Monday, January 29, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Mark 5-11

Readings for this week

Monday: Mark 5
Tuesday: Mark 6
Wednesday: Mark 7
Thursday: Mark 8
Friday: Mark 9
Saturday: Mark 10
Sunday: Mark 11

Introduction to Mark 5-11

Chapter 5

Jesus and his disciples cross the Lake and arrive in the region of the Gerasenes. The text says that when Jesus got out of the boat, a man with a demon came running out of the tombs towards him. Jesus commands the demon to come out of the man who identifies himself as “Legion” – a host of demons. He begs over and over for Jesus not to send them out of the area. The demons request to be relocated to a nearby heard of pigs. Jesus gives them permission, and the pigs go crazy, and the whole heard jumps off a cliff and drowns in the Lake.

The Lake was also referred to as “the pit” by the people who lived near it, and they believed it was where Satan himself lived in chaos and darkness. So when the pigs jump into the Lake, the text is implying that even these “unclean animals” understood that these “unclean spirits” belonged in hell.

The man is restored to his right mind, and puts on some clothes. The pig farmers are afraid of Jesus, and beg him to leave the area. The people now act as the demons, begging for Jesus to leave them alone. The man now healed begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him he should go home and tell his people just how much Jesus had done for him... which is quite the opposite command of the Messianic Secret that we normally see from Jesus when he's among his fellow Jews. The man begins to preach in The Decapolis (The Ten Cities) about Jesus.

Jesus crosses the Lake again and the crowds are waiting for him. A man named Jairus, a synagogue leader begs Jesus to come heal his sick twelve year old daughter.

On the way, Jesus is pressed by the large crowds. A woman is in the crowd who had been bleeding for twelve years. She believes that if she could only touch the “corners” or “wings” of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. This thought refers back to the prophet Malachi, who said, “The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.” Jesus feels power go out from him and the woman confesses that she touched him. He tells her that her faith has healed her.

While Jesus is talking, someone shows up and informs Jairus that his daughter just died. Jesus takes his closest friends, Peter, James, and John, with him to Jairus’s house where there is a large crowd wailing. They laugh at Jesus when he says the girl is “only asleep,” and Jesus sends them away. Jesus goes in to see the girl, takes her by the hand, and tells her to get up, and she does. The parents and the disciples are shocked, and Jesus tells them to feed the girl, and to not tell anyone about what had just happened – it must be a secret.

Chapter 6

Jesus is rejected by his hometown, and he then teaches in various villages, and sends his disciples out in twos to go do what he’s been doing.

Mark lets his readers know that King Herod heard about everything Jesus and his disciples were doing. Some people were saying that Jesus was really John the Baptist come back from the dead, but Herod would have none of that nonsense.

Mark then backtracks here and tells his readers the story of how Herod had killed John the Baptist. Herod had married his brother Phillip’s wife, Herodius, and John had told him that was a wicked thing to do, so Herod locked John up in prison, and eventually beheaded him.

Jesus then feeds the five thousand and walks on the water.

Chapter 7

Jesus then tells his disciples that the stuff that goes into your body isn’t actually the stuff that makes you dirty, but rather the stuff that you choose to dump out of your body. 

Jesus and his disciples then travel to the pagan city of Tyre, and Jesus heals the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman from a demon.

Jesus then goes to the Decapolis (ten pagan cities) and heals a deaf and mute man. Jesus keeps telling people to stop spreading the word about him, but they keep doing it anyway.

Chapter 8

Jesus feeds 4,000 Gentiles and then warns his disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.”

Jesus and his disciples arrive at Bethsaida and the people bring him a blind man. 
Jesus secretly spits on the man’s eyes and asks him what he sees. The man says he says people that look like walking trees. Jesus tries again and this time the man can see everything clearly. Jesus tells him to keep this a secret and to even avoid going back into town.

The blind man can represent the people, who even after having seen the Messiah do not understand what they are looking at… but who will one day understand fully. 
This is one possible reason why Jesus insists on a temporary Messianic secret. Because the people don’t really know what a messiah is, and with their confused and ecstatic words they have been spreading a false gospel about Jesus.

Jesus and his disciples then begin their journey to Jerusalem.

Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah
. Jesus predicts his death, and then teaches about the Way of the Cross.

Chapter 9

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain. 
His appearance changes in front of them and his clothes become bright white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah of long ago appear out of nowhere and begin speaking with Jesus. Peter doesn’t know what to say and he interrupts the conversation and volunteers to build three huts for them.

Mark writes, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’” 
Luke’s version puts it this way: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

This is a direct reference to three different passages from the three different sections of the Hebrew Bible – The Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Khetuvim – showing that Jesus is the focal point all of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) …and even the poets.

Through the poets God declares in Psalm 2:7, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” 
Through the prophets God declares in Isaiah 42:1a, “Here is my servant, whom I support, my chosen one, in whom I take pleasure.” And through the Law of Moses God declares in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”

Moses and Elijah are gone and Jesus tells Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone what they saw until after He was raised from the dead. 
They are confused about what he meant by rising from the dead… proving that they were not yet ready to spread the true Gospel of Jesus.

They also ask about Elijah’s return and Jesus’ opinion on that biblical teaching. Jesus responds with a question, “Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?” 
He then indicates that Elijah already came back and the teachers of Law did whatever they pleased with him.

They come down the mountain and meet up with the other disciples who are in the middle of an argument with the teachers of the Law over a demon-possessed boy. 
The crowd is amazed when Jesus arrives, and Jesus just wants to know what the ruckus is all about. The boy’s father explains his son’s condition – how the demon tries to throw the boy into fire or water to kill him.

The disciples were unable to help the boy, so the man asks for Jesus’ help… if Jesus is able to help. Jesus is like, “‘If’? What do you mean ‘if I can help’? Everything is possible for the believer!” The father quickly changes his attitude, declaring, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

A crowd is running over to watch, so Jesus starts chewing out the demon, commanding it to leave and never return. 
The demon shrieks and violently shakes the boy and then comes out. Later, the disciples wanted to know why they couldn’t drive out the demon, and Jesus tells them that this kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.

Jesus walks his disciples through Galilee and teaches them. 
He predicts his death and resurrection, but they didn’t understand and were afraid to ask what he meant.

When they arrive at Capernaum, Jesus lets them know that he overheard them arguing about which one of them was the greatest. He sits down and once again turns everything on its head by saying, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He holds a child and says to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

John tattles to Jesus about some folks he saw driving out demons in Jesus’ name, saying they told them to stop. 
Jesus is like, “Why did you tell them to stop? We’re on the same team!”

Jesus goes back to the child, saying that it would better to die terribly than to cause a child to stumble. He then goes on to say if their hand or their foot or eye causes them to sin, they should cut it off and get rid of it. Because it’s better to be crippled and live, than to have two feet in hell (or Gehenna).

Some observations about "Gehenna" from this passage:

“All of Jesus’ references to gehenna are made to religious people, and are made in reference to sinful behavior. None of them are spoken to unbelievers or in reference specifically about unbelievers – and for that matter, none are made in reference to one’s lack of belief or orthodoxy.”

“All of the references to gehenna can be reasonably viewed as references to the literal location – a burning garbage dump, where bodies are filled with maggots (worms that, to the ancients, appeared to have come from nowhere and do not die – transforming, instead, into flies) and are consumed in the flames.”

“If we look specifically at the passage from Mark, which is the one most often quoted by those supporting a view of gehenna as a place of eternal, conscious punishment, Jesus refers to it as “where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” This is a direct quote from Isaiah 66, where the prophet describes the view of the fallen Assyrian army (in the Hinnom Valley… or ‘Hell Valley’ in rough English) ‘And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.’ It is a view of dead bodies on a funeral pyre, full of maggots, being burned to ash.”

Jesus then says, “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Chapter 10

Jesus then teaches about divorce

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 
Jesus didn’t like this and said “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Jesus then teaches about the rich and the Kingdom of God, saying there will be both
blessings and persecutions for those who give up everything to follow him.

Jesus then predicts his death a third time. James and John try to talk Jesus into giving them seats of power in heaven, but Jesus puts them in their place.

Jesus and his disciples go to Jericho and the crowds follow them. 
A blind man named Bartimaeus (or “the son of Timaeus”) hears that Jesus of Nazareth has arrived and he begins calling out to him, “Son of David! Have mercy on me!” Jesus stops and has the man brought to him. Jesus asks him what he wants, and he says, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus says, “Go, your faith has healed you.” The man’s sight was restored immediately and he followed Jesus down the road. 

Chapter 11

Jesus comes to Jerusalem and many welcome him as King.

Jesus then curses a fig tree, comparing it to “fruitless” Jerusalem, and he clears the Temple Courts.

The authority of Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Mark 1-4

Introduction to Mark 1-4

Context of Mark


Traditionally John Mark, traveling companion of Paul and “interpreter” for Peter in Rome. The writer does not identify himself in the Gospel text, and scholars, unable to verify the late-second-century tradition of Markan authorship, regard the work as anonymous.


About AD 66-70, during the Jewish Revolt against Rome.

Place of composition:

Rome or Syria-Palestine.


Primarily oral tradition. Many scholars believe that Mark possibly used a few written sources, such as a collection of Jesus’ parables (ch. 4), a compilation of apocalyptic prophecies (ch. 13), and, perhaps, an older account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution (chs. 14-15).


Gentile Christians suffering persecution.

Chapter 1

John appears in the wilderness and preaches a baptism of repentance. Many people are baptized by John in the Jordan River. Jesus is baptized by John and then led into the wilderness to be tempted. John gets arrested.

Jesus goes to Galilee and preaches. 
Jesus sees Simon and Andrew fishing on the Sea of Galilee and calls to them to follow Him so He can teach them to fish for people. They follow without hesitation. James and John do the same, leaving their father and his boat behind.

Jesus teaches at the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. The people are impressed with Jesus’ knowledge. A man with an evil spirit starts screaming at Jesus. Jesus tells the demon to shut up, and casts it out of the man. After this, news about Jesus begins to spread all around the region of Galilee.

Jesus and his disciples leave the synagogue and go to Simon and Andrew’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed, and Jesus takes her by the hand, heals her, and helps her out of bed. She then feeds them all as people begin to show up at the door to be healed. Jesus casts out even more demons and refuses to let them speak.

Jesus gets up before sunrise to go pray by himself. Simon and the others find him and say, “Everyone’s looking for you!” Jesus decides they need to move on to other towns for awhile, so they do.

A man with leprosy comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus says, “I am willing.” Jesus heals him tells him not to tell anyone and simply to go fulfill the Mosaic Law’s requirements for healings. Instead, the man goes out and tells everyone he meets. Jesus can no longer stay in towns because of this, and from now on he and his disciples sleep outside in “lonely places.”

Chapter 2

Jesus returns to Capernaum and preaches in a house. The house is filled to overflowing, so that people cannot get to Jesus. Some men cut a hole in the roof and lower their paralyzed friend down so that Jesus can heal him. Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The teachers of the law didn’t care for that statement, and thought Jesus was being blasphemous. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and says to them, "which is easier to say – 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Get up and walk'?" He then heals the man just to prove that He has the authority to forgive peoples’ sins.

Jesus is walking by the lake with crowds following him when he sees Levi sitting at the tax collector’s booth. He calls Levi, and Levi follows him. He later eats dinner at Levi’s house and the Pharisees disapprove of him eating with “sinners.” Jesus turns their views on their heads, saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Jesus is then questioned about fasting.

Later, Jesus and 
his disciples are walking through a grain field on the Sabbath, and the disciples start picking heads of grain. The Pharisees accuse them of breaking Mosaic Law. Jesus reminds them that even King David broke the Law by eating the sacred bread when he and his men were starving to death. Jesus again turns their views on their heads, saying, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Chapter 3

Jesus goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and sees a man with a shriveled hand. The Pharisees were watching to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. Jesus has the man stand in front of everyone, and asks them all “Which is better, to save life or to kill?” Nobody says anything. Jesus becomes angry, and he turns and heals the man. The Pharisees then go out and plot Jesus’ death with the Herodians.

Jesus and his disciples withdraw to the Lake, and crowds from all over follow them. He heals people and casts out demons. The demons would say, “You are the Son of God.” But Jesus would order them not to speak about that

Jesus then appoints the twelve disciples to preach and to cast out demons.

Jesus and his disciples go to a house, and so many people show up that they can’t even eat. Jesus’ family thinks he’s crazy, and come to take charge of him. The teachers of the Law arrive from Jerusalem and they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul. Jesus begins to speak in parables and says, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” Someone interrupts Jesus to let him know that his mother and brothers have arrived to take him home. Jesus responds, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He then identifies those sitting in a circle around him – the ones who do the will of God – as his true family.

Chapter 4

Jesus tells the famous “Parable of the Sower” and then tells a parable about “A Lamp on a Stand.” This parable can also be used to explain the confusing idea of the “Messianic secret.” All secrets are ultimately intended to be revealed – including the secret of Jesus as Messiah.

Jesus then tells “The Parable of the Growing Seed” and “The Parable of the Mustard Seed.”

At the end of a long day, Jesus and his disciples sail across the Lake away from the crowds. A storm quickly comes upon them, but Jesus sleeps through it. As the waves are breaking over the boat, the disciples wake Jesus up, saying, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus gets up and tells the wind and the waves to shut up. The storm immediately stops, and Jesus asks the disciples why they were so afraid, and what happened to their faith. The disciples are terrified, and they wonder who this man could be… because they just don’t get it.

Monday, January 22, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Deuteronomy 32-34

Readings for this week

Monday: Deuteronomy 32
Tuesday: Deuteronomy 33
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 34
Thursday: Mark 1
Friday: Mark 2
Saturday: Mark 3
Sunday: Mark 4

Introduction to Deuteronomy 32-34

Chapter 32

The Song of Moses is thought to be the oldest text within Deuteronomy.

It explains that in the beginning, “El Elyon” divided up the peoples of the earth and gave them land according to the number of “the sons of God.”

This song seems to indicate:

The gods of other nations were living deities
God allowed the different peoples to practice polytheism.
Israel’s God is above all of these other deities
He chose Israel out of all the peoples to be His chosen people.
It was in God’s plan that other nations would worship other gods, but that Israel would worship Him alone.

Other texts show Israel’s role in the world to be to introduce the rest of the peoples of the earth to their God, but they often failed at this task.

Chapter 33

Moses blesses the tribes…

“Let Reuben live and not die…”

“Help him!”

He guards your covenant
He teaches your precepts to Israel
He offers incense before you

Not mentioned... perhaps because by the time the scribes got around to writing this down no one was repeating blessings for Simeon, because Simeon had been absorbed by Judah.

He is a shield

All good blessings go to Joseph
He is a prince among his brothers
Ephraim and Manasseh are very numerous

Zebulun and Issachar
Zebulun “goes out”
Issachar stays in his tent
Both will be rich

He chose the best land
He’s a leader
He’s a ferocious lion

He’s a lion’s cub

“…he will inherit southward to the lake.”

Your brothers will favor you
You will be very strong

Chapter 34

The end of Deuteronomy is seen as a eulogy honoring Moses. The text says that Moses climbed to the top of Mount Nebo and viewed the Promised Land, but did not enter it. He died on top of the mountain at the age of 120, but the text says that despite his age he was still “vibrant” and full of life. The text also says that God himself buried Moses and that no one knows where he is buried. The text says that since then, no prophet has ever been as great as Moses.

Monday, January 15, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Deuteronomy 25-31

Readings for this week

Monday: Deuteronomy 25
Tuesday: Deuteronomy 26
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 27
Thursday: Deuteronomy 28
Friday: Deuteronomy 29
Saturday: Deuteronomy 30
Sunday: Deuteronomy 31

Introduction to Deuteronomy 25-31

Chapter 25

The words of Moses: A judge may give up to forty lashes. If a man dies and has no son, his brother shall marry his widow. You shall have honest weights.

Chapter 26

The words of Moses: Bring the firstfruits of the land to the LORD. Bring a tithe in the third year and say to the LORD, "Look down and bless your people."

Chapter 27

The words of Moses: Write the law on large stones. The Levites will say, "Cursed is anyone who does not keep the law," and the people will reply, "Amen."

Chapter 28

Moses commanded the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin to stand on top of Mount Gerizim once they had entered the Promised Land and pronounce the blessings that would take affect if Israel was faithful to the Covenant.

Moses commanded the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali to stand on top of Mount Ebal once they had entered the Promised Land and pronounce the curses that would take affect if Israel was unfaithful to the Covenant.

“If you obey the LORD he will bless you above all nations; if not, you will be cursed and the LORD will send a nation to destroy you.”

Modern English translators have sometimes found awkward passages in the Bible that they felt would be offensive to many Christian readers, so they sometimes rephrased some rather blunt and at times crass language into more polite renderings.

Deuteronomy 28:30 is an example of this. Modern translators have that verse read: "You will betroth a wife, but another man will lie with her." However, in Hebrew the phrase we translate as "lie with her" is much stronger and is not considered a very nice word at all.

In fact, the closest English equivalent would be the "f-word."

So yeah... that's in the Bible...

Chapter 29

The words of Moses: You have seen all that the LORD has done so keep this covenant. If you break it the land will be cursed and the LORD will uproot you.

Chapter 30

The words of Moses: When you return to the LORD he will have compassion; he will circumcise your heart. I have set before you life and death. Choose life.

Chapter 31

Moses wrote down The Law of the LORD and placed it with the Ark of the Covenant for future generations to read. Moses told Joshua to “be strong and courageous” as he would be the new leader of Israel. Moses predicted that after his own death Israel would surely turn away from God and worship other gods. Moses said that God would eventually destroy their land because of this.

Monday, January 8, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Deuteronomy 18-24

Readings for this week

Monday: Deuteronomy 18
Tuesday: Deuteronomy 19
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 20
Thursday: Deuteronomy 21
Friday: Deuteronomy 22
Saturday: Deuteronomy 23
Sunday: Deuteronomy 24

Introduction to Deuteronomy 18-24

Chapter 18

The words of Moses: The priests shall eat the offerings made by fire. You shall not practice divination. The LORD will raise up a prophet like me from among you.

Why are prophets needed?
Because Israel demanded an intermediary at Sinai.

The prophet of God must not:
Practice sorcery or divination
Say God said something that God didn’t say
Speak in the name of other gods

The test of a true prophet:
If what the prophet says does not come true, he must have been lying

Chapter 19

The words of Moses: Set aside three cities so that anyone who kills accidentally may flee there. A matter must be established by two or three witnesses.

Chapter 20

The words of Moses: When you go to war, do not be afraid; the LORD is with you. As you go to attack a city, offer terms, except to the cities of the land.

Chapter 21

The words of Moses: If a dead body is found, the city elders must cleanse the guilt. Give your eldest son his portion. A rebellious son shall be stoned.

Chapter 22

The words of Moses: If you find your neighbor's ox you shall return it. If a man falsely claims that his new wife was not a virgin he shall be punished.

Chapter 23

The words of Moses: No Ammonite shall enter the assembly of the LORD. When you go out to war the camp must be holy. Be careful to do what you have vowed.

Chapter 24

The words of Moses: If a man divorces his wife he must not remarry her. Do not withhold wages. Leave the gleanings of your harvest for widows and orphans.

Monday, January 1, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Deuteronomy 11-17

Readings for this week

Monday: Deuteronomy 11
Tuesday: Deuteronomy 12
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 13
Thursday: Deuteronomy 14
Friday: Deuteronomy 15
Saturday: Deuteronomy 16
Sunday: Deuteronomy 17

Introduction to Deuteronomy 11-17

Chapter 11

The words of Moses: You have seen all that the LORD has done. Keep these commands so that you may live long in the land. There is a blessing and a curse.

Chapter 12

The words of Moses: Destroy the high places where the nations worship their gods. You shall bring your offerings at the place that the LORD will choose.

Chapter 13

The words of Moses: If a prophet or anyone else entices you away from the LORD they must be put to death. If a town has turned away it must be destroyed.

Chapter 14

The words of Moses: You may eat animals with cloven hooves that chew the cud. Bring a tithe from your fields to eat before the LORD and for the Levites.

Chapter 15

The words of Moses: Every seven years you shall cancel debts. Hebrew slaves shall go free in the seventh year. Set apart every firstborn male animal.

Chapter 16

The words of Moses: Celebrate the Passover in the month of Abib. Celebrate the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths. Appoint judges in all your towns.

Chapter 17

The words of Moses: Anyone who breaks the covenant shall be put to death. Go to the priests with hard decisions. Appoint the king that the LORD chooses.

Deuteronomy places strict rules on the kings of Israel.

The king must not be a foreigner.
The king must not have many horses.
The king must not have many wives.
The king must not have much silver or gold.
The king must carry a copy of the Law with him to read every day.

Why all the rules for Israel’s kings when Israel had no king at the time?

Possibly because by the time the scribes finished putting all these laws together into one unified "Law of Moses," so much time had passed that Israel actually did have kings at that point, so special emphasis may have been placed on these kingly commands because of this.

We see later how Israel's kings pretty much broke all these rules all of the time.