It is Lent. So both as a spiritual exercise and because I need to look at the New Testament from time to time, I will write something about Jesus.
There is in my library a book that not too many people know about. It is David Seccombe’s 2002 book, The King of God’s Kingdom: A Solution to the Puzzle of Jesus. Seccombe is a South African evangelical. I have found his perspective on Jesus refreshing. He disagrees with the likes of John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, but without the usual obscurant and circular apologetics. He doesn’t argue with others too much. He just makes his own positive case.
He starts his book by arguing for the resurrection of Jesus. He says the evidence is sufficient. But the evidence take the form of witness. There is a strong case for the resurrection, but it doesn’t force anybody to believe. You can always disbelieve a witness.
So his apologetic push is mild. He believes the witnesses. He rests in the sufficiency of their testimony. It provides the basis for the rest of what he writes. But he does not pretend that we believe because reason or science compels us.
(The major reason most Christians believe is not because of historical evidence, but because faith in Jesus has made all the difference in our present. Addictions and hang ups have dropped away. Forgiveness has transformed relationships. Physical healing has taken place. Hope has replaced despair. Sometimes it has happened quietly and gradually, but our tangled lives have been somewhat straightened out. We stand in awe. We are grateful. So we willingly believe things about Jesus that we would not believe about anybody else.)
I put the above in parenthesis because it is my commentary, not a summary of Seccombe.
Seccombe sometimes tries to tidy up the New Testament witness and harmonize the testimony more than I would. But he usually gives decent reasons for the positions he takes. He avoids the circular reasoning that goes like this: the Bible is true because the Bible claims to be true and we know this because of our doctrine of inerrancy.
Anyway, he has written a solid book about the life of Jesus that I have found helpful. So I am going to share some of it.
Because it is Lent, I am going to pick up the story nearer the end.
According to Seccombe, there came a time when Jesus finished his Galilean ministry. In one sense the ministry had been a failure. Jesus’ statement that towns like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum face judgment because even Tyre and Sidon and Sodom would have repented in their place (Matthew 11:20-24 which parallels Luke 10:13-15), means that Jesus felt they had missed their last chance.
But Jesus was not disillusioned or bitter, as some have thought. He praised God that the things hidden from the wise stood revealed to little children. So, although rejected by the elites, he saw the impact he made among the humbler and more ordinary people.
Nevertheless, his focus now changed. Luke used the device of having Jesus begin an extended journey toward Jerusalem. Jesus now “set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-52). This journey continued through Luke 19. However, John’s gospel has Jesus in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication just three months before the final Passover and in Perea during the intervening period (John 10:22 and 40). Seccombe thinks John’s chronology more likely to be historical.
Still, Luke grasped that there came a point where Jesus no longer focused on Galilee, but turned his thoughts to Judaea and the end. Seccombe interpreted Jesus’ vision of Satan “falling like lightning” in Luke 10:18 as a vision of something future, something that would be the outcome of his mission to Jerusalem.