Faith of the Apostles 6

CHAPTER SIX

Prayer or Politics

We are looking at one who was obviously well educated, literate in at least three languages, including the classic Hebrew, a logical, reasoning individual. Intellectually, he was far superior to his contemporaries. His knowledge of the Law was perfect. Spiritually, he was the embodiment of God’s most high prophets.

He was so compassionate that he risked his own safety by going to the mentally and physically ill without hesitation. He was forgiving of mankind, though he despised their sins, and commanded them patiently to, “…go and sin no more.”

He was well aware of the spirit within himself.

“And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned about in the press, and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

And he felt sadness for those he cherished, who could not answer his call.

“When Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”

Gentle, yet powerful, Jesus also knew anger, and on more than one occasion. He was often more than irate with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, knowing that he placed himself in greater danger each time he challenged the priesthood.

“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. The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

“… it points to a perfectly human, normal feeling of resentment on Jesus’ part at their inhumanity, bigotry, and fanaticism.”

The Interpreter’s Bible, falls short of Jesus’ emotional state. The word for ‘anger’ used here is, ‘orges’. The meaning of this word is, ‘anger, together with the desire of revenge, (from the Hebrew, to kill, and all the tumults of passion which terminate in killing…)”

He was often angered by those who manipulated God’s word and misused God’s house of worship.

“And when he made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves; ‘Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.'”

And his anger was sometimes turned on those closest to himself.

“But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are not on the side of God, but of men.'”

He taught men to honor the law, which seemed to have been a major theme of the Gospels. He taught us to keep the law, but tempered it with mercy.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

“And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, And said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded for a proof to the people.'”

For others, he offered a command that seemed stern and uncompromising.

“You heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old, ‘Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment;’ but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment…”

Here we have an excellent example of the danger in offering up ‘free lance’ interpretations of languages. The Greek has completely misquoted God’s word and its intended purpose, for the commandment does not say, “Thou shalt not kill”, but rather, “Thou shalt not murder.”

Jesus himself stated that he did not come to bring peace but conflict, dissension, and opposition; father against son, mother against daughter. He also said he did not come to bring peace to the world but a sword. But every effort has been made by the stewarts of this sect to have us believe that only a spiritual connotation should be taken of Jesus’ words.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

This same statement is repeated in Thomas, and there is no mistaking Jesus’ meaning. These statements are political in nature!

“Many possibly think that I have come to throw peace upon the world and they do not know that I have come to throw divisions upon the earth, fire, sword, war. For there shall be five in a house: three shall be against two and two against three, the father against the son and the son against the father….”

When John had been thrown into prison, his disciples come to Jesus with the strangest question.

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Interpret this as you will, John knew Jesus quite well. They were related, they were familiar figures. Jesus has been to see the priest, he had been baptized by him in the ritual of purification, he had been announced by John. John was well aware of Jesus’ ministry in the north, why would he ask such a question other than to find out if he was going to ‘take the job’?

Was Jesus going to assume the role of leader in a nation that had none, in a nation that was in the midst of open revolution against Rome and Herod? In a nation that was heatedly involved in civil strife over the position of the priest-king in Palestine. As has been noted before, many were opposed to this continued, hand-me-down aristocracy, and it had divided the people.

“Nor was all quiet among the Jews themselves. The excesses of Antiochus in his attempt to blot out all things religious had led to a momentary all-out policy of outraged opposition. But once religious toleration had been accomplished, many had lost interest. The growing dreams of the leaders for political independence were far from being widely shared. To many the continued spectacle of their high priest crusading at the head of mercenary armies was disquieting……there arose a gradual but deep-seated opposition to the royal house.”

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand…”

We may also make an additional note here that this is Jesus’ answer to being accused of deriving his power from, ‘the prince of demons’, of being possessed of a demon. It more likely indicates the position of Palestine in its division concerning the priestly aristocracy which had become a pawn to Rome and a Hellenistic Judaism.

“It would be natural to use Beelzebul as a name for Satan, though this is not done in Jewish literature.”

A famine also afflicted Syria and Judea at this time, and then came the several events that we have already studied. These are additional provocations to the advent of the year 29 A.D., and the appearance of John the Baptizer, and Jesus and his disciples.

With these events in mind and the culmination of not only a revolution against Rome and Herod, but a civil war that split Palestine over the priesthood, it is right to note Jesus’ comments on the state of affairs in Palestine. This is a political observation, not a religious statement, out of an obvious awareness of the nation’s circumstances.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

The reference is to the scribes saying that Jesus worked his miracles through the power of Satan. The response from Jesus makes no sense, for the evil one would do anything to confuse and mislead God’s children. Note, The Temptation, to see the evil one’s power on this earth, even over the mind of Jesus, whom he did tempt.

“A nation divided against itself cannot stand.”

“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Here, the entire weight of the subject is laid on Jesus’ works of exorcising. But Jesus knew as well as any of us should, that Satan would destroy his own if it fit his plan of worldwide deception. The power of the Evil One is sufficient to heal, raise the dead, or to destroy his own agents if it will aid in the end result of his conquest of God’s throne.

The truth is that the affair described in Mark is weak and without character. The true nature of Jesus’ remarks would seem to serve the state of affairs in which Palestine and all of Syria-Judea found itself, far better.. The following statement seems to give this argument even more strength. In the midst of this ‘confrontation’, real or imagined, Jesus brings up the following parable.

“But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Within the context given, this statement makes little sense. However, in regards to Palestine’s political situation, it makes all the sense in the world. How does one weaken a strong man enough to bind him? If the man is Judea, then dividing it against itself in civil strife, finding it weakened by discord and inner turmoil, will allow another power to invade it and take it over.

Mark would have us believe that the entire dissertation took place because, “….. they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.” This in regard to Jesus. The theologians of the church make note in the Interpreter’s Bible that lays even greater weight to Jesus’ political motivations.

“It may be suspected that the saying in its present form, has been modified -i.e., sharpened – in tradition; it may indeed be a controversial elaboration of the Q saying in Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20, which Mark omits. Clearly Mark is at pains, in vs 30, to connect the saying with the preceding controversy, though an unclean spirit is somewhat weak as a reference to Beelzebul, the powerful ruler of the demons. Both parallels omit the verse, and it has been thought to be a later gloss.”

We are peering through a window onto a world that was looking for the coming of Messiah, a new leader to defeat their enemies and return the children Israel to their former glory. In Palestine, they were looking for someone to lead the nation in revolt against the Herod’s and the armies of Rome. In Jesus, they found their human figurehead and attempted, by every means possible, to pluck him out of his appointed mission and to crown him as a king.

In this, much has been lost to us of God’s revealed prophet and minister, for if nothing else, he was as Hebrews tells us:

“…a son’ of God, and surely God’s Christ.”

Jesus also refers to the destruction of the Temple. Why? Was it pure revelation, or was it a statement of fact? The world he lived in was a world of absolute violence where life had no value, and the damage at the Temple was evidence enough of the times.

The Pentecost riot in Jerusalem, as we have discussed, took place in the Temple proper and thousands were killed including Romans and Herodians. The cloisters of the temple were burned out and destroyed, and a good part of the building had been damaged extensively.

Jesus did not visit a beautiful house of worship in the holy city, but a partially destroyed building which had become the center of a civil battle and a revolution. At that date repairs had not even been started, the scars remained as stark evidence of the slaughter.

In like manner, Jesus continued the orthodox ban against the Samaritans. Even here, contradictions continue within the Gospels.

“These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans…”

“Intermarriage with Samaritans was forbidden; and the Mishnah says, “He who eats the bread of the Samaritans is like one who eats pork” (Shebiith 8:10).”

In Luke, Jesus acts in conflict with the rule of the orthodoxy, but in Matthew’s Gospel he acts with the orthodoxy in refusing to deal with the Samaritans. He orders his disciples not to have anything to do with the gentiles or the Samaritans, and this was late in his ministry. The Gospel stories are contradictory at best. If Luke knew the Jewish custom, then he chose to defy it.

Even our best theologians show Jesus avoiding any contact with the Samaritans. This as late as his entrance into Jerusalem.

Obviously, the continuing rift between the Jews and the Samaritans was a part of the lives of Jesus and his disciples. Josephus gives us some insight into the disparity between the two sects which occurred during the procuratorship of Coponius.

“As the Jews were celebrating the feast of unleavened bread, which we call the Passover, it was customary for the priests to open the temple-gates just after midnight. When, therefore, these gates were first opened, some of the Samaritans came privately into Jerusalem, and threw about dead men’s bodies in the cloisters; on which account the Jews afterwards excluded them out of the temple, which they had not used to do at such festivals…”

Jesus would have been aware of the event that occurred about 10 A.D. And even at the end of his reign as procurator, Pilate had a great number of Samaritans killed in a riot with them near the city of, Tirathaba. Jesus would have had good reason to advise his disciples as he did in, Matthew.

“Jesus enters Jerusalem from the East, having come down through Perea and thus avoided Samaria, as the good Jew was supposed to; Samaria is never mentioned in Mt. (except in the prohibitive command, 10:50, or in Mk.”

As for the story of the good Samaritan in Luke, the Interpreter’s Bible once again is at odds with the evangelist.

“Luke has a special interest in Samaritans, and he represents Jesus’ attitude to them in a much more favorable light than does the tradition in Matthew (cf Matt. 10:5). Some interpreter’s have therefore maintained that Luke, or his source, has revised the parable by the substitution of a Samaritan for an Israelite as the third character. Originally the conduct of a Jewish layman was contrasted with that of the professionally religious priest and Levite. It has been argued that Jesus, because of the antipathy of Jews for Samaritans, could hardly have spoken of a Samaritan who made regular trips from Jerusalem to Jericho and who was on good terms with the landlord of an inn.”

Most assuredly, Luke might have been willing to change the original story with his good friend, Paul, and his mission to the gentiles in mind. But most importantly, Jesus is shown to be very human in his feelings toward others of diverse cultures and loyalties. In all of this, it is obvious that Jesus was a man of emotional extremes, emotions that were often on the surface.

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it…”

“Jesus wept.”

“Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me…”

“And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Yet he kept his faith, his knowledge of God, and went on toward a fate he knew only too well. It did not take a great imagination to know what lay before him, and for many of the same reasons that it had befallen John.

“And from that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed.”

Regardless of his intent, these appointees of Rome turned every word of his into a political statement. Every crowd that gathered to be healed and taught through his perfect knowledge, was seen as a threat of rebellion against the authority of Herod, the priesthood, and Rome. And in the end, his path led him to that great city, Jerusalem.

“O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolute.”

Luke 13:34, repeats this statement exactly, restating the 35th verse exactly as the 38th in Matthew.

“Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

At his triumphant entrance into the city at that very Passover, the crowds hailed him with the prophesied announcement, and the moment was fulfilled!

“…Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.”

“And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee!”

“And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethpage, to the Mount of Olives… ”

Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the last time. Obviously, he had visited the city many times, for he was familiar with the city and with several of the citizens who, it turns out, were very good friends. For one, Zachariah and Elizabeth may have still been alive, or at least their relatives. Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, lived in Bethany as well as Simon, who was known as Simon the leper.

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.'”

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Luke also mentions Jesus’ knowledge of the two sisters, but it is brought up in a different vein.

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a village, and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching…”

Here we have two more women who could easily have been disciples of Jesus, and neither the sisters or their brother were paupers. And again, Simon the leper, whom Jesus knew quite well, for he visited in his home.

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper…”

But with all that had been going on, with danger surrounding him, and with a knowledge of what end might lay before him, why would Jesus venture into the lion’s den? Did he believe that he could reform the Temple, or perhaps he actually believed that he was to be the living sacrifice for all mankind. Was he even concerned with mankind other than the lost sheep of Israel? One opinion is presumed by Christian theologians.

Was Jesus aware of his sacrifice, and its meaning of dying for the sins of others that modern Christianity has given it?

“To give his life as a ransom for many introduces a new idea as a climax to the section. It is true that Jesus’ primary interest was not in interpreting his own vocation (cf, Cadbury, Peril of Modernizing Jesus, pp. 135-145). On the other hand, he probably went to Jerusalem prepared to give his life, if it should prove necessary, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”

In fact, ancient Rabbinical thought serves to assure us that, ‘the death of the righteous atones for others’.

This Jewish doctrine could easily be transferred to Jesus’, as were many other traditions, but in as far as our use of the doctrine, there is no factual evidence that this was Jesus thought or purpose. What we have is a continuing ‘tradition’ that has formed our present day theology.

“The framework of the synoptic Gospels is based on Mark, and Mark knew of only one visit to the Holy City… it seems likely that Jesus had been there more than once during his public ministry, especially since Mark contains indications that he was well known there.”

“One can only speculate as to the purpose of this last visit… At any rate, according to the sources, he realized that it was dangerous to make the journey…”

As usual, we have little to guide us, save what later generations wrote after the fact. One must keep in mind that it was not a failing on the part of the Apostles to record history. Far less than one percent of the population could read and write, which includes the Apostles.

Peter, as we know, reportedly employed a scribe whom we know as, John Mark. Not one of the twelve is referred to as being the group’s scribe, or of recording the events that befell them. No one person seemed to have that responsibility, and why should they? The events that took place were for their time and for them. They had no means of knowing what future generations would do with those three years, and what the figure of their teacher would become over two thousand years. And so the history we do have is second hand at best.

Too much of it is conjecture and the personal opinions of people who were never witnesses to the acts or teachings of Jesus, or the Apostles. Still more of it is addendum, it was added, not for the sake of historical data, but by those who were interested in forming a body of theological philosophy around the glorified person of Jesus. This, basically, is where Paul’s doctrine comes from, his interpretation of hearsay information.

Jesus knew people in Jerusalem, and they appeared to be ready for his visit. We can pretty well ascertain this fact from the ‘secret agent’, type of, ‘signs and passwords’, that abound in the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

“Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied and a colt with her… If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord hath need of them…'”

“Zahn suggests that the owner of the ass was one of the disciples, who put the animal at Jesus’ disposal. This would indicate that he had friends in Jerusalem.”

If this were true, Jesus would not have had to tell the disciples where to go and what to do to find, and obtain, the animals.

As with many passages in ancient text, not just the Bible, many persons, places, and events go unidentified. It is not that the writers of those text did not know what they were referring to, those who were privy to their journals understood what they were talking about, so why bother to write it down? It is only our own knowledge which is lacking after the passage of two thousand years. In this case however, ‘the village opposite you’, would seem to be rather obvious.

Without stretching the imagination, and taking into account that Bethany has become a common name in the Gospels, it was probably that village, and the ‘one Jesus loved’, Lazarus, who was the owner of the ass.

There is also the upper room which was made available to Jesus and the twelve, in most secretive circumstances.

“And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them;

‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The teacher says, where is my guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples”

Who would have provided for the room, the vessels and utensils for the meal, the meal itself? Common sense would suggest, Lazarus.

We must be impressed with the secrecy that Jesus chose in setting up certain signals that would best introduce a, James Bond thriller. How often would one find a man carrying a water jug, that being the task of the women of a house? And what sign would tell him that those he had met were disciples of the Teacher?

The obvious point is that Jesus did know many, and was known by many, in the Holy City. If they had not followed his career those three years, they were certainly aware of the great entrance that had been made for him through the city gates. It was given away by Mary’s anointing him with oil, both events trying to introduce a, ‘king’, yet proving deadly just days later. Here, not religious beliefs condemned him, but the political desires of others which finally brought his ministry to an end.

At this point in time, not one of the disciples believed in a messianic concept, nor was there a germ in their minds of Jesus becoming a martyr. We do know that Jesus was well aware of the fate that might befall him because of the acts of others.

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying…”

We have already noted the secular meaning of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people’s cheers. The anointing was also symbolic of those trying to persuade Jesus to be their leader, a kingly leader in their struggles against Rome and the priesthood. Jesus, however, seems to be saying that he is aware of the honor the woman was trying to bestow upon him, but in doing so, she had condemned him to death at the hands of his enemies. It was one more stroke against him.

“The gist of this story is that an unknown woman anointed Jesus as Messiah (cf. Bacon, Story of Jesus, pp. 239-41). Like the spreading out of the garments at the entry into Jerusalem (21:8) and the other acclamations (16:16; 20:30-31), it indicates that many of the common people wanted Jesus to take over political control of the nation. The woman may even have hoped to force Jesus’ hand.”

There were also his own repeated warnings to the disciples.

“And he began to teach them that the son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed…”

Once again we must ask if Jesus had precognition of the fate that would befall him? Was he aware of the certain facts, and the reason doctrine applies to them? Once again, Christian theologians deny the validity of tradition.

“…the quality of his martyr death is neutralized, and his heroism is made unreal and reduced to the mere historic performance of an assigned role, if he foresaw in advance the full details of his passion…”

And though they feel as I do, that Jesus was aware of the danger he faced by going into Jerusalem at this time, but…

“…that he predicted the detailed events that were to occur there is difficult to believe.”

Jesus entered Jerusalem surrounded by a mob.

“Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city stirred saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.'”

Again we must reiterate that the prophesied moment that Jesus had spoken of to his disciples had been fulfilled.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”

And now, this prophecy of old had been fulfilled, and for once a prophecy concerning Jesus that was spoken of by an Old Testament prophet, had come to pass. The Messenger of the Covenant had arrived and from the Gospels it would appear that the people were aware of it. Jesus’ mission seemed to be no mystery to those who lived two thousand years ago!

Note that no one called him god, nor did they proclaim him the only begotten son of god, nor was he one of three bodies celebrated within the trinity. There was not even a dream of such theologies, and there would not be for centuries, however, here was the great religious figure who was come to cleanse the temple and the priesthood. Here was the appointed prophet of God, and if more need be said, those miracles that Elijah accomplished had been repeated in Jesus’ ministry.

“The crowds would naturally consider Jesus as a prophet, his riding into the city and his cleansing of the Temple, suggested this role.”

I would say here that it not only ‘suggested such a role’, it fulfilled prophecy.

“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver…”

But if Jesus’ complaint and action was to seek a cleansing of the Temple, it was clearly seen by those who wanted to, as a rebellion against the priestly aristocracy. He had already spoken out against the continuing abuse of the priesthood by those who held power through it, and he had warned the people and his disciples that the nation could not stand divided by such a struggle

“If Jesus had any special purpose in riding into the city, it was to make it clear to all beholders that he came for peace and had no intention of exercising force… Jesus took no part in the fanatical nationalism which in the years 66-70 led to the destruction of Jerusalem.” 285

“Though Jesus wished to show that he had no intention of being king, some of his enthusiastic followers thwarted him.”

I would have to wonder why he instigated his grand entrance into the Holy City. He was the one who decided to ride, raising himself above the main course of the crowd. It was Jesus who told his disciples to take possession of the ass for him, and he told them how and where to find it. Is Jesus as innocent as theologians, two thousand years after the fact, would like him to appear?

Riding into the city surrounded by the crowds would seem to indicate something other than the fact that he was coming in peace. His actions afterward in cleansing the Temple and confronting the priesthood with its sins, would argue just the opposite.

He spoke of the civil strife caused by the priesthood and told others that it had to come to an end. He cautioned others not to follow the example of those Galileans who rioted, and died as martyrs, but he also challenged the core of the priesthood, made a mockery of the sellers and changers of money at the Temple. He openly decried the practices of those who hated him and plotted his end. This does not depict the timid, peace loving lamb that our current theology demands.

In truth, however, he was far less a threat to Rome than to the Temple and the high priest. The cleansing of the Temple was an act of high treason against the government of Jerusalem, Judea, and Palestine, for from it came the authority, religious and worldly, of God’s law. Jesus, however, did not contend with the law, but the manner in which the priesthood used it.

“This high-handed action could not have been ignored by the authorities. At the very least, it was a prophetic act which condemned them, and this helps to explain why they denounce Jesus to Pilate as a revolutionary.”

Jesus spent his entire ministry advocating an adherence to the law. He did not protest the law, but man’s interpretation of it, his manner of invoking it to satisfy his own ends. To the priesthood, it had become a means of securing power, influence, and wealth. He despised all of its abuses.

It is very possible that the meat of Jesus’ contention with Jerusalem is centered around chapter seven of Mark.

“Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed.”

This simplistic point starts with ‘clean hands’, moves to, ‘washing cups, pots, and vessels of bronze’, then to honoring God and the Law of Moses. The argument spreads rapidly from the easiest of questions into areas beyond the scope of the layman.

“And he said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast to the tradition of men.”

Jesus even goes so far as to accuse the agents of Jerusalem of;

“…making void the word of God through your traditions which you hand on. And many such things you do.”

Jesus rejects the scribal tradition in principle, but in doing this, Jesus did not reject the law, or the word of God. He rejected men’s use of the law, and their teachings. In effect, he attacked their ruthless and unending search for power by using religion to serve their own ends. There is no question that when challenged, Jesus spoke out against the priesthood, and they had no trouble in seeing it as a rebellion against their political institutions.

Rome appointed the High Priest, Herod, and Pilate. Criticism against any of these was an attack against Rome. It is immediately after this, when those Pharisees who were friendly to him warned Jesus that those very powers were about to move against him, that Jesus left for Tyre and Sidon. He was, without question, seeking to avoid an arrest by Herod’s forces.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time, the priesthood had been long in planning his end, as the scriptures have noted. In Matthew, Jesus’ attack is merciless and takes up all of Chapter 23.

He adjures the people to;

“…so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do…”

He calls them hypocrites, blind guides, and blind fools. He condemns their practices, their teachings, and their motives. He calls them robbers and murderers.

And all of this is done where they are strongest, in the Temple in front of the worshippers and the people of Jerusalem. The debate begins with Matthew 22, and unleashes Jesus’ wrath in Chapter 23. The Pharisees and the Sadducees are embarrassed, silenced, until even a lawyer is put to shame.

Jesus has done enough in his ministry to this point for the priesthood and Herod to label him a revolutionary. Any charge would do if it got him out of the way. He has openly set himself against them, and shamed them publicly. The scriptures bear witness to these facts, and also to the plots being developed against him. And for the Herodians, not the least of their efforts was to report the activities of the, ‘risen John’, to their master.

“Jesus left the Temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings around them. But he answered, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”

Though it were the truth, and one did not have to be a prophet to see what all the civil strife and riot was coming to, Jesus could have said nothing that would have been more inflammatory. The scars of armed revolt were still present in the broken and burned cloisters of the Temple, and this man dared to threaten even more destruction? Who knows what ear heard this statement? History records it in his trial before the priesthood. It was deemed to be nothing less than insurrection, a direct threat against the Temple, and its ruling body.

There was nothing in Jesus’ religious teachings on which the priesthood could fault him. What he did and said, including being hailed as a son of God, was neither illegal, unlawful, or out of the ordinary. Anyone who understands the religion of the Jews as it was practiced in Jesus’ day, would be aware of this fact.

In the scriptures, there is nothing stated that could have been used to claim a charge of blasphemy against him, let alone to find him guilty of that crime. The extent of Jesus’ condemnation was purely political, despite what later evangelists might insist.

It bears repeating, for no matter what theology we build up around the figure of the man, as a church or as individuals, history does not choose the right or wrong of man’s actions, it only reports the facts. There was no spiritual consideration given to his actions by his enemies. And for those who insist that history is invalid, then they invalidate the very scriptures they pretend to defend, for the Bible is a complete history from the Creation of all things, to the beginning of that greatest of man’s endeavors.

“He cautioned them, saying, ‘Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.'”

He challenged the Pharisees, Sadducees, the scribes, Herod and his court. He challenged their teaching and their seats of power. In their hearing, he spoke openly of the destruction of the Temple.

“Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless?”

The people of Jerusalem had risen, and would rise again, against Herod and Rome as they profaned the holy places of Israel. This included the Holy City, and the Temple. There was no end to the list that Jesus used to reprove the leaders of his time. An example may be found here.

Jesus speaks of Bethsaida and Capernaum being cursed, why? Many works were done there, he took his rest there with Peter and the fishermen that he knew. Capernaum, however, was made a Roman city. Could this be a reference to all the Herodian and Roman cities that were taken from the Jews and renamed? Certainly a reference to, Tiberius!

Galilee was a gentile area, Greek, not Jewish, the center of the Decapolis. Jesus and his family were part of a minority religious and cultural group.

The majority of cities, and The Sea of Galilee, have all been renamed with Greek and Roman titles, an outrage that surely seethed within the Jewish mind. And here, as has been well documented, lay the fermenting seditionists that waited to spark the great revolt, the Galileans.

“For three generations before the great war of 66-70 A.D. Eastern Galilee had been a center of armed resistance (according to Josephus).”

As an aside, we must point out that the picture of a gentle, peace-loving, condescending savior is not to be found in the original text of the synoptic Gospels. That lamb does not exist!

FEATURE: Roman Religion

Explore the core beliefs of Roman Religion, beyond the mythology, in our section Roman Religion.

 

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