Israel of Israels

Matthew 28:1-10

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.”

Let’s get the alleged elephant in the room out of the proverbial picture and dispense with the alleged dubious details. Yes, the four gospels, written by four men, who had their own style, aspirations and reasons for writing, tell some very different details and stories following the resurrection. That does not in anyway mean anything is untrue nor does it make them not interchangeable. It’s actually quite easy to make the pieces fit. For time’s sake we cannot examine every example but we can see the sublime string and harmony. Superlatively, all the Gospel writers have an empty tomb because Jesus has risen from the dead. All the Gospel writers have Mary, along  with other Mary(s) and other women as first to the empty tomb. All the writers have Jesus appearing to others before the eleven remaining disciples. Other than that, it is a simple matter of time and place. Jesus, now in a beyond-human state, moves quite quickly from place to place. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus rose from the dead the day after the end of Passover. Actually, based on the context, it seems Jesus rose 1 millisecond after Passover ended. But Jesus didn’t say, fair-thee-well that day. The Holy Spirit came at Pentacost, of which Jesus said in Acts, “you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” How many days is “not many days?” We don’t know but if it was more than 14, we could safely assume that Jesus would have said, “not many weeks from now.” Also we have the context of the Gospels. Jesus meets with the disciples in Judea and Galilee. Pentacost is 50 days removed from Passover, by Law, therefore we must understand that Jesus could have remained on earth for more than a month–a lot can happen in a month. The Gospel writers hit the highlights based on their aspirations to their audience. Nevertheless, we are considering the context of Matthew. And Matthew has a distinct, definite aspiration to his audience–Jesus as the New, True, reborn Israel. It is difficult for us to understand the magnitude of the cross because we simply don’t study it enough. From Genesis 2 until Matthew 27, the entire context of the Bible builds to the crucifixion of Christ Jesus. And Matthew only hits on 3 major highlights following the resurection, with a few minor mentions mixed in. These are as important as the 3 major highlights but not given the same attention. And​ yet, Matthew continues in his theme that shows Jesus as the true Israel. Nevertheless their paths have drastically diverged and we see a new theme devolope. A theme which Matthew and my missives have foreshadowed.

If you have not read my last missive, The Day After the Day of Days, you may want to to read it before reading this. In it, I make a hypothesis: God showed grace to the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and priests, but only two accepted it–Joseph and Nicodemus. These religious​ leaders desired a sign–We have read, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'” And Jesus responded to them. “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.” In my last missive we saw how they, unlawfully, sealed up the grave of Jesus so that no one could steal Jesus’ body to make it look like a resurection happened. Part of their security system was gaurds. The Pharisees and chief priests did all they knew how to do to ensure that a resurrection could not be faked. 

Let’s look into what transpired. For review, Jesus died a horrible death fulfilling numerous prophecies from their sacred Scripture. Was buried in a tomb with a large stone sealing up the entrance which was made secure, on the Sabbath no less, by the Pharisees and chief priests. They even added a guard. “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

The first thing we notice is that the women were the first followers to know. But the gaurds were there as well and “shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.” In other words, some of those who wanted a sign were given a great sign. An obvious, unmistakable angel from heaven had descended from heaven, rolled the stone away and sat on the stone. We can also notice, considering the context, that the stone wasn’t rolled away to let Jesus out but to let others in. “And the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” The tomb was empty and the gaurds were there when the stone was rolled away, revealing the empty tomb. We will see this in greater detail next time, Lord willing.

He was not there, only the Shroud of Turin was left. That’s a bad joke but it’s based on the context of this and the other accounts. Jesus wasn’t one for relics. The man had no possessions. The women, Peter and John, and all the faithful followers left the burial wrappings behind, because that’s all they were, temporary textiles. Jesus has been risen, who would possibly care about the rags which wrapped his body? No one is said to have taken the so-called, “Shroud of Turin” from the tomb, but someone probably did at some point–though I am sure it is long lost. And each relic found has a hint of truth, that is, it’s based on something. John wrote, “Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” Nevertheless, the Bible does not record any particular person salvaging the shroud because the shroud is not important. Jesus has been raised from the dead, that’s what is important, not some stupid stuff. Junk, things, stuff. Religion is the junk-drawer of the Bible.

In the book of Numbers, the wandering Israelites grumbled and complained, therefore God sent snakes to bite them so that they would die. But God also sent relief in an allusion and foreshadowing to the cross. “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live.’ And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.” Jesus, himself, pointed this out in John 3, to Nicodemus, the one who like Joseph of Arimathea, became a secret follower of Jesus, because “he feared the Jews.” “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.”

But what ever happened to that old, irrelevant relic? I bet it would be worth a hundred-million dollars today. Where is it now? “Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.” We love our religious relics but don’t follow what the risen Savior is about to tell his followers. And what ever happened to the irrelevant relic of the Temple, the showbread, the altar, the utensils, the veil? As always, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s call it what it is, foreshadowing the Great Commission.

Who would care about the linen when the savior has risen? Who would salvage a shroud when the greatest single sign has been signaled–the sign of Jonah? Why am I even bothering to bring this up? I bring it up because we are only two paragraphs away from the end of Matthew and we have seen many things but have we seen anything indicating the inclusion of icons, religious relics, rites, passages, ceremonial washings, pageants, plays, performances, candles, pews, incense, or anything else into our Spiritual lifestyle? When I was in my late teens and early twenties, the cool thing for a “souled out” christian to wear was a bracelet that read, WWJD?; what would Jesus do? That’s easy; he would eat with tax-gatherers and sinners, be baptized, be homeless, have no possessions, get up early to pray, teach the truth of the Scriptures, but most importantly he taught twelve disciples. What does this have to do with the context? The context is building to a conclusion and so am I.

Why did Jesus rise from the dead and continue to dwell on the earth for a time? Why does Matthew only mention 3 scenes in this act? We will see in the coming context, which is short and sweet, that Matthew only has 3 settings within 3 scenes after the resurection of Jesus–outside the tomb, in Jerusalem and on a mountain in Galilee. if Matthew were writing an essay of 1,500 words about the resurection, to today’s standards, he’d be over a thousand words short. But what Matthew lacks in length is made up for in spades with the context, theme and sublime string. The problem is that after the resurection, everything changed. And since it is such a small sample, we tend to gloss over it without considering the continuing context of Matthew. Let’s do a hyper-summation.

Chapter 1, genealogy of Jesus, the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, born to Mary, who had yet to come together with her betrothed husband Joseph, fulfilling Isaiah 7,8+ 9. In chapter 2, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling Micah 5:2, Magi from the East sought out the Messiah. But this made Herod jealous and Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt. Thus mirroring Israel in the end of Genesis. Then they returned from Egypt, mirroring Exodus 4, and Numbers 28, et al, and fulfilling Hosea 11. Then in chapter 3 we see John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness, fulfilling Isaiah 40:3, and looking a lot like Elijah. And Jesus came to him to be baptized, mirroring Exodus 14. And a voice came from heaven saying, “this is my beloved so, in whom I am well pleased.” In chapter 4 we find Jesus in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, being tempted by the devil, mirroring the rest of Exodus. In chapters 5-7 Jesus gives the uber-law on the mountain, mirroring Sinai. In chapters 8-10 he heals, teaches and calls his disciples. Jesus begins to be harassed by the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and priests and begins teaching in Parables. Ironically, it’s the leaders of Israel that don’t understand what Jesus is saying, mirroring their fathers and the prophets. In chapter 15, Jesus is accused of not following the tradition of the elders. But Jesus turned the table on them, mirroring the prophets, quoting them and showing their fulfilment. Then after a myriad of miracles and healings, Jesus enter Jerusalem, the belly of the beast, riding on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah. Then He changes Passover into the Lord’s supper, is betrayed, denied, beaten and crucified, fulfilling a thousand prophecies. Jesus was with a rich man in his death by being buried by Joseph of Arimathea and has now been raised from the dead.

While it has taken me a year to go through every word of Matthew, carefully considering the context, but in no way being exhaustive, I encourage everyone to read the entire book of Matthew, in one sitting. It should only take a little over an hour. Consider the context and see the sublime string and watch what Jesus does, that Israel couldn’t do. And because of what Jesus did, fulfilling the Law and dying for sins, focus on the final words of Matthew. Pharisees, traditions, utensils, temples, blood of bulls, incense and all other things considered holy and religious are done away with. What we learn from Matthew is that the new holy, is getting one’s hands dirty. Jesus puts everything on its head–consider the immediate context, Jesus speaks to the women, telling them what to tell the disciples, before he speaks to anyone else.

Why then are we obsessed over traditions and religious relics, rather than the one who saves us from sin and tells us to reproduce? Why do we continue to follow the fleeting follies of the Pharisees, trying to make ourselves righteous apart from the shed blood of Christ? We take a little Jesus but add in asceticism; a drop of blood but add in self-righteousness. We have grace enough to remove the spec from our brother’s eye but not enough grace to remove the plank from our own eyes. We wouldn’t let Jesus in our churches because he smells like a dirty donkey and his blood-stained hands hold no currency. We wouldn’t let Jesus wash our feet until he washed his hands and put on the proper attire. We certainly wouldn’t let him teach, he never attended one second of seminary and he doesn’t own a suit. We wouldn’t let him play on the worship team, he doesn’t once play a musical instrument in the Gospels. We wouldn’t let him teach our children because he never had children, plus, he has a criminal record. We wouldn’t let him teach married couples because he was never married. We would kick him out of our prayer chains because all he ever wants to pray about is praise and thanksgiving and never wants to gossip. We could not ask Jesus over for dinner, he’d bring harlots and homosexuals. We couldn’t take him out to eat, he’d find the dirtiest sinners in the restaurant and preach the gospel to them, ruining our quaint, quality time. We couldn’t invite Jesus to a wedding, he might make water into wine. We wouldn’t let Jesus play himself in one of our pageants, he’s too old. We wouldn’t let Jesus baptize the brethren because he hasn’t had experience. We wouldn’t let Jesus prophesy in our churches because we wouldn’t like what he had to say.

Consider the context. Notice the widening divide and divergence between Jesus and Israel. The gospel of Matthew goes to great lengths to demonstrate how Jesus is the true Israel, fulfilling their failure. Who are we like more, Jesus or Israel?

 

 

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