesus: the Lord (yehôvâh, ויהוה) desired to crush him (e.g., Jesus).  On the other hand yehôvâh desired David’s repentance and sent Nathan to that effect.

He was sent after King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover it up.  Nathan told David a story (2 Samuel 12:1-6) about a rich man who had entertained a traveler with a meal.  The rich man hadn’t served up any of his own sheep or cattle, but the one ewe lamb he took from a poor man.  Then David became very angry at this man.[4]  You are that man![5] Nathan said to him.

“Did he kill him?” Daughter asked.  I was actually surprised that she had forgotten the story.

No, I answered, I have sinned against the Lord![6] David said and then he wrote the 51st Psalm.  I got to read Psalm 51 aloud to them.  When I finished Grandmother responded to a look on Daughter’s face at the line—Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.[7]

“I don’t believe that either,” Grandmother said.

This is a point to concede by the way.  If it offends or hurts your feelings, welcome to the human race.  Being guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me is equivalent to being born of the flesh of Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:42-58).  You do not want a relentless God who will pursue you with goodness and mercy all the days of your life to spend that time convincing you the hard way that you are a sinner instead (John 16:7-11).

Goodness and mercy, by the way is the NKJV translation of Psalm 23:6a.  In the NET it was translated goodness and faithfulness (chêsêd , וחסד).

chêsêd Hebrew KJV NET Tanakh Septuagint
Psalm 23:6a וחסד mercy faithfulness mercy ἔλεός[8]


Daughter
informed me that my religion has a lot of guilt in it as she praised me for my adherence to it, and insisted that we, she and her pagan friends, desperately need a canon (i.e., of written scripture).

On Yule I learned that Mother had been taking drugs.  I wasn’t personally that aware of the winter solstice.  Daughter and Mother wished one another happy Yule in the car as I drove them to rehab.  It’s probably the only reason I knew anything at all.

I hadn’t known the night before that Mother had informed Daughter she was abusing drugs.  Daughter called me the next morning when Mother hesitated to actually commit herself to rehab.  In the car on the way Daughter was jubilant and excited that Mother was doing the right thing.  Yes, rehab is better than sitting home alone shooting dope, but I was much more somber and subdued.

At her home I had sat with her, held her and listened to her enough to convince myself that Mother had no interest in repentance.  Daughter was right.  My presence alone persuaded Mother to shower, dress and leave with us for the rehab facility.  But in the car I felt like I was delivering her up for more hardening.  In my admittedly limited experience I know no one who has returned to faith in Christ from the higher power mysticism of a twelve-step program.  I watched sadly the full realization of incarceration creep across her face as she was taken from us.  No matter what I say or how much I protest, Mother and Daughter believe I live a life of rules, while they are free.

I gave them My statutes, yehôvâh explained in the philosopher’s dream chapter of Ezekiel the prophet, and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live.[9]  I call it the philosopher’s dream chapter because yehôvâh explained so much of his own understanding of Israel’s history there.  Then the twelve-year-old Jesus had this chapter at his disposal to renew and refresh his now human mind.

The Hebrew word translated My statutes was chûqqâh (חקותי).  It was translated προστάγματά in the Septuagint.  The Hebrew word translated My ordinances was mishpâṭ (משפטי), and δικαιώματά, a form of δικαίωμα, in the Septuagint.  This was translated the righteous requirements in: Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements (δικαιώματα, a form of δικαίωμα) of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?[10]

In the same chapter yehôvâh explained: I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.[11]  Here the Hebrew word translated statutes was chôq (חקים); chûqqâh is the feminine of chôq according to Strong’s Concordance.  It was still translated προστάγματα in the Septuagint.  And again, the word translated ordinances was mishpâṭ (ומשפטים) in Hebrew and δικαιώματα in the Septuagint.  I don’t think these are different statutes or different ordinances.

The commandmentwas intended to bring life.[12]  The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.[13]  But if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.[14]  God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh.[15]  For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.[16]  For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.  For I don’t understand what I am doing.  For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.[17]

Also I gave them My Sabbaths, yehôvâh said in the philosopher’s dream chapter, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) who sanctifies them.[18]

In practice many professing faith in Jesus do not believe that yehôvâh/Jesus sanctifies[19] them.  We trust Him for justification only, primarily forgiveness.  We believe our sanctification is a measure of our own good works, obedience accomplished in our own strength for our own glory.  We do not believe that here and now a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God.  For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.[20]  I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.[21]  Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience[22] (ἀπειθείας, a form of ἀπείθεια; literally, disbeliefDo we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not!  Instead we uphold the law.[23]

I want to consider the movie The Host as a Holy Spirit metaphor for one who does not yet experience Him.  There are many spoilers here and as a metaphor the film is fatally flawed.  But in the hope of communicating some small portion of the Ineffable, here goes.

“The earth is at peace,” a resistance leader named Jebediah (William Hurt) narrates the beginning of the film.  “There is no hunger.  There is no violence.  The environment is healed.  Honesty, courtesy and kindness are practiced by all.  Our world has never been more perfect.  Only it is no longer our world.  We’ve been invaded by an alien race.  They occupy the bodies of almost all human beings on the planet.  The few humans who have survived are on the run.”

Then we are introduced to Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) fleeing her enemies: honesty, courtesy and kindness.  Following her earthly father’s example, she attempts suicide but lives, despite her best efforts, only to be possessed by Wanderer (also Saoirse Ronan).  Melanie’s old human survives to fight Wanderer for control of their body.

The Seeker (Diane Kruger) interviews Wanderer to glean Melanie’s memories for knowledge of other old humans in the resistance underground.  When she decides that Melanie’s old human is too strong for Wanderer, she plans to put Wanderer in a more compliant host, search Melanie’s memories herself and then let Melanie die the death she wanted.  But Wanderer has begun to love Melanie.  They flee The Seeker together.

Melanie tricks Wanderer into the desert and leads her to Uncle Jebediah and the underground resistance.  Uncle Jeb uses all of his authority as a leader to keep others in the resistance from killing the obviously possessed Melanie/Wanderer.  Even Melanie’s lover Jared (Max Irons) has no sympathy for her at first.  In a get-to-know-you walk-and-talk Uncle Jeb shortens Wanderer’s name to Wanda.

Melanie begins to love Wanda as she witnesses Wanda’s concern for the people Melanie loves, even some she hates or is indifferent toward.  The metaphor breaks down, of course.  The holy spirits, called souls in the film, are many and varied, and some or not as holy as Wanda.  The Seeker ironically becomes almost human in her fears that she personally is losing control to her host Lacey (also Diane Kruger) and that the holy spirits may ultimately lose their possession of the humans.  In the end The Host becomes Satan’s wet dream as The Seeker’s fears become flesh: holy spirits collaborate with the resistance to rid humans of the holy spirits.

 

Mother is on the verge of bankruptcy.  I helped her in a similar position nearly twenty years ago.  She called me before I left for Christmas.  I offered to help again.  She accepted.  As I drove the hundred miles or so to my own mother’s house the evening after Mother committed herself to rehab I understood why we hadn’t met to review her finances yet.  I recalled the things I’ve said and done with Grandmother, Mother and Daughter, fretted over some things I hadn’t said or done and heard Darth Vader echoing in my head, saying, “Now his failure is complete.”

As far as I know I am the believer of record in their lives.  I will give an account of this stewardship before Jesus.  As the enormity of my failure to live a life that commends others to Jesus inundated me in crushing waves, the image of my mother scrubbing the basement floor on her hands and knees popped into my mind.  Of all the things she had said or done, of all the things I might have complained that she hadn’t said or done, this simple image stuck with me.

I had overdosed on some hallucinogen.  I had thrown up all night long on her basement floor.  My mother cleaning up after me became a living metaphor of my life.  I had returned to drugs because a simple taste a few days earlier brought back the feeling I had lost since my early days of trusting Jesus again.  I made many more bad decisions along the way.  But my mother never gave up on me.

As I drove through the dark hills thinking perhaps I had been spared from helping Mother again financially, the admonition of my penny-pinching father came to mind:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

The words weren’t his but Rudyard Kipling’s.[24]  A man like me would be a fool to attempt Kipling’s vision of manhood apart from the Holy Spirit.  But the image of my mother’s loving persistence and my father’s words of counsel gave me some hope that I was there, the right person at the right place and time.  And that image and those words carried me through that dark night until the continuous infusion of the Holy Spirit’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and control took over again the next morning.

Who Am I? Part 5

Back to Romans, Part 85

Back to Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 5

[1] Genesis 1:27 (NET)

[2] Matthew 3:7 (NET)

[3] Matthew 3:8 (NET)

[4] 2 Samuel 12:5a (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 12:7a (NET)

[6] 2 Samuel 12:13a (NET)

[7] Psalm 51:5 (NET)

[8] In the Septuagint both chêsêd (וחסד) and ṭôb (טוב) were translated by the one Greek word ἔλεός.

[9] Ezekiel 20:11 (NASB)

[10] Romans 2:26 (NET)

[11] Ezekiel 20:25 (NASB)

[12] Romans 7:10 (NET)

[13] Romans 7:12 (NET)

[14] Galatians 3:21b (NET)

[15] Romans 8:3a (NET)

[16] Romans 7:11 (NET)

[17] Romans 7:14, 15 (NET)

[18] Ezekiel 20:12 (NASB)

[19] When I struggled the most with this concept my Pastor was from the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  Today, as I scanned their webpage titled “Sanctification,” nothing jumps out at me as problematic except my own spiritual tic.  My flesh and my religious mind hear obedience in step 3 “to A Spirit-Filled Life”—“We maintain a continuous relationship with Jesus through obedience to His Word”—as a trigger word, calling me back to a DIY works religion.  But now I just translate obedience back into Greek, ὑπακοή, attentive hearkening, and the trigger obey disappears.  I remain (μείνατε, a form of μένω) in Jesus through faith instead (which is the actual word used in John 15:1-11 the Scriptural source of step 3).

[Addendum 1/26/2017] I’m not so sure Paul would agree that 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 “clearly teaches that there are two kinds of Christians.”

[20] Hebrews 4:9, 10 (NET)

[21] Galatians 2:20 (NET)

[22] Hebrews 4:11 (NET)

[23] Romans 3:31 (NET)

[24] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/46473

Who am I? Part 3

Though I knew nothing of Freud and his theories about sex and aggression at the time, I had immediately equated sex and violence.  I grew up in a fairly tough blue collar neighborhood.  We boys fought all the time, mostly wrestling matches with an occasional blow with a fist, elbow or knee.  When we grew older and wrestling matches turned to all-out fist fights, after the first time we witnessed one of our own knocked unconscious, we found other ways to establish dominance (merciless ridicule mostly).  Physiologically, sex seemed a lot like the high of fighting, except I didn’t have to be angry.  (Of course, boys don’t always fight angrily, either.  Sometimes we fought just because we were boys.)

“So this is what they’ve been trying to keep from me,” I thought.

I knew why—because God said so.  Sex outside of marriage is immoral.  I began to wonder—for the first time—why did God say no?  I felt like a different person.  Instead of trying to be King Kong in the neighborhood, sex seemed to bring out a kinder, gentler me.  And in the background, behind this question was another nagging question, when and how would God’s punishment come?

There was another question that began to emerge.  Why was it evil for me to have sex with a girl I loved, and good for me to travel to someone else’s jungle to kill Viet-Cong?  I wasn’t asking this question of the people around me, I asked God.  And still, there was no punishment for premarital sex.  It occurred to me then that maybe God hadn’t punished me because he couldn’t.

The thought came to me: There are no atheists in foxholes.  Was that it? I wondered.

Having fairly regular sex at seventeen made me happier, more confident and alive than I had ever been.  I was cocky, you might say.  I didn’t feel any great need for God.  But if I were about to wet my pants for fear of death in some steamy jungle, well, that would be a different story.  It made a lot of sense.  Sex was bad, because it was bad for faith in God.  War was good, because it was good for faith in God.  That’s about the time I prayed and told God I understood his little game and I would beat him at it.  Still, no punishment came.

I decided that what God said was evil was at least potentially good, and what God said was good was probably generally evil.  I was still a suburban, working-class white kid born in the fifties, so I wasn’t particularly adept at making so complete a moral reversal.

The idea of “water brothers,” for instance, from Robert Heinlein’sStranger in a Strange Land,” was very appealing to me.  “Water brothers” were a group of men and women who cared for each other in a semi-communal way and had heterosexual relations as it suited them.  The heterosexual only sexual unions seemed like an obvious weakness in the scheme to me.  Heinlein was just a little too enamored with God’s moral standards for my taste, but I tried self-consciously to inaugurate a “water brothers” practice among my small group of high school friends.

I had my girlfriend’s acquiescence if not her permission—in theory.  In practice my first bungled attempt resulted in a complete change of heart—mine.  I returned to her quite contrite actually, confessed my sin and asked for her hand in a much more traditional marriage.

Still, no punishment came from God.  If he could not punish me to defend his holiness, if his holiness was little more than his own self-interest, maybe he wasn’t God at all.  That’s when it hit.  Oh my God, he isn’t at all!  And he never was.  I wasn’t happy with the conclusion, but at the time, I couldn’t escape its logic:  God did not punish me for sin, therefore God was not.

Eventually, my girlfriend had enough of me, and I went into a decline that is such a cliché, it is too embarrassing to mention in detail.

One night, years later I was visiting my mother.  I sat up reading a book by Hal Lindsey.  It was just sitting there on her coffee table.  I don’t even remember the title.  The subtitle was “a prophetic odyssey.”  For reasons I can no longer recall I assumed that meant it was fiction.  The advantage of this misunderstanding was that I didn’t need Hal Lindsey’s account of the end times or his interpretations of the book of Revelation to be true, just plausible.  It was a tale of God’s wrath deferred, punishment stored up for the end of time.  It gave me hope that the world could look as corrupt and devoid of God as it appeared to me, and yet God might still be there waiting for any who might perchance call upon Him.

I walked to the kitchen and looked out at the graying sky of morning.  “If you’re really out there, I really want to know you,” I prayed.

I didn’t think much of the Gospel then.  Been there, done that, I thought.  The Gospel just didn’t work out for me.  This time I was going to do it right.  The objective truth of the Bible was irrelevant to me.  Its truth was like that of a contract.  There were things for me to do and things God would do in exchange.  He knew what the contract I held in my hand said, and so could I.  I was still pretty cocky.

I felt like the major difference between an Old Testament Israelite and a New Testament believer was that believers went to church on Sunday instead of synagogue on Saturday and had ham for Easter instead of lamb for Passover.  I didn’t completely discount the Gospel, I suppose, but I thought it was more for God’s benefit than mine.  It seemed like a trick He played on himself, so He could draw near to a screw-up like me without feeling obliged to strike me dead with a lightning bolt.  I was grateful and all for the second chance, but I believed wholeheartedly it was a second chance for me to prove what I could do for God.

One more thing you should know about me.  A song of David, another king of Israel (and Solomon’s father), was preserved in 2 Samuel.  A portion of that song, sung to the Lord Jesus, goes:  You prove to be loyal to one who is faithful; you prove to be trustworthy to one who is innocent.  You prove to be reliable to one who is blameless, but you prove to be deceptive to one who is perverse.[1]  I usually appreciate God’s deceptiveness (the NIV translates it shrewdness, if you prefer) first, before I recognize his reliability, trustworthiness and loyalty.  So I assume that I am far more perverse (NIV, crooked), than I am blameless, innocent or faithful.

Who Am I? Part 4

Jedidiah, Part 1

Back to What Kind of Carpenter is Jesus? – Introduction

Back to Is Sin Less Than Sin? Part 2

Back to Jedidiah, Part 2

Back to Jedidiah, Part 3

Back to Romans, Part 16

Back to Peter’s Way?

Back to Antichrist, Part 2

Back to Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 2

Back to Fear – Exodus, Part 9

Back to Torture, Part 4

Back to Romans, Part 51

Back to My Reasons and My Reason, Part 5

Back to Forgiven or Passed Over? Part 1

Back to Deuteronomy, Part 1

Back to Romans, Part 61

Back to Romans, Part 65

Back to Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 14

Back to Romans, Part 79

Back to Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited – Part 2

Back to Sexual Immorality Revisited, Part 1

Back to Sexual Immorality Revisited, Part 2

Back to To Make Holy, Part 3

Back to Sexual Immorality Revisited, Part 3


[1] 2 Samuel 22:26-27 (NET)

Who Am I? Part 2

I’m not sure I know the answer to God’s treatment of Nadab and Abihu.  And with me, there’s some real duplicity here.  Though I’m not fond of the particular situation recorded in Leviticus, if Nadab and Abihu had been a couple of notorious child molesters, I’d be singing a different tune.  I know far too many women who were abused sexually by male relatives.  If God wanted to step in and fry a couple of those perverts as an example, I would probably say, “amen, glory hallelujah, praise the Lord!”  But Nadab and Abihu were, uhm,…religious.

Moses’ explanation is clear enough in the text.  He spoke to Aaron, who was his own brother and Nadab’s and Abihu’s father.  This is what the Lord spoke: “Among the ones close to me I will show myself holy, and in the presence of all the people I will be honored.”[1]   So Aaron kept silent.

There are prosecutors who speak out for the victims of child abuse, juries that will convict the abusers, and judges who will sentence them.  But who speaks on behalf of the holiness of God, who convicts and sentences those who defame Him?  Rationally I concede that God must defend his own holiness.  But this rationality is as cold and calculating as an adding machine.  Emotionally I am still troubled.  I can’t just pass this off as an inexplicable act of Yahweh in the Old Testament.  The Jews asked Jesus, Who do you claim to be?[2]  Jesus answered finally, I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am![3]

We may quibble and philosophize today about Jesus’ meaning.  The Jews who heard him understood him perfectly well.  He spoke the unspeakable name of God and claimed to be the very one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and on the mountain at Sinai, the one who inscribed the tables of the law with his own finger and struck down Nadab and Abihu with fire.  And I know they understood this because, Then they picked up stones to throw at him[4]

In Leviticus there is a story about the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man who misused the Name [i.e., of God] and cursed.[5]  A mortal man, the son of a carpenter as the Jews of Jesus’ day thought, certainly misused the Name if he claimed to be the I Am who spoke to Moses before Abraham was born.  The Lord told Moses, Bring the one who cursed outside the camp, and all who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the whole congregation is to stone him to death.[6]  The Lord continued to generalize this commandment, If any man curses his God he will bear responsibility for his sin, and one who misuses the name of the Lord must surely be put to death. The whole congregation must surely stone him, whether he is a foreigner or a native citizen; when he misuses the Name he must be put to death.[7]

Believers witness the irony here:  Jesus faced an angry crowd about to stone him in accordance with his own word.  These Jews were under Roman dominion.  They didn’t have the political freedom to practice their own religion this way.  They would surely be charged with crimes if they succeeded in their mission.  But it is not too hard for me to imagine what drove them to put themselves in jeopardy:  They believed they were speaking and acting on behalf of the holiness of God and the honor due his name, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.[8]

I didn’t rush out to see THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST when it came out.  Those are hard enough chapters to read.  And if Mel Gibson is known for anything, he is surely known for graphic, gut-wrenching violence.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Mel Gibson’s movies.  I just wasn’t eager to endure that much pain.  Finally, I saw the film on DVD.  Yes, it was painful, but I fortified myself (maybe anesthetized myself some) by considering as I watched whether I thought the film was anti-Semitic.

Now how can a story where all the major characters are Jews be anti-Semitic?  As I watched and as I thought about it after, it came to me:  How the story-teller treats Caiaphas tells the tale.  Caiaphas in the film was portrayed as a crafty politician.  I imagine that Caiaphas was a crafty politician; he must have been to have hamstrung a man like Pilate the way he did.  But he was also high priest.  Institutionally, he held the moral high ground.  The odds, so to speak, were in his favor.  Yes, he was under the same Roman dominion as the Jews who would have stoned Jesus.   Yes, he had to use some guile to get a Roman—who had little respect, probably even contempt, for Jewish beliefs—to fulfill his purpose, but ultimately his purpose was to defend his people and the holiness and honor of God.

You see—and this is where the movie might have done a better job—Caiaphas was doing what Jesus had taught Moses was right, unless of course Caiaphas was completely wrong about who Jesus is; unless, that is, Jesus actually is the I Am who spoke to Moses before Abraham was born.  Confusing, isn’t it?  But believers recognize this incident as the prime example of mistaken identity and wrongful prosecution, an error of judicial judgment.  Such errors have been made in every legal system conceived by man.  It’s not an error unique to Jews in general or Caiaphas in particular.  We fear it so, that many wish to take capital punishment out of judges’ hands.

So Caiaphas’ judicial error and his political skill at persuading Pilate to carry out a sentence the high priest no longer had the authority to mete out, condemned Jesus to death.  His death is the foundation of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8 NET):

Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.

This might seem like a strange journey, from God’s judgment against Nadab and Abihu to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But these events, joined as they are, were like inverted bookends to my flirtation with atheism.  The beginning of my unbelief was not the harshness of God’s judgments, but his leniency with me when I started having sex with my high school girlfriend.  It took me completely by surprise when He didn’t punish me for sin.


[1] Leviticus 10:3 (NET)

[2] John 8:53c (NET)

[3] John 8:58 (NET)

[4] John 8:59a (NET)

[5] Leviticus 24:11 (NET)

[6] Leviticus 24:14 (NET)

[7] Leviticus 24:15-16 (NET)

[8] John 8:59b (NET)

Who am I? Part 1

I have made a reasonably strong case that I should just shut up about the Bible.  But I’m not going to do that.  Measurements made from or to relative coordinates aren’t completely useless if one knows the position and velocity of those coordinates relative to one’s own.  So if I were to continue to pontificate without reference to my own position and velocity I would be guilty of the same kind of troublemaking I accused us philosophical types of perpetrating.  I’ll try to be careful from here on, however, to point out where I’m coming from and how that might impact the truth that I have found in the Bible.

My journey back from atheism as a philosophical and legalistic young man began for all practical purposes with a stoned insight: “I always lie.”  I played with that statement in a hallucinogenic fog in my mind for a long time.  If only that statement were true, I thought, the ancient religious concept of repentance might have some real, tangible validity.  A narrow shaft of light began to pierce the darkness.  If I, in fact, had always lied and then stated that fact honestly, confessed my sin, it would be the first truthful thing I had ever said and a doorway to a whole new way of life.  But the darkness returned again, because there was no way I had lived consistently enough to have always lied.  Surely sometime by sheer accident or mere coincidence I had told the truth.  So in my case even my confession was a lie and just further proof of how hopeless my situation had become.

“Hey, man, gimme another hit o’ that, will ya’?”

Still that little crack in my armor, that almost insignificant stream of light, was apparently enough to do the trick.  Atheism is hard work and you shouldn’t try to do it stoned if you really intend to maintain your faith.  Of course, as I hinted earlier, I cared less for my atheism than I did for the naive Christian faith which had preceded it.

Eventually I want to get back to the expansion of context I started in Solomon’s Wealth and continued in A Monotonous Cycle:  “So Solomon, the third king of Israel, the richest and wisest king not only of Israel but of his generation, according to the Bible, became the fulfillment of God’s unheeded warning to Israel about kings, this same Solomon who was named Jedidiah[1]loved by the Lord—by God himself.”  I mentioned then that Solomon being both the fulfillment of God’s warning about kings and loved by the Lord was not unlike Solomon’s wealth being both a fulfillment of a promise of God and Solomon’s direct disobedience to God’s requirements for the kings of Israel.  But before I look into the circumstances when God named Solomon Jedidiah, I want to step back even farther to the first time God appeared to the Israelites in the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

In Exodus 25-31 God gave Moses explicit instructions how to make the Tabernacle—essentially a portable place of worship—and all its furnishings.  In Exodus 36-39 the Tabernacle and its furnishings were made according to the divine plan.  Chapter 40 detailed how and when to set everything up.  Leviticus 1-7 described the offerings and sacrifices to be carried out in association with the worship of Yahweh in the Tabernacle.  Chapter 8 told of the ordination of the priests, Aaron and his sons, over a seven day period according to the plan specified by God.  Chapter 9 explained how the newly ordained priests began to minister the offerings and sacrifices God required on the eighth day.

The end result of all this step-by-step devotion to God’s instructions was a worship service with a phenomenal payoff: …the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.  Then fire went out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar, and all the people saw it, so they shouted loudly and fell down with their faces to the ground.[2]

In the midst of this excitement, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pan and put fire in it, set incense on it, and presented strange fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them to do.  So fire went out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them so that they died before the Lord.[3]  There is no indication that Nadab or Abihu intended to offend God.  On the contrary, it seems that their crime was nothing more and nothing less than exuberant religious innovation.  The penalty was immediate death.

Even after everything I’ve written I’m tempted to get in line behind Friedrich Nietzsche and say, “God had nothing to do with this.  From Moses on down this is nothing but a bunch of ignorant Israelites who couldn’t tell the difference between the presence of the Lord and a lightning storm!”  And I’m tempted to say this, not because I want to be an atheist, but because I’ve seen the look in my children’s eyes when they asked me, “Why!?”