Romans 2-6


Monday, April 14 Romans 2

Proverbs 14:34 sets the tone for this first section.  Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.  Paul wants the Jews in Rome to realize they cannot judge because they do the same things, in the sense of Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

This whole passage is built around Leviticus 19:18.  Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.  Or if you prefer, Matthew 22:36-40.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jewish teaching has always been that hearing the Word of God does noting.  Doing the Word of God justifies us before God.  Paul warns his fellow Jews not to assume God’s Grace is only for them.  Exodus 34:6-7a, And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Paul uses the idea in Isaiah 42:14a, For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back.  And Isaiah 64:12, After all this, O LORD, will you hold yourself back?  God promises to punish the wicked, but he tempers that with Mercy.  Because of his kindness to us, we are expected to repent and return to Him.

We should strive to live our lives to benefit others, not ourselves.

In verses 9 and 10, the phrase, for the Jew first, refers to their greater knowledge of God, not to any special treatment.  Paul is actually saying they will receive punishment first because they should know better.  Christians join them, we should know better.

Never having heard the Word of God does not excuse anyone from sin.  Ignorance of the law is not a defense in God’ court either.

Paul uses Jeremiah 31:33, This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  And Ezekiel 37:26, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  God gives his commands to all of us, Christian, Jew, heathen.

Starting at verse 17 we should read Christian for Jew.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Paul wrote to the Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  Much the same message as Rabbi Nehorai, Fit thyself to study Torah for it is not a thing that comes unto thee as an inheritance.  We cannot be baptized and be done with it.  Being a follower of Jesus is a life long growing process.

Verse 19 uses the common Biblical theme of light verses darkness.  God is light and created light.  Light shines on the darkness of sin and shows it for what is truly is.  If I am to guide anyone, I must first walk in the light.  But it is also true that the blind can lead each other into the light.  We cannot shirk leadership of those deeper in darkness than we are.

Rather than literally robbing temples (where wealth was stored) Paul probably is speaking of our tendency to use money and possessions for ourselves when they should have been given to God.

For Paul, to mistreat a non-Christian is to violate the Torah and dishonor God.

Rabbi Ze’era said there are four uncircumcisions of humans, the heart, the lips, the ear, and the flesh.  The first three are given in Jeremiah 6:10, Exodus 6:12, and Deuteronomy 10:16.  The physical circumcision is only an outward sigh of the inner circumcision, the cutting away of anything preventing us from hearing and doing God’s Word.

Tuesday, April 15 chapter 3

Paul opens with a strong defense of Jews and the special covenant with God. That covenantal  relationship has not been nullified by God.  Jews are still His Chosen People.

His appeal to Psalm 51:4 raises another issue, that of sinning so God can show his Mercy.  He has already rejected that argument in Chapter 2.  Paul stresses that we will be punished for our evil deeds.  Paul is punished for his sins, we are not any better.

Verse 8 makes it clear that Paul has been accused of preaching that we should sin to encourage God’s Mercy.  He rejects that idea again.

Starting in verse 10 Paul quotes Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 4:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Isaiah 57:7-8, and Psalm 36:1 all to prove that everyone sins, Jew, Gentile and Christian.

The Law tells us what is sinful.  The Pharisees believed they could obey every law.  Jesus told them they failed.  Do not commit murder by thinking bad thoughts about…anyone.

The only way is to repent as John preached and to repent as Jesus preached and to accept the free gift of the removal of the sins by Jesus’s death, the death we deserve.  We still have to be judged by God.  When that day arrives, Jesus will be our attorney and he will testify to God about our faithfullness to his Way of Life.

Paul makes use of Jeremiah 23:6-8 in describing the Messiah.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness. So then, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer say, As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, but they will say, As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them. Then they will live in their own land.

In verse 23 we fall short because we do not follow the Messiah described in Jeremiah 23:5. The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up to David righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  We have trouble doing what is just and right.

The word redemption was used for the purchase price of a slave to become free.  Paul urges us to give up our slavery to sin and be redeemed for a life of slavery to the Messiah.

Paul’s closing is saying that all are redeemed by Mercy, not by doing good deeds.  We are called to do good deeds because we love God and Jesus and want to do what is right and just.

Wednesday, April 16 chapter 4

Jeremiah 9:23-24.  This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

Abraham responded to God, that is his and our only boast.

In verses 4-12 Paul develops the idea that Abraham received the righteousness of God without being circumcised.  Therefore, anyone can do the same by believing in God and in the Son of God.  If we depend on good works to  receive the blessing of God, we will fail.  We do good work because God has blessed us; we do them out of our love for God.

For you who are born as Jews, you have no special status with God until you follow Abraham and believe.  Righteousness is the reward for being faithful.  Punishment is the reward for trying to earn a place in heaven; we cannot do enough good for that.  Jesus was not raised from the dead because he healed, fed, and comforted, but only because he did God’s will every day in every way; he believed.

Abraham is our example because he looked at his 100 year old body and Sarah’s 90 year old body and still believed God’s promise to give them a son.  God does the impossible.

The last verse says it all.

Thursday, April 17 chapter 5

Peace comes only with justification, only when our faith is in God alone.  Offerings were made every day at the Temple until its destruction in 70 AD.  Peace offerings were among them.  The purpose of every offering was to atone for sin and to reestablish a correct relationship with God.  But the offerings had to be given daily because people sinned daily.  Jesus ended that process by  becoming the sacrificial lamb once and for all.  Since sin results in death and Jesus defeated death, we who believe in that miracle will follow him into Heaven.

The veil in the Temple that separates us from God can be bypassed if we hold fast to Jesus.

Christians who expect life to be easy are often disappointed.  We suffer in this world just like everyone else.  But God is with us in that suffering; if we persevere we will end up with hope.  Jeremiah 17:10.  I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.

Remaining faithful in affliction is what it is about.  Being faithful in good times is easy.

Paul uses the words: helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies interchangeably.

Paul  in verse 6 builds on Isaiah 61:1-3.  The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

When you read verse 7 think of the most disgusting person you know.  Would you die for that person?  Jesus did.

There is a lengthy story about the Red Heifer that underlies all that Paul is saying in this long section about dying to sin and living to God.  The entire Red Heifer was burned on the Mount of Olives with both cedar and hyssop wood.  Cedar resist decay and hyssop was used to paint the blood on the doorposts at Passover.  The combined ash was then mixed with water and used to purify anyone who came in contact with the dead.  That week long cleansing turned a “dead” person back into the living.  The connections between Jesus and the Red Heifer are so numerous it is a wonder we Christians do not use it more often.

Verses 9-11 Paul uses to list several related ideas on hope, love atoning blood, and reconciliation.

In 12 Paul begins to discuss death entering the world through Adam’s sin, but does digress before he completes the thoughts.  Do notice that God did not create death; there was only a tree of life in the Garden.  Humans were expelled from the Garden before we could eat from that tree and be forced to live for eternity in a state of sin.  Also note that the word “sin” is not used until Genesis 4:9 after Cain kills his brother.

The following is from Romans by Joseph A. Fitzmyer.  Perhaps it will help clear up Paul’s muddled section of 12-14.

But the comparison is not smoothly worked out, for Paul also wants to clarify the dissimilarity and the superabundance of Christ’s grace that now reigns instead of sin and death, which had been in control since Adam.

Just as sin came into the world through Adam (and with it death, which affects all human beings), so through Christ came uprightness (and with it life eternal).

So the Comparison should run, but Paul felt the need to explain his novel teaching about Adam and broke into the parallelism to assert emphatically that it was Adam’s sin that has affected all human beings (5:12c-d, 13-14), making them not just mortal, but even sinners.  Because of this insertion, anacoluthon [inconsistent syntax] appears at the end of 5:14, and Paul’s real conclusion of the comparison is expressed only indirectly (when he asserts that Adam was the type of the one who was to come).

Verse 15 sums up nicely.  The sin of Adam affects us all, but the Grace of God in the free gift of his own Son overwhelms that sin.  Jesus justifies the condemned.

Paul Tillich, in a sermon titled, You Are Accepted, wrote I should like to suggest another word to you, not as a substitute for the word “sin”, but as a useful clue in the interpretation of the word “sin”:  “separation”.  Separation is an aspect of the experience of everyone.  Perhaps the word “sin” has the same root as the word “asunder”.  In any case, sin is separation.  And separation is threefold:  there is separation among individual lives, separation of a man from himself, and separation of all men from the Ground of Being….  We know that the fate of separation is not merely a natural event like a flash of sudden lightning, but that it is an experience in which we actively participate, in which our whole personality is involved, and that, as fate, it is also guilt….

Grace is just as difficult to describe as sin.  For some people, grace is the willingness of a divine king and father to forgive over and again the foolishness and weakness of his subjects and children.  We must reject such a concept of grace; for it is a merely childish destruction of a human dignity….  But grace is more than gifts.  In grace something is overcome; grace occurs “in spite of” something; grace occurs in spite of separation and estrangement.  Grace is the reunion of life with life, the reconciliation of the self with itself.  Grace is the acceptance of that which is rejected.

Friday, April 18 chapter 6

We must not sin because we have given up sin to follow the Son of God.

To be baptized is to be so fully immersed that we take on the color of the dye in the water.  The word comes from the process of dyeing cloth.  Once we have taken on the color of Jesus we will not want to sin.

Paul in verse 4 states a stronger argument: only be entering the grave of death can we have life.  This is one of the great paradoxes of the Bible and of Jesus; only by giving up this life can we truly have life.  It is like a scene from the Matrix where we have to give up reject that which seems real so that we can have what is truly real.

Isaiah 53:5, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 


While we are on this earth we have to take up our cross every day and die to sin.  Sin is a constant state in this life so we have to keep after it, like pulling weeds from the garden, there is always one more.

Paul writing to the church at Corinth gave us these powerful words.  Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul closes this chapter with a nice summary and the classic verse 23.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Luke Chapters 21-24 and 1 Corinthians Chapter 1





Friday, June 6, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 1

Paul wrote this letter about 55 AD in his third year at Ephesus.  It is the longest of all his letters and is written to the church in the largest city in Greece.  It was a troubled church and Paul had to discuss several issues, most of which still plague churches today.

Corinth as a city had its own problems, starting with a population of 250,000 free people and 400,000 slaves.  It was a city built on commerce, primarily shipping of goods.  The city controlled two ports on either side of the narrow north-south isthmus connecting the two main portions of the nation.  Because it was cheaper, faster, and safer to stop at one harbor and haul the goods overland seven miles to the other harbor that is how Corinth made a living and why they needed all those slaves.

In ancient times, the term to Corinthianize was a common expression to describe sexual immorality.  The city was a sailor’s paradise.  It is little wonder the church faced problems.

Do not skip the first nine verses.  Notice in the greeting that God has a will and he is our Father.  In the Prayer of Thanksgiving, God extends grace and is faithful.

Notice in the same nine verses what we learn about Jesus: he calls Apostles, makes the Corinthians holy, gives all believers his name, extends grace and peace, is a source of thanksgiving, is a testimony available to the church, sustains his followers as guiltless, and he is the Son of God creating a unique fellowship with God.

Look again at the eight things said about the believing community: the church has apostles and brothers & sisters; they are made holy and called to become saints; they (& we) are called by the name of Jesus; they received grace and peace; the grace is a source of thanksgiving; they are enriched by speech, knowledge and all spiritual gifts; they will be sustained guiltless to the end; and they are called into the fellowship of God’s Son.

You want to look back at Acts 18:17 and the attack on Paul by Sosthenes.  Having lost the case in court, he was beaten by his fellow Jews in front of the court while the Roman guards watched.  It seems likely that Paul would have taken the occasion to visit Sosthenes to provide whatever support he might.  It is further possible that the Sosthenes cited as co-author is the same man.  We do not know one way or the other, but I like the story.

What is pertinent is that Sosthenes, whichever one he was, was a Corinthian, so would loan Paul his hometown credence in the letter, making Paul less of an outsider.

Now Paul in verse 10 moves into the first problem; divisions.  Paul always starts with positives; this time with three: Jesus is Lord, no divisions, must unite.  Then he matches those with three negatives: there is quarreling, Is Christ divided, and who was crucified for you?

The Greek word for quarreling is Eris, who was the Greek goddess who stirs up wars, probably because her brother was Aris, the god of war.  The point is Paul uses the strongest word possible to describe the division in the church.

Paul names Chloe, so she must have been secure enough not to worry about people being upset that she told Paul what was going on.  However, Paul uses a neat ID test for the main groups in the fight: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas.  What was happening was the age-old struggle of:  who is more important.  Corinth was a Roman colony, and the Romans held all the political and much of the economic power.  The Greeks were second class, but still financially successful.  Everyone else, including the Jews was third class.  So, Paul, a Roman citizen represented the first class, Apollos, who was Greek, represented the second class, and Peter, named Cephas here, represented the third class.  All were on the Titanic fighting for the life boats.

To fight the holier-than-thou attitudes (I am closer to God because I am Roman [or American]), Paul brings out the big guns, baptism and the Cross of Christ.  It does not matter who baptized you, we are all equal on the Cross of Christ.

The message of the Cross is foolishness, the very foolishness of Jesus choosing to be brutally executed.  The same foolishness that accepts Americans and Iranians as equals.  There are no second class Christians.  We are all baptized into the Cross of Christ.

Verse 22 is at the center of Paul’s point in this section.  Signs and wisdom have not brought people closer to God.  Only the Cross of Christ can do that.

With 26 to the end, Paul strengthens his point that God is strong, man is weak.  Only through Christ can we have hope.


Palm Sunday


Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14- 27:66
Psalm 31:9-16

The long Matthew lesson for today covers the arrest and trial of Jesus.  You may see my comments in the Read Through the New Testament section by doing a search for Matthew 24-28.

But this is Palm Sunday, so go back to Matthew 19-23 and read the comments on chapter 21.

Psalm 31 gives us an account of the life of Jesus.  I am in distress.  I am the dread of my friends.  They plot to take my life.

Isaiah has a similar account.  I offered my back to those who beat me.  But he offers victory in the end.  It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.

There were times in Jesus’ ministry when the crowds following him numbered in the tens of thousands.  His entry into Jerusalem was roaring with praise.  His Apostles knew he was the Messiah and were no doubt eager for him to march to the palace and claim the throne.  Imagine their surprise when he went to the Temple instead and tried to clear out the market.  Talk about asking to be executed.

Palm Sunday is misleading.  The crowds loved what Jesus did for them.  The wanted and needed to be healed, so they followed a healer.  But they did not understand what it meant to follow.  Jesus acted the substance of following on Friday.  He expects obedience in all ways, even to death.

In this world, a follower cannot expect to live in a palace, but must always do those inconvenient things that upset many, yet help the needy.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Mark 13-16; Romans 1


Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, April 7, Chapter 13

In this chapter, Jesus is not concerned that the disciples know what is going to happen.  He tells them enough about the future to prepare them for it.  He does not want it to be such a shock that they all run to the hills.  They have to remain strong enough to stay until Pentecost.

This chapter draws heavily on Daniel and on the Maccabees, the inter-testament books considered almost scripture.

The Big Four ask for signs, but Jesus gives commands. 1) verse 5; 2) verse 7; 3) verse 9; 4) verse 11; 5) verse 13; 6) verse 14; 7) verse 15; 8) verse 16; 9) verse 18; 10) verse 21; 11) verse 23; 12) verse 28; 13) verse 33a; 14) verse 33b; 15) verse 33c; 16) verse 34; 17) verse 35; 18) verse 36; and 19) verse 37.

The word Jesus uses for watch is a typical Greek word used in the markets, meaning to watch for customers.

Jesus gives us a list of things to watch for.  There have been a thousand generations (literally) since Jesus spoke these words and every one of them has experienced these signs.  The point is: the end is close now, be ready.  For someone living in 1014, the time is near, be ready.  For someone living in the year 3014, the time is near, be ready.

In verse 33, the Greek word is different, meaning to stay awake and fully alert.  The prayer is a listening prayer, listening to what God has to say.

Tuesday, April 8,  Chapter 14

The anointing of Jesus is a beautiful moment with deep meaning.  First, the detail of nard.  It was a perfume made in India.  It was transported (about 10 months by camel) in small glass jars with long tapered necks that were broken to open the bottle.  That way, the scent was not lost in the long journey.  As you might expect, the price was way beyond what working people could afford.

From a sermon by Paul Tillich:

What has she done?  She has given an example of a waste, which, as Jesus says, is a beautiful thing.  It is, so to speak, a holy waste, a waste growing out of the abundance of the heart.  She represents the ecstatic element in our relation to God, while the disciples represent the reasonable element.  Who can blame the disciples for being angry about the immense waste this woman has created?  Certainly not a deacon who has to take care of the poor or a social worker who knows the neediest cases and cannot help, or a church administrator who collects money for important projects.  Jesus felt differently and so did the early Church.  They knew that without the abundance of the heart nothing great can happen.  They knew that religion within the limits of reasonableness is a mutilated religion, and that calculating love is not love at all….

The history of mankind is the history of men and women who wasted themselves and were not afraid to do so….They wasted as God does in nature and history, in creation and salvation….Luther’s God, who acts heroically and without rules—is He not the wasteful God who creates and destroys in order to create again?  Has not Protestantism lost a great deal by losing the wasteful self-surrender of the saints and the mystics?…

Jesus connects this anointing of His body with His death.  There is an anointing of kings when they begin their reign and there is an anointing of corpses as a last gift of the living to the dead.  Jesus speaks of the latter kind of anointing although He might easily have spoken of the former.  In so doing, He turns both the ecstasy of the woman and the reasonableness of the disciples into something else.  By His death the reasonable morality of the disciples is turned into a paradox: the Messiah, the Anointed One, must waste Himself in order to become the Christ….The Cross does not disavow the sacred waste, the ecstatic surrender.  It is the most complete and the most holy waste.

Jesus is in command of the Passover events.  He sends two to find a man carrying water.  A man.  In a society where only women carried water.  Tertullian (about 200 AD) gives us these thoughts on the importance of water in this scene.

The Passover affords a more than usually solemn day for baptism.  For that is the day when in effect the Lord’s passion, into which we are baptized, was completed….Nor will it be incongruous to interpret figuratively the fact that, when the Lord was about to celebrate the last Passover, he told the disciples who were sent to make preparation that they would meet a man bearing water.  He thus points out the place for celebrating the Passover by the sign of water.

Notice in verse 13 the sending of two disciples to prepare the Passover, and in verse 17 Jesus arrival with the Twelve.  Clearly, the two disciples were not Apostles.  Since the room had been furnished, food preparation was all that was left.  It is entirely possible that the two disciples were women sent to prepare part of the meal.

The main part of the meal was the Passover lamb which was taken to the Temple for sacrifice, and then roasted in special ovens set up just for the day all over the city.  If the two disciples mentioned had that task, they were men.  They may have gone to check out the room and then taken care of the meat.

But the other food was prepared by several women.  Personally, I think verse 16 suggests that the two disciples stayed in the house to cook the meal, except for the lamb brought in just before eating.

Ten men make the minimum required for the feast.  Generally, it was a family affair; an extended family affair, with the oldest man leading the events and all the men (13 and up) eating together, with the women and children eating in another room, or at another table.

Mark refers to the upper room as large.  It is possible that other disciples ate with Jesus and the Twelve.  If that did happen, it seems most likely that the Apostles ate with Jesus and the other men ate in another part of the upper room, with the women and children downstairs.  It is just as likely that the upper room was on the flat roof with a tent set up for the meal.  Many thousands ate the Passover that way.

Look at the Passover this way.  On Thursday, April 17, everyone living in Kansas City goes to Topeka, without any Topekains leaving, 100,000 lambs are butchered, roasted and eaten in the city.  Every house filled to overflowing.  The feast is so momentous that even slaves share.

God’s covenant with the Chosen People is based on the blood of circumcision, and the blood of the sacrifices shed on the twelve stones of the altar.  Jesus stands between the Old and the New.  Those who eat the bread and wine are binding themselves to God through Jesus.

The New Covenant is a family affair.  Jesus celebrated with his family of the Twelve, and possibly others.  The Old Covenant followed the pattern of a wedding where wine represented the blood sacrifice.  The New covenant used the same symbol and added the bread to stand in for the once-in-for-all sacrificed Lamb.  Bread had always been the symbol of life.

Judas does mess up the beauty of the evening.  Consider that Jesus knew what Judas would do, but still ate with him.  He also knew what each of the others would do.  Peter, we know, the others deserted Jesus no less.  The difference between Judas and Peter was that one asked for forgiveness and the other did not.

Consider these words from Origen (about 240 AD):

If the eleven apostles were of good conscience, having not in any way betrayed their teacher, why were they grieved, as though it might have been that he was speaking of one of them?  I think that each of them knew from Jesus’ teaching that human freedom is infinitely changeable and may easily be turned toward evil.  It may happen, in the struggle against principalities and powers and rulers of this world of darkness, that one may fall quite unexpectedly into evil, either being deceived or overcome by demonic powers.  Thus, each disciple feared lest it might be he who was foreknown as betrayer.

Something else to consider at this point: if John Mark is the author of this Gospel as I think he is, he may have witnessed many of the events of this section.  In other words, much of this could be his personal recollections mixed with those of others who were there.  His mother was Mary, an important leader in the early church in Jerusalem.  Her home was always available to the Apostles.  If she was one of the women preparing the meal, it would have been natural for her to take Mark to help.  He was twelve at the time, not quite a man, but old enough to be in and out of the room.  We will see him again in the Garden.

There, Jesus goes alone to pray.  Perhaps Mark slipped past the not so watchful Apostles to get close enough to hear the prayer of Jesus.  If you think about it, no one else could have heard.

The theme of three continues.  Peter will deny Jesus three times, the Apostles will fall asleep three times, and Jesus will arise three days later.

In verse 41, Jesus says, Enough!  The Greek is apechei, which can mean the account is closed, or it is settled, as in business deals.

In verse 43, we read that the men who came were armed, a violation of Passover.  Judas kissed his Master, the Greek word meaning with great love.

In verse 51, the young man is seen, nearly caught, and runs home naked.  I think this is John Mark who trailed along after the Apostles, wearing his sleeping gown and watching what they did.  I wonder what Mary had to say when he came home minus a gown.

At verse 55, the Sanhedrin consists of 70 men plus the High Priest and several other priestly leaders.  Nicodemus was a member and the likely source of what went on.

Jesus, for the first time, said I am the Messiah.  He added quotes from Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1.  The penalty for blasphemy is stoning, Leviticus 24:14.

Chrysostom (about 400 AD):

O what strange and remarkable turns occur in these ironic events!  When Peter merely saw his master seized, he was so ardent as both to draw his sword and to whack off the servant’s ear!  But—alas, then when it might have been even more plausible for him to be even more indignant, and to be inflamed and to burn, upon hearing such revilings against his Lord, then he became a cringing denier…and that in the presence of a lowly and diminutive maidservant, and not only once but a second and third time.

Wednesday, April 9, Chapter 15

Pilate, you should know, hated Jews and in his first years as governor stirred up endless trouble.  Rome threatened him, so when Jesus came to trial Pilate was on his best behavior.  But we also see a man who does not believe what he is seeing and hearing.  Jesus seems to have affected Pilate.

There is no record of an uprising in the early 30’s when this trial took place, but minor ones occurred so often that they were not recorded.  The crowd was most likely brought in by the leaders, probably even paid, just to encourage execution.

Flogging was done with a whip, like a cat-o-nine.  Leather strips with jagged bits of bone or metal on the ends.  The Romans had no limit to the number of lashes and men often died of blood loss before they could be crucified.

The soldiers of verse 16 were mostly from Palestine and Syria, led by Roman citizens who may or may not have been from Rome.  The Greek word translated as company means cohort.  A cohort contained six centuries, 80 men per century for a total of 480 when full strength, which was rare.  It seems strange that 400 men would be called in just to tease one prisoner.  We have no idea if this was established or if it was done only in Jerusalem, or only for Jesus.

The purple robe was probably an old Roman issue scarlet cloak faded to purple, kept for just this purpose.  The thorns hammered into his flesh with every blow in verse 19.

Simon was pulled out of the crowd to carry the patibulum, the 40 pound crosspiece.  The skin on Jesus’ back was practically ripped off, and he did not have the strength to carry it himself.

Jesus struggled through the streets of the city to the place of execution outside the city.  There are numerous sites that are possible, including on the Mount of Olives.  The soldiers stripped him naked and tied his arms to the patibulum, to insure he stayed in place as the heavy spikes drove through his wrists.  The spikes were placed directly over the median nerves running through the carpal tunnel of each wrist.  The pressure caused immense pain in the hands and arms, even though the ropes supported most of the  weight of the body.

Once the patibulum is lifted to the post, one foot is placed over the other, and a nail driven through to hold them in place.  While Jesus lets his body hang from his arms, the pain builds to level 10 until when he pushes himself up on his feet.  When the pain again reaches unbearable, he reverts to arms for support.  Hanging from his arms puts undue pressure on his heart by ensuring a buildup of fluids in the pericardium, the sack surrounding the heart.  That is likely how Jesus died; the pressure was too great for his weakened heart to push against it.

Verse 32 reads that both of the thieves insulted Jesus, but one probably repented as the day wore on.

Jesus’ last words quoted Psalm 22:1.  Jesus felt that void because the unbroken connection he had always known was suddenly gone.  Jesus had to die alone; God could not die with him.  But now, when we die, Jesus is there because he has already been through death.  He can hold my hand and lead me through the shadow of death.

The curtain in the Temple ripped, at least symbolically.  There were 13 curtains hanging inside the Temple, each the size of a wall and weighing 200 pounds.  If they were all torn, they would have been sown back together because it would have taken 13 years to weave new ones.

There was a sizable cluster of women disciples watching from a safe distance.  Mark does not name Jesus’ mother, but John does.  Mark does indicate that his mother saw him buried.

Joseph of Arimathea took over and had Jesus placed in his own tomb.  The actual work was probably done by servants; otherwise Joseph would not have been able to participate in the rest of the festival for the week of his ritual impurity.

Thursday, April 10, Chapter 16

Joseph rushed the burial of Jesus to see him in before the sun set on Friday.  Otherwise, they would have had to wait until the Sabbath was over on sundown Saturday; meaning Sunday morning.

Was Jesus in the tomb three days?  Yes, by Jewish counting in those days.  Some people today argue that if it was not 72 hours, it was not three days.  What can I say to that?

The women (the Four Gospels disagree on who) went to the tomb to finish the burial process; that is to finish what they did not have time for on Friday.

Notice Mark does not include anything about guards.  He does have the angel appearing, and the odd statement that the women told no one what the angel told them.

It is likely that Mark stopped writing after verse 8 and that the remaining 12 verses were added several centuries later.  In the past two centuries, many older manuscripts have been discovered.  None of the oldest ones includes our current ending.  It is believed that the church added the ending to agree with the other Gospels and to add the Great Commission of verse 15.  Even if Mark did not write the words, they are consistent with what he did write and with the other Gospels.  There is no reason to throw them out.

Friday, April 11, Romans 1

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome was probably written about 57 AD while he was in Corinth on his last missionary journey.

Paul calls himself an Apostle along with dozens of others at that time.  The Greek word started as a seafaring term applied to merchant and military ships.  The captain represented the owner or commander to the extent that he could make any deal that was binding on the owner.

The early churches followed the Jewish practice of being ordained involving, among other things, laying on of hands.  We know that Paul ordained others, but his meeting with Jesus on the Damascus road was probably accepted by others as ordination.

His apostolic function was to bring Good News to the Gentiles.  It is the image found in Isaiah 52:7 and elsewhere.  How beautiful on the mountains s  are the feet of those who bring good news.  The Holy Scriptures for Paul were the Torah, Prophets, and Writings; our Old Testament.  Everything Jesus said and did can be found in those scriptures.

The phrase, obedience of faith, is found as far back as Genesis 49:10.  Psalm 2:7-8 pictures the Messiah bringing the Gentiles into the Jewish nation.  We need to consider the word obedience more than we generally do.

To be beloved is synonymous with chosen, called, saints.

Paul writes in verse 14 to both the Greek and the barbarians.  We know there were Jews in the congregation because he names some later as being leaders.  In Corinth, the conflicts had been primarily between Jews and Greeks.  In Rome that problem was not significant.  The terms Greek and barbarian simply meant civilized and uncivilized.

I am not ashamed uses a word for ashamed that is based on Isaiah 28:16.  So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,  a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.  Paul uses this idea several times in the letter.

The Power of God is expressed in Exodus 20:18-21.  That is the image Paul has in mind.  That power is the Wisdom of God that Paul will preach to the Romans when he joins them.  Jeremiah 23:5-6 expands the wisdom to include the Messiah.  The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name m by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

Notice that the Messiah will bring righteousness.  That is a common theme regarding the Messiah.  To be righteous is to food and cloth the poor, touch the untouchable, heal the sick, visit the lonely, to do what Jesus did.  A Jewish teaching is that God gave Moses 613 commands, David reduced them to 11, Isaiah to 6, Micah to 3, Isaiah then to 2 and Amos and Habakkuk to 1: the righteous will live by his faith.

Paul believes everyone can come to know God without hearing the message or reading the scriptures.  In verse 21 he states For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.  The early Greek philosophers developed the idea of natural law and is still forms the basis for much of our own law.  We say today, “It’s just common sense.”  Paul uses many ideas  and terms familiar to the Romans to develop his letter.

Verse 24 has a difficult phrase, God gave them over.  Isaiah 64:7, No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden a  your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.  Paul seems to follow this idea of God turning away from those who are lost in sin, allowing them to lead their own lives.  Paul never uses the idea that God will cause a person to sin.

Remember that Jesus never gave up on Judas Iscariot.  He was the only apostle Jesus called friend.  Just before Judas left for the betrayal, Jesus dipped bread in the sauce and offered it to Judas a powerful demonstration of love and affection in that part of the world, even today.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Jesus and the Dry Bones

SDRandCo (6)


Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45
Psalm 130

The Pharisees, rabbi, scribes, Sadducees, and Temple leaders constantly asked Jesus for signs.  Prove to us you are the Messiah.  They were like Pharaoh with the ten plagues.  Anyone can do that trick.  Unlike Pharaoh, even death left them unconvinced.

Earlier in John 5:21, Jesus explains his power over death.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Mark and Luke tell of Jairus taking Jesus to heal his sick child who dies before they arrive.  Jesus brings her to life. (Mark 5:41; Luke 8:54)  In Luke 7:14, Jesus heals a dead man being carried past him to the grave.


Luke 20:37-38 adds this about death.  But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.


Finally, in Matthew 23:27:  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.


Ezekiel gives us a picture of men’s bones lying sun-bleached and dry in the valley of death.  Then he tells us that the Son of Man will put life back in those bones.


This is the sign, a sign the leaders knew about.


Yet, when Jesus called Lazarus from the grave, the leaders plotted to kill Jesus instead of worshiping him.  They forgot the words of the Psalm.  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.


The Son of Man is here, now.  He visits with those who allow Him into their lives.  He leaves us filled with the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Life.  Without the Spirit, there is only death.  Life without the Son of Man is life in a matrix that is nothing but a simulation of life; it is not reality.


We can only place our hope in the words Jesus gave to Martha before he brought her brother from the grave.  I am the resurrection and the lift.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence