Why Did Jesus Wait?
A Jewish tomb from the 2nd Temple period (Photo: Tom Powers from http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/)
John tells the story of the death and subsequent resurrection of Lazarus, whose name means in Hebrew “My God is my help”. The author warns the reader that what he is about to find out would not make sense, unless the reader would keep in mind that that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5).
What was the problem exactly?
When all personal and communal means were exhausted and Lazarus’ health still took a sharp turn for the worst, Mary and Martha thought of the obvious – they must let their now famous miracle-working rabbi-friend know, so that he can come as soon as was possible to help Lazarus.
This is where the stunning detail I want to bring to your attention occurs:
When Jesus got that message, he decided to stay where he was for two more days (John 11:6).
If we are reading this text honestly, we would probably not be moved to open a hymnal and sing the famous hymn: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” at this point in the story just yet. However, there is something very important from Jewish culture and context that we are missing here that will help us to make sense of this story.
We read in Jerusalem Talmud: For the first three days after death the soul floats above the body, thinking that it will return to the body. When the soul sees the body, that the appearance of the face has changed, it leaves the body and goes its way. (Yebamot 16:3)
But was this idea present in Jerusalem Talmud was already there at the time of Jesus? The answer is yes!
In a fairly recent discovery of an ancient stone, found in the same geographic location where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were also found, there is an intriguing phrase that can be translated as: “In three days, live, I, Gabriel, command you” (Gabriel’s Revelation Stone, Israel Museum). While resurrection of Lazarus is surely not the event described there, the discovery shows that the idea of resurrection within three days was not a foreign concept to the ancient Jews.
Jesus waited for two more days, timing his arrival in such a way that he got to Bethany on the fourth day – when resurrection was no longer possible! When Lazarus was finally resurrected a very important point emerged – resurrection is not something that Jesus does, resurrection is something that Jesus is (John 11:17-40).
This article originally appeared on Israel Study Center and reposted with permission.
One of Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg's greatest passions is building of bridges of trust, respect and understanding between Christians and Jews, overcoming centuries of difficult, but almost always joined history. He strongly believes that both Hebrew Bible and the New Testament scriptures have much to teach both communities. Outside of his expertise in the ancient languages (Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, Syriac and Old Church Slovanic), he has a command of three other modern languages (English, Russian and Hebrew).
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Forgive us our Debts
Rabbi Yeshua compared a man’s sins to debts owed to God and to others, and He compared sins committed against a man to debts others owed him. Debt symbolizes sin and guilt. The remission of debt symbolizes the forgiveness of sins. Aramaic uses the same word (chovah, חובה) for both “debt” and “sin,” making the metaphor particularly apt.
The Master solemnly warned us that if we do not forgive men when they sin against us, God will not forgive us when we petition Him for forgiveness. Disciples of Yeshua have no options in the matter of whether or not to forgive:
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14-15)
We do not have the luxury of holding grudges, nursing bitterness, or retaining resentments for personal offenses. We are not privileged to retain our anger or to repay evil committed against our person with evil. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Mathew 5:7).
The forgiveness principle operates on the biblical concept of “measure for measure.” Rabbi Yeshua illustrated the point in Matthew 18 with the parable of the indebted servant. With the same measure we use, it will be measured to us. Just as the indebted servant did not forgive the small debt of his fellow servant, the king refused to forgive his great debt. The concept of forgiveness on the basis of measure-for-measure occurs frequently in rabbinic literature:
Whoever refrains from exacting his measure, the heavenly court forgives his sins, as it is written [in Micah 7:18], “Who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act.” Whose sin does he forgive? One who passes over sins.” (b.Rosh Hashanah 17a)
He who is merciful to others, mercy is shown to him by Heaven, while he who is not merciful to others, mercy is not shown to him by Heaven. (b.Shabbat 151b)
He who is merciful to men, toward him God is merciful in heaven. (b.Sanhedrin 51b)
James the brother of the Master explains, “Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy [but] mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Jewish wisdom tradition also conveys the same sentiment. The teaching about forgiveness also finds a parallel in a collection of proverbs compiled more than a century earlier by another Jewish man named Yeshua (Yeshua ben Sira):
Forgive your neighbor the offense he has committed against you, so too shall your sins be forgiven when you pray. Can a man bear hatred against another and seek forgiveness from the Lord? Can a man be merciless toward another man like himself and then ask forgiveness for his own sins? (Sirach28:2-4)
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion and reposted with permission.
First Fruits of Zion specializes in the study and teaching of Scripture from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. Using the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature, we present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity. We do this by publishing books, ebooks, magazines, journals, study programs, audio and audio-visual resources, and presenting new material through seminars, conferences, and guided Israel tours.
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Discussion around Women’s Roles in Society Sparked by Article Series
(picture of illustration)
After the first of three articles regarding women’s roles in various spheres was published on Kehila News Israel, I shared it with the women in my community through our online network.
One presumes to know how close friends think and feel about important identity-centered topics, such as were discussed in the article, but I was surprised to see the varied responses. The material struck a nerve within each of our hearts and each woman I encountered desired for their opinion to be heard.
Thus, we organized a time to discuss our thoughts and feelings about the points the article raised, in addition to sharing about our own walks as daughters, mothers, wives, workers, homemakers, etc.
Before this informal event, I think each of us were nervous, hoping that we would not only “be heard” but also that our opinions would be acknowledged and accepted. I am happy to report that our discussion night not only met these goals but exceeded them! One thing that really added to the richness of our dialogues was the variety of backgrounds, marital statuses and ages of those in attendance. We ran the gamut!
I would like to personally thank the authors, Yael Levy and Inbar Sinai, for sparking a fire meant to refine each of us. I feel that the women in our community have grown from this experience because we provided a “safe space” where acceptance, love, support and respect were shown despite our difference of opinions and beliefs.
May each woman in the Messianic body in Israel seek to learn from one another, as we serve alongside each other in our various roles.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” ~ Maya Angelou
Blair lives with her husband and two young daughter in norther Israel. She enjoys being an active part of her community and seeing the beauty of live unfold around her.
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Prosperity – What the Bible Really Says
Luxury, Poverty and the Historic Debate
The issue of God’s standards for material wealth has been a source of debate for centuries.
In the sixteenth century, Cardinal Wolsey, the Archbishop of York, built an enormous palace, larger and more luxurious than anything even King Henry VIII possessed. Henry was quite good at executing his opponents, even his wife Anne Boleyn. So when word came to the Cardinal that the king was jealous, he wisely decided to donate his Hampton Court Palace to the king! It is still standing today.
Yet at the same time as Cardinal Wolsey built his palace, monastic Catholics were arguing that only giving up all possessions and taking a vow of poverty reflected the ideals of Yeshua. Meanwhile, the Reformers railed against the financial abuses and opulent living of Roman Catholic Church leaders. So to quote Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
The Debate on Prosperity Today
Today some prosperity gospel teachers assert that it is God’s will for all of His children to live in a prosperity which they define almost as a right to opulent living. The teacher ‘proves’ the truth of his teaching by himself making a huge salary and benefits. Some with broadcast ministries have even told their listeners that to become prosperous, they need to contribute to these ministries! In his later years, Kenneth Hagin, himself a prosperity teacher, began to address these abuses.
Some of our young millennial believers are forming urban communities where simple living and modest compensation are the rule. And what of business leaders, sports figures, entertainers and others? How do we look at the enormous compensation packages that they receive? And what about the idea of socialism to level out compensation?
People hold widely varying views on this subject. But what is God’s view of prosperity? What are we really promised?
Surveying the Biblical Promise of Prosperity
Recently, Creation House published my book on prosperity, with the same title as this article. The book surveys the whole Bible on this subject, and seeks to show that there is indeed a promise of general prosperity and well-being for those who walk in faith, who tithe, and who give generously. However, it is not an unqualified promise to live in opulent wealth. (Actually, for those who live in ‘First World’ Nations, our middle class standard of living already looks opulent to the rest of the globe.)
God’s promise for prosperity is connected to calling, and I summarize it in the following words:
God will abundantly provide whatever you need for whatever you are called to do.
God’s standard for those who make a living in full time Gospel ministry, is a standard I call modesty. The testimony of history is very clear that this was the example of Yeshua and the 12, the other apostles that followed after them, and especially the great apostle Paul. Paul warned against using the Gospel as a means of getting rich and against the desire to get rich (1 Timothy 6). Yeshua Himself promised abundant provision for those who left all to follow Him. And of course, that provision can be applied to those who are suffering and imprisoned for the Gospel, and to those who find themselves in all kinds of societies today.
So how is modesty defined for those who live by the Gospel? This is basically connected to compensation packages that fit the region where one is called to minister. This should include adequate shelter, food, education for the children, a modest vacation and recreation and saving for retirement. Most ministers of the Gospel by this standard are underpaid. But when one goes much beyond this standard of modesty, the compensation packages tend to discredit the Gospel and those who profess it. People will look at wealthy ministers as involved in a money-making racket for themselves. Witness Newsweek’s recent report on ministers with the largest compensation packages and those who have the highest net worth. Many of you would recognize the names. Newsweek did not hold up wealth as a proof of the ministers’ great faith! I understand that through diligent saving and investing a minister could be well off in the senior years, but it should not be through an exorbitant compensation package.
What of the business leader? If his heart is to use his wealth mostly to extend the Kingdom, I believe there is much more flexibility for his lifestyle. He does not have to maintain a testimony of living from the Gospel. Yet even here, flaunting wealth is not according to the spirit of Yeshua.
This book has important advice for all, regarding how to spend, save, invest and steward resources. I urge you to read it.
“Praise the LORD!
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever.”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal;
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration October 2016 Newsletter and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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Parable of the Net (and of the Instructed Scribe)
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Yeshua said to [His disciples], ‘Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He said to them, ‘Therefore, every scribe instructed concerning the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure new and old.'”– Matthew 13:47-52
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes of milk is unskilled in the word of righteouness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Messiah (the ‘old’), let us go on to perfection (the ‘new’), not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” – Hebrews 5:12 – 6:2
The fire in the Carmel Forest [in 2010] presented a vivid reminder of the first parable of the Sower: some trees survived while others around them were destroyed. There would be three primary reasons why the trees were burned up:
1) all things/people can die from such disasters;
2) some of the trees were not well-rooted, and so fell in the heat of the fire;
3) some looked well on the outside, but inwardly were rotten—had no inner strength to survive.
Those trees which withstood the blaze while all around others burned up obviously had much strength of ‘character’ that enabled them – by the grace and sovereignty of God – to stand victorious in the day of evil. Some have no ‘fruit’ left on them after the testing by fire, while others are still capable of producing more.
This last parable of the net (and of the learned teacher of the law) is similar to the second parable of the tares, in that Messiah teaches that in God’s Kingdom now, there will be a final separation of the bad from the good, and this will be done by angels at the end of the age.
In this final parable of this series which Yeshua taught to instruct His disciples in the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven/God, all kinds of fish from the sea – different people from every nation – the composite pearl – are gathered in by fishermen by the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and of His salvation. Yet, there are good fish, and also bad fish brought into the full fishing dragnet. Not until the end of the age will the final separation take place, and this will not be done by us, but by the angels of God.
When Yeshua had finished these parables, He asks His disciples if they understood everything. They, like us often times, said ‘Yes’, when they should have said more honestly and humbly, “Not really, Lord”. But taking them at their word, He says “therefore”, if you do understand these teachings of God’s ways and of righteousness, you should be able to discuss things both old and new, as an owner of treasure in your own house. Brethren, the Son of God has brought us into His Father’s house, which is also ours through Him! I could ask a little like Jesus did: “Do we really understand this?!”
What an honor and a privilege it is to be called children of God! What a responsibility we have as stewards of the mysteries and of His Kingdom! What a treasure we have – the Bible! Where our treasure is, there will our heart be. Is our treasure in this world, or is it in Messiah and the world to come?
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer exhorts us to grow up in our knowledge of the true faith. He speaks of principle things and of going on to new things. One of the elementary things of the faith, which this parable of the net and the parable of the tares make clear, is that there is a final judgment at the end of the age, and the wicked or bad will be separated forever from the righteous or good. There is everlasting judgment – whether to be with God, or whether to be cast out from His presence forever. To teach otherwise is not to be instructed concerning the Kingdom of Heaven/God, and/or to be immature in our faith.
The major responsibility of a pastor and teacher, according to the Word of God through the apostle Paul in the letter to the believers in Ephesus, is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head – Messiah – from whom the whole body . . .causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love”.
It is my strong hope and prayer that some of you, at least, are benefitting from these teachings – as well as others – and that you can apply them in your own life as a believer generally, and as being able to help others know the thoughts and ways of our Lord and God, and not merely know laws and commandments, or stories. We want to know God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be led by the Holy Spirit into all truth. Yet we must always remember that we are saved by grace through faith, and love covers a multitude of sins.
What are some lessons to learn from these parables of Jesus about God’s Kingdom on Earth at the present time?:
–The Father loves us. Jesus loves us. He tells us all things that the Father wants us to know, and gave His Spirit to teach us. We are His children; we are His friends; we are His brothers and sisters.
–With that secure love, the Lord wants us to fear God and not to take His love for granted. We show our faith and love for Him by obeying Him willingly out of a humble and thankful heart.
–These parables help keep us on the narrow road which leads to life, and to guard ourselves from certain doctrines which sound good, but are not necessarily so:
–once-saved-always-saved as a cliché (the Sower)
–Mankind in general, and Christians in particular, can succeed to make the world better before — or without — Jesus coming again. (Tares; Mustard seed; Leaven; Net)
–that the believers – the ‘wheat’, the ‘good seed’, the ‘good fish’ – will be taken before the end of the age (Tares; Net)
–universalism: everyone is eventually ‘saved’ (Sower; Tares; Net)
–There is no hell, no eternal conscious judgment. (Tares; Net)
–Every person is inherently ‘good’. (Tares)
–Where God is ruling, evil can not be there, whether in the world or within the church. (Tares; Mustard Tree; Net)
–We were saved because we looked for Jesus, and so earned God’s favor for our salvation. (Hidden Treasure; Pearl of great price)
–that God has ‘finished’ with Israel, His treasured people (Hidden Treasure)
–that somehow God has ‘lost control’ and is not able to ‘get it back’ (all of the parables)
–As we study and learn the truths that we have in the Scriptures, we will be able to bring out of such wealth which our Father has given us in Christ, things from the Old Testament and from the New. As Jesus told the apostle John in the Revelation, we can speak of things which were, which are, and which shall be. It is all about Jesus – the King of the Kingdom of God!
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, December 11, 2010, and reposted with permission.
This is part seven in a seven-part series of articles on the parables in Matthew 13.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.