Indeed, who is an Israelite?

Behold an Israelite indeed…” (John 1:47).

Jesus said this about Nathanael (aka, Bartholomew).

The word “indeed” implies a different understanding of the word Israelite than the one commonly held. What was the common understanding of the word Israelite in the days of Jesus?

Most Jews (since the days when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel) were known as, and identified themselves as Israelites. But this name always had more than mere tribal or geographical connotations to God. Continue reading “Indeed, who is an Israelite?”

The cart before the horse

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:15, ESV).

Jesus’ disciples were criticized because they did not follow traditions – traditions designed by elitists to help the ignorant mass from furthering angering their God. If only they could get enough of these oblivious people to obey God (John 7:49), they might succeed in ushering in the Messiah and overthrowing the Roman occupation. Continue reading “The cart before the horse”

Kingdom come

“till they have seen the kingdom of God come” (Mark 9:1).

John and Jesus taught that the kingdom was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). They obviously believed it was forthcoming.

Some followers were so convinced of it, they attempted to force Jesus to lead a coupe d’état to declare Israel’s independence from Rome (which, by the way, he rejected, cf. John 6:15). Nevertheless, Jesus continued preaching about the kingdom’s imminent arrival.

Did it ever come? Was it only metaphor? Is it yet future? Continue reading “Kingdom come”

This man receives sinners

“This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2, ESV).

What was intended as an insult was really a compliment: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

Notice the words in the text. The word receive means to wait actively or expectantly. It is reminiscent of the way a mother longs to finally see her newborn child. Jesus welcomed those who were not otherwise welcome. Continue reading “This man receives sinners”

You can understand dirt and weeds

Some of Jesus’ sayings and parables are baffling at first glance. When we first hear Jesus characterize citizens of his kingdom as impoverished, sorrowful, happy-to-be-persecuted beggars, we might be confused. When he told people to eat his flesh and drink his blood – a metaphor for absorbing Jesus’ life and teachings into themselves – many followers were disgusted and left him (John 6:66).

How do we comprehend these things? How do we better understand Jesus’ words? Continue reading “You can understand dirt and weeds”