Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Come Alive

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” The disciples answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” 

Mark 8:20-21

Jesus spent a lot of time explaining to His disciples, and a lot of times, He would ask them, “Do you still not understand?” I can fully relate to how my mind would boggle if I was one of Jesus’ followers. I am sure following Jesus around, seeing the miracles of the loaves and fishes, healing, exorcisms, and listening to His discourses for days on end, would be overwhelming. I think I would have a paper and pen everywhere we went. And that is what scholars think Matthew, the tax collector, did. 

Edgar J. Godspeed wrote, “Jesus now has a secretary, a recorder, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah had, to such tremendous advantage!...Tax collectors were not only proficient in writing but many of them knew shorthand, in Jesus’ times and a hundred years before. While we cannot say that Matthew used it in taking down Jesus’ utterances . . . even without it dictation could be taken down with great speed.”

Many scholars have done thorough studies of reading and writing during Jesus’ life and times. Allan R. Millard for one, writes that there is an impressive array of material evidence to show that Galilee was not “illiterate backwater”, and that coin hoards there “reveal the need for records and the existence of robust trade and trade routes”.  He concludes that because of the “ubiquity of writing in first-century Palestine, the variety of writing material and scripts, and the range of circumstances in which people wrote....This is not to say the Evangelists began to compose the Gospels in Jesus’ lifetime, but that some, possibly much, of their source material was preserved in writing from that period, especially accounts of the distinctive teachings and actions of Jesus.”

We are so blessed these days! When we have a question about the Bible, there are ways to find out the answers without going through dusty stacks of books in old libraries. When I was reading the 8th chapter of Matthew this morning, I asked myself, how did people write in those days? Was it easy to write? Would someone listening to Jesus have recourse to writing down his lessons if they desired to? And the answer is yes! 

There is a letter to Tiberius Caesar that has survived through the ages, supposedly written in 32 AD by the governor of Judea, Publius Lentulus, that describes Jesus. It was brought to the Vatican about the 9th century. “There lives at this time in Judea a man of singular virtue, whose name is Jesus Christ, whom the barbarians esteem as a prophet, but his followers love and adore him as the offspring of the immortal God. He calls back the dead from the graves and heals all sorts of diseases with a word or touch. He is a tall man, well shaped, and of amenable and reverent aspect; He has hair of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls, waving about and very agreeably couching about his shoulders, parted on the crown of his head, running as a stream to the front after the fashion of the Nazarites. His forehead is high, large and imposing; his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; His beard of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; His eyes, bright blue, clear and serene, look innocent, dignified, manly and mature.” There is more, but we get the picture. It has not been proven without a doubt to be genuine. 

What we know is much has been written about Jesus for He is a man without equal. More important than what he looked like is what He did and said. Let us read the Word that God has left us for our benefit and use the tools at our disposal to help us understand, and make Jesus come alive for us. 

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:^) Patsy