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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Week - Life, Death and Resurrection

Christmas Week: Life, Death and Resurrection

Luke 2:43, Lost in the Temple: What if… it was easy to get lost in the crowd?
• Jesus is old enough to travel with his parents now.
• Families would travel in large groups, so it’s easy to imagine Jesus (like a teenager) was with some other members of the group.
• There are lots of apocryphal stories about Jesus’ miracles as a young child. They’re not included in our Bible because people much closer to the time than we are didn’t believe them. Rediscovering them now doesn’t make them any more believable, and doesn’t prove that anyone deliberately hid them from us.

Luke 3:21, 7:22, Matthew 14:8, John the Baptist: What if… baptism was an established Jewish ritual?
The crowds gathered round John and were baptized into his following. There was nothing strange about baptism—ritual washing was common. What was surprising was the fact that Jesus was baptised and the way some of John’s followers decided to follow him instead. Meanwhile Salome must have heard of John, perhaps even following him at a distance. But he preached (dangerously) against Herod’s marrying her mother, and she ends up demanding his death. In jail, John finds himself wondering if Jesus really is the Messiah, and receives a coded answer from the scriptures.

Tradition agrees with other historical sources which name Herodias’ daughter Salome, but the Bible doesn’t name her.

John 19:34-35, Matthew 27:46, 28:11, Death and Resurrection: What if… the Romans were actually pretty good at killing people?
The different death and resurrection stories include and exclude different details, just like contemporary newspaper reports of the same event, and definitely unlike legends created after the event. The Romans were unlikely to fail to properly crucify someone. They weren’t likely to let the disciples steal a dead body and use it to foment insurrection. But they were likely to agree to someone’s execution to keep the peace.

Jesus’ prayer “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” comes directly from Psalm 22, which includes many remarkable parallels to Jesus’ death—a hard list to recreate, and a strong argument for the truth of the Bible.

John 14:12, Acts 1:5, 2:2, The Holy Spirit: What if… the Holy Spirit really does change us?
Are we different because of the Holy Spirit? We’re not perfect, certainly, and we should never forget that. We’re not superior to our non-Christian friends. We’re probably not even as nice as them. But maybe we’re nicer people than we would be without the Spirit. That should be a humbling thought.

Revelation 22:17, The Second Coming: What if… Christmas isn’t just about the baby?
What if Jesus really will return? Are we ready? Are we trying to be ready? Will we welcome Him?

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