Archive for January, 2008

Mount Carmel

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

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In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

In Part 1 of this series, we explored the question “What is a Rabbi?”, along with some of this question’s implications. In this article, we will examine the question “Was Jesus a Rabbi?”, to which I believe the answer is “yes”, that he was a rabbi with s’mikah (authority) in the tradition of the hasidim – which, per Part 1, is not the same as a Jewish Orthodox Rabbi, in today’s world.

Who Called Jesus Rabbi?

From the Biblical record, we have note of 7 different groups/types of people who refer to Jesus as “Rabbi” or “Teacher” (the rough translation): His disciples (Mark 9:5, Mark 11:21 etc.); Pharisees (John 3:1-2); John the Baptist’s disciples (John 1:35-38); Common people (Mark 10:51, John 6:24-25); Torah teachers (Matthew 8:19); Herodians (Luke 3:12); and the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-32). Additionally, he refers to himself by this title (John 13:12-14, Luke 22:10-11).

The title ‘Rabbi’, in first-century contemporary literature, could refer both to Torah teachers (”Teachers of the Law”) and sages/rabbis with s’mikah (authority). Jesus, who was clearly recognized by this title, would have fallen into one of these two categories, though clearly – from scripture – it was the latter.

Jesus’ Authority

In similar fashion, Jesus was recognized by many people in scripture as having authority (s’mikah). In Mark 1:22 we read:

The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

According to Hebrew tradition, for a sage/rabbi to have s’mikah – authority to make new teachings to interpret scripture – he had to be recognized as a prophet from God, himself, or – as Aaron and Moses had traditionally given authority to 70 elders – they had to be recognized as having s’mikah by two other rabbis with s’mikah.

We know, from the scriptures, that John the Baptist was considered to be a similar sort of Rabbi (John 3:26) or a prophet (Matthew 11:7-9), with disciples of his own (Matthew 9:14), and followers in Asia Minor, who were later baptized into Jesus by Paul (Acts 19:1-7). And so it is we read in John 1:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

Additionally, when Jesus was questioned by the Sadducees as to where he got his s’mikah (authority), his answer (via the rabbinic technique of answering in questions) would indicate that John – a prophet – had heralded (not granted) his authority from God.

Additional Evidence

In Part 1, discussing rabbis in general, I noted that:

they lived a more itinerate lifestyle and took on followers – called talmidim (disciples) – who lived with them most of time, though they would be sent out on their own later in their learning. The rabbis had a yoke, their method of interpreting scripture, in which they would order the commandments of Torah from greatest to least. The talmidim of a rabbi would be expected to live by that yoke and to memorize the key teachings of that rabbi. Living with their rabbi, these talmidim would also learn to live in the same manner – with their greatest desire to be to learn to follow God just like their rabbi. In all of this, the talmidim were also in complete submission to the authority of their rabbi.

It is the presence of disciples, talmidim, which is one of the strongest bits of evidence of Jesus’ role as a rabbi in the tradition of the hasidim. In the Jewish culture, in order for one to be called a talmid, they had to have a rabbi to follow. To say that Jesus’ disciples were disciples, but he was not a rabbi is like saying “I’m married to Suzanne, and I am Suzanne’s husband, but she is not my wife”.

Additionally, Jesus had a yoke (Matthew 11:28-30; 22:36-40 ), he sent our his disciples on their own later in their learning (Matthew 10:5-25), they memorized his teaching and followed it (Matthew 7:24-29, Luke 6:46-49), they lived with him so that they could follow his example (Matthew 10:1, 16:24-28).

In Conclusion

It seems clear, from Biblical and cultural evidence from the first century that Jesus was a Rabbi, in the tradition of the hasidim and not the post-70 AD midrash Rabbis of today. It is also clear that Jesus was recognized by the people as having s’mikah, and that he had talmidim following him.

In the coming articles, we will examine some more aspects of Jesus as a Rabbi in addition to what it means for us to be a disciple in the true meaning of the word.

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I found the missing segment of the film on unbelievers and salvation. Enjoy.

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A few things that stood out to me

“George Whitfield… led a huge number of people to Jesus”

really!? How was he able to, but the guy in the graveyard was unsuccessful? Hmmm.

There are also three reasons for evangelism in Calvinism

1. We don’t know who the elect are

2. It provides an indictment for the unbeliever

3. It has a leavening effect on the society as a whole

What they still fail to address in this film is why evangelize people if are dead, and unable to respond to the message. Let’s look at the reasons given. 1. The elect are still dead and unable to respond to human efforts. 2. The unbeliever is dead and unable comprehend or feel the weight of such an indictment. 3. And as for a leavening effect? Well, I am not too sure what good the leaven will do among unresponsive souls that are all simply moving towards their predetermined destiny… heaven or hell.

Finally

If we love people, then we need to tell them the truth

unfortunately, telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth has ZERO effect on someone’s eternal destiny. The elect will be elected and the unregenerate will be gladly tossed to eternal damnation. This has always been a point of confusion for me with the ODMs. They are so concerned about protecting the truth. However, protecting the truth has ZERO effect on anyone’s eternal destiny.

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twist, tangle, mix, mince, dice, kneed, jumble… all things done to Rick Warren’s words to create controversy. The latest

Rick Warren goes to the National Cathedral and declares that “the future of the world is not secularism, it’s religious pluralism.” Warren is also calling for mainline churches and evangelicals to come back together.

Can you say ecumenicalism or one-world religion?

No, you really can’t say that — at least about this quote. I would agree with Warren. The world is not necessarily becoming more and more secular. There is a rise in interest in spiritual things in modern culture. Both Kabbalah and Islam are on the rise. What we will probably end up with is a very religiously plual society. Does Warren support this, or think that it is a good thing? probably not. Does he think we need to to all get along? Sure.

I am beginning to think there is a a Warren obsession going on here.

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This is a very strange post from Ken Silva over at CRN.  Apparently, evangelist Brian Culver found an inappropriate bulletin from a girl back in his home town.  Was the MySpace bulletin inappropriate?  Very much so… but who does he blame?  The parents?  The school system?
The Seeker-Sensitive Church, of course!  So he takes to opportunity to air some rather public and strong rebuke to a fellow pastor that he obviously knows:

PASTOR! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. YOU HAVE IGNORED SIN TOO LONG IN YOUR CHURCH. YOU HAVE TURNED A BLIND EYE FOR THE SAKE OF NOT OFFENDING ANYONE. DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO NOT CONFRONT SIN? LITTLE GIRLS SEE NOTHING WRONG WITH PROMOTING SEX ON THE INTERNET. (THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME IT HAS HAPPENED IN YOUR CHURCH!) HOMOSEXUAL BOYS FIND NOTHING WRONG WITH THEIR LIFESTYLE. ADULTS THINK IT IS OKAY TO FLIP PEOPLE OFF AND JUST SAY, “I AM SO HAPPY THAT GOD FORGIVES ME WHEN I DO THAT!” WHEN YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY CHURCH DISCIPLINE IN YOUR CHURCH, YOU ARE OPENING THE DOOR FOR WEAK AND WIMPY CHRISTIANS TO LEAD THE FLOCK. YOU HAVE A HOMOSEXUAL BOY IN YOUR YOUTH GROUP AND ALL OF THE OTHER YOUTH ARE FINDING IT AS AN ACCEPTABLE THING.

he later says (yes, in all caps)

PASTORS! DO YOU NOW SEE WHY TELLING JOKES AND A BUNCH OF STORIES IS NOT THE WAY TO GO FOR A CHURCH SERVICE? DO YOU NOW SEE THAT GOD’S WORD IS TRUE AND IT IS A LAMP UNTO OUR FEET. IT WILL DIRECT OUR PATHS. WE DO NOT NEED MULTI-MEDIA AND HIP HOP MUSIC AND A LOT OF STARBUCKS COFFEE AND DONUTS. WHAT WE NEED IS GOOD OLD FASHIONED BIBLICAL PREACHING. PREACHING GOD’S LAW AND THE NEED TO REPENT OF SINS. WE NEED TO HEAR HOW TO PUT OUR TRUST AND FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOR. WE NEED TO HEAR THE NEED TO BE OBEDIENT TO GOD’S WORD. AND WE NEED TO SEE PASTOR’S WHO ACTUALLY DO ALL OF THE ABOVE!!!! THAT IS WHAT IS MISSING. OBEDIENT PASTORS!!!!!!!! THEY SAY THE RIGHT THINGS, BUT THEY DO NOT DO THE RIGHT THINGS. IF YOU HAVE SIN OPENLY DISPLAYED IN YOUR CHURCH BY A LEADER OR EVEN A MEMBER, YOU NEED TO PRACTICE CHURCH DISCIPLINE. THE IDEA IS TO SET THEM APART SO THAT THEY CAN REPENT OF THEIR SINS AND COME BACK INTO THE BODY. YOUR WORDS ARE NOT EDIFYING THE BODY IF YOUR ACTIONS ARE NOT CONSISTENT WITH SCRIPTURE. HOW MANY PEOPLE DID YOU WITNESS TO TODAY? ARE YOU FULFILLING THE GREAT COMMISSION. MOST PASTOR’S I KNOW, THE ANSWER IS A BIG AND TERRIBLE NO!

I am not too sure how he connected one girl’s personal MySpace bulletin with pastors telling jokes, drinking Starbucks and listing to hip-hop.  I am definately unclear as to how he could jump to the subject of homosexual teenagers being accepted in a youth group.   However, I find it sad that these grown men find it appropriate to give such anonymous personal information and rebuke on a very impersonal blog.  That’s up there with dumping your girlfriend via text-message.

I also find it amazing how these ODMs are able to connect practically anything with a seeker sensitive/emerging/purpose-driven church.  If you asked this girl if what she wrote was wrong, she would more than likely reply with “yes.”  But somehow all of this is not the parent’s fault, but the pastor’s (even though she know the biblical thing to do).  I am amazed at the length these men and women will go to publicly call out fellow ministers, air their dirty laundry, and then connect any sin in the congregation to their preaching/ministry methods.  If we went around exposing the sin in traditional churches, we might also be able to make some outlandish claims about the effectiveness of that method.

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Without opening a can of worms, can someone please explain how this is not essentially fatalism?

Doesn’t the analogy of the graveyard make evangelism completely irrelevant, futile and unnecessary?  I mean, if you are preaching the gospel among the completely unresponsive dead, are not all evangelistic efforts simply busy work that God has us do?  Essentially shouting at graves?

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Both CRN and slice are up in arms once again over Rick Warren’s peace plan.  As expected, this global movement towards ending hunger, AIDS and poverty is getting lots of attention from many media outlets.  These ODMs cannot understand why a Christian would ever want to partner with someone of a different faith or sexuality to end such a horrendous problem in the world.  I wonder why the ODMs did not protest churches working alongside non-believers to help clean up Katrina or bring aid to the tsunami victims.  Surely, they too were advocating universalism.  Or could it be that simply because Rick Warren is behind this movement, it must be inherently heretical?

Recently CRN boiled down Warren’s message to this

Global Crisis Requires Global Spiritual Unity for Global Good

This could not be further from the truth.  Spiritual Unity implies that we all need to be unified in our faith to combat this crisis.  I challenge any ODM to find where Warren has said that we all must share the same spirituality to combat this.  Never once has he called for spiritual unity, but for people of all faiths to work together, which does not require spiritual unity.  You see, this is not a spiritual issue, this is a human issue that we are facing.  Christians, Muslims or Hindus are not dying everyday , humans are dying everyday.  The phrase should be altered to say

Global Crisis Requires Global Human Unity for Global Good

I truly believe that most ODMs have a hard time not seeing people in one of two categories:  the non-elect and the elect.  They cannot simply see people as human.  I mean, this issue should appeal to our basic human compassion.  Almost every culture in the world agrees that certain actions, such as murder, poverty and disease epidemics, are horrible atrocities.  But, this is why you will hardly ever see an article on CRN that addresses the suffering of HUMANS in Africa, or the genocide that is taking place in Darfur.  If it doesn’t have a “Christian” label and theology attached to it, it is worthless.

Now, I will say this, because I know the rebuttal is coming, our primary message is to preach the gospel.  However, a hefty portion of Jesus’ teachings were on feeding the hungry, caring for widows and praying for the sick.  It is not an either/or situation;  It is a both/and.  I challenge the ODMS today.  Are you against Warren’s peace plan because he is truly calling for a “Global Spiritual Unity”, or are you against it because it is simply Rick Warren?

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Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Such are the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans, as he describes ways we are to be loving of all of those around us, who walk with us in this life. In my days of working in Leadership Development, I became acquainted with all sorts of quotes, but one that stuck with me was one by Rudolph Guiliani in his book on leadership:

Weddings Optional, Funerals Mandatory

Basically, his advice was that when people are celebrating that it is important to let them know that you are happy for their good fortune, even if there are conflicts which prevent your physical presence. In the case of someone in mourning, though, not only is your empathy/sympathy important, but your physical presence is, as well. In Guiliani’s advice, your time and presence demonstrates to a mourner, far and above anything else, your love for them.

In the first century, when a loved one died, it was customary for them to be placed in a 2-chambered tomb. One chamber held the body of the deceased, and the other was for the close friends and family of the deceased to sit in mourning for a week after the death. In many cases, the burial chamber was sealed after three days (as was the case with Lazarus), due to the smell, but the mourner would still remain. This allowed time for news of the death to spread to the outlying communities, and for well-wishers to comfort those who were mourning.

Upon reaching the tomb, the comforters would weep with the grieved, and tear their clothes.

This is part of the image I believe Paul is painting in his advice for Christians.

Sadly, there are those who claim the Christian faith who have turned Paul’s advice on its head, out of a sense of Schadenfreude (taking pleasure in the misfortune of others), who mourn for those who rejoice and rejoice for those who mourn. If you want an example of an anti-Christ spirit of today, you need look no further when something like this happens.

What has become incredibly odious is the practice of using someone’s death as a political or religious platform – whether the death of soldiers overseas, a political figure, a religious leader (or the wife of a disgraced religious leader), or a famous actor. Such an occasion is NOT the time to score political points. Such an occasion is a time to demonstrate love.

Heath Ledger

Last night, I was heartened to find out that Chris Rosebrough was choosing to speak out againt the actions of some falsely acting in the name of Christ, specifically Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, in their plans to picket the funeral of actor Heath Ledger.  Why Ledger?  Because of a gay character he played in Brokeback Mountain (which I’ve not seen), and – most importantly – because his funeral will get lots of press coverage.

Here’s a video (HT: Chris R.) with Phelps’ own words:

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Rosebrough writes:

Therefore, We’d like to ask you to pray AND find a way to combat this hate by sending messages that share Christ’s love with Heath Ledger’s family and loved ones. If we don’t take a stand against this type of hate done in the name of Christ then we will become silent accomplices to Westboro’s gross and inhuman sin.

I could not agree more, and I am doubly blessed that this was written by Chris R and that we agree on this matter.  I would hope that the message received by Ledger’s family about the love of Christ is not the one preached by Phelps and the WBC, but the one preached by Paul and affirmed by those truly demonstrating Jesus’ love…
If anyone has contact information of where to send condolences to Ledger’s family, please post it in the comments, as I couldn’t find any online.

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I’ve made some modifications to the way comments are processed.  There have been a number of threads, weeks (and sometimes months) old onto which we get random (sometimes bizarre) comments, which don’t always get caught and responded to.  As such, I have started a script that will close comments automatically on posts older than 10 days (which seems reasonable, as I look at comment traffic.

If there are discussions carrying on (in a constructive manner) on a 10-day-old thread, we can exclude it from this closure list for a time, until activity has died down.  Our submissions page, as well, will always be open.

On one related note – if a comment thread devolves into a circular flame war on the road to nowhere (as happened on one thread yesterday), I may close down comments on the thread, as well, in hope that cooler heads will prevail.

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…Mark Driscoll had an excellent sermon on the subject of Birth Control a couple weeks back that I think is worth a listen.  He’s currently in a series that is answering questions submitted to Mars Hill (Seattle), voted on, and ranked in the top 9.  While I don’t agree with Driscoll on some stances thus far in the series, I think he nailed this one.

 
icon for podpress  Birth Control and Christians: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
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There was a small post on CRN about a Lifeway study on sex.  Here is the first half of the entry

Lifeway helps us all again with a truly “relevant” study.  Does anyone in America really think that we are suffering from a lack of information about sex?

While I don’t think the church needs to play sex therapist, it takes a very naive man to assume that the Christian world is completely educated about sexuality.  I grew up in a very traditional church setting.  Almost all of my peers had a child out of wedlock or are currently sexually active.  To pretend we don’t have a problem on our hand would be a travesty.  Here are two stats that might make us RETHINK how we talk about sex in the church.

  • The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $9 billion annually.
  • Thirty-one percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 — about 750,000 a year. Eight in ten of these pregnancies are unintended and 81 percent are to unmarried teens.

The 1950 sex-ed film reels are not going to cut it anymore.  So the church can A. address the issues, or B. continue to ignore it while the all out young people continue looking for love in all the wrong places.

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