Friday, November 24, 2017

70 - Clean Dirty Hands

Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. 

Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with ceremonially unclean, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 

For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands with their fist, holding the tradition of the elders. 

And coming from the marketplace, unless they bathe, they do not eat. And there are many other things which they have received by tradition, like the washing of cups and pitchers, copper vessels and couches.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but they eat bread with unwashed hands?" 

And answering He said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 

And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' 

Well do you set aside the commandment of God, so that you may keep your tradition.


For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother';
But you say, 'If a man says to his father or to his mother, "Whatever you might be profited by me is Corban"--' (that is, a gift),
then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or for his mother, 


thus nullifying the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down. Mark 7:1-13; 



You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 
It doesn't go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body." By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat. 
Then Jesus said: What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 
Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 
unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 
All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God. Mark 7:18-23 CEV.


Traditions


when they, the Pharisees, saw some of His (Christ's) disciples eat bread with ceremonially unclean, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault.  It seems that finding fault was their most obvious talent.


When we think of the words unwashed hands we think of dirty hands and, of course, we would wash before we eat.  This, however, is not what the Pharisees were referring to.


For these ceremonial washings, special stone vessels of water were kept, because ordinary water might be unclean. To wash your hands in a special way, you started by taking at least enough of this water to fill one and one-half egg shells. Then, you poured the water over your hands, starting at the fingers and running down towards your wrist. [Guzik]



they wash their hands with their fist, Then you cleansed each palm by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it. Then you poured water over your hands again, this time from the wrist towards the fingers. [Guzik]

holding the tradition of the elders.  They were overwhelmed with traditions and this is what bothered Christ about their religion.  Christ came to dispel cold religion and traditions. He said I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10.  


It is probably natural to think that the opposite of enjoying the abundant life Christ gives is being totally irreligious.  Isn't a religion weighed down by rules and traditions much more binding than no religion at all?  Not being bound by religious rules is more in line with Christ's attitude of freedom.

Of course, just because we reject religious, man-made, rules we do not reject the need for decency, honesty and obeying the laws laid down at the first church council meeting.  We looked at these in an earlier post:

1. to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols
2. and from blood, do not drink blood,
3. and from things strangled, do not eat meat with the blood still in it,
4. and from fornication. Acts 15:28-29; Acts 21:25.

Cancel the Traditions, Already!



Ceremonially, they wash their cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches and coming from the marketplace, unless they bathe, they do not eat. We must not forget that this has nothing to do with making anything cleaner; it is just religious tradition.



Here are a few interesting side notes concerning the couches.

  1. These couches were not used for sleeping on.  They were the couches that, in Roman times, were used for leaning on while eating.
  2. These couches were too large to be completely submerged in water in any container that would normally be in a home.  Yet the word for wash, in this case, is the same word that is used for baptize.  They baptize their couches!
People who insist that baptism is valid only for those who have been completely immersed in water should have a problem with this verse.  If a couch can be baptised, and considered to be clean, without being completely immersed in water, why can't a Christian?

Christ could see right through their facade and said Isaiah was right when, speaking for Jehovah, he said This people honors Me with their lips.  You know all the right religious words to say; you know what kind of things to do to make people think you are really spiritual but your heart is far from Me.


Christ continued by saying, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men ... Well do you set aside the commandment of God, so that you may keep your tradition.  Here are a few quotes from Jewish teachers:


  • He who expounds the Scriptures in opposition to the tradition has no share in the world to come  
  • It is a greater offense to teach anything contrary to the voice of the Rabbis than to contradict Scripture itself. 
  • If the scribes say our right hand is our left, and our left hand is our right, we are to believe them. 
  • There is more in the words of the scribes than the words of the law. [Guzik]

Example One

Christ then gives an example of what the Jews, His peers, had done.  For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; this does not mean only to speak nicely to them, it also means to help them with whatever they need help with.


But you say, 'If a man says to his father or to his mother, "Whatever you might be profited by me is Corban"--' (that is, a gift).  In modern English: Your parents cannot fulfil their mortgage payment and they ask you for help but you say to them, Oh, I would love so much to help you but all the money in my bank account has been promised to God so I'm sorry I cannot help you.  Christ does not accept that vow as a good reason to break one of the ten commandments!


then you no longer allow (once you have made that vow to God you cannot undo it no matter how much your parents need your help and in that way you have nullified the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down.

Example Two


Christ gave His listeners another example.  He said You Jews are so fussy about what you eat and how it has been prepared You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean.  It simply passes through the body and becomes waste.

Then Jesus said: What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean.
Out of your heart come:
evil thoughts, 
vulgar deeds, 
stealing, 
murder,
unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, 
meanness, 
deceit, 
indecency, 
envy, 
insults, 
pride, 
foolishness.  
All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Friday, November 17, 2017

69 - Fat Hearts

And the disciples approached and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 

He answered and said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 

For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he shall be in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 

Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: 'Hearing you shall hear and by no means understand, and seeing you shall see and by no means perceive. 

For the heart of this people has become dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn back, that I should heal them.' 

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.
Mat 13:10-16.

Dull Hearted People


To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more shall be given.  It is easy to read this as though God has called some to know the mysteries and others have not been given that opportunity.  However, that is not what is meant.   About the Jewish people, Isaiah said their eyes have they closed. 6:10. The choice is always the human's; they chose to live with their eyes and minds closed.  Christ's disciples, right from the start, were willing to accept His teachings and consequently to the disciples more shall be given.


but to them it has not been given.  In this case, He was probably speaking of the Pharisees because they were totally against the Messiah's doctrines.  The Pharisees are by no means the only people with closed minds; we run into this in any church setting; people who know their church's statement of faith will cling to it without ever studying what it actually means or why the creed designers chose the words they did; even what they have shall be taken away from them.


For the heart of this people has become dull (in place of dull the KJV has is waxed gross which means, to fatten (figuratively stupefy or render callous). [Strong G3975] and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn back, that I should heal them. 


They purposely did not listen to any new doctrine brought by Christ; they closed their eyes to the truth; they did this because they were afraid they might change their minds and finally see the truth. The status quo is much more comfortable and easier than thinking and rearranging one's beliefs.  


Believe what you believe is right but not without studying what you say you believe.  If it is buried, I must search. The gold is not going to un-dig itself. [Focus on the Kingdom; Nov. 2017]  A simple look at church theology shows us that theologians have a knack for being wrong.  Why do you believe that your own pastor is doctrinally faultless?  Study the Bible to check out what he/she preaches.  If you do, Christ will say to you blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.



A Change of Scene



Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gadarenes. Mark 5:1 
And when He got out of the boat, immediately there met Him from the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs. 5:2-3
But seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran and worshipped Him,and crying out with a great voice he said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? 5:6-7
And he was imploring Him many times that He would not send them out of the region. 5:10-13
Then they began to implore Him to go away from their region. 5:17  


The Demon's Request



But seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran and worshipped Him, and crying out with a great voice he said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, (the name Jesus is omitted in many manuscripts), Son of the Most High God?


Demons know their place and they know that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God.  The demon did not like it that Christ came to his territory.  It sounds as if the demon is saying, I did not come to bother you in your country so why did you come to bother me in mine?


When Israel captured Palestine, after wandering in the desert for 40 years, half of the tribe of Jacob's grandson, Mannessah, took possession of the land East of the Sea of Galilee.  Later when the Assyrians conquered the northern tribes of Israel some of the Assyrians moved into that part where half the tribe of Mannessah had been at home. 


The Jews of that area had already left the worship of Jehovah in exchange for foreign gods but the arrival of the Gentiles made it official that they were a heathen nation.  The people of that area were called "The Gadarenes". 


We had that short look at history to set the stage.  Christ went across the Sea of Galilee into Gadara and immediately He met a demon-possessed man and he cast a demon out of that person.

However, it was not quite that straight-forward.  The demon requested Christ not to send him out of that country.   It seems strange that a demon would care where he lives.  It has been suggested that the demon felt more at home among the Gentiles than he would have in the land where people still worshipped Jehovah. 

We, North Americans, on the whole, have left off worshipping Jehovah.  We have no qualms with jesting about evil spirits; we love to watch movies about them; We think they are a joke.  That will change when the presence of God's spirit is even more diminished in our society than it is now.  The demons will feel at home and move right in and inhabit humans.

When we hear of those individuals who purposely slaughter as many people as possible it is hard not to believe that they are demon-possessed.

Then they began to implore Him to go away from their region.  When the people of Gadara heard that the man who had been demon possessed had been cured they came to see Jesus and while they were there they asked Him to leave their country.  People then, as well as people now, must either accept the teachings of Christ or they will feel very uncomfortable in His presence and they will tell Him to leave.

Friday, November 10, 2017

68 - The Wheat and the Darnel

Here is the parable of the wheat and tares as the masses heard it:

Another parable He set before them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man sowing good seed in his field.
But while the men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away.
But when the stalk had sprouted and produced fruit, then the tares also appeared.
So the servants of the master of the house approached and said to him, 'Sir, was it not good seed you sowed in your field? From where then does it have tares?'
"He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Do you wish then that we should go and gather them up?'
"But he said, 'No, lest gathering up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
Leave both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them, but gather together the wheat into my barn. 
Mat 13:24-30.
See also Mat. 13:37-43.


The Wheat and the Darnel


Pale red is from Mat. 13:24-30; Dark red is from Mat. 13:37-43.

Here is the same parable as it was explained to the disciples:


The man in the parable is the Son of Man - Christ, our Redeemer. 
his field - is the world.  Bible scholars tend to limit this to the worldwide Church but Christ did not limit it like that.  He said that His field is the world.
good seed are the sons of the kingdom.  People who live righteous lives.
the tares are the sons of the evil one.  People who live unrighteous lives, or, as Christ said, those who work iniquity. 13:41 
the enemy - is the devil
the harvest is the end of the age
the servants - are the angels

Some Bible translations use the word darnel in place of tares.  Darnel is a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine. [Easton Bible Dictionary]


The Good Seed



One idea expressed is that at nighttime (spiritual drowsiness) when preachers and other Christians were sleeping God's enemy came and sowed tares (evil thoughts and lifestyles) into the hearts of the good people.  However, in opposition to that idea, Christ said, the tares are the sons of the evil one (evil people in the ranks of the Church).  Guzik writes, the seed represents the word and in the previous parable this was true, but in this parable Christ said, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.

After the wheat had started to grow the tares also grew among the wheat. Some Christians noticed this and they said to their master Do you wish then that we should go and get those evil people out of our church? he said, 'No, lest gathering up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.

“A zeal for the extirpation (extirpate implies extinction of ... an idea or doctrine by destruction or removal of its means of propagation, [Webster] of heretics and wicked men,” said a pious Papist, “not regulated by these words of our blessed Savior, allows no time for the one (the not so spiritual brother or sister) to grow strong in goodness, or to the other to forsake their evil courses. They are of a spirit very opposite to his (Christ's), who care not if they root up the wheat, provided they can but gather up the tares.” The zeal which leads persons to persecute others for religious opinions is not less a seed of the devil than a bad opinion itself is. [Clarke]

This is happening continually to people, in the church community, who dare to express ideas or beliefs different than the "statement of faith" their church holds.  Some church members are much too eager to condemn and oust "those unbelievers".

False doctrines are against God - he alone is the judge and punisher of them - man has no right to interfere in this matter. They who burnt Vanini for atheism usurped the seat of judgment, and thus proved themselves to be not less a diabolical seed than the person they thus, without God’s leave, hurried into eternity. [Clarke]

A short note on the very interesting story of Vanini. ... in 1619, Italian freethinker Lucilio Vanini was adorned with a placard reading ‘Ateiste et blasphemateur du nom de Dieu’ (Atheist and blasphemer of the name of God) and taken to Toulouse’s Place du Salin where he had his blasphemous tongue cut out, then was strangled and burned at the stake.  The so-called Christians in the so-called "Christian church" were much more eager to insist on what they thought was doctrinally right than they were on showing Christian love to a fellow human being.  This man, according to his own writings, denied that he was an atheist.


To Thy Ownself Be True


Fortunately, for us, the church is no longer in control of civil laws or of what a person believes.  Because of what I have written in my blogs I have been "condemned to hell" numerous times already.  Not because what I write disagrees with what the Bible teaches but because it disagrees with their church's creed.


As applied to the kingdom community, this parable teaches us that it is not our job to sort the tares from the wheat. That is only done at the time of harvest. Among God’s people, there may be some who are not genuine Christians, but it is God’s job to sort out false professors.[Guzik]

Throughout our studies of the life of Christ we have seen, time and again, that Christ emphasised a person's manner of life above religious rules or beliefs.  He did not say, You will know whether or not they are Christians by how well they adhere to the church's "statement of faith".  He said, By their fruits, you shall know them.  


The New Testament makes it very clear that the end of this age will happen at the return of Christ.  That is the time of harvest when The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who work iniquity.    He did not say, All those who have not joined themselves to the Christian church.

Then the righteous (by their lifestyle you shall know them) will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.