“I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of Vice President in the country,” Dan Quayle claimed before a panel of debate moderators and a television audience of millions. “I have as much experience in the congress as Jack [John] Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”
In 1988, George H.W. Bush was running for president of the United States against Michael Dukakis. His vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle was participating in a debate against Lloyd Bentsen, Dukakis’ running mate.
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen replied. “Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy…”
As the crowd cheered, Quayle tried to regain his composure. “That was really uncalled for, Senator,” he complained.
Knowing he had just won the debate, Bentsen moved in to finish the kill. “You’re the one that was making the comparison, Senator, and I’m one who knew him well. And frankly, I think you’re so far, far, from the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well taken.”
That day in Omaha, Nebraska, October 5, 1988, Lloyd Bentsen cemented his name in the annals of great (vice) presidential debates.
That’s Not The Jesus I Know…
Many years earlier, the apostle Peter probably felt a little like Lloyd Bentsen.
Thirty years after Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, he noticed some troubling developments. Christianity had been growing like wildfire and spreading throughout the Roman Empire. But then the Empire struck back. Under the direction of Emperor Nero, Christian leaders were being killed. The people in their congregations were afraid.
Then teachers appeared—teachers who didn’t even know Jesus, who never heard Jesus teach. They began telling people things Jesus never said, twisting his words, saying Jesus wasn’t a man; he was more like a ghost. They taught that our daily behavior has no bearing on our souls. That Jesus was never going to return. They claimed Jesus told them these things.
I can imagine Peter thinking to himself, I walked with Jesus. I knew him better than anyone. I stood next to him when he healed the man who was born blind. I watched him walk on the water and calm the sea.
One time he was speaking before a crowd of 5000 hungry people. I told him, “Jesus, you need to dismiss them because they’re really hungry.” But he looked at me and said, “You feed them.” Then a little boy with five loaves and two fishes said, “Here, take this.” I passed out the food and somehow, all 5000 people were fed.
Another time, I joined him on a hike up a mountain when suddenly he looked as if his clothes were on fire. Then Moses and Elijah appeared. But most amazing of all, I heard the voice of God thundering from the skies saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
And I did. Nearly everything he said over his three years in ministry, I was standing there right next to Jesus, listening to him. Finally, I watched him die on the cross and miraculously rise from the dead.
He was a friend of mine—and still is. You’re referring to a different Jesus than the one I know.
If you knew that your days were numbered—Nero wanted you dead—what would you do?
You’d set the record straight—which is exactly what Peter did.
What Would Jesus Say?
Over the next few Fridays, we’re going to explore Peter’s response to a group of people who claimed to know Jesus, but didn’t. I think you’ll agree with me that his written response is very timely, both then and today. The document I’m referring to is his second epistle, which appears in the Bible as 2 Peter.
But I want to begin our discussion with this:
Every month or two it seems, a new documentary is released about the life of Jesus. The History Channel seems to spit them out right and left. They look at Jesus’ life from different angles, taking into account the cultural milieu, history, and other sociological elements. News websites like CNN.com offer “new” perspectives on the life of Jesus and what the Bible really says. When I watch them, something usually seems amiss. It doesn’t ring true with the Jesus I know. It doesn’t ring true with the people who knew him best.
If you want to get inside someone, but you can’t meet personally with him, you look to see what people who knew him said. People who were his closest friends.
We know that Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ closest friends. As I’ve already mentioned, Peter wrote two epistles, but you may not know that most theologians attribute the gospel of Mark to him as well. Papias, the earliest recorded church historian, wrote that the gospel of Mark is based on Peter’s preaching.
John, the second man in Jesus’ inner circle, wrote the gospel of John, as well as three epistles—1, 2, and 3 John.
James, the third man in Jesus’ inner circle, didn’t have enough time to write anything because he was martyred by King Herod about 10 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection (see Acts 12:2).
Interestingly enough, you could call the gospel of Luke “Mary’s gospel.” Luke, ever the thorough historian, likely relied on Jesus’ mother Mary for details in his account. Twice in his gospel he says that “Mary treasured theses things in her heart” (Luke 2:19,51). Why did she “treasure” them? To ensure that people knew the real Jesus.
Finally, a man by the name of “James” wrote an epistle about Jesus. While he wasn’t a member of Jesus’ inner circle, most historians believe he was the oldest of Jesus’ younger brothers (he is listed first in the order of his siblings in Matthew 13:15). He later became the leader of the Jerusalem council (see Acts 15).
Why is all of this important? Because if you want to know the real Jesus, the authentic Jesus, you need to know what his closest friends said about him.
Even in the early church, false teachers were offering a “different gospel” than what Jesus proclaimed (2 Corinthians 11:4). Jesus’ family and closest friends sought to correct it.
“I knew Jesus when he was here on earth—and that’s not the Jesus I know.”
At a time when “Christian” leaders are attempting tot contemporize Jesus and his teachings, this study is very timely for all of us.
I looked forward to exploring the book of 2 Peter with you in the coming weeks.
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. Since 1999, he has worked on over 30 study Bibles as a contributing writer or theological reviewer.