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

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

When All Hope is Gone

Lk 23:55The women who had come with Yeshua from the Galil followed (Yosef of Aramathea, to the tomb where he place the body of Yeshua); they saw the tomb and how his body was placed in it. 56 Then they went back home to prepare spices and ointments. On Shabbat the women rested, in obedience to the commandment;
24:1 but the next day, while it was still very early, they took the spices they had prepared, went to the tomb, 2 and found the stone rolled away from the tomb! 3 On entering, they discovered that the body of the Lord Yeshua was gone! They were 4 standing there, not knowing what to think about it, when suddenly two men in daz zlingly bright clothing stood next to them. 5 Terror-stricken, they bowed down with their faces to the ground. The two men said to them, "Why are you looking for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has been raised. Remember how he told you while he was still in the Galil, 7 `The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be executed on a stake as a criminal, but on the third day be raised again'?" 8 Then they remembered his words; 9 and, returning from the tomb, they told everything to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 The women who told the emissaries these things were Miryam of Magdala, Yochanah, Miryam the mother of Ya`akov, and the others in their circle. 11 But the emissaries didn't believe them; in fact, they thought that what they said was utter nonsense! 12 However, Kefa got up and ran to the tomb. Stooping down, he saw only the burial cloths and went home wondering what had happened.

The disciples are now reeling, knocked back on their heels, no, worse than that, knocked down to their knees by the worst news imaginable.

O, they had dealt with death before. Death was a fact of life in their first century world, not something that undertakers dealt with, but family, friends, neighbors. Preparing the dead for burial was then, as now, for religious Jews, the most honorable thing you could do for them—the mitzvah of all mitzvot—helping someone who was in no position to pay you back.

They had seen death before—the bodies of beloved family and friends whose spirits had returned to the God who gave them.

But this was different. This was infinitely worse.

The one who had died was the Prince of Life—or so they thought. It had taken years for the disciples to put it all together, but they had become convinced he was the Promised One, the Liberator from the heel of cruel, idolatrous Rome. Had they not seen him raise Elazar/Lazarus of Bethany from the tomb, four days after having died, wrapped, and laid in a tomb? What of the daughter of Jairus ? Had not Kefa and Yochanan, Peter and John, seen Yeshua raise her from the dead while the sound of the wailing mourners was yet ringing in their ears?

With all this and more, had they not been given ample reason to believe that he was the one who would call not just Lazarus, not just Jairus’s daughter, but all of the dead, even their own beloved dead, out of their graves as part of the grand sweep of the final and decisive triumph of the God of Israel and the Israel of God, when Israel would become the head and not the tail, and when all the nations would then stream up to Jerusalem to behold their vindicated glory?

And now, this. Their beloved, charismatic, wonder-working Rabbi, who made blind eyes see, lame men walk, and even the dead to come back to life, before their very eyes had been stipped naked, humiliated, scourged, whipped, beaten, broken, and hung on a Roman cross like so much dead meat.

In this passage we see a group of women from the circle of disciples coming to the tomb to dress his body for a proper burial. It had all been over too hastily three days earlier, and shabbat and Passover had intervened. Now they were coming to dress in spices his dead, and, by now, surely rancid body. Quite an act of love, of faith, of devotion , and of slow-moving, deliberate sorrow.

From this distance of 2000 years and light years of cultural distance, it is absolutely impossible for us to enter into the explosion of incredulous, uncomprehending, exhilarated and adrenalized joy mingled with terror that burst from them as they found the tomb empty, and heard the words of two luminous, otherwordly strangers asking them, "Why are you looking for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has been raised. Remember how he told you while he was still in the Galil, 7 `The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be executed on a stake as a criminal, but on the third day be raised again'?"

After they had run back to the group of mourners from which they had come, their words gushing, tumbling, and mangled in the torrent of their panting and excitement, the apostles and other disciples reacted just like we would: they didn’t believe a word these whacked out women were shouting at them. “These things just don’t happen. Don’t bother us now with your foolish fantasies while we are still on our knees picking up the pieces of our shattered lives.” Still, Peter/Kefa, ran to see for himself, just in case. He saw the empty tomb too, but, “because these things just don’t happen,” notice, the text says, “[he] went home wondering what had happened.” He was more confused than convinced.

In today’s passage we read about two others of this circle of disciples, one named Cleophas, the other unnamed. It is now much later the same day, and if you will note the details, you will see that they too are just devastated, shattered, and hardly able to go on.

13 That same day, two of them were going toward a village about seven miles from Yerushalayim called Amma'us, 14 and they were talking with each other about all the things that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed, Yeshua himself came up and walked along with them, 16 but something kept them from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, "What are you talking about with each other as you walk along?" They stopped short, their faces downcast; 18 and one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only person staying in Yerushalayim that doesn't know the things that have been going on there the last few days?" 19 "What things?" he asked them. They said to him, "The things about Yeshua from Natzeret. He was a prophet and proved it by the things he did and said before God and all the people. 20 Our head cohanim and our leaders handed him over, so that he could be sentenced to death and executed on a stake as a criminal. 21 And we had hoped that he would be the one to liberate Isra'el! Besides all that, today is the third day since these things happened; 22 and this morning, some of the women astounded us. They were at the tomb early 23 and couldn't find his body, so they came back; but they also reported that they had seen a vision of angels who say he's alive! 24 Some of our friends went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they didn't see him." 25 He said to them, "Foolish people! So unwilling to put your trust in everything the prophets spoke! 26 Didn't the Messiah have to die like this before entering his glory?" 27 Then, starting with Moshe and all the prophets, he explained to them the things that can be found throughout the Tanakh concerning himself. 28 They approached the village where they were going. He made as if he were going on farther; 29 but they held him back, saying, "Stay with us, for it's almost evening, and it's getting dark." So he went in to stay with them. 30 As he was reclining with them at the table, he took the matzah, made the b'rakhah, broke it and handed it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. But he became invisible to them. 32 They said to each other, "Didn't our hearts burn inside us as he spoke to us on the road, opening up the Tanakh to us?" 33 They got up at once, returned to Yerushalayim and found the Eleven gathered together with their friends, 34 saying, "It's true! The Lord has risen! Shim`on saw him!" 35 Then the two told what had happened on the road and how he had become known to them in the breaking of the matzah.

36 They were still talking about it when -- there he was, standing among them! 37 Startled and terrified, they thought they were seeing a ghost. 38 But he said to them, "Why are you so upset? Why are these doubts welling up inside you? 39 Look at my hands and my feet -- it is I, myself! Touch me and see -- a ghost doesn't have flesh and bones, as you can see I do." 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 While they were still unable to believe it for joy and stood there dumb founded, he said to them, "Have you something here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 which he took and ate in their presence. 44 Yeshua said to them, "This is what I meant when I was still with you and told you that everything written about me in the Torah of Moshe, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds, so that they could understand the Tanakh, 46 telling them, "Here is what it says: the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day; 47 and in his name repentance leading to forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to people from all nations, starting with Yerushalayim. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Now I am sending forth upon you what my Father promised, so stay here in the city until you have been equipped with power from above."

50 He led them out toward Beit-Anyah; then, raising his hands, he said a b'rakhah over them; 51 and as he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 They bowed in worship to him, then returned to Yerushalayim, overflowing with joy. 53 And they spent all their time in the Temple courts, praising God.

They are talking with one another about what had happened, about the scourging, the rejection of Yeshua by Israel’s leadership circle, the crucifixion itself, and these loony stories being circulated by a bunch of women who must have come unhinged by grief, because the kinds of things they were talking about just don’t happen. We read here of these two men are downcast, the Greek says, skuthropoi—sad, gloomy, downcast. They are so sunk in grief they cannot even recognize Yeshua who is walking with them—everything has gone dark in them and around them, even their perceptions and senses. They are in the pitch blackness of deep grief.

And when this stranger walking with them asks, “What’s the problem,” how do they respond? They talk about what is most on their minds and hearts: “"The things about Yeshua from Natzeret. He was a prophet and proved it by the things he did and said before God and all the people. 20 Our head cohanim and our leaders handed him over, so that he could be sentenced to death and executed on a stake as a criminal. 21 And we had hoped that he would be the one to liberate Isra'el!"

How telling . . . “we had hoped”. . . but no more. "Hope is gone, and all we are left with is this unbearable weight, dragging it along on the Road to Emmaus.”

There are a number of important lessons for us here, lessons for us in our own hopeless situations, seasons of life one feels one just can’t go on.

The first lesson is that at such times, we need the light of Scripture to illumine the darkness.
The first thing Yeshua does is to bring them back to the Scriptures—and that is where you and I need to go when all grows dark for us. We need to read the Bible, but also to be able to turn to the Bible within our hearts, to the treasury of Scripture we should have within us from years of pouring over it, taking it in, and digesting it. Of course, if that has not been our habit, there won’t be much of a light to turn on when the darkness comes, as surely it will, sooner or later. If we have been chronicly neglectful in this matter, when the darkness comes, our battery may just be too low to light our darkness.

The second thing we need is for God’s mercy to prevail and for him to make Himself known to us in our times of darkness,just as Yeshua does for these disciples here, and later for the circle of the twelve when He drops in on them. In times of disaster, we will find ourselves asking, “Where is God in all of this,” and it’s a good question. Eventually, because God does some of his best work in the darkness, we will detect some glimmer of light, some pin-prick of illumination. We will need to follow that light because it comes from God and leads us back to him. It is the light of a new perspective on the entire situation, a light turning arising in our darkness where we will gradually begin to see things a bit differently than we did before.

The third thing we must do is to do as they did—to go and tell others—to spread the light of the Word, and the light of our new perspective, unaccountably renewed because, right in the midst of our shattered world, God has shown us something we had not seen before, something that makes everything everlastingly different.

Finally, for all of us here, 2000 years further down the road to Emmaus, there is something else to remember, a light for our darkness that has been shining since way back then. “He is risen, just like he said.”
The resurrection of Yeshua, his ascension to the Father’s right hand, the marvelous works of the Spirit whom he sent among all the nations of the world for the past two millennia, these bright lights remind us that the darkness is not total, that the darkness is not the final word, but rather, blazing, glorious light filled with song.

Some years later, one from the apostolic circle said this:

1 The Word, which gives life! He existed from the beginning. We have heard him, we have seen him with our eyes, we have contemplated him, we have touched him with our hands! 2 The life appeared, and we have seen it. We are testifying to it and announcing it to you - eternal life! He was with the Father, and he appeared to us. 3 What we have seen and heard, we are proclaiming to you; so that you too may have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Yeshua the Messiah. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 Yochanan/John 1:1-4).

Weeping may endure for the night . . . but because He lives, we will live also. Life will go on, and on, and on, and on some more.

“Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Now, go tell the others.

At 4/15/2007 1:35 AM, Blogger GracieRuth said...

The darker the night, the brighter the light. We can never underestimate the importance of a single small act of kindness.

As the millennium approached, I was coming through a long seven year period of darkness. How long since I'd felt God's presence? Or heard his voice? Maybe if I had never known anything better, it wouldn't have felt so bad. But I only felt alone and empty. I didn't believe I could ever come back to faith.

I had mentioned in passing to a friend that irises were my favorite flower. Suprise! There they were on the table. But listen to what he said,"Right now you can't feel God's love except through me. This is God loving you." That small act pierced my darkness.

Let it shine.


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