Day 361 (Dec. 27): All through John, Jesus wrote letters to churches in Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, heaven, Lamb opens the scrolls and breaks the seals

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.

Revelation 3-6:17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Relation 3:1-6): Sounds like most of Sardis has fallen, but Jesus is giving them a last warning/chance?  And those who have made the right choices are good to go.  I am starting to get a better understanding of the “chosen” issue.

A. When you say “most,” keep in mind that it means the congregation of Christians, not necessarily the entire city.  It appears that many in that congregation were falling away — we don’t know why — and Christ is calling them to renew their faith.

Q. (3:7-13): Sounds like Philadelphia is a great place to be.  They have done well and get to skip the testing for judgment?  V. 12 says that a new heaven will come down and Jesus will take on a new name?

A. Maybe.  The Greek can either mean, “keep you from [undergoing]” which would match your suggestion, but it might also mean “keep you through,” which would imply that they will not be left out of the trial period that is described in the rest of the story.  The new Heaven and the name of Jesus will come later in the story.

Q. I notice that each of these church letters end with the same words: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.  To me, this is just saying that we can all benefit from these teachings?

A. Yes, and Jesus spoke very similar words during His earthly ministry (Matthew 11:5, Mark 4:9).

Q. (3:14-22): Jesus is giving the church in Laodicea a charge to choose believing?

A. He is saying that they are tepid, or lukewarm: neither hot nor cold.  The explanation for the reference is quite clever: Laodicea was a wealthy city, and there were two sites close by that were considered “luxuries”: Hierapolis, famous for its hot springs, and Colossae (the same as the NT letter), which was famous for its cold, invigorating spring water.  People from Laodicea went to Hierapolis for “spa days” as we might refer to them, and vacationed in the summer in Colossae, and so they could enjoy both the hot and cold water as they wished.  But apparently, at one point, there was a project to pipe hot water into Laodicea from the hot springs, which they were able to make work — a feat of engineering at the time! — but the water lost its heat along the way.  The water that arrived was lukewarm, and was apparently nauseating to drink: so no one did — they spit it out.  So Jesus is saying that the community of Christians in this city was like the tepid water in the pipes — no one was “drinking” it, and that had to change.  And they needed to be desirable water — hot or cold.

Q. (4:5): What is the significance of the name “sevenfold Spirit of God”?

A. Seven is our watchword for fullness or completion.  This place is the dwelling of the very Shekinah glory of God.

Q. (4:6-8): Are these creatures the same ones that were in the OT?

A. These are the same beings referred to in Ezekiel 1 (they have only four wings in Ezekiel’s vision, we don’t know why John “gives” them 6).  Christian thought has these representing a class of angels known as Cherubim, which we know very little about.  But the most important thing to note here is that the four creatures speak of the Lamb, they reveal who He is.  Thus, it has become popular interpretation to understand the four creatures as representing the Four Gospels, and this influences Christian art and thought to this day.  If you’re wondering: Matthew is the Man, Mark is the Lion, Luke is the Bull, and John is the Eagle.  Thus, for example, if you visit St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice — or, much closer for you Floridians, Flagler Memorial Presbyterian in St. Augustine, which was modeled off of the original in Venice — I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Old City.  You will see lion imagery throughout the building.

Q. (6:1-17): What is the meaning of the different colored horses?

A. If you recall a while ago, we read about these same colors in Zechariah 1:8-17 and 6:1-8, so again, John is calling on our understanding of those visions to help him paint his vision here.  The four colors represent a sequence (these are the famous Four Horsemen): white represents rule and conquest (the white rider is some sort of ruler or leader of people, and is frequently seen as the Antichrist).  The red represents war and bloodshed. Black represents famine and plague — as a result of war or neglect, there is a shortage of food (frequently associated with times of war).  The prices given are 10 times the normal cost of wheat and barley.  The implication of the oil and wine is that since the trees that produce them have deeper roots, it will be more difficult to stop production of those items, and the black rider desires to control the distribution of these products to ensure maximum suffering, but also maximum profit!  War is so much fun for those who finance it!  (Sarcasm)  The Pail horse, representing the color of a corpse, represents the end of the sequence: massive death, and the rider of this infernal animal is the personification of death itself — what we would call the Grim Reaper.

Day 360a (Dec. 26): Jude’s letter is similar to Peter’s second letter, beware of false teachers, remain strong in the faith as you did from the beginning, Jesus appears to John holding seven stars (angels of the seven churches) and standing amidst seven gold lampstands, church of Ephesus is told to return the strong faith they had in the beginning, church in Smyrna told of impending suffering but a reward comes afterward, Pergamum church is told to rid itself of evil teaching, and church of Thyatira is warned of Jezebel’s sexual promiscuity but tells others to hold true to their faith because they will get authority of the Father to rule

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.

The letter from Jude addresses many of the same concerns as Peter’s second letter, which suggests that the two letters were written at about the same time and to the same churches.

Jude 1:1-25

We are here at the last book of the Bible.  You did it!  This is a book like no other book in the Bible which can be quite confusing, so Rob offered up an introduction to Revelations.  It’s the next blog dated Day 360b.  Thanks, Rob!

Revelation 1-2:29

John wrote Revelation from the Island of Patmos, where he was exiled “for preaching the word of God and for (his) testimony about Jesus” (1:9).  This occurred either during the mid-60s, during Nero’s reign and before the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jude 1:1): Jude was Jesus’s brother too, right?

A. Jesus had a brother named Jude (also known as Judas, but not the fallen apostle), and tradition holds that this is the writer of this brief epistle.

Q. (Revelations 1:4): What is “sevenfold Spirit”?  What is the significance of seven spirits, seven stars, seven lampstands, and seven churches?

A. The number seven represents completeness, so the usage of seven is used here to have a double meaning.  It represents the presence of the seven churches — which they would have considered to each have a lampstand, a symbol of the power of God and a guardian angel — that the letter is written to, but also the seven represents the ENTIRE eternal Church body.  John is cleverly using a well-known image of the seven days taken to complete Creation (there are many similar OT images in Revelation, as we shall see) for his own purposes.  The more OT you know, the easier it is to unravel many of the mysteries of Revelation.

Q. (1:20): So, we have seen quite a change in God’s people.  The Israelite’s started out with Abraham, grew and grew to a large nation, then salvation was shared with the Gentiles and now God addresses the churches.  The “church” seems like an establishment that God wants us to make.  It’s a model of how we can all work as one for a greater good.

A. The local community church is, to mince no words, the center of God’s plan for the salvation of the ENTIRE WORLD!  So it is not really shocking that the Spirit, through John, writes to both encourage and correct congregations of this day.

Q. (2:13): Can you explain Satan’s “throne” being in Pergamum?

A. We don’t exactly know, but there are a few theories.  The most common theory is that it refers to one of the many pagan temples located in the city — most likely the massive temple to the God Jupiter/Zeus.  It was also a major “hub” of that portion of the Roman Empire, and many important rulings were issued from there, making it a “throne” area of this enemy of the Church, the Empire itself.  A throne would be a place of comfort for a “king,” in this case Satan, so another theory is that John is referring to the city being a place of comfort for the enemy king, Satan himself.  Any of those, or some combination of all of them, is probably what John has in mind.  It is a symbolic image, like many we will see in this text.  Keep reading this section for more!

Q. (2:17): What’s the white stone?

A. In the ancient world, a white stone was often “issued” as a ticket for an important event, such as a festival or wedding.  Thus, Jesus giving a person a stone with a name (likely engraved) on it should be understood as that person being invited to the ultimate celebration: His wedding (more to come on this).

Q. (2:20): Didn’t we read about another Jezebel who was a king’s wife in the OT?  Any similarities between her and this one?

A. Yes we did.  Jezebel was a great enemy of the true people of God in the OT, and so John is using her name symbolically — a running theme here — to describe a woman in the congregation who is leading people away from the true path, as Jezebel did centuries ago.  One of the recurring themes here is in this type of cryptic literature — the genre is called apocalyptic — is that the author wants to keep the true meaning of what he is saying hidden from outsiders.  So by repeatedly using names and symbols of the OT, which Jews and Christians would have been familiar with but most Greeks and Romans would not have, he can convey clear imagery to those in the “know,” but outsiders are not clear on the meaning.  It’s the ultimate in “insider” writing.

Q. (2:26): What is special about Thyatira?  Is it because those who are strong-willed enough to resist Jezebel deserve a reward?  I have thought a lot lately about how strong sexual desire is — I think probably more among men — and the reason for it.  Maybe a very hard test?  Manlihood, or to show one’s success, is a strong desire, so for men to give that up and submit to God would be a big obstacle to overcome and worth a reward?  (If you haven’t watched the movie Flywheel, it is a good movie about a man giving up his proudful manlihood and control and giving his life to God.)

A. The rewards that you see for each of the churches — there are four more to come — are speaking of the general “rewards” of being faithful to Christ, and I do not believe that there are particular rewards that will not be given to others.  It is simply a way to keep from repeating himself.

Day 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

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.

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

Day 321 (Nov. 17): Paul gives strong advice to the Thessalonica church, Paul encourages church to remain steadfast in the midst of persecution, Jesus’ second coming, Jesus will take down leaders and man of ‘lawlessness,’ Paul warns against being idle, God gives peace at all times, Gallio stands up for Paul, Paul returns to Antioch of Syria

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.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

2 Thessalonians 1-3:18

Acts 18:4-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22): Paul says a lot here.  Are these instructions concrete?  I would think they would be goals.  V. 16: I can’t imagine being joyful all the time.  We all have some low times.  It does seem like some people are much more joyful than others.  V. 18 says to be thankful in all circumstances.  I’m working on that one.  I must say, it would be very hard to thank God in some situations.  I know if you have faith, that whatever seemed so bad will have a reason. V. 22: I would think this means to stay away from evil for yourself.  If we are to reach some sinners, we must brush up to evil.

A. I think Paul is speaking of the position we should be desiring.  We should desire to joyful all the time, for that means that we are able to handle any circumstance.  Paul, like Jesus before him, was no stranger to sin, and surely recommends spreading the gospel among sinners while not sinning yourself.

Q. (2 Thessalonians 1:8): This verse makes it sound like believers will not be judged, only those who don’t follow Jesus.

A. Let’s hold onto this one until we get to Romans.

Q. (1:11-12): So, the church in Thessalonica is being persecuted by whom?  Paul is telling them in these two verses that their good works will bring glory to God.  Of course, God loves people standing up for Him.  However, this does not save a person, right?  People are saved by faith alone?

A. It is likely that the church there (and other places) was persecuted by Jews and Roman authorities, but it was probably not consistent.  The story Acts tells us of Jason being dragged before the civil authorities is probably a good telling example.  What the writers of our readings have been pointing to is the idea that being persecuted offers you the opportunity to test your own heart: are you strong enough to preach the gospel even in the midst of persecution?  As you suggest, this action will not save us, but this level of bravery is surely the sign of a true believer, whose faith WILL save them.

Q. (2:1-12): I was talking to a friend about the horror of the end of days that the pastor at our former church was preaching on.  It was absolutely horrific.  My friend said that she hoped she was in the grave when “the days” come.  I’m with her.  Is it bad to hope that we don’t have to face it?  We have no idea who the “man of lawlessness” is in v. 3?  V. 11 says that God caused them to be greatly deceived, but from the context, I would guess that it means more like God showed them the choice to be saved, but they rejected it.  And because they refused to go “good,” God allows them to be condemned.  What do you say to this, Rob?

A. I see nothing wrong with not wanting to face a time of trial or deal with difficult times, but understand that this may be GOD’S desire for us!  We must be willing to answer the call, even to preach in the midst of difficult times.  As to who the “man” is, this is an image of the anti-Christ, which we will see again in John’s writings and in Revelation.  This is an image of the supreme human evil — but not Satan — who puts himself directly in opposition to the work of Christ (hence “anti”).  There are tons of ideas out there about who this man is (some, for example, say it is Obama, which is just ridiculous), but I’m not going to offer much in the way of speculation except to say that we as believers will know him when we see him.  I, like you, hope that I never have to worry about it at all!

Q. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15): This is a hard passage.  Sometimes I feel lazy, but I have never thought about being lazy in the spirit, which I think this verse addresses both — lazy in spirit and lazy in earning money.  I feel guilty when I am.  Most of us have down times, I think.  Maybe we are supposed to fight them as hard as possible?  Also, when you try to encourage someone to not be lazy, that’s a little touchy too without offending them.  Maybe instead of addressing their laziness, they could be invited to partake in something that would make them more active.  Here’s a kid’s song I love: http://sovereigngracemusic.bandcamp.com/track/lazy-bones  It has motivated me many times!  That CD is awesome even if you don’t have kids!

A. Sloth, or laziness, is one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” — though I would quickly add that there is no particular “list” of them in the Bible — and it is a slow poison to the soul, which is why we are compelled to fight it in ourselves and make war against it when we see it in others.  Your suggestions are good ones.

Q. Paul had so much energy to devote to spreading God’s word.  He likely went by foot and by boat.  I don’t know if the disciples and other teachers of the gospel had any other means of transportation, like a horse?  If you google “map of Paul’s journeys” you will see what a vast territory he covered and how big of an influence he was on spreading the gospel.  I notice on these maps that Asia is where modern-day Turkey is, which I thought was more of where Israel was in Bible times.  Why is it labeled Asia, when Asia is much farther to the east?

A. Well, the region you refer to is called Asia Minor, and it is indeed part of Asia, not Europe, depending upon who you ask.  I suppose that the disciples could have had horses or other transport animals, but most of what the record tells us is that they traveled by foot.

Day 289 (Oct. 16): Jesus casts out demons, Jesus defeats devil accusations, sign of Jonah, receiving the light, Jesus confronts Pharisees, warning against hypocrisy, fear God, parable of bountiful farmer, Jesus says to not worry about everyday matters, store treasures in heaven

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 11:14-12:34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 11:16): This verse makes me think of a question I’ve had.  It seems that somewhere I have read where you are not to test God.  I have a friend who is a strong Christian but believes that rules don’t have to be followed to the “T” — not really God’s rules, but just everyday rules that have little authority.  Her philosophy is to do first and ask forgiveness later.  I think that many rules are put there for a reason, usually involving some wisdom in making them.  On a bigger scale, I have read somewhere but don’t remember where, where we are not to put God to the test.  This is sort of what’s going on in this verse.

A. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 to the Devil in Matthew 4 — that’s the verse you’re thinking of.  As to being a rule follower, part of the choice we have thanks to the freedom offered to us in the Gospels is the freedom of choice when it comes to laws and rules that do not affect our relationship with God.  But the Bible has much to say about following the rules AND rulers, so watch for that in our NT letters.

Q. (11:21-23): I remember talking about how good rules over evil.  I like that discussion.  Rob, do you remember what day that was?  My husband was working on his Bible Study Fellowship homework and read where if you are not with God, then Satan rules over you.  Is Luke 11:23 a verse that supports that?

A. We addressed that question Oct. 5.  The only thing I would add to that discussion is the reason that good wins out over evil in the end is because good (that is God) is willing to do what evil will not, including make sacrifices on behalf of others in a way that evil does not.  Good conquers all because it is willing to go further than evil: evil tends to make us inwardly focused, but good makes us “others focused”.  That is why God, or Good, or Love, wins.

We do not know the extent that Satan is allowed to “rule” over anyone, but Satan is referred to ask the ruler of this world, so you can draw your own conclusions from there.  Certainly not being with Christ leaves one vulnerable to such attacks, as the poor person from the next section (24-26).  The moral of the parable, by the way, is don’t leave your “house” empty: fill your mind and heart with the Gospel, and the demon has nowhere to go!

Q. (11:24-26): We have seen this passage in another Gospel.  I don’t get it at all.  What is the message in it?

A. Yes, it was in Matthew 12.  The point of the parable is, as I shared in the last question, that you can’t just “cast out the demons” of your life and expect to be all right on your own.  You must FILL your mind and heart with something new in order for the process of change to take place.  That’s what He’s talking about: it’s a direct attack against the idea that He is “powered” by demonic forced, rather than God.

O. (11:33-36): Watching movies — video games too — is such a mainstream activity that I usually don’t feel bad for watching the ones I watch.  I am not into “guy” movies — no blood and guts, shooting scenes, all that stuff.  I like adventure and comedies.  But, of course, there are elements to many movies that don’t feel like I’m using my “light” very well.  Our daughter’s class is scheduled to see the play, “Jackie and Me” at the local children’s theater.  The theater notified the school that it has some racial language in it.  They sent us a couple pages of the script so we would be aware of what they were seeing and can opt out if we choose.  My husband and I read it and there was just so much hate and a scary scene that would have given me nightmares as a kid.  I think it’s very important that we teach the past so we won’t repeat and have knowledge of what people went through and how horribly rude and evil people can be.  But, I don’t think this play would be a “light” for a third grader.  Many parents feel different than we do.  I don’t know if there is a right and wrong to this subject or if we just chalk it up to difference of opinion and tolerance and celebrate that we are all different.

Q. (11:37-54): What a stressful dinner!  At first, I thought “all of this over not washing your hands.”  What is the big deal anyway?  It’s great idea to wash your hands before you eat.  But then, I realized that Jesus just used it to make a point.  They get so bent out of shape over the breaking of their “own” laws, like washing hands, yet they are so corrupt in so many ways — making up their own laws, not helping the needy, taking more than they should, etc — that Jesus chose this meal to make a point of it.

A. The only thing I would add is that the Pharisees are not washing their hands out of sanitation practice (as we have established, there was no such thing then), but rather as a burdensome ritual.

Q. (12:1): Why does Jesus refer to the Pharisees corruption as “yeast”?

A. A little goes a long way.  It was Jewish ritual — then and now — to sweep the house for yeast around Passover before making the unleavened bread.  Why?  Because if there is even a tiny trace of yeast, it can ruin a batch of bread (if you want the bread without leavening).  That’s what Jesus is concerned about: the religious leaders’ “taint,” for lack of a better word, which can ruin people.

O. (12:11-12): I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of hours I have wasted worrying or thinking about what I was going to do or say.  It causes internal turmoil, depression and sleepless nights.  Now I know that Jesus is saying, “I’ll take it for you.  Go on, give it to me.”  I have handed Him a lot, so I’m considerably more mellow — internally and externally (my friends all say I’m mellow.  My mom knows better. J)  Now, I look back at things I stress over and wonder why on earth I didn’t give those cares to Jesus.  My best friend was wrestling with a subject with her husband.  She was stressing over it.  We don’t get the chance to talk very often, but I checked back in with her a few weeks later to see how it was going.  She said, “Jesus told me, ‘I got this one.’”  She had totally dismissed the subject.  It’s so cool what the Trinity can do for us!

Q. (12:13-21, 33-34): How about if you have some extra stuff or maybe lots of money, but have a great relationship with God?  There are many evangelists who I’m sure are very wealthy.  God has rewarded them with prosperity or should they be sharing with the less fortunate?  I’m thinking you will say that God would guide each person, if he or she were to ask Him, as to what He expects of them.  Hard to say, right?  Does v. 33 answer this for us?  Love v. 34.  That’s one to write down!

A. Don’t forget Jesus’ warning that you cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), but this does not mean they are mutually exclusive.  What really got the man in trouble was his greed and lack of consideration of others.  If you are granted money by God (however much), then God expects you to be generous with it — that’s a big way we can store up treasure in heaven as Jesus tells us.  It is also helpful to remember that all we have belongs to God in the end: these things belong to God because WE belong to God.  When we have that mentality, we are much more likely to be generous with what we have, and to be able to use our monetary earnings to bless others, rather than build comfort for ourselves.  (Leigh An: This reminds me of the song on the radio about not being from this earth, place or something like that.  Rob, really painted the “big picture” here.  Awesome answer!)

Day 285 (Oct. 12): Jesus heals blind man, Jesus asks who people think He is, Jesus foretells His death, three disciples see Jesus glowing alongside Elijah and Moses

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 8:22-30

Matthew 16:13-20

Luke 9:18-20

Mark 8:31-9:1

Matthew 16:21-28

Luke 9:21-27

Mark 9:2-13

Matthew 17:1-13

Luke 9:28-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 8:26): Why did Jesus tell the healed man to not go back to the village on his way home?

A. It is most likely because it would not have been possible for him to keep his healing a secret, which keeps with our secret Messiah theme of Mark.  Symbolically (something I’m sure not lost on the writer), it can be interpreted as saying, “there is no going back the way you came.”

Q. (Mark 8:27): Why does Jesus keep asking his disciples who others believe He is?

A. Keep?  As far as I know, He only did it once, but it is simply recorded three times.  As to why He is asking, my suspicion is His desire to help His disciples see a crucial issue: it does not matter what the crowd sees and believes, what matters is what YOU believe.

Q. (Matthew 16:15-20): Why is Jesus calling Peter the “Rock” and what is Jesus talking about when He says that the church will be built on him?

A. Well, the most obvious answer is that Peter (Petros in Greek) means “rock” —  it was a new name or nickname Jesus gave to Simon when He called Peter into service.  Peter/Simon will be the true leader of the Apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection, so it will truly be upon the rock — Peter himself — that the foundations of the new church will be laid.

Roman Catholics go a step further, and make the argument that what Jesus is telling Peter is that he is to be the head of the church for all time, and that he is to pass his power down via succession to men after him.  Since Peter ends up in Rome — more on that later — he is known as the first Bishop of Rome.  Today, that same position goes by a different title, but it is still the same office: Papas or Pope, the single leader of the one billion Catholics worldwide.  The Papal office makes the claim that there is unbroken succession between the man sitting in the Bishop’s seat now, Francis I, and Peter himself, 2000 years ago.  Other branches of Christianity — notably the Orthodox church — reject this position, and the role of the Bishop of Rome has literally divided the Church for more than a thousand years.  Protestants, of course, have their own reasons for rejecting the Papal office, and generally acknowledge Peter as being gifted with only the first, not eternal, leadership of the Church on Earth.

Q. (Mark 8:34): The Israelites wouldn’t know what “take up your cross” means.  Can you explain this?

A. Oh yes they would.  There are several reasons for that.  First, crucifixion was not originally a Roman punishment: it had its origins in the Middle East around the time the Jews were in exile.  The Persians and Medians both practiced a form of crucifixion, and it is likely many Jews died this way.  But it was the Romans who PERFECTED the art of the slow and torturous death upon a cross in the manner we see Jesus crucified in.  But, very sadly, the Romans crucified Jews for centuries before Jesus came onto the scene.  Very often — as Jesus will — the victims were forced to carry their cross as part of a shaming ceremony to the place of their execution.  Around 88 BC (so we’re in the vicinity of Jesus’ lifetime), more than 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Romans.  The execution line stretched for hundreds of yards, and it was surely a gruesome display.  The reason?  A powerful warning to any who would undermine Rome: this can happen to you.  In Jesus’ day, it was a common place punishment for criminals and those who chose to undermine the state.  Know about “taking up a cross”?  It was probably a weekly occurrence.

Q. (Mark 8:36): Name that tune!  V. 36 is a popular song right now on the radio.  Anyone want to find the song and then we’ll see what we can do.  Do the people have any concept of soul?

A. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coHKdhAZ9hU

Here’s the song, good one.  Most Jews in Jesus’ day believed in some sort of state of immortality, and that God would raise them to new life on the last day.

Q. (Matthew 16:27-28): I thought Jesus was our savior and God was our creator.

A. Jesus is our savior, but He is also going to be the Judge of all humanity.  This is one of the most common refrains of the NT: Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Q. (Luke 9:26): So, we are not to be ashamed of God.  That can be a tough one until you understand the importance of life.  There are a lot of people out there who go to church, but won’t pray.

A. Prayer is certainly important, but ultimately Jesus desires us to be changed by His efforts, and prayer is only one avenue of it (albeit an important one).  The question we have to ask ourselves is “are others capable of seeing the work God is doing in my life, or not?”  If we are making an intentional effort to conceal our faith, well, then I’d say Jesus’ warning is a stern one.

Q. (Mark 9:2-13): Is it important who Jesus revealed His secret too?

A. If you mean is there something significant about Peter, James, and John, then yes.  They are Jesus’ inner inner circle, if that makes sense.  They are the three men, even among His apostles, that are closest to Him, and will most closely share His journey.

O: (Matthew 17:5-6): This is an incredible time.  God has known all along that He was going to sacrifice His son and now after hundreds or thousands of years, he finally has to go through with it.

Q. (Matthew 17:12): Have we read anything about Elijah returning?

A. Yes.  We read about his parents and his birth in Luke 1, John talks about him in John 1, and Jesus is talking about him here.  We addressed who Elijah is — not a reincarnation of the man himself, but the voice of a Prophet — a few days ago, but I can’t remember the reference.

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.