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rbr4Step into the study, pour yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and let’s enjoy the Gospel of Mark.

Our scripture this week is Mark 2:23-28 “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

This section contains a controversy story, a saying of Jesus and an affirmation about Jesus. The general theme that holds these together is the Sabbath, an integral and substantial part of Judaism. This section allows us to see some of the substantial disagreement between Jesus and his critics. This is most certainly a portrait of Jesus challenging the Pharisees at the core of their religious perceptions and not at the fringes. The passage also shows us Christian reasoning about the Sabbath itself and the sort of justification that was put forward by Christians for worshipping on a new day of the week. Continue Reading »

320px-unmercifulGalatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (ESV)

Galatians 5:5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (NLT)

My head is rattling around with about a hundred ideas related to Jesus shaped spirituality, and one of them has occupied me in various ways the past two days.

In short order, Jesus shaped spirituality is a spirituality Jesus would recognize as what he gave us; what he taught, lived and began in the experience of his followers.

Jesus shaped spirituality is about a “Big Picture” of truth (God, the world, creation, etc,) but it is especially about what Jesus means for relationships (God and others) and human life (yours and others.) If you are a follower of Jesus, your life, your relationships and your participation in this world are deeply affected by him. Continue Reading »

rbr4Step into the study, pour yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and let’s enjoy the Gospel of Mark.

Our scripture this week is Mark 2:18-22 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” Continue Reading »

So how does the material in the “rest of the Gospels” come into the Christian life? What are the “processes of Discipleship” we see in the first half of the Gospels that should be integrated into faith in the crucified and risen one.

1. We should start with affirming the perspective we’ve gained. The Kingdom of God, which Jesus embodied, proclaimed, taught and practiced is only possible because Jesus is a mediator-King; a King who makes things right through death and resurrection, not through miracles and exorcisms. Hold these things together. See these two tracks in scripture: the establishment of God’s Kingdom and the victory of God’s messiah over evil, sin and death. Jesus death secures our place in his Kingdom, and his Kingdom insures his victory in the world. Continue Reading »

How does the ministry of Jesus fit into our consideration of Jesus?

In 1982, I returned to seminary and took a job as youth minister at a church near the seminary. Because of some of my studies in seminary that semester, and because of something I heard Dr. John Piper say in a sermon, I determined to make the Gospel According to St. Mark a major life’s project.

At the time, 27 years ago, it seemed like many other resolutions that I made but probably wouldn’t keep. Surprisingly, I have kept that resolution, much to the chagrin of all those around me who have come to hear far more sermons, lessons and talks from Mark than any other Gospel, and especially to the regret of my Bible students, who have come to view my annual trek through Mark as the great mountain to be climbed in my Bible survey class. Continue Reading »

I want to write some posts exploring what I am going to call “The Jesus Disconnect.”

Nothing has impressed me more in my last few years of writing, reading and discussion than the disconnect the average Christian believer feels from the ministry of Jesus, specifically his miracles, exorcisms, teachings, training of disciples and encounters with individuals as described in the first half of the Gospels.

For many Christians, their view of Jesus is much like the movie Passion of the Christ. The story of Jesus begins with the suffering of Jesus, with the ministry of Jesus fading anonymously into the background, appearing occasionally in a few moralistic or sentimentally devotional flashbacks. Continue Reading »

rbr4Step into the study, pour yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and let’s enjoy the Gospel of Mark.

Our passage today is Mark 2:13-17. Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV)

How did Jesus treat people? If Christianity is correct in its confession that Jesus is the incarnation of the eternal, creator God, then Jesus’ treatment of individuals is perhaps the most important part of the Gospel message. Why? Because this indicates how God feels about me! It is the most personal aspect of what the Gospels have to say to any of us. The scholarly pursuit of the Gospels as literature of a religious movement is important, but even the most objective and skeptical scholar must be impressed with what we see in Jesus treatment of individuals. Only the most crude person could say there is nothing here that is worth imitating. Continue Reading »

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