Monday, February 26, 2018

Mark: more lessons from the life of Jesus

Mark is the second book of the Gospels. Mark tells the stories of Jesus in a different from Matthew, he’s very cut to the chase kind of writer as this book is one of the shortest of the four books. He jumps straight into Jesus’s baptism, his ministry and his death and resurrection. I want to discuss three things that stood out to be as Mark recounted many of the many stories and lessons that Matthew did. Why does Jesus tell those he healed “not to tell” others about their healing? What exactly is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What is the meaning behind the Parable of the Wicked Tenants?

First, Jesus gives strict orders for those he healed not to reveal who had healed them. In Mark 3:12, evil spirits saw him and proclaimed him the Son of God and he gave “strict orders not to tell who he was.” In Mark 8:30, he warned his disciples not to reveal who he was. These two verses are just a couple examples of Jesus telling someone to stay quiet about their healing. Why did Jesus tell them not to say anything? For the instance in Mark 3:12, Jesus did not want a false image of why he was here on earth to travel around. As many were looking for a military or religious leader to fight against Rome. This was not Jesus’s mission yet. He was here to offer salvation not come as a warrior, that role would come later. In Mark 8:30, he says not to reveal who he was because the disciples did not know the whole picture yet and still needed instructions about his death and resurrection to come before they can truly know who he is. What does this mean for us? It is an example of why we need more instructions, more knowledge of who Christ is before we can proclaim him to the world.

Second, Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Mark 3:29 as the eternal sin. Many Christians have come to call this the unforgivable sin as Jesus says it “will never be forgiven.” What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy is defined as the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things and the Holy Spirit is the aspect of God which actively interacts with believers. To blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is reveals a heart-attitude of unbelief and unrepentance. It is the deliberate, ongoing rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit and rejecting God himself. It is to deny the active work of God in one’s life or in the world. While all other sins and blasphemes are forgivable, ones against the Holy Spirit are not (verses 28-29). When Christ was speaking about this unforgivable sin, he was not directing it to his disciples or those who believed. He directed it to the religious leaders, teachers of the law who accused him of being possessed by Beelzebub (Satan). They had denied the reality of his miracles. They refused to believe that Jesus’s power came from God. It is people who will continue to deny Christ and God despite what they see before them.

Third, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Mark 12:1-12 is a lesson about people. The parable goes that a man plants a vineyard and he rents the vineyard to some farmers and takes a journey (verse 1). At harvest, he sends a servant to collect from of the fruit of the vineyard, the tenants beat the servant and send him away empty handed (verse 2-3). The man sends another servant and he too is treated shamefully (verses 4). He sends other servants, some are killed, and others beaten (verse 5). Finally, the man sends his son thinking he would be respected by the tenants (verse 6). The tenants decide to kill the son and take his inheritance for themselves (verses 7-8). What does the man do? He will come to kill the tenants and give the vineyard to others (verse 9). The man is God and the vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders of Israel who rejected the prophets sent by God and who rejected Jesus. Jesus is the son who has been sent and he tells this parable to expose the religious leaders’ plot to kill him. He let them know he knew what they were plotting and warned them it would not go unpunished.

In conclusion, the book of Mark is a short and concise book of Jesus’ life, ministry and his death and resurrection. Jesus’s instruction to “not to tell other about him” is an illustration that we need further instruction. I know when I read God’s word and I have a moment of inspiration, I want to go and shout it to everyone: Look what I discovered! But often I found that I first need to ponder this revelation. What does it mean to me? What will it mean to others? Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit isn’t usually something a believer needs to worry about as it is the rejection of God. And Christians are taught to be weary of false teachers; however, those who are true believers will (or should I say “should”?) recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the lives of others. Lastly, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a look into the type of people in the world: those who reject Christ and those who will inherit the vineyard when he returns.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The House on Foster Hill: a mystery bring past and present together

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright is a story about healing, facing the past and moving forward. It opens in Oakwood, Wisconsin in 1906 Ivy, the daughter of the local doctor and sometimes medical examiner, and her father are called to the scene where a young woman’s body has been found. Fast forward to present day Oakwood, as Kaine Prescott is arriving to start her new life after leaving a horrifying situation back home in San Diego, California. She has purchased the Foster Hill House in the hopes of restoring it and finding a new life in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, she learns that her troubles from home have seemed to follow her to Oakwood. The story is told from Ivy in the past and Kaine in the present, as the mystery of the young girl’s death and the events surrounding Kaine seem to be connected. Will Kaine find the truth and put the mystery of the house on Foster Hill to rest?

I enjoyed The House on Foster Hill. It was a fast read as it holds your attention and you eagerly read chapter after chapter for clues. It is a wonderful story with lots of twists and turns of a great mystery. I enjoyed all the characters as they had their part in the story which seems to fit. Even when the individual behind the strange happens around Kaine is revealed it is not the person you thought of and always a good sign of a great mystery. I would like to reread the story and see if the author gave any subtle clues to his or her identity that I didn’t pick up before. I highly recommend The House on Foster Hill.

The House on Foster Hill
is available in paperback and eBook