My Gospel Terror, Acts, & Letters [photo sermon]


Acts-bible-lomo

Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Letters“.

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I grew up in church and grew up loving the Bible. I did devotionals and sat in Sunday School classes for the vast majority of my life. And yet, it wasn’t until I got to my junior year of college and took a class on the Gospels that I read any of the Gospels all the way through. Sure, I had probably heard most of the Gospels preached on or excerpted in devotionals and books, but I had never read a Gospel from beginning to end.

At the time, I thought it was because they seemed too holy. It felt like too much for my young soul to handle to read the very words of Jesus on my own. It was too weighty for me and scared me. Maybe I just wanted to wait until I could drink whiskey or wine while reading them.
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Matthew & Judas’ Repentance?! | Matthew 27.3-5


When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27.3-5

I can’t figure out what Matthew’s characterization of Judas is. He did all the things that a true disciple would in light of his sin. He repents, confesses, and tries to make right. Maybe this is meant to contrast Judas and Peter, perhaps? Both reject Jesus, both face conviction for their actions. Judas, though, runs away from God in shame, but Peter runs to Jesus. Conspicuously, though, there’s no “restoration” passage for Peter here like there is in John.

And yet, this word “repent” is still used here! I should check this another time, unless anyone out there knows: is that term “repent” ever used in a negative sense in the book of Matthew? What is repentance to Matthew?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Why does Peter always get the shaft? | Matthew 26.33-35


Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Matthew 26.33-35

What?! All the disciples said this?! Why does Peter always get the shaft on this?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Jesus: Rabbi or Lord? (Again, Evangelicals over-simplify)| Matthew 26.20-25


When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”
Matthew 26.20-25

Notice here how they all call Jesus “Lord”,  whereas Judas calls Jesus “Rabbi”,  or Teacher.  To the original Jewish audience here, this would have been noticed and significant. But don’t mistake this. This isn’t some Evangelical emphasis of seeing Jesus as “Lord of your life” and not “just” a teacher.

Rather, the difference is in seeing things in the new order versus the old one.  It’s probably significant that Matthew us the Jewish term “Rabbi” and not just the normal Greek word for “teacher”. To follow a rabbi was still intense and genuine discipleship, not some “lesser devotion”. The point is that Judas still didn’t “get it”. Therefore, Jesus points out how this ultimately condemns him.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

A Parable on Minimum Wage, hehe | Matthew 20.3-4


When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
Matthew 20.3-4

This could be an interesting argument for a minimum wage increase. The Christian argument behind that is based off of a mutually beneficial relationship between employees and employers. This is because of the historic Christian value of work and payment for that work. The owner seeing men standing idle around the marketplace and him offering them work is a very Christian, conservative response. Further, he makes a point to say that he will pay them whatever is “right”. I suppose there might be disagreement on what he means by that word “right”, but my hunch is that it means the fullness of wages that would at least be livable. Then again, it’s just a parable and I’m certainly reading in my own ideas into the text. Oh well.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Imputation and…Physical Illness? | Matthew 8.16-17


That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Matthew 8.16-17

What? This is what fulfilled that verse? I guess when I read “infirmities” and “diseases”, I always took that verse to mean our sin and iniquity and all the results of our sins on the cross. Maybe the imputation of our iniquity on him was a whole lot more tangible and “bodily” than I sometimes think.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Matthew & the Jews | Matthew 27.20-23


Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Matthew 27.20-23

Man, Matthew really does go out of his way to show that the Jews were at fault for Jesus’ death.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Some random Beatitude snippets | Matthew 5.6,11-12


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Matthew 5:6

So encouraging. This gives me hope.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:6

That’s interesting. He hasn’t mentioned any other Jewish or biblical things. Why root this encouragement in a random reference to the prophets?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Yep. The gospels depict Jesus as God. | Matthew 28.1-10


After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Matthew 28.1-10

Wow.  This here clearly says that they worshiped Jesus. And he does not at all correct them or steer them to worship elsewhere. This is in stark contrast to the angel in Revelation.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

I just don’t get it sometimes | Matthew 24.46-51


Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24.46-51

Good lord, really? That’s unnecessarily over-the-top. I don’t like when I come across lines like this.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Resurrection: Matthean Apologetics | Matthew 27.62-66


The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Matthew 27.62-66

Apologetics by the gospel writer at work, haha. We know in subsequent debates that this was a major argument by the Jews, so this is a very important record that Matthew is putting down. He has to prove as best as he can that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, and that his body was secure.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The beauty of God’s heart for us | Matthew 8.1-3


When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
–Matthew 8.1-3

Is this not our constant prayer? And is this not God’s constant answer to us?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Saving Call of Christ: you’re already saved | Matthew 9.13


Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” —Matthew 9.13

 Notice here the emphasis. Evangelicals tend to stress how Jesus came to “save” (which he did, for sure). But Jesus here doesn’t day he came to “save” sinners. But rather to “call” them. I wonder if this speaks to the thought that salvation is everyone’s, and “evangelism” is more the process of calling people to be the saved people they are rather than to “get” or somehow “acquire” salvation. It’s a call to be something, not a call to get something.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Love your neighbor…even other denominations | Matthew 22:34-40


When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:34:40

I find it fascinating that this opens with the fact that the Pharisees were only respecting Jesus and calling him Teacher because he had smacked down their fellow Jews who happened to be in a different “denomination”. How often do we do this? How often do we latch on to a teacher not because God meets us in their  proclamation, but because they reaffirm our beliefs and/or put down those we disagree with? Fellow family members in the people of God, no less! How dare we?

This is why I find it brilliant that Jesus stresses the vertical in the greatest commandment, but he also throws in the necessity of loving our neighbors as well. Don’t miss this. He essentially adds a human-relational dimension to the Shema, one of the most beloved of Jewish texts! And so he incorporates how we treat others as just as essential as how we love God. When we don’t love those around us-especially the fellow people of God that we disagree with-we break the most important of commandments and fall short in loving our God.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.