Tag: <span>jesus</span>

Summary: As it begins a story about Jesus feeding a crowd isolated in the wilderness, the Gospel according to Mark comments that Jesus felt compassion for the people because he saw them as “sheep without a shepherd.” They were people denied leadership. People who were considered expendable. People who could be manipulated for the gain and pride of their so-called leaders. Bad leadership has a way of dehumanizing people, because bad leaders choose domination and intimidation as their tools. The wider context of this part of Mark’s narrative, with its focus on numbers of people attracted to Jesus, reminds us that Jesus was not the kind of leader who imposed his will on others or who sought out followers. His qualifications were not about displaying his gifts, flashing his charisma, or manifesting courage; rather, he restored people. He demonstrated a commitment to their well-being and wholeness. Preachers might be inspired by this story to consider their own vocations as leaders. Sermons are opportunities to put leadership into action, not with the preacher insisting on their own authority or cleverness, but with the preacher offering the refreshment of the good news and reiterating the opportunity for all to share in God’s healing, restorative intentions for this work and its people.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers

Summary: Once Jesus’ ministry is rolling in the Gospel according to Mark, conflict emerges and dividing lines are drawn. Mark has a way with surprises; Jesus’ own family and religious authorities misunderstand who he is and what he is up to. But crowds of unnamed people remain with him, often doing little more than showing up and following. Jesus appears to welcome their presence, as seen in this scene when he describes a crowd as his true kin and commends them for doing “the will of God.” It appears Jesus is not calling for heroism or perfection. Rather, he seeks recognition. Down the road in Mark he will remind us that discipleship calls for our whole selves. But at this point in the story, being present and sticking around is what he’s looking for. This is good news for all of us, reminding us that faith is not so much about subscribing to doctrine and more about attaching oneself to Jesus and his efforts to bring the reign of God to fruition.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 3:20-35. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: general audience

Summary: Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, not because he is kind or gentle, but because he is powerful, vigilant, and self-giving. That comforting metaphor works because Jesus has ascended or, as John’s Gospel puts it, he has returned to the loving and intimate communion he shares with the God he calls his Father. His watchful care is a feature of his power. The care he provides does not mean we are kept safe from all harm in this dangerous world. Rather, it means that we can be confident that he holds our identity, our connection to him, and our participation in Divine love securely. The watchfulness and concern he provides comes as a sharp contrast to the ways our leaders, structures, and societies frequently let us down and treat people as expendable.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on John 10:11-18. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: When Jesus calls his first followers, he makes a declaration to them and to everyone around him that it’s time for something new. Something, perhaps the arrest of John or the urging of the Holy Spirit, prompts Jesus to launch a public ministry to make the reign of God known. Preachers have a responsibility to make similar declarations, knowing when the time is right to take a stand or to direct a congregation into a new season of service and advocacy. That kind of discernment is difficult for any preacher, but we should be encouraged by knowing that many are longing for a time of liberation and that we do this work as followers of a Jesus who leads the way in announcing that the time of fulfillment has arrived.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Mark 1:14-20. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The story Jesus tells about a person who entrusts “talents” (huge sums of money) to others often makes preachers and congregations uncomfortable. That’s precisely the point. The parable uses hyperbole to make two points: (1) to describe the incredible influence that Jesus’ followers possess as they live out their charge to continue the work that Jesus began; and (2) to name how critical the work of the good news is during a time when people suffer from oppression and lazy, self-congratulatory religion. In the wake of a divisive and angry election season and during a season when churches and their people are sacrificing their credibility, this parable reminds readers that the blessings Jesus intends to offer the world must not be hidden away.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 25:14-30. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: In Matthew’s Gospel, as soon as Peter correctly identifies Jesus as “the Christ,” Jesus offers an enigmatic saying: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” It’s noteworthy that the conversation about who Jesus truly is leads directly to a discussion about freedom. That reminds us who preach that our primary task is liberation — not inspiration, not instruction, but deliverance. If you’re going to preach “Jesus is the Christ,” then the purpose of your preaching has to be to set people free. Of course, people are bound by many things in these awful days. The locks that hold the chains tight are not always easy to locate, but fortunately preachers have a key that fits.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 16:13-20. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: The Parable of the Sower (or Parable of the Soils) is simple enough, as a story about planting, growth, and yield goes. But the way the Gospels present it to us quickly reveals itself to be disturbing. Those who interpret the parable without consulting Matthew 13:10-17, the verses in which Jesus implies that his parables keep the truth hidden from many, miss the point. This is a parable that underscores the difficulty of the good news taking root in the world. It is a parable that asks us to consider the rest of the Gospel story if we are going to be able to consider difficult and unnerving questions about the goodness of God and the problem of resistant hearts. Fortunately, most preachers are well equipped and situated to venture into difficult places.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: When Jesus, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, assures his followers that he will be with them always, he does not promise that he will be always offering them comfort or always present “for” them or endorsing their agendas. We might read it, instead, as another of his statements about his solidarity with people, especially the oppressed and ignored. Trinitarian theology stems from a related conviction: in various ways, God shows up and becomes manifest in our experiences and our encounters with others. We encounter the Trinitarian God not through transcendental escapism but in, among, and always for the sake of human bodies. That is a vital truth for churches that need to remember and then repent of their role in overt and covert systemic racism. Together we can discover Jesus dwelling among our neighbors and affirming life–their lives.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 28:16-20 for Trinity Sunday. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus’ declarations to the ragtag collection of people who gather for the Sermon on the Mount are direct and simple: “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” Salt and light always make their presence known. They always have effects. This is reassuring news to preachers who are regularly told that they are doing everything wrong or failing to tickle the ears of a public that craves simplicity, security, and entertainment. Salt preserves and flavors. Light makes things visible and warm. That always happens.

I wrote this article for those preparing to preach or hear sermons on Matthew 5:13-20. It was originally a contribution to the “Dear Working Preacher” series. Read the full article at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary

Summary: Jesus tells a parable about two men who go to the temple to pray: a Pharisee and a tax collector. They pray two very different prayers, and the parable concludes with Jesus declaring that the tax collector, who assumes a posture of contrition and prays a simple prayer asking for mercy, leaves the temple justified, or restored to a right relationship with God. The Pharisee, in his prayer, betrays his contempt for the tax collector. Because Luke’s Gospel treats Pharisees and tax collectors nearly as caricatures, interpreters often get sidetracked in efforts to determine what Jesus is up to in this parable. The parable’s main emphasis, however, falls on the depths of God’s mercy, which results in “justification” even for a tax collector, someone who betrays his own people for personal gain and to support the Roman occupiers. The parable warns that our contempt for others whom we may see as villains does not square with the extravagant grace that God pours out on all who ask for mercy.

I wrote this biblical commentary for those preparing to preach or teach on the passage. Read the commentary at Working Preacher.

Bible commentary: preachers & teachers workingpreacher.org commentary