Some more tales from the bible that are hard to swallow, this time from the New Testament…
A man approached Jesus and asked what he had to do to be saved. I’m sure that my Christian readers know that faith, not works, will get a person to heaven. However, Jesus tells him that it is works, and he recites the 10 commandments… sorta….
1. Thou shalt not murder
2. Thou shalt not bear false witness
3. Thou shalt not steal
4. Thou shalt not commit adultery
5. Honor thy father and thy mother
6. Love thy neighbor as thyself
Number 6 is a bonus, not found among the 10 commandments but still an important one, as he also tells another man that it is the second greatest commandment of them all (why is the greatest, love thy God, not listed as an important command here?) but somehow he fails to mention the other 5 commandments. Why? If you’re an average American, you won’t even come up with this many of them, but it’s quite likely that these are the ones you’ll know. These are commandments that even Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists agree on.
After failing to quote the ten commandments, the man says that he has already kept these commandments. Jesus still doesn’t mention anything about belief, which as Christians know, is more important than keeping any command. Instead he tells the man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. Why the sudden change of heart? Job, David, and Solomon are among a few that God blessed with riches, so it’s
obvious that God doesn’t feel that believers have to remain poor. This was a perfect opportunity for him to mention that “love of money is the root of all evil”, but instead he passes on the idea that having money is wrong, and multiplies the confusion with an analogy… a rich man getting into heaven is like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. It’s impossible for a camel to pass through a needle (obviously). Therefore it’s impossible for rich people to go to heaven, right? Jesus explains “all things are possible with God”. In other words, “impossible” as a word is meaningless and so is his analogy.
We all know the tale about Jesus losing his cool in the temple and driving out the people selling animals. I’m sure we rationalize it, picturing Jesus swinging a whip but never actually striking anybody with it (vigilante justice in the form of deadly assault is pretty immoral in any given
situation). But how about the story of Jesus encountering a fig tree with no fruit?
Jesus and his disciples were hungry, so when they spotted a fig tree they approached it. They found no figs (picked clean, or it just wasn’t the season for figs, or perhaps it hadn’t blossomed the way it was supposed to). Jesus immediately cursed the tree and it withered, never to bear fruit again (as if it had been full of fruit before his curse).
Take a moment to consider the tree. Trees are incapable of committing evil. They don’t have free will, and can’t “choose” to sprout figs or not. This tantrum of Jesus was against an inanimate object, much like kicking your car because it doesn’t start in the morning. Jesus, fully capable of producing figs from thin air or making figs appear on the tree, instead curses the tree so it will never produce fruit again.
It has been suggested that this was an object lesson, and that this tree was merely symbolic. However, Jesus had done that before with parables and no trees were harmed in those lessons. Also, he never tells his disciples that it is purely symbolic, and so it would be logical if they (and you, the bible reader) thought that emulating his actions here was permissible.
Jesus has the potential to call down wrath on sinners, but one has to wonder what standard he uses to pick and choose these battles, though.
I’ve already discussed the many absurdities of protecting the adulteress caught in the act, but what about the occasion where a mob tried to push Jesus off a cliff? His response was to “pass through the crowd”, probably a magical walk into another dimension. The mob was clearly trying to murder an innocent man, and yet the bible doesn’t mention any harm or punishment coming to them. How about the prostitute that emptied a vase of fine perfume on his feet and then wiped his feet with her hair? Her sins were forgiven for this favor, but Simon – the host that had kindly invited Jesus into his home – is rebuked for not cleaning his feet. Don’t you think Jesus could forgive him, too?
The strangest story of Jesus protecting sinners is when Jesus is seized by the elders to be tried and later crucified. When they come upon Jesus and Peter, Peter cuts off a man’s ear. It’s pretty clear this was attempted murder, or even if he his intention was just to get the ear (this fisherman was the first Zorro?), a dangerous act that could have ended in manslaughter. And yet Jesus just repairs the ear and rebukes Peter, who was nearly a murderer. It doesn’t seem that this act changes Jesus’ mind about building a church via Peter.
I’m sure we all enjoy the picture of a meek, merciful Jesus who doesn’t wish that any harm should come to anyone. So why did he feel that murderers and whores get a pass but merchants in the temple (and trees without fruit) don’t?