Tuesday of Holy Week – Review of “Fight Like Jesus”

You can see the overview of the book here. Click here for Palm Sunday. And click here for Monday of Holy Week.

It’s now Tuesday of Holy Week. The plot thickens for Jesus. “Fight Like Jesus” by Jason Porterfield taps into some things that are rarely talked about. And on purpose. Like Tuesday of Holy Week. Too often the church wants to move from Palm Sunday right to Easter Sunday. We really don’t like talking about death. But worse yet, we want to skip the beginning part of the week and jump to the Last Supper.

“…I think there is a deeper, less benign reason for overlooking Holy Tuesday. Simply put, we’ve been trained to do so…Year after year, when Holy Week rolls around, most churches celebrate Palm Sunday and then do nothing else until Thursday evening arrives.” (Pg. 64). I would say part of this is because for most of our churches there is no liturgy for what happens on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Can you imagine doing a recreation of the crafting of a whip on Holy Monday in church? I wonder how that would fly. Or flipping over tables? Or getting into heated debates? Or hearing about plans to betray? None of these things make for pleasant church. And maybe that’s the point. I wonder who would show up.

Tuesday begins with Jesus returning to the temple. The authorities are looking for a way to arrest Jesus, but are afraid of the crowd – according to Matthew 21:46. They need to discredit him and so they hatch a plan to try and trap him in debate.

The first part deals with the question about paying the tax. You know this passage. Jesus ends up saying “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto God that which is God’s.” What is this really about? We hear about it when Jesus is on trail. They want to claim that Jesus was restricting people from paying the tax to Rome. That he was against the Roman government. Even more, they wanted to trap Jesus into violating religious law so that he would lose credibility with the people. And he handles it brilliantly. “Thus, by asking to see a denarius, Jesus revealed that he did not possess such a coin. But in handing him one, the Herodians and Pharisees unwittingly disclosed before a watching crowd that they did. Even worse, as RT France notes in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel, they had brought the idolatrous coin into the holy precinct of the temple!” (Pg. 70). The trapper becomes trapped in his own trap.

Porterfield hits one other topic on this matter – the idea of rendering.

“About AD 154, Justin Martyr wrote a defense of Christianity that he hoped would convince Emperor Antonius Pius to stop persecuting Christians. In it, Justin quotes Jesus’ ‘render unto Caesar’ saying and then offers the following interpretation: ‘Whence to God alone we render worship, but in other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men.’

“Whether he realized it or not, with these words Justin injected a deadly dualism into Christianity that continues to plague the church to this day. In effect, he demoted God to overseer of spiritual matters, and crowned Caesar lord over all else.” (Pg. 74).

What is the effect? “Instead of everything belonging to God, now…everything but worship belongs to Caesar!” (Pg. 75).

The lesson associated with this is that Christlike peacemakers recognize no human law as valid if it conflicts with God’s nonviolence love. If harm is done to some, or benefit for only a few, then “Christian peacemakers must respectfully not comply. In short, no human law is valid if it conflicts with God’s all-inclusive, nonviolent love.” (Pg. 76). In other words, legal does not mean moral. The law is not the determiner of morality. It should be measured against love.

The second part of Holy Tuesday is the “woes.” The woes are expressions of great grief. “Jesus’ ministry of public teaching begins with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and ends with the Seven Woes (23:13-32).” (Pg. 80). They are bookends that face in opposite directions according to Porterfield. “What one list condemns is simply the reverse of what the other commends.” (Pg. 81).

The lesson here is simple – Christlike peacemakers speak truth to power and listen with humility when such truth is spoken to them. We need to be open to listening.

And lastly for Tuesday we have the little apocalypse. Porterfield dives into this passage in Mark 13:5-23 and dispels some common modern beliefs. Too often this passage is associated with the theology of Rapture as understood by the more Evangelical branch of Christianity. If you want a full examination of the Rapture, I recommend reading “The Rapture Exposed” by Dr. Barbara Rossing.

The key to understanding what is going on is to stay in context. The disciples ask when the temple destruction will take place. It’s not a discussion about the end of the world. This all has to do with the Jewish-Roman war that will take place from AD 66-70 ending with the destruction of the Temple. And with wars, there are always calls to arms.

Remember Palm Sunday? People were expecting Jesus to come and wage a war against Rome. They were expecting Jesus to be the return of Judas Maccabees. Jesus knows this. He even addresses it when he talks about “the abomination that causes desolation.” (Mark 13:14). That is referring to Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ actions of desecrating the temple with the slaughter of a pig in worship of Zeus. That triggers the armed rebellion that leads to Judas Maccabees throwing off the Seleucids and rededicating and cleansing the temple. Jesus isn’t going to follow in Judas Maccabees’ footsteps. He’s not following his ways. He’s doing something else. Which leads to Porterfield’s next lesson for us: Christlike peacemakers break the cycle of violence by routinely engaging in small acts of radical love.

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