Category Archives: bible study

Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts

Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts

This is a reposting of an interesting brainpickings article. In it they list a number of curious notes in margins and colophons made by medieval scribes in whatever biblical manuscripts they were writing. [Note; a colophone is an endnote that might include the scribes name, or the place and date when he wrote and finished the manuscript. One could think of it as a scribe's "signature." Leaving a colophon is a  practice that is almost unknown in early biblical documents, but become relatively normal in late minuscules]

“New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more.

“I am very cold.”

“That’s a hard page and a weary work to read it.”

“Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.”

“This page has not been written very slowly.”

“The parchment is hairy.”

“The end of the book- Thanks be to God!”

“The ink is thin.”

“Thank God, it will soon be dark.”

“Oh, my hand.”

“Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.”

“Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims you sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.”

“St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.”

“While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.”

“As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.”

“This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, ‘The hand that wrote it is no more’.


Rethink: John was NOT the disciple whom Jesus loved.

*Note, this is a personalized abridgement of David B Curtis sermon. I’ve taken the whole thing and reshuffled it a bit, adding my own thoughts, removing some of his words, quoting him verbatim at length, and and in short essentially bastardizing what is a brilliant sermon and observation to suit my blog better. It is an amalgamation of both our minds [mostly his] using his sermon as the template and as the source material and my own intellectual endeavours to fill in the rest  [And yes, I have contacted David Curtis and he has given me his blessing and permission to do this]  To get a better, fuller and clearer picture that what you will read here, you can see the original which was preached on November 30, 2008, and which the full transcript can be found here; ” I had originally intended this to be a single post with the HT at the end, but splitting it up made this impossible to do. I realize that it was unwise to not give this up front in the first post and for that I apologize, will rectify it, and will work better to ensure that any project is sourced up front rather than at the end, which had been my habit. Anyway, onward we go!

Continuing where we left off, we are brought to our next reference;

So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was father‑in‑law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people. [John 18:12-14]

And Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought in Peter.    [John 18:15-16]

The context for this is during the trial of Jesus. We see that Jesus was being followed by Peter, which everyone knows about, and our second mysterious disciple make another appearance. Peter would not have been able to gain access by himself, but rather it was the “other disciple” who was known to the High Priest and he was the one who got Peter in. If you read John 20 you will see that the “other disciple” is “the disciple whom Jesus loved:

And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” [John 20:2]

At this point we will build a case against the “beloved disciple” being John. When we contrast  John 18 to Acts 4 I think we will see that this “other disciple” could not be John. Acts 4:1-23 tells us what happened to Peter and John following the healing of a crippled man. Peter and John were seized and brought before the “rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas” in order to be questioned about this miracle.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

Here is where it gets interesting. Notice here what these Jewish leaders recognized. It was in that moment that they suddenly understood that these men had been with Jesus. The principal thing that we need to get out of this passage is that it was at that point that the high priest and the other rulers became acquainted with Peter and John for first time. But our text in John 18 tells us that the “other disciple” was known by the High Priest. This teaches us that the high priest did not know John [or Peter] before this incident. So the “other disciple” could not have been John!

Furthermore, and building upon this, we see in John 20 that this “other disciple” was the first to believe after the resurrection:

So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.    [John 20:8-9]

This happened early on the first day of the week “the other disciple saw and believed” but later that day notice what Mark tells us:

And afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.    [Mark 16:14]

When he is speaking of “eleven” he is speaking of the“twelve” minus Judas. These eleven did not believe but the “other disciple” had believed that morning.  This fits really well because while we are told that “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” believed, Peter did not believe, but would believe a little later, as we see in Mark 16. The other disciple was clearly not one of the eleven and could not have been John, because John was counted among the eleven who were rebuked for not believing, while the disciple whom Jesus loved, Lazarus, had already believed!

To pile it one, at Jesus’ trial there are only two disciples there with Him, Peter and the “other disciple”. Peter denies that he even knows Him. Then we go to the cross and none of the “twelve” are there. They were all afraid. But notice who was there:

Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.    [John 19:25-27]

The Synoptics say all the twelve deserted Jesus once he was taken away for execution, even Peter, and record only women being at the cross. There is no contradiction here if the disciple whom Jesus loved is Lazarus rather than one of the Twelve.

The only man that we know of who was at the cross as Jesus died was “the disciple whom He loved”. Why? What gave Lazarus this boldness? Think about it. Why would Lazarus be afraid to die? He had already died and been raised from death. He had no fear of death he was loved by Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. We know too that this “other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” was the first to believe, and was not one of  ”the eleven”

Jesus loved Lazarus and he made him responsible to take care of His mother. The historical figure of Lazarus is more important than we may have previously imagined, due to his role in the life of Jesus and Jesus’ mother. Jesus must have trusted him implicitly to hand over his mother to him when he died.

 After the resurrection morning, the next mention of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” occurs in John 21:2-8.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.    [John 21:2-3]

Two of those who were present are not named–which is consistent with the author’s practice of not naming himself! In fact, If you read John 20:1-8, you see that the writer mentions “the other disciple” 4 times without giving him a name even as he gives everyone else involved in the action a name. But that’s alright because he is named in verse 7.

That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.    [John 21:7]

Since “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was present, look at the author’s list in John 21:2. We see that “the sons of Zebedee” are named one of which was John and we know that the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” is present at the same time! This is strong evidence that the author was not the Apostle John. At the end of the Fourth Gospel Jesus is talking to Peter and tells him what kind of death he would experience. In response to this:

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” [ John 21:20-21]

Jesus tells Peter how he is going to die and Peter’s response is, I would argue, “What about Lazarus”? As soon as the topic became death, who did Peter’s mind turn to? Lazarus!

Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”  [John 21:22-23]

We have this idea that “this man” is John because we read that back into the text from Church history, knowing that he is supposed to have died at an old age and not martyred unlike the rest of the apostles [though it is doubtful John was unique in him not being tortured.] We say “it must be John” because the popular belief is that his longevity qualified him for this task. And yet what do we see in the text? Something about this “other disciple” caused some or all of the disciples that were present at this event to jump to their erroneous conclusion – that Jesus’ words, “If I want him to remain until I come” meant “that disciple should not die”  The rumor “that disciple should not die” did not spring from a misunderstanding about what Jesus said. This error happened because of whom Jesus was speaking about!

I’m sure that Peter and the rest of these disciples knew that this individual was Lazarus who had already died and been brought back from the dead. In this case, a reason for one or more of those disciples jumping to the conclusion that they did, suddenly becomes evident. Since Jesus had already raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, those who knew that Lazarus was the subject of Jesus’ words in John 21:22-23 had mistakenly interpreted Jesus words to mean that Lazarus would be ‘exempted’ from having to undergo a second physical death.

I think we can  agree that the raising of Lazarus from the dead was a profound event in the life of Jesus. Yet this remarkable miracle is missing from three of the four gospels. The first three gospels don’t offer even a hint that this miracle occurred and they never mention that Jesus had a friend named Lazarus that he loved. Now consider that Matthew was probably an eyewitness to the raising of Lazarus. This was surely a powerful and unforgettable experience, yet Matthew left this out when he wrote his Gospel. Lazarus was big news! So why is it that the other Gospels fail to mention any of this?

Strangely enough it turns out that there is another prominent figure in the life of Jesus who is also nowhere to be found in the first three gospels. The person is “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Is this simply a coincidence?

As fas as how the Fourth Gospel ever come to be attributed to John, I would suggest that  a man named John, not the son of Zebedee, could very well have edited this book. Although the Beloved Disciple is claimed as the Source of the book, that does not necessarily mean that he is its actual Writer. Most scholars are in agreement that John 21 makes clear that while the Beloved Disciple is said to have written down some Gospel traditions, he is no longer alive when at least the end of this chapter was written. This would also mesh well with the early Christian traditions attributing it to John.

This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. [John 21:24]

The “we know his witness is true” is a dead give away that someone other than the Disciple whom Jesus loved put this Gospel into its final form and added this appendix. This also explains something else. Whoever put the memoirs of the Disciple whom Jesus loved together is probably the one who insisted on calling him that. In other words, the Disciple whom Jesus loved is called such by his final editor, and this is not a self designation. If the Writer was a close colleague and follower of the Source, it is quite understandable that he would refer to his master by using the honorific title “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Well what say you? Are you convinced? Unconvinced? I would love your thoughts. And also, if you want more evidence, click on the link to David’s blog, as he offers more things that I’ve chosen to delete for the sake of brevity and space.

Rethink:Who was the disciple whom Jesus Loved? Part I


Note, this is a personalized abridgement of David B Curtis sermon. I’ve taken the whole thing and reshuffled it a bit, adding my own thoughts, removing some of his words, quoting him verbatim at length, and and in short essentially bastardizing what is a brilliant sermon and observation to suit my blog better. It is an amalgamation of both our minds [mostly his] using his sermon as the template and as the source material and my own intellectual endeavours to fill in the rest  [And yes, I have contacted David Curtis and he has given me his blessing and permission to do this]  To get a better, fuller and clearer picture that what you will read here, you can see the original which was preached on November 30, 2008, and which the full transcript can be found here; []” I had originally intended this to only be one post with the HT at the end, but splitting it up made this impossible. I realize that it was unwise to not give this up front in the first post and for that I apologize, will rectify it, and will work better to ensure that any project is sourced up front rather than at the end, which had been my habit. Anyway, onward we go!

I’ve historically attributed two things which will tie together in these next two posts. One, that the disciple “whom jesus loved” was John, and that that very same John wrote the Gospel of John. I’ve recently been challenged with both of those traditions and presuppositions. In light of that  I decided that I would make a case to suggest that neither are true.

Its probably worth mentioning up front that the historical idea that John was the disciple whom Jesus loved is not found in the Bible nor are we told in the scriptures that John was the one who wrote the Gospel of John. Strictly speaking the Gospel of John, like all the Gospels, are anonymous. Instead we find information regarding the authorship in the early Church fathers and traditions, primarily via Eusebius, Papias and a few others. I find it best to leave that alone for now and concentrate strictly on the biblical evidence, as there will be time enough to discuss the questions of tradition later on. At this point its probably a good idea to re-read the quote from J.I Packer that I posted yesterday, before we continue.

So putting aside tradition for now, we are told who wrote this Gospel in the book itself.

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” [John 21:20]

Here the writer mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and then states that this is the disciple that wrote this letter:

This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.    [John 21:24]

So we know who wrote this Gospel- it was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Now all we have to do is to figure out who that was. My whole life I have heard that John was the one whom Jesus loved, being part of his inner core with James and Peter.  But here’s the thing; nowhere does the Bible say that John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved”. We are not told that anywhere in the scriptures. Instead we see that only one person is explicitly named in the Bible as being “loved” by Jesus.

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.    [John 11:1-2]

Here for the first time we are introduced to Lazarus. Now notice carefully what we are told about him:

The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”    [John 11:3]

Lazarus’ sisters refer to him as a man who Jesus loved. That tells us something very important about Lazarus. But while that could simply be his sisters’ opinion, even more revealing is what the Spirit tells us through the inspired text

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.    [John 11:5]

Please notice carefully what this says, “Jesus loved…Lazarus.” So Lazarus’ sisters said Jesus loved him, the text says Jesus loved Lazarus and notice that even the Jews said that Jesus loved Lazarus:

And so the Jews were saying, “Behold how He loved him!”    [John 11:36]

We are also told that Lazarus was Jesus’ friend, and knowing that Jesus had great affection for his friends, it seems to me that the Spirit of God is going to great lengths in John 11 to make it known that Jesus loved Lazarus. And recall, while we are told that Jesus has great love for his people, Lazarus is the only man named in the Bible that is specifically identified as being “loved” by Jesus.

Because of this love it should be obvious that Jesus and Lazarus have known each other for a while and must have spent some time together building and developing their friendship.  We don’t know when exactly this was, possibly during their childhood or even later in life, but the first we hear of Lazarus is in John 11. Or is it? That is the first time we hear of him by name anyway, but I think it is arguable that we see Lazarus very early in this Gospel, and possibly that he was a disciple of John the Baptists:

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.    [John 1:35- 37]

Here we have two of John’s disciples leaving him to follow Jesus. Who are these two?

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.    [John 1:40]

Here we see that one of the disciples was Andrew. The other one is never named.  This would be consistent with the author’s practice of not naming himself! It seems safe to assume that when the Writer makes any reference to another, unnamed disciple, he has in mind this one particular disciple whom Jesus loved. It is hard to believe that the writer has a number of different disciples that he is committed to keeping anonymous. Returning back to the resurrection scene;

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”   [John 11:43-44]

Here we see the good friend of Jesus, the one he loved being raised from the dead. In terms of his miracles up to this point, this was quite spectacular, especially for Lazarus. Seeing as how they were good friends before he died, how much more would their friendship be cemented and their affection for each other deepen in light of this? Do you think that this resurrection had a profound life changing effect on Lazarus? I can’t help but think it must have. But being raised from the dead made Lazarus a celebrity of sorts which everyone wanted to see.

 The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. [John 12:9]

This large crowd is not gathering just because of Jesus, they also wanted to see Lazarus.  Lazarus was causing such a stir that the Jewish leadership wanted him dead and wished to have him executed, a detail I hadn’t considered before or thought about when I considered what happened to him after his resurrection.

But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus. [John 12:10-11]

And we learn something interesting here. The crowd was there because of Lazarus:

And so the multitude who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, were bearing Him witness. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. [John 12:17-18]

Lazarus had become a big celebrity; everyone was talking about him and wanted to see him. Some even wanted to kill him. It makes sense that this is reason that the author of the Fourth Gospel wanted to remain anonymous and why instead of naming himself and putting himself out there, he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, “the beloved disciple” and the “other disciple”. In fact, we see the disciple whom Jesus loved, or “the beloved disciple” is mentioned five time in the Book of John, and then we don’t hear a single mention of him in any other of the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament.

And this is something that strikes me as particularily significant. John 12 is the last time we hear of Lazarus. While he is being raised up and spoken about as to become a major character in the continuing narrative, after chapter 12 this man disappears from Scripture. This good friend of Jesus, this man who Jesus loved and raised from the dead suddenly disappears.

Notice where we see him last:

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. [John 12:1-2]

The last time we see Lazarus he is reclining at a table with Jesus. Then he disappears from the pages of Scripture. What is really interesting is right after Lazarus disappears someone else appears that we have never heard of before:

There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.   [John 13:23]

The last time we see Lazarus he is reclining at a table with Jesus and the first time we see the “disciple whom Jesus loved” he is reclining at a table with Jesus. The only man named in the Bible as being “loved” by Jesus abruptly vanishes from this Gospel and then the only disciple singled out as being “loved” by Jesus abruptly appears in this same Gospel. It is my contention that this “disciple whom Jesus loved” is Lazarus. This seems so clear from the text but we miss this because the title of this Gospel is, “The Gospel According to John” so we assume that John is the disciple whom Jesus loved. But the inspired text tells us that “Jesus loved Lazarus”.

We also get to see another glimpse of the great affinity that Jesus had for this disciple. We see that after Jesus makes a comment about his betrayal that Peter, one of his inner core, does not ask Jesus directly who he is speaking of but rather appeals to the disciple whom Jesus loved and uses him as an intermediary to clarify what Jesus meant. This both disqualified Peter from being the one whom Jesus loved and reiterates the deep sense of intimacy, friendship and love shared by these two men must have. If anyone is going to know, its going to be the one Jesus loved.

When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” [John 13;21-25]

Now some will argue that only the 12 were at the last supper and Lazarus was not one of the 12. But where did the idea come from that only Jesus and the twelve were at the Last Supper? Most likely from DaVinci and his paintings and not the Scripture. The Scriptures never tell us that Jesus and “the twelve” were alone at that last Passover. In terms of the last supper, in Mark 14:13 Jesus sends two of his disciples off to find a venue, and then later arrives with the twelve apostles. There is no suggestion that the two who went ahead were from the twelve, and so they, at least, would probably have joined him for the supper in addition to the apostles.

As a matter of fact they were probably very rarely alone. Acts 1, tells about the time when the eleven remaining Apostles named a replacement for Judas. They began by selecting two men. But notice what is said about the group from which these two came

“It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us–beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us‑‑ one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

This text teaches us that Jesus had many loyal disciples who accompanied him throughout His time here on earth. Is it hard to believe that some of them would have been at the Last Supper? Something Jesus says also indicated the presence of others at the Last Supper. Jesus tells them that one of them will betray Him and when they ask who He replies:

And He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl.  [Mark 14:20]

The twelve” is a specific designation to refer to the twelve Apostles:

And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:    [Luke 6:13]

The term “disciple” is a broad term that refers to any follower of Jesus. If Jesus and “the twelve” were the only ones at that last Passover, then why would Jesus need to say “one of the twelve”?  If “the twelve” were the only ones present, wouldn’t Jesus have said, “One of you”? And given that, doesn’t this further indicate that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” was not one of the twelve, as a delineation of sorts is drawn between the twelve and this man who leaned on Jesus?

Food for thought. I’ll be posting the conclusion to this very soon.

The myth of carrying a dead man on your back- “the body of death”

A local Church Pastor/Pastrix recently preached a sermon which incorporated part of Romans 7 into it. Usually, merely saying “Romans 7” is usually sufficient in Christian circles to bring to mind the struggle with sin. As Paul describes the thoughts and impulses that war within him, he comes to verse 24 and says,

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

This individual did use that exact text, and they told a familiar story. Like many preachers who have come before them, they recounted the story of  how in ancient Rome there was a form of capital punishment which was gruesome and terrifying. The idea was that if you murdered someone, your victim’s corpse was then chained to your back. As the sun beat down on you and as days and weeks passed, rancid odours would nauseate you as the body rotted and decayed. Infection quickly set in as it seeped into your own body and killed you. Its a familiar story.  Some pastors, desiring to go a step further, would add that it was only possible to be freed from the horrors of this punishment if someone else chose to carry the body in the place of the murderer, carrying it to his death.  We are told that this is what the term “body of death” meant, and that Paul used this terminology and phraseology to bring to the mind precisely this well-known form of punishment- that it was a brilliant illustration on Paul’s part and a powerful allusion for us today on how to understand our sin and the effects it has on us.

The only problem is that this is extremely suspect if not outright false. The only mention of this practice  comes from Virgil’s Aeneid, a Latin epic poem that recounts the deeds and mythology of Aeneas. Originally published some 80 years before the Epistle or Roman , its possible that Paul and his readers would have heard of it, there is no indication that he actually did. To recount the pertinent part in Book VII;

Not far from here is the site of Argylla’s city,
built of ancient stone, where the Lydian race,
famous in war, once settled the Etruscan heights.
For many years it flourished, until King Mezentius
ruled it with arrogant power, and savage weaponry.
Why recount the tyrant’s wicked murders and vicious acts?
May the gods reserve such for his life and race!
He even tied corpses to living bodies, as a means
of torture, placing hand on hand and face against face,
so killing by a lingering death, in that wretched
embrace, that ooze of disease and decomposition.
But the weary citizens at last armed themselves
surrounded the atrocious madman in his palace,
mowed down his supporters, and fired the roof.

Does this prove anything? Not at all. Though the story may be based on true events, the poem itself is Greco-Roman mythology.  It is largely fictional and describes what took place prior to the founding of Rome. If Virgil was alluding to a common practice of his day, there is nothing to show it. From the context before and after the bold section, it appears this kind of punishment was not acceptable  [at least to Virgil], since he uses it as an example of King Mezentius’ “wicked murders and vicious acts” for which the people rose up against him.

There is no indication that this practice of tying murderers to dead men,  if it even happened, was called “the body of death”.  It also cannot be said that this was a Roman custom/ law as all we have is one isolated reference to one king’s unacceptable barbaric practice that pre-dated the Romans. There are certainly no primary Roman sources where this punishment has been codified into law or even mentioned as a legitimate form of execution. In terms of what the punishment was for, there is no specific crime listed in the Aeneid.  The victims of this punishment were not identified as murderers and the corpses were not identified as murder victims. On that note,  who would consent to having their murdered loved one chained to the murderer and left to rot instead of receiving a decent burial? In terms of the dead men being carried on the murderers back, in the story the victim was bound “hand on hand, face against face.” This description does not suggest any mobility afforded to the victim. Lastly there is no such reprieve mentioned. This part was made up to strengthen the allusion to Christ who bore our punishment for us.  There is absolutely nothing about someone taking their place, though at least the concept of getting sick and dying from the presence of putrefying flesh was accurate.

In terms of where drawing that parallel  first originated, the earliest records I could find of it all come  from the late 17th century works and 18th century commentaries. Attempting to find something earlier,  I’ve read commentaries and homilies from such early Church fathers, theologians and preachers as  Augustine, Origen, Chrystosom, Clement of Alexandria, Cyril, Erasmus, Aquinas, Hillary, Ambrose, even Pelagius, and none of them mention it in their sermons and writing concerning Romans 7. To say that this is what Paul had in mind when he spoke of the body of death is pure mythos, even as the salient details are wrong.

In short, in our present day many pastors and lay persons have not only changed an extra-biblical illustration into an embedded allusion , but some would suggest that the story of Mezentius is an interpretive key to understanding the passage in Romans 7. Its not. This particular pastor, while sincere in their efforts, was wrong to preach this story as central and specific to the exegesis.

Ecclesial Roundup. Week ending 08.28.11

MGA Church. Pastor Glen Forsberg.

Fellowship Baptist Church.  Pastor Brent Carter

Fm Alliance. Pastor Val Johnson

Family Christian Center

Emmanuel Baptist Church

A brief commentary and sermon on a very hard parable

Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.  And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’  The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.  I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’  And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. Luke 16:1-8

I came across this in my scripture reading a few mornings ago.  I figured I would offer a brief exegesis/ commentary/ sermonette without using any sort of external commentary or outside help, because this is known as a tough and complicated parable, and I was hoping I could shed some light on it.

We start off midway through a narrative where the rich man has charges brought against his manager, accusing him as wasting his possessions. We don’t know who brought these accusations forward, or how reputable they were, but they seem to have been taken very seriously. Communities in Jesus’ time were quite small. You would have a village or a number of villages banded together, and so it was a close knit community and people knew each others business. For this reason, it is reasonable to suggest that it was known in the community that the manager wasn’t doing a very good job. In response to these accusations the rich man tells the manager  “turn in the books, you’re fired.”

The managers lack of response to the rich man is very interesting. We notice that there’s no protests of innocence. No excuses. No explanation whatsoever.  In fact, the man doesn’t say anything at all. He just stands there and takes it, and that’s the end of it. The lack of response on the part of the manager would clue us in to the fact that this man is guilty. He knows he’s guilty. He’s been caught red-handed, and he has nothing to say. This brings him to an impasse. What’s he going to do? He’s been fired. He won’t be able to find work in the community because as it’s close-knit, people are going to know both that he was fired, and that he was fired for being wasteful and being a poor manager. This leaves him with few options. He’s too proud to beg and unaccustomed to doing the work of a laborer. How will he survive? Another way of putting it- what will be this mans’ salvation?

The man then gets an idea. He reworks the bills in favor of the debtors by giving them sharp discounts on their bills. In response to this action, the rich man commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. What was the shrewdness? The shrewdness comes in the form of  recognizing what his salvation would be. The shrewdness comes in knowing what his salvation would consist of- which is the mercy of the rich man. This parable is about mercy, specifically the rich man’s mercy upon his dishonest but shrewd manager, and ultimately God’s mercy on us. The parable teaches us how to keep our eyes upon Jesus, and on God’s mercy. This can be seen from a couple little details that might otherwise go unnoticed.

1. The first detail is that when the rich man confronts the man with his careless, wasteful handling of his property, and the manager doesn’t response with any kind of plea or excuse, the rich man could have demanded restitution. “Pay back what you owe me, what you cost me in your wastefulness and your carelessness.”  He owed him the money, and if he couldn’t pay him back what he cost him, by law he could have had him thrown into the debtors prison. This is what happens in another parable, in the unforgiving servant, where a man and his children and his wife are to be sent to prison and sold for the man being unable to pay his debts. But did you notice in the parable that the rich man doesn’t do that? Nothing of the sort.  This shows us that the rich man is a generous man. He does  not demand justice for the wrong, but responds to it with mercy.

2. The second little detail often overlooked is the word “quickly”. We see this when the manager adjusts the first man’s bill. ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ He wants to do it quickly before words gets out that he’s been fired. Because as far as they know the manager is still representing his master, and if the debtors find out that the rich man is not behind the reducing of their debt, they’re not going to go along with it. It would have been an illegal action. The rich man would have just reversed the man’s debt back to their full amount, and they’re going to risk incurring  the man’s wrath. But this is right after he’s been fired. Nobody knows it yet. They think the master is supporting the reduction of their debts, and so what would they naturally  think of the rich man? That he’s merciful, which they would have already known because we’ve already seen in from the beginning. They would have praised him for his generosity, and for his mercy towards them.

And so you see the quandary the rich man is in, all account of the shrewdness of the dishonest manager. If he tries to correct the situation and do the right thing legally,  he’s going to have to adjust the debt back to the full amount which will anger his debtors and more significantly, cause them to see him in an less than merciful light. And this man wants to be seen as merciful. He is merciful- something the manager knows and cunningly acts to take advantage of. And so when then master commends the dishonest man for his shrewdness, he’s not commending him for his dishonestly, but for knowing where his salvation lay, in the mercy of his master.

He knew that the master would rather be merciful than right, and so he trusted to him in a sense to pay for his salvation, which he did by allowing the debtors to pay back less than what they really owed him. The manager knew that his master was above all else generous and merciful, and he kept his eyes on the masters mercy.

As Christians we are to do the same, but often times we fail to. The reason why we often fail is because we fail to live in this gospel by failing to keep our attention on Jesus and his word. When we fail to do that we fail to keep our eyes on our masters mercy. At the end of the parable Jesus says “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” meaning that people of the world know the rules of the world, and they know how to play by those rules to get ahead and to get what they want. They are shrewd in that way. That’s why the world is such a crooked place. People lie, cheat,  manipulate and steal to get ahead and to get what they can, when they can, as much as they can, as long as they can. It’s a dog-eat-dog -world, and you can’t trust anyone to have your back because everyone is in the same boat. That just how it is. That’s how the world works. Those are the painful, hard, vicious rules. And Jesus says “why are Christians not as shrewd, not as knowledgeable in the rules of God?” He’s not saying we should be crooked and manipulate or lie and cheat, but he is saying why not be as clever, as shrewd in dealing with God according to his rules? Why not deal with him based on his mercy, the way the manager did with the rich man?

Jesus wants us to be shrewd in terms of recognizing like the manager where our salvation lies, in the arms of God’s mercy. He wants us to trust in the Lords generosity, to look out for us even when we don’t deserve it. In terms of the parable, the manager  trusted in the rich man to pay for his salvation. In like manner,  God really did pay for our salvation. By sending his son to the cross to lay down his life he paid our debts to the full. And that wasn’t right for him to have to do that. I’m sure from Christ’s perspective the fact that we got off free while he hung there bleeding and naked, to pay our debts in full, – that wasn’t right. But what we see is that like the rich man, God would rather be merciful than right. If we trust in that, then in the last days we will be received into the eternal dwellings.  We live in the gospel by acting like the manager, with an eye always on the generosity of our master, and we make the most of his blessings in our lives when we keep our eyes on his mercy.

rethink: the good samaritan story [don't be so hard on the priest]

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. [Luke 10:30-33]

I’ve heard many pastors preach on these texts. What often tends to happen is that they let loose on the Priest and the Levite, blasting them for their coldness and cruelty and lack of compassion. There is a tendency to  pretty much excoriated these two men in this parable and cast them as unfeeling, heartless, soulless, unredeemed, and without an ounce of empathy in their bones. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization whatsoever. Let me explain.

Jesus replied, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,…”” This is an actual road. It’s about seventeen miles long, and the road literally drops about 3,000 feet along that seventeen mile stretch. So when it says he’s going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, it really does go down. As it were though, this road wasn’t particularly safe. While these roads would have been patrolled by roman soldiers, they couldn’t be everywhere at once, and we see this play out by the fact that robbers set upon the man and strip him of his clothes and beat him to the point of death. And I think the state he was left in was significant. People’s nationality and background and even profession are identified by clothing and by dialect. It’s how we have historically identified our neighbours and kinsmen, and have been able to tell different people and groups apart. But this man has no clothes, and is unconscious and cannot speak, and therefore he cannot be readily identified, which will come into play pretty quickly.

Now to the crux of the matter. “Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” I think the knee-jerk reaction is to be very hard on the priest, but I would argue that we need to be far more merciful to this guy than most have been historically. Let’s set the scene.

The priest is not walking by. As he would have been in upper level in regards to socioeconomic status, it’s almost certain that he would have been riding by on a horse or a mule. The priest is on his way back from his two week stint at the temple, and if he gets even within 4 cubits [6 feet] of this guy, he is ritualistically unclean. So he can’t even get close to this guy to see if he is okay according to religious law. If he gets within 6 feet of him or touches him, he will be deemed by the law ritualistically unclean and he will have to go back to Jerusalem and begin the rights of purification, which are going to require him to purchase a red heifer and turn that thing into ash. It will take at least seven days. He will then have to stand at the Eastern Gate with everyone else who has sinned against God until another priest who, along the same lines as him, purified him. So he would be filled with shame, filled with guilt, out a whole bunch of money, unable to take the tithes and offerings and food. Which means not only will he suffer, but his family will suffer if he helps this man. This is not an easy predicament to be in, and so we ought to be very careful not to judge the priest too harshly, or disregard the laws and the culture in place.

We can all sit back here and call this priest out on this, and talk about how we would surely never do such a thing, and that if we were in the same situation, we wouldn’t even think twice about it. But I’m telling you- it’s not a case where this man has nothing better to do and has time to kill and can call 911 and then be on his way. No. If the priest helps this man, he is an outcast, and it’s possible that he is unable to take care of his family for a few weeks. He’s going to have to purchase cattle, slaughter it, to through the ritualistic rites and probably be taken out of the priestly rotation for a season. It’s an unbelievably costly thing for him to engage this man, especially considering that violence and death were not that uncommon. I mean that. Seeing a man laying dead in a ditch, the victim of some form of barbarous act, would not have been completely out of the ordinary. It was a violent time, with Roman occupation and insurrection and thieves who descend upon a man, kill him and rob him, and disappear without a trace. It was a different time back then, and with no way of knowing who this naked man was, [if he was a fellow Priest or a hated Samaritan or a Gentile or a Roman] or if he was even alive- it at least makes sense that his religion and the burdens of such an action would keep him from engaging. So he sees him and goes along side of him and won’t help.

So let’s look at the next person to come along. “So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” A Levite is like a junior varsity priest, except he’s never getting bumped to varsity. The Levites assisted the priests in the temple but were in no way economically near what the priests made. So the Levite was a much more humble person in regards to what they made. The Levite is absolutely walking. And the thing about a road that goes for seventeen miles straight down is you could be 3-4 miles ahead and still see. So the Levite who serves the priest, who doesn’t have a lot of money, who is all by himself, passes by the man, bound by the same ritualistic law, already saw the priest pass by [this is a reasonable speculation] and I think must have thought, “If the priest wouldn’t touch him, I most certainly shouldn’t. Besides, where am I going to get the ability to help this guy?” He doesn’t have the kind of money and space that a priest would, and he probably would have had his own family to feed and take care for. So the Levite rushes past by also.

And here’s where the story would have turned scandalous. Up until that point no one would have been outraged or shocked by the actions of these two men, because they understood it.They get what’s going on. “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.” It’s real important that you see that that’s the driving force behind this, because let’s talk about the Samaritans. The Samaritans were halfbreeds: half Jews and half Samarians. When Israel was in captivity, they were men or women who married their captors and had children. In this century, the Jews believed that if you had anything to do with a Samaritan…well…let’s just say it’s in the Mishnah that if you ate the bread of a Samaritan is equal to eating the flesh of a swine. There were actually prayers in the synagogue during this period that asked God not to give forgiveness or grace to the Samaritans. That’s a pretty strong level of hatred, isn’t it? So you can see that there’s not a lot of love between these two ethnic groups. But the Samaritan is not a gentile! As such, he is bound by the same ritualistic laws as the Levite and the priest. In this though, the Samaritan is moved with compassion. “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” and he does the right thing.

I’m not going to take time to carefully exegete these passages, or offer my own interpretation, or talk about whether I am the good Samaritan and the beaten man that I am to help is my neighbor, or if the good Samaritan is Jesus, and the beaten, helpless man that needs saving is me. That’s not my concern. All I wanted to do, was hopefully make the case that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the Priest and the Levite. It’s not so cut and dry to suggest that these were heartless and uncaring men who had no concern for anyone but themselves. It’s not right or fair or even contextually accurate to rip into them like some pastors do. There’s a lot more at play here, and while I believe that ultimately the Priest and the Levite were wrong not to stop, and that they should have had compassion and done the right, hard thing, It’s not as simple or as uncomplicated a thing to do as some would suggest.

An Invaluable Resource for Learning

I wanted to call attention to an invaluable resource that I’ve been using for a few years now, but lately has become precious to me and I want to share. It’s called iTunesU, and its essentially a podcast that you can download that features thousands of colleges and universities across the world. There are tens of thousands of classes you can listen in on, whether its anthropology, economics, political sciences, philosophy, etc, and it’s all free.

What I’ve been using it for however, is the seminaries. Specifically, Reformed Theological Seminary. I’ve been “taking” their classes for two years now, listening in on hundreds of lectures primarily involving Church History, Doctrine and Philosophy, Old Testament History and Reformed Epistemology. This year though my interests have shifted, and what I’ve become passionate about is pastoral ministry.

In this RTS doesn’t disappoint. I’ve lined up some 700 hours of classes, all surrounding various aspects of pastoral ministry and ecclesiology. I wanted to share some of the specific classes with you

1. Disabilities and the Church

21 hours of classes on how the reality of physical and emotional disabilities plays out in the church, from how to outfit a church to make it disability accessible, how to work with professionals and caregivers, how to have a theology of suffering, the medical contexts, how to prepare for death, the role the deacons and elders play, family dynamics, the role of church order in a disability context, outreach to those with disabilities, and about 25 other lecture sessions in the same vein.

Other classes, each of which  has 20-40 lectures in them, are:

2 Educational Ministry of the Church

3. Introduction to Pastoral and Theological Studies.

3. Pastoral and Social Ethics

4. Roles and Relationships in Pastoral Ministry

5. Theology of Pastoral Ministry

6. Pastoral Counselling

That is just from one seminary and those are just some of the classes. There are others. After I finish I have my eye on Westminster Theological Seminary, and then perhaps Concordia University. Oh, and they also have hundreds of chapel sessions, which is a fantastic bonus.

Commentary on Luke 19:7-8

But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”[Luke 19:7-8]

Over the course of three years, Jesus had amassed a large following. Undoubtedly the vast majority of people who had gathered in that crowd had heard of him in some way or another. We know that he had healed all the sick from whole villages, thousands of people, and so that would have brought him a large degree of infamy. To this end, the biggest name in ancient Israel at the time just declared publicly that he MUST stay at one of the house at one of the most hated names. They all complained. They grumbled. The parallels to the prodigal son, again, are staggering. The Father just welcomed the son home, greeting him and kissing him and rejoicing. And when they saw it, like the older son, they began to grumble. They never got it. People of Israel never got it. All the way to the end they’re holding on to their vile, damning self-righteous religion while Jesus is saving sinners. This scene shows the difference between the heart of God and apostate first century Judaism.

When they saw this scene, they did not thank God for showing his grace, but became upset that God was showing his grace to someone they feel didn’t deserve it. This is absolutely predictable. The mentality was that no self-respecting Jew would ever expose himself to such severe pollution by staying at the house of the chief administrator of taxation, the most corrupt of all tax gatherers and then to eat a meal with him and to sleep at his house. It was an absolute outrage.

Though I do wonder if perhaps this should have come as a complete shock. After all, Jesus had a history of this. He healed lepers, told stories of tax collectors being justified before God prior to this, and had become to be known as a friend of sinners and prostitutes. Though not all would have known these things, so they justifiably upset. Not only that, but  there were more than likely people in the crowd who were merely looking for some action on the part of Jesus to take them on the last few steps to being convinced that He’s the Messiah, and instead He does something that would literally undo all of their previous idea that He would be the Messiah by defiling Himself in this way. It’s against the grain of everything that was a part of their religious thinking.

And yet he declared his intention to associate with Zacchaeus publicly. He said that openly. Jesus knew that that was a serious breach of Jewish expectation. If they thought He was the Messiah, if they thought He was the man of God, if they thought He was the prophet of God, if they thought He was holy and righteous, if they had any inkling along that line, this would utterly and completely floor them because you didn’t go to the house of a man like that and you didn’t say overnight at the house of a man like that. In fact, that action was tantamount to sharing in his corruption. Zacchaeus was a sinner. They were not. And that is why they grumbled.

Look at Zacchaeus’ reaction to the criticism and shame he is bringing on his guest. First, he stands up, indicating probably that he had fallen to his knees before Jesus. He was bowed down, weak in the knees so much that they had apparently buckled. He was prostrate, overwhelmed with emotion, but now he stands. It is the overwhelming unbelievable joy of an aching heart, of an empty heart having a meeting with someone who represents God. He was eagerly joyous though he must have been stunned. It doesn’t say he received Him with fear.

Next, he offers to give half his possessions to the poor. The rich young ruler in Luke 18 had  trouble disposing of his wealth, but not Zacchaeus. In one stroke he pledges half his possessions to help the poor. Here is a fledgling disciple who does not love money, but has his priorities in the right place. Immediately the transformation showed itself up right in the realm where his sin was most dominantly manifest. He became like the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8, generous to a fault. Zacchaeus’ acts of repentance were both genuine and required if he is to remove from Jesus the shame of associating with him. And so what does he do? He confesses him as Lord. The first words out of his mouth were  Behold, Lord.” This detail is foundational in understanding what has taken place here.

His next words are promises of generosity and restitution. he wasn’t making up arbitrary numbers and amounts in his head. Instead, he would have gotten it from Numbers 5 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the LORD, and that person is guilty, 7 then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged.’“  This was pretty much the Jewish standard. Twenty percent, one fifth, would have been what was necessary in restitution.

If you stole something from somebody, or defrauded them, you were required to return what you had taken plus twenty percent, which would cover something of the lost interest or accumulation that could have been gained by whatever it was you stole. Zacchaeus then could have offered that twenty percent and under any law that would be sufficient.  Or he could have done it another way. He could have based it on Exodus 22, which in the case of an ordinary robbery, you paid back double. Zacchaeus could have decided to pay back two-fold. That would have been more generous than twenty percent, as now you’ve gone to two hundred percent.

So why did Zacchaeus say fourfold? Because in the first verse of Exodus 22, it states “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep”. That is,  if you robbed someone with violence and destruction, a fourfold response was required. Zacchaeus  went to the max.He didn’t cower and quibble and try to respond with them most minimum requirements he could get away with, but rather was so aware of his sin that his offer was tantamount to saying “I accept that my thievery and sins are the worst, so let me perform the maximum demonstration of obedience to show my repentance.” It was an acknowledgment of his actions and his desire to make it right.

There wasn’t any law that said give half of everything you have to the poor. He would have probably given more, but he needed to keep half because he was going to give back four hundred percent of what he had defrauded people of to the maximum of Old Testament allowance. This is the kind of obedience that marks the one who has denied himself, taken up his cross and followed Christ and doesn’t live on the minimal but lives at the maximum level of obedience. He acted as if every illegitimate defrauding taxation was destruction, violent, devastating. No protestations. No excuses. No attempts at self-preservation or to maintain a degree of pride and rightness.

Only a mark of great and holy repentance.

Luke Commentary 19:5-6

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. Luke 19:5-6

There is an actual road to Jericho that he is traveling. Jesus talked about it in Luke 1o,  when he says “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…” The road is  about seventeen miles long, and the road literally drops about 3,000 feet along that seventeen mile stretch. It can be walked to in about 8 hours. So Jesus is making his way up the path, on towards Jerusalem. He knows he’s going there to die. That reality has been set in motion before the world began, and this is the last city that he will travel through. And so there are crowds present, pressing in all around him. He’s walking the familiar path through the city, when he comes to “the place” where the tree rests, and he sees a man in the tree.

Jesus makes contact with Zacchaeus and calls him by name. This would have been a shock to the man, and yet it demonstrates the omniscience of Christ, in that he knew not only Zacchaeus’ name, but eventually we will see that he knew the state of his heart. This is not unique to Jesus however. We saw it earlier, in Mark 9, where he interacts with the scribes and the Marcan account relays “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Zacchaeus would have been floored to have heard his name, but then what came after would have been even more surprising. I imagine that it is possible that Jesus would have known who the chief tax collector for the region was. Or perhaps  he picked it up from angry whispers in the crowd about the man Jesus was peering up at. He would have been the most despised man in the region, and so I think what is even more surprising to Zacchaeus, moreso than Jesus knowing his name, was the request for Jesus to stay at his place. That is three stunning events. First the eye contact. Then the name. Then the request to stay at his place.

The request, of course, is unheard of. Tax collectors in ancient Judaism were social pariah’s- the equivalent of child molesters and rapists. There would have been untold hatred, disgust, rage, and vilification directed towards him. So when Jesus gives him the imperative. Not a request, but a divine command. There is an immediacy to the whole affair. He tells him to make haste- to hurry up, because it is of the utmost importance that Jesus stay with him. Jesus clearly saw this as part of his divine mission- he must save this sheep. God not only knows who He will save, He knows when He will save and where He will save. This man WILL be saved this day. Not tomorrow. Not in the near future, but rather Christ has ordained this encounter and has determined that it will happen today.

Far from being offended at the presumption of Jesus that he must stay at his home for dinner, Zacchaeus is overjoyed. Here he was, a social outcast being offered the opportunity to host one of the most famous men in the country. Of course, he is happy. He scrambles down the tree and welcomes Jesus. Jesus has invited himself for dinner at this man’s home. Not out of hunger, but because he knows something about the desire and earnestness in this man’s heart. Jesus can see that he is wealthy. His clothes betray that easily. Be he can also see the man’s longing and his faith, and he knows the state of his heart. Zacchaeus never could have anticipated anything like this because he knew he was a defiled person and no one who considered himself righteous or clean would ever come near him, let alone near his house, and worst of all, eat a meal with him which was tantamount to affirmation and partnership. Yes, Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, but far more than that, Jesus wanted to see Zacchaeus.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of people surrounding him. There are good men and righteous men. There are evil, unrighteous men. There are sinners to varying degrees, pressing into him from all around. And yet in the midst of that, Jesus hones in on one man- a single man out of the multitudes. There were people there not so different from Zacchaeus. And yet the Son of Man knew who he was seeking. One man out of thousands.

For Zacchaeus, after the imperative command, it would have been the first time any righteous, clean, noble, respected person had come to his house. This harkens back tan earlier parable that Jesus told. Here is the Lord, like that father, throwing his arms around a stinking prodigal son, kissing him all over the head and reconciling him and embracing him, such as happened in Luke 15.

Jesus goes to his house because He seeks to save this lost man. He is on a divine mission, established by divine sovereign grace and a divine timetable. He knows exactly who he is though he’s never met Him. He knows his name though he may have never heard it. And he has an appointment with salvation.

Of course Zacchaeus  received Him gladly, profusely, because he was so overjoyed. I cannot imagine the joy that Zacchaeus would have felt. I don’t imagine that in that moment he was thinking about the stares, mutters and whispers. He was experiencing  not mere happiness, but the joy of salvation. He didn’t receive him joyfully simply because Jesus wanted to stay at his house or because for the first time in years he was acknowledged with by a “non-sinner” with something other than contempt. Rather, this seems to be the moment where he literally “received Him joyfully” The inception of his salvation. The moment of faith and believe in Christ. What an explosion of emotion and gratitude to the Lord.

It’s no surprise then, what happened next with the people in the crowd.


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