Day 309 (Nov. 5): Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea, women say stone rolled away, Angel told of resurrection, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene to inform disciples of resurrection, soldiers make up false story as to Jesus’ 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.

Mark 15:42-47

Matthew 27:57-61

Luke 23:50-56

John 19:38-42

Matthew 27:62-66

Mark 16:1-8

Matthew 28:1-7

Luke 24:1-12

Mark 16:9-11

John 20:1-18

Matthew 28:8-10

Matthew 28:11-15

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 19:38): John is the only account that says Joseph was a secret disciple.  Doesn’t this make 13?  And, we had talked earlier about the common number 12 — 12 tribes and 12 disciples.  But, I guess since Judas died, that would make it 12 again.

A. Joseph is a secret follower, but not one of the 12 (now 11- it will be 12 again soon).

Q. (Mark 16:1): Rob, I think we have talked before about the Sabbath being on Saturday and not Sunday.  I think you said it was because Jesus arose on Sunday, like it says in Mark 16:9.  But, why would this change the day we worship God, if He commanded it to be on Saturday?  Also, I looked it up online and the only thing I could see is that the Catholics changed it in their doctrine, 1,000 years before a Protestant denomination arose.

A. Oh it’s a much earlier change than that.  The early Church came to see EVERY Sunday (the first day of the week, corresponding to the first day of Creation) as a new Easter, a reminder of Jesus’ victory over death.  One of the arguments that we will see unfold in the midst of new converts to Christianity — primarily Gentiles — is the question of whether you needed to be a Jew first in order to become a Christian.  Ultimately, the leaders decide that you do not, and that because of Christ’s sacrifice, they are no longer under the requirements of the Law (something Paul will discuss extensively), including the Sabbath requirement.  That is why the transition from Saturday to Sunday took place: the most important day of the Christian week was no longer Saturday, but Sunday — it symbolizes the new beginning that Christians see taking place in Jesus.

There are some Christians who feel that the Church should still honor the Sabbath as defined in the Law: they are known as Seventh-Day Adventists, and one of the central differences between them and other denominations is their strict rule about worship on Saturday, not Sunday.  Personally, I see the value OF a Sabbath- we certainly benefit from a day of rest to focus on God and family, but in Christ, we have a new found freedom that says we can decide when that day of rest is, and that it is not REQUIRED to be Saturday (or even Sunday).

Q. (Mark 16:1-8): What is the purpose of the spices?  I would assume to honor and respect the person and also help with the smell of rotting flesh?

A. Yes and yes.  It was part of the Jewish burial ritual to honor the dead in such a way, and kind of like our modern embalming process: it was to help deal with the stench, which ironically, Jesus did not wind up needing.

Q. (Matthew 28:1): Matthew says there is an earthquake, but the others gospels don’t.  I would think that this is just a difference in the story being passed along since the disciples weren’t eyewitnesses.

A. The people who are likely telling this story to the different authors are very likely remembering different details — Matthew was also the only one who mentioned the dead bodies walking around.  Note what is being said here, however: the other Gospels don’t say, “And there definitely was NOT an earthquake”.  Try not to assume a negative, especially when dealing with eyewitness reports as you suggest.

Q. (Mark 16:9-20): Why are there two lengths of Mark — a shorter version that ends with v. 16:8 and a longer that ends with 16:20?

A. The earliest manuscripts we have — which are assumed to be the most reliable to the original writing — end at verse 8, with the women not telling anyone what they had seen.  There are a few theories about why: one is that the original ending of Mark was lost —scrolls such as the ones the Gospels were originally written on tended to lose the beginning and the end of the story.  Another possibility is that verse 8 WAS the original ending, and Mark meant it to be a pointed statement along the lines of “how could you possibly keep a story like that to yourself as it says the women did, and the women clearly DID end up telling people, etc.”  Anyway, regardless of the reason, later Church writers appeared to edit the ending of Mark to include the verses you see (and a few more tomorrow); these verses tend to relate to the resurrection stories told in the other Gospels, so they appear to be later additions rather then necessarily genuine stories.  For my reading of Mark, I view it that for whatever reason, Mark’s true ending is 16:8, either because that’s where Mark intended to edit it, or because it has been lost to history.

Q. I guess Mary is a common name back then?  I know Maria is popular in Spanish cultures.

A. Mary (Miriam in Hebrew to be technical, meaning “beloved”) was a common name on Jesus’ day.  It was the name of Moses’ sister and a prophetess in the Exodus story; Miriam was one of the most respected female characters of the OT (along with Deborah, Hannah, and Rachel), so it is little wonder that many girls were given this birth name.  As to the use of the name today (that would be Mary in English, Maria in Spanish, Marie in French and German, etc.), that has to do with Jesus’ mother, the Virgin or Blessed Mary, who is one of the central figures of the Roman Catholic world, which of course dominated the religious landscape of Western Europe for 1500 years.  That’s why the name was so common then, and is still common today.

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 306 (Nov. 2): Council questions Jesus, Peter denies Jesus three times, Jesus goes before Pilate, Judas hangs himself

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

Mark 14:53-65

Matthew 26:57-68

Mark 14:66-72

Matthew 26:69-75

Luke 22:54-62

John 18:25-27

Mark 15:1

Matthew 27:1-2

Luke 22:66-71

Matthew 27:3-10

Questions & Observations

O. (Mark 14;53-65): I see several things to comment on here.  1) And what is Peter’s role here.  He seems like a coward.  2) This is the pinnacle of Jesus’s “I Am” response.  3) Here we have Jesus saying He will be at the right hand.  What did we say the right hand signified way back in the OT?  4) It’s amazing the effect on people of crowd mentality.  They become like a mindless mob.  5) V. 65: If they only knew to whom they were jeering, spitting and slapping!

A. 1) Peter is acting like a coward, just as Jesus said he would.  2) This is just one more piece of evidence that Jesus knows what is happening and is prepared to die.  The men who were accusing Him of blasphemy couldn’t get their story straight, and Jewish legal proceedings in this day required two eyewitnesses to bring blasphemy charges.  So if Jesus had just said nothing, or denied being the Messiah, He likely would’ve been freed: there would have been no ground to charge Him.  Instead, He incriminates Himself (if you want to think of it that way) by proclaiming the truth that He is the Messiah.  Without Jesus doing so, there would have been no basis to charge Him.  This passage is fascinating to me for that reason.  3) The right hand was the seat of power for a king or ruler (in this case God the Father): the trusted general or other confidant that acted on the king’s behalf.  Its where we get the term “right hand man” from.  4) I suspect that the crowd was disappointed that Jesus did not conquer the Romans when He entered the city on Sunday, as many expected Him to.  Over the course of the week, it appears that public opinion turned against Jesus.  The mob is fickle indeed.

Q. (Mark 14:66-72): Why a rooster and why would he deny Jesus three times before it crowed twice.  It’s just seems like an odd thing to happen.

A. The rooster crowed at dawn, signifying Peter’s failure during the night.  I don’t know if there is anything else special about the event, except that it is a time marker in a period where there obviously were no watches or other ways to tell time before sunrise: the rooster was it.

Q. (Mark 15:1): Because the Jewish officials took Jesus to Pilate early in the morning, is this why many churches have sunrise services?  Or is it the resurrection?

A. The resurrection, you’ll see when we get to the story.

Q. (Matthew 27:3-10):  Poor Judas!  This just shows that someone can wake up when they realize the consequences of their actions.  So, Judas hangs himself.  This is an aside comment, but isn’t it a sin to take ones life that is a ticket to Satan?  I have been told that, but I don’t think we’ve come across it in the Bible yet.  And lastly, why would the Lord want the Israelites to purchase a potter’s field with the 30 pieces of silver that Judas returned?

A. Suicide is not expressly forbidden in the Bible, but it is surely not something God desires.  It is obviously impossible to know if it is an offense that condemns one to hell, but we have established that through Jesus that no sin outside of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, which presumably includes suicide.  What we don’t know is if Jesus refers to sins that we can seek forgiveness for, which you can’t do in the sense that we are used to if you are dead, so it remains a mystery.  In the end, as with all things, we must trust in God’s grace, and I believe that at least some of the people who tragically commit suicide can still find forgiveness and grace in Christ.  No one is beyond His reach, but not all will seek to take hold of it.

As to the Potter’s field, the story appears to be saying that since the money was blood money, it could not be used in the Temple, so they basically found a way to get rid of the money by buying a field from a potter to make a public cemetery.  What this has to do with the role of a potter is beyond me.