Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quick Q&A: How Can We Understand Jesus?

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Q) How do we make sense of some of the difficult teachings Jesus taught?

To answer this tough Bible question, Dr. David Reagan and I on a Christ in Prophecy television episode interviewed Dr. Ron Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes is the founder and director of Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries. With nearly 50 books penned and decades of public teaching, he is an expert on the Bible. As a former "Bible Answer Man," he specializes in easy to understand answers to the really tough questions about the Bible and the defense of the Scriptures.

Dr. Ron Rhodes

Hate your family?

One teaching people question is, did Jesus advocate hating mother, father, spouse and children in Luke 14:26? Jesus said if you come to Him and you do not hate your mother, your father, your spouse and your children you could not be His disciple. That's a hard saying!

To answer that, we have to look at the context and understand that there are other verses that clear this up. For example, we know that Jesus in His perfection would never break one of the Ten Commandments, such as the Fifth Commandment to honor one's mother and father. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-44 and Luke 6:27,35 that we're supposed to love everyone, even our enemies.

So, what does Jesus mean when He says to hate your mother and father and your children and your spouse? Well, among the ancient Jews the word for hate according to ancient rabbinical writings could mean "to love less." And so, Jesus was saying that unless you love your spouse, and your parents, and your children less than Him, you could not be His disciple.

Now, the parallel verse in Matthew 10:37 says that if you love your mother or your father more than Jesus then you are not worthy of Him. So, the key thing is to interpret words according to their proper context and their intended meaning.

Let the dead bury their own dead?

Another example of a puzzling statement of Jesus is in Matthew 8:21-22 and Luke 9:59-60 where Jesus was talking to a man to whom He was calling to enter into Christian service. The man responds by asking to bury his father first. Jesus then makes a peculiar statement, "Let the dead bury their own dead."

Let the dead bury the dead? Whoa, what's that about?! Does that mean that the dead are going to come up out of the grave and bury somebody else that's dead? How would that work? Well, as we look at the context everything gets a little bit more clearer. Apparently, this man was the only Christian in the family, and this man now that he'd become a Christian was being invited into missionary work with Jesus. So, Jesus tells him let the spiritually dead bury the physical dead.

A number of other scholars have pointed out that in this case it may well be that the father wasn't even dead yet, so the man might have been giving an excuse. I'd be like saying, "Let me wait a couple years until my father dies and I'll bury him and then I'll come and serve you."

Gentiles are dogs?

Another example has to do with the Phoenician woman of Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. She is the one who Jesus told He'd come to the Jews and not to the Gentiles. She then replied that even the dogs get the children's crumbs off of the table. People appalled exclaim, "This is supposed to be a man of love and He speaks to her like this?!"

I look at that verse and to me what's going on is an illustration of the sense of humor that Jesus probably had. The ancient Jews did have this idea that the Gentiles were like dogs who you're not supposed to throw food to. You're supposed to give the food to your children. So, I can imagine Jesus having a little twinkle in His eye when he said to the woman, "Don't you know that I'm not supposed to give the dogs this?" We know this was Jesus' state of mind because He goes on to tell the woman that her faith was great and her request had been granted. Jesus was really doing a kind of little play on the pharisaic teachings.

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law?

Another hard teaching is Matthew 5:17 where Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." And yet, the book of Hebrews indicates that when Jesus died on the cross the Old Covenant was abolished and a New Covenant was instituted.

When we look at some of the ancient rabbinical writings, one thing that we come very clear upon is that the word "abolish" can mean "one who disobeys or does not have proper respect for the authority." Now, here's the thing, the Pharisees didn't think that Jesus was showing respect to the Law. The Jews thought that Jesus was in fact disobeying the Law. After all, Jesus was hanging around with sinners. He was doing these miracles on the Sabbath and so forth, and so they thought that Jesus was disrespecting the Law. But Jesus says He had not come to abolish the Law or disrespect the law, but had come to fulfill the Law. Jesus not only fulfilled the Law externally like the Pharisees did, but He also fulfilled it internally. Those Jews thought that as long as they did things externally they were okay. Jesus countered that the Law deals with the inner heart.

In terms of those verses which talk about the Old Covenant being passed away and the New Covenant coming into being, those have to do with the Cross and time after. The New Covenant was enacted and brought into being at the death of Christ. It's based upon the blood of Jesus. So, at that point in fact, the Law did pass away and we have a New Covenant which is based upon the forgiveness of sins provided by the death of Jesus Christ.

Nathan's IMHO

Our words condemn us?

Jesus stated in Matthew 12:36-37, "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

The context of Matthew 12 would indicate that Jesus is speaking to unbelievers concerning the Great White Throne Judgment held at the end of Christ's Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:11-15). There unbelievers will be judged for their works, but since they have not accepted Christ's work of salvation, they will fall short of the glory of God and be sentenced to Hell.

God assures us in Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17 that under the New Covenant of grace that by Jesus' death on the cross He will remember the believers' sins no more. Believers will be judged by our works at the Judgment of the Just just after the Rapture, but having already been given an eternity with God by Jesus, we are judged for our degree of rewards. Our words no longer condemn us, though the thoughts and motivations behind them might diminish our heavenly rewards.


Anonymous said...

Excellent. Now you want to take on the one about women staying silent in the churches? :^)

Billy said...


Is there an accurately translated and contextual Bible that you know of? One that would read like in the example in the post..."if you love your mother or father more than Jesus" instead of "does not hate father and mother" that those of us who aren't Biblical scholars would understand these things better?


Expected Imminently said...

Hello Nathan

When I tried to help my youngest son understand that ‘cleaving only to his wife’ concerns avoiding fornication, adultery and divorce, and the bride, groom relationship we have with Jesus. Before I could say very much at all, he rounded on me and said I was twisting Scripture and it was only my ‘opinion’.

Purpose Driven are very heavily into voicing personal opinions on Scripture regardless of 2Peter1:20 “…that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation”. That means our own opinion doesn’t it? Are there other verses to support this using different terminology?

After reading this, I suspect he has been told he must hate me? It would certainly explain his strange attitude as he and I had been very close, and I would imagine it would have been an ordeal for him to actually hate me in order to love Jesus more. In other words, he doesn’t hate me but thinks he should, so tries to. Maybe?

Just trying to understand, not confront him, I have left him and his brothers with Jesus.

That reminds me, we were asked to my second son’s house to have tea and cake at our granddaughters 14th birthday this month. He was actually there, and had a brief word with me about his pretty garden – that’s progress, praise The Lord.

Nathan Jones said...

Hmm, none that I can think of Billy. There's always some dimension lost in the translation from the original languages.

E.I., I can't imagine a son hating a loving mother such as yourself, even if he seems distant at this time. Just keep pouring that love on him.

Anonymous said...

E.I. maybe you should ask your son who he considers a neighbor. Jesus said the 2nd commandment that we should follow is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Mark 12:31 and a whole host of other references. Amazing how they pick and choose what they want to hear and follow. I agree, love him to pieces... Heap those coals on mom!

C~ in Salem

Expected Imminently said...

Hello C in Salem

I promise you, give half a chance, I would love the socks off him, and his family. Sadly I am banned from his family unless I promise not to speak of God. That I cannot do as I won't deny my Lord. Not that I have anything planned to say, I just feel I should be able to speak if led by The Holy Spirit.

Funnily enough I AM his neighbour, literally, we live opposite one another in the same road, at least I can get a glimpse of him and my grandchildren through the trees from time to time.

MARANATHA! please.

Anonymous said...

E.I. Not sure if you will see this post, but why do you think you are denying Christ if you don't mention Him while you are at your son's home or with them? I am married to a man that is not saved... and the scripture tells me to live my life in front of him and "without" a word... read I Peter 3: 1-3 ... your life will show it mom.
C~ in Salem

Laura said...

Some other difficult teachings of Jesus are included in the Sermon on the Mount. So many times I see Christians trying to apply these teachings to themselves. But notice what Jesus says: You must not look at a woman to lust after her or call someone a fool (among other things) in order TO GET INTO HEAVEN! This isn't even living "the Christian life correctly"; this ENTRY into heaven!

(And by the way, if that's true, then don't expect to see the apostle Paul in the hereafter either--"You foolish Galatians.")

So how do you interpret the hard words of Christ? Well, you can certainly water them down and say He didn't really MEAN what He said or He was joking or He was exaggerating, OR you can interpret them using correctly context.

Gal. 4:4-5 says, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, BORN UNDER LAW, to redeem those under law. . . ."

Notice that the the new covenant (or testament)--contrary to what that page before Matt. 1 says--starts AFTER Jesus' death. Therefore, much (but not all) of Jesus' teachings were directed at people under the Law to "REDEEM them."

So what do you say to someone who thinks he's doing everything just fine, thank you very much, and will sail easily into heaven based on his works? You raise the bar! And that's exactly what Jesus did--He crushed the Law-doers under their own inability to keep the Law--effectively causing them to despair of ever reaching heaven.

Then, when the H.S. came on the scene at Pentecost, you can bet those same folks who were so jaded about the Law RAN to Jesus with nothing but faith!

So do yourself and every other believer a favor: Don't teach the Sermon on the Mount as something Christians should DO!

Expected Imminently said...

C in Salem
Thank you for your reply and I am in complete agreement with you regarding your, as yet, unsaved husband.

However my son and family are saved, but have become deceived and are being taught to twist the scriptures by their apostate church.

I think of how Paul and Silas were beaten up, let go and warned never to teach Christ again. They took no notice and took the consequences. What I don’t do is force the issue, I wait for the leading of The Holy Spirit, and if I am prompted by Him to speak then I will. Yesterday, I was given an unexpected chance I haven’t had for many weeks, and it was plain that I was to encourage my granddaughter (and her RC friend) in the Lord. This I did even though my son won’t like it. I am not ashamed of Jesus and I am not ashamed to speak of Him to anyone if so directed. To do otherwise out of fear of the consequences would be the same as denying Him as Peter did.

God bless you.

Expected Imminently said...

Hello Laura
I am puzzled by your comment.

Its not that I disagree with your observations concerning the law, but I cannot get the context together with the final paragraph “So do yourself and every other believer a favor: Don't teach the Sermon on the Mount as something Christians should DO!

I have re read the article and the comments several times, but I seem to have missed something and just wondered if this is a response to a different article? Not to worry if you are too busy to reply, its only idle curiosity on my part.
God bless.

Laura said...


My point is exactly what I said: Don't teach the Sermon on the Mount (and many of Jesus' other teachings) as something believers should try to do or keep or obey.

Jesus is teaching "mega-Law" (if you will) to make a point to those who are under Law (and who think they're keeping the Law).

So why would we, who are dead to the Law and not under Law, teach this to each other?

The Law kills--not because the Law is bad (on the contrary, it is holy and righteous and just)--but it's NOT FOR BELIEVERS!

Teaching Law to believers stirs up our FLESHLY desire to try to keep it. And note that you cannot TRY and TRUST at the same time. It's either works (keeping the Law) or grace (trusting Christ), but you can't do both simultaneously. (Rom. 14:23b: "everything that does not come from faith is sin.")

Also, no one keeps the Law perfectly (and make no mistake about it, perfection is God's standard), so ultimately trying to keep it brings a believer to failure, condemnation, and despair.

If you don't believe me, then give the Law your best shot. And I don't mean just the 10 commandments either, but the whole Law. Note that God never gives us permission to split up His Law and pick and choose which ones we'll keep and which ones we won't. In fact, the N.T. teaches that if you're going to keep the Law, you're required to keep ALL of it . . . perfectly . . . all the time!

And good luck with that!

Expected Imminently said...

Hello Laura
Thank you for taking time to answer! I do understand, and acknowledge we cannot keep the law, I don't disagree with you.

But I'm still scratching my head on WHY you are stating this, what's the context based on. Or perhaps I should say who or what are your remarks concerned with?

For example are you telling me (or someone else) of being guilty of trying to keep the law? I'm not being 'touchy', I don't mind being corrected, but I just cannot contect your comments with what I have seen written here; but maybe I am just being dense.

No worries! God bless.

Billy said...

I'm getting in late but I can't not comment...

Laura said "Don't teach the Sermon on the Mount as something Christians should DO!"

Laura, Laura, Laura....

Jesus DOES wants us to KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and BE PERFECT just as God is perfect.

Our sinful nature prevents us from attaining that but that is what we should always strive to do and I take Jesus at His Word.

Laura said...

IE, correct me if I'm wrong here, but wasn't the article about understanding Jesus and His teachings?

And Billy, if you want to keep Jesus's "commandments," then are you severing body parts and gouging out your eyes as Jesus commanded you to (Matt. 18:8-9)? Also, have you sold ALL your possessions (as He instructed the rich young ruler) and followed Him? Those are just as much Jesus' commands as anything else, so if you're not following them (and I assume you're not as you probably own a computer and have hands to type with), then why aren't you?

Also, do you believe that God forgives you ONLY if you've forgiven everybody else who has wronged you? (And by the way, if that's your theology, let me point out that you'd better be dang sure you've forgiven everyone 'cause if God hasn't forgiven you, you won't be in heaven.)

A much better interpretation of these Scriptures is to look at them in context. In context means that Jesus was teaching "mega-Law" to those under the Law. Why? To frustrate them so that they would come to Him by FAITH!

After all, do you read O.T. verses and apply them to yourself (like killing "heathens")? Well, quite clearly Paul and the writer of Hebrews state that the Old Covenant was in effect until after Jesus' death. Therefore, Jesus was often teaching Law to those under the Law. Why apply these Old Covenant Law teachings to New Covenant believers?

Expected Imminently said...

Laura, I apologise for being so slow, I think I see what you are saying now?

The law shows us what perfection is, what God EXPECTS of us. However we can’t keep the law, not even a crumb of it which is why Jesus died to take the penalty of sin upon Himself. When we trust in Jesus to save us from eternal death, He exchanges His righteousness for our un-righteousness. This means we are born again in the spirit and our new man CANNOT sin anymore.

However the problem is that we are still in fallen flesh, yet to be redeemed, with the old sin nature striving for leadership. So that means we have this constant daily battle with SELF. The Holy Spirit within us wants us to resist self as He changes us bit by bit to be conformed into the image of Christ. (This is where rewards come in at the Bema seat)

Paul had a lot to say about this struggle with the flesh. Actually he said so much, I don’t know where best to start!

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

So Paul is saying that just because we have the Grace of God, we must still not give in to the old sin nature, and every moment we must choose to follow self or The Holy Spirit.

Romans 6:12. LET NOT sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

1Cor 9:27.But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (This isn’t about losing Salvation, but rewards)

So it isn’t about trying to keep the commandments, its turning away from self to be led by The Holy Spirit. The old man no longer has any power over us, we are redeemed. Yet our new man dwells in a fallen body of flesh and the willfullness of self.

The law is the mirror we are to look into to see the perfect image of Christ and the pattern of that done in God’s Kingdom. Like Paul said, we are to die daily (to self). 1Cor15:31b.

God bless, sorry for the confusion.

Billy said...


Your last post is just too plain foolish to reply to. I don't buy into your views so we will have to disagree to disagree.

In YOUR own words, Laura, "correct me if I'm wrong here, but wasn't the article about understanding Jesus and His teachings?"

To understand the correct meaning of what Jesus said you must use CONTEXT which was lackng in your last comment to me.

Nuff said, I'm moving on.