Jesus Was Amazed By An Outsider

The Centurion's Story

Jesus Was Amazed By An Outsider

By Beth Demme

Picture the scene. A Roman soldier, a Centurion in charge of 100 men, comes to see Jesus. There’s been an accident or maybe an illness. The Centurion’s servant, someone important to him, has been paralyzed. The Centurion comes to Jesus, sure that Jesus can help.

The Centurion comes as a man of authority, but he doesn’t attempt to exercise any authority over Jesus. He doesn’t demand assistance or intervention. He doesn’t insist that Jesus give his time or his care. The Centurion begins by sharing with Jesus what is happening. He tells Jesus, “my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.”

Jesus doesn’t hesitate, he responds, “I will come and cure him.” But the Centurion, despite his position, is too humble and, possibly, too overwhelmed to accept the offer. Incredibly, he says, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”

In both Matthew and Luke, we read the Centurion’s faith amazed Jesus:

  • “When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.’” (Matthew 8:10)
  • “When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” (Luke 7:9)

Jesus was amazed because the Centurion was a Gentile living in a pagan society – there was no expectation that he would be a person of faith.

Jesus contrasts the faith of the Centurion with the faith of the Israelites.

The people of Israel are the people of Moses, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They have a history with God. They have:

  • the stories
  • the scriptures
  • the promises
  • the covenants
  • the Temple
  • the priests, scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees

The Centurion has none of that. And yet, he has faith.

In the Centurion’s story, the people inside the religious order weren’t the ones with faith.

As a church person who hopes to one day serve as a pastor, this hits close to home.

Like the Israelites, I have a history with God. I know the stories, read the scriptures, celebrate the promises, understand the covenants, and worship the one true God. But reading about the Centurion’s faith reminds me that knowing all the right things isn’t the same as having faith. The Centurion’s story reminds me that God has a history of working in ways that exceed human expectations.

The Centurion’s story also makes me wonder – where might Jesus find amazing faith today? The Centurion was outside the church of the time, but he understood who Jesus was and what Jesus could do. He wasn’t bogged down by pre-conceived ideas about how the Messiah would look, speak, or act. He was free to accept Jesus as he met him.

May I, too, accept Jesus as I find him.

What about you? Do you have a faith that might amaze Jesus? Are you like me – someone who loves knowledge, but has to work on faith? How do you think we (you and I) can we be more like the Centurion? Tell me about it in the Comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.


More Like This From Beth:

The Paradox of Worthiness

The Paradox of Worthiness

By Beth Demme

Remember the movie Wayne’s World? Or maybe you remember it as a skit on SNL? Mike Myers and Dana Carvey play Wayne and Garth. Whenever Wayne and Garth meet someone famous or someone they idolize, the bow repeatedly and say, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

That’s how we feel before God, isn’t it? Unworthy? To me, this is a great paradox of the Christian faith. We aren’t worthy, except that God says we are.

The word “sin” means to miss the mark. We each know how we miss that mark. Even the Apostle Paul knew it. He says in Romans, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:15, 18-19 (emphasis added))

One way I personally miss the mark is that I tend to be more than a wee bit judgmental about other Christians. I actually find it easier to accept people of other faiths than to accept certain Christians, and Christian denominations, who – in my not-so-humble opinion – squeeze God into a box and, in the process, squeeze the love right out of the good news of Jesus Christ.

I judge them, all the while pridefully patting myself on the back for my own “right” views.  In other words, I fret over the speck in my brother’s eye, while ignoring the log coming out of my own. (Matthew 7:3)

I miss the mark by failing to show love and by acting out of pride.

For Abundance Live In Dependence Not Independently

And Don't Wither Away With (Church) Busyness

Abundant Dependence

By Beth Demme

I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who first said, “I am a human being, not a human doing.” In a society where busyness is a sign of accomplishment and significance, it’s easy to blur the lines between being and doing. It seems like we do more to have more because we want to be more.

James 1:11 warns against this, saying “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.”

Busyness can be costly.

In the midst of a busy life, the parts of us that matter most can wither away. I know from personal experience. I have tried to do more and have more because I wanted to feel like I could be more. Instead of becoming more, I became less. I replaced my true identity (a beloved child of God) with a cheap imitation identity (busy American mom).

The really tricky part of this for me as a Christian was realizing that church could produce busyness. If I had been trying to create an equation to calculate my busyness I wouldn’t have included church committees or Bible study classes in the calculation. They had a sort of permanent exemption because I put them under the heading “God’s Work.”

Good distractions are still distractions.

Attending Bible study classes and serving in the church are important to me. They are really valuable in my spiritual life, except when they become busyness that distracts me from real relationship with God.

This is the lesson of Mary and Martha, isn’t it? When Jesus visited the two sisters, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks.” (Luke 10:39-40) Martha asked Jesus to make her sister help out, but instead, Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.”

God Is Bigger Than My Theology

Am I Trying to Get Jesus Into My Boat?

boat theology

Boat Theology

By Beth Demme

You know the passage in Matthew where Jesus walks on the water? Jesus and the disciples feed over five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. (Matthew 14:17-21) Jesus then herds the disciples into a boat and sends them across the Sea of Galilee. Later, Jesus was ready to join them and “he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.” (Matthew 14:25-26)

Jesus reassures them, saying “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter responds, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says “Come” and sure enough Peter walks on the water. We don’t know how far Peter walked but “when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

I love Peter’s boldness (or idiocy?) in saying Lord, if it is you.” Maybe Peter’s use of the conditional even made Jesus smirk a bit. As someone who appreciates sarcasm, I kind of like the idea of Jesus pausing for a bit of internal monologue: “If it’s me? Who else would it be? Am I myself? Goodness, I hardly know! Who am I, really?”

What really strikes me about this passage, though, is that Peter doesn’t say, “come get in this boat with me Jesus.” It’s subtle, but important. If I were in Peter’s position, I’m afraid I would have told Jesus, “Lord, come over here and get in this boat!”

I would have completely missed out on the opportunity to receive an invitation from Jesus.

My tendency is to tell Jesus the plans I have and tell him to get on board. That’s different than Peter’s impulsive, but better, approach: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you.”

In my life, this plays out in two important ways—in trying to discern life choices and in trying to understand/explain God.

God’s Love Comes Before Your Mistakes

Gods love

What if God’s Love Comes Before Your Mistakes?

By Beth Demme

It surprised me. I didn’t expect to find new, and personal meaning, in a concept as old as shepherding.

I was studying John 10:1-10 for a recent sermon. In this passage, Jesus refers to himself as the shepherd and also the gate. My favorite part of this passage has always been the last verse, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

I especially connect with this part of the verse because I have experienced God’s abundant love, but it’s also true that I like the idea of an abundant life.

For most of my life, I have equated an abundant life with an abundance of things. I’ve let go of that kind of thinking, but I still don’t really like the idea of being a sheep. Maybe because thinking about Jesus as the shepherd conjures up images of church Christmas plays, with young shepherds dressed in their father’s bathrobes? But I digress…

Wait, There Are Unicorns in the Bible?

Fun With Bible Translations

Bible Unicorns

Unicorns and Girdles in the Bible

By Beth Demme

Did you know that Bible translators may have invented the unicorn? Learning tidbits like this has made the Bible, and Bible study, more manageable and meaningful to me; I hope it does the same for you.

The King James Version uses the word unicorn nine times, all in the Old Testament.

  • “God brought them out of Egypt; he [God] hath as it were the strength of a unicorn.” (Numbers 23:22)
  • “God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.” (Numbers 24:8)
  • “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 33:17)
  • “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said … ‘Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow or will he harrow the valleys after thee?’” (Job 38:1, 39:9-10)
  • “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” (Psalm 22:21)
  • “He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.” (Psalm 29:6)
  • “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.” (Psalm 92:10)
  • “And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.” (Isaiah 34:7)

There is an additional reference in Daniel 8:5 to a flying goat with “a notable horn between his eyes,” but the word unicorn isn’t specifically used there.

How did the King James Version come to include unicorns?

Do You See Yourself Clearly?

Is that YOU in the mirror?

I just celebrated the third anniversary of this blog! Woo hoo! Let’s eat cake! In honor of this “birthday” of sorts, here is a post from way, way back in the beginning (April 2014). As it happens, I needed to hear this today. Maybe you do too?

Do You See Yourself Clearly?

By Beth Demme

Do you ever look in the mirror and feel a little baffled by what you see? I mean, do you ever look at your reflection and think, “Woah crazy! Where’d you come from?”

No? Me neither.

But, I have this friend …

She said it happened to her once.

The truth is, we all get a little down on ourselves sometimes, don’t we? There are times when things at home or at work don’t go according to plan and we internalize the failure.

Sometimes we think we are failures because our decisions or plans failed. Other times, we may feel “less than” because we are comparing ourselves to someone else. Someone who is better at: _____________ (relationships, parenting, meal planning, fashion, managing finances, making money, volunteering, reciting scripture, memorizing sports trivia, etc.). Whatever the reason, there are days we look in the mirror and see failure.

Bible 100 Lenten Edition Summary 7

Pastoral Epistles to Revelation

Bible 100 Lenten Edition Summary 7

This Lent we went through the entire Bible, Bible 100 style. In other words, we’re developing an overview of the entire collection of 66 books. Here’s a summary of what we covered this week. If any of this sparks your curiosity, I hope you will watch the short videos I recorded through Facebook Live (each  takes you to a video). Of course, you can always turn to the Bible to learn even more!

Lessons 37-40

 Lesson 37: Paul’s Letters to People

Paul wrote 9 letters to churches and 4 letters to people. (Although the authorship of many of these letters is disputed, we set that aside for Bible 100 purposes because we want to start by knowing what the books say.)

1 Timothy 

  • 6 Chapters
  • We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1-5, during Paul’s second missionary journey.
  • Paul wants Timothy to lead the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), where Paul had previously lived and ministered for two years (Acts 19:1-10).
  • 1 Timothy is the source of a lot of moralism and discussion about morality:
    • Women should dress modestly, not with their hair braided or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes (1 Timothy 2:9)
    • Women should learn in silence and aren’t permitted to teach men (1 Timothy 2:11-13)
    • Women are “saved through childbearing.” (1 Timothy 2:15)
    • Any man who wants to lead the church should “be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert…” (1 Timothy 3:2-6)
  • 1 Timothy includes some trouble references to slavery. For example, 6:1 says, “Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed.”
  • Paul encourages Timothy to drink wine. (1 Timothy 5:23)

2 Timothy

  • 4 Chapters
  • Can be read as Paul’s final letter to a man he loved like a son.
  • Paul tells Timothy to warn the Christians “to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.” (2 Timothy 2:14)
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
    • There has been a lot of scholarship on the word “inspired” because it is unique to this Epistle.
    • The “scripture” in place at the time of Paul was the Old Testament.

Titus

  • 3 Chapters
  • Who is Titus?
    • Paul says in Galatians that when he and Barnabas went to Jerusalem after the first missionary journey, Titus was with them. (Galatians 2:1)
    • Titus was not Jewish and, therefore, unlike Timothy, he was not required to be circumcised and Paul uses that almost like evidence of the Jerusalem Council’s decision, “even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.” (Galatians 2:3)
  • The letter to Titus is similar to 1 Timothy:
    • Titus is encouraged to choose church leaders wisely. (Titus 1:5-9)
    • Slaves should be “submissive to their masters.” (Titus 2:9-10)
  • Unique to Titus is Paul’s condemnation of the Cretans: “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12-13)

Philemon

  • 25 Verses (1 Chapter)
  • The letter to Philemon isn’t about pastoring a church or correcting doctrine, it’s about slavery. Actually, it’s about a specific slave, a man named Onesimus.
  • Paul wants Onesimus to be set free. (Philemon 17-19)
  • Onesimus is first mentioned in Colossians 4:9.
  • St. Ignatius who was Bishop of Antioch (in Syria) from AD 67-107 (very early Christian) wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus where he mentions Onesimus as a Bishop.

 Lesson 38: Hebrews

  • No one knows who wrote Hebrews, but it’s still worth reading.
  • We know from its location in the Bible that Paul didn’t write it. If Paul wrote it, it would be with Paul’s letters to the churches.
    • The position of the Epistle to the Hebrews is altogether unsettled.” –Dr. Bruce Metzger
    • Throughout history, Hebrews has hopped around in the Bible. In the Codex Sinaiticus, it is between 2 Thessalonians and 1st Timothy (after the letters to church communities and before the letters to people).
    • In the Codex Vaticanus (perhaps the first Bible to have chapter delineations), Hebrews is between Galatians and Ephesians.
    • In the Geneva Bible (the first Bible translated to English from the Hebrew and Greek texts), Hebrews sits where we have it today, between Philemon and James.
  • Hebrews teaches who Christ is and who we can be through him.
  • Hebrews navigates the difficult first-century conflict between Christianity and Judaism by stressing what both groups have in common, while emphasizing the supremacy of Christ. (See e.g., Hebrews 3:3)
  • Christ is simultaneously divine and human. (Hebrews 2:16-17, 4:15)
  • Heroes of the Faith: Hebrews 11
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

 Lesson 39: The Catholic Epistles

“Catholic” meaning universal. These letters are written to the church in general, not to a specific group of believers.

James

  • 5 chapters, just over 100 verses
  • Mentions Jesus by name only twice, but is unmistakeably about how to live as a Christian
  • Perhaps written by the brother of Jesus, the same James who rendered the decision of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
  • Endurance produces maturity. (James 1:2-4)
  • God gives wisdom if you ask for it. (James 1:5)
  • God doesn’t tempt people. People are tempted by their own desires. (James 1:13-15)
  • The “royal law” is to love your neighbor as yourself. (James 2:8)
  • Faith will display itself in the way you live. (James 2:14-20)
  • Don’t give the devil too much credit; he runs away when you resist him. (James 4:7)
  • “Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ be no.” (James 5:12)

1&2 Peter

  • Combined 8 chapters and fewer than 200 verses.
  • In Peter’s letters, hope is placed in a future that is better than the present. As we see throughout the NT, things are hard for Christians. Remember, Peter himself is ultimately executed via crucifixion. Knowing the actions the Empire is taking against Christians, Peter calls Rome, “Babylon.” (1 Peter 5:13)
  • If you have trouble understanding Paul’s letters, don’t worry, Peter did too. He says in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”

Johannine Letters

  • 1, 2, & 3 John are called the Johannine Letters.
  • 1 John is 5 chapters long, about the same length as James or 1 Peter. 2 John and 3 John are 1 chapter each, with only 13 and 15 verses respectively.
  • There are five books in the New Testament traditionally ascribed to the Apostle John, the beloved disciple: The Gospel of John, the 3 Johannine letters, and Revelation.
  • In the Johannine letters, the main concept is God is love. God loves and is loving, but beyond that, love is one of God’s defining characteristics.
  • These three letters, like Paul’s letters, are organized by length, from longest to shortest and can be read in any order.
  • 1 John 1:8-9 might sound familiar from church, especially if you attend a church with a liturgical service: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • In 1 John 2, John calls his readers “my little children.” He is The Elder of the church. He’s not writing to his beloved brothers who experienced the earthly ministry of Jesus with him, but rather, to the next generation, a group he helped birth in a sense.
  • Just as in the Gospel of John, we see in 1 John that Jesus is “the word.” (1 John 1:1-4)

Jude

  • Jude is traditionally ascribed to the younger brother of Jesus.
  • It has no chapter delineations because it is only 24 verses, long.
  • These 24 verses are packed full of references to the Old Testament and other ancient writings.
  • Jude is extremely concerned for people who are being exploited and misled by religious leaders gone astray.
  • Jude and 2 Peter are very similar. Reading 2 Peter, especially chapter 2, together with Jude shows us how early Christians struggled to discern correct doctrine and fully express their faith. Here is a very limited sampling of their similarities:
    • Jude 4 refers to “intruders” who “have stolen in among you” and will “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 2:1 refers to “false teachers” who will rise “among you” and “will even deny the Master.”
    • Jude 6 says “the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling he has kept in eternal chains.” 2 Peter 2:4 says, “God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment.”
    • Both refer to Balaam. (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15)
    • False teachers are “waterless clouds carried along by the winds … for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved” in Jude. In 2 Peter they are “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm” and “the deepest darkness has been reserved” for them.

 Lesson 40: Revelation

  • The Revelation to John or the Apocalypse of John
  • Only place in the New Testament we read about a dragon, giant bugs, flying horses, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  • In Revelation we learn of a future with a new heaven and a new earth.
  • Traditionally we have accepted the author of this book to be the Apostle John.
  • While John is on Patmos (possible exiled there by the Roman Emperor Domitian), the risen and glorified Christ appears to John and dictates seven letters to seven churches. (Revelation 1:9-11)
  • In chapter 4, John ascends to heaven and receives visions from God concerning Christ’s return (the Second Coming).
  • In Genesis, creation is very good, but sin and death immediately enter the world. The narrative has on overall downward spiral, but by Revelation 21 the dust settles. We have a new heaven and a new earth and we’re back to something like the Garden of Eden. There’s no longer any sin. There’s a new Jerusalem, a new Holy City and there’s a loud voice that says, “Now, the dwelling of God is with man.” That’s exactly what we had when we started Genesis because God was walking with Adam and Even in an ideal relationship.
  • We’re told in Revelation that there will be a perfect environment, no mourning, no crying, no pain or death. We will be God’s people. The old order has passed away. God says, “I am making everything new.” The curtain comes down in Revelation and everything is restored to what it was in the beginning.

Thank you for joining us for the Bible 100 Lenten Journey. If you would like information on having Beth come for a Bible 100 Live Event, please click here. To access the videos, click here. To contact Beth directly, click here.

Bible 100 Lenten Edition Summary 6

Gospels to Thessalonians

Bible 100 Lenten Edition Summary 6

This Lent we are learning the Bible, Bible 100 style. In other words, we’re developing an overview of the entire collection of 66 books. Here’s a summary of what we covered this week. If any of this sparks your curiosity, I hope you will watch the short videos I recorded through Facebook Live. Of course, you can always turn to the Bible to learn even more!

Lessons 31-36

 Lesson 31: From Oral Tradition to Written Scripture

  • Jesus appointed 12 Apostles from among the Disciples. (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 10:14-16)
  • Judas committed suicide (Matthew 27:5), leaving only 11 Apostles. He was replaced by Matthias. (Acts 1:21-26)
  • Jesus ever told his Apostles to write anything down or memorize anything. Jesus was about transformation.
  • The stories of Jesus were originally told orally. This began to change within two or three decades of the crucifixion. Due to increased persecution, increased missionary work, and the realization that Jesus would not be back immediately.
  • There are thousands of ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, but many are only fragments. Click here to see a fragment from the Gospel of John that is from 125 CE.
  • Christians used “low-status notebooks,” the codex form to record material that became the first Gospels.
  • Matthew, Mark, and Luke are the Synoptic Gospels. John is “the spiritual gospel.”
  • The Synoptic Puzzle describes a collection of scholarly theories about how Matthew, Mark, and Luke were composed and in what order.

Lesson 32: Are 4 Better Than One? Why We Have Four Gospels

  • The Gospels should not be compared to modern biographies because they are ancient documents.
  • The Gospels do not tell us what happened to Jesus’ earthly parents.
  • The Gospels do not tell us details about Jesus’ appearance (for example, how tall he was).
  • The 4 Gospels give us both a composite picture of Jesus and 4 individual pictures of Jesus and what was significant about his ministry.
  • A second-century Christian named Tatian harmonized the Gospels in a work called The Diatessaron. This tells us there was widespread agreement on the status of the 4 Gospels by that time.
  • Jesus taught using parables. There are 40 parables total, but only 7 of those appear in all 3 Synoptic Gospels. Matthew and Luke share a dozen parables. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is only in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:30-37).
  • The only two books of the Bible written by a Gentile are Luke and Acts.

Lesson 33: About Saul Paul

  • Pentecost is described in Acts 2. Pentecost is the Jewish pilgrimage festival commemorating when God gave Moses the law. For Christians, it celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit because of what is described in Acts 2.
  • The church experiences exponential growth, from about 120 believers to over 3,000.
  • The church in Acts has four characteristics: teaching, fellowship, communion and prayer. (Acts 2:43-47)
  • The disciple Stephen summarizes the biblical story in Acts 7 before he is martyred.
  • The church began to experience persecution. Initially, the persecution came from the Jewish leaders who saw Christianity as a divergent sect of Judaism.
  • Saul of Tarsus was appointed to halt the growth of Christianity. (Acts 9:1-2)
  • On the way to Damascus, Saul was blinded by a bright light and Jesus spoke to him. Saul was thereafter known as Paul and he was transformed from the lead prosecutor (persecutor) to the chief missionary and evangelist.
  • Paul went to Arabia for 3 years following his Damascus Road conversion experience. While he was there, Jesus taught him the gospel. (Galatians 1:11-19)

Lesson 34: Paul’s Missionary Journeys

  • Paul went on at least three missionary journeys. If you have a study Bible, these are probably mapped out for you.
  • Paul summarizes the biblical story in Acts 13:16-42.
  • The first missionary journey is described in Acts 13-14.
  • #1 probably takes place at some point between 46 and 49 CE. Paul may write Galatians while he’s on this journey.
  • The second missionary journey is described in Acts 15-18.
  • #2 probably takes place in the early to mid-50’s. Paul travels with Silas and Timothy. On this journey, they meet Luke who writes Luke and Acts.
  • On journey #2 Paul travels to Philippi where he converts a woman named Lydia. (Acts 16:14)
  • Paul may write 1 & 2 Thessalonians on this journey.
  • Paul and his entourage are arrested for disturbing the peace, but an earthquake shakes the jail open. Paul and Co. stay and concert the jailer. (Acts 16:33)
  • The third missionary journey is in Acts 18-21.
  • #3 probably takes place between 54 and 57 CE.
  • Scholars seem to agree Paul wrote 1&2 Corinthians and Romans on this trip, and some say this is also when he wrote Galatians, Philemon, and Philippians.
  • For most of the third missionary journey, Paul was in Ephesus, a hub for maritime trade giving him access to a wide cross-section of ancient people. Because of this, “all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:10)
  • Paul is arrested (though some describe it as protective custody) and eventually is taken to Rome. In Rome, he lived by himself at his own expense. (Acts 28:16,30)

Lesson 35: Paul’s Great Epistle, Romans

  • An epistle is a letter, written to be read out loud and shared.
  • Romans is a theological masterpiece.
  • All humans lack their own righteousness (Romans 1:18-3:20), but righteousness can be imputed to us through our faith in Christ. (Romans 3:21-5:21)
  • Our imputed righteousness is no reason to sin, but instead is a path to freedom. (Romans 6:15)
  • The Jewish people “are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gift and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:28-29)
  • Romans was probably written on Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey around 57 CE.
  • In Romans, Paul mentions a female apostle named Junia. (Romans 16:7) For a time, Biblical translators assumed this was an ancient typo because it referred to a woman being “prominent among the apostles.” Junia became Junias, a man’s name. You can read more about this at juniaproject.com/who-was-junia.

Lesson 36: Paul’s Letters to Churches

1&2 Corinthians

  • Church politics and conflict are, unfortunately, nothing new.
  • Paul spent 18 months in Corinth on the second missionary journey. (Acts 18:11)
  • The people of Corinth faced unique cultural challenges. Corinth was a double seaport town with a huge temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Ships would dock on one side of the peninsula, off-load their cargo which would be transported by land to the other side of the peninsula and loaded onto another ship to continue the voyage.
  • Click here for a Google Maps Satellite image of the Corinth Canal.
  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul compares the church to the human body “made up of many parts and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Galatians

  • “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1)
  • Paul mentions that his “physical infirmity” brought him to Galatia in the first place. (Galatians 4:13-14) This may have been an eye problem related to the Damascus Road conversion experience because in verse 15 he says, “you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”
  • Paul argues against circumcision because that marks the old covenant based on laws which Jesus came to fulfill. (Galatians 5:6)
  • Paul reminds the Galatians that their freedom in Christ is not “an opportunity for self-indulgence.” (Galatians 5:13)

Foolish_Galatians_Beth_Demme

Ephesians

  • According to Acts 19, Paul was in Ephesus for two years. (Acts 19:1,10)
  • There is scholarly disagreement about whether Paul wrote Ephesians. Of Paul’s 13 letters, only 7 of are of “undisputed” authorship.
  • If Paul wrote it, it may be the letter written while he was en route to Rome and referenced in Acts 20:17.
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Philippians

  • The church at Philippi was established in Acts 16:11-15 when Paul converted a woman merchant named Lydia.
  • “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)

Colossians

  • Christians are reoriented to live in harmony with each other and with Christ at the center of their lives. (Colossians 3:1-4,12-17)
  • Christ is described as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation … the head of the body, the church.” (Colossians 1:15,18) Through Christ “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things.” (Colossians 1:20)
  • The Christians in Colossae need to be wary of four types of distractions: (1) hollow and deceptive philosophy tied to spiritual fads, (2) excessive legalism, (3) phony mysticism, and (4) excessive asceticism. (Colossians 2)

1&2 Thessalonians

  • 1 Thessalonians is widely accepted to be written by Paul, but not 2 Thessalonians.
  • Unlike other letters to churches, Paul celebrates the church in Thessalonica and expresses appreciation for their loving relationship.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:17 has caused some controversy. Some Christians read this as a prophecy of a physical, bodily Rapture, like that described in the book series, Left Behind. Other Christians read this as an assurance that after the Second Coming, the living and the dead will be with God forever.

Want to sum up this week’s lessons in just a handful of verses? Try these:

Bible 100 Lenten Edition Summary 5

Bible 100 Lenten Edition Summary 5

This Lent we are learning the Bible, Bible 100 style. In other words, we’re developing an overview of the entire collection of 66 books. Here’s a summary of what we covered this week. If any of this sparks your curiosity, I hope you will watch the short videos I recorded through Facebook Live. Of course, you can always turn to the Bible to learn even more!

Lessons 25-30

 Lesson 25: Isaiah & Jeremiah

  • Biblical prophecy is not fortune telling or future forecasting as much as it is a call for present change.
  • The “major prophets” are the longer books. The “minor prophets” are the shorter books. For example, Isaiah has 66 chapters while Obadiah is only twenty-one verses.
  • Incidentally, there were no chapter OR verse numbers when the Bible was originally compiled. The chapter delineations were decided on in the 13th century CE (or AD, if you prefer). The verses were numbered for the first time in the mid-1500’s.
  • During Isaiah’s time, Assyria attacked the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Isaiah often refers to the Northern Kingdom of Israel as Ephraim, the strongest tribe of the 10 tribes. Ephraim was one of Jacob’s grandsons, a son of Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph in Genesis 48. Ephraim is where Bethel is located, one of the places where King Jeroboam set up a Golden Calf. (Lesson #18).
  • Isaiah’s prophecy has to come true in his own historical framework because Moses said that the words of a prophet must be tested. (Deuteronomy 18)
  • Isaiah prophesied that a “young woman” would bear a son named Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) This prophecy was fulfilled in Isaiah’s time, but in the Gospel of Matthew it is understood to have foreshadowed an even later prophecy, the birth of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:20-23)
  • Scholars tell us that Isaiah is probably a composite, written over several hundred years, probably in 3 or 4 stages, but we are meant to read it together.
  • Isaiah is where we see monotheism established. In the books before Isaiah there is an understanding that our God is the supreme God. In Isaiah we begin to understand that our God is the only God.
  • In Isaiah 49:6 and 49:22, God says the Jews are instrumental in bringing salvation (restoration of the relationship between God and humanity) to the world.
  • Jeremiah lived in the North, after the time of the Assyrians. Jeremiah lived during the reign of King Josiah who was only a child when he became king, but nonetheless instituted a lot of religious reforms. We read about King Josiah’s 30+ year reign in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 33-35.
  • Jeremiah lived during the fall and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. (See e.g., Jeremiah 32:28)
  • Jeremiah is 52 chapters long, which qualifies it as a book of “Major Prophecy.” The next book is Lamentations. It’s only 5 chapters, but it is included with the Major Prophets because Jeremiah wrote it.
  • Lamentations is a collection of 5 poems that lament the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

 Lesson 26: Ezekiel & Daniel

  • Ezekiel lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. He was taken as one of the Babylonian captives during 597BCE(the first group the Babylonians deported). He was removed from Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple in 586BCE. The book with his name recounts his prophecies from 593 to 573.
  • Ezekiel doesn’t just hear God, he receives visions from God. (Ezekiel 1:1)
  • Ezekiel doesn’t deliver his prophecies only with words, but he also draws pictures and acts things out. (Ezekiel 4:1-6,15)
  • Ezekiel 37 is where we get the valley of dry bones. In a supernatural, paranormal experience, God transports Ezekiel into “the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. He does, and God restores them to life. God tells Ezekiel that Israel is like the dry bones.
  • By the end, Ezekiel has a vision that Israel is restored. He spends about 8 chapters laying out a plan for a rebuilt/restored Temple. The book of Ezekiel ends saying the “name of the city [the restored Jerusalem] shall be The Lord is There.” (Ezekiel 48:35)
  • Daniel, like Ezekiel, was taken in that first wave of captives. Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams for him, winning favor.
  • Fiery Furnace: Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were also taken as captives from Israel when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered the former Assyrian territories. You may know them by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 1:7) Nebuchadnezzar creates a huge statue of himself and tells everyone to worship at it. Daniel’s friends, faithful to the one true God, refuse. Nebuchadnezzar has them thrown into a fiery furnace, but they are joined by an angel and not harmed. Nebuchadnezzar praises God. (Daniel 3-4)
  • Lions Den: In chapter 6, Daniel is thrown into a den of lions for violating a law prohibiting prayer to anyone except King Darius. The king doesn’t want to punish Daniel, but politically he has no choice. He says to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:16) The next morning, Daniel is unharmed. Daniel says, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless.” (Daniel 6:22) The king ordered that Daniel’s accusers be thrown into the den of lions. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.” (Daniel 6:23-24)
  • Handwriting on the Wall: Between the Fiery Furnace and the Lions’ Den we have a story about “reading the handwriting on the wall.” King Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, used “the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem” as dishes at a party. (Daniel 5:3) “Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand.” The king “turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.” (Daniel 5:5-6) Daniel was called in to interpret the writing on the wall. It says “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.” (Daniel 5:26)
  • King Darius takes over and he’s the one who is forced to throw Daniel into the Lions’ den.
  • Daniel ends with five chapters of apocalyptic visions. In chapter 12, the last chapter, Daniel offers us the Bible’s first clear reference to a resurrection, final judgment, and afterlife. Daniel ends with an angel of the Lord telling Daniel, “you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12:13)