Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

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From time-to-time, we at GFTM like to interact with popular movies, TV, and culture, such as in our previous articles about Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. In this series, I wanted to interact with a classic from my childhood, one of my all-time favorite movies, and easily one of the greatest action/adventure movies ever made: Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Watch the 1981 trailer here.) Having watched it again recently, I couldn’t resist.

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EVER GO TO SUNDAY SCHOOL?

In the movie, Indiana Jones – professor of archeology, expert on the occult, “obtainer of rare antiquities,” and “man of many talents” – is commissioned by U.S. army intelligence agents to find the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. Apparently, Hitler had a thing for finding supernatural artifacts, and he believed that by possessing the Ark, his Nazi army would be unstoppable.

Frankly, Hitler had bad theology. But we’ll get into that later.

In Indy’s meeting with the army intelligence agents, we’re given the back-story of the Ark. (Watch the conversation here.) We’re told the Ark contains “thee” 10 Commandments, the actual stone tablets carried down from Mount Sinai by Moses, “if you believe in that sort of thing.” The Ark was carried by the ancient Israelites into battle, and it was kept in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. But then is disappeared from history.

One possibility, Indy explains, is the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak took the Ark when he invaded Jerusalem in about 980 BC. He then took the Ark to the ancient city of Tanis and placed it in a chamber called The Well of Souls. A year later, Tanis was “consumed” by a year-long sandstorm and disappeared. As Indy’s colleague Marcus Brody says, Tanis and all traces of the Ark were “wiped clean by the wrath of God.”

Indy shows the agents a drawing in a book with Israel’s enemies in disarray before the power of the Ark. When asked about a beam of yellow light shooting from the Ark, Indy explains it as “lightning – fire – the power of God or something.”

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This is the picture from the book shown in Raiders

Brody says, “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.” This is not something we wanted Hitler to get his hands on.

Indy takes a little jab at the agents when they seem unknowledgeable about the Bible, asking them “Any of you guys ever go to Sunday School?”

But how well does what Indy and Brody say about the Ark line up with the Bible?

 

INDIANA JONES and THE TEMPLE OF BLOG

In this series, we’ll be looking at what the Bible tells us about the lost Ark, even what the Bible tells us about some raiders of the Ark. We won’t be talking about The Temple of Doom, but you’ll learn about the Temple of God in Jerusalem where the Ark was kept. We won’t discuss the Last Crusade, but you’ll learn about Israel’s crusade into the Promised Land with the Ark. And we certainly won’t be talking about The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but hopefully you’ll learn something about the Kingdom of God.

(For the record, I normally only acknowledge 3 Indiana Jones movies and pretend the 4th movie doesn’t exist. Honestly, shortly into the 4th movie, I wished it had gotten lost like the Ark long before I ever saw it.)

Here’s some stuff we’ll explore in this series:

  • WHAT IS THE ARK?
  • SO, WHAT’S ALL THIS OLD TESTAMENT STUFF ABOUT?
  • THE ARK IN ACTION
  • MOVING THE ARK AIN’T EASY
  • SO, WHERE DID THE ARK GO?
  • SKEPTICS, LEGALISTS, & THE SUPERSTITIOUS in RAIDERS
  • DON’T LOOK, MARION! FACE-TO-FACE WITH GOD’S WRATH

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WAIT, FIRST, WHAT’S A COVENANT?

Why is the Ark called the Ark of the Covenant? What’s a covenant? And what is THE Covenant?

Before we even talk about the Ark itself, these would be helpful questions to answer.

Essentially, a covenant is a sort of binding agreement – similar to a vow or contract – between two or more parties. Sometimes it’s one of mutual obligation, but it can also be a one-sided obligation. Often covenants were made between a king and a group of people. Marriage can be also considered a covenantal relationship both on a personal and legal level.

Long before Moses and the exodus from Egypt, God called upon Abraham (Abram at the time), the forefather of Moses and the Israelites, and made a covenant with him.

 

God called Abraham, saying, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

 

In his covenant, God promised to grant Abraham and his descendants land (Gen. 15:9-21) and that Abraham’s descendants will be God’s people and he will be their God:

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old (and still called Abram), God appeared to him and said,

 

“I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations… And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.” (Gen. 17:1-9)

 

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Sometimes, God would remind his people of these covenant promises or renew them or even make new ones.

Over 400 years later, when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God appeared to Moses and said,

 

“I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant… I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” (Exodus 6:2-8)

 

And after freeing Israel from slavery, God made a new covenant with Israel. This one was one of mutual obligation: God will protect Israel and bless them, and Israel would be loyal to God, being his representative people on earth, and live by his guidance and law (See Exodus 19-24).

To seal the covenant, Moses “took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood [of the peace offerings] and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:7-8).

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2 MORE THINGS ABOUT COVENANTS

Let me close with two last final facts dealing with covenants:

(1) Now, the thing with mutual obligation covenants is if one party doesn’t keep up their end of the agreement, the contract is null and void. As you’ll see later, Israel didn’t uphold their side of the contract.

(2) In the New Testament, Jesus took up a cup during the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).

But we’ll talk more about both these things later.

(By the way, if you’re hoping to get a GFTM series about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and what the Bible tells us about the “Holy Grail,” you just got it. The verse above is basically all the Bible has to say about the “Grail.” The Holy Grail is considerably more folklore than Bible. Fortunately, there’s a lot more we can learn about the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible.)

NEXT: What is the Ark?

My favorite idol

My favorite idol

 

More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Bringing Sexy Apologetics Back

**How can minor details in the Gospels show the reliability of the Gospels? Do multiple accounts confuse us or give us deeper insight? How sexy can apologetics be?**

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What’s an Undesigned Coincidence?

Where key, major details remain the same when two or more authors write about the same historic event, we find minor details may be added or left out. An “undesigned coincidence” is when one account provides details, but another account written about the same incident by a different author gives more insight into those details. We see “undesigned coincidences” when we have two or more independently investigated accounts of the same event, and we find undesigned coincidences throughout the Gospels.

It’s highly unlikely that such complimentary minor details would be deliberately falsified, and the assurance that they’re based on authentic events is extremely high. In other words, when multiple people retell a true story, they may include details without an explanation of those details and others telling the same story may unintentionally fill in those missing pieces. Such non-deliberate cohesion smacks of authenticity.

You might think the phrase “Undesigned Coincidence” doesn’t sound “sexy,” but oh man, you’re wrong.

Read PART 1: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

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Peter & Trash Talkin’

Peter, arguably Jesus’ most famous disciple, is not known for being perfect, but for being impulsive and brash. He’s also remembered for infamously denying three times that he knew Jesus Christ after Jesus’ arrest.

John is the only Gospel writer to give us an account of Peter being “reinstated” into Jesus’ flock of disciples after his resurrection, where Jesus asks Peter three times (mirroring Peter’s three denials) if he loves him, and then following with three commands for Peter.

During this event, Jesus says a little something that sounds a little odd:

 

14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:14-17)

 

“…more than these”? What did Jesus mean by this? “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” What or who are “these”?

Reading carefully through all of the Gospel of John, we find no answer! Sure, we can make some guesses about who or what “these” are, but how can we be certain?

But if we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, we find our answer. We find the answer during the Last Supper:

 

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (Mark 14:27-31)

 

We find the same statement in Matthew 26:33. Did you catch it?

In Mark: Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

In John: Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?

When Peter said if “they” all fall away, the other disciples were all around him at the Last Supper; he was referring to them. When Jesus reinstated Peter in John 21, the two of them were with the other disciples. The “these” are the other disciples.

Peter had arrogantly boasted that even if the other disciples (“they”) fall away, he never would. Then, after Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, Jesus asks him, “Do you love Me more than these [other disciples]?”

Ouch. Praise God that he is a forgiving God.

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Pilate & Trash Talkin’

In Luke 23, we find Jesus before Pilate.

 

1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:1-4)

 

This exchange between Pontius Pilate, Jesus, and the Jewish authorities is brief and a bit odd. The hostile Jews accuse Jesus of claiming to be a king, so Pilate straight up asks Jesus if he’s a king. Jesus says, “You have said so,” which sure sounds like Jesus is confirming that fact — or at least not denying it. But then Pilate turns to the Jews and says Jesus is not guilty. Huh? What just happened?

To find the answer, we have to go to John’s longer account of this event:

 

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” (John 18:28-38)

 

So, it’s not in Luke, but in John that we see the rest of the puzzle. It’s in John where Jesus says,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Thus, Pontius Pilate concludes Jesus is no threat – not in an armed revolutionary way anyway – or any way that the Romans need to be concerned about. Jesus admits he’s a king, but not one of this world, and his disciples have no intentions of fighting the Roman Empire.

It’s likely Pilate didn’t know what to make of Jesus – perhaps he only thought of him as a harmless religious nut – but he concludes that Jesus is not guilty of any crime against the Roman Empire. Thus, Pilate walks out and announces this to the hostile Jews.

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What we have in Luke is what’s called telescoping, which is a compressed version of the telling of an event. In other words, Luke gives us the short version, leaving out many details. (See the GFTM series “The Joy and Angst of Four Gospels” to learned more about telescoping and other literary devices used in the Gospels.)

But, before we move on, go back and reread John’s longer account, because even John leaves out a detail! He does NOT record anything about the hostile Jews specifically telling Pilate that Jesus claimed to be a king! The Jews only accuse Jesus of “doing evil,” but when Pilate brings Jesus inside, the first thing he asks him is, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

What? Why? Where did he come up with that?

We must go back again to Luke’s shorter account to find that detail:

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” (Luke 23:2)

Ironically, Jesus was indeed a threat to the Roman Empire, just not in the way Pilate thought.

NEXT: More Sexiness & Undesigned Coincidences — including EXTERNAL ones!

Read PART 1: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

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Books By GFTM:

Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God

Other GFTM series:

The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels

Refuting the Mother God Cult

Bible Secrets Re-revealed

Christians & Marijuana

Judge Not?

The Walking Dead & the Christian Worldview

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

*How can minor details in the Gospels show the reliability of the Bible? Can reading all 4 accounts of the feeding of the 5,000 teach us about the reliability of the Gospels?*

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Sexy Apologetics?

When I first learned of Undesigned Coincidences (also called Incidental Allusions), I was pleasantly surprised and fascinated, and I wondered why this type of apologetic (defense of the Christian faith) is not more popular. I think the answer is plain:

“Undesigned Coincidences”

“Incidental Allusions”

“Apologetics”

These aren’t exactly “sexy,” head-turning words and phrases.

Further, one must have an extremely strong familiarity with the contents of the Bible to recognize these undesigned coincidences, and unbelievers, who may have no familiarity with the Bible, are unlikely to see the significance.

Yet, by simply and clearly walking someone through some of these unintended collaborations of Gospel details, perhaps we can raise some eyebrows.

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So, What is an Undesigned Coincidence?

In our final post of a past GFTM series “The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels” on positive evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, we touched upon Undesigned Coincidences.

Here is what we wrote:

“In a number of interviews on radio shows and podcasts, Dr. Timothy McGrew has been spreading the word about a forgotten apologetic called Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels (based on the 1851 book of the same name by J.J. Blunt), and he has written a series of articles for the Christian Apologetics Alliance.

As we have discussed, when two or more authors write about a historic event there will be similarities and differences. Where the major events will be the same, minor details may be included or left out.

An “undesigned coincidence” is when one account provides details, but another account written about the same incident gives more insight into those details or gives other details that compliment them. We see “undesigned coincidences” when we have two or more independently investigated accounts of the same event. We find undesigned coincidences throughout the Gospels.

 Looking at an example will help clarify:

In Mark 14:55-59, Jesus is accused in front of the Sanhedrin of saying he will destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

Also, in Mark 15:27-30, as Jesus is on the cross, people mock him and accuse him of saying a similar statement about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days. This is also reported in Matthew 27:38-40.

But where in Mark or Matthew does Jesus say this? Nowhere — A read through both Mark and Matthew provides no evidence that Jesus ever said such a thing. Yet, when we read the Gospel of John, we find that Jesus did make this claim!

In John 2:18-22, John reports,

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

It’s highly unlikely that such complimentary minor details would be deliberately falsified, and the assurance that they’re based on authentic events is extremely high.”

In other words, when a true event is retold by multiple people, they may include minor details without an explanation of those details and others telling the same story may unintentionally fill in those missing details. Such non-deliberate cohesion smacks of authenticity.

What follows are some other examples of Undesigned Coincidences borrowed from a variety of sources.

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Feeding the 5,000 & Green Grass in the Desert

The famous account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in every one of the four Gospels. But the Gospel of Mark gives us a seemingly strange detail: green grass. The detail appears in Mark 6:39, but I’ll include more for the sake of context:

38 And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:38-41)

Wait a minute: Green grass? Isn’t this taking place in the Middle East – in the desert? Isn’t the desert mostly brown?

But, another Gospel, John gives us more insight with different minor details about the same event:

1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. (John 6:1-4)

So, John (not Mark) tells us the feeding of the 5,000 took place during the Passover, and this detail explains the green grass! How? The Passover is the growing season around the Sea of Galilee; this is a short time period where the grass would be green!

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Feeding the 5,000 & Philip

We find another Undesigned Coincidence in the feeding of the 5,000 accounts concerning Jesus’ little-known disciple Philip. Let’s pick up where we left off in John’s Gospel:

4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” (John 6:4-7)

Anyone who reads through the 4 Gospels comes to know the names of Jesus’ most notable disciples like Peter and John and even less-prominent disciples like James and Thomas (and, of course, the infamous one, Judas). But Philip? Who remembers anything about Philip? So, why did Jesus turn to Philip and not someone else?

We get a clue in another part of John:

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. (John 1:44)

But it’s not in the Gospel of John, but in the Gospel of Luke in his account of the feeding of the 5,000 where we receive the final piece of the puzzle:

10 When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. 11 But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.

12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” 13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so, and had them all sit down. (Luke 9:10-15)

So, Jesus and his disciples were in Bethsaida for the feeding of the 5,000! Jesus asked Philip about the buying of bread because Philip was from Bethsaida. Philip was a local, so of course Jesus would ask him about finding food in the area.

Take note in the Luke account above: Luke does NOT tell us that Jesus asked Philip specifically about buying bread. Only John gives us that minor detail.

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Feeding the 5,000 & Needing a Break

When we turn to Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000, we get another detail not recorded in the other Gospels:

30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.

33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:30-36)

Here we’re told by Mark that Jesus and the disciples retreated to a secluded place to catch some rest because they were extremely busy because so many people were “coming and going.” So, why were so many people coming and going?

We find the answer not in Mark, but by going back to a detail we looked at earlier in John:

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. (John 6:4)

During the Passover, the Jews would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate at the Temple. With so many people traveling along the roadways, Jesus and his disciples couldn’t find a break in the opportunities to teach and minister. Their only option was to retreat to a place away from everyone (and the people followed them anyway)!

Maybe Undesigned Coincidences — or apologetics in general — will never be “sexy” enough to turn heads, but hopefully they’ll raise some eyebrows.

NEXT: More Sexy Undesigned Coincidences – Internal & external…

4_Gospels_painting

Other GFTM series:

The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels

Christians & Marijuana

Judge Not?

The Walking Dead & the Christian Worldview