Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What To Do About Jesus

“What shall I do, then with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  This is the question Pilate asked an unruly crowd many years ago.  The response to this question led to the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus; a series of events that has caused people around the world to ask themselves the very same question.

I went to church for years without asking myself that question.  I believed in God and prayed to God, but Jesus was just kind of there in the background.  I couldn’t really articulate what I believed about Him, and I was OK with that.

Eventually I realized if I was going to call myself a Christian, I needed to make a decision.  Did I believe Jesus was the Son of God, crucified and risen?  If I did what were the implications of that?  And what if I got it wrong?  It was a decision only I could make and it was time to choose what I was going to do with Jesus.

I started on a faith journey, searching for answers to mysterious questions.  Everyone’s faith journey is different.  Mine happened over the course of the last few years and I’m still on it.  But early on, after reading and reflecting on the gospels in the Bible, my decision about Jesus was made. 

I do believe Him to be the Son of God.  I believe He voluntarily died on the cross so I can be forgiven of my wrong doings.  I believe He rose from the grave and is alive in me in the form of the Holy Spirit.  And I believe that one day I will join Him in eternal life.  That’s my choice.  I believe.

There are many different opinions about who Jesus was.  Even when He was alive He was controversial and people had varying opinions.  Some listened to Him, saw Him perform miracles, and chose not to believe.  Others, never having met Him, chose to believe He was the Son of God.  And some were swayed one way or the other by popular opinion, or the influence of religious leaders.

I think of the Roman soldier who watched Jesus as he died an excruciating death by crucifixion.  I wonder what he saw in Jesus' death that made him exclaim “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39; Matthew 27:54)

Where are you on your faith journey?  Have you answered the question, “What will you do with Jesus, the one called the Messiah?

Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The New Testament - Stuff I Never Knew

I have four weeks left in my New Testament Introduction course.  It’s scary how quickly it’s gone by, but I’m really enjoying it.  I thought I’d share a few interesting facts I picked up along the way. 

1.       Phylactery – You know when you read segments of scripture that say something like this, “fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”?(Deuteronomy 11:18)

This wasn’t just a figure of speech.  Pious Jews actually wrote down scripture, mounted it in small cases and wore the cases on their foreheads or left arms.  This was called a phylactery.

2.       Apparently we’ve gone away from using the terms BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini or after death) as designations when referring to calendar dates.  The terms BCE (before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) are now used, at least in the world of academia, when referencing dates.

3.       I now know the difference between Pharisees and Sadducees.  Pharisees were based in rural areas and factored greatly in Jesus’ ministry in the Galilean region.  They were associated with the synagogues and were primarily teachers.  They focused on maintaining Israel’s relationship with God through strict obedience to the law and believed in resurrection of humans to life after death.

Sadducees were the upper class, mostly residing in Jerusalem, and were associated with the temple.  They were primarily priests and were committed to maintaining Israel’s relationship with God through the sacrificial system.  They did not believe in resurrection to life after death.  They were primarily responsible for the plot to have Jesus put to death.
About the only thing the Pharisees and Sadducees had in common was the fact that they both believed Jesus was a threat.

4.       The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible and is abbreviated as LXX.

5.       The letters from Paul in the New Testament are arranged from longest to shortest.

6.       An amanuensis was a secretary or scribe who was trained in letter writing.  Most people in the Roman Empire were illiterate so the process of letter writing generally was designated to someone skilled in that area – an amanuensis.

7.       There are four different “Herod’s” in the New Testament:

Herod The Great – ruled all of Palestine on behalf of Rome and was in power when Jesus was born.

Herod Antipas – Herod the Great’s son - ruled the territories of Perea and Galilee.  Was in power during the time of Jesus’ ministry and death.  Had John the Baptist beheaded.

Herod Agrippa I – ruled Judea and Samaria.  He is the Herod mentioned in Acts 12 that persecutes the believers and kills the apostle James. 

Herod Agrippa II – The last ruler of the Herodian dynasty.  Paul appears before him as a prisoner in Act 25.

8.       I now know what eschatology means – the study of “last things” like the return of Christ, the final judgment, and other things associated with the end times.  I’d heard the word used, but didn’t know what it meant.

9.       I didn’t know all the gospels were anonymous documents.  We are able to track back through historical documents to support various authorship of each gospel, but the original documents were anonymous.

This is probably not new information for some you and I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve been living under a rock.  When it comes to historical knowledge, yes, I have been living under a rock.  But I’m loving learning all this information and getting a better understanding of the New Testament.
Things To Think About
Is there something in the bible you've been wondering about?  Ask your pastor to help you figure it out.