Cross Purposes

You and I are inundated by narratives day and night. We are implored to spend our time, money, and allegiance in response to them. Their goads come at us through the mail, and via emails, radio, TV, and social media. Here are only a few of their associated rallying cries:

“Today Only!” “Act Now!” “Call Now!” “Last day to act!” “Crisis into opportunity!” “Doing nothing is not an option!” “Let’s get it done this year.” “We must move beyond climate talk to climate action.” . . . And there is, of course, The Great Reset’s pervasive “Build Back Better!” (bidding us to become the bricks and mortar of the Globalist’s Tower of Babel.)

The pressure to surrender and conform to narratives can be as manipulative as it is intense. The pressure is especially persuasive when a long-standing narrative fuels pressure to have a defining moment enacted. To wit, Palm Sunday and the so-called “triumphal entry”.

In terms of the gospel according to Mark, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, though taking on a “triumphal” and precursive tone, was anti-climactic. There was no takeover, no ousting of Roman rule, and no fire coming down upon the unrighteous.

Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the temple, and looked all around. It was already getting late, and he returned to Bethany with the twelve. (Mk. 11: 11)

Those who had lined the road up to Jerusalem and had shouted “Hosanna in the Highest” did so out of the highest hopes. Along with the palm branches, they held expectations of a “Messianic Apocalypse”:

. . . for the heavens and the earth will listen to His [God’s] messiah . . . [and all w]hich is in them shall not turn away from the commandments of the Holy Ones. Strengthen yourselves, O you who seek the Lord, in his service! Will you not find the Lord in this, all those who hope in their heart? . . .

These words, from the Qumran text 4Q521 dubbed “Messianic Apocalypse”, were written some 100 years before Jesus. I wonder. Did the people go home that night and ask each other “What’s up with that guy? Why doesn’t he get with the program?” They would have had their reasons for asking.

Second Temple period Jews were experiencing a cultural crisis. Under the rule of a Seleucid (Greek-Syrian) king named Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest”), that began in 175 BC, the Jews had been under tremendous pressure to conform to Hellenistic culture.

(Note: the apocalyptic visions recorded in the latter chapters of Daniel (7-12) were written in response to the ongoing Jewish persecutions (167-164 BCE) by Mr. “god manifest”. The chapters can be dated toward the end of the Maccabean revolt (see below).

Antiochus did all he could to push his cultural narrative onto the Jews. He plundered the temple, erected an altar for Zeus Olympus in the Jerusalem temple and sacrificed to Greek gods. Traditional practices of Judaism were outlawed.

Many Jews at that time were greatly concerned about the growing assimilation to Hellenism and its gods. While some Jews went along with the cultural change, others revolted against it.

The Maccabean revolt was the armed resistance. Mattathias, a priest, and his sons Judas Maccabeus, Jonathon, Simon, John, and Eleazar led the resistance.  Under Simon, Judea and Jerusalem achieved political independence for a time – the yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel (1 Maccabees 13:41-42)

After purifying the temple of foreign elements, Simon led a procession of those playing musical instruments and hymn singers waving palm branches into the temple. This much abbreviated version of second temple times sets the stage for Palm Sunday. You get a feel for what the people were thinking about Jesus.

Jesus entered a Jerusalem under Roman rule. The accounts of the Maccabean revolt, Simon’s “triumphal entry”, and the Messianic Apocalypse stoked imaginations that day. The crowd wanted Jesus to be the fulfillment of their Messianic hopes.

Jesus had encountered similar pressure to conform to the long-standing narrative – the advent of the Messiah – several times before.

When Jesus began to teach his disciples something new – there’s big trouble in store for the son of man – Peter did not hear Jesus conforming to the ‘popular’ messiah narrative. Sure, there had been trouble before. But this? . . .

There’s big trouble in store for the son of man. The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes are going to reject him. He will be killed – and after three days he’ll be raised. He said this all quite explicitly. (Mk. 8: 31-32)

Moments before Jesus said this, Peter had boldly declared Jesus to be the Messiah (Mk. 8:29). Clinging to a notion of the messiah as a formidable political and spiritual power and projecting onto Jesus that notion, Peter rebuked Jesus for saying things that took the wind out of the narrative he and others had been floating.

Jesus forcefully replied to Peter’s cross purposes:

Get behind me, Accuser! You’re thinking human thoughts, not God’s thoughts.

The renunciation of man’s narrative brings to mind Mark 1: 13. There, we read that Jesus went into the desert for forty days and was tested by Satan’s narrative.

Satan wanted Jesus to be the Messiah – a compromised, self-promoting, and self-advancing Messiah. He wanted the Jesus to be the Messiah the people wanted and not the Messiah the people needed.

Jesus had a growing number of people following him. Why not take advantage of the populist surge and clean house and become a hero? As before, there would be processions honoring a conquering hero. “‘C’mon, fulfill your destiny!” “The time is ripe.” “Act now!” “Build back better!”

Good Friday and Easter. We find out Jesus’ Cross Purpose. We find out why, though dealing with enormous opposition, he did not surrender to the pressure or conform to narratives and to cross-purposes. We are admonished to carry on the same way by considering his example:

We must look ahead, to Jesus. He is the one who carved out the path for faith, and he’s the one who brought it to completion.

He knew that there was joy spread out and waiting for him. That’s why he endured the cross, making light of its shame, and now has taken his seat at the right hand of God’s throne. He put up with enormous opposition from sinners. Weigh up in your minds just how severe it was; then you won’t find yourselves getting weary and worn out. -Hebrews 12: 2-3

Next, we’ll look at the gospel record of Jesus countering narratives and settling debates using “God’s thoughts”. We’ll also take a look at conformity.

*****

“We need an army to rise up,” he said. “We need people to stand up and not comply. We need a civil rights awakening again, noncompliance like Martin Luther King, Jr.” Our guests are: Rabbi Spero, Rudy Giuliani, Pastor Artur Pawlowski, John Brakey

Palm Sunday and the Problem of Evil

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for nature.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god (and human accountability to a god). He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. He believed that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had been dealt.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Since, per Epicurus’s teaching, “that there is no Maker whose puppets we are“, the problem of evil paradox he posited augmented this teaching:

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus


 

The Epicurean paradox is answered with another paradox: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

There was nothing ambiguous or theoretical or abstract about the appearance of Son of man. There was direct observation by his followers. In the fullness of time, including Epicurean times, the Lord of the universe put on human flesh – dust fashioned from the created elements including about 18% carbon – to deal with the problem of evil. Philosophers, before and after Epicurus, pronounced judgement on God for all the evil in the world. Jesus entered flesh and blood, space and time, to pronounce judgement on evil. He did so without equivocation. Jesus did not succumb to the Satan’s temptations, Demons were cast out. Hypocrites were denounced and death itself was overturned. Jesus suffered the full force of evil on the cross, an act of redemption from evil’s ransom.

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven. – George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

The King of Glory wept over Jerusalem and his people who so often rejected their reveal-to-the-world-the-one-true-God vocation. Palm Sunday. The King of Glory, emptied of his glory, rides a donkey into Jerusalem to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” would be addressed and soundly answered. It was not the dénouement of evil.

Jesus is everything you need to know about God and the problem of evil. Let the King of Glory come into your life to deal with the problem of evil.

 

Here is Our King!

 

 Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you

Psalm 118:25, 26

 

When he came to the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God at the tops of their voices for all the powerful deeds they had seen

“Welcome, welcome, welcome with a blessing,”

They sang.

Welcome to the king in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven and glory on high!”

Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “teacher, tell your disciples to stop that.”

“Let me tell you,” replied Jesus, “if they stayed silent, the stones would be shouting out!”

Luke 19: 37-40

“Save Eternal King!”

 

 

Let’s start with some extreme telescoping of history: Long before Palm Sunday there was the Big Bang and the creation of the cosmos over billions of years. A people were later chosen by God. Those people wanted a king. First came Saul, then came David.

Do you remember the Davidic covenant made by God?

“The provisions of the Davidic covenant include, then, the following items: (1) David is to have a child, yet to be born, who shall succeed him and establish his kingdom. (2) This son (Solomon) shall build the temple instead of David. (3) The throne of his kingdom shall be established forever. (4) The throne will not be taken away from him (Solomon) even though his sins justify chastisement. (5) David’s house, throne, and kingdom shall be established forever.”  The Fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant

Our God was faithful and fulfilled this covenant. A descendent of King David – Mary – gave birth to a King who would reign over the house of David, and over all nations and, would rule forever. Do you remember David’s desire?

King David wanted to build a Temple for the presence of the Lord. He wasn’t allowed to do so. But his son King Solomon did build an impressive temporary one. It was later destroyed in ~586 BCE by the Babylonians. But God’s plan to dwell with man would not be thwarted. So, not only did Jesus become King forever, but Jesus would become a High Priest forever in a ‘forever’ Temple built to unite heaven and earth as one.

“[The Father’s] plan was to sum up the whole cosmos in the king –yes, everything in heaven and earth in him.” Eph. 1: 10

 

Now we turn the telescope around.

Great news! “For unto you is born this Day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” A King was born in Bethlehem! A star created billions of years before guided wise men from the east to the place where the King stayed. These wise men brought gifts to the new King. Years later and a week before Passover, the crowd assembled along a road up to Jerusalem would honor King Jesus with palm branches and blessings.

King Solomon once rode into Jerusalem on his coronation day (1 Kings 1:28-40). The prophet Zechariah prophesied that the King of the Jews would do the same(Zechariah 9:9) 

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!  Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem!  Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Zechariah 9:9

The cheering crowd had witnessed signs of the King’s authority over his creation: water had been turned into wine; a blind man’s sight was restored; a lame man was able to walk, food was multiplied to feed thousands; a storm at sea was calmed by his words; Lazarus was raised form the dead, and a man was forgiven of his sins. That Palm Sunday was the royal appearing of the Son of Man, Lord of Creation and King. “Save Eternal King!”

 

 

At Christmas time we sing, “Joy to the world”. I say, let’s make this hymn a Palm Sunday hymn and throw ourselves down before Him right here and now! I’m guessing that stones would do so even if we didn’t!

 

Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Palm Sunday and the “Epicurean Paradox” is Solved

 

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for the change he saw around him.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god and remove human accountability. He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. Hence, the beginning of the fact/value split so prevalent in man’s thinking today. Epicurus formed this dichotomy when he decided that he had to fend for himself.

He taught that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The Roman and Greek ‘gods’ were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had. So, too, Deism, began to take root.

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” –Epicurus

 

Palm Sunday. Enter Jesus. Divine glory is riding on a donkey weeping over Jerusalem and the people who rejected their vocation. He is riding on a donkey to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” had been addressed and solved. On Palm Sunday, every theory about God had been proven false. Jesus would be everything you need to know about God.

Epicurus didn’t see this “swerve” coming, but the prophet Zechariah did.

 

 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

   Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

   righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,

    and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

  His rule will extend from sea to sea

   and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

   I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;

   even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Zechariah 9: 9-12

 

Coincidental fact:

“Epicurus’ school, which was based in the garden of his house and thus called “The Garden”, had a small but devoted following in his lifetime.”

 

 

More about Epicurus:  Aren’t You a Bit Epicurious?