Journey to joy (Good Friday)

When God experienced our pain, he was restoring our joy.

There’s the grief you feel when you hoped your team would win, and they lost.

Then there’s deep grief — the grief you feel when you lose someone.

Jesus’ disciples faced that grief. They expected him to save the world. Jesus had a brave agenda for a new world, an agenda that challenged the people in power.

They expected a showdown, but they didn’t expect Jesus to lose. They didn’t expect him to lose his life.

Continue reading “Journey to joy (Good Friday)”

Belonging to the royal family (Matthew 12:46-50)

If the king says so, you have a place in his family.

Open Matthew 12:46-50.

Joseph was absent from Jesus’ adult life, so responsibility for the family fell to the oldest son. Jesus was firstborn, but he’d been travelling instead of looking after his family.

Suddenly they turn up: Continue reading “Belonging to the royal family (Matthew 12:46-50)”

Worse off with Jesus? (Matthew 12:43-45)

Can a generation be worse off if it refuses to follow Jesus?

Open Matthew 12:43-45.

Jesus’ contemporaries called him Satan’s servant — one who pretended to release people, but actually made their oppression worse (12:24). After pointing out the flaws in their logic (12:25-29), he offered them a royal pardon for their insult. But he warned that they would have no release if they resisted God’s Holy Spirit (12:31-32).

He went on to describe how their situation would worsen if they rejected his leadership. Listen to this parable: Continue reading “Worse off with Jesus? (Matthew 12:43-45)”

Jesus’ most overt kingship claim (Matthew 12:42)

Did you know that Jesus claimed to be greater than the greatest king Israel had ever had?

Open Matthew 12:42 and 2 Chronicles 9.

Jesus was the king anointed to restore God’s reign on earth. That message was often so subtle that we miss it, but there was this time when he made an astounding claim to kingship. Continue reading “Jesus’ most overt kingship claim (Matthew 12:42)”

How Jonah inspired Jesus (Matthew 12:38-41)

How did Jonah’s story help Jesus pursue his mission?

Open Matthew 12:38-41 and Jonah 2.

Why did Jesus compare himself to Jonah? How could Jonah’s story have inspired Jesus and helped him understand his mission? Continue reading “How Jonah inspired Jesus (Matthew 12:38-41)”

You say more than you realize (Matthew 12:34-37)

Our words reveal more about us than we intend.

Open Matthew 12:30-32.

Hang on. Can this be the same Jesus who “wouldn’t hurt a bruised reed” (12: 20)?

Children of vipers! How can you say anything good when you’re evil? (Matthew 12:34)

What happened to, “Judge not” (7:1)? Continue reading “You say more than you realize (Matthew 12:34-37)”

Time for some commentaries

Need help with Bible study? Get an expert on your tablet.

Update 2018-03-20: Logos March Madness winners are in. I’m buying NICOT/NICNT @ US $745 (less the volumes I already have).

Serious about Bible study? It helps if you have a friend who can tell you all about the text. Ideally, this friend would know the situation the text addressed, appreciate the nuances of its language, and tell you how other people have understood it. Sounds like a big ask?

You can have friends like that with you wherever you go. They’re called commentators. Commentaries are available for whatever level of Bible study you want. This month (May 2018) could be your best chance to get the good ones.

So what level of commentary do you need?

Continue reading “Time for some commentaries”

Why does context matter? (Matthew 12:33)

Fruitful conversations have a context. That’s how language works.

Open Matthew 12:33.

When your spouse says, “Can we eat out tonight?” what they mean depends on the context.

Perhaps you’re both dog tired, and all you want is a fresh roll from Subway before you fall asleep. But if the kids are sleeping over with friends tonight, it might mean, “I’d like some quality time with you.” Or perhaps what they mean is, “Did you remember it’s our anniversary? I’d like to celebrate our life together.”

We all know that meaning depends on context. When you’re close to someone, sharing the same context, it’s easier to pick up on what they’re saying. It is harder when the message comes from a different culture, through another language, from a bygone era, the way the Bible does. Yes, it’s harder work to hear the message as the people in that culture and time would have heard it. But it’s so worth it!

Novelists and script writers give us context to make sense of what their characters say. A good biographer takes you through the person’s words into the meaning of their life.

So we’re not making any special claim about the Bible when we ask you to hear what it’s saying in context. We’re very likely to misunderstand its message and misuse it if we ignore the context. Because that’s true of language in general, it’s true of the Bible too.

Let’s take an example. What do you think Jesus meant by this?

Continue reading “Why does context matter? (Matthew 12:33)”

Free course in Perth: Exodus

Ever heard the Book of Exodus as a kingdom-of-God story? You can now.

Update 2018-03-16: Here’s the link for the weekly podcasts and notes. (Scroll down to the end of the page.)

 

The Book of Exodus is the story of the first nation to be liberated from human rule and established as a kingdom under God’s direct rule.

YHWH becomes their king when he liberates his people (Ex 1 – 14), enters into covenant with them (Ex 15 – 25), and comes to live among them (Ex 25 – 40). Continue reading “Free course in Perth: Exodus”

What’s the unforgivable sin? (Matthew 12:30-32)

Ever worried you’ve committed the unpardonable sin?

Open Matthew 12:30-32.

You’re a baptized follower of Jesus, but you’ve blown it. Like, really blown it. Have you messed up your one chance to be saved? Have you committed the unpardonable sin? This question has troubled believers for 2000 years.

Are some sins unforgivable? How about these words from Jesus: Continue reading “What’s the unforgivable sin? (Matthew 12:30-32)”

Out of darkness (Matthew 12:22-29)

We recognize oppression, but where’s the liberation?

Open Matthew 12:22-29.

Any closed system, left to itself, runs down. Entropy is a law of nature. You don’t have to do anything for dust to build up in your house or for your garden to fall into disorder.

But earth is not a closed system. Enormous amounts of energy arrive from the sun. On a clear day, it’s about a kilowatt of energy for every square metre. Without it, we’d freeze. Plants and the whole ecosystem thrive on that incoming energy.

There’s another kind of energy as well, one that isn’t measured in kilowatts. Bette Midler was wrong. God is not “watching from a distance” while his realm deteriorates and spirals into disorder. His creative power sustains us each day. Our heavenly sovereign is restoring order to his troubled realm.

The sun powers our ecosystem, but it’s the Son who restores creation under God’s power, as the kingdom of God. Continue reading “Out of darkness (Matthew 12:22-29)”

What I learned from Djuki Mala

This Aboriginal dance group did more than entertain me. They reached out to me across Australia’s cultural divide.

Dance isn’t my thing, but Djuki Mala was hilarious, possibly the best entertainment at Perth Fringe Festival this year. These five dancers might be the most entertaining representatives of Aboriginal culture in Australia.

They started by introducing themselves as Yolngu people from Arnhem Land, a culture much older than ours. They built rapport through honesty, acknowledging the clashes between their ancestors and ours, and how Aboriginal people were treated as non-persons (not even able to vote until 1967). They also shared the struggles of their community, and the story of the grandfather who inspired them to dance.

It was breathtaking: traditional dance in moody lighting, with campfire scenes screened on the backdrop. I felt more like a guest than an observer, as if they’d invited me into their culture. Continue reading “What I learned from Djuki Mala”