“For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever read a note meant for another person? There’s a good chance that note made reference to things you weren’t able to fully understand without some additional context. Often, reading things in the Scriptures can be a little like that. We can understand all the words (at least, we can once they’ve been carefully translated into the language we actually speak), but without additional context, it is not immediately apparent what they are talking about. Let’s add some more context to what we see here to make sure you understand it.
“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Do you remember the “yanny” versus “laurel” fad from a few years ago? The audio illusion became an internet sensation for a couple of weeks in May 2018. The clip contained both of the words, but the former was more prevalent at higher frequencies, and the latter at lower frequencies. Which one you heard depended on which sound frequencies were picked up the most easily by your ears. A slight majority of listeners (including me) reported hearing “laurel” when they heard the clip. I even still hear “laurel” when the low frequency sounds are filtered out to some extent so that the “yanny” sounds are more prevalent. The rest (including my lovely bride) heard “yanny.” The clip came from a Georgia high school student doing some homework when he recorded the audio pronunciation of the word “laurel” (see, I knew I was right!) from Vocabulary.com. The poor quality recording he made is what allowed some folks to hear “yanny” instead. Without getting any of the back story or listening to an edited version of the clip to make one sound more prominent than the other, though (here’s a video where they edit the clip so you can easily hear “yanny” and then transition it back to normal – it was the first time I’ve ever heard what the “yanny” sounds like and promptly couldn’t any longer when it went back to normal), most folks will hear the clip one way and never know there was another option. What has me thinking back to 2018 this morning is this well-known declaration by Paul. Most folks have only ever learned to hear it one way (the “yanny” way), but when you play it with the pitch Paul wrote it, something entirely different – and better – comes to the fore. Let’s talk this morning about another lie Christians believe and why the truth is so much better.
“Jesus spoke to them, ‘Isn’t this the reason why you’re mistaken: you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised – haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God said to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been in a fight with another person? I’m not talking about a rhetorical squabble, but an honest-to-goodness physical altercation. Thankfully, I haven’t. I’m not looking for that either. As a general rule, I try and avoid getting hit as often as I can. But if you were to be in a fight, it would be a whole lot easier if your opponent was made out of straw. A strawman, you see, can’t hit back. Well, what applies to our bodies, applies to our words as well here. Often when someone is going to get into a rhetorical battle with an ideological opponent, rather than engaging that opponent directly, he will create a ridiculously weak strawman of his opponent and proceed to demolish it. Then, when the dust settles, he will plant a rhetorical foot on the vanquished foe’s back and declare victory. And while this scene may be convincing to some, the trouble is, the actual opponent is not only still standing, but has done the same thing. Both parties are declaring unequivocal victory over the other without ever having actually engaged with each others’ arguments. Well, when someone accustomed to taking down strawman opponents comes face to face with an actual opponent who is well-prepared for the confrontation the outcome generally isn’t pretty. When a group of Sadducees got their turn to try and embarrass Jesus with a trick question, this is exactly what happened.
“He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’ And his disciples heard it.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When was the last time you threw a fit about something? What sparked that? I remember going on a mountain getaway with some friends several years ago. We were cooking a Stouffer’s lasagna for dinner, and it fell to me to get it out of the oven. Somehow, I tipped over the pan all over the oven door, basically ruining dinner for the six of us. In the moment I was so embarrassed and angry that I threw an oven mitt across the little kitchen. Fortunately, the meal was salvageable. It was my little freak out that did more to put a damper on the evening than the messy meal. Talk about an awkward moment. I was lucky to have a gracious wife and friends. Well, this morning, I want to look with you at a time when Jesus seemed to throw a fit.
“The woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she was asking him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Serving in ministry can be tough in ways many other jobs simply aren’t. I don’t say that as a complaint. I love what I do. I say it merely as an observation. I have a friend who was serving a church many years ago and had gone on vacation with his family during the summer months. While they were gone, someone connected to one of the prominent members of the church passed away. The member called him to let him know about it and fully expected that he would leave his family on vacation (or else cut short their vacation entirely), fly back home, and perform the funeral service. There are a few other jobs where that kind of thing might happen, but not many. Getting away – really getting away – isn’t easy to do. Jesus was trying to get away with the disciples here and ministry came calling. How He handled it leads to one of the strangest and hardest stories about Jesus in all of the Gospels. Let’s take a look at it together.