Archive for January, 2021

The impact of weekend reading

Jan 28 2021 Published by under Telling the Story

During the first-century on Sabbath the devout of Israel gathered to read the Law of Moses. In Jesus’ experience, the Law of Moses was authoritative. It came from God.

Jesus’ later follower Paul and his brother James confirmed the practice (Acts 13:27; 15:21). For example, James said, “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).

First-century Jewish writers Philo and Josephus also comment on the practice of gathering for Sabbath instruction (Philo’s Special Laws 2.15 §62 and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, 16.2.3 §43; 2.17 §175).

Though the practice of reading is without question, the schedule of readings in the first-century is debated. There is an annual cycle of Torah readings as well as a three-year cycle that could have guided the Sabbath practice.

The SpendaYearwithJesus storyline follows an annual cycle, giving a flavor of what it could have been like to hear the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus in the same timeline.

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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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“Idle fancy and historical imagination”

Jan 16 2021 Published by under Uncategorized

Gospel Scholar Vincent Taylor once wrote, “It goes without saying that in any recreation of the past much has to be supplied by the imagination; but there is all the difference in the world between idle fancy and the historical imagination controlled by facts which have been patiently investigated.”+

The SpendaYearwithJesus story is the result of ten years of patient investigation.

If the details of the Gospel accounts are to be accounted for on first-century terms (and in light of pre-Pentecost realities), then economic, geographical, and relational implications may be played out in narrative form. SpendaYearwithJesus is exactly this sort of play–one which emerges out of the historical realities of the available details.

+ Vincent Tayler, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition (London: MacMillan, 1933), 168.

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3 kinds of travel with Jesus

Jan 12 2021 Published by under Telling the Story

Jesus walked and walked and walked. Traveling was a major part of Jesus’ experience.

First, there was feast travel. At an early age, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his father Joseph (Lk 2:41). And since Jesus kept the Mosaic Law, he made three trips a year (Ex. 23:17) to Jerusalem for more than a decade before he started preaching. The trip to Jerusalem was a common travel scenario for the people Jesus lived among.

Teaching tours. The Gospel of Luke describes how Jesus went from village to village in Galilee preaching about the kingdom of God. Luke also mentions that the 12 disciples as well as some women went with Jesus (8:1-3). The region of Galilee must have accommodated co-ed travelers, meaning that necessities such as safe roads and separate quarters were available.

Withdrawals. During the summer of Jesus’ last year, he went to Tyre and Sidon and then to the Decapolis both outside Galilee. After the Feast of Dedication in the winter, Jesus went to the remote place where John had baptized years before (John 10:40). Later that last winter, Jesus and his disciples withdrew to a wilderness border town called Ephraim (John 11:54) where no one found him until he re-emerged traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.

In all of this travel, Jesus used that most humble and human form of transportation, his own two feet.

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How to respond to rejection and hostility

Jan 05 2021 Published by under Telling the Story

Jesus’ experience included a series of withdrawals his last year. During the summer months, he traveled in and out of Galilee. During the winter, he visited Jerusalem and withdrew multiple times.

This pattern of engagement and withdrawal points to the mounting tension between Jesus and the religious authorities.

The perception of Jesus as a dynamic, likable teacher-leader is true enough. But often in our focus on Jesus, we ignore the feelings of all of the other dynamic leaders around him who were competing for public interest, let alone those who were attempting to preserve the power they had already attained.

The leaders in Nazareth and Capernaum and other towns in Galilee turned against Jesus. Not long afterwards in Jerusalem at the Feast of Huts, the religious leaders sent the temple guards to arrest him. And a few months later, on Jesus’ next feast-visit to Jerusalem, some of his listeners/competitors intended once again to seize him.

Jesus lived in this mounting tension of rejection and hostility for months. Yet he never lost his nerve or his focus.

If we tell the story overlooking this tension, we do it not because the circumstances demand it, but because we are so overawed by Jesus’ calm in the face of unrelenting opposition.

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