Continued from Chapter 22r
53:9: “neither was there any deceit in his mouth”
A Parable on Deceit
Once upon a time, in a far off city a man entered the city’s largest church and announced: “Destroy this church and in three days I will raise it up.”
Some shrugged their shoulders and said to each other “he’s a madman” others just scoffed and said “why is he disrupting the service?” But others said, “You know, we could use a new building and he seems like an honorable fellow.” Before you could imagine the last group prevailed. The congregation agreed to destroy the building in anticipation of a beautiful new building ready in three days. When the appointed time for the new building arrived the entire congregation stood waiting but nothing happened, the site remained a ruin. “Where is our new building?” they demanded. “Oh, you misunderstood me,” he declared innocently, “I meant that if you executed me, I would be raised up in three days,” although he knew all along that they did not understand his true meaning.
- What would you call such an individual?
- Would you call him a liar, a lunatic, or just simply deceitful?
- Do you have any other description you would use to describe such a person?
After thinking about this parable read the following: “[Jesus said to a crowd standing in the Jerusalem Temple:] ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews therefore said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body’” (John 2:19-21). How fortunate that the Jews did not take him at his word. The people were led to believe that he meant the Temple in Jerusalem when he actually spoke of “the temple of his body” (John 2:21). John’s Jesus certainly knew they misunderstood his meaning. Yet, he did not clarify what he meant. Jesus own secret meaning was clearly hidden from those to whom he spoke. His audience did not infer that Jesus meant anything other than the Jerusalem Temple.
What would you call an individual such as Jesus, a liar, a lunatic or just simply deceitful? I know what you could not call him - the servant who had no “deceit in his mouth.”
The issue of Jesus’ deceitful behavior
Is there any indication that Jesus was deceitful to friend and foe alike?
- Empty promises to “believers:” Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
He deceived his disciples promising a hundredfold of material possessions (“houses” and “farms”) in this life to all who left everything to follow him. It is obvious from Acts and subsequent Christian history that this would not be so. Material comfort does not necessarily come to those who become Christians nor do all find figurative compensation for family among fellow Christians.
Persecution is also not the lot of most converts to Christianity. There is no reason to assume that conversion to Christianity brings a hundredfold increase in any of these things or the additional promise of eternal life. Matthew’s Jesus sates: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). Jesus’ disciples must have accepted this statement at face value. Thus, they mistakenly believed his false assurance that the messianic kingdom was about to be established. When the Gospels’ Jesus assured his disciples that the end of the world order and his own triumphant return to judge all men would occur before the generation then living had passed away (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32), he used deceit, for he knew that this was not true. In the alleged post-resurrection era he still is quoted as promising a return in the near future, with its accompanying rewards (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).
- Deceitful misleading of “unbelievers”: We have seen above how Jesus misled the people who heard him into believing things, which were completely opposite to what he really meant. John’s Jesus, speaking in a deceitful manner declared: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The people were led to believe that he meant the Temple in Jerusalem when he actually spoke of “the temple of his body” (John 2:21). As we have noted, Jesus’ own secret meaning was clearly hidden from those to whom he spoke. Jesus’ audience did not infer from his deceptive remark that he meant anything other than the Jerusalem Temple.
- Secret denials: John stated that when Jesus appeared before the high priest and the elders of Israel he declared that he was never secretive, but had always been open about his mission and its meaning. Jesus declared: “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in a synagogue and in the Temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I said” (John 18:20-22).
A study of the Gospels reveals that this statement was a falsehood. The fact is that Jesus did not want the masses to understand him and deliberately planned that his message be secretive. The Gospels state that on a number of occasions Jesus demanded secrecy. The Gospels indicate that few, if any, people understood the true meaning of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus spoke in parables whose meanings were deliberately hidden from those who heard them. The Gospels quote Jesus as saying that he did not want everyone who heard him to understand his message and be saved. This is contrary to 2 Peter 3:9, which claims that “The Lord is … patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” He is said to have taught his disciples: “To you has been given the secret [mysterion] of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that [hina] while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand; lest they return again and be forgiven” (Mark 4:11-12; see also Matthew 13:13-15, Luke 8:10).