Day 286 (Oct. 13): Jesus heals possessed boy, Jesus predicts His death, Jesus obediently pays temple tax, become humble as a child, Jesus OK with people healing in His name, parable of lost sheep, how to handle offenses, parable of unforgiving debtor

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 9:14-29

Matthew 17:14-20

Luke 9:37-43

Mark 9:30-32

Matthew 17:22-23

Luke 9:43b-45

Matthew 17:24-27

Mark 9:33-37

Matthew 18:1-6

Luke 9:46-48

Mark 9:38-41

Luke 9:49-50

Mark 9:42-50

Matthew 18:7-10

Matthew 18:12-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 9:19,29, Matthew 17:20): So the disciples couldn’t heal the boy.  I see conflicting reasons why in Mark and Matthew.  They both say, “You faithless and corrupt people!” making me rationalize that the disciples were not full of faith so they could not heal the boy.  But then, Mark 9:29 said that the evil spirit could have only been cast out by prayer.  Jesus said it like it’s a lesson that they hadn’t covered yet.  So, I don’t know which is correct — lack of faith or naiveté?  And, in both versions, why does Jesus address the disciples in a condescending tone?

A. Personally, I’ve always connected with the version that says their lack of prayer was the error.  Imagine trying to deal with a real life demon without consulting God and perhaps you can get an idea of why Jesus was so frustrated.  Be careful about reading condescension into the text: we have no way of knowing HOW Jesus said these words, so what you’re actually doing is assuming Jesus was being condescending.  As to the lack of faith issue: I don’t really know what that has to do with the situation (that too, might have something to do with prayer or lack thereof), but it appears that the disciples felt they were ready for the big leagues and Jesus was surely frustrated that they failed.  Training ordinary people to change the world can be hard.

Q. (Matthew 17:20): Rob, I have to say that a lot of these readings today are tidbits of information.  It’s hard to absorb the enormity of these little pearls of info that are life-changing, if you can do them.  For example, I believe that prayer and talking to God is genuine.  But, it’s hard to believe that I could move a mountain at my command.  I believe that I can move more important things than a mountain.  Is that what this is referring to?  Something that may seem impossible like softening a hard-hearted person can happen if you believe God will do it for you.

A. Jesus here is unlikely to be referring to literal mountains (as you ascertain), but rather saying that the way to remove obstacles is to have the faith to ask God in prayer.  Quality, not quantity.

Q. (Luke 9:44): Why does Jesus call Himself “Son of Man?”

A. Jesus is using this title as a reference to the person referred to in Daniel 7:13 and 14 as the one who is chosen by the Ancient of Days (God the Father) to be an eternal ruler.  If you read these verses, you get a sense of the understanding Jesus had of Himself, but by using a title that had a more implicit claim to power (as opposed to referring to Himself as Messiah), we, I think, catch a glimpse of Jesus humility and desire to not be thought of publicly as the Messiah at this point.

Q. (Luke 9:45): Why would his disciples be afraid to talk to Jesus about anything?

A. I can’t help you there.  They weren’t able to overcome their fear yet, and it’s not the last time that fear will get them in trouble.

Q. (Matthew 17:24-27): I don’t understand what we are supposed to learn from this story.

A. Jesus is cleverly remarking that HE is the true King of the Temple, and that the religious leaders who control it are not the true rulers.  A king would never tax his own family, but rather his conquered subjects.  Jesus is basically saying that Peter — and presumably the other disciples as well — are not subject to such a tax because they belong to the household of the true King: God.  But, He basically agrees to pay the tax out of respect for those in authority and to not give offense.  There will be plenty of time to offend the rulers of the Temple later.

O. (Mark 9:36-37, Matthew 18:5-6): I am tested on this issue when I am driving my daughter and one other child to school.  I call a lot of people “dudes” whether they are dudes or dudettes telling them gently (not) to move along.  I have thought about the love I am not displaying when I do this and what I am teaching the little ears and eyes in the back seat.  So my “dudes” are more reigned in.  They need to be gone from my heart too.  I’m the “dude” for not leaving on time!

Q. (Mark 9:38-41): So, Jesus isn’t worried about imposters here?  I’m not sure what to take from this passage.

A. What we should take away from it is that Jesus appears to have a much bigger view of what makes someone His disciple then His disciples do.  Jesus tells us that the man could not do what he is doing without genuine faith in Him.

O. (Mark 9:48): If maggots and burning wouldn’t steer you away from evil, I don’t know what would.  I had never heard there are maggots there.

Q. (Mark 9:49-50): My daughter’s school had a “giving” day called SALT where each grade did a huge service project.  My younger child packed shoeboxes of fun stuff for Haiti orphans.  My older child packed meals for 10,000.  This is all wonderful.  But how does salt translate into living peacefully with one another.  It doesn’t say what the qualities of salt are.

A. In Jesus’ ministry, salt appears to imply the presence of a genuine faith in Him, and that this faith should be the basis of a loving relationship with those around you.  Salt, in the ancient world, was used for all kinds of things, including being the one of the only ways to preserve food.  It was very valuable stuff, such that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with it — it’s where our word “salary” comes from, and also where the expression “worth his salt” comes from.  The only problem: it wasn’t pure, like the table salt we use today (they had no way to make it that way in the ancient world).  So what they called “salt” was usually a mix of various ingredients (often harvested from near the Dead or Salt Sea), and over time, this mixture would lose its salty flavor.  Jesus is thus telling us that faith in Him is what gives the “flavor” to our walk with God (an uncommon metaphor, but you get the idea), and if the flavor is lost, then the rest is worthless.

Q. (Matthew 18:7-10): Is this literal?  Or would it be more like if I am reading inappropriate stuff that I should throw it away?

A. Jesus is definitely using hyperbole here (though some throughout the history of the Church have taken His commands literally) in order to help us understand the severity of our sin and the effect that it can have on others.

O. (Matthew 18:18): It seems like I’ve seen this subject already, but don’t remember the answer.   : )

Q. (Matthew 18:19-20): Is this because God wants us to live in community, thus if two or more people were working on a job, it brings others together.  Good times to share about how God is working in your life.

A. In ways that are difficult to understand, Jesus appears to be saying that His spirit will be with those who gather in His name.  I confess I have long wondered about the meaning of this verse, but it’s an intriguing promise.

O. (Matthew 18:34-35): Good incentive to follow Jesus!

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 278 (Oct 5): Women included in Jesus’s group, religious leaders accuse Jesus of being obsessed, Jesus tells importance of Jonah, Jesustrue family of believers, scattering seed parable, Jesus explains seed parable

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 8:1-3

Mark 3:20-30

Matthew 12:22-45

Mark 3:31-35

Matthew 12:46-50

Luke 8:19-21

Mark 4:1-9

Matthew 13:1-9

Luke 8:4-8

Mark 4:10-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 8:1-3): I just wondered why women joining Jesus is important?  Maybe they prepared meals?  I like the fact that it is mentioned, letting us know now that Jesus valued everyone and everyone can serve Him.

A. This question cracks me up.  Luke is doing two things here, neither of which has to do with cooking: 1) he, as the writer of the outsider’s Gospel, is pointing out that women were a part of Jesus’ inner circle — something mentioned much less in the other Gospels — and 2) he is telling us that these women were the ones providing for the needs of Jesus’ little band.  There were His patronesses — a bit more important than being the cook, isn’t it?

Q. (Mark 3:27): Why does Satan (evil) fall to Jesus (good)?  I would just say that the goodness happens to be stronger than evil.

A. That’s sort of a complicated question, but here’s my take.  When we think about good and evil, we tend to think of them as two sides of the same coin, in a “yin and yang” kind of way.  They are eternal opposites.  But, as C.S. Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity, this picture is not reality.  The Bible points to the idea that the cosmic struggle between good and evil is a civil war, rather than one of eternal opposite powers.  Satan/Lucifer is a created being, and therefore, he is by definition a “lesser” being then God.  Satan led a rebellion against God, and was cast out for it (this will come up again in the NT).  What Satan represents in the Bible is corrupted goodness, not eternal evil.

This can be applied to our lives as well: when we think of evil, people like Mao, Hitler, and Stalin, for example, we find that as much as we despise these men, the goals that they sought after were not inherently evil in the abstract sense.  These men desired power, control, wealth, etc.  None of those things are evil in and of themselves, in fact they are often thought of as good things.  But what we see the evil in is the WAY in which these good things are pursued.  If you have to kill millions of people — as all three of these men did — to get your power, then you are evil.  As Lewis roughly puts it, you can be good just for the sake of goodness, you CANNOT be evil just for the sake of badness.  No one is evil just to be evil: they desire things that one can abstractly call good.  Being good is virtuous in and of itself; evil is ALWAYS a good desire that has been corrupted.  I hope that idea makes sense.  So in that regard, that’s my take on why good wins against evil, because the “good” is the real and true thing.  The “evil” is a hollow, corrupted shell.

Q. (Mark 3:28, Matthew 12:31-32): So, no one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will go to heaven?   What if they have a change of heart?  If you hear someone do this, you should just walk away and not try to tell them about God?  You shouldn’t give them any “pearls”?  And, in Matthew 12:31-32, the scripture says that blaspheming Jesus IS a forgivable sin.  Why the difference between Jesus and the Spirit?

A.  This is not as complicated as you are making it out to be: there’s a semi-simple explanation.  There is an underlying assumption in Christian theology that it is the Holy Spirit that works to restore the heart and mind and desires of each and every human being, even those who are not Christians.  So in that sense, it is the Spirit that allows us to understand the forgiveness of our sins.  But if we declare that the Spirit is NOT the source of these good things (which is blasphemy), it is not so much that these words are SO unforgiveable, but rather that we are cutting ourselves off FROM THE SOURCE of forgiveness.  We have turned away from the One who helps to change our hearts, including those changes of hearts you mentioned in your question.  So it is not that Jesus is saying that speaking these words somehow puts you beyond God’s reach and you’re out of luck, what He is saying is that if you repeatedly deny the power of the Spirit (by, for example, accusing the Spirit of being a demon as the Pharisees are doing here- that’s the connection), you reach a point where without a radical change in your heart, you have PUT YOURSELF out of God’s reach.

Q. (Matthew 12:23): My husband is studying Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship.  He had the question about Jesus being a descendant of David.  He was having a little trouble with Joseph’s line.  I think Mary’s is established in one of the gospels that we have read.  I read somewhere on the Internet that Joseph was a descendant of David, but since Jesus was born from the Holy Spirit, Joseph was a more adoptive role.  And, because He is not biologically related to Joseph, that would allow Jesus to not be under the curse of Solomon (

A. Interesting article.  I addressed this in the genealogy section (basically word for word, he he) of our reading on Day 267 (Sept 24th).  Perhaps you didn’t make it that far into my answers? (J/K)

Q. (Matthew 12:33-37): I assume Jesus is talking about the Pharisees here.  Let’s discuss again what the Pharisees were doing that was so bad.  They were teaching God’s law.  That seems pretty obedient.  And, now there is a new law.  I could understand how they would get hung up on the way things have been for hundreds of years.

A. The Pharisees were legalists, and as many Christians (my wife included — she grew up in a very rigid house and church community) can tell you, legalism KILLS love for God.  These leaders knew the Bible — OT of course — inside and out, and literally had studied it since their birth, but they failed to properly apply what they read with compassion and love.  That is the major breaking point between Jesus and these leaders: the burden that they gave was a legalistic “heavy” burden, Jesus gave a burden that was light and founded in love and grace.  Legalism knows nothing of grace — by definition, it can’t.

Q. (Matthew 12:38-40): It’s awesome how he brings Jonah from long ago back in to the picture.  Do we know what Jesus is talking about when He says He’ll be “in the heart of the earth”?

A. Yes, the grave.  Jesus was literally dead from the end of Good Friday until Sunday morning: three days in the earth.

Q. (Matthew 12:43): Jesus is casting out a lot of evil spirits.   Where do they come from?  What are they?  What causes them to enter a body?  Do they still exist today?
A. Demons are fallen angels, like Satan, who appear to have the ability to enter into people and control them — we will see more violent versions soon.  As to whether it still happens and why, I don’t have an answer for either.  Sorry, there’s too much speculation, and the Bible does not seem to think it is important enough to tell us.

Q. (Mark 3:31-25): To me this interaction is a bit strange.  If my mom and siblings came calling on me, I think I would come out quickly because they must be concerned about me.  Instead, Jesus turns it into a teaching tool to say we are all God’s children and should love one another, as we have a common cares, beliefs, motivations and goals.  I’m not sure why this sounds a bit awkward.  It’s almost as if our family ties don’t matter.

A. It appears that at this stage of His ministry, Jesus’ family thought He was insane, and were basically coming to get Him to avoid further embarrassment from their peers.  But Jesus is clear about His mission, and He will not be deterred by His family when His task is not yet done.  Jesus will have more to say about family ties, so let’s revisit this when He does.

Q. (Mark 4:1-9): Any idea why Jesus is often by a lake?

A. Sure, that’s where the people were.

Q. (Mark 4:11-12): Several questions here: 1) What “secret?” 2) How does teaching through parables make the scripture true and how does it help others understand?  3) Can you explain the lines in v. 12?

A. In Mark’s Gospel (this is a unique feature), the secret appears to be the coming of the Messiah in the midst of the people of Israel.  Jesus is not yet ready to fully identify Himself as Messiah in this way, because He will be misunderstood.  Please note, literally the only person who He has explicitly told that He is the Messiah is the woman at the well back in John 4.  So the “secret” is something of a way of presenting a humble Messiah who is hiding in plain sight, and only those who have faith in Him can see it.

As to the parables themselves, they are Jesus’ way of bringing to light the truths of the Bible in ways that people can understand at multiple levels.  Again, only those on the “inside” (for now) understand.  In comparing His ministry and use of parables to that of Isaiah (whom He quotes from), Jesus is saying that He desires to expose the hardheartedness of many of the leaders of this day, just as was Isaiah’s call centuries ago.

Q. (Mark 4:20): The “harvest” here is referring to believers produced?

A. You got it.

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.