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 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10): I think this story is the epitome of how strong our faith in God should be and how much we should love our fellow man. First of all, this officer is concerned about his youngest servant (we read in Luke’s version, vs. 7:4-5, that this man had built a synagogue), but he is courageous enough to ask Jesus to help the man. And, as for courageous, I wouldn’t think the Roman leadership would be all that friendly with Jesus. Then, as an officer, he himself is important in society, yet he knows that he can in no way compare to the Lord Jesus Christ, so he humbles himself. But, he is 100 percent sure that Christ can heal his servant just by willing it from afar. Amazing story! In v. 11-12 is telling us that the Israelites are no longer set apart? Is God acknowledging here that the Israelites being set apart as His people for the world to learn from did not work?
A. Not at all! The Gospels provide what we might call the pivot point between God’s work in the OT (almost exclusively with the Jews) to opening up the message of salvation in Christ to the whole world: Jew and Gentile. But it is only within the community of Israel that God was able to bring about the Messiah — the person of Jesus, who was the personification of a good Jewish man. Paul in particular will talk about the ways that God “transitions” between a message only for His chosen people (which they remain to this day), and to the whole world via the Messiah. So it is wrong to assume that God “failed” in His plan — saving the world via the Messiah WAS His plan. As Jesus points out in this reading, the Law and the Prophets have been leading up to Him, the culmination of God’s plan, not the contingency.
Q. (Luke 7:13): We read here and other places where Jesus cried. Jesus coming to the Earth gave the world a human version of God who looks, acts (except for the sins) and feels just like we do. Because He is in human form, we can relate to Jesus better. Jesus is the epitome of who God wants us to be. Last night, I was at a church partnership meeting where we were talking about the Trinity. The minister was talking about the OT where it says “the Angel of the Lord.” The minister said that angel was more glorious than Gabriel or other angels we have read about. This one seemed to carry the authority of God. So, theologians/scholars believe that this was Jesus in heavenly form. Your opinion on that, Rob?
A. I’ve heard that theory, but don’t put much stock in it myself. My take on it would be that God has long used angels (don’t forget what we talked about in the OT— a messenger in ancient times was seen as the sender Himself, in this case God). So there is really no reason that God HAD to use Himself (in the form of the Son, what we call a Christophany, God in human form). I suppose it is possible, but I think the idea of an Angel of the Lord (and just because the angel is not names doesn’t mean they don’t HAVE a name) being God the Son is something that is a bit unnecessary, but you never know.
Q. (Matthew 11:6): What does this mean? “ ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me”?
A. Those who do not turn away from Him on account of His message. It is a call to keep the faith and trust in Him.
Q. (11:7-11): I don’t understand this interaction. Why would John the Baptist question who Jesus is? I thought they had long acknowledged one another. Then, in v. 11, Jesus says that John is greater than anyone who has ever lived. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about John at all. We know much more about Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon. How could John be greater than them?
A. I don’t have a perfect answer, but my suspicion is that John was having his doubts about his cousin because Jesus wasn’t “being Messiah” fast enough for him. Perhaps he was wondering why Jesus had not overthrown the Romans in Israel, or become king, or done something to “take over.” Like everyone else, I doubt John would have had any understanding of Jesus’ true mission (even if he understood Jesus to be the Lamb of God). Jesus came to rule, but His “coronation” was in a way that no one would expect.
As to John being “greater,” what Jesus refers to here is not so much that John is “great,” but that he is the last in the line of prophetic succession. John is the last of the old way, and Jesus will usher in the New. So Jesus isn’t saying John is more accomplished then the figures you mentioned, only that he is the final messenger to the Lord’s coming.
Q. (Luke 7:18): Why would John the Baptist have disciples?
A. Because the people saw him as a teacher worthy of respect, basically a rabbi. Rabbis of Jesus’ day (including John) would have had followers as Jesus did. And just because some of John’s followers decided to follow Jesus instead (with John’s blessing) did not mean that they all did. John’s followers will have an influence on the Gospel story until even after the resurrection.
Q. (Matthew 11:20): After all the miracles, these people of Korazin and Bethsaida still have hard hearts?
A. Yes, just like the Israelites in the wilderness.
Q. (Matthew 11:28-30): This makes me want to run to Jesus for a long vacation with no worries. For some people, that last verse may be troubling because it can seem that defending Jesus and living up to His word can be burdensome when others do things differently than us. But, I think once that I accepted Jesus as my Savior, then I recognized it wasn’t hard because He is so marvelous.
A. Jesus is telling His people to move beyond the heavy burden of legalism, into the “lighter” burden of personal relationship with Him, and therefore God. I like the way you put it in your last sentence.
Q. (Luke 7:47): This is a bit confusing because it almost sounds like the more sinful you are the more you can be forgiven. So, it almost sounds like it promotes more sin. I don’t think that’s what it is saying. I think it’s saying that because Jesus forgave such a huge sin, which she understood the depth of that, that she was more thankful and gracious to Jesus than the average person.
A. If you recall, our pastor Jim preached on this passage quite recently, and that was exactly his conclusion: those who understand they have been forgiven will be much more likely — though its not guaranteed — to forgive and love others. Those who do not realize what help they need from Jesus are much more likely to be “stingy” with the love and forgiveness. So perhaps that should be a sort of litmus test for our understanding of God’s forgiveness (it certainly is for Jesus in this story): Christians who forgive readily and love generously are much more likely to understand what God has truly done for them.