Archive for the ‘What He Said – The Book’ Category

A Favor To Ask of You

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 by JEL

I’ll admit it. I searched on this here Internet for the most polite way of asking strangers to do something for you. Not that we’re asking you to do anything onerous or involving messy conditions or heavy physical loads.

This blog gets a fair amount of traffic, and we’re guessing that some of you must have purchased a copy of What He Said from Amazon (the only place it’s available). Yet our Amazon page only has 8 reviews, the most recent coming 7.5 months ago.

So the favor to ask of you is this: if you have the book, would you mind going to the Amazon page, scrolling down to the reviews, clicking the “Create your own review” button, and then waxing away on your opinions, feelings, reactions, etc. to the book? We would love to see what you think. And thank you.

That Ole’ Lefty Bible

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by JEL

We here at What He Said headquarters have long scratched our head at religious folks and their conservative views. It’s part of the reason why we created the book in the first place. Do conservative Christians ever actually read the Bible, and the Four Gospels in particular? Those messages about helping the needy and the poor? Funny how Jesus never says the poor should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Sandalstraps?

Christianity Today published an interesting analysis of the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey which asked a whole range of folks about their Bible reading and views on a variety of topics. The survey found that people who read the Bible the most tend to be more conservative, BUT BUT BUT the more these same folks read it, especially on their own, the more liberal their views become. That pesky Jesus!

Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible’s prominence in our society, it’s little wonder that many people think they know what’s in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 13-16

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by JEL

Chapter 13 begins with an innocent comment by the disciples at how awesome the temple building is. Jesus tells them there won’t be a stone left. They head over to the Mount of Olives across from the temple, and the disciples ask for the sign when all the terrible things will happen.

Jesus tells them that many will come in His name trying to lead others astray. Nation will rise against nation, and earthquakes and famine will abound. But that’s just the beginning. He tells them that they will be delivered up to councils and beaten in synagogues. Families will rise up against each other and “cause them to be put to death.” But watch out when the “abomination of desolation” occurs, spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Then people should flee to the mountains (without going back to get their cloaks or anything from their houses).

That’s when the real oppression will hit. And after that, the sun and moon will go dark, and the stars will fall from the sky. That’s when they “will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

As for when exactly, Jesus says He doesn’t know:

“But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Chapter 14

It’s now two days before Passover and the chief priests and scribes are trying to figure out how to seize and kill Jesus before the feast (“because there might be a riot of the people.”) Jesus, meanwhile, is in Bethany at Simon the leper’s house. A woman comes in with a jar of extremely expensive, pure nard. She breaks the jar and pours the oil over Jesus’ head. Some watchers grumbled that the oil could have been sold and the proceeds used to help the poor. Jesus replies:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burying.”

Judas Iscariot slips out and tells the chiefs he will deliver Jesus to them. They’re delighted and promise Judas money as payment.

The disciples, at Jesus’ command, go into the city, meet a man carrying a pitcher of water, follow him into a house and ask the master of the house where the Teacher and his disciples may eat the Passover. The master shows them a large room upstairs with everything furnished and ready. That evening, Jesus arrives for the meal. As they’re calmly eating, Jesus drops the bombshell:

“Most certainly I tell you, one of you will betray me–he who eats with me.”

They all say “Surely not I?” but Jesus just says it would have been better for the betrayer never to have been born. He then blesses some bread, breaks it and hands it to the 12:

“Take, eat. This is my body.”

He then gives them the cup from which to drink:

“This is my blood of the new covenant, with is poured out for many.”

After they sing a hymn, they head out to the Mount of Olives and Jesus tells them:

“All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ However, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.”

Peter says he will remain loyal, but Jesus says that before the rooster crows twice, Peter will deny Him three times. He takes Peter, James and John with Him and asks the to keep a lookout while He prays:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Please remove this cup from me. However, not what I desire, but what you desire.”

Jesus finds the disciples who were supposed to be watching, asleep. He wakes them and returns to his prayer. Again, he finds them asleep. The third time he says,

“Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”

Sure enough, Judas appears with a bunch of chief priests, scribes, and elders all carrying swords and clubs. Judas gives the “Judas Kiss” and Jesus is seized and taken to the court of the high priest. Peter follows from a distance and then mixes in with the officers “in the light of the fire.”

The council calls for witnesses against Jesus to put him to death, but all they get is a bunch of false testimonies that contradict each other. The high priest asks Him what he has to say about all this testimony, but Jesus stays quiet. Then the high priest asks him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus answers:

“I am. You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of the sky.”

This makes the high priest go berserk. He tears his clothes and says, “What further need have we of witnesses?” It’s blasphemy they all say and condemn Jesus to death. Some people start spitting on Him and beating Him with their fists.

Peter is down in the courtyard where he is spotted by a maid of the high priest. She recognizes him as one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denies it, the rooster crows. She then points him out to others nearby, “This is one of them.” Again, he denies it. Finally, some others say Peter’s speech shows he is a Galilean and that he is one of them. This time, Peter curses and swears “I don’t know this man of whom you speak.” The rooster crows a second time.

Chapter 15

The next morning, the chief priests bind Jesus and take him to Pontius Pilate. They accuse Him of many things, but when Pilate asks Jesus about the claims, He remains silent. At the feast, Pilate always releases a prisoner to the multitudes. Knowing that jealousy is behind the chief priests’ actions, Pilate asks the crowd, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” No, the crowd wants Barabbas (as they were persuaded to do by the priests). When Pilate asks what he should do with Jesus, the throng bellows “Crucify him!” Pilate answers:

“Why, what evil has he done?”

But the crowd will not be turned, so Pilate hands over Jesus. Soldiers flog Him, dress Him in purple, and put a crown of thorns on His head. “Hail, King of the Jews!” This sarcasm is followed by spitting and beating. They then remove the purple clothes, and put His old clothes back on Him.

They take Him to Golgotha (“the place of a skull”) to be crucified. They offer him wine mixed with myrrh, but Jesus declines to drink. In the third hour, they crucified Him along with two others, a robber on His left and another on His right. While on the cross, Jesus is subjected to more mockery from passersby:

“Ha! You who would destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

By the sixth hour, darkness had come and stayed until the ninth hour. At that ninth hour, Jesus cries out in a loud voice:

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? [My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?]“

Somebody fills a sponge with vinegar and puts it on a reed for Jesus to drink. Jesus cries out once more and dies. Immediately the veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion standing opposite Jesus’ cross said:

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

A number of women watched from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses. Evening comes and Joseph of Arimathaea boldly goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body. Pilate agrees and has the centurion grant the body to Joseph. Joseph wraps the body in a linen cloth and places it in a stone tomb. He rolls a large rock against the door of the tomb while two Marys watch.

Chapter 16

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, buy some spices with which to anoint Jesus’ body. They wonder how they will move the rock in front of the tomb, but find it has already been rolled away. Heading inside, they see a young man dressed in a white robe. He says that Jesus has risen and to tell his disciples that Jesus will be in Galilee. They flee and are too afraid to tell anyone anything.

Jesus then appears to Mary Magdalene and she finally tells those who had been with Him, but they don’t believer her. Jesus then reveals Himself “in another form” to two others who again tell the group. They still don’t believe. Finally, he reveals Himself to the remaining 11 disciples and rebukes them for their “unbelief and hardness of heart.” He tells them:

“Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation.”

He says some other stuff too, like those who believe will be able to cast out demons, speak with new languages, be able to drink “any deadly thing” and be fine. After He finishes speaking, Jesus is received up into heaven and sits down at the right hand of God. The disciples disperse and preach everywhere.

Note: We’ll take a little time off before we tackle Luke. I’ll let you know when to start.

Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 9-12

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by JEL

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up into the mountains and His appearance is immediately transformed. His clothes become glistening white, and Elijah and Moses appear out of nowhere to chat with Him. If that weren’t enough, a cloud sidles over and a voice booms out:

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

When the voice stops, Elijah and Moses have vanished. They return to the multitudes and a man brings his son who is suffering from a spirit that causes convulsions, foaming at the mouth, teeth-grinding, and general wasting away. The man had previously asked the disciples to cast out the spirits, but they couldn’t do it. Jesus, in apparent disgust, says:

“Unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.”

After finding out that the boy has had the spirit “from childhood” and telling the father that “all things are possible to him who believes,” Jesus commands the spirit to depart from the boy and never come back. It does, and the boy collapses. Everyone thinks he’s dead, but Jesus takes him by the hand, and the boy gets up.

They leave that town and pass through Galilee. He tells His disciples:

“The Son of Man is being handed over to the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, on the third day he will rise again.”

The next stop is Capernaum where Jesus asks his disciples what they have been arguing about. Not a peep is uttered, because the truth is they were arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus, of course, deciphers this immediately and utters:

“If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

The disciples ask Jesus about a man, not a follower, who has been casting out demons in His name. Jesus answers:

“Don’t forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is on our side.”

With a small child in his lap, he begins his speech:

“Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he was thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off…”

Chapter 10

This chapter starts out with the Parisees asking Jesus if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. When Jesus asks them what Moses commanded, they say that Moses allowed divorce. Jesus answers:

“For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment.”

Later, the disciples ask Him the same question. Jesus answers:

“Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

[We hear a lot from religious folks about gay marriage; I wonder why we don't hear more from them about straight divorce?]

Jesus then takes a bunch of kids in his arms and blesses them. Someone approaches and asks what he may do to inherit eternal life. Jesus recites the commandments, and the man says he has observed all the commandments from childhood.

“One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.”

The man’s face falls, because he has a lot of possessions. Jesus looks on and says to his disciples,

“How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus and the disciples head to Jerusalem. Along the way He tells them them:

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief of priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death, and will deliver him to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

James and John walk up to Jesus and ask that they be allowed to sit at Jesus’ side, one on His left and one on His right. This gets the other 10 disciples into a tizzy. Jesus has to calm them all down with:

“Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom from many.”

They come into Jericho. Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, starts shouting at Jesus to have mercy on him. People in the crowd try to hush him up, but Jesus calls to him and asks what Bartimaeus what He can do for him. The beggar asks that he may see again. Jesus restores his sight, and Bartmaeus follows.

Chapter 11

As the group approaches Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples into a village to get a donkey that’s tied up there. They bring the donkey back, cover it with their clothes, and Jesus hops on. Others spread tree branches on the road. In the evening, Jesus enters into the temple in Jerusalem, takes a look around, and then takes his disciples to Bethany for the night. On their return to Jerusalem the next day and Jesus is hungry. He looks for figs on a tree, but since it’s not the right season for figs, finds none. Jesus puts a curse on the tree.

They enter into the temple again and Jesus throws out all the merchants and money changers:

“Isn’t it written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers!”

The chief priests and scribes hear all this and seek out a way to destroy Him. They ask Jesus by what authority does He do things. Jesus says He’ll tell them if they first answer the question:

“The baptism of John–was it from heaven, or from men?

The priests huddle up. If they say “from heaven,” then Jesus will say “then why don’t you believe me?” If they say “from men” the crowd will go nuts because they believe John to be a prophet. So they cop out with a “We don’t know.” So Jesus says:

“Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Chapter 13

This chapter begins with a parable and then continues on with some Pharisees trying to trap Jesus with words. They ask Him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar to which Jesus replies:

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

They continue with the somewhat silly scenario of the wife of seven brother the question of whose wife will she be in the resurrection. Jesus says that when people rise, they are not married, but “are like angels in heaven.” Which is all besides the point. God, Jesus says,

“…is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

They then ask Him which commandment is greatest. Jesus says the first (love the Lord your God with all your heart) and the second (love your neighbor as yourself) are the greatest.

The chapter ends with people coming up and throwing money into the treasury. Some rich people “cast in much.” A poor widow comes up and tosses in two small brass coins. Jesus remarks:

“Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.”

Next Week: Mark, Chapters 13-16 (the last chapters)

Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 1-4

Friday, April 22nd, 2011 by JEL

Boy, Mark gets right down to business. There’s no long list of who begat whom, and no story of the birth of Jesus. He starts his Gospel with John out baptizing in the wilderness. Good ol’ John, wearing camel’s hair with a belt around his middle and eating locusts and wild honey. He preached:

“After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen. I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus comes from Nazareth and gets baptized by John. As soon as Jesus comes up from the water, the heavens part and the Spirit descends on Him like a dove. A voice says:

“You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The spirit then drives Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. Satan tempts Him, He lives with wild animals, and angels are there serving Him. After John is seized, Jesus begins preaching and collecting followers. He casts demons out of people, and heals others. The word gets out, crowds start to form, and Jesus heals many, many others.

Early one morning, seeking peace, Jesus goes out by himself in the desert to pray. Simon tracks him down and says, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus replies:

“Let’s go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because I came out for this reason.”

So they move on and preach and heal more people, including a leper. Jesus tells the former leper to keep quiet, but the man does just the opposite and soon Jesus can no longer go into cities. He stays out in the desert and the crowds come to Him.

Chapter 2

Jesus goes into Capenaum for more preaching and forgiving of sins. Some scribes whisper among themselves that it is blasphemy, but Jesus tells them that the “Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” The scribes and Pharisees then see Jesus hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. They want to know why. Jesus answers:

“Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Then the Pharisees want to know why His disciples don’t fast, while others, like the disciples of John, do fast.

“Can the groomsmen fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they can’t fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then will they fast in that day.”

The Pharisees then complain about the disciples plucking ears of grain on the Sabbath. He sets them straight with:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Chapter 3

Jesus enters the synagogue and meets a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees watch carefully to see if Jesus will heal on the Sabbath. He asks them:

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do harm? To save a life, or to kill?

The Pharisees are silent, but Jesus gets angry at the “hardening of their hearts,” so He heals the man. The Pharisees immediately huddle up with the Herodians to figure out how they might destroy Jesus.

Jesus then heads to the sea, followed by a huge throng. You can get the sense he’s a little freaked out by the people pressing down upon Him as he tells his disciples to keep a little boat nearby just in case. He then heads up into the mountains and appoints 12 as disciples so that he may send them out to preach and to cast out demons and heal sickness. The scribes think He’s insane and say, “He has Beelzebul” to which Jesus replies:

“How can Satan cast out Satan?”

As in Matthew, Jesus’ mother and brother come, wishing to see Him.

“Who are my mother and brothers? [He looks at those sitting around him] Behold! my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.”

Chapter 4

In this chapter, Jesus preaches through the parable of sowing seed. Some seed falls by the road and the birds snatch it up. Others fall in thin, rocky soil and sprout quickly, but wither with the sun because they have no root. Other seed falls in among thorns and get choked. Finally, others fall into good ground and yield amazing amounts of fruit.

The disciples need help deciphering the parable so Jesus explains. The birds are Satan. The ones in rocky soil are those people who have no root in themselves and give up at the first sign of oppression or persecution. The ones in the thorns are those people consumed by material wants and the “deceitfulness of riches.” The seed that falls in good ground represents those who “hear the word, and accept it.”

Jesus preached only in parables to the crowd, but in private explained them to His disciples. He then decides to head to the other side and everyone jumps into boats. In the middle of the night, a huge storm kicks up and fills the boat with water. They wake up Jesus who is asleep on a cushion, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are dying?” Jesus rebukes the sea, the wind stops, and He turns to his disciples:

“Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?”

Next Week: Mark, Chapters 5-8

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 25-28

Friday, April 8th, 2011 by JEL

This is the last post for the Gospel of Matthew. Last Friday, we left Jesus at the end of Chapter 24 in the middle of a speech. Chapter 25 picks up right where we left off and He continues His description to the disciples of the sign of His coming and the “end of the age.”

Chapter 26

When Jesus wraps up the speech, he turns to his disciples and says,

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

The elders and chief priests are plotting how to take and kill Jesus, but decide to wait until after the feast to prevent a riot. Jesus goes to the house of Simon in Bethany where a woman pours very expensive oil on his head. The disciples are angry at the waste, but Jesus tells them to calm down, that the woman has “done a good work for me…shed did it to prepare me for burial.”

Judas Iscariot then goes to the chief priests and says,

“What are you willing to give me, that I should deliver him to you?”

The chief priests give him 30 pieces of silver. From the moment the silver hits his hands, Judas is looking for the right opportunity to betray Him.

The 12 disciples and Jesus then go to a house to eat the Passover. As they are eating in the evening, Jesus drops the bombshell:

“Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me.”

All the disciples are sorrowful and ask in turn, “it isn’t me, is it, Lord?” Even Judas asks, “it isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?” And Jesus replies “You said it.” You’ll note that the other 11 disciples address Jesus as “Lord,” and Judas addresses Him as “Rabbi.”

As they’re eating, Jesus gives his disciples bread and says,

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

And then passes the cup and says,

“All of you drink it, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.”

They sing a hymn and the head out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells them that they will stumble because of Him and that after He is raised up, he will go before them into Galilee. Peter states that he will never stumble and Jesus answers:

“Most certainly I tell you that tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

Jesus then goes to Gethsemane and is troubled. He asks Peter and others to watch over Him as He prays:

“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch with me.”

As Jesus prays, he sees the disciple-lookouts asleep. He goes, prays, and returns three times and each time the disciples are sleeping. Finally he says:

“Sleep on now, and take your rest. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let’s be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”

Judas appears with a huge crowd holding swords and clubs. He tells them “Whoever I kiss, he is the one. Seize him.” He then goes up to Jesus with a “Hail, Rabbi!” and kisses him. The crowd comes and takes Jesus. One of those with Jesus pulls out a sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus tells him to put the sword away. The disciples then all take off.

Jesus is then taken away to Calaphas, the high priest. The scribes and elders are all gathered together. Peter follows at a distance and then sits to watch. The priests seek false testimony against Jesus. False witnesses come and go. Finally one says, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.’” The priests ask Jesus to reply, but He holds His peace. They ask him whether He is Christ, the Son of God. Jesus answers:

“You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you, after this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky.”

The high priest goes nuts, tears his clothing and cries “blasphemy.” The others believe this blasphemy is “worthy of death.” Then they spit in Jesus’ face, and beat Him with their fists. Outside, Peter is hearing and watching. Three times, people come up to him and ask him if he was with Jesus, and three times Peter says,

“I don’t know the man!”

The rooster crows. And Peter weeps bitterly.

Chapter 27

In the morning, the chief priests decide to put Jesus to death. They bind him and take him to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Judas feels remorse and returns the 30 pieces of silver, departs, and hangs himself. The priests take the silver and buy the potter’s field to bury strangers in. That field is known for evermore as “The Field of Blood.”

The governor asks Jesus if He is the King of the Jews. Jesus answers,

“So you say.”

When the priests and elders accuse him, He says nothing. Pilate marvels. It is a custom during the feast for a governor to release one prisoner to the multitude. The choice is between Jesus and Barabbas. While the judgement is still in question, Pilate’s wife says,

“Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”

The priests persuade the crowd to ask for Barabbas’s release. Pilate asks what he should do with Jesus, and the crowd yells, “Let him be crucified!” Pilate is troubled. He washes his hands before the multitude and says,

“I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. You see to it.”

The people answer:

“May his blood be on us, and on our children.”

Jesus gets flogged. They strip Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. They braid a crown of thorns and put it on His head. Then they kneel down before Him and mock, “Hail, King of the Jews!” before spitting on Him and hitting Him with a reed.

They then take Jesus to Golgotha (“the place of a skull”) and give him sour wine to drink mixed with gall. Then they crucify Him. They divide up His clothing and sit and watch. They put a sign up over his head that says, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS”. Two robbers were also crucified, one on His left and one on His right. People walk by and mock Him:

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself. If he is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe him.”

The robbers on either side also mock Jesus. At the ninth hour, Jesus cries out:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

One of the watchers takes a sponge, fills it with vinegar, and puts it on a reed for Jesus to drink. Jesus cries again and yields up His spirit. Immediately, the veil of the temple is torn, and an earthquake begins, opening up rocks and tombs–many of the bodies of the saints were raised. The centurion on watch is terrified and says,

“Truly this was the Son of God.”

Many women watched, including Mary Magdalene. Joseph goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body. Joseph takes the body, wraps it in clean linen, and lays it in a new tomb which had been cut out of solid rock. He rolls a big stone across the door of the tomb and departs.

The priests then gather together in front of Pilate and say,

“Sir, we remember what that deceiver said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise again.’”

They ask that the tomb be guarded so that Jesus’ disciples can’t steal the body and claim that Jesus rose–the “last deception will be worse than the first.” So they go with a guard and seal the tomb.

Chapter 28

On the third morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to visit the tomb. When they arrive, an earthquake shakes and rolls the stone away from the door. An angel of the Lord descends from the sky and sits on the stone. The guards are petrified. The angel tells the two women:

“Don’t be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying. Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold I have told you.”

The women run off to tell the disciples and Jesus meets them. He says,

“Don’t be afraid, Go tell my brothers that they should go into Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The elders hear what happen and bribe some soldiers with silver into saying that Jesus’ disciples came and stole him away while everyone slept. The soldiers take the money and do as they’re told.

The 11 remaining disciples then go to Galilee and see Jesus. They bow down to him, but some are still doubtful. Jesus says to them:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

And that’s the end of the Gospel of Matthew.

We’ll take a break next week and then tackle the first four chapters of Mark the following week.

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 21-24

Friday, April 1st, 2011 by JEL

Chapter 21 begins with Jesus at the Mount of Olives, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He sends two disciples to go into the village where they will find a donkey and a colt tied. He tells them to untie them and bring them back and if anyone questions them to say “The Lord needs them.”

The disciples, surprisingly, got it right and brought back the donkey and colt. The laid their clothes on the animals and Jesus sat on them (both of them?). As he rode into Jerusalem, the multitudes spread their clothes on the road and cut branches from the trees and laid them in His path. He finally enters Jerusalem and the city is all stirred up, not knowing who He is.

Jesus enters the temple of God and throws out all those who sold and bought there and turned over the moneychangers’ tables. In the now empty temple, people came to be healed and children were crying out in wonder. The chief priests and scribes were indignant and said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these are saying?” To which Jesus replies:

“Yes. Did you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and nursing babies you have perfected praise.’”

He spends the night in Bethany and returns to Jerusalem in the morning. He’s feeling hungry and sees a fig tree, but finding no fruit on it, curses the tree and causes it to wither away. He goes back to the temple and starts teaching the multitudes. The priests and elders ask him “By what authority do you do these things?” Jesus says he will answer their question if they answer His:

“The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

The priests feel backed in the corner. If they say “from heaven” then Jesus will want to know why they didn’t believe him. On the other hand, if they say “from men” the multitudes will go crazy. So they cop out and say “We don’t know.” Jesus answers with a couple of parables that are very clearly about the priests:

“Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you, and will be given to a nation bringing forth its fruit.”

The chief priests and Pharisees wanted to seize him then and there, but feared the might of the multitudes.

Chapter 22

The Pharisees huddled up and began plotting against Jesus. They sent some lackeys to Jesus who asked “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.” Jesus asks to be shown the tax money and points out the face of Caesar on the denarius coin. He answers:

“Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Then the Sadducees, people who do not believe in resurrection, ask him a crazy question about a wife who gets passed down to seven brothers after each dies. “In the resurrection therefore, whose wife will she be of the seven?” Jesus says in the resurrection, they aren’t married, but like “God’s angels in heaven.”

“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

More questions. They ask which is the greatest commandment in the law. He replies:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

The chapter ends with one more question. This time, Jesus asks the Pharisees who they think the father of Christ is. They answer, “David.” Jesus shuts them up once and for all with:

“How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’ If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Silence from the Pharisees.

Chapter 23

This chapter is one long speech to the multitudes about the scribes and Pharisees. Basically, he tells them do not do their works for the Pharisees don’t do what they say. The Pharisees put heavy burdens on men but don’t lift a finger to help. They enlarge the fringes of their garments and love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, but don’t follow the laws of God.

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and as a pretense you make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don’t enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter.”

He blasts them for loving gold more than the temple that sanctifies the gold. He blasts them for tithing mint, dill, and cumin, but do nothing about the “weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.” He says that they appear righteous on the outside, but on the inside are full of “hypocrisy and iniquity.” He calls them serpents and the offspring of vipers (ouch). He ends with:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me from now on, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Chapter 24

Another long speech, this time to his disciples who asked him, “What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus says that many will come in His name, that nation will rise against nation, there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes. False prophets will arise, many will stumble and deliver up one another, and will hate each other. Oppression will be everywhere.

“But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved. This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

“But immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shakened; and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

“But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

“Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don’t expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Next week: Matthew, Chapters 25-28 (and we finish up the first of the Gospels!)

New Review of What He Said

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 by JEL

Dr. Steve McSwain is an interesting guy. He’s a prolific writer, speaker, and church/faith consultant. You can read more about him at his website. I first came across him a couple of weeks ago when I saw his series “Perspectives of a Former Fundamentalist Christian.” I wrote a post about it, and then decided to send him a copy of What He Said. Based on his writings, I had a hunch Dr. McSwain would “get” what we were trying to do and I was interested in his reaction. He wrote me back a week later:

“Thanks for the copy of What He Said. Yep, believe you hit the mark here. I’m pleased to see someone clarify what we are TOLD Jesus said, as it is recorded in the Gospels.  This book helps readers get to the core of Jesus’ teachings and sifts through all the rest so as to create a readable and valuable tool for those interested.  It’s spot-on. Good work.”

Nice to hear we’re on the right track. To read more of his work, check out:

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 9-12

Friday, March 11th, 2011 by JEL

In chapter 9, Jesus continues his travels, preaching and healing along the way. He heals a paralyzed man and tells him his sins are forgiven. Some nearby scribes say to themselves, “He blasphemes” but Jesus quickly shuts them down and tells them He has the authority to forgive sins. He then has lunch with some tax collectors and sinners, which bewilders the Pharisees. Jesus calmly answers, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Verses 9:15-17 I don’t understand. John’s disciples ask why they and the Pharisees fast, but His disciples don’t. Jesus replies with three metaphors (bridegroom, patched garment, wineskin) that I have read a dozen times. Is the “food” Jesus’ teaching and only new teaching can go into a new wineskin (like a disciple that has been cleansed, baptized and ready to receive it)? Please help here by posting in the comments.

Then there’s more healing. On his way to bring back from the dead a ruler’s daughter, a woman touches his clothes. Immediately her 12-year “issue of blood” stops. Jesus then touches the ruler’s daughter’s hand and she rises. Onlookers are amazed and go spread the word of what they have just seen. Two blind men get their site restored and despite Jesus’ request for secrecy, they blab about it anyway. A man has his demon cast out. News of Jesus’ deeds is spreading far and wide, and you have a sense that things are building to a crescendo.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, he calls together his twelve disciples and gives them the power to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and sickness. He sends them off with quite a speech. Some highlights:

  • 10:8 – “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give.”
  • 10:16 – “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
  • 10:22 – “You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • 10:34 – “Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword.” This quote has always bothered me as a direct contradiction to all of the other quotes concerning peace. What happened to “Blessed are the peacemakers”?
  • 10:37-38 – “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.” This section feels like an abrupt shift in tone to me. Less humble, less forgiving, and less tolerant.

Chapter 11

John the Baptist, in prison, hears of Jesus’ works. He sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really is the one. Jesus lists His accomplishments, praises John the Baptist, and says “If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Then some bitterness creeps in as he talks about the cities where he did his healing, yet little repentance occurred. Finally, he wraps up his speech, wearily, with “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Amazing the shift in tones from commanding to angry to boastful to critical and then back to calm, gentle and loving.

Chapter 12

On the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples go walking through some fields of grain. The disciples are hungry, so they pluck some grain to eat. The Pharisees, who apparently follow them everywhere, complain that plucking the grain “is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” Jesus gives the Pharisees an earful.

Jesus then healed a man with a withered hand, saying “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” The Pharisees begin to plan how to destroy him. Jesus continues his healing, and commands the multitudes to “not make him known.” The multitudes are amazed and say, “Can this be the son of David?” The Pharisees, of course, say He does not cast out demons “except by Beelzebul.” Jesus replies with his “house divided” speech. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters.”

At the end of the chapter, while he is speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers appear and want to speak with him. He answers, a little harshly, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” and then gestures toward his disciples and says, “Behold, my mother and brothers!”

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 5-8

Friday, March 4th, 2011 by JEL

When we left Jesus at the end of chapter 4, he had built up quite a following. “Great multitudes” came from all over to be healed and to hear his teachings. Seeing the huge throng, he climbed a mountain, sat down and delivered his Sermon on the Mount, which covers chapters 5-7 and consists, with the exception of the first two verses of chapter 5 and the last two verses of chapter 7, entirely of Jesus speaking. [Aside: reading the Sermon on the Mount in What He Said makes His message really pop off the page].

Chapter 5

The sermon begins with the Beatitudes, a series of eight blessings to the poor in spirit, to those who mourn, to the gentle, to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, to the merciful, to the pure in heart, to the peacemakers, and to those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. They are beautiful, powerful words which is why we based our cover design on them. The rest of chapter 5 contains some of the best known quotes from Jesus:

  • 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth…”
  • 5:14 – “You are the light of the world…”
  • 5:28 – contains the gotcha that got Jimmy Carter.
  • 5:39 – turn the other cheek.
  • 5:42 – “Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you.”
  • 5:44 – “…love your enemies…do good to those who hate you…”

Chapter 6

The sermon continues uninterrupted right into chapter 6. Some of my highlights include:

  • 6:2 – “…when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself…”
  • 6:9-13 – The Lord’s Prayer
  • 6:19 – “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume…” (and that fill up the attic and clutter the whole house, as I tell my wife).
  • 6:27 – “Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?” (I think we could all benefit from a colossal calming down).

Chapter 7

  • 7:1 – “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.”
  • 7:3 – “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?”
  • 7:7 – “Seek, and you will find.”
  • 7:15 – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”

The crowd was dumbfounded “for he taught them with authority, and not like the scribes.”

Chapter 8

After the sermon, Jesus hits the road again and heals a great many people in succession (a leper, a centurion’s servant, Peter’s wife’s mother, many possessed with demons). After so much healing, He’s tired and declares “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” A disciple wants to help Him, but asks if he can first go bury his father. To which Jesus (somewhat harshly considering 5:4?) says, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus and the disciples get into a boat which soon finds itself in the middle of a huge storm. The disciples are all freaking out and wake up Jesus, pleading with Him to save them. You can almost hear the annoyance in Jesus’ voice as He gives his “O you of little faith” line and then calmly gets up and ends the storm.

Chapter 8 concludes with Jesus confronting two people possessed by demons in Gergesenes. The demons beg to be cast out into a herd of pigs which Jesus makes happen. Whereupon the whole herd of pigs rushes off a cliff and dies in the water. The owners of the pigs took off and told everyone in the city what had happened.

Soon, the whole city comes out to meet Jesus.

Next week: Matthew, Chapters 9-12