Category Archives: Easter

Not Here

At the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

Mohammad’s bones lay at rest in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the “Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia. They cremated Buddha’s body and divided his ashes among several Buddhist temples in Asia. The remains of Confucius reside in a grave in his hometown of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The remains of these and others are enshrined by the followers of the religions they founded, and the location of their tombs are known. Followers of these various religions can point to the tombs and say, “Here lies so-and-so, founder of religion ‘you-name-it.’”

However, Christians cannot make such claims. Two main sites in Jerusalem vie for the claim of Jesus’ burial place: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. The former glitters with gold and looks nothing like a burial place. The latter is located in a quiet garden and is virtually unadorned. It is in a place a short walk from a hillside whose face features two prominent grottos that remarkably resemble two eye sockets of a human skull. Of the two sites, the Garden Tomb seems more likely to be the place where Jesus was laid according to Scripture. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19:41-42, emphasis mine). The Garden Tomb is very “nigh” to the place of the skull, so it seems more likely the right place.

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

Regardless of one’s preference for one site over the other, the fact remains that both tombs are empty. Those who refuse to believe, continue to fabricate all kinds of conspiracy theories as to what became of Jesus’ body. This has gone on since the empty tomb was first discovered. “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch [the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb] came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, emphasis mine). All of these conspiracy theories about Jesus’ missing body have been thoroughly debunked.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
(Matthew 28:6)

The truth remains, Jesus’ tomb is empty because He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said, and according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, He is coming again very soon. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

 

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Easter, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Jesus’ Last Days

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51)

Jesus spent most of His time in ministry around the Sea of Galilee. His “mission base” was in Capernaum, probably staying at the house of Peter. As the time for His crucifixion approached, Jesus traveled up to Caesarea Philippi with His disciples – the furthest north He ever traveled (Matthew 16:13).

Caesarea Philippi was built by the Ptolemaic kings around the 3rd century BC as a cult center and named Paneas for the Greek god Pan. When the Romans took control, the control of the area was given to the Kingdom of Herod the Great. In 19 BC, Herod built a white marble pagan temple at the entrance to the cave of Pan in honor of Caesar Augustus. Inside the cave was a seemingly bottomless pit[1] that the pagans perceived by the pagans as the entrance to the netherworld – Hades. “Caesarea Philippi was the location the Cave of Pan, the place of the pagan Gate of Hades. It was in this area that the first king of Israel (Jeroboam) led the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry.”[2] Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[3]

Caesarea Philippi was located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[4] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[5] Surrounding the base and upon the higher elevations, the mountain was littered with shrines to pagan deities.

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples just a few short weeks before His crucifixion.

Matthew 16:13  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Mark 8:27  And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Luke 9:18  And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?

Jesus’ last stop prior to this was “in the coasts of Magdala” (Matthew 15:39) and “into the parts of Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10). Both cities were probably near each other, and Matthew and Mark record the location from their own perspective. Note that both refer to the “region” not specifically to the towns. Matthew notes that they came to the “coasts” of Caesarea Philippi. Other translations render “coasts” as district, parts, or region, or it could also be rendered “borders.” Mark reports that they came “into the towns” of Caesarea Philippi. Luke does not specify the location. Apparently, Jesus did not enter that pagan city Himself. Doing so would have rendered Him “unclean.”

Matthew and Mark place the account after the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9). Luke places this account following the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:10-17). Although Luke does not record the feeding of the 4000, the order of events was correct. Jesus fed 5000 first and then 4000 before this event took place. This may be attributed to the way Luke had to go about gathering and compiling the data. Since came “after the fact,” he conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to write his Gospel. As a side note, John, who was an eyewitness, only recorded the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-13) as well.

Mark says that they were “on the road,” but that does not indicate that they were traveling when Jesus asked the question. Matthew only remarks that they were in the region. It makes sense that they were stopped in one place where they could all participate in the discussion. If they were “on the road” walking, it would be difficult to have that kind of discussion.

Bible critics often point to the variances in the Gospel accounts to raise doubts in the veracity of Scripture; however, these variances are easily explained. Matthew, as one of the twelve, records the account as an eyewitness. Mark (it is thought) received his information from Peter who was an eyewitness. John, the “beloved disciple,” who was present and an eyewitness, was not divinely inspired to record this event. Luke gathered his information second-hand from eyewitness “to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2, emphasis mine). Therefore Luke often includes details omitted by the other Gospel writers. For example, in this verse, he notes that Jesus “was alone praying, [and] his disciples were with him” (Luke 9:18).

It is in this context that Jesus asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Matthew adds the modifier, “the Son of Man.” Both Matthew and Mark use the Greek ἄνθρωποι “men,” while Luke uses the Greek ὄχλοι “people” meaning a throng, i.e., the masses, men and women. The question was a set up for the more important question to follow.

Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20: He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

They had followed Him for three years now. He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry. Did they really know Him? Peter was never shy about speaking up.

Matthew 16:16  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Mark 8:29  And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

Luke 9:20  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.

The three synoptic Gospels identify Jesus as “the Christ.” “Christ” – Χριστός – means “anointed;” the same as Messiah. Luke specifies “The Christ of God,” i.e., God’s anointed One. Only Matthew adds “the Son of the living God.” Remember: Matthew’s report is a first-hand account, and only Matthew records Jesus’ response to Peter.

Matthew 16:17-19  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven(18)  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it(19)  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Peter’s confession did not come from “Whom do men say that I am?” Peter received this as a direct revelation from God. “Upon this rock,” i.e., Peter’s confession, Jesus would establish His Church. “The gates of hell” – the temple of Pan and the other pagan gods were nearby.  The disciples were probably familiar with the nomenclature. The illustration was clear: the death of hell cannot complete with the living Church. Gates are defensive measures, which cannot withstand the power of the Church. The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” were not for Peter alone. Jesus would later say the same to all of His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). To “bind” or “loose” means to “prohibit” or “permit.” “When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority – that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church: (1) By the teaching of Christ, and, (2) By the teaching of the Holy Spirit.”[6]

Jesus then foretells of His impending death on the cross: Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31. (Luke missed that detail.) He ends the conversation with a curious statement.

Matthew 16:28  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Mark 9:1  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Luke 9:27  But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Six (or eight) days later “some” had a glimpse of “the kingdom.”

Matthew 17:1-6  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart(2)  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light(3)  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  (4)  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (5)  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him(6)  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Mark 9:2-7  And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.  (3)  And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them(4)  And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.  (5)  And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (6)  For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.  (7)  And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Luke 9:28-36  And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray(29)  And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering(30)  And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias(31)  Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.  (32)  But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.  (33)  And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.  (34)  While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.  (35)  And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him(36)  And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Matthew and Mark say “after six days.” Luke says “about eight days.” Matthew and Mark beginning with that day after Peter’s confession, count six days, and “after six days” this event took place. Luke counts the day of Peter’s confession, plus six days, followed by the day of the Transfiguration – eight days.

Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as the “some” who would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28, emphasis mine).  Peter and John would later recall this event.

2 Peter 1:16-18  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  (17)  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  (18)  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

1 John 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

The “high mountain” very likely was Mount Hermon. He was “transfigured” – Greek μετεμορφωθη (metamorphoothee) “transformed, changed, metamorphose” Luke notes that His face – Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon – the front, the face) was altered. Matthew says that “his face did shine as the sun.” All three remark on the brilliance of His clothing. There appeared Moses and Elias (Elijah) representing the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scripture that testified of the coming Messiah. Luke reveals the content of the conversation. He “spake of his decease [death] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, emphasis mine).

In their astonishment, the disciples were speechless, except for Peter. “let us make three tabernacles … For he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:5-6, emphasis mine). Having seen the different shrines to pagan gods around Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon, Peter must have thought it would be appropriate. The voice that came out of the cloud soon put the kâbash (kibosh) on that idea: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him

As they descended from the mountain, Jesus instructed them to keep what they witnessed to themselves until after He had risen from the dead (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:36). The time had come. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). “Time” – Greek ἡμέρα (hēmera), literally means “day.” The day had arrived that He should fulfill His earthly mission. “Stedfastly” – Greek στηρίζω (stērizō) means to set fast, that is, (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Nothing would deter Him from His mission. Jerusalem and the cross were His assignment.

Passing through Jericho, Jesus heals three, perhaps four blind men.

Luke 18:35  And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

Matthew 20:29-30  And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.  (30)  And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

Mark 10:46  And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

Matthew does not name the two, but perhaps one of them was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus may have been known to Mark (or Peter) and the second blind man unknown. I could also be that the two mentioned by Matthew are separate from Bartimaeus.

Luke also gives the account of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) that the other Gospels omit. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He told him to “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “Abide” literally meant to “dwell” or stay over in his house. While in Jericho, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was deathly ill. “ Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again” (John 11:5-7, emphasis mine).

The small village of Bethany was about a day’s walk from Jericho. Lazarus probably died soon after the messengers departed to Jericho. The travel took a day. Jesus delayed two days before leaving for Bethany, and He took another day to arrive – four days total.

At Bethany, Jesus performed arguably the greatest miracle of all short of His resurrection. Jesus had raised others from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:23-43; Luke 8:41-56) and the widow’s only son (Luke 7:11-16). However, both of these had recently died, and it could be argued that they were “resuscitated” rather than resurrected. With Lazarus, there was no question. In fact, when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed, Martha protested, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). The Jews believed that when a person, their spirit lingered around for three days before departing for good. Lazarus was very dead! “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine). Then to make His point, “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

The raising of Lazarus caused quite a stir among the religious leaders, who, rather than recognize Jesus’ authority as Messiah and turn to Him, developed a plot to kill Him. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:49-53, emphasis mine). So irrational were they in their animus toward Jesus, that they sought to destroy the evidence of His resurrecting power – Lazarus (John 12:9-11).

Following this, we have two, arguably three, different accounts of Jesus’ anointing. Luke’s account places the anointing long before the transfiguration while He was still in Capernaum (Luke 7:36-50).

Luke 7:36-39  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  (37)  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,  (38)  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  (39)  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

Matthew 26:6-9  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper(7)  There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.  (8)  But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?  (9)  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

Mark 14:1-5After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread … (3)  And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.  (4)  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  (5)  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

John 12:1-6  Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.  (2)  There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.  (3)Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.  (4)  Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,  (5)  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?  (6)  This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Matthew places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11) Mark places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1-11) and two days before the Passover. John places the anointing the day before the Triumphal Entry (John 12:12). Matthew and Mark place the anointing in the “house of Simon the Leper.” John seems to place the anointing in the house of Lazarus following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Neither Matthew nor Mark names the woman who anointed Jesus. Had she been Mary, they certainly would have known who she was. John names Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who anointed Jesus. Matthew records that the “disciples” were indignant about the waste. Mark only records that “there were some that had indignation within themselves.” The difference and precision in detail between Matthew and Mark’s account and the account of John are too distinct to be an error in recording. Therefore these are two separate anointings. Luke’s account came too early to be confused with these just before the crucifixion. In all, we have three separate accounts of Jesus being anointed by women. Even though there are some similarities, the differences are too great to conflate them as one or two.

Following this, all four Gospels record Jesus entry into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the promised Messiah. The prophet Daniel predicted this event to the very day!

Daniel 9:25-26  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  (26)  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

 Week” – Hebrew שָׁבוּע (shâbûa‛), literally means sevened, or “seven times.” This refers to a set of seven years. Verse 24 specifies “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” – 70 x 7 = 490 years.

seven weeks. The 490-year period is divided into three components, 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years, respectively, in duration … Perhaps most significantly, the 49-year period did terminate with Malachi’s prophecy, which marked the close of Old Testament revelation.”[7]

threescore and two weeks. After the 49-year period was to be another period of 434 years before Messiah would come as Prince of Israel … In all, there would be 69 weeks, or 483 years, ‘unto the Messiah the prince.’”[8]

Most conservative evangelical scholars agree that this prophecy was fulfilled to the very day when Jesus was “cut off.” On the tenth day of the first month (Abib/Nissan), Jewish families selected the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3). It had to be “a male of the first year,” i.e., the firstborn, without blemish, they were to keep it until the 14th day (Exodus 12:5-6). To ensure that it was spotless. Furthermore, the lamb was taken into the family and loved by the family. Then, on the evening of the 14th day, the lamb was slain, and its blood used to cover the doorposts of the house. When the death angel passed, the atoning (covering) blood of the lamb protected those inside the house.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, presented Himself on Nissan 10. It was the first day of the week, Sunday. John states that Jesus arrived in Bethany, where He was anointed by Mary, “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). If the Passover took place on Thursday (as I believe), six days before would put Him arriving in Bethany on Friday. The following day would be the Sabbath (Saturday) when He was anointed. Then on the next day, Sunday, Jesus made His Triumphal Entry.

He was now in “the house” of Israel, and the Lamb of God would be thoroughly examined for the next four days to see if there was any defect in Him. The Pharisees questioned Him extensively and could find no fault in Him. In the end, Pilate examined Him and proclaimed, “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4, 6).

Jesus gave His Olivet discourse concerning “the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world” (Matthew 24: 4-51; Mark 13:5-23; Luke 21:5-24).

He celebrated His last Passover Seder with His disciples (Matthew 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 13:1-38). Jesus made the promise of His return and His presence with and in believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14-17).

After the meal, they went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46). Jesus took His top three – Peter, James, and John – to a separate garden to pray. “Gethsemane” means (olive) “oil press.” As the olives are pressed three times, Jesus was pressed three times as He prayed, “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).[9] With that, He went out to meet his accusers.

Matthew 26:46  Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Mark 14:42  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

Luke 22:46  And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

John 18:4  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The cross awaited Jesus. He went there of His own accord – not the victim, but the mighty Savior!

Notes:


[1]  “Ancient Caesarea Philippi” – http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/caesarea-philippi.html

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  “Caesarea Philippi” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[4]  “Temples of Mount Hermon” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[5]  “Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[6]  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

[7]  Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Green Forest, AR, Master Books, 2012), 1275.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  “Pressed Three Times” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/10/22/pressed-three-times/

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Risen Indeed!

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It has been 1,987 years since Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, and many in the world today still deny the fact. This denial began with one of Jesus’ own disciples. “The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, emphasis mine).

Thomas needed physical evidence in order to believe, and many today still want to see some physical manifestation. They want to see a miracle, experience a “feeling.” or suddenly speak in an unknown language in order to believe. Eight days later, Jesus granted Thomas’ request, but also lovingly reprimanded him for his lack of faith. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).

For those that demand evidence, God provides abundant evidence, however, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Let us briefly examine just some of the evidence.

First, there is the evidence of an empty tomb.  No court in the world will try someone for murder without a dead body. Where is Jesus’ body? Where are His bones? Not long ago, an ossuary was found in Jerusalem supposedly having the inscription “Jesus son of Joseph,” but that was soon proven a hoax.[1] Besides that, many fail to understand that “James, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” were very common names in those days, so the inscriptions prove nothing. However, an inscription found on another ossuary said “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This may indeed contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus.[2] However, the fact remains that the tomb (and there are several suspected) which temporarily held Jesus’ body remains empty.

No body means no victim, and for this reason many suggest that the crucifixion never really took place. One rumor suggests that the betrayer, Judas, was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus walked away free. Those same people are the ones looking for His bones in ossuaries. Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Confucius’ body rests in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. Buddha’s cremated remains (the “relics”) are distributed among several stupas. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í faith, is buried in Bahji near Acre, Israel.[3] Two main tombs in Jerusalem compete as the burial place of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, but both remain empty.

Second, many eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive the third day after His crucifixion and other times thereafter. The four Gospels report that the women (disciples also) that followed Jesus discovered the empty tomb first (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2, 11-18).  Luke records that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Those two return to report to the eleven (Judas had taken his own life because of the guilt he felt for betraying Jesus), and while they gave their report, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:33-43). John’s account notes that Thomas missed that first appearance (John 20:19-25). All of this happened on Resurrection Day. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again, but this time Thomas, the doubter, was in the group of disciples (John 20:26-29). Thomas’ doubt transformed into belief, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).

Jesus had many “disciples” (both men and women) besides the twelve “apostles” composing His core group; so when the Gospel writers talk about disciples, they likely include the many that followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. The word “disciple” literally means “student,” so the number of eyewitnesses went beyond the core group. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there were many that could testify to His resurrection. The Apostle Paul asserts “After that, he [the risen Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6, emphasis mine). At the time of Paul’s writing the letter to the Corinthians, there remained many eyewitness that could attest to the resurrected Lord. The Law says that “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and Jesus had more than 250 times the number of witnesses required by the Law. Paul himself, never having known Jesus during His earthly ministry, met the risen Christ as he traveled toward Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way. Of all the witnesses, he says of himself, “And last of all he [the risen Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, emphasis mine). Despite the abundance of eyewitness, some hold to the silly notion that all these witnesses experienced mass hallucinations. Seriously? I will not dignify that with a response!

Third is the matter of the radical change in the lives of all of the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, they all went into hiding. Mark, probably writing for Peter, remembers Jesus’ arrest: “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50, emphasis mine). Mark probably witnessed this firsthand. Speaking of himself in third person (out of embarrassment I am sure), he says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:51-52, emphasis mine). Peter, who boasted, “… If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31, emphasis mine) was the first disassociate himself from Jesus with a verbal denial despite Jesus’ warning. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).  Faced with the challenge of making a public declaration of his association with Jesus, Peter succumbed to fear. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75, emphasis mine).

Shortly after Jesus appeared to them, the disciples maintained a low profile. They met secretly in the Upper Room and evangelism never entered their minds. At first, they must have wondered if they had all experienced a mass hallucination. The Gospels give no indication that Jesus met with them regularly following His resurrection. Indeed, some could not believe their own eyes with those brief encounters. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis mine). Jesus was alive, but so what! The Jews would kill anyone proclaiming Jesus’ name. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to get things back to “normal.” “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3, emphasis mine).

These cowering, fearful men were not likely candidates to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the message of a risen Christ. Even with their firsthand encounters with the risen Lord, they dared not speak out. These (“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis mine)) would not put their lives on the line for the risen Christ whom they, as John put it, “… have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis mine). Why would they put their lives on the line for what they knew to be a lie? Yet only fifty days after the Crucifixion, at Pentecost, these same men boldly stood in Jerusalem and proclaimed the risen Savior to every tongue and nation (Acts 2:1-5). The fear of death no longer silenced them. When commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). What made the difference? They saw and handled the risen Christ, and they experienced His power, the Holy Spirit, indwelling their lives. Christ is risen indeed!

Reader, we cannot see or handle the risen Christ, but we have the empty tomb. We have the written testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Men and women who would rather die than deny what they had witnessed firsthand. We have the continuing witness of the living body of Christ, the Church. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine). You and I are they “that have not seen.” To us Jesus says, “… be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27). Christ is risen indeed. One day, very soon, He will return to reclaim His creation as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Be sure you are ready to meet Him.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ tomb story: Does the evidence add up?” (http://www.icr.org/article/1063/386), accessed 04/14/2017.

[2]  Jackson, Wayne. “The Jesus Ossuary Inscription.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 14, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/578-jesus-ossuary-inscription-the, accessed 04/14/2017.

[3]  “Burial places of founders of world religions,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions, accessed 04/14/2017.

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The King Is Coming!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

Around 1,987 years ago on a Sunday afternoon (Mark 11:11), Jesus rode into Jerusalem as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. The Gospel writer, Matthew, quotes Zachariah in part, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5, emphasis mine). Matthew conspicuously omits Zachariah’s description of the coming King as “just, and having salvation.” Why the omission? Matthew Henry comments on Zachariah 9:9:

“He is a righteous ruler; all his acts of government will be exactly according to the rules of equity, for he is just. 2. He is a powerful protector to all those that bear faith and true allegiance to him, for he has salvation; he has it in his power; he has it to bestow upon all his subjects. He is the God of salvation; treasures of salvation are in him. He is servatussaving himself (so some read it), rising out of the grave by his own power and so qualifying himself to be our Saviour.”[1] (Emphasis mine)

Perhaps Matthew’s omission (as directed by the Holy Spirit) was purposeful. Granted, Matthew wrote after the fact from a vantage point of hindsight, yet the omission retained the prophetic formula of immediate and future fulfillment. Jesus did something similar when He applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). He deliberately omitted the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy: “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus fulfilled the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy at His first coming; “the day of vengeance of our God” will be fulfilled at His second coming when He will set up His millennial kingdom and “comfort all that mourn.”

In the same way, Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the coming King, “lowly [meek], and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). In a matter of days, the adoring crowd crying, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13) would turn into a raging mob shouting, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him … We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They took the King and nailed Him to a cross.

Three days later, He conquered death and once again walked on earth. After forty days (Acts 1:3), He ascended to His throne having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). However, He is not done. There remains prophecy yet unfulfilled. Many still mourn. Injustice still reigns. The Lord has not executed His vengeance and His creation still needs salvation. There is yet more to come.

The prophets spoke of God reigning on the earth. His Messiah will rule the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem. Jesus promised to return. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This same Gospel writer was granted the great privilege of seeing things to come. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God … And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:1, 11-13, 15-16, emphasis mine).

He will once again enter the gates of Jerusalem, this time on a white horse as a conquering king. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4, emphasis mine). What an awesome sight to behold!

Lately, I have been hearing many modern prophets suggesting that this year, 2017, will be the year that Christ will return to rescue His people from “the wrath of God” that is to come upon the earth. Their reasoning, from a biblical standpoint, is sound. All the ones I listen to are quick to issue the disclaimer that they are not setting dates. Jesus clearly stated, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36); so I respect that note of caution by these prognosticators. However, I sense, because of what I observe happening all around the world, that what they are predicting may be true. For the Church, the return of Christ has always been imminent, but it is truer today than ever before in the history of the Church. The King is coming! Jesus is coming very soon. Personally, I am looking for and anxiously awaiting His return.

Reader, you will meet Jesus very soon. The best way to meet Him is to be one of His own. Very soon, Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church, the collective body of all who have placed their trust in Him. When that day comes, all the powers of hell will be unleashed upon the world. No place will escape or be immune. You will still have the opportunity to repent when that time comes, but you will suffer tremendously for it. Why not give your life to Jesus now and avoid the horrors that are to come. All you need to do is confess your sin and recognize your need for Him. Ask Him to save you. Invite Him into your heart. Give Him first place in your life; make Him the Lord (the “Boss”) of your life, and trust that He will keep His promise. The King is coming, but this time He will not be meek and lowly. Are you ready to meet Him?

Notes:


[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, note on Zechariah 9:9.

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Resurrection

colorful sunset

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:20, 22)

Christians today, especially in the Middle East, suffer martyrdom by the hundreds at the hands of brutal ISIS executioners. These undergo a gruesome and horrific death by beheadings or being burned alive. Yet, as ghastly as we may perceive such brutality, the pain and suffering of these victims is short-lived, unlike that experienced by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.[1]

On the Lord’s Feast of Passover,[2] Jesus, already physically drained from lack of sleep[3] and subjected to a sham of a trial by the Jewish religious leaders, was brutally beaten and scourged at hands of Roman soldiers, experts at inflicting pain without killing the victim. Then in that depleted condition, He was forced to carry His own cross to the place of execution, and whether it was a fully assembled cross or just the cross beam, for a man in Jesus’ condition at that time was next to impossible – but He did it. Under the weight of that burden, determined to complete His mission, He faced the horror of the cross. God, wrapped up in human flesh, with His host of angelic armies standing at the ready awaiting the command to rain down vengeance upon His tormentors. At the time of His arrest, Peter pulled his sword in His defense, but Jesus stopped him. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  Nothing would deter Him from His mission. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Determined to give to the very last, He carried Himself up Calvary’s hill, laid Himself down upon the timbers and spread His arms out to receive the nails – our pain, our guilt, our sins. “For [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the last, He gave His life. He did not die. Jesus said, “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18, emphasis mine). He was not killed. “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50, emphasis mine). He was not the victim. He was in full control until the very last. John, the beloved disciple, and the only one of the twelve to witness the event said, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30, emphasis mine). Finished! Paid in full!

That was not the end. On the first day of the week, on that spring Sunday morning, He broke the chains of death and brought sheol’s captives with Him. Matthew records, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53).[4]

His resurrection is key! Had Jesus died and remained in the tomb, we would venerate a martyr, nothing more. His bones would be marked by an ornate shrine. Perhaps followers would make faithful pilgrimages to the site to stand in awe and wonder. If that was the case, our faith’s reward would be death and eternal separation from our Creator with no hope of redemption. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Because of His resurrection, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). So now we can say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Before going to the cross, Jesus left us with this promise: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). His resurrection guarantees the promise. On that day, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world are brutally killed daily by the enemy of God. We can thank God that for many, death is swift; it is nothing like what their Lord and our Lord endured for our sakes. But the guaranteed promise of the resurrection assures us that one day soon, we will be together with Him in His house.

Notes:


 

[1]  It is said that victims could linger on the cross up to three days until succumbing to dehydration and asphyxia.

[2]  Despite conventional tradition, this even could not have taken place on Friday. Jesus said He would rise in “three days,” not three partial days. Jesus specified “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:39-40). No matter how one may try to convolute the time to fit a “Good Friday” scenario, one cannot get “three days and three nights” from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Jesus said, “three days and three nights” – 72 hours, nothing less will do!

[3]  Jesus had spent the night in prayer while His disciples slept (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) before being betrayed by Judas, arrested and tried.

[4]  Matthew’s recording of this event that seems to coincide with Jesus’ death and the renting of the veil to the Holy of Holies, but a close inspection of the text reveals that this event occurred after the resurrection. See again Matthew 27:52-53.

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Easter’s Wrong!

Shocked

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:4)

The two highest church attendance days are Christmas and Easter. Easter probably wins the high attendance day of the two since it always falls on a Sunday. Neither day is historically accurate, but Easter typically comes nearer being right than does Christmas. Both holidays (holy days) come to us thanks to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in its attempt to “Christianize” the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia, which celebrated the return of the sun, i.e. the days getting longer, and Ishtar, whose origin is rather convoluted but basically has its source in the ancient fertility goddess of Babylon from whence come the icons of Easter eggs and bunnies.[1]

The pagans celebrated their “Queen of Heaven” on the first day of the week (Sunday) following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Some form of this religious practice was observed by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the time the RCC came into power, pagans continued the practice, so, in order to accommodate the pagan population, the Church put a Christian spin on the celebration. There are several parallels that can be made between that pagan religion and what we believe as Christians.[2] Jesus was born of a virgin, He died, He was buried, and He rose again. Superficially, the pagan story sounds familiar, but this should not be surprising since Satan is the ultimate counterfeiter. Jesus said, “He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).  Since the celebration of Ishtar fell around the time as the Jewish Passover, and considering the parallels, it was not difficult to remake the pagan celebration into a Christian one. (Oh! Don’t be so shocked! We still do that today. In order to attract the “world” we adopt worldly practices, bring them into the church, and put a Christian face on them. Sometimes “Christian” events look no different than rock concerts. The only differences, if you can hear them, are the words of the songs. And for those of us who love the “old hymns” many of the tunes of those good old hymns originated in pubs and saloons. So, this is not unique to the RCC.)

Despite the title I chose for this article, my purpose here is not necessarily to bash our observance of Easter. (I prefer to call it “Resurrection Day” or “Resurrection Sunday.”) I believe that it is right and proper that we celebrate the Advent of our Lord and His death, burial and resurrection – the resurrection being key. They are highly significant events that altered the course of history and the destiny of man. But if we are going to celebrate these very special days, we should at least try to be “biblical” about it rather than “traditional.” Arguably, Christmas could remain as December 25th. While widely accepted by biblical scholars that the birth of Jesus probably took place around mid-September (more likely around the celebration of the Jewish Feast of Booths or Sukkot), counting back nine months would bring one to around December 25th as the time of conception, which would also be the actual “incarnation” when God came to be “with us” (Emmanuel) as a human embryo.

Easter, however, does not always line up exactly with Passover as is the case this year. Jesus was crucified on Passover. Jesus said, “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2, emphasis mine). The Jewish day began at sundown, around 6:00 PM, unlike our western day which begins at midnight. On the afternoon before the Passover, Jesus sent His disciples to make arrangements to celebrate the Passover Seder (Matthew 26:18-19). “Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve” (Matthew 26:20, emphasis mine). “When the evening was come,” Passover had begun. After they had  finished the meal, Jesus went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives where He was arrested in the middle of the night – it was still Passover – and illegally tried and sentenced to death by crucifixion (Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19). Jesus died at the ninth hour, 3:00 PM (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:44-46), at the same time that the Passover lamb was being sacrificed at the Temple. It had to be this way in order to fulfill the Law of God given to Moses (Deuteronomy 16:1-6).

So, Jesus died on Passover, at precisely the right time in order to fulfill the Law of God and make a once for all atonement – a covering – for our sins. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine). “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins]” (Hebrews 11:28, emphasis mine).

Biblically, then, Easter (Resurrection Day) should be celebrated in association with and very closely linked to the Jewish Passover. “Easter” is nowhere found in the Bible except as mistranslated in our beginning verse above (Acts 12:4). The Greek word translated “Easter” in this verse is pascha, the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew pesach or Passover. Evidently the translators of the King James Bible were taken in by centuries of RCC tradition.

“Easter” is not biblical, and it becomes painfully obvious especially this year. As noted above, Easter is the first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This year, the vernal equinox took place on March 19. The first full moon after that will be on March 23, making the 27th Easter Sunday. The problem is that the Jewish calendar is lunar, not solar. Nissan (Abib in the OT) is the first month of the Jewish religious calendar, and Passover is celebrated on Nissan 15. This year, 2016, Nissan 15, Passover, begins on Friday, April 22 at 6:00 PM and goes to 6:00 PM Saturday, April 23. We are celebrating Resurrection Day nearly one month before Passover, and that, to me, just seems wrong. You cannot have “resurrection” before the Passover sacrifice! If we were being biblical instead of traditional, we should be celebrating Resurrection Day on Sunday, April 24. Instead, we will just go with the flow and celebrate it according to the Roman Catholic tradition. This is why, especially this year, Easter’s Wrong.

Notes:


[1]  See “The Pagan Origin of Easter” http://www.lasttrumpetministries.org/tracts/tract1.html

[2]  Ibid.

 

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Good For Who?

Set Apart

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  (Leviticus 11:44)

We are right in the middle of the Lenten Season observed by many mainline Protestant denominations and different varieties of Catholic churches (Roman, Greek, Russian, etc.). Beginning with Ash Wednesday (this year observed on February 10, 2016), the faithful observe 40 days of “fasting” in preparation for Easter. (I prefer calling it Resurrection Sunday.) Celebrants observe the season by giving up something “sacrificial” for Lent. The sacrifice could be anything like giving up TV, Snickers candy bars, eating meat on Fridays, not going to movies or anything equally superfluous, but prior to the season of deprivation, celebrants indulge in a day of depravation known as Fat Tuesday. They stoke up on enough indulgence to last through the 40 days of deprivation.

If it sounds as if I am making light of the observance, please understand that I know many who are sincere in the practice, and that is admirable; however, there are more who observe the season by rote without taking into account the significance. However my theme here is not about Lent, but rather it is about holiness. Would it not be better to live a godly lifestyle consistently as a matter of practice rather than trying to force upon oneself a token meaningless act that, if kept, lasts for a short time and then is forgotten? Indeed, God would have us conduct ourselves in holiness all the time.

I have addressed this topic in the past perhaps because the older I get, the more I recognize my own deficiency in this area. I also see the growing invasion of “worldliness” spreading in our churches, including our more “conservative” evangelical churches. I attribute much of this to a general lack of biblical literacy, especially with regard to Old Testament teaching regarding the Mosaic Law.[1] To many modern Christians, only the New Testament applies to us because we are living under “Grace,” not under the “Law.”[2] That, I believe, comes from a misunderstanding of both Grace and Law.

I recently read through the book of Leviticus, and it once again became apparent to me that many of the laws given had no other purpose than to distinguish the “people of God” from the goyim (Gentiles/nations) among whom they lived. The phrase “be holy” is repeated some 29 times in the Pentateuch, and whether applied to objects used in worship or to the people themselves, it means to set that thing apart for a special and unique purpose. Our leading verse instructs the people to “sanctify yourselves,” i.e. consecrate or set yourselves apart. Where the implements of worship were concerned, they were not to be used for common purposes. Every object used in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple) was dedicated only for the purpose it was designed. If a platter held the showbread, it could not be used for any other purpose. It was “holy” – dedicated, consecrated, sanctified, set apart for one purpose only.

The people likewise were to be set apart. “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2, emphasis mine). For what were they to be holy? “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6, emphasis mine). God’s purpose for His people has not changed in that regard. Note John’s description of the risen Christ in his address to the churches: “Unto him [the Lord Jesus Christ] that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5b-6).  Just like the nation of Israel, the Church of Christ (not the denomination that takes that name) is to be holy – set apart – to be a kingdom of priests to the world around us.[3]

As kings and priests, we should exemplify the Law of God. We do not obey the Law in order to obtain our position as kings and priests, but because we have obtained that position through Grace. In order to obey the Law, we must first know and understand the Law, and that understanding comes from studying the Law that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. Granted, much of particulars, such as dress code and dietary laws do not apply to us, but the principle of distinctiveness from the “world” remains.

One example that came to mind was the prohibition from wine that was given to the priests. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Leviticus 10:8-10, emphasis mine). Notice that the prohibition was limited to their going into the Tabernacle (later that applied to the Temple). Now consider what Paul said to the Corinthian Church: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). Not only are we kings and priests, but we are also the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so with regard to “wine and strong drink” Christians should abstain. Yet there are many Christians that will excuse themselves from this prohibition by saying that the Bible only condemns drunkenness and not simply the occasional glass of wine or just one brewski. Well then, what about the fact that we are kings and priests and that we are the Temple of God? We are to be “holy” in all things. “Be ye holy” was not only meant for the Israelites; it applies to us as well. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16, emphasis mine). That archaic word “conversation” refers to one’s life-conduct; so in every manner in which we conduct our lives, we should be holy.

More examples could be cited. What about the prohibition against tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)? Yet we have many Christians following the pattern of the world rather than being distinct from the world. But the point here is not so much about following an arbitrary set of rules, but following the One who put those rules in place. Over 73 times in the Pentateuch God emphasizes “I AM the LORD.” Forty-five (45) of those (62%, almost 2/3) appear in the book of Leviticus. Might God be trying to tell us something – “Do what I say because I AM the Lord!”

In closing, let me stress that this is meant for God’s people. One does not have to keep the Law to become a child of God. But as any good son desires to please his father, should not God’s children desire to please their Heavenly Father? And how does one do that? One does it by following His laws. He gave them to us as a pattern for our life conduct. Can we do that perfectly? I know I can’t, but that does not mean I don’t try. Nor should it be something over which we fret, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to help our weakness. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis mine). The faith “of the Son of God” is our source of strength. We live holy lives for Him and by Him.

Notes:


[1]  See “Is the Law Sin?” https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/06/08/is-the-law-sin/

[2]  See “God’s Laws” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/01/10/gods-laws/

[3]  See “Kings and Priests” https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/09/06/kings-and-priests/

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