Biblionomicron – Jude

I started on this journey like 50 years ago. (I’m not even fifty… But it was fifty years ago. Of this I’m certain.) But I’ve slowly, and methodically continued on to the end of this adventure. And now, here we are with one last book after this one. Wow. Wait, you are new here? What am I talking about? Well, I was blown away by a guy, an atheist, who did 1,000 word write ups of each book of the Bible. Actually, he attempted to do each book of the Bible. And I figured, heck, if this Atheist can do it, maybe I, a devout follower of Christ, could do it as well. And sure, his commentary was filled with sarcasm and questions… and absent the sarcasm, my journey through the Bible I feel has been filled with my own list of introspective questions as well.

Well, this time, I’m going to do it completely differently. I mean, after 64 books, and 64 entries…. why not change it up, right? hahah. I figure, this time, let’s list out the entirety of the book of Jude, and comment, line by line. (It’s only one chapter. Calm down. I think it’s only something like 24 verses.) We’ll walk through the verses and I’ll talk about it as we go, and then we’ll see if we can make any sense out of it at all.

Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Alright, let’s start at the beginning. Who is this Jude guy? Well, it’s actually quite interesting really. He self identifies as “a bond-servant of Jesus Christ”… generic, but okay. “And brother of James.” Oh, alright. That changes things a bit. Now, it isn’t 100% certain, but, it is widely thought, that Jude is the brother of James… the man who wrote the chapter of the Bible, James. Wait, so who was the author of James? Well, we know that he was the head of the Church in Jerusalem. And the brother of Jesus. Oh snap… hold on. So that means that James is also a brother of Jesus? If you look at Mark 6:3, and also Matthew 13:55-56, you will see that Jesus’ brothers’ names were, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. (And that he had sisters as well who were unnamed.) Judas, Jude… same thing… and don’t you think you’d go by Jude if some guy named Judas betrayed Jesus, then hanged himself? Yeah, me too.

Now, let’s look at that opening again – Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. This is one of Jesus’ half brothers, saying that he is a bond-servant of Jesus… the Christ. If anyone has anything to gain by not buying into this whole Christ thing, it would be one of Jesus’ brothers. No? “MOM!!! JESUS HAS A GOD COMPLEX!!!” And while he probably wasn’t an early adopter to this Christ thing, (let’s be honest, none of the apostles were an early adopter) he probably witnessed the miracles first hand, but more importantly, saw Him crucified, a guard posted at his tomb, and then saw Him resurrected.

Which, is a natural transition to this quote: “appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith”. Or, I’m begging you to fight for the faith. Or, if you look at the Greek word there – πίστις, or pistis… The Faith, or Pledge… or Proof. Fight for the PROOF. The evidence, the truth. The confirmed evidence. There were false ‘believers’ that were actively coming into the body of believers and were attempting to dismantle it from the inside out, and deny Jesus as the Christ. And Jude here is saying… we have seen these things with our eyes, we are witnesses to the truth, fight on behalf of the faith, stand up for what is proven to be true. It’s as if Jude is saying, Jesus, the guy that gave me wet willies, and noogies, my older brother, He is undeniably the true coming of God in the flesh. In spite of the fact that He annoyed the heck out of me as all brothers do, He really is the one true God. James believed so fervently this to be the case, that it is widely believed that Jude was martyred as a result. (Probably in Beirut – via an axe.) But let’s continue on.

Now I want to remind you, though you know everything once and for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper dwelling place, these He has kept in eternal restraints under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these angels indulged in sexual perversion and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude is giving three examples that would have been really obvious to the early Church in that day. 1) The Jews that failed to believe after miraculously being whisked away from Pharaoh and his armies. They saw it first hand and still turned away from the obvious miracles that God did for them. 2) The angels that left heaven, and were convinced by Lucifer to rebel against God. (Who has more evidence of God’s truth and greatness than the angels that chose to leave heaven?) 3) The people of Sodom and Gomorrah who turned everything upside down and perverted the natural order of things, and walked away from God.

Yet in the same way these people also, dreaming, defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak abusively of angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him an abusive judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these people disparage all the things that they do not understand; and all the things that they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have given themselves up to the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the ones who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, like shepherds caring only for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, churning up their own shameful deeds like dirty foam; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever.

They are the hidden reefs… like shepherds only caring for themselves… clouds without water… autumn trees without fruit… dirty foam… wandering stars whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever! Such brilliant poetry. Such a dark commentary on these people. What a horrific label to have affixed to you. What purpose is a shepherd if not to care for his sheep??

“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”

Cain – murdered his brother.

Balaam – told not to go, but went, and when an angel of the Lord stood in front of his donkey, it refused to move. And Balaam beat the donkey, and the donkey began to speak, and to complain about being beaten. But the donkey saved his life.

Korah – attempted to overthrow Moses, and the land opened up and devoured him, his family, and all his possessions.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

Have mercy on those who are doubting. Save others as if from fire. And on some, have mercy with fear. Which brings us to my favorite two verses of the Bible. The benediction that comes at the end of many services. I’ll quote it – and then work our way through it phrase by phrase…

Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.

‘Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling’… stumbling. Aptaistos. Literally to stumble. I want to know more about the word, and its Biblical context, but it happens to be the only time the word is used in the entire New Testament. He keeps us from falling. God, doesn’t let us fall. Not only that – but He makes us stand in the presence of His Glory. If you’ve read through the Bible… you know this is impossible. Whenever God makes Himself known, people cower. Prostrate themselves. The one time God willingly responded to a request to be seen by a mortal, it was Moses who asked… and God wedged Moses between rocks. (Can’t have Moses pinwheeling out into space now can we?) Then, God showed Moses …. HIS BACK. Here… just read it for yourself from Exodus 33:

“you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” 

No one can see my face and live. For days after seeing Yahweh’s back, Moses had to wear a bag over his head because his face shown so brightly. Now, think about it. This verse says that God can keep us from falling… and also to make us stand before God. That’s some serious heat shield technology right there. The sheer physics of it is fascinating to me. But it actually has nothing to do with Physics. It has everything to do with Grace, and the unmerited grace we have been given. See? The next part explains it… “stand in the presence of His glory, BLAMELESS.” Now, I don’t know about you… but I have a literal butt-ton that God could blame me fore. Heck, I probably have things that YOU could blame me for. If I interact with you at all… then you probably have a list. I’m not really a great person. I stumble regularly. And yet, through the gift of God’s grace on the cross, and the blood He shed, I am already blameless. I do not deserve any of it. But I am blameless. And THAT is the heat shield technology that makes standing in front of the almighty possible. “Blameless with great joy.” Oh how true. No truer thing was ever written.

Then the rest of the book is praise to God for providing that fact – that we are Blameless with great joy. “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Amen, and amen.

The next installment will be our last. 7 years later, we will be complete. No idea how I will tackle Revelation. Should be a fun one to grapple with. Can’t wait.