The following extract comes from the book How to Study the Bible by Dwight L. Moody.
If you are impatient, sit down quietly and commune with Job.
If you are strong-headed, read about Moses and Peter.
If you lack courage, look at Elijah.
If there is no song in your heart, listen to David.
If you are a politician, read Daniel.
If you are morally corrupt, read Isaiah.
If your heart is cold, read of the beloved disciple, John.
If your faith is low, read Paul.
If you are getting lazy, learn from James.
If you are losing sight of the future, read in Revelation of the Promised Land.
This article was found in the August 1952 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. The following address was given by Mr. Ebenezer Cunningham, a Deacon of Emmanuel Church, Cambridge.
That there is something different between the relationship of minister and people in a Congregational Church and the relationship which one obtains in an Anglican Church is fairly apparent. It shows us clearly in the way in which a member of the Anglican Church will speak to his minister as "Vicar", while we should almost invariably address him as "Mr. Smith", or as often happens in these days, as "John" or "Eric". In the former case he is the official representative of the Church. In our case, he is a friend and equal among us. And of course this is related to the difference in the way in which he comes among us as compared with the advent of a vicar. The bishop appoints a vicar. The Congregational Church invites a minister. Our Anglican friends would perhaps consider that our way is informal and lacking in weighty sanction. But in principle, though not always realised in practice, the invitation of a minister to a Congregational Church in the action of the Church, of the members covenanted together in Christ under the guiding of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the most solemn actions of a church. It is the action of the Church in its most complete sense. This is evident in the way in which, for a great many Churches, notice is given publicly at each service on two Sundays previously of a special meeting for the consideration of a call to a minister. The call, like all subsequent relations with a minister is conditioned by all the frailty and failings of ordinary people; but in this matter, as in every true Church meeting, the members are acting at their highest level, Indeed, that the Church is wise which never sends a call except on the unanimous feeling of the meeting.
And the minister, on receiving the call, awaits the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that he may reply rightly. And if he accepts the call, he trusts himself into the keeping of the Church, for good or ill, to serve and not to count the cost. It is a solemn engagement into which minister and people enter. They become responsible to, and responsible for each other. The minister becomes a member of the Church on the same terms as any other, entering into the same covenant with the Church to walk together in the ways of Christ and to be guided by the one spirit.
And so the first element in the relationship of minister and people is the same as the relationship between any two members of a Church. This, of course tells both ways. It raises the conception of the relationship between any two members to the level at which each ministers to the other. It is said that "there is no laity." We are all ministers. This is a fact which we often lose sight of. But if it became a reality among us or in proportion as it does so, we are realising the true nature of the Church. Feebly we try to make it so. But how much further do we need to go?
And so our first duty to our minister is to minister to him. We have to minister to his ordinary needs and the needs of his family. We become responsible for his house and home, for his food and raiment, as we are responsible to our own family.
This needs be said: "The first call on the members of the Church financially is the maintenance of the minister." As a member of the Home Churches Fund Committee I have heard so much of the Churches who say we cannot pay more towards the support of our minister because of the dry-rot in our roof, or the breakdown of our heating system, or a £400 bill for repairs. Of course the whole financial set-up is involved. The care of the buildings entrusted to us by our fathers is one that has to be lovingly dealt with. But as a matter of fact we do not care for them enough. We let them get into disrepair, then have a big bill and make that a reason for special efforts, draining our strength, when we should prudently, over a period of years, have been gradually building up a repairs fund against the time of need. And in this prudent budgeting for the whole life and maintenance of the Church, the care of the minister, whom under the guiding of the spirit, we have asked to come and serve us, deserting all else, must have the highest priority. I would say that even then poorest of our Church members should not feel satisfied in these days at devoting less than a shilling a week to that part of the life of the community; and thereafter asking what is due for the work of Christ in the Church. At the least, the labourer is worthy of his hire, and this is a relationship far closer than that of a hired labourer. And it is a relationship far higher than that of charity. There are those who, conscious that a minister is poorly paid compared with themselves, like to give him presents from time to time. But let us make quite sure that he is paid in such a way that he is on equal terms with ourselves. We all know pretty well the sort of standard which is an average one in our own Church.
But the minister has needs other than physical to which we have to minister. How much do we expect of him? He has a limited amount of time, strength and energy as we all have. Mentally and spiritually his output is limited, and may be cut down if we impose strains upon him. But it may be increased by the power of the Spirit and of the spiritual atmosphere with which we surround him. If he is left to plough a lone furrow, he will tire and lose heart. But if he is one of a team, the yoke will be easy, and the furrow straight.
So we have a spiritual ministry to render to him; and this is the most important part of our responsibility to him. How do we exercise it? This is for us lay-folk the question to which we should give most attention, and on which our discussion might well focus. I can only make one or two suggestions.
I remember at the preaching-in of a new young Scottish minister, the preacher gave to the Congregation the charge "Love your young minister." Young or old or middle-aged every minister needs love. And love in the deepest sense. And that is really the sum of the whole matter.
Perhaps the first element in such love is thoughtfulness, putting yourself in his place. Imagine his life. With all the distractions of home and children, all the consciousness of his wife's labours, all the failings of his own nature as husband and father, and of his wife's nature, he has to carry on and seem undisturbed.
With the care and love which his wife lavishes on him, and what a miracle this is, he is painfully conscious of his position and what people expect of him. (If perchance he is a bachelor his plight is worse, with all those temptations that assail a man who lives by himself.)
Picture him getting up, with morning devotions, fireplaces, breakfast, washing up, making beds, carrying coals all competing for him, and his study waiting for him and the newspapers and letters with tales of woe coming between him and settling down to his preparation for Sunday.
Think of the problem of keeping fresh so that life is for ever providing him with more situations which he has to enlighten from the Word of God. Think of the telephone going, the callers for advice, the sick people to visit, the aged and those who expect to be visited. And then think of him planning for the life of the Church, looking forward to ask where the new members are coming from, bearing each separate young person in mind, and the children's Church, and the casual and slipping members. All these and how much else is on his mind and heart. And what do we do about it? What can we do about it? Can we make his care our own? For they are the cares of the whole family of the Church.
Our ministry to him must be not that of expecting to get, but desire to give. It must be an out-going friendship towards him. He must know that we care, that in our measure we will bear the burdens. There will be many that he has to carry about in the secret of his heart. There are others which he should know that he may look to us to share or bear. There must be some among us to whom he can unburden himself, even to bringing that of which he is ashamed with the knowledge that Christ is present as he talks. And all this means that we shall realise the depth of our relationship in proportion as we ourselves are brought nearer to Christ himself. As that happens, any critical spirit will fade out. As that happens, he will not have to search among unwilling helpers for the man for the job. As that happens, suggestions and plans for a forward move will come from us, we shall cease to be passengers to carry, but men who ply an oar.
Of course there are some of us who are too forward with suggestions, and whose judgement is not always of the wisest. Perhaps these of us are more trying than the inert and ineffective. The pugnacious deacon, the difficult deacon are thorns in the flesh of the minister. The grumbler and the stick-in-the-mud are always with us. But how else are these to become co-operative and helpful, save for the breath of that same spirit in their hearts which in another diffident and shy member will bring a readiness to come out of his shell?
How shall we sum up the relationship which we would hope for between minster and the people? Of course it depends upon your vision for the Church. If you have a static picture of the Church, in which the same things go on always, in which the successive generations come and listen to successive ministers, maintain the same organisations, preserve the customs of the last generation through changing ages, then we shall be the despair of any live minister, and sooner or later we shall break him.
If we think of the minister as laying down the law, guiding all that we do, bearing the full responsibility for all the life of the Church, then we shall be tame followers, with no ideas of our own.
But if we envisage the Church as the continuing body of Christ, existing to carry on his work of saving the world, then we shall be an eager team, glad of leadership from one who has given all to the work, offering all that we have and are in co-operation, eager to learn, eager to share. Our leader will not lack encouragement, he will be kept on his toes, he will be worked harder than ever, but not occupied in dragging a dead-weight. He will be a trainer of a team, teaching us how to run, showing us where we are clumsy and revealing to us the things that make us less than we may be. Above all he will be keeping us on the way of discipleship of Him who is the great leader and Lord.
Subtitled How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings, film critic and committed Christian, Josh Larsen, writes Movies Are Prayers to explain his perspective that films are one of our ways of communicating with God. Films, or movies as they are oftentimes referred to in this book, can be many things from a form of escapism to historical information and artistic expression, but as Larsen maintains, they can also be prayers.
“Movies are our way of telling God what we think about this world and our place in it.” Apart from those based on Biblical characters or Christian messages, films are not usually a deliberate attempt at speaking to God. What Larsen is suggesting is that God can be found in places you would not expect – the cinema, for instance. Prayer is a human instinct, even for those who have no religious ties. We are forever asking “why am I here?” or “why me?” alongside feelings of gratitude and love for our positive experiences in life.
Josh Larsen explores several expressions of prayer, including the tenets of the Lord’s Prayer, to examine numerous films from popular classics to contemporary Disney. Beginning with wonder at the natural world (Avatar, Into The Wild), positive forms of prayer are identified in well-known cinematography, such as reconciliation (Where the Wild Things Are), meditation (Bambi), joy (Top Hat, and most musicals) and confession (Toy Story, Trainwreck). But Larsen does not stop there, he goes on to use examples of emotions that many may not consider forms of prayer: anger (Fight Club, The Piano) and lament (12 Years a Slave, Godzilla).
To back up his theory, Josh Larsen relates film sequences with Bible passages, for example, the prayers of David and Job. He likens the ending of Children of Men with the Christmas story and identifies the worshipping of false gods with Wizard of Oz. Larsen also suggests the obedience of the main character in It’s a Wonderful Life reflects the experiences of Jonah.
As well as Biblical theory, Larsen refers to citations from other respected Christian writers on the matter of prayer, challenging preconceived notions of both the religious and the atheist. Despite the fact Movies Are Prayers is heavily steeped in religious connotations, it may appeal to film buffs who wish to delve deeper into the hidden meanings of films.
Although the examples in this book are mostly well-known titles, it is unlikely that readers will have watched all the films. Helpfully, Josh Larsen provides details and descriptions of the scenes he has chosen to focus on so that even if you are not familiar with the story, it is possible to understand the author’s perspective. Having said that, Movies Are Prayers contains a lot of spoilers.
Everyone has their own personal view on Christian theory and prayer, so Movies Are Prayers can only be treated as an idea rather than gospel. However, Josh Larsen has developed an interesting theory that makes you think more about the ways we can communicate with God, even when we may not have deliberately chosen to. Being easy to read and not overly long (200 pages), Movies Are Prayers is the ideal book for film-loving Christians.
Where Are You Hiding, God? is a children’s picture book by the Austrian illustrator Elisabeth Zartl. Originally published in 2013 under the German title Wo versteckst du dich, lieber Gott? it has been translated into English in order to reach a wider audience. Primarily targeted at children of Christian families, the book attempts to explain the concept of God.
The short story begins with an anonymous little girl searching for God in a manner that resembles a game of Hide and Seek. She looks in her bedroom, the bathroom and the garden before giving up in defeat. As she sits desolately alone, a gust of wind and a falling leaf prompt her to realise that God does not have a corporeal body, but is, in fact, everywhere. Exhilarated by her newfound understanding, she exclaims that God was in all the places she looked and that he is inside her, too. God is everywhere.
Aimed at children ages three and over, Where Are You Hiding, God? explores the confusion a child may have in comprehending the idea of God. For a child, knowing something or someone is there but not being able to see them is a difficult idea to grasp. This book, through the demonstration of someone their own age, helps to explain their questions and uncertainties.
Elizabeth Zartl’s illustrations capture the attention of those reading or looking at the pages. Filling each page with a full-colour palette, the drawings are child-friendly but realistic, making it easy to process, and accurately creates a visual narrative of the written words. The language is also suitable for the intended demographic and, although three-year-olds may not be able to read it themselves, they will certainly understand the story.
From a design point of view, the text and illustrations do not quite match up. The full-page artworks make it difficult to place the short sentences in a way that both elements can work together. This, however, is not the fault of the author/illustrator who would have originally been working with a German text.
Overall, Where Are You Hiding, God? is a sweet, short story that can be read to children or grandchildren over and over again. As well as being a source of entertainment, it introduces them to the beliefs they will encounter during their Christian upbringing and prepares them to develop a greater understanding of God.
This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by B. C. Wood and originally titled London Pride.
Not many months ago I was given the privilege of introducing some transatlantic visitors to London, the city that Emerson once called the Capital of the Human Race. I set about my task with joy and with pride because London is not only an incomparable capital but it has the capacity of arousing and sustaining complete devotion in the hearts of its sons.
Soon, however, my joy gave place to sense of inadequacy for London does not give itself to guide-book treatment. While any visitor should be impressed by the dignity of the Mall and the excitement of Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square the true throb of London's pulse can only be felt in its accidental and sudden beauty, in the discovering of its labyrinth of streets, in the fascination of its river and in the beauty of its parks.
When I stood for the first time on Westminster Bridge and gazed expectantly around me I felt ashamed of my dullness, for I could see nothing majestic in the panorama before me. Yet, on another occasion, probably it was autumn, Wordsworth's seemed an inspired description of a noble scene. In the same way Somerset House, the house of the Protector, is sometimes the shabbiest building and sometimes one of the handsomest to be seen.
Many visitors, including, I think, mine, who are accustomed to the stone triumphs of millionaire financiers are surprised by London's modesty. When the big and bold in architecture is sought we must turn to Bush or Shell-Mex House or to the monstrosity which is the London University building, and it is only by chance and Goering's bombers that St. Paul's Cathedral has yet been set free to shout its sturdy Protestantism at a larger audience. Besides Versailles St. James' Palace is the last word in self-effacement while in comparison with the White House No. 10 Downing Street must be almost sinister in its anonymity.
But the anonymity is a characteristic of both the Londoner and his city. I have met Londoners who are inordinately proud because they have no idea who their neighbours are and no wish to find out. Here is a have for those - from the deserter to the revolutionary - who wish to live in oblivion. "The only spot on earth left to be discovered," said one of Pinero's characters, "is the end of Cromwell Road."
Again, there are many cities within London; from Spitalfields to Golders Green there is toleration to all races, while Hampstead and West Ham might be in different continents. Some say too that the climate in Battersea is far milder than that in Chelsea, but about this I cannot tell.
London's parks are all of them significant and most of them beautiful, but Hyde Park is perhaps nearest of all to the Londoner's heart. In its own diversity it is a reflection of the whole city; and it has been observed, I think with some perception, that Orators' Corner and the Pets' Cemetery represent the extremities of the British mind. And so it is with the patrician acres of Kensington Gardens and the more plebeian Lido on the Serpentine - the Lido which was inspired by one of the greatest Londoners of all.
I think so too, that George Lansbury would dearly loved to have seen the exciting new vista of London opened up with the buildings on South Bank. For here we have not only a fresh view of London's present glories but a promise that we may be privileged to witness the writing of another historic chapter in the story of our city.
As we know, July is named after Julius Caesar. This, of course, reminds us of the quote “give to Caesar what is Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." (Mark 12:17)
Giving to God the first crops and first-fruits come to mind. This is the concept of giving to God the best and not what is leftover. So often we short change what we give to God. We squeeze God in, sometimes unsuccessfully, into our very busy lives. Instead of putting God first, we put other things first.
So, let’s reflect, Does God come before family?
Does God come before work?
Does God come before sports practice?
Does God come before holidays?
It’s always a good question to know where God stands in our lives.
It is vital to remember that God wants us to be happy, God wants us to enjoy the fruits of his creation, God wants us to enjoy family and work and recreation and holidays. God does not want us to burn out because God loves us. But I just pose, where is God in our lives?
Fun Fact: The word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible. The word was first used to describe God by Tertullian, who was a North African Christian Theologian, born 155-220 AD.
The Gospel According to Mark is the second book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels in the Bible. Rather than beginning with Jesus’ birth, the Gospel tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism to his death and resurrection. Mark keeps Christ’s messianic nature secret, hence no miraculous birth, yet portrays Jesus as a man of action, a miracle worker, a healer and an exorcist. Authorship of the Gospel is unknown, however, it has been dated to around AD 65 - 75, making it the earliest of the four canonical gospels. Originally, scholars attributed the work to Mark the Evangelist, the founder of the Church of Alexandria, who appears in 2 Timothy as Paul’s companion. Another suggestion was John Mark, Paul’s assistant in the Acts of the Apostles. These theories have since been rejected in favour of an anonymous authoritative figure.
The Gospel of Mark was written in Greek for a Gentile audience and contains much of the same contents as the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Since Mark was written first, it is likely the other Gospel writers were influenced by Mark. Whilst there are many similarities between the synoptic gospels, there are also several differences. Mark’s intention was to reveal a message, although it is also considered to be a historical report.
At the time of writing, there were Jewish-Christians, i.e. Jews who had converted, and new Christians, i.e. Gentiles who had come to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. All four gospels were written with the intent to strengthen the faith of those who already believed rather than to convert non-believers, therefore, Mark did not need to express to his readers Jesus’ divinity, but rather emphasise Christ’s suffering for Man.
There is no obvious structure to the Gospel According to Mark, however, it is generally agreed that it consists of three parts: Galilean Ministry (1-9), Journey to Jerusalem (10) and Events in Jerusalem (11-16). A few contemporary scholars suggest the Gospel is characteristic of a three-act play, perhaps influenced by the structure of a Greek tragedy.
Chapter one opens with prophecies written by Malachi and Isaiah that state, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” (Malachi 1) “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Isaiah 40:3) Although the Gospel is essentially about the life of Jesus, Mark begins by focusing on John the Baptist who had been preaching in the wilderness long before Jesus began his ministry. After this introduction, Jesus appeared and was baptised in the Jordan. (1:9-11) This was followed by a brief account of the testing of Jesus by the Devil (1:12-13). Unlike Matthew who went into some detail about these events, Mark glossed over them, not feeling the need to focus on Jesus’ divine status.
Mark records Jesus calling his disciples, beginning with Peter and Andrew in chapter 1:16-20 and ending with Matthew in chapter 2:13-17. Once Jesus had called most of the disciples together, he began to teach about healing and driving out demons. Before Jesus had called Matthew to be his disciple, he had already performed an exorcism (1:32-34), cured a leper (1:35-45) and healed a paralytic (2:1-12).
In chapters two and three, Jesus’ actions began to anger the Jewish lawmakers, who wanted to know why he was “doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath”. This particular verse comes from chapter 2:23-28 when Jesus and the disciples were seen picking heads of grain on the Sabbath, a day of rest. Jesus reminded them that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, however, this did not appease them for long. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus of a crime, the Pharisees pounced when Jesus healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath. Once again, Jesus gave reasoning for his actions, asking, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (3:4) After this, the Pharisees began to plot Jesus’ death with the Herodians.
Chapter 4 records a long discourse in parables that Jesus delivered to a crowd of people. Parables include the Parable of the Sower (4:1-9), Lamp under a Bushel (4:21-23), the Mote and the Beam (4:24-25) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:26-32). Although Jesus tried to explain the purpose of the Parables to the disciples, they, according to Mark, failed to understand Jesus’ true identity. Even at the end of the chapter when Jesus calmed a storm by saying to the wind “Quiet! Be still!”, the disciples still did not recognise Jesus as the Son of God. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (4:35-41)
Acts of healing continue until chapter nine, which marks the end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Three miracles occur one after the other in chapter five, beginning with restoring a demon-possessed man. Whilst an exorcism was not new for Jesus, this instance was different from others because the demon spoke saying, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” (5:10) and begged not to be sent out the area. The demon suggested Jesus send them into a heard of pigs instead and Jesus obliged, however, the pigs, unable to cope with the demons inside them, rushed into a lake and were drowned.
Two miracles immediately follow the restoration of the demon-possessed man, which demonstrate the power of faith. A synagogue leader named Jairus specifically sought out Jesus because his daughter was dying. Whilst Jesus was on his way to see the daughter, a woman who had bled for twelve years reached out and touched Jesus’ cloak, believing it would make her well. Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (5:34) Meanwhile, Jairus’ daughter had died but Jesus commanded, “Talitha koum!” (5:41; which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”), and she did. Only Peter, James and John witnessed this resurrection and Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone.
Miracles continued throughout chapter six, including feeding the 5000 (6:30-44), walking on water (6:45-52), and healing many who touched the fringe of Jesus’ coat (6:53-56). Miracles also took place in chapter seven after a discourse on defilement during which Jesus tells the crowd, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles the.” (7:1-23). Jesus performed another exorcism (7:24-30), healed a deaf-mute (7:31-37), and fed 4000 people (8:1-9).
The narrative of Mark’s Gospel changes during chapter eight when the disciple Peter finally realises that Jesus is the Messiah (8:27-30). Jesus asked Peter not to tell anyone but began to prepare the disciples for his upcoming death. Not having the insight that Peter had, the other disciples did not understand what Jesus meant. Mark records the Transfiguration in chapter nine, which only Peter, James and John witnessed. According to Mark, Jesus told them not to tell anyone until the “Son of Man had risen from the dead”. The disciples did not comprehend what was going to happen and discussed amongst themselves what “rising from the dead” meant.
The unofficial second section of the Gospel According to Mark starts in chapter 10 with the journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus taught the crowds about divorce (10:2-12), blessed many children (10:13-16), and answered the question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:17). Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus was hailed as one “who comes in the name of the Lord!” (11:9-10). Notice Mark does not make reference to Jesus being the Son of God, even Jesus does not refer to himself as such. After Jesus had cleared the Temple courts (11:15-19) and given his famous discourse about the Greatest Commandment (12:28-34) Jesus suggested the Messiah was not the Son of David but did not let on that he was the Messiah.
The Olivet Discourse or Sermon on the Mount - although Mark does not refer to it as such - is contained in chapter 13. Jesus informed his disciples about the destruction of the Temple and the end of times, warning them to “Be on guard! Be alert!” (13:33) Straight after preparing the disciples for the end of the world, Jesus started to prepare himself for his crucifixion, beginning with a meal at the house of Simon the Leper. During the meal, a woman anointed Jesus’ head with a jar of expensive perfume. Jesus told his indignant disciples that this act prepared his body for burial. Judas, on the other hand, could only think about the cost of the perfume and was delighted when the chief priests offered him money to betray Jesus. (14:1-10)
Unlike in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark’s account of the Last Supper does not mention the name of the disciple that is going to betray Jesus, although it is already specified earlier in the chapter. “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” (14:18) After the meal, Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane to pray. While they were there, Judas arrived with “a crowd armed with swords and clubs” (14:43) who arrested Jesus and took him to the Sanhedrin. Here, Jesus confessed to being the Messiah, however, according to Mark, he continued to refer to himself as the Son of Man, rather than the Son of God. (14:53-65)
When Jesus was questioned by Pilate, Jesus refused to answer the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” His only response was “You have said so.” With nothing to charge him with, Pilate asked the crowd that had gathered whether he should release Jesus or release a different prisoner, Barabbas. It was customary at Passover to release a prisoner whom the people requested; they chose Barabbas and ordered Jesus to be crucified. (15:1-15) A man from Cyrene called “Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus” was ordered to carry the cross and Jesus was crucified under the banner “the King of the Jews”. (15:21-37)
Watching in the distance on the day Jesus was crucified were some women. This is where Mark’s account of Jesus’ death differs from Matthew’s. Mark records “Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” (15:40) Matthew, on the other hand, sites the names “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” (Matthew 27:56) This has led to many debates amongst scholars as to the names of Jesus’ brothers, i.e. James and Joseph. Mark 6:3 had already suggested he had brothers called James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, as well as some unnamed sisters. Mark also records that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council and “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.” (15:42-47)
Chapter 16 records Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome discovering Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb. A “young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side” told them Jesus the Nazarene had risen and sent them to tell Peter, however, they were afraid and told no one. Again, this differs from Matthew’s angel whose “appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” (Matthew 28:3)
Early manuscripts of the Gospel According to Mark ended at chapter 16:8. Since then, an additional 11 verses have been added to cover Jesus’ resurrection, the commissioning of the disciples, and his ascension. It is generally accepted that a different author penned these verses since the style is different from the rest of the Gospel. It was likely added to provide a more satisfactory ending to the book. This ending reveals Jesus rose on the first day of the week and met Mary Magdalene in the garden. Although Mary told the disciples that Jesus had risen, they refused to believe her and were subsequently rebuked by Jesus for having little faith. After Jesus commissioned the eleven to go out and preach the gospel to all creation, “he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (16:19).
Although Mark was the earliest Gospel, there are many differences in the way the life of Jesus is told. The disciples, for instance, show very little understanding of Jesus’ purpose and suffering, and yet, when things came to pass as Jesus had said, they ran away in denial. There is debate amongst scholars as to if Mark was attacking the Jewish branch of Christianity for their lack of faith. Others say Mark’s purpose was to emphasise Jesus as the “Suffering Messiah”, suffering alone for the world.
Despite Mark’s secrecy about Jesus being the Messiah, almost a third of the Gospel focuses on Jesus’ miracles, which is proportionally more than any of the other gospels. Most of these twenty parables feature in the other Synoptic Gospels, however, the Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29) is unique to Mark. The aforementioned verse "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (2:27) appears in neither Matthew nor Luke and Pilates position was never mentioned - other gospels reveal he was Governor. Interestingly, there is no mention of Samaritans, who feature in both Matthew and Luke.
The Gospel According to Mark is the only Gospel that retains the original Aramaic commands Jesus used during acts of healing. Talitha koum, as already mentioned, was used during the raising of Jairus’ daughter. The other Aramaic phrase is “Ephphatha!” (7:34, which means “Be opened!”) said during the healing of a deaf-mute man.
The biggest difference between Mark and the other gospels is, of course, his reluctance to portray Jesus as a “divine man”. Ultimately, Mark did not want Jesus to be mistaken for a Hercules-like figure; Jesus’ mission was one of suffering and pain rather than glory and conquest. Whereas the later gospels record Jesus’ death as victorious, Mark, on the other hand, emphasises the despair and agony. It is potentially for this reason that Mark originally ended at chapter 16:8 rather than rejoicing that Jesus was alive. Christ’s suffering was a fulfilment of the divine plan.
This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by Rev. Ronald M. Ward.
I have not had a lively interest in Noah for years. I have been inclined to think of him more as the founder of a remarkably representative zoo than anything else, but the other day I started reading "Ur of the Chaldees" by Sir Leonard Woolley who spent seven years excavating Ur and its suburbs. I suppose that few people who read the Old Testament realise how remarkable was the civilisation which existed at the time of Abraham and even of Noah. Unfriendly critics have tried to make us believe that these ancient peoples were crude and ignorant, and in fact until the excavation of Ur in the thirties there was little evidence to show what they were like.
The archaeologist's description of the reforms or rather religious innovations of Nebuchadnezzar as shown in his alterations of the temples and holy buildings adds to our understanding of the story of the Three Children in the Book of Daniel, and his drawings on the ziggurats or stage-towers of which the Tower of Babel was a type made me think about the Bible story with more interest. If we are sceptical about the account of people building a tower with the idea that it should reach to heaven, the learned comments of Egyptologists on the meaning of pyramids and stage-towers will probably make us change our minds.
Writing about excavations of a suburb of Ur Sir Leonard Woolley describes a small relief in alabaster which he dug up under the foundations of a house attached to a temple. It was a high-prowed boat with a cabin amidships and on one side a man was shown standing in the stern and a cow in the cabin and on the other were two fish and a goose. Apparently this was the type of boat used by marsh dwellers of that period, and it was so like the Ark that it was jokingly called Noah's Ark by the excavators. Having read this I immediately began to imagine Noah as a marshland farmer who spent most of time in the lonely flat country by the river. Probably he was skilled at hunting wildfowl and fishing and was used to handling boats, because that part of Mesopotamia was liable to flood. What better place could there have been for religious contemplation and for observing the signs of the weather and that behaviour of the river. As a countryman Noah probably had definite options about the life of the cities in the plain, and we know that Ur had an advanced civilisation at the time of the Flood. As a man used to working hard and with strong religious feelings he may not have approved of the luxurious life of some of the citizens of Ur. We might imagine him perceiving with a Churchillian grimness the signs of the gathering storm and receiving as a Divine message the warning of coming disaster. Like the man in the alabaster relief he took his domestic animals and his family on board this marsh-boat, and as for the "creeping things of the earth" mentioned in Genesis, they probably came in with the beasts without any organised assistance from Noah. The Kon-Tiki Expedition has shown us what perils a frail craft can endure, and we can imagine Noah's ark weathering the storm which destroyed all the villages over a vast area measuring 400 by 100 miles, and left a few of the cities which were built up high but which must have suffered severely from the flooding of so much agricultural land.
If anyone is inclined to draw an unfavourable comparison between this disaster and the Biblical implication that it was universal, it should be pointed out that the near destruction of the Sumerian civilisation was of the greatest significance because it was from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates that culture passed to Egypt and so through Crete to Greece and Rome.
It is a pity that the results of these excavations cannot be popularly presented. Many people have not enough imagination to picture the social life of the times from its remains, nor enough patience to follow the detailed accounts of scholars. Perhaps where Noah is concerned my imagination has wandered off in the wrong direction but at any rate it has restored him to reality.
In 2014, ITV broadcasted the first episode of Grantchester, a drama series based on books by British novelist, James Runcie. Although written during the twenty-first century, the story is set in the 1950s in a village on the outskirts of Cambridge. Sidney Chambers, a young Canon in charge of the Church of St Andrew and Mary, is a polite and friendly character who, despite his reluctance, ends up acting as a detective in a variety of crimes.
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is the first book of six in The Grantchester Mysteries. Split into six individual baffling cases, the background story of Sidney’s private life continues to develop throughout. Each crime is committed and swiftly solved by the Canon and his friend, Inspector Geordie Keating, although it is Sidney who ultimately resolves the case.
Murder, jewellery theft and art forgery and just some of the felonies Sidney grudgingly gets involved with. In fact, unresolved crimes tend to land in his lap rather than offering his assistance willingly. Up at dawn to work on sermons before rushing off to capture criminals, Sidney is never off duty.
A vicar may seem like an unlikely candidate for a detective, however, people tend to open up to him and unintentionally reveal delitescent information. Listening to suspects and witnesses without pre-judgement allows Sidney to think things through carefully rather than jumping to conclusions. From the moment the crime is committed right up until the story’s denouement, Sidney passionately does everything he can to make sure the correct culprit is discovered.
What makes this series different from other crime novels is the focus on Sidney Chambers’ own life. James Runcie emphasises the loneliness of a bachelor living in a vicarage with only a curate and crotchety housekeeper for company. Readers are drawn into Sidney’s stories and hold onto the hope that his dalliances with the beautiful Amanda turn out to be something more concrete.
Those who have watched the ITV series will be familiar with the stories in this book because the producer has stuck to the exact storyline, not missing a single thing out or adding anything extra. The fact that there were only two years between publishing and screen production goes to show how well written and thought out these stories are. Unlike famous detective novels such as Sherlock Holmes or those by Agatha Christie, The Grantchester Mysteries are not set at the time of writing, so, although they are historically accurate, the prose is suitable for present day readers.
Each story is quick to read and is easy going, making it a relaxing and enjoyable book. It is not a thriller or horror, although some of the crimes are quite terrible. Instead, it is entertaining and often humorous. It is suitable for crime fiction fans as well as those new to the genre.
Regardless of whether you have watched the television series or not, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is a delight to read. Of course, ITV has given away all the endings, but it is a different experience to read it in print rather than seeing it acted out on screen. Featuring the face of James Norton on the cover so as to work as a TV tie-in, the series will be easy to spot in prime position on bookshelves both in shops and personal collections.
The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels in the Bible. These three gospels often overlap, however, at least 20% of Matthew’s content is unique. It tells the story of Jesus’ life from his birth until his crucifixion and resurrection, encompassing the calling of his disciples, several miracles and many parables. Most scholars believe the Gospel was written between AD 80 and 90, however, other suggestions place it anywhere between AD 70 and 110.
Despite being known as Matthew’s Gospel, the identity of the author is unknown. Originally, the authorship was attributed to Matthew the Apostle, however, this is largely rejected today. What can be ascertained, however, is the author was likely a Jew whose religious beliefs fluctuated between traditional and non-traditional values.
The Gospel was written just after the First Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73), which saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Although Christianity had begun with Jesus, it was more a Jewish messianic movement until after this war, when it gradually evolved into a separate Gentile religion. Matthew was more likely a Jewish Christian, meaning he was a member of a community who had cut itself off from its Jewish roots in order to follow Christ. As a result, the Gospel was written for Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, possibly in Syria, who were already familiar with Jewish customs, therefore, the author did not feel the need to explain them, unlike the Gospel of Mark, for example.
Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17), tracing the descent from Abraham to David and David to Jesus. This is further evidence that Matthew was Jewish because, unlike the Gospel of Luke that provides a genealogy from Adam, the father of the human race, Matthew begins with Abraham, the father of the Jews. Following this, Matthew describes the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, including the visit from the magi (2:1-12) and the massacre of the innocents. The rest of chapter two tells of the flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth.
Chapter three begins with the baptism of Jesus by his cousin John, during which the Holy Spirit descends upon him. The following chapter describes the period of 40 days that Jesus spent praying and meditating in the Judean desert. During this time Jesus was tempted by Satan on three occasions but the devil had no power over him. After this period, Jesus travelled to Capernaum where he gradually called his disciples. He then moved on to Galilee where he began his ministry.
The Gospel of Matthew is split into five narratives or discourses with the aforementioned chapters being the prologue. The first discourse encompasses chapters 5-7 and is often referred to as Sermon on the Mount. This section is the most quoted part of the New Testament as it includes the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes. The latter is expressed as a series of blessings and presented new ideas about love and humility. Along with mercy, spirituality and compassion, which Jesus also spoke about in this discourse, the Beatitudes present the ethics of the Kingdom of God. Jesus also taught about issues that could result in persecution, such as divorce, lust and materialistic values. He also warned of false prophets and taught the disciples how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer; 6:9-13).
Between the first and second discourse, Jesus performed a series of miracles. Notable ones include the calming of the storm (8:23-27), healing a paralytic (9:1-8), the raising of Jairus’ daughter (9:18-26) and giving sight to the blind (9:27-31). Shortly after the healing of a paralytic, Jesus called Matthew - a potential author of the Gospel - to discipleship. "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me", he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." (9:9, NIV). As a tax collector, Matthew would have been an unpopular person and an unusual choice for an apostle - so the Pharisees expressed.
The second discourse has been given different names by various scholars, including the Mission Discourse, the Missionary Discourse, and the Little Commission. The latter is in reference to the Great Commission that occurs later in the Gospel (28:16-20). The discourse spans chapters 10-12 and begins with Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. Jesus commissioned Simon (Peter) Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James of Alphaeus (which mean "changing" in Greek), Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot to travel to Israelite communities to proclaim “the Kingdom of heaven is near”. He encouraged them to “Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid.” (10:8, GNT) Jesus also performed three miracles of his own: healing a man with a withered hand (12:9-14), exorcising a blind-mute man (12:22-28) and driving out a demon or unclean spirit (12:43-45).
The third narrative - the Parabolic Discourse - takes place in chapter 13. Divided into 58 verses, this chapter contains seven parables that attempt to explain the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gave the first four parables on a boat on the Sea of Galilee from which he could address the crowds of people standing on the shore. Matthew records these parables in the following order: Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Tares, Parable of the Mustard Seed and Parable of Leaven. According to Matthew, Jesus only provided explanations for the parables of the Sower and the Tares. The remaining three parables were given to Jesus’ disciples: Parable of the Hidden Treasure, Parable of the Pearl and Parable of Drawing in the Net. Some scholars claim verse 52 as an eighth parable: “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (KJV) At the end of the chapter, Jesus is rejected by his home town of Nazareth. (13:53-58)
Following the death of John the Baptist at the beginning of chapter 14, there are several events and miracles that occur before the fourth discourse. Chapter 14 contains the feeding of the 5000 (14:13-21), walking on water (14:22-33) and the healing of many through the touching of Jesus’ cloak (14:34-36). Miracles continue throughout chapter 15, including the exorcism of a Canaanite woman’s daughter (15:21-28) and the feeding of the 4000 (15:32-39).
Some scholars say the fourth discourse begins in chapter 16, whereas others say it is exclusive to chapter 18. The Discourse on the Church, as it is known, reveals the increasing opposition to Jesus, which prompts Jesus to prepare his disciples for his crucifixion. In chapter 16, Simon declares that Jesus is the Messiah, to which Jesus responds by renaming him Peter, meaning rock - “and on this rock, I will build my church…” (16:18). Peter is given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and is told, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (16:19). The phrase is repeated to all of the apostles in chapter 18, verse 18, hence why some scholars claim the fourth discourse to have begun in chapter 16.
Jesus predicted his death at the end of chapter 16 and did so twice more in chapter 17. At the beginning of that chapter, however, is Matthew’s version of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus speaks to Moses and Elijah on a mountain (17:1-13). This is followed by the exorcism of a boy possessed by a demon (17:14-21) and the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth (17:24-27).
Chapter 18, in which the majority of the Discourse on the Church takes place, focuses on the preparation of the disciples for the post-crucifixion church. It begins with the teaching of Jesus about little children, which is repeated briefly in chapter 19: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (18:3, NIV) Jesus went on to say that anyone who caused someone to “stumble” would never go to heaven. He advised it would be better to chop off the parts that caused you to stray, be it foot, hand or eye than spend eternity in hell. Jesus followed with the Parable of the Lost Sheep (18:10-14) and concluded the chapter with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (18:23-35).
The final discourse does not begin until chapter 23. Before then, Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem, speaking to people along the way. He gave the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (19:1-16) and healed two unnamed blind men near Jericho (10:29-34) before eventually making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (21:1-11). Several notable events occur in chapters 21 and 22, starting with the cleansing of the Temple (21:12-17) and the cursing of the fig tree (21:18-22), which lead to Jesus having his authority questioned (21:23-27). Jesus responded to this with three parables: The Two Sons, The Wicked Husbandman, and The Wedding Feast (21:28-22:14).
Jesus was subjected to several debates throughout chapter 22. Firstly, Jesus was asked if he believed in paying taxes to Caesar, which prompted the response: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.” (22:21) Secondly, the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus by asking complicated questions about the resurrection of the dead, to which Jesus reminded them that God was the God of the living. Finally, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (22:36, NASB) Jesus responded by paraphrasing the Torah: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” (22:37-39, NASB, see Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 9:17-18)
The fifth and final discourse includes Matthew 23, 24 and 25 and is usually known as the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, however, some refer to it as the Discourse on the End Times. Jesus’ disciples were curious about the future, particularly the “end of the age”. Jesus responded by predicting the destruction of the Temple, which sat opposite the Mount of Olives. He warned them about the Antichrist, false prophets and persecution. He warned of earthquakes, famines, pestilence, and fearful events that would lead up to the Second Coming of Christ. Having concluded his final discourse, Jesus turned his attention to his approaching crucifixion.
The events of the final three weeks of Jesus’ life had already begun before the Olivet Discourse with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple. The next event, after the discourse, was the anointing of Jesus, which is recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus visited the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany and while he was there “a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” (26:7, NIV) The act was a sign of Jesus’ approaching death - perfume was often used to prepare a body for burial. Following this, Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and offered to hand Jesus to them in exchange for money - 30 pieces of silver.
The famous Last Supper takes place in Matthew 26 during which Jesus identifies Judas as his betrayer. Jesus also told Peter, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." (26:34) Although Peter protested, before the end of the chapter it had come to pass as Jesus had said. Jesus then went to the Garden of Gethsemane, taking only Peter, James and John, where he prayed to God until Judas arrived with a large crowd who arrested Jesus. He was tried by the Sanhedrin before Pontius Pilate, who symbolically washed his hands of the matter. Chapter 27 details the torture Jesus was subjected to, ending with his death upon the cross.
Chapter 28, the final chapter in the Gospel of Matthew, contains the Great Commission. Mary Magdalene “and the other Mary” had gone to look at the tomb only to discover that Jesus was no longer there. Jesus then appeared to them asked, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (28:10, NIV) The Great Commission only encompasses verses 16 to 20 but is important, nonetheless. In Matthew’s account, which is considered the most famous version, Jesus gives the disciples the following instructions: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” These are the final words of the Gospel.
The Gospel of Matthew contains approximately 76% of the content of the Gospel of Mark, suggesting the latter was written first. Matthew has appropriated the key Christological texts from Mark - the theological doctrine of Christ - rewriting them from his own understanding. Matthew’s main concern was to preserve Jewish traditions that were gradually being eradicated in the increasingly Gentile church. Quoting or paraphrasing verses from the Old Testament was one method of doing this. Matthew painted Jesus as a new Moses and emphasised that Jesus was fulfilling and not destroying the Law.
Believing in the divine nature of Jesus separated Matthew’s community from the other Jews. Although the Gospel is sometimes considered to be a reinterpretation of Mark, Matthew’s subtle changes specifically emphasised Jesus’ divinity. For instance, Mark writes of “a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe” (Mark 16:5, ESV) by the empty tomb, whereas Matthew describes the figure as an angel of the Lord whose “appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” (28:3, NIV) Matthew’s record of Jesus’ miracles also expresses his divine nature, whereas Mark writes as though Jesus was an emissary of God. Despite primarily being the story of the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew is a reflection of the struggles between the evangelist communities and the other Jews, particularly the Pharisees.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon