Posts

Showing posts with the label #ChristAlmighty

Don’t be ashamed of Jesus.

Image
Mark 8.34 – 9.1, Matthew 16.24-28, Luke 9.23-27.Christianity embarrasses a lot of people.Which I get. I have a coworker who’s one of those dark Christians who’s all about judging sinners, ’cause she thinks their sins are gonna trigger the End Times. She thinks she’s just keeping things real and telling the truth, but my other coworkers think she’s a loon. I think she’s a loon. I don’t wanna be associated with that.Thankfully I know the difference between that particular brand of angry, blame-everybody-but-ourselves doctrine, and Christ Jesus and his gospel. So when people ask what I think, I can tell ’em I don’t believe as she does; I believe in grace. My Lord isn’t coming to earth to judge it—not for a mighty long time—but to save it. I proclaim good news, not bad.Other Christians… well they don’t know there’s a difference between dark Christianity and Christ Jesus. Or they do, but don’t know how to articulate it. So they mute the fact they’re Christian, and hope they can pass by unn…

That time Jesus called Simon Peter “Satan.”

Image
Mark 8.31-33, Matthew 16.21-23, Luke 9.21-22.Most people are aware Simon Peter was Jesus’s best student. That’s why he’s always first in the lists of the Twelve—even ahead of Jesus’s cousins!—and why there’s all the stories about him in the gospels and Acts. Thing is, because there are so many stories about him, we regularly get to see how he screwed up.And certain Christians wind up with the wrong idea about him—that he was nothing but a screwup till the Holy Spirit empowered him. Nope; sometimes he got it right. When Jesus asked what the students thought he was, Peter correctly answered, “You’re Messiah,” and Jesus blessed him for it. Blessed him so good, Peter’s fans still venerate him. Maybe a little too much, but that’s a whole other article.Today’s story is about one of the times Peter screwed up, and it comes right after the story where Peter identified Jesus as Messiah and got blessed. But bear in mind the stories come after one another. The time these two stories occurred mig…

What do people think Jesus is?

Image
Mark 8.27-30, Matthew 16.13-20, Luke 9.18-21.Provincial leaders in the Roman Empire liked to suck up to their emperors, which is why there were cities named Καισάρεια/Kesáreia, “Cæsarea,” dotting the empire. Ancient Israel had two. The usual city referred to in the New Testament as Cæsarea is also called Cæsarea Maritima; it’s on the Mediterranean coast of northern Israel. The other is in Philip Herod’s province, so it got called Cæsarea Philippi. Today it’s called Banias.Banias is actually an Arabic distortion of its original name, Πανειάς/Paneiás. It was named for the pagan god Pan. Likely Pan was originally Baal-Gad, one of the many Baals in the middle east, and when Alexander and the Greeks attached Greek names to everything, they referred to this Baal as Pan. The Greeks depicted Pan as a goat-man with a flute, but Pan comes from πάντως/pántos, “everything”: It’s a nature god, and therefore the god of everything. It’s considered a minor god because it didn’t have a large following…

Jesus is the good pastor: The sheep come first.

Image
John 10.11-21.Roman Catholics tend to call their clergymen “father,” but Protestants prefer “pastor,” which means “shepherd.” Some Protestants are okay with “father” too, but some of ’em really aren’t. Usually they’re anti-Catholics, who like to argue we’re not to call one another “father” because Jesus said so; because we only have one Father, in heaven. Mt 23.9 Fine. But in today’s bible passage, Jesus points out we only have one pastor, namely him, Jn 10.16 so if they wanna be so literal about the one passage, it’s kinda hypocritical for them to ignore the other. But I digress.If we’re using Jesus as our example (’cause duh) we need to look at the ways in which he’s our pastor, and should expect the same of our various church leaders—whether we formally gave ’em the title “pastor” or not. And when Jesus speaks about being the good pastor, he defined it in pretty much one sentence, the one right after “I’m the good pastor.”John 10.11-18 KWL11“I’m the good pastor. The good pastor put…

Prayer’s one prerequisite: Forgiveness.

Image
Mark 11.25, Matthew 6.14-15, 18.21-35.Jesus told us in the Lord’s Prayer we gotta pray,Matthew 6.12 BCPAnd forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us.He elaborated on this in his Sermon on the Mount:Matthew 6.14-15 KWL14“When you forgive people their misdeeds, your heavenly Father will forgive you.15When you can’t forgive people, your Father won’t forgive your misdeeds either.”And in Mark’s variant of the same teaching:Mark 11.25 KWL“Whenever you stand up to pray, forgive whatever you have against anyone.Thus your Father, who’s in heaven, can forgive you your misdeeds.”And he elaborated on it even more in his Unforgiving Slave story.Matthew 18.21-35 KWL21Simon Peter came and told Jesus, “Master, how often will my fellow Christian sin against me,and I’ll have to forgive them? As many as seven times?”22 Jesus told him, “I don’t say ‘as many as seven times,’ but as many as seven by seventy times.23This is why heaven’s kingdom is like a king’s employee who wante…

Jesus is the gate: Don’t go around him!

Image
John 10.1-10.Right after Jesus cured a blind guy on Sabbath, for which the guy’s synagogue threw him out, Jesus commented some folks only think they can see, but they’re blind as well. Then he segued straight into talking about sheep. Like so.John 9.40 – 10.10 KWL40Some of the Pharisees were listening to these things, and told Jesus, “We aren’t blind too.”41 Jesus told them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin.You now say ‘We do so see’—and your sin remains.1Amen amen! I promise you one who won’t enter through the sheepfold gate,but gets in some other way: This person is a thief, a looter.2One who enters through the gate is the sheep’s pastor.3The gatekeeper opens up for this pastor, and the sheep hears the pastor’s voice.The pastor calls their own sheep, and leads them out.4Whenever the pastor drives out their own sheep, they go on ahead of the pastor,and their pastor follows, for they know their pastor’s voice.5The sheep will never follow a stranger, but will flee from the…

Jesus’s discussion falls apart.

Image
John 8.45-59.So Jesus was trying to explain how if we stay in his word, we’re truly his students, and this truth’ll set us free. Jn 8.31-32 True to the Socratic-style way Pharisee instruction worked back then, Jesus’s listeners tried to pick apart his statements, and resisted the idea they weren’t free—that they were still slaves to sin. Jesus pointed out this was because they were still following their spiritual father, Satan… and you don’t need to be omniscient to predict they didn’t take this well.So why’d Jesus say something so provocative? Well I used to think it’s because he was kinda done with them; they weren’t listening to a thing he said anyway. But we have to remember Jesus is patient and kind—’cause God is love, 1Jn 4.8 and those are the ways love acts. 1Co 13.4 So he did mean to provoke, but not to antagonize. Some in his audience heard what he was saying (like John, who recorded it) and repented and followed him. And others decided these were fighting words—and that’s wh…

Are we free—or the devil’s children?

Image
John 8.30-47.Those who haven’t read the gospels, but only know of Jesus by reputation, often wonder why on earth anyone’d want to kill him… because Jesus is so nice. He only said nice things. He loved kids. He was so friendly to sinners. Why would anyone wanna kill such a nice guy?And they’re partly right. Jesus is kind. He has the traits of the Spirit’s fruit, and kindness and niceness overlap greatly: He’s gonna be nice more often than not. But even so, kindness and niceness aren’t the same thing. Sometimes when we tell the truth, we’re gonna say things people can’t handle. As kind as we might be, as tactfully and constructively as we might put things, they’re not gonna see them that way: They’ll read their own bad attitudes into it, and interpret us as cold or cruel.So in Jesus’s following discourse, that’s how many people have chosen to interpret him. They don’t look at him as accurately diagnosing the real problem with people who won’t listen to him, and warning us of it. They lo…

If you don’t follow Jesus, of course you misunderstand him.

Image
John 8.21-29.As you know, those who imagine Jesus is only a great moral teacher, and figure “I’m the world’s light” means that and no more, tend to ignore the radical statements Jesus made about who he is, what he can do, and who sent him and why. They refuse to recognize him for who he is. When he made roundabout statements about it, they deliberately chose to misinterpret him; when he made blunt statements about it, they wanted to kill him. John 8 contains both such things.So let’s get to those things. Back to temple, Jn 8.20 where Jesus was teaching yet another lesson to skeptical people.John 8.21-29 KWL21 So Jesus told them again: “I’m going away.You’ll seek me, and you’ll be destroyed by your sins: You can’t go where I go.”22 So the Judeans said, “He won’t kill himself, will he?”—because Jesus said, “You can’t go where I go.”23Jesus told them, “You’re from below. I’m from above.You’re from this world. I’m not from this world.24So I told you you’ll be destroyed by your sins,for wh…

More than a great moral teacher: The world’s light.

Image
John 8.12-20.If we skip the Adulterer Story as we read John (as we probably should, ’cause whether it happened or not, it didn’t happen at this point in John), this lesson took place right after Sukkot was over, after the Judean senators had decided Jesus isn’t a relevant prophet. Because, among other things, he’s Galilean.Which only goes to show they didn’t know anything about Jesus’s family and backstory. They could’ve found it out with some very minor investigation. Talk to any of Jesus’s family members; they knew the entire story. But the senators didn’t bother, and stuck with their fairly superficial observations—which Jesus, in today’s passage, calls judging “according to the flesh.” Jn 8.15 They presumed they knew better, and missed their Messiah.So when Jesus made really bold statements about himself, they naturally balked: These statements are too bold. You can’t go making unsubstantiated statements like this. Like “I’m the world’s light.”John 8.12-20 KWL12 So Jesus spoke aga…

The Adulterer Story… if it even happened.

Image
John 7.53 – 8.11.Today’s passage is called the Pericope Adulterae, the Adulterer Story, about a woman caught committing adultery, and Jesus was expected to judge her, and didn’t. It’s a really popular story in Christendom, and even pagans know the line, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Jn 8.7 KJV It’s used as the basis for a lot of live-and-let-live, “who am I to judge?” beliefs.Two things though.That’s not what Jesus meant by “He that is without sin.” I’ll get to that.This entire story isn’t found in the earliest copies of John. Nor the gospels. It got added in the 300s. It’s a textual variant.That second thing tends to really freak out Christians when I point it out to them. But just about every copy of the bible but the KJV points this out. The whole passage is put in brackets, or prefaced by “The oldest copies of John don’t have this story.” Some more daring bible translations even put the whole thing in the footnotes, and John 7.52 is immedia…

The senators dismiss the Galilean prophet.

Image
John 7.37-52.The last day of the Sukkot festival was treated like Sabbath.Lv 23.36, Nu 29.35 Every day, God was presented a ritual food offering; on the last day they presented a ritual drink offering. The priests drew water from the Šiloakh pool (where Jesus later sent a blind guy to wash himself) then walked round the temple’s altar with the water. Then the officiating priest lifted his hand to indicate the ritual was over… and then this happened.John 7.37-39 KWL37 On the last day, the great day, of the Sukkot feast, Jesus stood and called out,saying, “When anyone thirsts, come to me and drink!38When one believes in me, as the scriptures say,‘Rivers of living water will flow from his womb.’ ”39Jesus said this about the Spirit who was about to receive those who believed in him:The Holy Spirit hadn’t yet come, for Jesus hadn’t yet been glorified.Jesus’s bible quote isn’t an exact quote of anything. He was going for a general idea of water bubbling up from within, as implied in verses …

Can’t follow Jesus where he’s going.

Image
John 7.25-36.Back a few verses, Jesus told his opponents,John 7.19-20 KWL19“Moses didn’t give you the Law, and none of you does the Law: Why do you seek to kill me?”20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?”Then he objected to how they violated Sabbath to practice ritual circumcision, yet when he cured people who couldn’t walk, this was somehow worse? Jn 7.21-24 But y’know, even though Jesus had a point, and made it very logically, humans aren’t logical. They did want him dead, Jn 5.17-18 and would eventually kill him.Meanwhile some of Jesus’s listeners—who apparently weren’t aware the Judean leadership wanted him dead—debated whether that was truly so. Remember, in the first-century Roman Empire there was no such thing as freedom of speech and religion: You could be beaten or killed for heresy. Yet nobody censured Jesus from teaching in temple, so the question came up: Maybe Jesus was somebody important. Like Messiah.John 7.25-26 KWL25 Some of the Jerusalemites…

Fair judgment.

Image
John 7.19-24.The people of Jerusalem found Jesus teaching in temple, and wondered where he got his education; Jesus pointed out if we really pursued God instead of our own bright ideas, we’d know where he got his education.Then he took a bit of left turn:John 7.19-20 KWL19“Moses didn’t give you the Law, and none of you does the Law: Why do you seek to kill me?”20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?”Where’d that come from? Well, largely the fact, two chapters ago, they totally sought to kill him.John 5.17-18 KWL17Jesus answered them, “My Father works today, just like I work.”18 So the Judeans all the more wanted him dead for this reason:Not only was he dismissing Sabbath custom,but he said God was his own Father, making himself equal to God.And they still wanted him dead. Oh, they might’ve pretended otherwise, but Jesus knew better. So he bluntly called them on it: “Why do you seek to kill me?” And they flagrantly pretended otherwise: “You have a demon”—that c…

Pursuing God’s ideas. Not our own.

Image
John 7.14-18.After Jesus decided he was in fact going to Jerusalem for Shavuot, he went privately, (KJV “as it were in secret”) Jn 7.9 and at first people weren’t sure he was there. Till he started teaching in temple.I need to remind you synagogues, at this point in history, weren’t Jewish churches: They were Pharisee schools. They were created and run by Pharisees, to ensure future generations knew the Law and followed it. Specifically, followed it the way Pharisees interpreted; Jesus has his own interpretations. Hence they butted heads.There were also prejudices among Judean Pharisees about the quality of education you’d find among Galilean Pharisees. So when the Judeans listened to Jesus, they immediately realized here was a guy who knew as much as any of their scribes. (Knows way more, actually. But they wouldn’t always admit this.) Thing is, Jesus grew up in the Galilee. Went to Galilean synagogues, not Judean synagogues. Never attended their schools. Therefore he must surely be …

When Jesus said he wouldn’t go… and did.

Image
John 7.1-13.If you read the synoptic gospels (meaning Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the three which sync up a lot), you might get the idea Jesus only went to Jerusalem once—to get arrested and crucified. That’d be historically inaccurate. Jesus obeyed the Law, and the Law decreed every adult male should go to temple three times a year for the festivals. Dt 16.16 Meaning Jesus went to Jerusalem a lot, and John—which largely takes place there—fills in the blanks of what happened during those many Jerusalem trips.Including when Jesus cured that one blind guy. The context of that story was when he went to Jerusalem one year for Sukkót. That trip began a few chapters back; since I skipped that part I figure I’d better backtrack. Here y’go.John 7.1-13 KWL1 After these things, Jesus traveled the Galilee.He didn’t want to travel in Judea, because the Judeans sought to kill him.2Sukkót/Tents, a Judean festival, was near, 3 so Jesus’s brothers told him,“Leave here and go to Judea, so your students w…

Claiming to see, but won’t see Jesus.

Image
John 9.35-41.Picking up right after Pharisees ejected a formerly-blind man from their synagogue for believing in Jesus, our Lord re-enters the story and delivers the punchline, so to speak.John 9.34-41 KWL35 Jesus, hearing the Pharisees threw the formerly-blind man out,upon finding him, said, “You believe in the Son of Man?”36 In reply, that man said, “Who is he, sir?—so I can put my trust in him.”37 Jesus told him, “You’ve seen him: This man is talking with you.”38The formerly-blind man said, “I trust you, sir,” and fell down before Jesus.39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for people’s judgment:Those who don’t see, can see; and those who see can become blind.”40Some of the Pharisees were listening to these things, and told Jesus, “We aren’t blind too.”41 Jesus told them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin.You now say ‘We do so see’—and your sin remains.”For some reason, a lot of preachers assume this guy shouldn’t have recognized Jesus when he encountered him: He was b…

The trial of the formerly-blind man.

Image
John 9.13-34.One Sabbath, Jesus cured a blind guy with spit-mud. His neighbors caught him seeing, and decided to bring him to the Pharisees, figuring these’d be the guys who could identify if this miracle was a God-thing or not.John 9.13-16 KWL13 They brought the formerly-blind man to Pharisees:14 The day Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes, was Sabbath.15 So again, Pharisees were asking him how he received sight.He told them, “He smeared mud on me, on the eyes, and I washed, and I see.”16 Hence some of these Pharisees were saying, “This person isn’t from God: He doesn’t keep Sabbath.”Others were saying, “How can a ‘sinful person’ make such miracles?” They were divided.Yeah, they weren’t much good at it.Lemme start by pointing out the obvious: By definition, miracles are God-things. They’re anything the Holy Spirit does in our physical universe. Might look natural, or resemble natural phenomena. But because the Spirit personally does ’em, they didn’t happen naturally; they don’t ha…

Curing a blind man… on Sabbath.

Image
John 9.1-14.Previously I wrote about some blind guy Jesus cured with spit. Today I figured I’d jump to the other story of Jesus curing a blind guy with spit. That one is only found in Mark; this one comes from John. And this story is probably better-known because it created a huge controversy… ’cause Jesus cured the guy on Sabbath, ’cause he’s the Sabbath’s master.The story begins with a lesson, ’cause Jesus’s students see the blind guy and make the typical human assumption: He’s blind because of karma. Either he did something, or his parents did something, and now he’s suffering the wrath of God for it. It’s a poisonous attitude too, ’cause people use it to justify not doing anything for the needy: Hey, they’re needy because they deserve it, and who are we to undo God’s righteous judgment? (Or the judgment of the universe, or the marketplace; whatever god you’re into.)John 9.1-3 KWL1 Passing by, Jesus saw a person, blind from birth.2 His students questioned him, saying, “Rabbi, betwe…

Jesus cures a man… in stages.

Image
Mark 8.22-26.People are fascinated by healing stories where Jesus cures people with spit. ’Cause he didn’t just do it the one time. Twice he cured blind men with it; here, and in John 9. Previously in Markhe cured a deafmute, and spat in the course of doing it—and while I don‘t believe he spat on the guy, or touched the guy with his saliva, plenty of Christians believe otherwise.What mainly gets us is the ick factor. Our culture doesn’t think of saliva as sanitary. Even though people spit-shine things all the time—glasses, phones, jewelry, shoes, their children—a number of people cringe at such behavior, because spit has germs in it. And yeah, human saliva has bacteria in it. But it also has a lot of digestive enzymes and white blood cells in it. Saliva protects us from a lot more than we realize.Whenever Jesus cured people with spit, it was reflective of the ancients’ attitudes about spit. Like us, they cleaned with spit. And when Jesus cured people with spit, it represented cleaning…