Date: 6 November 2000
To: Ben H. Swett
Subject: Who Killed These People?
Acts 5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. 3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.
And then Ananias' wife died.
A heart attack or murder?
Maybe they both had heart attacks, caused by the thought they had sinned against God, but maybe it was an unintentional effect of Peter's anger. The power to bless can be the power to curse, the power to heal can be the power to harm, according to the emotion behind it. For sure, Peter was angry at them at that moment.
Jesus dumped his anger on a fig tree before he went to the Temple to drive out the money-changers. Otherwise his anger might have withered them as it withered the fig tree.
These two reports in scripture illustrate why I don't want any more psychic power than I already have.
This is new to me, dumping anger to the fig tree. All this time I thought Jesus was showing his disciples things they can do if they believe. The power of faith and mind, even could move the mountain.
Ben< The power of faith and mind can do a lot of things. Not all of them are good. I think Jesus was warning his disciples: this power can be misused.
Ben< If you could move a mountain with the power of faith and mind, would you do it? What about all the people and animals who are living on that mountain?
Rio< And an argument from me: anger for not finding a fruit on that tree? I don't think my Lord could be so easily angry at a small thing like a fruit.
Ben< I agree with this line of argument. I think he wasn't angry at the fig tree; I think he was angry at the money-changers, and he used the fig tree to discharge the energy of his anger before he went to the Temple to drive them out.
Rio< I thought anger turns to love the more we are closer to God, when we know God's love.
Ben< I think Jesus loved the money-changers even though he was very angry at what they were doing to the faithful people who came to the Temple -- and because he loved the money-changers, he dumped the energy of his anger on a fig tree (where it wouldn't hurt anyone) instead of dumping it on them.
Rio< I practice this: When I get angry at someone on the street (while driving), I try not to yell or stay angry; instead, I am trying to change the anger to blessing. I am far from it most of the time, but I am trying ... every day. And also I practice this at every occasion to everyone. They are all my brothers and sisters, having the same potential as me, becoming sons and daughters of God, although they have a tendency to go astray, and some are chasing what they desire.
Ben< Yes. Good. You are conditioning your own reactions, to bless and not curse.
Ben< What will you do if and when you feel yourself filled with righteous anger? If you repress the anger, it will boil inside you (that isn't good for you), and it may pop out later as an over-reaction to some minor offense. It is much better to learn how to discharge your anger where it won't hurt anyone. When I was angry, my mother used to send me out to "chop down that tree" (it was a standing dead tree), and it took me almost a year to chop it down, but chopping until I was tired burned off my anger without hurting anyone.
Rio< I don't understand the part where you said the power to bless can be the power to curse, etc. The more we bless, the more power we get, and then that provides us with more power we could use to curse?
Ben< Yes. The more power anyone has, the more good or bad that person can do. This is true of all kinds of power. Even political power.
Rio< Bless and curse are the intention. To heal and to harm are the intention; they are different. I think this is different from medicine (could kill or cure) or like a knife (to cut or kill).
Ben< To bless and heal are good intentions, and good results. To curse and harm are bad intentions, and bad results. We who want good results work with good intentions; however, we can also do things unintentionally. The more power anyone has, the more good or bad that person can do, either intentionally or unintentionally. This is why we work to develop more and more self-control, both of our intentions and of the amount of power (energy; in Greek, dunamis) that we apply to specific intentions.
Rio< I thought blessing could make someone brighter and closer to God, and a curse will come back to us, like a boomerang. I don't understand this one. Need more help.
Ben< Yes, blessing does make us brighter and closer to God. Our own blessings bless us automatically, because the emotions that generate a blessing heal us from within. Blessing others is the will of God because it is always good for us (and it may also be good for them).
Ben< No, a curse doesn't necessarily come back to us like a boomerang. Our own curses curse us automatically, because the emotions that generate a curse burn inside us. Cursing others is contrary to the will of God because it is always bad for us (and it may also be bad for them).
Is it before or after? (Matt 21:12-22) If it is after, and if it is anger, the energy (or residue) could have damaged the blind and the lame who came to Him after he drove out the money-changers (Matt 21:14). Or Matthew has the chronological time wrong? (Matt 21:12-13 should be after Matt 21:18-22 ?)
Mark 11:11-21 has the sequence I believe is correct.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (Mark 11:11)
On the following day (Monday), as they were walking from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped and cursed the fig tree. Then he went on into Jerusalem, entered the Temple, and drove out the money-changers. That evening, they went out of the city again. (Mark 11:12-19)
The next day (Tuesday), as they were walking to Jerusalem in the morning, his disciples saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, "Master, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered." (Mark 11:20-21)
Mark wrote the earliest Gospel. And there is a very early tradition that Mark was Peter's secretary, writing down what Peter said, so his sequence is probably the way Peter remembered it. Matthew copied from Mark, but I think he missed this sequence (and added the line that says the fig tree withered immediately), because he assumed that Jesus drove the money-changers out of the Temple on Palm Sunday. Luke's Gospel and John's Gospel don't have the fig tree incident.
As to the blind and lame people who came to be healed, Jesus always responded to them with compassion; and to heal them, he would first have to neutralize any residue of his anger. A blessing must be both pure and powerful, to heal as he did.
If He had dumped the anger on the fig tree (Mark 11), what was the overturning of tables and benches? The sight is awsome, I think, like throwing things when we are angry, dumping the energy, punching the sand bag, chopping tree, yelling or cursing ...
Ben< Jesus obviously didn't dump ALL of his anger on the fig tree. He saved some for the money-changers (and enough so that none of the Temple guards dared to try to stop him), but not enough to do more damage than he intended to do.
Rio< The lines used: "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." (Mark) "May you never bear fruit again!" (Matthew) This is different from "chop that tree" ... chop, chop, chop, chop ... and no "may" word. I think, in this case, maybe a simple: "wither"... or no words. Maybe He just placed His hands on the tree. (I hope you understand what I mean)
Ben< Yes, this is different by many orders of magnitude from the little boyhood angers I worked out by chopping a dead tree, but the principle is the same.
Rio< Mark gives a different sight than Matthew, different impact. How could this time sequence difference have occured? Maybe this part and other parts like this, or like the word to the tree (Mark 11, Matt 21), were not inspired by the Holy Spirit? Only their human brain's memory? I found other differences between Matthew and the others: [He lists several examples]
Ben< There are a LOT of differences between the Gospels. None of them were written by the hand of God. All of them were written by fallible human beings, from a pile of notes, and probably some interviews with some of those who were there. I believe these writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit to do the best they could with the materials they had available. Our job is to do the best we can with the treasure they passed down to us.
PS: I have assembled this series of emails, edited them for typos and such, and with your permission, I would like to post the result under Dialogues on my website. As I usually do, I have kept only your first name to protect your privacy. I can change your name to a nickname if you wish, or publish this dialogue with your full name if you prefer.
I see it is very late there, almost morning. Having trouble sleeping? I hope it is not because of me. :)
On your website, please do so. I am very glad I could do something to help others who may have the same questions. You have my permission, first name it is.
One more thing, I took another look at your "Spiritual Shower" -- a thought told me to look at it again. I think this kind of shower could help us deal with our anger (emotional burden). Or for me ... praying.
Thank you, Ben, thank you very much for everything.
Peace and Blessings to you and yours,