The Bible Observations Part 5

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At dawn on the day of Passover, Peter who is fearful and disillusioned, denies that he knows Jesus and realizes Jesus’ terrible prediction has come true.  Judas faces his own guilt and hangs himself.  Pilate’s wife is also troubled because she dreams that her husband is about to execute an innocent man.  Caiaphas leans on Pilate, warning him that Jesus’ execution is necessary to keep the peace.  Pilate sentences Jesus to a beating as he does not want this man’s life on his hands.  At a public trial, he gives the crowd an option to free Jesus or to free Barabbas.  The crowd that was carefully selected by the Pharisees demands for Jesus’ death and the freedom of Barabbas.  One thing that should be noted is that the name Barabbas in Aramaic means “son of the father.”  Pilate asked the crowd who to free the “Son of the Father” or the “son of the father.”  Just when we thought the story was powerful enough, we have the opportunity to go deeper and find even more power.  By birth, I am Barabbas, you are Barabbas, and every human being is Barabbas.  By birth, we are natural liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers…sinners.  The punishment we all deserve is torture that ends in death by crucifixion.  Jesus Christ committed no sin but he became sin for us and took the penalty upon ourselves so that we may be right with God and with Him.  That is amazing Grace, that is the greatest demonstration of Love that could ever be made.

Back to the story of the episode:  The punishment for blasphemy is stoning to death, the priests convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus in the best interest of Rome as life would cause riots and disorder among followers.  Jesus, mocked and beaten, carries his cross through the crowds to Golgotha, the hill overlooking Jerusalem.  The same people who cheered on Jesus as he entered Jerusalem watched in silence and confusion as he left carrying a cross.  One thing that I found interesting in the movie was that the man who was ordered to assist Jesus carrying the cross acknowledged Jesus as Lord.  From what I understand, the Scriptures only note that a man was ordered to help carry the cross.  With the way the Bible episode portrayed it, the man who helped Jesus with the cross became the first dedicated disciple.  All the other followers ran and hid amongst the on looking crowds.  From what we know, only one person came forward and one person helped Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha.    

It was a common practice to have a sign on top of a cross to indicate the crime that was committed by the person being crucified.  Pilate ordered that the sign above Jesus be printed in three different languages that said:  “King of the Jews.”  A very interesting and noteworthy observation was that as Jesus was hanging on the cross, the annual animal sacrifice was about to be made the sacrifice of a pure white lamb.  When he breathes his last breath, the city quakes, the skies blacken, and the temple was destroyed with the Holy curtain split open.  The days following Jesus’ death are dark, especially for Peter who feels he failed Jesus.  Pilate believed that in a weeks’ time, Jesus would be forgotten and a new trend would begin.  But when Mary Magdalene goes to Jesus’ tomb, the world is yet again turned on its head.  The stone is broken, the tomb empty and a figure walks toward her.  Jesus Christ has overpowered death itself and is getting His followers ready to declare the Good News.

In Jerusalem during the Pentecost and with wavering faith, the disciples pray fervently and the Holy Spirit empowers them and they all speak in every language that was being spoken from people all around.  The first thought that came to my mind during this scene was that Communion brings Presence.  Their mission begins, but it will entail a constant battle of hatred and violence from non-believers.  When new follower Stephen speaks out against Paul of Tarsus he is stoned to death, however he had light in his eyes and joy in his heart and asked God to forgive the people stoning him for they did not know what they were doing.  Peter baptizes Cornelius as the first Roman then baptizes surrounding Romans to those who believe in Jesus and remembered Jesus on the boat promising him to be a fisher of men. 

Paul, whose belief in Jewish law has led him to despise the teachings of Jesus, is enlisted by Caiaphas to remove this new group of believers.  He starts beating them into silence but on a journey to Damascus, he is met by a vision and sees Jesus and is instantly blinded.  In an extraordinary change of faith, Paul is baptized and begins to preach passionately about what he has received, love and forgiveness for all.  Paul travels hundreds of miles and meets a young Greek called Luke and when the other Christians with Luke begin to show resentment towards Paul, Luke stands up for him and declared that the door must be open to anyone and everyone that knocks.  Paul and Luke go on to write most of the New Testament.  Persecution still persists as disciple James is beheaded in Jerusalem and the disciples have no choice but to scatter.  The word spreads with them, far and wide, Peter reaches Rome, Matthew and Thomas further still, but are all killed for their courage.  Only their written word survives.  But one last miracle remains, disciple John survives death and is instead exiled to solitary confinement on Patmos where he receives a revelation of hope while remembering all the events that took place while he was with Jesus.  He writes the very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation with this message in a nutshell:  Jesus is coming back and all who have the courage to keep the faith will be rewarded.

The Bible Observations Part 4

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Brutal Roman occupation has divided the Jews but Jesus is drawing in crowds in rural Galilee with his miraculous powers and his inspirational words.  He was going around forgiving sins and healing people, even on the Sabbath.  Something that I have found interesting was that in the episode as well as in the Scriptures, Jesus would declare an individual forgiven before the healing.  It seems that reconciliation precedes restoration.  He taught the people what the Kingdom of God was like using various parables.  Jesus Christ has become a Savior to some but a great threat to the Roman Empire as well as the religious leaders.  Pharisees like Simon believe the Jews will survive only by staying close to God through the traditions of Moses.  When Jesus continues to break the rules of Judaism, Simon takes his anger to the top and speaks with the High Priest, Caiaphas, in Jerusalem. 

The Pharisees are well known to be strict on keeping the Law of Moses and paying more attention to the written letter rather than the living flesh.  Jesus was demonstrating to everyone that we were not made for the Law; rather the Law was made for us.  I loved how Bishop T.D. Jakes described the purpose of the Scriptures:  “I have not kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept me.  I am not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath is made for me.  I am not serving the laws of God; the laws of God are serving me, protecting me, helping me, advising me, teaching me how to live.  I am not serving the text, the text is serving me.  I was not made for restricted living but made for protected living.”

The words from John 3:16-21 come to mind while watching the scenes mentioned in the first paragraph.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (ESV)

Crowds continue to flock to Jesus and when he miraculously feeds them all after teaching them the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, they call for him to be their King.  Jesus retreats from their aggressive demand and the disciples are thrown in to confusion about their master and their mission.  The reason was because everybody following Jesus expected him to defeat the Romans by physical force and become the new king of Israel.  Since Jesus continued to be obedient to his Father’s Will, he knew that he had to leave the area and continue with his ministry.

While Peter is sure of Jesus’ divinity, he is less certain about his own faith, he plunges into stormy water when he tries to walk out to Jesus as he walks on the water.  What I found interesting in the movie was that Jesus called out to Peter by name and Peter followed the calling.  From my understanding, that particular event was not recorded in the Bible, we only read of Peter calling out to Jesus to confirm the identity and steps out of the boat to challenge himself.  The context of this scene and the Scriptures is that Peter grew weak in the stormy water and Jesus needed to save him from drowning and rebuked him for doubting and not having strong enough faith.  We also need to remember in both the good times and the bad times that we have a personal God who loves us, cares for us, and listens to us.  We have a Savior who died for us to live a life overflowing with love, joy, and hope.  Back to Peter, he was the first follower to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  When Jesus heard what Peter declared, he blessed him by proclaiming him as the rock where the Church stands.   With that said, if that same Peter had the ability to doubt Jesus in the flesh, we too will naturally have doubts, and when we begin to doubt that is where the praying needs to go in full force because there is nothing we can say or do to have God love us more or less.

The faith of all the disciples is fully confirmed when Jesus shows that he has power even over life itself by bringing a dead man, Lazarus, back to life.  I loved how the movie demonstrated this event by having Jesus requesting to see the tomb.  Once he arrives with other people, Jesus begins to talk while a bright light surrounds the area and Jesus declares:  “I am the Resurrection and Life.  Believe in me and live.  Believe in me and see the glory of God.”  What amazes me in the part of the Bible is that Jesus could have just said the word and Lazarus would have been raised from the dead.  Jesus decided to go to the tomb personally and give a miniature sermon to the people surrounding him while performing a huge miracle.  Talk about having actions speak loader than words, this was just one of many of those examples. 

The disciples will need the greatest reserves of strength and faith as they move ever closer toward the point of their mission, to Jerusalem, and into direct conflict with the religious and political authorities there.  In the week before Passover, Jerusalem is full of pilgrims celebrating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.  The desire for freedom from their oppressors, the Romans, burns strong.  Now, Jesus makes his entrance riding on a donkey, a declaration that he is the Messiah by fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah.  Jesus perplexes all in a protest against hypocrisy by turning on the money changers in the Temple.  The selling of animal sacrifices and money exchanging had become a common practice within the Temple.  Jesus flips the tables declaring that God’s house must be kept holy and that it should be used for prayer.  We cannot serve God and money.  We must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. 

Enraged Caiaphas finds a way to get to Jesus, through disciple Judas who is persuaded into betrayal.  The disciples are thrown into turmoil by Jesus’ announcement that their shared supper together will be their last.  Not only will Jesus be killed, but one of their own will betray him.  Judas runs from the scene and Peter receives his own devastating prediction, he too will fall away.  Jesus and the disciples withdraw in prayer to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asks his most trusted disciples to stay up and pray for the time has come and that the Father’s Will must be done.  Unfortunately, the disciples fall asleep while their savior is suffering through prayer alone in the garden.  Judas and the arresting Temple guards rush in.  Jesus allows himself to be led away and the disciples scatter.  He is tied up and faces trial by the Jewish elders accusing him of blasphemy.  The punishment declared is death.  Caiaphas finds Jesus guilty and the crowd outside is told the verdict where all of the followers felt betrayed.

The Bible Observations Part 3

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On a personal side note, I do realize that the Bible episodes have aired at least twice already on television and are now available to buy on DVD. I have let the little distractions of life get the best of me and I have made the decision to keep focused and finish the projects that I have started and to focus on writing my thoughts and blogging more often. With that being said, my prayer for not only myself, but for all my readers is that God’s Holy Spirit will have His way in us and to guide us along the path that is set out for us. In Jesus name, Amen.

In episode 3 of “The Bible” the beginning takes place 400 years after the last scene in episode 2 and shows that the Jewish kingdom has fallen. King Zedekiah refused to listen to the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah and that resulted in the city of Jerusalem to be taken by the ruthless and powerful leader of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews lose their city and are led on a forced exile back to Babylon where they are enslaved. Here their faith is tested when they are forced to worship an enormous statue of the Babylonian king which is an act of idolatry. When Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow down they are thrown into the fire but are saved by the Angel of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar at first comes to faith, but his arrogance later leads to a time of insanity, leaving the empire vulnerable to defeat by the great Cyrus of Persia. Cyrus tested the Jews’ faith by ordering them not to worship God for a whole month. Nobleman and Jewish leader Daniel, a man of tenable faith, cannot abide, and when he is thrown into the lions’ den as punishment, he has nothing but his belief to save him and God spares his life to be a witness for all those who were watching. Cyrus, now understanding the power of Daniel’s God, allows the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. They have survived the Babylonian exile and learned the importance of keeping God in their hearts.

The Romans dominate the Mediterranean through fear and oppression and the Jews crave a new messiah. Instead they have Herod the Great put on the throne by the Romans. When the Jews rebelled, Herod executed them and over 2,000 people were crucified under Herod’s order. In Galilee, Mary and Joseph watched helplessly as tax collectors ransacked their village. Then Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary change everything. She will bear a child, the Son of God. “The light of redemption shines brightest in the darkest moment.” Bravely, Joseph takes Mary as his wife and journeyed to Bethlehem for the census. Balthazar and other astrologers began tracking a new star and inquired of Herod whether he knows where the prophesied King of the Jews will be born. As baby Jesus enters the world, these strangers are the first to pay their respects. Unfortunately, the next scene was terrible as a jealous Herod orders the death of all Bethlehem’s male babies. Mary and Joseph were able to escape the previous evening following a warning and instructions to leave to Egypt until the death of Herod. When they return years later, young Jesus sees several bodies on the crosses as they pass through and they find an even more divided land.

Judea is now under direct Roman rule, headed by the ruthless Governor Pilate. Out in the wilderness, prophet John the Baptist shouts wildly that the Jews must repent, prepare, be baptized. Jesus appears, ready to take on his mission, and John baptizes him. Almost ready, he takes on Satan in the desert and emerges stronger and more certain. He finds Peter and walks through the water and gets inside his boat. He asks Peter to be his first disciple and now he is ready to start a new revolution. Give Jesus one hour and you will have a whole new life. A life to change the world.