How the World’s Greatest Atheist Became a Theist

From 1949 until 2004, professor Antony Flew was the worlds most celebrated atheist. He wrote dozens of books on atheism and attacked theistic philosophy relentlessly from his position as a professor of philosophy at Oxford and other universities. He argued that the onus of proof lay with the theist and that the case for divine intelligence, if any, must only come from scientific evidence.

Very early in Flew’s stellar career, in 1953 to be exact, Watson and Crick published their famous findings on the double helix structure of DNA. For the next 51 years, as the complexity of biochemistry became more widely known and understood, Flew became increasingly anxious. In 2004 Antony Flew finally told the world that he was no longer an atheist. The vast amount of intelligence built into the structure of genetics and the cell convinced him otherwise. Here is what he said on page 75 of his last book, There is a God:

“What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.”

Antony Flew followed the evidence to a very costly conclusion. He was viciously attacked by his colleagues for his honesty. However, unlike Richard Dawkins, he was consistent with his belief that you must go where the evidence leads. So what exactly was the evidence of divine design that Flew saw?

To find out go to this link and read the whole fascinating story of what is actually inside the cell


12 Genetic Confirmations of Genesis

At last I have finished another essay! This one is on genetics and lists 12 new evidences that point very bluntly toward a recent creation of humans. The catalyst was two amazing books by Dr Nathaniel Jeanson. The first detailed a superior replacement theory of origins for Darwin’s outdated theory of evolution. The second investigated the entire male Y chromosome haplogroup map highlighting how it clearly reflects recent history instead of ancient pre-history.

My humble summary of those two books can be read by clicking on the science tab and scrolling down to the heading 12 Confirmations of Genesis, or by clicking on the link below.

12 Genetic Confirmations of Genesis


The Herodian Dynasty V’s The Kingdom of God

Hi folks, I have just completed another research essay on the life of the many members of the Herodian dynasty as their lives intersect with the New Testament unfolding of God’s kingdom’s arrival on earth.  Space is now limited on my website so instead of posting it in two places I am just giving you the link below so you can click straight to it.

The Herodian Dynasty V’s The Kingdom Of God



Who Was John The Baptist?

So often John, the first cousin of Jesus whom we commonly refer to as John the Baptist, is only given a cursory glance in our reading of scripture. He went before Jesus preaching repentance, he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, and he got into big trouble with Herod Antipas. And that’s about it. Move along, nothing much else to see here.

But who was John really? Why did he appear at all? How much contact did he have with Jesus before he began his ministry? What was his relationship with our heavenly father, and Jesus? Was he a political stirrer as well as a spiritual loner? Why all that self-denial? What shaped his radicalism? How was he received by the community?

I’ve been reading and re-reading the first part of Matthew 14 for some time now and trying to get myself inside the life of this most fascinating man of God. Then last night I did some journaling and decided to ask Jesus to show me more about John’s life. Below is word for word what I thought the Lord was telling me. The result was so intriguing that I decided I’d share it with you and let you decide whether it was my imagination or a little divine glimpse into the true nature of John and his mission…

“John was like a brother. He was my spiritual brother and human cousin. He was the first-born spiritual brother in the global church, the very first Christian. He knew exactly who I was. He never doubted. His mother retold to him the story of my birth and journey to earth many times.

John was chosen to be the last and greatest prophet, yet the first and greatest Christian, the living link between the two covenants. John was dedicated to the Father and considered it a great honour to be chosen for the role the Father gave him. He walked closely with the Father daily, denying himself the usual and expected lifestyle of a priest’s son serving in the temple, the life of a Levite priest. He knew he had been chosen as a different kind of priest of a new order, of the order of Melchizedek. John carried this burden with dignity and pride, with poise and a great sense of purpose. But it was more than purpose, it was with great urgency and force. He was not a timid man but a man that was single minded like an arrow shot from its bow. He was the spiritual opposite of Pharaoh.

John and I met many times before I began my ministry. We talked about the Father and I told him many things about the Father. John knew more about our heavenly Father and the Kingdom of God than anyone born on earth till that time. I revealed it all to him. That’s why he resisted baptizing me. But he knew the time would come when he would slide away so that I could shine.

He was uncompromising in his determination to do his part to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was fearless and deferred not to rank. All were sinners and sin galled his spirit. People loved him because of this. People feared him because of this.

You will meet him in the future, and both rejoice together in my Father’s house.”






Hi folks, just finished my latest essay on the life of Jesus while he was growing up. I tried to find something on the net one day but couldn’t find anything comprehensive so decided to do my own research. It was a lot of fun. I’ve investigated his home village, his weekly customs, his life as a builder and part time farmer, his relationship with his siblings, his dads early death, his relationship with John the Baptist, his Jewishness, his teenage years, his time as head of the family and his occupational skill set. All of which informs the type of stories he told once he started his ministry. I trust you enjoy reading it as much as I did in writing it.

What Happened In The Life Of Jesus From Age 12 To 30?


I Think I know Why Jesus Told The Parable Of The Sower

All the events of the Gospels, and the parables Jesus told within them, have a historical context that is often lost on us modern readers. The parable of the sower is no exception. The fact that it is told to us three times, in Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:4-15, tells us it is a very important message. Even a cursory, devotional reading of the parable gives us a multitude of insights into human nature and how human lives interact with the incoming dynamic of the fantastic news of God’s grace for all humanity. But there was much more going on between the lines and behind the words spoken by our Lord on that day.

The more I read and re-read the parable of the sower, the more I asked the following questions: Why did Jesus tell the parable in the first place? Who was he talking to? When did he tell it? Where was it told? Why did he talk about farming? What happened afterward? These are the questions I will try to answer below. Some of the answers are easily found within the Gospels, so I have included all the links to them. Some of the answers are my humble attempt to fill in the blanks between and behind the scriptures. I hope my guesswork does the parable of the sower justice in your eyes.

Where was the story told?

Jesus was definitely on Lake Galilee when he told this story because the narrative says he had to get into a boat to teach (Matthew 13:2). I suspect this was so that the large crowd could all see him in an amphitheater type environment, and so that his voice could travel to the whole audience across the water. There were no PA systems back then for large crowds so natural tools for amplification had to be employed and the amphitheater approach was the most common. Jesus was therefore most likely in the fishing village of Capernaum on that day, which was his adopted hometown (Matthew 4:13). I will work with this assumption.

When was the story told?

The time of the year was probably just after the grain harvest, during the hot months of July or August. Summertime. The clue is in the previous chapter. Matthew 12:1-8 describes the disciple’s journey through a ripe but unharvested grain field. If that event was in the recent past to the telling of the parable of the sower, then this then puts the timing of the story at just after the annual June wheat harvest. This would mean most of the crowd were now free from the massive summer task of bringing in and thrashing the harvest. They were in the mood to celebrate by coming to listen to their favourite local prophet down in Capernaum by the lake.

If the timing was indeed around July or August, then this gives us another clue as to the time of the day when Jesus told the parable. Jesus most likely didn’t leave the house to teach by the lake until later in the day when the midday heat was fading. Matthew 12:46 says Jesus taught in the morning that day at a local house, possibly his own residence or Matthew’s larger home (Matthew 9:10). Matthew was a wealthy Capernaum tax collector before deciding to follow Jesus, so his home would have been an ideal location to teach.

Then, sometime during this morning teaching session his mother and brothers unexpectedly arrived from Nazareth to see him (Matthew 12:46). My best guess is that he then had a break from teaching to have lunch with his mother and brothers. They had come a long way to visit and would have been honoured guests, especially since his mother was there. No doubt they would have eaten and chatted for some time. Then, when the heat of the day had dissipated and people had finished their days chores, he went down to the cool of the lake to do some more teaching because the crowds were building. That time of day is also when the largest number of people within a few kilometres walking distance would have been free to come.

At this time in his ministry, he had already been to many villages in Galilee with the good news and miracles of the Kingdom (Matthew 8:28, 9:35), and had also sent his disciples out on their first practical to duplicate what he had been doing (Matthew 10:1). Everyone in Galilee knew him. He was therefore at or near the height of his popularity.

Who was present for the telling of the story?

There was obviously the large crowd. That’s a given. But who were they? Well, we know from Luke 8:4 that they came from town after town. They came from surrounding villages.

His mum and some of his brothers would most likely have been present too. (Matthew 12:46-13:1). Why wouldn’t they have stayed to listen to him teach in the afternoon and then stay for the night before the full-day journey 30 kilometres back home the next day?

Luke 8:1-4 also tells us that Mary Magdalene, Joanna the well-to-do wife of Chuza the manager of Herod’s household, Susanna, and many others were there as well. We are not told who the many others are, but that statement alone would suggest at least another 10-15 people. It also says the whole 12 disciples were with him (Luke 8:1). This included Judas. We are up to 25-30 people just there. The team of women were most likely helping to keep the disciples fed, financed, and looked after (Luke 8:3). So, they probably helped prepare the lunch that day, as only organised women can. It must have been a bit of a travelling roadshow of some 30 or so insiders scattered among the crowd that day.

Why did Jesus choose a story about farming?

Simple. Most of his listeners were farmers. The crowds were huge, but Capernaum was a small village, so the majority in the crowd had to have come in from the surrounding countryside behind this north-eastern tip of Lake Galilee. This district was prime Galilean cropping and grazing land, and still is today.  Galilee, with its excellent soil and rainfall, was the breadbasket of Israel. So, most Galileans were farmers and the staple food in that region was wheat. There is a high probability that Jesus himself would have helped with previous harvests for some of his extended family members or siblings in the years before his ministry began. Everyone listening therefore would have intimate knowledge of the essence of the parable.

In our modern world most of us are detached from farming and live in large towns or cities, so we have trouble relating to the nuances of this important parable. However, in the ancient world and right up until the mid-20th century, most people in the world were farmers. You too would most likely have been one of them if you lived in an historical time up until the 20th Century. This is still true today in any country that has not been through an industrial revolution. To learn a lot more about the details of wheat farming in 1st Century Galilee just click on this link to another blog I recently wrote on this topic.

Why did he choose this particular parable?

Not long before he told this parable he had returned to the lake and had been walking through some grainfields (Matthew 12:1-8). While doing so he was confronted and reprimanded by several Jewish religious leaders for allowing his disciples the “sin” of eating some of the grain on a Sabbath. It was quite the confrontation. This event must have stirred his awareness of the parallels between grain growing and what it actually takes to accept the Kingdom of God into one’s life and stick with it. Knowing that wheat seed was broadcast by hand in that era, and they had all been walking on a thin beaten path next to a small field of grain at the time of that confrontation could have made Jesus think…hmm. We don’t know for sure if this confrontation inspired his thoughts about the parable of the sower, but it’s feasible.

Who was the story directed toward?

First, he was obviously addressing that very crowd on that afternoon. Some of them were not listening, not caring, passively opposed to him, or outright antagonistic and looking for fault. They were the beaten path. Others were full of enthusiasm but only for what they could get, healings, miracles, multiplied fishes and loaves or great teaching. They were his shallow soil. Others were full of enthusiasm but would eventually be pulled back into their old ways by worries, finances or cares (Mark 4:19). They were the weedy soil. Some in the crowd that day would overcome all obstacles and see many others in their extended families, local villages and beyond also become followers of the Messiah. They were the good soil.

Second, his brothers were present, and we know that some of them had a very dim view of their big brother’s life and ministry (Mark 3:21, John 7:3-5). They actually thought he had lost the plot and John records that they had previously sneered at him sarcastically. If his brothers had indeed stayed to listen to his teaching by the lake that day, then was he not subtly highlighting their stubbornness when he was talking about the birds of the air stealing the seed that landed on beaten paths (Matthew 13:4)?

Third, there would also have also been a few ultra-religious, legalistic folk and their combative synagogue leaders in the audience who were jealous of him and in two minds about what to do with this upstart prophet from up north. They had only recently reprimanded him for healing a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-14). They had also recently called him the prince of demons for delivering a poor soul from oppression (Matthew 12: 9-37). Were these religious folk also targeted by him when he was talking about the seed that landed on a beaten path and eaten by the birds?

Fourth, and more of a motivation to tell this story to this audience, would be his desire to highlight the fickle nature of the many Galileans who had become his followers but had already fallen away. These were the crowds that had seen the miracles (Matthew 12:15), who had experienced firsthand the grace of God, and yet still not repented! Jesus had only recently scolded three local Galilean villages, Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, for their lack of faith, repentance and perseverance (Matthew 11:24). Bethsaida and Chorazin were within 10 kilometres of Capernaum where Jesus was. Were folk from those villages in the audience and were they the very people he had in mind when talking about shallow soil and weedy soil? Were theirs the shallow hearts that were already turning back and withering because the local synagogue leaders were hassling them. Or were theirs the selfish hearts growing cold because of the farming cares of their little world (Matthew 13:22)? I think Jesus knew his local audience well.

Fifth, he could have also been prophesying about the future in a few years and decades when the infant church would start to grow but come into a time of intense persecution via the Jewish religious establishment and then by the Romans. This could also have been part of the Matthew’s personal motivation to include this parable in his historical narrative as it would have been so relevant to the infant church at the exact time he was penning his gospel.

Sixth, Jesus could have also been looking ahead prophetically through the centuries and training the future worldwide body of Christ to be careful when they decide to follow him so as to make sure they put down deep roots and pull out all the weeds from their lives and hearts. Life has been tough through most of history for those who will make a strong, genuine stand for the Lord. Were these people on Jesus’ mind too?

Seventh, Jesus was already seeing some people who had accepted the Good News of the Kingdom start to produce fruit in their lives and he wanted to encourage more of it. There was an anonymous believer who was “caught” by the disciples driving out demons in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:38-40). Then there was the woman at the well who saw her whole village come to faith (John 4:1-28). The disciples themselves had seen a great harvest when they were sent out on practical training so they could learn to heal people as their master was doing (Luke 9:1-7, Luke 10:1-17). They returned with phenomenal stories of miracles and demonic deliverance. Was he giving them the encouragement to continue?

What Happened Next?

In Matthew 13:53 it says that when Jesus finished his teaching that day he moved on from there and came to Nazareth and taught in their synagogue, but to much cynicism. Given the fact that his mother and several brothers had come to Capernaum to see him, we can safely assume that he accompanied them the next day or so back to Nazareth, a full day’s walk from the lake.

Why? Probably because his mum asked him to come and catch up with the family he had grown up with. Mum’s do that sort of thing. Was she sick of her other son’s negative comments and wanting her Jesus, whom she knew in her heart to be the Messiah, to come and convince the others of his divinity? In Nazareth he would have spent time with his four brothers Judas, James, Simon and Joseph, and his three or four sisters whose names are not recorded (Matthew 13:55-56). However, the town as a whole still rejected his ministry and authority (Matthew 13:57). Maybe something sunk in because by the time we get to Acts 1:14 in the upper room Luke records that Jesus’ mum and some of his brothers were there as part of the 120.

So, there you have it. We will never know for sure the exact details that lie behind the parable of the sower, but I trust this analysis fills in a few of the many gaps and gives you a better understanding of what was going on in the lead up to the telling of the parable, and immediately afterwards.

Its Easter Friday Today: This Is What Happened Behind The Scenes That Day 2,000 Years Ago


First, let’s look at the personality and background of the judge in this trial as this information will help us understand the trial’s motives and outcome. Pilate has come down to us as one of the more enigmatic figures of ancient Roman history. Little is known about his early years but it is now certain that he existed as prefect of Judea since a stone with his name on it was found during archaeological excavations in 1961. It is assumed that he was an Italian who was born to the Pontii clan in the vicinity of the town of Samnium in central Italy, as that is where this family name originates. All Pontii’s were members of the equestrian order, those who were rich enough to own horses, therefore we know Pilate was born into a family of high social rank.

As a young man Pilate carved out a military career for himself and probably rose through the ranks via friendship and patronage with Sejanus, a fellow equestrian and the powerful head of the 9,000 strong elite Praetorian Guard, the emperor’s final line of personal defence. Sejanus was thus a confidant of the emperor Tiberius himself. As a rising star on the edge of Rome’s inner circle, Pilate captured the affections of a young woman by the name of Procula, who was the illegitimate daughter of Claudia, third wife of Tiberius. Procula was also the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus. Pilate was indeed a social climber. It is most probable that Sejanus himself recommended Pilate for the position of prefect of Judea in the year 26AD as a good choice for protecting Judea, which was on the eastern edge of the empire, with Parthian influence beginning just 50km from the great lake of Galilee. Because of her social pedigree, Pilate obtained the rare privilege of taking his wife Procula with him on his assignment to this restive part of the empire.

At the time large numbers of Jews lived in Rome as well as Israel and this created a potential threat to the emperor Tiberius. Just 37 years earlier all Jews had been banished from Rome after the emperor’s sister publically declared her allegiance to the Hebrew god. Several years later they had been allowed back in the city and they came in large numbers. Tiberius needed a prefect who could handle the beliefs and famous dogmatism of the Jews delicately. So how did Pilate fare on that score? Almost immediately he arrived in Judea, there was trouble. Pilate proved to be a bad choice for this most delicate of diplomatic positions. He showed himself over and over again to be a coarse, antagonistic and tactless governor. His military background led him again and again to resort to a military solution to problems. He lacked the refined personality of the leading classes of Rome.

Soon after arriving in Judea, Pilate sent ensigns into the Roman military Barracks in Jerusalem. Immediately he was besieged by tens of thousands of protestors in his palace in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, and they would not move for a week. To them there could never be a graven image inside the holy city. On threat of death they still did not move so a stunned Pilate placated them with a humiliating back down. This episode was followed a few years later by the sacred treasury affair where Pilate, thinking to win favour with the people, took money from the “bank” of the great temple and used it to construct an aqua-duct into the city. When word spread that the source of the funds was temple offerings, crowds once again besieged Pilate. However this time there would be no back down and Pilate slaughtered them en mass. Finally, in a move designed to enrage, Pilate placed votive shields in honour Tiberius in king Herod’s Palace in Jerusalem. This time the priests appealed directly to Tiberius and, in a huge blow to Pilate’s ego and authority, he was ordered by Tiberius himself to remove them. By the time of the trial of Jesus of Nazareth Pilate was looking for any means possible to score points and antagonise this insubordinate Jewish leadership and nation.

Now we come back to the trial at hand. The text tells us in black and white that Pilate wanted Jesus acquitted at all costs (Luke 23:4). For example, he changed his stand first thing in the morning and reopened the trial (John 18:29). He even gave the case to Herod hoping it would not come back (Luke 23:6). He also pronounced Jesus innocent three times (Luke 22:22). Finally he ceremonially washed his hands of the case and passed the moral responsibility over to the priests (Matt 27:24). Why did Pilate re-open the trial and go through this whole gut-wrenching exercise?

Perhaps Pilate was looking for a political counterweight to the priests, and thought the rising popularity of the Galilean teacher might create this much needed division among the Jews. After all, the High Priest and his family wielded immense power over the nation and to split that power down the middle made his job easier. Or perhaps Pilate truly saw Jesus as innocent, and in a rare moment of altruism he pushed hard for his release. However, this doesn’t account for the late night deal with the priests. Perhaps it was Procula’s dream that challenged Pilate’s highly developed Roman superstitions. We will never know what actually motivated Pilate, but it is most likely the desire to drive a political wedge between the Jews and their leaders. This is the most obvious motive for a Roman Prefect in a troubled and prized province. Nevertheless the narrative plainly suggests Pilate also genuinely saw Jesus as innocent and set up by his enemies. So a lesser motive of justice was undoubtedly at play. Pilate was using this obvious innocence as his card to create the political wedge.

The four Gospels give different versions of the trial with some details missing from each. Below is a reconstruction of the events of that Friday morning using all four gospels and putting them in the logical order where their statements fit. Gaps in one are often covered by another. However, it is very obvious from a reading of John’s account, that he was able to smuggle his way in with the large crowd that attended the Roman trial. This fits in well with his privileged position as a member of the priestly class himself (John 18:15). Also, given the crowd could have numbered five hundred or more, this was not that hard a feat to accomplish. The three synoptic gospels are therefore written as second-hand versions of John’s personal, eye witness explanation to his fellow disciples.

The first point to note in this most famous of all Roman trials, is that Pilate was ready for a trial on the day of preparation for the Sabbath (John 18:28). Court was not meant to be held on this day. Secondly, he was ready first thing in the morning. He knew they were coming. Now, to a first century reader the term “early in the morning” reads differently to what it does for us. These people normally rose and went to bed with the sun. So “early in the morning” was a lot closer to sunrise than what we would naturally assume it to be. Sunrise was at 6.05 am on that day, so court would have been sitting by 6.20 am at the very latest.

From this point on the following is the most logical sequence of events:

1. Pilate went out to the courtyard to meet the priests because they could not enter his palace just before the Passover meal and remain ceremonially clean. To their surprise the Roman governor declared “What charge do you bring against this man” (John 18:29). This is the opening statement of a Roman trial. Trials always started with a call for an Accusatio to be made by the offended party.

2.“They answered and said to him “If this man were not an evil doer we would not have brought him to you.” (John 18:30). The priests were taken aback by Pilate’s re-opening of the trial and were mentally thrown off guard due to the assumption they had a deal done the night before.

3. “Pilate therefore said to them “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” (John 18:31). Pilate was taunting the priests because he knew full well they did not have the authority to carry out a capital punishment.

4. “The Jews said to him “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” (John 18:31) “And they began to accuse him by saying “We found this man perverting our nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is the Messiah the king.” (Luke 23:2). This is the improvised Accusatio needed to keep the trial going.

5. Pilate pondered this last comment for a few moments for it actually made an impact on mis military mind. He then entered into the palace, called Jesus and said to him “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matt 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, John 18:33). This is the second part of a Roman trial, the Interrogatio. It was this and only this accusation that Jesus claimed to be a king that carried any weight with Pilate. This was a direct challenge to the emperor Tiberius himself. It is therefore this statement alone that forced Pilate to continue with the trial.

6. Jesus’ reply intrigued Pilate. He slowly, deliberately and calmly declared “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom was of this world my servants would fight, so that I would not be delivered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from here.” In reply to this eloquent spirituality Pilate said to him “Are you a king then?” (John 18:36). The Galilean continued, “You say correctly that I am a king” (Matt 27;11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3). “For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, that I would bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

7. Pilate now utters those famous words that have echoed down through history. They speak to Pilate’s own frustration with his personal search for life’s meaning through political service to the Emperor, service to the superstition of Roman mythology and his pursuit of wealth and status. With almost a sigh that suggests he has given up on this youthful quest he asks “What is truth?” (John 18:37). When he had finished speaking to the Galilean he was impressed, for he went out again to the Jews and said to them “I find no fault in him at all.” (Luke 23:4, John 18:38).

8. Pilate’s decision would normally be final. But in Luke’s gospel we find the priests protesting indignantly and in their mass anger they mention the fact that Jesus is a Galilean (Luke 23:4-5). This gave Pilate a way out of his dilemma by transferring the trial to Herod Antipas, the Roman puppet king of northern Israel. Herod had jurisdiction over the northern territory of Galilee and was down in the holy city for the great festival (Luke 23:5-7). Herod was soon disappointed that Jesus did not perform a miracle on demand, so wisely and cunningly sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:8-12).

9. The stakes were now high for Pilate and he could sense the game of cat and mouse coming to an uncomfortable close. In one last vain attempt at retrieving the trial and his pride, Pilate appealed to the tradition of releasing one criminal during the festival who was about to face execution. This again proved to be pointless as the crowd, at the behest of the priests, chanted for the release of a convicted murderer called Barabbas (Luke 23:18). Then, sensing they had the upper hand, the priests yelled abusively at Pilate, arrogantly challenging him over his loyalty to the emperor, saying “Any man who makes himself king is against Caesar. If you let this man go you are no friend of Caesar” (John 19:12). Checkmate!

10. The dilemma Pilate faced was now chillingly clear. He could release Jesus and have the Jewish leadership once again appeal to Caesar, as they did in the motive shields affair. This would result in Pilate’s execution. Alternatively he could once again cave in to the priest’s demands and walk away alive but with his pride power and ego wounded in the process. It was his neck, or the neck of a simple teacher from the borderlands of the empire. In the end there was no choice. The fate of Jesus was sealed and Pilate, sitting on the judgement seat at that part of the palace called the Stone Pavement, washed his hands in disgust (Matthew 27:24). In wrapping up the trial he declared sarcastically “Here is your king!” The abuse and arrogant attitude of the priests simply got louder and bolder with this wisecrack and acknowledgment of tactical defeat. They demanded crucifixion, and they wanted it immediately. (John 19:14-15) They got what they wanted.

11. At this point Jesus became a death row prisoner with zero rights as a human (John 19:16). He was handed over to the Roman garrison for their cruel pleasure. Firstly, he was mockingly clothed in purple, the colour of royalty and taunted. Then a jagged platted wreath taken from a nearby thorn bush was driven into his head. Finally, he received 39 lashes with a cat-o-nine tails, leaving his back chopped to bloody pieces (Matt 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20). With the torture now complete, preparations began for the ultimate cruelty of the crucifixion.

12. Thoroughly humiliated, Pilate initiated one final act of political spit designed to deeply upset the Jews. He authorised a sarcastic notice be nailed to the condemned man’s cross which read “JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS” in Hebrew, Latin and Greek (John 19:19-22). On finding out about the offence, the priests once more fought for the upper hand by demanding it be amended. Pilate had lost the war but was determined to win this one last battle and refused to budge. It was now around 7.30-8.00 am in the morning.

There are several technical points to note from this trial worth recording. First, we can conclude that Plate himself had already heard much about the teacher from Galilee and his reputed power over people and nature. Was this trial his only introduction to Jesus and his reputation? The records we have suggest that some of Pilate’s own soldiers had already been in contact with, and gathered information about the Galilean (Matt 8:5-13). It is obvious Pilate has great respect for the man by the time the trial is over. It can also be assumed that the conversation between Procula and her husband early that morning regarding her dream was the final trigger for Pilate’s determination to make it difficult for his enemies. Finally, it is also evident that John not only attended the Roman trial but was also the one who later pieced together, from Roman guards and other officials, the private conversations between Pilate and Jesus that were conducted away from the priests in the Praetorium.

We also need to also clarify when the crucifixion took place as most commentators suggest around 9.00 am. However, in Johns account it says it was at the “sixth hour” which is often translated as around noon as time was only ever approximate in this era. This is clarified when we see that back in John 4:52 John uses “the seventh hour” to describe the time of day. This phrase was not used in the Jewish time reference system. This tells us he was at times using the Roman system of counting time for his gospel. The Romans counted time as we do, from midnight onwards. Both systems were in use in ancient Israel. So when John says Jesus was condemned at the “sixth hour” it refers to a time much closer to 6.00 am than midday. This makes more sense when we understand the condemned men were left hanging on their crosses for around six hours and there was still time to bundle them off to a grave before sunset. John himself describes the trial at beginning early in the morning (John 18:28). So it is highly doubtful it lasted six hours!

Little is known of Pilate’s life after this event. We do know he spent 11 years as prefect in Judea and left in 37AD. Tradition says that not long after leaving Judea he was either banished to modern day France or asked to commit suicide after coming out on the wrong side of a political scandal. Tradition also says his wife Procula became an early follower of Jesus. We will never really know the fate of either of them.


It is now time to tell the next part of the tale from a slightly different angle, that of the followers of Jesus. Nine of his disciples who attended the last supper and the garden are now missing, probably hiding in Bethany. One has committed suicide and two have smuggled themselves into the city where they are looking after the five women. These were those who followed the drama all the way to the cross and the grave and we now switch our attention to their story.

After his Roman trial, Jesus was finally and agonisingly dragged through the narrow streets of Jerusalem at the head of a death procession. Apparently he stumbled under the weight of the heavy cross-bar he was dragging. So an onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, was forced to carry it for him (Mark 15:21). The stunned citizens of Jerusalem looked on in disbelief. Their hero Jesus, who had the city in his hand for a week was about to be executed! On the party trudged, through the city gates and up the hill to his place of death called Golgotha or “The Skull”, which lay a few hundred metres outside the city walls. There he was stripped naked and hauled, with two others, onto Rome’s favourite instrument of torture and death. His feet were hammered to a large tree trunk with a 20cm iron spike. His wrists suffered the same fate as they were firmly secured to the crossbar. The frame was lifted up and then dropped into a hole in the rock used many times previously for the same capital punishment. From that moment, at around 9.00 (Mark 15:25) until his death at around 3.00pm, Jesus’ only way of breathing was to push up on his spiked feet feet so his lungs could fill with air, each and every breath was pure agony.

As the hours passed and his life ebbed away, the usual crowd watched on. There were the four Roman soldiers left behind on duty and who’s privilege it was to take ownership of the prisoners clothes (John 19:23-24). We know for certain that only four Roman soldiers were on duty. This is because they split his clothing four ways and then gambled for his undergarment (John 19:23-24). The thrill seekers, who came to all these grizzly events, were there (Matt 27:39-40). The chief priests were also present and were shouting one last round of abuse (Matt 27:41-43) as they waited expectantly for their great enemy to die. Undoubtedly some who were welcoming him into the city as a hero a few days earlier were there also, with saddened faces. Finally, four or five of his loyal followers hung in the shadows to see the gruesome scene to the end. These were the disciple John, Mary the mother of Jesus, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas (John 19:25), Mary Magdalene and possibly Mary mother of Joses (Mark 15:47).

As the day wore on and this last group kept up their vigil of respect for their dying leader, a remarkable event occurred. As Jesus hung with intense agony on the cross, he said to his mother “Behold your son” (John 19:26) in reference to John who stood with her and the others. In ancient Israel the words of a dying man were legal testimony, so in this one short statement the eldest son of Joseph transferred his filial responsibility for the future welfare of his mother to his best friend John. In short, Jesus was asking Mary to adopt John as her son. This strongly suggests that Joseph had died some years before this event and Mary was a widow. Jesus, as the eldest in a family of at about five boys and three girls (Matt 8:55-56), bore the responsibility to care for his mother in her old age and fulfilled this duty through this last act of kindness. From that day on the mother of Jesus went to live with John (John 19:27).

At around 3.00pm (Matt27:45), after six hours of pushing his lacerated back up against rough-sawn timber while balancing on spikes for every desperate breath, Jesus was near death. Finally, in answer to the insults and mockery of soldiers and priests, Jesus cried out “my God, my God, why have you deserted me” (Matt 27:46). The huge loss of blood left him now parched with thirst so he called for water (John 19:28). He was offered a sample of the alcoholic drink the soldiers had with them. The gospels call it “vinegar”, but it was in fact a tart, sour wine mixed with water called posca which was a favourite of soldiers at that time (Matt 27:46-49). He then breathed his last with “It is finished”. Mary, distraught at the suffering of her first-born was soon taken away in the arms of her newly adopted son.

It is interesting to note that the same day that Jesus died on the cross thousands of sheep were being ceremonially slaughtered across the city and especially at the great temple. The blood of sacrificial lambs was flowing in preparation for the greatest of annual Jewish feasts. The Passover required the death of a lamb, the collecting of its blood and the sprinkling of that blood across the doorway of each home in the tradition called the Pesaḥ Miẓrayim. This was in memory of the night Israel was spared the angel of death that consumed the first-born of all in the land of Egypt some 1,400 years earlier. The Passover celebrated their escape from Egypt into their promised land, from national slavery to national freedom. At the time of Jesus’ death thousands of ovens and fires were blackening the sky of the city in preparation for the great barbeque.

Crucified criminals would normally have suffered on a cross for another a day or two before finally succumbing to thirst, exhaustion or blood loss and given up the will to live. Their bodies were then thrown into a common mass grave with birds of prey circling overhead. However, the next day was a special Sabbath as it was also the annual Passover festival, so no removal and burial could take place for 24 hours after sunset that day. The priests therefore asked Pilate for the legs of the criminals to be broken. This would suffocate them in a few minutes as they could no longer push up on their feet to get a breath. The bodies could be quickly buried before sunset (John 19:31).

Pilate gave permission for this to proceed and two sets of legs were duly smashed. But when it came to Jesus they found him already dead. Just to make sure of the fact they thrust a spear deep into his rib cage and up into his heart, only to see “blood and water” ooze from the wound (John 19:34-36). This seemed like a miracle at the time, but was in fact no miracle at all. With the benefit of modern medicine it is now a known medical condition called pericardial effusion whereby, under extremely low blood pressure at the point of death causes fluid to build up around the heart. The fact that it is recorded and now understood suggests great accuracy in the telling of the story.

With the sun beginning to set, the drama now took an interesting and unexpected turn. An aging and infirm member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43) asked Pilate for the body of Jesus for burial in his newly hewn, personal tomb. It is ironic that a member of the ruling elite itself, the council that orchestrated the capital punishment, saved Jesus from the commoner’s grave. This man was named Joseph, a man of some wealth (Matt 27:57) from the now non-existent village of Arimathea. Joseph had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s actions and must have sat there with great consternation watching the Jewish trial unfold. In modern terms Joseph would be called a secret believer. Pilate, surprised that Jesus was already dead, consented to this old man’s noble request. (Mark 15:44-46, Luke 23:50-54). Joseph collected his good friend Nicodemus, also a dissenting member of the Sanhedrin, and together they set about their melancholy task (John 19:39). What they were too afraid to do in life, they now made public in death, thereby forfeiting both their positions on the Sanhedrin and their lifetime of social privilege. They would now be outcastes along with the rest of the followers of the dead man. Normally, the body of a dead criminal was a Roman possession, but with the intervention of these two men, the body became a Jewish possession and responsibility.

The women who watched this development unfold could now see one last opportunity to pay their respects opening up. It seems this group were informally led lead by Mary Magdalene, as she appears in all four gospel accounts of the story. They had stood at a distance and watched the ordeal of the crucifixion of their leader. Now they decided to stay on after Mary and John’s departure, watching as Joseph’s workers took down and hastily wrapped the body of the dead prophet in a single linen cloth (Matthew 27:59) before taking it to Joseph’s own personal tomb about a few hundred metres  away. As they followed this small procession, they marvelled at the lack of proper preparation for burial that the body of Jesus was receiving. This was due to the quickly setting sun, after which all work would cease due to the commencement of the Sabbath. So, as they walked behind the burial team, they hatched a plan to rectify the situation straight after the Sabbath in order to pay their last respects to their leader (Luke 23:55-56). At the tomb they watched as a large stone, weighing up to a tonne, was rolled down an incline and across the entrance of the tomb to keep out scavenging animals and tomb raiders (Matthew 27:60).

At 5.00pm, with 15 minutes to go before sunset and the closing of the city gates, the women quickly scurried back to their place of residence to prepare the spices and wrappings needed for a proper Jewish burial. This would have involved collecting around 30 kilograms of myrrh and aloes, which were the preservative spices of that era (John 19:39). These were going to be tightly stuffed into a series of long linen sheets wrapped tightly around the body so that the end product was a form of mummification. In the Jewish tradition the head of the deceased was wrapped separately to the body in its own linen cloth (John 20:6). Because of this hastily hatched plan to finish the burial first thing Sunday morning, it is quite obvious that none of the women were in any way expecting a resurrection.

Now the women, all Jerusalem, and every other player in this historical event, except of course for the Romans, ate the sacred meal and then waited with baited breath a full 24 hours for the self-imposed lockdown of the Passover Sabbath to pass. Everyone knew the day after the Sabbath was going to involve a great commotion, rumours, outrage, and possibly calls for revenge. But for now, the whole city was shut down from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday as people stayed in and near their homes for a whole day of quiet religious reflection.

There were two reasons people obeyed this unusual religious observance. Firstly it was to honour the creator Yahweh because he also took rest after making the universe (Genesis 2:2). Secondly, it honoured the escape of the Hebrews out of Egypt some 1,440 years earlier. For them Egypt was a 400 year ordeal of slavery, toil and heartache. Yahweh had miraculously delivered them into Israel, the fabled Promised Land; their very own piece of permanent real estate. The Passover was an annual reminder of this act that required the death of a lamb and an elaborate ceremonial meal.

As a final footnote, Jesus was not dead for three days but around 40 hours, from 3.00pm Friday until about 5.30 Sunday morning. This is exactly one full Sabbath with a few hours added to each end, a coincidence not lost on the disciples over the next six weeks as they tried to piece together the significance of all these happenings.

Is The Occult Influencing Russia?


As a Christian I am very mindful that there are spiritual strengths and powers often lurking behind the political events of this world. Jesus made us very aware of this influence during his ministry in Galilee (Mark 1:39), and in his dealings with the power elite in Jerusalem whom he described as children of Satan (John 8:43-44). Scratch the surface of most countries today and you will see the same influence. Here are a few examples:

From personal experience I can tell you that most of the Central Asian “Stan” countries are Islamic on the surface but deeply influenced by black magic and pre-Islamic occult/shamanistic practices behind this religious veneer. Most Tajiks do not practice formal Islam at all but are heavily involved in the original pre-Islamic folk superstitions and low-key Zoroastrianism. Turkmen people are great believers in trinkets and amulets which are widely sold in markets to ward off evil spirits, to summon good spirits and to protect their new owners from various troubles and misfortunes. I personally spoke to people in Kyrgyzstan in 2016 who verified this widespread belief in the occult as their true religion. India is also riddled with demonic influence right up to the highest levels of society. I know; I lived there for a year and confronted demon possessed people on multiple occasions. The Shinto practices in Japan do likewise to their culture. The New Age movement and the fanatical push to enshrine sexual perversion as the highest legal value in the Western world are two of many manifestations of the occult in our midst.

But what of Russia?

First, some background. Russia is not really a European country. It’s not Asian either. It’s a geographically and culturally insecure blend of the two, a uniquely hybrid civilization. It looks to the west for acceptance and equality but finds only rejection, and rightly so given its deep autocratic roots. It looks to the east for its grass-roots culture and spirituality, but more on that in a minute.

It is also slowly vanishing. Its population drops by about 0.5% every year every year because of its shockingly low birth rate, and this rate of decline is accelerating. There are now more abortions than live births. Substance abuse is at astronomical levels. It is deeply corrupt from the bottom to the top and has always been run by a ruthless mafia gang regardless of the style of leadership. Family formation is pathetic while divorce is high. Over one million citizens have AIDS, and the rates are growing at 10-15% a year. There is no rule of law and there never has been. Its health stats are some of the world’s worst. This list is the depressing legacy of an Atheistic Communism that saw its government murder or starve some 20 million of its own citizens! Before the end of this century, Russia will cease to exist as we know it. It’s a culture that has lost hope.

These cultural statistics give you an indication of what is happening in the spiritual realm under the surface, behind the curtain.  Demonic forces are at work in this land.

To make matters worse, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is trapped in an outdated cultural expression and incapable of change. It is deeply intolerant of other faiths and sees itself as the only legitimate expression of Christianity with all other denominations being invalid or sectarian. It was birthed in blood a thousand years ago when the king of Kiev converted and then forced all his subjects to do the same on pain of death. The ROC is deeply tied to the state, giving Putin legitimacy for his bloodthirsty overseas campaigns and his domestic agenda of tyranny, as long as the state enhances the ROC’s power. It’s head, Patriarch Kirill, endorsed the invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities being perpetrated by Putin, even though many under him condemned it. Only 6-10% of Russians have anything to do with the church, so its spiritual life is very weak, but its cultural and political influence is still strong.

The Occult is all-pervasive

In contrast to the poor state of Orthodox Christianity, tens of millions of Russian consult occult practitioners on a monthly or even weekly basis. Even the Moscow Times has produced articles on the resurgence of witchcraft in Russia. This has deep pre-Christian roots in the old Slavic culture that has lingered to this day, just as I noted above for neighbouring parts of Central Asia. In his seminal study of Russian folk culture, Ivan the Fool, Andrei Sinyavsky detailed a pervasive Tsarist-era belief in superstition, magic and pagan gods, as well as the widespread popularity of sorcerers and faith healers: In Old Russia, almost everyone resorted to elementary magic for help, wrote Sinyavsky. Magic was used on a daily basis. This is the fertile, demonically saturated, ground from which sprung their most famous mystical practitioner, Grigori Rasputin, personal confidant of Tsar Nicholas. His rise was partly attributed to his demonic mystical powers and partly by the fact that many of the aristocracy at the time were intensely curious about the occult and the supernatural.

Fast forwarding straight past the era of Communistic Atheistic suppression of all religion, I recently came across a 2015 New Humanist article on the role of the occult in Russia, where they noted the resurgence of widespread belief in, and engagement with the occult since the fall of Communism. The article said, and I quote: In 2010, a psychologist with the Russian Academy of Sciences cited World Health Organisation data that indicated there were more occult/faith healers (800,000) in Russia than professional doctors (640,000). And Russians are putting their money where their faith is. In 2013, the country’s leading cardiologist complained that his fellow citizens spend almost £20 billion every year on magical and paranormal services. This, the astonished surgeon pointed out, is almost twice the amount Russians spend on foreign medical care. Another statistic is perhaps even more revealing: Russia’s Academy of Sciences estimates that 67% of all Russian women have at some time sought help from a “psychic or sorcerer”. The figure for Russian men is one in four. 

If true, this would mean one in 170 Russians is a professional occultist, with Anatoly Kashpirovsky being the most famous of them all. Russia is more heavily influenced by the occult, shamanism, psychics, witches, and sorcerers than almost any nation on earth! To further quote from the New Humanist article, Nikolai Naritsyn, a Moscow-based psychoanalyst who has written on the subject, says that the average Russian is completely confused and disorientated by modern life. And when they ask Where do financial crises come from? What do the laws they pass in parliament mean? Why has my salary been halved? To find his solutions, his truth, he heads to witches and wizards.

The occult should be seen as the true religion of Russia.

What About The Government?

Does the government dabble in the occult? Although we don’t have any concrete evidence, The Humanist journalist interviewed Valeriya Karat, a high-profile sorceress in Moscow, who boasted that she often gets secret visits from government officials. They come in the middle of the night so that no one will see them. I can’t name names, of course, but Russian government officials always consult sorcerers before taking major decisions. Marina, another Moscow based sorceress says that whenever there are big international talks going on, Russia always brings a psychic or witch along to influence things.

Is Putin personally influenced by these occult practices? Yes! The most influential Russian academic of this century, and the man they call Putin’s brain, Alexander Dugin, is as well-versed in the writings of early 20th century British occultists as he is in modern political theory. The New Humanist article says Dugin has a long and documented involvement in the occult. In the 1980s, he is reported to have been a member of the Moscow-based “Black Order of the SS”, a group of intellectuals fascinated with both mysticism and Nazism, as well as – according to former members of the circle – experiments with drugs and sex magic. Later, Dugin took his interest in the occult to a new level. In the early 1990s, he became editor of the Eurasian magazine Elementy. The front cover of the magazine’s second issue featured a portrait of Baphomet, the goat god who is also the symbol of the US-based Church of Satan. Dugin frequently wrote about the occult within the pages of Elementy, as well as praising the “spiritual and transcendental side of fascism”.

Dugin, ever the militant nationalist, also believes that the Ukraine should not exist as anything but part of Greater Russia. He is the reason why Putin invaded. Dugin gave Putin the intellectual justification to invade, while Patriarch Kirill gave him the spiritual justification to invade. Putin’s own ridiculously inflated ego gave him the political justification to invade. This terrible war is all just another page in the long and depressing story of demonic influence over the Russian civilisation.

Putin’s beliefs have now evolved into a belief in the manifest destiny of the Russian Orthodox civilisation to go forth and re-establish the true greatness of “Christian civilisation”. That’s just code for enhancing the power of the Russian state. Think of it as Attila the Hun (Putin) teaming up with a witch doctor (Dugin) and a corrupt priest (Kirill) to kill and conquer. Satan and his army of demons are loving this as their Jesus himself told us that their mission is to steal, kill and destroy humans (John 10:10). And they use humans to do their dirty work. John 10:10 is a perfect description of what Satan, through his human proxy Russia, Is doing in the Ukraine right now.

How will this end? I believe the words of our Lord are prophetic when he said to his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. That includes Russia. He said to pray that his Kingdom would come to the earth just as it is in Heaven. Prayer is the key. Only prayer, love, grace, mercy and the Holy Spirit of Christ can set this nation free of its demonic shackles. This process is beyond our lifetimes, but it WILL happen. The events of 2022 have only sped the process up as the global body of Christ has been awakened to intercede for this broken part of the world.

The Parable Of The Sower Part One: Growing Wheat In Galilee

I grew up on a wheat/sheep farm in western New South Wales, Australia. When I started reading and re-reading the parable of the sower a week ago, I naturally started to think about the farming practices involved behind the parable. So here is a summary of my research into the Galilean wheat farming practices that all the parable’s audience would have intuitively understood, but of which we are largely ignorant today.

Before we start, please remember that these people invented wheat farming! The transition from hunting and gathering straight after the global flood to cultivating wild grasses like wheat, rye and barley took place in the very spot where Jesus told the story, the Fertile Crescent between Iraq and Egypt. This land had already been cultivated for thousands of years before Jesus told the story, two thousand years ago! Wheat growing was in their blood.

Growing Wheat in Galilee

The land in Galilee was also very fertile, the best in Israel because of its excellent rainfall on rich red soils. The further north you go from Jerusalem the better the rainfall. The rainfall in Nazareth was about 600mm or around 23 inches and mainly fell in the winter. This was perfect for winter wheat and barley cultivation. In European and American latitudes wheat is grown in summer, but in the hot Mediterranean climate of Israel and Australia wheat is a winter crop.

As a province, Galileans were about 80-90% farmers and Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth would have been no different as the largest tract of arable land in Galilee is just to the south of Nazareth. Down in Jesus’ adopted hometown of Capernaum by the great lake, the rainfall was a little lower at around 400mm or 16 inches. However, this was also the rainfall of my hometown, and we were a very successful wheat farming family. So, grain growing would have, and still does, extend across Galilee and down to the shores of the great lake.

This near saturation of farmers suggests that some of his earthly cousins and family members would surely have been wheat/barley growers. It is also likely that at least one or more of his sisters married a farmer. I would be not at all surprised if Jesus was called out to help with sowing and harvest duties for extended family members when needed before his ministry started. From personal experience on our farm, I can tell you it must have been all available hands to the plough and sickle during the two busy periods of sowing and harvest all over Galilee. This is because all grain growing in ancient Israel relied on manual labour for sowing, weed control, harvesting, and thrashing so it was extremely labour intensive for the whole community. No fossil fuels, no tractors, no harvesters, no artificial fertiliser, and no chemical insect and weed control. Just muscle power.

How Good Was The Harvest?

The return on all this hard labour was usually about tenfold. One unit of seed in the ground for ten units out at harvest time. The use of animal manure was widespread (excuse the pun) as this kept the fields from being flogged out. Its also why the weeds were included in the parable. Animal manure is full of undigested seeds which grew with the wheat when the rains came.

A good crop only came when the natural rains were good. This would push the yield up to around 20-30-fold. An exceptional crop of up to 100-fold had to combine these perfect early and late rains (Jeremiah 5:24, James 5:7) along with plenty of manure fertilisers. These exceptional harvests were known but very uncommon. The seventh-year rest for the whole land also aided in restoring the fertility of the Galilean wheat belt (Leviticus 25, Josephus: Wars, 1:54–66).

The Autumn and Spring Rains

Why were the early and latter rains important for wheat growing? Well, you need moisture to sow and germinate the seed. You also need moisture to plough the ground otherwise the oxen-powered, iron tipped, single-pronged ploughs would only bounce off the hard dry ground. On our farm we had to wait for these early winter rains as well, and there was much consternation if they didn’t come on time. In springtime you also need late rains to fatten the seed and to fill the head up to 3-4 seeds wide for a bumper crop. If the latter rains didn’t come the harvest would be half its potential with fewer and smaller grains, but higher protein levels in the meagre harvest. High protein wheat (above 13%) can be made into bread while low protein wheat (below 11%) goes into cakes and the like.

The annual calendar

The annual rhythm for working the land is succinctly recorded in the Gezer Calendar, a limestone tablet dating from around a millennium BC, the time of Solomon. It describes the agricultural cycle month by month, giving the tasks to be performed at certain times of the year.

Two months gathering (October-November)

Two months planting (December-January)

Two months late sowing (February-March)

One month cutting flax (April)

One month reaping barley (May)

One month reaping and measuring wheat (June)

Two months pruning (July-August)

One month summer fruit (September)

From experience I can tell you that barley ripens up to a month before wheat (but has slightly lower nutritional value) and that is why the two separate entries on this calendar.

The major Jewish feasts and festivals followed this agricultural rhythm: Passover and unleavened bread in the spring just before the barley harvest (March/April), Pentecost seven weeks after the Passover and during the wheat harvest, and the feast of Tabernacles when all harvests were completed (September/October). That’s when food was abundant so that’s when people celebrated and gave respect to their creator for his provision. This is something modern city-based westerners have completely forgotten, to their loss.

Who lived in Galilee?

The region of Jesus’ youth and ministry was often known as Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:15) as it had many foreigners living alongside the local Jews. The foreigners were more often than not Greek settlers and Roman occupiers. The Greek presence was the result of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Israel and subsequent removal of Jews from their farmlands. Galilee’s best farmland was handed over to the conquerors and that is why there were still ten Greek cities on the other side of the Jordan during Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:25). The Hasmonean revolt in 167-164BC removed the Greek farmers from Galilee as it was mainly a Galilean farmers revolt. They got their farms back. The Greek invasion is also why the New Testament was written in Greek.

During this New Testament era the average farm size was about 2-4 hectares or up to ten acres. This figure comes from Eusebius’s account (Historiae Eccleseastiea, 3:20) of the two grandsons of Judah, brother of Jesus, who declared to the Roman government that they derived their sustenance from an area of 39 plethra (3.4 hectares) which they cultivated with their own hands. This was the farm of two families, so it suggests that the average family derived its livelihood from 1.7 hectares. Several passages from the Talmud refer to about 2.3 hectares as a large field and a substantial inheritance. Multiply those figures by 2.5 to get acres.

Sowing the crop: December-January

The story of the sower has the farmer broadcasting the grain by hand on a cold December or January day. Perhaps that’s when the parable was told as it was current and relevant, but we will never know. I can personally verify this January sowing time for wheat in Israel. In January of 2019 I was visited Beersheba and they had just sowed their grain crops after good rains.

Sowing was done at the rate of about 13 kilos or 30 lbs. per acre or 1/4th of a hectare, about half our modern rates. This lower rate is because we have better wheat varieties and better artificial fertiliser. The land would probably have been ploughed a few times before sowing whenever rains came. Ploughing several times produced a fine textured seedbed, and therefore it was easier for the tiny seeds to make contact with the moist soil, triggering germination. Ploughing after earlier pre-sowing rains also got rid of sprouting weeds. This process has not changed for dryland farming for 2,000 years. We just did it with huge machines over hundreds of hectares…with little human effort.

The grain landing on four different soil types in the parable is explained by the fact that the Galilean fields were very small and nearly all had walking tracks around them for animal and human movement, and as boundary markers. I lived in India in 1981 and can vouch that these narrow tracks are still the norm today around third-world farming villages and fields.

With one single vigorous broadcast a farmer could cover about five lateral metres. If his broadcasting was near the edge of the field, you could have had a few seeds land on the walking track, and a few on the stony edges of that track. Lots of seed would have fallen on the ploughed but weed/thorn infested ground on the edge of the field. Why was this space full of headache plants? It’s because this zone next to the track was where humans and animals would often drop weed and thorn seeds stuck to their garments or their animal’s manure while passing along these tracks. The farmer would make sure lots of seed would was broadcast on the good soil a few metres further in the field that was not contaminated with weeds.

This scenario is probably what the listeners imagined while Jesus spoke. The idea of a Galilean farmer deliberately looking for stony paths, rocky soil and weedy soil separately to sow precious grain into doesn’t make sense and would ruin the message behind the parable.

Once the seed was broadcast it was still sitting on top of the damp soil and had to be ploughed under to a depth of about 7cm or 3 inches.  To do this the farmer typically ploughed again perpendicular to the last direction ploughed to cover the seed. This was often accompanied by branches, or a log dragged behind the plough to smooth the soil. Then, when the grain and weeds germinated it was time for periodic weeding after each rain to remove any competition to the small wheat and barley seedlings.

Harvest time (April)

Harvest was the most exciting, busiest and exhausting time of the year. For me growing up on the farm it was a super-special event with large machinery going 14 hours a day, heavy trucks running everywhere, silos full, storage at a premium, and meals constantly driven out to family members and itinerant workers every day. My whole town would lift if the rains were good and it was a bumper harvest. I am sure it was no different in ancient Galilee, Nazareth and Capernaum.

Reaping was a team effort, and backbreaking work. Teams of people would complete a field, then move to their neighbour’s field until the harvest was complete. Then each family would take care of their own grain from that point on. The faster the harvest, the safer the harvest, both then and now. A corner of each field had to be left for the poor people to glean from and feed themselves. This was a form of self-motivated ancient welfare for which Naomi and Ruth were grateful to be a part of (Ruth 1:22-2:2, Leviticus 19:9, 23:22).

Try to think of their ancient wheat crop as a collection of uneven short spindly plants and not our beautiful scientifically bred, perfectly aligned monoculture of hundreds of hectares in today’s farms. Two thousand years of plant breeding has made a big difference to what wheat looks like.

Threshing the grain from the wheat stalks came next, and wheat does not like to give up its grain! Threshing was extremely laborious and monotonous. To save human effort, an animal was often tied to a pole and would walk around in a circle on a stone base with its feet slowly grinding the grain free from the wheat head. If a farmer was too poor for to own an animal, the family would belt the wheat talks against a rock by hand. After separation the grain was tossed into the air and winnowed in the wind. The chaff would land a few metres away and the heavier grain would land at the labourer’s feet. The chaff became animal feed for the dry season through summer or was used for brick making. I’m sure, as a builder, Jesus was familiar with this practice. Having built a mudbrick home in the 1980’s I can assure you that straw is absolutely essential for mudbrick making.

At this point the wheat was double checked to remove any last remaining stalks and taken to a family silo inside, under or next to their home. I saw many of these mudbrick wheat silos inside courtyards in Panjabi villages in 1981. Each typically contained around 100-200 kilos of grain and would be sealed to prevent vermin from getting inside. A family would need several of these to get through to the next harvest. In Galilee grain was often stored in very large clay pots or in silos dug into the ground beneath the floor of houses.

Most of the harvest was consumed by the family as the year progressed, while some had to be kept for next year’s sowing. They did not buy bread from supermarkets! They made it themselves. Some grain was paid in taxes to the occupying Romans, some went to the priests, and some went to specialists like Jesus who was a builder in the local village of Nazareth before starting his ministry.

Matthew 12:43-45: Who Is “This Evil Generation”

In Matthew 12 we find a short passage that intrigues me. In it Jesus said that when a demon is cast out of a man it wanders around in dry places looking for a new host. Unable to find one it returns to its original host and finds it empty, swept clean and decorated. It then invites seven other spirits more evil than itself to join it. The final condition of that man is far worse than the first.

Now, I always thought Jesus was teaching about demonology. But he wasn’t.

It’s the next sentence that gives us the reason for the teaching. Jesus finished by saying that this is what life will be like for this evil generation. The New American Standard version says it the best: That is the way it will also be with this evil generation. The teaching on demons was just an analogy, it was not meant to be taken literally. He was talking about a whole generation of Israelites, the whole nation. So, what was Jesus referring to?

For a clue, let’s look at one of his other similar statements for a clue. Matthew 24:1-35 gives us great detail about what is going to happen to this generation (Verse34). The passage begins with the disciples calling Jesus’ attention to the physical glory and architectural spendour of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus immediately tells them that the temple is going to be demolished in violent fashion. Intrigued, the disciples ask for more details so Jesus spends verses 3 to 34 telling them what will happen in the lead up to the destruction of the temple. We know the passage has nothing to do with the end times as it finishes with him telling them this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. There’s that term again.

Over in Luke 11: 45-53 we see the same term pop up in the same context. An expert in the law attacked Jesus for insulting him (verse 45). To which Jesus made some very strong remarks and finished with the statement that this generation will be held responsible for all the blood of the prophets shed since the beginning of the world.

So now we have three instances of the same term being used for the same purpose; to give a prophetic announcement that the Judaic system of religion with its ridiculous laws, social suppression and control, its inbuilt hypocrisy, onerous systems of worship, and cultural pride would be demolished within a generation.

And it happened just as Jesus prophesied.

In the late first century the Jews rebelled against their Roman occupiers. By 70AD Jerusalem was been retaken and then completely wiped out. Over a million people died in the rebellion and 100,000 were taken to Rome as trophy slaves to be employed building their famous Colosseum. Titan’s victory arch next to the Colosseum still displays the images carved in stone of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. This wholesale destruction of Israel was what Jesus was talking about. The Christians were warned and when they saw the storm clouds on the horizon the fled Israel as told to by Jesus (Matthew 24:15-20). Israel as a nation ceased to exist in 70AD until May the 14th 1948!

In fact, the Book of Revelation is also mostly about this single seismic event. Consider the following clues:

First, the book of Revelation itself opens by telling all who were about to read the document that it concerns events that must shortly take place (Rev 1:1). The original readers were also told, as concerns the book, to heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near (Rev 1:3). Clearly the events prophesied in the book had immediate relevance to the original readers.

Second, the theme of the book is strongly connected with the destruction of Jerusalem (Rev 11:2, 8, 17:18, 18:9, 19-20), an event that historically took place in 70AD.

Third, John speaks of Nero Caesar as still on the throne (Rev 17:9-10), Nero died in June 68AD.

Fourth, Daniel spoke of the future restoration of Jerusalem, the coming of the Messiah, the sealing up of prophecy and vision, and the destruction of Jerusalem along with its temple in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel also told us that all prophecy would be sealed before the destruction of Jerusalem, and we know from history that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD.

So, there is a lot more to this little passage than meets the eye. I’m sure the statements about demons coming home to roost in an empty human host are correct, but the bigger picture here is the gigantic spiritual switch from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant as witness by the physical, spiritual, political and religious divorce of the nation of Israel once the birth of the church had been completed.

The rest, they say, is history!