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John the Baptist Prepares the Way

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Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

 

He came out of the desert dressed in a rough cloak of camel’s hair, the leather belt of a prophet wrapped around his waist and a stout staff in his left hand.  Only thirty years old, his skin was deeply tanned like leather, his hair and beard windblown and his eyes sparkling with the fire of righteous indignation.  He wasn’t the Messiah; “he” was the forerunner of the Messiah.  With determined strides he marched to the ford of the Jordan River, where traffic between Judea and Peraea passed back and forth.  He watched as a caravan approached the shallow crossing and knew this was a Jewish convoy bound for Jerusalem.  Raising his arm he pointed his finger at the caravan and bellowed like the crack of thunder, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” 

The fiery eyed desert prophet caught the caravan’s attention. The ministry of John the Baptist to prepare the nation Israel to meet their Messiah had begun.  John’s message however was radically different then what the people expected.  His message, “Repent, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” instantly caught their attention.   "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" sent a jolt of excitement through them, because they knew he meant the Messiah would soon appear.  But repent!  Why repent?  Repentance, meant to be convicted of doing wrong and return to doing what is right, to turn back to God and God's instruction.  They knew repentance also involved a change of thinking that leads to a change of heart that ultimately leads to a change in behavior.  But why should “They” repent for the kingdom of heaven!  

As if sensing their thoughts, John’s next declaration exploded through their mind and soul like a thunderbolt.  Dramatically pointing to the rocks lying at his feet John boomed, “Do not think, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8).  That caught them completely by surprise.   They believed that because they were descendants of Abraham, they were automatically qualified to be a part of the Messiahs kingdom and therefore, exempt from Messiah’s judgment.  John’s next statement chilled them to the bone,   “The ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  This verbal image depicted a farmer placing an ax blade at the base of the tree marking the place for his first cut.  Why?  Because a fruit tree that didn’t produce fruit was useless, fit only to be cut down. So, when the farmer laid his ax at the root of a tree, that tree was doomed to be cut down and burned.  John’s message therefore, was blunt and to the point, “The King Is Coming But Judgment begins with the people first!”  In essence, if you aren't producing the fruits of righteousness, you could suddenly find yourself judged by the Messiah Himself and cut off from the kingdom they’d dreamed about all their lives.

Israel at that time, was a land of spiritual contrast.  The people were fiercely religious.  Theirs was a society based on strict observance of the laws of Moses.  They lived by the letter of the law, they offered all the sacrifices, and they observed all the festivals’ and said all the right prayers. However, over the years they’d lost sight of the true teachings of God contained in their law. Read Isaiah 1:10-18 to get an idea of the social condition (James 1:27).   Society then, as now, had some who loved God and were obedient to him with all their hearts.  The vast majorities however, were just going through the motions, doing only what was required.   Many didn’t believe at all, yet they all went through the rituals and procedures because their society demanded it.  All had learned to observe and keep the law, yet missed its true meaning. 

They had also learned to work around the law, to bend it to their benefit, often short cutting God’s laws.  For example, God commanded that farmers leave the corners of their fields un-harvested so the poor, and the widows and orphans could have it to live on.  Farmers began cutting the corners of their fields smaller and smaller, leaving very little for the poor.  Widows, orphans, cripples and the elderly were often reduced to beggars with very few helping them.  Also, the religious leaders were fleecing the people, running the temple like a money machine, charging exorbitant prices for sacrificial animals and money changers right in the temple complex itself.  Israel was a nation of religion with no relationship with its God.

 Yet the people hungered for Messiah; they knew they were descendents of Abraham.  They knew God was going to send them a deliverer like Moses.  They also knew they were not living as God intended.   Now, here was a prophet like Elijah telling them, that for them to qualify to enter Messiah’s kingdom, they needed to get themselves ready spiritually.  John’s message, “If you’re not producing the fruit of righteousness, then you might just find yourself cut out off from the Kingdom of Heaven and doomed to unquenchable fire!”  That was unthinkable to people who’d dreamed of Messiah all their lives.  Suddenly, the word “repent’ began to take on a whole new meaning.

 John’s message, “Repent for the King is Coming” is appropriate for today.  The signs of the times are pointing to the return of the king.  Are you ready?  Are you producing the fruit of Righteousness?  Remember Judgment starts with the people and the King is the judge.

 * One side note.  Many of today's preachers are preaching "Don’t worry, Christians will be ruptured out before the tribulation!"  Which is not in the Bible.  The Bible does say to be prepared!  There are three theories concerning the rapture.

 

  1. Pre-tribulation  rapture - Which I believe is the weakest theory of the three
  2. Mid-tribulation rapture
  3. Post-tribulation rapture

 

I believe that Christians should be prepared to go through the whole tribulation.  Why? If the pre-tribulation rapture is correct - Great, icing on the cake.  But if the pre-tribulation theory is wrong, then you are prepared to go the distance.  Something to think about?

 

Easter videos

 

Celebrating Jesus resurrection My favorite Easter Video's  

 

Dallas hOLM RISE AGAIN

Sandi Patt's Via Delarosa

 

 Florida boys When He was on the cross I was on His mind

 Don Fransico "He Is alive"

Keith Green' He is risen

 Larnell Harris and Sandi Patty Ive just seen Jesus"

Sandy Patti "We shall behold Him"

 

Old Testament

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Last week we talked about getting to know Jesus through creation, looking for Christ personality through the natural world around us.  Nature sings with the creative abilities of Christ.  However, the best way to learn about Jesus is by studying scripture of both the Old and New Testament.  Get yourself a good study bible, preferably one with notes and cross references, and enjoy the journey. With a bit of detective work you can build for yourself a personal profile of the King of Kings.  Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, mind and spirits to what you are reading each time you sit down to read and get ready to learn. 

 

The Old Testament: 

 The Old Testament is filled with prophecies concerning Jesus birth, life, personality, ministry and death. For example study:

  •  Psalm 22, 72
  • The Four Servant Songs of Isaiah:
  • Isaiah 42:1-7
  • Isaiah 491-10
  • Isaiah 50:4-9
  • Isaiah 52:13-15 – 53:12

Here are just a few of the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment in the New Testamentby Christ:

  1. Betrayed by a friend. (Psalms 41:9; fulfilled Matthew 26:49).
  2. Thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; fulfilled Matthew 26:15).
  3. Betrayal money cast in the temple (Zechariah 11:13; fulfilled Matthew 27:5).
  4. Betrayal money used to buy the potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13: fulfilled Matthew 27:7).
  5. Forsaken and deserted by his disciples (Zechariah 13:7; fulfilled Mark 14:50).
  6. Accused by false witnesses (Psalms 35:11; fulfilled Matthew 26:59-60).
  7. Silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; fulfilled Matthew 27:12).
  8. Wounded and bruised (Isaiah 53:5; fulfilled Matthew 27:26).
  9. Hated without a cause (Psalm 69:4; fulfilled John 15:25).
  10. Struck and spat upon (Isaiah 50:6; fulfilled Matthew 26:67).
  11. Mocked, ridiculed and rejected (Isaiah 53:3; fulfilled Matthew 27:27-31 and John 7:5, 48).
  12. Collapse from weakness (Psalms 109:24-25; fulfilled Luke 23:26).
  13. Taunted with specific words (Psalms 22:6-8; fulfilled Matthew 27:39-43).
  14. People will shake their heads at Him (Psalms 109:25; fulfilled Matthew 27:39).
  15. People will stare at Him (Psalms 22:17; fulfilled Luke 23:35).
  16. Executed among “sinners” (Isaiah 53:12; fulfilled Matthew 27:38).
  17. Hands and feet will be pierced (Psalms 22:16; fulfilled Luke 23:33).
  18. Will pray for his persecutors (Isaiah 53:12; fulfilled Luke 23:34).
  19. Friends and family will stand afar off and watch (Psalms 38:11; fulfilled Luke 23:49).
  20. Garments will be divided and won by the casting of lots (Psalms 22:18; fulfilled John 19:23-24).
  21. Will thirst (Psalms 69:21; fulfilled John 19:28).
  22. Will be given gall and vinegar (Psalms 69:21; fulfilled Matthew 27:34).
  23. Will commit Himself to God (Psalms 31:5; fulfilled Luke 23:46).
  24. Bones will be left unbroken (Psalms 34:20; fulfilled John 19:33).
  25. Heart will rupture (Psalm 22:14; fulfilled John 19:34).
  26. Side will be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; fulfilled John 19:34).
  27. Darkness will come over the land at midday (Amos 8:9; fulfilled Matthew 27:45).
  28. Will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; fulfilled Matthew 27:57-60).
  29. Will be raised from the dead (Psalms 16:10; fulfilled Acts 2:31)
  30. Ascend to heaven (Psalms 68:18; fulfilled Acts 1:9)
  31. Seated at the right hand of God in full majesty and authority (Psalms 110:1; fulfilled Hebrews 1:3).

Not too long ago a college Professor, Peter W. Stoner, who authored “Science Speaks”, stated that the probability of just eight specific prophecies being fulfilled by one person is 1 in 1017, in other words, 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The eight prophecies Professor Stoner used were:

1. Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; fulfilled in Matt. 2:1-7; John 7:42; Luke 2:47).

2. Messiah is to be preceded by a Messenger (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; fulfilled in Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; John 1:23; Luke 1:17).

3. Messiah is to enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; fulfilled in Luke 35-37; Matthew 21:6-11).

4. Messiah is to be betrayed by a friend (Psalms 41:9; 55:12-14; fulfilled in Matthew 10:4; 26:49-50; John 13:21).

5. Messiah is to be sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; fulfilled in Matthew 26:15; 27:3).

6. The money for which Messiah is sold is to be thrown “to the potter” in God’s house (Zechariah 11:13; fulfilled in Matthew 27:5-7).

7. Messiah is to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; fulfilled in Matthew 27:12).

8. Messiah is to be executed by crucifixion as a thief (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 53:5,12; fulfilled in Luke 23:33; John 20:25; Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27,28).

This statement was validated by the American Scientific Affiliation.  To give you an idea how impossible this would be, consider the following illustration:

If you were to take 1 X 1017 (100,000,000,000,000,000) silver dollars and pour them all over Texas, they'll cover the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold one man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, and pick up one silver dollar. The chance he would have of getting the right one is the same chance of one man fulfilling 8 specific prophecies. Amazing!

Study these prophecies and their fulfillments and you’ll quickly discover they also provide insights into many of the personal traits of Jesus.  Most of all enjoy yourself!

How can You get to know Jesus

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As we begin our study of  Jesus as an adult we will look at  this a little different.  First we will examine, "How to get to know Jesus?" through creation and the bible.  Next, we will look at Jesus the man and His personality.  Finally we begin systematic examinations of the events of Jesus’ life and how He interacted with people to learn more about Jesus Himself.

 

How can You Get to know Jesus

How do we begin to learn about the personality of Jesus?   First and foremost, to really know Jesus, you must accept Him as Savior and Lord that is the Key to beginning to know Jesus.  True, a non believer can study Jesus and His life but never begin to fully understand Him.  Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord begins the relationship process that provides you the keys to open  the kingdom of Heaven.  When you accept Jesus, you gain access to the ultimate teacher, the Holy Spirit.

 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26

 It is the Holy Spirit that will guide you and teach you about God, Jesus and Himself.  He is key to learning and to unlocking the wisdom and knowledge of God to be found in the Bible.  If you've tried reading the Bible and have a hard time understanding it, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes heart and mind to understand what you are reading.  Then get ready for the learning adventure to begin, because the Holy Spirit is an excellent teacher if you learn to listen.

There are many ways to start to learn about Jesus. First, get a good quality Bible one with study notes at the bottom of each page.  Second, join  a good Bible Teaching Church, join Bible studies and study your bible.  Start with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John then expand out to learn more.  Break each chapter down into events then think about what you just read and try to visualize it, ask yourself questions, which is what we will do a little bit latter.

 

What's interesting is that most people tend to ignore one of the greatest teaching tools about Jesus and that's creation itself. Why study creation?

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

 

John 1:1-2

 

Creation sings with the majesty of Jesus’’ personality:  Psalm 19:1-6 states “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.”   The apostle Paul said:

 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made……”

 

Romans 1:20

 Creation displays God's iintelligent design in awesome splendor

 He created the sun the moon and the stars and set them in perfect order.  

  • He set the earth exactly in the right position to sustain life.  Too close to the sun and the earth would fry.  Too far from the sun and the earth would freeze.  Instead the earth hangs exactly at the right distance, at the right angle and spins at the right speed so that life can flourish.
  • He set the moon at the precise distance from the earth to regularly affect the tides of the oceans on a daily bases like perfect clockwork.
  • He established the balance of nature so that undisturbed nature takes care of itself and flourishes. 
  • Even the simplest single cell organism’s, when studied, demonstrates the most elaborate, complex internal design, form and function.  And, it is designed to exist in perfect harmony in its element. That single cell organism has complex organs within it that allows it to live, eat and multiply
  • DNA - in essence God's computer code for the design of life.  It’s the DNA that takes a single cell to begin to divide and multiple into a brain, skin, eyes, arms, legs, lungs, ears, at the right time, in the right order, and in the right place, to produce life.

 Creation demonstrates over and over and over, detailed, intelligent design.  I believe it takes a million times more faith to believe in evolution then it does creation.  Why?  Because creation demonstrates precise, complex designs that  lives and functions in the most amazing ways. Everything in creation has purpose and reason that is either constructive or destructive and both are designed for a reason. Think about that for a second.

 Creations Beauty:

 He designed, sculpted and chose the patterns for all the bodies of all the animals, fish, mammals, and insects, which are perfect for their unique environments. He loves color and variety.  He designed the amazing patterns, stripes and colors of all the animals, birds, fish and insects of creation; stripes for the zebra’s, tigers and fish, spots for leopards, and iridescent colors for birds and fish.  

  • “He” created all the textures, shapes and forms of all the trees, shrubs and flowers with all their spectacular colors, hues and fragrances.  

 Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci all created beautiful static paintings and sculptures that imitated life.  Jesus, created living breathing works of art that live, exist and reproduce. So in creation we see His love of beauty, shape, form, function, texture and balance.

 Humor:

 Can you see God's humor in creation?  Absolutely, just watch the babies of almost any animal and you'll see them play and romp with the sheer joy of life.  God created Monkeys, otters, kitten, cats, dogs and dolphins who seem to live to play and to play tricks.

Nature and the absolute balance of creation and life is just one of the reasons that I know God exists. I look around me at all the beauty of creation and personally I can’t see how anyone can believe there is not a master creator a master designer. And yet, there have been times in my life when I questioned God, His existence and the reasons why I have followed Him.

 At one time in my life, I was going to college full time, work almost full time at a church, and driving 120 miles a day combined with a heavy study load.  I had just broke off my engagement to a lovely young woman, and  I was bone tired. I was deeply depressed, in a dark funk.  life seemed to be nothing but the absolute pits.  No matter what I did or tried, nothing seemed to be going right.  I sat on the couch depressed, thinking is this all real, is Christianity for real?  Is God for real?  I  was in a black foul mood absentmindedly watching TV.   I have to admit I have always loved the history and nature channels.  Through my depression, something caught my attention on the TV.  It was a fishing spider!   I watched in growing fascination as this spider spun out a long strand of web with a glob on the end like a fishing lure.  That spider was dipping its web lure up and down on top of the water untill a small minnow shot up and bit the gooey lure.  Then the spider rapidly reeled the minnow in to eat it.  I watched as time after time they showed a spider reel in a minnow.  In a hushed voice, the commentator stated that these spiders seemed to be hardwired to fish.  They weren’t taught by their momma or daddy spider.  They didn't learn by observation or experimentation. They hatched, they grew and they fished, they had babies and died.  No one taught those spiders to fish!  An inspiration like a bolt of lightning hit me! That spider was designed by God to fish!  The more I thought about it the more I realized, "How could a spider evolve to fish?  

 I could swear I heard God laugh!  In an instant the black fog lifted and the joy of my relationship with Christ was restored.  Of all things, a fishing spider brought my faith back into focus.  I believe God used that little documentary to get my attention and started me on on a lifelong journey of studying creation and God’s perfect design and balance in nature.  So, if all things were created through Christ and without Him nothing was made, then we need to stop, look, listen, learn and grow.  Evidence of God is everywhere.  His personality is revealed in the majesty, drama, beauty, and design of everything that surrounds us.

 Here's a challenge for you.  Take a walk in a natural setting or even your front or back yard.  Stop, look very closely at the plants, bugs, birds and life around you.  How do they teach You about God

Jesus at the Temple

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Going Home!

 

 The celebration of the feast of Passover was over and the family of Joseph prepared for the long journey home.  Anyone who comes from a large family knows the chaos of preparing to travel.   The caravan had to be organized, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents scurrying around with last minute preparations.  Mary was busy tucking the young ones in a cart along with the family’s provisions, Joseph and the boys packed the tent.  As they walked, Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph and Joseph thought He was with Mary.  It wasn’t until the caravan made its way down the long, steep, winding road, drooping 4,000 feet to Jericho, and the family was preparing to make camp that they discovered Jesus was not with them. You can almost picture them setting up camp for the night.  Mary looks at Joseph and asks, "Where's Jesus?"  Joseph looks blankly back at Mary and replies, "I thought He was with you!"  That’s when the frantic search began.

 

The family split up looking for Jesus.  All the relatives and friends were asked, "Have you seen Jesus?"  but He was nowhere to be found.  It was too late the day to begin the return trip to Jerusalem.  The family was exhausted from traveling all day, the little ones were fed and Mary and Joseph spent a sleepless night waiting for dawn.  At first light Joseph and Mary left the smaller children in the charge of their relatives returning to Nazareth, and began the daylong, 4,000-foot ascent back up to the city of Jerusalem.  

 

As a parent what do you think as going through Joseph and Mary's mind? 

 

When they reached Jerusalem, they frantically began their search for Jesus.  They went back to their former campsite, they checked all the markets, friends, and relatives and still couldn’t find Jesus.  Anxiously, they went to the temple and began to search the enormous complex for their son.  They scanned the vast court of the Gentiles; they asked the priest if they had seen him.  Finally, someone suggested they look in Solomon’s Porch.

 

As they hurried through the tall, stately columns of Solomon’s portico, they saw a large group of people gathered.  As they approached, Mary heard Joseph gasp, “It’s the doctors of the law from the Sanhedrin!”  He quickly explained to Mary at Passover the members of the Sanhedrin met on the porches of Solomon to teach the people.   These were the elite men of the nation.  The august senators would sit on the benches provided on Solomon’s porch, and anyone who wished to listen to them teach or to ask questions stood around them. 

 

To his amazement, Joseph’s saw Jesus standing in the front row and gasped in amazement.  “He, was talking to the leaders of the Sanhedrin and these learned men were all leaning forward, listening intently to His questions and insight's.  Joseph could tell by the expression on the leaders of their nations faces that they were not angry, but in fact fascinated by what He was saying.   Joseph and Mary watched in amazement as the Leaders of the Sanhedrin asked the boy questions, and listened with interest to His responses.    Finally, one of the elderly ministers stood and raised his hands in blessing to end the session.  Many of the distinguished old men in their stately robes, prayer shawls and phylacteries walked over to pat Jesus on the arm and commend him on his thirst for knowledge, and to encourage Him  to continue his education.  When the last of the Sanhedrin leaders left, Mary and Joseph ran to Jesus.

 

Frustrated, angry and relieved all at the same time, Mary grabbed her son by the arm, spun him around, and hissed like any angry mother, “Why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you for three days!”   Jesus looked from Mary to Joseph in astonishment and asked “Why were you searching for me?" He asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

 

This brief glimpse into the childhood of Jesus  illustrates Luke’s statement that Jesus grew in stature in wisdom in accordance to each year He aged.  It also illustrates that Jesus knew who He was, and where He was, from a very early age.  Which would be logical.  Logical in  that, to remain sinless, He would have to know who He was and what was at stake if He failed.  But as this insight into His childhood suggests, this knowledge and insight grew according to his physical age.  For example, during this incident He is acting like a normal twelve-year-old boy.  Anyone who has raised boys will quickly agree, that during the time of around twelve to somewhere in the teenage years, boys and girls tend to think the world revolves around them.    What He did was not rebellion, or sin in any shape, form or fashion.  If anything, it showed that He was fully God, and fully man (or at this stage a twelve year old boy.)  Like a twelve-year-old boy it did not occur to him that He would be missed.  Thinking like most twelve year olds He had reasoned,  they will know He would be in the temple, going about His Father's business.”

 

When He saw the look of concern on Joseph and Mary’s face He realized he needed to communicate better!  Or, maybe the Holy Spirit whispered to Him “It's not time yet!”  We will only know when we get to heaven.  What we do know, is Jesus returned home to Nazareth where we hear nothing more of His youth.  And as a side note it is the last time that Joseph is mentioned in the life of Christ.  During some point during the time between Jesus was twelve, and until the time when Jesus stepped out on Judea’s stage, Joseph died. At some point during that time, Jesus took over Joseph’s duties and began to be known as the carpenter.

 

50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

 

Luke 2:39-51

 

Jesus Bar Mitzvah

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Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah

It is during the time of Passover when Jesus was twelve years old that we get our last glimpse of Him as a boy.  Passover was one of the three yearly required trips to Jerusalem  that is required of all Jewish men.  The first was Passover in April, the second was 1st fruits (Pentecost) in June and third was Tabernacles in late September.  Luke states that:

41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.  

 

Luke 2:39-42

Why did Luke tell this one story of Jesus childhood to celebrate Passover?   It’s possible Luke was describing Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah.  During a Jewish boys twelfth year his studies became more intense as he prepared for his Bar Mitzvah, which means he became “Son of the Covenant,” or “a son of the Law.

 What was so critical about Bar Mitzvah?  According to Jewish law, from birth to his Bar Mitzvah, a boy’s father was responsible for his son’s activities and sins and for offering sacrifice for those sins.  By attaining Bar Mitzvah, a boy was considered to have reached the first stage of manhood and from that point in his life he himself was responsible to God for his own actions and sins.  By this time in his life a boy was expected to have mastered the 613 laws laid down in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament).  By Bar Mitzvah a boy should be able to read from the Torah at the front of the synagogue on the Sabbath.  Bar Mitzvah was a celebration of this significant step in the boy’s life. After his Bar Mitzvah, the boy was expected to 1) keep the Law, 2) learn a trade, and 3) attend the required Jewish feasts.

The roots of the bar mitzvah seem to go back to the days of the second Temple. Some say that two thousand years ago, at Bar mitzvah, a boy would be brought to the Temple courtyard to receive the priests' and elders' blessings. We can only speculate, but perhaps the New Testament accounts of twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple were included to show us that he successfully completed the traditional Jewish rites and fulfilled His first official trip to a major feast as a “young man.”

This trip From Nazareth to Jerusalem was eighty miles one way, which generally required a minimum of four to five days of traveling.   As they walked families caught up on news, renewed friendships and made new friends.  Women chatted, children ran around the carts and donkeys and lambs were bleating.  The whole scene was a picture of serene peacefulness and happiness.  The common topic on the road or around crackling campfires was the coming of the Messiah!  Just as people today are fascinated with end time’s prophecies, they were fascinated by prophecies concerning the coming of the “Messiah.”  The theological scholars of the day were teaching that the signs of the times indicated the Messiah would soon appear.  Can you imagine the reactions of those people if they had known that the Messiah was a twelve year old boy walking right there beside them in the flesh! 

 The closer they traveled to Jerusalem, the more congested, as caravan upon caravan merged from the side road to the main road leading upward toward Jerusalem.  At Jericho, the pilgrims started up the famous Jericho road which was a long steep ascent, winding like a giant snake upward toward Jerusalem.  The steep rugged mountain road climbed nearly 4000 feet from the tropical Jordan valley, up through the narrow robber infested mountains  and into Bethany and the Mount of Olives. During the long grueling march up the people chanted Psalms120 to Psalm 134, called the Songs of Ascents.  Then finally from the Mount of Olives, they caught their first glimpse of the Holy city across the Kedron Valley and the temple itself. Towering over the skyline of Jerusalem, the magnificent temple of snow-white marble, trimmed in gold, sparkled and shined like a jewel in the sunlight. 

 Jesus, nearing the age of manhood knew it was necessary for Him to learn the procedures of offering the Passover sacrifice.  On the tenth day of Nissan, Joseph and Jesus purchased their lamb for sacrifice (if they had not brought their own with them).  The lamb must male and be from eight days old to one year of age.  It had to be levitically pure with no imperfections, blemishes, discoloration or disease.   Also, Joseph and Jesus had to be levitically pure themselves in order to offer a sacrifice (physically fit, not ill, no deformities, etc).

 Just before daybreak, on Nissan the 14th, Joseph and Jesus solemnly joined the thousands of other men at the temple.  As the first rays of day light peaked over the horizon, the mournful wail of the shofar (Rams horn) sounded and the gates to the court of the Gentiles swung open.  Joseph and Jesus joined the thousands of other Jewish men as they poured into the court of the gentiles.   You have to wonder what was going through Jesus' mind when He entered the temple and looked around at the magnificent complex that was a pale miniature of the awesome temple in Heaven.  Was it a feeling of Nostalgia for His true home?

 Carrying the lamb, they walked across the immense court of the Gentiles which was by far the largest portion of the temple complex totaling some thirty acres.  The court of the Gentiles could accommodate well over 200,000 people.[1]    Filling the court of the Gentiles, the men and their lambs waited to offer sacrifice.  With 200,000 plus sacrifices to be offered in a single day, the procedures of temple were highly organized.   The actual sequence of events to facilitate such massive number of sacrifices is not completely clear.  What is clear is that the sacrifice was generally done in three waves.

Each of the men gathered there represented a family of 12 or more according to Levitical law.  If an individual family could not afford a lamb, or they did not have enough people in their family to completely eat the lamb, they were required to join with another family. 

 * Note the entire lamb had to be eaten during the Passover meal.  If there was any left over the remainder was to be burned.

Josephus states that in one census alone over 256,000 lambs were sacrificed.  If one man per lamb represented 12 or more people, that means over two million people were represented at that Passover sacrificial.

 After  the court of the Gentiles filled up, the mournful sound of the shofar resounded a second time in the temple and the gates to the court of the women opened to receive the first wave of sacrifices.  

  

When the court of the women was full of men and their sacrificial lambs the gates were closed.  At the far side of the court of the women was a flight of fan shaped stairs leading upward to two massive gleaming gates.  These two gates called Nicanor (meaning beautiful), were covered with polished bronze that sparkled like gold in the early morning light.   From the court of the priest, behind the closed gates, a fan fare was blown by priests playing silver trumpets.  Then the Nicanor gates slowly swung open so that the first thirty men could move forward to offer sacrifice.

 For rural countrymen and boys, the temple proper must have been awesome in its splendor and majesty.  The gleaming, white marble walls were trimmed with gold in various places and the marble columns were gilded in gold at the top.  Framing the two massive doors to the Holy place were two separate marble columns, wound around by golden grape vines leading upward to a massive golden grape vine with large gold grape clusters over the door of the temple.

 With the soft bahhhhing of the lambs and the chanting of the priest, the sacrifice’ began to take place as the first men offering sacrifice stood before the lines of priests.  In the background, a melodic, lilting hymn of praise was sung.  Each man placed his hand on top of the lamb’s head and said a quick prayer offering for his family.  By law, each man was to slay his own lamb while the priest caught its blood.  Joseph showed Jesus how to hold the lamb, by cupping a hand under the lamb’s jaw forcing its neck upward and out.  While at the same time holding the lamb still with his legs.  With one swift stroke ,he cut the lambs throat while the priest held the bowl to catch its blood.

You have to wonder what was going through Jesus' mind as He watched this sacrifice?  Did He shudder as He realized that in a few short years "He" would be the sacrifice for all mankind!  It would be His blood that was offered for mankind's sins.  Did He for a moment wonder, "What will it be like?"

When the bowl was filled, the priest turned and handed the bowl of blood to the priest behind him who exchanged the full bowl of blood for an empty one back to the first priest.  The second then turned  and exchanged the full bowl of blood to the priest behind him for another empty bowl.  In this manner, the bowl of lamb’s blood quickly traveled up the line of priest until the last priest in line dashed the blood in one jet at the base of the altar.  Then Joseph and Jesus took the lamb to the next station where a Levite deftly slit its stomach and removed the lamb’s innards and fat.  The Levite then quickly and expertly skinned the lamb then handed the lamb wrapped in its lambskin back to its owner, who then left through a side door to take it to his family for roasting.   As a side note, the lambskin (which was valuable) was often given to the hosts of the family in whose home they were lodging during Passover.  The fat and innards of the lamb were salted and then placed in the fire of the altar as the burnt offering.

Once the lamb was sacrificed, Joseph and Jesus carried the sacrificed lamb to their temporary home.   Jesus watch carefully as Joseph mounted the lamb on a long pomegranate pole that went through the lamb’s mouth and through the lambs nether regions without breaking a bone.   Then He watched as Joseph seasoned the lamb and carefully placed it  in a domed clay oven to roast.

That night the entire family sat down to a joyous festival dinner.  Following the age old traditions the dinner was eaten with great joy and celebration. Jesus keenly observed every detail of the feast, what Joseph said,  and how he handled each part of the ceremony.  Memorizing all the prayers before, during and after the feast.   Then He avidly listened as Joseph retold the story of the first Passover.  This was a special Passover for Jesus, one of the rites of passage of a Jewish boy.  Because one day it would be His turn to officiate over Passover.

 

What does this tell us about Jesus? 

Visualize in your mind this event - What do you think Jesus was feeling? 

 Consider this:

First He was Jewish.  Second He was raised in a Jewish family according to the Laws of Moses.  To really get to know Jesus study the Jewish social life, traditions and customs.  This information add deeper insights and flavor to the events, actions and words of Jesus.

 

 

 



[1] Jesus the Messiah, by Edersheim pg

The wise men

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Wise Men from the East

 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
       6 ‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
      Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
      For out of you shall come a Ruler
       Who will shepherd My people Israel.’[
a]
7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Matthew 2:1-23 (New King James Version)

Wise men (Magi): The Magi were believed to be from Mesopotamia, or Persia. They were believed to be from the priestly caste and were extremely well educated.  They specialized in medicine, occult mysteries, astronomy/astrology, divination and magic.  They were the counselors of kings, pharaohs and emperors.  They were prized for their seeming abilities to predict the future through the study of the stars, divination and the interpretation of dreams.  The bible mentions wise men many times and their dealings with many kings and pharaohs (Daniel 5:7-9, Isaiah 47:13, 2 Kings 21:60. These wise men guided their lives by the movement of the stars and planets.   They were taught from earliest childhood the complex intricacies of astrology.

Astrology is the study of the influence stars and planets have on human lives. The position of the sun, stars, moon and planets at the time of people's birth in the twelve constellations of the zodiac is said to shape each individuals personality, affect their romantic relationships and predict their economic fortunes and the major events of their lives.

Astrology dates before written history, and there is evidence of it all around the globe. The ancients believed that if the gods lived in the heavens, then it made sense to study the heavens for guidance from them.  Over thousands of years the movements of the stars were charted and interpretations of their alignments and movements compiled.  The earliest forms of astrology came from Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt.  Egypt has star charts that go as far back as 4,200 BCE.

Studying the movement of the stars was the life's blood and focus of a magus.   In the years preceding the birth of Christ, these men began to see momentous signs and alignments in the stars that captured their attention. While noting alignments of the moon, the planets and the stars they consulted, charts and interpretations of charts, they muttered in amazement.  All their computations and arcane interpretations pointed to something phenomenal about to happen.

 There have been numerous speculations of what captured the attention of the wise men. For sure, there were multiple astrological alignments in the sky that must have captured their attention.  For example, in:

 7 B.C., the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn aligned in the sign of Pisces (the fishes).

  • Jupiter: known as the “Kings” planet, represented the highest god and ruler of the universe.
  • Saturn: was thought to be the shield or defender of Palestine
  • The constellation of the Pisces (fishes) was associated with Syria and Palestine and represented either epic events or disasters for that region.

 * Jupiter encountering Saturn in the sign of fishes to the Magi would have signaled that a cosmic ruler or king was to be born in Palestine at a culmination of history.  ** Notice when the Magi approached King Herod, they asked where they could find the child “born king of the Jews.

In the Babylonian interpretation of astrology, the planet Jupiter represented “Marduk, “the supreme Babylonian god. Saturn was the "Steady One." The constellation Pisces was associated with Ea, the god of wisdom, life and creation. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces predicted from the Babylonian's viewpoint, "the end of the old world order and the birth of a new king chosen by God." Some believe that there was a power vacuum in the Middle East, and the people, including the Jews, were looking for a new King that would topple the Roman Empire.

6 B.C., The near conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and the planet Mars.  

 5 B.C., Comet No. 52 (on John William’s list of comets) appeared and was visible for seventy days in March and April near the constellation Capricorn

 4 B.C., Comet No 53 (on John Williams’s list of comets) appeared in March and April in the constellation of Aquila.

 Were any of these the star of Bethlehem?  Only God knows.  What we do know is something in the stars captured the attention of the Magi and sent them on a quest that would last several months, possibly even a year of travel.

 

Arrival

 When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem they began to ask, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  They didn’t go directly to King Herod because it says, “When King Herod heard this he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him.”  Maybe they went to the temple and asked the priest there.  Maybe they asked in the market place, the bible doesn’t say.  It does say that when the king heard what they were asking for he became deeply worried.   And for good reason, he wasn’t the hereditary king of Israel. He’d been appointed king by Rome.  And, for a child to be born king, the old king had to be dead!   Herod was already paranoid that someone would steal his exalted throne and then the magi to showing up and asking, “Where is the new born king of the Jews” was not something he wanted to hear.  Jerusalem was buzzing with the news, “There are magi asking around Jerusalem for a child born king of the Jews.”

 The theological scholars at that time all predicted the Messiah could arrive during their lifetime.  This was exciting news to the people of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was buzzing with excitement.  Herod on the other had decided to be crafty. He called together the chief priest and scribes and asked them where the Messiah was to be born?  They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for it is written by the prophet:


      ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
      Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
      For out of you shall come a Ruler
       Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

When he learned all he needed, Herod dismissed them.   As the priest's and scribes left the chamber, Herod motioned to an aide and instructed him to secretly bring the magi to the palace.  Wouldn't you have loved to sit in on that meeting?  Where the magi nervous?  After all, how do you ask a king, "Where is the newborn king who is going to replace you?"  Seated on his throne, Herod cordially greeted the distinguished scholars warmly as befitted their ranks.   Pretending deep interest, he asked them questions, “Why were they on this quest?  When did the star appear?” Trying to get an idea of how old the young king would be, Herod smiled, nodded his head sagely, and said, “I have heard about the questions you've been asking around Jerusalem.  I became fascinated and looked into it.  My priests have informed me the Messiah, if that is who you're looking fo,r is to be born in Bethlehem.”   Gesturing grandly Herod asked, “Please, go and search carefully for the child, and when you find Him, bring back word to me, so that I may come and worship Him also.

 *Note.  It's interesting that the scriptures never imply that the chief priests or scribes made any attempt to go find Jesus.  You would have thought they would have been frantic to find the Messiah.  Something to think about!

 
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

 These two verses are interesting.  Notice it states that the star went before them, till it came and stood over where Jesus was.  And notice this, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great joy.”  Had the star disappeared for a time?  Was that the reason they stopped in Jerusalem to ask where the newborn king of the Jews was to be found?   Why else would they become excited and then rejoiced when they saw the star?  Was this a normal star?  Some have suggested it was a unique star, an angel, even others claim it may have been a column of fire, or the Shekinah glory of God.  Again, only God knows that answer.  Many try to explain the star through nature such as a nova, or a comet.   But consider this; if it was a supernatural star, would that be impossible for the creator of the heavens and the earth? After all, this was an epic watershed moment for earth.  The son of God was born.   What the scriptures say is that the star stood over the place where Jesus was living.

We know it was dark because the wise men were following the star.  Mary and Joseph probably just finished supper when they heard a knock on the door.  Or maybe they heard the braying sound of a camel in their court yard.  Anyway, imagine their surprise when they opened the door to find a group of rich foreign men in grand silk robes, turbans, and jewels asking them if they had a son?  I wonder if Mary or Joseph blurted, "You guys are not from around here are you?"   What questions did the magi have?  How did they explain what they were doing there?  What did they talk about?

 Now imagine the look on Mary and Josephs face as these dignified men dropped to their knees, held out their hands in worship, and bowed their heads to the ground to Jesus.  Do ya think Joseph and Mary's mouth dropped open? What happened next must have floored the poor young couple from Nazareth.  The magi presented incredible gifts to their son.

 Gold symbolized His royalty

  • Frankincense: a valuable fragrant gum resin, burned as incense, symbolized his future priesthood
  • Myrrh: another fragrant resin and very expensive, was used in perfumes, anointing oil, medicine and embalming and was symbolic of his future sacrificial death.

 Now here's a question for you. How many Wise Men were there?  Legend suggests there were three "Wise Men", Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, because of the three royal gifts presented to Jesus.  Again the scriptures are silent.  But these rich gifts were a windfall of wealth to the young parents.  How much did they give?  No one knows.  However, these were gifts given to a young king and would have been generous.  That night, satisfied by the completion of their quest, the magi went to sleep in their tents.  But their sleep was troubled.

 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

 No doubt each shared his dreams with the others.  Recognizing a dramatic sign from God, they broke camp to return to their country a different way. 

 Think about this. These three gifts from the Wise Men were very timely. For several days Herod waited to hear from the wise men and when they didn’t return, he discovered the wise men had out witted him and he lashed out in anger. He ordered that all the male children in Bethlehem under the age of two were to be killed.

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew 2:-14

 Possibly, the same night Joseph packed up Mary and the infant Jesus and fled to Egypt, they fulfilled another prophecy Hosea 11:1.  Remember Joseph and Mary was poor.  The gifts of the Magi therefore came in very handy as it paid for their escape to Egypt.  God had provided for their needs.  I bet if we could go back and ask Joseph and Mary, I bet we would find out that the gold, frankincense and myrrh paid for food, clothing, living quarters and tools for Joseph to start over again as a carpenter until they returned to Nazareth.

 Finally, consider this:

 The visit of the wise men set in motion the fulfillment of two prophecies Jeremiah 31:15 and

Hosea 11:1.

 *Note check out what the bible says of sorcerers, diviners

Leviticus 19:31

Deuteronomy 18:9-12

 

 

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