Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting Yelled at by a Jewish Lady!

I had a pretty crazy experience a few nights ago as I was flying home from JFK (New York City) to LAX (Los Angeles). I had just had a wonderful weekend teaching at a Calvary Chapel in New Jersey. I was sitting near the back of a sold out Boeing 757, next to the window. The man next to me was an older orthodox Jew named Bob on his way home to California. I had a great conversation with him about Israel, archaeological ruins, Judaism, Bible prophecy, Islam, evidence for the existence of God, etc.

I asked him a lot of questions about Judaism to see if what I had learned about modern day Judaism in the books was really what the average Jew on the street believed today (it was!). It was a delightful conversation. We shared many laughs. Well, after a while I began to ask him questions about the messiah (e.g., How will you know who the messiah is? What will he do?). Most Jews today have rejected the possibility that Jesus is their messiah and believe that the messiah is still yet to come. I followed up those questions by asking him some questions regarding his view of certain passages in the Old Testament that I believe clearly point to Jesus (e.g., Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:26-27) and specifically His death. Jews today do not believe the messiah is going to come and die, but rule and reign as a king.

Well, on more than one occasion he had to admit that the questions were good questions but that he did not have an answer. I then got to explain the Christian perspective on these passages. He really seemed to enjoy hearing our perspective. I think he was a bit surprised that a Christian was so familiar with the Old Testament. (Many Jews believe Christians have sort of cast aside the Old Testament. Why? Well because they think that we think it is old, as in outdated or irrelevant, which of course is not the case).

I think some seeds were planted and I was thanking the Lord for allowing us to sit next to each other. I decided to give him some breathing room to think about what I had said. So I put on my headphones, but then a short time later, to my shock, he tapped me on the shoulder wanting to continue the conversation.

He brought up the Trinity. He said, "What do you think about the Trinity? Do you believe in the Trinity?" I said "Yes" and began explaining the doctrine to him (again from the Old Testament). Well, I was not prepared for what was about to happen.

As I was explaining the Christian view point on this, his wife (a woman probably in her sixties) who was sitting in the row in front of us, unbuckled her seat belt, stood up, turned around and started yelling at us (no exaggeration!):

"Stop talking about Jesus!! Stop it! Stop it! Why are you guys talking about Jesus?? Hunh? I can't take it anymore!! You are giving me a headache!!! I am going to tell the stewardess to separate you!! Why?? Why? Why must you talk about Jesus? That's all you want to talk about! Whhhhyyyyy???"

Bob was scared! She was angry! So what did Bob do? Did he rebuke her for seeking to rob us of our first amendment rights? No. Did he tell her to calm down? No. He was like a deer caught in the headlights of a mad drunk man with his foot on the gas. Bob froze and slowly sunk down into his chair. That was the end of our conversation. For the sake of his marriage and the rest of the people on the plane I didn't seek to continue it either. And I'll admit, there were some thoughts of self-preservation mixed in there as well.

There was not another word for two hours. I put my headphones on and started reading my book. A little while later it dawned on me. I can write a note to Bob! So I tore out a blank page of paper from the back of my book and wrote Bob a note. As I wrote I was catapulted back in time to the third grade. I felt like I was a little kid seeking to avoid being detected writing and passing notes. Well, there was to be no passing of notes. When I was finished, Bob was absorbed in an in-flight movie. So I stuck the letter in my shirt pocket to wait for a more opportune time.

As our 757 came down through the smog, uh, I mean clouds, over Los Angeles, I thought "It's now or never. I've got to give him the note." Well, as I was thinking this, Bob slowly turned to me and very quietly (understandably!) whispered, "Do you have a card?" I smiled, pulled the note out of my shirt pocket and successfully slipped it into his hands. He smiled back. And with that smile I knew he was acknowledging we had successfully gone undetected by his wife. We got off the plane and that was the last I saw of Bob and his wife.

My heart's desire and my prayer to God for Bob and his wife is for their salvation (Romans 10:1). Would you say a prayer for them?

If you would like help witnessing to a Jewish friend, check out our link on Judaism. Much of what I shared with Bob can be found right there on our website. Blessings to you!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good Friday Should Probably Be Good Thursday

One of the questions I often receive from people when I teach on evidence for the resurrection concerns Jesus's statement regarding the number of days and nights He would spend in the grave. The question goes like this:

“Jesus said He would spend three days and three nights in the grave (see Matthew 12:40). How was that fulfilled if Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday morning? That seems at best like three days and two nights, but Jesus specifically said three nights.”

Well, what do we say to that? 

Critics of the Bible point to this passage in Matthew 12:40, then look at all of the “Good Friday” services taking place, then do the math and conclude that Jesus couldn’t count or that the Gospel writers erred. This is one of the most cited “apparent contradictions” in the Gospels. Well, the critics have overlooked somethingas is often the case.

It's very likely that Jesus was not crucified on a Friday (as churches traditionally celebrate); but rather a Thursday. Let me walk you through a couple of the reasons I, and others, believe this to be the case. 

First, nowhere in the Bible are we told that Jesus was crucified on "the sixth day of the week" (Friday). Many have concluded that He was crucified on a Friday because it says in Mark’s Gospel that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body “the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:42). People read that and conclude that the Sabbath mentioned there refers to the Saturday Sabbath that the Jews observed every seventh day of the week. If that is the case, they conclude Jesus must have been crucified on Friday.

What they overlook though is that the weekly Saturday Sabbath is not the only Sabbath the Jews were told to observe. Leviticus 23:5-7 says that the Jews were to observe a special Sabbath the day after Passover. Here is what the passage says:

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day [of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work (Leviticus 23:5-7).” See also Exodus 12:12-16

Ah, did you see that? No matter what day the 14th day of the month landed on, the Passover was to be followed by a special Sabbath (a day of no work). All right, now question for you. 
What feast was happening the day Jesus was crucified? 

The Passover (John 18:28). 

The timing of Jesus’s death was no accident. The events of the first Passover in the Book of Exodus (when the Lord passed over the homes that had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts) foreshadowed the time when God would provide a way for our sins to be passed over through the blood of a lamb—the Lamb of God, Jesus—who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

So, according to the sovereign plan of God, Jesus was crucified on the very day the Jews in Jerusalem were celebrating Passover. The timing is just amazing! So, according to God’s instructions in Leviticus 23:7 (that we just looked at) there was to be a Sabbath, a day in which no work was done, the day after Passover.

That is the Sabbath I believe is being referred to in the New Testament Gospels when it says the Jews were concerned about crucifixion victims being left on the cross on the Sabbath (John 19:31). And the apostle John even confirms in his Gospel that the Sabbath that occurred the day after Jesus’s crucifixion was a special one. He says:

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away (John 19:31).”

Passover Sabbaths were known as "high days" (v. 31). Every Sabbath day was a holy day to the Jews but this was a "high day" (megale hemera in the Greek, which literally means "a great day").

So, knowing that there was a Sabbath the day after the Passover frees us up to back up the day of the crucifixion. We are not bound to a Friday crucifixion with a Saturday Sabbath. We can assume with a fair degree of confidence that the crucifixion happened on Thursday, followed on Friday by the Passover Sabbath, then Saturday's normal Sabbath, and then an early Sunday morning resurrection. And thus Jesus's prophecy about being in the grave three days and three nights (in Matthew 12:40) was perfectly fulfilled.

“Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).”

Thursday going into Friday was night one. 

Friday going into Saturday was night two.
Saturday going into Sunday was night three.

And then Jesus was raised just as the Gospels say.

So, with a little investigation, this alleged discrepancy concerning the number of days Jesus was in the grave can be laid to rest. The Bible is absolutely trustworthy and it proves to be so the more you investigate it. For more of these kinds of resolutions to apparent contradictions in the Bible, see our "Bible Difficulties" page.

Now, some of you brothers and sisters in the faith are probably saying, “Now hold on here a second Charlie before you go signing off. Are you saying we shouldn’t celebrate on Good Friday?”

Absolutely not. I think we should celebrate what God accomplished through Christ’s crucifixion every day. If your church is having a Good Friday service, go and be blessed. Give the Lord the praise and thanks He is due. But give thanks to Him on Thursday and on Saturday and on Tuesday, etc.