Rabbenu Home


A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sufferings First, Glories to Follow: The Pattern of God's Dealings

The beginning of the Torah reading from last shabbat provides a provocative and helpful perspective as we anticipate the coming commemoration of the death and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua.

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Command Aaron and his sons thus: This is the ritual of the burnt offering: The burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept going on it. 3 The priest shall dress in linen raiment, with linen breeches next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. 4 He shall then take off his vestments and put on other vestments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 5 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, not to go out: every morning the priest shall feed wood to it, lay out the burnt offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat parts of the offerings of well-being. 6 A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out (Vayikra/Leviticus 6).

Rabbi Chayim ben Attar, an 18th century Moroccan, notes that rather than beginning the discussion of the burnt offering with a description of how the offering is to be prepared, the text instead begins with a description of the disposal of the ashes from the night before—and all of this before even discussing how that offering may have been brought. Why begin the description with the disposal of ashes from an earlier offering? Rabbi Elazar Mushkin points out that Rabbi ben Attar “argued that it depicted Jewish history in which suffering seems to dominate, but in the end victory will reign” [“After the Ashes” in The Jewish Journal, March 25, 2005, page 40].

This insight is crucial not only to our understanding of Jewish history, but also to our appreciation of the story of Yeshua and the meaning of the resurrection of Messiah, and ultimately important to an understanding of the pattern of our own lives. It has always been, sufferings first, and glories to follow.

For example, over and over again, Messiah spoke to his disciples of how he must first suffer and die and afterward be raised on the third day. Always, it was suffering first, glory later. In Mark’s gospel, Peter speaks for all the disciples when he responds to Yeshua’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” by saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” The text goes on to say, “And he began to teach them all that the Messiah must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and after three days rise again” [Mk. 8:31]. Peter speaks of this in his first letter, saying the prophets spoke the same way. . .sufferings first, glories later. He says this: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Messiah in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Messiah and the glories that would follow” [1 Peter 1:11-12]. On the road to Emmaus, when Messiah made one of his earliest appearances after his resurrection, he struck the same note: “He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" [Lk. 24:25-26].

Sufferings first, and glories to follow.

Rabbi Mushkin tells a story illustrating how this pattern of Messiah’s life, sufferings first, glories to follow, is replicated in the experience of Israel and in our individual lives as well. He speaks of how Natan Sharanksy was invited to visit Russia a year after his election to the Knesset. It was the first time in history that a past prisoner of the Russian government returned as a leader in the free world. The Russian officials wanted to take him to the Bolshoi Ballet, but Sharansky insisted he wanted instead to visit the KGB prison where he had been incarcerated and tortured as a Refusenik.

Before finally taking him there as requested, and seeking to limit their own embarrassment, the Russians made sure the prison and his former cell were scrubbed clean and made as benign looking as one could possible make a Russian prison. As Sharansky and his wife, Avital, were escorted around the prison by very uncomfortable hosts, he made them more uncomfortable still. He asked that they take him to the punishment cell where he had once been tortured. The Russians at first wanted to deny that such a cell existed, and instead showed him an ordinary cell. But Sharansky was undeterred . . . and insistent.

Finally, he and Avital were brought to the cell, where he asked that they be left alone for fifteen minutes.

When they emerged from the cell, the members of the press who had been waiting outside clamored to understand why the Sharanskys had subjected themselves to such a retrograde, masochistic revisiting of his sufferings. Sharansky’s response was both penetrating and illumining. Here is what he said:

“It was the most inspiring moment of my life. When I was a prisoner of the Soviet Union, my jailers tortured and taunted me and told me that world Jewry had betrayed me and that I would never leave the prison alive. Today, the KGB does not exist, the Soviet Union does not exist, and one million Jews have left the punishment cell called the Soviet Union. This is what I went back to see. This is what I am thankful for."

People have long debated over Isaiah 53, as to whether the text speaks of the sufferings of Israel or of the Messiah. The answer is to this question is, “Yes.” Israel suffers as the servant nation, and Messiah suffers as the epitome of Israel. Yeshua is the one man Israel. And the pattern of his life is and will continue to be the pattern of Israel’s life until He comes again: sufferings first, and glories to follow. The pattern that Natan Sharansky noted, of his own sufferings and eventual exaltation to a position of rulership, the pattern that he noted of the sufferings of Russias Jews with their eventual liberation, while their enemies were judged and dismantled, all of this is part of the pattern of Messiah’s life, of Israel’s life, the pattern woven into the warp and woof of creation.

Paul the Apostle spoke as well of how this pattern is replicated in our individual lives. He said: “18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” [Romans 8:18-23].

But meanwhile, as Paul says, like the creation itself, and like all of God’s children, Israel groans and waits.

So what’s the point of all this? The sufferings and resurrection to glory of Messiah are good news on many fronts and in many ways.

[1] We are most apt to focus on the meaning of his resurrection for us as individuals, that through his death and resurrection we receive forgiveness of sins, and the hope of our own resurrection: “Because I live, you will live also.” And of course, this is true. But there is also a meaning for us in all of life. The death and resurrection of Messiah is a message of hope because it reminds us that suffering itself is not simply tragedy. Woven into the warp and woof of all creation is this pattern, “sufferings first, glories to follow.” If you are suffering, or know others who are suffering, this too is a message of hope.

[2] There is message of hope here as well for God’s people Israel. Since the Messiah is the one man Israel, what was true of him will be true for Israel as a whole: sufferings first, glories later. The Resurrection of Messiah is not only the vindication of His own claims, and a vindication of sinners who can now rest assured that their sins have been carried away through the cross and open tomb. The resurrection of Messiah is a vindication of Israel’s hope: that through this same Messiah, Israel itself will one day enter into the glories that have been prophesied of her, through this suffering, risen, and vindicated Messiah.

Commenting on the Torah passage with which this article began, Rabbi Mushkin concludes: “Jewish history is not only fire and ashes. It is the promise of a glorious destiny. Our job is to make that destiny happen sooner rather than later.” Rabbi Mushkin doesn’t realize that Yeshua our Messiah God’s agent in bringing all of this to pass, but Messianic Jews declare this to be the case.

In this season and every season, may the Holy One, Blessed be He, enable us to bear our own sufferings faithfully, to bind up the wounds of our people Israel, and help them to see what we see, to know what we know, and to serve whom we serve, in anticipation of glories which are sure to follow.

At 4/03/2007 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Messiah can't be "the one man Israel" because, according to Messiah, He preceded Abraham. Likewise, Messiah, being the very nature of G-d, is greater than all Israel. So it is a liberal pseudo-theologian’s creative strawman argument that would draw a parallel between what would occur between Israel and the one who will “Judge” Israel. The pass given to Israel is what the blog’s author extends on G-d’s behalf without G-d granting that pass. If only it could be done that way, Paul would have certainly done it.

At 4/03/2007 1:21 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Your reasoning is interesting, but I am afraid I will have to side with Isaiah the Prophet on this one. From chapter 42 of his prophecies, notice that the Servant of the Lord is both Israel and the one who is called to gather Israel. And as for you calling me a "liberal psuedo-theologian" who produces a "creative strawman," such language does not commend you as a very nice human being, nor as a servant of the LORD.

And now to that OTHER Servant of the LORD, as per Isaiah. Keep your eye on just who is Israel.

1 Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." 4 But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God." 5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-- 6 he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."


Post a Comment

<< Home