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Yesterday’s post has a reminder about the Advent resources on this blog.
There are also a number of Christmas-related posts, which are on my Christianity / Apologetics page all year round. They are helpful for those new to the faith as well as children.
These are as follows:
The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)
The Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (hermeneutics)
Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)
Compliments of the season to all my readers! (features Dr Paul Copan on the manger scene)
Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)
Famous Christmas carols
My new subscribers might be unaware that there are several Advent posts.
They are always available on my Christianity / Apologetics page. Search for ‘The Church Year’ one-quarter of the way down the page. They are the first listings in that category.
These are helpful for those new to the faith and good for children:
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
As Luke 9 opens, Jesus wanted to send out the twelve Apostles for what we today would call an internship.
John MacArthur says that at that time He had only 18 months before He would be crucified. After His Resurrection, He would be on earth for only 40 more days. Therefore, time was short.
However, Jesus also wanted to maximise the number of Jews who could hear His message and experience His mercy, even if it were via his chosen Twelve.
This passage is also in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Differences are highlighted below.
First, Mark 6:7-13:
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Second, Matthew 10:5-15:
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, 10no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
From these passages — particularly Matthew’s — we see that Jesus wanted them to minister only to the Jews, announce that the Kingdom was at hand (indicating a call to repentance), heal and raise the dead as He did, search for a worthy house in which to stay the duration and greet the house with peace. Should the house be unworthy, they were to let their greeting of peace return to them. Where people did not listen to their message, they were to adopt the ancient Jewish custom of shaking the dust of those people or towns from their feet. Finally, Jesus said that those who rejected His message which the Twelve carried would be eternally condemned — to the extent that such a place would wish they had been Sodom and Gomorrah, because their damnation would be much worse.
The first verse of Luke’s account announces the start of this internship. This would be the first time when the Apostles worked as a unit and, more importantly, imbued with Jesus’s divine grace. He gave them the authority to preach His message and the power to heal the afflicted (verse 2).
Jesus’s instruction about taking nothing extra (verse 3) implies that they were to trust that He would ensure that their basic needs were met. Imagine being told today that you were to go on a short trip lasting a few days or a fortnight and you couldn’t take a change of clothes or money with you. You were to trust that the Lord would provide. That would be pretty difficult, wouldn’t it? A lot of ‘what ifs’ would pop into my mind. Yet, the Apostles were to set forth trusting that all would go well, as if Jesus were with them in person.
He told them to find a house in which to reside and to be content to stay there (verse 4). That meant being satisfied with modest, perhaps poor, surroundings if that’s where they happened to be.
Where they were not received, they were to shake off the dirt they accumulated in that place (verse 5). It was a type of judgment. Matthew Henry describes it this way (emphases in bold mine):
They must put on authority, and speak warning to those who refused them as well as comfort to those that received them, Luke 9:5. “If there be any place that will not entertain you, if the magistrates deny you admission and threaten to treat you as vagrants, leave them, do not force yourselves upon them, nor run yourselves into danger among them, but at the same time bind them over to the judgment of God for it shake off the dust of your feet for a testimony against them.“ This will, as it were, be produced in evidence against them, that the messengers of the gospel had been among them, to make them a fair offer of grace and peace, for this dust they left behind there so that when they perish at last in their infidelity this will lay and leave their blood upon their own heads. Shake off the dust of your feet, as much as to say you abandon their city, and will have no more to do with them.
With nothing except the clothes on their back, they set off to preach, teach and heal (verse 6).
They were to accomplish this with compassion. When our Lord cured the sick and raised the dead He was performing acts of mercy. Pagan writers in the years following His Ascension into heaven said that He was a magician. This persists today; read or listen to any atheist. If what they say were the case, He would have transformed things or Himself into another being, e.g. an animal. Yet, Jesus did none of these things. He fully restored the health and wellbeing of those to whom He ministered. He knew their spiritual condition. Where He healed and told them their sins were forgive or to go and sin no more, He knew that their affliction was a punishment for sin. This wasn’t always the case, however, where it was, He made it clear that their slate was clean, so to speak.
MacArthur says that it is also important to realise that hands-on miracles were for a limited time:
Once the apostles’ doctrine was written down, and the New Testament was finished, all those miracles go away. They go away when the apostles go away. Even when you come to the end of the book of Acts, miracles have diminished to the point where they’re almost non-existent.
You might wonder how the Apostles’ internship turned out. In Luke 22:35 at the conclusion of the Last Supper, Jesus asked them about this period in time:
35And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”
This passage informs the general custom of pastors living modestly. We know of charlatans who live sumptuously, however, they are false teachers. Unlike the Twelve, Paul worked for a living as a tentmaker, no doubt an occupation in demand wherever he went. However, the point is for clergy to deliver the Gospel and administer the sacraments faithfully in accordance with the New Testament. Clergy are to trust in Christ Jesus for their upkeep (difficult though it might be at times, especially for independent pastors) and their next assignments. Those in their town or city might receive them well or reject them outright. It must be difficult, especially with a wife and family, to trust in the Lord wholeheartedly in times when they have to leave a church and move somewhere new. It must be equally challenging to convince one’s wife and children that all will be well when temporal life appears quite dark, indeed. This is something for us laymen to consider. So often we look at the man in the pulpit; many think he works but one day a week. Nothing could be further from the truth. The phone rings frequently. People knock at his door, some of them strangers. The life of a clergyman is a 24-hour job, 365 days a year.
Careful readers might wonder about the staff. Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts say to take no staff whereas Mark’s says to take one. MacArthur explains this:
The obvious solution to the dilemma is take no more than one. Don’t take an extra staff, is what He means. It would be easy for a stick to break and it would be pretty typical to have a walking stick and then maybe put another stick through a bag. Sometimes they use a shorter stick as well for weapons against robbers and things. He says don’t take any extra stick, just a mere staff.
Others might wonder what would be wrong with taking a bag, such as a knapsack, or a satchel. MacArthur tells us:
There’s some interesting historical documents about traveling itinerant teachers who carried what was called beggar bags and… they could keep stuffing in the money that they got from the people as they went. You’re not going to be collecting any money as you go, you don’t need a bag.
Now on to another question. I wondered about the chronology in Luke’s and Mark’s accounts. If you read last week’s post, you’ll recall that it concerned Jesus’s miraculous healing of Jairus’s daughter. Yet, Mark’s Gospel puts the Apostles’ brief ministry after Jesus was rejected by his hometown Nazareth. Luke addressed this much earlier (Luke 4:16-30) and tells us that they were so angry that they tried to throw Him off a cliff.
MacArthur says that the visit to the synagogue in Nazareth that Mark describes is a return visit. Unfortunately, the result is the same as the first visit which Luke recounts:
Mark says that Jesus then returned to Nazareth, that knowing the Galilean ministry was coming to an end very soon, Jesus wanted to make one more visit to His hometown. He wanted to go back to that place where He was a prophet without honor. He wanted to go back to that same place, His own hometown to the same synagogue where He had first gone to preach. And in response, you remember, the people tried to throw Him off a cliff and kill Him because they so hated His message. He wanted to go back to Nazareth. And by the way, that was the synagogue where He was raised, the synagogue attended by His family, the synagogue He attended by His relatives, by His friends, by His neighbors His whole life. He went back then one more time to Nazareth. And Mark chapter 6, the opening six verses, tell us He had the exact same reception this time that He had the first time. Mark 6:6 says, “They took offense at Him.” Nobody ever denied His miracles. They didn’t deny His power over demons, disease, death, His power over nature. Nobody ever denied that supernatural power. But what they hated about Him, in spite of the proof that He was Messiah, was His message about their spiritual condition. They hated the diagnosis that they were spiritually bankrupt, that they were spiritual prisoners, that they were spiritually under guilt and shame, oppressed by the weight and the burden of that guilt. They hated the message that they were blind to spiritual reality. They hated His diagnosis that they were sinful and separated from God and it was for that diagnosis, in spite of His miracles, in spite of the proof that He was Messiah, that they were offended at Him. And so He went back one more time, Mark says, and they treated Him exactly the same way.
So, Mark says in chapter 6 again, “He left Nazareth after being rejected and was going around the villages teaching by Himself.” Rejected at Nazareth, He then begins to migrate like He has through all this time in the Galilean ministry of months and months, all by Himself going from village to village, giving the already hardened hearts of the people of Galilee one more opportunity to hear His message, to see His miracles and to believe. Then, Mark says, He summoned up the Twelve. He realized as He is going alone and time is running out, that He’s got to have some help if He’s going to take one more swipe, as it were, at exposing all of Galilee, hard-hearted Galilee, to the gospel. And so Mark says He summoned the Twelve, and that’s where we pick up Luke’s narrative, verse 1, “He called the Twelve together.”
Finally, it seems apposite to once again review what the Gospels are telling us. It is essential to know that they are not a precursor to 19th century socialism. They are not a call to legalism. They are not a call to Mosaic Law, which He fulfilled by dying for our sins. They are, however, a call to repentance and turning our lives around — pursuing a life in Christ with a view towards eternity.
You know, I was telling the seminary students this week, it’s amazing to me that we’re still trying to get evangelical Christians to preach THE true message of salvation … I figured when I came out of seminary, you know, we’d have to fight against the liberals who attacked the authority of Scripture and we’d have to battle away with paradigms of sanctification that are unbiblical that the Charismatics introduced, or second work of grace kind of things, perfectionism, those issues would always be there to bring the Word of God to bear. There would be some battles that we’d fight in ecclesiology, trying to define what the church should be. There would always be debates about eschatology, the doctrine of last things because there are a lot of opinions. And, you know, you sort of figure, “Well, when I go into my ministry, these will be where the battles are.” But I tell you one I never expected, I never expected to spend my whole life trying to protect the gospel from evangelicals corrupting it. But that’s been the primary work of my life outside my normal pastoral ministry …
Jesus took these men and for 18 months they listened to Him preach the gospel. And then He said, “Just go do it.” And they went out, and you know what they did? They went out and preached that men should repent. And there are all kinds of people today who don’t think that’s really an appropriate part of the gospel at all. You never…I never ever seem to be able to get to the end of the dilemmas that keep being raised about the gospel. You turn around, look another direction, turn back and there’s a new spin on the gospel. Now there’s a big wave, the New Paradigm [Perspective - NT Wright's] of Paul, it’s called, which wants to say he never did teach imputation and substitutionary atonement and undo that. Just never ends.
I despair when I read of laymen picking up all sorts of ‘new’ theology and buying so many volumes from their Christian bookstore or some salesman who goes to their church to give a lecture. Really. We should take care what we read and hear about Scripture. May we be like the Bereans and study the New Testament carefully. It says what it says. It means what it means. It’s meant to last as it stands until the world comes to an end.
Next time: Luke 9:7-9
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
49While he was still speaking, someone fromthe ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
My last post on Luke 8 tells the first half of Jairus’s story. He was the ruler — or one of the rulers (leaders) — of his synagogue. His 12-year old daughter was dying and he asked Jesus to go to his house to heal her.
I wrote about Mark’s treatment of this miracle in 2012. Mark adds a touching detail, described below. Matthew’s account (Matthew 9:23-26), on the other hand, is perfunctory by comparison with Mark’s and Luke’s. However, it does add the epilogue which the other two do not (emphases mine):
23And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26And the report of this went through all that district.
Now on to Luke’s account. In verse 49, a messenger from Jairus’s house comes to say that there is no point in asking Jesus to see the girl as she has died.
Jesus answers the man with a message of faith (verse 50): fear not, only believe and she will be well. Matthew Henry has two excellent observations here:
Note, Our faith in Christ should be bold and daring, as well as our zeal for him. They that are willing to do any thing for him may depend upon his doing great things for them, above what they are able to ask or think. When the patient is dead there is no room for prayer, or the use of means but here, though the child is dead, yet believe, and all shall be well. Post mortem medicus–to call in the physician after death, is an absurdity but not post mortem Christus–to call in Christ after death.
When he arrived at Jairus’s home, He directed everyone to stay outside except Jairus, his wife and His inner circle of Apostles, Peter, John and James (verse 51).
Outside, the mourners carried on. Jewish funerals then were loud, emotive affairs marked by much wailing and music. John MacArthur explains:
He stopped the crowd from following Him. He stopped the other disciples who He probably used as sort of a perimeter guard and He just took those three with Him because He knew the chaos would be there, He didn’t want to add more chaos. He didn’t want to drag the entire crowd into that environment. And He didn’t even want all the disciples going, not even all the twelve Apostles. But just three, and this is the first occasion when Jesus separated Peter, James and John out from the rest…first time. He does it in the future … because He can’t always work with that many and He always has to have an inner circle and it’s these three, Peter the leader, John the lover, and James who became the first martyr. He selected these three to be His most intimate. They were the ones who reported from the disciples and apostles their concerns to Jesus and they were the ones who went back to the disciples with Jesus’ concerns. Every leader has to have an intimate circle and it was these three that Jesus chose.
Jesus told the crowd to stop their mourning because the girl was ‘not dead but sleeping’ (verse 52). This is why many parents explain that a loved one who has died is ‘asleep’. It is also why we use the expression ‘rest in peace’. The body dies but the soul of the believer ascends to Heaven. On the Day of Judgment, body and soul will be reunited, made anew. Henry’s commentary says:
… it is applicable to all that die in the Lord therefore we should not sorrow for them as those that have no hope, because death is but a sleep to them, not only as it is a rest from all the toils of the days of time, but as there will be a resurrection, a waking and rising again to all the glories of the days of eternity.
John MacArthur reviews other biblical references to sleep and death:
Even in the Old Testament it talks about those who have fallen asleep. You remember Paul’s sermon in Acts 13 … he’s talking about David who had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep. But he whom God raised did not undergo decay. He fell asleep. Why does he talk about David’s death, his body goes into the grave, he talks about his decay in the grave, that’s asleep? Sure because it’s temporary…it’s temporary. A good way to see this is in John chapter 11 at the death of Lazarus. You remember the story because it’s so familiar. And he comes, verse 11, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, he says. “But I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.” Jesus redefines death as temporary. The disciples said to Him, “Lord, if he’s fallen asleep, he’ll wake up.” I mean, they’re used to the normal terminology. “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Lazarus is dead, but I’m glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there so that you may believe.’” Let’s go to him. I’m glad he died. I’m glad I didn’t get there when he was just sick, I’m glad he’s died because…He says in verse 25…”I am the resurrection and the life, who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,” and He shows it to be true. In verse 43 He says to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth. Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go.” It was…it was true to redefine death from a permanent situation to a temporary one because that’s reality. Death is just a form of sleep. In fact, it’s a brief sleep, very brief. The body may sleep a little while but the spirit doesn’t sleep at all. It goes into the next life, into the next world.
When Jesus told the mourners that the girl is only asleep, they mocked Him (verse 53). Henry has this analysis:
They were unworthy to be the witnesses of this work of wonder they who in the midst of their mourning were so merrily disposed as to laugh at him for what he said would, it may be, have found something to laugh at in what he did, and therefore are justly shut out.
Once inside the house, our Lord took the girl by the hand and told her to ‘arise’ (verse 54). Mark’s account says that He addressed her as talitha (Mark 5:41), an affectionate term which meant ‘lamb’ in Aramaic. This was the language of the region at that time.
Once again, we see not only Jesus’s healing power but also His gentleness. Remember that he addressed the woman with the blood loss as ‘daughter’ when He healed her on the way to Jairus’s home.
Luke tells us that, at Jesus’s touch and request to arise, the girl’s ‘spirit returned’ (verse 55). He healed her instantly, with no recovery time needed. Such was the nature of His creative miracles.
Ever the pragmatist, our Lord instructed her parents to get her something to eat. Jesus is mindful of human needs, nourishment being one of them.
Luke’s account tells us of her parents’ astonishment (verse 56), no doubt the same which the woman healed of her hemorrhage experienced. It was a profound joy mixed with fear and awe. They recognised that they were in the presence of Someone extraordinary. The Gerasenes also knew that, after Jesus drove the legion of demons out of the man and allowed them to enter into the swine who then ran down the bank to their death. However, instead of embracing Him, they asked Him to leave.
Our Lord’s instructions to people following these miracles would make a good study for anyone reading the New Testament. Luke 8 is a wonderful starting point. Jesus told the man healed of demons to go and tell others what happened to him. However, with regard to Jairus and his wife, He asked them to tell no one.
There are a number of reasons why, most of which I explored with Mark’s account. It could also be that our Lord was passing condemnation on the mourners who laughed at Him. That said, Matthew tells us that news of the miracle spread throughout the area.
John MacArthur adds another reason, a warm, affectionate one:
I think it was really designed for the moment. I think the Lord was saying, “Stay where you are. I’ve cleared the house. It’s just us. That’s the way it needs to be. Just enjoy the reunion. The imaginable…unimaginable thrill of resurrection, the restoration of love, the restoration of life. Don’t feel some obligation to satisfy the curious crowd … Just enjoy what has been done. Just enjoy the power of God, enjoy the life fo the girl, celebrate, worship, give thanks to God. And maybe Jesus had more to say to them about the gospel. There are lots of people who can spread the Word, the Word would get spread for sure. It did. But you have another priority, enjoy this gift. Enjoy My power, enjoy My goodness, enjoy My company, enjoy My grace, rejoice in the life I give and later on you’ll have plenty of opportunity to tell the story.”
Next time: Luke 9:1-6
December 1, 2013, is the first Sunday in Advent and, as such, the beginning of the Church year.
Those churches — Catholic and mainline Protestant — which use the three-year Lectionary will take their Scripture readings from those assigned for Year A.
Northwestern Publishing House has a helpful one-page PDF which lists Sunday readings for the next Church year.
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter
40Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
In 2012, I wrote about this passage in St Mark’s Gospel (Mark 5:21-34), parts of which will be excerpted below. It details what this lady’s ailment probably was; it is an embarrassing, odorous and painful condition which still affects poor women in Africa today.
This is Mark’s account (differences highlighted below, emphases mine):
21And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32And he looked around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Matthew’s is somewhat shorter (Matthew 9:18-22):
A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
As this episode in Jesus’s ministry opens, He and His disciples have just returned from Gerasa or Gadara, where He drove the legion (army) of demons out of the man. They then inhabited the pigs with such power that the pigs ran down the steep bank of the nearby hill to drown in the Sea of Galilee. The people then asked Jesus to leave and, before He did so, instructed the healed man to tell everyone of the miracle.
Prior to that, Jesus needed rest, and He and the disciples set sail to the other side of the sea, or lake, which was how they ended up in Gerasa or Gadara.
Now they were back and the crowd was waiting (verse 40). Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, approached him (verse 41). By definition, he held a lot of power, whether he was part of that ruling committee or the head of it.
John MacArthur tells us that Jairus is the Greek form of the name Jair. A man of that name appears in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament.
Jairus did two contradictory things. He fell at Jesus’s feet then He asked Him to go to his house to heal his 12-year old daughter. He approached him as a supplicant, an inferior. What he said, however, made it clear that Jesus was his servant.
Furthermore, Jairus did not have the faith of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal from a distance.
Matthew Henry says:
But Christ complied with his request he went along with him. Strong faith shall be applauded, and yet weak faith shall not be rejected. In the houses where sickness and death are, it is very desirable to have the presence of Christ.
The crowd followed, among them a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention the number 12 in both cases. The dying girl is that age and the woman has been suffering her malady for the same number of years.
I was reading something about it this week [in 2010]. There are as many as four million women who have this problem in Africa. It can be…remedied by a simple surgery to which they have no access sadly and certainly the woman in this story in Israel had no such help.
I knew two women who had this condition. One lives in England and the other in the United States. Both were eventually operated on. However, for those, such as the poor in Africa, Wikipedia says the pain and the isolation are intense:
The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum. This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping. Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.
These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor.  Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).
And, no doubt, this woman whom Jesus healed experienced the same pain and isolation. Treatment then — and possibly for the poorest Africans — relied on herbal or folk (carrying an ostrich egg wrapped in linen) ‘remedies’. Luke tells us that she spent all her savings on doctors but in vain (verse 43).
So, in complete desperation, she thought the only solution was to find Jesus and position herself such that she could grab onto his garment. The Gospel accounts say ‘touched’, but MacArthur says it was a stronger, more active verb than that:
Now the word here, “touched” is a middle form verb from the verb hapto or haptomi. In the middle form it means to fasten on to, or to cling to, or to clutch. It isn’t just to tap, she’s clutching it. I mean, you’ve got to understand this is twelve years, this is…this is breaching all of social etiquette to do what she did and she finally gets there and this is her last final hope and she hangs on to His robe, to the tassel of His robe. It’s the same exact Greek verb used in John 20 verse 17 of Mary Magdalene who after the resurrection grabs on to Jesus, remember, and clings to Him. And why did she do this? Because Matthew 9:21 in Matthew’s account says she kept saying to herself, she kept saying to herself, she kept saying to herself, “If I can just touch Him I’ll be healed…If I can just touch Him, I’ll be healed.” She knew His power. She believed in it. If only I grasp His garment, I will get well. And it’s in the imperfect, she kept saying it, kept saying it, kept saying it, kept saying it to reinforce this breach of law to do what she wasn’t supposed to do. I just need to get a hold of it. She believed…and this was obvious…she believed there was so much power flowing out of Him, that if she just got in the space, she’d be healed.
As soon as she clutched His garment, her discharge stopped (verse 44). What that must have been like for her, we’ll never know. No words can describe what she must have felt.
Jesus then asked who had just touched His robe (verse 45). The crowd said they hadn’t and Peter took Him to task for even asking when they were surrounded by so many people. However, Jesus in His divinity knew who had done it; He wanted to talk with this woman who had drawn power out of Him (verse 46).
He also wanted to make it clear — to her and to the crowd — that she was restored socially and could fully participate in town and synagogue life once again.
The woman, possibly afraid as well as overcome by the healing miracle, trembled and fell down before Him (verse 47). In the presence of all assembled, she told our Lord her story in full. This might have taken some time; she might well have had a surge of elation, emotion and memories which she needed to express.
Verse 48 — as well as the corresponding verses in Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts — is important. This is because each Gospel writer mentions that Jesus called the woman ‘daughter’.
This is the only time in the New Testament that a woman is so addressed by Jesus… “Daughter…Daughter.”
By this, Jesus acknowledges that she is a woman of faith. It is a highly personal and marvellous word for Him to have used. She is as close as family.
Therefore, this is an outstanding story to use to illustrate our Lord’s relationship with each of us. So many of our present day clergy make it sound as if Christ is a million miles away when, in reality, He is involved with us intimately, in ways we would do well to realise and acknowledge in prayer.
This is rich insight into the reality that our God is not detached. He is not unfeeling in the sense that He has no personal connection to us. While He is unaltered by what men do, He is still personally engaged in every act of power. I told you, people like to say I have a personal relationship with Jesus. Let me tell you something. Everybody who has ever lived has a personal relationship with Jesus. He is personally involved in their redemption, or He is personally involved in their judgment. Every expression of power, and every expression of deliverance is an experience that He feels. No one receives His power into his life without His personal involvement …
Jesus healed the people who had no faith. He healed people who had faith. But Jesus doesn’t save people with no faith. This woman seems to demonstrate a faith which brings her into the category of being a child of God, addressed as “Daughter.” Your faith has saved you, He says. And then this, “Go in…what?…peace.” Jesus doesn’t throw that around. Peace belongs only to those who have made their peace with God.
Of this lady and Jairus, he adds:
Their story is a great benediction to us. And it shows us that there were those people who did have true faith in Jesus. I think these two were likely part of the 500 believers gathered after the resurrection who saw the risen Christ in Galilee.
In the sermon for Luke’s account of this story, MacArthur has an interesting historical note about this lady:
Eusebius, the church historian says, there [was] a statue of this lady in his day, in her town as a living testimony that she became a believer in Jesus Christ.
Next time: Luke 8:49-56
My thanks to Lleweton for sending information on this English chaplain and poet from the Great War.
Studdert Kennedy was known for distributing New Testaments along with Woodbines to troops before and after battle. He also wrote poems, including some frank descriptions of what happened in the trenches. ‘To Stretcher Bearers’ — the first stanza of which follows — is one of them:
Easy does it — bit o’ trench ‘ere,
Mind that blinkin’ bit o’ wire,
There’s a shell ‘ole on your left there,
Lift ‘im up a little ‘igher.
Stick it, lad, ye’ll soon be there now,
Want to rest ‘ere for a while?
Let ‘im dahn then — gently — gently,
There ye are, lad. That’s the style.
Want a drink, mate? ‘Ere’s my bottle,
Lift ‘is ‘ead up for ‘im, Jack,
Put my tunic underneath ‘im,
‘Ow’s that, chummy? That’s the tack!
Guess we’d better make a start now,
Ready for another spell?
Best be goin’, we won’t ‘urt ye,
But ‘e might just start to shell.
Are ye right, mate? Off we goes then.
That’s well over on the right,
Gawd Almighty, that’s a near ‘un!
‘Old your end up good and tight,
Never mind, lad, you’re for Blighty,
Mind this rotten bit o’ board.
Studdert Kennedy was the seventh of nine children born to Jeannette Anketell and the Revd William Studdert Kennedy, who was the vicar of St Mary’s, Quarry Hill in Leeds. (Studdert Kennedy is the surname, by the way, not Kennedy.)
After finishing his studies at Leeds Grammar School, he went to Ireland for university, earning a degree in Classics and Divinity from Trinity College (alma mater of Jonathan Swift and other luminaries) in 1904.
He then returned to England and studied for a year at Ripon Clergy College in Ripon, Yorkshire. In Februrary 2013, the Ripon Civic Society mounted one of their green plaques at the site of the former college to remember the famous chaplain. Ripon College Cuddesdon, incidentally, is the successor to Ripon Clergy College.
Studdert Kennedy’s first posting was as a curate to a church in Rugby. In 1914, he was appointed vicar of St Paul’s in Worcester.
His time in Worcester was to be short-lived, however. When war broke out, he soon volunteered to be an Army chaplain. His ministry took him to the Western Front, where he saw the atrocities of war up close.
The Northern Echo newspaper explains (emphases mine):
The Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy became one of the best known figures on the Western Front for giving Woodbine cigarettes, a copy of the New Testament and spiritual aid to soldiers before battle as well as their injured and dying comrades.
The cleric, who trained at Ripon Clergy College, won the Military Cross for running into no man’s land at Messines Ridge, Flanders, to help the wounded during an attack on the German frontline …
Six years after completing his training at the Princess Road college, which closed in 1915, the Rev Kennedy, volunteered as an Army chaplain aged 31, and became attached to a bayonet-training service.
While touring the Western Front with boxers and wrestlers, he gave morale-boosting speeches about the usefulness of the bayonet and became known for his heavy smoking, despite suffering asthma having been exposed to mustard gas.
It should be noted here that some asthma sufferers find relief from smoking cigarettes. There were also no pocket-sized inhalers in those days.
The article gives us an idea of Studdert Kennedy’s pastoral manner, particularly appropriate for men who, in some cases, had only minutes to live:
He often became embroiled in battles and soldiers told how the Rev Kennedy once crawled to a working party putting up wire in front of their trench.
When a nervous soldier asked him who he was, he replied “The church.” And when the soldier asked what the church was doing there, he replied “Its job”.
Soldiers said they liked the chaplain for his irreverent preaching style and salty language, while he described his chaplain’s ministry as taking “a box of fags in your haversack, and a great deal of love in your heart”.
After the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., Studdert Kennedy returned to England and was appointed priest-in-charge of St Edmund, King and Martyr in Lombard Street in the City (financial district) of London.
He published two volumes of poems in the aftermath of the war, Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918) and More Rough Rhymes (1919). These poems and others helped to make him
the country’s most famous religious author.
It wasn’t long before Studdert Kennedy made his political views clear. These he had absorbed during the War. He became what is known as a ‘Christian socialist’, although, in reality, you can be a Christian or a socialist, but not both. He was also a pacifist.
He wrote hard-hitting works: Lies (1919), Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) (featuring such chapters as “The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob,” “Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering,” and “So-Called Religious Education Worse than Useless”), Food for the Fed Up (1921), The Wicket Gate (1923), and The Word and the Work (1925).
He left St Edmund’s to tour the country as part of the Industrial Christian Fellowship. He was taken ill during a speaking engagement in Liverpool, where he died in 1929.
a crowd of more than 2,000 turned out for his funeral procession, and tossed packets of Woodbines onto the passing cortege.
The citation for Studdert Kennedy’s Military Cross reads as follows:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches, which he constantly visited.
Photo credits: Northern Echo
This post concludes Luke’s story of the Gadarene swine, one which everyone used to know, particularly the line ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’ (Mark 5:9). You can read the first part here.
34When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Last week’s post described the confrontation between Jesus and the demons which inhabited the man from the region of Gerasa or Gadara, depending on which Gospel you read. Matthew used the latter name in his account.
We also discovered that although demons were mentioned once in Genesis 6 and — after our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven — in Acts 16 and 19, the Gospels have several accounts of demon-inhabited humans. Those demons confronted Jesus, who displayed sovereignty over them every time. In the case of the man from Gadara / Gerasa, an army of them inhabited him. It is possible that he had one and, when Jesus appeared, they multiplied in an effort to defeat Him. As we read last week, they gave their name through the man’s voice (Luke 8:30):
30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him.
Afraid of being destroyed, they asked to inhabit a nearby herd of swine — pigs. Jesus allowed this. The demons’ power caused the pigs to run over a steep bank and they ran into the Sea of Galilee to their death.
14The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.“ 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Matthew’s account tells us that the Lord healed two men of demons (Matthew 8:33-34):
33The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
Animal-rights activists and atheists use this healing miracle to complain that Jesus was cruel to animals. They overlook that He drove the demons out of the man (or men) into the herd of swine — animals, which have no souls. They do not rejoice that our Lord saved the soul(s) and sanity of the demon-possessed human(s) who was (were) a public menace of supreme physical strength. As we might say today, this person was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. He also cut himself with stones every day (Mark 5:5). Now who is cruel?
On now to Luke’s version of the story. After the drama of the herd of pigs meeting their demon-driven death, the herdsmen rushed around the surrounding area to tell everyone what happened (verse 34).
People then came to the scene of the miracle (verse 35). They saw Jesus with the man, previously notorious in the region, sitting calmly in clothes at Jesus’s feet (verse 36). They were fearful, not merely apprehensive or at a loss for words but deathly afraid. As Hebrews 10:31 says:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
As the crowd was too great for Him to be seen and heard, He got into Simon’s fishing boat and urged him to sail a distance from the shore to better address those who had come to hear Him. Afterward, He told Simon to cast his net into the water to catch fish. Simon objected; he had already gone fishing there the night before and caught nothing. However, Simon relented and cast his net. The resulting catch was so great that it began to sink not only Simon’s boat but that of his partners, brothers James and John. Simon sensed his own sinfulness at the wonder of this miracle and told Jesus he was not worthy of being in His presence. Yet, Jesus told his new Apostle not to fear; soon he would be a fisher of men.
Whereas Simon Peter felt the fear of remorse in the face of the Almighty, the people in this story experienced a fear that, strangely, drove them to find comfort in their own sin and temporal complacency.
Did they express gratitude to Him? No. Instead, like true unbelievers, they asked Him to leave (verse 37).
Matthew Henry sums it up this way:
Those lose their Saviour, and their hopes in him, that love their swine better.
Let us pray we never fall into such a carnal trap.
This episode is an excellent illustration of man’s inherent urge to sin, a legacy of Original Sin which Adam and Eve passed on to us. All of us prefer sin to holiness.
John MacArthur says in his sermon on the subject:
What would you have done if you had been there that day? Would you have cherished and loved and clung to your sin and asked Jesus to go away? Or would you plead with Jesus to forgive your sin and deliver you the way He delivered that man? Look around you today. Here are the delivered right here. Hundreds of them. We…have been forgiven from sin and delivered from Satan. We are living testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to transform. Are you interested in that? Do you want to be delivered and rescued from sin and Satan and death and hell? Or do you cherish your sin and you cannot wait to get out of here? Would you rather be in the grip of Satan than God? Would you rather continue to live with what is unholy than what is holy?
He adds a warning about how we — clergy and laity — present the Gospel:
The Lord Jesus is either loved or hated when the truth is presented. And you can’t have it any other way. If you can figure out a way to present the gospel without causing people to love or hate, you’ve compromised the message.
Jesus responded by instructing the man to tell everyone what God has done for him, which he duly did (verse 39) in gratitude, joy and obedience.
Mark adds that the man travelled around the Decapolis (see map at right) — ten cities most of which were on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee — telling his story such that ‘everyone marvelled’ (Mark 5:20).
Matthew Henry concludes his commentary on this passage as follows:
We must sometimes deny ourselves the satisfaction even of spiritual benefits and comforts, to gain an opportunity of being serviceable to the souls of others. Perhaps Christ knew that, when the resentment of the loss of their swine was a little over, they would be better disposed to consider the miracle, and therefore left the man among them to be a standing monument, and a monitor to them of it.
Next time: Luke 8:40-48
Last week, the story about the Methodist minister in Telford, the Revd Patricia ‘PJ’ Jackson and her refusal to wear a red poppy for the upcoming Remembrance Day service she will lead made news here in England.
I found out about it thanks to fellow contributor Quiet_Man at Orphans of Liberty. He cited the Telegraph‘s article, which said that the ‘Rev PJ’ — as she likes to be known — believes it is her ‘democratic right’ not to wear a red poppy to commemmorate the soldiers who have died for our freedom.
The Telegraph reported:
She refused to give a reason for her decision but a spokesperson at the Telford circuit said it was because Rev Jackson is in favour of peace.
A church spokesman said: “Reverend Jackson is happy to wear a white poppy but doesn’t want to wear a red one because she feels it advocates war which is something she does not believe in.
Jackson is originally from the United States. My American readers can feel free to correct me in the comments on this one, but, as far as I know from my friends living there, veterans have not collected donations to the American Legion or VFW for 25 years or more. I remember donating and receiving a poppy every year. Sometimes they were light blue instead of red; a veteran told me that colour represented the Pacific Theater.
Therefore, it is unclear whether Jackson would have ever known about the tradition of the poppy and Armistice Day, or as we call it in Britain, Remembrance Day.
I wrote more about the story at Orphans of Liberty. It’s a long post with several points, so what follow are just a few.
One related to the wording on Jackson’s church website:
It is standard for pastors to fashion their websites to focus primarily on Christianity. Best practice in this area includes a statement of faith and mention of denominational affiliation.
This is what the Leegomery Methodist Church proclaims on its About page (emphases in the original).
The Mission of the Church is to be a “Hug for the Community” through Worship, Prayer, and being loving and caring.
Leegomery Methodist Church was built in 1878, with the Sunday School/Community Room being added in 1953. The Community Room was refurbished in 2010 and work was completed on the refurbishment of the Church in 2012. All facilities, which include fully fitted kitchen and toilets, comply with the Disability Act, Health & Safety, Fire Regulations and are Eco Friendly.
The Friends committee organise an Annual Community Family Fun Day, Bingo Evenings, Social Activities, Concerts, Religious Festivals and much more throughout the year. See Forthcoming Events for full details.
All Leaders of our Children and Young People’s Groups are CRB checked and the Church has a Safeguarding Policy for Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults.
Morning Worship is held every Sunday at 11am for which everyone is welcome.
A fun Sunday School for children & young people from 0 upwards also meets each week at 11am. This is nothing like day school, those attending take part in games, crafts, listen to stories and have lots of fun.
Being a ‘Hug for the Community’ is not a doctrinal, or a particularly Christian, statement.
Even worse, we don’t even find out what time the Sunday church service is until we’ve got past a mention of the toilets, Bingo Evenings and CRB checks.
I wondered whether Jackson had arrived recently in England and didn’t really understand the place the poppy has in British hearts:
It just seems odd that anyone who has been here for a time, especially a clergyperson, would be so obstinate in wearing a white poppy — or none at all — if (s)he were about to lead a Remembrance Day service.
Any visitor or newcomer to these shores cannot miss the red poppies that men and women wear at this time of year, including nearly everyone appearing on television news broadcasts. It’s abundantly clear that Remembrance Day is — quite rightly — an important day to the British.
Of course, we cannot forget the spiritual state of seminaries these days:
They outdo The Guardian in their adoption of ‘peace and justice’ as well as identity politics. For them, Scripture is but a footnote and none of it is history but rather liberation allegory. I know someone relatively conservative who went through the system over 20 years ago, when female seminarians began holding church services with prayers addressed to ‘God, our Mother’. Even now, having served in churches for a few decades, she gets more radical by the year. It sounds as if Ms Jackson might have experienced something similar.
I concluded by saying I hoped the minister would change her mind after talking the issue over with local members of the Royal British Legion, councillors and congregants.
Jackson’s local paper in Telford, the Shrophsire Star, spoke to local people planning on participating in the Remembrance Day service:
David Moore, president of the Hadley and Leegomery Royal British Legion, said: “From the military members who attend the service, and there are a lot, we were very shocked.
“If someone decides they don’t want to wear a poppy, that is down to the individual, but if they are officiating a remembrance service, just for an hour, an hour and a half, it’s not going to cut anyone’s throat to wear one.”
… I can understand that the Rev PJ Jackson does not want to glorify war. Neither do I. It brings to a sudden end too many lives for questionable reasons, as in the Iraq ‘adventure’ for the glory of Tony Blair and George Bush.
We need to think about who causes wars. It is not the rank and file soldiers, sailors and airmen. It is the politicians. The rank and file servicemen are the ones who pay the price, in terms of lives and limbs, lost sight and lost mental faculties. Wearing a red poppy is a means of remembering and honouring those were killed and injured allowing politicians to make their quests for glory and a place in the history books. Serving one’s country in the armed services is an honourable profession and a dangerous one …
We all accept that we need clean water and a separation of the foul water in sewage from the water we drink, but not all of us will work to maintain the sewers and get our hands dirty. Sometimes we need a similar separation of the clean and the foul in world politics, and it is the military, the ordinary servicemen, who get their hands dirty to keep these two apart …
I’ll end with Quiet_Man’s observations on Orphans of Liberty:
… I do believe the idiot woman is misinformed as to the red poppy’s significance as it does not commemorate war, does not glorify war nor does it advocate militarism. It reminds us of sacrifice and those who fell as well as those who served. There is precious little glory in war as any conversation with soldiers, sailors or airmen will tell you. Nor does the horror of seeing your friends killed or maimed give them anything other than grief.
As for the white poppy, well it was used by the Women’s Cooperative back in 1933 as a symbol to end all wars, six years later the UK was fighting for its life agains the Nazis, there was the horror of the concentration camps and the systematic murder of foreign nationals on their own soil by the Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD. The white poppy to me symbolises the peace at any price mindset of the hard of thinking aka the left who are happy to disarm civilisation, though no one else. These were the same people who wanted to ban the bomb (only for the UK) spied upon their own citizens and raved about the socialist paradises across the iron curtain and who still bitterly regret the people there throwing off the yoke of the communists.
The white poppy to me does not symbolise peace, but surrender, this is my view and one which I hold to …
I hope that, for those who are unfamiliar with it, this explains the meaning of the red poppy, discourages people from wearing a white one and calls all of us to pray this Monday, November 11, for the families of those who died whilst in service to their country, and us.
Let us also remember those who have returned from war injured, maimed and, possibly, forgotten. Too many are sleeping rough with no home and no job, through no fault of their own.
Continuing from yesterday’s post on the United Brethren churches, today’s will look at what happened to the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB), a denomination created in 1946 with the merger of the Evangelical Association and the ‘Liberal’ group of United Brethren churches.
It will also look at the subsequent merger of the EUB with the Methodist Church to create the United Methodist Church.
In 1979, David Oberlin wrote an informative paper on both called ‘Two Separate Unions Formed One United Church’. It is well worth reading in order to understand what can happen — good and bad — with church mergers.
Whilst much of it is a general history, it also focusses on what happened at the local level in Union County, Pennsylvania, which had Evangelical Association, United Brethren (‘Liberal’ branch) and Methodist churches.
This post summarises the main points of his paper.
The EUB merger, 1946
The first half of the 20th century saw a unifying mood among a sizeable minority of American Protestants.
In 1922, the United Evangelical Church and the Evangelical Association merged.
In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South and Methodist Protestant churches merged to become the Methodist Church.
Given this unity, it was not startling to find that in 1946, the United Brethren Liberals merged with the Evangelical Church (or, as the United Brethren website states, Association) to create the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB).
- were originally German-speaking churches.
- combined pietism with Methodism.
- used itinerant preachers (circuit riders).
- had a similar organisational structure modelled on the early US government structure.
- were of a similar size.
Three important things resulted from the merger:
- First, preachers were required to have at least two years of college or university education. They were also strongly encouraged to attend seminary. Women were not allowed to become ministers although existing United Brethren (UB) female clergy were allowed to exercise their ecclesiastical functions.
- Second, the new EUB denomination pooled their former respective mission resources into The Board of Missions, helpful during a postwar era when money was tight and travel difficult.
- The EUB formed The Commission on Social Action which emphasised social justice within a moral framework.
Congregations were generally happy with the merger. Their polity was largely unaffected, and some church members wondered why the union of the two churches hadn’t occurred earlier. Shortly before the 1946 unification, those organising the merger sent pamphlets to local churches explaining what would and would not happen to individual congregations. Similarities between the two denominations was emphasised.
Moving towards merger with the Methodists
From their common origins in the 18th century, the Methodists and United Brethren leaders had a good rapport and similar theological outlook. John Wesley and Francis Asbury — Methodists — conferred with the United Brethren founders William Otterbein and Martin Boehm.
The two denominations sometimes shared the same church buildings. The Methodists preached in English and the United Brethren — called ‘German’ or ‘Dutch’ Methodists — held separate services in German.
Despite this cordial relationship, the two denominations could not agree on merging until 1956. In 1958, the first Joint Commission meeting took place in Cincinnati, Ohio.
By 1960, the Methodists decided to drop plans to merge with the Episcopal Church. Remember that the Wesley brothers were lifelong Anglicans. On a personal note, where I live in England, a few decades ago there were talks between an Anglican church and the local Methodist church with regard to a merger; it never happened, although the Anglican priest regularly conducts a Communion service at the Methodist church when their pastor is preaching at another of her churches.
Plans proceeded apace in the mid-1960s for a merger between the EUB and the Methodist Church at their respective conferences.
Concerns arose within the EUB because the Methodists were so much greater in number. There were fewer than 800,000 EUB members and 10 million Methodists.
A new demoninational name concerned church members. Some aspects of church administration, such as the terms of bishops, also had to be resolved. The greatest of these was the appointment of district superintendents. Methodist bishops appointed theirs whereas the EUB elected theirs.
David Oberlin says that, strangely, denominational theology never came up in the discussions. Yet, this would be the greatest stumbling block post-merger.
The United Methodist Church, 1968
On April 23, 1968, two bishops — one EUB and the other a Methodist — announced the merger of the two denominations. This meant 738,000 EUB members and 10,289,000 Methodists. The EUB members were outnumbered 14:1. However, a larger denomination was considered as a powerful missional tool. Size is everything.
There was a significant difference in proportion of those approving the merger. Nearly all the Methodists participating in the merger talks — 94.9% — approved the union, whereas only 78.7% of the EUB participants did.
Furthermore, there had to be an aggregate vote of agreement by each denomination. For the Methodists, this was 87% in favour. For the EUBs it was only 70%.
Until 1979, each facet of the United Methodist Church (UMC) had to ensure that a proportion of the decision makers at a central level were EUB. Ten years was thought to be enough time for everyone to consider themselves United Methodist.
One positive move was that black conferences were abolished and their clergy and representatives were given a full voice in UMC proceedings and decision making.
It should be said that not every EUB or Methodist congregation merged. Some went independent, particularly EUB congregations in the Pacific Northwest, formed in 1853 with the first wagon train mission expedition from Iowa to Oregon.
In terms of Oberlin’s Union County, Pennsylvania, there were more EUB members than Methodists. That said, the EUB members worried about the bigger national picture of Methodist dominance and loss of EUB heritage. A few of the former EUB churches do not use UMC hymnals. EUB members were also dismayed an increased financial outlay; Methodist policy stated that ministers must have a washer and dryer in their residences. EUB ones had not. Furthermore, each congregation had to assume the expense of modernising minister’s houses, something of sigificance in poorer rural areas.
How the merger of church agencies unfolded
The Confessing Movement site’s ‘Restructuring and United Methodist Decline’ explains what happened in the wake of the Methodists and EUB merger in 1968.
Emphases mine below:
At the time of merger the more open, more relational, and less imposing institutional culture of the EUBs was simply eclipsed and discarded by the more liberal, more social-class conscious, and more dominating Methodist corporate culture. There never really was a merger. It was a take-over.
The EUBs had a strong Sunday school program. The S.S. enrollment of the EUB Church at merger was 94% of its membership. The Methodist S.S. enrollment was 68% of its membership. EUB S.S. literature was open to evangelical themes. The Methodist S.S. material was not. But in the merger the whole EUB educational enterprise and its way of doing education was shut down and incorporated into the Nashville way of thinking and doing. The whole EUB missions enterprise was shut down and moved to New York and incorporated into Methodist mission philosophy. The social action arm of the EUB Church was shut down and moved to Washington D.C. where it was dominated by the Methodist way of social action. The EUB youth program was shut down and moved to Nashville. The EUB women’s work was closed down and moved to New York.
The EUBs gave up, in many instances, their camp grounds, their conference sites, and their conference offices. In local communities with both EUB and Methodist churches, there were a number of forced mergers, few of which really worked. The one contribution of the EUB Church in merger was the EUB Program Council which was incorporated into the merged church structure as the Council on Ministries. But it often did not work in the merged church–not on the local level, nor district level, nor conference level. It for sure did not work on the general church level …
The EUBs gave up one of their two seminaries (Evangelical Seminary in Naperville) through merger. Their last seminary, United Seminary in Dayton, has been under pressure to merge or close …
The EUBs for years had been given freedom of conscience in regard to matters like baptism. The EUB ritual contained a service of infant dedication and EUB churches were given assurances that EUB traditions would be respected and that their freedom to dedicate infants would carry-over to the merged denomination. This never happened. When inquiries were made as to what happened to these “promises,” the answer was given that the people who made the assurances were not authorized to do so. In a few years the understanding of infant dedication as the EUBs had understood and practiced it was declared un-United Methodist. And within a short time to re-baptize, as many EUBs had, became a violation of the Discipline and a chargeable offence.
The United Methodist Church today — remnants of EUB
The article goes on to describe what happened with regard to local congregations:
One small group of EUBs refused to enter the merger. 62 (mostly small) EUB churches in the Pacific Northwest knew that, given the extreme liberalism of the Methodists in their area, they would simply be crushed in a merger. They were given permission to separate. They formed a denomination, the Evangelical Church of North America. The EUB churches that entered the merger were swallowed up. The Evangelical Church of America (later joined to another small denomination) now has about 12,500 members.
One study of former county-seat (the more prestigious) EUB “first” churches in North Indiana revealed that of 27 churches studied 30 years after the merger, 25 had closed, merged, or were greatly declined. Less than 10 years after the merger the United Methodist had lost more members than the nearly 750,000 the EUBs brought into the merger. Many of those were former EUBs.
The article concludes with an allusion to a restructuring currently in place. Who knows what will happen?
A comment from a Methodist on the Episcopalian site Stand Firm said that the EUB members were responsible for the proliferation of social justice theology in the UMC. Yet, the EUB points the finger at the Methodists.
The Confessing Movement
That said, there are conservative evangelical groups gaining currency among kindred souls in the UMC. One of these is the aforementioned Confessing Movement. However, their main obstacle is acceptance by the UMC hierarchy.
In ‘Keeping Up With The Renewal Groups (Part 3)’, Dr Riley Case traces the recent history of groups within the UMC which are trying to spread the Gospel, not the social variety.
In 1968, a group called Good News attempted to return to a proper evangelism. Unfortunately, a decade later, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) accused Good News of
a social and political agenda which was the New Far Right.
Pastors were told to shy away from Good News or their careers would be limited.
Meanwhile, Case writes that a number of pastors from larger UMC churches were meeting together. They found
that the disconnect between the pew and the church bureaucracy was getting worse rather than better. They understood the church was drifting doctrinally and morally. They understood too that the leadership of the church, including the bishops, seemed hopelessly caught up in the drift. The 1972 doctrinal statement had diminished the place of Scripture, had disdained confessions of faith, and had touted “pluralism” which, practically, communicated the idea that for United Methodists “anything goes.”
In April 1995, 900 Methodists met in Atlanta, Georgia, to agree and approve a confessional statement for the UMC. The Confessing Movement was a product of this meeting.
Readers will not be surprised to discover that the UMC hierarchy level the same criticisms at the Confessing Movement that they did at Good News a few decades ago.
Nevertheless, Case writes:
Perhaps the most exciting project currently is the Doctrine and Renewal Project which is being jointly sponsored by The Confessing Movement and United Theological Seminary. The project will involve some leading U.M. scholars, including some who are John Wesley Fellows, who by study, writing and publishing will seek “to recapture the theological vision that once gave Methodism its spiritual power and appeal.” Stay tuned as this project develops.
At present over 700,000 persons, 7,400 clergy and nearly 1,600 churches have identified themselves as supportive of The Confessing Movement.
I wish them all the best in their endeavour.
As a description of the book The Churching of America: 1776-2005 concludes:
[Roger Finke and Rodney Stark] argue that … When theology becomes too logical, or too secular, it loses people.