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 307 (Nov. 3): Jesus on trial before Pilate, Pilate releases Barabbas for Passover, Pilate tries to free Jesus, Crowd convicts Jesus, Pilate sentences Jesus, soldiers mock 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 15:2-5

Matthew 27:11-14

Luke 23:1-12

John 18:28-40

Mark 15:6-15

Matthew 27:15-26

Luke 23:13-25

John 19:1-16

Mark 15:16-20

Matthew 27:27-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 23:1-2): What’s the deal with the different charges?  Why are they not merely accusing Jesus of blasphemy?

A.  They can’t do that and get Pilate to execute Him, so they have to make charges up and hope Pilate goes along with them, which Pilate does NOT appreciate.  There’s an interesting article on the trials Jesus goes through (the legal ones) here: http://www.1215.org/lawnotes/lawnotes/jesustrial.htm, and I’m going to quote for the author about what is going on here, because he summarizes it so well:

If they presented Jesus as a man convicted of blasphemy on the testimony of only two witnesses who did not agree, Pilate would reverse their verdict. If they presented Jesus as one convicted by his own confession, Pilate would set the verdict aside. And, of course, if they reported Jesus was convicted by unanimous verdict, Pilate would enter a verdict of acquittal. So the guilty priests presented Jesus to Pilate on a new charge they trumped up on the spot: treason against Caesar.

So that is why Jesus is accused of treason: it was the only way that they could get Pilate to convict Him.

Q. (Mark 15:2-5, Matthew 27:11-14, Luke 23:1-12): Why did Jesus retort, “You have said it.”  Why didn’t He just say “yes?”  And, why didn’t he simply answer the leaders questions instead of being silent?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  Jesus has gone to great lengths to not publicly declare (though never deny) that He is the Messiah, and this event and the “trial” before the Sanhedrin appears to be no exception.  His answer strikes a middle ground between a blunt “yes” and a denial: note that both times He uses this phrase (which translates something like “your words not mine”), those asking the question treat His answer as a “yes” anyway.

Q. (John 18:30-31): So, it was against Jewish law to execute, so they handed Jesus over to the Romans so they could kill Him?

A. That’s about right.

Q. (Mark 15:6): The Romans have adopted the Passover?  The Passover is a Jewish holiday, but the Roman governor has a tradition of releasing a prisoner?

A. No, the Romans had allowed the Jews to continue to observe Passover.  The celebration would have been massive in the city, and there is an undercurrent in the story that is worth noting here: Pilate’s actions in turning Jesus over to be crucified are directly the result of his fear that the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for Passover will riot or even revolt, and Pilate is doing his best to keep the peace.  And I suspect in Pilate’s mind, even if he didn’t really want to kill Jesus, that it was worth killing one Jew in order to maintain control of hundreds of thousands of them.

Day 218 (Aug. 6): God has Jeremiah use a shattered clay jar and a garbage dump to demonstrate their future to the Israelites in Judah, Priests whips Jeremiah for prophecies, Jeremiah complains of mockery, Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar takes captives from Judah, four captives enter royal service for Babylon, Daniel refuses king’s food, God gives Daniel talent for deciphering visions and dreams, four captives gain respect

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.

Jeremiah 19-20:18

Daniel 1:1-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 19:2,6): So, God uses the broken pot and a garbage dump to show the leaders what their future looks like.  But, why should these rulers follow Jeremiah there anyway?

A. I guess because they knew him to be a prophet and he asked them to follow him.

Q. (20:1): I take it that Pashhur was not a priest of God?  I didn’t know priests could order someone to be whipped.  It sounds like prophets were viewed with fear and contempt.  They knew they had a direct relationship with God, which they feared, but they didn’t acknowledge God as Lord of all for some reason.  So, they would listen to these prophets, but not like what they say.  Stubborn is a good word for it.

A. Jeremiah’s message is that the generation has become corrupted, and what better proof than the priest, who should be seeking God’s love and charity, order Jeremiah flogged because they don’t like his message.  Jesus will follow in this type of scenario, being put through a flogging and crucifixion under very similar circumstances.

Q. (20:11-13): Although this passage seems a little chaotic, going from one message to the other.  The part that says God tests the righteous and examines our deepest thoughts stood out to me.  I would like to think that God has some respect for me as I am doing many things that he has instructed me to.  So, why can’t He trust me?  Why must He keep testing me?  The best answer and I believe it is that if He didn’t keep testing me, my relationship with Him would become stagnant and it may make me farther away from Him.  But, when I am tested, I dig deeper into my dependence on Him and become a stronger Christian in my walk with Him.

A. You’ve got the idea.

O. (20:14-18): I can feel Jeremiah’s anger here.  It sounds as if his whole life he has been prophesying God’s word only to be faced with ridicule.  So, all he has ever done gets absolutely no respect.  Not a fun life.  I would think that being a prophet is almost a burden, but on the flip side, they know what’s coming.  Given the other option, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Nevertheless, it would be a difficult, lonely life.  I know that Christians always say you are never alone because the Spirit is with you.  This is a common condolence when someone, especially a partner, dies.  But, it’s still lonely and difficult to figure out how you can let God alone fill that void.  I guess it doesn’t mean you have to fill it with all God, but maybe He will direct you to other things that will fill your life.

Q. (Daniel 1:1-2): I can see that by empowering another nation, God is demonstrating to that nation what they could have if they followed Him.  But, here Nebuchadnezzar took the treasures from the Temple of the Lord and put them in the treasure house of his god.

A. Yes, he did, but the true treasures he took were these people, especially the four men that will be at the center of the first half of the book of Daniel.

Q. (1:8-21): I don’t think that being a vegan is what this scripture is about, but this is worth mentioning.  I have been noticing that my friends who eat a lot of salads look more alert and fit.  I have been a vegan for over 20 years.  In college, I would by a ton of veggies and chop them up with my fabulous salad shooter.  Then, I would just have a salad every night.  Well, I got burned out on salads and am reluctant to think about eating them.  I eat a lot of veggies, usually steamed.  But, I know I eat too many processed things.  (Even a vegan can make unhealthy choices).  And, I feel dragged down.  I do notice when I eat fresh, uncooked produce that I feel more alive.  I am making baby steps to include more fresh veggies.  I hope God gives us more guidance with diet.

A. The major issue at play in this story is not vegetarianism/veganism, though there is a diet plan based upon this story called the Daniel Diet Plan (read about it here: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/what-is-the-daniel-diet-plan, and note that Rick Warren of all people is behind it.  I’m in no way endorsing the diet, just passing along the information).  The major issue here is clean and unclean foods.  It is likely that the Babylonians ate rich foods and stews, and wine that was not good for their health, and contained many unclean ingredients.  It is this, and not the meat itself, that is the thing Daniel is avoiding.  We know from modern dietetics that people can survive and even thrive on vegetables (properly balanced of course). So it is likely that Daniel and the other men benefitted from the nutrition in the vegetables in a way that even they would not have fully understood.  God used this situation and Daniel’s plan to gain influence in the king’s court, and we will see the way that this plays out in the next few chapters of Daniel’s book.

Day 194 (July 13): Songs for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem: deliver me from those who deceive, God is always watching and helping, Jews are feeling the pressure from mockers, keep the wicked away, their days may be hard but the rewards are plentiful

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.

Psalm 120-121

Psalm 123

Psalm 125

Psalm 126

Questions & Observations

Q. These Psalms are for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.  Why are they going there?

A. They are making a pilgrimage to the holy city in order to worship God and, most likely, participate in one of the three annual festival/holy days (from Exodus 23:14-17 and 34:18-23): Pesach/ Passover, Sukkot/ Feast of Booths, and Shavuot/ Feast of Weeks.  Since Jerusalem would have been higher than the surrounding countryside, it would have required walking up the steep roads to enter the city, and it would have been treated as a formal path of pilgrimage.

Q. (Psalm 120): Any idea who wrote this or what it’s about?

A. Nope, I won’t be much help.  My notes indicate that the places described in verse 5 are in what is now Saudi Arabia, far from the Jewish nation, so this writer had quite a ways to go to reach the holy city.  Because of this distance, he likely feels very isolated and surrounded by “barbarians” who don’t know God.

Q. (121): I think many times people think they have the hard end of the relationship with God because they struggle to keep His commandments.  But, it always feels so ironic that God is doing so much work by always being there, watching over us.  He really is our servant.

A. In a manner of speaking.  God is beyond generous with each of us, but let there be no doubt that while God often “serves” us, it is only that we might turn from our sins and walk more closely with Him.  We should have no illusions about who is in charge, and it is not us.

Q. (123): It sounds like these pilgrims have had enough of taking ridicule from nonbelievers.  They are looking to God to rescue them?

A. As we get closer to the destruction of Judah, the pressure on the people will continue to mount, and the presence of foreigners who mock them for their faith will continue to grow.  The words have been a great comfort to Jews for more than 2300 years, as the people have been conquered, scattered, and persecuted by people of other faiths (including Christians, sadly) for our entire modern history.  God is certainly laying groundwork here to help His chosen people remain faithful, even after centuries of persecution.