TONGUES OF FIRE

Modern-Day Reporter Series by  Bill Byrnes

“…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men will dream dreams and young men shall see visions.”   Joel:2:28

PART 1:SOLOMON’S PORCH

Jerusalem, 33A.D. Reporter: Bill Byrnes —  At this moment, I’m standing in the dazzling portico, along the East side of the Temple, known as Solomon’s Porch. It is a beautiful remnant of the original Temple of Solomon. Originally, this was Solomon’s Hall of Judgment, where the king would dispense justice. It was covered with cedar from floor to ceiling. The current porch-type area was restored by King Herod and rests upon a massive retaining wall constructed of “marvelous” stones, adjacent to the East (or “Beautiful”) Gate. As I look around, it’s easy to see why this was a favorite location for Jesus to mingle, and, to teach. Since his crucifixion, his disciples have met here quite often. Cloistered walkways provide for private or semi-private discussions, with the courtyard being a perfect setting for public discussions.

model-of-herods-temple

However, this beautiful serenity has been disturbed– I’ve just witnessed an occurrence so awesome as to leave me almost dumbstruck. A man, lame from birth, who, daily, had been placed by relatives next to the East Gate of the Temple , WALKED onto this historic area! He was holding onto Peter and John, disciples of slain religious leader-Jesus of Nazareth, but it was clear that the man walked under his own power!  Earlier today, when I entered thru the East Gate, I saw him there, asking for alms–and he was lame! As he moved, he gave praise to God for healing him. When Jesus was alive, these healings were commonplace–but he’s not here now and there’s just been a miraculous healing!

As I gather my thoughts, I realize the best way to continue this story is to move backwards. My last article ended with the realization that this story would be best served by continuing into Galilee(see “Scriptures Fulfilled–Tomb is Empty”), especially after suddenly meeting Mary Magdalene. We crossed paths as I was heading towards  Jesus’ tomb. At the time, there was no reason to doubt the account of an empty tomb, but it was her euphoric state, almost trance-like, that made me change direction. When she asked me if I “saw him”, I didn’t know to whom she was referring. However, over the next 50 days, I realized, without ANY doubts, who it was.

Jesus-Resurrected-208x300

After I returned to Galilee, my first step was to locate the disciples of Jesus. Several tense discussions with some of the few believers I encountered, led me to the Cenacle – or “upper room” – of a small synagogue on Mt Zion. This location made perfect sense–it was, after all, the site of Jesus’ Last Supper with his followers, and also the site of what has been termed, the “blessing of the feet.”  But, I was not allowed to even get close to it. Friends of the eleven remaining followers would not let me into the synagogue. I could understand their fear…if the Son of God  was just killed…how could they presume safety? After I convinced them I was no threat I was told that this was, indeed, the disciples’  habitat. However, I was not allowed to stay.

Over the next six weeks, repeated trips to the site–and several conversations with sources  to whom I had to swear permanent anonymity- yielded the following incredible statements. When we met on the road to Galilee, the reason Magdalene had that look on her face was because she claimed to have seen and spoken with Jesus himself! In fact, that very evening, Jesus made the first of several appearances to his disciples. This was behind closed doors at the Cenacle. At these meetings Jesus stressed to his followers that they must not leave Jerusalem. They should wait for a “baptism with the Holy Spirit”. This would give them all the skills and powers they would need to be “witnesses” for him. In fact, exactly forty days after his death–he said goodbye to his eleven followers and ascended into the Heavens, where white clouds hid him from sight!

jesus-ascension-09-238x300

Seeing the miraculous healing on Solomon’s Porch made these details stand out in my mind more than they did when I first heard them. After all, at what point does one disembark from  the restrictions of reality into a journey of faith? I discovered that answer only ten days after Jesus’  ascension, and exactly fifty days after his death.

It was during the Khag Shavuot, or Feast of Weeks. that a most incredible happening took place. Since this is one of the few pilgrimage festivals, Jews from every country in the world were in Jerusalem. It was a Sunday morning, and I was in the street trying to get what information I could. I had just learned that Matthias was  elected as a new disciple, taking the place of Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus at Gethsemane. Many of the pilgrims were in the street. Suddenly, the whole area was blanketed by an extreme noise. It sounded like very strong winds, but, noise only–no actual wind! All present quickly determined that the noise emanated from inside the Cenacle. We waited for what would happen next. It wasn’t long before the doors of the small synagogue opened wide and all twelve Apostles came into the street and started talking to the ever-growing crowds. The amazing part of this story is that each of the twelve were talking different languages!

Pentecost_58-227-235x300

The crowd kept growing. Thousands were present, each of them hearing the message in their native tongue! As the crowd grew, the voices easily projected over the distance between them and their entire audience! Even ambient street noises seemed to disappear. Leaders of the different ethnic groups within the crowd asserted words to the effect of : “Look, aren’t all these men common workers from Galilee? How is it possible that we each hear them in our own languages, telling about the great things God has done?”  They kept asking themselves, “How is this possible?” Some among the crowd, who couldn’t believe these happenings exclaimed, “They have had too much wine?” Then Peter, who led the disciples, said in a voice that sliced thru the noise and silenced the throng, “My fellow Jews…and all in Jerusalem…listen to me! We are not drunk-it’s only nine o’clock in the morning!” He continued explaining the situation by reciting from the book of Joel, stating that it prophesized what was happening. Peter ended his amazing oration with this statement:  “God has made Jesus–the man you nailed to the cross–both Lord and Christ!”

The crowd remained quiet. Then, in a guilty manner, some of the leaders asked, “What shall we do?”. Peter then commanded: “Change your hearts and lives–BE BAPTIZED–each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for you, your children, and those far away! Save yourselves from the evil of today’s people!”. With that final remark, Peter and the other eleven started baptizing members of the crowd. Hours later–approximately 3,000 new followers of Jesus continued listening to teachings, broke bread together, and prayed together. This entire episode was absolutely astounding to anyone present! As the apostles continued to mix with the crowd there were more “miracles and signs”. The massive crowd settled into a great “respect”  for God.

pentecost-300x224

“,,,there were more miracles and signs…”

On my way home, I encountered Mary Magdalene, who answered my biggest question of the day: that noise. She said that the disciples, while seated in the Cenacle, were engulfed by it. Then cloven tongues of fire rested on each of them, and they started conversing in different languages! Her statement, as well as all the other events of the day, made for as much information as I could process. However, I was filled with the irony posed by the appearance of the “cloven-tongues of fire”. At the Tower of Babel, God made many languages, and now, at least temporarily, for a few men, there was only one–the language of God!

Over the next several days, the new believers started selling their land and other possessions, intending to give the money to anyone in need. They practically lived together– and shared food with everyone. There were daily meetings at the Temple–group worship was commonplace. And, new believers continued to be baptized. I started hearing a new word to describe the believers–”Christians”, or, followers of  Jesus Christ.

Today, was another of several meetings for more group prayers at the Temple. It was supposed to be a 3:00 prayer service– an agreed upon daily time. At the entrance to the East Gate the lame man saw Peter and John approaching. He asked them for some money. Peter replied, “I don’t have any silver or gold–but I have something else. By the power of Jesus Christ–stand up and walk!”

After their entrance onto Solomon’s Porch, Peter started preaching to the crowd. As Peter was talking, reality, once again, arrived in the persons of the Captain of the Temple soldiers, Sadducees and other priests. They grabbed the two disciples and led them away.

Despite recent momentous happenings and wonderful tidings, this latest event does not bode well for these “Christians”.

READ FOR YOURSELF– “The Acts of the Apostles”– in any Bible! It                                              truly is the 2nd greatest story ever told!

Next:  “Beware the Cloak-Holder”

Modern-Day Reporter Series by  Bill Byrnes

“…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men will dream dreams and young men shall see visions.”   Joel:2:28

PART 1:SOLOMON’S PORCH

Jerusalem, 33A.D. Reporter: Bill Byrnes —  At this moment, I’m standing in the dazzling portico, along the East side of the Temple, known as Solomon’s Porch. It is a beautiful remnant of the original Temple of Solomon. Originally, this was Solomon’s Hall of Judgment, where the king would dispense justice. It was covered with cedar from floor to ceiling. The current porch-type area was restored by King Herod and rests upon a massive retaining wall constructed of “marvelous” stones, adjacent to the East (or “Beautiful”) Gate. As I look around, it’s easy to see why this was a favorite location for Jesus to mingle, and, to teach. Since his crucifixion, his disciples have met here quite often. Cloistered walkways provide for private or semi-private discussions, with the courtyard being a perfect setting for public discussions.

model-of-herods-temple

However, this beautiful serenity has been disturbed– I’ve just witnessed an occurrence so awesome as to leave me almost dumbstruck. A man, lame from birth, who, daily, had been placed by relatives next to the East Gate of the Temple , WALKED onto this historic area! He was holding onto Peter and John, disciples of slain religious leader-Jesus of Nazareth, but it was clear that the man walked under his own power!  Earlier today, when I entered thru the East Gate, I saw him there, asking for alms–and he was lame! As he moved, he gave praise to God for healing him. When Jesus was alive, these healings were commonplace–but he’s not here now and there’s just been a miraculous healing!

As I gather my thoughts, I realize the best way to continue this story is to move backwards. My last article ended with the realization that this story would be best served by continuing into Galilee(see “Scriptures Fulfilled–Tomb is Empty”), especially after suddenly meeting Mary Magdalene. We crossed paths as I was heading towards  Jesus’ tomb. At the time, there was no reason to doubt the account of an empty tomb, but it was her euphoric state, almost trance-like, that made me change direction. When she asked me if I “saw him”, I didn’t know to whom she was referring. However, over the next 50 days, I realized, without ANY doubts, who it was.

Jesus-Resurrected-208x300

After I returned to Galilee, my first step was to locate the disciples of Jesus. Several tense discussions with some of the few believers I encountered, led me to the Cenacle – or “upper room” – of a small synagogue on Mt Zion. This location made perfect sense–it was, after all, the site of Jesus’ Last Supper with his followers, and also the site of what has been termed, the “blessing of the feet.”  But, I was not allowed to even get close to it. Friends of the eleven remaining followers would not let me into the synagogue. I could understand their fear…if the Son of God  was just killed…how could they presume safety? After I convinced them I was no threat I was told that this was, indeed, the disciples’  habitat. However, I was not allowed to stay.

Over the next six weeks, repeated trips to the site–and several conversations with sources  to whom I had to swear permanent anonymity- yielded the following incredible statements. When we met on the road to Galilee, the reason Magdalene had that look on her face was because she claimed to have seen and spoken with Jesus himself! In fact, that very evening, Jesus made the first of several appearances to his disciples. This was behind closed doors at the Cenacle. At these meetings Jesus stressed to his followers that they must not leave Jerusalem. They should wait for a “baptism with the Holy Spirit”. This would give them all the skills and powers they would need to be “witnesses” for him. In fact, exactly forty days after his death–he said goodbye to his eleven followers and ascended into the Heavens, where white clouds hid him from sight!

jesus-ascension-09-238x300

Seeing the miraculous healing on Solomon’s Porch made these details stand out in my mind more than they did when I first heard them. After all, at what point does one disembark from  the restrictions of reality into a journey of faith? I discovered that answer only ten days after Jesus’  ascension, and exactly fifty days after his death.

It was during the Khag Shavuot, or Feast of Weeks. that a most incredible happening took place. Since this is one of the few pilgrimage festivals, Jews from every country in the world were in Jerusalem. It was a Sunday morning, and I was in the street trying to get what information I could. I had just learned that Matthias was  elected as a new disciple, taking the place of Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus at Gethsemane. Many of the pilgrims were in the street. Suddenly, the whole area was blanketed by an extreme noise. It sounded like very strong winds, but, noise only–no actual wind! All present quickly determined that the noise emanated from inside the Cenacle. We waited for what would happen next. It wasn’t long before the doors of the small synagogue opened wide and all twelve Apostles came into the street and started talking to the ever-growing crowds. The amazing part of this story is that each of the twelve were talking different languages!

Pentecost_58-227-235x300

The crowd kept growing. Thousands were present, each of them hearing the message in their native tongue! As the crowd grew, the voices easily projected over the distance between them and their entire audience! Even ambient street noises seemed to disappear. Leaders of the different ethnic groups within the crowd asserted words to the effect of : “Look, aren’t all these men common workers from Galilee? How is it possible that we each hear them in our own languages, telling about the great things God has done?”  They kept asking themselves, “How is this possible?” Some among the crowd, who couldn’t believe these happenings exclaimed, “They have had too much wine?” Then Peter, who led the disciples, said in a voice that sliced thru the noise and silenced the throng, “My fellow Jews…and all in Jerusalem…listen to me! We are not drunk-it’s only nine o’clock in the morning!” He continued explaining the situation by reciting from the book of Joel, stating that it prophesized what was happening. Peter ended his amazing oration with this statement:  “God has made Jesus–the man you nailed to the cross–both Lord and Christ!”

The crowd remained quiet. Then, in a guilty manner, some of the leaders asked, “What shall we do?”. Peter then commanded: “Change your hearts and lives–BE BAPTIZED–each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for you, your children, and those far away! Save yourselves from the evil of today’s people!”. With that final remark, Peter and the other eleven started baptizing members of the crowd. Hours later–approximately 3,000 new followers of Jesus continued listening to teachings, broke bread together, and prayed together. This entire episode was absolutely astounding to anyone present! As the apostles continued to mix with the crowd there were more “miracles and signs”. The massive crowd settled into a great “respect”  for God.

pentecost-300x224

“,,,there were more miracles and signs…”

On my way home, I encountered Mary Magdalene, who answered my biggest question of the day: that noise. She said that the disciples, while seated in the Cenacle, were engulfed by it. Then cloven tongues of fire rested on each of them, and they started conversing in different languages! Her statement, as well as all the other events of the day, made for as much information as I could process. However, I was filled with the irony posed by the appearance of the “cloven-tongues of fire”. At the Tower of Babel, God made many languages, and now, at least temporarily, for a few men, there was only one–the language of God!

Over the next several days, the new believers started selling their land and other possessions, intending to give the money to anyone in need. They practically lived together– and shared food with everyone. There were daily meetings at the Temple–group worship was commonplace. And, new believers continued to be baptized. I started hearing a new word to describe the believers–”Christians”, or, followers of  Jesus Christ.

Today, was another of several meetings for more group prayers at the Temple. It was supposed to be a 3:00 prayer service– an agreed upon daily time. At the entrance to the East Gate the lame man saw Peter and John approaching. He asked them for some money. Peter replied, “I don’t have any silver or gold–but I have something else. By the power of Jesus Christ–stand up and walk!”

After their entrance onto Solomon’s Porch, Peter started preaching to the crowd. As Peter was talking, reality, once again, arrived in the persons of the Captain of the Temple soldiers, Sadducees and other priests. They grabbed the two disciples and led them away.

Despite recent momentous happenings and wonderful tidings, this latest event does not bode well for these “Christians”.

READ FOR YOURSELF– “The Acts of the Apostles”– in any Bible! It                                              truly is the 2nd greatest story ever told!

Next:  “Beware the Cloak-Holder”

Simon of Cyrene- Prophecy Fulfilled?

Modern Day Reporter Series

Exclusive interview with Simon of  Cyrene  by Bill Byrnes

 

“…they laid hold upon one Simon of Cyrene…and upon him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.”  Luke:23:26

 

Editor’s Note: Our  coverage of the “Terror of Golgotha” painted a terrifying picture of the last moments of slain rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. But now, the question arises as to why Simon of Cyrene was chosen to help Jesus? Was there more to it than an expedient choice by a Roman soldier?

 

Jerusalem, Judea, (Good) Friday 7:00 pm; reporter, Bill Byrnes: 

I’ve just finished observing the body of Jesus of Nazareth being removed from the cross. The burial party is led by Joseph of Arimathaea . They’ve just left the area, but right now I’m with the man who carried the cross – Simon of Cyrene.

“ Simon, why did the Romans choose you to carry Jesus’ cross?” Were you one of his disciples?”

“ No. I had heard of him, like almost every Jew. But even if I were a disciple, after watching this – do you think I would admit to it?”

“No.” I  admitted , “I don’t think I would . But I noticed that he was telling you several things. Would you mind sharing them with my readers?”

“Yes, but first I must mention spectacles like this make one wonder if this is the cost for all of Rome’s civilizing influences. And if it is…is it too much? No one should have to die like this man did; I cannot think of anything  more  painful !”

“Yes, I had hoped to meet this man. Me and my family came to Jerusalem for the Passover…I still cannot believe he did anything bad enough to merit punishment like this. What was his crime?”

“Blasphemy.”, I answered.

“That cannot be”, he stammered. “Throughout the whole ordeal all he did was talk to me about peaceful issues ,  like  the ones he raised at his sermons…he used the term beatitudes. He did not complain once about the Romans, or his other persecutors. In fact, he was more concerned about me & my family. He even knew the names of both my sons; Alexander and Rufus. I don’t know how this was possible? My family had never met him – and I know he had never been to my home country of Cyrene (modern day Ethiopia). Among the last things he said to me was that anyone who followed his teachings and witnessed them to the world would be saved and would dwell with him forever in Heaven.”

I noticed the look in his eyes: it was distracted and seemed to be searching for a distant point to focus upon.

“So, Simon, what will you do from here on?”

“When I get home tonight, I will talk with my wife and sons about this man. I shall gather all his teachings I can find….

“And.…” , I quickly interrupted.

“And…then we shall see. Maybe he shall have four witnesses.”, he said with a small, wry smile, then quickly added, “Just don’t tell the Romans.”

I noticed that Joseph’s small group started their laborious path to his burial tomb. I had to wrap up my interview. “Simon, is there anything else you’d like to share?”

“Yes. When I return home to Cyrene I must consult the scriptures: This man Jesus – before being nailed to this cross –  told me: ‘Go,  descendant of Ham, with the peace that I ,  a descendant of Shem, have bequeathed to you. Show love and serve every Roman. They are the descendants of Japheth.’ ” With that he left at a deliberate pace. My guess is he didn’t want any lingering Romans observing him leaving too quickly.

When I got home I researched the scriptures. When I found the passage Simon referred to I realized that it was anything but chance that led that Centurion to call upon Simon to help the young Rabbi.

simon of cyrene

Genesis: 9:25-27: (Prophecy of Noah): “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” 

When I woke up the next morning I realized the true impact of the prophecy: The Jews, including Simon and his family were descendants of Canaan, the youngest son of Ham – himself the youngest son of Noah. The fact that Noah’s curse carried to Canaan,    showed  the punishment was directed at descendants of the family! Until they accepted Jesus (descendant of Shem) as their Lord and savior they would be bound in servitude to Japheth –  Rome – which  would become the ultimate seat of Christianity- after it accepted  Jesus and became Christian!

Looking back , I’m sure that Simon of  Cyrene   came to understand this  prophecy.

He was certainly good for his promise of studying the teachings of Jesus. His sons were prominent in spreading early Christianity. Rufus, and his mother, were mentioned in Romans:16:13. His other son, Alexander , was thought to have remained in Jerusalem, where his remains were discovered in 1941 in excavations in the Kidron Valley of Eastern Jerusalem

Men from Cyrene (which probably included Simon) were among those converted at Penteost. Also, Cyrenians were among the first scattered when Christians were persecuted in Jerusalem. After their return to their homeland they found the church at Antioch, and according to Acts:11:26, where disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians”.

As I consider these facts – one thing I realize is that the Centurion who chose Simon to carry that infamous cross – never had a choice. Simon of Cyrene was predestined as the man to serve Jesus. But, then, again, aren’t we all?

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