Posts Tagged ‘Four Gospels’

Maybe the “New, New, New Testament?”

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by JEL

Did you know there was a new New Testament? One that was personally commissioned by Jesus and the original authors of the New Testament? Sounds pretty special, right? Ken Maley is the “scribe” taking dictation for the message as Jesus wants it to be presented today. Is it a radical re-write? Apparently not, according to this press release.

The teaching of Jesus presented here is in no way something new. It was the core teaching in the early Church up until the fourth century when money and power overrode tradition, and to this day it is the teaching of many Eastern Churches, which never lost Jesus’ real Message.

Those very close to Jesus knew this teaching and later taught it. Christianity went underground in many places because Jesus’ core teaching — that we are God (John 10, 34) — continued to be illegal for a long time after Jesus was killed for preaching it, and so had to be kept secret except among members of the Communities.

[...]

“It cannot be stressed enough that Jesus does not want a new Church, or a new sect to come from his Message here! He simply wants his core Message to be taught and believed in all his Churches! His teaching here may well radically change Christianity today everywhere except in those places, mainly in the East, were his core Message was never lost, but it must be seen as a return to that Message and not a changing of it!”

If you’re curious, check out this page at Barnes & Noble and you’ll discover that there are actually several New New Testaments. Who knew? If you want to zero in on Maley’s version, it might be best to go right to his website. The testimonial quotes are real doozies.

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 5-8

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by JEL

Chapter 5 of Mark begins with Jesus and crew arriving in Gadarenes, on the other side of the sea. Right away, a man who lived in the tombs came out and met them. This man was possessed, and chains could no longer bind him. Day and night he howled from the tombs and cut himself with stones.

Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man, and asks him his name. He replies:

“My name is legion, for we are many.”

The demons then beg to be sent into a large herd of pigs grazing on the mountainside. Jesus complies, the demons enter into the pigs, and then the whole lot (about 2,000) plunge down a steep bank into the sea and drown. The man is so grateful, he asks to join the entourage. Jesus says no:

“Go to your house, to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.”

In some cases, Jesus tells people to keep His amazing feats to themselves, and in others asks that people spread the word. Why do you think he gives conflicting commands?

Anyway, the formerly possessed man does as he is told, and when Jesus crosses back over the sea,  a huge crowd is waiting for Him. One of the crowd is Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, has a daughter near death and begs Jesus to heal her. Jesus goes with the man and a throng follows. In the throng is a woman “who had an issue of blood for 12 years.” She touches His clothes thinking it will make her well. It does. Jesus, sensing some of his power had left him turns:

“Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples, feeling the mass of humanity pressing upon them, are incredulous at the question, but the woman, trembling, comes and falls down before Jesus and tells Him the truth. He tells her that her faith has made her well and to go in peace.

Some people come from the synagogue and tell Jairus that his daughter is dead. Jesus tells the stricken father:

“Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

He comes to the house where the girl lays, throws everybody out, except Jairus, his wife and a handful of disciples, and takes the girl by the hand. He commands:

“Talitha cumi!” [Girl, I tell you, get up!]

The 12-year-old girl immediately gets up and walks. Jesus orders everyone to keep quiet about what they have just seen.

Chapter 6

Jesus comes into his own country, and begins teaching in the synagogue. People who know Him are astonished, wondering where he got all this knowledge. They’re offended, thinking Jesus got a little too big for His britches. Jesus answers:

“A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

He does a little healing and marvels at the unbelief of those around Him. He calls the disciples, gives them authority to drive out unclean spirits, and sends them out two by two. He tells them to bring only a staff, no bread, no wallet, no money.

The disciples do as they are told, cast out many demons and heal the sick. King Herod hears about it and thinks it is John the Baptist, risen from the dead. We hear the backstory of how John was beheaded (the daughter of Herodias dances well at a birthday celebration and Herod tells her he will give her whatever she wants. She asks her mother what she should wish for and the mother answers “the head of John the Baptizer.”)

Jesus and the disciples then depart to a deserted place. Many people follow and Jesus feels compassion for them as they are sheep without a shepherd. So He teaches them. Late in the day, everyone is hungry. Jesus feeds 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish…with 12 baskets of left-overs.

After dinner, He sends the disciples into the boat to go to the other side, while He heads up into the mountains to pray. In the middle of the night, He sees them rowing with great difficulty into the wind, so He walks out to them on the sea. The disciples, of course, think it’s a ghost, but He calms them down, gets into the boat, and the wind immediately ceases.

Chapter 7

The Pharisees and some scribes see the disciples eating bread with unwashed hands (the tradition of the elders was that all Pharisees and Jews must wash their hands and forearms before eating). Jesus answers their incredulity with:

“…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men–the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things…Hear me, all of you, and understand. There is nothing from outside of the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man.”

Jesus then leaves and heads into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He wants to go undiscovered, but a woman recognizes Him and begs Him to purge the unclean spirit from her little daughter. He does.

He next goes to the sea of Galilee where a deaf and dumb man is brought to Him. Jesus and the man separate from the crowd. Jesus puts His fingers in the man’s ears and touches his tongue and commands both to be opened. Instantly the man can hear and speak. Jesus warns the crowd not to speak of what they have seen.

Chapter 8

Jesus preaches to a huge crowd for three days and He wants to feed them. With seven loaves and a few small fish, He feeds 4,000 people.

After restoring the sight of a blind man, He asks the disciples:

“Who do men say that I am?”

They say that some think He is John the Baptizer and others say Elijah. Jesus asks them who they think He is. Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” Jesus tells them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be killed, and then rise three days later. Peter gets mad and rebukes Jesus, who says to him:

“Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men.”

He then tells all the disciples:

“Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the sake of the Good News will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?

Next week: Mark, Chapters 9-12

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!)

Reading The Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 13-16

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by JEL

In chapter 13 of Matthew, Jesus is sitting by the seaside and preaching to “great multitudes.” Rather than speaking directly, he instructs through parables. The first is the parable of the farmer who goes out to sow seeds. Some fall in rocky, thin soil (sprout fast, burn out), others among thorns (deceitfulness of riches choke the plant), and still others on good soil (thrive).

In 13:15, He talks about why people can’t receive the message:

“for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes;”

Kind of a common problem today, wouldn’t you say?

Jesus continues with two other parables: the wheat and the darnel weeds; and the mustard seed and then explains them (somewhat unclearly). He finishes with:

“So it will be in the end of the world. The angels will come forth, and separate the wicked [darnel weeds] from among the righteous [wheat], and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”

Chapter 14

Herod hears tales of Jesus and thinks that He is John the Baptizer “risen from the dead.”

You quickly learn in a backstory aside that Herod’s brother Philip is married to Herodias, and John had told him that the marriage wasn’t lawful. Herodias wasn’t happy about this and had Herod throw John in prison. At Herod’s birthday party, the daughter of Herodius danced so well that Herod granted her whatever she wanted. Mother clearly had some input into the request, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptizer.”

The terrible deed is done, and John’s disciples go to tell Jesus who then withdraws by boat to a deserted place. The multitudes follow on foot. He tells his disciples to feed the people, but they say they only have five loaves and two fish. There are 5,000 men plus many women and children. Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish and feeds everyone with plenty of leftovers.

After the meal, Jesus tells his disciples to get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side. He sends the multitudes away and then heads up into the mountains to pray by Himself. In the evening, a storm comes up and the disciples are being rocked around in the waves. Jesus walks across the water to save them and they cry out “It’s a ghost!” Jesus, clarifies his identity and invites Peter to come walking with Him. Peter takes a few steps on the water and then gets afraid and starts to sink and has to be saved (“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”)

This chapter instantly makes me think of John Lennon’s quote:

“Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary.”

Lennon’s got a point don’t you think? The disciples have been traveling with Jesus for quite a while by this point, have seen him bring back people from the dead, heal every disease, feed thousands with 5 loaves and 2 fish, calm storms, and many other fantastic deeds. And yet, when they see Him walking on water, they have no idea who it is and think it’s a ghost? Pretty thick.

Chapter 15

The Pharisees complain to Jesus that His disciples, by not washing their hands before the eat their bread, are disobeying the traditions of the elders. Jesus blasts away, call them hypocrites and utters this nice line (15:11)

“That which enters into the mouth doesn’t defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

Jesus then leaves and goes into the region of Tyre and Sidon. He heals a demonized woman and then goes to a mountain near the sea of Galilee. Huge crowds follow him and Jesus feels bad that they haven’t had anything to eat for three days. The genius disciples ask “Where should we get so many loaves in a deserted place as to satisfy so great a multitude?”

HELLO. You were there just a couple of pages ago!

Jesus, of course, does the same thing he did in chapter 14 and this time turns seven loaves of bread and a few small fish into a feast for thousands. Jesus then sends away the multitudes, hops into the boat and heads for the borders of Magdala.

Chapter 16

After being poorly tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus meets up with his disciples who have forgotten to bring any bread to eat. Jesus says:

“Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

The disciples huddle together and the best they can come up with is “We brought no bread.” Jesus has to patiently explain that he was using a metaphor and that they should be beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

He asks His disciples who the people think He is. “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus then ask His disciples who they think He is. Simon Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Ding, ding, ding! Finally, a correct answer. Jesus is very happy with Peter and offers to give him the “keys of Kingdom of Heaven…”

The chapter ends with Jesus telling his disciples not to divulge to anyone He is Jesus the Christ. He also says He has to go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up. Peter takes him aside and says, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” Jesus gets angry with Peter and tells him off with a “Get behind me, Satan!” for good measure. He then turns to the rest of the disciples:

“If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

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 1-4

Friday, February 25th, 2011 by JEL

I can almost see/hear Carl Weathers bursting through the screen, saying “Here we go!” Yes, we’re going to read the Four Gospels from start to finish, four chapters at a time.

I have no idea how this will work. Some of these posts will summarize the chapters. Others, depending upon the content, might ask questions, offer analysis or reaction. We’ll just have to dive in and see.

Matthew – Chapter 1

The first 16 verses list the genealogy of Christ, starting with Abraham. In the World English Bible, these generational steps are described in terms of “X became the father of Y” which I prefer over “X begat Y”. Seems like more of a lifetime commitment than a transaction.

1:17 talks about:

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the exile to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon to the Christ, fourteen generations.

I counted all the generational steps in 1:1-16 and I got a sum of 39. Could someone explain the 39 vs. 14?

The rest of the chapter deals with the birth of Jesus. Mary is found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph is all prepared to hide her away to avoid public shame when an angel appears and tells him not to fear. The angel also tells him to name the child Jesus and that He will save people from their sins.

[Aside: In 1:8 we learn that "Asa became the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshapat became the father of Joram." Is this the origin of Jumpin' Jehosaphat?]

Chapter 2

Jesus is born in Bethlehem in the days of King Herod. Herod calls the wise men and tells them to go to Bethlehem and “search diligently for the young child.” So off they go. They see the star in the east and follow it until they find Mary and Jesus, whereupon they fall down and worship him and present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After the visit, they don’t return to Herod as he commanded. Warned in a dream, they take another route home. Meanwhile, another angel appears to Joseph and tells him to flee with his family to Egypt to escape Herod.

Having been disobeyed by the wise men and without Jesus, Herod is angry. He commands that all male children 2 and under be killed in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.

After Herod dies, an angel appears to Joseph telling him to take Jesus and Mary to Israel. He does, but when he hears that Herod’s son Archelaus is now ruling, he stops and is then warned in a dream to go to Nazareth in the region of Galilee.

Chapter 3

Here we first hear of John the Baptizer (John the Baptist). Wearing clothes of camel’s hair and eating locusts and honey, he travels the wilderness of Judea preaching “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” People from all over come to him, confess their sins, and get baptized in the Jordan River. Many Pharisees and Sadducees also come for the baptism and John, though gritting his teeth, baptizes them but tells them, “he who comes after me is mightier than I…”

In 3:13, Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized. John thinks Jesus should baptize him, not the other way around, but Jesus convinces him that “this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus is baptized and immediately rises out of the water. The heavens part and the Spirit of God descends as a dove. A voice from the heavens says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Chapter 4

The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to fast for forty days and nights…and to be tempted by the devil. The devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world “if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus declines with the famous “Get behind me, Satan!”

The devil leaves. Jesus hears that John has been “delivered up” and moves by the sea to Capernaum where he begins preaching “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Walking along he recruits Peter (Simon) and Andrew and James and John to drop their nets and become “fishers for men.” Jesus goes all over Galilee, teaching and preaching and healing “every disease and every sickness.” Word gets out fast, and soon “great multitudes” are following him.

Summary

We learn the family tree, Jesus is born and grows into a preacher in just four quick chapters (just 10 pages in What He Said). It’s fun to zip along through time that fast, but I would have appreciated more stories of Jesus as a toddler, growing boy, and troublesome teenager. What do you think?

Assignment for Next Week (3/4): Matthew, Chapters 5-8

Favorite Gospel

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010 by JEL

Earlier today I was wondering if there was a consensus out there as to people’s favorite gospel. Short answer: no. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all chosen and for many different reasons. I surfed around a bit and found this post to best illustrate my point. Yes, I know it’s three years old, but they had the same Gospels way back in 2007 that we do now.

Scroll down to see the 47 comments and you’ll see what I mean.

Jesus and Capitalism

Monday, January 11th, 2010 by JEL

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has been a lightning rod for controversy over the past several years. His latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story continues the trend. In the film he wonders if Jesus would have supported the current system of capitalism and concludes that He wouldn’t have. Jesus’ teachings to help the poor and give away your money, to Moore, seem incompatible with the greed for money that drives much of the market today.

This interesting article provides a number of viewpoints. Clement Mehlman, a Lutheran chaplain at Dalhousie University, agrees with Moore:

“Jesus says to follow Him, you have to give everything you own to the poor. How many Christians do you see doing that? It’s a text that should be thrown at the wealthy fat cats.”

Others feel that the problems lie not in capitalism, itself, but in the way it is used. Rev. Gary Thorne, an Anglican minister and chaplain with Dalhousie and the Canadian Forces Reserves, talks about the “intent of the heart” in looking at free markets. He cites the history of the church and points out the Martin Luther and John Calvin were all in favor of capitalism as a way to motivate people to work hard, support their families and please God. Thorne also says that the most important thing about acquiring wealth, for a Christian, should be a willingness to share it.

“Any Christian who says that we pay too much in taxes is just bonkers.”

The article goes on to talk about a middle ground and I encourage you to dive in.