Inspirations

Archive for April, 2011

BARABBAS: The Scapegoat

In earlier writings, BARABBAS’ name was Jesus Barabbas literally meaning Jesus, son of the father. However, the Gospel writers say he was the following:

  • Mt (27:16)   notable/notorious prisoner
  • Mk (15:7)    insurrectionist/rebel
  • Lk (23:19)   sedition/rebellion, murder
  • Jn (18:40)   brigand/robber

While Barabbas was a robber, his antithesis was Jesus Christ “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philipians 2:6).  Barabbas played an important character during the trial of Jesus Christ, but we have to dig into Old Testament scriptures to understand his goatish nature.

Barabbas was a notorious robber, murder, and rebel. As has been speculated by some, I doubt he was some kind of heroic ‘freedom fighter’. If he had been one, would Pontius Pilate have considered the possibility of releasing him? All that the Governor Pilate would have needed on his hands would be a future Spartacus style uprising, for which Pilate would have been answerable to Caesar. Knowing that the Jewish leaders, out of spite, desired Jesus to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice to release either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, who undoubtedly would not win the support of the people. As we know, Pilate’s plan backfired.

Before being brought to Pontius Pilate, Jesus had been interrogated by Caiaphas, the high priest. When angered by Jesus’ words, Caiaphas then rent his clothes. Because it was sin for the high priest to rend his clothes (Lev 21:10, 10:6), Caiaphas’ action would have disqualified him from his religious service during Passover.

Matthew 26:64-65 – Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

Had Pilate, in a sense, become the Jewish high priest, since Caiaphas had rent his clothes?  The Roman Emperor was the ‘pontifex maximus’, the high priest of the Roman religion. Representing the Emperor Tiberius, Pilate who was the prefect could decide judicial cases. By religious disqualification of the Jewish high priest, Pilate unknowingly filled the seat of the high priest when he decided the fate of the “goats” and by washing his hands of the affair. In essence, he was replacing the Roman appointed Jewish high priest, who could not officiate due to the rending of his garments.

ATONEMENT SACRIFICES IN LEV. 16 FORESHADOW CHRIST ON CALVARY

Lev 16:7 The high priest presented two goats before the tent of meeting, where judgment decisions were made. (Ex 33:7-10)

  • The Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas in front of the praetorium, the residence of the Governor.

Lev 16:8 The high priest cast lots for the two goats: one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.

  • Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to make a decision of whom to release: Barabbas or Jesus. Having come under Roman rule, the Jews were allowed the privilege of asking for the release of one prisoner of their choosing during Passover.

Lev 16:9 The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be sacrificed as a sin offering.

  • The people, at the urging of the priests and elders, choose Jesus to be crucified.

Lev 16:10 The goat on which the lot fell is to be the scapegoat presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement, and then to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

  • They choose Barabbas, a symbol of the antichrist, a man of sin and a son of the devil. Then Pontius Pilate releases Barabbas unto them.

Lev 16:15-17 Then the high priest would kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat, making an atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle of Congregation, and for the Congregation of Israel.

  • After Pontius Pilate has Jesus scourged, Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified. Christ is making atonement for the sins of the world.

Lev 16:18-19 The priest would make atonement for the altar, and would sprinkle the blood upon it seven times, cleansing it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

  • At Gethsemane, his sweat becomes great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk 22:44)
  • Internal bleading (Is 53:5, Micah 5:1, Mt 26:63-64)
  • His beard is ripped out (Is 50:5-6)
  • Jesus is whipped (Ps 129:3, Is 50:6, Is 53:5, Mt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Jn 19:1, 1 Pet 2:24)
  • The crown of thorn causes bleeding from the head (Mt 27:29, Mk 15:17, Jn 19:2)
  • His hands and his feet are nailed to the cross (Mt 27:35)
  • His side is pierced (Jn 19:34)

Lev 16:20-22 When he had made an end of reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he would bring the live goat, making confession of iniquities and transgressions upon its head, and sending it away into the wilderness. The goat would bear all the inquities unto a land uninhabited, and he would let go the goat in the wilderness.

  • Barabbas is the scapegoat that will be set free to go wild, while Jesus becomes the sacrificial goat for the sin offering.

Lev 16:24, 26 The priest would wash his flesh and his clothes.

  • Pontius Pilate washes his hands.

Deuteronomy 21:6-8 The elders would wash their hands of an innocent murder.

  • Pilate is washing his hands, though prior to the death of Jesus, of murder.  It was a Jewish custom, not a Roman custom.

Imagine how this scene of the two goats was played out for centuries during their sacrifices to be as a foreshadow of Christ and the scapegoat.

Jn10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

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MALCHUS

The importance of the story of Malchus was enough to be written in all four Gospel accounts because the circumstances of the evening contrasted with Jesus’ mission.

A common Nabatean name, Malchus, means counselor. He may have been a Nabatean Arab slave from the lands between Syria and Arabia, but had become the servant of the high-priest Caiaphas. Josephus, the Jewish historian, shares that the high priests had the hardness to send their servants to perform unpleasant acts.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention that one of them, i.e. a disciple of Christ, drew a sword and in his attempt of striking the high priest’s servant, ended up removing his right ear.  However, John identifies the culprit who drew the sword as none other, but Peter who must have been left-handed. Obviously, Peter had misunderstood Jesus’ figurative application of buying a sword (Lk 22:36). Nevertheless, Jesus admonishes him that those who take up the sword will die by the sword.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke who wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem, do not disclose his identity or Peter’s, because it might have caused harm to both men. Therefore, the basic story given is that one of the disciples cut off the high priest servant’s ear. Matthew contrasts this incident with the fact that King of the Jews could at any time call up 12 legions of angels, but preferred that scripture be fulfilled. Mark uses the incident to emphasize how they are arresting the Servant of God as a thief when He was daily teaching at the temple. Luke relates how Jesus, as the Savior and Healer, takes a moment in the midst of turmoil to heal the servant’s ear. However, John who wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, discloses the servants name, because he might have become one of the believers. Also, John’s point of the story is to show the importance of submission by the Son of God to the Father.

I think the story of Malchus’ ear having been restored by Jesus is parallel to our ears needing the Saviour’s touch.

Acts 28:27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
       they hardly hear with their ears,
       and they have closed their eyes.
       Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
       hear with their ears,
       understand with their hearts
       and turn, and I would heal them.’

IS THE LAST SUPPER THE PASSOVER MEAL?

In order to piece together the Passover week, I have found it necessary to refer to a quality astronomy program (Starry Night Pro Plus) besides resorting to historical, religious, and linguistic resources. Understanding the Hebrew Mazzaroth (Job 38:32) will help us to see the heavenly drama from Christ’s conception to his final Triumph, especially during the events surrounding Passover. We ought to know the importance of the moon in regards to the Jewish Passover.  Besides the astronomical importance, what did the requirements of the Passover entail for the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and how did the circumstances of the Last Supper and the crucifixion of Jesus play into the Feast?

The Passover lamb was to be slain “between the evenings”, i.e., between the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month of Nissan. Yet, the Passover could not be held until after the Full Moon was sighted. ‘Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon on our feast day.’ (Ps. 81:3 ESV). As a Jewish new day started in the evening, the 14th of Nissan began in the evening for the Jews. However, the Passover lamb would be sacrificed sometime in the afternoon of the 14th of Nissan after the moon had become full, and the Passover meal would be served at twilight of the fifteenth.

 BETHULAH (Virgo) The Virgin – The virgin is holding the branch in her right hand and the ear of wheat in her left.

On Passover week in the year 33 AD, from Tuesday until late Friday afternoon, the moon will be in the constellation of BETHULAH, the Virgin, who holds the Branch and the Ear of Wheat. After the birth of Jesus, we rarely see his mother Mary mentioned in Scriptures until this Passion Week when her presence is so important. Jesus was the Seed whose death was imperative before the Resurrection. Although the 14th day of Nissan would begin on Thursday evening, but it would not be until after sunrise the next morning when the moon would become full, and then the Passover Lamb could be sacrificed.

When the disciples approached Jesus, it was before (πρωτος) the Unleavened Bread, or ‘the day before the Unleavened Bread’ if translated correctly. They wanted to know what to do, and Jesus instructed them to ask a certain man for his house. The disciples made ready for the Passover, called the Preparation of the Passover, in which involved making sure the house was clean of leaven. Although they had until the following noon of the 14th day of Nissan to remove the leaven off the premises, typically the Jews would make sure that their homes were free of leaven by the beginning of the 14th day of Nissan just to be safe. On Thursday evening, Jesus sat down with the twelve for Supper. Early Friday morning the moon became full and the Passover Lamb would be sacrificed hours later.

Under rare circumstances do we celebrate Thanksgiving on another day, but the Passover could only be celebrated after the lambs were sacrificed in the afternoon on the 14th day of Nissan. (There were special provisions for a second Passover date held a month later.) Although there are some similarities, the meal that Jesus and the disciples ate was a Preparatory meal, and not the Passover Sedar. In Luke, Jesus stated, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  The term, ‘with desire I have desired’, is used as in I desire to have what I can’t have. 

Besides, the women would have participated if it were Passover, since it would be a family meal. Scriptures do not mention lamb, bitter herbs, etc. However, mention is made that they ate bread (αρτος) raised or leavened bread, but as a general noun it could also mean unleavened bread. The specific word for unleavened bread (αζυμος) is not employed here. Since grape juice begins to ferment quickly, wine would have been served. Moreover, grapes are generally harvested at the end of summer.

On the other hand, Jesus could have conducted the first half of the Sedar, with Himself being the second half of the Sacrifice. As described in 1 Corinthians 11, Jesus was instituting the first Communion service, which had similarities to the Sedar, but was not the same thing. If in fact, the Passover lamb had been eaten prior to Jesus death, then Jesus would not have been the Passover Lamb who came to die for the sins of the world.

 

 

MARY OF BETHANY

As the events have progressed from the triumphal entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem to dinner with friends in Bethany, so has the drama or signs in the heavenly skies. No longer is the moon in the constellation of Arieh (Leo), the Lion of Judah, but it has shifted to Bethulah (Virgo), the Virgin. The moon is now waxing gibbous before it phases to its fullness. Likewise, at the dinner in Bethany, the memorial story of Mary of Bethany will point to the final phase of Jesus’ life – his death and burial.

Jesus was staying in Bethany, a small village below the Mount of Olives at the house of Simon the Leper. Could it be that Simon the Leper was the father or relative of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, or that he was Lazarus himself?  Earlier, Lazarus’ death had given Jesus the opportunity not only to demonstrate that death is conquered by Him, but that Lazarus being brought back from the dead would be symbolic of Christ’s future death and resurrection. However, Lazarus’ sister would symbolically anoint Jesus for his soon approaching death and burial.  

Because Matthew’s Gospel tells us that after two days is the feast of the Passover, then we know that this story of the dinner meal takes place on Wednesday evening (April 1, 33 AD). As Lazarus dines with the others, Martha is serving. Dinner would have typically included bread and wine, a metaphoric foretaste of Jesus’ death. Where is Mary? In the Gospels written by Matthew and Mark, the woman who anoints the Savior is unnamed, but in the Gospel of John, she is identified as Mary. Jesus formerly had told Martha, when she was anxious and disturbed about her sister, that Mary had chosen the good portion. Now we see Mary choosing the spiritual portion, but in a prophetic sense.

Mary has an alabastron of very precious ointment, a pound of unadulterated spikenard to be precise. Spikenard, grown in the Himalayas, has an earthy aroma, and is used for special occasions. Breaking the seal, she pours the spikenard on her Savior’s head while he is reclining. John adds in his Gospel story that she wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair. Since the head represents nurturing and the feet represent authority, Mary is anointing the Lord in spiritually strategic places. The odor of the spikenard, signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit, permeates the house.

While Matthew discloses that ALL the disciples were indignant at the wastefulness, Mark shares that SOME were rather indignant. However, John states that JUDAS Iscariot is the one that asks why this ointment wasn’t sold for three hundred denarii and the proceeds given to the poor. If a man’s daily wage were one silver danarii, then three hundred denarii was about a year’s wages. Not that Judas cares for the poor, because he was a thief pilfering from the moneybag. His attack against Mary provokes the others to murmur against her.

Jesus comes to her defense acknowledging that she had done a good work while his disciples surely have the poor always with them, but they would not always have Him. He reminds them the purpose of the anointing is for his burial. Jesus desires this particular story to be told where ever the Gospel is to be preached as a memorial to Mary. Then Judas, true to his nature, went and covenanted with the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver, about a month’s wages.

We know that Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. Martha had a servant’s heart, Lazarus had experienced being brought back from the dead, and Mary was fond of sitting at the feet of Jesus hearing the Logos, the living Word of God. Her action of anointing Jesus was inspired because of a heart brimming with love for her Lord. While the breaking of the alabaster seal was symbolic of the body of Jesus being broken for all and the ointment symbolic of Christ’s burial, the ointment also represents the Holy Spirit being poured out upon our lives. Halleluiah!

FROM JERICHO TO JERUSALEM

Jericho, also known as the city of palm trees, is located northeast of Jerusalem just above the Dead Sea. Situated about 800 feet below sea level, Jericho is the lowest city in the world. Heading towards Jerusalem, the ascent rises approximately 3200 feet up to Jerusalem. The traveler could complete the arduous 15-mile hike in about 8 hours.

Two events happened at Jericho before Jesus made his onerous climb up to Jerusalem: The healing of the blind men and the spiritual healing of Zacchaeus. Upon his arrival, Jesus rides on the foal while his followers, many from Jericho, spread out their cloaks and branches in the roadway. Displayed in the heavens that evening are signs pointing to the Messiah. Let’s examine the events of the first Palm Sunday and how the Son of David, the Lion of Judah, made his honorable entrance into Jerusalem.

Leaving Jericho, two blind men cried out to Jesus to have mercy on them. One of the blind men was Bartimaeus, whose name means ‘son of the unclean’ in Hebrew or ‘son of honor’ in the Hebrew-Greek. Despite being rebuked by the crowd, they cried out for mercy to the Son of David. When Jesus stopped and asked what He could do for them, they requested that their eyes be opened or that they receive sight. Accordingly, Jesus touched their eyes, and they received sight. In addition, they followed him to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus, cast his cloak, a sign of forsaking his beggarly life in return of being a disciple of Christ as represented by the double meaning of his name. Interestingly, I think the two blind men represent a humanity that is in need of spiritual sight. As spoken in Luke 4:18, Jesus came to recover the sight of the blind, whether physically or spiritually.

Zacchaeus, whose name means ‘pure’, ‘clean’, or ‘just’, surely needed a name change, but Jesus changed his life to fit his name.  Using his position of chief publican, he had obtained his wealth in unjust ways. When Jesus came to Jericho, his short stature prevented him from seeing Jesus. Undeterred, he climbed the sycamore tree, a type of fig tree whose fruit resembles the mulberry and is symbolic of Israel. Stopping, Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down because he desired to abide at his house for the night. I wonder if Zacchaeus represented the corruption of Israel at the time and the need for repentance. In other words, Israel fell short of the glory of the Lord. However, the Lord was requesting to abide in Israel. Concerning Zacchaeus, his life was turned around to serve the Lord, he became an Apostle of the Seventy, and tradition says that Peter appointed him as the Bishop of Caesarea.

In route to Jerusalem, Jesus passes the village of Bethany, ‘house of the poor’, and sends his disciples to fetch a foal from the village of Bethphage, ‘fig house’, as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9. Along the descent from the Mount of Olives, his followers throw down their cloaks and palm branches in his honor while praising him. Often we think the crowd was praising the Lord on this day, and yelling for him to be crucified the following Friday. This is untrue! The faithful crowd that was praising Jesus had accompanied him from Galilee and Jericho, while those that were yelling for him to be crucified were the people of Jerusalem.

Astronomically, when Jesus entered Jerusalem the moon would have been in the constellation of Leo, the Lion of Judah, and the sun would have been in the constellation of Aries, the Sacrificial Ram or Lamb. Because the stars are not generally seen during the daytime, the astronomical scenery would have displayed the moon in Leo when evening arrived.  However, God had orchestrated the timing of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem to correlate with the heavenly drama. The date of his arrival in Jerusalem would have been on March 29, 33 AD.

The palm tree is a symbol of praise. Jericho, the city of palm trees, is where the eyes of Bartimaeus are opened and Zacchaeus is spiritually set free. Jesus sends his disciples to Bethage, the fig house, to obtain the foal to ride into Jerusalem. Praising him with palm branches are the followers of Jesus who shout, “Hosanna, to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest.” In finale, the palm branches point to the heavens where Christ’s identity is displayed by the lineup of the stars, sun, and moon.