Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bible Challenge - You've heard this all before

This week we have the rest of the book of Luke for our challenge

If you've been in church at all this summer or fall then you have heard most of the book of Luke - it's what we've been reading in Church since last November.  The parts we've read this summer and fall make up the main thrust of Luke's Gospel.

The main point of Luke's Gospel is what today we would call social justice.  It boils down to the same things that the prophets of Israel were saying for years - God cares about the poor - he wants you to care about the poor too - and since you aren't caring about the poor, God is upset with you and you better repent.

Luke adds in much of the teachings of Jesus that are in Matthew and Mark too - but always with the twist to underline God's overwhelming concern for the poor and that if we are to be followers of Jesus we must care for the poor too.

Go back and read the crucifixion and resurrection story from Matthew and then read Luke's version - mark the similarities and the differences - it's very interesting.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bible Challenge - Three endings and a beginning

This week we have the end of the Gospel of Mark - or rather the ends of the Gospel of Mark.

Mark actually has three different endings - the oldest versions of the Gospel that we have end with verse 8 of Chapter 16 - that is with the disciples at the empty tomb and the words: "And they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid."

A few of the older manuscripts end with an addition to verse 8 of Chapter 16 which says "And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter.  And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation."

Still other manuscripts end with the rest of Chapter 16 - the appearance to Mary Magdalene and two disciples and Jesus' commission and ascension.

The thoughts of most scholars is that the book originally ended with "they were afraid" but fairly quickly it became clear that people needed more hope - so they added the short ending and then over time some stories of post-resurrection events from other stories of Jesus.  Mark's main points - that God calls us to love and serve others and to share God's love even in the midst of persecution - didn't require a post-resurrection commission - but as time went on the first generations of Christians needed more, so more got added.

We also have the beginning of the Gospel of Luke - Luke is writing to non-Jewish believers in Jesus and he tells a lot of the story - but compare Luke's birth narrative to Matthew's and notice the differences.  There are no wisemen in Luke's story and we have the story of Jesus' presentation in the temple and a lot more about John the Baptist.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bible Challenge - most of Mark

For this week's Bible Challenge we have most of the Gospel of Mark - the first 12 chapters.

A couple of things to notice about the Gospel of Mark - first of all there is no Nativity story in Mark - he doesn't think how Jesus was born was important - Mark jumps right in with John the Baptist, Jesus' Baptism and the temptation in the wilderness - but even those stories are prelude to what is important to Mark, the works and teaching of Jesus.

So in these chapters we see Jesus healing and preaching and teaching - the Jesus we see in Mark has three major points:
1. God means it when he says love your neighbor as yourself - these things that distract you are getting in the way
2. Get out there and tell people that God loves them and wants them to love others i.e. stop hiding you lamp under a bushel
3. And oh, by the way, don't expect it to be easy, expect to be persecuted and for people to be mad at you - keep watching God is coming

Mark races through Jesus' life and ministry and keeps coming back to these points - not a bad summery of the Gospel actually.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bible Challenge - Who do you say that I am - What are we supposed to do

We have the second half of the book of Matthew in this week's Gospel.  The first part of this week was parables:

The Parable of the Sower, of the Weeds among the wheat of the mustard seed of the yeast and three more parables - The point of these parables is to teach the disciples (and us) about God and God's kingdom.  The major points seem to be that God uses even the smallest things and that we are to keep working to bring about the will of God even when we don't see much in the ways of results.

Then the story takes a turn for the dark - Jesus is rejected by his home town and John the Baptist is put to death - keep going even when things seem bad?

The 5,000 are fed, Jesus walks on water and heals the sick and this still isn't enough for the Pharisees - so Jesus lashes out at them.

Peter finally comes to the point - Jesus asks who they think he is and Peter says, "The Christ, the Son of the Living God"  - Peter gets it right sometimes.

From here to the end the story gathers steam - Jesus spends a lot of time teaching the people that God really has two requirements - love God and love neighbor and all the rest is getting in the way - this doesn't make the religious leaders happy and so Jesus is arrested and executed.

Look at the verses at the very end of Matthew - these are known as the Great Commission and they sum up what it is that Jesus asks of his disciples and what he asks of us:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember that I am with you always, to the end of the age."

That sums it up - Jesus is with us - so we are to go and teach and obey.