Thursday, June 28, 2012

Biblical Bread Making

Did you ever wonder how the people of Biblical days leavened their bread?

Recently, I learned they would moisten flour then allow it to get sour and develop bubbles over the course of a couple of days by letting it sit out. To achieve the same flavor faster they would take a lump from the day before and add it to the fresh bread to bake.

So, essentially, they took 'bad stuff,' added it to flour, and made bread.  Thus, giving it a sour flavor.  Ah, sour dough bread.  Without this 'bad stuff' the bread was a sweet tasting bread.

Lois Tverberg points out in the book, Listening to the Language of the Bible, that Paul and other believers of the day understood how this leavening process worked.  That's why Paul used it as an example of how sin changes us. (1 Corinthians 5)

Anyway, when Jesus held up the bread and said 'this is my body,' it was Passover.  The Jews only eat unleavened bread at Passover.  The sweet tasting stuff.  The bread without the fermenting, sour-tasting lump added in.

In other words, he held up the clean bread that didn't have a representation of sin in it.  When he spoke, he was saying not only is he the clean, flawless lamb but also the sweet-tasting, leaven-free grain.   Which by the way fit in to the requirement for sacrifices and offerings . . . no leaven was allowed in grain offerings made at the temple.

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross covered our sins.  But it can also be seen as an offering . . . a gift to our Heavenly Father. (Leviticus 2)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You Want To Be Like Who?

Have you ever had someone pressure you into doing something you didn't want to do?  And the next thing you know, an old friend or relative is trying to be just like that person?

In my studying of the day and times of Jesus, I found several sources stating that Galileans wanted to speak Greek and be like the Greeks, albeit they were not very good at it.  The Judeans resented this.

I had not fully grasped the why of it all until I was reading A Visual Guide To Bible Events.

Did you know that the whole region was part of the Greek empire captured by Alexander the Great?  I did.

But did you know that after Alexander's death Ptolemy (Ptolemies) and Seleucus (Seleucids) fought to gain control over each other?  They battled for 75 years, in Israel.  The Seleucids winning that war, at the same time, ended up losing the rest of their kingdom to Rome.   Of course, the treaty required paying a hefty sum.

Their leader, Antiochus IV, on top of increasing taxes planned to make everyone in Judea and Jerusalem Greek, in other words Hellenizing them.  This took years.  Eventually, it resulted in his changing the Levitical leadership to those embracing his efforts and willing to charge more at the temple.

He didn't stop there.  Later, he entered the temple, robbed the treasury, sacrificed a pig in the sanctuary area (the holy place), and renamed the temple after Zeus.  Ouch. 

Still, that was not enough.  He burned some of the Torah scrolls, outlawed the Sabbath and the Jewish strict diet, and executed anyone caught circumcising their sons.  These things were not easily forgotten.

A century and a half later, the Judeans still harbored ill feelings toward those who tried to speak Greek...who tried to embrace some form of Greek in their daily life.  Can you see why Galileans were looked at as not loving the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

I'm not sure where I would fall if I lived back then...with the forgiving Galileans or the non-forgiving Judeans.  But, this has given me a better understanding toward those who thought so little of Nazareth and the Galilee.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When Water Isn't Just Water

Have you ever wondered why Jesus referred to himself as having living water? (John 4)  And the Samaritan woman seemed to understand his meaning?

I admit, I didn't understand it.  Each time I read the passage I wondered what in the world that water.  Did it mean some kind of super mineral water?  Or, water that was crystal clear?  Or, water that wasn't really water?

Sadly, even with all my curiosities I never researched it.  I put it on the back burner and forgot that there had to be more to the story.  While reading the book, Listening to the Language of the Bible by Lois Tverberg, I was finally given the answer.

Lois referred back to Ezekiel 47.  The wonderful passage describes water flowing from the sanctuary and bringing life back to all the areas of land that it touched.  This refreshing, renewing, re-birthing water was anticipated by all in that part of the world.

No wonder the Samaritan woman didn't balk at his reference to giving her living water.  Like most of us, it took further divulging about her past to make her realize who the giver of this living water was.

Note: the living water in Ezekiel starts out as a small trickle and builds on itself.  Expanding and expanding until it finally transforms the Dead Sea which did not have anything living in it into a place brimming with life.

What a concept.  One taste of the living water Jesus gave brought healing to the Samaritan woman. Freeing her from all the sins in her past.  Starting all over again, fresh, as if nothing before had happened.  Now I get it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feed How Many People?

Can you imagine standing on the field at a packed high school football stadium and being told to feed the spectators?  And all you have is a lunch box of food. Yep, that's what Jesus asked of his followers.

Even though each gospel mentions this happening, they each brought their own perspective to the story. So, all together this is what we know:
    It was along the Sea of Galilee at a place known to be without people.
    People from nearby towns followed his boat and met him when he landed.
    There was a hill where Jesus sat while teaching and healing the people.
    It was a large area that could hold five thousand men...
       plus the women, children and slaves that came along...
       and they were able to sit in groups of fifty and a hundred.

Only John points out that it was near the passover.  You may be thinking, 'so?'

Turns out there is a I never saw or was taught.  Once again the writers of A Visual Guide to Bible Events show Jesus choose this time to re-enact a significant action done in Jewish history.

What a perfect time to bring to life part of what they were going to be celebrating...God's provision in the middle of a place known to be without people.  Jesus provided food where there was no abundance of food...just as the Lord did through Moses.

Something the people could relate to...No wonder the people so quickly embraced the concept of Jesus as the Prophet.