Acts 10:34-43 – For Easter Sunday

Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

——————————————————————————–

This is the reading from the Episcopal Lectionary for Easter Sunday, Year B 2018. It will next be read aloud in a church by a reader, as an Easter replacement for either the Old Testament or Epistle reading, on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018. It is important as it tells of the ministry that will comes after the resurrection of our Lord in an Apostle.   Serving God would no longer be limited to one small sect of believers in the One God (Jews), as professed faith would no longer be the determining factor of devotion.

In this reading, Peter has been divinely called to meet with Cornelius, who was a Roman Centurion in Caesarea.  Cornelius had also been divinely called to send men to Joppa to request Peter’s presence.  Because of a spiritual dream, Peter went to meet with a Gentile who had found the God of the Jews worthy of praise.

When we read, “Peter began to speak,” the literal Greek says, “Having opened moreover Peter the [one] [his] mouth.” This should be seen as a statement of how Peter’s mouth was opened by the Holy Spirit, just as it was on the day of Pentecost.  As such, Peter’s mouth – lips and tongue – was moving, but the Word of the Holy Spirit was coming out.  Peter spoke, but he spoke from the same divine source that put Peter in the presence of Cornelius.

 

This means that when Peter’s mouth said, “anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable to [God],” that does not mean he set forth an expectation that God puts up with whatever anyone wants to do, as long as they do what is right. That leaves “what is right” up to one’s interpretation of “good” and “right.”  It makes human definitions of what God expects become a question of acceptability.  To get that implication makes the translation become misleading.

The Greek words actually written, “ergazomenos dikaiosynēn,” say “working righteousness,” rather than “does what is right.” This means that when one is working righteousness, then one is filled with the Holy Spirit, acting on God’s behalf. The qualifications have nothing to do with one’s Jewish heritage or lack thereof. Thus “acceptable” (“dektos”) means God has “received favorably” the heart and soul of one who prays devoutly for God’s guidance [as had Cornelius and Peter].  Such devotion in a person makes that person be “accepted” by God, and the Holy Spirit has been “accepted” by that person in return. That is how one acts from righteousness.

[Hint: This is why Easter has readings from the Acts of the Apostles.]

When Simon-Peter said, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that [Jesus Christ] is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead,” the element of “living” says “those who are alive via the Holy Spirit – as Jesus Christ reborn.”  Jesus only possible to come into the living; and Jesus coming into one can only result in that one gaining eternal life.

Because all who have received the breath of life at birth [from exiting a mother’s womb], all human beings have been given mortal life, which in turn (eventually) leads to an end in mortal death. Therefore, Peter said [via the Holy Spirit] that being reborn as Jesus Christ brings the judgment of life, while not receiving that Spirit keeps one locked into the mortal judgment of death. The rebirth of Jesus Christ within a servant to the LORD is wholly “ordained by God,” and not up to the human being to cast judgment otherwise.  God, then, is the judge of who lives eternally (with Jesus Christ protecting that soul) and who is returned for reincarnation or soul punishment (without Jesus Christ protecting that soul).

When Peter ended this reading by stating, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name,” one has to grasp that “through his nameONLY comes by being reborn AS Jesus Christ. One can ONLY receive forgiveness of sins by belief that reaches a level of faith that is pleasing to God [acceptability]. For one’s love of God and faith in Jesus as the Messiah, one is sent the Holy Spirit by God, so one begins ACTING RIGHTEOUSLY … just as did Jesus of Nazareth.

As a reading that accompanies the Easter Resurrection lessons, one must see that the Resurrection of Jesus was for a promise of eternally offering redemption to those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus. After Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven on the forty-ninth day [the seven Sundays of Easter], his Spirit [thus his name] returned in those who had shown faith and devotion. In return, they were granted eternal life over mortal death, because they chose to sacrifice themselves to the will of God. From Pentecost that year and until their deaths, they acted from righteousness, doing what was acceptable to God.

Advertisements
Posted in Christianity, Education, Language, Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Sunday Gospel Choices – Our Lord is Risen Indeed

Matthew 28:1-10 (This is the early service reading)

John 20:1-18 (This is an option for the principal service reading)

or

Mark 16:1-8 (This is an option for the principal service reading)

Luke 24:13-49 (This is the evening service reading)

——————————————————————————–

These are the readings that come from the four Gospels, all telling of the Sunday event Christians recognize as “Easter.” The same readings revolve over the three year cycle of the Episcopal Lectionary, Years A, B, and C. The order presented here is for Year B, 2018. These variations on the same theme [Luke’s reading is tailored for an evening service, focusing on that Sunday’s afternoon, rather than the morning’s discovery] will next be read aloud in a church by a priest on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018. Certainly, all are important as they tell of the miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection from death, as witnessed by those close to Jesus of Nazareth. That return to life fulfilled the promise Jesus had made, which also fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament.

In two of these readings (Luke and John), the resurrection of Jesus is referred to as “the first day of the week.” In the other two, the day is identified as “after the sabbath” (Matthew) or “when the Sabbath was over” (Mark), with Matthew adding that it was “the first day of the week.” None of them identified that day as “Sunday,” as the Hebrew equivalent is “yom rishon” (“first day”).

Here is a blank calendar, typically used in English-speaking countries.  One can see how Sunday has been affixed into the position that reflects it as the first day of the week, making Saturday the seventh day (the Sabbath):

While Americans commonly call the combination of Saturday and Sunday a “weekend,” such that Monday feels like the first day of the week, that feeling likewise projects upon Sunday as the end of a week.  One can get a feel that Sunday is the seventh day, thus the Christian sabbath day. However, please note that concept is pagan, as it goes against how God told Moses to order the days, which corresponds with the seven days of Creation.

God never ordered anyone, other than the Israelites, to establish a calendar that denotes a Sabbath day as holy. Thus, if anyone wants to make a “week” longer than seven days, or start a “week” on any day one chooses, while calling a day by any name other than a number, that is one’s freedom … as a pagan. No one is commanded to have a calendar for each year, nor have any special dates marked for remembrance.  Still, it seems other civilized peoples (other than the Israelites) realized marking time was important.

They say Stonehenge is a pagan calendar that marked the movements of celestial bodies, such that “Sun day” is related to that orb of life-giving light, with “Moon day” the same recognition on another day [Monday].  Saturday is devoted to recognition for Saturn, whose pagan characteristics are like those of the Old Testament Yahweh.  Because there are seven astronomical orbs of lights (luminaries and planets), each was given a day of recognition, thus a seven-day week evolved.  Still, with that known, non-pagans (including Christians) will always recognize the seventh day as holy (the Sabbath); and Sunday, likewise, will always be the first day of the week.

By grasping that Jesus was realized risen on the first day of the week, one can realize the New Creation of God’s Covenant with human beings springing to life at that time. The first day of the week means rest is over and there is new work that needs to be done. God’s Covenant with Moses, which does nothing to change His Covenants with Noah and/or Abraham, is not an “Old Testament,” as if “old” translates as “outdated” and “undone.” Instead, the New Covenant is the expansion from the First Testament, as a New Amendment. The new requires more than birthright, as Gentiles are now permitted to play a role in God’s plan (Thanks be to God, from us Gentiles of America) for all mankind to serve God. That new amendment to serve God comes through Jesus Christ, who was first known as the Christ on a Sunday … the first day of the week.

In that vein of thought, serving God through Jesus Christ is demonstrated to be more than simply believing Jesus rose after being dead for three days. In John’s account, Mary Magdalene stood at the open tomb weeping, when the risen Jesus asked her why she was crying. Mary is said not to recognize the man she loved dearly, “supposing him to be the gardener.” That needs to be reflected upon.

If you have ever driven to a cemetery to pay your respects to a deceased loved one, you will notice there is a small staff that manages the grounds, cutting the grass, placing artificial flowers at gravestones, and making sure weeds and leaves are cleared away. One such groundskeeper could be termed a “gardener.” John wrote the word “kēpouros,” which translates as “gardener or garden-keeper,” which by itself implies this tomb site was lush and green; but a tomb carved into rock is not typically surrounded by such flourishing plant life. Supposing the intent of Mary, as told to John (who had already left the scene with Peter), was more than a simple mention of a man thought to be the groundskeeper.  One then needs to see that “Freudian slip,” associated with that failure to see Jesus as Jesus, as a purposeful statement of Jesus appearing as someone else … someone Jesus is like.

Pop Quiz question: Who is the most famous gardener in all the Holy Bible? You have one minute to think about your answer.

<Pause for one minute>

Time’s up. The answer is Adam. [You knew that!]

That reference is then a statement that Jesus had the same soul as the one God breathed into his Son; but the physical Jesus did not look like the physical Adam, from who’s physical DNA Jesus was descended, many times modified over the ages.[1]  That means that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man (where the Hebrew word “adam” means “man”) was based on him repeatedly saying, my soul has reincarnated several times since it fell to Earth in the form of Adam, the Son of God. Adam lived in the Garden of Eden, and because of his skills for tending to natural things, Adam was told to till the earth after his fall from Heaven (hint: there are more weeds on earth, than in Heaven).

So, regardless of the double entendre, where Mary literally though Jesus was a groundskeeper, John wrote “gardener” from being in possession of the Mind of Christ, writing the Word of God. As a “gardener,” Jesus was seen in the form of the first Son of God.  That means there are no mistakes and nothing written anywhere in Scripture that cannot become more that it first appears, as “kēpouros” [“gardener”] expands to become further explanation towards understanding the holiness of John’s text.

Of course, Jesus appearing as a gardener was not the only time he appeared in some other form. The optional reading for an evening Easter service comes from Luke, where those particular verses are typically called “The Road to Emmaus.” There, Luke wrote, “Jesus himself came near [to two of the disciples] and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

The two disciples were not of the eleven principal disciples of Jesus, but followers of Jesus. The Greek written by Luke actually does not refer to “disciples,” but to “two of them.” When one is later named as being Cleopas, who is believed to have been the brother of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the human “father” of Jesus, this would make Cleopas the uncle of Jesus. Because John referred to “Mary of Clopas,” as one of the three Mary’s who stood at the cross of Jesus, this is believed to make her the wife (possibly daughter) of Cleopas. This would then identify the “two of them” as being relatives who knew Jesus very well, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

A couple of things need to be grasped about the seven miles to Emmaus (sixty furlongs). First, that was too far to walk on a Sabbath, due to the restrictions on how far one can walk on the day of rest. Cleopas and Mary had been in Jerusalem for the final prayer service of the eight-day Passover festival [a morning prayer, which on that particular ending day was done on a Sabbath morning], meaning they probably stayed in the upstairs room that had been secured for Jesus and his disciples until Sunday morning. While ordinary years would have allowed them to travel back and forth from home, during the week-long event, the arrest, trial, torture and execution of Jesus, followed by his temporary burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, would have kept them in Jerusalem all of the eight days. Now, with the Passover over, as well as the Sabbath, it was time for them to go home; but as they walked, they were “and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”

Second, the road to Emmaus was the same road that cut through Jerusalem, with the eastern direction called the Jericho road, with Emmaus being due west.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleopas and Mary would not have been the only ones walking this road, as many pilgrims from the west would have traveled the same road. The Roman road would have ended at the Mediterranean Sea, with a road leading to Joppa being a branch off that road headed more northerly. Joppa would have been a place for European pilgrims to find sea passage back home. Still, foreign travelers in Judea for the Passover would have planned to stay until Shavuot [Festival of Weeks, beginning at Pentecost], so the further away from Jerusalem pilgrims walked, the easier it would have been to find rooms for a two-month stay.  Thus, walking and talking with strangers would have been common, if not preferred, simply to find safety in numbers.

Jesus, appearing as some pilgrim headed home after the Passover, came upon Cleopas and Mary as they were discussing the past week and how it played out for their nephew. Jesus acted like he did not know who they were talking about, which led them to explain more. However, that led Jesus to tell his family members, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

Jesus knew he had foretold all that would happen, exactly as it went down, but he was speaking to deaf ears, blind eyes and closed minds. Cleopas and Mary had been there and heard those prophecies, but (like all the other disciples and followers of Jesus) they were slow to take his words to heart, the place in devoted humans where God resides. Thus, no one believed the truth of Jesus’ words, because they preferred to ignore the truth and believe what they wanted to believe (a common flaw in the faithful to this day).

We then read that after Jesus called his relatives “foolish,” “then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” Seven miles they walked as Jesus talked the truth. All the while, the hearts of Cleopas and Mary were burning within them, as Jesus was “opening the scriptures” to them.

When Luke wrote the word “diēnoigen” (translated as “he was opening”), the root word means: Properly: “opening the ears and the eyes, such as to restore hearing and sight. Tropically: “to open the sense of the Scriptures, explain them; to open the mind of one, i. e. cause him to understand a thing; and to open one’s soul, i. e. to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning.”[2] (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)  Therefore, Jesus (as a stranger to his aunt and uncle) spoke to them as one filled with the Holy Spirit and the gift of interpreting prophecy.  ALL who possess that holy talent speak in the name of Jesus Christ, whether they look like “picture book Jesus” or not.

When Cleopas and Mary came to the place where their home was off the main road, they did not want to leave this stranger who had opened their eyes and hearts so widely.  From desire to know more, they invited unrecognizable Jesus to stay at their place overnight. We then read, “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

They recognized Jesus because Cleopas and Mary had been present at the Passover Seder meal ten evenings prior, when Jesus presided over the ritual dinner.  They had watched Jesus do the exact same thing then, as he had just done at their dining table.  They had not seen the power of those words then; but with their hearts alive with fire and passion for the the truth of God’s Word, they vividly flashed back to that Passover Seder message forgotten.

This is where bread has to be seen as symbolic of the written Scriptures, which Jesus had just enlightened Cleopas and Mary about: Moses and all the prophets wrote the texts that all Jews were fed from. That bread is unleavened, in the sense that Scripture is written in basic ingredients.  Those words do not give rise, as leavened, until consumed and swollen to full meaning by the “yeast” of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, that bread is blessed by God, as Holy Words, and those Holy Words are broken into books, chapters, verses and individual words – ALL of which have divine meaning the blind eye cannot see.

The man Cleopas and Mary had just walked seven miles with had just made them vividly recall that Passover Seder with Jesus, who was then known to be the Christ.  Before, he was just Mary’s special son, Jesus, a charismatic with a penchant for preaching and a knack for working miracles.  However, for the first time Jesus had opened the minds of his close relatives to Spiritual knowledge, which came by his breaking of the bread of Scripture and presenting it to them to digest.

Luke then wrote, “he vanished from their sight,” where the Greek word “aphantos” means, “disappearing, invisible, hidden.” This was not the first time that Jesus had eluded people, as John wrote about Jesus escaping the hands of his haters in his seventh and tenth chapters. This ability to become invisible or to disappear or to become hidden beyond view is a power from the divine.

This disappearance can be explained as a hallucination shared by Cleopas and Mary, where they actually did walk with a strange pilgrim, but the Holy Spirit made it appear that stranger was talking to them. The hallucination could have then come into their home, due to their heightened belief, while the actual strange pilgrim kept walking on the road to the west. Jesus disappeared simply because he was not in that Emmaus home as a strange pilgrim.  Jesus was there in Spirit, one that was invited by Cleopas and Mary to stay with them.  That presence symbolizes how all whose hearts burn to serve God must welcome God into their hearts.

It is this hallucinatory state that makes this account on the road to Emmaus become parallel to Mary Magdalene speaking with a gardener.  Mary never saw the gardener as Jesus in the flesh.  She heard his words and recognized it was Jesus, in the same way that Cleopas and Mary did.  The hallucinatory state reflects how each disciple of Jesus must seek him first.  Then, when Jesus appears in unrecognizable form to answer our call, a true Christian will recognize the presence of Jesus Christ, by understanding the messenger sent in his name.

Then, Luke tells of Cleopas and Mary hurrying back to Jerusalem and the upstairs room. It was still light outside, but technically night time, close to 8:00 PM by the time they were back in the upstairs room. Thomas, who had been out procuring dinner for the disciples and their companions when Jesus first appeared among them, was back then (he brought back some fish for them to broil). One could imagine the door was locked, due to the fear of the Temple being proud of murdering innocent Jews; but suddenly there was Jesus again standing among them.

Then, as the time earlier, Jesus appeared in a recognizable form, complete with body wounds from having been flogged, crucified and speared. One would imagine Jesus was fully dressed, just as the gardener and the travelling pilgrim would have been, even though the burial preparation would not have clothed Jesus’ body in anything more than shroud, face linen, and prayer shawl (provided by family). This means Jesus wore heavenly clothing, despite appearing earthly natural. One would imagine Jesus opened his robe for Thomas to feel his spear wound.

Before anyone starts to think that Jesus was a hologram or beamed to earth by God, look at how Jesus said he was not a ghost.

Jesus was real, in the flesh, the same flesh that had been prepared for burial the past Friday. He asked for food, which he ate before them so they could see how real he was. He was real when he stood before Mary Magdalene. He was real when he walked with Cleopas and Mary; and he was real standing among his followers in the upstairs room in Jerusalem. However, the most important element of that reality is discerned from Jesus saying (according to Luke), “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The reality of Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies that foretold his coming, death, and resurrection. The imaginary of prophecy had become real. While Jesus told the pairs of eyes standing with him at that time, “You are witnesses of these things” … “You are witnesses to this realization of divine prophecy” … Jesus would not be able to produce any new human witnesses to him in the flesh … a real Jesus … after he would Ascend to Heaven. Therefore, when Jesus then said, “See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised” … the Holy Spirit … Jesus meant the Father promised a Messiah that would last an eternity (see Micah 5:2).  Therefore, Jesus would last a lot longer than 33 years, as he has not ever left, through the reality of the Holy Spirit.  That was why Jesus then instructed his followers to stay in Jerusalem “until they had been clothed with power from on high.”

Now, while I allow that last statement of Jesus sink in a little, let me point out that Jesus appearing to his followers in the upstairs room took place in the evening on technical Sunday; but because the Hebrew calendar recognizes that to be the evening of the next day, Jesus gave that command on a Monday. Monday would represent the ninth day in the Counting of the Omer. That means Jesus stayed with his followers and taught them for forty days – from Tuesday, the tenth day of that counting, until the Sabbath, the forty-ninth day.

This means Jesus Ascended on the Sabbath, but returned via the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the fiftieth day of that count … another Sunday. This means the disciples spoke as Jesus had spoken, because the Holy Spirit clothed those followers with the power of Jesus Christ, from on high, on that day.

The missing day – Monday – is referred to in John’s Gospel, which was a dream rather than reality. The dream of John had the disciples fishing unsuccessfully on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus had just told them all to stay in Jerusalem. The dream is confirmed to be that when one realizes that Capernaum was over 100 miles from Jerusalem (ref.), and it would have taken about five days to walk that far.

The symbolism of John’s dream can then be applied to the disciples’ state of mind, which was they were in shock. They had just watched Jesus be tried, tortured, crucified, buried, and then stand before them eating broiled fish, pointing out his still fresh wounds.  They had shook with fear that the Temple Jews would look to kill them next, with Lazarus already on their preferred hit list.  All that happened on Sunday had then left them dazed and confused.  Monday was then a day to take a deep breath and calm down, as basic training for receiving the Holy Spirit would begin the following day.

Still, with all of the readings that are representative of the proof that Jesus resurrected … proof that no Christian living today can swear to, no one can prove to another that resurrection.  No one today can say, “I have seen the risen Lord stand before me in a real human body.” All the witnesses of real Jesus have passed from this world; and that is the deepest meaning of Easter Sunday. Jesus has risen in unrecognizable forms, through the Holy Spirit.

While we all are still eight Sundays from celebrating Christian Pentecost (a wholly symbolic recognition of the Holy Spirit), Jesus suddenly appeared and disappeared on the first day of the week to foretell his coming within true Christians. A true Christian can only be defined as one who has been clothed within as Jesus, with all the power the Christ Mind bestows, from on high.

A true Christian, like Jesus, dies of self and is risen as Jesus Christ. A true Christian is dead to self-serving, as being Jesus Christ demands serving God, through going to help others in Spiritual need. Disciples of Jesus tremble in fear at the ghost of Jesus expecting them to leave the safety and security of a locked door to an upstairs room; but a true Christian hears Jesus say, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Jesus reborn within one means “Peace if with me,” and when one can say that, then Jesus is walking the earth once again in unrecognizable form.

The Lord is risen indeed, when the Lord is alive in a true Christian. That is why Easter is much more than one man coming back to life after death. If that were the case, then Lazarus rising from death was an equally important event … one that no church recognizes on the level of Easter.

“Lazarus come out!” must speak to you. You must become Lazarus in order to become Jesus Christ reborn.

While one can say, “Jesus was the magician who was so special he commanded Lazarus to “Come out!” then who was it who commanded Jesus to do the same? The answer is not the power of the Son of Man but the power of God. God gave life back to Lazarus and God gave life back to Jesus. Therefore, Easter stands as the miracle of Moses crossing the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground, because God is the one with the power to part physical from spiritual, wet from dry, captivity from freedom … to separate mortal death from life everlasting.

Not much is written about Lazarus after he rose from death. John wrote that he and Jesus had a dinner in their honor on the evening of technical Sunday, prior to Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey colt for his final Passover festival. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that Lazarus fled Judea to Cyprus, where “he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first bishop of Kition (present-day Larnaka).” (Wikipedia)

The Western Church believes in the lore of the small town Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer [Saints-Mary-of-the-Sea], on the Mediterranean coast of France.  There Lazarus arrived, along with three Mary’s (Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, and Mary of Cleopas).

Wax figures depicting the event in a museum of Provence history.

Lazarus is said to have gone to Marseilles [nearby to the east], where he converted many local pagans to Christianity, being called the Bishop of Marseilles. (Wikipedia, same as above) Supposedly, Lazarus lived for thirty years after he was raised from the dead, never smiling because of having seen the misery of souls in Hades, while he was dead.

Lazarus and Jesus can be seen as a duality, with one human and one divine. Lazarus rose and continued living as a divinely changed man. Jesus rose, taught his disciples for forty days, Ascended, then returned as the divinity that led Lazarus to become like Jesus. Likewise, Jesus returned to be the divinity of Peter and the other ten lead disciples, plus all those companions who witnessed Jesus standing risen among them (Lazarus probably was one also there). Jesus was reborn in 3,000 pilgrims to whom the Apostles opened the Scriptures (in foreign tongues). This makes Easter become a duality with Pentecost, where Easter is human devotion and Pentecost is divine practice (faith and works).

Jesus is the model by which ALL Christians are formed. Humans must conform to that model to receive the Holy Spirit and become divine.  Divinity comes by the love of God [burning hearts married to the LORD] and the birth of Christ in one’s mind. Moses built the model upon which Israel [and Judah] was formed, building human forms of devotion to the One God. Jesus was the duality to Moses, who built the model upon which the devoted received new life from the One God. Thus, one must be devoted to the One God first [the First Covenant] before one can evolve into a human that truly serves the LORD through Christ [the New Covenant].

Easter is the dawning [the Sunrise] of that necessary change.

One has to stop fearing one’s own death of self and give one’s heart and soul over to God’s Will. Easter is then the rebirth of one’s devotion, where one does not pray to an unseen, unfelt, and unknown God, but instead one feels burning in one’s heart, with love of the power of God, which one has seen and heard through opened Scriptures. Easter is then the desire to learn more, from the knowledge of God that comes from the presence of Jesus Christ teaching one the hidden truth that God’s Word holds. Easter is then the absorption of God’s knowledge for the purpose of spilling that knowledge out unto others of devotion [Pentecost Day].

This is how Easter is more than Jesus rising from death. Jesus has to be risen within all Christians for Jesus Christ to be alive in this world today. It is through true Christians that Jesus walks the road of life still, explaining the Scriptures to those who are saddened because they think Jesus is dead and there will not be another Jesus until the end of the world. Jesus is alive today though his gardeners, those who plant the seeds of insight into those who love Jesus, but previously had only wanted to dress, perfume, and decorate his body of death [hold the cross of crucifixion high, rather than the + of life in the Trinity: Father, You, Holy Spirit].

Easter is thus like Spring, when the death of Winter is replaced by the Rebirth the ever-living Vine, budding so that new fruit will come.

——————————————————————————

[1] In case anyone doubts this, I recommend reading Luke’s chapter 3.  The last verse state:, “The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38).

[2] Some might note – IF one’s heart is burning – that I write these “articles” in the same sense of “opening the Scriptures” for understanding, as well as to remove the plugs and blinders that have impeded one’s own ability to discern these things.

Posted in Christianity, Education, History, Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 14:1-15:47 – From Lent to a New View of Holy Week

Rather than list almost two complete chapters from the Gospel of Mark, I recommend going to this site and reading that account of the Passion Play.

Instead of a lengthy Gospel reading, please take the time to read this lengthy explanation of what the Passion Play says, which becomes most relative to the following Holy Week.

Palm Sunday is the last day of Lent.  The celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem is the antithesis of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), with no parades, sugary cakes, or complimentary beads are passed out.  Rather than revelry prior to a difficult test, it should after the successful conclusion and the end of testing that one cheers one’s graduation to the next level of achievement.  To turn this day of happiness and celebration into a day of sorrowful focus on a most necessary death is the wrong view to take, remembering how Jesus said, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24).  This is why the symbol of Christianity is not the crucifix (a symbol of punishment), but the Trinity of the spiritual intersecting with the physical (+).  Death is the bane of mortality; but one has gone through Lent to be prepared for a Resurrection to eternal life.  Celebrate that victory!

—————————————————————————————-

This is the main Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, Year B. It will next be read aloud in church by a combination of parishioners, a reader, and a priest, as a reenactment of the final two weeks of Jesus’ ministry, depicting his final entrance into Jerusalem, his final Seder meal with his disciples, his arrest, presentation before rulers, his trial, sentence, punishment, death, and entombment. It is important as these remembrances of Peter, through Mark, become the source of Eucharistic rites and the points of recognition that highlight the reverence of “Holy Week,” the lead-in to Easter and the risen Lord.

According to my Word program’s word count, the reading from Mark is over 2,400 words (making it as long, if not longer than one of my interpretations of much shorter readings). Whenever holy days call for readings of such length and audience involvement the priest is basically given the day off, with no sermon preached. The logic is, “I will let the reading speak for itself. Let us sit and bask in the glory of those words recited.”

And the atheists Beatles asked, “All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” Due to a lack of bodies present in this picture, it looks like the people thought they belonged some place other than church.

Involving a congregation (often with begging, pleading, and threats) makes for a great theatrical presentation, but the people should seek to know the meaning of the words; and that is what a priest is called by the Holy Spirit to provide. Anyone who has a tee time scheduled after church (or a football game to watch, etc.), or has not planned on spending extra time listening to holy words being explained on Holy Days, with no plans for spending all Sunday in church, that one needs to cease coming to a building that allows the pretense of Christianity.

Whenever twenty four hundred words of God are spoken (the Year C reading from Luke is only 2,242 words, and the Year A reading from Matthew is just under 2,700 words), true Christians should thirst for deeper understanding … not just bask in the uncertainty that is known to be present, which demands a true priest explain God’s intent.  As Holy Week follows the Passion Sunday reading, it would make more sense to divide this lengthy reading into seven readings, with deeper explanation of meaning able to be given each day of a Holy Week.  Because this is not done, the readings theatrically presented one day a year, without explanation (in-depth sermon), are always left up to the ignorant to discern, with ignorance begetting ignorance.

The degraded state of American church worship has created many congregations that are easily bored with “religious talk.”  Therefore, I will forego any attempt to spend a week’s time writing about all the meaning that can be found in this reading from Mark.

One’s easy answer to the literal is equally a horror. Take away all idiots who have no time for understanding and the Holy Bible expands for inquiring minds, well beyond the capabilities of the literal.

Instead, here I will address the element that has been the Catholic-Anglican production of a Holy Week, which come from elements found in Mark (and the other Gospels that tell similar accounts). These will be shown to support the six days of special recognition, leading to Easter Sunday.

Let me first state that it is my opinion that Holy Week is a fabrication of the Church of Rome, as a way to mimic the Passover week-long festival, while erasing all Jewish influence that could be associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That would be well and fine IF (big IF) Jesus had told one of his Gospel writers, “Hey! Make sure you let it be known that I have come with a New Covenant, which means my followers two thousand years from now will need to toss out all remembrance of the festivals my daddy (God) told Moses to make sure the Israelites must recognize forevermore. Instead of Passover, let’s call that Easter and make sure bunnies, colorful eggs and yellow marshmallow chickens are part of that new festival in my honor.”

Unfortunately for many, Jesus did not say those words.  Instead, he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

Hint: The Law being fulfilled by Jesus would include Christians recognizing Passover, of which God sent his Son to be a memorable part of.  I recommend everyone read Exodus 12, with Jesus kept in mind, as a parallel event.

Get the picture and see yourself needing to paint the blood of Jesus Christ over your body, so you can avoid the mortality death sentence. That blood represents YOUR PASSOVER through Christ, so reincarnation does not get your soul.

The erasure of the permanence of God telling Moses, “This is a day [the Passover day of blood] you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:14) means Christians (for the most part) know absolutely nothing about the true Holy Week that is the eight days of Passover. Most years the Jews recognize the Passover at different times than do Christians recognize Easter, when both should observe the one and the same event. Since the Roman Church made up a calendar that differs from the Hebrew calendar (not lunar-based), they artificially created a nebulous time of recognition, which only rarely aligns with the Jewish timing.

Let me add that this new tradition created by the Church centuries ago means there are dedicated priests whose faith leads them to have great belief in that tradition, as being truly holy, so their dedication is sincere. The sincerity of faith priests devote to the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week, following the end of the Passover festival, is a model by which Christians should match. Still, the attendance for Palm Sunday services pales in comparison to attendance for Easter Sunday services; and attendance for the Monday through Saturday services in between are sparse, at best. Thus, the faith of priests is not fully passed onto the people, which is due to an inability to explain the obvious questions that arise over Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.

Some churches like to show their non-hatred of Jews by inviting Jewish rabbis to come speak to a congregation about the Passover Seder meal.  Because most churches do not incorporate the two religions regularly, only on special occasions like Passover-Easter, few Christians know anything about the Seder ritual or Jewish traditions.  Even when a visit by a Jewish representative makes that awareness made, only Christian Jews would be able to explain the Passover in terms of Jesus being the God-sent Messiah to the Jews.  Standard Jews would only talk about Moses and their privilege as God’s chosen people, which is why Christians do not make the same observances as do Jews.

This is why it is important to realize that Jesus of Nazareth, born of a woman in Bethlehem, was a Jew, one who said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The Jews were those who were lost to Babylon; but the scattered descendants of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), including the Samaritans, had become assimilated into foreign nations and cultures, earning them the distinction by true Jews as being people of “Gentile” heritage.

To be found is to be a TRUE Christian. That can be either Jew of Gentile.

As such, Christians of the Gentile nations of Europe (and the extended places the imperialism of those nations sent sheep to get lost) are therefore spiritual descendants of the lost sheep of Israel. They have become so lost they do not know why they believe in the King of the Jews, the Son of Man who called God his Father … born a Jew … but they respond to his call. Therefore, it is important to look at the Passover festival as the true root of Holy Week, so more lost sheep can hear the voice of truth calling them by name.

To first look at the element of Palm Sunday, it was John who wrote of Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus’ feet with nard, stating that event took place “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1).  Since the Passover that year began on the Sabbath, six days before the Sabbath is Sunday (the first day of the week). However, when one realizes the Hebrew days begin at 6:00 PM, such that the Passover Seder meal (Jesus’ “Last Supper”) took place on technical Sabbath (our Friday evening), six days prior to that was the feast given in honor of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Because that dinner took place in the evening, it was on an actual Sabbath eve, when 6:00 PM made it technical Sunday.

Thus, when John wrote, “On the next day” (John 12:12a) Jesus entered Jerusalem to a cheering crowd and street lined with palm branches, that “next day” was actual Sunday, following technical Sunday.  This is why Palm Sunday is right to be called that.

In Mark’s Gospel, it seems the timing of the anointing with nard is confusing, because Mark 14:1 states, “It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread.” That timing says when the “chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.”  This means the two days timing factor was not when the anointing took place. We can deduce that by Mark then recounting the event that drove Judas Iscariot over the edge, so that he would betray Jesus and become an asset for the Temple in their plot.  Mark was then recalling an event that occurred earlier in time … six days before the Passover.

John wrote after that celebration dinner for Jesus and Lazarus, “the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.” (John 12:10-11) That states the nebulosity of their plot, such that it had not been finalized prior to Jesus entering Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), but Judas Iscariot helped them go with their plot to arrest and kill Jesus, by his going to them.  Judas then made that commitment to betray Jesu on Wednesday or Thursday, “two days before the Passover.”

Look then at how the Temple authorities acted towards Jesus in comparison to how Pharaoh acted towards Moses “two days before the Passover.” The Passover in Egypt was the spilling of blood from sacrificial lambs (young and without blemish), whose blood was then painted over the doorways of the Israelite homes, so the angel of death would spare them. The meat of the lambs was then eaten inside the marked homes, as directed by God, through Moses [preparation, cooking, and wholly consumed].

After a series of plagues upon Egypt, the dinner on the eve of the angel of death passing over was probably a little sparse on taste. … thus bitter herbs and unleavened bread were all that was available to them for seven days. That symbolizes how the fruits of the earth were no longer pleasing to those who would serve God.

Following the deaths that occurred, which saved the Israelite firstborn, the bondage of Egypt was broken, beginning a trek of fifty days. Passover then begins a count towards that number [“Pentecost” means “fiftieth day”], which should be part of any Christian Holy Week, because God commanded that count be made.  In that number of days, they were in the wilderness without the comforts of natural food and water sources for forty days, between day eleven and day fifty.  That is the symbolism of Lent leading one to Palm Sunday (40 days) AND the time Jesus spent teaching his disciples after he was risen (40 days).

Jesus, being like Moses, was going to lead the Israelites (Jews and pilgrim scattered) from the bondage that the Temple forced upon them, to a similar freedom for their souls. Whereas Moses came down with the First Testament after fifty days, Jesus came down from his Ascension on Pentecost, bringing the New Covenant when the Holy Spirit made eleven disciples become reproductions of Jesus, as the Christ Mind was in them. However, before that realization of Christ being reborn could occur, Jesus had to become the sacrificial lamb (Paschal Lamb), whose blood would be spread around each individual (to avoid the death that mortal existence brings); and forty days represents the time Christians have to digest everything written that is the body of prophecy about Jesus Christ foretold, with no scraps leftover when the sunrises within one.

That parallel of Jesus leading Jews to God, just as Moses led Israelites the same way, is the reason why observing the Passover Seder meal, by Christians, is most important.  Every Passover Seder meal forevermore will symbolize Jesus Christ and the New Covenant, through  remembrance of the body and blood that saved their souls for eternal life.  Just as Israelites had to leave the comforts of Egypt for the hardships of the wilderness, so too do Christians have to sacrifice their worldly comforts to serve God.

Because Christians (in particular those of Anglican and Protestant descent) do not have a grasp of the symbolisms practiced in the Passover Seder meal, going to lengths to project it as Jesus’ Last Supper (see Leonardo DaVinci’s famous picture that captures European dining habits, not Jewish).  Calling it a supper makes it seem to be an ordinary meal.  As such, Christians do not fully understand the “bread” is unleavened matzah.

The Seder ritual calls for three matzah squares be placed on a central plate, from which the middle matzah is broken into two pieces … by the father of a family, who presides over the ritual meal.  The Passover is not an official requirement that is led by a rabbi, done in a synagogue.  This is what Jesus did in the upstairs room, as noted when Mark wrote, “While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”’ (Mark 14:22)

Some priests break the wafer and then raise the two halves high, held together. No priest hides half for the children to find later.

The Greek word written that translates as “bread” is “arton.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, “arton” is primarily referenced as meaning this:

1. food composed of flour mixed with water and baked; the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter; hence, it was not cut, but broken.

The website My Jewish Learning has posted this about how much matzah one is supposed to eat:

“During the seder, one makes two different blessings over the matzah. The first blessing is hamotzi (“…who brings forth bread from the earth”), which is recited whenever one eats bread, and which is obligatory at any festival meal. The second blessing recalls the particular obligation to eat matzah (“…who has sanctified us with the commandments and commanded us concerning the eating of matzah”).”

You will notice that Mark made reference to a very standard element of the Jewish Seder ritual, when he matter of fact stated: “Took the bread, blessed it, and broke it.” Prior to that, one washes one’s hand, and after the breaking of the middle matzah, the largest piece is hidden, as a teaching game to keep the children’s interest.

 

The hidden half of a matzah is later to be eaten as dessert (called  afikoman). That symbolism is Jesus Christ, who is broken away and hidden, causing the devoted to seek his reward.  Finding Jesus Christ is the sweet dessert that comes after sacrificing one’s self ego to allow Christ to lead one’s mind.

Likewise, the washing of hands ritual, which occurs several times during the Seder ritual, was modified by Jesus as the act of washing feet (which Mark did not write about).  Jesus said to Peter, who rejected his feet being washed (not a recognized ritual), “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”  The feet symbolize the hidden sins that are only known by God, just as washing hands before eating symbolizes not taking in anything unclean.  What only an Apostle can understand if no sins are overlooked by God, so all must be washed clean before entrance into eternal life with God can occur.

 

Simply from reading the Last Supper accounts of Matthew and Mark, one can easily get the impression that Jesus stood, blessed and broke bread, passed it out and then raised a toast with wine, all at the same time. That is not the case, as there are four ceremonial glasses of wine consumed during the Seder ritual, drank in an orderly and purposeful manner. Therefore, when Mark immediately followed verse 22 with, “Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,”’ (Mark 14:23-24) it can seem like it took place shortly in time. However, thirty minutes to an hour could have elapsed in between the two – matzah followed by wine.

Each of the four cups of wine has a specific symbolic meaning and name. Jesus raised the third cup, such that he was the Redeemer that Christians must remember.

Mark then wrote, “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  That reference to a hymn meant an ending psalm in a lengthy “after dinner” ritual of singing. Many songs are sung in the Songs of the Nirtzah, with songs sung before the meal as well as after. The singing of songs can last for a couple of hours, with this accompanied by freely drinking more wine. Many Jewish children say their first experience of being drunk was from being allowed to drink wine during the Seder ritual (parents do not condone this, but aunts and uncles look the other way).

Thus, Mark’s reference was to it being late in the evening, after much drinking and singing, when Jesus led his disciples to the Mount of Olives. That exit officially ended the Passover Seder meal (first version, as the next evening the same ritual is repeated), and Mark writing, “He came and found them sleeping” (Mark 14:27a) means Jewish adult males drink themselves into sleep on that evening. The disciples were asleep because they were drunk and it was late at night (around 1:00 AM.).

That ended the eve that began the Holy Week of Passover. There were still eight days before the festival would end (Sabbath to Sabbath). However, as an aside, I will point out that when Mark wrote (and he is the only one who wrote this), “A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth,” (Mark 14:51) it was improper for a Jewish male to name a woman or child in writing (unless a significant woman, such as Mary the mother or Mary Magdalene).  It was proper to generally identify such people.

That reference to “A certain young man” means Mark (via Simon-Peter) knew who that someone was (“certain”), yet he was too “young” to name. The same lack of naming can be seen in the feeding of five thousand, where a “boy” was referenced, who had five loaves and two fish.  The “boy” was not just someone passing by, it was a known (“certain”) “boy” who was holding the lunch for Jesus and the gang.  Thus, it was communal property, not that of the boy holding the basket.

John, my son, watch what can be done with our meager lunch when we share it with others.

Both that “boy” and this “young man” referenced by Mark was John the Beloved, the child who reclined his head in Jesus’ lap and asked, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25b) John also wrote four chapters (John 14, 15, 16 & 17) about what Jesus taught after the Seder meal, as the child present who was eager to learn, while the adults were busy singing and getting drunk, thus not paying close attention, as was “young” John. Mark did, however, remember John was still awake, but in night clothes, as he tagged along with the adults to Gethsemane; and John was termed “a certain young man” who ran after his close relative, when Jesus was taken away, under arrest.

As the Passover Seder began on the technical Sabbath (after 6:00 PM on actual Friday), Jesus was arrested and held prisoner by the Temple Priests on the night of the Sabbath. By sunrise on the actual Sabbath, Peter had already denied knowing Jesus three times … before the cock’s crow (which is a watch that ends at 3:00 AM, followed by the Morning watch between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM).

When Mark wrote, “As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council,” it is worthwhile seeing this as the morning of Sunday, the first day of the week, and not the Sabbath. Keep in mind the chief priests, Pharisees and other elders had previously condemned Jesus for healing and doing miracles on the Sabbath.  That alone would state how they could not do the work of processing a prisoner on the Sabbath. Sending a prisoner they want condemned to death to the Roman governor would be clearly against their own laws if done then AND with it being the beginning of the Passover festival, there would be plenty of witnesses that would see them breaking the law that limited work on a Saturday, had they done that. Therefore, day one of this Holy Passover Week is like Rejection Saturday, when Judas turned Jesus in with a kiss, Peter denied him three times to strangers, and the high priest spit on him.

A Sad Sabbath? Not when it is one’s own ego that is denied.

Sunday, the first day of the week, is when the “whole council” would meet to discuss Jesus’s death by Roman decree. This means Pilate would see Jesus and question him then; but Pilate would get no response from Jesus. While Mark does not write of this, Pilate ordered Jesus be sent to Herod Antipas (who was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival), because Jesus was from Nazareth of Galilee (Herod’s area of rule). Therefore, with Sunday finished, Jesus would not be moved to Herod’s palace, until Monday. This makes the second day of Holy Passover Week be Silent Jesus Sunday.

Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone the old you needs to be saved and returned, when you already know changes are best.

Once one has reached the second day of Holy Passover Week, one must begin counting the number of days in will take for Jesus to come down from his Ascension with the New Covenant – THE HOLY SPIRIT. That would take place in fifty days, just exactly the same as Moses came down from the mountain with the First Covenant after so much time. Keep in mind that none of these comparisons are happenstance or haphazardly took place, by chance. God commanded the timing of the events of Moses, and God commanded the timing of the events of Jesus. If you cannot believe that, then you are not yet ready to be a Christian.

The Jews do what is called “the Counting of the Omer,” where an “omer” is a dry measure, which acts as an amount of grains harvested from the first fruits of spring. That omer of first fruits would be placed in the Temple on the second day of the Passover festival. When the count reaches “Pentecost” (the fiftieth day), then the holiday known as Shavuot (a two day festival) takes place. Pentecost is the first day of Shavuot, with “Shavuot” meaning “Weeks.” There are seven weeks between the second day of Passover and Pentecost. This timing is then attached to Silent Jesus Sunday, making it be the First Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Monday, Jesus would have waited his turn to see Herod Antipas, just a small person in a line with all the dignitaries and the others who sought his judgment or decree, as Herod Antipas was an important man during his time on earth. Regardless of how important Jesus is to Christians today, he was seen as a lowly Jew. He was the king of a couple of Roman provinces, Galilee being one.  Because it was the leaders from the Temple of Jerusalem who argued against Jesus, and with Jesus not being a legally wanted man in Galilee, Antipas ordered Jesus back to Pilate for judgment. This would have taken up all Monday, with Tuesday being the big day Pilate had scheduled to free a criminal for festival time. This makes the third day of Holy Passover Week be You’re Not My Problem Monday. This is then the Second Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Break no laws and I’ll serve you no sentences.

Tuesday is the big day. It makes the fourth day that Jesus appeared before important people. This is not to be overlooked, as Jesus was the Paschal Lamb that had to be inspected for four days and be found without blemish. No one told the truth about Jesus being a blasphemer to the chief priest, and Pilate saw no crime, and Herod did not either. Still, once back before Pilate and the crowd cheering for Barabbas to be freed and Jesus crucified, Pilate washed his hands of the mess and ordered Jesus flogged that evening, and crucified the next day. On Tuesday his jailers mocked Jesus with a crown of thorns, a purple robe, and spit upon his face as they called him King of the Jews. Jesus laid in that jail, beaten by a whip, until Wednesday morning. This makes the fourth day of Holy Passover Week be Flog an Innocent Son of Man Tuesday. This is then the Third Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Only you know the troubles you have caused. Repentance does not come by others whipping the sin out of you.

By the time Wednesday morning came around (it begins at 6:00 AM), Jesus was too beaten to carry his cross from the jail to the place of execution.  This symbolism says that Jesus never asked his disciples to carry their own crosses to their own executions, when he said, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). That was a reference to raising one’s state of existence and becoming a reproduction of Jesus Christ.  A beaten Jesus struggling to carry a heavy crucifix of death had no bearing on his having lived a most pious life.

It was then with help (a pilgrim in Jerusalem for the Passover – Simon from Cyrene, Libya) that Jesus and his cross reached the Place of the Skull (Golgotha).  The cross was able to be in position, in time for him to be crucified (a raised cross) by 9:00 AM. For three hours Jesus was taunted and ridiculed by Pharisees, chief priests and scribes, as those were the Jews who hated Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus’ family gathered and followed him the whole way, to mourn this punishment until the end. At noon the sun stopped giving its light, which was not a natural phenomenon such as an eclipse. At 3:00 PM on Wednesday Jesus physically died. This makes the fifth day of Holy Passover Week be Death of Jesus Wednesday. This is then the Fourth Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Death of the body is only the end of that which imprisons a soul.

Now, I have no idea why a Seder meal ritual of handwashing, which Jesus adjusted to be a symbolic foot-washing at his last Seder officiation; but it had nothing to do with a Thursday.  It is laughable (in my mind) to name a day in Holy Passover Week Maundy Thursday, as Thursday was when the dead body of Jesus had hung suspended on a cross, publicly for twenty-four hours. The only indirect mention of Thursday was when Mark wrote, “When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation … Joseph of Arimathea … went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” Because it was evening, it makes sense that the spear pierced into the side of Jesus took place on Friday morning. However, the order might have been given on technical Friday, which is actual Thursday after 6:00 PM. This makes the sixth day of Holy Passover Week be Jesus Dead on the Cross One Full Day Thursday. This is then the Fifth Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Having a full day (24 hours) for everyone to see just how small one is makes day two become representative of when one totally commits to serve God through death (repentance) or resolves to get revenge if given another shot at life (reincarnation).

Friday is called by the Jews “the day of preparation.” This is because there can be no work done on a Sabbath, so all cooking for the Sabbath is done on Friday (before 6:00 PM). Pause for a moment and think about the significant that Jesus’ dead body was prepared for burial on the day of preparation, so Jesus would be ready to rise on the day of the LORD. After the guard pierced Jesus’ side (rather than break his legs to hasten suffocation, if he had still been alive) and reported the confirmation of death to Pilate, then his body was taken down.  It was then moved to an appropriate place for washing and wrapping with his rabbinical prayer shawl (provided by family), a shroud to wrap the body (the shroud of Turin), and a face linen. By 3:00 PM on Friday, Jesus would have been dead for two full days; and at 3:00 PM is about when his body was placed in the tomb. This makes the seventh day of Holy Passover Week be Two Full Days Dead Jesus Entombed Friday. This is then the Sixth Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Baptism from repentance is followed by baptism for reception by God, which comes before baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is a Trinity of baptisms.

In the traditional Church, there is recognition of Saturday (the Sabbath) before Easter Sunday.  This recognition is known as the day of the Easter (or Paschal) Vigil. This element of a “vigil,” which means “an overnight watch,” is more than the women of Jesus going early Sunday morning to further dress the body with nard and possibly other adornments of ritual, knowing that Jesus was only temporarily placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The element of a vigil is a Jewish custom, keeping in mind the Temple authorities and the Roman guards kept a vigil overnight on technical Saturday, but were frightened away by angels and the stone being rolled away (Saturday while it was still night).  Of this, Matthew wrote, “The guards shook for fear of him [Jesus appearing from the tomb bright and white as snow] and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4)

The Jewish word “shemira” means “watching” or “guarding.” The word becomes a noun when someone is employed as a shemira (males and females have gender modified variations of this word).  A shemira is typically someone Jewish who is paid to stay with a deceased body from death to burial, rather than a close family member volunteering to stay awake with the deceased’ body overnight, at a time when funeral planning must be done.

A male shemira is a Shomin.

This night watch is for three days, which is why Jesus foretelling he would be dead for three days was significant. The belief was based on knowledge that some dead people had come back to life, when thought dead, needing assistance when that happened.  Because of this having happened, and not wanting to entomb a body that might return to life naturally, a watcher was made part of the necessary funeral process. Still, as we read with Lazarus, the heat of the Middle East caused his body to begin decomposing, which brought about the stench of death. Less than three days “dead” meant a body that was possibly comatose, showing no sign of life but not dead, could awaken and make sounds for assistance. However, it was a belief that after three days no soul could come back into a dead body and return it to life (Lazarus was a true miracle, and that was why the chief priests plotted his death too).

As such, someone from Jesus’ family stayed near his body on the cross Wednesday night and Thursday night, as a vigil. On Friday night, when in the tomb, the Temple paid a shemira, who stayed with a Roman guard, in case a thief came to steal the body.

Now, if you have been keeping up with the timing of Holy Passover Week, Jesus was dead a full three days at 3:00 PM on the Sabbath, while in the tomb. The guard and shemira would not have to be there until 6:00 PM, but due to limits on walking distances on a Sabbath the shemira might have waited until 6:00 PM to leave home.  The change to technical Sunday would have allowed him to walk any distance, however far away the tomb was from that home. Jesus could have been removed by angels before the watchers arrived, during the day of the Sabbath. However, Matthew indicated the guards confessed sleeping while on watch, as they only woke up when the women made a commotion and they saw the tomb opened and were questioned: “Where have you taken him?”

This means the eighth day of Holy Passover Week must be called Our Lord is Risen on the Day of the LORD Saturday. This is then the Seventh Day of the Jesus Return Counting.

Knowing God has called one His bride is a great awakening within.

Note: It is not insignificant that Jesus rose on the seventh day, which (besides being the Sabbath day – Seventh day) means the day God deemed holy.  It is a day of rest, so one can contemplate God and His marvelous powers.  Therefore, it is a day when the devoted spend time alone with the Father … as Jesus did inside the tomb.  Plus, Jesus had time to neatly fold his shroud and face linen, as he talked with the Father.

It is important to realize that God planned for His Son to be offered up as the Paschal Lamb on a Sabbath and God planned for His Son’s soul to rise after three days dead on a Sabbath. With the day that soul rose again in the same flesh being on a Saturday AND the counting of Weeks being seven (one week passed), then one can see how seven Sabbaths later, on the eve of Pentecost, God planned for His Son to Ascend to his throne, next to God’s, on a Sabbath. On Pentecost (which then was on a Sunday, fifty days after Jesus was realized risen), Jesus Christ returned (his Spirit as the Christ) in eleven disciples, transforming them into Apostles, beginning the onset and spread of Christianity, from Judaic customs and commitments.  They then realized the return of Christ, as Jesus risen within them … Jesus Returned.

When you love explaining holy words, you have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to speak in the tongue of the LORD. You begin Prophesying the truth when that resurrection comes.

It is important to see the forty days that the risen Lord spent with his followers, teaching them in Spiritual matters, stretched from the tenth day of the Jesus Return Counting, until the 49th day. Sunday, when Jesus first appeared to the women who loved him and relatives on the road to Emmaus, and his disciples in the upstairs room (twice), was the eighth day of the counting to Jesus’ Return. When Jesus appeared in unrecognizable form on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (a dream of John’s), that was on Monday, the ninth day of the Jesus Return Counting. Thus, when one reads in Acts, “To these [Jesus] also presented himself alive after his suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), those forty days began on Tuesday, the tenth day in the Jesus Return Counting.

Hopefully, this article will become a seed for thought.  Analyze what I have presented.  Demonstrate your devotion by deeply pondering the possibilities, which have not been clearly seen since the lost sheep of Israel ceased relying on ritual training.  I firmly believe what I have written, but each Christian must be able to see what I see for him or herself.  Feel free to comment or ask questions.  Again, the Passion Play is largely left up to movie directors to interpret, since priests like to let the words speak for themselves, without explanation.  Each Christian must be in touch with the real meaning of this holy week of Passover.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 12:20-33 – Is this Greek to you?

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

——————————————————————————–

This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, March 18, 2018. It is important because Jesus says the time has come to be glorified, with a voice from heaven then coming to say that glorification will be repeated.

In verse 20, which is translated above to state, “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks,” this is actually three segments of words, separated by two commas. The first literally translates to state, “There were moreover Greeks certain.” The second says, “among those coming up that they might worship,” and the last segment says, “at the feast.” By reading this as three progressive identifications of the “Greeks,” one knows they were not technically “Jews,” as they were not descended from the fallen Judah. Their ancestors had been scattered from the fallen Israel, so they were cousins of the Jews.

By association to Moses, the scattered into Greek lands became Jews.

The Greek word “tines” means “a certain one or thing,” which identifies the “Greeks” as a sect of the broad scope of “Greeks,” who were generally Gentiles. That sect of “certain Greeks” is then shown to be pilgrims coming to Jerusalem (when Jesus had just rode in on a donkey colt for his final Passover feast), which means they honored the command of God to maintain the traditions of Moses, which were performed by the priests in Herod’s Temple. We can then safely assume the Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover feast had done so because they were descended from a Northern tribe of Israel. Therefore, they were not tourists, or Gentiles who sought an audience with Jesus.

One can even question how these certain Greeks knew the name “Jesus,” as it could be that John made their request to Philip seem like they knew, when it was John who specifically identified him.  By John writing the word “Lord” or “Master,” that could be his way of stating that the Greeks requested a meeting with the one they saw enter Jerusalem to much fanfare.  Their request came following John writing about the one who just had the crowd cheering, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”

The Greek word “Kyrie” (which means “Lord, Master, Sir, or the Lord”) was written by John as capitalized and separated as a one-word statement, showing a state of importance the word can hold, individually.  That meaning then goes beyond the disciple who was probably the last in a string of disciples behind Jesus – Philip. Thus, the question those “certain Greeks” posed to Philip could have actually been because they tapped Philip’s shoulder to get his attention, and the pointed ahead.  As they pointed, and as John witnessed, the Greeks said, “your Lord,” before saying, “may we see him?”  That interpretation make more sense than does a stranger Greek addressing a Galilean as “Sir.”

Philip then shows his lack of leadership within the disciple’s ranks.  Not only probably last in line, he also showed his low ranking by not being able to answer the Greeks without asking Andrew, his closest friend. John (who was not technically a disciple of Jesus, as he was his family … the beloved), was a youth and probably closer in age to Philip and Andrew, which would explain their lack of life experience as being why they were trailing the field and why John was tagging along with them.

John was remembering this event as an underling, not a leader. John’s Gospel is the only one that quotes Philip and Andrew (the younger brother of Simon-Peter) and shows how much they leaned on Jesus for fatherly guidance, through their questions posed.  This means the one John named as Philip’s friend (Nathanael) was likewise a young adult, who knew his rightful place in the back of the pecking order for those who followed Jesus.

When verse 23 says, “Jesus answered them,” the Greeks had accompanied Philip, Andrew and John to where Jesus was, introducing the Greeks to him. This means Jesus was talking to the Greeks, who were not just a quaint pair or small group, but a “crowd” of “them,” who had most likely traveled in numbers from Greece to Jerusalem, for safety reasons.  Together, they had seen the adoration of Jesus as the Messiah, who had raised Lazarus from his death tomb just a week earlier, prompting that celebration. Therefore, Jesus’ answer to them was in response to the question, “Are you the Messiah we have been promised? We must know if we should follow and bring more soldiers.” (Or something along that line.)

In this reading, we get a feel of Jesus speaking a soliloquy, as there is no response to those words. Other than John’s aside, from looking back from a time long afterwards and knowing the meaning of what Jesus said, there is nothing read that “certain Greeks” in a “crowd” said. They did question Jesus, which led him to make further statements (John 12:34-36); but none of that pertains to this message Jesus spoke, of which John wrote, “He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.”

John did not mean that Jesus had just told of his coming crucifixion as the “kind of death he was to die.” That was a death that was not permanent because, “when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all people to myself,” means Jesus foresaw his continuing in Apostles and Saints. That statement, made to “certain Greeks,” who was descended Israelites and honored Mosaic Law and God-commanded festivals, they were still not Jews, per se. They would be the people sought by the Apostles, in particular Paul and his evangelical companions, who had long been assimilated into the Gentile Greco-Roman cultures and philosophies. It would be those Greeks who would “draw all people to Jesus,” in the first expanse of Christianity.

“To die or not to die. That is the question.”

This means that when Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” he was not speaking in the sense that he knew the coming ten days[1] would lead to his arrest, hearings before authorities, trial and sentence, abuse and execution, followed by burial in a tomb, and his resurrection. The intent was the return of Christ on Pentecost (a Sunday), after his Ascension on a Sabbath. This means “the hour” when the Son of Man would be “glorified” would be when disciples would be transformed into Jesus Christ reborn … still two months away.

The root word that is translated as “to be glorified” is “doxazó.” HELP Word-studies says about this word’s intent: “Cognate: 1392 doksázō (from 1391 /dóksa, “glory”) – glorify; properly, to ascribe weight by recognizing real substance (value). See 1391 (doksa). “Glorifying (1392 /doksázō) God” means valuing Him for who He really is. For example, “giving (ascribing) glory to God” personally acknowledges God in His true character (essence).” [My underscore in bold.]

Thus, Jesus said the time had come for him to become the true value by which God had sent him as the Son of Man, and not the Son of God (as emperors made that claim). That “glorification” can only come from his death and rebirth in those who believe and follow afterwards as Jesus reborn.

This is why Jesus then said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Certainly, Jesus was the seed of the tree of salvation, which had to die for that tree to grow; but a fruitless tree cannot have value, nor can it be glorified. The fruit of glorification, and the reason Jesus came to die in human form, was to have others in human form give rise to that tree of salvation. For that to happen, others must also die and be reborn. Others must also reflect the glorification of Jesus Christ as his fruit.

This issue of others also dying is explained when Jesus said, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” If one loves a worldly life, then death will be their reward, as death will give them what they love again – reincarnation.  However, if one loves the life God gave them, as the giver of eternal life, then one will love God deeply in one’s hearts, which will cause one’s human lusts and ego to die, as had been the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Such as that will follow Jesus as Jesus reborn. They will become servants of Jesus Christ, as they will serve the LORD just as Jesus had served the needs of the Father. As the Son reborn, the Father will honor all new Apostles and Saints as His Son (regardless of one’s human gender). However, all those who will love self more than God, they will keep a life of death for eternity, which means reincarnation time and again into the realm of Satan (potentially the illusion of paradise, as long as Earth can continue to support pleasant life).

Jesus then said, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” This is the natural fear of death that comes to all who have been given the breath of life by God (all worldly life forms have the breath of a soul in them). Still, if one knows that death is a release of miserable recycling, by one’s soul being enabled by Jesus Christ to resist evil temptations, then one does not beg God to save one’s human life. Instead, one prays to God for Him to make one’s true value become realized, as a soul return home to God.

That is the purpose of God sending His Son into the world: To return wayward souls home. However, each soul must choose that path, just as did the “prodigal son” in the parable told by Jesus.

John then wrote, “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”’ This means John heard the voice, as he had great love of Jesus and God in his heart. When God said, “I will glorify it again,” this must be seen as the glorification of Jesus Christ in an Apostle – Saint. God said, in effect, every time His Son is reborn in a human being, His Son will again be glorified. That glorification will include the glorification of the one sacrificing his or her human life for a life serving Jesus Christ.

John then wrote, “The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” By understanding that “the crowd” included many Greeks of Israelite descent, “thunder” was the power of God that was sensed surrounding Jesus the Nazarene. For them to think angels had spoken to Jesus means they had belief that God was watching over his soul. However, as Jesus pointed out, the voice of God (in whatever mode of reception detected) was not directed to Jesus, but to those who find faith that Jesus is eternally the Son of God and the one to emanate.  If the sins of the world are to be resisted and defeated, God must be known to speak to those who have Jesus Christ within.

As a personal Lenten lesson, where one is being tested in the wilderness, one has to first see oneself as a “certain Greek,” one who is not a Jew, but closer to a Gentile through assimilation with the ways of many nations. One has to find enlightenment through insight that exposes the errors of human philosophies of mind, which entrap the soul and keep one led away from complete faith, through deep love of God. One has to be asked the question, “Who do you serve?” as a test.  If the answer is not God, then the wilderness test will fail.

Second, one has to see oneself as Philip, the least of the followers of Jesus.  One must see oneself as one who has no rights to make decisions and has no power to tell Jesus what one’s will shall be. One has to be happy in that role and share one’s thoughts with others, like Andrew, Nathanael, and John, who are relatives or close friends, those who also follow Jesus like oneself. If one denies knowing Jesus, asks non-followers their opinions, or ignores the requests of strangers to get to know one’s Lord, then the test in the wilderness will fail.

Third, knowing one must sacrifice the ego and its accompanying Big Brain, one will know that fear will come.  This will be a normal stage in one’s spiritual transformation. Still, if one is more afraid of dying, so that one will pray to God to save one’s life, then one is not deeply in love with God, enough to desire to be with Him eternally. One cannot enter the wilderness to be tested if one loves life in this world, afraid to lose it, because the test of faith will fail.

Fourth, if one has never heard the voice of God speaking, in any form – audible or visual – then one has denied Jesus Christ, for fear of being outed as his disciple. One cannot hide the light of truth under a bushel barrel and expect to pass the wilderness test. An inability to hear God, means one has no ability to talk with God, so the test will fail.

Finally, if one cannot see the meaning of Jesus saying “the hour has come to be glorified by the Father,” then one has not yet reached one’s own hour to be glorified. If one cannot see the intent of God saying, “I will glorify it again” as meaning God’s willingness to glorify one and all who die and are reborn as His Son, Jesus Christ, then one has not yet reached one’s own hour to be glorified. Without the glorification of God marking one as possessing Spiritual value that others can be drawn to, then one’s test in the wilderness will fail.

It is most important to understand that failure is not an end in itself. Failure is commonplace and normal. Failure is widespread across the earth. The wilderness is littered with the dried bones of those who have failed God in the past. Still, just as a first grader with a learning disability is not denied second chances to learn, so too will God not give up on those who fail a wilderness test. One has to see a willingness to be deeply tested as the first step towards glorification. And, thus, the saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

A marriage to God is arranged first. It is arranged through the baptism of water.  Still, one’s heart must open like a flower in full bloom for that marriage to be consummated and the rebirth of the Son of Man to result. Only as Jesus Christ can one pass the wilderness test.  So, it is most worthwhile to keep trying, rather than give up.

Keep in mind that this fifth Sunday in Lent will be followed by the Sunday known as Palm Sunday, which ends the Lenten period. At that time, one will be expected to mount the donkey colt and parade into town as the next sacrificial Lamb.  That celebration marks a successful graduation from wilderness testing.

———————————

[1] Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Sunday, the first day of the week.  He then commuted daily from Bethany to the Temple to preach, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (four days  the Lamb was inspected).  Friday was the day of preparation for a Sabbath Passover, which began at 6:00 PM.  He was arrested in early morning (predawn) of the Sabbath (Saturday).  He was seen by the Sanhedrin on Sunday, by Pilate on Monday, sent to Herod Antipas on Tuesday and back to Pilate Tuesday afternoon, when the option of freeing a criminal (by custom) allowed him to be tried before a mob.  He was convicted, flogged and mocked on Tuesday evening, and crucified on Wednesday morning, dead by 3:00 PM.  His dead body hung on the cross Thursday and on Friday the request by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea allowed the spear test of death occur, when he was taken down and prepared for burial.  Friday he was entombed and he arose at 3:00 PM in that tomb on the Sabbath.  He would be discovered risen early on Sunday.  Therefore, Jesus spoke to certain Greeks on Sunday about a death and raising that would occur in ten days time.

Posted in Christianity, Education, History, Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 3:14-21 – Avoiding snakes for eternal life

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

———————————————————————————————-

This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, February 11, 2018. This is important as it includes the well-known verse in John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world …”), but this reading has greater impact from the explanation Jesus gave about what the words in that verse mean.

Leading in to that famous verse, Jesus made the comparison to eternal salvation and the serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness. The Greeks called this symbol the Rod of Asclepius, which is associated with Asclepius the god of medicine.

Moses did not follow a Greek god, so this representation goes beyond recognition of Asclepius.

To understand the background story of Moses lifting up a serpent on a staff, the Israelites (the backsliders and complainers) were dying from poisonous snake bites. The one’s who were watching those deaths were worried it would happen to them, as punishment for sins. So, the elders asked Moses to talk to God and come up with a solution that would save them from that plight. The “bronze snake on a staff” symbolizes the capturing of a snake and milking its venom, in effect the value of using evil for good.   That act is what we know today as the necessary step for antivenin that comes from the snake’s venom being milked from it. Therefore, the Israelites would be saved from the punishment of snakebite for sins by drinking serpent antivenin.

Of course, the metaphor of the serpent has to be seen as the influence of evil, going back to Adam and Eve in the heavenly realm of Eden. Adam and Eve were immortals then, as it was the bite of the snake’s suggestions that injected the poison of sin that caused Eve to bite the forbidden fruit and get Adam to do likewise. They were all three banished from eternal life in heaven, with God, sent as immortal souls in the land of death. However, because Adam was required to be sacrificed to save mankind, he was the first seeding of the Son of Man (the Fall from Grace) on Earth, so that soul could be “lifted up” as Jesus Christ.

If one takes a few moments of serious thought into that Fall from Grace, which (according to Biblical timeline calculators) is the cornerstone of the 6,000-year theory of the beginning of man, those numbers alone say that the soul of Adam was punished to 4,000 years of death and reincarnation (until Jesus was lifted up at the Ascension), simply because he ate a bite of fruit from a forbidden tree in Eden.

Consider in these few moments how your sins compare to Adam’s. Are they not more from adult cunning, than from childish disobedience?  Are they not more numerous than one, too many to count?  To think that God will allow just any old soul back into Heaven, simply from agreeing with the thought that Jesus is the “auto-save button” for all past, present, and future sins – forever washed clean by blind faith – makes as much sense as believing snake antivenin saves everyone from poisonous snake bites, without any need to swallow that medicinal liquid and have it course through one’s veins.

This means the depth of meaning in the translation “whoever believes in him may have eternal life,” says “belief” without action on that believed yields the promise of eternal soul-life in an eternally mortal body – birth, life, death, repeat eternally. However, “belief” through the rebirth of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, means acting to save one’s soul from eternal reincarnations, by living the way that is believed.

Seeing that duality in the ways that “eternal life” goes, the Israelites who were bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness died in body, but their eternal souls came back in the world as reincarnated souls in new bodies of flesh. An old soul in a new body must begin again one’s quest to find God and then stay away from snakes.  The symbolism of Moses supplying the Israelites with an antivenin to avoid that recycling is parallel to what Jesus offers.

Physical fluids ingested (antivenin) was a blessed gift of salvation from God, through Moses.  Physical medicine saved one soul in one body of flesh, so that body and soul could serve the LORD properly. Likewise, Jesus offers a God-given gift of Salvation for one’s soul, when the Spirit of Christ becomes infused into one body, thus enabling one to deny the desires of the flesh (snake bites).  One gift is physical, while the other gift is Spiritual.

The Spiritual gift from God comes from love – “For God so loved the world” – where one’s heart is given to the LORD, so in return “He gave His only Son” for that love. To “believe” is best when one knows belief through direct contact with the Mind of Christ, as a reborn Jesus. That path of belief means one’s soul will not perish on Earth when its fleshy host body returns to dust.

This means that when Jesus said, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him,” the use of the conditional form of “to be” (as “might be”) makes that lack of condemnation optional, or dependent on the right choice being made. God did not love the world of sin so much that He was willing to let his boy Jesus die, so eternal sinners could be saved.

Man’s best friend … but not on man’s carpet before being washed clean! You think God accepts less?

That confirmation comes when Jesus then followed that up with the statement, “Those who do not believe are condemned already (thus already born to perish continually), because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Again, “not believed in the name of Jesus Christ” means a human has not become a reborn Jesus Christ (as an Apostle – Saint), so “belief” from personal experience is impossible.

When Jesus then spoke of the light and darkness, one has to recall John writing, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5) These statements about Logos, where “the Word was God,” says “the Light of men” is God, with Jesus being the manifestation of “the Light” of God on Earth.

This then is seen where John recalled Jesus saying (to Nicodemus, who came after 6:00 PM to where Jesus and John were staying, following Jesus’ first Passover in his ministry), “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” Jesus said “the light has come into the world” as a statement of God’s presence; but the world is a place ruled by darkness, which rejects God (and thus it rejected Jesus of Nazareth, born of a woman in Bethlehem).

When Jesus told Nicodemus, “People loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil,” this was how many of the Israelites with Moses in the wilderness, with no outside influences of other people or other nations to tempt them, still loved the darkness rather than the light. They sinned among each other and were bitten by deadly snakes for their punishment. Those bites probably occurred under the cover of darkness came (after 6:00 PM), when their lusts overcame them and they thought they could go out unseen. Unfortunately, the snakes were less likely to be spotted in the darkness, and the light of God knew everything they did.

This makes Nicodemus a snake by comparison, as he went at evening to tempt Jesus to serve the evil of the Temple. The Pharisees and other Temple leaders of the Law, were the ones who bit the common Jews with their ignorance, killing their belief in God’s promise.  The Jews pleaded with people like Nicodemus for a cure to their maladies, to no avail.  However, Jesus was raised up as antivenin to the poison Nicodemus represented, as God’s promise delivered.

When Jesus told Nicodemus, “Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God,” this was after Jesus had told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” For one to “come to the light,” so that “their deeds have been done in God,” the requirement is to be born again to the light.

At that early stage of Jesus’ ministry, still a distance from his execution, his resurrection and his ascension, the only ones born again to the light, in God, were the great Patriarchs – the Holy lineage – reincarnated from Adam, the first seed of those who talked with God, who had seen God, as His Son, in His Kingdom. Therefore, Jesus was not the first to be born again to the light in God; he was the God-sent snake that would kill the evil of a building in Jerusalem, and who would then be raised up as the antivenin that would be “so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

As a personal Lenten lesson, where one is tested in one’s complete devotion to God, through Christ, one must see oneself in the wilderness amid the snakes of sinful ways. One who is prepared for the test has learned that darkness serves no purpose but to ruin. Thus one has turned to the light, where one’s love of God in one’s heart blinds one’s eyes from the temptation of the world. The light of the Christ Mind exposes the dangerous influences the world offers, silencing their calls from the shadows.

Jesus Christ within becomes the name one takes on, as one is raised on the staff that reminds others of the dangers of sin.

This Lenten lesson tells one the wilderness is a land of One, where it is always day. Any dangers are clearly exposed; with the test being how one reacts. To pass the test, one’s deeds must be led by God, just as were those of Jesus Christ.

Posted in Christianity, Education, History, Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 2:13-22 – Destroying the old temple for one new

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

—————————————————————————————–

This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the third Sunday in Lent, Year B. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, March 4, 2018. It is important as it is the first account of Jesus displaying anger at the disrespect that had befallen the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which was constructed originally (by Solomon, then rebuilt) to be THE house of God on earth.

In Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-19, and Luke 19:45-48, less detailed accounts of Jesus becoming upset with the presences of vendors at the Temple are found. Matthew told how Jesus drove out “all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all then quote Jesus as saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.” However similar that events seems, it is not the same as the one recounted by John.

I make that statement because I once sat at an Episcopalian Bible study meeting when a retired Methodist minister made the statement that John’s Gospel was the only one of the four Gospels that does not maintain the same order of events in the life of Jesus. I disagree wholeheartedly.  However, if that is some concept that has risen to explain John as a renegade or rebel, due to some (perhaps) thinking John had a scatterbrained memory, which affected the order of his Gospel of Jesus’ life and ministry, the facts do not support such a claim.

This reading is in John’s second chapter, which follows the wedding at Cana event (John 2:1-11). John’s first chapter ended with Jesus gathering Philip and Nathanael as disciples, to go along with Andrew and Simon (called Peter). John was the only Gospel writer not to tell of Jesus spending forty days of fasting in the wilderness, like the other three writers do. However, John said the same as the others, when he wrote, “After [the wedding at Cana Jesus] went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days” (John 2:12), which spoke of Jesus moving from Nazareth to Capernaum.  The other Gospels have the chronology of events; they simply recorded a second time that Jesus was witnessed being upset over vendors on the Temple steps.

It was in Capernaum that Jesus then called Andrew and Simon from their fishing boat and then called James and his brother John of Zebedee from their father’s boat, leaving him to fish the sea with hired hands. John did not write of this calling (an indication that John was not the same person as the brother of James, not a son of Zebedee); but his statement that Jesus, his mother, brothers and disciples only stayed in Capernaum a few days, that says the calling of disciples from Capernaum was to prepare them to go en masse to Jerusalem, for the Passover Festival.

I have had Bible study leaders instruct the participants that the Passover week’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem was not a yearly requirement of Jews. After the scattering of the tribes of Israel, following the fall of Israel and Judah, the “Jews” who were moved great distances from Jerusalem were only required to make a pilgrimage once a lifetime. The presumption is that Jews who relocated in Galilee after their freedom from Babylon were likewise freed of any obligation to go to the Temple in Jerusalem each year, because it took several days to walk there.

In my mind, this an American Christianization of ancient Judaism, where it becomes important to see the holy people surrounding Jesus as akin to Americans that forego church attendance, if there is some vacation planned [like multi-yearly pilgrimages to fun resorts, where one’s religion gets left at home].  I have watched priests rush to finish a service because it is NFL Sunday, and a local team’s game is soon to begin.  The sad thing I have realized is that American Christians tend to justify their lack of a desire to study their religious texts as if God had blessed them with a birthright as babies, and children’s church taught them everything they need to know personally.  Beyond that, priests and ministers are hired by the adult Christians, with the expectation they will know the details.

If that was the original plan, I wonder why Jesus did not call the hired hands from Zebedee’s boat?

In regard to this lack of religious knowledge, consider this: When one reads in the Gospel of Luke, “Now [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover” (Luke 2:41), we are told this as an indication of the piety of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, his brothers. They went every year. Because it was written, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies” (Leviticus 23:2), devout Jews made a point of attending EVERY FESTIVAL … religiously. Knowing that, if any were to “Come and see” and “follow Jesus,” they were expected to plan their lives around obedience to God’s commandment to the Israelites, through Moses, which called for “sacred assemblies” in the appropriate places, to recognize “the appointed festivals.”

That understood, one can grasp just how swollen Jerusalem would become during those times of festival. In the Christmas story, where Joseph and Mary could not find a room at an inn, it was not due to census registration demands creating floods of people into Bethlehem. The inns were filled with paying guests because it was at a festival time, with pilgrims everywhere. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem while they had a place to stay near Jerusalem for festival.  This means that everyone in the Jesus entourage would have to be housed while away from home.  That is a logistical reality.

Because the ministry of Jesus was just getting off the ground then, it makes perfect sense that prior arrangements had not been made for Andrew, Simon-Peter, James of Zebedee and his brother John, nor Philip and Nathanael. While Jesus, his mother, and his brothers had relatives with whom they would stay, who had homes near Jerusalem, the others would be free to find their place to housed. Thus, that first Passover of Jesus’ ministry placed himself and John (the Gospel writer, not of Zebedee) at the Temple together, while the six disciples were securing places to stay.  Thus, none of them wrote about this event.

In the turning over of the vendor’s tables recalled by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that was after Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey with her colt, when the pilgrims lined his path with palm branches and cried our “Hosanna, the King of the Jews.” For that festival event, an upstairs room had been secured for the Passover week, although there is indication the disciples were invited to visit where Jesus stayed, as they traveled together each day prior to the Passover Seder meal (the Last Supper), in and out of Jerusalem. John did not write of those days when Jesus was surrounded by his disciples, like he did when it was only him and Jesus entering the Temple of Jerusalem, when Jesus cleansed the Temple the first time.

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) heads this reading selection from John as “Frist Passover – Cleansing the Temple,” which indicates there is scholastic recognition for multiple events of this nature. John stated in his sixth chapter, fourth verse, “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.” This was when Jesus fed the five thousand at the Sea of Galilee. By the time John began his seventh chapter, writing in the second verse, “Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near,” that end of summer festival means John wrote nothing specific of Jesus having gone to Jerusalem for the second Passover of his ministry.

None of the other Gospels speak specifically of any Passover Festival, other than the last, which would be more of an indication that Jesus went to the Temple at other times without witnesses, when he could have made similar attacks on the selling of wares on the steps. One would think Jesus regularly confronted such things, rather than only occasionally making “photo ops” appearances.

What should be caught from the verse that states, “He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” is that Luke 2:22 & 24 state, “And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord … and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Because the sacrifice of animals was stated in Law (Exodus and Leviticus) as a necessary rite of purification, the people were required to take animals to the Temple priests for the sacrificial rites (not go to the Temple priests and hand them payment for sacrificial animals). The sale of doves was for the poor, but that really meant the poor travelers, who brought no animals with them from home, as home was too far away.

This means Jesus was not angered at the sale of animals for sacrifice. He was angered at the presence of those sellers within the Temple grounds. That presence within sacred boundaries was an indication that the Jews had become less devoted to the Laws and appreciated the marketplace meeting their needs of the commoners.  Common Jews suffered from forgetfulness, so they entered the Temple ground without the animals required.  Rather than their forgetfulness of Law causing them to lose their place in line, during busy Temple times, the Temple leaders allowed the marketplace to come into a place of convience.

This anger should be seen as also being applicable to Christians and their churches, where I have read of megachurches are similarly desecrated places.  The equivalent can be seen as a ring of concession stands (coffee and pastries sales before service, then paninis after) around an auditorium, which has replaced a traditional nave and separate parish hall. Are not live bands on a stage (not an altar), with follow-the-bouncing-ball big screens (not hymnals), prompting people sitting in stadium seats with cup holders (rather than pews with prayer books) to sing along with dancing choirs, with the preacher reading sermon notes from a smart phone, pacing back and forth while a spotlight follows and lighting technicians change the coloring on stage to set the mood … all putting a “marketplace” in one’s face?

Is that circus atmosphere not selling entertainment as religion, in the same way cattle and sheep were sold back in the day?

Would you think passing a tray for money, rather than giving out free bread and dried fish from a basket, would anger Jesus today?

John writing, “His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me,” says either John or Jesus told this story to the disciples afterwards, causing them to remember Psalm 69, verse 9, which says, “for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” The acts of Jesus made them recall a song of lament, over shame felt by those who proclaimed faith falsely.

They had all walked right by the same vendors, doing nothing to force the vendors and wares sellers out to where they belonged. The disciples remember that quote from guilt.  Instead of marveling at the acts of Jesus, their hearts felt shame and regret for having done nothing themselves; and that is the kind of believers Satan loves.

John then said “his disciples remembered that he had said this … after he was raised from the dead.”  They remembered because Jesus had been raised from them, who had been dead of eternal life.  They remembered because the Spirit of the man who was there was within them … as them.

When John wrote that the Jews asked Jesus, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” they referred to his acts of disrespect for the merchants, their wares and the money they collected. They wanted to know how Jesus would miraculously (a viable replacement for “sign” in translation) replace a legal demand that devoted Jews had to present animals to priests, since most were pilgrims who did not come prepared to keep sacrificial animals with them outside the Temple grounds, until needed inside.

The double entendre is the Greek word for “sign,” “sēmeion,” also means “mark or token,” which is a form of payment for the sacrifices. Since this was Jesus’ first Passover as a priest of his Father, he was new to the “Jews” who ran Jerusalem. One could have seen the question they posed as rhetorical or tongue in cheek, half laughing at some young rabbi trying to make a name for himself.  Without knowing Jesus, they saw him as trying to change a very set world, which the Temple leaders were quite comfortable with; and that (in their mind) would require a miracle worker.

When Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” he was in effect saying the brains of the Second Temple (its leaders, who allowed merchants on the steps) were destroying it. By referring to his personal destruction as being the final straw on that camel’s back, such that after being dead for three days a real temple that housed the LORD would be raised in its place, Jesus was saying the only Temple to the LORD is a human body. That would be the resurrected Jesus, but it would also be every Apostle who would be prepared to also be the resurrection of Jesus Christ within them.

As a personal Lenten lesson, as a test of one’s faith, everyone represents the brain trust that had let the Second Temple of Jerusalem become a marketplace for unscrupulous people, in need of being whipped by a cord and overturned. Because John pointed out that Jesus was talking about his body being the new Temple raised, the same can be inverted onto the destroyers of the Temple of Jerusalem, as the destroyers of their own souls, which were housed in cesspools of carelessness and sin.

If one is unprepared to pass the test of faith, then one will ask, “What miracle can you show me for doing this?” It seems easy to be told not to sin; but a serious seeker of Christ wants to be told how not to sin. Most are comfortable with continual sin being absolved by a Temple leader spilling the blood of an innocent animal (aka: priest, minister, pastor, or preacher).

The answer is the same that Jesus gave, as being reborn as Jesus Christ is the only way to survive forty days in the wilderness. One has to happily serve God as His Son to make it that long. The hard part is dying and being dead of ego for three days, so that one’s corrupted carcass can be cleansed, just as Jesus cleansed the Temple in anger. One cannot build a new self before the old self is destroyed.

The test of that readiness can then be seen in how one accepts the current state of buildings called churches and the organizations that run them. In this day and age (mostly out of desperation for survival or the lusts for the profitability of religion), churches have become political arms of the subversives who see the blindly religious as lambs fleeced for value or those who follow their leaders as voter blocs that can be led to worship political figures. The test is then the way one answers the question: How do you display your anger that a church has been or is being destroyed by the will of men and women?

The accompanying Old Testament reading comes from Exodus 20:1-17, which is also the reading for the Proper 22 [Pentecost Ordinary Time], in Year A. It is the first Ten Commandments that God sent Moses down for the Israelites to agree to follow. For any test in the wilderness to be personally passed, those laws (and all others) must be written in one’s heart. A deep love of God and subservience to Him brings that, through the marriage of God and a human as One.  Jesus Christ becomes the love child reborn.

This is a must to achieve, because love of God is not the same as love of Church.  Modern-day churches make Jesus appear as the eraser of Laws, not the enforcer. One must have evolved through the Holy Spirit to live a life centered within the Laws, out of desire, not command.  That devotion survives all tests.

In the accompanying Epistle reading that comes from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Paul quoted Isaiah, saying, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” That quote comes from Isaiah 29:14. One has to see the parallel of that quote and the “wise” [brain trust] that knows organizational and profitable things, but is incapable of discerning the truth of the words that tell of Jesus being destroyed by a cross, dead for three days.

There are no “signs” or “miracles” or “tokens” that can save a Church from a willful destruction, as the only “miracle” comes when one becomes a reborn Jesus Christ. To pass a personal wilderness test, one has to be resurrected, not perishing, as denial through personal will power (the intelligence of a brain) will fail miserably.

One has to be able to see the anger that Jesus holds for anyone who claims to be the house of the LORD, when one is doing little more than marketing oneself as marked for heaven. One has to be turned upside down and see all of one’s beloved money cast onto the ground, with the voice of God telling one to “get your sacrificial trinkets out of here!”

If one has not felt that fear of God within one’s head, then one is not prepared to pass a personal test of Lent.

Posted in Christianity, Education, History, Language, Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 8:31-38 – Ashamed to be reduced to death and rebirth

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

——————————————————————————————————–

This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the second Sunday in Lent, Year B. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, February 25, 2018. It is important as it quotes Jesus, who said to those following him that to live for reincarnation is folly, when one can only be assured of eternal reward by setting one’s goal towards the divine.

The accompanying Old Testament selection is Genesis 17:1-7 and Genesis 17:15-16. The first set of verses includes God telling Abram, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” As that reading continues, God added, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham.” The last two verses then has God telling Abram, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her.”

The accompanying Epistle choice is Romans 4:13-25. Paul there referenced the covenant God made with Abraham, saying, “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” In his conclusion to this selection of verses, Paul wrote, “Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

As always, the accompanying readings feed the lesson that rises from the Gospel. In the lineage of Abraham, his “exceedingly numerous” descendants are Christians. Jews and Gentiles who deny Jesus as Christ can only claim to be rightful heirs through law, which can be understood as genetics.  Neither Moses nor Mohammed lead souls to God, as they only lead them to words.  Christ is the only way to understand how to walk before God Almighty and be blameless (sin free). Jews and Muslims (of all branches, sects, and religious groups) are not descended from Abraham as the spiritual children of the same Father, cleansed by the Holy Spirit.

Thus Paul wrote, “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.”  The wrath of the law is the confrontation that exists today between Zionists Jews and Palestinians (children of Esau?) and Judeo-Christians and Muslims (children of Ishmael?) and the secular tyrants in the Middle East and the temporal rulers of the West (children of Cain?). Legalities in dogma are why Protestants hate Catholics and evangelical Christians cast condemnations at orthodoxy.  The law will never be able to justify irreconcilable differences, where “faith” is defined by laws.

We can see this in the reading from Mark, when Jesus (a Jew) said that he would “be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed.” There was obvious conflict between the ruling elite Jews and ANY MAN who went around making people think he was the Messiah (Jesus was not the only one doing that then). For a common Jew to claim he was more special than any of the “elders, chief priests, and scribes,” he was denying the law that Abraham’s descendants were all promised favor. The punishment for denying favor to all Jews (those who turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the illegitimacy of Ishmael, the denied birthright to Esau, and rejected any rights of claim by those turncoats called Samaritans) was heresy or sacrilege, due punishment and death (coaxed out of the polytheistic Romans).

Even Peter, whose name means “Rock,” a name given to Simon by Jesus, was reflecting as one who was diametrically opposite of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, as a mirror image of the same corruption. When Peter confessed to his biographer Mark, “I took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,” because he was saying God’s favored people were capable of doing evil, Simon Peter thought he was doing God’s work.  However, Jesus would have none of that insolence.

Blindly reflecting.

Jesus not only knew that Peter was not yet cleansed of his worldliness, but so too was everyone else standing around varying degrees of unclean.  All were hanging on Jesus’ every word, because they wanted to be clean. While Peter had pulled Jesus aside for a private scolding, Jesus would make an example of Peter, who was seen by the disciples as the cream of the crop – the best right hand man the Son of Man had.

It must have sucked the wind out of Peter’s chest when he heard Jesus say loudly, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Imagine thinking  one’s religious devotion was reason for a personal denial of filth, only to be told one needs a holy bathing.  Jesus did that to Peter.  However, the jab was not solely directed to one person alone.

That command was meant “to teach his disciples.” It was meant to be proclaimed to the “elders, high priests, and scribes.” It was meant for anyone who would “follow” Jesus to hear how close Satan was to their hearts. Thus, Jesus continued by commanding, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

I have addressed this prior, in sermons and notes on the Matthew account of this event (16:21-28; Proper 17, during the season following Pentecost, Year A), where the crowd listening to Jesus (including his disciples) heard, “aratō ton stauron autou.” Whether spoken in Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek, those present heard Jesus tell them to “raise up your stake.” A “stauron” would not have registered as a Roman crucifixion device (being “nailed to a tree” required no lifting and carrying). It would, however, be heard as those wooden crosses that vineyard owners used, which often leaned over to the ground when the grapes were growing full.

If you want to see the reality of impact that a parable told about servants hired to work in an owner’s vineyard, most of the people following Jesus had been there, and done that. They had stood on the town corner before, waiting for an owner’s servant, a field master, to come looking for workers to straighten up the wooden supports in a vineyard, so the grapes would not be eaten by ground animals. None of them had spent a Wednesday hiking up to Golgotha, just to watch the misery of a Jew being crucified, even if they knew the poor man being executed. Heck, the disciples didn’t even show up to watch Jesus be hung on the cross. They skedaddled out of fear.  Raising grape crosses, however, they understood.

So, even though they might have heard “follow me” and thought, “Form a line behind Jesus,” the followers of Jesus knew Jesus had just called them all out for not being righteous enough. The reference to “Satan” helped in that regard.  So, even the slow-witted ones figured out that “raise up your cross” was metaphor for them being the fruit of a Jesus grapevine, so they were never allowed to hang to the ground, where Satan could find an ear and influence the brain attached to it, like he did Cain, and like he did the elders, high priests, and scribes of Jerusalem, plus most recently Simon Peter.

Worldly influences

I know I talk a lot about reincarnation, which many American Christians shudder at the concept of not having one death be the final parting of a soul from a body, with anyone having a cross placed on their tombstone automatically allowed into heaven. The thought of good ole granny or mom being recycled back to earth just makes people nervous.

Mainly, that anxiety is because 99.9% of the population has a skeleton closet that is crammed full, including new memories one is ashamed of.  Any thought that God will judge one by their sins is quickly forgotten when one presumes that how much money one gives to charity and how much one bakes cakes for the church fundraisers will make all the dirty little secrets and white lies be outweighed on an imaginary set of Justice Scales.

That becomes a gamble.  Gamblers have a town in Nevada set aside for them (one big name) that is known for odds and games of chance.  To think God will forgive is akin to praying to the gods of chance, where people see their souls stacked up neatly on a roulette number that says, “God forgives” or “Jesus saves.” Hope is all about that little ball landing in one of those slots.

The odds for winning that bet are slim, simply because there is nothing ever said by Jesus that promotes sin of any kind.  To “love one another” does not mean sin with everyone, or bless the sins of another.

We get a good glimpse at the indirect statement that Jesus made about reincarnation, when he said, “those who want to save their life will lose it.” Anybody that wants to save a human life (his or hers, the only body one possesses) means someone who wants Jesus and God to forgive how much one keeps for oneself, despite all the pretense of giving.

A good example of how well this “give a little, keep a lot” plan works is found in Acts 5:1-11, which is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Both of them wanted to “save their life” by keeping “some” of the price they received, when they sold land they owned; but they lied by saying they were donating the whole amount to the church. Both of them “gave up the ghost,” as soon as Peter questioned them about it (Peter was speaking through the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, not from sending out spies to make sure the church was well funded).

By knowing that story, one can see the prophetic nature of what seems like rhetorical questions, “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?”

The answer is Ananias and Sapphira could have kept everything – their land or all the money they got for selling that land. No one forces anyone to say I am a Christian; but anyone who uses the name of God in a lie (“Christian” stems from “Christ,” the Holy Spirit of God that was in His Son Jesus) is going to die a normal mortal death and be recycled back in another human form.  God forgives normal sinners by letting them try the world thing again, so maybe those souls will figure it out one lifetime.

“Crap out! Better luck next time. New roller [symbolic reincarnation]. Place your bets,” says the boxman [symbolic of a mortician].

What was the name of that creature that influenced Eve to sin?

Perhaps the most important message Jesus told (in this story) is at the end. He said, “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Think about what that says.

<Jeopardy theme music plays during a moment of pause>

Someone who would be ashamed of Jesus can only be one [someone’s name here] who thinks he, she, or it is better off by being oneself, rather than BEING JESUS CHRIST REBORN in one’s [someone’s name here] fleshy body.

“Golly gee! I made millions over a lifetime. People look up to me! Am I supposed to give all that up and be like that rolling stone Jesus … who the important people detested?” says someone who would be embarrassed being Jesus.

In the accompanying Genesis reading, Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah. They were the same bodies, but their names were changed to denote a new Spiritual presence within them. Their barrenness was taken away; and although that meant the birth of Isaac in the physical realm, it meant their sacrifice of self would beget innumerable descendants who would also be changed by the Holy Spirit, through a deep commitment to the One God. They were the precursors of the Christ Spirit in human beings.

Believe me when I say that the ones who ARE reborn as Jesus Christ AND thank God for that Spirit within them … nobody knows who they have changed into … no one can see the changed name they became. They are not ashamed to serve others.  They gladly do so without fanfare, news articles, or golden awards of recognition. They don’t ask people to guess who they have become.

Anyone who is promoted as “a great man” … by the popularity they command, the books they have sold, or the charisma they use to melt the will of others … most have secretly had Satan wrap his arm around their shoulders, saying, “See. I told you all this could be yours.”

Jesus only became famous because he rose from the dead, and the Jews deny that ever happened, saying his disciples stole his body. Jesus did not return and appear as Jesus for the whole world to see and marvel at. Nope. Jesus returned as a gardener, as a stranger on the road to Emmaus, and as an old man by the sea.

He appeared as the Jesus the disciples knew, so he could teach them and then return in them, in unknown form as one Apostle after another, with nobody recognizing any of them as Jesus Christ. That is how “the Son of Man … comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels,” … as Apostles … as Saints … those who welcome the sacrifice of self, have a deep-felt love of God, and know the reincarnation of the Christ Spirit in them leads them to eternal bliss, not a recycling into the worldly domain.

Those who are ashamed to make that sacrifice, because the here and now smells and tastes so sweet, looks so richly beautiful, and feels so comforting to put on, are keeping “some of the profits for themselves;” and Jesus Christ is ashamed of them because they call themselves Christians.

Don’t lie about loving God and Christ, while holding back some possessions for self.  Things make sacrifice so difficult to commit to a loss of self power … just admit it. Being ashamed of Jesus means not truly being a Christian.

In this season of Lent, where the test is one’s willingness to sacrifice and be ALL IN, realize that it is hard to be all in when you have a lot to lose … real or imaginary. ALL IN is the only way to survive forty days of testing, because anything less will bring failure. However, when one puts everything on the table with absolutely no worry about losing things, then the saying goes, “It is not gambling if you can afford to lose.”

 

One’s Personal Lent can only come when one is truly ready to be tested, knowing failure is impossible. Sadly, some people have to be afflicted with sores all over their bodies, or become blinded from seeing the world as a place of beauty, or be crippled and made incapable of running to grab as much booty as one can, before they can beg for divine help. When destitute and poor, it is easier to give all one has left … a life … to God. Then one might be ready to serve God wholly, gladly letting the ego die.

Posted in Christianity, Education, History, Language, Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment