Grave Disappointments

March 26, 2024 Devotional by Rose-Marie Slosek

“The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” (John 11:28)

The ways of God can be difficult to understand. Disappointment and hurt can come by what happens in life, especially when we have expectations of how we think that God should act. 

Mary and Martha call for Jesus to come and help their sick brother, Lazarus. Jesus deliberately delays His coming. Meanwhile, Lazarus dies. When Jesus finally shows up, grave disappointment and hurt have already started to settle in. Jesus already knows what He will find.

Martha goes to meet Him, but Mary is too hurt to even go out to see Him. Jesus tells Martha to summon Mary: “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” In our times of disappointment and disillusionment, our Teacher comes and asks for us. He cares about our feelings, but He cares more that we understand who He really is because that will bring more lasting fruit and glory to Himself.

We know Jesus on one level, but He wants to bring us to a deeper level. As such, sometimes He uses circumstances that we don’t understand to take us deeper. Jesus starts to engage with Mary, but she is in no mood for an eschatology lesson. She wants her brother, alive, here and now. Jesus wants to deepen the relationship they have, but she can only see what is in front of her, or in this case, who is not in front of her. 

We look at the short term, but Jesus looks at the eternal and long term. Our Teacher comes to us, asking for us by name, calling to us tenderly when we have experienced deep loss, disappointment, and grief. Sometimes we are not ready for what He has to say, but what He has to say can only be eternally life-giving. He wants us to know not just that there is a resurrection in some future day, but that He, Himself, is the resurrection. 

In our moments of grief, we can know that the Teacher is well aware of our deepest needs. Jesus chose to teach this lesson by involving some of His closest earthly friends. This can be a hard thing to understand, but we must know that the Lord’s wisdom is at work. When this happens to us, it can leave us shaken, but our dear Lord calls us to Himself so that He might teach, impart, and even resurrect. He may choose to press on those He loves dearly and who know Him deeply in order to impart greater truth. May we learn to receive comfort from the Resurrection Himself in the midst of our grave disappointments.

Maranatha.

Rose-Marie Slosek came to know the Lord in the early nineteen seventies and has a passion for organic church and the maturing of the Body of Christ. She loves to connect people and build healthy community in small groups. She travels widely and assists several mission teams. Rose-Marie also serves Women of the Word on their Board of Directors. She can be reached at email 
rmslosek@comcast.net

Why I Stopped Celebrating Good Friday

When I was a child, Good Friday was always a very serious day.  Banks and some places of business were closed from noon until three, kids were supposed to be very quiet during these hours, and I was convinced that the sun never shone on Good Friday afternoon.  It was a very serious religious day.  The church service was always quiet, the cross was draped in black and sometimes the lights would grow more dim as the service progressed, ending the service in the dark.  It was kind of scary.  We didn’t understand everything, but we knew we had to be quiet AND serious.

The term Good Friday has evolved over the years.  The English phrase “Good Friday” came from the Old German name Gottes Freytag which means “good” or “holy” Friday.  In the present time the Germans call the day Karfreigta, which means “Care Friday” of “Friday of Mourning.”  Other nicknames include “Black Friday,” (not to be confused with the day after Thanksgiving) or “Sorrowful Friday.” 1  Even when I was very young, I began to question why everyone was so sad about it.  It was the day Jesus paid for my sins…a debt that I couldn’t begin to pay.  He went to the cross so I didn’t have to go to hell.  I thought this should be something to be happy about.  

When it becomes a day of mourning instead of thanksgiving, the question comes up “Who is responsible for this death we are mourning?”  There are two possible answers:  the most common one is the Jews!  The term “Christ killers” has been used against Jews for centuries.  If you want to get it historically correct, the Jews had no power of crucifixion.  It was the Romans who gave the death sentence.  (I don’t see anyone blaming Italians.)  The second response is more correct — my sin!  However, that can cause a problem if Good Friday is a day of mourning for my sins, the focus can become my sin instead of my Savior!  Focusing on sin allows the enemy to bring new accusations against us, even for old sins.  Why should we spend time meditating on sins that have already been forgiven?  In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord Himself says “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  Now, if there are sins we haven’t repented of, mourning is still not the answer….repentance is.

Another problem was the math--I knew even as a child that Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights.  No matter how I counted it out, Friday just didn’t work!  Those who chose Good Friday negated the fact that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were all related to Passover!  He couldn’t have died on a Friday.

You might ask, “What’s the difference when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion?  After all, isn’t the important part the fact that it happened? And besides, we celebrate Christmas, and we know Jesus wasn’t born December 25.” 

The connection with the Spring Feasts of the Lord is the answer:  Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits.  The chart below shows the correct sequence of events regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord during the Biblical month of Nisan from the 14th – 18th.

Nisan 14 – 18 adapted from Danielstimeline.com

Separating what has come to be known as Holy Week or Passion Week from the Spring Feasts of the Lord happened in 324 CE; the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21.  This decision wasn’t made just to keep the date consistent; it was made to remove from the church anything connected to Jews.  The basis for moving the date was anti-Semitism!  The following is from an article which discusses the Council’s decision. 

And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul….Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd, for we have received from our Savior a different way….and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast… it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.2

Apparently the fourth century church forgot something that many today often forget: JESUS WAS A JEW!  The Bible was written almost totally by Jewish people.  God calls these feasts not the Jewish Feasts, but the Feasts of the Lord.

God was very specific in describing the dates and times of Jesus’ death.  Why?  He wanted us to see how Jesus fulfilled the Feasts that have been celebrated from the times of Moses.  Understanding that Jesus fulfilled these ancient feasts to the exact day and time, would make it almost impossible to deny that Jesus is Messiah.  

Passover was so important to God that He made the month in which it occurred the beginning of the year (Exodus 12:2). On the Jewish calendar, a month begins with the sighting of the new moon, so the months don’t directly match the months of our western calendar. The chart below shows the relationship of the calendars.

chart by Laura Petrosky at Pinterest.com

Overview of Spring Feasts

•   The Feast of Passover comes first (Nisan 14) and is followed directly by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Nisan 15).

•   The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the longest of the three Spring feasts, lasting for seven days.

•   After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, comes the Feast of First Fruits, which is celebrated the Sunday following Passover. 

•   Sometimes all three feasts are collectively referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and sometimes all three are called Passover (Acts 20:6; Luke 22:1).

Let’s look at the details set out in Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27

•   On the tenth day each man is to take a year-old lamb without blemish for his household. 

•   They were to watch over the lamb until the 14th day.  It became part of the family for those days.

•   The whole congregation are to slaughter their lambs at twilight

•   The blood was put on the two doorposts and the crossbeam of the house

•   The meal had to be eaten that night (now it is the 15th) with matzot and bitter herbs

•   If there were any leftovers, they must be burned in the morning.

•   They were to eat it dressed and ready to travel

•   This day must be a memorial throughout the generations

On Day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, the Israelites left Egypt in haste.  (Exodus 12:31 – 34, 39).  

The Feast of Firstfruits was to take place when they entered the land; it was to occur on the first Sunday after Passover.  On this Sunday the priest would wave a sheaf (omer) of green barley of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, then west) as a symbolic gesture of dedicating the coming harvest to Him.  As they returned to the Temple with the sheaves, the choir of Levites led the worship music with these words from Psalm 30:1-3– “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me.  O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.  O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive…”

Jesus Fulfilled the Spring Feasts

Nisan 10, Lamb Selection Day was what we call Palm Sunday (which probably wasn’t Sunday, but Saturday), Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Up until that day, Jesus had avoided being called king, but on that day, He not only accepted the praise, He deliberately arranged for it to happen.  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation.  Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.“  Zechariah 9:9   

According to Exodus 12, the people kept their lambs for four days examining them to be sure they were without blemish.  What was Jesus doing during those four days?  After his triumphal entry on Nisan 10, Jesus spent the next four days in the temple area:  the lamb was on display for all to examine.  “And in the daytime, He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet.  Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.” Luke 21:37-38

Jesus the Passover meal with His disciples the beginning of Nisan 14.  (Remember, that the Jewish day begins in the evening —“the evening and the morning were the first day” from Genesis) The only thing is they didn’t have a lamb at that meal.  It was there that Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb.  “This is my body given for you; do this is remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 

We know Jesus was arrested after the Passover meal and condemned to die.  He was on the cross on Nissan 14 from nine in the morning until three in afternoon, and at the exact time that the Passover lambs were being killed at the temple, Jesus said “It is finished.”  

Jesus was buried on Unleavened Bread. Remember there was a rush to get the victims of crucifixion off the crosses before the high holy day…the special Sabbath being the first day of Unleavened Bread (Thursday).  If the Sabbath referred to had been a regular Saturday Sabbath, when would the women have had time to prepare the spices they were bringing  to the tomb before dawn on Sunday morning?  They would have been forbidden to do that work on the Sabbath.  The events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion happened in rapid succession; they couldn’t have planned for it. Friday was the only day they could have shopped for and prepared the spices.

Jesus rose from the dead on First Fruits.  First Fruits is always the day after the regular Sabbath after Passover (always a Sunday).  “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

Adapted from endtimepilgrim.org

Summary of the Spring Feasts

•   Passover represents our salvation and deliverance by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah. We are justified by trusting in the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). 

•   Unleavened Bread represents our sanctification as we rid ourselves of the old leaven of “Egypt” and die to the carnal nature. This is represented by the burial of Jesus and our identification with Him.  

•   First Fruits represents the resurrection of Jesus our Messiah and our future glorified state as part of the coming harvest of God at the end of the age. 

So, I stopped celebrating Good Friday because it doesn’t fit anywhere in the biblical story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.  So the question remains:  Should we move Easter to line it up with First Fruits?  That’s a hard one because it is so ingrained in our culture.  I leave it at this–I am always very happy when Resurrection Sunday falls on the day of First Fruits, as it does this year (2022).  Even though Passover doesn’t begin until Friday this year (2022), First Fruits is Sunday.  

May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Romans 14:5-6a (NKJV) “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” 

1“Good Friday: History, Origins, Traditions and Rituals” Feb. 4, 2021 by FaithGiant, https://faithgiant.com/good-friday

2“Israel Betrayed:  The History of Replacement Theology.” Published by Ariel Ministries in 2019. 

Sue Priebe is the Pastor of City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location. 

Firstfruits and the Resurrection of Jesus

Leviticus 23 tells us of a little known or discussed Biblical Feast called Firstfruits. What is this Feast about and how is it connected to Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew), the Messiah?

The Feast of Firstfruits is the third spring Feast mentioned in the Bible. The people of Israel were commanded to keep the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread as a remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt. The Feast of Firstfruits started when they came into the land given to them by God. Today the three feasts are joined into an eight day celebration simply called Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) or the Days of Unleavened Bread. However, little if any mention is now made of Firstfruits.

Here’s what the Bible says about the Feast of Firstfruits.

Read Leviticus 23:9 – 14

The spring Feasts have an agricultural component and the LORD commanded that a sheaf of the barley harvest be brought to the priest and he would wave it before the LORD to be accepted on the person’s behalf and as a sign of dedicating the coming harvest to God.

The priest also sacrificed a male lamb as a burnt offering along with an offering of unleavened bread, mixed with oil, and a drink offering of wine.

Firstfruits is always celebrated the Sunday following the first Sabbath (Saturday) after Passover. This year (2022) Passover began on Friday evening April 15th (Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar) and coincides with the beginning of the weekly Sabbath (Saturday). Firstfruits is therefore on Sunday April 17th this year. “Easter” this year is being celebrated on April 17th. However, “Easter” does not follow the Hebrew Calendar not take into account the Spring Feasts of the Lord. The disconnect happened in 324 CE when the council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21.

What does the New Testament have to say?

1 Corinthians 15:20 tells us that now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Jesus rose from the dead on the first Sunday following Passover. Jesus is the fulfillment of Passover because he is the perfect, spotless and unblemished lamb who was sacrificed on our behalf. It was at the celebration of the Passover that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper also known as Communion (read Luke 22:7 – 20). He fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread because he is the bread of life without leaven (without sin). He fulfilled Firstfruits through his resurrection.

HALLELUJAH! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

The Old Testament speaks much about our Messiah Jesus. I encourage you to read the Book of Ruth which is at the time of the barley harvest celebrated at Firstfruits and speaks of a “kinsmen redeemer”, a type of Christ. Ruth was redeemed and became the great-grandmother of King David and is in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5 – 6).

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.

Why is this Night Different from All Other Nights?

by Betsy Roy

Good question! This is the question asked by the youngest member in a Jewish family during the Passover Seder Meal celebrated each year.

The question in the Bible is actually “What do you mean by this service?” The answer is “It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our house.” (Exodus 12:26, 27). The LORD also instructed them to keep this feast at its appointed time from year to year so that they would remember what HE did for them throughout their generations. (Exodus 13:3-10)

Passover this year (2020) begins at sundown on April 8th and goes to sundown on April 16th. Many of us are familiar with the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the basic teaching of Passover when the death angel passed over the homes of the Hebrew people who had the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels so as to spare the death of the first-born (the last plague Exodus 12:21-24).

How is it pertinent in our day especially this year as the world is under the scourge of COVID-19?

Passover is not only a feast of remembrance. It is also a present reality with prophetic meaning. There is much to be learned as we study the prophetic scriptures. God has a plan. Much has been fulfilled but much is still to be fulfilled as we await the glorious return of the Lord!

Many of us are under a “shelter at home” or “shelter in place” directive right now here in the USA. People in Israel are forbidden by the government to leave their homes for 3 days during this Passover. Also, they are not allowed to celebrate with their extended families (which is traditional) but only with those who live under the same roof. Is God saying something to Israel and to His Church throughout the nations? I believe that He is.When I reflect on the Exodus and the Passover meal the Lord Jesus shared with his disciples (Luke 22:14-22), his suffering, his death and his resurrection I am reminded that God is a God of Covenant! He is a Covenant-keeper. We see this theme throughout the Scriptures in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant. The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Covenants with us.

God has made A Covenant of Peace with us. 

“‘For the Mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10) We certainly need that peace, that shalom, in these days. In Hebrew the word shalom (peace) is not the absence of trouble, not the absence of war. Rather it speaks of wholeness and completion in our lives which includes provision and health to us physically, spiritually and emotionally. This covenant of peace was promised to the Levitical priesthood in Numbers 25:10-13 and for us as believers this is extended to us today as we are also a part of this perpetual and royal priesthood (1 Peter2:9). Remember that one of Jesus’ titles is “Sar Shalom” which means Prince of Peace! Even in this time of great distress in the world and very difficult circumstances we can be a people that have God’s peace as an anchor to our souls and a witness to others.

Let’s remember that the Lord isn’t finished with us yet. Yes, it’s a very difficult season but it is the beginning of birth pains (Read Matthew 24:1-14), not the Great Tribulation. It is a very important sign and I believe one we must pay attention to individually and corporately as the Church. It is a huge shift; the ending of one era, and the beginning of another era. We cannot return to “the way we were”.  Let us be about our Father’s business and usher in the return of the Lord. May our cry be “Maranatha! Maranatha!”, Come Lord Jesus Come. As surely as God has fulfilled His promises through the first advent of our Messiah so the final promise of His return will be accomplished also at His second advent. (Revelation 19:11-16).  Hallelujah!

Lastly, allow me to pray for you please. Father God, in the mighty name of Jesus I lift up the reader right now. Father, I ask for your assurance of peace for them in the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. You know what is going on in their life. Please reveal yourself to them. If they are in need of repentance then I pray for your loving conviction upon their hearts to draw them to ask forgiveness knowing that you are willing to forgive and to cleanse their hearts. If they are in emotional or mental turmoil I ask that they cast their cares upon you knowing that you care for them and will shelter them under your wings of love. If they are fearful, anxious, or in grief, I ask that you comfort them and make provision for them. If they are ill, I ask for your healing touch on their bodies restoring them to health. Father, I apply the blood of the pure and spotless Lamb, the blood of Jesus over our homes and families. Thank you that it is protection, a place of shelter for us. Father, I thank you that you hear us when we call out to you and that Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us before Your throne of grace. I thank you that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever. May our eyes look upon Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen

Women of the Word has corporate prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm (EST). We invite you to join us. Please visit our website by clicking here. 

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.

 

 

 

Waiting for Resurrection

by Rose-Marie Slosek

Our life with God is in the process of growing:  there is a tension between the now and the “not yet.”  While the plan for who He meant us to be was in the mind and heart of God before we were conceived, the living out of that destiny takes place, here on earth, through a process of time and trust.

On this day, Holy Saturday as the liturgical church calls it, Jesus is in a place of utter waiting and trust on God to resurrect Him.  As a man He did not have the power to resurrect Himself, He had to wait for His Father. So likewise, we cannot bring life to ourselves but must surrender to God, knowing that His love for us will not forget us, will not abandon us, will not hurt us, but will bring us to a higher life than we have known.  This is not a hopeful truism, but a living truth!

Jesus understands waiting in trust for God to bring life and resurrection. He understands the vulnerability of waiting in hope, and trusting in faith. Today we can all say that there is something within us that is giving place, perhaps in fits and starts, to who we are yet to become.  The sons and daughters of God are being revealed. The life of God is welling up within us ready to bud forth new things that will glorify and reflect God’s nature in us.

Ponder happily that this day signifies that we are moving from the valley of the shadow of death to our rightful place beneath the shadow of His wings!  So let us surrender ourselves into the hands of our Father. Though we be in an “in-between” place, a place of almost there but not yet, we know that “He who has begun a good work in us will continue to carry it through to completion in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6)

Look to your Father and to your Saviour!  Resurrection awaits us!

Re-posted with permission. Original posted here.

 

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.