Day 337 (Dec. 3): Paul tells his story to crowd but is rebuked, Paul tells of Roman citizenship to thwart lashing, Paul goes before high council, Jews conspirte to kill Paul, Paul is sent to Caesarea

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.

Acts 21:37-23:35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 22:3, 22:25): Paul said he was from Tarsus, but then he says he was born in Rome.  These two places are far apart aren’t they?

A. Ha!  Being a Roman citizen is not the same as being BORN in Rome.  A Roman citizenship could be granted in any province of the Empire — including Tarsus, where Paul is from — and it would mean that Paul’s family was wealthy and influential.  It basically means that Paul was an official citizen of the Roman Empire, which put him squarely under the protection of the commander and governor.  Paul is pulling out his “trump card” here in order to “move up the ladder” and witness to those in authority.

Q. (22:22-23): I guess the crowd didn’t like Paul’s story?

A. Nope, they did not, but it won’t matter.

Q. (23:6): This is the first time I’ve heard Paul call himself a Pharisee.  Why did he do that?

A. Because he was one — he will talk about it more in Philippians — but he did so in this case to divide Sadducee and Pharisee in order to, again, avoid trouble and remove himself from the situation.  He’s clever in that way.

Day 305 (Nov. 1): Jesus is betrayed and arrested, Jesus prays at Gethsemane, Peter denies Jesus, high priest questions 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.

John 18:1-2

Mark 14:32-42

Matthew 26:36-46

Luke 22:39-46

Mark 14:43-52

Matthew 26:47-56

Luke 22:47-53

John 18:3-24

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 14:32): Do you know what the name “Gethsemane” means.  Just wondered if it is of any significance.

A. It means “oil press,” referring to the large press for the olives trees in the area. Remember the hill they are walking towards is the Mount of Olives.  Olive oil was a precious commodity in the ancient world, and used for all kinds of things.  As to significance, well, I would say you would be hard pressed (pun intended) to miss the notion of Jesus feeling “pressed in” on all sides when He is praying among an oil press.

Q. (14:34): What does Jesus mean by “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.”

A. Jesus knows the agony that awaits Him, and it surely caused His human self to be anxious and grief stricken.  He was under so much pressure, that He felt that He was going to die.

Q. (14:36) And what does he mean by “cup of suffering?”

A. Over the next 20 or so hours of this story, Jesus will suffer unbelievable agony before He dies.  He is thinking of it as a bitter cup that He must drink.

Q. (14:38): Is Jesus just warning to be careful of temptation, because it is seriously easy to give into?

A. Almost all of His followers will abandon Him by the end of today’s reading.  I would say that is falling into the temptation to flee.

Q. (Mark 14:45): Why a kiss?

A. In Jesus’ day, a rabbi or other teacher would have been greeted by a student or other person wishing to show respect by offering the person a kiss on the hand or cheek.  So don’t miss the irony of Judas using a symbol of love and respect to betray His master.

O. (14:48): Jesus delivered a good punch here when he asked them why they didn’t arrest Him in the temple.  And, from what we read, Jesus was harmless and unarmed, so why did they come to get him with such force.

Q. (14:500): I guess the disciples ran because they were afraid that they may be arrested too?

A. Yes.

Q. (Matthew 26:50): I wonder why Jesus calls Judas his friend?

A. I believe that Jesus still considered him a close friend.  He loved Judas just as much as His other followers.  Judas’ actions (and ours as well) did not keep Jesus from loving him and calling him friend.

Q. (26:51, 56): I know Jesus healed the priest’s slaves’ ear because Jesus said that his arrest must happen in order for the scriptures to be true.  But, are we to follow in Jesus’s non-violent example?  I don’t recall Jesus hurting anyone as a form of punishment. Also, Rob can you tell us who said this prophecy in the OT?  Why was Jesus’s death necessary?  It was foretold in the OT.  My guess is that nothing else worked long-term for making the Israelites see the way, the truth and the life.

A. Isaiah in particular wrote about the Suffering Servant (which Christians consider to be a Suffering Messiah), and the classic passage for such examination is Isaiah 53.  What Jesus is referring to is the path that He will walk to heal all of us.  As Isaiah predicted, by His suffering, we are healed.  As to why it was necessary, let’s revisit that one when we get to the actual crucifixion: the imagery there will be helpful for a full understanding of what is going on, at least as much as I am privy to.

Q. (John 18:3-11): John has probably the most different account of this encounter.  Why is John much more descriptive of Jesus greeting the religious officials who were going to arrest Him?  In v. 11, Jesus says, “Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”  I would think that this would be addressed to future readers to mean that we must follow the path God gives us even if it includes suffering.

A. John spends more time than any other Gospel on the last night of Jesus’ life (He will be dead before sundown the next day), so it is little surprise to me that he gives some details about the Garden that the others do not include.  As to why Jesus said, “I’m going to drink the cup the Father has given Me,” it is significant because HE WILL.  I wouldn’t try to read too much into what He is saying, Jesus is describing a plan already in motion that God the Father has set in motion.  What Jesus is saying here is that what will happen to Him is no accident: it is His very purpose in coming to earth.

Q. (John 18:15-18): Why was it important for Peter to deny Jesus?

A. Peter failed his Master at the worst possible time, after BRAGGING about how HE WOULD NEVER FAIL.

Day 299 (Oct. 26): Most important Commandments, Jesus questions religious leaders about Messiah, religious leaders known for pageantry not serving others, Jesus warns religious leaders, only one Father and one Teacher, Pharisees and teachers of religious law neglect justice, mercy and faith, widow’s offering is larger than that of the rich

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 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:35-37

Matthew 22:41-46

Luke 20:41-44

Mark 12:38-40

Matthew 23:1-12

Luke 20:45-47

Matthew 23:13-39

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 21:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 12:31): I had always heard that loving God was the most important and then loving your neighbor was second.  Here it says they are equal.  Does the Bible say one is more important than the other anywhere?  It seems like they are almost one in the same.  If you love God you will likely love others.  If you love others, you probably have God in your heart.

A. No doubt Jesus desires us to love God first — we might call what He says 1 and 1a — but that, as you state, a true love for God will be manifest in a genuine love for others.

Q. (Matthew 22:34): Can you tell me again what the difference is between the Pharisees and Sadducees?

A. Sure.  First, members of BOTH of these parties made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so we might think of them as the two major “political” parties of the day.  The Sadducees were the more conservative of the two, and used the first five books of the OT (Genesis to Deuteronomy) as their primary guides for living.  They rejected much of the later OT writings (notably including writings about resurrection, which as we have discussed come from the later parts of the OT, hence their rejection of the doctrine).  The Sadducees were the primary members of the Priesthood, including Caiaphas who will be one of the central figures of the Passion story as High Priest.  Since they were the “official” leaders of the nation as the priests, the Sadducees worked with the Romans, which made them inferior in the eyes of others, including the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a different ruling party, and their primary concern was a noble one in theory: they desired for God to act on behalf of His people and cast off the Roman oppression (though they rejected overt action such as assassination that groups like the Zealots used).  They believed that if the people of the nation could become righteous enough by keeping the Law, they would “force God’s hand,” so to speak, and bring the Messiah into the world to conquer the Romans.  They were the teachers of the Law.  Since they did not see Jesus as being a leader capable of such a violent revolt, it is little surprise they rejected Him as the Messiah.  The Pharisees hoped to achieve this righteousness by means of legalism, including the use of many traditions that went well beyond the scope of the Law, as Jesus has been pointing out.  They would have been among the most powerful group in the nation, but in general, they would have been greatly disliked by the common Jews, who saw them as showy and flashy but ultimately not helpful.  The Pharisees would be the surviving party after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and their lineage carries on today in the writings of the Talmud, and the line of the Rabbis.

Q. (Mark 12:35-37, Matthew 22:41-46, Luke 20:41-44): I think I understand that Jesus is asking the “experts” on religious law how the Messiah can be the SON of David.  David would not refer to his son as “my lord.”  And that, tripped up the religious leaders?

A. Okay, so here’s what’s going on here: Jesus is mocking the religious leaders in what would have understood in a humorous way.  Jesus is using a quote from David in Psalm 110 (and assuming Davidic authorship, by the way) to say that David himself saw the Messiah as being more than a normal person.  David saw the Messiah as being divine, which is why he refers to Him as “his Lord.”  But everyone in that day knew that the Messiah was ALSO a son of David from his lineage.  So in posing the question in this way, unless the religious leaders of the day were willing to admit that the Messiah was indeed divine (something they rejected — they saw him as a chosen ruler by not divine), they COULD NOT answer His question.  If the person chosen as Messiah was merely a man, then the great King David would have no reason to call him Lord.  That, if you will, is the joke, but it was also a blistering critique by Jesus.

Q. (Mark 12:38-40): I am sure that many religious leaders are guilty of posturing today.  I remember my dad and some other elders of our church inviting our small-town preacher out to dinner.  They would get upset though, because the preacher never paid anything for the dinner.  We gave offering to the church and I guess my dad thought that that is the preacher’s wages and he should pay for his own dinner.  He and his family were extremely nice, but the preacher did have a slight attitude that he deserved to be taken care of.  So, they didn’t ask him to dinner every time.

A. As a person who has worked in ministry, I can honestly tell you that it is quite easy to let a sense of entitlement get a hold of you, and it is something you must make war against.  It is very difficult to remain humble in the midst of those circumstances, which to me makes it all the more important.

Q. (Matthew 23:8-9): Don’t Jews call their leaders “Rabbi” and Catholics call their priests “Father”?

A. Yes they do, though it’s worth mentioning that nothing Jesus says here would be recognized by Jews today — they wholly reject His teachings.  What Jesus is saying here is not to seek the title for the sake of pride (which was a major failing of the leadership), and I do not believe that Jesus is saying, “never have any titles”.  This is a verse about humility, and a reminder to keep in mind who is really in charge.

O. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4): I have read this or heard of this passage many times before.  But, now that I have read it after reading Matthew 23:12, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” this verse has a new meaning.  She was not only sacrificing more than the rich people, she will be exalted for it!  This verse sure is a game changer.

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 290 (Oct. 17): Those who are “ready” for Jesus’s return will be rewarded, the call to follow Jesus causes division, barren fig tree parable, Jesus rebuked for healing on Sabbath, parable of mustard seed, Jesus heals blind man, spiritual blindness

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 12:35-13:21

John 9:1-41

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 12:35-36): Why a master and a wedding feast?  The person waiting is a servant, I guess, getting a dinner party ready?

A. Not in this story.  This is the master returning home FROM a party.  In the ancient world, banquets and wedding feasts could literally go for days and weeks.  Thus, a master who was returning home would not be able to tell his servants exactly WHEN he was going to come home.  That is the idea behind what Jesus is telling the people in this story: you’re not going to know the hour of the return.

Q. (12:42-48): After reading this several times, I take it that Jesus means that all of those who proclaim him and are ready in Spirit to welcome Him will be rewarded.  Those who think they’ll “get their act together” and follow Him later will … not be rewarded.  Servant means believer/follower?  Then, v. 48, says that the more Jesus/God has entrusted us with His flock, the more He expects.

A. Yes, I would say you’ve judged correctly.

Q. (12:49-53): Why would Jesus want to cause division?

A. The call to follow Jesus is a radical one, by its very nature.  It is difficult to think of a stronger contrast between men and women who are powerfully following after the Gospel and those who see it as foolishness (as many today do).  So Jesus is not necessarily interesting in CAUSING division, but division is a natural by-product of the message that He has come to proclaim.  We will see this type of division come to its zenith in Matthew 25 with the story of the sheep and goats, so watch for that during Holy Week.

Q. (12:56): Just an interesting point … I always think of the kajillions of things that God could control.  Here, it sounds like the weather just goes on it’s own because the people can monitor it with close speculation.  So, it sounds like to me, God created nature, but it’s on its own unless God chooses to use it for a lesson or reward.

A. The normal way I have heard such things explained is that God established the “laws” of the universe, including for our world.  God certainly has the ability to supersede these laws, but generally chooses not to except for the reasons you mentioned.  So we can study the way that God made the world — what we would call Science, even if you don’t think there is a Creator behind it — which is what the people in Jesus’ story are doing.

Q. (13:1-5): I don’t understand quite what’s going on in this Scripture, but I think I get from it that the people who Pilate murdered were not the worst of sinners.  So, unless they/we repent, we will face the same fate, or worse.

A. It fits under a notion that we have talked about a few times, when you asked me about “good people,” and my reply was basically to say, “there’s no such thing.”  What Jesus is sharing here is we are all deserving of death for our sins, but God spares us in His mercy, and we are not called to judgment for our actions — which the grace of Jesus would cover, but still… .  But even if God chooses NOT to call us into judgment, that does not mean that, on our own, we are undeserving of God declaring that our time is up.  It’s a tough message, no doubt about it, but notice what Jesus is doing: trying to convict people and lead them to repentance.

Q. (13:10-13): This Scripture just reminds me (I’m not saying that Jesus is like them) of the healings I’ve seen on TV where an evangelist will be on stage and start healing people.  They may fall on the floor or whatever.  Can anyone now say they can heal in the name of Jesus?  I would think it would be just for those Jesus had chosen to be in His inner circle.  But, the one man who the disciples didn’t recognize and was healing in the name of Jesus, Jesus was OK with that.

A. I do not put much stock in such efforts: many of those individuals are snake oil salesmen who are just trying to get wealthy, and they do no honor to the Gospel.  Honestly, I am of two minds about your question: I have no doubt that God is capable of using His people today to heal, but I have never witnesses such a thing personally (its not a miracle for nothing — they are rare!)

My big concern is this: imagine the potential for abuse in a person such as your TV preacher were able to heal just by calling on Jesus.  It is nearly unfathomable!  Such a power could be — and frankly would be, knowing human nature — completely exploited for personal gain and fame, and the power of God would be completely forgotten.  It is a sad fact about human nature (see question above) that such and ability would wind up generating fame and wealth for the person rather than glory to God.  Now, let me repeat: God is capable of doing whatever He pleases, but I have not seen a lot of evidence that God DESIRES to provide healing in this way, and clearly the reasons I have mentioned have something to do with that in my opinion.  We will see more about such issues as healing and raising the dead as we get a little deeper into the story, and especially into the story of the early church, so hang in there for more.

O. (13:18-19): Yesterday a friend called in the morning to talk because she was upset.  She called me because she knew I would have good answers on showing grace.  Let me tell you, that is a compliment, but I must say that I struggle with it too.  But, I have been working on it, mostly as a result of reading the Scripture for this blog.  So, I have seen this verse at work. What I have been sifting through this year in the Bible helped me help her.  Jesus used me as an avenue to communicate His love and grace.  I’m so glad she called!  And thus, the “harvest” gets larger!

Q. (John 9:3): I used to think that this kind of structure God has built was not fair at all.  I felt like we are puppets in His world helping His story come true.  Well, we are like that in a way, except we are much more than puppets.  We are His children who He loves very much.  Everything He does is orchestrating our lives so we can live with Him in heaven.  Yes, we have difficulties, but those can just serves as tests to see if we can be faithful.  They are opportunities to be humble, to show that we are not in control.  And, if we believe in Jesus and let Him take over, we will live fulfilled lives all the way to heaven.  Question: I still don’t understand God’s reason for mentally handicapped.

A. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about that.  But I know that there are families that have been so blessed by the joy that a child with, say, Down’s syndrome brings to the family, even if the “side effect” is mental retardation.  I have read stories of the way that special needs children have become cherished members of families and communities, and that many are blown away by their faith in Christ.  It certainly sounds like God can have a myriad of “reasons” for the mentally handicapped: they are still His children, and I suspect that God finds very special ways to communicate to them and through them.

For example, try this one (I confess, I wept a little): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christophers/2012/05/what-down-syndrome-taught-one-mother-about-brokenness-beauty-and-perfection/

Q. (9:16): Jesus is not setting aside the Sabbath for complete rest, but if He didn’t heal people who ask to be healed and have faith in Him, he wouldn’t have peace of mind, i.e. peace.  And, maybe the healing gives Him rest.  It would certainly ease the hearts of the ones He was healing.  But, I think the main point is that the Commandment of “Love one another” outweighs keeping the Sabbath.  And, if you don’t help people because it’s the Sabbath, you are disobeying God’s commandment and causing the person to continue their pain.  That doesn’t sound loving.

A. Amen sister!

Day 287 (Oct. 14): Jesus stays back from festival, cost of following Jesus, Jesus goes to festival and teaches, Pharisees are stirred by mystery of Jesus, Jesus promises living water, disbelief as to who Jesus is, adulterous woman provides lesson for all sinners, the Light of the world

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 7:1-9

Luke 9:51-56

Matthew 8:18-22

Luke 9:57-62

John 7:10-53

 [The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11.]

John 8:1-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 7:3): Any idea if this is His biological brothers talking or His disciples?

A. His human half brothers.

Q. (Luke 9:57-62): So basically if you “sign on” to follow Jesus, but have any doubts, you aren’t worthy of being one of his disciples?

A. I would read it more like, “if you prioritize the things of this world before the Kingdom of God, you’ve missed the boat.”

Q. (John 7:10-24): Any idea why Jesus told his brothers that he wouldn’t go with them to Jerusalem but decided to go by himself?  Then, he goes secretly, but starts preaching.

A. Jesus did not attend the festival as a pilgrim (as His brothers did), but rather as a prophet who brought a message of God to the corrupt religious leaders who needed to hear of God’s judgment.

Q. (7:28): Jesus was sent to earth as a human.  I wonder why God chose this avenue.  Since the people know where he came from, it’s very difficult for them to believe in Him.  Did God purposely make Jesus hard for the people to believe?

A. We are still early in the story, so hang in there.  Things will really ramp up with who Jesus claims to be as we enter Holy Week.  Also note that it will be the mission of the Disciples to go to all of these villages (including Galilee) to proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The clarity is coming.

Q. (7:37-39): Is anyone who believes in God and Jesus supposed to be blessed with the Spirit?

A. Yes.  Acts 2 will lay out the details.

Q. (John 8:1-11): I love this “look in the mirror” story.  Why was Jesus writing in the dirt?  Was it just a way for Him to think by using some time up?

A. Since no one knows what Jesus was writing, it is impossible to know what His writing means.  I suspect He was doing so to demonstrate that the crowd was not going to rattle him, even in the midst of the trap.

Q. (8:4): I notice that the teachers of religious law and Pharisees addressed Jesus as “teacher.”  Why do they call Him teacher when they think He’s a fake?

A. Jesus is respected as a Rabbi, and Rabbis frequently had disagreements, so it isn’t that much of a stretch.  The leaders may also be doing so because Jesus followers in the crowd do so: they are doing it out of mock respect.

Day 286 (Oct. 13): Jesus heals possessed boy, Jesus predicts His death, Jesus obediently pays temple tax, become humble as a child, Jesus OK with people healing in His name, parable of lost sheep, how to handle offenses, parable of unforgiving debtor

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 9:14-29

Matthew 17:14-20

Luke 9:37-43

Mark 9:30-32

Matthew 17:22-23

Luke 9:43b-45

Matthew 17:24-27

Mark 9:33-37

Matthew 18:1-6

Luke 9:46-48

Mark 9:38-41

Luke 9:49-50

Mark 9:42-50

Matthew 18:7-10

Matthew 18:12-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 9:19,29, Matthew 17:20): So the disciples couldn’t heal the boy.  I see conflicting reasons why in Mark and Matthew.  They both say, “You faithless and corrupt people!” making me rationalize that the disciples were not full of faith so they could not heal the boy.  But then, Mark 9:29 said that the evil spirit could have only been cast out by prayer.  Jesus said it like it’s a lesson that they hadn’t covered yet.  So, I don’t know which is correct — lack of faith or naiveté?  And, in both versions, why does Jesus address the disciples in a condescending tone?

A. Personally, I’ve always connected with the version that says their lack of prayer was the error.  Imagine trying to deal with a real life demon without consulting God and perhaps you can get an idea of why Jesus was so frustrated.  Be careful about reading condescension into the text: we have no way of knowing HOW Jesus said these words, so what you’re actually doing is assuming Jesus was being condescending.  As to the lack of faith issue: I don’t really know what that has to do with the situation (that too, might have something to do with prayer or lack thereof), but it appears that the disciples felt they were ready for the big leagues and Jesus was surely frustrated that they failed.  Training ordinary people to change the world can be hard.

Q. (Matthew 17:20): Rob, I have to say that a lot of these readings today are tidbits of information.  It’s hard to absorb the enormity of these little pearls of info that are life-changing, if you can do them.  For example, I believe that prayer and talking to God is genuine.  But, it’s hard to believe that I could move a mountain at my command.  I believe that I can move more important things than a mountain.  Is that what this is referring to?  Something that may seem impossible like softening a hard-hearted person can happen if you believe God will do it for you.

A. Jesus here is unlikely to be referring to literal mountains (as you ascertain), but rather saying that the way to remove obstacles is to have the faith to ask God in prayer.  Quality, not quantity.

Q. (Luke 9:44): Why does Jesus call Himself “Son of Man?”

A. Jesus is using this title as a reference to the person referred to in Daniel 7:13 and 14 as the one who is chosen by the Ancient of Days (God the Father) to be an eternal ruler.  If you read these verses, you get a sense of the understanding Jesus had of Himself, but by using a title that had a more implicit claim to power (as opposed to referring to Himself as Messiah), we, I think, catch a glimpse of Jesus humility and desire to not be thought of publicly as the Messiah at this point.

Q. (Luke 9:45): Why would his disciples be afraid to talk to Jesus about anything?

A. I can’t help you there.  They weren’t able to overcome their fear yet, and it’s not the last time that fear will get them in trouble.

Q. (Matthew 17:24-27): I don’t understand what we are supposed to learn from this story.

A. Jesus is cleverly remarking that HE is the true King of the Temple, and that the religious leaders who control it are not the true rulers.  A king would never tax his own family, but rather his conquered subjects.  Jesus is basically saying that Peter — and presumably the other disciples as well — are not subject to such a tax because they belong to the household of the true King: God.  But, He basically agrees to pay the tax out of respect for those in authority and to not give offense.  There will be plenty of time to offend the rulers of the Temple later.

O. (Mark 9:36-37, Matthew 18:5-6): I am tested on this issue when I am driving my daughter and one other child to school.  I call a lot of people “dudes” whether they are dudes or dudettes telling them gently (not) to move along.  I have thought about the love I am not displaying when I do this and what I am teaching the little ears and eyes in the back seat.  So my “dudes” are more reigned in.  They need to be gone from my heart too.  I’m the “dude” for not leaving on time!

Q. (Mark 9:38-41): So, Jesus isn’t worried about imposters here?  I’m not sure what to take from this passage.

A. What we should take away from it is that Jesus appears to have a much bigger view of what makes someone His disciple then His disciples do.  Jesus tells us that the man could not do what he is doing without genuine faith in Him.

O. (Mark 9:48): If maggots and burning wouldn’t steer you away from evil, I don’t know what would.  I had never heard there are maggots there.

Q. (Mark 9:49-50): My daughter’s school had a “giving” day called SALT where each grade did a huge service project.  My younger child packed shoeboxes of fun stuff for Haiti orphans.  My older child packed meals for 10,000.  This is all wonderful.  But how does salt translate into living peacefully with one another.  It doesn’t say what the qualities of salt are.

A. In Jesus’ ministry, salt appears to imply the presence of a genuine faith in Him, and that this faith should be the basis of a loving relationship with those around you.  Salt, in the ancient world, was used for all kinds of things, including being the one of the only ways to preserve food.  It was very valuable stuff, such that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with it — it’s where our word “salary” comes from, and also where the expression “worth his salt” comes from.  The only problem: it wasn’t pure, like the table salt we use today (they had no way to make it that way in the ancient world).  So what they called “salt” was usually a mix of various ingredients (often harvested from near the Dead or Salt Sea), and over time, this mixture would lose its salty flavor.  Jesus is thus telling us that faith in Him is what gives the “flavor” to our walk with God (an uncommon metaphor, but you get the idea), and if the flavor is lost, then the rest is worthless.

Q. (Matthew 18:7-10): Is this literal?  Or would it be more like if I am reading inappropriate stuff that I should throw it away?

A. Jesus is definitely using hyperbole here (though some throughout the history of the Church have taken His commands literally) in order to help us understand the severity of our sin and the effect that it can have on others.

O. (Matthew 18:18): It seems like I’ve seen this subject already, but don’t remember the answer.   : )

Q. (Matthew 18:19-20): Is this because God wants us to live in community, thus if two or more people were working on a job, it brings others together.  Good times to share about how God is working in your life.

A. In ways that are difficult to understand, Jesus appears to be saying that His spirit will be with those who gather in His name.  I confess I have long wondered about the meaning of this verse, but it’s an intriguing promise.

O. (Matthew 18:34-35): Good incentive to follow Jesus!

Day 284 (Oct. 11): Jesus helps Gentile woman, Jesus heals deaf man and others, Jesus feeds 4,000, Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a miracle

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 7:24-30

Matthew 15:21-28

Mark 7:31-37

Matthew 15:29-31

Mark 8:1-10

Matthew 15:32-39

Matthew 16:1-4

Mark 8:11-21

Matthew 16:5-12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 7:26b, 28): How would one know if someone was a Jew or Gentile without talking to them?  Jesus is calling the Gentiles “dogs” right?  He’s saying that He is supposed to take care of his own people before others?  She said though even the dogs are hanging around and getting love from the master.  But, this woman proved faithful, a hint that Jesus’s love and his salvation are meant for everyone?

A. Pretty much if they didn’t live in Judea, they were a Gentile.  It is very likely they dressed different as well.  In the story Jesus appears to be testing the woman (for reasons lost on me) and say that He has been sent to the Jews first (which is consistent with what He’s been saying the whole time).  But since her faith is proven, Jesus grants her daughter’s healing.

Q. (Mark 8:1-10, Matthew 15:32-39): Why do we hear this same story again only with 1,000 (plus wives and children) fewer people?  I’m guessing it’s because that the people — Jesus’s disciples, in particular — were still wavering on who Jesus was.

A. This crowd was probably more of a Gentile gathering than the feeding of the 5000, and note that Jesus refers to both feedings, which indicate their separate inclusion is not an accident.  It certainly appears to be something of a repetition to emphasize Jesus’ care for the needs of the crowd.

Q. (Matthew 15:33): The wilderness is brought up many times in the New Testament.  I’m guessing that the wilderness symbolizes a place 180° from the towns.  It’s where you could be alone with God and away from all the bad influences in crowded areas.  It’s also a place where you would become more dependent on and thus, close to, God, relying on Him for your own survival.

A. You’ve got the idea.  Jesus, in entering the wilderness, is again connecting with the history of His people, since they obviously spent many years in the wilderness during the Exodus period (a Matthew theme).

Q. (16:2-4): Can you explain why Jesus is referring the Pharisees and Sadducees to the story of Jonah?

A. In Jonah’s story, Jonah spent time in the belly of the great fish (a whale by tradition, but the word whale is never used either in Jonah or by Jesus).  He spent three days and nights in the belly of the fish.  There is some thinking that goes that since Jonah was inside the fish, the stomach acids discolored Jonah’s skin and hair, which would have made him look very strange.  Thus, when he finally traveled to Nineveh on his mission, it would have been very easy to get the people’s attention: he looked discolored, and possibly pale white.  This was apparently a sign to the people of Nineveh.  In the same way, Jesus’ body being buried and then returning to life in a different form (more on that later) was the sign to all those who were seeking after Him that His words were true.  The resurrection would prove to be the final “sign” that the people (including the religious leaders) sought, and many, including some of those leaders, would come to believe.  That’s the sign of Jonah Jesus refers to.

Q. (Mark 8:21): Jesus will give you all that you need.  He won’t skimp.

A. I like it.

Day 278 (Oct 5): Women included in Jesus’s group, religious leaders accuse Jesus of being obsessed, Jesus tells importance of Jonah, Jesustrue family of believers, scattering seed parable, Jesus explains seed parable

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 8:1-3

Mark 3:20-30

Matthew 12:22-45

Mark 3:31-35

Matthew 12:46-50

Luke 8:19-21

Mark 4:1-9

Matthew 13:1-9

Luke 8:4-8

Mark 4:10-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 8:1-3): I just wondered why women joining Jesus is important?  Maybe they prepared meals?  I like the fact that it is mentioned, letting us know now that Jesus valued everyone and everyone can serve Him.

A. This question cracks me up.  Luke is doing two things here, neither of which has to do with cooking: 1) he, as the writer of the outsider’s Gospel, is pointing out that women were a part of Jesus’ inner circle — something mentioned much less in the other Gospels — and 2) he is telling us that these women were the ones providing for the needs of Jesus’ little band.  There were His patronesses — a bit more important than being the cook, isn’t it?

Q. (Mark 3:27): Why does Satan (evil) fall to Jesus (good)?  I would just say that the goodness happens to be stronger than evil.

A. That’s sort of a complicated question, but here’s my take.  When we think about good and evil, we tend to think of them as two sides of the same coin, in a “yin and yang” kind of way.  They are eternal opposites.  But, as C.S. Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity, this picture is not reality.  The Bible points to the idea that the cosmic struggle between good and evil is a civil war, rather than one of eternal opposite powers.  Satan/Lucifer is a created being, and therefore, he is by definition a “lesser” being then God.  Satan led a rebellion against God, and was cast out for it (this will come up again in the NT).  What Satan represents in the Bible is corrupted goodness, not eternal evil.

This can be applied to our lives as well: when we think of evil, people like Mao, Hitler, and Stalin, for example, we find that as much as we despise these men, the goals that they sought after were not inherently evil in the abstract sense.  These men desired power, control, wealth, etc.  None of those things are evil in and of themselves, in fact they are often thought of as good things.  But what we see the evil in is the WAY in which these good things are pursued.  If you have to kill millions of people — as all three of these men did — to get your power, then you are evil.  As Lewis roughly puts it, you can be good just for the sake of goodness, you CANNOT be evil just for the sake of badness.  No one is evil just to be evil: they desire things that one can abstractly call good.  Being good is virtuous in and of itself; evil is ALWAYS a good desire that has been corrupted.  I hope that idea makes sense.  So in that regard, that’s my take on why good wins against evil, because the “good” is the real and true thing.  The “evil” is a hollow, corrupted shell.

Q. (Mark 3:28, Matthew 12:31-32): So, no one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will go to heaven?   What if they have a change of heart?  If you hear someone do this, you should just walk away and not try to tell them about God?  You shouldn’t give them any “pearls”?  And, in Matthew 12:31-32, the scripture says that blaspheming Jesus IS a forgivable sin.  Why the difference between Jesus and the Spirit?

A.  This is not as complicated as you are making it out to be: there’s a semi-simple explanation.  There is an underlying assumption in Christian theology that it is the Holy Spirit that works to restore the heart and mind and desires of each and every human being, even those who are not Christians.  So in that sense, it is the Spirit that allows us to understand the forgiveness of our sins.  But if we declare that the Spirit is NOT the source of these good things (which is blasphemy), it is not so much that these words are SO unforgiveable, but rather that we are cutting ourselves off FROM THE SOURCE of forgiveness.  We have turned away from the One who helps to change our hearts, including those changes of hearts you mentioned in your question.  So it is not that Jesus is saying that speaking these words somehow puts you beyond God’s reach and you’re out of luck, what He is saying is that if you repeatedly deny the power of the Spirit (by, for example, accusing the Spirit of being a demon as the Pharisees are doing here- that’s the connection), you reach a point where without a radical change in your heart, you have PUT YOURSELF out of God’s reach.

Q. (Matthew 12:23): My husband is studying Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship.  He had the question about Jesus being a descendant of David.  He was having a little trouble with Joseph’s line.  I think Mary’s is established in one of the gospels that we have read.  I read somewhere on the Internet that Joseph was a descendant of David, but since Jesus was born from the Holy Spirit, Joseph was a more adoptive role.  And, because He is not biologically related to Joseph, that would allow Jesus to not be under the curse of Solomon (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_exactly_is_Solomon%27s_curse).

A. Interesting article.  I addressed this in the genealogy section (basically word for word, he he) of our reading on Day 267 (Sept 24th).  Perhaps you didn’t make it that far into my answers? (J/K)

Q. (Matthew 12:33-37): I assume Jesus is talking about the Pharisees here.  Let’s discuss again what the Pharisees were doing that was so bad.  They were teaching God’s law.  That seems pretty obedient.  And, now there is a new law.  I could understand how they would get hung up on the way things have been for hundreds of years.

A. The Pharisees were legalists, and as many Christians (my wife included — she grew up in a very rigid house and church community) can tell you, legalism KILLS love for God.  These leaders knew the Bible — OT of course — inside and out, and literally had studied it since their birth, but they failed to properly apply what they read with compassion and love.  That is the major breaking point between Jesus and these leaders: the burden that they gave was a legalistic “heavy” burden, Jesus gave a burden that was light and founded in love and grace.  Legalism knows nothing of grace — by definition, it can’t.

Q. (Matthew 12:38-40): It’s awesome how he brings Jonah from long ago back in to the picture.  Do we know what Jesus is talking about when He says He’ll be “in the heart of the earth”?

A. Yes, the grave.  Jesus was literally dead from the end of Good Friday until Sunday morning: three days in the earth.

Q. (Matthew 12:43): Jesus is casting out a lot of evil spirits.   Where do they come from?  What are they?  What causes them to enter a body?  Do they still exist today?
A. Demons are fallen angels, like Satan, who appear to have the ability to enter into people and control them — we will see more violent versions soon.  As to whether it still happens and why, I don’t have an answer for either.  Sorry, there’s too much speculation, and the Bible does not seem to think it is important enough to tell us.

Q. (Mark 3:31-25): To me this interaction is a bit strange.  If my mom and siblings came calling on me, I think I would come out quickly because they must be concerned about me.  Instead, Jesus turns it into a teaching tool to say we are all God’s children and should love one another, as we have a common cares, beliefs, motivations and goals.  I’m not sure why this sounds a bit awkward.  It’s almost as if our family ties don’t matter.

A. It appears that at this stage of His ministry, Jesus’ family thought He was insane, and were basically coming to get Him to avoid further embarrassment from their peers.  But Jesus is clear about His mission, and He will not be deterred by His family when His task is not yet done.  Jesus will have more to say about family ties, so let’s revisit this when He does.

Q. (Mark 4:1-9): Any idea why Jesus is often by a lake?

A. Sure, that’s where the people were.

Q. (Mark 4:11-12): Several questions here: 1) What “secret?” 2) How does teaching through parables make the scripture true and how does it help others understand?  3) Can you explain the lines in v. 12?

A. In Mark’s Gospel (this is a unique feature), the secret appears to be the coming of the Messiah in the midst of the people of Israel.  Jesus is not yet ready to fully identify Himself as Messiah in this way, because He will be misunderstood.  Please note, literally the only person who He has explicitly told that He is the Messiah is the woman at the well back in John 4.  So the “secret” is something of a way of presenting a humble Messiah who is hiding in plain sight, and only those who have faith in Him can see it.

As to the parables themselves, they are Jesus’ way of bringing to light the truths of the Bible in ways that people can understand at multiple levels.  Again, only those on the “inside” (for now) understand.  In comparing His ministry and use of parables to that of Isaiah (whom He quotes from), Jesus is saying that He desires to expose the hardheartedness of many of the leaders of this day, just as was Isaiah’s call centuries ago.

Q. (Mark 4:20): The “harvest” here is referring to believers produced?

A. You got it.

Day 274 (Oct. 1): Jesus heals man who had been sick for 38 years, Jesus is the authority and the way to eternal life, Jewish leaders condemn Jesus for working on the Sabbath

Congrats!  We have reached the ¾ milestone.  And, the NT is just flying by with lots of joy filling every reading.  It’s hard for me to stop reading ahead!  (So, I am!)

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 5:1-47

Mark 2:23-28

Matthew 12:1-8

Luke 6:1-5

Mark 3:1-6

Matthew 12:9-14

Luke 6:6-11

Matthew 12:15-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 5:21-22): These verses are confusing to me.  What does it mean that Jesus gives life to anyone He wants.  And, in v. 22, it says that God does not judge.  Since when?  He judged in the OT.  Has Jesus’s birth changed that?

A. I am not fully conclusive on what He means, but it appears that Jesus is saying that it is the Son, rather than the Father, who judges the nations.  We will see more of this as we enter Holy Week, so hang on to these thoughts.  Jesus will claim that He, as Son, will be given the entire world to judge, so there’s something to this.  The answers will come.

O. (5:24): I’m writing this one down.

Q. (5:25, 27): Who is the “dead” that is talked about here?

A. Exactly who you think it is: the dead of all time.  The NT will paint imagery of the Final Judgment, in which the entire world — past, present, and future — will be judged.

Q. (5:25-30): We don’t have to talk about this now if there is a better time for it to come up.  We are talking about the dead rising and being given eternal life.  What a wonderful time that will be.  The manner to which one is put to rest has come up in conversation today.  I’m from a farming community in the Midwest where burial was the norm.  But, since I have left there, cremation is the major consensus.  I just wondered if the Bible addressed the subject.

A. It does not, and the reason for that will become clear as the story unfolds.  Let’s discuss this more around, say Matthew 25 and 1 Corinthians 15.

Q. (Mark 3:2): I assume that Jesus’s enemies here are the Jewish leaders.  Essentially, they are working also if they are “working” to uphold the Sabbath by watching out for others’ breaking the law.

A. You can see hints and a few examples of places where the religious authorities (Pharisees in particular — remember they sought salvation via following God’s law in a strict manner) just tie themselves in knots trying to keep the Sabbath.  But ultimately, they miss the point (as many do today): the Sabbath is the gift of rest, that God expects us to take.  It should be taken seriously as something good for us, but it should not be something that causes us mental difficulty or legalistic trouble.  As Jesus put it, it is a gift for man, not something that man is forced to do in order to keep a code.  The Pharisees had it completely backwards, and Jesus was perfectly willing to call them out on it.

Q. All of these healings and miracles that Jesus did are primarily to show God’s power and love in order to harvest more believers, right?

A. Yes, they are a testimony to His authority of life, disease, and nature itself.