Congratulations! You pushed your way through the obstacle course of names that is Esau’s genealogy. Or maybe you skipped it. Look, I don’t know your life. But however you got here, now you come to the beginning of Joseph’s story. And if Genesis broke stride for Esau’s family tree, here it picks up the pace with a vengeance.
I want to start this one off with an observation. Genesis 10 is Noah’s genealogy, and it starts by going down Japheth’s branch of the family tree. Talking about all his offspring, it concludes, “From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (5). I read that, and I thought to myself: hey, here we’ve got differentiation of language. No, wait, re-differentiation of language! It struck me that the Tower of Babel didn’t account for the multiplicity of human languages after all: Noah and his family represented a second choke point where everyone once again shared a single native tongue. Except that I got the chronology wrong. The Tower of Babel doesn’t precede the flood; it follows it.
Here it is: the final chapter of Jesus Christ’s final message to his disciples before his crucifixion. And absurdly enough, I can’t help thinking of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. The fourth novel in the trilogy (yes, you read that right) presents God’s final message to his creation as “We apologize for the inconvenience.” Of course, Jesus takes a higher view of God than the silly and irreverent Hitchhiker’s Guide, which persistently presents God as roughly as incompetent a manager of affairs as the rest of us (if he exists at all), but one has to start a blog post somewhere. Let’s dispense with this frivolous introduction and continue investigating what Jesus has to say when faced with impending death.
You know Switchfoot’s song “The Loser?” Of course you do. You’re no Johnny-come-lately Switchfoot fan, familiar only with their work from The Beautiful Letdown on. You’re a person of taste who has been there since Legend of Chin and appreciates the whole spectrum of Switchfoot’s corpus.
So of course you remember the first lines of “The Loser”: “Only the losers win; they’ve got nothing to prove. They’ll leave the world with nothing to lose.” Throughout the song, frontman Jon Foreman never once mentions Jesus or God even implicitly, but savvy listeners such as yourself understand that he’s banking on his loser status precisely because he believes in a God who loves the losers. And you’ll realize that those opening lines, along with the rest of the song, reflect Jesus’ own well-known teaching: “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”
Mark hits the ground running. Unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t concern himself at all with Jesus’ birth or childhood. He jumps right into John the Baptist’s ministry as Jesus’ forerunner, and before the reader has a chance to draw a breath, Jesus has gotten baptized, been tempted in the desert, called his first four disciples, and cast out a demon.
Between our recent excursions into Ezra and Nehemiah and our present entry into Haggai, the theme of the moment must be rebuilding projects. Haggai, a short book that is mostly narrative, opens with God calling his people to rebuild the temple. Despite their initial reticence, Haggai’s prophetic message moves them to begin work.
God is not a man that He should change His mind, but we’re not God. I’ve read through the Bible more than once, and each time I come around to a passage, I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned new things, I’ve come to a different place that gives me a new perspective on it. If you’ve been reading the Bible for awhile, you’ve likely had the same experience. And sometimes God shows us we’ve been wrong about something. Our views change, we reject old opinions, and hopefully our new opinions jibe more consistently with the text and the universe as they are. Here on Chocolate Book, we approach the Bible heuristically.