Tag Archives: Pharisees

Jesus the rejected prophet Luke 13:31-35

[For the audio version please click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that Jesus is not to be ignored or treated lightly said … AMEN!

Today’s Gospel reading emphasizes the rejected prophet. Essentially we see the leadership of Israel telling Jesus to go take a powder. “We have everything under control, we know what we’re doing, thanks for sharing, but we will keep doing what we’re doing and stop in sometime when you can’t stay so long.” Adios, ave weidershein, dospedonia, aurevoir, see you later Charlie. It might appear that this is a warning from some well meaning Pharisee, but it’s more like “Herod wants to kill you and that’s just fine with us, see ya, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.” Now of course the more cultured and refined of society would never say such things, they would just be snotty and presumptuous, clearly the Pharisees heart is full of hate. Sound familiar? Ya, we get that a lot in the world today. Not so much that anyone is going to kill you, no, you can get in trouble for that. Not so much that they want to see you physically dead, as much as just ruined, maybe … tee hee, some serious suffering, ostracism, and of course the trademark worldly, ridicule. Back in the day though ridicule was just as satisfying by stoning someone or wagging your finger at them, as they would do, while someone hung in shame from a cross.

Jesus had just taken a thinly veiled shot at those who presumed to be so religious, who were sure that they had been saved. Someone had just asked Him: “Lord will those who are saved be few?” Jesus’ reply was “strive to enter through the narrow gate”. While many will tell Jesus at the end time all about how much they did for Him, Jesus’ reply to those who put on a good show, but didn’t live up to it? “Depart from me all you workers of evil”. Does kind of make you stop and think. When we do that we need to drop our perspective, “I did this, I did that, aren’t I a swell guy” and start looking at it from Jesus’ perspective. “Is Jim doing My will, or is He just putting on a swell display for His own gratification? Is He serving me, or is Jim serving Jim?” The Pharisees knew full well what Jesus was saying when He answered the question. They were putting on a show, and in their heart they knew it, and their reaction to Jesus showed defensiveness on their part. “Really Jesus, you’re saying that we will be condemned?” Jesus did go on to say, to those “workers of evil, of iniquity” to depart: “In that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.” (Luke 13: 28) So Jesus is telling them what? … They are going to be going to Hell. They’ve been running their own show, it’s not about God, even though they claim to be all about God. It’s about them using God and their place as, presumably, God’s chosen leaders and them receiving all the glory and benefit. They’re not going to worry too much about turning the spotlight on God, that would take away from them.

The Pharisees are really acting as though they’re out on the playground, “oh yeah Jesus? We’re the cool kids and our boy Herod, well he’s going to fix your little red wagon.” But it wasn’t a fight after school, surrounded by all of Herod’s bully buddies. Herod could easily take Jesus and have Him executed and that’s just what the Pharisees wanted to see, so that they would have the satisfaction of wagging their fingers at Him and that is what they would do.

Jesus or the Pharisees might not be thinking about it, but Jesus has already been in Herod’s sights. Herod the Great tried to end the issue way back, when Jesus was a baby, when Herod sent soldiers into Bethlehem to slaughter the Holy Innocents. Jesus was supposed to be one of those innocents. But it wasn’t God’s will.

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees was : “Go and tell that fox”! Herod you have no idea who you’re playing with. To the effect you better be careful and think about what I’ve already done. I’m not someone to toy with, try to bully, I’ve demonstrated who I am and you, Herod, had better be very careful of how you play this. This Herod, the one who tried to avoid executing John the Baptizer, was no where near as decisive as his father. No doubt Jesus would have put Herod the Great on notice the same way He was warning Herod Antipas, but he wanted Herod Antipas to be very aware: “Go tell that fox…” Jesus knew who Herod was, crafty, sneaky, a man without honor, who was more concerned with his ego, not to be trusted. Again not uncommon in post-modern man or woman. Go tell that self-obsessed ego maniac who he’s dealing with. “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” You’re not in control buddy, I am. You don’t decide what happens, I do. I’ve done things you could never do, I will decide when it’s over and then what happens, I’m God the Son! You Herod will be taking that wide road to destruction where you will be weeping and gnashing your teeth, along with your self-important Pharisee buddies. So I’m going to pick up and leave from here, I’ve made my point and now it’s on to Jerusalem where God’s plan will be worked out according to His will, not the will of some two-bit despot.

At this point Jesus probably turned in the direction of Jerusalem, what should be the holy city, but in reality the one where God’s prophets are shamefully killed. What is partly in despair and partly dejection such high hopes for you, Jerusalem, and yet you’re just as grimy and sin-filled as the rest of the world and you camoflouge it with ornamentation and pretense. If Jerusalem is guilty of its arrogance and rejection of God the Son all the more the rest of the world. Jesus declares that Jerusalem is forsaken and will be with those who take the road to destruction. For those of us who know Jesus as our Savior, how can we show the rest of the world His glory and mercy and how in need all of us are of Him?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

The “S” Word Ephesians 5 Mark 7 First St Johns Church Aug 23, 2015

[For the audio version, please click above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and those who hear and respect God’s Word and not man’s said … AMEN!

God’s plan is just so perfect, it’s a circular sort of situation, that doesn’t mean, as always, that we get what we want all the time, we seem to not understand that relationship is not “hey you jump through hoops for me and then maybe I will love you”. This is what we have in society today and why there is this widespread and deep unhappiness and even resentment. We all submit to Jesus. Submit to your husband, because he is the one that is called to love his wife and not just our squishy kind of love, but the same love Jesus had for the church! Jesus died for the love of His church, men are called to love their wives, agape love, to the point of sacrificing themselves. If your husband will do that for you, doesn’t that suggest respect and submission to him?

Oh baby, anyone preaching on Ephesians 5: 21-33 can just feel the ice cracking around his feet. The “S” word! OHHHHH, no one likes to “S”, S being of course “submit, submission”. Oh no! In today’s world, everyone is an expert, everyone knows it all, we are the most equalitarian society in the history of the earth. Apparently if you are born an American, you are an immediate expert on everything and anything. More and more I’m beginning to see that attitude rather cynically. At my age, you’d think that I would have become pretty much irreparably cynical and yet, more and more I find myself realizing that when I submit to God as His minister, to His people, He does work it out according to His will. Romans 8:28 does seem to get a workout, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Isn’t this part of what the Christian life is all about?

When we say “for those who love God”, doesn’t loving someone mean submitting to Him in order for the good of all concerned? Submission doesn’t mean, just throwing in the towel and mindlessly following. It does mean, at some point you just have to trust that the person.

Certainly the military and corporate environments are a lesson in those areas. There are plenty of times where you’re not sure about something that has to be done, you want to fuss over it a little more, but at some point it’s obvious you have to do what you’re entrusted to do, do it to the best of your ability, so that there will be success. If this is what you’re led to do, it may not be perfect, but it becomes your responsibility to make it as perfect as it can be.

Professor Jeffrey Oschwald observes the shift from chapter 6 to chapter 7. People are running to Jesus, the people: “ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. ESV Mark 6:56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Oh yeah, they wanted Jesus then. Last week’s sermon after Jesus fed thousands and then said OK, now that you have a full stomach, let’s talk real stuff, you have to eat my body and drink my blood to fill your soul, to have real life. Yea, they weren’t so much into that and decided to pick up and leave. In today’s reading, the people are flocking to him and Jesus has healed a number of people, what happens? The Pharisees and the scribes confront Him over a ticky-tack little issue about the disciples washing their hands. Obviously these guys are trying to provoke a confrontation. It’s about 90 miles from Jerusalem, where they’ve come from, to the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, they’re not going to make that trip lightly, they feel threatened and have decided to find any little thing they can in order to pick a fight with Jesus, to somehow discredit Him. You can certainly see Jesus’ frustration. “Here I am, God the Son, look at all these things I’ve done. I’m trying to get you to see real life and what are you doing? Getting up in my grill about a ticky-tack little issue about washing hands? Really?”: “ESV Mark 7:6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘ This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; ESV Mark 7:7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ESV Mark 7:8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” ESV Mark 7:9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Jesus is referring to the quote in today’s reading from Isaiah: “ESV Isaiah 29:13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, ESV Isaiah 29:14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

Obviously Jesus is frustrated and is telling them to get a grip. Are you going to stick to your quibbling little traditions or are you going to see what’s going on here. God the Son is here! It’s time to submit to His will, quit worrying about the petty stuff and see what’s really happening!”

Dr Oschwald observes: “If you had the opportunity for a private audience with Jesus, would you argue about the proper way to wash up before a meal?… Jesus’ opponents seem to have completely lost sight of what really matters before God. The way they ask their question suggests that the root of the problem is that they’ve begun to put human concerns before and above what’s important in God’s eyes. Our initial sympathy with the Pharisees’ concern over clean hands at the table goes right down the drain when we begin to see the real problem in all its seriousness.”[1] We, you and I, often have to stop and ask ourselves; are we going to pick a fight over the trivial stuff or do we look around us and see what Jesus is doing, what great things are happening around us. How to point to, contribute to, focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing and do it to His glory, to the glory of Jesus’ church. How do we proclaim to the world what is going on in His service, to His glory?

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] Rev Dr Jeffrey Oschwald   Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 25, Part 3, Series B p 39

Wow, do we make the wrong choices! First St Johns April 19, 2015 Acts 3:11-21

[For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have denied Jesus for the ways of the world said … AMEN!

Peter, Peter, not known for his subtlety … I know, you always recognize in someone else the thing that is your own biggest issue. Peter was as subtle as a sledge hammer, like me. But I would submit that there is a time for tact and diplomacy and there is a time for up in your grill. Don’t hand me this odd idea that Jesus was always nice and comfy and tactful. He wasn’t! There were plenty of times when Jesus wanted someone to feel uncomfortable, He wanted the other person to know Who He is. Calling Pharisees white washed sepulchers, telling the Rich Young Ruler, “you go and work out your issues with all that wealth that you have, really show me who is God in your life, sell all that stuff, give it away to those who don’t begin to have enough and then we’ll talk. The Biblical talk might seem couched, but when Jesus was calling the religious leaders, snakes, vipers, He wasn’t pulling any punches. Neither is Peter.

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murder to be granted to you …” There is no one more debased, more sinful, vile, more of an affront against God than a murderer. God gives us life, there is no one permitted to take it unless it is specifically granted to someone as a public authority in the left hand kingdom. Let’s not get into these arguments about the capital penalty. The state is authorized by God to protect the citizenry and that includes putting to death those who would deprive another of life. As Christians we know we are made in the imago dei the image of God: “ESV Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Every life is of value to God and yes that includes the whole discussion on abortion. Is this the “unforgivable sin”? No! Jesus died for all the sins of the world, including murder, yes. As Christians when we repent and lift up our sin for forgiveness to God He forgives, even murder, but remember, taking life, God’s creation, is grievous sin against the Creator of Life.

The issue is the terrible irony that Peter is pointing out, that when given the choice by Pilate, the people in the crowd chose to ignore all the proofs that Jesus had given, the incontrovertible evidence who Jesus was, is, who He said He is during the incarnation, the people still chose a murderer over Him: “ESV Matthew 27:17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ”?… ESV Matthew 27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” How do you justify that? How can you with any kind of honesty, given the choice of life “I am the way, the truth and the life.” chose someone who, with his own agenda, choses to kill? Jesus healed, gave people new life, healed them of diseases such as leprosy, an issue of blood, young people who died. He restored hope and promise in so many ways, how can you chose someone who arbitrarily decided to be judge and jury and deprived people of God’s gift?

Peter goes on to point out: “ESV Acts 3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” Remember who Peter is talking to, this is all very fresh in everyone’s mind, they were either right there on Good Friday and watched while they turned against this man who had given so much or they had heard about it. Jesus raised at least three people from the dead. Two ; the ruler of the synagogue and the “widow’s son of Nain”, it happened way out of the way, up in the north, you know what kind of crazy stuff comes out of there. But the straw that broke the camel’s back, the raising of Lazarus, happened just one and a half miles outside of Jerusalem. Jesus was getting right in the face of the rulers of Israel, for that matter everyone in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where it mattered, if it happened in Jerusalem, a statement ended with an exclamation point. “ESV John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well,” Meaning as well as Jesus. John goes on to write: “ESV John 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Don’t try to confuse us with the facts, just because Jesus did this, doesn’t mean that we’re going to fall on our knees to Him, you can hear them saying, as too many of us often say; “There’s important things to do and we haven’t got the time to get into this Jesus stuff right now, we’ll do that when we have to. I seem to run into people who are obsessed over end times prophecy, eschatology, the study of end times prophecy. Those who are more concerned about maintaining their current life so that they can time it just right to come to Jesus at the end of time and be saved. Wow, that’s a gamble, for anyone who is like that, they are assuming they’re going to live that long and then be able to just jump right over and be saved. God is not mocked, and that makes playing with fire seem like a kiddie birthday party game.

We all play that game to an extent. Yes, we are human, Dr Luther says, the old man is constantly going to assert himself, steer us away from Jesus and to sin. Too often we make the wrong choices. It is not our choice that the Holy Spirit guides us to the church of Christ and gives us pastors and brothers and sisters in Jesus to minister to us. That is grace, that is God saving you. You do not make a choice for Jesus, He chooses you. We really have no choice, we either are led to Christ as our Lord, or anything else we do leads to destruction. The path to destruction is wide, wide enough to accommodate all the things that take us from Jesus. As Peter said, it’s not so much that the people on Good Friday made the wrong “choice”, as much as they denied Jesus. They denied the Lord, the Author of life, the one whom God raised from the dead. They were witnesses to that and we are as much today. Too often, we simply deny the Lord and turn to other things to worship. Sure we don’t turn to murders as such, but we do turn to things that clearly deny Jesus. Are we forgiven when we turn to the idols in our lives that deny Jesus? Yes, we are. Jesus died for all of our sins. As my good friend and brother pastor in Christ, Christopher Irelan writes: “”Have no fear, little flock. For the Father has chosen, to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) You future is secured. “Lead me in good paths, for your Spirit is good.” (Psalm 143:10) Your present is secured. “Rejoice in the Lord, always.” (Philippians 4:4) You can rejoice.[1]” It’s not so much about how we deny Jesus, it’s about the fact that the Father has chosen us. We can start on the wide path to destruction, take the wrong course, deny our Lord, but He chooses us, He puts us on good paths, as Christopher says “Your present is secured in Him”, even when we deny Him.

Lift Him up and praise Him, ask the Holy Spirit to guide us around those things that turn us away from Him and as Peter promises the crowd: “ESV Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Christopher Irelan FB devotional April 18, 2015

John the Baptist proclaims the arrival of Jesus John 1 19-34 homily and Bible study on KFUO radio

The following is the text for my homily message on KFUO radio on February 5, The first link is for the discussion on John the Baptist. The second link is my homily on John 1: 19-34

ESV John 1:19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)

25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,

27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.

33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:19 – 34  Sermonette on KFUO for February 5, 2015

I’m from Boston, where politics is as much of a spectator sport as the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots or Bruins. One of the great events is the politician, office holder who gets stopped by the police. Doesn’t matter the offense, the retort is always “do you know who I am?”. That’s almost always a tip off that the person knows they got busted, that they’re in trouble and now they’re trying to use their position to weasel their way out.

Seems we often get too caught up in the person and not the message.

There certainly is a time and a place, a need to know what someone is doing, who it is that’s doing it. Why do we get so caught up, so often needing to know the messenger and not focused on the message? Yes, we get some really messed up messages today and from multiple sources: Television, computers, radios, music recordings. How do we know that they are not of God? Because they don’t communicate the Gospel message. As Christians we should be able to discern what the Gospel message is from the message of the world.

Why do we get so caught up in the “Who are you?” In this day and age, it’s not so much “Who are you?” But “Who are you to tell me?” The message doesn’t seem to matter any more..There is no discernment today, there is simply blind allegiance to whoever it is that is conveying the message. If it’s the right athlete or the right recording artist or the right author, politician yada, yada. The right Bible teacher? Ahhhh, not so much… Unless he’s telling us what we want to hear.

The priests, the Levites, just weren’t that terribly concerned with what John the Baptist preached. Just not really interested, they were interested in who he was. They did that a lot with Jesus too, “where is your authority?”, “What gives you the right?” Not so much like the Bereans, they knew perfectly well who Paul was, good and bad. What did they do, just fall in love with the fact that Paul was talking to them? No! Acts 17:11: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

The priests and Levites didn’t seem to be terribly impressed with John or his message, they wanted him to be Elijah, or someone with a rockstar name for them to fall in love with and listen to. Despite the fact that John was saying all the right things, mostly quoting out of Isaiah and continually steering attention away from himself, something else that made him suspect, at least to the priests and Levites. He was odd, odd clothing, odd food, odd practices, baptizing people, and like Jesus did not fit the mold that they were looking for. They weren’t interested in the validity of the words. They didn’t take down his words and go back to study if John was validly preaching Scripture, God’s revelation, especially as it related to the coming Messiah. No, they wanted the messenger to be Elijah, “the prophet”, who was this guy John?

The take away is this. We are not called to fall in love with the messenger. John the Baptizer was the last of the Old Testament prophets, he was an odd duck, as they all were, none of them were rockstars that you’d fall in love with. But they did convey God’s Word, they did give us God’s revelation? This passage in John’s Gospel quotes John the Baptizer as quoting or alluding to passages in Isaiah, Daniel, Malachi, Genesis and Psalms. The priests and the Levites, the rest of the house of Israel missed the point, getting so caught up in “do you know who I am?”, They missed the message of the Gospel. They stuck with their Laws and rules, relying on them to save them, when they had actual grace and forgiveness in their presence, right before them. They missed salvation in the Gospel. As a pastor, as a minister of Christ I am charged with preaching the truth, I am charged with giving the hope and promise of the Gospel. Not what someone wants to hear, but what God the Father tells us is true salvation in His Son Jesus Christ. I’m definitely not a rock star, but if I am telling you what you need to hear and giving you what you need; Baptism, the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Word, the Father’s Absolution of your sins, you should listen. By all means, be a Berean and take my word back and study it. I love it when someone pushes me on something I said in a sermon or wrote in a blog. But trust that I was placed here as a minister, as a representative of Jesus in order for Jesus to use me to give to you what you need for salvation in Jesus. I’m definitely not going to say “do you know who I am?” Because you wouldn’t. But I can say, as any disciple in Jesus can say, do you know that I am a brother in Christ and that true salvation is in Jesus? It’s not the messenger, it’s whether it’s the message of Jesus Christ in Scripture that is telling you that God the Father has saved you in Jesus. John would have told them: “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” They just wanted to ask the questions when they could have stopped and listened to the one who prepared the way for the Lord.

You want legalism? Rely on your works?

ImageJesus’ Sermon on the Mount, also known as the Beatitudes have been the lectionary lessons for the last few weeks and has raised some interesting discussions. Among them is that guy who lets everyone know that he “lives by the sermon on the mount…” Yea, not so sure that was what Jesus was really intending. That same guy never got angry with anyone and called them a fool, never looked anyone with lust, never stole? Yea, really? Kinda doubtin’ it.

To drive home the point though, because what we are talking about is somehow being saved by grace, vs by your works and “living by the sermon on the mount”, would be your works, if you never do anything bad, you have nothing to be forgiven for kind of thinking.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time had added on something like an additional 200 commandments and 300 laws, over and above what God told Moses in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and they continued to do so, well after Jesus was gone. To the Jew the Law is the ultimate, everything according to the most minute detail. We know we cannot live perfectly under the Law, as Christians we know we need grace. The Law does not save, it only means you didn’t break it. By not breaking the Law does not put God under obligation to save you, only through the grace, sacrifice and redemption of Jesus have we been saved. To illustrate how abstruse the whole procedure became, I have quoted, at length, a passage out of James Michener’s book The Source (which is a really great book, fictionalized account of generations starting at the beginning and going up to the present in Israel).

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In the middle years of the fourth century there was in the Roman city of Tiberias, called Tverya by the Jews, a lively community of thirteen synagogues, a large library and an assembly of elderly rabbis who met in continuous session to discuss the Torah and its later commentaries, seeking thus to uncover the laws which would govern all subsequent Judaism. For hours and even months they debated each phrase until its meaning was made clear, and it was to this body of men that Rabbi Asher directed himself in the spring of 329. He had no need to hurry, for the assembly had been in session, off and on, for a hundred years and would continue for another century and a half, if not in Tverya then in Babylonia across the desert.

…an extensive courtyard in which stood two pomegranate trees and a large grape arbor, beneath which huddled a circle of old men who did not bother to look up at his approach. At their feet, literally, crouched groups of students, following their words affectionately, while at a table under one of the pomegranate trees sat two scribes making notes of how the argument progressed. When decisions were reached, these scribes would compress into a few pithy lines the debate of months, and that would be the law. This day they wrote little as four rabbis engaged in energetic debate on a minor point. FIRST RABBI: We are concerned with one question alone. Protecting Shabbat. I say that the man may not wear it. SECOND RABBI: Speak out. On what authority do you make this claim? THIRD RABBI: Then listen. Rabbi Meir had it from Rabbi Akiba that if a woman goes out of her house on Shabbat with a bottle of perfume so that she may smell nice, she is guilty of vanity and has broken Shabbat. This case is the same. FOURTH RABBI: More to the point. The law of the sages prevents a man on Shabbat from carrying in his pocket a nail from a gallows. Why? He carries it only for good luck and it is forbidden. SECOND RABBI: What nonsense. The man we are talking about does not seek good luck. FIRST RABBI: Listen to t…

FOURTH RABBI: Nor shall she go into the street wearing a hair net. The same case, surely. SECOND RABBI: But remember this. A woman may go abroad on Shabbat sucking a peppercorn to keep her breath sweet. FIRST RABBI: Only if she placed it in her mouth before Shabbat began. THIRD RABBI: Also, the sages always held that if she happened to drop the peppercorn from her mouth during Shabbat, she could not put it back until Shabbat had ended. SECOND RABBI: TO all of that I agree. But our man is not going to drop it from his mouth. And he placed it there before nightfall on Friday. FIRST RABBI: On those requirements we agree. It must be in his mouth before Shabbat begins. THIRD RABBI: The real question. Has he any right to have it there at all on Shabbat? No, because it is an act of vanity. Lik…

SECOND RABBI: Agreed. If it is merely an ornamentation, the man must not have it [a gold tooth] in his mouth on Shabbat. FOURTH RABBI: And I insist that it is merely an ornament. SECOND RABBI: Hold now! He wears his false tooth in order to eat better. FOURTH RABBI: But he could eat just as easily if he didn’t have it. A false tooth for a man is no more, no less, than a gold headdress for a woman. SECOND RABBI: That cannot be the case. The headdress is ornamentation. The tooth is a necessity. THIRD RABBI: False. A gold tooth is just as attractive to a man as a gold … SECOND RABBI: Who said a gold tooth? I said a tooth. A false tooth added to the mouth for the purpose of chewing better. THIRD RABBI: Is there a difference between a false tooth and a gold false tooth? FIRST RABBI: Indeed! The gold tooth i…

FOURTH RABBI: Error! Error! THIRD RABBI: Is not a false tooth placed in the mouth the same as a woman’s curls added to her forehead? And do not the sages say that she may not wear such curls unless they are sewed on permanently? FOURTH RABBI: Why permanently? THIRD RABBI: Lest she inadvertently add them to her head on Shabbat. FIRST RABBI: Sewing she can be trusted not to do because three acts are involved. Needle, thread and sewing. She knows that each is forbidden. But pinning a curl to the head is not a usual act and this she may forget, so it is forbidden. THIRD RABBI: And a false tooth is not added to the mouth permanently, but must be put in each day, and is therefore exactly like the false curl of the woman, which may not be worn.”

Still want to be a legalist, still want to live according to a bunch of laws? And if that doesn’t convince you check out the Code of Federal Regulations and imagine that as part of your personal life.

I don’t know about you, but I just wanted to go crawl into a corner after reading this. How can you really live your life this way and when Jesus told His listeners that in order to be righteous, you had to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, he knew that couldn’t be done, He knew that even the Pharisees couldn’t do it. That is why God gave us grace, that is why He gave His Son Jesus to be the propitiation of our sin. Otherwise we would all be doomed to condemnation. Hey, not my rules, the reality is the Bible, I’ve seen a lot of other “realities”, but they never seem to have the authority to back up what their “reality” is.

So you can get caught up in your works, that just aren’t going to save you. Or you can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit, feel the salvation of Christ. As always you, your family, are welcome to worship at First St Johns, be a part of the family of Christ here at First St Johns, 140 W King St, downtown York, Pa. 10:30 am, plenty of parking in rear. God bless you all. Image

And please check out our Lent/Easter worship schedule at http://www.lutheransonline.com/firststjohns