Monthly Archives: April 2011

Darkness before the Dawn II

This is part II of my sermon notes and reflection from the message given by Rabbi Marty Waldman at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue this past weekend. I had wanted to post Part II yesterday, on Resurrection Day, but the day was filled with my wife and I prepping for our Meal of Messiah dinner that evening, which we hosted for some family and friends. Read Part I here.

Picking up where I left off in the previous post, Yeshua’s closest disciples and inner circle were reeling from the devastation of his death and initially couldn’t believe in his resurrection.

She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.  Mark 16:10-11

As most anyone can relate, dealing with pain of various kinds can cloud one’s thoughts and leave conclusions and hope unclear. This was a pain in the greatest magnitude and they had resigned in their hearts and minds to not hear any “nonsense” in light of their grim reality. The disciples are not alone in this category whether it be in a general human condition sense or in Biblical history. Read these words below by some of Israel’s greatest Prophets and men of God when they had become so distressed in their condition, even to the point of requesting God for death. They had reached the limits of their despair and judgment was severely impaired:

If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:15  (Moses)

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”  1 Kings 19:4  (Elijah)

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.  Proverbs 25:20

Also, as the Proverb above could be applied, joyful or good news to someone who’s heart is crushed might not be impactful in the positive way it’s intended and could even add to the sting of the wound. So as you can see, there is good evidence from a Biblical point of view of why the resurrection accounts we’re initially rejected and not believed. It is a very natural and human expression when dealing with a calamity and struggling to come to terms with it. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long in the story of the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection for Yeshua’s promise of being raised to life to be revealed in truth by the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:1-43

As you can see in the eyewitness accounts, there was something about Yeshua’s resurrected body that made it hard for those who knew him best to recognize who he was, something was different about him, he had changed in a way that his appearance after the resurrection wasn’t immediately recognizable to those who knew him so well. It is also interesting, that it is emphasized that he was recognized in the act of breaking bread. This should not be lost on us each time we participate in the Passover, communion or break bread in fellowship that it is Yeshua who should be recognized through us.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  1 Corinthians 15:20

Rabbi Marty pointed out that Paul states as a fact, not just a belief that Messiah has been resurrected and fittingly Paul uses Torah terminology a la Leviticus 23:10 and the firstfruits offering that happened during Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread to parallel Messiah being the firstfruits among the dead to be resurrected.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3

Thanks to the Messiah’s obedience to the Father’s will, his suffering, his bloody sacrificial death, burial and resurrection, we are not without hope in the world. We are admonished to consider him in our own times of suffering that by the power of the Spirit and Messiah in us, we will not grow weary or fainthearted in our trust and obedience to him.

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!


Darkness before the Dawn

“The darkest hour is just before dawn
The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul at Jesus’ feet
The darkest hour is just before dawn.”

These are my sermon notes and reflection from the message given today by Rabbi Marty Waldman at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue. The quote above is from the Emmylou Harris song The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn from the Roses in the Snow Album. I’m a big music fan, and I will often have songs in my head that are sparked by what someone said or an event or feeling. This particular song came to me and seemed appropriate for the message.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,  Luke 24:1-8

Rabbi Derek Leman had some great insight into these verses yesterday which I encourage you to read in full here. It is easy for us to look in our Bibles and say “how could they have forgotten?”. Yeshua told them so many times that he was going to die and be raised back up and we can quote all the verses and be as perplexed ourselves at them forgetting as they were when it happened 2,000 years ago. We would be fooling ourselves not to think that we wouldn’t have had the same perplexity and misunderstanding as they did trying to grasp the shocking events that had taken place over the past few days. Plus, as a reminder, they had yet to have these teachings and sayings written down for them in convenient book form, then taught and re-told to every generation for the past two millenia.

9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.  Luke 24:9-12

The disciple Thomas (you know, the doubting one) takes a lot of flack for not believing the other disciples report about Yeshua appearing and eating with them when he wasn’t around. Thomas was far from the only disciple to doubt this magnificent claim at first as the verses above show that the disciples save maybe Peter, didn’t believe the report of the resurrection at first either. They were at capacity and it was too much.

 13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles [1] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”  Luke 24:13-24

Two more disciples were on their way back home from the Feast in Jerusalem and they were also devastated, with hope fleeting from the events of the past few days. They had heard the reports of the women and the resurrection but they had their doubts. Darkness had invaded their world and they were having a hard time seeing the glimpses of light in the reports or the Light of the World who was right in front of them.

In all of the these cases, the disciples were having a hard time coming to terms with Yeshua’s death and even more so a resurrection. They had an expectation of what the Messiah of Israel, who they knew Yeshua to be, was to do. The Messiah was to be the liberator of Israel, He would set the captives free and be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords and rule from Jerusalem with Israel in an exalted position amongst the nations. Now all of these dreams and promises were not.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12

Fortunately, we know the story doesn’t end there, and neither does this blog:-). Part 2 coming tomorrow, Lord willing!

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!

Passover Combo

Today is the first official day of the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread Holiday. In our house we got started a bit early, and though we didn’t need a reason to start the celebration early, there are some good ones to note this year. To begin with, I love it when Passover and Passion week coincide together. To me it adds an extra element or sense of how big God’s community is around the world when you have billions of believers reading and memorializing the same texts and events at the same time. We hosted our first Seder for some family and friends this past Sunday night and had a wonderful evening. It was cool to us that this was Palm Sunday, which starts the Passion week and memorializes Yeshua riding into Jerusalem on the donkey while the crowds were shouting Hosanna and waving and placing palm branches at his feet. Also, depending on how you reconcile the Gospel accounts and which commentary you read, Yeshua could have had his last Seder with his disciples a night early and then was led to be crucified at the same time the actual Passover lambs were sacrificed the next afternoon.

For our first Seder at our house, we chose to utilize the recently updated Passover Encounter Haggadah by First Fruits of Zion. The Passover Encounter Haggadah is not an orthodox Haggadah but does follow the order of a traditional Seder and includes relevent texts from it. The heart of the Passover Encounter Haggadah and its main thrust is to connect Christians in solidarity with Messianic Jews and the Jewish community at large. To join the Jewish people in celebrating the historical Exodus from Egypt while at the same time focusing, honoring and making explicit our trust in Yeshua as the Messiah and the historical work that he did on the cross to provide forgiveness of sins and make redemption available to all mankind, Jew and Gentile. The flow of the Passover Encounter texts were easy to incorporate into a group setting and the optional discussion points were great for additional thoughts and ideas.

We had our second Seder last night with Sar Shalom Messianic Congregation. Sar Shalom used to be Heritage Fellowship and they just recently relocated from about 25 minutes from our house to less than five. This move made travel nice for us and now obligates us to check them out on a deeper level soon since they are now in our own back yard. This is the second year in a row that we have joined Rabbi Mark Griffin’s congregation for a Passover. Rabbi Griffin makes it a point to keep the focus on our Passover Lamb, Yeshua and make much of him through-out the traditional ceremony of the evening.  I commented to Rabbi Griffin after the Seder, that I have now been to half a dozen Passover Seder’s and no two have been alike. It’s true that the Passover Seder and it’s text the Haggadah are living events and texts in the truest sense with additional insight gained with every re-telling and enactment. By the way, the Violin Guy that has been there the past two years is absolutely amazing and has been a highlight and would be worth just an evening alone.

***Addendum*** My wife got a message from a friend on Facebook mid Tuesday afternoon about a Seder ticket for Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue that had just come available. Baruch Hashem is the Messianic congregation in our area we are most familiar with and have been visiting them regularly for the past few years. We had wanted to go to their Seder but it sold out (600+) before the tickets went public. My wife was already scheduled to go to work that evening so she was unable to go but she asked if I’d be up for it and I jumped at the chance. The Seder was led by Rabbi Marty Waldman and like I said above about the other Seder’s, was in many ways the same (obviously there is a traditional order) but was in many ways unique to the leader and congregational style. This was definitely the largest Seder I had been a part of by a long shot and I commented to a friend afterwards that I felt this was the first time I really connected and got the symbolism and parallels of the Afikoman and the piece of bread Yeshua blessed and broke after dinner. So I guess originally I wrote this blog a day and Seder too soon. If I had only waited I could have posted the Hat-trick instead of the combo:-).

May you be blessed by Messiah Yeshua this season and beyond with grace and truth! Happy Passover 2011!!!

The Bread of Affliction and Freedom

With Passover less than a week away now, my wife and I have been busy over the past few days prepping for Passover. This will be the first year that we will be leading a family and friends Seder at our house and we’re a bit nervous but super excited. We will also be leading a Meal of Messiah Seder the following week for the 2nd year now to close out Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread. For both of our Seder’s we will be utilizing resources produced by First Fruits of Zion and Vine of David. For Passover;  the Passover Encounter Haggadah. For Meal of Messiah; the Meal of Messiah Haggadah. As a part of my preparation, I have been re-reviewing the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah which is a book that I read last year as part of JBOM. You can read my posts about this book under the archives from Feb/March 2010.

On p. 82 of The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah, it has some interesting notes about the most common first verse that begins the Maggid or Narrative portion of the traditional Seder.

“Behold, this is the bread of affliction (or distress) that our ancestors ate while in Egypt.”

Though the commentary goes on to explain that some versions of the Haggadah have this slight variation as the first verse:

“Behold, this is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate when they left Egypt.”

So why the discrepancy and which one is correct? The commentary goes on to explain that both variations are not contradictory but rather fit quite well in the context of the Passover story. Here is an excerpt of the explanation below:

“We might say that the bread is transformed from a symbol of distress to a symbol of freedom….because matzah is bread baked when there is no time to allow the dough to rise. The lack of time is the common element to slavery and the Exodus. The lack of time serves to symbolize the change in the status of the Jews-their time is now devoted to God and not to Pharaoh. They have been transformed from the slaves of Pharaoh to servants of God.”

This discussion about the bread of affliction and freedom from the JPS Commentary got me thinking about Yeshua who is our Passover and Bread from Heaven (represented by the matzoh at Passover, which is unleavened, striped, pierced and bruised). Yeshua our Messiah who was afflicted on account of our transgressions and was faithful according to the Father’s will to purchase our freedom by His sacrificial death. Yeshua’s death and resurrection by the power of the Holy Spirit transforms those who put their trust in His work from slaves to sin to servants of freedom, from works of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit, from death to life. Amen and Amen!

“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7

“This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread [1] the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:58

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

May you and yours have a peaceful Passover this season and beyond by God’s amazing grace!

Shalom and grace be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!