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We learn about who Jesus was by examining what he said and what he did.
Lesson Twenty: The Teachings of Jesus
IV. Christology (part 1)
1. Actions of Jesus
2. Words of Jesus
Course: New Testament Survey - Gospels
Lecture: Christology: Implicit
We're dealing now with Jesus teaching concerning himself, which is called Christology, his self-understanding. Now, there are a lot of people who have a radical view of who Jesus thought he was. He thought he was some sort of a semi-prophet or the like but the understanding that we're having from our gospels would be very different. When we talk about Christology and Jesus' understanding of himself, we usually refer to the implicit Christology and the explicit Christology. Implicit Christology involves what he reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions, deeds and words. Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. So, when we're talking about his use of the word Christ or Lord or something like that to refer to himself, that's explicit Christology. Implicit Christology is the implications of what his actions and deeds reveal about himself.
There's a very well-known story called the Prince and the Pauper and it's a story that's been made into film and so forth, but it's a story of a young prince who, one day, being led through the village nearby, saw a street urchin – a poor boy who looked just like him, and so when he – when he returns to the castle, he tells one of the people who works under him and is looking after him, "I want you to bring that pauper boy here to the castle but bring him here secretly." So, the pauper is brought to the – see the prince in the castle, and when they both see each other, they are amazed because they are identical. They look alike. They look like they're identical twins. They're not but it looks like that, and the prince says to the pauper, "I've always wanted to know what it would be like to live in the village. I want you to change places with me for a while, and I want to take your clothes and go in the village and see what life is like in that respect, and you can take on my clothes and you can experience what it means to be a prince."
Well, the street urchin thinks that's great, so he does it, and he lives in the castle and makes all sorts of mistakes and so forth, but what's interesting is that the pauper is now dressed like a street urchin but he keeps on getting in trouble because he keeps acting like a prince because he knows he's a prince and he can't act any other way than the prince. Now, there's a sense in when we talk about the implicit Christology of Jesus. He who emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a street urchin comes to earth, and yet the way he acts is like a way that you would not allow other people to act because he acts differently, and in his actions, he reveals something of who he thinks he is, and we're gonna look at the implicit Christology from the aspect of his words and actions.
Uh, turn with me to page 241 in your synopsis, and we have here the question about Jesus' authority that is evoked by his actions. He acts in a way that we don't allow people to act. Reading Mark here, page 241, "And they came again to Jerusalem and as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him and they said to him, 'By what authority are you doing these things,'" or, "'who gave you the – this authority to do them? He has cleansed the temple'", and now in response, there is a question, "Who gave you the authority to do this in the temple?" Now, there are three sacred aspects of Israel that identifies the people of Israel. One is the temple. The other is the law, and the third is their Sabbaths, and Jesus, in his actions, acts as if he's master of all of those. So, he comes into the temple and he cleanses it. Who gave you the right to do this? It's a natural question, and Jesus responds here. He says, "Well, okay I'll – I'll ask you a question, and then if you answer that, I'll answer yours. The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men," and they said, "Well, you know, if we say it's from heaven, then they'll say, 'Well, then why didn't you guys get baptized by him,' and if we say, 'Well, it's not from heaven – not from God – in other words, but from men, then everybody around here will get angry because they all believe John's a prophet.'" So, they say, "Well, you know we don't know," and Jesus then gives up and said, "There's no sense in my answering the question either because your hearts are such that we can't have a dialogue, so I won't answer you either," but his attitude towards the temple that he is master of the temple reveals that he believes he is someone unique. He has authority to cleanse the temple. He possesses authority over the demons who he casts out, and he claims to have authority over Satan himself – 108 in your synopsis.
Now, begi – reading in Mark 3:22, line 11, the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is bes – uh, possessed by Belzaboul, the name of the chief demon, and by the prince of demons, Belzaboul, he casts out the demons, and he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan if the kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand, and if the house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand, and if Satan has risen up against himself, he is divided and he cannot stand but is coming to an end.
Then, page 109, "But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man, then indeed he may plunder his house." Now, Jesus is saying that he is plundering the domain of s – Belzaboul, and, therefore, he must be stronger than Belzaboul in this regard. It doesn't say who he is. No titles are used, but he says, "My activity here indicates that I am stronger than he, and, therefore, that's why I'm able to plunder his house." He reveals his authority over disease by healing, and it's a manifold number of kinds of disease. Uh, it's not that it's – he's specializes in one thing that he can say, "Well, it's kind of a – a psychic kind of help." No, there are different kinds of diseases he heals. Uh, he is a general practitioner, not a specialist in that regard.
He also claims to be master of the Sabbath. Now, before we read the passage on page 44 as to Jesus' activity on the Sabbath, I think one thing I want to do is to read some background materials to indicate the Jewish reverence for the Sabbath. I don't think there's anybody that we know in Baptist circles that has any respect for Sunday or our Sabbath like the Pharisees and the – and the Jews in general had during the time of Jesus. In the books of the Apocrypha, there's a book called First Maccabees, and in First Maccabees, 2:32 to 41, it tells about an incident in which the Jews are at war with the Syrians, and led by the Maccabees, they are resisting the Syrians who want to stamp out their religion or religious identity, and so they are essentially fighting a guerilla warfare.
Now, we read, "Many pursued them and overtook them. They encamped opposite them" – the Jewish people – "and prepared for battle against them on the Sabbath day," and they said unto them, "Enough of this, come out and do what the king commands and you will live." In other words, there's no sense resisting us. The Syrians are saying, "If you just do what the king demands, you'll be all right," but they said, "We will not come out, nor will we do what the king commands," and so profane the Sabbath day. Then, the enemy hastened to attack, but they did not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places for they said, "Let us all die in our innocence. Heaven and earth testify for us that you are killing us unjustly."
So, they attack the Jews that – the Jews are being attacked. "So, the Syrians attack the Jews on the Sabbath, and they died with their wives and children and cattle to the number of a thousand persons." In other words, the Jews did not resist. It's a Sabbath day. To fight is to work. So, they didn't work on the Sabbath. They – they – a thousand people died.
Now, when Mattathias, the father of the Maccabeeans – Maccabeean leaders, and his friends learned of it, they mourned for them deeply and each said to his neighbor, "If we all do as our brethren have done [09:30] and refuse to fight with the gentiles for our lies and for our ordinances, they will quickly destroy us from the earth." I mean if we don't fight them, they'll just fight on Sundays and we just – uh, Saturdays I should say – the Sabbath, and we'll be destroyed. So, they made this decision that day. Let us fight against every man who comes to attack us on the Sabbath day. Let us not die as our brethren died in their hiding places. So, they make this decision. We will fight to save our lives on the Sabbath. We're not going to attack on the Sabbath, but we will fight if we have to, to protect our lives on the Sabbath. Now, think of the attitude you have towards the Sabbath. Needless to say, you don't do frivolous things like have touch football on a Saturday or something like that, but to save your life, you may do it.
When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, there was a work called the Fragments of a Zadokite Work, and in it, it reads this way – let me read it to you first how it was translated, and then I'll tree – read it to you the way it really is. Uh, in the translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Vermes and Dupont-Sommer, we read, "Should any man fall into water or fire, let him be pulled out with the aid of a ladder or a rope or such tool." Yet, there's a little footnote that they have amended the reading because the reading really reads this way, "If a man falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not be raised on the Sabbath. No man shall rest in a place near to the gentiles on the Sabbath. No man shall suffer himself to be polluted on the Sabbath for the sake of wealth or gain. If any person falls into a place of water, he shall not bring him up by a ladder or a cord or an instrument." In other words, the translators, when they came to this, couldn't believe it. So, they translated it according to what they thought would be sensible, and that was that if the person fell into a – a pit on the Sabbath day, then you go and bring him up, but it really says you don't bring him up, but they could not conceive of this attitude towards the Sabbath, but see, they're reading their understanding of Sabbath and Sunday or something like that into the Assam community and the Assam said, "When you see somebody who's fallen into a pit and it's on the Sabbath, you can go down and say, 'If you're still there tomorrow, I'll come," but you can't help him." Now, that's an attitude towards the Sabbath that's very hard for us to contemplate.
You have, on the other hand, another one – let's see, uh – This Jubilees 2:19, "And God said to us, 'Behold, I will separate you unto Myself a people from among all – from among all the peoples, and these shall keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them, and I have sanctified the Sabbath day and do sanctify unto Myself, even so will I bless them. They will be My people." The Sabbath is special. It identifies God's people because they keep the Sabbath. It's one of the three most precious identifying features of being a Jew.
Now, read the account of Plucking Grain on the Sabbath. One Sabbath, he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their ways, plucked heads of grain, and the Pharisee said to them, "Look, what are you doing – what isn't – look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" Now, the disciples are doing it, but they're disciples of Jesus, and a teacher is responsible for the behavior of his pupils. Good grief, that's scary, isn't it?
So – so, anyways, in – in the day of Jesus, and Jesus said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the of bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priest to eat, and he also gave to those who were with him," and he said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, so the son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Leaving aside the title, Jesus claims that his disciples can do on the Sabbath what the law does not permit because he is master of the Sabbath. How is it that he can make such claims? Well, he has an understanding of himself of being quite unique.
Another thing that Jesus has is – does is assume a certain divine priority. Turn to page 40 here. In the healing of the paralytic, reading beginning at Verse 1 when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home, and many were gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door, and he was preaching the Word to them, and they came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men, and when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the para – pallet on which the paralytic lay, and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
Now, some of the scribes were standing there questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak this? It's blasphemy. Who can forgive sins but God alone," and, immediately, Jesus perceiving this spirit that they thus question within themselves said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? What is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk?'" Well, it's actually easier to say "Your sins are forgiven." It's harder to do, but it's easier to say because if you say, "Your sins are forgiven," okay, so – but if you say, "Rise, take up your bed and walk," and the guy lays there, then you know you can't do it. So, it's easier to say it but harder to do it. "But that you may know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins," he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, 'Rise, take up your pallet and go home,' and he rolls immediately, took up his pallet and went away before them, and they were all amazed and glorified God saying, 'We never saw anything like this.'"
Now, keep your finger there but turn to page 105 where we have another account like this. It's a different story about the woman who anoints Jesus' feet and washes them with her tears. Let's see, the verse that I'm looking at is – turn to page 106 – after the woman washes his feet and the, uh – Simon says, "Well, I – if this guy was really a prophet, this Jesus, he wouldn't – he would know what kind of woman it was and he wouldn't allow this to happen," and Jesus said, "Well, you know, let me tell you a parable. A – a man had two debtors. One owed a great amount. One owed a smaller amount. The man who owned the greater amount, he forgave all, and he forgave the man with the smaller debt all. Who do you think loved him more," and he says, "Well, I guess the one who o – owed the greatest debt – debt," and Jesus says beginning on line 44, "You have judged rightly."
Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with but her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment, therefore, I tell you her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she is loved much, but he who is forgiven little, loves little, and he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?'"
Now, going back to Mark, it's worded, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus claims he can forgive sins. There have been some who said that what you have to understand is your sins are forgiven are a divine passive, all right? Divine passive – what would it mean then? Your sins are forgiven are – God forgives you of your sins. That's what some exegetes are saying Jesus is saying, but that's not the way the audience understands this. They are not saying, "How does he know God has forgiven her her sins," but rather, "How can he, personally, forgive a person their sins?" So, it's not a divine passive. In the story, it's clear Jesus is forgiving this person their sins, and the – the second account – Luke – same kind of incident where he personally forgives sins.
Now, in the Protestant tradition, the understanding that only God can forgive sins is very much dominant and emphasized. In a Protestant tradition, the p – pastor will never say something like, "By the authority invested in me by the state of Kentucky, I forgive you your sins," or something like that, you know? They will say rather, "Because the Bible says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, be assured that God has heard our confession and He has forgiven us our sins."
So, in a Protestant setting, a pastor may pronounce God's forgiveness unlike in the Roman Catholic setting where a priest will say "I – I forgive you of your sins on this condition," or something like that. So, that distinction that only God can forgive sins comes up a little more clearly in the Protestant tradition than in the Catholic tradition, but here's Jesus, and they say, "Only God can forgive a person their sins," and Jesus says, "Well, I can and I'll show you." What's easier to say?
Now, if Jesus can forgive sins, it will be demonstrated by the fact that he now heals this person with God's help and God's strength, and that this now, the healing, is God's certification that Jesus' statement is correct. So, Jesus can forgive sins, although, no human can forgive sins. None of us as humans have the right to forgive a person their sins. We can declare God's forgiveness. Jesus personally forgives in these two accounts. He doesn't pronounce God's, you know – it – it – if, uh – if this was a misunderstanding by the opponents of Jesus, then Jesus could have solved the problem very easily and said, "You misunderstood me. I – I am pronouncing that God has forgiven their sins," and the whole thing would be blown away, but he doesn't say that. He says, "Ill show I have the authority to do this." So, here you have another implicit Christology in the actions of Jesus by which he forgives the sins of the woman in the one instance, the man in the other.
All right, well, let's go then to the next aspect of the Christology of Jesus and that has to do with the words of Jesus. Now, here we have Jesus teaching, uh – turn with me to page 52 where we have these statements concerning the uh – his authority over the law – page 52 and following – okay, beginning at 5:21, "You have heard that it was Setavold [ph] you shall not kill, and whoever killed shall be liable to judgment, but I say to you," – next page, 527 – "You have heard that it was said you shall not commit adultery, but I say to you," – 533 – "Again, you've heard that it was said of men of old you shall not swear falsely but shall perform to the Lord what you swear, but I say to you, 'You have heard that it was said' – 538 – 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I say to you – 543 – 'You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' but I say to you." Think of Sunday going to church and the pastor preaches and he said, 'It's been said in the Bible the following, but I'm telling you." What? Has he lost his mind? What's going on? No one can do that. The Word of God stands by itself. We are subject to the Word of God, but Jesus, has, "You've heard it said, but I say."
You have in John – excuse me – Mark 10:2 to 12, page 215, the issue of divorce where Jesus is asked a question and he – and they say, "No, the – the Bible says the following, 'Moses allowed a – a man to write a certificate of divorce,'" in lines 6 and 7, "'and to put her away,' but Jesus said to them, 'For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment,'" but God doesn't intend that, and then you have in Verse 11, line 26, the next page, "And he said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and mo – and marries another, commits adultery against her.'" So, you have Jesus here saying, "The Bible says this, but I am telling you this."
In 1:43, a passage which we had a, uh – one of our exercises on, you have the story of Jesus criticizing, uh, the Pharisees and the Scribes, and then in Verses 14 to 23, you have Jesus saying, "It's not what it goes in – from outside which defiles a man in – by entering into him, but the things coming out of the man defiles him," and then he says in line 79, Verse 18, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and so it passes on," and then Mark puts the comment, 'Thus He, Jesus, declared all foods clean." Jesus is saying what the Old Testament teaches here is no longer applicable. Boy, and he doesn't explain it on the basis of what Paul writes in Galatians or something like that, except he says, "I'm telling you it o – it's over."
Who is the man that can go about in saying that the scriptures are under his authority, and that he can do away with things if he so feels like it? I have that also the totalitarian claim of Jesus. It's interesting. Uh, a number of times – oh, I shouldn't say a number of times, but once I particularly use that description as a sub-chapter heading, the totalitarian claim of Jesus, and my editor changed it. He couldn't handle it because when you think of totalitarian, you think of uh a Hitler, a Stalin, a Mussolini somebody who says all of life should surround me. I am the single most important in life. All of life rotates around me, but that was just the point that I was trying to make by the – by the work. That's the way Jesus talks. He talks as if all of life should center around him.
Now, I'm not willing to let some demigod say that, "I stand before you mother and father. If you love your father and mother more than you love me you're not worthy of me." Furthermore, I'm not willing to have some demigod say to me, "You know heaven and hell depend on how you treat me." Jesus does that. So, there's this kind of totalitarian claim that everything surrounds Jesus in that respect. He is greater than Abraham, than Jacob, than Moses, and you can look up those passages on your own.
With regard to the law, let me just share with you something from the – the Jewish Talmud. This comes, actually, from the uh – the Babylonian Talmud r – reads this way, "Our Rabbis taught: A certain heathen once came before Shammai and asked him, 'How many Toroth have you?' Toro – Toroth – laws you have – 'Two,' he says, 'The Written and the Oral.' I believe you with respect to the Written but what about the Oral," and then he goes on and says that, "If a person doesn't keep the law – if he changes a dot in it – a smallest part of the law – he is guilty and unworthy of eternal life." Jesus' attitude toward the law he does that. So, you can't criticize the Pharisees for their seeing Jesus as either God's anointed or a demon. That's the only choice you really have.
Now, the followers of Jesus accepted him as the Messiah. He anointed the one who had authority to do these – to act this way – to speak this way. Others did not, but there's no in between. Either what we have here is a Jesus who is a diluted fanatic with a sense that the world, uh, falsely revolves around himself, or we have one who is really king of kings and lord of lord's – the anointed of the Lord. We have the choice.
Now, please note, we have not looked at the title. We have not investigated any self-description of Jesus. We have simply looked at his words and his actions.