Aside

                          MODERN-DAY REPORTER SERIES

    

               SCRIPTURES FULFILLED–TOMB IS EMPTY!!
   
             Mary Magdalene Discovers Body Missing!  Jesus is risen!
                 
                       

          Jerusalem, Judea; Sunday AM; Reporter–Bill Byrnes: This morning-at sunrise, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary, arrived at the tomb housing the body of slain Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, crucified on Friday for the crime of blasphemy. They carried sweet-smelling spices to anoint his body. They were shocked to see that the huge boulder blocking  the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away!
Two Roman soldiers, sent by Governor Pontius Pilate to protect the tomb, stood next to the opening. Both appeared to be in a near state of shock–unable to speak!

Image
        The empty tomb.

 

I was heading to the tomb this morning when I encountered the women–on the road to Galilee. They told me about a young stranger, inside the tomb. “This man had a countenance that shone as bright as any light.”, said Magdalene. As she relayed her story, I could see that the look of grief and shock I had observed on her Friday during the crucifixion was different. It was now a look of surprise mixed with some shock and something new–anticipation! She continued, “He said,  ‘Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has risen from the dead–as he said he would. Come and see where his body was-then go quickly and tell his followers what has happened. Tell them Jesus is going into Galilee to see them.’ ”  With that, the women left and continued on their path to find Jesus’ disciples. I headed for the tomb.

Image
Don’t be afraid. He is not here…he is risen.”       

 

  After what had to be only a few minutes or so, I heard sudden joyful shouts, mixed with loud sobbing! I turned around, heading back to the path the women were taking-fearful that they were in trouble. I saw them, both in a position of worship–hands outstretched as if they were holding something–I saw nothing! When I got to them, I asked them what was wrong. Again, it was Mary Magdalene who replied– “Sir, you didn’t see him?” I asked who it was I should have seen? They looked at each other, smiled back at me, then turned and continued quickly on their path. The look of anticipation I had noticed moments earlier was gone. A sort of glowing happiness had replaced it. Even if my description isn’t accurate, one thing  is for sure:  looks of grief, shock and sadness had left their faces!  

Image

 

          When I arrived at the tomb, I saw no guards and no stranger. I  knew that the story would continue in Galilee.
          As I am heading back to find the Disciples, I realize that there was no real story here. Everything has been FORETOLD! Every prediction about the Messiah has been fulfilled! From here on…well…that is where the  real story begins!

Luke:24:5-6:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen…”

Aside

                        MODERN-DAY REPORTER SERIES            

                   TERROR AT GOLGOTHA!
             Jesus Crucified– dies horrible death! Earth Trembles at His
              Passing!

Image

“No one should die like this.”

          Jerusalem, Judea; Golgotha; Friday, 7:00 p.m.; Reporter-Bill Byrnes : The young Rabbi who started a movement of peace, love and changing Mosaic Law, met a horrible end this afternoon. He died on the cross ending a six hour agonizing struggle. Hysterical followers, grief-stricken, sobbed, “No one should die like this. This man was the son of God–who performed many miraculous healings, and spoke of peace, love and God’s forgiveness!”
          During the last few hours on the cross, darkness came over all of Jerusalem; when Jesus actually died…an earthquake hit the area, breaking open tombs and actually tearing the curtain in the Sanhedrin from top to bottom! A lone Centurion, guarding the crucifixion site was heard to exclaim , “Truly, this was God’s Son!”

Image

Darkness came over all Jerusalem.

          Despite this incredible, inhuman, 6-hour death, his ordeal began in the pre-dawn hours after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. In a closed-door trial held by leaders of the Sanhedrin–Jesus was declared a “Blasphemer”–a crime that carries a death sentence!

Image

 

Jesus about to be struck by guard at his trial.

Attendees at the trial, whose anonymity was guaranteed by this reporter, said that witnesses testifying against the man of peace all had stories that “lacked credibility” and conflicted with each other. None of that mattered to Caiaphas, the High Priest and his followers, all of whom declared the defendant: “Guilty!” It was further reported that while these proceedings were going on, Judas Iscariot- the disciple who betrayed Jesus- hung himself  out of despair after seeing the result of his actions.

                            Politics vs. the Conspiracy           

The early morning hours saw the assembly taking Jesus  to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, for judgment.

Image

Pilate tried to pass responsibility back to the Jewish leaders, exhorting them to judge the accused according to their own laws…then execute him. In a masterful maneuver, the Jews replied that Roman law prevented them from executing death sentences. Not to be outdone, Pilate, after questioning Jesus, told the gathering that he found no basis for sentencing, and that he would refer the case to King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. King Herod, after questioning the accused, quickly sent him back to Pilate.
          Pilate, flustered with that outcome, told the crowd that neither him, nor King Herod could find Jesus guilty. As a “half-way” measure, he decided to have the Rabbi whipped and released.
At this point, politics again reared its ugly head: the chief priests goaded the crowd into exercising a yearly privilege: at Passover, the Roman governor would free one prisoner chosen by the people. The crowd chose Barabbas, a murderer, to be freed. Pilate, in one last gesture to the crowd demanded, “What has this man done-what do you want me to do with him? The crowd shouted, “Crucify him!” Pilate again demanded, “Why?”. All he got was the same answer from the crowd–but even louder. The chief Roman, not wanting a riot to ensue, realized that he had no choice. He took a bowl of water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am not guilty of this man’s death. You are the ones causing it!”

Image

“You’re the ones causing it!”

          Roman soldiers led Jesus away for his execution. From all accounts, it was a horrible ordeal inflicted upon the young Nazarene including beatings, and public floggings that tore pieces of flesh from his back! After the Romans placed a crown of thorns on his head, he had to carry his cross thru the town to the execution site–“The Place of the Skull”; in Hebrew, called “Golgotha”, many know it by it’s Latin name- “Calvary”. At several points, Jesus stumbled under the heavy load. A man from Cyrene – Simon – stepped from the crowd to help with him carry it.

Image

Once at the site, the punishment went from massive to inhuman as bones were broken to fit the stocks on the cross. Then, rather than tying his limbs to the wooden members, huge spikes were used to actually nail his hands and feet into the wood.  A sign was fastened to the cross, above his head. On it were the initials, “INRI” , which stood for the Hebrew words meaning “Jesus-King of the Jews”. Observers say that just before his moment of death, Jesus called out to his God. Then, after a sponge soaked with vinegar was raised up to his mouth, he tasted it, then uttered his last words: “It is finished!” Time of death was approx. 6:00 p.m.. A final indignity: a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side with his lance to make sure he was dead!
          It was exactly at the time of death that earthquakes hit the entire town of Jerusalem. The massive curtain in the Sanhedrin, separating the most Holy place of the synagogue from  the other commonly used areas, was torn top to bottom. Graves were opened and people started reporting seeing loved ones raised from the dead — walking the streets! Though these reports have not been substantiated, this reporter can vouch for the validity of the other damage. “It was as if the Earth cried out to everyone in Jerusalem”,  shouted one of the witnesses, as he was running away wildly, changing his directions as his panic caused numerous indecisions.
 There was no one left unaffected by these occurrences!
          Rumors have it that Joseph, of  Arimathaea, one of Jesus’ allies at the Sanhedrin, is presently with Pontius Pilate trying to secure the body for proper burial in his own, new gravesite. This must happen quickly, because this is Preparation Day for any corpse. Jewish law prohibits any further preparations on the Sabbath day(Saturday).
          Only one question remains: the eleven other disciples of Jesus- the men who were the constant companions to him & who were with him every moment till the betrayal at Gethsemane-have totally disappeared! There is no knowledge of their whereabouts. The only report surfacing amidst all the confusion was that a man, closely resembling Simon Peter, one of the most trusted of the Disciples was seen in the courtyard of Caiaphas’ house during the trial. After repeated questioning, the man fled, ranting hysterically, after the second crowing of a nearby rooster.
          But, all things considered, who can blame them for disappearing? It was as if they knew that there was nothing they could do–that all of the betrayal, suffering and agony of Jesus Christ–whom many say was the Son of God– was supposed to happen exactly as it did!

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” : John:3:16
Image

 

 

 

MODERN-DAY REPORTER SERIES

BETRAYAL  AT  GETHSEMANE!

“Man of Peace” taken at Sword-point in pre-dawn raid!

Jerusalem, Judea;  Early A.M.–Friday; Reporter – Bill Byrnes:  In the  pre-dawn hours, at this little garden-spot on the Mount of Olives, Jesus of Nazareth was taken into custody by a group of Temple guards, pressed into service by the religious leaders of the Sanhedrin. One of Jesus’ own followers, Judas Iscariot, singled out the young Rabbi to the arresting group. “This was necessary to prevent his escape in conditions without light” said one of the deputies.

 polls_The_Garden_of_Gethsemane_Posters_1540_717015_poll_xlarge

This picturesque garden was a favorite after-hours refuge for the young rabbi from Nazareth. Here he would gather his thoughts, and pray, without the pressures of his large group of followers.

Confusion & high emotions almost took control, but it was Jesus
himself who calmed the situation! Reportedly, some bloodshed occurred
when one of Jesus’ followers drew his sword and struck one of the high
priests’ guards , cutting off his ear! Rather than try to escape in the
mayhem, the “man of peace” from Nazareth actually rebuked his followers
shouting, “Put your sword in its place! All who live by the sword, shall
perish by the sword!” Then, amazingly, he went to his injured opponent and
healed the man’s ear with his bare hands! Sources present at the
confrontation said that both sides were awestruck at this selfless act. Then
the rabbi continued with his rebuke saying, “Surely you know  I could ask
my Father in Heaven and he would give me more than twelve legions of angels to help! But it must happen this way to bring about what the Scriptures say!” The young man who was smitten, and healed, stood dumbfounded as his comrades left with their captor. As the group left the scene, Jesus’ disciples scattered and ran away.

Image

Daytime view of Gethsamene

It is not known where the betraying disciple, Judas, fled to.
Eyewitnesses said  he left in a different direction–appearing to take a
heading towards the Temple. At this point, speculation says that the betrayal
was only for money since there were no other areas of dispute within the
small group.
A guard, who prefers to stay anonymous, said that they were to take
him to the house of Caiaphas, high priest of the Sanhedrin, where he would
answer to charges of blasphemy- a crime punishable by death!
One big question remains: any execution must be performed by the
Romans–and, before that, the Roman Governor must approve it.
Speculation says Pontius Pilate, newly appointed Governor, wants to keep
the different factions in this troubled land at peace–which means that he
might approve! But first, Jesus must be found guilty by the leaders of the
Sanhedrin. Every indication is that he will be…in Jerusalem, facts are never
an issue. What the Sanhedrin wants–the Sanhedrin gets!

Image

Caiaphas and Jesus

                                 MODERN-DAY REPORTER SERIES:

                                           WHERE  IS  HE?
                          Disciples of Jesus fear for his safety during closed-door
                         meeting in Temple!              

Jerusalem, Judea; Wednesday; Bill Byrnes-Reporter —    The question raging thru most peoples’ minds in Jerusalem is–“Where is the young Rabbi–Jesus of Nazareth”?  It was just on Sunday-this incredible young man enjoyed such a triumphant welcome into the city. While seated atop the colt of a donkey he rode into Jerusalem amidst huge numbers of followers who spread their coats and branches of palm leaves on the road infront of him shouting, “Praise God! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”  According to many, who claim the Nazarene is the long-awaited  Messiah, the entire scene fulfills a scriptural prediction from Zechariah:9:9: “…Shout  daughters of Jerusalem: behold thy king cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt–the foal of an ass.”

Image

As if this wasn’t enough to rattle local synagogue leaders, Monday, upon visiting the Temple, Jesus jostled all of the merchants involved in buying and selling products–throwing them out! While turning over their tables and benches, he shouted, “Scriptures say,  ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all people.’ But you have changed God’s house into a house for robbers!”

Image

He threw out all the merchants!

Anonymous sources within the Sanhedrin confirm that there is already a plot against the life of this very controversial and extremely popular religious leader. Despite these warnings, Jesus is currently involved in discussions with some Pharisee and Sadducee Temple leaders to explain his conduct. His disciples fear for his safety! Despite the main question of his safety, other important questions remain unanswered: What is Jesus’ itinerary for the upcoming Passover, and, where and with whom will he be having the first holiday meal: The Feast of the Unleavened Bread? Hopefully, his disciples, extremely tight-lipped lately, know the answer. If they don’t  know, they’d better find out quickly– Thursday, is the first day of Passover!

Image

The Sanhedrin meets in their chamber

Aside

Why Hogwarts — Not Heaven?–Plight of the Spiritualist
By Bill Byrnes
Illustrated by Rich Gowran

There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke: 15:7

“I’m a Spiritualist–I believe in life after death–but I don’t believe in God” and/or “I believe in a power that is universal love but I don’t believe in any religion!” I know we’ve all heard this plenty of times from various sources–and quite possibly it describes YOUR way of thinking. Many years ago, it described my thoughts. But, in retrospect I can say that, overall, it’s a good sign–that’s right–a good sign.

Image
Spiritualism – A connection between man and God?

Recently, I’ve had conversations with some Christian friends. The conversation drifted onto this topic. They thought that these feelings are really a “cop-out” that people who think this way are afraid to confront religion, and, at least, to avoid talking about it any further. To some degree, I can agree with that, however, we must keep asking the question of what feelings those thoughts really hide.
Now, I believe that this type of thinking is a good sign because people who espouse this already believe in two of the main tenets of Christianity–universal love and existence after death! It’s up to us to nurture them just a little further in their belief “system”–not to convert them! No, just nudge them towards God (or Jesus), and believe me, HE will take it from there. This begs the necessary question: “Ok, just how do we do that?”
It’s a simple answer. We must get them into the Bible. Notice I used the word “simple”–not “easy”. We’ve got to begin by probing into their past feelings about religion. Understand, this is no easy process–the critical word is timing. Paul spoke of this in his letter to the Colossians: 4: 5-6: “Walk in wisdom towards the non-believers. Let your speech be always with grace–seasoned with salt, that you know how to answer every man.” So, in
other words, know when to “lighten-up” when trying to convert your non-believing friends. Perhaps what Paul was trying to say was that we should be friends first (and always) and patiently wait for situations that would be conducive to a discussion on salvation. We just have to show some patience!
Image
Getting people into the Bible is simple, but it is not easy.

Paul, throughout his letters to several “new” Christian churches, discussed this notion of converting non-believers: 1 Corinthians: 3: 5-6: “We are simply God’s servants…Each one of us does the work the Lord gave us to do. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but it was God who made the plant grow.” What Paul might have been trying to say here is that no one of us should try to do too much. It’s quite possible that trying to verbally “beat” someone into submission would be the worst thing to try. Nobody likes a high-pressure sales job–even if the product is eternal life! Maybe someone tried that before and that’s one of the main reasons your acquaintance turned off to religion. Possibly another reason is the hypocrisy of  religious zealots. It’s very easy for a non-believer to justify their way of thinking when confronted with the antics of right-wing extremists–especially if you follow the US political scene. And of course, let’s not forget the “fire-and-brimstone” T.V. evangelists–the same evangelists who get caught-up in huge scandals, and are seldom heard of again. Jesus Christ seemed to have this very behavior in mind when he warned: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, can it gain back its saltiness? No–from then on it is good for nothing, but to be cast out, and be trodden under the feet of men.” Matthew: 5:13.

Image
Beware of “fire-and-brimstone” TV evangelists who get caught up in huge scandals.

So, we must be careful of what we say and when we say it. And quite possibly, the best thing to do is to say nothing! Maybe we should just help to move our friends into a position where others might make a better, more articulate case. Okay, maybe they’re not ready to read the Bible yet. This is when we should have other options, like a list of books dealing with the Bible–with applying Biblical teachings to modern-day situations. This is why we must have a bibliography ready, and no, I’m not talking about giving out a list of books. But if we have a few favorites on hand, it’s always easier to lend a copy to a friend in need. Then, if that has any success with your friend(s), it might be easier to steer them into some appropriate Biblical passages. Try to forget the phrase “Oh, don’t worry–the answers are in the Bible”. We know that they are, but there’s approximately 1,400 pages in it–so where do they start? It’s good to refer them to individual chapters. For instance, if someone’s depressed–refer them to the Psalms, in total or by number (23, 37 etc.), and how about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? Doesn’t it make more sense to get people into the Bible using this method than to just say, “Don’t worry–all the answers are in the Bible–just start with Genesis and if you read a few pages a day–it’ll only take a year to finish!
(** NOTE: If you would like a short list of books–use the “comments” section after this article & ask for it. I‘ll be happy to share some with you. Don’t forget the “Good Books” section of this site!)
There’s always a case where your friend might be open to your suggestions–but he, or she, is not much of a “reader” (yet). Here, you must be ready to refer them to the spoken word. God will change them into a “reader” once they’ve made even “1 ounce” of effort towards him. You’ve got to cultivate your own list of TV ministers. There are several good Evangelists on Sunday morning TV (hopefully, you have cable or satellite). And, they do come and go frequently. So, do the “legwork” and develop your own list. Use their websites to purchase copies of their sermons (printed & DVD). I can’t say enough about this source. Many times, people would rather conduct passive research, rather than committing the effort to sit down and actually read something. And, if you purchase any of their DVDs, it might even be better to loan them out. But, again, I must emphasize using caution. Several excellent preachers have gotten into right-wing politics during this Presidential campaign–so, follow them for three or four sermons before putting them on your list. Remember, it’s ok if a good speaker occasionally drops a political word into his sermon. But, avoid the pastor who refers to it in every sermon!
Some final thoughts about the Spiritualist: I’ve often wondered why some people would rather pay “lip service” to Hogwarts and not to Heaven; why they’d rather extol the adventures of Harry Potter–and forget about the trials of Jesus Christ; and why they believe in the strength of Hagrid, and not of the Holy Spirit? Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t say enough good things about the Harry Potter series–especially in a world devoid of literature that appeals to all ages. And, I think that author J.K. Rowling authored a marvelously creative series of stories. But, is it necessary to lose one’s sense of personal identity and notion of “purpose” in anything that is fiction? Again, keep in mind that I’m just using the Potter books as an example–I am NOT singling it out. Other similar examples include “The Twilight” series (vampires), and a recent one–“Hunger Games”. Anyway, I think a strong possibility that might explain this tendency of Spiritualists to form semi-religious schema based on popular fiction can best be summed up in one word: control.

Image
J.K. Rowling authored a marvelously creative series of stories. But, is it necessary to lose one’s sense of personal identity and notion of “purpose” in anything that is fiction?

The toughest thing about being a Christian is in having faith. Faith means you believe in certain foundational beliefs without any corporeal proof. That means there’s no way any of our senses, or sensory mechanisms, experience anything that could possibly prove basic Christian beliefs such as the existence of a loving God; or the existence of Heaven and Hell, the resurrection of Jesus, or in the immaculate-conception itself. For various reasons, a Spiritualist might feel uncomfortable with not being able to see, or understand every aspect of their belief system. Possibly, it’s also the notion that the outcome has some personal responsibility involved–and that it is not guaranteed–like the “happy” endings they see in popular stories. Most assuredly, we will all come to judgment, so all I can say to that is, “Welcome to the world of faith. That’s why it’s called faith, not ‘guarantees’ or ‘predictable’ endings.”

Image
Faith means you believe in certain foundational beliefs without any corporeal proof.

J.K. Rowling shared her own feelings on this subject: “I believe in the permanence of the soul. I believe in God though I do struggle with it at times.” Thank you Ms. Rowling! That is something we all struggle with at times: it’s called the human condition, and it comes complete with its own set of doubts and fears. But after all, aren’t doubts and fears some of the main components of faith? Don’t they make faith stronger? Hopefully, they do! Doubt, fear, depression, isolation–these can all be potent seeds of faith.
Spiritualist or not, sometimes any or all of us, have to hit “rock-bottom” in order to see the light. Let me paraphrase one of my favorite Christian authors, Rick Warren, who said in his blockbuster work, “The Purpose Driven Life”:   “We realize God is all we need when we see that God is all we have left!”
Think about it!  It’s never too late!

(Modern-Day Reporter Series)

THE VOICE ON THE MOUNT!

Young  Nazarene Rabbi preaches to thousands on
            Mount; calls for  mercy, compassion &
            forgiveness; chooses 12 followers!

Matthew: 4:15-16: “ In the land of Zabulon, and the land of  Nepthalim (near Capernaum) by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles ; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light…”

Capernaum, Judea (31 a.d.) – Reporter:  Bill Byrnes

Controversial young Rabbi,  Jesus of Nazareth,  added to his
already burgeoning reputation yesterday, when he preached to thousands atop a small Mount, on the Northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.
Though some calling themselves  his friend said this was  the first official act of his ministry, this native of Nazareth has already established quite a reputation among Judeans – many of whom already refer to him as the “Messiah” – the savior –  whose  coming has been foretold for many centuries in  Jewish religious scriptures .  Interestingly enough,  Jesus has never referred to himself as the messiah, but,  in the past several months, he has been credited with healings that have been nothing short of miraculous, and all of them having several witnesses! These healings include all manner of divers diseases including Leprosy; great fevers, afflictions from birth, and the expulsion of evil spirits from many.

220px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_Healing_of_the_Lepers_at_Capernaum_(Guérison_des_lépreux_à_Capernaum)_-_James_Tissot_-_overallA Leper is healed!


Just a few days ago, Jesus chose twelve men to be his “Apostles”–or Followers. These men , reportedly , have forsaken all their worldly possessions to be among the chosen. I’m  awaiting verification of all their  identities before mentioning any of them.
It was  an  incredible scene. He stood on a small rise, above the people, who were stretched out on three sides of the surrounding terrain, almost as far as the eye could see. They came from all over : Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, and many other areas of Judea, and  beyond Jordan.

TissotBeatitudes

They came from all over – an incredible sight!

There was no limit  to age or gender. There were many families , and  even young children, normally rambunctious , seemed to pay attention  when he spoke– it was the most incredible presentation ever witnessed by this reporter!  His voice was not the powerful, booming instrument shown by great orators of the past; but it was steady and unwavering–soothing and penetrating when he wanted to emphasize key points.
“ Blessed are the poor in spirit  , for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven . Blessed are they who mourn  for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek – –  for they shall inherit the Earth!”
But the most amazing thing about his presentation was his eyes — — at any given time, he looked directly into everyone’s  eyes — AT THE SAME TIME!  I discovered this  by circulating among the crowd, talking with them during his pauses. One young mother, choking – up, almost sobbing, said, “The way he looks into my eyes– — comforts me and my children greatly.” Her gaze never left him while she answered.  A man 20-30 ft.  down from her  said, ”The way his eyes look into mine when he speaks;  I’ve never felt so content.  And my children, usually very playful, are quite still, as if they have just finished eating and are ready for sleep. But the way they’re staring at Jesus , they must understand him too!  As I moved among the masses, the responses were the same. And when I sat  and listened, I was affected as much as anyone!
“ Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:  for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
When I first started hearing stories of the child prodigy from Nazareth — I just mentally filed them away for future reference. But, now…now I knew  there had to be some truth to  them. Suddenly, I could form a mental picture of the 12-year old boy sitting in the temple in Jerusalem, asking questions and discussing issues of faith with the most educated of clerics, who were spellbound with the lad’s answers to their questions.

IMGThey were spellbound with his answers.

 

All of this happened while his parents ( not knowing their  son’s whereabouts)  frantically searched for him  for 3 days!
The most impact occurred during the last three of his  “blessings” :  “Blessed are the pure in heart – for they shall see God! Blessed are the peacemakers–for they shall be called the children of God ! Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven! “  With the last few words, it was if a very short episode of collective , brief sobbing was heard  throughout the entire crowd! I must admit, I was not immune to being a little choked-up!
After this, he spoke at great length regarding a new purpose for the laws governing his people. No one in the crowd, myself included,  had any doubts that this man was, indeed, the long awaited messiah! But, he still never referred to himself by that name. He came pretty close to it when answering criticisms from some skeptics in the crowd who accused him of trying to destroy the laws of their ancestors. Matthew: 5;17: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I have not come to destroy them, but to FULFILL them.”   So, at the least, Jesus  gave himself a very special “raison  d’etre ”.
Certainly, everyone leaving the event realized  that they were at a very special happening. The blessings bestowed by Jesus were termed “Beatitudes”. Considering that the word comes from the Latin  “beatus”, meaning  “blissful” or “fortunate ; this reporter can honestly say that I was very “fortunate” for having drawn this assignment.

250px-Church_of_beatitudes_israel

Church of the Beatitudes, located on the mount where Jesus gave his sermon.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

(One -year later – 32 a.d.)
Reporter’s  post-script :    After  posting the above article my editor  gave me a royal chewing-out for losing objectivity, and removed me from any assignments covering Jesus. This morning I was exonerated! No sooner had I gone to my desk, than he came over saying:  “Hey, Byrnes – don’t hang up your coat! You’re back on with your messiah.”  I stammered, “Great–but what happened?” Then I added facetiously, ”I thought I wasn’t objective enough?”
“ Yep. But now, we’ve got a whole new ball-game– and I want you on it– — Now– –ok?
“No complaints from me, boss.“  I started gathering all my necessities. Then he added: “During last night’s storm out on the lake– — several witnesses saw your messiah  rescue his followers—- — —  BY  WALKING  ON THE WATER !
I was all smiles as I left!

IMG_0001

 

 

 

Small Meanings–BIG Thoughts!
by Bill Byrnes
Illustrated by Rich Gowran

One of the many things I love about the Bible: There are  so many short passages, single  sentences , or even phrases  that give a prima facie meaning, but upon further  scrutiny develop big thoughts that can lead to even bigger conclusions. Let’s look at some of them. Genesis:11:1-9  This is the  story of the Tower of Babel. After the great flood, the sons of  Noah started repopulating the Earth. Everyone spoke the same language. Approximately 2,300 – 2,200 B.C. they settled in a plain of Babylonia. They decided to build a city and highlight it with a tower whose top “would reach unto heaven”. This way, they would be famous  and  no one would want to leave for other areas. God came down to see the tower. Here’s  the interesting part! Genesis:11:6 : “The Lord said, ‘Behold, the people is one, and they all have one language. As they begin this tower, now, nothing will  be  restrained from them which they  have  imagined  to do!’ ” With this, God confounded their languages so they couldn’t understand  each  other. The people  then  scattered  across the face of the earth and  started  the  repopulating process.

795px-Brueghel-tower-of-babel
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

This story is easy enough to understand and very short.  But, when we  start thinking and
asking the simple question “why”, our thoughts start blossoming! Why did God do it this way, why not just tell the people in a thundering voice that building the tower was forbidden–  destroy it with an intimidating force of some kind–then tell them to scatter? Certainly, that  would have worked! Was he really  posing a challenge to mankind–something on the order of– when you can  overcome  this you’re ready for the next step? Also,  thinking even bigger , what  was he saying regarding man’s readiness for technology and what he could accomplish when  he was ready? One last thought, with all its dire implications; what could  man  harm  by developing technology before he was “ready” for it? Doesn’t it make you wonder when you consider  that some of the  greatest  technological advancements  have occurred  for warfare? How about the effect of  industrialization on the environment? By asking these questions  I am NOT questioning God–blaspheming!  I find that the more questions I ask, the more it leads  me  back to appreciate how awesome God is, and how our loving Father tries to protect us from ourselves and  from the  temptations  of Satan. One fact is obvious: as you read the Bible (and other books on the history of man)– over the centuries – technology has been the only true  change. Man’s sinful nature has NOT changed! The  old saying is true: there is nothing new under the sun!
Let’s look at one more small passage:  Ephesians 1:13: “…when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and after which you BELIEVED, you were SEALED with  the spirit of promise.” This  is certainly  short ,  and  it’s very possible that you could read past  It the first time  without realizing its real  impact. I know I did !
Sealed
Sealed and protected

Actually, this is a  a tremendous affirmation of God’s love for all of us!
Many Biblical scholars  agree that the use of the word “seal” indicates a finished
transaction, a “done-deal”, where we are owned by Christ. As we expand out thinking, once we truly accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and accept him as our Lord and Savior– we are OWNED by  him–NO OTHER FORCE (Satan or his World System) can claim us! This is a tremendous security blanket for believers! God knows we WILL continue to sin, but his seal, thru the Holy Spirit, will always act like a spiritual “beacon” that will lead us back to the “flock”. There is a caveat (isn’t there always!). This doesn’t mean we can say we believe, then go out and commit the same types of sins that we did before! No…no…NO! If we TRULY believe, our sinful desire should subside greatly. Any transgressions should not be as severe because our “seal” (the Holy Spirit) will enable us to see where we are headed and help us avoid total relapse!
Read this passage  in  Ephesians, and realize that this wondrous book you’re holding has
hundreds of such passages!  From time to time  I’ll bring you  more  of the  passages with  small meanings and big thoughts.  but the most important thing  is for YOU to read the Bible and hopefully – -find some of your own. I’d love  to hear about them — use the “comments” section!