Archive for October, 2006
If you find a dying person at a car accident, would you drive through red lights and exceed the speed limit to get them to hospital? If you saw someone’s house burning down, would you take water from a neighbour’s pool without asking, to help put the fire out? Would you help to hide a refugee from the government if you knew that the person would be persecuted or killed if they were deported back to their own country? Is it ever right to break the law in order to help someone else, and how do you decide when a moral duty becomes more important than a legal duty?
Mark’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 3
3:1 He went back to the synagogue and encountered a man with a withered hand. 3:2 They watched him to see if he would heal the man on the Sabbath day, so that they could accuse him. 3:3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Stand up.” 3:4 He asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, or to do harm? To save a life, or to kill?” But they said nothing. 3:5 He was flushed with anger when he looked around at them, because he was heartbroken by their callousness. He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored just like the other. 3:6 Straight away the Pharisees went out and plotted with the Herodians about how they could get rid of him.
3:7 Jesus retreated to the sea with his disciples, and a large crowd, hearing of the things he was doing, followed him from Galilee, Judea, 3:8 Jerusalem, Idumaea, beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon. 3:9 He asked his disciples to keep a little boat near him in case the crowd pressed in on him, 3:10 because he had healed many, and people who had diseases were crowding round in an effort to touch him. 3:11 Whenever unclean spirits saw him they fell down before him saying, “You are the Son of God!” 3:12 He strictly commanded them not to make him known.
3:13 He walked up the mountain and called those whom he chose, and they went to him. 3:14 He chose twelve to be his companions, whom he could send out to preach 3:15 and to have authority to cast out demons: 3:16 Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, 3:17 James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, whom he named Boanerges which means Sons of Thunder, 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 3:19 and Judas Iscariot who later betrayed him.
3:20 He went home. The crowd gathered again so that they could not eat. 3:21 His family heard it and went out to rescue him because they said, “He is confused.” 3:22 The religious lawyers from Jerusalem said, “Beelzebub has got to him,” and, “He casts out the demons by the prince of demons.”
3:23 He called them and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 3:24 A kingdom can’t remain if it is divided against itself. 3:25 A house can’t remain if it is divided against itself. 3:26 If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he can’t remain; he is finished. 3:27 No one can go into a strong man’s house to steal his things unless he first ties the strong man up; then he can loot the house. 3:28 I can guarantee that people can be forgiven for all the sins and blasphemies which they may commit, 3:29 but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is never forgiveable; it an eternal sin.” 3:30 He spoke like this because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
3:31 His mother and his brothers came and stood outside, calling him. 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him and they told him, “Your mother, brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.”
3:33 He answered, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 3:34 Looking around at those who sat around him, he said, “See my mother and my brothers! 3:35 Anyone who does the will of God is my brother, and my sister and mother.”
October 31st, 2006
Nearly everybody has moments in their lives which they wish they could wipe out. Things which they wish they had never said. Mistakes which they wish they had never made. Embarrassments which they wish had never occurred. Wrongs which they have done to other people and which they will never be able to make up for. The painfulness of the memories may fade over time, but the scars often remain for life. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to erase the regrets of the past and to pay off all the unpayable debts which we owe to other people? Is Jesus just being arrogant when he says he can do this for us?
Mark’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 2
2:1 Some days later he returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he had come home. 2:2 A crowd quickly gathered until there was no more room, even outside the door; and he spoke the word to them. 2:3 Four people arrived, carrying a paralysed man. 2:4 They were unable to get close because of the crowd, so they lifted part of the roof above Jesus and lowered through the hole in the roof the stretcher carrying the paralysed man. 2:5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
2:6 Some of the religious lawyers sitting there were thinking to themselves, 2:7 “Why is this man blaspheming like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
2:8 Jesus at once knew in his spirit that they wre thinking this way, so he asked, “Why are you arguing in your hearts? 2:9 Is it easier to tell the paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher and walk?’ 2:10 Let me show you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He turned to the paralysed man, 2:11 “I tell you, get up, take your stretcher, and go home.”
2:12 He got up straight away, lifted up his stretcher, and went out in front of everybody. This amazed everyone, and they gave glory to God, “We never saw anything like this!”
2:13 He went out again to the sea shore. The crowd came to him and he taught them. 2:14 As he passed by, he noticed Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office, and he said, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.
2:15 Later on Jesus was sitting at the table in Levi’s house, and numerous tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples. There were a lot of people who followed him. 2:16 The religious lawyers and Pharisees noticed that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors and asked his disciples, “Why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
2:17 Jesus overheard and said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. I came to call sinners to repentance, not righteous people.”
2:18 John’s disciples and the Pharisees used to fast. They came and asked, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t?”
2:19 Jesus said to them, “Should the bridegroom’s friends fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they can’t fast. 2:20 But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then will they fast. 2:21 No one patches an old garment with a piece of unshrunken cloth. The patch would shrink and the new would tear away from the old, making a worse hole. 2:22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would burst the skins, the wine would spill out, and the skins would be destroyed. They put new wine into fresh wineskins.”
2:23 One Sabbath day he was walking through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some of the grain as they went. 2:24 The Pharisees complained, “Why are they breaking the law of the Sabbath?”
2:25 He said, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 2:26 He went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the sacred bread and also gave it to those who were with him, although it was unlawful for anyone but the priests to eat it.” 2:27 He said, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. 2:28 The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
October 30th, 2006
Most people reach a point in their lives where they feel like slaves. The world seems to be turning relentlessly, and they are trapped in a situation of seemingly endless toil with no relief in sight. If there is no God, then perhaps there is no hope of things changing. People grind out an existence for a short lifetime, then are no more. But what if the ancient prophecies are true? What if a messiah is coming to bring light into a dark world, to set prisoners free from slavery? And what if we are now living in the times predicted long ago, and our seemingly unimportant daily activities are actually part of something much larger?
Mark’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 1
1:1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. 1:2 Isaiah the prophet predicted: “I send my messenger before you, who will prepare your way. 1:3 Someone’s voice shouting in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord! Straighten the roads for him!’”
1:4 John the Baptist came to the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. 1:5 People from all over the region of Judea and from Jerusalem went out to him to be baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins. 1:6 John wore camel’s hair clothing and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 1:7 He announced, “Someone more powerful is coming after me. I am not worthy to bend down to untie his sandal straps. 1:8 I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”
1:9 And then Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee to be baptized by John in the Jordan. 1:10 As he came up out of the water he saw the heavens split open and the Spirit coming down to him like a dove. 1:11 A voice came out of the heavens, “You are my beloved Son. I am very pleased with you.”
1:12 Straight away the Spirit sent him into the desert, 1:13 where he stayed for forty days and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals and the angels were looking after him.
1:14 After John had been imprisoned Jesus came to Galilee, announcing the good news of the kingdom of God, 1:15 “The time has come for the kingdom of God to arrive! Repent and believe in the good news.”
1:16 As he walked beside the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew, who were fishermen, casting a net into the sea. 1:17 Jesus said, “Follow me. I will make you fishers for men.”
1:18 They left their nets at once to follow him. 1:19 A little further on Jesus saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, also in the boat mending the nets. 1:20 He called them right away and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired assistants and went after him. 1:21 They went to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath day he went and taught in the synagogue. 1:22 People were amazed at his teaching because he taught with authority, and not like the religious lawyers. 1:23 A man with an unclean spirit was present in the synagogue just then, and he shouted, 1:24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are, the Holy One of God!” 1:25 Jesus rebuked him, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
1:26 The unclean spirit threw him around and then with a great shout came out of him. 1:27 Amazed by this the people asked themselves, “What is this? A new teaching? He speaks in an authoritative manner even to unclean spirits, and they obey him!” 1:28 News about him spread like wildfire throughout the district of Galilee.
1:29 After leaving the synagogue they arrived with James and John at Simon and Andrew’s house. 1:30 They mentioned to Jesus that Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. 1:31 He went and took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. 1:32 After the sun had set that evening, all sorts of sick and demon-possessed people were brought to him. 1:33 The whole town was assembled outside the door. 1:34 He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. He didn’t permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
1:35 Early in the morning, while it was still dark, he arose and left for a deserted place to pray there. 1:36 Simon and some others hunted him down. 1:37 They found him and said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
1:38 He answered, “Let’s go to some other towns, so that I can preach there as well, because that’s the reason I came.” 1:39 He visited synagogues throughout Galilee, preaching and casting out demons.
1:40 A man suffering from leprosy came and knelt down before him, begging, “If you want to, you can make me clean.”
1:41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him, “I want to. Be clean.” 1:42 As soon as he said this, the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 1:43 Jesus sent him away at once with strict instructions, 1:44 “Don’t say anything to anybody, but go show yourself to the priest, and give the offering for your cleansing which Moses commanded, as a witness to them.”
1:45 But he went out, and began to tell people all about it and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly visit a town. Instead he stayed out in secluded places, and people came to him from everywhere.
October 29th, 2006
The culmination of Jesus’s life was not his death on the cross, but the event which occurred three days later. Numerous different New Testament writers claim that he was resurrected and came back to life. If you accept for a moment that the universe was created by an all-powerful God, then it isn’t too difficult to accept that God might have the power to bring a dead person back to life. The resurrection is central to what Chrstians believe: that Jesus led the way by conquering death and sin, and that everyone can conquer the grip of evil on their lives and live forever by believing in Jesus. That’s the essence of the good news which Jesus commissioned his followers to tell everyone.
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 28
28:1 After the Sabbath, as dawn began on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 28:2 A great earthquake occurred. An angel of the Lord descended from the sky and came to roll away the stone from the door, and sat on it. 28:3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 28:4 The guards were so terrified of him that they shook and became like dead men. 28:5 The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 28:6 He is not here because he has risen just as he promised. Come and see the place where the Lord was lying. 28:7 Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead, and he goes before you into Galilee. You will see him there.’ Now I have told you.”
28:8 They left the tomb quickly, filled simultaneously with fear and great joy, and ran to bring the news to his disciples. 28:9 On the way to tell the disciples, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” They came and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. 28:10 Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go tell my brothers that they should go to Galilee, and they will see me there.”
28:11 As they were going some of the guards came into the city to tell the senior priests what had happened. 28:12 They held a meeting with the elders to discuss the situation and they gave a large amount of silver to the soldiers, 28:13 saying, “Say that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while you slept. 28:14 If the governor finds out, we will fix things up with him so that you won’t have anything to worry about.” 28:15 So they took the money and did as they were told. This story was spread abroad among the Jews, and continues until this day.
28:16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 28:17 They saw him and bowed down to him, but some doubted. 28:18 Jesus came to them and said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 28:19 Go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 28:20 teaching them to do all the things that I have commanded you. Remember, I am with you every day until the end of time.”
October 28th, 2006
Throughout today’s reading, covering the trial of Jesus and his execution, Jesus says hardly anything. He makes one very brief reply to a question from the governor Pilate, and then when he has been up on the cross for several hours and is about to die he says something very strange: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” It is apparent from the preceding chapters that Jesus knew that he was destined to die and he did not take any steps to avoid it, but the true significance of his death only becomes clear when we notice that the sinless Jesus experienced separation from his Father on the cross as he took the punishment for the sins committed by everyone else.
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 27
27:1 Morning arrived and all the senior priests and elders of the people discussed the best way to arrange for Jesus to be condemned to death. 27:2 They tied him up and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 27:3 Judas the betrayer was filled with remorse when he saw that Jesus was condemned, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the senior priests and elders, 27:4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What do we care? That’s your problem.”
27:5 He threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and left, then went away and hanged himself. 27:6 The senior priests took the pieces of silver, and said, “It’s not lawful to put them into the treasury, because it is blood money.” 27:7 After discussing it they used the money to buy the potter’s field, as a burial place for strangers. 27:8 That field has been called “The Field of Blood” to this day. 27:9 This fulfilled the prediction of Jeremiah the prophet: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by some of the children of Israel, 27:10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
27:11 Jesus stood before the governor and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “They are your words, not mine.”
27:12 When he was accused by the senior priests and elders, he said nothing. 27:13 Pilate asked, “Don’t you hear how many things they testify against you?” 27:14 Jesus gave no answer, not even one word, so that the governor was amazed.
27:15 The governor’s custom at the Feast was to release to the crowd one prisoner; whoever they wanted. 27:16 There was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas, 27:17 so when the crowd assembled Pilate asked, “Who do you want me to release? Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” 27:18 He knew that they had imprisoned Jesus because of envy.
27:19 His wife sent a message to him while he was sitting on the judgment seat, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because I have had an awful time in a dream today because of him.” 27:20 But the senior priests and elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus done away with. 27:21 When the governor asked, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” they said, “Barabbas!”
27:22 Pilate asked, “What will I do to Jesus, who is called Christ?” They all said, “Crucify him!” 27:23 The governor asked, “Why? What harm has he done?” But they shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”
27:24 When Pilate saw that nothing was being gained, and instead a riot was starting, he took water, and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this innocent man. See to it yourselves.” 27:25 All the people answered, “His blood will be on us and on our children!”
27:26 Then he set Barabbas free, but he flogged Jesus and handed him over to be crucified. 27:27 The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium, and the whole group gathered around him. 27:28 They stripped him, and put a purple robe on him. 27:29 They wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. They knelt down before him to mock him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 27:30 They spat on him, and used the reed to strike him on the head. 27:31 When they had mocked him, they took the robe off him, put back his own clothes, and led him away to crucify him.
27:32 On the way out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon and they forced him to go with them to carry the cross. 27:33 They came to a place called “Golgotha”, which translates as “The place of a skull”. 27:34 They gave Jesus sour wine to drink mixed with gall. When he had tasted it, he would not drink. 27:35 They crucified him and divided his clothing among them by casting lots, 27:36 and they sat and guarded him there. 27:37 They set up over his head the accusation against him reading, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
27:38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right side and one on the left. 27:39 Passers by mocked him, wagging their heads 27:40 and saying, “You who were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!”
27:41 The senior priests along with the religous lawyers, the Pharisees and the elders, also mocked him, 27:42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. If he is the King of Israel, he can come down from the cross now, and then we will believe in him. 27:43 He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now, if he wants him. He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 27:44 The robbers who were crucified with him also insulted him.
27:45 There was darkness over all the land from midday until 3pm. 27:46 About 3pm Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 27:47 Some people standing there heard it and said, “This man is calling Elijah.”
27:48 At once one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him as a drink. 27:49 The others said, “Leave him. Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”
27:50 Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and released his spirit. 27:51 The veil of the temple split in half from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks shattered. 27:52 Tombs opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 27:53 They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 27:54 The centurion and those who were with him guarding Jesus wre terrified when they saw the earthquake and the things that happened, saying, “This really was the Son of God.”
27:55 Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and served him were watching from a distance. 27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 27:57 When evening came, a rich man from Arimathaea named Joseph, who himself was also Jesus’s disciple, 27:58 went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’s body. Then Pilate ordered that the body be handed over. 27:59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb which he had carved out of the rock. He rolled a huge stone across the door of the tomb and left. 27:61 Mary Magdalene was there with the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. 27:62 The following day, which was the day after the Preparation Day, the senior priests and the Pharisees met together with Pilate, 27:63 saying, “Sir, we remember what that con man said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 27:64 So order that the tomb be guarded until the third day, in case his disciples come at night to steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ causing a greater deception than the original.”
27:65 Pilate said to them, “Take a guard. Go and make it as secure as you can.” 27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone.
October 27th, 2006
We will never know for sure what caused Judas to betray Jesus, but today’s reading does give us some clues. Jesus was at a party and he let a woman pour expensive perfume over him. Judas must have been thinking that if Jesus was really true to his principles, he would have made sure that the perfume was not wasted in such a decadent manner. Jesus had spent a lot of time preaching about how people should give their money to the poor, and this was a clear violation of that principle. So Judas went out and signed up to hand him over to the authorities. The problem with Judas’s thinking was that he let principles become more important than people, and that was something which he would bitterly regret.
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 26
26:1 After saying all these things, Jesus said to his disciples, 26:2 “You know that in two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
26:3 The senior priests, religious lawyers and elders of the people were gathered in the court of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas. 26:4 They plotted cunning ways of capturing and killing Jesus, 26:5 but decided, “Not during the feast, in case the people start a riot.”
26:6 Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper. 26:7 A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment and poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 26:8 His disciples were indignant when they saw this, “Why this waste? 26:9 This ointment could have been sold and a lot of money given to the poor.”
26:10 Reading their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why criticise the woman? She has done a fine thing for me. 26:11 You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me. 26:12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 26:13 I can guarantee that wherever this Good News is preached throughout the world, the story of what this woman has done will be told in memory of her.”
26:14 Then one of the twelve called Judas Iscariot went to the senior priests 26:15 and said, “How much will you offer me to deliver him to you?” They counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 26:16 From that time he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
26:17 On the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to ask Jesus, “Where do you want us to make arrangements for you to eat the Passover?”
26:18 He told them to go to a particular person in the city and tell him, “The Teacher says, ‘My time has arrived. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”
26:19 The disciples did as Jesus instructed, and they prepared the Passover. 26:20 Evening came and he was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 26:21 As they were eating he said, “I can guarantee that one of you will betray me.” 26:22 They were distressed to hear this and each began to ask him, “It isn’t me is it Lord?”
26:23 He answered, “The person who dipped his hand with me in the dish is the one who will betray me. 26:24 The Son of Man will go as the prophecies predict, but woe to the man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! That man would be better off if he had not been born.”
26:25 Judas the betrayer asked, “It isn’t me is it Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “They are your words not mine.”
26:26 While they were eating Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it and broke it. He gave to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 26:27 He took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them saying, “All of you drink it. 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out to allow the sins of many people to be forgiven. 26:29 I will not drink this fruit of the vine again until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” 26:30 They sang a hymn then went out to the Mount of Olives.
26:31 Jesus told them, “You will all stumble because of me tonight. It is predicted, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 26:32 But after I am raised up I will go before you into Galilee.” 26:33 Peter answered him, “Even if everyone else stumbles because of you, I will never stumble.” 26:34 Jesus said, “I can guarantee that you will deny me three times tonight before the cock crows.” 26:35 Peter protested, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” All of the disciples said the same.
26:36 Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there to pray.” 26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to grieve and be distressed. 26:38 He said, “My soul is overflowing with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”
26:39 He went forward a little, fell on his face, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by; nevertheless, not what I want, but what you want.”
26:40 Finding the disciples sleeping when he came to them, he said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour? 26:41 Watch and pray that you don’t enter into temptation. The spirit is eager but the flesh is weak.”
26:42 He went away and prayed a second time, “My Father, if this cup can’t pass by without me drinking it, then let your will be done.” 26:43 He came back and found them sleeping again because their eyes were heavy. 26:44 A third time he left them and went to pray, using the same words. 26:45 Then he came to his disciples and said, “Are you sleeping and resting? The hour has arrived for the Son of Man to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 26:46 Let’s get up and go. The betrayer is advancing.”
26:47 While he was still speaking Judas, one of the twelve, arrived with a great crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priest and elders of the people. 26:48 The betrayer had given them a signal, “Whoever I kiss, he is the one. Seize him.” 26:49 He came straight up to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
26:50 Jesus said, “Friend, do what you are here for.” Then they seized Jesus and arrested him. 26:51 One of the people who were with Jesus drew his sword, and lunged at the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. 26:52 Jesus said, “Put your sword away, because everyone who uses the sword will die by the sword. 26:53 Do you think that I can’t call on my Father, so that he would immediately send more than twelve legions of angels? 26:54 But how would the Scriptures be fulfilled if it happened that way?”
26:55 Jesus said to the crowd, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as if I was a robber? You didn’t arrest me when I sat teaching in the temple each day. 26:56 But all this has happened to fulfil the predictions of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left him, and ran away.
26:57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the religious lawyers and elders had gathered. 26:58 Peter followed from a distance to the court of the high priest, and went in to sit with the officers to see how it would end. 26:59 The senior priests, the elders and the whole council wanted fabricated evidence against Jesus to justify imposing the death penalty, 26:60 but they found none that they could use, in spite of many false witnesses who came forward. At last two people came forward 26:61 to say, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.’”
26:62 The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is this that they testify against you?” 26:63 But Jesus said nothing. The high priest said, “I order under oath by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
26:64 Jesus said, “They are your words, not mine. Nevertheless, I tell you after this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky.”
26:65 The high priest tore his clothing, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 26:66 What do you think?” They answered, “He deserves to die!” 26:67 Then they spat in his face and beat him with their fists, and some slapped him, 26:68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who hit you?”
26:69 Peter was sitting outside in the court and a maid came to him and said, “You were also with Jesus, the Galilean!” 26:70 But he denied it in front of them all, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
26:71 When he had gone out onto the porch, someone else saw him, and said to those who were there, “This man was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” 26:72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I don’t know the man.”
26:73 A little while later some bystanders said to Peter, “You must also be one of them, because your accent gives you away.” 26:74 Then he began to curse and to swear, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately the rooster crowed. 26:75 Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and wept bitterly.
October 26th, 2006
In the final judgement, the winners are the sheep and the losers are the goats. If you feed hungry people, give drinks to thirsty people, provide hospitality to strangers, care for sick people and visit prisoners, then you get to be counted amongst the sheep. If you look after yourself but fail to look after the needs of other people, particularly the poor and the most vulnerable people, then you get to be counted amongst the goats. You can’t be counted as a follower of Jesus if you don’t do stuff to help other people. Knowledge and intellectual understanding of doctrines are not enough.
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 25
25:1 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 25:2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 25:3 The foolish ones took no spare oil for their lamps, 25:4 but the wise ones did take spare oil. 25:5 The bridegroom was delayed and they all nodded off and fell asleep. 25:6 At midnight there was a shout, ‘The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’ 25:7 All the bridesmaids woke up and got their lamps ready. 25:8 The foolish asked the wise, ‘Can we borrow some oil, because our lamps are running out?’ 25:9 But the wise answered, ‘Go to the shop and buy some for yourselves, because we mightn’t have enough for you as well as ourselves.’ 25:10 While they were away buying oil the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. 25:11 Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Sir, Sir, open the door for us.’ 25:12 But he answered, ‘Really? I don’t know you.’ 25:13 So look out, because you don’t know the day or time when the Son of Man is coming.
25:14 “It is like a man going to another country, who called his servants and entrusted his goods to them. 25:15 He gave five talents of money to one, two talents to another, and one talent to another, according to their abilities. Then he went on his journey. 25:16 The servant who got the five talents went and traded with them, and made a profit of another five talents. 25:17 The servant who got the two talents earned another two. 25:18 But the servant who got the one talent went away and hid the man’s money in a hole which he dug.
25:19 “A long time later the master of those servants came back to settle accounts with them. 25:20 The five talent servant brought the other five talents, saying, ‘Master, you gave me five talents, and I have made another five talents.’ 25:21 The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. I’m really pleased with you.’
25:22 “The two talent servant said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. I have made another two talents.’ 25:23 The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. I’m really pleased with you.’
25:24 “The one talent servant said, ‘Master, I knew you that you are a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. 25:25 I was afraid I might lose it, so I hid your talent in the earth. Here is what belongs to you.’
25:26 “But the master answered, ‘You wicked and lazy servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter. 25:27 You should at least have deposited my money in the bank so that I would have received it back with interest on my return. 25:28 So take the talent, and give it to the servant who has ten talents. 25:29 Everyone who has something will be given more until it overflows, but even the little which they have will be taken away from those who have nothing. 25:30 Throw the useless servant out into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in glory with all the holy angels, he will sit on a glorious throne. 25:32 All the nations will gather before him and he will separate people from each other, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. 25:33 He will put the sheep on his right side and the goats on the left. 25:34 The king will tell those on his right side, ‘You’re blessed by my Father. Come and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you since the beginning of the world. 25:35 When I was hungry you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me drink. When I was a stranger you took me in. 25:36 When I was naked you clothed me. When I was sick you looked after me. When I was in prison you visited me.’
25:37 “The righteous people will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you a drink? 25:38 When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in, or naked, and clothe you? 25:39 When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to you?’
25:40 “The King will answer, ‘I can guarantee that you did it to me when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers.’ 25:41 Then he will tell those on his left side, ‘You are cursed. Go off into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 25:42 When I was hungry you didn’t give me food to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me nothing to drink. 25:43 When I was a stranger you wouldn’t take me in. When I was naked you didn’t clothe me. When I was sick and in prison you didn’t visit me.’
25:44 “They will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’ 25:45 He will answer, ‘I can guarantee that you refused to help me when you refused to help one of the least of these.’ 25:46 They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.”
October 25th, 2006
Is it possible to know the future? Some people make a lot of money from predicting the future, but the predictions rarely turn out to be accurate. But if you happen to be the all-knowing God of the Universe, your predictions are likely to be more accurate. In today’s reading Jesus gives his followers some insights into what the future holds, and unfortunately the picture is not that rosy. There will be wars and rumours of wars. False messiahs will set themselves up. Followers of Jesus will be persecuted, hated, arrested and killed. But no-one will know when the end will come. So we need to live with urgency as if life could end tomorrow, at the same time as we live as if life will last a long time.
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 24
24:1 When Jesus had left the temple and was walking away, his disciples pointed out to him the buildings of the temple. 24:2 But he answered, “You see all of these things? I can guarantee that everything will be thrown down until there won’t be one stone left on top of another.”
24:3 The disciples came to him privately as he sat on the Mount of Olives, asking, “When will these things happen? What is the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”
24:4 Jesus answered, “Make sure no one leads you astray. 24:5 Many people will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray. 24:6 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars don’t be disturbed, because all this must happen, but the end is not yet. 24:7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in different places. 24:8 All these things are just the beginning of the birth pains. 24:9 People will hand you over to persecution and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 24:10 Many will stumble and betray one another and hate one another, 24:11 and many false prophets will arise to lead many astray. 24:12 Because anarchy will reign supreme, the love of many will grow cold, 24:13 but if you endure to the end you will be saved. 24:14 This good news of the kingdom will be preached to all humankind as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.
24:15 “So when you see the ultimate sacrilege which was predicted by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 24:16 then people in Judea should flee to the mountains. 24:17 If you’re on the housetop don’t go down to rescue goods from your house. 24:18 If you’re in the field don’t go home to get your clothes. 24:19 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! 24:20 Pray that your flight will not be in the winter or on a Sabbath. 24:21 It will be a time of greater suffering that there has ever been since the beginning of the world, or ever will be. 24:22 Unless those days had been shortened, no one would be saved, but those days will be shortened for the sake of the chosen ones.
24:23 “If anyone tells you, ‘Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 24:24 There will be false christs and false prophets and they will perform great signs and wonders to lead astray even the chosen ones if possible.
24:25 “I have given you advance warning. 24:26 So if they tell you, ‘He is in the wilderness,’ don’t go out; ‘He is in the inner rooms,’ don’t believe it. 24:27 The coming of the Son of Man will be like the lightning which flashes from the east and is seen even in the west. 24:28 The vultures gather wherever the carcass is. 24:29 Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will go out, the moon will stop shining, the stars will fall from the sky, and the forces of the heavens will be shaken. 24:30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all the nations of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 24:31 He will send out his angels with a great trumpet call, and they will gather his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
24:32 “Learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and its leaves sprout you know that the summer is near. 24:33 In the same way you will know that the time is near, knocking on the door, when you see all these things. 24:34 I can guarantee that this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 24:36 No one except my Father knows that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven.
24:37 “The coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. 24:38 In the days before the flood people were eating and drinking and getting married until the day that Noah entered into the ship, 24:39 and they didn’t know until the flood came, and took them all away. The coming of the Son of Man will be just like this. 24:40 Two people will be in the field: one will be taken and one will be left; 24:41 two people grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one will be left. 24:42 Watch out. You don’t know in what hour your Lord comes. 24:43 If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming he would have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. 24:44 So be ready, because the Son of Man will come in an hour that you don’t expect.
24:45 “Which faithful and wise servant does the master appoint over his household, to give them their food in due season? 24:46 Blessed is the servant whom the master finds working when he comes. 24:47 I can guarantee that the master will set him over all that he has. 24:48 But if that evil servant should say to himself, ‘My lord is delaying his arrival,’ 24:49 and begins to mistreat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with the drunkards, 24:50 the master will come in a day when the servant doesn’t expect it, and at a time when he doesn’t know it, 24:51 and will rip him to shreds, and put him out with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
October 24th, 2006
Some people seem to have houses that are completely dirt-free throughout. There are no cobwebs in corner cupboards, no scuff marks on walls, no dust on the tops of bookshelves. For the rest of us, any appearance of neatness is a matter of sleight of hand. The cobwebs in the cupboard are neatly hidden when we have visitors, by the simple act of keeping the cupboard closed. Dirt gets swept under the carpet. Guests are never allowed near the tops of bookshelves. It’s not that important for your house to be dirt-free, but today’s message from Jesus is that your lifestyle has to be dirt-free if you want to go round preaching the benefits of dirt-free living to others.
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 23
23:1 Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 23:2 “The religious lawyers and the Pharisees sit on Moses’s seat. 23:3 So practise and obey whatever they tell you to do, but don’t copy what they do because they don’t practise what they preach. 23:4 They concoct heavy burdens and place them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them. 23:5 They do all their works to be seen by people. They make their phylacteries broad, enlarge the fringes of their garments, 23:6 and love the place of honour at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 23:7 the greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’ by men. 23:8 Don’t you be called ‘Rabbi’ because you are all brothers and you have only one master. 23:9 Don’t call people on earth ‘fathers’ because you have only one heavenly Father. 23:10 Don’t be called teachers because you have only one teacher, the Christ. 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 23:12 Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
23:13 “Woe to you, religious lawyers and Pharisees! You are hypocrites because you shut people out of the Kingdom of Heaven. You don’t go in yourselves, and you stop people who are trying to get in. 23:15 Woe to you, religious lawyers and Pharisees! You are hypocrites because you travel over sea and land to convert one person and then you make that person twice the child of hell that you are.
23:16 “Woe to you, blind leaders who say, ‘If you swear by the temple it means nothing, but if you swear by the gold of the temple it is binding.’ 23:17 Blind fools! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that makes the gold holy? 23:18 And you say, ‘If you swear by the altar it means nothing, but if you swear by the gift that is on the altar it is binding?’ 23:19 Blind fools! Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy? 23:20 Someone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 23:21 Someone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who lives in it. 23:22 Someone who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by the one who sits on it.
23:23 “Woe to you, religious lawyers and Pharisees! You are hypocrites because you give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cummin, but you have ignored the more important parts of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. You should have done these, without neglecting the other things. 23:24 Blind leaders, you strain out a gnat while you’re swallowing a camel!
23:25 “Woe to you, religious lawyers and Pharisees! You are hypocrites because you clean the outside of the cup and the plate but leave the inside dirty with stolen goods and self-indulgence. 23:26 Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup, and then its outside may also be cleaned.
23:27 “Woe to you, religious lawyers and Pharisees! You are hypocrites because you are like whitewashed graves which look good on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of dirt. 23:28 Outwardly you appear to be righteous, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and evil.
23:29 “Woe to you, religious lawyers and Pharisees! You are hypocrites because you build monuments for the prophets and decorate the tombs of the righteous, 23:30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we wouldn’t have been involved with them in killing the prophets.’ 23:31 You testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of the murderers of the prophets. 23:32 You fit right into your ancestors’ shoes. 23:33 You serpents, spawn of snakes, how will you escape the judgment of hell? 23:34 I am sending you prophets, wise people and teachers. You’re going to kill and crucify some of them, and you will scourge some of them in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city, 23:35 so that you will be guilty of all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. 23:36 I can guarantee that all these things will come upon this generation.
23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together like a hen gathering chickens under her wings, but you would not! 23:38 Now your house is left empty. 23:39 You won’t see me from now until the time when you will say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
October 23rd, 2006
Different people respond differently to invitations. Some people would do almost anything to obtain an invitation to a football grand final, whereas other people would throw such an invitation straight in the bin. But what if the invitation was to the biggest party ever held in the universe, and the invitation was a personal one from the most important person in the universe? Surprisingly, we would still see a range of different responses. Some people would accept the invitation with alacrity, but others might be a bit more skeptical. Do I really want to go to a party to which they would invite people like me?
Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 22
22:1 Jesus told them another parable, 22:2 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who organised a wedding banquet for his son. 22:3 He sent out his servants to call those who were invited, but they would not come. 22:4 He sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “I have prepared the meal, the oxen and fattened beasts have been killed, and everything’s ready to go. Come to the wedding banquet!”‘ 22:5 But they ignored it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 22:6 and the rest seized and insulted his servants and killed them. 22:7 The king became angry and sent his armies to destroy those murderers and burn their city.
22:8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. 22:9 So go to the street corners and invite anyone you can find to the wedding banquet.’ 22:10 The servants went into the streets and collected everyone they could find, bad and good, so that the wedding was filled with guests. 22:11 But as the king came in to see the guests he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing a wedding suit, 22:12 and said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding suit?’ The man said nothing. 22:13 Then the king ordered the servants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the darkness outside; that’s where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 22:14 Many are called, but few chosen.”
22:15 Then the Pharisees went to discuss how they could trap him saying something unlawful. 22:16 They sent their students and the Herodians to ask him, “Teacher, we know that you are honest and teach God’s truth without caring if it upsets anyone because you don’t need approval from people. 22:17 So what’s your opinion on this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
22:18 Jesus saw through their wickedness and said, “Why are you trying me out, you hypocrites? 22:19 Show me the tax money.” They brought to him a denarius. 22:20 He asked them, “Whose is this image and inscription?” 22:21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said, “So give Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and give God the things that belong to God.” 22:22 They were amazed to hear this, and they left him and went away.
22:23 The same day Sadducees who claim that there is no resurrection came to him. They asked, 22:24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies leaving no children, his brother must marry his widow and have children on his behalf.’ 22:25 There were once seven brothers. The first married and died childless, leaving his widow to his brother. 22:26 The same thing happened to the second and the third, all the way up to the seventh. 22:27 Last of all the woman died. 22:28 In the resurrection whose wife will she be of the seven? They were all her husbands.”
22:29 But Jesus answered, “You’re wrong. You don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. 22:30 In the resurrection people don’t get married. They are like God’s angels in heaven. 22:31 Haven’t you read what God said to you about the resurrection of the dead, 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’ God is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
22:33 The crowds were amazed to hear his teaching. 22:34 But the Pharisees regrouped when they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees. 22:35 A lawyer amongst them asked him a question to try him out. 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” 22:37 Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 22:39 A second is of similar importance, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 22:40 The whole law and the prophets are dependent on these two commandments.”
22:41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 22:42 “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “David’s.” 22:43 He said to them, “Why then did David, inspired by the Spirit, call him Lord when he said, 22:44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’
22:45 “If David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 22:46 No one was able to answer him a word, and after that day no one dared to ask him any more questions.
October 22nd, 2006