Friday, April 25, 2014


Can you picture burying a loved one in a grave where someone else is already buried? Not in today's world, right? I mean even mausoleums have individual niches. But, that's not how it happened back in Bible days. When they write that the person was placed in a family tomb, that's what they mean. Multiple members of a family were in one tomb.

So, when you read that Jesus was placed in a new, unused tomb, that is something significant. Especially in a city that's been around for centuries.

Now the process they used in caring for the dead is interesting too. According to A Visual Guide to Bible Events, before the body was completely buried in the tomb it was placed on a preparation table first. Once on that table the linen and spices were applied to the body. Then when the process was completed the body was stored in a niche, called a kokh, while the soft tissue decomposed. It was a year or so later that they would place the family member's bones into a small box called an ossuary.

Do you know why they rubbed spices on the bodies of their dead relatives? I thought it was because they didn't embalm their dead like the Egyptians. And, because they visited the grave several times in the first week after someone died. But there was another reason. Apparently, in a sealed tomb poisonous gases would form as the body decomposed. And these spices would stop the formation of those gases.

Interesting, right? But why go back into the tomb? Why put the dead body in a box after it decomposed? Why not put the dead person in a box when he dies?

In a land with limited places to bury the dead, a family did all these preparations so that the body of their loved one could rise from the dead, when the dead are resurrected. (Matthew 22 mentions this future resurrection.) The followers of Jesus had every intention of making the body of Jesus ready for that resurrection.

Can you imagine how shocked they were to find the tomb empty? Think how you would feel if you arrived at the funeral home to make arrangements for a burial and you're told, "You're loved one isn't here anymore. He's alive." I'd be freaked out, wouldn't you?

Anyway, because Jesus was the only one to use this new tomb there could be no confusion as to whose body was missing that wonderful resurrection morning.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Three in One

What does Easter mean to you? For some it's the coming of a bunny that brings baskets filled with colored eggs and presents. But for those who believe in God it's the celebration of Jesus dieing on the cross, defeating hell and its power to punish the sinful, and then rising to life again. Currently, he awaits the signal from the Father that the time is complete and he can return to earth.

The idea that the holy God in heaven has three separate identities yet is one God has tripped up many. Especially when it comes to receiving and accepting that Jesus, as part of that triune, died for everyone. It is a complicated idea, until you look into God's creation.

He knew that understanding the three in one concept would be difficult for mankind to grasp so he created some wonderful examples for us to hold in our hands. While many fruits have three sections that could be used to show how three parts can make up a whole, I prefer the example of the egg.

Each part of the egg is an entity into itself. But the three cannot exist apart from one another. An egg cannot survive to be of use without the shell holding the white and yolk inside. Once the shell is broken you can have access to all parts of the egg.

So how is this similar?

Until Jesus came there were limited times when the Spirit of God came upon someone and allowed them to do mighty things for God. Jesus promised that he would send the Comforter (or Advocate or Counselor, depending on your translation) once he returned to heaven. He even told his followers if he didn't go away that there would be no Comforter coming. (John 16) In addition to this, as per the law, only the high priest could enter into God's presence. And then only once a year.

When Jesus died a miracle happened. The thick heavy curtain that allowed the holy God of Israel to be present among his people without them dieing from being in his righteous presence was torn from the top down. (Matthew 27) God ripped that curtain to signal that all people could now have access to him and enter his holy presence.

The yolk is inaccessible unless you break the shell. Think about it. The shell must be broken in order for the white of an egg to spread out and expose the yolk. Curiously, as it spreads it continues to surround the yolk and still remain attached to the shell. The Holy Spirit works in the same way as he is always in the presence of the Father and Jesus.

Another thing, the white of an egg is also good for gluing things together in the cooking process. The Holy Spirit holds the body of Christ together as it works for the spreading of God's kingdom. It's through him that we communicate with the Father, he even groans for us when we cannot put the right words together as we pray. Check out Romans 8.

And even though the curtain was torn and we can have access to the Father, he is still holy. And only when we come to him in the name of Jesus will the moving of the Holy Spirit allow us to approach the throne of God as a prince approaches the king. And it's through Jesus that we can speak to him in familiar tones. This is the gift we've been given. We just have to accept it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Becoming Sin

The Passover celebrates how God's angel of death passed over each house having blood on its threshold during the last plague in Egypt. Only by the blood of the sacrificial lamb were they saved from death. In case you may not be aware of it, when Jesus went on the cross he represented a sacrificial lamb and the establishing of a new covenant with God.

Jewish Jewels does an incredible job of explaining the covenants and how Jesus made a one-sided covenant with humanity. His covenant made it possible for all people, not just the nation of Israel, to have hope and access to God. I cannot imagine my life without God. Can you? Jesus did that for me. . .for all of us.

But to give me that hope, Jesus who lived a sinless life had to become sin. How did dying on a cross do that? Well, way back in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 21, the instructions given include a man who died on a tree would be cursed, in other words become sinful.

Not only did Jesus become sinful the moment they nailed him to that cross, but he was humiliated in the process. Stripped of his clothes in front of people who knew him and didn't know him. And, he was placed along a road traveled by all the people entering the city for the Passover preparations. That's why passersby could shout insults at him. One of my pastors even mentioned crosses often being placed so that the person was just off the ground, allowing the people insulting the accused to get up in their face as the shouted the insult.

But it didn't stop there. Did you know that the Romans took pleasure in crucifying Jews in a cemetery? I didn't. According to A Visual Guide to Bible Events Jesus was crucified in a cemetery. Those standing by him would have been considered as ritually unclean by the pharisees.

And don't believe some of the depictions of the crucifixion. Yes he had a crown of thorns on his head, but many pictures of Jesus forget the one word in Matthew 27 and Mark 15 that tells us the rest of the story. . . scourged, or flogged. Jesus was stripped of his clothes then given lashes with a flagellum which could kill a man if he was whipped enough times. (Flagellums, in case you didn't know, were a multi-strapped leather whip that had metal and bone tied or embedded in the straps. That thing could rip open a man's skin and expose the rib cage. Not a pretty sight.) And he did this for me and you.

The last thing the Romans did actually backfired on the Sanhedrin. In their attempt to further humiliate Jesus and demean the Jewish people the Roman guard placed a plaque on the cross written in three languages, which said Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews. Here's a curious thing. I was once told that the way the lettering lined up, it spelled the name of God. The Romans in essence were stating that God was being crucified. That was one of the reasons the Sanhedrin were up in arms.

Perhaps some of them came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and regretted their decision to have him crucified. Perhaps others begged God's forgiveness when the curtain that had divided a sinless God from a sinful people was torn from the top down the moment Jesus died. Perhaps Peter and Paul helped their family members to see the sin of their fathers and walk away from it.

I hate what Jesus had to go through. It breaks my heart that man would be so guilty of sin that Jesus had to be beaten and punished in such a graphic and brutal manner. But if ever there was a true picture of something bad happening so that something wonderfully good could come of it, this is it.

Jesus had to die on a cross to become cursed and guilty of sin which would send him to hell. But in his righteousness and because he was God he created a pathway out of there. If you choose his path before you die, you don't have to stay where punishment is given. When your time on earth ends, you can pass hell and go directly to heaven, where the streets and buildings are made of the finest and purest gems. Where joy and celebration take place everyday. Where love can be found in its most complete form.

Thank you Jesus for loving us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Did They Forget?

Many pageants and movies about the life of Jesus show hundreds of common people shouting to Pilate, "Crucify him," which begs the following questions. "Did the people forget Jesus entering Jerusalem as a king earlier in the week? Did they forget how he taught them at the temple? Did they really want a murderer to be freed instead of this good teacher?"

Did you know that when Pilate asks the people about Jesus that it was six in the morning? How many people do you think were out that early in the morning? I mean it is the day of preparation for Passover, but being that early I don't think it was the huge crowds that many productions make it out to be. No, the people answering Pilate were from the Sanhedrin, chief priests and other influential leaders. Check out John18-19, Luke 23, Mark 15 and Matthew 27.

Now, before you get confused because many translations use the word multitude let me remind you that the Sanhedrin was made up of seventy men, seventy influential men who more than likely kept a servant nearby. The passages in Mark and Luke indicate that there were more leaders than just the Sanhedrin. And, I'm sure there were a few early risers passing by who stopped to check things out. So all in all, there was a good sized crowd there to answer Pilate's questions.

I can see the leaders discussing among themselves that allowing Barabbas freed was an easy way to rid themselves of Jesus. So did they, the Sanhedrin, forget what Jesus did or how he entered the city earlier in the week?

Of course not. They remembered. That's one of the reasons they were doing what they were doing.

And those who may have happened on the scene that early dreadful morning, would they have spoken up against the leaders? No. The Sanhedrin were the educated ones. The ones who knew every letter of the law. If the leaders standing by them were implying Barabbas was better than Jesus, who were they to argue?

And while the people did greet Jesus as king by waving palm branches and throwing coats in front of him there was something missing in his entrance. According to a guest speaker on Day of Discovery, a king would have been greeted by the leadership of the city, placed on a platform, introduced to the people, and then allowed to address the city. This did not happen. So for most of the people Jesus was just another actor in the Passover celebration activities.

This is a two-fold scenario here. Sadly the leaders who should have known Jesus was the true Messiah rejected him and agreed to honor only Caesar. Fortunately for everyone else who ever lived the Sanhedrin caused Jesus to be crucified. Without that crucifixion none of us would have hope of an eternal life in heaven.