Happy New Year, Jesus.

Sep 24 2020

New Year (Rosh Hashanah) was an official holy-day that began with loud trumpet blasts. In fact, in the Hebrew Law, it was called the Festival of Trumpets.

Businesses were closed on New Year’s, and in addition, the law prohibited working from home as well. The Hebrew Scripture mentions the day in Leviticus 23:23-24.

The Gospel writers suggest that in Jesus’ experience, he followed the Hebrew Law recorded by Moses, so we can assume that on this day he listened to the trumpet blasts and enjoyed the down-time.

No walking/traveling and no teaching that would qualify as work. Jesus could enjoy New Year’s day at home with family and friends.

New Year’s is a good example of how we relate more deeply to Jesus’ experience by knowing a little bit of the ancient Hebrew Law. Leviticus 23 lists all of the holidays that Jesus would have followed.

You too can follow Jesus’ story including the holidays at SpendaYearwithJesus.

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I don’t read.

Sep 22 2020

“I don’t read.” I have lost count of the number of times I have heard that statement.

Statistics and personal experience suggest, however, that people are surrounded by thousands of words a day even though they may never pick up a 300-page book.

This paradox of information culture underlies the design of the text-message experience.

Rather than try to cram thousands of words into a narrow band of experience (i.e. reading a book in a few sittings), SpendaYearwithJesus releases the word-base into a year of experiences and multiple channels.

The juxtaposition of words and experience create meaning.

SpendaYearwithJesus sign-up includes

  • A year of  messages
  • Weekly email digests
  • Jesus’ experience daily in real-time
  • Subscriber access to SpendaYearwithJesus.com

Thus far, no one has complained that the story involves too much reading.

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Uncle Jesus

Sep 17 2020

Jesus had four brothers and two (or more) sisters (Mt 13:55-56). One of his brothers, Jude, had children and grandchildren. In Jesus’ culture, we would expect that his other siblings had children as well.

A story from ancient church history relates events involving Jesus’ family fifty years after his death. The story is interesting because it invokes both the Messiah legend surrounding Jesus as well as the fallout of Messianic expectation from the Jewish Wars.

The text refers to the grandchildren of Jude, “who was said to be the Lord’s brother.” And the story concludes, “They ruled the churches because they were witnesses and were also relatives of the Lord.”**

It may be as simple as observing that Jesus’ great-nephews just continued the “family business.” I wonder, however, what they thought of the man and his life. Jesus was their great-uncle after all.

Did their father have a relationship with Jesus that he passed on to these boys? And by relationship, I mean, did they pass time together and share some common, human interests?

I can’t imagine that to his nephew(s) a pan-handling know-it-all would have been acceptable — an uncle who refused to get a real job. Case in point, when Jesus started teaching, his mother and brothers thought he had lost his senses (Mk 3:21, 31).

As we read stories about Jesus’ experience, it’s easy to bracket off other elements of life like extended family. The immediacy of our own experiences begs the question, however. What were the contours and texture of Jesus’ experience as we consider all of the elements of his life?

SpendaYearwithJesus.

** Read the story of Jesus’ great-nephews at <http://newadvent.org/fathers/250103.htm>. Scroll down to 19-20. Eusebius (4th century) quotes Hegesippus (2nd century) in Historia Ecclesiae, Book III, ch. 19-20. Accessed: October 2013.

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Working-Community: Fish Connection

Sep 15 2020

Logical deductions. We make them all the time. Subconsciously, we fill in data like the edges of a cropped photograph.

The Gospel writers cropped the photograph of Jesus’ life. And like a cropped photograph, they leave us edges from which to complete the picture.

One such cropped edge is the scene at the High Priest’s gate in the John 18:15-16. It is the night Jesus was betrayed. The guards have arrested Jesus. Peter and another disciple follow.

At the gate, the disciple is allowed to enter because he is “known to the High Priest,” but Peter is not. This other disciple talks to the gatekeeper, and she allows Peter to enter.

The compelling two-part question follows: who is this unnamed disciple and how is this disciple known? One plausible answer is that the disciple is John, son of Zebedee, who supplies fish to the High Priest.

The implications of this fish connection combine with other factors to inform four periods of the SpendaYearwithJesus story. Labor marked Jesus’ experience as well as the lives of his disciples. Though their trade ceased to be the defining feature of their lives, the disciples continued to work periodically maintaining their work connections.

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Jesus and the book

Sep 10 2020

In Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman offers an insightful summary of Jesus relationship to the Hebrew Scripture.

Christianity began, of course, with Jesus, who was himself a Jewish rabbi (teacher) who accepted the authority of the Torah, and possibly other sacred Jewish books, and taught his interpretation of those books to his disciples. Like other rabbis of his day, Jesus maintained that God’s will could be found in the sacred texts, especially the Law of Moses. He read these scriptures, studied these scriptures, interpreted these scriptures, adhered to these scriptures, and taught these scriptures. His followers were, from the beginning, Jews who placed a high premium on the books of their tradition.**

Ehrman provides a helpful starting point for thinking about Jesus’ experience. I agree that Jesus accepted the authority of the Torah and therefore adhered to and taught the material. I would nuance the term “studied” to avoid information-age assumptions. Jesus memorized and meditated on the text specifically, and in this way he “studied” it.

The story of the Hebrew Scriptures informed Jesus’ experience.

** Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Harper Collins, 2009).

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Jesus’ Spiritual Preparation for Inevitable Conflict

Sep 08 2020

Matthew and Luke (both 4:2) relate that before Jesus’ preaching and healing activity he spent forty days fasting in the wilderness.

After Jesus had begun touring, however, fasting was not a regular practice in Jesus’ experience. In fact, the Pharisees and John’s disciples questioned Jesus about his gluttonous behavior (Mt 9:14; Mk 2:18; Lk 5:33).

At this point in the SpendaYearwithJesus story, Jesus is preparing to go to Jerusalem for the Fall Feasts. The religious authorities have rejected him. He has already predicted his demise, yet Jesus had “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51).

How should Jesus respond? How should he prepare?

A period of prayer and fasting during the harvest month of Elul seems an appropriate way to fill this gap in the record. If something like a fast occurred, however, it was exceptional.

What would Jesus pray? Like worshippers through centuries, the Psalms provide a basis for his prayers.

Check out the Psalms and the SpendaYearwithJesus story:  “Story-Nav: Prepare.”

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The Narrative of Jesus’ Bible in 18 Words

Sep 03 2020

The narrative of Hebrew Scripture tells the compelling story of the relationship of GOD with humanity. Much of the content focuses on the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. GOD changed Jacob’s name to Israel. So his children are called “The Children of Israel.”

Jesus identified with the story content personally because he was a son of Israel. Further, the story arc of the Hebrew Scriptures impacted Jesus’ culture. In six sets of three movements, we observe cycles of setback and progress, progress and setback. For the first-century participant, the question was whether Jesus contributed progress or setback to the cycle of Israel’s experience. It was a difficult question.

The narrative in 18 words:

  • God, community, creation,
  • fall, failure, flood,
  • family, famine, forced-labor,
  • exodus, wilderness, conquest,
  • judges, kings, injustice,
  • exile, sojourn, return

 

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Seasonal Roof Maintenance

Sep 01 2020

Jesus experienced two seasons: summer heat and winter rains. During the summer, the sun beamed through cloudless blue skies day after day. The time is also known as the dry season, and dry it was. Only morning dew brought moisture to the vineyards of Galilee. Otherwise, the sun’s rays baked the land including the rooftops.

So the intense summer heat and winter rain necessitated roof maintenance described as follows:.

The roof of the house was generally flat. To make it, branches were woven together and laid on the rafters and then covered with a thick layer of clay that filled the spaces between the branches and formed a smooth, hardened layer of plaster. To keep the roof from washing away, the owner performed a number of maintenance chores that included rolling over the roof after a heavy rainstorm with the device very like the modern lawn roller, applying a fresh coat of clay plaster each fall before the start of the rainy season, and replacing the entire roof or sections of it when needed. See Mark 2:1-4 for mention of cutting through a roof. (Jesus and His Times, 93-94)

Jesus lived at home as a carpenter most of his life. He was no stranger to manual labor. Mudding the roof was a likely part of his experience as it was for his neighbors.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1991).
Jesus and His Times, ed. Kaari Ward  (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1987).

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A legendary shortcut

Aug 27 2020

There is a delightful legend in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. It comes from Jesus’ youth when he and his parents were fleeing from the land of Herod’s rule south to land of Egypt.

Now when they [Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus] were journeying on, Joseph said to Jesus: ‘Lord, we are being roasted by this heat; if you agree, let us go alongside the sea, that we may be able to rest in the coastal towns.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Do not fear, Joseph; I will shorten your journey; what you were intending to traverse in the space of thirty days, you will complete in one day.’ And while they were speaking, behold they perceived already the mountains of Egypt and began to see its cities (Ps.-Mt. 22.1).**

Anyone who has been on a journey under adverse circumstances relates to Joseph’s plea.

Picture failed air conditioning on summer road trip or screaming child on airplane or rush hour gridlock. Oh, how nice it would be to have the relief of just thirty minutes compressed into one!

We need to pause at this point, however, and ask a question. Does Jesus break rules of time and space uniquely to bring relief? (Careful, think of Jesus’ compassion in feeding large crowds.)

Questions of authenticity surround every story about Jesus and cut to the heart of Jesus’ identity.

In the 8th or 9th century someone recorded this story about a legendary shortcut. I invite you to follow SpendaYearwithJesus and consider the questions and options for yourself.

** Wilhelm Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, trans. R. McL. Wilson, Rev. ed., vol. 1, 2 vols. (Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox/James Clarke, 2003), 464.

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What is the Hallel?

Aug 25 2020

Do you ever wonder where church song writers get their material? If you’re a church-goer, you might have sung recently, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory” (Ps 115:1). Or another popular line, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Ps 118:1).

Jesus also sang (or chanted) these lines–at least four times a year, in fact. We call these Psalms, 113-118, the Hallel. The Mishnah (the 2nd century code of the Rabbis) gives their title and use.

At Passover, Israelites brought their lambs to the temple for butchering and sacrifice, and while the priests were preparing the meat … “[The Levites meanwhile] proclaimed the Hallel Psalms [113-118]” (m. Pesahim 5.7)

[In between courses] “The first Passover requires the recitation of the Hallel Psalms when it is eaten” (m. Pesahim 9.3).

According to the Mishnah, the devout also recited the Hallel at the Feast of Huts (Tabernacles) (m. Sukkah 3.9; 4.1) and possibly also on New Year’s day (m. Rosh Hashshanah 4.7) in the fall.**

L. Finkelstein makes the case from the Babylonian Talmud and Rabbinic practice that the Hallel was recited at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in the winter and at the Feast of Pentecost (Weeks) in the spring.++

Jesus and his disciples would have known the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) pretty well by repeating it at least these four times a year — year-after-year. I imagine that it was like some of the popular stadium-event tunes we hear repeatedly today.

_________________
** Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988).
++ Louis Finkelstein, “The Origin of the Hallel,” Hebrew Union College Annual 23 (1951): 319–337.

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