LENT 2017

POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 14

ON CONFESSION
It is inevitable that while on the journey of life, each one will encounter accusations or blame from others. The question is how one reacts to accusations and the apportioning of blame to oneself by others.
Both accusations and blame have to do with others pointing out that in some way one has not followed a set norm. And both accusations and blame have inevitably to do with punishment of some sort. It is also possible that one might accuse oneself of many ‘crimes’ and be burdened by self-blame or guilt!
When I look back across my life, I have in the face of certain accusations mostly confessed to my ‘crimes’. Sometimes I have been ‘wise’ and confessed to ‘crimes’ to pre-empt accusations.
Confession, I have found mostly, is an attempt to mitigate the weight of the blame that one’s self or people are going to lay upon one’s shoulders for acts considered despicable but which one was led to for one reason or another. More often than not, the blame and guilt remains even after confession.
As I grow older, I resort to confession only before the face of G-d. There, I do not have to fear that I will still be blamed for something long after I confessed to my crime. There, I find confession is self-acknowledgement relating to an intrinsic flaw in the construct of my being that has not been sorted out yet (purified) and which I fear may never be sorted out.
This sort of confession is the ‘cry of helplessness’ before a G-d who made us unhappily human, in the hope that perhaps there is some possibility of being happy and human. Having learnt to confess my daily ‘crimes’ before G-d, it seems to me that G-d (who is Spirit and Truth) allays blame and guilt.
G-d is never an accuser (that is what I believe) but even if, as the theologians argue, he is accuser and judge on behalf of Justice, the Moshiach, Yeshua Adonai, is at hand. He is the Advocate. He advocates forgiveness on my behalf before G-d the Judge.
G-d as judge has to relent remembering the Moshiach’s sacrifice for each and every human being upon the Stake at Golgotha. Thus, instead of suffering judgement, condemnation or execution because of the accusation, one understands and experiences deep forgiveness and everlasting love.
1 John 2: 1 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.
Do the ‘crimes’ themselves come to an end? Does the root of sin or the tendencies, the vasanas, towards ‘crime’ wither away? It seems to me that the continual flow of forgiveness from G-d’s throne of mercy towards those who continually confess their ‘crimes’ to Him does have the effect of the ‘root of sin’ withering away. Only, it is oh so slow a process!
What I have written above relates to the process of being not upright, being charged with it and then having to confess to it before the face of G-d and its consequences.
But how does it go when it comes to confessing before the face of another human being, perhaps your very accuser?
We all have to go through situations when the accusations may be true, half-true or false and the fear of perpetual blame lingers in the air.
Once, when I was in school and did not have money for a trip, I stole a 100 rupees from my closest friend. The feeling of guilt was appalling and in the end I confessed to him. He was very generous and forgiving. My friends never smeared me forever for that one criminal act! Further, they covered up the ‘crime’ so that no-one else knew; they continued to respect me and ensured that others did too! Sometimes confessions made to human beings work for our good!
In another situation, I wrote down a confession of my crime and sent it to ‘the responsible brothers’ in the cult I was in. I was stunned when my crime became increasingly public and every pair of eyes I encountered in the ‘fellowship’ had turned into eyes of accusation and blame, not to mention delight!
I learnt the hard way that confession in private to so-called ‘spiritual’ human beings could so easily become a public ‘confession’ and lead to disastrous consequences for self and family. Public confession can lead to the stake!
My central point is that, over time, as I became increasingly aware of both my ‘thought crimes’ and my real-life ‘crimes’ (yes, I am indeed a criminal!), I have learnt that the best place to go and make confession is before the ‘throne of mercy and grace’.
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.
That sounds like a mysterious place but it is not, it’s easily found through faith in Yeshua the Moshiach.
Does it sound like it’s a place where you can confess to your ‘crimes’, receive forgiveness, and then continue in your ‘crimes’?
It’s true that it is not easy for a criminal to forsake his crimes of thought, word and deed. But if the criminal keeps going to this place with his confession (remember I also called it the place of the cry of helplessness?), then the root begins to wither.
Slowly does it. Stay in there. Stay as long as it takes. A lifetime, if necessary. It doesn’t matter what accusations others bring, it doesn’t matter what you accuse yourself of, it doesn’t matter that others might blame you this way or that, your reputation doesn’t matter, your character is still flawed for yourself and others, but stay in that place.
Hang in there. I’ve been doing it for years. The root of sin is withering, the green shoot appears out of dry ground. This is the work of the Ruach ha-Kodesh inside of a criminal. This is the handiwork of the Moshiach. This is the work of G-d. This is the work that is the result of the Moshiach’s Blood being shed for ALL at the Place of the Skull upon the Tree.
1 John 1: 8 If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing. 10 If we claim we have not been sinning, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us.
Psalm 32: 5 When I acknowledged my sin to you, when I stopped concealing my guilt, and said, “I will confess my offenses to Adonai”; then you, you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Selah)
Psalm 32: 1 How blessed are those whose offense is forgiven,
those whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed those to whom Adonai imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit!
Luke 7: 47 I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”
Isaiah 53: 2 For before him he grew up like a young plant, like a root out of dry ground.
Shalom!

POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 13

HERE I STAND
Several years ago, when I was part of a certain cult that hides itself away from the rest of Christendom in Scandinavia, I was caught up in a situation that turned out to my sore disadvantage and led to my ostracism.
It was a time of acute internal struggle and suffering but it was then that I discovered that I really had no other support than my FAMILY and four or five dear, real FRIENDS.
I also discovered the real nature of faith in G-d and the love of Yeshua Adonai, the Moshiach.
This cult considered and claimed that everyone involved in it was part of ‘The Friends’. But in the situation that G-d had allowed for me, I realized that they were just a religious club whose primary activity today is making money by shearing the wiling sheep and investing millions in real estate and other corporate activities across the world.
By ‘friends’, they primarily meant only those religiously aligned with their peculiar belief and behavioral systems and who paid total allegiance to the teachings of a man called J.O. Smith who died in 1943, a man who claimed to be a special ‘apostle’ of Jesus Christ with a special ‘revelation’.
Strangely enough, it was my experiences in this cult that later brought me even closer to Yeshua, the Moshiach. I discovered the One who is called the ‘Friend of Sinners’ and who actually helps sinners. In the cult I was in, the central teaching focused on seeing ‘sinners’ as the enemy and staying separate from them, precisely the teaching of the school of Pharisees during the time of the Yeshua.
Among their many rallying cries, to which most adhered meekly, which could be applied to anyone who actually a sinner or was perceived to be sinning, was Psalm 1: 5:
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
The cult was the ‘pure’ congregation and, in that sense, the sinner had been cast out from the assembly of the super-righteous. People I had considered to be ‘fathers’ in Christ abandoned me, stopped communicating with me, avoided visiting our home and family and asked others to keep away from us and spread poisonous tales about family members who were not involved in my debacle.
Well, everything works out for good. In the end, we moved on and the cult remains what it is.
These thoughts came to my mind when I was reading the book of Job. I remember meeting up with a top foreign leader of the cult who had come for a conference in Alwaye after my ‘fall’. I remember the words he spoke to me. There was no mercy in them. He was there as judge and executioner. The scriptures he cited, and I can remember the tone of it, implied that I was at fault not once, but twice.
Job 4: 3 You have given moral instruction to many, you have firmed up feeble hands, 4 your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have strengthened the weak-kneed. 5 “But now it comes to you, and you are impatient; at the first touch, you are in shock.”
The other ‘admonition’ was from Galatians 6: 8 Those who keep sowing in the field of their old nature, in order to meet its demands, will eventually reap ruin.
The verses by themselves are good. But it was the spirit in which they were spoken that mattered. I faced a strong, self-assured, certain, judgmental spirit that held out no succour to me. This was and is very unlike and contrary to my experience with Yeshua, the Moshiach.
At first, and for a long time, I believed he might have spoken in the Spirit of Yeshua. But as things unravelled slowly, I realized that it was a spirit that had judged me and rejoiced in my defeat and sought to add a weight upon an already broken back.
But G-d is good.
Reading the book of Job, I have discovered that it is important that whatever one’s condition might be, it is better to stand before the throne of G-d and receive judgment or mercy at His hands and not the hands of a religious collective, its self-righteous and self-serving leaders, and the dumb sheep in their pen, even if it all comes in the name of Yeshua.
Mathew 24: 11 Many false prophets will appear and fool many people; 12 and many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah.
The work of a prophet is to be anointed by the Ruach ha-Kodesh the Moshiach promised, so that he or she can be a ‘Friend of Sinners’ and bring comfort and encouragement and deliverance to those who are struggling under innumerable burdens. The ‘false prophets’ and ‘fathers in Christ’ cannot do this. So they distance themselves from ‘sinners’ while the Moshiach draws nigh to them.
Mathew 11: 19 The Son of Man came, eating freely and drinking wine — so they say, ‘Aha! A glutton and a drunkard! A friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Well, the proof of wisdom is in the actions it produces.”
1 Corinthians 14: 3 But someone prophesying is speaking to people, edifying, encouraging and comforting them.
It’s well and good if such a prophet comes to help you get rid of your burden! There are too few of them. So it is good to take a foundational stand only before the throne of mercy of G-d. Mercy always triumphs over judgement and the Pharisees can never grasp this principle just as in John 1:5 “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness comprehends it not.”
James 2: 13 For judgment will be without mercy toward one who doesn’t show mercy; but mercy wins out over judgment.
What is the stand that Job took? He ignored the admonitions, the threatenings, the knowledge and the accusations of his ‘false comforters’. He set his face towards G-d Himself.
This is what Job said to his accusers:
Job 19: 4 Even if it’s true that I made a mistake, my error stays with me. 5 “You may take a superior attitude toward me and cite my disgrace as proof against me; 6 but know that it’s God who has put me in the wrong and closed his net around me.
He went even further and spelt out His faith with clarity to his Pharaisical, know-it-all ‘false comforters’.
Job 19: 25 “But I know that my Redeemer lives, that in the end he will rise on the dust; 26 so that after my skin has been thus destroyed, then even without my flesh, I will see God. 27 I will see him for myself, my eyes, not someone else’s, will behold him.”
You can join a denomination, a sect or a cult in what is called Christendom or any religious gathering outside of it. But if you do not desire to find G-d Himself, stand before G-d Himself, warts and all, to receive mercy and have a direct vision of the Moshiach Himself, you labor in vain.
The words of Job to the cultists, Pharisees, theologians and the know-it-all, self-righteous ones can be appropriated by one like me, by any human being or sinner. This is the raft that takes him across the sea of Samsara to the indescribable Light.
Job 23: 14 He will accomplish what is decreed for me, and he has many plans like this. 15 This is why I am terrified of him; the more I think about it, the more afraid I am — 16 God has undermined my courage; Shaddai frightens me. 17 Yet I am not cut off by the darkness; he has protected me from the deepest gloom.
Shalom!

 POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 12

THE LODESTAR OF INCLUSION

John 12: 32 As for me, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
Everyone.
That is the key word to understand and it is imperative that I believe that everyone is included in G-d’s love. If I claim to have understood how and why Yeshua the Moshiach had to be lifted up from the earth on the Tree-Stake, then I have been drawn to Him.
What else? I must have the same hope and faith towards all human beings, everyone, that it will be exactly as Yeshua said – that He will draw all to Himself. This must perforce include everyone I hate and everyone who I imagine hates me! Yes, especially the ‘Pharisees, those doctrinal and dogmatic funnies carrying a Black Book underarm, who know it all and know what’s best for others in matters pertaining to G-d.
That being said and done, that being accomplished or fulfilled or just plain FINISHED, there is a Light now and for always blazing rom the Stake, from the Place of the Skull, from Golgotha, from the Place of the Accursed, from the Place where the Tree of Death is now transformed into the Tree of Life, the essence and source of Resurrection.
Hark, my nephesh, it is the Lord, the Light of the World who fills everyone and everything with light.
John 1: 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of humankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it.
The Light is immersive and expansive and expanding. The light shines so Everyone can be and is being drawn in.
John 8: 12 Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.”
Mathew 5:14 “You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
John 8: 28 So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM [who I say I am]…”
The I AM is all inclusive. Even the darkness is as light to the I AM. And if I am drawn to Him and into His Light, then I too radiate the very same Light.
Mathew 5: 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.
There is no shadow of turning with the goodness and constant unconditional love of Adonai. It is the same with Yeshua, the exact and express representation or image of the invisible G-d.
Satan and the legions of angels or demons cannot deny or exit the Light. The Light captures all, captivates all, envelopes all, sustains all.
Malachi 4: But to you who revere my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings …
It is not just thus. Whether or not you revere the Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise upon you with healing in its wings.
That is the New Covenant. And this is the significance of it, the imperative.
Hebrews 8: 10 “‘For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,’ says Adonai: ‘I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 “‘None of them will teach his fellow-citizen or his brother, saying, “Know Adonai!” For all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest, 12 because I will be merciful toward their wickednesses and remember their sins no more.’”
When everyone has been drawn to Him who was lived up from the earth, thus it will be. And even now, thus it is among those who have truly been drawn to Him.
There are no binaries here. No Us vs Them. No Believers vs Unbelievers. No Jew or Gentile. No Rich or Poor. No Male or Female. And, most importantly, no Evangelical vs Nominal Christian.
There is only One.
Mark 12: 29 Yeshua answered, “The most important is, ‘Sh’ma Yisra’el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, O Isra’el, the Lord our God, the Lord is one], 30 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your understanding and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’
It has been done, it is finished, world without end.
John 12: 32 As for me, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
Shalom!

POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 11

ON THE ‘WORD OF GOD’
I keep getting pestered by a whole bunch of people who believe that a book is a g-d and infallible, inerrant, omnipotent, omniscient, non self-contradictory, and able to give answers on everything from the ‘beginning’, history, sexuality, morality, war, science, governance, technology and even the future.
They call this black-covered book, the bible, the ‘Word of G-d’.
The strange magical attributions to the content of a bunch of 66 different texts and the desperate efforts of so-called ‘biblical scholars’ to align the texts and create a Grand Narrative out of them that can be superimposed as the absolute, ultimate and only ‘truth’ on individuals, collectives, the nations and the Universe itself befuddles me at times.
Befuddles me, I say, because it is becoming increasingly impossible and hapless on my part to have an intelligent discussion with anyone who believes that his or her role in life is to try to convince others, including self, to believe in this book-god.
And then, the discussion breaks down because these people generally have never read much beyond this black book or they have carefully read only certain books, usually written by those who hold similar convictions, that they can cite as justifying their faith in and loyalty to their absolutist book-god.
The only way to understand ‘the Unknown G-d’ and have Him revealed to oneself, they say, is to come to a conclusion like theirs. That the book is a god! To use an old euphemism, the sun shines out of the behind of this book for them!
First things first. As far as I understand, the Word of G-d is not the book but a Person. His name, they say, is Yeshua. They ascribe the title and thronos of Moshiach to Him. They identify him with the substance of G-d. They see him as the Second Person in the Trinity. He is said to have descended from heaven, incarnated, ministered for a little more than three years among the Jews, and was then accused of claiming that He is G-d Himself in human form, crucified, buried.
The story goes that He died as the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of all human beings and that He was resurrected the third day after His death (proof of His deity). And then, He disappeared, or ascended into ‘heaven’. Many claim to have met Him since by faith or by vision. Or, oh yes, by reading that Bible! So far, so good.
You may consider it ridiculous or superstitious on my part when I claim that I have had the irrational experience of meeting up with this Person. Of communing with Him, too. This Person (you might think of Him as an apparition or my hallucination) is the One I know as the Word of G-d.
I do not need the book-god so much, unlike those who worship the book-god. I see through their empty assertions and fallacies as they try to defend their book-god. Of course, at times, the living Word of G-d Yeshua illuminates sections or aspects of the ‘book for me. But then, the Word of G-d Yeshua also illuminates Nature for me, or segments of texts other than those confined to the book-god! I prefer the direct connection with the Word of G-d to reading the book and parroting it inanely.
Then again, when they wave the book-god before my eyes or hunt through its pages for proof texts to convince me that I ought to worship the same book-god, I am amused. Unfortunately, for these worshippers of the book-god and, fortunately for me, the book itself speaks of several characters who met with the authentic Word of G-d without having access to the book-god.
Adam and Eve, if you believe they existed, had no book to look to but they knew the Person who walked in the Garden of Delight. Enoch, it is said, walked with this Person too, and was not! Of course, the book-god mentions these narratives but there are other narratives that mention Enoch too! Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses – all of them knew this Person without having access to a book-god.
They say that Moses then set about writing the Torah. It became a sort of book-god for the tribals who wandered the deserts in the Middle East. And then, along came the prophets, major and minor, historians and poets, and another set of texts were written, all of which became the Tanakh. Holy scriptures!
So the books that made the first ‘book-god’ of the Hebrews were ready and worshipped and interpreted in many ways with some interpretations vying for supremacy till a Grand Narrative was established that became sacrosanct and unquestionable – what most people know today as the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi.
And then, G-d fell silent, or so they imagine, for 400 years. And G-d, they claim, ignored all other human cultures and individuals and let them wallow in their sufferings or plenitude without revealing Himself to them. In others words, they claim, nobody other than the Jews had access to G-d!
Till a carpenter’s son, preceded by a wild-eyed prophet John the Baptist, appeared and the boat of the book-god was rocked! Because he was going to break Himself out of the box and reveal the godhead to everyone!
To cut a long story short, new narratives and texts about this carpenter’s son, who claimed to be the Son of G-d and Moshiach, began being written after he disappeared. Some of the hundreds of such narratives that proliferated were later culled and are today known as the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles and the Apocalypse – and the Apocrypha too.
Things were not too bad in the early days. People still believed in the primacy of the Person of the Son of G-d, the traditions and sacraments of the community of disciples, the rituals they forged, the commentaries the Church Fathers wrote, etc. Down the line, 300 years or so after the Moshiach disappeared, the book-god was first conceived of, unconsciously perhaps or, more definitely for political purposes, bound in black. Some ‘experts’ declared the creation and compilation of the Canonical texts whose central character was the Moshiach along with His apostles, some key disciples and detractors and their actions.
But how was it before the Canon was forged as precursor to the book-god?
In Acts 2, Peter cites verses from the book of Joel to back up his declaration about Yeshua, the Word of G-d. But it was the declaration of the Purpose and Work of the Moshiach and Holy Spirit that made 3000 turn to Yeshua as Adonai.
In Acts 3 too, a miracle, the citation of some verses from Exodus, Deuteronomy and Genesis in random order and the proclamation of the Risen Person of the Moshiach, the Word of G-d, adds people to the community of disciples. In Acts 4 too, this pattern is followed. And so on, for 300-odd years!
So what or who exactly was the Word of G-d, even before the book-god came into existence? It was the Presence, the Shekinah of the Person of the Moshiach, Yeshua. The words spoken were given to the speakers by the Ruach ha-Kodesh, the Holy Spirit. Relevant sections of the Torah/Tanakh were brought to the fore by the Spirit to exalt Yeshua and convict hearts of His work of Moksha (redemption).
All this awe and wonder disappeared by and large when, a bit later than sooner, during medieval times, along came another bunch of new Reformer ‘experts’ who now equated the book with G-d Himself. The ‘laboring’ was done and the ‘book-god’ was born, mid-wived by these so-called ‘doctors’ of the ‘church’.
That book-god, if we are to believe its present-day proponents-enforcers, knows much more than even Yeshua did. Its enforcers claim to know all about genomes and modern astronomy and nuclear physics, about how nations should be run and what sort of economies ought to be forged, etc, etc! Everything, purportedly, is in the mouth of this black-veiled book-god!
These deceivers proof-text Paul as writing to Timothy that the content of the book-god is G-d-breathed. But at that point in time, there was no such book-god that Paul was referring to; at most, he could only have been referring to the Torah/Tanakh. Nor was there a book-god, other than the Torah/Tanakh, when it is recorded in Acts 12:24 that the ‘the Word of G-d multiplied”.
Thus it has been a problematic or, rather, paradoxical state of existence between knowing the living Person of Yeshua, the Moshiach and Word of G-d, and the attempts by the worshippers of the book-god to force me to bow down before it as one would before the Golden Calf. And yes, this Golden Calf has been of much use to the ‘merchants’ of the Gospel ever since the book-god came into being!
Increasingly though, I am learning to depend on the living Person of Yeshua, the Moshiach and Word of G-d, and the Ruach ha-Kodesh rather than getting trapped between the pages of “the reports about the reports of the Word of G-d”, as someone once put it.
In this way, I am able to avoid the fundamentalism, legalism, arrogance, superstitions, irrationality, exclusivism and anti-scientific bent of mind of those who worship the book-god.
My hope is to live as the Moshiach did and, yes, the book does provide some clues, but only as any book provides clues and not as the book-god. One has to be sensitive and careful, when plowing through this book lest one becomes like the worshippers of the Golden Calf.
What kind of life did the Person of Yeshua, the Word of G-d live by the power of the Ruach ha-Kodesh? To emulate that, I return to the progenitor of the present-day book-god, the Torah/Tanakh.
Isaiah 61: 1 The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me, because Adonai has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark … 3 yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by Adonai, in which he takes pride.
Shalom!

POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 10

THE SIMPLICITY OF SALVATION
Salvation or moksha is simple. It was to make it simple that the Moshiach came. I doubt it was easy or simple for Yeshua Moshiach to do what He came to do. But having done what He came to do, which is to offer Himself up as a spotless sacrifice for the sins of humankind – past, present and future – upon the Tree, He has rendered salvation simple for those who encounter Him in the Ruach Ha-kodesh.
However, the simplicity of salvation lies in what is spoken of as ‘faith’ in the Resurrection of the Moshiach from the dead. None of us was physically present when the Moshiach trod the lanes of lowly Israel or was crucified or raised from the dead.
The sect or cult called ‘The Way’ emerged from among those Jews and a few Gentiles impacted by the Moshiach’s ministry and who were witnesses to His life, His sayings, His crucifixion and His Resurrection.
Acts 24: 5 “We have found this man a pest. He is an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world and a ringleader of the sect of the Natzratim.” That refers to Paul and the early followers of the Moshiach were considered ‘pests’.
In those days especially and for at least four centuries after the Moshiach disappeared or ascended into heaven, His followers were not sure about the ‘right’ doctrines and religious configurations or theologies in the communities that witnessed to His life, death and resurrection.
It was only by the 4th century that the new ‘religion’ called Christianity was established with its rules and regulations by those who ‘believed’ in the Moshiach, thanks to the writings of the apostles, the Church Fathers and others.
The establishing of the Christian religion made the matter of attaining salvation more complicated than ever before. It was not that salvation could not be attained via the tenets of the religion and its varied forms. It was just that the simplicity became veiled to many.
2 Corinthians 11: 3 I fear that somehow your minds may be seduced away from simple and pure devotion to the Messiah.
This terrible paradigm shift from simplicity in Christ Jesus to complexity was something that worried Paul of Tarsus even then. This was in spite of the fact that he had himself complicated matters of salvation for believers in his desperate attempt to become the ‘architect of the Church’.
But to get back to the crux of the matter – what lay or lies at the core of the simplicity of salvation? It is this.
Romans 10: 8 What, then, does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” — that is, the word about trust which we proclaim, namely, 9 that if you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be delivered. 10 For with the heart one goes on trusting and thus continues toward righteousness, while with the mouth one keeps on making public acknowledgement and thus continues toward deliverance.
There are two ways in which one could come to trust that G-d raised Yeshua from the dead. One – G-d could reveal the risen Yeshua Adonai directly to a person from above. This is what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus.
Acts 9: 3 He was on the road and nearing Dammesek, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed all around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Sha’ul! Sha’ul! Why do you keep persecuting me?” 5 “Sir, who are you?” he asked. “I am Yeshua, and you are persecuting me.”
Or, two, one could come to faith in the resurrection of Yeshua because one believed the words of a witness to the Resurrection. Paul refers to many such witnesses whose testimony ought to be believed.
1 Corinthians 15: 4 And he was buried; and he was raised on the third day, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; 5 and he was seen by Kefa, then by the Twelve; 6 and afterwards he was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Later he was seen by Ya‘akov, then by all the emissaries; 8 and last of all he was seen by me …
Notice how Paul includes himself among those who actually physically or spiritually encountered the Risen Yeshua and he counts himself a trustworthy witness of the Resurrection, whose testimony can and ought to be trusted by others.
The central witness of what is known as Torah and Tanakh or the Christian Bible is to the death and resurrection of the Moshiach. If ones heart blazes with the knowledge of the truth and reality of His Resurrection – that G-d raised Yeshua from the dead, the Sinless One, the Lamb of G-d, the one who would not see corruption – then one has received faith from above, a gift from G-d Himself.
Ephesians 2: 8 For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift. 9 You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.
The corollary to receiving this gift from G-d is that it will also be simple and easy for such a one to publicly acknowledge and declare that Yeshua is Adonai, or that Jesus is Lord of all. Whoever has received the gift of faith in the Risen Yeshua from above will know that salvation has come to him and be able to declare that Yeshua is Lord.
That is all that is required for salvation. It is as simple as that. Do not be deceived by those who cook up religious or sectarian complications for you. Let no one steal you from the simplicity that is in Yeshua Moshiach. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Don’t complicate things for yourself.
Romans 10: 8 What, then, does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” — that is, the word about trust which we proclaim, namely, 9 that if you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be delivered. 10 For with the heart one goes on trusting and thus continues toward righteousness, while with the mouth one keeps on making public acknowledgement and thus continues toward deliverance.
Shalom!

POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 9

WHY I AM NOT A KORANIC CHRISTIAN.
By ‘Koranic Christian’, what I mean is a ‘Christian’ who adheres to the notion, principle and practice of Sola Scriptura and affirms that the 66 books of the Bible were penned by G-d and are therefore inerrant, infallible, incontestable, and that anyone who does not believe in the written Bible (or ‘Word of G-d’ as they call it), as the source of salvation is either an unbeliever or apostate.
Such an assertion is what the Islamists make about the Koran and it should not come as a surprise that by the 16th century, this idea had penetrated segments of Christendom, particularly those segments known as the “Reformation”.
Sola Scriptura is the belief in the Bible as an object of faith where the Book is treated as Divine and Holy and idolized and is unquestionable. This is the position the Islamists take towards the Koran and my contention is that those who indulge in Bibliolatry are that breed of ‘believers’ one can label as Koranic Christians.
The notion of the Bible operating as the Koran does and that operation being a subject of Credal affirmation represents a radical departure from the faith of the early Church. This radical departure is best expressed and seen in the Westminster Confession of Faith which Koranic Christians adhere to inasmuch as is possible, word for word.
The Westminster Confession in itself goes against the ancient creeds of the Church, none of which begins with a statement about the Bible; rather, they all begin with an affirmation in one God, the Father, Yeshua the Son and Messiah and Savior, and the Ruach Ha-kodesh.
The Westminster Confession up-ends this acknowledgement and knowledge of the sovereignty and supremacy of the Living and Triune G-dhead by the members of the Body of Christ. Instead of the primacy of faith in G-d the Father, the Son and the Ruach Ha-Kodesh, it has transferred the sovereignty and supremacy of the Trinity to a Book.
The call of the Westminister Confession to ‘Christians’ is to bow down before and worship the Book just as Islamists are bound to the Koran. The call of the Westminster Confession is to use the Book as Law just as the Islamists do with the Koran. The call of the Westminster Confession is to exclude those who do not worship the Book even as the Koran excludes the kaffirs.
This is why the first Chapter of the Westminster Confession is not devoted to the glory of the Triune G-dhead but to the glory of the Book and is titled “Of the Holy Scripture’. And the sleight of hand that is used here to turn Scripture into its Koranic mode is initialized in this chapter on Scripture.
This first chapter is contrary to and subtly and cleverly twists that which is actually declared throughout Scripture to the glory of the Living Moshiach. For instance, that which is declared in the first chapter of Hebrews.
Hebrews 1: 1 In days gone by, God spoke in many and varied ways to the Fathers through the prophets. 2 But now, in the acharit-hayamim, he has spoken to us through his Son, to whom he has given ownership of everything and through whom he created the universe. 3 This Son is the radiance of the Sh’khinah, the very expression of God’s essence, upholding all that exists by his powerful word; and after he had, through himself, made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of HaG’dulah BaM’romim.
The Westminster Confession would have one believe that instead of G-d speaking to us now through His Son, He speaks through us through the Book. They claim that the Son is bound by and imprisoned within the pages of the Book and that the Book is the radiance of the Shekinah, the very expression of G-d’s essence!
Or, again, in the first chapter of John.
John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 14 The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, the Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
Does a Book contain the Shekinah and radiate it or does the person of Yeshua radiate the Shekinah?
The so-called Scripture(s), even before it was forged into the so-called canonical 66 books of the Bible, is actually a witness and a testimony to the glory of the Son of G-d, the Living Word of G-d, Yeshua, who died on a Tree and rose again and lives forever.
But to know this Living Lord, one does not need all or some of the written Book, one needs revelation from above. Just as Saul of Tarsus, without access to the Koranic Book of present-day ‘Christians’, was enlightened from above. Or just as it was revealed to Peter from above that Yeshua was the Son of G-d. It was not flesh or blood who brought that revelation to either Saul or Peter. Neither was it a Book.
Galatians 1: 11 Furthermore, let me make clear to you, brothers, that the Good News as I proclaim it is not a human product; 12 because neither did I receive it from someone else nor was I taught it — it came through a direct revelation from Yeshua the Messiah.
What Paul or Peter wrote later were their attempts to describe, explain, rationalize and proclaim the things that they had experienced in their close walk with the Living Lord. It was much later that people began to worship their words and finally forged them into a Koranic canon. They were only continuing their ‘witness’ and testifying to their life in Yeshua Adonai.
The Bible, among large segments of Christendom, operates just as the Koran does, and has been equated with the Living Triune G-dhead and has supplanted the supremacy and sovereignty of Yeshua Adonai.
While it is possible that sections of this Book can suddenly be lit up by the Ruach Ha-kodesh and enable one to see that Yeshua lives and that it is possible to have a direct relationship with him daily via the Ruach Ha-Kodesh, it is more often worshipped as G-d and touted as merciless Law.
The ‘word of G-d’ or Sola Scriptura has now supplanted and superceded the Living Word of G-d as the object of faith and as a means of conditioning and keeping in captivity a vast multitude of ‘believers’ who are akin in their rigidity and exclusivity to the believers in the Koran.
That faith in the Living Triune G-dhead and the crucified and resurrected Moshiach has been replaced by faith in a Book is surprising. Subtle and clever human beings have ‘successfully’ and miraculously trapped the Living Triune G-dhead in a Book!
But there is a history to how this happened. In the Early Church, and now especially the Eastern Orthodox churches, Scripture, Tradition and Church were/are a synthesis.
Later, as the Roman Catholic Church sought global hegemony, during the medieval times particularly, there came to be two ways of looking at Scripture and Tradition. One saw them as organically related, the single source theory. A second saw Scripture and Tradition as two distinct phenomena, the two-source theory.
There was the ‘coincident view’ of the Early Church and the ‘supplementary view’ of the Medieval Church, primarily Catholic, and the Catholics then subordinated Scripture and Tradition to the Magisterium of the Papacy.
“Under the guise of the two-sources theory, canon law was invested with an authority comparable to the Bible. As the canon lawyers surpassed the theologians in status and influence in the papal curia and the royal courts, the theologians reacted by placing greater stress on the single source theory (Oberman 1963:371 ff.). The rise of canon law and the subsequent rivalry between the canon lawyers and the doctors of theology was unique to Western Christianity and virtually unknown in the Byzantine East.”
In the fourteenth century new currents of thoughts, spurred by Humanism and the Enlightenment, began to circulate straining the synthesis of Scripture, Tradition, and Church.
“One current of thought (the Scripturalists) posited the possibility that only a faithful remnant, not the Church, would be faithful to Scripture. Another current of thought (the Curialists) introduced the notion of post-apostolic tradition and exalted the office of the Pope as a arbiter of post-apostolic tradition.”
In the tensions between the Curialists and the Scripturalists, between the canon lawyers and the theologians, the fault lines leading to the Reformation in the 16th century were laid ultimately leading to the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura.
The Protestant thinkers – Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, etc, – inverted the two-sources paradigm by opposing Scripture against Tradition and by placing Scripture over Tradition.
This culminated in the ancient creeds of the Church being overthrown – those who believe in Sola Scripture will rarely be found reciting the Nicene or the Apostle’s creed, neither of which speak of the written ‘word of G-d’ but glorify the Living Triune G-dhead – and the Koranic principle of Sola Scripture being established across large swathes of Christendom.
The pseudo-religion of Evangelicalism, consisting of a loose alliance of those sects and denominations who worship the Bible like the Islamists worship the Koran, had arrived. The Koranic Christian had arrived.
Try this test.
The Koranic Christian or the Sola Scriptura ‘believer’ will find it near impossible in ‘spirit’ to recite the Nicene Creed or the Apostle’s creed, neither of which speak of the written ‘word of G-d’ but glorify the Living Triune G-dhead and the true Word of G-d – Yeshua Moshiach Adonai.
How is one to escape being a Koranic Christian who adheres to Sola Scriptura and worships a Book and makes the Westminister Confession?
Isaiah 51: 1 “Listen to me, you pursuers of justice, you who seek Adonai: consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug — 7 “Listen to me, you who know justice, you people who have my Torah in your heart:”
Hebrews 8: “‘For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,’ says Adonai: ‘I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 “‘None of them will teach his fellow-citizen or his brother, saying, “Know Adonai!” For all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest, 12 because I will be merciful toward their wickednesses and remember their sins no more.’”
May you escape the trap of being a Koranic Christian and have the Torah embedded in your minds and have it written in your hearts of flesh directly from the pen of Yeshua Adonai!
Shalom!

POST-LENTEN MEDITATION – 8

OVERCOMING THE HUMILIATION THAT G-D BRINGS
They say that G-d is Love. But what does this imply? It does not really mean that G-d loves us, unconditionally or otherwise. Rather, it means that we, as human beings, must learn to outwit (love) a G-d who loves to humiliate human beings, who gets pleasure from humiliating human beings to prove His sovereignty or supremacy.
Accepting the G-d who brings humiliation to human beings, who makes those made of dust eat dust, is to know G-d as Love.
The story of humanity is of being the creation or victims of G-d who seeks to make those whom He created out of dust to eat dust and be crushed into nothingness so that they can realize that they are nothing but grass or flowers that wither away.
This realization of one’s nothingness and one’s humiliation at the hands of G-d is what the mystics call ‘knowledge of G-d’.
One of the human beings who understood this was the Buddha who posited the notion of Nirvana, or entering into and becoming one with the ‘no thingness’ of G-d.
The other human being who understood this was the Christ or the Moshiach who learnt what it meant to be stripped naked, abused, tortured and crucified on a Tree in plain sight of other human beings, angels, and demons, while his “Father” celebrated his being humiliated and took pleasure in His sufferings.
Isaiah 53: Yet it pleased Adonai to crush him with illness (humiliation)
Yet another human being who entered into the ‘Holiest’ was Job who was humiliated, never got any answers to his questions, and had to come into the place where he bowed down and ate the dust in the face of a volley of counter-questions from ‘G-d’ who deigned to humiliate him just to win a wager with Satan.
Not one of the disciples of the Moshiach were exalted. Each of them was humiliated by the G-d they sought to serve. They were all abused and butchered. Of course, the story goes that all those who accepted this humiliation at the hands of the G-d of Humiliation were rewarded in some way or the other.
Satan is considered to be evil because he would not submit voluntarily to the humiliation that G-d might have wanted to heap upon him. Instead, he rebelled. The sons of G-d and the saints are those who voluntarily take upon themselves whatever humiliation G-d heaps upon them in whatever form He decides upon.
The man, Christ Jesus, understood this early on, that is my surmise. The humiliation was heaped upon Him from the beginning of His life as a human being. He was born a ‘bastard’, in the eyes of others, from the womb of an unmarried woman (to believe that a virgin can give birth because she was impregnated by a ‘spirit’ may freak out rationalists, but such a notion is not strange to Indians who read in their mythology that it is indeed possible for spirits or gods to impregnate women – Karna, for instance!).
He was born in a manger, stinking of cow dung and animal smells. There was no place for Him in any human dwelling. He had to carry the burden of the knowledge that hundreds of children were murdered for His sake. He lived a refugee in Egypt. As an untaught rabbi, He was humiliated for His lack of formal learning and His strange powers led him to be considered the spawn of Beelzebub, a madman, a lawbreaker and so on. Finally, he was termed a criminal, tortured and crucified.
This is what happened to Job too. Not only were his children slaughtered so that the G-d of humiliation could prove some vague point to Satan, his animals were slaughtered too. And it meant nothing much to G-d, other than in terms of winning a wager with an Archangel, that Job’s body itself was afflicted.
At the end of his ordeal of humiliation, Job does not even get any answers to his questions about existence, G-d, the devil, suffering, etc. Instead, his mind is bombarded by many more questions and he bows down, empties himself and becomes nobody or no thing in his humiliation.
Religious people make much out of the virtue of humility. But G-d, or the G-d of the Bible is really not interested in humble human beings. In a twisted way, He is scanning humanity to see who among them can take the worst kind of humiliation. The story goes that those who can take the worst form of humiliation will be rewarded. But, who knows?
Nobody dares to ask: Who is this G-d who uses the insane instrument of humiliation to forge what He claims to be the ‘sons of G-d’? The other unhappy aspect of this conundrum is that there seems to be no way out for human beings from being victims of suffering and humiliation at the hands of G-d. Abject acceptance is the only route to salvation, so it is written or ascribed or said.
What then is one to say? In a sense, what can the net result of such humiliation at the hands of G-d be? Some say that the victims of humiliation at the hands of G-d learn humility at the end of their trials and sufferings. Others say that those who fight against and reject the humiliation that destroys their ‘Satanic pride’ will end up in Hell! Some say that humiliation is but a state of mind and there is no G-d who actually thrusts it on human beings.
Whatever it might be, one thing cannot be denied. There is indeed some force or energy or G-d who actually has conspired against and implements humiliation for human beings. This ordeal is sugar-coated with the promise of Heaven or some sort of eternal bliss.
Yet, the question that remains is: how is one to respond to the humiliation one encounters and experiences.
The Christ or the Moshiach, as a human being, figured it out, I think.
Mathew 23: 2 For whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.
He took away the power of humiliation from G-d and ascribed it to humanity. He figured out that IF HE DECIDED TO HUMILIATE OR ABASE HIMSELF, THEN G-D WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DO MUCH WORSE TO HIM.
G-d might want to humiliate human beings in his effort to prove himself omnipotent or sovereign or supreme. But what if a human being undertook to humiliate or abase himself? What power does G-d have over a human being who decides to be no thing, not only in the sight of G-d but also in the sight of other human beings and himself?
G-d can have no power of humiliation over such a human being. In fact, such a human being reaches a place that even G-d cannot penetrate. This was the place that a Buddha or a Christ penetrated. They outwitted G-d with their ability to abase themselves, to humiliate themselves, to accept whatever humiliation G-d or the universe heaped upon themselves, to become ‘no thing’ of themselves. Job also found this place.
When G-d came to humiliate such human beings, He found NO THING there. All G-d found was emptiness. The secret of escaping the humiliation that G-d might heap on oneself is to abase one’s own self.
2 Samuel 6: 22 “I will make myself still more contemptible than that, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes, but those slave-girls you mentioned will honor me!”
Ecclesiastes 6: 10 Whatever he is, he was named long ago, and it is known that he is merely human; moreover, he cannot defeat
what is mightier than he [death]. 11 There are many things that only add to futility, so how do humans benefit from them?
Shalom!

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.
Shalom.

LENTEN MEDITATION – 6

MAUNDY THURSDAY
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!”

Shalom!

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!
Shalom!

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.

Shalom!

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.”

Shalom!

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.

In conclusion:

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!”

Shalom!

(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.

Shalom!

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