Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Matthew 2:1): Why would Mary and Joseph stay two years in Bethlehem? Why wouldn’t they have gone back to Nazareth? Do I have Jesus’s childhood whereabouts right: Born in Bethlehem until 2ish, then told to flee to Egypt until Herod died, then back to where his parents were from in Nazareth?
A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the distance between the regions was great — Nazareth was well north of Jerusalem, Bethlehem was due south — so, it is possible they were not eager to make the return trip. Since Joseph, and possibly Mary, had family in Bethlehem, Joseph may have found work or something with family, but that’s just speculation. You have the rest of the story right.
Q. (Matthew 2:5, 15): Just wondering who the prophet was.
A. In this instance, two different men: the first reference is from Micah, and the second one is from Hosea. Sometimes the source is cited within the text (as in Mark 1), but most times Matthew (writing to a Jewish audience) assumed they knew the texts he was talking about (Jews studied and debated Messianic scriptures extensively in Jesus’ day), but the footnotes always list the reference.
Q. (2:16): I hope you have some reasoning that makes me feel better about the killing of all these baby boys being tied to Jesus’s birth.
A. Not really: Herod was a terribly cruel king who killed members of his own family because he considered them threats to his power. So it is little wonder that he would react powerfully and kill children at the very hint of a threat to his power.
Q. (Luke 2:51): Here it is again, “his mother stored all these things in her heart.” I take from this that Mary is taking note to her child’s actions, thoughts, works and trying to support Him and maybe imagine what He’ll be like.
A. Imagine being able to interact with Jesus as a child or a young man. That surely was fascinating to experience as His mother, and I see no reason that she would not treasure experiences that were surely like this one.
Q. (Mark 1:1b-8): How did John know to baptize? I don’t think we have read why they are baptizing. Have we been told what baptism symbolizes? V. 4 says people should be baptized to show they have repented and turned to God. But how does going under water symbolize this?
A. Baptism as we know it comes out of the ritual washing of the priests from Leviticus. The baptism John offered was one of repentance: the people were immersing themselves in the “cleansing” water (the Jordan is a notoriously unclean river- remember Naaman’s objection in 2 Kings 5?) to show that they were washing away their sin. Baptism (at least immersion) has come to mean following in the footsteps of Christ, and dying (being immersed) and rising to new life (coming to the surface). But in John’s ministry, it was a sign of repentance.
Q. (Mark 1:6,7): If someone was dressed in camel-hair clothes, ate locusts and preached about Jesus, I doubt he would get a lot of followers. Why the wildman lifestyle? A footnote indicates that the Pharisees and Sadducees may have come to the river to be baptized. I would think they would have a hard time accepting John the Baptist as a man of God.
A. You bet they had a hard time, we will see this come into play during Jesus’ ministry. According to the Gospels, John had some sort of big following (though we have no idea how many), but it’s quite clear that his ministry got a lot of “word of mouth” endorsement. How else could all the people hear what was happening outside the city? As to why he went all wildman, I honestly couldn’t tell you, but it surely didn’t put as many people off as you seem to think it did.
Q. What is the purpose of having four accounts — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — of Jesus’s life?
A. To get four different perspectives. Each of the writers has their own pet themes and messages that they desire to share with their respective audiences. I, frankly, love the idea that there is not one, but four different, fully inspired, perspectives on this God-man. How could one even come close to telling the whole story?
One other note: if you take four different eyewitnesses to a major event (a battle, a crime, a miracle, etc.) you are going to get four different perspectives on it; that’s just human nature. So again, the existence (and inspiration) of four different stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is just further proof to me of the depths God was willing to go to ensure that there is a “story” for each of us to connect with. I personally love Luke’s gospel the best, but I find great things I admire about each of them, and I know others who feel the same way about Mark, John, or Matthew.
Q. (Luke 3:16): What does this mean: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”? I don’t understand the “fire” part. Will we get into baptism more later? Or, should I ask some of the questions now. Mainly, is infant baptism, sprinkling, immersion, all the same? I was baptized at a church, dipped underwater. I was always told that full immersion is what the scriptures instruct. Our church has frequent infant baptisms. I always thought the believer had to be old enough to know what it meant to formally accept and proclaim Christ. I was in the Fourth Grade when I got baptized, but I know I didn’t understood the full scope of what it meant to be a Christian. I’m still learning that.
A. If you learn everything about being a Christian, do let me know- then you can answer the questions! Ha!
As to the baptism with fire, it’s a prophecy about Pentecost, which is down the road, so we’ll get to that. There are more baptisms to see in later events, so let’s table the immersion/infant baptism thing for now, because it is long and not easily addressed. I’ll work on it.
Q. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22) These three Gospels all say that the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. What’s the dove symbolism? Why would the Holy Spirit have to descend on Him? He is already God.
A. The dove was (and is) a symbol of peace, which probably had something to do with it. There’s a note of Trinitarian doctrine in this question that’s worth considering: part of the Church’s understanding of the Trinity is that while each person of the Godhead IS God, there remains distinction between them in ways that are difficult to explain or even understand. The way it is traditionally phrased is this: the Father IS God, but is NOT the Son or Spirit. The Son IS God, but is NOT the Father or Spirit. The Spirit IS God, but is NOT the Father or Son. As to why Jesus “needed” the Spirit, I’m not sure there’s a good answer for that. The Spirit will continue to have a huge role in the Jesus’ earthly ministry and beyond.