Day 337 (Dec. 3): Paul tells his story to crowd but is rebuked, Paul tells of Roman citizenship to thwart lashing, Paul goes before high council, Jews conspirte to kill Paul, Paul is sent to Caesarea

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.

Acts 21:37-23:35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 22:3, 22:25): Paul said he was from Tarsus, but then he says he was born in Rome.  These two places are far apart aren’t they?

A. Ha!  Being a Roman citizen is not the same as being BORN in Rome.  A Roman citizenship could be granted in any province of the Empire — including Tarsus, where Paul is from — and it would mean that Paul’s family was wealthy and influential.  It basically means that Paul was an official citizen of the Roman Empire, which put him squarely under the protection of the commander and governor.  Paul is pulling out his “trump card” here in order to “move up the ladder” and witness to those in authority.

Q. (22:22-23): I guess the crowd didn’t like Paul’s story?

A. Nope, they did not, but it won’t matter.

Q. (23:6): This is the first time I’ve heard Paul call himself a Pharisee.  Why did he do that?

A. Because he was one — he will talk about it more in Philippians — but he did so in this case to divide Sadducee and Pharisee in order to, again, avoid trouble and remove himself from the situation.  He’s clever in that way.

Day 336 (Dec. 2): Paul meets the Ephesian elders and tells of his looming persecution, Paul says he has done all he can for the church, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, Paul is warned of his persecution, Paul is arrested and endures violent crowd

Countdown: 29 days

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.

Acts 20:13-21:36

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 20:21): The charge is so easy and clear, but it gets lost so often because of human characteristics of pride, jealousy and greed.  I’m sure there are more.

Q. (Acts 20:26, 21:4): Paul has used every moment of his new life — not when he persecuted Christians — to reach as many people as possible to tell them the Good News so they would follow God.  So, now he has put the responsibility of their salvation in their hands, saying he has done everything possible to save them.  And, he is telling them that this is their last chance to listen to him since he knows he will be persecuted in Jerusalem.  But, why can’t Paul be protected from this persecution by the Holy Spirit telling him to go elsewhere?  Jesus already died on the cross, why does Paul need to die a martyr’s death?  This leads me to the next question in v. 21:4.  Why would the Holy Spirit tell the believers to plead with Paul not to go to Jerusalem when the Spirit is guiding Paul there?  Is it that they were told his fate by the Holy Spirit so that’s why they don’t want him to go — not really that the Spirit TOLD them to keep Paul from going to Jerusalem?

A. This scene points to some important issues, so let’s clear some things up.  The Spirit is using the prophets along the way to warn Paul about what fate will befall him, but NOT to keep him from going — 20:22 tells us plainly that the Spirit is compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem, though he will be captured.  Now there are several reasons for this, but the major one that is worth noting is what God will do THROUGH Paul while he is captured. You will see how this happens as we continue reading Acts and in his so-called “Prison letters” — Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Now I understand the question at the heart of what you’re asking: why does Paul have to die if Jesus already died.  Well, the answer is…he’s not dead yet, and God will use Paul in powerful ways before he dies.  Paul has no interest in “dodging” suffering: he desires to be used for the Glory of God, and if that is the way God desires to use him, then Paul is ready.  Note what happened with the Jailer back in Acts 16: Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, but God used this beating and imprisonment to proclaim a message of salvation to the Jailer and his whole family- something that NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED without Paul and Silas being in prison.  It is our nature — especially modern society — to try our best to dodge and avoid pain and suffering as much as possible, but God has always used pain and suffering to accomplish his ends, including the death of his followers.  While it can be uncomfortable to hear about, we must understand that it was through suffering that God used Jesus to change EVERYTHING for us!  God brings light out of the darkest places, if we will but follow and have faith.

Day 307 (Nov. 3): Jesus on trial before Pilate, Pilate releases Barabbas for Passover, Pilate tries to free Jesus, Crowd convicts Jesus, Pilate sentences Jesus, soldiers mock Jesus

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 15:2-5

Matthew 27:11-14

Luke 23:1-12

John 18:28-40

Mark 15:6-15

Matthew 27:15-26

Luke 23:13-25

John 19:1-16

Mark 15:16-20

Matthew 27:27-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 23:1-2): What’s the deal with the different charges?  Why are they not merely accusing Jesus of blasphemy?

A.  They can’t do that and get Pilate to execute Him, so they have to make charges up and hope Pilate goes along with them, which Pilate does NOT appreciate.  There’s an interesting article on the trials Jesus goes through (the legal ones) here: http://www.1215.org/lawnotes/lawnotes/jesustrial.htm, and I’m going to quote for the author about what is going on here, because he summarizes it so well:

If they presented Jesus as a man convicted of blasphemy on the testimony of only two witnesses who did not agree, Pilate would reverse their verdict. If they presented Jesus as one convicted by his own confession, Pilate would set the verdict aside. And, of course, if they reported Jesus was convicted by unanimous verdict, Pilate would enter a verdict of acquittal. So the guilty priests presented Jesus to Pilate on a new charge they trumped up on the spot: treason against Caesar.

So that is why Jesus is accused of treason: it was the only way that they could get Pilate to convict Him.

Q. (Mark 15:2-5, Matthew 27:11-14, Luke 23:1-12): Why did Jesus retort, “You have said it.”  Why didn’t He just say “yes?”  And, why didn’t he simply answer the leaders questions instead of being silent?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  Jesus has gone to great lengths to not publicly declare (though never deny) that He is the Messiah, and this event and the “trial” before the Sanhedrin appears to be no exception.  His answer strikes a middle ground between a blunt “yes” and a denial: note that both times He uses this phrase (which translates something like “your words not mine”), those asking the question treat His answer as a “yes” anyway.

Q. (John 18:30-31): So, it was against Jewish law to execute, so they handed Jesus over to the Romans so they could kill Him?

A. That’s about right.

Q. (Mark 15:6): The Romans have adopted the Passover?  The Passover is a Jewish holiday, but the Roman governor has a tradition of releasing a prisoner?

A. No, the Romans had allowed the Jews to continue to observe Passover.  The celebration would have been massive in the city, and there is an undercurrent in the story that is worth noting here: Pilate’s actions in turning Jesus over to be crucified are directly the result of his fear that the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for Passover will riot or even revolt, and Pilate is doing his best to keep the peace.  And I suspect in Pilate’s mind, even if he didn’t really want to kill Jesus, that it was worth killing one Jew in order to maintain control of hundreds of thousands of them.

Day 284 (Oct. 11): Jesus helps Gentile woman, Jesus heals deaf man and others, Jesus feeds 4,000, Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a miracle

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 7:24-30

Matthew 15:21-28

Mark 7:31-37

Matthew 15:29-31

Mark 8:1-10

Matthew 15:32-39

Matthew 16:1-4

Mark 8:11-21

Matthew 16:5-12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 7:26b, 28): How would one know if someone was a Jew or Gentile without talking to them?  Jesus is calling the Gentiles “dogs” right?  He’s saying that He is supposed to take care of his own people before others?  She said though even the dogs are hanging around and getting love from the master.  But, this woman proved faithful, a hint that Jesus’s love and his salvation are meant for everyone?

A. Pretty much if they didn’t live in Judea, they were a Gentile.  It is very likely they dressed different as well.  In the story Jesus appears to be testing the woman (for reasons lost on me) and say that He has been sent to the Jews first (which is consistent with what He’s been saying the whole time).  But since her faith is proven, Jesus grants her daughter’s healing.

Q. (Mark 8:1-10, Matthew 15:32-39): Why do we hear this same story again only with 1,000 (plus wives and children) fewer people?  I’m guessing it’s because that the people — Jesus’s disciples, in particular — were still wavering on who Jesus was.

A. This crowd was probably more of a Gentile gathering than the feeding of the 5000, and note that Jesus refers to both feedings, which indicate their separate inclusion is not an accident.  It certainly appears to be something of a repetition to emphasize Jesus’ care for the needs of the crowd.

Q. (Matthew 15:33): The wilderness is brought up many times in the New Testament.  I’m guessing that the wilderness symbolizes a place 180° from the towns.  It’s where you could be alone with God and away from all the bad influences in crowded areas.  It’s also a place where you would become more dependent on and thus, close to, God, relying on Him for your own survival.

A. You’ve got the idea.  Jesus, in entering the wilderness, is again connecting with the history of His people, since they obviously spent many years in the wilderness during the Exodus period (a Matthew theme).

Q. (16:2-4): Can you explain why Jesus is referring the Pharisees and Sadducees to the story of Jonah?

A. In Jonah’s story, Jonah spent time in the belly of the great fish (a whale by tradition, but the word whale is never used either in Jonah or by Jesus).  He spent three days and nights in the belly of the fish.  There is some thinking that goes that since Jonah was inside the fish, the stomach acids discolored Jonah’s skin and hair, which would have made him look very strange.  Thus, when he finally traveled to Nineveh on his mission, it would have been very easy to get the people’s attention: he looked discolored, and possibly pale white.  This was apparently a sign to the people of Nineveh.  In the same way, Jesus’ body being buried and then returning to life in a different form (more on that later) was the sign to all those who were seeking after Him that His words were true.  The resurrection would prove to be the final “sign” that the people (including the religious leaders) sought, and many, including some of those leaders, would come to believe.  That’s the sign of Jonah Jesus refers to.

Q. (Mark 8:21): Jesus will give you all that you need.  He won’t skimp.

A. I like it.

Day 275 (Oct. 2): Word spreads about Jesus’s miracles, Jesus draws crowds, Jesus prays and chooses 12 disciples, Sermon on the mount, Beatitudes, sorrow awaits the rich, teaching about salt and light, followers of God’s law will be rewarded, reconcile your anger, lessons on: adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, love for enemies, giving to needy

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 3:7-19

Luke 6:12-16

Matthew 5:1-12

Luke 6:17-26

Matthew 5:13-48

Luke 6:27-36

Matthew 6:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 3:9): Jesus seems to use a boat often.  Is there any significance to that or is it just a way to speak to a crowd without getting trampled?

A. It would allow Him to be seen by the crowd as well.

Q. (Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16): Rob, I believe you mentioned the number “12” way back one of our tribes of Israel discussion because, of course, there were 12 tribes.  Now we have 12 apostles.  Any significance?  And, the words “apostles” and “disciples” mean the same thing, right?  From Luke 6:12-16, it sounds as if maybe God helped Jesus choose which men to pick for His followers since Jesus prayed all night.

A. Yes, there was definitely a political message here, and it would have been read as such by all the Jews Jesus encountered.  In selecting 12 close followers, Jesus was basically implying the creation of a new nation — he was selecting 12 new “patriarchs,” implying a renewal or radical movement within Judaism.  Overall, it would actually have been interpreted in a fairly similar manner to His discussion of new wineskins from our previous reading: the old way isn’t enough anymore; I’m doing something new.

O. (Matthew 5:3-10): I remember sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table learning the books of the Bible, the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  I learned the New International Version, which, to me, flows more smoothly.  Here it is:

Matthew 5:3-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

O. (Matthew 5:11-12, Luke 6:22-23): How funny this would be to have someone mocking someone and mockee starts giggling and jumping for joy.

O. (Luke 6:24-26): The subject of this verse must be the direct opposite of the Beatitudes.

Q. (Matthew 5:14-16): I would take it that this doesn’t mean showing off.  It means that your good deeds should be a reflection of God.  Your deeds should make others happy, thus spreading God’s light.  Is this an accurate interpretation?

A. I think a more accurate way to think of it would be to say your deeds should reflect God’s heart, regardless of how they make people feel.  If done in the right spirit this is a powerful witness to God’s ability to change and direct our lives.

Q. (Matthew 5:19): So, here is one of the verses I was looking for during the Old Testament readings.  There are heavenly rewards for obedience to the Laws of Moses.  Those who are doers of the Word and not just believers will earn extra credit in Heaven?  I think we’ve talked about this before.

A. It is hard to tell exactly what Jesus means here, but I think the implication is clear: the desire to follow God’s Law (not because we have to, but because we choose to) is a noble desire, one that God rewards in some way.

Q. (Matthew 5:22, 23-24): Just when I was feeling good about my performance on earth and who I am becoming, I find a verse that I’m guilty of.  I know I have called several people “idiots” in my life time, one in particular, which I’m sure I need to repent.  When we repent, are we to go to the person with whom we have a conflict and right it with them and then go to God?  I always just thought repenting means to go to God.  Is repenting from something 10 years ago still required?  Honestly, this guy at work was above me and not qualified for his job.  He was making tons of mistakes in newsprint.  And, I have never felt the need to tell him I was sorry for my attitude toward him.  I feel more like I should apologize to God.

A. The Sermon on the Mount (what the version from Matthew is called) is a guide to living for those who are in Christ.  It is not a list of requirements or things we must do in order to make God love us.  So remove any ideas of “requirement” from your mind: that’s not what this is about.  This is about the best way to live in God-honoring relationship with the people around us, and much of it starts with our desire to repent of our actions.  If you feel like you should seek out forgiveness from those you have wronged, it might be the Spirit compelling you to do so, even if it would be uncomfortable.  Seeking forgiveness and repenting (even if the other person doesn’t know about the wrong) is certainly good advice in how to maintain peace within your own soul.  How far you go and who you tell is between you and God.

Q. (Matthew 5:27-30): There are tons of people guilty of this.  Not only do you have the ones that have had a divorce and knowingly cheated on their spouses, but here you have all of those folks that raise an eyebrow to anyone they find attractive.  These are those thoughts that you can hide from most everyone except God.

A. Admiring a woman’s (or man’s — women are not excluded) beauty is not the sin.  It is what you might call “lingering” on it, or envisioning yourself in ways that are inappropriate, and you certainly wouldn’t be willing to share with the person.  If you would be completely uncomfortable telling the person the thoughts you were having (i.e. the difference between “you are so beautiful” and “I’m thinking about you and I making out”), then I would say you’re on dangerous ground.

As to the divorce and adultery, I have two thoughts.  One: the mainline church has done a frankly TERRIBLE job discussing the theological implications on divorce, even as our society has come to see it as really no big deal.  But it is not that way to God, and it never will be: divorce wrecks lives and families, and those most affected are the innocent who have no say in the matter at all or are even used as leverage.  This is one place where too many clergy have toed the line that society has been pushing about divorce: if you’re not happy for ANY reason, get a divorce and start again.  I am not saying there are no grounds for divorce (Jesus just mentioned one), but we have let the pendulum swing too far the other way, where divorce is achieved for literally ANY reason at all.  Two: Jesus is pointing out a high standard in this reading, the standard of the conduct God EXPECTS of His people.  And far too often, we fall short all over the place.  That is where the grace that so permeates the ministry of Jesus comes into play: it covers a multitude of our sins.  So what Jesus is doing here is not holding anything back, not watering anything down, but just laying out God’s word among His people.  And if those people fail (which they will), there is God’s love and mercy to fall back on.

Q. (Matthew 5:33-37): Ten years ago or so, I cried out to God for forgiveness on something I was ashamed of.  He forgave me.  I told Him that I would make a book about it to help right my wrong.  I guess from reading this Scripture that I should not have made the deal.  Jesus has already paid the price.  I would still like to write the book, if I get around to it.  I feel that that project has taken a back burner to this blog.

A. One of the coolest things that learning the truth of the Gospel teaches us is that we don’t have to bargain with God, and it is often a waste of time to do so!  God’s great love helps us to move beyond making foolish promises, even if God, in His mercy, allows us to work on our own path (something Paul will discuss).  Who knows, God may desire for you to write the book, just understand that it has nothing to do with His MAKING you do it.

Q. (Matthew 5:41): What’s the deal with this?  It seems oddly specific.

A. In a Roman province (as Israel was), it was the law that a Roman soldier could force any non-Roman citizen (i.e. almost anyone in Israel) to carry his gear or other equipment for up to one mile.  Since the soldiers were surely seen as enemies in Israel (they were seen as foreign occupiers who killed many Jews), the implication is clear: don’t just do the minimum standard when your enemy has control over you- take the power back by serving him as you would a friend, and go beyond what you are required to do.

One interesting note about this information: we will see this law used in part of the Passion story, so watch for that down the road.

Q. (Matthew 5:43-48): I wouldn’t say that “loving your neighbor” was the consensus among the Israelites in the OT.

A. They don’t call it the New Testament for nothing.  Once again, this is about conduct among God’s people who have been redeemed by Christ, not steps taken to get there.  There is a natural tension in the two sides: hold up God’s standard, even if it means going to war (as Israel often did), but also be aware that God loves your enemy as well, and we should act like it.  Different churches have lived in this tension throughout the centuries, and I think it is one of the great freedoms we have in Christ that this is not only one way, but many ways in which we can honor God in our moral decision making.

Q. (Matthew 6:1-4): Matthew 5:16 says the opposite of this.  Can you explain that?

A. What Jesus is criticizing here is the public act of drawing attention to yourself, rather than God, in the midst of your service.  If you are making a big deal about yourself (rather then the Lord who saved you) as the source of your giving, I would say that Jesus is right: you’ve got your reward already, but you’ve done the Kingdom a great disservice.  I would say the difference between Matthew 5:16 and 6:1-4 comes down to humility.  If you don’t have a humble heart in your service, you are ultimately not shining the light on God, or reflecting His love.  Remember this question when we get to 1 Corinthians 13.

Day 272 (Sept. 29): Jesus begins preaching, Jesus heals sick boy, Jesus calls on fishermen, Jesus cast out evil spirits, Jesus set on spreading the Word, crowds follow Jesus

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 1:14-15

Matthew 4:12-17

Luke 3:23a

John 4:46-54

Luke 4:16-30

Mark 1:16-20

Matthew 4:18-22

Mark 1:21-28

Luke 4:31-37

Mark 1:29-34

Matthew 8:14-17

Luke 4:38-41

Mark 1:35-39

Luke 4:42-44

Matthew 4:23-25

Questions & Observations

O. (Matthew 4:12-17): Rob, from this reading, I can better understand what you kept saying in the OT that those directions from God were specifically for the Israelites.  Here we see that one prophecy is true.  I know you also said we could apply them to our lives, if it fits.  But, here we see that the OT prophecies are fulfilled in the NT — just another avenue of validity to the Bible.

Q. (John 4:46-54):  This was the second.  The first was turning the water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-12):  I do notice that both of these accounts came from John.  Is that a pattern?

A.  Yes, John uses the miracles in his Gospel to point to the identity of Jesus as God in human form.  Because of that, the miracles he includes are very purposeful.  He will include 7 miracles, he calls them signs, (not counting the resurrection), which are accompanied by the so-called 7 “I AM” statements of Jesus about who He is, so watch for both of those in John’s Gospel.

Q. (Luke 4:16-30): This is a very revealing sentiment.  It does seem like those who you grow up around are not privy to what one is capable of.  They tend to be disbelieving and thus walk on their friend’s/family member’s ambition.  Is this what Jesus is talking about?  Any insight to the reason for oxymoronic tendency?

A. I think when you know someone’s history (as this whole town would have known Jesus’), you tend to, as you say, see what they are capable of — if it is radically different from what your previously thought about that person.  The people of Nazareth knew Jesus as a laborer/carpenter, and they knew His earthly father.  (Side note: Joseph is not mentioned again as a player in this story, so most scholars assume that he has died before Jesus begins His public ministry.)  Because they knew all this about Him (Nazareth was not a big city), it surely was strange to hear Him proclaim Himself as the one that Isaiah spoke of 800 years before Jesus read them.

Q. (Mark 1:16-20): Here Jesus doesn’t mean to throw our jobs away, right?  Just maybe if they are jobs that involve sin or maybe aren’t what one is being called to do?  This scripture is saying to throw your troubles, treasures and old ways aside and follow him.  Don’t hold on to what you are used to — the old ways — and ignore the Savior and righteous way that stands before you.  And, more importantly, it is saying that nothing is more important for these men (how about us?) than to bring others to God.  We don’t need fish, Jesus is our food.  This can serve as a test of faith for all of us, right?  I do notice that Jesus is not appealing to anyone (that we know of) to be his disciple who has wives and children at home.

And, we pick up two more disciples: James and John.  That makes six (Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathanael)

A. If you’re asking if God would NEVER ask us to give up our jobs to serve Him, well, He would, and He does.  But if you’re asking does He expect us to abandon our lives to follow Him, I would say that is not the standard.  Jesus called these men for a particular mission.  They would be responsible for learning from Him and changing the world after His resurrection.  Fishing would seem a lot less important at that point.

Q. (1:21-28): I would tend to think that drawing this evil spirit out had the purpose of showing that Jesus rules over evil.  I know there have been movies about evil spirits, demons and exorcisms, but I have not heard of any real ones in modern times.  Maybe there are.  But, I would think that the sole purpose of this demon being present would be to help Jesus establish his power and authority.

A. You’ve got the idea, but don’t forget Jesus’ love for the man himself, and the desire to see him freed from his bondage to this demon.

O. (Matthew 8:14-17): We are up to four-plus now: water to wine, heals government official’s son, cast out demons and now heals Simon’s mother-in-law and others that same night.

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