Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

Why No One Comes to the Father Except Through the Son

It is true that we do believe the same things about the same God and read the same Scriptures as those Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. In Messianic Judaism, we are even part of the same religion. Despite all that common ground, there is one great difference between us. The difference is not in what we believe about God but how we believe about God.

Devout Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah believe the same things about God that we believe, but they do not do so in the light of the revelation, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They believe outside the light of that transforming, from-faith-for-faith experience that Paul spoke of when he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

-D. Thomas Lancaster
“Chapter 4: Faith Toward God,” pp 55-6
Elementary Principles: Six Foundational Principles of Ancient Jewish Christianity

I read this book not long ago but decided not to review it since it leverages material from Lancaster’s Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series, including portions I haven’t listened to yet. I’ll probably intermix my comments on certain parts of the book in various blog posts as I come across the corresponding material in the audio series.

Except for this part. This part is special because it answers a question that has been bugging me for a long time, a question I haven’t been able to adequately answer until recently. I mentioned this question just the other day.

Prior to the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Torah laid out exactly what a Jew had to do to worship and relate to God within the context of the Sinai covenant. Yes, there were the sacrifices and the Temple rituals including the moadim (the appointed times or festivals), but Jews also had (and have) a day-by-day relationship and interaction with the God of Israel. Jews pray directly to Hashem. We see this all over the Bible and we see it in the modern lives of observant Jews.

And yet Christianity is telling Jewish people (and everyone else) that you can’t worship God directly anymore. It’s not possible. It’s not effective. You have to worship God by worshiping Jesus.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one will come to the Father except by me.

John 14:6 (DHE Gospels)

That seems quite plain…and final. I have heard an interpretation that likens Yeshua (Jesus) to a door and once we enter through the doorway, we encounter the reason we entered the ekklesia of the Way, we encounter God the Father, the God of Israel.

But in many churches, this verse is used to make it seem as if Jesus replaced God the Father, as if God the Father retired and is sunning Himself on a beach in Florida while Jesus the Son is running the family business, and in a very different way than “Dad” ever did. But if God is unchanging across time and if Jesus doesn’t do anything except what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19, 30), then how can there be a discontinuity between Son and Father, between Messiah and God?

How can the Son replace the Father as the object of worship for the Covenant community, for Jews who are born into the Covenant and for Gentiles who are grafted in?

What did Jesus change when he inaugurated the New Covenant era at his death and resurrection? What does he bring to the table? How does he fit in to the plan of God as the New Covenant is beginning to unfold?

I know how the Church would answer, but the answer is full of supersessionism and replacement theology. Jesus came to replace the “ceremonial portions” of the Law (Torah). He came to replace behavioral obedience with grace and mercy. He came to release the Jews (and arguably, everyone else) from the Law so they could be free in his grace. For Jews, instead of going to the Judges and the Priests and the Temple and the Torah to get to God, you go through Jesus. He is now the gatekeeper, he holds all the keys, he guards all the doors. The Torah (or major sections of it including just about everything that defines a Jew as a Jew) has gone “bye-bye” and Jesus is large and in charge and is here to stay.

Except that makes absolutely no sense.

two sistersFirst of all, I previously said that there is abundant evidence that in ancient and modern Judaism, living a life of obedience to God’s mitzvot is a joy, not a horrible burden. Further, the Torah is a tree of life for all who cling to her. What could Jesus possibly add to all that to become such a game changer and yet still not violate all of the Torah and the Prophets, including the actual New Covenant language found principally in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36?

That’s where Lancaster’s commentary I quoted above comes in. In order to explain his point, he tells a parable. I’m going to include it here in its entirety because I think it clears things up a lot.

Remember, this is a parable, a metaphorical story:

Once, a man who had two daughters went off to war. Before he left, he promised to return to them, and he also promised them, “When I return, I will bring you each a fine string of pearls and a summer dress.” No one except the two girls knew about the promise. After many years, the man had not returned, and everyone presumed him dead. His daughters, however, continued to hope, believe, and wait. A decade passed, and they grew to become adult women, but neither of them forgot their father or his promises. Deep in their hearts, they continued to hope and to believe. One day a messenger came seeking the girls. Finding only one daughter, he told her, “I have news of your father. He is returning, and he sends you this gift.” The messenger presented her with a fine string of pearls.

Now both girls still believed in the promise of the father, but one had received a token of the promise, and the other had not. One had faith in the father’s promise on the basis of her hope and confidence in the father’s promise, but the other had faith in the father’s promise on the basis of the good news that she had already received and on the basis of the partial fulfillment of her father’s promise. She already had the pearls. She had no question in her mind that she would soon see her father face to face. Think of that girl’s confidence, certainty, and joy. She no longer had any doubt that her father was coming. She knew that he would bring the summer dress because she had already received the pearls.

-Lancaster, pg 56

The Father made a promise to the nation of Israel and to all Jewish people everywhere that He will return the exiles to their Land, defeat all of Israel’s enemies, and not just restore national Israel’s fortunes but elevate her to the head of all the nations of the Earth. Also is the promise of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life for the covenant people, as well as having the Torah written on human hearts rather than stone or paper so that human beings with the full indwelling of the Spirit will naturally obey all of God’s commandments, the conditions of the Sinai and New Covenants, the Torah. All of Israel’s sins will be forgiven. The world will be made completely peaceful, all people will be safe and secure, and a King from the line of Judah and the house of David will sit on the Throne in Jerusalem forever.

And Jewish people have been waiting ever since but so far, those promises haven’t been fulfilled…any of them…

…or have they?

Talmud Study by LamplightIt should be obvious that the two daughters are two branches of Judaism. The metaphor actually doesn’t work completely because the two daughters must initially be all Jewish people. Then one daughter received the gift sent by her father and believed a messenger. The messenger is Jesus. He is from the Father, from God. He brings a gift, something to confirm that God will fulfill His promises in due time. The messenger does not come to fulfill all the promises but in fulfilling some of them, he brings a guarantee that they will all ultimately come to pass.

But what promises did Jesus fulfill? Did he rebuild the Temple? Did he return all of the Jewish exiles to their land? Did he place Israel as the head of all nations? Is he sitting on the Throne in Jerusalem reigning with justice and peace?

No. He didn’t do any of those things…yet.

How do we know he’ll do any of them at all? Because he brought a gift. Actually, more than one.

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Those reclining with him began to say in their hearts, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in shalom.”

Luke 7:48-50 (DHE Gospels)

Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here; for he has risen. Remember what he had spoken to you while he was still in the Galil, saying, “For the son of man must be handed over to sinful men and be crucified, but on the third day he will surely rise.”

Luke 24:5-6 (DHE Gospels)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”

Acts 10:44-47 (NASB)

And that’s not even the entire list. Jesus the messenger from Heaven, brought several “gifts” with him, a sort of down-payment on the promises of God, an illustration and evidence that God will someday do all that He promised. Here’s what Messiah demonstrated:

  • The forgiveness of sins through faith.
  • The resurrection from the dead.
  • The giving of the Holy Spirit.

These weren’t the “full meal deal,” so to speak, but only an appetizer. Jesus forgave the sins of those who had faith as an illustration of how someday all of Israel’s sins will be forgiven. Jesus died and was resurrected as a confirmation that someday there will be a general resurrection of the dead (see Matthew 27:52-53). The Holy Spirit was given first to the Jews who believed, and then later to believing Gentiles also, to show that one day the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28).

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:10-14 (NASB)

Jesus, the messenger, comes as a pledge of our full inheritance as believers, first to the Jew but also to the Gentile, that God will redeem His own and fulfill His Word.

a woman of valorThe metaphor Lancaster used, as I mentioned, doesn’t exactly fit. One daughter has to choose to believe in the messenger, that he really is from their father, and that the gift he brings is genuine and can be accepted by faith as from their father as a promise that he will come and bring his other gift.

One daughter would choose to believe the evidence of the gift and the other wouldn’t. In Lancaster’s parable, this draws a distinction between Jesus-believing Jews and all other Jews, but we can also apply it (since the rest of the world has the potential to be grafted in) to believing and unbelieving Gentiles.

Based on everything I’ve just said, Jesus is now cast in an almost completely different role. Instead of being a replacement for the old, worn out, obsolete Law, he’s the bringer of “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6), not that the previous promises were bad, but as good as things were, God has something even better in mind, something that builds on what happened and what was given before rather than replacing it. It’s as if God is saying, “If you think the Torah is the Tree of Life, you haven’t seen anything yet. Don’t believe me? Here’s a small sample of what is to come.”

Jesus has been called the capstone (Matthew 21:42), the one key object in the structure that completes it and holds it all together. Without that stone, not only would the whole structure remain incomplete, it might actually fall apart.

So, in his first coming as Yeshua ben Yosef, Messiah came as the messenger from Heaven bringing gifts as a guarantee that all God had promised would be fulfilled. And he did this without replacing anything at all. In fact, if he had replaced anything previously promised or established by God, then Jesus would have failed in his mission to bring the Good News to Israel. When properly interpreted and understood, the teachings of Jesus and those of the apostles, including Paul, show us that Jesus brought exceedingly Good News to Israel and also to the Gentiles, that God intends to do great good to Israel and as one of the results of His actions, even the Gentiles will receive blessings.

Unfortunately, when the Gentiles split off from the Jesus-believing Jewish ekklesia to form their (our) own religion called “Christianity,” they “reinterpreted” the ancient Holy Scriptures as well as the teachings of Jesus and the apostles to make it seem as if the Good News was only good for Gentiles. The Christian “good news” was only good for Jews who were willing to give up the original promises of God (and give up being Jewish), for Jesus brought those “new” promises, according to the Christian Church, to replace the old.

That’s when the craziness, the bizarre disconnect occurred between different parts of the inspired, “God-breathed” Word of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That’s when the two sisters drifted apart, but the hope and the promise is that someday their father will return to reunite them as a family.

Have I proved my case? Will non-believing Jews read this and be convinced?

Probably not.

First of all, my commentary on the role of Jesus and all that he did is hardly comprehensive. A detailed and scholarly analysis would certainly reveal much, much more. No doubt there will be people who will never be convinced and who would even be insulted at my efforts (not that it is my intension to insult anyone).

But I’m trying to show both Jews and Christians that the way they are looking at the Bible and looking at Jesus isn’t really how the Good News was originally presented. The original Jewish Good News didn’t require an evangelical approach that says Jews are “cursed” or that they’re “hypocrites”. Sadly, the Christian Church is its own worst enemy, not even by intent, but by continuing to accept a flawed interpretation of the Gospel that was forged with the early “Church Fathers” and cemented by the men of the Reformation.

The Jewish PaulWithout a strong and sustained effort by mainstream Christianity to set aside their traditions and to look at the Bible, and particularly Jesus and Paul, with fresh eyes that take into account that Israel is the entire focus of God’s Good News and blessings, we Christians will continue to be a curse upon Israel and the Jewish people, and as a result, only a fraction of Gentile believers, a remnant so to speak, will continue to bless Israel, to elevate Israel, and to await the return of the messenger who will be King.

What curses await all those others who perpetually, even without meaning to or desiring to, set aside the centrality of Israel and the place of honor at God’s table for the inheritors of Sinai, the Jews?

Not everyone who says to me, “My master! My master!” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but rather the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. It will be on that day many will say to me, “My master, my master, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name do many wonders?” Then I will answer them, saying, “I have never known you. Depart from me, workers of evil.”

Matthew 7:21-23 (DHE Gospels)

I beg those Christians reading this to take my message seriously, because this isn’t just me popping off and being difficult to live with, this is your life and your relationship with God.

A person should always be flexible like a reed, and not rigid like a cedar.

-Taanis 20a

Yesterday was the newest holiday on Israel’s calendar, Jerusalem Day or Yom Yerushalayim. Jerusalem is where the Temple was and will be again. Jerusalem is where he was condemned to die. Jerusalem is where he will one day return as triumphant King and be enthroned in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The ekklesia, the body of his devout ones, who believed the promises, who held tightly to the gifts in faith, who realized that Jesus was and is a vital messenger in the plan of God for Israel and for the nations, will be there celebrating with joy. But part of the foretaste, the sample that Jesus brought is that we can experience a little joy right now.

Many who observe a proper Shabbat have joy in the day of rest as a preview of the future perpetual peace on the Earth. Shavuot is less than a week away and for those who choose to observe the festival in some manner, that too is joy, for we celebrate the giving of the Torah and also of the Spirit. Even now, there are Jews and Gentiles who call themselves Messianic and who share a common vision of who we are and what the future holds.

In the Messianic Kingdom, there will be Israel and the nations, the Jewish people and also the Gentiles who are called by His Name. We will be many peoples but we will have one King and one God. Jesus came first to bring the Good News that God’s promises will be fulfilled and he brought gifts as proof. By faith, we continue to believe in the message and the messenger. By faith, we continue to wait. By faith we experience joy.

Someday all of the promises will be fulfilled and we will have joy in His Presence forever.

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”

-Karl Barth, Swiss theologian

Be grateful. Be joyful. We have received the Good News. The King is coming.

Next week’s review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon Faith Toward God will speak more on this topic.

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Enter My Rest

Three possible interpretations of Psalm 95:11 prepare us for understanding the discussion in Hebrews 3:7ff regarding the generation in the wilderness that did not enter into God’s rest. An important preface to the Sabbath discussion of Hebrews 4.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Ten: Enter My Rest
Originally presented on March 9, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

This lesson covers all of Hebrews 3 and most of Hebrews 4, but it all hinges on an understanding of Psalm 95:

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice!
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me,
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they do not regard my ways.”
Therefore in my anger I swore,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Psalm 95 (NRSV)

There are three possible ways of looking at this Psalm that affect today’s study. But before getting into that, we need to ask, what is “God’s rest?”

Lancaster took his audience through a quick Hebrew language lesson. The word “Shabbat” is based on the Hebrew verb “Shavat” which means “to rest.” But that’s not the word used in Psalm 95:11. Lancaster says it’s the Hebrew word “Minuchah” (noun) which is also based on a Hebrew verb for “to rest.” Lancaster cited another reference to the Shabbat in verse 7: “O that today you would listen to his voice.” In this context, “today” is a Hebrew idiom for Shabbat . Also, to “listen,” or more accurately rendered “to hear,” is idiomatic for “hear and obey,” and is better rendered in English as “to heed.”

So it sounds like those who did not “heed” (hear and obey) God’s voice will not enter His rest, which we could interpret as Shabbat. But who are we talking about?

How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they complain against me. Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “I will do to you the very things I heard you say: your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become booty, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.” I the Lord have spoken; surely I will do thus to all this wicked congregation gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.

Numbers 14:27-35 (NRSV)

Mount SinaiBecause of the faithlessness of the Israelites, because they failed to hear and obey God and fulfill the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to enter and take the Land (all except Joshua and Caleb who desired to do so), they shall not enter God’s rest. This generation of Israelites, the ones directly redeemed from slavery in Egypt, would die in the desert and not enter.

Not enter what?

The first interpretation says they would not enter the Shabbat, but that’s ridiculous because they kept the Shabbat for the entire forty years they lived in the desert.

The second interpretation seems to make more sense. They did not enter the Land of Israel. Is that correct, though? I suppose it is literally, but could something else be going on?

Lancaster relates that according to Rabbi Akiva inTractate Sanhedrin, the generation in the wilderness would not enter the age to come. Now this gets a little confusing as sometimes this means the Messianic Age and on other occasions, it means everlasting life or eternity. Is Akiva saying the generation in the desert, to put it in Christian terms, are “damned?” Rabbi Yochanan disagrees and says that they will enter the world to come, that is, eternity, and offers accompanying proof texts.

Let’s get back to the word “Minuchah”. What does it mean? What can it mean? It can mean “rest” or “resting place”. After the Torah service, when the Torah scroll is returned to the ark, the ark is referred to as God’s resting place. One interpretation of Isaiah 66 is that God’s resting place can be the Temple or even Israel in the Messianic Kingdom.

So we have three possibilities. God’s rest or resting place is:

  1. Shabbat
  2. Israel
  3. The Messianic Kingdom

To find the correct interpretation for our study of Hebrews, we have to ask the Apostles or at least the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews. Starting in Hebrews 3:7, it says “according to the Holy Spirit,” implying that David, who wrote Psalm 95, was inspired by the Spirit. Verses 7 thought 11 quotes Psalm 95. Then, the letter writer states:

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.

Hebrews 3:12-14 (NRSV)

The writer of Hebrews is comparing the situation of his audience, who are suffering from a profound crisis of faith at losing access to the Temple (or at least potentially so) to the generation in the wilderness who lost faith and failed to obey God. Whatever fate the generation in the wilderness suffered for faithlessness, if the readers of Hebrews also loses faith and becomes disobedient, that consequence will be theirs, too.

soul_cries_outSo what would they lose? Shabbat observance? Unlikely. The Land of Israel? They, according to Lancaster, were living in Israel and since Lancaster dates the letter at about 63 CE, before the destruction of the Temple and the great exile, he doesn’t believe the writer or readers of Hebrews suspected any of that was coming. Entry into the Messianic Era seems to be the correct interpretation and what Lancaster is saying is that, just as the generation in the desert lost their place in the coming age of Messiah (which doesn’t mean they lost eternal life in the age to come, necessarily) for their faithlessness, if the readers of Hebrews continue on their path of faithlessness, they too will lose their place in the Age and Kingdom of Messiah when he returns.

So the letter functions both as an encouragement and a cautionary tale.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

Hebrews 4:1 (NRSV)

There’s still time. This could go either way. If the readers of the letter choose to emulate the faith of Joshua and Caleb, who did merit to enter Israel and also a place in the Messianic Kingdom, then they too will share in that promise. However, if they should be like the faithless generation who died in the desert and lost entry into the Messianic Age, this too will be their consequence.

Oh, in verse 2, when the text says, “good news came to us just as to them,” that doesn’t mean Moses preached the Gospel of Jesus to the ancient Israelites, but rather the “good news” for the ancient Israelites is that the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was at hand, the promise of taking the Land for their own possession. Just “go get it.” The good news for the readers of Hebrews and for the rest of us is much more than personal salvation and eternal life, it is to enter the Messianic Kingdom by the merit of the Master, Yeshua.

Lancaster throws a monkey wrench into his well-oiled machine when verses 4 and 5 mention the “seventh day” again. So does this mean we are talking about Shabbat after all and not the Messianic Kingdom? Verses 7 and 8 also mention “today,” which as was mentioned above, is idiomatic for Shabbat.

However there is this:

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God

Hebrews 4:8-9 (NRSV)

So entering Israel isn’t “the rest” and losing Israel though exile isn’t losing the rest. What is that rest, then? Lancaster ends today’s sermon with that question. Come back next week when we all hope he can pull an answer out of this “cliffhanger.”

What Did I Learn?

Let’s revisit a few verses:

For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“As in my anger I swore,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
though his works were finished at the foundation of the world.

Hebrews 4:3-4 (NRSV)

minyanA Kingdom that was already established since the foundation of the world and is not here yet should remind you of Lancaster’s sermon on Partisans which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. It also reminded me of Brad Young’s book The Jewish Foundation to the Lord’s Prayer which I reviewed last week. The Kingdom of God or the Messianic Kingdom, according to Young, is something each of us, as believers, makes up, as if we are individual bricks being used to construct that Kingdom. All together, we are the Kingdom, and every time someone comes to faith, they are added to the overall structure. But to lose faith and abandon the Master is to remove ourselves from the structure and we lose being part of the Kingdom. I think that could be what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews is saying. Perhaps this is also what the generation in the desert lost through faithlessness.

One of the greatest continual debates in Christianity is whether or not a believer can lose salvation. Rabbi Akiva said that the faithless Israelites did lose their place in the world to come (eternity) but Rabbi Yochanan disagreed. Perhaps they did lose their participation in the Kingdom of Heaven, but this is different from eternity. A great mystery how this would work, I must admit. And here we are sitting on the edge of Lancaster’s cliff, hanging around, so to speak.

May next week bring and answer and more illumination in this fresh perspective on Hebrews.

Oh, I just want to remind you to actually listen to the forty minute sermon (the link is at the top). I didn’t write down everything Lancaster taught.

FFOZ TV Review: None Greater Than John

ffoz_tv11_1Episode 11: Jesus tells his disciples that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Immerser. Does that mean that the worst Christian is better than John? Episode eleven will clear up the confusion over this passage by putting terms back into their proper Hebraic context. It will be shown that Jesus meant that the most insignificant prophets of the Messianic Era will be superior to the greatest prophets of our era. One day soon we will all be like prophets, all mankind will have revelation, and through the gospel we can take ahold of this now.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 11: None Greater Than John

The Lesson: The Mystery of Least in the Kingdom

This episode departs from the discussion of atonement and restoration of national Israel and the world, which we viewed in the previous series of five or six episodes including repentance and the Messianic Kingdom is now, and explores something very specific about John the Baptist.

Amen, I say to you, none among those born of a woman has arisen greater than Yochanan the Immerser; yet the smallest in the kingdom of Heaven will be greater than he.

Matthew 11:11 (DHE Gospels)

First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki tells the audience that traditionally in Christianity, this verse has been used to say that even the worst New Testament Christian is better than the best Old Testament Jew. He also describes a form of dispensationalism, the Old Testament dispensation of the Law, in which John was the greatest prophet of his time, and the New Testament dispensation of grace, where believers in Jesus are even greater than John.

This belief has fueled a long history of replacement theology in the church as well as a great deal of blatant anti-Semitism. Strangely enough, some Christians have even interpreted this verse to mean that John the Baptist will not be in the Messianic Kingdom, even though Jesus already said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be in the Kingdom (Matthew 8:11). How can this be? Well, it can’t be. There’s no logic in excluding John from the Kingdom, particularly if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be there, and here we see the danger in taking a single verse from the Bible and developing an entire theological position on it. As this television program has repeatedly stated, you must engage the original Jewish context of scripture and try to comprehend how the audience of Matthew’s gospel would have understood his words.

You also have to link the various relevant portions of the Bible together to add context and meaning to what you are studying, such as the following:

Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!

Matthew 11:11 (NASB)

Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (NASB)

ffoz_tv11_tobyEven among modern observant Jews, Moses is revered as the greatest prophet who ever lived. He was greater than any prophet who came before or since and certainly, he could be considered the greatest prophet of his generation. But in comparing the passages we read in Deuteronomy to Matthew, Toby tells us that what Jesus was actually saying is that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet of his generation, just as Moses was the greatest prophet of his generation.

Compare: “no prophet has arisen” to “there has not arisen anyone,” and you’ll see the linkage Jesus was using to paint a picture to his listeners of who John was in their day.

How was John great? He was the greatest prophet in his generation. Here we arrive at Toby’s first clue in our attempt to solve the Mystery of the Least in the Kingdom:

Clue 1: John was the greatest prophet alive in his generation, just as Moses was the greatest prophet alive in his generation.

But we won’t get very far if we don’t understand the Hebrew words and meanings behind the words “least” and “greatest” in our English Bibles. To take the next step, we visit FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel.

Aaron tells us that in Hebrew, the words Great and Least or Big and Little are “Gadol” and “Katan” or to say “little one,” “Katone.” Gadol isn’t just “big,” it can mean “great,” “older,” “more significant,” “mighty,” worthy,” and so forth. Katan can mean “little,” “younger,” “less significant,” “weak,” “unworthy,” and so forth. For instance, in Jeremiah 10:6, God is referred to as “great” (gadol) and His Name is “great” (gadol).

To describe katan or katone, Aaron cites the following scripture:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV)

ffoz_tv11_aaronHere, Jesus is using children as an example of significance or worthiness of people in the Kingdom of Heaven or the Messianic Era. He’s also, according to Aaron, talking about how disciples of ancient Jewish Rabbis were considered. An experienced and learned disciple was called “great” or “gadol,” but an inexperienced and unlearned disciple was called “least” or “little one,” which in Hebrew are katan and katone. So the “little ones” being referred to in the above verse aren’t literally children, but disciples of Jesus who were inexperienced, vulnerable, and uneducated. If you caused one of these inexperienced disciples, these “little ones,” to sin, it would be very, very bad for you.

Back in the studio, Toby pulls together Aaron’s language lesson to give us our second clue:

Clue 2: Great meant high-ranking, experienced, prestigious, while Least meant low-ranking, inexperienced, insignificant.

But we still don’t understand how Jesus could say that even the least or most inexperienced believer (who could be Jewish or Gentile) in the Messianic Age could be greater than the prophet John the Baptist. One more clue is needed to unravel the rest of the mystery.

To do that, Toby takes us back to the prophets in the Tanakh (Old Testament):

They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:34 (NASB)

“It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Joel 2:28-29 (NASB)

Both prophets are talking about the Messianic Age, and Toby interprets their words to mean that everyone in the Kingdom, from the least to the greatest, will receive an overwhelming outpouring of prophesy, so much so, that by comparison, they all will have greater command of prophesy in that age than the degree of prophesy John possessed nearly two-thousand years ago at the close of the Second Temple period. This is the third and final clue.

Clue 3: In the Messianic Era, everyone will be a prophet.

The idea is that from the least of the prophets in the Kingdom to the greatest, the level of prophesy and apprehension of God they experience will still be greater than what John the Baptist experienced in his generation. This isn’t excluding John from the Kingdom and it isn’t saying that New Testament Christians are better than Old Testament Jews (or any Jewish person today), it’s saying that in the Messianic Era, God’s Spirit will be poured out to such a degree that an unprecedented surge of prophetic power will be possessed by literally everyone in the Kingdom.

What Did I Learn?

ffoz_tv11_childrenA lot. First of all, I didn’t even consider how Matthew 11:11 could be interpreted in isolation to support anti-Semitic thought and replacement theology in Christian history (and probably in some churches even today). I also didn’t fully capture the picture of the Messianic Era as being full of prophets, nor did I see the linkage between the different passages in the Bible that both Toby and Aaron referenced. I also had no idea that Matthew 18:1-6 referred not specifically to children but to the status of inexperienced and experienced disciples of a Rabbi, and specifically disciples of Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus).

When Toby mentioned Joel 2:28-29, I remembered a teaching he presented at the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Shavuot conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin last spring. He gave me my final “clue” to solve my own mystery of how Gentiles are connected to God in a covenant relationship while retaining our status as people from the nations who are called by His Name. I wrote about that experience nearly four months ago, and I invite you to read it as an extension of the material I’m presenting here today, as well as providing additional details to the television teaching of Toby’s and Aaron’s.

For me, this was a fascinating and eye-opening episode. I tend to think of myself as experienced enough in the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish realms to be beyond the “Messianic Judaism 101” stage, but I guess I’m not, at least in this area. I do wonder about Toby’s source material though, especially in connecting Matthew 11:11 back to Deuteronomy 34:10-12. I don’t doubt Toby’s word and I have no reason not to believe he isn’t correct, but information doesn’t come out of thin air. One of the things I wish for this television series is a set of “digging deeper” links or even just a Bibliography of the sources used to construct the lessons provided in each episode.

I’ll review another episode next week.

FFOZ TV Review: The Gospel Message

tv_ffoz8_1Episode 08: The gospel message of Jesus is often simplified down to believe in Christ and your sins will be forgiven and you will go to heaven when you die. In episode eight this common misconception will be challenged. Viewers will discover that the main message of the gospel is one of repentance and entering into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not the place we go to when we die but rather God’s kingdom coming down here on earth. The gospel message is about preparation for the Messianic Age.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 8: The Gospel Message

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Gospel

This episode seemed to cover a lot of previous material, not in the details, but in the theme. It is most closely related with Episode 1: The Good News since gospel means good news. There’s also a close link to Episode 7: Exile and Redemption and Episode 8: Ingathering of Israel. The television series now seems to be stringing individual episodes together to paint a much larger panoramic picture of the prophecies about and the coming of the Messianic Era.

Of course, probably all Christians think they know what the good news or the gospel message is: Jesus died for our sins and if we believe in him, we go to Heaven when we die. And while that’s good news, as previous episodes have told us, that’s not the extent of the gospel message. In fact, most Christians have been given a truncated gospel or an incomplete idea of that the good news really means. To get the whole picture, you have to look at what the gospel message means through a Jewish lens.

The definition of the gospel message of Jesus is actually really easy to find:

After Yochanan was arrested, Yeshua came to the Galil and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news.”

Mark 1:14-15 (DHE Gospels)

FFOZ Author and Teacher Toby Janicki tells us that Jesus was just beginning his ministry at this point and that these verses provide us with the first clue in solving the Mystery of the Gospel:

Clue 1: The Gospel Message means we should repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

But what does that mean exactly? What is the “Kingdom of Heaven” and what is “at hand?” The phrase “at hand” is sometimes also translated as “near”. Jesus was saying to his listeners that they should repent because the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven was really close and about to happen or occur.

Jewish people in the late Second Temple period, particularly because their nation was occupied by the Roman Empire, were especially waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to arrive and to their ears, it certainly was good news or the gospel message that Jesus was preaching. It was a message that we find repeatedly in the Gospels.

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 3:1-2 (NASB)

We also find examples of this message in Matthew 4:17 and Matthew 10:7. But we also find that the good news is sometimes referred to as the “Kingdom of God” while other times, it’s the “Kingdom of Heaven.” Toby tells us that the term “Kingdom of Heaven” is closer to the correct phrase in Hebrew. The word translated as “Heaven” is the Hebrew word “Shamayim.” Does that mean that Jesus was talking about Heaven, where God is and where we’re going to go when we die?

Not according to the Jewish understanding. That’s not how Jesus’s disciples and listeners would have interpreted his message.

The scene shifts to FFOZ Teacher and Translator Aaron Eby in Israel for a better understanding of “Kingdom of Heaven” or in Hebrew, “Malkut Shamayim.”

“Shamayim” can mean just “sky” in Hebrew, but that’s not how it’s understood in the phrase “Malkut Shamayim.” Aaron explains the concept of circumlocution, or avoiding using the Tetragrammaton, the most Holy and personal name for God, the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Jewish people use many other names for God to avoid the offense of taking His most holy name lightly. Names such as “Hashem,” “Holy One,” “Creator,” or “Our Father.”

Another circumlocution for God’s most holy name is “Shamayim” or “Heaven.” You see it often in Talmudic writings, but it’s even in the Bible.

And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules (emph. mine).

Daniel 4:26 (NASB)

Daniel, using the Aramaic equivalent of “Shamayim,” is not saying that literally Heaven, a place, rules, but that God rules. He was merely using a circumlocution for God’s most holy name.

tv_ffoz8_aaronAaron tells us that the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” isn’t God’s Kingdom that is located in a place called Heaven, but it actually means the rule and dominion of God on Earth.

Why do we then sometimes see this phrase rendered “Kingdom of God?” In the thoughts of the gospel writers in Hebrew, they would have used “Malkut Shamayim,” but then translating that phrase into Greek, what words should they have used? Matthew, who was writing primarily to a Hebrew speaking Jewish audience, chose to translate the Hebrew phrase literally as “Kingdom of Heaven.” However, Mark and Luke, who were writing primarily for Greek speaking Jews and non-Jews, translated the phrase idiomatically as “Kingdom of God.” Either way, they were saying the same thing.

Back to Toby and the studio, we have our second clue.

Clue 2: Kingdom of Heaven is not Heaven in the sky but God’s rule and reign on Earth.

Look up the Lord’s prayer and you’ll even find it in how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

What is God’s rule on Earth? The Messianic Era. The time when Jesus will return and establish his rule as King in Jerusalem, establishing an age of peace, not just in Israel but in the entire world.

Toby solved most of the mystery, but one more clue is needed to answer a final question. Why is the Messianic Era good news?

Isaiah 11:1-4 tells of the prophesy that King Messiah will indeed rule Israel and the world from his throne in Jerusalem. Isaiah 11:6-8, 10 further tells us that Messiah’s reign will be one of complete and total peace. The portrait of such peaceful animals is poetic language describing such a peace. Complete tranquility and bliss, such as was experienced in Eden, long before there was any such thing as war and strife among human beings.

And when such peace comes upon all the earth from Israel, the Gentiles in the nations of the world will see and they will repent and turn to God, inaugurating an age of total, worldwide revival.

But it won’t be totally peaceful:

Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east; they will possess Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.

Isaiah 11:11-12, 14 (NASB)

We see that Messiah ingathers the exiles of the Jewish people from all the nations of the world and returns them to live in complete peace in their Land, in Israel. God Himself delivers justice to all the nations who have been enemies of Israel, vanquishing them, thus insuring Israel’s continual peace.

Now we have the final clue:

Clue 3: Kingdom of Heaven is about Messiah’s reign on Earth.

Toby recaps the lesson, summing up the three clues and solving the mystery. He describes a time when the Jewish people will live under their King in peace and return to the Torah, the law of God. I can only hope that future episodes will flesh out how this actually works relative to both Jewish and non-Jewish people, but that wasn’t the point of the episode.

What Did I Learn?

As I mentioned before, a lot of this material was addressed from other perspectives in previous episodes and I’ve learned about it from other sources as well. What Toby didn’t mention was that, by Jesus teaching that he was the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy and calling the Jewish people to repentance as preparation for the soon to arrive Kingdom of Heaven, it explains why the apostles and his disciples were so incredibly devastated when he was crucified. All of them were expecting that he was going to overthrow the Romans at any minute and assume the Throne of Israel as the promised Messianic King.

tv_ffoz8_tobyWhen he died, it must have seemed as if they were completely mistaken about him, that he couldn’t have been the Messiah, that he must have been just another of a long line of pretenders to the throne who came before him. It’s how most Jews see Jesus today, another would-be Messiah among the many who have since come and gone in Jewish history.

But then, when he was resurrected, so was hope, only there’s a problem of sorts:

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 1:6-8 (NASB)

Given that Jesus had said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” or “near,” once he was resurrected, it made perfect sense to his disciples that he was now ready to ascend the throne. Except he didn’t. He left instead and the disciples waited.

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Matthew 16:28 (NASB)

Many believed, based on these words of the Master, that although Jesus wasn’t going to immediately establish his kingdom, it would be within a human lifetime, just a matter of decades. But when the last apostle, John, died of extreme old age, sometime in the last years of the first century CE, the disciples must have felt a keen disappointment again. Messiah had not come to restore his kingdom. Where is he? How long, O’ Lord, how long?

I generally don’t mention this in my reviews, but at the very end of each episode FFOZ President and Founder, Boaz Michael appears on camera to give the audience a brief peek at the next episode. At the end of this episode, Boaz explained that the next episode would pick up the same theme and describe more in detail the process of repenting to prepare for the kingdom and to believe. But Jesus didn’t say “believe in me” he said “believe in the gospel.” What does that mean?

It’s the mystery for next week.

Gifts of the Spirit: Dancing at the King’s Wedding

king-davidThen he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.”

2 Kings 5:15

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Mark 16:15-18

Curious combination of scriptures. What could they possibly have to do with one another? Oh sure. The quotes from Jesus seem to mesh, linking the Gospel message with the Kingdom of Heaven. But do they link in the way we think they do? Perhaps not.

Last Friday morning, Aaron Eby spoke at the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) annual Shavuot conference on a topic called Turn of the Age. The message focused on what we see the Master saying in Matthew 4. It wasn’t the last time Yeshua would speak those words and those words also resonated throughout many different teachings at the conference.

The Kingdom of God is near. What does that mean?

Here’s a hint: it’s not Heaven.

On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

Zechariah 14:6-9

That’s not Heaven either. We see the prophet telling us of the events that will herald the coming Messianic Age, when the Messiah King will rule over all the earth from his throne in Holy Jerusalem.

But if this is what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of Heaven is near, how could it be near? Almost 2,000 years have passed since he spoke those words, and the Messianic Age is no more upon us now than it was when the Master taught his disciples in the Temple courts. What is “near?”

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Mark 12:32-34

How could Jesus say that the scribe was not far from the kingdom of God? How could the scribe be “near” the Messianic Age when we know that the Messianic Age; the return of the King, has not yet occurred? We’ve been waiting for twenty centuries and we are continuing to wait.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

What does repentance have to do with bringing the Messianic Age? For that matter, what is the “good news” of the Messiah?

According to Eby, it has nothing to do with personal salvation. But let me back up a second.

Yes, of course, personal salvation is important and even vital to us as individual believers. We cannot even know God to the slightest degree unless we repent of our sins, confess Christ as Lord, and accept the gift of salvation. I know that.

But that’s not the entire message or even the primary message of the Gospel.

up_to_jerusalemIn America and many other western nations, Christianity is taught as a religion of individuals. Oh sure, we have the expression “body of Christ,” but we don’t act much like a body. Judaism, by contrast, is much more community focused. The idea and lived expression of “Israel” has never been about the individual Jewish person, but about all Jews everywhere, inextricably tied together with all other Jews, regardless of where they live, what language they speak, their local customs, or anything else. Yes, it is true that not all of the different groups of Jewish people get along all the time and there can be much friction, but at the end of the day, so to speak, a Jew is a Jew. Just take a look at Shoah and you’ll understand. When they come for one Jew, they come for all Jews.

The Good News is not just the message of personal redemption but of national redemption for all of Israel; it’s the good news that the Messiah King has come and that Israel has been restored and brought back to God as a Holy People and as the head of the nations.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Acts 1:6

Clearly the apostles understood the message of the Good News of the Kingdom, not of going up to Heaven but of Heaven coming to earth, so to speak; of the restoration of Israel and the return of the King to the Throne of David. The question wasn’t inappropriate, it just came too soon.

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:25-29

Christianity has been beating the Jews viciously with the “Gospel message” for many centuries, demanding that Jews stop being Jewish in order to be saved by the “Goyishe Jesus.” But we’ve terribly misunderstood what Moshiach has taught us. We’ve put the cart before the horse. We substituted the nations for Israel.

It is we in the church who must repent for the Kingdom of Messiah is at hand, and we don’t want him to discover us unprepared.

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13

Aaron didn’t quote all these scriptures, but in reviewing my notes of his teaching, these words are fairly dripping off the tips of my fingers and onto the keyboard. Imagine then, that the foolish virgins were those who did not know the King for they did not know Israel, but the wise virgins knew the King and the King knew them, for they waited for the rising of the Jewish nation and the return of Israel’s firstborn son from Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is near whenever we do something to prepare ourselves, whenever we read the Bible, whenever we pray. The Kingdom is at hand whenever we give food to the hungry, whenever we visit the sick, whenever we comfort a person who is grieving. We summon the Kingdom every time we do the will of the Lord and Master who loves our souls. We bring the Kingdom just a little bit closer whenever we love God, whenever we love another human being, and especially whenever we love Israel.

wind-sky-spirit-ruachThe Good News is that we should repent, particularly of our sins against Israel, in order to bring the Kingdom of God. When we repent, we bring the Messianic Age one step closer to fruition. In Judaism, it is believed that human beings have some sort of control of the “timing” of the Master’s return. I don’t know if that’s really true or not (and certainly it’s not a belief in the church) but it does summon the idea that we are partners in creation with God. When we are saved, we are to live a spirit-filled life, one of patience, kindness, and love, a life that rejoices in truth, that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

The gifts of the Spirit are in an intricate dance with the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God, and we must be part of that dance as well, lest we be left out in the cold and the dark when the bridegroom comes. We can dance at the wedding of the King or march to a funeral dirge. Our choice.

This is only part of what Aaron had to say, but to say more would make this “meditation” far too long, at least for today. I haven’t even told you why Jesus did miracles. It’s not for the reason that you think, although Naaman the commander of the army of the king of Syria knew.

I’ll leave you with a question (which I’ll answer tomorrow).

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:26-29

Why was Jesus resurrected from the dead but his wounds were not healed?

127 days.