Day of Atonement, Passover, Epiphany

The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany may seem like three strange Feast to be linked together when talking about the birth of Jesus.  Bear with me as I explain their connection.  

I know it is a good thing that God is a “God Who hides Himself” and did not give us exact dates for everything that occurred.  “He concealed things” so we could search them out.  Luke or Matthew could have given us “better” timestamps but Holy Spirit stopped them.  But Luke did give us some very important calendar dates.

Time

Jewish timekeeping is different than Western thought, it was started by God in the Garden.  (another post on time) The Biblical day starts in the evening and goes to daylight.  This thought is consistent in the Bible as there are many examples of things going from dark to light.  The Jewish religious month is lunar-based; they would add an extra month when needed to keep them in line with the revolution of the earth.   In the Book of Leviticus, the major feasts are set in this framework of months.

Day of Atonement

This important day, for the Jews, of fasting, prayer, and repentance is explained in Leviticus 16.  In Leviticus 23: 26 its time is given as the tenth day of the seventh month.  In Luke we find Zachariah, John’s father, doing the offering of incense behind the Veil in the Second Temple.  Luke 1: 23 had him finish “his time of service” before going home.  This possibly was until the end of the month, so he was with Elizabeth in the eighth month.  She stayed secluded for five months.  (I am not trying to do days or exact times, those belong to God!)

Passover

Luke 1:26 has the “sixth month” for Mary’s visit with Gabriel.  That should be the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, which makes it the first month of the Jewish year, the month of Passover!  The Father is a God of order.  It would seem fitting to “birth” Jesus in Mary at Passover. That would put Jesus’ “coming out party” with the angels and shepherds in the December/January time frame (Julian Calendar) of the month of Tevet.  (see the calendar below)

Epiphany 

From ancient times (before the fourth century) the 6th of January has carried special importance in the Church!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Testament to Freedom, pgs. 504-5 talks about Epiphany.  I read it in a compilation called God is in the Manger.  On page 90, he talks about four events associated with that date – the birth of Jesus, His baptism, the wedding of Cana, and the arrival of the Magi. Traditions are frequently built on fact.  Some of these I will not try to defend or deny, but it sure is interesting.  (Again, I am not trying to be dogmatic in writing this.)

Tevet is the Jewish tenth month.  The root of the word comes from tov or nine.  The meaning of the word is “good”.  If you look in Psalm 119: 65 – 72, the ninth section of that acrostic psalm you will find the idea of good four times in the NIV. (I did an alternative to how Psalm 119 is written.)

Matthew, in his telling of the Christmas story, injects that the Wise Men had seen the star two years earlier (Herod killed the babies two and under.).  He gives no timestamp, but if it was on Jesus’ birthday (Passover) when they found Him, it would fit. 

Okay, I will go out on a limb here, because I know the Father is a God of order!  Jesus’ return with Mary and Joseph from Egypt should have been at the same time as the Exodus (Passover).  I will inch a little further out and say that Jesus’ baptism with John coincided with the anniversary of the “baptism” of the people in the Red Sea. 

The wedding at Cana – I am clueless!  John was writing about proofs of Jesus’ divinity when he wrote on the Seven Miracles (or the Plus One I added), not about dates and times.  

For you scholars out there, I have not researched any of these thoughts on Epiphany!  It may well be that someone else has already come up with the same ideas!  I like the way they fit together, and it gives me a reason to reflect on Epiphany.  One day in Heaven I will have to ask how close I was to being correct.   

Study of the Kingdom – Matthew 12 and 13

For the second block of study on the Kingdom, Matthew 12 and 13 are the two main chapters.  Transitions of time and location are sketchy but to me, it seems that starting in Chapter 11 these make up a day or at least a very small period of time.  Matthew 12: 46 has Jesus’ mother and brothers wanting to talk to Him.  I think they stayed and were present for the teaching in Chapter 13 because 13: 53 has Jesus going to Nazareth, which is where I started the Third Block of Teaching.  Starting this section of the study in Chapters 9 and 10 would have Jesus answering John’s disciples’ questions without the Twelve by His side.  Other notable things in this section are – the Pharisees saying Jesus has a demon and crediting the healings (things of the Spirit) to the works of the Devil, Jesus telling people not to talk about their healings, and Jesus’ habit of using parables explained.

In the NIV the main section of teaching on the Kingdom begins and ends with lessons using the word “every”.  This frame starts with “every kingdom, city, or household that is divided” (12:25) and ends with “every teacher who knows about the Kingdom” (13:52).  The main feature in this section is parables, especially since Jesus explains three of them.  After forty years of studying the Bible and listen to sermons, it is clear to me that parables grow with you.  New insights should not erase the old but add to them.  It also gives you a framework to use when someone teaches a different concept from the parable.

Having said that I will start with Matthew 13:52 and the portion where the homeowner brings out old and new treasures.  This verse takes me to Jeremiah 6:16 and Matthew 11:10, which is about John the Baptist. My rendering of Jeremiah from the NIV is – stand and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask for the good way, and walk there and find rest.  (This will be another blog.)  The message of the Kingdom started in the Garden, it is not new!  We may use new methods to present it, but that old message is the only place where we will find REST!  John’s (old way) baptism allowed people to believe Jesus and His two “new” commandments – Love God and Love your neighbor!

There are eight parables in this set of teaching.  Seven of them are linked directly to the kingdom of heaven.  Three are explained by the Master Teacher and two of these deal with the future and are restatements of each other.  I suggest a deeper study and a good concordance and Bible dictionary to get the most out of them!  As was His habit, Jesus explained them to His close disciples, which is why we get to hear what Jesus saw as important in them.  So, your ideas need to fit in His framework for the parable of the Sower, the Tares, and the Net!

The Parable of the Sower is not introduced with “the kingdom of Heaven is like”.  Jesus brings in the Kingdom in His explanation to the disciples – Matthew 13: 11 and verse 18.  Mark 4: 10 clearly states that Jesus was alone with the disciples when He explained it to them.  To add a layer into this great parable, I can see references to the people in this block of teaching!  The Pharisees are the path, the non-compliant blind men (Matthew 9: 28) are the rocky places, Judas Iscariot is among the thorns, and the Eleven are the good soil.

The parable of the “good seed and the tares (weeds)” (13: 24) is again explained to the disciples at a “quiet time” and is restated in the Parable of the Net (verse 47).  Western thinking gives you an idea of weeds, but not how serious “tares” really were to the crop and harvest.  Tares or zizanion (#2215 in Strong’s) are a darnel or false grain.  They resemble wheat or barley as they grow and then they produce a deadly crop of black seeds that can make you sick or cause death.  That will put a whole new layer on the teaching of that story!  The timing of the “harvest” and getting rid of the “bad fish” from “the net” may mess with your idea of the rapture, ask for wisdom and peace.

The mustard plant (Sinapis nigra) is another “seed” parable.  My Strong’s/Vines Concordance gave me a “new” look into this parable.  So, instead of focusing on the seed look at the plant!  The birds “of the air” roosting in its branches may not be a good thing.  That idea does pair with the tares and the first three groups of seeds in the Sower.  If the birds are the “world” they are just using the Church, which sounds a lot like Psalm 74: 4.

Extra Thought

The first three parables in this set all deal with seeds!  Focusing on these as a cohesive block of teaching, it starts large and goes small.  The Sower is the general spreading of the Gospel, the Good Seed/Bad Seed deals with the Church (good seed), and the Mustard Plant is a single seed.  “Bring out old and new treasures” with those ideas.    

 Yeast 

Yeast is an “old treasure” for me, as I have written four previous posts on the topic – Passover, Model of Church Growth, Yeast, All Bad, and What I learned.  But musing on this again has given me a “new treasure”.  I have focused on the yeast and not on the dough.  Dough (flour) is a combination of many seeds ground together.  Add water and oil (Holy Spirit) the mixture is changed – sugar/starch content, smell, and size.  You could even put in some mustard for flavoring:).  

The remaining three parables in this set have a very different tone.  First, Jesus takes time to explain the Tares to the disciples, this should show a transition of places and time.  These seem to be given first to the disciples – they left the crowd.  I still think His mother Mary could have been there but Scripture does not say.  It is probably that these parables were recycled and told to future gatherings of people.  The Treasure and the Pearl seem to go to the individual believer and the Net deals with “good fish” and “bad fish”.  

In the Treasure and the Pearl, the response of the Man and the Merchant are the same – find something of value, sell everything, and buy what was of more value.  In contrast, these parables give two different ways people find the Kingdom.  The Man with the treasure found it by accident; while the Merchant was carefully looking for something and realized the Pearl was what he wanted!

In the Net, Jesus repeats, in different imagery, the parable of the Tares.  I want to think this was for His fisherman disciples.  If you have ever used any form of a net to catch fish, you know that there is a lot of movement inside of those cords.

the featured pic is from http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/parable-weeds/

Study of the Kingdom – Juxtaposition of Tell/Don’t Tell

When you do an intense study you often notice things that prompt further study!  In my study of the kingdom this topic has resurfaced – tell what Jesus has done/don’t tell of His miracles.  In the study of the Second Block of teaching (Matthew 9:30 NIV) Jesus “warned sternly” the blind who had their sight restored to not talk about the healing.  He did this several times and in different circumstances to different people.  I have heard good explanations on some of these events and they made sense.  But when you start to do your own study those sermons get added too.  For me putting these events into the context of the Kingdom, has added to the topic of Jesus forbidding some to talk about His works and others to keep silent.  

In a loose count of the times Jesus told someone in the Gospels not to talk about Him or His miracles, I found eleven examples (there may be more).  Some of these are the same story in the Synoptic Gospels.  A good example of this at the Transfiguration when Jesus told the three disciples not to talk about this experience until after He rose from the dead.  Many of these warnings came after healings.  Mark 3: 11+12 shows Jesus frequently rebuking demons not to tell who He was!  I will examine these groups later.

In contrast to “don’t tell” is Jesus directing the Man of the Gadarenes to go tell his family – Mark 5:19, Luke 8:39.  We could also add the Great Commission in Matthew 28.  To compound these events is the fact that the news of Jesus’ healing spread by word of mouth throughout the country.  So, why the contrast and what was the problem? 

WHY

 It is great when Matthew tells you the prophecy in 12:17. He quotes Isaiah 42: 1-4 – He will not quarrel, cry out, break a bent reed, or put out a smoldering wick (my paraphrase).  Jesus’ humility and His mission to see the Father’s “kingdom come” is the center of the “don’t tell”.  Connected to this is John 6: 15, Jesus knew if these works were spread about they would “take Him by force and make Him king”.

My Explanation

The fact that people talked and spread the word about Jesus did not seem to be a problem!  The warnings that came with the Transfiguration and certain healings, I think, were more wrapped up in the thinking of His brothers in John 7 – if you want to be famous show more miracles.  Jesus had a mission, to bring in the Father’s kingdom!  This meant the righteousness that could only be ours through His death for us.  Jesus’ kingdom was going to be given to Him and He did not need the assistance of a human army, He had a Heaven one if He wanted one!

Jesus’ habit of silencing demons had two facets. 1. I will credit Jentezen Franklin with this statement, even though others may have said it before him.  Jesus did not need the praises of demons (false praise).  They will bow before Him soon enough, as will everyone else. It would seem their mocking praise was given to get Him off the path to the cross.  It echoes Satan’s attempt at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after Jesus fasted forty days.  2. Get the people thinking about a military messiah and freedom from Rome.  John the Apostle wrote about Seven Signs Jesus did in his gospel.  They would have been enough for non-kingdom minded factions to try and make Him a military figurehead, while they started a war.

So, why would Jesus tell the Man of the Gadarenes to go tell his family?  Again, in my opinion, he was not Jewish (Matthew 10:5) and he was going to tell non-Jews about Jesus; they would not try to make Jesus an earthly king.  Jesus sent out the first gentile missionary!  

The Great Commission was after the Cross (and forty more days of Kingdom teaching) and Jesus was sending His disciples out to preach righteousness and show signs and wonders to prove the Holy Spirit was with them (be careful who is given the glory for the miracle). 

Thoughts 

  • In Mark 1:43 and Matthew 16:20 Jesus told lepers, who were healed, to show themselves to the priest in accordance with the Law.  This would have been a sign from heaven that they were always asking for.  Instead, they went and talked about the miracle.  We never see that their healing was lost, but you have to wonder if they were in the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost?!

When the Three on the Mount of Transfiguration was told not to talk about what they saw, they followed instructions (Luke 9:36).  That is why they were given the explanations to the parables and were sent out to preach Jesus and His work on the cross.

pic http://www.freebibleimages.org

Holy Spirit and Four Births

Brian Houston in his 2019 Christmas message to Hillsong Church spoke on Holy Spirit’s role in the Christmas story.  It is something that is easily overlooked, yet is the very heart of the story as that is how a virgin became pregnant.  This made me think of the other times the Spirit was present at the birth of things.  Now, these births cause the world and secular thinkers’ great displeasure and they often have very unnecessary things to say about each of them!  

Genesis 1: 2 – The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  The Spirit was at Creation – the birth of this Age that tells the story of His people.  The “world” cannot accept that God created the world and oversees His planet.

Luke 1: 35 – The Holy Spirit and the Power of the Highest will come to you and hover over you.  The Holy Spirit supplied the “50%” of the DNA that Mary did not get from a man.  The “world” really has a hard time with this.  Joseph even had a “hard” time with this until God sent an angel to him.  This Story, the Christmas Story, is what sets Christianity apart.  This is no less a story of Creation as the one in Genesis and unless the Holy Spirit opens your heart to it you will not believe.

Acts 2: 2-4 – On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit blew into Jerusalem and hovered over the Upper Room and 120 praying believers and birthed the Church of Jesus Christ.  The “world” does not like this either!  All sorts of attacks have been launched against the Church, but the Holy Spirit has always reserved a believing “120” to pray and carry His message to the harvest fields.

John 3: 3 – Unless you are born again you will not see the Kingdom of God.  The Holy Spirit will hover over you to get you born again.  He will not make you accept Jesus and the Good News of the Kingdom.  But if YOU decide to leave the “world” behind and go the opposite direction from it (repentance); Holy Spirit will birth something in you and fill you with all the power needed to live a righteous life.  See Following Jesus at the top of the page and Happy Birthday!  

Featured pic is from http://www.LumoProject.com.   

The Root, The Branch, The Fruit – The Christmas Story

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelations 22:16 (NIV)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)

Yes, the Christmas story and the mission of Jesus is in those two verses.  In Matthew and Luke, the story is told and each writer includes a genealogy of Jesus.  Matthew uses David as a connection point for his Hebrew audience.  The number fourteen (symbolizes David) and his inclusion of women in the lists of names show Jesus to the people in many ways.  Luke speaks to his Gentile reader(s) by using a slightly different look in the family tree (probably Mary’s) and goes back to the Garden and the first Adam.  Luke’s genealogy includes the “common” members of the family, while Matthew has the Patriarchs, the Kings, and the “common” people. 

Using the picture of roots, stumps, and branches allow for interesting symbolism.

The Root

Our two verses show the root of David, which is Jesse and the root of Jesse, which is the tribe of Judah, and the root of Judah is Jesus.  The genealogies in Matthew and Luke help here!  But if you like the rest of the story turn to First Chronicles 2:3 – 17.  This really starts in Numbers 26:19 and Genesis 38 especially verses 27 – 30.  The story starts with Judah, who could hand out hard verdicts but did not do well in the receiving department.  Perez was the first one completely out but the second-born son, because stuck his arm “broke out” first.  (This is a strange picture of being the “first and the last”.)  It is his family line through Ram that produced the leaders of the Tribe of Judah.  Jesse was the “head man” of the tribe and should have been one of the “panicked elders” when Samuel showed up in their town.  (I wrote Cut Jesse Some Slack, BECAUSE!)  That would have put Eliab, by birth, as the next in line for the leadership of the tribe of Judah.  In reading 1 Samuel 16 and 1 Chronicles 2:13 – 17 you get a whole picture of Jesse’s family.  The two lists of sons don’t match and it may be that one died as David is #7 in Chronicles and #8 in 1 Samuel.  

A few thoughts as a teacher and a gardener to show the importance of the root.

  • It is the first part to show up when the Seed is covered with water.  It absorbs the water to convert the stored energy into the rest of the plant.
  • I have to include Genesis 1:2 – the Spirit was over the water, God did a lot with water in Genesis 1.  Baptism is also a must, you leave the old man under the surface and the new man comes out.
  • Roots anchor a plant.  It really is the biggest part of the plant as it spreads out in the soil working to take in water and other nutrients. 

The Branch 

Jonathan Cahn in his Book of Mysteries series talks about Matthew 2:23 where Jesus fulfills the prophecies that Jesus would be a Nazarene. (Video on YouTube) The root word for Nazareth/Nazarene is netzer which means branch.  So, Isaiah 11:1, Zechariah 3:8, and Jeremiah 23:5 are those prophetic announcements. 

I will not start “splitting hairs” about stems, trunks, etc. because I just have a feeling it is more about the foundation (roots) and what is growing above (branch).  Jesus in John 15 and Paul in Romans 11 also lean into this way of looking at a plant.

In John 15 Jesus calls Himself the vine and we are the branches – we have to be connected to Him.  Romans 11 has us as branches being grafted into “the olive tree” so we can grow.

Branches are for reproduction; the fruit will form on them.  So, if we look at Jesus as the Branch – He was to produce fruit.  If we consider ourselves as the branch, it is our duty to produce fruit!

Both 

Revelations 22:16 puts Jesus in two positions – The Root and the Branch.  The symbolism and its examples in this thought could go on for a while.  (You may have the privilege.)  If I focus on just plants I will give you this – Jesus is the alpha and omega, the beginning (roots) and the end (branch).  

Fruit Wheat or oak trees, a plant is about producing fruit (or seed).  Good fruit, bad fruit, or not producing fruit there are many parables about fruit in the Gospels.  We always tend to think of the fruit of the Spirit, but in context with my Kingdom series is Matthew 21:43 – the kingdom of God can be taken from you and given to people who will produce ITS fruit.