Day 301 (Oct. 28): Be ready for Jesus’s second coming at all times, parable of ten bridesmaids, parable of three servants, Jesus will separate the righteous from evil, helping others helps 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 13:32-37

Matthew 24:36-51

Luke 21:34-38

Matthew 25:1-46

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 24:36-51): We have heard this same story before, I guess from another one of the gospels.  Any idea why it wasn’t put with the other one since this is a chronological Bible?

A. While we’ve heard some version of the material, that doesn’t mean that it was presented at the same time as Jesus’ other sermons or that that material was never repeated (an assumption many skeptics of the Bible simply ignore — Jesus likely taught similar sermons over and over again).  Matthew records that these verses are part of a larger narrative on being prepared for the Final Judgment, which is unique, and has not been presented in the Gospels before now.  That is most likely why some of the material that kind of sounds familiar from other Gospels is presented here as part of a narrative about being prepared.

Q. (Luke 21:34-38): Does this mean we aren’t supposed to let our guard down by hanging out with friends and having a couple of drinks?  Or, is this talking about boozing it up at a bar?  I would say that as long as God is with you and on your mind, you’re OK.  But if you let your morals go, then you risk letting God go and your salvation?

A. The Bible does not prescribe a life completely free of alcohol consumption, but it DOES say clearly that drunkenness is a sin.  Since there are many people who cannot handle the distinction between a couple of drinks and being blackout drunk (i.e. alcoholics), it might be better for those people to avoid consuming alcohol at all, since it tends to dull your wits.  Bad decisions come after consuming too much alcohol.

Q. (Matthew 25:14-30): We’ve seen this one before too.  I can get two different morals from this story.  One is that the master is literally giving talents.  The servants who use their talents and either expand on them or profit from them are rewarded.  Or, the servants who use their talents to bring more people to God will be rewarded.

A. As mentioned, it is possible that Jesus is repeating a story He has already told in this instance to make a point about using the gifts and abilities God has given us (including being given riches).  Either of your proposed “morals” are fine, but they BOTH require a level of discernment: you must determine what you feel God is calling you to do, and then to act on it.

Q. (Matthew 25:31-46): Jesus is talking about when we help others, we honor Him.  If we don’t do that — his will and the new covenant — it’s eternal time in the fire pit.  When we lived on Guam, a neighbor who was a Seventh Day Adventist told me that the Bible says that the eternal fire is really not eternal.  I have always pictured people — I guess it would be there souls? — burning forever and ever.  Rob, what knowledge do you have?

A. First, one quick note: the story of the Sheep and Goats does not say that it is actions ALONE that will get us into heaven or send us to hell.  Our actions are generally a tangible representation of what we believe (i.e. we don’t generally act in contrast to what we believe).  So if we have faith in Christ, and have been changed by His life and teachings, then the result of such thinking will most likely being a radical change in our actions.  We are much less likely to be selfish if we have truly internalized what Jesus has taught us.  So if we have faith in Him, our actions will likely change, which is tangibly proven by our daily interactions with others.

As to the reality of what hell is “like,” we only have bits and pieces to go on.  There are some contrasting images that appear contradictory at first look: we are told that hell is a place of darkness, but also of fire for example.  In Revelation, it will be described as a lake of fire — burning sulfur, which used to be known as brimstone, to be exact.  As we discussed at some point — I forget exactly where — when Jesus discussed what we call hell, He used images of a place called Gehenna, a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem that was once used for pagan child sacrifice.  So there are various ways that the reality of hell is described.  Personally, I agree with one part of what your neighbor has said, but it’s not the part you might think.  I believe that there will be an eternal separation of souls from God, and that while there will be no LITERAL fire there, the agony and anguish of regret at having missed out on God will be undeniable.  Note carefully: all the metaphors that Jesus used to speak about hell — and don’t miss that it is Jesus HIMSELF who teaches much of what we understand about hell! — have a literal point: they represent regret, suffering, and misery.  Hell is real, and it is a real danger to those who willfully turn from God — no one goes to hell by accident — it is willful action on our part to end up there.  We all know or have heard about people who say they want no part of God at all — that He is cruel, or unjust, or whatever.  And as a person who believes strongly in free will, I believe that God is willing to say, “I will not force you to be with me if that is what you desire.”  But surely those who make up their mind to act in defiance of God and choose their sin and selfishness will regret what they have done.  Such defiance often makes us blind to a way out, even if the lifeline is still offered.  C.S. Lewis once cleverly remarked that if hell is “locked,” then it is locked from the inside.  Something to think about…

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

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Matthew 20:1-16

Mark 10:32-34

Matthew 20:17-19

Luke 18:31-34

Mark 10:35-45

Matthew 20:20-34

Mark 10:46-52

Luke 18:35-43

Luke 19:1-27

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 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 279 (Oct. 6): Disciples ask about pyramids and other things, Jesus explains scattering seed parable, why Jesus teaches with parables, parable of the lamp, winter weeds parable, parables of mustard seed and yeast, parable of hidden treasure and pearl, fishing net parable, Jesus calms the storm

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 13:10-23

Luke 8:9-18

Mark 4:21-29

Matthew 13:24-30

Mark 4:30-34

Matthew 13:31-52

Mark 4:35-41

Matthew 8:23-27

Luke 8:22-25

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 13:10-23): I’m guessing that the Israelites hearts are hardened and disbelieving because they have been taught that way by many, many generations.  Their ancestors heard all the prophecies and chose to ignore them, a sentiment which would have been carried down from generation to generation.

A. The image of a stiff-necked people who ignore God appears to still be an apt one.  It is worth noting, however, that many of the common Jews of this day (especially the poor and needy) eagerly accepted the message Jesus proclaimed.  It was the leadership and the wealthy (notably the priesthood that was in cahoots with Rome) that rejected what Jesus came to do.

Q. (Matthew 13:16-17): What is it that they have been seeing and hearing?  The prophecies?  The Messiah?

A. Jesus is talking about Himself here, and the arrival of the Kingdom of God with His presence.  As we have noted, Jesus is proclaiming that the Prophets have spoken of Him, and so He is declaring that these men would surely have been envious of the disciples, who have the privilege of seeing their own words come true.

Q. (Luke 8:17-18, Mark 24-25): What?  Actually, after reading the second one, I had an epiphany.  Understanding means listening or being in tune to the Holy Spirit.  If you listen with your heart and not your ears, you will receive messages from the Holy Spirit.  How is that?

A. Sounds pretty good.  I would only add that those who were truly listening to Jesus were the ones who had faith in Him.  As with the message of salvation, faith is the foundation of hearing God’s word.

Q. (Mark 4:26-29): The Kingdom of God refers to the nation of believers?  I get from this scripture that once the seed (Word) is planted, it grows in ways unexpected and unexplained.

A. I’m not sure I would use the word nation, but you have the idea.  The Kingdom of God — something Jesus will continue to discuss is the place where God is rightly recognized as King and Lord.  This is the central idea: if we do the will of the King (Jesus — God in human form), we are subjects of God’s Kingdom.

Q. (Matthew 13:24-30): This one is easy: the wheat (believers) are good, the weeds (non-believers) will be burned.

A. I would call that close, but be careful about making assumptions that Jesus does not make in this story.  Jesus does NOT say that only believers are the good wheat, or that non-believers are evil, just that there is good and evil, and it is impossible to separate them properly at this time.

This parable is actually an incredibly profound insight into part of the problem of evil (called the theodicy problem from the Greek words for “god” and “justice”).  The central question of theodicy is this: if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, then how can evil exist?  This parable provides part of the answer to two different aspects of this difficult theology.  First, the parable tells us that there is another force at work in the world: the evil one or “enemy” in the story.  So even the presence of a good God does NOT negate the existence of other powers.  The other question theodicy wrestles with is why does God not deal with evil as it happens?  Why does God allow injustice and evil (the Holocaust, the killing fields, etc.) and not do anything about it.  This parable answers this as well: God WILL achieve justice, but in the current age, the roots of “good” and “evil” are so intertwined that they cannot be separated without harm to the “good” roots.  So why does God not intervene RIGHT NOW?  Because He understands that there will be justice in the age to come, and though it might not make sense to us at the moment, God understands that there is too much at risk now to fully intervene against evil.  You can see why I find this parable to be so insightful and fascinating.

Q. (Mark 4:35-41): Just wondering.  Is it actually a sin to worry, to not hand over your burdens to Jesus?

A. Worry ultimately has its origin in a lack of trust in God.  Now that doesn’t mean we NEVER worry, but as we grow to more and more intuned with the will of God, I believe that the things we worry about will change and decrease.  Don’t forget Jesus’ reminder in Matthew 6:27: worrying does not add a single moment to our lives.  So how does it help?