Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, November 7, 2021
No Greater Love Than This… by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: The title of this RR comes from John 15:13: [Yeshua said] “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Nearing the end of His earthly ministry, the Gospels imply that Yeshua became reflective and introspective. It had been prophesied in the Tanakh that the Messiah would become saddened by the activities of those around Him (Isaiah 53:3): He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, One from whom people hide their faces. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
It seems Yeshua was saddened, wondering whether He might have failed the mission given to Him by His Father. He had not attracted a large following. His message was rejected by most people. His disciples seemed slow to understand His teachings.
Yeshua needed to prepare His disciples for the horrible death He knew He must suffer. This statement about laying down His life (John 15:13) was one way of telling the twelve and His friends that He would soon die. The Passover Seder in which He took unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (wine) to teach Communion was another way to warn His followers. He wanted to be certain that those who loved Him knew that His death had purpose (establishment of God’s New Covenant).
It does not seem that the Son of Man aspect of Yeshua fully understood why He must die, until He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane a few hours before His death (Matthew, chapter 26; Mark, chapter 14). He went into the garden as a fearful Man. He came out, after talking to His Father in prayer, as a resolute, fearless Man.
Even so, knowledge of His mission and need for death may not even have been fully realized until the end of His crucifixion, when He exclaimed from the cross (John 19:30), “It is finished!” (The Greek text, here, is Τετέλεσται [transliteration = Tetelestai; translation = “It is finished, or completed, or fulfilled.” The phrase was actually a business term of merchants, who would write this phrase on a bill or contract, corresponding to our “Paid in full.” Our sin debt was paid in full by Yeshua’s death.)
As Yeshua died, He finally realized the full nature of the Father’s plan– a plan in existence since creation– which was that a perfect blood sacrifice must be made to atone for the sins of imperfect men and women. This realization came in a single phrase: Tetelestai! Yeshua’s earthly mission was finished! Yeshua paid in full our debts of sin. This sacrifice– laying down His life for His friends, including you and me– was Yeshua signaling: “I have no greater love than this. I lay down My life for you.”
SIDELIGHT: How strong is your love? The strength of my love is selective. I would die for my family. Would I die, though, for a mass murderer? A child rapist? An Islamic terrorist? A total stranger in Beijing, China? Vladimir Putin? Xi Jinping? Adolf Hitler (if he were still alive)?
Yeshua died for the sins of every person. His love was unconditional and all-inclusive. Since we all will die, we may gloss over the significance of Yeshua’s death. Yes, He died, but all of us will die. I served as Blount County Medical Examiner for nearly twenty years. In that capacity, I examined many deaths due to trauma. I have seen gruesome deaths which would rival Yeshua’s death. But, Yeshua’s death was unique in one aspect. The miraculous, loving nature of Yeshua’s death was that He, part of the Godhead, died at the hands of those He created. A Deity should not permit Himself to be tortured, mocked, and horribly killed by those whom He created, but Yeshua did. What a Savior! What perfect love! Veterans Day is a day to remember the love of strangers for strangers. END sidelight.
VETERANS DAY, 2021: Thursday of this week– November 11– is Veterans Day. For this day, I can think of no more appropriate Scripture than Yeshua’s teaching of greater love. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have shown their greater love by dying in America’s wars to secure the peace and freedoms that you and I will enjoy on Thursday. Without their love and ultimate sacrifice, we would not be a free people. Pause with me a few moments to be thankful for their shortened lives.
HISTORY OF VETERANS DAY (U.S.A.): Veterans Day, a legal holiday, occurs in America on November 11. This day had its origin as Armistice Day in 1918. At 11:00 am (eleventh hour) on November 11 (eleventh day, eleventh month), an armistice (a temporary cessation of hostilities) was signed between the Allied nations and Germany. Fighting in World War I (called, “the Great War” and “the war to end all wars”) stopped, but this war was not officially over until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Incidentally, the Treaty of Versailles– and the German people’s resentment and frustration over the treaty– was a major factor in the rise of Adolf Hitler to create and control Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed every November 11 as Armistice Day. It is customary to observe a brief pause on November 11 at 11:00 am to commemorate the signing of the original armistice agreement. On November 11, 1921, an American soldier, who died in the war but could not be identified, was buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C.
On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the “recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918 should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” In 1938, Congress designated November 11 as a legal federal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”
Because of the large number of veterans returning from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, the name of “Armistice Day” was later changed to “Veterans Day.”
“FREEDOM IS NOT FREE:” This adage apparently originated in Australia, but has been widely adopted in the United States to display appreciation for the sacrifices of American men and women in military service, past and present. This phrase is engraved into a wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. One very precious cost of freedom is the hundreds of thousands of lives of men and women who have laid down their lives or who have been maimed in freedom’s cause for you and me.
For various reasons, the precise number of military men and women dying in wars probably cannot be known. The following is a good estimate of service members’ deaths in most– not all– wars in which the American military has participated:
● American Revolution, or Revolutionary War (1775-1783):
Battle deaths: 4,435
● War of 1812 (1812-1815):
Battle deaths: 2,260
● Indian Wars (1817-1898):
Battle deaths: approximately 1,000
● Mexican War (1846-1848):
Battle deaths: 1,733 || non-theater service deaths: 11,550
● Civil War (1861-1865) – Union (North):
Battle deaths: 140,414 || non-theater service deaths: 224,097
● Civil War (1861-1865) – Confederate (South):
Battle deaths: 74,524 || non-theater service deaths: 59,297 || estimated deaths in Union prisons: 26.000 – 31,000
● Spanish-American War (1898-1902):
Battle deaths: 385 || non-theater service deaths: 2,061
● World War I (1917-1918):
Battle deaths: 53,402 || non-theater service deaths: 63,114
● World War II (1940-1945):
Battle deaths: 291,557 || non-theater service deaths: 113,842
● Korean War (1950-1953):
Battle deaths: 33,739 + 2,835 || non-theater service deaths: 17,672
● Vietnam War (1964-1975):
Battle deaths: 47,434 + 10,786 || non-theater service deaths: 32,000
● Gulf War (1990-1991):
Battle deaths: 148 + 235 || non-theater service deaths: 1,565
● War on Terror (since 2001):
Some fighting continues; total death toll is unknown. The Pentagon no longer discloses deaths of Americans resulting from war on terrorists.
WHAT HAS THE VETERAN GIVEN US? Most of us do not appreciate something… until we no longer have it. For example, how many of us appreciate having electricity in our homes? I almost never think about residential electricity. If the power goes out, though, I wander room to room absentmindedly turning on electric light switches and looking out windows to see if neighbors’ lights are also off (misery loves company, I suppose).
Few of us truly value the freedoms we have. If the fears of many Americans come to pass (such as, Communist China’s defeat of the United States, which is a very real possibility), you and I will inconsolably mourn for America’s Constitutional freedoms, now taken for granted.
The following poem by Charles M. Province states some of the many things secured by the veteran:
It is the veteran, not the preacher, who gave us freedom of religions.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the veteran, who salutes the flag.
It is the veteran, who serves under the flag,
To be buried by the flag, so the protester can burn the flag.
SIDELIGHT: Mr. Province concludes his poem, “… so the protester can burn the flag.” I am using the most restraint I can muster to avoid denouncing spoiled, multimillionaire professional ball players who “take a knee,” rather than stand respectfully while the National Anthem is played. They claim support for some popular cause, but, in my opinion, they only show contempt for our nation and the men and women who have sacrificed lives and limbs for our nation’s freedom. Not that it matters to them, but I protest their publicity-seeking antics by no longer watching professional sports. I refuse to watch and support professional showboats who disrespect my nation and her heroes. I read a bumper sticker a few days ago that succinctly states my beliefs: “I stand for the flag. I kneel for the cross.” END sidelight.
AMERICA, BEACON OF HOPE FOR MANY AND ENOUGH LAND TO BURY OUR DEAD: For more than a century, America has defended liberty and fed millions throughout the world. We have lost the lives of our young men and women and spent much of our treasury fighting Nazism, Fascism, Communism, radical Islam, and other enemies of liberty, and have received virtually nothing in return.
Ronald Reagan (one of my favorite presidents) described our nation: “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” Reagan undoubtedly was influenced by Matthew 5:14, 16: [Yeshua said] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. |…| In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Unlike most nations in modern times, America has not sought to extend her borders through war. When in England at a conference, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell–who died just last month– was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if America’s plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by President George W. Bush. Powell answered: “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.” The shamed Archbishop and all others were silenced.
BUT, SOLDIERS VIOLATE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BY KILLING, RIGHT? Wrong! The King James Version is poorly translated or mistranslated (Exodus 20:13, KJV): [God spake] “Thou shalt not kill.” In Hebrew, this verse reads: לֹא תִּרְצָֽח׃: ס. King James Version’s “kill” comes from רָצַח . The correct translation (TLV) is: [God spoke] “Do not murder.” It seems to me that killing in combat between national armies is not murder. If there is sin in killing in war, would not the sin fall upon leaders who declare an unjust war, rather than soldiers and sailors who merely follow orders?
A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT OBSERVING VETERANS DAY 2021:
□ Observe Veterans Day on Thursday, November 11. I suspect there will be a Veterans Day celebration in your home county. In my county (Blount County), people usually congregate on the lawn of the Old County Courthouse (across the Parkway from First Baptist Church). I am unable to attend this event now, but I assume it continues. I do not know the time your county’s ceremony may begin, but a highlight will be at 11:00 am sharp, when there will be a moment of silence, followed by “Taps” blown on a bugle. Veterans from America’s wars will be there. (All World War I veterans are dead and veterans from later wars are dying far too rapidly.) If you are fortunate, you may be able to coax a veteran to tell you about his/ her war experiences. (I remember vividly being told many years ago by a World War II veteran about his experiences in the Bataan Death March, after the fall of The Philippines.) Do not be hurt, though, if a veteran will not discuss “his/ her war.” I have found that many veterans wish to talk little about war. They do not consider themselves heroes; they still mourn for their comrades who died in battle; and they are just grateful and blessed to be home with family, living under the freedoms they secured. Take your children/ grandchildren, if possible. (I know… conflict with school.) If you cannot attend a veterans’ ceremony, observe a moment of silence (and say a prayer of gratitude) at 11:00 am.
□ Call veterans you know (grandparent, parent, aunt/ uncle, sibling, neighbor, etc.) to let them know you are thinking of them on Veterans Day. Let them know your freedom has been given to you and your family by their efforts and the efforts of their comrades-in-arms. Tell them simply, but earnestly, “Thank you for your service.” These men and women are our heroes, but most want to say little about “their war.” But, they will appreciate hearing something they hear far too infrequently: “Thank you for your service.”
□ We do not live near a military base, but if you are in public and see a man or woman in military uniform, tell him/her: “Thank you for your service.” If circumstances permit, he/she, especially if of lower rank (lower pay schedule), might appreciate your buying a cup of coffee or a meal. If he/she is away from home, stranded for a holiday, you might invite him/her to eat a holiday meal with you and your family. A man or woman in service misses his/her family as much as you would miss yours. If you know a service member who is stranded in this area at Thanksgiving, do you have a place at your table for him/her? Turkey will never taste better, under these circumstances.
SIDELIGHT: It seems Israel does a better job than America in making sure that their soldiers away from home are never abandoned on major holidays (Passover, Rosh Hashanah, etc.). These young men and women are invited into homes and “adopted” as family members to celebrate the holiday festivities. In this area, I would not know where to find a young soldier or sailor to “adopt,” but there must be one or two somewhere. Unfortunately, in America it could be unsafe to invite a stranger into the home. Our society is crumbling, as we watch. We are approaching a society summed up by the old proverb, “No good deed goes unpunished.” END sidelight.
□ If you know someone in the military and know his/ her APO or FPO address, write him/ her a cheerful, happy letter. Tell him/her that you are praying for him/her (if you are actually doing so). If you take this opportunity to berate him/her for being in the military and wish ill for him/her, well, I must censor the words I want to write. Reserve your political views for the ballot box, not for anxious young men and women away from home who face danger and possible death in service for our country.
□ In some ways, military duty may be rougher on family members than on the loved one in a foreign assignment. The loved one stationed overseas may have bursts of dangerous activity, followed by longer periods of relatively peaceful inactivity. A spouse and other family members on the home front are anxious every moment of the day, not knowing what may be happening to their loved one and thinking the worst. If you know a family that has been broken apart because a member is on duty away from home, try to befriend the family. Cook meals for them, take them out for meals or entertainment, or call occasionally just for encouragement and to let them know you are praying for all of them. John Milton, in his poem “Paradise Lost” (1667), penned a phrase that could apply to family members at home: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
FINALLY: If you are a military veteran, please accept my sincerest message: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE! Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 7-Nov-2021 3rd of Kislev, 5782
Ge 28:10-22 Jdg 12-13 Ps 35 Mt 26:31-56 (Ro 11:17-36)