The last chapters of Acts detail Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem and eventual transport to Rome, where he is believed to have been beheaded during the reign of Nero. Acts chapter 21 tells of Paul’s journey from Ephesus to Jerusalem, his final journey before his arrest. One particularly interesting thing about Paul’s journey to Jerusalem is that the other believers he meets along the way weep for him and/or warn him of serious harm—first the Ephesians, then the Tyrians, then the Caesareans.
I’ve noticed that being ill has helped me to read the Bible through a new lens. And consequently, passages that once seemed irrelevant to me, have taken on new meaning. In Mark 8:31-32, just after Peter states his belief that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus tries to tell his disciples that he will undergo rejection, suffering, and death. Clearly, Peter is envisioning a Christ whose reign is marked by power and success, and so Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to “rebuke” him. In response, Jesus tells Peter, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). For the past couple of days, I have been thinking about Mark 8:33. How relevant it is to me! For like Peter, “things of man” is my framework for viewing the world, for making judgements and decisions. When my life is not a clear and straight upward trajectory, I despair and sense failure. The framework of men—the worldview of Peter and I—doesn’t involve suffering, being rejected, or dying (these are the very things in Mark 8:31 that Peter reacts against as Jesus announces them). Yet, Jesus insists that his soon coming suffering is a thing of God. For, paradoxically, whoever want to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will save it (Mark 8:35). I am reminded again that, in God’s worldview, losing is gaining and failing is winning. The central act of Jesus on this earth was to … Read More
Many great thinkers have reported benefiting considerably from the book of Ecclesiastes (or ‘Koheleth,’ as it’s known in Hebrew). The word ‘Koheleth’ directly translates as the assembler of the people and true to its title, the book states, for these people, the author’s conclusions of his long and fully-lived life. Ecclesiastes is both an incredibly easy book to synthesize (its leading refrain—that all is ‘hevel’ or vapor/meaningless—is repeated throughout) and a great challenge to explain (it’s nihilism is found essentially nowhere else in the Bible). Personally, I’ve not benefited much from the wisdom literature of the Scriptures, but I think that is because it is so challenging to understand. Yet, on my most recent read-through of Ecclesiastes it made sense like never before. I hope, perhaps, I am learning what Solomon learned without the painful end that he experienced.
Jesus as the great iconoclast seems to be a recurring theme recently in passages I have read. I’ve always been perplexed by the story in Luke’s gospel where Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll and the members of the synagogue then attempt to throw him off a cliff for it. Interestingly, as I was reading through Luke and stopping to focus on this story, I concurrently came to a chapter in Kenneth Bailey’s brilliant book, ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, that deals with this confusing portion of text.
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