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.   

Light and Dark- Jesus Walking on the Water

Matthew 14: 25, Mark 6: 48, John 6: 16, Luke 9: 10

The timeframe of this story in Jesus’ ministry and the setting of this event are very important. The dark part is easily shown, it is the light part that I am going out on a limb with so please bear with me.  The mighty wonder of Jesus walking on water occurs right after the miraculous feeding of the 5000 men + women and children. It occurs on Lake Galilee during one of the frequent storms that happen on the lake.  Mark and Matthew tell us it happened during the fourth watch of the night. This Hebrew term places it after 3 a.m. and before sunrise (In Roman terminology it was the 3rdwatch.)  A dark stormy night

Rembrandt Storm on Galilee

in the middle of a lake, how did they see the “ghost”.  John said they “saw Jesus” your eye works off of light, where did it come from?

I think Jesus brought His own light or His angel was lighting the way!  We all glow with infrared-light and in just a little while He would shine with His glory in the Transfiguration. The disciples were “straining” at the oars not looking around on a pleasant sail across Galilee.  This entire episode carries many things in common with the Exodus – bread and fish (manna and quail) and possible “pillar of fire by night” (Jesus). In just a few months He will be going to Jerusalem to die.  How better to focus His disciples for the days ahead?

Studying this event, in its placement on the timeline of Jesus’ ministry definitely shows that preparations for His death and the Church He was founding were underway.  There are three major events that will help you see this:

  1. Jesus sent out the Twelve on their first solo mission trip.
  2. The Demonic of Gadarenes was healed and also sent out as an evangelist.
  3. John the Baptist, the greatest Old Testament prophet, is killed by Herod.

I studied Jesus as the Master Teacher and saw in the Gospel of Mark a learning cycle with a reteach sequence.  Jesus’ statement of “You give them something to eat” in Mark 6: 37 was the exam for their mission trip.  Jesus walking on the water started the reteach cycle that ended with the feeding of the 4000, as the retest.

Three– The “three” here can be several things.  John says they rowed three or three and a half miles (6: 19).  Jesus was in His third year of ministry, just before His death. If you use the Roman system of watches, it was in the third watch.

End and Start – The fact that all of the Gospel writers include the feeding of the 5000, thus the walking on the water (Luke only tells the feeding, not the walking), makes this very important.  John, the last eye-witness to write a Gospel, focuses his work around seven major miracles that prove Jesus was the Son of God.  He connects back to Passover/Exodus with the crowd wanting Jesus to always feed them with manna and the Feast of Tabernacles.  John continues with the raising of Lazarus that leads to parade into Jerusalem. The other writers tell the stories of the Transfiguration and the Gentile woman.  Luke adds the sending out of the seventy-two on mission trips.  All of these things would have been part of the preparations for the Church to grow after Pentecost.

John the Baptist’s death was the end of the Old Testament prophets thus allowing for the start of the New!  I have the feeling that these events, feeding and walking, signal a new start/phase in Jesus’ ministry.  As I have already said, the connects with the first Passover/Exodus are numerous.  So, if these are a prelude for a “new” the events of the first Passover would be mirrored.  What about the Red Sea?  (I am smiling here!)  Jesus did not walk through the water, He walked on the water!

FURTHER THOUGHT – Storms, we tend (I tend) to see them as not good.  Seldom do you/I think we are walking on top of the problem.  Think back to “advances in your life”, did you have a storm just before it?

See– Test, Attacks, and Storms Part 1, Part 2, Part 3; Miracles and Storms; Storms Revisited; Test Revisited 

Passover to Pentecost – Jesus’ Four

The time period of Passover to Pentecost (Counting the Omer) is, was, and will be an important event in the history of the Jews but also for Christians!  It defined the start of the Jewish calendar and propelled them as a group to gain the “Promised Land.”  Jesus’ life and ministry were to fulfill the “type and shadow” of Passover and the meeting of God in the desert.  The work of salvation had to be finished at Passover!  Jesus, however, had other tasks to accomplish: send the Holy Spirit and birth His Church!

In Jesus’ life, there are four recorded Passovers in the Gospels.  John, in his Gospel, used the term “Passover” the most and records three of the four Feast.  Luke talks about two of them and Mark and Matthew cover the last one where He was offered up as our sacrifice. The four recorded Passovers and Counting of the Omers are:

  • Luke 2:11; He also writes the story of the Ascension to Pentecost.
  • John 2:13 to 4:43 (this ending story is my guess)
  • John 6:4 to 7:1
  • John 12 to 21 and continues into the Book of Acts. (See After the Cloud)

One thing that all four of these Passovers have in common is that Jesus returns to Galilee.

  1. In Luke 2 Jesus twelve when He gave His parents a prelude to His ministry. A fun thought here is Nicodemus may have been present for that question and answer session.
  2. The second recorded Passover was the start of Jesus’ public ministry. Nicodemus was definitely part of this story and he was in a question and answer session with Jesus.  The time frame of John 2 to 4, I chose for the “Counting of the Omer” because of what happened in these chapters.  Jesus and the disciples were baptizing (in the Jordan) and going to Jacob’s Well in Samaria, this is where Joshua went during his “first fifty” days, and the “blessings and curses” were read on the two mountains.
  3. Jesus’ “second Passover” in His ministry period is not well defined. In John 6 and 7 more “shadowing and mirroring” is done: Jesus feeds the 5000, talks about manna and the true Bread of Life, and foretells Judas’ betrayal.  The group ends back up in Galilee and the next reference in the chapter is to the Feast of Tabernacles (7thmonth of the year).
  4. The third and final Passover is what Christians now associate with Easter. (See the Day of Preparation.)

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Passover to Pentecost -Out of Egypt – Things You Might Recognize

Passover to Pentecost -Out of Egypt – Things You Might Recognize        Week 2 Day 2

As someone who is coming “out of Egypt” and has watched many others make their way or at least try I found the Biblical narrative amazingly helpful.  Here are components of the trip that you might recognize:

  • Good Influence – God will send someone (Moses and Aaron) that you will identify with. The message will be simple “God hears you and He is concerned for you.
  • Bad Influence – A someone/thing will have a hold on you (Pharaoh). Frequently they are very demanding and possessive.  You may not be sure why they have a hold on you, but it can be strong.  It may be that in the beginning there was a good reason they were given that power over you. (Joseph and the famine)
  • Stuck – A feeling of being stuck in the situation, and that you cannot change it. There is possibly an aspect of where you are that you really enjoy.  You may have a feeling that you are needed; frequently you are being used to improve a situation. (Israel was building Pharaoh’s storage cities.)
  • What Lies Ahead – You may look ahead and imagine all kind of things that you will give up or have to do. God only gave Israel two things they were responsible for before they left Egypt – Celebrate Passover every year and consecrate your first born male child to the Lord.  The very thought of the journey may have been intimidating; they may have never been more than a mile or two from their houses.
  • From bad to “Are you kidding me!” – When you first hear the Gospel, hope will rise up inside you. Then Pharaoh hardens his heart, and things around you start to fall apart (plagues).  Three plagues happened to Israel and Egypt, but seven were only on Egypt.  This may seem strange but the plagues were to show that the Egyptian gods were no match for the Lord!  Those three plagues may have been the ones the Israelites had strong ties with.
  • Preparation – Jesus will take you as you are. I have seen these steps and components worked on later in the spiritual journey.  Passover was a preparation time for Israel; things had to be done and plans had to be made before they were freed.  I think it fair to say most people will count the cost (or some of them) before they go on the Jesus Journey.  Oh, they made the preparations for the meal and then the miracle(s) happened.
  • Finally on the journey – Reality will hit, but learn from what Israel did.
  1. It may take you a while to get to the next level of growth. It was fifty days to Mount Sinai and the Word.
  2. Expect new enemies, the Amalekites. They were a problem for Israel for centuries. (see the post on the Amalekites)
  3. Things will change. Israel ran out of the water and food they had brought with them. God showed up and showed off for them.
  4. Israel DID not ask God for supplies, instead, they complained and blamed. I want to believe if Israel would have sought the Lord instead of complaining this story may have been written differently.

Other thoughts:

  1. Abraham and Sarah was the foreshadowing of all of this “going out of Egypt.” The story is in Genesis 12: 10 – 20 and it sounds very much like the story in Exodus.
  2. Joseph and His Brothers – The brothers experienced some of these conditions while trying to take care of their families before they brought Jacob/Israel into Egypt.   (Genesis 42 – 44)
  3. Jacob did come out of Egypt but he was dead. (Think about that) Pharaoh did give him royal treatment and had him escorted to the burial cave.
  4. Two other people came out of Egypt. Jeroboam (1Kings 11: 26 – 40 and 12: 15 – 20) He was a stumbling block for Israel, but he chooses that course when God had promised him something better.  Jesus – Matthew 2: 19
  5. Moses left and came back. The first time he was a hunted man, the second time he left he was in charge of a million people.  As leader Moses had his own set of problems and learning experiences.  He also moaned and complained, but he learned and believed.  He had to have Aaron to speak for him.  Jethro’s visit was for Moses but it affected the people also.
  6. Israel did leave with things of Egypt, but that is tomorrows post.

IF YOU HAVE NOT STARTED THIS JOURNEY PLEASE SEE – FOLLOWING JESUS!

Plagues – Before Passover

Plagues – Before Passover

Exodus 7:14 – I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.

Since this is the week before Passover I am dealing with things that had to occur before that night.  As Christians, celebrating Easter, we don’t think much about the ten plagues that occurred to bring about the first Passover.  My guess is that before each of us had our personal “Passover” we had things going on in our life that opened our hearts to Him.

My purpose here is not to discuss the plagues in detail; I have lightly touched on them in The Wonders That Plagued Egypt, Reflections on the Judgments in Exodus, and Frogs in the Bible.   My focus is their connection to Passover.  I don’t think that it took more than a year to do all of these and God had a timetable to watch; He brought them out on the anniversary of their arrival – Exodus 12: 41.  This website was a good read on the subject:  http://jesusalive.cc/ques219.htm .

To me, it seems that the wonders that were done had to happen for two groups of people: the Egyptians and the Israelites.

Egyptians – Pharaoh was the primary target of the plagues.  The decision to release the people had to come through him, and he had an attitude problem.  The people had to be conditioned to WANT to give away their riches.  They gave away a lot of stuff.  Read about the quantities of materials that were needed to construct the Ark and the Tabernacle; they really did plunder Egypt.

Israelites – The community was affected by the first three plagues and could have been affected by the last one if they had not followed instructions; starting with the plague of the flies in Exodus 8:20 God did not bring the rest of the plagues on His people.  It seems like God was teaching His people about Himself and trying to build their faith in Him.  I know for sure that since they ushered in Passover and the Exodus, which was the turning point for them as a people, they were important.  The story is talked about in many other places in the Bible I put some of them in a post – The Exodus Story in Other Places.

pic from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amietophrynus_regularis#mediaviewer/File:Pantherkroete-04.jpg