Reading Plan: June 4: Luke 16-20

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
June 04th June 06th June 07th June 08th June 09th
Luke 16 Luke 17 Luke 18 Luke 19 Luke 20

The Unjust Manager, Lazarus and the Rich Man, Parables to make us think, Not how we can bribe our way to heaven! Nor how heaven calculates financial investments! Parables are not meant to be taken at face value but investigated. These parables have so many things to teach us. Some parables are puzzles, ordinary life events or things that are to be contrasted with the supernatural equivalent so we stop thinking naturally:

  • We all have to give an account of our stewardship of the life and talents God gave us to work with
  • We need to realise our time on the physical world is an investment for the eternal world
  • Money tests our hearts and reveals our true attitude to Jesus’ Lordship over our lives
  • God wants faithful sons who serve His way with his priorities and instructions
  • True riches are NOT financial so we need find out what God considers them to actually be
  • Heaven is real … and so is hell

Every time we read God’s Word we should see new things! This is just the start of the list of things God showed me. Each time I look I see more.

Our willingness to be corrected, transformed and produce good fruit is essential for everyone who wants to follow Jesus. Forgiveness tests our hearts almost as much as money. When we focus on Jesus and ignore offence then our faith is empowered to work. “You MUST forgive” Jesus said but so many of us say “I can’t forgive”. What we actually mean is “I won’t forgive” or “I refuse to forgive”. It seems to us that forgiving lets the person off from the consequences. BUT it actually frees us from the consequences and allows God to intervene.

Forgiveness frees us from judgement. It is a sign of humility! We have decided that God knows better than us and we put the matter in His hands. Forgiveness allows love to be released in our hearts. We begin to see God’s love for us in a new way. We begin to trust Him more.

God is NOT like an unjust judge! He is not ignoring us! He is not unfeeling and preoccupied with other matters! Once again, this parable is intended to make us think. Like a puzzle of two pictures with 10 differences, Jesus intends us to look and spot the differences. God is a Just Judge. He has all the facts. He cares for us. He is listening to us. That gives us confidence to pray, faith to pray, power to pray!

Yet prayer is not based on us and our performance. Child-like faith is unquestioning faith, whole-hearted faith, wiling faith. Faith gets answers because it trusts and asks. This is why Jesus could not help but listen to the Blind Man who called out to him based on his understanding of who Jesus was (Son of David = Messiah = God on the earth).

Zacchaeus also understood who Jesus was. It affected his heart and his desires. His response was instant and almost over the top. Not just repaying but compensating and adding extra. Full and complete repentance. No wonder Jesus said “Today Salvation has come to this house” he was excited. It is after all the main reason he came to earth … to seek and actually find and then save the lost.

What a contrast with the person with one talent who buried his gift. No concept of stewardship effecting his thinking, just how unfair life is. That attitude so affected his thinking that he didn’t even consider the simple ways to make money. Offence robs us of vision!

Jesus in contrast is still able to maintain his vision in the face of opposition. Listening to his Father and knowing that whoever rejects him rejects the Father as well. Prophesying over Jerusalem the destruction that came just a few years later. Real authority! Yet when questioned about his authority, Jesus made no attempt to defend or prove his position. True humility. Jesus was always clear about his calling and background, knowing the Father’s wishes and fulfilling them.

Questions to consider

  • How trustworthy are you?
  • Do you think and therefore act as a servant or do you wait to be served by others? Who can you serve today?
  • How lightly do you hold your possessions? Are they available for God to use? Compare Luke 18:22-23 with Luke 19:8.
  • Are you using the gifts God has given you?
  • Spending time praying and reading the Bible as a family is so important. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me”. Make sure everyone, even the youngest, as an opportunity to pray.

Background History

The contrast between Jewish communities and that of Gentile or Non-Jewish communities was huge. Apart from basic beliefs regarding the nature and character of God, Jewish society was also strictly separated in response to God’s Word on basic issues like food and work routines. Jewish life and culture was carefully based around maintaining the traditions of the Law. The whole annual calendar revolved around the key fast and feast days, with the working week also matching the requirements of the Sabbath. Daily trips to the temple to make sacrifices and fulfill vows were a regular part of Jewish society.

Josephus (1st Century historian) records 5 main religious groups, later historians identify another 15-20 main groups. These different groups were mainly separated by their interpretation of the various commandments and regulations of the Law.

Daily living was clearly an act of faith, with every part of Jewish life focused on pleasing God by fulfilling every requirement of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy plus the many Rabbinical teachings.

It is easy to see why the early church struggled to incorporate the Gentile believers.

The Author

Luke, Paul’s companion, is generally accepted as the author of this gospel. Possibly written while he stayed with Paul during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (59-62AD) with the investigative work being done after Paul’s death.

Luke’s Gospel and Acts are the only 2 books of the Bible written by a Gentile, all other books being written by Jews. However, some historians suggest that Luke was a Jewish Christian who followed a Greek lifestyle and that he was therefore comparatively lax in ritual observation, rather than being a Gentile. Scripture only gives us hints as to his true background.

Reading Plan: May 21: Luke 6-10

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
May 21st May 22nd May 23rd May 24th May 25th
Luke 6 Luke 7 Luke 8 Luke 9 Luke 10

Everything Jesus did was relationship based, reflecting His Father’s nature, being led by the Holy Spirit. From baptism to temptations to healings, whatever the Father wanted Jesus did. Last week we saw this clearly in Luke 4. This same obedience and desire to correctly reflect the Father’s nature is seen in Luke 6.

Our Heavenly Father is generous, He shares his bread. He is forgiving even to forgiving His enemies. Those who trust Him do the same. We are generous, forgiving and patient. We chose love, we refuse judgement! Generosity starts with our mouths, beginning to say the right things.

The Roman Centurion saw and spoke. He saw submission was the key to authority. He saw Jesus operating in submission and recognised his authority. So he trusted Jesus. One word of direction, one command is enough, that’s what I will do. The result was his miracle.

The woman anointed Jesus with her love recognising God’s mercy and responding to that mercy. Her love revealed God’s forgiveness and that’s what she received.

Each of us sees aspects of God’s nature, revealed in His Word, demonstrated by another person, seen in creation. What we do next reveals the condition of our own hearts. Stony, unchanging and unable to keep anything God shows us. Shallow, foolish and unwilling to learn anything new. Care infested, self-concerned and unfocused on God’s agenda missing the important things. OR … determined to do anything Jesus says, fully obedient no matter the cost … revealing, demonstrating and showing God’s nature to others. Good fruit contains good seed.

The twelve soon discovered that same authority Jesus had, was the authority they could use. The more they focused and spoke of God and His Kingdom the greater the frequency of miracles. Even feeding crowds became possible. Peter couldn’t help himself but call Jesus the Messiah. Miracles always signpost God. Our main challenge is like Peter to speak those things we see out, to give our testimony, to vocalise our faith.

Sending 12 out was never going to be enough. Sending the 72 demonstrated that mission is not just for the elite, super-Christian leaders but for everyone who is a disciple. We are to echo Jesus’ words and tell folks what we see and hear. Many prophets and kings wanted to see what we see … God’s kingdom on the earth.

Love God and love others summarises the whole of the Law. We love God when we love others. We show relationship, real trust and obedience when we care for others more than our own lives. Trust = Faith!

Questions to consider

  • We often notice in others the very thing that is our weakness. Is there a “plank in your eye” that you need to remove?
  • Jesus told John’s disciples to “go back and report … what you have seen and heard”. Your testimony is important – what have you seen and heard? Who can you tell?
  • In Chapter 8:18 Jesus says “consider carefully how you listen”. God gives more revelation to those whose ground is good soil. As a family, divide a piece of A4 into four and draw a picture of the different soils in each one. Talk about how important it is to listen to God and then to put the word into practice.
  • Look back over these first 10 chapters, how many times does God heal someone? How important is faith?
  • In Chapter 10:9 Jesus told the 72 to heal the sick. Is there anyone sick in your household today? Could you ask a work colleague who is sick if you can pray for them?

Background History

Jewish society was fixed on “an eye for an eye” while Greek/Roman society was fixed on “the strong win” so the early church had to learn a new lifestyle … love. The outworking of this love lifestyle was revolutionary to society. Giving people what they did not deserve and had not worked for was totally counter-culture.

Slaves became leaders of churches where their masters were part of the congregation. Women were recognised as valuable and as people of faith. Luke’s gospel highlights these changes, recognising women as worthy of receiving miracles. From Mary and Elizabeth to Peters mother, the widows son, the sinful woman, the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus’s daughter we see God interested in women, responding to their needs and faith.

Luke also focuses on Jesus dealing with the religious people of the day. Demonstrating the ease Jesus had in his relationship with his Father rather than the legalism of the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

The Author

Luke was not one of Jesus’ original disciples so his gospel is a collection of eye-witness accounts. Luke’s gospel keeps pointing out the details of individual lives and the effect faith has on that life. His gospel shows us how accurate testimony is better than exaggerating or distorting the truth. The more archaeologists investigate the political and historical facts given by Luke the more his account of the life of Jesus is proved.

As someone who travelled with Paul and saw miracles and persecution Luke was not afraid to keep things real. Paul wrote “my grace is sufficient” Luke shows that was true for Jesus and the first disciples and is still true for us.

Bible Reading  Plan: May 7-11: Philemon & Philippians 1-4

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
May 7th May 8th May 9th May 10th May 11th
Philemon Philippians 1 Philippians 2 Philippians 3 Philippians 4

You owe me! Not words we ever like to hear. None of us like to be pushed into decisions and owing someone usually forces our decisions. Yet, this is the truth of our entire relationship with Jesus … we owe Him everything! There is just no way round that reality. Without Jesus we are nothing and have nothing. But instead of resenting that, we need to remember just how liberating that is. This is the message Paul wrote to Philemon and also to us. A message summarised perfectly in Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain except the continuing debt to love one another”

Whenever I am struggling with someone, especially regarding an area that needs forgiveness, God reminds me of just how much I have been forgiven. Such thankfulness then fills my heart that my attitude quickly changes. I am then able to begin to see things from a different perspective, to allow new ideas to be shown to me by the Holy Spirit, to obey Jesus’ commands.

Thankfulness actually protects our hearts. When we remember the many blessings we have received, our hearts cannot help but overflow with joy. Paul shows this in Philippians. This is not just a quick thankyou note but a love inspired, thanksgiving infused and hope motivated letter to his key supporters. Real life happens, stay victorious. People cause problems, be like Jesus in your attitude. Rivalries and wrong motives may be around us, don’t think that way yourself. Your future is secure in Christ.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Circumstances did not give you your joy so don’t let events steal your joy. Practice rejoicing. Work on your singing and your attitude at the same time. Real peace, the kind of peace that you need, is found in Christ, the Prince of Peace. Jesus said “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you … do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Paul echoes that “the peace of Christ will guard your heart and mind” (Phil 4:7). Rejoicing causes our hearts to recognise where we are positioned … in heavenly places.

That is the kind of attitude we see in Christ. Always seeing the truth but from a great loving viewpoint. That is the kind of person Timothy was for Paul. Giving accurate, faith-filled, love-motivated reports. Those kinds of reports cause rejoicing and release confidence in our bosses, our family and our church. Timothy is a great model for us to copy. The same model we see in Jesus. Position and rank don’t matter when we are working for the Lord. We owe Him so much! Partners in the gospel.

Questions to consider

  • We can do so much more when we do things together. Partnership leads to being more effective. Have you completed our Partnership course and discovered how we can be effective together?
  • Paul is always giving thanks for his partners in the gospel. Today as a family give thanks for those you partner with. Suggestions:
    • Pastors Matt & Julie Hattabaugh in Lebanon,
    • Philip & Tracey Johnston in the Philippines,
    • Pastors Mat & Fina
    • Pastors Barney & Becci.
    • Who else are you partnering with?
  • Jesus was the ultimate servant. Paul promotes looking out for the interest of others. Do not grumble or complain so that you will shine like stars. Are you serving willingly or grudgingly?
  • What spiritual goal have you set this year? If you have fallen behind put that behind you and make a decision to press on.
  • Take a thought test. Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and/or praiseworthy?

Background History

The church in Colossae was started by Epaphras but was led by Philemon and met at his house. Philemon was clearly a rich man, owning slaves, having a house big enough for the church to meet at. Paul had a close relationship with Philemon, sufficiently close enough to be able to ask an unusual favour, freedom for a runaway slave.

Slavery was very common throughout the Roman Empire and previously in the Greek & Egyptian Empires. Not just through conquest but as punishment for certain crimes and as a solution to family financial crises, selling the children into slavery was common.

Slavery could be harsh depending entirely on the owner’s attitude or hold the real possibility of earning freedom by serving well. The kind of person the owner was determined everything. Owners did regularly set slaves free or allowed the slaves to buy their own freedom. However, social status was prime and the stigma of being a slave tended to overshadow the future of freed slaves. Too often freed slaves found themselves back in slavery.

Rebellions by slaves were also a constant threat to society, especially where former soldiers were enslaved. Attitudes to runaways and rebellions tended to be harsh, to set an example. Spartacus being the leader of one of the best-known slave rebellions. Setting a runaway free instead of punishing him was highly unusual. Paul is asking a huge favour.

Key individuals like Philemon in Colossae or Lydia in Philippi enabled the church to start. Often the public buildings were unavailable so house churches started. However, meeting in houses did not mean small churches, we know 120 disciples met to pray in the upper room in the run up to Pentecost. The size and influence of these early churches were significant, producing such profound changes to the society around them that riots were triggered by tradesmen frustrated by the loss of business manufacturing idols, magic scrolls and artefacts. At Philippi Paul and Silas were imprisoned for casting demons out of a slave girl. Her owners were only annoyed at the loss of income, they had no care for the slave (Acts 16:16-21). The same happened at Ephesus when the silversmiths noticed the impact of their trade (Acts 19:23-29).

The church in Philippi was one of the first churches established in Europe. As a whole church, rather than just individuals within, it was a major financial supporter of Paul’s ministry. Clearly one contribution was sent via Epaphroditus showing the close working relationship. Sometimes he was working for the church in Philippi, sometimes working with Paul. This seems to have been a pattern for Paul’s teams. More of a fluid pool of workers rather than a formal team. Each going wherever needed, partners together in a great adventure.

The Author

Paul identifies himself as the author, together with Timothy, during one of the many times he spent in prison. This has led to speculation about the dating of this letter. The majority of scholars assign this to his first period of imprisonment in Rome. However, the comments about his chains and other leaders preaching from false motives have led some to suggest this letter is from his 2nd imprisonment in Rome, just before his execution.

Paul has such a clear understanding of the purpose of his life … to serve Christ and serve the church. “I desire to depart and be with Christ … but it is necessary for you that I remain” (Phil 1:23-26). This clear purpose helps him to respond with faith to the many adverse circumstances. Paul’s letter is clearly written by someone who has known adversity as a reality rather than just some theory. He inspires us to be overcomers.

Bible Reading  Plan: April 30th – May 4th: Ephesians 6 & Colossians 1-4

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
April 23rd April 24th April 25th April 26th April 27th
Ephesians 6 Colossians1 Colossians 2 Colossians 3 Colossians 4

Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Submission to one another does not mean a loss of leadership or authority or personal responsibility. But we see biblical authority is to be a blessing to others rather than have people blessing the leader. Submission actually gives us authority.

That authority is important because we struggle or wrestle against spiritual forces. Ephesians gives us the clearest analysis of the spiritual hierarchy: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and finally spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The great news is we can stand against these spiritual forces and win because of Christ’s victory. We have spiritual armour and weapons to help us and His Spirit within to strengthen us. No fear because perfect love lives inside us!!

This releases tremendous hope. God wants us strengthened with all power. He has qualified us to share in his inheritance because we are now in a different kingdom … the kingdom of His Son.

In Colossians, we take a good look at this Son … the image, the visible representation, the essential manifestation … Jesus said of himself “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:7). He is the begotten Son, not created, supreme and equal in nature but subject to the Father in function. He is the fullness of God, who fills everything … totally enough for every situation yet He lives in us.

This is our victory; Christ in us! Released from our old sin nature, released from the charges of the law, released from Satan’s control. Free to live in Christ, for Christ, by the Spirit of Christ. No spiritual forces can resist that life.

The only danger is living carelessly, without focus, in neutral. God’s life requires our active choices in order to flow. We “put on Christ” daily. We “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly”. We “do everything in the name of Christ” especially when it comes to our relationships with other people.

This is life on purpose! A purpose driven life! Understanding my life will leave a mark on this world, either a selfish me-focused and sin-driven life; OR a God-focused and Holy Spirit led life that glorifies God and points people to Jesus.

Prayer prepares us for the opportunities that God has lined up for us. Enabling us to make the most of every opportunity. Our prayer time enables us to know God’s Word for each situation. AND prepares both our hearts and the hearts of those we are sent to so that the Word has the opportunity to work. We then get to hear the words from God “good and faithful servant” and “this is my son whom I love”.

Questions to consider

  • How important is prayer in your life right now? Don’t let your guard down, instead submit everything to God in prayer.
  • We often pray for people because we see something that needs to change. However, in Colossians 1:9-14 Paul is thankful for what they have done and prays that the Colossians bear much more fruit. Pray for those who are bearing fruit today, that they accomplish much more.
  • The charges against you have been cancelled!! There is now no condemnation. The enemy condemns and seeks to bring us down; the Holy Spirit convicts to bring us to repentance and freedom. Are you living in freedom today?
  • Put on love – the best spiritual clothing. Take some time to receive a fresh anointing of love.
  • Paul asks for prayer that doors will be open for the gospel. As a family pray for missionaries today. Maybe look at a map and do a little research into Lebanon or the Philippines.

Background History

Colossae was one of the cities linked to Ephesus (~120 miles) in the province of Galatia that was so greatly and effectively evangelized through Paul’s ministry. It was close to Laodicea and Hierapolis.

The church appears to have been started by Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) who came from there and returned to his home town. The size of the church is unclear as they clearly met in homes rather than a lecture hall or public venue (Colossians 4:15). The church appears to meet in Philemon’s home (Philemon 2).

The church was doing well but false teachers had come to cause problems. Paul never directly says what the problems are but we can gain some insights: The false teachers practice circumcision (Col 2:11), celebrate the Sabbath (Col 2:16), keep Jewish rules on food and drink (Col 2:16), worship angels (Col 2:18), and physically humiliate and severely treat their bodies (Col 2:23). Whether this was a mix of Jewish teaching and pagan concepts or a mystic sect of Jews or a version of Gnosticism is uncertain; however, this was not the freedom of the gospel they were taught.

This mix of physical abuse of the body combined with perceived spirituality plagued the church in the Middle Ages. Hair shirts, often with metal barbs on the inside to lacerate the flesh, flagellations (self-whipping) as well as extreme periods of fasting were considered necessary for serious Christians. How quickly the gospel of grace was swapped for a gospel of works.

This is one of the two main issues that Martin Luther addressed in October 1517 as part of his famous 95 Thesis that launched the Reformation. Salvation is by faith alone, the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. The other main issue was the sale of “indulgencies” that granted the buyer absolution from punishments and granted salvation. A buyer’s gospel, false and rotten to the core.

This letter focuses on the centrality of Christ, His Lordship and uniqueness which is critical for our faith. Fully God, fully man, unlike any other, a genuine saviour!

The Author

Paul is generally accepted as the writer of this letter. He is clearly writing from prison (Col 4:10) but expects to be released soon. Paul had 2 long periods of imprisonment, in Caesarea near Jerusalem 57-59AD (Acts 23) and Rome 60-62AD (Acts 28) but it is clear from 2 Corinthians 11:23 that Paul had a number of other imprisonments. Most commentators believe this letter was written from prison in Rome.

Paul does not appear to have ever visited Colossae (Col 2:1) but his disciple Epaphras was well able to establish this church. He asks them to pass his letter to the church in Laodicea and for them to read his letter to the church in Laodicea (Col 4:16) showing the clear leadership links between these churches.

Paul is clearly not distressed by his imprisonment but wants to address the more important issue of being imprisoned by false teachings, philosophies and empty deceits (Col 2:8).

Bible Reading  Plan: April 23rd – 30th: Ephesians 1-5

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
April 23rd April 24th April 25th April 26th April 27th
Ephesians 1 Ephesians 2 Ephesians 3 Ephesians 4 Ephesians 5

Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is one of the most condensed theological letters of the bible and really needs extensive study to unpack everything that God has for us. It is one of my personal favourites!

Nothing God does is an accident … He chose, He predestined, He purposed, He knew, He redeemed … us … deliberately and was pleased to show us His love! Wow!!

No matter how we got to this point in our lives, God has been working from before we were even born to bring us to Himself, so that we could know His forgiveness and receive His life. BUT, He doesn’t just want us to know this as theory but as a living reality that enables us to walk with Him in power.

Spiritual death is the separation of the human spirit from God. Not a non-existence or even a dormant spirit but being without God’s life; just as darkness is the absence of light. This makes the human spirit totally ineffective and subject to the control of the flesh and demonic powers.

The theme of Grace flows constantly through this letter; saved by grace, sanctified by grace (set apart for God’s purposes), strengthened by grace (real power to live right), enabled to share by grace and to serve by grace. That grace being God’s abilities released in us.

God’s abilities in us – “In Christ”. These words repeat, helping us to discover our true identity. Like looking in a mirror carefully and studying ourselves. We begin to rebuild our image of who we are and what we have. This letter to Ephesians helps us more than any other letter to renew our minds.

This new identity needs an outlet for reality, people to love and learn to accept in the same way that Jesus Christ accepted us. Rooted in love, established in love, I now have tremendous power available to help me love others. This is church! A group of people living in love with Christ at the centre.

Such people cannot live by the old standards of society because they have discovered just how full life is. This is why Jesus gave us leaders, examples to help us grow into maturity. Not living isolated lives but working out our relationship with Christ with other people … the Church!

The church is God’s wonderful answer to the world. Together with Jesus, the church has society transforming power, the ability to reveal God working in the world to everyone who will stop and pay attention.

The depth of relationship is simple, Christ and the Church, husband and wife. Living together, caring for one another, investing in one another. Submitting to one another, not just to leaders, or to husbands. Everyone submitting to the folks around them.

Paul’s letter also gives us tremendous insights into prayer. Giving us words upon which to establish & build. For those who struggle in prayer Ephesians 1:17-19 and Ephesians 3:16-19 are a pattern for breakthrough prayer. Great to personalise and use to make our own confessions.

So much to say! So much to discover!

Questions to consider

  • Chapter 1 is full of so many amazing truths. This week pray and declare these over yourself and your children. Here are a few examples:
    • I am chosen
    • Grace has been lavished on me
    • I am included in Christ
    • I am sealed by the Holy Spirit
    • I have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
    • I have a glorious inheritance
  • Ephesians 2:10 is a great scripture to declare over your children, or over someone who has backslidden, or over someone who has been made redundant. God has a plan!!
  • Never limit God. He can do far more than we can imagine. Are you putting limits on God with your requests? (Ephesians 3:20)
  • The mature are those who take hold of the truth and let it become life in them. Is the Word living in you today?
  • Husband – how well do you love and care for yourself? This is an indication of how much you love your wife.
  • Wife – take a respect check. Are you undermining your husband in any way?

Background History

Ephesus was the 3rd largest city in the Roman empire, estimated population 250,000. Supposedly established by the Amazons in 2,000BC it was a key port on the Aegean coast of South East Turkey with a major road network that linked it to each of the cities in the region.

The temple of Diana, a fertility centred deity, was at Ephesus. This huge temple (able to hold 24,500 people) was built about 400BC and was considered 1 of the 7 wonders of the world, and it was a popular tourist city at that time. Worship involved sexual orgies, magic arts & shrine worship and the silversmiths based at the temple mixed religious worship with becoming a banking centre for the region.

The first disciples we hear about are the product of Apollos (Acts 18:24) but he clearly had not yet been taught the full gospel by Priscilla & Aquila (Acts 18:26). So, when Paul visited the city he had to teach those same disciples properly, baptize them again and get them filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). Paul’s teachings created tremendous changes to the city resulting in the destruction of many magic scrolls & books. He fought wild beasts at Ephesus, either in the gladiator circus if actual animals; or demonic forces if spiritual nature (1 Cor 15:32)

This church became Paul’s base for the next 2-3 years as he taught daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. The result was highly effective evangelistic outreach throughout the region with churches being established in all 6 of the main cities of the region. Timothy became the pastor of the Ephesus church when Paul left (1 Timothy 1:3).

Paul had a special relationship with these leaders and on his trip to Jerusalem before going to Rome, he stopped off at Melitus to say his extensive farewells to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20).

Church history suggests that the Apostle John moved to Ephesus after the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus. John became the overseer/bishop after Paul’s death.

The Author

Paul is generally accepted as the writer of this letter, written while he was imprisoned in Rome 60-61AD.

Paul had 2 periods where he was able to effectively run a bible college; Antioch (Acts 11:25-26) which resulted in large numbers of people becoming believers and where the name “Christian” was first used. Ephesus (Acts 19:9-10, 20) where he taught in the lecture hall. This is probably why Paul’s letter to Ephesians has some of the most developed theological concepts regarding the church.

Bible Reading  Plan: April 16th – 20th: Romans 12-16

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
April 16th April 17th April 18th April 19th April 20th
Romans 12 Romans 13 Romans 14 Romans 15 Romans 16

Paul really gets to basics with living as a Christian over chapters 12-15 before finishing off with his wonderful list of people, a real who’s who of everyone linked to the church in Rome.

Basics No. 1

This relationship starts with worship. The Old Testament started with worship but OT worshippers brought animals. The quality of the animals determined whether the sacrifice was accepted; If your sacrifice was accepted then you were accepted. What a contrast in the New Testament! Here we bring ourselves. We are the sacrifice! Totally acceptable.

Basics No.2

Everything else needs to change! No matter whether Jew or Gentile we need a renewed mind. The exciting part of this renewed mind is knowing, understanding and being able to not only approve but also do the will of God. No more praying “If it be your will” from a place of ignorance. Just as Jesus understood the Father’s will when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, so too should we pray from knowledge.

That knowledge gets worked out in:

  • Humility: thinking right about ourselves and others
    Relationship; not isolation but seeing ourselves as part of God’s family
  • Submission: to all leaders both those in the church and in the world, and also godly and ungodly leaders
  • Gentleness: caring for all, not just those who can bless us but seeing our responsibility for our whole family

This means judgement has no place in our lives, our thinking or our language. Truly a renewed mind is a basic requirement. We have to work on our vision and how we see others. This is actually a decision we make ahead of events. Spending time in prayer and allowing God to reveal our own heart attitudes to us and then allowing Him to correct us. The outcome is tremendous hope; if we can change then so can others!

Even at the end of this theological masterpiece Paul is people focused. Not wanting to miss anyone out but also exalting leaders both men and women before the church by his personal comments. What a great attitude! one we do well to replicate.

Phoebe is so well spoken of that it is unclear why the church thought women could not be in leadership. She is a Deacon, a minister and one of high reputation. Paul commends her as “standing before” or “presiding over” or “ruling” in the church in Cenchreae. Making it even clearer that she has personally spoken into his life.

Priscilla and Aquila get special mention … fellow workers … Paul gives them great honour, treating them as equals.

Questions to consider

  • Are you living for God or living for yourself? Do you know what you are gifted in? If you are unsure, ask those closest to you what gifts they see in you.
  • Do you pray for those in authority? As a family/household spend some time praying for each child’s school teacher. You could also pray for your boss at work.
  • In Chapter 14:19 (NKJ) Paul urges us to pursue peace and to edify one another. Are you pursuing peace? Are you building others up?
  • Chapters 12-15 are like a spiritual health check of our love walk! Chapter 15:7 says “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”. Let’s bring praise to God by accepting others and not standing in judgement.
  • Following Paul’s example in Chapter 16, who can you commend and who are you speaking well of to others.

Background History

The church in Rome was not started by Paul, though he knew many leaders there. The church was made up of Jews and non-Jews, and in the period from A.D. 49-54 all Jews were expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor. When they were allowed to return years later, the Jewish and non-Jewish Christians had a difficult time co-existing peaceably. They disagreed about the exact meaning of the Gospel and how exactly to practice the life of following Jesus, especially in the area of religious customs and holy days.

Paul’s larger dream was to make the church in Rome a staging ground for the Gospel to spread further west to Spain and beyond (15:22-24). However, if the Roman Christians were divided between Jew and non-Jew and could not agree on the meaning of the Gospel, then Paul’s mission would be compromised.

Paul uses his letter to explain the Gospel is salvation through faith in Jesus. He especially highlights that Jesus is the fulfillment and focus of God’s relationship with Israel, and that the Gospel was always meant to spread beyond Israel to non-Jews. This is why he focuses so much on key Old Testament themes (Abraham, Torah, circumcision) and on the implications of the Gospel for the Jew/Gentile relationship.

The Author

Paul is generally accepted as the writer of this letter, probably written while he was in Corinth around late 55 or early 56 AD just before he left to travel to Jerusalem (Acts 20).

Some church history reports suggest that Paul did actually get to travel to Spain after being released from prison in Rome before being re-arrested and executed in 65AD. Vision was still driving him in his latter years, unwilling to settle down but push forward constantly while he still had time.

Bible Reading  Plan: April 9th – 14th: Romans 7-11

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
April 9th April 10th April 11th April 12th April 13th
Romans 7 Romans 8 Romans 9 Romans 10 Romans 11

A common phrase is “all roads lead to Rome” and when we consider the significance of the city (see background notes below) we realise why. So too with spiritual matters … everything leads to Christ!

The conflict within me of what I should do will always drive me to confusion (Romans 7). Only Christ can rescue me from myself, releasing me into a whole new way of life … the way of the Spirit.

Romans 8 unpacks how this works

  1. there is no condemnation for those “In Christ”.
    “In Christ” an essential starting point legally positioning me for everything that follows
  2. I am governed or controlled by the Holy Spirit.
    Not just trying to do the right things but Holy Spirit led, empowered & instructed
  3. I am reminded continually of my relationship with God.
    A son, an heir and living in God

This should affect how I think about all other people but especially those from Israel. If God could reject them then what confidence could we possibly have? BUT God has not rejected them, He loves them. So, our attitude should reflect that love.

That is why it is so essential that our faith is based on accurate knowledge. Israel’s zeal clouded as basic failure … works rather than faith. Faith is always promise based, taking God’s Word as true whether or not we understand and confessing that truth. Faith CANNOT operate without a Word from God. The Word imparts faith!

Grace is never works based but because of the riches of God’s blessings we do what He wants. This causes many to stumble who are used to doing things to be accepted, especially the religious, even more so the Jews. So, our salvation and the grace we know should make them jealous. God’s call and His gifts are irrevocable. He never gives up!

Questions to consider

  • Every day we have a choice to live by the old life and let sin rule (7:20) or to live by the Spirit and be free (8:2). What choice are you making today?
  • In Christ we are free! I am a co-heir with Jesus! What is His is mine! Rise up and declare “I am more than a conqueror”. Don’t live as a victim, live as a victor today.
  • Mercy – All Charges Cancelled!! Now that’s something to celebrate. As a family/household have a praise party, right now, and celebrate.
  • Get creative! Your feet are beautiful. Make footprints in paint or sand. If it’s wet outside, step in puddles and leave footprints on your street. Walk down your street declaring Jesus is Lord and pray for your neighbours.
  • Google a map of Israel, print it out if you can, and pray over it. Chapter 11:28-29.

Background History

Understanding the times is a key to understanding the effects of the early church on their world. It is estimated that 300m people lived in entire world around 0 AD of which 45m lived within the Roman Empire. Various censuses (including the one at Jesus’ birth) were taken so we do have a fairly clear idea of these figures. Over 300 census returns still exist covering 1st-3rd century AD for Egypt.

The Roman Empire reached its peak during the reign of Emperor Trajan around 120 AD.

(Picture source Wikipedia)

Mortality was high:
50% died before 5th birthday.
Average life expectancy was around 50 years.

Urbanisation (city life) was significant during the Roman Empire. Rome had an exceptionally large population by all world standards. Estimates of Rome’s population are 750,000 in 14 AD rising to over 1m at the end of the 2nd century. No Western city had this level of population again until the 19th Century!

Other major cities around the Roman Empire were Alexandria (300,000) Antioch (100,000) Smyrna (100,000) Ephesus (50,000) Corinth (50,000) Jerusalem (100,000). Rome was truly a huge city with great influence.

Estimates of the growth of Christianity across the Roman Empire are roughly 40% per year. Growing from around 500 to 1,000 at the crucifixion to +33m by 312 AD when Emperor Constantin converted.

The Author

Paul is generally accepted as the writer of this letter, probably written while he was in Corinth around late 55 or early 56 AD just before he left to travel to Jerusalem (Acts 20).

Paul unpacks so much in this letter, showing his knowledge of the church in Rome even though he had never visited. Paul always understood his region of influence and was never willing to undermine that influence in other leaders. Authority and submission was clear!

Bible Reading  Plan: April 2nd – 6th: Romans 2-6

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
April 2nd April 3rd April 4th April 5th April 6th
Romans 2 Romans 3 Romans 4 Romans 5 Romans 6

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is one of the great doctrinal letters, unpacking the wonderful revelations that Paul received directly from Jesus. Jesus told the disciples he had “much more to teach, more than they could bear” (John 16:12). It seems that he downloaded the “much more” to Paul. Paul says he received his gospel directly from the Lord in 1 Corinthians 11:23 and Galatians 1:11-12.

Martin Luther wrote “This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel”. John Calvin wrote “If we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture”.

Paul writes that the gospel demonstrates God’s righteous judgement and incredible mercy. God does not show favouritism or think like us but His kindness and patience is designed to lead us to repentance, to recognise our need for a saviour and our inability to save ourselves.

Our attempts to follow the Law, circumcision and develop our own righteousness only cause God’s name to be blasphemed more. That none of us are righteous, nor can we become righteous by observing the Law. This focus on law observation only leads to a sin consciousness or focus, which leads to bondage. What we focus on takes over our lives! Instead faith leads us to believe in Jesus, who makes us righteousness conscious.

Abraham was declared righteous by God because of faith, not effort. Despite circumstances he trusted, that trust releasing the very thing he hoped for. It is this type of trust that we demonstrate in baptism. We trust in someone else’s abilities and actions. We identify with rather than trying to do ourselves. Instead of dying ourselves, we consider ourselves dead.

Trust is relationship and experience based. Abraham trusted but actually grew in faith. Promises led to movement, changing his country. Movement led to circumcision, a covenant relationship with God. Circumcision led to fulfilment, a child of promise born in righteousness to a married couple and able to inherit all God promised. A journey of faith where his failures were not counted against him but God said “he did not waver through unbelief”.

This is why baptism is so important for us. Not just an act of obedience but an identification with Christ. We “own” Jesus’ death and resurrection as our own death and resurrection. We begin to live a second life rather than an improved life. This is the foundation for victory in every situation of our existence.

Rather than continuing from the starting point of Adam with sin and death a natural part of our life, we receive our second birth as a gift. Not just thinking “one man got us into trouble, one man got us out of trouble!” but realising we got ourselves into trouble. Not blaming everyone else for our sin, failures and fears. But confessing our part then taking hold of God’s free gift of Christ. Righteousness now reigning in me through Jesus Christ.

My baptism symbolising and reminding me daily that I now belong to God. Grace, God’s unmerited favour, now empowering me to live a holy life and glorify Jesus.

Questions to consider

  • It is often far too easy to stand in judgement of others, especially when someone doesn’t come up to our own standards. Paul clearly states in chapter 2:1 that there is no excuse for judging others. This week ask God for His compassion and guard your heart against judging.
  • I have been made righteous! Chapter 3:22. Stop!! Read that again. “I have been made righteous!” Through your decision to believe in Jesus, that He died for you, rose again and is seated with the Father, you have been made righteous: made right with God.
    Take some time to meditate on this scripture and let God write this on your heart.
  • Are you going through something difficult at the moment? Romans 5:3-5 encourages us that our hope in God does not put us to shame. Reaffirm that your trust is in Him and let God pour out His love into your heart.
  • Are you sin focussed or freedom focussed?
    We are no longer slaves to sin, so shake sin off and walk in the freedom that Christ won for you.
  • As a family discuss eternal life. What does it mean? How do we receive it? Are you sure you have it?

Background History

The church in Rome started in the large population of Jews living in the city. Historical writings by Cicero & Tacticus report that these communities developed from captured slaves who were freed by their masters so as to not violate their religion.

At least 5 large Synagogues existed in the 1st Century and records show these regularly sent money back to support the temple and Jews in Israel. Until Emperor Tiberius (19 BC) the Jews were allowed significant freedom to follow their religious rites and practices. Over 4,000 Jews were to be sent to Sardinia to repress brigands with many others instructed to leave the city at the same time, suggesting that this was a significantly large population group in the city.

Around 49 AD during Emperor Claudius’ reign (41-54 AD) the Jews were again ordered to leave the city due to unspecified disturbances. Yet Josephus recorded that previously Claudius had granted special privileges to the Jews after King Agrippa & Herod had petitioned him on behalf of the Jews. Paul met Aquila & Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3) who had recently left Rome. Some commentators suggest that the way they worked together was because this couple had previously become believers in Jesus while in Rome. It is possible that the disturbances were due to arguments about the emerging church.

Paul’s greeting in Romans 16:3 refers to the church that meets at Aquila & Priscilla’s house. In Acts 6:9 Luke refers to Stephen speaking to the Synagogue of Freedmen (“Libertini”) which is a historical reference to the freed Jewish slaves from Rome. Church history also tells us that Peter was the bishop of Rome for around 25 years before he was martyred in 68 AD. Peter was probably not permanently resident in Rome but operated from Rome as a base. This suggests an emerging church from early 40’s AD just a few years after Jesus’ death & resurrection in 30-33 AD.

The Author

Paul is generally accepted as the writer of this letter, probably written while he was in Corinth around late 55 or early 56 AD just before he left to travel to Jerusalem (Acts 20).

The letter references Phoebe, who was a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, east Corinth and probably took the letter to the church in Rome, and Erastus who was the city commissioner for public works and treasurer in Corinth. These references support the theory that Paul dictated the letter to Tertius, his scribe, while staying at the house of Gaius for 3 months.

Bible Reading  Plan: March 26th – 30th: Mark 13-16 & Romans 1

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
March 26th March 27th March 28th March 29th March 30th
Mark 13 Mark 14 Mark 15 Mark 16 Romans 1

This week we look at the Easter events through Mark’s eyes, painting a picture of the chain of events that led Jesus to the cross and then onwards through to the resurrection.

How shocking to the church to read these events starting with a prophecy about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This gospel was written around 65 AD while the temple was still standing but just 5 years later the actual destruction happened. Can you imagine just how urgent the rest of Jesus’ prophecy about the end times must have sounded to those reading Mark’s gospel back then?

Speaking a warning and prophesying persecution … families divided against one another … society hunting you down … false prophets seeking to deceive … destruction of everything you know … even signs in the sky.

At times this gospel reads like a fire evacuation procedure. If you are in the house, get out fast. Don’t take anything with you, don’t go back for your stuff. Run for your life! How terrifying, yet in the middle of all this we have Jesus’ promise “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words (Logos) will never pass away”. We have this assurance – rock solid – the promise of eternal life because of our faith.

This faith leads us to extravagant sacrifices, giving a whole year’s salary in one act of worship! The woman anointing Jesus with costly perfume. To put that into modern day language we know that the average salary for North West UK is £20,000. Not many perfumes cost that much today! The woman seemed to think Jesus was worth it, so great was her love. How great is our love?

How great is the love of Jesus for us! Knowing all his disciples would abandon him, he prepares them and warns them. The last supper shows us such an intimate picture of their friendship with Jesus and his total involvement in their lives. There is no condemnation for their failure but Jesus prays for them, interceding for them at a time of tremendous personal challenge.

Even as Jesus lays down his life before Pilate, the Sanhedrin, the soldiers and the crowd there are no angry words, no regrets, no curses, only blessings and forgiveness. This is Jesus willingly dying for you and me.

But that is not the end of the story … death cannot hold him. There is just too much life in him. Jesus made it clear that he had authority to lay down his life and authority to pick it back up again. So, he did! Defeating the devil and releasing his life to us, giving us a reason to live … the great commission! Go into all the world and make disciples.

In Romans 1 we read Paul’s great declaration of his calling … a slave and an apostle … anointed to call people to the obedience of faith. This is our position, call and anointing as well. An apostolic people, the church of Christ, love enabled and mission purposed. Going into the world with the truth, re-establishing the knowledge of God everywhere we go, worshipping Jesus from hearts full of light and understanding. A radiant bride!

Questions to consider:

  • The early church lived with an expectancy that any day Jesus would return soon. What would you change if you knew tomorrow was the day? Who would you speak to?
  • Extravagant sacrifice!! How great is your love?
  • Prayer – so important to Jesus to talk with His Father. On the eve of the most important day of His life, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, the disciples slept! How’s your prayer life?
  • Go, go, go!! Your world is waiting for you. Continue to pray for your friends and family and ask God how you can bless them this Easter. Romans 1:16 says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes …”

Background History

History shows us that this was a time of great empires, the Egyptians, the Persians, The Greeks, The Romans. Each controlling large areas and imposing their society, religion and laws on the nations they ruled; religion and politics totally intertwined. So, whenever a country was invaded their temples were stripped and statues and other symbols of the conquering nation were imposed on the worship of the people of that nation.

This regularly provoked rebellion and the Jews were known as a rebellious nation. Both Persian and Roman history makes mention of the many rebellions. One of those rebellions had actually re-established an independent “Jewish kingdom” under the Hasmonean dynasty (140 BC to 116 BC) known as the Maccabean Revolt. But the region was soon back under Roman control as a client state under the Herodian Dynasty (47 BC to 92 AD). Herod and his descendants ruled as governors and Tetrarch’s, an unusual 4-person leadership system.

The Roman procurator Gessius Florus sparked a rebellion in the city in 66 AD when he used a time of low tax revenues to seize the silver from the temple. He then sent in troops who killed around 3,600 citizens. The revolt was so strong that they actually managed to defeat and seize the Roman stronghold at Masada. Another Roman army of about 20,000 besieged Jerusalem but failed after 6 months. Finally, Emperor Nero sent Vespasian, a high decorated general to sort out the problem. By 70 AD the city walls had been broken and a systematic ransacking of the city began with the temple relics being taken to Rome and put on public display. The death toll was enormous as the Roman army took out its revenge on a mainly unarmed population.

This represented the death of the nation. The area was renamed Syria Palaestina by the Romans becoming generally known as Palestine until 14th May 1948 when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the new state of Israel and President Truman of USA recognised the new nation on the same day.

The Author

Traditionally John Mark is generally accepted as the writer of this gospel. Some modern scholars dispute this. No authorship is actually claimed in this gospel account.

John Mark’s ministry was mainly that of an official catechist, taking notes from Peter’s preaching for an accurate record for the archives. This led to writing Mark’s Gospel.

But we also know from the bible that he was sent by Paul to Colossae as his representative (Col 4:10) and Paul speaks of him as his fellow worker clearly part of his special forces team of Timothy, Titus and Silas.

Church history also tells us that he was one of the 72 disciples sent out by Jesus (St Hippolytus commentary) and after Peter’s death established churches in Alexandria in Egypt becoming the first Bishop of Alexandria, one of the 5 main church centres in the world at that time.

Church tradition tells us that in 68 AD he was martyred in Alexandria after speaking out against idolatry in the city. He was seized, a rope tied round his neck and then he was dragged around the city until he was dead. Then the mob were about to burn his body but a massive thunderclap and hailstorm happened which put out the fire and caused the mob to disperse. His followers were able to collect his body and his relics were kept in Egypt until the 9th century when they were transferred to Venice, Italy due to the Islamic conquests in the region. A basilica was built to house his tomb which can still be seen today.

Bible Reading  Plan: March 19th –  16th: Mark 8-12

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
March 19th March 20th March 21st March 22nd March 23rd
Mark 8 Mark 9 Mark 10 Mark 11 Mark 12

We are already beginning to see the compassion and love of Jesus revealed in these first chapters of Mark’s gospel. This compassion drew crowds wanting to see the miracles, wanting to receive for themselves, healings, deliverance, free food, the latest and best teaching around … almost entertainment but of a spiritual nature. The reason this was like entertainment to them was that they were not actually changing their hearts. Jesus spoke out against this heart issue even warning of the yeast of the Pharisees … to know God and His Word but form a lifeless religion of rules, to live a self-centred and self-glorifying life is to miss the whole point.

The challenge to them and to us is the same … who is this Jesus? A good man, a healer and miracle worker, a modern-day prophet or even an olden-day prophet returned? Peter made that faith jump … revelation actually voiced out loud, proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah.

That proclamation opened the door for Jesus to begin revealing his plans, how the Father had laid things out for him to do. Starting with telling them about the cross and his coming death, then being transformed (transfigured) before them. Entering Jerusalem on a donkey, the sign of peace not judgement. Traditionally a conquering king chose between a donkey or war horse to enter a city that he had become ruler over. The war horse meant judgment and punishment for defying his rule. The donkey symbolised peace and reconciliation. This is no entertainer but the King of Kings, the Messiah, the Deliverer, the Saviour.

This Saviour wants all people especially children to come to him, makes room for the weak, the despised, the ones with no influence. Bartimaeus saw with his blind eyes who Jesus really was … “Son of David” was an alternative title for the Messiah. The same revelation as Peter! That declaration released his healing, his faith being rewarded.

This proclamation of faith is the link to everything else … a fig tree dies at the king’s judgement for not bearing fruit, a rich young man sees where his heart really is (chasing money), the rulers of the law cannot trap the king with their questions (he knows their hearts). A Saviour but no push over, not someone we control but someone who we chose to rule over us.

Each of us has many ideas of how we want to live life but our declaration of faith opens the door fully to the supernatural. No longer watching from the side-lines, being entertained but never changing, we find ourselves echoing Isaiah and saying “here I am, send me”. Faith in Jesus will take us places we never thought to go!

Questions to consider

  • How do you come to Jesus? Do you come as a by-stander to watch what he does or do you come as a disciple to take part?
  • The disciples had an encounter as Jesus was transfigured before them. Pray this week for a fresh encounter with God.
  • Everything is possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23). Faith is not complicated but we often complicate faith. A small child looks into their loving father’s eyes, asks and expects to receive.
  • What are you asking for today?
  • Love God, love people – a simple summary of Mark 12:30-31. So how are you doing with this today?
  • How welcoming is your house to guests? Next time you invite someone do something different. The children could make a welcome card or banner, or they could greet your guests with a small bowl of sweets at the door. How creative can you be?

Background History

Jewish teachers and priests were constantly divided regarding the scriptures. Those from Jerusalem were more intellectual, focusing on the exact words of the law, enforcing strict regime of fasting, prayer and charitable giving. Those from Galilee were considered to be inferior as being from the countryside and less refined. Yet the Galilean Jews were often better educated having a greater interaction with the wider world through being on a key trade route. The Galileans focused more on the heart, love for God, caring for people and actually resisted the pagan influences far stronger than the Jerusalem based Judean Jews.

Jesus was a heart man, growing up around people who knew scripture by memory, public debate being normal, several strong religious communities existed around the area. Jewish education began early:

  • 5 years old – begin to learn the scriptures.
  • 10 years old – begin the Mishnah, oral interpretations of the Torah (Whole of the Old Testament),
  • 13 years old – Expected to keep and fulfil the Commandments (modern-day Bar Mitzvah)
  • 15 years old – Expected to make interpretations of the Talmud (Compilation of Rabbinic writings)
  • 18 years old – Expected to get married
  • 20 years old – Expected to pursue a vocation or career
  • 30 years old – The age of authority, begin to teach others

Memorising scripture was essential as few would have had access to their own copy of the scriptures. In the pre-printing world a copy of the scriptures would take a scribe around 3 years to copy. So, each village would only have one copy, held at the Synagogue. Memorising scripture was essential for participating in the debates and everything was tested against those scriptures.

We can clearly see parts of these religious training milestones in Jesus’ life described in the gospels.

The Author

Traditionally John Mark is generally accepted as the writer of this gospel. Some modern scholars dispute this. No authorship is actually claimed in this gospel account.

John Mark grew up in a privileged wealthy family, able to mix in society with both Jews and Romans. His mother was one of the Mary’s mentioned as following Jesus and presumably the reason Mark found himself involved with Jesus.

Mark ran away from problems twice that we know about: in the garden when Jesus was arrested, he was caught and only escaped by losing his clothes and running away naked (Mark14:51-52); he abandoned Paul and Barnabus at Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) on the 1st Mission Trip and was the cause of a team split at the start of the 2nd Mission Trip (Acts 15:36-41).

But despite all this failure Barnabus and later on Peter invested in him and he became useful to Paul (2 Tim 4:11), became Peter’s interpreter and got to write one of the earliest gospels. Not bad for a spoilt rich kid!