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Showing posts with the label #ChristAlmighty

Eventually everyone will understand Jesus’s parables.

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Mark 4.21-25. When Jesus explained to his students how parables work and why he uses them, he told them this. Mark 4.21-23 KWL 21 Jesus told them, “Does the light come in so it can be put under a basket or under the couch? Not so it can be put on the lampstand? 22 It’s not secret except that it may later be revealed. It doesn’t become hidden unless it may later be known. 23 If anyone has hearing ears, hear this.” Too often Christians quote this passage as if it applies to every secret: Everything we say in secret is gonna eventually come out in public. And y’know, Jesus did say something like that, in Matthew and Luke . But he did so in a different context. There, it was part of his Olivet Discourse, his last talk to his students before his arrest and death. At the time he spoke about when people persecute Christians for proclaiming the gospel, and how their evil would become public, in time. And all Jesus’s other, private teachings would also become publ

The Fruitless Fig Tree Story.

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Luke 13.1-9. Two stories before Jesus presented the Mustard Seed Story in Luke , he told the Fruitless Fig Tree Story in response to then-current events. Let’s start with the events, since they’re relevant. Luke 13.1 KWL Some were present among Jesus’s listeners at that time, who brought news of the Galileans whose blood Pontius Pilate mixed with the sacrifices. We don’t know the actual story behind this. We just have guesses. Most of ’em presume Pilate put down an uprising, and in so doing killed some Galileans in the temple area, either close enough to the ritual sacrifices to splatter blood on ’em… or at least close enough for the Israelis to object it was just as bad, and hyperbolically claim he may as well have splattered their blood on their sacrifices. You know how people can get. But again: We don’t know this is what happened. The Romans are pretty good at keeping records about such things, and we have no record of such an uprising. It’s certainly staying i

Jesus’s list of works of the flesh.

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Mark 7.17-23, Matthew 15.15-20. Every so often I bring up a fruit of the Spirit like grace , or a work of the flesh like gracelessness. And no, these aren’t among the fruits and fleshly works Paul listed in Galatians 5 . Because, in I said in my article on the topic, it’s not a comprehensive list. Wasn’t meant to be. Because it’s not in Paul’s list, I’ll get pushback from time to time from a Christian who has the Galatians lists memorized, and has it in their head the lists are comprehensive. “Waitaminnit, that’s not one of the fruits.” And then I have to explain how this particular attitude and behavior has its clear origin in a Spirit-led lifestyle, or Spirit-defying human depravity. Grace should be one of the more obvious ones, ’cause grace is obviously a God thing. But you know how literalists can be. The scriptures gotta literally say it’s a fruit, and if they don’t it’s not. Sometimes it’s not even about literalism: It’s because they want it to be a comprehen

The Wheat and Weeds Story.

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Matthew 13.24-30, 13.36-43. Presenting another of Jesus’s parables about agriculture. It appears nowhere but Matthew , and it happens right after the Four Seeds Story. Mt 13.18-23 Historically Christians have considered it a parable of the End Times. Matthew 13.24-30 KWL 24 Jesus presents another parable to them, telling them, “Heaven’s kingdom compares to a person planting a good seed in his field. 25 As the person sleeps his enemy comes, plants weeds in the middle of the grain, and goes away. 26 When the stalks sprout and produce fruit, the weeds also appear. 27 The householder’s slaves, approaching, tell him, ‘Master, you plant good seed in your field, right ? So where have these weeds come from?’ 28 The master tells them, ‘A person—an enemy —did this.’ The slaves tell him, ‘So do you want us to go out and pluck them?’ 29 The master says, ‘No, lest plucking the weeds uproots the grain with them. 30 Leave them all to grow together till the harvest.

The Mustard Seed Story.

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Mark 4.30-32, Matthew 13.31-32, Luke 13.18-19. Another of Jesus’s agricultural parables. In Mark he told this one right the Independent Fruit Story, in Matthew it’s in between the Wheat and Weeds Story and its interpretation, Mt 13.24-30, 36-43 and in Luke it’s after Jesus cured a bent-over woman. Lk 13.10-17 Uniquely (in two gospels, anyway) Jesus starts it by especially pointing out it’s a hypothetical comparison to God’s kingdom. Just in case his listeners weren't yet clear he’s being parabolic; after all there are certain literalists who struggle with the concept. I’ll get to them. Mark 4.30 KWL Jesus said, “How might we compare God’s kingdom? Or with what parable might we set it?”   Luke 13.18 KWL So Jesus said, “What’s like God’s kingdom? What can it be compared with?” So what’ll we compare God’s kingdom with today? How ’bout a mustard seed? Various preachers, and maybe a Jesus movie or two, like to imagine Jesus holding up one such seed, as

The Independent Fruit Story.

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Mark 4.26-29. Here’s another of Jesus’s agricultural parables. It only appears in Mark , and because it comes right after the Four Seeds Story, some of the folks in the connect-the-dots school of bible interpretation presume the seed in this story is the same as the seed in that story: It’s God’s word. Mk 4.14 Thing is, Jesus says what the seed represents in his very introduction of the parable: “This is God’s kingdom.” Mk 4.26 It’s not merely a message, a teaching, a prophecy, a doctrine; it’s God’s kingdom itself. All Jesus’s parables are about his kingdom. Miss this fact and you’ll always miss the point. There’s no secret code in which every “seed” in every parable represents God’s word. Every parable is interpreted independently of the others. Clear your mind about the other parables and come to this story fresh. Got it? Good. Now read. Mark 4.26-29 KWL 26 Jesus was saying, “This is God’s kingdom: Like a person throwing seed onto the ground. 27

The Four Seeds Story.

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Mark 4.1-9, 4.13-20; Matthew 13.1-9, 13.18-23; Luke 5.1-3, 8.4-8, 8.11-15. Jesus’s first parable is often called “the Parable of the Sower,” which seems odd to me because the story’s not about the person sowing seed. It’s about the seeds and what happens to them. The planter just flung ’em around, as planters did back then. So I call it the Four Seeds Story. As I said in my parables article, all of Jesus’s parables are about God’s kingdom. So you’d think the Four Seeds Story would be super easy to interpret—especially since Jesus privately gave his students a key to his analogies, and they put it in the bible. But never underestimate the ability of Christians who wanna weasel out of the implications of Jesus’s lessons. The story starts with Jesus feeling the need to get a little distance from the crowds who swarmed him. Since a number of his students were fishermen, he figured hey, why not use this connection to his advantage? Mark 4.1 KWL Again Jesus went out to

Parables: For those with ears to hear.

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Mark 4.10-13; Matthew 13.10-17; Luke 8.9-10, 10.23-24; John 12.37-40. The verb παραβάλλω / paravállo literally means “to throw to,” like the arc—the parabola—a ball makes when you throw it to a teammate. Often over the heads of your opponents. And in much the same way, a παραβολή / paravolí , “parable,” is meant to go to your teammate… and usually, deliberately, over the heads of your opponents. When Jesus told stories, he used analogies. He wasn’t the only ancient teacher to use ’em; every ancient culture uses analogies. Aesop of Samos is an obvious one. His collection of stories is called the Μύθοι / Mýthi , “Stories,” which in English has been customarily translated “Fables,” ’cause fable is Middle English for “story.” But by our day, fable means “story about animals which has a moral”—in other words exactly like Aesop told. As a dog crossed a river with a piece of good meat in his mouth, he believed he saw another dog under the water, with the very same meat. He

Jesus warns against blaspheming the Spirit.

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Mark 3.28-30, Matthew 12.31-32, Luke 12.10. Fairly soon after we become Christians, we hear a rumor there’s such a thing as “the unpardonable sin.” Or multiple unpardonable sins. Certain things we can do which push God’s grace to the limit, ’cause apparently it has a limit, and these sins cross it. Do ’em and you’re going to hell. Game over, man, game over. Problem is, the rumor doesn’t always tell us what the unpardonable sin is . When I was a kid I thought it was saying, “ F--- God,” and Dad had committed it a bunch of times, so he was surely going to hell. I’ve had newbies ask me whether it was murder. Or Catholics tell me it was one of the seven deadly sins, ’cause what made ’em deadly was they’d send you to hell. There are in fact multiple unpardonable sins, and today I’m get to what Jesus teaches about one of them, namely blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Turns up in the gospels, right after Jesus had to correct the Pharisee scribes for accusing him of using Satan

Don’t be surprised if they hate you. They hated Jesus too.

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Matthew 10.24-25, Luke 6.40, John 13.16, 15.18-25. Today’s passages get frequently taken out of context by Christian jerks. So let’s deal with them up front. Jerks either deliberately try to offend, or don’t care that they do offend. And there are a lot of Christians, religious or not, who behave this way. They want people to be outraged. They want division and strife. They don’t care that these are works of the flesh; they’re not that fruitful anyway, and are way more interested in doctrinal purity than goodness and kindness and grace. So when people get angry, they perversely assume they’re doing something right. After all, didn’t Jesus say we’re blessed when people condemn and rage against us like the ancients did the prophets? Lk 6.22-23 Everybody hates you! Rejoice! Of course they’re going about it the wrong way. If we have God’s mysteries and share them, yet we don’t do so in love (and no, tough love doesn’t count), we’re an annoying noise; we’re nothing, and ga

Completing the cities of Israel before the second coming.

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Matthew 10.23. In the middle of Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, there’s this verse, only found in Matthew , which goes like yea. Matthew 10.23 KWL “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another! Amen amen! I promise you, you might not finish the cities of Israel before whenever the Son of Man might come.” Because translators tend to automatically convert any sentence with οὐ μὴ / u mi , “never,” into absolute statements (like Luke Skywalker’s “I’ll never join you; you killed my father!”) they dismiss all the subjunctive verbs Jesus uses in such statements. He said might never , but they translate it as if he said never . Because people find comfort in absolutes. Especially when the absolutes promise ’em something they want. We want Jesus to return! (Well, most of us.) So here, Jesus promises, with “amen amen,” that his students might not have to be chased through every city in Israel before he returns for them. And Christians nowadays, who want Jesus to return

Family members and loved ones may turn on you.

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Mark 13.12-13, Matthew 10.21-22, Luke 21.16-18, John 16.2-3. In Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, he warned his students of the tribulation they’d undergo. Not just the Romans destroying the temple, but how Christians would be persecuted. It’s something the students needed to hear. Something all Christians need to hear. ’Cause the assumption most people would come to is when God’s on our side, we should never, ever suffer. Suffering’s for losers; for people who lack God. Our God’s a winner, so his followers oughta be winners—people who call down fire on their oppressors 1Ki 1.9-12 or when people just try to put ’em to death, God always supernaturally rescues ’em. Da 3.24-25, 6.19-22 It’s an assumption Christians still make: “I’m working for God, so he’ll keep me safe.” God guarantees no such thing. The only thing he does guarantee is in this life, we have tribulation. Jn 16.33 Suffering happens. Happened to Jesus too. Imagining that the righteous, the obedient, “good people

You’ll be persecuted. Get ready to not defend yourself.

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Mark 13.9-11, Matthew 10.17-20, Luke 12.11-12, John 14.26. After Jesus said the temple’d come down, his students wanted to know what that looked like, so Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse. How the Romans would destroy the temple in the great tribulation. And while he was at it, how Christians would be persecuted too —advice we’ve used throughout the Christian era, because we’ve been persecuted since the beginning. In many parts of the world, still are. As a result a number of Christians are steeling ourselves for it. “When they come for me, here’s what I’m gonna do.” And many Americans are planning to do some pretty violent things. Simon Peter with a machete type things. They got their gun stockpiles. They got their armor-piercing bullets and 50mm rounds. Peter only cut off an ear; they’re planning to mow down as many cops and soldiers as they can. Even though many of ’em claim they “love” our police, “love” our troops. Sure, when politically convenient. But those sentiments

Simon Peter denounces Jesus.

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Mark 14.66-72, Matthew 26.69-75, Luke 22.54-62, John 18.15-18, 25-27. After dinner earlier that night, Jesus told his students they weren’t gonna follow him much longer; they’d scatter. At this point Jesus’s best student, Simon Peter, got up and foolhardily claimed this prediction didn’t apply to him. Mark 14.29-31 KWL 29 Simon Peter told him, “If everyone else will get tripped up, it wo n’t include me.” 30 Jesus told him, “Amen, I promise you today , this night, before the rooster crows twice, you’ll renounce me thrice.” 31 Peter said emphatically, “Even if I have to die for you, I will never renounce you.” Everyone else said likewise. And y’know, Peter wasn’t kidding. I’ve heard way too many sermons which mock Peter for this, who claim he was all talk. Thing is, he really wasn’t. When Jesus was arrested, Peter was packing a machete, and used it. Slashed a guy’s ear clean off. You don’t start swinging a work knife at a mob unless you’re willing to risk life

Judas Iscariot sells Jesus out to the authorities.

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Mark 14.41-46, Matthew 26.45-50, Luke 22.47-48, John 18.1-3. In St. John Paul’s list of stations of the cross, the second station combines Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and Jesus of Nazareth’s arrest. ’Cause they happened simultaneously—they, and Simon Peter slashing one of the head priest’s slaves. There’s a lot to unpack there, which is why I want to look at them separately. Getting betrayed and getting arrested, fr’instance: That’s two different kinds of suffering. Psychological and physical. So right after Jesus prayed in Gethsemane (the first station), this happened: Mark 14.41-46 KWL 41 Jesus came back a third time and told his students , “Now you’re sleeping, and resting— and that’s enough. The hour’s come. Look, the Son of Man is getting handed over to sinful hands. 42 Get up so we can go: Here comes the one who sold me out.” 43 Next, while Jesus was yet speaking, Judas Iscariot approached the Twelve. With him was a crowd carrying machetes and sticks,