06.01.20 – 06.07.20

Readings

Psalm 8 • Micah 6:6-16 • John 8:1-11 • Acts 4:32-5:16

Context

Psalm 8

In the early 1980s a young musician/writer named Michael Smith wrote the song ‘How Majestic Is Your Name’ which was recorded, and made famous, by singer Sandi Patty.  This very simple song, which has become a classic that is still used in contemporary and traditional worship services, chronicles the message of Psalm 8.

O Lord, our Lord how majestic is Your name in all the earth. O Lord, our Lord how majestic is Your name in all the earth. O Lord, we praise Your name. O Lord, we magnify Your name, Prince of peace, mighty God, O Lord, God Almighty

Michael W. Smith

The Psalmist, in writing this Psalm, connects creation and the present.  Psalm 8 speaks of things as they were created to be.  Beautiful and harmonious, a strong connection between God’s creation and the humans he created.  It is a painted picture of God’s gift to us of life and creation.

The Psalm speaks of the creation of humans who were created ‘a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor’ (remember that ‘glory’ is living out the life and words of Jesus – being witness) and given dominion over all of creation.  While this thread between creation and the present is a hope for a perfect symbiotic relation, the truth is that, as we see in all of creation involving humans, this perfect picture is not what we have seen play out.  

A problem with our hearing of Psalm 8, as with so many other biblical texts, may be our affluence. Most of us are so used to being more or less well off and more or less comfortable that we have difficulty hearing the text from the margin, from the perspective of the underdog or the endangered. The result is not only confusion, but potentially destructive misuse. The issue in Psalm 8, as in Genesis 1 to which it refers, is the relationship between humanity (us!) and the rest of creation. The psalm sings the old creation story into the present, rejoicing again in being made “little less than divine”, which means having “dominion” over the works of God’s hands, over all creation. Creation is not merely a one-time act “in the beginning,” but an ongoing work and gift of God that makes us realize ever anew “how majestic is your name in all the earth.” The problem, as we have heard often, is that one generation’s “dominion” becomes a later generation’s exploitation, and woe to the earth and woe to us if we think the psalms gives us license to do whatever is now in our power to ravish the earth and use up its resources.

Fred Gaiser, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn.

This was one of the problems Charles Darwin had with the teachings of the church.  There would be a focus on the beauty and harmony of God’s creation yet, when he as a scientist took a serious and deep look at the creation, while it was harmonious, that harmony was/is often brutal and far from beautiful.

Is this a call to just throw away a message of beauty and harmony in creation? Is this our catalyst to forget the idea of God and creation completely?

No.

It is a call, as it is anytime there seems to be a conflict with truth and reality, to keep searching and to keep seeking. Mathematicians don’t quit math when they can’t solve an equation, nor are we to give up when something does not seem to make sense.  We keep seeking truth and searching for truth.

A few helps in this continuation of searching:

First, notice that the climax of the Psalm is actually a question, ‘what are human beings that you, God, are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’ (v. 4).  We see that the poetic nature of the Psalm is not really about the dynamics of the science of creation but rather the fact that the creation is a continuous gift from the creator himself to humans, to us.

Second, while some take this word ‘dominion’ to interpret such words as license to use and abuse, the Psalm actually creates the setting where we, human with dominion, are surrounded by the creation which constantly, if our focus is correct, points us to the creator, to God.

Third, always remember the whole of truth when seeking to understand just a section of the truth.  Look at Psalm 72, in which this same message of the beauty of creation is given.  This similar passage, however, focuses on the perfect King, ruler, that sets the example of living God’s plan for humans in creation.  This is also the introduction of have of Jesus, in the synogogue in Galilee, as he reads from the book of Isaiah explaining the mission and calling of the coming Messiah.

‘For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.’

Psalm 72:12-14

How, then, do we live, as humans a little lower than God, is the question….the answer begins as we recognize the creator.  Take a moment to step outside and remember.

Micah 6:6-16

We looked at this passage in January of this year as we spent time with the prophet Micah.  Here is the context you were given at that time:

Micah is a prophet speaking largely to the area of Samaria (Northern Kingdom) shortly before it falls to the Assyrians (the conquering of the Southern Kingdom, Judea which includes Jerusalem, will fall to the Babylonians next).  Micah’s message accompanies the messages of Isaiah and Jeremiah and shares the same themes. The message of Micah alternates between judgement and hope, condemnation and correction.  The mode of the message is one of a courtroom where God is the prosecutor presenting the case against the people.  In chapter six, God confronts the case of the people who are making a claim of mistreatment by an unjust and unmerciful God.  God responds (rhetorically and somewhat sarcastically) by asking if it was the fact that he rescued them from slavery in Egypt or that he shielded them from the curse of Balak and Balaam (see Numbers 22) that offends them most.  God explains to the people that he is not looking for the religiosity or sacrifices that their false gods demand – practices and sacrifices that include sacrificing their children.  God, instead, calls on the people to change the way they look at life and how they live life.  In verse  eight God sets a new (and old) base line for the people, a base line that calls on the people to act in a way that is just, kind, and humble (three very competing human emotions and characteristics). 

John 8:1-11

In the preceding chapter that leads into the focus story of chapter 8 we see a very enlightening dialogue between the temple police, who had been sent to arrest Jesus, and the religious leaders who had sent them.  The police had returned without Jesus and are quickly interrogated as to why they have not arrested Jesus.

The temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you?

John 7:45-48

Jesus was often labeled as a ‘liberal’, an unhinged radical who was speaking and acting in a way that was very unbecoming to a religious leader.  His very message, not to mention his life, was an offense to the leadership of the religious institution.  Jesus was a challenge to the leaders, a challenge to their control and power, a challenge to their privileged position, and mostly Jesus was different, an uncomfortable ‘different’ that they could not understand.

Established, privileged, and comfortable religious people, along with established, privileged, and comfortable political people, do not like the lives and action of people who are different.  It is hard to like, and live with, people who are ‘different’.  We prefer everyone to be the same, to be the same as ‘our same’.

This story of the aggravated and uncomfortable leaders to the reason for not arresting Jesus given by the police sets up the next aggravating and uncomfortable situation between Jesus and another group of established, privileged, and comfortable men.  A woman, who had been found guilty of adultery, was about to be stoned to death by this mob of established, privileged, and comfortable men.  Since the other guilty party to the adultery is not present, or even accused in this moment, we assume that the woman was actually guilty of two sins, adultery and of being a woman.

Ironically, this story is not really about the woman, it is about the mob, the condemning group of people who have taken it upon themselves to judge and condemn this woman.  It is actually a moment of a transformational opportunity for the crowd as Jesus turns the topic back to the accusers asking them to turn their own judgment inwards, to recognize their own need for redemption.  It was their opportunity to recognize that their calling is not to judge, nor is it to condemn, it is to love, to encourage, to show mercy, and act, at the same time in a just manner – meaning they don’t get to pick and choose  the sins they judge and the sins they commit. This is why they (and ‘we’) are not tasked with judging or condemning.

We only see one person that seems to experience that transformation in that moment, the woman.  Everyone else disappeared when given the call of transformation.  Jesus tells the woman that, just as her accusers have left without following through on their judgement and sentence, he does not condemn her either.

Frequently Christians, especially preachers, will make sure to point out that Jesus’ final word to the woman is: ‘do not sin anymore.’  We often take this to mean that it is our obligation to point out the restrictions placed on a transformed soul – not true.  Jesus, in this moment, is speaking to a human who has been experienced standing before God.  It is God’s desire to lead us away from the things that ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ and instead to lead us to life.

‘Go and sin no more,’ was not a warning given by another judgmental and condemning human, it was words of life given by a savior who was about to make the ultimate self sacrifice for this woman.

Acts 4:32-5:16

It was a supernatural time in the life of the early believers of Jesus Christ.  Not long after Pentecost we see this group of people, whose only connection to each other was Jesus, now living out a self sacrificing love for each other naturally mimicking the actions and words of Jesus Christ.  Automatically, they wanted to learn and understand about Jesus, and even more naturally, we see this sacrificial actions of love for each other, and Jesus, flowing from them.  They had not lost their excitement for the resurrection and the life.

In the midst of this we see something about humanity.  Ananias and Sapphira, a married couple who had become a part of the church who had lost their focus.  It could be that it was the excitement of the beginning that attracted them to this group of people, the church, but that excitement began to wane, it had become ordinary.  It could be that, in the beginning, they truly believed but as they began the sacrificial attitude of  the group, and the response that sacrifice brought, these two began to be jealous.  Regardless of their original motivation, now they had turned back to their old was of thinking and living, they wanted to be recognized and proclaimed.  This may have been their next ‘excitement’ replacing the original impact of the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, they didn’t want to actually make the sacrifices that were bringing the attention to the others. So they lied, and then they died.

The verses that follow, after this story, point to the continued Holy Spirit work in the church. The believers had not been fazed by this unfortunate moment with Ananias and Sapphira, the other believers had not returned to their own ways of thinking and living.

05.25.20 – 05.31.20

Notation for This Sunday

Following the resurrection of Jesus, he spent forty days exclusively with his followers who would then be the ones to lead the new followers to the ‘Be the Church.’  Then after those forty days Jesus ascended to Heaven but not before he told his followers to return to Jerusalem and wait for the arrival of the Paraclete (the helper, the advocate, the one comes along side, the Holy Spirit). The followers, who were more than glad to go and hide out as they waited (they were already targets for the religious institution leaders as well as the Roman authorities).  This Sunday is the recognition of the day that the followers were pushed out of hiding and into the streets by the Paraclete (Holy Spirit).  This was the day of Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came to those who were willing and ready to receive.  Our readings this week all address the Paraclete, – the prophesies and promises about the Spirit and the actual events of the Day of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is not unique to the New Testament.  There are many references to the Spirit beginning with the Genesis story of creation.  Probably one of the most significant and visually portrayed is the experience in the desert of the dry bones where the Spirit brings life through breath. It may be of assistance to read Ezekiel 37:1-14 before you read the assigned readings for this week.  As you read this Ezekiel account look for the power and actions of the Spirit as well as the promise about the Spirit.

Readings

Psalm 104:24-34, 35 • John 20:19-23 • Acts 2:1-21 • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Context

Psalm 104:24-34, 35

Our Psalm reading continues our look at the Spirit, here we see the Spirit in the creation.  In this passage we see in verses 24-28 that God delights in the giving of life in his creation.  Verses 29-32 reveal that the Spirit is the sustainer of creation and recreation (use the understanding of ‘recreation’ when reading the word ‘creation’ in verse 30 – it points to our understanding of the resurrection).  Then, verses 33-35 we witness our response to the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our community.

FYI: The  Leviathan in verse 26 is a creature with the form of a sea serpent from Jewish belief, referenced in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and Amos.

John 20:19-23

As is common with the gospel of John, in this account of Jesus with his disciples following the resurrection but before the ascension, Jesus breathes the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) on them.  Consider also, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene prior to his appearance to the disciples, in which she recognized who Jesus was – many experts believe that Mary was actually the first to receive the Spirit which was the catalyst for he recognizing Jesus.  This also was the reason for her immediate act of telling/witnessing to the disciples.

Another particularity about the gospel of John is his understanding of sin.  While most of our reference to the topic of ‘sin’ is to immediately think of our list of top ranking sins, often a list that leads us to judge and condemn others – John’s depiction of sin is much larger.  To John, sin is not necessarily areas of immorality and other grave matters of forbidden behaviors, instead, John sees sin as being anything and everything that disrupts, or restricts, our relationship with God.  This is why Jesus died for our sins – to free us up to have relationship with him.  John does not speak of sin for the believers, or the church, to become the sin police to their community and their world.  John brings the negative impact of sin to the believers in order that we will experience the freedom of forgiveness in regard to our own sin and also in regard to our own practice of faith and relationship in the world.  That will not only receive forgiveness but, of equal importance, that we will give forgiveness so that sin does not continue to be a roadblock in our relationship with God. 

‘Forgiveness of sins is the community’s spirit powered mission to continue Jesus’ work of making Jesus known in the world.’

Gail R. O’Day, Biblical Scholar, and former Dean of Wake Forest University School of Divinity

See, in verse 23 of this passage, the how the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is intrinsically connected with the forgiveness we receive as well as the forgiveness we give.

Acts 2:1-21

On the day of Pentecost, a small crowd gathered in a room on the highest floor of a house in Jerusalem to wait for the manifestation of the promise Jesus made before his ascension. The promise was that the followers of Jesus would be baptized, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit would give the people power to be witnesses of Jesus, in word or deed, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Debra J. Mumford, Professor of Homiletics at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY

This promise that they were waiting for was not a new promise, long before this day they it had been given by the Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29) among many others.  A promise of power for all and a promise that would go beyond the lines of division that existed in their own culture.

If you read beyond our passage for this week, to the end of chapter two, you will see the power given by the Spirit, the power to be witnesses, as well as the creation of a new community that flowed out of the power. 

The appearance of the Spirit, in Acts 2, is an entirely new presentation of the Spirit than we see anywhere else.  This appearance of the Spirit is only possible because of the work of Jesus that took place prior to this day.

I Corinthians 12:3b-13

This passage is considered Paul’s greatest writing on the work of the Holy Spirit.  Paul points to salvation and community as the two essential works of the Spirit.

Salvation – Paul just uses one sentence to explain the role of the Paraclete in our acceptance of Jesus.  He proclaims that a decision to become a follower of Jesus is only possible through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit that reveals to us our need for the Salvation and that only way to follow is by the prompting of the Spirit.

Community – Paul teaches the different way the Spirit enables us play different roles in our faith community, the Church.  Gifts, as they are referred to are the individual roles given to us by the Spirit to empower and enable the church.  Paul specifically does communicates the importance of each and every gift noting that all are essential and necessary.  

Paul’s teaching about he work of the Spirit is not a blueprint of a well operating machine but of a community of believers commissioned and called to reflect the unity of God through our differing roles in the community.

05.18.20 – 05.24.20

Readings

Psalm 68:1-35  •  John 17:1-11  •  Acts 1:6-14  •  1 Peter 4:12-5:11

Context

Psalm 68:1-35

Psalm 68 ‘belongs to the lowly, who in the midst of the powers of this world remember and hope for the victory of God.’ 

J. Clinton McCann, Evangelical Professor of Biblical Interpretation Eden Seminary

Psalm 68 is thought to be the oldest Psalm.  It is filled with statements and references to God that are found to be impossible to fully interpret.  This means that some of the things are from such an ancient time that many of the words and meanings are foreign in our times.

It does seem, however, to be a song of victory as well as a song of hope in the longed for victory. Basically, it is a oppressed and/or hurting people who hope God is able, and willing, to rescue and save them from their distress and pain.

The beauty of not being given the exact meanings and of knowing we do not have a perfect translation is that we are then able to interpret, and apply, this hope to our own lives and our own times of distress, pain, and living and not knowing.

John 17:1-11

John 17 brings the final discourse of Jesus to his disciples to a close.  As you turn the page to chapter 18, you will most likely see a heading that either says ‘Jesus Arrested’, or ‘Judas’ Betrayal’.  Chapter 17, however, is not a lecture type teaching as we have seen since this began in chapter 14, this is actually a prayer.  This passage is commonly referred to as the The High Priestly Prayer.  The prayer begins with Jesus praying for himself, then for his disciples, and then for all that will BE followers in the future.  So, it is a prayer for us!

Since we did not cover the middle section of the final discourse, you may want to take the time to go back and read chapters 15 and 16.

This eleven verses of the prayer, a prayer that was intentionally overhearable by the disciples, begins with the phrase, ‘The hour has come…’. This may sound somewhat familiar to you as in the story of the wedding without enough wine, we see Jesus tell his mother ‘My hour has not yet come.’  It is time, time for Jesus to give the followers an insight into his purpose and mission, a time to let them know and understand his passion for them and their future, and a time for them to begin to grasp their connectedness to Jesus, God, Each Other, and for All Others.

It is a heavy time for Jesus, God, and his Disciples.

It is a time when we understand that Jesus prays for us.

Acts 1:6-14

As we return to chapter one of the book of Acts, it is essential to remember that Acts is often referred to as the sequel to the book of Luke.  As Luke authored both books, we see the continuation from the gospel of Luke to the New Testament Church Luke.  

This opening chapter takes us back to the time and events that occurred after the resurrection of Jesus up to the ascension of Jesus.  It is the final moments of the life of the Son, God in the flesh, and the beginning moments of the church.

What is especially notable in these nine verses is that the church is a ‘waiting’ church. In the final moments that Jesus has with the followers prior to ascending to heaven they are curious about what is next.  One questions if this is when Jesus will restore the Kingdom to Israel – Jesus answer it to wait.

As the followers look to the sky after Jesus is not longer visible, two stranger are standing next to them.  ‘Why are you looking up?’ they question.  We then see the followers return to Jerusalem to wait, just as Jesus had instructed.  As they arrive back in Jerusalem we see this group of men and women do what they know go do – they focused on truth and prayed.  The necessary foundation for the church.

1 Peter 4:12-5:11

This week we come to the conclusion of our readings in I Peter.  We have seen that Peter is speaking to a people who are not only in the minority faithwise, but they are also shunned and dismissed by that community. As we have read this letter, each chapter has seemed to intensify the hostility of the community towards this small groups of followers of Jesus in these various communities.  Ih the midst of this, Peter has called the followers to not only be faithful in their own faith, but to also be respectful to those that would persecute them for their faith.

In this final reading, we see Peter tell the suffering followers that there is a reason for this suffering, there is a purpose.  In the end, Peter explains, this suffering and pain will increase the strength of their faith and it will bring glory to God.

Consider the prayer of Jesus as he is about to face his intense time of persecution, dismissal, hostility directed at him, and the bearing of the sins of all mankind as you read Peter’s exhortation to these exiled believers.  Jesus’ coming pain, and the followers current pain, will all, eventually bring glory to God pointing to God.

05.11.20 – 05.17.20

Readings

John 14:15-21  •  Psalm 66:8-20  •  Acts 17:22-31  •  1 Peter 3:13-22

Context

John 14:15-21

Our gospel passage for this week takes up where we left off last week in the final discourse to his disciples prior to his arrest and crucifixion.  Remember that Jesus and the disciples have just celebrated the passover meal together, he has instructed them about the Lord’s Supper and remembering him, he has also confronted Judas and cautioned Peter. One other moment that is important, especially in reference to the passage for this week is that prior to the meal and all the events just mentioned, Jesus washed the feet of all twelve of the disciples.  The significance of this moment is that the feet of Judas, who was in the midst of betraying Jesus even in that very moment, and Peter, who was soon to deny he even knew Jesus – three times, were washed with the other ten disciples.  It is a major statement of the servanthood and love of Christ in that while they were ‘sinners’ Jesus still served and loved them.

During this section of the discourse, Jesus promises the disciples that he is not abandoning them, he will not leave them ‘orphaned’.  A promise is made by Christ that he will ask the Father to send an advocate. You bible may use another word instead of advocate which is understandable because the Greek word used here is ‘Paraclete” which encompasses everything that Jesus was, and did, with and for his disciples.  Jesus was their advocate, helper, constant companion, intercessor, comfort, the one that comes alongside, truth, and many more.  Jesus is defining who he is, and has been, and promises the followers that there will be another sent to fill all these roles when Jesus is gone.  

This promise harkens back to the initial prophesy, and promise, of Jesus – ‘He will be called Emmanuel, which means, God is with us.’

While the first words of this discourse (as seen last week) are a comfort and encouragement for the disciples in the coming hours, the words he gives in this section are comfort and encouragement for all that lies ahead. 

Psalm 66:8-20

This Psalm is a praise to God (the opening word should probably be ‘praise’ instead of ‘bless’ as some translations have) from a people, a community, who have come through a crisis and survived.  It is essential to see the communal aspect to this praise, especially in a time where our notion of faith is very individually perceived.  The Psalm is talking about a community of faith who have survived.  The crisis is described as a time of ‘fire’ and ‘water’ – a time of refinement (silver) and judgement (net).  Interestingly, the act of praise is very personal, very individualistic.  The burnt offering (act of praise), made by a “I’ (an individual) is the most expensive sacrifice that can be made in the temple.  The offering, a fatling is a one year old calf, the most valuable which had be expensively fed for an entire year.  As this offering is totally burnt in the act of sacrifice there is not even any remainder to eat or share.  The individuals makes the praise sacrifice knowing there will be not return on the money spent to raise this one year old calf.  It is a totally unselfish, as well as totally void of any personal agenda, offering of praise.

Think of the pandemic we have been through, and are still in the midst of, how have you seen God ‘bring your community of faith’ through the fire and water’?

Acts 17:22-31

We now look beyond the ascension of Jesus to the early years of the New Testament church when the apostles were beginning to feel the work of the opposition to the message of Jesus Christ.  Paul, along with Silas, have felt that opposition in very obvious ways.  It also is important to understand that as Paul and Silas experienced hostility, prison, and near death, those believers who supported Paul and Silas were targets of the anger as well.  Most of the overt hostility came from those connected with the Jewish religious institution, who would often be able to manipulate the crowds to oppose the teachings about Jesus.  In our Acts reading for this week we see Paul speaking to a largely Greek, gentile, crowd which includes many of the leaders of Athens.  As Paul was in Athens he taught as he usually did when entering a city.  He was disturbed by the increasing presence of idols and idol worship.  As his teachings began to create interest and controversy, the leaders called the two men (Paul and Silas) to come before them and explain.

Our passage begins with ‘Paul stood in front of the Areopagus’ which would be similar to the town hall concept of governing a city, a place where the citizens gather to make decisions and voice concerns.  However, this also refers to the official leaders who were sincerely investigating after hearing negative rumors probably circulated by the Jewish religious institution.  Paul, nor Silas, seem to have been forced to appear, nor were either under arrest, this was a sincere effort to understand and explain.

Paul’s words to the council of leaders demonstrates a respect of the people and leaders of the city.  He comments on their faith searching and journey.  He also identifies with the audience finding common ground between his message and their beliefs.  The listeners would have probably been impressed with his understanding of their culture especially as he quoted two of their poets.  He also garnered the support of many int he council as he insisted that God is not present in man made things (idols, etc.).

While his speech resulted in interest and converts, he most defiantly lost the support of most when he spoke of the resurrection of Jesus.  Resurrection, along with the idea of God in the flesh, was too much for the intellectual leaders of the city.

Paul’s unabashed effort before the Areopagus holds many insights into his respect for others as well as his refusal to eliminate or compromise the truth he was called to proclaim.

1 Peter 3:13-22

This is our next to last week in I Peter, his letter to small faith communities of faith that were far away from other believer communities, causing Peter to refer to them as exiles.  This community was persecuted for their faith, often times a persecution that was a ‘shunning’ from and by the non-believing community – sometimes the persecution was even more intense however.

In the last verse of our Acts passage, we see ‘he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’  This word assurance, which is probably better worded as ‘confident faith’ – presents the ‘how’ of surviving in their current bad situation.  Their faith has proof – Jesus was resurrected from the death.  It is that knowledge and reality that they can stand on a withstand the forces of hatred that was coming at them continually.  This encouragement and instruction also reminds the believers that, even though they feel isolated and abandoned, they are not, the very Christ that was raised from the dead remains present in the ‘Paraclete’ (refer back to John passage context).  Emmanuel, God is present, is present even though he is unseen.

05.04.20 – 05.10.20

Readings

Psalm 31:1-16  •  John 14:1-14  •  Acts 7:55-60  •  1 Peter 2:1-10

Context

Psalm 31:1-16

Our Psalm passage has a direct connection with our Acts reading, it is the passage that Stephen quotes as he is being put to death (vs. 5).  Also, take a moment to consider the imagery of verse 15 with the use of the word  ‘Hand.’  Most translations use this word twice in this one small verse – ‘My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.’  The hand is a word commonly used, especially in the Old Testament, to described power or the relinquishment of power, a declaration of innocence, a sign of character or lack thereof, among many other metaphorical meanings.  We also see this idea of of handing over ‘my life to God’ found in the story of Stephen.

John 14:1-14

This passage is the first part of the final discourse of Jesus, it is the final words of Jesus to his disciples.  Jesus begins this discourse at the final supper with his disciples – after Judas has exited to betray Jesus, and after the revelation to Peter that he would soon betray Jesus.  Although the event with Judas, and the moment with Peter, was probably missed by the other disciples, it was obvious to all that these were very heavy and ominous words coming from Jesus.  This was probably communicated through the demeanor of Jesus even more than in his words.  Those words are actually intended to comfort his followers in the soon to come times, but, as the disciples are unaware of the coming arrest and crucifixion (we are able to read this with the understanding of what happens next and therefore better understand what Jesus is saying) they sense the weight of his message even though they do not clearly understand its practical and emotional terms.  Thomas states, a statement that surely all were feeling, that he did not ‘know the way,’ and again, Jesus meets him, and the others, where they were and explains in depth that they have a connection with God through Jesus that will not be broken even though their world seems to fall apart.  It is a message of comfort, but much more a promise of relationship with God the Father that is possible due to God the Son.  It may be helpful, prior to reading this text, to go back and read over John 13 to set the context of what had just happened, this may assist you in picturing the scene as well as the emotions.

Acts 7:55-60  

Before you read this text, leaf through the events that have taken place in the book of Acts prior.  It is probable that you can just read the headings (if your bible gives such headings) of the various stories to see and understand the events that have led up to our reading in chapter seven.  Shortly after Pentecost, as the New Testament church was beginning to form – and after there had already been those who sought personal selfish attention/gain through this group of believers – there arose complaints by those who had been previously accustom to the religious institution officially taking care of people, primarily the caring for the widows and orphans.  The apostles recognized this as a legitimate complaint (possibly not the manner of complaining but the complaint itself) and set out to meet this very real need.  The church, not necessarily the apostles, were tasked with selecting seven men to address this need.  The first of the seven chosen was a man named Stephen, who we soon learn was not only respected but also had the heart of a servant.  Stephen, however, was not only a man who demonstrated the compassion and mercy of Jesus in his actions, he also was very passionate about telling others, in words as well as deeds, the truth of Jesus and the impact of Jesus on his own life.  As we see from chapter seven and the preceding section of chapter six, Stephen’s zest and testimony angered many who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, they especially did not appreciate that he was able to connect Jesus with all of their own religious ancestry.  Mostly, however, they hated being confronted and challenged.  As their anger rose, and their plan to stop Stephen came to fruition, they soon killed Stephen.  Stephen, a man who was publicly identified as a servant in all of his life, died for his words in much the same manner as the one who he followed and testified passionately about. He died in the same way he lived, as a servant.

1 Peter 2:1-10

As we see Peter speak with this group of ‘exiles’ in his letters to the believers that are spread out in Asia minor, he is now leading them as they begin to formulate their own identity.  Much of what Peter is saying to them comes from the accounts found in Exodus 19 as another group was identifying who they were.  As they are figuring out who they are, Peter is calling them to also began to identify their mission, their calling.  Peter begins this section of his letter with verse one, pointing out the things that will destroy their formulation of community and then he proceeds to identify their distinctive.  Peter is calling this group to rid themselves of those things are inaccurate identifiers of who they are and to reorientate their own lives as well as their lives together – as the church.

04.27.20 – 05.03.20

Readings

Psalm 23  •  John 10:1-10  •  Acts 2:42-47  •  1 Peter 2:19-25

Context

This coming Sunday, is commonly referred to as ‘Christ the Good Shepherd’ Sunday.  It is part of the Easter narrative detailing the events following the resurrection up through the accession. The passages this week point us to an understanding of Jesus as our shepherd.  

Psalm 23

We recently visited Psalm 23 during the Lenten season in addition to now, in the Easter season, as it addresses the leadership, provision, and abundance of Jesus as the shepherd.  It also is a passage that paints a realistic picture of the world in which we live as well as the fact that we are often feeble human beings who make wrong choices and have to live with the natural consequences. While we often think of the ‘evil’ in verse 4 as being a force against us, it is also, and even more so, a force of guilt and shame from within us.  The actions of disobedience, of sin, that haunt us and threaten to force us off the path on which the shepherd leads us. 

Notice the use of ‘table’, abundance (‘cup overflows’), and ‘dwell’, as you read and consider this Psalm 23.

John 10:1-10

When reading this passage, is necessary to realize that there is actually no break between chapter nine and chapter ten, it is all the same discussion, story, and moment.  Jesus had healed the blind man which had set off a firestorm defense from the the religious establishment leadership. It is an interesting read as the healed man, followed by his parents, are put in the risky position of having to explain what happened, and by whom the healing took place, all without making the accusing leaders angry and vengeful.

It is also important to understand the political culture of the time in seeking to understand the message from Jesus in our chapter ten passage.  In the Roman society, and in the Greek society prior to that, the emperor is considered the ruler, ruling by power and might.  He seeks to keep a people under control by threats and, sometimes favors.  It was a time of widespread hunger and scarcity of other vital resources.  Jesus counters this understanding of leadership in painting himself as a humble but dedicated shepherd, sincerely concerned with the welfare of the people rather than control. The metaphor of ‘sheep’, a ‘gate’, an ‘abundant pasture’, a ‘recognized voice’, ‘thieves and bandits’, and a ‘sacrificial’ shepherd (see verse eleven) is in direct opposition to the political leadership system of the day.

One other note before you read, in verse six, we see that the listeners (consisting primarily of Jesus’ followers) did not understand the meaning of the story about sheep.  Remember, his disciples, the primary group that followed with and learned from Jesus, were mostly fishermen, a story about sheep was possibly a foreign concept for them.  While this was the best way to express the point that Jesus was seeking to make, a metaphor that directly challenged the common manner of thought, Jesus went on to provide an explanation to these listeners.

It would be helpful to read chapter nine, before reading chapter ten, to set you mind on the context, and then, in chapter ten, read on at least through verse eleven.  Also, when you read, let your understanding go beyond, and maybe through, the things you have always heard preached and taught about this passage – it might be that the Holy Spirit seeks to enlarge your understanding of the message given.

Acts 2:42-47

Our Acts passage this week takes place after the resurrection, after the accession, and after Pentecost.  While we don’t see a reference to Jesus referred to as a shepherd, we do see, however, the role of shepherding, provision, generosity, goodwill, and devotion clearly present.  This is the beginning of the church, the natural and sincere response of the people who had begun a relationship with God during the act of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (when the Spirit descended).  It is the beginning of the creation of community based on the shepherding of Christ among the people.

An interesting correlation of this community, as compared to the community depicted in the John passage – there, were saw a community that had excluded a man due to his disability, blindness, then rejected him even further because he was healed by Jesus Christ.  In this Acts passage, we see an inclusive community providing, and looking out, for each other.  Many in this community were the  travelers who had been in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost – most of whom were probably from the Galilee area north of Jerusalem.  They were now outsiders in Jerusalem, their livelihood was gone, insecure, and at constant risk – followers of the Jesus who had recently been crucified.  They were not welcome, except within the community of Jesus’ followers – in the church. This was a devoted community who wanted to understand Jesus more and more, while also wanting to be hospitable, caring, and generous, not just in their own community, but to all peoples.

Consider the trying and strange times in which these new followers of Jesus created community and compare it with our own trying and strange times and how we have created and continued in community.

1 Peter 2:19-25

We have been looking at the context of I Peter for the past couple of weeks and are probably comfortable in our understanding – the followers of Christ are a small minority in their communities and are therefore rejected outcasts, and Peter has instructed them to remain faithful while still being respectful to their attackers. In this passage we see Peter addressing the suffering these Christians are experiencing.  It is essential to note that this suffering is directly a result of their belief in Jesus – it is probably a persecution by intense, and very real, ostracism.  In this teaching, Peter, reminds them that is a suffering to be expected and there is no place for pride, vengeance, blame, or accusations in the midst of their pain.  They are to respond with love.

Possibly the best example we have that compares with the teaching of Peter is the non-violent activism during the civil rights period.  People stood up for their belief but did so in a non-reactionary manner, accepting the reactions of the crowds.  This, of course, was first learned by the African American leaders as they watched the activism of Ghandi in India.  

04.20.20 – 04.26.20

Readings

Acts 2:14-41  •  Psalm 116:1-19  •  1 Peter 1:17-23  •  Luke 24:13-35

Context

Psalm 116:1-19

The Psalmist is reflecting on his/her gratitude for God’s rescue from, and in the midst of, troubling and trying times.  The writer uses beautiful metaphors to articulate, while painting a masterful picture, of the mercy, compassion, and love of God.  ‘God bent (inclined) down to hear me,’ is just one of these artistic verbal descriptions to give us a visual image of God – and us.  This Psalm does not paint an unrealistic picture however, pain and death is still very present.  Suffering does not evaporate in the presence of God’s mercy and love.  The Psalmist, however, uses this pain to further describe God in the midst, ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.’  This is not a statement of evil joy, that God is happy at our death, but instead that he holds precious those that are going through this experience, those dying and those mourning.  Think of the Jesus’ tears as he approached the tomb of Lazarus as Mary and Martha grieved.  There is the proclamation of recognition, remembrance, and gratitude as we can trust, and recognize, the rescue of God, a rescue that is persevering (whatever form that takes) through not perishing in the midst, ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.’  Arriving at the inner desire to respond out of recognition of God in the midst, God that is present, ‘What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?’

What ‘Cup of Salvation’ are you able to lift up in recognition of God’s mercy, strength, love, compassion at work in your life?

Luke 24:13-35

There is something about roads, the way roads bring us together, the way roads can pose a danger to us all, the way roads become a symbol of a faith on the move. It is poignant then, that the narrative of these two disciples on the road to Emmaus draws us to the conclusion of the Third Gospel. The story is a narrative wonder. Irony, misunderstanding, drama, a reveal: these are components of powerful story. Moreover, a number of Luke’s themes are woven together in this narrative: table fellowship, hospitality, faithfulness, discipleship. The scene on this road augurs (interprets) the future of Christ’s church in Luke’s imagery. This will be a church on the move, sent out by a Jesus who walks alongside us even when we don’t recognize him.

Eric Barreto, Princeton Theological Seminary

It was an overwhelming day – the day that the women ventured to the tomb of Jesus as soon as they could go to there after the post crucification Sabbath. As Jesus appeared to the women as they left the empty tomb, then appearing in the room with the hiding disciples, then to a doubtful Thomas, finally, later the same day, we see a follower named Cleopas, along with another Jesus follower, encounter Jesus on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  There were many rumors of Jesus resurrection, a handful of accounts of actual encounters of the risen Jesus, and then this extended encounter that began on a road and concluded at the dinner table.

Last week we saw the first lesson to those who would be the apostles and leaders in the New Testament Church – the lesson of Peace.  Peace that is the catalyst of our searching and seeking; peace that permits us to patiently persevere and continue in our faith journey even when the questions and doubts seem to never stop.  Peace that permits us to finally see what we have been searching, and hoping, for all along.

While this second passage may seem more of a review, Jesus eventually intervenes in the conversation and explains – actually, it is primarily a lesson on the presence of Jesus.  As we see, Jesus is in the presence of these two grieving men on the road and at the table.  It was only after their hearts and minds caught up with their eyes that they could take a look back and realize they had been in the presence of Jesus for a good part of the day.  It is a lesson reemphasized forty days later as Jesus prepares to leave the disciples and reminds them ‘remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

While this passage will be our primary focus this Sunday, begin now considering the dynamics of the encounter of these men with Jesus on the road and at the table.  What unrecognized encounters are you having with Jesus on the road and at the table?

Acts 2:14-41

In the first century, Judaism was unique in that it was truly a multiethnic religion. This is relevant as we look at this passage and see the make up of the crowds that had gathered in Jerusalem on the day that Peter delivers the sermon/message that we find in this passage.  This is the day of Pentecost, the day that the followers of Jesus had been waiting for since Christ ascended to heaven.  Now the Spirit was descending onto the people that had journeyed to Jerusalem, those who were open to the impact of the Spirit were not only able to hear God’s message from Peter that day but they were also ready to receive his words.

As the Holy Spirit descended on the people, it was a fulfillment of God’s promise to the Jews.  This was not yet a message to the gentiles, that would come soon, but now it connected the faith of these people to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This fulfillment of God’s promise is actually what Jesus was explaining to Cleopas, and the other follower, in our Luke passage.

Another aspect of the context going into this day depicted in this passage, and, at the same time, an aspect of our own reality as we look at this passage, is this idea of change, and adjusting to a new normal.  The Jewish people, from the beginning, were a people who were constantly having to let go of an old normal, the way things use to be, and accepting/grasping/adjusting to a new normal.  Whether it was leaving the garden, a flood that wipes out everything that you know and understand, suddenly not understanding the language of others, becoming an exile and a slave……the list goes on and on – the people were constantly seeing change happen before their eyes.  This is much like us in our new normal as we adjust to the sudden change, and probably much permanent change, that has taken place due to the current pandemic.  This crowd of people in the streets of Jerusalem for this holiday were as diverse as could be except for one thing, they all worshipped the same God, they shared a common faith.  It is in this diversity that there is a common enlightenment – Jesus. 

Peter, as he preaches, does not shy away from the brutally of the cross, a travesty that many of those listening to Peter shared a certain responsibility for – for they had surely yelled ‘Crucify Him’. The focus on this painful aspect of the sacrifice of Christ, however,  is necessary for the crowds to understand the point.  Jesus was not only a sacrifice, he was their sacrifice. They responded by asking ‘What do we do now?’ as they sought to adjust to this understanding, this new normal.

Much of the crowds that went home, and those who remained in Jerusalem, shared something in common, God has given them a new normal.  It was not a different normal, they still believed in the same God of their faith, but now they saw the work, and the promise fulfilled, from that God.  God had invited them to be a part of his work and many responded and accepted that invitation.

1 Peter 1:17-23

Years after his message in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, we see Peter now addressing the believers who are ‘exiled’, separated from others believers.  This ‘exile’ could be that they are Jewish believers who are geographically separated from others of common faith, or, most likely, is addressed to gentiles who are actually from this distant place yet have chosen to believe in, and to follow, Jesus.  Peter explains to these believers that they are no longer shackled by the practices of religion passed on by their ancestors worshipping their idols and false gods.  He reminds them of the basis of the faith they now follow that they, are not only to live respectfully among a people who do not share their faith, but that they also are to unite with those who do share their faith.  A unity that permits them to seek and find the manner in which they can be an encouragement of faith and growth to each other in the midst of their ‘exile’ and distant environment.  They are searching how to be ‘church’.

04.13.20 to 04.19.20

Readings

Psalm 16  •  Acts 2:14-36  •  1 Peter 1:3-9  •  John 20:19-31

Context

Psalm 16

In our Acts reading we see Peter, at Pentecost, use verses 8-11 of Psalm 16 to confirm to the crowds that are listening to his sermon (as the Holy Spirit is impacted those present) that he is, indeed, talking about the same God that they worship.  

King David, the Psalmist who proclaims that only God is his God and that he will not turn to the false gods as others do.  When Peter refers to this proclamation from the Psalmist he is setting his credentials of following the same God of King David, and therefore, the same God that they follow.  In other words, Peter is laying out a foundation to the people that the God he is talking about is not a foreign, or false, God, but actually, he is referring to their God.

Psalm 16 is the testimony of a man who had drawn a line in the sand and said, ‘I will only worship, follow, and trust the One True God.’  To understand why David would have taken such a firm stance, read Psalm 15 in which he talks about the man/woman who is accepted in the dwelling of God. Basically, Psalm 16 is the ‘How to Be…’ of Psalm 15

Acts 2:14-36

As the apostles went into the streets forty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they were going at the push of the Holy Spirit in the midst of an international flood of Jews into the gates of Jerusalem.  Christ had breathed the Holy Spirit into them prior to his ascension and now that same Spirit was preparing these crowds to hear the message of God coming from the disciples.  As we saw in our Psalm primer above, Peter identifies with the crowd by aligning with the allegiance to, and worship of, the One True God.  In referring to the Psalm passage, Peter does one more thing – He brings the fullness of the meaning of the Psalmist from simply being about David to a fuller understanding of the reference to Christ the Messiah.  Peter, as he speaks to the religious and devout persons that make up the crowd, he is bringing their faith full circle, explaining how the God they worship is the God that gave his Son – the Son who is their long promised Messiah.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Peter was writing to Christians who were residents of five Roman provinces in the area of Asia Minor.  Within the letters from Peter to these believers we see that they are suffering some type of persecution.  Scholars differ on the type of persecution, whether it is physical or more of a social manner.  It would make sense either way, they are a group ostracized by the majority of their communities due to their belief in God rather than that a King/ruler could be God.  The believers are primarily new Christians and rather immature in their faith and in their relationship as ‘Church.’ Peter’s call to these is a call of perseverance and loyalty to Christ – to live a life above reproach while living amongst a hostile society with respect and hope.  

In our assigned passage of the first letter of Peter, the apostle is referring to their current situation as being in the middle of trials and tribulation.  As you read think on Peter’s use of joy for their earthly suffering and salvation for their eternal outcome.  Also, consider Peter’s use of gold to describe the unseen process that is going on in their lives.  Look at Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:2-3, Isaiah 48:10, and Proverbs 17:3 to better understand the use of this metaphor to describe what is going on as they experience trials and tribulation.

John 20:19-31

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 10:34-43

In this Acts 10 passage which we read last week, we see the intentionality of the resurrection as well as the reports of those who, not only saw him, but interacted with him on a very intimate level following the resurrection.  These, who did have the post resurrection moment of ‘being with Jesus’, were to be the eye witnesses to the resurrection and the life of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world – those who would have not experienced the, post resurrection, first person face to face with Jesus.  The first of those witnesses was the women who went to the tomb the morning after the Sabbath.  The other followers heard the testimony of the women but were suspicious and doubtful until they, themselves, had the same personal face to face interaction.  In our passage from John we see Jesus appear to the disciples.  Thomas was not there and insisted that he would not believe until he also had seen Jesus.

Thomas often gets a bad rap, his name if forever associated with doubt.  The truth is that Thomas wanted, and needed (he assuredly was incapable, at that time, of realizing the necessity it was for him to have his own post resurrection face to face experience with Jesus), the same experience that the others had – the unique ‘experience of the risen Jesus’. Those eyewitnesses who would be the apostles forming the New Testament Church.  When Jesus does appear to Thomas, there is no confrontation concerning the doubt Thomas expressed, instead, we see that Jesus met the disciples exactly where he needed to be met.  Thomas needed to see Jesus to be able to testify to others that he had truly seen.  For Thomas, doubt was a positive, it forced him to seek and search, he was looking and eventually he was seeing.

What is most important in this entrance of Jesus into the room was that his first words to the scared disciples was ‘Peace to You.’  Words he had said in his last encounter with the men, words that he said to the women, words, said or inferred, that were a common refrain in all his encounters. Words that would be said again – a command that continues to pertains to us, today, in the midst of our own strange experiences and circumstances.

Peace that is in spite of current situations and atmospheres.  Peace that is dependent, not on earthly things, people, or institutions – Peace that is based one hundred percent on Jesus Christ.  

Peace in the midst of fear.  Peace in the midst of confusion.  Peace in the midst of disillusionment.  Peace in the midst of disappointment. Peace in the midst of doubt.  Peace in the midst of hopelessness.  Peace in the face of hatred.  Peace in the midst of worry.  

Peace.

04.06.20 – 04.12.20

Readings

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24  •  Acts 10:34-43  •  Colossians 3:1-4  •  Matthew 28:1-10

Context

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

“To read the Bible well, you have to keep flipping backwards. Christians tend to get stuck in the New Testament—evangelicals typically in John or Paul, mainline liberals in the Synoptic Gospels. But the New Testament is merely a reader’s guide to the Old. Hardly a word can be understood without flipping back. This psalm shows us how to read the Bible. It is a song of victory. Jesus embodies [Psalm 118:19-20, 26] of victory with his triumphal entry…….The Bible is a book of praise from back to front. Once you wander in there, you keep going deeper.”

Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology

The writer of this Psalm, and the situation that served as the catalyst for this writing, was desperate.  This was most likely a time when all hope seemed to be lost and the people, as well as the author, can see no hope.  Reality offers not even a glimpse of light; all is darkness.  

Often times, in the Old Testament especially, the prayers of desperation seem to be a bit manipulative.  ‘God, you are great, you are mighty, you are, at this moment, my only hope.  So, I am going to praise you because I know you like that….’  While this may be a harsh assumption, God, regardless of the motivation, still responds with light and hope.

Byassee says that we must always flip back to the OT to understand, this is true – the reverse is true as well – we must also, always, flip forward.  As you read this Psalm also reread the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Triumphal Entry and let the New Testament help you also understand the OT.

Acts 10:34-43

It is impossible to fully grasp the message of the apostle Peter in this passage without remembering the transformation in his own life and faith.  Peter, has been challenged, since the resurrection and ascension – his complete view of his faith, and faith practice, has been altered.  Most significantly, he has realized that God’s message is for all, not just the Israelite.  He had a vision from God that said nothing is clean or unclean, then he was sent to share about Jesus to a gentile, a gentile who was a Roman official……and then he baptized him!  This was a huge change, a monumental enlargement of the audience God was sending him to preach to.

The second change we hear in this message from Peter is that he is not talking about God, or Jesus, in the past tense.  What is going on is just an extension of God’s work of rising Jesus from the dead.  You can hear it in his wording the first three verses of this message:

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. Acts 10:34-36

Observe the case of some of these words, ‘shows’ and ‘is’ are present tense.  He is not talking about what God has done or what Jesus did do, he is talking about what is being done, what is going on now – Peter is saying ‘Jesus is not in a tomb, however, he is now in the room!’

Peter points the listeners to his, and probably their, first person experience with the human Jesus and the responsibility that experience carries.  He is also talking about his ongoing experience and how that is transforming him constantly.

Colossians 3:1-4

This idea of ongoing transformation in the life of those who are believers and followers of Jesus continues here as Paul writes to the church at Colossae.  Flip back to chapter two and see what Paul is saying to the church in the last section of this chapter.  See the question that explains what he is addressing at the beginning of chapter three.

While we often think of God’s transformation in our lives as being somehow magical and mystical, Paul presents this change of thought as being a responsibility of the believer.  Look at the change he is specifically addressing in chapter two. After you see what prompted Paul’s words in our Colossians reading you may want to read all of chapter two to understand why the emphasis is on the regulations and practices.  If, you are up for more ‘searching’ see the specifics that Paul points out in the remainder of chapter three.  Much of the things he tells the church to put aside are the same thing the Roman philosophers are warning the people against.  Paul is pointing out the things that are on the forefront of the minds of the Romans and explaining the correlation, while pointing out the power from the risen Christ in that effort of change.

Matthew 28:1-10 (additional reading of John 20:1-18 is suggested)

It is after the Sabbath and the women are doing what you do after a death and burial, they return to the tomb.  It is a dark time for them, just as dealing with death always is, so they return to mourn.  Their hope is gone and they are attempting to deal with all of this the way they would always deal with this type of situation.  The male disciples are hiding out, not really sure of what to do next and not sure of how safe the world is for them now.  They are also keenly aware that they deserted Jesus, just as he said they would.

This Matthew passage is focused completely on the experience of the women at the tomb, in the John passage, however, we see the reaction of the men.  It is very interesting that as they, the men, hear the news from the women they automatically rise and run to the tomb.  They knew Jesus and his love, if there had been shame at their desertion they now threw it down as they ran to Jesus.

Returning to the Matthew passage we see Jesus, as he speaks to the women, pick up where he left off.  Jesus, who prior to the crucifixion, had told the disciples he would go before them to Galillee, now he simply reminds them to go to Galilee.

What does that tell you about Jesus?

03.29.20 – 04.05.20

Readings

Isaiah 50:4-9  •  Psalm 31:9-16  •  Philippians 2:5-11  •  Matthew 26:14-27:66

Context

Isaiah 50:4-9

The prophet Isaiah accepted God’s call to a prophet early in life and, it is important to note, this would be a call on him for the remainder of his earthly life.  This passage is a song of despair and grief while, at the same time,  a proclamation of an ultimate hope in God.  He proclaims his faithfulness to God and God’s calling while noting the opposition he is consistently facing publicly.  There is also a need to realize that, at this point, Isaiah is not just addressing a frequently hostile public but is also in the struggle to teach followers (teacher or disciples).  Verse four, “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher (also translated ‘a tongue for teachers’), that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” – indicates that he is also attempting to encourage them as he seeks encouragement for himself.  Isaiah, much like Jesus upon entering Jerusalem for a week that would end up at the cross, knows that his public ministry is now subject to rejection and hatred. He also feels the weight of keeping up the spirits of those who are depending on him for nurturing.

Psalm 31:9-16

This vividly depressing Psalm is often, along with Psalms 22 and 69, to emphasis the physical and emotional aspects in the life of Jesus during this time of year.  It is a demonstration of the Passion of Christ.  This particular Psalm is most likely written by, or for, King David during an especially difficult time.  Although he does not name his adversaries, we can see the agony and pain faced by David.  This, as in the dialogue of Jesus and Father immediately prior to the arrest of Christ, is honest with the pain and grief but ends with a hope that flows from an acceptance and trust in God’s plan.

Philippians 2:5-11

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he was writing to believers who were surrounded by the followers of Political leaders and of the Roman gods, all of whom would use their power as need to feed their own selfish appetites.  Although the gods often took human form they also held on to their divine powers which they used whenever needed.  Paul addresses the difference between gods and leaders whose hold on, and use of, power and selfish ambition is what propels and sustains them, while, Jesus ‘humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.’  It was Jesus who was ultimately exalted, not because of his power but because he was truly a servant.

As you better understand what Paul is saying to the church, consider why this followed the first part of this teaching which said:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 1:1-4

Matthew 26:14-27:66

This passage needs very little context.  It is the days prior to the death of Jesus on the cross – the events, the emotions, the betrayals, the pleadings, the brutality, the pain, the death. It is an exhausting read, not just because of the length of the assigned passages but because of the picture that is painted for us as we experience this grueling week.