111. Come on – throw a party!

It is significant how the concept of a joyous get-together is part of ancient Jewish history and religious worship. In general, ancient societies were much more socially supportive, than the modern focus on privacy, personal preference and individual superiority afford a member of the social order today. Survival demanded group cooperation. Feasting found a firm place into national celebrations of momentous events on public holidays commemorating important occasions of a specific nation or cultural group.

We are used to celebrating birthdays and achievements like graduation and retirement, even welcoming and farewell parties. Christians have Christmas and Easter and celebrate Thanksgiving in unity with the continent of North America. I would like to make a case for the celebration of Pentecost, which we should celebrate with the same expectation of Acts 2 although it is a Christian feast that is very neglected these days. Other religions have their days of fasting and feasting.

Going through many trials in a demanding corporate job, my husband routinely fasted throughout a season of his life. Sunday was the only day that he was able to take his time and slow down to spend time in the Word and listen for Holy Spirit guidance. Many Sundays I made special plans for the children so that a Sunday will remain a family day and a day to look forward to, even though their dad disappeared for a few hours into his study.

One day he came out of his quiet time with amazement and joy written all over him. He told me that God talked to him about feasting and said that his time of fasting is over. We should feast more and adopt a life style of celebration. He decided to take us out for dinner there and then late afternoon on that Sunday and declared our meal a celebration of the goodness of God. Slowly this concept of feasting while we eat out and more and more around meals in our own home, became part of our vocabulary. It changed our table prayers. He guided us into conscious praying at every meal. No more little prayer rhymes to ramble through at the table. We had to look each other in the eye and declare God’s provision and our thanks. I rejoiced in my heart and thanked God for a father in the house who routinely celebrates God’s goodness and our testimony of outcome in faith. He also declared two private feasts on specific days that we as a family had to remember and party about; one in the first half and one in the second half of the year, to testify and joyfully remember answer to prayer.

In the last part of John 7 (7:37-53) the Feast of the Tabernacles is mentioned again. This Feast took place in October. It had important historical significance: they left their houses and lived in little booths made of branches to remind them of the time in the wilderness. It was not permanent structures. The booths had thatched roofs. They were able to see the stars. The instruction and material for the booths are found in Leviticus 23:40. According to Leviticus the length of the Feast is seven days. In the time of Jesus an eighth day was added.

The Feast had an agricultural significance also. It was a thanksgiving for the harvest (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). The Feast became very popular (1 Kings 8:2). It was celebrated with the bounty of nature, which made life possible and happy. The dream was that this feast should be celebrated everywhere by everybody – rich and poor, servant, slave and master.

There was a daily ceremony during the time of the Feast. People would take their palm and willow branches to the altar; the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam while the people recited Scripture: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

Water was poured out as an offering to God while the people were singing. They sang the Hallel – Psalms 113 -118 with flutes and a choir. On the last day they marched seven times around the altar in memory of Jericho.

The Feast served as a reminder to miracles.

What do we do to celebrate miracles in our lives? Could we throw a God-party to celebrate His goodness? Remember and remember well. Do not let the enemy rob you of your own testimony. Lest we forget, is the cry of Remembrance Day that celebrates the end of World War 1. Let us not forget God’s miraculous intervention in our lives.

then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:12)

The water that gushed out over the branches, reminded the people of the life-giving water that Jesus mentioned in His encounter with the woman at the well (John 4).

The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your soul in drought,
and strengthen your bones;
you shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail
. (Isaiah 58:11)

Let us rejoice and feast since we have Jesus who came and fulfill all the feasts of Israel. In Him we find the ultimate reason for every feast.

 This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. (1 John 5:6)

And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. (1 John 5:8)

Jesus was promising a cleansing – pure and revitalizing. With His purity comes peace and satisfaction.

The symbolism of water is found throughout the Old Testament. Psalms 105:41, Ezekiel 47:1; 47:12. Also Joel 3:18: A fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.

Jesus is the rock in the desert from which the waters flowed (Exodus 17:6). That is why it was so important for Moses to be obedient to the voice of God and not strike the rock a second time. Jesus has been struck once – on the Cross. From that moment the water of salvation flows freely. Moses should have spoken to the rock the second time and not assume that water will flow exactly the way it happened the first time. Paul confirms this.

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)

There is no Spirit, no Pentecost without Calvary. Before the Cross, the Holy Spirit was a mystery. After the resurrection He was a person who lets the risen Christ live in us. Pentecost opened the floodgates of heaven.

Great miracles can end in religious aridity. Only by the pentecostal experience the miracle is alive. God’s action does not stop.

Does He do it again? NO, He does it all the time. My prayer is always and will always be: Lord open my eyes to see Your wonder.

Do not confine God to our calendar time. He works all the time.

The crowd was talking about Jesus. (7:40-44) Many believed He was the Promised One. They talked about His place of birth. Most people knew He was from Nazareth. Only a bit deeper investigation would have proved that He was indeed born in Bethlehem. They knew that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem according to the prophecy.

Never shy away from investigation. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand in His wounds. (John 20:27) Jesus will never rebuke you for asking questions. He promised that you shall receive, when you ask. (Matthew 7:7)

The officers were amazed by the teachings of Jesus. They could not bring themselves so far to arrest Him. To hear Jesus speak will change your life.

The leaders reacted with contempt and insults towards the officers and towards Nicodemus. Their aristocratic attitude, intellectual snobbery and spiritual pride caused the Pharisees to look down on the ordinary man and on the region of Galilee. They did not even mix with them to bring them the Law that they held in such high esteem.

What they are saying: If you count for anything intellectually or academically, you would not be swayed by Jesus. Isn’t it exactly the argument today?

Is number any indication of truth or worth? The mob turned away, then welcomed Him into Jerusalem and then shouted for crucifixion.

We can never follow the mob. Not even in church. Do we follow the people or the Man, Jesus? Will you find Him in our churches?

Even Nicodemus defended Jesus timidly. He defended the right for the officers to listen and decide, but the fury of insult and snobbery against Galilee, shut him up.

How will we confess loyalty to Christ in the face of opposition? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit will we resist the drawing power of popular opinion and the foolish superficial conclusions of the mob. He will convict us of righteousness, sin and judgment. Scripture and our testimony are witnesses to the goodness of God.

Jesus went on teaching. Early in the morning he was back at the Temple teaching. The people came…

 

 

 

 

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103. Time for a party – of course!

 

The whole world throws a party! It is New Year. If one would like to sit glued to the television you can observe the celebration by fireworks in the various time zones, countdown upon countdown. Lots of bottle popping, elegant parties, drunken parties, dance parties, dress up parties and a public holiday to pick up the pieces and start the year which was so welcomed a few hours previously. Many a heavy sigh is heard in the unseen as the burden of life descends and weighs on the minds and hearts of people.

Has anything changed? Is anything new?

New could mean two things. It could mean: neos – more of the same depicting quantity as in a new pencil but many others already exist or: –

kainos – unique, has never been, depicting quality as in one of a kind.

Is this year going to be the same as always? Are you looking forward to something that has never been; never seen in this world before?

John 5 states that Jesus attended the feast.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem…

There were three Jewish feasts that were an obligation to Jews living within a fifteen mile radius of Jerusalem: Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of the Tabernacles – two in Spring and one in the Fall. Passover was mid-April and Pentecost seven weeks later. Jesus delighted in the Feasts. Every feast is fulfilled in Him.

The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means “appointed times.” God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of these seven feasts to reveal to us a special story. “God’s parties” remind us of His lovingkindness, His provision, His unmerited grace throughout the calendar year. God’s year is marked by seven parties.

The seven feasts of the Jewish calendar all found fulfillment in Jesus. The Feast of the Unleavened bread depicts Jesus’ sinless life, the Passover depicts the Lamb that was slain and the Firstfruits depict the resurrection. Just as the first sheaf of the harvest is waved before the High Priest so Jesus was glorified in heaven after the resurrection as the first fruit of the Church. Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The Feast of the Trumpets depicts the announcement through the prophets and the Church of His atonement and second coming), the Atonement (Yom Kippur) depicts the character of the Church as a repenting and forgiven people and the Feast of the Tabernacles depicts the reign of joy and peace through the Church and the wedding feast of the Second Coming).

Feasts are anointed parties, consciously celebrating blessing. We should build them into our year and if we have children or family with us, we should include them when we dish up something special. Just a meal together is marked by the testimony of God’s grace. Blessed is he, who distinguishes between the holy and the ordinary. Make the ordinary holy. Holy means to set it apart for a specific purpose. It is not something falsely elevated to be boring or unreachable. Just go ahead and declare an ordinary meal a celebration of blessing. Say it with joy and praise God in the process.

Psalm 90:12:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Jesus enters Jerusalem through the sheep gate. It is the gate through which the lambs entered, destined to be slaughtered at the Temple at Passover. He fulfills the symbol of the slain Lamb.

Bethesda could mean House of Mercy or Bethzatha, which means House of the Olive. The pool was deep enough to swim in. Beneath the pool was a sub stream that bubbled now and then. According to the superstition it was believed that an angel stirs the water and the first person to jump in would be healed.

Sound like superstition, but such beliefs were rife in those days. Ancient people were impressed with holy waters. Water was precious and the people held a certain reverence for water.

Jesus was the friend of the friendless. The man had nobody to help. He did not lecture him on his belief in the useless superstition. Jesus just went ahead and healed him.

Events unfolded and words were spoken:

  • Jesus asked if he wanted to be cured. 38 years – maybe his hope died and left him passive and despairing. When healed he had to take up living. Some people are so comfortable in their affliction that they do not want to live normally with all the responsibility of caring for oneself. He responds with a big YES.

 

  • Jesus told him to get up. The power of God never overrules the power of men. Miracles happen when we cooperate with God.

 

  • He had to attempt the impossible. Getting up was probably not the words he was waiting to hear. He lived in defeat for 38 years – for some people a lifetime. What would you like to hear?

 

  • On the word of Christ our own effort becomes the miracle.

 

  • Superstitions are agreements with evil. It is words of defeat spoken over yourself by yourself in words or thoughts.

Let us note very carefully what takes place. This man of defeat and disease agrees with the words Jesus speaks to him and walks away in victory. A moment before he was still in the grip of wrong thinking and negative dependence on evil agreements in false promises of outcome. His meeting with Jesus changes everything. He agrees in thought and responds to the question of Jesus as an expression of his desire for a miracle. In raw faith he attempts the impossible.

Do you believe Jesus when He says He will do something new this year?

Will you attempt the impossible?

 

 “Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

 

[This story could also be interpreted as an allegory:

The man = people of Israel, the five porches = the law. People are sick under the law. They find shelter but no healing. For 38 years they were wandering in the desert, waiting for the promised land, waiting for the Messiah. The stirring of waters = baptism – rising up healed and redeemed.]

 

John writes it as the truth of actual events. Every story has so much more…