The Magnificent Sevens… Introductory comments on the book of John

In the movie, The Magnificent Seven, a selection of otherwise unrelated mercenaries  prove to be more effective as a group when defending a village against a gang of thieves. These seven people were able to accomplish more working together than they would if they were just individuals. The movie had a promotional tagline, “Justice has a number.” In the movie… that number was seven.

In a similar way John, Jesus’ disciple and author of the gospel, organized information into groups of seven. He knew that information grouped into categories accomplishes more working together than the same information randomly presented on its own. For instance, readers may notice that, in his gospel, John includes seven miracles of Jesus. He organizes these into a related group by referring to each of them as “signs” or “attesting miracles”.

  • John 2:1-11 – turning water to wine
  • John 4:46-54 – healing of a royal official’s son
  • John 5:1-15 – healing at the pool of Bethesda
  • John 6:5-14 – feeding of the 5,000
  • John 6:16-24 – walking on water
  • John 9:1-7 – healing of a blind man
  • John 11:1-45 – resuscitation of Lazarus from the dead

Continue reading “The Magnificent Sevens… Introductory comments on the book of John”

Talented… or Talents? – Comments on Matthew 25:14-30

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about a man who embarks on a journey. But before he leaves, he entrusts his possessions with three slaves that stay behind. Many readers may be unaware… but there a problematic translational switch-a-roo that happens in Matthew 25:15. It concerns the possessions the man entrusts to the slaves… the talents.

“To one he gave five talents, to another , two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.” – NASB (’95 update)

It turns out, the word “talents” is an unfortunate translation. Well actually, it’s not a translation at all… it’s a transliteration. What’s the difference? Translation conveys the meaning of words from one language to another, where transliteration simply conveys the sound of words between languages.

How does that play out in this passage? There is a Greek word “talanton” that’s an ancient Greek unit of weight and, at the same time, a measure of monetary value. It’s kinda like the British “pound”. On one hand, a unit of weight, but also has a specific monetary value in that society. Continue reading “Talented… or Talents? – Comments on Matthew 25:14-30”

Can You Repeat the Question? – Comments on Matthew 24:1-4

Have you ever been wading in a river, or a lake, and one moment you are doing just fine, walking along and able to touch bottom. Then, for whatever reason, the next step takes you into a deep underwater hole. One step earlier you felt like you were some sort of “Aqua Superhero”… and the next you feel like you might drown. 

Theologically, that’s what some people experience when they step into Matthew 24. You might feel pretty confident of your footing in the chapters leading up to this one… then all of a sudden you are treading in deep theological waters and feel like you are about to go under.

Why do I say that? 

There are so many ways people read Matthew 24. This is the type of passage that inspires charts… and diagrams… and long extended analogies to explain. So many charts… and at least potentially (from this chapter)… so little time. 

The chapter begins with a comment about nice buildings… and then a promise of destruction of those buildings.

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

Then the real question… the one where the theology suddenly get deep. What exactly do the disciples ask Jesus in Matthew 24:3? Continue reading “Can You Repeat the Question? – Comments on Matthew 24:1-4”

Jesus’ Last Discourse? – Comments on Matthew 23:13-36

Throughout his gospel, Matthew organizes large segments of Jesus’ teaching into five major discourses. That just means there are a whole bunch of red letters… all scrunched together… in five different places.

The author does this on purpose… because he wants us to think of Jesus in terms of the Old Testament character, Moses. Moses was that person who lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and on towards the land that had been promised to their family. Moses wrote 5 major discourses (the first five books of the Old Testament). To help connect Jesus as “the new Moses”, Matthew presents Jesus’ teaching in five distinct settings.

Today, it’s the last discourse I’m interested in… and where it might begin. Those familiar with the Bible at all have probably heard of “The Olivet Discourse”. It’s found in Matthew 24:3-26:1 and is named after the location Jesus was when He taught it. He was on the “Mount of Olives” in Jerusalem.

We know the discourse ends in Matthew 26:1 because the Matthew includes a clue for the reader that signifies the end (“When Jesus had finished all these words…”). But there is no equivalent marker used for the beginning of the discourse. Continue reading “Jesus’ Last Discourse? – Comments on Matthew 23:13-36”

There’s a Question I Wish to Discuss… Comments on Matthew 22:15-22

Matthew 22 features a set of three questions that the religious leaders bring to Jesus in an attempt to trap him and end his ministry. Jesus answers each question brilliantly… which only serves to further frustrate His questioners.

In Matthew 22:15-22, they ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay the poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” This seems like a political question… but it certainly has religious undertones.  

This reminds me of a role I played in a high-school production of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”. Those familiar with that story know that the main character has several daughters. The story largely focuses on the daughters falling in love and getting married. I played Perchik, a religious and political radical that fell in love with one of the daughters. When it came time for my character to propose marriage I said, 

“There’s a question I wish to discuss with you. It’s a political question, the question of marriage.” She responded, “Is this a political question?”

 It was a fair question. I went on to explain that the relationship between a man and a woman has a socioeconomic base that must be founded on mutual beliefs, a common attitude, and philosophy towards society.”

What a romantic! The world certainly doesn’t need more poets like this character. Continue reading “There’s a Question I Wish to Discuss… Comments on Matthew 22:15-22”