We’re about to begin the shortest of the four gospels: Mark.

Mark was a master storyteller. His book has been compared to the ancient dramas that were performed on theater stages across the ancient Roman world.

Today, we’ll read pages 319-334 from Mark.

Another thing about Mark: he liked things that came in threes. For example, his account includes:

  • Three parables involving seeds (p. 325-327)
  • Three popular opinions about John the Baptist (p. 329)
  • Three opinions about Jesus in circulation at the time (p. 334)

Most significant of all, Mark’s wrote his gospel as a two-part drama, with each part divided into three acts.

Today, we’ll experience part one of Mark’s fast-paced drama.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 319 – 334 from Mark

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” –

“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”

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Day 28 // Pure wisdom

March 13, 2013

Today’s reading is unlike any other in the New Testament.

Today, we’ll read pages 311-318 from James.

James starts out like most New Testament letters. But this short book actually has more in common with Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, the wisdom books of the Old Testament.

James consists of short, pithy sayings that address a variety of topics – most of them very practical in nature, and most of which fall under the general category of “how we should live each day in God’s creation.”

TODAY’S READING
Pages 311 – 318 from James

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all with out finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

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In the Old Testament, priests served as a bridge between God and his people. Day after day, they offered sacrifices for the people’s sins — and for their own.

In today’s reading, we learn that Jesus took the role of high priest to a whole new level. He is a priest who can empathize with our weakness, yet he overcame sin where everyone else (priests included) failed. His one-time sacrifice accomplished more than all the old sacrifices put together. Plus, he’s more than just a priest; he’s a king as well.

Today we’ll read pages 297-309 from Hebrews.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 297 – 309 from Hebrews

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness es, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

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Imagine you’re a Jewish Christian living in first-century Rome.

Judaism is legally recognized (or at least tolerated). Your newfound faith in Jesus, however, has no legal standing with Rome.

Now… let’s say you’re told to fill out some government paperwork identifying your religious affiliation. Do you check the box marked “Judaism”? Or do you check the one marked “Other” and write “Christianity” in the space provided?

If you choose the first option, Rome will pretty much leave you alone, as long as you don’t cause any trouble. Choose the second, and you might as well paint a big target symbol on your back.

So you can imagine why some Jewish believers were tempted to hide their Christian identity. Which is partly what inspired today’s reading.

Today, we’ll read pages 291-297 from Hebrews.

We’ve slowed the pace down a bit today, because there are some pretty meaty ideas in this book. Take time to savor the richness of Hebrews.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 291 – 297 from Hebrews

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

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Near the beginning of Matthew, an angel revealed that one of Jesus’ names would be Immanuel. God with us.

And for 33 some-odd years, God was with us. Walking among us. Flesh and blood.

Then he got himself killed. But “God with us” could not be undone by death.

Today, we’ll read pages 283-290 from Matthew.

After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned his followers to spread the good news all over. With that, the book of Matthew closes — much as it began, with a promise that Jesus is still (and always will be) Immanuel.

God with us, even to the end of the age.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 283 – 290 from Matthew

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

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Today, we’ll read pages 270-283 from Matthew.

Notice how the opposition to Jesus ramps up in today’s reading.

And notice how, in response, Jesus doesn’t exactly take his cues from How to Win Friends and Influence People. See, for example, page 278. (Of Matthew, that is.)

Against the backdrop of this rapidly escalating situation, Jesus predicts his followers will be persecuted and scattered. But it’s not all bad news. God has a knack for bringing good out of bad situations. As the disciples scatter, he’ll use them to spread the good news of salvation all over the world.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 270 – 283 from Matthew

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will be come one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

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Yesterday we read sections 2 and 3 of Matthew’s gospel. Now it’s on to section 4.

Today, we’ll read pages 262-270 from Matthew.

This section is about how Jesus is forming a new family to populate his kingdom. The “kingdom of heaven,” as Matthew calls it, consists of some unlikely members — the kind of people many devout Jews of Jesus’ day wrote off as ineligible for God’s love.

Just notice the cast of characters to whom Jesus reaches out in this section: the hungry; foreigners; the lame, blind, crippled, and mute; and so on.

May we all share the good news of God’s kingdom with those whom others have written off as “ineligible.”

TODAY’S READING
Pages 262 – 270 from Matthew

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not with out honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

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Yesterday, we kicked off the second half of our 40 Day Bible Challenge with the gospel of Matthew.

Matthew tells the good news about Jesus from a distinctly Jewish perspective, drawing all kinds of parallels between Jesus and the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. the Old Testament). Case in point:

  • Matthew presents Jesus as a newer and better Israel. Both wandered in the desert and faced temptation. The only difference is, Jesus succeeded where Israel failed.
  • Jesus is also like a newer and better Moses. Both came to liberate people from bondage. (And for what it’s worth, both survived attempts on their lives as infants.)
  • Most of all, Jesus is like a newer and better Torah.

The Torah, also known as the Law of Moses or the Pentateuch, was everything to ancient Israel. Matthew’s gospel is organized into five major sections, imitating the composition of the Torah (which consists of five books). Each section of Matthew includes a serious dose of teaching from Jesus, in which he’s almost always interacting with (you guessed it) the Torah.

No wonder some scholars have said Jesus is the personification of the Torah. And no wonder Jesus himself said that he came not to abolish the Torah but to fulfill it. (See page 247.)

Today, we’ll read pages 251-262 from Matthew.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 251 – 262 from Matthew

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

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You’re more than halfway through the New Testament! Which means it’s time to take another look at the life of Jesus.

Today, we’ll read pages 239-251 from Matthew.

You may find that you hit a wall sometime this week. If you do, that’s OK. It’s normal. You’ve been reading for more than four weeks now. You’ve made lots of progress, but there’s still a ways to go.

Don’t get discouraged. If you do hit a wall, try changing your routine. If you’ve been reading in the mornings, give the evenings a shot. Go to your favorite coffee shop or try listening to the audio version. (You can use the link below if you want to listen online.)

Whatever you do, keep at it. You’ve come so far already, and in just a few more weeks you’ll have completed the entire New Testament.

And don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

TODAY’S READING
Pages 239 – 251 from Matthew

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ramthe fa ther of Amminadab,
Ammin a dab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.

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Of Paul’s 13 letters included in the Bible, four were addressed to individuals.  One of these, 1 Timothy, was part of yesterday’s reading.  Now it’s time to read two more.

Today, we’ll read pages 227-238 from the letters known as Titus and 2 Timothy.

These letters reveal that Paul not only started churches; he mentored individuals for ministry.

As we approach the halfway point of our journey, here’s a tip for your group discussions: take a few moments to share how this reading experience is impacting each of you.  Record some of responses on your phone and post the video to our Facebook page.

TODAY’S READING
Pages 227 – 238 from Titus & 2 Timothy

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness — in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command
of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

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