Unexpected Authority

I don’t know. Why is it whenever I write the word “authority” I hear Cartman’s voice in my head commanding my respect? It’s the hazards of keeping up with popular culture I suppose.

Whenever we think of a king or government exercising authority, what usually comes to mind? Often, we think of violence or even battle. We’re going to see a battle of sorts in our text this Sunday as we read Mark 1:21-34 – albeit, it’s not much of a battle. The authority of God’s kingdom leaves very little room for resistance.

  • In the story, what is it that first gets the people amazed about Jesus?
  • What do you think the people mean by Jesus teaching with “authority”?
  • Why do you suppose they didn’t recognize that sort of authority in the teachers of the law?

The story gets really exciting when someone erupts with squawking and a demonic spirit begins speaking through a person to confront Jesus.

  • What are your thoughts about demons and the spiritual world?
  • Why do you think the demonic entity identified Jesus’ hometown?
  • Why do you think Jesus cut the demon short? What can we infer from that about our own focus in ministry?

For those who care, there’s a chiastic structure to v21-28

Jesus comes to the synagogue

Jesus teaches

People are amazed at his authority

Jesus confronts a demon

People are amazed at his authority

Jesus leaves the synagogue

After the public setting of the synagogue we move the private setting of Jesus’ home. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever and Jesus heals her. Word gets out and suddenly people are showing up in droves to be healed at Pete’s house. Not at the synagogue, isn’t that interesting?

  • How do you feel about the fact that Pete’s mother-in-law gets right to work, serving? Follow the link to the definition of that word. Look at the other passages where that word is used (the verse count is to the right of the definition).
  • How might we deduce something about the nature of being Christ’s follower from that?

Hope to see you Sunday!

Contrast of Empires

Image result for herod antipas john the baptist

I think the idea of the “kingdom of God” is one of the more difficult concepts for Christians to grasp. In my conversations with people, it often seems to be a primarily future construct. “One day, Jesus will return and set up his kingdom”. That’s true and I agree with that, but is that all there is to it? Jesus came on the scene announcing that the Kingdom of God was at hand, closing in, so to speak. The whole theology of the New Testament indicates that the kingdom of God is presently active and at work in this world, through the church. God’s kingdom can be described as God’s good rule – over our lives and over all creation – but the New Testament even indicates that it is God’s rule over the nations as well. But how does that work? How could they say that while Caesar still sat on the throne?

One way to understand it is to see that God’s rule is at work subversively, working right along side of the fallen world and human empires, showing a different way that ultimately leads us to the aforementioned conclusion of Christ’s return and restoration of all things.

That’s something we sort of see in our text we’ll be reading this Sunday as we continue our study in Matthew, reading chapter 14:1-21.

We’ll be reading this passage in two sections, v1-12 and then v13-21. In these two accounts we have what appears to be an intentional contrast. We have two different leaders – both of whom are called “King of the Jews”. Both stories contain an account of a feast of sorts. But the circumstances and outcomes of both stories are radically different. Here’s what I want you to do: Read through each section, back to back. Then go through and look for whatever connection you can see between them. Ask questions like: How did Herod seek to protect his kingdom compared to how Jesus went about advancing his? What practical differences were there between the two feasts ? What is Herod’s feast all about? What was the result of each feast and how did it differ?

Ask your own questions about the contrast. Then ask yourself the most important question of all: Which feast would I rather be attending? Does my answer correspond with the way I presently live my life?

It’s going to be a challenging, yet encouraging study (I hope) – see you Sunday!

God’s Rule in Action

I remember once when my wife and I were going to turn an enclosed porch area on the back of our house into an extra bedroom for our boys. We planned and considered how this could be accomplished and what it would take. We drew a lot of diagrams on napkins and contemplated this task – and then realized it was too big for us and had to be hired out. A friend from church did construction jobs like this agreed to take on our project. What I still remember was the great sense of satisfaction and even surprise when he set out to tear sections out and rebuild others, because there was a big difference between this project in theory and seeing it in action. It turned out much better than we had imagined.

That’s a lot like what’s happening in our study in Matthew. We’ll be reading the last part of Matthew chapter 4 this Sunday and we’ll finally see the start of Jesus’ ministry.

In v15-16, Matthew identifies Jesus’ work as a fulfillment of a prophecy given by Isaiah, 600 years earlier. Light dawning on people living in darkness is how the action of the kingdom of God is described. What is your impression of this metaphor? What do you think it means, and how does that inform your understanding of God’s purposes for humanity?

We then read about Jesus’ first disciples. We’ll be unpacking the dynamic of rabbis and talmidim (disciples) on Sunday morning – but succinctly put: if these guys were working in the family business, it was because they didn’t measure up for normal rabbinical activities. Yet Jesus chooses these fishermen to be his close associates who will set out to imitate him. What does that tell us about God’s rule in action? Who is it open to, and what action does he call his disciples to (v19)?

V23-25 provide a summary of the excitement that was building around Jesus. What is it that he is becoming famous and sought out for? What is this revealing about God’s rule in action – what is intended? In all three of these examples, what is it about this that makes it good news?

Looking forward to this study! Happy Father’s day in advance – and don’t forget it’s Surf-N-Grill this Sunday, and if you want to be baptized, follow this link to sign up online: sign up!

See yez’ Sunday!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

If you were invited to a special dinner thrown to honor a great person, lets say, a war hero or a philanthropist…the ceremony was free and was going to be lavish.  Would you go?  If you didn’t go, what sort of excuse would you consider valid?

Jesus is going to pose this sort of scenario in the portion of Luke we’ll be reading this Sunday. Luke 14:15-24

As you read the story and consider what it is that Jesus is responding to, what do you believe his main point is in this parable? As we think about the broader implications of Jesus’ story, we start to make some observations about the kingdom of God as Jesus presents it. If we understand the kingdom of God in eternity to be the marriage of heaven and earth and the restoration of all things…what does the imagery of a banquet mean to you? Does this conjure up images of dry ice fog, clouds and harps….or something else?

Who are the people who enjoy this party? Who are the people left out…and why?  What place do you see yourself in this story, and what response does it inspire in you (if any)?

We’ll unpack this as best we can on Sunday — see you then!

A Change of Priorities

Hey everyone! Hope your week is going well.  This Sunday we’re going to be looking at Luke 6:12-26.

The narrative transitions from the conflicts Jesus had with the Pharisees to the choosing of the 12 apostles and the establishing of the Kingdom ethic.  As we explore this passage this week, I’m going to try and focus on the change in priorities that Jesus introduces us to.  A change from the standard priorities of this broken world to the values and priorities of Jesus’ kingdom project (to use a phrase coined by N.T. Wright).

v 12-16 we have the account of Jesus selecting his 12 apostles.  This occurs after an all night prayer session that Jesus has.  As I look at that list of names, something occurred to me as I considered Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot both being included on the team.  Considering the differences between the values these two men may have embraced, what, if anything, does it speak to you about our priorities and purposes in the community of Christ’s followers?

v 17-19 describes Jesus ministering to the multitudes.  If you were to try and summarize with one word the priorities revealed in these verses, what would it be?

v 20-26 begin what is referred to as “the sermon on the plain“, where Jesus teaches many of the same things, with a few variations, as he taught in the “sermon on the mount”.  With this opening salvo of “beatitudes”, or blessings, and the contrasting “woes”…what kind of picture do we see emerging about the values of the kingdom project?  Where does personal comfort place in these values?  Do these verses comfort or disturb you (or both)?

This should be a very interesting study…you never know, it may even get me into trouble.

See yer’ Sunday!