Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 5, 2020 

Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

We put our worship service online through Facebook earlier today.  It was recorded in my home office.  There was a glitch with one piece of audio which we are not allowed to rebroadcast, so it is muted for 4 minutes.  Enjoy the 1 1/2 hour service here at this link. https://www.facebook.com/shomair.yisrael/videos/1109539349400385/

He is Risen! (Part 1 of 3)

By Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

“HE IS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID:” But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Yeshua who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” (Matthew 28:5-6)

INTRODUCTION: The greatest reward for belief in Yeshua as Savior is the gift of eternal life. Most persons dread the uncertainty of death. Faithful followers of Yeshua are promised that they will avoid eternal death, defeating death through resurrection or rapture. Partly quoting Isaiah and Hosea, Paul wrote of a Believer’s conquest of death (1 Corinthians 15:51-55): Behold, I [Paul] tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruptibility, and this mortal must put on immortality. Bt when this corruptible will have put on incorruptibility and this mortal will have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” [Word study: Here, the Apostle Paul did not use the Hebrew word shofar (ram’s horn trumpet), but used the Greek word salpinx (trumpet). The trumpet judgments (Revelation, chapters 8-9, 11) also used salpinx, rather than shofar.]

Many miracles were attributed to Yeshua, but the greatest miracle involved Him. He was resurrected from death. If Yeshua had been crucified and placed in a tomb, where His remains still lie, He would have been only a good– but delusional– man, no better than other, now-deceased human teachers. His resurrection, witnessed by persons who knew Him, proved His divinity. Yeshua’s followers, including the women in the above-quoted Matthew passage, had lost all hope. 

They saw Him die at the hands of Roman legionnaires. No mortal could survive crucifixion. But, the angel’s cry of, “He is risen!” bolstered their faith. Confident of serving a risen Savior, they were now ready to go throughout the world to spread the Good News of Yeshua HaMashiach (Matthew 28:19-20). They were now ready to accept any suffering resulting from their faith. They were now ready to die for Yeshua. If Yeshua defeated death– and promised that His faithful followers would also defeat death– they had nothing to fear!

In this RR series, I will present a few questions and answers about Resurrection Day (Easter). Questions are not organized in logical order. I hurriedly wrote this RR, recording the questions to be answered as they came to me. Sorry.

WHY DO WE SAY “EASTER?” Most Christian groups celebrate Easter as a holy day. I dislike this name, which comes from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess (Eostre, and other spellings). As goddess of the dawn (sunrise), she was worshiped in the Spring by pagans (non-Believers) in northern Europe and the British Isles. Some scholars trace the name to even earlier deities (Astarte, etc.).

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the most beautiful of all translations, being published during the lifetime of William Shakespeare, but it is sloppily translated in some passages. An example is Acts 12:4. Here, the KJV would have us believe that Herod, in his persecution of Believers, arrested the Apostle Peter, intending to bring him from prison to face trial AFTER EASTER. Huh? Easter was unknown and not celebrated in the first century. No one– Romans, Jews, Believers– had ever heard of Easter. The mistranslated word, here, is Pascha (Greek), from Pacach (Aramaic/ Hebrew), which is properly translated “Passover.”

Whatever the origin of the word “Easter,” the influence of fertility goddess worship is still evident in our use of reproductive symbols and fecund animals (Easter eggs, Easter bunnies) as part of our popular celebration of this holiday.

Is “Resurrection Day” a preferable name? This name captures the true meaning of Yeshua’s resurrection and removes any sordid connection with pagan fertility rites. In America, Easter is set on the calendar as the first Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon. Easter, therefore, can occur only between March 22 and April 25.

WHY DID YESHUA PRAY THREE TIMES BEFORE HIS CRUCIFIXION? The Bible provides no explanation. Some students have speculated about this question. Between the Passover Seder and His arrest, Yeshua went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray (see Matthew 26:36-46 and Mark 14:32-42). Gethsemane, derived from Chaldean and Aramaic words, translates to “oil press.” Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Interestingly, the olive is a long-lived tree, and some trees now in Gethsemane were alive when Yeshua lived. He may have prayed under one of these still-living trees.

The B’rit Chadashah records that Yeshua was extremely anxious. Such anxiety came from the Son of Man aspect of Yeshua. Yeshua was prophesied to be a “Man of Sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). Any normal person facing a Roman scourging and crucifixion the next day would be filled with fear and anxiety.

In Yeshua’s distress, He prayed that “this cup” be removed from Him. “This cup” undoubtedly referred to the Passover wine cup, Cup of Redemption (Matthew 26:27, etc.), He had used earlier to teach Communion (“This is My blood…”).

Yeshua prayed three times. Why three prayers? A human has three divisions– body, mind, and spirit. It is speculated that the Father allayed Yeshua’s anxiety by showing Him the reasons He must die for the afflictions of mankind. Yeshua may have experienced the physical, and the mental, and the spiritual distresses that humans would suffer, and how His death might ease or alleviate these ills.

After Yeshua prayed, He arose resolutely and surrendered meekly to the Roman soldiers. He now knew why He was the perfect Passover Lamb sacrifice for the world. He was ready to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53:7): He [the Suffering Servant– the Messiah] was oppressed and He was afflicted yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. Yeshua offered no argument or defense, when He appeared before the Roman governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. Pilate was frustrated by Yeshua’s silence, especially when faced with His apparent innocence. Yeshua needed to fulfill all Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh, including Isaiah’s Suffering Servant prophecies (Isaiah, chapter 53).

WHAT ARE THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN YESHUA’S RESURRECTION, PASSOVER, ANCIENT JEWISH SIN OFFERINGS, AND HIS FIRST MIRACLE? Yeshua was a renowned Miracle Worker. Think of all of His recorded miracles. As discussed in a recent RR, He changed of water to wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). which I summarize and amplify: Yeshua and Mary were guests at a wedding. A wedding was the most important event in the lives of most Jewish families, just as our Marriage to the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9) will be most important for us. 

A first century Jewish wedding feast lasted for days. Wine, the symbol of joy, was always present. At the Cana wedding feast, the host ran out of wine, which was a social disaster. Mary was informed, and she referred the worried host to Yeshua. Note that Mary possessed no miraculous power, but recognized that Yeshua did. Is it appropriate to recognize Mary as Co-Redemptrix (Co-Redeemer), as some Catholics teach, but appropriate to recognize Yeshua as our only Redeemer?

At the Cana home, there were six waterpots filled with water. (Six is the number for man in Jewish gematria. The pots were of the type used in Jewish purification rituals.) Yeshua told the doubting waiters to dip a cup in the water, and taste it. To their amazement, the water in the pots had been changed from water to wine– the finest wine ever tasted. John recorded that Yeshua’s disciples believed in Him after this miracle, but what is the miracle’s real significance? 

Yeshua demonstrated the reason He had come. Water was the symbol of Tanakh worship (for example: In the Tanakh priesthood, priests ceremonially bathed in a mikveh for purification). Yeshua changed the water in the ceremonial waterpots into wine. Wine became the symbol of the blood He would shed for mankind– the symbol of the New Covenant priesthood, embodied in Him and shared by all of His followers at Communion. The New Covenant, founded upon God’s grace and Yeshua’s crucifixion, did not replace the seven earlier covenants, but added to them. Yeshua would later explain (Matthew 5:17-18): “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.” 

HOW MANY TIMES DID PETER DENY YESHUA BEFORE A COCK CROWED? After Yeshua was arrested, Peter was anxious and disillusioned, as well as fearing legal problems (he had cut off the ear of Malchus). Yeshua prophesied that Peter would deny Him before early morning, relating the denial to the crowing of a cock (rooster). Anyone who has lived on or near a farm knows that roosters crow in the early morning, and Peter also knew this deadline. The Gospel accounts of Peter’s denial of Yeshua vary a little: In Matthew 26:34, Luke 22:34, and John 13:38: Peter would deny Yeshua three times before the cock crows. In Mark 14:30: Peter would deny Yeshua three times before the cock crows twice.

Overlook any variation in Peter’s denial and the rooster’s schedule. Did Yeshua refer to a rooster’s crow or a man’s signal? The B’rit Chadashah text uses the Greek word alektor, which is properly translated “male fowl” (rooster, cock). 

Some have questioned whether alektor (rooster) is the intended word, here. In Aramaic, which was probably Yeshua’s “everyday language,” tarnagla is translated “rooster.” Other similarly pronounced words would have been in Yeshua’s vocabulary. Hebrew gaver is translated “rooster or cock,” but it can also be understood as “man.” Similarly pronounced Aramaic gawra can also be translated “rooster, cock, man.” 

First century Jews had no mechanical or electronic clocks. A man climbed to a Temple high point every morning to cry out (“crow?”) the time for priests and others to rise for morning duties (similar to the reveille bugle call in the army). This man was called gaver or gawra because he served as the priest’s “rooster.” This Temple crier shouted (“crowed”) three separate wake-up duty calls.

Chickens did not roam around the Temple complex and nearby Jerusalem properties. Although Kosher to eat, raising roosters is unclean. (Have you ever tried to “potty train” a rooster?) Chickens were raised outside of Jerusalem’s limits to keep Temple grounds clean. A rooster would not be present in Jerusalem for Peter to hear, although a rooster’s crow might be heard from a distance.

Yeshua may have timed Peter’s denials to the morning alarms from the man (priests’ “rooster”) who would announce it was time for the priests to awaken. (Perhaps I carry this thought too far, but was it also time for the priests to awaken to the sinful corruption in which they had fallen, to recognize that their Messiah had come, and to fear they were about to kill their Messiah?)

WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT ABOUT YESHUA’S STATEMENT, “IT IS FINISHED?” Yeshua made seven statements from the cross during His crucifixion. His last statement had profound meaning, but it is often misinterpreted (John 19:30): When Yeshua tasted the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. The English phrase, “It is finished (It is completed),” accurately translates a Greek word, tetelestai, in the Bible’s text. Tetelestai comes from the verb teleo (I complete). This term was used in commerce. A merchant wrote “Tetelestai” on a bill or invoice, showing that the merchant had received full payment for the goods or services described in the bill. This term is equivalent to our “Paid in full.” Yeshua’s death paid in full any debt owed because of our sins.

Some persons erroneously believe Jesus was referring to His impending death (His life is finished). No. “It is finished” does not refer to the end of His life. Yeshua knew He would live again. “It is finished” does refer to successful fulfillment of a mission the Father gave Him to be the one-time-for-all-time blood sacrifice required for the remission (forgiveness) of sin. When Yeshua drew His last breath, His earthly mission to be our Passover Lamb had been completed.

Rabbi’s Note:  The Hebrew term for a completed sale is “Shalem,” which comes from “Shalom.”  “It is finished” could mean, “It is complete, whole, lacking nothing, perfect.”  Raymond accurately points out “it is finished” does not mean Yeshua’s life is over, but that His ministry is complete.  Never allow anyone add anything to the completed work of the cross.  End RN. 

WHY DID THE GOSPEL AUTHORS RECORD THE HOUR OF YESHUA’S DEATH? Three Gospel authors record the hour of Yeshua’s death (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:33-34, and Luke 23:44, 46). Yeshua died at approximately “the ninth hour” (3:00 pm). 

The original Passover celebration in Egypt required the slaughter of perfect male lambs and painting their blood on the Israelites’ door frames (Exodus 12:7)  “between the evenings.”  Such act of faith prevented the first death (death of the body) on the night Adonai’s spirit passed over Egypt. The sacrifice of a perfect lamb was a prophetic rehearsal for the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua. Isaiah prophesied that an oppressed Messiah would be led to His slaughter without opening His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). This prophecy was fulfilled by the “trial” of Yeshua before Pontius Pilate. John the Baptizer called Yeshua “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). The Apostle Peter confirmed that we are saved by the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without defect (1 Peter 1:18-19). The Apostle John referred to Yeshua as “the Lamb” in multiple verses in the Revelation. There is a strong connection between Yeshua, the Lamb of God, and Passover lambs. Similar to the original Passover, faith in Yeshua’s blood sacrifice will prevent the second death (death of the soul) when Yeshua passes over the world, commanding Believers, “Come up here!”

A large number of lambs were sacrificed at the Jewish Temple and burnt on the altar at Passover. The sacrifices were usually completed by “the ninth hour” (3:00 pm). When the year’s Passover sacrifices were completed, the Chief Priest raised his hands toward the people, forming the Hebrew letter shin with his hands. He announced, “It (the yearly sacrifice) is finished.” 

SIDELIGHT: Shin, a special letter for the Jews, formed the first letter (the sh sound) of a revered name for God– El Shaddai (English translation = “God Almighty”). This hand sign became familiar as Mr. Spock’s Vulcan Salute in the “Star Trek” television series (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_salute ). Mr. Spock was played by the late Leonard Nimoy, a Jew who learned the sign in his boyhood synagogue. Some have proposed reviving this “Vulcan salute” (really, the Hebrew letter shin hand sign) as a safe greeting during the coronavirus pandemic. Almost any greeting is preferable to our present antiquated, germ-spreading handshake. During this pandemic, should we consider a handshake as a personal assault?

Shin, abbreviating El Shaddai, is the Hebrew letter usually placed on the mezuzah, a Scripture-containing metal box which fulfills the Torah commandment to write God’s Word on the doorpost of a Jew’s/ Believer’s home (Deuteronomy 6:9). Commonly, the Scripture in the mezuzah is the Sh’ma Yisrael (“Hear O Israel…” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41). END sidelight.

Consider this connection: 

** On the Temple grounds, Jewish priests sacrificed lambs to God for the sins of the people. Outside the Temple, our eternal High Priest and the Lamb of God, Yeshua, was being sacrificed for the sins of the people.

** Both priests may have said simultaneously, “It is finished.” The Jewish priest meant that the year’s sacrifices were completed. The High Priest Yeshua meant that He had completed the mission given to Him by God.

** The Jewish priest could make the sign of the letter shin because his arms were free. The High Priest Yeshua could not make the sign because His hands were nailed to a cross. Yeshua declared El Shaddai (God Almighty) throughout the world and all ages, not by a hand gesture of the letter shin but by His love and obedience.

** From the Passover sacrifices in Jerusalem that day, no one remembers the name of the officiating Jewish priest, but untold hundreds of millions of persons have remembered and still remember the name of Yeshua, calling Him by other sacred names (Savior, Lord, Son of God, Messiah, etc.).

Two priests ministered that day. One ministered to the praise of people inside Jerusalem’s limits, but One ministered to the condemnation of people outside Jerusalem’s limits. Both priests may have uttered the same phrase– “It is finished!” – at the same time (3:00 pm). What a difference was made, when one Priest– Yeshua HaMashiach– fulfilled a unique mission from God!

PLEASE HELP ME: I plan to write two more parts to this series. I do not know if the RRs I write hold interest for many readers. Please suggest future RR topic(s) you would like to read. Please send topic suggestion(s) to me at: raymondfinney@charter.net . Shalom and Maranatha.