Christian Leadership, Wine, and Risk-taking

The Christian life is a call to a life of risk-taking. Not foolish risks, but risks that are taken in faith after one has counted the cost (Luke 14:28). This is even inherent in the central rite of the church, the Lord’s Supper, which takes one of the most common of human activities and intensifies it with profound meaning.

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George Washington and the Failure of Success

George Washington had several rivals jockeying for his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Horatio Gates and Charles Lee, in particular, were two generals that worked to undermine Washington’s reputation and authority throughout the war.

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Even a Whisper – Malleability of the Mind

The mind is a malleable thing, sensitive to outside influences. Waitzkin, in The Art of Learning, talks about how a Soviet player unknowingly interrupted his natural rhythm of thought by tapping a chess piece against the table. The sound was barely audible, yet it caused him to make careless errors at critical moments.

Only when the tactic was explained to him was he able to notice it and counteract it.

Our minds are not immune to outside influences, especially if they are subtle and we aren’t paying much attention. Just what are we putting into our mind? Are we being intentional about it? Are we paying careful attention to what we read and watch and allow to enter our ears? Even a whisper has the potential to alter our behavior.

To be careless in this seems dangerous. In this, we should train to be as wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16).

The Greatest Authority Given to Men

Matthew cites a profound reason as to why the crowds glorified God in Matthew 9:8. After Jesus tells a paralytic that his sins are forgiven, he proves it by healing the man. The text then says in verse 8:

But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

The overarching story of the Bible has many themes, structures, and beats, and one of them about God gradually entrusting man with more and more authority and responsibility. Man is initially given dominion over the whole earth and the things therein. After the flood, man gets authority to judge capital crimes, representing authority over his fellow man (Gen. 9:5-7). With post-Exodus Israel, we see men given the responsibility to guard and serve God’s throne-room sanctuary. With Solomon, we see a man given the ability to discern between good and evil, granting as a gift what Adam had prematurely seized in the garden (1 Kings 3:9).

With Jesus, we see this theme reach its climax. It is a big deal that a man has the authority to forgive sins. The Son of Man, our brother, has been invested with this authority. And it is also the climax of this particular section of Matthew. The end of chapter 7 until 9:8 is all about authority.

The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one having authority. (7:29)

The centurion says that he too is a man under authority, comparing himself to Jesus, and that servants and soldiers under him “go” and “come” according to his command. (8:5-9)

Then we get the scene that seems like the climax, the height of Jesus’ authority, when he calms the storm. The disciples marvel at “what kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (8:27) What could be greater than this? Our jaws drop along with the disciples.

But that is not the end nor the pinnacle of this section, as we soon learn. The only place where people glorify God is after Jesus says he has the authority to forgive sins. That is when he is at his most powerful. Cleaning the slate, reconciling people to a holy, righteous God.

And that power is invested in a man.

Yet another thing to add to the wonder of the Incarnation.

The Exile to End All Other Exiles

Matthew 1:17, after the end of the genealogy, tells us the organization of the preceding text.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

But there are some other interesting textual links. Matthew 1:2 mentions Jacob “the father of Judah and his brothers.” The next time we see a similar phrase, it is in verse 11, where it says “Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers…” The latter specifically says that it was the “time of the deportation to Babylon.” Exile.

And what also happened to Judah and his brothers? They went down to Egypt. It was to escape a famine, but it was still a movement away from the promised land. Exile.

The genealogy concludes with another Jacob, “the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born…” Jesus himself will go into a form of exile. To Egypt first, but then to the grave. But his exile will be the one to end all other exiles.

The ending of the first fourteen generations is also linked thematically, of course, because David undergoes his own exile before he is crowned king. It’s a cycle that repeats…until it doesn’t.