Up From The Graves [THEY] Arose!

Scripture Study:  Matthew 27:51-53

As the Easter season approaches, I wanted to look at some of the strange and unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture and they have a real significance for understanding the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The specific passage I want to focus on in this study is this one:

Matthew 27:51b-53 (NIV)

[51b]  The earth shook, the rocks split  [52] and the tombs broke open.  The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  [53] They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

WHO ARE THE “HOLY PEOPLE”?

It’s possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s possible but quite unlikely.  The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a commotion–had it been that it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–well that would have caused an uproar in the city.

I get the impression that the ones who showed up were instantly recognized.  It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.  The “holy people” we should have in mind are those who have died more recently who now go back to a city where they are recognized without introduction.

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, it is said that they were some later saints, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well-known to persons now alive.  If ever you needed a good plot for a movie–this would be it!

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it’s such a brief account.

But this passage wasn’t written to make us open Pandora’s box of speculation.  These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.  To see the significance, let’s have a closer look at the process because it happens in TWO STAGES.

The FIRST STAGE happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

You can guarantee that this event caused a big stir on Friday.

The people back then were not buried in the ground like we do today.  People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front…that’s how Jesus was buried.  It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.  With a little detective work of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop.  Not all tombs are empty–not everyone has come to life.  This was a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with because an event like this shouldn’t happen.  Common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.  However, when that RESURRECTION did take place the Jews expected ALL Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis.

For certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?”

They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead!

But the bigger crisis is a FAITH CRISIS–why is it that some were raised and others were not?

This brings us to the SECOND STAGE of the process. 

After Jesus was raised from death, those people went into the holy city (Jerusalem), and many people saw them.  (Matthew 27:53b. – NLT) 

When Jesus died on the cross, everyone thought it was all over.

But looks can be deceiving.

That’s because DEATH isn’t a natural occurrence.  It’s a result of SIN.

  • The grave has every right to hold us unless our sin can be covered.
  • Death has every right to keep us unless payment can be made.
  • Satan has every right to make a claim on us unless a ransom has been given.

And when Jesus breathed His last that’s exactly what happened.  SIN is covered.  Payment is made.  A ransom is given.  And DEATH watches helplessly as Jesus claims what is rightfully His.

It’s the DEATH of Jesus that VICTORY is secured. 

The RESURRECTION of Jesus is more like a victory lap.  SIN has been covered.  The payment has been fulfilled.

When these recently risen holy ones enter the city they do so as participants in the “victory lap” of Jesus.  And that’s the reason why ALL weren’t raised.

All weren’t raised because, in their lifetime, they had their eyes focused on the wrong spot.

  • The holy people were the ones who trusted that God had set them apart, not because they were Jewish, but because He was faithful!
  • The holy people didn’t presume that they had a place in heaven just because they were born in Jerusalem, they trusted in the GRACE of God to bring them into His family.
  • The holy people weren’t those who sacrificed at the Temple and went on with life as they pleased, they sacrificed their hearts as well.
  • The holy people understood they couldn’t do it on their own and they needed God.

Each of those empty tombs represents a person who understands that real spiritual victory can’t be earned…but rather that spiritual victory can be found when we put our trust in God’s incredible GRACE!

So where does all of this leave us today?

I believe it leaves us with a challenge.  What we are seeing here is a preview of what is going to happen in the future.

There will be a day when a RESURRECTION will happen–and it’s going to be a selective event.

Some will end up in the second death, to be banished from God’s grace forever.  And like the people in the city of Jerusalem, none of us should presume which group we’re in.

Looking at the situation from one side of the fence.

  • You may have been baptized in the church–but your baptism doesn’t save you.
  • You may be one of the foundational members–but that doesn’t save you either.
  • You could be a longstanding member–but that’s not what saves.
  • You Mom & Dad, your spouse are believers–but that doesn’t make you any more saved.

And here’s looking from the other side of the fence.

  • You may feel you have nothing to offer the King of Kings–that won’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be having doubts and questions–they can’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be carrying guilt, hurt, hidden secrets, regrets–they’re not stoppages.

Salvation is totally and solely linked to the Cross.

If we come on the basis of our own merits we are being presumptuous.

If we disqualify ourselves on the basis of something we’ve done in the past, we are presumptuous.

But if we come to the Cross trusting the GRACE OF GOD then we will never be presumptuous.

That is the challenge…but there is also much comfort.  You see, at the end of the day, the HOLY PEOPLE are just like us.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Matthew 27:53; Studylight.org.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT).

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

A “KODAK MOMENT” of Calvary

In photography, a snapshot concept was introduced to the public on a large-scale by Eastman Kodak, which introduced the Brownie box camera. Kodak encouraged families to use the Brownie to capture moments in time of perfect images seen through the viewfinder.

And I remember receiving the gift of a Kodak Box Camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, no less,  from my parents before going on a family vacation one summer.  It was easy to operate, even for a young boy–point, look through the lens at the object to be photographed, and “SNAP!” No fancy adjustments.  Just point and shoot!

So here I am in this blog-Post, taking a snapshot of a moment in time by viewing the biblical landscape in Genesis 22.

An ‘Abraham and His Son’ moment:  Genesis 22:2, 6 and 8.

“Take now your son”…”Abraham took the wood…laid it on Isaac his son”…and Abraham said, “My son”.

Just as Abraham had a son, so God the Father has a Son.

  • God the Father offered His Son, by the POWER of the Holy Spirit:

“How much more then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  (Hebrews 9:14 ~ New International Version – NIV).

So you can see that the TRINITY (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is plainly in view and involved in our SALVATION–

The FATHER PLANNED it…

The SON PROVIDED it…

And the SPIRIT APPLIED it.

Furthermore, by sharpening our FOCUS, we can see He was the Father’s lone Son – “your only son”.

Of course, Abraham had other sons, but the only one like Isaac–he was his unique son.

Next, we see through our lens, the Father’s LOVE for His Son.

“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” (vs 2)

  • The LOVE Abraham had for Isaac was only a subdued love, compared to the LOVE God had for His Son.

This is the FIRST MENTION of LOVE in the Bible and a VIEW of God’s LOVE for His Son:

The first mention of LOVE in the Gospel of Matthew is “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased”  (Matthew 3:17).

The first mention of LOVE in Mark’s Gospel is again, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased” (Mark 2:11).

And Luke… “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased”  (Luke 3:22).

And finally, the first mention of LOVE in John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

SPURGEON: “JESUS was God’s Son, his only-begotten Son, whom he loved more than any of you can ever love your sons or daughters, for the love of God towards him is ineffable, immeasurable.  It is not possible for me to tell you how much God loved his Son, but that Son who had always given him delight, in whom he was well pleased, that Son must endure shame, and agony, and death, if sinners were ever to be saved.  How could the Father give up his Son for such a purpose?  I have felt sometimes as if I could almost rush in, and say, “No; it must not be, the price is too great to be paid for the rescue of such worthless worms as we.”  Yet, to ransom every one of us, the Son of God must be sacrificed, and sacrificed, as it were, by his Father, for thus it is written, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”  This, there is one point of resemblance between the offering of Isaac and the propitiatory sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, it was the father who had to offer up his son who he loved so dearly.”

A SNAP-SHOT of the Landscape–The Land of Moriah (Gen 22:2;  2 Chron. 3:1).

Genesis 22, Verse 2:  “go to the region of Moriah”

The importance of Mount Moriah is established by a number of KEY historical events which have taken place there:

  • Abraham offers Isaac (Gen. 22:2)
  • The Site of Solomon’s Temple.  King David was instructed by God to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite which occupied this site.  So David purchased the land which later became the site of Solomon’s Temple.
  • The Crucifixion of Jesus.  On the very mountain where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his “only son”, God sacrificed His only Son.

The LAW of the Burnt Offering (22:2).

This LAW was spelled out in Leviticus (Lev. 1:3-9), much later than what we see here in Genesis 22.  Actually, the term is first used of the sacrifices of Noah (Gen. 8:20), predating Abraham’s day.

The LAW spells out that the SACRIFICE is not to be a Second-rate offering:

#1.  It must be sacrificial–from the herd or flock that is domestic not of a wild animal.

#2.  There was to be a relationship between the OFFERING and the one offering it ~ “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

#3.  The SACRIFICE must be the Strongest of the flock–a male animal (John 1:29).

#4.  It must be Spotless–without blemish (1 Peter 1:18-19):

[18] You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold.  [19] But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.”  [Amplified Bible].

JESUS WAS SINLESS!

#5.  AND…It must not be Stiff-necked; used of an uncooperative animal–it must be a VOLUNTARY Offering (John 10:17-18)

A SACRIFICE was made to BALANCE our account (Romans 4:35 & 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Romans 4:25 (AMP): 

Who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification (our acquittal),  [making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God].

The SACRIFICE was SLAIN by the one who brought it.

Ultimately, it was God the Father who brought Jesus to CALVARY who slew Him for our sins (Matthew 27:45-46). 

The BLOOD from the SACRIFICE had to be Sprinkled (Hebrews 12:24):

[24]  And to Jesus, the Mediator (Go-between, Agent) of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks [of mercy] a better and nobler and more gracious message that the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance]  (AMP).

The SACRIFICE was a Sweet Aroma to Father God (Ephesians 5:2):

[2] Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

A Lapse of Time occurred…(Genesis 22:3)

ABRAHAM rose early in the morning…on the THIRD DAY–he did not offer his son immediately but had to wait for 3 days.

Those had to be 3 difficult days and mindful of what he was about to do.

  • JESUS waited some 3 years before going to the CROSS and it was ever before Him!  (John 2:4; 7:30; 12:27).

LOOKING FOR A RESURRECTION (Hebrews 11:17-19):

Abraham came to the conclusion that he was going to see a MIRACLE because God can’t lie!  God had previously said this son of his, Isaac, would be the one whom He would fulfill all His promises (Gen, 12:2, 3 – “The Abrahamic Blessing”).  Therefore the son must live or God would be found as a liar.  And yet God commands that THIS SON (Isaac) be put to death.  Since there is no contradiction in God, He must be planning on raising Isaac from the dead.  All this…a SNAPSHOT of what JESUS would actually do–die and then be raised back to life!

All this…A VIEW of what JESUS would actually do–die and then be raised back to life!

The Laying Of Our Sins Upon Christ –

The WOOD that is laid upon Isaac (Gen. 22:6) becomes a PICTURE of Jesus carrying His own cross (John 19:16-18).

The FIRE (Genesis 22:6-7) that Abraham carried in the fire-pot for the “burnt sacrifice” becomes a snapshot once more of God’s Holy wrath upon Christ (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The KNIFE (22:10) depicts His being pierced with nails and the spear in His side…

And FINALLY, the LAMB (Genesis 22:8; 11-14).

GOD DID PROVIDE A LAMB FOR HIMSELF AT CALVARY (Romans 8:32):

[32]  “Certainly not God. who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all!  He gave us his Son–will he not also freely give us all things?”  (GNT- The Good News Translation)

Why did God tell Abraham to offer his son?

Abraham was an Old Testament PROPHET (GENESIS 20:7)–one who by the grace of God have us a glimpse into future events.

JESUS said ABRAHAM hoped for “My day [My incarnation]; and he did see it and was delighted”  (John 8:56).

This MOMENT, this event in history becomes a SNAPSHOT taken to illustrate God offering His only Son at CALVARY.

From 1935 to 1962, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a daily newspaper column writing her opinion on various world events.  One quote I especially took to heart is from an article she wrote in 1946:

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

God will never ask us to do something He is not willing to do Himself–and that includes SACRIFICE.

ISAAC is the beginning of the CROSS, and a shining example of how God will always do the same thing He expects of us.

Isaac was the RESULT of A PROMISE, through his birth that allowed God’s presence to reach a new nation of people–ISRAEL.

And JESUS was also the RESULT of a PROMISE, and through His DEATH, BURIAL and RESURRECTION allowed God’s presence to reach the entire world!

____________________________________________

CREDITS FOR THIS POST:

Genesis: A Devotional Exposition by Donald G. Barnhouse.

Commentary:  Pondering Scripture – An Uncommon Commentary, Genesis 22:5.

Kodak Brownie photo:  Snapshot (photography)–Wikipedia.

Other PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations used for this blog-POST:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

“SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING” in a Nutshell

My mind, as of late, has been focused like many others, on March 31st, 2013: RESURRECTION SUNDAY!  So when reading in First Peter this past week, and starting a Bible Study with my wife Dianne, I was drawn by GOD’S SPIRIT to the HOLINESS OF GOD and the events that Christianity has named–EASTER.

thCAI523QO
“Re-Birthing” in a Nutshell

Where did the Expression “In a Nutshell” come from?

I thought I might insert the phrase into this blog for an ‘attention getter’, but later thought…culturally, would everyone understand the meaning; what do “nutshells” have to do with “spiritual re-birthing”?

How the phrase “in a nutshell” came to mean “brief and concise:

various_nuts_including_hazelnuts_walnuts_and_almon_postage-d172902192036531751exumr_325The idea of having a detailed amount of information about the FACTS, neatly contained in a small, compact nutshell has somewhat evolved to–the idea of having just the facts you need to make a decision, minus the “superfluous waffle.”  In a nutshell became connected to the idea of the information itself becoming compacted.  [References: Forsyth M. 2011. The Etymological Icon Books].

EXPLAINING THE BIBLICAL PROCESS OF “Re-Birthing”  (1 PETER I:1-25):

Where to begin?  When I used the phrase, “re-birthing”, I’m referring of course to the phrase we perhaps hear thrown around in Christian circles… without any emphasis or concern of who’s hearing the message and the understanding: “to be born again”. 

In my Word Detective investigation this past week, I found some interesting facts in the Older Testament (OT).

The Birth of Isaac found in Genesis 21–

The birth of ISAAC was a wonderful, Biblical, and practical example of “birthing” (Galatians 4:22-23. 29; and John 3:36).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,

but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,

for God’s wrath remains in him.”

JESUS is saying in John 3:36, that those who BELIEVE in Him have (not will have) everlasting life.  To receive eternal life is to JOIN GOD’S LIFE, which by nature is eternal.  So, eternal life begins at the moment of spiritual rebirth.

Isaac’s Birth was Wonderful Because….

By all natural appearances, Isaac shouldn’t have been born.  His parents were far to old to bear children.  Yet, GOD brought Isaac to birth in spite of…Debate, Doubt, Dysfunction, Death of the natural human reproductive systems  (Genesis 15:1-4; 15-19; 18:9-14; 21:1-7).

GOD USED THE MOST EXTREME SITUATION TO SHOW HIS MERCY AND HIS MIGHT:

How important is this to mankind?  It says that any of us–whatever the SITUATION, SORROW, and SINFUL PAST–All of us can experience “spiritual birthing.”

For Abraham is the father of us all–

[16]  “THEREFORE, [inheriting] the promise is the outcome of faith and depends [entirely] on faith, in order that it might be given as an act of grace, to make it stable and valid and guaranteed to all his descendants–not only to the devotees and adherents of the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all!  [17] As it is written,  I have made you father of many nations in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if the [already] existed [Gen. 17:5]”  (Romans 4:16-17 AMP),

AND, Jesus died on the cross to put US in the family!

In the New Testament, “spiritual  birthing” begins–

It begins WHEN WE OPEN OUR EYES TO SEE JESUS.

With GOD’S GRACE (unmerited favor). when you look, you will see ‘HIM WHO IS WONDERFUL” and have the opportunity to reach out to Him.

“JESUS declared,  I tell you the truth,

no one can see the kingdom of God unless

he is born again.”

(John 3:3 NIV)

YOU MUST BE “BORN AGAIN” !!!

You must be spiritually “birthed” !!!  Your new birth begins your new life; one who experiences TRUE HOLINESS for the first time.

You begin to KNOW GOD in the “re-birthing”, EXPERIENCING HOLINESS IN “HIM WHO IS WONDERFUL”.

Be Holy

“Therefore, prepare your minds [be “ALERT”] for action; be self-controlled [‘disciplined’]; set your hope [focus] fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not  conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as He who called you is HOLY, so be holy in all that you do,  for it is written:  “BE HOLY, BECAUSE I AM HOLY”  (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV). [The Word Detective added the brackets [  ] for emphasis].

The main idea behind HOLINESS is not moral purity but it is the idea of “apartness”–the idea that GOD is separate, different from His creation, in His essential nature and perfection of His attributes.  BUT instead of building a wall around His “apartness”, GOD call us into the “birthing process”, to come to Him and share His apartness.  He says to us, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  You have become “sanctified”.

HOLINESS is not so much something we possess, as it is something that possesses us after we come to JESUS in the “SPIRITUAL REBIRTH”–Born again!!

When you begin to experience HOLINESS for the first time…

HOLINESS isn’t what you feel–it is an experience: “I don’t feel holy so I’m not holy.” 

train

“Don’t Depend On FEELINGS” (courtesy of The Four Spiritual Laws tract):

The promise of god’s Word–the Bible and not our FEELINGS–is our authority.

The TRAIN pictures above, illustrates the RELATIONSHIP we receive in the “spiritual re-birthing”  among FACT (God and His Word); FAITH (our trust in God and His Word), and FEELING (the result of our FAITH and OBEDIENCE) ~ John 4:12.

The TRAIN will run with or without the caboose.  However, it would be useless to pull the train by the caboose.

In the same way, as a “new-born” , we don’t depend on FEELINGS or EMOTIONS: “I know what the Bible says, but I just don’t FEEL very HOLY right now.”

We place our FAITH (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the PROMISES of His Word.

~(“Don’t Depend On FEELINGS” was taken from The FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS of Campus Crusade for Christ.) ~ My wife and I were both led to Christ by this Tract in August, 1972.

I believe it is a GOD-GIVEN condition at your “SPIRITUAL BIRTHING’.  You might not recognize holiness in your life, nor others around you.  BUT that doesn’t change the “birthing process”.

DEATH FIRST, THEN HOLINESS REALIZED–

Burying Like A Seed–No Death No Fruit:

John 12:24:

“I can guarantee this truth:  A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce a thing unless it is planted in the ground and dies.  If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain”  (GOD’S WORD TRANSLATION).

Being “set apart” in re-birth; Experiencing Holiness–

RE-BIRTHING is a High Place of dying out, being crucified with Christ and burying.  Now BURYING may seem more like a horrible place, but remember, we’re talking about “a spiritual re-birth of self”–our mind, personality; who we are.  Your physical body is just a tent where you reside; it wears out eventually, but who you really are doesn’t!

A NEW ROMANCE BEGINS …

WHY?  Because burying our old life opens the way for us to fall so much in LOVE with the Savior, to begin a REAL and RADICAL ROMANCE WITH THE REDEEMER!

In the letter to the Roman Christians, Paul uses a legal and matrimonial illustration (Romans 7:1-4):

Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear FRUIT for God.  (verse 4, AMP)

The picture of “burying” here is beautiful to my eyes, then again I’m a visual person.  Our RELATIONSHIP with all other “spiritual suitors or spouses” must end through spiritual death.  Only the will of JESUS establishes A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH US.

What Is A Spiritual Suitor? 

“Bury what spiritual suitors or spouses?”

Well…other “suitors” or “spouses” can be…

— Sin (Romans 6:6-11).

— Society (Galatians 6:14).

— Perhaps other Christians? (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And, the chief, all-inclusive rival Spouse is… SELF:

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who LOVED ME and gave Himself up for me”  (Galatians 2:20 AMP).

The SELF we are to be freed from by death is not the first TRUE SELF, fashioned in GOD’S IMAGE.  It’s a FOREIGN SELF, fashioned after the Satanic spirit clutching hopelessly to be GOD.

It, therefore, manifests itself in ….

PRIDE…

ANGER…

FRUSTRATION…

SUSPICION…

JEALOUSY…

It is this FALSE SELF that CAN and MUST be denied (see Luke 9:23), and it must be BURIED in Christ Jesus.  The clear instruction is…12605297-holy-week

“take up your cross daily, and follow Me”

JESUS HAS TASTED DEATH AND BURIAL FOR US:

He has already delivered us from the rival suitors, to ANOTHER!  JESUS HIMSELF has already paid the price; made the Sacrifice.  He Himself took the Cross, bore ALL the hardness of real death and real burial.

JESUS has experienced the grief of death, so that by dying with Him, we experience the Grace, even the Glory of dying out to old and being re-born to the new.

Along with the apostle Paul, we can gladly say on RESURRECTION SUNDAY…and on any given day of the year...Galatians 2:20.

VERSE 1:  Alas, and did my Savior bleed?  And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head  For someone such as I?

VERSE 2:  Was it for crimes that I have done, He suffered on the tree?

Amazing pity!  grace un-known! And love beyond degree!

VERSE 4:  But drops of grief can never repay  The debt of love I owe;

Here,  Lord, I give myself away,  ‘Tis  all that I can do!

CHORUS: At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,  And the

burden of my heart rolled away,  It was there by faith

I received my sight,  And now I am happy all the day!

“At the Cross”

by Isaac Watts and Ralph Hudson

A LIFETIME TO REFLECT:

MY STORY–Learning to Perfect the Perfection.

Dianne and I got married in September 1964, almost 49 years ago.  In fact, we’ve been saving our blessed abundance for the past three years; in order to be able to celebrate our 50th wedding Anniversary.

The analogy of marriage is very fitting in reflection of “back when…”  We get married in a moment of commitment but it takes a lifetime to learn to live with each other.

It’s similar with entire sanctification (Holiness): A PERFECTION OF COMMITMENT and HEART-CLEANSING IN A MOMENT.  It takes a lifetime, however, learning to perfect the perfection. 

As the Word of God tells us:

“THEREFORE, SINCE these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the [reverential] fear of God”  (2 Corinthians 7:1 AMP).

“Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the PURE (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation”  (1 Peter 2:2).

HOLINESS BEGINS AT “SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING”…

We who belong in the family of God have an advocate, “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1 NKJV), who has paid the penalty to forgive our sins by what He did on the cross.  He wants to SAVE US…to be our personal attorney and Savior.  But remember, He is available only to those who call on His name.  If you have the slightest doubt that you are HOLY–that you have ever personally invited Him into your life, do it now!

TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus, Your Son, to die on the cross for my sins.  I know I am a sinner and that only He, the resurrected Christ, can forgive and save me.  Jesus, I invite You into my life to become my Savior and Lord.  I give my life to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray,  Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, “SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING”  has taken place.  That’s it in a nutshell!

“So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace that is coming to you…[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].  But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.  For it is written,  You shall be holy, for I am holy”  (1 Peter 1:13-16).

The Four Cups of Passover: “Communion and the Passover Connection”

I have often asked myself the question, “Are you too religious in your thinkings?”  No, I am not Pharisaic over what occurs in the church services on Sundays.  BUT if it doesn’t line up with the Word of God, then my next question I ask myself is, “Have Christians become so expedient, that Jesus has become unrecognizable in what we do in church?”

In my last blog, I listed the four cups of the Passover seder. We know that Jesus was Jewish and that led the Passover Seder or the Last Supper, using the same elements as the original Passover. Let me give you a sampling of what took place that Thursday night before His crucifixion and resurrection.

“We Light the Candles”  The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?”  Psalm 27:1

The Four Cups   Then the Lord said to Moses, Now you will see what I will do…”  Exodus 6:1

The Cup of Sanctification—Kadeysh  “…I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians…”  Exodus 6:6

We Wash our Hands—Urkhatz  “Who may ascend the Hill of the Lord?  Who may stand in His Holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  Psalm 24:3-4

Parsley—Karpas  “…the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God…”  Exodus 2:23

The Four Questions—Ma Nishtanah  “…when your children ask you, What does this ceremony mean to you? then tell them…”  Exodus 12:26

We Answer the Questions.   “And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and thy sons forever”.  Exodus 12:24.

The Matzah–The unleavened Bread.  Verses to correspond to the Matzah:  1 Cor. 5:7; Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10.  Ending with the spoken words, “This is the bread of affliction…”

The Maror— The bitter herbs.  At this point of the Seder, the Leader would say, “On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on Passover we eat only “maror”–bitter herbs.  As sweet as our lives are today, let us still remember how bitter life was for the children of Israel in the land of Egypt, and how we were all in a spiritual Egypt, before we were redeemed.” (based on Exodus 1:12-14)

The Passover Lamb—Pesakh  “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see blood, I will pass over you.”  Exodus 12:13.  This is when all Jewish believers in Christ Jesus would collectively speak,  “We who have trusted Yeshua the Messiah, believe He is the Lamb of God, our Passover.  Like the ancient Israelites, we know that it was God Himself, and not an angel, God Himself, and not a seraph, God Himself, and not a messenger, who achieved final redemption from sin and death. God Himself, through Jesus (Yeshua), who takes away the sin of the world.” Even if you are not a Messianic believer, the truths are still evident.

What I have listed is a part of the Passover Seder. My intention is not to say that ALL churches should conduct their “Communion services” in the same way.  What I am saying is,  the significance or focus should bring us into the “remembrances” of the Why’s, the What’s and the How’s of communion. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 31).  How are we preparing on Sunday communions? Has it become mundane?

That was a good introduction in discussing “The Fourth Cup” of Passover or in Communion.

1st  Cup— SANCTIFICATION

2nd  Cup— AFFLICTION

3rd  Cup—REDEMPTION

4th  Cup— CONSUMMATION

The Cup of Consummation or “The Fourth Cup”.  Turn to Matthew 26:29.  Jesus is reclining on the floor and leading the Passover Seder when He says,  “I say to you, I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it with you new and of superior quality in My Father’s kingdom.”  The cup of SANCTIFICATION in Matthew is not mentioned after the resurrection because of what Jesus said in Matt. 26:29 and Revelation 19:9.

Is their OBEDIENCE to the Word when we take “communion”? Do we understand what we are doing? Are we really participating? Are we releasing anyone who has harmed us physically, emotionally or spiritually before we receive the elements of communion? I will uncover my findings through out my blogs.

Prior to His trial and crucifixion, Christ met in a large room with His disciples. That evening Christ made an announcement. Most scholars believe that as Jesus held up the third cup, the cup of redemption, He amazed His disciples by His actions:

“Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).  Christ was introducing a new covenant that would be sealed with His own blood. No longer would future Hebrew believers emphasize their deliverance from Egypt. Instead, each time they took the cup and bread, they would celebrate a spiritual freedom, a deliverance from death and hell, and the promise of eternal life.  It would be this act, known as Communion, which would be the central ordinance among all future Christians around the world. *

At the Passover Seder held around many Christian settings this time of the year, “The Four Cups” that are explained should give us a better understanding of the Communion and Passover Connection. In the “Haggadah” (Passover Seder), the following words are said over The Four Cups:

Leader:

As the Lord spoke these words of encouragement to Moses, He revealed to His servant the plan by which He would redeem the children of Israel.

All:

“I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians…  I will free you from being slaves…  I will redeem you with an outstretched arm…  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…”

Leader:

At Passover, we celebrate these promises of redemption and relationship by drinking from our cups four times.  With each cup, let us remember the life that God desires.

*Footnote: from Perry Stone’s, “The Meal that Heals”.

 

A Better Understanding of the Passover

I would like to start my blog today with some quotes from a little book I found in my library this morning. It is called. “The Quiet Revival” written and co-written by Dean and Susan Wheelock.

“As we looked into the connection between our understandings as Believers in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) and those commonly found in the Jewish faith, we discovered numerous parallels.” In my next few blogs, I am going to attempt show by uncovering evidence of the “Communion and Passover Connection“. Since Easter is on most of our minds this month anyway, why not begin here!

stock-photo-texture-of-jewish-passover-matzah-unleavened-bread-237362653

–Learning the Old Ways—

In order to “rightly divide the word of truth,” we must turn back to God’s Instruction Book: The Torah (Toh-rah=the first five books of the ‘Old Testament:’  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).  Just as the Tanakh (Old Testament) is strictly a Hebrew book, so too is the Brit Chadasha (New Testament), where all of the authors except one are identified within each book individually.

“The bulk of the Epistles were written by Shaul (Shaw-ool=Saul, the given name of the Apostle Paul), who clearly stated he was Jewish:

“…circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews: concerning the law, a Pharisee;…”

I have come to the general conclusion, that to get a better grasp on the Communion we participate in our Christian churches, we need to see the connection to the Jewish Passover. With Easter coming soon, I have decided to relate my detective work in the next blogs.

-Relationship Vs. Doctrine—

“It has been said that in Christianity people are more concerned about what one thinks, while in Judaism they are more concerned about how one believes.”  Marvin R. Wilson, in his book Our Father Abraham,writes on page 138,

“Jewish anthropologist Raphel Patai has observed that because the Hebrews like the concrete and tended to avoid the abstract, the idea of doctrinal formulation was alien to their mind.  In Hebrew thought the essence of true godliness is tied primarily to a relationship, not a creed.”

In other words, what is important in the Hebrew way of thinking is one’s relationship with God and his fellow-man; not what one thinks about God. “Prayer then becomes the focal point in the Hebrew’s relationship with their Creator and good deeds the center of their relationship with other people.”

Dianne and I, several years ago attended a Passover Seder at a Messianic Church in Renton, Washington with our son and his family. It was just before Easter and we received a better understanding of the connection between Communion services and Haggadah (Passover).  The last two years before Easter, Dianne and I have held the Seder in our home. I have wondered if we would invite guest, how many would be interested? Just a thought. I want to give you a sampling of what is contained in a small booklet, starting with what is written inside of the front cover:

Preparing for Passover

Leader:

“One of Messiahs’ last earthly acts was the celebration of the Passover.  Gathering His disciples in a small room in Jerusalem, He led them in a Seder.  “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”  (Luke 22:15)  He passed the foods among them. It was there, in the context of this celebration that Yeshua revealed to them the mystery of God’s plan of redemption. He spoke to them of His body and blood. He explained to them that He would have to die. It was not coincidence that Messiah chose the Passover for the setting of what is now celebrated as communion, or the Lord’s supper in Christianity today. For in the story of the Passover lamb, Yeshua could best communicate the course He would be taking over the confusing hours that were to follow. As we participate together in this Covenant Meal, let us experience God’s great redemption!”

I picked out some key words in the Leader’s portion of the “Preparing for Passover“. Are we preparing for Communion in our monthly, weekly, daily rituals in the same way Jesus prepared and led for the Passover?

#1.  “Eagerly desired” to participate.

#2.  A celebration of redemption.

#3.  Mysteries revealed.

#4.  A “Receiving”.”

That last key that I listed above, I put into a question as a reminder:  “What does it mean when we speak of Receiving Communion?”   I decided, before I could correctly answer that question I needed to investigate, “How did communion come about?”

Over 3500 years ago the Hebrew people had become slaves to the Egyptians. The king of Egypt. or Pharaoh, was unwilling to release the Hebrews and allow them to return to Israel. God sent 10 plagues on Egypt. The end result was that Pharaoh released the Hebrew nation, consisting of 600,000 men of war, not counting the women and children. Most of us know about the story in Exodus 11:5.

To protect the Hebrews from the destroying angel, God required each Hebrew family to take a young lamb, place the blood on the left, right and top post of the door to the house, and eat all of the lamb before midnight (Exodus 12:7, 8). The miracle was two-fold: they were healed and they were protected. By eating the lamb, the Hebrews experienced supernatural healing, as indicated in Psalm 105:37.  The other miracle was that the blood on the outside doorposts kept the angel from entering the homes marked with lamb’s blood. The Hebrew families were protected from both sickness and death as a result of the blood and body of the lamb. God promised that their obedience of marking the door by the lamb’s blood would cause death to “pass over” their houses. (Exodus 12:13).

The Hebrew word for “Passover” is Pesach, and refers to “skipping over, to leap or dance.”  Each year religious Jews conduct a Passover seder in which they tell the amazing story of the deliverance from Egypt. During this season bread is baked without leaven, recalling how the Hebrews did not have time to put leaven in their bread before departing from Egypt. As you probably already know, today yeast is a leaven which causes the bread to rise. The Hebrews didn’t have time for this “rising” to occur; thus the unleavened bread making. Getting any connecting pictures yet? If not, you will soon.

Also, four different cups of wine are used, each cup identifying a different aspect of the Passover story. These cups are numbered and named. Since Jesus was a Jew, He used these same four cups at the “Last Supper”:

The first cup is called the cup of sanctification.

The second cup is called the cup of affliction.

The third cup is the cup of redemption.

The fourth cup is the cup of consummation or Hallel.

As a backlash to Judaism and religious formality, I believe churches today have become expedient toward the “Communion”. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t treat Communion as a celebration. In the Hebrew language “Hallel” was worship at the highest point of celebration. We have taken “communion” as a ritual that must fit in with time constraints of the morning worship service. Communion should not become a ‘side-track’ in our morning services. We actually spend more time in “fellowship” than we do in “communion”. If “Communion” isn’t a celebration at your church…then keep following along with me. If you are just curious, that’s okay too.

I will look next into some revealing evidence; our connections towards Communion and Passover.

servants-towel