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Luke 21(2)

March 24th, 2015
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First Message

 It is important to see how magnificent was the temple when Jesus walked and taught in it. It helps us to see the context of Jesus last week in Jerusalem.

 I would like to link to a 3 dimensional presentation on the Temple.

 Before I do I need to refer to the Red Heifer ceremony mentioned in the video.The application of the ceremony around the Red Heifer illustrates the authority of the Temple over first century Jewish life. The red heifer (Hebrew: פרהאדומה‎; parah adumah), also known as a red cow, was a sacrifice in the Bible, the ashes of which were used for the ritual purification of those who had come into contact with a corpse.

 The way it was done in Jesus’ time also helps to show how conscientious the religious elite were to the Torah and the gulf between them and Jesus.

 Numbers 19:1-22

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.

The Book of Numbers stipulates that the animal must be red in color, without blemish, and it must not have been used to perform work.

3 Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence.

The heifer is then ritually slaughtered.

4 Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. 5 While he watches, the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines. 6 The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. 7 After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening. 8 The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.

9 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.

It was burned outside of the camp .

10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them.

11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. 12 They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean. 13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them.

14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days, 15 and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.

16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. 18 Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or anyone who has been killed or anyone who has died a natural death. 19 The man who is clean is to sprinkle those who are unclean on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify them. Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean.

In order to purify a person who has become ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse, water from the vessel is sprinkled on him, using a bunch of hyssop, on the third and seventh day of the purification process.

In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, the water must be “living” i.e. spring water. This is a stronger requirement than for a ritual bath. Rainwater accumulated in a cistern is permitted for a mikveh, but cannot be used in the Red Heifer ceremony. Water for the ritual came from the Pool of Siloam.

The ceremony involved was complex and detailed. To ensure complete ritual purity of those involved, enormous care was taken to ensure that no-one involved in the Red Heifer ceremony could have had any contact with the dead or any form of ritual impurity, and implements were made of materials, such as stone, which in Jewish Law do not act as carriers for ritual impurities.

The Mishnah recounts that children were used to draw and carry the water for the ceremony, children born and reared in isolation for the specific purpose of ensuring that they never came into contact with a corpse:

There were courtyards in Jerusalem built over [the virgin] rock and below them a hollow [was made] lest there might be a grave in the depths, and pregnant women were brought and bore their children there, and there they reared them. And oxen were brought, and on their backs were laid doors on top of which sat the children with cups of stone in their hands. When they arrived in Shiloah [the children] alighted, and filled [the cups with water], and mounted, and again sat on the doors
—Mishna Parah 3:2

There are various other requirements, such as natural birth.

20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean. 21 This is a lasting ordinance for them.

“The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening. 22 Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”

The priest who performs the ritual then becomes ritually unclean, and must then bathe himself and his clothes in a ritual bath. He is deemed impure until evening.

Various other devices were used, including a causeway from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives so that the Heifer and accompanying priests would not come in contact with a grave.

According to the Mishnah, the ceremony of the burning of the red heifer itself took place on the Mount of Olives. A ritually pure priest slaughtered the heifer, and sprinkled of its blood in the direction of the Temple seven times. The Red Heifer was then burnt on a pyre, together with crimson dyed wool, hyssop, and cedar wood.

As you watch the next video on the Temple reflect on how Jesus behaved as he touched lepers, dead bodies and their biers. How he was unconcerned about the unclean status of a person. How freely he was calling people to come to him as the source of living waters, the real temple.

 Also reflect on the degrees of nearness in the Temple.  Jesus had all the barriers removed within himself as God and Man. No degrees of nearness – all had equal access to him, Jew, Gentile, male and female – he was the only mediator between man and God. No warning signs telling people to be careful but instead we are told to come boldly.

 No wonder he challenged the whole, sensory overwhelming system. It would take a gift of God to believe that he was the true temple and the other would disappear.

 Virtual tour in Jerusalem, on Herod’s Temple Mount To watch please click here.

Sermon

How do we view the events in Luke21 in the light of prophecy

I think we have an idea now of how central the temple was to the life of Israel.

It was impossible to contemplate it being destroyed. The world as they knew would not exist.

D.A. Carson, a New Testament scholar, begins his commentary on Matthew 24 with the following words: “Few chapters of the Bible have called forth more disagreement among interpreters than Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 21. The history of the interpretation of this chapter is immensely complex” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 8, page 488).

As we try to understand what Jesus was saying in this chapter, we would do well to approach it with caution. We have already given the broader context of Jesus setting the stage for what appeared to be to the disciples a showdown in Jerusalem between himself and the religious authorities.

Our first message shows the utter scrupulous obedience of the elite to the tradition at the time of Jesus. No wonder he offended them!

 During the time Jesus was explaining that he was to suffer at Jerusalem, he took Peter, James and John up a high mountain. There, they experienced the transfiguration This of itself must have made the disciples wonder whether the establishment of the kingdom of God was close at hand.

 Then came the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in which Jesus rode into the city on a donkey. The entire city was stirred, wondering what would happen as Jesus arrived. In Jerusalem, he overturned the moneylender’s tables and took other actions to demonstrate his messianic authority “Who is this?” people asked in response

The disciples must have become increasingly puzzled, curious and anxious about the things Jesus was saying. Was he about to proclaim himself?

Read more…

Message for the Day

How do we read Luke 21(1)?

March 5th, 2015
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Jesus travelling to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world is now set in the context of a prophecy.

 It is one that over the years everyone has had their opinion on, often applying it to events taking place in their day. The urgency becomes the drama of our generation because we are affected by it. Thus a lot of reactions are ego centred – my generation is the central one to God’s word.

  Today we want to look at the context of this prophecy and hopefully learn a very important lesson about assuming we can know the timing of the return of Jesus Christ.

 It is helpful to know that there was a tension operating within Israel which went back to the earliest days –back to the covenant of Mt Sinai and the arrival of King David.

 Israel’s covenant with God at Sinai had been conditional — it’s premised on the observance of God’s Torah. If there’s violation, then God will uproot the Israelites and throw them out of the land.

 The prophets had references to this in their warnings prior to the exile of the northern Kingdom and the fall of Jerusalem later.

 But there was another covenant that seemed to be unconditional — the covenant with David. His dynastic house (and by implication with David’s city and the temple atop Mount Zion), that covenant will be maintained under all conditions. So a royal ideology developed which fostered a belief in some quarters in the inviolability, the impregnable nature of David’s house, dynasty, the city itself, the chosen city, the sacred mountain, the temple.

 We see this conflict in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is saying give up and accept that God is going to punish Jerusalem for 70 years. Just quietly and co operatively go into exile. And the king’s prophets are calling him a liar and false prophet because Jeruslaem is God’s city upon the holy mountain of Zion, with God’s Temple, ruled by the house of David. It was inconceivable that God would abandon his house.

 So after the exile to Babylon the belief grew that the only way what seemed like a contradiction could be resolved was for a king of the lineage of David coming to break the oppressors from Jerusalem so that all nations would come to the temple, the House of the the Lord, to learn of his ways. This Messiah or Anointed One would free his people and end their exile. Jerusalem would be the centre of God’s new world order with its glorious Temple.

 At the time of Jesus, because the Jewish religious leaders were so scrupulous about every aspect of the Torah, even going to the nth degree in their carefulneess, they believed that they would not suffer from the mistakes of the past. This meant the temple and those with temple authority were at the centre of Israel’s life and vital for its survival.

 But it was also true that the politically astute elite of Israel knew they walked on a knife edge with Rome. They couldn’t allow outside agitators to disturb the status quo. Their was a conflict between the ordinary people looking for a Messiah and the more cynical political leaders.

 It is interesting how they described people they saw as beneath them:

 John 7:45-52

 45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

And later

 John 11: 45—52

 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did,(Raising Lazarus) believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

 As we will see next week there were absolutist zealots, many from Galilee, who would rather die for their cause in a fanatical all or nothing rebellion.

 So how are we to understand the words of Jesus in Luke 21? What were primarily about those days and what pertained to his second coming?

Read more…

Message for the Day

Return of Christ (9)

September 27th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Galatians 2:20

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.(KJV)

So when we think about who will be resurrected, we have to think about this new person who is in union with Christ. In many ways it is liberating to realize it isn’t just us rising up continuing to be just who we are.

What happens to us, our sinful selves, when we die?

The necessary cleansing from sin takes place in two stages.  First, there is baptism and faith. ‘You are already made clean’, says Jesus, ‘by the word which I have spoken to you (John 15.3).  The word of the gospel, awakening faith in the heart, is itself the basic cleansing that we require.

 ‘The one who has washed’, said Jesus at the supper, ‘doesn’t need to wash again, except for his feet; he is clean all over’ (John 13.10).  The ‘feet’ here seem to be representing the part of us which still, so to speak, stands on the muddy ground of this world. This is where ‘the sin which so easily gets in the way’ (Hebrews 12.1) finds its opportunity.

But the glorious news is that, although during the present life we struggle with sin,  our remaining propensity to sin is finished, cut off, done with all at once, in physical death. Let’s understand this very important promise.

This is the last message until we return from the Ulladulla Festival. The next message will be on Tuesday October 9th.

Message for the Day ,