Showing posts with label #ChristAlmighty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #ChristAlmighty. Show all posts

The long ending of Mark.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 May
Mark 16.9-20 KWL
9 [Rising at dawn on the first of the week,
Jesus first appears to Mary the Magdalene,
out of whom he had thrown seven demons.
10 Leaving, this woman reports
to the others who were continuing with Jesus,
to those mourning and weeping,
11 and they’re hearing that Jesus lives—
and was seen by Mary!—and don’t believe it.
12 After this, as two of them are walking,
Jesus is revealed in another form, going with them,
13 and leaving, they report to the rest.
The rest don’t believe them either.
14 Later, as the Eleven are reclining at table,
Jesus appears, and rants against
their unbelief and hard-heartedness,
for people had seen him risen up,
and they don’t believe it.
 
15 [Jesus told them, “Go into the world
and proclaim the gospel everywhere to every creature.
16 Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
Those who don’t believe will be judged.
 
17 [“Miracles will accompany the believers:
In my name, people will throw out demons.
People will speak in tongues.
18 People will pick up snakes in their hands,
and if anyone drinks poison, it won’t injure them.
People will lay hands on the sick,
and they will be well.”
 
19 [So after Master Jesus’s speech to them,
he’s raptured into heaven and sits at God’s right.
20 Leaving, these apostles proclaim everywhere
about the Master they work with and his message,
confirming it through the accompanying signs. Amen.]

This passage—often found in brackets in our bibles—is called the Long Ending of Mark. I already wrote about the Short Ending. Mark wrote neither of these endings. Some eager Christian, unsatisfied with the abrupt way Mark ended—or unhappy with the brevity of the Short Ending—tacked it onto Mark in the 300s or 400s. Speaking as someone who’s translated all of Mark, I can definitely say he doesn’t write like Mark.

However. Even though Mark didn’t write it, it’s still valid, inspired scripture. Still bible. No, not because of the King James Only folks; they have their own reasons for insisting it’s still bible, namely bibliolatry. Nope; it’s bible because it was in the ancient Christians’ copies of Mark when they determined Mark is bible. It’s bible because it’s confirmed by what Jesus’s apostles did in Acts and afterward. It’s bible because it’s true.

Those who insist it’s not bible, are usually Christians who insist it’s not true. And like the KJV Only folks, they have their own ulterior motives.

Simon the Cyrenian, the man who carried Jesus’s cross.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 April

Mark 15.21, Matthew 27.32, Luke 23.26.

Enroute to Golgotha, leading Jesus to the place they’d crucify him, the Romans decided he was inadequate to carry his crossbeam.

Movies and art, following St. Francis’s lists of the stations of the cross, depict Jesus falling over a bunch of times. The gospels don’t, but who knows?—maybe he did. He had been up all night and flogged half to death. Between sleep deprivation and blood loss, carrying a hundred-pound crossbeam would’ve been too much for anyone. (No, not the 300-pound full cross we see in paintings, such as the El Greco painting in my “Stations of the Cross” image. Even healthy convicts would’ve found that unmanageable.)

The Roman senate made it legal for soldiers to draft conquered peoples—basically anyone in the Roman Empire who lacked citizenship—into temporary service. Jesus referred to this law when he taught us to go the extra mile. Mt 5.41 So the Romans grabbed an able-bodied passerby to carry Jesus’s crossbeam. And since he later became Christian and his sons became bishops, the writers of the gospels mentioned him by name: Simon the Cyrenian (or “of Cyrene”).

Mark 15.21 KWL
The Romans draft a passerby,
a certain Simon the Cyrenian who’s coming from the fields,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
so he’d carry Jesus’s crossbeam.
 
Matthew 27.32 KWL
Coming out, the Romans find a Cyrenian person named Simon.
This man, they compel
to take up Jesus’s crossbeam.
 
Luke 23.26 KWL
While the Romans lead Jesus away,
taking hold of Simon, a certain Cyrenian coming from the fields,
they lay the crossbeam upon him
to carry behind Jesus.

Jesus given a robe and crowned with thorns.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 April

Mark 15.16-20, Matthew 27.27-31, Luke 23.11, John 19.2-3, 5-6.

People became Roman soldiers for all sorts of reasons. Some because the Roman army was a path to Roman citizenship. Some as punishment: It was either military service, or slavery and prison. Some for the adventure, or to get rich, or because they couldn’t imagine any other job options. Some because how else are you gonna get to crucify barbarians?

So it’s safe to figure the soldiers under Pontius Pilatus weren’t there to make friends with Judeans. On the contrary: Over time they likely grew more and more tired of Judeans. Especially those Judeans who were bigoted against gentiles, or were outraged over the Roman occupation. The Romans gave ’em legitimate reasons for not liking them: Soldiers tended to abuse their power so they could steal and extort. Lk 3.14 And bullies look for any excuse to justify themselves, so they were happy to return the hostility.

Given the opportunity to abuse a Judean and have some evil fun at his expense, the soldiers took advantage of it. That’s why they beat the crap out of Jesus. Crucifying him wasn’t enough for them: First they had to play a little game they called “the king’s game.”

Mark 15.16-20 KWL
16 The soldiers lead Jesus inside the courtyard,
which is the Prætorium.
They summon the whole unit.
17 They dress Jesus in “purple,”
and place a braided garland on him—of thorny acacia.
18 They begin to salute Jesus: “Hail, king of Judeans!”
19 They strike Jesus’s head with a staff,
and spit on him,
and bending the knee, they’re “worshiping” him.
20 While they mock Jesus, they strip the “purple” off him,
dress him in his own robe,
and send him away to crucify him.
 
Matthew 27.27-31 KWL
27 The leader’s soldiers then, taking Jesus into the Prætorium,
called the whole unit to him.
28 Undressing Jesus,
they drape him in a crimson coat.
29 Weaving a garland of thorny acacia,
they put it on Jesus’s head,
and a reed in his right hand.
Kneeling before him, they ridicule him,
saying, “Hail, king of Judeans!”
30 Spitting on him, they take the reed
and strike Jesus on the head.
31 While they mock Jesus, they take the coat off him,
dress him in his own clothes,
and lead him away to crucifixion.
 
Luke 23.11 KWL
Considering Jesus worthless,
Herod with his soldiers mockingly dressing him in campy clothing,
send him back to Pilate.
 
John 19.2-3 KWL
2 The soldiers, braiding a crown of thorny acacia,
force it on Jesus’s head.
They put a “purple” robe on him.
3 They’re coming to Jesus and saying, “Hail, king of Judeans!”
—as they give him punches.

Jesus confuses Pontius Pilate.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 April

Mark 15.1-5, Matthew 27.1-2, 11-14, Luke 23.1-4, John 18.28-38.

So I already wrote about Pontius Pilate, the ἡγεμών/igemón, “ruler” of Judea when Jesus was killed—the Roman military governor, or præfectus, “prefect.” After the Judean senate held their perfectly legal trial and sentenced Jesus to death, according to the Law they were to take Jesus outside the city, throw him off a cliff, then throw stones down on his body. But because of the Roman occupation they weren’t allowed to execute anyone. The Romans had to kill Jesus for them.

But first the Judean leaders needed to convince Pontius it was in Rome’s best interests to execute Jesus. The prefect wasn’t just gonna execute anybody the Judean senate recommended. Especially over stuff the Romans didn’t consider capital crimes, like blasphemy against a god the Romans didn’t respect. So what’d the Judeans have on Jesus?

Simple: He declared himself Messiah. Did it right in front of everybody.

Mark 14.61-64 KJV
61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? 64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

Messiah (i.e. Christ) means “the anointed,” and since you only anointed kings, it straight-up means king. Jesus publicly declared himself Israel’s king. That, the Romans would consider treason: The king of Judea was Caesar Tiberius Divi Augusti, princeps (“first citizen”) of Rome. Caesar would have a vested interest in putting any antikings to death. So that was the charge the senate brought with them, and Jesus, to the Roman prefect.

The senators hauled Jesus to Antonia, a fort Herod 1 had built next to the temple (and named for his patron, Marcus Antonius) so soldiers could watch the Judeans worship… just in case any riots broke out. There, they presented their unrecognized true king to Pontius.

Mark 15.1 KWL
Next, in the morning, the head priests,
consulting with the elders, scribes, and the whole senate,
carry and deliver the bound Jesus
to Pontius Pilatus.
 
Matthew 27.1-2 KWL
1 As it became morning, all the head priests and people’s elders
gathered in council regarding Jesus,
and how they’d put him to death./dd>
2 Binding him, they led Jesus away
and handed him off to Pontius Pilatus, the leader.
 
Luke 23.1-2 KWL
1 Getting up, the crowd leads him to Pontius Pilatus.
2 They begin to accuse Jesus,
saying, “We find this man twisting our nation,
preventing taxes to be given to Caesar,
calling himself ‘Christ’—which means king.”

In all the gospels, Pontius questioned Jesus… and came away unconvinced this man was any threat to Rome whatsoever. In Luke and John, he didn’t even believe Jesus was guilty of anything. But the Judean senate wanted Jesus dead, and got plenty of the locals to say so too. In the end, Pontius pragmatically gave ’em what they wanted.

“Why’s this guy not defending himself?”

Getting convicted of treason back then meant execution. (Still often does.) For non-Romans like Jesus, execution meant crucifixion, one of the most painful, disgusting ways to die humans have ever invented. So the fact Jesus didn’t fight his charges, and said nothing, made Pontius wonder what on earth was going on here. Everybody else he ever interrogated would either fight the charges or justify them. Not simply accept crucifixion as their inevitable lot.

Yet in the synoptic gospels, Jesus responded to his charges with two words and nothing more: Σὺ λέγεις/su légheis, “[If] you say so.”

Mark 15.2 KWL
Pilatus interrogated Jesus: “You’re the king of Judea?”
In reply Jesus told him, If you say so.”
 
Matthew 27.11 KWL
Jesus was stood before the leader,
and the leader interrogated him, saying, “You’re the king of Judea?”
Jesus was saying, If you say so.”
 
Luke 23.3 KWL
Pilatus questioned Jesus, saying, “You’re the king of Judea?”
In reply Jesus told him, If you say so.”

Some interpreters like to turn Jesus’s words into more of an affirmative declaration; more like “You said it, buddy!” Others figure it was more contrary: In one of these verses The Message goes with, “Your words, not mine.” Lk 23.3 MSG In John’s telling of the trial, Jesus’s response sorta sounds more like the “Your words, not mine” idea—because his response was more of a “I am a king, but not the sort you’re thinking of.”

Yep, John tells a very different version of events. Jesus interacts with Pontius way more. I’ll start at the beginning.

John 18.28-38 KWL
28 So the senators bring Jesus
from Joseph bar Caiaphas to the prætorium.
It’s morning. They don’t enter the prætorium,
lest they be defiled instead of eating Passover.
29 So Pontius Pilatus comes outside to them,
and says, “You bring me a certain accusation against this person.”
30 In reply they tell him, “We’d never hand him over to you
unless he were an evildoer.”
31 Pilatus tells them, “Take him yourself. Judge him by your Law.”
The Judeans tell him, “We’re not allowed to kill anyone.”
32 Thus Jesus’s word could be fulfilled—
which he said to signify which kind of death he was about to die.
 
33 Pilate enters the prætorium again, calls Jesus,
and tells him, “You’re the king of Judea?”
34 Jesus replies, “You say this on your own?
Or do others tell you about me?”
35 Pilate replies, “Am I Judean?
Your ethnic group and head priests turn you over to me.
What do you do?”
36 Jesus replies, “My kingdom’s not from this world.
If my kingdom’s from this world, my servants should fight
lest I be turned over to the Judeans.
My kingdom doesn’t yet exist now.”
37 So Pilate tells him, “Therefore you’re not a king.”
Jesus replies this: “I am a king.
I had been born into it. I came into the world into it.
Thus I might testify to truth.
All who are of the truth, hear my voice.”
38 Pilate tells him, “What’s ‘truth’?”
 
That said, Pilate goes out again to the Judeans
and tells them, “I find nothing in him of cause.”

Note in John, Jesus didn’t just answer Pontius with “If you say so,” but a statement of exactly what he means by “kingdom.” Clearly he’s not talking about a political government, but a moral one. We follow King Jesus, not because we’ll get into serious legal trouble if we don’t, not because (as dark Christians gleefully claim) we’ll go to hell when we don’t. We follow Jesus ’cause he’s truth. Jn 14.6 ’Cause we love the Father and want access to him. And we can’t get to the Father any other way than via Jesus.

Yeah, such a kingdom would totally overturn the Roman Empire. And within the next three centuries, that’s exactly what it did. But Caesar had nothing political to fear from such a kingdom. Which is why Pontius didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Not that Pontius necessarily understood Jesus. “What’s truth?” exposes this fact. Pontius had no time for abstract philosophy: He just wanted to know whether Jesus was worth crucifying. Would Caesar want this guy dead or not? Once Pontius had his mind made up—“So you’re not a king” Jn 18.37 —he didn’t really care what else Jesus had to say. “What’s truth” is a very important question, but notice Pontius didn’t stick around to get Jesus’s answer. Phooey on truth; he didn’t come to Judea to get an education from some obscure Galilean rabbi about epistemology. (He came there to get rich, if anything.) So in John, Pontius isn’t confused; just unconvinced Jesus is worth killing.

In Luke he likewise made up his mind right away.

Luke 23.4 KWL
Pilate tells the head priests and the crowd,
“I find nothing of cause in this person.”

Whereas in the other gospels, Jesus said nothing, and Pontius couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t fight harder to avoid a gory death on the cross.

Mark 15.3-5 KWL
3 The head priests are accusing Jesus of many things.
4 Pilate is questioning Jesus again,
saying, “You answer nothing! Look at all they accuse you of!”
5 Jesus no longer answers anything.
So Pilate is amazed.
 
Matthew 27.12-14 KWL
12 Jesus answers nothing
in the accusation against him by the head priests and elders.
13 Then Pilate tells Jesus, “Don’t you hear
how much they testify against you?”
14 Jesus doesn’t answer him for even one word.
So the leader was greatly amazed.

It was just strange enough for Pontius’s B.S. detector to go off: “Doesn’t seem to wanna die, but isn’t fighting it. What’s going on here? Why’s he acting this way? Why isn’t he fighting the charges? What, does he wanna get crucified?… Nah; he can’t; that’s nuts.”

Justice wouldn’t be done today.

For Jesus, the suffering came from the fact he knew he wasn’t gonna get justice that day.

It was sunrise when the senate brought him to Pontius. It was noon when he was finally led out to be crucified. Six hours of waiting. In between, getting mocked and flogged. He knew the end was coming, but the wheels of bureaucracy were turning mighty slow that morning.

But he knew Pontius believed him innocent. Knew Pontius recognized him as no threat to Rome. Knew regardless, Pontius would be of no help. The proper purpose of government is to establish justice, but corrupt governments and parties everywhere, presume it’s to seize and hold power. Pontius was just this kind of corrupt. He figured he was only in Judea to make sure Rome (and he) got their money. He’d kill anyone who got in Rome’s way. Jesus might be innocent, but if Pontius didn’t kill Jesus, he might spark a war and lose his job—which he desired more than justice. So much for justice.

The fact Pontius had Jesus executed regardless, with full knowledge he was executing someone he considered innocent—his whole hand-washing demonstration Mt 27.24 was all for show and we know it—makes Pontius just as guilty of Jesus’s death as the senate. Any antisemite who wants to blame the Jews alone for Jesus’s death is an idiot. Pontius, a gentile, could easily have saved him… and didn’t care enough to make any more than a token effort.

So this was how Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilatus: Knowing he’d get no proper hearing, no justice, because the powerful didn’t care. Nobody did. He had no advocate. He was alone.

It’s all the more reason Jesus takes the position of our advocate before his Father. 1Jn 2.1 It’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to help us when we’re not sure how to defend ourselves. Mk 13.11 He’s not gonna abandon us. He never promised us we’d never suffer; on the contrary, we will. Jn 16.33 But he’ll be with us through the suffering, providing us all the help and comfort he never got when he suffered.

Jesus’s pre-trial trial.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 April
John 18.12-14 KWL
12 The mob, the chief, and Judean police
then arrest Jesus and bind him.
13 They first bring Jesus to Annas,
for he’s the father-in-law of Joseph bar Caiaphas,
who’s head priest that year.
14 Bar Caiaphas is the one who recommended to the Judeans
for one person to die, rather than all the people.
 
John 18.19-24 KWL
19 The head priest then asks Jesus about his students,
and about his instruction.
20 Jesus answers him, “I’ve freely spoken to the world.
I always teach in synagogue and in temple,
where all the Judeans come together.
I never spoke in private.
21 Why do you ask me this?
Ask those who’ve listened to what I speak to them.
Look, they’ve known what I say.”
22 Once he says this, one of the police standing by
gives Jesus a slap, saying, “This you answer the head priest?”
23 Jesus answers him, “If I speak evil, testify about the evil.
If good, why beat me?”
24 So Annas sends Jesus away,
having bound him for Bar Caiaphas the head priest.

In the synoptic gospels, right after Jesus’s arrest, the Judean police and their posse took Jesus to the head priest’s house. But in John they didn’t. John’s the only gospel where they took a little side trip first… to the former head priest’s house. That’d be Khánan bar Seth, whom historical records call Ananus, and whom the KJV calls Annas. John relates it’s in the courtyard of Annas’s house where Simon Peter denounced Jesus.

Backstory time. Ever since the time of the Maccabees, the head priests had also been the kings of Judea. (Or, using the title Israelis had used for their kings, the Messiah. Yep, that title.) Their dynasty ended with Herod 1, who overthrew his father-in-law Antigonus Mattathias in 37BC, and took the throne. Herod became king, but because he was Edomite not Aaronite, he couldn’t be head priest; only descendants of Aaron could be head priest, y’know. Lv 6.22 But Herod claimed the right to appoint the head priest—and did. In fact he appointed a bunch of head priests. He kept firing them when they wouldn’t do as he wished.

And once the Romans took Judea from the Herods, they did the same thing. Annas became the 11th appointed head priest since Herod took over. (He’s actually the ninth guy to hold the job. Some of the previous head priests had non-consecutive terms.) Annas was appointed by the Syrian legate Publius Sulpicius Quirinius in the year 6, and stayed in office till the year 15. He’s a descendant of King John Hyrcanus, so while he was still in the royal family, he wasn’t a contender for the throne.

Bible commentators aren’t always aware that Herod and the Romans kept swapping out head priests, and assume Annas was the hereditary head priest, like all the head priests before Herod’s time. So they aren’t so surprised when Annas’s five sons, son-in-law, and grandson become the head priest after him: Isn’t it supposed to be a hereditary job? And yeah, originally it was… but now it wasn’t, and hadn’t been for decades, and the fact Annas managed to keep his family in power for nearly sixty years is pretty darned impressive.

Annas’s successors include:

  • Eleazar, his son (16-17CE)
  • Joseph bar Caiaphas, his son-in-law (18-36)
  • Jonathan, his son (36-37)
  • Theophilus, his son (37-41)
  • Matthias, his son (43)
  • Jonathan again (44)
  • Annas 2, his son (63)
  • Mattathias, his grandson (65-66)

He wasn’t the only guy with a political dynasty though. Four sons and a grandson of Boethus, another descendant of Aaron, were also head priest. Including Joazar bar Boethus, Annas’s direct predecessor.

Nope, Jesus didn’t sweat blood.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 April
Luke 22.39-46 KWL
39 Coming out, Jesus goes to Olivet Hill as usual.
The students also follow him.
40 Once they’re in the place, Jesus tells them,
“Pray not to enter into temptation!”
41 Jesus withdraws from them about a stone’s throw away,
and taking to his knees, he’s praying,
42 saying, “Father, if you want, take this cup away from me!
Only not my will but yours be done.”
43 [A heavenly angel appears to Jesus, strengthening him.
44 Being in agony, Jesus is praying more fervently.
His sweat becomes like drops of blood,
falling down to the ground.]
45 Rising up from the prayer, coming to the students,
Jesus finds them sleeping from the grief.
46 Jesus tells them, “Why do you sleep?
Get up and pray, so you might not enter into temptation!”

Before his arrest, Jesus went to Gethsemane and spent some time in intense prayer. ’Cause he didn’t wanna get beaten and tortured to death. Who would?

In Mark, Jesus only has three of his students come along with him to pray, and has to go back and awaken them thrice. In Luke it appears to be all of them, and he only comes back to chide them once. Yeah they’re tired; they just had a big Passover meal and a lot of wine, plus a walk uphill, plus it’s late. But Jesus warned them his time was coming, and they needed to pray—not for him, but themselves. They’d be tempted to do a lot of dumb stuff as a result. (In fact that’s exactly what we see them do. Shoulda prayed.)

Certain preachers love to quote the Luke version of the story, because they love to point out how Jesus was so incredibly stressed out by his soon-coming passion, he was sweating blood. You saw that in verse 44. Here it is again in the KJV:

Luke 22.44 KJV
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Turns out this is an actual medical condition. It’s called hematidrosis (from the Greek for “bloody sweat”) or hematohidrosis (“bloody water”). It’s rare, but possible. Blood vessels under your skin break from stress, and blood comes out your pores. It looks creepy. But not a lot of blood comes out of you this way, so it’s largely harmless. Might cause a little dehydration, so drink some Gatorade; you’ll be fine.

Preachers find this fascinating. And they love to point out how Luke, the traditional author of this gospel, was a physician! Cl 4.14 So he’d know all about such medical conditions, right? Including this one.

Though more than once, I’ve heard a preacher claim hematidrosis actually isn’t a harmless condition: They insist it’s life-threatening. That’s why Jesus needed an angel to strengthen him in verse 43: He was on the verge of bleeding out. After all the verse says great drops of blood. Jesus was already dying, and he hadn’t even been arrested yet! You don’t want him dying before the Romans killed him; for some reason that might bungle the atonement. I’m not sure how, but they’re pretty sure it woulda.

Okay. As you can tell from the title of this article, they’re wrong. Not just about how dangerous hematidrosis is or isn’t. They’re wrong about Jesus sweating blood in the first place. The verse doesn’t say that.

Jesus prays at Gethsemane.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 April
Mark 14.32-41 KWL
32 Jesus and his students came to a field
which was named Gat Semaním/“oil press.”
Jesus tells his students, “Sit in this spot while I can pray.”
33 Jesus takes with him Simon Peter, James, and John.
He begins to be surprised—and greatly troubled.
34 Jesus tells them, “My soul is deathly sad.
Stay here, and stay awake.”
35 Going a little ahead, Jesus is falling to the ground,
and is praying that, if it’s possible, can this hour pass him by?
36 Jesus was saying, Abba! Father! Almighty you!
Take this cup away from me!
But not what I want. What you want.”
37 Jesus returns and finds his students sleeping,
and tells Peter, “Simon, you sleep? You can’t stay awake one hour?
38 Stay awake and pray!—lest you might come to temptation.
A truly eager spirit—and weak flesh.”
39 Jesus goes away to pray again,
praying the same words.
40 Returning again, Jesus finds his students sleeping,
for their eyes are very heavy.
They had not known what to answer him.
41 Jesus returns a third time and tells his students,
“You sleep now and rest. It’s enough.
The hour comes—look!
The Son of Man is handed over to sinful hands.”

The first of St. Francis’s stations of the cross was when Jesus was given his cross. (Duh.) But Jesus’s suffering began earlier that day, so St. John Paul’s list also began earlier—with Gethsemane, the olive garden on Mt. Olivet, where Jesus prayed he might not go through the crucifixion.

It comes up in the synoptic gospels. It’s not in John, whose author had to do things his own way:

John 18.1 KWL
When he said this, Jesus with his students went over the Kidron ravine,
where there was a garden. He and his students entered it.

John Paul recognized this is the beginning of Jesus’s passion, not when he was sentened to death later that night. ’Cause that’s what the gospels depict: He went into the garden to pray, and suddenly he was blindsided with emotion. It freaked him out a little. He wanted to pray; he wanted his kids to pray for him. But as people do when they’re up past their bedtime praying (and not just kids; don’t just blame this on their spiritual immaturity), they fell asleep on him. Three times.

Still, Jesus was really agitated, and John Paul recognized it’s this psychological trauma that marks where Jesus’s passion began. Not just when he was taken away to die.

Nation will rise up against nation.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 March
Mark 13.8 KWL
8 “For ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
Earthquakes will happen various places. Scarcity will happen.
These things are early birth-pains.”
Matthew 24.7-8 KWL
7 “For ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
Scarcity will happen, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these things are early birth-pains.”
Luke 21.10-11 KWL
10 Then Jesus told them, “Ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
11 Great earthquakes will happen various places.
Scarcity and plague will happen.
Terrors and great signs from heaven will happen.”

(Previously:

  • “The Olivet Discourse: The temple’s coming down.” Mk 13.1-4, Mt 24.1-3, Lk 21.5-7
  • “Look out! Fake Messiahs!” Mk 13.3-6, Mt 24.3-5, Lk 21.7-8)
  • “Wars and rumors of war.” Mk 13.7-8, Mt 24.6-8, Lk 21.9-11

You notice the title of this piece is “Nation will rise up against nation,” yet when I translated the gospel passages which usually get interpreted that way, I rendered ἔθνος/éthnos as “ethnic group.”

Because that’s what an éthnos is. For that matter, it’s what a nation is. If you live in a multiethnic country like the United States, I can understand if you’re not aware of this, and think “nation” and “country” mean the very same thing. Not in this case.

Let me assure you: Racists are fully aware of this definition. So whenever they talk about “this nation,” their nation, they’re talking about their race. They wanna purge the country of other races, or at the very least make ’em second-class citizens. It’s not natural, they insist, for a country to be made up of, or led by, multiple races.

This kind of tribalism has been with humanity a very, very long time. Because tribes and races originally began with families. Supposedly you could trust your family; not so much other families. So you kept things within your group. Over time the groups got large, and turned into whole countries, but the prejudice persisted: Trust your countrymen. Not so much foreigners.

Even when the foreigners were the very same ethnicity as you. Ancient Israelites and Edomites were the very same ethnicity: They were descended, respectively, from Jacob and Esau. Twin brothers. But for the longest time they were two nations—two different ethnic groups—which didn’t trust one another.

Ancient Israelites, Moabites, and Ammonites were also the very same ethnicity: Jacob, and the brothers Moab and Benammi, were second cousins, all great-grandsons of Terah ben Nahor. Ancient Israelites and Midianites were also the same ethnicity: Midian was Abraham’s sixth son. Ge 25.1-2 Yep, all these ancient middle eastern nations in the bible were Hebrews. Yet they considered one another foreigners. And fought one another all the time.

Most westerners are fully aware Europeans have done this too. They’re ethnically, genetically, even culturally the same. Russia and Ukraine, obviously. Yet they fight.

Why? Human depravity, of course. People think it’s in their personal best interests to dominate one another, so they try. Sometimes succeed. Sometimes not.

Anyway. The reason Jesus said nations would fight nations, then kingdoms fight kingdoms, isn’t just because he’s practicing a little Hebrew poetry. These aren’t really synonyms. He’s talking about ethnic groups fighting one another—then political groups fighting one another.

And sometimes the ethnic groups are part of the same kingdom. The United States, obviously. Ancient empires especially, whether Roman, Greek, Persian, Neo-Babylonian, Assyrian, Mongol, Chinese, and so forth; simply by virtue of conquering lots of people. But also Jesus’s homeland, the Galilee—which had both Judean settlements in it, like Nazareth; and Syrian Greek cities in it, like Sepphoris, which was only 6km away from Nazareth and predated it by half a century.

Jesus does away with any discriminations between Jew and gentile, and likewise gentile and gentile. But racists ignore this, and wanna keep demarcating which nation—which ethnic group—they are. And wanna fight. And try to fight. Nope, this doesn’t mean it’s the End; it means humans are just being human, and not following Jesus.

Wars and rumors of war.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 March
Mark 13.7-8 KWL
7 “Whenever you might personally hear war,
and war news, don’t freak out.
These things happen, but the End is yet to come!
8 For ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
Earthquakes will happen various places. Scarcity will happen.
These things are early birth-pains.”
Matthew 24.6-8 KWL
6 “You will personally hear war
and war news. See that you don’t freak out!
These things happen, but it’s not the End yet!
7 For ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
Scarcity will happen, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these things are early birth-pains.”
Luke 21.9-11 KWL
9 “You will personally hear war
and chaos. Don’t be terrified!
These things happen first, but the End doesn’t immediately follow!”
10 Then Jesus told them, “Ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
11 Great earthquakes will happen various places.
Scarcity and plague will happen.
Terrors and great signs from heaven will happen.”
Previously:
  • “The Olivet Discourse: The temple’s coming down.” Mk 13.1-4, Mt 24.1-3, Lk 21.5-7
  • “Look out! Fake Messiahs!” Mk 13.3-6, Mt 24.3-5, Lk 21.7-8
  • If you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount, as I hope you have (you are Christian, right? It’s kinda mandatory), you know Jesus orders us followers not to worry.

    Matthew 6.31-34 KJV
    31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    But when we’ve not surrendered our lives, our entire lives, to Jesus, we’re gonna suck at obeying this teaching. We’re gonna worry.

    If we’re poor, we’re gonna worry about survival. Like food, drink, clothing, rent, crime, health, petty expenses, massive unexpected bills. Other things too, but these will take up the bulk of our worries.

    If we’re comfortable or wealthy, we’re gonna about keeping those comforts and wealth. And the things which influence or threaten them, like markets, politics, laws, agitators, possible revolutions. You know, oligarch stuff.

    Most of the professional End Times prognosticators especially want us to worry about comfort and stability. Not just because they wanna sell us food buckets for our End Times bunkers. Most of ’em are preaching out of their very own paranoia. They worry even more than you do about the stuff they agitate about. Their own End Times bunkers are very well-stocked.

    All of ’em ignore today’s passage. Or in some cases flip its meaning over entirely.

    Yes, I translated Mark 13.7 and Matthew 24.6 as “don’t freak out.” It’s a legitimate interpretation of μὴ θροεῖσθε/mi throeísthe, “don’t wail aloud in terror.” Then as now, people would hear about violence, earthquakes, signs from heaven, and immediately think, “What does it mean?” Then spend a whole lot of time speculating what it might mean. Is it a sign from the gods, like the superstitious Greeks insisted?

    Clearly they never read Ecclesiastes—or if they had, they ignore everything it teaches. Most of the time it doesn’t mean anything. But the human brain wants to make connections—and even in the absence of evidence, it’ll go haywire and make connections anyway. Everything’s a conspiracy to such people. Everything’s a “sign of the times.”

    But I just showed you three different Jesus-quotes in the bible which say no it’s not. And if you don’t trust my translation, fine; read others. They’re all gonna mean the same thing though. Stop prematurely freaking out about the End!

    Look out! Fake Messiahs!

    by K.W. Leslie, 09 March
    Mark 13.3-6 KWL
    3 As Jesus was sitting on Olivet Hill, opposite the temple,
    Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew were asking him privately,
    4 “Tell us when these things happen,”
    and “What sign appears when all these things are about to end?”
    5 [In reply] Jesus begins to tell them, “Watch out.
    Anyone ought not lead you astray:
    6 Many will come in my name, saying this: ‘I’m somebody.’
    And many will be led astray.”
    Matthew 24.3-5 KWL
    3 As Jesus was sitting upon Olivet Hill, the students came to him privately,
    saying, “Tell us when these things happen,”
    and “What sign appears of your coming, and of the end of the age?”
    4 In reply Jesus tells them, “Watch out.
    Anyone ought not lead you astray:
    5 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m Messiah.’
    And many will be led astray.”
    Luke 21.7-8 KWL
    7 His students asked Jesus, saying, “Teacher,
    so when do these things happen,
    and what sign appears when these things are about to happen?”
    8 Jesus said, “Watch out.
    You ought not be led astray:
    Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m somebody, and the time has come near.’
    You ought not go after them.”
    Previously:
  • “The Olivet Discourse: The temple’s coming down.” Mk 13.1-4, Mt 24.1-3, Lk 21.5-7
  • God reveals future events for three reasons:

    1. To warn us something’s coming, so get ready.
    2. To give us hope. Either with good news, or with the fact he’ll be right there with us despite some bad stuff.
    3. To confirm prophecy. This is when he gets specific about future events; otherwise he prefers to keep things vague, lest we try to influence, control, or fake these future events.

    The Olivet Discourse is definitely a “Get ready” prophecy, and those of us who know history will immediately recognize it’s about the Jewish War, when the Romans destroyed the temple in the year 70.

    Those of us who don’t know history, regularly presume it’s yet to come—probably as part of what “prophecy scholars” call “the great tribulation,” which takes place right before Jesus’s second coming. And if it hasn’t happened yet, it means the second coming isn’t happening yet… which means they’re not getting ready for Jesus’s return; they’re getting ready for tribulation. Build those bunkers and get those guns.

    Jesus presented the Olivet Discourse round the year 30. Hence the Jewish War would take place in these students’ lifetime; not long at all after the gospels were first written down in the 50s and 60s. Probably what helped these gospels spread widely was the fact all this was happening, right then, just as Jesus foretold.

    And it began with false Messiahs. Wannabe revolutionaries showed up, claimed they were Messiah, the true king of Israel, divinely empowered to overthrow the mighty Roman Empire and reestablish the nation to the heights it reached in Solomon ben David’s day. “Make Israel Great Again,” as it were. Hold conventions and rallies, whip the patriots into a frenzy, and get ’em to actually try to overthrow the occupying Roman army. ’Cause God was on their side, wasn’t he?

    Instead the Romans sent reinforcements. Then more. Then their best general, Titus Flavius Vespasianus (whom historians call Vespasian), who grew to believe Israel needed to be crushed entirely. The Judean people decided the End had come, and decided to go all in with the false Messiahs. The rest was a bloodbath, as the Romans slaughtered half the Jews on the planet. That’s not hyperbole: There were 4 million Jews in the world at the time, and the Romans killed 2 million.

    And conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and left Israel without a homeland for 19 centuries.

    If you know nothing about this history, it’s because the “prophecy scholars” downplay it as much as possible. “Oh, that wasn’t the great tribulation; what’s coming in our timeline is far worse.” “Oh, the Holocaust during World War 2 was even worse.” (Yeah, as far as numbers of people murdered; of course. But Romans tried to eliminate Jews just as vigorously as Nazis did.) They don’t want the Olivet Discourse to be about the Jewish War; it’s gotta describe a future event.

    Why? Because the coming great tribulation has to be near, right around the corner when you least expect it; and it has to be terrifying. The better to convince pagans to become Christian—“you don’t want to be left behind, and undergo tribulation!” The better to keep Christians in line. If hell doesn’t scare people, tribulation might. It’s become an extremely valuable tool for dark Christians. Fear is a powerful motivator.

    When such people read history books and realize Jesus is really speaking of the Jewish War, their knee-jerk response is denial. “No, Jesus was speaking of the End Times. I always heard it was about the End Times. The Jewish War can’t have been the great tribulation! Everything I believe—all my favorite End Times prophecy scholars—would be wrong!”

    Well it is. They are. But all the time and money they’ve invested in their rubbish needs to be justified in their minds. Our mental self-defense mechanisms demand it. So these folks dismiss reality and history, embrace their dark Christian fantasies… and never notice all the really bad fruit it produces in them, their churches, their converts, and our nation.

    The Olivet Discourse: The temple’s coming down.

    by K.W. Leslie, 08 March
    Mark 13.1-4 KWL
    1 As Jesus was coming out of temple, one of his students told him,
    “Teacher, look at the stones; look at the buildings!”
    2 Jesus told him, “You see these great buildings?
    You might never find a single stone here left in its ruin.”
    3 As Jesus was sitting on Olivet Hill, opposite the temple,
    Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew were asking him privately,
    4 “Tell us when these things happen,”
    and “What sign appears when all these things are about to end?”
    Matthew 24.1-3 KWL
    1 Jesus was coming out of temple,
    and his students came to him to show him the temple buildings.
    2 Jesus told them in reply, “Don’t you see everything?
    Amen, I promise you:
    You might never find a single stone here left in its ruin.”
    3 As Jesus was sitting upon Olivet Hill, the students came to him privately,
    saying, “Tell us when these things happen,”
    and “What sign appears of your coming, and of the end of the age?”
    Luke 21.5-7 KWL
    5 Someone was saying in temple how beautiful the stones and gifts on display were.
    Jesus said, 6 “These things you see:
    The days will come when not a single stone will be left in its ruin.”
    7 His students asked Jesus, saying, “Teacher,
    so when do these things happen,
    and what sign appears when these things are about to happen?”

    These are the passages which introduce what Christians now call “the Olivet Discourse,” Jesus’s explanation to four of his students about the near future and the second coming. It took place on Olivet Hill (KJV “the mount of Olives”), hence the name.

    It begins with people praising the temple. Mark says it’s a student; Matthew says multiple students; Luke keeps it vaguely “someone.” Jesus’s response was it was all coming down. And four of his kids later privately came to him and said, “When?” Understandably so. You’d wanna know when such a thing might happen—same as Christians today always wanna know when Jesus is returning, or when the End will come.

    Jesus’s answer in Acts doesn’t satisfy such people whatsoever:

    Acts 1.6-7 KJV
    6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

    To them, “It’s not for you to know” is unacceptable. They insist on knowing. They’ve even created timelines. Really complicated timelines.

    Jesus told his students some stuff, and today I’m gonna start digging through this stuff. Bear in mind I’m gonna interpret it in its historical context, so it might sound a little different than what you’re used to. That’s because the “prophecy scholars” who usually quote the Olivet Discourse, don’t care about historical context, don’t care how Peter, James, John, and Andrew would understand this passage, and especially don’t care that parts of it were fulfilled about 40 years after Jesus said it. Because they insist every bit of it happens in the future. They got it in their timelines. Tribulation is coming!

    Yeah, I’m no fan of fear-based Christianity. It’s all a scam to get you to stop thinking, buy their books, vote for their candidates, and grant them power over you. Let’s submit to Jesus instead, shall we?

    A gospels synopsis.

    by K.W. Leslie, 04 February

    Our word “synopsis” usually means a brief summary or overview, but when we get into biblical studies a synopsis is a comparison of two different parts of the bible which overlap. Like Psalms 14 and 53. Or David and the census in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. Or the story of Ahab and Micaiah in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18. Or Hezekiah and the sundial in 1 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38.

    Or, naturally, to compare the gospels.

    Christians have been comparing ’em ever since they were first written. Sometimes to see if we can fit them all together, like Tatian of Assyria did with his Diatessaron, or A.T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels. Thing is, when you combine then into one narrative, you gotta remove parts of the other gospels—and change their order, their structure, and various things which their authors deliberately put in there. You also lose a bit of the three-dimensional picture of Jesus they provide.

    It’s why I prefer a gospel synopsis: We compare the stories, but don’t remove anything. We look at what each of ’em have, and compare. We deal with the difficulties they might produce. But we get a better, fuller picture of Jesus. That’s the point.

    Obviously in my posts on Christ Jesus, I’ve been comparing similar texts. It’s sort of my own gospel synopsis. You can follow it if you want, but today I’m actually providing someone else’s. Basically it’s the table of contents from bible scholar Kurt Aland’s Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum (called Synopsis of the Four Gospels in the English edition). His synopsis compares the texts line by line from his Greek New Testament, 26th edition (the current edition is the 28th), or from the RSV in the English edition. But if you prefer another translation, the links below will take you to Bible Gateway, where you can read ’em in any translation they have. Sound good?

    Do you know what Christ Jesus really teaches?

    by K.W. Leslie, 04 January

    Ask anybody what Jesus of Nazareth did for a living, and nearly all of us will say, “Oh, he was a carpenter.”

    More precisely Jesus was a τέκτων/tékton, a “craftsman, artisan”—someone who made stuff. Sometimes in wood… and sometimes in stone. Nowadays Israel has a lot of trees, but that’s because of a serious reforestation campaign the nation started decades ago. Thousands of years before that, the trees had been cleared to turn most of the land into farmland, so by Jesus’s day, not a lot of wood. Lots of stones though—good thing for archaeologists. So Jesus worked with wood, stone, whatever; in general he made stuff. Makes sense; he’s the Creator y’know. Jn 1.3

    So he was what we’d nowadays call a contractor. Mk 6.3 Family business, apparently; he did it because his dad did it. Mt 13.55 But by the time we read his teachings in the gospels, that was Jesus’s previous job. He left that job and took up a new one: Jesus was a rabbi. A teacher. Jn 1.38

    Yeah, most of you already knew Jesus was a rabbi. Even those of who who responded, “He’s a carpenter.”

    So why is everyone’s first response typically, “Ooh! Ooh! Carpenter!” Because it’s kinda obvious he’s a teacher, but “carpenter” feels like more of a trivia question—“Okay, what was Jesus of Nazareth’s little-known vocation? What’d he do for a living? ’Cause the teaching didn’t pay.” Actually it did pay: Rabbis took donations. Usually of food; sometimes of money, sometimes free labor. Some of Jesus’s followers included the women who financially contributed to his teaching, Lk 8.2-3 and also did stuff for him… and got to stick around and listen to what he taught. They were functionally his students, same as his Twelve. (Or at least that’s how Jesus sees them. Lk 10.38-42 Sexists, not so much.)

    But “Jesus was a carpenter” actually comes from the statement the folks of his hometown made to belittle him: “Hey, why’re we even listening to this guy? Isn’t he just the handyman?” It’s exactly the same as if the pastor of your church invites a guest speaker to preach, and instead of it being some famous bible scholar it’s the janitor… and the janitor presents you with a truth so challenging, so contrary to your beliefs (yet entirely biblical!), your knee-jerk response is to find any excuse at all to demean him, so you pick on his blue-collar job. “Who’s this guy? Who does he think he is?”

    Subtly, a lot of antichrists still maintain this bad attitude about Jesus: He‘s “just” a carpenter. He wasn’t really Christ; that’s some hype his followers made up.

    Regardless, “rabbi” is maybe the second thing we list on Jesus’s résumé. Sometimes we remember “king”—when we’ve not presumed that’s merely his future job, and doesn’t apply yet.

    Well. I use this example of “Jesus was a carpenter” to point out how frequently we get Jesus wrong. Even on as something as simple as his job description. We think we know him. But we make lots of little slip-ups on very basic data, and repeat the common clichés instead of quoting bible. We trusted what other Christians told us, parrot it, and never bother to double-check it: “Wait, where does it say that in the bible?” Or “Is that what this verse means?”

    Ironically this is exactly what a rabbi does for a living: Train students to ask such questions. And we, Jesus’s present-day students, need to ask these questions.

    Word!

    by K.W. Leslie, 22 December

    John 1.1-5.

    Many Christians are fascinated by the word “word.” Mostly ’cause of the following passage. It tends to get translated into past-tense verbs, but the aorist verb tense has no time; it’s neither past, present, nor future, but just is. So without other past-tense verbs to set that context for it, I just go with present tense.

    John 1.1-5 KWL
    1 The word’s in the beginning.
    The word’s with God.
    The word is God.
    2 He’s in the beginning with God.
    3 Everything came to be through the word.
    Nothing that exists came to be without him.
    4 What came to be through him, is life.
    Life’s the light of humanity.
    5 Light shines in darkness,
    and darkness can’t get hold of it.

    “The word” John speaks of, existed in the very beginning, is with God, and is God. And around 7BC became the man we know as Christ Jesus of Nazareth.

    Why’d the author of John (whom, for tradition’s sake, let’s call St. John) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnate Jesus? For centuries, the assumption was λόγος/lógos came from Greek philosophy. Blame the gentiles: The early church’s writers didn’t know what the Pharisees taught, but they did know Greek philosophy, and insisted on interpreting bible through the lens of their own culture. Christians still do the very same thing today… but that’s a whole other rant. Let’s get back to criticizing ancient Christian gentiles.

    Just our luck, ancient Greek philosophers had written a whole bunch of navel-gazing gibberish about the word lógos. ’Cause they were exploring the nature of truth: What is it, how do we find it, how do we prove it, how do we recognize logical fallacies, and what’s the deal with words which can mean more than one thing? For that matter, what’s a “word” anyway? Is it just a label for a thing, or a substantial thing on its own? Maybe that’s why God can create things by merely saying a word. Ge 1.3

    And so on. Follow their intellectual rabbit trails, and you’ll go all sorts of weird, gnostic directions. Which is exactly what gentile Christians did.

    Now let’s practice some actual logic, and look for once at John’s culture. What’d Pharisees teach about what “word” means? Apparently they had their own interesting ideas behind it.

    The Lost Sheep and Lost Coin Story.

    by K.W. Leslie, 22 November

    Luke 15.1-10.

    Jesus loves sinners. Not just because he loves everybody without discrimination, because God is love, but because he knows the most effective way of getting a sinner to repent is by loving ’em. Show them grace, and they respond with gratitude. Unless of course they’re entitled jerks who think of course they deserve God’s kingdom… like we see in a lot of Christians nowadays, and like we see in the scriptures whenever Pharisees have a problem with Jesus being too liberal with people who deserve hate, scorn, and explusion.

    In the gospels, two groups tend to be singled out for Pharisee ire: The publicans, natives of the Galilee and Judea who worked for and with the occupying Romans, and were considered sellouts and traitors and unclean apostates; and “sinners,” by which Pharisees meant irreligious people.

    For some reason people tend to naïvely assume everybody in ancient or medieval times was religious. Every Egyptian believed in the Egyptian gods, or every Israelite believed in either the LORD or one of the Baals, or every Roman believed in the Greco-Roman gods, or every medieval European was Catholic or Pagan or, later, Protestant. Nope. Same as now, lots of people consider religion to be unimportant or irrelevant, or were even nontheist—but kept these feelings to themselves, ’cause it’d get ’em in trouble with the religious majority. Even in countries with freedom of religion, people who believe in nothing try to stay under the radar. Just look at all the hypocrites in the Bible Belt, who claim they’re good Christians but vote like racists and social Darwinists and greedy Mammonists.

    So when Jesus hung out with publicans and sinners, it really triggered ’em. “What’s the rabbi doing with pagans? Why’s he going to their homes? Why’s he eating with them? You know they don’t follow our exacting standards for ritual cleanliness; he could be eating bacon for all we know! In fact I’ve never seen him wash his hands…” And so on.

    For them, Jesus had two parables. Same punchline, ’cause they’re about the same thing. I don’t know whether in real life he actually told them one right after the other like this, or whether Luke just bunched ’em together in his gospel for convenience. Only literalists think it matters; it does not.

    Luke 15.1-10 KWL
    1 All the publicans and sinners were coming near Jesus to hear him,
    2 and some Pharisees and scribes were grumbling, saying this:
    “This one befriends sinners. And eats with them.”
     
    3 Jesus told them this parable, saying,
    4 “Any person among you have 100 sheep,
    and upon losing one of them,
    don’t leave the 99 in the middle of nowhere,
    and go after the lost one till you find it?
    5 One places the found sheep on one’s shoulders, rejoicing,
    6 coming into the house together with friends and neighbors,
    telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I found my lost sheep!’
    7 I tell you this is like the joy in the heavens over one repentant sinner,
    rather than over 99 righteous people who didn’t have any need of repentance.
     
    8 “Or some woman who has 10 drachmas, when she loses one drachma.
    Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house,
    and carefully seek till she finds it?
    9 On finding it, she gathers her friends and neighbors,
    saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I found my lost drachma!’
    10 I tell you this is like the joy found among God’s angels
    over one repentant sinner.”

    The Wedding Party Story.

    by K.W. Leslie, 15 November

    Matthew 22.1-14.

    This parable has a lot in common with Jesus’s Dinner Party Story in Luke. So much so, many Christians consider them the same story, and teach on them at the same time. They might primarily present it as the Wedding Party Story, and quote some bits of Luke to add some depth; or as the Dinner Party Story, and quote bits of Matthew. Or they’ll say, “Well in Matthew it’s a wedding and in Luke it’s a dinner party… but it’s all the same thing, right? A wedding is just a dinner party to celebrate a wedding. So the differences don’t matter.”

    But they do. Because in the Wedding Party Story it’s not just any wedding. The person throwing the party isn’t the groom, as was the custom in first-century middle eastern weddings; in this case it was his father. Who’s the king. And not just a king like our democracies have, who’s really just a rich noble with an extra-fancy title who gets to be on the money and has a few ceremonial government duties. This guy actually rules his country, like a dictator. Like Salman ibn Abdulaziz al-Saud of Arabia. Imagine he threw a wedding party for his son Muhammad… and people behaved this way towards him. Heads would roll. As they do in this story.

    Matthew 22.1-14 KWL
    1 In reply Jesus again spoke to them parabolically, saying,
    2 “Heaven’s kingdom is like a person, a king,
    who makes a wedding feast for his son.
    3 He sends his slaves to call the called to the wedding feast,
    and they’re not willing to come.
    4 The king sends other slaves again,
    telling them, ‘Tell the called, “Look, my banquet was prepared!
    My oxen, and well-fed sacrificial meats, and everything is ready!
    Come to the wedding feast now!” ’
    5 But the dismissive invitees go away.
    One goes to his field, one to his business.
    6 The rest seize the king’s slaves, abuse, and kill them.
    7 The king is angry. Sending his army,
    he destroys those murderers and fires their cities.
    8 Then the king tells his slaves, ‘The wedding feast is ready.
    The called weren’t worthy.
    9 So go to the crossroads and call as many as you find to the wedding feast.
    10 Going out, those slaves gather everyone they find on the roads, both evil and good,
    and the wedding feast fills with people reclining at table.
    11 The king, entering and seeing those reclining at table,
    sees a person there not wearing wedding clothing.
    12 The king tells him, ‘Fellow, how’d you get in here not wearing wedding clothing?’
    The person was struck silent.
    13 Then the king told his servants, ‘Bind him feet and hands.
    Throw him into the darkness outside.
    Weeping and teeth-grinding will be there.’
    14 For many are called, and few chosen.”

    Christians get confused by this story. In part because Christians who don’t live under monarchies, and especially those who don’t live in the ancient near east, really don’t understand the cultural context. Nor do they understand much of the capricious-sounding behavior of the king, ’cause they presume the king in this story is God. And the son is Jesus, and the wedding banquet is the end of time, and the dismissive invitees and the guy without the wedding clothes are sinners who deserve what they’re getting… and so forth.

    Especially do they not understand Jesus’s moral of his story: “For many are called, but few [are] chosen.” Mt 22.14 KJV Wait, how does God call you, yet not choose you? Shouldn’t those be the same thing? Determinists are entirely sure they are, and other scriptures kinda make it sound like they’re one and the same:

    Romans 8.29 LEB
    29 Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers; 30 and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.

    They assume all these things are a package deal. If you’re elect, you’re

    • foreknown
    • called
    • justified
    • glorified

    and you can’t be one without all the others. Called means chosen.

    So what’s going on here? Glad you asked. Let’s get to it.

    The king, the kingdom, and God.

    Heaven’s kingdom (or God’s kingdom; same thing) is like this king. Jesus says so upfront. He doesn’t say the king represents God; we read that into the story because the king has a son, so we presume these are two persons of the trinity. We read of a wedding feast, and read all the Revelation imagery of the Lamb’s bride Rv 21-22 into it. Basically we add a lot to the text which isn’t actually in it. But the king represents the kingdom. Not God. “Heaven’s kingdom is like a person,” Jesus starts. Got that?

    Further, Jesus is the king of God’s kingdom. So don’t go figuring, as many Christians will, “If the king isn’t God, I guess the king would be Jesus, right?” What son of Jesus’s would he be throwing a wedding feast for? Stop trying to find a one-to-one matchup between the fictional characters of the parable, and real-life people. Jesus is talking about an idea here. Let’s let him get to his idea.

    This king has a son, who will probably be his successor, the next king. His marriage was a big deal, ’cause such unions were expected to produce children, ensuring the next king would have his own successor. So this marriage feast is about the king’s dynasty; it’s a celebration of the king’s power. It’s a big deal if you attend.

    It’s equally a big deal if you don’t attend. It means you defy the king and don’t recognize his power. Maybe you have another king. Maybe you wanna be king. These invited guests who ignored the king, or who murdered the king’s slaves: They were making a political statement, much like this line from Jesus’s New King Story:

    Luke 19.14 KJV
    But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.

    That new king’s response?

    Luke 19.27 KJV
    But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

    Don’t confuse that guy with Jesus either. Jesus was describing the sort of kings his audience was familiar with, not the sort of king he is. The kings of the earth are paranoid and murdery, same as Herod 1, who tried to kill baby Jesus. Our Lord isn’t like that, so don’t confound him with the bad behavior of the kings in his stories.

    Like an easily-provoked dictator who freaks out at any hint of disrespect, this king was enraged at these invitees. Yeah, the open rebellion and the death of his slaves was an outrage, but he didn’t just kill the invitees; he fired their cities. He burned everyone in their hometowns to death over the insult. Does God kill the innocent along with the guilty? Abraham knew he absolutely doesn’t, Ge 18.23-25 and you’d think we Christians would know this too. Yet too many Christians nonetheless insist the king in this story represents God, and that he’s pretty darned wrathful… instead of love. Revealing, of course, they don’t know God as well as they claim. Nor Jesus, who reveals God as he truly is.

    So if the king’s not God, but he is the kingdom, what’s the parallel here? Is it that God’s kingdom is angry and vengeful and only seeks power? Well… certainly the civic idolaters in Christendom do. But no, the point Jesus is trying to make is in his moral at the end. The rest of the stuff in his story is not gonna have an exact correlation between the activities of God’s kingdom, nor certainly God’s people.

    But I will say those people who were invited to the wedding feast, who defied the king and his servants, do have some similarities to antichrists who want nothing to do with Jesus, his teachings, his kingdom, his followers, his God, anything. They still abuse and kill Jesus’s servants in nations where Christianity is a minority. They will receive judgment for it eventually. Meanwhile Jesus still offers ’em chances, much like the king sending his slaves to call ’em to the wedding feast yet again. Food’s ready! You’re still invited.

    Open to all… but you gotta be prepared.

    Most Christians don’t know how to deal with the underdressed guest at the end, who gets thrown out of the party and into darkness, weeping, and teeth-grinding. Those last three adjectives are commonly used by Christians to describe hell. So this is apparently someone who got into heaven, and shouldn’t have. But he’s been found out, so out he goes.

    If you wanna take this parable literally… well, here’s the part where Christians put a pause on literalness and deliberately overlook the implications. Because somebody snuck past God. Somebody got around the heavenly security guards, got into the wedding feast, and was there getting his unbeliever stank all over the banqueting table. Y’know they ate with their hands back then; so here he is getting his dirty unwashed pagan fingers two knuckles deep into the hummus. Probably double-dipping too. So does this mean people could potentially get into heaven who need to get found out and tossed out? What if—yikes—you’re one of those people?

    First, relax. Second let’s back up a few verses. In verse 8 the king points out his chosen guests weren’t worthy; in verse 9 he orders his slaves to go get anybody and bring ’em to the feast. Verse 10, they do so, and “gather everyone they find on the roads, both evil and good.” Jesus deliberately said πονηρούς τε καὶ ἀγαθούς/ponirús te ke agathús, “evil—and also good” to point out the slaves definitely brought evil people to this feast. Not necessarily deliberately, but to make the point they weren’t being particular. At all. Everybody was welcome. No prejudice, no discrimination, not even commonsense: Everybody.

    Because everybody is welcome in God’s kingdom. Because we don’t get in on goodness. We don’t merit our way in, earn our way in, rack up enough points to get in; we don’t have to be born into the right tribe, caste, class, or country; we don’t have to first get ritually circumcised. Jesus died to save the world, so the world can come in. That’s the point of this, and the Dinner Party Story, opening up their respective celebrations to everybody who will come.

    But.

    ’Cause yeah, there’s a but. One which Christians tend to skip, because we’re so fixated on the awesome message of grace, and how we’re saved by it. And Jesus does teach we’re saved by grace; absolutely everybody is invited to these banquets, remember?

    But Jesus does expect that once we’re in—once we’ve become the recipients and beneficiaries of God’s grace, once we’ve been included in his inheritance and are granted God’s kingdom—we live holy lives befitting our new status. We don’t take God’s grace for granted and remain the same dirty sinners we were before. We get fruity. We obey our Lord’s instructions and put on his lifestyle… kinda like putting on your good clothes to attend a wedding.

    Years ago some Christian interpreter found out an ancient middle eastern king gave clothes to his people so they could dress more appropriately for a celebration. Hence a number of commentaries claim this was what the king meant by “Fellow, how’d you get in here not wearing wedding clothing?”—as if all middle eastern kings did this. But we’ve no evidence any king but the one did this; it’s a fluke, not a common custom. More likely the guest knew, as everyone knew, you wear your best to a royal function—and he didn’t. He had better, cleaner clothing. As was proven by the fact he “was struck silent”: He didn’t speak up and say, “But master, I’m dirt poor and have no other clothes”—he did, and didn’t wear them. He had no excuse. So out he goes.

    When we stand before Jesus at judgment, the Lambs and Kids Story makes it sound like he’s not gonna bother to ask us to explain ourselves, much as we might really want to at that time. (I’m particularly amused by the pathetic excuses Keith Green offered in his song “The Sheep and the Goats”—“Oh Lord, that wasn’t our ministry Lord; we just didn’t feel led, y’know?”) He’s already decided which group we’re in. And if we really accepted his offer of salvation, really trusted him to save us, really acknowledged him as Lord, we’re gonna have tried. Christians who don’t even try, and don’t see why they even should try, aren’t legitimately Christian.

    They’re the people who are gonna want to complain to Jesus after he returns—they wanna know why they didn’t get raptured along the rest of the Christians. (Assuming they even acknowledge he’s really Jesus. ’Cause if they didn’t get raptured, they’re gonna presume it couldn’t really be the rapture.) They’re gonna make such a stink, he’ll kinda have to have them cuffed, feet and hands, and thrown outside—where it’s dark, and where they’ll rage at him because they think he owes them something. Based on what? Their own prideful egos. Nothing more.

    Matthew regularly points out, in both the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s parables, Jesus expects a lot of his followers. He’s saved us so that we needn’t worry about sin and death, and can solely concentrate on following him, without worrying we might slip up and lose our salvation. We’re not gonna lose it; apostasy means you deliberately quit, not unintentionally do something which cancels out God’s grace. But if we never even begin to follow Jesus, never develop any sort of relationship with him, never heed the Spirit… you’re not yet Christian. You never even got started putting together your wedding-appropriate clothes. It’s gonna make you stand out at the wedding like a man in a dog costume at a dog show.

    So repent!

    The Murderous Vineyard Workers Story.

    by K.W. Leslie, 08 November

    Mark 12.1-11, Matthew 21.33-46, Luke 20.9-19.

    Most Christians think of Pharisees as the bad guys in the gospels, ’cause of how often Pharisees objected to Jesus, Jesus objected to them right back, and how Pharisees conspired with others to get Jesus killed.

    Thing is, that’s only some Pharisees. Just like how the gospel of John showed Jesus getting opposed by “the Judeans” (KJV “the Jews”) —it wasn’t all Judeans, but some Judeans. He got along just fine with Nicodemus, Lazarus and his sisters, the guy who lent him the room for Passover, and lots of other Judeans; and he got just as much pushback from his fellow Galileans! Likewise not all Pharisees objected to Jesus. Ever notice how Jesus frequently taught in synagogue? Synagogues were a Pharisee thing; nobody but Pharisees had synagogues. Those Pharisees accepted Jesus. Likewise all the Pharisees who followed him (though sometimes poorly) after he was raptured, and became the Christians of the early church.

    And the Pharisees weren’t the only bad guys. There were the Sadducees, Judea’s ruling class. In the Galilee there were the Herodians, the people who were perfectly happy to keep the Herod family in power, usually because it benefited them personally. And of course there were the Romans, who eventually killed Jesus.

    When Jesus tells this story, it’s not just to Pharisees. It’s to members of the Judean senate: “The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders” Mk 11.27 who ran Jerusalem and Judea under the Romans’ occupation, whose job was to keep the peace lest the Romans kill them all. They considered Jesus a disruption, and Jesus considered them… well, what he calls them in this story.

    He compares ’em to vineyard farmers who are utterly rebelling against their boss. Because the vineyard, they figured, was theirs. And the fruit was theirs. And the boss was never gonna return to deal with them, so they were free to run things however they liked, with no consequences. You know, pretty much like our elected officials run things now, despite the people who elect ’em.

    Mark 12.1-11 KWL
    1 Jesus began to tell the Pharisees parabolically,
    “A person plants a vineyard, puts a wall round it,
    digs out a winepress trough, builds a watchtower,
    gives it to farmers, and goes abroad.
    2 In time he sends a slave to the farmers,
    so he might get fruit from the vineyard from the farmers.
    3 Taking the slave, the farmers beat him,
    and send him away with nothing.
    4 Again, the master sends another slave to them;
    they punch that slave in the head and insult him.
    5 The master sends another; that one they kill.
    He sends many others; some they beat, some they kill.
    6 The master has one beloved son, and sends him to them last,
    saying this: ‘The farmers will respect my son.’
    7 These farmers tell themselves this: ‘This is the heir!
    Come! If we kill him, we’ll be the heirs!’
    8 Taking the son, they kill him
    and throw him out of the vineyard.
    9 So what will the master do with the vineyard?
    He’ll come and wipe out the farmers, and give the vineyard to others.
    10 Didn’t you read this writing?—
    ‘A stone which the housebuilders reject:
    This is made into the cornerstone.
    11 This is made by the Lord,
    and to our eyes, this is amazing.’ ” Ps 118.22-23
    12 The senators were looking to have Jesus stopped,
    yet were afraid of the crowd.
    For they knew the parable he told is about them.
    Abandoning him, they left.

    In all three synoptic gospels, the story comes right after the senators challenge Jesus in temple by asking him who sent him, and Jesus challenges ’em right back by asking them whether John the baptist came from God. Mk 11.27-33, Mk 21.23-27, Lk 20.1-8 They pretend to not know the answer; Jesus knows they totally do, ’cause they’re dirty hypocrites. They’re the same sort of hypocrites who killed the prophets, and in five days they were gonna sentence Jesus to death too, and have the Romans crucify him—thus fulfilling that part of the parable. The rest, where the boss wiped out the farmers, would be fulfilled in 37 years.