Showing posts with label Eaton Ford (BS). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eaton Ford (BS). Show all posts

11 January 2012

Eaton Ford (BS) - Doing it our way

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

We read the first chapter of Acts and discussed it. I was interested to note that the disciples behaved just the same way we do; in the absence of Jesus they decided to do things their own way.

An icon of MatthiasLast time Paul and I met we finished Mark's gospel and decided to work through Acts next.

Today we made a start by reading Luke 1:1-4 to help us understand how Luke had written both books to give the best and most consistent possible account of the events concerning Jesus and the early church.

Then we read the first chapter of Acts section by section, stopping to discuss what we had read as we worked our way through. Here are some of the things I found especially striking.

The pattern of events is perfectly clear. Jesus was arrested, tried both by the religious and civil courts, was crucified, died, and spent the entire Sabbath (Friday evening until sometime before Sunday sunrise) in a sealed rock tomb. Then he returned to life and for forty days he was with the disciples in Galilee and then in Jerusalem before he returned to the Father in heaven.

The rule of Christ - During these forty days he gave 'convincing proofs' that he was alive (verse 3). And during this time he spoke about the kingdom, that is he told them about his rule, the extent of his reign. This realm is not only in heaven but also in the hearts and lives of every man, woman and child that will follow him and obey him. Simply put, a kingdom is that realm where the king reigns; the sum of the places where his commands are treated with respect and fully carried out. It's important that my heart and your heart are part of his kingdom. You're either in or you're out!

He begins to reign immediately; he commands them to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the promised gift. Did they know what this gift was? Yes, the gift of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Did they know what this meant? No, they had little idea of what would happen or how it would change everything! But they would certainly recognise it when it happened.

We're just the same. We know that if he is ruling in our lives he will bless us but we don't expect the amazing things he does. When they happen though, we recognise them and realise our expectations were too limited. It's not that we lack faith (thought often we do lack faith), but rather that he habitually does abundantly more than we could expect even in our most faith-filled moments. (Ephesians 3:20) This should encourage us immensely!

Back to the city - I was very struck by verses 12-26. This is also just like us, scarily so. Just pay attention to what they did.

Jesus has just left them to return to the Father, they walk back from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem without him. They must have retraced the steps they would have taken with Jesus many times before, the same route the Temple guards would have taken Jesus after his capture. The olive grove of Gethsemane is on this route, part of the way down the hill. Their thoughts must have been confused and every step would have held a mix of precious and painful memories.

They go back to the upper room, very likely the same place they had eaten that last meal with him at Passover. But he is not here now. He has left physically and his Spirit has not yet 'baptised' them. They are without any kind of heavenly counsel, left to work it our for themselves. And they do.

The wrong way - Peter stands up and takes charge (they probably agreed that someone had to). He speaks to the remaining ten disciples and those other men and women gathered in the room. He argues (perfectly reasonably) that Judas should be replaced to make up the number twelve again. In their own wisdom they decide on two candidates and then they draw lots. Effectively they decide between Joseph and Matthias by tossing a coin!

Does this sound familiar? An important decision needs to be made, Jesus doesn't seem to be around, so someone takes charge, and we make the decision by election and/or by chance.

The right way - What should they have done instead? What should we do? We should have faith and we should have patience. In other words we should wait expectantly for the solution to be given to us. Prayer would do no harm while we're waiting. Jesus had actually told them to wait - wait until the promised gift arrives, wait until you are baptised in the Spirit. How immediate was their lack of trust, their taking of things into their own hands, their failure to wait.

And how much pain and disappointment could be avoided in church life if we listened to Jesus instead of rushing off to fix things for ourselves!

The real replacement - And who was the new apostle? Matthias (and Joseph too for that matter) remain in obscurity. Who was the new apostle? Arguably he was a pharisee. He might have called for the release of Barabbas. He certainly attacked the early church and helped at the stoning of Stephen. Saul, a person the disciples may not have heard of and certainly would never have chosen - this same Saul is the Paul who became the apostle to the gentiles and wrote all those amazing letters that make up a large part of the New Testament. Wow!

We desperately need to learn this lesson. Pray, expect, wait - and do what we are told, not what we think to be best.

< 3rd January 2012 | Index | 27th May 2012 >

03 January 2012

Eaton Ford (BS) - Arrest to resurrection

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

Paul and I met to read the last part of Mark's gospel. We began at the beginning of  chapter 15 and read section by section right through to the end. Here are some of the things that stood out for me.

A rock-cut tomb in JerusalemAs far as we know the religious authorities handed Jesus over to Pilate because they were not permitted to apply the death penalty themselves. The Romans had decreed that only they could execute a prisoner.

The charge against Jesus was blasphemy and the penalty would have been stoning to death. Stonings were still comtemplated, even carried out (eg Stephen, the woman caught in adultery) but were presumably unofficial, illegal, and overlooked.

The Sanhedrin could hardly issue an illegal order right under the nose of the prefect. So they went to Pilate with a range of accusations, none of which they could prove. They knew a Jewish religious offence would not impress Pilate, so they chose something more promising - that Jesus claimed to be a king and was therefore a political challenge to Pilate, Herod, or even the Emperor in Rome. Pilate still didn't buy it, but sent Jesus for crucifixion to satisfy the mob.

It is striking that Simon, a passer-by, was forced to carry the cross. The presumption is that Jesus, weakened by injuries sustained from his earlier flogging, was either unable to carry it or perhaps collapsed after part of the journey.

Jesus refused to take the painkilling myrrh mixture in wine. They crucified him and then cast lots for his clothes. We decided he would have had a loin cloth, a tunic (rather like a T-shirt), a cloak, belt and sandals. The soldiers were not wealthy, clothing would have been expensive, so wasting it was unthinkable.

It's also interesting that the sign on the cross read 'King of the Jews'. Pilate ordered it written in three languages, he was making it clear one last time that in his view Jesus had committed no recognised crime. Those crucified with him would have been labelled 'Murderer, criminal, rebel' or something similar.

We also discussed the Aramaic words that Jesus shouted out. 'Eloi' is closely related to the Arabic word 'Allah' and the Hebrew 'Eloh' (plural 'Elohim') and simply means 'Mighty One' or 'Almighty'. The onlookers thought he said 'Elijah' which would have sounded like 'Ell-ee-yah' or 'Ell-yah' and means 'Mighty Yah' or in full 'Yahweh the Mighty One'. (See also an earlier post.)

I had a photo from Jerusalem of a similar tomb to the one Joseph of Arimathea would have used and we looked at it (see above). It seems Jesus had a few followers in the Sanhedrin itself, Joseph was clearly one of these and bravely did what he could to help.

We covered more than these few items of course, but these are the things I feel I should mention in this post.

Next time we meet we have decided to begin the book of Acts.

< 12th December 2011 | Index | 11th January 2012 >

21 November 2011

Eaton Ford (BS) - The fig tree

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

We worked through part of Mark 11, wondering about the significance of the withered fig tree and the events between the two mentions of the fig.

Large and small figs on the branch
Paul and I usually spend some time on Monday or Tuesday, reading and discussing a Bible passage. We didn't set out specifically to do this, we began Mark's Gospel on Fridays with Roger but some weeks we didn't have time to continue with it and Paul thought it would be useful to find a separate time for Bible study.

Today we were in Mark 11. We began by reading verses 12-26 with their double mention of the fig tree. We talked about how the fig might represent Israel and how the entire section then makes more sense. Yahshua was demonstrating that Israel had not produced the spiritual fruit required of it and was no longer expected to produce fruit but would instead wither.

Figs are interesting trees, they are never without fruit because as this years crop is ripening, next years fruit are already swelling and developing. To find a fig tree with no figs (only leaves, as Jesus said) would mean it was diseased or deficient in some way.

Israel rebelled against Rome. And in 70 AD, some forty years after Jesus spoke about the fig tree, the Roman forces defeated them. The Romans captured the city of Jerusalem, tore down the Temple, expelled, killed or captured the inhabitants, and rebuilt the city as a Romano-Greek town. Temple worship 'withered' at that time and has never returned since.

We noted that the course of events in Mark is that Jesus was hungry but found no fruit on the tree, only leaves. He said, 'May nobody eat fruit from you again'. When they arrived in Jerusalem they went to the Temple and Jesus drove the traders out. The officials started to look for a way to kill him. The next day the tree was withered.

In other words, the Temple was being misused for trading when it should have been 'a house of prayer for all nations'.

Meanwhile, in verses 27-33, the Jewish leaders take things further by asking Jesus who had given him his authority. They want to trap him and accuse him of blasphemy, but he doesn't tell them. He had already provided all the evidence they needed, for example by performing the messianic miracles. Perhaps he wasn't the kind of Messiah they had been hoping for.

< 14th November 2011 | Index | 22nd November 2011 >

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