Thursday, May 5, 2011, 10:16 AMMay 5, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
One more thought from Mark 16, then on to another book. Any Suggestions?
These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe. They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed. Mark 16:17-18
I have a problem with these verses; we clearly and easily accept 3 out of the 5 miraculous demonstrations or “signs” that are promised to accompany those who believe – but we even more clearly and easily reject the other two. To be clear, these are the five “signs” that will accompany those who believe: 1) cast out demons, 2) speak in new languages (tongues), 3) handle snakes, 4) safely drink poison, and 5) heal the sick. Why do we so easily accept numbers 1,2, and 5, but reject 3 and 4? There are two significant answers. (Well, maybe three – we all hate snakes, so it’s easy to ignore that one!)
I spent my graduate study years in south central Kentucky, which, back then, and maybe still today, had a number of active congregations that practiced handling snakes, and drinking poison, as acts (or proofs) of faith. They were small groups, and quite remote, but they believed and practiced all 5 of these “signs”. Should we? Why don’t we?
Here is the first answer. The oldest copies of the Gospel of Mark that exists today do not include or contain the last 11 verses; 9-20. They have either been lost, or didn’t originally exist, and the last 11 verses were added later by scholars or scribes who thought the chapter ended too abruptly. Granted, the oldest copies of the NT that exist are about 150 years after Jesus, but it is dangerous to build a theology or practice from scriptures that are so unique. I’m not saying that we should cut them out or ignore them completely, but I just wouldn’t want to build an entire theological system on some verses that may or may not be original, or may or may not actually have come from Jesus. The story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8 is another example; that story does not exist in the oldest copies of John’s Gospel that exists today. Can we just ignore or remove the story? No, but neither should we build out whole theological foundation from that or this passage. That is what makes the whole handling of snakes so interesting, and leads to the second answer. You are probably thinking, well, why do we still practice speaking in tongues and casting out demons, and healing folks, but we don’t handle snakes or drink poison, except in rare situations in small sects of small churches?
The second answer is one of the most important principles of scripture interpretation – “let scripture interpret scripture”. This is what I mean. Let the clearer passages inform the less clear, let the multiple mentions of scripture have weight over those things mentioned fewer times, and in this case; if something only appears once, and in a portion of scripture that may not be original…then it’s probably best not to try and build some theological tower from the spurious source. See my point? The fact that we still practice tongues, exorcism and healing, and ignore snake handling and drinking poison, is because there are many other places in scripture where the three are commonly accepted, practiced, even commanded by Jesus – but nowhere else in the Bible do we see or hear or find Jesus or the apostles espousing that we handle snakes and drink poison. There is a story of Paul being bitten accidently by a poisonous snake, in Acts 28:3, but not as an act of worship or “sign” of belief. It’s a great story, but I don’t think it was intended to inform us on the practice of snake handling as an act of worship.
I know this post is rather theological and not very practical for daily application, but I thought it a good teaching point, and wanted to make it before we leave Mark. Anyway; just be careful how you build your theological, even Biblical life. Make sure that what you believe, and how you live are consistent with the “whole” of the Biblical record, and not based on one little reference. Stick with Jesus, and I’m sure you can be healed from a poisonous snake bite or accidental ingestion of poison – just don’t press your luck nor make it part of your weekly Sunday worship – just my opinion, and I might be wrong – but I don’t think so! Ha!
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 08:30 AMMay 4th, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died. Mark 16:7
I was taken with the two words in the middle of this verse: “including Peter”. What an interesting and profoundly humane thing for this young man/gardener/angel/spirit/Jesus to say to these shocked and awed women. This being – let’s just call him an angel to make it easier – was very pointed in his instructions, to include Peter, in the declaration of their discovery that Jesus was not dead in the tomb, but alive in the world! Why this special 2 word ‘blessing of inclusion’ reserved for Peter? Hadn’t all the other disciples also abandoned and run away at their moment of gravest decision? Hadn’t they all stayed back, observing from afar the mock trial, spurious beating, inhumane treatment of their ‘supposed’ friend and savior, Jesus? Yes – so what made this angel so insistent that Peter be included in this awesome address intended for all the disciples – but be sure to include Peter?
Well, he was the only one who cocksurely declared that he would never abandon and forsake their Lord. He was the only one who “swore” in front of a young simple peasant girl that he never knew Jesus. “Never knew” that is a pretty strong renunciation. He was the only disciple who actually denied Jesus 3 times before the cock crowed in the early morning hours – and when it did – the guilt and weight of what exactly Peter had done – must have flooded his mind, memory and heart. He must have been feeling especially responsible for betraying and abandoning his master – and must have been feeling a bit more “outside” the rest of the scared and trembling disciples – now gathered in hiding to plan their get away from Jerusalem before the fate of their Master became their own. “Including Peter”…I really like that!
It makes me think that my denials, my swearing, my rejections, my betrayals…might all be forgiven; that I might be “included” in Jesus’ forgiveness, that I might still be “included” in the circle of His followers, that I might still be “included” in the future that God had planned while the past was still so fresh and painful in their minds. We are all “included”, when it comes to God’s grace, and for that I am profoundly thankful.
I also wonder about the account in John’s gospel of Peter and the disciples fishing early in the morning not many days after the resurrection, when Jesus “appears” on the shore cooking breakfast. When the tired fishermen return to this Messiah cooked breakfast, Jesus specifically asks Peter 3 times if he loved Jesus! Do you suppose those 3 different questions in any way relate to the 3 pronounced denials expounded not that many days earlier? Maybe, but Peter got the answer right this time, and not 40 days later, filled with the Holy Spirit and power he preached his first sermon and 3000 people lined up to get saved – and the whole of the Christian Church was born – I’m sure glad Jesus “included” Peter…and me too!
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 07:26 AMMay 3rd, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died[/i ] . Mark 16:6-7
This ends Mark’s gospel. Each of the 4 gospels conclude with a “resurrection” story. And one of the most interesting things about those stories is how different they are. Each of them contains the most basic elements; the women going to the tomb first, the person (angel) who greets them, the arranged grave cloths, and the fear/awe/trembling follower’s running back to the gathered disciples, hiding behind closed doors.
There are a couple items of interest in these details. Many folks for many years have rejected the claims of Jesus, because they do not have room in their world view for any concept of the resurrection – dead people are dead – they don’t come back to life; ‘when you are dead – you are dead’. Most of those believe that these gospel resurrection accounts are fabricated myths, postulated by a group of devious disciples to perpetuate the person of Jesus, and trick the masses into believing Jesus was/is alive! (Not sure why they would want to do this if they knew different – but it’s a theory.) The accounts of the resurrection given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all give silent and unwitting proof to the actual physical resurrection of Jesus – here is why I believe this.
If the disciples were going to perpetuate this untruth, they certainly would not have sent women to the tomb first, to be the first witnesses. Even though Jesus did more to elevate the status of women than any person in history till that time; (maybe ever) women still did not retain much authority or credibility in that culture. If you were going to try and foist a lie on an unbelieving society – you certainly wouldn’t use as your initial witnesses, a group or class of people (women) who had about as much status as cattle in that culture. The fact that each story contains a similar account of said women being the first witnesses, actually “proves” to us that this story is more likely true! If they were making it up – they would have sent some more “worthy” witnesses.
The second “proof” if you will – is the fact that these 4 different accounts are so different! Read all 4 of the accounts at one sitting some time, even try and make a list of each of the different elements some authors include, and some apparently neglect or leave out. It is quite remarkable, and many people use those differences to discount the validity of the story. I think they prove just the opposite! If the disciples were fabricating this falsity – don’t you think they would have worked a bit harder to get their story straight? People who were about to hang their lives on the lie of the resurrection, might insure a better, more consistent, seemingly more accurate accounting of the story. But these 4 gospel recorders took no pains to harmonize their accounts, they just wrote what they remembered, or saw, or saw fit to include to fulfill their different purposes – and let the details fall where they may! It may initially seem haphazard, but upon further review, might also stand as a silent or unintended “proof” to the validity of the resurrection – that and the fact that few people are willing to die for a lie, and almost all of the disciples were martyred for their faith in the succeeding years following this early morning empty tomb encounter. Makes you wonder huh?
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Monday, April 11, 2011, 09:49 AMApr. 11, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. Mark 15:21-23
We don’t know much about Simon, other than the fact that he was from Cyrene, a country in Northern Africa. There was apparently a community of Jews living in that part of the world, and Simon may well have been a practicing Jew, who took his two sons on a Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship with his fellow Jews. He was pressed into service likely for two reasons: He was probably an African Black man, and stood out from the crowd that way, or he was a large man, and stood out as one capable of carrying this heavy load. Either way, he carried the cross upon which the Messiah would be killed.
Following along, trying to keep up with the crowd and not lose sight of their father were his two, apparently young sons: Alexander and Rufus. Even less is known about them at this stage in the story, and this time in their lives. But what must it have been like for these little boys? Have they heard about Jesus? Did they know of his claims to be the Messiah? Were they just being good little Jewish boys, following along this adventurous journey with their dad? How the course of their day…and lives were changed! Their dad gets “called” to carry out one of the most significant events in Jesus’ life, and they get ring side seats at the most significant event in human history! They get a close up view of the crucifixion of God’s Son, Jesus. Do you wonder if it might have had an impact? Would it for you? How would being in the front row for this most remarkable event change your life?
Well, as you might expect, the story doesn’t end there. We never hear of Simon again, and we don’t know much about Alexander – but in Romans 16:16 we read: Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. Do you suppose this is the same Rufus, who has now become a great leader alongside the great Apostle Paul in the work in Rome? Could this young boy at Calvary be the same one whose mom, become an adopted mom to Paul? Could it possibly be that Jesus, while saving the world, saw two young boys whose dad had been enlisted to carry out the ignoble task of carrying the cross – and Jesus, reached out, spoke too or simply looked upon these 2 innocent boys, and “picked them out to be his very own?” Oh , I think it is very possible. I think he picks me (and you) too!
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Saturday, April 9, 2011, 08:31 AMApr. 9th, 2011
Posted by Kermit
Posted by Kermit
Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law – the entire high council – met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor…So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.” Mark 15:1 & 15
Two questions emerged for me from this text today. Why were the religious Jewish Leaders so bent on involving the secular Roman government in their obvious “religious” undertaking of doing away with Jesus? Why didn’t they just condemn and kill him themselves? Partly there is a natural answer – the Jewish leaders didn’t have authority to execute anyone in this Roman state, so they must enlist the help of the Roman’s to achieve their purpose. The less natural, but no less obvious was because they wanted to share the blame for their false condemnation, and make themselves look ‘better’, by having the Romans shoulder at least some of their blame and guilt.
The second question is deeper – why are the Jews so threatened by Jesus? Was the fact that he could draw greater crowds then them such a threat they had to do away with him? Was the fact that the common people gladly welcomed and accepted him, such an affront to their own religious ‘failings’ that removing the competition was the best solution? Was the fact that Jesus kept condemning them for their multiple perversions just too much to continue to bear? I’m sure it was all of these; but at least one more.
Jesus threatened the Jewish Leaders, because, though he was their long-awaited Messiah – he was not the kind of Messiah they wanted! He was not the fulfillment of what their religion had become. Jesus’ primary message was to point out how far they have gone in missing the boat – their religion had become nothing more than a personal scam that made them rich, kept them in power, and kept the people under their spell – Jesus would eradicate all that!
I don’t think this is vastly different today. There are way too many Christians who have fallen more in love with their personal doctrines, or preferred traditions, than Jesus! There are Christians who’ve exchanged the challenging adventure of following Jesus, and replaced it with some lifeless, legalistic, law-keeping – not unlike our Jewish ancestors. There are far too many sincere Christians majoring on the minors while neglecting the essentials of the Christian Faith – and I think Jesus would have no more part of that today than he did in Jerusalem. Christians who proudly look down their noses at others who may see or view truth differently would cause Jesus pause. Christians who judge and condemn for no apparent reason would find equal reaction from Jesus. Christians who settle for life-less forms in the name of maintaining some long-dead traditions are in danger of killing Jesus while thinking they are preserving Him! We best be careful. I better quit!
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