Jonah 3:1-5, 10 • Psalm 62:5-12 • 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 • Mark 1:14-20
Context: We usually assign the story of Jonah as being just a story about Jonah and his disdain for the people of Ninevah. However, the story of Jonahhas so many layers to it. It is definitely important to understand Jonah and his attitude. He was a called to speak for God – which he did, and he did it very effectively, even when he was trying to hide from God. It is also an amazing story of God’s miraculous work in Ninevah. To understand just how bad the situation was in Ninevah, take a moment to read the book of Nahum, it is only three chapters. The literary form of Nahum makes it a bit tough to fully digest, but, you can get a good idea from the tone of the wording to understand the depths of degradation of this community.
Insight: Jonah loathed the people in Ninevah and he was angered by the very idea of God being merciful towards Ninevah. Jonah’s mind was made up, he was not swayed by God’s love for this people or the miracle that took place. Possibly, take a moment to consider your own attitudes towards people in this, our time of great national and world division.
Context: The book of Psalms does not always give us a clear definite context, but we can always assign the Psalms to a human experience which which we can identify. Psalm 62 gives us a very clear contextual emotional state of being – it is written by someone who has been through, or is currently going through, a time of great crisis or difficulty. A time when the person(s) is recognizing that hope lies only in God.
Insight: I am writing/recording this on the Tuesday before the Wednesday that we, in the United States, are awaiting with a certain amount of anxiety and dread. In light of what has happened over the past few weeks, as well as the past couple of months, things we naively never imaged would happen in our nation (not to mention the past years) – we are looking for hope, we are looking for rescue. We are hopeful for the impact of vaccines but we are concerned about the new strain of Covid; we are hopeful for peace in our streets but we have to be honest that racial hatred still exists; we are encouraged by our economy but we are aware that things can change in an instant. The question the Psalmist is asking is “What is our hope, where does our hope lie, on whom do we place our hope?’
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Context: To be honest, I thought “What the heck?!?’ when I first saw this was our epistle for this week. Author Paul is writing to a church that is a mess. They are stuck in their way of thinking and the faith they are practicing. In this passage we see Paul write “from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none’ – this is the same Paul who beautifully defines love in chapter 13! To put it simply, Paul is speaking to specific problems of the time for the Corinthians that, in a general sense, still address the world of 2021. We will live in a world where there is an urgency to address problems, a world where we still need to decide what our hope is founded on.
Insight: As you read, consider our current world atmosphere and the anxieties we live in. What is the urgency? Are we still trying to find our peace in the normality of the past or are we living in the ‘newness’ of what God is doing in our world now? This is deep stuff, and honestly, Paul is not making it much easier to digest – but this is a necessary prompt if we are to put truth into action.
Context: Mark crams a lot into the first chapter of his gospel. He begins the story with a 30 years old Jesus. This is important to recognize as he has already lived this human experience for 3 decades and he has likely gone through, and been groomed by, the religious education system. He has already seen most of the elements of the human experience and has gained a full understanding of the religious institution, as well as the political systems. He is not naively idealistic about humanity.
This passage is considered by many to be Jesus own official declaration of his earthly public ministry. The first words from Jesus are documented by Mark in verse 15 when he says, ‘It is time.’ And ‘time it is.’ While the verses that detail the happenings in the life of Jesus prior to this passage are much more personal, now we start to see and hear Jesus step into the ‘people.’ Before he makes this ‘It is time,’ proclamation he has been baptized by John the baptizer, affirmed by God, and spent 40 days in the wilderness with Satan who has engaged in an unprecedented attack directly on Jesus. It has been a lot, it has been ‘enough’, and now he is ready to step forward onto a very public path.
Insight: There are 3 things to keep in mind as you look at this passage.
- Mark, before Jesus actually speaks, says that Jesus was ‘proclaiming the good news (gospel).’ This is significant because Jesus is actually calling the people to something much more revolutionary than the ‘you are bad and God is mad’ standard religious message.
- Jesus and John the baptizer do not use the typical Hebrew words for repentance. Usually, the Hebrew word used would be ‘Teshuvah’ which is what we usually think of when we hear ‘Repent.’ That familiar word would have have held the standard meaning of ‘you have sinned against God or you have sinned against others.’ The Hebrew word used by John and Jesus was ‘metanoia’ which is a much deeper word meaning to ‘change one’s mind, a change of the inner person,’ – it is a message about the heart rather than just about our actions. Here we see the radical nature of Jesus’ message, as well as John’s call, it is a call to a new perspective, it is revolutionary!
- This opening proclamation of Jesus, combined with the immediate actions he takes (plus the plural nature of his words), signifies that he is going to begin by building community.
Message for this week is ‘Hardly Heart, Hardy Heart‘