I grew up in a conservative Christian environment. This shaped much of who I was and am; after high school I attended a very conservative Bible college. While I wandered from the faith shortly after this- actually I walked away from it- I remained in that sphere of influence, especially as it related to my political thinking. Continue reading
The disciples have gathered in Jerusalem, awaiting the “baptism [with] the Holy Spirit” that Jesus had promised in Acts 1:5. It is Pentecost, the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week (which was also the day Jesus was resurrected). Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks/Feast of Harvest.
At once, a sound “came from Heaven” and filled the room where the 120 believers were gathered and something like “tongues of fire” rested above each of the believers. Continue reading
Acts 1 begins with an introduction from the writer, Luke. Originally a two-volume piece called “Luke-Acts” (10 points for originality), these books are a biography; Luke is a biographical account of Jesus and his ministry while Acts is a biographical account of the early church.
Picking up where Luke ends, we see Jesus give final instructions to the remaining 11 apostles. They are to return to Jerusalem and await the “gift”- the Holy Spirit to baptize them after which they are to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Continue reading
As we read through the scriptures, we are frequently challenged by the question of application. Specifically, “What is its meaning for today?” Jesus’ own words and instructions are hard enough. Throughout the Gospels in general and the Sermon on the Mount in particular, we see that the way of God’s Kingdom is more difficult to live by that we can imagine. Continue reading
A few years ago, we used the movie Groundhog Day in our youth ministry. We wanted to use a piece of media that would connect with our students through humor and would introduce the concepts of joy, self, and the error of being our own authority. Continue reading
Studying the story of the so-called “rich young man/ruler” for last night. In each of the three accounts, the opening question from the man is a version of “what good thing must I do to have/get/inherit eternal life”?
While I’m not an expert, my hunch (in reading through the the balance of scripture) is that inheritance was something earned and not merely given, owed or deserved. I essence, the man was asking, “how can I secure my place in heaven?”
Jesus plays along, telling him about keeping the commandments, all of them, in fact. When the man admits that he’s done so, what Jesus tells him to sell all that he has, give the $ to the poor, and only then can he join Jesus. Then man walks away sad, because of his great wealth. The disciples ask Jesus about who can enter God’s kingdom and the difficulty of it all. Then and only then does Jesus show his hand.
Like the younger son in the story of the prodigal son, we demand inheritance based on our own works, efforts and perceived goodness. We approach Jesus proud and arrogant. And Jesus tells us, simply, that it’s not enough. There is always something else that Jesus will insist that we give up when we pursue eternity on our own terms. Jesus does this to reveal to us that there is nothing that we can do to have/get/inherit this eternal life. It’s impossible with man.
Instead, we see Jesus revealed as the father in the story of the prodigal, willing and ready to give us what is most certainly not ours to have. He gives us what is not ours, whether we keep the commands or not. He gives us that which we do not deserve.
And it is because of this gift that we respond open-handed, broken, despondent into the arms of a loving Father who wants us to simply come home.
This is grace. Shocking, offensive, and beautiful grace.
Things we know for sure about Jesus from Mark 16
Jesus was not in the tomb when the two Marys arrived
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first
Jesus next appeared to 2 of the disciples on the road
Jesus was not recognized by them because he was in a different form
Jesus appeared to all 11 disciples, rebuking them for their unbelief
Jesus told the disciples to go out and preach the good news to all the earth
Jesus told them that whoever responded with belief and baptism would be saved
Jesus said that the evidence of true belief would be miraculous works
Jesus was taken to heaven, and the disciples obeyed his command
Things we know for sure about Jesus from Mark 15
Jesus was bound, led away and handed over to Pilate for trial
Jesus admitted to being the King of the Jews, then was silent for the rest of his trial
Jesus was flogged, then handed over for crucifixion
Jesus was mocked by a company of Roman guards
Jesus was insulted and mocked while on the cross
Jesus called out to God, asking why he was forsaken
Jesus was killed in front of his mother and other close friends
Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb and the tomb was sealed.
Things we know for sure about Jesus from Mark 14
Jesus defended the marginalized in society
Jesus knew that he was going to die and talked about his pending funeral
Jesus is a truth-teller
Jesus participated in the religious rituals of the day
Jesus knew he was to be betrayed
Jesus re-contextualized the Passover meal- from the Exodus and freedom from spiritual bondage to the freedom from spiritual bondage
Jesus predicted that his disciples would abandon him
Jesus asked him disciples to wait for him while he went off alone to pray
Jesus was scared and filled with sorrow
Jesus asked God to remove his burden and task from him
Jesus knew that God’s will was more important that his own desires and emotions
Jesus went to meet his betrayer
Jesus knew that the scriptures testified about him and that his obedience mattered
Jesus was taken to trial and had false testimony given against him
Jesus admitted that he was the Messiah; he was claiming to be God
Jesus was mocked, spat upon, and beaten by the council
Jesus was betrayed by Peter three times