Who Was The First Evangelist + Was Jesus Raised in a Christian Family? #327
Happy Wednesday to you, dear friends. Hope you are staying safe out there! Two questions today, yet again, but both are fairly short. Before we get there, one little nugget from episode 325 that I should have included in that discussion of how Christians aren’t first and foremost citizens of their country, but strangers and exiles, citizens of Heaven. We see this outlined pretty clearly, again, in Hebrews 13:14 For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come.
Our first question to tackle is more of a point of interest. Who was the first named evangelist to speak out about Jesus after His birth? If I’m reading the text correctly, I believe the answer is ‘Anna,’ though I admit there are a few ways to take the question, and thus a few ways to answer it. In Luke 2, we read that Anna, when Jesus was only 8 days old, appears to be the first recorded person to speak about Jesus to other people. It does appear that the shepherds also spoke out about Jesus after His birth, but we don’t have their names. Here’s the text:
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. 38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
What an interesting woman, this Anna. I understand that there is a slight ambiguity to the way the Greek presents here age – she is either 84, or has been a widow for 84 years, probably the latter. Either way, she has spent decade upon decade somehow living in the temple of God serving Him night and day with fasting and prayers. That is honestly an astounding testimony, when you think about it. She was so wholly devoted to God that it is said she never left the temple, but sought Him and prayed to Him and fasted day and night for virtually all of her long adult life. I suspect that her reward in Heaven will be just incredible – what an amazing and completely unsung hero of the faith! Let’s read all of Luke 2 and then tackle our second big Bible question.
Our second big Bible question is honestly and intentionally a bit silly, but I ask the question to focus in on an important truth that I think we sometimes forget. The question was somewhat inspired by a post I saw on Facebook today in one of the pastor’s groups that I am a member of. A pastor posted a status, apparently screenshot from somebody else, that said, “The Bible was written entirely by the greatest American who ever lived: JESUS.” In that screenshot, somebody replied, “Is this a joke?” and the OP, supposedly, wrote, “It’s called history, sweaty. Look it up!”
Now, I think it is absolutely likely that this screenshot was completely manufactured as a joke. I truly hope nobody thinks that the Bible was written by Jesus, who was an American, but I suppose it is possible, and I think it is at least a little possible because of antisemitism. If that is not a word you are familiar with, antisemitism is a word that indicates racism towards Jewish people. Perhaps the most mind-boggling thing in the world is antisemitism when it comes from a Christian – especially at the national level, like we saw leading up to World War 2 in a country, Germany, that was largely Christian at the time. How could Christians go along with the holocaust when JESUS WAS A JEW? How could any Christian have any shred of antisemitism in their thoughts or feelings when JESUS WAS A JEW?! That’s the point of our question today. Was Jesus raised in a Christian home? And the answer is, of course not! Jesus was raised in a Jewish home that faithfully followed the law, as we see here:
21 When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before he was conceived. 22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) 24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons)….39 When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on him. 41 Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival.
Luke 2:21-42 (selections)
So Jesus was raised in a law-observing, faithful, Jewish household by people who loved Yahweh and followed His commands. Jesus was a Jewish man, not white, or American, but brown and middle-Eastern…which again, should immediately disabuse any Christian of any sort of racism. My philosophy professor in college told us a story about a documentary on the German persecution of the Jews that I have never seen, but remember vividly a scene that he spoke of. After the liberation of one of the concentration camps, the allies were interviewing the German guards, and some of them apparently identified as Christians. They were asked how they could possibly justify the torture of the Jewish people in those horrible camps, and after a long and awkward pause, one volunteered, “The Jews killed Jesus.” First of all, the Romans killed Jesus, admittedly at the behest of the Jews (some of the Jews, that is) but more importantly – JESUS WAS A JEW. The disciples were Jewish – Paul was Jewish. Almost everybody in the Bible was Jewish! We would do well to remember that our faith and our God are not American, or British, or Australian, or Indian, or whatever country you hail from, but Jesus was Jewish and raised in a Jewish house. That shouldn’t make you excluded, of course, because Simeon tells us, hardly a week after Jesus was born, that He was sent as salvation to the whole world:
For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.
He is a light for the Gentiles and glory to the people of Israel. By the way, on the claim that the Jews killed Jesus, let me close with a brief note from Keller on that topic:
Karl Barth… said there is an anti-Semitic way of speaking about the death of Jesus. Some people, out of anti-Semitic bias and feeling, say the Jews killed Jesus. Karl Barth said not only is that anti-Semitic, but it’s nonsense. It doesn’t help. It’s not illuminating, and here’s what he means.
He says imagine somebody saying, “The Greeks killed Socrates.” You’d say, “Okay, well, Socrates was Greek. His enemies were Greek. His friends were Greek. Of course, Greeks would be involved in the death of Socrates, but that’s not specific enough. It doesn’t really tell me who killed Socrates when you say, ‘Greeks killed Socrates.’ ”
In the same way, Jesus was a Jew, his friends were Jewish, and his enemies were Jewish. So to say Jews killed Jesus, of course, Jews were involved, but it’s not specific enough. It doesn’t really tell us who killed Jesus. Karl Barth said who did kill Jesus? Religious people killed Jesus. He says not only do you see everywhere in the New Testament a hostility by Jesus toward religion, when Jesus gets near people from the world, when Jesus gets near worldly people, he’s very patient, very kind. When he gets near religious leaders, he’s very sharp.
On the other hand, it’s religious people who were the angriest at what Jesus said. Over and over and over again, the crowds, the hoi polloi, the common people of the world were fascinated with Jesus. Maybe they didn’t believe what he said, but the religious people were angry. One of the main points of the New Testament is you’re never going to get Christianity unless you see it is something utterly different than religion
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).