Archive for October, 2020

We had a warrant for your arrest

Oct 29 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

What happened to the arrest warrant issued by the religious authorities during the Feast of Huts? After the feast, Jesus left Jerusalem. The guards did not stop him.

There are several reasons, political in nature, why the religious authorities would assume a wait-and-see posture toward Jesus.

First, the gentle balance of power with the Roman governor moderated action. While Rome delegated authority particularly within the temple courtyards, the rulers were still subject to Roman rule.

Second, the guards had to own the arrest. As they listened to Jesus, they were unconvinced that he was a threat (Jn 7:46). Arrest might upset the zealous among the feast crowds — a constant threat.

Third, members of the ruling court encouraged caution (Jn 7:51). The gentle balance of power necessitated time to assess whether Jesus’ threat-level would grow or fade.

Finally, Jesus himself said that he was going somewhere that they could not follow (Jn 7:33-34). That statement alone could have diffused the situation as the rulers waited for Jesus to leave the country.

Conflict looms over Jesus’ experience, yet in Jesus’ actions we do not observe the hesitancy of someone looking over his shoulder. Instead, we observe calm resolution (Proverbs 28:1).

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Winter Story-line

Oct 27 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

Piecing together Jesus’ experience in the SpendaYearwithJesus timeline is a challenge — getting to know the characters, grappling with the setting and producing a set of plot options true-to-life.

Major principles like no shortcuts, religious conflict, and friendship frame Jesus’ experience.  Cues from the Gospel stories help fill in the gaps.

There are two important dynamics shaping the winter story-line.

The first dynamic is the development of Jesus’ friendship with Lazarus. However we tell the story it needs to account for the development of friendship between two first-century men.

The second is the aborted arrest order of the Jerusalem religious rulers at the Fall Feast. The winter tension in John 10 resumes the explosive fall tension recorded in John 7-9.

Jesus’ pattern was to engage and withdrawal, so withdrawal in between the tensions and after is logical based on the cues.

To be sure, the winter story-line is one of tension  to the end.

Connect with Jesus’ experience.

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Unpacking Jesus’ Experience in John 9

Oct 20 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

Can we get closer to the reality that Jesus lived by telling Jesus’ story in space and time?

Let’s take the events recorded in John 9, for example. Jesus put mud on a blind man’s eyes and told him to wash at a pool, on Sabbath. The man washed his eyes and regained his sight right there at the pool (9:11, 14). Conflict followed.

Here are some observations from the scene.

  • Space: The south-city pool was some distance from the place where the man met and left Jesus (9:7). The man only heard Jesus’ voice. He never saw Jesus. This was not a “seen” healing, so to speak.
  • Time: The man’s neighbors brought him to the Pharisees (9:13). An inquisition on Sabbath? Most likely no, since the Pharisees would be working and thus breaking the law. At least a day passed between 9:12 and 9:13.
  • Back Story: The blind man’s parents knew that the religious leaders had already decided to reject Jesus’ followers (9:22). While the leaders’ conversation and decision is not recorded, the account assumes it happened.
  • Back Story Time: Enough time had passed since the leaders’ decision to reject Jesus that a random couple in Jerusalem had learned of the ruling.

In twenty-first century time (or perception), decisions are made and communicated in the time it takes breaking news to interrupt regular broadcasting. At first glance, the action in John 9 takes place continuously and many readers presume over a single day.

The SpendaYearwithJesus experience aligns with Jesus’ experience at first-century speed, to unpack space and time as a part of the experience of getting to know Jesus more deeply.

Sign-up for the SpendaYearwithJesus text-message experience.

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In the beginning . . . crisscrossing themes in Jesus’ story

Oct 17 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered,Telling the Story

Jesus’ experience is like ours. Some days pass quickly without much notice, but other days are filled with pivotal experiences.

Today’s events in the withJesus storyline are from the first part of John 9 and from Genesis 1. The yearly Torah-reading schedule reboots today and begins anew in Genesis 1.

Today (in the storyline) we encounter three great themes in Jesus’ story:

  • Torah (aka Moses’ Law)
  • Healing activity
  • Sabbath

Torah regulated Jesus’ thought and action. And today, the yearly reading of the Torah begins anew. “In the beginning…”

The focus of John’s Gospel, the healing event, passes quite quickly in the course of the day. The reading from the Hebrew Scriptures may actually have been much more profound for Jesus’ disciples since healing happened more frequently during the year than the annual reading of the creation account.

The final theme, Sabbath, establishes boundaries in Jesus’ and the nation’s schedule. Appropriate Sabbath activity is at the center of the controversy surrounding Jesus’ healing activity.

While today’s activities are pivotal, the story continues tomorrow. Jesus’ experience like ours does not have built-in study guide questions or reflection periods. We live the events and move on, only later realizing their  significance.

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4 months in 4 chapters: John 7-10

Oct 15 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Times passes quickly in the Gospel accounts.

John 7-10 record events happening in a period from the Feast of Huts (aka Tabernacles) in the early fall to the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) during the winter.

In the opening paragraphs of John 7, the conversation between Jesus and his brothers occurs before the pilgrims of Upper Galilee had begun their five day journey to Jerusalem for the Feast of Huts.

At the end of John 7, when Jesus stands and shouts to the thirsty (7:37-38), the events take place at the end of the seven day fall feast. In John 10, the mention of the Feast of Dedication moves the time to the winter.

More events transpire in the city of Jerusalem in John 8 and 9. The reader has to decide whether these events coincide with the sequence of John 7 and 10, or whether they are inserted for effect. It seems natural enough to read these chapters sequentially given the consistent characters and setting and theme.

4 months in 4 chapters.

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Jesus, Modern Teacher?

Oct 13 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

We naturally overlay assumptions from our experience onto Jesus’ story. The notion of the modern teacher impacts how we read Jesus’ story. People I have questioned think of Jesus as teaching from sun-up to sundown, and when he is not teaching, he is traveling to his next teaching opportunity.

Whether grade school or grad school, as a general rule in North America people who specialize in teaching earn their living from teaching.

In some parts of the world, teachers supplement their income with a trade, and this practice gets us closer to first-century reality.

“Few pharisaic teachers and scribes were wealthy, and many followed rather lowly trades” (Jesus Life and Times, 74). “Rabbis were expected to gain a skilled trade apart from their study (thus Paul was a leather-worker)” (Carson & Moo, 240). Further, “work was considered dignified” (Jesus Life and Times, 160).

When I suggest that Jesus was bi-vocational, I often hear the protest that we know that Jesus received support from others.

True, but think of a non-profit organization today that employs twelve people. What kind of payroll do they need? Jesus had at least twelve full-time followers, some with families. How much income would they need in order to maintain a consistent travel schedule as a team as well as take care of their families?

The bottom line is that Jesus’ experience as well as that of his disciples most likely involved supplemental work at a trade. And this assumption informs the way we read the Gospels.


D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992, 2005).

Jesus and His Times, ed. Kaari Ward (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1987).

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Celebrating the Feast of Huts

Oct 08 2020 Published by under Telling the Story

The Feast of Huts (aka Tabernacles) celebrates a major chapter in Israel’s formation–the time when the exodus generation lived in portable, temporary shelters. The nation remembered (by re-enacting a part of) the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

The Gospel of John specifies that Jesus attended the Feast of Huts…in secret at first (John 7:10). None of the Gospel accounts mention the palm-branch huts specifically, so did Jesus participate in the re-enactment? Did he live in a hut?

Moses’ Law records the instruction from God for people attending the Feast. First, every able-bodied man in the nation must participate. Then, “Live in the huts for seven days” as a national remembrance of Israel’s history. (Leviticus 23:42)

Josephus reiterates the command, “Upon the fifteenth day of the same month, when the season of the year is changing for winter, the law enjoins us to pitch tabernacles [huts] in every one of our houses, so that we preserve ourselves from the cold of that time of the year” (Josephus, Antiquities 3.10.4  244).

The Mishnah states that “All seven days [of the feast] a person treats his sukkah [hut] as his regular dwelling and his house as his sometimes dwelling” (Sukkah 2.9).

Did Jesus have a feast hut? Yes, naturally … if Jesus was an able-bodied male who followed God’s law recorded by Moses.

On a very earthy level, it seems that he would have been more conspicuous if Jesus did not have a hut.

For more on understanding Jesus’ story, see Earth-Bound Experience.

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Feast Folklore

Oct 01 2020 Published by under Experience Reconsidered

Predictions, whether prophecy or folklore, influence thinking.

Zechariah was a prophet who lived in Jerusalem around 520 BCE. He encouraged his neighbors to rebuild the temple destroyed 70 years earlier by the Babylonians.

Zechariah encouraged the people by stating that the nations will worship the King during the Feast of Huts (Zech 14:16).

The prophecy is problematic as all prophecies are. The challenge lies in reconciling figurative imagery against references to real experiences. It’s easier for us moderns to reject prophecy out-of-hand but not for the ancient mind.

The Feast of Huts was part of Jesus’ experience. So was Zechariah’s prediction. Naturally the feast reference by the prophet prompted questions and anticipation.

The people of the day were trying to understand their experience. They were trying to reconcile real events with references in writings from Moses to Ezra and all those in between.

His closest followers were trying to understand Jesus’ story even as it unfolded before their eyes–an experience no less challenging than trying to understand the relationships within our own stories.

Connect with Jesus’ experience.


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