Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mark 6:45-52 Explanation of Why Jesus Walks on Water

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied,
Jesus made his disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
And when he had taken leave of them,
he went off to the mountain to pray.
When it was evening,
the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.
Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing,
for the wind was against them.
About the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
He meant to pass by them.
But when they saw him walking on the sea,
they thought it was a ghost and cried out.
They had all seen him and were terrified.
But at once he spoke with them,
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded.
They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

The story of Jesus walking on water often presents a problem for modern day Christians. We all know that people cannot walk on water. So the question is did he really walk on water or is it some type of literary device of the evangelist? Some believe that Jesus' walking on water is a demonstration of his divinity. He is one member of the divine Godhead, therefore capable of supernatural abilities. Other scholars believe it is simply a story by the evangelist that highlights his virtue. In ancient greek biographies, virtuous people are able to walk on water since they are not weighed down by sin. This can be seen in the biography of Apollos who is able to heal the blind, cure the sick, and walk on water. What is important, is not whether Jesus walked on water, but the spiritual meaning of the story.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Matthew 2:1-12 Who are the three wise men?

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod, 
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled, 
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, 
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly 
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word, 
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, 
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures 
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 
they departed for their country by another way.

In this passage we see that Matthew, unlike Luke, has Magi, or Wise men visit Jesus instead of poor shepherds. What is significant is that Matthew is highlighting Jesus' royal lineage. In Matthew's account he is brought expensive treasures of gold, myrrh and frankincense. Some scholars believe these wise men, or magoi (greek), are likely priests from the Zoroastrianism tradition since the term magoi describes a Zoroastrian priest. Tradition holds that these wise men from the East are named: Melchior, Casper, and Balthazar. In reality no one really knows the identity of the wise men or if there were even wise men. What is clear is that Matthew's theological framework of portraying Jesus as the King of the Jews explains the presence of Maggi in his birth narrative. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

John 1:35-42: Come, and you will see

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher),
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.

This passage records the call of Peter. Jesus calls his disciples to "come and see". This is significant because Jesus leads by example. The disciples are not forced. They are free to choose to follow or not. Like Peter, we are often called by Jesus. Jesus invites us to serve and mission with him. It is up to us to respond to his call. We will not be forced. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

John 1:28 - 34: The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

The significance of John, placing the baptism at the beginning of his narrative, highlights the importance of this event. What is clear from the story is that Christ receives the Holy Spirit and is commissioned not by water but with the spirit. One element to note is this idea of ascending and descending. Here the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus so that he is elevated as the Messiah. What is made clear in the story is that ministry cannot begin without baptism. Therefor baptism is the universal call to service. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

John 1:19-28: Who is John the Baptist?

This is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,
“I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

Who is John the Baptist? It is clear from the Gospel of John that there was some confusion as to who he was. Some thought he was a prophet, others claimed he was Elijah, and most importantly some thought he was the Messiah himself. To better understand this problem read Matthew and Luke's account. John's introduction is a clarification as to who he is. It is also clear that John has a title, 'the Baptist'. This is because if it was simply a description of what he did, he would be called John the baptizer. It is clear from the text John's role is to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

This passage is significant because the ones to glorify the birth of the messiah are not kings or important people but poor shepherds. This reminds us that the birth of Messiah is not for the rich and powerful but for the poor.