Day 295 (Oct. 22): Kingdom of Heaven likened to vineyard workers, Jesus tells disciples of his impending suffering, Jesus teaches about serving others, Jesus heals blind men, Jesus seeks Zacchaeus, story of ten servants with talents

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.

Matthew 20:1-16

Mark 10:32-34

Matthew 20:17-19

Luke 18:31-34

Mark 10:35-45

Matthew 20:20-34

Mark 10:46-52

Luke 18:35-43

Luke 19:1-27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 20:1-16): I understood this until the last sentence.  To me, this is like welcoming people to the Kingdom of God: It doesn’t matter when they come in as long as they do their work and believe.  They will get the same reward.  But, why would the last be first and vice versa?  Just because the first workers complained?  I would think they would all be equal.

A. In the general sense, it is talking about the great reversal of the Kingdom: many who were first (first picked in this story) will be last (paid last in this story).  Jesus is pointing out that not only will there be a reversal, but there will be some surprises along the way.

Q. (Mark 10:32-34, Matthew 20:17-19, Luke 18:31-34): I just noticed, of these three, Luke’s account is more intimate.  I like how Luke 18:31-34 reminds the disciples that Jesus is just going through what the prophets foretold.  So, really, no one should be surprised — except that they did kind of talk in generalities.

A. Note what Luke 18:34 tells us: that the minds of the disciples and Jesus’ followers were kept from seeing what was going to happen clearly until after it was over.

O. (Mark 10:35-45): I bet if all the leaders and bosses realized that they should be humble to those whom they oversee, the world would be a better place.  So, when anyone of authority is chosen, their relationship abilities should be heavily factored in to their selection.  Also, I notice another difference between the OT and NT.  While most of the OT was trying to get the Kings to behave in a godly manner — remember that God never wanted them to have a King, because He was their King and their need not be any other — but they very rarely did (maybe David did a little, but I can’t recall a time).  He wanted them to serve the people, not their own desires.  And, here, Jesus doesn’t a complete 180° and reaches out to the sick, blind, crippled, prostitutes, children — the ones who are totally overlooked by the vast majority of leaders.  As a modern aside, there have been areas that take on welfare themselves by empowering people and it works.  Why not use this model and roll with it.  Perhaps it’s a threat: The powerful think they have to have people under them.

Q. (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52): Jesus way of being a leader is so far different than any other we have seen.  While those with Him are hushing — I guess out of supposed respect for Jesus — these two blind men who are shouting to Jesus for help, Jesus goes to the blind men.  He is really there to serve everyone, and the more humble the better.  Also, when someone calls to Him because they believe, He reaches out to them.  Many — I would say most — leaders just have this air about them that doesn’t consider the suffering of the lowly.

A. Perhaps in reading through the Gospels it becomes more apparent why people have followed after Him for more than 20 centuries.

Q. (Luke 19:1-10): A great story that I have heard since I was a child in Sunday school, and singing the familiar song, is Zacchaeus.  I have never paid attention to the last verse though.  What does Jesus mean by “lost”? Is it everyone who is not following Him or just those who haven’t realized the power of God?  How about those who are sinners, but not seeking change?

A. I rather doubt Zacchaeus was seeking change before he met Jesus, so that certainly could qualify as being “lost”.  Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector who had taken advantage of his position to exploit the people of Jericho.  He was driven by greed and not by compassion, and I suspect this is what Jesus has in mind when He said that Zacchaeus was lost.

Q. (Luke 19:11-27): The Bible says that Jesus used this story to explain to the people that the Kingdom of God will happen, but not for some time.  So, I gather Jesus was telling the people to use their time wisely and make a much larger yield to His harvest (rapture).

A. Honestly, I am not completely sure what He means, but I don’t put a ton of stock in the idea of the rapture, and I hope to be able to share with you why as we continue our readings.  But as to your suggestion of using your time wisely, I would say that this is profound Biblical truth.

Day 291 (Oct. 18): Sheep know their shepherd because He is their protector, Jesus accused of blasphemy, Jesus tells of narrow door to get to heaven, Jesus cries out over state of Jerusalem, Jesus rebuked for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus teaches humility, parable of great feast

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.

John 10:1-42

Luke 13:22-14:24

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 10:16): I would think this is referring to the Kingdom of God?

A. Yes indeed.

Q. (10:29): I would think that “for my father has given them to me” would mean the ones who pass the tests are given to Jesus to care for.

A. Something like that.  It certainly reads like a verse that points to some form of Predestination- God has selected some people to be the “sheep” of Jesus.  What remains a mystery, however, is what “causes” God’s selection.

Q. (10:34): The prophets were called gods?  Why?

A. It is not necessarily referring to prophets.  The verse is from Psalm 82, and appears to be talking about the people of Israel being gods in the sense of having been adopted BY GOD.  Jesus is basically saying that there is scriptural precedent for Him referring to Himself as God in human form, even if those around Him do not see it that way.

Q. (Luke 13:27): So, God is saying that after judgment happens, there are no second chances — we’ve had millions already.  He, of course, used to know you, but since you chose to sin, he has turned his back on you and, frankly, doesn’t care about you, so thus doesn’t “know” you.

A. As we’ve discussed before, when we talk about our relationship with God as a race, we should consider that it is not God that moved or walked away at all, but rather that WE did.  I think that this gives us a proper understanding of what it means that God does not know us, we have no heart or consideration for the things of God, but desire only to go our own way.  This parable is also not saying that there is no hope, but it is a warning that judgment is real, and there are consequences for our rebellion.

Q. (13:30): I think this is so amazing how the tables will be completely turned around.  So, that waitress who you decided not to tip very good is rewarded much more than you are.

A. Its known as the Great Reversal: the last shall be first, and the first last.

Q. (13:33): Jesus calls himself a prophet here?  And, why Jerusalem?  Is it keeping the Scriptures true?

A. He is speaking of Himself as a messenger of God, and it will indeed get Him killed by those who claim to be of God.  Don’t forget that the midst of Jeremiah’s ministry, it was the leaders in Jerusalem who claimed to be speaking for God, but were in fact leading the people astray and telling them that everything was alright even in the midst of a coming threat.  That is the image Jesus has in mind.

Day 290 (Oct. 17): Those who are “ready” for Jesus’s return will be rewarded, the call to follow Jesus causes division, barren fig tree parable, Jesus rebuked for healing on Sabbath, parable of mustard seed, Jesus heals blind man, spiritual blindness

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.

Luke 12:35-13:21

John 9:1-41

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 12:35-36): Why a master and a wedding feast?  The person waiting is a servant, I guess, getting a dinner party ready?

A. Not in this story.  This is the master returning home FROM a party.  In the ancient world, banquets and wedding feasts could literally go for days and weeks.  Thus, a master who was returning home would not be able to tell his servants exactly WHEN he was going to come home.  That is the idea behind what Jesus is telling the people in this story: you’re not going to know the hour of the return.

Q. (12:42-48): After reading this several times, I take it that Jesus means that all of those who proclaim him and are ready in Spirit to welcome Him will be rewarded.  Those who think they’ll “get their act together” and follow Him later will … not be rewarded.  Servant means believer/follower?  Then, v. 48, says that the more Jesus/God has entrusted us with His flock, the more He expects.

A. Yes, I would say you’ve judged correctly.

Q. (12:49-53): Why would Jesus want to cause division?

A. The call to follow Jesus is a radical one, by its very nature.  It is difficult to think of a stronger contrast between men and women who are powerfully following after the Gospel and those who see it as foolishness (as many today do).  So Jesus is not necessarily interesting in CAUSING division, but division is a natural by-product of the message that He has come to proclaim.  We will see this type of division come to its zenith in Matthew 25 with the story of the sheep and goats, so watch for that during Holy Week.

Q. (12:56): Just an interesting point … I always think of the kajillions of things that God could control.  Here, it sounds like the weather just goes on it’s own because the people can monitor it with close speculation.  So, it sounds like to me, God created nature, but it’s on its own unless God chooses to use it for a lesson or reward.

A. The normal way I have heard such things explained is that God established the “laws” of the universe, including for our world.  God certainly has the ability to supersede these laws, but generally chooses not to except for the reasons you mentioned.  So we can study the way that God made the world — what we would call Science, even if you don’t think there is a Creator behind it — which is what the people in Jesus’ story are doing.

Q. (13:1-5): I don’t understand quite what’s going on in this Scripture, but I think I get from it that the people who Pilate murdered were not the worst of sinners.  So, unless they/we repent, we will face the same fate, or worse.

A. It fits under a notion that we have talked about a few times, when you asked me about “good people,” and my reply was basically to say, “there’s no such thing.”  What Jesus is sharing here is we are all deserving of death for our sins, but God spares us in His mercy, and we are not called to judgment for our actions — which the grace of Jesus would cover, but still… .  But even if God chooses NOT to call us into judgment, that does not mean that, on our own, we are undeserving of God declaring that our time is up.  It’s a tough message, no doubt about it, but notice what Jesus is doing: trying to convict people and lead them to repentance.

Q. (13:10-13): This Scripture just reminds me (I’m not saying that Jesus is like them) of the healings I’ve seen on TV where an evangelist will be on stage and start healing people.  They may fall on the floor or whatever.  Can anyone now say they can heal in the name of Jesus?  I would think it would be just for those Jesus had chosen to be in His inner circle.  But, the one man who the disciples didn’t recognize and was healing in the name of Jesus, Jesus was OK with that.

A. I do not put much stock in such efforts: many of those individuals are snake oil salesmen who are just trying to get wealthy, and they do no honor to the Gospel.  Honestly, I am of two minds about your question: I have no doubt that God is capable of using His people today to heal, but I have never witnesses such a thing personally (its not a miracle for nothing — they are rare!)

My big concern is this: imagine the potential for abuse in a person such as your TV preacher were able to heal just by calling on Jesus.  It is nearly unfathomable!  Such a power could be — and frankly would be, knowing human nature — completely exploited for personal gain and fame, and the power of God would be completely forgotten.  It is a sad fact about human nature (see question above) that such and ability would wind up generating fame and wealth for the person rather than glory to God.  Now, let me repeat: God is capable of doing whatever He pleases, but I have not seen a lot of evidence that God DESIRES to provide healing in this way, and clearly the reasons I have mentioned have something to do with that in my opinion.  We will see more about such issues as healing and raising the dead as we get a little deeper into the story, and especially into the story of the early church, so hang in there for more.

O. (13:18-19): Yesterday a friend called in the morning to talk because she was upset.  She called me because she knew I would have good answers on showing grace.  Let me tell you, that is a compliment, but I must say that I struggle with it too.  But, I have been working on it, mostly as a result of reading the Scripture for this blog.  So, I have seen this verse at work. What I have been sifting through this year in the Bible helped me help her.  Jesus used me as an avenue to communicate His love and grace.  I’m so glad she called!  And thus, the “harvest” gets larger!

Q. (John 9:3): I used to think that this kind of structure God has built was not fair at all.  I felt like we are puppets in His world helping His story come true.  Well, we are like that in a way, except we are much more than puppets.  We are His children who He loves very much.  Everything He does is orchestrating our lives so we can live with Him in heaven.  Yes, we have difficulties, but those can just serves as tests to see if we can be faithful.  They are opportunities to be humble, to show that we are not in control.  And, if we believe in Jesus and let Him take over, we will live fulfilled lives all the way to heaven.  Question: I still don’t understand God’s reason for mentally handicapped.

A. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about that.  But I know that there are families that have been so blessed by the joy that a child with, say, Down’s syndrome brings to the family, even if the “side effect” is mental retardation.  I have read stories of the way that special needs children have become cherished members of families and communities, and that many are blown away by their faith in Christ.  It certainly sounds like God can have a myriad of “reasons” for the mentally handicapped: they are still His children, and I suspect that God finds very special ways to communicate to them and through them.

For example, try this one (I confess, I wept a little): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christophers/2012/05/what-down-syndrome-taught-one-mother-about-brokenness-beauty-and-perfection/

Q. (9:16): Jesus is not setting aside the Sabbath for complete rest, but if He didn’t heal people who ask to be healed and have faith in Him, he wouldn’t have peace of mind, i.e. peace.  And, maybe the healing gives Him rest.  It would certainly ease the hearts of the ones He was healing.  But, I think the main point is that the Commandment of “Love one another” outweighs keeping the Sabbath.  And, if you don’t help people because it’s the Sabbath, you are disobeying God’s commandment and causing the person to continue their pain.  That doesn’t sound loving.

A. Amen sister!

Day 285 (Oct. 12): Jesus heals blind man, Jesus asks who people think He is, Jesus foretells His death, three disciples see Jesus glowing alongside Elijah and Moses

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.

Mark 8:22-30

Matthew 16:13-20

Luke 9:18-20

Mark 8:31-9:1

Matthew 16:21-28

Luke 9:21-27

Mark 9:2-13

Matthew 17:1-13

Luke 9:28-36

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?

A. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coHKdhAZ9hU

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.

Day 281 (Oct. 8): Jesus heals the blind, Jesus rejected in hometown, Jesus needs more helpers, Jesus names his 12 apostles, love Jesus above all others

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.

Matthew 9:27-34

Mark 6:1-6

Matthew 13:53-58

Matthew 9:35-38

Mark 6:7-13

Matthew 10:1-42

Luke 9:1-6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 9:37):  The harvest is the people that need to be taught about Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven, and the workers are the disciples and any teacher of God?

A. Nailed it.

Q. (Matthew 10:5): Why did Jesus instruct the disciples to just go to the Israelites?  Why not the Gentiles or Samaritans?

A. Jesus’ mission primarily concerns the Jews first, and this is where Jesus spent most of His efforts.  This mission will radically change, however, after Easter.  Patience.

O. (10:37-39): I admit that this one was a hard one to handle until I started studying the Bible more.  I love that my kids already understand it!

Q. (Luke 9:1-6): Do you think these are directions for just the disciples or should it be applied to anyone spreading the teachings of the Bible?

A. I wouldn’t call it a blueprint for how to do ministry, but I would say that if you feel that God has selected you for a ministry (whatever doubts or anxieties you might have), then you can trust that He will provide for your needs.  That was what Jesus was telling them: God would supply their needs, and therefore, while it was tempting to take resources along, they should resist the temptation and test their faith in the Lord.  It was good practice for their coming mission, and in the ways to walk by faith.