Palm Sunday–Some thoughts about how Jesus may have felt and what he saw from the Mt. of Olives on that day

“After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, . . . ”   Luke 19:28

 

On our trip to Israel in spring of 2019, Tra and I did get a chance to go to the Mt. of Olives, a hilly informal plot of land where ancient olive trees and stones are planted.  But we looked out across the Kidron Valley (as seen below) and saw what Jesus may have seen.

From the Mount of Olives Jesus and his disciples saw the great city of  Jerusalem, the City of David, Zion, the Eternal City.  The picture below is the 2019 version of Jerusalem as seen from the Mt. of Olives. The gold dome¹ covers the Jewish Temple Mount, the cornerstone of the temple that was standing when Jesus and his disciples looked over the city.

Mt of Olives
There we are (somewhere) standing at the overlook on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus and His disciples may have stood to view the Holy City.

 

What did Jesus feel when He saw the Eternal City that day?

Herod's Temple

He saw the ancient Jewish temple that King Herod the Great had re-built.²    He knew about the central structure, the “Holy of Holies,” in which hung the veil that would be “rent asunder” the moment He died on the cross.

Tower of David and old city walls

The Tower of David and the city walls built by Herod the Great, pictured here, 2019.

He saw Herod the Great’s magnificent renovations to the temple and the more magnificent palace dominating the city-scape. Herod was famous as Rome’s master builder.  But for  Jesus and his Jewish followers, this Herod was the same man responsible—just 33 years before—for the mass murder of all Jewish boys under 2-years old. It was Herod’s attempt to eliminate the baby who was Jesus, now a man who  was viewing the city from the Mt. of Olives.  How did Jesus and His disciples feel when they saw the palace of this mass-murderer in their Holy City?

Adjacent to the temple stood Antonia’s Fortress, another architectural masterpiece, Herod’s monument honoring the Roman leader Marc Antony.  This fortress is where the governor’s of Rome would stay the following weekend–the weekend of Christ’s crucifixion–because it was from Antonia’s Fortress that they would have a clear and up-close view of Golgotha.

 

¹The gold dome, now famously called “The Dome of the Rock,” was built by a Moslem caliph in the 7th century C.E.   For the Moslems, it commemorates the place from where Mohammed was lifted for his sacred Night Journey, a visit to Allah in heaven. No Jews or Christians are allowed in the “Dome of the Rock.”

²A model of the Temple, which would have stood where the Golden Dome is now seen.  The image comes from the Oxford Biblical Studies on-line. 

 

Senate bill 311 regarding survivors of abortions

Today, the issue of abortion reclaims US political headlines, but with a different focus.

Sometimes attempts at abortions fail, and there is a dilemma as to what to do when this happens.  What should happen in this difficult situation?  It seems that Congress dealt with the issue in 2001 and again in 2015.  Headlines indicate that a recent Senate bill addressing the issue has failed, but will re-emerge today, April 3, 2019. S.311

We pray on behalf of those people in our hospitals and clinics and in homes across the country who are personally involved.  Psalm 139 is a wonderful celebratory prayer affirming the presence of God in each life.  These infants were “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and God’s thoughts towards them and his presence with them has been since before “their bodies were woven together in their mother’s womb.”

Psalm 139: 7-18  (NIV)
Where can I go from your Spirit?   Where can I flee from your presence?   . . .
. . . If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–when I awake, I am still with you. . . .

A wonderful scripture from a sermon by Moses to the Israelites gives us much encouragement about our prayers for our nation:

Deuteronomy 4:7  “And what other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”

 

Transfiguration of Christ

The account  of the supernatural transformation of Christ is recorded in the synoptic gospels (Mark 9:2-8; Matt. 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). There is no mention of the event in the gospel of John, but there is a reference at 2 Pet.  1:18.

In the context of the the Bible, the mention of Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) standing with Jesus at his transfiguration and the  cloud visible to the disciples as a symbol for the divine presence (Exod. 33:7-11) signify the relationship of this New Testament account to the ancient Jewish Old Testament account as told in Exodus 24:16.

To strengthen the connection of this New Testament event with the Old Testament, the three dwellings (or tents, booths) proposed by Peter to shade Jesus, Moses, and Elijah reference the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated annually by the Jews.   During this week-long event, in order to remember the wilderness experience of their ancestors, the Jews lived in booths or tents  like their ancestors were believed to have done in the wilderness (Lev. 23:42) and would do so again in the Messianic age.

Moses’s face once shone with the reflected glory of God (Exod. 34:29); on the mount, Jesus’s figure shone with its own glory, and his clothes were ‘dazzling white’.  The human life of Jesus was not merely a revelation to the disciples but also a promise of what all believers are destined to enjoy–the ultimate religious union of the human person with God, meaning not that a human being might become a god, or part of a god, but that the divine image might be finally and fully manifested in a created being whose life had been redeemed with the righteousness of Christ.¹

                                                                                                                                                                 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.                                                                       II Corinthians 3:18

 

¹”transfiguration.” In A Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. W. R. F. Browning. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. 02Mar2019<http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e1945&gt;.

Where is Gehenna Now?

The laws given to Moses by God over 3,000 years ago expressly forbade the Jews to do what is now legal in the State of New York.   

“You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Moloch, and so profane the name of your God”  (Leviticus 18:21), ordered the God of Moses.  You shall not sacrifice your children.

Moloch or Molech was an ancient Canaanite god to whom children were sacrificed.   The practice may have lasted from as early as 1400s BCE to 500s BCE to the time of good King Josiah, the last king of Judah, and beyond, throughout the Assyrian culture.  II Kings 23:10  “[Josiah] desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek.”  In spite of God’s decree in the Book of Moses, even Jewish kings  (2 Kings 16:3 & 2 Kings 21:6) worshipped Moloch at the hilled site, the Valley of Ben Hinnom, which was outside the walls of Jerusalem.  While the practice flourished for centuries, it continued to be condemned in Jewish law: Lev. 18:21; 2 Kgs. 23:10; Jer. 32:35. 

Anthropology tells us that child sacrifice is not uncommon in more modern history of mankind.  Archeologists recently found an extreme case in Peru of a 500-year-old mass grave of children sacrificed to the god of weather.  Scientists believe the sacrifice in Peru was made in the hopes of preventing El Nino flooding.  Read about it here.   Fox news report

In the United States, we consider ourselves much more civilized than the Peruvian tribe or the ancient Canaanites.  To apply the words “child sacrifice” to describe our culture would be abhorrent.  We are much more sophisticated than to believe, as the ancients did, that there are demanding gods who must be soothed and to whom we must capitulate or be punished.  Furthermore, we are humane.  We realize that children are vulnerable and innocent and need our protection, not our abuse.

While there are, now, scores of examples of America’s law enforcement rescuing our children from life-threatening abuse and neglect, it wasn’t always so.  Until the late 19th century, in America, parents had full rights over their children regardless of how they treated them.  According to law, parents had the right to punish their children in any form and to use them for any purpose; the parents, not the government, were the parents.  Child protection laws in the United States began in 1874, after an attorney used an animal protection law to finally win his defense of a nine-year-old girl against her parents’ daily beatings.  American Bar Association

Almost exactly a century later in 1973, with Roe vs. Wade, America expanded her view of child protection and began also of thinking of the mother’s health.   Rightly or wrongly, many Americans accepted abortion as a remedy for bringing children into a lifetime of hopeless physical circumstances and a way to protect a mother’s gestational and mental health.

Before Roe, in our grandparents’ time, “abortion” was generally understood as a fetus that was naturally expelled from his/her mother’s womb.  A problem with the child’s or the mother’s health was recognized and resolved naturally by the mother’s body.  To experience an abortion at that time in history was sad, even devastating, for parents; but as emotionally painful as it was, it was generally regarded as a beautiful act of mercy by Mother Nature. For many in America,  Roe is a merciful response to the thousands of situations in our country that are neither beautiful nor merciful for mother or child.

Last week, Andrew Cuomo signed into law a different sort of abortion.  This abortion allows the embryo to complete his or her gestational development and make the journey through his or her mother’s birth canal into the arms of the delivery nurse. The child in this abortion meets the characteristics of those children of the ancients who were sacrificed to a cultural god: a living and worthy oblation.

Cuomo’s abortion bypasses the considerations of Roe, which, even to pro-life advocates like me, must be recognized as having good intentions.  Moreover, while  our grandmothers experienced great sorrow and mourning related to Mother Nature’s abortions, New York celebrates her abortion law as progress for women’s rights.

Andrew Cuomo’s signature on New York’s new abortion law may signify the final step in the process of defining abortion in America.  What is it?  Is it a way of protecting our children as America is wont to do?  Or, does it require New York’s infants to surrender their lives for something else?   Power & money?  Self and self-determination?  Science?  Idealism?  Indeed, these are the gods of America.

In the ancient rite, after children were sacrificed by fire to Molech, they were taken possession of by the Canaanite god in the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, a valley outside Jerusalem.   Jer. 7:31.  “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord.  . . . They have built  high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire.   . . .  ”  During the centuries of the first millennium BCE, there was a continuously-burning dump in Gehenna–burning with fires fueled by the sacrificed bodies of children.  In New Testament times, the fires of Gehenna became a symbol for death and Hades.¹

Where is New York’s Gehenna?  Where can we go to mourn the loss of these precious lives lost to abortion?  To what gods are New Yorkers sacrificing their  children?

 

_____________________________

¹”Gehenna.” In A Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. W. R. F. Browning. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. 30-Jan-2019. <http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e733&gt;.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Moloch” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.  February 26, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Moloch-ancient-god, January 30, 2019.

Hannah’s trip to Shiloh Commentary 11/18/2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20 

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 

     In this period of Israel’s history, there were two kinds of sacrifice:  In one, the sacrificial animal was burned and totally consumed on the altar; in the other, the animal was offered in communion with other worshipers who would share its remains.  Elkanah’s offering was the latter.  

Continue reading “Hannah’s trip to Shiloh Commentary 11/18/2018”

Immigrants

“From 1854 to 1929 an estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children were placed throughout the United States and Canada during the Orphan Train Movement.  When the orphan train movement began, it was estimated that 30,000 abandoned children were living on the streets of New York City.”
The article from The National Orphan Train Museum website orphantraindepot.org  continues:

Need for the Orphan Trains

Mass Immigration – Part of the Problem

In 1853, the United States began surveying railroad lines to the Pacific, mapping four different routes. Posters, flyers and advertisements were sent to Europe and the rest of the world extolling the virtues of coming to America and getting “free land.” Many were led to believe America was the “land of milk and honey” they so desperately wanted for themselves and their children.  As a result the United States received a larger number of immigrants than any other country in history.  Between 1841 and 1860, America welcomed 4,311,465 newcomers. Many left their homelands because of poor harvests, famines, political unrest and revolutions.  Agents of steamship lines along with the railroad companies attracted thousands to the United States with words such as “the land of opportunity” and “land of a second chance.” This brought laborers for the factories, tenants for western lands, and often chaos to young families when housing became a problem.

It wasn’t until 1882 that congress passed the first general immigration statute.

As early as 1830, some states passed immigration laws of their own but in 1872 the Supreme Court decided these state laws violated the constitution.

Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor, opened in 1892 as property of the United States Bureau of Immigration (later the Immigration and Naturalization Service) but the main structure was gutted by fire in 1897, reopening in 1900 processing 2,251 immigrants the first day.

In 1907, a record number (1,285,349) of immigrants were admitted to the United States. Ten years later, Congress passed a law that required an immigrant to prove that he could read and write at least one language. Physically handicapped and children under 16 did not have to meet this requirement.

The 1921 quota law allowed up to 357,000 aliens from countries outside the Western Hemisphere to enter the United States and by 1924, the total was down to 150,000.

Ellis Island closed in 1954 but became part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965.

 

Insufficient Living Conditions Added Problems

Port cities were overcrowded for even temporary housing. Tenements often housed ten or more persons to the room. Jobs became scarce and labor was cheap.

Without the extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles) to rely upon in times of need, young families fell apart. Children as young as six years old were working to help support the family.  Food became scarce. Job safety was not a priority causing many men to be killed in accidents at sea and in other work places. This left women and children to make their own way living as best they could.

Diseases from living in unsanitary quarters led to early deaths of overworked mothers.  Orphanages were built to care for as many children as could possibly be taken in. Adults could pay for the care on a weekly or monthly basis but if the payments stopped, the child became a ward of the court and was “disposed” of as the social workers saw fit.

 

Indoor Relief and Prejudice in Aid 

America’s first aid relief stemmed from the English Poor Laws of 1601. The laws allowed taxation to aid those in need by the government. While outdoor relief was offered in the form of money, clothes, food and other goods, relief in growing cities quickly shifted to indoor relief. The first New York State poorhouse open in 1734 turning the tide of aid offered in America toward indoor relief. Indoor relief came in many forms, poorhouses, orphanages, and work farms. While indoor relief was meant to “teach” struggling individuals to provided for themselves it led to segregation of the poor and an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to all in need.

Aid to the poor was left to the work of public and private aid organizations. This meant more relief but each organization created their own set of criteria. Race, nationality, religion, gender, martial status, and birth legitimacy would limit where individuals and families could seek help.

Lack of aid, epidemics, unsafe work environments, overcrowded tenements and wars would all contribute to children being placed in orphanages and asylums. Large city facilities could house upwards of 200 to 2000 children.

Ruth

From Ruth Chapter 1 in Sunday’s liturgy:  “But Ruth said, “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

         The short story of Ruth is celebrated by Jews and Christians alike as one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.  It is an important story of respect, loyalty and faithfulness between people–in spite of their differences in race and religion.
          In fact, it is the acceptance of these differences–the trust and reciprocal loyalty and kindness between Jew and non-Jew–that creates the primary role of the story in both the Jewish and Christian Bibles.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the union of Ruth the non-Jew and Boaz the Jew continues a synthesis of genealogy from Abraham the Jewish patriarch, to King David, to Jesus.
          In this story, an outsider, a Moabitess (a non-Jew), is a widow and marries the Jew Boaz from the tribe of Judah.  Their son Obed is the grandfather of David, the Jews’ greatest king, who, in turn, is the ancestor of Christianity’s Anointed One.  Ruth’s loyalty, her acceptance of and responsibility for family and faith has put Ruth as a central figure in the Judeo-Christian legacy.

Matthew 1:2-16

Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.  Judah begot Perez . . . begot . . . (5) Salmon begot Boaz by Rehab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king  . . . begot . . . begot . . .  begot . . . Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
                                    
 
Trivia question:  How many begots are there between Matthew 1:1 and Matthew 1:17?

Melchizedek

Melchizedek

THE NAME IS MENTIONED JUST TWICE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. The Canaanite king of the city of Salem (identified as Jerusalem) and priest of God Most High (El Elyon), Melchizedek met Abram when the latter was returning victorious from battle (Genesis 14:18-20).  In Genesis 14 verse 22, Abram says essentially: “‘Melchizedek calls his God ‘El Elyon’, I call my God Yahweh, but we worship the same God.’ No where in the Bible is there such a statement about a Canaanite God.”  (Broadman).

Later in Ps. 110.4, the Psalmist merges royal and priestly power by appropriating the order of Melchizedek, the king-priest.  Material from the Dead Sea Scrolls portrays Melchizedek as a heavenly being who will bring salvation (in fulfillment of Isa. 52.7-10 and 61.1-3) and judgment (in fulfillment of Ps. 7.7-8; 82.1-2) at the conclusion of the final jubilee (Lev. 25). (oxfordbiblicalstudies.com)

THE NAME AS USED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOK OF HEBREWS (Broadman):  The author of the letter to the Hebrews, citing Psalm 110.4, argues that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5.6, 10; 6.20; 7.17). This argument places the emphasis of the role of Christ as that of High Priest.

Paul’s theology emphasizes Christ as Saviour.  In his letters, Paul stresses the role of Jesus as Saviour:  that through His sacrificial death, Christ as Saviour redeemed mankind from the curse of the law and the power of the flesh, preventing eternal separation from a righteous God.

The theology in Hebrews does not differ regarding the role of Christ as Savior, but places emphasis on the role of Christ as High Priest.  As our High Priest, after we have accepted His miraculous salvation, Christ will take us into a remarkable knowledge of an unseen world where we can be in the very presence of God.

 

 

 

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Gods of the Copybook Headings

I use ballotpedia.org as my fact-checker.  Below is the beginning of a recent editorial from the website: 

Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” in 1919, when the world lay shattered after the devastation of World War I.

In the 19th-century, British students had special books, called copybooks. At the top of each page a piece of age-old wisdom was printed. These extolled traditional virtues such as honesty and fair dealing. It was the job of the students to repeatedly write the copybook lines down the page in the hopes that this would impress the virtues into their minds.

The point Kipling makes in his poem is that no matter how hard people try to avoid certain truths, they are still true, and they will ultimately prevail. You can try shortcuts all you want (and haven’t we all, at times?) but shortcuts don’t get you where you really want to be.

—end quote

Gods of the Copybook Page

ref.   http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_copybook.htm

Hillel the Great

Pictured below is a statue of the Jewish rabbi Hillel the Great teaching a boy standing on one foot.  (Don’t know why the one foot.)  He died 10-15 years after the birth of Jesus.

Hillel was liberal and lenient in his interpretation of the oral law; and his followers, who were prominent after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, were distinguished from the more rigorous school of Shammai, a contemporary. Commentators on the Mark scripture for October 7, 2018 point to this contrast.  Read here:  The Question About Divorce

Hillel is famous for the dictum: ‘What you hate, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Torah, while all the rest is commentary.’

 

Hillel teaching a child standing on one foot