The book of Deuteronomy is a collection of Moses’ final instructions. Moses addresses the people of Israel, prior to their entrance into the Promised Land. Moses will not follow, but will end his days at Mount Nebo (also called Mount Pisgah). Earlier in the story, the people were fearful of seeing God’s face or hearing his voice, lest they die. They asked Moses to be their intermediary—a go-between. Moses would receive God’s word, and relay it to the people. Moses became their first prophet.
- Moses stated that since they are going their separate ways, God will provide them a replacement prophet; they won’t be left without a spokesperson. This is what they asked for back at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). The quote is a paraphrase of Deut. 5:22-27. (vv. 15-16)
- Through Moses, God agrees that they would indeed die, if they heard the voice of the Lord. The average person couldn’t handle it. (v. 17)
- Then, God lays out how a prophet works. God speaks to the prophet, and the prophet speaks the words to the people. God will hold the people and the prophet accountable for obeying the Lord’s commandments. (vv. 18-20)
The writers of the gospels in the New Testament, especially Matthew, tell us that Jesus is the new Moses; he is the head of all the prophets. Jesus not only speaks for God, but he is God Incarnate—God in the form of a human being. Now, with the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit given to all believers, we can speak with God directly, without the need of a go-between.
1 CORINTHIANS 8
In first century Palestine, Jews did not eat much meat, except for fish. It was not an everyday food, because it was very expensive. The exception was the meat sacrificed by the pagans to their gods. This meat was available and cheap. The Jews were forbidden from eating this meat. Paul preached about the freedom of Christians to eat anything; that the Jewish dietary laws were nullified by Jesus life, death and resurrection. Some of the Christians in Corinth understood Paul’s teaching, took it to heart. They ate meat—any meat. This caused quite a stir, since this meat had been sacrificed to pagan gods. Some said it was defiled meat, and should not be consumed. In today’s second lesson, Paul explains what they should do.
- Paul starts out by saying that while they might have true knowledge, love is better than knowledge. Love builds up (the body of Christ). (vv. 1-3)
- He then says that they are indeed right. The meat offered to idols is not really defiled, since those idols are fake. There is only one God, and one Lord Jesus Christ. The rest is nonsense, and they really could eat that meat. (vv. 4-6)
- Next comes the “but”. The community of believers was a mix of Christians who were well-versed in the teachings of Jesus and believers who were recent converts. The faith and knowledge of the recent converts would have still been shaky. There would still be some lingering emotional ties to their old pagan beliefs. Paul calls them “weak believers”. Paul points out to the “strong believers” that when they eat meat sacrificed to those fake idols, it becomes a stumbling block to the new believers’ faith. (vv. 7-11)
- Anything we do to cause another’s faith to falter is a “sin against Christ (v. 12)
- Paul says the he’d rather be a vegetarian than sin against Christ (v. 13)
What Paul is saying is that yes, as Christians, we are not required to keep the old Kosher laws of the Jewish faith. We have the freedom to eat whatever we like. But he tempers this freedom with love and consideration for the community of believers. Out of love and respect for our brothers and sisters, Paul says that it may be necessary to set aside some of our freedom out of respect for others. In doing so, the body of Christ becomes stronger. This is a perfect definition of agape* love—the sacrificial love that you give for others. Let us pray that we can all find it in our hearts to give more of this love to our communities and our churches.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Here in the USA, we cherish our freedoms. In grammar school, I was taught that I had as much freedom as possible, until it affects the freedom of others. Per Paul’s teaching, might there be times when we should consider sacrificing some of our freedom out of love for our neighbor?
* In the Greek language, there are several words for love. The Greek word agape means the sort of love that involves the giving of self. For example, it is the type of love that is involved when a married couple disagrees on something, but one gives in out of love for the other.
Already in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has called his first disciples, and has begun his teaching/preaching ministry. He begins his preaching within the Jewish “church”, in the synagogues.
- Jesus enters a synagogue in Capernaum, and teaches “having authority”. People are astounded. (vv. 21-22)
- A man with an unclean spirit appears. The spirits speak against Jesus, but in the process, they proclaim him to be “the Holy One of God”. (vv. 23-24)
- Jesus casts the demons out of the man, simply using his words. (vv. 25-26)
- Those who witness this are astounded. They proclaim him to teach “with authority”. They spread the news. (vv. 27-28)
As we read through the Gospels, one question is posed repeatedly—“Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?” It is a question that many at the time were asking. After all, Jesus was not a priest or a scribe, he was the son of a carpenter. On the surface, he did not appear to have any qualifications for what he was doing. Miracles and sound teaching were ways that Jesus used to demonstrate his authority. By providing clear authoritative preaching and demonstrating his power over the forces of evil, Jesus got their attention. In the process, his authority was proclaimed from the most unusual of sources. In this case, the unclean spirit proclaimed him to be “the Holy One of God”.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Who do you believe Jesus is? Just a carpenter’s son, or something more?