Saturday, April 12, 2014

Acts 14

A similar pattern and a mixed reaction is observed in Iconium. They spoke effectively and many were converted. Those Jews who did not believe stirred up and poisoned their brothers. Following an attempted stoning, they were forced to flee to Lystra. 

In Lystra, there was a man who was lame from birth and never walked. He was listening to Paul's speech. Looking at him, Paul said, "Stand up on your feet." Instantly, the man stood up and began to walk. 

Excited crowds declared that Barnabas and Paul were Greek gods visiting the earth. Despite their protests, they dubbed Barnabas as Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks and Paul as Hermes, the messenger god. The crowd even went one step further - they wanted to offer sacrifices for Barnabas and Paul. 
Acts 14:13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
When Barnabas and Paul heard about this, they tore their clothes and rushed out saying, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them." 

Some Jews came from Antioch and won over the crowd. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city thinking he was dead. The next day Paul and Barnabas left for Debre. This was the furthest point on his first mission. The response there was good. Churches were established, and leaders were appointed. They sailed back to Antioch and stayed with disciples for a long time. 

Acts 13

Saul adopted the Roman version of his own name Paul.  From here on, Paul is the central figure in the book of Acts of Apostles.

While there were several prophets and teachers, The Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Saul for the church in Antioch for pioneer work. Accompanied by John Mark as their helper, they ministered in the cities of Seleucia, Salamas and Paphos.

In Paphos, a sorcerer and false prophet by name Bar-Jesus was an attendant of the proconsul. The proconsul was an intelligent man and wanted to hear from Barnabas and Saul (Paul). The sorcerer tried to turn the proconsul from faith and opposed Barnabas and Saul.
Acts 13:9-11 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” 
Immediately, the sorcerer became blind and had to be helped out. The proconsul witnessed this and was amazed at their teaching.

John Mark departed home before Paul and Barabas proceeded to Perga, then to Antioch. There, Paul delivered a sermon in the synagogue. It was given to a mixed audience of Jews, Gentile converts, and sympathizers. Paul gave a potted history of Israel, and stressed the Davidic lineage of Jesus Christ. He preached about the risen Christ, and alluded to the second psalm, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you." Paul also quoted Isaiah, saying that Christ is a light to the gentiles.

Paul told his listeners about forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus as the resurrected Messiah. When Jews noticed the popularity of Paul’s message, they become envious and were filled with jealousy. Jews expelled Paul and Barnabas from the region. They shook the dust from their shoes, and arrived at Iconium.

------Additional info------
Just few weeks ago, I was working with a consultant from Cyprus. He happened to be of Greek Orthodox faith. He explained to me about the history of the island including how Turkey invaded Cyprus and half the country is under Turkish dominion. 

Acts 12

While Barnabas and Saul were in Jerusalem, handing over famine relief effort from Antioch, Herod, the nephew of Antipas harassed the church, instigated a new wave of persecution. He killed James, the brother of John with a sword. With this action, his approval ratings rose among the Jews. His next step was to arrest Peter during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and locked him behind bars.

While Peter was in prison, the church was earnestly praying for him. The night before he was supposed to brought to trial, an angel of Lord caused Peter’s chains to fall off, and helped him escape a maximum security prison.

Peter after being released from the prison, went directly to the house of Mary, mother of John. A servant girl by name Rhoda told the apostles that Peter has arrived. However, they did not believe it until they saw Peter at the door for themselves. He explained to them about his miraculous escape.

The next morning, there was a large commotion at the prison. A thorough search was conducted for Peter, and they were unable to find him. Herod ordered the prison guards to be put to death.

Herod made friends with the people of Tyre and Sidon, whom he had been quarreling with, earlier.They depended on the king for their food.  On an appointed day, he was seated on his throne and delivered a public address. He was praised by them as a god rather than a man. On this, an angel struck him dead, because he does not glory to God. He was eaten by worms.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, records the king's sudden death in the year AD 44.

Barnabas and Saul finished their work and took with them John, the one they called Mark. 

Acts 11

Peter reported back these events that took place in Caesarea. The apostles and believers throughout Judea heard that Gentiles also received the word of God. When he arrived in Jerusalem, Jews object that Peter associates with gentiles. The asked him, You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Peter recounted his vision of the sheet with clean and unclean animals on it. He gave them a mini speech and recalls the words of Jesus: John baptized with water, but I shall baptize with the Holy Spirit. He concluded saying, "If the gentiles receive the same gift as the Jews, who am I to withstand God?"
Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The events at Caesarea and the criticism Peter faced would haunt Paul during every stage of his missionary work.

Now, the ones who were scattered during the death of Stephen had gone as far as Phonecia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among the Jews. Lord's hand was upon them and a large number of followers turned to Lord. Barnabas visited Antioch and was glad to see the grace of Lord being there. Barnabas then went looking for Saul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch. Barnabas and Saul met with the people for a whole year and taught a great number of people. It was here at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. 

A prophet from Jerusalem named Agabus, prophesied famine throughout the Roman world. Therefore, the disciples send relief to their brethren throughout Judea.

Acts 10

Peter and Cornelius

Up until now, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached only to Jews, converts to Judaism, and Samaritans, who observed the law of Moses. This is about to change and Lord reveals His plan that His message is for everyone.

Cornelius, was a God-fearing and God-serving Roman centurion, working in the Italian Regiment.One day he was told by an angel to go and get Peter from Joppa, who was staying with Simon the tanner. Cornelius, sent two servants and a soldier, out to Joppa to find Peter.

The following day, while Peter went up to the terrace to pray, he became hungry and had a trance. In his trance, Peter had a vision, wherein a sheet came down from heaven. The sheet has all kinds of clean and unclean animals on it. The Lord invited him to eat, and Peter refused, saying he had never touched anything unclean. This vision repeated three times, and the sheet reascended to heaven.

Apparently, this was a message from the Lord instructing Peter to break those Jewish food laws mentioned in Leviticus 11.

Peter was called out by those messengers who Cornelius has sent out.
Acts 10:19-20 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
Peter went along with the men. As Peter arrived, Cornelius fell down to Peter's feet in reverence to worship him. However, Peter said that that he was merely a man. Peter kept company with Cornelius, despite the fact that it was forbidden for a Jew to do so.

At the house of Cornelius, Peter preached about the risen Christ, and emphasized that all may be accepted by Him. The Holy Spirit descended upon the gentiles, who begin to speak in tongues, and they were baptized. The Jews present there were amazed.

Acts 9

Saul was on his way destroying Christians in Damascus, with a goal to being them back to Jerusalem to persecute.

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Saul was struck blind. His travelling companions did not hear anything. God told Ananias to meet Saul, and gave directions where he could find him. Ananias laid hands on Saul, and the scales fell from his eyes and regained sight after three days.

A radical conversion took place and 'Saul the Persecutor' became 'Brother Saul.' Saul was baptised, and to everyone’s amazement, he preached in Damascus. His preaching became stronger and stronger. As a result, the Jews conspired to kill him. His followers helped him escapes in a basket over the walls of Damascus.

When Saul was in Jerusalem, he tried to join the apostles, but all of them were afraid of him. Later, Barnabas came and told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. Now, Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

After some time, he debated and was in dispute against those Hellenistic Jews, who tried to kill him. Followers of Christ send Saul to Tarsus. Meanwhile, those churches in Judea, Galilee and Samaria prospered.

In Lydda, Peter healed Aeneas, who was bedridden with paralysis for eight years. He was then called to Joppa - about 12 miles north-west . There Peter raised a disciple Dorcas from the dead.

Peter stayed at Joppa with a tanner named Simon, a tanner. During those days, it was strictly forbidden for Jews to associate with anyone who routinely worked with dead animals.

Acts 8

Saul congratulated the killers. On that day, the church was persecuted at the hands of Saul and everyone except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Stephen was buried and his death was deeply mourned.

Saul continued to persecute and destroy the church by going house to house and dragging men and women into prison.

Those who were scattered preached the word of God. Philip successfully preacheed the gospel to the Samaritans, and converted Simon the Sorcerer. Simon had practiced sorcery for a long time and amazed the people of Samaria.

When news reached Jerusalem that Samaria accepted the name of Jesus Christ, Peter and John were sent to Samaria. They arrived and baptized people in the name of Holy Spirit.

When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter rebuked him saying that he could not buy the gift of God with money! He told Simon that he had no part or share in this ministry, because his heart was not right before God. He advised him to repent.

At the height of Philip's campaign in Samaria, an angel of the Lord directed Philip to attend the needs of an individual - an Ethiopian government official.

There were two ways from Jerusalem to Gaza:
(a) the popular one through Hebron - which many took, and
(b) the other through the desert which the Angel had asked Philip to take.

During the time of Alexander the great, the ancient city of Gaza was destroyed and hardly anyone lived there. This confused Philip as to why he would need to go to an abandoned city, and that too through a desert!

Eunuchs were those who had undergone castration at an early age in order to make them reliable servants of the royal court, especially where physical access was granted. This particular eunuch was Ethiopia's finance minister, directly working under the Queen. In Ethiopia, the king was considered "child of the sun" - too sacred to engage in administration, and therefore the Queen would carry out the administration. The eunuch was returning to Meroe after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the feasts, and was sitting in his chariot reading Scripture. The chariot was probably a four-wheeled covered vehicle, like an oxcart or horse carriage, large enough to accommodate about four people. One of the servants would be reading the manuscript aloud if the official is not doing so himself. The carriage was moving slowly enough to allow for reading and for Philip to approach it on foot. Reading aloud was the common practice in ancient times, and was especially necessary when words were strung together on a manuscript without spacing or punctuation.

During this meeting, Philip understood why the Angel asked him to take this particular route. Philip was fascinated at meeting this exotic, powerful and pious eunuch - Greek and Romans in those days were particularly fascinated by these colored Africans.

When the conversation between the two took place, the eunuch said that he was unable able to understand all it's meaning unless someone taught him. The eunuch was impressed by learning the scripture, got baptized and went his way rejoicing.

Acts 7

The Stoning of St. Stephen - Carracci Annibale 1603-04

The high priest asked Stephen, "Are these charges true?"

Stephen gave a lengthy speech starting with the story of Abraham, Joseph and Moses. He reminded them how the Jews rejected Moses in their minds. He concluded his speech saying that Lord does not live in houses made by men - an answer to the charges brought against him, about destruction of the Temple. He also accused them of rejecting the Holy Spirit, just as their ancestors did in the past.
Acts 7:48-53 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
   “‘Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
   What kind of house will you build for me?
   says the Lord.
    Or where will my resting place be?
   Has not my hand made all these things?’
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
Hearing this, members of the sanhedrin were gnashing their teeth and were furious.
Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
They shouted at him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death – an execution supervised by a young man named Saul.

Stephen prayed not to hold this sin against them and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 

Acts 6

As the number of believers increased, the Greek speaking, non Palestinian, Hellenistic Jews complained to the apostles that their widows were  ignored during the daily food distribution.
Acts 6:2-4 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Seven were chosen. Among them the most popular were Stephen the powerful preacher and first martyr, and Philip the evangelist.

Stephen, performed great wonders. He overcame those who opposed him using the wisdom which he received from the Holy Spirit.

Since they could not stand against him, the Jews used false witness and accused Stephen of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God. They seized him and brought him in front of the sanhedrin.
Acts 6:13-14 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
Stephen's face was shining like the face of an angel.

Congratulations at the arrival of Novella

Pictured here is Saquib, holding Novella - who arrived into their family early this morning. Saquib is the gentleman who drives me safely on time, to and from the Philly airport. 

Novella Procnouced noh-VEL-uh originates from the Latin name Nova which means "new." Nova is a star that releases a tremendous burst of energy, occasionally becoming extraordinarily bright. 

Chevrolet used to make a small car called a "Nova" which used to be the top lineup throughout 1968. 

During our trip, on Mondays and Thursdays, our main discussion topic is the Book of Proverbs. May Lord bless this family and may the Holy Spirit enable them to grow in wisdom. 

Acts 5

The Death of Ananias - Raphael, (1515)

The sharing of property was voluntary. Some were prompted by a desire to impress their fellow believers, rather show an act of generosity. One such story is that of Ananias and Sapphira, who practiced deceit against God, and were faced with severe consequence.

Ananias and Sapphira sold their property and with his wife's full knowledge, kept back some of the money for himself. He then brought the rest of the money and put it at the feet of the apostles as if this was his entire possession.
Acts 5:3-4 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
Soon, Ananias fell down and died. Some men standing there took his body, wrapped it, and buried him.

Three hours later, his wife came in without knowing what happened. When Peter spoke to her, she lied to him. Soon, she fell down and died as well. The men buried her near her husband.

The apostles performed several signs and wonders among the people. They met regularly at Solomon's Colonnade. More and more people were added to their group.
Acts 5:15-16 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
Out of jealousy, the high priest and his associates arrested the apostles and put them in jail. In the night, an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and let them out. In the morning, they were back again at the temple teaching the people. They were again captured and questioned by the high priest.
Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than human beings!"
A Pharisee by name Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin not to do anything to these men. His argument was that if they were working by the power of men, their movement would soon fade away. On the other hand, if their movement was from God Himself, nobody could stop them.

The Sanhedrin had the apostles flogged and warned them not to preach the word of Jesus again. However, day after day, the apostles continued teaching the word and good news of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Acts 4

The Sadducees were greatly disturbed by Peter's speech especially since many had believed in Peter's words. The believers had now grown to 5,000. They had Peter and John arrested for preaching the resurrection of the dead. Since it was evening, they locked Peter and John in the prison until the next day.

Later, they were brought before the Sanhedrin, and asked by what power they healed the lame man.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke courageously, “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

They were amazed by Peter’s eloquence, as he was uneducated. They learned that Peter was with Jesus

They were released because the man who was healed was with them, and people were there watching. The Sanhedrin commanded them not to preach in Jesus’ name any more, but Peter and John refused.
Acts 4:19-20 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
They were let go after further threats. Peter and John went back to their people and shared those events. They prayed for boldness in preaching, and were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The last part is encouraging to read, which shows the true brotherhood of being together in Christ. I cannot explain it better and hence am quoting it verbatim. It is about how they saw all their possessions to be communal, with people selling their own houses for the common good.
Acts 4:32-37 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 3

One day while Peter and John were going to the temple at three in the afternoon. A man lame from birth used to sit and beg for alms at the gate called Beautiful. Upon seeing Peter and John, he asked them for money.
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the mans's feet and ankles became strong. He began to walk, and went into the temple courts walking, jumping and praising God. When others who were familiar with with him saw this, they were astonished and gathered at Solomon's Colonnade.

When everyone was gathered, Peter gave a similar speech as he gave earlier in chapter 2.

“Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see."

Peter preached that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Peter refereed to Deuteronomy 18:15-19, where Moses said a prophet will be raised up like him, and that whoever rejects that prophet will be utterly destroyed.

He encouraged each of them to turn from their wicked ways, repent, and be baptized. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

News about Archie

Dear readers, I'll be frank - I did not quite digest this piece of news when I read it. Am sure you will not either. If you're like me, and have read all those Archie comics while growing up, this is going to upset you. 

The creators of Archie today said that in July, Archie Andrews is going to die in a heroic way. 

We all know Archie Andrews as a high schooler. What happens when he becomes an adult and starts dealing with grownup issues? The series, "Life with Archie" is all about it. Each issue is split into two storylines - one telling a tale of Archie married to Veronica, while another tells about him ending up with Betty. Regardless of which storyline one follows, the final issue, however, will tell readers the same final fate of Archie. Issue # 36 to be released on July 16th has it all. 

How will Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie deal with this? How about the residents of Riverdale? These are the questions that pop into my mind. 

Below is the cover of issue #36. 

The following issue - #37 will end the series.

Tap here to read more.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Acts 2

On the day of Pentecost, a sound like the blowing of violent wind came and filled the whole house where they were seated. Tongues of fire descend on the disciples, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues.

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The apostles and disciples became the new church, filled with power, and full of life. Among the apostles, there were Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs. Those who witnessed this, were able to hear their own mother tongue being spoken by these Galileans.

They just could not believe this new experience.
Acts 2:13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
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A transformed Peter stood up along with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd in a moving speech. He evoked an immediate response. He talked about Jesus being crucified by them and God raised him to life.
Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
People who heard this were cut to heart and asked what they should do. Peter added that they can be forgiven by God, and God is calling them to Himself.
Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
About three thousand (3,000) were baptized and people followed a new way of life. They sold their property and shared their money and possession with those who were in need. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Lord blessed them as well.

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Acts 1

Jesus Christ presented himself to his chosen apostles, gave them many convincing proof that he was alive. Over a period of forty days, he spoke about the kingdom of God.
Acts 1:4-5 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus refused to speak about his second coming. He told it was within The Father's authority. At the time of his ascension, two angels dressed in white told them that Jesus will come down the same way he was taken into heaven.

When the apostles returned from the Mount of Olives, they gathered in an upper room. About 120 of them were present, along with women.
One day while eating with them, he said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

To fill the gap, two men were selected, and one of them would be chosen using a lot. The candidates were Barsabas and Matthias. Matthias was chosen by lot.


Acts of Apostles - a high level intro

From an altitude of 30,000 ft, below are few things one could see in the Book of Acts.

Acts of the Apostles is a sequel to Luke. Once again, for the sake of my readers, Luke was not one of them who walked with Jesus Christ. He was a gentile, and a physician by profession. He did a thorough investigation of those events that took place in the life of Jesus Christ by interviewing those who were present with Him.

Luke interviewed Mary, mother of Jesus, and many others, and was able to document majority of his findings. His writings are quite elaborate. When  Matthew traced back the genealogy of Jesus Christ starting from Abraham, Luke researched and went all the way back to Adam, and established how Adam was the son of God.

As far as geography goes, Luke talks about Jesus moving from Galilee, Samaria, Judea and finally to Jerusalem. The book of Acts takes a reverse direction, starting from Jerusalem (1-5) Judea and Samaria (6-9), then Syria Asia Minor, Europe finally into Rome (9-28).

He speaks about the Holy Spirit quite frequently and also the baptism in Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is shown guiding early church leaders. One third of the book is speeches.

Let's examine the actions of those apostles a bit more closely.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

John 21

Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing. That night they did not catch anything. Early in the morning, Jesus appeared to them and asked them to throw their nets to the right side of their boat, whereupon they caught a miraculous amount of fish - 153 to be exact. Jesus had breakfast with them.

Jesus asked Peter to feed his lambs, and Simon to tend his sheep. Jesus hinted at the manner of Peter’s death, saying his hands would be stretched out and he will be led where he does not want to go.

Jesus did not say what the fate of John would be. John is the person who wrote this gospel – if John had written everything that Jesus had done, even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

This concludes the Gospel of John.

My Thoughts
As I am writing this chapter, one of my Bible Study partner, John, is texting me about his plans to head out to Nags Head, NC, for fishing next weekend. I cannot go as I have undertaken a commitment. Next time, I told him.

What a blessing it is, to complete posting about all four Gospels and learning so much. I did not know any of these before. By going through the scripture chronologically, so many things became clear. I can now consider myself to be able to lean on those doors of a first grade Sunday School class and listen what's being taught inside (I think).  

John 20

Early morning, during the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. She then went and told the disciples about it.

Peter and John investigated the tomb and found it to be empty as well. They returned to their place, while Mary stayed back near the tomb. She sat there, crying. When she bent and looked into the tomb, she saw two angels clothed in while seated where Jesus was buried - one at the head, and other at the foot. They asked her why she was crying. To this, she answered, "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him."

She turned around and saw Jesus, without realizing it was him. She thought he was the gardener and he took the body away. When Jesus called her, "Mary," she immediately realized it was Jesus. He instructed her to go proclaim this news to the disciples, and she did accordingly.

On the evening of the first day of the week, Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were gathered in a locked room. They had locked the doors due to their fear of Jewish leaders. Jesus appeared among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and side. Jesus also breathed on his disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Thomas was not among them and when he heard all these, he did not believe. A week later, Jesus convinced the previously absent Thomas, by inviting him to push his finger into his wound.
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Luke 24

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, women followers of Jesus took the spices they had prepared for Jesus' body. They discovered the tomb to be empty, and the stone rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they found the body of Jesus missing. Two men in shining garments proclaimed that Jesus had risen. In their freight, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground.

They were told, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them shared this news to the apostles. However, they did not believe the women as it sounded like nonsense.
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Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb, only to find the strips of linen lying by themselves.

On the same day, Jesus joined two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They did not recognize him and were talking about those events that took place, related to "Jesus of Nazareth." They narrated the entire story of Jesus being crucified including the women folks going to the tomb and not finding his body there. In the evening, they urged Jesus to join them, without knowing it was Jesus. When he gave thanks and broke the bread, they realized it was Jesus. Immediately, they returned to Jerusalem to share this news.

Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples and said, "Peace be with you." Startled and frightened, they thought they saw a ghost. He asked them for something to eat and they gave him a piece of broiled fish.
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Jesus explained to them that his suffering was necessary.
Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 
We certainly need that blessing from above, and our minds need to be opened by the Lord, in order to understand the Scriptures. However, if we thirst for it, Lord will grant us that vision.

Jesus was later taken up into the heaven. The apostles return to Jerusalem and stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

This concludes the Gospel of Luke.

My Thoughts
It is impossible to read the Holy Scripture and make any sense to understand it. I guarantee that we need the help of the Lord to be able to read, study and understand it. Truly it is a blessing from above, and am so thankful to the Lord for bringing us this far along in our journey. There are many things I learned and understood during this journey - so many that I cannot just pen down. All I can say is that it is an awesome journey and I crave for more.

Mark 16

Mary Magdelene and Mary of Bethany rushed to the tomb of Jesus early morning, carrying spices so that they could anoint the body of Jesus. They were wondering, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

To their surprise, they found the stone at the entrance of the tomb, which was very large has already been rolled away. They were alarmed to notice a young man clothed in a white robe sitting there to the right. He told them that Jesus has risen, and instructed them to tell the disciples and go to Galilee.

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After going through these events, the women were shocked.
Mark 16:8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
For some unknown reason, the Gospel of Mark ends here abruptly. Most likely, the very early copies of the Gospel were damaged. It ends at 16:8. Mark 16:9-20 (below) are attempts to wrap up the Gospel in a meaningful manner.

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 

10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 

11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 

13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 

16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 

18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 

20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

This chapter concludes the Book of Mark. 

Matthew 28

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany went to check on Jesus' tomb. There was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolled away the stone, and sat on top of it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards who were watching the tomb were so afraid of him. The angel told the women that Christ has risen, and instructed them to tell the disciples. The risen Jesus Himself appeared to them, and told them to tell the disciples.
Matthew 28:9-10 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
When the chief priests heard the account of those guards, they tried to cover up the resurrection, maintaining that Jesus’ body was stolen. The guards were bribed to lie by and told to circulate this version of the story - which is widely circulated among the Jews to this day.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee as directed. When they met him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.

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Jesus gave them The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 “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.

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" became a standard expression in the liturgy of the early church.

The idea of Jesus being ‘with us’ picks up on the meaning of ‘Immanuel’ mentioned in Matthew 1:23.

This chapter concludes the Book of Matthew - the first Gospel. 

John 19

In order to appease the mob, Pilate had Jesus scourged, put on a purple robe, and made to wear a crown of thorns. The crowd said, "Hail, King of Jews" and slapped his face.

Pilate said, "Behold the man!" But the crowd still demanded Jesus to be crucified. The Jewish leaders insisted that he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. Finally Pilate handed him over to them, to be crucified.

The soldiers, taking charge of Jesus, made him carry his own cross and led him to the place of the Skull (Golgotha, in Aramaic). Pilate places a sign that says ‘The King of the Jews’ on the cross. After Jesus was crucified to the cross, the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ seamless garment. Jesus noticed his mother and other women standing near him.
John 19:26-27 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Once he realized everything was done, he said, "I am thirsty."
John 19:29-30 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 

According to Jewish law, bodies of criminals should not be left hanging after sunset. This is indicated in Deuteronomy 21:23. They confirmed that the criminals were dead by breaking their legs. As Jesus was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

John is narrating the special significance of blood for sacrifice and water for cleansing which Jesus brought into our lives.

 Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, the one who visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 75 lbs. They wrapped Jesus' body according to Jewish customs and placed it in a tomb where nobody had been laid. 

John 18

According to John, who was along with Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, an army carrying torches, lanterns and weapons came along with Judas and arrested Jesus.

Jesus rebuked Simon Peter for cutting off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. They bound him, and brought him to Annas, who was the father in law of Caiaphas, the high priest. It was Caiaphas' idea that Jesus should die.

Peter followed them while they were taking Jesus to the high priest's house, and waited outside. A servant girl on duty recognized Peter. He denied being a disciple of Jesus. He was warming himself, standing beside a fire. While the high priest was questioning Jesus, one of the officials slapped him in the face.

Some men asked if he was a disciple of Jesus, and Peter denied it again. One of the relatives of Malchus, the high priest's servant, whom ear Peter had cut off challenged him, "Didn't I see you in the garden?" Peter once again denied Jesus the third time, and the rooster began to crow.

Jesus was sent to Caiaphas the high priest, then to Pilate. Jesus explained to Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. Jesus said that everyone who is of the truth hears his voice. Jesus said, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

Pilate replied, "What is truth?" giving voice to a skeptical humanism.

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Pilate found no fault with Jesus, and attempted to get the crowd to release him, but the crowd wanted the release of Barabbas instead.

The Curtain of the Sanctuary

We read in Matthew, Mark and Luke that the veil of the temple being torn in two. Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45 all three of them speak about it.

Almost all of us, we have seen a curtain, (or veil) of the church sanctuary. Some of us, we have even touched it with our bare hands.

The one that was in the Jerusalem Temple was four inches thick - it was said to be as thick as a man’s hand. It was so thick that and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart. Further, it is believed to be 60 ft high - that is ten people high. This thick veil was fashioned with blue, purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen.

The curtain served as a constant reminder that we sinners could not enter Lord's presence. Our sin served as the barrier between God and us.

The curtain obstructed everyone, but the High Priest, from entering the presence of God - which he did only once a year. It was a serious matter going into Lord's presence. If the High Priest did not do his preparations well enough, he could die entering the Holy of Holies. On the day the High Priest was entering the Holy of Holies, they would tie a long rope with bells attached to it, to his ankle. The other end would be held by those standing outside the sanctuary. If, for some reason the High Priest fell dead, and the bells stopped ringing, they would pull the rope and get his dead body out of the Holy Altar.

When Jesus gave up his spirit and died on the cross, this 4 inch thick veil was torn in two.
Matthew 27:51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Mark 15:38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Did you notice, the curtain was torn into two from top to bottom. This was the act of Lord. If a human being was doing it, he would have torn it from bottom to top. The profound significance of the curtain tearing from top to bottom is narrated in Paul's letter to Hebrews.

By the death of Jesus Christ, access to God, which was once limited only to the High Priest, is now made available to all who came through Jesus. With the help of Jesus Christ, we can now enter the presence of God, boldly, without any barriers.

Isn't that awesome?

Luke 23

Luke documents further details about how Jesus appeared before Pilate, then how he was sent to Herod, and later returned to Pilate again. By trading Jesus between them, Herod and Pilate, who once used to be enemies, now became friends. Pilate tried his best to let Jesus go free after punishment, as he did not find anything that Jesus did to deserve death. The crowd, however, insisted that he be crucified.

Barabbas, who was thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, was released from prison and Jesus was surrendered to their will.

Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country was seized and was made to carry the cross of Jesus behind him. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.

Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

At a place called the Skull, Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Jesus looked towards heaven and said, "Father forgive them, for they know now what they do." Onlookers mock him, and they placed an inscription above him that read, "This is the King of the Jews."

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Jesus was crucified along with two criminals - one on each side. One of them found salvation. Darkness covered the entire earth from noon until three. The curtain of the temple was torn into two.
Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion who witnessed all these praised God and said, "Surely, this was a righteous man." All who knew Jesus, including women, watched the events from a distance.

Joseph of Arimathea, an upright man who was waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to come, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. He wrapped the body of Jesus in linen clothes and buried it in a tomb cut in the rock. The women who accompanied Jesus from Galilee saw the tomb and how it was laid in it. They went home and prepared spices and perfumes. While Sabbath was approaching, they rested in obedience.

Mark 15

Early in the morning, Jesus was bound and brought before Pilate. When accused with several charges, Jesus said nothing. On that customary occasion of releasing a prisoner, the crowd choose Barabbas to be released, and Jesus to be handed over to be flogged and crucified.

They put on a purple robe on Jesus and made him wear a crown of thorns. He was mocked, and then they put on his own clothes.

A certain man from Cyrene, named Simon, was made to carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha (Calvary in Latin). They offered Jesus a strong drink which was wine mixed with myrrh. Jesus refused that drink.

They then crucified him and divided his clothes. It was around 9 in the morning when they crucified him. The written charge against him read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS."

From noon till three in the afternoon, darkness engulfed the whole land. At three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out from Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” They offered him a sponge dipped in wine and vinegar. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom. The centurion who stood there acknowledged, "Surely this man was the Son of God." Some women, including Mary Magdalene, were watching these events from a distance.

 It was the evening before Sabbath, and therefore Joseph of Arimathea boldly approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus to be buried. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead. he confirmed it with the centurion and gave the body to Joseph to bury. Buying some linen clothes, Joseph buried the body of Jesus and put it in the tomb. A stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary watched the burial.

The image is credited to an upcoming Warner Bros movie, Pontius Pilate. 
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