Dashed Expectations, Diagnosis Terminal

Aug 12 2022

The disciples felt exuberant. (Yesterday in the SpendaYearwithJesus storyline) Jesus confirmed that he was Messiah!

Shortly thereafter, their hopes were shaken by Jesus’ comments about dying and raising.

Exuberance and disappointment.

In the summer of 2013, my brothers and their families, my parents, and my family were planning to go to Orlando. We had taken a trip two years before and it was great. So we were excited to get together again.

You can imagine our disappointment when my dad called to let us know my mom was not going to be able to make the trip. The fact is, my mom had been under treatment for myeloma cancer for almost five years. We thought she was stable, but we were wrong. Our excitement to go to Disneyworld turned to concern for my mom’s condition.

Exuberance and disappointment.

We can connect with the disciples’ and Jesus’ experience. We can feel the uncertainty of human experience — both the exuberant uncertainty of happy opportunities and the weight of grief in a terminal diagnosis.

Perhaps Jesus’ disciple-optimists were thinking about implications of Messiah’s leadership (of course, not without its challenges: dying and raising as a metaphor rather than literal prediction). The disciple-pessimists were probably concerned about their future.

Either way, I don’t think they got much sleep after the news of that day.


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Turning Point

Aug 11 2022

It went by so fast

On a fall Saturday in 1994 at a rooftop restaurant in Atlanta, Ga, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She said, “Yes.” Actually she said more than yes, but that’s another story. After that 6 hour long evening, my fiancee and I said to one another, “It went by so fast!”

All year, Jesus’ closest disciples try to understand the man to whom they gave their loyalty. They see crowds gather around Jesus, and towns cool to his presence. They witnessed the mixed support of civic leaders and opposition of religious leaders.

In Jesus’ experience from Passover to Passover, today is a turning point — the stuff of speeches and books. Yet in only six verses (Mark 8:27-33)…

Jesus reveals his demise.

The disciples expected greatness. They could not mistake the foreboding nature of his words.

The limits of a human day

Jesus’ experience, like ours, is wrapped in the limits of a human day. Today is a big day in Jesus’ experience, but it passes like any other day.

The sun sets, emotions calm, people sleep. The sun rises, a new day, new emotions. And naturally …humanly… memory slides slowly from vividness to oblivion.

Today is a turning point in Jesus’ story. I wonder if his followers felt about this day like my wife and I do about the night of our engagement. The event passed so quickly.

Like important days in our lives, however, the significance accumulates with time.

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Jesus and the Olympics

Aug 09 2022

I enjoy following the Olympics. The competition, the athletes’ backstories, the surprises, the heartbreaks, and even the behind-the-scenes operation of the games.

During periods of Olympic interest, it strikes me to ask, Why didn’t Jesus talk about sports?

Jesus talks about life — farming and fishing, fields and trees, building a tower. Sports were not off-limits to the religious people of the day. So why doesn’t Jesus talk about sports?

Simply put, sports did not make a significant imprint on Jesus’ experience or culture.

One reason is that Jewish participation in Roman sports posed some major incompatibilities in the participant’s “uniforms.”

So even though archeologists have uncovered a sports complex (hippodrome) located in ancient Jerusalem, this find does not factor into Jesus’ story.

Jesus apparently had other interests and occupations, even though sports were a part of ancient life.

Knowing the context helps us frame and tell Jesus’ story.

Connect with Jesus’ experience.

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Walking Fast

Aug 08 2022

McCown: Luke’s Central Section

The opening verse pitches the dom in an t tone for th e whole n a rra tiv e : w ith th e cross before him, Jesus tu rn s his face stead fastly from Galilee tow ard Jerusalem (9 51, 53). H is progress is so rapid, in th e concise account, th a t th e v ery first n ight brings him to S am aria to sleep, n o t in th e city where first shelter was sought, b u t in some village to which he moves on a fte r a rebuff (9 52,56). W heth er th e ro u te was from Tell H ûm eith er across Esdraelon by w ay of T ab o r to Jen în or Q ubatîyeh, or down th e Jo rd a n Valley b y w ay of Beisân to some village in th e moun- tain s south of it, th is would be no small achievem ent, as th e w riter knows from having m ade both journeys on foot, but not in one day.

C. C. McCown, “The Geography of Luke’s Central Section,” Journal of Biblical Literature 57, no. 1 (1938): 53.

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A Taste of Experience

Aug 04 2022

My wife and I recently enjoyed a delicious meal with delightful friends. We ate at our favorite restaurant in the Metroplex, Lavendou Bistro. The food..wonderful; the  conversation..joy.

And (you may have felt this) there was a moment at the end of the evening when I wished it could last, even just a little longer.

In the ebb and flow of Jesus’ summer of bread and fish stew, some meals had to be better than others, some company more friendly than others. Jesus’ moved among the dining tables of his day with contentment. Fish stew was readily available, but depending on his host, Jesus might have eaten lamb or steak.

We don’t have to say that stew and steak are the same culinary quality. Or that all company is the same. We can simply eat satisfied as Jesus did. At the same time, even Jesus could have wanted some dining experiences to last and others to be over quickly!

One of Jesus’ later followers, Paul of Tarsus, said he knew how to be content whether well-fed or hungry. I think he got the idea from Jesus’ experience.

At our recent delicious, delightful dinner, I ate apple tart with ice cream for dessert. The earliest inscriptions of recorded history refer to apples. Though different varieties, Jesus surely ate apples too. Now the ice cream…?

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No Shortcuts Revisited

Aug 02 2022

Listen to a conversation about Jesus’ experience. Assumptions abound like the fact that life was easier for Jesus.

In Torah school, we imagine Jesus as the smartest kid in the room (i.e., he had a learning shortcut) and the most dedicated! Oh, Jesus was the smartest and the most dedicated, why —  because it was easier. Huh?

Here are some historical and human realities for your consideration:

  • Honey and dates were available to sweeten bread.
    The man who multiplied loaves never tasted a doughnut (no refined sugar).
  • In the carpenter shop, piling boards and swinging mallets leads to crushed fingers.
    Jesus crushed his fingers, especially while he was learning the trade.
  • Friendship requires shared space and time and interests.
    Jesus passed time, entertaining and uninteresting time, with Lazarus and other friends.
  • When as many as 100,000 people descend on a city of 30,000, traffic bottlenecks.
    Jesus waited at Jerusalem’s gates and streets like bridge and tunnel commuters today.

By the way, there was a VIP entrance to Jerusalem. Jesus was not a VIP.

Life 2,000 years ago was not easier for Jesus.

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My Intersection

Jul 28 2022

I taught the grade school age kids at church on Sunday. As I was getting ready Sunday morning, at 8am I received the text:

“Through the narrow dirt streets, parents bring their children to the house where Jesus is. He welcomes them, blesses them happily.”

[You can subscribe and review the story at SpendaYearwithJesus.com]

It probably comes as no surprise. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy getting the SpendaYearwithJesus texts.

Regularly enough, I will be doing something during a day and Jesus will be doing something during that day that will create a pleasant intersection of experience.

At the very least, I looked at what I was doing from a larger perspective, even part of Jesus’ story.

So with Jesus’ experience on my mind, I went to church. I taught the kids. I came home.

That day, Jesus blessed the kids, spent time with friends, got in a boat with his disciples and went home.

It was a good day.

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Three inevitable interruptions in Jesus’ day

Jul 26 2022

I was talking with a friend about visualizing Jesus’ experience day-to-day. I asked, “Do you think Jesus would have mowed his own lawn?”

Puzzled, my friend said, “My gut reaction is, ‘No.’ He needed to be out teaching.” Then he added, “But why do I think that way?”

After 2,000 years, one of the most enduring memories of the man Jesus is his teaching – quotable statements, absorbing parable stories, compelling conversations.

It seems, however, that the focus on teaching overshadows other typical activities in Jesus’ experience. Miracles take on this precedence as well. Why do we think this way?

The first-century ebb and flow of daily living necessitated natural down-times for anyone living at that time including Jesus.

(1) Harvest and (2) home maintenance as well as (3) winter rains inevitably interrupted crowd-gathering and hindered travel.** Unless Jesus spontaneously controlled the weather, but is control really the point?

While teaching is a defining activity of Jesus’ life, he was also subject to the constraints of daily living on this planet.

Which means Jesus had to submit his daily activities to earthly constraints.

For more info, see the weather cycle post.

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Honor your father and mother

Jul 21 2022

The fifth of the ten commandments states, “Honor your father and mother” (Deut 5:16). Jesus lived under the Torah, so we would expect for him to keep the fifth commandment.

We read about Jesus’ mother, Mary, at various times throughout Jesus’ life. Jesus’ father, Joseph, however, only has an active role in the Gospel birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. Tradition suggests that Joseph died before Jesus started his speaking tours.

At the end of Jesus’ life, he entrusts his mother’s care to one beloved disciple. For the sake of consideration, let us accept the integrity of the event in the story and the integrity of Jesus’ care for his mother.

So how did Jesus honor and care for his mother throughout his adult life? Can we conclude that Jesus left home for the road neglecting his mother during three years of speaking tours?

Then after three years of making James or Jude take care of their mother, Mary, Jesus has a change of heart at the end of his life. He re-asserts his authority as firstborn magnanimously entrusting his mom to a faithful disciple.

So two realities influence Jesus’ experience in the SpendaYearwithJesus storyline. One is time and specifically, when Jesus was with his mom. The other is the integrity of Jesus’ material contribution to her care before he entrusts her to his disciple.

If Jesus did not consistently care for his mother, then how could James or Jude accept his decision to entrust Mary to a disciple?

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No Shortcuts

Jul 19 2022

I passed a sign in front of a church that read, “My lifeguard walks on water.” Have you seen this one?

I’ve seen this phrase in quite a few places — all land-locked. I wonder what a lifeguard sitting on the beach would think of it?

Judging from the way his family and the crowds responded, Jesus’ experience was fairly normal and human. The miracles were amazing but just not amazing enough.

A trip to Jerusalem with holiday crowds would have been a great venue for walking on water or parting a river. I’m sure that the crowds would have appreciated the shortcut and the spectacle.

Come to think of it, I’m sure there are a few lifeguards today who wouldn’t mind being able to walk on water. But we’re stuck with normal. No shortcuts.

If we could follow Jesus’ experience, we would find that he walked through water more than he walked on water. In the long run, that may even be more important for us.

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