MacArthur attacks the notion that Jesus was always the soft, meek, and mild Teacher we learned about as children and who is the face of evangelic Christianity today. MacArthur, a widely-read and respected Christian author and pastor, mines the four New Testament gospels for events from Jesus' life when he confronted sinners with strong words.
MacArthur first spends time making clear that he is not calling for belligerent Christians to hector passers-by on the street. However, he does decry the tendency of "post-modern" evangelicals to offer soft words and accommodation to those who challenge fundamental doctrines of Christianity. MacArthur uses the examples of Jesus given in the Gospels: while he consorted with common sinners to speak of forgiveness and love with them, he confronted the religious leaders of his day to challenge their practices This practice of confrontation in defense of truth is a key part of Jesus' ministry, says MacArthur: "The struggle between truth and error is spiritual warfare, and truth has no way to defeat falsehood except by exposing and refuting lies and false teaching. That calls for candor and clarity, boldness and precision--and sometimes more severity than congeniality."
The confrontations arose, and continue, because Jesus Christ as the God-man has always been the lightening rod of the Bible and Christianity. Christianity in the spiritual realm, not the denominational or "religious" realm, is a relationship with a man who claims to be God, who claims to be alive after death, who claims to be the one path of salvation. MacArthur says it this way: "There are only two possible conclusions we can make with regard to Christ: He is either God incarnate, or He is a blasphemer and a fraud. There is no middle ground, and that is precisely the situation Jesus was aiming for."
The religious leaders of his place and time (Pharisees, Sadducees, the Jewish Sanhedrin, the Roman government presence in Palestine) had come down on the side of blasphemy and fraud, so Jesus' mission of clearing the middle ground was directed at them. Most of MacArthur's book is a study of those confrontations. While he uses and quotes New Testament passages, this is not a verse-by-verse exegesis; MacArthur says several times that there isn't room for that, although with barely 200 pages in the book, I was left thinking that he had room for more explanation and wishing he had availed himself of the opportunity to say more about some of these events.
The final event MacArthur describes is the vitriolic outpouring of "woes" on the Pharisees in Matthew 23, which is one of the great recorded religious rants in history. As we might say today with cool irony: "Wow. Tell us how you really feel, Jesus." The Pharisees knew; they would have him arrested and crucified within the week.
Interestingly, at the end of the diatribe, as his anger cools and he looks over Jerusalem with regret, Jesus says, in Matthew 23:38, "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate." As MacArthur points out, the spiritual battle of words is over, and Jesus was declaring victory as he carried God's power out of the temple and into the new covenant of Christianity. The Pharisees were left with a powerless temple that would be torn down by Roman armies in a few short decades and never be rebuilt.
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About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager (TStocksl)
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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