Lecture 12: Exaggeration
Course: New Testament Survey - Gospels
In your syllabus you will notice that we’re dealing now with the method of Jesus’ teaching, and then we’ll deal with the message shortly thereafter. Uh, notice the title of one of your books, “The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teaching.”
What impressed me was not only that Jesus taught great things, but He taught them in a way that made people excited. It wasn’t simply that Jesus made some pronouncement and lightning would strike from heaven or something like that, and people would say, “Oh, I’d better pay attention,” or the like. He presented his teaching in ways, first of all, that were memorable.
Now, one of the literary forms Jesus used in His teaching was the use of exaggeration. Now, I have divided that up into two parts. Hyperbole, which is exaggeration so great that it’s impossible to think of it literally, and the other, overstatement, where you could literally think of this taking place, but you’d be wrong in doing so. They’re both forms of exaggeration.
Throughout the history of the Church, many Christians have intuitively been guided by the use of common sense and other things to interpret which words were exaggerated in form. However, that’s not always so. There have been some tragic instances in history where people have mutilated themselves, cut off an arm, plucked out an eye or so forth, because they took the words of Jesus literally rather than the meaning of those words literally.
Rather than just depending on tuition, I want to list here some rules and guides that help us to understand if Jesus is using a saying in a sense of exaggerated form. Now exaggeration is perfectly legitimate if—underline “if”—both parties understand it to be exaggerated. If only one is using this literary form, then it can be rather dishonest.
Both speaker and hearer must understand this genre to make it legitimate. For instance Mary who’s a—a—bank teller at Fifth Third here in Louisville, when the examiners come and examine the books, they can’t say, “Ah, I guess Mary’s using hyperbole again here.”
Dr. Robert Stein: Uh, that’s dishonest, and furthermore it is criminal. But, when two people in love speak, it’s almost impossible to express yourself without using exaggeration. Because this is a form of commissive language that conveys, not just specific meaning, but also emotions and feelings. And thus, it’s a very powerful form of genre. Now, sometimes Jesus uses a form of this, which is hyperbolic and everyone immediately knows that it cannot be taken literally.
Turn with me to Page 60 in your synopsis, at some sayings here. Matthew 7:3-5, line 27 on Page 60 in your synopsis, Jesus says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
“Or how can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite. First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Now, when Jesus said that, no one in His audience said, “Well, that’s dumb. You can’t get a log in a person’s eye. Doesn’t make any sense.”
The fact is I remember an—a—Christian artist trying to portray this in a visual manner, and it was a disaster. I mean, there are some things you can do with art, you can’t do with other forms. But there’s some things you can do in prose that you can’t do with art. Here’s something that you just can’t picture.
When people heard this, they didn’t say, “Well, that’s dumb.” They said, “No, isn’t that true? It’s so easy to see the speck, the little things in one’s own lives—in other people’s lives—excuse me—and then, lose sight of the big flaws in your own life.”
I remember teaching his one night and driving home, and, um, there happened to be a woman in the—in the—car ahead of me. Came to a corner—uh uh, uh—a crossroad, and at the last minute, she hit the brake and turned right. And I was mad. We got signal lights.
Well, she happened to use the signal lights, but it was after the brake, and as she was turning. It’s too late to use the signal light then, it makes no sense. You use the signal light first, then you hit your brake, then turn.
I was really mad. Uh, not noticing that I had—had—happened to go through the red light that was at that street corner. But that’s understandable. You see, going through red lights is one thing, but not using signal lights, that’s next to kind of the unpardonable sin, I think in the Bible. Isn’t there something like that? It’s so easy to see the flaws in your own—in other people’s lives and not notice the big ones in your own. So it’s a powerful way of saying this.
And that, you can’t visualize it. It’s not meant to be visualized. It is meant to be understood as a hyp—hyperbolic form, which conveys the meaning very, very powerfully. Now, if you go to Page 56, Matthew 6:2-4, you notice there, Jesus says, “When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets that you may be praised by men. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward.”
“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. So that your alms may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Well, this Sunday, when you give your offering, say, “Don’t look, left hand.” Doesn’t make any sense.
I mean, how can your left hand not know what your right hand is doing? When you think of it, how can your left hand know n—anything? Hands don’t know anything. What you’re kind of saying is, don’t pay attention to what you’re about to do.
Which of course means you—you’re gonna know—even more clearly what you’re about to do. But the meaning is clear. You are to do your alms giving in secret. It’s not to be known to others what you’re giving is.
It is between you and God. And the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service. Okay, but it’s something between you and God that should be done in private. On Page 252, you have this pun that Jesus uses.
It’s very, very powerful. See lines 67 and following—66. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, and faith, and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guide, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Well, have you looked at a camel recently?
Really. A little too big to swallow. But the point is well made, and we’ve pointed out this is also a pun, because camel is [foreign] and gnat is [foreign]. So, here you have this idea that you can become so piquing with your religious duties, that you do these little things like tithing the mint and dill in your garden, but you don’t practice love, and justice, and mercy, which is more important.
So, you have this use of hyperbole in all these instances that’s literally impossible, and you know right away that it has to be uh an exaggerated form. Now, there are other kinds like overstatement where you could possibly take something literally, but in so doing, you would make a mistake. One of the clues, I think, that’s available for us, is that if Jesus makes a saying that conflicts with what he says elsewhere, then you should have to see this as a red flag waving. Say, “Wait, are we using hyperbole in—in this particular instance?”
Turn with me to Page 193. Here you have Jesus’ saying about what it means to be a disciple. And, and Luke fourteen, twenty-five, “Now great multitudes accompanied Him and He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’”
Now in the ‘70s when there was a—a—large Jesus movement in the country, there were a lot of these groups that—the—literally this is almost like their theme verse. And families were just torn apart and parents were deeply hurt by these young sons and daughters who had now decided to follow Jesus and were going to hate them. Well, it’s clear that if you look at this and compare it to what Jesus says elsewhere, you can’t take this literally.
Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” But now, if you hate your parents, then they at least qualify for—for—being enemies and then you have to love them anyhow. So it—something here has to give, and what it is, is it’s exaggeration. There’s a sense in which, when you choose one person over another, means you love one and hate the other. Just as Jacob loved Rachel more than he loves Leah.
And the next verse says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated.” He didn’t hate Leah. They had five children. Something’s going on here other than hatred for one another, I would think. But he loved Rachel more.
And when you love one more than the other, you love one and you hate the other. It’s kind of an idiomatic expression. And there’s a sense in which our love for Jesus Christ must be so much greater than any other love that even the most noble form of human love must pale in comparison.
In our last home, we had white walls, but if you put a sheet of white typing paper next to it, you’d say, “The walls are not white. They’re gray.” And there’s a sense in which your love and my love for Jesus Christ must be such that all human love, as great as it is, has a grayish tinge in comparison to it. You must love one more than the other.
But, you use this form of overstatement to get the point across there as well. Uh, Page 56, here you have in Matthew 6:6, Jesus teaching about prayer. “And when you pray, you must be—not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and the corners of the street that they may be seen.”
“Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your own room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Alright when you pray. But there are times when you pray outside of that situation. Look right across the—the page. Here, Jesus teaches His disciples the prayer. “Pray, then, like this: Our Father who art in heaven.” How do you pray “our” if you’re alone? Right? This is a corporate prayer. What Jesus knows is there’s time for corporate prayer.
But prayer is not to be made an item of show to indicate your pride. It is between you and God. But not everybody has a closet they can bring along with them. They—jump into it to pray whenever they need to.
When my wife and I go out to eat, we always pray before the meal. Now, I don’t stand on top of the table, waving my arms, and say, “Listen, you pagans out there. My wife and I are gonna pray before we eat.” No, we just quietly, and unobtrusively as we can, thank God for the food.
In light of the fact that we’re not hungry. That God’s been good to us. I’ve never seen my children hungry and never had an—had a situation where I didn’t have something to give them to eat. And so I take food, not for granted, but I thank God for it. But it’s not to be done as a show.
It’s to be done privately between you and God. Then you have another statement in Matthew 23, 22, two and three, Page 250.
This has to be understood somewhat ex—as—as overstatement. When you don’t qualify something that has exceptions, that’s an overstatement. Here he says Page 250, line five. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat to practice and observe what—and so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do.”
“For they preach, but do not practice.” In general, you can pay attention to what the Pharisees and scribes teach. They—Their teaching’s alright. Do what they say.
There are exceptions to that. But Jesus is not interested in listing exceptions. He gives the general rule. Here are teachers. You can listen to what they say, but don’t do what they do, because they’re hypocrites.
Now, if a statement conflicts with what Jesus says elsewhere and Jesus criticizes the Pharisees time and time again, in that very same chapter, “You brood of vipers,” and so forth He gives to them. But in light of what He says elsewhere about the Pharisees, this should warn you that this is an overstatement.
Sometimes, an action of Jesus conflicts with His own behavior. For instance, Luke 14:26, about hating father and mother. Well, when He’s on the cross, he doesn’t seem to manifest that in His behavior. “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
He’s concerned about his mother, so it’s evident that, here is something in Jesus’ behavior that does not fit. He respects—loves His father and mother.
Later on in His ministry, when His father has died, He honors His mother in this way as well. Alright, Page 95, you have another example of that. In Matthew 10:34, another example of exaggerated terminology. Bottom of the page. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have come not to bring peace, but the sword.”
And yet, many times, we have sayings of Jesus, behavior of Jesus, that conflicts with that.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” Shouldn’t that somehow warn you that a Beatitude towards those who make peace, and a saying that He doesn’t come to bring peace, but a sword, don’t really go together if you take them both literally. And that this must be figurative in many ways.
We had His behavior with regard to prayer. There are many times Jesus prayed out in the mountain by Himself. He prayed at Gethsemane. How do we know what Jesus prayed at Gethsemane?
His prayer was overheard. They heard him pray. It wasn’t as private as the teaching about praying in private, if you take that literally as such.
Matthew 5:33 and 37, Page 54, “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 have sworn. But I say to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the City of the Great King. “And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply yes or no. Anything more than that comes from evil.” It’s interesting to note that Jesus, at His trial, was silent up to one point.
At the very bottom of Page 303, the high priest says to Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that you testify about those who testify against you.”
But Jesus was silent, and the high priest said to Him—Now, Jesus is silent up to this point—“’I adjure you by the living god, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of the gos—the Son of God.’ And Jesus said, ‘You have said so.’” At this point, Jesus no longer is silent.
Now, why? Well He’s been placed under an oath. An oath found in the Old Testament. It says that if you’re placed under an oath by the priest, you must answer. If you are silent, this assumed your guilt.
You say, “Well, why doesn’t he plead the Fifth Amendment?” There is no Fifth Amendment in the Old Testament, right? If you don’t answer, it says you’re guilty. At this point now, Jesus accepts the legitimacy of that oath to be placed under, and he now responds. Only Matthew, by the way, tells us about His responding at this point because of the oath. So Jesus accepts, at this point, the legitimacy of an oath.
But what He is saying is, “Hey, look, when you’re placed under an oath, don’t—you’re gonna accept that. But when you say an oath voluntarily, be careful.” In other words, the rabbis discussed among themselves, “When must you keep an oath?”
And this is in the Talmudic literature. And one said, “Well, if you were to make an oath to a Gentile, you wouldn’t have to keep it.”
And they said, “Well, yeah, but what would happen if you made an oath to a Gentile in God’s name? In the name of YHWH, our God?” And then, one rabbi said, “Well then, you would have to keep it.” And another rabbi said, “If it’s to a Gentile, even then you don’t have to keep it.”
When do you have to keep your word? In light of this, Jesus says, “Don’t swear at all. Let your yes be yes, and your no, no.”
Now, there are people who don’t believe in swearing at all. Mennonites many times come from a background that they don’t take oaths of any sort. And an interesting incident came up when Jim Chancellor and his wife had married and they were coming from Canada to the United States. Uh, they were planning to live in the United States, and uh, as they came, his wife was not a citizen.
So the person at the Customs said, “Well, Mrs. Chancellor, do you swear that you will not take up armed resistance to the government?” And she said, “No.” Well, that kind of shook them up. And he said, “Well, what do you mean?” She says, “Well, I said no.”
And this person’s someone new—he went to the head of the Customs and said, “We got someone who won’t swear—that—promise not to—to take up armed resistance against the government.”
He came out, and he looked at her, and he says “You’re a Mennonite, aren’t you?” She says, “Yes, I am.” And he said, “Would you give us your word that you won’t try to overthrow the government by force?” She said, “Yes.” “Well, that’s good enough for us. Fine.”
He recognized, because of her Mennonite background, she took this literally. She could not take an oath. Now, I don’t think that’s exactly what is meant here. I think for instance if I were called in a court of law, “Bob Stein, you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
I—I would have no problem saying, “Yes, I do.” I might like to say something like, “Well, your honor, I am a Christian, and God has told me that I should not lie, so I really don’t have to, but if it’ll make you feel good, sure, why not?”
That—That would be a little showboating unnecessarily. Uh, but I think the point of it here is, if you have to swear so that people will believe you, then your character is such that no swearing in the world would cause a person to believe you.
I have a friend and if I asked Mack to do something for me, and if he said “I’ll do it, Bob,” I know he’d do it. If he died, maybe, he wouldn’t be able to do it, but he’ll do it. I have others that, if they swore by their mother’s grave they would do it, I’d leave and say, “I don’t think he’s gonna do it. I better make sure some other way.”
Your yes should be yes. Your no, no. If you’re a people of character like Jesus says you are, you ought to be, a “yes” is all that’s needed.
Yes and no. My dad—that was not a religious person in a normal sense that we judge this, but I remember his saying something to me. He said to me, “Bob, I gave him my word.” There were years in the past, when people would give their word, and they would shake hands.
Now, you can have legal contracts that you sign and you look for loopholes. You should have the character that yes means yes and no means no. That’s all you need. When you have that, you don’t even have to swear. Alright, sometimes—the kind—something—uh, that Jesus says conflicts with the Old Testament.
For instance, the saying about hating father or mother. And that, don’t you realize that one of the Ten Commandments is, “Honor your father and mother”? There’s something radically wrong here.
And that should immediately make you say, “Wait a minute. Is he ignorant of this? Is he going against the Old Testament? Or is he using a literary form to get a point across, such as overstatement.” And, of course, it’s that way. Sometimes something we find here conflicts with the New Testament teaching. For instance, this—this statement about not giving oaths. Well, if you looked at Hebrew 6:16 and following.
We read, “Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their dispute an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the character of His promise, He interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled to Him for refuge might fine strong in character.” In other words, God gave an oath in the Old Testament. Did Jesus know that?
Of course He did. He knew the Old Testament well. What God did, was to give an oath, and of course, when we give oaths, we swear by something bigger than we are, greater than us. So we swear by God or by the Bible or something like that.
But how does God swear an oath? Well, He swears on His name, His honor, of which there’s nothing greater. So, here you have another instance. You had, on Page 55, another saying of Jesus in verse 42, line line 9, on the top of Page 55.
Jesus says, “Give to him who bor—begs from you, and do not def—refuse him who would borrow from you.” Give to him who begs from you. Now, Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3:10, says that you shouldn’t do that, at times. Now, there’s a specific example of this, I’ll read it to you, but the instance is such that Paul says, in this instance, do not give to those who ask you.
2 Corinthians 3:10 says, in the beginning of verse 8, “We do not eat any—any of one’s bread without paying. It was not because we have not the right, but to give you an example. And so we give the command. If anyone will not work, let him not eat.”
Now, there were people in Thessalonica that were asking and were refusing to work. “The Lord’s coming. Why should we work anymore? And besides, you have more than enough for both of us.”
And Paul says, in that situation you do not feed them. If they have work to do, and they can work, then don’t feed them. But can’t you think of instances when you would not take care of person who’s asking you simply for money?
You pastors are gonna have real wisdom in this, because there’ll be many times people who are in need will come to you and some of them will say, “Uh, could you give me some money. I haven’t eaten for a while.”
And you’re not real sure as what’s going on here. Will they use it for food or will they use it for alcohol, or drugs or something like that? And I remember a number of instances where a person would come up and they’d say, “I need money for, uh—uh—uh bus fare to get back home.” They go, “I’m broke.” Then I say, “Well, why don’t we go to the bus station. I’ll buy you a ticket.”
Bought him a ticket, fed him, and then put him on the bus to go. But I wouldn’t give him cash, because I’m not sure how they would use it.
If you have children, what happens when Johnny comes home and says, “I finally figured out my verse for life. Give to whoever—give to everyone who asks you. And I want you to apply that verse and show how—I want a new bicycle.”
If you love your children, many times, you will not give what they ask because it wouldn’t be good for them. So you have examples, and y—you—the question is how will you word it without being exaggerated? Would you say, “Give to everyone who asks you, except in the following hypothetical situations.”
And list 20, 30 situations like that. No, you can’t do that. You expect common sense and in light of the other teachings of scripture, that this commissive form of language, which seeks to emphasize the importance of generosity, the willingness many times to have your generosity abused, but not be completely silly and foolish on those issues.
Sometimes, another evangelist takes that same statement and interprets in a way that indicates that it is not to be understood literally. Turn to Page 193 for this one on hating father and mother. What we have here in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to you and does not hate his father, mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Probably that is a more authentic, more primitive, more like what Jesus actually said—saying.
But Matthew has given us a thought-for-thought translation, which gets the meaning across. And there he says, “He who loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” So you have an evangelist interpreting this saying in a way that indicates it is not to be understood literally, but as an exaggerated form of terminology.
I’m wondering too, if you have in Mark 10:11, 16:18 of Luke, and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, where you have this saying on divorce.
Uh, turn with me to 216. Both Matthew—actually both Luke, 1 Corinthians, did that saying, and Mark, have no exception. But if you look at Matthew, there is an exception. Page 216, line 27, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.”
“And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Luke follows the same wording, but Matthew has the exception clause. “But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for unchastity and marries another commits adultery.”
And lot of questions are raised on that passage. A lot of work’s been done on it. My understanding is that, what Jesus is saying is, is capable of having an exception.
Matthew interprets it that way, and Paul does also in 1 Corinthians when he raises a new situation which is not envisioned by any of the Gospel writers. And that is, if a believer is deserted by their unbelieving partner, then they are free, Paul says. And my understanding of being “free” means that free to remarry.
So that here, if Matthew’s exception is—is really an exception, we have an example of a hyperbolic form of that saying in Jesus’ teaching.
And that Mark and Luke take Jesus’ teaching in the word-for-word translation, but Matthew has an inspired advantage, which gives an interpretation of that. And Matthew 10:34, Page 95, we have another example where the evangelist himself, by providing a context for us, helps us to understand the saying which looks to all extents and purposes, being an exaggerated form.
Matthew 10:34, the bottom of the page, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have come not to bring peace but a sword.” Well, we already looked at other sayings of Jesus about “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and so forth. But notice the next verses on the following page.
“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” Here we have an understanding of what kind of division he’s come to bring.
There’s nothing like here of revolution. Nothing political here, but He talks about the divisions that Jesus sometimes brings within families themselves. Most times, families tend to be united in Christ, but there can be exceptions. And we have some Jewish Christians who are studying here, whose—have had real hard troubles in their families.
I remember one Jewish Christian telling me that his mother and father, after a while, said to him, “If you really love us, you’ll give up this Jesus stuff.” And he said, “Well, I can’t. I love Jesus, but I love you very much.” And they said, “No, you hate us.”
And sometimes, in a real orthodox Jewish background, you have a funeral for the child while they’re still living. Because as far as they’re concerned, you’re dead. Sometimes that does happen, and yet, for most times, there is u—union.
But here Jesus is saying the one point, emphasizing that sometimes that d—that does happen. Sometimes the statement is not really fulfilled literally, and in reality. 255, we have the saying about Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount. Uh, excuse me, not a Sermon on the Mount, on The Mount of Olives. Top of Page 255, the disciples say, “Look Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.”
And Jesus said to them, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Any of you been to Israel? Temple area, Wailing Wall, see the layers of stone that go back to Herod’s day. Actually below the surface there’s one place where you—they’ve cut out a couple stones and you can see 16 additional layers of stone that go back to Herod’s time.
Um, it’s not literally true. There are still stones that still exist on top of each other. But if you talk to anybody who is still alive in A.D. 70, after the fall of Jerusalem, everyone would say, this is fulfilled literally. There was a valley between the Temple and the Western uh, hills. After A.D. 70, there was no valley.
It’s all filled with the ruins of the Temple. But the—no stone—if I were to say to you that you know, next next Tuesday when I come back, I—I’m sorry to say that there’s not going to be one building standing here in [inaudible]. Every one of the building here will be a ruin. In fact, there won’t even be two bricks still cemented together. And if you came on Tuesday and saw wh—this huge pile of destroyed buildings.
And somebody climbed up to the top and held up two bricks cemented together and said, “He was wrong. It’s still here.” Wouldn’t you laugh at them? Sure. How would you want Jesus to say it? Would you want Him to say, “Do you see these great stones? Let me tell you that there will not be more than 1.69 percent of the stones that are still attached together. Might be maybe more scientifically accurate. That’s not the way you use commissive language.
And so, it’s exaggerated terminology. Another one is 61, one saying on prayer. “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek and you will find. Knock, and it will be open to you. To everyone who asks, receives. And he who seeks, finds. And to him who knocks, it will be opened.” I’ve never shared with you that I’ve always wanted to be a missionary. I felt a particular burden to be a—a—a missionary to the filthy rich of the world, however.
And I’ve sought to establish a mission foundation to get me working. I thought probably the best place to do this would be Monte Carlo where there are a lot of very filthy rich people who need the healing of the Gospel. And I’ve been trying to equip myself for that ministry. Uh, homes are fairly expensive, so we’re talking probably about oh, $15-- $20 Million that needs to have one that you’d be able to bring the rich in to witness to them, and so forth.
And you might not need a Mercedes, but you couldn’t go much less than a Lexus, or they wouldn’t respect your testimony. And then I thought the best place to really witness would be a nice yacht about 70 feet long or so, out in the harbor where you kinda—kinda relax, and uh, sip ice tea, sweetened or unsweetened. And then share the Gospel with them. I know some of you will laugh and then you’d say, “You asked and received not, because you asked [???] to consume it on your own lusts.”
James, hey, you pick your favorite Bible and theme verse for life. I’ll pick mine. Mine is seven and eight here. Now, needless to say, Jesus anticipated that God’s not gonna answer the silly requests that Bob Stein asks in this regard. God delights in answering our prayers.
But how do you---again—do you want Him to ask? Do you say, “Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. He who seeks, finds. And to him who knocks, it will be opened, except in the following instances.” And then you have a list of exceptions.
What would happen if He did it that way? Where would you focus your attention? On the exceptions. What does Jesus want you to focus your attention on?
Dr. Robert Stein: The promises, alright? So we use that all the time. I used that once uh, with—with my children. We were Julie and Keith were helping me in the backyard of our house. We had two huge weeping willow trees.
Part of the—When God said there would—he would place a curse upon the earth, that involves weeping willow trees, if you own them. They look real nice, but they’re garbage trees. It’s just terrible to clean up afterwards.
Well, we were—we spent about three hours, my—my—my children, Julie was about 12, Keith about ten, and we worked, oh, to about four o’clock. And then Julie finally said, “Keith—Keith and I are really tired, Dad. We wanna quit.”
And so I said to her, “Well, Julie, we’re just about done. If we work ten more minutes.” And I said, “uh—i—in just ten more minutes, we’ll have it all done. And then afterwards, we’ll go out to eat and you can order anything you want.”
Now, I didn’t qualify that. But they knew that we were not going to go out to Ruth’s Chris’s Steakhouse.
Dr. Robert Stein: They knew were going to go to McDonald’s, and anything on the McDonald’s menu, they could have. But see, if I qualified it, the joy of the promise i—is hindered by that. So I say, “We’ll go out and have anything.” And they understood it was a perfectly good way of communicating you accepted that there were unspoken conditions that were there.
So, here, Jesus does the same with regard to prayer. He wants us to emphasize that God delights in our prayers. He does not want to emphasize the conditions that—do not take place. On 53, Page 53, we have a statement again, which is exaggerated terminology.
Dr. Robert Stein: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
“If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Well, that’s using the context upon looking upon a woman to lust. Now, if you pluck out your right eye, you can lust real well with your left. Right? And if you pluck out your left eye, you can still, in your mind, lust.
Now, if you pluck out the gray matter of your brain, you’ll solve things real quickly, but the fact is, what we’re talking about here is not self-mutilation.
Because it would not bring the desired result about. What Jesus is in effect saying, is something like, there is no sin worth going to hell for. Better to repent if it is as painful as plucking out an eye or cutting off an arm, and enter life, so made, than to perish never having experienced that repentance and pain of repentance. Alright, sometimes a statement may use a literary form that’s prone to exaggerations.
For instance, poetry. Proverbs. A proverb is a universal saying, but it is a general rule. There can be exceptions to it. Poetry is also prone to exaggeration a lot. Idiomatic language Page 120 favorite term that is found in Matthew talked about the—in 41, 42.
“Son of man will send his angels. They will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin, and the evildoing and throw them into the furnace of fire. There, men will weep and gnash their teeth.” Now, that’s an idiom.
Does it mean that people will have no teeth will be given teeth in the resurrection so they can gnash them? Or is an idiom that talks about the pain? When do you gnash your teeth? It’s an expression of pain. That’s what hell’s going to be like.
And so, you don’t push the—the literalness of the language, but you push what the language is trying to teach. The literal meaning in other words, about making sure that one doesn’t perish and that kind of thing. Also, sometimes you have all-inclusive language. Uh let’s look at Page 156 for just one quick example of that. You can use universal language without exception, but many times the way it is used allows for this.
On line 38, Mark 9:23, “And Jesus said to them, ‘If you can, all things are possible to Him who believes.’” All things are not possible. You cannot become God. Despite the fact many of us would like to. How would you want Jesus to say it? Would you like Him to say, “A lot of things are possible to one who believes.”
That might be more technically and scientifically correct. But that’s not the way commissive language works. It’s not the way exaggerated terminology works.