Monday, June 28, 2010

Absurd arguments

There is one scene in Disney’s “A Bug’s Life” (time travel back to 1998) where the Grasshoppers bully the Ants over food and things get a little rough. Most frightening to the Ants is the Grasshopper, Thumper. He a raving mad-bug. His eyes are bloodshot, teeth are jagged, and his wings are torn. He never speaks (except in the outtakes), but grunts and growls, screams and scowls. When the lead Grasshopper (Hopper, wants to flex a little muscle, he snaps his fingers (?) and Thumper goes berserk. This is the picture that comes to mind when I read Matthew 12:14 which says, “But the Pharisees went out and counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”

Not too far before they began plotting, Jesus healed (among others that day) two blind men (Matthew 9:27-30) and a demonized man who was also dumb (Matthew 9:32) was brought to Him. Now, after they plotted to kill Him, we read that they go out, find a man who is demon-possessed, blind and dumb (Matthew 12:22) and bring him to Jesus. If this was part of their plot to kill Him, I wonder what they were expecting. Was this man supposed to snap and do violence to His person? Were they hoping this man would kill Jesus for them?

One can easily imagine the crowds nearby actually holding their breath for what they knew was coming. It is more difficult to imagine what the Pharisees were thinking, beyond their obvious bracing for what was coming, that would be their excuse to disbelieve even further. When we read that Jesus healed the man, we also read the crowds were amazed (Matthew 12:22-23). We also read the Pharisees heard the report of what Jesus did (Matthew 12:24). What? Where were the Pharisees? Did they drop this guy off and run for cover?

They could not tolerate the words and works of the Kingdom. When Jesus healed the man, they tried to undermine Him. “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the rule of the demons.” (Matthew 12:24). Those on the front lines engaging the world often hear objections similar to this. Listen to this man’s objections to the works and word of God:

Jesus wastes no time answering His critics. Instead, He heals the man and exposes them—He resisted the proud and gave grace to the humble. He heals the man because he was brought into the picture as an innocent. Jesus’ ministry to the man was consistent with what was prophesied concerning Him in Isaiah 42:1-4. He exposes the Pharisees because they were not ready for grace.

Jesus shows the problem with their objection: if the healing of the man was a Satanic work, then Satan was against himself. “How then shall his kingdom stand?” Furthermore, since casting out demons was practiced by the sons of the Pharisees, how do they do it? (Matthew 12:15-27). Jesus puts the burden of proof on the objector. Jesus response is summarized in the first two principles of “The Columbo Tactic,” as summarized by Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason.

Ministry is hard enough as it is—and that’s toward those who will receive ministry. Those that will not receive ministry cut themselves off from the life of God in Christ Jesus by their own objections. Through patient teaching under the power of the Holy Spirit, we can by useful to help them see the weakness of their objections by asking simple questions.

The difficulty for Jesus’ objectors is they leave themselves nothing on which to stand. When they question the authority by which Jesus performed His ministry, they jerked the rug from under their own feet because their own sons perform the same ministry—how do they do it (12:27)? When I hear people reject the Bible as a whole or in part and make a case for personal freedom, I remind the objector that when someone commits a crime against them, they have just dismissed all grounds to prosecute.

Jesus tells the truth, regardless of what they think. He tells, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God [Isaiah 42!], then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28). Watch the video above once more and listen as Pastor Steve shows the man (who will not let him get a word in edgewise) the futility of his arguments by holding him to the inevitable.

The message of God and His kingdom does not change because He does not change. No matter how a person rails and objects, they cannot change the harsh reality of what God is doing and going to do. The one who is not with Jesus is against Him. The one who does not gather, scatters. One cannot object and follow Christ simultaneously.

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