Peter’s Bad Rap

Matthew 26

31“Tonight all of you will desert me,” Jesus told them. “For the Scriptures say,

‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

33Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”

34“Peter,” Jesus replied, “the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

35“No!” Peter insisted. “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

36Then Jesus brought them to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go on ahead to pray.” 37He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with anguish and deep distress. 38He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

39He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” 40Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 41Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!”

42Again he left them and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done.” 43He returned to them again and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44So he went back to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45Then he came to the disciples and said, “Still sleeping? Still resting? Look, the time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Up, let’s be going. See, my betrayer is here!”

. . . . .

69Meanwhile, as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”

70But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.

71Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

73A little later some other bystanders came over to him and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”

74Peter said, “I swear by God, I don’t know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went away, crying bitterly. (Matthew 26:31-46; 69-75, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Under what circumstances might you deny Christ? What situation would cause you to abandon the faith and completely renounce Jesus?

If you said “Never”, maybe you should re-think your answer.

In this chapter of Matthew, Peter famously states that he would NEVER deny Jesus.

In fact, Jesus tells all of his disciples that they’re ALL going to desert Him.

Peter being the brash guy he is, responds by telling Jesus that even if EVERYONE ELSE deserts Jesus, He never will.

“You can count on me Jesus….I won’t let you down…I’m not like these other losers!”

We all know how the story unfolds after Jesus is arrested. Peter is confronted three times in the courtyard by different people who all believe that he is a member of the “Jesus” party and three times, Peter completely denies Jesus.

What I find interesting is that while Peter is famous for denying Jesus, there’s an oft-overlooked verse that demonstrates that Peter is getting a bad rap.

Verse 35 says that Peter was insisting that “even if I have to die with you I will never deny you.”

The text continues, “And all the other disciples vowed the same.”!

Peter takes the blame (rightly so) but the truth is that ALL the disciples vowed that they wouldn’t desert Jesus and yet that night ALL the disciples DID DESERT JESUS.

The only reason that Peter’s failures are highlighted over the other disciples’ is because Peter boldly declares his undying loyalty to Jesus in response to his prediction of desertion while the other disciples seemingly remain silent on the matter.

What can we learn from these insights?

For starters, we have to recognize our own capacity as fallen humans to fail in our devotion, regress in our spiritual development and to even deny Jesus among others.

If these disciples could desert Jesus after walking with Him for 3 years and observing Him perform miracles and healing people, then certainly we, as fellow broken humans who don’t have the benefits of personal interaction with Jesus, have the capacity to fail in our devotion to Him and possibly even deny Him in front of others.

Secondly, we have to be aware of the spiritual nature of our commitment to Jesus and the Christian life.

Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare Himself for the ordeal He is about to experience. While there, Jesus urges the disciples to keep alert and pray as well so that they might not fall into temptation. But each time Jesus returns, He finds the disciples are sleeping.

Prayer is a spiritual activity that connects us to God. It’s not just for making requests and uploading our material wish list of needs and desires to God. Prayer is an activity that reminds us of the spiritual nature of life. It attunes our minds to the forces and temptations that may seek to derail us. In short, prayer is a means of preparation for spiritual warfare.

Peter and the disciples slept instead of preparing themselves for what they might encounter and so when the moment of truth came just hours later, Peter was not as prepared as he thought to take a stand for Jesus in front of a hostile crowd.

Prayer is an activity of dependence where we express and exhibit our need to God. If you don’t think you’re in need, you won’t be inclined to pray, or if you do pray, it is likely a meaningless spiritual activity.

Do you want to avoid the failure of Peter and all the other disciples who denied Jesus on the night of His betrayal and arrest? First you need to recognize your weakness and capacity to fall into temptation. Once you recognize your deep need, you’ll be driven to your knees, inviting God to strengthen you and empower you to follow through in obedience to Him, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night!

Reflection

When is a time you denied Jesus in front of others or failed to identify yourself as a follower of Jesus? What were the circumstances? What were the factors that led to your denial or your silence?

Prayer is vital as a spiritual practice in preparing our hearts and minds to avoid temptations and circumstances that might cause us to deny Jesus and fall away. What has been your experience with prayer as a spiritual practice? What steps can you take to make prayer more integral in your life in preparing you for spiritual conflict?

Prayer is a means for preparing for spiritual conflict. What are some things that tend to be a conflict for you spiritually? What tends to tempt you or distract  you from God?

Why do you think some Christians fail to acknowledge their ongoing need for Jesus? What causes Christians to believe as Peter and all the other disciples did, that they cannot fail or fall away?

 

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

 

A Trap Religious Leaders Can Fall Into

Matthew 21

33“Now listen to this story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. 34At the time of the grape harvest he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. 35But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.

37“Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

38“But when the farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 39So they grabbed him, took him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.

40“When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”

41The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”

42Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to see.’

43What I mean is that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. 44Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone on whom it falls. ”

45When the leading priests and Pharisees heard Jesus, they realized he was pointing at them—that they were the farmers in his story. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid to try because the crowds considered Jesus to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Jesus often spoke in parables to teach spiritual truths. In this parable, the landowner is the Lord and the farmers are the Pharisees. The servants represent the Old Testament prophets that God continually sent to warn His people, but who were constantly rejected.

In the story, the landowner finally sends his son, who represents Jesus.

In the parable, the farmers decide to kill the son because they don’t want to relinquish control and power. They don’t want to serve the owner and give him his portion of the proceeds. They want to BE the owner and keep all the proceeds for themselves.

Jesus explains the meaning of the parable in verse 43:

What I mean is that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.

The fruit Jesus is referring to is the nation of Israel’s acceptance of Him as the Messiah. Since the religious leaders were rejecting Jesus, and they used their power and influence over the people to keep the people from accepting Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus is warning them that their status as God’s special chosen people was in danger. Like the farmers in the story who were stewards of their master’s land, the Israelites were simply stewards of the message and revelation of the one true God. By rejecting Jesus, this stewardship would be taken away from them and given to another nation.

What is this other nation Jesus was referring to?

Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 which was also referenced by Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-7, in which Peter says that Jesus is building a new temple made up of those who would follow Him. Thus this new nation is not a physical nation, as Israel was, but a spiritual nation with those who believe in Jesus as its citizens. I wrote about this new temple here.

Jesus was using this parable to show the Pharisees that they were rejecting the Son because they didn’t want to relinquish their religious control over the people. Verses 45-46 indicate that the religious leaders realized what Jesus was saying about them. However, instead of repenting, their inclination is to arrest him.

This parable was directed at the Pharisees and the nation of Israel and the punishment Jesus mentions cannot be duplicated for us today. So how then does this parable relate to us in our current culture? What can we learn from it?

Though we cannot reject Jesus in the same way, and thus we cannot experience the same penalty Jesus mentions, I think there are lessons we can learn from the way the Pharisees responded to God and the revelation He was giving them.

I think one potential lesson is that there is a dangerous trap for religious leaders, or anyone who is in a position of authority over others. The trap is to think so highly of yourself that you believe the people you are leading cannot get along without you. Instead of shepherding people to follow the Lord, we can become enamored with our own voice and our own self-importance and we can become consumed with gaining and maintaining a following for ourselves.

Being in authority and power over others, as the Jewish religious leaders were, can become so addictive and necessary to our own identity that we will do whatever is necessary to keep it. In the case of the Pharisees, they were willing to kill the Messiah himself to keep it.

We’re not in a position today to kill the Messiah to hold onto our power and authority, but we may still go to great lengths to keep our positions, including lying, deception, manipulation, intimidation, fear, bribery, harassment, etc.

Reflection

In the parable, God sends his messengers to convey truth but the messengers are constantly rejected. What are some of God’s messages (doctrinal truths or commands) that you find difficult to follow and are tempted to reject?

In the parable, the outcome of the nation of Israel rejecting the Son is their stewardship is taken away and given to another nation. What do you think will be the outcome for those who reject Jesus today? How will God treat the farmers of today who continually reject the messengers, including His son, whom God has sent?

What are some situations or relationships where you have found yourself wanting to maintain power and control when you know you should release it? 

Some people will go to great lengths to maintain power, authority, status or position? What do you think causes a person to adopt an “any means necessary” policy to maintain their power?

 

Photo by Alex Gorbi on Unsplash

 

Does God Exact a Higher Standard for Rich People to Enter Heaven?

Matthew 19

16Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good things must I do to have eternal life?”

17“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “Only God is good. But to answer your question, you can receive eternal life if you keep the commandments.”

18“Which ones?” the man asked.

And Jesus replied: “‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. 19Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

20“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

21Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22But when the young man heard this, he went sadly away because he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 24I say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

25The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

27Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?”

28And Jesus replied, “I assure you that when I, the Son of Man, sit upon my glorious throne in the Kingdom, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life. 30But many who seem to be important now will be the least important then, and those who are considered least here will be the greatest then. (Matthew 19:16-30, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this famous story, a rich young man comes to Jesus and wants to know what good deeds he has to perform to inherit eternal life. It seems that many Jews of that time period believed that there were certain righteous acts that could guarantee salvation. This man wanted to know what the magic deeds were that would assure heavenly admittance.

Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments and when the young man asks which ones, Jesus repeats several of the 10 commandments.

The young man is puzzled because in his mind, he’s kept all of the commandments, so he asks Jesus, “what else must I do?”

Jesus seizes on this opportunity to show the person that he really hasn’t kept all the commandments. If it were possible for anyone to fully keep all the commandments, it would have been unnecessary for Jesus to come and redeem man in the first place.

So Jesus tells the young man that if he really wants to be perfect, or complete in his devotion to the law, then go and sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor.

The text says that the man walked away from Jesus sad because he was a person who own many possessions.

In debriefing this encounter with his disciples, Jesus says that it’s very hard for a rich person to get into heaven. In fact, Jesus makes the claim that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

So who can be saved?

This is exactly the question the disciples asked and it may be the question you’re asking as well.

What exactly is Jesus teaching? Does he really mean to communicate that it’s more difficult for rich people to enter heaven than others?

At first glance, this seems unfair and unjust, as if rich people have a higher standard they must meet in order to gain entrance into an eternity with God.

Jesus is not saying that rich people cannot go to Heaven; instead He’s making a statement about need and priority. Coming to Jesus and following Jesus is a matter of recognizing your need for Jesus and then forsaking everything else and making Him the priority in your life.

People who have a lot of possessions often have a harder time recognizing their need, since their material needs are already satisfied. In addition, if you own a lot of material possessions, you can become very attached to them. Hence, people who own a lot of things often have a harder time forsaking those things and making Jesus the center.  For this reason, it’s harder for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Look at what Peter says in verse 27:

“we’ve given up everything to follow you.”

This is the sentiment of following Jesus – giving up EVERYTHING!

It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are materially. What matters is being poor in spirit, which simply means that you recognize that you need a savior. If all of your needs are met and you’re feeling pretty content with life, you may have a harder time realizing that you’re a sinner who is in desperate need of help.

If you recognize your need for a savior then the next criteria is a willingness to make Jesus the priority. Jesus never makes selling all your possessions a prerequisite to being saved. He only made this comment to this person in order to bring about an awareness that didn’t exist before, namely, that this young man thought of himself as a person who was not a sinner, but someone who had always upheld every aspect of the Law.

The requirements and standards for getting into heaven are the same for everyone. But some people, who may see themselves as self-sufficient may have a harder time admitting a need for a savior. For people who are wealthy and self-sufficient, recognizing need and brokenness may prove to be harder than for people who are poor and more desperate.

Reflection

How are you doing with Jesus in terms of recognizing your need for a savior and your willingness to make Him a priority in your life?

What are the things that you hold most dear….those things that if Jesus were to ask you to forsake them, you might be tempted to walk away just as the rich young man did?  What is it about those things that make them so important and elevated in your life?

Peter asks a question in verse 27 – “what will we get out of it?”  What do you think most people are expecting to get out of this thing called Christianity? 

What do you think you are going to get out of Christianity?

 

Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

He is Risen Indeed!

Christianity stands or falls on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even the apostle Paul, in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, said

“and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” [i]

According to the Biblical record, three days after being crucified, Jesus overcame death and was resurrected. He then appeared to many of his followers in several different settings and on several different occasions. During this period, Jesus issued the command for His followers to go and tell the world about Himself, His love for mankind and His resurrection from the dead. It was from this foundation that Christianity began to spread throughout the Roman world.

Many who oppose the Christian faith discount the resurrection. Yet the fact remains that on the third day, the tomb where Jesus lay was empty. If Jesus was not resurrected, what happened to the body?

Over the centuries, there have been numerous theories presented to try to explain the empty tomb in a way that would make a bodily resurrection unnecessary.

Maybe the Disciples Stole the Body!

Some believe that the disciples stole the body and fabricated the resurrection story in order to gain followers in their new “Christian” religion. The theory alleges that Jesus Himself had predicted His own death and resurrection. The disciples then stole the body so that they could claim that Jesus had indeed risen.

This theory really makes no sense when you consider all of the facts. Jesus’ disciples all deserted Him when He was arrested. Why? It’s because they were afraid (see Matthew 26:56). Also, the Jewish and Roman authorities took precautions to prevent the body from being stolen.

62 Now on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver [referring to Jesus] said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. [ii]

In order to prevent the body from being stolen, a Roman guard was placed at the tomb with the Roman seal. A Roman guard consisted of anywhere from 4 to 16 men. For the disciples to have stolen the body, they would’ve had to overcome at least four highly trained military men, roll away a 4000 pound stone, and carry away a dead cadaver covered with over 100 pounds of grave wrappings.

But maybe the Roman guards fell asleep!

It’s highly unlikely that the Roman soldiers would’ve fallen asleep on duty. The Roman soldiers of the day were an elite group of fighting men who were highly trained and extremely well disciplined. The punishment for falling asleep on duty was death. Considering the consequences, it’s improbable that even one soldier would fall asleep. For all of them to fall asleep on duty at the same time is next to impossible. Besides, even if the whole guard had fallen asleep, it’s not likely that they would’ve remained asleep while the disciples struggled to move a two-ton stone away from the tomb entrance.

What makes this theory even more unbelievable is that after stealing the body, the disciples then supposedly fabricated a resurrection story for the purpose of gaining followers. What would be the motive for recruiting people to something which you knew was a lie? It’s interesting to note that none of the disciples ever denied this “resurrection story” even though for most of them, it led to their own execution. Not many people will die for something they know to be untrue. A whole crowd of people dying for something that they know to be a lie is even more unbelievable.

Maybe the Jewish leaders or the Roman authorities stole the body!

Why would the Jewish and Roman authorities steal the body? What would be their motive for doing such a thing? Neither the Jewish leaders nor the Roman authorities had anything to gain by stealing the body. Remember that the Jews were afraid of what a missing body might mean to the public. The reason they wanted to get rid of Jesus in the first place was so that they could neutralize His teachings and the following that He had. They recognized that a resurrected Jesus would not neutralize Jesus’ following, but instead would energize His cause. That’s why they had a Roman guard placed at the entrance of the tomb to protect the body from being stolen.

What if the Jews and Romans moved the body to protect it from being stolen?

If the Jews or Romans had moved the body as a precautionary measure, they could’ve easily produced the body at the first moment that someone claimed that Jesus had resurrected. Yet they never did. Christianity could’ve been diffused before it ever got off the ground simply by producing the body.

One more problem with the stolen body theory is that it doesn’t explain the many eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Jesus. Weekend at Bernie’s may have been a funny movie, but I doubt that the disciples could’ve passed a dead Jesus off as a resurrected Savior to an unsuspecting crowd.

Maybe the eyewitnesses never really did see Jesus. Maybe they were just hallucinating.

Remember that Jesus appeared to many different people on many different occasions. He even “appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time” [iii]. It’s highly unlikely that 500 people would all hallucinate the same thing at the same time. Even so, the authorities still did not produce a body to refute the peoples’ claims that they had seen Jesus.

Maybe Jesus never died in the first place.

 One of the more popular theories to explain the empty tomb and resurrection sightings is what’s known as the Swoon theory. This theory hypothesizes that Jesus never actually died on the cross, but only fainted (or swooned). Later, the cool air of the tomb revived Him. After regaining consciousness, Jesus appeared from the tomb and declared Himself resurrected to His followers.

The Swoon theory is an attempt to explain the empty tomb apart from supernatural intervention but ignores many of the facts surrounding the case.

The historical record clearly indicates that Jesus was dead, not just fainted. John gives this account of the crucifixion:

32 The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; [iv]

 Crucifixion is one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised. It was a prolonged death by asphyxiation. In order to breathe, one would have to push himself up with his feet in order to give the lungs an opportunity to expand. It was not too uncommon for some crucifixions to last for hours, as the victim would continually struggle to push himself up and breathe. Occasionally, the soldiers would grow tired of waiting for the person to die and so, in order to hasten death, they would break the victim’s legs, making it impossible to push up and breathe. Once the legs were broken, death was almost immediate.

The account of Jesus shows that the two criminals who were crucified with Him both had their legs broken but Jesus’ legs weren’t broken. This is because they realized that His legs didn’t need to be broken. He was already dead.

Maybe the soldiers made a mistake!

 Is it possible that the soldiers thought Jesus was dead but were mistaken? It’s not likely. Even though the soldiers didn’t break Jesus’ legs, one of them did thrust a spear into His side:

34 but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. [v]

 The description of “blood and water” is incredibly important from a medical standpoint because it demonstrates that Jesus was indeed dead. In discussing this topic, Josh McDowell quotes C. Truman Davis, a medical doctor:

“…there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart. We, therefore, have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that [Christ] died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.” [vi]

McDowell goes on to say, “Pilate required certification of Christ’s death before the body could be turned over to Joseph of Arimathea. He consented to Christ’s being removed from the cross only after four executioners had certified His death.” [vii]

What makes the Swoon theory particularly unbelievable is how it deals with facts of the story after Jesus was buried in the tomb.

If the Swoon theory were accurate , we would need to believe that Jesus was beaten, scourged, and whipped to the point that He was hardly recognizable. He then endured a lengthy ordeal on the cross and was even pierced in the side with a soldier’s spear. Yet Jesus did not die, he merely fainted. Though not dead, Jesus was wrapped with about 100 pounds of spices and linen. Jesus was then laid in a tomb with a two-ton stone placed at the entrance while a guard was placed in front of the tomb to protect it from robbers.

Even though Jesus was critically injured and had no medical attention or food for three days, He was able to breathe through his wrappings and regain consciousness and the strength needed to shed His grave clothes and hobble over to the tomb’s entrance. He then mustered up the strength to move a two-ton stone by Himself. Upon exiting the tomb, Jesus either slipped past the guards undetected, or He was able to overcome them in a physical struggle after which He reentered Jerusalem and rejoined His followers, who mistakenly believed that He had been resurrected.

Believing the Swoon Theory takes more faith than believing in the actual resurrection!

Isn’t it irrational to believe that Jesus was resurrected?

 It’s not irrational to believe that Jesus was resurrected because the evidence overwhelmingly supports that conclusion.

Simon Greanleaf, a man who is credited with helping the Harvard Law school achieve it’s stature, “concluded that the resurrection of Christ was one of the best supported events in history, according to the laws of legal evidence administered in courts of justice.” [viii]

While it’s not irrational to believe something that is supported by the facts, it is irrational to believe a theory that cannot be completely reconciled with the facts.

One professor came up with just such a theory, explaining that “Jesus must’ve had a twin brother that no one (not even Mary) knew about. After Jesus’ death, the twin appeared and claimed to be the resurrected Jesus.” *  Not only does this theory violate many of the facts in the case (i.e. if there was a twin, then Jesus’ body would still be in the ground. Still, no one ever produced the body, etc.), but it is harder to believe than an actual resurrection. It’s amazing the lengths to which some people will go to explain away the resurrection.

Reflection

Have you already made up your mind that Jesus Christ could not have been resurrected?

If so, how do you explain the empty tomb?

Is your explanation more believable than a resurrection itself? 


End Notes

[i] 1 Corinthians 15:17, The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.

[ii] Matthew 27:62-66, The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.

[iii] 1 Corinthians 15:6, The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.

[iv] John 19:32, 33, The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.

[v] John 19:34, The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.

[vi] McDowell, Josh. A Ready Defense. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p. 224

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] McDowell, Josh. More Than a Carpenter, Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1977, p. 97.

* This story was related by Dr. Paul Cox, a professor at Biola University, for a class on Christian World View, which was conducted for Campus Crusade for Christ. The class was held at Colorado State University during the summer of 1997.

 

Empty Tomb Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash

Is Your View of Jesus Really that Important? (Part 2)

1 John 5

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

6This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:1-10, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

There’s a confusing passage of scripture in 1 John 5 that quite frankly, I’ve been in the habit of skimming over for years because I never really understood it and I didn’t have the patience, determination or even knowledge to know how to go about determining its true meaning.

I’m talking about this passage in 1 John 5:7, 8 which states that “there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

I couldn’t even begin to explain what that really meant, largely because I didn’t have a firm grasp on the larger context of the letter. But once you understand why John is writing his letter and what the background is, the meaning of this passage becomes more clear.

If you read my previous post regarding 1 John 4:1-6, you’ll know that one of the main reasons John wrote this letter was to address and refute a false teaching about Jesus that was circulating within the church.

This false teaching asserted that Jesus was just a man and “the Christ” was a spiritual entity who entered into the body of Jesus at His baptism and left just before Jesus was crucified. Hence, Jesus and the Christ were separate individuals, not the same person. John opposed this teaching so strongly that he not only labeled the teachers as “false prophets” but he referred to the teaching itself as “deception” and even “antichrist.”

It’s interesting to look at this passage from 1 John 5 and see that right off the bat in verse 1, John says that “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”

Notice that John affirms that Jesus IS the Christ. They are one and the same person. Humanity and divinity together, at the same time in the same person. John states that belief in this specific doctrine, that Jesus is human and divine at the same time, is essential to being “born of God.” (verse 1)

In verse 5, John once again affirms the divinity of Jesus as he states that the one “who believes Jesus is the Son of God” is the one who overcomes. Referencing Jesus as the “Son of God” is an affirmation of His divine nature.

But then we come upon the sticky passage, the one that’s talking about water and blood and the spirit and testimonies and witnesses, etc.

What’s he talking about here and how does this relate to anything he’s been saying?

As I mentioned before, these false teachers were teaching that “the Christ” descended upon Jesus (the man) at his baptism and left him just before the crucifixion. Hence, they were teaching that the person who was crucified was NOT the Son of God, but just the normal human Jesus.

John’s reference to water, blood and the spirit makes sense when you understand how he’s trying to combat the view of Jesus that was being promoted.

Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3? I wrote about this in a previous post here.

Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist. Immediately after coming up out of the water, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon Jesus and God the Father audibly affirms that Jesus is His Son, in whom He is well-pleased.

So the water in this passage of 1 John 5 is a reference to Jesus’ baptism, which happens to be the point the false teachers said “the Christ” overtook the human Jesus’ body.

The blood is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion, which marked the end of Jesus’ public ministry.

The Spirit is a reference to the Holy Spirit, who affirmed Jesus’ identity at His baptism.

By referencing water, the blood and the Spirit, John is directly refuting the false teachers by establishing that Jesus was the Son of God before His baptism AND at His death.

So John is saying that there are 3 witnesses that are all in agreement concerning the identity of Jesus. There is the water when Jesus was baptized and affirmed to be the Son of God, and there was the blood when Jesus was crucified and also affirmed to be the Son of God.

John continues by arguing that the law typically required 2 or 3 human witnesses to establish a fact. Since God is greater than humans, and He has given us 3 witnesses, or facts that establish the identify of Jesus as “the Christ”, and “the Son of God”, how much more should we believe Him?

John concludes by saying that if you do NOT believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you are making God out to be a liar because He has already provided evidence (testimony) to demonstrate this truth about the nature of Jesus.

Understanding and believing these truths is critically important because if Jesus was just a man when he was crucified, as the false teachers asserted, how could his death atone for the sins of the world? It couldn’t.

Good Friday would not be so good. It would be Bad Friday, or at best, Normal Friday because Jesus’ death would have accomplished nothing and it would have been so insignificant that we would probably not even be aware of it 2000 years later!


NOTE: Have you ever wondered what makes Good Friday good? I wrote about this in a previous post and you can read about it here.


Reflection

What do you think the term “Son of God” means? What does it communicate about the nature of Jesus?

If Jesus wasn’t God, how would that impact His mission to save the world from sin? How would you explain to someone why it is critically important for Jesus to be God if we are to have any hope of our sin actually being paid for?

Do you agree with the author John who says that in order to be “born of God” you must believe that Jesus is the Christ? Why or why not? What do you think it means that Jesus is the Christ?

What modern day examples come to mind that demonstrate a false teaching or understanding of the nature of Jesus?

 

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

 

 

Does Your Understanding Of the Nature of Jesus Really Matter?

1 John 4

1Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2This is the way to find out if they have the Spirit of God: If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God. 3If a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist. You have heard that he is going to come into the world, and he is already here.

4But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won your fight with these false prophets, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5These people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6But we belong to God; that is why those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception. (1 John 4:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Does your theological understanding of Jesus really matter? Isn’t it enough to just believe that Jesus saves us?

With so many different religions and world views giving us countless versions and understandings of Jesus, perhaps you’ve heard this line of reasoning before.

If you read the New Testament, you’ll find that many of the letters addressed variant teachings regarding the person of Jesus. 1 John is one of those letters that deals with a teaching regarding the nature of Jesus that John refers to as “deception.” In this passage, John gives a litmus test to his readers to know whether a religious teacher is actually from God or whether they are a false teacher. John’s test involves examining the religious teacher’s view of Jesus against what he and the other apostles had taught.

The false teaching that was being floated around at the time was a concept that has come to be known as Docetism. That’s a big word but it basically means “to seem”. The idea was that the person we think of when we talk about Jesus was not a “normal” human being, at least not as we would normally think about it. Jesus “seemed” to be a person of flesh, but he really wasn’t.

This particular view said that Jesus and Christ were not the same person, but two different beings. Jesus was a normal human and Christ was the spiritual entity who was sent from above.

At Jesus’ baptism, the spiritual being known as “Christ” descended upon Jesus and occupied His physical body up until the point when Jesus was crucified. Hence, all the miracles and teachings were attributed to “Christ”, not Jesus.

So when you see all the miracles being done by this religious wise man, you can’t say that it was Jesus doing them. It was really “the Christ”, who was in control of the physical body of Jesus. Whereas traditional teaching on the nature of Christ taught that Jesus had a dual nature, being both divine and human, this teaching denied the humanity of Jesus. John staunchly refutes this view, even going so far as to calling it “antichrist”.

John counters this teaching in many ways throughout his letter but in this passage, he states that if a “prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God.”

Notice in verse 2 that John considers Jesus Christ to be one person. He doesn’t separate Jesus and Christ into two separate beings as the false teachers did. John’s view is that Jesus was divine and he became flesh. Therefore, the view that John and the other apostles taught concerning Jesus is that he was both divine and human at the same time.


In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God … So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us.  (John 1:1, 14)


John then says that if a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God. To acknowledge Jesus means that all of the miracles and teachings in the gospels are attributed to the person of Jesus who is the Christ (the anointed one). Remember, these false teachers attributed all of the miracles and great works to “the Christ” but not the person of Jesus, whom they viewed as a sort of bodily shell that the spiritual being known as “Christ” was occupying.

In short, this invasion of the body snatchers scenario, where Jesus’ body was invaded and occupied by some supernatural spiritual being known as “Christ”, was utterly false according to John.

According to John, denying Jesus’ humanity would put you in a category of false teacher and even “antichrist”. Similarly, denying the deity of Christ would be equally egregious in terms of contradicting the apostles’ clear teaching. Therefore, denying that Jesus was divine would also be false, deceptive and “antichrist.”

Hence, according to John and the other apostles, your understanding and view of the nature and person of Jesus is vitally important, regardless of what others might say today.

If you still doubt that our understanding of Jesus’ nature is crucial, remember that Jesus himself asked His disciples the all important question of “Who do you say that I am?” I wrote here about how it was important to Jesus that His followers understand His true identity and nature. He is not just a prophet or a good moral teacher. He is the Christ, the Messiah. He is God in the flesh, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Reflection

What has been your understanding concerning the nature of Jesus?

Why do you think the New Testament authors spent so much time refuting these variant views of the nature of Jesus?

What would you say to someone who said that it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus’ nature, the important thing is to believe that only Jesus can save? 

Jesus asks the most important question of those who would follow Him when he asks, “Who do you say that I am?” How would you answer that question?

 

Photo by Jason Betz on Unsplash

When Someone DEMANDS Evidence!

Matthew 16

1One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus’ claims by asking him to show them a miraculous sign from heaven.

2He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, 3red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious signs of the times! 4Only an evil, faithless generation would ask for a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away. (Matthew 16:1-4, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few weeks ago, I was engaged in an online discussion with an atheist regarding the existence of God. It started off civil but at one point, even after I had presented several sound scientific and logical arguments for God’s existence, the atheist chirped back that I needed to present IRREFUTABLE evidence for God’s existence, otherwise, his assertion that all gods are imaginary would stand. (Yes, the word “irrefutable” was typed in all caps)

I’ve conversed and debated with a fair number of atheists over the years and it is not uncommon for them to demand evidence, even after evidence is presented.

One person with whom I was recently conversing told me I needed to provide “evidence” for God’s existence. I responded by asking, “what would constitute evidence to you?”

Their response was that the evidence they required was the kind I likely could not provide, as they rely on science for their evidence. It was a subtle back-handed jab that implied I must not be smart enough or scientific enough to provide the “real” kind of proof that educated people who have advanced beyond the childish fairy tale stage engage in.

I proceeded to lay out an argument for God’s existence that is based on the scientifically accepted fact of the Big Bang, which states that all matter, space, time and energy came into existence at a point around 13.7 billion years ago. Since the universe is not eternal, it must be created. Anything that is created must have a creator. That creator must be something that exists outside of space, time matter and energy. In other words, the creator must be immaterial and timeless. These qualities of this creative entity accurately describe God.

What was the person’s response to my argument, which included the kind of evidence they required? This person rejected my argument and asserted that the universe itself must be eternal.

What is the point of all this and how does this relate to the passage above?

The point is that when people demand evidence and resort to arguing, yelling, and name-calling while expecting unreasonable levels of proof in order to even consider your position to be reasonable, that is a clear sign that they actually require NO evidence because they have already made up their mind on the matter.

People like this are not actually looking for honest debate or civil discourse. They are more likely looking for an argument in which they can embarrass the other person or trap them in a faulty line of reasoning.

This was the situation Jesus was in with this group of Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 16. Their issue wasn’t belief in God but whether Jesus was the Messiah. They came to Jesus, asking him to show them some miraculous sign despite the fact that they had first hand knowledge of all of Jesus’ teachings and miraculous deeds up to that point.

Jesus often spoke of the stubbornness and hard-heartedness of the religious leaders and this was just another example. Their request is the same as the atheist who declares to his audience, “if God exists, he will appear right here and right now before us on this stage”, and then when it doesn’t happen, wryly concludes, “Well there you have it folks; God must not exist!”

How does Jesus respond to these hard-hearted leaders?

Jesus tells them that just as people have the tools that enable them to predict the weather for that day, so they have all the tools to make a determination concerning Jesus and His identity. After all, they are the religious leaders and they have the Law and the prophets which give them all the signs regarding when the Messiah would come, where He would be and what He would do.

Jesus rebukes these leaders for their faithlessness and capricious demands and he tells them that the only sign they will get from him is the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Now if you don’t know who Jonah is, Jesus’ words might be lost on you.

The short version of the story is that Jonah was an Old Testament prophet who ran away when God commanded him to go to the city of Nineveh and preach a message of judgment for their wickedness. In the course of fleeing God, Jonah got thrown off of the ship he was on which was going in the opposite direction. God caused a big fish to swallow Jonah, thus sparing his life and redirecting him to the mission God had called him to.

Jonah spent 3 nights in the belly of the fish. So when Jesus says he will give them the sign of Jonah, he is referring to his death and the 3 days he would spend lying in the ground before being resurrected on the third day.

Jesus wasn’t going to respond to their request as if he were a genie who just emerged from 1000 years in a lamp. If you want evidence, look around you, there’s plenty of evidence for you to examine. But if you require evidence on demand, well, sorry, there is no dog and pony show for you. You get the same evidence everyone else gets. Jesus’ death and resurrection should be enough evidence for anyone.

Sadly though many of the people of Jesus’ day rejected this evidence just as people today still do.

Notice what Jesus did next. He left them and went away. There is no point in engaging those whose only aim is to entrap you.

When a person has already decided what they think about an issue and it’s obvious from their tone and their rhetoric that their heart is not open for discussion, then there is no point in debating or trying to reason.

As Jonathan Swift once famously said, “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.”

Reflection

When is a time in your life when you were stubborn and proud and wouldn’t listen to reason? What were the circumstances? What caused your heart to change (assuming it did)?

What are some qualities or indicators that a person has a hard heart and is not really interested in honest, open discourse? (Tone, actions, words, etc)

What do you think is the reason some people demand evidence even when it is presented? What causes a person’s heart to become hard?

What do you think are some ways we can and should respond to people who are not open to reason and demand irrefutable evidence?

 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

 

How Jesus Responds to Doubts

Matthew 11

1When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went off teaching and preaching in towns throughout the country.

2John the Baptist, who was now in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3“Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

4Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen—5the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6And tell him: ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me. ’”

7When John’s disciples had gone, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “Who is this man in the wilderness that you went out to see? Did you find him weak as a reed, moved by every breath of wind? 8Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? Those who dress like that live in palaces, not out in the wilderness. 9Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,

‘Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way before you.’

11“I assure you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the most insignificant person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it. 13For before John came, all the teachings of the Scriptures looked forward to this present time. 14And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. 15Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! (Matthew 11:1-15, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Matthew 11 contains a very strange passage about John the Baptist. While Jesus is preaching and teaching in towns throughout the country, John the Baptist hears about all the things Jesus is doing and then he sends his disciples to go and ask Jesus if he’s really the Messiah.

What’s going on here? If anyone should know the true identity of Jesus, you would think it would be John the Baptist. Remember back in Matthew 3 John was out in the desert baptizing people and he told the crowds that while he baptized with water, one would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John said this person would be so much greater than him that he would be unworthy to even be this person’s slave.

Immediately after that, Jesus shows up and is baptized by John, after which the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove while the voice of the Father affirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. I previously wrote about this baptism event here.

John had been born for the purpose of preparing the way for the Messiah. He had prepared his whole life for that moment of introducing the Messiah to a lost and dying world. He had known Jesus since birth and Jesus’ identity and mission had been confirmed to him and all those present at Jesus’ baptism.

So why is John the Baptist suddenly asking Jesus whether He really is the Messiah? If you think about it, you have to wonder why this passage was even included in the text at all. It doesn’t appear to add any new information of value to what we already know about Jesus. What then is the purpose of this odd interaction?

I think this passage demonstrates a universal phenomenon that we all deal with.

Doubt.

Imagine that. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, the way-maker appointed for preparing a path for the coming Messiah, the one who first identified Jesus as the Messiah and the Lamb of God to the crowds, the one who baptized Jesus and was a witness to the affirmation of Jesus by the Father and the Holy Spirit, is suddenly doubting whether Jesus really is the Messiah.

Why would he doubt?

I think a couple of things are happening that might help us understand.

First of all, John the Baptist had been arrested fairly soon after Jesus was baptized. In Matthew 4, Jesus goes out into the desert after His baptism and undergoes 40 days of temptation. The text says that after Jesus heard John was arrested, he began to preach (Matthew 4:12-17). So Jesus really doesn’t even begin his public ministry until after John is arrested.

Being in prison means that John cannot be a personal witness to the things Jesus is doing.

The bottom line for John is that things are not going the way he expected. He was not expecting to be imprisoned and he likely was also not counting on being sidelined while others had a front row seat as eyewitnesses to the many miracles and the public teaching of the Messiah.

When life doesn’t turn out the way we expect or hope, doubt can set in. Doubt can be so powerful that even the most stable, fundamental truths to which we’ve always held can suddenly be questioned.

Jesus’ response to John’s doubt is quite revealing.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t get angry or impatient. If it were me, I’d probably respond with a derisive, “Really bro? You know me. We grew up together. You were there when I was baptized. Remember that? And don’t you remember the dove descending and the voice from heaven? Why you gotta be a hater? C’mon man!”

Jesus is not upset and he’s not rattled. He simply responds to John’s disciples by quoting from Isaiah 29, Isaiah 35, and Isaiah 61, passages which describe what the ministry of the Messiah would look like. It just so happens, these are the exact things that Jesus is doing in His ministry.

Notice too that after John’s disciples leave, Jesus speaks glowingly to the crowds of John the Baptist and his ministry, calling him the greatest of all the prophets who had ever lived.

Jesus is not phased by John’s doubt. Jesus is not threatened or concerned by John’s doubt. Jesus does not use John’s doubt against him.

If Jesus can handle the doubt of a guy he called the greatest prophet who ever lived and who knew Jesus personally, He can certainly handle my doubt and your doubt.

It’s ok to doubt. Doubt is an expected response to unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.

But like John the Baptist, we shouldn’t wallow in our doubt. Instead, we should seek Jesus out, share our doubt with Him and allow Him to lovingly remind us of all the ways in which He has demonstrated who He is by the things He’s done in our lives and in the lives of others!

Reflection

What are some common reasons or circumstances that you think cause people to doubt?

What is a time in your spiritual journey where you doubted? What were the circumstances? How did you deal with that doubt?

What has been your response to others you know who have doubted God or Jesus or Christianity?

What are some helpful resources or steps you could provide to someone who is experiencing doubts in their faith?

 

Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

Is it Always Wrong to Judge Others?

Matthew 7

1“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. 2For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. 3And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Have you ever heard someone say this? It’s become fashionable to criticize others for being judgmental, which is ironic because when you criticize someone for judging, you are, in fact, exercising a judgment against them.

Many Christians have concluded, largely based on this passage, that we’re never to judge others. EVER. To do so would be un-Christlike and a violation of Jesus’ clear teachings.

But is that true? I don’t think so. Let me explain why.

First of all, it’s not possible to eliminate all judgments, at least not in the technical sense. To make a judgment is simply to form an opinion or conclusion based on your own personal evaluation. We do this hundreds of times a day as we make decisions.

We form opinions (judgments) about others based on our personal interactions with them and other relevant data that gives us a window into their character and their personality.

Typically, when people “feel judged”, what they usually mean is that they feel criticized or shamed for something they have done or some viewpoint that they hold.

Is it always wrong to “judge” people or be critical of their actions or their viewpoints?

Clearly, the answer is NO. If that is true, then Jesus himself violates his own teaching as he often had encounters with religious leaders in which he was critical of their teachings and their practices. So Jesus must not be saying that you can NEVER confront, rebuke or correct someone for something they’ve done or said.

Then what is Jesus saying exactly?

The key word in this passage is “Hypocrite”. Remember that we said that Jesus often had encounters with the Pharisees, whom he accused of being hypocrites on numerous occasions.

The word “hypocrite” was an acting term. Actors would play several parts in a live play and would simply wear different masks to take on different parts. So, to be a hypocrite is to wear a mask; to project an image of yourself that doesn’t match the true self.

The Pharisees were hypocrites because they made a living out of pointing out every small flaw in others while giving the impression that they were living sinless lives.

The problem with the Pharisees was their attitude. They were extremely self-righteous, thinking that they were completely blameless, while pointing out to others even the smallest infractions.

Jesus is warning against the kind of religious sanctimony in which you are critical of others for the very things of which you yourself are guilty.

This is clear from the outset as Jesus says that whatever standard you judge others by is the same standard by which YOU will be judged. If you have a standard of judging others that points out every flaw or indiscretion while giving yourself a pass on all the little things, then this is an incongruent application of standards. Jesus points out that this is hypocrisy.

So what’s the solution?

The solution isn’t to NEVER look to correct other’s bad behavior or to NEVER point out another person’s indiscretions or errors.  The solution is to confront and correct others in a way that is not hypocritical. We do this by correcting our own behavior first and by being open to examining our own errors first.

We call this humility.

By having an attitude of humility you’ll gain the respect and attention of others and they will be more likely to listen to you and value your feedback.

If we’re not humble in our approach toward others, if we are unloving or condescending as we point out their faults and indiscretions, it is less likely they will pay attention to anything we are saying to them. More than likely, their defenses will immediately go up and they probably will curtly respond, “DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Reflection

What are some situations you’ve been in that made you feel judged? What was it about that situation that caused you to feel judged?

What reasons could you give to demonstrate that Jesus clearly doesn’t mean that we should never confront others for their actions or be critical of the things they say or believe?

Based on the passage, how would you explain Jesus’ teachings on judging?

What are some things you can do to ensure that you’re not being hypocritical in your actions and encounters with others?

 

Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels

“You’ve Heard it Said….”

Matthew 5

43“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. 46If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

There goes Jesus again raising the bar on ethical behavior for everyone and creating impossible standards to live by!

In Matthew 5, commonly referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus gives a series of statements related to his views on the Old Testament Law. The Law, which included over 600 commandments was already impossible to adhere to perfectly (though the Pharisees thought they could), and yet Jesus, with a series of “you’ve heard it said….but I say” statements elevates the demands of the law to an even higher standard.

Jesus’ comments conclude with this section on love. Jesus states that the Old Testament Law commanded you to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. This makes perfect sense to most people. Why would we love those who are our enemies? People who oppose us, especially those who seek to do harm are not going to get my love, they’re going to experience my wrath. “You mess with the bull, you’re gonna get the horns!”

This of course is how our culture views the topic of love. We love those who are friendly to us. We love those who are generous towards us. We love those who serve us and help us to achieve our personal desires. We LOVE those who agree with us and affirm our positions on everything from religion to politics to pop culture.

Oh wait! That person I loved just said something I disagree with. I no longer love that person. I loathe that person. I hate that person. I REALLY HATE that person. I hate that person so much I’m going to get other people to hate that person.

The difference between our love and Jesus’ love is conditions. We put conditions on our love (I’ll love you if….or….I’ll love you as long as you….).

Jesus doesn’t put conditions on his love. He loves you even if you are not friendly to him. He loves you even if you disagree with him or even if you HATE him. He loves you unconditionally.

It’s not surprising then that Jesus calls his followers to love this same way. He tells us to love our enemies because he demonstrates love even to those who don’t acknowledge or follow him. He demonstrates love even to those who say that they HATE Him!

What is the proof God shows love to His enemies? The proof is that He gives sunlight and brings rain to everyone, not just those who are in His fan club.

Now if you’re saying to yourself, “Wait a minute. That’s impossible! Nobody could live up to that standard.”

Congratulations. You understand the point. God’s standard is perfection. It’s HIS level of righteousness we must possess and display.

When we come to the realization that we have to be as perfect as He is, then we can stop pretending that we are “good” and we can start trusting Jesus to provide a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin.

Oh yeah, and even though Jesus’ standard for love is not achievable, He still expects us to love our enemies. Think about that the next time you prepare to enter into the social media arena!

Reflection

What kinds of things tend to anger you about other people?

What are some things you’ve experienced from others that make it more difficult to love them?

Think of a person in your life that is hard to love for whatever reason. What are some tangible things you could do today to demonstrate love toward them.

What are some practical steps you could implement to begin developing love towards those to whom you’ve previously been opposed?

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash