Issue #52

The Horror of Crucifixion, Mature Thinking, Strategies for Reading Revelation, and more...

Issue #52
Photo by César Abner Martínez Aguilar / Unsplash

From the Garden 🌳

One Year of Ministry and a Surprise

This issue celebrates the one-year anniversary of The Garden Weekly. This newsletter started with Issue #1 on April 2, 2021 with an Easter issue. At the time, I wasn't quite sure what TGW should or would be. It's hard to believe that one year along, more than 300 of you have subscribed, and I know there are more that read through Twitter, Facebook, the website, and RSS.

I won't belabor the point, but I do want to say thank you. If you have questions or feedback, you can always reply to this e-mail or e-mail us at

If you want to chat about a link or provide your own unique perspective, the website now has comments at the bottom of each page. So click the "View Online" button near the top of the e-mail, and post your comment!

Lastly, and this is quite exciting, I'm happy to introduce The Garden Weekly App 📱. It's only on iOS right now, but it's a great way to enjoy TGW. Here are a few of the features:

  • Get a notification every week when a new letter is released (if you want).
  • Read The Garden Weekly in a beautiful format with light and dark modes, including when you don't have internet access.
  • Search for a headline, blog, and more.
  • Sync your read articles and easily see what's new.
  • Easily share your favorite posts.
  • The app will use your device's text size, so you can read in comfort.

I hope you'll check it out, and we hope to improve it as time goes on.

Thanks for being a reader of The Garden Weekly, and let's move on to weekly links. Here's to another year!

Read and Reflect 📖

We Are Both Job and Job’s Friends | Eric Ortlund 📃 →

I’ve never heard anyone make this point clearly, but it seems obvious in retrospect. When we read Job, we shouldn’t only identify with Job. We should identify and see ourselves in both Job and Job’s friends.

On identifying with Job:

Sobering as it is to consider, it must be so. After all, the issue of whether a Christian loves God for God’s sake, irrespective of what secondary blessings we gain or lose in our earthly lives (Job 1:9), is deeply relevant to every Christian. In a way, it is the issue of our lives. If we love God for some reason external to himself, we’ll be bored in heaven. I don’t think the book of Job is implying that our suffering will be as extreme as Job’s (having to bury all of our children, sick to the point of death, financially ruined, all in one day). But God will sometimes allow an ordeal which has a Job-like quality.

On identifying with Job’s friends:

So as we watch Job’s friends who, with the best of motives (Job 2:11), torture poor Job by condemning him chapter after chapter, surely each one of us forms a resolve never to imitate them by blaming one so righteous as Job and smearing them as a profligate sinner (Job 22:5). In other words, the more wearisome the friends become, the more we are provoked to do better by listening patiently to fellow suffering Christians instead of blaming them. It is not for nothing that God’s anger falls on the friends at the end of the book (Job 42:7).

The temptation to blame the victim is as sneaky as it is constant, and it is very wise of the author of Job to put this issue before us so persistently as we read.

We would be wise to learn the lesson of Job’s friends as well as the lesson of Job.

Christianity Is True ✝️

The Horror of Crucifixion | Michael Bird 📃 →

We do not abhor crucifixion as the ancients did. For us, the cross is little more than a religious symbol, like a crescent moon or a menorah. The image is sanitized and mundane, it is no more affronting than a McDonalds sign or the Apple logo. Yet crucifixion was indeed a “scandal,” a word that conjured up terror, and deliberately so.

Bird’s article drives home the point that crucifixion was a true horror, and the cultural impact of Christianity and artistic depictions of Jesus on a cross have blunted the impact it was intended to have. The idea that the early Christians venerated a man who suffered crucifixion was a scandal to both Jews and Greeks who understood what crucifixion looked like. And that leads into our next link…

Ancient References to Crucifixion | Jon Topping 🎧 →

Topping takes the framing of responding to a skeptical viewpoint that Jesus could have survived the cross. This skeptical argument tends to see crucifixion as “really not that bad.” Topping goes into historical detail and references what people living around the time of Jesus had to say about crucifixion. It can get a little graphic, so do be cautious about young ears.

Many of the secular arguments against the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually relate back to a misunderstanding on what crucifixion was like. In this episode we look at various historical references to crucifixion, to see what the ancients thought of it. After getting a better understanding of how the people within that culture understood crucifixion, it seems obvious that it was horrific, and that no one survived it.

Watch and Wonder 📽

Did the Gospel Writers Make Geographical Mistakes? | Erik Manning 📽 →

Biblical critics say that Mark and the other Gospel writers knew little about Palestinian geography. They made grave geographical gaffes. Had the Gospel writers knew their stuff, they wouldn’t make such blatant mistakes. Therefore, we can’t trust them as reliable historical documents.

For Matthew’s Gospel, this is especially problematic. A real Judean local like Matthew wouldn’t borrow from someone as geographically incompetent as Mark. Some critics have concluded from this that whoever wrote Matthew, it couldn’t be Matthew the disciple.

Here I look at three times the Gospel writers supposedly flunk at Palestinian geography and see if these objections really carry any weight.
Did the Gospel Writers Make Geographical Mistakes? | Is Jesus Alive Youtube

Consider the Culture 🎨

’Don’t Look Up’ and Sharing the Gospel in a Distracted Age | Israel Soong 📃 →

This is a movie that I haven’t seen, but I like how Soong connects it with the gospel. I wasn’t sure how he was going to show the connection, but I think he did a good job.

While the title of Don’t Look Up refers to willful ignorance of a celestial body hurtling toward Earth, it also speaks to the widespread spiritual apathy of humans who live their lives without “looking up” to consider God. Though crude and R-rated in its content (viewer discretion advised), a satirical film like this can provoke pastors and church leaders to think about what it takes to communicate an urgent message—the gospel—in a noisy culture too distracted to listen.

Challenge Your Brain 🧠

Logic and 7 Characteristics of a Mature Thinker 🎧 →

In this episode, Brian Auten and Chad Gross continue to introduce the building blocks of logic, and then go on to talk about 7 Characteristics of a Mature Thinker.

I found the discussion on the characteristics of a mature thinker particularly thought-provoking.

Mature thinkers:
1. Represent opposing views fairly and charitably.
2. Don't overstate their case. Their conclusions are humble and they let the evidence speak.
3. Attack the argument and not the individual making the argument.
4. Acknowledge when there is a weakness in their case or argument.
5. Can admit when they are wrong.
6. Know when to continue a discussion and when to end a discussion.
7. Can acknowledge when someone that holds an opposing view makes a good point or argument.

I think we can all make progress in these areas as Christians and humans. As Christians committed to truth, grace, and humility, we must be extra-cautious of our own heart’s tendencies to pride.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

5 Strategies for Reading Revelation | Tim Mackie and Jon Collins 🎧 →

This is not talking about 5 strategies for you to read Revelation, but rather 5 lenses that Christian readers have read Revelation with. Knowing these lenses that people approach Revelation with is immensely helpful, however. When we know that there are particular lenses for reading this complex and often confusing book, it helps us try them on and see how Christians come to different conclusions from the book.

Gorman illustrates views on Revelation in a grid with four quadrants. The vertical axis represents a timeline for past, present, and future events that Revelation could represent. The horizontal axis represents reading the text as a code on one side versus reading the text as a lens on the other. Below are the five views of Revelation.

1. The Predictive Futurist: This view sees the text as a code that represents future events. The original meaning wasn’t fully understood by its original audience and will only be revealed when the events happen.

2. The Pretorist: This view sees the text as a code, but the events represented by the code already happened in the 1st century.

3. Poetic or Theopoetic: This view sees the text as poetic language used to express ultimate truths about God, evil, and history.

4. Theopolitical: This view sees the text as a form of political protest and dissent against the Roman empire that emerged out of a time of persecution in the 1st century. In this view, an emphasis is placed on the Kingdom of God as the antithesis to the kingdoms of this world.

5. Pastoral/Prophetic: This view sees the text as anchored in the past but meant to speak to every generation of readers. The imagery is seen as a challenge and comfort by showing us a heavenly perspective on the events of our world throughout time.

Tim shares that he is convinced the correct way to view Revelation is as a lens to view the world that is applicable for every generation. However, Tim also shares that all five views identify something important in Revelation.

Personally, I am convinced that the hard “this is all talking (usually literally) about events still to come” without any nuance is incorrect. You may disagree with me, but if you haven’t studied another way to read Revelation—I hadn’t until five years ago—then I think this podcast’s summary of the different lenses will be helpful.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:34 (CSB)

Joel Fischer