This post is for those who are skeptical or curious about the historical reliability of the Gospels (as well as those who might be curious to learn a little more about me).
I’ve tried to keep it concise, readable, and interesting for anyone who had ever pondered such a question.
I’ve never been one to just take what people tell me at face value.
I don’t think it’s really that I’m a skeptic; it’s just that, to me, it seems like a lot of people haven’t really thought through the things they believe very well.
Personally, I can’t really believe people who don’t have a good reason for what they believe, and I’ve always disliked it when people give me the textbook answer rather than a conclusion that they’ve arrived at through careful study and thought.
This post is part of a series. Click the link for Parts 1 & 2.
Last time I introduced you to Herbert’s poem “Love (III),” and invited you into it—to meet the loving Jesus Christ who Herbert would like to introduce you to.
Here I want to draw a few principles from it about God and God’s love. These four principles don’t exhaust the treasure to be found in the poem, but they do help distill its essence.
Hopefully, in doing so, you can carry these principles into your entire life—certainly your worship and prayer life, but not only there! God wants your entire life, from waking to sleeping, to be permeated by his love.
This post is part of a series. To see Part 1, click here.
“Love (III)” is one of my favorite poems because it speaks to the heart of the matter: what does it look like to be loved by God? Composed by George Herbert in the 17th century, it is his most celebrated poem. It also concludes the main section of The Temple, the collection of Herbert’s English poems.
Here is the poem in full (it belongs to the public domain), with the spelling modernized:
This blog post started as a reflection on a poem, but it started to get pretty long.I realized I didn’t want to test everyone’s attention span, so I decided to split it up into a series that will attempt to unfold what love means for those who follow Christ.
Christians talk a lot about love. They claim that God loves them.
One early writer says that God has given Christians a new life because God’s love for them was so strong. Elsewhere, he writes that God’s love is so powerful and large that nothing can overcome or overpower it. Nothing is bigger or stronger than it (Eph 2:4-5; Rom 8:38-39).
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reaches the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. (You see, they didn’t yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.)
Often life seems like a tragedy—pain and suffering with no purpose, no redemption.
If not, then why do we try so hard to convince ourselves otherwise?
Wars, famines, and plagues seem less like the exception and more like the rule. Yet, these concepts are too abstract and distant for us. They happen elsewhere, to other people. Not us.
One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was leaning back on Jesus’s chest.
Has anyone ever let you close enough to hear the rhythm of their heartbeat? Perhaps when you were young your mother or father let you rest your head against their chest and listen. Or maybe as a child you and your closest friend would take a break from playing to listen to that mysterious rhythm in each other. Or perhaps a lover opened their heart to you and let you hear that secret song that plays within them.
It’s not often that another person lets you in so close that you can hear their beating heart. In fact, being given the privilege to put your ear against someone’s chest is such a personal and vulnerable display of affection—you could almost say the pulse within them is the sound of their love for you.
I’ve always wondered—in that moment described in the verse above, did John get near enough to hear it? That night, as that group of thirteen friends ate their final meal together, was John able to hear the pulse of Jesus’s heart?
Last time we looked at this story in the Gospel of Mark together, we examined how Mark uses the word ischuo with a special significance throughout his Gospel.1
In the very beginning, John the Baptist claims Jesus is the “stronger” one by virtue of the Holy Spirit that empowers him.
Later, in ch. 3, Jesus claims that he is the one who has bound the strong one Beelzebul, implying that Jesus is stronger.Furthermore, Jesus is plundering his house. He goes on to connect this with the Holy Spirit just as John did before: it is not the power of Satan that allows him to do this, but the Holy Spirit of God that he wields and that wields him.
Mark hints in the story of Legion that Jesus is again facing the “strength” of the strong man, Beelzebul. However, Mark dramatically reveals partway through the story that the battle is not like before. Instead of just facing off with one unclean spirit, Jesus is now set against thousands of them. After establishing this, Jesus dispatches them with almost no effort. The power of Beelzebul is so far no match at all for Jesus.
There were two more components of the story that I wanted to look at. In this post we will be looking at one of them, which is the significance of Jesus’ allowing the unclean spirits to enter the herd of pigs and their subsequent drowning in the sea.
Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I take my writing and research very seriously. I still remember my very first grad school research paper. After spending scores and scores of hours working on it, I received a pretty good grade for it, and I got a lot of praise from my professor. I even got praise from friends who read my paper. I was very proud of my work.
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—and this not merely as we expected.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5
I bought my first electric guitar when I was fourteen years old. I had spent the entire summer working and saving up for it, and when I had a few hundred dollars saved up, my dad took me over to a music store while we were traveling in San Diego. It was a black Fender Stratocaster I picked out, double humbucker with a brushed metal pickguard. I loved that guitar. Much of my teenage years would consist in practicing for years locked up in my room or jamming out with my friends (note: it’s a good idea to jam at the drummer’s house because their parents are used to the noise).
That guitar was an important part of my life for many years, but as time passed on, I didn’t play it as much as I had used to. My interests had changed, and I was more likely to be playing my acoustic Taylor or learning classical pieces on the nylon string I bought from my friend’s dad for a hundred bucks. More and more that Stratocaster just sat in the closet.
Recently during a devotional time, I was meditating on the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and during this time I was overwhelmed by my beauty in Jesus Christ. Perhaps this sounds like a strange thing to say. It’s common for Christians to emphasize how wretched, awful, and ugly people can be (some traditions take this further than others)—and I think it is important to spend time reflecting on the darkness and evil that exists within each of us. Part of God’s purposes with Israel was to make human sin fully known, as Paul says in Romans 7:13, “In order that sin might be recognized as sin, it [the Law/Torah] used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” But, whatever else he did, Jesus Christ also came to show us just how beautiful we really are.
It is not unusual to hear Jesus described as “true humanity” or being “truly human.” (I think I first came across something like this from N. T. Wright, one of my favorite Biblical scholars and one of my inspirations for choosing to pursue theology and Biblical scholarship in seminary.) I think this language expresses a concept found in the Bible. It’s what I think Paul is alluding to when he calls Jesus Christ the “final Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45, or when he says in Romans 5:19, “just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” It is what I think Christians mean when they say that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life or that he kept Torah perfectly. I think this concept is also evident in some of the early Christian theologians, for example Irenaeus with his concept of “recapitulation,” by which he means that Jesus “redid” human life and succeeded in every place that we failed. Jesus redeemed what Adam destroyed.