LENTEN MEDITATION 7
THE POWER OF EASTER
Lent 2017 is over and done with, except in the sense that one must continually, daily, know what one must fast from and for, what one must put aside so that G-d can break deeply in to one’s consciousness or Spirit with His quiet instructions.
Good Friday 2017 too is over and done with, except in the sense that one must continually, daily, remember and declare Yeshua Adonai’s death upon the tree as our scapegoat for the remission of our sins, the Just One sacrificed for the unjust, the Innocent One punished for the guilty, the Glorious One murdered by the unrighteous because of envy.
And then again, continually, daily, it is one thing to somehow understand and experience that by the grace of G-d and through the gift of faith from G-d one can stand at the foot of the Cross of Yeshua to receive forgiveness of sin(s) but that it is altogether another matter to realize further that “I am crucified with Christ.”
Galatians 2: 20 When the Messiah was executed on the stake as a criminal, I was too; so that my proud ego no longer lives. But the Messiah lives in me, and the life I now live in my body I live by the same trusting faithfulness that the Son of God had, who loved me and gave himself up for me. 21 I do not reject God’s gracious gift; for if the way in which one attains righteousness is through legalism, then the Messiah’s death was pointless.
Finally, yet again, one has come to Easter 2017 and is filled with the Resurrection Power of Yeshua Adonai. Death no longer reigns over Him. Neither does death, not physical death, but spiritual death, prevail over me. To know that one is part of the New Creation, the New Humanity, that will live forever in the Moshiach and know that He is Immanuel, G-d with us! What joy! What grace! What peace!
Philippians 3: 10 Yes, I gave it all up in order to know him, that is, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings as I am being conformed to his death, 11 so that somehow I might arrive at being resurrected from the dead.
So now one can walk in daily fasting, daily crucifixion with the Moshiach and tap daily into the power of His Resurrection. And so on, until Lent next year, and the next Good Friday and the next Easter.
And amidst all this joy, one’s eyes are suddenly opened to the pettiness of ‘believers’, their self-righteousness following their having ‘believed’ and their feelings of superiority over those who do not ‘know’ Yeshua Adonai. Such a witness sends forth a certain odor, a stench.
Some want to quarrel over the use of the word Easter, and want Easter to be literally called Resurrection Day, thus seeking to change the times and the joyous, festive, connotation ascribed to the day the Savior rose from the grace. They want to do away with Easter Eggs, Easter Bunnies, Easter Feasts because Satan, they claim, is behind it all! A kind of game of religious oneupmanship is afoot!
And then, among such folks, tragically enough the Good News of the Resurrection of Yeshua Moshiach is primarily something only for the ‘believers’ as they pat each others’ backs and parrot “Praise the Lord” and other such cliche phrases to each other. Good enough, perhaps. Self-congratulatory too.
But the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Yeshua Adonai was not for these ‘special’ people. He died for all.
2 Corinthians 5: 14 For the Messiah’s love has hold of us, because we are convinced that one man died on behalf of all mankind (which implies that all mankind was already dead), 15 and that he died on behalf of all in order that those who live should not live any longer for themselves but for the one who on their behalf died and was raised.
Romans 5: 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time, the Messiah died on behalf of ungodly people.
The believers and their cliches. The believers and their religiosity. But out there, perhaps away from their self-congratulatory gatherings wanders the Risen Lord, Yeshua Adonai, looking for that One Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Tax Collector, the Prostitute, the ones who are thirsty for His lovingkindness and goodness and mercy.
Luke 5: 30 The P’rushim and their Torah-teachers protested indignantly against his talmidim, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” 31 It was Yeshua who answered them: “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the ‘righteous,’ but rather to call sinners to turn to God from their sins.”
The righteous and the self-righteous sheep are well and truly safe and proud of all that they have inside their pens. But the Savior is still about his mission and so too are His true talmidim. There is to time to waste being in the midst of the comfortable gatherings of the ‘elect’ and the ‘chosen’. Rather, the time has come, for me at least, to follow in His footsteps, the footsteps of the Friend of Sinners, and seek His grace to do as He did or as Paul of Tarsus learnt to do.
Luke 15: 1 The tax-collectors and sinners kept gathering around to hear Yeshua, 2 and the P’rushim and Torah-teachers kept grumbling. “This fellow,” they said, “welcomes sinners — he even eats with them!” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “If one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, doesn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?
Romans 15: 20 I have always made it my ambition to proclaim the Good News where the Messiah was not yet known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation, 21 but rather, as the Tanakh puts it, “Those who have not been told about him will see,and those who have not heard will understand.”
Lent is done. Good Friday is done. Easter is done. The so-called holy ‘believers’ will keep gathering together and singing and feasting. But Yeshua, the Good Shepherd, goes his way looking for the sheep who are not safe but who are lonely, lost, sick and desperate.
I will follow Him in this way. That is the power of Easter. You can do so too.
LENTEN MEDITATION – 6
Ask an Evangelical what Maundy Thursday refers to and you can see him gawp in utter ignorance. Ask a Pentecostal and it will be the same. Well, for that matter, ask a lot of those who actually observe Maundy Thursday and they might admit sheepishly that they too are in the dark about it all.
And yes, so it should be, perhaps. For the many.
But, at the end of it all or somewhere in the middle of it all, certain words uttered by One increasingly despised across the world, resonate within me and I cannot get rid of those words or erase them, try as I might.
Isaiah 53: 3 People despised and avoided him, a man of pains, well acquainted with illness. Like someone from whom people turn their faces, he was despised; we did not value him.
He was despised. He is despised. Do you hear?
Isaiah 53: 1 Who believes our report? To whom is the arm of Adonai revealed? 2b He was not well-formed or especially handsome; we saw him, but his appearance did not attract us.
We did not value Him. We do not value Him. Do you know?
We live in a world of consumerism as consumers. We consume images. Tens of thousands are steadily consuming the images of Yeshua Adonai put out by religious media across time and in the present – the icons and ritual drama of the Orthodox churches, the images and other accoutrements of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the white supremacist Jesus of the Evangelicals with his blonde hair, blue eyes and American or British accent and promise of material prosperity, the emotive, excessive miracle-dripping notions of Jesus propagated by Pentecostals, the grim, iconoclastic Bible-black idea of the Savior as the Letter-Law that cannot be tampered with or questioned sold as condemnation and truth by the Brethren, and so on and so forth.
Many of these images sell far better than the ones projected by Isaiah or David, images that if pondered upon would reveal that “the world is wrong about sin, about righteousness and about judgment”. This world includes the religious world.
John 16: 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I don’t go away, the comforting Counselor will not come to you. However, if I do go, I will send him to you. 8 “When he comes, he will show that the world is wrong about sin, about righteousness and about judgment — 9 about sin, in that people don’t put their trust in me; 10 about righteousness, in that I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 about judgment, in that the ruler of this world has been judged.
These are the words spoken by One who experienced a terrible rejection, was judged wrongly, condemned and executed. These are the words of the Man of Sorrows. The words of One who was hated without reason. The words of the Stumbling Stone. The words of the Rock of Offense.
John 15: 25 But this has happened in order to fulfill the words in their Torah which read, ‘They hated me for no reason at all.’
A particular translation shows Yeshua thus: “He has no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
Isaiah 52: 14 Just as many were appalled at him, because he was so disfigured that he didn’t even seem human and simply no longer looked like a man.
For many atheists, humanists, scientists and rationalists and others who hold fast to a variety of religious or spiritual opinion, He either never existed or, even if He did, He was of no account; they even consider him less than the least of human beings or gods or lords.
This He knew. This He embraced. This He accepted.
Psalm 22: 7 (6) But I am a worm, not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. 8 (7) All who see me jeer at me; they sneer and shake their heads.
What has all this to do with Maundy Thursday, you ask. Much indeed, because Maundy Thursday has to do with His supreme command to His talmidim, the few who dared to be identified with the Rejected One, the few who enter the Upper Room where the Last Supper takes place continually.
Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command,” and refers to Yeshua’s commandment to the disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.”
In other words, on the night in which He was betrayed by one He considered a friend and handed over to His detractors, the night in which He asked that His death be remembered in the Bread (His Body broken for humankind) and Wine (His Blood shed for the remission of the sins of humankind), He was only too ready to bequeath to both his talmidim and humankind His essence – Unconditional Forgiveness, Unconditional Love.
In rejecting His form, His Incarnation, His humanity, in despising His words, His deeds, His goodness, in devaluing the flood of Love he deluged the earth with, His very Life-Essence, and in rejecting his call to ‘Love one another even as He has loved us’, we have welcomed the forces of darkness and opened the floodgates of misery for humankind.
Luke 22: 53 Every day I was there with you in the Temple court, yet you didn’t arrest me. But this is your hour — the hour when darkness rules.”
What is one to say then? Should the hour when the darkness rules continue? In my heart? In yours? In the heart of the nation? In the heart of the inhabited world?
Isaiah 53: 11 After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction. By his knowing [pain and sacrifice], my righteous servant makes many righteous; it is for their sins that he suffers.
5 But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his stripes we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, went astray; we turned, each one, to his own way; yet Adonai laid on him the guilt of all of us.
To know this is to stop despising the Pierced One. Then one enters Paradise.
John 20: 21 “Shalom aleikhem!” Yeshua repeated. “Just as the Father sent me, I myself am also sending you.” 22 Having said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Ruach HaKodesh!”
LENTEN MEDITATION – 5
WATER OF LIFE
Genesis 16: 11 The angel of Adonai said to her, “Look, you are pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You are to call him Yishma‘el [God pays attention] because Adonai has paid attention to your misery. 13 So she named Adonai who had spoken with her El Ro’i [God of seeing], because she said, “Have I really seen the One who sees me [and stayed alive]?” 14 This is why the well has been called Be’er-Lachai-Ro’i [well of the one who lives and sees]; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
This Lenten season, we observe large parts of the Kosmos, the inhabited world, being filled with those who unleash violence and misery upon others for human or religious reasons.
It is good to know that El Ro’i exists and that he watches over the misery of those at the receiving end of such evil. You might imagine yourself to be one of the elect, the chosen, the one to whom G-d has provided His oracles and so on. And then, you will go on to oppress someone or the other for some reason or the other!
You might be a Jew, separate yourself as holy, and unleash misery on the Palestinians or Goyim. You might be a Christian, preferably white, and embark on a crusade against women who abort, refugees and immigrants, blacks and Mexicans and LGBT, and consider that you have won a ticket to Jesus Christ’s heaven.
You might be a Muslim, a descendant of Yishma’el possibly, and bring misery to the kaffir-infidels. You might be a Hindutvavadi and decide to bring misery to the Muslims, Christians, Dalits and lower castes, women, in India.
Or you might be a Dalit-Bahujan who, having suffered misery over aeons, wants it to be payback time towards the Brahmins and upper castes. You might be a Buddhist who decides to persecute the Rohingya. You might be a raving atheist like Richard Dawkins who might want to exterminate the ‘religious’.
There is one common thread that unites all such human beings. It is the ‘scarlet thread’ of the desire to bring misery to others out of vengeance, anger, hatred, spite, envy, jealousy, differences in viewpoints and so on.
This seeking to bring misery upon someone you have reason to abuse or treat badly is something that G-d watches over. Whatever your justification might be – that the person you want to bring misery to has insulted you or abused you, or that he/she is different, or a threat, etc – and whatever your act of hatred and oppression might be, even though it be justified as bringing about justice, there is One who is watching the motives and intentions of your heart, if you have one!
And, however deep your resentment against one who has abused you, however great your hatred and desire for reprisal and vengeance as justice being meted out to the oppressor, the One who is watching has only one question to ask you: You who have suffered abuse and oppression, have you become exactly your abuser and oppressor?
Avram’s wife Sarai had no children. That was the issue that oppressed her and made her miserable. She had a promise from G-d that she would bear a child of her own. But she couldn’t wait for the promise to be fulfilled. So she gave Hagar to Avram as wife and Hagar conceived and Hagar looked down on Sarai as barren. Sarai was vengeful and made Hagar’s life miserable.
This is the human cycle that has been going on for millennia, the ‘scarlet thread’ of the desire to bring misery upon another for whatever reason, self-justified or culturally and religiously justified.
G-d watched over both Sarai and Hagar. G-d desired to ease the misery of both. G-d has a tough time because it is hard for Him to make known His higher impulse and impetus to ease the misery of anyone who is suffering or oppressed, because human beings are caught in this cycle of unleashing oppression and misery on one another. Humans seem to enjoy making their own and the lives of others miserable.
Yet, G-d looks out for every one who is oppressed everywhere. There are a few whose eyes are opened to this G-d. Hagar had her eyes opened to this G-d and she rejoiced.
Genesis 16: 13 So she named Adonai who had spoken with her El Ro’i [God of seeing], because she said, “Have I really seen the One who sees me [and stayed alive]?” 14 This is why the well has been called Be’er-Lachai-Ro’i [well of the one who lives and sees].
This is the fountain of everlasting life. This is the water of life. This water saves the one who is miserable and thirsty. Find this wellspring, somehow, and drink of it.
John 4: 9 The woman from Shomron said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for water from me, a woman of Shomron?” (For Jews don’t associate with people from Shomron.) 10 Yeshua answered her, “If you knew God’s gift, that is, who it is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink of water,’ then you would have asked him; and he would have given you living water.”
11 She said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket, and the well is deep; so where do you get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Ya‘akov, are you? He gave us this well and drank from it, and so did his sons and his cattle.” 13 Yeshua answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty again! On the contrary, the water I give him will become a spring of water inside him, welling up into eternal life!”
John 7: 37 Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! 38 Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” 39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive …”)
Revelation 22: 1 Next the angel showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 Between the main street and the river was the Tree of Life producing twelve kinds of fruit, a different kind every month; and the leaves of the tree were for healing the nations — 3 no longer will there be any curses.
Oppressed? In misery? Suffering? Come to the well of the One who sees and drink.
John 7: 37 b Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking!
LENTEN MEDITATION – 4
THE SIGN ON KAYIN
Genesis 4: 15 Adonai answered him, “Therefore, whoever kills Kayin will receive vengeance sevenfold,” and Adonai put a sign on Kayin, so that no one who found him would kill him.
On reading this story in Genesis, many have wondered down the millennia as to what was the sign Adonai placed upon Kayin who had slain his brother Hevel.
A rabbi once interpreted the ‘sign’ as a pet dog that G-d had given Kayin. Apparently, Hevel was stronger than Kayin and in their first bout of violence had almost killed Kayin. When Kayin begged for mercy, Hevel showed him mercy.
Instead of being thankful for Hevel’s mercy and living in peace with him, Kayin killed Hevel in the next bout. G-d’s sign for Kayin, said the Rabbi, was a pet dog so Kayin could learn the values of loyalty and gratitude from the dog as he wandered the earth as a fugitive.
The Rabbi was not too far from the truth of the matter. But Kayin had to learn something more than just loyalty and gratitude. And that was the mercy of Adonai. The ‘sign’ G-d placed on Kayin was the sign of ‘mercy’ or of G-d’s loyalty towards humanity, even its dregs.
Having murdered Hevel out of envy, Kayin was deserving of death himself. The story goes that Kayin first begged Hevel for mercy and received it. And the second time, he begs G-d for mercy.
Genesis 4: 13 Kayin said to Adonai, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 You are banning me today from the land and from your presence. I will be a fugitive wandering the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
And Hashem is merciful. Kayin feared that he would be banned from G-d’s presence. But what does G-d do for him? He places upon him a sign. He tattoos or brands Kayin, one might say, with His presence, His forgiveness, His mercy and goodness.
Even a Kayin is directly under G-d’s protection. Anyone who seeks to destroy one who is directly under G-d’s divine mercy, be it a thief or a murderer, faces the danger of receiving vengeance sevenfold.
Genesis 4: 15 Adonai answered him, “Therefore, whoever kills Kayin will receive vengeance sevenfold,” and Adonai put a sign on Kayin, so that no one who found him would kill him.
When Yeshua Moshiach came to the Jews, he admonished them in John 5: 39: You keep examining the Tanakh because you think that in it you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness to me, 40 but you won’t come to me in order to have life!
One of the earliest Scriptures bearing witness to the Moshiach and His work pertains to the sign he placed on Kayin. The sign of His mercy and compassion. The sign of mercy that warded off accusation, judgement, condemnation and death and offered the wrong-doer a full life.
The sign of mercy is surely also the sign of salvation. Kayin was one of the first to receive the sign of mercy and salvation even though Adonai was also listening to the voice of Hevel crying out from the ground for vengeance.
Kayin encountered the Moshiach even before the Word manifested Himself in the flesh, millennia later. And, in that encounter, what Kayin discovered perhaps was that Adonai is merciful both to the evil and the ungrateful.
Luke 6: 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing back! Your reward will be great, and you will be children of Ha‘Elyon; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Show compassion, just as your Father shows compassion.
What a glory accrued to Kayin! He was branded by the Moshiach Himself with the sign of mercy and salvation.
Thus it is written in Hebrews 12: 24: (Kayin, like you and I, had ) come to the mediator of a new covenant, Yeshua; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better things than that of Hevel.
Hevel’s blood cried out for vengeance; the Moshiach’s blood forgives and liberates.
Hebrews 13: 8 Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hallelujah!
This Lenten season, what does the sign of Kayin mean to you and I? Perhaps, you will say that you haven’t murdered your brother. But are you sure you are not tainted in the light that the Moshiach sheds into the heart?
Mathew 5: 21 “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not murder,’and that anyone who commits murder will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgment; that whoever calls his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be brought before the Sanhedrin; that whoever says, ‘Fool!’ incurs the penalty of burning in the fire of Gei-Hinnom!
The truth about my own self is that I am as much a criminal as Kayin. The blood of many brothers and sisters whom I have slandered or considered as fools cries out to Adonai. But when I realize this and confess it, Yeshua Adonai comes to me and brands me with his sign of mercy, compassion and goodness.
Mathew 5: 44 But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
It is for both ‘righteous’ Abel and ‘unrighteous’ Kayin that Yeshua the Moshiach came to shed His blood on Golgotha. Abel was not entirely righteous, for his blood cried out for vengeance against his brother. Kayin was definitely unrighteous, a murderer.
Romans 3: 23 All have sinned and come short of earning God’s praise.
Romans 5: 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.
Mathew 27: 16 There was at that time a notorious prisoner being held, named Yeshua Bar-Abba. 17 So when a crowd had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to set free for you? Bar-Abba? or Yeshua, called ‘the Messiah’?” 18 For he understood that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to set free for you?” asked the governor. “Bar-Abba!” they answered. 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Yeshua, called ‘the Messiah’?” They all said, “Put him to death on the stake! Put him to death on the stake!” 23 When he asked, “Why? What crime has he committed?” they shouted all the louder, “Put him to death on the stake!”
And yet again, the Moshiach’s blood became the sign of mercy and salvation unto life for the criminal and murderer, Yeshua Bar-Abba (Barabbas).
Luke 23: 39 One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him. “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other one spoke up and rebuked the first, saying, “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same punishment as he is. 41 Ours is only fair; we’re getting what we deserve for what we did. But this man did nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Yeshua, remember me when you come as King.” 43 Yeshua said to him, “Yes! I promise that you will be with me today in Gan-‘Eden.”
Do you think the other criminal might have been abandoned by the Moshiach? Or perhaps, the Moshiach laid on him too His sign of mercy and compassion? Perhaps the Moshiach practiced loving his ‘enemy’ and blessing those who cursed Him? What do you think?
Romans 5: 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.
Remember the love of Yeshua the Moshiach for those who are criminals, you and I, and that His blood delivers us, sets us free, from all unrighteousness.
1 John 2: My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, who pleads our cause with the Father. 2 Also, he is the kapparah for our sins — and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.
Hebrews 5: 1 For every cohen gadol taken from among men is appointed to act on people’s behalf with regard to things concerning God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and with those who go astray, since he too is subject to weakness.
Hebrews 4: 15 For we do not have a cohen gadol unable to empathize with our weaknesses; since in every respect he was tempted just as we are, the only difference being that he did not sin. 16 Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne from which God gives grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.
Let us, like Kayin, go to the Moshiach, Yeshua Adonai, and confess as he did:
Genesis 4: Kayin told Adonai “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 You are banning me today from the land and from your presence. I will be a fugitive wandering the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
Then Adonai will place the sign of his goodness and mercy on you and I and embodied in us, it will follow us for ever!
The murderer and adulterer King David understood this goodness and mercy of Hashem and His Moshiach and ascribed praise to both when he declared in Psalm 23: 6 Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life; and I will live in the house of Adonai for years and years to come.
LENTEN MEDITATION – 3
DOUBT LEADS TO FAITH
John 18: 37b Yeshua answered, “You say I am a king. The reason I have been born, the reason I have come into the world, is to bear witness to the Truth. Every one who belongs to the Truth listens to me.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is Truth?”
Traditionally, religious Christians take Pilate’s statement as mocking the Moshiach. But, remember the concept of the Baal Teshuvah? He is the one who is unable or unwilling to know, grasp and understand the Truth that is being presented to him.
Pilate might have been bewildered by the charges brought against an itinerant preacher whom the Pharisees accused of having blasphemed for claiming to be G-d or being the King of the Jews. And from deep within that bewilderment or his natural disgust with the Jews and their religion and his call to defending the imperial Roman Empire and so on, he might yet have in his heart been pondering over and struggling with the import of the word ‘Truth’ that Yeshua used in His own defense.
Further, his wife had warned him not to deal wrongly with the ‘holy’ man standing before him. However, Pilate was governor of Judea and was set between the ‘rock’ and a hard place. He was in a situation that few people actually encounter in real life.
Might not Pilate have cried out in agony: “What is Truth?”
Perhaps it was this deep cry of helplessness and confusion within himself in that crucial critical moment before the Moshiach that was the seed that led him to repentance? The early Church believed that he had come to both repentance and faith and sainted Pilate.
Coming to the Truth is the consequence of being a Baal Teshuvah, the one who at first refuses to listen to the Truth even if it is right in front of him and decides to go against the Truth. The point is that he had grace to recognize the Truth even if he did not act upon it. “Everyone who is of the Truth listens to Me,” the Moshiach had told Pilate, perhaps prophetically, along the same lines of his telling Peter that he would betray Him before the cock crowed thrice.
It is precisely this sort of Baal Teshuvah who becomes the master of repentance and returning. In his very ‘No’, in his very doubt, in his very cynicism, in his agony lies the seed of his salvation, the possibility of his coming to know Truth. And the Moshiach looks for such to lead them to green pastures and still waters.
Pilate appears in all four Gospels. In every one of them, he testifies to the innocence of the Moshiach and tries to release Him. G-d weighs the heart and the public testimony or witness by Pilate that His Son was innocent was something G-d would not put aside as of no consequence.
“Everyone who is of the Truth listens to Me,” the Moshiach had told Pilate. People come to repentance and the truth in G-d’s time. It took time for Pilate to find the answer to his question “What is truth?” But if the tradition of the early Church is to be believed, Pilate became a follower of the Moshiach and His witness to Truth.
The church historian Tertullian, in the late second century, wrote that Pilate became “a Christian in his own convictions.” Certain churches, including the Greek Orthodox and Coptic faiths, named Pilate and his wife saints. When Pilate first shows up in Christian art in the mid-fourth century, he is juxtaposed with Abraham, Daniel and other great believers.
Augustine suggested that Pilate had not only recognized Jesus’ innocence, he also recognized his divinity—and converted to Christianity. Augustine compared Pilate with the magi, claiming that while the magi were the first to recognize Jesus’ divinity at his “rising,” or birth, Pilate was the first to recognize his divinity at his “setting,” or death.
The fourth-century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea claimed that Pilate not only converted to Christianity but tried to convince the Roman emperor Tiberius to convert. Tiberius did not convert but, according to Eusebius, he was so impressed by Pilate’s account of Jesus’ wonders and resurrection that he urged the Roman Senate to add Jesus to the official pantheon.
Tiberius threatened death to anyone who accused or attacked Christians. However, Tiberius’s successor, Caligula (37–41 C.E.) didn’t care for Christians and, according to Eusebius, ordered Pilate to commit suicide.
This Lenten season, what comes to my mind is that the Moshiach came to be a witness to the Truth. The Moshiach is not against anyone who asks: What is the Truth? Indeed, that is precisely the sort of person the Moshiach is looking for to teach.
It takes time for the Truth to penetrate human hearts. The Moshiach is patient. The Moshiach is certain of His witness. He waits until it takes hold of the seeking human heart.
Pilate discovered slowly but surely that the witness to the Truth the Moshiach brought was indeed true. He listened to that witness, in the end. There is a transition from doubt to seeking to faith in the witness to the Truth embodied or manifested in the Moshiach. The listening to that Truth sets one free, even as Pilate was freed.
John 8: 31 So Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, “If you obey what I say, then you are really my talmidim, 32 you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua Moshiach.
John 4:24 God is spirit; and worshippers must worship him spiritually and truly.” 25 The woman replied, “I know that Mashiach is coming” (that is, “the one who has been anointed”). “When he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Yeshua said to her, “I, the person speaking to you, am he.”
LENTEN MEDITATION – 2
OVERCOMING TEMPTATION BY THE LORD’S PRAYER
Luke 4: 1 Then Yeshua, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, returned from the Yarden and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days of testing by the Adversary. During that time he ate nothing, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The Adversary said to him, “If you are the Son of God, order this stone to become bread.” 4 Yeshua answered him, “The Tanakh says, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
5 The Adversary took him up, showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, 6 and said to him, “I will give you all this power and glory. It has been handed over to me, and I can give it to whomever I choose. 7 So if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Yeshua answered him, “The Tanakh says, ‘Worship Adonai your God and serve him only.’”
9 Then he took him to Yerushalayim, set him on the highest point of the Temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, jump from here! 10 For the Tanakh says, ‘He will order his angels to be responsible for you and to protect you. 11 They will support you with their hands,so that you will not hurt your feet on the stones.’”
12 Yeshua answered him, “It also says, ‘Do not put Adonai your God to the test.’” 13 When the Adversary had ended all his testings, he let him alone until an opportune time.
What lessons does this story hold for us who meditate on Yeshua Adonai this Lenten season? Are we expected to fast for 40 days like Yeshua? Would one’s health be adversely affected if one tried to fast like Yeshua? Would we encounter the Adversary like Him? Would we be able to survive such an encounter?
There are many such questions and there are many who have had varieties of experiences with fasting during seasons like Lent. That apart, what might one understand from meditating on the experience of the Moshiach in the desert?
It seems to me that the Adversary got off on the wrong foot with Yeshua. The Adversary’s tryst with Yeshua seems to be not only to test and see what Yeshua believes about Himself but also to try to verify for himself who or what Yeshua is and what sort of threat He poses.
We are not sure whether or not the Adversary was convinced that Yeshua is indeed the Son of G-d. But Yeshua’s responses to the Adversary’s queries establish beyond doubt that He knew where He had come from, who He was in terms of identity and where He was going. Yeshua was quietly secure in the love of G-d the Farther and a wise understanding of the Tanakh.
Yeshua did not have to prove Himself to be the Son of G-d through the miracle of turning stone into bread. For the fast in the wilderness had not turned Him into one desperate and hungry for physical bread. Instead, He had stoked His hunger for the True Bread and how to find it and eat it.
John 4: 32 But he answered, “I have food (bread) to eat that you don’t know about.” 33 At this, the talmidim asked one another, “Could someone have brought him food (bread)?” 34 Yeshua said to them, “My food (bread) is to do what the one who sent me wants and to bring his work to completion.”
The discovery of and understanding in the wilderness concerning what the True Bread might be led to Yeshua staying aligned with the wisdom He received resulting in His embodying, manifesting and being the very Bread of Life.
John 6: 33 God’s bread is the one who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread from now on.” 35 Yeshua answered, “I am the bread which is life! Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in me will never be thirsty.”
As for being tempted with the possibility of gaining the splendor and glory of all the kingdoms of the world in an instant of time, it meant nothing to Him who came from outside of time, from and of Eternity. The offer of temporality with all its advantages was like water off the back of a duck for Him who was, is and will be forever. He had words of advice for His Adversary: Worship Adonai, who is forever, and abandon the instant of time and all the power and glory that lies encapsulated in a moment. Words that fell on deaf, pointed ears!
In the third temptation, Yeshua remains steadfast to his nature and identity. He does not need to prove Himself or His origin and being to anyone. He is secure in the love of the Eternal, the Father. He does not need to test His anchor either. And the Adversary departs.
In many different ways and at different times these very temptations arrive at the door of the mind of the disciple of Yeshua. What is the disciple meant to do? Battle against such thoughts? Banish such thoughts by saying “Get thee hence, Satan”? Is the disciple as strong as Yeshua? Is the disciple equipped to defeat the Adversary like Yeshua?
It is dangerous to presume that one is as strong or determined as Yeshua when facing the Adversary and temptations. If one falls into temptation, what then? Does it mean that G-d abandoned you? Does it mean that you didn’t fast like the Moshiach in the desert and come to the place of victory? Does it mean your prayers were not heard by Yeshua or the Father?
One can try to imitate Yeshua. But would that take one far down the road of salvation? Should one fast oneself down to skin and bones? Would that guarantee that the temptation(s) will be overcome?
There are two aspects to what one can learn from Yeshua in the context of His trial in the wilderness. Firstly, know and realize that Yeshua remained secure in the love and purpose of the Father. That is, like Yeshua, you and I must be deeply rooted in the eternal, unconditional love of the Father.
And there is no need to test and see whether the Father indeed loves or not. It is His nature to love. God is Love. The knowledge of such love is a powerful deterrent to temptation. Our resting in the love of G-d not only and but also leaves helpless the Adversary.
Secondly, Yeshua taught His disciples that prevention is better than cure. He transferred and translated His entire experience in the wilderness, possibly, into an antidote to temptation and attacks by the Adversary. The disciples know this antidote or weapon against the wiles of the Adversary as the Lord’s Prayer. Pray it, knowing that every time you pray it meaningfully the Father listens and acts on your behalf against the Adversary.
Mathew 6: 9 You, therefore, pray like this:
‘Our Father in heaven! May your Name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as in heaven.
11 Give us the food we need today.
12 Forgive us what we have done wrong as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.
13 And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. For kingship, power and glory are yours forever. Amen.’
Every foil that Yeshua used against the Adversary is embedded in this prayer.
v 9. You shall worship Adonai, and only Him shall you serve.
v10. G-d’s Kingdom, or Eternity, transcends the kingdoms of this world and their power and glory in an instant of time, and may that Kingdom come.
v 11.Human beings need not worry about ‘bread’ physical or material for a loving Father will provide both.
v 12. Have you stumbled or fallen? Have you seen someone stumble or fall? Worry not. All such are upheld by the undying love and forgiveness of the Father.
v 13. Ask not to be led into temptation from the Adversary or from any direction and succor will be given to you by the loving Father. You will be kept safe from the Evil One. G-d will guard you.
v 14. Finally, all kingship, power and glory belong only to the Eternal G-d. Do not be led astray by any being or power or spirit that lays claims to these attributes of Adonai.
John 15: 9 “Just as my Father has loved me, I too have loved you; so stay in my love.
John 16: 33 “I have said these things to you so that, united with me, you may have shalom. In the world, you have tsuris. But be brave! I have conquered the world!”
(Thanks to the study at the Cloustons’ on March 8 where many of these insights were gleaned.)
LENTEN MEDITATION – 1
THE HOUSE OF PRAYER
Mark 11: 17 Then, as he taught them, he said, “Isn’t it written in the Tanakh, My house will be called a house of prayer for all the Goyim. But you have made it into a den of robbers!”
I am a goy or Gentile. A non-Jew. If I desired to worship Adonai, the Lord of the Universe, I would be allowed into the Outer Court of the temple in Yerushalayim. But not into the Inner Court where the priests served and definitely not into the Holiest of Holies, where only the High Priest could enter to commune with Adonai.
It was into this temple of G-d, controlled by the priests and Pharisees and their families, and where racial and spiritual segregation was practised at various levels that Yeshua, the Moshiach, came with his radical message of inclusion.
The Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanakh, claimed that G-d’s house was meant to be a home of prayer for all nations, all human beings, both Jews and non-Jews (Goyim). But what was practiced there was a religion that endorsed racial and spiritual discrimination.
Yeshua challenged the religious establishment as the embodiment of Adonai, as the Son of G-d, as the Word manifest in the flesh, as the Moshiach. He stood in the midst of this temple and people who claimed direct descent from and contact with G-d and His ways and told them that their practice of discrimination and differentiation was not acceptable in the sight of G-d.
This hotbed of religious activity which had as its core racist and spiritual discrimination was doomed. That was the Moshiach’s message. That He stood in their midst with a new message was the sign that ‘old things had vanished’ and the new had come; old ways of thinking about G-d and human beings had been dispensed with and something better had come in the form of the Moshiach.
It was time, the hour had come, for both Jew and non-Jew to be integrated into one new human being through a new convenant so that a new humanity or New Creation could come about through the life, sacrificial death and resurrection of the Moshiach.
2 Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation — the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new!
Romans 21: 5 Then the One sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” Also he said, “Write, ‘These words are true and trustworthy!’”
Ephesians 2: 14 For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us 15 by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, 16 and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity.
The hour had come for racial and spiritual divisions to be healed, for the fragmentation of humanity to end, for something new to emerge. Towards this end, old things had to collapse. Hence, the Moshiach proclaimed the destruction of the material temple in Yerushalayim where such divisions, distinctions and discrimination were practiced. With his arrival and His teaching, such childishness and ignorance were to disappear. But his message went largely unheard and the Temple was destroyed.
More than the destruction or removal of the external symbol of the discrimination, the Temple, what Yeshua was pointing to was His own manifestation, His attitude, His example, His mind and being, His practice, as the definitive sign that old attitudes, behaviors and spiritual or religious approaches and testaments had been superseded by something better.
John 14: 6 Yeshua said, “I AM the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.
There was now a Way beyond many ‘ways’, a Truth that transcended ‘truths’ and a Life to be lived beyond racial or spiritual discrimination. This Life could be arrived at in Yeshua Moshiach, in the House of Prayer.
The Jews had stolen the rights of access to the Holiest of the Holies from the Gentiles by means of their religious practices, their discrimination and their interpretation of their Scriptures.
They had stolen this right of access to the Lord of the Universe from the Jews by creating several tiers of society and a religion of paid- for sacrifices. One had to pay to make a sacrifice to get closer to G-d or get absolved by G-d for one’s sins.
Yeshua came to chase these spiritual robbers out of the Temple and to overthrow their tables upon which their coins of power and control and real gold clinked. In their place, He stood up as the Light for both Jews and Gentiles, as the Way of Peace, as the Truth and Life.
In what temple did Yeshua offer up sacrifices of prayer? Which was the temple which had become a House of Prayer for Yeshua, where He represented both Jews and Goyim as one humanity before the Father? It was the temple of His Body. There, within His Body, He offered up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving that ‘old things had passed away’ and that the New had arrived in Himself, as Himself.
Now we are part of that which is New, we are the New Creation. We are built up into this temple, this House of Prayer for all human beings everywhere. And the prayers that rise up in this Temple made up of all the human beings who cry out to G-d to bless all human beings ascend up as the smoke of frankincense before the throne of G-d.
This Lenten season is the time when this scent of prayer must ascend thicker from the members of the Body of Christ to the Father. And the House of Prayer will be what it is meant to be – a House of Prayer for the Goyim and the Jews, a means of direct access to the G-d of Love and Life and Light, Yeshua Adonai.