Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where Are They Now?

My beloved Hoosiers are enjoying a decent season; even thought they were humbled on Saturday by Connecticut, and earlier in the season by Xavier. The encouraging aspect of the 2008 team is the depth and breadth of talent. The talent is headlined by freshman Eric Gordon and senior DJ White, but the talent pool goes well beyond them this year.

Still, do you ever find yourself wondering how the team would be doing if ________ was still wearing the Crimson & Cream?

Hoosier Insider Terry Hutchens has posted an update on the whereabouts and goings-on of six former Hoosiers who could still be warming up in the candy-striped pants if they had stayed. The post’s title is Whatever Happened to…?; here is the list of players:

  1. Joey Shaw
  2. Xavier Keeling
  3. Ben Allen
  4. Robert Vaden
  5. Patrick Ewing, Jr
  6. Cem Dinc

It’s an interesting and brief post, which any IU fan would find worthwhile. Of the six listed, the only two I miss are Joey Shaw and Patrick Ewing, Jr. They are both tall, athletic players who would bring diversity and balance to the team. I especially miss Ewing, and I have always believed that one of former coach Mike Davis’ biggest mistakes was not using that young man more often.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Disappointing Loss

I'm sure that some of you are curious about my thoughts on my beloved Hoosiers disappointing loss to the University of Connecticut at Assembly Hall on Saturday. I felt (and feel) the Eric Gordon looks in the above picture. If you want more of an analysis, then click on the picture. I will say this, however, while I was disappointed I was not surprised. This team still has a lot of improving to do to deserve a #7 ranking. They are just not that good.

Jesus, Pressured Jesus

The scriptures says in Mark 3:7-19:

But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and [from] beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.

And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth [unto him] whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the [son] of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the [son] of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.

According to the text, Jesus Christ is feeling some intense pressure. The pressure is coming from two sources: the Pharisees and the public. The former had declared war on Jesus. Their hatred if the Lord progressively intensified throughout chapter two and into the beginning of chapter three. Christ’s Sabbath healing of the withered hand man clinched their desire to see him discredited and destroyed. As Kent Hughes writes in his commentary, “Maddened with hatred, the pious, separatist Pharisees formed an unholy alliance with the impious, worldly Herodians as together they plotted Jesus’ extinction.” (p. 81)

All of their combined conniving and maneuvering would matter not a bit, because the time of the Lord’s sacrifice had not yet come. All aspects of Christ’s life were determined by a sovereign and eternal timetable. He was not subject to the schemes of men. No man could lay a finger on Him until the appointed time. Christ’s life was given not taken.
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. – John 10:17-18

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”. The wicked hearts of the Pharisees and Herodians were taking counsel together on how they could put an end to Jesus, but all their plans would be ruled and overruled by a sovereign God who had planned from eternity past that Christ would purchase our pardon on Calvary’s tree (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20).

The public was the second group of people who were pressuring Jesus.

The Demand for Jesus – vv. 7-12

At this point in His ministry the popularity of Christ was immense. People were literally coming from all over to see Jesus and, hopefully, be seen or touched by Him. It would be foolish to speculate the actual number of people. The Bible doesn’t say. It is known that Galilee was a densely populated province during Christ’s time. The public turnout from there alone would be a large mass of people. Combine that crowd with folks traveling from Judea, Jerusalem, and Idumea (South), Tyre and Sidon (NW), and the Transjordan (East) and the picture becomes clear. This was an immense and massive horde of humanity.

The desire of all people was to see Jesus. Sounds great, but was it? Why did the people flock to Jesus? Was it because they wanted to hear what He had to say? Were they interested in the wonderful words of life from the very Word of life, or was the crowd hungry for something else? Sadly, the reason for Christ’s popularity was not His message but His miracles. His message was “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Christ’s primary focus was on spiritual healing rather than physical healing, but the crowd’s primary desire was for physical rather than spiritual wellness. They wanted to see the miraculous, and experience it on a surface level, but they were not as interested in the gospel message. Writing about this popularity surge
Alexander MacLaren stated: “Christ’s gracious, searching, illuminating words had no attraction for the multitude. ‘The great things He did’ drew them with idle curiosity or desire for bodily healing.”

It most be noted that Christ’s primary motivation was the proclamation of the gospel. Mark has labored to make that fact clear:

Mark 1:14-15 – “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Mark 1:21-22 – “they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.”

Mark 1:38-39 – “he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.”

Mark 2:1-12 – “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee… the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins”

Mark 2:13-17 – “Follow me… They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Mark 2:18-22 – The Gospel is unique and exclusive. Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father. To attempt to mix the gospel with any other belief or system is to nullify it.

Mark 2:23 – 3:6 – Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, and Jesus Christ is our rest.

Spiritual healing, not physical healing was the principal purpose of the Lord. He did heal, however, because He is a gracious, merciful, compassionate God, and because the miraculous works clearly identified and authenticated Him as the Messiah.

By any modern reckoning Christ’s ministry was exceptionally successful, but most prognosticators would attribute the massive crowds instead of the message of Christ as the signature of success.

Most prognosticators would be wrong.

The Lord’s skyrocketing popularity never sidetracked His prime ministry task which was “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ knew the hearts of all men, (John 2:24-25) and He rightly diagnosed the crowd’s misguided desire after the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.
When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. – John 6:24-27

The people were not convinced by His miracles that Jesus was who He claimed to be; their Savior. Instead, they just liked the idea of someone who could feed 5,000 men plus women and children a fulfilling meal from five barley loaves and two small fishes! Christ exhorted the people to focus on the eternal not the temporal.
We would do well to follow His example. The church’s focus must be the primacy of the gospel. The church must clearly, consistently, and compassionately declare the gospel. Often times this will mean meeting people’s physical needs, just as Jesus did. When someone is starving and naked it does little to no good to say, “Repent and believe the gospel” and then continue on your way, leaving them destitute. At the same time, you can feed and clothe every starving and naked person in the world, but is you do not tell them “Repent and believe the gospel” you have failed to meet their needs.

We must never fall victim to the false yet prevalent notion that popularity equals ministerial success and blessing of God. We must also avoid the opposite pitfall which states that the more unpopular you are the more you are blessed of God. As a Christian and in the church neither popularity nor unpopularity equals success before God. Faithfulness equals success! Success depends upon faithfulness to the gospel and faithfully proclaiming the gospel.

Now think for a moment about the pressure that Jesus endured. I’m not talking about pressure to alter or soften the gospel message. I’m talking about the pressure that is associated with having your every move, night and day, observed by everyone; friends, the curious, and your enemies. The latter group always placed the worst possible spin on everything Christ said or did. Everyone else constantly and incessantly wanted something from Jesus. In the case of the crowd, they wanted Him to fix or heal all their ailments. His friends didn’t so much want something from Him, as they just plain wanted Him.

Here is the point; Jesus knows what it is like to feel intense personal discomfort from being attacked and having your motives and words misinterpreted. He knows what it’s like to have people incessantly want something from you. He knows what it’s like to constantly have friends and loved ones looking to you for guidance and support.

Kent Hughes phrased it like this:
The ill, the feverish, the crippled were pushing and grabbing at Jesus and falling over Him; the demonized were malevolently sizing Him up and were howling His name in furtive combat; the jaundiced Pharisees were watching his every move, waiting for their chance. It is easy for us in the evangelical tradition to miss the point here because we have been so ready (rightly so!) to emphasize that Jesus was much more than the ideal man, being 100% God. The truth is, He was (and is!) also 100% man, and really did feel immense, inescapable stress and strain.

This should help us more fully understand Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.” Simply put, Christ is able to empathize with your harried, frenetic life.

Jesus understands the pressured treadmill upon which most of us race day in and day out. He knows what it is like when the traffic light turns green and the car behind you immediately begins to honk. But more specifically, He understands the pressures which you feel when we try to reach out to others as He did. He knows that when you really care about others, you open yourself to troubles virtually incomprehensible to those who do not care. He understands that those who stand with him are assaulted by a demonized culture which tries to gain mastery. He understands the pressures of life and faith. (p. 84)

How did the Lord deal with the pressure?

Christ’s Management of that Demand – vv. 13-19

The text identifies three steps which Christ followed to manage the demands and pressure of His life/ministry.

He got Alone
“He goeth up into a mountain”, Mark 3:13a says, and in Luke 6:12a we read, “…that he went out into a mountain…” The Lord Jesus Christ took some time to be alone. Even though we’re only half way through the third chapter we have already witnessed this practice from the Lord. Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place.” In a moment we will talk about what He did in those solitary places, but for now the point must be made: He got alone. Thought he came to save man, at times he needed to be away from man.

I’m not sure that we understand the need to be alone in our culture today. We are so hardwired into the system: cell phone, email, web cams, YouTube, cable TV, high-speed Internet, etc. Listen to this quote from write Anne Morrow Lindbergh:
Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like a secret vice! (As quoted in Hughes commentary, p. 85)

I’m not suggesting that you be a hermit, or that you seclude yourself from nearly all human contact. What I am saying is that time spent alone reading and reflecting on the word of God, praying to the God of the word is essential to wholeness and well-being. As Vance Havner said, “If we do not follow Christ’s example to ‘come apart’, we may, indeed, just [fall] apart.”

We need silence; not to empty our mind but to fill it with the glory of God. We need to silence all the noise of this world, so that we might listen to God speak to us through His word. The pressures of life and the example of Jesus demands that we do this.

He Prayed
Jesus didn’t go up on the mountain to hunt and fish. He went there to pray. Mark doesn’t describe all that Jesus did on the mountain, but Luke’s account tells us “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” I’m sure that you are a busy person, but I’m just as sure that you are too busy not to pray. (I'm not a Hybels fan, but that is a fantastic thought!) Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other needs; prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer.

Prayer, of course, is not the pulling of God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. Time spent regularly in prayer will make one rich in God’s riches, strong in His strength, pure in His purity, and able in His ability. Our pressured Jesus knew this and spent extended time exposing his human heart to that of his blessed.

He Shared
This is the Biblical balance to the alone time that I have been talking about. Jesus wasn’t a one man show; even though He could have been. Christ shared the responsibilities of the ministry with others. Jesus Christ needed and valued His time alone, and carved it out of His impossible schedule. He also craved companions to serve with Him.
Alexander MacLaren wrote:
The Apostles were chosen for two ends, of which the former was preparatory to the latter. The latter was the more important and permanent, and hence gave the office its name. They were to be ‘with Christ,’ and we may fairly suppose that He wished that companionship for His own sake as well as for theirs. The primary purpose was their training for their being sent forth to preach. But no doubt, also, the lonely Christ craved for companions, and was strengthened and soothed by even the imperfect sympathy and unintelligent love of these humble adherents.

The text is clear, these men were called to “be with him”. Christ poured Himself into these men. The best teaching and training is not done strictly by lecture, but is augmented by example. These men had front row seats for every synagogue sermon, every parable, and many personal discussions. They received the answers to the riddles; the explanation of the parables. But that wasn’t all. They also witnessed with their own eyes what righteousness and holiness looked like.

That is what we are called to do.

What was the purpose of this training? They were discipled so that “he might send them forth to preach.” Not every believer is called to pastor, but every believer is called to preach. Not that all preaching is done from a pulpit or accomplished with a loud cadence. The word translated preach in v. 14 is ‘kerusso’ which means “to herald, to proclaim, to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done.” That is the responsibility and privilege of every believer; not just the ones who have been ordained.

Our precious, pressured Jesus teaches us that the primary motivation of our lives and the primary function of our church is the clear, consistent, and compassionate proclamation of the gospel. Yes, we are to do what we can to help meet physical needs, but we are to never neglect the spiritual. The eternal outweighs the temporal.
We also learn that those who will follow Christ will be overwhelmed at times. That was Christ’s experience, and His example instructs us to…

Get Alone – We need times of silence, and for that you need a place.
Pray – The times of silence aren’t for naps but for prayer. Those who are exposed to the Father’s life find Him bringing grace to their pressured lives.
Share – We need to pour ourselves into others, to share the ministry’s work. We need each other.

May we learn well from our precious, pressured Jesus. After all, the learning is for living. (Yeah, I know. That is a Begg line, but I really like it too!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cartoons for Your Weekend

Today I begin a new weekend feature. I'll post several of my favorite political cartoons from the past week. As far as I'm concerned the top political cartoonist is the Indy Star's own Gary Varvel. I also enjoy Michael Ramirez' work quite a bit. Their cartoons will dominate this new series, but you will find other gems as well.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Peggy Nails it Again

Peggy Noonan is one of my favorite political observers and commentators. I also enjoyed her book on Ronald Reagan - When Character Was King - and I gladly recommend it to you, dear reader. Noonan's Wall Street Journal column is a must read of mine, and today's was another stellar piece of journalism.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do succinctly dissects the fissures in the Democratic party and in the Grand Ole Party. The Clinton political machine is in full throttle. In fact, former Presdent Clinton is attempting to throttle anyone - Obama, journalists, anyone - who dares criticize his wife. I waxed nostalgic this week when I read of Mr. Clinton accused Senator Obama of "put[ting] a hit job on me." Didn't he say something similar to Chris Wallace on a Fox News Sunday broadcast? I believe he said, "So you did Fox’s bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me." (click here if you want to read the transcript of that show).

I guess everyone wants to do "a hit job" on the Clintons; conservatives and liberals alike. Or maybe, just maybe, everyone is accurately calling in to question lame policies and/or proposals by the Clintons, and instead of answering the questions in a manner befitting a former President of the United States Mr. Clinton resorts to playground banter.

In her column Noonan quotes William Greider of the liberal magazine The Nation:
The Clintons are "high minded" on the surface but "smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard at the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as a package. The nation is at fair risk of getting them back in the White House for four years."

That, again, is from one of the premier liberal journals in the United States. It is exactly what conservatives have been saying for a decade. This may mark a certain coming together of the thoughtful on both sides. The Clintons, uniters at last.
What about the GOP? Noonan speaks to the lack of unity within the Grand Ole Party. She rightly labeled Rush Limbaugh's assertion that "if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!" as "absurd". (Of course, in my opinion much of Rush's comments are absurd.) She had more stinging, but truthful, comments for conservatives.
Noonan flatly states that
George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
I'm afraid that she is right. There is much that I admire about President Bush, and his years of leadership have been some of the most difficult since the second World War. Still, the lack of cohesion in the GOP is due to his Presidency, and it is not surprising that the GOP candidates rarely identify with the sitting President.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

European Court Chides the French

I was surprised by this report from the BBC today…

France chided over gay adoption The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that France discriminated against a lesbian nursery school teacher by refusing to let her adopt a child.

I was surprised that judicial bodies exist which are more liberal than those in France. My astonishment, I must admit, is borne out of an ignorance of French court rulings and procedures. I neither follow or know how French courts actually rule on any case. I assume that France is far to the left of the United States; as scary as that thought is. That assumption is a fair one.

By a 10 - 7 vote the European court ruled that the lesbian’s…

right to family life under the European Convention on Human Rights had been infringed

France was directed to pay damages - $14, 522 (10,000 Euros) and costs $21, 062 (14,528 euros). According to the BBC report, the European court…

criticised the French judiciary’s emphasis on “the lack of a paternal referent in the household”

Everyone knows that a father is not necessary for the healthy nurture and rearing of a child!

Seriously, I’m not sure what leaves me scratching my head the most.

  1. The fact that France can actually be conservative on some issues.
  2. The fact that France has abrogated its sovereignty to a European court system.
  3. The fact that this court finds the assertion that a “paternal referent”in a household is not necessary for the raising of children.
  4. The fact that the US economy is in the toilet. (That $ to euro exchange rate is awful!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

John Piper on MLK Day

I know.

Martin Luther King Day was yesterday, but I have already noted my lack of promptness in the blogging world as of late. I had not read anything from my Google reader or even checked my email until this morning. Otherwise, this post would have appeared yesterday or even earlier. On Saturday John Piper posted this article - Don't Waste Martin Luther King Weekend - at his website. I did not read it until Tuesday morning, but I liked it so much I thought I'd share it with you in its entirety.

Before you read Piper's article, and the excerpt he included from Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", you may want to read a post from the past - Go Ahead and Discriminate.

The following is John Piper's article "Don't Waste Martin Luther King Weekend."

Monday is Martin Luther King day. I encourage all pastors and Sunday School teachers to make something of it this weekend. It may be too late to preach on racial and ethnic issues, if you have not already planned to. But it is not too late, if you read this on Saturday, to plan to simply take note of the day and speak a word of exhortation to your people concerning their hearts in matters of race and ethnicity. None of us. None of us is without need for help in the purification of our hearts in the way we feel and think about other ethnic groups. Your people need help.

The point of this weekend is not to celebrate all that MLK was. You need not belabor his sins. The point is to lift up some magnificent things he stood for and some necessary and amazing achievements of the civil rights era in which he was a key leader. We are Christians and can see these things in the light of providence and the gospel. Let everything point to Christ and him crucified. Consider Revelation 5:9 if you wonder whether ethnic diversity and ethnic harmony are Jesus-blood issues.

All you have to do to find some good word from MLK is Google his name. His "I have a dream" speech has some powerful lines. He dreams that some day his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character." That cry is as important today globally and locally as it was in 1963.

In my judgment the "I have a dream" speech was not the apex of King's eloquence. That is reserved for certain passages in "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" (April 16, 1963). Here is the most powerful word from King I have ever read:

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dart of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You need not have all the answers. You need not be democrat or republican. You need not think things are as bad as they were or as good as they could be. What you need to do is press the issue of ethnic ill-will on the consciences of your people in the name of Jesus, who came to us when we were more alien to him than anyone has ever been to us.

God give you courage and grace.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Christ and the Sabbath

(Please note - this is a lengthy post)

In His home base of Capernaum, Jesus has experienced one interesting and groundbreaking interaction after another. While speaking to a group of scribes and Pharisees in Peter’s house the crowd of onlookers and eavesdroppers swelled to such a size that normal entry into the dwelling was impossible. That is why the four friends of the paralytic, displaying their faith in Christ, found an abnormal point of entry. The theological discussion was interrupted by the hole in the roof gang, and by the paralyzed man whom they lowered down before Jesus’ feet. In response to his faith Christ said to the paralytic “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

That statement was too much for the Pharisees to digest. “Only God is able to forgive sins” they rightly thought to themselves. “Why does this man blaspheme”, they wrongly concluded in their hearts. Having witnessed not only this miraculous occurrence, but the many wonderful things that Jesus had already been accomplishing and preaching since His public ministry had been launched, these religious elites were high on knowledge but low on wisdom.

Leaving Peter’s packed house, which now needed a patched roof, Jesus and His disciples; followed by a throng of people, particularly the Pharisees, walked along the shores of the Galilean Sea. As with everything that Jesus did, there was a purpose behind this stroll on the beach, and the purpose was not simply leisure. He walked straight to Levi the Publican’s tax table and said, “Follow me.”

All over the sea shore people’s chins were scrapping the beach. Healing a paralyzed young man was one thing, but calling a Publican to be your disciple was another! Levi was a tax collector! He was an extortionist; a traitor; a chief sinner; who, like the rest of his kind, had been cut off from respectable society. Even so, Jesus was willing to forgive the sins of the publican just as he did the sins of the paralytic, but Jesus didn’t stop there. He accepted a dinner invitation to Levi’s house and since Levi had just been saved all the other guests, apart from Christ and His followers were sinners. Sinners like Levi had been; people who had been banned from the synagogue and shunned by society. The Pharisees’ emerging indignation was given voice in their question, not to Jesus directly, but to the disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” The answer to that question was provided by Jesus, and it’s a summation of His earthly ministry and the one that His churches have been left here to fulfill: “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

The Pharisees were undaunted, and their courage, such as it was, was on the rise. Bolstered by some of John the Baptist’s misguided disciples (misguided because they failed to recognize the Messiah for whom John had prepared the way) Jesus is directly approached and asked a question: “Why is your preaching and your practice so different from us?!” That is a paraphrased instead of a precise quote, but it is the heart of the question that they did ask: “Why do the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?”

Jesus answered that during a wedding the coming of the bridegroom was a joyous time, not a time of mourning. The Bridegroom – Jesus – had come, and it would be ridiculous for His followers to mourn – fast. This was a time of rejoicing! His illustration of the old garments not being patched with new cloth or old skins unable to hold new wine demonstrated the exclusivity of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be grafted into any other religious system. It is utterly unique, and it only is efficacious for salvation. The religion of the Pharisees had become a ritual divorced from reality; otherwise they would have recognized Jesus as their Messiah instead of their misery. They would have left all to follow Him as the fishermen and tax collector had done. Instead, they were more interested in a lifeless religion in which they were given gory and honor for their strict but absurd observances and practices. They did not believe that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins even though He clearly had authority to heal the body. They refused to believe that they needed to repent; after all, they were not the publicans and sinners. And they were shocked that this Jesus and His followers did not follow the same hollow, heartless habits that they associated with real religion.

Confronted with their sin these men were unwilling to respond to His message of salvation. They hardened their hearts. They rejected the message and consequently their Messiah, and soon, this would lead to blasphemy and the plotting of His murder. When it comes to Jesus you are either for or against; there is no middle ground (Mark 9:38ff; Luke 9:49-50).

To say the least, the Pharisees are close to the tipping point with Jesus, and after today’s text – Mark 2:23-3:6 – actually is the tipping point. The storm that ultimately breaks over Calvary’s cross is gathering on the horizon. Let’s read the text:

And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched [it] out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

The Pharisees’ rejection of Christ was consummated here with His rejection of their Sabbath observances. He violated, not the Sabbath but their Sabbath, and for that He was hated and rejected. The Sabbath had become the epitome of their legalistic system. Everything in their legalistic system was ultimately focused on that one day. Failing to observe the ritual Monday and Thursday fasts was bad; failing to observe the Sabbath was unforgivable.

The Incident – v. 23

Why did this incident have the Pharisee inflamed? What was/is the Sabbath? Was Jesus guilty of breaking or bending one of God’s laws?

Let’s begin with the word: the Greek word for Sabbath is ‘sabbaton’, and it means “to cease; a complete cessation of something”. An overview of the Biblical teaching on the Sabbath must begin in Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (ff. Gen 2:1-3)

We may infer at least three things about the Sabbath from those verses.

1. Observing – “Remember the sabbath day” means, “Don't forget to take a day off.” Israel was to observe a day of rest; specifically every seventh day. I find it interesting that the particular day is no were mentioned, but it is understandable why Saturday was the recognized Sabbath.

2. Keeping – it holy means set it aside from all other days as special. Specifically, as verse 10 says, “the sabbath of the Lord," or “to the Lord” or “for the Lord”. In other words, the rest is not to be aimless rest, but God-centered rest. Attention is to be directed to God in a more concentrated way that an ordinary day. Keep the day holy by keeping the focus on the holy God.

3. Resting – The basic point of the commandment is that God rested from His creation on the seventh day, and He blessed and hallowed the day. What does it mean for God to bless a day? I do not think that it means the day itself was elevated above all others, but it means the day was made a time of blessing. When God blesses a man, the man becomes rich with blessings. When he blesses a land, the land becomes rich with blessings. So when he blesses a day, that day becomes rich with blessings. And by hallowing the day God set it aside (hallow = sanctified = set apart) for special focus on what is holy; namely, God and His holy works.

Now consider the two words together. He blessed the day, and He hallowed the day. Meaning, He made it a source of blessing, and He made it to focus on Himself. The hallowing is included in the blessing and the blessing is included in the hallowing. When you hallow God and focus your attention on him, you receive more blessing than if you keep on busying yourself seven days a week with professional affairs or any other concerns.

That God rested means, at the very least, that He was satisfied with His completed creation. He saw that it was “very good”. He stood back as it were in leisure and savored the beauty and completeness of His handiwork. (cf Psalm 19:1) The beautiful thing about the sabbath is that God instituted it as a weekly reminder of two things:

1. All true blessing comes from His grace not our labor.
2. We hallow and honor him, keeping the day holy, seeking the fullness of His blessing by giving our special attention to Him on that day.

By NT times, however, the rabbis had added volumes of details to the sabbath command, transforming it from a wonderful gift of hallowed rest, exalting in the blessings of God’s grace, to a day of religious minutiae and unrealistic expectations. Instead of it being a day of ceasing and a day of rest, it was a day of incredible burden.

Here is a sample of things that were forbidden: sewing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, sifting, grinding, kneading, baking; shearing wool, washing wool, beating wool, dying wool, spinning wool, putting it in the weaver's loom; making two threads, weaving two threads, separating two threads, making a knot or undoing it, sewing two stitches, catching game or killing, skinning, salting it, preparing its skin, scraping off its hair, cutting it up; writing two letters (and I mean actual letters), building, pulling down, extinguishing or lighting fire, beating with a hammer, carrying a possession, and it goes on and on.

Do you know what the Sabbath was? A pain in the neck! It was impossible to rest; you couldn't do anything. No doubt when Christ said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” He was referring to this system that had been imposed on them by the legalists, under which the backs of the people were bowed.

This is why the Pharisees made such a fuss about the disciples plucking ears of corn and eating as they traveled. According to their list that was unlawful, even though it was exactly in harmony with God’s provision for those who were traveling within Israel. Deuteronomy 23:25, “When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.”

So the disciples are moving along, and they began to be hungry. They pluck the ears of grain to eat; just what Deuteronomy 23:25 said they had a right to do. They were not in violation of the Word of God at all. They had left their livelihood to follow Jesus Christ, and they lived by faith. Jesus didn't restrain them, because they were in line with the Old Testament Scripture.

The Pharisees thought otherwise, and this incident led to their indictment of Jesus.

The Indictment – v. 24

They were dogging Christ’s footsteps; not in order to learn; not in obedience to the Lord, but in a vain attempt to find fault. They were looking for anything with which they might accuse Him of evildoing. Having spotted the disciples “reaping” on the sabbath they believed their moment had arrived. This was what they needed to indict Jesus!


They only succeeded in lobbing a soft-ball sized opportunity for Biblical instruction.

The Instruction – vv. 25-26

“Have ye never read?” I believe that is an example of sarcasm from the lips of our Lord! Of course they had read. All they did was read, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you apply and live what is read. Remember, the learning is for living! These men had rejected the One about whom all their reading was focused.

Didn't you read this? Don't you know what it means? The implication is that they didn't know at all what it means. What was wrong with the Pharisees? Why didn't they understand the Sabbath the way Jesus did; the way it was meant to be understood? Why didn't they see David's eating the showbread as an example of the Sabbath bringing rest instead of hardship? (Literally means ‘the bread of presence,’ or ‘the continual bread,’ and it was the representation of God's perpetual relationship to His people, and it was to be eaten only by the priests. It was sacred, never to touch the lips of a common person, even a person like David, because he wasn't a priest. Cf. Leviticus 24:5-9)

According to Matthew’s account of this confrontation, Jesus said the Pharisees could only condemn the innocent because they had never understood Hosea 6:6, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice”. Jesus quotes it in Matthew 12:7. God says, In other words the whole law exists for the sake of mercy. All the law is summed up by this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and your neighbor as yourself. That is why Paul said in Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” The Pharisees couldn't see the true meaning of the sabbath because they didn't have hearts of love. They were legalistic and loveless (the two are often linked).

Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”, Mark 2:27. The sabbath is a gift of love to meet man's need, not an oppressive burden to make him miserable or proud. He didn't come to abolish the sabbath, but to dig it out from under the mountain of legalistic sediment; giving it to us again as a blessing rather than a burden. The sabbath is a day for showing mercy and a day for doing good (3:4). It should not be governed rigidly by narrow definitions of what is work and what is not. As Jesus is the Lord of the sabbath, according to verse 28, it is a day to focus on Jesus, and it is impossible that a day focused on Jesus should be a burden to the believing heart! Remember again Matthew 11 – “Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

They had indicted Him, but when He was done with His instruction, they were the ones indicted as hard-hearted, external legalists who were clueless about the God they professed to serve. They were the violators of the Sabbath, because the Sabbath was for meeting needs, serving God, showing mercy, and enjoying God’s rest. Jesus plainly tells them, “You not in charge of the sabbath anyway. I am. The Son of man is Lord of the sabbath.” He would tolerate no Pharisaical perversion of His intended purpose for the Sabbath; it was His. He wrote it, He would interpret it, and He would fulfill it on the cross and in His resurrection.

The Illustration – 3:1-5

Jesus illustrated His field instruction with a synagogue miracle. Evidently, they have entered the synagogue for the Sabbath service, and the Pharisees are closely watching Jesus; again, not to follow His example, but to accuse Him of some wrongdoing. In the service there was a man with a withered hand, and according to Matthew the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?”

They cared nothing about this man. Whether he was healed or not was of little concern to them. In their twisted mind and perverted understanding of the law the answer to their question was a no-brainer. They thought it to be unlawful, but as we’ve already seen, they were clueless as to the heart of God.

The coldness of their hearts is amazing, but more so is their blindness. They knew that Jesus could heal this man; it’s why they asked the question. It was not a question that had ever before been considered because there was no one who could heal! Here they are faced with the very power and presence of God, yet they are more concerned with their ceremonies, rituals, and status quo. Christ answers their question with a question; Mark 3:4, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil; to save life or to kill?”

They sought to entrap Jesus, but they were the ones ensnared. What could they say? If they say it is lawful to do good, then they are stuck. If they say it is not lawful to do good, then what’s the alternative, evil? So they don't even offer an answer.

I imagine that a tense silence hung in the air as Jesus, according to Mark, “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts”. Finally, in what seemed like forever but was probably only seconds, Jesus answered His own question when He said “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (Matthew 12:12), and then, turning from the Pharisees to the man He said “Stretch forth thine hand” and as the man faithfully obeyed the Lord his hand was healed. Rest was found by tat man on the sabbath by the Lord of the sabbath.

Jesus connected the Sabbath with the heart of God: benevolence, mercy, kindness, goodness. That is the purpose of it all. Jesus came that we might enter into a relationship with God in which He pours out to us grace, goodness, mercy, kindness, peace, benevolence, and tenderness. The Pharisees had completely obliterated that illustration in the Sabbath.

God wants mercy to be shown, not ritual. The only function that ceremony ever has is the illustration of a right attitude. If you corrupt the illustration without having the right attitude, you miss the whole purpose; which is exactly what the Pharisees had done. Luke’s account says that upon healing the man’s withered hand, the Pharisees “were filled with madness” (6:11). They were furious that Christ had shown merciful grace on the sabbath.

How twisted is that? From this point forward the Pharisees plotted Christ’s death. They even solicited the help of the Herodians, a political group whom for whom they had no love, but with whom they shared a hatred of Jesus.

What does this say to an unbeliever? Today, there are people who are caught in systems of religion where they are trying, by their own works, to do what the Pharisees did; namely, earn favor with God by observing ceremonies and rituals; laws and rules. I don't know what system you're in; Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, etc. Are you tired of toiling? Look in repentance and faith to Christ. He will give you rest. All these man-made systems do is bury the heart of God under a pile of legislation. Christ will give you a yoke, but His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The love of God is that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome. (cf. 1 John 5:3)

Christians, why do you attend church? Why do you worship? What's your purpose? Is it just to maintain appearances? Is it simply "functional Christianity"? Is it because you think it is your duty? Are you just cranking it out? Having begun in the Spirit, are you going to be perfected in the flesh? (cf. Galatians 3:3) Are you defining true spirituality in terms of a bunch of little things you do or don't do? Is your relationship to God only rules and laws? Begin to realize that those things assist us. They do not define us. They can never stand in the way of meeting needs, serving God, and showing mercy, because that would violate their purpose.

Antinomianism – no law and all grace – and legalism – all law and no grace – are heretical twins. You do not want to fall into either trap. Some Christians are so legalistic that they literally alienate other believers. The things they're legalistic about aren't even things God talks about in Scripture. On the other hand, some Christians are so libertine that one cannot distinguish a difference between them and unbelievers.

Where is your heart toward God?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Support Huckabee

I know.

I have not posted anything since the middle of December. There are times when i just am unable to devote time to the blogosphere; at least to writing in the blogosphere. Honestly, right now is also such a time, but I need to post something. After all, it's January 17.

This brief post will provide some supplemental support as to why I endorse Mike Huckabee. Philip duBarry, my good friend, fellow blogger, and brother in the faith, has repeatedly written at his blog - Doses of Huckabee Criticism...er...I mean Doses of Reality - that Huckabee is a pro-life liberal. (You may be thinking, "Isn't that what Fred Thompson has been saying?" The answer is yes, and Philip - being a Tennessean - is a Fred Head.) Philip cannot fathom why...

perfectly normal people, people who I respect and admire, be suddenly ditching their core conservative principles (or what I thought were their core conservative principles) to support a silver-tongued populist

As if only the abnormal should endorse Mike Huckabee. That post addresses Rush Limbaugh's criticism of Huckabee's conservative credentials. Of course, that only solidifies my support for Huck. I am never one to publicly admit that I agree with Rush, Coulter, Hannity, or Cunningham (those not from the Cincinnati area are asking "Who?"). Those four and their many clones are annoying, egomaniacal talking heads. It's embarrassing that there are so many of their ilk who are conservatives. When I initially agree with their positions I always take a hard second and third look.

Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost responded to the Rush rant, and you can read it here. You will also find a host of posts that defend Huckabee's conservative status. This is the first of the supplemental supports that I mentioned.

The second comes from one of my favorite preachers - Hershael York. I have never met Dr. York, but I have listened to him preach via the SBTS website, and I read his blog. He posts more sporadically than do I, but he did post twice yesterday; both had a political bent. Dr. York was a guest on NPR's program Tell Me More and in that piece he announced his support of Mike Huckabee and gave solid reasons why. Reasons which I share as well. Follow this link to listen to the NPR segment. (I am an NPR listener as opposed to Limbaugh, Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, etc.)

Please read and listen to the linked material if you want to engage in any dialogue. I will quickly comment on a couple of questions and answers from the NPR piece.

The host, Michel Martin, asked Dr. York "When did low taxes become an evangelical issue? Why theologically has that been an evangelical issue?" (beginning at 4:42 of the interview) I believe that is a fair question, and I really appreciate how Dr. York answered. He said that if you begin with a "pro-family outlook...a family needs what it earns in order to make it...you will want to protect that family's capital". That is true, but his answer only gets better. He said, "The issue [to me] is not how much taxes we pay but what are our taxes going to accomplish?" Taxes are not going away; regardless of who is in the White House. How many billions of dollars has Republican President Bush spent?

I loathe taxes, but I appreciate (most) of the services that my tax dollars fund. I understand that taxes will ever and always be a part of my existence, but I would rather have those tax dollars used in an intelligent and meaningful manner.

There is much more than can, and perhaps will be, said on this topic, but I have used all the time that I've allotted myself this morning.

Go ahead and read/listen to the linked material. It'll do you good.