Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 12, 2017

Sermon: “But…”

Growing up as a kid in the ‘70s meant that most Saturday mornings was spent in front of the TV eating Captain Crunch cereal and watching cartoons.  In an effort to infuse a little education into the minds of children up at the crack of dawn ABC Television created a series of cartoon shorts called Schoolhouse Rock! 

These educational episodes covered a myriad of topics including grammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and civics. The series' original run lasted from 1973 to 1985. Unlike my childhood, you can watch them today on the internet anytime you wish. 

I give thanks to these tidbits of wisdom for teaching me the preamble to the constitution, how a bill is passed in Washington, how three is a magic number, and how we all are victims of gravity. 

One video that is forever etched into my long term memory was called “Conjunction Junction.”  It first aired in 1973 and in word and song asks the question, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”  It goes on to describe the function of conjunctions such as “and, but and or.”  Here is a link so you can watch the video: https://youtu.be/4AyjKgz9tKg

The function of a conjunction is to connect phrases, words and clauses to make complex sentences or to make comparisons. This Schoolhouse Rock! Video used a train car analogy to describe how the parts of the sentence are connected by the conjunction. 

Why do I say all of this?

Last week Pastor Kevin dropped a big “but” on us.  He connected a counter proposal to what the world would say.  

He introduced evidence from scripture that overwhelms the hypothesis of the masses.

The cross is a big but!  Now, I know that sounds kinda silly, especially to my often immature ears.  It’s not like I’m asking, “Does this robe make my butt look big?” 

It’s the counterproposal to what the prince of this world wants you to hear.  The cross is a big but, not anatomically, but grammatically. 

The cross, the tool of torture and death should have been the end of Jesus at least that is what the Pharisees and religious leaders thought. 

Yeah, but…the the cross is the beginning of life and the tool by which we are freed from sin and set apart for service.  In the cross we see the power and the wisdom of God for us! 

It is an outlandish position to take that when God is at His weakest and His lowest—that is hanging on a cross—there He is the strongest as He brings to all humanity grace, mercy and forgiveness of all our sins. 

In his ministry that led to the cross of Calvary Jesus himself dropped some big “buts.”  We see them over and over again in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. 

For the next few weeks our assigned Gospel readings will focus on Jesus teaching words from this event and we will see some big buts. 

Let’s dig into our text (from Sunday), from Matthew, the 5th chapter, “You are salt for the earth.  But if salt loses its taste, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.  You are light for the world.  A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.  Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand.  Then its light shines on everyone in the house.  In the same way let your light shine in front of people.  Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:13-16)

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say.  He doesn’t say that we are “to be” salt and light, but that we “are” salt and light.  It is an important distinction.  He has done the work for us and He simply releases us into the world, to connect with the world.

Jesus answers the question many have, “What is my function in this world?”

It would be very easy to simply stick around and relish in the victory of the cross.  Yes, the victory over sin, death and the devil has been won, BUT, Jesus pushes us forward into service.

Salt is useful, not just as a seasoning as we think of it today, but when Jesus walked the earth, the only real way to preserve food, especially meat, was to use salt.  We are also useful in this world.  We can serve as a preservative in this corrupt and sinful world as we give glory to God and connect others to Jesus.  It is our function this side of heaven.

Of course Jesus is also the light of the world.  He said so Himself.  He came to overcome the darkness of sin, wickedness, ignorance and unbelief.  We are called as light in the world and to reflect the light of Christ just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

It is the nature of light to shine.  There is no such thing as light that does not shine.  That would be impossible, it would be like cold heat or dry water, but (there is that word again) light can be covered up. 
This is what Jesus is warning us about. 

In the old Sunday school song, “This little light of mine,” we are reminded to let that light shine, let it shine, all the time!

But I know there are times when I want to hide it, extinguish it, or deny it.  But it is precisely for those moments that Jesus came.  In our weak and lowly moments He is strong and is there to remind us that His grace is sufficient for us and He came to connect us to the source of the light, and to connect us to the one who gave us life now and for eternity.

He desires a deep and abiding connection with us.

We might try to go our own way at times, BUT, our good and gracious God pursues us with His mercy.  And He sends you and me, as salt and light to the world, even when we might argue, yeah, but, “I’m not very good at this”, or “But I don’t know what to say”

As salt and light we are called to interact with others, to help others get connected to the true light.  As His light shines through us, it is God our Father who is praised. 

Often times, we get uncomfortable talking about what we are to do in our life of faith.  We know that Jesus has done it all, our salvation is secure.

BUT this is not an issue of our salvation; it is an issue of our sanctification.
Jesus sends us out into the world to bring His light to others.

We must never forget what God has done.  But we must never think we had anything to do with our redemption, and that does not mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing. 

We are His hands, we are His feet, you have been called to action, called to serve passionately, to give proportionately, and to share intentionally. 

That is what it means to live as salt and light in this world, always keeping Christ and the cross in our sight and giving glory to God —BUT—remember that we have been released for service that will connect others to Jesus.  It is our function until he returns.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, February 13, 2017

The One Year Bible- February 13th



This week we will start the book of Mark and right at the beginning of this Gospel there is a verse that jumps out at me, “News about him [Jesus] spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee” (Mark 1:28 NIV). Just think of the power of Jesus. Mark tells us “At once” everyone around knew about him. It reminds me of living in the Internet age. We can get information “at once” as soon as events happen. It is amazing how fast news travels. But what has happened to the good news about Jesus? Why is his fame not being spread everywhere? Well one reason is because the Devil doesn’t want it to. Satan is waging war against the good news of Jesus Christ and at times he seems to be winning. Satan is not happy that you are reading the Bible this year and he will work on your soft spots to get you behind and tempt you to give up. Don’t let his tricks get you down. You have the most powerful weapon in the fight, the Word of God. Remember that the battle belongs to the Lord and even though we may loose a few skirmishes here and there the ultimate victory is the Lord’s. Keep up the good work and fight the hard fight as you pick up the sword of the Spirit daily. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The end of Exodus is just a foretaste of what is to come in the book of Leviticus. We will be taking a break from the narrative story for a while and read about many of the nuts and bolts of religious life of the people of Israel. We usually do not read these sections of scripture in Church so they may be brand new for you. Exodus ends with the building of the tabernacle and all the furnishings. This place (and later the temple) is the physical representation of Yahweh on earth. It is quite literally, God’s house. The building of this structure is important for many reasons. First of all, it gave the people something tangible in their relationship with God. Secondly, it was a place where God could interact with his people bringing mercy and forgiveness. Third, it sets up the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus referred to himself as a temple that would be destroyed and build again in three days. Jesus himself came down to be a physical representation of Yahweh on earth. In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The word we translate at “made his dwelling” literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” among us. When Jesus came to earth he becomes another tabernacle, this one wrapped in flesh and poised to be the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. Now the tabernacle had its own purpose in the days of the Israelites, and the temple as well for that matter, but they both point to a greater tabernacle and temple in the person of Jesus Christ.

One other thing I want to do this week is give you an introduction on the many different offerings that are mentioned in Exodus and especially in Leviticus.

Burnt Offering: Leviticus 1; 6: 8-13; 8: 18-21; 16: 24 The burnt offering was for unintentional sin. This was a blanket sacrifice for wrongdoing in general. The price was a male bull, lamb or goat. It had to be a perfect animal, without defect. The poor could offer a pigeon or dove. The penitent would present the animal at the entrance to the tent, which housed the altar and the tabernacle. After presenting the animal, the sinner would place his two hands on the animal and thus, it was accepted as an offering for sin. Probably this act transferred the sin from the human to the animal, which paid the penalty and was sacrificed. They would kill their own offering and then the priests took over.
The priests bled the animal and cut it up ceremonially. The priests sprinkled the blood on the altar. Some of the internal organs and legs were washed. They then burned it whole on the altar. The aroma was said to be pleasing to God. The fire had to be continually burning and was never extinguished.

Grain Offering: Leviticus 2; 6: 14-23 Voluntary worship and thanks: A grain offering is just what it says. The grain had to ground into flour and could be put into loaves or cakes. Olive oil and incense were added to make a pleasing aroma when it burned. Yeast was forbidden for this offering. The cakes had to be salted. The offering was presented to the priests who burned a small portion of it on the altar. The rest was food for them and the Levites.

Fellowship Offering: Leviticus 3: 7: 11-34
A voluntary act of worship, thanks and fellowship: This is called a fellowship offering because the sacrifice is eaten communally instead of burned. Any clean animal, male or female could be offered. Bread, both with and without yeast, was also part of the offering. These were presented at the gate of the tent. The priests would sprinkle the blood on the four corners of the altar. The internal organs, the fat on them and the best part of the liver were burned as a food offering. The rest had to be eaten within two days or else it was burned also.

Sin Offering: Leviticus 4: 1-5: 13; 6: 24-30; 8: 14-17; 16: 3-22 Mandatory for specific sins: All of these offerings for sins are for unintentional transgressions. If you were guilty of premeditated infraction, these offerings didn’t help you. Your stature in the community determined the kind of sacrifice that you were required to offer. A young bull was required for the sin of a high priest or for a community sin. Leaders had to present a male goat. The common people could bring a female goat or a lamb. The poor were permitted to offer a dove or pigeon and the very poor could get away with a tenth of an ephah of fine flour. The bull’s fat was burned inside the camp but the rest was burned outside. Leviticus 5 records the sins for which a sin offering was required. These include unintentionally touching an animal that is ritually unclean, touching something unclean of human origin or making a careless promise.

Guilt Offering: (Repayment Offering) Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7: 1-6 Mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution: This is a repayment offering for a sin committed against God, like holding back your tithe. A ram or lamb was brought to the tent to be sacrificed. The debt would have to be paid plus an additional twenty percent. These were the offerings outlined in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. God could forgive mistakes but intentional sins were another matter.

The New Testament
At the beginning of last week we saw the familiar words of institution as Jesus gives his disciples communion for the first time. Remember that meals were very important for the Jews and the connection that this new meal of remembrance first occurred during Passover is by no means a coincidence. Remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and this new covenant made in blood would ring a bell with all his readers. This would cut to the heart of any Jew, hearing about this because blood equals life. It is not in our culture to think of that. In fact when people outside of the Christian faith hear about being washed in the blood of the lamb, they get turned off from Christianity. I guess my point here is we need to watch how we word some things. To a Jewish audience, Matthew does the culturally relevant thing; when we share the message of Jesus we need to be careful not to offend or even gross out someone when talking about blood.

I want to say a few words about the Great commission this week and I hope not to loose you when I start talking about Greek grammar. First of all every time we translate the Bible from its original languages we loose something. The phrase “Lost in translation” is really true. At times when we translate into English we then, without thinking place certain rules and meaning based on sentence structure and word order. Unfortunately many people, myself included, have misinterpreted portions of scripture because of our cultural bias toward English. In reading the Great Commission in English it seems to be that Jesus is giving us a command (called an imperative) in the word “go”, but in the Greek this word is an adverbial participle, not an imperative. What is an adverbial participle? The action described by an adverbial participle is primarily directed toward the verb. This kind of participle is usually translated with an adverbial phrase. “While studying for his Greek final...” or “While going through the world...”. So we see in Matthew 28 an interesting grammatical sentence that if translated properly is very poor English. A very literal interpretation would be, “As you are going, disciple all the nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things...” The only imperative in the Great Commission is to disciple others—literally to make them learners. How do we do it? Well, Jesus tells us, we are to baptize and teach. Again these words are not imperatives but the natural flow of what will occur by “discipleing” others. Don’t even get me started on the NIVs use of the word “obey”. What a poor translation that is! We are to observe the things of Jesus through his word and actions and they serve as a guide. They are descriptive on how we are to live not prescriptive. I could go on about this one but we don’t have time here.

One quick thing about the book of Mark. As you read look for the extensive use of the word “immediately” (or similar phrases such as “at once”, they are usually the same word in the Greek). This is a book of action. It hits the ground running and never stops. It is a good book to read as we slug through Leviticus. It will give us some balance to our readings for the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 5, 2017

Sermon: “Yeah, But…”

Yeah, but!

Those words mean that one is introducing evidence to counter an earlier hypothesis or is explaining a previous action. 

St Paul's, "yeah but" deals with that which counters fallen reason and understood strength.  You can hear the charges:

"Not very smart to sacrifice yourself for those who rebelled against you right?" 
Yeah but...the cross is the wisdom of God! 

"How mighty can he be if he can be killed upon a tree?" 
Yeah but...the cross is the power of God! 

For through the cross we come to know the depth of God's love and we overcome the enemies we could never have defeated ourselves.

The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength; that's why for us the cross is the wisdom of God and the power of God.


-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 06, 2017

The One Year Bible- February 6th


This week’s readings have been filled with many of the most theologically significant passages in all of scripture.  I hope you have found that seeing some familiar passages in context helps in the understanding of them.  We have a lot to get to so let’s get on to the study...


Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament:
This weeks readings begin with the most revered event in Jewish history—The Exodus. After the plagues, Pharaoh finally relents and lets the people leave. As the people are leaving, God blesses the people by having the Egyptians give the people of Israel gifts of gold, jewelry and other valuables. These “gifts” will come in handy a bit later in the story. We begin to see what will become a pattern for the people. They start complaining. We will read about their complaints over and over in the upcoming chapters. This pattern continues once they get into the Promised Land as well and eventually explodes into open rebellion from God. God continues to show the people mercy even though he does not have to. He would have every right to get rid of them all but in His love He doesn’t. While they are in the desert God gives the people instructions on how to live, how to worship, how to conduct business etc. This is really a time of learning for the people. God is preparing them to be a Nation. One of the most significant things that God gives them is found in Exodus 20. Here we have what many have called “The 10 Commandments”. In Jewish tradition they were never called “commandments”. They were always referred to as “The 10 Words” or “The 10 Sayings”. They are as follows:

1. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.
2. You shall have no other Gods but me.
3. Do not misuse my name.
4. Remember the Sabbath day.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t give false testimony.
10. Don’t covet.

Christians disagree about the numbering of the commandments because of a misunderstanding of what “The 10 Words” were all about. Many see the Ten Commandments as a list of laws and rules that the people had to obey. They are seen as only a message of the law. When we look at these from a Jewish point of view we see that all the “words” flow out of a message of the Gospel, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt”. Because of what God has done first then we are able to do the other 9 things. It is like saying; “Because God led us out of Egypt, is merciful to us, remembered us and loves us we would never think of having any other gods, or misusing his name etc.” The numbering of the commandments differs between Christians as well. Some make two commandments out of “You shall have no other Gods” and “You shall not make any idols”. In the Lutheran tradition, we have divided “Do not covet” into two commandments. So what is the point of all of this? Are we doing something wrong? Not really. The numbering of the commandments is a side matter. The big idea here is that the commandments are really our response to what God has done for us (this is a very Lutheran way of thinking anyway). Because God loves us our response is to follow his law. Some get it turned around and think that because I follow God’s law then God loves me. This was the thought of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

In our readings this past week God gave instructions for the tabernacle and all of the furnishing that will go into it. This was to be a forerunner of the Temple that would be built by Solomon in Jerusalem many years later. It was a visible sign of God’s presence with His people. It was a place for sacrifice and a reminder of God’s law as well as his promises.

Another tidbit of foreshadowing comes in a warning that God delivers to Moses.  God said not to have any interaction with the people who possess the land they will be inheriting.  He said, “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:32-33 NIV).  Eventually as the people enter the Promised Land they will not heed this warning and their involvement with the local people will cause problems for them for their entire history.  Remember this passage and see how this plays out in the weeks to come.

The New Testament
In our readings we see a few encounters that Jesus has with the Pharisees. As Jesus speaks the truth to them he only makes them more upset and fuels the fire to arrest and kill him. One of the more interesting things I have seen in our readings came on February 3rd & 4th. On the 3rd we see Jesus restating the Law of Moses. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is he replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). In a few short sentences, Jesus states the entire message of “The 10 words”. To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind is to have no other Gods, to not misuse the name of God, and to worship the LORD alone. To love your neighbor as yourself is to follow all the others. I find it fascinating that the very next day we see “The 10 words” in our Old Testament reading. I think the Spirit had something to do with this. Jesus also teaches quite a bit about signs of the end of the age. His main point is that we must be ready. Don’t worry about when it will happen or how it will happen, just know that it will happen and we must be ready. He makes his point clear with the story of the sheep and the goats.

We just started the story of the Passion this week and it will be good for us as Lent begins soon to read the whole story in preparation.  Take some time this week as you read the Passion account to ready your heart and mind for Lent this year.

Bits and Pieces


We will be starting two new books this week.  First off we will move into the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament.  A word of caution here, many people do well getting through Genesis and Exodus but Leviticus is a different story, it can be a brick wall for some people.  The narrative story takes a break for God to give some needed instructions to the people.  The book of Leviticus is not the easiest reading, but remember it is still God’s Word.  Be patient and remember that this is all part of the old covenant that has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  It may take you a bit longer to get through the readings but hang in there.  We will run into this again in a few of the prophets.  But for now, remember that we are not the primary audience of this book.  Put yourself in the context of the hearers and it will make some more sense to you.  Here are the vital stats for the book:

PURPOSE: To teach Israel how God shares His holiness with them and how they should live in His holiness.
AUTHOR: Moses
SETTING: At the foot of Mt. Sinai. God is teaching the Israelites how to live as a holy people.
KEY VERSE: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God am holy” 19:2
KEY PEOPLE: Moses, Aaron, Eleazar (Aaron’s son)
KEY PLACE: Mt. Sinai
SPECIAL FEATURE: Holiness is mentioned more times (152) than in any other book of the Bible
GOSPEL THEMES: Cleansing; atonement; redemption; consecration; rest.
LAW THEMES: Uncleanness; sin requires a blood sacrifice; diseases resulting from sin; walking in God’s statues and commands.

We are also starting the Gospel of Mark this week.  I love the book of Mark and I suggest that this is a good book to start reading with a new Christian. Marks favorite word is “immediately”. He uses it often. Mark has been called the action Gospel or the Gospel to the Gentiles. Mark is believed to be the writer of Peter’s story.  Many scholars see the fingerprints of Peter throughout the book.  Here are the vital stats:

PURPOSE: To proclaim Jesus the Son of God, who calls disciples to repent, to believe the Gospel, and to bear the cross.
AUTHOR: John Mark. He was not one of the 12 disciples but he accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel
DATE WRITTEN: Between A.D. 55 & 65
SETTING: The Roman Empire under Tiberius Caesar. The empire with its common language and excellent transportation and communication system was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.
KEY VERSE: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)
KEY PEOPLE: Jesus, the 12 disciples, Pilate, the Jewish leaders
KEY PLACES: Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, Bethany, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Golgotha
SPECIAL FEATURES: Mark was probably the first Gospel written. The other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of Mark. Mark records more miracles than any other Gospel.
LAW THEMES: Repentance; political and religious opposition; uncleanness; authoritative teaching; heard-heartedness
GOSPEL THEMES: The Good news; baptism; compassion; mercy; cleansing; authoritative teaching; ransom; Lord’s Supper

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of January 29, 2017




Our Renaissance logo captures the reality that for us, we who have been crucified with Christ, the cross is our root and our fruit!

If the cross is not our root, our source of identity and our reason for being, the very foundation for our association with one another, we are a pointless assembly. Oh sure, we’d still gather, but our base would not be set on the eternal, absolutely true, constant, as certain as the sun rising in the east each morn and the traffic on the 405 freeway crawling north and south each eve. Yes, the cross is our root!

Colossians 2:13-14  “When you were dead in your sins, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave you all your sins…taking away all that was against you and stood opposed to you by nailing it to the cross.

If the cross is not our fruit, the beauty we bring into the world and wonder that blossoms through our being we have missed the point of our assembling. Oh sure, some “good” would still result in our collective output but it would not be a bloom of grace, a harvest of righteousness nor yield eternity.

2 Corinthians 5:15 & 18-20 “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…God reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: we reconciled to God.”

The Renaissance Logo seeks to capture these two truths: the cross is our root and our fruit.  Renaissance means rebirth and renewal; and while our campus will experience some much needed rebirth and renewal in this campaign, it is us, individually and collectively that we pray experience the greatest renaissance! That renaissance takes place as we are renewed or restored or returned to the fullness of the beauty and certainty that the cross, which is our root and our fruit, bears in us and through us.


-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, January 30, 2017

The One Year Bible- January 30th



Congratulations on finishing one month in the journey of reading the Bible this year!!  I have been thinking about the over arching story of the Bible.  As we journey in the Bible this year we will see narrative sections as well as prescriptive sections.  The narrative portions get the big billing since they tell the “story,” but don’t just skip past the other sections.  There is some good stuff in there.  Just over 40% of the Old Testament is devoted to telling the narrative story.  The following Old Testament books are largely or entirely composed of narrative material: Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai.  Also, Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Job contain substantial narrative portions.  People like stories, and the stories in the Bible are important.  They are purposeful stories that tell the historical events of the past and are intended to give meaning and direction for a given people in the present.  There is a difference in the Bible’s stories for they tell God’s story.  As the book How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth says, “The Biblical narrative tells the ultimate story—a story that, even though often complex, is utterly true and crucially important.  Indeed it is a magnificent story, grander than the greatest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story could ever be.” (How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 90)  Enjoy the stories and remember to try to see the overarching story of God’s love for his creation and his desire to save us from sin. 
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
Exodus is a well written book that is foundational for the faith of both Christians and Jews; within its pages lie some of the key elements of our faith (the Passover, the 10 commandments a.k.a. the 10 words). A reading of this book is not complete without seeing the awesome wonder and power of God. One of the key words in the Old Testament is translated as “remembered”, as in God remembered his people, the people are to remember to celebrate the Passover etc. This is a theologically significant word in that it shows God’s grace and his love for his people. This theme will be carried out to completion as God “remembers” his people once again as they are slaves to sin and provides redemption through his son. Before we get to the Passover lets take a closer look at one of the most famous sections in the book, namely the plagues. Much has been made of these events in movies and other media but they show how God works in systematic ways. One thing to remember is that even when God showed his mighty wonders, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He said the right things but went back on his word. I think at times we are all a bit like Pharaoh. We like to have things our own way and when things are going badly we will promise everything. Things ease up and we go back on our word. Eventually this will end up badly for us. But I am getting off track, so back to the plagues...

Before the first plague Moses and Aaron have a confrontation with Pharaoh and his magicians. We see here that Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them. By looking at the first nine plagues in groups of three we can see some interesting things.

The Plagues:

1. Blood (7:14-25)
2. Frogs (8:1-15)
3. Gnats (8:16-19)

4. Flies (8:20-32)
5. Animal Disease (9:1-7)
6. Boils (9:8-12)

7. Hail (9:13-35)
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
9. Darkness (10:21-27)

In each series the first and second plagues are announced to Pharaoh in advance. The third is given without previous warning. The series of 3 x 3 leads up to a climax in number 10—the number that is the symbol for completeness. Within the plagues themselves there is a progression, an increase in severity. The last three are especially severe and destructive. The Egyptian magicians vie with Moses in duplicating the first two plagues. At the third they try but no longer succeed in their magic arts. They must confess, “This is the finger of God.” Beginning with the second group of plagues (4,5 & 6) a distinction is made between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The land of Goshen where the Israelites live is spared. The first nine plagues deal with phenomena that have to do with nature. Since the Egyptians worshiped the powers of nature, what more effective way could God display his power over all things, which they looked upon as deities? The tenth plague was the plague of the firstborn. With this plague all the first-born were to be killed. But the angel was to “pass over” the homes of the Israelites.

The Passover presents to us one of the most important Old Testament types of the Savior Jesus Christ. As we look at the directions for preparing the Passover meal, we see step by step how the entire ritual points to Christ, our Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a year-old male. John the Baptist tells of the Messiah who was to be the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." In Corinthians, Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” God directed that this Passover lamb was to be “without defect.” Peter wrote that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The Passover lamb was to be slaughtered as a sacrifice. Paul reminded his people “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. The writer of the book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Christ as an “offering” and “sacrifice”. “Do not break any of the bones.” This was direct foreshadowing of Jesus. The Israelites were to “take some of the blood and but it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses.” God said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” This points to the teaching that we are redeemed from the power of sin, death and Satan with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God tells the people that they are to remember the Passover for “generations to come”.
I hope you can see how the Passover celebration is important to our understanding of who Jesus is and how he is the culmination of Gods redeeming work on earth. It is no coincidence that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he was betrayed. Again it is no coincidence that Jesus instituted another celebration that is to be celebrated for “generations to come” as he gave his disciples the first communion feast.
The New Testament
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about parables this week since we have seen so many of them in the book of Matthew and we will see more as we go through the Gospels. In my seminary classes on the New Testament we spent quite a bit of time on parables because of their wonderful content and use for us not only as preachers but also as Christians. Today I would like to share with you some material from an article written by Dr. Erich H. Kiehl who was a professor at Concordia Seminary St. Louis for many years. He wrote an article titled “Why Jesus Spoke in Parables” in which he said:
A parable may be defined as “a story with a puzzling quality which confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.” Perhaps the most helpful is the more usual definition: “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly (spiritual) meaning” with the addition “in the sense that it confronts the hearer with the need to make a decision for or against Christ through the Spirits work.”
An analysis of the content of the Gospels indicates that about one-third of the Gospel accounts are parables. Aside from their theological importance, parables shed much light on life in the New Testament era. Except for the Egyptian papyri, which emphasize life in Egypt, the parables are the best source of information about life in the Near East in the New Testament era. They reflect the innate love of graphic, pictorial speech and the great delight in a story, which is still true of life there today. Jesus’ parables demonstrate everyday experiences and events in the world of nature.
Since Jesus’ hearers would not listen to him on his terms, that is, the true meaning of the kingdom of God as revealed in Scripture, Jesus then began to speak to them in parables. His hearers had an innate love for graphic stories and pictorial speech. Jesus used this appealing parabolic approach to catch their attention and to seek to get them to ponder the true meaning of what he said. As people wondered and pondered what Jesus was telling them in his parables, the Holy Spirit could work in their hearts, seeking to lead them to the proper Biblical understanding of His message. In time, as the Spirit penetrated the hardness of the heart, hearers could grow in understanding of the true meaning and nature of God’s kingdom and of life in the kingdom. Crucial in this was the Spirit leading them to understand who Jesus truly is in His ministry and teaching as the fulfillment of the prophecies in his person and work, and its decisive implications for their life as members of God’s covenant people.
From The Concordia Journal July 1990 p.248-249.
Dr. Kiehl continues in his article to develop the skills of determining what Jesus actually meant when he told his parables. He warns us not to try to put our own meaning into the parables but to strive to find the true meaning, the one that Jesus meant for us to have. This is no easy task, especially when Jesus does not explain the meaning of the parable. Don’t worry too much if some of this flies over your head. The main point is not to force our own thoughts and insights on the text and miss the true point of the parable. When in doubt, pray, meditate, or ask your pastor if you don’t fully understand.


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