Jesus Isn’t Convenient

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Some days I can’t imagine what a pain Jesus must have seemed for his disciples.

Here’s Peter and his co-workers after fishing all night with no return. They’re sorting out their nets and just want to get home.

The sun is starting to blaze in the sky, adding to the misery of having to tell their wives and children that they wouldn’t have a catch of fish to sell. In the midst of this disappointment and hard labor walks Jesus.

He’d like to teach a crowd of people who have been crowding along the shoreline. This is the shoreline where Peter and his co-workers are trying to get their nets sorted out. Commercial fishing doesn’t work great as a spectator sport, but Jesus doesn’t just bring along a growing crowd. Jesus asks a favor of Peter.

Jesus wants to teach the people from Peter’s boat.

We could hardly blame Peter for saying, “Nope, the shop’s closed. Can you give us a little room here to wrap things up?”

While we can’t imagine a reason why Peter would say no because we’re used to Peter playing along in this story, anyone who has worked at demanding physical labor all day can hopefully imagine that lending his boat as a preaching platform was hardly a sure bet. Of course with his boat sitting in the shallows as Jesus teaches, Peter sticks around to hear Jesus teach.

Who knows what Peter’s family is thinking about at this point. Why is he taking so long? Is he safe?

At the end of the talk, Jesus has yet ANOTHER request for Peter. We may imagine Peter trying to pull his boat onto the shore so he can get home.

No so fast.

Jesus wants Peter and his crew to take the boat out AGAIN. They had to haul the boats back out in the light of day, a bad time to fish, after failing so spectacularly just a few hours before.

Let’s not forget that they had just cleaned up and repaired their nets. They would have to do that all over again. We may well imagine Peter’s co-workers nearly staging a mutiny or at the very least grumbling among themselves.

Who does this Jesus guy think he is, anyway?

By the time their nets were filled with fish, they realized that they certainly didn’t know who they were dealing with.

Peter knew enough to tell Jesus to leave. He wasn’t a holy man. He saw his sins stacked up, making a case against him.

Of course all of those sins were of no consequence to Jesus. He wasn’t looking for a perfect group of followers. Peter had the one thing that Jesus needed in a follower.

Peter allowed Jesus to interrupt his life. He made himself available, setting aside his plans and goals. He took a small risk and allowed Jesus to change his plans for the morning.

Jesus had a bigger interruption planned for Peter: a whole new career where he would interrupt others as he too had been interrupted.

On his last day as a fisherman, Peter learned that presence trumps perfection.

What God Doesn’t Plan: My Post for A Deeper Story

tracks-God's-plan-for-you

 

I’m surrounded by college students every day at a local café. There’s something different about them, even if they generally behave just as you would expect college students to behave: loud conversations on their phones, enthusiastic conversations, texting frequently, working occasionally, smoking regularly, and drinking large, sweet coffee drinks. I can relate to almost everything about them—well, except for the smoking. And the texting actually, gosh, I’m 35, you know. But besides the texting and smoking, the one thing I can’t quite understand is that the majority of these college students have their Bibles out on their tables next to their school books.

If it was one or two students, I wouldn’t give it another thought. This isn’t something I see with one or two students. This is more like fifteen or twenty students who are regulars at the local café, as well as a few friends of theirs who show up from time to time. Every single one keeps a Bible out in plain sight the entire time, every single time.

Most days the number of Bibles in the café outnumber the guys dressed like lumberjacks with huge beards, which is really saying something for my neighborhood. And I’m totally cool with all of this Bible study, even if it’s always paired with an orchestrated public Bible display and followed with a smoke break. They won’t hear me complain. However, one day I overheard a conversation that reminded me of what’s at stake with all of this immersion in Bible study.

Two young guys who were part of the smoking/public Bible group had a very loud, very anxious accountability meeting a few tables away. As I walked up for a refill, I heard a very familiar phrase: “I’m starting to figure out God’s plan for me…”

Read the rest at A Deeper Story

When Debating the Bible Isn’t Fair for Anyone

Bible debate fight

I’m no longer in the reformed theology camp. That isn’t a shock to anyone who knows me. I left it after being immersed in reformed theology in seminary.

Nevertheless, I would lose every debate to a reformed theologian.

But then every reformed theologian would lose a debate with me.

Here’s the thing: We’re both playing by different rules, and until we can admit that, we’re going to keep talking past each other.

We most certainly begin with different experiences. There’s no escaping the stories that send us speeding off in different directions. Sometimes we crash into each other, able to only see the present, and fighting tooth and nail against what is before us instead of all that has preceded it.

However, the main difference is that I play by different rules when I read and interpret the Bible compared to five or ten years ago. I could handle ambiguity and mystery, but now I’ve realized that comfort with uncertainty isn’t enough.

I needed to understand the role of creatively listening to the ways God speaks through scripture without necessarily looking for scripture to spell everything out.

That is not a very evangelical sentence. It most certainly doesn’t fit with many of the conservative reformed traditions I know.

I use the metaphors of blueprints and paintings in A Christian Survival Guide to describe these two ways of reading the Bible.  Here’s the full explanation:

“Sometimes I’ve used the Bible as if it was a blueprint that spelled out the precise way to live as a Christian. I expected everyone to believe and practice everything just like me. I’m sure you’ve attended churches where you feel tremendous pressure to conform in all areas. I once met a pastor whose church was considering firing him because he didn’t believe in the rapture. Other churches put pressure on families to conform to their specific biblical guidelines. I’ve had my own narrow theological guidelines that I’ve used to neatly divide my friends into insiders and outsiders.

Is the Bible supposed to do that? Does it give us specific guidelines to follow in any and every situation?

I have since found that the Bible functions more like a work of art.

We all know that paintings, poems, or stories have a range of meaning and can be interpreted in several ways within that range. As new generations view a painting or read a book, they can appreciate what it meant to the original author, what it meant to previous generations, and what it means to them in the present.

A painting can accurately portray an actual event. A poem can communicate a truth. Then again, there is a significant difference between a portrait that aims to capture a precise image of a person and an impressionist painting of a wheat field on a warm summer day where the wind gently courses through the heads of grain. In art and poetry, truths aren’t always dropped on us in plain, bold letters. We have to talk about them with others and think about them, returning to them over time to ponder the meaning further.”

There’s no doubt that sometimes a plain, word for word, literal reading of the Bible leads to a direct, unavoidable conclusion. I think we all try to read the Bible like this sometimes.

A conservative may argue that Jesus is fully divine and human because he stated, “I and the father are one,” adding that he was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A liberal/progressive may say, “Christians should not support war because Jesus commanded us to love our enemies.”

Both adopt simple, literal reading of passages. Neither strikes me as a stretch, and both represent New Testament teachings that are worth affirming.

However, there are ways some conservatives explain away Christian opposition to war. There are ways some liberals explain away the divinity of Christ.

You would think that a clear, easily applied blueprint would lead all honest inquirers to the truth. It’s no surprise that followers of Jesus are fragmented and divided over how to read and interpret the Bible, but if we want understand why we are fragmented so much, we need to look at our starting assumptions about the Bible.

We all believe that the Bible is telling us how to do something, but we aren’t agreed on what that something is. If we view the Bible as more of a painting than a blueprint, then we have a place to begin:

The first and really only “how to” the Bible offers is this: “How to meet with God.” Scripture is a series of paintings that show how people have met with God and points us toward ways we can interact with God—through the mediation of the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, we aren’t necessarily supposed to duplicate the details of these paintings precisely.

Just as a Picasso would feel out of place with medieval iconography, so too would a series of realist landscapes raise eyebrows in a museum filled with Jackson Pollock paintings and other modern works that defy a predetermined form.

The interpretive work of the Bible is a creative process where the Holy Spirit meets us in the pages of scripture and guides us closer to the presence and, consequently, will of God.

My more reformed friends begin at a different place, arguing that the Bible is God’s revelation for us that tells us how to live—that’s at least what I was told while immersed in conservative reformed theology. If you want to know how to conduct yourself, structure your church, or set up your family, look no further than the words of scripture for your inspired guide.

We’re both starting with different questions and assumptions about what the Bible is and how it guides us. When we discuss these differences, we could sell each other short if we make the mistake of assuming we’re both starting with the same assumptions and expectations about the Bible.

There are pejorative statements like, “Progressives have a ‘low’ view of scripture.” But then it’s really just a different view of scripture.

As my view of scripture has shifted from a blueprint to a painting, I’ve found that I take the Bible far more seriously now than ever before.  I believe that the Bible is a tool of the Spirit for ushering God’s people into his presence. I believe that the Bible is a guide for living, but it’s not necessarily a word for word blueprint for all people at all times.

There are times when we may interpret the Bible in a more straightforward, blueprint sort of way, but that doesn’t negate the fact that oftentimes we can’t simply drop the stories of another people at another time in history directly into today’s context.

If anything, the Bible shows us a God who is always reaching out to all kinds of people, using actions, symbols, and customs that are familiar to them.

Need a temple with sacrifices?  You got it.

Need to switch things up for the exile? No worries.

Want to obey the Law perfectly? Stop worrying about obeying the Law perfectly and just love people, showing mercy and compassion—even if that requires breaking the Law.

Ready for me to welcome all nations? Let’s drop mandatory circumcision and those rules about animals sacrificed to idols.

The Bible does not reveal a God of blueprints.

If there’s any blueprint for how God acts, it’s that God rips up blueprints, sets a table before us, and says, “Hey, let’s talk.”

Pick up A Christian Survival Guide to read more about how and why we read the Bible (see the chapter “The Bible: A Source of Crisis and Hope”) as well as how we interpret the Bible today (see the chapter “The Bible and Culture: Less Lobster, More Bonnets”).

Free Books to Read This Summer

A Christian Survival Guide a Lifeline to Faith and Growth

Paying for books is so last century. This week you have a chance to pick up several of my books for completely free or to enter a giveaway to win a print copy.

For starters, my publisher is giving away 15 copies of A Christian Survival Guide in a Goodreads giveaway.

Just hop over to Goodreads to enter.

A Christian Survival Guide takes on some the most challenging questions in the Christian faith:

  • How do we interpret the Bible 2,000 years after it was written?
  • Is Hell really a place of eternal conscious torment?
  • Is God actually able to deliver us from evil?
  • Do we need someone to deliver us from God’s violence?
  • Are we unworthy of Jesus if we’re “ashamed” to share the Gospel?

These questions and many more are addressed in A Christian Survival Guide. It’s not a book that will give you all of the answers. Rather, you’ll be given a place to think through the options presented from scripture so you can take your next step.

Of course if you don’t want to take any chances, you can pre-order A Christian Survival Guide today so that it will arrive on its July 27th release.

Pre-order on Amazon or from the publisher

 

Over at NoiseTrade Books I’m currently giving away two eBooks:

The Coffeehouse Theology Bible Study Guide

If you’re tired of only reading theology from white North American males, this is the book that will introduce you to the conversational approach I take in Coffeehouse Theology and walk you through a series of Bible studies with insights from historic and global Christian perspectives.

Download the Bible Study Guide Today.

 

A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book

A Path to Publishing is my big picture introduction to book publishing that walks new authors through the basics of book publishing from developing an idea, to writing a book, to marketing a finished book. It’s ideal for commercial and self-publishing, and I’ll answer every question that new writers ask because I wrote it right after I asked all of those same questions.

Download A Path to Publishing Today.

 

If you need some personal interactions, encouragement, and feedback in order to take the leap into publishing, but you can’t afford a writing conference that costs hundreds of dollars, you can also sign up for my Journey into Publishing online community. We start on August 14th and will meet for six online sessions. The cost is only $60

Learn more about my Journey into Publishing community.

Hell Is a Made-Up Place

hell and its eternal flames

hell and its eternal flames

What are we talking about when we talk about hell? I’m convinced that many of us don’t know.

Is hell an actual place?

Can we know anything about what happens in hell if it is a place?

Where exactly do our details about hell come from?

I’ve heard from a number of pastors and scholars that we can’t deny the reality of hell as a literal place because Jesus talked about hell a lot. Since I was resolved to let the Bible determine what I believe about hell and eternal punishment, I hardly gave it another thought, even when Rob Bell told us that Love Wins and the collective evangelical church lost its mind over what exactly that means.

WA Christian Survival Guide a Lifeline to Faith and Growthhen I started exploring every topic that has ever shaken my faith or the faith of someone else for my Christian Survival Guide project, I had to face the fact that I’d been avoiding hell. I didn’t want to think about it.

And so I finally let myself ask the question I’d been avoiding, Does God punish humans eternally for a decision made during 80 years (give or take) of life?

I’ve heard the arguments that God’s gift of eternal life is so wonderful that denying it requires eternal punishment since God’s infinite holiness demands infinite torment for those who oppose him. That represents a line of thinking I simply can’t follow, and I don’t think scripture warrants it either. I’d like to offer a brief overview of the chapter on hell from the Christian Survival Guide that delves into the details about hell.

As an evangelical, I can’t help but begin in the most obvious place…

 

What Does the Bible Say about Hell?

Beginning with the question, “What does the Bible say?” hardly settles things for us. The Bible doesn’t even have a single word for hell.

If you’re reading the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Sheol tends to refer to the place of the dead. Jewish scholars later translated Sheol as “Hades” in their Greek translation.

While Hades tended to be viewed in a negative light, that was primarily rooted in the fact that those in Hades were no longer alive. While they weren’t able to enjoy the pleasures of the living, they weren’t necessarily suffering eternal conscious torment.

In fact, the idea of judgment and suffering in the afterlife took on a far richer form in the intertestamental writings. As the Jews suffered at the hands of foreign invaders, they looked ahead to a day when God would vanquish their enemies and punish them. By the time the writers of the New Testament came around, the concept of punishment after death had been evolving. It was far from a single concept that was passed down from one generation to another.

In the New Testament we find two words for “hell,” and neither necessarily demand an eternity of conscious torment. While you can certainly make a case for that based on several passages that mention “eternal fire,” it’s not as cut and dry as many believe.

For instance, Jesus spoke frequently of the Jewish leaders being cast into Gehenna, an alleged garbage dump outside the city of Jerusalem that had once been used for child sacrifices by the Judean kings. The word carried a clear implication of being outside of God’s Kingdom and separated from God’s people in some way, but it’s a theological leap to say that Gehenna equals eternal conscious torment in hell.

When Jesus speaks of God’s judgment, he speaks of eternal fire, but that’s not the same thing as saying the people “in” the fire are eternal. While one could argue for eternal torment based on those passages, they don’t demand hell as a place of eternal punishment. And it’s especially problematic to connect the eternal torment passages with the Gehenna passages since those are two different images given to two different people.

(Check out Scot McKnight’s series on hell for a bit more about the relevant passages, especially his overview of Jesus’ statements about eternal fire.)

As the early church fathers parsed the words of Jesus and the Apostles, they engaged in some of their sharpest arguments over the eternal nature of the soul. If your soul has suffered a “second death” and has been consumed by fire, can your soul exist forever?

In fact, the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles fail to clarify things. Rather, they focus primarily on God’s judgment. Mind you, that judgment is a frightening prospect, but we are also far removed from the literary and mythological world of the New Testament.

Even when the book of Revelation touches on judgment, the beast the devil are the only ones who are explicitly tormented forever (Rev. 20:10, NIV via BibleGateway). And let’s not forget that the ENTIRE book of Revelation is chock full of symbols, imagery, and metaphors. Even if we read about people being tossed into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15), should we really expect a literal lake of fire?

(For more about interpreting Revelation, see my book The Good News of Revelation).

Based on the symbols and imagery connected to God’s judgment, there is no denying that disobedience is serious. Rejecting God’s ways in order to follow our own brings about disastrous consequences. I’m not making an argument for a “There, there,” grandfather-type of God who chuckles about “those kids” down there who are killing, violating, polluting, oppressing, and abusing each other.

Those who reject the mercy of God found in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ run the risk of being “left out.” God is just and sin must be eradicated. Evil and death will be defeated.

Does the New Testament give us cause to speak in great detail about the afterlife, let alone speak of a literal place of eternal torment called hell?

Can we precisely understand how the New Testament writers re-appropriated the Greek word Hades?

Can we dive into the first century Jewish psyche and grasp the meaning of Gehenna, with its burning fire and dark history?

Can we pinpoint what “eternal” or “everlasting” fire is or what its intended to accomplish?

Evangelicals committed to scripture are all over the place on hell:

  • The universalists argue that the fire of God’s judgment is purifying and restorative (I understand that traditionalists argue one cannot be universalist and evangelical).
  • The annihiliationists argue that it consumes the soul, rendering eternal life impossible.
  • The traditionalists argue that this fire means everyone outside of God’s Kingdom suffers eternal conscious torment.

Can you see how big this mess is?

Christians, at least American evangelicals, have become dogmatic about a theological concept rooted in terms we most likely fail to understand.

 

Can We Blame Dante for Our Concept of Hell?

This is something I’ve heard from a few people. While I have yet to see a truly compelling argument that traces the history of hell form the New Testament to the present day and makes the necessary literary connections to back up such a claim, Jon M. Sweeney has taken a strong step in that direction.

Sweeney’s book, Inventing Hell, argues that Dante’s version of hell has done more to influence the way we read the Bible than we suspect. While I felt that he fell short of proving that assertion, he did a masterful job of reconstructing the various ancient views of the afterlife and offers some thought-provoking reconstructions of the New Testament world.

Inventing Hell reminds us that the literary symbols and mythological stories of the past can’t be ruled out when we interpret the Bible. The writers of scripture were reacting against or recycling the ideas and stories of their day. Paul had no issue preaching about the resurrection to unwilling listeners, but he also used mythological figures such as the “Unknown God” and popular poetry to introduce the story of Jesus.

It’s quite likely that interpreters of scripture have allowed Dante’s epic poem to reshape how they read scripture. The Bible says very little about the actual details of hell, so if we think we know what hell is like, we may have to blame Dante.

 

Where Does This Leave Us with Hell?

If anything, I want to remind us that the traditional concept of hell as eternal conscious torment isn’t a done deal based on a “plain reading” of scripture.

I especially want Christians to take another look at scripture without assuming they already understand what words like Sheol, Gehenna and Hades precisely mean.

The truth is that Gehenna and Hades touched on both a mythological and religious way of thinking—a way of thinking that often blended myth with religion in ways that we find hard to grasp today. There were historical places, events, and stories that shaped what people made of these words when they heard Jesus and the early Christians use them.

Sincere followers of Jesus may believe that the fire of judgment is an eternal punishment, a final annihilation of those rebelling against God, or a purifying fire. We’re so far removed from the original languages and cultures, I don’t know how anyone today can claim to absolute certainty here.

Perhaps the most revealing question for us today is this: “Why do we need hell to be eternal conscious torment?”

If you’re convinced that the Bible teaches it, that’s fine. But Christians disagree on plenty of other issues related to biblical interpretation and translation. Why make more noise about this one in particular? Why excommunicate someone who believes God is more merciful?

Perhaps the fixation of American evangelicals with hell as eternal conscious torment has more to do with our desire to make heaven look better and to make ourselves into the ultimate “insiders” for all of eternity.

The afterlife has been evolving throughout the writing of scripture, and it’s fair to say that it has evolved as Christians continue to interpret scripture. God will judge sin and evil, but I have no idea what that will look like. Given that the Bible hardly has a uniform way of naming hell, let alone describing it consistently and explicitly with clear details, it’s far more likely that we’re the ones who have made up the notion that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment.

 

There’s a lot more I could write about this. In fact, I HAVE written more about this.

I’ve been intentionally light on biblical exposition in this post because I did a ton of that in my book. This post is more of a summary of that content. Check out the chapter in A Christian Survival Guide about hell for a more thorough exploration of the relevant passages and some other perspectives from theologians in the church. I spend quite a bit of time pulling together the relevant passages and offer up some points for further reflection, including a suggested reading list.


Order a Christian Survival Guide

There’s Only One Path to the Resurrection

They had to run away from Jesus. It was inevitable.

They could no longer reconcile their hopes and plans for Jesus and the Jesus they had met.

They had to face their doubts, fears, and secret shame. When they finally faced the worst case scenario, they ran away and asked one question after another. Where had they gone wrong? Everything about Jesus seemed right, but then it all unraveled in a matter of days.

When God’s plans aren’t what you think they are, who do you turn to for comfort? Certainly not God.

These two men walked along the road to Emmaus searching for answers as they sought to preserve their lives. They were doing the most logical thing possible by running away, even if running away meant waving the white flag and declaring that all hope was gone.

No one wants to reach that point of desperation and despair. No one plans to run away, and surrender is unthinkable.

How We Process Tragedy

Every time we learn about or experience a personal, national, or international disaster, our first instinct oftentimes is to find someone willing to talk about it. We need to process what we have just witnessed by putting the events into words. We need someone to acknowledge these events and to agree that all is not well with the world.

These men who ran away weren’t necessarily searching for answers. They were processing everything that had fallen apart. In fact, they most likely didn’t have a “next step” or “answer” in mind.

They were on their way to Emmaus because it was just another place that wasn’t Jerusalem.

A Faith Set Adrift

Resurrection is God’s revival of a life that is dead, flat-lined, and beyond all reasonable hope. The person who is still running, limping, inching, wallowing, or gasping for air has no need for “resurrection.”

No matter how bad things may be, a beating heart that is holding on to its own resources and plans cannot be resurrected. In order to reach the resurrection, we must first reach our own ends. Death is what precedes resurrection.

Jesus spoke of seeds dying in order to find life and his followers giving up their lives in order to save them.

There are many ways we could read this, but in my own experience, part of the story is the way that we must pass through our doubts, fears, and secret shame if we want to reach resurrection.

The resurrection demands a leap into the darkness, a stark confrontation where hope slams into a one barrier after another until we fear that all is lost. In that confrontation with doubt and shame, we wait.

Our own plans and resources will be exhausted. Our only hope is that God will enter into our lives with his power of resurrection.

Read more about Jesus bringing resurrection when we doubt…

Download the final chapter of Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus for free today:

The Road to Emmaus

Why Would Anyone Want to Kill Jesus?

If you stepped into a room full of Christians, skeptics, and atheists and asked, “Who likes Jesus?” there’s a good chance almost every hand would go up. Even those who deny the divinity of Jesus think he was pretty swell.

Taking things a step further, if you walked into the same room and asked, “Who wants to kill Jesus?” I doubt a single hand would go up.

Ignore Jesus? Sure. Plenty of people do that today. But actually plotting to kill a guy who healed lame people, fed the multitudes, and elevated the social standing of women?

Not cool.

In fact, I would argue that the reasons for the conspiracy behind the execution of Jesus are a bit of a mystery for modern readers. Do we fully grasp the reasons why a bunch of people, who really wanted God to show up, would murder God when he actually did show up as promised?

cross Good Friday Jesus

It’s a mystery of sorts, and we have to step back into their world, kicking our imaginations into high gear.

It’s true that Jesus threatened the religious leaders of his day. They didn’t see how they could worship God without their strict interpretations of the law and their rigorous system of sacrifices and holy days at the temple.

They had a lot at stake, but that wasn’t the whole picture.

The religious leaders who opposed Jesus and eventually plotted his death saw him as far more than a breaker of the law and opponent of the temple system that supplied them with power and security. They saw a blasphemer who claimed to be God. There was only one thing you could do with a blasphemer: kill him.

There was one thing the religious leaders couldn’t do: kill him. Thanks, Rome!

However, even more than their jealousy of Jesus and their theological disagreements over his claims, there was something possibly even larger looming in the background: ROME.

The only solutions back then were basically “kill him” or “Rome.”

If the Romans found out that a miracle-happy Messiah was multiplying bread and speaking of God’s Kingdom being established in a Roman territory, there was only one thing Rome could do to Jesus and everyone who followed him: kill them.

Rome had no problem with the mass destruction of entire villages and cities in rebellious territories. When Caiaphas snapped at his cohorts that they were fools if they couldn’t understand the stakes attached to Jesus, he wasn’t bluffing. He literally believed that Jesus could spark Messianic fever and lead to a doomed rebellion against Rome. That’s exactly what happened during the rebellion of 66 AD that ended with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

There are many reasons why the religious leaders plotted the death of Jesus, just as we could say that there are many “reasons” why Jesus died. However, we shouldn’t forget that looming large in the story of Good Friday is the very human need for self-preservation.

The religious leaders were high stakes political gamblers who reasoned that they had a better chance of surviving without Jesus than with him. They didn’t see how God could deliver them from the power of Rome to kill them, let alone from the grip of their religious system that had become a harsh task master.

In the background of the story of Good Friday is a question: What do you think God can do?

Those who didn’t think much of God’s power or concern sought their own solutions that alienated themselves further from God. As they sought to save their own lives, they lost themselves in the process. The sharp edge of human power left a wake of death and depravity.

On the other hand, Jesus entrusted himself into God’s hands, even if he prayed that the “cup” of suffering would be taken away from him. His faith was wholly in God even as his accusers plotted to kill him because they couldn’t imagine any way that God could save them from Rome.

Why would anyone kill Jesus?

For self preservation, to protect one’s prosperity, and to handle the things you believe God can’t do. In two words, we could say that Good Friday revolves around power and control.

How strange it must seem to us that Jesus demonstrated his power by letting go of control and trusting himself to God—even a God who can raise the dead.

Interested in reading more about Good Friday?

The chapter about Pontius Pilate from Unfollowers is free today.