. The Real Christ...
The very high standards which He demanded of His followers would only have had meaning if it was evident that He was Himself a real human who all the same was sinless. This was [and is] why the words of Jesus had a compelling, inspirational power towards obedience; for He Himself lived out those words in human flesh. The Lord of all grace was and is amazingly demanding in some ways. And He has every right to be. Just reflect how in Jn. 3:10, He expected Nicodemus to have figured out the Old books/dhament’s teaching about the new birth (presumably from Ps. 51:10; Is. 44:3; Ez. 11:19; 18:31; 36:26; 37:14; 39:29; Ecc. 11:5). And the Lord castigates Nicodemus for not having figured it out. In the first century, family and the family inheritance was everything. The way the Lord asked His followers to reject family and follow Him was far more radical than many of us can ever appreciate. Likewise His command to sell everything and follow Him (Lk. 18:22) implied so much- for the Middle Eastern family estate was the epitomy of all that a person had and stood for. And to be asked to give the proceeds of that inheritance to poor strangers... was just too much. It could seem, once one gets to know Middle Eastern values, that to abandon both family and the village home in favour of Jesus was just impossible- those things were more valuable to a Middle Eastern peasant than life itself. But still He asked- and people responded.
Consider how He spoke of the man with the splinter in His eye trying to cast the beam out of his brother's eye. He prefaces this mini-parable by saying that the blind can't lead the blind. For Him, a man with even slightly impaired vision was effectively blind. In this very context He speaks of the need to be " perfect...as his master" . Only the perfect, by implication, can criticize their brethren. And the final reason He gives for not attempting to cast out the plank from our brother's eye is that " For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit" . This is rather hard to understand in the context. But on reflection, it seems that He is teaching that if we are good trees, we will have no corrupt fruit, no splinters in our eye- and because none of us are like this, there is corrupt fruit on each of us, we aren't perfect as our Master, therefore we shouldn't think of trying to cast out the plank from our brother's eye (Lk. 6:39-43). And of course He bids us to be perfect as our Father is. These high standards of demand were mixed with an incredible grace. Only a man who was evidently perfect could speak like this with any realness or credibility. Otherwise His words would just have been seen as the ravings of a weirdo. But there was a realness to His perfection that made and makes His demands so piercingly appropriate to us. The way He handled His perfection is a wonderful insight into His character. He knew that He was without sin; and He knew that the life He lived moment by moment was to be the pattern for all God’s people. Yet somehow, He handled this in a manner which was never arrogant, never proud, and never offputting to sinners; but rather, actually inviting to them. He usually speaks of Himself in the third person- e.g. “the son”; but in Jn. 17:3 He refers to Himself in prayer to the Father as “Jesus Christ”, as if He was consciously aware of how we would later see Him.
There is something demanding and almost intrusive about the true personality of Jesus. In this sense, the knowledge of Jesus can never really be denied. There is something compelling about Him. Grasping the fact that Jesus was a real, credible human who was somehow so much 'more than man' ought to empower our preaching. For this is just what people are looking for- a Man to idolize, to follow, who is real and credible and won't let us down, not again dashing dreams and expectations as all else does. Young people worldwide [and within our own community and families] hunger for authentic relationships. They despise the superficiality of both irreligious materialism and religious conformity; they sense there is an awesome 'reality' far bigger than the trivialities of bourgeois socializing which surround them, far beyond the utter, trivial boredom of middle class life which most human beings either experience or tacitly aspire to. And the real, human Jesus whom we preach really can be their answer- depending how we put Him over to them. Many of the younger generation are unwilling to accommodate themselves to the status quo, or acclimatize themselves to the prevailing culture. They have a quest for a 'counter-culture', real and credible, every bit as much as Jesus to this day forms a radical counter-culture (1).
And the true Christianity, based on the real Jesus, which we preach- this is surely what at least some of them ought to be satisfied with. They fumble for words in their music and writing to express the reality for which contemporary youth seek. Yet they perceive, in different words and tones, the essence of Jesus' words: 'What does it profit a man that he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?'. It's a bit like the men who worshipped an idol for 'the unknown God'. We have to declare Him to them. Today's youth are looking for the right things (meaning, peace, love, reality etc.) but in the wrong places (drugs, religions etc.); whereas all these things are to be found in the man Jesus. Instead of a counter-culture, they find in most churches mere conformity; whereas the true church / ecclesia should be in radical tension with the culture of the world. But we should be offering them the radical Jesus; not just another mere religion. If ever we are told 'But you're just like all the others...'- we ought to be seriously worried. But I'm proud to say that time after time, I am told by those who join us that we are truly different. Not only are young people looking for right things in the wrong places; but they have more interest in moral subjects than they have the capacity for handling moral ideas. It is that capacity, that apparatus, which the true teaching of the Lord Jesus will give them.
The counter-culture of which Jesus is Lord is indeed radical. The Sermon on the Mount, and so much of Jesus' later teaching, revolves around " us" [His people] acting one way whilst the world acts in another. We are to love all men, whereas the world loves only its friends; we are to pray meaningfully, whilst the Gentile world merely heap up empty phrases; we are to seek the things of God's Kingdom, whilst the world seeks only for material things. Human values are radically reversed in Christ. The humble are exalted and the proud debased; the first are put last, the servant made the greatest. But Jesus also contrasts His followers not only with " the Gentiles" but with the contemporary religious people- the 'scribes and Pharisees'. Thus we are to be radically different both from the nominal church, and the secular world in general. Repeatedly Jesus speaks of " they" and " you" ; and yet He also spoke of the handful of Palestinian peasants who really grasped His teaching as being the salt of the earth [Israel?] and the light of the [whole Gentile] world. It was their separateness from the world that was to be a part of the world's salvation. So Jesus was certainly not teaching a bunker mentality, an island existence, but rather a reaching out into the world of others for their salvation. The true radicalism is the radicalism of love- love lived out in ordinary life. Whether we strive for absolute truthfulness, what place we seek at a feast, the struggle to grant real and total forgiveness- this is the radicalism of love.
The religion of Jesus was radically different from that of both the ecclesia and the world of His day. For them, prayer was to take place within the synagogue and temple. Yet Jesus prayed in a desert, in a garden, on mountains...but He is never recorded as praying in the temple or synagogue. The biography of any other religious Jew of the first century would have included a mention of his prayers in those places. But not with Jesus. His prayer life was radically at variance with that of his contemporaries. Strangely and paradoxically, the generation contemporary with Jesus were one of the most legalistically obedient, Law-honouring generations in Israel's sad history. The Lithuanian Jew Jacob Neusner commented: " It was not a sinning generation, but one deeply faithful to the covenant and the Scripture, perhaps more so than [any other]" (2). Yet this generation that sought more than any other to keep the Law and be serious about their obligations to God were the very ones who murdered His Son. The world of Jesus was in collision with that of the ecclesia and world of His day. And who is to say that the true spirit of Jesus may not be the same today, in these last days. The true vision of Jesus calls the true ecclesia to be the alternative culture of our age. The dominant values of this world- affluence, achievement, appearance, personal advancement, power, consumption, selfish individualism- are in total collision with anything that is of the real Christ. We are not to separate our lives into two realms, one religious and the other secular. Spiritual life is not something merely private and internal. The real Christ demands of us that we are Him; that " to live is [to be] Christ" ; that our whole lives in every part of them are based around Him, whatever the cost.
“Let the dead bury their dead”
The Lord’s comment: “Let the dead bury their dead” (Mt. 8:22) reveals how He had a way of so radically challenging the positions held by normal people of the world, to a depth quite unheard of- and He did it in so few words. And even more wondrous, the Lord appeared to have come out with this so pithy and semantically dense statement almost ‘off the cuff’, when presented with a man declining to follow Him immediately because he had to bury his father. So let’s see in what ways the Lord’s comment was so radical. Respect for parents as expressed in burying them “was at the heart of Jewish piety… under Hasidic-Pharisaic influence the last offices for the dead had gained primacy among all good works… the duty to participate in a funeral procession could even override study of the Torah”(3). And of course the Lord knew this, He knew just how fanatic the Jews were getting about burying parents- and it’s exactly that issue which He chooses to pick on in His relentless demand for our ‘all’ in following Him. Quite apart from the particular obsessive situation in first century Israel relating to burying parents, in any case there was a widely held view amongst both Greeks and Jews that burial of a father could only properly be done by the son, and if this wasn’t done, then the man was effectively not properly buried, which even Biblically is used as a curse. And ‘just’ for delaying doing the Lord’s service for a day, the Lord demanded all this of a person. He’s no less demanding today, even if His radical call is articulated over different issues. It may mean having to remain single when our parents want us to marry an unbeliever; giving up a good job; turning down promotion; relocating somewhere nearer our brethren; driving or sending our kids to a school a long way away for their spiritual sake… these, and far more, unto death and the complete giving up of life, are His demands.
But there are other radical elements in those words of the Lord. Lev. 21:11 forbad the High Priest to be polluted by the corpse of his parents, which would’ve precluded him from the usual Jewish manner of burying the dead in the first century. By asking His followers to act as if under the same regulation, the Lord was inviting His followers to see themselves, each one, as the High Priest. We may merely raise our eyebrows at this point, as a matter of mere expositional interest. But to those guys back then, this was major and radical, a man would have to sum up every ounce of spiritual ambition in order to rise up to this invitation. And psychologically, we could say that those first century illiterate Jews were subject to a very powerful systemic spiritual abuse. By this I mean that they were so emotionally hammered into the ground by the oppressive synagogue system that they felt themselves unworthy, no good, not up to much, awful sinners, woefully ignorant of God’s law, betrayers of Moses and their nation… and the Lord addresses these people and realistically asks them to feel and act like the High Priest! No wonder people just ‘didn’t get’ His real message, and those who did were so slow to rise up to the heights of its real implications. And we today likewise toil under a more insidious systemic abuse than we likely appreciate, with the same sense of not being ultimately worth much… until the Lord’s love and high calling bursts in upon our lives, releasing us from the mire of middle class [or aspired-to middle class] mediocrity into a brave new life. Another example of the challenging way in which the Lord treated His men is to be found in Jn. 15:16: “I have chosen you and ordained [Gk. Etheka] you”. C.K. Barrett shows that etheka reflects the Hebrew samak, and that the Lord’s phrase alludes to the ordination of a disciple as a Rabbi(4). Those guys must’ve looked at each other in shock. They who were barely literate, and knew how very human they were, whose small minds were creaking under the burden of trying to understand this Man they so loved… were being ordained as Rabbis, by a man who’d just washed their feet, which was what disciples usually did for their Rabbis. But yes, the Lord challenged them and us to have a far higher estimate of His opinion of us…
The Spirit Of The Prophets
And further. ‘The prophets’ were painted by Judaism rather like the Orthodox church paints ‘the saints’ today- white faced men of such spirituality that they are to be revered and worshipped as icons, rather than seen as real examples to us today. The Lord by contrast saw them as working models of the sort of spiritual life and walk with God which we too can just as realistically attain to. In Ez. 24:13-24, God forbad Ezekiel to carry out the mourning rituals associated with his wife’s funeral. Likewise Jeremiah was forbidden to participate in lamentation for the dead in a house of mourning (Jer. 16:5-7). And again, the man who was bidden “let the dead bury their dead” was being invited to see himself on that level, of an Ezekiel or Jeremiah, being called to this behaviour by a person who could speak directly on God’s behalf. And why were those prophets bidden do those things? It was in order to be a witness to Israel, proclaiming judgment to come. And this was exactly the same reason the Lord bid His potential follower to ‘let the dead bury the dead’- in order that the man could urgently proclaim the Gospel to Israel. Yet if we press further with the question as to why exactly God wanted Jeremiah and Ezekiel to not mourn for the dead, we find ourselves reflecting that actually, quite often God asked His prophets to engage in what some would call anti-social behaviour in order to attract attention to the message they were preaching. Remember that Jeremiah was forbidden to marry [most unusual for a Jew], go weddings etc. (Jer. 16:1-4,8). For other examples of ‘anti-social behaviour’ demanded of the prophets [e.g. walking about naked], see Ez. 4:9-15; 12:1-7; Hos. 1:2; Is. 20:1-6. When we meet the enigmatic phrase “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10), I believe it’s a pithy summation of what we’re saying here. The Angel had made prophecies, and John felt that this was something so wonderful that it separated him from the Angel. But John like us was bearing “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). The same essential spirit which was in the prophets is in all those who in their spirit or attitude bear the witness of Jesus. Hence the prophesying Angel encourages John not to worship him, but rather to recognize that he is John’s “fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book”, i.e. all believers (Rev. 22:9). And again, this was radical stuff for the initial audience of the Apocalypse. They were being told that they had the prophets as their brethren, and on account of their spirit / attitude of bearing the testimony of Jesus, the same spirit which was in the prophets was in them. The very act of bearing witness to Jesus in our spirit / disposition is in fact to have the same spirit in us which was in the prophets and was the basis of their prophetic witness. This makes the prophets our “brethren”, not distant white faced ‘saints’.
Israel was a society bound together by ‘norms’ of behaviour and taboos regarding cleanliness. Yet prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel had been asked to openly break with the conventions of their environment, in order to draw attention to the message they were preaching- which was that God is likewise outside of the conventions of human environments, and His message is a radical call to quit them and be ourselves, His children and not the children of this world. The Lord asked a man on the way to his dad’s funeral to “let the dead bury their dead” and instead come with Him and preach the Gospel- and this chimes in seamlessly with the way God treated the prophets and commissioned them for witness to His people. The prophets were perceived as men raised up by God in a crisis situation, to do something special in their generation, to be God’s men of the moment which we admire from the safe distance of historical study. And we too can feel the same about them. But the Lord bursts abruptly into this complacency- ‘thou art the man!’ is very much the message. Our lives are likewise to be lived [in this sense] in a spirit of all out effort for God’s people in urgent crisis. A man in a desperate war situation might dodge out of his dear dad’s funeral procession to fight the enemy or save a life that was immediately and urgently threatened. But it would have to be a pretty urgent and immediate crisis, that bore down very personally upon him. ‘And this’, the Lord is saying, ‘is the intensity and pressing urgency of the spiritual battle I’ve called you to’. I salute the Lord as highly as I can for the totally artless and majestic way in which He packed so much challenge into those few words: “Let the dead bury their dead”.
The Urgency Of Our Task
There is to be an urgency about following the Lord, an urgency that can’t be put off. This was one of the things which was so unique about the Lord’s teaching style. It’s been observed: “There is nothing in contemporary Judaism which corresponds to the immediacy with which he [Jesus] teaches”(5). Or as the Gospel records themselves put it: “Never man spake like this man”. The total unusualness of His teaching style and content was enough in itself to make soldiers sent to arrest Him simply give up and turn back. If we ask why men followed Jesus, it’s hard to think they did so because they thought He had promised them a great reward in the future; for He says little of this, and their reaction after the crucifixion indicates that they loved Him not because He had offered them anything that tangible. There was simply a Divine power of personality within Him, and by this I mean more than mere human charisma, and a message which demanded the immediate response of following Him wherever it might lead, even like Abraham not knowing where He was going. As Nebuchadnezzar proudly surveyed his capital city, the Angelic voice suddenly stated: “To thee it is spoken; the Kingdom is departed from thee” (Dan. 4:31). But it was 12 months previously that Daniel had bravely told the King that unless he repented, God’s intention was to remove his Kingdom from him. The King had heard the word… and forgotten its’ real import. But “to thee [you singular] it is spoken”. So it can be with us. We may hear and perceive something from the word, but a year later we’ve forgotten it, and we tend to use the nature of human memory as an excuse not to have to take seriously the simple fact that if we hear something from God’s word, we are to do it… and we are forever held accountable if we don’t. The passing of time doesn’t somehow produce an atonement for us. Therefore, and this point just outlined needs some reflection before we feel it’s practical import, it becomes absolutely crucial to respond to God’s word immediately. Hence there is an urgency to our Bible study- for as we understand, we are to do, not to merely jot notes in a margin or imagine we’ve taken a mental note. We are to do, to act, to take concrete action, as a result of what we perceive God asking of us. The immediacy of the baptisms in the first century were symptomatic of how the early church responded with immediacy to the Lord’s call; but the immediacy of response to His word continues, of course. For we are to live “in newness of life”, ever living out again that same basic response of baptism which we made when we first encountered the Lord’s call.
The idea of leaving family and putting them last was uncommon but not unknown within Jewish circles. Again, the Lord was using familiar ideas, but with a radical and thoroughly unique twist to them. The schools of the Rabbis and Pharisees were full of both stories and examples of where men had indeed quit their families and given up their jobs in order to fanatically study the Torah, and had ended up materially and socially advanced(6). It’s apparent from the Gospels that the Scribes and Pharisees were socially and economically better off than the mass of the population in Palestine. But the radicalness of the Lord’s demand was that He asked people to leave all and ‘follow Him’- in order to achieve an actual loss of material and social advantage. In all this we see a relentlessness in the Lord’s demands of men and women, His dogged insistence as to the unconditional and total nature of following Him. Once we grasp what following Him is all about, it becomes apparent that to tell a man on the way to bury his father ‘Let the dead bury their dead’ was actually quite in harmony with what the Lord was asking of those who would follow Him. On this occasion, He put it so baldly and bluntly to the man rushing to the funeral that both readers and hearers of those words of Jesus were and are shocked. But if only we grasped the real essence of His teaching, we wouldn’t see that demand as in any way unusual or out of character with the general tenor of His message.
And there was yet more radical, paradigm breaking demand within the Lord’s words: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead”. To ‘Follow me’ and be an itinerant student of the teacher Jesus of Nazareth was not unknown in first century Palestine. But to stop a man on the way to his dad’s funeral and insist he had to join up right now and skip the funeral- that was just incredibly demanding. Further, it was always pupils who tried to get into a Rabbi’s entourage or school- he didn’t just walk up to a normal, non-religious working guy and say ‘Hey you… come right now and follow me…’. This is where the attempts to make the Lord Jesus out to have been just another ‘holy man’ within the first century Jewish prophetic milieu are to me simply pathetic. Here was a man, a more than man, who spake and demanded and convicted and loved and ultimately saved like no other. There is an undeniable connection between the guerrilla groups who fought the Roman occupation and the schools of rabbinic teaching- the fanatic zeal for the Law was what drove the Jews to fight as they did. The idea of ‘following after’ a man is a Hebrew figure for men following their leader / general into battle. There are many examples: Josh. 3:3; Jud. 3:28; 4:14; 6:34,35; 9:4,49; 1 Sam. 17:13,14; 30:21; 2 Sam. 5:24 etc. In those early days, a general wasn’t a smart guy with a degree who directed the battlefield from his laptop; he was the one who went over the top first with his men behind him, knowing full well he was the one whom his enemies would go for above all others. It was his bravery which inspired the followers to go after him, and which, over the battles and wars, solidified their trust in him and willingness to give their lives behind him. And this figure of speech was well understood by the Lord. Around him were false prophets and rabbinic teachers, asking young men to follow them, adopt their interpretations of Torah, study the traditions, and get hyped up enough to take weapons in their hands and go forth to fight the infidel. The Lord was fully aware of this, and He frames His calling of men in the same terms. Indeed, when He speaks of leaving all and following after Him (Lk. 14:33), He surely had in mind the well known story of Mattathias, who began the Maccabean revolt by saying: “Let every one who is zealous for the Law and supports the covenant follow after me…and they left their possessions behind in the town” (1 Macc. 2:27). And again the Lord seems to have had this in mind when He says that when He comes, His true people are to flee Jerusalem and not worry that their ‘stuff is in the house’ (Lk. 17:31). For an itinerant teacher like Jesus of Nazareth to offer his ideas and his interpretation of the Old Testament, and then have men following Him, was not out of place in first century Palestine. But the Lord twists the whole figure of ‘follow me’. Unlike the other teachers, his teaching didn’t lead to taking arms and fighting Rome. His men are to follow Him in wilfully taking up and carrying a cross, imitating His supreme human bravery in both His life and above all in His death, a bravery which He showed in facing sin in the eye and conquering every temptation, whatever the cost, whatever the human implication.
The Violence Within
The real battle was not against Rome, but against sin in all its forms, against human weakness and dysfunction, rooting out cherished habits, secret sins, the innermost fantasies of the heart, and reaching out to the salvation of others and the advancement of the things of God’s Kingdom. The ultimate battle we are led to is the battle of truly accepting the cross in our lives, of realizing and living out the truth of the fact that losing now is winning, dying now is living… In the moments, the seconds and even half seconds of temptation, we are to fight and win, to courageously follow that bravest of men, “the captain [another of the many military allusions in the New Testament] of our salvation”. As one man sees one hell of a girl sitting lonesome on a low wall, drinking cool beer in the warm summer rain, as he fights with the ideas and associations which that sight triggers… as one woman glances at the display of alcohol in the supermarket, yearning to ‘just this once’ drown the tension of an unbearable, no-exit life… as another brother begins to slip into a rage of anger and expletives yelled in his mind at the brother who’s just demolished his cherished view of prophecy… as a sister sits at her computer keyboard tempted to write words of untruth to trash her rival… in these moments we are in the heat of battle. But it’s all a question of perceiving that this is what the war is about, and that every battle is bitterly contested and fought out to the end, with no easy victories. The battle is above all against ourselves, not some brother with suspected wrong teaching or Rome or the Moslems or the JWs round the corner. In this was the essential difference between the Lord’s teaching and that of the contemporary Rabbis, who saw the struggle as a literal one by the righteous, those justified by their correct reading of Torah, against an external pagan enemy. There is of course a conflict with the world around us, ‘satan’ refers both to the powers of the world as well as to our own internal temptations, but the conflict is most significantly within our own hearts. It’s no good gallantly fighting the evil of the world if we’ve not started and keenly felt “the violence within” (to borrow a phrase from Paul Tournier). Perhaps this theme is presented to us in the account of Uzziah, who had many “valiant men” in his army, but it was the priests who are in that same context called “valiant men” for daring to stand up to Uzziah’s immorality and speak out against it (2 Chron. 26:12,17).
The Call Of God
But this radical call to ‘follow me’ is thrown out by the Lord in an almost casual way- or so it can seem. The usual way was for a man to observe and reflect upon a rabbi’s words and ideas, and then ask to join in his inner circle of followers. But the Lord wasn’t like that. He called men, arresting them with His radical call in the very midst of daily life, at the most utterly inconvenient moment, even the most humanly inappropriate moment- such as being on the way to your father’s funeral. And again, the Son of God was actually acting as His Father had done. Gideon was called whilst in the middle of threshing wheat in a time of famine (Jud. 6:1), Saul whilst he was out looking for lost cattle (1 Sam. 9:10) and again whilst he was coming home from work one evening (1 Sam. 11:5); David whilst he was looking after the sheep; Samuel whilst he was asleep; Amos whilst he was leading the flocks to water (Am. 7:14); and see too 1 Kings 11:29; 19:16; 2 Kings 9:1-13,18. In other words, the call of God comes to us right in the midst of ordinary, mundane life. Of this there can be no doubt. And the Lord Jesus called men in just the same way. This was what was and is so unusual and startling about the ministry of the Lord. His love sought men out, He didn’t wait for them to come to Him [for none of us would ever come without God’s gracious initiative]. Of course, it was only those who perceived that He spake on God’s behalf who could take His invitation as a real call from God which had to be obeyed.
And again, every Old Testament ‘call of God’ was for someone to do something dramatic, often in extreme crisis and physical danger, inviting them to rise up to the challenge of the moment. Yet as we have shown, the call of the disciples had the call of the prophets as its prototype. And the Lord Jesus went around Palestine and goes about this world today, calling people with that same call. We are ordinary folk, nothing special women, average fellas… just like those invited in the first century. And yet we are ‘called’ in the same way as people were called to heroic things in Old Testament times. To encounter Jesus as we have is to be called by God. The struggle and fight and victory and eternal cause and glory to which the Lord Jesus calls us to rise up to… is just as real now as it is ever was, and just as bitingly urgent to respond to. Perceiving it imparts a spirit of heroism to our otherwise formless and unachieving lives. To e.g., conquer gluttony or repressed anger and bitterness over a lost relationship, to lead a friend to Christ… these are the victories, the real ones, which have eternal consequence and glory.
So to sum up, I don’t think that we should skip a relative’s funeral in order to ‘do’ things for the Lord. And I don’t think that was the intention of the Lord’s words. Rather is He teaching us of the sense of urgency which there must be in our service of Him, our willingness to ‘follow’ Him whatever it takes, to place no restrictions upon our service to Him and what it may demand of us. We are to see our lives as to be totally dedicated to Him, making use in some way of all the precious seconds granted us, rather than letting them slip away between our fingers. We are to realistically grasp the fact that His mission and ministry is in fact ours. And the total insecurity, exposure to danger, misunderstanding, slander, sudden calls of God to change direction and move way out of our comfort zone etc. are all part of participating in the short term fate and eternal victory of the One whom we follow. His call to each of us to preach Him is radical. He sent out His preachers with no money, no food etc. He didn’t tell them to go out without extra money, extra food nor clothes etc. He told them to take none of these things (Lk. 22:35). Why? Surely because He wanted them – and us- to understand that the preacher of Christ is to be totally dependent upon His provision for them. It was a high challenge. When the disciples faltered at the Last Supper, the Lord told them that OK, if you have a purse, take it; if you want a sword for protection, then buy one (Lk. 22:35). Surely He was saying, as He is to us today: ‘OK, I want you to rise up to the spirit of My ‘Let the dead bury their dead’ and ‘Take no money with you’ exhortations. But if you can’t, OK, take a lower level, but all the same, go forth and be My witnesses. Please!’.
(3) Martin Hengel, The Charismatic Leader And His Followers (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1981) pp. 8,9.
(4) C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According To St. John (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978).
(5) Gunter Bornkamm, Jesus Of Nazareth (New York: Harper & Row, 1959) p. 57.
(6) See Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem In The Time Of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), pp. 112, 233.
Duncan Heaster has written over 20 books, some of which contain material relevant to The Real Christ. And there is a host of other relevant material...