Monday, 22 April 2013
Matthew 17 and Mark 9 record the incident of The Transfiguration:
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" ; because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
Once again, just as in the Raising of Jairus's daughter, we read that He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen. So, once again, we read about another 'private' appearance of the S'kinah, the visible manifestation of God Himself.
There are some extra details in the reports of The Transfiguration which indicate where it happened and when.
Peter, the great enthusiast, did not know what to say, so he blurted out the suggestion to make three tabernacles. Why did he suggest this? Surely, it was because it was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles when everybody built tabernacles, booths, temporary structures, to commemorate the time in the wilderness.
In addition, the reports begin with the phrase 'after six days' which, if it was the Feast of Tabernacles, refers to the day before the seventh day of Tabernacles, Hoshana Rabbah, which was, and is, traditionally known as the last of the Days of Judgment which began on Rosh HaShanah. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples would have had a 'free' day before the Temple observance of Hoshana Rabbah on the following day.
The place where The Transfigurstion took place has been traditionally accepted as being on Mount Tabor. However, the problem is that Mount Tabor is just over 150 kilometers from Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples were observant Jews, and as such went up to Jerusalem three times per year to celebrate the Feasts of Passover, Shavuot, and Tabernacles.
Since the texts in Matthew 17 and Mark 9 include the details that suggest strongly that The Transfiguration happened at the Feast of Tabernacles, it seems highly unlikely that Jesus and Peter, James, and John travelled a round trip of some 300 kilometers to Mount Tabor and back to Jerusalem.
So, where was the high mountain? Surely, it was the Mount of Olives which is some 65 metres higher than the Temple Mount. The party of Jesus, Peter, James, and John would not have had to travel any distance.
Finally, it was particularly appropriate that Jesus should have chosen the Feast of Tabernacles for The Transfiguration. The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the dwelling of God with Man, and it celebrates John 1.14 when The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How appropriate that He should dwell among Man as the S'kinah, the visible manifestation of God Himself, at the the Feast of Tabernacles.
Until next week...
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Luke's account, and Mark's, of the Raising of Jairus's daughter ends with an odd comment:
'He charged them to tell no one what had happened'.
What did happen?
I have great affection for this comment because it was this comment that set me on my journey 25 years ago to find the answers to the difficult passages in the Gospels. I had repeatedly asked whoever I could find that might be able to answer the question, 'What did happen in that room with the parents of Jairus and Peter, James, and John?'
I asked priests, bishops, professors, lecturers, scholars, pastors, and ministers. ALL of them gave me variations of the same answer....'Jesus charged them to tell no one that He had raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead'. When I replied that as soon as the daughter of Jairus walked out of the house the thousands of waiting watchers could see that she had been raised from the dead, I was told that:
1. I was being impertinent, or
2. that she had not really died in the first place. She was not dead dead, but only dead for a bit....! or
3. that the comments in Luke 8.56 and Mark 5.43 were textual errors, or
4. that the comment doesn't matter. The important point was the Miracle of the Raising of Jairus's daughter.
My subsequent questions about the significance of the details that she was 12 years old, and why Jairus was 'afraid' when told of her death rather than being distraught, were dismissed as irrelevant.
Finally, why was the account of the healing of the woman with an issue of blood sandwiched in the middle of the account of the Raising of Jairus's daughter in all 3 accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke?
I could accept the similarity in Matthew and Mark because of the obvious connection that 600 of the 666 verses in Mark appear in Matthew....but if Luke was very precise in his accounts, there must surely be a significance about the sandwich?
Finding the answers to these questions took some time...but, at last, I found the key to resolve my frustration. The key is to understand the background Jewish culture, thought patterns, and customs of the first century.
An example of this helps to explain the sandwich of the 2 accounts. If the woman with an issue of blood touched Jesus, He would have been made ritually unclean, and therefore unable to enter Jairus's house to lay hands on, minister to, heal the sick daughter. That is why there is such a strong reaction to the woman's desperate action.
However, when Jesus is told that the girl is now dead, that removes the restriction from Him entering the house.
Again, the reason that Jairus was 'afraid' rather than distraught when he heard the news of her death was that there are 2 comments in the Talmud that explain his reaction:
In Shabbat 32b, the Law of the Fringe: ‘Severe is the punishment of the one who neglects the performance of the Divine Command in putting on the fringes.’ The punishment was said by the Rabbis to be the death of children.
The second reference is in Menachoth 43b: 'Whoever is particular with the ordinance (of putting on the fringes) is worthy of receiving the presence of the S’kinah.'
Was Jairus afraid because he had not put his fringes on properly, or was he afraid because when he saw that the woman had been healed, that he might see the S’kinah? Whilst the Talmud was not committed to paper until the second century CE, it’s contents, and particularly it’s instructions, were well known, and they would certainly have been known by a synagogue leader like Jairus. Whatever the cause of Jairus's fear, the result in that bedroom was that Jairus and his wfie, Peter, James, and John saw the S'kinah, the visible manifestation of God Himself.
This was the same sight that Peter, James, and John saw on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17/Mark9 when He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
When Jairus and the others saw the S'kinah they realised that Jesus was the Messiah.....but it was not yet time for Jesus to reveal Himself so publicly as the S'kinah, the visible manifestation of God Himself. That time would come later, just before His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of His final week.
Therefore, given that the time was not yet, 'He charged them to tell no one what had happened'.
So that's what it was about!!!
Until next week...
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
Passover Holiday Quiz Answers
1. How did God first appear to Moses?
A. Talking donkey
B. Burning Bush
C. Outside his tent
D. Jigsaw puzzle
2. What was the 9th Plague?
3. Where in Egypt did the Children of Israel live from the time of Joseph?
4. Where did God tell the Children of Israel to put the blood of the Passover lamb?
A. Tent entrance
C. Doorposts and lintel
5. What was the name of the mother of Moses?
6. Where did Moses run away to after killing the Egyptian?
7. Whose bones did Moses take out of Egypt?
8. How many days did the Plague of darkness cover Egypt?
9. How old was Moses when he spoke to Pharoah?
10. Who was the older brother of Moses?
11. ‘The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the 14th day of the 1st month’
What time of day is ‘twilight’?
C. 3pm – 6pm
D. 12am – 3pm
12. At What time of day did Yeshua die?
13. During Unleavened Bread believers are forbidden to eat what?
A. Meat with fat
B. Goat’s milk
D. Bread with yeast
14. What is the name of the book that believers read from during the Seder meal?
B. Copper Scroll
15. What is the recipe for Charoset?
A. avocado, bananas, coconut, pine nuts
B. sesame seeds, honey, pepper, cloves
C. dates, wine, walnuts, apples,
D. crisps, sour cream, peanuts,
16. What does Charoset represent?
A. The mud at the bottom of the Reed Sea
B. The inside of the pies thrown at the Egyptians
C. The mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to lay bricks for Pharoah
D. Desert toothpaste
17. Which of the ‘Four sons’ was the most problematic?
A. The wise son
B. The evil son
C. The simple son
D. The son who does not know how to ask
18. What is the Hillel sandwich?
A. The sandwiches that the Children of Israel took in their picnics
B. The ham sandwiches that the Egyptians gave the Children of Israel
C. A bagel with lox and cream cheese
D. Half charoset and half horseradish to represent bitterness of slavery to sweetness of freedom
19. Where is Mount Sinai?
A. It is one of the mountains around Jerusalem
B. In the Sinai peninsula of Egypt
C. In northwest Saudi Arabia
D. In New York City, USA
20. How long did it take the Children of Israel to get to Mount Sinai?
A. 3 weeks
B. 8 weeks
C. 3 months
D. 10 weeks
I hope that you have enjoyed the Passover Holiday. Until next week....