Monday, January 16, 2012

The Calling of the Twelve

I have just finished reading Scot McKnight's chapter in the book 'Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus'. McKnight's chapter 'Jesus and the Twelve' is, in my opinion, a re-imaginative look at what the calling of the Twelve disciples really meant. Scot is doing good exegesis and great history.
The heart of this chapter comes with its conclusion:

"Jesus' sending out the Twelve shows little parallel with the expectation of the reunification of the twelve tribes. Instead, the connotations of his choice and sending out of the Twelve show more significant parallels with Qumran leadership, and covenant reestablishment as found in Joshua 4" (McKnight 209)

As having just finished a degree at a fundamentalist dispensationalist school, it is refreshing to hear words like this. The point of the twelve is not to show that Jesus is finally putting Israel back together, but he is starting something 'New' with the 'remnant' he chose. The symbolism of the Twelve is obvious, in that it represents the Twelve tribes of Israel, but it is also clear that the Jesus did not exactly attempt to find each disciple from each different tribe (and he obviously didn't). If this is true, then it is hard to argue for the number twelve being an eschatological number (meaning Israel would finally return from exile). Jesus may have seen the final reunification of the Twelve tribes, but the text seems to tell a different story. The point of the Twelve is to start something new...maybe a 'New Israel'?

McKnight argues that the calling of the Twelve and the Baptism of Christ are both proponents of Joshua 4, and this seems very convincing. According to the gospel, Christ called the Twelve and immediately the next story is Christ at the Jordan river (hint. hint.) Jesus (or the Gospel writers) clearly identified these two acts of calling the Twelve and Baptism as a re-do of the original Joshua story (by the way Jesus and Joshua are the same name...again hint hint). Jesus seems to be re-starting Israel through his life and this is what Scot McKnight seems to be drawing out.

Do you think that Jesus was intentionally creating some kind of 'New Israel' starting with Joshua 4? I would love to hear your comments!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What Exorcisms in the Life of Christ really meant.

As I wrote a few days ago, I am currently reading through the book 'Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus' written in collaboration by many scholars and edited by Darrell Bock and Robert Webb. I currently finished the second chapter of the book labeled: Exorcism and the Kingdom. In this chapter Craig Evans makes a very powerful case for Kingdom and its meaning. It is not enough to think that the gospel simply means the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, but it means the reclaimed Kingship of God in the world. Evans writes, "The herald of "good news" has announced the presence and reign of God, which in the language of the later Targum is understood as the revelation of the "kingdom of God" (Evans 155). So for a first century Jew, the good news would not necessarily mean 'salvation', but it would mean that God is finally going to reign as King. In early Jewish thought it was understood that God would be King over Israel and the world, and this is the expectation for a first century Jew.

So what do Exorcisms have to do with the Kingdom of God? Over and over Craig Evans uses Luke 11:20:

"If it is by the finger (hand) of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you"

Essentially when the messiah begins battling the Kingdom of Satan (through exorcisms, headings, etc) the Kingdom of God has finally arrived. There are obvious implications for this such as the fact that one must admit that Christ did do all the miracles the gospel tells, but also if Christ did indeed performed these wonders, then it must be safe to assume that the Kingdom of God is already 'upon us'.

Evans also discusses aspects of Christ sending of the twelve, and how this sending involved the same type of miracles and Kingdom of Satan combat that he himself was involved in.

So to conclude, the incoming of the Kingdom of God is in all actuality a battle of creation. Satan has staked his claim of creation, and God (through the messiah and the church) is taking this control back. I believe that it is rather obvious that exorcisms and healing no longer occur in the same capacity they did through Christ and the twelve. How today might we participate in this battle against the Kingdom of Satan?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jesus: The Ultimate in Relational Ministry

Matthew 3 contains a story of Jesus being baptized by a man named John (the Baptizer). This story is significant, because it tells a little bit of the why Jesus was here. As we know Jesus came declaring the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is near. The Kingdom is like… Jesus cared about the Kingdom. This Kingdom was the new community of God’s people that were going to be about God’s ways. What does Jesus’ baptism have to do with the Kingdom? I find it very interesting That Jesus thought he needed to be baptized. John said that he wanted people to be baptized for repentance from sin. People do terrible things, and people need forgiveness for those things.
Jesus, though, was not a sinner. Jesus was never recorded doing terrible things. If not, why in the world did he think he needed to be baptized for repentance? Jesus did not need to repent. To understand this we need to take an honest look back at the first century culture.
Today we are individualistic in nature. I have my beliefs on things, and you have yours. We believe that God came to save me personally from my sins. A first century person in Jesus times would not see things this way. Sin was personal, but it was not seen that way. If the King of a land sinned the whole was sinning. So for Jesus, who was a part of the Israel and its traditions, he personally was not a sinner, but his people were. Think abut it this way. When people came in 2001 and attacked the World Trade Center killing thousands who was to blame? We know that there were only a few people that actually fulfilled the tasks, but we now have a skepticism and nervousness about seeing and Arab person on a flight. Why? Because some how another person’s sin is tied to people like them. Jesus was not a bad person, just like the person on the flight, but his people were. Jesus’ people turned on God, and he was a part of those people. So for Jesus to get baptized by John was a proclamation by Christ to say that I repent on behalf of my people (Israel).
What does Jesus’ baptism have to do with us today. As one of my friends regularly says, “What does it all mean Basil”. The point is found in Jesus’ action. Jesus entire ministry was based around relating to humanity (and especially the Jews). For God to take on flesh, was an obvious act of relating, but for God to be baptized is even greater.
God Loves You. As in the famous passage by 1 John 4:8: God IS Love. What amazing truth this really is. God is love, and all his acts are worked out through his identity. Jesus was baptized to say, “I’m in this with you”. That is comforting to know. So maybe when you have just experienced a death in the family we can remember that God died so he can understand your hurt and pain. Jesus was not just the perfect representation of God, but he was the perfect representation of humanity as it should be. So take comfort in knowing that Christ was baptized because of love, and grace, and peace. May we then be encouraged to follow in that same path. Maybe we need to practice love like Christ did. Maybe we need to enter into those dark places of other people’s lives just to say that: “I am here with you”.
So today maybe you feel alone, and that no one understands you, but I contend that God does through Jesus. Jesus knows how you feel and hurt and want, and you can trust Jesus to help you through it. And maybe to the person that sees someone hurting and has no compassion on them. Remember that Christ had compassion on you. Christ entered into your darkness to create light, and we have the ability to do the same in others! Amen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

John the Baptizer and the Kingdom of God

I recently just finished reading a very long scholarly work named 'Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus'. This book is a collaboration and I recently finished the section pertaining to John the Baptizer and Jesus's ministry written by Robert Webb. I do not see myself as a professional theologian, but I do want to offer a view words pertaining to the conclusions that Webb made about John the Baptist and Christ.

What I found incredibly convincing was that Webb claimed vigorously that Jesus began his ministry as John's number two. This holds significant theological weight due to the fact that if God's Kingdom mission started with John the Baptist, then one must conclude that the Kingdom of God predated Christ's ministry. This was a conclusion I formed myself, but I find it convincing. Webb claims that John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, but this repentance was used as entrance into the 'new' Israel or remnant. If Webb is correct, and I think he is, then we must rethink what the meaning of baptism is even outside the apostle Paul. Baptism then was used as entrance into a community. To me it reminds me of that backstage pass people get at concerts. Baptism is entrance into community through repentance. For those of us who believe that the Church today is somehow related to the people of Israel (God), then we can find this view possible.
One of the other issues Webb entertains is the question of why Christ himself was baptized. Jesus was no sinner, yet he still felt led to participate in this baptism of repentance. Why? Webb again is genius in his historical/theological interpretation. Webb thinks it is possible that Christ was baptized as repentance not in a personal salvation type of thinking, but in a national way. Israel needed to repent, and Christ was repenting on behalf of Israel, and because he was apart of this nation, then repentance was then necessary for Christ as well.

I am finding this book thus far very challenging to my thinking, but also informative. I am new to participating in this historical method of Biblical Study, and I am finding that this form of study has the ability to answer questions that theological study fails too.

As I continue through this work I will begin to offer in-depth conclusions about the book and the historical Jesus. This was a just a post done (without the book in hand) to get out some of my initial thoughts. My next posts will be much more informative and scholarly in conclusions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quiet Places

Quiet time, time alone with God is awkward. In our culture today, it is really difficult to understand slow and quiet. We always have an agenda. We always have an itinerary and we always need to complete each phase of it as quickly as possible. I think our Western culture today is missing something through this though.

Mark 1:35 tells of Jesus early in the morning. Jesus’ disciples are still snoring loudly, the birds haven’t quiet awoken yet, and the sun is still thinking coming above the hilltops. This is most likely the quietest time of the day; nothing is moving, nothing seems distractive. This is the time that Jesus chose to be alone. But he did not just sit in his sleeping bag in his own thoughts. The disciples’ sleeping is still too much, too distractive. Jesus needed to move away from the quiet of morning to the complete and utter silence of the pre-dawn forest. This is the setting of Jesus sitting down and talking to God; alone and in complete silence.

It is interesting to think that Jesus would be so nit-picky on the setting he chose to talk to the Father. I think of myself and want to laugh. I usually am in the car when I choose to spend time in prayer with God. The music is cranked, the windows open, and the sound of traffic whizzing around my car. It seems that my time with God is not as dedicated, deliberate, and meaningful. It’s true! Jesus deliberately chose places and spaces where he could sit undistracted talking to God. This is my new goal of life. To daily find places where there can be no distractions from talking to God. Hopefully if you haven’t yet, you will try to find space for self as well to talk with God on a consistent basis.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Just like a Children’s book, Scripture is a Story. Though obviously the narrative in the Bible is much more complex and real, it still follows the basic rules of Story. Every Story must have some kind of Protagonist and Antagonist. Scripture is no different. There are many protagonists, namely God and Christ, but many others in Scripture. There also many Antagonists as well, the obvious Antagonist is Satan, but Cain, Pharaoh, and Caesar are all very important antagonists to the Story. What we find in Scripture is a Story about a God that cares so much for His broken creation that He is willing to offer redemption and salvation over and over until finally he offers a permanent redemption for all creation.

What is important to observe is that unlike a storybook from the library, the great narrative of Scripture is a Story about ourselves. It is a story that encapsulates all of creation. Though our personal point in the story is farther down the timeline than the Stories we read in the Bible, we are still equally a part of God’s great narrative. This has extremely important complexities to it though. If the story of the Bible follows the basic rules of Story, with a protagonist and an antagonist, then we clearly have the ability to fall under one of these categories. We can choose to align ourselves with the Cains, Goliaths, and Pilates, and we can choose to align ourselves with the Abels, Davids, and Pauls. It is not that the protagonist in a Story must be a perfect resolute person. It is quite to the contrary. David was a man after God’s own heart yet he still had an affair. Paul was a terrorist of the early Church, murdering possibly dozens of early Christians. A protagonist has the ability to have faults. It would be a travesty if the rules were that we couldn’t mess up to be the Good Guy. But the big point here is that we do have the ability to choose the good guy or the bad guy. What ‘side’ are you going to align yourself with?

It is important to note what a Good Story looks like. What made Abel a good man in God’s eyes were his sacrifices. Abel gave the best he could to God, while Cain did not. Cain is not ‘evil’ for just killing his brother. Cain is labeled evil for not giving all he could to God. Do you have skills that you know could help change our hurting world? A great example of this today would be doctors. Doctors have the unique skill to make sick people better. They are healers. A doctor can choose to practice medicine in America and average 300,000 dollars a year or a doctor can choose to use his skills sacrificially and help sick dying people in Africa that cannot pay him or her. Who lives a better story in these two examples? I know it seems obvious that the doctor in Africa is a better man, but how many of those kind of doctors are there? How many of us get an education for the selfish reason of living very comfortably in life? Even I tend to fall under that category many times. It is not that I don’t want to help the helpless, but I truly would rather help myself. Unfortunately a true protagonist in a story can never be the ‘help myself’ type. A true protagonist is giving. I guarantee you cannot think of a story that you truly enjoyed where the protagonist is not giving in some way. That is because that is the Story we live in. God wants us all to live a good story and a Good story is a story of a person who gives everything to God. It is hard and many times not fun, but it is what we were made for. Remember that even if your story makes you the antagonist right now, you still have the ability to choose to change. We all do. It won’t be easy, but it seems that the right path and the right Story never are. Let us pray that we have the persistence and passion to live as the protagonist in our own Stories.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My 'Personal' Savior

I am becoming so weary with the attitude of the Western Christian. This idea of a 'personal' relationship with God being the only important thing is really just disgusting to me. I just recently had a somewhat serious discussion with a friend on this very topic. The conclusion my friend came up with was that her personal relationship with Jesus is really all that is important in this world. With this conclusion, this person blatantly admitted to not caring about the rest of the world. It is this selfish attitude that most religion has toward the world that makes me want to give up on the establishment of the Church altogether. I am not at all saying that a personal relationship with Jesus is not important, and at some point I probably have argued that point for myself, but as I am rediscovering Scripture and Jesus; I cannot help but believe that God came to earth to offer so much more than a simple selfish 'personal relationship'. It is interesting how our Western culture has so easily poisoned what scripture has to say on relationships. If a first century Christian heard that phrase, he or she most likely would not have understood what it meant, because they believed that Jesus didn't come to reconcile us individually back to Himself. God came to reconcile the world back to Himself. This can be somewhat shocking to people, but God did not come back to just reconcile Humans. Humanity was just one of the receivers of this restoration God offered.

When we all begin to understand that this restoration of the relationship between the world and God is not just 'personal'. We just might begin see that we have much more to offer not only to God, but to the world. Personal relationships are important, but let us not base our entire theology on something that is not even referenced in Scripture.