Defining “neighbour”

The parable of the Good Samaritan

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.

This blunted the lawyer’s challenge, so he seeks to justify himself with the further question “who is my neighbour?Continue reading “Defining “neighbour””

Implementing Principles under pressure – 1 John

The faithful are left with no choice but to love the unlovable

1 John is written at a particularly troubling time for a section of the faithful community. 1 John 2:18 says

“Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour.”

What does this mean the last hour? It does not refer to the shadow of AD70, that event had gone. Clearly it is not the return of Jesus since we are now 1930 odd years on from this epistle. What does it mean? Simply – and more concerningly – it means John’s readers face an existential threat. Continue reading “Implementing Principles under pressure – 1 John”

Help my unbelief

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”

Murder, Anger, and Reconciliation

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”

Ten lepers and one man saved

Just shuffle. Ideally together.

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”

Triumphant prisoners

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”

On being eaten by worms

Before his untimely death Herod Agrippa I had been quite smart in his dealings with both Rome and with the Jews. He’d prevented a rerun of the Jewish Revolt by talking Emperor Caligula out of setting up a statue to himself in the Temple at Jerusalem1, and he also followed Jewish custom to the point that Josephus records:

…he loved to live continually at Jerusalem, and was exactly careful in the observance of the laws of his country. He therefore kept himself entirely pure: nor did any day pass over his head without its appointed sacrifice.2

He knew his audience and played them well. Continue reading “On being eaten by worms”

The rock that followed them

The Jewish background to an odd passage

One of Paul’s more unusual uses of the Old Testament is found in his warning to the believers in Corinth not to fall into the same complacency as some of the Israelites had on the Exodus. Continue reading “The rock that followed them”

The Transfiguration in Mark’s Gospel

Christ’s mission vs. Messianic ideals

Mark’s account of the transfiguration brings a brief climax to a section in which Jesus is trying to help his disciples to understand his true identity and mission. It serves to elevate Jesus above all other intermediaries between God and man, even the two great Jewish figures Moses and Elijah. Continue reading “The Transfiguration in Mark’s Gospel”

The Shame of the Cross

…he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross

Crucifixion was considered worse than decapitation, being killed by wild animals, or being burnt alive.1 It was considered “a terrible calamity2, it “was a punishment in which the caprice and sadism of the executioners were given full rein;3 it was the supreme Roman punishment. Continue reading “The Shame of the Cross”