Posts Tagged ‘Canonical Gospels’


There are many bridges that are built within the Gospel (political life proclamation) of Jesus of Nazareth. The core is to hold to the truth of non-violence, compassion, and the gifts that the season of advent remind us of: faith, joy, hope, peace and the greatest being, love. Without the written gospels to rely upon, leaders of the early gatherings wrote epistles, and taught the stories orally. This is the world of transition that James, younger brother of Jesus wrote in. Add to that, that the lovers of money- the religious oppressors- that would be written about in the canonical gospels later, were the ones now in control of Jerusalem. But let’s be honest, an occupying Empire held at bay is like a rabid animal cornered and there is no way that Rome was going to sit idle for this cheap shot…and John Mark would record the raising of Jerusalem in his gospel, Mark (circa 70 CE).

This is where James’ channels his best elder brother, as the fifth chapter opens.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

-Epistle of James 5:1-6 (English Standard Version)

This is not an attack on being wealthy. Or of having more than another. It is a direct salvo against those that make love of money, legacy, esteem, and power as the only ends that matters and no matter what is necessary they will do. Whether it does harm, leads to death or wrecks destruction upon a community or a person. For what matters is themselves and only themselves. The wealthy that has completely supplanted the Great Commandments. The connection of the Holy Breath at creation, and the love that infused us to love ourselves as the image bearers and love our neighbours as ourselves.

It is the warning that there is still a false Empire in control. It is not what is supposed to happen. It is inhumane, but with religious veneer. Like a new paint job to cover black mold within the rental property. It is still there, it has not been treated. The infestation of darkness still grows as no one has treated it.

These are the words that James’ stands upon. For it is not empty words that have built to this bridge. It started with pointing out that believing in anything is not a matter of indoctrination, ideologies, creeds or membership fees. Rather it is seen by how one acts. The means is how the outcome will be judged in the present and the future. If you sell your soul to accomplish the goal, then the goal itself is corrupt.

A hard concept to understand in the 21st century of cut throat win at all means because I have to be right, so that means all other opinions are wrong. It shuts down discussion, debate and dialogue. It changes the game of life from one of opportunity and growth and community into one of harm, battle and independence.

It misses the mark.

In that is the sin that James’ writes and teaches against.

We are in this together. How we get to tomorrow matters. We need to be present today to ensure how we awake tomorrow is in a fashion that we can still look at ourselves in the mirror.

What path are you choosing?


By Benny Leung

The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and I trust many of us are familiar with the Easter narratives.  The resurrection, as many of us know it, is a happy ending to the grander gospel story – the crucified Lord is risen, He appears to his followers, commissions the disciples to a world-wide mission and ascends to heaven.  Indeed, this is exactly Luke’s narrative on the resurrection story.  The reality, however, is that the resurrection stories are quite diverse across the four gospels.  For example, Matthew reports the resurrection, reappearance as well as the great commission but makes no mention of the ascension of Jesus.  John’s narrative is shorter still as he only narrates the resurrection and reappearance.  In today’s message, I will focus on Mark’s account of the resurrection story.  As usual, I will begin with an analysis of the passage and then proceed on to the hermeneutics.

It is consensus among modern biblical scholarship that the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8.  After all, the most reliable early manuscripts all conclude with 16:8 and do not contain verses 9 through 20.  Unlike John, Matthew and Luke, the ending of Mark is perplexing and suspenseful.  For example, the women were told to deliver the news of resurrection to the disciples but fled the tomb instead, because they were afraid.  There is no joy, no reappearance, no great commission, no ascension.  Perhaps this is why the later scribes, out of good intention, added verses 9-20 to ‘complete’ the story as the early church tradition knows it.  Today I will not argue whether these additional verses should be part of New Testament scripture.  Rather, I want to focus on the perplexing and suspenseful ending that is dictated in 16:1-8.

The three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, have witnessed the crucifixion.  In particular, according to 15:47, the two Marys also witnessed the burial of Jesus.  According to verse 1, the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body likely because the burial took place in a hurry and there was not enough time to prepare the body properly.  From the perspective of the readers of Mark, another woman had anointed Jesus in Bethany not too long ago (14:3-9).  The actions of the three women in chapter 16 resonate with the narrative in chapter 14; together, the two accounts frame a story of victory.  Particularly the former account foreshadows the death of Jesus, while the latter account is a denunciation of the power of death over Jesus.  That is, the anointing of the body did not take place because Jesus has risen.

The three women expected to see the body of Jesus as they had the intention of anointing the body.  The question “who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” is a legitimate question.  After all, Mark wrote that the stone “was very large” and it would have been beyond the ability of the women to move the stone.  What follows is a surprise to the women.  Not only was the stone rolled away, but they saw a young man dressed in a white robe.  Present day readers, given the knowledge of the other Gospels, would be inclined to conclude the young man as a heavenly being.  However, the fact that the women were “alarmed” would also allude to a similar notion.  The Greek word for “alarmed” is also means “terrified/fearful/astonished”, which is a typical human reaction in supernatural encounters.  The idea that the young man is a heavenly being has significant implications – a message has been delivered from heaven and now humans must proclaim this message.

What follows is the resurrection announcement (16:6 NIV):

 

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.

 

Jesus the Nazarene and the crucified one are inseparable.  Jesus the Nazarene is the dear Rabbi who the women had travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Jesus the crucified one is the one whom the women witnessed suffering on the cross.  It is this Jesus who is not found in the tomb because He has risen.

 

The Greek word for “risen” in this verse is a third person passive verb.  In fact, a better translation of verse 6 is found in the NRSV where it is translated as “He has been raised”.  The implication of the third person passive verb would suggest that the resurrection itself is not caused by Jesus himself but God.  The fact that God raised Jesus resonates with the cry of “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (15:34) – God had never forsaken Jesus!  Rather, the resurrection is a judgement on those who mocked Jesus before the cross.  More importantly, God made Jesus a victor over the enemy – the power of sin.

 

After delivering the resurrection message, the young man instructs the women to “tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  The empty tomb and the testimony of the women do not serve as sufficient evidence for the resurrection, particularly in a culture where women are deemed lower in class and less credible.  Instead, the key to proving the resurrection is the encounter between the disciples and the resurrected Lord.

 

Furthermore, this set of instructions also alludes to the rehabilitation of the disciples.  The singling out of Peter is likely designed to resonate with the Peter’s denial of the Lord instead of a suggestion that Peter would be a leader in the church.  This mention of Peter, in reference of his denial, ties closely with 14:26-31 where Jesus predicts the scattering of his flock, his resurrection, and the mention that he will go before them to Galilee.  Mark does not describe the disciples seeing Jesus, instead he recounts a promise that this will happen.

 

Finally, Mark concludes his gospel narrative with verse 8 – “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid”.  This ending is perplexing because it is not an ending that we would expect.  The women had intended to anoint a dead body but was greeted by a message of resurrection instead.  Shouldn’t they be filled with joy because Jesus has been risen?  Rather they fled in fear and kept silent of the good news.  At the same time, the ending is suspenseful because, unlike the other Gospel writers, Mark does not venture into Jesus’ reappearance, the great commission, or the ascension, leaving the narrative without closure.

 

While some would challenge Mark as a poor narrator, I would argue that Mark purposely concluded the gospel narrative with an open end.  Bible scholars dated Mark to be written sometime between A.D. 55 and 70.  By this time, the early church has established somewhat of a foothold and the community of faith would have heard the testimonies of the disciples concerning the resurrection.  In other words, the resurrection would have been deemed as fact and not folklore that required objective evidence.  If that is the case, the message of Mark has no incentive to prove that the resurrection is true.  Instead, Mark wishes to challenge the community with this: you have now heard the gospel, what are you going to do with it?

 

I have stated many times that Mark portraits the disciples not as examples but failures and counter-examples.  Yet, the Lord, through the young man in the white robe, assures the invitation to them.  “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” serves as a vivid reminder that the Lord is faithful to such a point where He keeps the covenant even to those who have failed in the most epic way.  Peter said, to the Lord “Even if all fall away, I will not.”  Yet, according to Luke 22:60-62:

 

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!”  Just as he was speaking the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

 

It is not tough to imagine what Peter had felt after seeing the soul piercing eyes of Jesus.  The man who vowed loyalty to the Lord ended up betraying the Lord.  Peter is now broken but the Lord, through the invitation to Galilee, seeks to reconcile with Peter.

 

As distant as the resurrection story is to the present-day Christian, the application of the story’s principles is timeless.  “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” is as applicable to us as it did to the disciples.  A common blind spot amongst Christian men and women is the notion that we think we are invincible to temptation.  I, for example, have fallen victim to this blind spot.

 

I graduated from university in 2005 and so I am an old dog now.  Shortly after graduating I was involved with a woman whom I had a physical relationship with.  As a person who had been attending church since a teenager, I have promised the Lord to not do such things, but I have failed to keep my promise.  The relationship lasted a few years and we eventually parted ways.  The bible is right that man and woman become one as they join in an intimate way.  I knew I had hurt her, I knew I had hurt myself and I knew I had failed the Lord.

 

Like Peter, I was in so much shame that I felt unworthy to attend church.  However, the holy spirit convicted me to confess to a few brothers and sisters whom I had trusted.  One of the brothers made extra effort to walk along side with me in through the journey.  He made me promise to read one chapter of the Gospel a day.   Beginning with the Gospel of Mathew, it did not take long for me to get to Mark 16:17.  “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  The Lord had gone ahead not only to meet Peter but to meet me also.

 

If the physical Galilee is the place where the disciples were called to witness a renewal in discipleship, then Mark 16:7 is the Galilee where I heard Jesus’ call again – a call for repentance, a call for renewal, a call for obedience, a call to follow him once more.  The Lord has come to reconcile with me.  It was like seeing Jesus in a different way; I was able to see him more clearly than before.  But make no mistake, life was not rosy after this.  In fact, some had used this information as a weapon against me, but such is the consequence of my misdeeds and I have no one else to blame but my foolishness.  Yet, the Lord has used my testimony as an encouragement to others who are in a similar predicament, and at the very least, I am no longer living in the bondage of my misdeeds.  Perhaps Mark is right after all, life is not necessarily easy when God decides to turn it upside down.

 

Let me wrap up today’s message with a quote Tim Geddert’s commentary: “Mark ends his Gospel, not by telling the reader what happens in Galilee, but by telling them what must happen in Galilee.  It is not about literal journeys back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem, but a life of following Jesus.”  The resurrection story is not only about how God defeats the power of sin but also about how holy God has come to reconcile with man.  The invitation to Galilee is open to me as it is to you.  Most of us here have heard and accepted the Gospel but now what?  Now we must go to Galilee, where we will meet Jesus and respond to His call once more!


Remorse. Making the best decision one can in the instant whether it was the best of the worst or best of the best. A comic writer once said, the Joker and Lex Luthor are such great villains not because they are villains, but in their own story they are the heroes.

Tonight, was the second last book discussion group on Levi’s Aquarian Gospel. It is a great reinterpretation of the story of Brother Jesus, as many who have worked through previous reflections/spiritual practices that it has brought up. Tonight, it was noted how possible Gnostic texts and/or deutero-canonical Hebrew Bible texts may have fleshed out some teachings and scenes.

Yet we come down to a character that is either completely played as an ubiquitous devil of the disciples, the kind of lecherous thief: Judas Iscariot. Pre-destination belief may lay out that he was meant to betray Jesus known as the Christ for the full glory to unfold. Others could argue free will making a choice based on a bad moral base and this jealousy/feeling of emasculation that led to betrayal?

Or was it the story of a man who was trying to make the messiah-teacher he followed, fit the messiah he was raised to be to over throw the oppressors that treated the peasants as at best play things, as at worst possessions of disbarment.

This was a passage that made us go Hmmm:

Aquarian Gospel:

Chapter 169

Judas is filled with remorse. Hurries to the temple and throws the thirty pieces of silver at the feet of the priests who take it and buy a potter’s field. Judas hangs himself. His body is buried in the potter’s field.

1. Now, Judas who betrayed his Lord, was with the mob; but all the time he thought that Jesus would assert his power and demonstrate the strength of God that he possessed, and strike to earth the fiendish multitudes and free himself;
2. But when he saw his master on the ground and bleeding from a score of wounds, he said,
3. O God, what have I done? I have betrayed the son of God; the curse of God will rest upon my soul.
4. And then he turned and ran with haste until he reached the temple door; he found the priests, who gave to him the thirty silver pieces to betray the Lord, and said,
5. Take back your bribe; it is the cost price of my soul; I have betrayed the son of God.
6. The priests replied, That matters not to us.
7. Then Judas threw the silver on the floor, and, bowed with grief, he went away, and on a ledge beyond the city’s walls he hanged himself and died.
8. In time the fastenings gave way, his body fell into the Hinnon vale and after many days they found it there a shapeless mass.
9. The rulers could not put the price of blood into the treasury, and so they took the thirty silver pieces with which they bought a potter’s field,
10. Where they might bury those who had no rights to lie within their sacred grounds.
11. And there they put the body of the man who sold his Lord.

In the journey of understanding our own depths, take time to pause, and reflect on this passage of Judas, and these from the Canonical Gospels (those within the Christian Testament as set by Constantine, and affirmed again by the Principalities at Reformation): Matthew 26:14-16; 27:1-10; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13.

The Spiritual Practice:

Begin to understand yourself. Write the story of Judas Iscariot from a first-person narrative. Complete free-fall (this was a style of W.O. Mitchell, it means keep the pen moving on paper, do not let it stop for at least 15 minutes).

Reflect on the story of Judas that emerged through your own reflective heart.

Who is Judas in your gospel?

What new resonates in understanding the journey with Brother Jesus?

 


Each of the Canonical Gospels, and many of the Pseudopigrapha, contain the kick off to Holy Week as the “Triumphal Entry”, on the liturgical calendar it is Palm Sunday (yes with the advent of Passion Sunday we are loosing an important piece of our spiritual lives).  So what is this celebration of Palms?

It is the recognizing of the poor/disenfranchised celebrating the coming of the Christ to Jerusalem at the holiest time of year. The time of year when the Empire was the most concerned about an uprising (70 active rebellion “Messiahs” in one place with rebels would make one a bit jumpy).  So on the other side of the town, the religious and political leaders, merchants and upper classes were celebrating another entry–the legions of Caesar coming into the city ready to put down any trouble by razing the city, and ensuring those in power would maintain power, inspite of their professed belief in God.

So what is there to rethink, fairly straight forward? Yes and no. For we can internalize this story, like in Eastern philosophy there is yin-yang; or Karmaic Balance, so to do we see the mystery balance within this story of Jesus‘ life. A teaching of the interior thought as we draw close to the Holy Mystery (Jerusalem at Passover). There are two entries (entities) within us: Worldly Oppressor (Caesor/Pilate/Herrod/Sanhedrin) or Spiritual Freedom (Jesus and the Palms).  This is our true eternal choice, which entry are we going to welcome into our Jerusalem within and allow to guide us? The ravaging destruction of the Holy through the Merchant’s entry or the thriving growth of transformed life and community (salvation) through the Palms?