HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: THE LITTLE GIRL'S SECRET
Later, when the story was told of how Jairus had pleaded with Jesus to come and restore his little girl, that other part of the story, where the elderly lady grabbed Jesus' cloak, would also be told.
There is no doubt about Jairus's sense of urgency. He had told Jesus his daughter impending death! But, by stopping, Jesus had shown him that when you put your trust in God's Son, you can trust His time-table. Still, Jesus hadn't seen the little girl yet! And, by the way, hadn't He and the crowd become unclean because of that woman?
And then, some men, members of Jairus' household, came and told the Rabbi not to worry. The danger had passed. The child had died! What was Jairus to think? Hadn't the delay prevented Jesus from getting to his daughter on time? But apparently not. Mark tells us that Jesus kept going. He told Jairus to believe, and not to worry. Jesus simply ignored the message and kept going to Jairus' house. He wasn't backing off. He was taking Jairus with Him. At first it seemed as if Jesus was going along with Jairus. But as it turned out, in that trip to Jairus' house, it was Jairus who was going along with Jesus!
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at the incident in Mark 5 in which Jesus saves Jairus' daughter... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: A WOMAN IS HEALED; A DEAD GIRL IS RAISED
In this part of Mark's story there are two healings. Both of them came about because a ruler of a local synagogue, from one of the cities along the coast of Galilee, begged Jesus to come to his house and help him. In the crowd that went with them there may have been those who still wanted to pin Beelzebul's badge on Jesus. So the pleas of this man would have surprised them.
As a ruler of the synagogue he was doing something unusual. Usually religious leaders did not like Jesus, objecting to what He taught, how He related to ordinary people. We shall see later (Mark 7) that Jesus was not obsessed with cleanliness like the religious leaders who wanted everyone to do lots of washing and cleaning, making themselves presentable to God. That was how they saw their duty when they went to meet God in Jerusalem's temple. In the local synagogue all the washed men would gather to listen to God's Law. Maybe that's part of why they said Jesus was on the side of unclean spirits. He tolerated a lot and taught in the open air, away from the synagogue, where the people were, and didn't fuss over whether His disciples did lots of washing or not.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Mark's report of the incident in which an ill woman reaches out to touch Jesus - and has her life changed forever... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: LOCALS TROUBLED; A MADMAN IS HEALED
Mark's account was written for people like you and me who never shook hands with Jesus. But not only for us. The story he told was also for those who believed in Him and even for those who knew Him and had met Him. It was also for those who knew about John the Baptist, for those who repented of their sins and had been baptised in those days before the gutless Herod executed John. The Gospel story was put to paper also for the many people Jesus met and taught when He was visiting the coastal villages of Galilee.
At points, Mark's Gospel seems to have been specially written for them; it's as if he was reminding them of what Jesus was doing before and after their own encounter with Him. So it is not so strange that Mark would put this story into his Gospel also to enable the healed man and his family to be further encouraged after his terrible torment had been broken by the kindly Rabbi. They could see how they fitted into the larger story of Jesus' ministry.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Mark's report of Jesus' healing of a man possessed by demons... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: MORE STORIES FROM JESUS' SCHOOL
Here are more of Jesus' parables. He seems to have told them over and over. They are His answer to the question: What is the Kingdom of God like? To get Jesus' answer we have to learn to listen to them.
On the boat it was not just his closest disciples; Mark says there were "others" as well who asked Him to explain the parables. His answer is like He was saying: Yes, these simple stories tell you what the Kingdom of God is like so you can concentrate on how God cares for you. But remember that what I have to say is for the whole world. Don't just keep it to yourself. Yes, you have to be taught it so you can live it and so then you can teach it. But it's like the lamp. When we light it, it's not just for ourselves.
Part of the secret of God's Kingdom is that it has to be passed on. The disciples asked questions and learned from Jesus' answers how God sees them. The lamp has to shine; the light of God's word has to be lit. It shines on all in the house. Make sure it's in a place where it can shine all around.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE gives some insight into a couple of Jesus parables contained in Mark 4... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: GETTING PERSONAL IN JESUS' SCHOOL
The first thing we must do with this story is to listen to it. That's what Jesus said when He finished telling it. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. It's a story that should be discussed after we have heard it and thought about it. It explains how Jesus taught and what He expects of His students. He taught His disciples how to learn, how to listen and then how to tell stories. Parables are like the sower's seed. They have to be spread around far and wide and only when they are spread around in well prepared soil will they bring forth a big harvest.
Jesus wanted His disciples to think. He waited for them to ask questions. Then He answered them. He wanted them to listen carefully. Jesus wanted disciples who understood why they were alive. He expected them to talk together about their lives as they thought about the parables. He wanted them to really learn how to be part of the story of God's Kingdom. That's what He taught on the boat. "The secret of God's Kingdom has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE takes another look at the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: OVERCOMING
Remember when the crowds first looked like getting out of control on the shores of Lake Galilee? Then Jesus arranged for a boat from which to do His teaching and then get away. Now as the crowds got larger and stayed longer, the religious leaders got busy trying to undermine Jesus.
Jesus' family thought He was out of His depth and they wanted to exert some control. It seems that Jesus didn't stay all the time at His own house with His mother and brothers. He went beyond His family circle. Sure, His cousins were among the 12 disciples, but it seems He visited other people's homes as well. God's Kingdom is not limited to one family, or a group of families, not even good church families. God's Kingdom is always much more than this; it spreads throughout our social life. You can't stop it.
"Excuse me. Master! There's a group of people outside who say they're your mother and brothers. They want you!" "My mother and brothers? Who are they?" Jesus kept teaching; the interruption became part of His teaching. He looked around: "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother".
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at what Jesus says about brothers - and mothers and sisters... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: PROBLEM SOLVING
Go back over this story. Mark tells us Jesus knew His friends were over-concerned. He knew the problem couldn't be solved easily. Those closest to a teacher in personal terms are often the hardest to teach.
So, what did He do? Well, He didn't blow a fuse like we might have done! He solved this tricky situation by continuing His work as a teacher, composing parables which showed up the fake accusations of the religious leaders. In this way He reassured them. He knew what He was doing. The religious leaders were scaring people by invoking the ancient presence of Beelzebub. And so they stirred the hungry crowd who could easily be confused about why they were there. But Jesus had not called a fast.
Beelzebub, prince of all Ba'als, had been worshipped when the fertility gods ruled before Israel came into their inheritance in Canaan. Those who obtained power from Beelzebub could not truly worship the God of Israel. Beelzebub had been driven out.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE continues his look at what Jesus says in response to accusations he is possessed by a demon in Mark 3... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: A TRICKY SITUATION
Read the passage through again! Jesus' own friends and family didn't get it. They didn't understand what He was on about. They wondered whether He had flipped.
Jesus ignored them.
We don't know all about the events described here; we weren't there. Passages like this remind us that the story was first written down for people who had some idea about what had taken place. So we have to be careful; we have to take note of all the details that are given, even though some don't seem to easily fit together...We have to read the Bible patiently.
So what do you think Mark might be telling us? Were His friends completely wrong? Did Jesus look tired? Let's remember that He had come back home to Capernaum and they didn't understand why, particularly when the crowds kept coming back. Mark says it was those closest to Him who thought He had flipped. They were convinced He needed their help.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Jesus' response to his accusers in Mark 3... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS FAMILY
We can say that Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, put His hometown on the map. Ever since the events documented here, Nazareth has become a place of world-historical significance.
You will recall Jesus began His work just after John was imprisoned. He had to leave Nazareth for Capernaum, by Lake Galilee. He had announced His intentions at Nazareth but they did not want to believe Him. They also rejected what John had said about Him. Instead of learning from Him, they kicked Him out of town. They took offence. It should not have been like that but that was the situation He faced.
Then there was the healing of the crazed man in the synagogue, the curing of Simon's mother-in-law and the help He gave to other sick people. The town of Capernaum wanted Him as their own special Rabbi.
But Jesus did not want that. He knew His message was not just for His home town. He moved on to other places, teaching and healing and freeing people from all kinds of troubles. He ate with outsiders like Levi the tax collector and with people the religious leaders were loathe to associate with.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at the response of those closest to Jesus to his ministry... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JESUS' TEAM OF SLOW LEARNERS, PART II
Jesus' school began with a bunch of students who would learn how to follow Him, how to be His students. Jesus wanted the 12 to learn how to pray, how to rely upon God, how to live as members of His Kingdom.
As He worked with them, they became leaders among His disciples. Those chosen were pretty slow to begin with. They also became His closest friends and were specially helped by the Holy Spirit to continue the work Jesus had begun. They learned how to serve, but it was not easy.
God's Spirit comforts us because He knows we can be very embarrassed. How embarrassing is it when we stuff up? We are not that strong and Mark reminds us straight away that one of the 12 chucked it in and joined Jesus' enemies. This "leadership team" included some of Jesus' family. He started His work from Galilee, where His family networks were. We've noticed this already. We've pointed to the fact that Mark was already part of the community network from out of which Jesus' ministry was launched.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE continues his look at what Mark tells us about those chosen to be among the 12 disciples... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JESUS' TEAM OF SLOW LEARNERS, PART I
Yes, I know what you're asking! These are all men. What about some women? So what is Mark telling us here? First off, let's recall that this book is written after Jesus went away to be with His Father in heaven. And what was written here was about an event before He was crucified and before He had been raised from the dead.
This event occurred as He was beginning to teach and train His disciples. At this point in time His disciples had no idea about the work He would want them to do later. They didn't really understand His work. They weren't a crash hot group. Later on we read that when the going got really tough these guys could not hack the pace. They wimped off. It was indeed the women, Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary's sister, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John - who stuck around with Him right up until the very end. They gave the example the men needed if they were to be leaders among all those following Jesus.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at what Mark tells us about those chosen to be among the 12 disciples - and the women alongside them... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: WHAT IS IT WITH EVIL SPIRITS?
I'm not sure I like telling stories about evil spirits. It's scary to think people can be controlled by evil. We should not think the story of Jesus is to scare us out of our wits. But how should we think about "spirits" and "evil spirits"?
Ever been in a large crowd at a big event? When large crowds gather, and we are right there in the middle, it's easy to feel dizzy. Ever had that happen to you? If these events are held regularly then we learn to cope. But if we are not used to dizzy spells we can freak out. There are too many people. We panic. We lose sight of what helps us stay calm. In a crowd it is easy to lose direction, to feel very strange. Crowds can't solve our problems. We have to be careful. Crowds can carry us along where we shouldn't go.
Jesus was suspicious about crowds, about the way people joined movements, yes, even when they joined His movement. Maybe that had something to do with the "evil spirits" that were busy then and there. "Uptight people" often try to find release when they have a crowd around. He knew that in large crowds some people are tempted to exaggerate. They lose their grip on reality.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at how Jesus viewed crowds (and evil spirits) in Mark, chapter 3... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: EVIL IS SAD AS WELL AS BAD
Sometimes amazing things happen. And when they do, the day is so good you feel happy just remembering what it was like. It must have been a bit like that for the man with a shrivelled hand. Meeting Jesus in the synagogue on that day fixed his hand and changed his life.
Jesus had started by asking the man to stand up. They all held their breath. They knew what He was on about. Jesus healed people and they knew it was the Sabbath. Had they been reading Isaiah? Blessed is the man who holds it fast, who keeps my Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Imagine what the man thought about that? Hold it fast? You're joking. It's all I can do to drag it along with the rest of my body. God in Heaven what a burden you've given me to carry!
Jesus insisted. He asked the synagogue: Should he be healed now, or not? Should it be now, this moment, this day or should we leave it for another time?
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines another Sabbath dispute found in Mark, chapter 3... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: PICKING ON THE SABBATH
Instead of telling these jealous and bitter religious leaders how they too were breaking their own Sabbath rules, Jesus reminded them of God's provision. King David and his men ate the bread put aside by the priest for sacred purposes. That demonstrated how God is concerned for us in our need. In the same way the Sabbath is given to us to help us experience God's care for us. And that's also what the Holy Bread was meant to signify.
The Pharisees had thought they had trapped Him, because He wasn't teaching His disciples to fast, like John the Baptist. He explained that God was throwing a party - God's own Son would be decorated in a completely new marriage outfit and toasted with the new wine of God's Kingdom. But they just didn't get it. And it seems they didn't want to. Because here they were at it again; this time out in the open air. This time they complained to Jesus that His disciples were working on the Sabbath. They had actually been seen picking corn or wheat as they walked through the grain fields.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Jesus' response to accusations his followers were 'working' in the Sabbath... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: COMPLETELY NEW!
Note carefully the context and who Jesus is talking to here. There are three groups. There are the disciples of John the Baptist, there are the religious wise guys and there are Jesus' own disciples. Jesus talks about His coming in terms of the celebration of an engagement between an engaged couple.
Jesus also suggested His Father was ordering Him a complete new wedding shirt. His old shirt was what He was wearing then at the engagement party. But He was going to be fitted out in a completely new outfit! Is that Jesus' reference to the Resurrection, His resurrection and also our own?
But there was more. It is as if Jesus had looked at them and said: "There's wine at this party. Which wine?" Strange question. Which wine? They were wanting to know why His disciples were not fasting. Wine takes time to mature and Jesus was telling them not only that they were drinking the old brewed wine and enjoying it (Luke 5:39) but that He was brewing a new wine.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines what Jesus means when talking about new garments and new wine in Mark, chapter 2... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: LET'S PARTY
John the Baptist and Jesus understood each other but some of John's followers thought Jesus was not taking things seriously enough. What about the fasting rules of the Old Testament? Why weren't Jesus' disciples fasting?
Apparently, John the Baptist encouraged his disciples to fast. It was part of their way of life after he had baptised them. They encouraged others to go on fasts, too. But Jesus, in the work He had been given to do, didn't encourage fasting. Maybe John’s disciples had been on a fast when Jesus was at Levi's party and they might well have been somewhat upset about a party being thrown when Jesus' cousin had been thrown into prison. Here were these people, longing for God’s Kingdom, having a rollicking good time at the party thrown by Levi, who was also a tax collector. You can hear them saying: "It's a bit off, isn’t it?"
But Jesus encouraged people to enjoy themselves, particularly at parties, and this annoyed those who weren't wanting to enjoy themselves at a party. They felt miffed. Jesus seemed to be letting the side down.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines what Jesus says when challenged about fasting in Mark, chapter 2... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: INSIDE WITH THE INSIDERS
In God's Kingdom those who know they are outsiders are invited to become insiders. Those who demand a place as insiders should watch out. They have forgotten their real place. They are like sick people who have forgotten that they need a doctor. They may have even lost the plot.
Jesus healed people the priests could not heal, particularly these people with "evil spirits." He touched those the religious healers refused to touch. He made friends with people who could not be reached by the teachers of the law. He reached out to the unreached. He welcomed “sinners”, asked "outsiders" like Levi to come on the "inside" of His school. He ate with these people and to eat food with a person means you are that person's friend. Jesus loved doing that.
Many think that they have to divide the world into the clean and the unclean, the righteous and the sinners, the good guys and the bad. They do anything to stay on the right side of their own line. They think that being clean and righteous means keeping away from the wrong people, eating with the right crowd. Sinners have evil spirits so it's best to stay away from them.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at how Jesus invited those on the outside to come in... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: OUTSIDE WITH THE OUTSIDERS
Jesus taught in the open air, by the lake. People came to Him there. There He befriended people, and they shared and enjoyed life together. That's also where His school was located. Jesus did teach in the synagogue, and He also taught at His home when it was chock-a-block. But Mark tells us He taught in the open air by the lake as well.
My hunch is that the other rabbis couldn't get a lake-side crowd together. Was it that He didn't want to teach people when they felt trapped? I suspect He went out to the lake so boys and girls could come and go, listen to His stories and play tag together. Children weren't old enough to enter the synagogue but Jesus wanted to tell everyone about God's Kingdom. If grown-ups and parents didn't bother to tell their children what they had heard at the synagogue then they would have to wait years before they heard of God's love. So why wait?
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at why Jesus chose to teach out in the open... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: ROOF CAVES IN; SINS ARE FORGIVEN
Jesus was at home and the roof had just fallen in. A man was lowered in front of Him because he couldn't be brought through the front door. It was too crowded. Imagine it. What it would have been like. Maybe it was like this:
Jesus: And so (scratch, scratch, scratch) I am trying to tell you that in God's Kingdom nothing compares with... (the ceiling collapses...dust and bits of ceiling everywhere, people ducking for cover...they cough and splutter and return to their seats. The bits of roof are thrown outside and the man is hanging there from the roof, an extra person in the audience, all ready to listen)
Jesus: Now where was I...in God's Kingdom nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with having your sins forgiven (turns to the man hanging before Him who now looks very embarrassed) and that goes for you too young fellow - your sins are forgiven!
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE continues his look at an incident in which a paralytic is lowered through a roof... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: AT HOME WHEN THE ROOF CAVED IN
Capernaum became Jesus' home town. Jesus' mother and brothers and sisters lived there. And Jesus, by now, was in his late 20s. Mark doesn't tell us but maybe Joseph had died. What Mark says is that Jesus was at home in Capernaum with his family, in the family home.
We shouldn't be afraid of thinking about Jesus' home life - about His relationship with His brothers and sisters, and we shouldn't be afraid of thinking about what may have happened to Joseph either. If the Son of God was happy to come and be born into a family, He was happy to take on all that that means including family relationships. He experienced being at "home".
It is as clear as day that Jesus enjoyed doing His teaching work. Here Mark describes the situation as He taught them a few stories. The stories are called parables; that means they are like Halley’s Comet - they come back again in a slightly different way when you listen a second time - and all the people were sitting there just listening, and the doors and windows were all filled up with people.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at an incident in which a paralytic is lowered through a roof... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: A HEALED LEPER CAUSES PROBLEMS
Jesus took two risks. First, He touched the man. Then, He sent the man off to do as the law required when a person was cleansed from leprosy. The man didn't do what Jesus commanded. He took unnecessary risks and assumed others would take his word for it. He was so pleased to be healed that he ignored the Person who healed him. Jesus had stood with him, making the healing possible.
Leprosy is contagious. That means that someone who has it can give it to you by touching you. There are many people suffering from such diseases. It’s good we have medicine but it’s terrible for people to have such terrible diseases. Pray about this. Do some web-research on leprosy. Find some organisations that care for those who suffer from leprosy.
First one leper met Jesus. When Jesus touched him there were two lepers. Jesus may have taken the man's disease away, but He had touched him and so Jesus had to face the consequences for His action. Now two people had to prove they were clean. Jesus might not have caught the disease, but He still had to prove that He had not caught it from the healed man.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines how a leper Jesus healed caused problems for Him through his disobedience... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: NEWS SPREADS
That day was remembered by the people for a long time afterwards. The man cured of the evil spirit in the synagogue had reacted to rumours coming from Nazareth, but now a report of good news spread around Galilee. The new Rabbi, the one John had talked about, had started work. John may have been in prison, but the news of God's love and mercy was still going to be spread around. John's message of repentance and getting ready for God's Kingdom was being kept alive by the One who came after John!
Other things happened. Peter’s family would remember that Sabbath all their lives. Simon was his earlier name and his wife’s mother was very ill. Jesus knew how to treat sick people. In those days sickness and evil spirits were thought to be part of the same thing. Jesus drove out many demons. The Gospel writers tell us that demons fled when they saw Him coming. Jesus came into people's lives and they were set free from bondage. So He began to make His reputation by healing and teaching, helping people to thank God for the good things He was doing. But He also restrained people from spreading the news of what He was doing. When He healed people they no longer needed to shout out all over the place.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at a passage in Mark looking at how word spread of Jesus' ministry... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: HEALING AND RELEASE FROM "IT"
The man screamed: "What are you doing here, Jesus of Nazareth!” Jesus' reputation was known. This man was worried by the “carpenter’s son” from Nazareth. What would this new Rabbi say? He got in first, shouting loudly.
Jesus stopped him mid-sentence. The confrontation was over almost before it had begun. That evil spirit would not trouble the man again. “Be quiet! Come out!”
And whatever "it" was, came out. Jesus took command and the people were amazed. They knew something wonderful was happening right there in front of them. The sad and frightened man had been changed. Quietly, patiently, Jesus went about the work God had given Him. He took command. He did not shout back but simply helped one scared out of his wits.
We don’t know who this man was but the town's people would have known him after that as the guy Jesus healed. Maybe he became one of Jesus' disciples. We don't know but we can be sure that the first people to read Mark's book knew him. They would know that this part of Mark's story had been carefully checked. Others travelling through Galilee would have visited Capernaum to get this man's story first-hand.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Mark's record of the time Jesus ordered an evil spirit out of a scared man... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: MAKING AN IMPACT
We don't hear about John the Baptist being in any synagogue. But Jesus became known when He began teaching where people gathered to hear God's word from the law and the prophets. He taught that the time was right, that the Kingdom of God in its fullness had now come. Now He began teaching, week after week, in his home town, Capernaum.
A week or so earlier in Nazareth, He had read from Isaiah and then sat down to teach. In those times, the teacher sat and the class stood, listening. The questions came thick and fast. He knew what He wanted to say and at first the Nazarenes were glad to hear Him, but after a while they wanted Him out of there. So Jesus left the village of His childhood (Luke 4:12-30). All the same, He was known as the Nazarene, Jesus of Nazareth.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Jesus' early life and what He was teaching His disciples... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JESUS RECRUITS SOME FISHERMEN, PART 2
Jesus knew His cousin John had put the hard word on James and John. They knew why Jesus had come. Before John was carted off to prison, they had been his students and he had pointed them to Jesus - “Follow Him, He’s the One. Now I decrease and He must increase.” And John's days in prison were numbered.
Jesus decided when to ask them to be His students. He seems to have started from where John left off, but He asked them "eye-ball to eye-ball". He left them in no doubt. He wanted them to be His students. He was preparing them for when His work was complete. He would prepare them to do what needed to be done.
But look again at the words Jesus used when He talked with the two fisherman who had been John's disciples. John had told them Jesus was the One to follow. John, out in the desert, had been the messenger preparing the way.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines how Jesus met some of His disciples... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JESUS RECRUITS SOME FISHERMEN, PART 1
Herod Antipas threw John into prison and Jesus returned from the desert to gather students for His own school. He would teach them to understand how God was busy fulfilling His promises with the One promised, the One who John had told them would baptise with the Holy Spirit.
No doubt John would tell Herod about Jesus and what He had come to do. But as we shall learn later, when push came to shove, what God was doing was not what Herod wanted to know about. The Good News about God's Kingdom would be given to the people of Galilee, Judaea and Samaria and then on into all the whole world. Herod could not stop it. The much loved Son had come. The time of preparation was over. So Jesus said: "The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines how Jesus met some of His disciples... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JESUS' DESERT STORM
After His baptism, Jesus did not return to Galilee straight away. It was not a time for crowds, but a time to be alone in the desert. This was not a time for teaching. For Jesus, the desert meant something else - something He had to go through despite the difficulty. He would be alone with a great Enemy who wanted His plans destroyed. Jesus was tried. Jesus was tempted.
At that time, there was only one thing left for Jesus to do - He could pray to His Father. That’s all. The Voice from Heaven had spoken when He came out of the water and John had heard it too. Jesus was assured He was God’s beloved son. He wasn't dreaming. But we know that, on His own, He suffered badly even if we don’t know exactly what happened.
Probably it's just as well. The Satan, the accuser of God's image bearer before God's Throne, tries to accuse and confuse (the word actually refers to the role of a prosecuting lawyer and so that is why we call the tempter "The Satan"). Mark tells us his part in the story of Jesus when he tried unsuccessfully to stop Jesus from trusting His Father in Heaven.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at what Mark says about the tempting of Jesus... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JOHN AND JESUS' BAPTISM
John wore simple clothes of camel’s hair and a leather belt and ate plain food - locusts and honey - found nearby. His message was about getting ready for the One whom God was about to send. “He’s coming any day!” said John. “If you want to be part of His kingdom, then wash your sins away. Now. Today. Don't hesitate. Admit it. You are a hypocrite! Clean up! Get ready!"
God chose the desert for John, some distance from Galilee and Jerusalem. He taught and baptised in the Jordan River. Then Jesus came into the region of Galilee from where he had grown up. Nazareth had been Jesus' home since, as a young boy, he returned from Egypt with his parents after Herod, the murderous king, had died. Joseph was a Nazareth carpenter. They raised a sizeable family. When Jesus was in his late 20s he moved to Capernaum, by Lake Galilee. His family followed him there.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE examines the baptism of Jesus as shown in Mark... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JOHN, THE DESERT TEACHER
There never was a time in his life when John wasn't being reminded he was special. He felt special and others knew it too. It started even before he was born.
Even though his father was a priest he hadn't believed it when one of God's messengers told him a baby was finally 'on the way'. Zechariah was supposed to believe in the God of Abraham and Isaac and instead started arguing with the angel who had visited him in the temple. Of all the times and places to have an argument with an angel!
The story goes that the angel told Zechariah that because he wanted to argue with God about what was possible, he wouldn't speak again until after the baby was born. That was that! So while John was in his mum's tummy, his dad had to write notes to Elisabeth his mother.
When John's mum gave birth to a baby boy all the friends and family gathered for the baby-naming party. They had decided what the baby's name was going to be - Zechariah after his dad. Logical. That's what they thought! The baby's dad was getting old and grey and probably this was his last throw of the dice. The baby would be Zechariah, son of Zechariah the priest.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at what Mark says about John the Baptist... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: JUST AS ISAIAH SAID
Mark starts his story in a way that was usual for telling stories in his Jewish family. First, he tells us what his story will be about (1:1) and then, immediately, how we should see it fitting in with God's promises. The prophecies of Isaiah, one of God's prophets from long ago, have now been fulfilled. That is what this story is about. His readers will have known Isaiah 40 from when it was read in the synagogues on the Sabbath. The Messiah will bring in God’s Kingdom. He will do it by becoming a servant.
Some of Mark's first readers may have remembered Jesus and what He did in their town. Mark reminds them that the promised King came as God's Servant. Mark therefore, as the story teller, appealed to Isaiah's role and so his story because with a prophetic warning - Jesus came as the servant of the Lord! Don't forget it! Unfortunately people do forget. To follow the King of Kings is to follow the Lord's Servant. It is strange, but those who claim to follow Jesus easily forget that they are servants.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Mark's unique approach to the Gospel... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE A CRACKING GOOD STORY
Imagine it. Mark is visiting your house, talking to you and a group of your friends. The children play with Thomas the Tank Engine on the floor. There is this buzz. Mark tells the adults about Jesus and has them spellbound. But in the background there is this whispering - it is the children as they pass on secret messages to each other - "Has he got to the story bits yet? He always has a story bit and it's so good. He's started? Really? Quiet! Don't make a noise just sit and listen...Callum hold Duck - leave the Fat Controller there! Shoosh!"
"Well, try to imagine it. There were these pieces of plaster lying there all over the place and the palm branches that had been the base were hanging down and people had ducked for cover and Jesus is standing there and this guy, this crippled guy with Friedrich's Ataxia, he's just hanging there in mid-air in front of him.
"Well, what else can you say in a situation like that? The law doesn't exactly give us explicit directions for what we are to say when a paralysed guy drops through a broken ceiling. So what are you going to say in that situation? Well, of course, Jesus knew what He was going to say and He said it: 'Your sins are forgiven' and there was all this dust and people were coughing and when He said that everyone went dead quiet.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE takes a look at what Mark 10:13-16 says about Jesus... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS - HE'S COME AND THAT IS WHY THIS IS IT!
So now we have given some background to Mark's Gospel. We begin to get some idea of why he starts as he does: “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He wrote down the most important story anyone could ever write about. He wrote it down so that many more could hear the story. He wasn't making it up; he was telling what had happened when Jesus came. And he knew that many of his first readers would pick it up - it was a scroll I guess - wanting to learn more about this Person, Jesus. No doubt there were lots of stories around about Jesus. Mark would have heard those too and as we read his Gospel we learn about lots of the people who would also have had their own version of events.
Peter would have wanted Mark to hear his version. Mark would have listened, thought, and then written down what he had heard after going around and listening to the stories people had of Jesus. This way he would check and cross-check what he had been told. He was present for some events but even for these he would have had to get others to help him work out what was going on.
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at looks at why Mark wrote his Gospel... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS - THE STARK RUNNING TRUTH!
Mark's Gospel has always helped Jesus' students stay on track. After reading it over I have the hunch that it was written to remind Jesus' disciples how He had respected them, all of them. Mark wanted to remind his fellow believers that children and women are honoured citizens of God's Kingdom. In Mark's Gospel we read how Jesus accepted all those God had allowed to cross His path - they would do important things for Him as He did what His Father had called Him to do.
Mark's Gospel shouts out, loud and clear, for anyone with ears to hear, that Jesus loves it when young people - no matter how young - hear the good things God has done. God loves it when a new generation comes along singing about God's kingdom - "Let the children come to me for to them belongs God's Kingdom".
Jesus reminded His disciples that we are all children, God's children. We don't stop being God's children, just because we grow up. We get older and take on adult responsibilities, but we are still God's children. Jesus tells us who we are in God's scheme of things, how important we are as His children. And that is why Mark begins: "The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God".
In his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Mark 1:1... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS
"Hunches about Jesus" was the initial work I developed in what has become an ongoing bible-story telling project. It was initially developed with 'seeding money' from the Australian Research Theology Foundation.
I initially requested money to complete a book I had half-written from my experiences as a Christian Religious Education (CRE) teacher in 1999-2000 at Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff Primary Schools in Victoria.
This CRE teaching confirmed my belief that nothing is lost and much is gained when the Bible is read and explained to primary school students in story-telling ways that respect its historical context. The Bible can be compelling and nine-year-olds do not always see it as "daggy religious stuff". My exposition of Mark's Gospel diverged from conventional didactic ways of understanding God's revelation.
BRUCE C WEARNE explains how his series 'Hunches about Jesus' came about... |
HUNCHES ABOUT JESUS - WHO WAS THIS FELLOW WHO WROTE MARK'S GOSPEL?
From what can be gathered from the New Testament, and particularly the book of Acts, Mark was involved, a member of the young church as its membership grew and new meetings places, were set up throughout the Roman Empire and elsewhere. The church was growing. It was like a young seedling and needed careful and ongoing support. Mark also, as a young and inexperienced lad, need careful and ongoing support. So do we all. We are all young and inexperienced for some considerable time before we become able to take on adult responsibility.
In the first of his series on Hunches about Jesus, BRUCE C WEARNE takes a look at the writer of the Gospel of Mark... |
PSALM 84 - RESTORING HIS "FALLEN CREATION"
The technical note appended to this psalm in the Old Testament's "Book of Worship" tells the choirmaster it is to be sung to the accompaniment of the gittith - an instrument which, presumably, came from Gath, Goliath country. The words in this note do not appear in my English concordance. But we should not ignore the note - it was written to help singers understand the psalm they were to sing. And as we learn (again) to sing the psalms, as personal meditations, as corporate acts of faith, it will assist us if we pay attention to such technical notes to see what we can make of them.
Like psalms 42-49, 85, 87 and 88, 84 is ascribed to the sons of Korah. In the Bible, Korah is known for his rebellion against Moses told in Numbers 16. That is a gruesome story of God's judgment upon naked presumption. In the New Testament, Jude (verse 11) tells his readers to avoid "Korah's rebellion" like the plague. But Numbers 26:11 tells us that the sons of Korah did not die out completely and I Chronicles 9 tells us of census, under the watchful eye of David and Samuel, in which the Korahites were listed as "keepers of the thresholds of the tent of meeting." Despite a family history in which a famous rebellion figures prominently, the sons of Korah remained a Levitical line with peculiar tasks.
BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Psalm 84... |
MAKING THE JOURNEY
This psalm is one of a collection (120-134), composed to be sung by visitors to God's holy hill as they trekked up the mountain to His House, the temple, the Place of Prayer.
It is probably one of the psalms Jesus and his disciples sang as they walked from Bethany to Jerusalem, in the week before his trial and crucifixion. I know it as one I have learned to sing during "down" times.
But this psalm, like Psalms 42 and 43, is no happy-clappy stuff - this is indeed singing about emotions, with emotion, with highs and lows placed side-by-side almost as if the singer is encouraging us to sing along with his/her mood swing.
Well, maybe, that is what we can say about God - He is the one who is not surprised by our mood swings and, in fact, though we hit lower than rock bottom, and though we rejoice in God telling us our record of failure is completely taken care of - yet He is there - for us! - at both ends of the swing and all along the way.
BRUCE C WEARNE looks at Psalm 130... |
PSALMS OF ANGUISH
These are psalms that now can help us pray to God when on a downer because they were written out of the anguish of such a time. They are full of the writer's sadness.
Before writing this I was out walking my "beat", Sunday evening just before the sun set. When I left home it was still bright. But as I finished the walk, the last 200 metres, the sun was gone, the light had faded, darkness started creeping on and...it was as if my skin and my ears were turned up a notch or two as I heard the waves and felt the cool evening breeze.
Maybe a notch of two. That seems to be what this poet was writing about. The experience of God's creation speaking to us of who we are when His creation speaks from Mount Hermon's hills and valleys:
"There deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your
waves and breakers sweep over me fully."
BRUCE C WEARNE takes a look at what comfort we can find in two psalms written in a time of pain... |
OPEN BOOK SPECIAL - THE LETTERS OF JOHN
OPEN BOOK SOUNDBITE: BRUCE C. WEARNE has made some audio recordings to accompany his series on the letters of John. In the second of the series, Bruce takes a closer look at John. You can listen to it here... (11.4MB, 7.56 minutes)...
BRUCE C WEARNE's introductory recording to the Letters of John can be found here... (5.9MB file, 3.04 minutes)...
TO MY GOOD FRIEND IN CHRIST, GAIUS
As we read and ponder John's letters, we witness a remarkable turn around. We gain great encouragement from John's conversion. What he has penned for us speaks loudly of the way his life was turned around. Part of this, it seems, involved John mastering the common Greek (KOINE) language.
When these letters, and his Gospel, are read as the words of a disciple who had to deal with a multi-lingual environment, then we begin to see how the mastery of other than native Jewish and Aramaic languages became part of that same life over which Jesus issued his parting directives. His disciples would "go into all the world" taking with them the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:7-8). They were to live this Gospel and so they would also proclaim it by their words. John's letters and his Gospel certainly indicate a proficiency in getting the message out in the lingua franca of his time in the eastern Mediterranean region of the then Roman Empire.
John's repeated emphasis upon love (AGAPE) reminds us of that unforgettable event on the shore of Lake Galilee sometime after Jesus' resurrection and recorded for us in John 21. And we have there John's account of Peter's restoration.
BRUCE C WEARNE looks at III John, bringing an end to his series on the epistles of John... |
TO THE GREATLY FAVORED WOMAN
As we carefully read, and closely attend to, John's first letter, we have confronted the writer's emphatic celebration of love. Agape is nothing less than the purpose of life. It is that which is found within the ever-widening household, a family circle which God is gathering as His own special place of dwelling.
We have noted to our benefit that the letter informs us of the writer's developing self-understanding, having been conquered by this love, this perfected love (Agape) which banishes all fear (I John 4:18).
John's letter and all that it contains, and all that it anticipates for the future, is inextricably bound up in the wonderful and life-changing events that he has recounted in his Gospel. He has recounted these things because they have burst in upon him, as the light which scatters the darkness that prevailed before the dawn! And now we read the first of two more personal letters, this one to a "much favoured woman". Such an ascription reminds us of the words of the angelic messenger uttered some decades earlier to the young woman who would give birth to Jesus: "Cast off all fear, Mary, for your are much favoured with God!" (Luke 1:14).
In his series on the epistles of John, BRUCE C WEARNE takes a look at II John... |
In conclusion to his letter, John uses a word that is also found in his account of Jesus' prayer on the night of His betrayal. That prayer is often called the High Priestly prayer. In that prayer, Jesus used this same word that John now uses here. The word signifies a "duty of care" and in His prayer Jesus says that: "those You gave to me I have kept." (John 17:17).
As we read that prayer now we realise that it is a prayer filled with an immense sadness. Jesus recognises the loss of the one who betrayed Him but He had exercised "due care" for those His Father had given Him. As the Scripture had required of Him, He had then fulfilled its requirements (John 17:9). He had protected (EPHULAXA) them.
BRUCE C WEARNE looks at the warning against idols contained in the last verse of I John... |
John concludes His letter with a litany of statements that "we know". It began with him explaining why he had written (5:1 3). His aim was to confirm his readers in their knowledge of eternal life. With that confidence (5: 14) they will know that their Father in Heaven wants to hear their requests and they will therefore know that He answers them completely whatever they may ask (5: 15).
Then it was a matter of praying for those who are in some kind of compromising position - recalling John's own problematic silence during Jesus' trial - in the knowledge that the One who is born of God does not offend (5: 18).
Then, writes John, we know that the entire world lies in the grip of the evil one (5: 19), but from what he had written earlier we know that this world is passing away (2:17). God's children direct their love not to the world but to doing the will of our Heavenly Father. The One who makes that possible abides forever (2: 17).
BRUCE C WEARNE looks at the concluding verses of I John... |
All wrong-doing is sin, but there is sin which is not deadly. We have already explained that John's own courage had failed him during the trial of Jesus. This was when Jesus was interrogated by the High Priest. He had answered: "I have spoken openly to all the world. I have taught at all times in synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews congregate. Not a word have I spoken in secret. Why are you questioning me? Ask those who heard me what I have told them; they know what I have said." (John 18: 19-25).
"Such is the nature of sin that we can be trapped by our own ignorance, lack of awareness, even by our own innocence. It is still sin. We need to grow wise about our responsibilities under Heaven."
John was there, he tells us, but he was not speaking up at this point. Presumably, his own life was also in the balance. This was when one of the police struck Jesus a blow accusing Him of lacking respect for the High Priest. And so, when John wrote his Gospel, he was setting the record straight, allowing his readers to note his inability to step forward and defend his Teacher.
BRUCE C WEARNE examines what John says about sin in I John 5... |
GOD HAS MADE HIMSELF KNOWN!
As I read through this letter, wondering whether we are actually being presented with an edited compilation of say two or three or four letters, it also becomes apparent that John has written about faith in Jesus Christ that is somewhat foreign to the usual way we think about these things.
In his Gospel, John tells us that the first inklings of his believing were when he saw the empty tomb and the "linen wrapping rolled up in a place by itself" (John 20: 21) but without an understanding from the law and the prophets that the Messiah must be raised from the grave. For him not to believe would be tantamount to making God into a liar - after all Christ Jesus then came and presented Himself to the disciples and dispelled all fear, opening the way for them to receive the Holy Spirit (20: 22) and to live mercifully. How could He not believe under these circumstances?
So are these the musings of an erstwhile philosopher, trying to re-jig his faith into a set of logical propositions? If they are followed with mental assent, would they not enable his readers to conclude that their intimate prayers of the Heavenly Father have been are answered?
BRUCE C WEARNE continues his look at I John 5... |
GOD'S LOVE BRINGS FORTH FAITH'S CONFIRMATION
When we read our Bibles, structured as they usually are in chapters and verses, or in the present case in about 20 separate sections, we can too easily assume that when we come to a new verse or chapter or section we come to a new topic. The continuity between all that is written in this letter is somehow construed in terms of how our Bible translators and publishers have conveniently divided up the text for us.
That is also why I have also suggested that we do not know for sure whether this "first letter" is one continuous letter, or whether it is a compilation of the letters John wrote to various groups of Christian believers. For this reason I suggest that readers continue to look carefully at what is presented at any one place in terms of what goes before and what comes after.
BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at what John says in chapter five about the relationship of faith and love... |
LOVE IS OF GOD
I have translated the opening words of this passage as "dear people" (4: 7), a term that is also used elsewhere in John's letter (2: 7, 3: 2, 3: 21, 4: 1, 4: 11). Here it is particularly "poetic" in the sense that the phrase addresses the "much loved" (AGAPETOI) exhorting them to love (AGAPOOMEN) one another, since love (AGAPE) is God's gift to them; it is what has brought them forth so that it can even be said that loving (AGAPOON) is to know God. To have no love (AGAPE) is to be ignorant of God. And then there is the clincher: for God is LOVE (AGAPE). Effectively, that is the name of God that His Son has now made manifest.
There are other appellations that John gives to his readers throughout this letter. There is what I have translated "my dear children" (TEKNIA MOU) (2: 1, 2: 12, 2: 28, 3: 7, 3: 18, 4: 4 and it is not used again until the final greeting 5: 21).
TEKNIA, that is, children is used twice 3: 10 - as "the children of God" and 'children of the devil", and also in 5:2 our love for 'the children of God'.
PAIDEIA is also used as a synonym for TEKNIA where it refers to children having been taught about the Father by their fathers and mothers.
BRUCE C. WEARNE on a passage that's all about love... |
John had been a particularly zealous disciple of Jesus, somewhat protective of the integrity of the circle of the disciples. Mark and Luke tell us that John had been especially concerned when they came across a person who had been freeing people from the demons that plagued them by using Jesus' name (Mark 9: 38-41; Luke 9: 49-50).
Jesus had corrected him in these terms: "Do not hinder him! For no one doing a powerful work in my Name will be capable thereafter to speak evil of me. For who is not against us is for us. For truly let me tell you this: whoever gives you a drink of water because you have Christ's surname will by no means go unrewarded." (Mark 9: 39-41).
Later John and his brother James complained to Jesus about a Samaritan town that would not offer the party hospitality on their way up to Jerusalem. Their request of their Rabbi to call down fire from heaven upon these unfriendly neighbours drew Jesus' stern rebuke (Luke 9: 51-56). So something of great significance has happened in John's life. His enthusiastic commitment to safeguarding the circle of disciples from "outsiders" has been transformed. His concern has been turned inside-out because of the One who by His Spirit, the Spirit of truth, dwells in their midst.
BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at the first few verses of I John, chapter 4... |
CONTINUING ON, REMAINING IN HIM - AT HOME
What we read here is the stupendous account of John's discovery that the Son of God had extended the family circle of the Lord. Those who take on His considered advice, His precepts, should be in no doubt whatsoever concerning the pleasure of the Heavenly Father in seeing His eternal purposes coming to expression in the lives of ordinary humans as they learn to love one another and live by what He has taught.
Clearly, John believes that he writes at the start of something that he has no ultimate control over. What he writes is to confirm the praise of Psalm 90:
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place
From age to age our sure abode
Before the mountains were brought forth
From everlasting Thou art God!
So may your favour on us rest;
And make our work grow as you will
It's up to you our work to bless
The purposes of our lives to fill."
BRUCE C. WEARNE takes a detailed look at I John 3:24... |
DON'T BE GOBSMACKED BY HATE - GOD KNOWS ALL THINGS!
During Jesus' ministry He went among His local community. When He taught in the synagogue there was, at first, surprise (HEXEPLESSONTO), which then became a moral panic, and those of his own home town were deeply scandalised (HESKANDALIZONTO) (John 1: 11) by Him. On that occasion, Mark tells us: "And on account of their unbelief Jesus marvelled" (Mark 6: 6).
This experience, we are told, was a surprise to Jesus. This disbelief came to the Son of God as a wonder, even as a miracle. And yet now in this passage from John's letter we hear the disciple whom Jesus loved telling his readers: "Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, upon discovering that the world hates you."
What are we to make of this? Jesus marvelled as the disbelief of those of His own home town who preferred to find refuge in their own cruel rumour-mongering gossip about Him. Meanwhile the disciples of Jesus are told explicitly not to be surprised when faced by the hatred of the world! Is this not somewhat dissonant?
BRUCE C. WEARNE continues his look at I John... |
GETTING INTO THE PRACTICE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Why, given what he has already told us, should John be reiterating this? Haven't we been told the gist? Why go into a difficult discussion about sin (what I translate as "offence") and what it all means? After all, is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Righteous One sufficient? Is it not the case that I John 1: 8-10 tells us all we need to know? Are we made any more righteous by simply going over and over the same old story, again and again?
"Were we say that we have no offence, we (simply) deceive ourselves, the truth (has departed and) is not in us. When we confess our offences, he being faithful and righteous, we do so in order that he may forgive us for our offences and make us clean from all offence. Were we to assert that we have not offended, we would make him out to be a liar, and (in that case) his word is (simply) not in us." - I John 3: 8-10
Well, actually, if we attend to what John tells us here, we note the urgency with which has written. To be "in Christ" is not only to be counted righteous but to be and to become righteous: to walk as He walked. This is why there is such urgency in John's letter; let there be no doubt about it (verse seven). To be "in Christ" is to be caught up in God's cosmic purposes, as a member of His family, from before the beginning!
BRUCE C. WEARNE continues his look at I John... |
John looks to the future. After all, what has been established for us points us to the path of service laid out for us in the days ahead, the days allotted to us in this life. To have grasped that Jesus Christ is the long-promised "Anointed of the Lord" is to believe that our Father in Heaven has truly grasped us, has truly enfolded us in His Fatherly embrace as members of His family, as children of God alongside His Son by whom he has made Himself known when Jesus Christ put in His appearance for us.
So that means that we live in the sure knowledge that He has set us apart for Himself - to be like Him because He was made to be like us, yet without sin! In Christ Jesus the very image of God has been decisively and irrevocably restored so that we can now bring the familial love we share as members of God's family (AGAPE) into its right focus. That is, after all, what we are. That is how we are now to live in God's family.
BRUCE C. WEARNE continues his look at John's message in I John... |
WHAT IS THE BEGINNING?
What has Jesus promised to those who follow Him? The answer to this question helps us deal with what seems, at this point in the letter, to be a most difficult problem in interpretation. It has to do with one little word which is characteristic of John's contribution in his Gospel and in this letter - it is the little word "beginning" (ARCHE): "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God" (John 1:1), and, "It was what has been since the beginning" (I John 1: 1)
John doesn't differentiate between different uses of "beginning". He seems to simply refer to all of them at the same time. And now we read of that "beginning" in the context of Jesus' promises to us, in the context of His provision of "eternal life", life from here on. Heeding this we receive life. We heed what we have heard. We have heard what has been spoken from the beginning...and so in hearing this word, we realise it has also been spoken to us "from the beginning".
BRUCE C. WEARNE examines John's use of the word 'beginning' in chapter two of his first letter... |
IN THE KNOW - FAMILY SOLIDARITY AT THE LAST HOUR
The love (AGAPATE) to be shown by the beloved (AGAPETOI - 2: 7), the adopted family of the Father in the Son of God, is truly "in Him and in you" (2: 8). It is not given to be transferred to the world or anything in the world. That means that the given conditions of our life under heaven are not to replace - indeed cannot replace - the love given to us by our Heavenly Father.
John notes that it is possible for the love the Father gives (AGAPE) to be misdirected away from His family's life. To misdirect that love is to completely by-pass the love of the Father; it is also to radically misunderstand and misappropriate the gifts He showers upon us. When that happens the person or persons involved remain outside His Fatherly embrace even though they have been invited to share in His love.
BRUCE C. WEARNE takes a look at John's warning not to deny the Son... |
TO WHOM AM I WRITING?
So many of the letters of the New Testament, particularly those of Paul, are written to churches. The letters that frame the Apocalypse are also all to churches, even though the individual reader is made privy to these letters dictated by Jesus Himself, the One who moves among the candlesticks. But this letter from "the disciple whom Jesus loved" is different.
In sending out this encouraging reiteration of the teaching of his Rabbi, John shows his deep concern to connect with all those who might be in earshot, those who now find themselves caught up in the light that Jesus has brought. In this respect, his letter confirms that the Good News of Jesus Christ makes its direct appeal to children - "let the children come to me, stop hindering them!" - even as it reminds parents of their task before Heaven to bring up their offspring "in the fear and admonition of the Lord".
BRUCE C. WEARNE says John's audience was 'different' to some of the other New Testament books... |
WHAT NEW COMMANDMENT?
Does John have any choice in writing this letter? As with Paul (see II Corinthians 5: 14: the love of Christ constrains us), John finds himself lovingly constrained. It is not something of his own devising. He's conveying God's love to them. He writes in the friendship that binds them in the love they have been made to share.
His appeal, "dearly loved people" (AGAPETOI), is not something that can be kept under wraps. To keep one's own counsel and remain silent, to fail to write what he is now writing, is too close to stumbling around in the dark. John is obviously constrained by what has "newly" dawned upon him and he just cannot keep it to himself.
Notice how John uses the distinctions "ancient" and "new", "darkness" and "light". It is, as it were, when these distinctions intersect in what he now writes, that this new commandment, Jesus' declaration to His disciples, comes in great power - "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you, so you also love one another. By this you shall be known by all as my disciples" (John 13: 14, see also 15: 12-14). This rule for Jesus' friends is as old as creation and it is by this that they are to be known every new day as it is obeyed in their lives.
BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at why John feels "lovingly constrained" to write about God's love... |
THE ADVOCATE OF COMFORT AND REASSURANCE
This is not to be read as a recitation of theological propositions as if their purpose is for us to read them and then give our assent by "signing on the dotted line", in order to logically derive the conclusion of the matter.
John, we recall, went through the arrest, trial and crucifixion of his "personal advocate". He writes out of the comfort that this same person - Jesus, the Messiah, God's Righteous One - has conferred upon him. He goes with us, He comforts us, He intercedes with the Father for us, He walks with us. He stands by our side pleading our cause with His Father. That is His task. That is His task for us.
And what is our task in response as we walk in His way? We keep His commandments, the precepts by which he lived and by which He walked. This is a description, by one of Jesus' first disciples, of how he had been put back, well and truly, on that path when "his foot had almost slipped". Indeed, says John, God in Christ Jesus reveals Himself as thoroughly on the side of the upright (Psalm 73: 2, 1).
BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at the start of chapter two in I John... |
OVERCOMING THE DARKNESS; WALKING IN THE LIGHT
John the "beloved disciple" knows what he is writing about. For him it is as plain as day. Jesus has declared Himself to be the "light of the world" (John 8: 12-20), and John freely goes ahead and reiterates this.
God indeed is light and in Him there is no darkness whatsoever. It has also been so, from the beginning. There is no darkness on God's side of this relationship. He has now restored us and Jesus is with us as our friend, our belovéd. Those who revere His name, who walk in the light that He brings, experience this eternal fellowship with Him. He truly is the sun of righteousness which day-by-day rises upon our life with healing in its wings (Malachi 4: 2).
This message might tell us how to think, but it doesn't suggest that first we have to get our thinking right to understand what follows. No. This is a declaration. It is declared to inform the readers and listeners about who God is to them and who they are to God.
In his new series looking at 1 John, BRUCE C. WEARNE examines verse five to 10 of chapter one... |
BEGINNING WITH THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP
What binds the writer of this letter to his readers? What binds "us" to "you"? It is what "we" here declare to "you": "our" unity, is in the life given to "us". That which was given to "us" is what we now proclaim to "you". It is what has been given from the beginning, has been revealed to "us".
Such is this revealed gift of eternal life that "our" joyful fulfilment of what we have seen and heard now comes for "us" in declaring it, passing it on, to "you". And what is this but life in the light of Jesus' abiding friendship (John 15: 14-15)? It is this amazing revelation that frames the New Testament contribution of John, the "disciple whom Jesus loved." He was evidently amazed by it and writes to us so that we too may share this friendship.
That seems to be why the first letter of John, as with his other letters and his Gospel, is notable for its repeated declaration of the joy in binding "us" or "we" to "you", of ensuring that what is "ours" is "yours". It is a letter written in the knowledge that this friendship is nothing less than "eternal life" (ZOOEN TEN AIOONION) given to us with the Father's Only Son, Jesus Christ.
In his new series looking at 1 John, BRUCE C. WEARNE looks at the opening lines of the letter... |
WHAT HAS HAD TO BE WRITTEN
How does a person who has heard, seen, looked upon, touched the One he believes to be Israel's Messiah subsequently live out his life in the years allotted to him?
This is a question that not only refers to the life of John, who wrote one of the Gospels, and also these three letters, but to all the New Testament writers along with other apostles and disciples mentioned in the New Testament writings.
In particular, we not only think of John the Baptist's disciples (see Acts 19), but John the Baptist's extended family among whom were, we are told, John and his brother James, the sons of Zebedee, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus' own brothers and sisters. What John has told us in his Gospel is that Jesus Himself, directed him, from the Cross, to look after His mother.
In the first of a new series looking at 1 John, BRUCE C. WEARNE takes a broad look at what the letter's all about... |
OPEN BOOK SPECIALS
• THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
HINDSIGHT FOR THESE LATTER DAYS - OVERVIEW TO THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS
So, how should we read the book known to us as The Letter to the Hebrews? What questions should guide us as we listen to this letter? How should we understand the writer's intention as we work our way through this ancient book? And further, how does it speak to us today in ways that truly benefit us?
Let me explain, firstly, how I came to compose the discussion you will read in the pages that follow. This account continues a project I have been working on over the past decade. That has included writingabout Mark's account of Jesus, a look at the Holy Spirit's work in Acts, a study of the confirmed hope of John's Gospel, and a study of the harmony for all believers brought about by the good news of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by Paul in Galatians. Overall, the project is one of writing down in clear English the good news which the books of the Bible, the New Testament, are bringing us.
It is with the discussion of the harmony that was established between Paul and Peter, and documented in both Acts and Galatians, that an important question is raised. Paul has written his letter to refute the presumption that the Judaean churches had priority among all Christians, and churches, at all times and in all places.
BRUCE WEARNE kicks off a new series looking at the book of Hebrews... |
FOR THE COMPLETE SERIES ON HEBREWS, CLICK HERE...
• THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
ONCE MORE WITH EMPHASIS
Paul concludes his letter. He has written all that he wanted to say. He has issued a stern rebuke. He has also laid done a practical agenda for pastoral concern among the community of believers. It is as if he concludes by giving a final summary which gains in emphasis because he has put it in bold and italics and then underlined it. Here, as he has emphasised elsewhere, the cross of Christ is a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, "but to those who believe, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1: 23-24).
This is the point from which Paul wants his personal identity to be located. The Lord Almighty had provided him with the way by which his life could find fulfilment - the only way. And that is way in which God's promises come to fulfilment in the cross of Jesus Christ. God in His Son has taken upon Himself the curse and indignity of human sin - "and with His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53: 5).
BRUCE C. WEARNE completes his series on Galatians with an examination of Paul's final words... |
FOR THE COMPLETE SERIES ON GALATIANS, CLICK HERE...
• THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
THE THIRD MEETING BY LAKE GALILEE
What is one to do after a person you confessed to be the Messiah, rises from the grave? What guidance is there to help us know what to think and to do in such circumstances? And how does a person deal with a resurrection if, at the point of the Messiah's arrest, before His execution, one has deserted Him? And what if one denies even knowing Him, after one has earlier stated a willingness to lay down one's life in His service? What if the opportunity came to die for the Messiah and one squibbed it, denying that one ever knew the person?
Put like that, such a scenario sounds abstract and theoretical, until one realises that that is precisely what the final chapter of John's Gospel is all about. The disciples of Jesus had witnessed their Rabbi's arrest. They had heard about the nails and the spear thrust into the side of the dead body. They had learned that the body had been laid nearby in a fresh grave. They would have already been traumatised by the events of the last weeks. But now? How does one deal with a resurrected Son of God, as well as all that. To top it off He comes and calls you His brother, His sister, His friend, when all you have done is to let Him down? And so, the apostle addresses the way in which the Risen Lord dealt with His disciples and these two men - Peter and John - in particular. They were to become leaders of the early church, and they knew just how feeble their allegiance had been.
In the final of his comprehensive series looking at the Gospel of John, BRUCE C. WEARNE examines an encounter between Jesus and Peter after the resurrection... |
FOR THE COMPLETE SERIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, CLICK HERE...
MORE FROM OPEN BOOK
THE ULTIMATE POWER GRAB
The story in this Gospel reading is about the ultimate power grab. James and John come up to Jesus and ask him to do for them whatever they want. That's a pretty audacious request.
If you are a parent, what would you do if your little boy or girl came up to you and said “Mummy, Daddy, I want you to do whatever I want?” you would probably laugh, and you would probably see it as a little arrogant. We might think the same of the disciples. Who did they think they were?
To get some sort of context about why James and John would have made such an outrageous request, we need to go back 2,000 years to understand the times they found themselves in.
NILS VON KALM takes a look at Mark 10: 35-45 and what it tells us about Jesus' "counter-cultural approach"... |
FREE TO LOVE!, PART II
The first Christians realised that they didn't have to spend their lives trying to get acceptance from God. They didn't have to do that anymore. They were free, free to serve and love without wondering if what they were doing was good enough. They realised that in Jesus there was something much better and it wasn't about trying to be better, it was about following a way that was better.
The great story of Odysseus in Greek mythology shows this beautifully. Odysseus and his friends need to get somewhere in their boat, but they need to go past this island which no one has ever got past before. The reason that everyone has floundered on this island is because of the beautiful seductive voices of the sirens on this island. When they would sing no man could resist and they would turn their ship toward the island and be wrecked on the rocks.
NILS VON KALM concludes his article looking at what love really means... |
As I read these passages over and over, there is a consistent theme coming through, a theme of acceptance, and repentance, in that order. And not just that - what also shines through is that it is all because of Jesus. It all centres around Him. Who He is and what He has done is completely new - that is, love us first, without requiring us to do anything to earn that love.
In the first part of a two part article, NILS VON KALM examines what the love of God means for us... |
WORKS WITHOUT FAITH ARE DEAD
One of the things that I need to constantly remind myself of, and which the church in general can fall into the trap of, is doing works of justice and forgetting why we do them. Why is it that we do what we do? What motivates us? How is this work that we as Christians do any different from any good works that anyone else does? Is it different?
The work that we do is not just a humanitarian response to the crisis of world poverty. It is a response to the love of God within us. In the church I grew up in, everyone knew the words of John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life". But a passage I never knew was 1 John 3:16-17 - "We know love by this, that He laid down his life for us - and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?"
NILS VON KALM takes a look at what motivates a Christian to help others... |
THE BIBLE AND THE EMPIRE OF MONEY
In this chapter of Luke we find the remarkable parable of Jesus about the unjust oikonomos or steward (verses 1- 8). But, as a kind of attachment to his story, Jesus also makes some important connected remarks about the role and significance of money. In His words something rather like a central view or perspective on the 'monetary aspect' of human society comes to the fore. But, before we explore that, let us look as carefully as possible at Jesus' separate statements. No less than six individual 'components' of his view can be distinguished.
1. Money can fail. See verse 9: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” (KJV). This text forms the conclusion of the parable which had just been told by Jesus, a parable that tells of a 'wasting' or 'squandering' steward who gets asked by his master to produce his fraudulent accounts.
BOB GOUDZWAARD takes a look at what Luke 16: 9-15 says about money... |
BOUND FOR GLORY - VIA THE CROSS
Before and after this event, the question comes up about who the Messiah really is. In the chapter before this one, when Jesus tells the disciples that He must suffer and die, Peter pulls Him aside and tries to set Him right. Jesus then has to correct Peter, telling 'Satan' to get behind Him. What the disciples don't understand is that the way of Jesus is not the way of the world. The glory that Jesus was on about was completely opposite to what the disciples had in mind. In the disciples' mind, the Messiah was going to come and reign over Israel and take out the oppressive Roman occupation once and for all. And in Jesus they thought they had found their man. So when Jesus starts talking about suffering and being killed, no wonder Peter pulls Him aside. It's a scandal. It goes completely against his view of the world.
Athol Gill, in his book A Life On The Road, says this about this passage: “The sacrifice of which Jesus speaks…is self-denying discipleship for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel…the church has often lost its glory because it has pointed people to Peter's way rather than to Jesus' way. It has sought to offer Jesus, and the way of power and glory, at the same time. But it is through weakness that strength is to be found. It is through the renunciation of power and glory that power and glory will come to the church. Those who follow Jesus must do so by way of the cross.”
NILS VON KALM takes a look at what Mark 9: 2-9 says about the transfiguration and what it means for Christians today... |
SHEEP, GOATS AND THANKFULNESS - A SURPRISING COMBINATION?
The passage in Paul's letter to the Ephesians has enormous relevance for us in 21st century western culture. This letter was written to a church which was in a very religious culture, pretty much like what we have today in a lot of ways.
It's just that we generally worship different things these days. We worship money, we worship ourselves and we worship material goods. It has been said that you become what you worship. If you worship God you will become more Godly and more Christlike, and if you worship money you will inevitably become more greedy. Ephesus was one of the major cities of the Roman Empire in Paul's day and what he says in his letter is very encouraging to them in helping them deal with the troubles they are going through.
NILS VON KALM takes a look at two passages in Ephesians and Matthew and their relevance to us today... |
TRUST - WITHOUT JESUS WE'RE SUNK
This is a story about trust and about keeping our focus on Jesus when the storms of life abound.
This story also appears in Mark’s Gospel, but Mark’s version doesn't have Peter walking out to Jesus on the water. So why has Matthew added it? Because Matthew is writing to a community who needs to hear that Jesus can be relied upon even when our faith wavers. If you look at the sequence of stories in Matthew and Mark, they all, in order, describe the death of John the Baptist, the feeding of the 5,000, and then Jesus walking on the water.
Matthew’s version seems to be about trust and reassurance for a battered community. What is shown in Matthew’s story here is Jesus’ ability to save. Perhaps they were already beginning to see that Jesus was someone safe to be around, that he could provide for their needs. They had just seen him feed the 5,000 with five loaves and a few fish, and now they see him rescue Peter after his faith wavers.
NILS VON KALM takes a look at what Matthew 14 teaches us about trust... |
THE EMMAUS ROAD - FROM BROKEN DREAMS TO RESTORED REALITY
This passage starts off with two people walking along a road, probably some hours after reports had started circulating among the disciples that Jesus had been seen. Historians tell us that it is most likely that the two people were a couple. We know one of their names, Cleopas, and the other one was probably his wife, Mary. To understand this passage we need to put ourselves in their shoes; we need to imagine where they were at in their mental and emotional state. And to do that we need to go back to look at the mindset of a 1st century Jew.
You see, as the two were walking along the road, they were in a state of complete disillusionment. Firstly, they had been completely perplexed by the fact that Jesus had died. The Messiah was not supposed to die, and I will discuss that in more detail below. On top of that, some women in their group said they went to his tomb that morning and found it empty and had seen angels who said he was risen. And then, this stranger comes up to them and starts talking like he’s just come down in the last shower, with seemingly no idea of what has been happening over the last few days.
NILS VON KALM takes an indepth look at Luke 24: 13-35... |
PAUL'S CORINTHIAN 'CHAUVINISM'
In this series I’ve tried to bring some clarity to our encounters with one of Scripture’s most puzzling passages: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. But for fear of getting lost in my reading, I think we should turn to the text itself.
To move us in that direction, I want to offer some final comments on the verses I’ve glossed over.
Verse 3. The phrase, “God is the head of Christ” (NRSV) makes it impossible for me to tell what exactly Paul means here. After all, God and Christ, in Trinitarian theology, are one and the same. And yet this is supposed to be an example of the “head of” relationship which also holds between husband and wife, between Christ and humanity?
MICAH TILLMAN's final installment in his series looking at the first 16 verses of 1 Corinthians 11... |
MICAH TILLMAN continues his series looking at the first 16 verses of 1 Corinthians 11 in this, the third instalment... |
In the second of his four part series, MICAH TILLMAN writes about how Paul's words on women wearing veils were actually about starting a social revolution with Christ at the centre of it... |
In the first of a four part series, MICAH TILLMAN takes a deeper look at the first 16 verses of 1 Corinithians 11... |
It’s interesting that Paul opens this sentence to Titus with “remind”. How did he know that we would constantly need reminding to be submitted to our rulers and authorities?
One of the themes that follow through the ministry of Jesus is that in all circumstances and in all ways, He obeyed the law. Jesus spoke out about obeying the law of the land which involved things such as paying taxes. As Christians today the message hasn’t changed. We need to be subject to our authorities, obedient and ready to do good.
While in a church environment this may be easier than in the world, Paul does not differentiate between non- Christian and Christian rulers. I think we often read this verse and read what we want to see and that is to be subject to good Christian rules and authorities. What this verse really tells us is that we are to respect and obey all those who are set in authority over us, because God has placed them in those positions whether they know that or not.
CHRISSI ELLANKOON on a Biblical look at submission... |
YOU TOO WILL BE WATERED
'Don’t do something because you expect something in return!' Have you ever heard that phrase? I know so many times when I take on that extra task or go out of my way for someone, that phrase replays in my head. We are all taught from a very young age to do whatever we do from the goodness of our heart and are discouraged for seeking something in return.
This spirit of doing something for no return is evident in any volunteer. They know that there is no monetary reward behind what they do. Most of the time volunteers will tell you that they do what they do because they care and because in some way it gives them a sense of satisfaction.
CHRISSI ELLANKOON takes look at the meaning behind Proverbs 11:25... |
KNOW THE CONDITION OF YOUR HEART
Words are a complex tool. They are used to communicate truth, find directions and build relationships. They are also used to bless or curse people. All in all words are powerful. Jesus tells us what we bind on earth in bound in heaven and what we loose on earth is loosed in heaven. That binding is done by the power of the spoken Word.
With all the power that words have, there is one function that they lack, retraction. Once spoken, you can never take those words back, it doesn’t matter how hard you try. Although you may be sorry and try to make amends, the fact remains that once the words are spoken you cannot take them back.
I am sure like me you have found yourself in situations where you have said something and then, the minute it has left your mouth, you wish you never said it.
CHRISSI ELLANKOON examines what Jesus has to say about our words revealing our heart... |
THE LOCAL WELL
Wells in the time of the Bible were essential to the survival of the community. The life of a town centred around the well as a source of water; it meant health and prosperity for the townspeople.
When new people arrived in town, one of the first things they would need to do is find the local well. It was a gathering place and an equaliser - everyone needed water and therefore rich and poor alike depended on the well. The well was not the source of the water but merely a collection point, one of many for the people in the local area.
There are many similarities between the well and the local church. While the church does not contain our God, (for nothing can contain God), it is a place within the local community where people know they can come to meet with God. They come to the church to meet the One who can give eternal life and everlasting water.
CHRISSI ELLANKOON takes a look at the story of Jesus and the woman at the well... |
FAITH IS A CHOICE
how many promises has God made you? Have all of them been
fulfilled? Or like me are you still waiting to see some of
them out worked in your life. God asks us to have faith, faith
like a mustard seed, and while it may be small, it is full
The Gospel of Mark starts with an incredible story
of faith. There are some many valuable lessons to be learnt
here, but the one I want to focus on is the lesson that faith
is a choice. Mary was a young girl who was still a virgin.
The Bible doesn’t say that there was anything remarkable
about her. She was not a great beauty, nor was she from a
noble family; she was just an ordinary person like you and
me. However this young girl was going to be the mother of
the Messiah. It was going to be her responsibility to raise
the Son of God. Just think about that for a moment. The child
she was to nurse was going to bring salvation to the earth.
What kind of faith would that take?
CHRISSI ELLANKOON takes a look at what Mary can
teach us about faith... |
TO BEAR FRUIT
characteristic that most of us humans have in common is the
need for recognition and status. You may not think that you
really care, and on the surface you probably don’t.
However, if you teach you want to be called teacher and, if
you heal, you want to be called doctor.
The truth is, if you perform the function, then you
want to be given the title. This in itself is not bad when
it is in balance, however most people at some point crave
and desire the title more than the function.
In Judges chapter nine, Jotham tells a parable to the
people of Sheecham to instruct them on choosing a leader and
king over the people.
There is so much in this parable that is important
for our day to day lives. It highlights the importance of
valuing our gift and function far above the need for title
and position. The olive tree, fig tree and the grape vine
understood the importance of the function that they had. The
olive tree, for example, knew that the fruit it bore was pleasing
to not only man, but God and therefore was reluctant to give
up this function in order to become a king over the trees.
In the second of a new column looking at passages
and verses from the Bible and what they mean to us today,
CHRISSI ELLANKOON takes a look at the parable of the three
trees in Judges, chapter nine... |
WASTE OR WORSHIP?
the woman made her way to Simon’s house I often wonder
what was going through her mind. Did she plan what she was
going to do? Was it all rehearsed?
Scripture doesn’t tell us too many details about
whether she had planned this event or not, however we do know
that she didn’t belong there, she wasn’t an invited
guest. While this Scripture does not name her, we know that
she was a determined and focused lady.
With one hand clasped around that cold creamy alabaster
jar she must have purposed each step; she was focused on reaching
Simon’s house because she had heard that the Teacher
would be there. She knew Jesus would be there. What was she
going to say? How would she address Him and greet Him?
CHRISSI ELLANKOON takes a look at Mark 14:3-9
- the anointing of Jesus at Bethany... |