Passion Week XXII

While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him.  But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”  When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”  And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.  Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber?  While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” (Luke 22:47-53 NASB)

The arrest is the “Garden Scene” all four Gospels record.  Yet, again, all record different details.  Together they give an interesting picture of the event.  Even so, the details in Luke and John are my favorites.  The character of Jesus is so completely at odds with the event it’s startling.

In Matthew and Mark the account is nearly word-for-word the same.  But in Luke, while similar, there are some important differences.  In Luke, Judas approaches to kiss Jesus, but Luke never says Jesus let him.  In stead, there’s a “…but Jesus said to him…” response, and we’re left wondering if Judas ever did.  I like to think that he tried but Jesus didn’t receive it.  It’s not clear from Luke he failed, Matthew and Mark say Judas kissed Jesus, and John ignores the whole attempt.  Luke alone records Jesus’ reply to Judas of betraying with a kiss.  Matthew has the enigmatic, “Friend, do what you have come for” reply of Jesus.

John has Jesus going to the soldiers and Judas first, and asking who they have come for.  They are so startled they fall back, some to the ground.  He then repeats the question and His answer and says to let the disciples go since they’re only after Him.  This picture of Jesus is the beginning of John’s depiction of Jesus leading everyone involved to the cross.  In John alone, Jesus goes to the cross, He is not taken to the cross.  If you’ve seen the movie, The Passion of the Christ, this is where that quality of Jesus is derived, from John.  It’s actually hard to watch, from the beating all the way through to Jesus crawling to the cross to lay on it, Jesus leads the way.

At this point of the arrest, all four agree someone (in John it’s Peter) cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest.  In John we also learn the servant’s name was Malchus.  In Luke and John, it’s Malchus’ right ear that gets cutoff.  So, if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes,  Criminal Minds, or some other cop show, you’re probably already going, “Hey! Peter’s left handed!”  There are other explanations actually, and that’s probably not the right one.  Left-handedness was so unusual that it would have been noted before (like in Judges of Ehud, Judges 3:15).  All that we can know for sure is that the blow resulted in a glancing cut.  Even so, it’s hard to say that Malchus was “fortunate”, that had to hurt.

At this point, Jesus’ response to the attack is different.  In Mark, Jesus doesn’t address it at all.  In Matthew, Jesus rebukes the attack, states that those living by the sword die by the sword, claims to have twelve legions of angels if He wanted them, and then states this fulfills Scripture.  In Luke, Jesus simply says, “stop it!” and heals the servant’s ear.  In John, Jesus tells Peter to “stand down”, that this is what is supposed to happen (the cup the Father has given Me).  I love that Luke includes the detail that Jesus heals Malchus.  The love of Jesus does not take a break in this dark time.

Jesus’ comment to the guards is great, but Luke’s version is greatest.  In Matthew, Mark, an Luke, Jesus points out they come to him as if against a robber, even though He was with them in the Temple all week.  But Matthew and Mark point out the fulfillment of Scripture, where Jesus simply says, “…but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” The literal construction in Greek is, “…, but this is of you the hour and the authority of darkness.”  It’s an economy of grammar where the pronoun is feminine singular, and, in Greek, so is “hour” and “authority”.  This is the time (hour) when the authority of darkness reigns.

The word for authority or power is a compound Greek word made up of the preposition, “out of”, and the word for “existence”; so out of the fact it exists.  In other words, the basis of this power or authority is that it is.  It’s existence is it’s explanation or support.  It’s kind of like God saying, “because I said so.”  We don’t like that as post-modern Americans, but that’s just the way it is.  At this point, can you hear Huey Lewis singing the response, “…Oh, but don’t you believe it,” while playing his piano?  I hope you can, because in this particular instance, the time of the authority of darkness truly is only an hour.

That’s my view through this knothole.  What do you see of God through yours?

Passion Week XXI

Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.  When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:43-46 NASB)

Why is it we remember Jesus sweating drops of blood but not the angel comforting Jesus as he does?  Luke adds two details, only one of which have made it into common imagery of Gethsemane.  We don’t have verses 43 and 44 in the other Gospels, and, honestly, they are missing from the majority of the early manuscripts (Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and especially the Bodmer Papyrus).  There is a single reading in the Sinaiticus “original hand” which supplied an early witness, yet a “corrected” version doesn’t have it; as if it were removed later from that manuscript.  The rest of the evidence is from later copies of these.  So, our best evidence is that it was written, disappeared, and shows back up nearly 800 years later.  Weird.

So, why do we remember the intensity with which Jesus prays but not the strengthening angel?  Perhaps it’s because the angel comes, but Jesus still sweats blood (or like blood); as if we don’t think the angel was all that effective.  On the other hand, the intensity with which Jesus prayed purged His will in total submission rather than obtained His own will.  The prayer aligned Himself with the divine purpose rather obtaining an alternative.  How often have we prayed with such intensity to purge our own will?  How driven are we to obtain alignment with our Master that we will sweat out thick dark drops as we pray?  Probably not as often as we pray to gain our own will.

Rising from this intense prayer for submission to His mission, Jesus finds the disciples sleeping.  Only Luke provides the reason of their sorrow.  The other Gospels record that their eyes were heavy, but we assume they were simply tired because it was late.  Luke has the detail that their weariness came from sorrow.  After the intensity of the meal they just shared, sorrow seems a fitting reason.  Reading John 13 through 16, gives us a very intense picture of that event.  It had to be confusing, yet leaving an indelible sense of Jesus’ doom.  Just as Jesus had surprised them by changing the meaning of the Passover itself, He forced changes in their view of the purpose and work of the Messiah.  It made no sense, yet left the impression that this was His end.

Jesus still returns to call them to prayer in order to avoid temptation.  There is no statement about weak flesh and willing spirit.  And there is only a single instance.  Matthew and Mark both have 3 repeat prayers.  John, as we’ve said, has none.  And Luke has just this single instance.  It’s likely that there were 3, and that Luke sees no need to repeat, and John sees no need to repeat the other Gospel writers.  Therefore, that Luke has only a single prayer isn’t a disagreement, but a literary compression of the event.

It may be more important that Jesus repeats His call to pray to avoid temptation.  Jesus sees their need differently.  Matthew and Mark both have Jesus desiring that they “watch” with Him rather than praying to avoid temptation.  Luke records a different reason for their act of prayer, just like He records a different reason for their sleep.  Praying to avoid temptation is critical, and not praying a critical error on the part of the disciples.  Is prayer our first defense against temptation?  Or is it more often that we try another tactic to avoid it.  Or would it be even more accurate to say we react against temptation rather than try to avoid it at all?  Praying that we avoid temptation would sure simplify our struggles against our propensity to give into temptation.  Perhaps we would do so much better to “keep the barn door shut” rather than trying to shut it as the horse bolts or after it escapes.

I have resisted praying to avoid temptation.  Sometimes I prevent myself from surviving temptation because I want to fail.  By not being proactive I have an excuse in that it caught me off guard.  Yet simply being proactive would have prevented the problem from appearing, and once appearing from overwhelming me; or at least providing an excuse for my failure.  I have to want to succeed to pray consistently to avoid temptation.

That’s my view through this knothole this morning.  What do you see?

Passion Week XX

And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.  When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:39-42 NASB)

Honestly, I’ll be looking at the Garden prayer and arrest in much less detail than it warrants…seriously.  You’d be amazed at how much can be found simply in comparing the four Gospels to each other just with this event.  It’s amazing.  I believe that, together, they paint a very powerful picture of our Redeemer.  Unfortunately, I blog three days, teach the fourth, and prepare through the weekend, and blog three days.  It’s a pattern I’m strapped into until I either retire or am fired.  So, less detail is all I have time for.

Jesus and His disciples were “camping” in the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives.  They were probably not alone since the Passover brought people from all over the world to Jerusalem, and I’m pretty sure camping was common.  The Mount of Olives would have been popular for historical and religious reasons as it provided the best view and proximity to the temple.  Tonight, though, there would be no rest.

In Luke, Peter, James, and John (or the sons of Zebedee) were not set apart from the rest as they were in Matthew and Mark.  Jesus simply tells them all to pray to avoid temptation.  While Jesus doesn’t go into detail as to what sort of temptation or to do what exactly, it needed prayer apparently to be avoided. There’s no comment that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.  There’s one prayer, not three.  Luke is so focused on prayer throughout his Gospel, yet here there only a single prayer of Jesus.  Luke seems focused on the effect and purpose of prayer, not the number of prayers; to avoid temptation, and relinquish the will.

There is this prayer that seems to be Jesus wrestling with what comes next.  It is not the will of Jesus to go through the suffering, death, and resurrection?  I have a very unpopular idea of what that actually looked like for Jesus, but I still find it makes the most sense to me.  If I’m right, then Jesus had more suffering to face than we can imagine.  In fact, the reason it’s so unpopular is that it’s impossible.  My contention is that the impossible is sort of God’s “wheelhouse”.  I believe Jesus was facing something that was creation-shattering huge.  It will cause all of heaven and earth to gasp in horror; and hell to roar in victory.

Somehow, please let the cup of suffering pass from Me!  Yet, I relent to Your will.  The first scene in the Passion of the Christ is this prayer.  It’s dark, and it’s being overseen by Satan.  The relinquishment is of Jesus’ will to avoid what comes.  I don’t think it’s the beatings He wants to avoid.  The relinquishment is of Jesus’ will to find another way that doesn’t include such a high price for the sin of all creation.  But as the stars of heaven declared His arrival, so the clockwork skies would herald His death; set in motion before the first sin was even an option.  There was no other way, not from the beginning was there another option.  And Jesus already knows this even as He prays.

That’s my view through this knothole.  What does God look like through yours?

Passion Week XIXg

And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”  And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.  For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And HE was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”  They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38 NASB)

Once again, Luke provides a unique glimpse of Jesus to us.  Jesus reminds the disciples of being sent out without provisions, and yet, they were provided for.  Having reminded them, Jesus now says they are to go with provisions. But in addition to the provisions they avoided before, Jesus instructs them to sell a coat and buy a sword.

I’ve read commentators who claim the instruction is “spiritual”, as if the coat has a spiritual meaning as does the sword. But is the explanation that Jesus would be numbered with transgressors also only spiritual?  How about the direction to take money belt and bag, was that only spiritual?  I suspect the idea of an armed ambassador of the peace of God causes uncomfortable feelings in most theologians.  I just don’t just derstand why being on the run as a religious refugee doesn’t bother them as much or at all.

Regardless of what theologians do or don’t understand, maybe the question that troubles people most might be the “why” of the sword.  Why would they need one?  Jesus explains that the reason for the sword is that He will be counted, not as a criminal, but a “sinner”, as one who transgressed the law.  So, why is a good question to ask. Why does a transgressor of the Jewish law need a sword?  Or why do the disciples of a transgressor of Jewish law need swords?  

The disciples already had two swords for the eleven of them, and Jesus says that was sufficient. Clearly, the point isn’t that every disciple have a sword.  Maybe it was the selling of the coat and buying of the sword, rather than that everyone has a sword. If a sword is more important than a coat, what does that imply about that person?  I think the real problem is that it’s difficult to discern a purpose in two of twelve being armed.  But if we take this statement of Jesus at face value, then there are all sorts of possibilities.  Perhaps they will need guards now.  Maybe they will need some to stand to delay attackers so the rest escape?  There are all sorts of things that can be imagined. But in that culture was there an obvious reason more likely than another?  Honestly, I don’t know, but I suspect there was.

I think it was essentially that some of them have a sword, not everyone.  The obvious reason for this would be because they aren’t a “fighting force” in the typical sense but still needed a defense for some reason.  If they are considered “sinners”, their personal safety could be in jeopardy.  Yet, they wouldn’t be in danger from the Romans as much as from the Jewish establishment, synagogues, the Sanhedren, and religious leaders; maybe the people.  So they wouldn’t be on their guard from an army as much as from a mob.  

Only much later does Paul refer to Scripture as a sword.  So, seeing this reference of Jesus as obtaining Scripture I believe to be mixing metaphors improperly.  I think that, as uncomfortable as it may be, the reference is to arming His followers, at least minimally.  The reason escapes me, but I suspect it has to do with guarding the group, the safety of the people.  I’m not sure how the swords were to be used specifically, but I still can’t allegorize the reference without also obscuring the other elements.  And seeing the whole reference as allegory just doesn’t make sense to me.

That’s my view through the knothole this morning.  What do you see through yours?

Passion Week XIXf

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:31-34 NASB)

God, the Father, has granted Satan’s request to sift Peter like wheat. But Jesus intercedes for Peter, which is Jesus’ role after His ascension. Awesome! With Jesus interceding, Peter can’t fail, right?  Well, not exactly. In fact Jesus doesn’t even pray that Peter won’t fail. How is that even possible? Doesn’t Jesus want Peter to succeed?  And I think we would agree that, of course, Jesus wants Peter to succeed.  So why didn’t Jesus pray that Peter would succeed?  Trick question alert! If you look at the wording above, you see that Jesus did pray for Peter to succeed.

Jesus didn’t pray that Peter wouldn’t deny Him. He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. In other words, the definition we have of failure was different than Jesus’. Success as Jesus defined it wasn’t that Peter never make a mistake, but that Peter never let a mistake keep him from Jesus.  That’s an important distinction. Isn’t it true that when we think our mistakes are failures to Jesus that we also think our relationship with Him is dependent upon us? But when we continually repent of our mistakes, our relationship with Jesus remains dependent upon Him; it’s no longer based on  our success rate.

This is proven when Peter declares his unwavering support to Jesus, and Jesus responds predicting Peter’s denial. Jesus knew of Peter’s denial, and prayed that his faith would not fail.  And what Jesus meant by unfailing faith is found in His continuation, “…and when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Success for Jesus is Peter’s repentance back to leading his fellow disciples; his return to his calling.

So, success for me in my walk with Jesus is repentance from my mistakes back to my calling in His service.  It is Satan who wants my mistakes to define me. Only the enemy of my soul has a vested interest in using my mistakes to distract me from my Master’s call on my life.  And when I give in to such distractions, I deny my dependence upon my Master for my relationship with Him.  What is true is that I am Matthew Scott Brumage, son of Lloyd, Knight of the Realm, Servant of the King, and that He loves me, He has my back, and I am at His service; and He has called me to wait, worship, and walk before Him. That is what is true about me.

So, what is your view through your knothole this morning?

Passion Week XIXe

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”  And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34 NASB)

The beginning of Job is almost as disheartening as the rest of the book (except the ending).  We read that, and think, ‘Wow, that guy was setup!’  And we’re sort of left with the unsettling feeling that God was complicit in the setup, after all, He points out Job to Satan!  Many of us probably settled into some sense of relief that this is the only place we see God do this…except, for this one.

The wording of Jesus in this passage implies that God gave into Satan’s demand.  The context supports that too, but the choice of words and tense support it all on its own.  So, God does this thing using His people in some sort of challenge with Satan, still.  It’s not just with Job.  With Job it was God’s idea, with Peter, it was Satan’s idea.  Either way, it happened again.  And I suspect still happens.

This is one of those places where we experience a sense of depersonalization in our relationship with God that is very counter to our self-centered culture.  Even in those who see themselves as philanthropists, they are generally shocked when they are mistreated and disrespected.  There’s just something about human beings that refuses to let us believe that all this is not really all about us.  Even in cultures that are more enmeshed in either family or cultural groups, they still think life is all about them (examine modern Japanese culture right now…it’s as if WWII never really happened).

On a personal level, the inconvenient or catastrophic circumstances we encounter about which we have no control we consider personal attacks.  But from this we learn that it’s possible it has nothing to do with us at all, and God and Satan are just pushing each other around the “heavenly realms”.  It’s a bet, and we’re the one’s being bet on or against.  We’re the horses, the greyhounds, the players on the field, and we run, race, and play for the sport of others.  It’s gladiatorial combat all over again, and we’re the combatants.  The really frustrating this is that we signed on for this.

Here’s the deal.  God and Satan argue over us.  When Scripture says that Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father, we need that for reasons we aren’t even aware.  We think it’s to help us in our lives, make us happy, something like that.  But now we see that  actually it’s to help us survive the game the Father and Satan are playing.  That sort of changes how we see this relationship with God which we have given everything to gain.  We give up everything to be pawns and gladiators in the cosmic contest in the heavenly realms between the Father and Satan.  But it’s okay, because we have Jesus interceding on our behalf with the Father; kind of like “legal cheating”.

If this all sounds like we have been duped, then now is the time to read the end of Romans 8.  We win and our victory is inevitable.  We cannot be separated from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, not even a little.  We win.  To be specific, we are on the winning side when we give everything to be a disciple of Jesus.  The alternative is to be on the losing side, just to state the obvious.  So the question is how valuable is it to us to be on the eternal cosmic winning side.

But to those of you still stinging from our lack of status, or feeling duped because we’re merely pawns, let me just ask, “So you thought the Maker of the Universe would make you some sort of ‘general’ in a fight you didn’t even know was raging?  What are you, some sort of numbskull?”  I’m sorry to burst your bubble that this really isn’t about you at all, but it isn’t.  It’s about God, Maker of the Universe (and probably a lot more) soundly and embarrassingly humiliating the rebellious pompous narcissistic enemy of all creation.  You want in on it, then you get in as a private; not a sergeant, not an officer, not a specialist, or corporal; a private.  That’s the deal.  Study to show yourself approved a workman rightly handling the Word of truth, and you can be a “lead private”.  But seriously, until you actually get there and see the fight, how would you even know what you’re doing?

Trust that God has it all under control, stay the course, fight the good fight you have before you, and hang in there until you finally get to see what’s really going on.  You do that, and maybe in the Kingdom to come you gain rank.  Until then, just hang in there.

That’s part of my view through this knothole.  The other part has to do with the foreknowledge and grace of Jesus’ statement.  But that will be for tomorrow.

What’s your view through your knothole?

Passion Week XIXd

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30 NASB)

I can only assume that Judas has left by this time.  Luke never tells us that.  In fact, none of the Gospels, except John, tells us when Judas leaves to get the soldiers.  These guys were just squabbling about which one was the greatest, and then Jesus tells them they will judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  Without the detail about when Judas leaves, it might cause one to wonder if Judas would also be a judge.  Probably not.

This statement of Jesus is full of surprise.  These are the guys who have stood by Jesus in His trials.  Although they’re getting ready to jet later that evening.  There is some translation “wiggle room” in verse 29.  The ESV has “and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom.” The problem is that “kingdom” is the direct object, but of which verb. It can be paired with Jesus’ granting the disciples, or with the Father granting Jesus.  It occurs at the end of the phrase, so its position in the sentence leaves some ambiguity.  The Greek texts have no spaces nor punctuation, so that sort of thing is left up to translators.  As you can see, they disagree somewhat about whether the disciples get a kingdom or not.  An additional issue is that verse 30 begins with a subordinating conjunction denoting purpose (“hinna” clause).  So the ambiguity continues with the context supporting either Jesus’ receipt of a kingdom enabling the disciples to eat at His table, or that the receipt of a kingdom by the disciples enables them to also/therefore eat at His table.  If your eyes haven’t crossed or you haven’t moved on to another blog, then you’ve survived the technical portion of today’s entry.

I think it makes more sense for the disciples to receive a kingdom because the following comment about them judging the tribes of Israel.  If it weren’t for that, I’d go with just the dining experience, but I think there’s more to it because of the role of judge.  Having said that, the meal with Jesus also means something.  We think of “kingdoms” in a way like an autonomous ruler having total control over the “kingdom”.  When I believe Jesus has the cultural understanding of a subordinate kingdom, like the one Herod had under the Roman governor of Judea.  I get this from the use of the word “grant” or “appoint” that Jesus (or Luke) uses here.  But it also comes from the close relational implication of sharing a “table”.  The type of kingdom and the way in which they administer such a kingdom implies a close subordinate role under Jesus.

Now, consider that in less that 30 verses Jesus will be betrayed, alone, and in chains.  And Jesus knows this.  Here He tells these guys who are about to desert Him that because they have stood by Him in His trials, He will grant/appoint/bestow a kingdom.  They are already forgiven for their fearful desertion of their Master.  Think that through.  Jesus doesn’t wait for them to come back around before telling them about a kingdom waiting for them.  He doesn’t wait for them to earn it in any way whatsoever.  We think of grace because of Jesus’ death, or His resurrection, or because He intercedes for us from the right hand of the Father to where He ascended.  But grace is a fact even in the past because of what Jesus would do in the near future.

How much more so for us?  Consider where you may be in your relationship with Jesus.  What you see is nothing compared to what Jesus sees.  Where we see failure and disaster, Jesus sees princes, princesses, kings, and queens.  Where we see impoverished faith, our Master in heaven sees riches beyond imagination, where gold is the cheap stuff we use to pave streets.  Redemption is now a reality because of what Jesus has done.  We may not feel it, see it, taste it, or even hear it; but we are redeemed right now.  Struggle with Jesus.  Wrestle with the Almighty!  Rage against the rebel within!  Obedience and faith are won on the spiritual battlefield, fighting the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms.  We can fight side-by-side, together in the ugliness of war.  Together we will then eventually see the light of victory before the throne of Jesus.  The point is to continue the struggle.  It only looks like we’re losing right now.  Eventually a kingdom waits for us (not one of our own necessarily), where we will experience the salvation of the presence of our Savior, Redeemer, and King. To help us see this, Jesus speaks of the end as if it’s already a reality; which it is.

We can’t see it ourselves, but it’s a done deal even so.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?