The #LentChallenge asks you to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in preparation for Easter. To drink in the fullness of the story of Jesus, to immerse yourself in His teaching, miracles, arrest and resurrection.
But the challenge is to not read the familiar, but ask God to awaken you to the unfamiliar.
What are the things you least want to read but most need to hear?
Questions have poured in from around the globe for this week’s reading. Download a free guide here:
Has the Unforgiveable Sin Gotten the Best of Me?
Why Won’t God Answer My Prayers?
Will I Ever Be Holy Enough?
Why Does Jesus Tell His Followers to Keep Secrets?
And many more.
We asked our friend, New Testament Bible Scholar, Dr. Craig Blomberg, to weigh in your questions.
Read on. This scholar has a lot to teach us all.
1. Has the unforgiveable sin gotten the best of me? (Matthew 12:32)
Context, as usual, helps us answer the question. Some of the Jewish leaders can see the power of the Spirit active supernaturally for good in Jesus’ ministry in exorcisms and yet be so hardened against the things of God that they attribute it to the devil. This is clearly not a sin that a true Christian ever commits, and those Jesus warns have never claimed to be his followers in any way. The only unpardonable sin in the New Testament is the repeated, prolonged, unrepentant rejection of Jesus as truly from God and therefore our one true Lord and Savior.
2. Why won’t God answer my prayers?
Jesus is not offering his followers a “blank check” if they just believe hard enough. In the prayer he taught his disciples to pray (Matthew 6:9-13), he taught them to include the clause, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God’s will always overrides ours if those two wills are different, and no amount of trying to force ourselves to believe strongly enough will ever change that. But there are times that God chooses to work through our belief or faith to “move mountains” (the immediate context), in a proverbial sense, so we should always pour out our hearts and our desires to him.
One helpful way of summing all this up that I have heard is to say that the true “prayer of faith” will always leave room for God’s will to be different from ours. After all, even Christ experienced this in Gethsemane, when his desire was that he not have to go through the agony of the cross, but God had a greater positive purpose for him (and for us) through that suffering. If even Christ had to experience such agony, despite his desires and prayers (and he certainly had as much faith as anyone ever has had!), then we dare never think that we are exempt from suffering things that we would prefer not to undergo.
3. Jesus tells people not to tell about the miracles he performs. Why wouldn’t he want people to know? (Matthew 9 & 12)
These are two examples out of a number in the Gospels that have sometimes been called “the Messianic secret”—places where Jesus says or does something dramatic and then tries to silence those who have seen and heard what happened. There are different nuances to an explanation of this phenomenon depending on the context, but probably the one constant is that Jesus tries to play down things that would potentially inflame the crowds into thinking he was about to become the kind of Messiah so many hoped for—a military general or political king who would lead the Israelites to rid the land of the Romans. Instead, he understood his mission to be that of dying for the sins of the world before he could one day in the future reign as king on earth.
4. Matthew 5:20 makes it sound like our salvation is not enough. How can we ever be righteous enough?
And worse still, Jesus says we have to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees—those perceived by most people in Jesus’ time to be the best in the country in keeping the Law! I suspect he was trying to get folks to ask the very same question that you have—how is that possible?
Matthew 11:28-30 may supply us with an answer where Jesus paradoxically calls following him a yoke and a burden but then says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. With Christ’s greater demand comes a greater empowerment. In the Old Testament age, the Spirit came and went on people empowering them temporarily for special acts of service. In the New Testament age, he permanently indwells believers. Or to use the language of the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34, he writes the law on our hearts, enabling us to internalize it an unprecedented way.
So our righteousness does, in fact, exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. But it is not because we have the ability, on our own, to do better than they did. Christ and only Christ does indeed make us righteous enough.
5. Four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, what is the significance of this occupation to His ministry?
I doubt we can read anything into or out of this fact, since Scripture never makes anything of it, other than the one play on words that these fishermen will now become “fishers of people.” The two most common occupations for men in the villages surrounding the Sea of Galilee were farmers and fishermen, so it would only be natural that several of Jesus’ closest followers would be fishermen.
Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of Craig Blomberg‘s brand new book, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions.
Dr . Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis, Jesus and the Gospels, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Preaching the Parables, Making Sense of the New Testament, and commentaries on Matthew, 1 Corinthians, and James.
Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals. In this book, biblical scholar Craig Blomberg offers answers to questions like:
Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?
Can We Trust Any of Our Translations of the Bible?
Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?
What verse has you stumped?
Have you ran into a passage that’s tricky to interpret? What’s a question about the Bible, theology, or Christianity that has been lingering in your head? Leave your questions as comments below.