Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Triangle?

Imagine this.  You settle in a city.  And, after speaking up in church the people let you speak often, even following you home to hear what more you have to say.  Watching you.  Asking miracles of you.  Begging you to help them get better.  But, do they change their ways, see the light, pronounce a change in lifestyle so that they can become more like you?

Not for Jesus...not in Capernaum.

It's easy to forget that Capernaum accepted Jesus and his teachings, yet it didn't see him as the Messiah.  Matthew 11 shares how Jesus spoke a 'woe' on three cities.  And, Capernaum was one of them.

Here's an curious fact, if you look at those cities they create a triangle.  The book, A Visual Guide To Bible Events, draws the triangle to include Gennesaret, and calls it "the evangelical triangle."

Interesting.  I have never heard this term before. 

This triangle was, after all, the countryside around Capernaum.  Matthew 11 tells us enough miracles were done in those towns that they should have had a change of heart toward God.

It's tough when the folks you pour your efforts into just don't get it.

But, the story doesn't end there.  People from different places got the word...check out Matthew chapter four.  How did they get the word?

Well, the "triangle" laid alongside the international highway, where visitors from all over the world heard and saw those same miracles and teachings...they got it...they spread the word...they sought out change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Want to go Where?

Have you ever wondered what the big deal was in referring to the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee as 'the other side?' I have actually given it very little thought until now.

Well, 'the other side' is like saying the dark side...or the wrong side of the tracks...maybe, even the slums. You see, they raised pigs. Large herds of them. Plus, the people were thought to have connections to demons and such.

And, sadly, this treasured piece of real estate fought for by the Jewish nation and inherited by part of the Manasseh tribe over time became a place that fully embraced Greek and Roman culture, religion and architecture. As far as places to avoid go, this ranked up there with Samaria.

But none-the-less, that's where Jesus wanted to go.

So they all got into one of the fishing boats and head out. The disciples probably figured after Jesus took them slowly through Samaria and spoke to a woman, how bad could it be? Who knew a storm would blow in? Hello, storm on the water, can you say "what are we doing?" "Let's get out of here."

They were definitely following God's leading, going where he wanted them to would think it would be smooth sailing to get there...but,not so in this case.

In the book, A Visual Guide to Bible Events, the writers point out that the storm, or sharkia, that rose up was an attempt to drive Jesus and his men from the 'dark side.' By calming the storm Jesus not only amazed his followers but, also let Satan and his minions know that the Kingdom of God would not be stopped. The light had come.

Here's another interesting tidbit. Have you ever wondered why demons would want to go inside pigs? What purpose did that serve? Well, according to the writers there were two reasons and both were another attempt to undermine any work Jesus did on the dark side of the sea.

By drowning two thousand pigs who are usually bouyant and good swimmers it cut into the economy of the people. Of course, the people are going to ask Jesus to leave. Who wants to lose income?

And, it attacked the Roman legion who controlled that area...they had a running boar on their coins. It made it look like Jesus was making a statement against the Romans.

I never knew these things. I just thought it was a herd of dirty, noisy pigs that no one probably cared about. But, no, like everything Jesus did, it had a purpose. Jesus and his disciples did not stay long that visit, but while there, he healed a man who ended up getting the word out to the rest of the people in that territory. When Jesus made a return visit he was met by a large crowd anticipating his return. Ah, his purpose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All of ME?

Do you know the song "Love the Lord" sung by Lincoln Brewster?  It's one of my favorites. And, it's based on a scripture Jesus quoted in Luke 10.

It talks about what to love the Lord with: your heart; your soul; your mind; your strength.  I have often wondered if there were any more parts of me for this love to encompass.

But, according to Listening to the Language of the Bible by Lois Tverberg, the Jewish interpretation isn't focused on the many parts of me but on the essence of my life.  Every movement, moment and thought should be on loving God.

Lois even mentioned that traditionally a further interpretation of "soul" is to even die for God.  I have been taught that only a few have the courage and strength to be martyrs.  But really, that should be a goal of our love for him...that we would sacrifice our lives for him.

The next time I sing that song the words will definitely have a different emphasis for me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You Moved?

Capernaum?  Why Capernaum?  Have you ever wondered what prompted Jesus to move to Capernaum...other than fulfilling what the Hebrews knew to be a prophecy about him? (see Isaiah 9)

Isaiah writes about the states, and the New Testament mentions only the cities.  But if we put the two together it would read Nazareth, Zebulun and Capernaum, Naphatli.  The whole area around them was the Galilee...the Galilee of the Gentiles.

So, in a sense, growing up and living in Nazareth fulfilled part of that prophecy.  But Jesus is about fulfilling all of a prophecy, so his first step was to move to Capernaum.

So what's the deal about Capernaum?

An interesting thing about the Isaiah prophecy (mentioned in Matthew 4) is the phrase 'by the way of the sea.'  There is a major crossroad in ancient roadway called The Way of The Sea, or Via Maris, although some books refer to it as the International Highway.

I'm thinking the folks in Capernaum were probably looking for the Messiah as a result of Isaiah.  So, it makes total sense why his arrival was so welcomed. Why his ministry went beyond the synagogue to Peter's house. And why crowds followed him.  During his three-year ministry, this was his headquarters as he finished out the prophecy of shining light throughout the Galilee.

A Visual Guide To Bible Events likens this change in address to Jesus moving "from the shadows into the spotlight." (p.167) You see, while he was in Nazareth for years, his light did not shine much beyond the town's synagogue.  He moves to the bigger city, with international connections going through it all the time and his words and actions are received, taken, and spread to others throughout the known world, not just the Galilee.

So Capernaum turned out to be the best place to get the word out that the Messiah was here, and had something to say.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Put The Wine Where?

So you're at a wedding in Cana and the host has the appropriate jars for the ritual cleansing that's done before and after the meals. Six large jars, in fact.  Until now, I've never given much thought to these jars.  While many teachers focus on the place and the reason for the miracle I am fascinated by what I've discovered about the jars.

These jars were huge.  Each one was 2-3 metretes (that's Greek, and each metrete would be 9 gallons, or 40 liters) which means we are talking about 18-27 gallons, or 80 to 120 liters, in each jar. Can you say heavy?

You either had to be one big dude to lift those, or take several fellow servants along to get the job done.  Think about it, those servants had to carry all the jars down to the well then lug them back up to the house where the party was happening.

Now you're probably thinking, "sooo?"

Well, what's interesting about those water pots is the water that initially went into them.  It was used for ceremonial cleansing, covered until it was needed in order to keep it pure, and accessed several times during the whole celebration process.  According to A Visual Guide To Bible Events this water was strictly for the cleansing process. It was not for taking a bath and definitely not for drinking.

Can you picture the expressions on the servants' faces when they saw which pots Jesus asked them to fill?  With well water...possibly impure well water...not clean ceremonial water?  Never the less, they were servants, so they obeyed.

Then, can you imagine what thoughts flitted about when, what they knew to be water was served up as wine?

According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary since the man running the celebration didn't know where the wine came from, the jars had to be positioned away from him.  More than likely they were outside the house. Otherwise, he would not have drunk the wine.  And, that's why in chapter 2, John pointed out that the man was not acting in a sacrilegious way.

Jesus took jars saved for cleansing and purification, filled them with unclean water, and made wine.   Great wine.  How awesome is that?  How unexpected?  He still takes the 'set-apart,' puts them in unusual situations, and comes out with the extraordinaire.