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FROM THE BACK COVER:
While on Earth, Jesus said some
difficult things. He told the rich to give away all
their money, and the joyful to become mourners. If you
wanted to inherit the Earth, you had to be meek. If your
eye offended you, no problem—as long as you plucked it
out. A friend of mine said, “Can I start following Jesus
on Monday? I’d like to enjoy the weekend.”
Obviously, the words and commandments
of Jesus are pure, perfect, holy—and meant for
Israelites. Jesus Himself said, “I was not sent except
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew
Is it possible we have been struggling
along someone else’s path? What if the words in red were
never meant to be our marching orders?
Several months after leaving Earth, the Jewish Messiah
appeared as a very non-Jewish light to a self-righteous
idiot en route to Damascus to kill Christians.
Up next? Not only a startling new
destiny for believers (heaven instead of Earth) but a
new message of pure grace for all humanity.
This is that story.
* * *
You want to live like Jesus, you really do. You’re
sincere as can be, but it’s an uphill climb. You love
people and you love God, so maybe today will be the day
you can finally imitate His Son. Maybe today you can
finally be meek, turn the other cheek, and rejoice while
getting mud thrown in your face.
Think how good it would feel to be pure—to have no
sin and no guilt. Think how good it would feel to wake
up calm each morning, love everyone during the day, and
rest your head at night with a prayer for your enemies.
And yet it never quite works out that way. In the
darkness of your bed each night, you know who you are.
Jesus was Jesus, but you are you. When you curl up
beneath the covers, you face the terrible truth: It has
been another day of failure and frustration.
If only there were a gospel in the Bible for common,
ordinary human beings. Or even mediocre people. It seems
the gospel of Jesus that tells us to live like Jesus
sets the bar just a little too, um, high.
I know all about it. I was raised Catholic. The nuns
told me all I had to do was be meek and mild like Jesus
(plus do everything else like Jesus) and I would go to
heaven. It seemed like a tall order for someone with
cartoons on his underpants. What did I know? All I
wanted was to play football and eat candy.
I remember asking one of the nuns tormenting me if
she was meek and mild; I
asked her if she
did everything like Jesus. My
mistake. She fingered her rosary, made threatening
gestures with a yardstick, and said of course she did
everything like Jesus; she did it for a living. I wasn’t
so sure. None of the drawings I saw of Jesus ever showed
Him holding a green yardstick.
Nonetheless, when Jesus was on
Earth, He said some difficult things. He told the rich
to give away all their money and follow Him (Mark
10:21). He told sophisticated people to become as
children (Matthew 18:3). If confidence was your thing,
you had to lose it. Were you happy? Sorry to hear that;
you needed to become
sorrowful instead. Here was the prescription: Give up
joy for mourning—and call me in the morning.
All you have to do is obey all the commandments
(Matthew 28:20). If your hand makes you stumble, simply
cut it off (Matthew 5:30). If your eye wanders, it’s not
a problem—as long as you pluck it out (Mark 9:47). Quit
whining; it’s better to enter the kingdom maimed and
blind than to keep making fatal mistakes. If you walk a
mile with someone, tough luck—you must walk another mile
(Matthew 5:41). If someone sues you for the shirt off
your back, it’s still not enough; you must give away
your coat as well (Matthew 5:40). Throw in your shoes
and socks while you’re at it. Better to be safe (and
naked) than sorry.
Be watching and praying—or else (Luke 21:36). If the
Bridegroom arrives and your lamp has no oil, you will be
cast into the outer darkness, where there will be
weeping, gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30), and a
pathetic lack of adult beverages.
Now go in peace, love and serve the Lord—and
have a good day.
No wonder a friend of mine,
after reading the four gospels, said, "I want to live
like Jesus, Martin—I really do—but can I start Monday?
I’d like to enjoy the weekend."
Obviously, the words of Jesus are perfect. His
commandments are pure and holy, refined seven times—and
meant for Israelites. Jesus Himself said, "I was
not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel" (Matthew 15:24, New King
Why have we not believed these
simple words? Is it too shocking to think that—while on
Earth—Jesus preached a national rather than a universal
message? Too tough to admit that Jesus emphasized the
law of Moses (the law given to Israel), rather than
Wouldn’t we be honoring Jesus by believing His own
declaration? Or do we think we are doing Him a favor by
ignoring this plain sentence, supposing we know better
than He does? Are we afraid of limiting Him? Why? While
on Earth, Jesus purposely limited Himself:
"I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house
Am I a lost sheep from the house of Israel? I’m Dutch
and English, actually—with a little French mixed in.
Does that mean Jesus was not sent to
The shocking answer is: That’s
exactly what it means. While Jesus was on
(this is the key), He preached a
national message to Israelites. Period. Which means the
in red are not meant for men and
women (nor kids with cartoons on their underpants) of
the other nations. Nor were the Ten Commandments meant
for any non-Israelites.
Don’t shoot the messenger. I will back myself up with
Scripture every step of the way. ("Those of the nations
have no law"—Romans 2:24.) Keep reading, and you will be
delivered from the cycle of failure and guilt that has
dogged you for months or years. There is another message
(gospel) in the New Testament that
for you. It’s infinitely easier (you get more for
doing less) and Jesus approves of it 100 percent. Why
wouldn’t He? Jesus invented it. But Jesus did not
gospel until He returned to heaven
and traded in His dusty robe for blinding beams of
The gospel that Jesus preached
while on Earth has a name. It’s called, "The Gospel of
the Circumcision" (Galatians 2:7). This gospel is not
for losers. Idiots need not apply. It
for sinners, yes, but the sinners
better shape up quickly before Jesus returns and finds
them slacking. These sinners have to repent. They have
baptized. It helps if they cry a
lot. They definitely need to "produce fruit worthy of
repentance" (Matthew 3:8). All they need to do, really,
is behave themselves constantly or at least try like
crazy. And wiping those silly grins off their faces
wouldn’t hurt, either.
Why do we have such a difficult time shaping up and
producing fruit worthy of repentance? Maybe better to
ask: Why do we instinctively know we
do these things? Why do we give up
to do them? Is it because we are
lazy? Ungodly? Satanic? Because we think we deserve
nothing more than to be crushed
beneath God’s fist? Or could it
be that, deep down, we think God doesn’t really expect
us to weep and wail, repent, and be practically perfect
in every way? But if He doesn’t expect all that, what do
we do with all the Bible verses saying He does expect
it? Could it be there are
Bible verses that say
Are you bold enough to entertain
a new thought? What if we, who are not Israelites, have
a different gospel—in
the one meant for Israel? What if this other gospel even
has a different name? What if it has a different set of
requirements (and a different outlook on run-of-the-mill
people or hapless nincompoops) than the gospel given to
Israel? And—think of this—what if this gospel promises
an enormously better destiny than the one promised to
Were faithful Israelites ever
promised heaven? Not once. Jesus Himself said, "The meek
shall inherit the
(Matthew 5:5). Wouldn’t Jesus have known what He was
talking about? Israelites never dreamed of getting
lifted from Terra Firma. Why would they? Jesus never
spoke to them of such a thing. And neither did their
prophets. Faithful Israelites were promised that they
would rule and reign over the other nations of Earth.
This was the promise God made to Abraham.
Back to my question. What if
this different gospel I have been referring to (the
easier one; the kinder and gentler one; the one that
caters to those of us who are not-so-perfect)
does take people to heaven?
Wouldn’t that be mind-boggling? It would mean that
Sister Mary Yardstick was all wrong. Imitating the walk
of Jesus would not have gotten me to heaven—as she
insisted it would—but would, instead, have kept me on
Earth to rule the other nations. What
get me to heaven would be giving up
trying to be like Jesus and embracing a gospel for
regular folks—assuming such a gospel actually exists.
Wouldn’t that be something God
would do? Bless the socks off average, ordinary people?
Doesn’t it align with everything we know about His
penchant to stun loser-types (fishermen, prostitutes,
taxcollectors) with draughts of favor? So God gives
reformed sinners (obedient Israelites) what He promised
them—namely, Earth—but then later announces a
gospel that seats unworthy people
(those who haven’t a prayer of being like His Son) at
His right hand in the highest regions of heaven.
Would this be a gospel you’d
like to learn about?
What if—after all these years of struggling and
failing to be like the meek and mild Jesus—you have been
laboring upon someone else’s path? Reading someone
else’s mail? Straining to pay someone else’s bill? What
if you have been sweating up someone else’s Mount Sinai,
while misguidedly condemning yourself for not
only losing your way, but repeatedly falling? And
what if ceasing all these struggles will actually land
you a better
destiny than the one you’d have had
if you’d done everything right?
The entire Bible is
for us, but what if not all
of it is to
us? While on Earth, Jesus Christ
directed His words to the descendants of Abraham.
Several hundred years later, someone got the brilliant
idea of taking everything Jesus said and printing it in
red ink. Red is the color of "do this or else," so we
who are not descendants of
Abraham assume these words are
What if they aren’t? What if
Jesus Christ did have a special message for all
humanity, but He saved
message until He had traded in His
earthly sandals for more glorious heavenly footwear?
Several months after Jesus Christ left this Earth from
the Mount of Olives, He appeared as a beam of light
brighter than the sun to a hate-crazed sinner (read:
idiot) en route to Damascus to kill Christians. The
glorified Christ gave this man (the apostle Paul, then
known as the Pharisee Saul) a message so different than
the one the humbled Christ gave Israel (it was grace
instead of law; rest instead of works; joy instead of
dread, heaven instead of Earth), that even the Jews who
believed in Jesus as their Messiah—when they got wind of
this new gospel—wanted the messenger dead.
Today, these two messages—or
gospels—are so completely opposed that people wonder:
How can such a
strict, hardcore Messiah who barely talked to Gentiles
when He was on Earth, suddenly be telling all kinds of
people: "I love you no matter what you do; you are
completely perfect in spite of your behavior or
nationality. And you know what? Leave Earth to Israel; I
am taking you to heaven"? And why are both messages
side-by-side in the same Bible?
Not even I, Martin Zender—The World’s Most Outspoken
Bible Scholar—have the audacity to pit the words of
Jesus Christ (printed in religious red) against the
words of the apostle Paul (printed in standard, boring
black). I don’t have to. These words are not at odds;
they are purposely distinct. Besides, the words of
the apostle Paul are
the words of Jesus Christ—albeit
the glorified Christ Who revealed things to Paul which
God kept hidden while His Son walked among Israelites.
Peaches and pears go together
fine in a salad, but we mix the fruit from disparate
spiritual trees at our own peril.
Does the thought of plucking out your eyes make you
queasy? Are you too tired to go the extra mile? Loathe
to climb one more mountain? In short, are you frustrated
at not being able to live like the sandal-wearing
Rejoice! Not even Jesus expects you to live like
Jesus. He, Himself, brought a new, non-Jewish message to
the most hateful, self-righteous jerk ever to walk the
planet. If God’s grace can save such a loser, then what
are you worried about?
These are Paul’s secrets.
I commend to you this new—yet very old—adventure.
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