Tag Archives: Apostles

1 Corinthians 7-11

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I will be using the work of Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, for much of this study on the letter to Corinth

Monday, June 16, Chapter 7

Paul opens this chapter describing a marriage all Christians must strive for.  In verse 7, he adds that all should imitate him, but he knows most cannot resist the temptation.  This one verse has been the source of mountains of debate, yet it is not difficult.

Most Jewish men and women married by age 19 and those not married were considered almost outcasts—except for one highly esteemed group.  A man who became the disciple of a rabbi put off marriage for years, even for life.  He was to follow his master and imitate him in every way.

Paul was a disciple of Hillel, so followed the practice of not marrying.  We do not know if Jesus was a disciple of a rabbi, but it is entirely possible that he was set aside for God’s service, having the same result.  In those cases, celibacy was the norm.  Paul understands that few people can resist the temptations of the opposite sex, so he advised marriage.  He was one of the few Apostles who were not married.

There is evidence in Paul’s writings that he may have been married and is now a widower.  If that is the case, he would have married sometime after the Damascus road Revelation.

Verse 1 in the Greek presents a compelling problem of translation because we cannot determine if Paul is asking a question or making a statement.  Ancient Greek did not use punctuation marks.  The Greek reads like this in a literal English translation:  Now concerning things of which you wrote, good for a man a woman not to touch.  There are translations from a thousand years ago that make it a question, much like The MessageNow, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me.  First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?

This verse is central to the decision of the Roman Catholic Church that priests be celibate, but it was not always so.  It was 1139 before the Church first ruled that priests should not marry, but it was not uniformly enforced until the Council of Trent in 1563 in response to the Protestant Revolution.  Not that the Pope listens to me, but I think they made a serious mistake regarding this passage of Paul’s letter.

Please note that Paul calls for equal treatment of men and women.

On the question of divorce, Paul follows the teaching of Jesus; divorce is not in God’s plan.  Two Christians who practice true agape love should never have need of divorce.  That is the bull’s eye, but we do not always hit the mark in our lives and Paul understands that.

Paul was more concerned with the unequally yoked.  Christians married to non-Christians should stay married only if the spouse has no problem with practicing the faith and raising the children in the faith.  Paul was probably thinking of Timothy.

Verses 17-24 seem out of place at first glance, but Paul is simply expanding his position.  Paul believed that Jesus would return in a few years at most, well before he died.  He preached to people to prepare themselves for the end times.  We have the benefit of knowing that his estimate was a little bit off.  Still, what he says is as true for us as it was for the Corinthians and every other Christian since then.

Becoming a follower of Jesus does not mean giving up this world.  It does mean giving up the things in this world that separate us from God.  Stay where you are in the world, but become a Christian in that place.  I read an account of an American submarine in WWII that sank in Japanese waters.  The survivors were put into prison where one guard spoke one night through the door in halting English, I am a Christian.   He could do nothing else, but he could do that.  That is what Paul means.  That Japanese soldier did his duty, but tried to do it as a Christian.

Verses 36-38 are difficult to translate from the Greek, but the meaning is clear.  Paul may have spoken about a man choosing to marry a women other than the one he was engaged to, or about a man choosing a husband for his daughter.  Either way, it is not a problem.  In Paul’s opinion, it is better not to marry.

Tuesday, June 17, Chapter 8

Chapter 8 is short and simple.

There were at least a dozen pagan temples in Corinth, and they sacrificed animals in their worship.  As a fund-raising project, they sold the meat on the open market.  Many of the new Greek Christians were used to buying and eating that meat, so they wanted to know if it defiled them.  Paul said no.

First though, you do not go to the temple and participate in the service.  You might go to the ‘back door’ to buy the meat, but stay away from the services.

Today Paul might comment on bars, casinos, strip clubs, etc.  What would he have to say?  For the most part, get your food where you can without participating in the pagan rituals.  I think that would leave out the strip clubs.  Casinos, I am not sure.  My problem is that they only pay 60%, meaning the one person who wins $10,000 gets that money from all the people who lost a total of $16,667.  Games of chance are built on losers.

The issue of a stumbling block is the second part of this chapter.  If by eating meat from the temples someone else comes to believe the temples are good, that is a stumbling block.  As long as people around me know and believe the same thing, there is no harm in eating the meat.

We cannot say for sure that Paul ever ate pork, but it is clear that he ate meals with people who served pork.  He may have avoided that dish.  More to the point, he never condemned anyone who at pork.  When he was with Jews who observed the strict food rules, he did so as well.

Always think about what you are doing.  What effect does it have on people around you?  What effect does it have on you?  Are you closer to God?  Are others closer to God?

Wednesday, June 18, Chapter 9

Paul now brings the fight to himself. I also am free.  These are the rights that are mine; in verses 11-12, Paul says he should be paid for his labor.  But we did not use this right.  Why?  Because I will preach the Gospel regardless of what you may give to me.  I work only for Jesus; he will pay me.  You cannot control what I say because I do not work for you.

In the first verse of this chapter, Paul reminds us that he saw Jesus and had a conversation with him.  He saw Jesus the same way Peter saw Jesus.  This still happens today in the Middle East with people who are open to such things.  I quote again from Ken Bailey:  Over the last two decades literally thousands of Middle Easterners have had encounters with Jesus both in their dreams and during their waking hours.  Within the last year I have met two Christian leaders, one a Turk and the other a Sudanese, both of whom came to faith in Jesus through personal encounters with him.  One of them was on a pilgrimage when Jesus appeared to him in the middle of the day.  The other was awakened by Jesus in the night on three occasions.

But a visit by Jesus is not enough to make someone an Apostle.  Most of the 500 mentioned by Paul in Acts 15:6 did not become Apostles.  Each of us has our own unique purpose.  If it is to clean the church toilets before Sunday, clean them as if Jesus were coming.

Paul was called by Jesus to preach the Gospel, and he chose to do it while paying his own way.

In verses 19-23, Paul outlines how he is able to reach out to others.  Ken Bailey again:  After spending forty-seven years in the Arab world, and after acquiring the ability to lecture in four kinds of Arabic, I never said to my Arabic-speaking friends, “We Arabs.”  Knowing where that un-crossable line is drawn is a critical piece of acquired awareness.  As regards lifestyle Paul can live as “one under the Torah”, and he can live as “one not under the Torah”.  But in regard to his identity, he knows that he cannot become a Gentile, and he plays no games with his readers.

We are all familiar with the Olympics originating in Greece, but there were other games as well.  One, the Isthmian Games, was held in Corinth every two years.  It was a sports crazy city, so Paul made use of that to close the chapter.

Thursday, June 19, Chapter 10

To begin this chapter, Paul returns to the Exodus.  He taught the people in Corinth all about the Exodus because it is the story of the Messiah.  We should never read about Moses without seeing Jesus.  As the Hebrews left Egypt, they followed the Cloud of the Presence; they were baptized in the Red Sea as the Egyptians were sacrificed for their salvation; they ate the bread from heaven, the bread that was the Messiah; and they drank from the life-giving waters that was the Messiah.

But, and you Corinthians need to take this warning to heart, God killed nearly all of them for their immorality.  So if you think you are standing firm….

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too….

There were in Corinth and are now in America a lot of Burger King Christians.  But we cannot have it our way; it must be God’s way.

Verse 28 presents us with a different lesson to that of freedom.  If I go to a house to eat and the host says the food was presented to a god as a sacrifice, I should not eat it, for the other man’s conscience.  Paul is saying that I chose not to eat out of love and respect for the other man.  He has been sensitive enough to warn me of the meat’s origin so I will respond in kind.  The meat will not hurt me.

I had an experience along those lines in 1996 when I spent a week with our exchange student and her parents.  On the first day, Chao and her mother took me to a small shop and ordered fish head soup.  It is the traditional dish served to honored guests.  I partially insulted my hosts by not sucking the eyes out of the heads; I let Chao do that for me.  I took advantage of my freedom not to eat something I thought might gag me.  Chao was happy.  When they were able to visit us a few years later, we returned the favor with fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Friday, June 20, Chapter 11

Typical of this letter, Paul praises the Corinthians in verse 2, but turns right away to criticism.   An important concept appears in verse 2 that we need to know.  Paul received the teachings and he gives the teachings to the Corinthians.  That is the process upon which Judaism and Christianity are built.  It is important to know how the teacher received the lessons.  Paul learned first from the great rabbi Hillel, then from Jesus directly.  We can trust Paul

Today it can be a bit more difficult to decide whom to trust.  I want to learn from someone who has studied the Word and teaches in accordance to what I already know from the Bible.  For example, I reject anyone who teaches that Jesus hates people.  A careful reading of the Gospels answers that  question.

Starting in verse 3 Paul begins to deal with a problem plaguing the Corinthian Church, that of public behavior of men and women.  Paul consistently preached  that all were equal before God and Christ.  He has not changed that message here.  He is dealing with a situation peculiar to Corinth; the congregation includes an even mix of Jews, Greeks, Romans, wealthy, poor, slave, and free.  With that mix came many different customs:  Jewish men covered their heads for prayer, Greeks did not, Romans did, slaves often had their heads shaved (women too) and uncovered.

How to deal with it?  Paul begins with the basics, men came before women, Christ before men, God before Christ.  This is right out of Genesis. This position is based on the Greek word, kefale; for the Hebrew word Rosh.  Both words refer to the head of a person, to having authority over others, or as being the source or beginning of something.  For example:  Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the new year of the Jewish calendar; it is the head of the year, the beginning.

A misunderstanding of the Genesis account has led many people astray.  They read that woman was made from man, and conclude that man is more important.  If that logic is used then animals are more important than man and plants more important than animals, etc.  If we reverse the logic to say the most important was created last, that would be women.  The first creation story in Chapter one puts a damper on the whole misguided notion.  Verse 27 of that chapter has man and woman created together in the image of God.

Galatians 3:26-28 makes Paul’s position very clear.  It is the teaching of the early church that he is passing on to the Churches of the Province of Galatia; equality in Christ.

As the church spread over the next eight centuries women continued to hold prominent positions in the churches of some regions, less so in others.  The Church of Rome began a campaign about that time to reduce the influence of women in the church.  It took centuries and not a few wars to achieve the goal.  The women of Ireland were particularly stubborn in giving up their status as equals before Christ.

In our current text Paul gets right to the prophets, men and woman.  Stop there.  Women prophets tells us a great deal about the church as Paul saw it and as Jesus intended it.  When Paul lists the parts of the human body prophets rank with Apostles and teachers.

Women held every position of leadership in churches throughout the Mediterranean.   Paul names women in roughly equal numbers in his letters.  Kenneth Bailey:  From the book of Acts we know that Greek women of high standing were attracted to the preaching of Paul.  Such women would not have been attracted to a movement that did not treat them as equals.  The church in Philippi met in the house of Lydia, a seller of purple cloth.  One of the two ports for the city of Corinth was Cenchrea.  The church there was led by Phoebe who is called a deacon and a leader.  While in Corinth Paul lived with Aquila and Priscilla.  Priscilla was a “professor of theology,” who, with her husband, taught the famous Apollos.  Living with this prominent Christian couple for eighteen months, and having them as personal friends, it is impossible to imagine Paul writing a letter to the Corinthians that would demean Priscilla.

All Paul says is, women cover your heads when you preach, teach, and prophesies.  Show some courtesy to those who believe you should do so.  I know it is not necessary, but think of others.

In verse 6 Paul gives women prophets another option, shave your heads.  He extends that in verses 14-15 by suggesting for a woman to cut off her long hair, she would be imitating men and that is not good.  Let women be women and men men.

In verse 16 Paul concludes the instructions with the statement that this is the practice in most of the churches, so do the same to save yourselves a lot of trouble.

Verses 9-10 contain the Greek word dia four times.  It is often translated as for in verse 9, but because in verse 10.  If Paul intended to use a different word in verse 9, there are at least two that would better serve.  The literal Greek translation is:  For not was created man because of the woman, but woman because of the man.  Because of this ought the woman authority to have on the head because of the angels.

Day 244- Eucharist at the outdoor altar!

Moving on:  Paul has heard about problems with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth.  When you assemble, there are divisions and quarrels.  Those of you do not have to work (the rich) show up early and go ahead and eat and drink so that there is nothing left for the poor and the slaves.  What is more, you end up drunk and a shame to the name of Jesus.

The practice of eating full meals for the Sacrament continued for several centuries with the same problems reoccurring, until the Roman Church banned the meals.

With verse 23 Jesus gives us the oldest account of how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Last Supper, Holy Eucharist (the word means thanksgiving).  I remember that I used the verses 23-28 in services years ago, so I checked the Bible I used then, and it is all underlined in red.  It is the main reference for denominations everywhere.

Verse 27 is serious.  I must approach the table with love for Christ.  It would be better to pass it by than profane His Sacrifice.  Eating the Eucharist with less than a perfect heart if the norm, however.  Jesus understands our needs and our troubles and will overlook our weaknesses.  Still, we need to try to be as judgmental of ourselves as we are of others.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

1 Corinthians 2-6

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I will be using the work of Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, for much of this study on the letter to Corinth

Monday, June 9, Chapter 2

Paul has to make a point with the Greeks especially, but also with the Romans and to some extent the Jews and others.  The Greeks loved philosophies and philosophical speakers.  They loved a good, hard-nosed debate in the classical logical style.  Philosophers were the rock stars of Greece.  Paul wanted the Corinthians to understood that he stayed away from that kind of speaking when he was with him.  He wanted them to see the simplicity of the Cross of Christ.

He had just arrived from Athens where he was invited to speak on Mars Hill, the center of the intellectual world in the Empire.  He gave an impressive speech that juggled the logical Greek with the story style of Jews.  He successfully bridged two worlds.  He did not found a church that day in Athens, but the city was ready and became the home of today’s Orthodox Church.

Paul walked from there to the city of slaves and sailors and assured them he would not use the ivory tower language of Athens with them, only the language of the Cross.

Notice the pattern in verses 7-10.  In 7, God’s Wisdom is hidden, but in 10, it is revealed by the Spirit.  In the second half of 7, God destined His Wisdom for us and in the second half of 9 He prepared it for us.  In both 8 and 9, it is not understood by the people.  They would not have crucified the Lord of glory, is of the Cross, right in the center of these matching statements.  This is a pattern Paul uses throughout his letters.

In verse 11, Paul says we cannot know the thoughts of God.  Only the Holy Spirit can know those thoughts.  If we allow the Spirit to dwell in us, the Spirit will share that knowledge.  Verse 13 is the central statement that we share that knowledge of God with others who do not have the Spirit.

Paul is talking about the three parts of man and the three parts of God.  Humans are body, thoughts, and soul; or physical, mental, and spiritual.  We control all three, but in doing that, we are unable to communicate with God.  Only when we allow the Holy Spirit to replace our personal spirits can we know God.

Tuesday, June 10, Chapter 3

Go back and look at verse 1:4 where Paul is thankful for the gifts given.  Now, in 3:1-3 Paul is saying that they failed to take in the gifts.  The divisions and infighting are sure signs that the Holy Spirit has not taken over the worldly spirits.

Had they been filled with the spirit they would be showing love to one another, not jealousy.  Let me quote from Kenneth E. Bailey.  As children of the Enlightenment we have largely come to see the acquiring of truth as a head trip, and that a good mind and a willingness to work hard is all that is required to understand any form of truth, including theological truth.  Paul disagrees.  He was not willing to feed the Corinthians the “solid food” of theology because of broken relationships in their community….

The ancient Eastern churches did not have scholars or theologians, but rather “Fathers of the church.”  The assumption behind that language is:  Only when we see the authenticity of your piety, and your commitment to the church, will we take your scholarship seriously.

Read Isaiah 28:9 and apply it to Paul as a father feeding the Corinthians milk.

Paul tells them it does not matter who plants the seed, it comes from God.  He uses images that come from Isaiah 41:19; 44:3-4; 60:20; and 61:3.  You Corinthians need to grow and fill out the image of that which was planted within you.

Paul calls himself a diakonos, a minister/servant.  He uses the same term for Apollos, Phoebe, and Timothy.  He has no ownership of the people or the church, he is their servant.

In verse 5, Paul uses the image of farming and the farm, changing in verse 9 to buildings.  What we add to the foundation will be shown on the day of Christ’s return, be it gold or straw (verse 13).

Verses 16-17 make up the central thought of this section.  We, you and I, are the Third Temple.  God dwells within us.

Theodore of Mopsuestia (410 AD) writes:  The one who believes in Christ receives the Holy Spirit, who dwells in him by the washing of rebirth, and thus he is spiritual.  But if such people then turn around and serve worldly passions, in that respect they are carnal.  Paul says that those who have become spiritual according to their confession of faith may nevertheless still live as though they were carnal so as to become an insult to the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.

Ambrosiaster adds (370 AD):  Paul says this in order to prick the consciences of those who have corrupted their bodies through evil living, especially the man who was having an affair with his father’s wife.

Paul ends the chapter and begins the next with one parallelism.  It was the style of much of the Old and New Testaments.  Jesus used parallelism in his parables and Paul uses it throughout his letters.  This particular one is called an inverted parallelism because the lines that match one another end up looking like the March Madness bracket

 

A  18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this            age,he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.  19 For the wisdom of this          world is foolishness in God’s sight.

 

B  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord                       knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”  21 So then, no more boasting about               men!

 

C  All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or                           death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and                             Christ is of God.

 

D1  4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those                                              entrusted with the secret things of God.  2 Now it is required that those                                            who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

 

D2  3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I                                          do not even judge myself.  4 My conscience is clear, but that does not                                                make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

 

D3  5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord                                           comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose                                           the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise                                               from God.

 

C’  6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your                                   benefit,

 

B’  so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what                   is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

 

A’  7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not               receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

 

Notice how A’ is a part of A or built on A.  That is parallelism.  The center three statements are of equal value, matching ideas rather than a building of ideas.  In parables, the center is often the central point, even the climax of the story.  With Paul in this letter, it is the Cross several times.

Wednesday, June 11, Chapter 4

Paul’s whole argument for the Corinthians is that they assumed only Paul knew the truth, or only Apollos, just as we often believe that only Baptists or Methodists or Lutherans or Catholics have the truth.  Either we belong to Paul or to God, not both.

Starting in verse 8, Paul cranks out the sarcasm.  It is a small parallelism with 8 and 10 matching and 9 the center.  It is all sarcasm.

Yet the center contains an image of Christ.  When a Roman general returned to Rome from a successful battle, the parade would always end with the captives in chains who would then be executed for the public’s enjoyment.  That is what Paul is referring to, and it is what happened to Jesus, marched through the streets to a public execution.

Paul reminds us, backhandedly, that we should suffer with God.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in a letter from prison:  Christians stand by God in God’s suffering, and that distinguishes Christians from Pagans.  Could you not keep awake with me one hour? Jesus asks in Gethsemane.  This is the reversal of everything a religious person expects from God.  Human beings are called to suffer with God’s own suffering caused by the godless world.

In Philippians 3:10, expresses the idea more strongly.

In verses 11-13, Paul speaks of the Apostles as traveling preachers in the language of Isaiah 58:7.  And then in verse 16 he says to imitate him.  Imitate the way he follows Christ.  Imitate his willingness to suffer for Christ, even to die for him.

Verse 17 actually begins the new essay, this on sexual immorality.  He tells them he is sending Timothy, and they would understand that Timothy carried a stick and a carrot.  They could choose which it would be.  Timothy is to lead them back into the way that Paul first taught them.

But he also tells them he is coming soon to deal with the arrogant people and he will bring the whip.  Take care of the problem now, before I get there.  That is a threat and a promise.

Thursday, June 12, Chapter 5

Given the nature of the City of Corinth, it should surprise no one that sexual immorality was so common, even in the church.  This chapter will give us a description of the problems they faced and chapters 6-7 will get into some solutions.

Paul opens verse 1 with a strong statement: Everyone is reporting to me.  The Old Testament penalty for immorality is stoning.  It is one of the BIG sins and Paul wants it taken care of NOW!

People in the church were saying, I am saved, so I am free.  If I am free, then nothing I do is a sin.

Paul has heard that a man is having sex with his father’s wife.  Even Paul cannot come up with strong enough words to express his disbelief at this action.  AND the man is proud.  No wonder Paul called some arrogant.

In verses 3-5, Paul is saying the man must be excommunicated, kicked out of the church.  He is not a follower of Christ.  Perhaps living with the Devil again will remind him he needs to repent.

In verse 9, Paul mentions a letter already sent to the church.  That letter has been lost.  There seems also to have been a letter written between what we call the first and second letters.  This church was so troubled that Paul sent a stream of letters to help them.  We should also note that church leaders of the late first century and early second century wrote letters to struggling churches and many of them are preserved, but not considered scripture.

Paul does not tell us to avoid non-Christians; that would go against the Great Commission.  Rather, we are to avoid people within the church who are arrogantly sinning.

Friday, June 13, Chapter 6

Remember that Paul had an unfortunate experience with the court system while he was in Corinth, even though he was released.  It may be because Sosthenes is co-author that Paul is so upset that people in the church are going to court to resolve disagreements.  Instead of acting in a considerate, loving relationship, these people are acting like street thugs.

In verses 7-8, Paul tells them to throw in the towel, it is over for them.  Salvation will not be theirs because they take pride in their sins.  Verse 9 leaves no wiggle room.  And that is what you are.

Verse 12 is a powerful statement for the Corinthians, and for us; not everything is beneficial.  Sometimes Americans forget that freedom cannot be absolute.  I should not do anything that harms another person or anything that harms me.  I cannot harm the body of Jesus, for that is what I am.  I belong to my Master.  WWJD?

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Luke 6-10

100+ yr Grape Vines. Seppeltsville, Barossa Valley, South Australia.  photo by  Mark A Hewitt

 

Monday, May 12 Chapter 6

The Sabbath when Jesus and his followers were picking and eating grain from a field would have been a week or two after Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  They could not have been more than half a mile from a town or there would have been no Pharisees around.  They would not walk that far on a Sabbath.

Jesus does not throw out the Torah teaching, he simply makes it practical.  People get hungry on Saturday just like any other day.  When Jesus says, The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath, he is repeating the common teachings of rabbis of the day.  Those same Pharisees would think nothing of working all day to save one of their animals, yet they condemn people for eating.

Jesus selected Twelve of the disciples for his inner group.  They were also given the rank of Apostles, ambassadors for Jesus.  Most of us are disciples, followers with only a few chosen as Apostles to work in mission fields, near and far.

Starting with verse 17, Jesus gives the blessings and woes, better known as the Beatitudes.  We generally think of chapter 5 in Matthew for them, but we find them here as well.  One scholar has recorded 45 beatitudes in the Old Testament, such as Psalm 1:1-2:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers, 

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

The word, poor, occurs 131 times in the Old Testament (NIV).  Poverty another 15, and love several hundred.  Again, Jesus is hardly breaking new ground.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, The only way to overcome your enemy is to love him.  In the New Testament our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility, for Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility.  Exodus 23:1-9 and Leviticus 19:18 give practical examples of such love.

We find this whole section difficult.  We would rather picture Jesus in the Temple chasing the money changers with a whip.  But that is the duty of God not ours.

If we judge, we cannot love.  By judging, we place ourselves above the other person.

About one-third of all the words of Jesus in the first three Gospels are parables.  Verses 39-45, however are really proverbs.

The Tree and Builders are parables teaching us to watch and take care who we follow.  Look for the fruit; is it hate or love.  Check the foundation; is it set firmly in the Scriptures?

Tuesday, May 13 Chapter 7

Jesus reentered Capernaum, his headquarters and the home of at least four Apostles.  The centurion first sends Jewish elders to request Jesus to heal his servant, then sends friends.  It is clear that the centurion believes Jesus has the power to heal without understanding what it all means.  That is a lesson for us.  We will never fully understand what God is about.  We take it on faith that He knows what He is doing.

The second message is interesting.  It shows that he believes he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his gentile house.  His faith impresses Jesus.

In Nain, Jesus raises a man from death.  The centurion invites Jesus to his house, but now he steps in uninvited.  In both cases, people call him Kyrios, Lord; Luke being the only one to use the term before the crucifixion.

There is an important passage in 1 Kings 17:17-24 that we need to read in the context of the resurrection.

Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.  She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.  Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

This is another sign of the Messiah that Jesus had to fulfill.  Yet, in verse 16 the people accept him as a prophet, but not the Messiah.

In Verse 18, John sends his disciples to Jesus without mention of prison.  Luke does seem to assume that he is in prison.  Josephus wrote in his history that John was held at Machaerus, a stronghold and prison east of the Dead Sea.

John is not sure about all the tales he is hearing.  Was I wrong when I baptized you?  Jesus response is to paraphrase Isaiah, leaving out releasing the captives possibly to avoid giving John false hope.

Jesus praises the work of John to the crowds.  He quotes both fables and scripture to show the greatness of John.  Yet, in verse 28 Jesus says that everyone is greater than John.  Why?  It is a common Hebrew style.  It means that as great as John is, others will be at least as great; basically, all will be equally great.

In the next account, Jesus is at a special dinner in the home of a Pharisee.  Many wealthy men liked to have their sumptuous meals out where the neighbors could be envious.  A woman washed Jesus’ feet and cried for him.

In the eyes of the Pharisee, touching any woman not his family defiles Jesus.  But he goes farther in his thinking: a true prophet would have recognized that the woman was a sinner and would have refused her presence.  The Pharisee is gloating in his own superiority.

Jesus lets him know that he knows both the woman’s sin and the Pharisee’s inner thoughts.

On this story, three early Church Fathers wrote:

Ephrem the Syrian (360 AD) Impure lips became holy by kissing his feet.  She was graciously comforting with oil the feet of her Physician, who had graciously brought the treasury of healing to her suffering.  That blind Pharisee, for whom wonders were not enough, discredited the common things he saw because of the wondrous things he failed to see.

Ambrose of Milan (385 AD) The Law does not possess the mystery in which secret sins are cleansed.

Augustine (420 AD, a student of Ambrose) She will not think that she has been forgiven little and so love little.

Isaiah 43:25 is important here:

I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.

Wednesday, May 14 chapter 8

Jesus went from town to town preaching the Good News.  G. Campbell Morgan, writing in 1931, has this to say about that preaching:

The word preaching shows the style, the method….  Preaching is proclaiming as a herald, and when a herald proclaims, he is representing a King, and therefore there is authority in his message….

The word evangelizing reveals the content of the preaching.  What was it?  Telling the good news.  What good news?  The good news of the Kingdom of God.

That is the Gospel.  God reigns, and He has provided a way by which banished ones may return.  He went everywhere, not submitting a Gospel to the consideration of the crowd, but hearlding it, declaring it, God’s message to men, good news.  He went through the cities and the villages, heralding the good news f the Kingdom of God.

Luke includes the women who play an important role in the spreading of the Gospel.  In verse 3 they are said to be deacons, the meaning of the Greek translated helping.

The parable of the sower follows traditional Hebrew story telling style.  It was common to use a noun-verb combination of the same word: the sower will sow the seed.  It was also common to use three negatives with one positive.

This parable could be called the Parable of the Hearers.  It is about receiving the Good News.

Verse 9 is a stumbling block for many.  Why would Jesus hide the truth?  He does not.  He speaks the truth in a way most people can understand, yet they do not grasp the full meanings which even the Apostles will not understand until they become filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The Good News is simple enough for a child to understand, but difficult enough for Peter and Paul to still be confused upon their deaths.  We cannot know God; He is the Great Mystery.

Jesus’ parables are more than stories; they demand decisions.  First, do you believe the truth of the story?  Second, will you repent and turn back to God?

Rabbis from ancient times to today have spoken of students as sponges, funnels, strainers, and sieves.  The sponge takes in everything and is overloaded, so understands little.  The funnel allows everything to flow out the other ear.  The strainer allows the good ideas to flow out and keeps the bad.  Only the sieve saves the best.

On the account of Jesus’ family coming to visit, Luke does not use the harsh expressions of Mark, but the meaning is the same:  Jesus’ family are the brothers and sisters of the Fellowship.

When Jesus and others took a boat on Lake Gennesaret (became the Sea of Galilee in recent times, even though it is fresh water), the Greek word is whirlwind that came up and endangered them.  The fishermen understood the danger better than the others.  They cried to Jesus to save them.  Ephrem the Syrian in 370 AD said it best:  He who was sleeping was awakened and cast the sea into a sleep.

The demon possessed man puts Jesus to the test.  He is in Gentile territory instead of the Holy Land and the demons number in the thousands.  The Greek word for Legion comes directly from the Latin for a Roman Legion of about 8,000 men.  Mark says that there were about 2,000 pigs sent into the lake.  Regardless of the odds, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, won.

The people did not have the proper response though, one of fear instead of faith.

The dead girl and the bleeding woman are one story, not just because one interrupts the other.  We have a 12-year-old girl and a woman bleeding for 12 years.  The girl is just at the age to begin bleeding, to have her bat mitzvah, and be ready for marriage.  The woman has not had a life for those twelve years because uterine hemorrhaging left her unclean and unable to be with family and friends.

On his way to heal the dying girl, the woman touches the tassel on the prayer shawl of Jesus who feels the touch.  He knows the woman touched him and why, but he wants a teaching moment.  So he stops and forces her to tell everyone what she has done.

Notice what happens in verses 48-49.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Jesus, with one word, links the healing of the woman with the resurrection of the dead girl; daughter.

Thursday, May 15 Chapter 9

Sending the Twelve on their first missionary journey was a big step for them and a big risk for Jesus.  Chrysostam, writing about 400 AD, gives us a good description of the importance of the event.

Jesus succeeded in setting the human race free with no force of arms, no expenditure of money, not by starting wars of conquest, nor by inflaming men to battle.  He had only eleven men to start with, men who were undistinguished, without learning, ill-informed, destitute, poorly clad, without weapons, or sandals, men who had but a single tunic to wear.

We can imagine the Twelve returning to Jesus as excited as five-year olds on Christmas morning.  They each vied with the others to tell Jesus what happened.  Jesus had no doubt spent the time in prayer to support them in their efforts, but let them enjoy the moment.

Teaching again, they found themselves near Bethsaida on the north-eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret with thousands of people ready to eat.

An important point often overlooked:  the Apostles have just returned from doing miraculous things, but they have no idea how to feed these people.

So Jesus feeds them, much like Moses and the manna, much like Jesus at Passover.  Unlike with the manna which could not be kept for later, the Apostles picked up 12 baskets full, one for each of them.  They probably did not get the message then; feed people.

Jesus then asks the Twelve, Who do you say I am?  Once we answer with Peter, You are the Christ, the Messiah sent by God, we must respond by taking up our crosses.  We first deny, repudiate, reject, contradict, disagree, rebuff ourselves.  To take up a cross is to cease being the sinful, greedy, self-centered human we really are and become the person who thinks only of others, to become like Jesus.  We must do it daily because we are not strong enough to maintain our faithfulness.  We are of the two steps forward, one back class; and sometimes two or three back.

Eight days later, eight being the number of days old Jesus was when presented at the Temple, Jesus took the inner circle with him to visit with Moses and Elijah.  As Jesus prayed and his trusty inner circle slept, Jesus’ face began to glow like that of Moses returning from the mountain with the tablets.  Moses and Elijah were both forerunners of the Messiah, so here another promise of the Old Testament is kept.

Verse 35 is right out of Deuteronomy 18:15-20:  The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.  I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.

The next day, a man accosts Jesus wanting him to do what the disciples failed to do.  Jesus’ response makes sense in the context of visiting with his old friends, Moses and Elijah.  He is ready to join them in heaven.  How long shall I stay with you?

From the commentary on Luke by F. Godet, a Swiss theologian  (US translation 1881):  After enjoying fellowship with celestial beings, Jesus suddenly finds himself in the midst of a world where unbelief prevails in all its various degrees.  It is therefore the contrast, not between one man and another, but between this entire humanity alienated from God, in the midst of which He finds Himself, and the inhabitants of heaven whom He has just left, which wrings from Him this mournful exclamation….  The holy enjoyment of the night before has, as it were, made Him homesick.

 In verse 45, Jesus is telling the Apostles several things:  the Man Jesus will be betrayed by men; do not take the adulation of the crowd seriously, they will soon turn against me, and you; it is going to happen in a way that will surprise and confound you.

The Twelve respond by arguing over who of them is the greatest.

Verse 37 begins the long journey to resurrection.  As they pass through Samaria, Luke alone records many of the incidents, though John has several of them happening over three years time.

The literal translation is that Jesus set his face for Jerusalem, a common expression of the day.  Samaria was a region settled by a mixture of people after the Great Exile.  They believed only in the Torah, the five books of Moses.  They had no conception of the Messiah and did not worship in Jerusalem but on Mount Gerizim.

At verse 55 most ancient manuscripts read:  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

The chapter ends with another lesson in the cost of discipleship.  The work of the Kingdom always comes first.  On that point, most of us are deficient.

Friday, May 16 Chapter 10

Jesus selects 70 or 72 people (manuscripts are split about in half on the number) from among the disciples, not including the Apostles, to go on a mission trip, preparing the way for Jesus.  He asks them to go into the homes of the dreaded and unclean Samaritans, eat and sleep with them.

The Kingdom of God is near.

The Samaritans responded so well that Jesus mourned for Bethsaida and Capernaum because they did not respond as well.

When the disciples returned saying even the demons responded to them, Jesus quoted Isaiah 14:12, morning star being the name given to the evil one:

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

In verse 21 Jesus gives another lesson in who is great.  The Apostles had to notice that even the “other” followers were able to do what they had done earlier.

If you have to pick one parable as the only explanation of the Gospel, The Good Samaritan is it.  The expert in the Law asks a question and then quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  It is hard to do any better than that, but notice Jesus response, you will live; no mention of eternal life which was the question.

Luke says the lawyer wanted to trick Jesus and he pushed for more.  He got it.

Jesus has a Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  It is in Judea, not Samaria.  The road is 17 miles long, dropping from 2,600 feet to 855 feet below sea level, a total of 3,455 feet down.  Bandits lived along and worked the road like it was their own ATM.

The single most dangerous spot was the Adummim Pass where hundreds were robbed every year and many left for dead.  Everyone who heard the story knew all these details and probably knew someone who had been robbed and/or killed.

Notice that Jesus says they were all going down the road.  That means the priest and Levite did not have to concern themselves so much with ritual purity.  Touching a dead man or a not Jew would require seven days of purification, but they were not headed for the Temple for duty.  In other words, they had no ready excuse.

Most priests and Levites were Sadducees who rejected the teachings of the rabbis and Pharisees while the lawyer who started this parable was most likely a Pharisee.  Their teachings required both the priests and Levites to bury the dead in just such a case as this.  Even stronger, they required all written laws must be violated to preserve life.

All the listeners would have understood that the priest and Levite would have traveled with several servants for protection, but they would not allow any of them to touch the man because touching the servant would then make the priest and Levite unclean also.

In the parable we have the typical balance:

The robber steals and beats the man               the Samaritan pays for his care

The priest does nothing                                   the Samaritan transports the man

The Levite does nothing                                 the Samaritan treats his wounds.

 

The surprise for the listeners is that the man who stops is not a Jew, not even a Galilean.

As to the end of the chapter, Augustine (about 400 AD) wrote:

Martha was busy satisfying the needs of those who were hungry and thirsty.  With deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house.  It was an important but transitory work.  It will not always be necessary to eat and drink, will it?

What was Mary enjoying while she was listening?…  Let’s ask the Lord, who keeps such a splendid table for his own people, let’s ask him.  “Blessed,” he says, “are those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, because they shall be satisfied.”…

What was Mary enjoying?  What was she eating?  I’m persistent on this point, because I’m enjoying it too.  I will venture to say that she was eating the one she was listening to.  I mean, if she was eating truth, didn’t he say himself, “I am the truth?”  What more can I say?  He was being eaten, because he was the Bread.  “I,” he said, “am the bread who came down from heaven.”  This is the bread which nourishes and never diminishes.

Ambrose added a few years earlier:  Virtue does not have a single form.  In the example of Martha and Mary, there is added the busy devotion of the one and the pious attention of the other to the Word of God….

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Mark 3-7

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Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, March 24, Chapter 3

We start chapter 3 with the fifth conflict.  The others start at 2:6, 2:15, 2:18, & 2:23.  Mark bundled them together and put them early in his account perhaps to help us see that his ministry rubbed people the wrong way and ultimately led to his death.  He also gives us keys to understand why the conflicts occurred.

This man with a shriveled hand has the look of a setup, mainly because people with obvious deformities were not allowed in the synagogue for the same reason they were not allowed in the Temple; ritual purity.  Nonetheless, Jesus has another lesson opportunity.

It was, just for the record, legal to heal on the Sabbath if the life was in danger.  Jesus saw the man’s soul in danger.  The Pharisees only saw a cripple.

With the man standing in front of them all, Jesus used the common argument of ‘from the greater to the lesser’.  Should I do good or evil?  No wonder they kept quiet.  Jesus knew they refused to concede the point, thus his distress.  This is the only time the Greek texts of the Gospels uses the word for anger.

Notice two things: there is no mention of sin or faith, and Jesus did not say he was healed.  That adds to the idea that the man was a plant by the Pharisees.  He may have confessed his sins and been forgiven another time, but not this time.

Jesus never gave the Pharisees much to work with in their plotting.  He never said the words they needed to prove he was a blasphemer.  He never did anything that violated the direct Word of God.  So their plotting turned to false charges.

Verses 7-12 summarize the growing ministry and give us a reason for appointing the Twelve.  As we learned in Acts, there were a couple of hundred disciples, the Twelve Apostles, and the innermost circle of Peter, James, & John.

Think about the men and women Jesus had as followers.  They chose to become like Jesus.  They loved and respected him as he did them.  He was comfortable with them; they were friends.  That is a powerful picture of the Church, the Bride of Christ.  We fellowship together as friends, and as equals.  The Pharisees concentrated on being separated from others.

Let us consider the reasons why Jesus was crazy and should be put away:

1)      He abandoned a decent carpentry profession,

2)      He refused any payment as an itinerant preacher/teacher,

3)      He surrounded himself with questionable men,

4)      He constantly said and did things that offended the leaders,

5)      And now he allowed the crowds to run over him.

It is little wonder his family came to take care of him.

In the middle of that, the leaders came down the mountain to accuse him of being a devil.  (Beelzebub is never used outside the Gospels.)

Verse 28, the Hebrew word for truth would be Amen, one of the names for God.

In verse 32, Mark refers to Mary this one and only time.  It is a little odd given her role as a faithful follower.

Augustine (around 400 AD) Thus he spurned the earthly name of his mother in comparison to heavenly kinship.

“Whoever does God’s will….”  Notice that Jesus places men and women on the same level.

Tuesday, March 25, Chapter 4

Mark did not include many parables.  We have to go to Luke and Matthew for the full list.  But here, Mark records 4 in a row.

The Sower

Chrysostom (about 400 AD) As the sower fairly and indiscriminately disperses seed broadly over all his field, so does God offer gifts to all, making no distinction between rich and poor, wise and foolish, lazy or diligent, brave or cowardly.  He addresses everyone, fulfilling his part, although knowing the results beforehand…. Why then, tell me, was so much of the seed lost?  Not through the sower, but through the ground that received it—meaning the soul that did not listen…. But how can it be reasonable, one asks, to sow among the thorns, or on the rock, or alongside the road?  Maybe it is not reasonable insofar as it pertains only to seeds and earth, for the bare rock is not likely to turn into tillable soil, and the roadside will remain roadside and the thorns, thorns.  But in the case of free wills and their reasonable instruction, this kind of sowing is praiseworthy.  For the rocky soul can in time turn into rich soil.

Verse 9, the Gospel is open to ALL.  “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

In his explanation to the disciples, Jesus stressed receiving the seed, as opposed to sowing the seed in the parable.  And then he paraphrases from Isaiah 6:9-10.

We think that Mark was writing at a time when persecutions were starting in Rome.  He may have included this section to encourage the faithful.

A Lamp

God is Light.  We read in the second verse of the Bible, darkness was over the surface of the deep,and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said,“Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good,and he separated the light from the darkness.

Without God, there is only darkness.

The Growing Seed

The Word of God is a part of nature, a part of this world.  Jesus was no alien.  Neither is God.  His Kingdom is growing whether we know it or understand it.

The Mustard Seed

A mustard plant, in a warm climate, will grow to about 10 feet.

All 4 of the parables describe something small or insignificant becoming something unexpected.  The harvest for the Kingdom will surprise all of us.

Having given his disciples something to think about, he, the Apostles, and many disciples entered fishing boats (probably belonging to the four fishermen) and headed across the lake.  It is called the Sea of Galilee, but it is a fresh water lake.  The water is quite cold because it comes from snow melt in the mountains of Lebanon.

In reality, Jesus calming the water is a parable.  Jesus had just explained how powerful God is and by extension, how powerful Jesus is.  When the waves kick up, the disciples panic.  They wake Jesus, not to calm the storm, but to make sure he knows they are all going to die.  In all fairness, the fishermen among them knew of many swamped boats  and men killed on the lake.  As far as they knew, they were on the Titanic.

Jesus tries to remind them that they need not fear while he is with them.  Time enough for fear when he leaves them, but for now, God will provide.  Jesus spoke the same words he used in 1:25 to drive out the evil spirit.  Psalm 107:23-30.

Jesus must have thought that his teaching had indeed fallen on rocky soil.

 

Wednesday, March 26, Chapter 5

Mark now moves us from storm-tossed disciples to a storm-tossed man.  Crossing the lake, they arrived in the Decapolis, a group of ten independent Greek cities that had been there for centuries.  Jesus had just preached about growing seeds.  Now he will plant one seed in an unlikely man.

For the only time, Jesus first command to leave the man did not work.  The man was filled with about 2,000 demons, so Jesus first got the name, Legion, which gave him ownership of them.  They knew Jesus would order the out, so they begged to enter the pigs.  Notice that Jesus simply allowed them to do as they asked.

Mark gives us a series of three unclean people for Jesus to heal.  The first was the demon possessed Greek.

For the next two, Mark builds one within the other.  First, Jairus asks Jesus to heal his daughter, but on the way, a woman touches him.

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding, as it is known medically, affects about 15% of women and treatment can take some months or even years.  For a woman of that day, 12 years was not unheard of.

She was sure that if she touched the tassel of his prayer cloak, she would be healed, and it would not be enough of a touch to make Jesus unclean.  She was right.

Jesus felt part of his healing power leave him and made a scene until the woman admitted she was the one.  We do not know if Jesus knew at once who touched him or if he genuinely wanted to know.  It does not matter.  He wanted the woman to know that she was loved and respected.  This is the only time in the four Gospels that Jesus called a woman, ‘daughter’.

Meanwhile, the daughter of Jairus died.  Jesus took her hand and told her to get up.  Mark has woven in a beautiful connection with these two healings.  He heals a woman who has been menstruating for 12 years, calling her daughter.  He heals a 12 year old who will start menstruating, calling her little girl.  And he touches both.  A Pharisee would grow old trying to get himself ritually clean after that.

Thursday, March 27, Chapter 6

Jesus had a tremendous problem, he was average.  If he had been 6-4, 225, with silver streaks in his dark hair, with a voice like a megaphone and a brain like Einstein, people would have been more impressed.  When the people of his home town saw him, they wondered what all the fuss was about.  ‘You remember Jesus, the one who quit carpentry.  He looks just like his brother James.’

One useful thing we get out of this visit is the names of his brothers.  James became the Bishop of the Jerusalem Church, and Jude wrote a letter that made it to scripture status.  They came to it later, but they were influential followers of their big brother, technically big half-brother.  It is likely that none of the sisters were strong followers, or they would have been mentioned also.  The second boy was named after his father, indicating to the world that Jesus had a different father.  The first son would carry his father’s name.

Notice that Jesus could not do much and the reason was the lack of faith.  That surprised Jesus, reminding us that he was human.  God let him have the knowledge he needed when he needed it.  It was necessary because no human brain could contain the knowledge of God or even a tiny fraction of that knowledge.

Having gone home and re-experienced being ‘normal’, Jesus sends his normal Apostles out to do the things Jesus generally did.  This was a practice session for when Jesus went back to Heaven.

In verse 8, Jesus allows them to take a walking stick (it is the same Greek word used for the king’s scepter).  They were to move quickly and depend on others for their food and lodging.  Preach the Gospel from of your weakness.

Mark does something a bit strange regarding John the Baptizer; he devotes 3 verses to his ministry and 14 verses to his death.

In verse 14, the Herod of the year is Antipas, son of the Great.  The Romans appointed him ruler of Galilee while Archelaus got Judea, and Philip II was stuck with Traconitis.  They each held the title of Tetrarch, a word meaning four rulers even though there were just the three.

Back in verse 1:14, Mark says that John was put in prison, but he holds the rest of the story for now as a flashback.  Notice as you read that there are three parallels with Jesus.  Antipas stands in for Pilate, both Antipas and Pilate like what they hear and see, both John and Jesus are buried by friends, and there are reports of resurrection for both.

Jews did not celebrate birthdays, considering it a pagan ritual.  No problem for Antipas.

Feeding the Five Thousand is the only miracle found in all 4 Gospels.  It is helpful for us to think of it as a parable also.  Check out Exodus 16 to review the Manna; Jesus is the New Manna.

Mark starts with a new word for him, ‘Apostles’.  We can easily forget that they were busy traveling Galilee, preaching, teaching, healing, driving out demons, and they are reporting back to Jesus bubbling with excitement at all they have seen and done.  Jesus pulls them away to eat and rest, but they become surrounded by a massive crowd.

Verse 37 speaks powerfully to us, ‘You give them something to eat.’

Notice the Apostles.  They just had an incredible experience, but they cannot recognize that they still have the power to do what Jesus does in the end.  Jews considered bread to be from God and the prayer before every meal was for bread, nothing else.  The prayer went like this, Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who bringeth forth bread from the earth.  Jesus instructed us to thank God for our bread daily.  There was the belief among Jews then that whatever Moses did, the Messiah would do.  Moses gave Manna, Jesus gave bread.

The manner of serving the people (verse 41) looks remarkably like the last supper.

Something disturbs Jesus, and he sends the disciples away while he prays.  The Gospels record only 3 times when Jesus went away to pray, always when there was trouble.

The fourth watch was from 3 to 6 AM, so they have been on the water nearly all night and are making no headway.  Jesus, though, has been talking with God all that time, so he is ready to go.  Seeing their troubles, he walks out to help.

Still, the Apostles and disciples cannot believe Jesus can do this.  No one can walk on water.  His response to them is the same as what God says in Exodus 3:14, ‘It is I.’  Remember, it was just at the end of chapter 4 that Jesus calmed the storm.

To recap, the Apostles go out, do miracles and come back apparently brain dead.  They have no understanding about feeding the people that they should have done it and could have at least have tried.  Now they do not expect Jesus to calm another storm.  When the Holy Spirit filled them at Pentecost, they had to feel pretty stupid every time they remembered these events.

To top it off, people saw Jesus get out of the boat at Gennesaret, and they recognized him, but the Apostles thought he was a ghost.

Friday, March 28, Chapter 7

Ritual cleanliness is the topic, one the Pharisees love.  If a priest is in the Temple and slaughters a lamb for sacrifice, his hands are clean.  If he is at home and he touches the dress of his wife who is having her period, his hands are unclean.  The Pharisees could give thousands of examples like that.

Before every meal (twice a day then), a Pharisee would hold his fingers pointed up as a servant poured 3 ounces (a log) of ritually pure water over them.  He then pounded each fist against the opposite fingers.  Then he held the fingers pointed down as the servant poured another 3 ounces over the fingers.  Clean!

There is nothing in God’s commands that comes close to this notion.  This is an excellent example of what Jesus was working against.  It helps us understand why he always seemed upset with the Pharisees.

In verse 11 we learn of a strange practice that was common among the Pharisees.  If I buy a van and set it aside for driving people to church, that is Corban.  But rather than give it to the church, under the Pharisees’ rules, I could continue to use it through the week for my personal ride.  I could not pick up anyone else, however, unless they were going to church.

What the Pharisees did was create a huge loophole in the idea of dedicating a gift to God.  They would declare all they owned to be Corban, and then they would act as the executors of the estate.  They alone would decide how money was spent and how property was used.  If a parent needed help buying food, the Pharisees would say, “Sorry, this is only for God.”  They violated the command to honor their parents so they could follow a practice they had created.

We must be careful of using tricks to avoid God’s commands to love one another.  Jesus always put human needs ahead of ritual.  He healed on the Sabbath because that was when people needed him.  We should worship God on the Sabbath (or Sunday in Christianity) and we worship God by serving people.

The most revolutionary verse in the New Testament is 15.  Our spiritual relationship with God is first and foremost.  Any ritual we attach to that is fine, but only when the ritual is either the result of the Spirit of God, or brings us closer to the Spirit.

Verse 19 is clearly intended to support what we have recently read in Acts about eating pigs and shrimp.  The food does not make us unclean.  It might make us sick, but still clean.

As if to prove his point, Jesus goes to gentile territory to heal a gentile girl.

Let me quote from F. F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of JesusWhy did the woman not take offence at such an unpromising reply to her request?  One obvious reason was that she was determined to get what she wanted for her daughter.  In addition, what if there was a twinkle in his eye as he spoke, as much as to say, ‘You know what we Jews are supposed to think of you Gentiles; do you think it is right for you to come and ask for a share in the healing which I have come to impart to Jews?” … Again, what are we to say of the term ‘dogs’?  That is a term of abuse, if ever there was one….  It is the dogs beneath the table.  That in itself might suggest that they are household pets, the children’s playmates; and this is confirmed by the fact that the word for ‘dogs’ used by both Jesus and the woman is a diminutive [little dog].

Remember that Paul always went first to the synagogue when arriving at a new town.  Jesus came to the Jews first and many thousands accepted the Gospel.  Gentiles would receive the Gospel next.  This woman was willing to ask for something that did not belong to her.  She had faith in Jesus, more faith than the people he had just dealt with, including perhaps the disciples.

In any case, Jesus healed the girl from a distance without mentioning faith.

He moved on south into the Decapolis again to heal the deaf-mute.

A quote from Ephrem the Syrian (about 350 AD).  That power which may not be handled came down and clothed itself in members that may be touched, that the desperate may draw near to him, that in touching his humanity they may discern his divinity.  For that speechless man the Lord healed with the fingers of his body.  He put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue.  At that moment with fingers that may be touched, he touched the Godhead that may not be touched…. Then his mouth which had been so closed up that it could not give birth to a word, gave birth to praise him who made its barrenness fruitful.

At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, but they could not hear.  In frustration perhaps, he goes to gentiles and finds faith and someone who hears and understands.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence