Jesus Is The Line

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:43-44

There are only two categories of people in the world – those whose father is God and those whose father is the Devil. While we are all created in the image of God, we are not all children of God. In John chapter 8, Jesus says it is belief in Him that separates the children of God from the children of the devil.
Jesus Line

Men want to substitute all kinds of things for Jesus. They want to make the line of demarcation between the ungodly and the godly good works or sincerity of belief or belonging to a particular religion or denomination. Jesus is clear, however, that we move from the left side of the line to the right side only through faith in Him.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

The Bible says by nature we are on the left side of the line, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). But the good news is we don’t have to stay that way. By repenting of our sins, admitting there’s nothing we can do on our own to move from the left side to the right side, and placing our trust in Christ we can be saved.

Are you willing to abandon all effort to make yourself right with God and throw yourself on the mercy of Christ?

Jesus On Every Page by David Murray

Jesus on Every Page by David MurrayThere’s a phrase you sometimes hear referring to middle-America – fly over country. This is born out of the (wrong) attitude that the really important stuff goes on on the east coast in places like New York and Washington and the west coast in places like Los Angeles. All the places in between are unimportant.

In some ways the church has treated the Old Testament like “fly over country” in recent years. We parachute in at the Creation then get airlifted out only to drop in again at the Exodus or the story of David and Goliath. But besides the most famous and beloved stories, much of the rest of the Old Testament is treated as either unimportant or irrelevant to New Testament believers. One consequence of this approach is that we see the Old Testament as a collection of stories teaching a moral lesson rather than as one seamless Story of the history of God’s redemption of His people.

It was this unbalanced approach to the Old Testament that led David Murray to write his new book Jesus On Every Page. He had two main goals for the book: to show that all of the Old Testament is all about Jesus Christ and to do so in a way that the average believer can understand and apply.

In my opinion, he succeeded in both. Starting with the second of those goals, David Murray is a good writer. He writes in a style that flows logically and is easy to follow. He uses word pictures and illustrations effectively to bring home his points and he’s quick to point out his own areas of weakness and struggle. It’s clear he’s not out just to show how smart he is but to help his readers learn. This is the same style I found helpful when I read his book on preaching a year or so back.

On the first point, the book is equally successful. The biggest strength of the book is Murray’s multi-faceted approach to the topic. As he points out, there are  a lot of books about one or two ways to see Jesus in the Old Testament but none that do what he’s done –  present an overview of ten different ways. Some of these ways I’d read about before, Jesus in the Old Testament Characters, for example, but others were less familiar to me such as discovering Jesus in Proverbs or in the Old Testament Law.

I was especially challenged by his discussion of Jesus’ Old Testament appearances. I am familiar with the idea that Christ appeared to people occasionally prior to His incarnation, such as in Genesis 18 when the Bible says the Lord appeared to Abraham concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. However, I’d never heard Murray’s point that God “speaks to sinners only through the channel of His Son in both the Old and New Testaments.” He teaches that every direct interaction of God with man is through the son. Meaning, for example it was the second person of the Trinity who was the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. I don’t necessarily disagree but would like to explore this concept more.

One area I particularly appreciated was his treatment of Song of Solomon. He does an excellent job showing that Song of Solomon is not an anomaly but is also focused on Christ and is part of the seamless story of redemption that is the Old Testament. This is a welcome contrast to so much teaching on Song of Solomon today that treats it as nothing more than a Christian Kama Sutra.

I highly recommend this book. Our church is doing an Old Testament overview starting in the fall with our adult Bible study classes and I plan to use it both as a resource as I prepare to teach and as a suggested small group study for those in the class to supplement the teaching.

You can purchase the book several places, including at Amazon.com:

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of this book free of charge.

Why Did Jesus Teach Using Parables?

Why Did Jesus Teach Using Parables?
Parable of the Sower (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

There are questions we have about the scriptures that simply will not be answered this side of eternity. We can speculate about them, within reason, but in the end, we must realize God has chosen not to reveal the answer to us in His Word and be content with not knowing.

Things in this category range from “What was Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’?” to “When will Christ return?” We get in trouble when we answer questions like these definitively when Scripture has not. For example, enough egg has landed on the face of American Christianity from well-meaning people telling us when Christ will return to make an omelette the size of (The Late Great) planet earth.

By the same token, there are questions scripture does answer directly. Where we go wrong in those cases is to either pretend scripture doesn’t address it or to dislike scripture’s answer and substitute our own answer instead.

So where does the question in the title of this post fit?

I’ve seen this question addressed with a variety of responses, most of which  view the use of parables as some kind of teaching technique we should emulate or some learning strategy Jesus is employing.  But is that right? How can we know for sure? If only someone had asked Jesus this question during his earthly ministry and one of the gospel writers had written down His answer!

Oh, wait…

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’ – Matthew 13:10-15

 

Did you get that? Jesus didn’t teach in parables to make things more clear or to help simple people understand complex theological topics or any number of other reasons commonly given. He spoke in parables to hide His message from those who were perishing, those to whom the Kingdom of God had not been given. Jesus teaching in parables was a form of judgment on the nation of Israel.

The Old Testament passage Jesus quotes is from Isaiah 6:9-10. It occurs immediately after the Lord asks who He can send and Isaiah responds “Here I am, send me.” The Lord sent Isaiah to the people as a judgment. Isaiah was to deliver a message that the Lord had already ordained would not be believed by many, a message that would further harden their hearts and would leave them without excuse before almighty God. Isaiah wasn’t preaching to his contemporaries only about judgment to come in the future. His presence among them preaching a message they were unable to understand was also God’s judgment on them in the present.

Jesus is doing the same thing for the Jewish leaders and many others in the nation of Israel during His day. He preached a message of salvation to those with “ears to hear” (Matthew 11:15) but for the rest His words were designed to prevent them from understanding and coming to repentance. Mark says this even more directly:

11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.” – Mark 4:11-12

 Jesus spoke in parables to cloak His message from the reprobate because they had not been given to Him by the Father (John 10:28-30) and therefore were not citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Wow. There’s no denying that’s a difficult teaching. And that’s why I think so many people answer this question wrong. They don’t like Jesus’ answer so they come up with one of their own that’s more palatable.

But, no matter how difficult the teaching, we must present it as the scriptures present it. We’re called to be the King’s messenger, not His editor or His spin doctor. As Augustine said: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”