“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Dickens, Charles “A Tale of Two Cities”
So wrote Charles Dickens about the times of Hezekiah. Or if he didn’t, perhaps he should have.
Hezekiah is a towering figure in the Old Testament. In the kingdom of Judah he stands as a first rank reformer, a charismatic and determined leader who from the moment he took power was passionately focussed on restoring the worship of Israel’s God. His life is a triumph of zeal for God. Yet there is more going on.
The view amongst the Jewish leaders of the 1st century was that the study of the scriptures earned the student eternal life. This idea was preserved in early Jewish writing – let’s take a look at a couple of examples: Continue reading “Jesus vs. the Bible”
The parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is well known to us all. The Lord followed the practice of the day using questions to draw out his challenger and set up the point he wished to make. What was the issue? In response to Christ, the lawyer gave the standard response of the Shema from Deut 6:5 but merges it with Lev 19:8 – something the Lord approved. Having a knowledge of the truth requires a response. Loving God means expressing that love to others – otherwise it is not real love 1 John 4:20.
Responding to the short ending of the Gospel of Mark
What next? This is the challenge, the opportunity and the requirement. What next.
When I was young. To my children of course this means sometime in the late 1800s and to others richer in years the phrase is nonsense since I clearly am still young (I like this opinion more). When I was young, there was a brief period in which ‘choose your own adventure books’ become popular. These books made the reader the hero of the story and offered them choices on which their success of failure would depend. E.g. when confronted by the three-headed fish monster should they fight? (turn to page 5), run away? (turn to page 74) or jump back in the pond? (turn to page 134). The reader was invited to work their way through different paths to save the day, get the treasure or whatever. The experience, and the story line, depended on logical choices and occasionally chance. The objective was reader engagement as you essentially became the story.
The gospel of Mark has a very peculiar feature. Like Schubert’s 8th symphony it a masterpiece, but one missing a fairly normal, fairly important bit. The end. Or so it appears. Continue reading “Choose your own adventure”
The tragedy of Cain and Abel is a shocking one that reflects humanity’s insatiable lust for conflict. Their story is traditionally examined from the standpoint of ‘what happened to Abel, and why?’, but a greater lesson emerges when we look at what happened afterwards. Continue reading “Cain & Abel”
Christ is the bridge between our needs and our capacity
In Mark 9 we read about the healing of the epileptic boy (there are parallel accounts in Matt 17 and Luke 9). This record powerfully demonstrates not only the importance of faith for a disciple but more – the willingness of the Lord to bridge the gap when our own resources are inadequate. Continue reading “Help my unbelief”
To insult someone is to insult the God who created them
The section of the Sermon on the Mount subtitled “Anger” (ESV), “Concerning Anger” (NRSV), or “Murder” (NIV) in Matthew 5:21-27 is both familiar and strange. We understand what it means to insult someone and to be angry with someone, but we may not be sure what “raca” means, nor possibly would we understand why the punishment for doing so is to be “in danger of hell fire”. What is the difference between the “judgement” and the “council”? How does one pay a debt to the last penny when one is stuck in a debtors’ prison? Like much in the Sermon on the Mount, there’s some digging to do before the passage is as clear to us as it would have been to the Galilean fishermen who first hear it. Continue reading “Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation”
As believers, we have received the miracle of life, healing from death. How will we respond? Will we show gratitude? Will we turn to learn more from the master and make him our teacher? Will we demonstrate he is our Lord and superior? Or will we not think, not let him affect our lives and maintain an external unthinking compliance which minimizes the power of the gospel? Continue reading “Ten lepers and one man saved”
We are captives of Christ and should see our lives through this lens
Do reversals, failures and inconsistencies disqualify us as disciples? No. On the contrary they are consistent with the challenges associated with discipleship, they are part and parcel of the life of a believer. Rather than denigrate those who lives are seemingly full of reversals, or question God’s work with us due the burden of our own lives, we need to contextualise these experiences as normal for the faithful. Continue reading “Triumphant prisoners”
A recent conversation shocked me. I was talking to a believer I had always admired, one who in my limited judgement, not only possesses the gifts of grace and service, but regularly applies them. However they confessed to me they felt a failure as they were not a bible student. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Tim 2:15 was the passage brought forward as evidence of their deficiency and lack of self-worth. Continue reading “The necessity of study”