Category Archives: A Week That Changed History

8 Days After The Resurrection-A Doubter

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”

John 20:26

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Introduction

This account is from the eyes of Thomas who separated himself from the other disciples after the betrayal by Judas in the garden. He did not see them again for eight (8) days after Jesus appeared to the others.  Thomas became disappointed and did not want to see anyone.  Doesn’t that sound like many of us when we are discouraged?  We stay away from those who could help encourage us.

The meaning of the cross, the resurrection, and the words of Jesus were just starting to come together for 10 of the  original disciples plus the women who proved to be more committed and more brave than the men who watched the crucifixion from a distance (except James and John).   The disciples had seen Jesus on the third day after his death (1st Day of the week-Sunday).  Jesus began to build up their faith by not only appearing to them alive, but by teaching them from the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) about Himself.  This is the books of the Bible we call the Old Testament.  

“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:44-45

Their faith, indeed,  began to grow as they heard Jesus give them a Bible study on how it was fulfilled in Himself, but Thomas was not with them and missed this important revelation.  Choosing, perhaps, to reevaluate everything that had happened.  He, like the disciples earlier in the week, was terribly disappointed and depressed.  He had hoped Jesus would save Israel and himself.  The cross seemed to dash all hopes of any deliverance!

How often do we miss the blessing of Bible study due to our depression and desire to be alone?  May Thomas’ story teach us to believe and trust and not to doubt.

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A Doubter

Greetings.  I am Thomas, one of his original 12 disciples.  I was commissioned by Jesus to do mighty works for the kingdom of God, but I am confused and skeptical, just as you may be.  Allow me to tell you what I know.

I have not seen the other disciples since the night of the Preparation Day.  We had eaten the Passover supper and looked forward to a festive weekend.

But most of us were scattered like sheep without a Shepard when Jesus was taken at the garden and then sent to trial and was crucified.  I saw Peter on the other side of the hill weeping on that horrible day.  My own tears were bitter and soaked my garments as they took that precious innocent man I had come to love and nailed him like an animal to a cruel wooden cross.

I know that Jesus is dead!  I saw him beaten, scourged and eventually expire on a Roman cross. He was a bloody mess after the all day cruelty and beatings.  He died on the afternoon of the Preparation Day.  This is the day you Gentiles call Friday.  It is the day us Jews and some of the converts prepare for the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship.  I have always enjoyed the Sabbath especially with Jesus, but this Sabbath was different.

We all retreated to a secret spot to literally rest from the exhausting events of the previous 24 hours, but our souls were not at rest.  The women had seen the body of Jesus and were resting according to the Sabbath commandment.  Their plan was to go to the tomb of Jesus at the rising of the sun on the First Day of the week to prepare his body for burial.

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because they said He claimed to be God and that he could tear down the temple and build it again in three days.  Often Jesus would say things like this that made little sense to me. But, later he would explain it to His followers and we could see its true meaning.

Since the religious leaders didn’t want Jesus and the two thieves hanging on the cross during the Sabbath, they broke the legs of the thieves to hurry the death process.  When a man is hanging on the cross with broken legs, he is unable to push up against the nails in his feet and its platform to get a breath with their legs broken.  The diaphragm will collapse in such a way that they gasp for air and suffocate.

Such a disgusting and uncomfortable slow death, but since the Sabbath was only a few hours from starting, the three on the hill, called Golgotha, were fortunate and did not have to suffer for days… as have many others.  The Romans are so cruel! But, I don’t blame them.  It was our own religious leaders that pushed and pushed until they finally got what they wanted…the scourging and death of Jesus.

But, when the soldiers came to Jesus, they noticed He was already dead and did not break His legs but rather took a sword and pierced His side just to make sure.  Blood and water came forth.  I saw it even though I watched from a distance to protect myself from the same fate.   It was horrible!  It took the air out of me (so to speak) and made me wonder why I followed Jesus in the first place.  So, I know Jesus to be dead, even as the women when they went to His tomb that Friday afternoon to look at his body and to prepare spices to anoint Him early on the 1st Day of the week (Sunday morning).

It has been reported that Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus had cast out 7 demons, said  she had seen Jesus at the tomb with two angels.  But, I don’t know about her.  She did have demons didn’t she?  Jesus cast out her demons, but maybe one was left over and it is making her mad.  The whole city must be mad, because it is also reported many people who were dead were resurrected and appeared to many!  I have not seen any, but I must admit I have not been going out much lately. I feel lost and with no purpose or direction.  I just want to sleep.

Then I hear that about eight days ago on the day you Gentiles call Sunday, Cleopas and his friend were on their way to Emmaus and had an encounter with a spirit or something. It was reported to me by the other disciples that a stranger, spent a good three hours giving a comparative study of the writings of the Tanakh or the Old Testament as you call it.  As they walked down the dusty road towards Emmaus the stranger told them about how Jesus could be found all through scripture.  As they began to understand from the Tanakh about Jesus.  They could see why He had to die on the cross,.  It is reported they said, it made their “hearts burn within them.”

 I do remember Jesus saying something about dying and being resurrected, but it was so far from my thinking that I put it out of my mind.

Cleopas (one of the two men on the road to Emmaus)  reported that when they reached their destination, they begged him to stay and tell them more of what he knew.  But, the stranger turned out to be Jesus himself!  They apparently recognized him as He broke bread and then He disappeared.  Can you image that?  He just disappeared!

They then raced the 7 or 8 miles back to Jerusalem with the news of what had just happened.   But the disciples were skeptical, as I am.

Now the other disciples are claiming Jesus showed up at their meeting and that He also gave them a comparative study from the Tanakh about Himself.  He then asked for something to eat and he ate some fish.

So that is what I know so far.  It is all only rumor and wishful thinking as far as I am concerned.  Tragic events like this can lead you to think weird things.

 I think I will walk over and see how my friends are doing. The last time I saw them, they were fearful and unbelieving as I am, but something has come over them this last week.  They swear they have seen Jesus.

As I walk in, I notice the doors are not shut and there is a certain confidence in the countenance of each one.  Peter rushes over to me and says,

“We have seen the Lord!”

My response is quick and to the point,

Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

I am serious too!  His death has been difficult to both understand and accept.  My mind begins to fall back to those final moments before he died.  He said,

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

What did He mean by this?  Is there more to this than forgiveness?

As I am thinking about this, I look up and right there in front of me is Jesus!  But….Jesus…you….are… Am I seeing a spirit?  I don’t believe in ghosts!  Then I hear His voice and His words:

Thomas…. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

I take my trembling finger and place it on the place where the nails were…both hands!  It is strange, to feel a scar where I saw nails piercing his skin only a week or so ago.   I reach out and put my hand inside His robe and feel the warmth of His skin and the scar where the sword had been.  I then look up at His eyes and I see the kindness and royalty of a wise and gentle king and savior.  He IS alive!  I fall at his feet and say in remorse and acknowledgment.

“My Lord and my God!”

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Conclusion

Jesus told Thomas these important words:

“Thomas,because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20: 29

How Important is the Resurrection in your life?  How important is studying the Old Testament to find Jesus?  Has your search for Jesus been confined to only a small portion of God’s word?

We will never have the experience (before Jesus returns) that Thomas had when he touched the risen and glorified body of Jesus.  But we can still find evidence which will result in faith to believe that Jesus is alive and is preparing a place for those who believe and love Him.  You see, faith is based on substance and evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

If Christ was not raised, then the disciples are liars we have no hope and we are not saved from anything.  Those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ have perished.  And when we sleep in Christ, there is no resurrection for us.  If we only have a Christ that died and did not come back to life, He is just like every other person who claims to be God.  Follow the logic of Paul’s argument in the following portion of scripture:

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”  1 Corinthians 15:  12-19

Here is the logic:

If Resurrection is not possible, nor important, then Jesus has not been raised.

If Jesus has not been raised then preaching and teaching is in vain.

If Preaching and teaching is vain then faith is empty (It has no substance-nor basis).

If faith is empty then that means the disciples are false witnesses because they said they saw him alive.

If the Disciples are false witnesses then Christ is not risen.

If Christ is not risen then our faith in Christ is futile. All those who have died have perished.

Since there is no hope of a resurrection, we are of men, most pitiable.

Paul told us that he did not want us to be ignorant about the resurrection and those who have fallen asleep (died).  If we are ignorant about it, we will sorrow like everyone else that does not have hope.  But, the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected gives us the hope of one day coming back to life through the resurrection:Our hope is that Jesus is all that He claimed to be.  He claims to have the keys of the grave and death (Revelation 1:8). He claims to be the resurrection and the life and even though we die, we will live again. John 11:25

“ But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring (resurrect) with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

Paul goes so far as to provide us with the clearest passage in the Bible about the day when all who have died in Christ will be resurrected.  It will happen this way: The Lord will descend from heaven.  It will be loud because there is a shout and a loud trumpet.  Also the sky will be lit up with the angels and the glory of the Jesus and the Father.

Those in the grave will hear his voice and will meet with those who are alive at the 2nd coming and meet them in the air.  This is the start of eternity with Jesus.  This picture described by Paul is the comfort us who are to be resurrected one day we will all be reunited with those alive at His coming.  Not at any other time, but at His second coming:

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 I Thessalonians 4:15-18

 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27 (Note: our reward is when he comes)

Then the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. Matthew 25:31

So how important is the resurrection?  It is critical to our salvation:

 “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Why is the resurrection not discussed more?  It is the bedrock of the faith we follow regarding Jesus.

Many of the writers of the Bible believed in and put their hope in the resurrection.  Here is but a few:

Job:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,

And He shall stand at last on the earth;

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,

That in my flesh I shall see God,

Whom I shall see for myself,

And my eyes shall behold, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

Isaiah:

Your dead shall live;

Together with my dead body they shall arise.

Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;

For your dew is like the dew of herbs,

And the earth shall cast out the dead.Isaiah 26:19

Daniel:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

David:

 “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” Psalm 17:15

Abraham:

Of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead Hebrews 11:18

There is no precedence for the resurrection except for Jesus. No other person has raised themselves from the dead. Jesus said this about the resurrection:

Jesus said,

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  John 11:25

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

Until the Lord returns, the dead sleep and wait for the last day when Jesus will raise them up.  What a day that will be!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3: 20-21

Look again at the resurrection of Jesus and His body.  Here you will see what our bodies shall look like.  As the verse above , and many other,  tells us:  We “wait” for that glorious day when He returns and changes us.  It is not until that day that we can say,

 “Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

We cannot say this at a funeral.  The context tells us, these words cannot be said, until our risen Savior returns and changes our bodies like to his risen body:

 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? :1 Corinthians 15: 51-55

In conclusion, let us not be a doubting Thomas, but believe.  We are promised a blessing if we do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He is able to do the same for us!  He has promised to do that very thing when he returns.  Oh what a day that will be!

He’s Alive!-Now I Understand

Day 8 of the Week That Changed History

 It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!

The following is based on Luke 24

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“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.   And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.  And they remembered his words,  And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.”  Luke 24: 1-9

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It was early in the morning and the sky was getting brighter as I walked the dusty road speaking in low tones with my friend Cleopas about the things that had transpired over the last few days.  So many things!  All very bad!

It started with the arrest of Jesus in the Garden east of the city.   During the night and into the early morning of the Preparation Day (Friday) the soldiers and mob began to move Him between the governor and religious leadership. Then they beat Him to a pulp and eventually crucified Him on a Roman cross on the hill outside of Jerusalem later in the afternoon on the Preparation Day.  I watched as He hung His head and took his last breath. I think I saw Peter off in the distance.  He appeared to be on his knees with his face in his hands.  His disappointment must be very great! We all loved the gentle Jesus and will miss Him. He certainly went about doing good.  I just don’t understand. Why?

I will certainly be labeled as a fanatic believer by my brothers, the Sadducees.  The religious leadership have declared Jesus a blasphemer.

There had been an earthquake and the sun refused to let go of its light.  Darkness took over the land like a thick wet smothering blanket.  Everything seemed out of place…frightening.  The large curtain in the temple had been ripped from top to bottom by some unseen hand. There were even reports of  people, considered saints,  coming out of their graves and appearing to many in the city! (Matthew 27: 51-53)

My personal disappointment was great, because I believed everything He said and was amazed at His great miracles and works of kindness. We thought Him to be the Messiah prophesied by many of the prophets hundreds of years ago.  He was going to set up His kingdom and deliver the Jews from the iron rule of Rome.   He was the coming king upon which I hung all my hopes.   But, it seemed like He did not want the office of king.  I had left everything to follow Him and learn His teachings, but all this seemed to come to nothing on that Friday afternoon when He died.

Now only doubt, sadness, and disappointment draped itself on Cleopas and me. My head is spinning with confusion.  I  want explanation, but the reality of deception was creeping into my thoughts and it made me feel sick and foolish.  On top of everything else, the body of Jesus is missing!  The women said He was alive, confirmed by a couple of other disciples, but I know better.  It is just wishful thinking on their part. No one could have survived the beating, the nails, the loss of blood, and finally the sharp sword in the side.  I saw it and refuse to belief anything but what my eyes can confirm. There was no mistaking… the vision of so much blood and the pale appearance of death was real.

We are on our way to Emmaus to start over;  a walk of about 8 miles.  It will take me the usual 3 1/2 hours or so to walk…maybe longer today because of our conversation and heavy heart. This will give us plenty of time to try to put all the pieces together….to try to understand and make sense of everything and to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. My clothes are now those of the common person.  I have removed my garments  worn by the other Sadducees.

All of a sudden, and unexpected, a stranger walks up from behind and joins us.  He asks,

Why are you so sad and what are you discussing?”

I find these two questions odd in the light of the excitement and well-known events of the weekend. Slightly agitated and amazed Cleopas speaks before I can open my mouth and he answers the question with a question.  He throws in some sarcasm  for good measure.

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem that does not know the things which happened there this last few days?”

 I am even more amazed when the stranger asks,

What things?”

In disbelief, we began to explain to the stranger the events of the last few days.  Reviewing everything does not help my disappointment and we rush through them as a courtesy to the stranger.

“These things concern Jesus of Nazareth who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people .  The chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.  Indeed, besides all this today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  Then they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

Then the stranger calls Cleopas and me foolish ones and that we are slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken  This is certainly not so! I have always believed the prophets.  I have come from a family who believes in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and I have read it often.  The prophets said, that the Messiah would come and deliver Israel from its enemies.

But the stranger began to recite the writings of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) and all the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Malachi, etc)  of the Tanakh and explain things I had missed before.

The stranger clearly points out passages that were references to Jesus.  For the next 3 hours, I am amazed at the knowledge and clarity of the stranger’s words.  As I listened to him recite our ancient books, I begin to see that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, but that He would be raised up the third day!  How had I missed that?  Why had we not believed Jesus when He said it was necessary for Him to die and that he would rise again?  It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!  Indeed, we felt foolish, but encouraged by the words of the stranger.  My heart burned within me!  I wanted to hear more!  This was all exciting and new to me!  Hope was starting to spring up in my heart! What if Jesus really was alive again?

As we near the village it is almost dark. I don’t want the stranger to go and I look for excuses for Him to stay the night so we can hear more. Thankfully, He agrees to have supper with us.

As He breaks the bread, I recognize those hands and the manner in which He breaks the bread!  I finally look across the table into his eyes about the same time as Cleopas.  It is Jesus!  As soon as we recognize him, He disappears!  We had been talking to Jesus the whole time and we didn’t recognize Him!

With intense excitement and joy, Cleopas and I jump up and run the 8 miles back to Jerusalem in the dark!   We must tell the  others who were behind closed doors…those who share our confusion and disappointment.  When we arrive,  we find them huddled in a group in fear and disappointment.  Out of breath, we begin to tell them what had happened over the last several hours.  As we are telling them, Jesus appears in the room!

Everyone jumps back.  They think they are seeing a spirit, but Jesus tells them it is Him and that He is not a spirit. To prove it, He invites them to touch Him and He asks for something to eat.  They give Him some  fish and some honeycomb.  After everyone settles down and the scales of their eyes begin to fall away, Jesus repeats  the same type of study Cleopas and I heard on the road to Emmaus.  This time, He uses the entire Tanakh including the Psalms to explain how He is found all through scripture. All the disciples begin to understand that He had to die, but that He would rise on the third day.  How could we have been so slow to understand?  It was right there!

Then He said to us,

These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you.  that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.  And He opened our understanding that we might comprehend the Scriptures.”

The only disciple not with us is Thomas.  The disappointment of the cross was too much for him.  We have not seen him since Friday.  It will be 8 days before Thomas shows up….

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 Next, we will take a look at Jesus through the eyes of one who is a well-known doubter (Thomas) and attempt to understand why the resurrection of Jesus is an absolute cornerstone of the Christian faith. In fact, without it, Paul says we are most pitiful of all men (1 Corinthians 15: 12-19). But, after we see through the eyes of Thomas we will exclaim as he did:

“My Lord and My God.”  John 20:28 

Calvary-A Day of Discouragement.

“For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet” Psalm 22:16

Day 6 and 7 of The Week That Changed History.

This all happened between the 6th and 9th hour (12:00 PM and 3:00 PM) on a Friday before the Sabbath began.

Based on Matthew 27:32-66, Mark 15: 21-47, Luke 23: 27-56, John 19:17-42

As a member of the religious class and a Sadducee, I am allowed to be within feet of the crucifixion.  The mother of Jesus, her sister (also named Mary), and the wife of Clopas (a third Mary)  (also known at Salome) are restricted as to how near to Jesus they could stand.  With them are the only two male disciples (James and John) that had not run away.

As the crowd and the three scheduled for crucifixion stumble to the place where they will die a horrible death, the soldiers began to move people back and proceeded to methodically lay the two criminals on the cross and lift them up for all to see. Then they came to Jesus.  Putting him last is designed to make him suffer the thought a little longer and that he will follow a similar fate.  It is like watching your family killed before it happens to you.

The soldiers are very rough.  They strip off the seamless tunic and his other outer garments.  The executioners had been careful to not damage  one thread of the tunic because it  is a very nice garment.  Later, the soldiers would gamble for its ownership.  Jesus is striped down to nothing but a small cloth around his mid-section.  They want to disgrace him and cause great suffering.  He is shoved violently onto the wooden cross.  His weakness prohibit his arms from catching  Him or breaking his fall.  So He falls face down with a thud right on top of the cross.  His face is further marred and scratched.  He was already bruised and swollen from the merciless beatings.  The crown of thorns are embedded in His skin like they were part of his head.

The soldiers rudely and cruelly flip Jesus over quickly.  They are surprised when Jesus does not fight them nor curse.  Each of them  pause as Jesus stretches out his hands and places his palms up at the exact spot where they will nail them to the rough wooden cross!  The nail bag tingles with the sound of cold iron as one of the soldiers reaches in to take out the first long spike.  He pricks his finger on the sharp tip of one of them and curses as he pulls out the first mini weapon. He feels only a microscopic amount of pain that Jesus feels. Next,  the soldier places the spike in the soft fleshy center of his palm.  He draws back the heavy wooden mallet and swings hard to the nail head.  It is driven through skin, dodging bone and piercing muscle before entering the wood to cut the lovely hands of Jesus used only to bless, heal, and soothe.

The routine is repeated on the other hand. I hear Jesus praying for these men by their names!  The look at him in wonder and amazement!  But, they shake it off and bring his feet together.  An especially long nail is driven through both feet and on to the small platform, which will bear most of the weight of Jesus’ body.

Jesus moans, but does not let out any cry for mercy. The soldiers pick it up from the top part of the cross, where Jesus head rests, and walk it into the hole.  it quickly falls to its final resting place with a thud.  As it hits bottom, cries from the crowd can be heard. It was as if each person felt the ripping pain.

The women weep and bow their heads!  They are then allowed to move closer.  They ignore me and look up into the bleeding face of Jesus!  How long can He last?  What will become of Him, His family, and His followers?  At this point no one knows.

The soldiers begin to drink and gamble.  It is not long before the alcohol kicks in and Jesus seamless tunic is thrown into the dirt for the prize of casting lots.  The other garments are made into four parts before the gambling begins.  They are like dogs!  So are the religious leaders who are consumed by the spirit of hatred for Jesus.  They curse Him and tempt Him.

” “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 

The religious leaders are still angry over the fact that Pilate had placed a sign over Jesus’ head in the three languages:  Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:

THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Even the robbers are reviling him!  Finally, one of them has a change of heart and rebukes the other robber,

 “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 

I think I actually saw Jesus smile when the thief said this!  It was the only encouraging words He has heard all day. Jesus turns, the best  He can, and looks at the repentant man who wants to be remembered.  Jesus confirms his request. Jesus looks at him and says,

“I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”  

While there seemed no hope, Jesus was promising him on this day of pain and grief that he would be with Jesus in Paradise when He comes into His kingdom. That is the day, when He comes, the thief will experience the gift of eternal life.

There are no more encouraging words for the remainder of the day.  Many people walked by and wagged their heads repeating the words of the priests,

“If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

The wind begins to pick up and the sky starts to turn dark.  Jesus appears to be tiring. He is suspended between heaven and earth with no comfort from anyone.  It seems the mental anguish of loneliness and the sin of us all is hurting him more than the nails.  He is suffering greatly as the sun refuses to shine and the clouds gather as if they planned to attack everyone around the hill.  There is a low rumble as the earth begins to shake lightly as first.

Then Jesus cries out for the first time.  He says in Hebrew,

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

The Jews think he was calling for Elijah. But this made no sense.  Why would he call for Elijah if He is the Son of God.  Would He not call for his heavenly Father? Then, in a pitiful cry he yells out,

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The soldiers put a sponge on the top of a stick soaked in a mind-numbing liquid to bring some relief, but after He tasted it (He is expecting water), he spits it out and denies it.

The rumble is now louder. We are having a major earthquake. The wind is turning into a massive storm.  Jesus cries out something else to the heavens loudly and then he drops his head and dies.

Word has come up from the religious leaders to break the legs of those on the cross to hurry the appointment with death. The Sabbath is about to begin and they don’t want the bodies on the cross.  They will need to take them down to avoid defiling its hours. What hypocrisy!

 The thieves legs are immediately slammed with a heavy large mallet.  Within seconds they die because they can not lift up on their legs to get a breath.  So they smoother from their own weight.

When they come to Jesus, one of the soldiers draws back the mallet, but the other says, “Wait! He is already dead!”  But, to be sure, one of them brings out a sword and pushes it into the side of Jesus.  Out comes water and blood all over the soldier.  He stands transfixed and bewildered.  He seems to be melting in the liquid that is spilled on him.  He bows his head and cries out loud for mercy!

Then I remember!  The scripture says that His bones would not be broken and that He would be pierced.  Thank God for the prophecies of the Tanakh!  They do speak of Jesus!

 “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

Psalms 34:20, Zechariah 12:10

Now the storm rises even more and the earthquake hits us hard and violently.  Many are knocked to the ground.  Later, I will hear from the fearful religious leaders that the massive curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place in the temple has been perfectly torn in half from top to bottom.  It is if some unknown powerful hand  ripped the curtain, which  separated priest and sinner from the presence of God.  This room (The Most Holy Place) was visited only once a year on the day of Atonement and only by a high priest.  Now, everyone could look into this sacred spot!  The Spirit of God has departed!

As I watch all this events, a centurion cries out what I am thinking and feeling in my heart,

“Truly this was the Son of God.”

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I race back into Jerusalem, with a choking mixture of emotion (disgust, fear, anger, and a tinge of hope).  The city is in an uproar and commotion!  Fear is etched on the faces of the people as if they are waiting for judgment and eternal death. The sacrificial animals have all escaped and fled.  There are cracks in the rock pavements and the buildings.  It is like God is angry.  Many of the people begin to pray for mercy thinking they will be destroyed like Sodom.

The most incredible thing I saw were the people who had died and buried walking the streets talking of the love of God and His son Jesus.  These people were known for their righteousness and closeness to God. Many of the priests who only hours before had been cursing Jesus were now falling to their knees screaming for forgiveness and mercy.

I have never seen anything like this!  I manage to find the disciples who had found each other.  They are in a small room gathered in the same fear, I saw in the faces of the people on the streets.  They are terrified of many things including the same fate as Jesus.  What will we do?  Our leader has died!  They have killed the Son of God!

When things settled down, I was drawn back to Jesus on the cross. Later as the beginning of the Sabbath drew near, a man named Joseph takes down the body of Jesus from the cross.  I help him and feel the lifeless cold body of Jesus as we pry out the nails from the wood and flesh .  Pilate has been given him permission to bury Jesus in a tomb owned by Joseph and his family.

We are accompanied by soldiers who will guard the tomb.  The unconverted and cold religious leaders know that Jesus promised to rise on the third day.  It is ironic, but Jesus followers have forgotten this or simply to refuse to believe it is possible.  I feel the same as they do.

As we wrap the body of Jesus in a clean cloth, the women observe the body and decide to rest according to the Sabbath. Anyway, they are tired and it is now dark.  They will return when it is light in the morning on the 1st day of the week to prepare his body with burial spices.

That night and the entire next day (Sabbath), there is nothing to report.  All his disciples including myself  quietly talk about Jesus.  They try to bring comfort to each other knowing they will never see Him again.  Thomas is not with us.  He is so disappointed and discouraged that He goes to his own home to rest and think.  He has always been the doubting type and all this seems to confirm his skepticism.  He is likely to never be the same.

As I rest my head for the night on the 7th day, I determine to rise early and travel to Emmaus with one of the other disciples called Cleopas. But, before I go, I will change my clothes.  The robe I have always worn  as a Sadducee no longer seems appropriate for me.  I will change into something clean. I now longer desire to be a “religious leader.”

A Night to Remember Forever

“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled…Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death. Matthew 26:  57, 59

Based on Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18, and Isaiah 53:7

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Yesterday as the sun was setting on the Mount of Olives, Jesus came and looked directly at me saying  in the hearing of the disciples:

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Over the last few days, I have known Him to be truthful and wise, so I am left speechless and blurt out words before I can think,

“Jesus, I will follow you.  What can I do to help you?”

His smile and the gentle look in His eyes responded in a small unspoken voice telling me to be strong and trust.

My heart was beating wildly as I asked Him, instead to help me, knowing things were about to change for Him, His followers, and me.

We spent the evening at the house of Simon the Leper. I watched as a woman anointed Jesus by lightly pouring expensive perfume on His head. She performs the ritual quietly like a woman preparing Him for burial. The disciples, much like the religious leaders would do, complain that “the money could have been used to feed the poor,” but Jesus told them,

“Why are you bothering this woman?  She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

This is why I have come to love Jesus.  He cares for people and defends them especially if they are doing something for the kingdom of God.

When everyone leaves Simon’s house, I part company with Jesus and His disciples as they go to an unknown spot for supper.  I feel that I am an intruder, so I go away to give them time alone with each other.

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Day 5 of the Week That Would Change History

It is late on the 5th day of the week.  But as the sun sets, it becomes the 6th day aka the Preparation day. You Gentiles refer to it as Friday.

 The temple is busy and loud.  Every religious leader in the city of Jerusalem is here talking with passion in small groups.  Just as I enter, Caiaphas raises his voice to bring order to the meeting. It doesn’t take long for me to understand why everyone is present.  They are devising a plan to take Jesus by force and kill Him!

He has done only good for the people.  He has healed them all! I have listened closely to His words and his teaching. I am convinced He is all He claims to be! He is our Messiah!

Everything that comes from his mouth has both the ring of truth and the support of scripture.  His words cut to my heart and I am slain by them.  My sins rise up before me. I desire relief from the guilt and the agony of restlessness.  Yesterday, as I had a short conversation with Him directly, I felt the burdens of my life lifted.  He had forgiven me and told me to walk in a life as a servant.  It is taking some time for me to become accustomed to this new feeling of freedom.

Now I want to work for Him in spreading the message of the Kingdom of God. It is so strange that earlier in the week, all I could think about was making money off the people during the Passover.  Now, it is of no consequence to me.  I only want to serve Jesus in some capacity.  I hope to talk with Him again tonight.  It is my understanding He will be in the garden later.

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Before I can say a word at the meeting, the Scribes and Pharisees along with the chief priests come up with a couple of dubious witnesses who claim Jesus will destroy the temple.  I am terribly surprised to see one of Jesus disciples at this meeting as well.  I think they call him Judas.  In a flash, the mob assembles and heads out to the garden where Judas claims Jesus regularly spends time in prayer.

Why is Judas doing this?  What is his reasoning?  Does He not know what these insane men will do to Jesus? This is a mystery to me, but I follow to see if I will have opportunity to influence these men back to their senses. It seems as though an evil power has entered their emotions for there is no intelligence at work only pure evil that seems to come from somewhere else.

When we arrive at the Garden, Judas walks up to Jesus to give him the kiss he promised the religious leaders in order to identify Jesus.  Much like a line-up in a criminal case where the accused is selected from among others. But, Jesus appeals to him with these words:

“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Jesus’ words are with kindness, pity, and understanding. It is as if Jesus is giving Judas a chance to repent.  Jesus’ words cause Judas to back up and stare at Him for a moment. Judas has an expression  of deep thought and decision.  I think Judas, at that moment, realized he had made a devastating mistake,  and sadly, chose to run away sobbing hysterically. His opportunity for confession and repentance had gone as fast as he left the scene.

About that same time, Peter drew his sword and swung wildly at the closest person near him which turned out to be the servant of the high priest.  The servant tried to duck.  Otherwise, Peter would have taken off his head!  Instead, he nicked an ear and sliced it off!  What a grisly scene!

But, Jesus slowly knelt down picked up the ear and placed it back on the servant”s head!  What kind of man is this, that has power over life and healing?  This should have stopped the mob, but they were under the influence of something else.  Just before they take him, a bright light comes from Jesus and they fall back.  When the light diminishes, they are like blind men and Jesus says,

 “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

By the evidence of the scene, Jesus could have escaped, but he was willingly giving himself to “the power of darkness.”

As the mob takes Him to the high priest’s house, I can see Peter in the distance following us.  He seems afraid, but curious at the same time.

The rest of the night goes fast. It is as if they are in a hurry to find the right authority to support their murderous scheme. First we are the house of the high priest.  It was here where I see Peter with a small group outside.  He is talking to someone and then I hear him swearing.  Very clearly and loudly he says,

“I do NOT know the man!”

As soon as he says this, a rooster in the distance crows welcoming the rising of the early morning sun on the day of preparation.  This immediately catches the attention of Peter.  He rises up from the warmth of the fire and begins to tremble as Jesus turns his head from inside the house and looks with compassion at Peter.  Peter begins to weep hysterically as did Judas and the runs away too. I could see in Peter’s face the agony of failure and remorse resting upon weary shoulders.  I would learn later, the Lord had told Peter he would deny Him.  Peter’s passion for Jesus was overtaken by fear at that moment and he was ashamed, no doubt. I am not sure what will become of him and the disciples.  This does not look good for the kingdom of which Jesus spoke. But, then I remember His words…He will be crucified!

The sun seems to be taking its time casting its light on the dreadful scenes before my eyes.

The high priest said to him,

“I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Jesus responds,

“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.  What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

Those who were retaining Jesus began to beat on Him and spit in his face!  They even  blindfold Him and mock his ability to prophesy.

They shout at Him,

“Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” 

It was a disgusting sight!  I no longer want any part of this or these men!

The charge of blasphemy is added to the threat to the destruction of the Temple. But, I see in Jesus truth and royalty that is a deep contrast to the evil of these men in their fancy robes. Like animals, they only want to kill him. Although Jesus is beaten and bloodied, He stands erect and seems to be the only person who is in control.  I detect that He is willingly allowing this to happen for some reason.  At this point, I just don’t understand the evil that is in this room and the actions of Jesus to allow them to do this to Him! Then the words of the prophet come back to me:

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

We next go to Pontius Pilate.  Here they try to claim that Jesus teaches to ignore the payment of taxes to Caesar.  But, instead he asks Jesus,

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

Without hesitation Jesus responds,

“It is as you say.”

Pilate can find no fault in Jesus and because Jesus is a Galilean, he sends Him to Herod who has the proper jurisdiction. Pilate is such a mouse and weak ruler. He could have let Jesus go, but he desires the popularity of the people.

It is here where Herod underestimates the working of evil.  He figures there will be pity on Jesus if He is flogged and if he gives the people the option to release a known criminal.  But, the crowd calls for the crucifixion of Jesus.  It is as though the evil one himself is walking and talking among the crowd encouraging them to have no mercy on the Son of God!

The sun is far in the sky now.  I am tired and overwhelmed by what I am seeing and hearing. Has the world gone mad?

I have been up all night and the day is just starting.  What happens next is unbelievable, but it must be told.

 

The Teacher-Hypocrisy, Parables, and Warnings

Hypocrisy

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

Matthew 23: 1-3

Parables

“And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.”

Mark 4:33, 34

Day 4

The following is based on: Matthew 23-25,  Micah 4:2, Luke 21

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Last night, in our “Jesus meeting,” the religious leaders determined that the only way to rid the city of Jesus was to hire false witnesses.  As I reported to them, we are unable to catch Him in his words, so they have resorted to developing a plan to lie and make up false reports about what He has said, so as to present Him as a threat to the nation and the people in Jerusalem.  They can see how the people love Him, so it is going to be tricky arresting Him and eliminating His influence from the minds of the people.

My constituents do not know that I am becoming a secret follower and I desire  save Jesus from His fate. My inside position as a trusted Sadducee is valuable to Jesus and His disciples.   I want to warn Him and I will as I have the opportunity to talk with Him alone.

Last evening before I retired, I read the following from Micah in the book of prophets,

Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

I am watching the fulfillment of this before my very eyes!  Jesus speaks with authority, but it is mixed with pitiful emotion for everyone, even the Scribes and Pharisees.

Today we are just a few days before the Passover and it seems Jesus’ intensity in teaching has accelerated….as if He knows His time is short.

He started the day talking directly to the people and His disciples about the Hypocrisy of the religious leaders and ended by instructing His own disciples in a private meeting…of sorts .  Of course, there were some of religious leaders on the fringes of the crowd looking for an opportunity to catch Him in His words.

 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;  they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

He is being exact. It is as if He has observed them from their youth.  They  are like this!  Sadly, so am I. I feel conviction moving inside me as I listen to his words. They show my true heart and hurt it. But, somehow, I feel hope also. He just wants me to hear and respond to Him as an acknowledged sinner.

He advises us to call no man teacher or instructor. He is the only instructor. Then He talked of being humble and putting others ahead of yourself.  A hard thing for me to understand or to do for I have been taught differently.

 The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

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He then began to use the phrase:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!

I counted 7 times he used it!  Those teachers of the law and Pharisees who were there heard it, well most of them.  Their faces turned red as if Jesus was revealing their minds to the crowd.  It embarrassed them and several left, but some stayed to hear more. I watched the faces of the religious leaders as they heard these 7 warnings. Many were angry, but some seemed to be melting under the truth of His words and judgment.

As he continued, He spoke directly at the haters….those who were determined to do away with Him.  He read their mind and left the most intense words for the last:

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

With this judgment came some light of mercy, for He said,

Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages (wise men) and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town…Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

Jesus is now prophesying, but despite the fact He knows their future actions, He sends more prophets, teachers, and wise men to appeal to them, knowing they will treat them badly

In the most pitiful way and with tears in his eyes, Jesus ends His talk with them.  Jesus reveals his love for them, despite their terrible sins. In his voice I hear disappointment and a mixture of mercy and judgment….He knows He is going away and they won’t see him again.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

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Jesus leaves the temple with His disciples.  I follow from a distance.  Suddenly, Jesus looks back directly at me.  Those eyes penetrate my soul and I am compelled forward to follow.  I want to hear more and to be with Him.

We seem to be headed towards the Mount of Olives.  The disciples seemed to be stunned by Jesus’ remark,

“your house is left to you desolate”

In response, they bring to His attention  the grandeur and beauty of the temple and all the buildings. The sun is setting and the temple is glowing.  What He says next stops me and the disciples in our tracks.  Our mouths open to speak, but we can’t say anything,

 “Do you see all these things?” Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

The image in my mind of a flattened Jerusalem seems impossible! What strange even would cause this? Who or what could do this?

After our short walk from the city to the Mount of Olives, the disciples finally speak and ask Jesus,

“Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Since I am a new follower of Jesus, there is much I don’t know. What do they mean by  His “coming?” He is already here!  What is the “end of age?” Despite my limited understanding, Jesus begins to teach me things I had never heard in all my years as a “religious teacher.”   I draw close, forgetting my position in the community as a religious leader.  At this point, I feel like a little child who is learning how to speak.

“Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

This seems easy to understand.  He is going away and while He is away, many people are going to be deceived by false Messiahs! Then there will be plenty of wars!  Not very good news, but it is followed by comforting words.  We are not to be troubled as we see these wars happening.

There will be plenty of unrest among the nations as they take up arms against each other. Perhaps because of these wars, people will be starving and conditions will lead to diseases and plagues! But even then, there will be more sorrow to come.

Then He turns to tell the disciples of their fate after Jesus leaves to wherever He is going.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Things do not look good for His followers. They will be killed and hated by everyone!  I can understand about “many will be offended” because it seems people are so sensitive about their traditions and their personal lives.  It is all about themselves and not the people around them. So if Jesus comes with words that warn of judgment, they will not hear His words of mercy and redemption.  Indeed, it seems that people can not think any higher than themselves.

Despite all this trouble, they will be successful in giving the “gospel of the kingdom” to the entire world.  That is a lot of people to cover. The end He spoke of earlier will come after everyone has opportunity to hear and respond!

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Next He talked of a warning especially for them and those who are living in Jerusalem

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.  For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.  And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

(See Author’s note on the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the end of this writing.)

As I hear the urgency in His voice and His desire for me to understand, I believe Him and desire to warn others.

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I learn more as Jesus continues to speak.  I feel fortunate to be hearing His words.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 

This is what I understand…Right after the tribulation He speaks of, He will return.  Since He is returning on the clouds from heaven, that is where He is going for a time…heaven!

And when He comes, it is going to be magnificent and glorious! Even the sun, moon, and stars will be affected! There will be the loud sound of a trumpet and the work of the angels will be seen as they gather His people from everywhere under the son! But for some, they will mourn as they see Jesus coming in the clouds!

He really makes it clear! He goes on to use another parable of the fig tree. When the leaves begin to come forth, we know that summer is near….Same way when Jesus comes…There are signs we know that His coming is near.

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!

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As I hear more, His coming is made more clear.  He uses more comparisons from the Tanakh to explain His coming. He compares what happened to those who did not go into the ark with His second coming.  Those that did not go in the boat drowned or were “destroyed.”

 “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

In Noah’s day, the people are going about their normal routines. Then it begins to rain lightly at first, then a down pour! Soon the water begins to rise and the water under the earth breaks to the surface. But, it continued to rain for 40 days! Those who were left alive were only 8 souls. A small number in comparison!

Then He uses another story from the Tanakh. The story of Lot!

“Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”

Both stories are similar: There are people caught up with the normal routines of life, but lose it when they are caught unaware. Their opportunity to get in the boat or out of the city came and went. Then, sadly, they were destroyed.  One group by water, the other by fire.Those who were left were only a few people in comparison.

These two stories tie in with Jesus’ second coming and His warning to get out of Jerusalem when the armies surround the city and finally destroy it.  It seems there will be many so caught up in their earthly life, that the warning  and signs are ignored. The end result is eternal destruction.

But, Jesus takes the warnings one step further.  He provides warning to His servants that forget who they are and the times they are living.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”

Good for them but, not good for those who do the opposite!

But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’  and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Even though this group were God’s servants at one time, they move to the same class of those in Noah’s day and Lot’s day who ignored the Lord and were destroyed. They did not endure to the end and were put in the category of hypocrites.

This is where we started.  Hypocrisy is a dangerous place to be according to Jesus.  This time with Jesus has been good.  I’ve had learned and unlearned many things.

As I stand to leave, he begins with more parables, but then He stops and looks at me. He calls for me by name.  I didn’t know He knew my name!  This will be my opportunity to warn Him!  As I walk over to Him, He walks towards me and a new chapter opens up in my life.

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Extra Material to read:

The Destruction of Jerusalem

In 70 AD, the Roman armies guided by Titus surrounded Jerusalem. The lives of those who remembered and obeyed the words of Jesus were spared. The followers of Christ who would later be called Christians left the city and soon it was attacked and leveled.

Below is a small portion of Chapter 1 from a book called “The Great Controversy” which describes the circumstances of the city’s demise.  The scope of the horror and ruin are hard to imagine. This event forever changed the culture of the Jewish people. If you want to read the entire Chapter, click here.

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Chapter 1-The Destruction of Jerusalem

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:42-44.

“The hour of hope and pardon was fast passing; the cup of God’s long-deferred wrath was almost full. The cloud that had been gathering through ages of apostasy and rebellion, now black with woe, was about to burst upon a guilty people;and He who alone could save them from their impending fate had been slighted, abused, rejected, and was soon to be crucified. When Christ should hang upon the cross of Calvary, Israel’s day as a nation favored and blessed of God would be ended. The loss of even one soul is a calamity infinitely outweighing the gains and treasures of a world; but as Christ looked upon Jerusalem, the doom of a whole city, a whole nation, was before Him–that city, that nation, which had once been the chosen of God, His peculiar treasure.”

“Prophets had wept over the apostasy of Israel and the terrible desolations by which their sins were visited. Jeremiah wished that his eyes were a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people, for the Lord’s flock that was carried away captive. Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17. What, then, was the grief of Him whose prophetic glance took in, not years, but ages! He beheld the destroying angel with sword uplifted against the city which had so long been Jehovah’s dwelling place. From the ridge of Olivet, the very spot afterward occupied by Titus and his army, He looked across the valley upon the sacred courts and porticoes, and with tear-dimmed eyes He saw, in awful perspective, the walls surrounded by alien hosts. He heard the tread of armies marshaling for war. He heard the voice of mothers and children crying for bread in the besieged city. He saw her holy and beautiful house, her palaces and towers, given to the flames, and where once they stood, only a heap of smoldering ruins.”

No One Could Answer Jesus

And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.”  Matthew 22:46

Based on Matthew 22: 41-46, Mark 12: 28-34, Matthew 9:13, Deuteronomy 6: 4-6Hosea 6:6, Psalm 110:1

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Today, is the third day since Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey!

He continues to occupy the temple and teach to the Rabble. The religious leaders, including the chief priests, are close by to listen intently to His words so they might trap Him. Every word is examined so they will have an excuse to  eject Him from the temple, and even kill Him!

The Passover is near and I am exhausted! These last few days of activity has created a dramatic change of heart for me.  It started off with His entry into Jerusalem. Then He threw out the money changers and took over the Temple area.

Then, my brother Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the chief priests have called me and the others into many meetings to discuss and plan on how to condemn Him. The results have been much less than expected.  In fact, many are simply embarrassed and angered by Him. But, the people love Him and this creates a particular problem in dealing with Jesus.

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When Jesus began to teach at the temple, it has been almost non-stop.  After His parable of the owner of the vineyard, the religious leaders have become like crazy animals pursuing their prey.  They will not stop until He is gone and life can return to normal!  Can you believe that?  As far as I can tell, the man has done nothing wrong, but challenge their authority and their pompous religion.  I have never seen them so determined to hurt Jesus, or anyone for that matter.  It is as if their very lives depend on destroying Him.

As I have listened to the teachings of Jesus, I feel that He knows their plans, their intentions, and their hearts, but despite the danger to himself it does not seem to matter.  He is in control despite what they want to think.  Strangely, I am affected by this man…I can feel a change coming over me, so I continue to listen to Him even though my assignment is to trap Him with His own words.

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The self-righteous Pharisees got wind that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. So, they got together and chose a young lawyer from among them who is an expert at scripture  and skilled at debate. I saw everything.  The lawyer with a condescending air about him asked Jesus this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment of the law?”

Jesus then quoted the a book of the law known as Deuteronomy,

 “‘The most important one, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

The young lawyer knew these passages well, but then Jesus said something very insightful. As it rolled off his lips, it brought a moment of pause to the lawyer:

“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Brilliant! All the law can be lined up under these two commandments! The first 4 under the first commandment to love the Lord and the last 6  under under the second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  They are not new commandments, but a summary of each table of God’s will for mankind.  A person who lives under those two commandments will naturally follow in the letter of the law of all 10 commandments.

As I understand Him, a person who loves his neighbor as himself will not steal or lie to him.  He would especially not kill him or take his wife in adultery.  He showed the connection between the spirit of the law (love) and the letter of the law (loving obedience).

To follow in the spirit of the law, you will naturally obey the letter of the law. Try telling your wife that you believe in the spirit of the law, but not the letter when it comes to adultery.  Do you think she will expect obedience to the letter if you really love her?  Of course! To ignore the letter or specific command his to deny the spirit of the law!

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Then the young lawyer was impressed and he said,

“Well said, teacher, You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

As I listen to the exchange between Jesus and the young lawyer, I am reminded of the prophet Hosea when He wrote:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Some time ago, one of the priests told me Jesus said,

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus seems to be separating the religious works of animal sacrifice from the merciful works towards each other. His mission is for those who recognize their sin as opposed to those who indulge in their own self-made righteousness.  He is saying the two great principles of love and mercy towards God and our neighbor outweigh all the sacrifices and religious acts any man or woman could do!

Jesus then compliments the young lawyer and says,

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

My mind is flooded with thoughts as I think back on the history of our people. Our story as recorded in the Tanakh is one of disobedience and failure to love God and those around them.  Had they done so, things would be different.

All the prophets taught the absolute necessity of loving God first so they could love their neighbors. But the people often turned their back on the spirit and letter of the law and chased after the popular false gods of the heathen.   All this made sense and seemed to silence the bright lawyer. He stalled and became quite as he contemplated the simple but profound truth of Jesus’ answer.

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But, Jesus did not let him relax for long, because He asked him a question:

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

The lawyer knew the scripture well and responded exactly as scripture revealed the Messiah or Christ.  He said very quickly,

The Son of David.”

Expecting this response, Jesus then asks him a very deep question that required the young man to think deep thoughts rather than a programmed memorized answer:

 “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’?

Then Jesus goes right to the heart of the question:

“If David then calls him “Lord,” how is He his son?”

What a tough question!  How can David call his offspring son and then call Him Lord? All of this is in the context of the coming Messiah. The answer is really quite simple.  The Messiah would come through David’s line.  The Messiah, Christ the Lord, would sit at the right hand of the Father until, the Messiah would be born into the world as the Son of God or Lord!

This question and its implications silenced the lawyer and the other Pharisees did not dare to ask Him any more questions.  They knew that the Christ would come from the line of David, but to admit that the Christ would be Lord was tough for them to accept. Jesus seemed to be saying that He is Lord!  This would eventually be a reason for his demise.  Himself being a man makes himself God.  This is blasphemy according to our law.  But I was beginning to understand more about Jesus as He taught. I was not ready to buy the false prophet argument any longer.  Never had a man spoke and taught like this!

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For the next two days, Jesus taught on many topics and performed many more healings.  His actions spoke of urgency and deep feelings.

He talked about the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees.  I saw him weep over Jerusalem like a mother would over her dying children. He described his desire to protect Jerusalem like a mother hen with her little chicks. I was with the disciples when Jesus told them about the coming destruction of the temple and the end of the world.  He compared the tribulation and destruction of Jerusalem with the tribulation at the end of time. He then talked about a second coming and that no one would know when it would happen…not even himself or the angels.

Jesus talked about the faithful servant and the evil servant.  The evil servant went back to his evil ways because the coming of the Lord seemed to be delayed.

Then he began to teach with more parables.  He talked about the wise and foolish virgins.  The foolish did not prepare for a long wait.  Then there was the story about the talents and then one who was wicked and lazy and buried his talent. So profound!  All in the context of the 2nd coming of Christ!

Indeed I am exhausted because I have listened carefully to the words of Jesus all week and I am convinced He is the long-awaited Messiah.  I want to tell Him this, but my position in community prevents me from publicly acknowledging Him.  So I am caught between my respected life as a Sadducee and a new follower of this man they call Jesus.

More tomorrow. For now, I have been called to the palace of the high priest by the other religious leaders and elders.  This seems like an important meeting so I will go.  No doubt the meeting is about Jesus.  I wish they could just slow down and consider what they are doing.

 

Jesus, the Rabble, and Me a Saducee

Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ 

Mark 11:17

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I would tell you my name, but I don’t want my constituents to know who I am, particularly those of the ruling class here in Jerusalem. You will understand after you hear all my story.

The following happened on the 2nd day of the week before the Passover

Based on Matt. 21:12-16, 23-46; Mark 11:15-19, 27-33; 12:1-12; Luke 19:45-48; 20:1-19

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The Rabble call Him Jesus.  I watched this stinking Rabble follow the false prophet into our city.  The palm branches, the donkey, the praises were disturbing to me. The timing could not have been worse.  The Passover is near and there are many people from all over the country in our fair city. Jews, converted Gentiles, and the merchants I hired.  This is one of the biggest festivals of the year and it is my responsibility as one of the Sadducees to make sure the event is profitable.

The temple yard is full of the merchants selling the sacrificial animals required by  the Torah or law of Moses.  There are sheep, goats, bulls, and doves.  I must admit, the sound is loud in the temple yard with all the commotion of the bleating sheep, cows mooing, and all the other sounds of bargaining and  people doing business, but the tinkling of the money tells me this year is going to be a very good for the Temple and our religion. I will also get a share of the profits too.

 The Rabble are more than willing to sacrifice their money to buy one of the animals.  Because of the demand, we can charge what we wish.  They will pay it.   The prices are the highest they have ever been!  Yes, business is good!  We need to take advantage of the short time available to those of us in the business.

There is a sudden hush over the crowd. It has gone dead quiet.  Even the animals have stopped their pitiful sounds.

“What is going on?”

As I say this to a man standing next me, my eyes fall on a figure near the entrance to the temple and behind the money-changers’ tables.  His eyes meet mine and I see  anger and pity combined.  I have never seen such a face so calm and assuring, but also powerful and regal despite his well-traveled clothes.  He is obviously not part of the leaders in the city.

Then it occurs to me, this is the man…the false prophet….That Jesus that everyone was honoring yesterday!  He has some cords in his hands and he raises them above his head and strikes the tables and all the coin goes flying.  He then takes hold of the tables and flips them quickly as if he is judging my friends selling the animals.  Who is He to judge my friends in such a harsh way?

Then in a loud voice,  He says,

“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ 

The crowd, particularly the money changers go running out of the Temple yard trying to grab a few of the remaining reachable coins as they hastily and fearfully retreat.  Even the animals flee! The sheep and goats run with a certain joy as would a man escaping from prison.  Jesus opens the cages and lets the doves fly away.  There goes the money we planned on making today.  Who is this Jesus to do such a thing?  We are just trying to make an honest living….Well, some of those money changers are sinners and probably are not honest with the buyers, but what is that to me?

In a matter of moments, the Temple area is quiet and all that remains is Jesus, the Rabble, and me. But,  I decide to leave with the animals as His eyes again penetrate mine.  I feel uncomfortable and feel the strange metallic fear in the back of my throat.  But, as I quickly leave, I see some of the Rabble coming in.  They have their children.  Soon the Temple area has a new sound of  praising and children laughing.

In the streets, I see my other Sadducee brothers, the chief priests , and the elders coming towards me with a perplexed look on their faces.   The Pharisees are not too far behind. They ask me what I had just asked a man near me,

“What is going on in the Temple?”

I give them a brief description and we all head into the Temple to encounter Jesus.  He can’t do this and get away with it!  I seem to recall that He did this three years ago! What authority does He have to do such a thing?  Anyway, we need to get our business back up and running quickly.

As we enter temple area, we can hear men and women singing and the children are saying the same thing as yesterday,

“”Hosanna to the Son of David!”

People are praising God  and crying with happiness for their eye sight and ability to walk again.  The children are sitting upon the knees of Jesus and everyone is in a joyous and attentive mood.  Not very proper for the religious atmosphere of the Temple!  It makes me uncomfortable hearing the sound of children saying , “Hosanna to the Son of David.” So I say to Jesus,

“Do you hear what these children are saying? “

“Yes,” He said “have you never read,“‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise?”

I remember reading this in the book of Psalm.  He seems to be a teacher.  His voice is soft but strong.  He seems like a King.  I walk back to my friends and constituents for comfort from those eyes!

We walk in together and I ask Jesus:

“By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

I expect my question to trap him because He is going against all the tradition and the strength of these important leaders! But, He immediately responds by asking me a question!

I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me:  The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?

All of us huddle together to discuss how we will answer.  But, we soon find there is not easy response.  We must be careful not to trap ourselves!

“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”  

We don’t know how to answer so I say,

 “We do not know.”

Maybe this answer is a good one, because He will then have to tell us by what authority He takes over the temple area.  Instead He says,

Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

As we turn to leave, He asks for our opinion about a story of two sons,

 But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’  He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

This is easy, so I answer,

“The first.”

But, His point cuts to my heart and makes me angry,

Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

How dare Him say that the Rabble is better than me!

Just when I am about to turn and leave with my constituents,  He engages us again,

Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?

Again, an easy answer, but because of my anger, I answer before I think it through,

“He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

Then Jesus rouses the anger of my highly-esteemed religious leaders by referring to the book of Psalms and saying to us,

the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.

These parables are referring to us! He thinks our great nation will be given to another?  What nerve!  He is a false prophet! My anger boils as I listen to this…this….man.  We can’t take it any longer.

We all walk outside the temple area confused about how to handle this situation.  Since no one can come up with a suitable answer that would not rouse the anger of the people, we agree to meet later to discuss what we should do about Jesus and His Rabble.  We will call it a day, but we will take up the matter again tomorrow.  Something must be done about this false Prophet.  He is stirring up the people and is a threat to our business and religion. The death of one man to save our nation seems to be the only answer!

A few of us hang around to listen to Jesus talk…hoping to use His own words against Him.

Later, we learn Jesus has retired to Bethany for the night.  Tomorrow we will deal with Him and get this matter settled once and for all.  After all there are many of us who are well established in the community.  We have been to all the good schools, we can out think Him.  We will expose Him for who He is!

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Author’s note:

Some are good at religion, but have a poor knowledge of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus came to reclaim that which was taken by the merchants, traders, and those who occupy the Temple.  Does Jesus need to overturn and clean our minds so He may bring praise and singing back to our hearts-the Temple of the Spirit? Indeed, one Man’s death would spare not just one nation, but many people around the world.  In Him we all find life.