Day 311 (Nov. 7): Jesus ascends to heaven, Matthias named new disciple, Holy Spirit comes to disciples, Peter preaches to crowd, believers form a community

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 16:19-20

Luke 24:50-53

Acts 1-2:47

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 24:52): So, this is the joy that you were talking about when I said how could happiness come from Jesus being crucified?  Especially since they saw Him die on the cross, resurrected and now ascending to heaven, they are sure He is the Messiah.  It would be hard to believe that the prince of heaven was right before my eyes.

A. I was referring to seeing Jesus alive at Easter and in the days that followed.  Jesus being resurrected changed everything for His followers, who are beginning to be transformed from the weak fearful men that we saw run from Jesus’ side into the men who will — with the Spirit’s help — change the world.

Q. (Acts 1:18): Here, Luke, the writer of Acts says that Judas bought a field with the 30 pieces of silver.  But, earlier, Matthew said Judas threw the coins down at the priests who then used the money to buy a field and then killed himself.  So, maybe something got lost in translation or one of them — Luke or Matthew — had their story a little mixed up.

A. Actually, it is possible to reconcile the two versions.  Church tradition holds that Judas hung himself on a tree at the top of a hill, and that either when his body decayed or when he was cut down, his body fell and broke open.  I believe that Luke, the writer, is aware that Judas didn’t DIRECTLY buy the field, but it was bought with the money that was returned to him.  Anyway, I think it is possible to reconcile the two versions of his death, but it is by no means absolutely necessary to do so.

Q. (Acts 2:1): I don’t remember talking about the day of Pentecost before.  What’s it about?

A. We have, it just wasn’t referred to by that name (since “Pentecost” is Greek).  It refers to the Feast or Festival of Weeks, which follows exactly 50 days (seven weeks and a Sabbath) after Passover.  It is described in Exodus 23 and 34, and commemorates the receiving of the Law by the Jews at Sinai, which you will remember occurred after the first Passover.  It is also in the midst of the Jewish grain harvest (the story of Ruth is frequently associated with it), which makes it a holiday that celebrates the ways in which God has provided for His people, both in their daily bread and spiritual needs.  Cool huh?

Anyway, it doesn’t take a big leap of logic to see why God would use THAT date to do a new thing with early Church — God is once again providing for the needs of His new “project,” and providing them with the very Spirit that will give them life.  One other note: it was the High Priest who was the one who declared the beginning of the festival by symbolically waving a strand of grain as the “first fruits” of the harvest.  Two of the central images of the NT theology we will explore is Jesus as our new High Priest (and an eternal one) and that He is the first fruits of the resurrection (more on what that means later).  So, the Jews who would have participated in this event would have clearly understood the significance of the date that God chose to move in a new way.

Q. (Acts: 2:3): Is this where some churches get the “speaking in tongues” part of their worship?  I have never been in a worship service where this happens, but I bet it would be interesting.  I would think though, that the Spirit allowing the disciples to speak in many languages was so they could preach the same message far and wide without language barriers.  I would think that this gift would be for the disciples only, not for talk that doesn’t make any sense and no one else can understand it.  That wasn’t the purpose of the gift, right?

A. Yes, this is the origin — but not the last occurrence — of Speaking in Tongues, one of the Spiritual Gifts.  Now later in the text, we will see instances where the Spirit moves in a person and they speak a language that no one around them understands (which was not the case here — the miracle was that the people around them DID know what they were saying!)  When no one understands what has been said, it is the NT expectation that the Spirit will gift someone with the ability to interpret what has been said, and it is always to edify the Church body.  This will lead to some issues that Paul will be discussing down the road, but we will get to that.

The true miracle of Pentecost  (one that will not be repeated in the NT) is that the Spirit spoke to people from all over the earth who were gathered in Jerusalem IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE.  That was surely an amazing event to bear witness to.

O. (Acts 2:25-28): Beautiful!  I love it!  Our church’s kids’ ministry gave out a set of key tags with Bible verses on them that show God is there always to help pull us through anything.  They are awesome verses!

Fear of rejection, Isaiah 41:10

Fear of failure, Joshua 1:9

Fear of physical danger, Psalm 56:3-4

Fear of being cared for, Luke 12:22-24

Fear of being alone, Psalm 23:4

Fear of uncertainty, Philippians 4:6-7

Day 306 (Nov. 2): Council questions Jesus, Peter denies Jesus three times, Jesus goes before Pilate, Judas hangs himself

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 14:53-65

Matthew 26:57-68

Mark 14:66-72

Matthew 26:69-75

Luke 22:54-62

John 18:25-27

Mark 15:1

Matthew 27:1-2

Luke 22:66-71

Matthew 27:3-10

Questions & Observations

O. (Mark 14;53-65): I see several things to comment on here.  1) And what is Peter’s role here.  He seems like a coward.  2) This is the pinnacle of Jesus’s “I Am” response.  3) Here we have Jesus saying He will be at the right hand.  What did we say the right hand signified way back in the OT?  4) It’s amazing the effect on people of crowd mentality.  They become like a mindless mob.  5) V. 65: If they only knew to whom they were jeering, spitting and slapping!

A. 1) Peter is acting like a coward, just as Jesus said he would.  2) This is just one more piece of evidence that Jesus knows what is happening and is prepared to die.  The men who were accusing Him of blasphemy couldn’t get their story straight, and Jewish legal proceedings in this day required two eyewitnesses to bring blasphemy charges.  So if Jesus had just said nothing, or denied being the Messiah, He likely would’ve been freed: there would have been no ground to charge Him.  Instead, He incriminates Himself (if you want to think of it that way) by proclaiming the truth that He is the Messiah.  Without Jesus doing so, there would have been no basis to charge Him.  This passage is fascinating to me for that reason.  3) The right hand was the seat of power for a king or ruler (in this case God the Father): the trusted general or other confidant that acted on the king’s behalf.  Its where we get the term “right hand man” from.  4) I suspect that the crowd was disappointed that Jesus did not conquer the Romans when He entered the city on Sunday, as many expected Him to.  Over the course of the week, it appears that public opinion turned against Jesus.  The mob is fickle indeed.

Q. (Mark 14:66-72): Why a rooster and why would he deny Jesus three times before it crowed twice.  It’s just seems like an odd thing to happen.

A. The rooster crowed at dawn, signifying Peter’s failure during the night.  I don’t know if there is anything else special about the event, except that it is a time marker in a period where there obviously were no watches or other ways to tell time before sunrise: the rooster was it.

Q. (Mark 15:1): Because the Jewish officials took Jesus to Pilate early in the morning, is this why many churches have sunrise services?  Or is it the resurrection?

A. The resurrection, you’ll see when we get to the story.

Q. (Matthew 27:3-10):  Poor Judas!  This just shows that someone can wake up when they realize the consequences of their actions.  So, Judas hangs himself.  This is an aside comment, but isn’t it a sin to take ones life that is a ticket to Satan?  I have been told that, but I don’t think we’ve come across it in the Bible yet.  And lastly, why would the Lord want the Israelites to purchase a potter’s field with the 30 pieces of silver that Judas returned?

A. Suicide is not expressly forbidden in the Bible, but it is surely not something God desires.  It is obviously impossible to know if it is an offense that condemns one to hell, but we have established that through Jesus that no sin outside of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, which presumably includes suicide.  What we don’t know is if Jesus refers to sins that we can seek forgiveness for, which you can’t do in the sense that we are used to if you are dead, so it remains a mystery.  In the end, as with all things, we must trust in God’s grace, and I believe that at least some of the people who tragically commit suicide can still find forgiveness and grace in Christ.  No one is beyond His reach, but not all will seek to take hold of it.

As to the Potter’s field, the story appears to be saying that since the money was blood money, it could not be used in the Temple, so they basically found a way to get rid of the money by buying a field from a potter to make a public cemetery.  What this has to do with the role of a potter is beyond me.

Day 282 (Oct. 9): Herod confused about who Jesus is, John the Baptist is killed, Jesus feeds 5,000, Jesus walks on water, disciples fail to see Jesus is everything they need, Jesus is salvation, Jesus heals sick

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 9:7-9

Matthew 14:1-21

Mark 6:30-44

Luke 9:10-17

John 6:1-15

Mark 6:45-52

Matthew 14:22-33

John 6:16-21

John 6:53-56

Matthew 14:34-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 9:7): Is Herod Antipas the grandson of the Herod who tried to have Jesus killed? I remember he died and his son took over, but Jesus was in danger of him too.  This Herod is softer so I thought it may be yet another generation.

A. Herod Antipas is the son, not the grandson, of the man called Herod the Great.  He ruled Judea for many years, and will have a role to play in the passion story as well as here.  He may have been softer than his father (which isn’t saying much!), but he was still a powerful man who wielded great influence in the region.

Q. (Mark 6:20): Here it says John the Baptist was “a good and holy man.”  So, it’s hard to believe that God didn’t rescue him.  God came to the aid of Daniel with the Lions.  Why couldn’t he save John the Baptist?  Maybe this is why Jesus called him “great than other prophets” because his fate — his sacrifice.

A. John certainly died a martyr’s death — that is, dying for proclaiming God’s truth — but it is hard to say that God did not save him.  It surely must have greatly grieved Jesus.

Q. (Mark 6:23): A vow was or wasn’t always kept then and same as now.  I guess we have to always be careful of what we promise someone to make sure we can keep our end of the deal.

A. What really caused Herod the headache was that he had made the declaration in front of powerful witnesses.  It would have been very embarrassing for him if he had not acted on his stepdaughter’s wish.  As is frequently the case, alcohol likely played a role in this foolishness.

O. (Mark 6:50-51): What telling verses.  I like “Take courage!  I am here.”  I think we all need to realize that and let Him take over.  I also notice Jesus says “I am.”

Q. (Matthew 14:28, 32): I notice that Peter calls Jesus “Lord.”  And, in v. 32, we see that the disciples are acknowledging Jesus is the Messiah, the one that has been prophesied.  They finally understand the “secret.”

A. They understand that He is Messiah, but believe me, they have NO IDEA what it means…yet.

Day 271 (Sept. 28): Nicodemus questions Jesus about being born again, John the Baptist exalts Jesus, Jesus lights up lives of Samaritan village

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 3:1-36

John 4:1-45

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 3:1-22): Nicodemus acknowledges Jesus’s power and comes to Him to seek answers about being born again.  I don’t understand why Jesus answers in riddles instead of more directly.  Is it that Jesus knows Nicodemus’s heart, so He knows He will not understand baptism and getting to heaven?  How could Nicodemus understand baptism when it is a fairly new concept (except for you explaining how the priests were cleansed with water in the OT)?

A. I honestly have no idea why Jesus answered in the way He did, but apparently it was what Nicodemus needed to hear.  Our former pastor, Isaac, once gave a sermon about this encounter where he noted that Nicodemus probably went away from this encounter with more questions than answers.  But since he had this personal encounter with Jesus, the questions faded in significance.  He has met the Man, and so the questions no longer mattered.

I think the baptism question is understood as being something that was fairly new, but not brand new — John may have been doing it for some time before this encounter, and as I mentioned, this tradition is grounded in the priestly washing and ritual cleansing ceremonies of the Jewish faith.

Q. (John 3:16): This is probably the most recited verse in the Bible.  And, simply put, is beautiful and direct.  So, if you believe that Jesus is God’s son and our Savior, then you will live eternally.  But, in 3:5, Jesus says that we must be “born again” if we ever want to see the kingdom of heaven.  So, baptism has two purposes: to repent and wash away your sins and to receive the Spirit.  But also, when I was baptized, I was asked if I believed that Jesus was God’s son.  This is why they ask that, because you won’t receive the Spirit if you don’t believe in Jesus?  Since I was baptized so young, I often wonder if I was of the right, mature mind to do so.  I do feel the Spirit in me, but not all the time.  Many times my personality dominates, but the Spirit is getting stronger.  Like I said before, I never had that “wow” moment when Jesus came into my life.  It just seems like He was always there because I grew up going to church every Sunday.  I was 9 or 10 years old when I was baptized. I worry that my baptism wasn’t “official” in God’s eyes.

Then, there is the question about all those people who are good people, but have had little or no exposure to Jesus.  Will they be saved?  There are so many topics to discuss on baptism.

A. Wow, that was a mouthful.  Let’s untangle one of your famous 10 question questions!  (I kid!)  While baptism is an important part of the act of becoming a Christian, it is NOT what saves us: only the blood of Jesus does that, at least that’s my understanding of baptism and atonement.  Baptism is a public declaration that one has decided to follow Christ, but it does not do anything to change our state in God’s “eyes”: it is our faith in Christ that changes our standing, not immersion in water.  That’s why the questions and public declarations are so important: THEY (representing your faith) are the true mark of salvation, and what allows for the presence of the Holy Spirit to enter into our hearts.  So with that understanding, I think it is safe to say I feel no worry about your baptism being “official” to God — it ultimately matters far less than your heart and desire to be like Christ RIGHT NOW.

Alright, we’re heading for some pretty deep water in the “what about people who are good but don’t know Jesus” issue, one that has no simple answer.  I call this the “Gandhi Scenario,” since he is the most common “good person” named when this issue comes up.  I’m going to tell you my opinion, but since we’re dealing with issues of salvation and afterlife, I really can’t say I’m any sort of expert.

First, as the OT has long established, there are no “good people.”  Every human who has lived from Adam and Eve on down has chosen the path of sin and turned away from God.  So trying to say that there’s “good” people out there who just haven’t heard the Gospel is stacking the deck on this question.  It simply doesn’t in any way match what Scripture tells us (take for example, Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 6:13, and Psalm 14:1-3).  One of the central understandings needed to fully grasp Christianity is the gravity of our situation: we think of ourselves (and others) as good people who just need a little “help,” but the reality the Bible points to is that we are impossibly corrupt people who have hearts of stone and no desire to follow after God!  None!  It is not simply that we want help but can’t get it, it is that we flatly REJECT the very notion that we need God’s help.  The ship is going down, and we say, “I’m fine on my own” to the person (Jesus) offering us a lifejacket.  THAT is our reality, so let’s dispense with this “good person” nonsense.  We can see this truth in the people that others have throughout the generations seen as the most holy or righteous: these individuals (I’m thinking of Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi just as two examples) are quick to say they see the corruption in their own souls, and no matter how “holy” the world sees them, the rightly see themselves as not measuring up to God’s perfect standard without His help.  So even the people who others would declare, “that’s a perfect, holy, good person” would turn and quickly say, “not compared to Christ, I’m not.  I’m hopeless without Him.”

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s address the major issue here: the necessity of having to have the Gospel preached to you in order for you to have salvation.  To be honest, this question has at its heart a core of distrust in God.  If we learned anything in the OT, it is that God is the Being who can be trusted.  As you noted, this verse (John 3:16) is everywhere, and it declares God’s everlasting love for not just His people, but the entire world — past, present, and future.  That doesn’t mean that God will ignore or not punish our sin, but that in the midst of all else, Scripture declares a love of God for His creation.  So it seems incredibly unlikely to me that God would declare eternal damnation upon a soul simply because that person never got to hear about Jesus.  Can we see God saying, “well, I’d love to admit you into heaven [we’ll deal with THAT misconception another day], but you never heard about my Son, so you’re out of luck.  Say Hi to the devil for me.”  Honestly, does that sound like the logic of God?  It certainly doesn’t to me.  In my opinion, each of us will be held responsible for acting on the information we know, not on the information that we don’t.  This is the same way I resolve all sorts of sticky issues that non-believes like to throw at Christians: what about the mentally handicapped?  What about infants who die?  What about Gandhi? Etc.  God is just, as He proved to Abraham — the Lord of all earth will do what is right (Genesis 18:25).

One more thing: just because I have made the above statement (God will do what is right) does NOT mean that I am convinced that all will be saved (a position known as Universalism).  I am simply stating that when all is said and done, each of us will know that God has done what is right and just in each of our eyes.  We will not be able to cry out to God, “it isn’t fair!”: God will have made all things right, and justice will be done.  Count on it.

O. (4:1): At many, many points in the NT, Jesus is concerned about crowds.  Here, we see that Jesus is getting a lot of attention and so He flees.  In a previous Bible study looking at the book of Mark, we discussed reasons that Jesus would have steered away from crowds: the larger the crowd, the angrier the Pharisees became; He tried to reach those in the countryside away from the larger cities; and Jesus needed to rest and the crowds wouldn’t let him.  I think the first reason was the dominant one in the study.  I just found another reason in the next day’s reading (Mark 1:38-39): he moved on to spread the word.  Upon going to my thinking spot (lol, can you tell my daughter has read A.A. Milne?), I can see where Jesus would speak and do a miracle or two, then his work was done there.  The people either accepted or proclaimed Him or they didn’t.  If they didn’t join in, staying there would only breed more rejection and then his life would be in danger.  So, why not spread the news in other places and harvest more believers!

O. (4:15): I never thought about the very nature of water before and how good it feels to the human body.  Swimming, drinking, bathing, splashing it on my face is all so refreshing.  There is nothing like it.  Then, to think Jesus is all that for eternity.  Nice symbolism.  Our bodies are made up of 70-some percent water.  Jesus should be more than that.  Just think how refreshing water is and then how refreshed Jesus can make us.

Q. (John 4:34-38): So, I understand that Jesus is finishing the work of God here.  God’s work is giving the people His Word and now His Son.  Jesus’s end of it is to spread the Word, be a live demonstration of God’s promises making more believers to the Kingdom of Heaven?  Although, we are nowhere near the awesomeness of Jesus, we are supposed to take His example and apply it to our own lives.  I do struggle with hearing God.  I listen for Him, but many times I do what I think is right in His eyes.  I have the Word to guide me and the Spirit, but many times I don’t know whether to take Road A or Road B.  Specifically, I have plans to expand this blog into something else.  It just popped into my head once when I was with my daughter and we immediately started brainstorming.  I assume this idea and some others that are related to it are from the Spirit.  But, since we are scraping by financially — God is providing what we need when we need it — I keep feeling the guilt for not bringing home a paycheck.  My brain says to keep charging ahead and I pray that my husband’s business will start earning more money (which it is picking up).  The waiting is so hard!

Back to the scripture.  I love how it says that some may plant, but He sends us to harvest things that we have not planted.  And we will all come together to gather the harvest (people brought to eternal life).  I like the picture painted here of God’s people working as one, all enjoying the harvest, not one taking credit for his/her work.

A.  Me too.  This is one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible (John 4).  Watch for other references to Samaria and Samaritans in the coming days, and let’s talk about who they were at a future date.