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“A Temple Left Undone”

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Today is Tuesday of Passion Week, and on this day Jesus spoke parables and taught many things to his disciples and any crowds that gathered (see Matt 21-25). Included in this teaching was the famous Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24.

“A Temple Left Undone”
March 31, 2015
Tuesday of Passion Week

Jesus pointed to the stones
And said of them, “Each one
Of these shall be upon the ground,
A temple left undone.”

Then on the Mount of Olives, he
Disclosed the coming years
Of wars and quakes and many fakes
Until the Son appears.

None shall know the day or time
When comes the Son to take
The ones not ready for the Thief,
So therefore: stay awake.

“With Zeal and Holy Flame”–A Poem for Monday of Passion Week

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Originally posted on Unto Him:

Today is Monday of Passion Week, and on this day Jesus cursed a fig tree and cleansed the temple (see Matt 21, Mark 11, Luke 19).

“With Zeal and Holy Flame”
April 14, 2014
Monday of Passion Week

The temple courts were interrupted
By Jesus as he came
With zeal and holy flame
For God the Father’s name
That was dishonored there.

The holy temple housed the robbers
Who, from sinful vices,
Sold the sacrifices
At inflated prices
In that place of prayer.

He drove out the thieves and overturned
Every chair and table,
An act that was a symbol
Of judgment on the temple
And rebels everywhere.

Just like the fig tree that he cursed,
The people bore no fruit,
So he put ax to root,
And sinners resolute
Would soon his judgment bear.

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“Humble Would Be How”–A Poem for Sunday of Passion Week

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“Humble Would Be How”
Passion Week 2015

In all the weeks that ever were,
None had begun like this:
The Nazarene sent men to find
A scene they must not miss–

A donkey tied beside a colt,
And both he needed now.
For Scripture said the King would ride,
And humble would be how.

He rode into Jerusalem
And heard the crowd proclaim:
“Hosanna be to David’s son,
And blessed be his name!”

“From Dust You Shall Arise”: Resurrection Hope in the Old Testament

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I had the honor of contributing an article to the latest edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT 18.4 [2014]). The journal focused this issue on “resurrection,” and just in time for Passion Week drawing nigh.

I wrote on resurrection hope in the Old Testament: “From Dust You Shall Arise” (pp. 9-29 of the journal).


Out of the Heart Comes Law-Breaking

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Typically the Ten Commandments are divided into ones dealing with our relationship to God (Commandments 1-4) and our relationship to others (Commandments 5-10). In Matthew 15, Jesus engages Pharisees who fail to see their law-breaking hearts. Over the course of the chapter, Jesus references the second category of the Ten Commandments, and in order.

15:5-6, “But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.” Later in the same chapter, Jesus tells his disciples, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (15:19).

Let’s take them one by one.

  • Fifth commandment: “honor” your parents
  • Sixth commandment: do not “murder”
  • Seventh commandment: do not commit “adultery” or “sexual immorality”
  • Eighth commandment: do not engage in “theft”
  • Ninth commandment: do not bear “false witness”
  • Tenth commandment: do not covet, which may be manifested in “slander” 

Jesus shows that breaking God’s law begins inwardly. The phrase “evil thoughts” confirms the inner source of the acts which follow it. Given the order of the commandments and their correspondence to the Old Testament list in Exodus 20, the reader may be surprised that the last word in 15:19 is “slander” rather than “covetousness.” Yet perhaps Jesus uses “slander” as a manifestation of covetousness. Since Jesus in some way alludes to Commandments 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, it is plausible to expect the final term to relate to Commandment 10, right?

Jesus’ words are a corrective challenge to the Pharisees’ complaint that his disciples break God’s law by not washing their hands when they eat (Matt 15:1-2). Countering the notions of the religious leaders, Jesus showed that keeping God’s law is fundamentally a heart issue. And if the Law of Moses is a mirror, we are all guilty of breaking it.

But the heart of Jesus was different. If the Law of Moses was a mirror, Jesus’ life perfectly reflected it. He never spoke or did what was evil. From his heart never came evil thoughts. Irrespective of washed or unwashed hands, in the midst of sinners Jesus was the only one truly clean.

Prophecy and Patterns: How Isaiah Prophesied about Jesus’ Religious Opponents

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Biblical prophecy doesn’t necessarily function as a direct prediction that meets a single exhaustive fulfillment. The Bible’s authors also considered patterns to be prophetic. Such patterns could have multiple fulfillments as time marched on.

Consider Matthew 15:7-9. Jesus told the Pharisees, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

In Matthew 15:7, Jesus introduced a quotation from Isaiah 29:13. Now if you dissect Isaiah 29:13 carefully, there is no indication that it is any direct prophecy. Isaiah didn’t mention Pharisees when he quoted Yahweh’s words for his eighth-century B.C. readers, yet Jesus told them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you.”

How exactly did Isaiah prophesy about the Pharisees? Jesus discerned Isaiah 29:13 to be a prophetic pattern. The Pharisees were a typological fulfillment of the kind of people Isaiah addressed, people who had fraudulent hearts. When Isaiah prophesied about those who worshiped in vain, his words applied to (or would be “fulfilled” in) anyone whose worship was also vain despite their lip-service and religious ritual. People in Isaiah’s day fit the pattern, people in Jesus’ day fit the pattern, and so do people in our day. This means we too should be warned, lest Isaiah’s words be “fulfilled” in us.

Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Raising the Dead

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In the Old Testament, there were three occasions when people died and were brought back to life. In 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah raised a widow’s son. In 2 Kings 4:18-37, Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son. And in 2 Kings 13:21, a dead man revived when his body was thrown into a grave with Elisha’s bones.

In the New Testament, Jesus raised a ruler’s daughter (Matt 9:23-25), a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44).

So far, if you’re keeping score, physical resurrections in the Old and New Testaments pan out like this:

  • Elijah, 1 person
  • Elisha, 2 people
  • Jesus, 3 people

The power of Jesus’ ministry surpasses the greatness of Elijah and Elisha. Like Elijah, Jesus raised a widow’s son (1 Kings 17; Luke 7), but the number of people raised by Jesus was greater than the number by Elijah. Jesus also raised more people than Elisha did. Furthermore, like Elisha, resurrection was associated with Jesus’ death, but in a greater scope. When a dead man was thrown into a grave and touched Elisha’s bones, that one body revived (2 Kings 13). But when Jesus died, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:52).