I’m doing something a little different today, spanning the end of one book to the beginning of the next — and we’re in the Gospels no less! But I didn’t want to overwhelm the daily Bible readers with either too much to read in the Bible or in this blog. So, today we’ll be talking about the resurrection of Jesus and then turn right around and talk about the birth of our Savior. Don’t get whiplash, now. 🙂
Skeptics — Mark 16:9-13
This may sound odd at first, a preacher saying that he’s glad that the apostles didn’t believe, were skeptical, for a while after Jesus’ resurrection; but I am. Oh, I’m really grateful for the ready faith of the women who first brought the news, too; but the skepticism of the apostles and others helps me generations later know that these men weren’t engaged in a lot of wishful thinking, were too trusting, too naive, or too ready to believe. Oh, yes, they had seen Jesus raise the dead; but now that Jesus was gone, who was going to raise Him? They didn’t do it, they couldn’t do it; and they had never seen or could even conceive of anyone recovering from “dead” on their own. These guys hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck, as the saying goes. Their skepticism turned to belief gives the rest of us, 21 centuries down the road (and beyond), stronger evidence and reason to believe the unbelievable. Discernment is important in matters of faith; there’s a lot of false claims and teachings based on those false claims out there. Jesus’ resurrection was the real deal, however — skeptic approved, if you know what I mean.
The Great Commission — Mark 16:15,16
The life, death, and resurrection is more than just a nice story; it’s a saving story that needs to be told. Jesus, therefore, told His apostles (and by extension the rest of His disciples) to share it with the world. The response to this story needed to be — in condensed form — belief and baptism (immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin — Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1ff). Repentance (e.g., Acts 2:38) and confession of faith (e.g., Romans 10:9,10) are also mentioned as part of the early Christian responses to the Gospel — all on the basis of faith. If you don’t believe, you’ll never do the rest of it (repent, confess, be baptized). That’s why Jesus says that those who would refuse to believe will be condemned; if you can’t take the right first step, you’ll never get to the right destination.
Intro to Luke
Whole books are written about the background and introduction of Luke; I’ll try to be a little briefer than that. 🙂
Although Luke never names himself as the author, earliest Christian tradition and history attributes it to the Luke who accompanied Paul on his missionary trips. Luke was a Greek, making him the only Gentile writer of the New Testament. Luke was a physician and, therefore, well educated. This meshes well with the kind of Greek that is used in Luke (a bit more intellectual Greek than, for example, John). And Luke and Acts are apparently written by the same author — same sort of language, the same dedication (to a Theophilus), and Acts picks up right where Luke leaves off. Because Luke was well educated he had doubtlessly read books of history and knew how histories were generally written. He makes brief mention of his research among eyewitnesses to compose a Gospel in “consecutive order”. In connection with this, you’ll notice that Luke often mentions the names of people people that are pretty minor characters, and who would usually not be named in a straightforward telling of a history. These are likely the very people who he talked to; he’s probably naming his sources, so that potentially the reader could cross-check his facts. As Luke writes the book of Acts, later, he himself is an eyewitness to much of Paul’s missionary activity. Because Luke was a Gentile and a physician, his Gospel tends to highlight the outsiders and underdogs in Jesus’ story — Gentiles, women, the sick, the poor, etc. Finally, Luke has interesting and poignant stories and parables we don’t have in the other Gospels — e.g., the Prodigal Son.
Timing of Jesus’ birth — Luke 2:1,2
This being the Christmas season, this bit of info might be of some special interest to you. You likely know that traditional Christmas story varies a little from the biblical story. As I had mentioned in the Matthew part of this blog, the Magi came some two years after Jesus’ birth. Most of us are aware of the fact that December 25 is a very unlikely date for the actual birth of Jesus — the earliest traditions place it in spring. But here’s one that you may not know, Jesus wasn’t born in 0 or 1 AD. Consider these historic facts:
- Augustus (Luke 2:1) ruled from 30 BC to AD 14
- Quirinius served as governor (Luke 2:2) from from 12-7 BC
- King Herod (Matthew 2:1, referring to Herod the Great) died in 4 BC
Put it all together and it would seem that the latest that Jesus might have been born would have been 7 BC (before Christ), which of course may skew a few other dates off just a bit, too — for example the date of Jesus’ crucifixion (which could be as early as AD 26) and beginning of the church. An abbott by the name of Dionysus Exegines, who did the work for the Gregorian calendar, by which we all currently live, miscalculated when Jesus was born (due to insufficient historical data) in the 6th century. We’ve had to live with the error ever since. Now you know! 🙂
About My Father’s business — Luke 2:49
when Jesus was 12 years old, His family went to the usual Passover feast in Jerusalem. Travel of this kind in those days was usually done in large crowds for protection from outlaws — and company. The men walked together and the women and children walked together — not because of any gender biases, but for the same reason that at any party the men gather in the living room to talk about guy stuff and the women gather in the kitchen to chat about their interests — gender differences rather than gender biases. Jesus was almost old enough to be considered a man, and young men that age often began hanging around the men rather than with the women and children. Mary thought that’s where Jesus was and Joseph assumed He was back with His mother. When they discovered He was not with them, they made a panicked trip back to Jerusalem and looked everywhere they could think of. When they thought to look in the Temple, lo and behold that’s exactly where He was. Mary began to do what mothers do, lecture Him for worrying them so. Jesus response was simply, didn’t you know I had to be about My Father’s business (some translations read “house”). We don’t know how Jesus got separated from His family or whose fault it was; but what we do know is that Jesus went to the place where He thought they would first look, the Temple. To Him, it was a no-brainer; of course, I’d be at the Temple!
Where would people think of first to look for you? In front of the TV, playing video games, at the office, on the phone, in disreputable places, or at church? The question may say a lot about us.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.