Lecture 05: Two Key Events
Course: Why We Trust Our Bible
Lecture: Two Key Events
I. Jesus’ Trial
The one part of authority that the world does not want to see is Jesus as Judge. The world loves a Jesus who is only a prophet; but don’t like the idea of a Jesus who is a judge. For this reason, there are numerous parables about Jesus as a judge; so much so that when Peter preaches the first sermon that we have recorded given to a gentile audience in Acts 10, he says that God has appointed one to be the judge of the quick and the dead (King James language). The quick are the living and the dead are the dead; Jesus is going to judge the quick and the dead. The performing of righteousness, Jesus says is recognizing who the Son of Man is. John says in chapter 5, ‘this is the work of God.’ They believe in the one who the Father has sent and the only unforgivable sin is to not embrace the one who is not just the Lord of the Sabbath or Lord of the temple, but the one who is Lord of the world. The major point of the eschatological discourse at the end of Jesus’ ministry in where this point is emphasized is on the judgment that he will bring. It even comes up as Jesus’ trial before the Jewish leadership. ‘And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Father coming on the clouds.’ Having received the authority from the Father, he will come and judge; a total divine authority is in view, but Jesus never says when he’s going to do it. We don’t watch and wait; we watch and serve.
The entrance into Jerusalem, the pilgrims and answers to Psalm 110; these are important texts showing the Son of David, Christ linkage in the move from Son to Lord. We also have several passages in Matthew in which the Son of David is presented. In moving to the Son of David, we are moving to a more serious Christological title. This begins to be one of the more significant titles to think about. Next, we have the title of Messiah or King of the Jews. You can think about the life of Jesus rotating backwards out of what led to Jesus being crucified. It is especially frequent in the Gospels (over 55 times) where the term Christ appears and the majority of those texts are in John’s Gospel. There are seven key texts of which by far, perhaps the most important is Peter’s own confession in which Jesus’ qualified an acceptance of Peter’s confession which demonstrates that Jesus wasn’t just some kind of prophetic figure, but is at the center of what God is doing in the program of God and bringing of the kingdom. Jesus accepts the title which is in contrast to the title prophet. It includes suffering as Jesus teaches about this characteristic. Note that after this confession, Jesus begins to introduce the idea of suffering which Peter has no understanding about but does by the time Jesus had left the tomb. The public usage is restricted for a time and this is because Jesus first has to define the term in a way so others will understand it. The Pharisees fail in their attempt to get the disciples to stop using the Christ title as he entered Jerusalem. It comes up in Jesus’ examination by the Jews. It comes up in the examination by Pilate. In fact, kingship is the issue in both the synoptic Gospels and in John for the charges that led to Jesus’ crucifixion and trial. We see this mentioned in John 4, 9, 11 and 27. It’s not as prevalent as one might think, especially from Jesus himself. It is a title that he accepts but it is one that he wants to qualify. All of this reflects what we have seen.
So, what did Jesus think about himself? What did the Gospel writers say that Jesus thought about himself? What you will quickly find is that Jesus understood himself to be much more than just a human being. He knew that and you can see this in the Gospels. In Mark 2, he forgives sins. The Pharisees attest to this by saying, who can forgive sins but God alone? Jesus knew that he could forgive sins. He is able to calm the sea and the weather around him. Who speaks such words that the waves and winds die down? God! Jesus claimed to have a unique relationship with God as his Father and Jesus as his son, a unique father and son relationship. While that may not sound to us that Jesus was claiming divinity but the Jews knew what he was saying through their history, culture, and meanings from the Old Testament, they knew. So much so that they tried to kill him because they said he was blaspheming. By claiming that God is your father and you as his unique son, you are claiming to be divine and thus according to the law, we have to kill you. So they understood that Jesus was claiming that he was divine. Jesus said that he would judge the world. When he was before the Sanhedrin and they were judging him and in Matthew 26:64 Jesus quotes the Daniel passage about the Son of Man coming with clouds to judge them. Through this, he is saying, I am the Daniel Son of Man and I am the celestial judge before whom all of you will someday stand. He collected twelve disciples to create the true Israel. Who would do this? Then you have those wonderful I AM sayings in John where Jesus says before Abraham was, I AM quoting God’s most holy name that we get from the burning bush. The Jews understood that he was claiming to be the I AM, the Yahweh, the Jehovah and God of the burning bush and they tried to kill him which is what one is supposed to do when someone commits blasphemy in Jewish law. Then Jesus later confirmed that he and his father were one. As you look at the Gospel witness, you have to see that Jesus understood himself to be a lot more than just a human being. He was a hundred percent human but yet, he was more than human and the Gospel writers knew this.
One of my favorite passages is the title of the Gospel of Mark where Mark says, ‘this is the beginning of the good news about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.’ In other words, one of Mark’s purposes in writing the Gospel was to show that Jesus was the Son of God and in Jewish language, that makes him God. And the interesting thing in Mark, only twice do we hear the phrase, Son of God, after this. The demons said that they knew who Jesus was and the centurion said that this must have been the Son of God. But if I could ask Mark, if that is your point in writing, why don’t you say it more clearly? Mark’s answer is that there is more than one way to get this point across. John just says it but Mark shows what Jesus does and teaches. Jesus heals the sick and raises the dead, he forgives sins, and he has control over nature. So the question that you are supposed to be asking as you read through the Gospel of Mark, who else could do this, but God? So the Gospel writers clearly understood that the trajectory that Jesus started and brought to explicit conclusion in Paul by saying that he is our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. One of the arguments is that Paul did not know Jesus because if he had known Jesus, he would have quoted him. The fact that he doesn’t quote Jesus proves that Paul is making up everything. Chapter 9 in Craig’s book is replete with examples of quotations and allusions and echoes of Jesus’ teachings in Paul which shows that it is really obvious that Paul was very familiar with Jesus. On the Damascus road when Paul had this discussion saying, ‘I am Jesus the one you are persecuting.’ Paul didn’t say, ‘who is that?’ for he knew exactly who it was.
More parenthetically, when you look at Peter and James, for example; Peter was an apostle, the head disciple, one of the inner three. James was Jesus’ brother. When you look at their writings, they don’t quote Jesus either. Why? A more powerful example is John, again, one of the inner three, and an apostle and writer of the fourth Gospel and Revelations along with 1st John. You would think that someone who wrote a whole book about Jesus would quote Jesus in his Epistles. There seems to be only one citation form Jesus and that he is in 1st John. So, this assumption that if you knew Jesus, you would quote him doesn’t hold up; it is not just Paul that doesn’t quote Jesus, it is also Peter, James, and John. I think the conclusion is and Crag Bromberg argues to this in some depth, the Epistles were not the genre by which the church decided to retell the story of Jesus. They left that up to oral tradition, to the storytelling and to eventually the writing down of the Gospels. The Epistles were for other purposes than recounted what Jesus did and said. There should be no surprise that we don’t get Paul quoting Jesus. The other little piece to that puzzle is that Paul understood that he had the authority of an apostle that he was speaking and writing under divine inspiration. And because he was under divine inspiration, he had no reason to quote Jesus. What he said was going to be true whether he quoted Jesus or not.
II. Where did the witnesses come from?
Next came a question as to whether Jesus was the Messiah or not. That was a natural question in the Judaism of the 2nd Temple era. If Jesus claimed to have authority over the temple, then the idea that he might be the Messiah might result; so Caiaphas’ question is not unusual. The way this plays out is, Caiaphas asked, ‘are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed one?’ If you paraphrase this question, it would go something like this, are you the Christ, the Son of God? The word, ‘blessed one’ is a circumlocution out of respect for God, when you choose not to refer to God directly. Even today, some orthodox Jews do not write out the name for God. Interestingly, Jesus’ reply does the same thing. ‘I am: and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Caiaphas actually heard that Jesus is claiming to be able to sit at the side of God in heaven at God’s invitation, thus sharing God’s glory. There are a handful of passages in Judaism where this idea is considered for certain luminaries. There is a text in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha called the Exigolgy of Ezekiel, line 68 to 82. In this passage, Moses has a dream in which he is invited to sit on the thrones of heaven, and the language ‘thrones’ come from Daniel 7. It is a dream. This is regarded in part as a Midrash of Exodus 7:1, which says, ‘I will make you God to Pharaoh.’ So they entertain the possibility that Moses might sit by the side of God. But this isn’t an eschatological passage; it is simple a dream sequence designed to picture Moses authority during the plagues. When Moses spoke, God spoke and so in this, Moses shared the authority of God. It is a symbolic way of picturing it in a dream.
The 2nd part of 1st Enoch speaks about the Son of Man, his pre-existence and sitting beside God. So this text is a good parallel. This is probably dated 1st century AD or the last part of the 1st century BC. Many people will date it later but it should not be dated that way. Now in the 3rd Enoch; in giving Enoch a tour of heaven and it refers to Enoch as the little Yahweh. This is not a good thing to do. God has a conversation with him and punishes him for saying this. This was written by a group that didn’t like the ‘Son of Man’ text. So this is debated in 2nd Temple Judaism for a symbolic way to refer to Moses and maybe a figure like the Son of Man. But they certainly wouldn’t see it being true for a teacher from Galilee. So they view this as blasphemy. So how blasphemous is it? Very! In the temple in Judaism, the high priest could only go into the holy of holies once a year for the atonement. He went in and then he came out. If someone defiles the holy of holies by going into or offering inappropriate sacrifices on that site, Jews would get extremely angry and even violent. Antiochus Epiphanies (Antiochus was over one of the three divided realms after Alexander the Great died) did this which brought on the Maccabean War
and the Roman General Titus did it again in AD 70. Antiochus offered a pig sacrifice in the temple. Jesus is not claiming that he can go to the holy of holies on earth in a symbolic representation of God, but what Jesus is arguing is that he is going into the very presence of God in heaven. This is how Caiaphas would have understood what Jesus said. They may have understood Jesus as being some eschatological figure but not really divine. Note that only some groups were comfortable with the ‘Son of Man’ texts. They interpreted the passage in Daniel as being Israel, not messianic. This is the first time that he has declared himself like this. Up until this point, it was only an Aramaic idiomatic son of a human being. When he declares it here, he was being explicit and they understood it and that’s what caused them to react the way they did. So they judge that he was guilty of blasphemy. Psalm 110 vs Daniel 7, but Luke only refers to Psalm 110. Why is it that the Christ can be called Lord? Because the Lord will be sitting on the right hand of the Father, which explains why David would give him respect.
Sometimes, the question arises that since there were no other Christians present at the time of Jesus’ questioning, how can we be sure what happened? Jesus was the only one present but he would not have talked about what he went through after his resurrection. The sources could have been Joseph of
Arimathea and Nicodemus who both had access to the council. They would have known what happened. Paul, also, would have had access to that council, being a major persecutor of the church. There was also the public debate that would have gone on after the crucifixion. The Jewish leadership would have had to explain to the people why Jesus was crucified. Note that there was a three-decade battle between the family of Ananias and the family of Jesus and in 62 one of Ananias’ descendants was responsible for the death of James, Jesus’ brother. There would have been a public debate with Judaism between Christians and Jews about who Jesus was. So there are lots of possibilities as to where the evidence would have come from. In Mark, alone, the meeting starts off with the discussion of the temple and whether or not Jesus said he would destroy the temple. But Jesus actually said, ‘destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up, another one not made by hands.’ He did predict the destruction of the temple and Judas would have known about that. This ended up being a false charge because they could not get an agreement from witnesses.
In Matthew 5:13 you are the salt of the earth. Mark and Luke have a similar image, Mark 9 and Luke 14. He warns them if the salt loses it saltiness, it will only be thrown out to be trampled on. It ceases to be used for that which it was created and is no better than dust. The point of the exhortation is to be useful and live out your calling, you are accountable to God. The image then both informs and warns. This is follows by another image of being the light of the earth. Both Mark and Luke has similar versions of this in Mark 4:21 after the kingdom parables and Luke 8:16. ‘You are the light of the world. A city located on a mountain cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.’ There some discussion whether it is the ‘light of the world’ or ‘light for the world.’ A better translation would be, ‘a light is to be a benefit to the world. Let you light shine before humanity.’ Why? ‘That they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.’ This is a mission statement in the Sermon on the Mount. So how is God glorified? One of the ways God is glorified is by his servants shining appropriate before humanity through the good works they engage in. Thus I remind you that Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of Word and deed together. The deed re-enforces the Word and the word re-enforces the deed. The church should have the same kind of ministry, a Word and deed ministry, where deeds re-enforces the Word. The call is to do good works in the world as a testimony to God. These passages are a preamble to the entire sermon.
III. Was it Possible in Judaism for a person to sit with God in heaven?
First, we will relate this to Moses and then references to the Son of Man and what Jesus thought of himself. We see in 3 Enoch that there was some belief in reference to the Throne of God and also one Rabbi Akiva also provides a comment on this.
We get instruction and silence of who Jesus is; he instructs them on one hand but tells them to keep quiet about it. And why the silence, it’s because the disciples still need instructions. So at the transfiguration, we get the voice from heaven saying, ‘this is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight, listen to him!’ This is a call from Deuteronomy 18, ‘there is a prophet like Moses that needs to be listened to.’ Then we get Jesus introducing his upcoming suffering and what that means for the disciples and what they need to understand about it. This is a major paradigm shift for the disciple’s expectation of the Messiah. They expected a Messiah who would use his power to take care of things. . In Jewish teaching, the testament of Moses says when Satan is defeated; the Kingdom of God is come. We get a confession at the exorcism of Jesus being the Holy One of God. Then later on, there is a unique remark in Luke 4:41, ‘he placed his hands on every one of them and healed them. Demons also came out of many, crying out you are the Son of God! But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.’ This is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Do we equate the Son of God with Messiah?
If you run across this when studying in a Gospel, study the whole unit at one time. As a sideline, we have people who were able to manipulate the weather: Moses and Elijah. They are the two miracle workers in the Old Testament. In regards to how they did it, there’s an interesting passage in Exodus 7:1. The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will make you like God to Pharaoh.’ Other translations read, it may be added in italics: ‘I will make you God to Pharaoh.’ The word ‘like’ is not there. Thus, when Jesus is doing these things, he is not like God but he is God. Jesus is exercising divine like authority. The next scene is the demonic.
This is Matthew’s first exorcism of which there are two. This is one of three times in which Matthew has this. In Mark and Luke, it involves a legion of demons along with swine in a gentile area. Rejection is found in the face of God’s work. The person is crazy with being demon processed and then they are cast out and go into the swine which then runs over a cliff into the sea. Then the people of the city come out and asked them to leave. They become very fearful. Even though God is acting as something unusual is happening, they want nothing to do with it.
These claims are focused on a figure that he refers to as ‘Son of Man,’ by way of self-description. He is God’s commissioned representative for humanity. This authority represents the approach and arrival of God’s rule; something he will discuss in even more detail as the ministry moves ahead. This is part of the exhortation related to discipleship. We get, ‘deny and take up your cross and then follow me,’ is an ongoing exhortation in the Greek; we get two basic commitments: to deny oneself, to take up the cross, to take up the way of suffering and then go about the process of daily following. In fact, Luke will add the word, ‘daily.’ Note the kingdom, and Son of Man connection here. There is kingdom judgment by the Son of Man; the Son of Man judges in relationship to response to Jesus. Notice also that we are getting the Son of Man consistently presented by Jesus as a third person; he’s almost discussed as being a separate figure from Jesus. This has caused some scholars to say, ‘did Jesus anticipate a judgment figure outside of himself who would exercise this judgment?’ I think not, it’s an indirect way to refer to himself, and there is precedence for this and there are other examples of this. There are even examples of this today: Margret Thatcher always referred to herself as the ‘lady’ in the third person, in an indirect kind of way. Jesus does the same when he speaks about the Son of Man when he speaks about himself. The beauty of this title, even though it means a human being, ‘Son of Adam’ means Adam’s child, Son of Man means a human’s child. In Daniel that human being rides the clouds and the only figure who rides the clouds in the Old Testament is deity: either Yahweh or the description in rebuke of Baal. So it has a unique mix of divinity and humanity associated with it. But Jesus doesn’t reveal the connection of the Son of Man to the Daniel 7 passage until late in his ministry in the Olivet Discourse. Some people would talk about the Christ and Jesus and then would use other titles to talk about himself as the Son of Man.
An ancient book, sometimes called the 3 Enoch or the Hebrew Apocalypse of Enoch dates to the fifth and sixth century, and purports to be an account by R. Ishmael, a rabbi of that time, who like Enoch had visions of heaven, God’s throne, and his chariot and received unique revelations from a super-archangel whose name was Metatron. This book dates to the period when the visible Christian church, with headquarters in Rome, was repudiating the prophecies of Enoch. Being written by a Jewish rabbi of that time, it illustrates a widespread Jewish theology of heaven and its occupants. The book is written in Hebrew, and was also known by different titles – the Third Book of Enoch, The Book of the Palaces, The Book of Rabbi Ishmael the High Priest, and the Revelation of Metatron. References illustrate the concept of a heavenly divine being next to the Ancient of days, or Supreme God. It did not conflict with the idea of One God at all. God is presented in the image of an emperor and his court. He has a heavenly palace, throne, and a grand vizier.
Rabbi Akiva was a Tanna of the latter part of the 1st century and the beginning of the second century. He was a leading contributor to the Mishnah and to Midrash halakha. He is referred to in the Talmud as Rosh la-Hakhamim, Chief of the sages. He received training under Joshua ben Hananiah around 75-80 AD.
This is the resurrection as it was presented in the synoptic Gospels. I’ll first briefly mention some of the particularities of this scene. We’ll look at reasons why the resurrection wasn’t just created in someone’s mind and in this we will consider first the choice of the women. (This is an apologetically defense of the Resurrection of Jesus due to the liberal standing of the then, Jesus Seminar movement) Culturally, women were not regarded as worthy witnesses in most cases. If you are creating an event trying to persuade the culture of a difficult idea such as a physical resurrection, would you create an event and have your first witnesses be women? A second point, in looking at the resurrection in three days, there would have been a way to have Jesus alive without it being on the third day. Judaism believed in a resurrection for everybody. So all you would have needed was a resurrection in the end where Jesus would be in charge. You could have had a Jesus who would end up being alive and carrying out a judgment, but instead, you get a resurrection in three days. So a question here, where is this mutation of the resurrection come from? So we are still in a defense mode here; why create a resurrection after three days, you would have far less problem if it had not used the tomb and the witnesses and the guards, creating more problems. If this was a made-up story, it would have been much easier just to say that Jesus was in charge after he was resurrected. This is much less problematic. So there was a Christian mutation of a Jewish belief of the resurrection by having the three days.
Let’s look at the details related to the burial. This is not tied to an issue that doesn’t fit in creating the story. This is a case where the background matches what is happening culturally. Jesus was crucified as a criminal; so that means certain things had to happen and certain things could not have happened. For example, Jesus had to be buried as a criminal immediately, just like any other person. He would not have been left to rot. This would not have happened within the context of Judaism. A person would be buried as quickly as possible and that would have been before sunrise. Even today in the Middle East, anyone of importance that died, any newspaper report would have included both the death and the burial in the same article. This happened with Bhutto in Pakistan; he was buried immediately. And because Jesus died as a criminal, he could not be buried in a family grave, had one existed. That is why Joseph of Arimathea comes and offers a grave that is not a family grave for Jesus to be buried in; another point, this happened very late in the day and so the earliest time the women could have anointed the body with spices would have been that Sunday morning after the Sabbath. We see that the details of the burial actually fit the scene exactly. The people who took the body had possibly already anointed the body before putting it in the tomb. Interestingly, those who heard the report from the women that Jesus’ body was missing couldn’t believe it; this is another example of ‘the criterion of embarrassment.’ (This has to do with creating a story that makes the leadership look bad – thus the story is an embarrassment to the leaders because of the way they acted) We mentioned this in a previous lecture. Even though Peter and James ran to the tomb, they were very slow to understand what was happening. But they actually don’t believe everything until they talk about it with Peter. In addition, there is no detailed story about Peter and James. If you were going to make up an appearance story, it would be just with Peter or with James. There simply is no such story. It was obviously not important at the time, compared to everything else that was happening. And there were no such stories in the traditions of the church either. It’s an anomaly. If this was being made up, most likely there would have been an appearance to Peter or either James because they both ended up being important to the future of the church.
Another interesting feature in Matthew introductory materials is the presence of women in the genealogy. This is one of several places where women are related to outside the cultural norm in the Biblical materials. Another example is women become witnesses, the first to the empty tomb account. There are five women mentioned: Tamar, Rehab, Bathsheba, Ruth and Mary, all of which have difficult backgrounds. Tamar with the Judah incident, Rehab was a prostitute, Bathsheba with the incident with David and Ruth, who as a gentile was associated with Boaz in a move that would be described as bold in ancient terms by lying at his feet overnight in order to move toward the claim of marriage. And for Mary in Matthew where it says, from who was the Christ at the end of this genealogy were working with a feminine relative pronoun which demonstrates that the connection goes back to Mary, not to Joseph. Not only is this about the role of women but also about the nature of grace. In Jesus’ genealogy, we see that there are people that are made up of questionable backgrounds.
The third important point; what we are getting in Matthew in the Lecturer’s judgment of the genealogy is representation of the legal rights to the throne through Joseph. This is the legal way of moving back through Jesus’ genealogy. The curse of Jeconiah in Jeramiah recalls a curse being on him because of his unfaithfulness which says, ‘you will not have a role in the line.’ Thus Jeconiah is cut off from the legal right of being an ancestor of the Messiah. Luke is giving us the biological line whereas Matthew is giving us the legal line in light of this curse. But both lines deal with a genealogy but from a different perspective. When the line of Jeconiah ended, the line jumped over the next relative, the legal line thus changed also, both backwards and forwards. The line that leads to Joseph is only important in as much as the importance of the father within the culture, but realize still that the bloodline is only through Mary, but we don’t have a bloodline through Mary; yet, most likely she is also a descendant of David. Still, be aware that the typical two genealogies are thought to represent Mary while the other represents Joseph. Luke takes us all the way back to Adam, son of man and thus Son of God. Matthew is simply interested in the royal connection, while Luke’s interest spreads farther. Is it good enough for Joseph to have adopted Jesus to satisfy the genealogical line back to David? These are ‘exceptional understandings’ that are happening within the two Gospels.
Luke has a mood of mourning at the end as the women from Galilee witness what is happening and remember what is taking place. Jesus is buried by Joseph of Arimathea and was buried on the day that he died which is the way all deaths are done in Judaism before sundown. But the family could not bury a criminal in a family tomb. So Jesus is given over to Joseph who buries him in his own tomb but not Jesus’ family tomb. The women with the spices, a body is spiced up. They show up on the morning after the Sabbath, the soonest they could get there. Matthew shows guards had been placed in front of the sealed tomb in reaction to the third-day claims.