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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

Acts 8:9-13

Simon the Magician Believes

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles[a] performed, he was amazed.

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Last week’s entry discussed the first few verses of Acts 8, which is about Philip the Evangelist, not to be confused with Philip the Apostle.

Philip the Evangelist was one of the first deacons, instituted by the Apostles in Jerusalem. He was a Hellenic (Greek) Jew who converted and, like Stephen (the first martyr), God gave him the ability to work healing miracles.

Today’s verses describe how Philip was able to convert the Samaritan magician Simon — Simon Magus. Much has been written over the centuries about this man whose life story I will discuss more next week.

John MacArthur says that sorcery was well known during this era (emphases mine):

The word for sorcery is a word is maguon and it really is a word that means magic, simply maguon even sounds the same but its original meaning is to be skilled in magian lore. Do you remember that the men who came to the birth of Jesus Christ were called the Magi, that’s the same word. The magian lore is the priests religion of Medo-Persia connected with Zoroastrianism, it was kind of a combination of astronomy, astrology, horoscope, it was a science – superstition kind of duo. So these people who were astrologers and soothsayers, sorcerers dealt in incantations, charms, divinations, spells, astrology, horoscopes and so forth. This kind of thing really goes way back to the time of Zoroastrianism, it even goes back to the tower of Babel which was apparently related to the zodiac and all of this was basic to Simon’s operation.

MacArthur explains more about Simon’s power over the people in Samaria who knew of or had seen his works (verses 9, 11). Falling for his hype, they really believed Simon had God-given gifts (verse 10):

He was one who called demonic supernatural powers into action to perform wonders. Simon had used his sorcery to capture the minds of these people. The word bewitched means astonish them or dupe them or brought them under his control. He had actually captured these people. Now mark this down, these sorceries actually happened. He actually did supernatural things and it’s still being done today. These things were really being pulled off and because of them people’s minds were being captured to the control of Simon. And he announced to everybody that he was some great one, some great power of God.

Matthew Henry tells us that Simon might have gone to Samaria soon after Jesus visited the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), whose witness resulted in many converts. Henry says that Satan worked through Simon to disrupt this:

perhaps he came there by the instigation of the devil, soon after our Saviour had been there, to undo what he had been doing there; for it was always Satan’s way to crush a good work in its bud and infancy, 2 Corinthians 11:3,1Th+3:5.

Henry points out that, unlike Philip, Simon had no interest in improving people’s lives by bringing them to God:

He had no design to reform their lives, nor improve their worship and devotion, only to make them believe that he was, tis megas–some divine person. Justin Martyr says that he would be worshipped as proton theon–the chief god. He gave out himself to be the Son of God, the Messiah, so some think; or to be an angel, or a prophet. Perhaps he was uncertain within himself what title of honour to pretend to; but he would be thought some great one. Pride, ambition, and an affectation of grandeur, have always been the cause of abundance of mischief both to the world and to the church.

However, when Philip arrived, the people paid attention to him rather than to Simon. Philip’s preaching in the name of Jesus Christ and his miracles were so powerful that many men and women were baptised (verse 12).

Henry tells us that this shows the power of God will displace that of Satan any day:

Thus, notwithstanding the influence Simon Magus had had upon them, and the unwillingness there generally is in people to own themselves in an error, and to retract it, yet, when they saw the difference between Simon and Philip, they quitted Simon, gave heed no longer to him, but to Philip: and thus you see,

[2.] How strong the power of Divine grace is, by which they were brought to Christ, who is truth itself, and was, as I may say, the great undeceiver. By that grace working with the word those that had been led captive by Satan were brought into obedience to Christ.

In fact, Philip’s preaching was so powerful that Simon himself asked to be baptised and duly was (verse 13).

Simon then followed Philip.

Henry analyses this for us, saying that Simon, of all people, would have seen the greater power in Philip’s healing miracles than his own sorcery:

Yes (Acts 8:13), Simon himself believed also. He was convinced that Philip preached a true doctrine, because he saw it confirmed by real miracles, of which he was the better able to judge because he was conscious to himself of the trick of his own pretended ones. [1.] The present conviction went so far that he was baptized, was admitted, as other believers were, into the church by baptism;

He goes on to say that Philip was right to baptise Simon:

and we have no reason to think that Philip did amiss in baptizing him, no, nor in baptizing him quickly. Though he had been a very wicked man, a sorcerer, a pretender to divine honours, yet, upon his solemn profession of repentance for his sin and faith in Jesus Christ, he was baptized. For, as great wickedness before conversion keeps not true penitents from the benefits of God’s grace, so neither should it keep professing ones from church-fellowship. Prodigals, when they return, must be joyfully welcomed home, though we cannot be sure but that they will play the prodigal again. Nay, though he was now but a hypocrite, and really in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity all this while, and would soon have been found to be so if he had been tried awhile, yet Philip baptized him; for it is God’s prerogative to know the heart. The church and its ministers must go by a judgment of charity, as far as there is room for it. It is a maxim in the law, Donec contrarium patet, semper præsumitur meliori parti–We must hope the best as long as we can. And it is a maxim in the discipline of the church, De secretis non judicat ecclesia–The secrets of the heart God only judges.

However, Simon was intrigued by Philip’s miracles. His amazement is the subject of next week’s verses.

Next time — Acts 8:14-25

A few days ago, and by chance, I happened across a 2016 documentary called Hell Across The Border, by Walid Shoebat’s Rescue Christians organisation.

WARNING: The following is not for children, impressionable adults or those who have recently suffered trauma.

If you do not know who Walid Shoebat is, he was a radicalised Muslim until 1994. He has since become a Christian. Also:

As a member of the PLO I was involved in terror activity, and was imprisoned in Jerusalem for three weeks. In prison, I was recruited to plant a bomb in Bethlehem as a result of which, thank God, no one was injured. My mother was an American and my father a Palestinian Arab. My parents sent me in 1978 to the United States to study at Loop College in Chicago Illinois. There I was recruited at a hotel “Terror Conference” by Jamal Said, a founder of the IAP (Islamic Association of Palestine) and Imam at one of the largest mosques in Chicago. The IAP was a forerunner to today’s Hamas terror organization and also to the terror front group CAIR (Council for American Islamic relations). This was in the early 1980s when I was being trained for Jihad activities in the USA along with many other young foreigners as well as US citizens. The Imams were the prime recruiters for terrorism then as they are still today and terror conferences are held all over the USA to this day.

And:

Now that you have brief details of my background, I would like to offer my expert opinion, if you can call me an expert – but perhaps an experienced former terrorist would be more appropriate.

This brings us to Hell Across The Border, a documentary that is nearly three hours long. I was startled to learn of the barbarity that takes place in Mexico. Walid’s son Theodore interviewed participants at length.

At the end of April, I wrote a few posts about MS-13, the gang that developed from partiers from El Salvador who emigrated with their parents to Los Angeles in the 1970s to a fearsome, satanic international menace.

Shoebat’s documentary takes us further into the whys and wherefores of not only MS-13 but also Mexican drug cartels and their deep reach into Mexican society:

This is a very well made documentary. Any Christians who want to make factual films would do well to pick up on cinematography and sound mixes from this video, which is very professional. The people who put this together did a stellar job. It’s much better than any production shown on television or at the cinema.

The film intersperses many Catholic images of sanctity with gang-led bodily dismemberments. Starting around the 40-minute point, we hear various interviews from two Latino law enforcement officers in Los Angeles, an ex-gang member who served multiple prison sentences in California, a Catholic priest in Mexico and the Mexican spokesman for a citizen’s self-defence group.

The cinematography is stunning both in its brutality and its beauty. The viewer sees contrasting images of churches and statues with bloody beheadings. One hears Gregorian chants contrasted with folk songs. The second half of the documentary features monarch butterflies enjoying their freedom while self-defence troops patrol highways and farms south of the border of the United States.

For these reasons and more, the film is shocking. I had to take frequent breaks when watching it.

That said, I strongly recommend this to anyone who is ignorant of drug cartels, associated gangs and empathetic to drug use and revisionist ‘Mexican’ culture. I put ‘Mexican’ in quotes, because what is being put forth is not quite the truth, as the Latino law enforcement officers explain in the film.

A whole cult has developed around Mexican culture and the Aztecs. When I took Spanish classes at university a few decades ago, our history book did not glorify the Aztecs as martyrs. Events were presented objectively. They were no saints. Nor were the Spanish conquistadors.

However, over the past few decades or so, revisionist history has made the Aztecs out to be peaceful victims of the conquistadores.

The film demonstrates that each was as bad as the other. The Latinos in the film attest to that.

A summary of the documentary follows. Start at 40 minutes in for the subtitled dialogue.

The Aztecs had a female deity, Tonantzin, who was a Mother Earth goddess. One day in 1531, Mary — the mother of Christ — appeared as what has become known as Our Lady of Guadelupe to a man named Juan Diego.

Tonantzin had a special temple dedicated to her. Our Lady of Guadelupe made her appearance at the same place, on the hill of Tepeyac, not far from today’s Mexico City.

In recent years, Tonantzin has come to represent violence and evil in the form of Santa Muerte, Holy Death. Her veneration was a clandestine one initially. Some say it opened up in the 1940s. Others date it later, around 1965.

Whatever the date, the cult around Santa Muerte grew and grew. The law enforcement officers in the film, both of whom are devout Catholics, say that Santa Muerte is actually a satanic goddess who not only represents the opposite of Our Lady of Guadelupe but is also the closest to the Aztec Tonantzin.

The film shows statues of Santa Muerte. Most represent her as the Virgin Mary but with a skull instead of the saintly, pure face of Jesus’s mother.

In addition, various rituals have developed around Santa Muerte and satanism. The law enforcement officers and the ex-gang member said they had seen evidence of them not only with MS-13 but other gangs and cartels.

The ex-gang member recalled that he went to a house where he was to pick up some drugs. The men in the house told him to go to the garage. He did so and found a body on the floor surrounded by candles and satanic emblems.

One of the law enforcement officers said that a Catholic priest called him to report that the Eastertide Paschal candle from his church had been stolen. The law enforcement officer received a tip off, went to the designated address, and found the candle there. The residents nonchalantly told him he could take it back to the church. They had performed their ritual. The law enforcement officer said that there were cannabis joints all over the floor.

He also went to another gang member’s house where every room was painted black. There were pentagrams, upside-down crosses and other satanic emblems on the walls.

Some gang members wear pentagrams along with their tattooed affiliations. Pentagrams also circulate amongst gang members in prison.

Homosexuality is also rife among gang members. The ex-gang member related a story of young gang prisoners raping an older prisoner who was unable to fight them off. The ex-gang member took matters into his own hands and dealt with the young prisoners in a violent manner to end the brutality.

The two law enforcement officers said that the Latino pro-Aztec satanists oppose the Catholic faith, not that of the Protestants. That is because they oppose Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to the Aztec in the 16th century — in holy opposition to their goddess.

This opposition manifests itself in several forms. Gang members desecrate and steal from Catholic churches. Gangs forbid their members from attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. Gangs also desecrate Catholic cemeteries. They have even exhumed bodies for satanic rituals.

A young law enforcement officer said that when cartels make an agreement with each other, a young woman has to be mutilated in order for the deal to be satanically blessed. This involves cutting her facial lips and genital labia. How horrible is that?

It is also common for gangs to drink the blood of those they have murdered, in an animalistic know-your-prey way.

All of this occurs in Mexico, other Latin American countries and, now, the United States.

One of the law enforcement officers cautioned against any religious sympathy for gang members from El Salvador with tattoos of their country’s name. He said that El Salvador was named for Christ — The Saviour — however, to gang members, El Salvador is merely a national identity, nothing more. These men — and their female accomplices — are not the good Catholics average Americans think they are.

The ex-gang member said that he and his fellow members are not allowed to read the Bible or to attend church services. He said that one of his fellow prison inmates had a satanic bible. The ex-gang member himself prayed to Satan at one point, asking him for a better life. He said he felt bad having done such a thing and admitting to it on film.

He said that he converted to Christianity when he finally realised that Satan would not bring him a better life. He started thinking about the Ten Commandments and how Satan’s commandments are the complete opposite for each of them.

One of the law enforcement officers said that, with the revisionist thinking about the Aztecs — heavily promoted in schools and Mexican culture, including in the US — it is not unusual to find strange murders. He cited a murder of a nun by a priest. He said the priest was a satanist. Unfortunately, he explained, it is not unusual to find Mexican or Mexican-American satanists in the Church as well as in the legal and medical professions.

He explained that priests in Mexico sometimes have to go into hiding.

Monstrance stisidore-yubacityorgPriests who can circulate freely must be careful how and when they display certain items, such as a monstrance, which is particularly valued in gangland satanic rituals.

Prison chaplains, even in some American prisons, must also be careful about distribution of Holy Communion. Gang members steal the hosts for desecration rituals.

Those people following the revisionism on Aztec culture adhere to an Aztec calendar with all the Aztec pagan feasts and rituals. These are not folk feasts or rituals, even if they are portrayed as such. They are bloody. The film shows animal and human sacrifices. This is not unlike voodoo. The law enforcement agent said that certain aspects of Santería and Macumba have been incorporated into modern Aztec ritual sacrifices.

For these reasons, the law enforcement official said he was sorry to see Mexican-American students recruited to join MEChA — Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán — which, he said, promotes Aztec revisionism. The ex-gang member deplored it, too, saying that he has the impression that MEChA’s attitude is:

If you’re not brown, you’re not down.

The law enforcement officer said that Mexican governments have historically wanted to destroy the Catholic Church, even though 98% of Mexicans consider themselves Catholic. He said that most of the Mexican presidents have been Freemasons who despise the Church. He mentioned Plutarco Elías Calles‘s anti-religious Calles Law, which was in force between 1926 and 1938. Incidentally, the Calles Law brought about the Cristero War, a peasant uprising against the government that lasted for three years (1926-1929). The Calles Law was, sadly, successful in bringing down the number of priests in Mexico from 4,500 in 1926 to 334 by 1934.

The middle of the film had a brief interview with a Catholic priest in Mexico who said he had to be very careful about his daily activities. He said he knew of fellow priests who had gone into hiding or who were killed by gangs.

The second half of the film focusses on the Autodefensas, armed civilian self-defence teams that protect farmers, farm workers and their families from gang violence.

Jose Vazquez Valencia, the current spokesman for the Autodefensas, explained how they originated to fight off the Knights Templar Cartel in Michoacán, the centre of avocado and lime growing in Mexico. In one battle, they were able to kill 60 Templars.

The Knights Templar, Vazquez said, extort millions of dollars from landowning farmers there each year. If a farmer cannot afford to pay — sometimes $1m per annum — the Knights Templar abduct women, especially girls, from the family home. Sometimes they kill whole families, from babies up through grandparents. In one instance, they murdered then buried one family in a pit along with three of their farmhands: 18 people.

In another video, Vazquez tells the horrific story of the village that somehow got on the wrong side of another criminal group, the Guerreros Unidos. Members abducted a 14-year old boy, cut his heart out and brought it to the village square, where everyone had to turn up to watch a satanic ritual with the heart. Guerreros Unidos then forced the villagers to leave their homes — for good. Otherwise, the gang threatened to decapitate the local women! Skip the first few minutes of the video. Vazquez appears at 3:36:

Returning to the film, this is how the vigilante groups — the Autodefensas — came to exist.

José Manuel Mireles Valverde, a physician from Michoacán, is considered to be the Autodefensas founder. He was their initial spokesman. In 2014, he was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating Mexico’s federal firearm and explosives law. Although the attorney general dropped charges against him last year, Mireles remains in jail.

Jose Vazquez Valencia, the current spokesman for the Autodefensas, says that some of these vigilante groups vary by state. In the state of Michoacán, they work well. However, in other Mexican states, they have been compromised either by the government or the cartels.

He also said that the relationship between state governments and the cartels varies. In some cases, the government controls the cartels. In other states, the cartels control the government.

The activities of the Guerreros Unidos illustrate this well:

The capture of an alleged Guerreros Unidos financial chief in October 2014, for example, revealed that the group allegedly spent close to $45,000 a month to pay off local police in the municipality of Iguala alone. These local ties could make it more difficult for Mexican authorities to target the group.

I would like to call your attention to three articles that Walid Shoebat wrote about this unbelievably horrific development in Mexico. Although those interviewed in the film say that these gangs are anti-Christian, Shoebat says that there is a syncretism involved, some of which comes from fringe American preachers. He has evidence that there are pseudo-Catholic and pseudo-Protestant crime organisations.

In November 2015, no doubt while his son Theo was busy interviewing the men who participated in the film, Walid said that the Templars are a pseudo-Protestant cartel. People must not be deceived by the Christian window dressing of any of these criminal syndicates. Read ‘BOMBSHELL: There Are Massacres Of Christians Happening Right Now That Is Worse Than What ISIS Is Doing And Is Carried Out By Psuedo-Christian Cults’ in its entirety. These death cults are now in the United States. The FBI is warning people not to get drawn in by something that purports to be religious but is, in fact, satanic ritual.

In April 2016, Theodore Shoebat wrote about the type of people entering the United States via Mexico. Although the title mentions Muslims, the article discusses the ease the cartels have in crossing the border (emphases mine):

The nations of the West have been quite weak with their borders in so many disturbing ways. The US, for example, makes it difficult for good people to enter the borders, but easy for evil people to get through the borders. We have Mexican cartel agents entering with ease into the US, but [as for] good Mexicans who want to flee from the oppressions of the cartels, it is very difficult for them to enter legally.

This is hardly the way crossing the border was portrayed in a 2017 Super Bowl advert with the young mother and child. Of course, they were met with a wall. I have other evidence — the subject of a future post — which says that cartels control every border crossing. No one gets through without their approval.

Theodore’s article also discusses the aforementioned Guerreros Unidos, who, the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) says are among the primary drug distributors in the Midwest — especially in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois.

The final article, from May 2016, introduces the film. In ‘Actual Human Slaughterhouses Are Being Conducted Where Masses Of Human Beings Are Being Ritually Slaughtered’ Walid Shoebat says that at least 250,000 Mexicans have died in these murders:

And if we include all the unreported sacrifices, the death-toll probably doubles. Mexicans and the Pope can forget blaming Trump and start blaming themselves for allowing the leaven to slowly fester into their Christian culture.

Also:

Cults can occupy entire states. And we are not speaking of a primitive people here, but a decay to primitive paganism, the Mesoamerican paganism, that was continually pushed for decades at university campuses.

Walid concludes:

To the Vatican that blames Donald Trump, we say, behold, the fruits of your slumber. The Pope’s visit to Mexico withheld the truth on the ground and was nothing but photo ops with complete silence.

To the American addict, behold, the fruits of your addictions.

To all the Mexicans who thought that a ‘peace deal’ can be struck with drug pushers, preferring Santa Muerte over our Lady of Guadalupe; narcocorridos songs over the classical, sublime and rustic Son Jarocho behold, the blood which is on your hands.

To a world that thinks it is simply a “drug problem”, behold, the fruits of your myth, busted at the seam. The problem is your godlessness.

Please join me in praying that people turn to Christ so that this horrific, bloody ritualism stops. And please tell youngsters in your care that drugs harm the mind and the soul. If the West hadn’t such an appetite for drugs, Mexico and the US wouldn’t be in this predicament.

CranachWeimarAltarCyberbrethren

The painting above is by the Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger, father and son. Lucas Cranach the Younger finished the painting in 1555. It is the centre altar painting in Sts Peter and Paul (Lutheran) Church in Weimar, Germany. Read more about it:

Meditations on the Cross

I have a variety of posts on Good Friday. The following three concern Martin Luther’s view of the Crucifixion:

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the false views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the true views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the comfort

The next set of posts present a number of perspectives on the Crucifixion:

Reflections on the Crucifixion

Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)

Holy Week and Easter — the two-part story

The greatest reality show ends with a popular vote

Barabbas: an inspiration for liberation theology?

John MacArthur’s sermon on Matthew 27  — ‘The Wickedness of the Crucifixion, Part 2’ — is one of the most comprehensive expositories on the events that we contemplate on Good Friday.

Excerpts and a summary follow. Subheads and emphases are mine.

Society at that time

MacArthur cites a theologian, David Thomas, who described the social atmosphere of Jesus’s time as pure evil:

So, as we go through the passage in Matthew that describes the crucifixion, we see just unrelenting evil. David Thomas wrote, “For thousands of years wickedness had been growing. It had wrought deeds of impiety and crime that had rung the ages with agony and often roused the justice of the universe to roll her fiery thunderbolts of retribution through the world. But now it had grown to full maturity. It stands around the cross in such gigantic proportions as had never been seen before. It works an enormity before which the mightiest of its past exploits dwindle into insignificance and pale into dimness. Wickedness crucifies the Lord of life and glory,” end quote.

The Gospels record Jesus speaking of wickedness not only of the religious leaders but that generation as a whole. The disciples also experienced wickedness in their ministries.

Politically, the Jews looked for their Messiah to deliver them from the Romans and to make their land and their people into a mighty kingdom. As my aforementioned post on Barabbas explains, a small group of radical Jews banded together as the Zealots with the objective of throwing off the Roman yoke through violence and theft.

How people saw Jesus

The people directly involved with Jesus’s condemnation, scourging, mocking and death did not know who He was, even when they thought they did.

The crowd yelling for Barabbas to be freed thought that Jesus could not be their Messiah because he was not fighting the Romans.

MacArthur divides these people into four groups:

Let’s call them the ignorant wicked, the knowing wicked, the fickle wicked and the religious wicked. And I want to suggest to you that every person in the world who does not come to faith in Jesus Christ, every Christ‑rejecting person fits into these groups. They are constant. They were there at the cross. They’re around today. And everybody fits somewhere in these four groups.

The soldiers — the ignorant wicked

We saw that the callous soldiers basically were Roman Legionnaires stationed in Caesarea, no doubt, with Pilate. They didn’t really have first‑hand information about Jesus. They were not very well apprised of who He was. They may have had a very limited smattering of information. They basically are ignorant. To them Jesus is another criminal and a somewhat deranged one at that. There seems to be no legitimate criminal act that He has done. He seems to be more a maniac who thinks Himself to be a king but by who any … by any definition they know of a king is not a king at all. They no doubt think Him to be somewhat deficient intellectually and mentally and through all the tortures that they bring upon. Him, He never says a word which probably confirms their suspicion.

Pontius Pilate — the ignorant wicked

He has already stated on several occasions that Jesus is innocent. He has given the findings of the court when he said, “I find no fault in this man.” He really doesn’t want to execute a man he knows to be innocent. His wife has warned him against that and his own conscience has done the same. But he is being blackmailed into a corner by the Jews and he thinks maybe he can satiate their thirst for blood by showing Jesus to be such a foolish, foolish looking person that they will understand Him to be little threat to Rome or to Israel. And so he brings Jesus out and says, “Behold the man.” And the scream the more for His blood and say if you don’t kill Him we’ll report you to Caesar. And trapped for the fear of the loss of his position, he indicates that Jesus is to be crucified. And so it is determined.

The two robbers — the knowing wicked

They knew something of the claims of Jesus. They knew something about it as is evidenced by the future record of what they say. We find that in verse 44. “The lesti, the robbers also who were crucified with Him,” and the Authorized says, “cast the same in His teeth.” Actually, what the text says is “heaped insults at Him.” They heaped the same insults at Him. The same insults they were hearing from the Jewish leaders who were saying, “If You’re the king of Israel, come down. You say You trust in God, let God deliver You. You said You were the Son of God,” so forth. So they knew some of the claims of Jesus.

They were familiar because they were a part of the Jewish society with perhaps the work of Jesus Christ, may have been familiar with His person, may on occasion have heard Him in a crowd. We don’t know that. But obviously they knew something about Him, something more than the Roman legionnaires would have known who had nothing to do with life in that part of the world …

… these crass materialistic bandits, for them life revolves around possessions, materialism, loot. They have not thought about righteousness, truth, justice, honor, godliness. They have no concern for morality. They have no concern for Messiahs and kingdoms; they’re just out for the loot.

However, Luke recorded that one of the thieves did believe at the eleventh hour and that he rebuked the other (Luke 23:39-43):

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[d] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The crowd — the fickle wicked

The people who joyously acclaimed Jesus on Palm Sunday were the same who wanted Him to die. They preferred Barabbas.

It was bad enough that they sentenced Jesus to death by shouting for the release of Barabbas (Luke 23:13-25), but, as He agonised on the cross, they walked by to taunt Him (Matthew 27:39-40).

They had a place for Jesus, they wanted His miracles, they wanted His signs and wonders, they listened to His teaching. The crowd was fascinated by Jesus, to some extent. And they knew full well who He claimed to be and they knew there was a demonstration of the veracity of those claims …

Jesus didn’t fulfill their expectation. In fact, when Jesus rode in, they thought He would attack the Romans. He came back into town and attacked the Jews by wiping out the temple buying and selling. And that was not in His favor. They thought He ought to attack Rome, not them. And now how could this be the Messiah? All week long and He’s done nothing. He’s been here all week and now look at Him, He’s hanging on a cross, put there by the Romans. He is a victim. This is not our Messiah

Because they assumed the Messiah would come in a military triumph over Rome and all the other nations. It all was coming to pieces and they had forgotten their hallelujahs and hosannas and now in their disappointment over Jesus’ failure to give them what they wanted when they wanted it, they had turned against Him and were blaspheming His name. So fickle.

The Jewish leaders — the religious wicked

The wors[t] group is yet to come in verses 41 to 43, the religious wicked. They are illustrated to us by the canting, and that word basically means insincere and hypocritical, the canting leaders, insincere, hypocritical, the lowest level of blasphemers, religious hypocrites who parade their pi[e]ty, who want to appear to represent God and know the truth and be pure and godly and virtuous and represent the Word of God. And the truth of it is they’re filled with hate and vilification toward the very Christ of God Himself.

In verse 41 we meet them. It wasn’t just a fickle crowd, likewise also the chief priests. All those various orders of priests that operated within the temple ministries were mocking Him along with the scribes who were the authorities on the law and the elders who were suppose to be the revered and renowned men of maturity and wisdom in the land. They constitute the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel.

So, all of these leaders who are supposedly the religious elite, who suppose … are supposed to know everything there is to know about the truth of God and the Word of God and the mind of God and the heart of God, who pretend to love God and revere His Word and hold up His name. They come along and what did they say? And notice, please, that the crowd talked to Jesus, the leaders don’t talk to Christ. They hate Him. He is so despised by them they will not talk to Him, they only talk about Him. So they talk to each other about Him.

Verse 42, “He saved others.” And they mean by that His healing ministry, His deliverance from demons. “He did it for others, Himself He cannot save.” They never denied ever in the New Testament the miracles of Jesus, never. It was impossible to do that. There, is never an indication that the religious leaders of Israel denied His miracles. They said they were by Satan done, by Satan accomplished, but they never denied them. They said He does what He does by the power of Beelzebub, but they never denied them.

And now, to see Jesus hanging on the cross unable to come down, will affirm in their minds that indeed He did have power but it was Satan’s power. So when we put Him on the cross, we can be sure He’ll stay there because God is on our side. Look, the fact that He is there shows that His power is not as great as ours. His is Satan’s, ours is God. God’s with us.

They’re mocking His power. If He is the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we’ll believe Him, if He has such sovereignty and such authority and such power, let us see it now. They put in the word “now,” right now. They were forever and always asking for a sign. The truth of the matter is even if He had come down from the cross, they wouldn’t have believed, their hearts were so evil.

The horror of Jesus’s suffering

MacArthur describes in detail how horrifically Jesus suffered that day for our sins — the sins of the whole world, believers and unbelievers alike.

One thing is made abundantly clear throughout the pages of Holy Scripture and that is that man is wicked, that he is sinful. And given over to his own devices unrestrained will perpetrate crimes beyond imagination. Now the wickedness of man is no more clearly seen, nor does it reach a higher apex than it does in the execution of Jesus Christ. The crucifixion of the Savior is the greatest expression of human evil in history, the epitome of demonstration of the depth and comprehensiveness of the sinfulness of human nature

Yes, the crucifixion was the greatest act of love on the part of God and that seems to be John’s focus and even more the emphasis of Mark and Luke, but it was also the greatest expression of human evil which seems to be Matthew’s particular interest under the direction of the Spirit as he writes

wickedness is not content just to execute Jesus Christ. It must torment Him also in the process. It must taunt Him in the process. It must heap on Him all imaginable evil. It cannot just kill Him, it must slap Him and punch Him and stab Him and spit on Him and defame Him and blaspheme Him and keep that up all the time He is dying. Inconceivable. But such is the cruelty of the human heart when fully exposed.

… according to Isaiah 53:4, He carried our griefs and He carried and bore our sorrows and in addition to that His own sorrow in being alienated and separated from His Father. So He not only suffered more than any man has suffered, but He suffered more than all men together have ever suffered.

During His earthly life, Jesus suffered for us temporally through poverty and self-denial. He also suffered spiritually by temptation from Satan. As if those were not bad enough, He suffered continual rejection by His own people. On the day He was crucified, He also suffered His father’s wrath because of mankind’s wickedness:

God then had to pour out all of heaven’s fury against all of earth’s sin and it all came on Jesus Christ. So He suffered the unmitigated wrath of God.

The scourging

MacArthur described how the aforementioned soldiers scourged Jesus:

they’ve tied His wrists to a post, His feet suspended from the ground, His body taut and they have taken leather thongs attached to a piece of wood and in the end of the leather thongs are bits of stone and bone and metal and they have lashed Him until His flesh is ripped off and His internal organs are laid bare and exposed and blood rushes from out of His body.

If you have seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, you saw exactly that. (MacArthur had not written from Gibson’s perspective, because he wrote his sermon in 1985. The film came out in 2004.) I was quite disgusted with every other Christian I know in the offline world, none of whom liked the film because it was too gory and violent: ‘It never would have happened like that!’ NO! It did happen like that — for our sake!

The mocking

They have then clothed Him again. They brought Him back into Pilate’s hall and they start a little game under the watchful supervision of Pilate. And that little game is to make Jesus to appear as a king. And you’ll notice what happens in verse 28. They stripped Him. They took off His own robe which had been placed over His open wounds and they put on Him a scarlet robe, that’s the heavy outer robe Rome…worn by a Roman soldier. No doubt causing excruciating pain to those open wounds, a mock royal robe. And then they braided a crown of thorns and put it around His head. Put a reed in His right hand representative of a crown and a scepter. They bowed their knees before Him and mocked Him saying, “Hail, king of the Jews.” And as they rose from the ground they spit in His face. Then they took the reed out of His hand in a mocking gesture of snatching away His pitiful sovereignty and smashed Him in the head with His own scepter. In John 19:3 it says they kept on punching Him. He is a fool. He is a clown. He’s a buffoon. He is an object of mockery. This one who claims to be a king, what a farce, what a joke, how ridiculous. And the soldiers with joy and glee trained in the art of killing and maiming people enjoy to the very fullest their leisure expression on Jesus Christ at His expense.

By the way, this is the second time He has been punched and spit on. The Jewish leaders did it back in chapter 26 verses 67 and 68. There they spit on Him because He claimed to be a prophet. Here they spit on Him because He claimed to be a king. Little did they know the King that He was and long will they know it in hell in eternity. Little did they know that indeed He was a King and indeed He will wear a robe and a blood‑spattered robe at that. In Revelation chapter 19 and verse 13 it shows Jesus Christ coming in Second Coming glory out of heaven and He is indeed wearing a robe of royalty and it is a robe spotted with blood but it is not, at that time, His own blood but rather the blood of His enemies. And indeed some day He will wear a royal crown. It will be far different from this crown, not a stephanos, not a crown made of some earthly thing but a diadema, a diadem, a royal regal crown. Yes, Revelation 19:12 says He will wear many crowns for He will not only have His own but He will wear the crown that once belonged to every other sovereign in the world for He alone will be King.

And some day He will wield a scepter and it will be no reed, it will be according to Revelation 19:15, a rod of iron with which He will bring instant judgment on the unbelieving world

The blows from the reed which was heavy enough to cause a painful blow to the head are added and more bumps and bruises appear. His body is dripping with blood, oozing from His pores. A lack of sleep, the anguish of sin has contorted and twisted His face so that He is hardly recognizable as human, let alone as Jesus of Nazareth. And He is thought to be nothing more than a fool.

The way of the cross

They put back on His own garment. And they lead Him away to crucify Him. As they leave the city in verse 32, they conscript a man by the name of Cyrus … of Simon who is from Cyrene. And this man, as we saw last time, is to carry the cross of Christ. They then, verse 33, come to a place called Golgotha, meaning skull place named for the shape of the hill. They give Him vinegar to drink, actually wine, oinos in the better texts. They give Him wine to drink and mingled with bitter herbs. That’s a general term. Mark tells us the bitter herbs were in fact myrrh. And myrrh would act like a sedative. This was provided by Jerusalem women. There was an association of women who provided this for people who were to be crucified as an expression of the fulfillment of Proverbs 31 where it says that strong drink is for those who face death. These women did it out of kindness. The soldiers appreciated it not because they wanted to show kindness, but because it was easier to crucify a drugged victim. So it accommodated them as well.

He tasted it and wouldn’t drink it because He wanted to go to the cross with all of His senses acute and alert

The crucifixion

I’m so amazed at the fact that the crucifixion itself is passed over with such brevity. In fact, as I told you, in the Greek text it actually says the having crucified Him on[ce] parted His garments. It almost throws away the crucifixion in the original text. And we really don’t have anything given to us about the details of it so we need to kind of fill in just for a moment. The cross would be lying on the ground, the victim would be placed down on the cross and first His feet would be extended, His toes pulled down and then a large nail would be driven through the arch of one foot and then the arch of another foot. And then His hands would be extended allowing His knees to flex a little bit and there would be great nails driven through His wrists just below the bottom part of His hand, the heel of His hand because there is the place where it would hold. In the middle of the hand it wouldn’t hold, it would pull through the fingers.

Once the victim was nailed there, the cross would be picked up and dropped into a hole. And when it hit the bottom of the socket, of course, it would rip and tear the flesh and send the nerve impulses to make explosions in the brain in regard to pain. The victim is now crucified. Slowly He would begin to sag down more and more the weight being placed upon the nails running through His wrists, excruciating fiery pain would shoot up the arms and into the mind. Pressure put on the median nerves would be beyond almost the ability to endure.

The Lord then would try to push to relieve the pain and so He would push with His feet and be pushing on the two wounds in His feet. And the same thing would happen. And hour after hour this wrenching twisting torment of the body back and forth, trying to relieve one and then the other, the hands and the feet, it would become very impossible after a while to do any pushing upward because of the pain and the sagging would put the greatest weight upon the hands.

Dr. Truman, Davis writes, “At this point, another phenomenon occurred as the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles nodding them in deep relentless throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the inner costal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it can’t be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself to get even one short breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps subside. He would grasps short breaths of air, hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting joint‑rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down the rough timber. A deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with scorum (?) and begins to compress the heart. And this leads to death.”

‘King of the Jews’

After Jesus took His last breath, the soldiers had to nail to the cross the reason for His death. Pilate gave that to them:

They set over His head an accusation because it was required that a man who was crucified be crucified for some criminal reason. And there was no legitimate criminal reason to crucify Christ. Pilate, wanting to make his statement of the innocence of Christ and also wanting to affirm his … despising of the Jews, puts over the head of Jesus, “THIS IS JESUS,” the other writers tell us he put, “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.” And in all three languages of the times so everyone could read it. And the Jews … protested and said, “We don’t want that up there, we want, “He said He is king of the Jews.'” And Pilate said, “What I have written I have written.” And thus in cynical sarcastic words he mocked the Jews by saying to the whole world, “There’s your king, there’s your king, you despicable people, you deserve such a king.”

A statement

There is much more to read. This is a compelling sermon, not to be missed.

The same types of people who sentenced, mocked and killed Jesus are around today. Some even attend church.

All of them are convinced of their own self-righteousness. They reject Jesus Christ. They reject the Bible. They do not want to know. Their way is better.

They know more than the Christian humbly praying for more grace, praying for sanctification, praying to be delivered from temptation.

The day will come when we will be at the seat of divine and holy judgement. Where are we now? Where will we be then?

MacArthur concludes with this:

I don’t know where you are today. He longs to embrace you into His arms, to give you the salvation He so freely offered. He stayed on the cross not because He couldn’t come down, He stayed on the cross because He wouldn’t come down. And I believe that the Savior shed tears for those who shed His very blood. Such is the compassion of God and the gift of salvation. Let’s bow in prayer.

Thank You, Father, for the scene that we have viewed today from Your holy Word. Thank You for the friend of sinners who died for the very ones who crucified Him in all generations. Thank You that His arms are open to all who come. O Father, may we be grateful enough, thankful enough not only to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, but to live our lives totally in obedience to Him.

Amen.

On January 27, 2017 I wrote about the Deep State, which included an abridged description of it from former Congressional staffer and author Mike Lofgren.

On Wednesday, February 22, Alex ‘Infowars’ Jones gave an AMA — Ask Me Anything — interview to Reddit’s The_Donald. Questions and the transcript are here. Below is the full YouTube AMA, which was the highlight of a special Infowars broadcast:

The AMA starts at the beginning of the video and lasts for nearly three hours, ending at 2:54:00.

I don’t recommend many videos, but this one is particularly good as a) an explanation of how globalism works and b) a call to believe in Christ our Lord.

Even though I know most of the information Jones discusses, I found the 1:00:00 to 2:33:00 segment really worthwhile.

I’m going to summarise the high points of what Jones talked about, but will take them out of order, as the Q & A went back and forth on certain topics.

How globalism and the Deep State came about

Jones said that a global plan to control mankind came about in the 19th century. He mentioned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a good example of the knowledge among a small group of people about what the future would bring. It was a very early time to bring electricity into a book, when most towns and cities would not have an electricity grid until decades later.

When the Fabians were established, they were interested in controlling mankind through eugenics and other means. They, other well-placed Europeans and America’s corporate elite got together to engineer these plans. The overriding theme was control over others — specifically the people they perceived as the lower orders.

Jones said that, in the early 20th century, the idea of machines controlling man intrigued this group of people. Thomas Watson — IBM’s founder — spent several years in Germany. He and his corporation became big players for the Third Reich. (I saw where someone online laughed at this the other night. However, it’s true. A number of well respected newspapers carried the story in the 1980s — pre-Internet. It was common knowledge for anyone who cared to read about it.) IBM was not the only corporation and Watson not the only wealthy man to aid, abet and make money off helping the Germans during that time and into the Second World War.

How the Deep State works today

Jones explained that people are bought off all the time. Many of the titans of technology have been compromised — receiving large sums of money — to do the Deep State’s bidding. The most recent examples of this have been the censorship and bans exercised by Facebook and Twitter.

Jones said that when he had a cable access television programme in the 1990s, critical of the Clinton administration in Washington, he was offered a trip to DC to meet then-president Bill Clinton — and $100m — if he would stop criticising Bill on air. Jones refused.

This leads him to believe that some of the biggest players aren’t making money off their genius and foresight alone. They are bought off by the Deep State (political, intelligence communities) and globalists to serve common elite interests.

Jones also mentioned that Bill Gates’s father was the chairman — not public president — of Planned Parenthood. Therefore, Bill had an ‘in’ to entrepreneurship via Dad’s connections. He was far from an ordinary guy writing computer programs in the family garage.

Jones tells his father’s story

Jones said that his father was a teenage engineering genius and had his own radio show in Texas during his adolescence.

Such brilliance brought him into contact with powerful people, who took him on private tours of various research facilities. They promised him the world if he would get a university degree. He could work for them and make a lot of money. They added, ‘But, you understand, you’ll also have to do some bad things.’

Jones’s father thought about the offer, what it entailed in the long run and politely refused. He pursued dentistry instead and became a dental surgeon.

How Jones got involved in investigative journalism

Those who regularly watch The Alex Jones Show know that he was a precocious teenager. At the age of 16, he was going to parties thrown by university students in a town in Texas, which he left unidentified (probably Rockwall, near Dallas).

He said that, at one of these, the mother of the student hosting the party was openly snorting cocaine. A sheriff’s car pulled up to the house. Jones was certain the house would be raided. But, no. The sheriff’s men brought in bags of cocaine and other drugs to sell, as if it were nothing. They had already established an arrangement with the woman.

He said that a week or so later, the same law enforcement officers spoke at a local anti-drug meeting, warning about the dangers of narcotics. When it came time for the public to ask questions, Jones — age 16 — got up and told them they were the same officers who sold drugs at the party he had recently attended.

Jones said that, afterwards, the officers pulled him aside and got him to a private room where they roughed him up. They told him to be quiet, otherwise, they would make sure he was gang raped by violent men whom they had already lined up. They told him to meet them again, but Jones did not go. Meanwhile, Jones’s father, a dental surgeon, had connections in town and managed to smooth things over. Nonetheless, those connections told him to move himself and his family out of town as soon as possible for their own safety.

The Jones family moved to Austin. Jones’s mother is from there originally and still has family there. That is why he remains there today with his own family.

How people get drawn into the Deep State

Jones said that players in the Deep State lure others in through the promise of influence, power and money.

Drawing new people in is easy when they find themselves in compromising situations through parties, perhaps involving paedophilia. The Deep State then has that person under their control. If that person wants to maintain his notional propriety — e.g. in public office — he must do as the Deep State dictates.

Jones said that it is better for intelligent or otherwise gifted people to resist friendly overtures from the Deep State at the outset. Be polite, say thank you, then walk away.

He said that once someone gets involved with the Deep State — even if they try not to become victims of blackmail — it is very difficult to walk away. He is quite certain, based on what insiders have told him, that Steve Jobs was murdered. He thinks that Jobs wanted out. However, because of what Jobs knew, he would have to be removed the picture entirely. Otherwise, he might have revealed what is really going on behind the scenes.

Jones also said that people in the highest echelons come across as very courteous and cordial. This is how innocent people get drawn into their web.

He made it clear that colluding with the Deep State was ‘selling a birthright’ and ‘selling your soul’. Never take money, favours or a position of influence from people allying with the powers of darkness, which is what the upper echelons are involved with.

Why globalists and the Deep State hate Trump

President Donald Trump wants everyone to have the same opportunity that he did to get ahead and make a good life for themselves and their families, Jones said. The globalists and Deep State, on the other hand, want everyone’s standard of living gradually lowered so that people have no more individual power over themselves, their families or their assets.

Jones said that Trump has always wanted what is right for people. Although, in some respects Trump has not been an angel, overall, he embraces a life-affirming philosophy. Jones said that the brutal  presidential campaign humbled Trump and made him realise that there was no one he could rely on completely. Jones said Trump could only put himself in the hands of Almighty God, from whom all good things come.

Jones pointed out that Trump is continuing to undergo the same ordeals in the White House. Once again, he knows he can rely only on God.

The upper echelons trying to destroy humanity through Marxism, Communism, the family and sexuality see that Trump is a good man. Jones called him an ‘innocent’. He explained that Trump, whilst far from being naive, does not understand how evil people can work against their fellow human beings and oppose life-affirming policies and measures that will help the American people.

The spiritual battle

Time and time again, Jones emphasised the spiritual battle that America is going through right now.

He explained that he decided to do the AMA because he wanted to make it clear to those Americans ‘who are not worldly’ — meaning God-fearing — that there is real evil going on today and that they need to be aware of it.

He said that the evil is now out in the open. The Left, Big Media and others:

aren’t even trying to hide it any more, that’s how bad it is.

George Soros

Someone from The_Donald asked if things would improve once George Soros passes away.

Jones replied that George Soros was one of only several at the top determined to destroy goodness in the world. He said that Soros has his own acolytes prepared to continue the fight. They have a battle plan and know what to do. Even worse, Jones asserted that Soros himself is controlled. He’s not the man in charge. There are people above him exerting their influence.

Jones also downplayed Soros’s influence by saying that although the man lives and breathes, he is spiritually dead, inferring that he really has no meaningful life anyway, so there is no need to worry about him.

Jones calls people to Christ

Jones gave two or three sermonettes on the importance of faith in Jesus Christ.

He was emotional — in his usual way at such points in his monologues — emphasising that the only way anyone can defeat the powers of darkness is through faith in Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jones is not the biggest churchgoer and, perhaps rightly, finds that Satan lurks in most churches. So he stays away. That said, he does know his Bible and gave an interesting, modern update on what King David faced by way of sin and temptation. He pointed out that when David repented, God filled him with abundant grace and great courage.

Jones said we could learn from King David’s experience; the devil is the one who gets people to doubt whether God will forgive them. Jones said to ignore those doubts. They come from Satan. God forgives.

Therefore, pray regularly and ask for faith.

Jones would have made an excellent preacher. I wish we had thousands of clergymen like him. He spoke the truth. He spoke from the heart. He pulled no punches on explaining the darkness in world today. He explained that Jesus Christ — the Light of the World — is our only means of hope and salvation.

What people can do

Jones said that good people must speak up and tell unworldly people about the dark forces in our society.

He said to first believe in Christ, because without Him we can accomplish nothing. From that, we were to infer that secular humanism will not get the job done.

God-fearing people should start blogs, websites and/or video channels. We all have our own special talents that, with divine grace, we can use to reveal the vagaries of the Left, the globalists and the Deep State.

We must not remain silent. We must speak out. We must resist.

Above, all, if we want to defeat evil, we must be faithful Christians.

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

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

Acts 2:12-13

12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

—————————————————————————————-

This is the first set of verses in Acts which have been omitted from three-year Lectionary.

More’s the pity. In the Gospels, there are two mentions of people accusing Jesus of being a drunkard. Neither of them is in the Lectionary, either.

In 2015, I wrote about Matthew 11:16-19 which ends with this observation from Jesus about His critics (emphases mine):

19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”[a]

In 2013, I wrote about the parallel passage, Luke 7:31-35:

34The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.

Remember that last sentences in each, as they also relate to the Holy Spirit’s purpose in the account of the first Pentecost in Acts 2.

Matthew Henry points out:

if they called the Master of the house a wine-bibber, no marvel if they so call those of his household.

Before we go further, let’s look at the authorship of Acts and why it was written. St Luke wrote it, addressing it to his friend Theophilus, a benefactor of his but, as this book was dedicated to him, also a pupil (Acts 1:1):

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,

Luke also dedicated his Gospel to the same man (Luke 1:4), likely to have been a senior Roman official, according to John MacArthur:

3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Note that Luke addresses him as ‘most excellent’ in the Gospel but only as ‘O’ in Acts. Henry offers the following possibilities to explain the differences:

not that he had lost his excellency, nor that it was diminished and become less illustrious; but perhaps he had now quitted his place, whatever it was, for the sake of which that title was given him,–or he was now grown into years, and despised such titles of respect more than he had done,–or Luke was grown more intimate with him, and therefore could address him with the more freedom.

In any event, the dedication of important books to individuals was normal, however, their content is just as pertinent to us when it comes to Scripture:

It was usual with the ancients, both Christian and heathen writers, thus to inscribe their writings to some particular persons. But the directing some of the books of the scripture so is an intimation to each of us to receive them as if directed to us in particular, to us by name; for whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.

As for Luke, you can find out more about him here. In that post, I cited John MacArthur who says that Luke was not only a physician, but also a historian, a theologian and a pastor.

In his introduction to Acts, MacArthur tells us:

Luke is the author of Acts. And Luke was closely associated with the Apostles from about the time of Jesus’ death, around 30 A.D., to about 60 or 63 A.D. where evidently he penned this book. And in those intervening 30‑plus years, as Luke travelled in the companionship of the Apostles, he penned what was going on. And the story of the book of Acts is the beginning of the church at Jerusalem and its explosion until it reaches the capital of the world, one of those uttermost parts of the earth, the city of Rome. And in a thirty‑ year period, under the tremendous power of the Spirit of God, the church exploded around that area of the world and reached the capital of the world in the form of the Apostle Paul in his arrival in the city of Rome. And in those 30 years, Luke presents to us how it was that the Spirit of God superintended, controlled and empowered the expansion of the church.

Luke wanted to communicate to Theophilus how and why the Church developed so that the Roman would realise that Christianity represented truth and that Christians were good people, not rebels who wanted to overturn civil and political order:

in writing to this man, he is evidently‑‑as one of his purposes‑‑attempting to commend Christianity to the Roman world. The Romans had a rather exclusive view of religion, you worship the emperor. And they had some other gods that were involved, but emperor worship was the key thing. They were somewhat tolerant although their tolerance ran a little thin and they became great persecutors of Christianity. And in this particular book, Luke directs the attention of the Romans from time to time to the character of Christians, that is that they are not bad citizens but rather they are very loyal and they are very law abiding. He also directs the Romans’ attention to the fact that many other Roman officials have treated the Christians with great care and have even given good testimonies about Christians. So it has kind of as a background thought the commending of Christianity to the Roman world, lest the Romans be threatened that all of these people were rebels who were going to overthrow the pax Romana or the Roman peace.

However, Luke also meant his writings for the Jews, who felt the Church was exclusive to them. Luke wanted to prove to them that it was also meant for the Gentiles:

… there was this kind of latent problem with the new‑born church as it was to unfold and that is that the Jews would think that it belonged primarily to them and the Gentiles were second‑class citizens. Particularly might this have happened in view of what happened when the church began at Jerusalem as the Spirit of God came in cloven tongues of fire and came upon them, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in different languages. Now then this gave them a certain exclusive kind of feeling and that’s why when Peter came to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, he was so shocked when he announced to the Jerusalem council, “Guys, you’ll never believe it, the same thing happened to the Gentiles that happened to us, can you believe that?” In other words, the point is that God wanted them to make sure the Gentiles and the Jews were on an equal basis in the church.

That said:

the main purpose of Acts is stated as such in Acts 1 verse 8. And if you’ll look at that for a moment you’ll see the main character summarized very clearly. Verse 8, “But ye shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” and here’s really the purpose, “ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, in all Judea and in Samaria and in the utter most part of the earth.” Now there you have the outline of the book of Acts. The book of Acts begins when the Spirit came. They received power. Immediately they became…witnesses declaring the wonderful works of God. They began where? In Jerusalem. Then the book of Acts moves and they went to Judea. Then they went to Samaria, finally they went to the world. They wound up in the capital city of Rome and that’s exactly the outline of the book of Acts given in the eighth verse. It begins right there and it sweeps clear through to the end of the book.

The purpose then of the book as Luke states it there is to show the story of the spread of Christianity empowered and energized by the Holy Spirit throughout the world.

For those unfamiliar with Acts, Luke begins with Jesus’s Ascension on Mount Olivet (Acts 1). Then, Peter discussed Judas’s death, where Luke inserted a parenthetical explanation:

18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

Peter, speaking before the Apostles, the women closest to Jesus as well as Jesus’s mother and brothers, cited Psalm 109:8 in justifying a replacement for Judas. The group nominated Barsabbas (Justus) and Matthias. After praying for guidance and casting lots, they chose Matthias to replace Judas.

Most of Acts 2 describes the first Pentecost. The 70 followers of Jesus were together in one house. These verses help to shed light on today’s verses, 12 and 13:

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.

Note that the tongues were real languages, not random babbling. And, using those divinely given languages, the 70 spoke about the wondrous works of Almighty God — i.e. in a Jewish scriptural context — and were understood by those present who spoke those respective foreign tongues.

I can’t emphasise that enough.

I always wondered how there was a crowd of Jews nearby at the time. John MacArthur says that even the date of Pentecost was divinely ordained. It happened 50 days after Passover, which was the Feast of Harvest of the first fruits of the season. God commanded this feast to Moses in Leviticus 23. MacArthur explains:

by divine timing, the fact of the birth of the church and the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurring on Pentecost fulfills the prophecy of Leviticus 23 in which we see the Feast of Harvest as a preview or a type of the church and the baptism of the Spirit … As Christ, for example, fulfilled the Passover feast by dying on the Passover, as He fulfilled the First Fruits feast by rising on the First Fruits feast day, so the Spirit and the birth of the church occurs on Pentecost to fulfill the meaning of that feast from Leviticus 23. You see, these three feasts are types or pictures prophetically of what is to come. And Jesus died on the right day, He rose on the right day and the church was born on the right day because Leviticus 23 outlined it in the pictures of the feasts, which we went into last time. So when it says that “when the day of Pentecost was fully come,” that is the key to interpreting the passage. In other words, this has a very basic direct significance for a special day in the calendar of Israel.

He goes on to say that this was part of God’s divine plan and has nothing to do with us today other than to know why Pentecost occurred when it did:

for people to come along and say that the Spirit of God comes upon an individual as in Acts when the preparation is right and when the individual does the right things is to misinterpret the passage. The Spirit came on a specific day designed by God, the day of Pentecost. It had absolutely nothing to do with the believers there, nothing to do with them meeting any qualifications or any requirements. They were there and it happened because God sovereignly designed it to happen.

Because of the importance of this feast, devout Jews living in other lands went up to Jerusalem to worship and offer the requisite sacrifices.

When they heard the disciples speak in their own languages, they were confused but amazed (verse 12). They marvelled. Remember that everyone considered Galileans to be uneducated, uncultured bumpkins with a particular accent. Matthew 26:73 says that in Peter’s last denial of Jesus, people identified him by his speech:

73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

MacArthur explains the divine plan:

First of all, the Spirit sent a sound like a wind just to make sure they got gathered together. He got them all together, then they had this marvelous miracle of speaking in languages just to make sure He really messed up their minds. And, you see, when they then began to speak the wonderful works of God, then the Jews only had two choices. Either this was a miracle of the devil, or it’s a miracle of God. But when they started praising God, that eliminated one of those choices. And so what the Spirit was doing was narrowing the whole thing down to the admission that this is of God.

Matthew Henry tells us that the derisive accusation of drunkenness (verse 13) probably came from the Jewish hierarchy who knew Jesus, because the foreigners present marvelled at people who had never travelled outside their own region, yet could speak their language fluently.

The Jewish hierarchy didn’t understand those languages to begin with and put it down to heavy drinking during the daytime:

As when they resolved not to believe the finger of the Spirit in Christ’s miracles, they turned it off with this, “He casteth out devils by compact with the prince of the devils;” so, when they resolved not to believe the voice of the Spirit in the apostles’ preaching, they turned it off with this, These men are full of new wine.

A simple rationalisation for them. See how their hard-heartedness continued even after Jesus rose from the dead.

MacArthur says:

Isn’t it interesting how with all the proof in the world some people still aren’t convinced? You know, I’ve made up my mind; don’t confuse me with facts (laughter). Isn’t it amazing how you can give them all the evidence there is and if they don’t want to believe it, they won’t believe it. That’s why we say salvation not an issue of dialogue; it’s an issue of sovereignty. It has not to do with how well we argue; it has to do with how the Spirit draws and breaks down the barriers. And so here are some who have seen all of this and they’re not about to give in and say it’s God, not any way. They just block their minds out, which are blinded by Satan.

That’s why we can say only so much to atheists. As MacArthur points out, good argumentation has nothing to do with conversion. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why the best thing we can do for atheists is to pray for divine intervention leading to faith through grace.

Continuing on with Acts 2, Peter no sooner heard the remark about drunkenness than he stood up to preach the Gospel.

The first conversion story after the first Pentecost continues in the New Year.

Next time: Acts 2:33-35

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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

Matthew 26:30-35

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

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The Last Supper had just ended (verse 30).

Jesus had sent Judas away long before then and commemorated Passover with the remaining eleven apostles in instituting the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

Passover supper concluded with a hymn, a sung Psalm. John MacArthur tells us:

After the main meal of the lamb, the bitter herbs, and the sauce, the unleavened bread, they would take a cup, then they would sing the hallēl, which would be the latter part of the hallēl, Psalm 115 to 118.  Then they would take the fourth and final cup, and then they would sing the final song, which was Psalm 136, called the great hallēl.  And every verse in Psalm 136 ends with the same line, “For His mercy endureth forever – for His mercy endureth forever – for His mercy endureth forever” – every one of them.  So they would have sung that. 

Hallēl means ‘to praise’. Hallelujah is is the plural imperative of hallēl.

MacArthur describes the walk Jesus and the apostles took to the Mount of Olives. We often think they were alone in a quiet Jerusalem. However, as it was Passover, the streets were teeming with faithful Jews (emphases mine):

… the leaving was very significant.  It was nearly midnight.  They go out of this upper room, down the stairs, out into the street, and the city is alive as if it was midday.  It is alive because it is Passover time.  It is the time of the feast of unleavened bread, and there’s activity everywhere and people are hurrying around.  Some are in the midst of eating their Passover meal.  Remember, the Galileans and the Pharisees ate it late Thursday night.  Some are still eating it, so the lamps are burning in the houses.  Some are getting ready to have it the next day, the Judeans and the Sadducees, and so, they’re getting the preparations ready.

The temple gates will be thrown open at midnight for the special festival.  And so people are surging toward the temple wanting to get in that place.  Visitors are everywhere; people negotiating for a place to have the Passover the next day, who had come from out of town, animals being collected and carried all around to be sacrificed the next day.  It’s alive, even though it’s night, and so they’re pushing their way, no doubt, through this kind of crowd at night, down the eastern slope of the temple mount.  They’ve crossed the Kidron valley, where the little brook is running as full as it ever runs because of winter rain, and it’s even more full because of the blood of all the thousands of animals that have been slain, and the blood runs out the back of the temple, down the slope, into the stream to be carried away.  And so the disciples, eleven of them now, and Jesus cross that in the dark, and they ascend the Mount of Olives, headed for a very familiar place that they have gone to many times called the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “olive press;” Mount of Olives, many olive trees, and a place called olive press.

People in the city didn’t have gardens in the city.  There was no place for that.  They had gardens out on the slopes around the city, and they would cultivate those, and those would be the gardens that belonged to the people that lived in the city.  And Jesus went to a familiar place, and they were headed for that place, but it must have been up the slope a ways, and as they went up they needed to stop and rest – maybe in a similar place that they had stopped the night before when He gave them the great Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 and 25 on His Second Coming. 

Jesus had something important to tell the apostles. He told them they would ‘all fall away’ because of Him that night (verse 31). Some older translations, such as the Bible Matthew Henry used, say ‘shall be offended’. In modern English, the connotation is ‘to desert’.

To illustrate His point, He cited Zechariah 13:7. I’m going to highlight that below and give you subsequent verses to better put it into context:

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts.

Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
    I will turn my hand against the little ones.
In the whole land, declares the Lord,
    two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
    and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
    and refine them as one refines silver,
    and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
    and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

MacArthur explains Zechariah in the prophet’s context then in Jesus’s. Note that MacArthur is using another version of the Bible, but the words will make sense in the same way:

In Zechariah 13, Zechariah is talking about some false prophets who will be wounded in their idol houses.  He’s talking about false prophets that God is going to come and wound in their idol houses.  In other words, God is going to judge false prophets.  And the prophet is speaking against those false prophets, who are worthy only of the judgment of God.  And then he comes right behind that in verse 7 and says, “I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.”  And it might seem at first that he’s referring here to a false shepherd, that God is going to come down and smite a false shepherd – makes sense – and scatter all of the followers of that false shepherd.  And we might think that, except for the clear interpretation of Christ, who says, “The smiting is Me, and the flock is you.”  And so the smitten shepherd of Zechariah 13:7 has to be the Messiah, and the scattered flock has to be His people.  And if you understand that, you understand the meaning of Zechariah 13:7, and it makes sense out of that passage, especially as you look a little closer to it.

Now, look at Zechariah 13:7 for just a moment, and I’ll show you some interesting things.  It says, “Awake, o sword,” and this is God, Jehovah God speaking, “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd.”  Now, that tells you right away that it’s not a false prophet.  God is not slaying a false prophet whom He calls “My shepherd,” God’s personal representative.  God says, “My sword will slay My shepherd” – “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd.”  And then this most interesting phrase, “And against the man,” and he uses a Hebrew word here that is not the normal word, not the generic word, but means “mighty man” or “man of great strength.”  So first of all, the shepherd to be slain is called “the shepherd of God, My shepherd, a mighty shepherd.”  And then it says, “Who is My fellow.”  Literally, “the mighty man of My union,” or “the mighty man equal to Me.”  Marvelous statement, isn’t it?  Who is equal to God?  Christ.  Who was God’s shepherd?  Christ.  Who is the mighty shepherd?  Christ.

So clearly, Zechariah is turning a corner from the false, saying, “Yes, God will wound the false shepherd in the house of his idol, but God will also wound the true shepherd, and His sheep will be scattered as well.”  And the end of the verse, “And I’ll turn My hand on the little ones,” there will be a remnant – there will be a remnant.  What Zechariah was saying is the day is coming when God is going to smite His own shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sheep are going to be scattered.  Now, the sheep I believe Zechariah has in mind is the nation Israel.  Israel went into chaos after the death of their Messiah.  Seventy A.D., the city was destroyed, the temple and everything else, and they’re still in the same chaos resulting from the rejection of Messiah.  But the disciples being scattered were sort of the first phase of the chaos that hit the nation Israel.  So Zechariah sees God smiting the shepherd, the nation disintegrating, and the first phase of it the Lord applies to this group of His own disciples, who will be scattered.

Jesus then said that when He was raised, He would go before the apostles into Galilee (verse 32). He was not only telling them what would happen but also making sure they were not filled with despair. Matthew Henry explains the verse in light of Zechariah:

Though you will forsake me, I will not forsake you though you fall, I will take care you shall not fall finally: we shall have a meeting again in Galilee, I will go before you, as the shepherd before the sheep.” Some make the last words of that prophecy (Zechariah 13:7), a promise equivalent to this here and I will bring my hand again to the little ones. There is no bringing them back but by bringing his hand to them. Note, The captain of our salvation knows how to rally his troops, when, through their cowardice, they have been put into disorder.

Then Peter piped up with another grand pronouncement of his loyalty and fidelity (verse 33). He said his faith was so much deeper than everyone else’s that night. They might fall away but he would remain steadfast until the end.

But Jesus knew what was going to happen, and it was not as Peter imagined. Jesus told him that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny knowing Him three times (verse 34).

If you’re familiar with cockerels, they start crowing very early, between midnight and three in the morning, known to the ancient Jews as the rooster crow. Therefore, Peter’s denials would come in relatively quick succession that night.

Peter, however, was adamant in his loyalty. The other apostles also pledged their fidelity (verse 35).

The rest of the chapter — indeed, the rest of Matthew’s Gospel — is in the three-year Lectionary.

However, let’s remind ourselves of how events unfolded.

Jesus asked Peter, James and John to wait for Him while He went off alone to pray (verse 36):

39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

What unspeakably deep sorrow He must have experienced at that moment.

Yet, when He returned, Peter, James and John were asleep:

40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?

Jesus’s next words were — and continue to be — pivotal:

41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The flesh is always weak. That has been an enduring fact starting with Original Sin.

Satan is always on hand to prey on our weakness. He doesn’t sleep. This is why we need to be alert, on guard against temptation.

Jesus went off to pray a second time. Even after his admonition about being watchful:

43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

He went off a third time to pray. When He returned, the apostles were asleep.

Jesus told them to rest later (verse 45):

46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

This should have been enough to penetrate and concentrate their minds, but it wasn’t.

Jesus had not finished speaking when a crowd of high priests and scribes armed with swords and clubs appeared with Judas (verse 47):

48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”[f] Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

‘One of those’ with Jesus — Peter, as John 18:10 identifies him — drew his sword, but Jesus told him to put it away:

52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

He said He does not need earthly defence; He has His Father in heaven and legions of angels (verse 53).

Matthew 26 ends with Peter’s three denials in the early hours of Good Friday morning:

Peter Denies Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Parallel verses for today’s reading are found in Mark 14:26-31.

Parallel verses for Matthew 26:34 are found in Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34 and John 13:38. Note that the links I have supplied are all from my Forbidden Bible Verses series. This means they do not appear in the three-year Lectionary. More’s the pity, because they teach us a valuable lesson as Christians.

It is hard not to be suspicious of churchgoers who boast of their faith. A few have commented on this site. They make themselves sound better than everyone else, just as Peter attempted to elevate himself above the other apostles. Matthew Henry has this observation:

Note, It argues a great degree of self-conceit and self-confidence, to think ourselves either safe from the temptations, or free from the corruptions, that are common to men. We should rather say, If it be possible that others may be offended, there is danger that I may be so. But it is common for those who think too well of themselves, easily to admit suspicions of others. See Galatians 6:1.

Peter was so puffed up with himself because he was in his comfort zone. No doubt boastful churchgoers are also in their own bubble. They live in a safe place. They have a roof over their heads. They feel no outside threat. They have food, family and friends. They have a church and a congregation they love. Their needs are met, which gives them a prideful, false confidence about their faith. Henry warns us:

Note, 1. There is a proneness in good men to be over-confident of their own strength and stability. We are ready to think ourselves able to grapple with the strongest temptations, to go through the hardest and most hazardous services, and to bear the greatest afflictions for Christ but it is because we do not know ourselves. 2. Those often fall soonest and foulest that are most confident of themselves. Those are least safe that are most secure. Satan is most active to seduce such they are most off their guard, and God leaves them to themselves, to humble them. See 1 Corinthians 10:12.

We need to be careful in Christian witness when we talk about ourselves!

Even John MacArthur grapples with human weakness, so we should all pay attention to what he says on the matter:

As much as we would like to think of ourselves as strong Christians, the fact of the matter is that, in and of ourselves, we are weak.  We would like to think that we could never be caught in a situation where we would deny the Lord, where we would deny His Word, where we would be ashamed to name His name or to be associated with Him.  But the truth of the matter is from time to time, we do just exactly that.  We are caught in an environment of unrighteousness, and we say nothing.  There is a time to speak of Christ, and we do not speak.  There is a time when someone would identify us as a Christian, and we shun such an identification for fear of social pressure or social ostracization.  There are times when we should be bold for the cause of Christ, and we are anything but bold.

I remember when I was young I used to think about how it would be when in the future I went to serve the Lord, and should He call me to a very difficult place, I was faced with death or denial of Christ.  I had read missionary stories about those people who affirmed their faith in Christ all the way to death, and I wondered whether I would do that, and I wanted so desperately to believe that I would.  I really wanted to be able to say, “I’d do that – I’d name Christ right down the wire, and if they were going to burn me at the stake, I’d keep naming the name of Christ.”  I wanted so much to be able to say that about myself, but I really had a lot of doubts.  And what gives me the doubts, and did then and still does, is that there are times when I don’t even say what I ought to say in a situation far less intimidating than death.  There are times when we just retreat from the identification with Christ that we should have.  There are times when as disciples, we desert, we go AWOL, we defect for shame’s sake.  We’d rather not be identified with Jesus Christ.  We just don’t want to step out and stand firm

How true.

America is the last bastion of Christianity, but the number of agnostics and atheists there is growing. It might become taboo one day to say one is a Christian, especially if one lives in a big city. It can affect the number of friends one has and even one’s employment.

There is a price to pay for Christianity, even when one lives in the West. I know. I have experienced it in the UK more often than not.

In closing, this is my final post on the Gospel of Matthew.

Let us recall how it ends. The Great Commission — which holds true for us — is Jesus’s command to the disciples after the Resurrection (Matthew 28:18-20). Note that He preceded them to Galilee (Matthew 28:16-17) as He said after the Last Supper (Matthew 26:32):

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

May God grant us His heavenly grace and may the Holy Spirit give us the fortitude to witness for the Gospel, through Jesus Christ our Lord, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

————————————————————————

Next week, I will begin a study of the Book of Acts. There we will see what happened to Peter and Paul in their respective ministries.

Next time: Acts 2:12-13

This will be my final post about the presidential campaign prior to the election on November 8. Post-election analysis will follow later this week.

I have three big topics to cover: Clinton’s horrible people, voter fraud and voting for Democrats. This post is not for children or other vulnerable people.

If you have not already read yesterday’s post on Spirit Cooking, please do so. Yes, it involves the Clinton people.

Thankfully, faithful Christians in Los Angeles put up posters on Sunday condemning Hillary Clinton for having a Jezebel spirit. Gateway Pundit has photos and an article on the subject.

This is the poster, which mentions Ephesians 6:11:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

 

Children and the Clinton people

I really want to give this section the title it deserves, substituting a Greek ‘p’ word for ‘children’, but I want to make sure everyone sees and reads it, so have toned it down.

Yesterday’s post also had a section by this title relating to the same sinful, egregious behaviour. As I said then, the Podesta emails from WikiLeaks have several references to pizza, cheese pizza, hot dogs and so on. One talks about a black and white pizza map handkerchief and pillows. The latter is a code word for drugs.

Please make sure you read that section along with the explanation of symbols and code words (here, here and here). If you have children or are in charge of young people, you really should read all of those links.

This is one of the grossest things ever.

It is not here gratuitously but rather to convince you to vote sensibly on Tuesday.

I did not believe it until I saw the following 3:21 minute long video. Not only does it look like Clinton advisers and insiders the Podesta brothers and James Alefantis (owner of Comet Ping Pong in DC, also involved in the Clinton Foundation) are connected with this, but it also explains what the codes mean. If you think these pizza and other food references are far-fetched, this will prove to you otherwise:

David Seaman, formerly of Huffington Post until he got sacked in August for questioning Hillary’s health, has an excellent 9+ minute video here of what WikiLeaks has exposed in this regard. ‘Walnuts’, he says, refers to little girls’ private parts. ‘Sauce’ means orgy:

On Sunday night I watched a longer video, 50+ minutes long. Stefan Molyneux led a discussion with Mike Cernovich (see Jezebel poster above) and blogger Vox Day, who looks very young at 48. It concerned the occult practices and child sexual abuse that WikiLeaks helped to expose, even if indirectly. Dozens of people, especially at The_Donald, started investigating people, places and connections. Some of their research has been featured on other alt-right sites, as I explained yesterday.

The reason I have included Molyneux’s discussion below is that he and Cernovich are unbelievers. Day, on the other hand, became a Christian as an adult. All are repulsed by the activity of the Clinton circle.

The final ten minutes really sum up what is happening here. This is the first time Cernovich and Molyneux have actually seen evil. Cernovich said he now thinks there could be something to Christianity, after all. Let’s hope so. Anyway, the upshot is that, as Day explained, Christians want to do God’s will whereas the NWO, Clinton people included, want to be gods themselves, hence the horrific means they will go to for power (fast forward to 40 minutes in):

That’s the best explanation I have heard for adults or younger people old enough to understand what’s going on with these devilish rituals and heinous sexual abuse. Even the unbelievers understood.

Keep in mind these horrible people go to church, too. Hillary occasionally attends a Methodist service and John Podesta has emailed about his Mass attendance! The devil never appears as himself but in disguise. Church is one of his best hideouts.

Voter fraud

Voter fraud has been going on in the United States in various places for decades. Democrats engineer it in the general election. Republicans do it in their own primaries, most notably this year in Ohio, Kansas and Maine.

When I was growing up, the jokey slogan in Chicago was ‘vote early, vote often’.

Here’s an anecdotal back catalogue of voting in Cleveland.

Philadelphia is well known for convicts and non-citizens voting, especially over the past 14 years.

More recently, in 2012, St Lucie County in Florida had a 158.85% voter turnout.

That same year in Virginia, Congressman Jim Moran’s son advised vote stealers to forge a utility bill in that person’s name. Around 100 legitimate voters could have been affected.

A YouTube from January 2008 shows how lax New Hampshire was in the presidential primary that year. They have procedures; the Secretary of State and his men deliberately chose not to follow them.

Also in 2008, the Podesta WikiLeaks (a 2015 email) revealed that Obama’s campaign had ‘flooded’ Colorado caucuses in primary season ‘with ineligible voters’.

Early in October, New York City election commissioner Alan Schulkin said he has an ongoing problem with voter fraud in poorer boroughs. Lefty mayor Bill de Blasio said Schulkin’s claims were ‘crazy’ and called on him to resign:

Big Media are trying to mislead you when they say that all this is a figment of Trump’s imagination. They know the truth. They just don’t want you to know it.

People take this lightly — and Hillary wouldn’t answer post-debate questions on the matter — but at least some, like this young Bernie Sanders supporter, have switched to Donald Trump because:

I don’t support people who steal my vote!

If you can, ask for a paper ballot.

Check your vote carefully before you leave the booth. If your vote has not been recorded as you cast it, please notify a polling official immediately.

Reporting fraud at a higher level

This section has contact points followed by states where voter fraud has been reported.

How to report it

What follows are various contacts at county and national levels.

If I were doing it, I’d probably email where possible.

Alex Jones: vote [at] infowars.com

In your state:

Where voter fraud has been occurring

California: In October, residents of a halfway house were promised a $300 rebate if they voted for Hillary.

Delaware: Vote flipping took place in the Democratic primary this year.

Florida: Broward County (October 26, incomplete ballot papers, opening the door to double voting). Trump campaign is suing. On October 28, two Dade County campaign operatives were arrested: one for illegally marking ballots for a particular local candidate in Miami and the other for registering non-existent persons or the dead.

Illinois: Thugs from Chicago have been bribing people in downstate Kankakee to vote Democratic. The local race there is reportedly very tight. HillBuzz has information about Chicago votes.

Indiana: On October 20, Indiana’s secretary of state found voter registration forms altered with discrepancies in personal details.

Maryland: 20-20 Watch has details of what occurred during the 2016 primary.

Texas: Mid-October reports in Nueces, Tarrant, Denton, Randall and Potter Counties: full details. There’s more on Tarrant County here. On October 25, Chambers County had to resort to paper ballots because of a machine ‘glitch’ that required a software update.

Anywhere: The Washington Post has reported that non-citizens have been voting since 2008. What a coincidence (not). Emphases mine below:

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

The article went on to say that voter ID has no effect. See the Alan Schulkin video above from New York.

On a similar line, in Virginia, the governor, Terry McAuliffe, recently pardoned 60,000 felons — giving them the right to vote in this election.

‘Mortal sin to vote Democrat’

In the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, parishoners found an odd insert in their church bulletins on October 16.

NBC San Diego reported on the leaflet entitled ‘How to vote like a Catholic – it is a mortal sin to vote Democrat!’

The handout goes on to outline several political issues, including abortion, and notes the church’s stance on the topic. “Based on the above, it is mortal sin to vote Democrat,” adding that sin, if not confessed, “means eternal damnation,” the leaflet cautioned.

Two weeks later, parishioners received a second bulletin titled “Voting Catholic,” that again discussed social issues and implored them to take a “Catholic view.”

“The devil does this through the tactics outlined by Saul Alinsky with the outcome as Hillary Clinton has stated, ‘And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be change,’ to draw us away from God’s teachings regarding the sanctity of life to those of the world and its prince,” the leaflet said.

The Diocese knew nothing about these leaflets. Bishop Robert McElroy issued a statement:

Let me stress again that while we have a moral role to play in explaining how Catholic teaching relates to certain public policy issues, we must not and will not endorse specific candidates, use parish media or bulletins to favor candidates or parties through veiled language about selectively chosen issues, or engage in partisan political activity of any kind.

True.

It was a great guerilla move on someone’s part, though. Well done!

Not all of the San Diego cafeteria Catholics were impressed.

Nor was the Catholic priest who appears on Fox News impressed by these nuns:

With that, I leave you to vote. (Graphic below from The Conservative Treehouse).

Please pray that the better of the main parties’ candidates wins. Otherwise, this spells the end for America as the Great Republic.

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/lion-cloud-2.jpg?w=578&h=408

At the start of Holy Week, prior to Jesus’s crucifixion, He drove the money changers from the temple and the high priests plotted against Him.

Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes referred to as Spy Wednesday as Judas comes into the picture:

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

More on Judas

(Image credit: whatshotn)

On March 15, 2016, I was appalled to read of two Anglicans — a bishop and an priest — coming forward to defend Judas. Even worse, on Good Friday morning — Good Friday, at 9 a.m., when children are watching! — BBC One will broadcast a programme about him: In the Footsteps of Judas.

The BBC should be broadcasting about Jesus’s suffering and dying so brutally for our sins — and how Judas fulfilled Old Testament prophecy in this regard.

The BBC, the programme makers and these two Anglicans are out of bounds.

The Telegraph has the full story. The Revd Kate Bottley says:

“This is not to say ‘Oh Judas, he’s all right really’, what we are saying is perhaps there is something else to this character than that kiss and that betrayal,” she said.

“I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white – we just probably didn’t hear about it – because they were all human and we are all a bit messed up.”

The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds:

feels “a bit sorry” for Judas.

He said that the lost apostle, viewed by many Christians as a figure beyond redemption, has, he said had a “lousy press” for the last 2,000 years.

Apparently, clergy do not need to know the Bible anymore. Jesus knew early on that Judas would betray Him. He said that Judas was a devil (John 6:70-71, emphases mine):

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

He said that after He fed the Five Thousand, long before the final week of His ministry.

I suppose the aforementioned clergy would simply say they would discount that as John might have just put that in there and that we have no way of knowing whether Jesus ever said that.

And there are many ‘Christians’ who say that John’s gospel is an allegory.

Here’s what John MacArthur has to say about Judas:

Hatred for Judas was so deep in the years following the closing of the New Testament that several incredible legends about him evolved. They describe bizarre occurrences, characterizing Judas as ugly, evil, and totally repugnant. One, in the apocryphal Coptic Narrative, said that Judas, having betrayed Christ, was infested with maggots. Consequently, his body became so bloated that on one occasion he was trying to ride on a cart through a gate, and being too large to fit through it, he hit the gate, his body exploded, and maggots spewed all over the wall. Obviously, that story is not true, but it shows the high level of contempt for Judas in the early centuries.

When I was in seminary, I wrote my dissertation on Judas Iscariot. During the year that I spent working on it, and since then, I have found it extremely difficult to write or speak on. Sin is never more grotesque than it is in the life of Judas. When we study Judas and his motivations, we are prying very close to the activity of Satan. But there are valuable reasons for examining Judas and his sin. For one thing, to understand Jesus’ love in its fullness, it helps to look at the life of Judas, because despite the awfulness of Judas’ sin, Jesus reached out to him in love.

My links at the top of this post discuss Judas’s life in more detail. He was a bad man. A tragic, sin-filled human being. Look at the image at the top of the post. Jesus said it would have been good for Judas not to have been born.

How anyone — especially a bishop and a priest — can have sympathy for him is astounding. If I were the Archbishop of Canterbury I’d want to meet with each separately to discuss their future in the Church.

The gospel reading for Spy Wednesday in Year C of the three-year Lectionary is John 13:21-32:

13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

13:23 One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him;

13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.

13:29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.

13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

What Jesus had just said before becoming troubled in spirit (verse 21) was (John 13:18-20):

18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

When He announced that one of the apostles would betray Him, all (but one) were stunned to the point where Peter asked John to enquire of Jesus who it was (verses 22 – 24). John was the logical apostle to ask, because he was close to Jesus’s heart and was reclining next to Him at the Last Supper. People stretched out on the floor to eat in ancient times.

John duly whispered the question to our Lord, who whispered back that they would know when He gave one apostle a morsel of moistened bread (verses 25, 26). With that, he handed it to Judas.

Matthew Henry’s commentary has this analysis of what could have been going through Judas’s mind at that moment and Jesus’s continuing generosity:

[1.] That Christ sometimes gives sops to traitors worldly riches, honours, and pleasures are sops (if I may so speak), which Providence sometimes gives into the hands of wicked men. Judas perhaps thought himself a favourite because he had the sop, like Benjamin at Joseph’s table, a mess by himself thus the prosperity of fools, like a stupifying sop, helps to destroy them. [2.] That we must not be outrageous against those whom we know to be very malicious against us. Christ carved to Judas as kindly as to any at the table, though he knew he was then plotting his death. If thine enemy hunger, feed him this is to do as Christ does.

Once Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him (verse 27). In light of John 6:70, Henry explains:

now Satan gained a more full possession of him, had a more abundant entrance into him. His purpose to betray his Master was now ripened into a fixed resolution now he returned with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, Luke 11:26. Note, [1.] Though the devil is in every wicked man that does his works (Ephesians 2:2), yet sometimes he enters more manifestly and more powerfully than at other times, when he puts them upon some enormous wickedness, which humanity and natural conscience startle at. [2.] Betrayers of Christ have much of the devil in them. Christ speaks of the sin of Judas as greater than that of any of his persecutors.

Please, never think that Judas was a sympathetic character or that he deserves a hearing. If Jesus considered His betrayal worse than His persecution, Judas’s heart and soul were rotten.

Jesus dismissed Judas from the Last Supper (verse 28), but in a way that the apostles did not understand (verse 29).

Christ hereupon dismissed him, and delivered him up to his own heart’s lusts: Then said Jesus unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. This is not to be understood as either advising him to his wickedness or warranting him in it but either, (1.) As abandoning him to the conduct and power of Satan. Christ knew that Satan had entered into him, and had peaceable possession and now he gives him up as hopeless. The various methods Christ had used for his conviction were ineffectual and therefore, “What thou doest thou wilt do quickly if thou art resolved to ruin thyself, go on, and take what comes.” Note, When the evil spirit is willingly admitted, the good Spirit justly withdraws. Or, (2.) As challenging him to do his worst: “Thou art plotting against me, put thy plot in execution and welcome, the sooner the better, I do not fear thee, I am ready for thee.” Note, our Lord Jesus was very forward to suffer and die for us, and was impatient of delay in the perfecting of his undertaking.

Henry wrote that the apostles were too guileless to see the very worst sin was about to be committed:

Note, It is an excusable dulness in the disciples of Christ not to be quick-sighted in their censures. Most are ready enough to say, when they hear harsh things spoken in general, Now such a one is meant, and now such a one but Christ’s disciples were so well taught to love one another that they could not easily learn to suspect one another charity thinks no evil.

Judas left in the night (verse 30). Henry explains:

[1.] Though it was night, an unseasonable time for business, yet, Satan having entered into him, he made no difficulty of the coldness and darkness of the night. This should shame us out of our slothfulness and cowardice in the service of Christ, that the devil’s servants are so earnest and venturous in his service. [2.] Because it was night, and this gave him advantage of privacy and concealment. He was not willing to be seen treating with the chief priests, and therefore chose the dark night as the fittest time for such works of darkness. Those whose deeds are evil love darkness rather than light. See Job 24:13, &c.

After Judas left, Jesus announced that He was now glorified (verse 31), indicating His crucifixion to come:

The presence of wicked people is often a hindrance to good discourse. When Judas was gone out, Christ said, now is the Son of man glorified now that Judas is discovered and discarded, who was a spot in their love-feast and a scandal to their family, now is the Son of man glorified. Note, Christ is glorified by the purifying of Christian societies: corruptions in his church are a reproach to him the purging out of those corruptions rolls away the reproach. Or, rather, now Judas was gone to set the wheels a-going, in order to his being put to death, and the thing was likely to be effected shortly: Now is the Son of man glorified, meaning, Now he is crucified.

MacArthur explains that Jesus purposely chose Judas:

He chose Judas because Judas was necessary to bring about His death, which was necessary to bring about the redemption of the world.

Prophecy was clear that Christ would be betrayed by a close friend. Why did Jesus choose Judas, then? He chose him to fulfill prophecy–not only the prophecy specifically about Judas, but also the prophecies of His own death. Somebody had to bring it to pass, and Judas was more than willing. God used the wrath of Judas to praise Him, and through the deed that Judas did, He brought salvation. Judas meant it for evil, but God used it for good (cf. Genesis 50:20).

You see, Judas fit right into the divine master plan. Judas’ betrayal was predicted in detail in the Old Testament. Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

The picture of David and Ahithophel in Psalm 41 is fulfilled in a greater sense in Jesus and Judas. The phrase “lifted up his heel” portrays brutal violence, the lifting of a heel and driving the heel into the neck of the victim. That is the picture of Judas. Having wounded his enemy, who is lying on the ground, he takes the giant heel and crushes his neck.

Psalm 55 contains another clear prophecy of Judas and his betrayal. Imagine Jesus speaking these words:

For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me.  Then I could hide myself from him.  But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend.  We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.

He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has violated his covenant. His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (vv. 12-14; 20-21).

And finally:

Zechariah contains a prophecy about the betrayal of Christ by Judas in even more detail. It gives the exact price he was paid for his treachery, just as it is recorded in the New Testament. Zechariah 11:12-13 prophetically gives the words of Judas, talking to the Jewish leaders:

I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!”  So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages.  Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.”  So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

That describes to the letter what Judas did after the death of Jesus Christ. He took the thirty pieces right back to the house of the Lord and threw them down. Matthew 27 says that the thirty pieces were picked up and used to buy a potter’s field, exactly fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 11.

It is important for children and those new to the faith to understand Judas’s story and his betrayal of Christ. Knowing that all was prophesied in the Old Testament will help them to understand why Jesus had to choose him as an apostle.

Now, wouldn’t such an explanation have made a much better television programme? Clearly, to borrow Martin Luther’s words to Zwingli — ‘another spirit’ — moves through Judas’s defenders.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe 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 (‘Blaspheming the Holy Spirit’ parts 1 and 2).

Matthew 12:22-32

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

—————————————————————————————————

Last week’s post looked at the preceding verses to this week’s reading. In Matthew 12:15-21, Jesus left the area where He had healed a man with a withered hand in the local synagogue and went to another place where He continued to heal people and make them whole again. Matthew cited and paraphrased Isaiah 42:1-3 to show the Jews — and us — that Jesus truly is the prophesied Messiah and Saviour.

Now someone brought to Him a man who was blind and mute because of demon possession (verse 22). Our Lord healed the man who could then see and speak.

This is both a physical and spiritual healing. Matthew Henry says:

A soul under Satan’s power, and led captive by him, is blind in the things of God, and dumb at the throne of grace sees nothing, and says nothing to the purpose. Satan blinds the eye of faith, and seals up the lips of prayer.

The people watching this were beside themselves with astonishment. Immediately they asked if He was the long-awaited Son of David (verse 23). John MacArthur analyses this verse for us:

The word there means ‘to be totally astounded.’ It is existemi, and it means to be beside yourself with astonishment; it isn’t just saying, “Well, isn’t that something.” It is losing it. In fact, one translator says that it means to be literally knocked out of your senses. Another one says it is to be out of your mind with amazement. To put it in Junior High talk, it is to be blown away. They just couldn’t handle it; it was an overwhelming thing.

Yet, they were trying to reconcile His humble appearance with His magnificent healing power (emphases mine):

… they are saying, “This can’t be the Messiah, can it?” It’s like an 80-percent no but a 20-percent yes. The ‘no’ comes from the fact that He didn’t fit their bill, their design, their preconception; but the 20-percent ‘yes’ comes from the fact that they couldn’t explain His power.

The Pharisees addressed them and alleged that our Lord was in league with Satan (verse 24). No Jew of the time was going to argue with these men considered to be the paragons of God’s people. And the Pharisees were so wrapped up in their own prestige that they were permanently hard of heart, so much so that they accused Him of getting His power from Beelzebul.

MacArthur explains the name:

That is the old word that originally was the name of a Philistine god, Beel comes from Baal. You’ve heard of worshiping Baal, and that is just the ancient pagan word for ‘lord.’ ‘Zebub’ or ‘zebul’ is best connected in translation to the word ‘flies.’ So we go all the way back to the lord of the flies, or the god of the flies.

The Ekronites worshiped the god of the flies, if you can imagine. It was a play on words, because there is another word ‘zebel’ which means ‘dung.’ So apparently, they even called Beelzebub ‘Beelzebel,’ which was a derisive thing, saying, “Your lord of the flies is nothing more than the lord of the dung.” It would be easy to do that play on words, because flies tend to hang around, well, you get the picture. So that is probably what they had in mind.

Through the centuries, this lord of the flies or lord of the dung title for this deity became a very common title for Satan. So to be the prince of demons or Beelzebub is simply using one of the titles of Satan. Jesus recognized this, because in verse 26, when He answers, He uses the word ‘Satan’ in response to their word ‘Beelzebub.’

Jesus pointed out the absurdity of that accusation (verses 25, 26), effectively asking how and why Satan could be working against his own demons, his servants.

Note that the Pharisees were not addressing our Lord. He was going to talk to them, however.

It is likely that the Pharisees were standing closer to the crowd than to Jesus, so He might not have been in earshot but, because He is omniscient, He knew what they had said.

Jesus went further, asking them how their sons were casting out demons (verse 27). Were they, too, in league with Beelzebul?

Or, He asked them, was He healing through the Spirit of God (verse 28)? If so, then the kingdom of God was present among them. Henry explains:

This casting out of devils was a certain token and indication of the approach and appearance of the kingdom of God (Matthew 12:28) … Other miracles that Christ wrought proved him sent of God, but this proved him sent of God to destroy the devil’s kingdom and his works. Now that great promise was evidently fulfilled, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head, Genesis 3:15. “Therefore that glorious dispensation of the kingdom of God, which has been long expected, is now commenced slight it at your peril.” Note, [1.] The destruction of the devil’s power is wrought by the Spirit of God that Spirit who works to the obedience of faith, overthrows the interest of that spirit who works in the children of unbelief and disobedience. [2.] The casting out of devils is a certain introduction to the kingdom of God. If the devil’s interest in a soul be not only checked by custom or external restraints, but sunk and broken by the Spirit of God, as a Sanctifier, no doubt but the kingdom of God is come to that soul, the kingdom of grace, a blessed earnest of the kingdom of the glory.

Jesus expanded on that further by alluding to a break-in (verse 29). If someone is going to plunder the house of a strong man, he’d better be able to overpower that man and bind him first. Therefore, who is the only one strong enough to bind Satan? Jesus.

Henry analyses the verse:

The world, that sat in darkness, and lay in wickedness, was in Satan’s possession, and under his power, as a house in the possession and under the power of a strong man so is every unregenerate soul there Satan resides, there he rules. Now, (1.) The design of Christ’s gospel was to spoil the devil’s house, which, as a strong man, he kept in the world to turn the people from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from this world to a better, from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18) to alter the property of souls. (2.) Pursuant to this design, he bound the strong man, when he cast out unclean spirits by his word: thus he wrested the sword out of the devil’s hand, that he might wrest the sceptre out of it

Then our Lord said that anyone who was not with Him was His enemy and that anyone who did not gather — spread His message — would scatter, or be lost (verse 30).

He went on to say (verses 31, 32) that many forms of blasphemy can be forgiven — including those against Himself as the humble Son of Man — once one repents but that against the Holy Spirit cannot be pardoned.

MacArthur says that this is because blaspheming the Holy Spirit is doing what the Pharisees have done: allying the Spirit with Satan.

MacArthur unpacks this for us:

He is saying, “You can speak a word against the Son of Man, and that would be forgiveable because you may speak against Him, seeing nothing more than the humanness.” In other words, your perception may not even allow you to be dealing with deity as a factor. And it is not His power on display, so you may be speaking against Him as Son of Man; you are condemning what you perceive in His humanness (even though you’re wrong), you can understand that you can do that without making a comment on His deity at all, because it is the Spirit who is working, not Him, technically.

Another thought is important here, and that is the fact that this is His humiliation. There is a sense in which He is in a mode of humiliation which invites that kind of criticism. In other words, you might say, “If that is the Second Person of the Trinity, I’m not impressed. I mean, He’s a carpenter from Nazareth.” You could speak a word against the human Jesus in His humiliation, that’s forgiveable; you may just not know the facts, who He really is. You may not have seen the evidence, and are just talking at the human level, without a perception of the divine. That’s what He’s saying.

Nevertheless, when you speak against the Holy Spirit, that will not be forgiven you, not in this time period or in the time period to follow, because when you begin to speak against the Spirit, then you are saying, “I recognize the supernatural, I see the supernatural, only I think it’s Hell, not Heaven.” For that, you won’t be forgiven.

Ultimately — and this is important to be able to explain to people, because these are not easy verses to understand:

If you’re looking on the human plane and that’s all you perceive and understand, you can be brought along to believe and understand. But if, when you have seen the supernatural and the ministry of the Spirit of God through Christ, and you conclude that it is of the Devil, you can’t be forgiven because now, you are speaking against the Spirit of God, the power of God, the energy of God, as made manifest through Christ. So, in a real sense, you’re speaking against His deity, His divine nature, and calling it satanic.

It is easier to understand this in the context of the Pharisees, prime examples of the condemned. They spent a lot of their time following our Lord around, witnessing His miracles and hearing His teaching. Yet, as we saw in Matthew 9:32-34 and in this passage, they accused Him of being in league with Satan. They denied the divine source of His power, the Holy Spirit, and — worse — called it satanic. That cannot be forgiven.

Henry explains:

This is such a strong hold of infidelity as a man can never be beaten out of, and is therefore unpardonable, because hereby repentance is hid from the sinner’s eyes.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit which began working through the Apostles starting on that day enabled them to spread the Gospel message, preach, teach and heal in Christ’s name. This is why Confirmation — a sacrament for Catholics, an ordinance for Protestant denominations — is so important. Unfortunately, it seems to be the last time many adolescents ever see the inside of a church. Families agree that once their children are confirmed, they do not have to attend Sunday services any more.

This is, I think, in part, because Confirmation classes are not what they used to be. They are rather watered down. Consequently, adolescents do not understand the nature and importance of the Holy Spirit. Another factor is parental. Mum and Dad have forgotten, or never understood, the Holy Spirit, either. Were their clergy to blame, too? Or was it that they drifted away from worship and the faith?

Those of us who have been confirmed or ‘born again in the Spirit’ would do well to consider how we are using the Holy Spirit’s gifts in our relationship with Christ Jesus and in our daily lives.

In closing, parallel verses for today’s passage are in Luke 12:8-10. It is a pity that neither of these was included in the three-year Lectionary for public worship.

Next time: Matthew 12:33-37

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5a/MatthewHenry.jpg/220px-MatthewHenry.jpgIn my posts discussing Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10 (here and here), one of his observations deserves to stand alone, specifically that on Matthew 10:25:

It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign[f] those of his household.

Jesus was referring to His healing the man made deaf by demons, documented in Matthew 9:32-34.

As is often the case, Henry explains the immediate context then gives us a practical application for the present day (emphases mine):

They must expect, in the midst of these sufferings, to be branded with the most odious and ignominious names and characters that could be. Persecutors would be ashamed in this world, if they did not first dress up those in bear-skins whom they thus bait, and represent them in such colours as may serve to justify such cruelties. The blackest of all the ill characters they give them is here stated they call them Beelzebub, the name of the prince of the devils, Matthew 10:25. They represent them as ringleaders of the interest of the kingdom of darkness, and since every one thinks he hates the devil, thus they endeavour to make them odious to all mankind. See, and be amazed to see, how this world is imposed upon: [1.] Satan’s sworn enemies are represented as his friends the apostles, who pulled down the devil’s kingdom, were called devils. Thus men laid to their charge, not only things which they knew not, but things which they abhorred, and were directly contrary to, and the reverse of. [2.] Satan’s sworn servants would be thought to be his enemies, and they never more effectually do his work, than when they pretend to be fighting against him. Many times they who themselves are nearest akin to the devil, are most apt to father others upon him and those that paint him on others’ clothes have him reigning in their own hearts. It is well there is a day coming, when (as it follows here, Matthew 10:26) that which is hid will be brought to light.

His words are truisms to remember for believers, especially clergy and those in public life, who suffer false accusations.

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PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 -- resolved

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