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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Cross in the Old Testament Part 1

(Don't forget I have having a sale on these commentaries to your right - 20% off for Christmas)

Let us find some foreshadowings in the Old Testament concerning the Cross of Jesus.
Ironically, to see the first place in the Old Testament where the cross is prefigured, we must look to the New Testament.

The apostles call the cross a tree.
Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers hath raised up Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging him upon a tree.
Acts 5:30 tells us that Jesus was put to death on a tree, which we know as the cross.
Keep that in mind as we look at a few other passages.
Then, earlier in John 6:51: Jesus says, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
All of this was, of course, in the context of the Eucharist, and the words here eat and live forever are used only one other time together and that is in Genesis 3:22. God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden lest they eat of the Tree of life and live forever.
So, the Apostles, empowered with the Holy Spirit, recognize that Jesus was giving us His flesh on the cross, and that this flesh was given for eternal life, which we would experience in communion.
That is why, I imagine, they say that Jesus died on a tree, because they see that the cross is the New Tree of Life.

Now, let’s look to the book of Wisdom, which says some interesting things about the Noah’s Ark.
Wisdom 14:6-7 For even in the beginning, when arrogant giants were perishing, the hope of the world took refuge on a raft, and guided by thy hand left to the world the seed of a new generation. For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes.

It is as if the ark is a prefiguring of the cross. Solomon says that “the arrogant giants were perishing”. Now he is speaking of the Nephelim who were the offspring of the sons of God with the daughters of men. But we can also see this happening in Jesus’ day as well as our own day. The arrogant giants in politics, and entertainment ARE perishing, they do not last forever.

Solomon then says that “the hope of the world took refuge on a raft”. Solomon is comparing the ark to a raft. When the ark is compared to the flooding of the world it is likened to a raft, small and insignificant. The same is true with the Cross of Christ. A Jewish man was crucified 2000 years ago because he got some people upset. Yet Solomon says “the hope of the world took refuge on a raft.” The cross is exactly that; “the hope of the world”.

Solomon goes on and says that after the flood Noah and his sons were guided by God’s hand and gave to the world the “seed of a new generation.” Who better fits this than Christians? We are the Children of God born from water to eternal life. We are that new generation.
Finally, in verse 7 Solomon says, “For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes.” Pointing backward, he is speaking of the ark, but pointing forward, he is talking about the wood of the cross by which righteousness comes.

We also see some powerful imagery with Abraham and Isaac.
We see poor Abraham in Genesis 22 being asked by God to sacrifice the son he was promised as a burnt offering. They travel three days to Mount Moriah, which is the same mountain Jesus would be crucified on. Here, we read:
Genesis 22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son;
So Isaac here is carrying the wood up this mountain just like Jesus would do 1700 years later. It is as if they were preenacting the carrying of the cross.

Moses too points to the cross.
When Israelites had crossed over the Red Sea, the first thing they do is grumble and ask for water. Now the Hebrew word Marah, means bitter, or rebellion, so there is an interesting play on words here.
Exodus 15:23-24 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"
And he cried to the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he proved them,
saying, "If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD, your healer."

So, the water reflected the rebellious attitude of the people. But God heals the water and those who drink it become healed of their rebellion as well.
And then in the New Testament we see
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
I cannot help but think that Christ does the same thing on the cross. He takes the punishment of a rebel and He makes that punishment something that we are all called to imitate because it leads to eternal life.
Sirach 38:5 Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that his power might be known?
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Friday, December 3, 2010


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Was Jesus Breaking The Law Of Moses?

(I hope this answers your questions Sharon)

Was Jesus too rough on the Scribes, Pharisees and Jewish leaders of his day. He seemed to be braking many Jewish laws; laws that Moses put in place from God. Then when the leadership give him grief about it Jesus seems to really lay into them. Was that fair?

Let’s begin by asking what laws Jesus seemed to be breaking?

Certainly he was accused of breaking the Sabbath for several reasons.
Exodus 20:8-10 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
Matthew 12:1-2 At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath through the grainfields, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Behold, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath."
Matthew 12:10 And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they questioned Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"-- in order that they might accuse Him.
When a woman who had been sick for 18 years was healed by Jesus…
Luke 13:14 And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, "There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day."

In the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus seems to criticize the priest and Levite for passing the man that got beat up. But if they would have touched him they would have been ritually unclean according to the law of Moses.
Leviticus 21:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, 'No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his people.
Luke 5:30 And the Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"

If you read almost any part of the Old Testament it is pretty clear that we aren’t suppose to have anything to do with sinners.

Those seem to be the examples that someone would point out if they had an objection. How could we answer those?

First we need to know why those laws in the Old Testament were given. Then we need to ask who does Jesus think that he is that he can break those laws?

So why were those laws given: Don’t associate with sinners?

If you read the Old Testament you see that every time that the Israelites got anywhere near their pagan neighbors they began to act like them. So God - as a punishment - said that they needed to stay separated from their pagan neighbors so they could focus on the Lord. By Jesus’ time the Jews were taking pride in the fact that God had told them that they couldn’t associate with sinners and were forgetting WHY they couldn’t associate with them. Jesus was reminding the Jews of their other mission to be an example to Gentiles like King David and Solomon who attracted Gentiles to the true God.

Not only did Jesus come to remind them, but to empower them with the ability to do it better than Solomon.

Next with the priest and Levite who don’t touch the dead man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho - oh wait, he wasn’t dead, he was only half dead, yet in the story they still walked on.

Why didn’t God want priests and Levites to touch dead people? Now they could actually touch them but they would haven had to go through some ritual purifications before they couldn’t participate in worship again.

The Temple is model of Heaven and paradise. Those in heaven or paradise have nothing to do with death.
Jesus quotes Hosea saying.
Matthew 9:13 `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'

The priests main job is to be a mediator between God and man, and to extend God’s mercy to those who are in trouble. That is what a bunch of the psalms are about.

Finally the accusation that Jesus broke the Sabbath.
Jesus referring to himself said:
Matthew 12:8 For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath."
That is a clear statement of his Divinity. The Sabbath rest was given to recall what God had done for us in our creation and in God rescuing Israel from Egypt that place of bondage.

Heaven is that ultimate rest where we will once again have communion with God as in paradise and be ultimately free from bondage to worship him as he is.

Jesus is a walking Sabbath because he is God made man. He is in himself that communion that he extends to all. He heals specifically on the Sabbath because that is the day it makes the most sense to do so.

Listen to what he says here:

John 7:23 If on the sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the sabbath I made a man's whole body well?

Why isn’t the Sabbath broken by the work of circumcision? Because this work of joining a baby to the communion of God is again the fulfillment of the Sabbath.

So Jesus is giving them a hard time, because the scribes and Pharisees knew all of this already. The problem was that Jesus didn’t fit into their idea of what the Christ would be like and they were too hard hearted to even give him and chance.

For example in John 12 after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. It is THAT event that sets into motion their plotting Jesus’ and Lazarus’ death.

Ultimately it wasn’t that Jesus was breaking the law, but fulfilling it in a way that was unexpected and dangerous to the way of life of some of the scribes and Pharisees and all of us.

P.S. The Editor of this blog (my wife) went to bed, so all grammatical and spelling errors are mine.
P.S.S. I have having a sale on the commentaries - 20% off. Crazy I know but it is for a limited time. Great gift for your parish priest, seminarian, Bible loving friend or new convert!