(Message given at The Negev Conference in Beer Sheva)
1Cor 1:18, 23-25 For the word/message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . We preach Messiah crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Zech 12:10 – 13:1 And I (YHVH) will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. And they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. On that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.
On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.
When I was in the Israeli army, I was in a conversation with some other trainees, some religious and some not. The discussion came around to how Israel would become a united country with so many Jews coming from so many different cultures and backgrounds. I answered one of the religious young men that our unity would come from accepting the Passover lamb and it’s sacrificially shed blood as the basis for our becoming a people – the people of Israel. If we could remember that – the sacrificed lamb — it would help us to become a united nation.
In less than three weeks we will remember the Day of Atonements, the prophetic set time of YHVH when Israel will eventually recognize that Yeshua is the Holy One of Israel, the Lord and Savior whom they pierced and crucified. The Day of Atonements is the day (Lev 23:27-30) when God commanded the children of Israel to afflict (lit., torture)theirsouls over their sin against YHVH and His covenant. Sin is refusing to believe in Jesus (Jn 16:9). In sinning against Him, we have sinned against other people; in sinning against other people, we have sinned against God. Each Israeli alone from each family alone – whether king or priest, politician or religious, or of the common people – every one who is still alive at that time will know that Yeshua, whom we crucified, is in fact the Lamb of God — YHVH our God. All Israel will be saved, and they will become one people and Yeshua will be their glorious King!
Revival and unity both come through the Crucified One, through Yeshua the Messiah, Son of the Living God, and His cross. What had been a stumbling block or foolishness will be seen to be wonderful in their eyes! Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given!
Have we – each one of us alone who are joined together into one spiritual Body of Messiah – experienced at the deepest level what the remnant of Israel will experience in that soon coming future day?
Have I seen in the death by crucifixion of Yeshua the love and the righteousness of God?: His love for me and for you? His judgement against sin and sinfulness?
Have I seen in the death by crucifixion of Jesus that I am fully forgiven and cleansed by the blood of God’s Son? The blood of the Day of Atonements was effective to cleanse all Israel and all that pertained to the priesthood and Temple; the blood of Jesus is effective to cleanse the entire universe!
Have I seen in the death by crucifixion of Yeshua my own death – that I died – and am now born again a new creation of God our Creator and Redeemer?
Have I seen in the death by crucifixion of Jesus the shame and indignity He was willing to suffer for me and for you and for us in order that we could see the glory of God in His cross!?
It is written that the Lamb was slain (lit., slaughtered) from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Therefore all God’s ways with mankind in general and with Israel and the Church in particulars . . .all His ways with us have been the way of the cross. By the Word of God the world was created: God spoke . . . and it was! (That was the ‘big bang’!) Part of what God spoke from the foundation of the world was that in the fullness of time, the Word would become flesh and be crucified to take away the sin of the world in the greatest display of love this world will ever know.
God chose Abraham because God knew that Abraham would command his children in the way of YHVH – the way of the cross: dying willingly, sacrificially to the world and to self in great expectation and joy of the glory of God’s kingdom to come – in our own hearts and minds, and finally in the coming again in the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Abram knew something about sacrificially dying to personal interests when he willingly gave Lot the choice of where to live with his extensive flocks and herds and tents in the land which God had promised him. Abraham learned more perfectly the way of the cross when God required of him to offer up his ‘only’ and beloved son Isaac, in and through whom all God’s promises were to become realized ; not merely being theoretically willing to offer up his son, but to actually go about doing it, fully expecting to carry it out, until the Angel of YHVH stopped him. ‘Now’, the angel said to him, ‘I know that you fear God’, and Abraham’s faith was revealed as truly believing in the God who can raise the dead in order to fulfill His promises! Are we sons of Abraham in the faith?! Or are we looking for the fulfillment of the promises before the resurrection promised at the end of the age? Not a mere theoretical resurrection, but the real thing!
We read in 1Corinthians about the offense of the cross to both Jews and Greeks. Paul wrote this letter about 20 years after he was saved and began his ministry to preach the gospel. After all those years he came to his evaluation of the message he was proclaiming. For all that, he did not suggest nor recommend another way to bring sinners to repentance unto salvation!
Why was the cross such an offense to both religious people and to those filled and satisfied with worldly wisdom? To the Jews, the very thought that our great God and King, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, should be revealed in the form of a mortal bondservant and allow Himself to be humiliated and accept punishment on the cursed tree (Dt 21:23) – the penalty given to slaves, to rebels, to blasphemers – and that we ourselves were instrumental in this murder by the hands of lawless men – is more than we can bear except the Spirit of grace and supplication of God’s love in Messiah breaks in on us. We deny that Jesus is God in the flesh to ease our conscience. Then we deny that He is the Son of God, but rather only a man to ease our feelings of guilt. Isn’t this what the people and the leaders of Israel taunted Yeshua with while He was hanging on the cross?:
Mk 15:25-34 Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right hand and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe!’ Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him. Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole earth until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?”, which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’
For the philosophers and pagans in the world, the idea that we would believe in a God who died on a cross, and that apart from belief in such a thing there is no salvation, is sheer folly, madness. Isn’t this what Festus said in a loud voice to Paul after hearing Paul’s defense of his faith before King Agrippa?
(Acts 26:24-25) “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is making you mad!’ But [Paul] said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.’”
I want to read a description (by Seneca; Crucifixion, p. 30-31, Martin Hengel) of the long process of dying of the victim of crucifixion: ‘Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all?! Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly weals on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony?! He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross.’
A crucifixion is not something to make fun of, to make a joke about. It doesn’t matter who it was or what he did or whether he ‘deserved’ it or not….death by crucifixion is not a subject of levity. . . especially when it touches the Holy One of God. Yeshua has left us His supper to remember His death until He comes [again]. . . and He will come!
The ‘words of truth and reason’ which Paul proclaimed are that our Messianic faith and life centers on the Son of God who died a shameful, undignified, criminal’s death on the tree of shame. (Heb 12:2; Crucifixion, p.4) The gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek; the gospel is of God! Neither paganism with its polytheism, nor Judaism with its monotheism, could or can comprehend the foolishness of God – which is actually made unto us wisdom once we repent from our own pride and intelligence to believe instead in the ‘word of the cross’.
We are here in the Negev together; we want revival and unity. May God be merciful and give it, and let us see the glory of God in the death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for our sin! Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit, and know Messiah in the fellowship of His sufferings and in the power of His resurrection! May we see many more people come to know God through our witness and testimony of the crucified and risen Savior, and have the inheritance of the righteous in the first resurrection from among the dead!