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

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

Mark 13:32-37

Matthew 24:36-51

Luke 21:34-38

Matthew 25:1-46

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 298 (Oct. 25): Two sons parable shows who belongs to God, farming parable highlights church leaders corrupt hearts, wedding feast parable shows the chosen, coin story shows importance of God, earthly relationships not important for resurrection

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 21:28-32

Mark 12:1-12

Matthew 21:33-46

Luke 20:9-19

Matthew 22:1-14

Mark 12:13-17

Matthew 22:15-22

Luke 20:20-26

Mark 12:18-27

Matthew 22:22-33

Luke 20:27-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 21:28-32): This is what I think is the “moral to this story”: So, Jesus is saying that, in their hearts, the tax collector and prostitutes believe in Him, but were not following yet.  And, the ones who followed God, were not committed in their hearts.  So, the ones who believe are better off with God than the ones who follow Him by sight alone.

A. I would call that is pretty close.  The younger son is the one paying lip service to obeying his Father, but ultimately does not do what the Father says — this is the way that Jesus has repeatedly described the religious leaders.  The older son represents those who are truly following the wishes of the Father, even if they aren’t on the “inside.”  They are doing what is right, which is what the Father ultimately desires.

Q. (Mark 12:1-12, Mathew 21:33-46, Luke 20:9-19): So, I got this one.  The farmers are obviously the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, the landowner is God, the servants are prophets and Jesus is His favored son.  The farmers don’t listen to the prophets, so God sends His son to see if they will obey Him.  They still don’t, they reject Him.  So, Jesus puts the question to the farmers, or church leaders, as to what will happen next.  You would think this would open the leaders eyes to their evil ways.  Then, Jesus gives them another example of them rejecting Him, but then He becomes the cornerstone.  I like Luke’s version where he says that anyone who stumbles over the stone — fails to see Jesus’s teachings — will be destroyed.  I also noted that those who have thought they were the heirs to the Kingdom of God lose their inheritance because of their assumptions that, by default, the kingdom is theirs.  But, they are not following God’s intentions.  They are following their own selfish ways.  So, the Kingdom of God will be granted to those who they have trampled on.

A. Spot on.  Nothing to add here.

Q. (Matthew 22:1-14): God and Jesus use a lot of wedding imagery between them and their followers.  Can you talk about that?  Also, this is an easy story to understand.  But, how about explaining the last verse, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  I’m not sure what “chosen” means.  I would guess it means, “For many are called, but few are worthy.”

A. If you think weddings are a big event here, then you would REALLY be impressed by the wedding feast imagery Jesus is talking about.  Weddings in the ancient world were huge festivals, especially when a ruler such as the king in this story was throwing it.  As we mentioned a few days ago, the festival could go for days, and the exact “end” of the wedding was not entirely known.  One other note that we find humorous: after the actual ceremony, the new happy couple would leave the group and go to, uh…consummate the union.  The wedding party itself literally WOULD NOT BEGIN until they had returned.  Isn’t that something?

We need to compare the two sections of the story in order to understand what Jesus is telling us at the end.  First, the call: the call is one that, metaphorically, goes out to all humanity.  But many do not answer, mostly because like the people in this story, they are too busy with their own business and internally focused.  But the man who is in the midst of the party and not in a wedding outfit — you were expected to wear your best clothes to a wedding, just as today, and many times the host would prescribe or even provide an outfit — brings into focus the last section of the story.  It points back to Jesus’s message in Matthew 7:21-23: not everyone who comes to the party will be able to partake of it.  The image that I have seen used to help us understand the passage is the wedding clothes represent the work of Christ covering up our sins (the “dirty” clothes).  Those who arrive at the “party” without the proper garment (the blood of Jesus atoning for their sins) will, sadly, be cast out.  Without the proper attire, which can only come for the true King, we are lost on our own.  Without a proper outfit, you cannot be “chosen”.

Q. (Mark 12:13-17, Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26): What does Jesus mean by “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”

A. The clue is in what Jesus asks for: a Roman coin called a denarius (the equivalent of the pay for a day’s wages).  In Jesus’s day, this coin would have borne the stamped image of the Emperor Tiberius.  That is, the coin had the “image” of Caesar.  And if we go back all the way to Genesis 1, we note there that man and woman were made in the image of God.  So Jesus is basically making a simple and profound statement about our loyalties: give to Caesar, He says, the things that bear the image of Caesar (the coins), since they “belong to him.”  But, He also says, the things that bear the image of God (us) belong to God, and by extension…not to Caesar.  In summary, Jesus is saying it is right to give to earthly leaders what is owed to them (taxes), but that their leadership pales in comparison to He who made US in His image.

Q. (Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, Luke 20:27-40): Obviously, Jesus is much wiser than me because I don’t understand this one.  All I can guess is that He is saying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead.  He is the Living God.  And, if He lives in us, we are eternally alive.  But, we do die an earthly death and then, when Jesus comes, we will rise again to be alive.  Right?  So, we would be dead for a time.

A. Our bodies are mortal, and will die, but our souls are immortal, and can be given the gift of eternal life from faith in Christ.  We will talk more about what the NT says about our resurrection when we get into Paul’s letters, but that’s enough for now.

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

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

Matthew 13:10-23

Luke 8:9-18

Mark 4:21-29

Matthew 13:24-30

Mark 4:30-34

Matthew 13:31-52

Mark 4:35-41

Matthew 8:23-27

Luke 8:22-25

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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