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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jesus and the Destruction of Jerusalem

I know that people don't like history much of the time because there are many dates involved, but certain years are engrained in our minds. The year 1776 with the forming of our country and September 11, 2001, unfortunately, are examples among many that will not be forgotten. There are also dates in scripture that are important to know.

70 A.D. with the destruction of the temple by the Romans is important for a few reasons:
It changed Judaism forever.
Jesus prophecies that it would be destroyed.
Jesus points us to a New Temple.


Jerusalem was the political, religious, and economic center in the life of every Jew.
Imagine Wall Street, Washington D.C. and Rome wrapped into one city.
The temple, in particular, was the center of Jerusalem where sacrifice was offered daily.
Several feasts each year called all the Jews of the world back to Jerusalem to celebrate these feasts.


When Jerusalem was destroyed, this ended those sacrifices prescribed by Moses even until today. Jews stopped having a priesthood and a sacrificial system the day that Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed.

Sometimes, Jesus is very blunt about it like in Matthew 24:1-2.
Matthew 24:1
  And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He answered and said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down."
Other times, though, He is cryptic about it like when he says in Matthew 12:39-40: But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Well, what people don't usually understand is that Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh because he knew that God might be merciful to those wicked people and use them to bring judgment on his own sinful people back in Israel.
So Jonah was afraid that if Assyria did in fact repent, God would then use them to destroy the Israelites who would not repent. This is exactly what happens.
And 40 years after Jonah preached to those people, the Ninevites came and destroyed his people and spread them throughout the world, and now they are the ten lost tribes of Israel.
The same thing happens in Jesus’ day, 40 years after He rises from the earth, the Romans come and destroy Jerusalem.
 
Another example is when Jesus cleanses the temple.
Matthew 21:13 He said to them, "It is written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers."
Now Jesus is in fact quoting Jeremiah here and Jesus knows that the hearers know the context of the quote.
Jeremiah 7:11-13 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, says the LORD. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, says the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer.


Jesus calls himself the new temple in John.
John 2:19-21 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he spoke of the temple of his body.
John 19:33-35 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.
This is significant because during some of the temple sacrifices both blood and water would be poured out over and the altar and they would run as a stream out of the side of the temple. Out of Jesus’ side flows blood and water.


Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own.


So again this significance is that, first, it is in the person of Christ himself that we go to meet God.
Secondly, Christ is the place of sacrifice. We are to be united in Him and with Him with our own sacrifices.
And finally, it is in Christ that we participate as a temple builder. We help build the temple of God here on earth and then later in heaven.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Relics

The Catholic Church is very incarnational in the sense that we believe that God still works through physical things. Sacraments, sacramentals and relics are examples of how God still works in the world through material things. Relics are what we will focus on today and we will see a Biblical basis for them. First, let’s discuss what is a relic.
The word relic comes from a Latin word that means “remains”.

When a Catholic is talking about a relic, they are talking about the remains of a saint, either part of their body, something they owned, or something that touched their body.
We believe that these things are special because God worked through the person that they belonged to, and not only that, but sometimes God continues to work through the remains of a saint.

For example, in the case of Elisha’s bones:
2 Kings 13:20-21 And Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. And as they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.
Now what is happening here? Elisha, the successor to the prophet Elijah, has obviously died. Some men are burying their friend near Elisha’s remains when some bandits come so they place their dead friend’s body in Elisha’s grave. Suddenly, the dead friend comes back to life.

Why did this happen? To show that not only did God work through the prophet during his life, but that God would continue to work through the things that belonged to the prophet, namely his bones in this case.

There is another example with Elijah and Elisha.
2 Kings 2:11-14 Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and struck the waters and said, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.

So why does God work through the mantle of Elijah? Because it is Elijah’s. It isn’t magic, it’s holiness.
This is my science fiction analogy. While some day, an evil master mind might go on some grand quest to find Elijah’s mantle so he can strike some great sea, split the waters into two and then march his evil army through on dry ground to some poor unsuspecting neighboring country to attack, this is the world of science fiction.

God works through physical things because we are physical beings, not just spiritual. This is to be kept in mind as well. God works through relationships, not mechanisms.

We see more examples of this in the New Testament with Peter and Paul.

It would seem as though even Peter’s shadow healed people.
Acts 5:15-16 They even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed.

Paul, as well, had miraculous things happen through his handkerchief.
 
Acts 19:11-12 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

What about the objection that “this is just religious superstition and borders on idolatry.”
While any legitimate devotion can be abused, usually what the objection entails is that God does not work through things anymore. Maybe He did at one time in those special circumstances, but He doesn’t any more.
I would stick with a more consistent view of God and say that God did at times work through things and He still does.

You can imagine that even protestants would do this. If someone’s father was particularly virtuous and was devoted to the study of Scripture, when he died, a faithful son would take great care of that Bible, maybe even having a special place for it in the house. Why? Because it’s that Bible, but not just any Bible. It was my dad’s Bible that he used and he was a holy man.
It seems natural. That is why we have museums, to save important things. Relics, though, aren’t just important. They are holy because they belonged to holy people.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Cross in the Old Testament Part 2

We continue looking at how the Cross of Christ is prefigured in the Old Testament.

Just after Moses and the Israelites leave Egypt, but before they reach Mount Sinai, they are attacked by the Amalek.
During the battle, Moses climbs a mountain and holds up his staff in his hands. Provided his arms were outstretched the battle was to be won.
Exodus 17:11-13 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
So Moses holding the staff over his head visually would have looked like a cross. I thought also how again the cross of Christ is like St. Paul says in
1 Corinthians 1:18 …the power of God.
Now in the same story of Moses and the defeat Amalek; after the battle Exodus 17:15 say that Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is My Banner.
 
I wondered what the Hebrew word for banner was and what its significance was here in the story. Why call that altar - The LORD is My Banner.
The Hebrew word ‘banner’ here is nissi, which means a banner, standard, like a flag.
So then I see where the word is used next and sure enough it is the Book of Numbers Chapter 21.
The situation here is that the Israelites once again are being rebellious, so God sends firey serpents to bite them and some of them die.
Numbers 21:8 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live." And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about,
that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

Jesus links the brazen serpent to his crucifixion.
Jesus in the New Testament is drawing on this imagery in the Gospel of John when he is talking with Nicodemus.
John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
Now when is Jesus lifted up? In this context it is the cross. Yet there are even further connections. Jesus says to Nicodemus
John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
John 12:32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

So when Jesus is lifted on the cross all men will be drawn to himself. This idea has its roots again in the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus saying:
Isaiah 11:9-12 In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a standard to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a standard for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

So this was prophesied about even in the Old Testament. Something else that struck me here was how Isaiah says “the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people”

When was the first time, but the first Exodus when God through Moses, extends his hands over the sea and at one time saves his people and destroys the enemy.
Moses says this after they get saved:
Exodus 15:6, 12 Thy right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, thy right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy...Thou didst stretch out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

So Jesus will do the same - extend his hands on the cross, to defeat sin and save his people.

I think that the death of Samson with the death of Jesus are also.

Samson as we recall is the strong man of the Old Testament with the long hair. Eventually he is captured by the Philistines who are occupying and enslaving Israel at that time. They cut out his eyes and bring him out to make fun of him.
Nowall of the leaders of the Philistines are there at this party, some 3,000 people.
Judges 16:26-30 "Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them."…Then Samson called to the LORD and said, "O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes." And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.

So in Samson’s death he destroys the enemy of his people. Jesus does the same.

Hebrews 2:14-15 that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.