Tag Archives: bible exposition

Jesus and the Pharisees: Contrasting Strategies for War and Peace: (Mark 3:1-12)

“Treacherous colleagues, competitive friends, bloody-minded commuters – it’s a war out there. And according to Robert Greene, it’s a conflict we’re ill-equipped to deal with. After analyzing the moves of history’s great military leaders, he’s written a rulebook to achieving victory in life’s daily battles.”[1]

The blurb goes on to say, “Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars.


According to Penguin the publishers, this is “An indispensable book…  The great warriors of battlefields and drawing rooms alike demonstrate prudence, agility, balance, and calm, and a keen understanding that the rational, resourceful, and intuitive always defeat the panicked, the uncreative, and the stupid… The 33 Strategies of War provides all the psychological ammunition you need to overcome patterns of failure and forever gain the upper hand.”[2]

Today we are going to learn about Jesus’ strategy, not for war but for peace. We are going to compare Jesus’ strategy with that of the Pharisees (and by way of application – observe how the same tactics are used by Zionists today). 

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Red Heifers from Texas: The Destructive Consequences of Christian Zionism and Third-Temple Extremism (Video)

In anticipation of the forthcoming launch of the newly established Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism (ISCZ), you are invited to an important conversation, ‘Red Heifers’ from Texas’ & Misguided Attempts to Build the Temple: Countering the Destructive Consequences of Christian Zionism and Third-Temple Extremism, a conversation taking on a new urgency in light of recent events.

View the whole webinar here

Read the chapter The Coming Last Day’s Temple: Ready to Rebuild? from my book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers on which this PowerPoint presentation given in the webinar is based.

A 4 page summary of the book

Bible Study Guide

Organized by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church USA, this online conversation was birthed in response to an OPEN CALL from Palestinian Christian leaders to the global church as well as all persons of good will. This event is cosponsored by our dear friends with the Disciples Palestine-Israel Network (Disciples PIN), United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN), and Unitarian Universalists for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (UUJME).

As detailed in the letter, the extremist Temple Institute, aided by Christian Zionist extremists in the United States, aims to sacrifice a “red heifer,” claiming that such a sacrifice is necessary to purify a priest who would then be designated “clean” to enter the Holy of Holies of a rebuilt Jewish Temple.

The group’s plans would require the relocation or destruction of Masjid al-Aqsa, including the Dome of the Rock, within the Haram al-Sharif. Such a plan is not only a great affront to the hope of multi-religious coexistence in Jerusalem but an invitation to regional, if not global, warfare. In the face of this madness, Palestinian clergy have called upon all persons of goodwill to condemn this plan because actions like this accomplish nothing except for escalating hatred, instability, and violence.

As such, it is imperative that we inaugurate a global intra-Christian dialogue focused on the repudiation of Christian Zionism among other forms of political extremism. No religion has a monopoly on extremism, and it is the responsibility of the faithful first to challenge extremists within their own traditions. Today, the Christian Zionist promotion of violence alongside the genocidal assault on the people of Gaza presents an urgent challenge to Christians around the world.

We have been called to reject in the strongest terms any effort to make Jerusalem into an apocalyptic playground. Furthermore, the anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic apocalyptic fantasies promoted by many Christian Zionists view the Holy City as a place of war when God has called it to be a house of peace. What does this look like, and what can be done to confront the catastrophic consequences of Christian Zionism and Third-Temple extremism?

View the whole webinar here

Does God Have One People or Two? (John 15)

A homily given at the weekly Sabeel Jerusalem Service 25th April 2024

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:1-7)

Who are God’s ‘chosen people’? Does God have one people or two? A simple question. In our gospel reading today, the Lord Jesus is crystal clear as to the answer. I am sure you have heard numerous sermons on John 15. We rightly focus on Jesus profound description of himself, “I am the Vine”. It is the last of the seven great “I am” statements Jesus made recorded uniquely in John’s gospel. What is the context? In Exodus 3, when Moses asks God his name, the Lord says “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). The website Got Questions has a helpful explanation.

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Turning our World Upside Down (John 20)

It is confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper. 

“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.

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Why Good Friday? Because Jesus is our Passover Lamb

The Book of Isaiah, written around 700 years before the coming of Jesus Christ, is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Why is that? 754 of Isaiah’s 1292 verses are predicting the future. That means 59% of Isaiah is prophecy.  Isaiah contains 11 direct prophecies concerning Jesus and it is cited or alluded to in at least 50 NT passages. Why? Why? Lets find out. With the eyes of faith we see Isaiah 53 so explicitly refers to the Lord Jesus it doesn’t need much by way of explanation. Indeed it became so obvious that Isaiah was referring to Jesus after he was crucified and rose again from the dead, that, as the Church separated from the Synagogue, Isaiah 53 was no longer read as part of the Jewish lectionary.  There are five paragraphs, each of three verses, and it begins in chapter 52:13. 

1. The Predicted Saviour: The Servant’s Role (52:13-15)
2. The Rejected Saviour: The Servant’s Life (53:1-3)
3. The Representative Saviour: The Servant’s Suffering (53:4-6)
4. The Crucified Saviour: The Servant’s Death (53:7-9)
5. The Glorious Saviour: The Servant’s Resurrection (53:10-12)

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Maundy Thursday: When Time and Eternity Meet

Beat the clock. Around the clock. Against the clock. Clock in. Carry the day. Once in a blue moon. From now on. In the long run Come of age. A day in the sun. The crack of dawn. Year in, year out. A month of Sundays. Hour of need. Full of the joys of spring. Now or never. The moment of truth. Better late than never. Make my day. Here today and gone tomorrow. A blink of the eye. Days are numbered. What do they all have in common? Time. We say, long time no see. Killing time. Wasting time. Behind the times. On time. Just in time. As time goes by. The nick of time. Do time. Serve time. A whale of a time. Save time. Good time. Ahead of time. No time to lose. The big time. High time. Time is money. Times flies. Crunch time. Out of time. Time for a change. Times up. I counted over 100 expressions for time. They all refer to chronological or sequential time.

In our gospel reading  Jesus teaches us a new one. Kairos time.[i] The word kairos is Greek for “opportunity” or “the right time”, the “fullness of time” or the “supreme moment”. In the Bible Kairos refers to God’s timing. In his first sermon, Jesus said, “The time has come… The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). This was a kairos moment for those who heard Jesus. And for the Christ follower, as for Jesus, chronos time and kairos time intersect every moment or every day because we live in two worlds – in time and in eternity, in heaven and on earth. The evening of Maundy Thursday was one of those kairos moments for Jesus and the disciples. Please turn with me to John 13 and let us discover what Jesus knew, what Jesus did and what Jesus expects.

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What is My Ultimate Purpose in Life?

Gentle natured Gregory, passed into eternity, aged 69, forgotten and alone in a cell of the women’s jail in Dade County, Miami. Married four times with six children he had once been a celebrity and successful paediatrician. But Gregory succumbed to alcoholism and his license to practice medicine was suspended. Haunted by self-doubt and unable to live in the shadow of his father, he had died known as Gloria in a women’s jail, in high heels, a transvestite. When he was just 19, Gregory’s father blamed him for his mother’s death from cancer and did not speak to him for ten years before killing himself in precisely the same way Gregory’s grandfather had done before him.  In 1953, Gregory’s father wrote a short story about a Spanish father who tried to be reconciled to his son who had run away from home to Madrid. Now remorseful, the father took out an advert in a national newspaper “Paco meet me at Hotel Montana noon Tuesday, all is forgiven, Papa.” Paco is a common name in Spain, and when the father goes to the square he finds eight hundred young men names Paco waiting for their fathers. 

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Jesus and the Temple of Destiny (John 2)

What is the most expensive property you can buy? If you want a London address, One Hyde Park was on sale recently for £75 million. Knightsbridge on one side, the world’s biggest back garden on the other, and very little noise from the neighbours. But if you need a little more sunshine in the Summer, consider the Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera. Named after the former King of Belgium it went on sale recently for only £485 million. And if money is no object, the most expensive property in the world? Currently, the Antilia Building in South Mumbai. 27 stories high. Three helipads on the roof, nine elevators in the lobby and space for 168 cars in the garage. A snip at £650 million.

These are the properties you can buy. What about those you can’t? Comfortably the most expensive private residence in the UK, Buckingham Palace is valued at over £1 billion. The Palace houses 775 rooms, including 52 bedrooms, 19 state rooms, 188 staff rooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. But what is the most expensive property in the world? It is not Buckingham Palace. It is not the White House, the Kremlin or even the Vatican. 

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Great Expectations: Jesus on High Demand Religion (Mark 8)

When our son Michael was 11, we had a difficult decision to make. Which secondary school would we choose? We didn’t have a lot of choice. There was Magna Carta in Egham or… Magna Carta.  And at the time it didn’t have the excellent reputation it has now. Our daughter Louise was leaving Charters school in Sunningdale that Summer so we could not benefit from the sibling rule. We decided to apply for Magna Carta, Charters and Ranelagh in Bracknell. Not surprisingly we were turned down for Charters and Ranelagh as we lived outside their normal catchment area. Moving house was not an option. So we appealed – we had nothing to loose.

We went to the appeals hearing at Ranelagh and discovered there were about 20-25 other families present also appealing. Having never done it before I didn’t know what to expect. Quite soon after the hearing began, the lady chairman asked the appeals panel, made up of several clergy, to retire to another room. I tried not to look at the other parents. I felt bad that we were competing with other families for a handful of places that might be granted on appeal. All would have good reasons for wanting to send their child to the school. After what seemed an age, the panel returned. The chairman made an announcement. The appeals had been upheld – all of them. The chairman closed the meeting. We were stunned. What had happened?

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How to Become a Contagious Christian (1 Peter 3)

I got a surprise call from the BBC recently. “Did I have a spirit of adventure? Could I think on my feet and cope without home comforts? Did I like a challenge? Was I willing to appear on their programme ‘Bare Necessities’? Two teams compete against each other to see who can survive in a remote location somewhere in the world for a week with only the bare essentials provided. Was I willing to join a team of three vicars competing against three bookmakers? Naturally. With God on our side it would be no contest. Could I participate at short notice? Did I have a passport? Could I go anywhere in the world? For an audience of 2 million, when do we start? Did I have any phobias? Real men don’t have phobias – at least we don’t admit them to strangers. Would I be prepared to eat anything? Yes with my eyes closed. Could I work in a team made up of strangers? Try me. The last question – Did I have one wish? ‘To see heaven on earth’ I heard myself say. The interview lasted half an hour. It felt a cert. I was in. They loved me. The delightful programme co-ordinator assured me she would come back to me in a few days. I put the phone down and began to prepare myself. 

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