Posts Tagged jesus
That the disciple of Jesus taught his resurrection was a revolutionary concept. Here is Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our day, explaining why the resurrection must be true.
“The only way you can explain why christianity began and why it took the very precise shape it was is – let’s say cautiously first – they really did believe he was bodily raised from the dead…the only way you can explain the rise of the early Christian belief that Jesus was raised is if there really was an empty tomb, and they really did meet jesus alive again in a transformed body.”
There are a lot of Herodians in the Gospels and Acts. It gets pretty confusing if you’re not keeping a score card.
Herod the Great and His Kids
They all descend from Herod the Great, who the gospel of Matthew says was ruling as King of the Jews when Jesus was born. He died in 4-3 BCE, and he left behind a real mess for the Romans to sort out. He had originally been married to a Jewish princess, then he married a different one – both of whom where named Mariamne. He traded her for a Samaritan woman named Malthace and moved from her to another lady named Cleopatra. He also had a number of girlfriends on the side.
He had children with all of them, but to ensure the ascendancy of his children by Malthace, he had his sons by the first Mariamne killed. He married his son from the second Mariamne to his granddaughter from the first Mariamne. Then she (her name was Herodias), divorced that son and married Herod’s son by Malthace.
It is all very confusing. Have I said that yet?
Anyway, when Herod died, the Romans divided his kingdom between two of his sons by Malthace: Herod Archelaus received the title of ethnarch and ruled Judea and Herod Antipater received the title of tetrarch and ruled Galilee. Of course, the Romans had to make that decision because Herod the Great had left two wills, both naming a different son as tetrarch.
Archelaus ruled Judea until 6 CE when the Romans, unsatisfied with his conduct, deposed him and declared the region to be a province. They banished him to Gaul, and he was never heard from again.
Rule and Marriage(s)
Antipater on the other hand, catered to the Romans and built the resort town of Tiberias for them. He loved the Romans, and they allowed him to pretend he had power. Galilee was a populous place under Antipater, and it flourished. He spent time in Rome, where he met Herodias and persuaded her to leave his half-brother and marry him. This marriage was what enraged John the Baptist and led to his imprisonment and ultimate beheading.
(Antipater was a fascinatingly depraved guy. He beheaded John because of a request from Herodias’ daughter Salome after she “danced before him.” Salome was not only Antipater’s stepdaughter. She is also his niece, since her father was Antipater’s half-brother. AND since Herodias was also Antipater’s niece, there’s an additional level of incestuous lust involved. I’m still not convinced he wasn’t from the deep, dark recesses of Appalachia.)
Of course, when Antipater met Herodias, he was already married to the daughter of the king of Idumea, who was also a distant relative. It took so long for Herodias to get to Galilee that Antipater’s first wife had time to run home to her father, who promptly declared war on Antipater and Galilee. Had it not been for timely interference by the Romans in 26 CE, Antipater would have lost his kingdom over the affair. But the Romans did interfere, because Antipater’s former father-in-law, Aretas IV Philopatris, was a pain in their side and they needed an excuse to put him in his place.
Are you keeping track of all this, because to be honest, I’m not sure that I am!
His Downfall and Exile
Antipater’s downfall also came about because of Herodias. Her brother, Agrippa, ran into money trouble and she persuaded Antipater to cover for him. The two men quarreled, and Agrippa left in a huff. He went to Rome where he joined his friend Gaius, whom he had met when Gaius was in Antioch as a child. Gaius is a common enough Roman name, so you might know him better by his nickname Caligula.
When Caligula became emperor, he was in a position to help his childhood friend Agrippa. At first, Caligula made Agrippa the king of Lysanias (basically southern Lebanon), but in 39 CE Agrippa went to Caligula with complaints of treason against Antipater. The emperor deposed and exiled Antipater and made Agrippa king of Galilee and eventually Judaea as well.
Antipater died in exile in Gaul, ironically near the place where his brother Archelaus had died thirty years before.
Among students of the Scriptures, it is often hard to discern the theories from the facts. Someone in one generation develops an idea, and the next generation – who learned the idea in their college classrooms – teaches it as fact.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than the theory of the “historical Jesus” which fuels so many of the articles about Jesus that appear every year in mainstream magazines around the time of Easter. The same theory fuels almost every History Channel and PBS documentary about Jesus as well.
But the theory – which briefly states the that Jesus of history is very different from the Jesus of the Bible – is just that, a theory. It is a theory first clearly and plainly articulated around 1900, although it had been discussed at great length by German theologians at the close of the previous century. Two works – Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, first published in English in 1910; and Albert Kalthoff’s The Rise of Christianity (1907) – made the idea somewhat mainstream. Both owed an enormous debt to an earlier book, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, written in 1846 by David Friedrich Strauss.
The themes were taken up in the 1950′s and 1960′s, and then became a part of pop culture with the formation of the Jesus Seminar in 1985. Almost all of the mainstream authorities on the “historical Jesus” – Robert Bonk, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg – first gained notice outside of academia because of it. Infamously, in the Seminar, members voted on the historicity of Jesus’ sayings by putting colored beads in a bowl – red meaning Jesus said it, black meaning he did not, and a range of colors between indicating various probabilities.
Although opposed by some of the greatest theological minds of the 20th century – Karl Bath and Rudolf Bultmann both opposed it – the idea has gained traction in popular culture and is taken as a given by almost everyone, including Christians. People just assume that the gospels present Jesus differently than he actually was in life.
But the theory hangs on the slender threads of assumptions. The assumptions are simple ones:
- Jesus was illiterate because he came from Nazareth and therefore would not have
- Jesus was poor because he came from Galilee and therefore resented the rule of the Romans
These two notions should bother the student of history. They are the Marxists ideals. Jesus is a poor, illiterate carpenter who rises up against his bourgeoisie Roman masters and is crushed for trying to lead a rebellion. They are not representative of first century Palestine, but they are representative of an ideal that existed in Europe at the time that the historical Jesus quest took root.
Everything about Jesus’ teachings is rephrased into a class struggle, and because it was convenient to the struggle of the day, people followed it. It should not surprise us that it gained popularity again in the 1960′s when Marxist ideals – repackaged as communal living and the oppression of “the Man” – became an academic norm again.
My purpose in all of this is not to critique the Jesus Seminar. I have done that elsewhere. It simply illustrates the weakness of the theory, which unfortunately is taught in even some of the most conservative colleges and churches.
For example, almost everyone who attends a basic Bible study or New Testament Survey class is told that Mark was the first gospel written. But why is this taught?
Because the historical Jesus people say so. Mark has the fewest miracles, reports events in the tersest terms; and since Matthew and Luke contain many of the same events, it became popular to conclude that it was the first gospel written.
This, of course, moves the core of the gospel out a generation from the life of Jesus and it makes Matthew and Luke derivative works.
In historical fact, however, most of the Church Fathers believed that Matthew was the first gospel written. It is 1) the most Jewish of the gospels and 2) reflects very little of later events. This is why Matthew appears first in the canon lists, and in your own Bible if you have one.
The argument that Mark was written first was created to justify dissecting the others, eliminating the miracles and the divinity of Christ. The Jesus Seminar people then decided that Mark was actually a composite of an imagined work called Q (from the German for source) and the Gospel of Thomas. They extrapolate Q from Mark by simply removing anything miraculous, supernatural or divine.
The theory, and it is was nothing more than that, became presented as fact and now, virtually everyone in Western Christianity adheres to it when in fact the Church has not adhered to that position for nearly 2,000 years.
All of this is just an illustration.
When something is presented to you as if it is facts, ask where the facts come from. Assume nothing. Alone, we won’t always catch everything; but as a community, we watch each other’s backs. We keep each other straight.
Don’t be afraid to question things, especially when those things are presented as undeniable fact without substantiation.
I was once told by a fellow pastor, “I don’t teach deep stuff. I just preach Jesus.”
That sounds great on a surface level, doesn’t it? Let’s just preach Jesus because He is after all the Savior of mankind, right? If people believe Him, then they can sort everything else out eventually, right?
Jesus does not exist in a vacuum. The gospels occur within a massive supranarrative (many writers would say metanarrative but they would be using that word incorrectly). The Church is born and flourishes within a greater story, a symphonic movement of harmony, dissonance, leitmotif and crescendo. To dismiss the Scriptures as secondary to “preaching Jesus” is to do a poor job of preaching Jesus.
That is not to say that the Gospel is not, at its core, Jesus Himself. The apostle Paul wrote that in Corinth he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) But before we use this as a proof text for a sort of “nothing but Jesus” philosophy, let’s not forget that this same Paul plumbed the depths of Hebrew Scripture, Greek philosophy and Roman culture. This is the same guy who wrote things that Simon Peter said were, “hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16)
Paul was not a simplistic preacher with a one note repertoire. He brought to bear some formidable knowledge of the Scriptures, and he was not afraid to teach it when necessary.
And here’s the thing. The Gospel is the culmination of the Hebrew Scriptures, and without them, it is not much of anything. While the Gospel of Luke certainly frames Jesus as the Messiah of all mankind and leans heavily on pagan culture, he cannot separate Jesus from the context in which He lived or the Scriptures which He fulfilled. Even Luke must place Jesus in context with the Hebrew Scriptures.
So a supposed Bible teacher who does not dive headfirst into the Hebrew Scriptures and saturate himself with the supranarrative will teach a shallow Jesus.
If you ask me for advice about pastoring, I will tell you that you must know the Bible. You must immerse yourself in it and have the intestinal fortitude and spiritual integrity to allow it to change you. The Revealed Scriptures must have your absolute, undying devotion. You must be willing to allow the Spirit of God to discipline, chasten, correct and encourage you. You must never have an opinion that cannot be altered by a deeper understanding of the Word of God.
You should bow to the ground before the authority of the Scriptures. They must be your schoolmaster and you must ever be their servant. You must be conformed by the written Word in order to be conformed to the image of the Living Word.
Acquire knowledge of history and language so you can understand the Scriptures. Read them in translation. Read them in the original languages. Read them silently and aloud. Teach them constantly and receive teaching from them. Heed the wisdom of those who have spent their lives immersed in them and reject those who handle them lightly.
The older I get the more I realize the foolishness of my youth – pursuing trends and methodologies under the mistaken belief that those things would “build” the church. I have little patience for people who tell me they are too busy to “be deep.”
Get out of the ministry if you don’t have a passion for the beauty of the Scriptures. You are supposed to be ministering the Scriptures to people, not feel good sentiments and leadership strategies.
Preach Jesus. Yes! But preach Him from a place of deep, growing commitment to the Scriptures that reveal Him. Otherwise, you will preach a Jesus conformed to your image rather than being conformed to His.
Jesus’ encounter with the demonic forces on the Lake Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee) occurs as he is trying to get to the region of Gedara. The name of the city itself means “border country” and it is essentially the eastern edge of Jewish influence.
Beyond Gedara was the Decapolis, an entirely new municipality founded by the Greek rulers who followed Alexander the Great and then rebuilt and expanded by Pompey, the Roman consul. The Decapolis had no historical precedence, and as such was not tied to the ancient traditions of the region.
No self-respecting Jew or Galilean went to the Decapolis even though it bordered Galilee to the east and the north. It was a wholly Greek region and therefore, in the minds of Jews and Galileans alike, was a pagan place. They welcomed the Romans and as a result, the Empire invested heavily in the development of the region. Throughout the Decapolis, local deities had been fused with the Greek pantheon and even the Roman reverence of the emperor as a god.
Invading the Pagan Stronghold
According to Luke, Jesus sailed for the Decapolis. He was intentionally headed for enemy territory.
Luke is the only writer to refer to Jesus as epistatē, a Greek title for a military commander. There are only two reasons a commander heads for enemy territory – to surrender or to invade. In this case, Jesus was headed to the Decapolis to invade it.
Standing on the shores, the demoniac saw Jesus coming his way and the demons called Legion (which means there were thousands of demons) is set to stop him from invading their turf. They send a raging windstorm that Luke calls lailaps.
In Greek mythology, Lailaps was the name of a dog that hunted the Teumessian Fox. The name came to be used as a metaphor for something inescapable, an inevitable disaster. It was sent by the gods.
In the same sense, Luke sees this windstorm as inescapable and supernatural. It is opposed to Jesus coming to the Decapolis and has been sent to prevent Him – to destroy Him.
When Jesus stands and rebukes the wind, he literally puts it in its place. The Greek word is epetimaō, which is again a military term. In this case, Jesus the epistatē tells the wind to get back in line. The demons of Legion have attempted to overstep their bounds against the commander of all, and at his command, the lailaps cowers.
According to the Greeks, not even Zeus could command the lailaps. Instead, he had to turn Lailaps and the Teumessian Fox into stone – freezing their struggle for all eternity. But Jesus can simply command and lailaps must obey.
This is why the demoniac comes to Jesus asking, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!” (Luke 8:28) The demoniac knows the tortures that the demons have put him through and he assumes that Jesus must then be the demons’ master and assumes he is just as cruel as the demons. He is commanding the demons, silencing the lailaps. Nothing the supernatural powers of the land throw at Jesus has any effect on Him.
Jesus is YHWH
I have to be honest. This entire scene gives me goosebumps.
This is one of Jesus’ most powerful moments in the entire gospel of Luke. This moment reveals true power and absolute sovereignty. He is, in this moment, revealed to be something OTHER – absolutely and entirely. He is greater than the natural and supernatural forces, greater than the pagan gods, greater than the demonic forces.
And that is Luke’s intention. Throughout his gospel, he has been revealing Jesus as Savior of all mankind. Now, he reveals Him as Master as well. He is the master of all the gods and forces of any culture or religion and again asserted as YHWH, the God of Israel (Psalm 95:3).
One of the key reasons I don’t do conferences is that inevitably someone wants you to do some kind of “learning exercise.” I am a high-brain, verbal learner which means that I learn best by taking in information and teaching others, and most “learning exercises” do nothing for me. At the Biblical Imagination Conference we attended this weekend, we were asked twice to put our feelings on sticky notes and post them on a board. The first time, I actually wrote, “I don’t know what to write because the Gospel isn’t about me.”
Seriously, I wasn’t there to learn about myself. I was there to absorb the Gospel of Mark, to look at it in a different way; and that’s exactly what the teacher did. I felt engaged in Mark and felt that he really took the book to a fascinating place that will have me thinking, praying and changing for weeks. But it wasn’t about me. It was about Jesus. I wanted to learn about Him – from Him; and that was enough for me.
Anyway, the final “learning exercise” was to place ourselves in the place of Bartimaeus on the road out of Jericho. (Bartimaeus’ story is in Mark 10:46-52.) I think the purpose of the exercise was for us to think creatively about how the Gospel pertains to us. In reality, we are all blind like Bartimaeus; and the only thing we can ever ask Jesus for is mercy, which is what he does.
I get the idea. I really do. And when people started standing up and reading their “paradigms” as they were called, there was definitely a vibe of “Jesus saved me from ______.” I did not write about that at all. I think being “saved” is easy; but being transformed and remade is not.
When Jesus healed Bartimaeus, he literally remade him. Jesus did not simply make the man’s eyes work. He reactivated, repathed and reconnected millions of neural connections in his brain. Jesus implanted in Bartimaeus’ mind, body and soul the ability to not only receive light through his eyes but also how to interpret that light in meaningful ways. Jesus imputed into Bartimaeus a wholeness that otherwise would have been absent.
But there’s the thing. Bartimaeus was not the blind guy on the road. That was not the true Bartimaeus. When Jesus comes along and Bartimaeus cries out for mercy, Jesus recreated Bartimaeus as he was intended to be. For the first time, Bartimaeus was wholly Bartimaeus.
Too many of the “paradigms” I heard were essentially, “I AM the blind beggar, but Jesus made me a better version of that blind beggar.” This is the way Christians often share their testimony, and it is not an indictment of anyone who was there. They dwell on the person they once were – that broken, sinful person, and they imagine that Jesus somehow just improved upon that person.
Jesus does not improve or renovate. Jesus recreates. Bartimaeus was no longer the blind beggar. He was the seeing disciple. And when we cry out to Jesus for mercy and he recreates us, he does a NEW thing. He makes us as we are meant to be, the new creation. He is the NEW ADAM, the one who gives life.
We need to shift our thinking and stop defining ourselves as what we were before Jesus showed up with a little extra that Jesus is doing. We need to realize the new creation he has done and embrace the present reality of his workmanship in us. We must no longer be defined as ME+something Jesus did, but rather as Jesus+A NEW CREATION.
It is hard to communicate the emphasis, but consider it as if we mumble that we were blind and then SHOUT that we can see. The NEW CREATION is the reality, and the old broken person was just the shadow. The people who would not follow Jesus were those who embraced the lie of their current reality, who could not imagine that Jesus could make them truly new (the rich young ruler, the Pharisees, etc.). Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you ARE the sinner, the broken, the defeated. That is not who you ARE. You ARE who Jesus, in his mercy, makes you.
Those things have passed away, and BEHOLD he makes all things new.
Does that make sense?
I am headed to Syracuse, New York, for the weekend for the Biblical Imagination Conference with the man, the legend, the awesomely bearded Michael Card.
While I could never aspire to have a beard like his, Michael has long been one of my musical heroes. He combines teaching and art in a way that you never quite know which is which. I have a true appreciation for the way God has used his abilities as a gift to the Church.
So, I leave you for the weekend with Michael and Phil Keaggy playing “The Poem of Your Life.”
A video of a North Carolina pastor was making the rounds of the internet recently. Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church begins a diatribe on placing “lesbins, q-u-weers, and hom-o-sessuals” (that’s how he pronounces the words) in what amounts to concentration camps so they will die out.
The video has over a million hits on Youtube and has generated so much traffic that it crashed the congregation’s website. Needless to say, every Christian blogger has jumped in and linked to it, so I feel that I must cave to the peer pressure and post it here. (Wait, is that considered cyber-pressure?)
Now, you might be asking me how I feel about the things that Pastor Worley had to say. First, I need to say that this kind of rhetoric is nothing new to me. I grew up going to revival meetings where the “Sodomites” we’re ruining our nation. I remember one memorable preacher who said, “The flamers will be flaming alright – when they’re burning in HHHEEEEEEELLLL!!!!!” (It is hard to get the flavor of the rebel yell that was that last bit, but you get the idea.)
Others like Erik Raymond have written effectively about the warning flags and cautions for us, and I don’t need to repeat it. And I have written before on the subject of the Church and homosexuality, so I won’t retread that road either.
Rather than going over things already addressed, I want to contemplate what I think may be the hidden source of rhetoric like this – and that is fear.
Fear? Yeah. When I watch this guy railing, I cannot help but think that he is harboring a hidden, probably even subconscious fear that he might be “one of them.” He is so busy condemning and diatribing (and where exactly in the Scriptures are we told that building electrified fences to keep undesirables contained?) that he never stops to think about what he is saying. I cannot help but think that his fear drives this craziness.
How does that work? Think about it. If you were to admit that despite knowing the sin in which a homosexual is living you are called to love that homosexual, that would make you a homosexual lover, wouldn’t it? Who loves homosexuals? OTHER HOMOSEXUALS. Do you see? You have to run the opposite direction as fast as you can to prove that you are not a homosexual.
I call this the Gays-Are-Gross Factor.
This is craziness. I cannot tell you how many gay, lesbian and “other” acquaintances and friends I have had over the years. I remember one young man telling me over AOL Instant Messenger (remember that?) that he was gay, and when I acknowledged it without any kind of anger, he was genuinely surprised. Recently, someone I know decided that they were homosexual. (I say “decided” because the person in question is in a “am I?” kind of stage.)
Do I agree with their lifestyle? No, I do not.
And just to be clear, I believe someone can actually be born homosexual. We are all sinners by nature – born into sin. It is written into our DNA, and if you can be born a liar then you can also be born gay. The choice is not to be gay or straight, but rather is whether we will live in what God calls sin or we will accept his righteousness as our own and seek his grace to be conformed to Christ’s image.
We, as followers of Christ need to overcome our fear. We need to find renewed confidence in the grace of Christ, just as the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians, “such were some of you.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
Fear says that I could be like “one of them” so run away.
Faith says I am reborn in God’s grace and his grace overcomes all sin.
Instead of fear, we should acknowledge sin while extending grace. Not a one of my gay or lesbian friends is unclear about my position on the subject. But then again, none of my friends living in adultery, fornication, substance abuse, complacency (read sloth) or gluttony are any less aware of my view on those sins as well. I don’t need to be violent or outrageously vocal to make my position any clearer.
Jesus spent his life surrounded by those who did not embrace his teachings. He made his position clear, but he still extended grace. He still loved, even the unlovable and reprehensible. And at the point of repeating myself from other posts, the ones he found most reprehensible were the religious elites – not the whores or lepers or Gentile sinners.
If I have one prayer for the Church in the coming age, it is that we will recognize our own fears and the extremes they take us to. I pray that we would find the voice of gracious strength and that we would become the manifestation of Christ’s truth and grace, held in tension for the world to see.
Not everyone will agree with me, and that’s ok. There are some readers who might even take this article as defending homosexuality – so be it.
I believe God’s grace is greater than man’s outrage. I would rather entrust my gay/lesbian friends to God’s grace than to rely on my own railing and rhetoric.
Recently, I spoke on Luke 8:4-18 – what is known as “The Parable of the Sower.” The passage deals with the complex issue of why some people are “saved” and others are not, and as I expected there were a lot of questions about the nature of salvation.
Particularly, someone asked about the meaning of “hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart” in verse 15. The actual question was:
What will be the results of those who have never heard The Word or care to abide by it but are “decent” people. Will they be “saved”? And we all know that no one, outside of the Trinity, is perfect and can put The Word into “perfect practice”. I know I need to work a lot harder to be a better listener and see-er. I really have no idea if some people will never be saved.
This is a great question, and it is also a very common one that believers struggle with. If I might rephrase the question, it is something like this:
Is there any hope of salvation for those who do not receive “the Word”?
To answer the question, we need to make sure that we carefully define the term The Word. According to the Gospel writer John, The Word is Jesus himself, revealed as a part of the divine godhead – the Creator and Redeemer of all things (John 1). The Scriptures themselves reveal to us the Living Word, and I would go as far as to say that if Jesus is not the Living Word then the Written Word is empty and meaningless. As Paul points out:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)
The Scriptures, Christianity – they have no meaning without Christ, and therein lies the answer to the question. At its core, the Christian faith is grounded in the idea that Jesus is the living Word. He is the written Word’s fulfillment (Matthew 5:17) and the satisfaction of all earthly requirements of salvation (Galatians 2:22-29. He is, as the author of Hebrews put it, “the author and finisher of our faith.” Without him, there is no salvation. (Acts 4:12)
The Christian faith is inherently exclusive. This offends some people, but there is no way around it. Christianity not only excludes those who have no exposure to the Scriptures but also those who look to the Scriptures but deny Christ.
Jesus’ parable of the sower was addressed directly to those who claimed to the know the Scriptures but denied Him as the Word of God. It is a universal statement, pertaining to those who appeared to be His disciples as much as to those who would never be exposed to His Word. While one of the soils he mentions in the parable never receives the Word, two of them do receive it but then let it die within them – burnt up and dry because of the rock or choked out by the weeds.
Now, having made such exclusive statements, let me offer some hope. Throughout his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul makes it plain that those who would receive Jesus as the Word will be given opportunity. Revelation will reach them, and those who will follow Him will be given the opportunity. This is why the Church has a mandate to “make disciples of all nations”. We are called to work to share Jesus Christ with as many as will hear, knowing that not all will receive.
The more we allow God to expand our vision, the greater the opportunity the Church has to be a part of the harvest he has prepared. (John 4:34-38, Acts 10:34-43) One of the great sins of the Church is that we narrow God’s vision and restrict the scope of what He can do through us. We dismiss classes of people because they do not fit our idea of “good soil.”
To bring these thoughts full circle to the original question, are there some people who will “never be saved”? I believe that from our human perspective, we do not have the right to say “never.” God’s vision transcends our ability to perceive, and those we might dismiss as “unreachable” may turn out to be “good soil”.
Jesus’ parable of the sower was not absolute. In other words, it was not predeterminative. Jesus was not saying that all people are always in one of the four categories, but rather that every time we are exposed to the Word (and remember, he meant himself) we can be one of the four. Just as Simon Peter and James could not be able to grasp that all nations could receive the gospel and needed Paul to preach the gospel to them afresh (Galatians 1), we sometimes lose sight of Jesus and our growth dries up or is choked out.
People are not in irreversible spiritual state until death. As long as their is breath in their lungs (a breath that comes from God, by the way – Genesis 2), there is hope. As long as they can be exposed to the Word, there is potential for them to be “good soil.” We must never give up the hope that God can do the miraculous thing.
Worship is not simply a response to God’s glory. This is the fatal flaw of so much modern worship music. It spends so much time in emotional response that it abandoned the worship core of God’s glory. It unconsciously substitutes the response for the reason. In the context of the reading of the Scriptures and the consideration of God’s glory, an emotional response is appropriate but it is not the true function of worship.
Worship cannot be generated through mood lighting or great musicians because the source of worship must be the understanding (in part, 1 Corinthians 13:12) of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. Worship is not of this world; it is an attribute of resurrection. Only those raised in Christ can truly worship.
You might ask, then what about the worship in the Old Testament? That is also the song of resurrection, even if it is written in another key. The themes of resurrection run throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, but they are present in the agricultural metaphor of spring time and harvest. They resonate in the narratives of barren women like Sarah, Rachel and Hannah who receive children from dead wombs. Resurrection is the entire point of books like Ruth and Ezekiel. What is the point of Jeremiah’s Lamentation if it is not that there will be a restoration?
And they shall build the old wastes,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the waste cities,
The desolations of many generations.
(Isaiah 61:4, KJV)
Worship is only possible in resurrection, and resurrection is only possible in Jesus Christ. If we do not celebrate the resurrection, then we celebrate things that are dying and lost.