An Online Bible Study
Written by Pastor Mark Gibbs
With the recent release of Season 2 of Netflix's Stranger Things, I got to thinking about all the strange things in the Bible. One of the things that you will find in the Bible are all sorts of strange, obscure, weird sayings by Jesus and other Biblical figures. Let me invite you to join me in delving into some of the "stranger sayings" found in the Bible. You know what I'm talking about, right? Those scripture passages that leave us scratching our heads and saying, "Whaaaat?"
EPISODE NO. 1 - JOHN THE BAPTIZER
( Sculpture of John the Baptizer
by Auguste Rodin, 1840-1917,
photo used with permission)
No one is stranger in the Bible than John the Baptizer! John, a distant cousin to Jesus, lived in the desert, dressed in odd clothing (leather and camel's hair) and ate bugs. And his sermons, well, they were quite strange also. Click on Luke 3:7-9 to read one of John's strangest!
When John the Baptizer came on the scene, he did not appear in a spiritual vacuum. Instead, he came into a Jewish religious culture that was primed and ready for something important to happen! Ever since the Jews were carried into exile in the year 586 BC, they had been waiting for God to do something BIG to restore the Kingdom of Judah. John came baptizing and preaching, urgently pleading with the Jewish people to get themselves right with God because God was about to act!
To learn more about why John made such a splash, click here
Click on the links below to read definitions of key words to help you understand the scripture lesson at a deeper level.
Stranger Saying No. 1 – “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath
to come?” (Luke 3:7)
John says this to the people who are coming out to see him and hear a word from the Lord. What a strange way to begin a sermon! What is going on here? Jewish prophets often used hyperbole, exaggeration, abstraction and harsh language to drive home the point God wanted them to make. John used these rhetorical strategies to make sure his audience understood that they were all sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness. (Genesis 3:6, Romans 3:23) Only by truly repenting and seeking forgiveness of their sins could they properly prepare for the coming of God's anointed one.
Stranger Saying No. 2 – "And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham
as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God
can raise up children for Abraham." (Luke 3:8)
The Bible often refers to the Jews as "God's Chosen People." This special designation described a covenant relationship between the Jews and God whereby God promised to guide, and protect the Jews, and the Jews agreed to abide by the Laws of Moses set down in the first five books of the Bible. By living in this covenant relationship, the Jews would fulfill the purpose of communicating God's sovereignty, love, and desire for justice to the world. Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews failed miserably at this task. God eventually punished them for their disobedience. Yet, God promised to eventually send an "anointed one" to make things right.
However, the Jews in Jesus' day had come to see their "chosen" status as an entitlement or divine right, meaning that by virtue of their being born Jewish, they would not be punished by God for their disobedience. John debunks this kind of thinking, saying that God can make disciples out of stones if the Jews refuse to obey him and "bear the fruit of repentance." Repentance and faith bring forgiveness and salvation. One's ethic, political, religious identities do not.
Questions to Ponder
I leave you with a few questions … to encourage you to reflect upon how this scripture lesson (Luke 3:7-9) can help you better understand God's expectations for your life as His disciple. Let me encourage you to write down your answers to each of these questions. Many people find such “journaling” to be helpful in clarifying the meaning of scripture texts and in understanding how such texts should to apply to their lives. May God bless your efforts!
In what ways are you part of the “brood of vipers” mentioned by John?
Have you ever felt a real sense of fear with respect to God's wrath? If so, what made or makes you feel that way?
As Christians should we fear God's wrath? Why or why not?
In what ways have you “produced fruit in keeping with repentance?” In what ways have you not?
In what ways are we Christians prone to the same kind of spiritual hubris as were the Jews with respect to relying on our religious heritage, instead of practicing true faith as God intends? How might we guard against such pitfalls?