The Sounds of Weeping and Wailing

Easter

 

Isaiah 65:17-25

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

John 20:1-18

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

This passage of Isaiah is associated with Easter because of verse 17, and the images that follow. Pay close attention now: I’m creating new heavens and a new earth. All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. MSG

In Jesus’ day, this passage was believed to describe what the Messiah would do. I shall create Jerusalem as a joy, and her people as a delightJSB In our Messianic zeal, let’s not get carried away. This passage describes the work of God, not Jesus. At some point, human history will cease, and God will create a whole new universe. Humans will be created with bodies like that of Jesus. We will no longer have social, racial, intellectual, economic, or political divisions.

The Other will be an extension of Me. The thoughts and motives of the Other will be the same as Mine. The Other will not fear Me, nor Me the Other.

As it is now when I meet a stranger, I must decide if he is a friend/foe, my equal/better, pleasant/nasty, artist/truck driver. Even as we become acquainted, there are new things to learn. Anyone married for 50 years can tell you they still don’t understand the other person, even as they finish each other’s sentences.

Millions of people experience the gripping fear of being alone; of always being misunderstood; of being an alien in a strange world. Suicides are a common result.

I have recently read about the 1683 attempt of the Ottoman Empire to capture the city of Vienna as the gateway to conquering all of Europe. Western Christians see this simply as a Christian victory over Islam, and worse: the victory of Good over Evil.

The reality was very different. The makeup of the opposing armies was a mixed bag. To keep it simple, Moslems fought with the Christians and Christians fought with the Moslems. The king of France, as well as several small Christian nations, supported the Ottomans and several Moslem nations supported the Christians. It was not a war between the Christian God and the Moslem Allah. It was mostly a political battle dressed up in religious clothing.

Wars are great for evil. The Great Lier works hard to get us to attack each other. He especially loves it when we fight over God.

None of that will happen in the New Jerusalem. We will be new people, and the Great Lier will be gone. No, we cannot blame all our troubles on Satan. You and I are perfectly capable of assuming the worst about others.

In our new forms in the New Jerusalem, we will know and understand each other, so we will have nothing to fight about. Never again shall be heard there the sounds of weeping and wailingJSB

But look at this. He who dies at a hundred years shall be reckoned a youth, and he who fails to reach a hundred shall be reckoned accursedJSB According to Isaiah, we will die in the New Jerusalem.

Can that be right?

The simple answer is, Yes. Isaiah said it, it must be true.

But Easter is about defeating death. The Messiah died a normal death. He entered the realm of Hell where he did battle with the fallen Angel of Death. Having defeated Death, the Messiah returned to the earth to report on his success.

In John 14:18-20, we read, I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. ESV

Matthew 19:28-30. “Believe me,” said Jesus, “when I tell you that in the next world, when the Son of Man shall sit down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and become judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or land for my sake will receive it all back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.” Phillips

Eternal life is not a developed concept in the Old Testament. New Life, yes. Jesus brings a different tone to the Life-After discussion. Pharisees of Jesus’ day already believed in eternal life, but they had only a vague notion of how that would happen. Only Jesus, as God’s only special and perfect Son, could pull it off. While Pharisees could speak of a new life without sin, they could not imagine how it could happen.

We now know that God must destroy all the sources of evil, much like the Jewish practice of searching out and destroying all the leavening agents in the house at Passover. Without darkness, there will be only light; without hatred, there will only be love; without sin, there will only be perfection.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Crucify Him

Palm Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 23:1-49

Psalm 31:9-16

Let’s look closer at Jesus’ treatment by Pilate. Luke makes it clearer than the other Gospels that the Governor did not want to execute Jesus. There are several possible reasons for his attitude, any one of which might have been enough to sway him. Rome had recently ordered him to be more lenient on the Jews.  Pilate received his appointment as Governor in 26 AD by Sejanus, acting on behalf of Tiberius. Over the next several years, Sejanus took over more and more of the power until he was ready to overthrow Tiberius. But, not without being noticed. Sejanus was arrested and executed the same day.

That bit of history is important because Sejanus selected Pilate specifically because they both hated the Jews. It was Sejanus who encouraged Pilate to treat them harshly. But when Tiberius got word of defiling the Temple in Jerusalem, he ordered Pilate to change his actions. Within a year or two, Sejanus was dead, and Pilate was trying to figure out just how much power he really had.

Another point is that Pilate’s main job was to maintain peace so that taxes flowed to Rome uninterrupted. If he accepted the Jewish leader’s request for execution without real evidence, he would risk a popular uprising. Remember that Jesus had hundreds of vocal supporters just a few days earlier when he rode in on a donkey. Killing anyone that popular would be dangerous.

Pilate was also responsible for following the law. Roman law was written, well known, and considered sacrosanct. If Pilate executed a local for no good legal reason, he could be replaced, even executed. True, that is the way it was supposed to be, but we all know high-level officials could get by with murder, literally, but not in so public a way.

Matthew gives us another motive in 27:19. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” ESV The Greek word translated here as righteous could apply, but she likely meant its more common meaning of innocent.

Take your pick. Any way you look at it, Pilate was not going to have a good day. I’m sure his report to Rome listed every effort he made to save Jesus. There is something important that did not make the list above. Jesus set himself up to die that day. He did everything he could to get the job done.

Now we need to consider the crowd. We know why the leaders of the Temple were there, but what about the average Man on the Street? Put yourself into Jerusalem the day before Passover. If you have a business to run on the busiest day of the year, you will not go to Pilate’s courtyard. If you are a woman, you will be home because there are too many strangers in town. About two-thirds, or more, of the population, are visitors intent on the serious preparations of the day.

That leaves a small group of men who have little to do or are ducking out of serious work. Mixed in are a few agitators working for the High Priest, Herod, or others. They do most of the shouting.

Strange things happen when people are in crowds. Let me quote from an article in Science/Tech,

Mob Mentality: The Brain Suppresses Personal Moral Code When In Groups; June 15, 2014, By Ben Wolford.

Mina Cikara, a sociologist at Carnegie Mellon University and her team of researchers have discovered a new insight into mob mentality — the propensity for groups of people to shed the inhibitions of societal and moral standards. Isolated individuals seldom heckle or riot. But throngs of sports fans torch cars, protesters storm government offices, and gangs go to war over intangible slights. Cikara and her colleagues may have discovered a culprit we can’t control: our brains.

“A group of people will often engage in actions that are contrary to the private moral standards of each individual in that group, sweeping otherwise decent individuals into ‘mobs’ that commit looting, vandalism, even physical brutality.”

If we do not guard our moral compass at all times, others may lead us astray. Yes, it can happen to me, and you.

Likely the crowd consisted of many men who were normally well behaved and considered good people. Most of them probably wondered later how they got so caught up in the events. Like the Greek soccer fans in the picture above, they did not go there to cause violence.

What we need to realize is that we are as guilty as the mob in front of Pilate. We are just as likely to follow the leader. Especially if the leaders state it as “us or them.” Or, “us or Yeshua.”

Crucify him!

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence