More Than A Legend

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Many in-the-public-spotlight people will hire a publicist to make them look good. Although this publicist can try to direct the public’s opinion, they cannot control the actual word on the street about their client. What people are talking about in their private conversations is closer to the truth than the publicist’s spin. 

Some skeptics of the claims of Christianity have tried to claim that the New Testament is really a publicity stunt: That the New Testament authors wrote their documents to try to control the narrative of the story of Jesus. But I find it fascinating what people were saying about Jesus from His birth—before He ever preached a sermon or performed a miracle. 

Skeptics may want to claim that what Jesus said or did is a myth. But we need to ask, “Where do myths originate?” Myths come from legends, and legends come from historical facts. J.R.R. Tolkien says in the opening of the Fellowship Of The Ring, “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.” 

There are those that steadfastly cling to Fact long after others have gotten tired of the Legends, and now only see a Myth. Throughout history those that cling to something others think are out-dated have often been able to bring clarity to confusing things that the modern science of the day couldn’t do. Sometimes these Fact-clingers have been called seers or sorcerers or magicians.  

Some of these magicians show up shortly after the birth of Jesus: 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-11) 

Some English translations of the Bible translate Magi as “wise men.” This is pretty accurate, but magi can also mean teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, interpreters of dreams, or magicians. These Babylonian Persians had seen some sort of astronomical occurrence that led them to make a nearly 900-mile journey to Jerusalem. 

For over 500 years these magicians had been clinging to a Fact taught to them by the chief magician of Babylon. Not a fellow Babylonian, but a Hebrew given the name Belteshazzar. He was one who could…

  • …tell someone what they had dreamed about and then interpret it 
  • …solve the deepest riddles 
  • …read and translate an unknown language 
  • …call on supernatural powers to shut the mouths of lions 
  • …foretell future world events 

Belteshazzar the Magician also saw a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus before Time even began, One whom he called “the Ancient of Days.” And he even saw all the way to the end of Time when this King of kings would judge the entire world.  

These Persian magicians didn’t make an arduous 900-mile journey for a Myth. They didn’t bring gifts fit for a king to honor a Legend. They did all of this because of a Fact: Jesus is Fact. 

We meet another magician on Barnabas and Paul’s first missionary journey. He was a man named Elymas. The English version of the Bible calls him a sorcerer, but in Greek the word is magos, the singular of the word magi. 

He’s called a sorcerer because he tried to make Jesus a Myth. He worked for the Roman proconsul, a man called Sergius Paulus, whom Luke describes as “an intelligent man.” Elymas in essence said, “Sergius, use your intellect. There may have been someone called Jesus (in fact, my own father had that same name), but the stories about His miracles, death, and resurrection have to be mythical!” Sergius Paulus was convinced that the accounts of Jesus were myth until he heard the words of fact spoken by Barnabas and Paul. 

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, 

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” 

So who do you say Jesus is? Is He a Myth? A Legend? A liar? A lunatic? Or is He the Ancient of Days, the Light of the world, the Lord of all Creation? 

Christians, we must have this Fact clear in our own minds, and then—just as the Persian Magi did and as Barnabas and Paul did—let’s clearly tell about this Fact to the world’s skeptics, especially as the world’s modern telling of Christmas seems to be becoming more and more mythical. 

Don’t rail on the Myths and Legends, but use them to show others the Fact of Jesus Christ—the Ancient of Days, Savior, and King! 

(Watch the full message More Than A Legend by clicking on the link below.)

To catch up on all of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, please click here. 

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Poetry Saturday—Philomythus To Misomythus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.—J.R.R. Tolkien, written to C.S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis On Christ’s Second Coming

“The idea which here shuts out the Second Coming from our minds, the idea of the world slowly ripening to perfection, is a myth, not a generalization from experience. And it is a myth which distracts us from our real duties and our real interest. It is our attempt to guess the plot of a drama in which we are the characters. But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. …

“The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph. This seems to some people intolerably frustrating. So many things would be interrupted. Perhaps you were going to get married next month, perhaps you were going to get a raise next week: you may be on the verge of a great scientific discovery; you may be maturing great social and political reforms. Surely no good and wise God would be so very unreasonable as to cut all this short? Not now, of all moments!

“But we think thus because we keep on assuming that we know the play. We do not know the play. We do not even know whether we are in Act I or Act V. We do not know who are the major and who the minor characters. The Author knows.” —C.S. Lewis, in The World’s Last Night

This is a great portrayal of a conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis on the value of myths…

Links & Quotes

link quote

Pastor Saeed Abedini is an American citizen imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith. This letter he has written from prison is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. After reading this letter I hope you will sign this petition to let your voice be added to those calling on Iran to release Pastor Saeed.

“Prayer is not a lazy substitute for work. It is not a short cut to skill or knowledge. And sometimes God delays the answer to our prayer in final form until we have time to build up the strength, accumulate the knowledge, or fashion the character that would make it possible for Him to say ‘yes’ to what we ask.” —Roy M. Pearson

“Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all.” —Augustine

As you prepare for Christmas and celebrate Advent, check out these beautiful words from Max Lucado in What Love Does.

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit will like this post: Bilbo’s Last Goodbye.

What this so-called ethicist says about “post-natal abortion” is truly horrifying.

Book Reviews From 2013

The Hobbit (book review)

HobbitThis year (2013) marks the 76th anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterful work The Hobbit, and the 35th anniversary of my first reading of it.

I remember being carried away to the magical world of Middle Earth, of excitedly turning page after page after page, of imagining how each character and place looked and sounded. As I re-read The Hobbit, all those feelings came rushing back. As I read some passages I smiled in fond remembrance; as I read others I wondered how I missed the profundity the first time I read it. As Bilbo approached Bag-End near the end of his journey, I could strangely relate to these words—

“Coming to a rise he [Bilbo] could see his own Hill in the distance, and he stopped suddenly and said: 
Roads go ever ever on, 
Over rock and under tree, 
By caves where never sun has shone, 
By streams that never find the sea; 
Over snow by winter sown, 
And through the merry flowers of June, 
Over grass and over stone, 
And under mountains in the moon. 
Roads go ever ever on 
Under cloud and under star, 
Yet feet that wandering have gone 
Turn at last to home afar. 
Eyes that fire and sword have seen 
And horror in the halls of stone 
Look at last on meadows green 
And trees and hills they long have known.”

I loved my return visit to Middle Earth!

Whether you have read this story before or not, I encourage you to read it again. If you are a parent, read The Hobbit with your children and enjoy the magical journey together. You won’t be disappointed at the richness of Tolkien’s writing.

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