Episode 198 - The Bible is Embarrassing

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We are quickly approaching episode number 200. And for those of you who have been with me for 100 episodes, or all 200, or even this is your first, thank you for listening. I hope this podcast benefits you and helps equip you to be more faithful in conversations about your Christian convictions. So here's what I would ask from you. If you have benefited from this podcast, go to the contact form and submit which episode has been most beneficial for you. And I'll enter your name into a drawing. And on the 201st episode, so after episode 200, I'll choose two names and I'll send you a book. And you can use which book you want. Either Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors, written by myself and Hunter Leavine, or Unapologetic: A Guide for Defending Your Christian Convictions, by myself. Choose the book you want, submit which podcast has been most helpful and I will enter your name in that drawing.

Well, this week, we're going to talk about how the Bible is embarrassing. Now, I don't mean to you hopefully and to myself. The reason we do this podcast is so we stand on the trustworthiness of scripture, on its authority, confident in that position and reason from it, and engage a lost and dying world with the truth of the scriptures and the truth of the gospel that requires us to not be embarrassed of it because if we're embarrassed, we will not share the scriptures. We'll hide them away. We'll shy away from that topic and maybe just talk about love or something else. But no, we should stand on the trustworthiness of scriptures, being convinced of its efficiency, its authority, its truthfulness, and all of those things.

But what do I mean by the embarrassing nature of scripture? Well, if you're someone that wrote scripture or are described in scripture, and actually in some ways for Jesus himself, there are very embarrassing details about these people. And the reason why I bring this up is it points to the truthfulness of the scriptures, that they contain embarrassing things about Jesus and the people who actually wrote those very things. And you know this innately. You know this intuitively. But historians have created a formal principle for analyzing historical documents that helps us determine their truthfulness. And it's called the principle of embarrassment. And everyone, like I said, just kind of knows this intuitively. But here's what it says. Any details embarrassing to an author are probably true. You know this. No one makes up a lie to make themselves look bad. No one makes up and shares embarrassing details about themselves. It just doesn't happen. I mean, even if there were embarrassing details about yourself, you're not going to share them most likely.

So when we come to the scriptures and we find that they actually have numerous embarrassing details and accounts, this points to the fact that they're true. Now we know they're true because they're the word of God. But there are many other ways that we can look at and support their truthfulness and come alongside and augment our case. Something that everyone can see and has to contend with. Now what are some of these details, you might ask. Well, let's start with details about the Apostles and the gospel writers.

Numerous times, they are dimwitted. They fail to understand what Jesus is saying. I've mentioned a few times recently that my church is going through the gospel according to Mark. And Mark just highlights this, it seems like on every page, that Jesus says something and then they don't get it. Or they make some really confident statement and Jesus is like, "No, that's not it at all." And then he tells them what the truth is and then they disagree with him, like in Mark chapter 14 where Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to be struck down and the sheep, his disciples, are going to scatter. And they're like, "No, not us. Definitely not us." And he's like, "No, you all." And they're like, "No. Not us." So numerous time, the authors portray themselves to be and record themselves as being dimwitted. They just simply do not understand what Jesus is saying. Even when Peter confesses Jesus as the messiah, he has a different type of messiah in mind. And yet, Peter shares this information with Mark who includes it in his gospel.

The disciples are also uncaring and they record this for us to see. Consider once again in Mark chapter 14, we have the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The night before he will go to the cross. The night he is arrested. And he tells the disciples to pray and they fall asleep. And he comes and kind of scolds them and tells them to pray. And then they fall asleep. And this happens again. Now consider this. Take a step back and realize, when they're writing this, what are they believing to be true at that time? Well, they have since become convinced that Jesus is God himself. He is the actual true messiah and their affirmation is that the incarnate son of God has stood in front of them and told them to pray, to commune with God the father. And they fell asleep. That is horribly embarrassing. And yet they include it for us to see. You're only going to do that if it's true. Because remember, they're trying to start a religious movement. Right? They are teaching. They're preaching. They're writing these documents because they want people to trust them and come to trust in Christ. So why would you include details about yourself that are incredibly unflattering that may undermine your authority and moral credibility unless they're true? You wouldn't.

Here's another example. This one about Peter. Peter is called Satan by Jesus. There could not be a worse name for God incarnate to call you than Satan. Right? If you were to think of the best person who ever lived, you'd come up with Jesus. And if you were to think of the worst person or character ever, you would come up with Satan. And Jesus calls Peter Satan, once again, after he said something incredibly ridiculous like he always does. But once again, the ridiculous event and the rebuke by Jesus are both recorded for us. You're only going to include that if it's true. But they're cowards. They're doubters. Just like Jesus said they would. Once he is struck down, they scatter. Their confidence is gone. Oh, I guess we were wrong. I guess we misunderstood. He's not the messiah we thought he was. Right, Mark's been showing us that the whole time. And once again, they record this for us to see.

But what about Jesus? Right? It's one thing to write about yourself if you're trying to start a religious movement that's centered on someone else, centered on Jesus. But what did they write about Jesus and how should we think about that? Well, Jesus is considered to be out of his mind by his mother and his brothers. So the people who would have known him best think he is crazy. To translate this into modern day, if your family wants to baker act you, are you the kind of guy that people are going to trust? Probably not. And yet, the gospel writers include these details for us to see. Because they happened. They're true. They're part of the trustworthy account. Are they flattering? No. And actually, some scribes later one, hundreds of years later removed some of these verses, or tried to, from the manuscripts they copied because they just thought they were incredibly unflattering about Jesus.

Now, we know these changes were made. We have accurate representations of the originals. But nonetheless, this was a response by some scribes to what they considered to be incredibly embarrassing details about Jesus. Surely, this could not be the case. We must kind of redact these documents. And Jesus is not believed by his own brothers either. And he's called a drunkard. So the guy who is going to go on to teach and have a religion that teaches that you should be sober-minded and that you should not be drunk has it recorded about him that people thought he was drunk. Now, he wasn't drunk. But nonetheless, why include that? It's a distraction. We are only going to include it if it's true.

Jesus has his feet wiped with the hair of a prostitute. And this could've and probably would have been taken as a sexual advance. And yet it's recorded for us to see. Jesus claims that God is his father and they reply at the time that, "No, we know who your father is. You were conceived in iniquity." We have a word for that today, which I'm not going to say on the podcast. But they were basically calling him a bad word. They were impugning his integrity. They were saying he was an illegitimate child. And yet that's included for us to see. He is buried by a member of the group that sentenced him to death. His own disciples record that someone else had to bury him. They were too cowardly. They scattered. Someone else had to do it. And yet we see that from their record.

Another thing that doesn't perhaps strike us with the weight it should, but surely stood out to a Jewish audience was that he was crucified by the Jews and the Romans and hung on a tree despite the fact that anyone who was hung on a tree was under the curse of God. This is one reason why Paul says that the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews. The very manner in which Jesus died was incredibly off-putting. Now, yes, the fact that the messiah died was off-putting and a problem. But the manner in which he died just compounded the offense. He was thought to be cursed by God. And we've talked about this in previous episodes how from one standpoint he was. But they misunderstood the type of messiah he was going to be and they misunderstood the type of death he would die. But nonetheless, it's incredibly embarrassing to record that Jesus died on a tree. And yet it's recorded. It does fulfill actual prophecy, but nonetheless, it's recorded, and it's embarrassing, and it's true. That's the important point here.

Jesus also first appears to women. At a time when the incorrect social understanding of the day said that women's testimony was not worth what a man's testimony was. Two women's testimony was not worth what a man's testimony was. If you are going to make up the documents that we call the New Testament or at least the gospels, you would not make up that women discovered the tomb empty. That women first saw Jesus after his resurrection. You would certainly have men doing it. The only reason to record women doing it is if it's true. And even then, you might consider if you're trying to put your most persuasive pragmatic foot forward, would you even record that the women first discovered him or would you come up with some alternate way of presenting the truth but not telling all of the truth? Well, you might, but no. The gospel writers record that women first discovered the empty tomb. The only reason they would say that is because it actually happened.

There are so many other details we could include here. And what's interesting, and I don't want to kind of hijack your personal bible and devotional time. But I would just encourage you sometimes as you're reading, think about how what is written reflects on the author. Think about how what is written reflects on Jesus. And you will start to see that the embarrassing details are all over the place. All over the place. And just in Mark, you can find them on every page. I think if right now, just sitting here, not planned, the fact that the disciples cannot cast out a demon and it kicks their butt basically. And yet, some other no name guy who doesn't really even know much about Jesus and isn't a disciple cast out a demon just the page before. Right? And yet, Mark makes that parallel to show that the disciples had an issue. And you have to include that for us to see. Those type of details are everywhere.

And the reason why I'm pointing this out is because you don't include things that are embarrassing to yourself and your leader, the leader you are trying to portray as God, unless they're true. They just add noise and distraction. But actually what they are, and historians understand this, secular historians understand this, they are ear marks of truth. If you tell a story and it's embarrassing or it makes you look bad, and really, it's more extreme than that, right? When you're saying things like Jesus' own family didn't even believe him or thought he was crazy. That's more extreme than just embarrassing like I fumbled, or dropped something, or tripped. No, it's more extreme than that. They include them because they're true. And this is just one example of a category of evidence we see in the New Testament that points to the trustworthiness of the documents. There are many other ways the scriptures attest to their own truthfulness, their own trustworthiness, the fact that they are the word of God. But this is one of them. And in future weeks and future months, we'll look at others. But it's really important for us to have a confidence in the scripture.

And in an ironic twist, when we understand the fact that the scriptures are embarrassing to their authors, they should become less embarrassing to us. Because when we understand that people had no reason to make up these details, make up the stories and accounts that contain the details, we increase our trust in these documents. And for us, they are life. Paul says in first Corinthians 1:18 that the scriptures are the power of God to those who are being saved. That is what the scriptures should be to us. They are life and breath. They are the Word of God. They are sufficient for living this Christian life. And they are the ground we stand on when we share the gospel with other people.

So if we have no confidence in the scriptures, our gospel presentation, well, is probably going to be non-existent. But it's not going to have power. It's not going to have effectiveness. It's only through the preached word of Christ that people repent and believe in Jesus. So let's have confidence in the scriptures and let's see that one part of our case is the embarrassing nature of the details those scriptures contain. Well, I will talk with you next week on Unapologetic.

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