Deuteronomy 3-4 B

Check out Carly’s thoughts from last time.

Remember how we talked about the possible demi-gods in Genesis?

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis‬ ‭6:4‬)

It seems we are running into them again with Og King of Bashan.

“For only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bedstead was an iron bedstead; it is in Rabbah of the sons of Ammon. Its length was nine cubits and its width four cubits by ordinary cubit.” (3:11)

This victory over Og is mentioned 22 times in the Bible. It’s a huge deal (much like the man himself). That’s because it was key to Israel’s budding identity to know the LORD could give them victory over the world’s most intimidating foes.

I will now shift to another thought:

“And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” (4:19-20‬)

Over the past few years I’ve gained an increasing fascination with the LORD’s seemingly devil-may-care attitude toward the rest of the ancient world.

Listen, Israel, it’s fine for the rest of the world to create their religions around the sun, moon and stars. In fact, that’s what I gave them. But you will be different, because I’m showing Myself through you in a special way.

I know He blessed them to, in turn, bless everyone, but it seems pretty clear He knew they would fail to do that. Did He really leave 99.9999% of all humanity in the dark for centuries just because?

I don’t quite have my answers yet, but I’ll keep seeking to know about this. I think the relatable application is, like Peter’s object lesson in John 21 in relation to John: don’t worry about what I’m doing with them, be obedient to what I’m saying to you.

That’s something I have to check myself on constantly. How are you doing with that? What are your thoughts on the LORD being okay keeping Gentiles in the dark?

-Bethany

John 21 B

I liked Carly’s thoughts on 21:22 and our tendency to get caught up in God’s dealings with others.

Every time I read this story, my attention goes to the disciple’s immediate return to life before Jesus. After they see the empty tomb, they just go home. A few days later, “Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.” (3)

They have spent the last three years of their lives with Jesus, their Rabbi and Messiah. Then He died, and now He’s alive? Thomas just touched His scars.

What does it mean? What do they do? It’s overwhelming, they default back to what they would have done three years ago before their worlds were turned upside down.

Peter is feeling especially blue. Jesus is back, and doesn’t He know about the cowardly thing Peter did: denying Him three times?

This brings me to another thing I ponder, which is, why does Jesus say “feed my sheep” or “tend my lambs” after each assertion of love? Maybe it’s to encourage Peter to know and remember, you’ve got a new job. Stop fishing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with fishing, it’s just that encountering Jesus, being called by Him and knowing Him, means “same old same old” is over. Who He is and what He’s done makes a difference.

What difference has He made in your life? We start Deuteronomy tomorrow.

-Bethany

John 17-18 B

As I read today, I couldn’t seem to escape how often the word “world” was used. Upon further investigation, I find out, yes, John really loves using this word. He uses the Greek word “kosmos” 57 times in this gospel! That’s the most it’s used in any NT book, with second place being a tie between 1 Corinthians and (you guessed it) 1 John, with 17 uses! Pretty amazing when you consider 1 Corinthians is three times as long as 1 John. He loves saying it, repeating it, emphasizing it.

When I think of “the world” I am prone to imagine “the secular world”, or Gentiles, all nations, plants and animals, media, pop culture or Hellenization (back then). However, when I read, starting in chapter 15, I see Jesus saying “the world”, but using it and it’s pronoun they, to describe things the religious leaders were doing or would do (ie. rejecting, persecuting, throwing out of the synagogue). It suddenly felt very personal. They were the powers of the disciple’s world. These were the people who could really shake up their lives and cast them out, but these were not secular groups.

I found that the word “kosmos” most literally means “order”. It was starting to feel more like a reference to existing power structures, the way things are, and not a nod to plants, animals or Greeks.

As this theme manages to float through the following chapters, 18:35-36 started to pack a different punch:

 “Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief of priests delivered You to me; what have You done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.'”

What’s that? He switches up the wordage at the end, there, and doesn’t say kosmos! Now He’s referencing just how outside the boarders of Israel His jurisdiction goes.

He’s might also be saying, “Don’t be confused, this power structure is not my power structure.” Maybe I could even go on speculating that He’s making a dig at the whole thing by saying, “If my servants were from this power structure, they would be out there fighting, but they’re not, because they’re not from this structure either.”

The kingdom of Jesus doesn’t need to practice violence to assert dominance. 

In fact, Jesus is about to ascend to the right hand of the Father by absorbing violence and not fighting back. He’s about to receive the name above all names through humility–the highest kind–laying down His own life.

This totally changes the way I think about being “in and not of” the world. I might live within these power structures, but I don’t govern myself by their rules. I don’t have to fight or struggle in the way it does.

The disciples found themselves in a world of laws, rituals, looking WAAY DOWN on others, and people who could shut the doors of the temple in their face. They would very soon lose good standing with this world. By way of contrast, Jesus first revealed Himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman who already had that world shutting the doors of the temple in her face. And what did Jesus say to her? The Father is looking for people like her.

Jesus said a lot of things that went straight over everyone in this world’s head. They couldn’t trap Him in their games, because He was on a whole other level. While we still, from 2000 years away, have a hard time perceiving all Jesus said and meant, we can start to piece together the otherness–the holiness–of this new kingdom.

Thank God it’s the One without end.

-Bethany

John 13-14 B

The two thoughts which sandwich the washing of the disciples feet seemed significant to me this time around.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.” (13:3-4‬)

I think we’re supposed to notice Jesus’ confidence in who He was and where He was going. This gives Him the powerful foundation to choose the position as a servant. I think this is what Paul picks up on and mentions in one of my favorite passages, Philippians 2:5-7.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

It also ties in with the application Jesus gives his disciples as soon as He’s done it.

“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” (13:14-15‬)

It wasn’t just a one-off, special thing He decided to do for His friends before dying, He was creating an example of humility and service. He even goes on to say that love will be what makes people able to identify His disciples.

In order to follow this example, truly, I think we need to be anchored in an understanding of who we are and where we’re going.

Becoming a servant, or prescribing servanthood to others, can be a recipe for disaster if pride, insecurity or purposelessness seeps in.

To best love and serve one another, we need to get our identity sorted. Do you know who you are? Do you know why you exist in the time and place God placed you? Ask Him about it today.

-Bethany

John 9-10 B

Carly’s reflections on these resounded with me as well.

This blind guy ended up paying a strange price for being healed. His family became surrounded by a controversy they would have preferred to stay out of, and he was cast out.

There is so much Mosaic Law principles Jesus seems to be attempting to unteach. His disciples have been indoctrinated to assume someone’s sin is directly responsible for this man’s physical ailment (9:2). It was a major part of Israel’s understanding, post exile, that bad things happen to bad people.

This was because they knew the Exile was a direct promise of punishment from Deuteronomy 27, stating what would inevitably happen if they ignored YHWH. After the siege of Jerusalem, and the long road to rebuild after Exile, the Jews kind of over corrected. They weren’t going to make this mistake twice. Obeying the LORD would equal blessing, and disobeying would equal curses. While in one moment a child wasn’t punished for “the sins of their father”, a mans consequences could result in a generational curse. See how this is confusing?

What does Jesus say?

“it was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (9:3)

I think it’s funny how I can habitually pray for God to be glorified in my life, and then later, be annoyed and feel He’s making some object lesson out of my suffering.

There’s the flip side of that too.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (10:10b-11)

While it can sometimes feel like we sacrifice our lives to make God look good–the hero in our stories–the truth is, He sacrificed Himself to give us abundant life.

Mind blown.

Don’t succumb to the philosophy that knowing Jesus is only beneficial on judgement day. We miss a huge thread of Scripture if we don’t see how it nurtures us now to know Him.

What does this bring to mind in your own life?

-Bethany

John 5-6 B

Not to imply that we ever “do a passage justice” on this blog, but with the size of John’s chapters and the sheer volume of dialogue they cover, this feels especially impossible. Where to begin?

Truly, this calls for some interaction from our readers. Maybe I make one observation, and Carly makes these, but what about you? Which of these dozen passages spoke to your heart today?

I want to talk about this alarming claim Jesus makes in 6:55, “My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”

As crazy as it may sound, this statement doubles as an anchor for one of the church’s two main sacraments: communion. Why on earth are we supposed to eat Jesus?!

Don’t expect me to give you the definitive correct answer on this, because it’s way too beautifully, if not disturbingly, complex. All I know is that the more I feast on Jesus–every last attribute I discover him to be–the more satisfied I am.

The way in which He embodies the fullness of God. How He never shuts up about the poor. The fact He never seems to get stressed or provoked. His compassion. His boldness to speak with authority. He’s a real straight shooter, but also gentle. He showcases truth.

Life is full of allures which seem to promise fulfillment, but only beautiful gifts from God deliver on that promise. Jesus is the ultimate gift from God. Enjoy.

-Bethany

John 1-2 B

Carly had a lovely reflection on chapter 2 last time, so I will focus on chapter 1.

I was noticing the overwhelming presence of names Jesus was being called (Lamb of God, Son of Man, Rabbi, etc.) along with the many prophesies he seemed to be fulfilling.

I’ve always chuckled to myself about what Nathaniel says in 1:46, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” But maybe it was more of a “are we expecting anyone from Nazareth?” Question.

It made me want to brush up on the themes of this book, so I rewatched the Bible Project overview and found it to be helpful and also validating of my observations.

John explicitly states the purpose of this gospel in 20:31, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name.”

There’s all sorts of questions about who this new Jesus guy is and it, appropriately, starts with John, who came first. John knows this is his God-given task and makes sure to tell people, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’, as Isaiah the prophet said.” What he obviously doesn’t realize, is that he is Elijah who was to come (Matthew 17:10-13). Maybe it’s for the best he didn’t know. He worked so hard to not confuse the people or say anything that would make them worship him.

Another, less obvious, nod toward the significance of Jesus’ arrival is the temple story in 2:13-25.

The Hebrew Bible (aka, the Old Testament in a different order) ends with an ellipses of sorts. A declaration from Cyrus, of all people, caps off the lingering final thought of their Holy Scriptures:

“The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him and let him go up…” (2 Chronicles 36:23)

Scholars have asserted this strange ending is intended to breed anticipation. It, then, comes at no surprise that John 2 and Luke 2 both contain a story of Jesus purposefully going up to the temple.

This book reads as a “The Messiah arrived and I will tell you what He’s like” tale. Take note of the many nods to Israel’s history as we continue forward.

What beautiful thing did you notice about the Messiah today?

-Bethany