Courses

The Historical Jesus: Lecture Nine


He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial." "So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

The famous Lord's Prayer would better be called the "Disciples Prayer". In this prayer Jesus teaches his disciples to acknowledge their dependence on God and to submit themselves to his Kingdom's rules. In response to this obedience God will give them the one thing they need most; the Holy Spirit.

In first century Judaism the Spirit was believed to have ceased operation in the time of Malachi. The Spirit would not resume its activity until the dawn of the Messianic age. So, what Jesus promises them is that they will be participants in the dispensation of the Messiah. Further, he is claiming that the messianic era has begun. On the very interesting subject of messiah's in the first century the interested reader is directed to the edited volume of James Charlesworth, "The Messiah: Earliest Developments in Judaism and Christianity".

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed.

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? -for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first." While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

The continuing battle between Jesus and evil continues here. His destruction of the kingdom of evil was another contributing factor which led people around him to perceive that God was at work in him and that the Messianic age was dawning. As the power of evil erodes the power of God increases. What is most remarkable here is that Jesus' contemporaries believed him to be the messiah until his crucifixion, at which point they refused to believe any longer. Why? Because they believed that he had been defeated by evil. The Messiah could not lose in such a horrid way- so he must not be the messiah.