Archive for April 8, 2012
Tags: Easter, God, Israelite, Jesus, Jews, Judaism, Korban Pesach, Passover
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”—Psalm 18:2
During this holy season for both faiths, I wish my Jewish friends a blessed Passover, and to my Christian friends, a blessed Easter. In the week ahead, I will share some reflections on the Passover celebration and the lessons that can be gleaned from it for Jews and Christians alike. In fact, many of the sacred aspects of Christian worship trace their spiritual roots directly to the Jewish faith and the early history of the nation of Israel.
Such is the case with the term “Paschal Lamb,” or “Lamb of God,” which in the Christian tradition refers to Jesus. From the Jewish perspective, the term is Korban Pesach, or “sacrifice of Passover,” which dates back to the first Exodus. The blood of a sacrificed lamb, which was smeared on the doorframes of each Jewish household, served as sign of deliverance from death striking their firstborn sons. The lamb’s blood would be the only path to salvation — without it, their firstborn would die, along with those of the Egyptians.
Additionally, the lamb represented the idols, or false gods, that the Egyptians worshiped. By killing a lamb, the Israelites were, in essence, defying their Egyptian masters as well as demonstrating once again the power of the God of Israel over the Egyptian gods.
In the times of the Jewish temple worship, Jews obeyed God’s command to remember the first Passover by sacrificing a lamb on that day. This lamb had to be male, one year old, and most importantly, without blemish. Only then would it suffice to be the perfect Passover sacrifice. (See Exodus 12:5.)
This Passover observance is what Christians reference when speaking of “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).
It is also true that Jesus, as an observant Jew, and his disciples were celebrating the Passover on the very night that he foretold his coming death. Jesus followed the same divine instructions that were given to Moses as he broke bread with his disciples. And later, the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians to “keep the Festival” (Passover/Lord’s Supper) with unleavened bread.
Indeed, the Christian observance of Easter resonates back to the story of the Jews’ escape and deliverance from Egyptian bondage three thousand years ago. Understanding the story of Passover and rich symbolism of the Seder meal gives a new richness to many of the worship traditions at churches around the world.
This year, as my Christian friends celebrate Easter, it is good to remember the Jews’ miraculous deliverance on that first Passover and of God’s divine leading from bondage to freedom. Let us celebrate and praise along with David, in the words of Psalm 18, our rock, our fortress, and the horn of our salvation.
Tags: God, Jesu, Lord, New Year, Psalm, Rejoice in the Lord, Religion & Spirituality, Solomon
King Solomon left among his wise sayings a prescription for sick and sad hearts, and it is one that we can safely take. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Joy is the great restorer and healer. Gladness of spirit will bring health to the bones and vitality to the nerves when all other tonics fail, and all other sedatives cease to quiet. Sick one, begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care, are all poison drops; joy is balm and healing; and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. He has commanded you to be glad and rejoice; and He never fails to sustain His children in keeping His commandments. Rejoice in the Lord always, He says; which means no matter how sad, how tempted, how sick, how suffering you are, rejoice in the Lord just where you are, and begin this moment.
The joy of the Lord is the strength of our body,
The gladness of Jesus, the balm for our pain,
His life and His fulness, our fountain of healing,
His joy, our elixir for body and brain.
Tags: Alleluia, Charles Wesley, Christ, Easter, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Resurrection of Jesus, Stations of the Cross
But the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.” (NLT)
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
So Christians have proclaimed for centuries on Easter morning and throughout the season of Easter, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
During the fourteen days prior to Easter, I was reflecting on the Stations of the Cross in preparation for a deeper experience of the reality of Jesus’ death, and therefore a greater celebration of his resurrection. Today, on Easter Sunday, I want to add an Easter postscript. Without the resurrection, the cross of Jesus really wouldn’t matter much.
Without the resurrection, we’d never have known about Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, where he submitted to the will of his Heavenly Father.
Without the resurrection, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus would have been long forgotten.
Without the resurrection, the Sanhedrin who condemned Jesus would have been seen as largely correct in their estimation of him as a blasphemer who needed to be silenced.
Without the resurrection, Peter’s denial of Jesus might seem like a judicious way to preserve his own life.
Without the resurrection, we’d probably never have heard the name of Pontius Pilate, unless we happened to take a class in Jewish history in the Roman Period.
Without the resurrection, the fact that Jesus was scourged and crowned with thorns would seem to be a sad but fitting end to one who pretended to usher in the kingdom of God.
Without the resurrection, Jesus would have been one more nameless individual who took up his cross on the way to dying a cruel death.
Without the resurrection, Simon of Cyrene would have disappeared into the dust of history.
Without the resurrection, the women who mourned for Jesus would have continued to mourn for a long, long time…not for only two days.
Without the resurrection, most of us would know very little about crucifixion, unless we had seen the movie Spartacus. (Of course, there would be no Passion of the Christ film.)
Without the resurrection, the promise of Jesus to the thief, that he would join Jesus in Paradise, would seem like a bad, sad joke.
Without the resurrection, the presence of Jesus’ mother at the cross would be painful in the extreme, without a hint of meaning or hope.
Without the resurrection, the cross would be largely forgotten, and it would not appear on millions of buildings or around millions of necks.
Without the resurrection, the tomb would have been the final resting place of Jesus, until his body was exhumed so his bones could be placed in a ossuary (box for bones).
Without the resurrection, there would be no Stations of the Cross.
Without the resurrection, there would be no Christian church.
Without the resurrection, there would be no assurance of salvation.
Without the resurrection, there would be no reason to hope.
Without the resurrection, there would be only death.
Because of the resurrection, we reverence the cross.
Because of the resurrection, the cross is one of the best known symbols in the world.
Because of the resurrection, what was once the sign of horrific death is now a sign of life and hope.
Because of the resurrection, the death of Jesus is remembered, cherished, even celebrated.
Because of the resurrection, the Stations of the Cross lead, not to death, but to life.
Because of the resurrection, we are reborn into a living hope.
Because of the resurrection, we know that we too will live anew.
Because of the resurrection, everything is different.
Because of the resurrection, new life has begun.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
QUESTION FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in your life?
PRAYER: Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia! Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia! Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia! Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia! Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia! Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia! Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia! Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia! Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Hymn lyrics by Charles Wesley, 1739.
Tags: Crucifixion of Jesus, God, God the Father, Jesu, Jesus Christ, Lord, Maui, The Old Rugged Cross
Whenever a tsunami warning is given on the northern coastline of Maui, Hawaii, the people living in Hana rush up the side of a mountain to a high place of safety. Nearby is a tall wooden cross that was placed there many years ago by missionaries. For their physical safety, people run to the area where the cross is located.
In a similar way, all of us need a place of spiritual safety. Why? Because the Lord gives us these warnings in His Word: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Hebrews 9:27 states: “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” We might not like to think about what the consequences of our sin will be as we face a holy God, but it’s a serious thing “to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).
The good news is that out of love for us, the Father has provided a place of safety! He sent His Son Jesus to die so we wouldn’t have to be separated from Him forever (Rom. 5:8-10; Col. 1:19-22).
Tags: Christ, Christian, First Epistle to the Corinthians, God, holyspirit, Lord, New Testament, Paul
God Lives in People
The truth of the divine indwelling is developed more fully in the epistles of Paul. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). And again (1 Cor. 6:19), “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Without question, the teaching of the New Testament is that the very God Himself inhabits the nature of His true children. How this can be I do not know, but neither do I know how my soul inhabits my body. Paul called this wonder of the indwelling God a rich mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). And if the doctrine involved a contradiction or even an impossibility we must still believe what the mouth of the Lord has spoken. “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). The spiritual riches lying buried in this truth are so vast that they are worth any care or effort we may give to their recovery. Yet we are not concerned primarily with the theology or metaphysics embodied here. We want to know the reality of it. What does the truth mean to us in practical outworking? What does it have for a serious-minded Christian compelled to live in a dark and godless world? As Paul would say, “Much every way” (3:2).
Tags: God, Hand (unit), India, Jesu, Lord, Messiah, Passion Week, Vellore
“Jesus…showed them his hands.” Jn 20:19-20 NCV
Dr. Paul Brand, a brilliant surgeon who worked at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, writes: “I work with the marvels of the hand nearly every day…But one time of the year holds special meaning for me…When the world observes Passion Week…I reflect on the hands of Jesus…those hands that had done so much good were taken, one at a time, and pierced through with a thick spike…Roman executioners drove their spikes through the wrist, through the carpal tunnel that houses finger-controlling tendons and the median nerve…maiming the hand into a claw shape, and Jesus had no anesthetic…Later his weight hung from them, tearing more tissue, releasing more blood. Has there ever been a more helpless image? The disciples, who’d hoped he was the Messiah, cowered in the darkness or drifted away.” But that’s not the last time we see Jesus’ hands. The Bible says: “When it was evening on the first day of the week, Jesus’ followers were together. The doors were locked, because they were afraid of the elders. Then Jesus came and stood…in the middle of them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After…this, he showed them his hands…His followers were thrilled when they saw the Lord.” Dr. Brand adds: “For the remainder of his time here, Jesus chose [to minister through] scars in each hand. That’s why I believe God hears and understands our pain…he kept those scars as a lasting image of wounded humanity. He knows what life on earth is like because he has been there. His hands prove it.” So bring your wounds to Jesus today and let Him make you whole—body, mind and soul.
Tags: Fordo, International Atomic Energy Agency, Islam, Israel, Jay Carney, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran
<a href=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/jump/slm.townhall/columnists;sz=225×200;pos=mag;tile=2;ord=78434003?”><img src=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/ad/slm.townhall/columnists;sz=225×200;pos=mag;tile=2;ord=78434003?” border=0 width=225 height=200 alt=”Click Here!”></a>In my post, Blindsided: 9/11 Was the Rule, Not the Exception, I explained how 9/11 woke up America to the reality of Islamic fanaticism. Because of ignorance to Islam’s history and grievance culture, its violent nature blindsided us.
Since its covert nuclear program was exposed in 2002, Iran has danced around the international community, always professing its peaceful intentions. But many observers have suspected otherwise.
Threats against Israel made by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, such as his statement that Israel must be “wiped off the map,” fueled that suspicion. Ahmadinejad saw Israel’s existence as an affront to Islamic dignity. “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury,” he has said.
Last November, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report removing any doubt about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The report detailed Iran’s nuclear-related detonator and explosives development, and its experiments involving the missile delivery of nuclear payloads. President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said the report showed the “hollowness of Iran’s claims.”
Could Israel possibly view Iran’s nuclear program as anything but an existential threat to its survival? Not likely.
And yet, if it decides to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, many Muslims and non-Muslim Westerners alike will accuse Israel of being aggressors.
Political voices in the West, and some even in Israel, urge caution. They hope further diplomatic efforts and sanctions, although ineffective so far, will suddenly cause Iran to abandon its plan.
But for Iran to permanently back down would require it to permanently accept what it views as the “humiliation” of Islam.
In my new book, Blindsided: The Radical Islamic Conquest, I explain the mindset of Islamic radicalism and its aim to overcome Islamic grievances through conquest.
As it relates to Israel, I write:
Israel is a tiny island of a mere 8,500 square miles in a vast Islamic sea. Such a tiny nation could hardly threaten the Muslim world, with its vast oil wealth. Little Israel should go completely unnoticed by the great Arab world—yet the exact opposite is the case. Israel, to the Muslim, is the fly in the soup which cannot be ignored.
Today’s Islamic zealots have sworn that there can be no peace or coexistence with Israel. The Islamists view Israel as a constant reminder of the Islam’s humiliation. As long as Israel exists, there will never be peace.
A few weeks after 9/11, Al-Qaeda spokesman Suliman Abu Geith said, “We have a fair and just case. The Islamic nation more than eighty years has been suffering. “
“Eighty years” refers back to the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, which gave England and France control over large portions of the Middle East. It also eventually led to the creation of the Israeli state.
According to historian James S. Robbins, “The Ottomans had ruled the region for 600 years or so, and brought varying degrees of political harmony under the Sultanate and religious unity under the Caliphate. The 1920 treaty did away with the political order. . . . In bin Laden’s universe, that was when everything started to go wrong.”
Although Jews had lived in Palestine for a long time (in 1914, some 85,000 Jews lived, alongside some 6,000 Arabs), the eventual presence of a Jewish state was more than many Muslims could stomach. Muslim nations invaded Israel three times during the next twenty-five years (each successfully repelled by Israel).
Many Arab Muslims believe to this day that the Christian West planted Israel in their midst as a means to exert control over the Middle East.
They see the existence of Israel as a new manifestation of the ancient Crusade against Islam. . . .
The thought that “the House of War”—the Muslim designation for the non-Muslim world—should occupy a land that once belonged to the House of Islam is no small matter to the people of the Middle East.
It strikes at the very heart of Islamic ideology—and Arab pride.
That’s why Muslims will not rest until the Jews either leave Palestine, accept Muslim rule, or are eliminated.
Can Israel ever know peace in our lifetimes? It’s been said that if Muslim nations were to abandon their arms, there would be peace. But not if Israel abandoned theirs. In that case, Israel would be thrown into the sea.
The idea of armed conflict between Israel and Iran is a terrifying prospect. It could easily engulf the US and other countries.
But if we desire true peace, we must not be ignorant of the Muslim world’s determination to destroy Israel.
Tags: Easter, Editorial, Gardens, Good Friday, Judaea, Mary, Pulitzer Prize, United States
Call me Mary — not the one who bore Him, but she who was borne up by him, little did I know it at the time. And you? You say you’re some sort of scribe. Lord knows there is always something to write about in Judaea.
I do not mean to be inhospitable, young man. Blessed be he who comes, as they say. Recline. Rest yourself. Have you had something to eat, a glass of wine for your stomach’s sake? You must wash your feet, change your sandals. For I know it is a long, dusty trip up here, and with us it is a commandment to take in the stranger and treat him as one of our own. Some grapes, perhaps? They’re fresh from the vineyard. Eat, eat.
That day you ask about never leaves me, or rather I never leave it. Any more than someone would draw away from the light. There are some days that change one forever, beyond forever.
Seeing is believing, they say. They say a lot of things. My experience is quite the other way around: Believing is seeing. You say you want to know what really happened. That is the way it is with you scribes. Just as it happened, only the facts, ma’am. Ah, the veil of facts. You don’t really want to peer behind them, do you? The sight would be too wondrous to credit.
Forgive me, I do not wish to be unkind. Only later did it make sense even to me, a kind of sense-beyond-sense, the way a joke does when it finally dawns on you, and you have to laugh out loud. With a joy that never leaves you. You have hit upon a story, young man, the greatest story ever told, little though you may recognize it.
I didn’t. Not at first. What a solemn little fool I was, don’t you know? I was expecting the worst, of course. As we all were, I suppose. Oh, we of little faith! Or else we wouldn’t have believed the worst when actually the best was at hand. The worst, we are always prepared to believe. Like you in your business. But never the best.
That’s the way it was with me that bleak early morning. The sadness, the awfulness of it, I understood what I would find, or rather not find. I’d been prepared for it by the kind of life I’d led. I knew what men are like, what life is like, and that neither ends well.
I was perfectly prepared for how bad Good Friday would be. But Easter Sunday? That was quite beyond me. How could I have understood? You might as well have tried to describe sight to the blind, music to the deaf, a joke to the hopelessly solemn. My reality was limited to the evidence of things seen, the substance of things feared.
I could have predicted even before I went to the tomb that I’d be disappointed. That’s what I’d expected and that’s what I found. The stone was rolled away and … nothing. The disciples only confirmed it when they looked inside. He was gone and would never return. It had all been for naught, just as we feared, then expected, and all too quickly accepted. We see what we train ourselves to see.
So when I saw the gardener — for who else could it be? — I wept and wailed and asked for the kind of help I knew neither he nor anyone else could give me: that he return my Friend, my Lord, my Hope, to me.
Not that I really expected anything of the sort. I’d seen what had happened — from a distance. I could not bear to stand close, like the men. And yet I could not tear myself away, either. I could not leave Him like that. You have friends, don’t you, young man? Could you leave them like that? All I asked the gardener was to tell me where they had taken him.
Then I heard my name. How strange, I thought. How could the gardener have known me? That’s when I turned. And I realized who had spoken to me, who The Gardener was, and the whole, fake world was turned upside down, the facade torn away, the night shattered as the sun rose. He had risen.
Funny how all you need is to be called by your right name — and turn. You have to turn, young man. That’s the key. Only then can you can really see Him, as if for the first time. Then everything falls into place. Surely you’ve felt that way when you’ve been in love, wanting only to serve the beloved, asking for nothing else, knowing it to be the purest happiness. This was like that, only forever.
Another sip of wine? I’d join you, but just to say the blessing. I don’t need the wine. I’ve been drunk with life, and love, ever since that moment when it hit me: The gardener! Well, I’ll be! Of course. I’d had no idea.