Day 308 (Nov. 4): Simon ordered to carry Jesus cross, Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, devoted women followed Jesus to the cross, crowd jeered at Jesus, crowd mocked “king of Jews” sign, Jesus treated like a nobody, soldiers gambled for His clothes, Jesus cries out to God and dies, Temple curtains torn from top to bottom

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 15:21-24

Matthew 27:32-34

Luke 23:26-31

John 19:17

Mark 15:25-32

Matthew 27:35-44

Luke 23:32-43

John 19:18-27

Mark 15:33-41

Matthew 27:45-56

Luke 23:44-49

John 19:28-37

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 15:40-41): I have noticed that these accounts have made it a point to mention all the women that were at the cross.

A. Yes, and to me, it is a great tribute to their inner strength that in the midst of all but one of Jesus’ disciples fleeing in fear (John was there — “the disciple Jesus loved” is John’s humble way of referring to himself), these women are there to witness this awful event.  The fact that multiple Gospels mentions their presence only adds to the authenticity of this detail.

Q. (Matthew 27:51): Why were things splitting apart?  I assume God was reacting to the scene?  And what, people were raised from the dead?  I have never heard that before.  It sure pays to read the Bible myself.  Why were the dead raised and went to Jerusalem?

A. I’ll address the curtain splitting in half below, but the basic answer I can give you is that the Earth itself is reacting to Jesus’ death: the sky grows dark, the earth shakes, etc.  We are not given any more details on the raised bodies, since none of the other gospels mentions them, so we don’t know who it was (or if it is even names we would recognize).  Matthew is pointing to the power of resurrection in Jesus’ death, and giving us a “mini” Easter.  The raised people were probably from Jerusalem, so that is most likely why they went there.

O. (John 19:31-37): Glad I didn’t live back then.  These people were ruthless!

Q. (John 19:32-33): Why did the soldiers break the legs of the other men who were being crucified?

A. To answer that, you have to understand what happens during a Roman crucifixion.  The body is not simply on display (though that is part of it) and you don’t bleed to death due to the holes in your hands/wrists and feet.  A Roman crucifixion is a torturous death indeed: you die slowly by suffocation.  With your arms spread on the cross and nailed down, your diaphragm muscle cannot pull in air, so you can’t breathe.  But its not a simple as that: your body WILL NOT LET YOU not breathe, so you are forced to pull up on your hands in order to raise your body and breathe.  That would be easy…except that your feet are nailed down as well.  So you can spend hours (like Jesus, who died in “only” six hours) or even days (imagine that…) going through an endless cycle of torture in which you pull your own weight up in order to breathe, and then “relax”, and over and over and over.  (Leigh An: I can see why saying that “Jesus breathed His last breath” — because it was excrutiatingly laborious — was a big deal.) The entire point is to torture and to cause the death to take as long as possible.  It is one of the cruelest methods of execution ever devised.

So in order to speed up the process of dying, the soldiers would break your leg bones, at which point you can no longer push up on them, and your death comes fairly quickly, which is what the Jews requested of Pilate.  The brutality of such an execution is hard to even fathom.

Q. (Question from Rob): This is where I said I would discuss it…why DID Jesus have to die?

A. In discussing this question, we have to remember the ritual sacrifice system that was at the heart of Jewish Law.  In order to atone for sin (that is, to transfer the effects of sin from a person to another being), there had to be a sacrifice of blood (“This is my blood, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sin” is the way Jesus put it).  In the OT, this was done by sacrificing a lamb or other animal: a perfect specimen was offered for the sin.  The sinner laid hands upon the animal, signaling the acknowledgment that this animal was about to die for their sin, and then the animal was killed and the blood spread on the altar.  The spilled blood symbolized the atonement for the sin because sin causes death, and therefore requires a life — either the life of the sinner or the life of the animal.

So in Jesus, we see what John meant when he referred to Him as the “Lamb of God” in John 1: Jesus entered into suffering and death not merely on behalf of one sin, but for ALL sin.  He willingly accepted the punishment that was rightly due to us: suffering and death.  This is the central concept of what is called atonement theology: Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice, that we might be reconciled to God, just as the Jews had done with animals for centuries.

Now when we say that God and man were reconciled, we mean that they were reunited, the way that God had originally intended before sin separated us from Him.  We can see this reconciliation in one of the most important descriptions of the Passion story: the rending of the Temple curtain.  Nowhere was the separation between God and man more clear than at this point: the massive, forty-foot curtain that separated the Holy place (where the priest would burn incense day and night) and the Holy of Holies (where the Ark of the Covenant used to reside).  Now after the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC, there is no record of the Ark again, but the great stone upon which the Ark was traditionally rested (called the Foundation Stone) was still behind this curtain, and it was here upon that stone that the High Priest would offer his sacrifices on behalf of the community once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  So though the Ark was gone, the divide remained.  But the narrators of our story tell us that when Jesus died, something changed in the world, for all time.  At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain split in two (note that it tells us it was from top to bottom- showing this to be an act of God), signifying that the separation between God and man had been breeched.  Because of Jesus’ actions, God and man no longer needed to be separated to protect humanity: they had been reconciled by the work of Jesus.  This reconciliation will be central for our understanding of the whole of the remaining NT theology: God has done a new thing in Jesus.  Because of this, we can become adopted as children of God, who are free to receive the blessings of the Kingdom: most notably, the very Presence of the Spirit of God within us.  So our reading today is paradigm shifting: after this moment, the gap between God and man has been bridged, and because of that, everything else that will take place in the NT will become possible.

Day 296 (Oct 23): Woman praised by Jesus for anointing Him with perfume, Jesus enters jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus foretells His death, God speaks

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 14:3-9

Matthew 26:6-13

John 12:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Matthew 21:1-11

Luke 19:28-40

John 12:12-19

Luke 19:41-44

John 12:20-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-11): I understand what Jesus is saying that this woman is so honored to anoint Jesus with this wonderful perfume.  But, I understand the other’s response that it was using perfume that could have been sold to help the poor.  We have talked before about how different churches use their money to glorify God: some build ornate buildings and have huge choirs, others put their resources to mission work.  So, I think both responses to how the perfume is used are honorable.  I know you will likely say that this is Jesus and there is nothing more important.  I am not arguing about that!  I’m just saying I can understand why their knee-jerk response was that the perfume could have helped others.  And, they had no idea Jesus was about to be buried, thus the anointing was appropriate.  And, why did Jesus say, “there would always be poor among you”?

A. I think the disciples were put off by the lavishness of the gesture, and their reaction might also had something to do with jealousy — likely they could not afford to make such a gesture to their exalted Rabbi.  But Jesus sets things straight — you can hardly blame ME for just following what Jesus told them!: He will only be with them a bit longer, and He is surely right about the gesture being remembered — look what we’re doing here.  As to why Jesus statement about the poor, I honestly don’t know what to tell you here, except to say: Jesus is right, there has always been those who were poor or had need, in Jesus’ day and in ours.

Q. (Mark 11:11): Why did Jesus look at the temple and then leave?

A. I do not know, but He will return on Monday.

Q. (Mark 11:2, Matthew 21:2, Luke 19:30, John 12:14): Why a young donkey?  I guess that John tells us it was in a prophecy.  Where was the prophecy?

A. It’s from Zechariah 9:9: a humble King will come riding on a donkey.  The donkey was a symbol of peace and the simple life: It was a burden animal, not an animal of war like a stallion or a warhorse.  It cast an image of a humble king, one who came in peace, not in an image of impending war and conquest.

Q. (Luke 19:41-44): I guess you are going to make us wait to see the destruction come to Jerusalem that Jesus is talking about in v. 44?  This must be very upsetting for Jesus to know that the very town that holds the beautiful Temple and had all the potential to be God’s beacon, never happened.  This is a very heavy passage.  There is so much emotion here.  All of the ancestors who could have turned Israel’s fate around, failed.  All of the kings who should have ruled the people justly and taught them about the Lord’s laws are now at a juxtaposition with Jesus, the true King who is riding on a donkey to set Jerusalem straight.  And, remember that God never wanted Israel to have a King because He was supposed to serve as their Light, but they failed to keep their faith.  When they came to the Promised Land out of Egypt they failed to conquer all of the kingdoms.  And, thus, the idols that they worshipped infiltrated Israel and it never was the same.  This is a sad, sad culmination of centuries of discord.

A. Not only will I have more to say, but Jesus will too.  Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that will take place in 70 AD, which the Romans will level the city down to its foundations in most places during a war with the Jews (they will do so again in 135 AD as well).  You can pretty clearly see the bittersweet thoughts Jesus is having, and it must have been so difficult for Him, but the offer He was making was being ignored and will continue to be.  It’s just one more place where the free will that God gives us and wholly respects comes into play: Jesus had no desire for the residents of the city to perish, but they made their choices and God respects our decision making too much to interfere.

Q. (John 12:20-36): I noticed in this passage that Jesus never answered the request that the Greeks wanted to talk with Him, nor did he answer the crowd’s question of who He was.  Instead, he offered the best advice He could offer them which is to trust in Him.

A. You’re catching on.  I couldn’t have said it better.

Day 292 (Oct. 19): Disciples must give up their life, lost sheep parable, lost coin parable, lost son parable, shrewd manager parable, resurrection of Lazarus, severe punishment for those who tempt

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 14:25-17:10

John 11:1-37

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 14:27): Ok, what does “carry your own cross” mean exactly?  I think it’s going to be a good answer!

A. It was part of the burden of the person who was going to be crucified to carry their own cross, kind of like if you were required to carry a noose to the sight of your hanging or your own electric chair.  This was part of the humiliation involved in the crucifixion process — more on that later).  Jesus is using an image His audience was familiar with (and they would be VERY familiar with it soon) to describe the burden (easy and light as Jesus tells us, but still a burden) that must be considered before starting to follow after God.  It is actually a problem I have experienced first hand in our evangelism efforts: we who share the Gospel message often proclaim it in such a way as to mask the cost of following Jesus.  There is a cost to be considered, and it is wrong for us to make any sort of claim otherwise.  Count the cost, Jesus says, then follow Me.

Q. (14:34-35): So, basically, if you are not ready to follow Jesus it would be like dead weight tagging along with him.  Accurate?

A. Don’t forget what we have established when Jesus uses the word “salt”: salt is the essence of the Gospel, that which preserves and flavors life.  Without the salt of the Gospel, life will ultimately end up without meaning: that’s how it ends up on the manure pile.

Q. (14:7, 15:8-10, 15:11-22): This isn’t to say that the one is more important than the 99, right?  Just that there is more joy because the lost sinner has returned.

A. The parable says nothing of importance, just of joy and celebration at repentence.

Q. (16:1-18): I had to read this several times to understand you have to read the whole passage to get the message.  Basically, the Pharisees are honest on paper, but not in their souls.  And, just because a Pharisee appears to be godly, God’s laws are firm and not blind to the Pharisees injustices.  How’s that, Rob?

A. This is a tricky passage, no doubt about it.  In my reading and studying this passage, I have found that there is NOT a deep theological meaning contained in it: Jesus is basically saying, “you have got to be shrewd like the people of this world, but do so in a way that you are thinking of the next world, not just this one.”  That’s it.

Q. (16:19-31): So I take it that the rich man was an Israelite and would know God’s laws.  There had to be people who didn’t know them.  As I heard in a sermon, only 4% of the population could read.  And, the Bible manuscripts wouldn’t have been available to many at all.  So, the rich man had to be sent to the place of the dead knowing he was not compassionate.

A. The rich man most likely represents a king or other ruler (possibly Herod Antipas, who was known to wear purple robes during his rule.  Purple was the most expensive color of that day.  So if it is Antipas, then he was not a Jew, but would have been familiar with Jewish customs.  He is in torment not for being rich, but for his lack of generosity.  Note that the rich man does not deny his crimes, but rather looks for mercy from Abraham.  A few other notes: the concept of Abraham’s side was something of a short-hand for “heaven” or “paradise” in Jesus’ day (they used it the way we use the image of the pearly gates and St. Peter).  As with our understanding of these images, they did NOT treat them as literal, just as we don’t believe that heaven is a gated community with a doorman.  It’s just an image of our culture.  Jesus is using this familiar image to warn people about the reality of a lack of generosity, and what it can cost.  Note the powerful image of the great chasm in the story: there is a gap between those in paradise and those in torment, and no one can “move” unless the gap is overcome.  Jesus also cleverly inserts a frankly brilliant line about not being convinced even if someone comes back from the dead.  Both of those lines are major foreshadowing on Jesus’ part.  I love the deep images of this parable.

Q. (17:1-2): To me, someone who is tempting another to sin is like Satan himself.

A. Satan is sure not above that type of thing.

Q. (17:7-10): So, this story paints a picture that as Jesus servants, we are to serve Him without expecting a “thank you” — he doesn’t need to thank us anyway after he died on the cross.  This picture sounds bleak.  But, in reality, I see the opposite: Following Jesus brings joy.

A. This parable is meant to be a lesson on knowing our place and being humble before the One True King.  Jesus is basically telling His disciples, who are a little too eager for power, that they are merely servants.  For the moment, that is enough.

Q. (John 11:33-37): In v. 33-34, I don’t understand why Jesus was angry.  I take it he is upset because his friend is dead and because Mary is wailing and He doesn’t like to see her like that.

A. I don’t think He was, and I dislike the way they have translated that word.  The image I get (see for yourself: http://biblehub.com/text/john/11-33.htm) is of emotional pain (not anger), and being deeply moved by the death of His friend.

Day 288 (Oct. 15): Unbelieving people warned, Jesus knows Abraham, Jesus charges his disciples, top Commandment, good Samaritan parable, Jesus supports Mary’s choice, prayer model, be persistent

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 8:21-59

Luke 10-11:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 8:34): Rob, can you explain further what it means to be a “slave to sin.”

A.  Sure.  I think what He’s saying is fairly simple: when we choose to sin (which is sadly often), we tend to think that we control the outcome of our decision making, and perhaps at first this is true.  But over time the sins that we believe we control inevitably control us.  Think of alcoholism or other addiction.  At first, we might have the ability to say, truthfully, that we can stop.  But after a while, when it really gets a hold of us, those words will become hollow: we cannot break the addiction on our own.  That is what Jesus is talking about: sin is spiritual addiction, and it requires a savior — our own efforts will not do.

O. (8:38): Following earthly fathers is something that the world has struggled with forever — from the Bible to now.  And, that is why it’s so hard to break free from our evil ways is because it’s so engrained in us from our ancestors.

Q. (8:31-59): This is a very heated argument between Jesus and some Israelites listening to Him.  And then he gives them v. 58 where he says “I AM.”  Do you think there is any way he could have convinced them He was the Messiah?  I would say Jesus’s crucifixion is coming quickly.

A. They (the religious establishment) don’t think He’s the Messiah: they think He is either powerfully deluded or possessed by a demon.  Jesus will wander away again at this point in the story, but it will be quite clear His mission when He next returns to Jerusalem.

Q. (Luke 10:30-37): This passage is the answer to the question that a religious law expert asked Jesus.  He is saying that everyone is your neighbor or treat everyone as if they were your next-door neighbor.  Basically, go out and love and care for everyone you come across?

A. It is more specific than everyone: the Samaritan and the Jew in the story would have been enemies, and would NEVER have spoken to each other, much less helped each other out.  Jesus is saying that you should be willing to even show great love and compassion to your enemies.

Q. (Matthew 10:38-42): I am applying this to today in a non-Jesus way just to illustrate the point.  I used to stay up way late getting everything cleaned before having guests the next day.  Then, when they arrived at our house, I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy to talk much … I was worn out.  I have shortened my stress time and cleaning time since then.  And, I’m stressing much less about the whole event.  So, it’s better have a not-so-perfect, unorganized house and enjoy your company, especially when having Jesus for a guest!

A. That, I would say, is what Mary realized, and what Martha needed to learn.

O. (Luke 11:9-10): I’m glad to read this because I have always felt ungrateful to God when I have keep praying for the same thing over and over (and, no, it’s not a fancy shmancy sports car.)  But, here Jesus gives us the green light to do be persistent with the wishes we ask of God through prayer.

Thanks!  Good read!

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.