Sat, 29 March 2008
Way back in September of 2006 we posted a preview of "The Foundations of Biblical Thinking." This study of Torah has remained one of our most downloaded episodes, so by popular demand here it is in its entirety! So crucial to the Christian life, we will enter into Pentateuch's time-tested wisdom and find that the more we understand these first five books of the Bible, the more rest will come to our souls (cf. Jer 6:16).
Let us remember what Christ said "For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments [referring to Torah] and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 5:19-20). In addition, one cannot grasp Christ without a firm knowledge of the Old Testament.
Only by feeding upon Christ in Word as well as Sacrament will He transform us into Himself. These sacred texts are inspired by the Holy Spirit, without error and are ordained by God to be the means of solid instruction for His people. As the Old Testament is filled with riddles, however, one must dig deeply and prayerfully enter into them in order to it in order to adequately enrich ourselves – we bring folly upon ourselves when we ignore it.
The Old Testament offers four key gifts to Christians: (1) it points to Christ as the messiah and the savior of Israel; (2) it deepens our understanding of Christ by enabling us to read the New Testament in the light of the Old, and vice versa; (3) it provides a type of spiritual road-map for life, describing a saga which we are all fated to relive; and (4) it reformats our thinking to focus more on God, opening the doors into the infinite recesses of the Divine Heart and His sublime mysteries. What bountiful treasures await those who proceed in faith!
Far more than a myth, the Book of Genesis begins with the verse, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (1:1). In the distant beginnings of the human race, this verse establishes the most important things. Genesis is a book of origins and generations that follows the Hebrew logic that we understand the things of God by understanding His beginning.
If we humbly follow the Word to God on His terms instead of our own, He will increase our faith and will preserve us from doubting the veracity of these books. We simply must take these texts more seriously than we would children's stories; but the fact that some consider Genesis to be a series of mere fables highlights our need to interpret Torah correctly. By an earnest study of Torah throughout these fourteen episodes, we will gain a firm foundation to study the entire Bible, equipping ourselves to spread God's Word to the nations.
Remember that this series and all our other material is available on our webstore, siministries.org/Store. Thanks to Adam the Catholic for leaving us a review on iTunes - if you enjoy these podcasts please take a couple of minutes to leave us a short review there, as that will help us reach new listeners. Finally, this episode marks our first foray into music, and your feedback on that (and anything else, for that matter!) would be greatly appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Music: The Symphony No. 9, opus 95, "From the New World" by Antonin Dvorak from musopen.com.
Sat, 22 March 2008
While every Gospel contains a Resurrection account, Luke makes certain key insights. "At dawn [having departed while it was still dark], women travel to Jesus' tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled back" (24:1-2). Perplexed at the absence of Jesus' body, their confusion changed to fear when they saw two men in "dazzling garments" come to them. In an age before bleach, these women were convinced these were angels and "bowed to the ground" (v. 5). Upon hearing the angels' narrative, "they remembered His words" and were assured of His resurrection (v. 8).
These women, Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary the mother of James then travel to the eleven, but are not able to convince any of them except Peter. Only in Luke do we then get an account of Jesus on the road to Emmaus happening on the same day of His resurrection. After revealing to them "every passage of Scripture which referred to Him" on this road, He "pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them" (v. 27, 30). At this, their eyes were opened, He vanished from their sight and they said "Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us?" Let us not overlook the fact that their hearts were ablaze at the Hebrew Scriptures despite His disappearance and celebration of the Eucharist.
Starting in verse 36, Jesus reappears to the eleven, standing in their midst. Although Luke does not mention Thomas' absence, the other Gospel writers confirm that he was not present for this episode. Too awestruck to honor his request to "handle me," wishing to prove to them His resurrection, they "disbelieved for joy" (v. 39, 41). Again speaking of the Hebrew Scriptures, He then opened their minds, confirmed His resurrection and said, "And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem, You are witnesses of these things and behold I send the promise of my father upon you, but stay in [Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high" (v. 46-47). Strikingly similar to the opening of the Book of Acts, these verses reflect a sort of summation of all the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and end with the Ascension in verse 51. Luke's extremely concise writing here highlights the importance of knowing Him in the Hebrew Scriptures and compels His believers to spread Him to all nations in order to save men from their sins.
Sat, 15 March 2008
Although Chapter 22 depicts Jesus' final Passover beginning with Him blessing a cup, let us not be confused that this is the Institution of the Eucharist; he reveals Himself to us in bread and wine at the climax of the meal. Instead of following the order of the Passover meal to say "this is the Passover," upon the revelation of the hidden piece of unleavened bread, when Christ brings forth this bread, He says "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." It is after the meal that He says, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."
Luke then provides a recapitulation of the earlier conversation while at table. Thus, his reference to Judas perfectly is logical, for the other synoptics clearly show the betrayer leaving their company before the Eucharist (v. 20 ff).
As we mentioned last week, Luke provides a wonderful account of Jesus' words to Peter during the meal, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you...but I prayed for your faith may not fail..." (vv. 31-32). This is akin to other Biblical descriptions of Satan the accuser.
Bewildered after Christ's arrest, the man who was first to draw his sword in defense of Christ is the first to commit apostasy. Christ foreknows His sin and still trusts in His leadership, for He says at the meal "when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (v. 32).
According to His custom, He travels to the Mount of Olives to pray after the meal under the full Passover moon. In agony, Portraying His supreme obedience to God, He prays, "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (v. 42).
Perhaps dressed in civilian clothes to deter a riot, "there came a crowd, and the man called Judas...was leading them." One of Luke's key details is the retort "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" (v. 49). After this, Luke gives the brief account of Peter's sword-wielding in Gethsemane, the apostle's betrayal, the fateful glance upon the face of Jesus and the start of Peter's repentance.
While incarcerated, Jesus is maltreated and mocked. At the end of Chapter 22, the Jews have united in a desire to kill Him and decided to present Him to Pilate.
Upon hearing that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate takes Him to Herod Antipas, who is in Jerusalem for the Passover. Not deeming Him worthy of death, the worldly, shrewd Herod and his men treat Him with contempt before sending Him back to Pilate dressed in a purple robe. Pilate is hesitant to kill Jesus (let us remember his wife's warning, accounted in the other Gospels), wanting instead to "chastise him and release him." At the incessant crowd's demands, Pilate agrees to crucify Him in order to deter an insurrection and maintain his Governorship.
In 23:26, Luke's account then depicts the Way of the Cross. Simon of Cyrene (North Africa) assists Jesus and He speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem to beware an hour when even greater disorder will come: "do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children...For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (v. 28, 31).
Mocking Him all the way to the cross, "And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and on the left" (v. 23). While the rulers scoff at Him, Jesus says to the good thief at His right, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (v. 43). Paradise, a term that literally means a garden or a blessed state speaks to this man's eternal resting place, even though he may have needed a time of purification.
Even in Luke's truncated transcription of these events, he provides key details that exemplify Christ's deity during His last earthly moments. Only Luke relates that the "curtain of the temple was torn in two."
"'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!' And having said this He breathed His last" (v. 46).
The multitudes, upon seeing His crucifixion, returned home beating their breasts. Verse 50 shows a fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah 53, as Joseph of Arimathea lays Christ's body in a rich man's tomb. Before the Sabbath rest, the women hurried to prepare his body and prepared to return to the tomb on the first day of the week.
Sat, 8 March 2008
Luke's depiction of the Olivet Discourse is a wonderful, powerful message. Verse 5 begins with the warning, "the day will come when not one stone [of the Temple] will be left on another, but it will all be torn down" and "take care not to be misled. Many will come in my name saying, 'I am he' [...] do not follow them." He assures us, "the end will not be at once," meaning to state the various stages in the eschatological events to come.
All who are in the world during the times of cataclysms must be radically dependent on the Father to survive for any length of time, and many will win the crown of martyrdom: "some of you will be put to death [...] yet not a hair of your head will be harmed. By patient endurance you will save your lives" (v. 12-19). Jesus warns the crowds to leave Jerusalem when soldiers surround it, good advice not only because David's City will later be sacked by Gentiles in 70 A.D., but because it will experience a final destruction. He then speaks of the foolishness that is fearful speculation as to the timing of such events. Rather, He confirms that a living in radical obedience to the Gospel is the only way to heed these words spoken on the Mount of Olives.
The Parable of the Fig Tree illustrates the nearness of God's Kingdom and establishes that succumbing to "the cares of this life" is equally destructive to drunkenness or indulgence.
On Wednesday before His crucifixion, the high priests and scribes plot Jesus' death with Judas.
The following day, Thursday, Jesus and His Twelve celebrate the Passover. Jesus celebrates the first Eucharist with His disciples, effectively saying that He is the passover sacrifice who will die for them. Immediately after this, He takes the Eucharistic cup and says "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you". Though some believe Luke places Judas at the meal during the Eucharist, the Gospel of John explicitly contradicts this. Luke instead is trying to summarize Judas' role in the Passover meal.
Let us not overlook what Jesus says to Peter: "Simon, Simon! Remember that Satan has asked for you, to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may never fail. You in turn [even though you will betray me] must strengthen your brothers" (v. 31-33).
Verses 35-38 may initially seem difficult to interpret, but a closer look reveals that instead of an assent to violence or statement of God's abandonment, but He is simply stating that this is a night where everything will be turned upside down and therefore all must be ready.
You can now purchase Luke and lots of other great material at our new webstore: http://siministries.org/Store.
Sat, 1 March 2008
Starting in Luke 19:28, we join Jesus in his final pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. From the time of Christ until the destruction of the Temple, the Passover reaches its highest point of prominence in the Jewish liturgical calendar. Swelling three-times its size, the crooked, oriental streets of Jerusalem are crowded with pilgrims and lambs to be slaughtered.
Juxtaposing the violent end that will befall Him, He enters the city in a peaceable manner – by riding a colt (also referred to as an ass in some translations). A combination of the large crowds and the inspiring, Messianic-laden liturgies that take place in the Temple make for a potential powder-keg situation. Upon seeing the renowned miracle-worker riding on the cold, the crowd erupts with shouts of "Blessed is He who comes as king in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Though His disciples try to bring order to the palm-bearing crowd, Jesus affirms that such a greeting is in accord with the Father's will, for He says "If they were to keep silence, I tell you the very stones would cry out." A sort of prefigurement of His Second Coming, one does well not to overlook the multiple layers of His entrance, specifically the focus on Christ as king.
In verse 45, Jesus ejects the traders and those selling concessions from the Court of the Gentiles, saying "my house is meant to be a house of prayer [for all nations]." This event takes place on the Monday before His crucifixion, and showcase His might. Not only does he expel the money-changers and practically gain complete control of the Temple Mount, but He confounds the questions of the priests and Pharisees who question his authority.
After they question Him, he directs the biting Parable of the Tenants at these priests and scribes. In this parable, a man planted a vineyard but his wicked tenants kill everyone he sends to reclaim what is rightfully his, even to the point of killing the master's beloved son. He shows how these Jewish authorities are acting exactly as the tenants do in His parable: in their hatred for Christ and inability to accept Him as the Messiah, they throw away all reason and seek to kill Him. At this point, they greatly increase the number of spies they send into the Temple to question Jesus, seeking to catch Him off-guard that they might deliver Him into the Governor's court on a charge or public disorder, or worse. In every instance, Jesus outwits these adversaries with great rabbinical arguments (cf. v. 20-25 and v. 27-40).
In the week leading up to the Crucifixion, Jesus teaches daily in the Temple and retires over the Mount of Olives into Bethany each night. Notable teachings of this week include a warning to avoid the religious pride of the Pharisees and an affirmation of God's pleasure with the poor widow he sees giving all she had to the temple treasury.
After He leaves Jerusalem for Bethany on Tuesday night, He predicts not only His passion and the destruction of the cataclysm to come, although the Disciples cannot seem to understand these teachings. Next week we will study Jesus' Olivet Discourse and those other events leading up to the Last Supper.
You can now purchase Luke and lots of other great material at our new webstore: http://siministries.org/Store.