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Showing posts from March, 2021

The legality of Jesus’s trial.

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When you read the gospel of John , but skip the other three gospels, y’might get the idea Jesus never even had a trial. In that book: Jesus gets arrested. He’s taken right to the former head priest Annas’s house for an unofficial trial. From there, to Joseph Caiaphas’s house. Then to Pontius Pilate’s fortress. Then to Golgotha. No conviction, no sentence; just interviews followed by execution. Same as would be done in any country with no formal judicial system: They catch you, they interrogate you, they free or shoot you. But both Judea and Rome did have a formal system; John doesn’t show it because the other gospels do, and John was written to fill in the gaps in their stories. They have the story of Jesus’s formal trials. There were two: The one before the Judean senate, and the other before the Roman prefect. The senate, presided over by head priest Caiaphas, found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and sedition. In contrast Pontius publicly stated he didn’t f

On violently resisting Jesus’s arrest.

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Mark 14.47, Matthew 26.51-54, Luke 22.49-51, John 18.10-11. After sundown Thursday, Jesus and his students had a Passover meal, which Christians call “the Last Supper.” After it, Jesus had some things to tell them, and in that discussion there’s this: Luke 22.35-38 KWL 35 Jesus told them, “When I sent you out without a wallet, bag, or extra sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you ? They told him, “Nothing.” 36 Jesus told them, “But now those who have a wallet: Take it. Your bag too. Those who don’t have one: Sell your coat and buy a machete. 37 For I tell you this scripture has to be fulfilled in me: ‘He was counted among the lawless.’ Is 53.12 For the scriptures about me have an endpoint.” 38 The students said, “Master, look!—two machetes here.” Jesus told them, “That’s plenty.” This passage confuses people—usually because of the way it’s typically translated. Luke 22.36, 38 NIV 36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and

Jesus’s arrest, and his abuse begins.

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Mark 14.45-52, Matthew 26.50-56, Luke 22.49-54, John 18.4-12. The second station, in John Paul’s list of stations of the cross, is where Judas betrayed Jesus and Jesus was arrested. Same station for both. But different forms of suffering: Judas was about when your friends or confidants turn on you, and the rest was about the pain and dread people feel when their enemies have ’em right where they want ’em. Let’s go to the gospels. Mark 14.45-52 KWL 45 Immediately going to Jesus , he told him, “Rabbi!” and kissed him hello. 46 So they grabbed and arrested him. 47 One of the bystanders, pulling out a machete, struck the head priest’s slave, and cut off his ear. 48 In reply, Jesus told them, “You come out with machetes and sticks to snatch me away, like I’m an insurgent. 49 Daytime, I was with you in the temple, teaching. You didn’t arrest me then . But this —it’ll fulfill the scriptures.” 50 Abandoning Jesus , everyone fled. 51 There was some teenager follo

Holy Week: When Jesus died.

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Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of what we Christians call Holy Week . It’s also called Great Week, Greater Week, Holy and Great Week, Passion Week, Easter Week (by those people who consider Easter the end of the week), and various other titles. It remembers the week Jesus died. It took place 9–17 Nisan 3793 in the Hebrew calendar; and in the Julian calendar that’d be 29 March to 4 April of the year 33. DAY DATE JESUS’S ACTIVITY PALM SUNDAY. 9 Nisan 3793 29 March 33 Jesus entered Jerusalem; the crowds said Hosanna. Mk 11.1-11, Mt 21.1-11, Lk 19.28-44, Jn 12.12-19 HOLY MONDAY. 10 Nisan 3793 30 March 33 Cleansing the temple of the merchants; cursing the fig tree. Mk 11.12-18, Mt 21.12-19, Lk 19.45-46, Jn 2.13-17 HOLY TUESDAY. 11 Nisan 3793 31 March 33 Jesus taught in temple. Lk 19.47-48, 21.37 HOLY WEDNESDAY. 12 Nisan 3793 1 April 33 Still teaching in temple. MAUNDY THURSDAY. 13 Nisan 3793 2 April 33 The last supper; Jesus was

What became of Judas Iscariot.

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Matthew 27.3-10, Acts 1.15-26. Technically Judas bar Simon of Kerioth, the renegade follower of Jesus whom we know as Judas Iscariot, isn’t part of the stations of the cross. Whether we’re using St. Francis or St. John Paul’s list, neither of ’em figured his situation is specifically worthy of meditation. Although we should study Judas some, ’cause he’s an example of an apostle gone wrong—an example we really don’t wanna follow. Nor repeat. But Jesus was too busy going through his own suffering to really focus on what was happening with Judas. Judas came up when he handed Jesus over to the authorities… and in three of the gospels, that’s the last we ever hear of him. The exceptions are Matthew —and since the author of Luke also wrote Acts , it’s kinda in another gospel, ’cause Acts is about how the Holy Spirit and apostles started Jesus’s church. But that’s a whole other discussion. Here’s the problem: For the most part, the Matthew and Acts stories contradict one

Some people don’t wanna argue. And they’re entirely right not to.

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Back in 2017 an acquaintance of mine started an “apologetics ministry.” It’s kinda defunct now. Initially it consisted of his blog, his Twitter account, and a whole bunch of his spare time. (You know, like TXAB —except I don’t do apologetics.) Except he also created a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, got some friends to be his board members, and solicited donations. He was hoping to turn it into a full-time job… and got really irritated at me for calling it “getting paid to sit in his pajamas all day and argue with strangers on the internet.” But that is what he was doing. In his mind, he was doing it for Jesus. He figured apologetics is a vital, necessary ministry, and there simply aren’t enough Christians out there… arguing with strangers on the internet, whether they spend all day in their jammies or not. Like I said, his “ministry” is defunct now. He’s taken to arguing politics. Political organizations aren’t allowed under the 501(c)3 tax code, so I’m pretty sure he’s ei

Judas Iscariot sells Jesus out to the authorities.

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Mark 14.41-46, Matthew 26.45-50, Luke 22.47-48, John 18.1-3. In St. John Paul’s list of stations of the cross, the second station combines Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and Jesus of Nazareth’s arrest. ’Cause they happened simultaneously—they, and Simon Peter slashing one of the head priest’s slaves. There’s a lot to unpack there, which is why I want to look at them separately. Getting betrayed and getting arrested, fr’instance: That’s two different kinds of suffering. Psychological and physical. So right after Jesus prayed in Gethsemane (the first station), this happened: Mark 14.41-46 KWL 41 Jesus came back a third time and told his students , “Now you’re sleeping, and resting— and that’s enough. The hour’s come. Look, the Son of Man is getting handed over to sinful hands. 42 Get up so we can go: Here comes the one who sold me out.” 43 Next, while Jesus was yet speaking, Judas Iscariot approached the Twelve. With him was a crowd carrying machetes and sticks,

Encouragement to a persecuted church.

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1 Thessalonians 4.9-12. Though the Thessalonians appeared to be doing just fine, behaving themselves and living a holy lifestyle, Paul, Silas, and Timothy just wanted to reiterate a few things for their encouragement. It needed repeating. Likewise we need to be reminded of such things, from time to time. Even though we may not suffering to any persecution remotely like that of the Thessalonians—and therefore have even less of a justification for not loving one another, loving our neighbors, and not living uprightly towards outsiders. (Not that suffering is any justification anyway.) 1 Thessalonians 4.9-12 KWL 9 As for loving one’s Christian family, we needn’t write you: You yourselves are taught by God himself to love one another, 10 and you do it throughout the Christian family, throughout the whole of Macedon. We wish to help you, fellow Christians , so you can abound more— 11 to love the value of rest, to do your own work with your own hands, just as w

Stations of the cross: Remembering Christ’s suffering.

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In Jerusalem, Israel, Christians remember Jesus’s death by actually going down the route he traveled the day he died. It’s called the Way of Jesus, the Way of Sorrows (Latin, Via Dolorosa ), or the Way of the Cross ( Via Cručis ). When I visited Jerusalem, it’s part of the tour package: Loads of us Christians go this route every single day, observing all the places Jesus is said to have suffered. Really solemn, moving stuff. But most of us Christians don’t live in or near Jerusalem, and some of us can’t possibly go there. For this reason St. Francis of Assisi invented “the stations of the cross.” In his church building, he set up seven different dioramas. Each represented an event which happened as Jesus was led to his death. The people of his church would go to each diorama—each station— and meditate on what Jesus did for us all. Yeah, this is a Catholic thing, ’cause Francis was Roman Catholic. But it’s not exclusively Catholic: Many Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists use

“The spirit of…”

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SPIRIT OF… 'spɪ.rɪt əv noun, genitive . A quality considered the defining or typical element in the character of a person, people, or institution. 2. A supernatural being creating or facilitating that element. Pagans don’t know what spirit is, and their best guess is emotion: Spirit is the feeling you get when a speaker talks about stuff you care about—or stuff that terrifies you. Spirit is the emotions stirred up by a great piece of music or a great work of art. Spirit is the mood in the room when you enter it, and it’ll either make you want to stick around or flee. Spirit is the vibes you feel from a really positive or really negative person. Spirit is the feels. No surprise, this false definition is all over Christianity. So much so, people think the way you detect the Holy Spirit, or some other evil spirit, is by our feelings . If the spirit of a room is all dark and creepy, it means there’s an evil spirit in there, trying to tempt or mislead you; your feelings

Can God’s word “return void”?

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Isaiah 55.11. So one night I and my friend Jason ( not his real name, and you’ll soon see why) were walking from the car to the coffeehouse. Enroute some vagrant asked us for spare change. Jason got it into his head this was a “divine opportunity”: It’s time to proclaim the gospel to this person! It’s time to get him saved. That’s how we wasted the next 15 minutes. Yep, wasted . Because the vagrant was. Either he was drunk, or off his meds, or had recently suffered a head injury, or otherwise had some condition which made him incoherent. Jason asked him questions to determine whether he understood the gospel… and the guy would start rambling about how he believed men and women should be together. In which context I don’t know. (Hey, this article is about context, so I had to bring it up at some point.) Jason kinda had this poor guy cornered in a doorway, pressuring him for some sorta confession of faith. Finally, after he extracted something he considered satisfactory, we

Redeemer: Somebody like Jesus who bails us out. Or not.

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REDEEM rə'dim verb . Compensate for the flaws, deficiencies, or evil of something or someone. 2. Save someone from sin, error, or evil. 3. Gain or regain something, in exchange for payment; repay, or clear a debt. 4. Fulfill a promise. [Redemption rə'dɛm(p).ʃən noun , redeemer rə'dim.ər noun , redeemable rə'di.mə.bəl adjective .] When people talk about redeeming or redemption, if they’re not Christian they’re usually talking about recycling cans and bottles. In California when you buy something in a recyclable container, you’re charged an extra fee (the California redemption value, or CRV ) which we’re meant to get back when we take the container to a recycling center. Although not everybody bothers to get their CRV back; they toss it in a recycling bin. Or even the trash—and then someone else will go digging through the trash looking for recyclables, hoping for that sweet, sweet CRV money. Christian redemption isn’t quite like that… although I h

Now called to a holy lifestyle.

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1 Thessalonians 4.1-8. Since Paul, Silas, and Timothy now know the Thessalonians haven’t fallen away from Christ Jesus, they wanted to encourage them: Good job. Keep it up. And do more . Remember, God’s called us Christians to be uniquely holy. That’s more than just being good, ’cause just about anybody can be good, with effort… plus a fear of bad karma. God isn’t interested in that. He doesn’t just want us to be pagans saved by grace who happen to hold better beliefs than average. He wants us to stand out from the rest of the world. Like Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4.1-8 KWL 1 So from now on fellow Christians , we ask you— we wish to help, in Master Jesus ’s name so, same as you received from us information on how one has to walk and please God, same as you already do walk—so you can abound more : 2 You know which mandates we gave you through Master Jesus: 3 This is God’s will: Your holiness. To keep you rselves away from porn. 4 For each of you to know your o

Can’t see; pretty sure they can.

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Matthew 15.12-14, Luke 6.39-40, John 9.39-41. Jesus’s saying about “the blind leading the blind” is pretty famous. So much so, people don’t remember who originally said it. I once had someone tell me it comes from the Upanishads. And it is actually in there; Yama the death god compares the foolish to the blind leading the blind. Katha Upanishad 2.6 But ancient, medieval, and modern westerners didn’t read the Upanishads! They read the gospels. They got it from Jesus. Jesus actually doesn’t use the idea only once, in only one context. We see it thrice in the gospels. It appears in Matthew after Jesus critiqued Pharisees for their loopholes; it appears in Luke as part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain; and in John it appropriately comes after the story where Jesus cures a blind man. So let’s deal with the context of each instance. Matthew first. Matthew 15.12-14 KWL 12 Coming to Jesus , his students then told him, “You know the Pharisees who heard the word are outrage

Humility.

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Humility is an obvious fruit of the Spirit, ’cause it’s a form of self-control. It’s when we resist the temptation to claim status, prerogatives, or power over other people. Before we say or do anything, we think about how our actions and words affect others. We unselfishly take them into consideration. We submit. Humility isn’t about claiming we’re all on the same level. Because we’re not. I am smarter, more handsome, and wealthier than other people. I have connections others don’t; I have a better job than others do; I’m white, which means I’m gonna suffer from racism way, way less than nonwhites. Claiming or pretending I don’t have these advantages isn’t humility; it’s hypocrisy. Especially when it’s in my power to use these advantages to help others. Maybe not to the level Esther did, Es 4.13-14 but it is why God has people in positions of privilege: So we can help. Popular culture defines humility as demeaning, embarrassing, or dishonoring ourselves. And yeah, someti

I am not the baseline. (Neither are you.)

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Whenever I have a God-experience —i.e. when he tells me stuff during prayer time, when he confirms stuff through one of his prophets, when he cures the sick right in front of me—my usual response is humility. ’Cause it’s God , y’know. As much as I interact with him, I can’t imagine growing indifferent or jaded to the fact God’s doing stuff . He’s still awesome, and it’s incredibly gracious of him to let me be around, or even get involved in, anything he does. Of course, I say stuff like this and various other Christians respond, “Excuse me, God does what around you?” Um… well, yeah. I’m Pentecostal, which means we aren’t just continuationist , i.e. recognize God still talks to people and does miracles. We don’t treat God-experiences like something that might potentially or theoretically happen; we treat ’em as part and parcel of the active Christian life. It’s much like the difference between saying, “Y’know we could go visit Grandma in the retirement home” and never doing

The truth.

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TRUE tru adjective . In accordance with fact or reality. Genuine, real, actual, correct. 2. Precisely correct; exact. 3. Loyal, faithful, honest. [Truer 'tru.ər adjective , truth truθ noun , truly 'tru.li adverb , truthful 'truθ.fəl adjective ] True and false are such basic, foundational concepts, most people never bother to define them; we’re just expected to know what they mean. We’ve known what true and false are ever since we were first exposed to true-or-false quizzes. True is the way things legitimately are in the universe, and false is the way things aren’t; i.e. not true . Trying to pass off a false thing as true, is lying. You might remember (and if you don’t, your memory will be jogged when your own young children start taking these true-or-false quizzes) “truth” and “falseness” are sometimes harder to figure out than people suppose. There’s a whole branch of philosophy, called epistemology because why not give it a hard-to-remember name,

Getting ready for the second coming?

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1 Thessalonians 3.11-13. If you read 1 Thessalonians 3 in its entirety—and maybe read the whole book like the letter it is, instead of breaking it up into paragraphs, then analyzing the crap out of each paragraph, much like preachers in a sermon series, or me in these articles—you notice how Paul, Silas, and Timothy went on and on and on about how they missed the Thessalonians, fretted about the Thessalonians, wanted so very badly to visit the Thessalonians (well not so much Timothy; he was just there), and were thrilled to pieces about how well the Thessalonians were doing. So in today’s paragraph, they finally wrap all that up. 1 Thessalonians 3.11-13 KWL 11 God himself, and our Father, and our Master Jesus, has hopefully directed our path to you. 12 The Master hopefully provided more than enough for you, in love for one another and for all, just as we also have for you. 13 All to strengthen your blameless minds in holiness before God our Father. Namely at t

When Jesus says, “I don’t know you.”

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Matthew 7.21-23, Luke 6.46, 13.23-27. We Evangelicals actually do quote this teaching of Jesus a lot—but usually to nullify it. ’Cause it’s scary. It implies there are people who want to enter God’s kingdom, who honestly expect to go there… and when they stand before Jesus at the End, the rug’s pulled out from under them. Turns out they have no relationship with Jesus. Never did. Matthew 7.21 KWL 21 “Not everyone who calls me, ‘Master, master!’ will enter the heavenly kingdom. Just the one who does my heavenly Father’s will. 22 At that time, many will tell me, ‘Master, master! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we throw out demons in your name? Didn’t we do many powerful things in your name?’ 23 And I’ll explain to them, ‘ I never knew you. Get away from me, all you Law-breakers.’ ” He never knew them. Psyche! It sounds like the dirtiest trick ever. How can a Christian go our entire life thinking we’re saved, only to find out no we’re not? And we’re not

Satan’s fall.

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Revelation 12. One of the popular myths about the devil is how Satan used to be an angel. Not that it pretends to be one, 2Co 11.14 but straight-up was one—the mightiest angel in the heavens, named Lucifer. Got deposed, but it used to be a big, big deal. I’ve challenged many a Christian to actually read their bibles and prove any of this theory from scripture. And I gotta give ’em credit; they do try. But they don’t succeed. It says nowhere in the scriptures Satan used to be an angel. Doesn’t even say Satan was a heavenly being; we just presume so because Satan appeared before God in Job , and we’re kinda assuming they were all in heaven, or thereabouts, at the time. ( Job never says where they were.) Satan’s species is never once identified. Given Satan’s reputation as a liar, Jn 8.44 I’m mighty suspicious about any stories about its origin, like the Lucifer story, which try to make Satan look like it was a big deal at one time. Or still is. During Jesus’s temp

Lucifer: The myth the devil used to be a big deal.

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Isaiah 14.12-15. As I said in my article on the devil, the bible doesn’t tell us where Satan came from. It just shows up in Zechariah to accuse the head priest Joshua; Zc 3.1-2 then shows up in 2 Chronicles to get David to sin; 1Ch 21.1 then shows up in Job to challenge the L ORD ’s perception of Job. Jb 1.6-12 It’s not till Revelation was written that we definitively found out the serpent in Eden was Satan all along, Rv 12.9 so it was around from the beginning—and, as Jesus points out, a dirty liar and murderer from the beginning. Jn 8.44 Popular Christian culture insists Satan’s origins are totally spelled out in the bible—if you know where to look. Ask any semi-knowledgeable Christian about where it came from, and they’ll track down this specific passage in Isaiah . Here, they claim, is where the devil went wrong. Isaiah 14.12-15 KJV 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the