WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 4

 Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City (from here)

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (from here)

This is the fourth installment in a review of John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man? The previous three installments can be found by clicking on the links below.

Here we will consider chapters 7 and 8. Chapter 7 is about how Jesus taught us to love even our enemies. Chapter 8 concerns how Jesus established the limits of government power.

Jesus Taught Us To Forgive

Hatred is a normal human emotion.  When someone hurts us or opposes our designs, we grow angry. Fueled by anger, our hatred can easily consume us.

What does it mean to be consumed by hatred? Ortberg does not ask that question, but Chapter 7 certainly provides the beginnings of an answer. He speaks of curses still heard across millennia.  He describes our instinct for forming and taking sides.

Mostly, however, Ortberg describes what Jesus taught about forgiveness and how His new ideas slowly changed our attitude towards vengeance.

In Chapter 7, Ortberg highlights an example of forgiveness, how a grieving mother forgave the murderer of her son. Yet what sparked my imagination was Ortberg’s interpretation of the feeding of the multitudes in Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 8:1-10. Without an understanding Biblical history, there is no way to appreciate what comes later in Mark 8.

Mark 8:13-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod

13 And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”

They said to Him, “Twelve.”

20 “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?”

And they said, “Seven.”

21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

Can we put ourselves in the sandals of Jesus’ disciples? Jesus questioned more than his disciples’ lack of faith. What is the significance of the numbers twelve and seven? When Jesus fed the the 5000 mentioned in Mark 6, Jesus fed 5000 Jews on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. On the other hand, in Mark 6, Ortberg believes Jesus fed 4000 Gentiles on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in a region called Decapolis. The descendants of the Canaanites populated Decapolis. Thus, Ortberg argues that the number 12 represents the twelve tribes of Israel and the number 7 represents the seven nations of Canaan.

Where Jesus fed the four thousand is disputed, vehemently by some (see The Feeding of the 4,000 — Were They Gentiles?). Nevertheless, Mark 7:31 suggests Jesus was in the region of Decapolis and supports the belief that Jesus fed Gentile multitudes in Mark 8 (See What is the meaning of the 12 and 7 baskets left over from the feeding of 5000 and 4000? and The Feeding of the Four Thousand.

Given that Jesus’ ministry did include Gentiles as well as Jews, Ortberg’s assertion makes sense. Otherwise, the Jesus would have failed to give His twelve Jewish apostles an example we all need. His Word is for the other side too, not just our own.

Jesus Taught Us Our Best Belongs To God

What were the limits of state power in ancient Rome? Imagine living in a time and place where most people live as slaves and that everyone else except the guy in charge either has or needs a patron.

Patronage (clientela) was the distinctive relationship in ancient Roman society between the patronus (plural patroni, “patron”) and their cliens (plural clientes, “client”). The relationship was hierarchical, but obligations were mutual. The patronus was the protector, sponsor, and benefactor of the client; the technical term for this protection was patrocinium. Although typically the client was of inferior social class, a patron and client might even hold the same social rank, but the former would possess greater wealth, power, or prestige that enabled them to help or do favors for the client. From the emperor at the top to the local municipal person at the bottom, the bonds between these groups found formal expression in legal definition of patrons’ responsibilities to clients. (from here)

Who was at the top of the Roman hierarchy? Who was the top patron? That was the emperor, and he insisted upon being worshiped as a god.  If the emperor was a god, who could place limits on his power?

Doesn’t everyone know how Jesus responded to a trick question?

Matthew 22:15-22 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

One the strange things many believe these days is that Jesus was not a political figure. Ortberg explains that was not true. He begins with the story of Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, reminding us that the people welcomed Jesus as the king of Israel, not exactly the sort of thing that would please Israel’s Roman rulers.

Throughout the world, including the Roman Empire, governments use the religious beliefs of the people to exercise state power.  Hence, Rome took control of the of the Jewish religious establishment and its temple. Ortberg explains that Rome gave the Jews three options:

  • Withdraw into the wilderness.
  • Revolt and die.
  • Assimilate, that is, accept the rule of the Romans.

Ortberg reminds us Jesus accepted none of these options. Instead, He loved his enemies and offered them forgiveness. Instead, He sent His followers out into the world to”make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). So it is that Jesus conquered Rome with the idea that God is love, and we each owe the God who loves us far more than we owe our earthly rulers.

The Evangelicalism of Old White Men Is Dead?

The New York Times is where Christians should go to for advice? As insanitybytes22 points out, the answer is NO!

Nevertheless, it sometimes pays to listen to your opponents. They will tell you things your friends won’t mention. Is there a problem? Consider this observation from insanitybytes22’s post.

I do believe that some change needs to come to the Western church, to the Body of Christ. I do believe that entwining the religious right and the Republican party has created a lot of collateral damage. I do believe there is a huge unchurched church sitting on the out skirts of evangelism. I do think this election really shook things up, ripped the roof off “the church,” so to speak, tossed some dirty laundry out onto the street. I also think that’s a good thing. I am all about addressing dirty laundry and putting the fun back in dysfunction.

The Christian Right, Evangelicalism, the Religious Right or whatever it is is not a monolithic block or a distinct organization. So nobody speaks for it, and that is something of a problem. Therefore, the Christians who voted Republican each have to do their own explaining. When the New York Times and the Democratic Party start equating Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism with racism, sexism and xenophobia, we need to call them what they are, liars.

Here is my take. To the extent there is an identifiable Conservative Christian movement, the reason that movement votes Republican has to do with the Republican Party’s stand on certain specific issues. For example, lots of Christians voted for Trump because he promised to appoint judges who would respect the Constitution and because Trump is Pro-Life. Would overturning Roe v. Wade be racist? Really? How so?

Another example? Lots of Democrats rejoice that America is becoming darker in complexion. For some reason, that joy is not considered racist. On the other hand, Democrats effectively call trying to preserve America’s cultural heritage and constitutional republic racist. Why? Do Democrats ever explain?

Logic often does not have anything to do with the name calling. The object of New York Times‘ name calling is to destroy the people who oppose its agenda. Ironically, these people are behaving like religious bigots. You don’t agree with them? You must be a bad person.

See, there's this thing called biology...

First let me say with all good humor here, I am a latte colored female and forever young, so this article totally does not apply to me. I do have some affection and fondness for several “old white men” however, so there is that.

I speak of The Old Gray Lady, the New York Times, who has blessed us with this opinion piece,  “The Evangelicalism of Old White Men Is Dead.”

To give you a feel for the article, here is the first sentence, “As the election retreats like a hurricane heading back out to sea, first responders are assessing the damage left in its wake. One casualty is the reputation of evangelicalism.”

Right off the bat I want to say that is the wrong focus. Evangelists are not supposed to be focused on our worldly reputation, the favor and approval of men. We’re supposed to be following Jesus…

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WHERE HAS TOM BEEN? PLAYING HOOKY AT THE LION’S DEN

From here.
From here.

From time to time I enter into a debate. Since I don’t have much time for blogging, that sort of activity chews up my blogging time. Still debate is what makes blogging interesting. Celebrating the Word with lions can be especially interesting.

When I read ColorStorm‘s post, Circuits down but the word is good, I discovered Arkenaten taking issue with ‘s post. Whereas  argued for the truthfulness of the Word of God, argued the case for Atheism.

Since I enjoyed ‘s post and agreed, I took his side. Therefore, I expect had a great time as the center of our attention.  Nevertheless, I don’t think we wasted our time.

  •   ColorStorm says:

    You know CT, some think we waste our time by engaging so.

    But God can take our small effort, and sanctify them for His good. It is not only good for unbelievers and atheists to see the uselessness of godlessness, but for us believers to see just how far people will travel to dismiss God above all, and strengthen our faith and prove His word.

    And thx back to you for your always valuable time and commentary done so in the most gracious way.

What was my favorite comment?

  • last I checked, following Jesus was a free choice…you follow or you don’t…nothing about indoctrination in free…or so last I checked…
    and the moniker of imbecile is simply one poor soul’s opinion…
    but based on what I wonder…Is it based on your choice to be free and follow whom you so choose? Reminds me of those who probably watched Noah building that silly arc of his….no rain in sight…silly old man…imbecile some probably said…and then it rained.
    But wait, I forgot…that was just a fairy tale of indoctrination….
    silly me….

What we believe is a choice, and we each have the right make our own choices. What we do not have the right to do is force others to suffer the consequences. So it is that Noah could have been wrong, and he would have wasted decades of work, but it was his time to use as he chose.

What comment of my own pleased me the most? Well, some of them got rather lengthy. So I will just quote of a portion of one comment, but first let’s hear from .

The biblical character , Jesus of Nazareth never, ever once said he was Yahweh (your god) and there are several places he not only flatly denied it, but based on what whoever wrote the gospels stated, it would be utterly absurd to suggest he was, as, for example, who the hell was he talking to upon the cross when supposedly cried out:
.” lama sabachthani”.

or who was he praying to in the the garden of Gethsemane?
Himself?
These are some of the blatantly obvious examples that show the character Jesus of Nazareth was not Yahweh.
The Trinity along with the god hood was devised by the Roman Catholic Church.
Go study some history and don’t come with your whining apologetics to me. (from here)

Here I reply to .

Why did Jesus say “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Have you ever read Psalm 22?

I read that quote, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, in the Gospels, and for years I was confused. Then I decided to study the Bible, and I finally came to Psalm 22. I was shocked into awe. Here => http://biblehub.com/psalms/22-1.htm is Matthew Henry’s explanation. Here => https://www.gty.org/resources/print/bible-qna/BQ032913 is John MacArthur’s explanation.

What happened on the cross when Jesus died? Frankly, I doubt we will ever understand, even if we have eternity to consider the matter.

That mystery is so great and imponderable that it is not surprising that Martin Luther is said to have gone into seclusion for a long time trying to understand it and came away as confused as when he began.

Some say that for a moment Jesus was split from the Father, and some disagree (=> https://carm.org/jesus-cross-father).

When I want to understand how and why Jesus suffered for our sins, both as man (Hebrews 2:14) and as God (John 14:7), I first refer to Isaiah 53. Then I read the Book of Hebrews. I believe, but I still do not understand. Mostly, I just weep when I think of it.

Consider the typical child. When our mothers gave birth to us, they suffered a price. Both our parents labored to feed, cloth, shelter, and love us. God, as our Father, paid an even greater price for us. He sacrificed His Son on our behalf.

The Trinity bothers you? Who did Jesus pray to in the garden of Gethsemane? Of course, the man Jesus prayed to His Father. The Son communed with His Father.

You want me to explain God? How would anyone? How could man explain this?

Philippians 2:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Humbled and Exalted Christ

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When people consider the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, I think many just balk. The evidence is not the problem; it is the very idea of God humbling Himself that they refuse to accept. Since they would do no such thing, they are horrified their Creator would and might expect them to do the same. The horror of humbling ourselves before our Maker, the Creator of the Universe, particularly when He loves us so much, is too much. They cannot bring themselves to stoop (as they see it) so low. So why would God? They think God models their behavior, of course.

Jesus observed both haughtiness and humility, and He explained the crucial difference.

Luke 18:9-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Pharisee and the Publican

9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(from here)

What do I find most sad about ‘s denial? Because he does not believe (apparently does not want to believe), cannot understand the Bible well. He is so busy trying to disprove the Bible that when he discovers an apparent contradiction he never seriously considers any explanation. At least, I know I once did that sort of thing. Nevertheless, knows the Bible better than most people who call themselves Christian, and that is sad.

1 Peter 3:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

If we don’t know what the Bible says, how can we give a defense? How can we say have any reason for our hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ?

THE JOY OF BEING TORMENTED?

cross.pngWhen Jesus spoke, He must have caused lots of confusion. Can you imagine trying to decipher The Beatitudes, this one, for example

Matthew 5:11-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus had yet to die on the cross. He only just begun to teach. He had performed miracles, but just who was He? Nevertheless, His followers soon saw the truth in His words. Christians did suffer for their faith in Jesus and still suffer from insults, persecution, and false accusations.

Here in the United States we are supposed to consider the persecution of Christianity a minor thing. Yet it is not. It is just more subtle.  So we get articles like this:

All this sort of talk is silly.  What is at issue is whether our we can fulfill our Christian obligations, whether the society we live in tries interfere with our duty to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

Consider two examples.

  • Do we want to educate our children in the Christian faith? Is it not obvious our government now hinders us in that effort. Over the decades, government has secularized our schools. They have practically banished the Bible, and they teach religion causes wars, including the Christian religion. Why would the leaders of our government do that? Christianity, which promotes individual rights, is an obstacle to the growth of government power, and some of our leaders crave more power.
  • Do we want the right to speak freely about our faith in public? Once that was commonplace in America, but over the years the mass media, desirous of selling sex and violence, has constantly pushed the envelope of decency. So it is that many corporate executives in the mass media, now dominated by sales people who want to use indecent behavior to mass market goods and services, feel obliged to repress Christians, who teach modesty, abhor gratuitous violence, and promote frugality.

Because sin is popular in all societies, even the United States, anyone who strives to follow the example of Jesus Christ will experience some degree of persecution. There is no point in pretending otherwise. The only issue is whether what we choose to do about it honors Jesus Christ.