It seems like God gets angry all the time in the Hebrew Bible, but then Jesus arrives on the scene with a message of good news and everything changes! Right? It’s not quite that simple. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa survey the consistency between God’s anger in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament and the restorative promise of God’s anger.
“Jesus thinks there’s a flood coming and another Sodom and Gomorrah coming. And the only way to avoid it is if Israel starts living by the Sermon on the Mount. To live by the Sermon on the Mount is to live by the ethic and the values of God’s Kingdom.”
In part one (0:00–11:45), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss the difficult topic of divine anger, the center attribute of the character traits God uses to describe himself in Exodus 34:6-7.
In this episode, we zoom out to survey God’s anger at a macro level throughout the entire biblical story. The narrative storyline of the Hebrew Bible repeats itself again and again, leading to the surprising climax of Jesus’ life and sacrifice. Though God's people continuously rebel and are given over to judgment, the prophets saw a day when God would fulfill his promises to Abraham and David.
“For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness, I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer. “For this is like the days of Noah to me, When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you Nor will I rebuke you.”
Here, Isaiah compares Israel’s Babylonian exile to the great flood. God’s judgment is a “flood” of anger, but that’s not the only meaning behind the comparison. Just like he did with the flood, God will save a remnant through which he will demonstrate his compassion. The prophets always maintain this expectation of God’s compassion for the nation of Israel, and the psalmists speak often of God’s enduring favor on a personal level.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the Lord, you his godly ones, And give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
In the Hebrew Bible, we see God hand his people over to be ruled by pagan nations, who act as arbiters of God’s judgment. But God’s anger is not an isolated attribute. He may get angry, but his loyal love means he won’t abandon his people. Tim concludes part one with the observation that, as with any good father, there is a restorative role to God’s anger. If God’s people turn away from what makes God angry, he promises his favor.
In part two (11:45–20:45), Tim, Jon, and Carissa move us into the events of the New Testament. At the beginning of each Gospel account, we encounter John the Baptizer, who calls for people to turn from their sins to escape God's wrath.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
John represents a new Jeremiah or a new Ezekiel, warning of a new movement of God’s anger that is coming. He calls the leaders of Israel “serpents’ seed” and says that God will have to clean house all over again.
As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear his threshing floor; and he will gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Carissa points out that John's words are a warning and that God's anger always leaves room for restoration. John understood that God's judgment was coming upon Israel through the tangible presence of the Roman empire. John’s message shows us that the anger of God in the Hebrew Bible is still very much present in the face of rebellion.
In part three (20:45–25:45), the team talks about the role of God’s anger and judgment in the teachings of Jesus. At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, he almost never mentions God’s anger and instead talks more about God’s generosity, mercy, care, and love.
When Jesus visits the synagogue in his hometown, Nazareth, he’s handed the scroll of Isaiah, and he reads from it.
Luke 4:18-19 (quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
Tim points out that Jesus actually doesn’t read Isaiah’s full train of thought here. The closing line should go on to say, “To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God,” but Jesus leaves off that part about God’s anger. Jesus isn’t afraid to tick people off, so what is he doing here? He’s starting a movement that he sees as happening within a narrow window of time. There’s an opportunity before the arrival of the day of wrath for all to embrace the Gospel of the Kingdom he comes to offer.
God's character hasn't changed since the events of the Old Testament, and Jesus represents an opportunity for repentance before God hands Israel over to judgment at the hands of Rome. When God deals with sinful humanity, he is both merciful and just.
In part four (25:45–37:17), Tim, Jon, and Carissa look at Jesus’ warnings, the drumbeat undergirding his overarching message of good news. Tim points out some key examples of warnings throughout Jesus’ teachings.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.
Jesus’ listeners, raised on the story of Noah, would hear this exactly how Jesus intended it—a flood is coming. A flood of God’s wrath and judgment will fall on Jerusalem if they continue to rebel.
When Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the good news, he gives them instructions that end with a warning.
Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that city.
Carissa points out that Jesus sounds a lot like the Old Testament prophets here. What's different, Tim says, is that Jesus gives a new and specific path to repentance through living out the Sermon on the Mount and embodying the Kingdom of God.
For all his reticence to speak of God’s anger at the beginning of his ministry, we eventually see a shift. In Matthew 11, for instance, Jesus pronounces woes of judgment over the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaid, who had rejected him.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.
Jesus’ continual allusions to God’s judgment in Israel’s history make his message clear: judgment is coming. But in Luke 13, he gets explicit about how God’s judgment will arrive. Jesus warns that Rome will be the instrument of judgment for all of Israel if they refuse to repent.
God, still angered by the sins of humanity, sent Jesus as the ultimate emissary of his favor, the supreme messenger of good news, to form a new covenant family. But it all hinged on Israel’s willingness to repent and follow Jesus. Jesus’ language to describe judgment grows increasingly graphic as his crucifixion approaches.
When he approached Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Jon points out that in these passages we see yet another example of Jesus bringing fulfillment to the Hebrew Bible and the story of Israel.
Tim, Jon, and Carissa conclude by asking the question: What did Jesus think he was doing by offering a way out through repentance and living according to God’s Kingdom?
Jesus is calling into question the status quo. In the midst of a people angry and increasingly violent in reaction to Roman rule, Jesus says, “love your enemies.” He stands in the midst of Israel as one of the marginalized people he came to dignify and says, “repent and follow my counter-cultural way, and you will be saved.”
In part five (37:15–end), Jon ties it all together by reminding us that Jesus came to a people bent on rebellion––not just spiritual rebellion against God but political rebellion too. Jesus calls for peace and love toward all people, even those we count as enemies.
But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus rides into Jerusalem, weeping because he knows the leaders of Israel have rejected him. God’s anger is coming. So Jesus arrives in Jerusalem during Passover, knowing he intends to put himself in the place of his enemies, so that the leaders of Israel can kill him. Jesus offers himself as a righteous intercessor on behalf of his people. In so doing, he drinks the cup of God’s anger Jeremiah spoke of (Jeremiah 25:15).
Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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God’s Wrath in the Teaching of Jesus
Series: Character of God E9
Podcast Date: October 12, 2020, 43.17
Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie, Carissa Quinn
Jon: This is Jon at BibleProject. I like to picture Jesus as a kind, gentle, peaceful, the love your enemy, care for the poor Jesus. And yes, Jesus is those things.
Tim: What tends to happen, though, for people who get really excited about that aspect of His message teaching, we tend to overlook or underemphasize a consistent drumbeat alongside that good news, which was warnings of that separation act of judgment that was ahead for the Israel of His day.
Jon: Like this warning. "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who's built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and it fell. And great was its fall."
Tim: Jesus thinks there's a flood coming, and another Sodom and Gomorrah type thing coming.
Jon: You see, God made a covenant relationship with Israel, (00:01:00) and Israel has not held up their end of the covenant. In the past, this led to the Babylonian exile, Israel overtaken by an enemy nation, a flood of God's anger. But now in Jesus' day, the same problem persists. Will Israel finally become the faithful covenant partner? Or will another flood come, this time by Rome?
Tim: This has taken me years to process. That Jesus' warnings aren't about heaven or hell the way I was taught to think about it in a kind of a more individualistic package of the Christian message. He was a prophet to Israel, just like Jeremiah and Ezekiel's warning of a flood in the form of a pagan oppressor. And that God was still angry, but He sent Jesus as the ultimate act of favorite good news to announce good news, to form this new covenant family. But He said, "Listen, if you don't follow me, Rome's going to take us out."
So there's a whole thread (00:02:00) of passages where He continues on this theme. When He rides in as a triumphal entry on the donkey and Luke 19, He's weeping over the city. But what Jesus says is, "If you had known, even this day, the things that would make for peace, but now they've been hidden from your eyes. Your days will come when enemies will throw up barricades against you, surround you, have you in, level you to the ground, you, your children, leaving not one stone upon another because you didn't realize at the time of God's visitation, that God came to visit you."
Jon: Today we look at Jesus' warnings of God's judgments against Israel.
Tim: By situating Jesus in His historical context, we don't lose Jesus. We actually get more of His message and more of what His heartbeat was about, which was that Israel was destroying itself, and He was trying to help them find a different way forward.
Jon: Thanks for joining us. Here we go.
All right, this is the fourth episode talking (00:03:00) about anger. Divine anger. We're talking about it because it's the center attribute that God gives Himself in the story in Exodus 34, where God says, "I'm gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, full of loyal love and faithfulness." So we've been really sitting and talking about God being slow to anger for a while because this is a really difficult topic for people and there's a lot to wade through. And we're trying to do it in a careful way.
We've talked through the whole story of the Old Testament, and we've looked at many ways that God's anger and His judgment manifest themselves. We're not going to do a recap on this episode. So if you haven't been following along, I recommend that you go back and listen to the conversation. But we're going to jump into the story of Jesus and talk about how God's judgment and (00:04:00) anger plays there. So we have Tim and Carissa.
Jon: Hi, guys.
Jon: Tim, why don't you get us rocking?
Tim: Yes. I'm not going to recap but I do want to start us with an idea that will kind of ski jump up and into the story of Jesus. The storyline of the Hebrew Bible on the narrative level of the people of Abraham getting into the land, being unfaithful, exile to Babylon, and when they return, that's not that awesome. However, the prophets were convinced that God's going to fulfill that promise to Abraham. He's going to fulfill His promises to David and to our ancestors.
So the prophets, like Isaiah or often in the Psalms, they'll talk about that God's anger may come. And when it comes, it's intense because He gives us over to our enemies. But He will eventually be compassionate or show compassion once again. (00:05:00)
So, in corporate level, you get a beautiful statement of this and Isaiah 54, where God is addressing the people and he says to them in verse 7, "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion..." That's that "womb" word that you let us through, Carissa. "...compassion, I will gather you in a flood of anger." Notice the reference to the flood. A flood of waters. "...in the flood of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with eternal loyal love I will have compassion on you." This is like what the days of Noah were to me. "When I swore that the waters of Noah wouldn't flood the earth again, so I swear that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you."
So notice, we're going all the way back to that first and most cosmic act of God's judgment in the story. Here, the exile to Babylon is being likened to the flood. Isn't that interesting?
Tim: It's a flood of anger. (00:06:00) And just like in the flood story, God saved a remnant that He showed compassion to so that a new humanity could be born out of it. So the implication is here. That's what it's like too. You get statements of this all over the prophets. That exile was terrible, but it's not the end. You get statements of this on a personal level in the Psalms, where the poet will take that corporate story and see it at work in their own lives. It's actually famous Bible verse. I'll just look at Psalm 30.
Psalm 30:2, the poet says, "O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me. O Lord, you brought my life up from the pit; you have kept me alive so that I don't go down to the pit. Sing praise to the Lord, you, His godly ones, give thanks to his name. His anger is for a moment, but his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping might last for the night, but shouts of joy come in the morning." (00:07:00) So good.
Carissa: So, in the Hebrew Bible, it's like the circumstances are showing the consequence for worshipping other gods or turning away from God and Him handing them over. The circumstances are all about that. But there's this really strong thread of hope throughout and God's compassion that He won't abandon them because of His loyal love. His chesed.
Tim: Yeah, that's right.
Jon: What do you think the interplay here is between... In Exodus 34, He's slow to anger. Here, His anger is for a moment. Which isn't about how quickly He gets angry but how long He stays angry for.
Tim: Yeah, yeah. It's as if they're saying when God does get angry...He doesn't like being angry and doesn't want to be. So it's nothing compared to the eternity of His loyal love. You could use spatial metaphors. His anger is like a drop, (00:08:00) but His loyal love is like an ocean or something. But you get the idea. The point is to say, in comparison to His eternal covenant love for creation, even moments of His judgment and anger are temporary, and always aimed at a higher goal I guess it's the way to say it.
Jon: And what's interesting, too, in the Psalm is it begins with, "I cried out, you healed me." There is this seek and you shall find, knock the door will be opened. There's this like when we ask, when we turn back to God, He turns to us. So if God is angry for a moment and we turn away from what's making Him angry, there's His favor.
Tim: Yeah. That's the restorative role of God's anger.
Carissa: Yeah. To my mind, that's also where it interacts with compassion, with the attribute, or maybe other attributes as well. But compassion was so tied to the idea of crying out and God hearing the cry and being compelled to respond, (00:09:00) that if He's angry, and people cry out to Him or turn to Him, they can rely on His compassion, that He hears their cry.
Tim: We haven't actually brought this up yet in this conversation, but all three of us are parents of little kids. A lot of crying.
Carissa: A lot of crying.
Tim: We've been really helped by a series of parenting books called Love and Logic.
Jon: Right. Yeah.
Tim: One of the basic principles is when you're trying to address your child's behavior, and help them show that it's not okay to make a decision, one model of bringing punishment or consequences is to just assign that consequence. But the love and logic approach is it takes more effort and creativity. But to try and show the logical outcome of that decision.
So if they're fighting and going to get into a fight over Legos, then don't take away getting to watch TV. (00:10:00) Take away the Legos. When you fight over Legos, you lose the privilege of Legos for an hour. That kind of thing, whatever. When you don't get your dishes, then you end up cleaning everybody's dishes for a week. That kind of thing. It's that inner logic of act and consequence.
But I'm thinking about these poems that we're looking at. Even when I've taken the Legos away for an hour, and they're weeping and crying, I cannot wait to give the Legos back. I don't want to be angry, I don't want to be frustrated with them. And there have been multiple times where I feel like I'm getting punished because I don't get to play with Legos for an hour now. And it's like, "Oh, we were going to build Legos this afternoon and you guys did that, and now we don't get to play Legos." And I'm bummed. So my anger is also but for a moment compared to the perpetual goodwill I have for my kids. That's what I'm going for here.
Again, the whole reason I'm bringing this up is even though the storyline of the Hebrew Bible ends tragically, there's also this pattern (00:11:00) of God, continuing to go back and give another chance, and give another chance. It ramps up the expectation. "There's got to be some resolution here." This tees us up perfectly for the story of Jesus who comes announcing primarily that that time of favor, and God's eternal loyal love after the exile, it's now.
Section break (00:12:00)
Tim: Okay, we made it to Jesus.
Tim: Well, actually not yet. I first want to talk about John the Baptist for a second. So if we just start reading the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, every one of them is going to, in the narrative, first introduce us to a guy named John the Baptizer. John the Baptizer has a message about God's wrath, about His hot anger.
He famously goes down to this river, and he's calling people to turn. It's a restoration movement. He goes down to the river, the same river that all of the people had to cross through to enter into the land in the first place. It's like he's rebooting the whole story, and making Israel go through the river again. Thirst and washing and repentance and so on.
But then he sees a bunch of leaders of Jerusalem and the temple coming to him. This is what he says to them. "You are the babies of snakes." (00:13:00) Or brood of vipers. Like the lion. But because the baby snakes. You're seeds of the snake. "Who warned you all to flee from the anger that is coming, from the wrath to come? Bear fruit, keeping with repentance, and don't think you can just say, 'Oh, Abraham is our ancestor.' Listen, God could raise up children for Abraham from these stones. The axe is laid at the root of the trees. Every tree that doesn't bear good fruit is going to be cut down, thrown into the fire." You're like, "Whoa, John the Baptizer."
This is classic role of God's anger that He sees is going to culminate in some act of judgment. So the Gospels begin with the portrait of picking up...John represents a new Jeremiah, or a new Ezekiel, saying, "We're going to go through it all again. There's a whole new movement of God's anger coming." (00:14:00) He's activating the whole story. People's unfaithfulness. He calls the leaders of Jerusalem serpent's seed. So God's going to have to clean house all over again, just like He did in the days of Jeremiah. He uses the language of divine anger to talk about it.
Carissa: It's a warning.
Tim: Oh, there's warning. It doesn't have to be this way. It could go differently. That's a good point.
Jon: This has always been hard for me. When you pick up a gospel and you're ready to get to...
Tim: Good news?
Jon: Yeah. I have this framework of, okay, Jesus is coming to heal and to give, and to sacrifice. The way John sets it up here is very different. I mean, you didn't go on to read but he...Are you going to read the rest here?
Tim: Got it. Well, then he starts talking about "one who is coming after me."
Jon: And that person...?
Tim: Yeah. He says is going to (00:15:00) immerse y'all with the Holy Spirit. Hooray!
Jon: That sounds nice.
Tim: Yeah. And with fire. Well, it depends. Fire burns away but it also purifies. Remember the purifying?
Carissa: Mm hmm.
Tim: But then he goes on. He says, "The one who comes after me, His winnowing fork is in His hand. He's going to clear the threshing floor and gather wheat into the barn, but burn up the chaff with fire.
Tim: I'm so glad you're bringing this up, Jon. What John is activating is the whole Old Testament covenant-breaking, God getting angry and handing Israel over. But repent because it could go differently. And there is somebody coming who is going to create a fork in the road moment for us all, because he sees himself as just preparing the way. So you're right. Jesus, while He does have good news to offer, that good news is itself a part of a bigger package of another prophetic warning. What usually happens is that all of this imagery in John's message gets picked up by especially Protestant readers and we just instantly start talking about life after death. This is about what happens to you after you die. That's not what John's talking about.
Jon: How do you know that?
Tim: It's the leaders of Jerusalem who are coming to him...
Jon: Yeah, He's talking to the leaders of Jerusalem.
Tim: ...and he's telling them this message. He's another Jeremiah. He's another Ezekiel. His message is for Jerusalem. It's for the people of Israel. And we're still in that storyline here.
Carissa: So, is that a warning about being handed over?
Tim: Right. The whole thing is assumed. What does it mean to say the axes at the trees or there's unquenchable fire coming and divine (00:17:00) anger on the leaders of Jerusalem? I'm already supposed to know what all that means. I guess that's my point here is this just assumed that you know the story that you're stepping into. Who is always the agent of God's anger when He gets angry with His people and the leaders of His people? It's always some foreign nation. Some pagan oppressor that God gives people over to. And I wonder if there's any of those around at the moment. Oh, yes. Right. And they're going to play a big role in the story to come—the Roman Empire.
So I just find is good to translate these metaphors into the concrete, historical situation that the gospel authors are inviting us into here.
Carissa: Yeah, it's interesting to see the consistency between the Old Testament and New Testament, especially along this theme. Because I think a lot of times we come to the New Testament and think, oh, it's so different than the Hebrew Bible, especially this theme of anger or judgment.
Jon: Let me try to restate (00:18:00) then what John the Baptizer is saying here. He's saying to the religious leaders, "I'm asking you to repent." This isn't a repentance movement. That's what this baptism is for. But after me, there's someone coming, and He has a baptism of God's Spirit and fire." Then he uses this metaphor of threshing floor. It's a farming thing, right? This is where you take all the wheat? Is it? Would it be wheat?
Tim: Yeah, that's right.
Jon: You bring it in, and then you've got to get the grain away from the...
Tim: Yeah, you separate. It's the act of separation.
Jon: Separating the good stuff from the bad stuff. And then you're going to burn up the chaff because you don't need it anymore. So Jesus is the one with that winnowing fork. He's the one going to separate. Are you (00:19:00) saying that this separation is connected to divine anger?
Tim: Well, yes, that's right. We have to go all the way back to the flood. Even though the flood was not an act of anger, it was the act of sorrow and grief, but it separated those who ruined the land through violence and bloodshed from Noah, who was righteous and blameless. It was the separating. The point is every time that God brings an act of judgment in the Old Testament, there is always the righteous remnant theme that comes out the other side and becomes the basis for the new group of people that God is going to work with. Really almost every single line in John's message contains the image or metaphor or wording from the Hebrew prophets. He's like a spokesman for the whole message of the Hebrew prophets right here.
Jon: And he's saying, "I'm asking all of Israel to come and repent."
Jon: What Jesus is going to do is He's going to say (00:20:00) separate a remnant of Israel, who God is going to use moving forward. So be prepared for that."
Tim: That's right. It's setting you up for the story of Jesus. So you can't end here. You have to now go read the story and be like, "How is Jesus going to cause a separation in Israel?" Is Jesus going to announce giving over that God's going to do?
Jon: Yeah. What's the flood that's going to come? Or who's the Babylon that's going to come?
Tim: Totally. All right. Let's keep going.
Section break (00:21:21)
Tim: Let's go to Luke's Gospel. When Jesus finally goes public in Luke 4, something very interesting. Jesus does give many warnings, but He almost never mentions God's anger. He overwhelmingly talks about God's generosity, mercy, care, and love. So in that sense, He's different than John the Baptizer. He wants His whole message to be characterized as an announcement of the good news of God's kingdom.
In Luke 4, this is significant, I think. He goes to Nazareth, His hometown, and He's given them the scroll of Isaiah. He opens up to (00:22:00) what we call chapter 61. I think you just know it as that part of the scroll. We didn't have numbers. So He starts quoting, saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me. He's anointed me to give good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. You rolled up the scroll and said, "Today this is fulfilled in your hearing."
If you go back to Isaiah 61 that He's is quoting from, He left out one line from the paragraph that He just quoted. Does that make sense?
Tim: He ended too early. The line that He left out, the first half of it is to proclaim the year of Yahweh's favor, and also the day of our God's vengeance. He leaves that out. I think this is highly significant.
Jon: He's (unintelligible - 00:22:53).
Tim: Oh, yeah. Got it. Okay. I don't think that's what's happening.
Tim: No, He was not afraid (00:23:00) to take people off. I think he's signaling something here. That He's going to start a movement that He sees is happening within a really narrow window of time. He's going to start this movement that He's going to call the Good News movement. And it's going to be for all of the outsiders, for everybody. The current temple regime says is on the outs with God, and they're good with God because they run the temple. It's the opposite, Jesus is going to say. So He's going to have this little window of time before the day of vengeance comes, which is that day of wrath that John was talking about. The only thing He has to offer for this new thing is good news, man. Good news. Let's have a good news party before...
Jon: Before the vengeance comes?
Tim: Before the vengeance comes.
Carissa: So He's not saying that He's doing something to deal with the vengeance of God here. He's just saying this is the good news time?
Tim: There's two stages to this. (00:24:00)
Tim: And we are at the favor, good news stage before the time of anger when Jerusalem will be handed over to its enemies.
Jon: In Isaiah, one of those two senses are paired. What is it referring to? How can you have the year of Yahweh's favor and the vengeance of God?
Tim: Totally. It's called the Day of Atonement is what it's called. I'm still working on this, but it's becoming clear to me that the Day of Atonement is like the key to everything. But I say that about everything in the Bible. Because the Day of Atonement is the day when the blameless lamb is offered up and goes up to God to represent me before God and all of its blamelessness. And God chose favor and accepts me because of my righteous representative. But on that same day, as the day of God's favor, the other goat is loaded up with the sins of Israel and sent into exile into the wilderness. (00:25:00) The day of vengeance.
Jon: The scapegoat.
Tim: So they're not separate things. When God deals with evil, He will be both merciful and just. I think that was buried in that little line right there. That's my hunch at least. I think that's how Jesus viewed it as well based on how He echoes and plays the Psalm in the story.
Section break (00:26:00)
Tim: Okay. If you just follow Jesus' teachings from here, I just want to refer back to previous podcast series, maybe like our Luke, Acts series, where we really hone in on Jesus' message of good news and announcement for the kingdom, inclusion of all of these undesirable people. This is the stuff that people love about Jesus. It's the stuff I love about Jesus. It makes me proud to be associated with Him and to read the stories.
What tends to happen, though, is for people who get really excited about that aspect of His message and teaching, we tend to overlook or underemphasize a consistent drumbeat alongside that good news, which was warnings of that separation, act of judgment that was ahead for the Israel of His day.
Carissa: Yeah, totally.
Tim: I'm just going to have a look at some different examples. For example, the Sermon on the Mount ends with a warning (00:27:00) to listen to my words. It's the famous parable of the house on the rock. "Everyone who hears my words and does them is like the person building house on the rock. Everybody who doesn't is like the person who builds her house on the sand." Then he describes the flood—the rain spell. The flood came. Wind blows, slamming against the house, it fell, and great was its fall. There's a flood coming. "If you don't follow my way of being the New Jerusalem, the light on the hill to Israel that God wants to have represent him to the nations, if you don't do it my way, the flood coming, and it's going to take away your house. It's a warning.
Carissa: Yeah. So the purpose of these is more clear. John the Baptist and what Jesus says, they're warnings that are meant to cause people to repent. I mean, I guess that's clear in the Prophets too in the Hebrew Bible.
Tim: In this case, what it means to repent is to live by the Sermon on the Mount, (00:28:00) and Jesus' way of embodying the kingdom of God. But it comes with pretty high stakes warning at the end.
Tim: When Jesus in Matthew 10, sends out His disciples so that they go start announcing the kingdom like He was doing, He has this whole little section where He says, "Listen, if there are some people in a town that don't want to listen to you, they kick you out and they like, 'We don't want to hear what Jesus has to say. We don't want to hear about the kingdom of God,' then there's that famous line, "Shake the dust of your feet off at the city." I don't know why I'm laughing. I think it was really serious.
Jon: It's just funny to think of someone doing that in a real way.
Jon: "Oh, really? You don't want me here? Well, I'm just going to shake sandals."
Tim: But then what he says is, "Shake the dust your feet off. Truly I say it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." Oh, well, we know how that went for Sodom and Gomorrah. (00:29:00) So Jesus thinks there's a flood coming and another Sodom and Gomorrah type thing coming. The only way to avoid it is if Israel starts living by the Sermon on the Mount.
Jon: Because that's what they would be going out and teaching people city to city as well.
Tim: The Sermon on the Mount. That's right. To live by the Sermon on the Mount is to live by the ethic and the values of God's kingdom. Matthew 11, there's two towns that kick Jesus out. They didn't listen to His message. One is a town called Chorazin, one is called Bethsaida. He repeats it. Actually, He sounds just like Isaiah or Jeremiah here. He pronounces woes over the cities. He says, "Woe to you Chorazin. Woe to you Bethsaida. If I had gone up to Tyre and Sidon and did the miracles there, they would have repented long ago." He goes, "O Capernaum, if I went to Sodom and did miracles, they would have repented. (00:30:00) But no, you won't be brought..." Oh, this is interesting. Look at this. He says, "No, Capernaum, you won't be exalted up into the skies. You're going to descend into the grave." He's not talking to individuals here. He's talking about a whole town. He's is going to the grave.
Tim: What does that mean?
Jon: I don't know. What does it mean?
Tim: I'm trying to set up the puzzle here. Jesus keeps thinking that something terrible is going to happen if Israel doesn't follow Him and live by the Sermon on the Mount.
Jon: There's a storm coming.
Tim: There's a storm coming, a flood, fire, descending to the grave. What is it? Well, let's look at a couple of statements where he becomes a lot more clear. This is in Luke 13. This is only in Luke. So it's not one of the more familiar sayings of Jesus. Some people come to Jesus and they tell Him a story about some Galileans, who had gone down to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. These Galileans had their blood mixed (00:31:00) with their sacrifices by Pilate, the Roman governor. They're alluding to a riot that took place in Jerusalem. Josephus the Jewish historian talks about this.
Jon: Oh, okay.
Tim: It was a riot that happened in the temple, and Pilate just sent in the guards and they just slayed everybody. So when he says their blood is mixed with their sacrifices, it's literal.
Tim: The Romans sent in the tanks and just mowed down a bunch of people in the temple courts as they're bringing their offerings.
Jon: Oh, wow. I thought it was talking about some just strange cult practice.
Tim: No, he's referring to the tragic outbreak of Roman violence against the people.
Tim: And then Jesus said to them, "Do you think that the people from Galilee who just happened to be there offering your sacrifices and they were caught up in this riot, do you think that they were worse off? Greater sinners than the other Galileans because this happened to them? No, I tell you. Unless y'all, unless we all return, you all (00:32:00) are going to perish in the same way."
Carissa: So here He's specifying more that they will perish at the hand of Rome or the leaders?
Tim: Yes. He's not talking about heaven or hell.
Jon: The storm is the destruction of Jerusalem.
Tim: This has taken me years to process. That Jesus' warnings aren't about heaven or hell the way I was taught to think about it in the kind of a more individualistic package of the Christian message. He was a prophet. More than a prophet, but a prophet to Israel, just like Jeremiah and Ezekiel warning of a flood in a storm coming in the form of a pagan oppressor. And that God was still angry. But He sent Jesus as this ultimate act of favor and good news to announce good news, to form this new covenant family. But he said, "Listen, if you don't follow me, (00:33:00) Rome is going to take us out just like Pilate did to them." So there's a whole thread of passages in the Gospel of Luke where He continues on this theme.
When He rides in at the triumphal entry on the donkey and Luke 19, He's weeping over the city. We depicted this in the video. I'm really proud of that moment. His tear drops down. This is what Alan, one of our animators...His tear drops down onto the burning of Jerusalem. So what Jesus says is, "If you had known even this day the things that would make for peace, but now they've been hidden from your eyes. Your days will come when enemies will throw up barricades against you surround you, hand you in, level you to the ground, you, your children, leaving not once a stone upon another because you didn't realize the time of God's visitation, that God came to visit you."
So there is one more. Actually, He does come to the vengeance part. When He is announcing the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke chapter 21, (00:34:00) He says, "When you see Jerusalem, surrounded by armies, He calls that the time of vengeance, the days of vengeance. Which remember in His quotation of Isaiah 61, He left out the vengeance for this moment. So I don't know. These passages made me uncomfortable. I underemphasized them for a long time, and I realized I need to stop doing that. I need to really understand what Jesus was getting at.
Jon: He was saying, "Look, I'm bringing this fulfillment to the story of the Hebrew Bible into the whole story of Israel. And the story has been that God has made this covenant with us as the nation of Israel, and we keep turning away from it. So there's this pattern of God's anger or judgment, and a remnant that comes through. John the Baptist sets up Jesus as this is kind of the final...This is the final time that's going to happen. (00:35:00) That there's going to be a threshing and a separation and He's going to be like this climax of that. These warnings to his fellow Israelites are in that light of like, "This is happening, this is go time. This is it."
Tim: In the light of that, what does Jesus have in mind when He says, "But if you listen to my words, you're building your house on the rock. The winds may come and the storms rage, but that house will stand." Why is living by the Sermon on the Mount...If all Israel were to do that, why would they avoid getting toasted by Rome? Are you with me? I'm trying to play out like what did what does Jesus think He's doing that?
Carissa: Is there a related question what was Israel doing that was going to inevitably cause this Roman attack?
Tim: Yeah. What path is Israel on? Like Zedekiah breaking his treaty (00:36:00) with Nebuchadnezzar, what is Israel doing? Well, man, there's revolutionaries around. Rebellion is in the air. Isn't it interesting that a huge theme in the Sermon on the Mount and in Jesus' teachings is about non-violence towards your enemies? Nonviolent resistance to structures of evil, and to love and bless your enemies?
Carissa: So now it's this guy on the margins, one of the oppressed people who are saying the solution is to love your Roman enemies.
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Jon: So we're talking about Jesus, though, in terms of this peaceful, political revolutionary character. It's actually cool. It's nice to set that stage. That when you said that there's rebellion in the air, you can kind of picture Jesus walking through these towns and or being at Jerusalem and realizing like, "Oh, man, things are tense, and this can all fall apart. So I want to help my nation live in such a way that we can bless our enemies, and then actually become the people of God that we're supposed to be." But if we stop there, it feels like we're just making Jesus just a sin of the Prophet.
Tim: That's right. So we can't stop there. We have to take the step. The next step is when Jesus rides into Jerusalem crying. That's His moment of realizing that the leaders of Israel have rejected Him. The moment He rides into Jerusalem is the point where He realizes there's no return. He went around announcing. John came giving a chance for Israel turn. But He goes into Jerusalem knowing that it's game over.
Carissa: It's like the end that has come up before Him.
Tim: Yes. (00:39:00) The end of Jerusalem has come up before Him. So what he is going to do is He times His arrival of Passover, and He is going to put Himself in the place of His enemies and force their hand to kill Him so that He can offer his life as a righteous intercessor on behalf of His own sinful people. And in so doing, He sees Himself drinking the cup that Jeremiah talked about. The cup of the wine of God's anger.
I think that's where we can go just in our next step. I think I want to go and read some stories about Jesus in the Last Supper. Once you see them in light of this whole theme, they just really kind of shine with new meaning and significance. But I think it's good just to take a pause and recognize that by situating Jesus in His historical context, we don't lose Jesus. We actually get more of His message and more of what His heartbeat was about, which was that (00:40:00) Israel was destroying itself. He was trying to help them find a different way forward, and He realized that human nature is too consistent. But that didn't prevent Him from trying to stand in the gap on behalf of His sinful people. And that's the next part of the story.
Jon: Great. Thanks for listening to this episode of the BibleProject podcast. We're still collecting questions for our upcoming question and response episode for this part of the series on God's anger. So if you have a question, send it to us. You can record yourself asking the question. Try to keep it around 20 or 30 seconds. Let us know your name, where you're from. Also, transcribe your question for us. That'll help you make it succinct and also help us wade through them. Then email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, that's email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you and engage with your questions.
We've recently launched season Seven 7 of our videos on YouTube, (00:41:00) and we've got two videos out already. They are the first two characteristics of God that we've been talking about in this series. That He is gracious and compassionate. You can find those word study videos on our YouTube channel, youtube.com/thebibleproject, or on our website, bibleproject.com. Next week, we're back to talk about Jesus taking the cup of God's wrath.
Tim: He intentionally goes to Jerusalem for Passover during the feast week when they celebrate their liberation from a pagan oppressor, Egypt. His point is that the way I'm going to become king over Israel and over the nation is by drinking the cup. So all of this has huge implications for how we should talk and think about how Jesus understood His death. What did Jesus think His death meant? How did he talk about it? And how does that fit into this whole conversation?
Jon: Today's episode was produced by Dan Gummel, our show notes from Lindsey Ponder, and the theme music (00:42:00) from the band Tents. BibleProject is a crowdfunded nonprofit. We're in Portland, Oregon. We make free resources so that we can all experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus. Thank you so much for being a part of this with us.