Showing posts with label Numbers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Numbers. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jesus wore tassels

The Torah's instructions pertaining to "tassels” were put in place to serve as reminders for the people of Israel (Num. 15:37-41). Tassels taught them to remember God’s covenant faithfulness. In Matthew 9:20 though, it’s not quite clear who is being reminded of God’s covenant faithfulness when the bleeding woman touches the tassel of Jesus' garment. Does the woman see the tassle and remember God’s covenant faithfulness, or is Jesus reminded of his own desire to express covenant faithfulness as she touches his tassel? Or are both implied?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"But Amaziah would not listen" (II Kings 14)

In II Kings 14 Amaziah king of Judah is portrayed as a son of Yahweh who does what is "right in the eyes of Yahweh," his Heavenly Father (v. 3), even though, sadly, "yet not like David his father," for it says that under Amaziah "the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places" (v. 4).

Nevertheless Amaziah is a valiant warrior of Yahweh, and Yahweh gives him strength to defeat His enemies. Amaziah strikes down 10,000 Edomites, and even the Edomite stronghold of Sela "by storm" (v. 7). In his zeal he then turns to taunt his brother, northern Israel, "face to face" (v. 8). This leads to an interesting and unexpected turn of events, considering that not every southern king does what is right in the eyes of Yahweh, and Yahweh had clearly provided a great victory for Amaziah.

The northern king, Jehoash, reminds Amaziah that he is a "thistle" in Lebanon in comparison to the northern "cedar" kingdom, and therefore is outmatched (vv. 9-10). Then we read: "But Amaziah would not listen" (v. 11). Up next, a battle between brothers ensues and Yahweh does not defend Amaziah for covering up his ears. Judah gets defeated in battle, Amaziah is captured, 400 cubits of Jerusalem's wall are broken down, and all the gold, silver, and holy "vessels" of Yahweh's house are plundered (vv. 11-14). Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of Yahweh, until his heart was lifted up against his brother. His zeal lacked wisdom from above, and wisdom from below divided the kingdom even further.

At the very beginning of Yahweh's division of the kingdom He promised a faithful remnant in Judah for His name's sake, and even a future deliverer --Josiah by name-- to begin restoring unity (I Kng. 13:2). All throughout the books of Kings we find brother fighting against brother, and foolish zeal followed by even more foolish zeal, as the people await deliverance from God. Only the wise in heart await deliverance from Yahweh, for He is the only living and true God. As the people await deliverance from Yahweh, one of the dominant lessons to be learned is that brothers warring against brothers only divides the kingdom further and further. When Israel attacks Judah, he plunders Yahweh's house, thereby provoking brother Judah. When Judah minds his own business, Yahweh protects him, which provokes brother Israel to jealousy. But brother Judah isn't perfect either. He too never completely removes the "high places" in his midst, which we know displeases Yahweh time and time again (I Kng. 15:14; 22:43; II Kng. 12:3; 14:4). If not for Yahweh's faithfulness to the covenant He established, even Judah would be toast. But Yahweh is faithful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression (Num. 14:18; Psa. 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13); therefore a faithful remnant will be preserved by Him as promised.

What we learn from II Kings 14 is that instead of presuming that Yahweh would defend his zealous and courageous taunts against his brother, Amaziah should have focused his energy on the high places in his own land, the land which Yahweh had given him. Instead of attempting to defend the name of Yahweh by attacking the idols of his brother's house, he should have listened to the practical advise of his brother and remained content with his glory, stay at home, and not provoke northern Israel any further (v. 10). Amaziah should have taken this very clear hint as being providential from Yahweh, and then turn his attention to his own house; but as we know from history, he didn't. Yahweh gave Amaziah a taste of glory when he struck down the stronghold of Edom "by storm," but not even a peep of thunder is directed at the idolatrous high places of his own house; therefore when Amaziah attacked the stronghold of his brother's house, Yahweh by no means cleared the guilty (Num. 14:18), and consequently the taste of Yahweh's glorious house went with him to the northern kingdom, where he was taken captive (vv. 11-14). Perhaps if Amaziah had dealt with the idols of his own house first, pulling the log out of his own eye first, he could have seen how much his zeal lacked wisdom; then Yahweh would have honored his zeal for His house.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yahweh's Chosen Servant: Matt. 12:15-21 (section D3)

Continuing where I left off in this series of Matthew's Gospel, we come now to the final section in the center of the larger narrative structure. This section (Matt. 12:15-21, section D3) reads as follows:
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
 my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
 I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, 
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
 until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the nations will hope."
As mentioned in an earlier post, chapters 11-12 form one unit, and that unit centers on the theme of rest for the people of God. In chapters 1-4 we learn about the beginnings, birth, and exodus of the Son of God, but at the same time we learn that Jesus is really fulfilling the beginnings, birth, and exodus of Israel, God's "firstborn son". In chapters 5-7, after passing through the waters of baptism and entering into the wilderness, we find Jesus, as a new and greater Moses, ascending a mountain to give the people of Israel the Law. Afterward, in chapters 8-9, Jesus descends from the mountain to heal the people of Israel as many times as Israel fell in the wilderness (i.e. ten times; cf. Num. 14:22), and in Mosaic fashion we find Israel wandering in that wilderness like "sheep without a shepherd" (9:36; cf. Num. 27:17), whose burdens are carried by a greater Joshua. After that, in chapter 10, we find Jesus, the greater Joshua, commissioning and resting His authority upon 12 apostles, instructing and sending them into the land in preparation for future conquest. Finally, having reached chapters 11-12, Jesus and his disciples travel into the land, pronouncing woe after woe for the inhabitants who hate God, but also promising rest for those who put their trust in Him. It is in the very center of all this that we see the rise of Israel's Servant-King, Jesus.

When we looked at the rest of chapters 11-12 in detail, I pointed out that Jesus travels on the day of rest --the Sabbath-- to the synagogue of the Pharisees who are hostile to the gospel of His kingdom. After being harassed outside their synagogue, we then looked at His entrance into their synagogue, and there we found the Pharisees conspiring to destroy Him because He healed a man on the Sabbath, which was contrary to the traditions that held them in power. After that we arrive to the narrative before us. We arrive at a point when Jesus, aware of his enemies' plot to destroy Him, withdraws from their synagogue. It is at this point when we learn that "many followed Him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make them known." It seems that in context the "many" who followed Jesus came from the synagogue of the Pharisees. In other words, when faced with a choice to follow Jesus (who bears the burdens of Israel) or the Pharisees (who lay heavy burdens on them, Matt. 23:4), many Jews openly choose Jesus over the Pharisees. Like Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue (Matt. 9:18-26; Mk. 5:22; Lk. 8:41), the people within the synagogue of the Pharisees are beginning to recognize that Jesus' yoke is easy, his burden is light, and he's even willing to carry it along with them, whereas the Pharisees weren't willing to carry Israel's burdens at all (Matt. 23:4).

In chapters 11-12 we also find Jesus as a greater David, protecting the borders of Israel and providing rest for those who are perishing from the harassment of God's enemies. But during this time of rest we find out for the first time in Matthew's Gospel that the established rulers of Israel don't want the rest Jesus has to offer; instead they seek to put Him to rest, to harass, trap, and cause Him to perish. However, like we find in the rise of the Davidic kingdom, opposition to the King doesn't keep the gospel of the kingdom from advancing. That is because Yahweh sent His Son into the world to inherit the world as a kingdom for Himself. He was sent to die for the world so that a new world --a new Israel united to Him-- would resurrect with Him. Yahweh's purpose in sending His Son was to save the world, not to destroy it, and by saving it the increase of His kingdom, power, and glory on earth shall have no end. In this section of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus even receives a taste of what it will be like for the future nations to hope in Him. Even when Jesus withdraws from the synagogue of His enemies, whom we now knows are conspiring to destroy Him (Matt. 12:14), an exodus of many more disciples follows in His train. Instead of opposition from the world diminishing His Kingdom, His enemies bring Him even more attention and popularity.

After this Sabbath exodus Jesus does something else, only this time what he does is not entirely unheard of. This time He orders His new disciples not to make Him known, just as He did earlier with the two blind men who followed Jesus from Jairus' house (Matt. 9:30-31). But why do this? Why not tell all of Israel that their King has come, and that the increase of His kingdom shall have no end? (After all, Jesus is King whether the rulers of the land like Him or not.) 

The answer to this has something to do with Matthew's reference to Isaiah 42:1-4, and the fact that, as the King, He is on a mission to bring justice and victory to the nations. Because it would be in His name that the nations of the world would hope, He did not come to contend his regal authority. Instead He came to assert His regal authority by modeling what truly Godly authority looks like. He came as the King to save the perishing sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:6; 15:24), but He didn't come quarreling and making all kinds of commotion in the streets, as Isaiah says. He came to model faithful and compassionate service to the house of Israel (Matt. 9:36). For those Israelites who might have expected His voice to be heard in the streets like they did with John the Baptist, the message of Isaiah as quoted describes the character of His ministry well. He didn't come, bearing the burdens of Israel, healing withered hearts and hands as a form of self-aggrandizement. He came to take Israel's illnesses and diseases and carry them upon Himself because the people were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, no longer being able to bear the weight of the burden placed upon them by the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 8:17; 9:36).

When the Pharisees opposed Jesus, attempting to trap and destroy Him, Jesus also doesn't fight back the way we might expect Him to. Instead we find a humble Servant who is willing to lay down His life for His sheep. We find a gentle Servant who won't even break a bruised reed in His way (Matt. 11:29). Even at the point when the Pharisees fan the flame of controversy in their synagogue, Jesus makes no attempt to quench that flame either. Instead we find Jesus withdrawing from there, letting the fires which they started continue to smolder. This is because Jesus knows what the Father has in store for Him. He knows the great commission which His heavenly Father has sent Him to perform. Yahweh's Spirit is upon Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations --the justice of reconciling the world to God-- until He brings justice to victory; and in His name the nations will hope. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adam the Priest, not the Farmer

In his masterful work, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus, L. Michael Morales examines the creation, de-creation, and exodus themes of the Bible in relation to ancient Near East literature, in order to present a compelling case for approaching the divine presence of God via a tabernacle/temple system. The codified narratives of the Torah in connection with the rest of Scripture symbolically portray a mediated return to the Garden of Eden, the original telos, or goal, of all creation. Regarding the thematic connection between Adam and the law pertaining to priesthood, Morales notes:
Within the overall context of viewing creation as a macro-temple in Genesis 1 and Eden as its holy of holies in Genesis 2-3, the priestly nature of humanity becomes apparent. That the garden narrative indeed portrays Adam as an archetypal priest ministering before YHWH is supported also by use of the verbs defining the divine intent, to "work/serve" (עבד abad) and to "protect/guard" (שׁמר samar) being used together again within the Pentateuch only to describe the duties of the Levites.1 These terms may more suitably be translated as "to worship and obey." ...Further, there is the parallel, already noted, between Adam's post-fall vestments and the investiture of the Levitical priests, both needing their nakedness covered (Gen 3.7, 21; Exod 20.26, 28.42) and utilizing the noun כתנת (tunics) and the hiphil form of the verb לבשׁ (clothe): 
Gen 3.21:  YHWH God made for Adam and for his wife tunics (כתנת) of skins and clothed them (וילבשׁם) 
Lev 8.13:  And Moses brought Aaron's sons and clothed them (וילבשׁם) with tunics (כתנת). 
Likely then, Adam was placed in the garden to fulfill his priestly office.
...There has been, in fact, a continuous tradition with respect to Adam as priest and sacrificer, from Jubilees (second century BC) to the Rabbinic period, Adam sometimes portrayed specifically as a high priest. Consistent, then, with creation's being a cosmic temple and with the garden being a holy of holies, Adam is portrayed as an archetypal priest -- not a farmer.2

1.  Numbers 3:7-8, 8:26, 18:5-6
2.  L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus [Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2012] pp. 99-100

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Adam as the Priest-King of Eden

In The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, G. K. Beale describes the Garden of Eden as the place of God's presence and of God's first Priest-King, Adam. He writes:
  Israel's temple was the place where the priest experienced God's unique presence, and Eden was the place where Adam walked and talked with God. The same Hebrew verbal form (stem) mithallek used for God's 'walking back and forth' in the Garden (Gen. 3:8), also describes God's presence in the tabernacle (Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14 [15]; 2 Sam. 7:6-7).1  
  Genesis 2:15 says God placed Adam in the Garden 'to cultivate [i.e., work] it and to keep it'. The two Hebrew words for 'cultivate and keep' are usually translated 'serve and guard [or keep]' elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is true that the Hebrew word usually translated 'cultivate' can refer to an agricultural task when used by itself (e.g., 2:5; 3:23). When, however, these two words ...occur together in the Old Testament (within an approximately 15-word range), they refer either to Israelites 'serving' God and 'guarding [keeping]' God's word ...or to priests who 'keep' the 'service' (or 'charge') of the tabernacle (see Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chr. 23:32; Ezek. 44:14).2 
  The best translation of Adam's task in Genesis 2:15 is 'to cultivate (work) it and to keep it [the Garden]'. Regardless of the precise translation, however, the preceding observations suggest that the writer of Genesis 2 was portraying Adam against the later portrait of Israel's priests, and that he was the archetypal priest who served in and guarded (or 'took care of') God's first temple. While it is likely that a large part of Adam's task was to 'cultivate' and be a gardener as well as 'guarding' the garden, that all of his activities are to be understood primarily as priestly activity is suggested not only from the exclusive use of the two words in contexts of worship elsewhere but also because the garden was a sanctuary... If this is so, then the manual labour of 'gardening' itself would be priestly activity, since it would be maintaining the upkeep and order of the sanctuary. 
  After telling Adam to 'cultivate' and 'guard/keep' in Genesis 2:15, God gives him a specific 'command' in verse 16. The notion of divine 'commanding' (sara) or giving of 'commandments' (miswot) not untypically follows the word 'guard/keep' (samar) elsewhere, and in 1 kings 9:6, when both 'serving' and 'keeping' occur together, the idea of 'commandments to be kept' is in view. The 1 Kings passage is addressed to Solomon and his sons immediately after he had 'finished building the house of the Lord' (1 Kgs. 9:1): if they do 'not keep My commandments . . . and serve other gods . . . I will cut off Israel from the land . . . and the house [temple] . . . I will cast out of My sight' (1 Kgs. 9:6-7). Is this a mere coincidental connection with Genesis 2:15-16?
  Hence, it follows naturally that after God puts Adam into the Garden for 'cultivating/serving and keeping/guarding' (v. 15) that in the very next verse God would command Adam to keep a commandment: 'and the Lord God commanded the man . . .' The first 'torah' was that 'From any tree of the Garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). Accordingly, Adam's disobedience, as Israel's, results in his being cut off from the sacred land of the Garden. This is an indication that the task of Adam in Genesis 2:15 included more than mere spadework in the dirt of a garden. It is apparent that priestly obligations in Israel's later temple included the duty of 'guarding' unclean things from entering (cf. Num. 3:6-7, 32, 38; 18:1-7), and this appears to be relevant for Adam, especially in view of the unclean creature lurking on the perimeter of the Garden and who then enters.
  ...Adam's priestly role of 'guarding' (samar) the garden sanctuary may also be reflected in the later role of Israel's priests who were called 'guards' (1 Chron. 9:23) and repeatedly were referred to as temple 'gatekeepers' (repeatedly in 1 and 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah: e.g. 1 Chron. 9:17-27) who 'kept watch [samar] at the gates' (Neh. 11:19, 'so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean' (2 Chron. 23:19). Consequently, the priestly role in both the Garden and later temple was to 'manage' it by maintaining its order and keeping out uncleanness.3 
  There may also be significance that the word used for God 'putting' Adam 'into the garden' in Genesis 2:15 is not the usual Hebrew word for 'put' (sum) but is the word typically translated as 'to rest' (nuah). ...That this verb ...was intentionally chosen is pointed to further by the observation that it is used elsewhere to refer to the installation of sacred furniture (2 Chron. 4:8) and divine images into temples (2 Kgs. 17:29; Zech. 5:5-11) and especially of God's 'resting place' (so the noun form) in his heavenly palace-temple (Ps. 132:7-8, 14; Is. 66:1). Thus, the implication may be that God places Adam into a royal temple to begin to reign as his priestly vice-regent. In fact, Adam should always best be referred to as a 'priest-king', since it is only after the 'fall' that priesthood is separated from kingship, though Israel's eschatological expectation is of a messianic priest-king (e.g., see Zech. 6:12-13).4

1. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2004], p. 66
2. Ibid., pp. 66-7
3. Ibid., pp. 68-9
4. Ibid., pp. 69-70

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sheep without a Shepherd

There are two pet peeves of mine concerning reading. One of them is reading something -- a book, an article, the label on the back side of a tasty micro-brew -- with print that is underlined. The other pet peeve is to read something in all-caps (which, I'm told, is like adding emphasis for dummies). I think both styles of writing are obnoxious to read. But in the beginning of this post, and only in the beginning, I am going to operate on a double standard. I am going to peeve someone else by underlining two passages from Matthew's gospel. The reason why I am going to do this is because I don't want anyone to miss out on how exciting underlining can be! Just kidding. The reason why I am doing this is because there are two passages in Matthew's gospel which say the exact same thing, and as I move forward in displaying the literary structure of Matthew's gospel, the underlined information will become important to clearly identify two distinctive parts of the structure. But I PROMISE not to write in all caps. Okay, here we go. 

At the end of chapter nine of Matthew's gospel, we read:
   And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were being harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”    
   And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.  The names of the twelve apostles are these:  first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;  Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 

There is an interesting pattern set before us by Matthew here in 9:35-10:4. First, Matthew mentions Jesus teaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and that is immediately followed by healing. Remember this pattern: first teaching, then healing. After Jesus teaches and heals, Matthew tells us that Jesus calls twelve disciples to follow him and help him teach and heal. 

Compare this order of events with Matthew 4:18-25, where we find the first mention of Jesus teaching and healing in Matthew's gospel: 

   While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called themImmediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
   And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.  So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.  And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. 

Notice carefully that the order of events which begins in chapter 4:18-25 is reversed in 9:35-10:4. At the end of chapter four, Jesus first calls a few disciples, then afterward he teaches and heals. At the end of chapter nine, Jesus teaches and heals, then afterward he calls disciples. Certainly this structure is not accidental. And amazingly, this is also the pattern we find between the end of chapters four and nine. After we are told that Jesus "went throughout all" the land in chapter four, we find Matthew filling up two very large chunks of his gospel with teaching and healing. First he ascends a Mountain to give Israel the Law (in chapters 5-7) to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom (i.e. the "Sermon on the Mount"), followed by ten miraculous narratives (in chapters 8-9). Notice the structure below:

A)  Jesus calls four disciples  (4:18-25)
   B)  Jesus teaches and then heals throughout all Israel  (4:23-25)
      C)  Teaching (Discourse):  Sermon on the Mount  (5:1-7:27)
         D) Jesus' authority is greater than the rulers of Israel  (7:28-29)
      C’)  Healing (Narrative): 10 miracles  (8:1-9:34)
   B’)  Jesus teaches and then heals throughout all Israel  (9:35-38)
A’)  Jesus calls twelve disciples  (10:1-4)

Notice carefully that the structure of two central sections describe Jesus teaching first (C), followed by Jesus healing (C'), just as Matthew notes at the end of chapters four (B) and nine (B'). Sandwiched between these two major chunks of teaching and healing is a statement about Jesus being greater than the rulers of Israel (D):
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their Scribes.
This remarkable record of Matthew is highlighting exactly what we've been seeing as the central problem throughout the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It even highlights why the people of Israel flock to Jesus. Israel is in a state of spiritual wandering and they know it. They know it because so much of what they have been taught about the gospel of God's Kingdom by the Scribes and Pharisees is wrong when compared with the authoritative teaching of Jesus. The Scribes teach with man-made authority -- authority that misleads, ensnares, and ultimately devours the people of God. While the people wander through the spiritual desert-land of Israel, the teaching of Jesus exposes the true nature of their rulers. What we see is that their own rulers act more like wolves and serpents than shepherds of sheep. Like serpents, they have a "wisdom" that is cunning (10:16), but their doctrines are venomous, wounding even the most harmless and innocent disciples; like wolves, they are hostile towards the truth of God's Shepherd, and so they harass and devour His sheep when he's not around. 

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his disciples that more leaders would arise among them "in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." And the only way to distinguish them among the flock would be "by their fruits" (7:15). But the good news of these passages is that Jesus has already come as the Good Shepherd of Israel. He has come to protect the flock of Israel from false prophets in this desert-land by tearing the sheepskin off wolves and crushing the heads of serpents. Jesus has come to Israel to bring healing to God's sheep by leading them out of the wilderness and into His promised Kingdom. He has come to show compassion upon the flock of Israel because they were "being harassed and helpless" (9:36) when left to themselves in the wilderness. When left to themselves, they were, as Matthew explicitly identifies, "sheep without a shepherd" (9:36). 

Interestingly, this description of Israel as "sheep without a shepherd" is exactly what Moses did not want the people to become while they were being led through the wilderness and into the promised land (Numbers 27:17). But Israel has nothing to fear because Jesus is leading them. Jesus is the greater Moses, leading Israel out of bondage, out of the wilderness too, and into the promised land of God's Kingdom. The Father has sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Shepherd of Israel and to lead them out of the parched desert land where predators lie in wait to devour His sheep. But instead of finding predators such as literal wolves and serpents, we find Scribes and Pharisees. Without Jesus, the people of Israel would remain exactly where Moses was afraid to leave them during his ministry, namely in a place of helplessness, harm, and potential death. But things are looking well for Israel because the Father has sent His Son into the world as the Good Shepherd, and as we see in Matthew's account, the people are "astonished" (7:28) because he comes with one who has authority, not as one of the Scribes (7:29). 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday Night: The Night of the Lord's Supper

In his book, Christ on Earth: The Gospel Narratives as History, Dr. Jakob Van Bruggen has provided an excellent biblical and historical explanation of the night in which Jesus instituted his Supper.1 His conclusion is that on the night in which the Lord instituted his Supper, the Jews removed all leavened bread from their homes and served the first evening meal of the lamb, and that was the night of Maundy Thursday

Because the entire argument within his book is quite extensive, and the subject so controversial, I will only quote a brief portion of his thoughts, trusting that others are already aware of the alleged "chronology contradiction" or "problem" within all four gospels. Van Bruggen writes:
  After the Wednesday of the final discourses comes the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matt. 26:17). This is when the Passover lamb is sacrificed (Mark 14:2; Luke 22:7). The days of Unleavened Bread are counted from 15 to 21 Nisan (cf. Josephus, Antiquities 3.10.5 Sec. 249), the seven days during which the Passover offerings are sacrificed in the Temple (Num. 28:16-25). Sometimes, however, 14 Nisan is also included. This is a day of preparation during which people remove all leavened bread from their homes and serve the lamb at the evening meal. In that case there are eight days of Unleavened Bread (cf. Josephus, Antiquities 2.15.1 Sec. 317). The first three evangelists (i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke) clearly follow the latter approach when they write about the dawn of the Thursday on which the Passover must be slaughtered (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7). In other words, they consider this Thursday the fourteenth day of Nisan.  
  The terminology used in connection with the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread is complicated. The fourteenth day of Nisan is the day of preparation: all leavened bread is removed from the houses, the lambs are slaughtered, and during the evening the Passover meal is eaten. Because of this evening meal, 14 Nisan is sometimes called the Passover Feast (Lev. 23:5; Josephus, Jewish War 6.9.3 Sec. 423; Antiquities 2.14.6 Sec. 313). 
  The fifteenth of Nisan is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast lasts seven days, during which large sacrifices are brought into the temple (Lev. 23:6; Num. 28:17-25; cfJosephus, Antiquities 3.10.5 Sec. 249; 9.13.3 Sec. 271; 11.4.8 Sec. 110). The fifteenth day of Nisan is then counted as the first day (16 Nisan is the second day, see Josephus, Antiquities 3.10.5 Sec. 250). The fifteenth of Nisan is actually the day of Israel's liberation (Josephus, Antiquities 2.15.2 Sec. 318). The Jews also refer to the feast of Unleavened Bread (15-21 Nisan) as Passover (cf. Luke 22:1; Josephus, Jewish War 2.1.3 Sec. 10; Antiquities 10.4.5 Sec. 70; 14.2.1 Sec. 21; 17.9.3 Sec. 213; 18.2.2 Sec. 29; 20.5.3 Sec. 106). 
  Because the leavened bread is removed on 14 Nisan, the day is referred to as "the Day of Unleavened Bread" (Josephus, Jewish War 5.3.1 Sec. 99). If this day (14 Nisan) is counted with the feast (15-21 Nisan), one can also speak of a "period of unleavened bread" for eight days (Josephus, Antiquities 2.15.1 Sec. 317; cf. Mark 14:12; Luke 22:1).2

1.  Jakob Van Bruggen, Christ on Earth: The Gospel Narratives as History [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books; 1998] pp. 212-219
2.  Ibid. p. 212-213.