Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Jesus’ Take on the “Occupy” Protests?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 by JEL

Given that much of the wrath of the OWS crowd seems directed at the too-big-to-fail banks whose executives seem to bring home the bacon regardless of market conditions, I’m guessing that Jesus might just be among the protesters.

The alternative is to return to the subversive teachings of Christ. Jesus showed little patience with religious institutions. He was mostly concerned with people outside them. One of the central events of his life was a famous piece of direct action in the Jerusalem Temple, where he “overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves”.

The above block was pulled from a story about the Occupy London movement and how St. Paul’s cathedral fears the protest is keeping the tourists away.

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.

Jesus in India?

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by JEL

Frank Huguenard is a documentary film producer whose latest film, “Beyond Belief” is the second in a three-part trilogy “focused on our minds, consciousness and finding true happiness in our lives.” “Beyond Belief” asks the following questions (and claims to answer them):

Is it possible that starting at the age of 13, Jesus learned to purify his mind using ancient Vedic techniques and then brought these teachings back to the west? Was there a completely different strain of Christianity, which was actually much closer to Hinduism than Catholicism, that was exterminated by the Roman Empire? Did Jesus teach reincarnation and emphasize meditation?

You can actually watch the 55-minute film (and judge for yourself) here. For a press release about the film, click here.

Tuesday Smorgasbord

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 by JEL

There were a bunch of items in the news today that caught my eye, so rather than make a decision, I’m presenting the variety pack:

1. Herman Cain, presidential candidate on the Republican side, believes that towns and communities should have the right to prevent the construction of mosques in their neighborhood. Very interesting. Would a Buddhist church be okay? How about an ashram? Or a center for white supremacists?

2. I’m a big believer in keeping your religion/faith to yourself, but Greg Stier wrote a piece in the Christian Post regarding “Bible believers are obsessed with converting people from their belief systems to Christianity. If they’re not they should be. Here are 3 reasons why:” And he lists them:

  • Jesus told us to. Stier uses Luke 24:47-49 as his reference, but I think there are clearer examples. Heck, Jesus is always out telling people to spread the word.
  • It’s good news. “Proseltyizing gives us a pedicure in a way we could never imagine because our feet are carrying good news to everyone we meet.”
  • It saves people from hell.

Personally, if I were starting a religion, I would include lots of orders to proseltyze in my manual and mandatory 2-year missions and any other such built-ins I could think of that would help grow and perpetuate my religion.

3. 74% of Americans believe in heaven and 60% believe in hell. Who goes where? Kim Lawton has a nice summary piece.

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 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: 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 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.”