Thursday, November 30, 2017

Another Positive Update From Stanford

20171130_165306 (768x1024)Okay! It has been a better day than we expected. First, I am feeling a little little better than yesterday. I was exhausted yesterday, but today was able to walk to the cancer center from our apartment at Stanford. Full disclosure, Joyce did push me back in the wheelchair. The rash and mouth sores are getting much better. So overall I am improving so far without complications. Joyce and I are thanking God for that.

20171130_170424 (768x1024)The really good news came at the cancer center with my blood test. We were hoping the numbers would be up and they were  better than expected. We wanted a white blood count of 5 or more and we were over 10. We wanted a platelet count over 50 and got 87. Not only does this mean my body is healing but it meant the chest catheter could come out. The pictures here record the process. For the first time since February I have no port, wires or tubes coming out of my body. It stings a little now but I am very happy.20171130_170429 (768x1024) I am thanking the LORD for his grace and mercy on me.

Again thank you for your prayers as we go through this ordeal. It's not the end yet but it's possible we are through the worst part. Let's keep praying that this will be so. We plan to be back in Shingle Springs on Saturday. I'll still be restricted until December 14th and we have a couple more appointments at Stanford before then. After that we are hoping to see many of you and talk about what has God has done for us and share some time together. God Bless.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #3 (Chapters 7-10)

MarkThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.In the next section of Mark Jesus begins to teach the disciples about who He really is and what that means for God’s Kingdom plan and what that will require from them. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 7 Jesus begins to break boundaries that others would put on Him. In chapter 6 he multiplied bread for a Jewish audience. In chapter 8 He will do the same for a Gentile audience. In the first section (1-23) Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because His disciples do not keep their washing traditions. Jesus does not answer their accusation, but questions their basis for holiness. Holiness does not come from external actions or traditions, which tend to separate us from one another and become a "who's in, who's out" criteria, but from inner attitudes of submission and love for God and for others that come out in our actions to one another. In the rest of the chapter Jesus extends healing to a Gentile woman (from Tyre the rival city to the Jews) and a deaf Gentile man. In both of these it is emphasized that a humble, faithful approach to Jesus is what brings blessing. Just like the deaf man, even the disciples were deaf to what He was saying and needed to humble themselves and receive what Jesus offered as a "little dog."

One need not protect holiness with a fence of rules. On the contrary, God’s holiness bursts all bounds. It does not suffer contamination but transforms everything it touches. As Augustine said, “Light, even though it passes through pollution, is not polluted.” Mark 7.1-23, 281

God will heal Gentiles, no matter how unclean or how far away from God they may seem. Others might dismiss someone as the wrong race, nationality, or social class, or as from the wrong religious background, but none of these things prevents one from receiving God’s merciful healing. Those who exercise humble faith will receive bread. Mark 7.24-30, 290

Mark’s narrative shows that Jesus seeks to cure his disciples’ blindness and deafness by taking them away from the madding crowd and teaching them. Modern Christians may need to have times when they retreat and allow the miracle of Jesus’ power to penetrate plugged-up ears so that we may hear God’s word afresh and speak it to others more clearly. Mark 7.31-37, 302

Chapter 8 continues Jesus' journey through Gentile territory and his teaching to them about His identity and what that will mean for them. First, he repeats the miracle of the multiplied bread, but this time for a Gentile audience. He is trying to expand the disciple's vision beyond their expectations of what Messiah will be. Sadly, neither the Pharisees nor the disciples get it. The Pharisees demand an apocalyptic "sign from heaven" that Jesus is coming in power to destroy their enemies, but Jesus rejects this with an oath because He has just shown that God's kingdom will bring blessing to the Gentiles. The disciples are like the blind man who Jesus must heal gradually and in stages. Peter gets Jesus' title right, but totally misunderstands what it means and what being part of God's kingdom is all about. Jesus, for the first time in Mark, reveals that the kingdom must go through the cross and resurrection and that His disciples must deny themselves and take up His cross of suffering to follow Him. He promises glory. but the cross and self-denial must come first. To teach anything else is to be a "satan."

Jesus says that false prophets and false christs will give signs and wonders to deceive (13:6, 22). But Jesus will offer this generation no noisy sign from heaven, only the wind whistling through an empty tomb after his crucifixion. Mark 8.1-12, 309

The kingdom of God requires individuals to exercise faith and discernment. The sign the Pharisees request removes any need to risk faith or to discern what God is doing in the present when the evidence is ambiguous...Jesus refuses to do anything to get scoffers to believe. They must discern the truth from the way he gives his life on this cross and from the reports of his resurrection. Mark 8,13-26, 315

One therefore may no longer think of power and glory in the ways that humans usually think. Many imprisoned under the powers will see nothing of what God is doing in the world and will be judged. Others will see in the darkness at noon, the splitting of the temple veil, the empty tomb, and the reunion with the risen Lord the kingdom of God coming in power. Mark 8.27-9.1, 330

Chapter 9 begins with Jesus' glorious transfiguration and ends with the disciples confusion about it and their resulting ineptness. The transfiguration, following Jesus' announcement of His death and resurrection, shows that God's glory is compatible with suffering. The curtain is pulled back and Jesus' Divine glory is seen in the vision, but it is also seen in Jesus' humility, obedience, suffering and sacrifice. This is the part the disciples refuse to accept and Jesus must respond with more teaching. The disciples fail to complete the exorcism of the boy because they think they can do it in their own power and lack "prayer," that sense of daily dependence on God and His grace. Kingdom living is not about status or personal ambition, but it is about service, trust in God, reaching out to the needy, and relinquishing personal pride and agendas. Jesus ends the chapter by exhorting the disciples that living in peace with one another, even with those who are not part of "our group," is one of the key indicators of real kingdom living. 

What the disciples see on the Mount of Transfiguration is the promise of glory in Jesus’ shimmering garments. What they need to hear when they come off the mountain and reenter the everyday realm is the requirement of suffering—the way of the cross and death. The biblical heroes vanish from sight. The splendor fades. The voice of God falls silent except as God speaks through the Son. Visions come and go, but his word remains. Mark 9.1-13, 349

Only when the disciples are caught up short do they learn that they do not possess anything. Those who belong to the faithless generation do not cast out evil; God does. The power belongs entirely to him and must be received anew each time from him through a life of prayer. The prayerful attitude of “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” is therefore necessary for the healer as well as the sufferer. Mark 9.14-29, 359

In the battle against evil, we must recognize that whatever particular group we belong to is not the only group of Christians in the world. We can then learn from others who worship the same Christ as Lord and Savior but who may use different language and emphasize different parts of the Scripture from what we do. Perhaps when we lay aside our labels, we will recognize that together we are all Christ’s servants and will then find ways to cooperate rather than to compete in serving him. Mark 9.30-50, 376

Mark 10 closes this section and summarizes what God's Messiah and Kingdom look like and what that requires from those who would follow Jesus. The reader should contrast the right response from the  unexpected person, blind Bartemaeus (who receives his sight and then gives up everything to follow Jesus) with those who would have been expected to do the right things. The religious leaders try to manipulate God and the torah and trap God's Messiah. The disciples try to restrict access to Jesus and manipulate Him for personal ambition and power. The "good" man tries to reduce Jesus' demands to something he can handle on his own without following Jesus. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation requires a ransom (the life and death of Jesus). We need to meditate on what it means to follow someone who characterizes Himself as a ransom and servant.

Others have brought the paralyzed and the blind to Jesus; now parents bring children for Jesus to touch (10:13). The disciples act like truculent bouncers...These aspiring leaders want to be the gatekeepers, who determine not only who can use Jesus’ name (9:38), but also who can have admission to his presence. He must indignantly intercede on behalf of the children and inform his disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Mark 10.1-16, 381

We do better if we confess that we are too weak to follow Jesus on his terms than if we try to find loopholes that allow us to continue in our complacency. We also do better to confront congregations with the truth that living a praiseworthy life and always coloring inside the lines do not earn one eternal life, as if salvation were some kind of payoff. Mark 10.17-31, 402

The point is clear to the reader, if not the disciples: To share his kingdom one has to share his Passion (see Rom. 8:17). No one who enthrones the old values of power without ethics and sacrifice can reign with Jesus. Mark 10.32-45, 412

This miracle takes on symbolic significance as it caps the discipleship theme in this section. Jesus has told others he has healed to go and that their faith has saved them. Bartimaeus, however, does not choose to go off his own way. With his eyes now open, he decides to follow Jesus as every disciple is called to do. Like the first disciples Jesus called, he abandons his former way of life and leaves everything. Mark 10.46-52, 421

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Stanford Hospital Update: Discharged!


20171127_212656We got very good news yesterday from my blood counts. My White Count and Platelet Count were high enough to meet the criteria for discharge from the hospital. So today about 2,30PM I got to ride in the wheel chair through the hospital, out the lobby and into the parking lot so Joyce could pick me up. The hospital wants us to stay in the area for a few days, just in case, so they got us an apartment near the hospital for a few days. We are settled in the apartment and just finished dinner. We have an appointment in the Infusion Transplant Area for blood tests Thursday afternoon. if my platelet count is above 50 I might be able to get chest line taken out. More likely it will happen late next week when we come back for another blood test. The picture above is of us celebrating discharge with the unit nurses and staff. On the right the good news is announced on my room information board. Again, we are thankful for your prayers. We know they have been a big factor in this process. Sometime ask us about some of the things that have happened to us and we will talk about it.

20171125_175745I have to say that the transplant process was quite an ordeal. I have handled the past chemo treatments pretty well, but this one was way beyond that. The 3 chemo sessions in 5 days were far more concentrated and intense than all the previous ones put together. This is why I had to stay 3 weeks in the hospital while getting them. I heard quite a list of possible side effects and I know the strategy of this treatment is to almost kill the body in order to kill all the cancer. I knew this coming and was expecting to experience some of them. The 2 main side effects I had were a bad rash (left) and mouth sores. Of course, all my hair is gone too. The mouth sores were the worst because I could not swallow and they forced me to push the pain med button more than anything else. The rash was more annoying. Both of these are common side effects. it is amazing how fast they are going away after my blood counts have come up. The rash is beginning to fade and I was able to eat a bowl of hot potato soup with bacon tonight!

20171128_092311Finally, Our discharge was complicated a bit when Joyce tripped over a construction barrier in the hospital parking lot. She was moving some of our stuff to the van last night so we 20171126_100421wouldn’t have so much to do today. They got her right into the ER and treated her. She is fine now with no broken bones. She has some soft tissue damage in her left knee and black left eye. She also broke her glasses but did bring her spare pair with her. So, last night she was a fellow patient with me in the hospital. The nurses told me that this is quite a common occurrence with caregivers.

So this process was quite an adventure for us. Now we are praying for the “cancer free” pronouncement in a few months. We should be back in Shingle Springs on Friday or Saturday. I’ll be quite restricted in diet and where I can go until December 15th. After that we’d love to talk about what God has done in our lives so far. Many blessings, like Clark and Deb who let Joyce stay with them while I was in the hospital even though they had never met us before! Thank you for praying.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saturday Update From Stanford Hospital

Today is Day 9 after transplant. It seems pretty evident that I am in the slow part of the "getting better every day" that I was told to expect. But the key word here is not "slow" but "in." The expectation is a couple days of slow improvement and then the improvement will speed up very quickly. The doctors think my counts will come up to the point where they can discharge me by Thursday. That was good news.
I was able to eat solid food for the first time since transplant today. I had cream of wheat for breakfast and French toast for lunch. I did have a hard time getting the French toast down but it still was a good break through for me. Now the big thing is to try to get my bodily functions back closer to normal. Still we were very happy with the day.
It was also nice to have Jim and Kay Sawyer visit again today. Thank you for praying for us. I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wednesday Night Fever

One thing that has been repeated several times to us here is "we have done these bone marrow transplants several times and we can pretty much tell you how each step in the process will go." So with that in mind, it was day 7 after transplant and that meant it was "fever day." Of course my fever, officially at 100.4, happened at 1AM. They were ready. They were right in my room to do a blood culture. They pulled blood out of each arm and had it done in about a half hour. So my fever is now under control.
The big issue for me is still the pain from the mouth sores. I have a very hard time swallowing because of it. This will be an up and down experience for the next few days. The nurse told me that my main job right now is to minimize my pain so I can get as much nutrition as possible.  The encouraging thing here is that the conclusion of this process is coming into sight. We could actually be home in a week or so.
Thank you for your prayers and concern. We have great doctors here but, even better, we have the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. No matter what we face, He has faced it already, and defeated it. God Bless. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #2 (Chapters 4-6)

MarkThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.The next section of Mark introduces Jesus’ Kingdom parables, miracles and teaching. The big point is that the promised king has arrived and people must “repent” by turning away from whatever they were following before and follow Jesus. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 4.1-34 discusses Jesus' kingdom parables. Jesus responds to His enemies by giving them an opportunity to ponder about Him and His kingdom so that they might repent. Those that were willing to do that could become productive members of His kingdom. The parable of the sower/soils show that the key to the right response to Jesus was in the nature of the person and their willingness to be open to His message. The kingdom of God will come, but it will come in a different way than those of the world. For example, world kingdoms expand by taking lives. God's kingdom will expand by Jesus giving His life and we participate by giving ours. Therefore, it seems weak, powerless and unimportant. But, like a seed, God's kingdom has its power to grow within it. It is inevitable that it will fill the earth. We who participate in God's way through this hidden state, will participate in the kingdom when it rules in glory.

The only way parables can be understood at the deepest level is for one to dare to become involved in their world, to be willing to risk seeing God with new eyes, and to allow that vision to transform one’s being. Mark 4.1-20, 165

We too quickly identify the kingdom of God with our own human aspirations and institutions that “reach unto heaven” and “make us a name.” We tend to be overly impressed with mass movements and high-powered organizations, and these parables that stress the ambiguity of the presence of the kingdom of God in the midst of this current evil age should caution against this mistake. Mark 4.21-31, 182

To allow these parables to speak to us in our setting, we should emphasize two themes that emerge from them: the hiddenness of God’s kingdom, and the confidence that even though the kingdom lies hidden, it is working to produce the harvest that God intends. The beginning predetermines the end. We live in the in-between time, between the beginning when the seed is sown and the end time when the final stage becomes manifest and all God’s purposes are accomplished. Mark 4.21-34, 184

Mark 4.35-5.43 records miracles that show the kingdom power that Jesus had. The text is framed by the disciples waking Jesus to save them from a supernatural storm and Jesus waking a young girl from the sleep of death. The calming of the storm is portrayed in Mark as a rescue from supernatural forces of chaos, darkness and death. Just as God at creation, Jesus controls the chaos and darkness with just a word. The theme continues with the exorcism of "legion" in 5.1-20. Jesus invades a Gentile territory of demons and swine and saves a man who was under complete control of the demonic. The calm in the man reflects the previous calm of the sea. The townspeople want Jesus gone because they feared this power, but Jesus leaves the man with his family as a witness to God's power. The double miracle of healing the woman with a bleeding condition and raising the little girl from the dead show Jesus' ability to restore people to fellowship with God and others, despite impurity and even death. Both, the synagogue leader and the woman approach Jesus on the basis of faith not status. That is what is required. And this is just a small taste of the restoration of the final kingdom.

We live in a fallen world beset by powers of chaos that are out to destroy us. Our faith is weak, and we do not know in what or in whom we can trust. Jesus’ power to calm the storm presents the solution to this human plight. Trusting that he has God’s power and cares for the community of faith is particularly reassuring in times when the powers of darkness seem to swallow it. Mark 4.35-41, 198

The solutions to such problems are not more government programs, better housing, or prison reform, though these may alleviate some pain. People who live in such lonely despair need to meet Jesus Christ and allow that encounter to transform their lives. Churches, however, have fled the places where these troubled human beings usually gather to settle in more comfortable locations. Who will bring Christ to them? And when they meet Jesus Christ and there are no jobs, decent housing, or good schools and covert discrimination still prevails, major problems remain. Evangelism must go hand in hand with social concern. Mark 5.1-20, 217

One must look beyond the moment of suffering to the eternal significance of Jesus’ power. That power is related to the kingdom of God, which is present but which is yet to be fully manifest. In the meantime we will suffer from maladies and death. Our faith is in God’s power to conquer death, not simply to restore things as they were. We can face the tragedies of everyday existence with confident faith that God is not through with us. Mark 5.21-43, 226

Mark 6 is bracketed in contrast, in the beginning, by the low evaluation of Jesus' credentials in his hometown of Nazareth and, in the end, with Jesus as an OT type epiphany of YHWH providing miraculous bread in the desert and walking to the disciples on the water. In the middle of the chapter, Jesus' sending out of the disciples to preach the kingdom and cast out demons brackets Herod's execution of John the Baptist. John's death prefigures Jesus' and that of the disciples. The kingdom will succeed but God's people will suffer first in this evil world. The reassurance is that God Himself walks with us through these trials and will bring victory in the now and in the end. 

Jesus does not demand honor and recognition. He has come to sow the word, not reap accolades. The qualms raised about Jesus’ credentials for wisdom, however, block the people in Nazareth from receiving God’s blessings through him. The text shows that doubt and suspicion can affect a whole community. It can cut off God’s power for others. In Nazareth many blind, lame, and deaf continued in their affliction because they continued in their unbelief. Mark 6.1-6, 237–238

The message of repentance is that God reigns. The messengers do not invite Israel to accept God’s reign if it suits them; they confront people with a yes or no decision, so that there can be no middle ground. If they reject the message, they will deprive themselves of the opportunity to receive healing and deliverance. If they continue in their dogged defiance, they will face the judgment of God. Mark 6.6-30, 242

The Old Testament motifs in Mark’s account of Jesus’ walking on the water recall God’s mastery over the waters of chaos as Creator and Savior. Jesus walks on the waves like God and speaks like the one true God, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Jesus wants to show his disciples a glimpse of his divinity in order to help them unravel the clues to his identity. They do not follow a great prophet or superhero but the very Son of God. Mark 6.45-56, 266

Another Brief Update From Stanford Hospital

Today is Day 6 post-transplant. This is kind of a turning point day in the whole process. While there is no guarantee that the chemo driven symptoms will let up, this is when the recovery process begins. I got my first neupogen shot today. This is the med that will help me begin the process of of rebuilding my immune system and get those white blood cell counts up again. Normally, it starts slowly and we see significant progress after about a week of shots. This is how it worked for me before. So I am happy that this corner has been turned. I am also feeling better today. I am not sure if it is because the doctors increased the pain meds or if I am really starting to improve. I still have the sore throat and am reminded of that every time I swallow. I slept sitting up last night and am trying to stay up more which helps with the mucus issues. So, I would have to say today is a much better day than yesterday. I did scratch myself accidentally while showering. It is amazing how much a minor scratch bleeds when your platelet count is so low!

So my main prayer request for today is that the process starts its work and my blood counts come up and my body moves along in the recovery process. The big prayer request is that this whole transplant process is successful and I am declared “cancer free” at the end of it. Thank you for praying.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Brief Hospital Update

20171120_114306 (768x1024)

Today I have been in Stanford Hospital for 10 days. The picture is of the view out my window, I am now plus 4 days beyond my bone marrow/stem cell transplant. This is where the real tough part of the process really kicks in. My immune system and blood numbers are pretty much decimated. I had to get a blood transfusion last night. I am pretty tired all the time. The worst pain is in my mouth and throat making it difficult to eat. They are giving me some good pain meds which makes things tolerable. They are also giving me Lasix to try and get my body to quit retaining so much water. So right now, my life is getting my vitals taken, sleeping, peeing and answering questions about how I am feeling.

23783831_10213191267204006_129161363944294287_oBut things are going well. Everything above was expected and part of the process. The doctor’s are actually greatly encouraged by my progress. They tell me to hang in there another 2-4 days and things will start getting better. I will begin the neupogen shots on transplant day +6 and then my blood counts should begin the process of moving back up toward normal. Joyce is back with me which has been my tremendous encouragement for today. I also had visits with the Sawyers and Cotes which were very encouraging. Everything is going according to plan and the doctors have been quite positive with me, although they are quite honest about the difficulty of the process.

My main prayer request is that this would work and I would come out the process “Cancer-free” six months from now. Also please pray for Joyce and I as we grit it out through the process. Knowing that people are praying is a huge factor in keeping us positive and moving forward. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #1 (Chapters 1-3)

MarkThis is my first post on my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.The beginning section of Mark introduces Jesus’ as the Son of God, Messiah and Savior. It also shows Jesus’ early actions of Jesus and responses of different people. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Mark is a fast moving Gospel which presents Jesus' actions and words. It was most likely written by Mark, an associate of Peter, and is thought by many scholars to present many of Peter's memories of Jesus. It contains the good news that Jesus has defeated the forces of evil and brought in the kingdom, but He has done this through sacrifice, obedience, suffering and death on cross. Thus, He is the Christ, the Messiah, who has saved Israel and the whole world. But, he is more than that. He is God in the flesh, the Son of God, who fulfills the promise of YHWH to come to His people and live with them.

In bridging the context to our contemporary situation, we need to recapture the scandal of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, who exposes our false hopes and selfish expectations. 23

As was the case during Jesus’ ministry, so today many will not believe or will try to mold Christ into their own images by telling him who he is and what he is to do. They want glamourous, gimmicky, short-term solutions to their own problems. Many try to domesticate the scandal, turn the cross into jewelry, and turn the Christ into a teacher of self-actualization. The Gospel of Mark is the antidote to this distortion as it presents the foundation story of the gospel about Jesus Christ, who suffers and dies on a cross. Mark, 26

One learns from this Gospel, however, that Jesus never abandons his followers, though, at times, he may seem to be absent. The disciples in a boat tossed by the waves may panic in fear and think that Jesus does not care that they are perishing, but he is with them. When he speaks, the winds cease, demons flee, and the dead rise. Mark, 30

Mark 1.1-13 is the prologue to the Gospel and lays out its major themes. It records 3 events- John the Baptist's arrival, Jesus' baptism and His temptation in the wilderness- that demonstrate who Jesus is. John comes as the "forerunner" who will announce that Jesus fulfills God's plan to make His creation right and people must repent to be ready. At the baptism, God's voice announces that Jesus is the coming king and servant who will fulfill God's plan. Finally, the temptation shows that Jesus will be tested and must suffer to accomplish the plan. The reader thus knows what the disciples will need to learn as the story unfolds in the rest of the gospel.

The point of these opening scenes is, therefore, to let the reader know from the start who Jesus is and to stress that he comes to fulfill divine promises and his divine commission. Because we who read know who Jesus is, our failure to follow and obey makes us more culpable than the characters in the story. Mark 1.1-13, 43

Jesus, however, does not stand by the Jordan and part it; instead, something far greater is parted—the dome of heaven. It may be a sign of our access to God, but Juel comments: “More accurate than referring to our access to God would be to speak of God’s access to us. God comes whether we choose or not.” The barriers are torn down and torn open, and God is now in our midst and on the loose. Mark 1.9-11, 48

The problem is that the way that Jesus prepares for us to go home is not the one we want to travel. It is arduous and paved with suffering, but it is one that we must journey to get home. If the church prepares the way for anything, it is for his return by following in the path he has laid out and in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel (13:10). Mark 1.12-13, 57.

The rest of chapter 1 introduces the coming of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus and the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. The forerunner, John the Baptist, has been removed with his job done, and the kingdom has begun. Jesus announces the kingdom with word and action. He calls disciples to Himself, heals fevers and leprosy, and casts out demons with an authoritative word. The fever, a sign of curse in the OT, is healed, restoring Peter's mother-in-law to service. Leprosy, which separated people from God and others, is healed by His compassionate touch. Demons are powerless before His authoritative word and their destructive presence is removed from their victims. Mark shows that the promised Kingdom of God has arrived in Jesus, though in an unexpected form, and all are called to give up everything and follow Jesus.

One should not assume that Jesus uses fishing as a benign reference to mission. When the fisherman hooks a fish, it has fatal consequences for the fish; life cannot go on as before. This image fits the transforming power of God’s rule that brings judgment and death to the old, yet promises a new creation (see Rom. 6:1–11). The disciples are called to be agents who will bring a compelling message to others that will change their lives beyond recognition. Jesus’ call has the same effect on them. Mark 1.16-20, 69

The advent of the kingdom of God is the beginning of the end for the thralldom of Satan, and one need not fear the molesting unclean spirits if God is acting on one’s behalf. We should be careful to stress this point. The New Testament contains a dramatic drop in the fear of demons when compared with other literature from this era. It results from the faith that God has won a decisive victory over Satan in the cross and that the more powerful one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit protects his followers. Mark 1.21-28, 81

To evaluate religious leaders today, we must judge them by the standard of Jesus. Do they share his aversion to publicity and acclaim? Do they want to receive credit for all that happens? Are they primarily interested in a power grab, in building empires for themselves, and in serving their own needs? Do they truly speak in the name of the Lord from sincere motives? Are they accessible to those in need, not just the wealthy and influential but those from the margins of society? Mark 1.29-45, 87

In the next section, Jesus shows the crowd who He is by forgiving a man's sin, and then proves it by healing his paralysis. The Son of Man can remove sin and the curse it brings. The Kingdom of God has arrived. This is followed by 4 disputes with the religious leaders about Jesus' authority and the nature of God's kingdom. Jesus ate with sinners because God's kingdom was one that reached out to everyone to heal them from their sin and its effects. Jesus defended his followers lack of fasting because His kingdom brought joy to people. There would be time for mourning, but God's kingdom would usher in a new better way of approaching God, and, ultimately, mourning would give way to joy. Finally, the Sabbath controversies, showed that Jesus was the One who had authority to interpret, or even change, the Sabbath and that it was always intended that human benefit and worship from the heart always took precedence over ritual and rules. 

If Jesus is the model for our ministry to others, we see one who announces the forgiveness of sin and the chance of reconciliation with God, which brings in its wake healing. The church needs to proclaim in its words and deeds this offer of forgiveness, which can cleanse all sin. Mark 2.1-12, 99

The call of Levi and Jesus’ feasting with sinners discloses the contrast between a religious attitude that keeps sinners and the unhallowed at arm’s length and one, the good news of God, that welcomes all comers. The query about fasting reveals the difference between religious exercises that weigh down the soul like a ball and chain and a religious experience that allows it to soar with joy. The controversies over the Sabbath reveal the clash between a religious outlook that withers mercy with pitiless rules and one that places human need above the statute book. Mark 2.13-3.6, 110

The direction of Jesus’ ministry is downward and outward and implies that the church must bring Jesus to people, not simply people to Jesus. Garland, Mark 2.13-3.6, 120

The rest of Mark 3 places Jesus in relationship with the different groups of people who responded to his ministry. The crowds followed Jesus because of what he could do for them. Most did not have an interest in serving the kingdom He was bringing in. So, he took aside those who were really interested and named them as disciples and apostles. He named 12 as the leaders of this group. Their main task was "to be with Him" and to learn from Him and reproduce His ministry. The opponents were the religious teachers of the nation who actively opposed Him and His own family who thought He was crazy and opposed him for His own good. Jesus warns both that it is very dangerous to oppose what the Holy Spirit is doing. Jesus then affirms that His followers are His real family.

Jesus affirms that life under God is not defined by relationships in a biological family, which was primarily geared for the preservation of the family line, its wealth, and its honor. One’s ultimate devotion is owed to God, who is head of a new divine family, and becoming a member of this family is open to all persons regardless of race, class, or gender. The only requirement is that they share Jesus’ commitment to God. Mark 3.7-35, 131

In spite of the failures of the Twelve, God’s purposes in calling them will not be thwarted, and God’s power can still work through them to multiply Jesus’ ministry. Disciples come with all their ignorance, weakness, and frailty and must learn to follow the pattern of their Lord for God to work through them to extend his ministry. Jesus alone is our model. Being with him means learning from his positive example. Mark 3.7-35, 138

Yesterday Was An “Interesting” Day

20171115_115918 (768x1024)A lot of things happened yesterday. As I write this I am on my Wednesday “rest day” between my last chemotherapy on Tuesday and the stem cell transplant tomorrow. The chemo would be the last in a series of three given over a period of six days in a greater concentration than I have received before. That should have been enough for one day right? It was not to be. Joyce came back to the hospital in the AM and I could tell something was wrong. She was on the phone and couldn’t explain it to me. When she got off the phone, she informed me that she felt sick and wasn’t sure what to do. When I asked her about the phone call she said…. well our house got broken into and don’t really know details except that Missy surprised them when she came home and they ran away. She’s fine but we didn’t know yet what they had taken. Not the way you want to start the day.

So we needed to get things into perspective and get a plan. The nurses told 20171115_115920 (768x1024)Joyce that she needed to go off the unit because of all the patients, including me, who would be at risk. I told her she should go home, be with Missy and Leila and get some rest. The nurses thought that would be the best thing. So she headed back to Shingle Springs, a 4 hour drive yesterday. She got some rest and will go to the doctor this morning. She thinks it is just a cold. The police came to the house. Several Gold Country Baptist leaders also came over to help for which I am thankful.. It looks like not much was taken. They took Leila’s Kindle and some of Joyce and Missy’s jewelry – nothing really expensive. We are just thankful that everyone  is OK.

My last chemo turned out better than expected – at least so far. The doctor said I should be feeling better over the next week, until my blood counts drop again. Then I will feel weak and tired until they come back up. Everyone is encouraged by how my body is coming through this. Thank you for praying. We know God is with us through all of this. Today my devotions ended with the account of Jesus walking on the water. It is so encouraging to know that Jesus is there when we are rowing hard in the boat in the storm in the dark.

By the way, I got moved to room E144B, right next door and I have a new roommate. I’ll get moved again when my blood counts drop.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm, by Michael Heiser #16

HeiserWith this post we complete the read through of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. He closes the book with a discussion of the eternal state in which heaven and earth come together as anew Eden and believers rule with Christ. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I would also recommend Supernatural by Michael S. Heiser which covers most of the same content as this book on an easier level. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

In Chapter 41, The Mount of Assembly, Heiser makes a very convincing argument that the final battle of the age will be fought in Jerusalem, not on the plains of Megiddo. He thinks the Greek word Harmegeddon in Revelation 16 should be transliterated into Hebrew as Har Ma'edon rather than Har Magedon. This would mean, "Mount of Assembly" (Psalm 48, 68) rather than Mount Megiddo. This is certainly possible lexically. This fits better with the descriptions of the final battle in Zechariah 12.9-11 and other OT prophecies which place this battle in Jerusalem. Revelation describes Christ coming with his army of supernatural beings to remove the nachash and his evil army from His creation and restore it as a new Eden.

Armageddon is about how the unbelieving nations, empowered by the antichrist, empowered by the prince of darkness— Lord (baʿal) of the dead, prince Baal (zbl baʿal), Beelzebul— will make one last, desperate effort to defeat Jesus at the place where Yahweh holds council, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. 373

The heavenly armies who return with Christ will be more than just nonhuman members of the divine council. The host will include believers who have been exalted into its membership, returned to displace the gods of the nations. Christian— do you know who you are? The day will come when the elohim will die like men—and you will judge angels (1 Cor 6:3). 375

Chapter 42, Describing the Indescribable, completes the section of the Kingdom Not Yet. It describes the eternal kingdom after creation has been restored. Believers will have resurrection bodies like Christ's post-resurrection body. We will live on an Edenic earth as God's council, judging and ruling with Him. All the curses of Genesis 3 will be removed. There will be no more chaos (sea), death, sickness, sin, shortage or war. Human and angelic wills will be aligned with God's will forever. 

The body Christ had after the resurrection was his earthly body, healed and transformed into a material form unbound by the limitations of human terrestrial existence. It was a “glorious body” (Phil 3:21), both of earth and not of earth. This resurrection transformation is the final, unimaginably literal expression of being conformed to the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). 379

The tree of life is specifically now for “the healing of the nations,” a clear reference to the reclaiming of the nations turned over to lesser gods at Babel (Deut 32: 8– 9). The effect is also described: “No longer will there be anything accursed.” The curses upon earth and humanity brought on by the fall are reversed. The other two tree-of-life references naturally link the eternal life of the believer to being present in Eden— the place where God, the source of all life, dwells. 382, Rev 22:1–3, 14, 19

Heiser closes with an Epilogue that repeats his goals for the book and lists 6 principles for biblical research. He emphasizes that we need to read the Bible as an ancient book with the meanings intended by the ancient authors. We need to let the Bible make sense in its own context, not ours. The ancient people lived with a supernatural world worldview that is an integral part of the message of the Bible. Our rationalization of it does violence to the text. If we believe in resurrection because it is in the Bible, how much more should we believe in supernatural beings and realms that affect us daily. We should try to build connections between texts (biblical theology), rather than just break it apart, and take a lesson from how the NT writers used the OT in our exegesis. We need to take the Bible as it is rather than just filter it through our traditions and doctrinal statements. We read the Bible "with the tradition" rather than "under the tradition." I may argue with some of Heiser's exegesis, but I appreciate that he has brought the "unseen realm" back into the theological conversation and that he is willing to "let the Bible be the Bible."

The realization that I needed to read the Bible like a premodern person who embraced the supernatural, unseen world has illumined its content more than anything else in my academic life. 383

Whether we like it or not, the biblical writers weren’t obsessed with literalism the way we seem to be...Biblical writers regularly employ conceptual metaphor in their writing and thinking. That’s because they were human. Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“ literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. 383

Stanford Hospital Update

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20171111_103532 (768x1024)Today, Monday the 13th, is my 4th day in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit here at the Stanford Hospital. We checked in on Friday, and right now our tentative discharge date is on the board at December 4th. I am hoping  to shorten the stay a little, but we will see what God has planned. Right now I am in a semi-private room with a new friend Steven and his wife Gloria. Steven had a different type of stem cell transplant than I am getting and has had some setbacks. I would appreciate your prayers for him as well. Joyce and I have already had some good conversations with them over a wide range of subjects that have included some deep spiritual talks, jokes and football watching and commentary together. When my blood counts dip again,  I will be transferred to a private room.

20171111_103506 (768x1024)Friday night was my first chemo session. They warned me that it could result in a headache and boy did it. It felt like the worse sinus headache I have ever had which then moved down into intense jaw pain and a sore throat. They gave me the chemo about 9pm and the jaw pain and headache started about midnight and lasted until 5am. Wow I am glad that is over! Saturday was a rest day. Joyce and I were able to three little walking excursions through the hospital – can’t go outside- which was nice. I watched some college football and Joyce went up to the Sawyer’s house in the evening. She stayed with them this past weekend.

20171111_150352 (768x1024)Sunday was the 2nd chemo session. They dripped the VP-16 into me as I watched the 49er game. I enjoyed watching the Niners get their first win of the season – finally. The main side effect with this one is nausea and I had that a some, but nowhere near as bad as the headache on Friday night, Saturday morning. I am through that now and Have a day of rest today to spend some time writing and reading.

20171111_105219 (1024x768)So far things are going well. My appetite is holding steady. I even got a hot dog and chicken nuggets for the football game. They are doing what they can to control the edema which will be a special challenge tomorrow when  I get the third chemo the Cytoxan. Thank you for your prayers and all the very positive responses to our emails and Facebook posts. We know that we are loved and prayed for and there is nothing better than that. God Bless.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm, by Michael Heiser #15

HeiserWe now begin the last section of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. This post begins the discussion of the consummation of the age, the final battle between good and evil, and the eternal state of the creation. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

Chapter 39, Final Verdict, begins Part 8, THE KINGDOM NOT YET which deals with the future final expression of the Kingdom of God. The main point of this chapter is that God will begin the final phase of His kingdom plan in consultation with His Divine Council as He has at every pivotal moment in His Divine plan. We see this in the OT at creation, Babel, Sinai and in the great prophetic visions. Revelation 4-5 presents a typical Divine Council scene as God meets with His elders to launch the final kingdom thrust. The plan to restore Eden is about to be completed.

The kingdom has a clear goal: the reclamation of the nations and restoration of Eden on a global scale. The result of accomplishing that goal will be the fulfillment of God’s original intention of having a family-council of divine and human imagers. Humanity will become divine and displace the lesser elohim over the nations under the authority of the unique divine son, the resurrected Jesus. 353

New Testament writers were attentive to the Old Testament pattern of divine council activity at momentous junctures in God’s planning. 357

Chapter 40, Foe from the North, deals with the enemy to be defeated in the final battle, Gog and Magog, the supernatural foe, the anti-Christ. Heiser makes the point that the "north," in the Israelite worldview would have been the great Mesopotamian empires that exiled Israel, the Phoenician cities and Bashan, the home of Baal. The final battle would thus be a supernatural one. He sees Pentecost as the end of exile when people from all 12 tribes are gathered to begin the reclamation of the nations through the Great Commission. The opposition to this comes from the supernatural forces that, in the ancient worldview, emanate from Bashan. One view of the antichrist is that he comes from the tribe of Dan, which was the most northern tribe located in Bashan. As Heiser says it is difficult to make specific identifications from biblical prophecy before it is fulfilled, but he is correct that the final battle will primarily be a supernatural one in which Jesus began at the cross and continues at Pentecost through His church.

This expectation (of regathering of the 12 tribes from exile) was fulfilled in the inauguration of the kingdom of God and at Pentecost. Not only was the reclamation of the disinherited nations launched at that event, but it was accomplished by means of pilgrim Jews from all the nations in which they had been left in exile, now converted to faith in Jesus, the incarnate Yahweh, and now inheritors of the Spirit and the promises of the new covenant. 364

The Gog invasion would be the response of supernatural evil against the messiah and his kingdom. This is in fact precisely how it is portrayed in Revelation 20:7–10.11. 365

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

A Turning-Point Treatment and Prayer Requests

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Thursday we will head to Stanford for the final step of the stem cell transplant process. We have been at this for almost a year now, and this will be a major turning point in my treatment process. The doctor’s have said that we have a 70-80% likelihood of being pronounced cancer free after the recovery and post-checks are done, around June 2018. If this treatment does not work, the likelihood of a cure goes way down and the treatments become much more experimental. That would be the point where some give up the fight. Nevertheless, this is a good prognosis for a cancer patient and I would urge you to please pray for the more likely positive outcome. That is certainly in God’s hands. The doctor also said that there is a possibility that the edema caused by the lymphoma could be chronic even after the cancer is gone. I am praying that will not happen and would ask you to join me in that prayer.

This situation could also be a life turning point. We have been advised that, to continue care after our insurance lapses on December 31, I (or possibly we) will need to go on Social Security disability and Medi-Cal for at least 18 months. It is likely that, even with a cure, I cannot go back to work through 2018. What this means longer term is unclear, but we will meet with the Stanford social worker and Medi-Cal people this weekend and hopefully have more answers soon. As soon as we know more about our situation we will let you know. Of course, God knows our future, has a plan for us and will direct us toward that. My prayer request is that we would hear what God is telling us to do here. It is hard to make life decisions when you are sick or under stress  so we are praying for real discernment to know the right decisions to make regarding disability, insurance and other financial issues.  I know it is silly, but I think I (not Joyce) have worried more about the financial aspect of this than whether I am going to make it through or not.

Finally, I am asking prayer for strength, recovery, and experience of God’s presence for Joyce and I as we go through the process this coming week. Thursday I will meet with the doctor and get my blood tests and a chest x-ray to make sure my body can handle the rigors of the transplant. Then Friday I will get my first chemo. The nurse warned Joyce that this one will tend to make me irritable and maybe nauseous. I get one day of rest then get the next chemo on Sunday. This one can cause fevers and blood issues. Then after another day of rest I get the 3rd chemo on Tuesday. This one has the potential to aggravate my edema. Last time I received it I gained 20 pounds of water weight in two days. The purpose of this chemo process, as I understand it, is to kill the lymphoma by coming as close as possible to killing me without killing me. <smile> My immune system will be basically non-existent. Then they will transplant my stem cells on Thursday the 16th to give my immune system a jump start. I’ll also be getting neupogen shots during the 2-3 weeks I will be sequestered from people, germs and microbes in the hospital. I am asking for God’s mercy through the process, that I can handle the side effects, that I will recover strength and immunities as quickly as possible, that I will represent Christ well though this, and will come out on the other side with a “cancer free” pronouncement.

I know many of you have been praying with us throughout this year-long process. We have now reached the critical point and I am asking again for your prayers. Thank you for praying and supporting us through this adventure. We don’t know what the Father has for us in the future, but we can rest in His promises and plan, because we know Him.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm, by Michael Heiser #14

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. This post completes Part 7, a discussion of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament from the Divine Council point of view, and focuses on the spiritual battle that is taking place in the present age. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

In chapter 37, This Means War, Heiser moves from the inauguration of the kingdom of God by Jesus, to the resistance of evil unseen powers who would continue to fight Him to delay His kingdom and their judgment. The Bible is somewhat ambiguous on how they are organized, but it is clear that there is some kind of hierarchy of power and authority among them. Satan is, at least, one of the leaders and one of these powerful ruling elohim that are fighting to hang on to the nations that Christ is reclaiming. Believers are the "holy space" in the battle, indwelt by the Spirit, fighting in the battle in God's power along with the angels (also organized with some kind of hierarchy of power and authority). We extend "holy space" as we meet together and live out and share God's good news.

Satan is leader of at least some of the powers of darkness. As the original rebel, he likely ranked first (or worst) in terms of example in the minds of ancient readers. The fact that he is the one who confronted Jesus in the desert, an account we considered earlier, and offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world suggests as much. The lack of a clearly delineated hierarchy leaves the possibility that there are competing agendas in the unseen world, even where there exists the common goal of opposition to Yahweh and his people. 331  

If we could see with spiritual eyes, we would see a world of darkness peppered with the lights of Yahweh’s presence (believers), spreading out to meet each other, inexorably pressing and spreading out to take back the ground of the disinherited nations from the enemy. Of course we would also see those lights surrounded by darkness. 333

Chapter 38, Choosing Sides, closes the section on the inaugurated kingdom. Heiser explains how baptism and communion are important acts in the spiritual battle that rages in this age. Baptism is a loyalty oath in which the believer publically chooses sides with Christ in the battle of good and evil. Communion is a covenant ceremony in which believers both celebrate and renew commitment to the New Covenant. Any time believers gather together, their presence creates sacred space in which God acts. This is why Paul calls being expelled from the church being "handed over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5.9-13). There is no neutrality in this battle.

Baptism, then, is not what produces salvation. It “saves” in that it reflects a heart decision: a pledge of loyalty to the risen Savior. In effect, baptism in New Testament theology is a loyalty oath, a public avowal of who is on the Lord’s side in the cosmic war between good and evil. But in addition to that, it is also a visceral reminder to the defeated fallen angels. Every baptism is a reiteration of their doom in the wake of the gospel and the kingdom of God. 338, 1 Peter 3.14-22

For Paul there was no middle ground. Participation at the Lord’s Table meant solidarity with and loyalty to Yahweh. The Lord’s Table commemorated not only Jesus’ death (1 Cor 11: 23– 26) but the covenant relationship Yahweh had with the participants. Violating that relationship by participating in sacrifices to other gods was tantamount to siding with the gods of the nations. 342 

The kingdom spreads slowly but relentlessly, one new believer at a time. Every church is a new pocket of resistance, every baptism another pledge of allegiance to the Most High, every celebration of the Lord’s Supper a denial of fellowship with lesser masters and a proclamation of the success of Yahweh’s mysterious plan. 346

Friday, November 03, 2017

I Had Plans…

I had plans………Then God laughed

This morning I got a phone call from a social worker (for which I was very thankful) who is helping us with navigating the world of Medi-Cal, insurance, doctor bills, disability, etc. It was a very helpful call, with lots of good information, but I am still kind of in a whirl with all of the possibilities, some good and some not so good, and none of which can be decided today. We know our present insurance will end on December 31st so we have to do something, but we are not sure what that will be.

But we had plans. Really good and godly ones, I thought. Joyce and I would serve in the president’s role at PIU for the next few years and then we would retire to a life of teaching classes at PIU, missionary travel and spending time with our children and grandchildren. We had invested well and strategically in property, and though we’d never have a lot extra, we figured we would live fairly comfortably. I was pretty sure God had signed off on all this because I had prayed about it and we would be needed there.

Then came cancer. For a few months it looked like I would not survive through 2017. The outlook is much better now, but there is no guarantee for a long term future. Nobody has that guarantee by the way. We don’t know the next step financially. Should we go on disability? Will I be able to continue with the mission? How are we going to pay for medical care after this year? Which kind of insurance should we get if we don’t qualify for Medi-Cal – they all seem out of our reach financially. We have to make a decision soon, but we really don’t know what to do. Our plan is certainly not going how I thought it would.

Then God laughed. Not a laugh of scorn or derision. It is the loving laugh of a parent when he sees his sincere child trying hard, but he knows it’s not going to work the way child thinks. He laughs because he has a bigger perspective and a bigger plan that will meet that child’s needs. He knows that the child’s plan would not succeed by itself, but that he will step in, after the child has learned through the process, and work with the child to bring about a better end than the child has ever dreamed of.

I had plans………Then God laughed.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Matthew #8 (26-28)

Keener MatthewThis is my final post on my reading through the Gospel of Matthew accompanied by Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. This final section of Matthew records Jesus’ passion including the betrayal, trials, crucifixion and resurrection. I have really enjoyed reading Keener’s commentary and again would recommend it for anyone who is teaching Matthew or just wants to get a deeper understanding of this Gospel. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version (for some reason I cannot make the page numbers come up in the quotes) of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 26 begins the narrative of Jesus' passion. Keener gives a brief and helpful overview of the evidence for the historicity of the account. Matthew begins the account with Jesus' announcement of what is about to happen, highlighting his obedience to His mission. He then sandwiches the great devotion of the woman who anoints Him between the plots of the Jewish leadership, who reject Him because they love power, and Judas, who rejects Jesus because he is not getting anything (money) out of it. The rest of 26 describes the Last Supper, the betrayals of Jesus by all those closest to Him, His arrest and trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Jesus redefines the Passover as a new exodus, a new covenant, in which the cross will usher in God's kingdom come to earth. At His trial, he acknowledges that He is the Messiah, but not in the way the Jewish leaders understood that term. He is the Son of Man, the sacrifice who rules now and will return as judge. He is sentenced as a blasphemer, but subsequent events will show that Jesus was right.

Because the story of our Lord’s death provides the historical record of our once-for-all redemption, it reveals to us in intimate detail the concrete expression of God’s love for us, as well as the awfulness of sin. At the same time, because Jesus’ sacrifice becomes the model for that of his disciples (16:24), it invites us to count the cost of discipleship in a world hostile to the purposes and agendas of a God of justice, holiness and compassion. Matthew 26

Salvation is free to us, but it was never cheap; nothing in all human history has ever been so costly...The Last Supper was a symbolic act, like the triumphal entry and “cleansing” of the temple. Interpreting the elements of the Passover feast was a standard part of Passover tradition, but instead of using standard explanations Jesus interprets two elements (those representative of food and drink in blessings at Jewish meals) in a strikingly new way. Matthew 26:17-30

Loving God does not always mean that we want to face what God calls us to face; it does mean that we choose to face it anyway. Thus when the test arrives, Jesus summons all his disciples to rise to face it—ready or not (26:45). Matthew 26:31-46

Protecting Jesus seemed the greatest of life-and-death issues, yet Jesus did not want his disciples to protect him. He came to conquer by way of the cross, not by way of the sword. We disciples are sometimes ready to fight for our cause, but rarely willing simply to be martyred for it without resistance; and once Jesus’ disciples realized that martyrdom without resistance was the price of following Jesus, they fled (v. 56). Matthew 26:47-56

The next section 26:57-27:26 sandwiches the outcomes of the denial of Peter and the betrayal of Judas between Jesus' Jewish and Roman trials. Peter is contrasted with Judas. Peter's remorse leads to repentance and productive life, while Judas' guilt leads to despair and death. Matthew makes the point that all the parties-Judas, the Jewish leadership, the Jewish crowd, and Pilate share in the guilt of Jesus' "innocent blood. None of them would escape the resulting judgment.

By including the denial account, Matthew warns disciples against apostasy in the face of persecution. By placing two responses to betrayal side by side, Matthew also points out how disciples should respond to failures of their discipleship. Peter wept with remorse (v. 75); Judas killed himself (27:5). Only the former was able to return to Jesus. Matthew 26:69-75

The Christian view of sin is not that only the individual or only the society is responsible: all guilty parties are responsible. By framing Judas’s end with the account of Jesus’ being brought before Pilate, Matthew contrasts Judas not only with Peter but also with the courageous Lord he had betrayed. The theme of shedding innocent blood connects Judas, Pilate, the high-priestly authorities and the people. Matthew 27:1-10

Though Pilate knows the unjust motivation of the charges (v. 18) and receives a divine warning (v. 19), political expediency takes precedence over justice. We are guilty of the same crime whenever we side with views because they are popular in our society or political party even though we know that someone is suffering unjustly (whether the poor, the unborn, racial minorities, abused wives or children, crime victims, prisoners of war, refugees or others). Matthew 27:11-26

The rest of chapter 27 tells the story of Jesus' crucifixion and death. Jesus faces the worst that evil can dish out and takes on all the consequences of human sin: ridicule, pain, rejection, dishonor, and ultimately death. He faces ridicule and rejection from his own society from top (religious leaders) to bottom (thieves crucified with Him). Those that should have stood by Him-His disciples- desert Him, and those one would not have expected to stand by Him-women, Joseph, a Roman centurion- acknowledge and serve Him. Matthew inserts the paragraph about resurrection of the saints to show that Jesus was about to fix all the evils that sin had caused.

Genuinely following Jesus to the cross means we follow a road that may quite well cost us our lives physically (16:24); it also means sacrificing our own honor for Christ’s along the way. Ridicule was often the social backdrop of public executions, especially naked crucifixion, which constituted the ultimate form of shame. Those of us who value our dignity too much to live with unjust criticisms and the world’s hatred must seek a different messiah to follow. Matthew 27:27-44

That Jesus utters the complaint of the righteous sufferer (Ps 22:1) suggests that he participated in our ultimate alienation from God in experiencing the pain of death. Yet he would also know that the psalm goes on to declare the psalmist’s triumph (Ps 22:22–24), and the phrase my God indicates continuing trust. Matthew 27:45-54

Matthew’s message to his Jewish Christian audience is clear: regardless of the response of the Jewish religious leaders, you must evangelize the Gentiles. His message to us today is no less clear: although church people often live in disobedience to the gospel and take Christ for granted, we must take him beyond the walls of our churches to a waiting world. Matthew 27:54

The final chapter of Matthew records three reports of the resurrection. Two are true and one is false. The first is the report of the women; the first witnesses of the resurrection and the first to be sent out as witnesses of it. The faithful women make their report to the 11 disciples (Jesus still calls them "brothers") who had been unfaithful to Jesus. The second report was the false report, suggested by the Jewish leadership and told by the Roman guard, that Jesus' body was stolen by the disciples. Even as it gives a false report, it testifies to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. The final report is the church's report of the resurrected Jesus giving His great commission and promise to be with them throughout the present age. The church's mission is to make new disciples of Jesus from every people group in the world.

The men’s initial dependence on the testimony of the women reflects the gospel’s power to transcend gender restrictions. When the women met Jesus, they worshiped (Mt 28:9)—finally responding as the wise Gentiles had (2:2, 11), yet—again with an ironic touch—before the male disciples (28:17). Nevertheless, Jesus does not cast off the male disciples here; he identifies the disciples to whom he is sending them as his brothers (v. 10; 12:50; 25:40; Jn 20:17). Matthew 28:1-10

As long as unreached peoples exist, we disobey the Great Commission by refusing to cross those boundaries. Given the explicitness of Jesus’ command, perhaps many use the lack of “call” to missions as an excuse; yet it may be that the Lord of the harvest has been calling us through the need of the world but we are not willing to hear. If Christ has already called his disciples to go, is it not possible that it is those of us who stay who need an explicit message from God? Matthew 28:16-20