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 277 (Oct. 4): Roman officer has faith in Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus’ resurrects widow’s only son, John the Baptist questions Jesus, judgment for nonbelievers, Jesus’s prayer, sinful woman gracious to 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.

Matthew 8:5-13

Luke 7:1-17

Matthew 11:1-19

Luke 7:18-35

Matthew 11:20-30

Luke 7:36-50

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10): I think this story is the epitome of how strong our faith in God should be and how much we should love our fellow man.  First of all, this officer is concerned about his youngest servant (we read in Luke’s version, vs. 7:4-5, that this man had built a synagogue), but he is courageous enough to ask Jesus to help the man.  And, as for courageous, I wouldn’t think the Roman leadership would be all that friendly with Jesus.  Then, as an officer, he himself is important in society, yet he knows that he can in no way compare to the Lord Jesus Christ, so he humbles himself.  But, he is 100 percent sure that Christ can heal his servant just by willing it from afar.  Amazing story!  In v. 11-12 is telling us that the Israelites are no longer set apart?  Is God acknowledging here that the Israelites being set apart as His people for the world to learn from did not work?

A. Not at all!  The Gospels provide what we might call the pivot point between God’s work in the OT (almost exclusively with the Jews) to opening up the message of salvation in Christ to the whole world: Jew and Gentile.  But it is only within the community of Israel that God was able to bring about the Messiah — the person of Jesus, who was the personification of a good Jewish man.  Paul in particular will talk about the ways that God “transitions” between a message only for His chosen people (which they remain to this day), and to the whole world via the Messiah.  So it is wrong to assume that God “failed” in His plan — saving the world via the Messiah WAS His plan.  As Jesus points out in this reading, the Law and the Prophets have been leading up to Him, the culmination of God’s plan, not the contingency.

Q. (Luke 7:13): We read here and other places where Jesus cried.  Jesus coming to the Earth gave the world a human version of God who looks, acts (except for the sins) and feels just like we do.  Because He is in human form, we can relate to Jesus better.  Jesus is the epitome of who God wants us to be.  Last night, I was at a church partnership meeting where we were talking about the Trinity.  The minister was talking about the OT where it says “the Angel of the Lord.”  The minister said that angel was more glorious than Gabriel or other angels we have read about.  This one seemed to carry the authority of God.  So, theologians/scholars believe that this was Jesus in heavenly form.  Your opinion on that, Rob?

A. I’ve heard that theory, but don’t put much stock in it myself.  My take on it would be that God has long used angels (don’t forget what we talked about in the OT— a messenger in ancient times was seen as the sender Himself, in this case God).  So there is really no reason that God HAD to use Himself (in the form of the Son, what we call a Christophany, God in human form).  I suppose it is possible, but I think the idea of an Angel of the Lord (and just because the angel is not names doesn’t mean they don’t HAVE a name) being God the Son is something that is a bit unnecessary, but you never know.

Q. (Matthew 11:6): What does this mean?  “ ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me”?

A. Those who do not turn away from Him on account of His message.  It is a call to keep the faith and trust in Him.

Q. (11:7-11): I don’t understand this interaction.  Why would John the Baptist question who Jesus is?  I thought they had long acknowledged one another.  Then, in v. 11, Jesus says that John is greater than anyone who has ever lived.  The Bible doesn’t tell us much about John at all.  We know much more about Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon.  How could John be greater than them?

A. I don’t have a perfect answer, but my suspicion is that John was having his doubts about his cousin because Jesus wasn’t “being Messiah” fast enough for him.  Perhaps he was wondering why Jesus had not overthrown the Romans in Israel, or become king, or done something to “take over.”  Like everyone else, I doubt John would have had any understanding of Jesus’ true mission (even if he understood Jesus to be the Lamb of God).  Jesus came to rule, but His “coronation” was in a way that no one would expect.

As to John being “greater,” what Jesus refers to here is not so much that John is “great,” but that he is the last in the line of prophetic succession.  John is the last of the old way, and Jesus will usher in the New.  So Jesus isn’t saying John is more accomplished then the figures you mentioned, only that he is the final messenger to the Lord’s coming.

Q. (Luke 7:18): Why would John the Baptist have disciples?

A. Because the people saw him as a teacher worthy of respect, basically a rabbi.  Rabbis of Jesus’ day (including John) would have had followers as Jesus did.  And just because some of John’s followers decided to follow Jesus instead (with John’s blessing) did not mean that they all did.  John’s followers will have an influence on the Gospel story until even after the resurrection.

Q. (Matthew 11:20): After all the miracles, these people of Korazin and Bethsaida still have hard hearts?

A. Yes, just like the Israelites in the wilderness.

Q. (Matthew 11:28-30): This makes me want to run to Jesus for a long vacation with no worries.  For some people, that last verse may be troubling because it can seem that defending Jesus and living up to His word can be burdensome when others do things differently than us.  But, I think once that I accepted Jesus as my Savior, then I recognized it wasn’t hard because He is so marvelous.

A. Jesus is telling His people to move beyond the heavy burden of legalism, into the “lighter” burden of personal relationship with Him, and therefore God.  I like the way you put it in your last sentence.

Q. (Luke 7:47): This is a bit confusing because it almost sounds like the more sinful you are the more you can be forgiven.  So, it almost sounds like it promotes more sin.  I don’t think that’s what it is saying.  I think it’s saying that because Jesus forgave such a huge sin, which she understood the depth of that, that she was more thankful and gracious to Jesus than the average person.

A. If you recall, our pastor Jim preached on this passage quite recently, and that was exactly his conclusion: those who understand they have been forgiven will be much more likely — though its not guaranteed — to forgive and love others.  Those who do not realize what help they need from Jesus are much more likely to be “stingy” with the love and forgiveness.  So perhaps that should be a sort of litmus test for our understanding of God’s forgiveness (it certainly is for Jesus in this story): Christians who forgive readily and love generously are much more likely to understand what God has truly done for them.

 

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.

Day 270 (Sept. 27): Spirit urges Jesus to wilderness where Satan tests him for 40 days, John the Baptist honors Jesus, Jesus finds followers, Jesus turns water to wine, Jesus clears the temple of sinners

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 1:12-13

Matthew 4:1-11

Luke 4:1-15

John 1:19-51

John 2:1-25

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 4:1-11): Why did the Spirit lead Jesus into the desert?  For the son of God (which is God himself by means of the Trinity) to spend 40 days in the desert very hungry and being tempted doesn’t sound like royal treatment.  Why was it important for Satan to tempt Jesus?

A. It is a divinely inspired test.  In Deuteronomy 8, Moses speaks to the people and tells them that these 40 years they had been in the dessert was a test to see if they would be faithful to God and keep His commands despite temptations not to, which they kept failing.  This is exactly the image that Matthew is painting for us: where Israel failed its test in the wilderness, Jesus successfully combats His temptations and confirms His role as God’s chosen or Messiah.  Note that the things that Satan tempts Him with are things that could only tempt the God/man: turning stones to bread, surviving a high fall, being ruler of the world.  What is behind each of these temptations — it may not be obvious — is the idea of Jesus using His power as God incarnate to circumvent the will of God the Father, which Jesus has come to serve.  Jesus could make bread out of the stones, but that would mean He did not trust God to bring Him through.  He could fall from a great height and survive (we presume), but that would have made Him a celebrity or even seen as a “freak” by His people: He would become famous, but not in the way God intended.  And lastly, Jesus will one day rule the world, but it will be earned by enduring the cross and dying, not by worshipping Satan.  Each of the temptations, then, centers around Jesus going His own way, and having power or fame or leadership outside of God’s plan.  That is, ultimately, the test He passed: He submitted these desires to the Father, rather then give in to them as Israel had before.

Q. (John 1:19-28): Is this bantering supposed to be a bit humorous?  The Pharisees have a hard time getting a straight answer out of John.

A. I think so.  One of John’s themes (the Gospel writer I mean) will be misunderstanding between two parties, so watch for more humorous examples.

Q. (1:35-51): So, we have four disciples here: Andrew, Simon-Peter, Philip and Nathanael.  Eight more ahead?

A. Yes, eight more.  They will be designated as His chosen Apostles at a later date; for now, they just follow Him.

Q. (2:12): Any idea how old Jesus is at this point?  Here it says he has brothers too.  Will we run into family information again to where we can talk about it?

A. The Gospels are actually very unhelpful in terms of family information on Jesus’ half brothers or other family (though there are lots of legends in Church lore).  Matthew 13:55 tells us the names of his brothers: James, Simon, Joseph (no doubt after their father), and Judas (which was a common Jewish name in this period).  The Church tradition is that two of these brothers became known for being followers of Jesus (which is not to say His other family didn’t): James, the writer of the NT letter, who is the same man as mentioned in Matthew, Jesus’ half brother.  Galatians 1:19 tells us that Paul met with Jesus’ brother, and that he was a leader of the early church in Jerusalem after the Apostles are scattered (coming soon!)  Judas was sometimes shortened to Jude, which is the name of the shortest letter in the NT, and the writer mentions that he is the brother of James, which we assume to mean the brother James in question.

His family will have a role to play in the unfolding story that I won’t spoil here, but suffice it say that they were not on board with Jesus’ mission before Easter Sunday.

Q. (2:24-25): Why couldn’t Jesus trust them?

A. I honestly think its because He knew that people would not understand Him, but also that the people’s desire would be for Him to continue doing miracles as party tricks or to show off, and that was never Jesus’ purpose.  He knew His mission, and entrusting Himself to people could have risked what He had come to do.

Day 269 (Sept. 26): Wise men visit Jesus, Jesus’s family escapes to Egypt to dodge Herod’s jealous wrath, Jesus’s family returns to Jerusalem, Jesus speaks at the Temple, John the Baptist prepares people for Jesus, Spirit descends on Jesus, Jesus is baptized

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 2:1-23

Luke 2:41-52

Mark 1:1b-8

Matthew 3:1-12

Luke 3:1-18

Mark 1:9-11

Matthew 3:13-17

Luke 3:21-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 2:1): Why would Mary and Joseph stay two years in Bethlehem?  Why wouldn’t they have gone back to Nazareth?  Do I have Jesus’s childhood whereabouts right: Born in Bethlehem until 2ish, then told to flee to Egypt until Herod died, then back to where his parents were from in Nazareth?

A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the distance between the regions was great — Nazareth was well north of Jerusalem, Bethlehem was due south — so, it is possible they were not eager to make the return trip.  Since Joseph, and possibly Mary, had family in Bethlehem, Joseph may have found work or something with family, but that’s just speculation.  You have the rest of the story right.

Q. (Matthew 2:5, 15): Just wondering who the prophet was.

A. In this instance, two different men: the first reference is from Micah, and the second one is from Hosea.  Sometimes the source is cited within the text (as in Mark 1), but most times Matthew (writing to a Jewish audience) assumed they knew the texts he was talking about (Jews studied and debated Messianic scriptures extensively in Jesus’ day), but the footnotes always list the reference.

Q. (2:16): I hope you have some reasoning that makes me feel better about the killing of all these baby boys being tied to Jesus’s birth.

A. Not really: Herod was a terribly cruel king who killed members of his own family because he considered them threats to his power.  So it is little wonder that he would react powerfully and kill children at the very hint of a threat to his power.

Q. (Luke 2:51): Here it is again, “his mother stored all these things in her heart.” I take from this that Mary is taking note to her child’s actions, thoughts, works and trying to support Him and maybe imagine what He’ll be like.

A. Imagine being able to interact with Jesus as a child or a young man.  That surely was fascinating to experience as His mother, and I see no reason that she would not treasure experiences that were surely like this one.

Q. (Mark 1:1b-8): How did John know to baptize?  I don’t think we have read why they are baptizing.  Have we been told what baptism symbolizes?  V. 4 says people should be baptized to show they have repented and turned to God.  But how does going under water symbolize this?

A. Baptism as we know it comes out of the ritual washing of the priests from Leviticus.  The baptism John offered was one of repentance: the people were immersing themselves in the “cleansing” water (the Jordan is a notoriously unclean river- remember Naaman’s objection in 2 Kings 5?) to show that they were washing away their sin.  Baptism (at least immersion) has come to mean following in the footsteps of Christ, and dying (being immersed) and rising to new life (coming to the surface).  But in John’s ministry, it was a sign of repentance.

Q. (Mark 1:6,7): If someone was dressed in camel-hair clothes, ate locusts and preached about Jesus, I doubt he would get a lot of followers.  Why the wildman lifestyle?  A footnote indicates that the Pharisees and Sadducees may have come to the river to be baptized.  I would think they would have a hard time accepting John the Baptist as a man of God.

A. You bet they had a hard time, we will see this come into play during Jesus’ ministry.  According to the Gospels, John had some sort of big following (though we have no idea how many), but it’s quite clear that his ministry got a lot of “word of mouth” endorsement.  How else could all the people hear what was happening outside the city?  As to why he went all wildman, I honestly couldn’t tell you, but it surely didn’t put as many people off as you seem to think it did.

Q. What is the purpose of having four accounts — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — of Jesus’s life?

A. To get four different perspectives.  Each of the writers has their own pet themes and messages that they desire to share with their respective audiences.  I, frankly, love the idea that there is not one, but four different, fully inspired, perspectives on this God-man.  How could one even come close to telling the whole story?

One other note: if you take four different eyewitnesses to a major event (a battle, a crime, a miracle, etc.) you are going to get four different perspectives on it; that’s just human nature.  So again, the existence (and inspiration) of four different stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is just further proof to me of the depths God was willing to go to ensure that there is a “story” for each of us to connect with.  I personally love Luke’s gospel the best, but I find great things I admire about each of them, and I know others who feel the same way about Mark, John, or Matthew.

Q. (Luke 3:16): What does this mean: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”?  I don’t understand the “fire” part.  Will we get into baptism more later?  Or, should I ask some of the questions now.  Mainly, is infant baptism, sprinkling, immersion, all the same?  I was baptized at a church, dipped underwater.  I was always told that full immersion is what the scriptures instruct.  Our church has frequent infant baptisms.   I always thought the believer had to be old enough to know what it meant to formally accept and proclaim Christ.  I was in the Fourth Grade when I got baptized, but I know I didn’t understood the full scope of what it meant to be a Christian.  I’m still learning that.

A. If you learn everything about being a Christian, do let me know- then you can answer the questions!  Ha!

As to the baptism with fire, it’s a prophecy about Pentecost, which is down the road, so we’ll get to that.  There are more baptisms to see in later events, so let’s table the immersion/infant baptism thing for now, because it is long and not easily addressed.  I’ll work on it.

Q. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22) These three Gospels all say that the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.  What’s the dove symbolism?  Why would the Holy Spirit have to descend on Him?  He is already God.

A. The dove was (and is) a symbol of peace, which probably had something to do with it.  There’s a note of Trinitarian doctrine in this question that’s worth considering: part of the Church’s understanding of the Trinity is that while each person of the Godhead IS God, there remains distinction between them in ways that are difficult to explain or even understand.  The way it is traditionally phrased is this: the Father IS God, but is NOT the Son or Spirit.  The Son IS God, but is NOT the Father or Spirit.  The Spirit IS God, but is NOT the Father or Son.  As to why Jesus “needed” the Spirit, I’m not sure there’s a good answer for that.  The Spirit will continue to have a huge role in the Jesus’ earthly ministry and beyond.

Day 268 (Sept. 25): Elizabeth’s baby jumps at Mary’s voice, Mary’s song of praise, birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah’s prophecy, Jesus’s birth, angels appear to shepherds, Jesus dedicated, Simeon’s prophecy, Anna’s prophecy

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 1:39-80

Matthew 1:18-25

Luke 2:1-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 1:67-80): So God must have spoken to Zechariah about who his son was and about for whom his son was preparing the way.  How did John know all about Jesus?

A. Maybe, but it doesn’t say that explicitly.  The Spirit was surely at work in this prophecy, one way or another.  You mean how did the baby inside Elizabeth know about the baby inside Mary?  I have no idea, but it appears there was some form of connection between them.

Q. (Luke 1:80): Why did John live in the wilderness?

A. There are multiple reasons possible, but there’s no evidence either way.  He might have done so to be part of the Essene community we mentioned yesterday, which operated outside of standard Jewish society.  He might have been something of a hermit who sought to escape society and be united with God.  It might just have been where he was comfortable, or perhaps God called him to this spot.  But that location will come into play in our story soon.

O. (2:7): Woohoo!

Q. (2:7, 12): I notice that Luke says twice that Jesus is wrapped snugly in strips of cloth.  Why would “snugly” be important?

A. I have no clue.  I have never seen it rendered that way, and there is no answer in the Greek (see for yourself: http://biblehub.com/text/luke/2-7.htm), so the translators are probably just using that phrasing so that the audience can follow the exact same phrase given to the shepherds later in the story.

Q. (2:9): I wonder why God chose to inform the shepherds of Jesus’s birth.  Why not the priests or just townspeople?

A. That is certainly a question that has perplexed Biblical scholars for ages.  God comes to those whose hearts are open to receive Him.  He also seems to favor the least and the last, and these shepherds would have been at the bottom of Jewish society.  The answer might also lie in what they were doing: keeping sheep, and lambs specifically.  The pastures outside of Bethlehem were the main area for raising the lambs that would be used in sacrifices at Passover.  That would certainly be in keeping with what Jesus was to us: the Lamb of God sacrificed in our place.  Perhaps that has something to do with it.

Q. (2:19): What does it mean by “Mary kept all these things in her heart?”  Just Jesus being born and all the glory around it?

A. This is one of the lines that has me convinced that Luke interviewed Mary as part of his process of compiling this gospel.  Other translations render this “treasured,” which I think hits the nail on the head: Mary was completely blessed and overwhelmed by what was happening, including how greatly that God had blessed her.

Q. (2:25-35): What is the purpose of Simeon — just to validate who Jesus is?

A. Once again, likely a story included because Luke asked Mary about the story of Jesus being presented in the Temple.  Don’t forget Luke is the outsiders’ Gospel.  The story of an old man and a prophetess (Anna, my oldest daughter’s middle name, means “a gracious woman”), rather than, say, the High Priest speaking this prophecy would certainly point to God using those outside the religious establishment to bless Mary and Joseph.  Note what Simeon is saying: that this child will reunite Jew and Gentile, and provide salvation to the whole world, not just Israel.  That is an amazing thought, and sure worth including!

Day 267 (Sept. 24): The Word is God who created and gave life to all things, John the Baptist to spread the news about Jesus, Jesus’s ancestors, John the Baptist foretold, Jesus foretold

We made it.  I hope you enjoy the NT!  I CERTAINLY did and that is just after the first day!  Enjoy!

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.

Four hundred years after the last Old Testament book was written, the story of the New Testament begins to unfold, around 6 BC.

Mark 1:1

Luke 1:1-4

John 1:1-18

Matthew 1:1-17

Luke 3:23-38

Luke 1:5-25

Luke 1:26-38

Questions & Observations

O.  The New Testament writings start about 400 years after the Old Testament.   This time period is referred to as the intertestamental period.  Google it to learn about the political forces.  The thing I read about and found most interesting in Ch. 4 of The True Story of the Whole World (a book Rob recommended to help me see the narrative at work in Scripture) is that the Israelites had separated into four main identity groups: 1) The Zealots separated themselves from pagan practices and used military action to show their faith in trying to defend Judaism (obviously not Biblical of course!), 2) the Essenes’ tactic was to withdraw from the primary culture altogether, and they lived in various locations outside of Jerusalem, including in caves near the Dead Sea.  Their withdrawal from society had to do with what they perceived as an impure ruler (Herod) who served Rome, and a corrupted priesthood that was in cahoots with him.  The Essenes do not play a role in the NT story, as they would have no place in mainline Jewish society.  But the Dead Sea Scrolls that we have found were a collection of their Scriptures and writings. 3) The Sadducees became the primary members of the priesthood of this era, and were one group of Jewish leaders, who argued that they should work with their Roman overlords (such as Herod) in order to maintain the Temple worship and keep the peace.  They were the “conservative” party of their day: they had the least open interpretation of the Torah (only the first five books of the OT were valid to them), and so they denied what they saw as “radical” doctrines such as resurrection.  The High Priest, Caiaphas, and many of the other priests involved in Jesus trial were Sadducees.  4) The other major Jewish political party of this day was the Pharisees.  These are generally who the Gospels mean when they speak of religious leaders in Jesus’ day.  They were powerful men, who felt that if the people could be properly purified and follow the Law (as previous generations had failed to do), then God would send His Messiah into the world, and the Messiah would free the people from the Roman rule, violently if necessary.  As such, this level of desire for spiritual perfection made them very legalistic, which is part of the reason that these leaders and Jesus often were in conflict.

Q.  There is information about what happened in the 400 years of intertestamental period, but the Christian Bible does not include it because they do not believe it was inspired by God?

A. As we have mentioned, early Christians would have been familiar with the writings of the Apocrypha (the writings you refer to), but neither Christians nor Jews considered them to say anything new about God, so they never had the same status as the other writings of the OT.

Q.  Rob, do you have a good source for readers who want to look up a nutshell summary about the gospel authors and their relationship to Jesus?

A. Alas, I can’t.  I will work on one, and if there’s a short day, I will include it then.

Q. (Luke 1:3): And, on to the NT!  We are talking about the four Gospels here.  Gospel means the “good news” that the Messiah is born, right?  And the men who wrote the gospels were followers of Jesus and God inspired them to write an account of Jesus’s life on earth?  And who is Theophilos in v. 3?  Given the strong Roman culture, writing these accounts must have been inspired, because what other reason would they have for writing about Jewish stories.

A. Hum, ok, several questions there.  The Good News that is referred to is not the birth of Christ, but rather His death and Resurrection.  It honestly may be hard to tell from the way our readings are set up, but each of the four Gospels spends considerable time in the Passion story from Palm Sunday to Easter.  Two of the Gospels (Mark and John), don’t tell of Jesus’ birth story AT ALL!

As to the writers: ok, fine, I’ll include some stuff here.  (Hehe, just kidding)  Matthew is traditionally seen as one of the 12 Disciples (you can see his call story in Matthew 9, he is also called Levi), and he writes to primarily a Jewish audience — you will see more references to the OT in Matthew than any other Gospel.  Mark is traditionally seen as a companion of the Apostle Peter, and is referred to as John-Mark in the Book of Acts.  He is one of the 70 Disciples, a group of followers referred to in Luke 10.  Mark is viewed by most scholars to be the oldest Gospel (for reasons too complex to go into here), and he uses a central theme of what some call the “Secret Messiah”: Jesus’ repeated command for people to NOT tell others of His identity until after His resurrection.  Luke is a name referred to in the Book of Acts as well, as a companion of Paul.  He is traditionally known as a physician, and it appears from his writings (he is also credited with writing the Book of Acts) that a wealthy patron named Theophilos hired him to seek out information on the truth of the Gospel message by interviewing eyewitnesses.  For example, from this reading, it appears that he interviewed Jesus’ mother, Mary, for this is the only place where the Gospels recount her story.  Luke’s Gospel is the outsiders’ Gospel: it contains stories of Jesus’ interactions with women, Gentiles, and others outside of the Jewish mainstream, so it was probably written for a Gentile audience.  The writer of John is traditionally seen as another of the Apostles, along with his brother James, and one of the followers in Jesus’ inner circle with his brother and Peter.  John writes to tell the spiritual story of the Good News: he does not tell his story in necessarily the same order as the other three gospels (called the Synoptics), but rather tells his story around major themes such as light and darkness, and the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day.  John is also held to be the writer of the NT letters of 1, 2, and 3 John, and Revelation.

O. (John 1:1-5): This is gushing with simple words that encompass the beauty of God.  And some, like v. 3, reinforce the OT regarding creation.  These words really do sound like they are directly from God, not from a man.  If you have had a “God moment” (they are amazing and I strive for more and more of them), like God just puts a bright idea into your head or the right words just roll off your tongue but could in no way be from your brain, then you can understand how these words would come directly from God with Matthew as the voice to carry it.  And, “Word.”  If you think about that word and when people say, “I GIVE you my WORD,” they mean I am sharing it with you for our mutual benefit AND that it is the truth.  So, that would literally mean that God is handing us truth with His Word, the Bible.  And, LIGHT.  Just think about that word.  Not only does it mean wisdom, glory, like those who have it will shine to others.  But, for me, it also means how I can feel when I allow God to be present in me.  I feel light.  That lightness feels so amazing!  Looking at v. 4, I see that LIFE is another big small word.  I don’t think this means living and breathing here, I think LIFE means a reason for living.  LIFE, LIGHT, WORD.  And, I love v. 5.  If you carry the light with you, darkness can never take over!  I am putting that one in my memory verse bank!!!!

Q. (John 1:15): John the Baptist is telling everyone that the Savior is coming, but that he has been around for a long time, which we know that the Bible says he has always been with God, right?

A. John is a normal person, but called by God for a special purpose, just as all the Prophets were.  The message John is preaching is that God has always been with the world, but has now come INTO the world as a man.

Q. (1:18): The “unique one, who is himself God” is referring to Jesus?

A. Yes.  Jesus is the Word that the writer refers to.

Q. Is there anything you want to say about the ancestral lines?

A. One interesting note is there is variation at two different places between the two lines: who Joseph’s father is (Joseph being Jesus’ adopted father) and what son of David that line comes from.  In Matthew’s line, Jesus comes via David’s son Solomon, the two greatest kings in Israel’s history, and the whole list is of many of the great kings we studied.  Luke’s list is different: he has Jesus come from David’s son Nathan (not the same as the prophet who convicted David of his sin), and he lists a different father for Joseph.  How do we reconcile these two?  In my mind, Matthew is tracing the line to Joseph, and Luke is tracing the line to Mary, who was ALSO a member of David’s household in the tribe of Judah.  So while Luke refers to Joseph’s father in his line, what he most likely means is Joseph’s father-in-law, Mary’s father.  This is a unique way to explain how God could fulfill His promise to restore the throne to David’s family for all eternity, while at the same time promising that a son from Solomon’s line would NEVER again serve as king.  Jesus was born from David’s line, but via a brother of Solomon, Nathan, and adopted into Solomon’s line via His earthly father Joseph.  That makes Jesus the only person who could ever have both of those titles (son of David via Solomon’s line, and rule as Eternal King despite God’s promise that no son of Solomon would do so).  This is the type of stuff that is just amazing to me, and the ways that God reveals incredible truth in His prophecies: via God’s careful planning, David’s throne, via Solomon, is restored to its former greatness despite what God swore would never again happen.

Q. (Luke 1:5): OK, Herod was Roman, Greek, what?

A. Herod the Great was the Judean (not Jewish) king of the Roman province of Judea, which included Jerusalem.  So he was from the area, but was not authentically Jewish, which is why truly devout Jews never accepted his rule.

Q. (1:15): Here it says that John the Baptist was to abstain from alcohol, that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I know many Christians stay away from alcohol totally.  Does God speak out against alcohol?   Also, will there be a good spot to get into the Holy Spirit later?

A. We will save the Spirit for Pentecost in Acts 2, so that will probably be a few weeks away or more.  John is called in the spirit of the Nazirite, like the Judge Samson.  Numbers 6 provides a number of stipulations for being a Nazirite, and one of them is not consuming alcohol.  So it was not that God was incapable of working through people who drink alcohol, but rather that was John’s CALLING.  As to a more general rule on alcohol, we need look no further than Jesus to see God’s stance on alcohol.  Jesus was a Jewish man who kept Torah, and this involved participating in events in which wine was consumed (notably Passover), so it’s clear that he had no particular objection to its consumption.  In an era before basic sanitation, wine was much safer to drink than water, because the alcohol killed microbes.  Wine also had less alcohol content than today.  What the NT speaks out against is drunkenness: the intentional consumption of too much wine or whatever.  But outside of that and particular callings, the Bible does not come down as hard on alcohol as you might think.