Archive for June, 2020

On the other side of Lake Galilee…

Jun 30 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

Mark, Luke, and Matthew tell a story of events that seem rather random. While the sensationalism of the events arrests our attention, I wonder what happened to the participants.

Here’s a summary: Spontaneously, Jesus tells his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake” (Mk 4:35). When they arrive on the other side (after an episode amazing in its own right), they are greeted by a hostile, raging, tormented man.** Jesus heals the man and sends him back home to the astonishment of his community. #irony Naturally, the townspeople ask Jesus to leave.

Where are they now?

The human question arises, what happened to the guy? The Gospels don’t say…

Was the world of Jesus’ experience so large that people randomly appeared and then disappeared never to be heard from again? Like the people you sit near on an airplane going overseas.

Or was his a world where interaction led to more interaction? Similar to meeting a like-minded colleague at a conference and exchanging business cards.

I conclude from research and personal experience that it was the latter – that contact generally resulted in more contact. Jesus probably saw the man during his second longer stay on the other side of Lake Galilee.

** Two men according to Matthew 8:28.

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Rogue husbands or loyal followers?

Jun 25 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

We must not neglect the wives of Jesus’ disciples. Neglect, you ask? Those men are on the road with Jesus!

In Jesus’ experience, loyalty to the Torah was authoritative. And the Torah warned against neglecting one’s wife.

If a man [who is already married] marries another woman, he may not neglect [his first wife’s] food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. (Exodus 21.10)

This particular regulation seems obscure within the larger body of Law, but it apparently caught the attention of the Rabbis and is therefore worthy of our notice.

In the Mishnah, the discussion concerning conjugal rights prohibits lengthy absences by the husband as follows:

Disciples may go to Torah study without their wife’s consent for thirty days.Workers go out for one week. . . . Sailors for six months. . . (Ketuboth 5.6)

Paul echoes the Torah’s concern for conjugal integrity in his letter to the Corinthians.

The husband should fulfill his wife’s conjugal needs and the wife her husband’s. (1 Corinthians 7.3)

It would seem lawful of Jesus to respect the schedules of the disciples who were married (see Mark 1:30; 1 Corinthians 9:5). And that affects how we schedule Jesus’ experience.

Jesus was not under the Mishnah. The Mishnah simply gives us a context in which to form our own assumptions.

In other words, expect during the SpendaYearwithJesus story for the married disciples to break off from the group to visit their families. And don’t be surprised if Jesus stops praying, teaching, and healing to honor his mother every once in a while.

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Pan and Zoom, “Three Weeks Later”

Jun 23 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

During the summer, Jesus journeys from Capernaum to the Mediterranean Sea, then along the Phoenician coast (present-day Lebanon), and finally inland (present-day Syria) around upper Galilee.

The Gospel of Mark summarizes Jesus’ experience in two phrases. “He went to the region Tyre.” And the return: “He came through Sidon to Lake Galilee in the middle of the region of Decapolis” (Mark 7:24, 31).

Twenty days of walking summed up in twenty words. Map 2 Outside Galilee Map 2 Outside Galilee

In a few weeks, a person accumulates a lot of experiences. Sunrises and sunsets. Sleeping and eating. Talking with old friends and new acquaintances. Home life and village visits. Mostly forgettable food with some memorable meals.

The Gospel writers were able to assume that their readers’ “normal” experience approximated Jesus’ experience. Therefore they could summarize twenty days in a twenty words.

The “normal” experience today includes cell phones, microwaves, automobiles, and credit cards. (see Science-Fiction meets Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John)

We need a way to pause and relate to the reality of the twenty days. And by relating Jesus to that reality, we can better relate to ours like Jesus.

Connect with Jesus’ experience.

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So we meet again

Jun 18 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

During the height of Jesus’ popularity, people from all over the region of Palestine came to hear him speak.

People traveled from the regions of Tyre and Sidon in the north to Idumea (Edom) in the far south; from the Decapolis and Perea east of the Jordan River to the central regions of Samaria and Judea west of the Jordan; and of course from Jesus’ home region of Galilee (Mk  3:7-8). (See the map below.)

Since Jesus’ itinerary in the Gospels includes these locations, I conclude that some of the folks who traveled to hear Jesus invited him to come and speak to them in their home towns.

The alternative is that Jesus randomly chose the region of Tyre and Sidon to get out of Galilee.

Regions of Palestine in the First-Century

Regions of Palestine in the First-Century

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SpendaYearwithJesus: The Intersection of Experience

Jun 16 2020 Published by under Making SpendaYearwithJesus

What if you could follow Jesus’ experience for a year? To see where he walked… what he ate… who he met… in the country… in the city… on the mountain… and on the road… day after day after day.

Regardless of religion, Jesus’ story is worth following. In fact, most people agree that if more of us lived like Jesus, the world would be a better place.

So the question follows, how did Jesus live? More specifically, did Jesus experience irritations like getting stuck in traffic? Did he deal with workplace challenges like politics?

Questions from my experience compelled me to dig into Jesus’ experience. The first-century sources are pretty rich with background information, which limits the possibilities concerning Jesus’ day-to-day.

Long story short, after years of research and over 1,000 text messages, I feel more connected to Jesus experience – in my work, on my drive home and at the dinner table.

I am excited to invite you to SpendaYearwithJesus. Connect with Jesus’ experience day-by-day and who knows, you may see ways Jesus’ experiences intersect with your own.

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Is Jesus a false prophet?

Jun 11 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

I don’t envy the town leaders of Capernaum. Quite likely, they were under pressure from the Jerusalem religious authorities to deal with Jesus.

Given Jesus’ pronouncement of doom against Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida (Luke 10:13-15), the logical conclusion is that these towns rejected Jesus — but without going so far as to arrest him.

Now Jesus’ experience had its share of conflict. He had even been asked to leave a town before this. And people come and go around Jesus without “doom.”

There is no record of eviction, and it seems unlikely that the town leaders could reach consensus if the synagogue ruler Jairus or local businessman Zebedee were influencers. (Analogous to the presence of Nicodemus and Gamaliel in the Sanhedrin.)

I take it, however, that there was some sort of majority rejection among the leaders to preserve the standing of their communities.

After all, if Jesus wasn’t a political Messiah, what did the political leaders really stand to gain from his activity? Contrast that against what they stood to lose if people listened to Jesus’ criticism.

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Scheduling Jesus – The Weather Cycle

Jun 09 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

Why are we talking about the weather? The weather cycle affected Jesus’ experience just like it does ours today.

Although we do not have a daily forecast for Jesus’ last year, we have descriptions of the region’s weather. There were two seasons: summer heat and winter rains.

Simply put, there is no precipitation during the summer months. Dew is the only form of moisture. People were free to gather outside or travel without the threat of rain.

Winter weather was another story. Rains impacted travel and other outdoor activity. Concerning precipitation:

  • “Average annual rainfall in Jerusalem is roughly that of rainy London, but Jerusalem has 50 days of rain to London’s 300.” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, 124)
  • “From November to February, rain falls in periods of a few days, sometimes with intensity.” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, 122)
  • The Hebrew Bible records a story where the people protested gathering in the rain (Ezra 10:9-15).

The SpendaYearwithJesus story gives subscribers a sense for how Jesus and his followers adapted to their climate. Blue skies, hot days, winter rains and even snow at higher elevations were all part of Jesus’ experience.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1991).
Jesus and His Times, ed. Kaari Ward  (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1987).

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Animate your understanding with the Sabbath reading

Jun 04 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Every week, week after week, month after month, year after year…

Jesus’ friends and neighbors gathered Sabbath day to Sabbath day to read the Law of Moses.

The founders of the early church verified and upheld the practice.

Paul referred to the practice in his missionary preaching:
“… the utterances of the prophets … are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27).

James also confirmed the habit as part of the ruling of the Jerusalem Council: “For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21).

Other first-century writers comment on the practice of gathering for Sabbath instruction. Philo was a Jewish philosopher from Alexandria, Egypt. Josephus was a historian of the Jewish War.

Philo explains, “…on the seventh day there are spread before the people in every city innumerable lessons of prudence…during the giving of which the common people sit down” (Special Laws 2.15 §62).

Josephus also explains for his readers, “And the seventh day we set apart from labor; it is dedicated to the learning of our customs and laws” (Antiquities of the Jews, 16.2.3 §43).

In another book, Against Apion, Josephus continues concerning the learning of the law, “…for he did not suffer the guilt of ignorance to go on without punishment, but demonstrated the law to be the best and the most necessary instruction of all others, permitting the people to leave off their other employments, and to assemble together for the hearing of the law, and learning it exactly, and this not once or twice, or oftener, but every week…” (2.17 §175).

The Law of Moses** animates Jesus’ experience. In particular, we understand the rhythm of Jesus’ story in the seven day increments marked by the Sabbath rest (Saturday). We also hear the Law informing the teachings, the challenges, and even the arguments in Jesus’ story.

Every Sabbath, Jesus’ devout friends and neighbors gathered to learn the Law.

** In English, Moses’ Law is called Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Interestingly, in German, the books are titled Moses I-V.


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Visiting the Temple

Jun 02 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

Jesus’ visit to the temple would begin on the southern steps. He would use the entrances for the common people including the double and triple gates, known as the Huldah Gates. Jesus did not have access to the VIP entrances.

Archeologists have measured the Temple Mount platform to the following dimensions–east 470m, north 315m, west 485m, and south 280m.+ The total area exceeded 130,000 square meters.

On the northwest end of site stood the imposing Antonia Fortress. Josephus describes the scene:

A Roman cohort was permanently quartered there [at Antonia], and at the festivals took up positions in arms around the porticoes to watch the people and repress any insurrectionary movement. For if the temple lay as a fortress over the city, Antonia dominated the temple… (War 5.245)

No less imposing, the Royal Stoa stood over the southern side of the platform. Jesus would have entered one of the southern entrances, proceeded under the Royal Stoa, then up through tunnels 14m long emerging in the southern courtyard between the temple sanctuary complex and the Royal Stoa.

In the center stood Herod’s walled sanctuary complex including a women’s court, a men’s court, storerooms, an altar and the temple itself.

On the west, north, and east there were porticos where people could gather. Jesus taught in these porticoes, visibly surrounded by the religious and political powers of his day.


+ Mark A. Chancey and Adam L. Porter, “Archeology of Roman Palestine,” Near Eastern Archaeology 64, no. 4 (2001): 164–203.

Flavius Josephus, Jewish War, Books IV-VII, trans. Henry St. John Thackery, vol. 3, 9 vols., Loeb Classical Library 210 (London; Cambridge: William Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1961).

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