Posts Tagged ‘religion’

She would forever remember the day that He wrote in the sand

Have you ever wondered what Jesus wrote in the sand?

Do you remember the occasion? It was when religious leaders came to Him with a woman caught in adultery.

Some readers might immediately be thinking. “Oh boy! Another one of those nutters! No one really knows what Jesus wrote in the sand!” That’s what I might have thought if I came across a post like this.

Significant Action

More revealing than “What did Jesus write in the sand?” is “Why did Jesus write in the sand?”

I believe that Jesus was being very intentional when He wrote in the sand. Yet, despite being intentional in His actions, I’m not sure that He was necessarily trying to write anything in particular. I believe that His writing in sand was a prophetic action that pointed to a particular passage in the book of Jeremiah the prophet.

If you read the passage where Jesus wrote in the sand in its broader context and then compare it to a particular passage from the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, then I believe that you will understand why Jesus wrote in the sand. It was an announcement of God’s judgment.

See for Yourself

Firstly, Read John Chapters 7 & 8

To get a fuller context of the occasion read John Chapters 7 & 8. For ease of access, here are some significant extracts from these chapters for you:

7:1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him…7v37In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water

(The clear rejection to the point of wanting to kill Him continued among the religious leaders. Then, the incident with the woman caught in adultery occurred the day after the announcement Jesus made at the feast.)

The Incident

8v1bAnd early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

8v12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself,…the Father that sent me beareth witness of meYe neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also….it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him

The second passage to read is Jeremiah 17:5-13

Here is the important reference and connection to Jesus writing in the sand:

17v13O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

Context is Key

Let’s consider the context of the woman being brought to Jesus. Keep in mind that the Jews had already wanted to kill Him (see John 7:1). Also, the day before the incident, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’ (John 7v37). Although some that heard Jesus showed signs of belief, a negative sentiment continued, especially among the religious leaders.

So, clearly, the incident occurred in the broader context of Jesus (and therefore God) being rejected. Similarly, the context of the passage in Jeremiah is God being rejected. In Jeremiah, God said that He would write in the earth those who reject Him, the living water. Likewise, by writing in the sand, Jesus was, at the very least, referring to this passage in Jeremiah. He was pointing to God’s judgment on a people that had rejected Him, the source of living water.

What Jesus May Have Written

In the tricky situation that He was in, this picture illustrates what Jesus may have written 🙂

What Jesus Wrote in the Sand

The second time He probably followed up with, THANKS, DAD!

More seriously, if Jesus wrote something intelligible, some have suggested that He might have written the names of those around Him who had rejected Him.

I personally think that writing out that portion from Jeremiah the prophet would have made the point.

Nevertheless, simply mimicking God writing in the earth, as in the passage in Jeremiah, would have been sufficient to make the point. Intentional doodling in the sand spoke volumes! Besides, had he written anything legible, surely it would have been too marvelous not to mention in the account.

Jesus = God

Jesus said elsewhere, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” He also said that He only spoke what His Father was speaking and that He only did what He saw His Father doing. With that in mind, we know that Jesus’ actions had significance and that the recording of them is significant too.

Our response to a clear revelation of Jesus is really our response to God. Rejecting Him is to reject God, the source of Living Water.

Rob Morley

Discipling Individuals or Nations?

This may sound strange to your ears, but contrary to what is sometimes taught or suggested, we have no specific New Testament mandate to teach or disciple nations themselves. I say this, even though The Great Commission in Matt. 28:19-20 may appear to be instructing us to do just that.

The Great Commission commences with, “Go ye therefore, and teach /disciple /make disciples of all nations…” As you can see, I’ve indicated how this command is rendered differently in various English translations. Now, if you simply read this segment in each translation you will notice that they don’t all appear to be necessarily saying the same thing. And, this is where the problem lies. Not that they aren’t saying the same thing, but that through superficial reading the less clear translations have been misunderstood. And, this misunderstanding is what has led to the problem of some wrongly aiming at teaching or discipling nations themselves as opposed to individuals of all nations.

To bring clarity to less clear (although not wrong) and perhaps seemingly ambiguous translations, I wish to show that in the context of carefully reading the whole of the Great Commission that all the translations are saying the same thing. By doing this, I hope to alleviate those caught up in misdirected efforts and ensure that we have a proper understanding what Jesus was wanting us to be busy with.

From the first two translations that read “teach all nations” or “disciple all nations” it can seem that discipling entire nations/tribes is what is commanded. However, when logically considering the whole command, it is clear that what is implied is to “teach /disciple individuals of all nations”.  The command continues “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” Clearly one cannot baptize a nation/tribe!

Even if “teaching/discipling whole nations” is somehow implied in the first part of the command, if one considers the complete command, it is only reasonable to conclude that it is by reaching individuals from all nations, rather than influencing whole nations.

Personally, I find the translations that read, “make disciples of all nations” more helpful from the outset. Clearly, whole nations/tribes can’t possibly be made into disciples, but rather people of all nations/tribes. Also, the word “of” here, although only implied in the original Greek, speaks of origin. In other words, “from all nations” or “out of all nations” could be appropriate alternate readings.

I’m certain that the words “all nations” stood out when Jesus spoke the command. They show the extent of the outreach and significantly that it was to go beyond the Jews themselves. This also fits well in the context of the New Testament message as a whole and also how the history of the early church played out. In both of these cases going to “all nations” did not mean discipling whole nations.

Clearly, discipling whole nations isn’t the intention of this scripture (and nor is it even a central New Testament idea). This command, therefore, can’t be used as the source for ideas like “redeeming cultures” and “discipling nations”. At best these ideas have only an indirect correlation here.

While it can be argued that reaching individuals from various nations may have some bearing on influencing their particular nations as a whole, nevertheless, influencing individuals and not nations remains the primary, if not only, intention of this scripture.

It is true that certain individuals like William Carrey who had a remarkable influence on India have in a certain sense discipled India, but that does not make this the meaning of this scripture. Clearly he did not baptize the nation of India nor teach the whole nation to obey all that the Lord commanded.

The correct interpretation is key in protecting this fundamental purpose of the Church from being sidetracked. While “redeeming cultures” and “discipling nations” may have its Biblical place, the intention to be reaching individuals must not be robbed from what is meant here. Misinterpreting this scripture can water down our effort to reach individuals for Christ by unduly heightening our concern for the nations’ political, social, economic and even spiritual well-being.

Although reaching individuals from nations and discipling nations may have some commonality, they are best remembered as separate so that the command to reach individuals isn’t lost in our attempt to affect society.  Also, if the Spirit of God has reaching individuals as His primary intention and we teach, strategize and put our energy into changing nations, then we’ve become off centre in our passion and useless to what is more important.

Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.

Rob Morley

(Note: a previous page with its comments were copied to create this post instead)

Comments
  1. […] For more on this go to Restore the Word, The Great Commission […]

  2. Good blog! I generally agree with you, so long as we don’t return to a purely individualistic interpretation of the Great Commission and deny it’s social/cultural aspects.

    I am content to say that the Great Commission results the transformation of “nations” (“ethne” in the original Greek, which means ethnic tribe or culture). How we do it – by direct discipleship of a culture or through disciplining individuals who then impact their culture – is not spelled out in the Great Commission.

    Like you, I lean towards the latter. In fact, if you look at the history of how Christians have bravely stood for Godly principles and transformed whole nations and cultures, I think we see the latter approach making a difference time and again.

    From a practical standpoint, I’m not sure how the former is even possible outside of a compulsory framework where the Church institutionally tries to “disciple” and bring “obedience” (two other components of the Great Commission) to the State and other essential social institutions. That would violate the covenantal and thus consensual approach that we see throughout scripture in God’s dealings with humanity.

    History shows the folly of the Church trying – as the Church – to disciple nations. It resulted in some of the greatest tyranny and persecution in Western history. For a host of reasons, I don’t want the Church overseeing the State by usurping the separate jurisdiction and role of the State..

    Thus, the way I have taught on the Great Commission is that it’s about discipling individuals and teaching them to obey all that Christ commands. Ideally, they are equipped in the church to use their gifts and calling (Eph. 4 – which unfortunately seldom happens) to serve in whatever circumstance and arena God has placed them. As they then become engaged in bringing God’s providence into those areas of life, culture and society, and seek to do the will of the Father (as per the Lord’s prayer) on earth as it is in heaven within their own spheres of influence, God’s Kingdom continues to advance as it permeates into all of creation. (Mark 16:15 and Col 1:15-23)

    Everyone believer is placed by God in positions and environments where they are part of the larger society – whether it is being a parent dedicated to raising Godly children within the context of our larger society, or being elected to Congress. Christians are never to be an insular enclave, but we are in the world even though we are not part of the world’s mentality.

    As we each extend God’s providence into whatever arena God calls us, we become His salt and light – bringing His flavor, preservation and illumination. If we are faithful ambassadors of His Kingdom, we can’t help but bring transformation into our secular spheres of influence – whether it is in the arts, science, raising Godly children, media, the trades, politics and civil government, or whatever.

    If we deny God’s providence over all aspects of society, then we have gutted the first part of the Great Commission – which is Christ’s triumphant declaration that he now has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” (In the Greek, “all” means …. all!)

    The attempts by some to limit or deny God’s call on others into various spheres of life (like civil government and cultural engagement) is disturbing. Regardless of how one thinks the Great Commission should work, it seems to me that we must affirm that it’s fulfillment means that nations/cultures – one way or another – are transformed.

    There is no room for a theology of disengagement in the Great Commission. In fact, it directly refutes the existentialists among us, who want only “spiritual” engagement and a purely personal, individualistic Jesus who’s providence is limited to them and their insular, introspective churches.

    • Thanks Jim for enriching this post with your comments. I like your determination to see that Christianity affects all areas of society. God’s kingdom must come on earth as it is in heaven if we are to be relevant as salt and light. While the Great Commission may be focused on reaching individuals from all nations/ethnic tribes; nevertheless, it will undoubtedly influence all of society. And, all the more, if we teach that “Every believer is placed by God in positions and environments where they are part of the larger society… bringing His flavor, preservation and illumination”, as you stated.

  3. […] Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”. […]