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. (Mark 8:26): Why did Jesus tell the healed man to not go back to the village on his way home?
A. It is most likely because it would not have been possible for him to keep his healing a secret, which keeps with our secret Messiah theme of Mark. Symbolically (something I’m sure not lost on the writer), it can be interpreted as saying, “there is no going back the way you came.”
Q. (Mark 8:27): Why does Jesus keep asking his disciples who others believe He is?
A. Keep? As far as I know, He only did it once, but it is simply recorded three times. As to why He is asking, my suspicion is His desire to help His disciples see a crucial issue: it does not matter what the crowd sees and believes, what matters is what YOU believe.
Q. (Matthew 16:15-20): Why is Jesus calling Peter the “Rock” and what is Jesus talking about when He says that the church will be built on him?
A. Well, the most obvious answer is that Peter (Petros in Greek) means “rock” — it was a new name or nickname Jesus gave to Simon when He called Peter into service. Peter/Simon will be the true leader of the Apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection, so it will truly be upon the rock — Peter himself — that the foundations of the new church will be laid.
Roman Catholics go a step further, and make the argument that what Jesus is telling Peter is that he is to be the head of the church for all time, and that he is to pass his power down via succession to men after him. Since Peter ends up in Rome — more on that later — he is known as the first Bishop of Rome. Today, that same position goes by a different title, but it is still the same office: Papas or Pope, the single leader of the one billion Catholics worldwide. The Papal office makes the claim that there is unbroken succession between the man sitting in the Bishop’s seat now, Francis I, and Peter himself, 2000 years ago. Other branches of Christianity — notably the Orthodox church — reject this position, and the role of the Bishop of Rome has literally divided the Church for more than a thousand years. Protestants, of course, have their own reasons for rejecting the Papal office, and generally acknowledge Peter as being gifted with only the first, not eternal, leadership of the Church on Earth.
Q. (Mark 8:34): The Israelites wouldn’t know what “take up your cross” means. Can you explain this?
A. Oh yes they would. There are several reasons for that. First, crucifixion was not originally a Roman punishment: it had its origins in the Middle East around the time the Jews were in exile. The Persians and Medians both practiced a form of crucifixion, and it is likely many Jews died this way. But it was the Romans who PERFECTED the art of the slow and torturous death upon a cross in the manner we see Jesus crucified in. But, very sadly, the Romans crucified Jews for centuries before Jesus came onto the scene. Very often — as Jesus will — the victims were forced to carry their cross as part of a shaming ceremony to the place of their execution. Around 88 BC (so we’re in the vicinity of Jesus’ lifetime), more than 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Romans. The execution line stretched for hundreds of yards, and it was surely a gruesome display. The reason? A powerful warning to any who would undermine Rome: this can happen to you. In Jesus’ day, it was a common place punishment for criminals and those who chose to undermine the state. Know about “taking up a cross”? It was probably a weekly occurrence.
Q. (Mark 8:36): Name that tune! V. 36 is a popular song right now on the radio. Anyone want to find the song and then we’ll see what we can do. Do the people have any concept of soul?
Here’s the song, good one. Most Jews in Jesus’ day believed in some sort of state of immortality, and that God would raise them to new life on the last day.
Q. (Matthew 16:27-28): I thought Jesus was our savior and God was our creator.
A. Jesus is our savior, but He is also going to be the Judge of all humanity. This is one of the most common refrains of the NT: Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Q. (Luke 9:26): So, we are not to be ashamed of God. That can be a tough one until you understand the importance of life. There are a lot of people out there who go to church, but won’t pray.
A. Prayer is certainly important, but ultimately Jesus desires us to be changed by His efforts, and prayer is only one avenue of it (albeit an important one). The question we have to ask ourselves is “are others capable of seeing the work God is doing in my life, or not?” If we are making an intentional effort to conceal our faith, well, then I’d say Jesus’ warning is a stern one.
Q. (Mark 9:2-13): Is it important who Jesus revealed His secret too?
A. If you mean is there something significant about Peter, James, and John, then yes. They are Jesus’ inner inner circle, if that makes sense. They are the three men, even among His apostles, that are closest to Him, and will most closely share His journey.
O: (Matthew 17:5-6): This is an incredible time. God has known all along that He was going to sacrifice His son and now after hundreds or thousands of years, he finally has to go through with it.
Q. (Matthew 17:12): Have we read anything about Elijah returning?
A. Yes. We read about his parents and his birth in Luke 1, John talks about him in John 1, and Jesus is talking about him here. We addressed who Elijah is — not a reincarnation of the man himself, but the voice of a Prophet — a few days ago, but I can’t remember the reference.