18:18 "Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself."
The Bible is a very concise collection of writings. Considering the vast time period covered and the lack of details about many things there is no doubt the Bible could be super long. It could span volumes and be hundreds of thousands of pages long but it isn't. Even Jesus' life and ministry is extremely brief. John tells us at the end of his recounting of events that if everything Jesus did were written down the world couldn't contain the books. Obviously an exaggeration but you get his point. The Bible is very much the Coles Notes version.
What is my point? In high school I will never forget an assignment given to us by our french literature teach Mme MacNish. We had to write an essay of 2500 words. Then we had to rewrite it using only 1500 words without dropping any of the substance. Then 1000 words all the way down to 150 words. We had to keep cutting while maintaining the essence of the essay. The heart of the story could not be lost. It was the most difficult assignment I ever remember doing.
Here's the thing: When you cut to the bare essentials what is left is heavy with meaning. You have to make every word, phrase, and sentence count. There is no space for fluff or extras. So far John has crammed so much into his story that I have written over 130000 words about it and I'm only on chapter 18. Even more crazy is how much more I could have talked about. So here's the question for today: Why does John spend a sentence 30 words long to tell us that the officers and Peter warmed themselves by a fire?
In a Book spanning thousands of years and monumental events and bigger than life characters and stories is such a detail really necessary? Does it belong?
Apparently John thought so. Why? What was he using those 30 words to say?
It's dark. It's cold. Cold enough to need a fire is not impossible in late March in Jerusalem but it is certainly unusual. They make a fire. We are even told how they made the fire - with coals. This is sanctuary language. The fire on the altar of incense was a coal fire.
In the sanctuary there was always a fire burning on the altar of sacrifice. Always. God sent fire from heaven to light it and it was always burning. Coals from this altar were carried in and used to burn the incense on the small altar inside the holy place. It was a coal from this fire in the sanctuary that was used to purify Isaiah's lips when he became God's spokesman.
Warmth and light were always present in God's sanctuary.
Light came into the world and shone in the darkness but the darkness did not comprehend it.
Jesus was that Light. They are in the process of putting the Light out or at least trying to. As a result it is getting cold and dark. A fire is lit to compensate for the lack of light and warmth. Around the fire are gathered the officers representing the enemies of Jesus. Peter is there also representing those who love Jesus but all are suffering from the lack of warmth and light.
Here's the reality. The further we push Jesus away the colder and darker it gets. I was shocked this week as I read in the Washington Post that so far in 2015 in the United States there have been 355 mass shootings. A mass shooting is defined by one or more shooters injuring or killing at least 4 people. That is more than one mass shooting per day. The one in San Bernardino we're all hearing about was only one of two that day. You can find all of them here:
Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that we can't allow these shootings to become normal. The Washington Post affirmed with plenty of evidence that they already are. The world is getting colder and darker. It is affecting everyone, whether they be for or against Jesus. It is happening because we are pushing Him further and further away. We live in a strange world where we have the freedom to produce and advertise the most violent movies and video games but don't have the freedom to advertise prayer. We live in a world where religion is getting the blame for everything. Often religion deserves the blame but often it does not. The Columbine massacre had zero to do with religion. We are looking for something to blame. For some it's religion, for others it is guns. America has had lots of both for centuries but only recently have we seen such relentless and senseless violence and disregard for human life on American soil. Others blame Muslim extremism. While it is true that the shooting in San Bernardino may end up being connected with ISIS none of the other 355 mass shootings in 2015 had any ties to Islamic extremism.
The Bible says Jesus is the Light of the world and when He is pushed away it gets cold and dark. No human fire or policy change or even enforced religion will supply the lack. Jerusalem had wall to wall religion before Jesus came but was still cold and dark.
We are all going to suffer in the cold and dark. The Bible describes our times as the withdrawing of God's presence.
Do you want some good news?
"Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I Am going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I Am there you may be also." - Jesus
As sure as the dark and cold have come, just as surely He will come. :)