Imagine the Apostle Peter saying to Mark, the writer of the Gospel, “Mark, do you have to put that in your book? Why include that? It makes me look so bad.” Hang on to that thought – we will come back to it.
How do we know the New Testament writers wrote the truth? What indications do we have that accuracy and truth were uppermost in the minds of Peter, John, Matthew, Luke and Mark as they wrote? What objective verification do we have? Simple answer: the messy, embarrassing details.
Do; Do Not Do If you are launching a new religion, you don’t say anything negative about the founding leaders. You make them look as good as possible.
If you are speaking at an important business meeting, you get the person introducing you to share your credentials and your degrees with the attendees. You put some words in his mouth: “I am honored today to introduce Mr. Diligent Christian, long-time leader in the church; He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Aren’t-You-Impressed. Our speaker today has traveled the world and written six books, published by True-Blue-Orthodox Press. Without taking any more time from Mr. Terrify, please welcome Dr. Christian (applause).” (And if he has come from a long distance – the farther the better — that’s impressive also.)
But the writers of the New Testament said several negative things about the disciples-soon-to-be-apostles:
Slow Witted The disciples – leaders in this new religion – were with Jesus Christ as He came into Jerusalem (called The Triumphal Entry). John 12:16 says, “At first, His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.” Not very quick to catch on. And they had failed their Bible class (because these events “had been written about Him.”) Unaware (“did they realize . . . they had done these things to Him?”). Kind of slow! Slow witted.
Why would the New Testament writers include this in their accounts? The most logical way to account for this is to conclude that what was uppermost in the minds of the writers was telling the truth, warts and all.
Not Too Smart Mark records (chapter 9, verse 31) that Jesus told His disciples He was going to be killed and He would be resurrected to new life in three days. Verse 32 says, “But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.” Not real street savvy. They did not get it. So, do you write and document that the men who are leading this new religion are not too smart? You only do that if your prime objective is capturing the truth in print. You only do that if (1) Truth is the character of this new religion and (2) human humility is to characterize this new faith.
Appeared to be Uncaring Matthew 26:40-45 reports the Garden of Gethsemane experience. The God-Man was about to atone for all the sins of the human race. He asked His disciples to watch and pray with Him. He would become sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21). This means that from Gods’ perspective, Jesus gets angry when I get angry; Jesus pouts when I pout; Jesus is impatient every time we become impatient – He became sin for us; He not only bore our sin, He became sin itself – amazing! The physical pain would be excruciating; the spiritual separation even more so. All the bile, all the acid, all the toxicity of human nature heaped on the Lord Jesus Christ. And these disciples can’t stay awake (Matthew 26:40). They fell asleep.
Though challenged, the disciples fell asleep a second time (vs. 43).
They did not care enough to stay awake. This is not something one enshrines and records in founding documents about the founders. Again, the most logical explanation is that the New Testament writers were focused on communicating truth.
“Mark, please don’t put that in!” In Mark 8:31-33, Peter said something that seemed logical to him; it expressed concern for the Lord Jesus Christ. But in verse 33, the Lord Jesus Christ attributed his words to Satan. Can’t you just imagine Peter saying to Mark, “Please don’t put that in your book?”
Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus three times is much worse. Having a thought that the Lord Jesus Christ attributed to Satan was bad enough, but at least that was based on wanting Jesus to avoid suffering. It was a caring thing to say. Outright, knowing, fully aware denial seems much worse. Still, all four gospel writers put that in their Gospel. Talk about embarrassing details! The point is that sharing embarrassing details establishes the New Testament writers as objective pursuers of the truth.
Truth Essential For the New Testament writers to fabricate a false picture of the disciples-turned-apostles is inconsistent with truth. Truth characterizes the Living God, so truth must characterize those who claim to represent Him. If truth is an absolute essential of this new faith, then one has to tell the truth about its leaders. The New Testament writers can’t present a what-makes-us-look-good narrative. And they don’t. Instead, they included embarrassing details.