Mark 15: Good Friday

Paining of the crucifixion
The Crucifixion

“And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said,

Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Second Trial

Pontius Pilate gets right to the point:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus answers with two words–σὺ λέγεις—which means:  you say (Mark 15:2). The chief priests accuse him of many things.  Pilate asks Jesus a second question:  “Have you no answer to make?” (Mark 15:4)  Jesus does not respond (Isaiah 53:7).  Pilate is amazed.

First Trial

The night before, the high priest asked Jesus if he is the Messiah (Christ).  Jesus responded using the words God from Exodus 3:14 saying:  “I am”.  Then, in case anyone misunderstood him, he paraphrased the messianic prophecy in Daniel 7:13:  “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62 ESV).  The high priest accordingly accused Jesus of blasphemy which is punishable by stoning under Jewish law (Leviticus 24:16).  But since Rome reserved the right to decide all cases of capital punishment, the chief priests accused Jesus of the political crime of sedition—treason against Rome.  This is why Pilate asked Jesus:  “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:2)

What Kind of Messiah?

Realizing that Jesus is innocent of the charge of sedition, like a good politician Pilate begins working the crowd.  In offering to release a prisoner named Barabbas, who was guilty of both sedition and murder (Mark 15:7), Pilate is effectively asking the crowd what kind of Messiah they prefer.  The crowd asked for Barabbas who was known to be a Jewish nationalist—in other words, the crowd prefers a kingly Messiah.

Messiah means anointed one in Hebrew which translates as Christ in Greek.  Three types of roles are anointed:  prophets, priests, and kings.  In his earthly ministry, Jesus embodied the first two roles (prophet and priest), but the crowd wanted a king—someone to drive the Romans out—as we saw earlier in Mark 11:10.

So Pilate gave them what they wanted (Romans 1:24-25), washed his hands of the decision, and sent Jesus to the cross.

Mark 15: Good Friday

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:,

Publisher site:


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VanHoozer and Strachan Argue Case for Pastor-Theologian

Pastor_Theologian_review_05032016Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan. 2015. The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Amid periods of rapid social and philosophical change, tension in the church often revolves around our interpretation of the identity of Christ which, in turn, informs our sense of identity as Christians and other things, like worship. Worship and identity are practical applications of our theology because one of the primary tasks of theology is interpreting both the Bible and our world. Hence, theologian Karl Barth’s comment that pastors should preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other clearly assumes that at the heart of the pastor’s role is applying theology.[1]

In their new book, The Pastor as Public Theologian, Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan start with a harsh assessment:

“Societies become secular not when they dispense with religion altogether, but when they are no longer especially agitated by it. The church, the society of Jesus, is similarly in danger of becoming secular and in the very place where we would least expect it: its understanding of the clergy. This not because churches are dispensing with the pastorate, but because they no longer find its theological character particularly exciting or intelligible.” (1)

Their objective in writing is to “reclaim the theological pedigree of the world’s boldest profession” with three groups in mind—pastors, churches, and seminaries (2)—and against competing visions, such as the pastor as therapist, the pastor as political activist, the pastor as story-teller, the pastor as professional XYZ, and the pastor as manager (7-10). Against these competing visions, the author’s caution: “Without a biblical vision of the pastor, the people of God may indeed perish: they will certainly fail to prosper.” (15) In order to prosper, they write: “Success in ministry is determined not by numbers (e.g., people, programs, dollars) but by the increase of people’s knowledge and love of God.” (22)

In expanding our knowledge of the pastoral office, Kevin J. Vanhoozer[2] and Owen Strachan[3] collaborate with a number of pastors to write a series of 4 chapters, including:



Introduction:  Pastors, Theologians, and Other Public Figures

PART 1: Biblical Theology and Historical Theology

  1. Of Prophets, Priests, and Kings: A Brief Biblical Theology of the Pastorate
  2. Of Scholars and Saints: A Brief History of the Pastorate

PART 2: Systematic Theology and Practical Theology

  1. In the Evangelical Mood: The Purpose of the Pastor-Theologian
  2. Artisans in the House of God: The Practice of the Pastor-Theologian

Conclusion: Fifty-Five Summary Theses on the Pastor as Public Theologian



Scriptural Index

Subject Index


The introduction and each of the four chapters includes short “pastoral perspectives” written by working pastors.

One of these pastor perspectives, written by Gerald Hiestand, offered some practical advice for would-be pastoral theologians in the form of 6 steps:

  1. Hire staff with the vision to overcome isolation.
  2. Network with like-minded pastors through Skype, ETS or blogging.
  3. Make study-time a priority in the weekly schedule.
  4. Get buy-in from your leadership.
  5. Remember that theology serves the church, not vice versa.
  6. You do your work in a “study”, not an “office”—Bureaucrats work in offices while theologians have studies (29-31).

Personally, my study time in the morning minimally includes journaling, studying, reading, and praying for 30 to 60 minutes before wandering out to swim laps, but as a writer I spend more time in my “study” than would be typical for pastors.[4]

In the Old Testament, three anointed offices are described—priest, prophet, and king (40)—which today describe different aspects of the role of Christ in the New Testament. Concerning these anointed offices, the authors write: “The priest was a man set apart by the Lord to be an on-the-ground mediator of holiness between God and the people.” (4) “The prophets exercised the ministry of truth-telling.” (44) The king personified divine wisdom (46). These three anointed offices do not readily transfer to the role of pastor, as the authors observe:

“Priestly ministry was centered around the teaching and performance of the law. Pastoral ministry is centered around the person and work of Christ” (49).

Still, aspects of these three anointed offices inform the role of a pastor and the interpretation of each of the roles differs among denominations, ethnic communities, and age groups, as is frequently observed.

An important observation repeated throughout the book is that throughout church history the best theology was often written by pastors, not academics, as the authors observe:

“…it is easy to forget that Jonathan Edwards spent little time in the ivory tower. He was never a professor in the modern sense. Edwards composed many of his treatises in the middle of a demanding pastorate, at the largest church in New England, outside of Boston. Later he wrote soaring theological works on the Massachusetts frontier while serving as a missionary.” (82-83)

This observation remains a valid point today as many of my own influences—Barth, Bonhoeffer,[5] Ortberg,[6] Sproul, Lucado,[7] Peterson, Keller[8]—are better known as pastors than academics, even if they have freely moved between the academy and the church.

Clearly, a lot more could be said about this book.

Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan’s The Pastor as Public Theologian is timely resource on where pastors ought rightly to be spending their time, which is unfortunately much needed by some of my best friends who are pastors. Pastoral burnout is a huge problem for the church, not only because of the loss of great talent, but also because “pastor as dervish” is a poor model for a church that, presumably, glorifies the “Lord of the Sabbath”. A better model is the pastor-theologian presented in this book—buy it; enjoy It; share it in a group study.


Barth, Karl. 1991. Homelitics. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press.


[1] Barth’s comment, which is widely cited by his students, appears nowhere in his writing. Instead, we read: “theology as a church discipline ought in all its branches to be nothing other than sermon preparation in the broadest sense.” (Barth 1991,17).

[2] Vanhoozer is a research professor of systemic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago and the author of numerous books (

[3] Strachan is a professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of numerous books (

[4] I am currently studying First Samuel which has been surprisingly fruitful.

[5] Sample review: Bonhoeffer’s Nachfolge:  Following After Christ (,

[6] Review: Ortberg Sharpens and Freshens Jesus (

[7] Review: Lucado Calls Out Fear; Instills Peace (

[8] Sample review: Keller Argues the Case for God (

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JOHN 12: Jesus Messiah

By Stephen W. HiemstraCandle_perfume_rose_10172013

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).

What kind of Messiah is Jesus?

Messiah is a Hebrew word that means anointed one.  John is the only New Testament author to use it and he equates it with the Greek word, Christ (John 1:41; 4:25).  Three offices were anointed:  prophets, priests, and kings.  Two events in John 12 point specifically to the interpretation that Jesus is a Messianic king:  his anointing by Mary (vv 1-8) and his entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (vv 12-19).  Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet and Jesus’ choice of a donkey to ride into Jerusalem both point to humility—Jesus is a king coming in peace.

It is interesting that both events—the anointing and the entry into Jerusalem—appear in all four Gospel accounts.  But the Gospels disagree on  details of the anointing. John’s account, for example, is the only one to place Lazarus at the event and to name, Mary, as the woman anointing Jesus.  Mark and Matthew have Jesus anointed on the head; Luke and John have Jesus’ feet anointed.

All four Gospels have Jesus anointed by a woman—this is a shocking event for a Jewish king. The expectation is that a king is anointed by a prophet.  For example,  the Prophet Samuel anoints both King Saul and King David (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13).

John 12 marks a transition from Jesus’ ministry into his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. The ESV translation suggests these divisions:  Mary anoints Jesus at Bethany (vv 1-8), the plot to kill Lazarus (vv 9-10), the triumphal entry (vv 12-19), some Greeks seek Jesus (vv 20-26), the Son of Man must be lifted up (vv 27-36), the unbelief of the people (vv 37-43), and Jesus came to save the world (vv 44-50).

The nature of Jesus’ messianic role clearly divides people in John 12.  Judas Iscariot disagrees with Jesus about the perfume used to anoint Jesus supposedly because of the cost.  But female anointment must also have weighed on his mind (vv 4-8)—Jews had trouble seeing Jesus as messiah.  The crowd that gathered at Bethany is clearly interested as much in Lazarus as in Jesus (v 9).  Lazarus must have  reminded them of 1 Kings 17:23 when Elijah raised a young man from the dead—a comparison suggesting a prophetic messiah.  By contrast, the crowd that gathered the morning waved palm branches and chanted words from Psalm 118:25 (hosanna means save us in Hebrew) suggesting that they expected a kingly messiah (v 13).

The appearance of gentiles (Greeks) in verses 20-26 curiously moves Jesus to remark:  The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (v 23).  Jesus frequently mentions sheep in John’s Gospel, but in Matthew’s Gospel he twice says that:  I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24 also 10:6).  As Jesus enters Jerusalem, his mission to the lost sheep of Israel is drawing to a close.


  1. Where is Jesus; what is he doing; who is there? (vv 1-2)
  2. What does Mary do? What is the significance?  (v 3; Hint: 1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13)
  3. Why is Judas upset? What does he say?  (vv 4-7)
  4. How does Jesus respond? (v 8) Is his response a surprise? (Hint:  John 11:16)
  5. Is Jesus’ presence in Bethany a secret? (vv 9-11)  What is the response?
  6. What happens the next day? (vv 12-19)
  7. What do Jesus’ anointing and entry into Jerusalem have in common? (vv 3 and 15)
  8. What kinds of Messiahs are there in Judaism? (See reflection)
  9. Why is Jesus’ visit by Gentiles significant? (vv 20-23) (Hint:  why did Jesus say he came? (Mathew 15:24))
  10. What is Jesus’ role; what is the role of the disciple? (vv 24-27)
  11. Why is there an epiphany from heaven? (vv 28-32)  What is happening?  What does Jesus say?
  12. What question is asked by the crowd? (vv 32-37)  Why does Jesus hide?
  13. What does the analogy to light and darkness mean? (vv 35-36, 46-47)
  14. What is the purpose (and prophecy) of disbelief? (vv 37-43)
  15. What is the nature of judgment? (vv 47-50)


JOHN 12: Jesus Messiah

Also see:

JOHN 13: Foot Washing 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:

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