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Showing posts with the label #Advent

The Five Stupid Teenagers Story.

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Matthew 25.1-13. The Five Stupid Teenagers Story is also called the parable of the virgins, of the maidens, of the bridesmaids; of the wise and foolish virgins, or of the 10 virgins. Usually they’re called virgins ’cause that’s traditionally how people have translated παρθένοις / parthénis : A girl, or unmarried woman, and women back then used to marry mighty young. Like as soon as they attained legal adulthood, so 13 years old. Since they were unmarried, the usual assumption is in that culture they’d be virgins, which is a reasonable assumption. But parthénos was sometimes used in Greek literature to describe young women who weren’t virgins, like in the plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes. Maiden is alternately used to describe them, but maiden historically means the same thing as virgin . And in either case I’m not sure Jesus’s point had anything to do with their virginity nor marital status. More like with their youth. You know how some kids can be wise and clever, and

The Wheat and Darnel Story.

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Matthew 13.24-30, 13.36-43 Elsewhere in Matthew Jesus tells a story often called the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, from the word tares used in the King James Version to translate ζιζάνια / zidzánia , “darnel.” It’s a specific weed, Lolium temulentum , frequently called “false wheat.” In ancient times darnel was constantly found in wheat fields. Some darnel always got mixed up with the wheat during the harvest, and it wasn’t until we invented separating machines that people finally got the darnel problem under control. Darnel looks just like wheat when it’s growing… but once the ears appear, any farmer will realize it’s not wheat at all. When they ripen, wheat turns brown and darnel turns black. If it’s harmless, why did the ancients make a big deal about darnel? Because darnel is very susceptible to Neotyphodium funguses, and if you ate any infected darnel, the symptoms were nausea and a little drunkenness. (The temulentum in darnel’s scientific name means “drunk.”)

The Lambs and Kids Story.

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Matthew 25.31-46. The next story in Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, where he taught his students about the End Times, is usually called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. It all comes from verses 32-33, in which Jesus compares the division of humanity into camps of righteous and reprobate, like a shepherd segregating his flock by species: Lambs on one side, kids on the other. One group to get shorn, one to get milked. Or in this case, one group to go one way, the other to go another. This story terrifies legalists. Because outside the proper context of God’s grace, it looks like you get into God’s kingdom entirely on merit . You do for Jesus—or, as Jesus puts it, you do for the very lowest of the people he identifies with, which is all the same to him—and you inherit his kingdom. Or you don’t, so you go to hell. So get cracking! Start feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, reforming the prison and healthcare system, and otherwise fixing society! Wait, is that what legali

The Talents Story.

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Matthew 25.13-30. Nowadays when we say talent we mean a special ability; something one can do which most others can’t. The word evolved to mean that, but in ancient Greek a τάλαντον / tálanton meant either a moneychanger’s scale, or the maximum weight you put on that scale. Usually of silver. Sometimes gold… but if the text doesn’t say which metal they’re weighing, just assume it’s silver. Talents varied from nation to nation, province to province. When Jesus spoke of talents, he meant the Babylonian talent (Hebrew כִּכָּר / khikhár , which literally means “loaf,” i.e. a big slab of silver). That’d be 30.2 kilograms, or 66.56 pounds. Jews actually had two talents: A “light talent,” the usual talent; and a “heavy talent” or “royal talent” which weighed twice as much. But again: Unless the text says it’s the heavy talent, assume it’s the light one. And of course the Greeks and Romans had their own talents: The Roman was 32.3 kilos and the Greek was 26. Using 2020 silver rate

Scriptures for advent.

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Each advent season I focus on scriptures which are related to advent topics. Namely Jesus’s first coming, and his second. So expect to see some such articles… but if you can’t wait that long, here’s some stuff I’ve written already. Nativity stories. Word! Jn 1.1-5 Why identifying Jesus as “the word” was so profound to the first Christians. Recognizing and embracing the light of the world. Jn 1.1-13 The true light came into the world—and we get to see him. The word became human, and explains God. Jn 1.14-18 Getting a really good look at God through Jesus. One heck of a birth announcement. Lk 1.5-25 Gabriel’s announcement to the father of John the baptist. How Mary became Jesus’s mother. Lk 1.26-38 What sort of person God selected as his mother. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Lk 1.39-56 When Jesus’s mother and John’s mother both prophesied about his coming. The birth of John the baptist. Lk 1.57-80 And his father’s prophecy about just what sort of

Advent Sunday.

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Four Sundays before Christmas, the advent season begins with Advent Sunday. That’d be today, 29 November 2020. (Next year it’ll be 28 November. It moves.) The word advent comes from the Latin advenire /“come to [someplace].” Who’s coming to where? That’d be Jesus, formally coming to earth; we’re not talking about his frequent appearances here and there. Either we mean the first time around, when he was born in the year 7 BC , which is what we celebrate with Christmas; or the second time around, in the future, to take possession of his kingdom. Historically this has been the time for Christians to get ready for his coming. Which we do by getting ready for Christmas. But Christians, Evangelicals in particular, forget it’s also about getting ready for his second coming. We might tell ourselves we oughta always be ready for that event—and we oughta!—but advent’s when we particularly pay attention to the idea. He’s coming back, y’know. Could happen at any time. Since Evang

One who brings justice to the gentiles.

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Isaiah 42.1-4, Matthew 12.14-20. After Jesus cured the man with the paralyzed hand, this happened. Matthew 12.14-20 KWL 14 Going out, the Pharisees took a meeting about this—so they could have Jesus destroyed. 15 Jesus, who knew this , left there, and a great crowd followed him; he had cured them all. 16 Jesus had rebuked them, lest they reveal what he might do 17 so that he might fulfill the word from the prophet Isaiah, saying, 18 “Look at my servant whom I chose, my beloved. My soul approves of him. I put my Spirit in him, and he’ll bring justice to the gentiles. 19 He won’t struggle or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. 20 He won’t split a broken reed, won’t extinguish smoking linen, till he can issue justice in victory. 21 Gentiles will put their hope in his name.” Is 42.1-4 Since Matthew quotes Isaiah and says Jesus fulfilled it, Christians presume this particular part of Isaiah is a messianic prophecy; that it’s specific

Our suffering servant.

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Isaiah 53. Mixed in with all the Messianic prophecies about a king who’d restore Israel, conquer the world, and set aright everything gone wrong, there are also prophecies about a suffering servant who’d get crushed. We Christians likewise recognize these prophecies to be about Jesus. But people only realized it after the fact. Before Jesus went through his suffering, Pharisees believed these prophecies can’t be about Messiah. He’s gonna conquer the world! It’s gonna be an easy victory, achieved through the Almighty’s power. Suffering and death? Has to be some other guy. Y’might recall as soon as Jesus brought up the very idea this suffering servant was him , his best student Simon Peter recoiled. “This will never happen to you,” was his rebuke. Mt 16.22 Human nature being what it is, we pick and choose the bible passages we like, skip the rest… and consequently miss most of the story. ’Cause the parts we avoid are frequently the really important parts. Jesus’s death s

The Son who was given us.

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Isaiah 9.6-7. Isaiah ben Amoch ( KJV “Amoz”) was a prophet all his life. His book contains prophecies spanning the 60-plus years of his ministry in the second half of the 700s BC . And it was during this time, in 722, that the Assyrian Empire conquered and scattered northern Israel. Isaiah lived in southern Israel, also called Judah or Judea. The Judeans worried greatly about the threat of Assyrian invasion. A number of Judeans were convinced the L ORD would never let any dirty foreigners conquer their great land; after all, God’s temple was there, and he’d never let ’em destroy his temple. And a number recognized, same as Isaiah, their covenant with God dictated he’d totally let the land get taken if his people defied him. If you didn’t believe this, just look at what happened to northern Israel. But even when we think the End has come, that everything’s been destroyed and is over and done with, God knows better. He had Isaiah say this to all Israelis—both the defeate

Plucking Jesus’s beard. Or not.

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Isaiah 50.6. Jesus fulfills a lot of Old Testament scriptures, and this advent I wanna look at the ones he particularly fulfilled from Isaiah . Some of them explicitly refer to Jesus, ’cause a future Messiah, a savior, a suffering servant, a King of kings, is precisely who Isaiah was writing about. But some of ’em actually aren’t about Jesus. They’re either about humanity in general, Israelis in general, or even Isaiah himself. But because the same or similar events happened to Jesus, he fulfilled them. His experiences fleshes out these verses. That’s what fulfillment in the bible actually means: Not that Jesus did as predicted, but that Jesus reflects these ideas better, sometimes, than the original ideas. So today’s passage is one of those reflections. It’s not about Jesus; it’s explicitly about Isaiah himself. About how, as a prophet, he gets crapped on. Isaiah 50.4-9 KWL 4 The L ORD my Master gave me an educated tongue so I might know to say a timely word to

Ascension: When Jesus got raptured.

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Forty days after Easter, Jesus left. For now. On Thursday, 15 May 33 (if we take Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 literally, and not as an estimate) this happened. Acts 1.6-9 KWL 6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus : “Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?” 7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing. That, the Father sets by his own free will. 8 But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you. You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.” 9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured. A cloud concealed him from their eyes. Christians call this Jesus’s ascension , and celebrate it 40 days after Easter—and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday. ’Cause it’s when Jesus went up, or ascended , into heaven, to stand in service or sit in judgment, at the Father’s right. Ac 2.33, 7.55-56 Various people who don’t believe Christians are getting

Rachel weeping for her children.

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Jeremiah 31.15-17. A pet peeve of mine is by Noël Regney and Shayne Baker’s historically inaccurate Christmas song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” In it, when Jesus gets born, a night wind tells a little lamb of the nativity. The lamb tells a shepherd boy, who then tells a mighty king, who then tells the people everywhere. In real life, the mighty king responded a bit more like this: Said the king to the soldiers at his gate: “Massacre the toddlers! Everyone below two years old: Massacre the toddlers! Slay all, slay all, leave my rivals dead Put your spears through this child's head Put your spears through this child's head Not at all heartwarming, but that’s Herod bar Antipater for ya. Matthew 2.16-18 KWL 16 Then Herod, seeing he was made a fool of by the Zoroastrians, was enraged. Sending agents, he destroyed all the children in Bethlehem and the whole area around it, from two years old and under, according to the time he exacted from the Zoroastrians.

Not allowed to rot.

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Psalm 16.10. Previously I referred to King David ben Jesse as “the prophet David.” Somebody actually tried to correct me for saying so. I remind you a prophet is someone who hears God and shares what he hears: By that metric David’s obviously a prophet. Considering all the Spirit-inspired psalms he wrote, David’s got more actual prophecy in the bible than Elijah and Elisha combined. Jesus recognized David as a prophet, Lk 20.41-44 and taught his students to do likewise. Ac 2.30 This is why the apostles had no problem using David for proof texts when they taught about Jesus. One verse they particularly liked to use was David’s line, lo - tittén khacíd kha li- reót šakhát /“You don’t give [over] your beloved to see rottenness.” Or in better English, “You don’t allow your beloved to rot.” Ps 16.10 Both Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus quoted it in Acts —Peter in chapter 2, Paul in 13. Acts 2.22-28 KWL 22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene is

The heir to David’s throne.

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2 Samuel 7.1-17. In the 11th century BC the tribes of Israel grew tired of being led by head priests and judges. The previous head priest, Eli, had let his corrupt sons run amok; the current judge, Samuel, likewise had easily-bribed sons unfit to assume their father’s job. Clearly there are some serious problems with hereditary leadership, but the Hebrews stupidly didn’t recognize this (and therefore request democratically elected leaders with fixed terms—not that we elect our best people either). The descendants of Israel demanded Samuel procure them a king . Nevermind the L ORD God being their king; Is 33.22, 43.15 they wanted a human king, like all the other nations had. 1Sa 8.5 So Israel got a king. Kings suck, and Israel’s first two kings were typical rubbish. Like most politicians, Saul preferred pleasing the crowds to following God. His son Ishbaal was really just his uncle’s puppet. But the third king, the prophet David, was a standout: He was far from perfect, bu

Is there a prophecy of Jesus’s hometown?

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Matthew 2.23. From the third century BC onward, Judeans began to move to the land where northern Israel’s tribes used to live before the Assyrians deported them. Namely in the galíl /“circle” of northern gentile cities—or as 1 Maccabees called it, “the Galilee of the gentiles.” 1Mc 5.15 They wanted to reclaim that land for Israel. Nazareth was one of the towns they founded. So are all the other towns whose names you don’t find in the Old Testament. Likely Joseph and Mary’s grandparents were among the first settlers of that village. It wasn’t that old a settlement. Didn’t exist in Old Testament times. Wasn’t a town any prophet could point to, and say “That’s where Messiah is gonna grow up.” Though Micah did identify Messiah’s birthplace. However, Christians are pretty sure one of the prophets did identify Jesus’s hometown, ’cause it says so in the bible! Matthew 2.22-23 KWL 22 Hearing Archelaus Herod was made Judea’s king after his father Antipater Herod, Joseph

“Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

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Hosea 11.1. When we fulfill scripture, we’re doing as it says. When Jesus says “Love one another,” Jn 13.34 and we do it, we’re fulfilling it. I know: When people usually talk about fulfillment, we assume it means someone’s doing as predicted . When Jesus fulfilled the scriptures, we assume this means the scriptures prophesied specifically about Jesus, and Jesus did as the prophesies foretold. Sometimes that’s absolutely true. But sometimes it’s really not, and this confuses Christians all the time. Confused me too, when I was a kid and first learned about taking the scriptures in context. Because I actually read the Old Testament, and read those passages in context… and wondered, “How on earth is that a prophecy about Jesus?” Well, turns out it wasn’t. The author wasn’t writing about Jesus at all. Nor was the Holy Spirit secretly dropping clues about stuff Jesus would eventually do. Yet Jesus did fulfill these scriptures. Because he did as the scriptures say. True, th

The star coming out of Jacob.

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Numbers 24.17. The Hebrews of the Exodus weren’t the only Hebrews in the middle east. There were other Hebrew nations, who probably spoke Hebrew same as the descendants of Israel whom Moses led. Namely: The ISHMAELITES , descended from Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael. The MIDIANITES , descended from Abraham’s sixth son Midian. (What, you didn’t know Abraham had more sons than just Isaac and Ishmael? Ge 25.1-2 Lots of people don’t. See what happens when you skip parts of the bible?) The MOABITES and AMMONITES , descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot. The EDOMITES , descended from Israel’s brother Esau. Plus Abraham’s son fourth son Yoqšan is the grandfather of “Ašurím and Letuším and Lehummím,” Ge 25.3 names which have a plural -im ending, which therefore means they’re not individuals but tribes. Israel’s family went to Egypt to dodge a famine, but Ishmael, Lot, Esau, Midian, and Yoqšan’s families had stayed in the area and become their own nations. Over time some of tho

The prophet like Moses.

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Deuteronomy 18.15-19. In the 15th century BC , God saved the Hebrews. Their ancestors had moved to Egypt to ride out a famine, and settled in a land called Goshen. (Which we nowadays call the Sinai Peninsula, even though Sinai’s actually on the other side of the Dead Sea, in Arabia. Ga 4.25 If the maps in your bible say otherwise, the mapmakers oughta actually read their bibles.) But some years later the Egyptians decided to press the Hebrews into slavery, and that was their situation when Moses was born… and 80 years later when the L ORD sent Moses to lead ’em out of slavery. Ten plagues later, Moses led the Hebrews across the Dead Sea into Arabia, and the L ORD drowned the Egyptian army behind them. And that is what Jews today celebrate every Passover. Moses tried to lead the Hebrews to a land the L ORD originally promised to Abraham; they called it Canaan, Israelis call it Israel, Palestinians call it Palestine, and we call it whatever the folks we side with most c

Set your hearts for Jesus’s return.

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Different scholars have different ways they wanna interpret the Greek word παρουσία / parusía , “[second] coming.” Most of the time “appearance” or “coming” or “return.” When used to describe what Jesus is up to, it has more of a sense of “arrival,” or even “invasion.” Certain gutless commentators leave it untranslated, and just refer to Jesus’s parousia , as if it’s too difficult a concept to convert into English. Rubbish: The popular idea of “second coming” works just fine to describe it, 1Th 3.13 so that’s how I translate it. Today I wanna point to Jesus’s brother James, and how he referred to it: James 5.7-8 KWL 7 So be patient, fellow Christians , till the Master’s second coming. Look, the farmer awaits the land’s precious fruit, patient about it till they can get early- and late-season rain. 8 Be patient yourselves as well. Strengthen your minds: The Master’s second coming has come near. So. Ever since Jesus’s rapture, Christians have expected him to retur

Apostasy before the second coming.

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Before Jesus returns, bad stuff was predicted to happen. Both by Jesus, who described some of the events 40 years hence when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; and here by Paul, Silas, and Timothy when they reminded the people of Thessaloniki that there’d first be a time of apostasy. 2 Thessalonians 2.1-12 KWL 1 We should ask you, fellow Christians , about the second coming of our Master, Christ Jesus, and how we’ll be gathered together with him. 2 It’s so your minds won’t be shaken up, nor go into a panic, whenever some spirit, message, or letter (like those from us) claims the Lord’s Day has come. 3 Don’t let anyone trick you in any way: Nothing happens till the apostasy comes first, till the lawbreaking person, the child of destruction, is revealed— 4 the antagonist, the one exalting himself over everything called “god” and “worshipful,” so much so he sits in God’s temple and claims he’s a god himself. 5 Don’t you remember the things I told you when I wa