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 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.