God’s Justice…Equally Applied, Divinely Given

No Justice, No Peace, once again we hear the Battle Cry of those who would use an injustice to others to further their evil actions. This is the cry of the looters and arsonists and those sometimes referred to as Social Justice Warriors. This week the Pew enters into an area we try to avoid but the state of the union and the lack of Godly behavior beckons us to this weeks blog topic. Now we are going to get into a web of conflicting opinions but in this day and time that is the new norm. What is Justice? How is justice distributed and applied in a fair way?   It is reasonable to expect that Justice and the laws that define it should be fair, equal and balanced for everyone. Let’s look at some varying degrees of justice. Sometime there are decisions made that elicit a response of the cliche, “ It’s all about the principles involved here.” There is always the expectation of consideration of the morals involved in a fair and just dealing between two competing claims. Are they linked to fairness, entitlement and equality? Many view justice as an exercise of three main principles. Are they allocated in such a manner that they fairly allow an equality that meet the needs of those involved? If you are still with me you may have noticed that there is a great deal of repetition and more questions than answers and clarity of thought. Justice is important to almost everyone but it is a fact that it means different things to different groups. The best way I can explain this is that those who strive for social justice are looking to make sure all people have equal economic, political, and social opportunities regardless of race, gender, or religion. The other side of justice is the legal application of the law to a situation. Justice is never black and white and justice applied without moral principles, compassion, and in support of those weaker than others is usually agenda driven and does not build the confidence of people. Justice is not an easy thing to define and even harder to apply fairly.

I will conclude this weeks blog by asserting that the only real and true justice is God’s Justice and for most all of us it is even harder to understand. From a Christian concept justice is to each what is due. The Christian view of justice encompasses all moral, political, and philosophical concepts which can be supported by a belief in and a profession of faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We find Biblical references to the word justice to be simply “make it right”. The God we serve is a just and loving God and we are called to be just and loving in our judgements of others.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14). 

“`Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. “`Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “`Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:15)

There is no justice in this world without God. This is difficult to understand but I do believe that George Floyd did not receive justice in this world. I do believe that what is being done in his name does him even more injustice.

May you rest in peace George Floyd, in God you will have your justice.

Life is Good

jk

A Godly Gift

I was reading through some scripture from Luke 2 and I found myself lingering for a moment, even going back a second time to read these certain verses again. Luke2: 29-32 

29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

These few short verses brought about the Song of Simeon or the Canticle of Simeon. The Canticle of Simeon, is a canticle taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 29 through 32. There is a rich tradition herein but I will not drag you through that right now. You can google it, it makes a good read.( a hymn or chant, typically with a biblical text, forming a regular part of a church service.)

Simeon was a righteous and devout man living in Jerusalem and was at the Temple when the parents of Jesus brought him there as was Jewish law for every newborn male. Simeon was looking forward to the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit rested on him. The Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon was able to hold the baby Jesus, looking upon him he raised his eyes and voice to praise God, uttering the verses above. Here is one of the wonders of the faith….all things happen in God’s time. There was of course the journey made necessary by the decree of  Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken. Because he belonged to the house and the line of David, he and Mary who was betrothed to him, she with child, had to also make this journey. So Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judaea, to David’s town, which is called Bethlehem, from Nazareth to Bethlehem was eighty miles. Here in time Jesus was born, All in God’s time. In Luke 2:21-24 in the Temple, Jesus undergoes three ancient ceremonies every Jewish  boy must undergo.

(I) Circumcision.

(2) The Redemption of the First-born.

(3) The Purification after Childbirth.

It is here that the dream is realized and Simeon sees God’s instrument of salvation. (vv. 25-35)

There is a back story here we need to know so that all this fits into place. Simeon is present and sees God’s revelation to the world. In the last few verses of this passage lies the back story.

‘His father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Look you, this child is appointed to be the cause whereby many in Israel will fall and many rise and for a sign which will meet with much opposition. As for you – a sword will pierce your soul – and all this will happen that the inner thoughts of many hearts may be revealed to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (NRSV)

While the Jewish people regraded their nation as that of the chosen people, they still were able to recognize that they could never rise in the world to the greatness which they believed to be their destiny on their own. They believed that because the Jews were the chosen people they were bound someday to become masters of the world and lords of all the nations. There were some who believed there would be another like King David or someone of celestial origin would come down and the glories of earlier days would reappear again. Then there were those that waited quietly and patiently upon God. They did so in prayer, in worship and with humble and faithful expectation. They waited upon the Lord for the day he would comfort his people, enter Simeon. God had promised Simeon through the Holy Spirit that before he died he would see God’s anointed king. His earlier words in vv. 29-32 would later become one of the great hymns of the Church. We then find in 34 a summery of the work and fate of Jesus.

(1) He will be the cause whereby many will fall. 

(2) He will be the cause whereby many people rise. 

(3) He will meet with much opposition. 

What about that Godly Gift? We find it in verse 32…..

32 

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

 and for glory to your people Israel.”

So long ago, so meaningful today all in ‘God’s Time.’

Be patient and wait upon the Lord in faith, better days are ahead.

Life is Good

jk

One-fifty-one / Outside The Number / Supernumerary

We are going to explore some biblical writings that are not considered to be Canonical, those books which are declared by the canons of the church to be of divine inspiration; – called collectively the canon. The Roman Catholic Church holds as canonical several books which Protestants reject as apocryphal. Believers consider these books to be inspired by God or an accurate history of the relationship between God and his people. Here is the best explanation of Apocrypha, the other book on the shelf in today’s blog.

Apocrypha” was also applied to writings that were hidden not because of their divinity but because of their questionable value to the church. Many in Protestant traditions cite Revelation 22:18–19 as a potential curse for those who attach any canonical authority to extra-biblical writings such as the Apocrypha. (wikipedia)

This week we expand our View From The Pew, leave the familiar and travel on new ground for many of us. This week we go to some writings that are of a biblical nature but not accepted by bible scholars. Apocrypha are works, that were written having at least two points of contention, that of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin. Biblical apocrypha are a set of texts included in the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate but not in the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint is a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), including the Apocrypha, made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries bc and adopted by the early Christian Churches. The Old Testament Apocrypha, was simply known as “the Apocrypha,” a collection of Jewish books that were included in the Old Testament canons of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, but not of Protestants. There is much more here to be learned but to keep it simple at this time, they are a collection of books composed in Hebrew and  never were accepted by the Jews as part of the Hebrew canon. They were bounced around and used by Christians as early as the first century a.d. They made it into Christian copies of the Greek Old Testament and, later, the Latin Vulgate. Protestant Reformers viewed these books as having a unique authority within the Hebrew canon and agreed they were useful reading, however after a period of time they fell into disuse among Protestants. Psalm 151 is a short psalm found in most copies of the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. The title given to this psalm in the Septuagint indicates that it is supernumerary, and no number is affixed to it: “This Psalm is ascribed to David and is outside the number.” (Wikipedia) The word  supernumerary refers to a normal or requisite numbering not wanted or needed. The traditional Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible contain only 150 psalms.

We should take a moment to read this Psalm 151…….

Psalm 151 [Greek]

This additional psalm is said to have been written by David when he fought Goliath in single combat.

I was small among my brothers,
and the youngest of my father’s sons.
I was shepherd of my father’s sheep.

My hands made a musical instrument;
my fingers strung a lap harp.

Who will tell my Lord?
The Lord himself, the Lord hears me.

The Lord himself sent his messenger,
and took me away
from my father’s sheep.
He put special oil on my forehead
to anoint me.

My brothers were good-looking and tall,
but the Lord didn’t take
special pleasure in them.

I went out to meet the Philistine,
who cursed me by his idols.

But I took his own sword out of its sheath
and cut off his head.
So I removed the shame
from the Israelites.

I love the simplicity of the words, imagine sitting on a hill overlooking the gentle rolling pastures dotted by sheep and David telling you what had happen that day. It happened quite naturally, this look at the Psalm 151 led me to the books of the Apocrypha. One of the comments in reference to the books was that they were a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. There are 14 books of the Apocrypha and each adds to our knowledge around the history and culture of God’s people. They are often referred to as “the hidden or secret books of the Bible. I encourage you to explore these hidden books that are so rich in complementing the bible as we know it. You can google Apocrypha and start your journey there. One good book about this subject can be found at this URL listed below. Funny how one road can take you to another but all roads lead to God…He is ever present…yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Life is Good

jk

Book URL

https://www.ebay.com/i/352942742704?chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&itemid=352942742704&targetid=882887725827&device=c&mktype=pla&googleloc=1026044&poi=&campaignid=6469750705&mkgroupid=89041169916&rlsatarget=pla-882887725827&abcId=1141176&merchantid=7867094&gclid=Cj0KCQjwnv71BRCOARIsAIkxW9EdNjJcSqfkVrnJBEbQbywrdOe_Zsz9d9nMF9nJ-9n1hePI6zwIalEaAi4yEALw_wcB

Psalm 31

We find ourselves in a time of turmoil and uncertainty in these days and the days ahead are of concern for all of us. The writer of this psalm finds himself in a time of severity. This psalm begins (v. 1a) and ends (vv. 19-24) with expressions of trust in God throughout. There is the frequency of alternation between petition and trust which in some ways mirrors our own uncertainty amid this virus pandemic. Some credit David as being the author of this psalm but others point out the possibility that it was Jeremiah who proclaimed in his book that much of his faithful proclaiming of God’s word has disrupted his life. The writer asks God for deliverance and guidance. (vv. 1-5) Declares himself to be against idolatry, and confides in God, who has given him liberty, security and stability. (vv. 6-8) The anguish of his soul, aggravated by opposition from his enemies, is matched by his physical ailments. (vv.9-13) He affirms his trust in God and in God’s timing. He asks God to deliver him from shame. (vv. 14-18) In vv. 19-22, he reminds himself of who God is and how good He is. He reflects on what He has done for him before in answer to his prayer. In the final verses, 19-24 he arrives at a place of personal confidence in God and encourages other saints of God to love the Lord. He is encouraged and knows that God will give him strength.

We find many things in this psalm that we as Christians can take comfort in. We can go to God and ask his help and guidance whatever our situation might be. Praising God and giving Him credit, remembering all he has done for us gives us confidence in our ability to be secure and stable in an uncertain world. We are free to express our anguish at the troubles of this life trusting in God to deliver us. We can give thanks for the assurance of the goodness of God in our life, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Lastly there is the joy of sharing these things with others of the faith. God will prevail, His will be done. We can repeat the last two verses of this psalm with conviction of faith and trust:

23 Love the Lord, all you his saints.The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. 24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

Consider this….The psalmist knew that the real meaning of the gospel is in constant conflict with most of the customs and attitudes of his day. For those of the faith today it is no different. Part of the excitement of living a Christian life is that there is an adventure and challenge in every day because we never know what, when and how our faith will be challenged. As an added note God’s faithfulness and steadfast love enables us to be strong, have courage, which enables those around us to keep the faith and wait for the Lord.

God Bless, Happy Mother’s Day

Life is Good

jk

Resource Materials:  The Bible Panorama / New Interpreter’s Bible Volume IV

Trials and Tribulations… A Cliche ….A Model of Redundancy … God’s Word

Interesting play on words, trial here means trouble or misfortune , which in this case means tribulation. It actually became a cliche in the nineteenth century. In today’s world it is used more lightly than in the past. What is the difference between trials and tribulations from a faith based assessment?  “A tribulation is defined as a distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution.  … A trial is a test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or something. In the sense of faith, God tests as individuals.”( www.quora.com )

On the other hand test means a critical examination, observation, or evaluation, which could then be described as a trial , of which this definition is given from a faith view; it then becomes a test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation. Here where I live we have been under quarantine for forty days and forty nights. This weeks blog is very simple. In times of trials and tribulations we of the faith turn to God. There are many ways to do that in this digital world we live in but for me “The Word” is the best in times such as these. I also think that it could be a thing of comfort even for the non-believers. That is right, scripture contains words of comfort, direction and hope, simple things anyone is looking for in these times of uncertainty. To the unbeliever I encourage you to read the Bible. You are not required to believe to read. The God I serve loves you and in turn I do too.  So here are a few words from God’s book.

Psalm 27 1The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.

What God says about overcoming obstacles?

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Deuteronomy 31:6,8 Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.

What God says about never giving up?

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

What’s a good scripture for comfort?

Psalm 27:13-14 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. 

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

I hope you find comfort in these words and explore other scriptures as you seek some respite from the pressures of this life. I want to mention that I am very aware of the number of visitors to “The Pew” from other countries around the world. I want you to know how grateful I am for your visits to the Pew. Each day I pray for the community of faith all over the world, for the peace and understanding of God’s grace and the salvation of our souls through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank you for being here in faith.

Life is Good

jk

Resources:

 The Free Dictionary 

Bible Money Matters 

Merriam Webster 

Social Distancing… Biblical Speaking

As I write this today we here in the USA are into day 37 of the shutdown, shelter in place, whatever you want to call it. In our nation’s attempt to acquire control of the Covid-19 we have been given a list of things to do to keep safe and a list of things that we can’t do because of the risk to ourselves and others. A long time ago a thing identified as a plague, one of many brought upon Egypt, required the Israelites to shelter in place, so to speak, and to put the blood of a lamb over their door as the Angel of the Lord passed by. They did this to avoid the loss of life to the first born of each household in Egypt as punishment for the Pharaoh’s refusal to let God’s people go. At present we are in our homes to protect us and others from this virus. If we have to go out we are told to maintain a distance of 6ft between us and others and we are to wear a face mask, social distancing they call it.  All of these measures are in place to curtail the spread of this virus. You may not know it but we in the faith community have been or should be practicing a form of our own social distancing, I call it a form of biblical distancing. A virus infects our bodies, it can infect those we come into contact with and in general contaminate all areas of our life and those around us. Let’s equate this virus, Covid-19 with sin, sin can do all of the previous things written here and adds a couple of others….It can attack our hearts and minds and it separates us from God.

The six foot rule has become a huge part of the social distancing mantra. It along with sheltering in place would be two things everybody can do to reduce the spread of the virus. There is and has alway been social distancing within the Christian faith and community which was directed to one particular evil and one segment of society. Sin and Sinners, those things of the devil and the people who carried them among society in general. To make this just a bit easier, sin is anything that separates us from God and in scripture we actually find lists. Not only the lists of sins but also the consequences. I suggest you read Romans 1:24-27 and I will put here verses 28-32.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

One caveat I must add here would be Christians are commanded to go among God’s children and take the Good News. Not exactly keeping that distance thing going is it? A Christian has a powerful vaccine to keep the evil from them, the Holy Spirit leads and protects as we do God’s work. Keep in mind the comparison we are trying to craft here. If we put aside those things that will keep us safe from the virus, bad things can happen to us and others around us. Here in Roman 1:24-32 we see what happens to the people who chose to ignore God, what that led to and the consequences of their sinful behavior. Just as we find those in this day that reject the messages from health care professionals, governments and their leaders to do “their thing” there were people in the Christ’s Day who would deny the dangers of sin. Matthew  15:19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”They would call good what God called evil. Isaiah 5:20 “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” There will be consequences, we can’t say that enough. To ignore this virus will not bode well for any of us and in kind, to sin against God will not bode well for all God’s children. Again I remind you there is such a thing as biblical distancing. Scripture tells us over and over to avoid sin in heart, mind and body. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” There is as I wrote earlier many lists pertaining to different sins. You may want to look at these in more detail, Gal. 5: 19-20; Eph. 5: 3-6; Col. 3: 5-6. Sin and Covid-19 require preventive measures and practices that keep us safe from infection. Both different but there is a parallel between them. To fall away from that which protects us has dire consequences.

In time we will have a vaccine for this virus that infects our bodies, for those of the faith we have the mercy and grace of God to heal our bodies, minds and hearts. Social Distancing decreases the chance of being exposed to the virus, Biblical Distancing, identifying and avoiding sin allows us to say “all is well with my soul.” Stay in, Stay well and keep the faith.

Life is Good

jk

After The Cross…That Strange Chapter John 21

This past Easter Sunday for many of us will be the one that Church stayed at home. Today, April 15 I am still at home as we shelter in place during this virus pandemic. I have had more time to read and that is a good thing and I have been blessed that I do not have this virus. What will happen after this, I don’t know, we have yet to live that chapter? What happened after the cross? We have ample writings from those who were there and in reading some I was blessed to find this interesting Chapter from the book of John, Chapter 21. After some study of this chapter and other research material I do agree that this  is a strange chapter. It is only 25 verses compared to the 31 verses in the previous chapter. Why is it viewed to be so strange? The gospel seems to come to an end in verse 31 in Chapter 20. But it strangely begins again in Chapter 21. As a layman I do not feel qualified to say why this happened but do feel the need to ask why and try to come to some conclusion. Chapter 20: 30-31 perfectly speaks to the aim of this book. It is impossible for the gospels to give a full account of Jesus’ life as they do not follow his activities day to day. They are instead a truthful and accurate collection of what he was like and the kinds of things he was doing. These collections of his demeanor and activities were meant to present him as Master, Lord and our Savior. If we approach them as a people seeking God we will be blessed and strengthened. So…Let’s take a look beyond the words and explore this what seems to be an addition to an Ending, a PS so to speak. I will be using the DBS, New Interpreter’s Bible and Wikipedia as primary resources.

Our first stop in this journey will be by the Sea of  Tiberias where Jesus showed himself again to his disciples. Verse 2 of the 21st chapter.

 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

They had been fishing all night and it was just after daybreak, Jesus was standing there on the shore but none of them recognized him right away. It was in a gray type of early light that they first saw him. It was Peter who knew it was the Lord. There are always little bits of information that historical fact makes known to us and add a bit of realism to the words. When fishing the normal wear was just the loin cloth but when Peter in awe and joy leaped into the water to greet him because he wanted to be the first to greet him, he paused first to put on his fisherman’s tunic. You see it was Jewish law that a greeting was a religious act, such an act required that he must be clothed. There were many who had said that these appearances of the risen Christ by the disciples are only visions. Now they did not question the seeing of these visions, they did however insist they were only just that, visions. Here right at the first few verses of this chapter we see a possible reason for the addition of this chapter. It demonstrated once and for all the reality of the resurrection. The gospels insist that these were not as some were saying, just visions and hallucinations, they were   not even a spirit, but a real person, the risen Christ. The tomb was empty and his body bore the marks of the crucifixion: the nail holes in his hands and the mark of the spear thrust into his side. Sometimes the way we do things can be used to validate a story or in this case the appearance of Christ to the disciples as they fished. When we speak of visions or even a spirit, it is not likely that either could have started a fire, cooked fish or prepared a meal. He then shared that meal with them! It would be hard for one of the men in the boat to spot a shoal of fish, but it was often done by a person on the shore, it really wasn’t that unusual. In these next verses 15-19, Jesus questions Peter’s love for him. Scripture has a way of putting forth a question or questions that reveal our true feelings. ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?’ Not being there we cannot be sure but reasonable thinking might lead us to ask what the context of these was. Did Jesus with a sweep of his hand indicate the boat, its nets and other equipment as well as the fish that had been caught? “Do you love me more than these things?” Was he asking Peter if he was willing to give up all this stuff to follow him? We could ask ourselves that question today, right here and now… Are we willing to give up our stuff to follow Jesus. Are we ready to be a shepherd to his lambs? It could have been Jesus asking Peter if he loved him more than his fellow disciples did? Jesus asked this question three times and within those three times we find astonishing revelations. Be a shepherd to my lambs  He said to him a second time: ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?’ Jesus replied to Peter’s yes ‘Be a shepherd to my sheep.’ Then yet again Jesus asked ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me’? I am sure by this time Peter is confused but there is a purpose in this repeating question… Each answer given requires a task accepted. Peter was tasked with the responsibility of a lifetime of shepherding the sheep and the lambs. Like Peter we can also prove our love for Jesus by our love for others. To love is the hallmark of a Christian but with it comes a great responsibility. Jesus also presents Peter with his own cross. Sometime later in Rome Peter would be nailed to a cross. We should understand that even today to love Jesus will present us with a cross of our own. Our cross might be in the form of ridicule, shunned by family, friends a hostile workplace and yes missionaries who lose their lives loving, caring and bringing the good news to the sheep. So here is Peter, who by no means was anything like Paul, for Paul would have many voyages and adventures taking the word to the world. Most of us will not be able to travel the world or write as Paul wrote, but we who also love the Lord can accept the task of loving and caring and being the shepherd of the sheep of Christ.

This strange chapter shows us two great figures of the Church…Peter and John. Each given a different task, Peter to shepherd the sheep of Christ, to love and care for the lambs of the Lord. To John the task of witnessing to the story of Christ to live to an old age, dies in peace, writing ‘I know Jesus Christ, and I know that these things are true.’ We have been reminded in this strange chapter the reality of the resurrection, the inclusion of all believers in service to the Lord and the tasks of the church being shared by all who love the Lord. Christ has risen and to each of us there are the additional tasks that this strange chapter sets forth and reminds us of the reality of the resurrection.

Life is Good

jk

Last Supper, A Place Called Gethsemane, The Unexpected Gift

Tuesday had been an eventful and full day for Jesus and his disciples. It was a day of confrontation, the Olivet Discourse and warnings about the future after which Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night. Wednesday it is believed they rested and looked forward with great anticipation to the Passover Feast. We Christians refer to the Feast of the Passover as the Last Supper and here we note that the disciples going into it had no idea of what the next few days would bring. The events prior to this meal are of great interest. Jesus was a wanted man, the decision had been made, Judas has agreed to betray Jesus, the Chief Priests and the elders of the people have met in the palace of the High Priest Caiaphas and have conspired to arrest Jesus and kill him. They wanted it done quietly and after the Festival because they feared the people would riot. Jesus had the past few days displayed a defiance to those practices and people whose actions were against the will and word of God. Now on this day as Jesus and the disciples prepared for the Passover meal he gave instructions to send some of their number to purchase the necessary food and drink for the meal as well as secure a place for them to have the meal together. Matthew 26:18 ‘Go into the city to such and such a man, and say to him: “The Teacher says, my time is near. I will keep the Passover with my disciples at your house.”

The Passover Feast was the reason that Jesus had come to Jerusalem. While some allowances had been made because the city was so crowded at this time, the feast itself had to be celebrated within the city of Jerusalem. I add this little tidbit to the story because of an earlier statement I made. Jesus’ life was not ruled by circumstances, it was the will of God that led Jesus. There were many who supported Jesus and as we know a member of the ruling council came to Jesus in the dark of the night. Jesus left nothing to chance and it is suggested that a friend in the city itself had been instructed as to what to do when he was approached and told “The Teacher says, my time is near”. He sent those disciples ahead if you will to give a sort of password that would set the preparations in motion. It is fact that the authorities were looking for Jesus and Jesus knew that. He keep a low profile and avoided any confrontation with the authorities. He would join them when all was ready later that evening. Jesus knew that it was time for the Father’s will to be done and he alone knew the will of the Father. The disciples would have no sense as to what was about to happen, for the Passover Meal would become their last supper with Jesus. As they are eating the Passover Meal Jesus begins to speak to them. It is at this point that this meal becomes the Last Supper we read about in the New Testament. One interesting point is the timeline involved here. The Jewish day begins at 6pm. For us that would be Wednesday evening at 6pm. What that means is that on Thursday, the next day they had until 6pm that evening to make the preparations for the meal. Any time after 6pm. Thursday, that is when the guests might come to the table and it would then be the next day, Friday.

I am going to move forward to Matthew 26: 26-30. They sing a hymn, Psalm 136 and then go out to the Mount of Olives. It is at this point that we need to look at the location of the Mount of Olives in the context of these scriptures. The Mount of Olives is more of a hill across the valley from the Old City, separated by the Kidron Valley and part way down that hill toward the old city lies Garden of Gethsemane. It was here in this garden that the gospels of Matthew and Mark identify this place where in his agony he prayed on the night of his arrest before his Crucifixion. After we follow some translations of the word garden we find it to mean a cultivated tract of land that many believe to have been an olive garden. The Greek word Gethsemane comes from a Hebrew word or a similar Aramaic word, Gat Shemanim, meaning, “a press of oils.” It was an olive press and in all probability it was a private place owned by a person or persons in Jerusalem and Jesus most likely had permission given by a benefactor to enter there.The agony of the cross and the gift of salvation through the blood of Christ shed on the cross is the foundation of our Christian faith. Let there be no mistake that without the cross and the empty tomb, life would be just an event in time. It must be said no matter how harsh it may sound, a Christian lives to die for Christ. That Unexpected Gift, the one that is the motivator for all this….Reconciliation.

Reconciliation, in Christian theology, is an element of salvation that refers to the results of atonement. … John Calvin describes reconciliation as the peace between humanity and God that results from the expiation of religious sin and the appease of God’s wrath.”

Jesus Christ was the Lamb of Atonement, he gave his life to appease the wrath of God because of mankind’s sins. Much has been written about these last three days and much more will be added as to the how, when and where but the words will never capture the reality and joy of the resurrection, we will never know until our time.

The Tomb is Empty

Life is Good

jk

 

Beyond The Words … Cont’ Journey To The Cross… Days Three and Four

Scripture indicates that Tuesday was also the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16). This was a very busy day for Jesus and his disciples. It was on this day that Jesus also went to the Mount of Olives and it was here that a major discourse took place between Jesus and the disciples. The Olivet Discourse, was an orderly and extensive teaching that Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives. The subject being that of the end times. Matthew has the most extensive record and can be found in Matthew 24:1 – 25:46. This is not the time to address these chapters as they are filled with much information and a few words could never give them justice as to their importance in our savior’s journey to the cross. I suggest you read the Chapters and verses as listed above. There are some points here that help us to better understand the emotional burden and determination of Jesus in the hours before his passion. We tend to set aside the humanness of Jesus, he was God incarnate and walked among us, God in human form. This was his choice and makes all the more revealing the power of the Father, the God of all creation. A discourse is a conversation, a discussion and you might say about a set of principles, or instructions to a certain group, in this case the disciples. In Christianity, the term Five Discourses of Matthew refers to five specific discourses by Jesus within the Gospel of Matthew. One of those discourses was the Sermon on the Mount of Olives. Jesus chose for this discourse to take place in the privacy of the Mount of Olives. We must as difficult as it might be, try and understand that the life of Jesus was not one of circumstance, it was according to the will of the Father, God. Within this discourse is the warning to the disciples that they will suffer tribulation and persecution before the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. This discourse is also known as the Little Apocalypse because it includes the use of apocalyptic language. After this time with the disciples on the Mount of Olives and a full day, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night. We have no record of what the Lord did on Wednesday but the assumption of many scholars is Jesus and the disciples spent the day in Bethany resting and planning for the Passover Feast. One thing that is important is that at one point Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave and with the closeness of Bethany to Jerusalem the word of this miracle made it to the Pharisees in short order. You can be certain that this sealed the fate of Jesus in their eyes.   

I will close out this week with a blog to be posted at fromthepewblog.com on Saturday evening entitled…

Last Supper, A Place Called Gethsemane, The Unexpected Gift

Hope you will join us in the Pew this Saturday eve.

Life is Good

jk

Research Sources:  DBS, New Interpreter’s Bible and

https://www.gotquestions.org/Olivet-discourse.html

Beyond The Words …

With all that is happening in the world today I have struggled picking out a blog subject for this week. The whole world of course is fighting this pandemic that has left very few of our lives unchanged. We are sadden by the fact that in all probability only on-line services will mark these important days in the Christian calendar. This Sunday is Palm Sunday and is the start of our Lords journey to the cross. We will hear the falmilar verses and sing those falmilar hymns as we, the Church, celebrate this eventful week in Christendom. The fact is that without the cross, the crrufixtion and the resurrection, there could never be hope for mankind. Sometimes we need to get past the usual rote of worship or even reading of the Scripture, we need to go beyond the words. It would be impossible for us to feel the persecution of Christ, the unfairness of judgement passed on him, the tremendous pain of leather straps tipped with knife edged bone that tore the skin apart and the thorns that were pressed into his head, we just can’t truly feel that physically. It is even harder to access the pain and the endurance of our Lord as he carried the cross to Golgotha on that fateful day. The following is from Wikipedia.

“Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

The Via Dolorosa (Latin for “Sorrowful Way”, often translated “Way of Suffering”; Hebrew: ויה דולורוזה; Arabic: طريق الآلام) is a processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the former Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — a distance of about 600 metres (2,000 feet)[1] — is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage. The current route has been established since the 18th century, replacing various earlier versions.[2] It is today marked by nine Stations of the Cross; there have been fourteen stations since the late 15th century,[2] with the remaining five stations being inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.[3]

Words can paint a picture in our minds and they can bring forth emotions, they can even inflict pain but unless they reside in our hearts and find a place in our souls they are like seeds sown in a field, some will grow increasing our knowledge while others will die not even finding a place in our memories. Join me now as we go beyond the words in our Plan Sunday remembrance.

Day 1: Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday

Jesus’ triumphal entry is recorded in Matthew 21:1-11

It is the time of the Passover in Jerusalem and the city and surrounding areas were packed. It was a Jewish law that every adult Jewish male within fifteen miles of Jerusalem must attend Passover. This, the greatest of their national festivals brought Jews from not only Palestine but from all over the world. Here in this city full of people who were there primarily for the religious significance and expectations of their Jewish faith came Jesus. He could not have picked a better time but as we will read it was not a spur of the moment thing.  Jesus had a plan… He sent his disciples ahead to the village to get a donkey, the way the text reads he had already made arrangements for this to happen. Now Matthew names the village as that of Bethphage, but Mark 11:1 mentions Bethany. The general consensus is Bethany would have been the village where the donkey was and also Jesus stayed there after his entry into Jerusalem. Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and the home of Simon the Leper. Mark in 11:2 also gives us another point that is not all that well known. Old Testament scriptures lend authority to the fact that this donkey was special because it had never been ridden before. (Numbers 19:2, Deuteronomy 21:3.) We know they spread their cloaks on the ground before him, they welcomed him like a King. As Jesus entered the city they shouted Hosanna, their excitement at a fever pitch. A people’s cry for deliverance in the day of their oppression. Stop for a moment, savor this moment of the people crying out to their savior and King. This would have been like a ticker tape parade down Fifth Ave, the frenzy of the crowds growing with every step and the ruling Jewish council’s  concern rising with every wave of a palm branch and shout of Hosanna. It is very plain that Jesus’ intent was to awake the people with the methods of the prophets. Words were no longer enough, he felt led to go beyond the words. There was within the Jewish faith a growing casual and indifferent attitude to the will of God. You can call it a parade, a pep rally or whatever you wish, it was in all intent a dramatic action accompanied by symbolic actions that a Jew would recognize, it was a call to salvation. Jesus showed his courage in a city he knew to be hostile to him. Those in authority hated him and were plotting a way to get rid of him. Here he put forth his claim and underscored his calling. He was the God’s Messiah, the Anointed One!  It gets even better. Jesus had a certain quality that people found appealing. He sought their hearts, he came humbly among them seeking the kinship of mankind not the throne. He came on a donkey and in this land and this time a King who came on a donkey came in peace. So we see the courage of Christ, the affirmation of his claim and also his last invitation to men and women to open their hearts to him.

Day 2: On Monday, Jesus Clears the Temple

Matthew 21:12–14

On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If some would consider the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one of defiance knowing that he knew the Jewish ruling council hated him and his message, then what was about to happen would be defiance with a Capital D. This is a picture we need to paint with just a few words. The actual Temple itself was a small building but it was surrounded by four  adjoining courtyards. Without going into much detail we will focus on the area that defiance ceases to be just a word and became an action. The courtyard of the Gentiles into which anyone could come was always busy but at the time of Passover it was packed with pilgrims from all over the world. Two things that were problematic were the money-changers and the Temple Tax. The temple tax was one half-shekel and had to be paid close to the Passover time. You could pay that tax at various places set up in advance of the Passover but after a certain time it must be paid at the Temple only. Enter the money-changers…their function was to change unsuitable currency into correct currency. Because so many people came from all over they would need to pay this tax at that time. This was a big business at this time. I’ll not bore you with details but the underlying problem here was that a necessary service had become a questionable practice. The money-changers charged a commission for changing the currency, so people ended up not only paying the tax of a half-shekel but also the extra charge of the money-changers for their services. This extra burden was hard for the ordinary people. Now to be fair this was not an abuse but it led to some instances of the money-changers taking advantage of the situation. The selling of doves, brought for offerings was worse. Any animal to be used as a sacrifice had to be without blemish. You could buy an animal outside the Temple but there were official inspectors who could reject an animal, then direct you to the stalls and booths within the Temple. The problem here was that a pair of doves could cost as much as fives times more from these Temple vendors. His anger was directed against those who would exploit others, using their faith to gain profit in the name of religion. I am sure there were many who came just to pray and worship and were distracted by the din among those buying, selling and bargaining. It was within this context that Jesus allowed his anger to come upon these people. There is a beautiful ending to this in that there still remained in the Temple Court the blind and the lame and the fact that he remained to heal them. Not all had been run out, those that truly needed him had stayed. We best consider this. There is such a thing as the wrath of God, we don’t hear it preached as much these days but we also must allow for the love of God. Both are needed to ensure the Kingdom.

I will wrap this up with these verses:

Matthew 21:15–17

When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children shouting in the Temple: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were angry. ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ they said. Jesus said to them: ‘Yes! Have you never read: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have the perfect praise”?’ And he left them, and went out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there.

Next week I will have two blogs, one mid-week concerning days three and four to be followed by my usual Saturday blog.

Life is Good

jk