Friday, April 6, 2012

Glories of Easter: Part II

The second thing I would like to discuss is one that I was taught in Freshman year of highschool.

In the Gospel of Matthew, it is written: "About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?") (Matthew 27:46)

Is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God Himself, the mighty Prince of Peace and King of Heaven and Earth, really just a man? Just a man who is crying out in pain to His Father in frustration and agony?

That's honestly what I used to think. And then I saw this:

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.[b]

It is the beginning of the 22nd Psalm. Jesus is not just crying out to His Father, but to His people. He is reminding the Jewish people of the passage with which they are all, as good and faithful Jews, familiar. Within the Psalm, this is also said:

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.[c]
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Christ is telling His people that their prayers have been answered, and that He is their salvation.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
“let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

It is obvious that they have mocked and despised the Christ. But remember specifically the words of the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders:

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:42-43)

Their words are prophesied by David in the psalm.

The psalm goes on to describe many great evils. One of these sections talks about dryness of mouth which, when seen in the light of Jesus’ words from the cross “I’m thirsty,” is revealed to be, in no way, coincidental. As we continue to read the psalm, we arrive at this point:

16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

Recall the scene in Matthew:

When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Matthew 27:35)

Again, the psalm is prophetic of Christ’s crucifixion.

Matthew, who wrote his Gospel with the Jewish people as his audience, knew to highlight the elements of the prophetic psalm that were fulfilled in Christ’s crucifixion. There are no coincidences in the Scriptures.

The psalm is a truly beautiful one, and I encourage you to read the entire thing. But here is just a snippet of the ending:

23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

Finally, I would just like to end with an interesting tidbit of information that is unique to this year and something I found on my very own.

In Catholic tradition, the number 8 is symbolic of resurrection and renewal.

Easter falls this year on April 8.

God Bless you all this Holy Week!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Glories of Easter: Part I

This blog post will discuss some of the more fascinating aspects of Holy Week that are not commonly known.

Something that I recently fell upon while reading Pope Benedict XVI's book, "Jesus of Nazareth: Volume 1" is the historical value of the Biblical figure Barabbas. In all of the Gospels, Barabbas appears during the trial of Jesus Christ when Pontius Pilate allows the Jewish crowd to select one prisoner to set free. They choose Barabbas, and Christ is sent to be crucified. What most people don't realize is that Barabbas was not just some common thief or troublemaker.
The very name "Barabbas" comes from the Hebrew "bar-Abbas" meaning "son of the Father." This "son of the Father" was believed to be the Messiah, declaring war against the Roman occupation of Jerusalem and leading the Jewish militant against Rome. The Jews had traditionally believed for years that the Messiah would be a militant warrior, a rebel, overthrowing the oppression of foreign rule and creating a new political kingdom. When Jesus came and preached His message of faith, hope, and love, as well as a new Kingdom of God that did not reside in the strength of men, many Jews were disappointed to hear it. So, they turned to Barabbas as their leader, believing him to be the true Messiah. It is an interesting contrast from the true Messiah who stood directly beside Barabbas and willingly accepted His death, necessary to found the true Kingdom of Jerusalem.
An interesting thought. But more to come.