Drinking Deeply

Friday, November 30, 2007 at 11:05 PM

Mark: Who do you say that I am?

So I tried to blog as often as possible about Mark this last month because I was reading it a lot. I think it would be worthwhile to summarize what I think the Gospel is about. I've kind of touched upon it a little bit in an earlier post, but here's like a repeat.

In the center of the Gospel - there's this fabulous interaction between Christ and his disciples -

Mark 8
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
And I think this passage is just a great summary of the Gospel. It opens with God declaring to the world through the baptism of Jesus that Jesus actually is no mere man, but is the very Son of God. Throughout the rest of the Gospel, we see how Christ has come to fulfill that ministry, declaring to all the nations that they must repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. This message is not a message devoid of power, but one filled with authority of God. Christ heals, Christ preaches, Christ calls.

He demonstrates sumpreme mastery over the writings of God, accurately refuting the Pharisitical interpretations and setting forth what actually was the proper interpretation. He trashes man-made traditions opposed to the glory of God. He casts out demons, he heals, Christ is obviously no mere man.

Yet, in spite of all these things, the only people (?) that really understand who Christ truly is during his ministry are the demons, who recognize him and fear him. Other people wonder if he's posessed by demons, use him as a lucky rabbits foot, look to him for mere physical sustenence. Of course, there's true belief there too, but it seems like no one really recognizes Christ as the Son of God. And if they do (like the Mark 8 passage), they don't understand the ramifications (Peter gets rebuked right after the above passage for not understanding what Christ's purpose was for).

And Christ suffers through their unbelief. He endures the unbelief of his apostles, who don't realize that He is the bread of life, the living water, the giver of life. He endures through the unbelief of Israel, who don't recognize their King when He comes. And He endures through the unbelief of the pharisees, who see him merely as a threat to their own power and crucify him for that.

And He does this why? To serve His people, to lay down his life on behalf of many. (Hah, Limited Atonement!). Now isn't that just crazy? That God of very God, one in essence with the Father, possessing eternal power, steps down into earth to declare the Kingdom of God is here, and then dies to bring the Kingdom to His people? Forsaken by the Father that I might be brought in? What?!

So the question for you, and the question for me, is "Who do you say that He is?" Was he just come crazy guy who said some interesting and useful things? Was he a perpetual liar who somehow got lucky enough to live through some close calls? Or was it the very Son of God, come down to earth with all power and authority of God, come to give His life as a ransom for sinner so that they may be free from bondage? Was He just a good example? Or something much more?

It's crazy that one person who gets it doesn't get it when Christ is healing everyone, but gets it when he dies. "Truly, this man was the Son of God."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 6:55 PM

Jesus Christ, Punk

Over and over throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus not only flouts established "traditions" and rejects man-made laws, but actually actively goes out and acts in a manner that he knows will get him in trouble.

This in in particular struck me yesterday -

Mark 3
3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, [1] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
The Pharisees watch Jesus to see if he would "break" (according to their traditions) the Sabbath. And what does he do? All the other times he pulls the crippled man out of the crowd, away from everyone else and acts in secret (almost), telling the man not to tell anyone. But this time, he gets everyone's attention by summoning the man in front of everyone and asking the Pharisees a question.

And what happens? The Pharisees are so blinded by their tradition they don't even know what the right thing to do is. Their hearts are hard.

So what does Christ do with hardened hearts that are ready to execute someone who breaks the Sabbath? Does he pull them aside and explain how actually, doing good on the Sabbath is a good thing and not a bad thing? Does he sit patiently so as not to cause other people to "stumble" to heal on Sunday instead of Saturday?

Of course not, "stretch out your hand" and stumbling pharisees who want to execute him be damned (literally!). Ba-bam!

Yeah, often we are to be patient, but sometimes we just ought to get angry when they ought to know better.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 12:51 AM

ESV failings

As much as I love the ESV, there are definitely a couple places where I wish the translation were a little different.

!!! And it seems like the ESV agrees, the text that I have in my bible is different from that of the text online -

Mark 8:34 in my bible - "And he called to him the crowd with his disciples."

Mark 8:34 on ESV online - "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples"

The moving of the words "to him" after the object makes the sentence flow much smoother. I translated that verse in Greek the other day and I think the reason why they were together is because that one phrase "calling to him" translates one word in Greek, distinct from the "to call" but much more a "summon" or maybe "gathered." Unfortunately it's hard to keep the 'call to him' because that adds words that aren't really there, but hey, translation isn't a one-to-one onto mapping. ::shrug::

Here's a second one, which my housemate tells me is an idiom, but one that simply is confusing to me -

Mark 14:18 "...as they were reclining at table and eating"

Reclining at table? blargh, I don't like. The Greek word is (according to zhubert at least) translated - "(recline) at table, be a dinner guest." I guess it's just hard to translate one-for-one.

Yeah.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 5:08 PM

Every knee and every tongue

Over and over again as I read Mark, I am struck by how much Jesus demonstrates his authority over all things.

In particular, it's crazy how much authority Christ has over demons, so much so that the Pharisees accuse him of being in league with Beelzebub (Mark 3:22-30). Demons beg Him to have mercy on them, but he doesn't show mercy! (Mark 5:7) Are the demons any less deserving of salvation than men? Certainly not, we've both sinned against a holy God, and earned the wages of death, but God has decided to save only one group (and even then, a subset). That's election!

But that's another topic. Here's what I wanted to post about today: Isn't it cool how the demon's response in Mark 5 seems to be a (partial?) fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23?

Isaiah 45:23
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
Mark 5
5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. [1] 2 And when Jesus [2] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess. Some will do so unwillingly in rebellion, but it will happen when Christ comes again, and has begun to happen with Christ's inauguration of his kingdom on earth with his earthly ministry.

Psalm 2:12
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
May we always be mindful of the time to come! Cherish Christ today and not fear facing Him tomorrow! Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 9:21 PM

Difficulties with Mark

Though I feel like the past month of reading through Mark has been of great blessing to me and has cleared up a lot of questions, it has also raised a lot of questions that I can't quite figure out, or left unconfirmed some questions that I have a guess about.

Here's one -

Mark 12 -

18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man [5] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

What always throws me for a loop in this passage was the argument for the resurrection. How is God saying to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," supportive of the idea that people will be raised?

My best guess is that Jesus is saying "God does not say, 'I was the God of Abraham' and therefore Abraham still lives today," but I will be the first to concede that such an interpretation comes as an observer reading this 2000 years after the fact, knowing that the passage is used to prove the resurrection, but if I were to come across that passage in Exodus, I certainly would not think "oh this proves the resurrection!" Yeah, always lots of questions.

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Friday, November 23, 2007 at 10:43 PM

Common grace

I'm as a whole not a big fan of calling something "common grace." This is not to say that God is not kind to unbelievers. He sends the sun and the rain upon the righteous and unrighteous alike. Yet I don't like the term "common grace" because it sounds like there are things that happen that God blesses the unrighteous for no reason whatsoever, that's the whole "How can God be just and not crush us?" thing with propitiation.

Instead, my answer to the "why is god kind to the reprobate" has been two-fold, "because his mercy will lead to greater condemnation for the reprobate." Piper gave a great prooftext for this at a conference -

Romans 2
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
My second answer was that God preserves and is kind to the reprobate as an act of kindness to His people. This probably could be called "common grace" because it's a grace to His people that has an effect common to all. Today I noticed a text that seems to support that idea -

Exodus 23
29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.
God is speaking to the Israelites and telling them to drive out the ungodly of Canaan. He says that he will go before them and fight for them. Yet, even though His anger burns against the Canaanites, He does not crush them immediately but allows them to live so that the wild beasts would not multiply against Israel, thereby protecting Israel from another danger. This act of grace to Israel turns out to also be a kindness to the Canaanites.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007 at 2:27 PM

Even if they all fall away, I will not

Or so says Peter. I'm always struck by how arrogant and stupid the disciples are. Over and over, even though they walked alongside Jesus, saw His miracles, heard him explain his parables, they did not believe, or boastfully believed they were faithful and yet were not.
Mark 14:31 - But he said emphatically, "If Imust die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.

Mark 14:50 - And they all left him and fled.
Indeed, apart from the grace of God, we all would have fled that fateful night.
Luke 18:8when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 9:30 PM

Fearing the righteous

Mark 6
19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
Whenever I read this I'm blown away by the boldness and holiness of John the Baptist. There's a guy presumably in camel hair and a leather belt telling the King, "ummm no, you are not sovereign, you cannot have your brother's wife as your own."

There's no hesitancy about wondering whether or not preachers of the word should pronounce judgment about someone else ("but we love one another!"). No claim to a "separation of church and state." No need to dress things up to appease the King or the crowds. He just acted out of biblical convictions and faced jailtime for it.

But because of his holiness and zeal, Herod feared John. When was the last time I acted in a manner that sinners actually feared me? Shoot.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 10:46 PM

Not born of man

Ok, so I've been trying to post something I've learned from Mark everyday for the past few days. Today's an exception, but it was so huge I just had to post it just to get it down before I forget. I was really excited.

John 1
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, [2] and his own people [3] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
When I read this passage in Greek, something that struck me was that in verse 13
was that when it speaks of being born "not of the will of man" the word for "man" there wasn't anthropos, which denoted general mankind, but was actually aner, which was the masculine "man" opposed to "woman." It's used in verses like "each man ought to have his own wife." What always puzzled me about it was whether or not the "aner" had significance. After all, John had already spoken about not being born of the will of "flesh" which was the general word that John often used for humanity weakened by sin. It seemed redundant to speak of "flesh" and "man" separately.

Today, as I was listening to a sermon by R.C. Sproul on Genesis, I finally made a connection that makes sense!

Isaac wanted to bless Esau and not Jacob. Abraham thought he was going to bless Ishmael. In both cases, God wanted to bless another. Later on, Joseph wants Jacob to bless Manasseh and not Ephraim (Genesis 48). In all these cases, we discover that the promises are given not by blood, not of flesh, nor the will of the father, but by God.

Whoa

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at 12:03 AM

Having eyes, I see

I think it's so awesome how simple some things are... once I get it. There have been a lot of passages that I simply did not understand before. Not because it was too complicated, or too intricate, but simply because I ... just didn't get it. It now seems so clear and obvious I'm surprised I didn't catch it before.

Mark 8 is one such example -

14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” [2] 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts 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 broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

I had always read this passage and been like "umm, actually Jesus, no I don't." I didn't understand the talk of the leaven of the Pharisees (though I knew it was bad), nor did I understand why Jesus was saying these things. What prompted this? I had always thought Jesus was saying "why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread" because there were more important things to worry about (like the fact that the very Son of God was going to be crucified at the hands of men!), but that explanation never really fit the context, so oftentimes I was just perplexed.

But as I kept reading this passage, something clicked, and it really was just a lot simpler than I thought.

They don't have bread, and what was Jesus rebuking them for? Not believing that He could provide. He provided for the crowds (twice!) and he could provide for them. Beware of the leaven, the unbelief of the Pharisees. Do you not see?
If Christ could feed so many, why are you so worried about not having bread for just the twelve of you?

To which I reply, "oh duh!"

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Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 8:19 PM

Poured, not immersed

Mark 1
8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John the Baptist about his ministry. He baptizes with water, and Jesus will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit.

By looking at Acts, we understand when this actually happens.

Acts 1

4 And while staying [1] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with [2] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

And what happens in Acts 2?

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested [1] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

They are filled with the Holy Spirit. Divided tongues of fire appeared and rested on each of them. The room wasn't "filled" with the Holy Spirit and each person was immersed in it (though the sound did fill the room). Instead, how does Peter interpret it? He points us back to Joel
"And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,"
Pouring, no need to be immersed.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 10:05 PM

Suffer not the children

Continuing on a related topic to my previous post on baptism.

Mark 10

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

In this passage, we see Jesus rebuking the disciples for not permitting the children to come to him, for "to such belongs the kingdom of God." While I don't think I can argue from this passage that children of believers ought to be baptized, I think the passages leads to very strongly in that direction. The text is clear that not only "professing children" can be brought to Christ, but all children (or specifically, those of believers).

Who are these children? It seems clear (v. 13) that these were not just stray children that were wandering the streets, but rather children of those who actually believed in Christ (which is not to say that they were "saved", for it seems that such a term is fairly broad, see John 2:23-25, where many believe in Jesus, but He didn't believe in them).

What were the disciples rebuked for? They were rebuked for preventing the children from coming to Christ, or more specifically, rebuking the parents who were bringing their children. The children in this passage are wholly passive.

Of these children, it is spoken "to such as these belongs the Kingdom of God" which is a very strong statement indeed. But these were just kids, they didn't even know their right hand from their left. They may not have even been able to speak. And they were being brought, not professing faith themselves! But it is "to such as these" belongs the Kingdom of God.

Why? Because they know nothing better. In fact, it would seem that they know little at all. It is without continually entertaining doubts and wandering away that they are brought. There's no where else for them to go! And for us, we must renounce all things, count it all as loss, and receive Christ, sometimes not even coming by ourselves but led by the hand or carried by the arms. That's why I see it as totally appropriate for parents to bring their children before Christ, calling upon Him to bless them, and trusting Christ that it is to "such as these" belong the Kingdom of God. Does that mean baptism? I think so, but that's another topic.

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at 12:48 AM

Many washings

One of the arguments that occur between Baptists and Presbyterians is over the mode of baptism as well as the appropriate receiver of baptism.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith reads (Ch. 29:4) -
Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance.
In contrast the Westminster Confession of Faith (Ch 18:3) reads that -
"Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person."
Which I think is properly interpreted that baptism is rightly administered (not only by dipping) but also by pouring or sprinkling, though the grammar seems ambiguous.

There are two concepts that Baptists often point to in their argument for immersion only. One of them is the meaning of the word βαπτίζω, which Strong's does (in their favor) write means "to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the New Testament) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism." Their other argument is that if baptism is a union with Christ's death and resurrection, then submersion in the water and raising up out of water rightly represents Christian union with Christ, and pouring or sprinkling does not.

I'd like to deal with the first reason, from Mark again. I love Mark.

In doing so, I'm also arguing against Strong's interpretation as well, but hey, if Scripture speaks, then it doesn't matter what everyone else says =).

Mark 7
7:1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash [1] their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. [2] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches. [3])
I need to include the footnotes here too, because they show us what's going on in the Greek -
[1] 7:3 Greek unless they wash with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing
[2] 7:4 Greek unless they baptize; some manuscripts unless they purify themselves
[3] 7:4 Some manuscripts omit and dining couches
And this argument flows straight from the footnotes. I notice that the NIV doesn't even have footnotes remarking the meanings of the words! Let me just make another plug for the ESV. =)

verse 4, footnote 2: "unless they baptize" - If we check the greek, we find that the verb for baptize is actually in the text. So the Pharisees and the scribes were baptizing their hands (with a fist!). Ok great, that certainly could include immersion.

But the next sentence I think pretty clearly rules that out -
And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.
We find that they did not only baptize their hands, but also their cups (ok that's doable), pots (difficult, but still doable), copper vessels (seems to be even bigger than pots, getting a little difficult now), and dining couches (well near impossible to be immersed without a great deal of effort).

I will readily concede that there exists a textual variant that dining couches were not originally included, but that seems to be the easy explanation out (and contrary to a basic premise of textual criticism, which was that the more difficult reading was more likely). But if dining couches were there (and that seems very likely), then it would seem that baptizo cannot mean exclusively to immerse, but must include a broader semantic meaning which allows for dining couches to be "baptized."

So that's my argument for a wider semantic range to "baptize" than simply "full-immersion"

This is not to say that the second argument (imitating Christ) may have credibility, but only that I don't find the first one conclusive. Of course, I have an argument against the second one too, but not this post.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 11:12 PM

Mocking God

I was reminded of this passage during a time of great frustration. It was/is a blessing to me, and I pray that it would be the same to you in times of struggle.
Galatians 6: 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Many times we look at this passage and think of the consequences. Don't be deceived, you'll be punished for your misdeeds, so fear God and keep His commandments. But Vincent Cheung made a point at the end of one his articles (http://www.rmiweb.org/other/godnotmocked.pdf), that the passage does not just stand as a warning against believing that we can get away with sin, but also as a warning against believing that we will not see reward. To do so would be mocking God.

So do not be deceived. Let us not grow weary in doing good. He is there, and He is not silent.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 11:25 PM

The Hidden God

To unpack one aspect of my last post a little bit, about how Christ reveals himself to some but not to others, I'm going to go into another part of Mark on the purpose of parables.

Though many believe that Jesus told parables in order to make the Gospel accessible to the common people, this was actually far from the case. far from using parables to make the Kingdom of God more understandable, Christ used parables to keep "hidden," and in fact prevent people from coming to him!

Mark 4 begins with the parable of the sower, and then in verse 10 we get to the purpose of the parables.
10And(J) when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11And he said to them, (K) "To you has been given(L) the secret of the kingdom of God, but for(M) those outside everything is in parables, 12(N) so that

"they(O) may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they(P) should turn and be forgiven."

In this passage we find that the reason for the parables is not for Jesus to connect with the people, but rather in order that he might remain hidden. The people that are actually permitted to hear and see truly are only those that Christ tells everything to and interprets everything to. (Note, this is not to say that there are times when the meaning is so obvious that even the blind pharisees see it, see Mark 12 and the parable of the tenants). This also seems to undermine the whole "sincere offer" aspect of the Gospel. It is clear that if God really desired all to come to Him, there would be no reason to speak in parables at all. (Christ commands all to come to Him, but only those that He wants to come are actually able.)

The difficult part of this passage isn't as much the interpretation as much the application. There are certainly some things we ought not to do, or maybe to be more exact, ought not to claim this passage is in support of (like claiming that we ought to tell stories in sermons to better "reach" the audience because Jesus did it). But does this passage mean that we ought to make the Gospel confusing in some regards? I'm not entirely sure how this passage fits in with Paul's desire to "become all things to all people in order that he might win some." (1 Cor. 9:22)

There is however one application that I can think of coming out of this passage, and also specifically from that parable. We should not lose heart when some do not respond to the Gospel. It is Christ who hides Himself or reveals Himself to them. Let he who has ears, hear.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 11:12 PM

Did Jesus speak Greek?

Sometimes when discussing various Gospels and their consistencies (or inconsistencies), the question arises as to if Jesus actually spoke Greek (the language of the Gospels) or if the Gospels are a translation of what he actually spoke (those who hold that he did not speak Greek usually believe he spoke Aramaic).

There's a lot of research done on this topic, and a quick google-search brings up a couple of interesting articles.

For me personally, I'm not committed either way right now, though I lean heavily towards the belief that Christ did indeed speak Greek. This is all, once again, from rereading Mark. It's not conclusive, but here's why I'm leaning.

It comes down to the explanatory scope of the two hypothesis regarding the two passages in Mark where Christ is quoted as speaking in Aramaic. Now, my pastor says that there are places where it is recorded that Jesus spoke "in Aramaic" (namely, that there are places where it makes a special case pointing out that here he speaks in Aramaic), but I can't seem to find one. But here are the two places where Jesus does speak in Aramaic -

Mark 5:41 (Little girl, arise) and Mark 15:34 (My God, why have you forsaken me?).

The question for me is "which hypothesis fits the two texts better?"

If we assume that Jesus normally spoke in Greek, we have an easy explanation of Mark 5:41 (maybe it was the language the girl understood), but we have a little more difficulty with Mark 15:34 (It's not like that's the only language God understood). My best hypothesis was that Christ was (once again), fulfilling the "let he who has ears, hear" idea one last time, where the secret of the Kingdom would be hidden from some and given to others. Most of the crowd did not understand, but it seemed that the one centurion did. It's not clearcut, but at least it is possible.

With the other hypothesis however, if Jesus normally spoke in Aramaic, we can explain the Mark 15 passage by saying that usually Mark translated, but here he did not because he wanted to explain the crowd's confusion regarding Eloi and Elijah. But I cannot even begin to conceive of why Mark quotes Jesus in Aramaic instead of just Greek like he has everywhere else if Jesus normally spoke Aramaic.

So because of that difficulty, I'm leaning towards Greek, but maybe reading other Gospels will change my mind. I'd love to know what others think, if they're still reading this blog. =P

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Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 11:47 PM

Fulfilled prophecy

More gleanings from Mark -

One of the members of my church is very convinced postmil and partial preterist (not to be confused with a full preterist position).

But anyway, I was reading something today in the Gospel of Mark that made me seriously consider what he was saying. Here it is -

Mark 13 begins -
13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Now, the text in the ESV actually doesn't read like that, because it includes a paragraph heading breaking verse 3 from the rest of the text. But when we read it together, it flows so clearly. When is the destruction of the temple? When the signs come, wars and rumors of wars, birth pains. And continuing on, Christ continues his discourse-

...

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

And all of this is in the context of the destruction of the temple. Makes me seriously consider what my friend was talking about! And as I continued to read, I was surprised again.

In Mark 14, Jesus has been captured and is being interrogated by the high priest.
60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” [7] 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
And verse 62 blew me out of the water, because after reading Mark, I remembered the close parallel with chapter 13:26
26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
Crazy huh? I can really see how people would make the argument that this prophecy has already been fulfilled. Makes me really wonder just how much prophecy has been fulfilled. After all, in the OT, a great deal of their prophecy was fulfilled during their lives, why not the same case with those who lived during Christ's times?

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Saturday, November 03, 2007 at 10:02 PM

Suffering Lord

If I might commend to my readers one practice for their personal study of the Word, it would be to, every month, pick a book of the Bible and read it through over and over again, once a day if possible. I picked up this idea from John Macarthur a while back, but only started implementing it about a year ago.

It's probably best with shorter epistles, but you'd be surprised at how quickly time will fly as you read. It's also not as useful with the longer books, simply because I felt like I lacked the time, but one day, Lord willing, I'll have the opportunity to simply read through some of the longer narrative passages.

But anyway, it has been this habit that has really helped me understand how people come to describe various books. Philippians is definitely the epistle of joy in the midst of suffering. It is mind-boggling how often the theme of joy is brought up, especially realizing the context. Romans is the Gospel to the Gentiles. Jude demonstrates the necessity of contending for the faith, because without it, we are utterly bankrupt.

Through this habit, I've also realized how out of context I take some verses, and how wrongly applied I took others. It has opened up a world of insight (I definitely don't think Paul wrote Hebrews) and enabled me to remember books better (Daniel begins with 6 chapters of narrative and then 6 of prophecy, and the Aramaic transition isn't directly in the middle). I've found myself really seeing God's Word as more and more of a whole, with big themes running up and down through it. Very very cool.

One thing I've noticed in Mark, in just the first three days of this month is that it really isn't about the "Suffering Servant," as much as it is the "Suffering Lord," or maybe the "Suffering Servant-Lord."

In Mark, the book isn't as much about how Jesus goes out of his way to serve people as much as it is about how Jesus displays His authority. He teaches with authority. He casts out demons with authority. He heals with authority. He has authority over the waves, over food and all creation.

And the second half of the book, where Mark zooms in and focuses on the last few days of His life, we see how Christ lays aside all this authority to suffer for His people. Yes, the greatest act of service and humility, so the title "Suffering Servant" isn't wrong, but this act has much greater significance because Christ is so much greater than just a slave, He is LORD! He's not a highly trained butler with remarkable healing powers, He is God and King, Lord of Heaven and earth, and He has come to serve and ransom His people.

And that just blows me away. It gives me a great example of humility and it calls me to live in a manner that follows Jesus. It challenges me in my pride and pushes me to understand the magnitude of Christ's humiliation. D'oh is an understatement.

I've also noticed just how bumbling His disciples are. They're just utter idiots and fools. They don't understand Christ's parables. They don't understand that Christ is Lord. They don't understand that He's come to suffer and die. You'd think that Christ would have chosen better!

But this gives me hope as so often it seems my walk toward God is more a stumbling in a vague direction toward the light, underwater, but you can't tell because of how murky things are. If God was willing to be patient with those as weak as the Apostles, there still remains hope for a sinner such as me.

So love your Bibles, read it and hunger after it. And may it lead you to a deeper hunger and longing to know Jesus Christ that in beholding, we may become like Him.

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at 2:35 PM

Without holiness

Was reading Holiness by J.C. Ryle and blown away by this passage - Italics his. I would highly recommend the book.

Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in heaven. The book of Revelation says expressly, "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie"

I appeal solemnly to everyone who reads these pages, How shall we ever be at home and happy in heaven, if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now?

Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit down? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?

Now perhaps you love the company of the light and the careless, the worldly-minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure-seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven.

Now perhaps you think the saints of God too strict, and particular, and serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. There will be no other company in heaven.

Now perhaps you think praying, and Scripture-reading, and hymn-singing, dull, and melancholy, and stupid work - a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and a weariness; you could not possibly spend more than a small part of it worshiping God. But remember, heaven is a never-ending sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest not a day or night saying, "holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," and singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in an occupation such as this?

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