Friday, April 10, 2009
Scripture for Friday April 10 2009:
"Certainly this was God’s Son."—Matt. 27:54.
What comes to your mind when you think of Jesus on the torture stake suffering a slow and agonizing death? Perhaps you remember the ransom sacrifice that Jesus unselfishly gave in behalf of sinful mankind. (Matt. 20:28; John 15:13) You may marvel at the great love that Jehovah showed in providing that sacrifice. (John 3:16) Perhaps you feel as did the Roman army officer who said the words of today’s text. However, recall that Jesus’ last words on the torture stake were: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) What had been accomplished? Was it not primarily for settling the issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty that Jesus came to earth? And was it not foretold that as the “seed,” he would suffer the extreme test at Satan’s hands so as to clear Jehovah’s name of all reproach? (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 53:3-7) These were weighty responsibilities, yet Jesus fulfilled them in every respect. What an accomplishment! (w07 12/1 2:10)
Memorial Bible reading: (Events on Nisan 14) Luke 22:66-71
Thursday, April 9, 2009
A sacred meal held by the Jews every year on Nisan 14, according to the Jewish Calendar. Is it a coincidence that our Messiah Jesus poured his blood on this very same day... Nisan 14? I don't think so. Nearly 2000 years ago today (according with Jewish Calendar), Christ Jesus celebrated this special occasion with his disciples, with a glowing full moon outside that evening. Tonight, that very same full moon will be glowing upon us.
Passover was a memorial celebration; therefore the Scriptural command was: “And it must occur that when your sons say to you, ‘What does this service mean to you?’ then you must say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the passover to Jehovah, who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he plagued the Egyptians, but he delivered our houses.’”—Ex 12:26, 27.
Since the Jews reckoned the day as starting after sundown and ending the next day at sundown, Nisan 14 would begin after sundown. It would be in the evening after Nisan 13 concluded that the Passover would be observed. Since the Bible definitely states that Christ is the Passover sacrifice (1Co 5:7) and that he observed the Passover meal the evening before he was put to death, the date of his death would be Nisan 14, not Nisan 15, in order to fulfill accurately the time feature of the type, or shadow, provided in the Law.—Heb 10:1.
The lamb (or goat) was slaughtered, skinned, its interior parts cleansed and replaced, and it was roasted whole, well-done, with no bones broken. (2Ch 35:11; Nu 9:12) If the household was too small to consume the whole animal, then it was to be shared with a neighbor household and eaten that same night. Anything left over was to be burned before morning. (Ex 12:10; 34:25) It was eaten with unfermented cakes, “the bread of affliction,” and with bitter greens, for their life had been bitter under slavery.—Ex 1:14; 12:1-11, 29, 34; De 16:3.
The Israelites measured their day from sundown to sundown. So Passover day would begin at sundown at the end of the 13th day of Abib (Nisan). The animal was to be slaughtered “between the two evenings.” (Ex 12:6) There are differences of opinion as to the exact time meant. According to some scholars, as well as the Karaite Jews and Samaritans, this is the time between sunset and deep twilight. On the other hand, the Pharisees and the Rabbinists considered the first evening to be when the sun began to descend and the second evening to be the real sunset. Due to this latter view the rabbis hold that the lamb was slaughtered in the latter part of the 14th, not at its start, and therefore that the Passover meal was actually eaten on Nisan 15.
On this point Professors Keil and Delitzsch say: “Different opinions have prevailed among the Jews from a very early date as to the precise time intended. Aben Ezra agrees with the Caraites and Samaritans in taking the first evening to be the time when the sun sinks below the horizon, and the second the time of total darkness; in which case, ‘between the two evenings’ would be from 6 o’clock to 7.20. . . . According to the rabbinical idea, the time when the sun began to descend, viz. from 3 to 5 o’clock, was the first evening, and sunset the second; so that ‘between the two evenings’ was from 3 to 6 o’clock. Modern expositors have very properly decided in favour of the view held by Aben Ezra and the custom adopted by the Caraites and Samaritans.”—Commentary on the Old Testament, 1973, Vol. I, The Second Book of Moses, p. 12; see DAY.
From the foregoing, and particularly in view of such texts as Exodus 12:17, 18, Leviticus 23:5-7, and Deuteronomy 16:6, 7, the weight of evidence points to the application of the expression “between the two evenings” to the time between sunset and dark. This would mean that the Passover meal was eaten well after sundown on Nisan 14, for it took considerable time to slaughter, skin, and roast the animal thoroughly. Deuteronomy 16:6 commands: “You should sacrifice the passover in the evening as soon as the sun sets.” Jesus and his apostles observed the Passover meal “after evening had fallen.” (Mr 14:17; Mt 26:20) Judas went out immediately after the Passover observance, “And it was night.” (Joh 13:30) When Jesus observed the Passover with his 12 apostles, there must have been no little conversation; then, too, some time would have been occupied by Jesus in washing the apostles’ feet. (Joh 13:2-5) Hence, the institution of the Lord’s Evening Meal certainly took place quite late in the evening.
At the Passover in Egypt, the head of the family was responsible for the slaying of the lamb (or goat) at each home, and all were to stay inside the house to avoid being slain by the angel. The partakers ate in a standing position, their hips girded, staff in hand, sandals on so as to be ready for a long journey over rough ground (whereas they often did their daily work barefoot). At midnight all the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain, but the angel passed over the houses on which the blood had been spattered. (Ex 12:11, 23) Every Egyptian household in which there was a firstborn male was affected, from the house of Pharaoh himself to the firstborn of the prisoner. It was not the head of the house, even though he may have been a firstborn, but was any male firstborn in the household under the head, as well as the male firstborn of animals, that was slain.—Ex 12:29, 30; see FIRSTBORN, FIRSTLING.
The Ten Plagues upon Egypt all proved to be a judgment against the gods of Egypt, especially the tenth, the death of the firstborn. (Ex 12:12) For the ram (male sheep) was sacred to the god Ra, so that splashing the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorways would be blasphemy in the eyes of the Egyptians. Also, the bull was sacred, and the destruction of the firstborn of the bulls would be a blow to the god Osiris. Pharaoh himself was venerated as a son of Ra. The death of Pharaoh’s own firstborn would thus show the impotence of both Ra and Pharaoh.
Record of Passovers Observed. The Hebrew Scriptures give direct accounts of the Passover (1) in Egypt (Ex 12); (2) in the wilderness at Sinai, Nisan 14, 1512 B.C.E. (Nu 9); (3) when they reached the Promised Land, at Gilgal and after the circumcision of the males, 1473 B.C.E. (Jos 5); (4) at the time that Hezekiah restored true worship (2Ch 30); (5) the Passover of Josiah (2Ch 35); and (6) the celebration by Israel after the return from Babylonian exile (Ezr 6). (Also, mention is made of Passovers held in Samuel’s day and during the days of the kings, at 2Ch 35:18.) After the Israelites were settled in the land, the Passover festival was observed “in the place that Jehovah will choose to have his name reside,” instead of in each home or in the various cities. In time, the chosen place came to be Jerusalem.—De 16:1-8.
According to traditional Jewish sources, red wine was used and four cups were handed around, although the service was not restricted to four cups. Psalms 113 to 118 were sung during the meal, concluding with Psalm 118. It is likely that it was one of these psalms that Jesus and his apostles sang in concluding the Lord’s Evening Meal.—Mt 26:30.
Accommodations were made available in the homes for those coming to Jerusalem for Passover observance. In an Oriental home all the rooms could be slept in, and several persons could be accommodated in one room. Also, the flat roof of the house could be used. Added to this is the fact that numbers of the celebrants obtained accommodations outside the city walls, especially at Bethphage and Bethany, two villages on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.—Mr 11:1; 14:3.
“The first day of the unfermented cakes.” A question also arises in connection with the statement at Matthew 26:17: “On the first day of the unfermented cakes the disciples came up to Jesus, saying: ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the passover?’”
The expression “the first day” here could be rendered “the day before.” Concerning the use of the Greek word here translated “first,” a footnote on Matthew 26:17 in the New World Translation says: “Or, ‘On the day before.’ This rendering of the Gr. word [pro′tos] followed by the genitive case of the next word agrees with the sense and rendering of a like construction in Joh 1:15, 30, namely, ‘he existed before [pro′tos] me.’” According to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, “[pro′tos] is sts. [sometimes] used where we should expect [pro′te·ros (meaning ‘former, earlier’)].” (Revised by H. Jones, Oxford, 1968, p. 1535) At this time, Passover day had come to be generally considered as the first day of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. So, then, the original Greek, harmonized with Jewish custom, allows for the question to have been asked of Jesus on the day before Passover.
Certain features of the Passover observance were fulfilled by Jesus. One fulfillment lies in the fact that the blood on the houses in Egypt delivered the firstborn from destruction at the hands of the destroying angel. Paul speaks of anointed Christians as the congregation of the firstborn (Heb 12:23), and of Christ as their deliverer through his blood. (1Th 1:10; Eph 1:7) No bones were to be broken in the Passover lamb. It had been prophesied that none of Jesus’ bones would be broken, and this was fulfilled at his death. (Ps 34:20; Joh 19:36) Thus the Passover kept by the Jews for centuries was one of those things in which the Law provided a shadow of the things to come and pointed to Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God.”—Heb 10:1; Joh 1:29.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Nisan 12 and 13
Jesus spends Nisan 12 quietly with his disciples. He realizes that the religious leaders desperately want to kill him, and he does not want them to hinder his Passover celebration the following evening. (Mark 14:1, 2) The next day, Nisan 13, people are busy making final arrangements for the Passover. Early in the afternoon, Jesus sends Peter and John to prepare the Passover for them in an upper room in Jerusalem. (Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:8) A little before sundown, Jesus and the other ten apostles meet them there for their last Passover celebration.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
It is early in the morning, and Jesus and his disciples are already on their way over the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. As they arrive at the temple, the chief priests and the older men are quick to confront Jesus. Fresh on their minds is his action against the money changers and the traders in the temple. His enemies venomously demand: "By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?" "I, also, will ask you one thing," Jesus counters. "If you tell it to me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism by John, from what source was it? From heaven or from men?" Huddling together, the opponents reason: "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why, then, did you not believe him?' If, though, we say, 'From men,' we have the crowd to fear, for they all hold John as a prophet." Stumped, they weakly answer: "We do not know." Jesus calmly responds: "Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things."—Matthew 21:23-27.
Jesus' enemies now try to trap him into saying something for which they can have him arrested. "Is it lawful," they ask, "to pay head tax to Caesar or not?" "Show me the head tax coin," Jesus retorts. He asks: "Whose image and inscription is this?" "Caesar's," they say. Confounding them, Jesus states clearly for all to hear: "Pay back, therefore, Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God."—Matthew 22:15-22.
Having silenced his enemies with irrefutable argumentation, Jesus now goes on the offensive before the crowds and his disciples. Listen as he fearlessly denounces the scribes and the Pharisees. "Do not do according to their deeds," he says, "for they say but do not perform." Boldly, he pronounces a series of woes on them, identifying them as blind guides and hypocrites. "Serpents, offspring of vipers," Jesus says, "how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?"—Matthew 23:1-33.
These scathing denunciations do not mean that Jesus is blind to the good points of others. Later, he sees people drop money into the temple treasury chests. How touching to observe a needy widow drop in her entire means of living—two small coins worth very little! With warm appreciation, Jesus points out that, in effect, she has dropped in far more than all who made lavish contributions "out of their surplus." In his tender compassion, Jesus deeply appreciates whatever a person is able to do.—Luke 21:1-4.
Jesus is now leaving the temple for the last time. Some of his disciples remark on its magnificence, that it is "adorned with fine stones and dedicated things." To their surprise, Jesus replies: "The days will come in which not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down." (Luke 21:5, 6) As the apostles follow Jesus out of the congested city, they wonder what he could possibly mean.
Well, a little later Jesus and his apostles sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Mount of Olives. As they take in the splendid view of Jerusalem and the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew seek clarification of Jesus' startling prediction. "Tell us," they say, "When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?"—Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3, 4.
In reply the Master Teacher gives a truly remarkable prophecy. He predicts severe wars, earthquakes, food shortages, and pestilences. Jesus also foretells that the good news of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the earth. "Then," he warns, "there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world's beginning until now, no, nor will occur again."—Matthew 24:7, 14, 21; Luke 21:10, 11.
The four apostles listen attentively as Jesus discusses other aspects of 'the sign of his presence.' He emphasizes the need to "keep on the watch." Why? "Because," says he, "you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."—Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:33, 35, 37.
This has been an unforgettable day for Jesus and his apostles. It is, in fact, the last day of Jesus' public ministry before his arrest, trial, and execution. Since it is getting late, they start walking back the short distance over the hill to Bethany.
Bible reading of Luke Chapter 20 below:
"Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able."—Luke 13:23, 24.
Which is Right?
The Bible says: "A man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law." It also says: "A man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone." Which is right? Are we declared righteous by faith or by works?—Romans 3:28; James 2:24.
The harmonious answer from the Bible is that both are correct.
For centuries the Law that God gave through Moses had required Jewish worshipers to make specific sacrifices and offerings, to observe festival days, and to conform to dietary and other requirements. Such "works of law," or simply "works," were no longer necessary after Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice.—Romans 10:4.
But the fact that these works performed under the Mosaic Law were replaced by Jesus' superlative sacrifice did not mean that we can ignore the Bible's instructions. It says: "How much more will the blood of the Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from [the older] dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?"—Hebrews 9:14.
How do we "render sacred service to the living God"? Among other things, the Bible tells us to combat the works of the flesh, to resist the world's immorality, and to avoid its snares. It says: "Fight the fine fight of the faith," put off "the sin that easily entangles us," and "run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus." And the Bible urges us not to 'get tired and give out in our souls.'—1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 12:1-3; Galatians 5:19-21.
We do not earn salvation by doing these things, for no human could ever do enough to merit such an astounding blessing. We are not worthy of this magnificent gift, though, if we fail to demonstrate our love and obedience by doing the things that the Bible says God and Christ want us to do. Without works to demonstrate our faith, our claim to follow Jesus would fall far short, for the Bible clearly states: "Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself."—James 2:17.Go here for a detailed article on this subject.
Further on this subject, listen to an audio article using the player below:
Monday, April 6, 2009
Jesus arrives at the temple early. Yesterday, he could not help but be incensed at the gross commercialization of the worship of his Father, Jehovah God. With great fervor, therefore, he begins throwing out those buying and selling in the temple. Then he overturns the tables of the greedy money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," Jesus exclaims, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a cave of robbers."—Matthew 21:12, 13.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the principal men cannot stand Jesus' actions and public teaching. How they ache to kill him! But they are stymied by the crowd because the people are astounded by Jesus' teaching and they keep "hanging onto him to hear him." (Luke 19:47, 48) As evening approaches, Jesus and his companions enjoy the pleasant walk back to Bethany for a good night's rest.
Listen to a Bible reading of Luke Chapter 19, using the player below:
After the Sabbath, Jerusalem is abuzz with activity. Thousands of visitors have already converged on the city for the Passover. But the noisy commotion we hear is more than usual for this time of the year. Inquisitive crowds are rushing down narrow streets to the city's gateways. As they shove their way out of the congested gates, what a sight greets them! Many jubilant people are making their way down the Mount of Olives on the road from Bethphage. (Luke 19:37) What is the meaning of all of this?
Look! Jesus of Nazareth comes riding on the colt of an ass. People spread garments out on the road ahead of him. Others wave freshly cut palm branches and joyfully shout: "Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah's name, even the king of Israel!"—John 12:12-15.
As the crowd nears Jerusalem, Jesus looks at the city and is deeply moved. He begins weeping, and we hear him foretelling that this city will be destroyed. When Jesus arrives at the temple a short time later, he teaches the crowds and cures blind and lame people who come to him.—Matthew 21:14; Luke 19:41-44, 47.
This does not go unnoticed by the chief priests and the scribes. How vexed they are to see the marvelous things Jesus does and the jubilation of the crowds! Unable to conceal their indignation, the Pharisees demand: "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." "I tell you," Jesus replies, "If these remained silent, the stones would cry out." Before departing, Jesus notes the commercial activities in the temple.—Luke 19:39, 40; Matthew 21:15, 16; Mark 11:11.
Listen to a Bible reading of Luke Chapter 19, using the player below: