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Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 17:24-27

The Temple Tax

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.[a] Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

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This scene no doubt took place at Peter’s house, where Jesus stayed when He was in Capernaum.

The temple tax was a religious tax and not a Roman one.

John MacArthur says it was first recorded in the Book of Exodus (emphases mine):

In Exodus chapter 30 when the tabernacle was established and it was carried from there to the temple, God gave a law through Moses. And the Lord spoke unto Moses,” Exodus 30:11, “When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord.” How much, verse 13 says, “Half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary.” A half shekel shall be the offering to the Lord. Verse 15 says, “They shall not give more if they’re rich, they shall not give less if they’re poor when they make an offering to the Lord, half shekel for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation that it may be a memorial to the children of Israel before the Lord to make atonement for your souls.” Half shekel.

Now Nehemiah reduced it to a third shekel when they came back from captivity because they were so poor. But the half shekel had been reinstituted and in this particular temple in Jerusalem, there was a half shekel temple tax that had to be paid by every Jewish male and had to be paid annually. And, by the way, if you didn’t pay it, they took compensation out of your personal belongings.

As for the word ‘two-drachma’, or ‘didrachma’ in some translations, and Jewish term ‘stater’, meaning ‘half a shekel’, he explains:

Now the term used here is didrachma. And basically a half a shekel, that’s a Jewish concept, was equal to two Greek drachmas, d-r-a-c-h-m-a-e, two Greek drachmas. And the tax then became known as the double drachma, or the didrachma, that’s the Greek term. And that is the one…it basically represents two days wages. That is the tax they were after. The half-shekel which equals the didrachma in Greek coinage.

And so, they came to collect that. Now commonly speaking, it was customary because there was no double didrachma in Greek coinage, they had the term but the economy had inflated to the point where they didn’t have didrachma. So what they used was a stater. And the stater was equal to two didrachma, or four drachma. Are you with me? So people would normally go together and pay one stater, and that would cover their temple tax.

However, Matthew Henry says that this tax was not insisted upon so much in Galilee. Therefore, when the temple tax collectors asked Peter whether Jesus paid the tax (verse 24), it was not meant as an attack but as a genuine, respectful enquiry — so much so that they did not want to bother Him, so they asked Peter. The tax collectors knew of Jesus, possibly witnessed His teachings and miracles, and thought He might be exempt from paying the tax:

The demand was very modest[;] the collectors stood in such awe of Christ, because of his mighty works, that they durst not speak to him about it, but applied themselves to Peter, whose house was in Capernaum, and probably in his house Christ lodged he therefore was fittest to be spoken to as the housekeeper, and they presumed he knew his Master’s mind …

they asked this with respect, intimating, that if he had any privilege to exempt him from this payment, they would not insist upon it.

Peter answered ‘Yes’, meaning that Jesus paid His taxes (verse 25). MacArthur reminds us that His is our example to follow:

There are people who are Christian people who don’t pay taxes. They don’t think they have any reason to pay taxes, they don’t like what’s done with their money and so forth and so they don’t pay. And some of them get away with it because the government knows that to prosecute and track them all down and go through the fight would be to lose more money than you would gain. But Jesus, does He pay taxes? Verse 25, “Peter said yes…yes, Jesus always pays His didrachma.” And you can imply from that that He always paid His taxes…always. Jesus is not a tax evader. He’s not a tax dodger.

Peter went indoors and Jesus asked him if kings taxed their own sons or other people. He was asking whether God would tax His Son. Peter replied that taxes came from other people, and Jesus affirmed that kings’ sons do not pay it (verse 26). The implication is that He is actually exempt from paying temple tax.

However, in order ‘not to give offence’ (verse 27), Jesus told Peter to go to the Sea of Galilee, take the first fish he caught and give the coin in its mouth to the tax collectors. The shekel would cover both Jesus’s and Peter’s temple tax.

Henry explains the possible offence given and why Jesus paid the tax:

Few knew, as Peter did, that he was the Son of God and it would have been a diminution to the honour of that great truth, which was yet a secret, to advance it now, to serve such a purpose as this. Therefore Christ drops that argument, and considers, that if he should refuse this payment, it would increase people’s prejudice against him and his doctrine, and alienate their affections from him, and therefore he resolves to pay it.

He makes this point:

Note, Christian prudence and humility teach us, in many cases, to recede from our right, rather than give offence by insisting upon it

Henry also observes that a humble fish had the coin which would go to pay for the maintenance of the temple and provide the spiritual sustenance for God’s people:

when he could have taken it out of an angel’s hand.

That Peter had to go angling in order to catch the fish signifies that:

Peter has something to do, and it is in the way of his own calling too to teach us diligence in the employment we are called to, and called in. Do we expect that Christ should give to us? Let us be ready to work for him

Peter was made a fisher of men, and those that he caught thus, came up where the heart is opened to entertain Christ’s word, the hand is open to encourage his ministers.

Finally, Jesus allowed Peter to benefit from his obedience and endeavour:

Peter fished for this money, and therefore part of it went for his use. Those that are workers together with Christ in winning souls shall shine with him. Give it for thee and me. What Christ paid for himself was looked upon as a debt what he paid for Peter was a courtesy to him. Note, it is a desirable thing, if God so please, to have wherewithal of this world’s goods, not only to be just, but to be kind not only to be charitable to the poor, but obliging to our friends. What is a great estate good for, but that it enables a man to do so much the more good?

Next time: Matthew 18:1-4

Coventry Scouts groups have a visit from Bear Grylls.jpgThis week in Britain, the notional artist Grayson Perry took issue with the masculinity that adventurer Bear Grylls displays, terming it ‘useless’.

(Photo of Grylls courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Perry is known for his cross-dressing, which you can see in a Spectator article on his sniping against alpha males. Perry is currently doing a show for Channel 4 which explores the ‘problems’ that ‘masculinity and manly men’ cause society.

Perry, 56, has enjoyed cross-dressing from his childhood. Not surprisingly, this fractured the relationship he had with his parents and his step-parents. In 1979, his step-father told him not to return home. He has been estranged from his mother since 1990.

He is best known for his pottery, although he has also created tapestries. Some of his work explores explicit sadomasochism and child abuse. However, he has had a one-man exhibition at the Stedjick Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 which led to him winning the Turner Prize in 2003. Incredibly, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to contemporary art. In 2015, he became chancellor of University of the Arts London.

He is married and has a daughter, born in 1992.

Unlike Perry, Edward Michael ‘Bear’ Grylls does not have any honours, although he has been Chief Scout since 2009. He was the youngest ever Briton to become one. He was 35 at the time.

His parents are Conservatives. He attended Eton College and has two university degrees. He has been interested in mountaineering and martial arts since his teenage years. For several years he served in the Territorial Army and as a reservist with the 21 SAS Regiment (Artists Reserve) until 1997.

His expeditions are too numerous to mention but include Everest, the Himalayas and Antarctica. He has starred and presented several television programmes for Channel 4 on extreme life in the outdoors. He also gives motivational talks to various organisations, including schools and churches.

He is married and has three sons.

His Christian faith is deeply important to him.

Perry finds Grylls appalling:

Top of his no-no list? Bear Grylls. Yes, Perry says that the Old Etonian adventurer is a ‘hangover’ who represents a ‘masculinity that is useless’:

‘Try going into an estate agent in Finsbury Park [London] and come out with an affordable flat. I want to see Bear Grylls looking for a decent state school for his child!’

Bear Grylls would have no problem at all in choosing a school for his sons, state or otherwise.

Perry also attacked Grylls’s show The Island:

Perry says it helps foster a masculinity that makes life in modern society more difficult.

Grylls responded in his usual gentlemanly style:

In the wild, quiet courage, humility, persistence and selflessness makes a man and also a woman. That is never outdated.

I agree with the Spectator when they say they’d be interested to see how Grayson Perry would fare in the wild — if only he could bring himself to leave leafy London.

Although I do not watch his shows, I’ll take Grylls’s alpha male masculinity any day, especially when he says:

my faith is a quiet, strong backbone in my life, and the glue to our family.

It’s time he was awarded an honour.

Now that Spring has sprung, many of us are thinking about new — or more — plants for our garden without spending too much money.

An easy and guaranteed way to get plant cuttings to root is to use an wine bottle filled with water as the growing medium.

I’ve been using this method regularly since friends shared it with me at university many years ago.

Tips for success:

1/ Use a wine bottle made from dark glass.

2/ The plant cutting should not be flowering.

3/ Be sure to top up the water level as necessary.

4/ Allow the cutting to develop a good root system before planting in soil. This might take several weeks, depending on the type of plant.

You can also leave the plant in the wine bottle. Most will grow quite happily. You’ll be amazed at the root system.

However, not all plants like such a wet environment. Once you see yellowing leaves, it’s time to transfer the plant to soil.

This is an ideal way to start or grow new plants, particularly for people who have a green thumb but do not have their own gardens. It’s tidier as soil is not needed. A plant growing in a wine bottle is also a great conversation piece.

The Atlantic has an excellent article on Peanuts‘ creator Charles Schulz, who died in 2000.

‘The Spirituality of Snoopy’ explores Schulz’s Christianity and how it informed his long-running comic strip, which first appeared in print in 1950.

Stephen Lind, author of the recently published book A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz, gave an interview to the magazine. He said:

Many familiar with the Peanuts strip don’t think of Charles Schulz as a Christian pioneer. But he was a leader in American media when it comes to both the strength and frequency of religious references.

Interestingly, Blondie‘s creator, Chic Young, warned cartoonists in that era not to mention religion in comic strips.

Schulz was raised a Lutheran but, after serving with the United States Army in World War II and coming to grips with his mother’s death at that time, he drifted away from church. His father was worried his son was losing his faith. His widow Jean explained how Charles — Sparky — returned to the fold:

When he came back from the army he was very lonely. His mother had died and he was invited to church by a pastor who had prepared his mother’s service from the Church of God. Sparky’s father was worried about him and was talking to the pastor and so the pastor invited Sparky to come to church. So Sparky went to church, joined the youth group and for a good 4-5 years he went to Bible study and went to church 3 times a week (2 Bible studies, 1 service). He said he had read the Bible through three times and taught Sunday school. He was always looking for what those passages REALLY might have meant. Some of his discussions with priests and ministers were so interesting because he wanted to find out what these people (who he thought were more educated than he) thought.

When he taught Sunday school, he would never tell people what to believe. God was very important to him, but in a very deep way, in a very mysterious way.

This particular Church of God is a Wesleyan holiness group based in Anderson, Indiana. (There are other Churches of God.) Wesleyan pietism forbids alcohol and smoking.

Schulz’s daughter Amy Schulz Johnson eventually became a Mormon. In November 2015, she told the Deseret News that:

Her parents never told her not to drink alcohol, but because they never drank, she didn’t either.

“Our great life prepared me [for Mormonism], because I didn’t have to change much of anything,” Johnson said.

When Johnson was growing up, she said that her father dropped everything when she or her three siblings walked into his office. In fact, as a young child, she actually thought he was unemployed because he was always there for them.

That dedication also ended up saving some of the Schulz children’s friends. Johnson recalled:

“Some of my friends didn’t tell me until they were in their 40s the things that were happening in their homes,” Johnson said. “And … I can’t really word this properly, but they said, and this had everything to do with Dad, that coming to our house every weekend is what saved them emotionally. … Seeing a normal, nice dad who was a good person helped them survive what they were going through themselves. … Our home was a shelter from the storm for them.”

Johnson refers to her adolescence as “wonderful, happy and clean-cut.” She often tells people, “If you think Utah Valley Mormons are sheltered, you should’ve been a Schulz!” Johnson believes the Schulz residence was a place where God’s influence could be felt because “the Spirit is in homes of goodness.”

By that time, Schulz had made a lot of money from Peanuts and was able to transform his 28-acre estate in Sebastopol, California, into a self-contained family compound complete with a swimming pool, baseball fields, a golf course and a park.

The Atlantic article points out that, when A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965, fewer than nine per cent of Christmas specials on American television contained religious references. The programme shows how materialism does not satisfy the Peanuts characters. Linus ends up going to the Bible and reads aloud the King James Version of Jesus’s birth from the Gospel of St Luke.

Two years before that, the debate over prayer in state schools was at its peak. Schulz penned a strip with Sally reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and ending it with ‘Amen!’

Schulz once said:

I preach in these cartoons, and I reserve the same rights to say what I want to say as the minister in the pulpit.

Out of nearly 17,800 strips, 560 contain a spiritual, biblical or theological reference. Clergy noticed and asked Schulz for permission to reproduce his comic strips for use at church. He willingly granted permission in nearly all cases.

His Bible had many handwritten notes in the margins. He also enjoyed reading theological commentaries on the Bible. During his time as a Sunday School teacher, he once led a group in a study of the entire Old Testament.

The Atlantic shared some of Schulz’s wry Biblical references in Peanuts:

In June of 1952, the somewhat sad and self-deprecating Charlie Brown borrowed Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes 1:14: “All is vanity!” In December of 1955, a shivering Snoopy found solace in Jesus’s words from John 16:33: “Be of good cheer, Snoopy … Yes, be of good cheer.”

Sometimes the Bible references were clearly cited. When he catches Snoopy taking food out of the refrigerator, Charlie Brown pulls out a Bible and quotes from the Ten Commandments: “Look, it says here in Exodus, ‘Thou shall not steal.’” Snoopy borrows his book, flips the page and hands it back. “Deuteronomy 25:4 …” Charlie Brown reads, “Thou shall not muzzle the ox while he treads out the grain.”

But often, they were more cryptic. When Linus asks Snoopy, “Does it bother you that the Bible doesn’t speak very highly of dogs?” the beagle replies with a reference to one of Jesus’s teachings, “Sure it bothers me, but I just turn the other muzzle.” In a famous strip from 1959, Linus built a sandcastle that the rain washed away. Linus concludes, “There’s a lesson to be learned here, but I don’t know what it is …” But many readers would have recognized the allusion to Jesus’s parable about a man who built his house on sand in Matthew 7, and Schulz later said that this was exactly what he intended.

In 1965, a Presbyterian minister, Robert L Short, wrote The Gospel According to Peanuts, which featured Schulz’s famous illustrations. Over 10 million copies were sold. Westminster John Knox Press published a 35th anniversary edition in 2000.

In 1968, Short wrote The Parables of Peanuts, which HarperCollins reissued in 2002.

Schulz was careful not to be didactic or domineering with his beliefs. He is remembered as a loving, generous, kind man.

Interestingly, he appeared regularly in Forbes‘s 400 wealthiest Americans lists. His success came from his gentle personality which shone through in his comic strips and characters. He wrote about what he knew and enjoyed.

His characters are based on real-life people — and a dog — in his milieu. He and Charlie Brown shared similar traits. Schulz was shy and retiring growing up. He was the youngest in his high school class. His family owned a dog that resembled Snoopy. Lucy was based on his first wife, Joyce Halverson, and Peppermint Patty on one of his mother’s cousins.

In later life, his Christianity took on a vaguer tone and, by the 1980s, he stopped going to church. However, his daughter Amy Schulz Johnson said that when she was on missionary work with the Mormons in England, Schulz wrote her weekly. She treasures those missives:

“It’s funny because if I read you parts of them, you would think that my dad was a stake president in our church or something,” Johnson said. “He would have the most beautiful things to say about Christ and the scriptures.”

In closing, it is interesting that Charles Schulz made ‘Good grief!’ common parlance and introduced ‘security blanket’ into the English language. In fact, in Britain, it’s called a ‘Linus blanket’!

Democratic Party voters should know about Hillary Clinton’s career.

It dumbfounds millions that this woman can even countenance running for the presidency. However, as one of the videos below explains, this has been the plan since 1986, when Bill was the governor of Arkansas.

It is interesting that Hillary considers Donald Trump her opponent in the general election. A few days ago, her campaign launched an ad against the billionaire attacking his ‘extreme makeover’ recently announced by convention manager Paul Manafort to the GOPe in Hollywood, Florida. Meanwhile, Trump is unsure whether he will even be the Republican nominee without Manafort and his team going on a PR offensive with delegates.

In other Hillary news, one of her supporters, David Brock, is heading a new Super PAC called Correct The Record (CTR), which will employ online trolls at the cost of $1m to ‘correct’ Bernie Sanders’s supporters in social media comments. Obama’s 2008 campaign team were the first to use this bullying technique. Oh, my. Who can forget how down and dirty they were?

Clinton voters point to Bill’s stellar presidency and how wonderful it was having a first lady who was a lawyer. Millions of other Americans did not share their enthusiasm, but having Bob Dole as the lacklustre Republican candidate in 1996 effectively swept Bill into office for a second term.

After they left office — and ‘they’ is no mistake — warm, fuzzy memories lived on in voters’ minds. So, when Hillary became a New York senator, her fans cheered. However, when she lost to Obama in 2008, they fractured. Some went to Obama, but the rest broke off to support either John McCain (and, later, Mitt Romney) or the Green Party. As they left the Democratic Party and became unaffiliated, they started researching their former heroine’s background. What they discovered wasn’t pretty.

A Bernie Sanders supporter has an interesting site called Won’t Vote Hillary which lists a number of reasons — greater and lesser — as to why not.

Unless I missed it, one hasn’t made the list: her smoothing over New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s racist joke at an event on April 10. The New York Daily News reported:

Their big moment became a big blunder when a tasteless joke — built off the stereotype that black people are chronically late — fell flat.

“Thanks for the endorsement. Took you long enough,” Clinton deadpanned.  

“Sorry, Hillary. I was running on C.P. Time,” de Blasio replied, riffing on the phrase “colored people time,” meaning always late.

When the event’s compère, black actor Leslie Odom Jr, objected, Clinton said:

“’Cautious Politician Time.’ I’ve been there.”

The New York Post has the video clip with subtitles.

Can you imagine if Donald Trump had been involved in a tasteless skit like that? The media would still be talking about it.

There are serious questions Hillary’s current supporters need to ask themselves about her candidacy. Why have questionable ethics been at the forefront throughout her career? What is her end game?

The compelling videos below provide those questions — and answers — against Hillary.

White House questions

The ‘Anonymous’ video below is 25 minutes long. In a simple and straightforward manner, it covers the many Clinton scandals from Bill’s time in the White House to Hillary’s time as Obama’s Secretary of State through to the present day. Benghazi (‘What does it matter?’) starts at the 16:00 mark:

Hillary’s 2016 campaign and the Clinton Foundation are also discussed. This is well worth watching, because seeing all these scandals and unethical activity bundled together makes the case against Hillary all the more powerful.

Arkansas questions

Two other videos raise ethical and criminal issues concerning the Clintons from their Arkansas days through to the campaign for the presidency in 1992.

Both feature interviews with a one-time Clinton insider, Larry Nichols, who eventually disassociated himself from the couple.

The Clinton Chronicles is nearly 90 minutes long and explores the couple’s shaky ethics at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and later when Bill was Arkansas governor:

It’s shocking and, as the notice says at the beginning of the film, is intended for mature audiences only.

The next film is 33 minutes long and was made last year. In it, Nichols discusses the past and present. He says that, 30 years ago, the Clintons devised their 1986 Plan, which ultimately involves Bill becoming the Secretary General of the United Nations. If he achieved that power and if Hillary were President of the United States at the same time, they would accomplish their goal of being the most powerful couple in the world:

Nichols cautions against voters being taken in by Hillary’s attempt to position herself as the underdog in her campaign. She is anything but. He also says that the New York Times — knowingly or unknowingly — serves as a PR machine for her.

Nichols, who is battling cancer, thinks there is a very real possibility that the 2016 election could be the last one that Americans recognise. He says that if Hillary Clinton wins, the nation may be irrevocably changed — and not for the better.

He said that Hillary has always been the power behind the throne. It was she who directed Bill’s career. He explained that Bill is much more laid back, but Hillary’s mind is focussed on power.

Nichols sees only one viable option for reversing America’s travails and restoring the Great Republic: Donald Trump in the White House.

The Washington Post has an illuminating report on the amount of money presidential candidates have spent in February and March 2016 per vote.

There is an excellent graphic a quarter of the way down the page which shows the breakdown. This is before outside money, e.g. PAC funding, is factored in.

Strangely, Jeb Bush was omitted from the list, although his failed campaign cost $130m.

On the Republican side, overall, Ben Carson spent well beyond what the other remaining GOP candidates did. His campaign’s profligate spending made the news earlier this year. Unfortunately, in an attempt to speculate to accumulate, most of that money went on fundraising to generate more contributions: $85.64 per vote! That is more than four times’ Bernie Sanders’s equivalent spend of $21.27.

Carson aside, the Republicans have spent much less per vote than the Democrats. In February, Hillary Clinton spent $77.25 and Bernie Sanders an eye-watering $126.42. In March, Clinton spent $3.73 and Sanders $7.29.

Contrast those figures with Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz’s spend of $65.64 in February and Donald Trump’s $22.44 that same month. In March, Cruz spent $2.12 per vote and Trump $1.85.

Trump got excellent value for money, although that figure is about to change somewhat as he injects $20 million into his campaign for targeted aggressive advertising and GOTV (get out the vote) strategies.

The big picture shows us how Democrats spend far more money than Republicans do. If this is only a presidential primary campaign, imagine how much in hard-earned taxpayer dollars they would spend once in office. Food for thought.

In reading the latest news and opinions on Brexit at PoliticalBetting.com — a fine resource for my fellow Britons, particularly the readers’ comments* — I ran across an interesting comment from a man who works for his family’s firm.

Recently, he was going through some old paperwork and discovered a note one of his cousins had penned in the 1930s:

God has been very good to our family. We have been asked to play a role in which we can serve the public, in a manner that is pleasant, and is not unrewarded in worldly terms.

Interestingly, the cousin started with a statement of thanksgiving, perhaps as a reminder to other family members. Then, he went on to describe their company as playing a pre-ordained role, as if God put them in that business for a particular reason. Judging by the last clause, they were very successful and, no doubt, continue to be so today.

It is a thoughtful, considered way to think of one’s family business.

* Read comments bottom to top.

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 17:22-23

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

22 As they were gathering[a] in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

——————————————————————————————–

Matthew 17 records glorious, dramatic, emotional events: the Transfiguration, Jesus’s explanation that what happened to John the Baptist will happen to Him, the angry commotion before He healed the boy with the demon and now, a third mention of His upcoming suffering and resurrection.

In particular, imagine Peter, James’s and John’s emotions and thought processes during this time. They saw divine majesty, received confirmation of Jesus’s imminent death, then saw Him perform a creative miracle and, once more, heard Him speak of death. It must have been a day of extreme highs and lows. They had much to witness and understand.

Matthew records that Jesus spoke of His death three times in a short space of time. The first mention is Matthew 16:21-23, which is the most familiar passage for most of us (emphases mine):

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord![e] This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[f] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

The second time was after the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:10-13):

10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Today’s verses contain the third mention. Jesus wants the disciples to anticipate what is coming, even if they are unable to fully grasp how horrible and how glorious those three days will be.

Jesus spoke of His fate in a passive way. He would be delivered — handed over — to men (verse 22) who will kill Him. Then, three days later, He would be raised from the dead (verse 23) — by God the Father.

If they had understood what He was saying, they would have been alarmed yet comforted. Instead, they were ‘greatly distressed’ (verse 23). Three crucial words went into one ear and out the other: ‘the third day’.

How often does this happen to us? Someone says, ‘Listen to me, because this is important’. We receive their instruction or advice, but a portion of it goes unheeded, perhaps because we are anxious or preoccupied. Later, that person comes back to say that we did not do what they said. They repeat what they said before, we then grasp the whole message and respond, ‘Thanks. I missed that the first time.’

So, the words ‘the third day’ have not registered with the disciples. Matthew Henry explains that, had they heard and understood the message fully:

This was an encouragement, not only to him, but to his disciples for if he rise the third day, his absence from them will not be long, and his return to them will be glorious.

They did not feel as if they could ask Jesus for an explanation this time lest they run the risk of a rebuke similar to Peter’s. They remained sorrowful.

John MacArthur explains:

When Jesus said He was going to die, that’s all they heard. It may well have been very much like Martha when Jesus in John 11 came to Bethany and they said Lazarus is dead, he’s been dead for four days, by now his body stinketh, and all of this. And Jesus said he’ll rise. And Martha said, “I know he’ll rise in the last day at the resurrection, what I’m concerned about is now.” And it may well have been that that’s where the disciples were. They were somewhere in Daniel 12 thinking about the fact that when Jesus said He would rise again, that sure, everybody’s going to rise someday when there’s that great resurrection. And so they missed the third day, or they didn’t understand what the third day meant or what kind of a day. So all they heard was that He was going to die. And you can imagine that three out of the twelve who had come down off the mount of transfiguration seen the resplendent glory of Jesus Christ, now they come down, they see Him use His power to heal this demoniac and they’re on cloud nine and all of a sudden now He says to them I’m going to die. And that’s all they need to hear and they’re back in the despondence of their despair. And so they’re in great despair.

The Book of Daniel attracts a fringe group of Christians unduly interested in the end times. The same are also putting more emphasis on Revelation than on the gospels and letters instructing us on leading a Christian life. The two books are similar in drama and imagery.

Note Daniel 12:8-9:

I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.

That indicates we should not obsess over the end times. Read, study and understand — then move on: ‘Go your way, Daniel’.

In closing, these are the verses in Daniel 12 to which MacArthur referred regarding the disciples’ and Martha’s understanding of the resurrection:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

It is only after Jesus’s death and resurrection take place that the disciples are able to look back and understand what Jesus was telling them. MacArthur explains:

And that’s important, you see, because if He got killed and they didn’t know it was coming, and they didn’t know it was in the plan, they might look back and say, “Boy, that must have been a strange thing for God to have to deal with…never intended that.” So the Lord just tells them it’s going to happen, tells them it’s going to happen, tells them it’s going to happen. They don’t understand. When it happens, they understand, they look back and say, “Oh, that was the plan.”

Next time: Matthew 17:24-27

The first US election cycle I remember was 1964’s.

Since then, I have kept track of the rest, but, like many other political animals, only from the Republican and Democratic conventions through to November.

This year, however, primary season has got me hooked. It has millions of Americans paying attention. Even better, the rest of the world is watching with rapt interest.

A case in point is a warning from Kim Beazley, the former Australian ambassador to the US who is pro-TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), against Donald Trump who opposes it. The Guardian published the report on April 20. The comments from anti-globalists were illuminating: maybe a Trump presidency wouldn’t be such a bad thing, after all.

Bernie Sanders has also attracted much interest. Guardian readers ask why Hillary Clinton gets more coverage than the Vermont senator.

Normally, no one would care.

However, 2016’s primary season will go down in history, not only because of the candidates but also for the awareness it has sparked. The US will never be the same. The rest of the world will also understand arcane aspects, e.g. delegate selection, they never thought they’d be interested in.

The US is fortunate that, this year, they have two anti-establishment candidates: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Although they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, they share some commonalities — delegate problems, for one — and attract anti-globalists. Both are disturbing the elites. Anti-globalists watching and reading on the sidelines hope both win their party nominations this summer.

We’re learning how complicated the delegate process is in both the Republican and Democratic parties. We see how jealously party panjandrums are guarding their corrupt Uniparty system. A Sanders supporter will agree with Trump when he says the system is ‘rigged’ and works against Bernie as well as himself.

We’re watching every primary result and assessing state delegate procedures. We understand that superdelegates can work against Sanders and that Trump’s victories do not lock in his delegates. We wonder to what extent the popular primary vote counts if party elites ultimately go against it.

We think it’s great that people like Trump and Sanders are shining light on the electoral process. We’re cheering as party leaders, comfortable in their corruption, are unsettled to find out that the average citizen is cottoning on to how the game is played.

Can we do anything about it? Probably not immediately. However, one thing is sure: the US presidential election has set off a strong demand for true transparency, a notion politicians often speak of but rarely deliver.

The words of Justice Louis D Brandeis are just as relevant today as when he wrote them in 1914 (emphasis in the original):

Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

Those words appeared in his article entitled Other People’s Money—and How Bankers Use It. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) Thanks to the election, perhaps 2016 will result in a leader of the free world who can affect real change instead of using it as a mere campaign slogan.

Today, BBC1 broadcast the Queen’s 90th birthday walkabout from Windsor.

Tens of thousands attended and Her Majesty unveiled a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town.

Although the majority of well-wishers were British, a number of them, especially women, came from Commonwealth countries and the United States. One British-American group of women met in the crowd at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They have kept in touch ever since and made plans to attend this historic event.

Queen Elizabeth looked resplendent in a ‘spring grass green’ coat and matching hat trimmed with fresh white and yellow flowers. She was all smiles as she accepted cards, flowers and gifts from young and old alike. She deftly handed them to her lady in waiting. Groups of schoolchildren and adults sang Happy Birthday as she walked along the route. Prince Philip kept a discreet distance behind his wife and also talked to the crowds.

As one commentator put it, when it comes to meeting the public, the Royal Family say, ‘We’re in the happiness business’. The BBC interviewed a variety of celebrities and authors who have met the Queen. Everyone said that they were in awe of her but felt at home at the same time. They added that she puts you at the centre, however briefly.

Most people lining Windsor’s streets have never known any other British monarch. Sixty-three years and counting is a very long, intergenerational time — the longest any sovereign has ever ruled over our nation.

During that time, the world has seen rapid change and upheaval. One pundit said that the Queen’s presence gives us a sense of stability and continuity. No matter what happens, she is there with us as our head of state.

The mayor of Windsor and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire acted as hosts for the walkabout and tea party at the town’s Guildhall. At the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip met several nonagenarians. The Queen then cut her birthday cake, made by last year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadia. Another Bake Off contestant from the same series, Martha, also baked cakes for the party guests.

After spending time at the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip stepped into a brand new custom Range Rover which has a large open-top roof, allowing both of them to stand and wave to the crowds as they were driven down streets in Windsor town centre. Someone dubbed it the Queenmobile.

This evening, the Queen will celebrate her birthday at Windsor Castle with 60 people, family and friends. Entertainment will be laid on.

A discussion took place as to whether the Queen knew what was being planned. Those in the know said that she probably did. She does not like surprises. She likes an orderly plan for everything.

They also said that while Queen Elizabeth presides as head of state, Prince Philip is the head of the household. He gives the orders for everything, including when to clear plates from the table. Servants watch him for the cue.

Commentators said that Windsor Castle really is the nexus for the Royal Family. Everyone feels comfortable there. They also consider Windsor as their home town. They know a lot of people there and feel an affinity with all the residents.

In closing, RMC (French talk radio) announced the walkabout on their morning news broadcasts. One of the talk show hosts also mentioned the new Royal website. He added that part of the job description for the site’s community manager, who also is in charge of tweets, is to have lunch with the Queen whenever she is in residence. How wonderful!

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