Friday, November 25, 2016

Mark: Corban, kosher rules, and luck

Mark 7:5-23
In this passage, Jesus answers the Pharisees who don't get why he doesn't wash his hands before eating.  The Pharisees wonder why he doesn't obey the fences that they created around the rules.   Jesus wonders why they don't obey the actual rules.

He uses the Corban example.  If someone dedicated some property to the temple, then it would pass on to the temple whenever that person died.  While the person lived, however, he could still enjoy and use the property however he wanted.  These people were using the rule as an excuse to not care for their aging parents.  People didn't have retirement funds then, and they depended on their children to care for them in old age.  These self-righteous people were using the Corban rule to not care for their parents when they could very much do so because the property was still theirs while they lived.

People cared more about the appearance of righteousness than actual righteousness.  Jesus used these examples to show how wicked people are in their own power.  "For from within, out of the heart of  man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." People are already wicked.  They cannot get any more wicked by eating something.  God gave Israel those rules to make them see how badly they needed a Savior, not to impose a diet.  Now that Jesus had come, he makes people clean and able to come to God without having to die.  There is no more need for kosher rules and diets.

This reminds me of what I am teaching.  There are three kinds of people.  There are people who trust in luck.  They believe that events and history happen randomly without any plan or meaning.  Then there are people who believe in God.  Events and history are specifically ordained by God who knows and loves us and knows exactly why he's doing what he's doing.  The third group of people try to be both.  They try to use God to get good luck.  It doesn't work that way.  He is not obligated to something just because you did something.  He saves who he will save and has mercy on who he has mercy.  He cleans whoever he will, and you cannot manipulate him to serve your purpose.  If you do, then you are trying to get saved on your own efforts when you are already so defiled by just one sin that you can never come to God.  Thanks be to God that he sent Jesus to be clean for us and that we are clean through him.  If only people would just follow Jesus and his will for their lives and not try to live according to what they think is right.  Life would be so much better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Short musing from Sunday

I taught on God making night and day and recalled one kid from when I ministered in Loganville asking why stars were created. So I included a part in the lesson about God making the moon, sun, and stars for his glory and even the principle from WSC question 1 about why people were created: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. One kid asked if that includes people who murder and kill. I didn't have a complete answer to the question at the time. I have to say that it does but such people are doing what they want and not what God wants. That is what sin is. When we sin, we do not serve our original purpose, but God can even redeem those people who murder from their sin and from death. I hope I got the message across. I know if a kid asked a question, then I did something right.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mark: 5000, walk on water, unclean hands, two reactions and then the right one

Mark 6:35-7:4

In this passage, Jesus feeds the 5000, walks on water, heals people, and then the Pharisees gripe about him and his minions not washing their hands properly before eating.

From what I can see, there are two and a half responses to Jesus in all of these passages.

1). They wanted to force him to be king.  Some people try to say that Jesus didn't really multiply the bread and fish.  They say that when one little boy offered his lunch, the rest suddenly remembered that they had brought their lunchboxes and ate.  No, no, no.  This miracle is the only miracle other than the resurrection of Jesus that is in all four gospels.  This was a huge miracle.  This reminded the people of the manna in the desert and they also expected the Messiah to rescue them from Roman occupation and make Israel great again.  So, they saw Jesus as at least the next Moses to lead them on another exodus and this was his sign.  John 6 talks more about what went down than Mark does.  The only thing is, he was already their king from eternity.  And he didn't come only for them.  And they needed an exodus from an occupation far more serious than the Romans.  They needed salvation from hell and damnation.  They needed to be saved from their sins.  So, they had one extreme reaction where they approved of Jesus but wanted him to fulfill what they thought they needed rather than what he actually came to do.

1.5). Greater fear than any bad storm. After Jesus had graciously ministered to the masses, he still wanted some alone time after just having heard about his cousin, John the Baptist's death.  He needed some grieving time.  He send his minions across the lake without him.  A big storm came and it was night.  The disciples were freaking out.  Then, here is Jesus walking on the water.  This is the main way that Mark proves that Jesus is God.  Only God could master the water and the waves that way and walk on them like it was just normal ground.  When the hungry 5000 wanted to make him king, he showed his disciples that he was better than that, he was God the Son.  And when he got to the boat, Mark uses his favorite word, "immediately," and the storm just stopped again.  Once again, the disciples were more afraid after he calmed the storm than before.

2). The Pharisees completely reject and insult him.  Most of their country sees Jesus as a man who is making changes.  The Pharisees see someone not following the rules that they follow so well that they made rules around the rules.  Apparently when Jesus fed all those people, he did not do the ceremonial washing that they think God the Father wanted because he wanted them to eat clean food.  And if God wants them to eat clean food, then he must want them to wash elaborately, too.  This is far more complicated than washing your hands in warm water for 20 seconds and then turning the faucet off with the paper towel before drying your hands.  No, this is more like a whole bath.

Then again, God wanted clean hearts, not stupid rituals that he didn't actually set.  And just like the first reaction, they went the other extreme where they disapproved of Jesus because he was not fulfilling what they thought they needed rather than what he actually came to do.  Which is the right reaction?  Neither extreme.  We simply need to fear Jesus more than a storm the way the disciples did.  So much will go right if we do so.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mark: rejections, familiarity, martyrdom, and mere harassment. Also, Jesus has time for you.

Mark 6:1-34

Jesus goes to his hometown, but the people there saw him grow up in the home of Mary and Joseph with his brothers and sisters.  To them, there is no way that this young guy could be a prophet.  They remember when he first started walking.  And thus familiarity breeds contempt.  If you grew up knowing Jesus in a Christian home in America or even in a private Christian school, do you kind of roll your eyes whenever Jesus's name comes around?  Do you ever wonder why you need him?  Contrast that with someone raised in public school where Jesus had to remain in the background.  Its like, sometimes, the people who believe in Jesus who went to public school take him for granted a little less.  When I first went to Trevecca, it nearly brought tears to my eyes to have professors pray before class.  I went to Salem High School where you couldn't even really sing specifically about Jesus in chorus because you might offend nonbelievers (though you could get away with God, just not specifically Jesus.)  I hold to my Christian faith quite strongly because although my parents raised me in the faith, I did not take my faith for granted because Jesus was not the center of school (although I had many positive faith experiences there) and I came to him on my own.

Next part: Jesus sends out his disciples, not just the 12, but other trainees as well.  Some towns will accept Christ and his salvation, and others will not.  The disciples simply must shake the dust off their feet and treat the latter towns as unclean for the time being, although they should not treat them as unreachable.  The truth is, all people are born rejecting Jesus.  Unless Christ changes your life, unless the Father draws you to him, you will not believe, thus says John 6:44.  All the disciples where specifically called by Jesus.  They did not initiate their rabbinical relationship with him (although, I think all rabbis called their disciples, not just Jesus.)  Still, Jesus initiates all the relationships that believe and obey him.  He also wants those people to bring other people to him.  If those people reject Jesus, he still wants us to continue to try to reach them until we can't anymore.

Next: King Herod rejects Christ, but it is through John the Baptist.  Herod Antipas is in an incestuous relationship with his brother's wife, Herodias, who is also actually his niece.  Her father was Herod the Great's son, a son that Herod had killed for possibly trying to take his throne.  John the Baptist called own Herod for this.  Herodias wanted him dead, but Herod kept him alive and in prison because although he hated his message, he still thought he was interesting and amusing.  Then, Herodias's daughter danced a very sensual dance for Herod.  He eventually had an affair with her, too.  Her promised her up to half the kingdom in front of his guests, and she wished for John's head on a platter, so he granted that wish.  Thus, John was martyred, not really for speaking the truth, but because a girl danced.

How we Christians today are marginalized for speaking out against perversions to sexuality.  God created the wonderful gift of sex to be within a married couple that is man and woman.  Man wants to do what man wants and so people will have sex outside of marriage, live together without being married, and try to have same-gender relationships.  Christians speak out against this.  At least we aren't put in prison yet.  We can lose businesses, lawsuits, and misguided Christians will say we are judgmental.  But we are not yet incarcerated or killed for our love of the truth yet.  And we are still to love sinners enough to tell them that they are wrong and that they will perish in hell unless they give their lives to Jesus.  Oh, how I have failed the Lord in that respect!  I want to be bolder with the truth.

Finally, after Jesus hears that his cousin John has been killed, he seeks a place to be alone, but thousands come to be healed and to hear him speak.  In his weariness, he still finds time to minister to their bodies and souls.  Sinners, our Lord has time for you.  Please, let go of your own way and go to Jesus who is so much better than your desires and dreams.  He will heal you.  He healed me of my sinful desires and self-righteousness.  He can heal anyone.