30 January 2015

I would have been a Pharisee

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 'Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'-Mark 2:6-7. 

Jesus had come home to Capernaum. The word spread that he was there and many people came to hear him teach. The house was packed. A paralytic was carried to the house, but they couldn't get through the bustling crowd. In their desperation to get close to him, they tore off the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down to Jesus. That's dedication. 

Jesus said, "I can't believe you guys tore my roof off!  You are going to have to pay for that!" Wait...no...that is probably what I would have said. 
Jesus, in his compassion, said "son, your sins are forgiven." Hearing him say that, all of the scribes and the Pharisees began to question Jesus in their hearts, thinking of him as a blasphemer. Notice that they did not actually call him a blasphemer, they were just thinking it. Knowing their hearts, Jesus called them out and then healed the man.  It doesn't say they grumbled, it says that "they were all amazed and glorified God." 

Through the rest of Mark 2, the scribes and the Pharisees keep showing up. They were curious about why he was eating with tax collectors and sinners. They wondered aloud why he and his disciples were not fasting. They questioned him for eating grain on a Sabbath. 

I think in the past, whenever I have read this passage, I have read venom into the Pharisees questions. Right now, I do not see it there. These were men who loved the law and were zealous about following it. Along came this new teacher, Jesus, who was stirring a lot of people up. Even these Pharisees were coming to listen, but they were questioning him in their hearts. They wanted to know why Jesus seemed to be breaking the laws that they held dear. 

As I meditated on Mark 2 this morning, I realized (once again) that I very well could have been a Pharisee. There are even times now when I am a Pharisee.  I try to be zealous for biblical truth. When I observe people "not following the Bible", I can easily become critical. Very often, I will question in my heart; sometimes, I will speak aloud. 

Today, despite the reputation that the IRS has, it may not have been tax collectors that Jesus ate with, but drug addicts, prostitutes, or child traffickers. We may not have criticized him for not fasting, but for not having a daily quiet time. We may not have questioned his eating grain on the sabbath, but what about skipping church to spend time with friends?  

I think that most Christians have an inner Pharisee, one who spends too much mental energy making sure that other believers are following the rules. We point out smudges on the outside of their cups without dealing with the poison filling our own. We fail to offer grace and compassion for fear of the truth being discarded and sin being overlooked. We feel compelled to make sure they know all of the rules and darn well better be following them. 

Today, rather than keeping a close tally of the sins of others, introduce them to the only One whose tally was every completely clean.

03 January 2015

Book Review: God's Story in 66 Verses

God's Story in 66 Verses (2015) by Stan Guthrie is a useful little book. When I first read the subtitle, "understanding the entire Bible by focusing on just one verse in each book", it seemed like an ambitious, or perhaps misguided goal. How could someone take a book as expansive as Genesis and boil it down to a single verse? Thankfully, at the outset Guthrie acknowledges this potential hiccup.  Rather, he identifies a verse that seems to capture the main theme and then expands on the general themes from there. 

In essence, 66 Verses is a great Bible primer. Each book of the Bible is given a 3-4 page overview. Beyond that, there is little supplementary material (apart from a 3 page introduction), which is not unwelcome. The way that Guthrie presents each book allows one to follow the biblical narrative of God pursuing sinners through all 66 books.

I can envision this as a great introduction to the Bible for those who may be unfamiliar. However, I think it has utility beyond beginners. The book also has relevance to those who have too long focused on scriptural trees while missing the divine forest.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers and Book Look Bloggers book review in exchange for my review. I was not required to submit a positive review; the impressions here are my own.