Tree of Knowledge – A Tree of Good and Evil – The Cross

I am asking you to put yourself into the mind frame of anyone in the Roman world before the resurrection of Jesus and the writings of the first apostles.  If we transported such a person into our timeframe and they saw crucifixes and crosses around our necks, on our books, and being used as decorations on and in buildings; what would be their first thoughts?

  • Are these people marked to die?
  • Is that a jail building where you are sent to wait?
  • Can there be that many people working for Rome to kill people?
  • There are countless variations of these questions.

One thing I am fairly certain of is they would only follow you if they wanted to see someone die a slow painful death.

Since Jesus’ death we had smoothed the cross out, lost the blood (for the most part), made it huge or much smaller, and made then shiny.  Most of these actions can and will be defended.

Alright, back to my post.  The Romans did not invent the idea of killing someone on a pole, they just perfected the practice.  Ezra 6:11 and Esther 9:13 refer to people being “impaled on a pole” (NIV).  The Romans added a cross piece and that extended the length of time it took for someone to die.  If you said “cross” in Israel it was an evil thing and they took it as a curse.

Before you start thinking that I don’t like the cross in artwork or on a building, you are INCORRECT.  It has served people as a point of meditation and comfort for a long time.  I do have an issue if you make it a “good luck charm”. 

Now, imagine people who are under Roman rule with Herod in charge of your nation being told “if you want to be my worthy disciple deny yourself and carry your cross as you follow Me”. (Matthew 10:38, 16:24) The Sermon on the Mount, yes.  Healing sickness and disease, yes.  Food for 5000 plus people, yes and yes.  Carry my cross, not so much.  To be made a public “spectacle” would be “foolish”, so why “endure its pain and shame”.

Yes, there is evil associated with those two pieces of wood.  The leaders of the religious classes in Jerusalem made that clear in Matthew 27:42 with their challenge for Jesus to come off of the cross.  Simon of Cyrene, probably, was not too happy with having to pick up Jesus’ cross – Matthew 16:24. (That statement is very subjective depending on who is preaching in the morning.  His sons are mention later in the Book so good did come from it.)  But, just like the Tree in the Garden, we know its evil side and its good side.  

Hebrews 12:2 clearly speaks of Jesus knowing the cross carried shame.  He went past that for the joy it would give when He could sit next to the Father again.  In enduring the evil, He perfected our faith and disarmed the demonic powers by His triumph on the cross. (Colossians 2:15, Yes, I am mixing verses.  I will reference them and I used the NIV.)  As Peter witnesses to Cornelius in Acts 10 about what Jesus did and how the Jews hung Him on the cross; I can hear Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – When I was perishing the message that the cross was good was foolishness, but now it is the power of God in my life.

Exercise, sugar, and many other things in life have an evil side but also a good side.  We know things like this because Eve wanted the fruit and Adam took a bite, thus getting knowledge. 

I AM in John

I AM in John

The purpose of this post is to explore the times when Jesus uses “I am” in the Book of John.  I think this adds to John’s purpose of proving that Jesus is the Messiah.  There are some loose groupings of how/when Jesus used the term.  I will not try and list all of the verses but will leave that up to you and a concordance or a Bible app like BibleGateway. 

We use the phrase “I am” in our speech with other people frequently.  In Exodus 3:14 the Almighty God choose this phase as the name He wanted Moses and the Israelites to know Him by.  As with many translations, our English thoughts and ancient Hebrew usage can yield slightly different meanings.  (see I AM – Exodus) But think about it the next time you introduce yourself to someone or announce that you are going somewhere.

To non-Jews    Jesus used this phrase when He was talking to the Samaritan Woman and to Pilate.  These were at the beginning and end of His earthly ministry.  Jesus affirmed to the Woman that He was the Messiah and to Pilate that He was a King – John 4:26/18:37.  

What Jesus Said About Himself This is the reason I started thinking about this post.  I know there are other sources that will only list seven of these.  (Seldom am I in perfect harmony with them.)  Remember, this is just from the Gospel of John.  They will be out of order.

  1. 8:58 – before Abraham was born, I am (NIV).  The 8th chapter of John has eleven times when Jesus uses “I am”.  This is the only time that Jesus actually declares He is God.  This was done at the end of a long conversation with the Jews in the Temple.  They were going to stone Him and He “slipped away”.
  2. 4:26 – He told the woman at the well that He was the Messiah.
  3. 18:37 – Pilate He was a King.
  4. 6:35 This was after He fed the 5,000.  He identified as the Bread of Life (manna).
  5. 8:12 In the Temple.  He is the Light of the World.  Jesus says this again in 9:5 as He is healing the man born blind.
  6. 10:7+9 This is with the “man born blind” – Jesus is the Gate for the Sheep.    
  7. 10:11 He is the Good Shepherd.
  8. 10:36 He is God’s Son.
  9. 11: 25 He is the Resurrection and the Life.  This was said as He was raising Lazarus and going to Jerusalem for His final Passover.
  10. 13: 13 Jesus quotes the disciples calling Him Teacher and Lord.  
  11. 15:1+5 He calls Himself the True Vine.  This was in His last meal on Thursday of Holy Week.        
  12. 14: 10,11, and 20 Jesus says He is in the Father.  Even without this one, I am over the seven.

He Is Going Away I count seventeen times Jesus says He is going away.  20:17 is to Mary at the garden tomb.  The other times He says this in private and before a crowd starts in Chapter 7:34 and 8:14+21.  Here He was in the Temple.  The majority of these announcements are during Holy Week and are in chapters 13, 14, 16, and 17.  Jesus told the Disciples but they could not hear these as a prophecy.  He told them plainly in 12:36 that He was to be “lifted up”. 

The Mob 18:5,6, and 8 takes place in the Garden with Judas and the mob.  They are looking for Jesus of Nazareth and He answers with “I am He”.  My post the Root, Branch, Fruit deals with the prophecy you “cannot find” in Matthew 2:23.  The key is the word netzer which means branch and is the root for Nazareth.

Great Commission – John’s Style 20:21 has Jesus telling the Disciples “I am sending you”.  Jesus compares His order to what the Father did with Him.  Jesus has also given them “peace” and then breaths on them so receive the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost and their next step in God was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  During the Counting of the Omer, the Disciples spent time with Jesus before the Ascension and their ten days of intense prayer. 

Two Gardens – Easter 2020

This post is an extension of the Two Gardens post from 2019 and the Birth of a New Adam. (The link will take you to my wordpress.com post.)  The “seven exchanges” are from the book Praying Grace, it is from TBN and Hillsong Church – pgs. 80 to 93.  I am comparing and contrasting things in Eden with a similar event in Jesus’ gardens.  In this post, some of these extend past the borders of the garden.  In reality, this is also comparing Adam to Jesus (the second Adam).

  • Adam was born in Eden. Jesus was resurrected (born again) in His garden.
  • Adam could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They were removed from Eden so could not eat from the tree of life.  Jesus’ tree gives us the opportunity to eat from the tree of life.  We will see the tree of life again!  They grow next to the river that flows from the throne in Heaven. Revelation 22: 2 adds that they produce fruit for every month of the year.
  • Adam “ran” or hid from God.  Jesus “ran” to God and His will.

The book Praying Grace has seven devotions that are labeled the “great exchanges”.  Each “first” item is what we bring to the cross and the “second” item is what Jesus gives us to replace the problem.

  1. Sin for Righteousness – Adam let sin into our lives.  Jesus covers our sin with His righteousness and allows us to be accepted by the Father. 2 Corinthians 5:21
  2. Curses for Blessings – There were curses given in Eden.  There are curses that have been spoken or given to us, even though we may not have deserved them!  Jesus’ blood covers those, ending them in our lives.  Revelations 22:3 states that there will be no more curses. Galatians 3:13-14
  3. Rejection for Acceptance – Adam rejected God when he ate the fruit.  Rejection is rooted in sin.  When we come to Jesus and make Him Lord, we are accepted again into God’s planIsaiah 53:3
  4. Sickness for Health – “By His stripes, we are healed.”  The Father has a plan for us and healthy living is part of it. Isaiah 53:5
  5. Shame for Glory – Adam and Eve felt shame and hid in the Garden. Shame is not something we have to live with because Jesus took our shame and covered it with His blood. Hebrews 12:2
  6. Poverty for Abundance – Tough times occur, but the Father has more for us than we can imagine. 2 Corinthians 8:9
  7. Death for Life – This is spiritual death.  The Father wants us coming to Jesus and accepting Life (His way). Romans 5:12

Pic is from http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/gnpi-101-jesus-resurrection/

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.   

pic is from Wikipedia

 

Kingdom – Fourth Block of Teaching

Since this is really an “on-going” study, I am changing my thoughts and adding a fourth block:}

WHY– 1. On Tuesday of Holy Week Jesus uses John’ baptism to silence/anger the religious. 2. This time period reflects Exodus 12: 1 – 13. Which is the time before the Passover when the lamb was prepared and in the time of no yeast. 3. This is the start of the final teaching/preparation period for Pentecost – the birth of the Church.

I am starting this block in Matthew 21 (the Triumphal Entry) and going to the Ascension.  This is an aggressive period for Jesus.  He has forceful actions and teachings that contrast His actions after His arrest.  Then, after the Resurrection, He takes on a new attitude as He prepares His followers for the future.

John the Baptist– Each of my sections have John the Baptist at or near the start of them. I know I am starting with the last section but there is nothing wrong with reading the end of the story first.  Using John’s signature teaching and act truly honors him and his place in God’s story.  I know Isaiah links John to Elijah but there is also a link to Moses because of baptism, which is linked with the passing through the Red Sea. (See Dividing the Red Sea in Passover to Pentecost Week 1.)

At the start of Matthew, John is physically present and doing his ministry, and as the story progresses he is slowly removed until it is just his primary teaching and act.  After all, John the Baptist did say he had to decrease and Jesus increase.

Sunday– Jesus fulfills Zechariah 9:9. The Kingdom principle He allows praise.  This probably runs over into Monday (Matthew 21: 15 – 16).  Luke has Pharisees complaining about the praise as Jesus enters the city.

Monday– It is not recorded, but I have an idea that Jesus returning to Jerusalem set off another round of praise.  This would have set off the Pharisees, again!  When He cleaned the Temple, stopping the selecting/buying of the lamb and other offerings, He focused on prayer.  Not a bad combination – praise to bring Jesus in and prayer once He is there! Mark/Peter has the fig tree being cursed today and then found dead on Tuesday.  Luke simply says He taught daily. John is the only one to add (12:20) that Greeks wanted to meet Him and that the Father confirmed Jesus’ message about why He had to die with a voice from Heaven.  John also includes Jesus teaching that He came as a Light and not a judge – the Father’s word will do that.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

This is the time period required in Exodus 12: 5 + 6 when the Lamb was to be taken care of before the meal. (After some consideration, Tuesday maybe be a better start to the fourth block of teaching.  The fig tree represents religious acts/systems that started with Adam and Eve.). “Tuesday” starts at Matthew 21: 18 and goes to chapter 26: 6.  Following when and how Jesus used the word kingdom will be this portion of the study, I will use one of the three times “kingdom” is mentioned in John.

Jesus putting the elders in a bind with the question about John is very fitting for the season they were in.  Baptism is connected to Passover with the parting of the Red Sea and passing through the Jordan (Joshua’s Passover).  Unless noted all of the references will be in Matthew.

  1. 21:31 – Jesus uses the Kingdom of God (here and in 43).  I feel it is an “in your face” move for the Elders.  He stresses those who repent and believe and going into the kingdom.
  2. 21:43 – Jesus is prophesying a change of membership in the Kingdom.  He emphases’ doing what the Father wants – “fruit production”.
  3. 22:1 – The new membership is again shown in verse 8.  The bad attitudes will be left out and not being “clothed” correctly will get you removed!
  4. 23:13 – This is restating 21:31 and begins the “Seven Woes” against the religious elite.
  5. 24:7 – Power struggles are a sign of Jesus’ return.
  6. 24:14 – Another sign of the Return is the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached so no nation will have an excuse about not knowing Jesus.
  7. 25:1 – The parable of the Wise Virgins and the mindset to be ready for Jesus’ return.  The foolish Virgins give the idea that just “playing church” will not get you into the Kingdom.
  8. 25:34 – The Kingdom has been prepared for the Sheep!
  9. 26:29 – The promise of a party when we get to Heaven.
  10. John 18: 36 – Jesus clarified His Kingdom for Pilate.

It is important to remember that item 1 through 8 is taught in one day (Tuesday).  As the Master Teacher He states who are going into the Kingdom, why the religious leaders are missing the kingdom, and examples for the people to follow in waiting for the Kingdom.

To the Ascension– Acts 1: 3b (NIV) He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. (See Passover to Pentecost Week 4 – See Class in Session, Passover to Pentecost Week 5 – The Great Commission, Passover to Pentecost Week 6. I wrote several posts on topics about Jesus teaching the disciples and The Ascension.  My favorite is After the Cloud.)

Jesus began His ministry of teaching and showing the Kingdom with a forty-day fast, after His baptism. The baptism is symbolic of passing through the Red Sea (Week 1).  He ends His time on earth with a forty-day time of teaching.  The Holy Week teachings are very pointed about the Kingdom but they were being taught to the people and the Disciples.  This forty-day period was just for the Disciples and I believe that Jesus went into great detail.  These teachings would frame the first church attempt in Jerusalem.