IF HOLLYWOOD TEACHES us anything–which is very, very little, it teaches us not to trust how it portrays any real-life character. Writers, directors, and producers all have their personal say in how an individual is brought to the big screen. “Based on a true story” is the motion picture industries’ way of saying: “We are using copious amounts of creative license and editorial bias to show you what we’d like you to see about this particular person in history.”
I remember reading years ago about the 13th century Scottish hero, William Wallace, often referred to today as “Brave Heart.” Hollywood gave him a rather extensive facelift. Truth be known, the William Wallace of the silver screen and the William Wallace of history are two radically different entities. They ain’t even second cousins.
But nowhere is Hollywood’s disposition towards real people more evident than in the life of our Lord. Cinema and pop culture has morphed Him into a rather stolid, dull, and largely unemotional being. He’s a disconnected, Vulcan-like therapist for broken and hurting folks. What’s worse is that He is depicted as moving in and among the ancient masses with the energy and enthusiasm, forgive me, of a baked potato. You see, Hollywood wants you to think of the Jesus of history as obtuse at best and dull and out of touch at worst. In other words, He is uncaring and irrelevant.
But friends, the Bible shows the Messiah to be quite different from how He is rendered in modern media.
The Jesus of Scripture is a man of intense passion and feeling:
- Watch Him overthrow the tables of the moneychangers in the temple in Matthew 21. Did Jesus care about sin, hypocrisy and greed? Was He ever aroused by transgression and iniquity?
- Watch Him shed tears at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. Did Jesus feel deeply at funerals or was he an emotional vegetable? Did He weep or was he devoid of affection?
- Watch Him interact with the crowds of sick folks in Matthew 14. The Holy Spirit said Jesus was “moved with compassion.” Does that sound like He didn’t care and that he was unaffected by pain?
- Listen to Him lift his broken voice on Gethsemane’s hill as He pours out his heart to God in Hebrews 5. The NKJV describes his laments as “vehement” (NKJV), while the ESV describes them as “loud cries and tears.” Does this sound like a man who is incapable of sensitivity?
Our Lord was no half-human android. He had heart, He felt strongly, and He was passionate!
Give Hollywood its credit. It knows how to appeal to the carnal and it knows how to make (and lose) LOTS of money.
It just doesn’t know how to deal with the real Son of Man.
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” Mike
“Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered” (Luke 6:6).
WHILE INSPIRATION LIMITS many of the details of this occasion, we do know the identity of at least some of those who were present in the assembly.
The scribes and Pharisees were present (Luke 6:7). They had set themselves up as the authorized police of Jesus’ behavior and doctrine.
A man with a withered hand was also present./1 Was this poor fellow essentially planted by the lawyers in order to trap Jesus? There’s no definitive answer to that question, but the evidence forces us to raise a curious eyebrow.
In any case, the religious leaders were obviously anticipating Jesus’ arrival. Their question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” was not due to any desire to witness a miracle, nor to express compassion for the unfortunate man with the shriveled hand. They only wished to ensnare the Lord in His actions and discredit Him before his peers.
Jesus could see through the façade of his antagonists. They had gotten so caught up in the day of the calendar that they overlooked the identity of the Messiah and the fact that the Son of God literally stood in their midst.
He had performed miracles on other occasions, but all they could see was a breach of their man-made traditions.
I find it fascinating that Jesus knew their ungodly motives and went to the synagogue anyway. And he could have healed the man with the withered hand on any other day of the week, but he chose to express mercy on the Sabbath–this Sabbath.
Milquetoast peacekeepers would have no doubt warned Jesus to quietly avoid the controversy all together.
“Lord, don’t upset these guys–just leave them alone and wait to heal this guy tomorrow. You’ve got enough grief and stress without another fuss with these troublemakers.”
But Jesus didn’t back down. He was confrontational and in their faces. He knew the only way to melt their frozen hearts was to expose their duplicity for all to see.
He hated hypocrisy more than all other sins and therefore chose to “work,” at least as they interpreted it, in order to reveal their true spirit and motives.
He told the man to step forward so that all could watch the drama unfold. He then asked the scribes and Pharisees, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
As he had done on other occasions, Jesus turned their own question against them–and then Jesus healed. The handicap was removed, the man was whole, and perhaps most telling of all, his opponents were silenced, yet again.
Yes, the Lord knew the scribes and Pharisees were waiting. He knew the twisted question they were going to ask. He knew they would hate Him–(and ultimately kill Hm) for what he would say and do (cf. John 5:18-47).
However, Jesus went in the synagogue, laid bare their stubborn, blinded hearts, turned their own question against them, and healed the man with the withered hand anyway.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath because rabbinic tradition had turned the God-ordained day of rest into a day of incredible burden. Jesus healed on the Sabbath because those who demanded certain behaviors of others failed to carry out and live them themselves.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath because he despised pharisaical insincerity at its very core.
Just a thought, brethren. When error is deliberately taught and practiced by those who claim to know Jesus today, how should we respond?
- Should we wait and heal on another day?
- Should we wait until the Sabbath is past?
1/ The Greek word for “withered” is xeros and means dry. This appendage, for whatever reason, had been deprived of the normal moisture afforded the rest of his body.
Calvin Miller’s book, “The Empowered Leader” addresses ten keys to what he calls “servant leadership.” In chapter one (pp. 11-12), he addresses our general propensity to select men (i.e., preachers) based upon faulty, yes – even worldly, structures.
I’ve taken the liberty of amending a few paragraphs in his book to help us see how many times congregations in the Lord’s church tend to pick their preacher(s) by superficial first impressions and appearances.
You might not agree with everything he says, but there are a few helpful mustard seeds to be gleaned here. Give Miller’s work a few minutes of your prayerful thought and consideration:
“WE OFTEN ARRIVE at preacher selection by imitating the actions of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 16).
Samuel went to Bethlehem to look for an evangelist. Jesse of Bethlehem presented Samuel an all-star line up of preacher candidates. His applicants appeared to be rugged, minister types.
But in the process of sorting though their appearances, Samuel saw a need to read their resumes more closely.
How unlike Samuel we are when we choose. All too often we “line up” our potential perspective preachers, eyeball their credentials, and vote them in or out on their appearance after a Bible class and a couple of sermons.
The mistake of Jesse is a universal fault. He called Samuel in to begin his search with Abinadab. Jesse’s most impressive preacher candidate seemed the place to begin.
But the Bible holds a vital lesson on preacher selection.
Each time a congregation plays this image roulette, they opt for leadership by relativism. Relativism is the way a congregation and eldership compares resumes to arrive at the most ideal.
Every congregation has its pecking order. But selecting a preacher of God’s Word is not simply a matter of comparing the best virtues of all the assembled contenders.
The old prophet discovered a faulty system. The right candidate was not even present – the contest was not inclusive enough.
God’s chosen man is sometimes not even in the line-up. In this case, David was out tending sheep and serving in another capacity in another location.
It’s often that way.
We’re not altogether sure when leadership is present, but we are always sure when it is absent.
When England needed a king, there was a sword in a stone. Excalibur was the magic sword that belonged to the leader in that day.
We often ballot our choices for preachers, picking and choosing in our relativistic way. But history repeatedly teaches us that running through stack of resumes is often a faulty way to look for a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Only the real king can wrest the sword from the stone.
The holder of the title preacher sometimes comes from the shadows of obscurity.
On such unsuspected persons the mantle falls.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike
IT IS A $100 word.
It is difficult to enunciate; it is even more challenging to understand.
The word is a combination of the Greek anothropos, meaning human and morphe, meaning form.
Anthropomorphic language represents God having human form or characteristics.
For instance, the Bible says:
- God has feet. – “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool…” (Psalm 99:5). If He possesses a footstool, then obviously He has feet, right?
- God has a heart. – “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart…”(Jeremiah 3:5; cf. 1 Samuel 13:14; Genesis 6:6; 8:21).
- God has arms. – “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm…” (Jeremiah 32:17; cf. Exodus 15:16; Deuteronomy 11:2; Psalm 89:10; Isaish 51:9; 62:8).
- God has hands. – “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…” (1 Peter 5:6; cf. Exodus 7:5; Psalm 8:6 Jn. 10:28; Acts 4:28, 30).
- God has fingers. – “He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18; cf. Psalm 8:3; Luke 11:20).
- God has a face. – “Their angels do always see the face of My Father…” (Matthew 18:10; cf. Numbers 6:24; Psalm 9:3; 17:2; 27:8; 31:20).
- God has a mouth. – “I speak with him (Moses) face to face…” (Numbers 12:8; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3; Job 11:5; Psalm 33:6; Matthew 4:4).
- God has a nose. – “And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together…” (Exodus 15:8; cf. Job 4:9; Genesis 8:21).
- God has ears. – “His ears are open to their prayers…”(1 Peter 3:12; cf. Psalm 71:2; 10:17; 31:2; 102:1,2).
- God has eyes. – “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (Psalm 11:4; cf. 34:15; 139:12; Proverbs 5:21; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Zechariah 2:8; 1 Peter 3:12).
Do these passages tell us that God possesses physical features? No.
Jesus said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and as such, He is not a partaker of flesh and blood as we are.
Here are two helpful things to remember whenever you come across anthropomorphic language in your study of the Scriptures:
1. Anthropomorphic language typically informs readers of something God has done or is doing.
Bernard Ramm, in his book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, observes:
“Holy Scripture is the truth of God accommodated to the human mind so that the human mind can assimilate it. Through such accommodation the truth of God can get through to man and be a meaningful revelation. Stated another way, revelation must have an anthropomorphic character.”
Contemporary writer R.B. Thieme says similarly:
“For the sake of clarity…when describing the character and function of infinite God, the Bible often resorts to language of accommodation. In other words, to make certain that His thoughts, policies, decisions, and actions are lucidly explained, God takes into account our inherent limitations and basic ignorance. He graciously describes Himself as having human feelings, human passions, human thoughts, human anatomy-even human sins-in order to communicate things to us for which otherwise we would have no frame of reference.”
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to read the sentence without some incredulity.
John records, “…The chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death…” (John 12:10). Think about that word–“priests.” It’s plural. One spiritual leader didn’t scheme to murder Lazarus; many spiritual leaders schemed to murder Lazarus. And these guys were supposed to be the religious right–the moral elite of ancient Jewish society!
The ESV says, “…The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.” “As well…” In truth, they didn’t want to murder just one man, but two. They wanted to kill Jesus (cf. 11:53) and Lazarus.
“Why?” you may ask. Re-read John 12:9-11. A great many Jews believed in Jesus. And why did a great many believe in Jesus? Because Lazarus had been raised from the dead.
Remember that the Sadducees taught that there was no resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:23-28). Unfortunately for them, Lazarus illustrated that their dogma was at obvious variance with the Biblical data. He was a living, breathing entity despite the fact that he had been entombed for four days (11:39).
Lazarus was concrete evidence to the contrary; he was the doctrinal deathblow to their misguided, man-made tradition.
It was impossible for the chief priests to argue with or against him. Any sane, thoughtful, sincere individual wouldn’t even attempt to debate with Lazarus. He was absolute proof that Jesus could perform miracles. He was the undeniable corroboration of the divinity of Christ (cf. John 20:30-31).
And that’s why the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus and Jesus.
A few thoughts rattle around in my neocortex as I ponder this curious incident:
- If Jesus could resurrect a dead man, why did the chief priests entertain the idea of killing Lazarus in the first place? Couldn’t Jesus resurrect Lazarus again, if he so desired?
What this teaches me is that you can’t expect coherent thinking and behavior from people who insist on upholding their agenda over truth.
- If Jesus could, and obviously did, bring a dead man back to life–as Jesus had also done on previous occasions–e.g., the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:40-56)–wouldn’t that serve as affirmation of His divine power? Had the chief priests really thought about the futility of trifling with the miracle Man of God?
The chief priests in John’s story remind me of a critical point: unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence; unbelief is due to a lack of conviction. People don’t reject the truth because there are no facts; they reject the truth despite the facts.
Even when there is incontrovertible testimony, some folks simply choose not to believe. If their hearts are hard and their motives are impure, you can expect them to be antagonist towards truth and to engage in sinful, destructive behavior.
On the other hand, if their hearts are soft and their motives are pure, you can expect them to investigate, believe in, and follow the Lord.
- Was the world created in six literal days?
- Is there life beyond this transient walk?
- Is immersion necessary in order to be saved from sin?
- Is it possible to live in adultery?
- Is homosexual behavior sinful?
It depends. It depends on whether or not a person wants the truth and is willing to follow it to its inevitable conclusion. The chief priests weren’t willing to do that. Dear reader, are you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10)?