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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Tenth (Change)

I want to start by acknowledging that this week's topic is something that's not easy for pretty much anyone. Even if you accept change well, at a minimum there's some sort of transition period for you to adjust to whatever that change is. Something as simple as an address bar moving from the top to the bottom of the screen for your web browser takes some getting used to, not to mention something like a change from what you thought your whole life was the truth.

I think sometimes we minimize how much it took for the disciples to accept the change Jesus brought. They were in a similar environment as Christianity is today. There were designated religious people that determined what the Torah said, and thus defined what everyone should believe and what rules they should follow. A lot of Christians today would probably like to think they would be like the disciples if they were put in a similar situation. However, if someone came to them and said something that was not in line with what their pastor tells them or what they were taught in church school, would they listen? Or would they dismiss them?

You see what the religious leaders of the time had to say about the disciples picking grain or Yeshua healing on Shabbat (Matthew 12). It was against their doctrine derived from the fourth commandment. By far, the majority of denominations, and Catholicism, believe that resting on Shabbat is no longer required. What if Yeshua came and told them it still was and their religious leaders were wrong? Would they accept Him and what He said? Or would they dismiss Him as a "legalist" or as being in bondage to the law?

Jesus came and brought in major change, but unless you stop and really think about it you won't fully realize what it was like to the people of His time. Think about something that you have been told all your life as truth and therefore believe as truth. Let's say it's something like the whole New Testament was originally written in Greek. Someone comes and tells you that actually there are some books of the New Testament that were originally written in Hebrew.

That may not be as big a deal to you perhaps, so think of something that's a tenet of your system of beliefs and think of someone coming in and telling you that in reality that tenet is completely wrong. That's exactly what the Jews experienced when Yeshua began His ministry. He came in casting out demons and their first question was what kind of teaching is this? (Mark 1:27)

In context, this deliverance occurred in a synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The attendees were impressed by His teaching (Mark 1:21-28). Then a demon speaks up from out of an attendee, and Jesus casts it out. So, everyone's wondering if that's part of the teaching. Going back to His teaching, it states that He taught with authority and not like the scribes. But, what does that mean?

When you take a look, you'll find that this particular event was of such importance it was captured in three out of the four gospels. What I also found interesting was that authority was written about many more times in those three gospels than the fourth (John). But as far as this situation, it specifically calls out the scribes and their lack of authority when teaching.

Looking at other references to the scribes, they are distinct from the Pharisees and chief priests (Matthew 2:4, 5:20). They were also distinct from the elders, prophets and wise men (Matthew 23:34, 26:3). They reasoned through things (Mark 2:6) and argued with the disciples (Mark 9:14), and their title shows that they were writers and thus educated and literate. In fact, they were well read in scripture as they argued with and tried to trap Jesus with questions (Mark 12:28-34).

So what does it mean that they didn't teach with authority? The Greek word used for authority is eksousia. This literally means "out from privilege." In other words, Yeshua was teaching in a way that it was clear He knew what was behind the scripture, not just the words written on the scroll. The scribes on the other hand, could only teach the writing, and not the meaning or inspiration behind the writing.

If I had to compare the scribes to a type of religious leader of today, I believe they would be most like those that "proceduralize" the interpretation of scripture. In other words, they make doctrine and belief structures based on tying together words and phrases across verses in scripture without involving the heart behind it.

The fact that Jesus had the heart that created the scripture was readily apparent to the people, which immediately gave His words weight and drew followers to Him. Still, the literate, "experts" in scripture were not convinced. Their study did not lead them to the interpretation and understanding that Jesus was teaching. Naturally, this led them to the conclusion that He was a heretic, a false teacher.

When I was in submarines, they started including some psychological terminology in training to help individuals become aware of the natural tendencies people have when making decisions or interpreting data. One of those terms was confirmation bias, which means avoiding information that contradicts held beliefs and looking for information that strengthens them. The scribes were definitely exhibiting this behavior.

Hearing Jesus' words, and how they were at odds with their beliefs, they dismissed them and instead tried to verify their assessment that He was a false teacher by trapping Him into contradicting scripture. Already they were opposing the change He was bringing. You see, unless you are open to revisiting your own beliefs and interpretations you will miss out on the truth and the change that needs to happen in your life.

I'm sure the Jewish people of Yeshua's day were as confident in their beliefs as Christians are today. Many of them missed Jesus as the Messiah because of it. This is a lesson to us, but in a sort of opposite way. Jesus will return in glory at His second coming, but there will be those before Him that claim to be Him and if we have the confirmation bias of the scribes we will be inclined to follow them.

You may think now that it'll be easy to not fall for the false messiahs, you'll just wait for the one that comes in the clouds! But do not be naïve. If there's one thing Satan has a knowledge and understanding of it's scripture (Matthew 4:1-11), and he's had a couple thousand years to study it and plan his deceit.

So don't be like the scribes! Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the heart of the scripture. The words of Yeshua provide that heart, but without the Holy Spirit they're still just words on a page and they don't become real and lead to change in your life.

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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