Exodus 33:1-6

Amazing LightningExodus 32

1 The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

A video has only just gone viral even though it was filmed and posted online last summer.  One article’s description of the video is entitled, “Passengers forced to endure ‘demonic’ child’s screams for eight hours after he throws mega tantrum on flight” and is subtitled, “The child reportedly ran around screaming almost the entire time on the flight from Germany to Newark, New Jersey.”  It reads:

A disgruntled passenger filmed a “nightmare” eight-hour flight where a “demonic” child screamed almost the entire time.

The child can be seen climbing on top of the seats and screeching before the flight has even taken off yet.

But while many might have hoped the young boy may have settled down and watched a film – he doesn’t.

Instead he runs around the aircraft for almost the entire eight-hours while travelling from Germany to Newark, New Jersey.

It is not clear from the video which airline the boy and his family were flying with.

The video was uploaded onto YouTube last summer by Shane Townley who captioned it “demonic child screams and runs through an 8 hour flight”.

He wrote: “Watch as this kid runs and screams throughout the entire flight while the mother does little to nothing to stop him.

“3 years old on a 8 hour flight from Germany to Newark NJ. He never quits!”

In the video the child can be seen climbing on top of the seats while his mother asks him to sit.

The boy then starts his “demonic screams” as the video suggests, which takes over the plane.

Filming the noise from several rows back the screaming can clearly be heard.

Before the flight has even taken off yet the child’s mother desperately asks the flight attendant to “get the WiFi going so we can get the iPad going”.

She can be heard trying to calm her child down but he continues his screams, ignoring his mother’s pleas.

As the hours pass passengers can even be seen covering their ears as the unruly child runs up and down the aisles while screaming at the top of his lungs.

And it is a scene that continues throughout the majority of the flight.

After leaving the plane to go into the airport another passenger can be heard saying: “What a nightmare, oh my God – eight hours of screaming” as they wheel their suitcase down the ramp.

Commenting on the clip one person said: “Sadly this is happening more and more on flights, unruly kids and babies and exhausted parents.”

“Even noise cancellation headphones would not have drowned out this terror.”

“Total lack of discipline…perhaps crew should have removed said child and parents for violating safety regulations.”

Another person wrote: “If this started before the plane took off, the plane should have taxied back to the terminal and kicked the kid and his parents off. This kind of behaviour is just unacceptable.”

And another suggested: “Call an exorcist.”[1]

The video itself is, I must say, jarring.  Watching it, I simply cannot imagine being on the plane.  The child appears to scream and rage and tantrum for almost eight full hours.  The gentleman videoing it hops from one segment to the next entitled, “Hour 1,” “Hour 2,” “Hour 3,” etc.  In watching the couple of minutes that I watched I kept thinking, “Why didn’t somebody do something?!”  Most of the comments online reflect variations of that sentiment.

The outrage appears to be over the general idea of a long journey in which a unruly child is simply allowed to do whatever he wants with no adult attempts to stop or discipline him.  Very quickly the comments move from, “What is wrong with that child?!” to “What is wrong with that parent?!”

In watching that video, it is hard not to think of Israel’s exodus journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, with this exception:  Israel’s Father was not disconnected, was not lazy, was not helpless before the misbehavior of His children.  Israel’s Father knew exactly what He was doing and, when needed, He meted out discipline so that His child, Israel, could complete its journey and grow into who He wanted them to be.

A case in point of such discipline can be seen in God’s response to Israel’s worship of the golden calf.  Exodus 33 continues with this response.

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Mark 15:15-20

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 15

15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. 16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

I am intrigued by people who claim to have seen visions.  I am neither wholly dismissive or wholly believing of such claims.  Sometimes accounts of visions sound legitimate.  Sometimes they sound concocted.  Sometimes it is hard to know.  I know this, though:  God has oftentimes spoken to people through dreams and visions.  I do believe that.  He does so in Scripture and I have no basis for thinking He does not do so today.  I also believe that the devil can appear to us in and try to deceive us through visions.

Two historical visions in particular are interesting in this regard.  One appears to have been an instance of satanic deception.  The other appears to have been a word from the Lord.  The first is a vision beheld by Martin of Tours.  The second is a vision beheld by Helena Kowalska.

Martin of Tours was a 4th century Hungarian man who would come to be known as a great Christian leader.  A figure once appeared to Martin in a vision.  The figure said that he was Jesus Christ.  As Martin prepared to worship this figure he noticed that the one who had appeared to him had no scars.  So Martin asked, “Where are your scars?”  And at that the figure disappeared.  Martin had, in fact, been visited by a fallen angel, a demon who was trying to deceive him.  It was the absence of the scars that made this clear.

On the other hand, consider the vision that Helena Kowalska claims to have had.

In 1923 a teenager named Helena Kowalska attended a dance in Lodz, Poland. While she danced that evening, a naked Jesus covered in agonizing wounds appeared at her side. “[H]ow long will you keep putting Me off?” He asked her. The music halted and all the people but Jesus disappeared from sight.[1]

Helena Kowalska felt God calling her to a life of devotion and service that night.  She would eventually come to be known as Saint Faustina.

Two visions.  One a deceptive lie.  One a powerful word from God.  In both the scars of Jesus made the difference.  The absence of the scars revealed the first vision to be a lie.  The presence of the scars revealed that the second was authentic.

The scars of Jesus are important to Christians.  Why?  Because He was wounded for us, struck for us, crucified for us.  As we progress through Mark 15 we come now to Christ’s scourging, His beating, His wounding.  We must come to His wounding before we come to His piercing.

We are not yet to the wounds of the crucifixion, but these wounds have their role to play.  They, too, reveal to us the character and nature of God.

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Exodus 32:15-35

Rembrandt_MosesExodus 32

15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” 30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” 35 Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Michael Linton has written an opera review entitled, “Moses at the Met.”  It an interesting look at an operatic performance of the life of Moses and, particularly of the scenes in the opera from Exodus 32.  He praises the opera’s artistry and beauty, yet he calls it a “theological failure that testifies to the difficulties of creating religious art outside a religious community.”

This centrality of religious issues to modern composers was dramatically highlighted last spring by the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Arnold Schoenberg’s rarely performed  Moses und Aron. Although he did not live to hear a performance (it was first staged in Zurich in 1957, six years after his death), Schoenberg regarded the opera as his most important composition…For Schoenberg, “God” is pure idea who can be experienced only internally. Act One begins at the burning bush….Act Two opens in the wilderness, the Hebrews growing restless as they wait for Moses to return from meeting with God. They suspect that the new deity has killed Moses and abandoned them. They become violent, and Aaron agrees to give the mob an image of God they can comprehend. He makes the golden calf (a stuffed disemboweled ox in the Met production). The people bring it offerings and sacrifices. They become drunk, murderous, and orgiastic.
As their orgy collapses into stupor, Moses returns with the stone tables of the law. Outraged by what he sees, he commands that the idol be destroyed and calls Aaron to account. Aaron justifies himself by describing the people’s fears and telling Moses that he “heeded the voice from within” when he gave the people an image of God they could comprehend. Moses may love his pure idea of God, but Aaron claims that he loves the people. God may be timeless, but such timelessness is shown by the endurance of Israel, and Israel proves its faithfulness by its “feeling.” Nothing truly encompasses the totality of God, Aaron argues, and the stone tablets no less than the golden calf are but a partial revelation “and thus a distortion” of the pure God “idea so important to Moses.”
Recognizing the validity of Aaron’s point, Moses smashes the tablets in disgust. Chiding Moses, Aaron says that by making Moses’ idea comprehensible to the common man, he sustains it. A pillar of fire appears to lead the Israelites, but Moses distrusts it as yet another physical distortion of the metaphysical truth. Aaron joins the people as they begin to follow the pillar, while Moses remains rooted in despair. Aaron has perverted Moses’ pure perception of God, and the act closes with Moses crying hopelessly, “Oh word, word that I lack!”[1]

Wow!  Now that is a unique take on Exodus 32!  In Schoenberg’s opera, Moses smashes the tablets of the ten commandments because Aaron persuades him that the tablets are deficient, are partial revelation, and that the mind and heart of God cannot be known through such physical means.  Thus, Aaron is seen to be wise for following his inner impulses in making the golden calf and Moses is seen to be a fool for thinking that the stone tablets could truly tell him anything about God or that the golden calf could really offend God.  Moses’ pitiful words at the end of the act are most tragic of all:  “Oh word, word that I lack!”

What is amazing about this is the fact that Schoenberg manages in his opera to communicate the exact opposite point that Exodus 32 makes.  Far from coming to see the commandments as insufficient, Moses realized that on these tablets is the true law of God communicating the true heart of God.  Far from being persuaded by Aaron’s sin, Moses was stunned that Aaron could sin so greatly against God!  Far from trusting God less, Moses’ actions reveal that he realized that the Lord who met him on the mountain was Israel’s only hope.  Far from seeing the golden calf as a largely irrelevant object, Moses called down judgement before Moses cried out for mercy.  And far from staying behind in a fit of nihilistic despair while Aaron and the children of Israel went ahead, Moses called on the people to repent and to decide whether or not they would follow the Lord God in truth.

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Mark 15:1-15

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 15

1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. 6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

In 1975 Bob Dylan wrote his song “Hurricane.”  The song is about Rubin Carter, a boxer who was convicted in 1966 of murder.  (You may recall Denzel Washington playing Carter in the 1999 film, “The Hurricane.”)  Dylan’s song was a protest song against the widely-perceived injustice of Carter’s case.  Ten years after it was written, in 1985, a New Jersey Circuit Court judge granted a writ of habeas corpus and Rubin Carter was set free.

The song is a blistering indictment of the perceived injustices of our justice system, an opinion that many believe was finally confirmed by Carter’s release.  In the song, Dylan lays out the evidence for Carter’s innocence and, in general, lampoons the courts for convicting Carter of a crime he did not commit.  Dylan sings:

How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game[1]

Those are powerful words and stinging words!  A land where justice is a game.

In truth, those words are a phenomenally apt description of the “court” proceedings recorded in the gospels in which Jesus was ultimately condemned to death.  Furthermore, these proceedings are cautionary tales that reveal lasting traits about the nature of man.

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Mark 14:66-72

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Eddie James of the Christian drama group, “The Skit Guys,” has delivered a powerful monologue in which he plays the part of Peter the day after the crucifixion of Jesus.  It is poignant in the way that it envisions what Peter likely would have thought and said as the full weight of his tragic denials came in on him.

That monologue powerfully expresses not only the kind of grief and shame I hope we all would have felt in Peter’s shoes after denying Jesus but it also expresses the kind of grief and shame we all feel today when we deny Jesus.  After all, there are many ways to deny Jesus, whether it be Peter’s particular way or not, though they all have this in common:  we deny Jesus whenever we allow our fear of the cost of following Him in any given moment to push us into verbal denials or denials of silence, into anti-Christian behavior or behaviors of evasion.  In short, we can deny by word or by silence, by deed or by inactivity.  The forms of our denials change, but the principles remain very much the same.  We see these principles at work in Peter’s tragic denials.

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Mark 14:53-65

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

In a 2014 Salon article entitled “6 reasons religion may do more harm than good,” Valerie Tarico writes:

Most British people think religion causes more harm than good according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious” 20 percent say that religion is harmful to society.

While I would certainly and strongly disagree with the idea that “religion causes more harm than good” (a statement that is way too vague to begin with but that is profoundly wrong historically speaking if applied to Christianity) there can be no doubt that religion can be a very dangerous thing indeed, and I say this as a pastor!  Tarico goes on to lists reasons why religion can be dangerous.  The sixth reason she mentions is interesting:

  1. Religions seek power. Think corporate personhood. Religions are man-made institutions, just like for-profit corporations are. And like any corporation, to survive and grow a religion must find a way to build power and wealth and compete for market share. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity—any large enduring religious institution is as expert at this as Coca-cola or Chevron. And just like for-profit behemoths, they are willing to wield their power and wealth in the service of self-perpetuation, even it harms society at large.[1]

There can be no doubt that there is a great deal of truth in this, especially as it pertains to institutional religion.  Of course, I very much want to point out that Jesus was not interested in “institutional religion.”  He was not.  In fact, He warned against its dangerous in a number of different ways.  Even so, even among His followers today and within some of the arguably unavoidable institutional aspects of Christianity we see this regrettable drift towards power.

Yes, some manifestations of religion do indeed drift towards power and control.  This sometimes leads religious leaders to do regrettable and even tragic things.  Within Christianity specifically a lust for power inevitably leads to an abandonment of God Himself.  It was so among the first century Jewish leaders as well.  This dynamic is at play in the trial of Jesus as recorded in Mark 14.

In the trial of Jesus, institutional religion was given precedence over actual life with God.

One of the things that becomes readily apparent in the trial of Jesus is the self-preservationist impulse within institutional religion.  It plays out in a myriad of ways in this kangaroo court.

53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61a But he remained silent and made no answer.

Henry Turlington has outlines some of the probable illegalities of the trial:

  • “a trial had to be conducted during the daylight hours”
  • “a conviction could be reached only by a majority of two or more”
  • “…and not until the following day”
  • “a trial could not be held on a feast day, or on the day before the Sabbath”
  • “Jesus was charged by the high priest with blasphemy…but the penalty of stoning was not to be carried out unless the guilty party spoke the Name itself.”[2]

Turlington goes on to note that these illegalities are found in Jewish writings from the second century AD.  That must be kept in mind.  Even so, they do provide us an interesting guide to such matters.  Regardless, many aspects of the trial violate common sense notions of justice that extend even to our day.  What, after all, would any of us think of a hastily assembled trial convened late at night in which conflicting testimony was voiced and after which a death sentence was pronounced?

What was behind this?  Why were the religious elites so very keen to preserve their institutional power and control?  Remember the words mentioned in the article above.

  1. Religions seek power. Think corporate personhood. Religions are man-made institutions, just like for-profit corporations are. And like any corporation, to survive and grow a religion must find a way to build power and wealth…

Time and time again we see this painful lesson in the history of religion:  when safeguarding the institution becomes more important than actual life with God there is nothing that the powerbrokers in the movement will not do.  Jesus was a threat.  He threatened the establishment.  He threatened the religious professionals.  His very life was a challenge to the control, the power, and the fear that so many of these men wielded.  And this much is true:  the powers tend to move against threats to their rule.  They do not simply stand idly by and watch their kingdoms crumble.  This is why we see repeated warnings in the words of Jesus against these institutional gatekeepers.  In Matthew 7,Jesus says:

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

In Matthew 16 we read:

Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

And in Mark 12, we find:

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

How sobering this is for a pastor to hear!  What a warning this is to me!  And what a warning to us!  Are we as a church striving to bring people into an encounter with the living God or are we simply trying to preserve the religious institutional machine?  Are we seeking to bring people into God’s Kingdom or are we seeking to build our own?  Walter Wink’s words are spot on in this regard and should be heeded:

            What killed Jesus was not irreligion, but religion itself; not lawlessness, but precisely the law; not anarchy, but the upholders of order.  It was not the bestial but those considered best who crucified the one in whom the divine Wisdom was visibly incarnate.  And because he was not only innocent, but the very embodiment of true religion, true law, and true order, this victim exposed their violence for what it was:  not the defense of society, but an attack against God.[3]

In the trial of Jesus, religious tradition was given precedence over divine truth.

Hand in hand with institutional preservation is tradition-maintenance.  For the powerbrokers, the institution must be preserved and the traditional teachings must be maintained.  For this reason, Jesus’ shocking interpretation of the scriptures in his words to the high priest were simply too much for them to stomach.

61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

Why was this so offensive?  Why did these words make the high priest tear his clothes and proclaim Jesus a blasphemer?  Why did they sentence Him to death for these words?  Why did they strike and beat Him?

We must understand than when Jesus responded to the high priest’s question with, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven,” He was quoting one and probably two passages from the Old Testament.

He was certainly quoting Daniel 7 and its vision of the coming of the son of man.

13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

This “son of man” was understood by the Jewish teachers to be a figure bearing great power and authority.  He was seen as bearing the special blessing and favor of Almighty God.  And Jesus is possibly also alluding to Psalm 110 when He references sitting at God’s right hand.

1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

This was a Messianic text pointing to the coming Savior.  In applying these texts to Himself, Jesus was making an astonishing claim about His own identity.  Again, this was too much for the Jewish religious authorities.  They viewed it as outright blasphemy.  The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary explains further.

            Jesus’ answer that the Son of Man will be sitting at the right hand of God in power also implies that he is on the same level with God…A text from Qumran refers to the last enemy of God calling himself the son of the Most High and demanding adoration and obedience.  Flusser calls it “important evidence for a Jewish tradition about the superhuman hubris of the Antichrist.”  Jesus’ assertion perhaps confirms the high priest’s suspicions that Jesus is a figure like this who tries to seduce the world.[4]

This ran afoul in a serious way of the traditions of the Jews.  This coming son of man might be many things, but, in their minds, he certainly could not be this Jesus!  Why?  Because Jesus did not fit the mold, did not fit the template.  In fact, this Jesus castigated and condemned the religious elites.  Thus, they viewed Jesus’ usage of these texts as obscene and blasphemous.  The tragedy in this is that these men, who should, of all men, have known better, chose the template over the reality, chose tradition over the truth.  They had become so confident in their own minds about who the son of man was to be (or, more accurately, who he could not be) that they not only missed the son of man as He stood before them but actually hated and beat and mocked Him!

See here the power of tradition:  it can blind us to the truth!  The old ways can blind us to the only Way!  And the story as we have come to believe it can become more valuable to us than the Savior for whom it ostensibly should have been preparing us!

Beware dead traditionalism!  Beware the nice and neat box of your own assumptions!  God is God, even and especially when He violates your notion of God!  Do not miss the Savior because you are too busy safeguarding what you see as “the truth.”  If what you call “the truth” leads you away from Jesus, it is a lie!

In the trial of Jesus, God gave His love precedence over His wrath.

Thus far we have viewed this trial from the ground up.  Now we view it from glory down.  And when we do this we see that in the trial of Jesus, God gave His love precedence over His wrath.

Imagine with me:  you are watching your son be cruelly and unjustly treated by wicked men.  They lie about your son.  They twist your son’s words.  They mock your son.  Then your son speaks.  He tells the truth.  As a result, these cruel men call him a liar!  They are worked into a lather of fury.  They beat your son.  They spit on your son.  They condemn him to death!

They do this, and you see it all.  Not only that, you have the power to have all of these wicked men destroyed, killed, annihilated.  You could save your son from these outrages.  You could bring vengeance!  You could pour out your just wrath!

Can you imagine this?  What would you do?  Would you punish these men?  Would you pour out your wrath?

This was precisely the position God the Father was in during this trial.  He saw it all.  He saw His Son mocked, insulted, lied about, and condemned to death.  He saw them beat His Son, Jesus.  He saw them spit on His Son.  He saw all of this.  And He could have poured out His wrath.  He could have destroyed these men!  He could have decimated them!

But He did not.  He did not!  Why?  Because these men were precisely the reason why His Son came!  He came for scoundrels like them!  He came to pour out His love, not His wrath.  In fact, He came to pour out His love through His Son so that they would not have to suffer His wrath!  His Son took His wrath so that they could receive His love.  He gave His love precedence over His wrath, just though His wrath was and is!  In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers:

9b …how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Yes!  Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come!  Four chapters later, in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul wrote:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

How amazing!  These scoundrels deserved wrath.  Rather, Jesus offered them love and mercy!  What this means is clear enough:  if we reject the love we get the wrath.  We get the wrath if we reject the love not because our rejection irritates God.  We get the wrath if we reject the love because the love is His gracious door out of the wrath that is already and justly upon us for our sins!  In John 3, Jesus said:

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

That “whoever” is important.  Why?  Because it reminds me that this is not only a story of those scoundrels back then who did these evil things.  It is also a story of this scoundrel right here who has done the very same as these men!  It is your story too!  It is our story, for we all have sinned!  And if it is our story in that we share the sin of these men it is also our story in that we share their choice.  Like them,  I too have a choice.  We have a choice:  wrath or love.  And the person on whom that whole choice is focused is the person of Jesus Christ.  If we accept Him, we enter into His love.  If we reject Him, the divine wrath that is justly ours remains on us!

What will I choose?  What will you choose?  Dear friends, the Son, Jesus the Christ, calls you into His love!  He has borne the wrath so that you do not have to!  Come to the Son.  Receive the love of God.  Receive the love and live!

 

[1] https://www.salon.com/2014/11/17/6_reasons_why_religion_does_more_harm_than _good_partner/

[2] Henry E. Turlington, “Mark.” The Broadman Bible Commentary. Vol. 8 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1969), p.390.

[3] David E. Garland,  Mark. The NIV Application Commentary. Logos Version.

[4] David E. Garland, “Mark.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Gen. Ed., Clinton E. Arnold. Vol. I (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), p.292-293.

Publicity for Vol. 1, The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett Jr., 1950-2015

Just a little update on the life of the first volume.  Sending a book out into the world really is a fascinating process and, from time to time, it’s nice to see how it is faring.  Toward that end I thought I’d share a couple of publicity pieces on the volume thus far.

On December 30, the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel listed the publication of Dr. Garrett’s writings as their top religion story.

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And on January 17, 2018, Dr. David Dockery listed the first volume in his list of “Notable Publications” at Christianity Today.

Mark 14:43-52

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

You would not know to look at it, but this painting was actually considered extremely controversial when it was painted.  In fact, when it appeared the artist was summoned before the Inquisition to explain himself.  I am talking about Paolo Veronese’s 1573 painting, “The Feast at the House of Levi.”  Actually, that was not his original title.  He renamed the painting after the Inquisition gave him three months to change it.  Originally it was entitled, “The Last Supper.”

feast-at-the-house-of-levi-by-paolo-veronese-1573

What was it that upset the Inquisition so much about the painting?  If you look closely at it you will see the traditional elements of last supper paintings:  Jesus in the middle of the table and the disciples flanking Him on either side.  But what was surprising and, to some, upsetting, were the extra elements that Veronese added.  For instance, the Inquisition seems to have been irked at the fact that there is a dog standing in front of the Lord’s Supper table.  (Veronese reveals in the transcript of his exchange with the Inquisition that somebody suggested he paint Mary Magdalene over the dog but he declined for the reason that she would look very strange indeed positioned right there in the painting.)  Also, Veronese included an image of a dwarf, an image of a man with a bloody nose holding a rag, a man dressed like a “buffoon” with a parrot on his arm, and maybe most provocatively, some men dressed as Germans wearing swords.  This was upsetting to the Inquisition because in the 1500’s in Germany the Protestant Reformation was exploding and they were offended by what they might have seen as a nod to the Reformation in the painting.  What is more, Peter, in the painting, is carving lamb to put on people’s place, an image that was certainly not traditional.[1]

In short, some were offended by Veronese’s painting because it put Jesus in the midst of a situation that looked too real, too raw, too earthly, too worldly!  Dogs and men with bloody noses and heretics with swords, and some guy with a parrot, and Peter cutting up lamb:  all of this is just too much for folks who want their Jesus captured in a moment of soft light, religious piety, pretty colors, and a romanticized gloss.

But I like Veronese’s painting!  In fact, I love it.  Why?  Because Jesus did not come to the earth to star in some first century version of a Hallmark Channel movie.  He did not come for the gloss and the feel-good story.  He came to step into the midst of the rabble of humanity where dogs roam around the table and where people have bloody noses and where the weird guy with the parrot is just wondering around the room and where the dangerous people with swords are and where people are doing commonplace things and heretical things and dangerous things and disturbing things.  This is the world into which Jesus stepped!  He came into the mud and the muck of raw everyday humanity.

More than that, he stepped into the darkness of human sinfulness.  He stepped among us rebels and prodigals and scoundrals—that is to say, among all of us!—in order to call us home!  Chapter 39 of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 is entitled “The Eternal City.”  In this chapter, Yossarian walks through the streets of Rome and behold numerous horrible scenes of violence and excess.  Then Joseph Heller writes this:

The night was filled with horror, and he thought he knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts, like a victim through a prison full of thieves.  What a welcome sight a leper must have been![2]

Indeed!  And nowhere does the contrast between the ways of man and the ways of God become more evident than in these scenes at the end of the gospels as we approach the cross.  Mark 14 has shown us the Lord’s Supper and now we are in the garden.  Jesus has groaned under the weight of the burden of the coming cross but He has not turned away.  He has not been unfaithful.  He still holds true to the task.

Now, Judas comes.  The soldiers come.  Peter lashes out.  The disciples flee.  In other words, now we see the ways of man and the ways of God in shocking contrast.  Now we see that Veronense was right to paint what he painted, for God in Christ stepped not into a “Precious Moments” display case.  He stepped into the nightmare of man and brought with Him the light of glory.

Let us observe the contrast between the way of man and the way of God.

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CBC Long Range Planning Committee Proposal Materials and Q&A

Front of BldgWELCOME! This is your one-stop-shop for all things pertaining to the CBC Long Range Planning Committee proposal. This page is being hosted at Pastor Wyman’s personal website simply so that you can comment or ask questions below.  Our goal is to make everything available on one page so that our members can be informed, up-to-date, and included in this important and exciting consideration.  CBC members are encouraged to submit questions or comments through the comments section below and they will be answered in a timely manner.  Thank you for your interest, your input, and, most of all, for your prayer!

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Mark 14:32-42

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

I am fascinated by untranslatable words, those words from other cultures whose meanings we can approximate but whose meanings we can never quite capture in one of our own words.  Andrea Reisenauer has provided a fascinating list of what he calls “20 of the World’s Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words.”  Here are a few from his list:

Waldeinsamkeit – German – the feeling of being alone in the woods, solitude, and a connectedness to nature.

Iktsuarpok – Inuit – the feeling of anticipation when you’re expecting someone that leads you to constantly check to see if they’re coming.

Goya – Urdu – the transporting suspension of disbelief that happens when fantasy is so realistic that it temporarily becomes reality.

Mångata – Swedish – the road-like reflection of the moon on the water. It’s the long, wavy shape that appears across the water when the moon is shining on it.

Hiraeth – Welsh – homesickness mixed with grief and sadness over the lost or departed, or a type of longing for the homeland or the romanticized past.[1]

Untranslatable words.  How fascinating and how lovely!  Usually when we encounter a word like this it elicits feelings of admiration and a sense that a particular culture has found a way to capture in a single word something so powerful that it takes many words in our own language to capture.

In Mark 14:32-42 we find another such word.  It is found specifically in Mark 14:41. I am speaking of the Greek word apechei.  The American Standard Version, Darby Translation, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, English Standard Version, 1599 Geneva Bible, and King James Version translate it as, “It is enough!”  In point of fact, it is a very difficult word to translate at all.  For instance, the late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown called the word “untranslatable.”[2]  Vincent’s Word Studies says, “Expositors are utterly at sea as to its meaning.”[3]

Even so, there it is:  apechei.  Like other untranslatable words, I find this word fascinating, for when we begin to consider its possible meanings and how other forms of it have been used a multi-layered and powerful picture emerges.  I would like to propose further that, also like other untranslatable words, apechei hints at deep things that are hard for us to capture.  In fact, I believe Jesus was communicating a number of truths about what was happening in the Garden of Gethsemane and what was happening on the larger stage as He approached the cross.

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