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.
Today’s chapter is Mark’s Endgame Debates Chapter. Each synoptic gospel features the Jewish religious leaders’ ongoing contention with Jesus during his last days in Jerusalem, and Mark packs it all into pretty much a single chapter. But among all the theological judo, we see one guy who isn’t looking for a fight. And we’ll get to him in a moment, but first I want to note a couple irrelevant trivialities from the Parable of the Vine-growers.
Hey, everyone. Just to pull back the curtain for a moment, it’s Saturday as I write this, and I’m at my grandmother’s in Virginia for Mother’s Day. And now, to replace the curtain: in today’s chapter, Paul’s Jewish opponents pursue their spurious case against him. But even under a new governor, Paul proves himself a match for their machinations with an appeal to Caesar himself.
Paul is one shrewd dude. On two previous occasions, in order to outmaneuver Roman authorities who would otherwise punish him unjustly, we’ve seen him reveal his Roman Citizen Card (which is, of course, a trap card to be played face-down in the defense position). In today’s chapter, he shows he has more tricks up his sleeve, not only with the Romans, but with his own people.
The first two chapters of the Sermon on the Mount are easy enough to summarize. Matthew 5 deals with good and evil, suffering, and forgiveness; Matthew 6 concerns preoccupation with wealth. But how would I sum up chapter 7? I’m tempted to call it “a grab-bag of Jesus’ clever metaphors, sayings, and one-liners.” If there’s a single thread running through them, it’s beyond me to find it. But I can always hand-pick a few verses throughout that got my attention. That’s what we’ve got today, folks.
God’s Little Instruction Book is taking us back to Proverbs today, but unlike the past two forays into the Nation of Proverbia, this verse isn’t a stand-alone saying with no necessary connection to its neighbors. It’s part of a larger admonition from Solomon to a person he calls “my son,” encouraging him to pursue wisdom and eschew evil. That’s right: it’s context time.
This is a momentous occasion, fam. No, not Valentine’s Day: today we are breaking new ground. For the first time on Chocolate Book, we are cracking open the book of Ecclesiastes.
Right away, I can’t help but notice two parallel segments on either side of the transfiguration, scenes in which Jesus dispatches groups of disciples to spread his ministry and message. Before the transfiguration, Jesus sends out his twelve apostles to minister from village to village. After the transfiguration, he sends out seventy disciples, buddy-system-style. A switch has been flipped. The kingdom is advancing.
Nahum 2 may be the closest you and I will ever get to experiencing a bronze-age siege.
This passage is a tricky one for me to approach, because it’s about two kinds of wisdom. And one could easily take Paul’s point as being anti-intellectual, anti-scholarly, anti-knowledge, and in fact plenty of people have done so. Plenty of people reject Christianity for rejecting learning, claiming it necessarily throws the life of the mind out the door–and plenty of other people embrace Christianity while dismissing any kind of intellectual engagement as arrogant and anti-spiritual. The gospel is accessible to everyone regardless of intelligence, but it’s not inherently elitist to think. Let’s take a look at what Paul actually says.