Returning to the subject of empire, Jesus uses the parable of the net to show us how God's kingdom will remove evil power structures and people from power. The net here symbolizes imperial aggression, and of course the fish represent people.Read More
Closely related to the last parable, this story again teaches the value of the kingdom in the personal realm -- a pearl, worthy of full sacrifice. The repetition underscores the importance of the message. Jesus wants YOU to PERSONALLY know the value of the kingdom.
What is the value of your relationship with Jesus? How do you protect it, nurture it, and care for it? How do you prioritize it?
Jesus moves away from the communal struggle with empire to the personal relationship of individual citizenship in the kingdom of God. Here, the kingdom is like a treasure -- something to be searched for, sacrificed for, and cherished.Read More
Yeast was considered to be corrupting and contaminating. It is interesting here to see that it is a woman who yields it. Though it is now invisible, small, and even secretive, Jesus promises a time in which the kingdom of God will subvert the cultural norms of Empire: hierarchy, patriarchy, social injustice.Read More
The parable of the mustard seed has a meaningful interpretation: that even the slightest bit of faith can yield fruitful results. And this is true, and good. Even the smallest bit of faith in Jesus can bring forth his peace, love, and grace.Read More
This parable seems to explain why evil coincides on earth with good -- Jesus is waiting for the harvest. It even seems as if this is for the protection of the wheat -- "for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest."Read More
In this parable, Jesus explains that there are 4 types of responses to his message, and 3/4s of those responses will reject him for various reasons. The enemy plays a role, as do hardened hearts. Jesus compares the seeds of the Kingdom of God with seeds that the enemy sows.Read More
Read through this beginning of the Sermon on the Mount once more. Which of these things seems most difficult or alien to you? Which seems like second nature? Which seems like an impossibility?
Think about each one for a moment, and consider it. Have you experienced this in your life? Have you receieved it or given it? Have you blessed a mourner or been a mourner who is blessed? Have you given and received mercy?
The Beatitudes represent the beginning of Jesus's teachings, but also the first description of what the Kingdom of God actually looks like -- a community comprised of justice, shared resources, and transformed social relationships (also from my Study Bible, page 1754). Jesus often spoke of heaven (the place with many rooms that he is preparing for us) but he also often announced that the kingdom of heaven has arrived.Read More
Let's talk about demoniacs. The scripture here makes a distinction between epileptics and demoniacs, which indicates that perhaps the population back then did recognize one from the other. My handy study Bible says that the demon possession represents the invasive rule of empire -- political, military and economic control. In healing demoniacs, Jesus "counters the sinful effects of the imperial system, and anticipates the promised time [of] God's empire..." (The New Interpreter's Study Bible, pg. 1754).Read More
Let's take a look at this "good news" that Jesus preached. It's important to understand the subversiveness that Jesus was actually preaching. In ancient Rome, the empire used the word for "Good News" to proclaim propaganda celebrating an emperor's birth or ascension to the throne. For Jesus to usurp the term and use it to demonstrate God's kingdom is a direct taunt of sorts to empire. He then makes a point to heal the sick -- who were many, despite Rome's constant claims of bringing good health to the poor. Jesus was essentially shining a spotlight not just on Rome's failures, but on the immense gap between the elite and the working class, and promises a kingdom in which good health and abundance is available for all people.
The valley around the Sea of Galilee is lush and green, and you can see the haze that hangs over this large lake in the middle of a desert (I've been there, and I stood on the side of the Decapolis, looking across to the other side). This scripture says that Jesus traveled around the kingdom, preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and great crowds followed him.
As we see from the introduction, Jesus called these men out of more than a few systems. First, their immediate family dynamic was interrupted. John and James, the scripture makes a point to say, left their boat and their father. Second, they left the guild -- a kin-based economic system (similar to a fisherman's union) that was a larger part of empire rule. And third, they left a sphere of social class as the working peasantry to go and become the student of a rabbi.Read More
I can't wait for you to (watch) this week's essay, a sermon by Terry Wilson. In it, she talks a little about this moment when Jesus calls the first disciples, and how odd it really is (you'll have to watch to understand what's so weird about it!). As I began to study for this devotional, however, I came across an interesting note in the scholarship around this verse: fishermen were despised. I knew tax collectors were not popular people, but I never knew that about fishermen.Read More
If you're familiar with scripture then you are probably familiar with the idea that in this part of the text, Jesus is restoring Peter -- he gives Peter the chance to affirm his love three times (to Peter's annoyance!) -- one for each time Peter had earlier denied him during his interrogation.
Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and here we see him serving the disciples breakfast. It is a beautiful act of nurturing, and indeed, very often a woman's role to prepare a meal. But Jesus doesn't seem to care about hierarchies -- at least not man made ones. And if he does, they're all flipped around.Read More
The interesting part to this scripture, for me, is that they recognize Jesus by his abundance. By his where there was none, now there is plenty. They recognized not his physical body, but the impact he had on their environment and their circumstances. Suddenly they were able to see fish where there had been none; suddenly their nets were full.Read More
Have you ever felt Jesus's absence? Life feels flat without him, as if some of the color were drained from everything made of matter. When Peter says, "I'm going fishing," it feels almost as if he has resigned himself to a colorless life -- a life without JesusRead More
Read John 20:24-29
Jesus seems to come back specifically to visit Thomas, the doubter. Again, his first greeting is "Peace be with you." Then, he carefully answers Thomas's unbelief with proof. Put your finger here, and see my hands, Jesus says. Reach out your hands and put them into my side.
Read John 20-19-23
Jesus (and the whole story) is so lusciously weird, that it's hard not to believe. He offers them peace, and while he says this, he breathes on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
When Jesus, the Word that was with God in the very beginning, breathed on the disciples, it is reminiscent of God's breath of life in Genesis 2:7, and this, in turn indicate a new, spiritual beginning -- a rebirth, of sorts.