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.