The Jews had a tradition. They thought washing one’s hands before eating bread prevented them from being “defiled” or unclean. In the thousands of years of Israel’s history, there was not one single word of this practice in the Law of Moses or any other written word of God. It was a creation of the Pharisees.
The sect of the Pharisees started out as a group of people who were determined to keep themselves separate from sin and holy. This was a good idea, but it changed over time. Ultimately, the Pharisees were more interested in making laws than obeying them. Give people power over others and sometimes they take the law into their own hands.
By the time Jesus started his earthly ministry, the Pharisees were the power in Judea. They held office in the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. They used their considerable influence to tell people what they could or could not do. For example, they created oral traditions that would allow people to mistreat their mothers and fathers in violation of the scriptures. In doing so, the Pharisees set aside God’s law for laws they made. Continue reading “Traditions or God’s law”
Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with people it didn’t like. Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with enemies. Its gruesome nature was a part of Rome telling people they’d best behave or they might find themselves hanging from a cross one day.
Jesus had a discussion with his disciples that put the figure of the cross front and center. In Luke 9, Jesus told the men following him that if they were his disciples, they must deny self and take up a cross. The condemned was required to carry his own cross to the place of execution. The figure is clear. Continue reading “Following Jesus involves a cross”
What an amazing thing it is to have ears!
Think of all the things one hears in the course of a day. As I was playing golf with my grandson today, we heard the nice sound a golf ball makes when it is well hit by a metal golf club. We turned at one point in the day and heard the rustle of a deer just before it broke through the woods into the fairway. What is more relaxing than the sound of rain falling gently on leaves?
Yet, there is more to hearing than the ability to detect sounds. There are many people who hear the biblical and moral advice of parents only to walk away without really hearing anything at all. There are those who have heard the truth once but now are so far away from it as to seem ignorant of it. Continue reading “How’s your hearing?”
What is the most important commandment of God in the Bible?
The lawyers of Jesus day, men trained in the text of the Old Testament, sent one of their own to ask the Lord that very question. Opinions differed. Some thought sacrifice was the most important of God’s commandments. Others thought there were so many commandments it was impossible to determine which was most important.
Jesus said, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). Continue reading “With all your mind”
The Lord Jesus Christ did his best to show the Jews the truth of his deity, but they were not receptive.
In John 8, Jesus told them Abraham rejoiced to see his day. The Jews, not believing the statement said, “You are not yet 50 years old and have seen Abraham?” Then Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” The Jews would have stoned the Lord right then and there because they knew he claimed that he was God. As F.F. Bruce wrote, “He was using language which only God could use.”
Jesus attempted to show and prove that he is the Messiah for which the Jews had waited. True, however, to the prophecy of Isaiah, “he was despised, and we considered him insignificant,” (Isaiah 53:3). Continue reading ““Abraham rejoiced to see my day””
When I think of meekness, I think of Jesus.
Meekness is misunderstood. It is considered weakness by many. The picture of Caspar Milquetoast comes to mind. Caspar, a 1950s comic strip character created by H.T. Webster for his cartoon series entitled, “The Timid Soul,” was known as a person who “speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.”
That description does not fit the Creator of heaven, and earth Paul described in Colossians 1:16-18. Jesus was meek, but he was not “timid.” Continue reading “Meek and lowly in heart”
There is a quote from Jesus in his “Sermon on the Mount” that challenges me. It is within Matthew 5:46 and is, “what do you do more than others?”
Let’s get an idea of the context of this statement. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus warned his disciples and by implication all of us, that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do more.
Jesus called us to abandon anger (Matthew 5:21f). He called us to abandon lust (Matthew 5:27ff). The Lord warned us to watch our tongue (Matthew 5:33ff). Then we are challenged to love the unlovable (Matthew 5:43-48). Continue reading “Learning to do more”
During one of the feasts in Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus entered the city through the northeast gate called the “sheep gate.” Nehemiah had built the portal and probably a sheep market when he supervised the reconstruction of the city’s walls.
There was a pool there that was deep enough for swimming. The sick gathered because of a legend that said when an angel “stirred” the water the first one into the pool would have a cure. Continue reading “Get up and keep on walking”
History tells us the great philosopher Socrates was arrested and tried for denying the Athenian gods and for corrupting young people. Some writers suppose Socrates was arrested and tried because he criticized politicians and disliked the election system.
The real reason why Socrates was arrested, tried and executed was that the people of Athens (including the politicians) didn’t like the method of cross-examination he used. Socrates revealed their poor reasoning and foolish assumptions. He challenged them to explain and define what it was they believed. Continue reading “He still drives people’s minds”
In the first century A.D., slavery was everywhere. According to estimates, 30-40 percent of the population of Italy were slaves.
Slaves did not have relationships with their masters. No master ever let a slave know his business. Slaves were considered living tools for the master. Slaves obeyed their masters or faced the lash.
It is important to realize Jesus did not want slaves. He told his disciples everything they needed to know to discharge their responsibility to preach the gospel to the world. He made his disciples partners in helping others find salvation. Continue reading “A son or daughter; not a slave”