Posts

The legality of Jesus’s trial.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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.

Image
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…”

Image
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”?

Image
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