Which Jesus do you want? (Matthew 27:15–26)

“Jesus Barabbas? Or Jesus called Christ?” What’s your response to Pilate’s question?

The governor was not convinced Jesus had done anything deserving death (27:23). He knew it was out of self-interest that the leaders had handed him over (27:18). He moved to pacify the crowd by offering a prisoner release, giving them the choice.

It seems both men were named Jesus (though this detail is omitted from some ancient manuscripts of Matthew). Pilate offered the people this choice (27:17):
Who do you want me to release to you?
– Jesus son of Abba (Bar-Abbas), or
– Jesus called anointed leader (Christ)?

Jesus was a relatively common name, meaning The Lord saves (compare Matthew 1:21). It’s the Hebrew name Joshua. But these two Jesuses have radically different views on how to save God’s people.

Continue reading “Which Jesus do you want? (Matthew 27:15–26)”

God and Guns

Not just what to think but how to think on a controversial topic.

My first degree (B Th) was from a Bible college in the American Mid-West. One of the things I wasn’t prepared for was how many church people owned guns and said they would use them to protect themselves.

Guns are a big topic in the US, so it’s refreshing to see some good scholars engaging this debate. Two professors from Fuller Theological Seminary have collated the work of seven others in a new book called God and Guns: The Bible Against American Gun Culture published by Westminster John Knox Press in November 2021.

Now another NT scholar is blogging his responses. Ben Witherington III is someone I consult regularly (most recently 2 days ago). His understanding of how rhetoric functioned in the social setting of the New Testament is second to none. That’s why it was such a thrill to tour Israel with him back in 2014.

So, if you’re interested in how some good American Bible scholars think about this topic, Ben’s blog posts are your way in:

Continue reading “God and Guns”

Supporting families during lockdown

So what’s it like at your place during the lockdown? Too quiet? Too noisy? Bored kids? Angry adults? Binged the whole series already? Missing friends? Missing income?

The goal is to keep safe at home, but home is not a safe place for everyone. Our tensions are stretched by fear. If your place is fine, spare a thought for those who are struggling. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. For men it’s about one third that rate. So, if your church has 200 adults, 33 of them will have experienced partner violence. Know who are they are? How are they doing? Continue reading “Supporting families during lockdown”

Sex and power (Ephesians 5:1–5)

How you love tells us how you use power.

Language expresses culture. Abusive language rises in a culture of abuse. “F. you” is so common that we no longer hear it as a curse, wishing sexual abuse on someone.

Four-letter words are the language of power and humiliation — a graphic verbal image of the powerful forcing themselves on the humiliated. It’s a snapshot of what’s wrong with the world, the culture of injustice.

There’s a world of difference between genuine love and screwing people over. Continue reading “Sex and power (Ephesians 5:1–5)”

The scent of your words (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:2)

What we say reveals who we’re speaking for.

Want peace on earth? There’s a message that can deliver it. No, it’s not “Everybody try harder!” It’s the announcement that the hostilities are over because God has rescued humanity from the warring factions of evil, into the reign of his anointed. That’s the good news of salvation.

Words matter. Continue reading “The scent of your words (Ephesians 4:29 – 5:2)”