Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 9, 2021
Counting the Omer – Day 36
Here is the proper blessing to be said each day. This is how Jewish people fulfill the command to count.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about counting the counting of the Omer. Today is Five weeks and one day of the counting of the Omer.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 9 May-2021 27th of Iyar, 5781
Nu 1:1-19 Jer 10 Job 31 (Mt 27:32-66) Ro 11
The Proof We Seek: Eyewitness Accounts of Yeshua’s Resurrection
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: In a recent RR, I wrote about Yeshua’s resurrection, which is the most important event in the history of Christendom. In fact, it is the most important event in a Believer’s eternal life, as Paul summarized his life’s work:
● (1 Corinthians 1:17-19): For Messiah sent me not to immerse, but to proclaim the Good News– not with cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Messiah would not be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the intelligent.” – AND –
● (1 Corinthians 15:12-22): Now if Messiah is proclaimed– that He has been raised from the dead– how can some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Messiah has been raised! And if Messiah has not been raised, then our proclaiming is meaningless and your faith also is meaningless. Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that He raised up Messiah– whom He did not raise up, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Messiah has been raised. And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is futile– you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished. If we have hoped in Messiah in this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all people. But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also has come through a Man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah will all be made alive.
Several Bible verses reveal that truth is established by the word of “two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Matthew 18:16, 20; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28; and 1 Timothy 5:19).
The most important aspect of our faith– Yeshua’s resurrection from death– should also have at least “two or three witnesses” to be accepted as truth. How about hundreds of witnesses? Is that enough for skeptics? Actually, the B’rit Chadashah contains thirteen (13) separate eyewitness accounts of Yeshua appearing to others AFTER His death and burial. He was very much alive after His burial. I will briefly describe these thirteen appearances, but please do read the actual Scriptures.
APPEARANCE ONE– TO MARY MAGDALENE (MIRIAM OF MAGDALA) SHORTLY AFTER RESURRECTION: Read Mark 16:9-11 and John 20:11-18. Three women, including Mary Magdalene, went to Yeshua’s tomb at daybreak on Sunday (shortly after Shabbat) to anoint His body properly for interment. They found an empty tomb, housing only His funerary wrappings. The Roman guards had fled. Standing there were two white-robed “men” (angels). Yeshua came to her, and she knew Him by His voice. She, then, ran to tell the hiding disciples that Yeshua is risen.
APPEARANCE TWO– TO TWO WOMEN COMPANIONS OF MARY MAGDALENE… SALOME AND MARY, MOTHER OF JACOB (JAMES): Read Matthew 28:9-10. Three women went to Yeshua’s tomb the morning of His resurrection, but apparently Mary Magdalene separated from the other two women (Salome and Mary). Yeshua shortly appeared to all three women. These other women immediately recognized Yeshua. They ran to Him, grabbed Him by the feet, and worshiped Him.
SIDELIGHT: Mary was a popular name in Biblical times. In the Hebrew Tanakh, the English name “Mary” is written as Miriam; in the Greek B’rit Chadashah, “Mary” is written as Mariam or Maria. In this passage, two of the three women coming to prepare Yeshua’s body were named Mary. END sidelight.
APPEARANCE THREE– TO TWO MEN WALKING ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS: Read Luke 24:13-32. Early on the Sunday morning following His resurrection, Yeshua appeared to two men traveling eastward to the village of Emmaus. The location of Emmaus is uncertain today. It is known in Scripture references as a road connecting it to Jerusalem. The men, saddened by Yeshua’s crucifixion, did not recognize Him. They walked, talked, and ate bread together. Yeshua reminded them of the prophecies of the Passion (suffering) of the Messiah. Then, they recognized this Man as Yeshua, and He disappeared. They returned to Jerusalem to report they had seen Yeshua.
APPEARANCE FOUR– TO PETER: Read Luke 24:34. The details of this appearance are vague, except that the two men on the road to Emmaus reported that the Apostle Peter also saw Yeshua.
APPEARANCE FIVE– TO APOSTLES (EXCEPT THOMAS AND JUDAS): Read Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-25. The two men on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem on Sunday evening after conversing with Yeshua. They told of their encounter to most of the apostles. Yeshua suddenly appeared in their midst and said, “Shalom Alechem!” (translation: “Peace be unto you!”). The apostles were terrified, thinking they were seeing the ghost of Yeshua. He calmed them by inviting them to look at the stigmata (wounds) in His hands, feet, and side and asking for food (fish), which He ate in their presence. Judas had hanged or was in process of hanging himself, and Thomas was elsewhere.
SIDELIGHT: Believers wonder whether we will eat in eternity. Yeshua ate after His resurrection. We will eat at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Yes, we will eat and it will undoubtedly be better than anything we have ever experienced in the present life.
The question of food in Heaven is interesting. Read Revelation 22:1-2: Then the angel showed me [John] a river of the water of life– bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Yeshua] down the middle of the city’s [New Jerusalem’s] street. On either side of the river was a tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. In a previous RR, I pointed out that the Bible is written with “bookend chapters.” What was given to mankind in the Garden of Eden, but was lost, will be re-given to mankind in New Jerusalem, to be kept forever. In the beginning (first part of Genesis), Elohim gave His children all they needed in the Garden of Eden. In eternity (last part of Revelation), Adonai will give His children all they need in Heaven.
In both Paradise settings, trees of life grew/ will grow– in Eden, see Genesis 2:9; in New Jerusalem, see Revelation 22:2. I find two statements difficult to understand: (a) If time has been suspended and there are no days and nights, how can we have twelve kinds of fruit during the year (suggesting division of time into months and years)? (b) If we have immortal bodies, why do we need to eat leaves of the tree of life for healing? Since the Apostle Paul had a list (at least a mental list) of God’s mysteries, I suspect we each can compile our own list of mysteries. END sidelight.
APPEARANCE SIX– TO APOSTLES WITH THOMAS: Read John 20:26-29. The original disciples met with Yeshua, except for Judas Iscariot, who had committed suicide in shame, and Thomas, who was away. Yeshua appeared again to these disciples, now including Thomas. Thomas, finding the story of a resurrected Yeshua preposterous, refused to believe it, unless he saw the wounds of crucifixion. His disbelief led to an adjective forever attached to his name– “Doubting Thomas.” It is fortunate that Thomas asked for proof because it strengthens the eyewitnesses’ accounts of Yeshua’s resurrection. When Yeshua showed Thomas His hand and side, Thomas’ doubts vanished and it provided Yeshua with an opportunity to teach about faith (John 20: 27-29): Then He [Yeshua] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe!” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Yeshua said to Him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed? Blessed are the ones who have not seen and yet have believed!” If you believe in Yeshua’s resurrection (if you could meet Yeshua and say, “My Lord and my God”), you share in Thomas’ blessing.
APPEARANCE SEVEN– TO SEVEN DISCPLES ON THE SEA OF GALILEE: Read John 21:1-25. After His appearance to the apostles in Jerusalem, Yeshua appeared to His followers (Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the two sons of Zebedee, and two others) who were fishing at night on the Sea. This act reinforces the belief that Yeshua’s followers were not conspiring to promote a mortal man as the Son of God, but were returning to their original vocations. They believed Yeshua was dead. At morning, Yeshua appeared on the shore, and asked if they had caught fish. No. Yeshua had a simple solution– throw the net on the other side of the boat. That must have seemed absurd. One side of the boat is as good as the other. Then, however, they caught 153 large fish. Peter, a fisherman, understanding the supernatural event that had taken place, recognized Yeshua, and jumped out of the boat to meet Him. Yeshua and the seven men roasted fish on the shore and ate breakfast together.
SIDELIGHT: Why did someone count, and why did John record, the number (153) of fish caught? Several authors have speculated. One (with a lot of time on his hands) thought: Separate the number 153. “1” is symbolic of God, unity, uniqueness, beginning. “5” is symbolic of grace, divine favor. “3” is symbolic of completion, solid, real, substantial and entire. Another thought: Counting in the B’rit Chadashah shows that Yeshua blessed a total of 153 persons. So one fish caught for every person blessed. Of course, many people were blessed but not named in the Scriptures. And, there are other theories (some of which I cannot follow very well). We can add this account to our list of mysteries we want to ask our angelic teachers in Heaven. END sidelight.
APPEARANCE EIGHT– TO APOSTLES ON A MOUNTAIN IN GALILEE: Read Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:15-18. This appearance was not spontaneous (unexpected) like the others, but was a prearranged meeting. This meeting may be the one discussed by the angels and by Yeshua in Matthew 26:32 and 28:10). There on the mountain, overlooking miles of country, Yeshua commissioned them to go out into all nations and make disciples. On this mountain, Yeshua gave them (and us) what we now call “the Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20): And Yeshua came up to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
APPEARANCE NINE– TO PETER, THE OTHER APOSTLES, MORE THAN 500 “BROTHERS AND SISTERS,” AND OTHERS: Read 1 Corinthians 15:5-6. Yeshua appeared to many (well over 500 people).
APPEARANCE TEN– TO HIS HALF-BROTHER JACOB (JAMES) AND OTHERS: Read 1 Corinthians 15:7.
APPEARANCE ELEVEN– TO HIS APOSTLES, EATING A MEAL WITH THEM: Read Acts 1:3-8 and Luke 24:44-49. In Acts, we read that during the forty days after His resurrection, Yeshua appeared to the apostles from time to time to prove to them in many ways that He was alive. On this particular day while eating a meal with them in Jerusalem, He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures about Him. He told them that after He ascended to the Father, He would send to them the Holy Spirit, and that they should stay in Jerusalem and wait until He came to them and filled them with the power and gifts of God. They would need these powers and gifts because they would be sent into the known world– a dangerous, hostile world– to spread the Gospel.
APPEARANCE TWELVE– TO APOSTLES IN BETHANY ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, AS HE ASCENDED TO HEAVEN: Read Acts 1:9-12, Mark 16:19-20, and Luke 24:50-53. When Yeshua and His entourage arrived at the Mount of Olives, He issued a blessing. After the blessing, He promised that the Ruach ha-Kodesh would come in a short time. Then, He rose up (ascended) into the sky. “Men in white” (angels) assured the world that Yeshua would return in like manner (Acts 1:3-5, 8-11): To [selected emissaries, Yeshua] showed Himself to be alive after His suffering through many convincing proofs, appearing to them for forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Now while staying with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father promised– which, He said, “you heard from Me. For John immersed with water, but you will be immersed in the Ruach ha-Kodesh not many days from now.” |…| But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” After saying all this– while they were watching– He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. While they were staring into heaven as He went up, suddenly two men stood with them in white clothing. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you keep standing here staring into heaven? This Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”
APPEARANCE THIRTEEN– TO PAUL: Read 1 Corinthians 15:8 and Acts 9:1-6; 18:9-10; 23:11. Yeshua apparently appeared to Paul on at least three occasions:
● Appearing to Paul on the Road to Damascus as a brilliant light, Paul heard Yeshua’s voice– “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Saul was a zealous hater of early Christians. He participated in the stoning of Stephen [Acts 7:54-60; 22:20]. “Saul,” a Jewish name, was Paul’s birth name.) Paul was temporarily blinded by the light of Yeshua, the Light of the world.
● Paul later saw Yeshua in a vision.
● The night before Paul was taken to Rome, Yeshua stood by him and encouraged him.
SIDELIGHT: I will not speculate why this apostle stopped using his Jewish name (Saul) and started using his Roman name (Paul). It would take a lengthy discussion to cover possible reasons for this name change. Paul was “missionary to the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16). Perhaps, he thought a Roman name would be better accepted by the Gentiles. Other possible reasons exist. END sidelight.
CONCLUSION: Those who deny and belittle our faith claim that Yeshua’s resurrection is nothing more than mythology. That is, Yeshua’s disciples made up fanciful stories about Yeshua to establish and promote a new religion, while making themselves, otherwise unremarkable men, seem important. There are at least four flaws in non-believers’ arguments, including:
● Flawed argument 1. It is clear that Yeshua’s followers believed His life ended at a crucifixion event at Golgotha late in the day as Passover approached. Yeshua’s followers loved Him, treasured His friendship, and cherished His wise teachings. Sadly, though, they realized that He was simply wrong about being the Messiah, and He died as had God’s prophets for many centuries in the past. They never expected to see Yeshua alive again in this world. Disheartened, frightened disciples feared for their lives and went into hiding. Mourning women went to the tomb to anoint Yeshua’s body for proper burial in the fashion dictated by Judaism. There was no grand conspiracy to create a new religion around Yeshua. They sadly realized that this good Man was dead and buried. They planned to return to the lives they had prior to following Yeshua around the country. It was all over for them.
● Flawed argument 2. Eyewitness accounts recorded in writing a short time after the event (at a time eyewitnesses were still alive and could refute any false records) documented the resurrection. I have presented thirteen separate instances of Yeshua being seen by and interacting with people. Scriptures about His post-resurrection appearances far exceed the “two or three witness” standard for truth established in the Tanakh. No one read these Scriptural accounts, and then wrote another account to correct the “errors” of the Gospel authors.
● Flawed argument 3. When it became joyously apparent to Yeshua’s followers that He was alive, a New Covenant faith was established on His death, burial, and resurrection (the New Covenant). This new faith was established on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after His crucifixion (Acts, chapter 2). In the next few weeks, I plan to write RRs about the coming of the Ruach-Kodesh to “the called out ones” (Acts, chapter 2). On this day, birth was given to the New Covenant, and a handful of Believers went into the world to declare the Good News.
SIDELIGHT: “Called out ones” comes from the Greek ekklēsia, which transliterates the Greek ἐκκλησίας, and which translators choose to render “church.” I will include a discussion of the seven stages of these “called out ones” (“churches” from Ephesus to Laodicea– Revelation, chapters 2 and 3) from that Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem in the early first century until the present twenty-first century at Shomair Yisrael Messianic Congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee. We have a majestic, powerful heritage, which we must never tarnish, as many of our forefathers have tarnished their heritage.
As we study the seven stages of faith fellowships, keep in mind a principle: Adonai gives (fellowships to mankind); but, He also takes away (these fellowships, if we fail Him). Job painfully learned this truth [Job I:2b]: [Job said] “… Adonai gave and Adonai has taken away; blessed be the Name of Adonai.” END sidelight.
● Flawed argument 4. As the Gospel was spread by Yeshua’s followers throughout the Roman Empire and the known world of the time, they faced brutal persecution and martyrdom. The Roman Empire was in trouble and Roman emperors needed a scapegoat to shoulder the blame for the crumbling Empire. Christians were obvious targets. Many were poor and social outcasts (such as, slaves and prostitutes). They refused to worship the pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses. They worshiped a God based on a difficult-to-understand concept (the Trinity). They “ate the body and drank the blood” of their Yeshua, whom the Romans had crucified. They worshiped Adonai, not the Roman emperor.
SIDELIGHT: There are many parallels between the present-day United States of America republic and the ancient Roman Empire. Christians were persecuted in ancient Rome to provide a scapegoat for the Roman emperors to blame for Rome’s decline. Fast forward to the twentieth century. The Third Reich was in trouble. Adolf Hitler needed a scapegoat for Germany’s problems. Jews and other “undesirables” were convenient for him to blame for the nation’s ills, and the Nazis executed millions to “prove” their lies. Forward to the twenty-first century. The United States of America, a nation divided against itself, is crumbling. America is deeply in debt, and Biden and the Democratic legislators are spending money like “drunken sailors” – with an important exception. “Drunken sailors“ stop spending, when they run out of money. The United States will never admit to running out of money. We will just “print” more. The national debt is a meaningless concept for those in Washington. The politicians have the media to cover for their profligate spending, and citizens are so busy with Facebook and other drivel that most are not paying attention. Watch carefully in coming days. At some point Washington will need a scapegoat upon which to blame failures. I hope I am wrong, but the “cancel culture” attitude is most troubling. We may find that Believers/ Christians will be portrayed as the cause for the nation’s problems. We will be harassed and even persecuted because of our “close-minded” attitudes. In a future RR, I will try to expand things to watch for in end-time persecutions. Yeshua said this situation will come, and I believe we may be seeing its beginning. END sidelight.
A long line of Roman emperors persecuted and martyred Christians, until the fourth century (rulership of Constantine I, or Constantine the Great). Early Believers (Christians) would have been spared tortuous persecution and martyrdom if only they had recanted (disavowed) their belief in Yeshua as Savior. To my knowledge, no Believer ever recanted his/ her faith. To the contrary, Roman soldiers marveled at the peace and joy of Believers, as they went to their deaths. They believed Yeshua was alive. They believed they would soon meet Him in Paradise. The word “martyr” comes from words meaning “witness.” How were early Christians witnesses to Yeshua’s resurrection? They depended on the eyewitness accounts of people who knew Him and saw Him alive after His crucifixion– that is, based on the eyewitness accounts summarized in this RR. People just do not forfeit their lives for a false deity.
Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.