Biblical Exposition

Being seasick is terrible. I experienced it earlier while fishing all night on the Sea of Galilee. Fishermen and travelers in the first century were often nauseated while bobbing up and down on the seas of the Roman Empire.

St. Paul’s most faithful of friends was writing the life of Christ and the first history of the Church and we can imagine him keeping notes and recording memories as he sat on the bow of the ship as it cut through the water with Paul on his later journeys. Writing quills and parchment were primitive means of writing by our modern standards, yet Luke wrote one of the most important and well-written documents known to the modern world. His writings have certainly proven seaworthy.

Luke’s history, written mostly from acquired tradition and only briefly from first hand experience with the Apostle Paul (cp. “we” sections in Acts 16:10?17; 20:5-15; 21:1?18, and 27:1—28:16), has come down to us as the Acts of the Apostles. Somewhat of an unusual title considering it tells us nothing of the apostolates of Thomas, Andrew, Philip, Matthew or the others. In fact, it only relays bits and pieces from the lives of Peter, John, and Paul.

Alternate titles have been proposed such as Acts of the Holy Spirit, but the accepted title is from the earliest centuries, quoted in the Fathers and recognized early as an inspired text. It is not a complete history of the early Church, just bare facts, but rather an outline of crucial events and turning points in the early Christian community. This is theology, history, and eternal truth woven by a master into a beautiful tapestry.

As we begin reading Acts, full of anticipation to see what happened after Christ ascended into the clouds of heaven, we find that this is not Luke’s first document. The opening words begin, “The first account I composed, Theophilus”. Luke had written an earlier history, again told like a master weaver full of eternal truths and a deep understanding of the life and gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This of course is the Gospel of St. Luke written about AD 62 or thereabouts, just before Acts. The recipient of both, Theophilus, was probably a Roman dignitary interested in the full story of this new “religion”.

Luke alone provides the account of Jesus’ ascension of Jesus into heaven (Lk 24:51; Acts 1:2, 9?11). He also gives us the outline not only for the Acts of the Apostles but the expansion of the whole Church from the first century until today. Before disappearing into the clouds, Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine). This is exactly what happened, as we shall see.

For the whole article, click here.

{ 0 comments }

Since Pentecost is upon us, I thought I would share this again…

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal.

They were also anxious about the promise. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said.

Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means “the 50th day.” Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain, and so had THE Passover Lamb. Then there was the forty mystery days when Jesus was gone but not gone—with them but not with them, at least not like before. And he kept just appearing and then disappearing.

He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, gave them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.

The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and without even a formal Good-bye He started going up—and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.

They looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces—they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as He had commanded. They were praying for what they feared—fire upon a mountain, Mount Zion. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.

We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the word is “names” not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, “About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land”? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.

In Israel is a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means “a group of people called out.” Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.

This certainly implies the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is a social structure with legal boundaries. It has it’s own legislature, courts and hierarchy. It is a “new city” with a constitution and authority. You are in or out. This is exactly what the Church is – with leaders having the authority to bind and loose, make laws and adjudicate them, include or exclude people from the organization, to forgive or retain sins. Only the worldwide Catholic Church could even begin to claim this status.

Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she is listed among the names with others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem as was, in a sense, giving birth to him again on Pentecost. What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing “Happy Birthday, to you…”? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church. What is being born? The Mystical Body of Christ. Who is there for the birth? The mother of course. Mothers have to be present when their child is born. Mary is the mother of Jesus the God-Man and Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. She was necessarily present at both births.

Mary was also there because the others were afraid of the descent of God in fire on this new mountain. I am convinced they trembled in fear not only of the Jews and Romans outside, but of the prophesied “baptism of fire” within—as they wondered and feared that might be. The gentle breeze was about to become a rushing wind.

But Mary was there to calm their anxieties. I bet she said something like, “Don’t be afraid my friends, the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed me and He was pure love. Just wait until you are bathed in His love!” The gentle breeze became a rushing wind but it was warm and

After nine days of praying the Holy Spirit fell in fire on the tenth day—which was the 50th day from the death of the Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. The Jewish festival of Pentecost also celebrated the first fruits of the harvest.

Remember, Jesus said he was like a grain of wheat that would be buried in the ground. The grain must be buried and die to bear its fruit. Jesus died, was buried in the ground and rose from the dead as the first fruit. Now on the “Feast of First Fruits” the first of the harvest is brought to God. We learn that 3,000 people were added to the Church that day—all in keeping with the tremendous symbolism and deeper meaning to all these events.

And with these deep mysteries and truths we are just scratching the surface. Come to the Holy Land with us, get out your Bibles and study books (or Verbum Catholic Bible Study software) and dig deeper. “There is gold in them there hills” for those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds to learn. Enter promo code STEVERAY for a 10% discount.

{ 2 comments }


downloadSoon it will be Ascension Thursday. The Ascension always falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Resurrection Sunday. Then 9 days of praying in the Upper Room (1st Novena) and on the 50th day from the Resurrection the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost. Pentecost means “the fiftieth day.”

One of our past pilgrims wrote to me expressing an apparent contradiction in the Bible about what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion.

Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”

Luke 24:50–51  “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.”

So, did Jesus ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives or from Bethany?

IMG_7997On pilgrimages, I take my groups to the top of the Mount of Olives to the Church of Pater Noster (the “Our Father”) where Jesus taught his disciples to pray in “the Grotto of the Teaching” — a cave beneath the front of the church. It is here that the oldest traditions inform us that Jesus was raised into heaven. Here Constantine built a church in the early 300’s. Here we celebrate Jesus’ departure and pray the Rosary’s 2nd Glorious Mystery of the Ascension.

There is a Muslim mosque five minute’s walk away (called the Chapel of the Ascension) that most Protestants visit but I don’t patronize Muslim sites and don’t accept this as the authentic place of the Ascension.

No one knows the exact square inches where his feet left the ground. But the Church of Pater Noster has the oldest tradition, is on the Mount of Olives and very near Bethany.

If we had had the time, and there was not the big wall separating Jerusalem from Bethany like it does Jerusalem from Bethlehem, in a few minutes we could walk into Bethany from the top of the Mount of Olives. We used to walk people there to go into the tomb of Lazarus. That is how close Bethany is to the top of the Mount of Olives.

However, I can’t do that with groups anymore because of the big wall that keeps us from walking from the Mount of Olives into Bethany.

Bethany is on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. At the time of Jesus there was nothing on the Mount of Olives but olive trees (even until the late 1800’s, see picture black and white picture from about 1900). If you left from Jerusalem, heading to the Mount of Olives, it was perceived you were headed to Bethany.

 The picture shows that even until the turn of the 20th century there was nothing outside the old walls of Jerusalem. That meant there was just trees and open space between Jerusalem and Bethany. Bethany, though not seen on this map, was on the Eastern slope of the mount.

The other two maps show the proximity of Bethany, the the top of the Mount of Olives and the short distance from the walled city of Jerusalem. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  He obviously saw no contradiction in referring to both places as the general location of Christ’s ascension.

It is easily explained this way. First, some suggest that he went as far as Bethany to say good-bye to the family he loved – Lazarus, Mary and Martha, then came back to the top of the mount and departed to heaven. However, there is no need to stretch things that far. Being on the eastern slope of the mount, Bethany is virtually on the Mount of Olives, especially from the perspective of Jerusalem.

If someone asks me where I’m from, I always say “Detroit.” But those who have been to my house know I really live 40 miles east of Detroit in Ypsilanti. But since no one knows where Ypsilanti is – I say “Detroit.”

If there is nothing but trees and bare land on the Mount of Olives and you’re heading east from Jerusalem, people would say you are going to Bethany. Jesus left Jerusalem and went over toward Bethany to ascend into heaven.

So if the geography is understood there is no conflict. Scripture can be trusted.

{ 5 comments }

Is the Mass Really A Sacrifice: Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

April 21, 2021

https://cdn.catholic.com/wp-content/uploads/ca210419a.mp3   Questions Covered: 13:18 – Why is the sacrifice of the mass so important to Catholics?  20:09 – How would Steve respond to non-Catholics who say “keep doing this in remembrance of me not in sacrifice of me” from Corinthian’s 11:24?  30:55 – What is the difference between the consecration of the bread versus the wine. For instance, when the priest […]

Read the full article →

Mary and the Apostles are Dead! Only Jesus can Mediate for Us! Really?

April 8, 2021

 Confusion of Many Protestants Too often well-meaning Protestants get confused and accuse of things that are outright nonsense if not lies. It is usually because they never take the time to really understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches and practices. Below is a good example of a kind and well-meaning Protestant pastor who wrote […]

Read the full article →

Resurrection Appearances: Places & People

April 3, 2021

Here is the list of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Click here for the document: https://catholicconvert.com/wp-content/uploads/Resurrection-People-who-witnessed.pdf For the podcast of my show with Drew Mariani — the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and the institution and need for Confession, click ? below  or click this link: https://relevantradio.com/2020/04/the-importance-of-sacrament-of-confession/ My segment begins at 06:45 minutes into the show.

Read the full article →

Sharing the Story and Glory of Holy Thursday and Good Friday

April 2, 2021

A bunch of international young people asked me to share with them the story of Holy Thursday and Good Friday – to take them on a virtual, biblical, typological and geographical tour.

Read the full article →

Two Helpful Timelines for Easter Week

March 30, 2021

A lot is going on this week leading up to Easter. Here are two timelines that will help you navigate.  

Read the full article →

Mary in the Old Testament: Typology and Titles of the Blessed Virgin

March 26, 2021

William Albrecht and I had a one-hour discussion on Mary in the Old Testament. I told him that in my conversion process I learned about Mary more from the Old Testament than the New. Typology opened up a whole new vista in understanding God’s amazing plan of salvation. Sad that I missed it all as a […]

Read the full article →

The Pain of Stolen Honey – John the Baptist was a Manly Man who Teaches us Many Things

March 22, 2021

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I know. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. And that was with protective equipment! Wild honey is […]

Read the full article →

Iraq in the Bible: You May be Surprised!

March 21, 2021

Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are Babylon, Chaldean, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means “between the two rivers”, […]

Read the full article →

Debunking 5 Biblical Myths Accepted by Many as True

March 16, 2021

There are three “truths” I have been asked about many times. Often people tell me these as though they’re explaining to me something I’ve never heard before. However, in each case, there is no historical, biblical or actual basis to any three of them. In each case they started being taught in recent times and […]

Read the full article →

“Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

March 2, 2021

Today’s gospel reading is from Matthew 23 and Jesus mentions, “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice’.” (Mt 23:1–3). So here is a little […]

Read the full article →

My Video Talk: “How can a John Paul II Catholic Survive in a Pope Francis World”

February 23, 2021

At the 20219 investiture of new Knights and Dames into the North Central Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, I was asked to give the keynote talk on Sunday morning with a good number of bishops in attendance and several renowned theologians and radio personalities. (Photo: Janet and I with Patriarch of […]

Read the full article →

Audio CD’s to Celebrate the Year of St. Joseph

February 15, 2021

My new talk on St. Joseph is now ready to ship! It is quite different than any other talks you’ve heard on Joseph. I present him as the manly man he was. Journey to Nazareth with me to discover the real St. Joseph. Also in our sale bundle you will get “A Day in the […]

Read the full article →

Is Jesus being harsh calling a woman a “dog” in today’s Gospel reading?

February 11, 2021

Jesus seems very harsh to the gentile woman in today’s Gospel Reading. He seems to call the woman a “dog”. Here is his comment, And Jesus said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27) She replies, […]

Read the full article →