Monthly Archives: July 2015

A World Without History

Most people know J.R.R. Tolkien as an author of great fantasy novels.  But his day job was as a philologist, which is someone who studies language.  Early in his career he wrote entries for the Oxford English Dictionary, for the beginning of the letter ‘W’.  His famous friendship with C. S. Lewis began because both were part of a club which studied Icelandic.  Tolkien’s books were born out of his desire to create new languages.  Tolkien realized that you can’t really have a language without stories, without the history behind the words.  It has actually been tried, the cold sterile, fake Esperanto was to be the end-all language bridging the gap for all peoples.  After over one hundred years it has, possibly, 2000 native speakers.  While the Lord of the Rings, has sold over 130 million copies in half the time.  And we all know people who tried to speak elvish, even though it’s not even close to a complete language.   I say Tolkien is vindicated, without the story, the words don’t mean much.

One of  my most visited sites is etymology.com  and I have number of dictionaries on my shelf from different centuries.  Because, it is so fun looking back at how words have been used and where they came from.  If I were part of Christendom, no doubt I would know Latin which could connect me to the Christian literary tradition, as well as the roots and basis of English.  Even without this we, in our short little lives have taken on and passed down much history in the language itself.  We have words in our households which mean something only to our family.  The same goes for our professions, or individual places of work.  We don’t use the same words today that we used a decade ago, it’s super.

But today we are trying to create a whole generation without any history.  History is hardly even taught anymore in most schools.  Instead you have ‘Social Studies’ which is little more than political correctness on steroids.  Most colleges don’t require much history to graduate, and the classes that do exists are litanies of why your parents, and all Christians, and most of Western Civilization are all evil, white, male, patriarchy, bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobes.  Which isn’t history at all, it’s merely reiterating that the programming you have received, is better than knowing anything about the past.  And may people don’t even think this is a problem, “history isn’t practical”  “How am I ever going to use1 history in the ‘real’ world?” and on and on.  Instead we emphasize ‘technology’, whatever that is, and how ours is so much better than say what, the old fogies who still pay our phone bills, use to have.  We are a few generations into this rebellion now, counter-counter-counter-culture.  And at this point there isn’t much left to rebel against.  These millennials are just like that made up language adrift with no connection to history.

When you live in a world without history, all you have is yourself.  You don’t realize that you are part of something bigger than you.  Even the very words you used were the process of thousands of years of language developing, of stories laid out.  People living and dying, communicating to one another day after day.  All you know is yourself, and your desires and wants. Which is exactly the world we have constructed around our children these days.  We lament how we didn’t have a child hood and so we want to ‘let them be a kid’.  Instead of realizing that the point of raising a child is to turn them into an adult.  But we don’t do that, we perpetuate childhood indefinitely, “isn’t cute”.  I don’t think it is, did you see Occupy Wall Street?  But many parents maintain this bubble.  Each year it’s a new grade at school, new stuff, books simplified just for them, movies dumbed down just for them, music which is less and less complicated.  Educational institutions today even brag about being ‘child centered’.  Children are never forced to be a small fish in a big pond, instead they are single goldfish, in a mirrored bowl.

We even do the same thing in Churches.  We have special little bubbles for the young people called “Youth Group”, at my church we even have youth group for college students.  It’s a wonderful world where everything is catered just to them, authority structures are toned down and the old people who do show their faces, have passed the ‘cool’ test.  They never attempt to reach up to a higher standard, to the adult.  Though most people throughout history would have considered these people ready to take a trade, marry and start a family.  Oh sorry I mentioned the ‘h’ word, we can’t have that.

The problem with creating a generation completely unconnected to history, is that at some point there is going to be a war between the historical group and the group worshipping itself.  It’s so amazingly stupid to create children who are unlike yourselves.  Despite all the multiculturalism, the reality is that people don’t like living with people who are unlike them.  Quite simply it causes conflict.  There is conflict between old and young even in a culture that teaches history.   You see repeated exhortations and examples in the Bible.  The tendency of the young is to think they are better than the old, and the tendency of the old is to be stuck in the way they have always done things.  The paradox like most paradoxes works by maintaining the tension.  It’s a give and take.  This might be the first generation where the old people agree that the young are better because someone in China can make them an iPhone.  Why would you want to make this divide even worse?  It’s pure insanity.

The study of history, like most worthwhile subjects, is an exercise of the imagination. To really understand a time and place that is not your own, you have to imagine well.  Anything that gets you outside yourself is a good thing.  But imagining why your parents might be right is essential.  Just like language is dependent on stories, you are dependent on your history.  Just like Back to the Future, if they don’t meet and kiss at the dance, you might find yourself, erased from existence.  Or even worse, you find yourself fighting all of Western Civilization, to preserve your selfishness.

"His head's gone. It's like he's been erased."

“His head’s gone. It’s like he’s been erased.”

 

  1. What an evil word.  Is the world merely here for us to manipulate to our desires?  No, there is a God in heaven and we are evil sinners, in need of constant reformation to be in keeping with his character.

Render to John Q. Caesar

Happy Forth of July! Oh and everything this country is based on is wrong.  We should have bowed down to King George and paid him whatever he wanted, because Jesus said so.  Not exactly.  Jesus was using another living metaphor, as I have mentioned previously.  I know because I tried it and it worked quite well.  

I’m not sure that the people of Grace have a problem with paying their taxes.  We in Montana tend to be very independent.  But I have noticed that these independent people usually make up their own church or float from church to church.  I know of only one person.  So I spoke to him after the sermon.  The non-tax paying types tend to be the ones always telling you about conspiracies and how the Federal Reserve is illegal, etc. etc.  Watch Conspiracy Theory.  So I asked this gentleman if he had any Federal Reserve Notes on him.  He said yes.  So I pointed out that whether he respected them as an authority in theory or not, he was treating them as an authority in practice.  It may be the mark of the beast, but he had already accepted it.  He got a little upset.  This is exactly what Jesus was doing.  It wasn’t just a simple statement which we rigidly apply, it was a living metaphor.  Jesus made the theoretical real for them.

Jesus asked them for a coin, and they gave him one.  These men who hated Caesar, bought and sold with Caesar’s money.  The money in your pocket is made from cotton paper and some minerals that make ink.  It’s not worth a lot, the value comes from the respect the people give to it.  A napkin with ketchup on it isn’t worth much, so you throw it away.  But when Caesar stamps his face on it it become valuable.  If you go around spending this you are accepting this authority.  Jesus made it real for them, they already respected Caesar as Lord over their money, so stop with the wining. Their crime was hypocrisy.

But there is more to the story.  Render to God what is God’s.  Whose image is on you?  Genesis tells us you were made in the image of God.  You don’t belong to Caesar and neither do your kids.  I think this is the problem we are more susceptible to today.  Christians are total wimps.  We timidly accept anything Caesar tells us to do, and pastors bark out this verse as though we are never to ask any questions.  We hand our kids over to these people without a second thought.   Of course people in power love abusing this verse.  “You can’t question me, the Bible says so.”  But this is to forget our Christian history.  I don’t just mean the history of this country but the history of Christians, working out these issues for the last 2000 years.

Calvin figured out a lot of this as he oversaw the flock in Geneva.  He came up with the idea of lesser magistrates, from verses like Exodus 1:19, where the Hebrew midwives defy Pharaoh and lie to his face.    The next verse says “So God dealt well with the midwives.”  Calvin’s view was that lower magistrates or officials had, not only the right but the duty to hold higher officials to account if they violated the law.  This view was put into the marginal notes of what became the Geneva Bible.  This was the Bible our Founding Fathers carried.  Until the homosexual tyrant King James, made a slick deal with the Puritans to make a new translation, sidelining the Geneva Bible.  And so we have forgotten this heritage.

federal-reserve-note-10-USD-united-states-dollar-alexander-hamilton-b

So, let us render to Alexander Hamilton, by standing up for the Constitution, which he signed. Whose dying words were “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But it’s simply unconscionable that we Christians join with the liberal academics who hate this country for its Christianity, by bashing the founding as unBiblical.  As more and more of our Children fall away, our fruit is rotting on the vine.  Yet the founders produced fruit for generations, the world over benefits to this day.  Those men, many of them trinitarian, orthodox Christians, didn’t just hold some theory in a cushy 21st century world.  They put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on the line before God and men.  They were not breaking the law, they were holding the King to his own law.  The duly appointed legislatures of the 13 colonies called the king on his abuse of power.  They were lower magistrates, checking the tyranny of a higher magistrate. They did it in an orderly long-suffering manner  They were the true Englishmen, preserving their Common Law heritage, in the face of a King overstepping his bounds.  There was more law, more order and more freely practiced Christianity after they took their stand and the ensuing war, than before.  The fruit of their labor is obvious, ours is not, yet we criticize.

Later political movements like the French Revolution, seemed at the start, as if they were on a similar path.  But as many predicted before it happened, and everyone can see afterwards, they tainted the term ‘revolution’.  The French Revolution was nothing but a rebellion against God.  They sought to rebuild everything from the ground up in the image of man.   They even threw out the calendar and the clock because they were too Christian and not scientific enough.   As a result most of the instigators of the movement were killed by their own followers.  The anarchy which followed led to much bloodshed and the destruction of everything Christianity had built.  Eventually Napoleon came in and brought peace with an iron fist.  But France has never recovered and they languish today as a godless wasteland.  They bore bad fruit, because they were nothing more than rebels.  The same is not true of the United States.    These movements were contrasted in a few books by men at the time.  Edmund Burke’s, Reflections on the Revolution in France and Frederich Von Gentz’s, The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution. . .

So, we can’t just take the words of Jesus and apply them to all times and places.  We need to translate as I did above with this money metaphor.  We need to think a little about the situation Jesus was in and how it applies, or does not apply to our own.  At the time Jesus lived in a Jewish community occupied by Rome.  There were many subversive groups all seeking to rebel against Rome.  Every one of them was wiped out.  They were wiped out because they missed their messiah.  If they had listened to him, as many Christians did, they would flee to the hills and be spared.  And so we see a caution like the one issued by Peter in I Peter 2:13-17.  But we can’t forget what comes a few verses before “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to. . .”  And how he begins the book “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”   This was their situation.  As a result of Christians doing what Peter said, Rome fell.  They couldn’t compete with Christians being perfect model citizens.  The Greek ideal citizen was being played out before them, the Christians helped the poor, took in the sick and cared for the abandoned children.  And so Rome became Christian.  The conquerers from the north conquered, and they became Christian.  And today we are not sojourners and exiles in the land.  Because the gospel has gone forth to all people and tribes and tongues, it has conquered.  Today we  are Christians sitting around waiting for Christendom to fall apart so we can look like exiles.  It’s really very foolish.  We should be taking action with Christian wisdom.  We should repent of our sin, or laziness and call everyone else to repentance.  We should push back against the illegal attacks upon our heritage.  We should be laying down our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor, for future generations.

Because, when it all gets sorted out, we will not be praised for withstanding persecution, if we were to do so, we will be cursed for letting it fall apart in the first place.   So do what’s right, stand up and protest this President and demand he be impeached, that’s how our law works. Complaining about it without action is just laziness, it’s the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus.  Read the Old Testament, and see how God has historically worked with his people in other instances besides the first century.  Read the history of other faithful Christians throughout time.  Stay informed about what is going on.  Pray.

Mark the Author

I find it interesting that Jesus never actually wrote any of the New Testament, not a single letter nor any of the Gospels.  He left the entire task up to his Disciples.  After his resurrection, he taught them many things.  I’m sure they had a lot of questions, but the fact that he rose from the dead made a lot of his previous statements click.  Some assume that the promise of the Holy Spirit “leading them into all wisdom” was a promise of some special instance of the Holy Spirit that would help them write the New Testament.  But don’t we all have the Holy Spirit too?  It is generally assumed that the Disciples had some sort of super power that enabled them to write as they did.  I think this is partly to obfuscate the fact that we have a lot of what was available to them, at our disposal.   I don’t mean to denigrate the sovereignty of scripture, but to make us realize what it is not.  There is one thing we don’t have, and that is the experience of walking and talking, and trusting, Jesus.  But it took wisdom and effort for them to record those events.  It took wisdom and effort for them to work out the events in Acts.  It took wisdom and effort for them to write letters to the churches, to address issues that had arisen.    That was their work, given their experience.  But we can do the same.  We can tell people of the good things we have seen God do in our lives.  Answered prayer, last minute financial salvation, comfort in difficult times, life changing transformation in ourselves or others.  So we, as Christians,  have the Holy Spirit, and our experience, we also have the Old Testament.  The New Testament writers make many illusions to Old Testament texts in light of what Jesus did on this earth, what they had seen him do.  But there are many more waiting to be made.  We can learn their method of seeing the old, and do it ourselves.  

Did the writers of the Old Testament have the Holy Spirit?  Were those writers specially empowered as disciples?  Like the New Testament the Old was written by human men.  Deuteronomy 9:10 tells us that God wrote the two tables of the law on stone with his own finger, but Moses broke those.  So God rewrote them.  But other than that it was up to agents appointed by God.  Most of these men held the special office of Priest.  They received a word from the Lord and wrote it down.  Others were kings like David and Solomon.  We have no idea who wrote Job.  Parts of the Proverbs were written by wise men of the day and merely compiled by Solomon.  God appointed special men to put his words into writing, or record the history of what had happened.  His law he gave directly and it was passed down by diligent Israel.  These works were included in the Bible based on the credentials of the authors or the fruit they bore in the faithful community.  I think this is a good standard, and I don’t mean to speak ill of the Bible.  But we need to remember that they were men, and God used them based on their humility and wisdom, they were not just robots.  We can imitate them in these ways, and we shouldn’t write these tasks off because they were special and we are not.   Of course if we find ourselves coming up with stuff that is contradictory to the established Word we have a problem.  But if we learn from them and read previous revelation as they did, it will do us much good.

Pixel-Explosion-Effect-PhotoshopWe too must exercise wisdom and humility, the text doesn’t just come to us.  First of all we need to learn to read.  I know it might sound strange, but being able to pronounce the words on the page is not the same thing as sucking the meaning from the pages.  C. S. Lewis is often accused of being light on the sanctity of scripture, but really he just knew how language was constructed, he knew how to write, so he understood the process these men went through.  Lots of work trying to communicate by writing can make you a better reader.  You see what is and what is not available to you and how thoughts and ideas are arranged and conveyed.  In addition you begin to appreciate some of the art in it.  We are not robots, attractive efficacious language is poetic, it has meter and rhythm and uses images that connect to that which we know.    We have an added disadvantage by being moderns.  Modern language is not exactly that poetic, when was the last time you read poetry, that wasn’t for school?  We want everything to be terse and functional, like a scientific diagram.  This was not how Hebrew worked.  It wasn’t a precise detailed language, it was poetic.  Limited vocabulary required the creation of images by connecting things together.  But this makes for very interesting overlapping terms.

This all occurs to me as I read through the book of Mark.  He wrote(or dictated) in Greek which was more precise than Hebrew but it was still a pre-Modern language.  His episodes are each packed with so much meaning as they draw illusions from the Old Testament.  As his words are meant to be keys connecting to the past.

 “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:22-26

At the time they were on a mountain.  Mark has just detailed Jesus comings and goings into Jerusalem, the mountain of God.  At this time they were returning to the city, after the previous assault, the cleansing of the temple.  This mountain would soon be cast into the sea, like Jesus’ other prediction that no stone would be left on another.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70A.D. at the hands of General Titus under Emperor Nero.  If we take into account that the ‘sea’ was a term associated with the Gentiles, we see some more of what Jesus is doing here.  The Jews were not a seafaring people, they were the Land.  The chosen people in the promised land.  Surrounding them was the sea of the world.  The Jews were supposed to use their position to spread God’s grace to the world, in a sense they did through Jesus, but not these stiff necked people.  So God cast the mountain into the sea, he cut off the branch of Jesse, and grafted in the Gentiles.  His disciples were to be fishers of men, fishers of Gentiles.  We see, that Jesus was here not making a generic statement which we can turn into a maxim.  He was telling them what was on his heart.  He was praying for this city to be cast into the sea.  And he was forgiving the people, even the religious leaders who kept attacking him.

Mark brings out this meaning by his simple arrangement, hoping his audience would make the connections.  It’s so odd that we try to sweep away the work of these authors and get to some event behind the text.  Even people who hold the scripture in such high esteem, and view the authors as superempowered.  Yet we want to ignore their rich arrangement which brings out the only meaning we can know, and search for something else, search for some historic event.  Historic facts are nice, but meaning is more important.  Who cares what the world is made of, if we don’t know what it’s for.  Who cares what day this happened.  What does it mean?

Further Reading:  Through New Eyes, James B. Jordan

 

Tearing Down Flags

I’ve heard a lot of insane arguments today about why the confederate battle flag should be taken down.  They were something like: It’s divisive and we are all Americans now. It represents a painful part of our past.  It’s time to move on, plus it makes us feel really good to attack things we know nothing about.    

crowflagThere are a few other flags that meet these qualifications.  Here is one, it’s from the Crow Tribe, which is just down the road here in Montana.  It represents an entity which not only was once a separate, conquered, government, but one which is to this day.  How divisive is that?  They maintain U. S. citizenship while clinging to their own divisive nation status, thing.   And are we to forget how painful this conflict was? Why do we need these reminders?  And what was that culture?  Well to quote one of the grievances against King George in the Declaration of Independence:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Yes I know our founding documents are politically incorrect and though we are still legally and traditionally bound by them, most people like to pretend that they don’t exist.  But here it is in black and white.  Or maybe brown and white, except this was written in a time before Darwin, when race wasn’t really a thing.  Most of the early colonists to this land, viewed the Indians, as part of the lost tribe of Israel.  They were treated with respect, taught civilization, and many of them were converted to Christianity.  They assimilated into our Western Civilization, and you don’t even know when you encounter them.  In fact, I am one of them.  I have the census records to prove it.  But I digress, we are talking about people who are clinging to their backwards past, and refuse to unite and be Americans.  There are dozens of flags, and I suggest that they represent anti-American, anti-progress, and anti-unity.  They represent paganism.

I know it’s not what you learned in school, and I’m not suppose to say stuff like this.  But the reality is, that the first war between the Indians was over Christianity.  The praying Indians, as the Christian Indians were called,  were hated by the pagan Indians.   So they started attacking them. It’s all laid out in the primary source accounts compiled in the Old Indian Chronicle.  Today the new pagans like to tell a story about the noble savages that were destroyed by evil white racist patriarchy.  But that isn’t true now, nor has it ever been true in the relations of the West.  Which actually was the West and East, until Muhammed killed a few million people, but that’s another story.  And so that is the war today.  What do all these Indian flags represent?  Can you name any Indian contributions to humanity in your lifetime?  Ever?  The numbers don’t lie, they commit more crimes, drop out of school more, and spend a ton of federal money.  Of course it’s all blamed on racism or profiling.  But they have every opportunity in the world.  They get all the benefits of living in the U.S.A.  in addition to the freedom to act as a separate country.  Which enables them to participate in activities that would be illegal for other people, like building casinos, killing endangered animals, or logging and mining the crap out of everything.  College is paid for.  Free healthcare.  Housing subsidies, and on and on.  But it’s never enough.

I say we take down their flags.  And their divisive reservations.  It’s time we all unite as one and put this hateful past behind us. Welcome to the U.S.A..  Welcome to civilization.  Welcome to Christendom.

Further Reading:

Old Indian Chronicle, S. G. Drake. 1836.

History of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford.  1856.

Greek Economics

There is a new term going around about the Greek financial crisis, ‘debt bondage’.  Which I believe could be a real thing.  But not in the sense that they intend it.  Their intended connotation is that they were enslaved by the evil, um, producers in Germany and now they must be ‘freed’ by not having to pay for the eternal orgy of dissipation they have been enjoying.

Parliament House, Athens Greece

Parliament House, Athens Greece, NDT

Real debt bondage is what was known as usury.  Today the term is used to describe loaning money at high interest rates.  Which, I’m not even sure is illegal anymore.  Usury was originally when you loaned money on an unproductive loan.  If you loaned money to someone for something that would not produce increase, or the possibility of making them money, that was usury.  If you loaned someone money to buy seeds to plant in a field, it is still a risk they might not get back more than they put in.  But there is at least a chance to increase their seeds, to turn them into more seeds than they started with.  And with some of that increase they can pay you back with interest.  You have invested in their endeavor and made some money for risking your money, your capital.   They have made some money by their hard work.

An unproductive loan is when you loan someone money to buy a new flatscreen.  There is no chance they will make money by watching TV, it’s just something they want.  And not only are they paying for it, they are paying you interest, they are losing money.  This was viewed as usury, or debt slavery because you were exploiting the person’s desires, to make money for yourself, without concern for the fact that you left them worse off.

This was the source of some of the strife between Christendom and the Jews, over the past 2000 years.  The Catholic church always held that usury was wrong and they forbade it.  Yet the Jews living amongst them were free to loan money any way they wanted.  This lead to a foreign, different people living amongst the various nationalities of Europe and then becoming quite wealthy, some by usury.  Which didn’t sit well with these people after a while.  Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice explores this conflict.  How can cold dead metal coins reproduce?

“for when did friendship take a breed for barren metal of his friend?”

Belloc wrote the Servile State and Chesterton the Utopia of Usurers exploring the issue of Usury in their modern world.  They were both Catholics, and since the Reformation broke the hold of the Catholic Church over the people of Europe, usury laws became more and more lax.  The nature of banks becoming more and more centralized a century ago, led Belloc to conclude that the majority of the people would soon be wage slaves.  They would be forced to work to payback all the social programs they had consumed.  He didn’t foresee that we wouldn’t actually pay for anything, but that we would just rack up insane amounts of debt.  I recommend both books.

But eventually reality catches up to you.  When you continue to consume without producing, at some point the system collapeses  This is where Greece is at.  They continue to borrow money with no hope of paying it back, because the people don’t want to work.  They want their socialist welfare utopia to continue forever without ever having to pay for it.  In short they want the Germans to produce  and give it to them, whilst they lounge.  And then they have the audacity to blame everyone else for their laziness.

I suppose there is something to be said for that.  There are some people who can’t handle money, and even whole countries.  Man in general was put on this earth with the need for food, and the command not to steal.  He works for his living or perish.  This isn’t harsh slavery, it’s reality.  All our fuzzy insane economic theories just obscure this simple truth.  We try to outsmart reality instead of using responsible safeguards to keep us on the correct path.  Laws which prevent men from stealing the fruit of others or force men to work for what they have are good.  And so I think usury laws were good.  They prevent people from the illusion that they can get something for nothing.  ON the other hand these dreamer create an entity, the government which merely redistributes, but can not create.  And they make it seem to do what it can’t.  These false promises simply entangle the free man who is no longer simply working for what he eats.  When he has had enough he has leisure.  Under Usury, he is always behind always playing catch-up, because he is always paying interest, on interest, on interest.

Usury laws were similar to other laws like those against gambling, which also prevented people from the illusion that they could win big money for no effort.  And now our governments charged with preventing evil, are it’s greatest peddler.  State lotteries and easy money entice many.  We are not far behind Greece.  It’s estimated that 42% of us are not producing anything.  But we are all consuming.  This can’t go on for long.  So instead of trying to find an easy buck, put in more than you take out.  Or as Scripture says, do your work as unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:7). Which is one of the glorious doctrines of Protestantism that we forget today, though it made our nation so prosperous in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Living Metaphor

We sometimes forget Jesus’ role as a prophet when he walked this earth.  He came to do the work of his father which included proclaiming his father’s message.  Like many of the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus spoke, not only with his words but with his actions.  So you see Jeremiah burying a linen belt, or Hosea marrying a woman who would be unfaithful to him.  And so Jesus did things like curse a fig tree and turn tables over in the temple.  There is a sense in which he orchestrates every piece of his creation to make us mature and to test or mettle.  Every circumstance we are in is full of meaning, able to teach us about his character and ourselves.  But in this instance he spoke very loudly with his actions.  Mark picks up the significance of these events and orders them in order to bring out their meaning 1.

The Accursed Fig Tree, Illustration. C 19th. James Jacques Joseph Tissot

The Accursed Fig Tree, Illustration. C 19th. James Jacques Joseph Tissot

This is gardening 101, if a tree does not bear good fruit, you cut it down and throw it into the fire.  The same thing is going on in Israel, they are bearing bad fruit.  And the center of the problem is the, den, the hideout, the temple.  The religious leaders are hold up in there and Jesus breaks in and cleans the place out.  He cuts them down and throws them into the fire, well almost.  Again he extends grace first.  He dies and is raised again, then a few years later his minister Nero burns the place to the ground, because they still had not repented.  He gives them a physical picture, it’s there for them if they want to understand.  This man is behaving strangely, he obviously has power, but they concluded that his power came from Beelzebub.  Because he was against them and surely they were doing the work of Almighty God.  But they betray who they fear, “And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people:for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.” (Mark 11:31-32)  They feared being wrong in the sight of the people and they feared the people.  So rather than repent, they tried to make him look bad in front of the people, so they might cling to their power, their kingdom of darkness.

I think this is a good technique for us even today.  You can set up situations to reveal people’s character.  It’s obviously good for children, but even people in authority.  I’m not talking about setting people up for failure.  God does not temp us beyond what we are able.  He gives us test we can pass and then he roots for us.  The opposite of this is exasperating a child.  But stories like Nathan speaking to David about Bathsheba as if it were another man (II Samuel 12), makes me think it is appropriate for our older brothers in Christ.  You can show people what they are doing by doing it back to them and then pointing out there response.  The purpose is not revenge it’s about creating a living metaphor to bring them to repentance.  Of course they may just miss it all together  and add your test to their list of faults against you.  One of the most beautiful literary examples of this is the Count of Monte Cristo.  There are two layers here, the reception of the book is doing what the book does.  Our evil academic culture has taught this book as about merely revenge, since the 60s.  They missed the point, they missed the metaphor, and reveal that revenge is in their hearts.  The book is all about the living metaphors that God puts us in. He tells us what he is going to do, he gives us a situation, where we can fail and be cursed or remain faithful to his word and be blessed.  Then he even gives second chances.  This whole earth is a test for our place in the new earth.  The treatment of Edmund Dantes is a test, those who failed were given a second chance by the returning Lord, the Count, and then they were judged by their own actions.  It really is incredible.  God will provide situations to teach.  Watch for them and point them out or help facilitate them in other people.  They really can penetrate a semi-dense heart.

Immediately after they find the tree withered the Pharisees ask where Jesus gets his authority and you just have to laugh.  I’m inclined to believe that everything Jesus did at this point was public.  People had ushered him into the city with palm branches laid out, they had planned ahead.  And so I believe they had at least heard of the incident with the tree.  He clearly has the authority, everyone can see it.  And so by being light, he clashes with all that is not light.  Some people can’t explain him, he just annoys them.  He just makes me so _______________.  And how you fill in the blank tells all.  Do you take the situation and see your own faults and repent?  Or do you conclude that this guy is pure evil and you want to kill him?


  1. Old Testament poetry often used chiasm in order to make a point.  Poems were symmetrical and the point to be emphasized was in the middle.  The arrangement of Mark 11 reminds me of this type of order and I’m sure that if I knew the overall structure of the book better it would fit into a larger chiasm.  The previous day, as I have already said, Jesus made his entry into the city and then retreated to set up camp for further attacks.  But the story of Jesus’ prophetic action against a fig tree is split by his cleansing of the temple.

    A. Cursing the Fig Tree

    B.  Cleansing the Temple

    A. Meaning of the Fig Tree