Of Pharisees and Pointing Fingers

A Pharisee and a tax collector walk into the temple…

It feels like the beginning of a groan-worthy joke, but it’s not! It’s a scathing parable Jesus shared with His followers.

Jesus told about forty parables. Some are vague or cryptic. Some are difficult to sort out, while some are easily understood by what was around his listeners. And then some parables are so straightforward, so pointed, that I almost laugh. This one—about the Pharisee and tax collector—falls into that last category. Continue reading

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A Time to Be Silent, Maybe

I’m still ruminating on this verse from last week’s post: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14). And then there’s this: There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 7b).

Consider this situation…

Luke 22:47-23:12.

The temple guards seized Jesus on the Mount of Olives and took him to the high priest’s house. After the guards mocked and beat him through the night, the religious leadership in Jerusalem interrogated Him briefly then took Him to stand before Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. Continue reading

Moses Didn’t Part the Red Sea

Moses stood on an outcropping of rock beside the Red Sea.* Below him, the Israelites paced, wrung their hands, and threw glances up at him. Pharaoh’s army was closing in behind them, and there were no boats to ferry more than a million people (Exodus 12:37-38) plus all their animals across this deep body of water. As evening approached, Moses lifted his hand out toward the sea and a strong east wind blew across the waters. Within a few hours, the water was gone, and the Israelites walked across the sea bed like it was an empty Wal-mart parking lot.

All the pictures, all the movies, and all the Bible storybooks—even the way we tell the story—would have us think Moses parted the Red Sea, but it wasn’t him. Continue reading

From One Woman to the World

The Woman at the Well (part 4)

Jesus did what He wanted,
regardless of social convention.

We left Jesus and our heroine in what looked like a staring contest while she tried to absorb just Who Jesus was. Jesus must have seen the disciples approaching while they talked. Perhaps He even skipped ahead in order to finish the conversation before they got there. At any rate, the disciples found Jesus and the woman this way. They were, of course, surprised to see Jesus engaged in conversation with this woman, but even though we’re only in John 4, they already knew better than to question him about it. Jesus did what he wanted, regardless of social convention. Continue reading

The Strength of His Presence

The actions (or inaction, actually) of three Hebrew friends led to a confrontation with Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. They did not prostrate themselves in front of a huge golden image, so Nebuchadnezzar ordered that they be thrown into the furnace.

We started this story last week.

Daniel 3.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s calm response to Nebuchadnezzar infuriated him even further than before the confrontation, and his attitude toward them changed (Daniel 3:19). I think he stopped seeing them as employees who made a mistake and began seeing them as subversives, intent on undermining his authority. I can imagine an “after all I’ve done for you!” attitude. He turned to some workmen nearby and ordered them to heat the furnace as hot as it could possibly go. Continue reading

Integrity Doesn’t Yell

The statue was ninety feet high and nine feet wide. It was big, and they set it up in a wide plain. This thing was meant to be noticed, meant to be respected, meant to be worshipped. (Ninety feet is the distance between bases on an official MLB diamond. Nine feet is the length of a good-sized couch.) It wasn’t easy to make, and it wasn’t easy to erect. Think what it weighed! Continue reading