Why Did Jesus Die On The Cross?

Jesus’s death is not allegorical, since, His death is not a story told to explain truth. It IS the truth that needs to be explained. Jesus’s death was an historical fact which Dorothy Sayers referred to as “the only thing that ever really happened,⁠1miraculous and unfathomable.⁠2Steve Hindalong & Derald E. Daugherty picturesquely used words like mysterious and scandolous:

At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On a beautiful scandalous night, you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On a beautiful scandalous night

We have used the word motif to explain what happened on Calvary, but is this best? A motif, I am told, is “a distinctive feature or dominant idea with symbolic significance” but what is that dominant idea we are hoping to describe? That’s the quest. We know Jesus dealt effectively, completely, resolutely with the sin issue that separated us from a Holy God.⁠3 We know we are forgiven.⁠4 We know, thanks to Jesus’s death and resurrection, we have newness of life,⁠5 a new birth,⁠6 a new beginning in our relationship with God⁠7 (and one another). We know that had Jesus not bleed and died on Calvary, none of these would have been true.⁠8 We know if there had not been a Calvary, we would have died in sin⁠9 and been relegated to a “lost” eternity.⁠10

But some question why did He have to die—and specifically on a Roman cross—to provide all this. God has the power and authority to provide oour salvation anyway He wants.

But some question why did He have to die—and specifically on a Roman cross—to provide all this.  Does not God have the power and authority to provide our salvation another, less painful, way? When we consider God’s love for His Son, [Luke 3:22] it is not reasonable to assume that there was another way. His love for His Son would have provided that other way without blood. But the Scripture suggests there was no other way. As the writer of Hebrews confirmed “never without blood.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me  —  nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”⁠11

Calvary is not a parable. It is not a story to teach a moral truth. Jesus death was an historical reality that made possible God’s gift of eternal life. Calvary was not symbolic. Calvary was the execution of a Divine plan,⁠12 a plan God carefully and thoughtfully drew up in eternity⁠13 and executed through His obedient Son.⁠14 Trying to understand the reasoning behind the Divine plan in story form is not what faith is about. Faith is accepting or recognizing that, through His death, Jesus offered us eternal life.⁠15

A better question to ask might be: What really took place on Calvary? What happened when Jesus suffered and died? Or better still: What did Jesus’s death provide for us? (Leaving the “how” question to God, for now.)

The task of inspiration through the writing of the apostles and prophets was to share with us the event that God, in the person of His son, was going to die on a Roman cross and this single event would have eternal significance, It would become the moment by which all history would hereafter be interpreted and judged.

Our theology would have to present a new concept: Grace, a word unknown in ancient times. And, like the love that proclaimed it, requiring a faith that was open to comprehending the otherwise incomprehensible. Paul clarified, “the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated [discerned] spiritually.”⁠16

The title of this work asks “Why;” why did Jesus died on the Cross? But “why” is the endless question small children ask when they are caught doing something that mom and dad  called “bad.” We don’t need to keep asking “why,” going deeper and deeper into a line of reasoning, hoping to spiral down into some mysterious eternal truth. [Deuteronomy 29:29] We’ll take a look at this central Truth, since, there are still mysteries associated with what Jesus accomplished on Calvary that sound the depths of a divine love for us that will require our glorification to grasp. John 3:16 reads “God so loved…” What kind of love is that? How big is His heart? Much of God’s provision through Christ remains to be experienced by us who only know now “in part,”⁠17 a “downpayment”⁠18 if you will, of a guaranteed heavenly experience yet to be fully embraced.

But let us, instead, study Jesus’s death seeking to uncover the spiritual provision which we can begin, in this life, to appropriate and appreciate. John in his epistle declared, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters.⁠19 Let’s start there.


1 Dorothy Sayers. The Man Born to be King. (San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press. 1990) Page 290.
2 Dorothy Sayers. Creed or Chaos (Manchester,NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1974), Page. 8ff.
3 Colossians 1:22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him
4 Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
5 Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.
6 John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
7 1 John 1:2-3 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us  what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
8 Romans 5:9 How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath.
9 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
10 John 3:16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
11 Luke 22:42
12 Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what we have heard? [believed our report] And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
13 Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
14 Hebrews 5:8-9 Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,
15 John 14:1 Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
16 1 Corinthians 2:14
17 1 Corinthians 13:12 Now I know in part, but then I will know fully
18 1 Corinthians 5:5 Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
19 1 John 3:14
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How Do You Read It?

Click to enlarge

The verse under discussion. Notice the word kai in brackets

Recently in a men’s Bible study Philippians 2:4 was presented for discussion.1 The leader read from the English Standard Version while I read along in the New International. They were not the same!

English Standard: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

New International: not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The Problem

The ESV added the words “only” and “also” interpreting the Greek word, “kai,” most often translated, “and.” But should it be in this verse? I looked at 13 other versions all translating the word “kai” with: also, as well, not only, but also, or too. 2 One of the translations, “The Christian Standard” translation for Philippians 2:4 in the Blueletter Bible app read differently than what I read in the Bible Gateway app.3 Same version!!

Other Translations

So, I dug deeper. I looked at Luther’s translation,4 the Latin Vulgate,5 and even a Hebrew translation.6 And I referenced two commentaries.7 One, J. P. Lange, was more interested in the phrase “each of you” since in the Greek it is a plural, for which we have no English equivalent. He correctly concludes that Paul is referring to “every member of the churchProfessor Lightfoot preferred interpreted this as if the “also” was not there, i.e. “let them look beyond their own interests to those of others.9

We shouldn’t skim over this text. So I inquired of the Textual critics, the guys and gals that decide whether or not the word “and” [also, too, as well as, not only but also, etc.] was in the original. They placed as a critical sign a small circle elevated above the word as a prefix10  (°[kαι]) indicating that “the word following [i.e. ‘and’] is omitted by the witnesses cited.11 The word is also in square brackets since “the textual critics … are not completely convinced of the authenticity of the enclosed words.’12

The Witnesses Cited

Click to enlarge

Notice the little circle beginning this line. The capital letters, the Greek and Hebrew characters as well, represent families of manuscripts. P46 is listed.

Look at the list of manuscripts that represent the absence of this word. [D, F, G, K, P46 א ψ] Included is P46. “P46 is an example of one of the earliest forms of the New Testament.… While P46 was copied more than a century after Paul originally wrote his Epistles, this codex is nevertheless the closest that modern scholars have been able to get to Paul’s original words.”13 [One Textual Critic, who was a friend of mine, Dr. Howard Eshbaugh (we pastored in the same town), did his dissertation on P46 attempting to show its autographic quality.] The word “and” in this verse, is not in P46. We are suggesting that, perhaps, the Greek word “kai” might have been added later. ..that it was not original with Paul!

The Context

And why should we care? Verse 5!  “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” In view of this context, that of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, is it conceivable that any conscientious or deliberate effort would have been spent by Paul on any selfish thought of a private or proudful interest in matters of his ministry? To the contrary: Paul sought to know this Jesus “and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death” [Philippians 3:10],

The word “and” here would water down this sincere and wholehearted devotion to following Jesus that Paul exemplified. Look closely: Let each of you look not only to his own interests….  The word only [ESV] in an effort to translate the Greek word “and” opens the way for believers to condone and justify self-interests unlike the Savior who gave all for you and me.

Can there be such a thing as a selfish believer? See Philippians 2:21.

My Conclusion

I have a textual right to exclude the word “and” putting my brother and sister in Christ above myself without exception.  I have a textual right to read with the NIV: not looking to [my] own interests. I dare say, that was most assuredly Paul’s heart.


1 The Biblical Greek SBL – Society of Biblical Literature & Westcott and Hort: μὴ τὰ ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστοι σκοποῦντες, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ἑτέρων ἕκαστοι.
2 The Living Bible: Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.
3 Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers.
4 Luther ... ein jeglicher sehe nicht auf das Seine, sondern auch auf das, was des andern ist.
… each one does not look to his own, but also to what is the other.
5 Vulgate non quae sua sunt singuli considerantes, sed ea quae aliorum.
Look not every man on his own things, but  those of others.
6 The Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures: אַל … איש לטובַת … לְבֵדו כי אִמ־גֵמ לְטוֹבֵת ךַעֵהו
not …each to the good of theirs alone but with also to the good of his neighbor.
7 J. P. Lange’s Commentary, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians by Karl Braune, 7th printing,  and
Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians by J.  B. Lightfoot, 15th printing
8 Lange, pg. 82
9 Lightfoot, pg. 110
10 °[kαι]
11 The NA 27 edition, Introduction in English page 56.
12 ibid. page 54.
13 https://apps.lib.umich.edu/reading/Paul/perspective.html
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Remembering Trump

There is historically a natural tension in a democracy between the branches of a shared government.  In the U.S. the House and the Senate, or the Legislature and the Judiciary, for example—it is only reasonable to assume—are engaged in this political tug-a-war which pulls the nation in one direction or the other. In the U.S. it is at times an unseen but powerful war between the White House and the Congress. …and our 45th President was a “fighter.”

The nation is quiet “for now,” or so it appears, since, thanks to the latest election, the occupant of the White House is a docile leader willing to give Congress its due. We sigh in acceptance of Mr. Biden’s administration and enjoy the political quiet that might be more perceived than actual.  But we will take it, as I said, “for now.”

We look back at some presidencies and evaluate their performance in terms of the emergencies of the time: a global conflict, a devastating national poverty, a failing economy, etc.  And more often than not we are thankful that the person in the White House was who it was at the time: FDR during WW2, and who could not appreciate the historical significance of George Washington during our national infancy.

So what of “Trump”? Masses of Americans shouted their love for him! Will he be back for a second term? If I may: I hope not, even though, I am glad he was in the White House when he was. President Trump came to us compliments of a growing national discontent over class tensions misdiagnosed as racial. The nation was hurting but couldn’t identify the source of its pain. President Trump became—what I metaphorically call—the contrast in a bureaucratic MRI that exposed a reality Americans had no idea existed within the body politic. …He exposed a malignant class struggle which is misnamed as racism by those who want to profit by it.

Exposed!? I learned more about government in the last four years than in all the books I read. I even came to recognize voices in the Congress during the recent impeachment trial. What was exposed by President Trump’s Administration? It is a class struggle between Main Street and Wall Street, between fly-over America and the Coastal states, between the stench of greed washed and perfumed as a social concern for the poor and the hope we affectionately call the “American” dream.

So what now?  I called this a political—and a social—malignancy that hopefully is not in some final stage for which the U.S. Constitution has no remedy. We might want to laugh off the idea of China’s economic and military dominance.  We may want to silence the voice of middle America though what they offer the economy is irreplaceable and essential to our national well-being. We might be just enjoying the peaceful relationship between the press and our aging president who strolls the White House grounds in a mediocre display of calm.

But there is a presidency to “fight” for, because there is a nation, our nation, that needs his /her spunk, her/his strength of character and vision, to lead us into a good future. We need to get the cancer, the class struggle, that is not American, by any definition, out of our system.

Okay.  I’ll say it!  We need the Church, a church on its knees and promoting the message of the Cross.  Senator Swalwell was more on point than he knew when He confused Calvary with cavalry.  We do need to raise the Christian banner of the former without calling out the later.

I am thankful that there was a President Trump.  There!  I said that, too!

 

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Lithos Proskommatos

Jesus lovingly encouraged, “blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me” [ Luke 7:23] But perhaps most of us have been offended at one time or another in something He said that challenged our way of life, that pushed-back on our interests, that exposed a argumentative side to our temperament not in keeping with the Spirit of His message, or simply showed a disinterest in something we thought had great merit. Scholars, using a Biblical phrase, call this a “lithos proskommatos” a “stone of stumbling” and Peter saw this as intentional on God’s part. Jesus can be offensive.

For it stands in Scripture: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, … that the builders rejected … a stone to stumble over…. They stumble because they disobey the word…. 1 Peter 2:6-8

In Mark 10:21, Jesus told a rich young man [because He genuinely cared], “Go, sell all you have and give to the poor …. Then come, follow me.” He instructed a concerned son to leave the burial of his [aging?] father [Matthew 8:22] to someone else. He told married men that the price of service outreached any love of—even one’s—spouse [Luke 14:26].

And while greed or the love of money remained an enemy of godliness [Matthew 6:24] Jesus commended a thieving steward for his financial prowess. [Luke 16:9]  One commentator explained, “the ethical character of its use is represented as cleaving to itself.”  In other words, mammon is okay for unfaithful stewards to use.  Smart is smart!  But I should buy my friendships!? The NIV: “use worldly wealth to gain friends…”

Regarding marriage, Jesus failed to sanction gay unions by reaffirming that God made us male and female [Mark 10:6] giving the preacher no leeway in the matter. Aborting the unborn, likewise, fails the test of  Scripture.  It is impossible to surmise God’s disinterest in the welfare of the unborn.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

I was thrust into your arms at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born. Psalm 22:10

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42

Some of the parables, like the “Unjust Steward” story,  leave too much room for interpretation.  We run a risk of tweaking a theology based on some part of the story that is simply the backdrop of a hidden truth.  We may unwittingly theologically distance ourselves from truth to self-justify instead of repent. Interpreter, beware!

The unjust steward is a spotlight on our stewardship regarding the resources in health, wealth, time, etc. God has given us.  “And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else [God], who will give you what is your own [in His kingdom]?” Luke 16:12

With the years, I have come to accept the Gospel message.  I want my faith to own these truths even if I cannot fully explain them to others. I have come to embrace unreservedly—and with my life, God willing by His grace—the words of the Savior, even before I am exactly sure what He said and why.  And if my lifestyle or mindset doesn’t faithfully represent what Jesus describes as one of His “followers”  I want Him to work with me in a serious effort to bring me by grace into conformity to this Truth—notwithstanding how much it hurts or I become despondent.

When it is all said and done, much of Scripture is clear and I cannot disown its message regardless how far I stray from what is considered culturally acceptable.  If my Savior was a Lithos Proskommatos, I want to be one, too. [Matthew 10:24-25]

Food for thought….

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Anxiety

G. R. Evans [in Alan of Lille (Cambridge, OUP,1983),pp.33—41. ] tells us that, “Augustine frequently discusses Scripture’s peculiar “usus loquendi” [manner of speaking]. [Augustine] sees such departures from the ordinary way of putting things … as a reflection of the power of the divine Word which breaks the bounds of ordinary grammar.” Take, for example, Luke 12:29: Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious.

The anxiety here is the greek word meteorizesthe which, says Professor Lange, “echoes also in our [word] ‘Meteor.’” Meteors are known for their fiery entry into our atmosphere on their momentous fall to earth. Luke’s use of this term, to restate Augustine, “breaks the bounds of ordinary grammar” and sets forth in metaphor a profound truth. Lange explains, Especially does the high flight of fancy appear to be meant, when one creates imagined necessities for himself, and for this reason is doubly ill-content with reality, and … allows himself so much the more to be seduced into unbelieving anxiety.”

The Greek dictionary uses such words as “elevated with false hopes… unsettled…wild thinking, vain imagining..of doubtful mind” to describe this meteoric rise into the realm of foreboding desires. David called it in Psalm 131:1 an “exalted heart” and Obadiah 4 sees it as a desire to “soar.. among the stars”.

Extracting the marrow of this truth: Jesus is talking about an anxiety built upon imagined necessities—or if the needs are real, imagining our Lord somehow negligent in meeting them—making such a christian doubly ill-content with his or her reality. …and living with longings that faith should be able to meet, emotional waves which faith is well able to calm. Jesus labeled this an example of little faith. [In the biblical language this is one word never used before. Did Jesus invent it? [oligopistoi Luke 12:28]

In translating this text we cannot be sure if Luke was recording only the anxious anticipation of hunger, that God might not give us tomorrow our daily bread …like He has all along. Somehow empty coffers unnerve even believers. Or have we gone higher in our anticipation? In the interest in having something which represents a frivolous desire, something someone else has, or, perhaps, something we rationalize we are entitled to have, we are overwrought with a most unreasonable quest for things. Instead of calming this maverick passion or lust through a time of prayer we entertain a growing anxiety—not over what God promises, because He, all along, has proven Himself faithful. We are not at peace within because we have our eyes on circumstances that might deny us “things,” things that have no eternal value and are, therefore, of lesser concern to God once our basic needs are indeed met by Him. Earthly interests are meteors burning up in the atmosphere of a hot passion for the “higher” life. Are they not!?

Luke 12: 30-32, 34 “…Your Father knows,” Jesus reassured, “that you need [the basics: food, clothes, etc.]. “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. …

Then in verse 33 Jesus seemed to go too far: Sell your possessions and give to the poor.

But think about it. If we are less attached to our “things,” if we are “poor in spirit” [Matthew 5:3], we will see more clearly by faith that God has indeed provided all we ever really needed. And then there’s this [the rest of this verse and the next]:

“Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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Limited Expectations

The miracle of Jairus’ 12 year old daughter’s “rise from death” deserves a closer look since it is a story of limited expectations.  God thru Jesus unexpectedly raised her from the dead, similarly to Lazarus’ resurrection which shocked the popular senses. Both Martha and Mary somehow knew that had Jesus been there earlier, their brother, Lazarus, would not have died. They believed that much in His healing powers.  As for the resurrection, that is an eschatological event but never expected before then. [How often theology gets in the way of faith!]

Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. … … Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  – John 11:21, 24 & 32

We know that Jairus did not anticipated Jesus arriving at his house after his daughter’s passing. vs 42, “she was dying….” Jairus knew that his princess, his life’s source of joy, was near death, [but still alive.  He was desperate now.]

He fell down at Jesus’s feet and pleaded with him [Jesus] to come to his house, …. Luke 8:41-21

But someone came to him with an update,

Your daughter is dead. Don’t … [annoy] the teacher … [any longer].” — Luke 8:49.

I didn’t know God was annoyed by our supplications especially if it concerns our children! The “messenger” informed Jairus possibly over the noise of an excited crowd of followers.

The record says of them: [vs 40] “When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.” (We do tend to welcome Him more readily if we have been waiting on Him.)

Jesus heard” [vs 50] are one of my favorite phrases in the Bible. We need to learn, perhaps, to trust Him in matters that frighten us into thinking the unthinkable.

This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. – 1 John 5:14

Luke’s account adds:  Only the parents and Peter, John & James were welcomed to join Him into her bedroom where she lay in state but Jesus claimed was only asleep. [How transparent is truth. vs. 51. “and the child’s father [oh, yes,] and mother.” The value of this verse awaits another blog.]

A group of mourners had gathered in the living room of the house beating their chests and wailing loudly [vs 52]. “We can easily imagine how great a din.” writes J. P. Lange.  [They went from mourning to laughing—not exactly typical of a truly broken heart. vs. 53]

This was unlike the cry of those mothers who saw their infant sons thrust through by King Herod while Jesus was secretly swept away into the protection of an Egyptian exile until the king died. In the Christmas story: “A voice was heard in Ramah, [a] great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled…..” [Mt 2:18] The language in this account is not a public display like the gathering at Jairus’s house but a private and unsharable pain that only God is merciful enough to hear.

When Jesus took her by the hand, sat her up, and instructed them to feed her [vs. 56] her parents were “astounded”!  This is not the voice of praise but the sound of a limited expectation of God’s loving involvement in a traumatic loss.  Let faith reveal untold possibilities that God might do for us.  We might not know what God is going to do when we pray but let’s not be so surprised when He does it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Abandoned

There were, they say, 7 sayings from the Cross Jesus uttered while He hanged there dying for my sins—and yours.⁠1  Though some scholars question whether or not His declaration of our forgiveness was not added until later,2 we may say that Jesus’s reflections were all about others and not Himself as He was suspended there dying. Was there one exception, though, when in a moment of unprecedented vulnerability He felt absolutely abandoned—left to die alone.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá [lima, lama] sabachtháni ? ” that is, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me ?” Matthew 27:46

I am amazed at the indifference and insensitivity of those assembled on the hill at the time, trying to decide if He spoke of Elijah. In recent times scholars analyzed His words: were they more Hebrew or Aramaic. [Matthew said part of each; Mark said: only Aramaic]. Perhaps, His voice was slurred while He labored to say anything! Let’s not  focus on how He said it but what He said—and maybe, why.  

Passer-bys were hurling insults at Him,⁠3  priests, scribes, and pharisees in concert mocked Him⁠4 like so many fifth graders finding His pain a cause of amusement, the two thieves on either side “taunted him.⁠5

And did the Father abandon the Savior while He spent three long, endless hours, seemingly outside time, awaiting death? Abandonment does not mean forgotten, however.

Forgotten?

The Scripture does not record that the Father became disinterested or indifferent to Jesus’s plight. This Jesus was the theme of all Scripture, every Word which the Spirit inspired and directed prophets to write about!

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27

..And this is God’s ONLY Son! With His son on His mind throughout recorded time, is it conceivable Jesus would be forgotten on this day of all days?!

I have three sons whose picture hangs over our piano in the living room and also—of all places—in our bathroom.  I cannot take a bath without thinking of them and praying for them. God doesn’t hang pictures but He does have the names of His children tattooed on His palms!⁠6 

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. “Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. – Isaiah 49:15-16

It seems incredulous to suppose God was not mindful of what was happening on Calvary.⁠7 But being aware of one’s suffering and doing something about it are two different things.

 

Abandoned

The word “abandonment” suggests that Jesus died “alone” with no one to comfort Him or plead His case before heaven’s throne.  While He became the sin offering for the sins of the world,8 there were no angels coming to His rescue. But to say the Father “deserted” Jesus on the Cross assigns a nuance to this word that contradicts God’s great heart toward His son. The Father’s involvement in Calvary was through His Son. They agreed on this plan. Their counsel together led to this moment. The great divine heart beat very much in sync with the Savior’s.

After his anguish, … he will receive the … spoil,⁠9 because he willingly submitted to death, and … he bore the sin of many….⁠10 

In Our Place

The theology states that Jesus died for our sins so that we would not have to.  It is called the Vicarious Atonement, “to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:28] And does not a vicarious atonement speak to a divine provision that is more than expunging the account of past sins? His death was vicarious in another sense: He was abandoned so we would never be!  

…for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. – Hebrews 13:5

And remember, [see] I am with you always, [all the days] to the end of the age – Matthew 20:28

Turns out that here, too, His thoughts we on us!


1Seven sayings

  1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  2. Luke 23:43: Verily, I say unto you today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.
  3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold thy son. (Says to disciple) Behold thy mother.
  4. Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  5. John 19:28: I thirst.
  6. John 19:30: It is finished.
  7. Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.

2 Colossians 1:14 In him we have redemption, [through His blodd] the forgiveness of sins.
3 Matthew 27:39
4 Matthew 27:41 In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, [and Pharisees] mocked him
5 Matthew 27:44
6 Isaiah 49:16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands
7 Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul…
8 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin [a sin offering] for us.
9 Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
10 Isaiah 53:11-12

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Women!

I have been reading the Greek New Testament devotionally. Instead of studying a text for blogging, I am just reading to see what I miss in the English.  English translations are great but because it is my native tongue, I tend to read over something I should probably be pondering. So, future blogs might give you a hint as to where I am in my devotional Bible reading (at least the New Testament). Well, today I read about Sadducean ignorance on the subject of wives and heaven:

Jesus answered them, “You are mistaken, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. or in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.” Matthew 22:29-30

The words, “the power of God” stuck out for the first time. As an old guy who spent a lifetime thinking about girls and finally, a wife, that phrase has special meaning! Almost my entire life has been mentally and emotionally dedicated to the fairer sex, at times, giving me a sense of guilt, thinking I should be more involved with God’s Word and prayer. (Not that I didn’t pray or study God’s Word …I did …a lot.)

But I cannot even imagine seeing my beloved in glory and just walking on by because she will then be no more or less important than anyone else.  If we hug, it would be a Christian hug, something I have never given my wife in this life.  (We hug but it’s romantic …at least, to me!)

I was taught that we should put God first!  In fact, Jesus spoke of hating our wives if we wanted to follow Him.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters ​— ​yes, and even his own life ​— ​he cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26

I never put my wife on  the same social level with my mom or dad—or any other family member.  Years  ago the old time preachers used to maintain with deep conviction the a wife is second to God! Wow!  I struggled with this.  My wife—not unlike a million other wives—wants to be—practically—worshipped.  They want to be number one in our lives and when it comes to God, my dearest wants only to be my equal in God’s plan now for both of us together.  And this always made sense to me.

And Now I Am Old – Psalm 37:25

My body now registers pains I never felt before and now my mind alone imagines what I can no longer engage in. But I still spend a considerable amount of time thinking of her.

I ache to hold her close to me.
I ache for things that used to be—
Strobed flashes of a memory
That lingers, lingers on.

My story now seems more and more
Of pains I never had before
While I indulge the joyous lore
Of playful times now gone.

Does old age come to claim its prize?
My body lives a thousand lies!
Yet she unchanged within my eyes
Still sings the siren’s song.

The Power of God

..But in heaven ..no wife …no thought of her …no romance… …nothing!!??  I spent a lifetime in this, another, world! Now I understand what Jesus was saying.  It will take the “power of God” to redefine our relationship as He intends.  God’s ability (power) in this matter far exceeds the natural imagination.  But can I imagine it anyways?

I will love her more then than now.  My love now will not be able to hold a candle to then; for, God’s desire toward her will gift me His love for her.  He will redefine romance in terms of that infinite and eternal source of all she must mean to Him!  Then, fellowship with her, thinking of her, wanting to be with her, and wanting all of God that I can have, will be  the same—joined in a divine matrimony as the Bride of Christ.

I can hardly wait.  If I love her now and think of her all of the time, now…. wait until then!!

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Did Luke Get It Wrong?

Regarding the time when Jesus was born, did Luke get it wrong?

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire [the whole world] should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. [Or This registration was the first while, or This registration was before] So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Luke 2:1-3 CSB

The Census of Quirinius

The Census of Quirinius was a census of Judea taken by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria (according to Josephus: after Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, was removed from office and Judea was annexed to Syria.) This happened at least 8 years after Jesus’s birth.⁠1 

The Gospel of Luke … establishes the birth of Jesus during Quirinius’s governorship (Luke 2, Luke 2:1–5), but the Gospel of Matthew places the birth within the reign of Herod the Great, who died 9 years earlier. “No satisfactory explanation,” the wikipedia maintains, “of the contradiction seems possible, and most scholars think that the Gospel of Luke was in error.⁠2 Josephus3 however references a certain Judas the Galilean⁠4 that supports the Lukan account. And the conflict between the gospels is only alleged if we revisit the Lukan text with a truer historical reference in view.

Unsatisfactory explanations

Unsatisfactory explanations proliferated:

  • Luke got it wrong.
  • Quirinius instituted this census years earlier as a legate of Caesar and around the birth of the Savior. Quirinius was then the head of an imperial commission to gather the census. [Problem here is Luke gave him the title “governor,”⁠5 Luke 2:2]
  • Translate the word first in Luke 2:2⁠6 as before. “..this taxing was before… Quirinius was governor…” Problem is the word before⁠7 is a different word and the text is not in question using the Greek word first.⁠8
  • The word translated taxation⁠9 could also mean registration.⁠10 The registration took place, some say, at the time of the Savior’s birth but the actual taxing 11 years later during Quirinius’s governorship. This interpretation is unnecessarily forced.
  • The taxation was only a tax levied against the priests and Luke must have confused this with a more general Roman census. [Entirely arbitrary as theories go.]

A Greek Lesson

The word this in Luke 2:2, “thistook place while Quirinius was governing….” transliterates: haútâ but the accent marks are not inspired. What if the word Luke used was autá instead which is the same word with different accents and without the aspirant (the ‘h’). This is the word the in a reflexive sense, ie itself. Luke could have meant, the tax itself was made for the first time when Quirinius was governor of Syria. [A perfectly acceptable translation].

We could herein distinguish the decree or command to institute an enrollment from the actual enrollment itself. We believe this was what Luke said! Lange explains,

“Nothing prevents us from supposing that the [enrollment] was really ordered and begun at the Birth of Christ, but was interrupted in Judea for a time by the death of Herod, and the political changes consequent on that event, and subsequently resumed and carried out with greater energy under Cyrenius [Quirinius], so it might righty be said that to have been made, or completed, when [while] he was governor.”⁠11

The difficulty might be one of translation. Should we read verse 3 with the CSB “So everyone went to be registered” or the KJV “And all went to be taxed”? And since they were enrolled or registered for tax purposes this might be a distinction without a difference. It is acceptable to say then that what was started around Herod’s death and Jesus’s birth was finished during Quirinius’s governorship.

Another Possibility

Quirinius might have been twice governor of Syria, once for 3 years around the birth of the Savior (A.U. 750-753) and once about 6-11 years later (A.U. 760).⁠12A double legation … has recently been made almost certain..,” Lange informs us.⁠13 Perhaps Luke wrote, “This enrollment was when he first became governor.” [Implying more than one term—though the word first is more naturally interpreted as already given.] A second census was conducted during his second governorship in Syria. The second census would have been for Palestine (mentioned by Luke in Acts 5:37) after it became a Roman province during Quirinius’s second term ( A. U. 759).

Summary

It is certain,” Lange assures us, “that Augustus held at least three⁠14 census …of the empire.” The United States Census Bureau …conducts the U.S. Census every ten years, “which allocates the seats of the U.S. House of Representatives to the states based on their population. … The information provided by the census informs decisions on where to build and maintain schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure, and police and fire departments,” according to Wikipedia.⁠15

What makes us conclude that Caesar would not be diligent to order a periodic census since he calculated the size of his army on this information as well as raised the revenue to maintain it!

To those who reject the message of Scripture on the chance it might show conflicting or errand historical records, I can only say, your soul’s eternal state depends on the message of this book and you have rejected it on the flimsiest of reasons.


1 J. P. Lange. The Gospel according to Luke, vol. VIII. page 31.
2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Census_of_Quirinius
3 Yet was there one Judas, …who taking with him Saddouk, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said, that the taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty…. J. P. Lange. The Gospel according to Luke, vol. VIII. page 31.
4 Acts 5:37 [CSB] “After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered.
5 The text uses a present participle showing concurrent action (ἡγεμονεύοντος) which says while he was governor…
6 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
7 πρότερον
8 Luke 2:2 uses πρώτη
9 ἡ ἀπογραφὴ
10 Thayer defines this in his dictionary, page 60, “an enrollment in the public records of persons together with their property and income, …that it might appear how much tax should be levied upon each.” Sound familiar?
11 J.P. Lange, page 32.
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid. pages 33
15 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Census_Bureau
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The Thing Speaks For Itself

There is a phrase in law, res ipsa loquitur, meaning, “The thing speaks for itself.” This recognizes that we already understand innately or instinctively whether our actions or words are appropriate or undeserved, healing or hurting, good or evil. [We probably picked up on this when Adam and Eve took that bite of forbidden fruit, likely, of the “Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.”⁠1]

Perhaps, the door was opened by the ancient philosophers when they introduced what we call logic into our thought process and since then we have honed this intellectual tool to explain away something we shouldn’t do as justifiable. In the court of public opinion wrong is considered right when something is seen as normal. When everybody’s doing it, it must be okay.

Christians go a step further hoping that God’s grace will overlook something they [we?] did or said that was hurtfully wrong [and we knew it] but Christ went to the cross to forgive. “There is no condemnation to those in Christ,” St. Paul reminded us.  …but have we missed the part about “walking in the Spirit”!

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. – Romans 12:1

This is not an exposé on this verse in Romans; so, we’ll save that idea, hopefully, for another day. This is a glaring look at another idea: Is the Bible clear about right and wrong or is there leeway in interpretation that gives us a certain freedom of action and word without sin. Francis Shaeffer of the L’Abri community in Switzerland referred to this as “freedom within limits.” If the Bible doesn’t clearly say it’s wrong, maybe it’s alright to do, …at least for me!

Res Ipsa Loquitur.
But sometimes the message is so obvious that to describe it is only an attempt at explaining it away. A biblical idea can always be set aside as an ancient cultural norm—no longer contemporary, even when we know it should be!

For example, how might we make Paul’s admonition any clearer: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace⁠2   Peace is a “state of tranquility …exempt from rage….”⁠3 The second verse in the NASB says how: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” We need no sermon to explain words like humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and love—unless we want to justify rage, unless we seek a definition of forgiveness that condones distancing ourselves from people we once loved. When I attempt lengthy explanations to defend what I know is evil, I effectively do an end-around conscience, and worse, I do a grave injustice to my best friend—me!

We live in a politically charged time and it is easier right now to hate than to love, to feel enraged rather than a desire to reconcile, to imagine a future without them rather than a nostalgia that wants them back in our lives.

The message of scripture is clearer than we, at times, wish to admit.  Mark Twain quipped, “It is not what I don’t know about the Bible that bothers me; it is what I know.” No one needs to explain to me a need to love and be loved. No one needs to clarify the role of peace in my relationships and how to encourage reconciliation and unity.  And conversely, I know when I am hurting others or attempting to end a once vibrant and meaningful relationship.

The thing speaks for itself.


1 Genesis 2:9; 3:6 The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
2 Ephesians 4:3.
3 Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 182
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