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.
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!