Archive for the 'Experience Reconsidered' Category

What does it mean to be like Jesus?

Feb 23 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

“Be like Jesus.” I’ve heard that phrase my whole life in articles, sermons, and now blog posts.

Some tell me that Jesus was focused on the poor. As a result he participated in the challenges of living common to the poor. And we should, too.

Others emphasize that Jesus was singularly focused on teaching, and therefore didn’t have time for the chores of common folk. Teaching is the goal of being like Jesus.

Still others relate that Jesus was always on the road (teaching), so go, go, go.

And further, Jesus could be an itinerant preacher always on the road because he had the support of wealthy people.

But wait a minute, I thought Jesus was poor and related to poor people.

SpendaYearwithJesus developed out of this puzzle of paradoxes with a focus on Jesus’ experience in the daily grind of first-century life — like I live in the daily grind today. Being like Jesus means filling the daily grind with the kind of person Jesus was.

Sign up for the epic conclusion of the story at SpendaYearwithJesus.com.

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Plunge into the origin of the phrase, “Fishers of men”

Feb 18 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Walking along the lakeshore, Jesus said to some fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1:17). Great turn of phrase.

In Jesus’ experience, however, the phrase has an assorted history. In prophetic use, the phrase refers to God’s judgment of exile.

Prophet Amos warns the people of Israel, “The time is coming when you will be carried away in baskets, all of you in fishermen’s pots.” (Amos 4:2)

Habakkuk also describes, “The Chaldean brings all of them up with a hook . . . and gathers them in his fishing net…” (Hab 1:15; See also Ezek 38:4 for another reference to hooks.)

Jeremiah declares, “Look! I will send many fishermen,” announces Yhwh, “And they will catch them” (Jer 16:16).**

I conclude that Jesus knew his Hebrew Scripture. So is he using the fishing metaphor in spite of its earlier use? Or perhaps the disciples should have heard Messianic overtones. Who appointed fishermen? God did.

In broader first-century Jewish thought, we stumble across a reference to humanity-fishers in the Psalms/Hymns of the Dead Sea Scrolls that echoes the Messianic ring.

You made my lodging with many fishermen,
those who spread the net upon the surface of the sea,
those who go hunting the sons of iniquity.
And there you established me for the judgment,
and strengthened in my heart the foundation of truth.
The covenant, therefore, for those looking for it. (1QH XIII (=V) frag. 29 ++)

The entire psalm deals with rescue of the God’s approved ones, but the judgment of God toward oppressors.

There is an interesting reference to man-hunting in Plato’s Laws, 823b.

“There are…very many varieties also of hunts of land-animals—not of beasts only, but also, mark you, of men, both in war and often, too, in friendship [i.e. hunters of men]…”

Plato’s reference simply gives a larger Greco-Roman context to the use of the metaphor. Was Jesus aware of Plato? It’s worth considering but hard to build a case for or against. Some early Greek Gospel readers surely would have thought of Plato, however.

So what did Jesus mean, “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men”? The discipleship calling is clearly stated in the invitation, “Follow me.” Up to this time, it is God who appointed fishermen for epoch-transitions (Assyria-Israel, Babylon-Judah, Approved-Oppressors). The metaphor is startling because it was Jesus who was making this appointment.

** For more info, see Robert Eisler, Orpheus—The Fisher (London: J. M. Watkins, 1921), 75—83.

++ Florentino Gracía Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), 337.

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Story-alert…Lazarus wasn’t the only one

Feb 16 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Earlier in Jesus’ experience, he was preaching and healing in Galilee when he approached a town called Nain.

A crowd had followed Jesus to the village. And a crowd, a funeral procession, was coming from the village when Jesus approached. A widow was burying her only son.

The Gospel of Luke tells the story (Lk 7:11-17).

Jesus saw the widow and had compassion on her. (If you know your parables, this same expression is applied to the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and the Father in Luke 15.)

This couldn’t have been the only funeral Jesus experienced, yet this death he interrupted like Lazarus’.

Nain was far away from power centers and political conflicts. Jesus was still relatively unknown. Life, as it always does, returned to normal.

Bethany, however, was a suburb of Jerusalem at the heart of religious politics. Here, the escalating drama of religious conflict took a decisive turn in a graveside moment.

 

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Why did Jesus weep?

Feb 11 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

“Jesus wept.” This phrase captures the humanness of Jesus’ experience.

When he received the news about his friend Lazarus, Jesus was involved. He was vested in the relationship. He felt the hurt and the pain surrounding the death of his friend.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch observe in The Shaping of Things to Come that Jesus was an “authentic human being” who engaged his world. In fact, they write,

 Jesus was Jesus precisely because of Mary and Joseph, his twelve disciples, the poor to whom he ministered, and all the others who interacted with him … He was changed in some way by all those he came in contact with in precisely the same way that we are changed by our relationships — for good or ill. To be a genuine human being, Jesus must have had such [interactions]… If this is not true, then his humanity was a sham (The Shaping of Things to Come, 36).

Jesus was moved by his friends’ experience. He wept.

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“No other name,” but actually it’s like any other name

Feb 09 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Ideas Vizualized

“Jesus”

The Gospels refer to this common name almost six hundred times.
Only four times do they refer to “Jesus Christ” (Mk 1.1; Mt 1.1; Jn 1.17; 17.3). My attention was drawn to this fact by William Barclay in Jesus as They Saw Him.

Pick up a Septuagint Greek Old Testament and you will notice something more. The sixth book, commonly titled “Joshua” in English Bibles, carries the name Ἰησοῦς (translated “Jesus” in the NT). In the Greek, the name appears over and over throughout the OT book. If you’re thinking, “Not so fast!” link over to the Septuagint book list in Wikipedia to see for yourself.

Barclay observed, “The name Jesus underlines the real humanity of our Lord.” Would we say the same about the name “Jesus” today?

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Feel the familiarity and shock as Jesus confronts the Law

Feb 02 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

“Do not think that I have come to put an end to the Law,” Jesus said. Then he added I have come “to fulfill” it (Matt 5:17).

This week the Sabbath reading includes the ten words (aka commandments) from Moses’ Law book, “Names,” (aka Exodus).

Every year, year after year, Jesus’ friends and neighbors gathered Sabbath day to Sabbath day to read the Law of Moses. Plus the priests read the Law at the Temple feasts.

In Jesus’ experience, whenever he spoke about the Law, his listeners only had to think of their previous Sabbath synagogue reading to consider his meaning.

Reading Jesus’ story today, the familiarity with the Law as well as the shock of Jesus’ words is often lost.

So consider this. It would be like someone telling Americans about re-writing the U. S. Constitution because there is a way of governing better than its democracy.

And of course, to make the illustration completely parallel, Americans would need to read and re-read excerpts from the Constitution every Saturday.

“I have not come to put an end to the Constitution but to fulfill it!” Whoa. What does that mean?

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Earth-Bound Experience

Jan 26 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

One of Jesus’ followers wrote that Jesus faced all of the same trials and challenges as any person on earth; and more, that Jesus lived with human frailty. Yet Jesus faced the challenges without frustrating himself or exploiting others (Heb 4:15).

That sounds nice, “Jesus faced the same things we do.” As we read the stories, however, do we assume that Jesus could tap his inner supernatural whenever he wanted control?

If that assumption is true, then he wasn’t challenged like I am challenged.

If Jesus controlled the natural rhythms of this earth-bound experience for his own advantage, then he cannot relate to my human experience.

I don’t float six inches off the ground, and if Jesus’ follower is right, neither did Jesus.

By writing SpendaYearwithJesus, I see the phrase “live like Jesus lived” in a new light.

I do not immediately think of moral or charitable activities. I think of a pace of life, an expectation of life, an engagement of life … Jesus’ experience.

For more on this topic, see No Shortcuts and No Shortcuts Revisited.

Sign-up for SpendaYearwithJesus.

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Ironclad expectation and how it changed

Jan 19 2021 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Jesus’ tradition prescribed affirming “God is one” (Deut. 6:5). In Jesus’ experience, he and his disciples would have repeated this affirmation in their morning and evening prayers.

It’s not a question of whether the Jesus and the disciples thought this way. It’s not a question of whether or not they believed God is one. The devout believed.

For the people of Israel in the first-century, God was in heaven. God’s chosen one, the Messiah, was a human who would come and rule on earth. Their expectation was ironclad.

How do you change an ironclad expectation?

Change the currents of experience. The currents of experience that seemed to flow so neatly were about to flow in a seemingly new direction.

Could Jesus say enough, could Jesus do enough in one lifetime to change the expectation? I think, No.

Because he was human, Jesus could only begin a culture shift that would take generations to unfold. Frankly, compared to others from the Greco-Roman world, he had a limited impact in his lifetime.

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Becoming a friend with Jesus

Dec 10 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

“Your dear friend is sick” (John 11:3). Jesus received this message from Mary and Martha concerning their brother, Lazarus.

Two words caught my attention — “dear friend” (ὃν φιλεῖς: often translated word-for-word from the Greek as “the one you love”). Jesus dropped what he was doing and willingly put himself in danger to help his friend.

The issue here is a question of friendship formation. How many people can interrupt your life? Of those, who will you face danger to help? Frankly, there probably are not that many people. And that depth of friendship generally takes years to develop.

The Gospel of John does not develop Jesus’ friendship with Lazarus. We are simply given this introductory statement and then a story that serves as a plot turning point in the Gospel. What we know is that Jesus was willing to be interrupted and face danger for his friend.

So how does one become a dear friend? Human friendships develop around shared space, shared time, shared interests, and shared respect. Proximity of space and time alone, however, does not create deeper connections.

So what were Jesus’ and Lazarus’ shared interests and shared respect as well as their shared time and space? The SpendaYearwithJesus storyline suggests an activity.

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Jesus, Meet Perseus

Nov 17 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Greek mythology has seen a resurgence in cinema over the last few years with the adventures of Perseus and Percy Jackson among other films.

Perseus is a fascinating character because his origin is both historical and mythological.

Herodotus,  who wrote around 450 BCE, investigated the history of the Greeks and Persians and their wars. In his study of Greek kings, he writes,

…what I write I follow the Greek report, and hold that the Greeks correctly recount these kings of the Dorians as far back as Perseus son of Danae—they make no mention of the god [Zeus]—and prove these kings to be Greek; for by that time they had come to be classified as Greek. (Hdt. 6.53)

Herodotus, in fact, goes on to say that he can’t find the name of Perseus’ father at all.

So Perseus is one of the first Greek kings at a time when the Greek civilization was forming out of cultures like the Dorians. This is really ancient history!

Where Perseus’ origin gets interesting is in the book about the Persians where Herodotus mentions Perseus again, this time “the son of Danae and Zeus” (Hdt. 7.61). Yes, that’s the Greek god Zeus. While this passage has some chronological issues, suffice it to say that legend had developed around Perseus’ origin.

To the modern ear, son of god has a distinctive ring, reserved among titles. To people in the first century, the concept was still unique, but Perseus was one relevant example among several.

Herodotus, trans. by A. D. Godley. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0126. Last Accessed: 10/23/2013.

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