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Bible ancient-futurenetThe 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.

2 Corinthians 10:1-6

Paul Defends His Ministry

10 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s entreaty to the Corinthians to give generously to the fund for the church in Jerusalem.

The final four chapters of 2 Corinthians — 10 through 13 — are about dealing with the false teachers in the church in Corinth who are lobbing false and damaging accusations against the Apostle. These chapters are about spiritual warfare.

John MacArthur says that Paul must root them out before they ruin the Corinthians’ church (emphases mine):

He knew that there w[ere] still some glowing embers from the fire of accusation against him and in some little places, in some corners they were ready to be fanned into flame at the first opportunity. He knew there were false teachers still there.

Still hiding in the congregation were some rebels who were ready to again start up the revolution. He also knew what anybody knows who’s ever dealt with slander, that it is extremely difficult – it is extremely difficult – to clear your name. Once it goes to the wind, it’s almost impossible to get it all back. The lies had been propounded against him with great cleverness, with great subtlety, with great intensity, and with great effectiveness. They had been spread and far and wide through a conspiracy that could not be undone easily or quickly.

There still were false teachers in the church. There still were those who believed them. They had just been pressed underground by the general repentance of the congregation. There were rebels then waiting for the first opportunity to assert themselves. In the meantime, they would war some guerilla warfare behind the scenes, some terrorist activity, picking their spots here and there to repeat their lies in appropriate times and places.

The poison that was underground would no doubt seep to the surface occasionally, and furthermore, this had gone far and wide and many people were asking the good folks at Corinth to explain all of this, and they needed to be armed with as much information about the integrity and credibility and authority of Paul as possible, and thus does he pen 2 Corinthians.

Now, in the final section, he directs his words at those remaining rebels, that recalcitrant minority still entrenched there. That group that’s poisoned under the surface, those troublemakers who for the moment are silent, those false teachers hiding in the wings, as it were, those people ready to assert themselves again at the appropriate moment, those remaining rebels. The minority apart from the majority who repented are the direct objects of what he says in chapters 10, 11, 12, and 13. It’s very important – very important – that he deal with that.

Titus will be delivering 2 Corinthians to the congregation, but it will take Paul some time afterwards to return to the city. Paul wants the Corinthians to handle the bulk of the controversy by the time he arrives. Otherwise, he will deal with the renegades himself in a spiritually forceful way:

Titus will take this letter to them, and it’ll be about two and a half months after they get this letter that he will come for his third visit. So he is giving them a couple of months to deal with this issue and for the people who are still disloyal to repent so that when he comes there, they don’t face this great soldier. He’s coming to fight if fighting is necessary. And that is exactly how he opens the whole section, talking about warfare and weapons and fortresses and bringing them down. It is a warfare perspective. This is his battle plan. If he has to fight, he will fight.

In the first verse, Paul asserts his apostolic authority by referring to himself in three ways: ‘I, Paul, myself’. He says that he encourages the Corinthians through the Christlike example of meekness and gentleness. He ends that verse with some sarcasm, noting that the congregation thinks he is weak when in their presence and bold when he is far away from them.

Matthew Henry’s commentary points out that whereas in the beginning of 2 Corinthians, Paul spoke of himself and Timothy, he now speaks of himself only:

We find, in the introduction to this epistle, he joined Timothy with himself; but now he speaks only for himself, against whom the false apostles had particularly levelled their reproaches

Some translations include the word ‘Now’ before ‘I, Paul, myself’.

MacArthur explains that this is only to denote this final section of four chapters. MacArthur also explains why Paul feels the need to reassert his authority:

“Now” signifies the introduction of the final section. Then he says, “I, Paul, myself” – this is of great importance. It is of significant importance. What had been questioned was his authority. What had been questioned was his right to speak for God. What had been questioned was his message, his gospel, his apostleship. His credentials were under attack and dispute. His authority was under attack and dispute. His apostleship was under assault.

But now the people, the church in general, have reaffirmed that, and they have reaffirmed that he is the apostle who speaks with integrity and authority, and so having had that reaffirmation, he does just that here and says, “I, Paul, myself urge you.” He puts himself right in the place of authority. It is his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ with which he speaks. He doesn’t have to get his authority somewhere else, he doesn’t have to have some kind of papers or credentials given to him as the false apostles had said he did. He can stand and speak for himself as the apostle of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Corinthian church, the spiritual father of all the believers that were there.

He was the spokesman of God with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He asserts the authority that they now have affirmed is genuinely his. He does not have to go beyond himself. He doesn’t have to look somewhere else for the authority. And it’s very important that he affirms that so that his words come with authority as his threats come with authority and so will his presence come with divine authority. He will confront the remaining rebels. He has the right to do that. He is the authoritative apostle of Jesus Christ.

MacArthur explores Paul as a soldier for Christ:

before he comes wielding this apostolic authority he says this, “I, Paul, myself beg you,” parakaleō, “I beg you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” I am begging you to end this rebellion. I am begging you to be reconciled. I’m begging you for real peace. He has no desire to see blood spilled. He has no desire for an open conflict. He gets no satisfaction out of carnage. He is patiently compassionate. He has waited in patience. He is going to wait some more. He’s going to send a letter, he’s going to wait a few months more to give them opportunity to repent.

Oh, how like God that is. And isn’t that what he says? “I beg you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” A great soldier is not vicious. He is not full of venom and vitriol and hate. He is not full of anger. He is not full of rage. A great soldier is not full of revenge. He is first and first of all a man of compassion. He is a man of meekness and gentleness.

MacArthur explains what ‘meekness’ actually is, and it’s not weakness. It’s controlled power, something that one keeps in check:

By the way, the word “meekness” refers to the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself in the patient endurance of offenses. It means you’re free from anger, free from hatred, bitterness, desire for revenge when wrongly treated. It means humble and gentle in the midst of unfair treatment. And the word “gentleness,” almost a synonym. First word is prautēs, the second is epieikeia. It means, when applied to someone in authority, it means leniency. Leniency. It refers to a patient submission in the midst of mistreatment, in the midst of injustice, in the midst of disgrace, without anger, without malice, without revenge. And even though you have the power to retaliate, you don’t. That’s what it means.

And no one more characterized that kind of attitude expressed in those two words than Christ, and he says it, the meekness and gentleness of Christ. No one was more powerful than Jesus Christ and yet no one had a better harness on that power. No one had that power under control better. That’s an oft-used definition for prautēs, power under control. No one was more powerful, no one had greater judgment capability than Jesus and yet no one had it under greater control. He took the almighty power of God to bring about a retaliation on sin and kept it in check and instead exercised patience and endurance.

Paul says, “I want to be like my Lord. I want to be as patient, as gentle, as meek, I want to hold my power in check, my authority in check. Even though you’ve mistreated me and maligned me and turned against me, I have no anger, no bitterness, no malice. Even though you have disgraced me and shamed my name and shamed the Lord and shamed the gospel, I want to be patient with you.” That’s the character of a great soldier. He doesn’t look at the first opportunity to blow someone away; he considers that as the last possible choice.

However, the Corinthians misunderstood Paul’s demeanour. They thought he was weak instead of meek. He knew that and turned that against them with sarcasm:

Sadly, they saw his compassion as weakness. They put the spin on his compassion, his tenderness, his patience, his endurance, his kindness as weakness. And Paul refers to that when he says in verse 1 – he identifies himself, “I, Paul, I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent,” that is sheer sarcasm. He is simply repeating their accusation. This is sarcasm.

That tells you a little bit about the sternness of this section. You’re never more stern than when you use sarcasm, biting irony. And that’s what he does. They had said about Paul, “He is meek when face to face with you, but, boy, when he goes somewhere he’s real bold.” Look down at verse 10, they said his letters are weighty and strong but his personal presence is unimpressive. You know what they were saying about him? They were saying when he’s here, he’s gutless. He’s a wimp.

Face to face, he’s a coward, he doesn’t have any courage, he won’t face the issue. He’s tapeinos. That word usually is used in the New Testament, I think, everywhere but here as a virtue, but they use it in a derogatory sense, he’s a wimp, he’s a weakling when face to face with you. And you know something? When face to face with them, he was compassionate and he was tender and he had a healthy humility. Listen to 1 Corinthians 2:3, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling”

And they said about him, “He’s bold toward you when absent.” Boy, get him behind a pen a few miles away and he gets real fierce. He’s like that squirrelly little frizzy-haired dog behind the gate that barks its head off, and then when you open the gate runs ninety miles an hour in the other direction. He’s fine if he’s protected, if he’s insulated. Get him a distance away and put a pen in his hand and he becomes fierce. Bring him here and he’s weak, he lacks courage.

They were misunderstanding his compassion when he was there. They were misunderstanding his boldness when he was away and they used this to accuse him. This is a very clever accusation, by the way, because no matter what you say, it’s very hard to answer. That’s why this section takes so long and has such complexity to it. I mean if he tries to defend his strength from a distance, that’s a problem because they’ll say, “Oh, yeah, look at that, that’s what we expect.” If he tries to defend his weakness while he was there, they’ll say, “See? We were right, it was true.”

Paul goes on to say that he begs the Corinthians not to make him use his ‘boldness with such confidence’ that he intends using against those who are slandering him, suspecting the Apostle and the believers of ‘walking in the flesh’ (verse 2).

MacArthur explains what Paul is saying:

I’m asking you, folks, to repent. I’m asking you remaining rebels to repent and believe the gospel so that I don’t have to be bold. The word “bold,” literally courageous, tharreō, it’s the word to be courageous. If you want to see my courage, I’ll show it. Don’t force me to display the confrontational courage I can demonstrate if I’m required to do so.

He readily admits to having a warring attitude when called for. And he even starts to sort of crescendo with the idea. He says, “I can be bold with the confidence.” The confidence, literally the word for conviction. I have convictions. I have very strong convictions. And here he is saying I have the courage of my convictions. And if need be, I propose to be courageous. “I propose” means to judge, reckon, to think, to plan. I’ve planned, I’ve reckoned, I propose to be courageous if I need to be, to be bold and courageous about my convictions.

By the way, the second word there, the word translated “to be courageous,” tolmaō, literally means to be daring – to be daring. It’s a very strong term. Tharreō, the earlier word, bold, is the more common word for courage. This is “to be daring.” And what does it mean? To act without fear regardless of consequences. It’s literally to abandon yourself, without regard for personal safety, to disregard any personal safety or preservation.

He says, “Look, you want courage, I’ll show you courage, I’ll show you the courage of conviction that knows no fear.” A synonym for that word “daring” is “fearless.” Fearless. He says I’m resolved that if it’s called for, I will act with whatever aggression is necessary. I will go to battle with whatever force is required, fearlessly, daring to put my life on the line. You want courage, there is courage. And here is the beautiful picture of a tender warrior, a man of immense compassion. But when a fight has to be fought, he’s in the front line fighting it.

Now we come to a well-known verse about spiritual warfare (verse 3), which in the King James Version is more familiar:

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh

This relates to the end of verse 2, wherein the false teachers are accusing Paul of ‘walking according to the flesh’. Paul says that, although he is made of flesh, he has no urge to war after the flesh — to be carnal, or sinful.

MacArthur says this is a play on words from one verse to the next:

Verse 3 is a very interesting verse. He does a little play on words. At the end of verse 2, he reminds them that they had said of him that he walked according to the flesh. And they were speaking of him in the moral sense. To walk in the flesh morally would mean to be corrupt, to be wicked on the inside, to be indecent, immoral, driven by lust and greed and pride …

there’s a very, very careful thing you must note here and that is that this is a play on words in which he moves from the moral to the physical. He does not walk in the flesh morally as they have accused him, but he does walk in the flesh physically, and that’s what he means in verse 2. He’s simply saying I’m human. I’m human.

He denies the accusation that he is corrupt, but he agrees with the reality that he is human. He is not walking in the flesh in the sense that they mean, but he is walking in the flesh in the sense of being a physical human being.

Paul goes on to say that the weapons of his warfare are not those that men use but rather those of divine power that can destroy worldly strongholds (verse 4).

Henry explains the spiritual warfare at work in the ministry:

Here observe, (1.) The work of the ministry is a warfare, not after the flesh indeed, for it is a spiritual warfare, with spiritual enemies and for spiritual purposes. And though ministers walk in the flesh, or live in the body, and in the common affairs of life act as other men, yet in their work and warfare they must not go by the maxims of the flesh, nor should they design to please the flesh: this must be crucified with its affections and lusts; it must be mortified and kept under. (2.) The doctrines of the gospel and discipline of the church are the weapons of this warfare; and these are not carnal: outward force, therefore, is not the method of the gospel, but strong persuasions, by the power of truth and the meekness of wisdom. A good argument this is against persecution for conscience’ sake: conscience is accountable to God only; and people must be persuaded to God and their duty, not driven by force of arms. And so the weapons of our warfare are mighty, or very powerful; the evidence of truth is convincing and cogent. This indeed is through God, or owing to him, because they are his institutions, and accompanied with his blessing, which makes all opposition to fall before his victorious gospel. We may here observe, [1.] What opposition is made against the gospel by the powers of sin and Satan in the hearts of men. Ignorance, prejudices, beloved lusts, are Satan’s strong-holds in the souls of some; vain imaginations, carnal reasonings, and high thoughts, or proud conceits, in others, exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, that is, by these ways the devil endeavours to keep men from faith and obedience to the gospel, and secures his possession of the hearts of men, as his own house or property. But then observe, [2.] The conquest which the word of God gains. These strong-holds are pulled down by the gospel as the means, through the grace and power of God accompanying it as the principal efficient cause. Note, The conversion of the soul is the conquest of Satan in that soul.

Using these divine weapons of spiritual warfare, with all thoughts obedient to Christ, enables Paul to destroy arguments and lofty opinions that oppose the knowledge of God (verse 5).

MacArthur rewords the verse for us:

You want to go to battle? I’ll go to battle, but I’m going to give you a warning, I don’t fight like you. I don’t fight on your level. Life and ministry for Paul was war, it is war for all of us. We don’t have to fight it with human weapons. We are human but we don’t use human weapons. It’s war, it’s always war. We’re all engaged in it. The kingdom of darkness is our opponent, and we are fighting for the truth, the preservation and proclamation of the truth. We are fighting for the honor of Jesus Christ. We are fighting for the salvation of sinners and we are fighting for the virtue of saints. We are engaged in war.

Paul ends by saying that he is ready to fully punish every disobedience to the Gospel whilst recognising full obedience to it in others (verse 6).

Henry explains:

The apostle was a prime-minister in the kingdom of Christ, and chief officer in his army, and had in readiness (that is, he had power and authority at hand) to revenge all disobedience, or to punish offenders in a most exemplary and extraordinary manner. The apostle speaks not of personal revenge, but of punishing disobedience to the gospel, and disorderly walking among church-members, by inflicting church-censures. Note, Though the apostle showed meekness and gentleness, yet he would not betray his authority; and therefore intimates that when he would commend those whose obedience was fulfilled or manifested others would fall under severe censures.

Paul continues the theme in the rest of the chapter.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 10:7-12

The Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost — is October 31, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 12:28-34

12:28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

12:29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;

12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

12:31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

12:32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;

12:33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

12:34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s Gospel reading was about Jesus’s brief time in Jericho, the place of His last creative miracle.

Jesus and His disciples then travelled to Jerusalem for Passover, where the events of Mark 12 take place.

We are now into our Lord’s Passion week, which we commemorate during Holy Week, just before Easter.

John MacArthur sets the scene for us:

The day before, on Tuesday, He had gone in and thrown out the bazaars of Annas, He had thrown out the buyers and sellers, the corrupt marketers who were extorting money out of people for animals they didn’t need, and overcharging them on coin exchange. They had turned it into a den of thieves, it had actually been that for a long time. Actually it had been that for centuries. Jesus had done the same thing at the beginning of His ministry, according to John chapter 2, when He went into the temple, made a whip and threw them out. He’s back three years later, the final week of His ministry, two days before His crucifixion and He does it again.

The people who run the religion in Israel are not happy about that, obviously. But they haven’t been happy since He showed up three years earlier and did it the first time. The Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel made up of 70 men, plus the High Priest who were responsible for the theology of Israel, at least in some measure, but more for the civil and religious life of Israel, they were in positions of power. And Jesus had set Himself against them by doing what He did to the temple, now the second time and also because He exposed their theology as apostate, their religion as hypocritical and their influence as damning. They were making sons of hell, He said. And He said that on this same Wednesday. But He had exposed them for the three years of His ministry in very similar fashion.

The Sanhedrin now is infuriated with Him. They’re not only infuriated with Him, the Sanhedrin being made up of Pharisees, Sadducees and certain scribes, most of whom would be Pharisees. Not only furious with Him because of His theology and His assaults on His religion, but because He had become so popular. He had banished illness from the land of Israel for the duration of His ministry. He had power over demons, power over disease, power over death, power over nature. No one had ever lived on this earth that could even come close to Him in expressions of divine power.

when He came into town and there was that great mass of several hundreds of thousands of people hailing Him as their potential Messiah. So not only were they being attacked by Him, economically, in the operation of the temple, they were attacked by Him, theologically, as He exposed them as apostates and hypocrites and spiritual frauds and fakes, but now they were being attacked in terms of their popular power because the crowds were all drawn to Jesus. His popularity threatens them, threatens their power, their position and their income.

In response, they want to discredit Him. They – they don’t know how to get rid of Him. They want Him dead. But they’re afraid of the people because He’s so massively popular. They can’t just wander in and execute Jesus because the crowds would turn on Him. They have to find a means to get the people to turn against Him, and also to get the Romans to see Him as an insurrectionist, somebody amassing an army against Rome, and execute Him for rebellion against Caesar. So, they unpack some of their traps. They try to entrap Him with a series of questions.

Matthew Henry’s commentary summarises these theological tests:

In this chapter, we have, I. The parable of the vineyard let out to unthankful husbandmen, representing the sin and ruin of the Jewish church, Mark 12:1-12. II. Christ’s silencing those who thought to ensnare him with a question about paying tribute Cæsar, Mark 12:13-17. III. His silencing the Sadducees, who attempted to perplex the doctrine of the resurrection, Mark 12:18-27. IV. His conference with a scribe about the first and great command of the law, Mark 12:28-34. V. His puzzling the scribes with a question about Christ’s being the Son of David, Mark 12:35-37. VI. The caution he gave the people, to take heed of the scribes, Mark 12:38-40.

MacArthur directs us to Matthew’s Gospel to see what happened before the scribe in today’s reading approached Jesus:

First came the Pharisees, then the Sadducees, and now this scribe. But you need to know the preliminary to this. There was a meeting held by the Sanhedrin. Matthew tells us about that. Matthew has a parallel passage to this very important text, as you know. What we learn from Matthew’s parallel text, Matthew 22:34, is “they were gathered together.” The meeting of the Sanhedrin reconvened again because the first two traps were utterly unsuccessful.

Both groups have been left stunned and speechless and had gained no ground at all. In fact, they had just become those who aided the showcasing of the brilliance of Jesus. The whole thing was counterproductive. So now they meet again. And it’s important to make that comment from Matthew 22:34, “they were gathered together,” because it’s a fulfillment of a prophecy.

You say, “What prophecy is that?” It’s a prophecy in Psalm 2 in verse 2. In Psalm 2, verse 2 says, “The rulers take counsel against the Lord and against His anointed.” You say, “Well wait a minute, that could have happened a lot of times in history. How do we know that Psalm 2:2 is a prophecy that’s fulfilled here?”

We know that because of Acts chapter 4, Acts chapter 4. Here we have Peter and John and the apostles being arrested. And when they were released in verse 23 – this is after, of course, our Lord’s resurrection and ascension and the Day of Pentecost – “They went to their own companions, reported all the chief priests and elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voice to God with one accord and said, ‘Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Your father David, Your servant said’ – and this is a quote from Psalm 2 – “Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ?” ‘”

And then comes the interpretation of that prophecy. ‘For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.’” And so here the apostles, Peter and John, say that the fulfillment of Psalm 2:2 occurred when they gathered together against Christ. That would embrace the gathering of the Sanhedrin. That would embrace the gathering of the false trials before Annas, before Caiaphas, before Pontius Pilate and Herod, and even the Roman complicity in the death of Christ along with the people of Israel. Verse 28 says, “all of them together were only doing whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”

Returning to today’s reading, a scribe was among the Sanhedrin, who were disputing amongst themselves, and seeing that Jesus answered their questions correctly, asked which commandment was the first of all (verse 28).

Henry posits that the scribe was sincere with his question:

we have reason to hope that he did not join with the other scribes in persecuting Christ; for here we have his application to Christ for instruction, and it was such as became him; not tempting Christ, but desiring to improve his acquaintance with him.

MacArthur says that the Sanhedrin put this man up as their spokesperson for this test:

the Pharisees and the Sadducees didn’t agree on what was divine Law, but they both did agree that Moses’ writings were divine Law; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. They all agreed that is the Law of God. So the Sanhedrin comes up with a question they can all agree to. What is the greatest commandment or what is the most important commandment, what is the foremost commandment.

And their hope is that He’s going to give them something that is not found in the Law of Moses, something that supersedes Moses, something above and beyond Moses.

There is another aspect to this question. Mosaic law is comprised of 613 laws. It would be impossible to obey them all, so tradition dictated a pick-and-choose approach. It is no surprise then that they wanted to know what the foremost commandment in importance was.

Jesus answered, quoting the most revered prayer of the Jews, the Shema (verses 29, 30). ‘Shema’ means ‘hear’, which is the first word in the prayer. There is only one God and you shall love Him with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

This is from Deuteronomy, which focuses on this commandment, worded and reworded in various ways. This was the last book that Moses wrote. It was guidance to the Israelites on how they must conduct themselves in the Promised Land.

This commandment in the Shema is an internal one, not an external one of animal sacrifices, tithes or cleanliness.

MacArthur explains:

… the intellectual, emotional, volitional and physical elements of personhood all combine to love the one true God. It is an intelligent love, it is an emotional love, it is a willing love and it is an active love. It is an all-consuming love. Back in to Mark 12, just to show you how the words are all repeated, “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And the addition of those words “with all” every time is to lay out the emphatic nature of this comprehensive whole-hearted love. We might say that God’s whole-hearted love toward us should not be returned with a half-hearted love on our part.

Jesus continued, saying that we must love our neighbour as we love ourselves, concluding that there are no two commandments greater than these (verse 31).

This follows the construct of the Ten Commandments, the first four of which relate to God and the next six to the way we are to honour and treat others.

MacArthur says:

Why does He come up with these two things? Because there’s no other commandment greater than these. And our Lord also said, “On these two, hang all the law and the prophets.” The Ten Commandments are connected to this. The first four are about loving God. You don’t have any other God. You don’t make a false idol. You don’t take His name in vain. And you remember to worship Him. That’s loving God.

And to ten, it’s about loving man. You’re respectful to your parents. You have respect for authority, you have a respect for life, you don’t kill people. You have a respect for moral purity, you don’t commit adultery. Respect for others’ goods and rights, you don’t steal. You have respect for what is true, you don’t lie. Have respect for what God has provided and you’re content, you don’t covet. All that has to do with man to man. The first half has to do with man to God, then man to man, so that these two commandments are simply a summarization of the whole law.

There are only two possibilities; God’s laws that relate to our relationship to Him, and His laws that relate to our relationship with others. This is the – the genius of our Lord. In these two commands, He has said it all. It’s all gathered up in those two commands. Stunning. Love Me, love others. Even your enemies, Matthew 5:43 to 48, not just your friends, not just your brothers, but love your enemies and you’ll truly be the children of your father. Love others.

The scribe rightly responds that Jesus is correct (verse 32) and that obeying those two commandments are more important than any and all burnt offerings and sacrifices (verse 33).

Henry reminds us that some of the Sanhedrin considered burnt offerings and sacrifices to be more important:

There were those who held, that the law of sacrifices was the greatest commandment of all; but this scribe readily agreed with our Saviour in this–that the law of love to God and our neighbour is greater than that of sacrifice, even than that of whole-burnt-offerings, which were intended purely for the honour of God.

When Jesus heard the scribe’s reply, He commended him for it, saying that the man was not far from the kingdom of God; this exchange put an end to the Sanhedrin’s theological tests (verse 34).

What was Jesus saying? The scribe now needed to believe that He is the Son of God.

Henry says:

What became of this scribe we are not told, but would willingly hope that he took the hint Christ hereby gave him, and that, having been told by him, so much to his satisfaction, what was the great commandment of the law, he proceeded to enquire of him, or his apostles, what was the great commandment of the gospel too. Yet, if he did not, but took, up here, and went no further, we are not to think it strange; for there are many who are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither. Now, one would think, this should have invited many to consult him: but it had a contrary effect; No man, after that, durst ask him any question; every thing he said, was spoken with such authority and majesty, that every one stood in awe of him; those that desired to learn, were ashamed to ask, and those that designed to cavil, were afraid to ask.

MacArthur thinks that the scribe left it there — so close and yet so far:

… that’s good, but not good enough. Near isn’t good enough. You must enter, you must enter, you must enter by faith in Christ, in His death and resurrection. But in what sense is this man near? He’s near because he understands that it’s an internal issue, not a ceremonial ritual issue.

Although the Sanhedrin stopped for the day, they still were not finished with their goal of ending our Lord’s life.

MacArthur says:

They will get there. And by Friday, they’ll have those people screaming for His crucifixion.

MacArthur has a good response to the question of what it means to be a Christian:

When somebody asks you, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” It means to love the Lord your God with all your entire being. We know the one we love, do we not? Because He’s disclosed Himself to us in Scripture. He’s worthy of our love. He’s worthy of far more love than we will ever be able to give Him. Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:11; when Joshua gets his opportunity to speak, he calls for the same thing. He heard Moses and he understood what he said and he calls on the people to do the same thing, to love God, to love God.

The apostle Paul reminded us to let our love abound more and more in all knowledge. And I think our love for God is connected to knowledge. The more you know about God, the more there is to love. Is that not true? Your love is in correlation to the revelation of God which you know. The more you know about God, the more there is to love Him.

We can love God only imperfectly because of our fallen nature. However, we should strive to love Him more and more as we grow in our Christian journey. Reading and studying the New Testament is a perfect way to achieve that, through our knowledge of Christ.

The 2021 Westminster Dog of the Year event was held on Thursday, October 28, 2021 in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London.

Had he lived, Sir David Amess MP (pictured) planned on entering with his French bulldog Vivienne. In the wake of his murder two weeks ago, his close friend and fellow Essex MP Andrew Rosindell was allowed to enter with Vivienne:

On the day of the competition, Rosindell said:

No one loved animals like David, and no one loved their dog like David. I could not feel more sadness at the fact that it will be me chaperoning Vivienne, his dog, at the Dog of the Year, instead of him, but I also could not feel more pride to be able to pay tribute to him in this small way.

Another Essex MP, Mark Francois, accompanied Rosindell, holding the dog’s lead.

The public was allowed to vote for their favourite MP/dog duo. The Kennel Club judges determined their own winner.

Both public and judges voted overwhelmingly for Vivienne, a pawfect tribute to her late master.

Here’s the photo of the winners. Andrew Rosindell holds Amess’s dog and Mark Francois the picture of Sir David and a rescue dog from a previous year’s entry:

The Kennel Club‘s article says:

French Bulldog Vivienne, entered with Sir David Amess before his tragic death, has been crowned Westminster Dog of the Year 2021. In second place was Stanley, a Border Terrier owned by Edward Timpson MP for Eddisbury. Placed third was Henry, a Labrador owned by Selaine Saxby MP for North Devon.

Although Conservative MPs won the top spots, Parliamentarians from Opposition parties also entered the competition, held for the first time since 2018. The 2019 contest had to be cancelled because of anti-Brexit protests and last year’s couldn’t take place because of coronavirus.

The Kennel Club explains that the event is a chance to bring all dog-loving MPs together to highlight animal welfare and responsible canine ownership:

Westminster Dog of the Year is a celebration of the unique bond between dogs and their owners. The competition gives parliamentarians the opportunity to highlight the important work that they have undertaken in Parliament on dog related matters, whilst promoting responsible dog ownership. All Members of Parliament are able to enter regardless of ‘pawlitical’ persuasion.  

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust, explains: “The Westminster Dog of the Year competition is so much more than a canine beauty pageant. The competition is strictly apolitical; judges will be looking for the dogs’ good deeds and devotion to their owner rather than policies or opinions. It is a fun filled day out with an important message at its core – helping to promote dog welfare issues and encourage responsible ownership.” 

Another Kennel Club article explains how the contest was judged. The Dogs Trust is part of the panel:

The judging panel – Mark Beazley; Chief Executive at The Kennel Club, Owen Sharp, Dogs Trust Chief Executive and Alex Norris MP, 2018 Winner – spent the morning with dogs from different political persuasions and ambitions and led tributes to Sir David Amess, with speeches from the Rt Hon Lord Benyon.

The Kennel Club’s Mark Beazley and the Dogs Trust’s Owen Sharp paid tributes to Sir David:

Mark Beazley commented: “Today we pay tribute to Sir David and all he has done for dog welfare, and hope to honour his legacy to protect and improve the lives of the nation’s pets, who make such a difference to so many. Crowning Vivienne as Westminster Dog of the Year and the public’s winner is testament to Sir David’s commitment and his passionate campaigning for animals. We would like to thank all the MPs and their four-legged counterparts for taking part in the competition and their tributes to Sir David, and for their commitment to dog welfare.”

Owen Sharp, Dogs Trust Chief Executive said:

“Sir David Amess was a cherished friend of Dogs Trust and a great supporter of Westminster Dog of the Year. He was a fantastic advocate for animal welfare and a huge dog lover, making it an honour to award his dog, Vivienne, with the coveted title of Westminster Dog of the Year today.

“His constituents and supporters across the UK voted in their tens of thousands to also crown Vivienne as the winner of the public vote – testament to his unwavering dedication to dog welfare. Sir David’s memory lives on at this event and we want to thank him and the other MPs here today for caring and for making a difference to the lives of dogs here in the UK.”

Afterwards, Tom Harwood of GB News interviewed Andrew Rosindell, who discussed his friendship with Sir David. The interview also has a few clips from the event. Even those who don’t know what a French bulldog looks like will have no problem identifying Vivienne. She’s wearing a blue bib with ‘City of Southend’ printed on it — Sir David’s dogged cause in Parliament, posthumously successful:

The Independent also covered the event and has highlights in this minute-long video:

Well done, everyone.

I, too, voted for Sir David and Vivienne.

Yesterday’s post introduced COP26, to be held in Glasgow for two weeks, starting this coming Sunday.

Today’s post looks at what British pundits think of the conference.

The British have had no end of preaching from Parliament on climate change. We have been told that we must scrap our gas boilers for inefficient heat pumps. We need to take fewer holidays, especially by air. We must stop eating so much meat. Schoolchildren are suffering from ‘eco-anxiety’, a word just added to one dictionary published in the UK.

The cost of all this ‘greenery’ leaves us with more anxiety. As with coronavirus, the cure is worse than the disease (emphases mine):

This week, Johnson unveiled his Net Zero strategy to turn Britain green by 2050 – but was warned by the Treasury that taxes and consumer costs could rise to cover the estimated £1trillion bill.

Meanwhile, our elites are flying around everywhere, Prime Minister Boris Johnson among them.

On October 24, the Mail on Sunday examined Boris’s trips by air during May’s local election campaign in England. Of course, as Prime Minister, his time is precious. However, to tell the rest of us that we have to watch our use of planes for annual holidays is simply hypocritical:

Boris Johnson has been accused of hypocrisy after it emerged he pumped out 21 tonnes of CO2 in just two weeks flying on his billionaire friend’s private jet while lecturing about climate change.

The prime minister travelled more than 1,200 miles on JCB tycoon Lord Bamford’s jet in the fortnight leading up to May’s local elections.

At least two more journeys were made in the businessman’s helicopter, according to The Sunday Mirror.

If he had travelled by train, Johnson would have used up a fraction of the CO2, while a car would take a year to produce the same emissions as the £47million Gulfstream jet spews out in just one hour.

It comes as the prime minister prepares to welcome global leaders to Glasgow for the Cop26 climate summit.

Last month, he called on his UN counterparts to ‘blow out the candles of a world on fire’ and tackle climate change together in a powerful speech in New York.

Greenpeace’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: ‘Prime Ministerial actions have consequences far beyond those of any Hollywood star or royal, and Prime Ministerial hypocrisy is deeply corrosive of public trust.’

The flights on the Gulfstream G650 jet would have released around 21.2 tonnes of CO2, the third of a person’s annual emissions

To offset those journeys alone, 130 trees would have to be planted.

On the polling day for the local elections, Johnson appeared virtually at Germany’s Petersberg Climate Dialogue where he urged leaders to propose more than ‘hot air’ to help prevent climate change.

He said: ‘I’ll be seeking commitments from the G7 members to use their voices and their votes, wherever and whenever possible to support the transition to net zero (carbon emissions), kickstart a green industrial revolution, and build economies that withstand whatever our changing climate throws at us.’

But the day after he stepped on to a private helicopter to open a Coventry school then boarded a private jet to the North East after the by-election win in Hartlepool.

Speaking of flights and climate change, the Mail‘s Dan Hodges had more that day on COP26:

The whole purpose of COP26 was meant to promote global environmental sustainability.

Instead, it is being turned into a catwalk for the green showboating of the global elite.

Or, in the case of Japan, showplaneing. Last week it emerged that a specially configured Boeing 777 had been flown 6,000 miles (without passengers) solely to see whether the pilots would prefer to use Prestwick or Edinburgh airports when the official Japanese delegation arrives.

It’s also been announced that when the runway of choice has been chosen, special measures will be put in place to ensure arriving dignitaries can be whisked speedily to their destinations.

How nice for them!

It’s less nice for commuters in and around Glasgow:

Unfortunately, COP26 has become so bloated that nearby roads will become gridlocked, so leaders will be ferried to their hotels along the Clyde Expressway, which has been turned into a VIP lane.

In addition to rail workers going on strike during the conference, bus workers are also expected to do the same:

The Unite union, with a commendable eye to the main chance, has announced that more than 1,300 bus workers will use the conference to go on strike over pay.

Dan Hodges thinks that Boris should cancel COP26, because a) the timing isn’t right with coronavirus and b) it’s too hypocritical:

Pressing ahead with COP26 while the globe is still struggling to contain Covid is the equivalent of forcing someone back into a burning building to carry on removing the asbestos.

Yes, the threat from global warming represents a real and present danger. But this morning, Covid and its economic impact are a more imperative one.

In order to tackle environmental challenges, people are going to be asked to make significant sacrifices.

And that will involve politicians – and the burgeoning green lobby and their sponsors – taking public opinion with them.

But instead of showing families that they have a plan for saving their planet, our leaders again seem intent on giving the impression they reside on an entirely different one.

COP26 is about to replace Davos as the event that most gratuitously frames the arrogance, hypocrisy and entitlement of the global ruling class.

Their gigantic jets will descend upon Prestwick.

And they will alight and tell us how we each need to reduce our global environmental footprint.

Their motorcades will speed along their exclusive expressway.

And they will get out, then inform us we have to do our bit by walking our kids to school. They will assemble for their plush banquet.

And after dessert and coffee, they’ll retire to put the finishing touches to speeches that lecture us about eating sustainably.

Worst of all, they think no one will notice their green doublespeak.

That this grotesque ‘do as I say, not as I do’ grandstanding will pass everyone by amid a kaleidoscope of polar bears, Greta Thunberg and homilies about our grandchildren.

Which might actually be the optimum outcome.

As for us plebs on the sidelines:

… those concerned about where the next booster jab is coming from, or how they will cope with soaring fuel prices, will blink and miss this UN imitation of The Fyre Festival.

Because if they don’t, those same people aren’t going to be happy.

As I’ve written before, a dangerous disconnect is opening up.

Between those who believe that everyone has bought into their liberal, environmental consensus and those who want a recognition that we live in a complex world of competing priorities, not all of which revolve around the level of carbon emissions in 2050.

Neil Oliver, of the popular programme Coast and current host of a GB News weekend show, wrote a column for The Times last Sunday from the average Briton’s point of view, especially during the coronavirus crisis. Scotland, incidentally, recently brought in vaccine passports:

Assorted world leaders together with thousands of hangers-on are coming to Glasgow to talk about how us proles have managed to set fire to planet Earth. Things are so bad here on the third rock from the sun that it will be nothing less than miraculous if anything other than a cinder is orbiting our star by the time they turn up, in their private jets and chauffeured cars, for two weeks of po-faced pontificating at the SECC.

That the Covid restrictions afflicting everyone else’s life will be relaxed for the blow-ins should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying any attention at all for the better part of the past two years. They won’t need vaccine passports, for they are special while we are most certainly not. They have world-saving business to attend to while we have only lives to lead and more CO2-exhaling, dwindling food supply eating, resource-consuming weans to knock out from our overproductive loins.

A fleet of electric Jaguar Land Rover cars are at the disposal of the very best of them. It seems a day trip to Gleneagles may be on the agenda, but apparently limited charging ports at the luxury hotel and spa mean that generators dependent on the burning of old chip pan oil are to be sourced from elsewhere — on hand to top up the batteries and avoid any unwarranted delays for the panjandrums.

That all of the business of Cop26 could have been conducted via planet-sparing video calls will be apparent to anyone who has endured countless of same during the past months. Not one of the heads of state, far less any of the delegates, actually needs to move from his or her home office. All of the fossil fuel required for their journeys to Scotland might have remained unburnt, the atmosphere spared the release of all that carbon dioxide.

But no, as has so often been the case in recent, revelatory months, some animals’ business is infinitely more important than that of others. Scum like us can remain at home and talk into computer screens, but those that matter really do have to travel for hundreds of thousands of collective miles so they might enjoy one another’s company and thereby get so much more done.

Oliver then moves on to heat pumps, which are ruinously expensive for most people and do not work when the temperature falls below 4°C:

They don’t work, they are ruinously expensive to install, require wholesale remodelling of houses — if not demolition and rebuilding from scratch — cost arms and legs to run, and deliver lukewarm water for tepid radiators and cold showers.

Boris and Carrie Antoinette in No 10 are presumed to think that heat pumps are absolutely the way ahead. Since we are the great unwashed after all and, as previously noted, it’s already way too late for the likes of us to start showering anyway.

I am yet to read about our capo di tutti i capi and her husband revealing any imminent plans to lead by example and install, at their own expense, heat pumps of their own, but I freely admit that I do miss some headlines here and there.

There are so many excellent replies to the following tweet, that it’s worth clicking on it and reading them. Here’s one that mentions another bugbear of mine, meat eating:

I will be delighted when COP26 is over. I do not live anywhere near Glasgow but am eager to see a stop to this parliamentary pontificating over changing our behaviours to accommodate what might or might not be an improvement in climate.

All of these measures are a tax on the poor and middle class people.

COP26 starts in Glasgow on Sunday, October 31, 2021, and is expected to last until November 12, possibly a few days longer if climate talks run over schedule.

COP stands for ‘conference of the parties’ and is the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is comprised of 197 countries.

It was decided in 2019 that the 26th COP meeting would be hosted by the UK. Glasgow is known for its international conferences and its overall commitment to sustainability.

The conference will take place at the Scottish Event Campus on the outskirts of the city. It can accommodate 14,300 people in its arena and 3,000 in its auditorium.

The Times has more on the conference.

Although some delegates will be staying in Glasgow centre, it’s just as well that COP26 is being held on the outskirts of the city, because the binmen are on strike and rats are a common sight.

This is what Glasgow’s sustainability looks like:

Rail strikes are also expected, which will be a problem for delegates or their assistants who are staying in Edinburgh, a 45- to 60-minute train journey away.

Guido Fawkes has a post about everything that could go wrong during the next fortnight, excerpted below (emphases in the original):

This morning, rail and council workers confirmed they’ll be taking strike action during the summit, with ScotRail striking from the second day of the conference. Unless ScotRail’s pay rise demands are met by tomorrow, the travel infrastructure for thousands of COP attendees will be in total chaos. Binmen are also off, so the city streets will be piled high with weeks’ worth of rubbish just as delegates arrive.

If and when the rail strikes go ahead, travelling by car won’t be much use either: major roads into Glasgow, including the Clydeside Expressway and parts of the M8, will be closed from this week onwards, so those who’ve booked accommodation in Edinburgh will face “serious problems” with enormous Uber fares and journey times. Speaking of accommodation…

Today MPs have been warned of an “accommodation crisis” amongst attendees, with as many as 3000 people still without room bookings, and emergency accommodation now being provided in gyms and community centres. Despite being in the calendar for years, the government’s accommodation provider only managed to book out “around a third” of the Glasgow area’s hotel rooms.

Glasgow council is led by the Scottish National Party (SNP).

The council leader, Susan Aitken, blamed the city’s filth on, of all people, Margaret Thatcher, who left office in 1990 and died in 2013.

The Daily Mail tells us more, illustrated with several photographs (emphases mine):

World leaders from 120 countries will soon descend on Glasgow – but Scotland’s second city is blighted by rubbish and fly-tipping as well as some of the UK’s highest poverty, drug death and crime rates.

In an evidence session with the Scottish Affairs Committee, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross asked Ms Aitken: ‘You have been widely ridiculed across the UK for saying that Glasgow only needs a ”spruce up” and is not actually filthy. Do you regret any of your previous comments?’

Ms Aitken stood by her remarks before insisting that Mrs Thatcher, the former prime minister who left office more than 30 years ago and died in 2013, was responsible for the ‘challenges’ facing Scotland’s second city.

She then sought to downplay fears over the city’s ‘filthy’ state, claiming ‘all cities have rats’ but admitting to ‘possibly two’ occasions in which council workers had been hospitalised after ‘small incidents’ with rats.

‘I do not, in any way, shy away from the challenges that we face as a city, historic challenges that have been around for many, many years,’ Ms Aitken claimed.

‘Much of them a legacy of our post-industrial past when the Thatcher government walked away and abandoned Glasgow and left in neglect communities right across this city.’

The head of the SNP-led administration in Glasgow said she was not embarrassed by the city’s deteriorating condition and insisted it was ‘entirely gratuitous’ to suggest it was infested with rats

She said Glasgow was ready to host the conference ‘with caveats’, adding: ‘I would say the caveats are mainly technical, some of them have already been resolved or are being ticked off.’

‘None of them were massive, none of them were enough to cause panic.’ 

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, a Scottish Conservative MSP for Glasgow, said Ms Aitken’s comments about the legacy of Thatcherism were ‘completely delusional’

‘We’ve heard a lot of far-fetched excuses from Susan Aitken over the past few months, but the idea that Margaret Thatcher is to blame for the current state of Glasgow’s streets absolutely takes the biscuit,’ he said.

‘She must now stop the excuses and urgently produce some solutions – not only for Cop26 in a week’s time, but for the people of Glasgow who live here all year round.’

Also:

the buildings owned by Glasgow’s council are decaying, with raw sewage coursing through cellars and rats hospitalising dustmen.

To cap it all, Glasgow is currently the eighth-highest Covid hotspot in Europe, has been found to be the deadliest place to work in the UK, and the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in the city has recently been found to have increased by three years

How sad.

This is the product of socialism, started by Scottish Labour, which led the council for many years, and now the SNP:

Incidentally, Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, is also SNP-run and has the same problems as the nation’s second city. Council elections will be held in May 2022. A Scottish Conservative MSP sounded off during the summer:

The Spectator has more on Glasgow:

Pavements strewn with household waste are a common sight. Residents routinely post images on social media of the city centre and its outer-lying suburbs covered in detritus. Glasgow’s bin men are appalled and characterise the situation as a health and safety breach: they cite the risk of Weil’s disease, which can be transmitted to humans through rodent urine. So far this year four Glasgow bin men have been attacked by rats.

Collection rates, uplift charges and fly-tipping are all blamed for the waste scandal. In April, the SNP council completed the switch from bin collections every fortnight to every three weeks. Three months later, a £35 bulk uplift charge was introduced for large electricals or groups of up to ten other items. It is hardly surprising that fly-tipping has become more commonplace.

Glaswegians have given up waiting for the council to fix the problem and instead are getting stuck in themselves. Clean-up efforts have popped up throughout the city. There is a determination that Glasgow must not be seen looking ‘mockit’ on the international stage.

Susan Aitken became the leader of Glasgow’s council in 2017:

Residents are angry too. The focus is mostly on Susan Aitken, who after decades of one-party rule swept Labour out of power to become Glasgow council’s first Nationalist leader in 2017. In a car-crash TV interview last month, she said that the city just needed a ‘spruce up’, which was seized on by opponents as a staggering understatement and proof she is out of touch. When Sir Keir Starmer visited Glasgow in August he took part in a GMB union protest and called the cleansing crisis ‘a failure of leadership from the SNP council’. Aitken accused him of ‘a scapegoating and a targeting of Glasgow’ and even suggested the GMB was echoing the language of ‘far-right organisations’ that had blamed immigrants for previous waste problems in one part of the city.

Thomas Kerr, the Tory group leader on the council and a rising Conservative star in Scotland, represents the East End ward of Shettleston, which is among those worst affected. ‘We’ve become the fly-tipping capital of Britain and host the UK’s fourth-highest population of rats. That’s the legacy of Glasgow’s first Nationalist council,’ he says.

On the other hand, the city has revived some districts for the better:

The new Glasgow is a hub of riverside redevelopment and fashionable coffee shops. The South Side is the new West End, and Partick fell to the hipsters some time ago. The homicide rate is barely one third of what it was in 2005, and the city’s Violence Reduction Unit — which has been so successful at driving down knife crime that it is being replicated in London by Sadiq Khan — reports that last year Scotland saw ‘one of the lowest number of recorded homicide cases for a single 12-month period since 1976’. Pockets of deep poverty and drug misuse remain, as do grimly Scottish health indicators, but none of this undercuts Glasgow’s reputation as the Comeback Kid of British cities.

True, but it is still one of Europe’s most dangerous cities:

Looking at COP26 itself, the leaders of China, Russia and India will not be attending. The Queen, still under medical supervision, will be sending a message via video.

However, the biggest challenge will involve a plan of action for the conference.

This issue arose several weeks ago in August:

Tom Newton Dunn’s article for the Evening Standard says:

Where people say Paris and Kyoto, now they will also say Glasgow, the PM decreed. But it isn’t working out like that. COP26 opens on October 31 and is already in deep trouble. That in turn spells trouble for Johnson. There are four reasons. First, there is still no international consensus on what should be agreed in Glasgow. That agreement was supposed to be the last act of three. If Kyoto in 1997 was about agreeing there is a problem, and Paris in 2015 was about setting a target to tackle it (limiting the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5C), Glasgow was to be about working out how to do that. The tricky bit, in other words.

Yet from deciding the date on which to close all coal-fired power stations to determining when petrol and diesel vehicles must be replaced, every attempt this year to pin something down has failed. The G7 summit in June, also hosted by Johnson, did not change matters. World leaders’ eyes are elsewhere as they battle their own Covid pandemics and spiralling deficits.

Fortunately for Boris Johnson, the British public are not that interested in climate change right now. For most of us, it matters only that we hosted the conference, our second major one since leaving the EU (the first one being the G7).

More to follow on what the British think about COP26.

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UPDATE — on the evening of October 27, a deal has been done to avert a rail strike:

Thank goodness.

When abroad on holiday, I still send postcards to friends and family.

A Times columnist, Emma Duncan, also appreciates postcards, spurred on by her late stepfather, who was an MP in the North of England (emphases mine):

Near the end of his very successful nine and a half decades on the planet, as measured by the number of lives brightened by his existence, I asked him whether he had any lessons to pass on about how to live well. He thought for a while, during which I assumed he was brooding over the difficulty of encapsulating the grand philosophy that had guided him through most of a century. “Well,” he said finally, “you can never send too many warm postcards.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Emma Duncan experienced a moment of pleasure recently when she received a thank-you postcard from a friend:

In the digital blizzard in which we live, it is rare to receive anything in physical form other than a catalogue, a bill or a leaflet offering £2 off substandard pizza. But one day this week a postcard landed on my doormat from a friend, thanking me for lending her my coat — my mother’s, a particularly stylish number from the Sixties — outside at a party. As thanks for the service, the sending of a card, which must be bought, written, stamped and posted, was quite over the top. That’s exactly why it gave me such pleasure. The greater the trouble taken to deliver a small gesture of affection, the warmer the payload.

It’s time we revived the ancient, lost custom of sending postcards. They really do warm the heart.

The Church of England (CofE) has been undergoing a post-coronavirus exercise of church closures and consolidation.

Having been buoyed by Zoom worship in 2020 and 2021, Anglican bishops have decided to pull the plug on some of the world’s most beautiful churches, a source of community and comfort to those who worship in them.

Last week, Emma Thompson, not the actress, but a journalist and member of Save the Parish, wrote an article for The Telegraph about this dispiriting and destructive plan.

She rightly wonders whether England’s Anglican churches will still be there for her children. I share her view of the local church (emphases mine):

I love my rural village church. My vicar. My neighbours who attend. It’s local. It is, somehow, intrinsic. I love the Church of England and what it has brought to our constitution, language, law, architecture, art and music. Yet, unfortunately, I am increasingly worried that this great institution of our national life may not survive for my children’s old age.

At a time when the CofE could be offering comfort during a pandemic, it moved instead to championing political issues and the need to combat climate change. At the most senior levels of the Church, God has been sidelined.

In the last five months, three Anglican bishops have been received into the Roman Catholic Church. The latest is the former bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, who, several years ago, was shortlisted to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thompson rightly points out that his crossing the Tiber should be a red alert to Anglican bishops:

The significance of Dr Nazir-Ali’s decision should not be lost on those at the top of the CofE.

Bishops, now all nominated by the same appointments secretary, appear to prefer groupthink to diversity of thought. If no room exists for Dr Nazir-Ali – a theologically erudite, spiritually committed man who challenged the CofE’s strategic direction – then it is clear that a form of cancel culture has invaded the Church. How strange if the concept of tough love – the idea that someone who cares enough to criticise might love you most – is not embraced by Christ’s followers. Without extraordinary people, the institution will sink.

The new CofE strategy involves the closure of the local church, to be replaced by the diocesan office. How will that provide pastoral care for thousands of churchgoers?

Thompson reminds us that being the Good Shepherd to the flock is still part of the ordination vows:

… ordination vows reference being the Good Shepherd. The parish, the contact point with people providing local pastoral care, must be the basic unit.

Absolutely.

What is happening to CofE churches is nothing short of alarming:

Various dioceses announced morale-shattering parish clergy cuts. The Archbishop of York proposed the “Myriad” scheme to create 10,000 new lay-led “house churches”. Leicester Diocese voted to consolidate 234 parishes into 20-25 huge groups, cutting local vicars.

This accompanies a third shift, the Church’s loss of respect for its buildings, our shared national heritage. A green paper, nicknamed the Church Closers’ Charter, has suggested empowering dioceses to dispossess vicars, close churches and sell parish-owned buildings more easily and quickly.

What are these bishops thinking? Thompson said that these decisions are being taken by a ‘cabal’ of 12 of them, deciding the future of the faithful, and not in a good way.

She says that the Methodist Church in England adopted a similar plan and is now a shadow of its former self.

In closing, she says that the only way to combat this is to give generously:

Some dioceses, by pledging not to cut parish clergy, have managed to increase giving. This shows that we need not despair.

Even so, this dire plan of the bishops is a dangerous path for an established (national) church to take. One can only pray that divine intervention thwarts it.

Bible oldThe 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.

2 Corinthians 9:1-5

The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending[a] the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift[b] you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.[c]

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Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s commendation of Titus and two other brothers in Christ to the Corinthians.

Today’s verses are quite similar in content and tone to 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, which I wrote about a fortnight ago.

John MacArthur explains why Paul is pressing the subject home the way he is. It is because of the false teachers in Corinth attempting to undermine him, especially with this offering from the church there to Jerusalem (emphases mine):

The false teachers no doubt had taken advantage of that and said he’s collecting money all over everywhere to make himself rich or to give to his friends in Jerusalem whom he likes much better than he does gentiles. Whatever way they could assassinate Paul’s character, they wanted to do it. So in the middle of this self-defense, it is important for him to defend the way he handles money. And that’s precisely what he’s doing here. In chapters 8 and 9, he is urging the Corinthians to get back to their giving toward this project.

Remember now, in the beginning they had pledged a certain amount. They started toward that goal and then stopped. It’s time now because the relationship has been restored. They have responded to the severe letter which Titus took. Titus has come back and said all is well. They reaffirm their love and their trust in you, and Paul now knows that they’re back connected as they should be, so he writes 2 Corinthians, and in this part he says it’s now time to start the giving again.

He had already told them that to reach their goal, they had to lay in store every week, the first day of the week, 1 Corinthians 16:2, and they had started to do that and apparently they had stopped. So he is now telling them to get on track with their giving, to restore this process of giving, so that he comes for his third trip, which will be yet in the future, no offerings will be necessary to make up the lack but the original commitment will be already completed. And as we shall see, it was a very large amount.

So Paul is in the process of doing this collection, of getting it from not only Corinth but other churches, carrying it back to Jerusalem, and giving it to the saints there. And in the midst of that, accusations were flying all over the place about the fact that he was likely going to take a big cut for himself or steal the money or do something dishonorable and dishonest with it. So Paul protects himself and discusses here the characteristics of stewardship with integrity.

Paul begins by saying that it is unnecessary for him to write about the necessity of giving to support the ministry of saints (verse 1). In other words, the Corinthians already understand its importance.

He acknowledges their readiness to give, which spurred on the Macedonians in their own fundraising for Jerusalem (verse 2). Achaia is the province where Corinth was located.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Wherefore he was persuaded, that, as they had begun well, they would go on well; and so, commending them for what they had done, he lays an obligation on them to proceed and persevere.

To ensure that the fundraising in Corinth goes as planned, Paul explains that is why he is sending the three trustworthy and pious men so that everything will be ready when it should be (verse 3).

It is worth noting that the Corinthians were far wealthier than the Macedonians, who were very poor yet managed to raise a goodly sum of money.

Therefore, Paul wants an even better showing from Corinth, because the church there had much more to give.

Paul was considering bringing a few Macedonians with him and said that it would be humiliating for all concerned if the Corinthians had not met their obligation, especially as he had boasted of them to the poorer congregation (verse 4).

MacArthur reminds us that Paul did indeed take Macedonians with him to Corinth:

Paul says, “You know, if when I come on my third visit and I bring some Macedonians with me” – which according to Acts 20 verses 2 to 6 is exactly what he did – “and I bring those Macedonians and you are not prepared with your offering, you will be ashamed and I will be ashamed for my boasting about you.” We can bring shame on the church and shame on the apostle if this thing isn’t cared for appropriately. I want you to be an example right from the beginning to the end so that other churches, other individuals from other churches can come and see the model that you have established.

Paul ends by saying that this is why he is sending the three men to administer the collection of the final funds, which should be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly (verse 5). ‘Blessing’ is used in some translations rather than ‘gift’.

A gift given grudgingly suggests greed, or covetousness, as MacArthur explains:

If the enterprises of God, if it is God’s work, if it is done in God’s way, and if it deserves your gifts, and if you have them to give and you don’t, sin is the issue. It has to get down to that. Verse 5, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren” – that’s Titus and the two other brothers – “that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, that the same gift might be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.”

So he says, “To make sure there was no humiliation, to make sure you didn’t fail to give, to make sure you were fulfilling your promise and your pledge, I have urged the brethren that they would go on ahead of me. I can’t come right now” – in fact it would be a while before Paul would go – “but I have to know that things are moving, and I have sent these brothers to get this thing to its completion, to arrange beforehand your” – this is a key phrase – “previously promised bountiful gift,” which indicates that on first hearing about the need, they no doubt had promised a huge amount; bountiful gift, signifying a very, very large sum.

And he’s just pushing them toward the fulfillment of that commitment. They had targeted an amount for the final sum, and he is saying you previously promised this bountiful gift, this large sum, and I want to make sure that the same is ready, that it’s ready and not affected by covetousness. And there Paul identifies the one great sin that affects giving, pleonexia in the Greek, it means covetousness or it could be translated greed. It indicates grasping to hold more, grasping to get more at the expense of others. It’s all built around selfishness and pride.

The rest of the chapter is in the Lectionary. Verse 7 will be familiar:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully[d] will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency[e] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

I know it’s difficult being a cheerful giver when church isn’t going as well as it should. I stopped annual, although not weekly, giving for a few years at my own church, which, to me, went off piste for a time. Now that things are back on track, I have resumed giving annually as well as on Sunday.

In closing, this is MacArthur’s checklist for giving, which he saw elsewhere. It is a series of useful questions for us to ask ourselves when determining how much to give to our respective churches:

Now by way of a helpful summary, as we close, a gentleman has put together a checklist to evaluate any church fundraising or any parachurch fundraising. Before you entrust your money to it, here are the questions or issues you need to see:

Do they have a definite and personal commitment to Christ?

Do they have an unclouded commitment to the authority of Scripture?

Are they involved in that which is defined as a biblical mission?

Is there prayerful dependence on God more than dependence on current strategies and techniques?

Is there an obvious love and concern for those ministered to?

Is there evidence of maturity, Christlikeness, and integrity?

Is there the spirit of servanthood and humility rather than presumption or arrogance?

Is it a God-centered rather than a man-centered operation – and he puts in parenthesis – (without constant pictures of particular men)?

Are the furnishings and lifestyles in that ministry modest and unpretentious?

Have they demonstrated responsible use of funds for purposes that are given?

Are there nonmanipulative fundraising tactics, no continuous crisis or inducements to give that will result in you losing your eternal reward?

Is there a track record of spiritual fruit? Have you seen it?

Is there responsibility to the leadership of a local church?

Are there good personal relationships among the ministry staff?

And is there a pronounced eternal perspective?

That’s a thought-provoking and useful list. I highlighted the questions that temporarily halted my annual giving.

In next week’s verses, Paul defends his ministry.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

The Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost — is October 24, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 10:46-52

10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

10:47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

10:49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

10:50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

10:51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”

10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We pick up where we left off last week. Last week’s reading was about James and John requesting they sit next to him in Heaven,  insisting they could drink our Lord’s cup (God’s wrath) and take on His baptism (severe trial). Jesus granted their request of the cup and baptism. They ended up martyred. St James the Great was beheaded and St John suffered a slow death in exile on Patmos.

Today’s reading involves another request, but, in contrast to that of James and John, a very humble one made in faith.

Jesus had finished His ministry in Peraea. He and the disciples were now in Jericho, on their way to Jerusalem for Passover.

John MacArthur sets the scene for us and describes the beauty of Jericho:

Jesus had been ministering in Perea, which is a region east of the Jordan and down in the south. And He would keep moving down in Perea, eventually would cross the Jordan, just north of the Dead Sea. And the first town He would come to of any note would be Jericho. And from Jericho it is a direct ascent right up the hill to Jerusalem. “They came to Jericho.”

A great crowd is with Him; that is indicated to us here in the text. They are following along a large crowd. Matthew tells us the same thing: a large crowd, a great multitude. And it’s a combination of people who are following Jesus because they know about Him; and just the mass of humanity flowing down to the south to ascend to Jerusalem because they want to be there for the Passover. Many of them would cross the Jordan to go to the east, and cross the Jordan back again to avoid Samaria.

Our Lord has concluded a brief preaching, teaching, healing mission in Perea, and now crosses over the Jordan, probably by some kind of a ferry or a raft. The river would have been swollen at this time of the year, Passover is springtime, and the snow would have melted high in the mountains of Lebanon and filled up that lake of Galilee, and it would have overflowed down the Jordan River, and they would have crossed. They came to the city of Jericho known as the city of palms, city of Palms – about a six-hour walk straight up to Jerusalem.

Well-known in New Testament times, well-known, formidable place, a city fed by springs, had a lot of water even though its desert. Plenty of water piped in if there wasn’t enough there in the springs. They piped enough in to irrigate that place and to turn that place into a garden. It had a large population because of the availability of water. It was filled, they tell us – historians do – that it was filled with palm trees, it was filled with fruit trees of every kind. It was home to a bush known as the balsam bush that supplied juice that was used as a medicine and found only there.

The climate was warm, obviously. Josephus says linen clothes were warn even when there was snow in Jerusalem. Mark tells us that it was not yet the season for figs in the eleventh chapter, verse 13, in Jerusalem, but it would have been the season for figs ripening already in Jericho. Almonds flourished there, we are told, and rose plants. It was really a garden, the city given by Marc Antony to Cleopatra, according to Josephus, in the place where Herod built a fort and a palace in which he finally died. So it was a magnificent place.

But it’s not just the Jericho of the New Testament that we know about, the Jericho of the Old Testament is pretty famous, isn’t it? We all know the story recorded for us in Joshua chapter 6 about the destruction of Jericho when the walls came falling down, when the Israelites marched around it for seven days. It had a well-known history to the Jews. It had recovered from those darker days and was a flourishing, flourishing place. So in verse 46 they came to Jericho.

Now, Mark says He was leaving Jericho, Luke says He was approaching Jericho. That’s quite interesting. Matthew says He was going out of Jericho. What’s going on here? Well, the best way to understand that is that those references can be taken to mean He was in the general vicinity of Jericho. He was going in and out of Jericho because He was not intending to stay very long, although He did stay long enough to spend an evening and a night in the house of Zacchaeus the tax collector to whom He brought salvation. Whether He was at this point coming in before the incident with Zacchaeus or going out after the incident with Zacchaeus, one can’t be dogmatic about. But safe to say, in any case, it is in the vicinity of Jericho where this happens. And that place would have been a buzz, filled with all kinds of sites and sounds and smells, even memories for Jesus, because very near Jericho was an area called “the devastation,” the devastation, the very place where our Lord had been taken by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil.

Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside (verse 46).

This story features in the three synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. The account in Matthew 20 mentions two blind men. Luke 18 and Mark 10 only feature one.

Mark is the only account to name the man.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that some scholars believe his father’s name is included because he, too, was blind. As was usual in Christ’s miracles, there was also a spiritual element in the cure:

This one is named here, being a blind beggar that was much talked of; he was called Bartimeus, that is, the son of Timeus; which, some think, signifies the son of a blind man; he was the blind son of a blind father, which made the case worse, and the cure more wonderful, and the more proper to typify the spiritual cures wrought by the grace of Christ, on those that not only are born blind, but are born of those that are blind.

The Jews viewed physical infirmity as a divine curse, so when Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, ‘the Son of David’, to have mercy on him (verse 47), the crowd sternly ordered him to be quiet. Yet, he yelled out all the more loudly (verse 48).

MacArthur says Bartimaeus would have been the lowest of the low:

He’s at the bottom, by the way, socially, obviously below the peasants. Below the unclean and degraded sinners are the cursed. He’s just a hair above a tax collector.

MacArthur explains the Greek words in the original text:

When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, which is what they said, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David.” He began to scream. Mark uses the verb krazō, “to shout.” It’s a very strong word. It is used in Mark 5 to speak of insane epileptics, demon-possessed people. It’s used also in the Scripture to speak of – Revelation 12 – birth pain and the screaming of a woman; strong. He begins to scream in anguish and desperation, and he doesn’t say, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says, “Jesus, son of David.” 

Bartimaeus uses the messianic title for Jesus:

Son of David; that is a messianic title, and he knew exactly what it was. The Messiah was to be the heir of David’s throne, according to 2 Samuel chapter 7. The Messiah would receive the kingdom that had been promised to a son of David. David’s greater son would be the King who would bring the fulfillment of all the promises both to David and to Abraham. This was the most common Jewish title for the Messiah: son of David, son of David, son of David.

That is why you have the genealogy in Matthew 1 of Joseph that shows He comes from the family of David. That is why you have the genealogy of Mary in Luke to show that she comes from the line of David. Both His earthly father and His true mother were in the line of David. He is truly a son of David.

Jesus stood still and asked the crowd to call Bartimaeus to Him. Their mood changed as they encouraged him to take heart — ‘take courage’ in the older translations is even better — and approach Jesus (verse 49).

MacArthur points out our Lord’s rebuke to the crowd and their change in mood:

this is such a rebuke, such a rebuke to religion, elite religiosity, that the Lord saves the scum

Verse 49: “And Jesus stopped.” And I just need to say, if you see anything through all the years of studying the Gospels, you see the compassion of God toward people, demonstrated in Jesus Christ, compassionate at every turn. He stopped and He said, “Call him here. Call him here. Don’t silence him; call him here, bring him to Me.”

In fact, Luke 18:40 puts it this way: “He commanded that he be brought to Him.” He commanded it. “And so, they called the blind man,” – in verse 49 – “and they said to him, ‘Take courage, stand up! He’s calling for you.’” Now all of a sudden they change their tune. Jesus’ response to the man changes their attitude for the moment. Their curiosity drives them to let this thing happen and see what could be made of it. Maybe they’ll see another miracle.

Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and ‘sprang’ to Jesus (verse 50).

MacArthur says:

Somebody had to bring him obviously.

Jesus asked what He could do for Bartimaeus. It was the same question he asked James and John. Instead of responding with pride and ambition as they did, Bartimaeus addressed Jesus humbly as ‘my Teacher’ and asked to be able to see once again (verse 51).

MacArthur elaborates on this call for divine mercy, both physically and spiritually:

So here is a man who recognizes Jesus as the true Messiah; and here is a man who knows what he needs, and it is mercy, it is mercy. And while this is a typical cry of afflicted people, certainly it’s a true and pure cry of this man from the heart: “Pity me.” He’s not deserving of anything and he knows it. He would have understood the theology of his people as well and thought himself cursed by God because he was blind. He knows he needs mercy, he knows he is a sinner; his blindness aids him in facing that.

Note that Jesus tells Bartimaeus that his faith has made him well. With that He healed the man, who regained his sight and followed our Lord on His way (verse 52).

MacArthur explains:

This man only wants mercy. Unlike James and John who thought they needed elevation, this man knows he deserves nothing. He’s not laying claim on anything. Mercy means to give what people don’t deserve. And he said, the blind man did, “Rabboni,” which means, “Master,” Master. And according to Luke 18 he also said, “Lord, Master, Lord.” Wow, now this theology is starting to fill out here, “Lord and Master,” and he uses a form of the word kurios. He recognizes him as his Master and his Lord; and yet Jesus is taking the role of a servant and a slave. “What can I do for you?” I mean, compassion and sympathy and lowliness and tenderness and kindness and affection and grace and mercy, the King does what the beggar asks him to do.

“What do you want?” “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight. I want to regain my sight.” According to Matthew’s account, Jesus then reached over and touched his eyes. And according to Luke 18:42, He said, “Receive your sight.” He so often healed with a touch, didn’t He? He touched him and said, “Receive your sight.”

What happened? Verse 52: “Go; your faith has made you well. Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.” This really is a model of a conversion pre-cross, a model of a conversion pre-cross. Do you think there was any doubt in his mind that this was his Lord? No. His Master? No. His Messiah? No. That he was a sinner? No. That he needed mercy? No. There was no doubt in his mind that here was the dispenser of mercy needed by this desperate man.

This then is more than a healing, my friend, more than a healing. When Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well,” He uses a verb sōzō, from which we get “saved.” It means “to save.” “Your faith has saved you.”

There is a word strictly referring to healing, iaomai. That’s not the word here. It’s the word sōzō, “Your faith has saved you.” And we know that that encompasses the healing, but also the salvation. The healing is indicated, “and he regained his sight,” and the salvation is indicated in, “he began following Him on the road.”

The evidence of the healing was obvious, “He saw,” 20/20 instantaneously. The evidence of salvation was, “following Him.” He had received mercy; and he gives the sign of a true conversion: “He followed.” By the way, Matthew focuses on the two of them, and it says, “They followed.” And so his friend followed also. So he was there when he got to the top of the hill.

MacArthur speculates on what happened next, saying that Bartimaeus could well have been at the first Pentecost. Perhaps that is why Mark wrote of him by name:

You know, there must have been a – there must have been a literally stunning experience going on in his mind as he comes out of his blindness into sight and out of his sin into salvation, and walks with Jesus to the triumphal entry. And he’s there through the week, and he’s there after the resurrection. And very likely he’s there in the church; and that’s why he’s named, and that’s why his story is told. Who knows? My guess is he was one of the hundred and twenty in the upper room at Pentecost; a lifetime of being an outcast, and now he’s on the inside.

MacArthur reminds us that this was the last of our Lord’s creative — healing — miracles. Conversions are the remaining spiritual events with Zacchaeus, the criminal at the Crucifixion and the centurion who saw Jesus die:

in Jericho two wonderful salvation stories take place. Two stories that stand in stark contrast to national rejection in bleak contrast to the unbelief and hatred of the leaders and the people, two. Two prodigals, you might say, come home; two lost souls are found; two darkened minds are enlightened; two sinners are saved; two outcasts are reconciled. One is the story of the blind, the other is the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector; for he too encountered Jesus in Jericho, and that is recorded for us in Luke 19, verses 1 to 10. Mark doesn’t tell us that story, but it is Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus who are the last two trophies of sovereign, saving grace until the cross; and then there is a thief and a centurion.

It’s an illustration, isn’t it, and a reminder of what our Lord said about the narrow gate; and few there be that find it. And it is also remarkably an indication of the fact that there are not many noble, not many mighty; but it’s the poor and the outcasts and the nobodies and the nothings. All four of them fit into that category: a blind beggar, a tax collector, a thief, and a despised Roman. These are the only shining moments. It’s as if they make an exclamation point on the divine rejection of the Jews. The hypocritical hoopla that will occur when He comes into the city is just that, superficial and hypocritical. We really need to cherish these stories of conversion before the cross, and even the two at the cross.

MacArthur concludes with a practical application for us:

So many lessons here. You see the Lord’s profound compassion. You see that He never ignores the cry of a true heart of repentance; and desperate sinners who know they’re worthy of nothing will always gain a hearing with Him. You learn again what we’ve seen all through His ministry, that He has the power to heal disease. But far more importantly, He has the power to save sinners, turn them into obedient followers who live lives of true worship.

That’s why we’re here tonight, because we have been approached by Jesus somewhere along the road in our lives. In our blindness, in our desperation He passed by, and our hearts were awakened, and we cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And He heard our cry, didn’t He? And all of this is possible because He went all the way to Jerusalem, all the way to the cross, and out the other side of the open tomb.

May everyone reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

In my humble opinion, Michael Caine is the ultimate Londoner.

He was the only Londoner I ‘knew’ growing up — and that was through the films he made.

Now he is planning a move from his massive estate in nearby Surrey back to the capital, possibly Wimbledon.

On October 18, The Guardian published Xan Brooks’s interview with him, done by video link.

He told Brooks that only his wife and he live there:

These days it’s mostly just him and Shakira, rattling around. “So I’m going to get a smaller one,” he says. “Because the grandchildren have all gone now. They’re all growing up. So I’m going to move back to be nearer to them, where it’s easier for them to visit. I’m going to move to Wimbledon. My daughter, Natasha, lives in Wimbledon.”

Caine, 88, told his London story (emphases mine):

He was named Maurice Micklewhite, after his father, who worked as a fish market porter. I’ve read that he only officially changed it a few years ago, because he got sick of having to explain himself every time he lined up at UK passport control. But he says that’s not true: he changed it ages ago, 10 years back at least. It felt like cutting the last link with his past.

When he first became Michael Caine, of course, people still called him Maurice. “But I haven’t got any family members now, so no one’s called me Maurice for years. Everyone’s dead. My brother, my mother, my father. If I have any other relations, they’d be living in Bermondsey.” He shrugs. “And I don’t go to Bermondsey.”

What about him? Is he still Maurice deep down? “No. The day I became Michael Caine, that was it – I was Michael Caine. I wasn’t Maurice any more, I was a completely different person. And it was amazing. It was fabulous.”

What was wrong with Maurice? “Well, nobody knew him. He was broke. He was out of work. And the moment I became Michael Caine, I got a job and was on my way.”

He swings with practised ease into an anecdote he has probably told 100 times before – at dinner parties, in discotheques and on prime-time chatshows to rolling audience applause. It’s the tale of how he got his big break in the 1964 film Zulu. How he met the American director Cy Endfield in the theatre bar only to be told that the part he wanted had already gone to another actor. How he had thought that was that. Back to penury and obscurity. Back to being Maurice Micklewhite.

He says: “My entire movie career is based on the length of the bar at the Prince of Wales theatre, because I was on my way out and it was a very long walk to the door. And I had just got there, when he called out: ‘Come back!’ because he had decided that I could play the part of the officer instead. He said: ‘You look like an officer,’ because I was 6ft 2in, blond hair, very slim. The door was half-open; I was very nearly through it. I turned around and walked back in.”

His story makes me think of Dick Whittington, turning again on the road into London. “Exactly,” says Caine. “That’s exactly who I am: the Dick Whittington of acting.”

Moral of the story: never give up on your dreams!

The journalist makes an excellent observation, which ties in with my impressions of Caine as the ultimate Londoner:

He was the ordinary bloke with the alleycat swagger, the working-class hero with the undiluted Thames accent, a bespectacled poster-boy for 60s social mobility. He has now reached the point where he’s started to view himself in those terms

He got interested in acting because the two places he went to most often were the library and the cinema. Now that his acting career is over, because of the lack of physical agility, he is writing a thriller:

What’s the title and what’s it about? “Well,” he says. “The title is If You Don’t Want to Die. I only read thrillers. I’m an adventure man, I’m not a literature person, so I’m not trying to replace Shakespeare here. But it’s based on something I once read about two dustmen, two rubbish collectors in the East End.” Dramatic pause. “And they find uranium in the rubbish.”

As a boy in south London, his twin passions were always movies and books, the cinema and the library. He’s done cinema to death, so it’s only fitting that he should now be circling back to the library, albeit metaphorically – the actual building has long gone. The last time he visited Elephant and Castle he saw it had been replaced by a block of flats. But that’s progress, that’s history. It involves good changes and bad. When he was starting out as an actor, for instance, British film and theatre were the preserve of the posh. “It was: ‘Bunty’s having a party and everyone’s in their tennis whites.’” Another short laugh. “Then we came along and we changed all that.”

Although he still receives the occasional screenplay, the most recent having arrived a few weeks ago, he’s ready to hang up his boots.

The actor:

has a gammy leg and a dodgy spine and reckons the only time he leaves the house these days is when his wife has the time to take him out for a drive. The other week he was sent a screenplay that had his character running away from a bunch of crooks, and this made him laugh – the very idea he could play it. “I can’t walk, let alone run,” he says. “And I’m more or less done with movies now.”

It is likely that Best Sellers, which finished filming just before the pandemic hit, will be his last film:

He doubts he will ever make another, which is fine by him, no great loss. He’s got his knighthood and his Oscars; what does he have left to prove? He says: “I’ve done 150 movies. I think I’ve done enough.”

Best Sellers is about a crochety old author who suddenly goes viral.

Brooks makes another London-centric observation about the star’s exit from film:

Caine has been such a reliable fixture for so long – part of the furniture, a familiar face on the screen – that it’s unnerving to imagine the landscape without him, like walking into the Tower of London and finding the ravens all gone. It’s more unnerving still to realise that it may already have happened; that he might have retired without anyone making a fuss. Caine spent the first part of his career storming the barricades and the second enjoying the spoils of his success. One would have expected some big final act, a showstopping swan song. Instead, we have this: a clean getaway.

A ‘clean getaway’ sounds just the way Michael Caine would like to end his career: quietly slipping out the back door, unnoticed.

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