Archive for July, 2020

A Taste of Experience

Jul 30 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

My wife and I recently enjoyed a delicious meal with delightful friends. We ate at our favorite restaurant in the Metroplex, Lavendou Bistro. The food..wonderful; the

And (you may have felt this) there was a moment at the end of the evening when I wished it could last, even just a little longer.

In the ebb and flow of Jesus’ summer of bread and fish stew, some meals had to be better than others, some company more friendly than others. Jesus’ moved among the dining tables of his day with contentment. Fish stew was readily available, but depending on his host, Jesus might have eaten lamb or steak.

We don’t have to say that stew and steak are the same culinary quality. Or that all company is the same. We can simply eat satisfied as Jesus did. At the same time, even Jesus could have wanted some dining experiences to last and others to be over quickly!

One of Jesus’ later followers, Paul of Tarsus, said he knew how to be content whether well-fed or hungry. I think he got the idea from Jesus’ experience.

At our recent delicious, delightful dinner, I ate apple tart with ice cream for dessert. The earliest inscriptions of recorded history refer to apples. Though different varieties, Jesus surely ate apples too. Now the ice cream…?

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No Shortcuts Revisited

Jul 28 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

Listen to a conversation about Jesus’ experience. Assumptions abound like the fact that life was easier for Jesus.

In Torah school, we imagine Jesus as the smartest kid in the room (i.e., he had a learning shortcut) and the most dedicated! Oh, Jesus was the smartest and the most dedicated, why —  because it was easier. Huh?

Here are some historical and human realities for your consideration:

  • Honey and dates were available to sweeten bread.
    The man who multiplied loaves never tasted a doughnut (no refined sugar).
  • In the carpenter shop, piling boards and swinging mallets leads to crushed fingers.
    Jesus crushed his fingers, especially while he was learning the trade.
  • Friendship requires shared space and time and interests.
    Jesus passed time, entertaining and uninteresting time, with Lazarus and other friends.
  • When as many as 100,000 people descend on a city of 30,000, traffic bottlenecks.
    Jesus waited at Jerusalem’s gates and streets like bridge and tunnel commuters today.

By the way, there was a VIP entrance to Jerusalem. Jesus was not a VIP.

Life 2,000 years ago was not easier for Jesus.

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My Intersection

Jul 23 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

I taught the grade school age kids at church on Sunday. As I was getting ready Sunday morning, at 8am I received the text:

“Through the narrow dirt streets, parents bring their children to the house where Jesus is. He welcomes them, blesses them happily.”

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It probably comes as no surprise. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy getting the SpendaYearwithJesus texts.

Regularly enough, I will be doing something during a day and Jesus will be doing something during that day that will create a pleasant intersection of experience.

At the very least, I looked at what I was doing from a larger perspective, even part of Jesus’ story.

So with Jesus’ experience on my mind, I went to church. I taught the kids. I came home.

That day, Jesus blessed the kids, spent time with friends, got in a boat with his disciples and went home.

It was a good day.

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Three inevitable interruptions in Jesus’ day

Jul 21 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

I was talking with a friend about visualizing Jesus’ experience day-to-day. I asked, “Do you think Jesus would have mowed his own lawn?”

Puzzled, my friend said, “My gut reaction is, ‘No.’ He needed to be out teaching.” Then he added, “But why do I think that way?”

After 2,000 years, one of the most enduring memories of the man Jesus is his teaching – quotable statements, absorbing parable stories, compelling conversations.

It seems, however, that the focus on teaching overshadows other typical activities in Jesus’ experience. Miracles take on this precedence as well. Why do we think this way?

The first-century ebb and flow of daily living necessitated natural down-times for anyone living at that time including Jesus.

(1) Harvest and (2) home maintenance as well as (3) winter rains inevitably interrupted crowd-gathering and hindered travel.** Unless Jesus spontaneously controlled the weather, but is control really the point?

While teaching is a defining activity of Jesus’ life, he was also subject to the constraints of daily living on this planet.

Which means Jesus had to submit his daily activities to earthly constraints.

For more info, see the weather cycle post.

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Honor your father and mother

Jul 16 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

The fifth of the ten commandments states, “Honor your father and mother” (Deut 5:16). Jesus lived under the Torah, so we would expect for him to keep the fifth commandment.

We read about Jesus’ mother, Mary, at various times throughout Jesus’ life. Jesus’ father, Joseph, however, only has an active role in the Gospel birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. Tradition suggests that Joseph died before Jesus started his speaking tours.

At the end of Jesus’ life, he entrusts his mother’s care to one beloved disciple. For the sake of consideration, let us accept the integrity of the event in the story and the integrity of Jesus’ care for his mother.

So how did Jesus honor and care for his mother throughout his adult life? Can we conclude that Jesus left home for the road neglecting his mother during three years of speaking tours?

Then after three years of making James or Jude take care of their mother, Mary, Jesus has a change of heart at the end of his life. He re-asserts his authority as firstborn magnanimously entrusting his mom to a faithful disciple.

So two realities influence Jesus’ experience in the SpendaYearwithJesus storyline. One is time and specifically, when Jesus was with his mom. The other is the integrity of Jesus’ material contribution to her care before he entrusts her to his disciple.

If Jesus did not consistently care for his mother, then how could James or Jude accept his decision to entrust Mary to a disciple?

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No Shortcuts

Jul 14 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

I passed a sign in front of a church that read, “My lifeguard walks on water.” Have you seen this one?

I’ve seen this phrase in quite a few places — all land-locked. I wonder what a lifeguard sitting on the beach would think of it?

Judging from the way his family and the crowds responded, Jesus’ experience was fairly normal and human. The miracles were amazing but just not amazing enough.

A trip to Jerusalem with holiday crowds would have been a great venue for walking on water or parting a river. I’m sure that the crowds would have appreciated the shortcut and the spectacle.

Come to think of it, I’m sure there are a few lifeguards today who wouldn’t mind being able to walk on water. But we’re stuck with normal. No shortcuts.

If we could follow Jesus’ experience, we would find that he walked through water more than he walked on water. In the long run, that may even be more important for us.

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Join the SpendaYearwithJesus experience

Jul 09 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

Join us at “Spend A Year With Jesus” – -See our “Home” page

Subscribe to the “Spend A Year With Jesus” text messages

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From whence the boat?

Jul 07 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

After Jesus feeds and dismisses the crowd of 4,000, he and his disciples board a boat and row west across the lake.

The miraculous meal overwhelms a rather mundane ambiguity. From whence the boat?

Are we to conclude that they stole the boat? Of course not!

If they borrowed the boat they would by necessity have to return it. Alternatively, some of Jesus’ newfound friends might have given him a lift.

The option developed in the SpendaYearwithJesus storyline is that Jesus’ dispatched his married disciples to their homes to meet him later on the other side of the lake.

On the one hand, the married men could spend some time, however brief, with their families. On the other hand, their splitting off and then rejoining the group could account for the boat.

The challenge to this option is a view that Jesus and the twelve were together at all times..24×7 — always teaching and healing except when they were walking from town to town.

The manic teaching and healing schedule, however, does not account for the logistics surrounding those activities.

Jesus did not have a staff to whom he could delegate. If he had anything even close to resembling a travel secretary or a transportation captain, they were probably part of the twelve.

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Identity Indicators

Jul 02 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

Before Jesus’ last year, Jesus’ cousin John sent messengers to confirm that Jesus was the one for whom the nation was waiting — the Messiah. Jesus replied to them that

  • the blind see,
  • the lame walk,
  • lepers are cleansed,
  • the deaf hear,
  • the dead are raised,
  • and the poor are given the good news (Mt 11:5; Lk 7:22).

These indicators echo phrases from the Hebrew Scriptures including Isaiah 35:5-6, Isaiah 61:1, and Psalm 146:8 — with the exception of the dead raised.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the fragment entitled the Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521) reflects the same indicator-understanding of the Messiah’s activity including the phrase, “the dead are raised.” Jesus wasn’t the only one thinking and talking this way.

Though the application of the statements diverge between the Scrolls and the Gospels, they share the reversal of fortune for the down-and-out as a key indicator of the Messiah’s identity.

For the Scrolls community the apocalypse was a future event, but for the Gospel writers, they describe Jesus’ experience.

During the summer of Jesus’ last year, subscribers receive text messages relating how people, among the hills east of Lake Galilee, marveled because they witnessed the mute speaking, the lame walking, and the blind seeing (Mt 15:30).

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Return of the Crowds

Jul 02 2020 Published by under Telling the Story


James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). “Jesus Sits by the Seashore and Preaches,” 1886-1894. Oil on board. Brooklyn Museum.

It feels natural to imagine Jesus sitting on a large, elevated rock speaking to  quiet, riveted crowds.

This elevated image makes sense given the typical church experience like a wedding or a funeral. You sit quietly. An eloquent speaker stands on an elevated platform. (In what time was the average church experience outside; if it ever was?)

Many people have pointed out that the first-century experience is remote from our own. While some of the experiences are very different, we do not want to miss the similarities. The core of human experience persists.

For example, Jesus observed the hunger of the members of more than one listening crowd. How attentive are people in your crowd when the speaker continues into the lunch or dinner hour?

Among a crowd of thousands, a man yelled at Jesus to settle his inheritance dispute. Jesus responded with a general rebuke of greed. I can’t imagine that man or his party were very attentive after that response. And surely the man’s comment was one of many outdoor interruptions.

At the temple, Jesus joined in alongside other Rabbis offering commentary on the Law. While Jesus spoke with authority, he was competing with other lecturers among the alcoves, perhaps more eloquent orators.

In addition, the noise of the temple courts and the surrounding city reduced earshot, limiting the crowd size even if there were ready listeners.

In making the leap from our experience to Jesus’ experience, we need to introduce appropriate amounts of friction. Perpetually-attentive crowds are just not realistic, even for Jesus. (That’s why I love the looks on the people’s faces in the Tissot painting above.)

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