Is it fair to call Lazarus’ resurrection the second-biggest resurrection in the Bible? If you’re going by volume, absolutely. John devotes an entire chapter, 57 verses long, to Lazarus’ death, return from the dead, and the fallout of his resurrection. The only resurrection that gets more scriptural air time is, of course, Jesus’ own. And coming back from the dead is kind of a big deal in itself, so Lazarus’ return is a big deal among big deals.
The gospel of Mark contains some weird parts. For example, there’s that guy in a sheet shadowing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane who escapes naked when the chief priests’ hired muscle try to seize him. And we didn’t even get to talk about the dudes that Jesus heals with his spit, two more Mark exclusives. (The blind guy initially remarks, in so many words, “Whoa, everyone looks like walking trees!”) Then there are the parts that other gospels include but Mark omits, like Jesus’ birth, and in fact any mention of Joseph. That’s right: in Mark, Jesus’ dad is completely absent! Mark doesn’t consider him important at all! But perhaps the weirdest part of Mark is its ending.
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.”
Today’s chapter could easily be the subject of two entries, as it comprises two events: an exorcism in the wilderness of Gerasa, and a resurrection at the synagogue official Jairus’ house. We could spend two days on them, one after the other as we have with other chapters, but I’m inclined to take them both in a single post, straddling the two and hoping I don’t lose my footing.
Greetings from the ghost town that is a mall food court at 9:30 AM on a Friday. I just got done with a dental appointment, and to celebrate, I’m subjecting my teeth to sugar and cacao solids. I know it’s been awhile since I said anything about the physical circumstances under which I’m opening up the Bible, but today’s a little out of the ordinary, so here’s me for old times sake, talking about the site where I’m reading about Saul’s conversion.
In today’s chapter, a good deed goes unpunished, but only barely.
Of all the gospel authors, Matthew spends the least time on Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He’s tied with Mark for the number of verses in the final chapter of his gospel (twenty), but while Mark’s last chapter is around 500 words, Matthew’s is closer to 450. After the women discover the empty tomb, they encounter Jesus, and later on he meets the disciples at a mountain in Galilee. But Matthew also has an exclusive scene with the tomb guards and the chief priests which continues a point of interest from the previous chapter.
This chapter marks the first time that Matthew records a resurrection. It would appear that it’s not the first time Jesus brought someone back from the dead, though; as we saw in Luke 7:11-17, he gave a widow her only son back in the middle of the guy’s funeral procession. Moreover, when Jesus resurrects the synagogue official’s daughter in today’s chapter, Matthew gives us the most cursory of the synoptics’ accounts, not even dedicating ten verses to the incident, while Mark and Luke each give us over fifteen. If you wanted to know which synagogue official, you’d have to turn to the other accounts, because Matthew doesn’t so much as give us his name (it’s Jairus).
One of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 12:2. It describes Jesus as “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I’ve said before that there’s a fine line between Christianity and masochism, and it’s not difficult to fall into spiritual self-flagellation (or physical, if you’re a 13th-century monk). At times, to varying degrees, I’ve succumbed to the temptation to embrace and pursue suffering for its own sake.
Luke 20 is basically a religious judo match between Jesus and the Jewish religious elites. They exchange quandaries, parables, and counter-arguments; the scribes and chief priests even enlist double-agent disciples to try to catch Jesus in some error and find a pretext for getting him in trouble with the Roman authorities. Each time he prevails, however, and at the end of the chapter he presents a puzzle of his own about the nature of the Messiah. I was particularly struck by his debate with the Sadducees over the resurrection, so let’s turn our attention there.