Monday, April 29, 2013

Making the Bible come ALIVE! Twinkle, Twinkle :)

This is something I wanted to write out so that I could remember it because I LOVE it. :)  Especially since I have been thinking more about understanding the historical and social contexts of the Bible by using facts as well as IMAGINATION (post on this to come!) to make the Bible and its stories become more alive.  Here is an example of that (I heard this as a sermon by Don Richardson).

First of all, many say that the Great Commission is located in Matthew 28:18-20, which is true, but it is not the only time nor the first time.  The first Great Commission is the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen. 12:1-3.  Near the beginning of history, God called Abraham to be a blessing to the nations and God promised that in Abraham, all the families, or nations, of the earth shall be blessed.  The Jewish nation was being called to be a light to the surrounding nations, to bring glory to God and to bring others to God.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the book of Matthew.  Many Jews knew that they were God's Chosen people but they saw it as an internal blessing, not as a commission to reach the nations for Him.  Then, Jesus steps in and he challenges that way of thinking.  Jesus has come to bring salvation to the Jews AND the Gentiles.  So, as Jesus trains his disciples, he is teaching them a whole new outlook on the world around them.

Knowing this, Matthew 10:5-6 may seem a little confusing.  Jesus tells his disciples to not go to the Gentiles but to the lost sheep of Israel.  But when you look at the historical and social context of the day, you realize that Jesus knew that his disciples were not ready to go to the Gentiles.  There were so many differences, so many ideas and prejudices that needed to be dealt with before going to them.

The most confusing passages, however, is Matthew 15:21-28.  Here, a Gentile woman comes up to Jesus and pleads with him to save her daughter who is demon possessed.  Jesus first ignores her (rude), then tells her He has only come to the lost sheep of Israel (limiting hope to one people group), then calls her a dog (a very offensive and prejudiced term used by the Jews in that day for the Gentiles), and then when the woman comes up with a clever little quip, Jesus exclaims how much faith she has (over exaggerating?) and changes his mind directly and heals her daughter (fickle).

Those reactions are how the story can be read.  But we know Jesus is none of those things.  We know he is without sin and exactly the opposite of everything evil or unkind.  So, what possibly could have been happening here?  Well, Don Richardson, with his creativity and imagination as well as knowing the culture and history of the day (and how the writers of the Bible write how things happened and do not include extra insights, like a twinkle in the eye, to explain the story more), created a little scenario of what he thinks went on that day (his idea and twinkles, my writing :) ).

 Verses 22-23: "And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.' But He answered her not a word.  And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, 'Send her away, for she cries out after us.'"
                        Jesus hears her plea and waits to see how the disciples, whom he is training to love and help ALL peoples, will handle the situation.  They seem to be nearer to her than Jesus is to her.  But the disciples do not seem to care for her sorrow as they tell Jesus to just send her away because she is bothering them.

Verse 24: "But He answered and said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
                          But is a key word.  The disciples wanted Jesus to simply send her on her way.  BUT, Jesus answered her.  At this point, he turns towards her and away from the disciples and uses body language that only this woman can see.  With a twinkle in his eye, maybe even a smirk, Jesus tells her that He came only for Israel.  This is a test for the disciples, to see if they have learned at all that Jesus came to save the nations. He is clearly trying to make a point and the woman picks up on that quickly.

Verses 25-26: "Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!'  But He answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.'" 
                         Twinkle, Twinkle.  The woman is not offended as she knows that Jesus is teaching his followers and not treating her poorly.  The twinkle in his eye says it all.  The disciples are shocked that their loving master would say such a thing and look at her for a reaction.  She can hardly keep from smiling, but going along with Him, keeps the analogy going.

Verses 27-28: "And she said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour. 
                       The woman answers Him, even calling herself a dog, because she can already tell that this Jesus, Son of David, Lord, loves her personally and will help her daughter.  A smile probably broke out on her face and then Jesus laughs with her as he declares her faith and heals her daughter.  The disciples are flabbergasted...until they too see Jesus' face of love and are humbled at their initial reaction to the woman.  Lesson learned.  :)

This story may or may not have happened quite like that, but it sure is fun to imagine it!  Based on Jesus' character, and his Great Commission at the end of Matthew to go to ALL the nations, I would say this story is closer to what we initially may understand from this passage.   Go try it...make the stories of the Bible come alive in your mind!

Monday, April 22, 2013

So, Who Hallows God's Name? We usually think it's our job. Think twice.

I read a great article by Carolyn Arends in Christianity Today and wanted to share a little piece of it:

Every name we have for God is a revelation of his character.  So making his name holy must have something to do with revealing him here on earth. But a review of the human track record tells us this isn't our specialty....

In the shadow of the Cross, did Jesus observe all the wrongs - catastrophic and petty - we'd credit to him?  Did he see inquisitions and gas chambers, defenses against slavery and "God hates fags" placards? Did he anticipate the way we'd use his name as a political trump card, or speak for him and pronounce his judgements in the wake of tragedies?....

We can only guess at all he endured in the garden, but we know for certain that when one of his friends sliced off a soldier's ear, Jesus put it back on. "You can't hallow my name," the gesture seems to say, "if you're associating it with something I would never do."

This article made me think of a conversation with a friend in Spain, who questioned why I believed in and loved God when He was behind all the pain and suffering caused by the church there in Spain (Spanish Inquisition, Dictatorship using the church).  It broke my heart that she thought that way but I can see why.  I told her that things like the Spanish Inquisition were never what God intended.  We can't interpret who God is by the terrible actions of other people who claim to do things in his name.  He is a God that uses love to bring others to him.  I hope and pray that my life and love will show the people around me that the God I know is not the God of the wrongs done in His name.  Father, may You make Your name Holy among the nations!