Tag Archives: Pharisees

Sunday Devotional: WWG1WGA

Mark 12:28B-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Throughout the three years of Christ Jesus’ public ministry on Earth, the Hebrew élites of scribes, rabbis and priests (especially Pharisees) continuously doubted, probed, and tested Him with questions that were meant to trick and entrap. The above passage from Mark 12 was such an instance, as is Matthew 22 which chronicles another test when the Pharisees asked Jesus “which is the great commandment in the law?”.

In both instances, Jesus answered that the first and greatest of all God’s commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

As Mark 12 recounts, afterwards no one among the Hebrew scribes dared ask Jesus any more questions because they knew He is incontestible, and that Moses himself had said the same thing in Deutoronomy 6:2-6:

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“Fear the LORD, your God,
and keep, throughout the days of your lives,
all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,
and thus have long life.
Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,
that you may grow and prosper the more,
in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,
to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

With unassailable reasoning and crystal clarity, our Lord clears away the thicket of Judaic laws and rules that had accumulated and encrusted through the centuries by getting to the heart of the matter.

Think about it: If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with every ounce of our strength, then we would obey and be true to His other laws and commandments for the simple reason that we love Him.

The Ten (Commandments) follow the One (Greatest Commandment), logically and naturally.

To borrow a current motto: WWG1WGA!

See also the opposite of the Greatest Commandment of all, “Sunday Devotional: Narcissism, the first and greatest sin“, and this post on why Jews don’t believe in Jesus the Christ.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~Éowyn

Better than Drudge Report. Check out Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative frontpage founded by ex-military!

Please follow and like us:
error0
 

Sunday Devotional: The radical departure from Judaism

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

The word “covenant” means a binding agreement; a compact; a contract.

Jesus, again and again, said that He came to make a new covenant:

“This cup that is poured out for you
is the new covenant in my Blood,
which will be shed for you.” –Luke 22:20

St. Paul, who was a Pharisee — a member of the ancient Jewish sect that emphasized strict interpretation and observance of the Mosaic law — further emphasized in Hebrew 8:13 that:

In speaking of a new covenant,
He makes the first one obsolete.

The above passage from Mark 7 makes clear that, in making a new covenant, Jesus is a radical departure from Judaism, which had become mouldy and encrusted with the writings and sayings of men (rabbis) — torturous instructions on dietary laws (Kashrut), personal hygiene, and day-to-day life, much like the Koran. Collectively known as the Talmud, those writings and sayings of men came to (and still do) supersede the Torah (Christians’ Old Testament) in importance.

But with a few chosen words, Jesus sweeps aside the minutiae of the Talmud and gets to the gravamen of the matter: It is what is in our hearts that counts, not meticulous observations of dietary dos and don’ts.

To do otherwise — to cling to “human precepts” and outward shows of dos and don’ts, while our hearts are evil — is to be hypocrites. And for being called out the pretentious hypocrites that they were, the Pharisees would nurse their hatred and malice, until they had their revenge at last on Golgotha.

Jesus, I love you with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind, and with all my strength.

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

Please follow and like us:
error0
 

St. Paul: The saint whom Christ struck blind

Sometimes God uses a drastic method to get our attention. That’s what happened to an awful man named Saul.

Born c. AD 5 in the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in today’s south-central Turkey), Saul was a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, whose father and grandfather were Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws. Though a Jew, Saul was by privilege a Roman citizen.

An approximate contemporary of the twelve Apostles, Saul neither followed nor even saw Jesus preach. Instead, being a zealot for Jewish law and traditions, he saw Jesus’ disciples as enemy and dedicated himself to the persecution of the early Christians, most notably the killing by stoning of St. Stephen.

When Saul was in his late 20s, as he was approaching Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to arrest all Christian Jews in Damascus, he and his company were struck by a great light and fell to the ground. Saul alone heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked the voice to identify  himself. The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Trembling, Saul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The resurrected Christ told Saul that in Damascus, he would learn what would be expected of him.

As Saul got off the ground, he realized he had become blind. He was led to Damascus, where he remained blind for three days, without eating or drinking.
Like all genuine encounters with God — including our own, should we be so graced — Saul’s dramatic encounter with the risen Christ changed him forever.

Now renamed Paul (which means Little), not only did he stop persecuting Christians, he became a devoted follower of Christ, perhaps the most influential early Christian missionary. The first Christology — doctrines and theories of the meaning of the belief in Christ — was developed by Paul.

Imagine the radical changes in thought and belief that Saul’s conversion required. He had to change not only his Jewish conception of who the messiah was, particularly the absurdity of accepting a crucified messiah, but also his conviction in the ethnic superiority of the Jewish people.

More importantly, more than any of Christ’s disciples, it was Paul who fully understood that, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus replaced the convenant of the Old Testament with a new convenant. This was made clear by Christ Himself in the Last Supper:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11.25; cf. Mt 26.27-29; Mk 14.24, Lk 22.20; Heb 8.6, 9.15)

Henceforth, God’s chosen are all who “take up their cross” and follow Jesus the Christ. In other words, what once was a tribal religion — Judaism — is now superceded by the universal faith of Christianity.

Paul was indefatigable in bringing the Word of Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. Through his missionary activity and writings he eventually transformed religious belief and philosophy around the Mediterranean Basin. His leadership, influence and legacy led to the formation of communities dominated by Gentile groups who worshiped the God of Israel, adhered to the Mosaic moral code of the Ten Commandments, but relaxed or abandoned Judaism’s ritual and dietary teachings since these laws and rituals had either been fulfilled in the life of Christ or were symbolic precursors of Christ.

That is why St. Paul is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Without the work of Paul, formerly the sinful Saul of Tarsus, you and I might not be Christians.

Paul’s missionary travels — preaching and establishing Christian nodes and communities — can be grouped into three. As seen in the map below, he traversed the Mediterranean region, in a time when travel was arduous and dangerous.

The 14 letters (Epistles) attributed to Paul in the New Testament were written during 10 years of his missionary journeys. It is possible that Paul also traveled to other countries like Spain and Britain. Among the writings of early Christians, Clement of Rome said that Paul was “Herald (of the Gospel of Christ) in the West” and that “he had gone to the extremity of the west.”

Paul was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion. Neither the Bible nor other sources say how or when Paul died, but Ignatius, probably around 110, writes that he was martyred. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, on June 29, AD 67 — the same day as St. Peter was crucified upside down.

Shortly before he was martyred, St. Paul had written to St. Timothy these famous words:

“I am even now ready to be sacrificed, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.”

For all these reasons — the sinful pre-conversion Saul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, teaching us about Jesus’ New Covenant — I love St. Paul with all my heart. I hope that, should our time darken to that point when Christians are persecuted as in the days of the early Church, I too will “finish my course,” “keep my faith,” and stand “ready to be sacrificed.”

I now conclude this post with my favorite passage from St. Paul (letter to the Ephesians 6:10-16):

“Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Sources used:

  • One Hundred Saints (Little, Brown and Co., 1993).
  • Rosemary Ellen Gulley, The Encyclopedia of Saints (NY: Visionary Living, 2001).
  • St. Paul,” Catholic Online.
  • Paul the Apostle,” Wikipedia.

~Eowyn

Please follow and like us:
error0