Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
//Just as the majority of the Old Testament focused upon the destruction, return to, and rebuilding of Jerusalem, the New Testament was strongly influenced by the desolation of Jerusalem. In today’s verse, Jesus is seen weeping over Jerusalem, because he knows her fate. Within the same generation (forty years is often considered a “generation” in the bible), Jerusalem would be completely destroyed. General (and later Emperor) Vespasian was determined to utterly destroy Jerusalem and the Temple of the Jews.
This happened in 70 AD, and it was not a territorial war. It was a religious matter. Judaism began to be seen as a dangerous spawning bed for militant messianic uprisings, pitting God against Rome. Hence, when Vespasian destroyed the Temple and forbade its rebuilding, he retained the temple tax, forcing Jews to pay the identical tax to the Temple of Jupiter. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina, and the name Jerusalem ceased to exist in all official Roman documents by the year 135 AD.
No wonder Jesus wept, contemplating its fate. No wonder this war had such an impact on Christian writings, as Christians sought to make sense of the destruction of Judaism’s temple cult. For more about this topic, see my book on Revelation.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
//It’s surely not my intention to discredit the Catholic Church, but one of its teachings doesn’t quite jibe with the Bible. It’s this idea that Peter was the successor to Jesus, the leader of the new community of Christians. The first Pope.
This doctrine is founded primarily upon today’s verse, in which Jesus seems to designate Peter as the foundation for the new church. Never mind that this is only one interpretation of the verse (naming Peter as the rock in question). Never mind that the authenticity of the verse is disputed among scholars. Never mind that this is the only verse—not only in the Bible, but in any early historical document we’ve uncovered—which names Peter as the new boss.
The real problem is that there are many passages in the Bible citing somebody else as the head of the church. The real successor seems to be James, the brother of Jesus. Peter may have been bishop of Rome, a satellite Christian assembly in a faraway land, but James was awarded the position of bishop of Jerusalem, the central and authoritative assembly. Christianity, in every example you read during the life of Peter, was centered in Jerusalem, headed by James.
Paul writes that James, Peter, and John were the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9), but could it be that James, the first one mentioned—more than Peter, Paul, or John—as the true successor preserves the more authentic message of Jesus? Is the Epistle of James, with its doctrine of justification by works, the book we should really be reading?
by David Wilkie
Coffee with Jesus isn’t your everyday comic book. You think it’s easy putting words on the lips of Jesus, while avoiding the sacrilegious? I get the feeling that Wilkie toned it down just a little to take the edge off. He could have been much more pointed. Yet it really is as amusing as it is serious how Jesus pokes holes in our religiosity, just sipping coffee and offering advice. Jesus’ gentle sarcasm hits the mark time after time.
It’s a great book, but I have to point out a couple negatives. The print is small, and the same artwork is repeated throughout. I’m guessing there are maybe a dozen unique frames throughout the book, which differ only in the words printed underneath the character drawings. Whenever Joe, the Pastor, turns to look to the right, the part in his hair magically shifts to his left side … the wonders of mirror imaging. Obviously, you’re not buying the book for physical humor or captivating artwork. This format works well for a daily publication; not so much for a book, where the repetitiveness may begin to wear on you.
Artwork aside, though, you’ll fall in love with the personalities and their many character flaws. How like you and me they are, and how patient Jesus is with each of them! Definitely a feel-good book, whether or not Wilkie meant it to be!
And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live.
//Ezekiel, here, didn’t appear to be talking about a literal resurrection. His vision of the resurrection of dry bones relates to restoring the people of Israel back to their homeland. However, this verse in time began to play a role in eschatological dreams (For Jews, that means expectations about the coming age of their promised Messiah–some would say, the end of the world and the beginning of a new world.)
Ezekiel’s promise of a life-giving spirit became an expectation of a gift from God in the messianic age. In that day, God would rule justly, and the world would be set right. We see this hope not only in Christian writings, but other Jewish writings as well, such as in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In Jubilees 1:23, God promises “I shall create for them a holy spirit, and I shall purify them so that they will not turn away from following me from that day and forever.” Today, Christians call this gift the Holy Spirit (the third part of the Trinity) and believe the delivery of the Spirit happened 40 days after Jesus resurrected, on Pentecost.
This is a little confusing to many, because if the Spirit’s arrival is meant to signal the beginning of the age of God’s rule, wouldn’t that mean the millennium has begun? Are we, or are we not, living in the messianic age? Where are all the resurrected people?
Paul seemed confused as well. In too many verses for me to quote, Paul indicates that we are a new creation, infused with the promised Spirit, and thus the age has begun. Paul seemed to live his life in fervent desperation, carrying the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth, knowing that any minute, the resurrection would occur. How could it not, if the Spirit has arrived? Read again today’s verse in Ezekiel.
So where did Paul err? Was Paul wrong that there would be a resurrection, or was he wrong when he claimed the Spirit had arrived, or was he wrong to tie the two events together?
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
//This verse appears at the very end of our Bible, warning us not to tinker with any of the words in the book of Revelation. This threat surely doesn’t refer to the Bible as a whole, but to the covenant of Revelation … a covenant of a new heaven and new earth to come.
Yes, I said “covenant.” Revelation is more than a book of promises. It purposefully closes in covenantal language. Whether or not you believe everything in Revelation will come to pass in a literal manner, its author (somebody named John) claims a direct message from Jesus and frames this message as a covenant.
Compare the language of today’s verse, for example, with the covenant in Deuteronomy 4:2:
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
It is now firmly established by scholars that the structure of the Mosaic covenant–particularly as written in Deuteronomy and the Decalogue–reflects a common structure of established covenants of that day. Here’s another example, from the Hittite treaty of Tudhaliyas IV and Ulmi-Teshub:
Whoever … changes but one word of this tablet … may the thousand gods of this tablet root that man’s descendants out of the land of Hatti –Kline, Structure of Biblical Authority, p. 29
The logical conclusion is that Revelation was intended as divine scripture, a covenant between Jesus and his followers.
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
//In the Gospel of John, there is no trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (the ruling council of the Jews). But the other three gospels tell of this trial, a sort of kangaroo court, in which Jesus is condemned by the Jews prior to turning him over to the Romans.
One wonders how this could be true. The likelihood of Caiaphas (the high priest) sending messengers around Jerusalem, gathering the 71 members of the Sanhedrin for a hurried assembly, seems remote. But this is the least of the problems. The story told by the Synoptic gospels simply doesn’t jive with Jewish law … at least, not according to the Mishnah.
1. The Sanhedrin is not permitted to meet at night.
2. The Sanhedrin is not permitted to meet during Passover.
3. The Sanhedrin is not permitted to meet casually in public, like the courtyard.
4. The trial must begin with a detailed list of accusations.
John’s version of the story, which includes none of the above, seems far more likely.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
//Who will be saved? Just how strait is this gate? This is far too great a topic for a simple answer, but it’s a question that lends itself well to the spirit of my blog: that is, raising questions for contemplation. Consider these two contradictory verses:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. –Romans 10:13
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. –Matthew 7:21
Paul seems to indicate that salvation is available to all who “call upon the name of the Lord”–believe and you’re saved–but Matthew, repeating the words of Jesus, insists this is not so. Matthew warns strenuously about “false prophets” in the world. No, it’s not enough to just call on Jesus. One must actually do something. One must do what God commands. The kingdom of heaven is reserved for “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them.”
And what must we do, according to Matthew? It turns out that this verse concludes the Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 5, 6 and 7–with its instruction for mercy, for carrying a light, for loving your enemy, and much more. Few there be who enter into this gate.
by Robert Harley Bear
What really happened during Jesus’ “lost years” between his appearance at the Temple at age 12 and his ministry at about age 30? Did he grow up in Egypt? India? Or working with his father as a carpenter in Tiberias?
Bear’s story builds upon a medieval legend of Jesus visiting Britain, perhaps under the care of Joseph of Arimathea, who was in some versions of the legend Jesus’ great uncle and a tin merchant. Maybe you’ve read Gordon Strachan’s Jesus the Master Builder: Druid Mysteries and the Dawn of Christianity. Strachan takes these legends seriously, painting Jesus as a Druid.
Bear’s rendition doesn’t go that far. It is presented as fiction based on legend, but Bear’s research is exhaustive. Bear spins a tale of Jesus’ coming-of-age years based on the legend that encourages the reader to come to his or her own conclusions on how the cornerstone ideas of the Christian faith originated in the One we’ve accepted as Lord. The book is lightly tinged with pluralism, yet in all ways respectful of Christian beliefs; I’ve no reason to believe Bear isn’t a practicing Christian. His book brings myth and legend alive with meaning, speculating about how Jesus slowly began to piece together his mission in life. It’s also a well-researched glimpse into Roman oppression throughout the land, setting the scene for Jesus’ pacifistic opposition to the Empire.
In the story, Jesus develops a special relationship with the Father from a young age, but the Father’s ways are mysterious. Jesus contemplates his role as savior of the world and how the Father’s vision of the Messiah differs from the warrior figure Jesus envisioned; he learns what it means to be born again of the Spirit; he learns how to forgive and how to respect our differences. In short, readers of Bear’s novel witness the Making of the Lamb…the one who gave up his sword to die on the cross.
It’s a fascinating journey worth taking with the young Jesus. A book you won’t soon forget.
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
//What a glorious picture this is, of God saving his people on the wings of an eagle! Does it change the picture if the word eagle–Hebrew nesher–is probably not an eagle at all, but a vulture? Note that the same Hebrew word nesher is translated differently in this verse:
The eye that mocks a father, that scorns an aged mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.–Proverbs 30:17
Most scholars agree, a more precise translation is “vulture.” A couple more samples:
Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like vultures; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. –Isaiah 40:31
He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like a vulture that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. –Deuteronomy 32:10-11
The voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
//Job, says the Bible, was the greatest, richest man of his time. And he seemed quite aware of his greatness. Someday, take a glance at chapter 29. You’ll find a Job you may not recognize.
In this chapter, Job bemoans his fall from grace, and wishes for the old days. He used to be so much greater than everyone else that as he walked down the street the crowds parted for him. Noblemen fell into a hushed silence as he strolled by. When he took his place in the public square, even the old men stood to their feet. Everyone drank up his words like rain, and cherished each of his smiles.
What did Job think of these adoring peons? Read on into the next chapter. They bray like disreputable animals. Their fathers Job disdained, for they did not deserve the company of dogs.
And now, after Job is brought low, the people mock Job instead of worship him. Poor Job.
Perhaps Job’s strongest quality was not his patience but his pride? Perhaps there was more reason than we think for this humbling act of God, bringing Job down to ashes?