Thursday, January 1, 2009

Beginning a New Year in the Bible

About 75 members of the Christ Community congregation and I are going to be reading the New Testament one chapter a day in 2009. We are beginning in Mark. I will be publishing quick observations and questions to ponder from day to day (weekdays only) on this blog and on another discussion center that the participants have been invited to join.

January 1- Mark 1: Notice John the Baptist's clothing -- he is dressed like the prophet Elijah. Mark's first readers would have known this immediately. John is the "Elijah who is to come". The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, tells us that Elijah must first come and then the Messiah. Notice the "Trinitarian affirmation" in Mark 1:11.

Jesus first invitation is his last invitation: come and follow me. Why do we make it more complicated than that? We get hung up on getting people to accept Jesus or to make some other choice when the only invitation Jesus seems to offer is "Come and follow me!" Sometimes there are preconditions (sell all you have) sometimes there is a consequence (and I will make you fish for people) but the bottom line has not changed -- come and follow me.

Jesus teaches with authority. What might that mean? Why do the "evil spirits" know that Jesus is the Son of God before any of the humans figure it out?

Did you notice Jesus taking time alone -- after his baptism to wrestle with the devil; before beginning his public ministry -- and many more times as we move forward.

Jesus healing the leper. Lepers were considered not only medical outcasts -- they were "Unclean" -- but they were also required to leave normal society and live by themselves or in "leper colonies". The Greek word here for leprosy could mean any of a number of skin diseases -- including skin cancer and extreme cases of psoriasis. Jesus touches the man (something that was NOT done because to touch something unclean made you unclean -- unclean does not refer to dirty but to one's status before God. Unclean people were not allowed into the place of worship. Jesus touching the man was an extraordinary act of mercy and grace. In Leviticus are found the ritual laws that explain why Jesus sends the man to the priest. The priest declares whether a person has leprosy or not. Only the priest can declare if the leprosy has left and the man is now clean. If our former leper wants to return to his family and village only the priest can make that happen.

How do we "reincorporate" people who have made themselves unclean and outcast from our community?

Dr. BJ

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