Reflections for the Week of Sunday, July 8, 2018 Seventh after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark 6.1-13. Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Nazareth and His hearers marvel at His wisdom and reputation of performing miracles, but He offended them (Lk 4.16ff.). He sent His disciples out two by to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and to heal the sick and teach them to repent.

We know from the other Gospels that Jesus was proclaiming the presence of the kingdom of God which refers to wherever God is recognized as the sovereign Lord of the Universe. To repent means to change one’s course, to turn and follow the Lord Jesus, and in Judea, in those days it specifically meant to abandon a revolutionary agenda against Israel’s Roman overlords and to conform to Jesus’ teaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). It did not take supernatural prescience to see that violent revolution against Rome would be disastrous for the rebels of Israel. Jesus was offering an alternative way of life-based on non-violence, submission to legal authority, a new law to replace the misinterpreted Mosaic Law (Torah) taught by the Jewish leaders (cf. Gal 3.23-4.7; Rm 7,8), and the acceptability of Gentiles  (Lk .24-30) which angered His audience so much that they wanted to throw Him off the cliff at Nazareth (Lk 4.29). The gospel which Jesus’ disciples were to preach was that God had been faithful to His promises to Abraham to deal with sin and death (Gen 12.1-3, 15) and that the Messiah had come to be the King of the Universe and to defeat the satan and inaugurate the return from exile based on the forgiveness of sins and a new status as the adopted children of God and a new creation in which the wall of enmity between Jews and Gentiles would be broken down (Eph 2.14f,). The ultimate goal was not a disembodied life in a Platonic heaven but a renewed heaven and earth in which the heavenly city had come to earth (Rev 21,22) in which the people of God would live in resurrected bodies forever (1 Cor 15) in the presence of the Lord. Jesus was fulfilling the promises made by YHWH to Abraham but they would not be fully inaugurated until He was crucified and resurrected and then sent the Holy Spirit. Until these things took place, the disciples could not fully understand what Jesus was teaching them, but after these things, all that Jesus meant for them to learn began to become clear. The age of the Old Covenant had been completed and the age of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood had begun. When Jesus cried out “tetelstai” (it is finished) on the cross, He meant that the New Creation had begun completing the Old Creation of Gen 1 and 2 under the reign of the Lord Jesus in which the rule of the satan had been defeated and the Holy Spirit was to be poured out on all flesh to replace the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Rm 8.2). The kingdom has not fully arrived as yet although it has spread around the world. But many people worship idols which give power to the satan and His demonic minions; power that should dwell in believing Christians which would make the kingdom more effective and real. In the meantime, believers are a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2.9,10) reflecting the King’s glory into the world as they reveal His image in the true humanity to which the gospel points and they reflect the praises of the creation back to the Creator.

Memory Verse: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people but now you are God’s people (1 Pet 2.9,10a).

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