• Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Scripture

    Are the Red Letters Special in the Bible?

    When it comes to the red letters of the Bible, as Christians we often revere and cherish those portions of the text more highly than others. After all, the red letters are the words of Jesus! Why shouldn’t we value what Jesus says higher than other parts of the Bible? It is certainly popular to value what Jesus says over and above other parts of Scripture. In fact, there is a whole group called, Red Letter Christians, who exist “to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount” (quote from their stated purpose). Perhaps you are not a card-carrying member of the Red Letter Christians. But, I imagine you gravitate to the person of Jesus. I bet that you value him above anyone else who is mentioned in the…

  • New Testament

    Jesus Barabbas or Jesus the Messiah?

    One detail of the Easter story that is sometimes missing is the contrast and comparison of the two men named Jesus. Yes, you read that right! At the end of Jesus’s trial, Pilate selects two men named Jesus as candidates for selection by the Jewish crowd. Jesus the Messiah and Jesus Barabbas are put forward side by side. The dilemma is obvious. To which Jesus will the nation of Israel affirm their loyalty? Jesus Barabbas in Matthew 27:16-17 Many people are not familiar with the idea that Barabbas is most likely a surname, while his given name was Jesus. A brief survey of the English translations shows why many people have not heard of Barabbas as Jesus Barabbas. ESV “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” NASB “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Why Does Jesus say, “I am the Good Shepherd”?

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Most Christians are familiar with the picture of Jesus as the good shepherd. Typically, the meaning of the good shepherd comparison focuses on Jesus’ care for Christians. I have heard multiple sermons on what it means for Jesus to be the shepherd. In particular, I remember a sermon where the question was asked, “What is a shepherd?” The proposed points in the sermon went something like: A Shepherd Leads the Sheep A Shepherd Feeds the Sheep A Shepherd Loves the Sheep A Shepherd Sacrifices for the Sheep Now I do not dispute that these points are indeed true of a shepherd. Further, I do think there can be an analogy between these points and the love and care of Christ. However, I think we are missing something if we don’t examine this reference…

  • New Testament,  Theology

    What Makes Jesus Happy?

    Happiness is often thought of as the chief goal in life. Thus, many people assume that, as a perfect human, Jesus must have been a very happy individual. However, I don’t see Jesus being happy very often in Scripture. In fact, I can only identify two times in the gospels where Jesus is described as happy. One of those times is in John 11:15 where Jesus is happy that he was not there to save Lazarus, so that the disciples would see God’s power displayed through Jesus. The other time Jesus is happy is described in Luke 10:21, At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” If we…

  • Christian Living

    The High Cost of Following Jesus

    Many people buy into the lie that Jesus wants you to believe in Him so that He can fix your life. Many people think following Jesus is the key to a prosperous life. I have heard preachers say that if someone wants to be a better athlete, a better doctor, a better musician, then come to Jesus! The truth is, Jesus never promised that following him would make your life better. In fact, He constantly warned that following Him may make your life worse! Take Luke 14:25-33 for example. Jesus tells any who are interested in following Him that they must be willing to sacrifice three things. In following Christ, you must be willing to sacrifice life’s closest relationships. If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My…

  • New Testament

    The Illegal Trial of Jesus

    One of the things that has always fascinated me is the rule of law and how trials operate to either convict or acquit the accused. Jewish law in particular had specific guidelines for how trials should be conducted. Violation of these guidelines was to be viewed as an illegal practice and a miscarriage of justice. But that didn’t stop the Jewish leadership from conducting an illegal trial against the Son of God. The illegal trial of Jesus, as reported by the Gospels is evidenced in many ways. Since I’ve been reading through Will Varner’s Passionate about the Passion Week (see the podcast interview here), I thought I would post a few of his observations about the illegal nature of Jesus’ trial. Although Varner notes there were many illegal aspects of the trial of Jesus, here are a few of the more prominent illegalities. The trial of Jesus was illegal because…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Scripture

    Does Your Theology Start with Jesus? I Hope Not.

    Jesus is to be recognized as sovereign Lord in the church. But, is it justified to start with Jesus when it comes to forming theology? Many Christians affirm just that. For example, I was once listening to a podcast and the subject was raised about how we formulate our theology. One speaker said something like, “We must get our theology from the life and person of Jesus who is God incarnate. If your theology does not match with who he is, then go back to him and start over.” In the above podcast, one of the reasons this particular individual wanted to start with Jesus was to deny the validity of other parts of Scripture that seem to be quite clear. For example, this individual rejected places in the OT where God commands Israel to eliminate other nations, including children (e.g., 1 Sam 15). His reasoning was, “I cannot imagine…