Friday, January 20, 2017

The Sword of the Spirit

And there was a war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon.  And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Now a man with an unclean spirit met Jesus; and he had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.  And seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beg You, do not torment me.”

For He had been commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man.  For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard; and yet he would burst the fetters and be driven by the demon into the desert.

And Jesus asked him, “What is your Name?”

And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him.  And they were begging Him not to command them to depart into the abyss.

Now there was a herd of swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons urged Him to permit them to enter the swine.  And He gave them permission.  And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.

And the Father will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of the truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.

Therefore, put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And you will overcome the powers of darkness because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Passover Puzzle: part 4 of 4

“Now the feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread was two days off; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth, and kill Him...

“And on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?’”  (Mark 14:1, 12)

“So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year…Annas therefore sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest…They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium; and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.”  (John 18:12-13, 24, 28) 

In discussing the Passover events up to and including the Exodus, it was noted that the Sadducees and the Pharisees held different interpretations of the timeline associated with those events.

The Sadducees believed that the Passover events, including the slaying of lambs and the painting of Hebrew doors, the eating of the Passover meal, the angels pass over of Hebrew homes, the smiting of Egyptians, and the night journey out of Egypt, all took place on Nisan 14.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, believed that only the slaying of lambs and the painting of Hebrew doors took place on Nisan 14 and the other events, beginning with the Passover meal, occurred the following day, on Nisan 15.

The Sadducees and the Pharisees agreed on only one point.  The Passover lambs were sacrificed on Nisan 14.  This is crucial to understanding the two passages above, taken from Mark’s Gospel.

In Mark 14:1, the author identified the Lords Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as separate entities.  God’s original intention was that the single day Lords Passover, on Nisan 14, and the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning on Nisan 15, would be observed as two separate feasts.  However, in Mark 14:12, the author described the two feasts as one celebration.  Indubitably, when he said, “the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed,” he was referring to Nisan 14.

So at what time, on Nisan 14, did Christ’s disciples ask, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?”  Was it in the evening at the beginning of Nisan 14, according to the custom of the Sadducees or was it in the afternoon near the end of Nisan 14, according to the tradition of the Pharisees?  Let’s investigate.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke document Christ’s late night arrest after He ate the Passover.  Additional information is revealed in John 18:28: After His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin, they transferred Him to Pontius Pilate’s palace which served as the governor’s official residence and hall of judgment.  Those who delivered Jesus wouldn’t set foot in the palace.  Why?  Because they didn’t want to defile themselves before they ate the Passover.  It was unlawful for a Jew to come in contact with a Roman or any uncircumcised Gentile prior to eating the Passover.

That additional information, revealed in John 18:28, clarifies the timeline created by the other three Gospels: Christ ate the Passover meal just after dark on Nisan 14.  Later that same night, He was arrested and tried by the Sanhedrin.  Early the next morning, they delivered Him to Pontius Pilate where He was sentenced to death by crucifixion.  He was pronounced dead at 3 PM on Nissan 14.  In the evening following His death, after the sun had set, the day changed to Nisan 15.  It was then that the Pharisees ate the Passover meal according to their tradition.

Therefore, when Christ’s disciples asked Him where they should go to prepare the Passover, it was evening, at the beginning of Nisan 14.  Jesus ate the Passover just after dark, that same night, according to the command of the God of Israel, “…you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt.  And you shall cook it and eat it in the place where the Lord your God chooses.”  (Deuteronomy 16:6-7)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Passover Puzzle: part 3 of 4

At the time of the Exodus, the Hebrews sacrificed their Passover lambs and smeared the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses in the evening of Nisan 14.  After dark, they ate the Passover while the tenth plague passed over their homes and struck down first born Egyptians.

Two and a half centuries later, Solomon built the First Temple circa 973 BC.  The Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC.  Surviving Judeans were exiled in Babylon.  After Cyrus the Great released the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, they rebuilt their Temple.  It was completed in 515 BC.  The Second Temple didn’t approach the magnificence of Solomon’s Temple.  However, in 37 BC, Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews.  To gain favour with his subjects, he began to renovate the Second Temple in 19 BC.  He continued for over a decade until the lavish splendour of the Second Temple rivalled the magnificence of the First.

In the latter part of the Second Temple period, every Jewish male was obliged to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.  Passover lambs were slaughtered at the door of the Temple.  Some of the blood was collected and carried in basins so it could be sprinkled on the altar.  Then the lambs were butchered and conveyed to thousands of community ovens in close proximity to the Temple.  Groups, of no less than ten, roasted their lambs and ate the Passover.  By the time the Passover reached its zenith, just before the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD, over 256,000 lambs were sacrificed in a single Passover, according to Josephus.

When the Lord’s Passover was celebrated in homes, the hour or so, between sunset and darkness, was sufficient to slay the Passover lambs.  But as the celebration grew, the sacrificial period was gradually extended.  First it was moved to the following afternoon between 3 PM and 5 PM.  Then it was extended until 6 PM and may have started as early as 12 noon.  Surely it would take several hours to slaughter and butcher tens of thousands of lambs.  With the extended time also came a new interpretation of the phrase “between the evenings.”

As mentioned in part two, the Pharisees adopted the sacrificial period in the afternoon at the end of Nisan 14 while the Sadducees observed the sacrificial period in the evening at the beginning of Nisan 14.

In 30 AD, when Christ was crucified, Caiaphas was the high priest.  He was the son-in-law of an influential aristocrat named Annas, who was a former high priest.  While Annas was undoubtedly a Sadducee, it is more than likely that Caiaphas was a Sadducee as well.  Because the Sadducees ran the Temple, there is a question as to whether the Passover lambs were sacrificed according to the custom of the Sadducees or the more practical tradition of the Pharisees at the time of Christ's crucifixion.