Ephesians 3 – The Power (part 3)

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Click here to read – The Power (part 2)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Ephesians 3:16-19)

I really like Paul’s prayer in chapter 3 of Ephesians, in it you see Paul’s desire for the church to be filled with the same power that his ministry has been full of.  Paul’s ministry was so powerful because through prayer he experiences the deep love of Christ.

Prayer brings together love and power: the relation of love that grows up between God and the person who prays, and the flowing of power from God too and especially through that person. (Wright)

Through prayer, we too can experience the deep deep love of God and have the power, that is the Holy Spirit, flow through our ministry as we build the kingdom of God in our communities.

‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(Ephesians 3:20-21)

click here to read – The Power (part 3)

Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)

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Click here to read Mark 4 – The power (part 1)

Jesus …came with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people …They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. (The Gospel of Luke 6:17-19, New Revised Standard Version).

“Power came out from him and healed all of them.” The same Greek word is used here as in the Mark passage above. Dunamis! Not only run of the mill healings but power-healings! At first glance, the power seems to be some sort of spiritual energy that flows out from Jesus. It seems to be a kind of energy that is detachable from Jesus. What is this power? To answer this question, we do need a little 1st Century Jewish background. After all, Jesus was a 1st Century Israeli rabbi. In the time of Jesus, it was forbidden to use the holy name of God, YHWH (pronounced, Yahweh. There are no vowels in ancient Hebrew!). Whenever YHWH occurs in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) the reader would use a substitute such as Adonai (the Lord), Ha-Shem (The Name) or Ha-Gevurah. (The Power). Most English Bibles translate YHWH as “The Lord”. In conversation one of these substitute names was always used. To utter the divine name YHWH was blasphemy and liable of the death sentence. So, it seems likely that the power that came out of Jesus was not some mystical or spiritual energy but that it was nothing less than The Power! YHWH! The manifestation of God himself in healing. At his trial, Jesus also avoided speaking the divine name YHWH and he used the substitute, The Power. The High Priest is interrogating Jesus. He asked Jesus if he is the Messiah. Jesus replies: I AM. Then he says:

And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of The Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).

The Greek word dunamis again and with the definite article. Jesus would have used the Hebrew original Ha-Gevurah. Although Jesus did not utter the divine name YHWH nevertheless the High Priest deems that Jesus has committed blasphemy anyway because of the other things he has said:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? Mark 14:63).

At this point, the Gospel has the ring of truth with a piece of detail of historical reliability. We know from ancient rabbinic sources that The High Priest tore his robe and that this constitutes the verdict of blasphemy. The sage Rabbi ben Qorha said that once the

witnesses have given their evidence, “the Judges stand and tear their clothing and never sew them back up.” (Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin, 7:5).

Jesus, after his death but before his ascension, told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with Power from on high”. (Luke 24: 49). It is clear that Jesus didn’t think of this power as some sort of mystical or spiritual energy but rather as nothing less than the third person of the divine trinity – The Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8).

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Mark 4 – The Power (part 1)

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And he could do no power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (The Gospel of Mark 6:5-6, my translation).

Haha. That’s funny. Most churches today would be ecstatic with joy if they witnessed a few healings! Evidently there is a difference between run of the mill healings and power healings (miraculous healings?). The Holy Gospel of Mark is a 1st century biography of Jesus in the Greek language. The Greek word used in Mark translated above as “power” is dunamis from which we get “dynamite”! In the language of Jesus, the Hebrew behind dunamis is ha-gevurah.

It must be significant that Jesus was limited by the level of faith in the crowd. I wonder if Jesus is still limited today by the level of faith in many churches! Conversely, The Holy Gospels also inform us that where there is faith in Jesus amongst the people then a connection is made and the dunamis is able to flow through Jesus from heaven to earth.

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Click here to read Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)

Mark 4 – Jesus jokes about a mustard seed

Mustard Tree

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)

A mustard seed is tiny it’s about 1mm thick and from this tiny seed a mustard plant would grow often reaching well over 6ft in one year and would attract lots of birds who would come and perch in its branches and eat its seeds.  Have you ever wondered why Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed?

The mustard seed – one of the smallest seeds that grow into ‘the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches.  The image should make us stop and think, perhaps Jesus is being slightly satirical.  I would think a more appropriate image would be a mighty oak tree growing from a small acorn.  Or perhaps a more biblical tree, like a mighty cedar tree, in fact in Ezekiel in the old testament it says:

God says ‘I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it … it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar.  Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches’.

But here Jesus doesn’t compare the kingdom of God to the tallest and strongest of trees.  Jesus likens the kingdom of God, the church to something that sprouts up quite quickly from almost nothing and the develops into an ungainly spindly shrub.  This should make us smile, Jesus is giving us a humorous picture of the kingdom of God that contains a deep meaning.

Churches I think can take comfort from the lips of Jesus.  Like the mustard plant, a church can be an untidy sprawling shrub.  But Jesus is saying something quite profound about the church; It will be a bit a messy and jumbled but in the mess is real life, and perhaps it isn’t easy to find your place in neat and tidy systems.  But in Jesus’ church, that is a bit messy and tangled, there is a place and room for everyone (Martyn Percy).

2Chronicles 5 – Muscial priests

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The priests in ancient Israel were musicians!  That may come as a surprise to many.  Learning to be proficient in playing a musical instrument hardly takes priority over Greek in most seminaries today!

The temple of Jerusalem in the time of King Solomon was completed in 959 BC.  The Book of Chronicles (dated variously between 500 BC and 325 BC), in the Bible, tells us what happened at the consecration of the temple soon after 959 BC:

All the Levitical-priest singers (Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives) stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. (2 Chronicles 5:11-14)

God became mysteriously present (mystically present: “the glory of the Lord”) when the musicians and singers performed.

Perhaps the best known word from ancient Hebrew is Hallelujah.  The word Hallel comes from ancient temple worship.  The word Hallel means “praise” and Hallelujah means “praise the Lord” with music and song. The word often comes at the beginning and end of the Psalms.  The Book of Psalms (in the Bible) is the song book of ancient temple worship.  The Hebrew root Hallel, however, means not only “praise” but also “shine”.  The biblical scholar Margaret Barker says that the word Hallelujah at the beginning of Psalms was probably an instruction to the priest-musicians to cause the Lord’s face to shine: Lord Shine!  It’s an invitation for God to be mysteriously (mystically) present.  God’s shining face, according to Margaret Barker, is what we nowadays would call “enlightenment”.

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

2Corinthians 4 – Do not lose heart

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we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2Cor 4:14-18)

Paul is writing to vulnerable communities of faith who were on the edge of losing heart.  In this passage, he is unusually personal. He talks of wasting away outwardly. The struggles of life.  What are we to do when faced with the struggles of life? 

Paul answers us in v16:

‘we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away’

And why because our hope is on what is unseen, we are to fix our eyes on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.  Our hope, and christian resilience is built upon the fact that God raised Jesus christ from the dead. Our hope in the face of adversity and pain is not rooted in any human capacity for optimism or natural strength of character.  It is based upon something God has done.

By God’s gift and choosing, we find ourselves part of a bigger story, God’s story.  And so we see throughout history communities of Christians, spreading the good news, and the hope they have in Jesus, even though they are struggling, and under persecution.

For Paul he knows he is part of God’s story, something so big and wonderful, something so amazing as being part of the family of God, because Jesus died and rose again, that he can describe his present sufferings as a slight momentary afflictions by comparison.  That hope he has in the God of love shown in Jesus’ life death and resurrection gives him the strength to face the struggles that he now faces. We to are part of that bigger story and are part of the body of Christ, our hope is found in Him, Jesus is our sure foundation.

1Samuel 8 – The demand for a king

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The Iron Crown of the Lombards, a surviving example of an early medieval royal crown

The demand for a King

‘When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. … But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.  So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
(8:1, 3-5)

This passage is dripping with irony.  First Eli’s sons were no good and then Samuel’s sons were also bad and for this reason, the people want a king!  The very definition of a King is that the sons (or daughters now for UK Royal family) regardless of how good they are will become the absolute ruler.  So it’s very ironic that the reason they give for wanting a king is that Samuel’s sons are no good.  We see the real reason come in verses 19-20:

‘But the people refused to listen to Samuel.  “No!” they said.  “We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations, with a King to lead us and to go our before us and fight our battles.” (8:19-20).

‘V 20 shows that although the elders wanted Israel to be able to defeat other nations, they also wanted to adopt the patterns set by other nations. Consciously or unconsciously, God’s people are always under social pressure to conform to the ways of the world.’ (Payne).  Paul warns us of the same danger:

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Rom 12:2).