The Egyptian Heresy puts down roots whenever we honor that which God considers an abomination. By extension, we should see the Dynamic of Ezekiel manifesting in our lives as we learn to honor the things God honors. With that in mind, I am reading through the gospel of John, tracking what Jesus honored and looking for contemporary examples.
John 1:47 is a portrait of honor. As Nathaniel was brought to Jesus, He said, “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile.” KJV
While we generally know that guile is not a good thing, it is not a generic word in our vocabulary, so I decided to explore it. The Greek word is used 12 times in the New Testament. Several times it refers to the Sanhedrin’s desire to arrest Jesus with some less-than-straightforward mechanism, which of course they eventually did.
Paul used the term in Acts 13:10. “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” NIV
Again, the focus is on lack of integrity and transparency. This rant was directed at Elymas who was trying to keep people from getting saved.
By contrast, one of the most exciting uses of it is in Revelation 14:5. The 144,000 are described as having no guile in their mouths. This was one of the reasons they were selected to serve the King and clearly one of the reasons they were able to learn the song no one else could master.
But the punch line to me was 1 Peter 2:22 where Christ was honored as one who spoke no guile even when undergoing extreme trauma.
Now that takes my mind all sorts of places. First of all we have the passage in Colossians 2:9. “For in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. . . ” NIV
Tie that with Ephesians 4:13 which says “. . .until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” NIV
To simplify, God is in Christ. Christ is in us to some degree. When Jesus sees the nature of God the Father manifesting in us, He celebrates it in us with verbal honor. So far so good.
We already knew that Jesus’ primary focus for honor was and is His Father, so His comment to Nathaniel was simply a subset of the core focus of honoring the Father. Gotta love the consistency — whether Jesus was seeing the Father first hand, or third hand in us, He still resonated to the majesty of The Almighty.
OK. That was the low hanging fruit. Now let’s explore the knuckle buster.
Jesus was without guile according to Peter who ought to know. If anyone can spot guile, a Prophet should be able to.
But what does that mean on Monday morning to me? What EXACTLY is this nasty thing called guile? Well, the surface meaning in the Greek usages is sneakiness. That creates a problem because Christ certainly was sneaky at times. He did a pretty good job of telling the truth with intent to deceive.
Prior to one feast, He intentionally set His brothers up to think He might not be going up to the feast at all — yet he did, secretly. Check out John 7:7-10.
Or take the selection of the site for the Last Supper. It was quite clearly held at a very familiar place, John Mark’s parents’ house, but Jesus pulled a fast one on Judas, so he would not know and could not interrupt the event with betrayal. See Mark 14:12ff.
In addition to that, He overtly taught people in a way that was inexplicable, allowing them to think they understood when in reality they didn’t get it at all. Matthew 13.
So . . . as much as I would have liked to translate the concept as “He was transparent” where it applies to Jesus, it just doesn’t fly. Jesus was anything but transparent. He played all sorts of head games with people.
A second layer of meaning is to catch or trap. The word is sometimes used for a decoy that leads someone or something into a trap.
Paul used the word that way in 2 Corinthians 12:16. In a piece of extreme sarcasm he points out that he showed his love for them by not being a burden to them and therefore trapped them with his love.
When we hold that metric up to the life of Christ, it seems to hold true. He broadly was not a gatherer. He had no need to build a huge organization of people who were blindly loyal to Him. Therefore He was never guilty of manipulating people into a trap through over promising or playing on their pain.
And the men He did call, were called with vast ambiguity, but no trickery. There was one promise to the four fishermen that He would make them fishers of men, but with Levi, there was not even that promise — just the request that Levi follow Him.
Now that seems transferable to my Monday morning. I can let people follow — or let them leave. I can invite people to follow with or without doing full disclosure as long as I don’t bribe them into thinking it is for their good, when in reality it is for mine.
I wonder if Jesus was comparing Nathaniel who would follow Jesus for the sake of following Jesus, to the four who were following Jesus with hopes of getting a shot at being heavies in the Kingdom, with lots of minions under them.
Is that the meaning of “no guile” — having a love relationship with the King, not a relationship where Jesus is an app on your phone, full of utilitarian value?
Hmmm . . . that might make sense out of the other mystery word in John 1:47. “An Israelite indeed. . . ” Meaning a hard core, true blue, real deal Israelite.
And a lot of Christ’s issue with the Jews of His day was the monetizing of religion, both by the priests and the people. Think of the 5,000 who wanted to make Him the King of Entitlements, and spurned Him when dinner was not followed by breakfast.
Was Jesus celebrating one Jew who wasn’t trying to use God?
Now THAT is transferable to Monday morning, because that is not simply a Jewish issue. We American Gentile Christians certainly have a formidable pattern of pursuing Jesus intensely for something other than mere love. We have a thousand payoffs that make the lust for power of the fishermen seem paltry by comparison.
Therefore it is worth shouting with amazement when we find another Nathaniel who simply follows Jesus without pursuit of recompense.
I wonder if I will get to honor someone this week for not having the Jesus app on their phone.
Copyright April 2013 by Arthur Burk
Airborne westbound over Arizona