Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Dead is Really Dead?

Among all the people Jesus raised from the dead whose would you say made the biggest comeback? There was a little girl, a little boy, a servant and then there was Lazarus. (Luke 7,8; Matthew 8; John 11) I learned something about these miracles while reading my study books this weekend. Well, actually, two somethings.

One is that Lazarus is the only one who lived close to Jerusalem.  All the others were in the Galilee region.  So, the Pharisees could easily ignore "such rumors" if they chose. I mean think about it, if there's a place you could care less about, would you care what happened within its borders? Point blank, the pharisees had no respect for Galileans. So, the Pharisees probably could care less that dead people were brought back to life in a part of the kingdom they cared nothing about. Only when the well-known and respected Lazarus, who lived just down the road, died did it get their full attention. Now the second thing I learned comes into play.

Back then the people felt that the spirit, well soul, of a person stayed with the body until the fourth day.  That's when the soul was said to leave the body. . . in other words, the body was really dead then. And, it's decay began. So, Jesus coming along on the fourth day meant both women thought their brother was beyond returning in this lifetime. They knew Jesus could have helped; could have brought their brother back if he had gotten there sooner.  Even still their faith in Jesus did not waiver, even in spite of their brother's death; believing all things were possible through Jesus. But, to raise a body that was considered without a soul was something no one had thought of.

When Lazarus returned to life it got everyone's attention and I mean everyone; there were people from all over the region there comforting Martha and Mary.  Some of the people reported to the pharisees all that had happened, which got their attention and definitely got the ball rolling toward the day that would be relived forever. But, others followed Jesus to hear what he had to say; for now they believed in him. They were looking for him, and Lazarus, as they arrived in Jerusalem for the ritual cleaning before the Passover. And adding even more fuel to the fire was Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, on a donkey, with a large crowd of people waving palm branches in the air. Now that's a way to make a comeback.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not a New Thing

Sometimes I have to wonder where my head is.  You would think that connecting point A and point B would be an easy process.  But it's not always easy or quick.  And I admit I often feel foolish for not seeing the connection right away. This week I learned two interesting facts that fit this scenario.

All these years I never connected that baptism was a form of washing. You might remember I previously mentioned the people washing before entering the temple. By the way it was demonstrated on an episode of Days of Discovery I should have seen the connection. (People walking through the pool water, immersing themselves and then walking out 'clean.' Duh, that's a form of baptism.)

And, for years I was under the misunderstanding that John introduced baptism, but he didn't; it was already a practice. And, it wasn't new to non-Jews either.  The Chronological Study Bible mentions that other religions had some form of baptism in their ritual practices. In all cases it symbolized a kind of cleansing, a step in a new direction, a purification of sorts. What was new was being baptized in a river, away from the Temple, for the purpose of getting right with God without a sacrifice attached to it. That would have gotten everybody's attention.

The other fact I learned was in regard to the statement Jesus made in Luke 4 about the physician healing himself. I never understood why he pointed out doctors to a group of villagers who weren't doctors. Well, according to CSB people use to gather in public areas and discuss what was ailing them. They'd compare treatments.  What was working. What wasn't working. So in a sense, the people were their own doctors. Now, I can see the connection. 

What's funny is that we still do this to some degree today, don't we? How many times have you seen or heard people discussing their ailments and treatments at church, or at work, or in the middle of the neighborhood street? I guess in many ways the proverb still holds true, and we are still physicians trying to heal ourselves.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

There's a Reason

When reading about the healing of ten lepers (Luke 17) I never gave much attention to the location.  I was thinking it was nice that Luke was kind enough to tell us where Jesus was for this particular miracle.  But I should know better; there's always a reason for specific details.  And, Luke mentioned their bearings for a reason. 

Turns out that the location is near the place where Naaman was told by Elisha what to do to also be healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5).  While Naaman was told to go wash up in the Jordan river seven times, the ten lepers were told to report to the priests.  (Just so you know, if they went all the way to Jerusalem for their healing there was a room, or chamber area, for lepers attached to the northwest corner of the court of women in the temple compound.)

Here's an interesting fact. Naaman was a foreigner (from a country that had recently attacked Israel) but God healed him through the prophet Elisha anyway. And among the ten leprous men who approached Jesus was a Samaritan, you know, the people most hated by a good number of  Hebrews.

Yet, he was the only one who returned to thank Jesus while praising God for the healing. Jesus noticed this. He received the man's offering of thanks and blessed him as well.  How sad that the other nine missed out on the blessing from Jesus.

Jesus has always provided healing for all people, no matter where they are from or what others think of them.  He's still for everyone.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


"Wash you hands before you eat!"  How many of us have been told this? Or said it to others?  In case you thought it was a modern concept, think again.

As you know the Pharisees were very legalistic and held many rituals (some times called 'the tradition of the elders').  One ritual was washing the hands in a particular way before they would eat.  Not to mention the washing of cups, pitchers, jugs, copper vessels, pans, sleeping mats and couches. (See Mark7)

I use to think this strange that the Pharisees would be so particular.  Modern man might even call this OCD . . . having to have things just so before proceeding. But I recently learned that the Pharisees weren't the only ones that were so ritualistic. In fact, according to the Chronological Study Bible, the Romans were just as bad about rituals, maybe more so. If they skipped a step in a ritual process, they stopped and started all over again until it was done properly and completely.  That could take a while.

And as far as washing up goes, we know the Hebrews used large water pots for cleansing (like the wedding in Cana).  But what about soap?  Have you ever wondered about soap?  Again according to the Chronological Study Bible soap wasn't really known in Judea.  So how did they wash up?  Well, for cleaning clothes apparently they used either a sodium carbonate-like substance or ashes or a superfine clay called fuller's earth. And then they would beat the clothes on rocks or stones.  With no soap for the hands and questionable substances for clothes it makes you wonder, just how clean did things really get?