New Bible Study: 1 Corinthians

New Bible Study: 1 Corinthians

Starting on Wednesday January 23, I’ll be starting a new 5 week study of Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians.

This New Testament book is best known for what chapter 13 says about love, and this is central for Paul’s message to the church he founded in the Greek city of Corinth. This letter also provides a tremendous amount of practical advice on how Christians can live together in community, overcome their differences, and be united by their faith in Jesus and his resurrection.

For a preview of what we’ll be studying take a look at this video from the Bible Project.

Beginnings Session 1: Genesis and the Story of the Bible

Beginnings Session 1: Genesis and the Story of the Bible

Seeing as I’ve called this Bible Study “Beginnings” I want to start right at the beginning with the basics of what we’re doing. So the first thing I’d like you to reflect on are these two videos by the Bible Project on “What is the Bible?” and “The Story of the Bible.” Each one is about 5 minutes and together they provide a good place to start for understanding the big picture of what the Bible is, and what it’s about.

If you want to dig a bit more into the material presented in these videos you can find study guides and reflection questions here.

Why Are We Talking About the Story of the Bible?

Genesis chapters 1-11 tell a story that is the introduction to the the big story of the Bible. So to understand what it has to say to us today we need to understand how it connects to that big story as an introduction and frame for what follows.

And yes, Christians do believe that despite being a complex library of religious literature that was written by a variety of people over more than a 1000 year period, the Bible tells one big story. We believe this because behind all the different times, places, and people stands God’s Spirit. The Spirit inspired not only the people who wrote these books but also the communities of faith who discerned that the words of these books were God’s unique and lasting Word to people in all times and places. And because God’s Spirit directed this process, it all fits together as one story.

What is the Story All About?

The short version is that Christians believe that the Bible is the story of how God created a good world, how that world got messed up, and God’s plan to rescue the world and restore the goodness he intended from the beginning. It’s also about our role as human beings in this big story.

But Christians also believe something else about this story. The New Testament claims that the Old Testament is ultimately a story about Jesus if we learn how to read it correctly. Now this is a pretty big claim, yet we find that it comes from Jesus himself.

  • Read Luke 24:13-50 and focus on verses 25-27 and 44-48. What do you think about what Jesus is saying here? Do you think Jesus can do this for people today?

Now it might seem a bit puzzling how the Old Testament can be about Jesus, even if you accept that many of the prophecies were talking about him. But it makes a bit more sense when we look at what the writer of the Gospel of John has to say about Jesus at the opening of his book.

  • Read John 1:1-14. What do you think about John’s claims about Jesus?

The Gospel John claims that Jesus is God’s Word, eternally one with God and the one through whom God made all things. For instance when we look at the creation story in Genesis chapter 1, John is saying that Jesus is that word that God spoke to create the universe (and John’s not the only New Testament writer to say this, see also Colossians 1:15-20).

As my particular Christian tradition puts it:

“He is the living Word of God to whom the written word bears witness.” (Living Faith 5.1 the  Presbyterian Church in Canada)

So How Do We Read the Bible?

Now this is a pretty big idea and one that can be a bit hard to wrap our minds around. Yet, if we begin to accept it, I think it provides us with a really helpful way to understand the Bible.

If Jesus is God’s Living Word, then anything we can say about Jesus we should also be able to say about the Bible. And if we think about how Jesus revealed who God is through his life, death and resurrection, then I believe we can understand how God reveals himself, his great story, and his purpose for his through the Bible.

  • Jesus Acted: He did things that were both natural (eating meals with people) and more than natural (calming a storm).
    • The Bible tells the story of God’s great acts in human history. Some of these acts are carried out in ordinary ways (through ordinary people and nature), some are more mysterious or miraculous.
  • Jesus Taught: He provided concrete teaching about God, the world and how people should live.
    • The Bible presents God’s teaching, through prophets, priests, apostles and through Jesus himself.
  • Jesus Tells Stories: This is one of the most distinctive things about Jesus is his use of stories to reveal who God is, what God’ Kingdom is about, and how people should live in light of God’s Kingdom coming on earth. We call these stories parables.
    • The Bible tells parables that reveal truths about God, the world, God’s purpose for the world, and our role in that purpose.

So how do we know when the Bible is giving us history, concrete teaching, or a parable?

Well that’s a bit tricky. There’s not a lot of consensus on this. Different groups of Christians read the Bible in different ways and have always done so. Some Christians argue that all of the Bible is to be read factually and historically – stories might have deeper spiritual meaning, but they’re all history that happened exactly as they were written. Other Christians go entirely the other way saying that most (if not all) of the Bible is made up of fictional stories that only have a metaphorical meaning. Most Christians tend to be somewhere between these two extremes. These differences of perspective unfortunately often end up in name calling – “Godless Liberal!” “Crazy Fundamentalist!” I’d like to avoid that.

On the whole,  I personally to fall on the conservative side of center. I believe that most of the stories in the Bible are historical on at least some level and that many are very historical – especially the Gospels. However, I think it’s essential to believe that the key events actually happened (or will happen). What do I call the key events? Basically what’s is found is the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, like the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

I also believe that some of the stories in the Bible are more parable than history. I would classify books like Job, Esther and Jonah in this category.

So How Do We Read Genesis Then?

Some Christians read Genesis historically, some read it as a parable. I personally read Genesis 1-11 as a parable that draws on the history of the world, and Genesis 12-50 (the story of Abraham’s family) as entering the realm of history. But no matter how we read Genesis 1-11 I think most Christians would agree that these are some of the most important stories in the Bible, stories that help us to understand the rest of what follows. And no matter what kind of word they are, they are God’s Word. So let’s get ready to listen and reflect on what God might be saying to us today though them.



Beginnings: Fall Sermon Series & Bible Study

Beginnings: Fall Sermon Series & Bible Study

It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the first week of a new school year! Summer always seems too short, and for some reason this one felt exceptionally short. Still, it can be an exciting time of year. My youngest started junior kindergarten this week, which had me feeling extremely proud, grateful, overjoyed at how happy she was on her first day, but also a little sad. My oldest also had a big moment as he started French immersion, as he’s now in grade 1. Here in Canada fall is a time for beginnings.

It’s also a time of beginnings for my congregation of St. Andrew’s. After a long and arduous season of construction, the accessible renovation and expansion of our building is almost done, and we’re planning a Grand Reopening for the last Sunday in October. From both the outside and inside it really looks like a brand new church.

With all these new beginnings going on it seemed like a good time to preach and study the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, which tell stories about the beginning of the world. These are stories that explore the big questions so many of us have: Where do we come from? What are we here for? Why is the world such a mess? Where is God in all of this? Is there a purpose or a plan for the universe and for my life?


So with all of this in mind I’ll be preaching through Genesis 1-11 from September though to early November. And starting on Wednesday September 26 there will also be a short 5 week study for those who want to go deeper into the story.  A group will gather at the church each week at 7pm, and study notes and reflection questions will be posted here on the blog.

For  a sneak preview here’s a video from The Bible Project that touches on some of the things we’ll be exploring together.

Facing the Future with Hope

Facing the Future with Hope

About a month ago I shared how life wasn’t quite going to plan, but how that can be okay if we’re willing to step back and see God’s big picture. Well it continued to be a busy month, and this is about the first time I’ve had to blog since then.

One of the best parts of the past month though was a conference I helped to organize for the Presbytery of Hamilton (the regional council my church is a part of). We called it: “Evangelism, Replanting and Renewal: Hope for Churches Facing the Iceberg.” Our speaker was the Rev. Graham Singh, who grew up Presbyterian but came back to church through Holy Trinity Brompton (the home church of the Alpha Course) in the Church of England. Graham is now an Anglican church planter who has restarted churches in England and Canada.

It was a great day reflecting on the possibilities for spreading the Good News of Jesus and what is involved in empowering our churches to do this again. There is hope! Holy Trinity Brompton has restarted 50 churches in southern England; Graham is leading St. Jax Church (a replanted Anglican church in the heart of Montreal); and here in Hamilton our Presbytery has successfully replanted Heritage Green Church in Stoney Creek. Yet all of these hopeful stories have two things in common: 1) a deep love for Jesus and their neighbours 2) and a willingness to do church very differently than in the past.

A number of people have asked me for the message I preached at the start of the conference so I’ve included an audio file and a downloadable copy of the manuscript below.

Sermon – Evangelism Conference – April 21, 2018

Counting Surprises & Blessings

Counting Surprises & Blessings

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. I had hoped to have the final study notes up here last week or (since it was Holy Week leading up to Easter) in the worst case have them up by yesterday. Then life happened.

I was rear ended on my way to drop off my daughter at daycare a week ago Monday (thankfully no one was hurt, and my daughter didn’t even get upset). My grandfather (whose been facing increasing health challenges) wound up in hospital a few days later. This past Tuesday morning I washed my face and when I went to put my glasses back on they broke in half.

But in between, I was given a little lesson when I took the kids out for lunch as a treat on the Saturday of Easter weekend. Both kids were super happy, because they got this on top of doing their Easter egg hunt that morning. My son declared it ‘the best day ever!’ Then he knocked over his iced tea.

Suddenly it was the worst day ever. I empathized with him first and then tried to put it in perspective. “That’s very disappointing and upsetting. But look,  you already drank half of it and there’s still some left. And think about all the other good things that happened today. Try not to let one bad thing ruin a great day. Focus on the good.” Well he wasn’t having it, at least not for the next 20-30 minutes (he eventually cheered up later).

When I got home and told Elaine about it, it got me thinking about how often I’m like my 5 year old when something goes wrong. Suddenly, all I can focus on is the problem in front of me and it seems a whole lot bigger than all the other good things in life. So this Easter the lesson for me has been for me to count my blessings.

No one was hurt in the fender bender, everyone handled the situation with grace and my car will be fixed. I still have a grandfather in my life at the age of 35, and he’s getting excellent care right now. I had a wonderful Easter with family and my church. During Easter Sunday service my son showed what a wonderful kid he is by keeping a toddler company when he wandered up and sat on the steps of the platform (he even gave the little guy a hug). And my glasses waited until after Easter before deciding to come apart.

And most of all, I am loved by my Creator and Redeemer. I am saved by his Son who died to set us free, and lives to bring life to all the world. And I am blessed and strengthened by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave.

So the final Gospel of Mark notes should be up here in a week. In the mean time, I’m counting my blessings.

The Gospel According to Mark (Part 4 of 5)

The Gospel According to Mark (Part 4 of 5)

This week we’re beginning the third and final Act of the Gospel According to Mark which tells the story of how Jesus became King through his suffering death and resurrection. Because this is the most important part of the Gospel we’ll be breaking Act 3 into two parts. This week we’ll be exploring Jesus’ Royal Entrance and Conflict with Israel’s Leaders (Mark 11:1-13:37) and next week we’ll focus on Jesus’ Suffering, Death and Resurrection (Mark 14:1-16:8).

The approach we’re taking to this study breaks Mark down into 3 Acts. You can find a helpful 10 minute video summary of the whole Gospel and poster summarizing the 3 Acts in Part 1 of our study.

Bible Project - Mark Act 3

Act 3: Jerusalem

The final act of Mark’s Gospel explains how Jesus became the Messianic King and established God’s reign on earth. Everything in the Gospel has been leading up to this moment. Part 1 of this final act begins with Jesus’ royal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem and then moves into a series of conflicts Jesus has with the leaders of Israel as he asserts his authority as King. After Jesus defeats his challengers in a series of debates he warns his disciples of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and God’s Temple, as well as prophesying their role in the extension of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Jesus’ Royal Entry (Mark 11:1-11)

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey at the start of the annual Passover festival, publicly claiming to be the Messiah for the first time. In doing this he was claiming to fulfill the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9-17 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The pilgrims to the festival welcome Jesus as king with the words of the great Passover song Psalm 118: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! ” (Mark 11:9)

It’s important to know that in the 1st Century the Passover festival, which celebrates God freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt, had become focused on the hope that God would soon act again to rescue his people. The Israelite kingdom of Judea had been under some form of Roman rule since 63 BC, but things had become steadily more oppressive since it became a Roman province in 6 AD. Judea was overseen by a junior Roman governor whose main role was to keep order and ensure taxes were collected. Day to day governance was placed in the hands of a local ruling Council made up of the Jewish priesthood, elders and scribes under the leadership of the High Priest.

There was a high level of Messianic expectation and nationalist fervor around most of the major Jewish festivals, but especially at Passover. The Roman governors would come to Jerusalem with a full garrison of soldiers from their administrative capital of Caesarea Maritima to keep order. It was a time of great tension which could easily explode in rioting or revolt.

Jesus Judges the Temple as King and Prophet (Mark 11:12-25)

By overturning the tables of the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals, Jesus asserts his royal authority over the Temple and announces God’s judgement in the words of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. His reference to Jeremiah’s prophecy is especially significant as Jeremiah was the prophet who announced the destruction of the first Temple in 589 BC, and was nearly killed for daring to announce God’s judgement.

Jesus’ condemnation of the priests is partially for bringing the commerce needed for the Temple into the court of the Gentiles, which was supposed to be a place of prayer for the non-Jewish nations of the world. However, the main issue is that the priests, scribes and elders think that the Temple will shelter them from the consequences of their corruption and injustice in colluding with the Roman occupation: “you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17/Jeremiah 7:11) Mark frames Jesus’ actions in the Temple with the story of him cursing of the fig tree. This was a symbol of Israel, and foreshadows God’s coming judgement.

Debates in the Temple (Mark 11:27-12:34)

When Jesus returns to the city the next day Israel’s formal leaders (the priests, elders and scribes) and other leading groups (Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees) all challenge Jesus in a series of debates. Jesus emerges victorious, defeating his would be accusers, and winning the respect of the one person who asks him an honest question.

  • 11:27-33 The priests, scribes and elders question Jesus’ royal and prophetic claims and Jesus exposes their total disregard for truth.
  • 12:1-12 Jesus prophesies that Israel’s leaders will kill him and then be destroyed by God in the Parable of the Vineyard (another symbol of Israel). Jesus presents the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple as a result of Israel’s leaders rejecting God’s last offer of mercy and forgiveness. It should be noted that this condemnation is for the Jewish leaders, not the Jewish people as a whole.
  • 12:13-17 The Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus with a question about Roman taxes and end up condemning themselves. There needed to be money changers at the Temple because Roman coinage was blasphemous. Yet the Pharisees and Herodians have a Roman denarius in their purses, showing their hypocrisy. This story isn’t about separation of church and state, but giving Caesar back the corrupt coins stamped with his image, and giving God the human lives that he has stamped with his image.
  • 12:18-27 The Sadducees challenge Jesus about the Resurrection and are also defeated. The Sadducees accepted only the authority of the 5 books of Moses (the Torah) and a smaller collection of prophetic writings. They did not believe in newer Jewish beliefs such as the Messiah, the Resurrection of the Dead or the future Day of the Lord. Hence Jesus silences them from a central passage in the Torah.
  • 12:28-34 A righteous scribe asks the only honest question of the day, wanting to see which commandment Jesus believes is the greatest in God’s Law (another name for the Torah). While others had summed up the Law with the words of Leviticus 19:18, Jesus is revolutionary in combining it with the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (Israel’s central confession of faith). The scribe approves of Jesus’ answer, and no one else dares ask him another question.

Final Teaching in the Temple (Mark 12:35-44)

As he’s done with the disciples, Jesus addresses the crowds with the question of whether the Messiah is merely a human king  in the line of King David, or something much more. He does this by turning to one the Scriptures that was widely believed to prophecy about the Messiah, Psalm 110. Jesus then condemns the scribes, who were the learned teachers of the Torah and other sacred writings of the Jewish people. The scribes and Pharisees are not exactly same. Many of the most influential scribes were Pharisees, but not all. Mark depicts a variety of groups questioning and opposing Jesus where Matthew and Luke put more of the focus on the Pharisees. This is likely because they wrote in the period after the destruction of the Temple when the Pharisees were taking their first steps of becoming the new leaders of the Jewish people and coming into conflict with the Jewish followers of Jesus.

Prophesy of the Temple’s Destruction and the Coming of God’s Kingdom (Mark 13:1-37)

Jesus uses Apocalyptic imagery to prophesy the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem within one generation. This was fulfilled in the disastrous Jewish Revolt of 66-70AD which was ruthlessly crushed by the Roman Empire. The ‘Abomination of Desolation’ in 13:14 refers to the vision in the chapter 9 of the book of Daniel. In Daniel this expression refers to the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes placing an idol in the Temple, which ignited the last revolution against foreign rule by the Maccabees. However, this time military revolution will bring about Judea’s destruction. Early traditions show that most Jewish Christians did heed Jesus’ warnings and fled Jerusalem ahead of the Roman siege.

Jesus continues his Apocalyptic prophesy with the coming of the Son of Man in power and the end of history. He closes with warnings to be prepared and to “keep awake.” Jesus actually says relatively little about the end times here, and what he does say is very cryptic. The main point is to not despair over Jerusalem’s destruction, but live in hope for the final victory of God’s Kingdom and Jesus’ return. We might interpret 13:27 as a prophecy of Christian missionaries (the Greek word angelos refers to both divine and human messengers) spreading through the world to gather the elect into God’s Kingdom.

Next Week: Act 3, Part 2 (Mark 14:1-16:8)


The Gospel According to Mark (Part 3 of 5)

The Gospel According to Mark (Part 3 of 5)

This week we’re looking Act 2 of the Gospel According to Mark, which covers Mark 8:27-10:52. The approach we’re taking to this study breaks Mark down into 3 Acts. You can find a helpful 10 minute video summary of the whole Gospel and poster summarizing the 3 Acts in Part 1 of our study.

Bible Project - Mark Act 2

Act 2: On The Way

The second part of Mark’s Gospel moves from announcing Jesus’ as the promised Messiah or King, to showing showing that Jesus is a very different kind of king. Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem and over three conversations tells his disciples that he will become king by suffering, dying and rising again. This shakes the group the core, and they struggle with what Jesus is saying throughout this section. In fact Act 2 can be seen as a journey from one blind man (in Mark 8:22-26) to another (in 10:46-52). The first story prepares us for the struggle of the disciples to see and understand. The second affirms that in spite of their difficulties and failures in Act 2, by the end of Act 3 they will see, understand and faithfully follow Jesus on the Way.

The Messiah Will Suffer & Sacrifice: Take 1 (Mark 8:27-9:1)

In the region of Caesarea Philippi, which was home to a temple to the Divine Emperor of the Rome, Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is. Simon Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, perhaps hoping that this is the first step toward Jesus toppling that false god and freeing Israel from Roman rule. Instead Jesus tells Peter and the others that he will be rejected by Israel’s leaders, be killed and after 3 days rise again. Peter is stunned and challenges him, before being put in his place for presenting Jesus with a dangerous temptation.

Jesus then tells the disciples and the crowd that anyone who follows him must follow his example by denying themselves and taking up a cross of their own. The mark of Jesus’ followers will be sacrificing their lives for him and his good news, which will end up being their path to true life. Jesus also warns of the danger of denying him, while presenting the hope that some the people following him in Galilee will see God’s Kingdom come with power. This has been a confusing prophecy for many, but refers to Jesus’ Resurrection and the resulting empowerment of his disciples to extend God’s Kingdom throughout the world.

The Mountain and Valley: The Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-29)

Peter, James and John get a sneak preview of the Resurrection when Jesus takes them up a mountain to reveal his true glory. Jesus is transformed and joined on the mountain by the prophets Moses and Elijah, who had also seen God’s glory on a mountain top. As he has before, God speaks from a cloud, only this time he confirms that Jesus is his Son, and that the must “Listen to him!” The three are then sworn to keep this event to themselves until after Jesus is raised, something that continues to confuse them.

When they get down to the bottom of the mountain, they see another scene inspired by the Old Testament. Just as Moses found chaos and unfaithfulness when he came down the mountain, so too does Jesus. The other disciples are arguing with some Pharisees after they were unable to heal a boy with life threatening seizures. Jesus is deeply frustrated, but shows compassion to the boy’s father who cries out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” The boy is healed and freed from the spirit causing his illness, and the disciples wonder why they couldn’t cast it out when they had been able to heal in Jesus’ name before. Jesus says the answer is to spend more time in prayer. Only then will they have the faith they need to handle more difficult tasks.

The Messiah Will Suffer & Sacrifice: Take 2 (Mark 9:30-50)

Jesus announces his coming suffering a second time, and for a second time has to challenge the disciples on what this means for following him. The disciples make the mistake of arguing about who is first when Jesus has just spoken about putting himself last. He welcomes a child into their midst and tells them the measure of those who are first is in how they welcome and care for those who are least and last in the world.

But John can’t contain himself. Wanting Jesus to affirm that the disciples are first into the Kingdom, he tries to get Jesus to approve their attempt to shut down another exorcist who was using Jesus name. But Jesus is bigger than the company of his followers, and calls on them to welcome anyone who shows love and reverence for Jesus, for “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Bottom line: the company of Jesus’ followers have an essential role in his mission, but they are not the gatekeepers to Jesus.

In fact, if you’re going to be first in Jesus’ Kingdom and his mission you have an incredible responsibility. His disciples must always be an open door to him, never a stumbling block for the little ones who love and trust in him. If you cause others to stumble you’re better off being thrown into the sea. Therefore disciples need to cut everything out of their lives that might make them a barrier to others coming to Jesus. That includes stupid arguments about who is most important.

Living as Jesus’ Followers in the World (Mark 10:1-31)

Mark then provides a few stories that provide concrete examples of what following the crucified King looks like in day to day life. First some Pharisees debate Jesus over the question of divorce. Jesus replies they are asking the wrong question, and taking divorce too lightly. Moses allowed divorce on account of human weakness, but God’s intention from the beginning was for marriage to be a lifelong relationship. Divorce then is a serious thing, not to be undertaken lightly or seen as morally indifferent (in fact remarriage after divorce is technically adultery). This was radical teaching in a time where many men would divorce their wives for trivial reasons and leave them destitute. Instead, followers of Jesus should be marked by faithfulness, even when the road gets hard. Divorce is a concession to human frailty, but comes at a high personal cost and should always be a last resort.

From marriage, Mark takes us to a story about children. The disciples try to stop people from bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus and get a sharp rebuke in return:  “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Then along comes someone the disciples would love to see join Jesus’ movement: a right-living rich man. But as much as Jesus loves this man, he sees that the man’s wealth will be an obstacle to him taking up his cross and following. Jesus challenges the man to give it all away and the man walks away sadly. The disciples are shocked because it was often assumed that wealth was a sign of God’s favour (and still is). Instead, Jesus teaches that wealth is barrier to following him – it’s hard to deny yourself when you have everything. But in the end no one can get right with God by their own efforts, we’re saved and welcomed by God’s grace alone. And if we give up our possessions and even our loved ones we’ll find we get them back in a new a deeper way, though not without the challenges that come from following Jesus in this world.

The Messiah Will Suffer & Sacrifice: Take 3 (Mark 10:32-45)

As the group nears Jerusalem, Jesus turns on last time and announces what’s to come. Once again the disciples show their blindness. James and John come forward to ask for the number one and two positions when he becomes King. Jesus asks if they can do what’s necessary to be first in his Kingdom and they say, “Absolutely!” Jesus prophecies that they will (indeed both will suffer for Jesus and at least one will die a martyr – Acts 12:1-12), but that the places on the right and left of his throne are already spoken for. Indeed, when we fast forward to chapter 15 we see that Jesus’ throne is the cross, and it will be two bandits beside him in his moment of shocking glory.

Jesus then reminds the rest of the disciples (who are naturally grumpy about the brothers’ arrogance) that to be first in his kingdom you have to be last, and if you want be great you must be a servant and slave of all, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” This is a key saying, because Jesus is pointing to the prophecy he will fulfill by his death and resurrection: the Suffering Servant foretold in Isaiah 52:13-52:13.

Conclusion to Act 2 (10:46-52)

As Jesus leaves Jericho (the last stop before Jerusalem) a blind man named Bartimaeus cries out for help:  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Even though the crowd tries to silence him, Bartimaeus continues to cry out and Jesus hears and heals him. Jesus tells him that his faith has allowed him to see and be well. Bartimaeus then follows Jesus “on the Way.” This is a significant turn of phrase because early Christians referred to themselves as “The Way.” Like Bartimaeus, Jesus’ disciples will now finally find faith and sight, and they will learn how to faitfully walk in Jesus’ Way. It won’t be an easy journey, but they and we can walk it because the Son of David has shown us his mercy and walked the Way ahead of us – as we’ll see in the closing two sessions of this study.