The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.
The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.
He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”
Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added) This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.
In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”
In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.
These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.
Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, blood, Christian, covenant, event, freedom, God, grace, hearing, heart, house of prayer, israel, Jerusalem, Jesus, jewish, judaism, lamb, life, love, mercy, yeshua
One night, in family devotions, I was reading to my kids from a Bible storybook about Cain and Abel. In this author’s rendition of the story, Cain’s offering was rejected because it was not his best, while Abel’s offering was the best he had to give and therefore acceptable to God. It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…this writer missed the entire point of the Biblical story! In fact, I believe the reality is quite the opposite. Cain was a “tiller of the ground”. His days consisted of backbreaking manual labor and he earned every morsel with the “sweat of his brow”. When asked to bring a sacrifice to God, he must have surely thought that his offering would be the best in God’s sight. Cain’s offering was the hard earned fruit of his labor, the work of his own blistered hands. But, in spite of all Cain’s striving, God rejected his offering. The Bible says, “Cain was exceedingly angry and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5). Cain was so frustrated and angry because he had indeed brought his best to God…and yet his best was not good enough.
God said, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” “Do well?” Cain must have thought. “I’ve done the best I can do.” Perhaps Cain knew in his heart that he had worked longer and harder than Able ever did. Through sweat, tears and hard manual labor Cain had worked the thorny soil to bring this offering to the Lord. Yet God was pleased with Abel’s gift and not his own. Cain could not understand and soon his frustration boiled over into murderous rage.
Why was Abel’s offering acceptable to God? Was it a better offering? Had Abel worked more or harder or better? On the contrary…Abel brought the blood of an innocent other. The real sacrifice was not his at all…it was really the sheep who had paid the dearest price. Abel was NOT relying on the work of his hands and the fruit of his labor. Somehow he understood that it was the blood that satisfied God.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb 9:22). Cain is a type of all those who come to God with the work of their own hands. Even if we do our best and strive with all our might to please God, we will always come up short, no matter how well-intentioned we may be. Whenever you swipe the credit card of your own righteousness into God’s ATM it will ALWAYS be declined. All our righteousness is like filthy rags.
Abel is a type of all those who come to God with the blood of that innocent other; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is the blood of Jesus that has cleansed us from all sin (I John 1:7). It is the blood of Jesus that has purged our conscience from dead works (Heb 9:14). It is the blood of Jesus that has reconciled us unto God (Eph 2:13). It is the blood of Jesus that has redeemed us (1 Pet 1:18). Abel came not on the basis of his works, but in faith, and like Abraham, “It was counted to him as righteousness.” By faith we carry God’s own credit card, without a capital limit, backed by the collateral of heaven’s endless supply, and billed to Calvary’s address. Hallelujah!
Daniel Kolenda is an evangelist with Christ For All Nations, along with Reinhard Bonnke.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, blood, cain and abel, murder, sacrifice