Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Sermon No One Heard

Joyce has been chiding me about not posting for more than a week. As she was looking over the lesson I'd prepared for Sunday School this morning, she said, "You ought to post this on your blog."

I answered, "Nah, it's way too long for a post."

She countered, "Oh, go ahead."

So (since I'm an obedient husband who always does precisely what his wife tells him to do) here it is. But just to set the record straight, remember: "The woman whom [HaShem] gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat"*

[* In this lesson, all quotations from the Tanakh (i.e., the Christian "Old Testament") are as rendered by the Jewish Publication Society's 1917 version.]

I have a dream. (Those of you who know me know that my admission to daydreaming is less confession than understatement. Yea verily, I hear the heavenly host of my grade-school teachers singing, "Amen!" And if I listen carefully, I hear an even larger infernal congregation of former high-school teachers screeching "Effin' A!") But back to my point, I have this idea in my head that someday some rabbi will say, "Bob, that's such a brilliant argument for Christianity, would you please share it with my congregation?"

Now if you're going to have a fantasy, this one has a lot going for it: a genuine concern for God's Chosen People, a love of God's Word, a desire to see God's Kingdom established on earth, .... The only thing my daydream lacks is any contact with reality. In my rational moments I know that even if there were some professionally suicidal rabbi who wanted to expose his congregation to a comparative study of religions, he'd certainly have no problem finding a better-qualified spokesman for Christianity. In the "Star Search" competition for evangelists, (without any doubt) I'm the last runner up. But still, I have a dream.

But since you've voluntarily entered my mind's foyer and (thus far) have foolishly decided to hang around, I invite you to venture further into my sanctum. Settle into a pew in my make-believe synagogue and listen as I step to the bema, open the ark, unroll the Torah scrolls and deliver a message that no one wants to hear. Permit me to demonstrate one simple truth from the Tanakh: "Yeshua is HaMeshiach." Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah who was prophesied in the Scriptures.

But before we consider the Scriptural proof of that statement, let's note that Yeshua did claim to be HaMeshiach. And he also claimed that the Tanakh foretold his crucifixion. Yeshua said to his disciples:
Luke 24:25-27 ... "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
v26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ [HaMeshiach] to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?"
v27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.

So from the start, we have to acknowledge that there's no middle ground. Yeshua is either HaMeshiach as he claimed to be, or else he claimed to be what he wasn't - which would make him either a lunatic or a charlatan. So, as a Jewish congregation, you are rightfully skeptical. Until I show precisely where the Tanakh speaks of HaMeshiach's crucifixion, and how Yeshua has fulfilled those prophecies, you do well to do as the Law instructs by rejecting "the prophet who speaks presumptuously."
Deuteronomy 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of HaShem, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which HaShem hath not spoken; the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him.

So, where in the Tanakh do we find Moses' and the prophets' predicting HaMeshiach's crucifixion? Well ... I'd have loved to be there on the road to Emmaus when Yeshua explained the necessity of HaMeshiach's suffering, but I wasn't. And Luke didn't record that explanation, so what I offer will surely fall short of Yeshua's full account. Nonetheless, I think I can piece together some of what he must have said to his disciples.

First, I must concede one obvious point: Yeshua (as he presented himself to the nation of Israel) is not the kind of savior the Tanakh explicitly prophesies. All explicit references to HaMeshiach as the redeemer of Israel emphasize his geopolitical deliverance of the nation of Israel. Just as we can see from the Christian accounts of Yeshua's death and resurrection, all of Yeshua's disciples were expecting him to overthrow the Roman Empire and establish Israel as the dominant world power. None of them were expecting him to die. Clearly they had no clue that his death was prophesied (as evidenced by their despondency after his crucifixion). And then three days after his crucifixion, they all refused to believe the reports of his resurrection (a development which was apparently more shocking to Yeshua's followers than to his enemies, who had the forethought to post a guard on the tomb to prevent removal of the body). If the Tanakh had explicitly stated that HaMeshiach had to die and rise again, then Yeshua's death and resurrection would not have been such a mystery to his followers.

And "mystery" is the right word. The death and resurrection of HaMeshiach wasn't so much a secret that was well kept, as a secret that was well hidden. Just as in a mystery novel, all the clues were there, but they were revealed in such a way that only in retrospect can one see the undeniable truth: HaMeshiach's death and resurrection were God's intention from the very start.

But if that's the case, then the obvious question is: "Why?" Why would God hide (even in plain view) HaMeshiach's death and resurrection? And the obvious answer is: "For the same reason intelligence services use encryption - because the enemy is listening."

The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel tell us there is a great conflict between the God of heaven and the god of this world. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 give us insight into the origin of this celestial warfare. Lucifer, the highest of the angels and the guardian of the throne room of God, has staged a palace coup.

Isaiah 14:12-14 How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, that didst cast lots over the nations!
v13 And thou saidst in thy heart: "I will ascend into heaven, above the stars of G-d will I exalt my throne, and I will sit upon the mount of meeting, in the uttermost parts of the north;
v14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High."

Ezekiel 28:12-16 Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say unto him: "Thus saith the L-rd GOD: 'Thou seal most accurate, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty,
v13 thou wast in Eden the garden of G-d; every precious stone was thy covering, the carnelian, the topaz, and the emerald, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the carbuncle, and the smaragd [an emerald-like stone], and gold; the workmanship of thy settings and of thy sockets was in thee, in the day that thou wast created they were prepared.
v14 Thou wast the far-covering cherub; and I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of G-d; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of stones of fire.
v15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness was found in thee.
v16 By the multitude of thy traffic they filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore have I cast thee as profane out of the mountain of G-d; and I have destroyed thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.'"

Lucifer has been thwarted in his stated intention to establish his own throne and make himself like the Most High. Nonetheless, Lucifer (now called "Satan", in the Hebrew "Shatan": the accuser) is still actively opposing God.

But where does mankind enter into this?

We read in Genesis chapter one:
Genesis 1:26-28 And G-d said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
v27 And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them.
v28 And G-d blessed them; and G-d said unto them: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth."

So God created mankind to have dominion over the earth. But then we read in Genesis 3 that Satan enticed the human race to join him in his rebellion against HaShem.

In response to Satan's attack HaShem declares to Satan:
Genesis 3:14-15 ... "Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
v15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed [singular]; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel."

In effect HaShem says here: "You, the highest of My creation, will become the lowest of all creation."

But notice that (in verse fifteen) HaShem spoke in veiled terms about this "seed of the woman" crushing Satan's head, and Satan bruising HaMeshiach's heel.


Obviously, because it was important for Satan not to know the precise means of his defeat. But more than that, HaShem was demonstrating that Satan (who has declared: "I will make myself like the Most High") is not omniscience (as the Most High is).

So now that I've explained why HaMeshiach's crucifixion was veiled, the question remains, "Where precisely does the Tanakh speak (even cryptically) of HaMeshiach's crucifixion?" One obvious place to begin is the 22nd Psalm:
Psalm 22:1-19 (For the Leader; upon Aijeleth ha-Shahar. A Psalm of David.)
v2 My G-d, my G-d, why hast Thou forsaken me, and art far from my help at the words of my cry?
v3 O my G-d, I call by day, but Thou answerest not; and at night, and there is no surcease for me.
v4 Yet Thou art holy, O Thou that art enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
v5 In Thee did our fathers trust; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.
v6 Unto Thee they cried, and escaped; in Thee did they trust, and were not ashamed.
v7 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
v8 All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head:
v9 "Let him commit himself unto HaShem! Let Him [HaShem] rescue him; let Him deliver him, seeing He delighteth in him."
v10 For Thou art He that took me out of the womb. Thou madest me trust when I was upon my mother's breasts.
v11 Upon Thee I have been cast from my birth; Thou art my G-d from my mother's womb.
v12 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
v13 Many bulls have encompassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
v14 They open wide their mouth against me, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
v15 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is become like wax; it is melted in mine inmost parts.
v16 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my throat; and Thou layest me in the dust of death.
v17 For dogs have encompassed me; a company of evil-doers have inclosed me; like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet. [literally, "they have punctured my hands and my feet"]
v18 I may count all my bones; they look and gloat over me.
v19 They part my garments among them, and for my vesture [outer cloak] do they cast lots.

Isaiah speaks of HaMeshiach's suffering in Isaiah 53:
Isaiah 53:1ff Who would have believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of HaShem been revealed?
v2 For he shot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of a dry ground; he had no form nor comeliness, that we should look upon him, nor beauty that we should delight in him.
v3 He was despised, and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and acquainted with disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
v4 Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of G-d, and afflicted.
v5 But he was wounded [literally: "impaled"] because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed.
v6 All we like sheep did go astray, we turned every one to his own way; and HaShem hath made to light on him the iniquity of us all.
v7 He was oppressed, though he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth.
v8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and with his generation who did reason? For he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due.
v9 And they made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich his tomb; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
v10 Yet it pleased HaShem to crush him by disease; to see if his soul would offer itself in restitution, that he might see his seed, prolong his days, and that the purpose of HaShem might prosper by his hand:
v11 Of the travail of his soul he shall see to the full, even My servant, who by his knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many [Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. My servant will acquit many], and their iniquities he did bear.
v12 Therefore will I divide him a portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because he bared his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Zechariah takes the prophecy a step further by predicting that Israel will eventually repent of their rejecting the one whom they've impaled:
Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.

Anyone familiar with the Gospel accounts can't help but see these as clear prophecies of Yeshua's crucifixion. But if we view this from the perspective of the original writers we see it very differently. First, in the context of the 22nd Psalm, David was clearly speaking of his own troubles; so for anyone who was reading this before it was literally fulfilled, it was not at all clear that this was even prophetic. David seems to be merely speaking hyperbolically, saying that the torment of his soul (because of the revolt of his son Absalom) was as painful as the physical torment he describes. Driving nails through hands and feet as a means of execution was unheard of in David's day, so even David himself couldn't have seen this as a prophecy of HaMeshiach's crucifixion.

In Isaiah 53 we have a clinical description of what it feels like to be crucified, but again, no one prior to the invention of crucifixion could have possibly seen it as prophetic of HaMeshiach's death. After all, everyone knew that HaMeshiach is a deliverer, not a Passover lamb to be butchered.

In the statement "they have thrust him through" Zechariah uses the Hebrew word דקר (DAQAR), which means "to pierce", "to impale" or "to thrust through". To those who lived before HaMeshiach's crucifixion it would have seemed that Zechariah was merely prophesying his own martyrdom, not HaMeshiach's crucifixion. (Of course, the problem with that interpretation is that Zechariah was stoned to death, not impaled.)
2 Chronicles 24:20-22 And the spirit of G-d clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said unto them: "Thus saith G-d: Why transgress ye the commandments of HaShem, that ye cannot prosper? Because ye have forsaken HaShem, He hath also forsaken you."
v21 And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of HaShem.
v22 Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said: "The HaShem look upon it, and require it."

Yet these descriptions of crucifixion in Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12 are too close to the actual events of Yeshua's crucifixion to be a mere coincidence. A thousand years before Yeshua's crucifixion (long before crucifixion was invented), David recorded in precise detail how HaMeshiach would die. Again, 800 years before Yeshua's crucifixion, Isaiah described HaMeshiach's torturous death and explicitly stated that it would be a substitutionary atonement for the sins of many. And then 550 years before Yeshua's crucifixion, Zechariah prophesied that we will all someday repent of our having impaled the One sent by HaShem.

But these graphic descriptions of crucifixion long before crucifixion existed aren't the only places where the death and resurrection of HaMeshiach are foretold. Let's return to that first promise of HaMeshiach's deliverance, recorded in Genesis 3:
Genesis 3:14-15 And HaShem G-d said unto the serpent: "Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
v15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed [singular]; they [correct translation: "he"] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their [correct translation: "his"] heel."

Note: Before HaShem rendered the sentence against Adam and Eve in verses 11-13, He asked them why they had disobeyed, but when He turned to the serpent, He asked no questions. Instead, HaShem immediately prophesied the serpent's final judgment.

Why? Why not give the serpent a chance to explain?

Because the serpent had already had his day in court and been found guilty. Here in Genesis 3:15 the serpent's sentence is merely being repeated. The serpent is that dragon of old, Satan. HaShem's forcing the serpent to crawl on his belly isn't a judgment against snakes; it's a metaphor. Satan (who has tried to exalt himself) will be cast out of heaven and confined to the Earth, and then cast into the abyss (Sheol).

But verse fifteen adds something new. God reveals for the first time that Satan's defeat will come at the hand of a human being, the "seed of the woman". Because the Jewish translators want to make clear that this is a reference to Israel, not to Yeshua, they have rendered this as they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel."

But if this were a reference to the people of Israel, then at what point will this ever happen? When will mere humans seize this super-creature and cast him into the abyss?

There's no way. We humans have no power over a super-being. And even if we did, we've certainly never renounced our allegiance to the god of this world.
Psalm 14:1-3 ... they have dealt corruptly, they have done abominably; there is none that doeth good.
v2 HaShem looked forth from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any man of understanding, that did seek after G-d.
v3 They are all corrupt, they are together become impure; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

So who is this "seed of the woman" who will crush the head of the serpent?

This "seed of the woman" is human, but he isn't from among us, "the children of men" (among whom there is not even one righteous).

So who is this sinless human who will defeat Satan? Who could that be?


joyce said...

Yeah ! Something new !!! Yippee!

I liked it. And now James can read it.

Jerry said...

You were right. It is long.


So, what you are saying is:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. - Hebrews 9:11-14, ESV

Bob said...

Nope, not re-writing the Book of Hebrews. Actually, I'm following a trail pointed to by 1 Corinthians 2:6-9. It just occurs to me that there's probably good reason for the crucifixion being a mystery that was never explicitly revealed in the Old Testament.

I hope you're happy -- now Jerry's quoting Scripture at me (and it's not the N.E.T. Bible translation)!

Bag Blog said...

Scriptures of the Old Testament definitely speak of Jesus and His crucifixion. Not only was the plan hidden from Satan, but it is still hidden today from those who do not believe (do not have ears to hear or eyes to see).

In my past church life, I was taught that Jesus was crucified because He was not becoming what the Jewish leaders expected of the Messiah – overthrowing the Roman Empire and establishing Israel as the dominant world power. That may very well be what some of His followers expected. But now I believe he was killed because the Jewish leaders did not like His message (as most prophets before Him and who spoke of His coming). No one likes to hear “turn and repent” especially if you think you are doing things “God’s way”. No, Jesus was crucified because he brought a new gospel, a new glory. The glory of Moses and the Law was fading (2 Cor 3:7-18) and Christ was the new way – the new creation. That message is still hidden to some – hearts are still hardened and there is still a veil covering their eyes, but the veil will be removed when you turn to Christ.

I'm glad Joyce had you post this.

Bob said...

Bag Blog--
I don't disagree with anything you say, but I'd add that in the final analysis, Jesus was crucified, not because anyone wished Him dead, but because that's what He came to do. (John 10:17-18 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.")

As for the motives of those who wished Him dead, I agree with all the opinions you offer. There are as many reasons for hating Jesus as there are people who hate Him. The Sadducees hated Him for His disturbing their power base, the Pharisees for His failure to be the Messiah they wanted, the Romans for His being Jewish, everyone for His message of repentance, etc.

No one despises Jesus more than Satan, but in the end we all get the credit for driving the spikes into his hands (Romans 3:23).

Bag Blog said...

I agree that we are all guilty and yet He lived and died to bring us salvation. Awesome.

Hula Doula said...

Good job Joyce for being his "Holy Spirit" and gently suggesting (of which I am sure) that he post this. I have sent on the link to several of my Jewish friends.

Bob said...

Those would be your former friends you forwarded the link to.