Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mark 2

I love the pace of the gospel of Mark. Everything happens almost "immediately". Bored? Read 10 more verses and we'll be on to something new.

Paralytic: Jesus saw their faith. It was the faith of the friends, too, that influenced Jesus. This man did not walk just because Jesus forgave his sins.

Matthew: There were no steps between following Jesus and introducing Him to his friends. No classes. No baptisms. Jesus made it clear that his motivation was to help the sick, not the well. I know I have a disease he must cure!

Fasting: Maybe I need to take more seriously this discipline of fasting since the bridegroom is gone now.

Sabbath: Two principles -- The Sabbath is made for man, not the other way around. And, Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mark 1:21-45

So much happened in this text! Jesus bursts on the scene with authoritative preaching and exorcisms. At the height of his popularity he withdrew to pray and came away with a change of plans because, "This is why I came." Jesus was clear on why he came so he could resist the pull of opportunities that looked fulfilling, but were off-target.

He spoke harshly to the lepers and sent them away. Jesus is nice. He's not supposed to speak harshly with people, is he? He told them not to talk but they did. Was their love (and appreciation) for Jesus in conflict with obedience to him? Hmmm. Clearly their disobedience had significant consequences for Jesus' freedom in that area. He had to withdraw to the hills.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mark 1:1-20

Mark starts where no other gospel writer begins. He starts with John the Baptist and the prophecy in Isaiah. John baptizes for repentance.

The voice from heaven is very emphatic, "You are my beloved son. In You I am well pleased." This voice seems to be intended for Jesus and serves to prepare him for his testing in the wilderness.

Jesus' time in the wilderness is quickly summarized compared to Matthew.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Matthew 28

The women found Jesus' tomb empty. The 'go ahead to Galilee' message was the first they delivered. They gather there and Jesus spoke to them.

The insertion about the chief priests paying the guard extra to change their story is amazing. That grave yard has been a topic of conversation ever since.

The relationship between the authority of Jesus and the mission of the church cannot be overstated. His authority is over both the opposition and the church. This statement makes baptism submission to Christ's authority, if nothing else.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Matthew 27:35-66

I cannot read about the cross of Jesus without loving him. The mockery alone, forget the nails and thorns and the torturous design of crucifixion, would have made me come down in anger and destroy them all. His executioners were vicious.

The security of the tomb was important to Matthew. Its newness, rock carved character and known location comprise much of his description. It interests me how quickly the elders of the people remember the resurrection and take precautions. . . and how quickly his disciples forget it. That it was them and not the disciples is an ironic twist in what, up until now, was a gruesome story.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Matthew 27:1-34

I am sad in the pit of my stomach at reading this. The horror of it breaks my heart. The cold-hearted release of a guilty man and the purple-coated mockery, the thorn-pounding beatings make my heart sick.

Oh, Pilate washes his hands in a futile attempt to erase his guilt. The people eagerly accept the guilt on behalf of their children, too.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Matthew 26:57-75

The Jewish leaders did not, apparently, stop for one moment to consider whether the claim they asked Jesus about and that he admitted to might have been actually true. They were so blinded by their anger that the killed the one who claimed to be the Messiah. That is a big, big mistake, if you are wrong and He is right. The verse Jesus chose for support was interesting.

Never noticed before that the servants understood Jesus to be both from Galilee and from Nazareth. And, Peter was linked to Jesus who was from both places.

The courtyard is a haunting place. It's not outside where you would never be spotted. It's not inside with Jesus. It is the in between place of perceived safety where denial lurks right around the corner!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Matthew 26:26-56

The order of the passover meal would have been important because of the way Jesus spoke, "This is my body." The disciples would have heard that to be very particular. He took from the passover meal, just what he wanted to represent his body and his blood. He did not just take any wine or any pastry from any meal.

Jesus' strategy for fighting against temptation then, is the same as it is now, "Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation." I need that advice just like they did.

I do feel sorry for them. Their eyelids were heavy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Matthew 26:1-25

A very interesting stylistic observation on the plot -- Jesus is talking to his disciples then the leaders gather. In two places, at the same time, different preparations are going on for the crucifixion.

After the disciples comment about money of the poor, Matthew records, "Knowing . . . Jesus said." He knew this was a smokescreen. Makes me wonder how many times I make comments or objections that Jesus sees right through. Very interesting that this will repeated wherever the gospel is preached.

This must have been the most sober dinner event ever. They wonder, "Is it me?" How deceptive sin is, that they would not know or pretend not to know whether or not they would betray Jesus. Yikes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Matthew 25:31ff

Noticed for the first time that this is a judgment of nations, not individuals. How does that change things? Does it mean that some of the response to the least of these is to be corporate, or national, or ethnic? As I considered that the least of these are Jesus' brothers, I could not help but be proud of New Life church. So many are doing ministry in these places.

Am impressed at how unwitting people are when they sin. "When did we do this?" they asked. What a question. Apparently neither the sheep nor the goats were what they would be evaluated on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Matthew 25:1-30

The kingdom is like this parable. Jesus is really wanting us to figure out what life is like when He is the king.

I am most interested in why Jesus refuses people. Here he turns away people who want in. Why? Maybe the kingdom is not about getting the most people in that can possibly be crammed in. Perhaps it is more about their relationship to the bridegroom and how important he is to them!

The talents are different than we normally think of them. They are given to people based on their ability (or you might say talents are given based on talent!). They represent opportunity. What will you do with the opportunities given?

The foolish servant here is one who fears his master and miscalculates his character. That miscalculation cost him everything... wow! Conversely, a right view of God prompts right actions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Matthew 24:29-51

These verses form a refrain from a song of the 60's or 70's, "I wish we'd all been ready." The assumption of that song was that this could happen any moment, but the thrust of this passage (Matt. 24:32-35)is that it will happen in their generation.

Jesus connects the certainty of these things with the truthfulness of His word. His word is true. . .therefore they can count on these things happening in their generation.

The celestial cataclysm is the piece of this chapter that makes many think that these events are still to happen and make it hard to understand in the past tense.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Matthew 24:1-28

One thing is clear: There will be false prophets and false Christ's in these lase days. Jesus says that three times.

The abomination of desolation in the temple, spoken of by Daniel, seems to be the key to understanding this passage. Almost every other reference seems to be very general.

The 'elect' play a larger role than I might expect. I'd expect Jesus to talk about it differently.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Matthew 23

It is no small wonder Jesus was crucified for walking into the Jews temple on their biggest holiday and saying things like this! Certainly the situation warranted these harsh comments, but the comments also warranted their hatred.

His denunciation is down to the details, including fashion styles and the wording of vows. No general or theoretical denunciations here.

It is hard to believe Catholicism survived teachings like this -- Don't let anyone call you teacher or father!

The refrain, "woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," has such a haunting effect. The offense is that they appear to be something they are not. They appear good and they are not good.

The tithing paragraph is instructive about church life. The external standard of 10% is easy to apply, and to accept, and allows people to miss the weight of the law. How many times do we decide on some external standard, that people may readily accept, and divert attention or circumvent true heart response to God? Jesus compares this to straining at a gnat (the 10%) and missing the obvious and camel-like demands of God! How easy it is to do this with our kids, too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Matthew 22:23-46

Jesus' response to their question is to the point, "You are deceived, Don't you know the Scriptures or the power of God?" It is also paradigmatic. The life of the Christian is to know the Scriptures AND to know the power of God from experience. The Scriptures and experience with God form two safeguards against practical and doctrinal error.

How would Jesus' answer have been different if the lawyer had been earnestly wanting to know the most important things instead of simply trying to trick Jesus?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matthew 22:1-22

I read this passage to Layne. As I read it, she interrupted and said, "I wouldn't invite bad people." I told her that is what is so great about God. You don't get invited because you're good enough. We are invited to the feast because we are the highways and byways people. Some people ignore the invitation because they are hostile to it. Others ignore it simply because they are too busy!

The next paragraph states they were trying to trick Jesus. When I read that, Layne said, "Seems like its getting close to Jesus dying on the cross!"

I love the absolute, inescapable yet subtle claim of ownership, "Render to God what is God's!"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Matthew 21:28-43

These two stories frame Jesus' perspective on not only the inclusion of the Gentiles, but on the rejection by Israel. What a strong statement, "tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of heaven before you!" The scribes understood without question that he had directed this story at them. That can't be a good feeling. They themselves gave Jesus the answer that the vineyard owner would destroy the farmers and give the vineyard to another. Their "aha moment" was that God would destroy them and give heaven to another.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Matthew 21:1-27

The connection of the Triumphal Entry to Zechariah 9:9 is so obvious and strong that a devout Jewish reader would immediately recognize it. Jesus was riding in as a king, a unique kind of king.

"My house will be a house of prayer." The issue when Jesus cleaned out the temple was religious abuse, not money itself. The money changers and sacrifice sellers were withholding from people God's approval. They would have to buy a sacrifice to get right with God. What is that worth?

I still don't get the fig tree. . .

I love Jesus' response about John the Baptist. He actually was in the same predicament that he placed them in. If he said his own authority was from God, they'd have stoned him. If he said it was from man, they knew better because they were the authority. So, his answering a question with a question was brilliant!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Matthew 20

Again, "The kingdom of heaven is like..." What is the kingdom like? It is like some people getting what they deserve and some people getting way better than they deserve. The order of paychecks is reversed to show this off. This is little more than an apology for grace. Life in the kingdom is like GRACE! I cannot help but notice that God's grace prompts badness out of some people. I guess that happens when others get more grace than me.

Jesus asked Zebedee's wife and the blind beggars essentially the same question, "What do you want me to do for you?" This is a great question to focus my prayer. Every morning when I hit my knees I need to ask this as though Jesus was asking it of me himself. I think Jesus likes to be asked.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Matthew 19

Am struck again with the repetition of the phrase, "Kingdom of Heaven." Matthew is describing a kind of life that is subject to a heavenly king. We don't think in those terms very often, but it makes sense of many of the demands of Christ.

In the Q&A about divorce Jesus' appeal to the beginning and to God's initial design appear to be the structure from which we must think about divorce. We cannot think about divorce apart from the design of marriage.

The so-called, Rich Young Ruler feels some kind of need, though he is not sure of what. But it is that lack, that insufficiency that drives him to Jesus. I cannot escape, either, how hard Jesus is on him! What if Jesus were that hard on me! Saving a rich person appears to be the hardest thing on record. . . without God it is impossible!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Matthew 18

Jesus delivers the first 14 verses with his hands on the shoulders of a child. He is an example of humility necessary for everyone who would enter the kingdom. He is cause for a warning to any who might lead a little one astray. Is "his angel" a reference to a guardian angel?

The procedure of Matthew 18:15-18 is for interpersonal offenses. I can see where other offenses that may need to be dealt with other ways.

The kingdom of heaven is like this servant who has been forgiven much and who then struggles to forgive a fellow servant. Forgiveness comprises the whole fabric of being a Christian. Jesus connects my having been forgiven much with the need for me to forgive much. This is one of the fundamental structures of being Christian.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Matthew 17

Again, what Jesus was saying about Elijah took the disciples a long time to understand. But, to their credit, they were trying to apply the Scripture (Malachi 4:5) to their present experience.

When they come down and encounter the demon possessed boy, Jesus points out the lack of faith, twice. If lack of faith was a problem for them, how hard it must be for Him to put up with me.

Another statement about Jerusalem. The march to the cross cannot be ignored!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Matthew 16

I find the literalism of the disciples entertaining. Jesus wrangles them into understanding that he's talking about teaching of the Pharisees, not actual bread. If creating understanding was that much work why not just say, "Beware of the Pharisees' teaching?"

Jesus' immediate reaction to Peter's confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," tells us the source of faith: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven." Comprehending who Jesus is requires supernatural intervention. You cannot 'get' Jesus apart from God's grace.

Two things happen once he is identified as the Messiah. He tells them not to tell. He couldn't deal with a lot of messiah-talk. And, he starts to tell them about Jerusalem. They do not like the Jerusalem-talk, either.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Matthew 15: 21-39

Jesus does not treat this Canaanite woman like I expect. He appears to exercise the racial prejudice of the day. Nothing extraordinarily counter-cultural here. Then, just like that, he heals her daughter. The lesson here, faith transcends ethnicity. Her words about the dogs getting crumbs from the table must be one of the greatest lines of faith ever spoken. This woman and the centurion both argue in faith with Jesus. He found them both admirable. Gentile readers do sometimes blow by the racial tension in this text.

I wonder if any of the disciples looked out over the sea of 4,000 and thought, I wonder if he can do it again?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Matthew 15:1-20

Jesus is very clear that what you do on the outside is not what defiles you. Your heart is either defiled or not. The leading spiritual indicator which will show the condition of the heart is the words we speak. Everything comes from the heart (Proverbs 4:23). This passage provides a long list of sins that come from the heart. But, words come first. What do my words say about the condition of my heart?

Jesus engaged in conflict with Pharisees and scribes; he summoned the crowd to listen in; the disciples received personalized Q & A. Flexibility in communication is one key, humanly speaking, of Jesus' effectiveness.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Matthew 14

These are defining moments in the earthly life of Jesus. Both feeding the 5,000 and walking on water happen in the context of grief. The loss of John the Baptist drove him into the wilderness and he was followed by a hungry mob. I'd have been so mad at the crowd for ruining my retreat! Finally, dismissing them he went to the mountain to be by himself. Walking on water was a simple convenience that allowed him solitude.

The disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on the water because they experienced him in a place and in a way they did not expect. It is disturbing to discover Jesus by surprise. It would be even more terrifying not to find him when you look for him.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Matthew 13:31-58

The parable of my life and our church is the parable of the treasure. Either the treasure is worth venturing everything to gain, or it isn't. It is a joyful thing to lose everything yet gain something of more value.

Jesus explains the parable of the weeds by saying simply, "This is that. . . and this is that." This is not the best way to understand parables unless you have Jesus telling you what is what. My chief question, though, is why? Why leave the weeds there now?

How tragic that Jesus is rejected by his friends and relatives in his home town, because they can't get over knowing his family.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Matthew 13:1-30

We enter Jesus' teaching in parables. Why does he teach this way? He says it is to separate between those with grace and those who don't have grace. It is specifically to divide those who get it and those who don't. This is the point of Isaiah's words.

Interesting that the thorns are the cares of the age and the deceitfulness of riches. Interesting to read this in a recession. Either we have riches and are deceived into trusting them, or we have concern about our security and about where the next paycheck is coming from. These are just two sides of the same problem.

The parable of the sower makes it clear that a person can give a false response to the gospel.

One of Satan's strategies is to actively snatch away the word. It is no accident this passage is on Superbowl Sunday. I wonder how many millions of people will forget what was preached in the morning because the commercials in the afternoon are so entertaining?