Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why did Jesus live?

Matt 16:18-21
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

In Caesarea Philippi in the north, Jesus gives the keys of the Kingdom to Peter before He announces He is about to die and head south to Jerusalem.

Why did Jesus die? Many people could give you a good answer, but what would they answer if you asked them ‘Why did Jesus live?’ They may say He lived in order to die. He did, but not only to die.

When He was born, Herod sent the soldiers out to kill Jesus as a baby. So if Jesus came simply to die, it would be mission accomplished at ‘age one’. Well, you may say He had to be an adult before He died. He gave His first homily in Luke 4 and it went down so well that they wanted to throw Him off the cliff. So He could have died right then. But you may say He was in Nazareth and He has to die in Jerusalem. Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem and in John 8 we’re told they picked up stones ready to stone Him in the Temple and miraculously He escapes through the crowd. Jesus avoids death repeatedly, over and over again.

Why does Jesus get in a row boat at night to go to the other side of the lake? Why does He cut though grain fields in the middle of the day? Why not take the main road? Jesus is trying to be inconspicuous. He is always telling people ‘Don’t tell people I am the Christ’. He didn’t want anyone to know He is the King. If Jesus says He is the King, then Herod or Pilate would send soldiers to arrest Him because if you claim to be king in the midst of the kingdom of Herod or the reign of Caesar you die! In fact the charge on the cross when Jesus was executed was ‘the King of the Jews’.

So Jesus avoids being noticed and captured and He doesn’t want people to know that He claims to be King because He is not ready to die yet.

Why does Jesus put off death over and over again if He came simply to die? It is because Jesus came to establish his Kingdom. He gave the Kingdom Law – the Sermon on the Mount. He has to take the Twelve to reform the Kingdom of Israel around Himself.

Once Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter, now He talks for the first time about dying. Now He heads for Jerusalem where He will be killed. This is the turning point of the whole story of Jesus. Everything up to this point Jesus was teaching, preparing the Twelve, building up and establishing His Kingdom. Once Peter makes His profession of faith in Jesus and is given the keys, Jesus is ready to die.

‘On you Peter (Cephas - Rock) I will build my Church and I am going to gives you the keys of the Kingdom’. The keys of the Kingdom and the Church are synonymous. In other words, kingdom and Church are one and the same mystery according to Matt 16. In Jesus day, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom over and over again. Why? If He said Church, the Jews wouldn’t understand what that meant, because for the Jews the people of God are the Kingdom of God. So that is the language Jesus uses for Church – the Kingdom of God.

Source: The Gospel of Saint Matthew Bible Study
Dr Tim Gray
Professor of Scripture
St Augustine Institute

How could the crowd have preferred Barabbas over Jesus?

Luke 23:13-25
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him;
I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barab'bas" -- a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!"

A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

How could the Jews? How could the crowd have preferred Barabbas over Jesus?

To begin, let’s consider who was Barabbas?
We know that he was a murderer and they chose him over the author of life. We are told he was a rebel and they chose him over one who was obedient, obedient even unto death – death on the cross. He was a thief, one who came to steal and they chose him over one who came only to give – giving his life on the cross so that you might have life in its fullness.

So Barabbas was a rebel. That should remind us of who was the first rebel and what was the first rebellion. Barabbas was guilty of insurrection. What was the first insurrection? It was of course the insurrection of Lucifer over God. Lucifer was the first rebel when he said I will not serve. Barabbas was a murderer. Who was the first murderer? In John 8:44, Jesus said it was the devil himself. Barabbas was a thief. Jesus speaks of the thief in John 10:10. So we can see Barabbas is a picture of the devil himself.

What about the name of Barabbas? The Aramaic name of Barabbas is made up of two parts – bar (Son) and abbas (Father) – or son of the father.
We know Jesus is the true Son of the Father. Jesus came in the name of the Son of the Father given to Him by God the Father Himself. Barabbas came in the name son of the father given to him by himself. What does this remind us of? John 5:43 says I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

If Barabbas serves as a picture of the devil, who do the Jews serve as a picture of in this passage? The bad news is they are in fact a picture of us. For it is easy for us to look at this scene of Jesus in His agony and say ‘How could they? How could the crowd choose Barabbas over Him?’ But isn’t that exactly what we do whenever we choose to sin?

Like the Jews we are choosing the devil over Jesus! Barabbas over Jesus
The murderer over the author of life.
The liar over the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The one who has only come to steal over the one who has come to give us life in its fullness.

When we look at the torture exhausted bloody swollen face of Jesus under the crown of thorns with the gaze still loving and patient and see with indignation fury and horror of the Jews choosing Barabbas over Him, we should see ourselves each time we choose to sin. And every time we are faced with the temptation of occasion to sin we should call to mind the same picture and ask ourselves how can we do what the Jews did? How can we reject Jesus and choose Barabbas?

In fact, the Jews have in many ways much more of an excuse than we do because although they knew how terrible how Barabbas was they did not really know how good Jesus was. They did not know that He was our Creator, our God, Him to whom we owe absolutely everything. Yet we do know all of this and we still choose Barabbas over Him every time we choose to sin. Like the Jews, each time we sin –to Pilates “What shall I do with Jesus?” we shout back ‘Crucify Him!’ And this is quite literally true because it is our sin that lies behind the pain and crucifixion of Jesus. It is our sin that made it necessary and each time we sin we add to the pain that Jesus suffered.

The Good Friday Reproaches
I led you out of Egypt from slavery to freedom but you led your Saviour to the cross.
For forty years I led you safely through the desert, I fed you with manna from heaven and brought you to a land of plenty, but you led your Saviour to the cross.
What more could I have done for you. I planted you as my fairest vine but you yielded only bitterness.
When I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink and you pierced your Saviour with a lance.
For your sake, I scourged your captors and their first born but you brought your scourges down on me.
I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the sea, but you handed me over to your high priest.
I opened the sea before you, but you opened my side with a spear.
I led you on your way on a pillar of cloud but you led me to Pilates court.
I gave you a royal sceptre but you gave me a crown of thorns.
I raised you to the height of majesty but you have raised me high on a cross.
My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you, answer me.

Source: by Roy Schoeman – a Jew who experienced an unexpected and instantaneous conversion to Christianity.

Why did the Jews wave palm branches when Jesus approached Jerusalem?

Matt 21: 8-13
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee."

Why did the Jews wave palm branches when Jesus approached Jerusalem?

We have to look back at what Judas Maccabeus did for the Jewish nation in 165BC.
When Judas Maccabeus in 165 B.C won back Jerusalem he cleansed the Temple and this led to the creation of the Jewish feast – Hanukkah.
(to read about profaning the Temple: read 2Mac. 6: 1-6)
(to read about cleansing the Temple: read 2Mac. 10:5-7)

So when Judas purified the Temple, the Jews celebrated it with palm branches re-commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles. Palm branches were a key part in the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast which celebrated the dedication of the Temple. When Solomon dedicates the Temple he does it on the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kings 8).

What better day to cleanse the Temple than on the Feast of Tabernacles. What better festival to celebrate a righteous Jewish leader coming to purge the Temple from the Gentiles than the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Jews greet Jesus with palm branches because they think He will be the new Judas Maccabeus. What Judas did in the cleansing of the Temple was so significant for the Jews he was regarded as a national hero for restoring the national Jewish identity. Some of the most popular names in Jesus day were Judas, John and Simon (the brothers of Judas). Judas and his followers protected the Torah in the midst of pagan oppression and pagan influence.

The Jews think Jesus is going to cleanse the Temple from the Romans and throw the Romans out of Jerusalem, create a new national identity for the Jews and liberate them from pagan oppression.

Do you ever wonder why on Palm Sunday all the crowds were greeting Jesus with jubilation and joy, saying “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and then in a few days they are shouting “crucify Him”.

The Jews were upset that Jesus didn’t do a Judas Maccabeus by throwing out the Romans but worse than that they expect Him to cleanse the Temple from the Romans but instead He cleanses the Temple from the priests. Jesus purges the Temple from the Jews, from the Jewish corruption, the Jewish establishment and the priesthood.

They were expecting Jesus to say the Romans are the problem but He said in effect you’re the problem. That is why they turned on Jesus.

This is another example of Jesus evoking the stories of Israel to explain His own story.

Source: The Gospel of Saint Matthew Bible Study
Dr Tim Gray
Professor of Scripture
St Augustine Institute


Matt. 26:14-16, 20-25
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
When it was evening, Jesus took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another; “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born. “Judas who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

(As Lent comes to a close, leading up to focusing on the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, this Thursday we focus on the scripture for the Last Supper. This article struck a chord with me.)

I am not like Judas. I would not do what Judas did. However bad I may be at times, I am never that bad.” From the days of our childhood we learned that Judas was so bad and what he did was so evil, that no one could be like him.

But that is not how the Bible sees him. When Jesus warned the apostles at the Last Supper that one of them would betray him, each of the twelve was afraid that he could be the one; one after another, they asked, “Surely not I, Lord?”

In telling the story, the gospels are letting us know that what Judas did, anyone of us could have done. Not only that; they are also letting us know that what Judas did, we also do, in small ways at least, and sometimes in bigger ways.

It seemed a good bargain at the time
“What will you give me?” They said, “Thirty pieces of silver.” Judas thought it was a good bargain at the time. When we cheat or defraud another person, or the government or an insurance company, we are handing over people for pieces of silver; we are also handing over our integrity, self respect and peace of mind; at the deepest level we are handing over Jesus. It seems a good bargain at the time.

When we set out to gossip about the faults of another and meet our gossiping friends, it is as if we are saying to them, “What will you give me, if I hand over this person’s good name to you?” What they give us is a sense of superiority over the one we criticise, and the satisfaction of impressing our friends.

We can get many things for handing Jesus over: security, comfort, popularity, privilege, power, a good standard of living, sexual satisfaction.

Sometimes we join with the wider community in handing Jesus over. Our neighbourhood hears of plans for a home for street kids in their area, or for a residence for homeless people. We are entitled to insist that such projects be properly planned and administered. But when we come together out of fear and block these projects with all our might, we are handing over the street kids and the homeless for our own security and wellbeing. As part of the wider and more blessed community in the neighbourhood we continue to spend and consume more than we need, while a billion people live in poverty. We hand Jesus over for our life of comfort with all its modern amenities. It seems a good bargain for the time being.

Jesus left Judas free
Judas hurt Jesus deeply. Judas was his close friend; he dipped his hand in the same dish with him as they ate. Our deliberate wrong doings, our sins, are never impersonal; they are always a betrayal of Jesus who loves us. Like Judas we often deny to ourselves as well as to others that we are doing anything wrong: “Surely, not I?” Jesus did everything he could to reach Judas at the Last Supper. He shared his food and his friendship; he gave him a solemn warning about the awful deed he had planned. But he respected his dignity, he did not name and shame him, and in the end he left him free. Jesus shows us the same love and respect.

Lord Jesus Christ,
hear our prayers as we call on you.
Forgive us as we confess our sins to you.
In your merciful love make good the harm we have done
and give us your pardon and peace.
You are Lord for ever and ever.

Source: Don Bosco’s Madonna Magazine, Mumbai India