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)

Romans, Part 31

So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation (ὀφειλέται, a form of ὀφειλέτης),[1] not to the flesh (σαρκὶ, a form of σάρξ),[2] to live according to the flesh (σάρκα, another form of σάρξ), Paul continued, (for if you live according to the flesh [σάρκα, another form of σάρξ], you will die [ἀποθνῄσκειν, a form of ἀποθνήσκω][3])[4]  If I consider myself the old man, the sin condemned in the flesh,[5] I will die along with the flesh.  This truism is equivalent to Jesus’ saying to Martha, The one who believes in me will live even if he dies (ἀποθάνῃ, another form of ἀποθνήσκω),[6] or to his disciples, The one who loves his life [i.e., in this world] destroys [or, loses] it.[7]  But no, I didn’t see that for a long time.

I thought Paul was threatening me with eternal damnation if I lived according to the flesh, even though the text said die.  I wasn’t happy about it, especially after everything else he had said, but I couldn’t make any other sense of it at the time.  And yes, it is embarrassing to keep admitting how stubbornly dull-witted I am.

Paul continued, but if by the Spirit you put to death (θανατοῦτε, a form of θανατόω)[8] the deeds (πράξεις, a form of πρᾶξις)[9] of the body you will live.[10]  If I identify with the new man created in the image of God, I will live.  But no, I didn’t see how well this fit with Jesus saying to Martha, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die (ἀποθάνῃ, another form of ἀποθνήσκω).[11]  And I didn’t relate it to Jesus saying to his disciples, and the one who hates his life in this world guards [or, keeps] it for eternal life.[12]

I thought it was best, if I wanted to go to heaven, to keep trying to put the deeds of my body to death by striving to keep the law, or at least by striving to love by keeping the definition of the love that fulfills the law as if it were laws.  The idea that I could put to death the deeds of the body by faith, by believing that my old man was crucified with [Christ] so that the body of sin would no longer dominate [me], so that [I] would no longer be enslaved to sin,[13] because God achieved what the law could not doBy sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful fleshso that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit,[14] was a slow train coming.

For all who are led (ἄγονται, a form of ἄγω)[15] by the Spirit of God are the sons of God,[16] Paul continued.  Surely I am a byword in heaven.  Over and over I was led back to these verses, and over and over I refused to drink them in.  But let me recount the word ἄγω as used in the Gospels as a contrast to my Do-It-Yourself religion.

And you will be brought (ἀχθήσεσθε, another form of ἄγω) before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them and the Gentiles,[17] Jesus told his disciples.  When they arrest (ἄγωσιν, another form of ἄγω) you and hand you over for trial, do not worry about what to speak. But say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.[18]  Go to the village ahead of you, Jesus said.  Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her.  Untie them and bring (ἀγάγετε, another form of ἄγω) them to me.[19]  They brought (ἤγαγον, another form of ἄγω) the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.[20]  Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led (ἤγετο, another form of ἄγω) by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he endured temptations from the devil.[21]

So here I have Jesus ἤγετο (another form of ἄγω) by the Holy Spirit, and handed over to the devil: Then the devil brought (῎Ηγαγεν, another form of ἄγω) him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…”[22]  An angry mob got up, forced [Jesus] out of the town, and brought (ἤγαγον, another form of ἄγω) him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.[23]  A mob of duly authorized law enforcement types arrested Jesus, led (ἤγαγον, another form of ἄγω) him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house.[24]   Then the whole group of them rose up and brought (ἤγαγον, another form of ἄγω) Jesus before Pilate.[25]  Two other criminals were also led away (῎Ηγοντο, another form of ἄγω) to be executed with him.[26]

Now I look back at the meaning and usage of ἄγω and ask myself incredulously, “Just exactly what part of being led (ἄγονται, a form of ἄγω) by the Spirit did you think was your doing, Dan?”  But I’m not alone, though I might wish that I were.  I want to take the movie “Courageous” as my point of departure here.

Actually, a big part of me doesn’t want to do that at all.  As an independent filmmaker wannabe I have nothing but admiration for what the Kendrick brothers and Sherwood Baptist Church have done.  I can watch their movies without being embarrassed by the quality of the filmmaking, and each film gets better on that score than the one before.  I didn’t feel anything I’m about to say while watching the film (and I watched “Courageous” again last night).  What I feel is comfort, familiarity and a warm nostalgia for the religion of my childhood, my youth and beyond.  I like stirring music.  I want to be courageous, too.  That’s part of my problem, that I only see a problem in retrospect when I analyze the story in the light of the Gospel and the religious mind.

The storyline of “Courageous,” for those who haven’t seen it, is about a father Adam after his daughter Emily dies in a car crash.  She was his favorite, though he was almost as detached from her as from his son, concerned about his work and his appearance to others.  After her death he is concerned that he should have been a better father.  His wife reminds him that he is still a father.  He talks to his Pastor.  He studies the Bible.  He begins to make a rapprochement with his son.  So far so good.

Then he drafts a resolution, a list of rules derived from his Bible study about fatherhood.  He passes it out to his friends.  Most of them, interestingly enough, are other policemen.  He asks these policemen to hold him accountable to his list of rules.  They want to sign it, too.  Eventually, all the men join in a ceremony, effectively swearing an oath to abide by Adam’s rules.  It is all very moving, and courageous.  But Adam, a churchgoing man, was ashamed of the Gospel for exactly the same reason that Paul was not.

Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes,[27] because the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, The righteous by faith will live.”[28]  Anyone might become dissatisfied with the righteousness of God that is showing through him and out into the world at any given moment.  It is an excellent time to return to Christ, to be joined to the one who was raised from the dead, like a wife seeking to enlarge her family comes to her husband, to bear fruit to God.[29]  It is not a time to attempt to have one’s own righteousness derived from the law.[30]  You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace![31]

Instead of rebuking and correcting them privately, Adam’s Pastor praises the men publicly for their resolution and their oath to keep it.  Then Adam is allowed to speak to the entire congregation.  Adam persuades other men to follow him in his defection from Christ.  I feel this defection deeply when I get away from the movie and its rousing music, Adam’s tear-filled eyes, his upraised arm and his hand grasping for something elusive.  But my anger is restrained for two reasons.

First, I find it extremely interesting that the character’s name is Adam.  For all I know there is a “Courageous 2” in the works where Adam (or Shane, but that’s another story) learns to be led by the Spirit rather than by the flesh.  And secondly, I know how much remedial help I’ve needed in the sense that the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.[32]  The NET has it, the law had become our guardian until Christ.[33]  Neither word alone is quite right, governess, nanny, just don’t say it.  I think of Creasy, Denzel Washington’s character in “Man on Fire,” taking Pita, Dakota Fanning’s character, to school, guarding her, protecting her, and preparing her to learn.  He became much more than a bodyguard, but not her teacher.  Jesus is the teacher not the law, or living by laws.

Even those born only of the flesh of Adam bind themselves to laws, rules and ethical principles to keep from becoming complete sociopaths.  It doesn’t take a prophet to see that if the Kendrick brothers’ resolution fails to bring those born of the flesh and of the Spirit to Christ, Shariah is waiting in the wings.  But it must be equally clear that the Kendrick brothers’ resolution derived from the Bible is no more the Gospel than Shariah law is.  Both are of the old way, the old written code, and neither is the new life of the Spirit.[34]

Romans, Part 32

The Life 

Back to The Soul

Back to Romans, Part 34

Back to Romans, Part 35

Back to Romans, Part 48

Back to Romans, Part 82

Back to Romans, Part 83


[4] Romans 8:12, 13a (NET)

[5] Romans 8:3 (NET)

[6] John 11:25b (NET)

[7] John 12:25a (NET)

[10] Romans 8:13b (NET)

[11] John 11:26a (NET)

[12] John 12:25b (NET)

[13] Romans 6:6 (NET)

[14] Romans 8:3, 4 (NET)

[16] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[17] Matthew 10:18 (NET)

[18] Mark 13:11 (NET)

[19] Matthew 21:2 (NET)

[20] Matthew 21:7 (NET)

[21] Luke 4:1 (NET)

[22] Luke 4:9 (NET)

[23] Luke 4:29 (NET)

[24] Luke 22:54 (NET)

[25] Luke 23:1 (NET)

[26] Luke 23:32 (NET)

[27] Romans 1:16 (NET)

[28] Romans 1:17 (NET)

[29] Romans 7:4 (NET)

[30] Philippians 3:9 (NET)

[31] Galatians 5:4 (NET)

[32] Galatians 3:24 (NKJV)

[33] Galatians 3:24 (NET)