Faithlife Sermons

Between the Testaments - Part 1

The culture always provides context and understanding for statements made.

“I’m simply mad about my flat.”

Two different sides of the “pond” cause this sentence to mean completely different things.

Context matters!

Why is everyone confused about the Messiah?

Matthew 11:1–2 NIV
1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. 2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples
Why is John the Baptist asking this?
Look at what John the Baptist had already said about the coming Messiah...
Matthew 3:9–12 NIV
9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
So far in Mark’s Gospel (or the Gospel’s you know of) have you seen Jesus doing this?
What have you seen Jesus doing?
Matthew 11:4–6 NIV
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
Matthew 11:7–19 NIV
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17 “ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Why don’t they understand?

Why do the disciples think Jesus is talking about an earthly kingdom?
Why is John the Baptist confused?
Why is Jesus continually questioned about fasting, Sabbath, and clean vs. unclean?
Why do the apostles have such a hard time welcoming Gentiles?
Why was there conflict between the “Hellenistic Jews” and “Hebraic Jews?”

Context Matters!

I-IV Maccabees

This is another book not to be found in the Hebrew Bible. Yet its words and speech adhere to the same style as the other books of sacred scripture. This book would not have been unworthy of a place among them, because it is very necessary and helpful for an understanding of chapter 11 of the prophet Daniel.
For the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in the chapter, about the abomination and misfortune which was going to befall the people of Israel, is here described – namely, Antiochus Epiphanes – and in much the same way that Daniel [11.29-35] speaks of it . . . This [among other reasons] is why the book is good for us Christians to read and to know.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 35,pp. 350-352).

The Crises of the Maccabees

The “crises” of Maccabees was that of Hellenization. God’s People had existed peacefully under other Greek rulers like Alexander and the Ptolemies of Egypt. However, there arose a “sinful root” (1.10) known in 1 Maccabees as Antiochus Epiphanes the ruler of the Seleucid Empire. As the author of 1 Maccabees makes clear the problem is not only Antiochus but renegade Jews who wish to undermine the law of God:
1 Maccabees 1:11–15 NRSV
11 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” 12 This proposal pleased them, 13 and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. 14 So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, 15 and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.
Soon things went from bad to worse. Antiochus invaded Egypt defeating their armies and for good measure decided to attack Jerusalem “enter the sanctuary” and loot the temple (1.21-24).
1 Maccabees 1:20–24 NRSV
20 After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. 21 He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. 22 He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. 23 He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures that he found. 24 Taking them all, he went into his own land. He shed much blood, and spoke with great arrogance.
He soon stationed troops in the city and began a zealous program of converting the Jews to enlightened paganism. He demanded that ...
1 Maccabees 1:41–53 NRSV
41 Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, 42 and that all should give up their particular customs. 43 All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. 44 And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, 46 to defile the sanctuary and the priests, 47 to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, 48 and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, 49 so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. 50 He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” 51 In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the towns of Judah to offer sacrifice, town by town. 52 Many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; 53 they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.
The Torah was confiscated and burned. In a very moving passage we read about the courageous faith of certain Jewish women,
1 Maccabees 1:60–64 NRSV
60 According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, 61 and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. 62 But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. 63 They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. 64 Very great wrath came upon Israel.
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