July 12, 2015

Museum of Biblical Antiquities: The Details


The Museum of Biblical Antiquities would have a wide range of exhibits designed to help visitors gain a greater appreciation for ancient history. These temporary and permanent exhibits would cover everything from ancient clothing, to the process of mummification, and would include Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, and Jewish history.

One of the permanent exhibits would be the Jewish worship exhibit, which would teach the history of Jewish sacrifice and temple worship in ancient times. The exhibit would include a full-scale replica of the interior of the Tabernacle of Moses, an interactive display of Solomon and Herod's Temple, and many recreated items, such as the clothing of the high priest, the instruments of sacrifice, and the arc of the covenant.

Other exhibits would cover ancient writing, Egyptian worship, life as a nomadic tribesman, such as Abraham, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, agriculture and farming in ancient times, an interactive model of first century Jerusalem, the history of the Temple Mount, and the printing of the Bible.

Biblical Feasts

One of the most popular activities at the Museum of Biblical Antiquities would be participating in a biblical feast. These special dinners would help teach visitors of the important cultural, historical and religious significance of first century dinning by transporting guests back 2000 years ago. Participants would gather in a recreated first century room, where they would sit at a traditional three-sided, triclinium table, filled with colorful fruits, vegetables, and traditional dishes. Under the light of oil lamps, guests would enjoy the meal while listening to a presentation about the importance of meals and feasts in the Bible, in particular that of the Last Supper.

The format of these feasts would change throughout the year, depending on the season, and would include different activities from the various Jewish Feasts, including a Passover Seder in spring, eating out under a canopy for the Feast of Tabernacles, and the lighting of the menorah during Hanukkah. These meals would be available to youth groups, scouts, schools and church groups by appointment.

Jewish Wedding

The Museum of Biblical Antiquities would include many extra activities for visitors to enjoy, including participating in a reenactment of an authentic Jewish wedding feast.

The evening would begin within the chambers of the stone-carved synagogue at the heart of the recreated village. The host would begin by describing the basics of Jewish wedding customs, including the betrothal, the dowry, and the marriage ceremony. Six volunteers would then be selected to act as the bride, groom and parents of the bride and groom. The women of the group would then escort the bride to her home where she would be dressed, and prepared for the wedding. The men of the group would follow the groom into his home where preparations for the evening feast would already be underway.

Under the light of torches and oil lamps, the groom would lead the men of the party to the home of the bride. The bride would then be escorted back to the groom’s home where the wedding fest would begin. A delicious authentic meal would be waiting were the participants would further learn about marriage and weddings in the scriptures including the parable of the ten virgins, the wedding at Cana, and the symbolism of Christ as the bridegroom.

Lectures and Camps

In addition to being able to visit the museum and recreated village, guests at the Museum of Biblical Antiquities would be able to attend lectures and camps throughout the year. Classes would cover everything from the miracles and parables of Jesus, Holy Week, including the trials, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, biblical burial practices, Jewish temple worship, and cooking, farming and daily life in ancient times. These classes would be able to take full advantage of the museum by using artifacts, replicas, maps and models as part of every lecture. Training seminars could also be used to help prepare tour groups prior to traveling to the Holy Land, helping to increase their overall experience. Youth could be immersed in history by participating in summer camps designed to teach history and life in ancient times.

Museum of Biblical Antiquities

Traveling to the Holy Land can be a life changing experience. Few things can compare with walking beneath the pillars of an ancient street, or on the stone-paved streets of the city of Jerusalem, or admiring the intricate mosaics of the palace of Caesarea. Yet few people have the chance to visit the Holy Land because of the high cost, physical demands, and time involved.

What if many of the sights, sounds, and experiences could be brought home? What if everyone could at least gain a glimpse of this wonderful and significant place? With the Museum of Biblical Antiquities, that lofty goal can be achieved. Visitors would not only learn more about the history of the Bible and its people, but also would be able to experience and feel what it might have been like to live over 2000 years ago, all in an interactive, state-of-the art museum.

The Museum of Biblical Antiquities would be divided into two main sections; the actual museum, and the recreated biblical village.

The main museum building would be a center for learning and would be designed for many different uses. The main floor would include a small theater, gift shop, and both permanent and changing exhibits. Exhibits would include everything from ancient daily life, warfare, to temple worship. Artifacts, replicas, models, and interactive displays would fill the exhibits. The second floor would contain classrooms, offices, additional exhibit space for an art gallery, and a kids' crafts room where children could make papyrus, create cuneiform tablets, and excavate in an archaeology dig site.

The recreated biblical village would be a place for hands-on, interactive learning, where visitors could roam through the streets of a first century village and haggle with a street vendor, watch a carpenter at work, observe a woman working on a loom, grind wheat, kneed and bake bread, weave a hand-woven basket, and learn how to make olive oil by crushing and pressing the freshly harvested olives.

At the heart of the village would be a first century synagogue built of limestone pillars, stucco covered stonewalls, and a wood-beam roof. The synagogue would include several rows of stone seats surrounding the main room, a storage room for Torah scrolls, and a mikvah for ritual cleansing.

The village would also include several homes and shops of different sizes and styles. The largest home, or landowner's home, would contain spacious living and sleeping quarters, and a banquet room used for feasts and weddings. The village square would be surrounded by the landowner's home, the synagogue, the olive oil press building, and the village market. Further from the village square would be located several peasant homes and shops, including the carpenter, potter, tanner, and metal working shops. Visitors could also watch as workers build new homes and shops the same way these buildings were built 2000 years ago.

Outside of the village would be a small farm area that would include a sheepfold, watchtower, barn, threshing floor, and fields of wheat and barley.

The Museum of Biblical Antiquities would be like no other museum in the world, and would be designed to help people truly experience and understand history and the scriptures as never before.

If you are interested in helping this incredible museum come to life, either through expertise or financial support, please contact me.

June 4, 2015

Jesus Christ The Great High Priest

One of the many titles given to Jesus Christ is that of the Great High Priest (see Hebrews 5). To understand this Messianic title, we first must understand the role and significance of the High Priest in ancient times. During the exodus, as the Israelites were camped at the base of Mount Sinai, the Lord desired that all his children be able to enter into his presence within the walls of the Temple or Tabernacle. However, because of their sinfulness in creating a golden calf, God instead had the High Priest take the place of Israel, becoming the intercessory on their behalf. To help symbolize his important role as a mediator and as a type of Christ, each piece of the clothing of the High Priest pointed to the Messiah.

"The high priest wore eight holy garments. Of these, four were of the same type worn by all priests, and four were unique to the High Priest." [1]

The four garments worn by all priests were, first, the priestly undergarments or breeches. These linen pants were made to "cover the nakedness" of the priests and covered them from the waist to the knees (Exodus 28:42). Second, was the priestly tunic or robe, which was likewise made of white linen, was seamless, and covered most of the body of the priest (Exodus 28:39-40). Third, was the priestly sash, made of white linen for the normal priest, and an embroidered sash made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white for the High Priest, and was used as a type of belt around the tunic or robe. Fourth, is the priestly turban, bonnet, or cap, which was a long strip of white linen wrapped around the head of the priest.

The blue robe with alternating golden bells and pomegranate-shaped tassels  
The four golden garments worn by only the High Priest were, first the priestly blue robe, which was a sleeveless and seamless robe that was about a hand breadth shorter than the white full-length robe. On the bottom of the blue robe were alternating golden bells and pomegranate-shaped tassels made of blue, purple, and scarlet wool. Second, was the ephod, "a richly embroidered vest or apron with two onyx engraved gemstones on the shoulders, on which were engraved the names of the tribes of Israel." [2] Third, was the breastplate, which had twelve different stones in gold settings, fastened to the breastplate, each engraved with one of the names of the tribes of Israel. The breastplate was folded in half to create a pocket where the Urim and Thummim was stored. The fabric for both the ephod and the breastplate were woven from gold thread, blue, purple, and scarlet wool, and white linen. The breastplate was fastened on the top by gold-twisted chains attached to the two shoulder stones, and on the bottom by blue ribbons tied to the ephod. The last of the golden garments of the High Priest was the crown, worn over the front of the turban and attached to the forehead by two blue ribbons, the crown being inscribed with the words "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38).

The white robe and turban used by all priests
Each of the pieces of clothing, including their materials and colors, pointed to Jesus the Messiah, the Great High Priest. First, we'll discuss the four white linen vestments. White in the Bible represents purity, while the Hebrew word that was often used for linen means 'separation.' [3] Purity and separation from the world are both perfect symbols of the life of Christ. [4] John, remembering the white seamless robe worn by the priests, tells us that at the cross Jesus likewise wore a seamless robe (see John 19:23).

On the blue outer robe were attached alternating bells and pomegranate tassels. As the High Priest would walk around the bells would ring, reminding everyone around him, that they were in the presence of the High Priest, the representative of the Lord. The pomegranate in the scriptures represents fruitfulness, posterity, and prosperity, as there are literally hundreds of seeds in a single fruit. It is through the atonement of the Messiah that we are all made children of Christ, and heirs of his kingdom.

"In the scriptures ... the forehead represents what a person’s thoughts dwell on and therefore what he loves or desires. ... For the same reason, the Mosaic high priest wore an engraved gold signet on his forehead that read ‘Holiness to the Lord’ (see Exodus 28:36-38). This was a reminder that his thoughts should always be holy, with the result that his actions would follow suit." [5]

The clothing of the High Priest
Perhaps the most significant and expensive part of the High Priest's clothing was the ephod and the breastplate. According to the Bible, the stones on the two shoulders, engraved with the twelve tribes of Israel, were to represent that the High Priest was to symbolically bear or carry Israel upon his shoulders at all times. The twelve stones on the breastplate, likewise, represented that he was to carry Israel against his heart (see Exodus 28:12, 29-30). As Christ atoned in the Garden of Gethsemane, and died on the cross of Calvary he literally carried all of the world on his shoulders and against his heart.

Close-up of the breastplate showing the five colors
The blue robe, the ephod and the breastplate were all made of linen and wool, and of the same five colors; gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white. Linen again represents 'separation' from the world, while wool can be connected to the sheep that were used in so many of the temple sacrifices.

Gold in the scriptures represents wealth, power, the celestial realm, and the divine. [6] Blue represents all things heavenly, being the color of the sky. The priest's outer robe being entirely blue "emphasized the fact that his authority was of heavenly origin and his life was the typifying of God and Christ." [7] The color purple represents royalty, power, wealth, and majesty. Producing purple dye in ancient times was extremely costly and difficult, meaning that only the wealthiest could afford to wear the color purple. [8] It is interesting to note that Christ, according to Mark and John, was clothed in a purple robe by the soldiers before his crucifixion in an effort to mock him as the King of the Jews (see Mark 15:17 and John 19:2-3). The color scarlet, or red represents sin, mortality, death and resurrection. [9] In the same account of the mocking soldiers, Matthew tells us that the robe was scarlet (see Matthew 27:28). In addition, the book of Revelation depicts Christ at His Second Coming wearing a robe dipped in blood, making it the color red (see Revelation 19:13). As was already mentioned, white represents purity and typifies the type of life that Christ lived.
The breastplate of the High Priest
Just as the five colors were fully interwoven and united into one single piece of cloth, so too the attributes of Christ (typified by each of the colors), were combined into one, to demonstrate the saving grace of Christ, the number five representing God's grace in the scriptures. [10] Each attribute on its own is powerful, but only when they are all interwoven together is the true power of the atonement realized. The fact that the twelve precious stones, representing Israel, were fastened to the breastplate, which symbolizing the attributes of Christ, teaches us that we, as Israel, are each bound to Christ and made one with him because of his perfect life and infinite atonement.

As Paul wrote, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16). [11]

[1] High Priest of Israel, Wikipedia
[2] High Priest of Israel, Wikipedia
[3] Linen, BibleStudyTools.com
[4] Revelation 15:6 speaks of the seven angels being likewise clothed in white linen
[5] The Lost Language of Symbolism, by Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 39 (see Forehead)
[6] The Lost Language of Symbolism, page 91-93 (see Gold)
[7] The Lost Language of Symbolism, page 89-90 (see Blue)
[8] The Lost Language of Symbolism, page 96-99 (see Purple), also see Esther 6:7-8, 8:15 when Mordecai is dressed in a purple robe to represent the royal favor of the king.
[9] The Lost Language of Symbolism, page 99-102 (see Red/Scarlet)
[10] The number 5, The Bible Study Site
[11] The book of Hebrews mentions the term 'high priest' 20 times, and is by far the best scriptural source for teaching about the relationship between the High Priest and Jesus Christ.

May 18, 2015

Clothing of the High Priest

After almost three years of work, I have finally finished the clothing of the High Priest. I hope to upload several videos in the next few months, but wanted to at least get these pictures up so people can see the final outcome. I will make a few more minor changes (such as a new crown with ancient Hebrew, possibly some new stones, gold leafing the bells, etc.) but it is close enough.

Full outfit on my paper-mache mannequin
Breastplate of the Jewish High Priest
Crown of the Jewish High Priest
Shoulder stone with 6 of the 12 tribes of Israel engraven on the stone

May 10, 2015

A Mother's Love

A talk I gave today in Church for Mother's Day.

I am honored today to speak about the importance of mothers in our lives. Each of us has life because a mother walked "through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalms 23:4). They deserve our respect and our gratitude. I understand that we may not all have ideal mothers, but none the less, we all have been blessed in some degree by the sacrifice and love of a mother.

Without mothers, none of us would be here. Yet, despite this simple, yet factual statement, throughout the centuries, the importance of women and motherhood have for the most part been glossed over. History books are mostly filled with the stories of presidents, inventors, conquerors, doctors, tyrants, and religious figures, who for the most part, are all men. We are getting better today, but simply put, the history of women is most often told through the lives of men. Even in the Church, we often put more emphasis on priesthood keys, authority, and offices, such as Bishop, President, Apostle and Prophet, then on women and motherhood.

Yet when Christ taught during his earthly ministry, he rarely, if almost ever, spoke of priesthood or offices. Instead, he often spoke of women, such as the penitent woman, a widow's mite, the faith of an unclean woman, and the ceaseless prayers of a humble woman. Yes, Jesus did speak of men, but it seems that he held a special place in his heart for women. Of the over 100 stories in the four Gospels that refer to a woman, only six speak of a woman in a negative way. [1]

One of the most quoted verses in all scriptures states, "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) is actually couched within the context of a mother through the process of birth. The context of this verse is that Nicodemus came to Jesus to be taught of how the Master had such great power to perform so many amazing miracles [2]. The irony is that Jesus never really answers Nicodemus's question about his power, at least not directly. Instead he speaks of birth. Spiritual birth. John 3:5 reads, "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Only ten verses later Jesus teaches us that " God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." Why would Jesus choose to teach about his power to perform miracles, and about the significance of baptism, the gate to salvation, by teaching of a mother? My hope is to give at least one possible explanation through the stories of three incredible women. Three women who have blessed the lives of each of us because they chose to be a mother.

First though, we need to speak of baptism and how it relates to mothers. Baptism by immersion, as taught by Jesus to Nicodemus, symbolizes a new birth. The Lord taught Adam and Eve that "inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory" (Moses 6:59).

Just as each of us were completely immersed in the amniotic fluid of our mother's womb, which helped to protect us and allowed us to grow, each of us too must be completely immersed in the waters of baptism, to allow us to spiritually grow, and be protected from the buffetings of Satan. Also, just as an incredible amount of pain, blood, and suffering was required for each of our physical births, the suffering and atoning sacrifice of the Savior was required for our spiritual birth. What better way to teach about the atonement, then to teach about the love of a mother.

The first woman I would like to speak of is Mary. Mary is, and always will be the first and one of the greatest disciples of Jesus Christ. She is also perhaps one of the most powerful witnesses of the Savior, because she knew Him like no other person on earth. She was there at His birth; she was there as He grew to a man; and she was there at His death and resurrection. She was always faithful to her Son, and she always believed in His divine mission. As a young girl of about 12 or 13 Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and was told that she would bear a son who would be the literal Son of God. She had a choice. She could accept, which most likely would mean ridicule, estrangement from friends, and embarrassment, or she could choose not to accept the will of God, which would mean she would be able to live a normal life, a life like any other girl her age.

Yet, Mary chose the more difficult path; she chose to be the mother of the Son of God. Because of her decision, she most likely lost many friends who assumed she had broken the law of chastity; she also lost the chance of having a normal wedding, but instead was quickly married to Joseph in a small private setting. For the rest of her life she had to face the scorns of those who did not understand, of those who would not believe. Because Mary chose to give birth to the Savior of us all, each of us can be spiritually reborn through the atoning blood of the Savior. [3]

The second woman I would like to speak about is Eve. Like Mary, the story of Eve is misunderstand by much of the world. Most Christians regret the decision she made, and blame her for the suffering, pains, deaths, and misery that came into the world because of the Fall. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the blessings of the restoration is the fact that we understand that the Fall was actually a great blessing. Without the Fall, Adam and Eve would still live in a paradisiacal world. A world without sin. A world without death. The irony is that without sin, there would be no need for a Savoir, and without death, there would be no birth or resurrection. Because Eve chose to partake of the forbid fruit, we are here. Because of her, the Savior was enabled to be born. Because of her, pain was allowed in to the world, which allowed for the Master to suffer, bleed, and die so that we might live. If it was not for Eve, both physical and spiritual birth would not be possible.

I can't help but wonder that if when our Heavenly Parents chose to send down Adam, knowing of his strict obedience to the letter of the law, knew they needed to send down Eve, because she more fully understood the spirit of the law. She knew that partaking of the fruit was wrong. But she also knew that it was the only way that the plan could be fulfilled. It was the only way that we could learn between good and evil. It was the only way for us to learn to become like our Heavenly Parents.

The last Woman I would like to speak about is our own eternal and glorious Heavenly Mother. The beautiful hymn "O My Father" states, "In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare. Truth is reason: truth eternal tells me I've a mother there." (Hymn 292).

"Logic and reason would certainly suggest" said President Gordon B. Hinckley, "that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me" [4]. What a wonderful blessing to know that we do not only have a loving Father in Heaven, but a Mother of equal power and glory, who loves and cares for each of us. Through our Father, with our eternal Mother at His side, the worlds were created, the plan of salvation was put in place, and exaltation was made available to all. I have no doubt that we could say of our Heavenly Mother, that She "so loved the world, that [she] gave [her] … Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." [5].

Perhaps the reason Jesus answered Nicodemus's question of the Savior's power to perform miracles, with a mother giving birth, is because no other sacrifice could come near to the Savior's atonement, than to the pain and anguish a mother must go through to bring us life. Perhaps, it is simply because there is no other way to describe the Savior's love, then to first describe the love of a mother.

How grateful I am for my own mother, who has taught me so much. Words cannot describe my love for her. She is wonderful. She is amazing. How grateful I am for these four amazing women, my earthy mother, Mary, Eve, and my Mother in Heaven. Because of their willingness to suffer, I am here. Because of them, I can have eternal life. Because of them, I can more fully understand my Savior. I love them. I honor them and I am eternally grateful to them for their examples and love towards me.

[1] Women in the Synoptic Gospels
[2] See John 3:1-2
[3] This portion about Mary is mostly taken from a Christmas program I wrote back in 2012
[4] Daughters of God by Gordon B. Hinckley (October 1991)
[5] For more on our Mother in Heaven, see Another Mother's Day by Amy Gordon, and A Mother There by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido

April 4, 2015

Holy Week: Day of Agony

As the large stone was slowly rolled forward, Mary, the mother of Jesus, wept beyond control. She sat on the ground, with her shoulders down and tears in her eyes. Joseph of Arimathea held her hand as he tried to comfort her in this time of great remorse. Peter stood in quite disbelief. How could Jesus die? How could he die the way he did? He was to be the promised Messiah. Yet, not only had his life been ended, but he had suffered one of the most agonizing deaths imaginable. As the crowd began to disperse from the cold dark tomb, a somber feeling was left by each of the witnesses. This day would truly be a day of agony and remorse; a day of dashed hopes and of losses beyond compare.

The day was Saturday, the Sabbath of the Jews. Jesus’ body had been wrapped and placed in a tomb. The despair that the disciples of Jesus must have felt is beyond description. Less than a week before they had witnessed the great entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, hailed as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He had cast out the money changers of the temple and had called the temple His own. He had spoken with power to the Pharisees and had usurped their power on every hand. He had spoken words of comfort and peace to the disciples in the upper room. He had spoken of kingdoms and greatness; He had spoken of overcoming all things. Yet now He lay in a tomb. His life of teachings and influence had ended literally overnight. From the time of His arrest to the time of His death would not have been more than about 12 hours. He had been tortured and executed. He had died and had been buried. How could He raise a man from the dead, yet He could not prevent His own death. How could He heal the blind and deaf, yet not be able to heal Himself.

How ironic the disciples must have thought, that on this Sabbath day, on which Jehovah had rested from his labors after creating the earth, their Lord and Master would rest and lie in a tomb. The Sabbath was to be a day of delight and joy (see Isaiah 58:13); it was to be a day of rest and rebirth. On the Sabbath Jesus had healed many, yet He could not bring this same power unto Himself (see Luke 13:10-16). This day that was to be a delight, was anything but a delight.

Discipleship by Liz Lemon Swindle
Each of us is faced with moments of despair and depression; moments when we feel lost, alone, and forsaken. At these times of agony we often ask how the Lord could permit such an event to occur. How could the Lord let the righteous suffer so? We may feel that because of our loss the Lord does not love us, or we have in some way displeased the Master. Yet, these moments of despair and loss are given to us that we may learn. It is only after sorrow that we can feel joy; it is only after loss that we can feel restoration; it is only after death that we can know life. Had the disciples witnessed Jesus die of old, they would still have reason to mourn. However, because He died in such an appalling and agonizing way the disciples were given the chance to experience complete loss and total despair. Because of this, when Jesus was raised from the dead the next day, the light, glory, joy, and happiness that must have filled their hearts is beyond description. By His death and suffering He literally helped them to learn what true joy was like. [1]

Though we often may find ourselves in despair, let us look to Christ and put our faith in Him completely and totally. Let us never question what He has told us. Let us never doubt the promises that He has given. He had told His disciples that He would be killed and rise again [2]; yet, the agony of the moment overshadowed their hope. In our times of trial, let us never allow our faith to be overshadowed by fear and sadness. Let our hope be a beacon to the world. Let us always place our faith in the Lord who is mighty to save. For after great trials comes great blessings; after great sadness comes great joy; after death comes life and resurrection.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

[1] See Sunday will Come, by Joseph B. Wirthlin
[2] See Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19

April 2, 2015

Holy Week: Gethsemane and the Olive Press

After the Savior had finished the Last Supper with his disciples, which was probably around 10 pm on Thursday night, the Lord took His disciples down the Kidron Valley and then up the Mount of Olives. Only five days previous, on what we now call Palm Sunday, the Savior had come down this same mount to the shouts of praise by the Jews who hailed Him as King of kings, as the anointed Messiah. Yet, now He went with no fanfare into a garden where He would take upon Him the sins of the world.

Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew words 'gath' meaning press, and 'shemen' meaning oil. The fact that Christ chose a garden called Gethsemane is significant for many reasons. Olive oil was considered one of the most important substances for life. This rich golden oil was used to light the home of every family in Judea. Oil was also used to light the inner chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was used to cook most food and in particular was used in the process of making bread, the very staff of life. Olive oil was also used to help create many ointments that were used for both the living, for healing purposes, and for the dead, to anoint the body prior to placing it in the tomb. Oil was also used to anoint kings, priests, and prophets. In short, olive oil played a central part of Jewish religious and daily life.

Iron age courtyard with olive press (from Atlas of the Bible, page 80)
The very process by which olive oil was produced is also very significant and symbolic. To produce the oil, you had to first crush the olives with a huge stone wheel that turned the olives into a pulp like mush. Large woven bags were then filled with the pulp and placed under the gethsemane, or olive press. "The mash sacks were placed towards the front of the beam under a round pressing board. Large stones were used to weigh down the beam pressing upon the mash sacks." [1] Additional weight was added until the olive oil began to spill from the woven bag into the collecting bowls. Because of the crushed rinds of the olives, the oil was actually brownish red in color, giving it the appearance of blood. [2]

Note how the olive oil is reddish-brown in color (from Satterfield)
The symbolism of olive oil and the suffering that Christ endured in this garden of the press is laden with significance. Christ in the Gospel of John states that He is the Light of the world (see John 8:12). It is through His precious blood that our way has been illuminated. Christ is the ointment that will not only heal our souls, but give a sweet fragrance to the bitter difficulties we face in life. It is through His precious blood that our wounds are healed. Christ also stated that He was the bread of life, a critical ingredient of ancient bread being olive oil. It is through His precious blood that we can have the bread of life, and live forever (see John 6:51). Even the very name Christ in Greek and Messiah in Hebrew mean anointed. [3] Thus, Jesus was the anointed one in every aspect, the great King of kings, the High Priest, the holy Prophet.

Christ alone paid the price for sin. He had the weight of the world press down upon Him, crushing Him until He bled from every pore. How grateful I am that on this night the Christ would be willing to bear the burden of my sins, that I might be healed.

In 2007 I had the chance to sit in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. As I sat there in the Church of All Nations (the Catholic Church located in the garden), I felt a great pain for the suffering that Christ suffered on my behalf. I sat there completely alone in the church and thought of when He was completely alone in the garden. I sat there in dark (the chapel is intentionally dark to represent night) as I thought of how the Messiah knelt in darkness, pleading on my behalf to the Father. As He bore my burden, blood came from every pore. As these thoughts filled my mind, I was then filled with the most joyous happiness I have perhaps ever felt. I did not feel guilt for His pain, I felt peace. I did not feel anxiety for the suffering I caused Him, I felt forgiveness. I did not feel sadness for causing such anguish, I felt pure love.

I love my Savior, and will be eternally grateful for that which He did for me, in a garden called Gethsemane. In a garden that by its very name symbolizes the freedom, life, and light that has been brought into my life through His precious blood.

[1] Gethsemane, by Bruce Satterfield of BYU-Idaho
[2] For pictures showing entire process of making olive oil see Gethsemane, by Bruce Satterfield
[3] See Mashiach (Hebrew) and Christos (Greek) in Strong's Concordance

The Last Supper and the Passover Feast

Each year, Christians throughout the world celebrate Holy Week, the most significant period in the Christian calendar. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the life of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and his resurrection from the tomb.

During this same time each year, Jews around the world celebrate Passover, the most significant festival in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish holiday of Passover commemorates the redemption of the ancient Israelites from bondage in Egypt after being slaves for 300 years.

The Bible records the Lord’s command to celebrate the first Passover: "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb...without blemish, a male of the first year…and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it....For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." (see Exodus 12:1-13)

For 3,500 years Jews have celebrated Passover, and have used the symbolism of the meal to remember the captivity and redemption of their fathers, and to look forward to the Messianic age and their own final redemption.

The Betrayal by Marilyn Todd-Daniels
Jesus, himself a Jew, likewise used the symbolism of the Passover meal to teach His disciples about His mission, as He prepared them to understand the spiritual redemption that would come from his suffering and death. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of the homes of faithful Israelites had saved them from the power of the destroying angel, so the blood of the lamb of God, shed for all on Calvary’s cross, would save all who would come unto Christ from the power of sin and death.

Though it is difficult to know exactly how the Last Supper took place, the gospel writers refer to several Passover symbols during the meal and discourse that followed. Understanding this sacred holiday in its Jewish context will help us appreciate the Last Supper and the Savior's redemption on this Passover night.

Tradition tells us that the day was Thursday, the first day of the Passover feast. As the evening approached, Jesus and His disciples gathered in a large upper room on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. His disciples had made preparations beforehand and the table was set with all of the necessary elements for the Passover.

According to Jewish tradition, a roasted lamb would be served as the main dish, in remembrance of the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the homes, which protected their ancestors from the destroying angel. Alongside it, bitter herbs, representing the bitterness of slavery, and a mixture of chopped apples and nuts, called haroset, representing the mortar used by slaves to build the wonders of Egypt. Salt water was used to recall the salty tears shed by the Israelites in slavery. Into the salt water they dipped greens, such as parsley, representing springtime, the season of Passover, the season of hope.

Passover symbols: haroset, salt water, parsley, wine, and bitter herbs
Central to the Passover feast was the unleavened bread, or matza, which reminded the disciples of the haste with which Israel left Egypt--their ancestors not having even enough time to allow their bread to rise. This was the bread which Christ blessed and broke and gave to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you, this do in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).

“After the same manner also he took the cup...saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do...in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). In instituting this sacramental emblem, Jesus used one of the four cups of wine which was consumed during each Passover meal, each cup representing a unique aspect of God’s promise to redeem Israel.

During the meal, the question was asked by the youngest member: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Whereupon, the story of the redemption of Israel from captivity was told. Passover is different from all other nights, but this Passover night was truly different, for on this night, Christ would redeem all His children from the slavery of sin, and the bondage of death.

After completing this symbolic meal “And when they had sung a hymn, [Jesus and his disciples] went out into the mount of Olives” into a garden called Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30). Jesus’ atoning journey had begun. The true Passover Lamb had come.

The text of this script comes from a  youtube video I produced back in 2011 with the help of Amy Grigg. With over 8,000 views I decided to update the video to HD and widescreen.

March 30, 2015

Leaven and the Cleansing of the Temple

Just prior to Passover every Jewish family begins the process of cleansing their home of all leaven products. This ritual dates back to the time of the Exodus when the Israelites fled Egypt, who in their haste to leave captivity, did not have time to allow their dough to rise. To commemorate their haste, just prior to Passover, families scour their home until they have removed all traces of leaven. The Bible states, "seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life." (Deuteronomy 16:3). The seven days without leaven began the day after Passover, and was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. [1]

Cleaning the home of all leaven products
This cleansing ritual also represented the importance of purifying our homes of all corruption and sin prior to celebrating this important feast in the presence of the Lord. Leaven, or what we would call today sourdough, was created by allowing a mixture of flour and water to ferment over several days. Over time the dough would begin to rise and bubble, helping to create a leaven start. This fermented dough was then added to more flour and water, left to rise, and then baked. Because only a small portion of leaven was needed to leaven an entire loaf of bread, it became a symbol of corruption because likewise, only a small portion of sin is needed to corrupt our entire soul. [2]

The timing of this cleaning is significant to the events of Holy Week, because at the same time that thousands of Jews were cleaning their homes of all leaven, Jesus entered his Father's house, the temple, and cleansed it from corruption. According to Mathew and Luke, the cleansing took place on Sunday, just following the triumphal entry (see Matthew 21:8-12). According to Mark, it took place the day after on Monday (see Mark 11:12, 15-19). How significant that Jesus would choose to cleanse his Father's house of the money changers and vendors, during the same period when all Jews would be cleansing their own homes.

"a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6)
Paul, seeing the connection between our own need to cleanse our souls, and the sanctifying power of Christ said, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

Let us this Holy Week determine to cleanse our lives of sin, and start anew, by accepting Christ the true Passover Lamb, and by seeking to follow his example in every way.

[1] The Feast of Unleavened Bread... Wait - Isn't it Passover?
[2] See Matthew 16:6 and 1 Corinthians 5:6

March 21, 2015

Events of Holy Week: Palm Sunday

For anyone who has studied in-depth the last week of the Savior's mortal ministry, you know there are some, well, inconsistencies. Did Jesus really cleanse the Temple on Sunday (as Matthew and Luke describe), or did it happen on Monday (as Mark's gospel records)? Were there two women who anointed the feet/head of Jesus (one on the Saturday before Palm Sunday as John records, and one on Wednesday), or was it just one woman? Was Jesus actually crucified at 9:00 AM or at noon of Good Friday? Or perhaps the most perplexing of all, was the Last Supper an actual Passover feast, or did Jesus celebrate the feast a day early?

The simple answer, no one really knows. Scholars disagree on how to resolve the inconsistencies, however, when you study Holy Week as four separate stories, a beautiful tapestry of depth and meaning arises. In searching for timelines of Holy Week, I never found one that really addressed all of these intricate issues. So, I decided to make my own. Hopefully, this timeline of the events of Holy Week will help you appreciate the beauty of this most significant week in history. Hopefully, it will help you understand that the Gospel writers most likely were more interested in preserving the profound symbolism of Holy Week, and not so much an hour-by-hour chronology of events.

Over the next week, in an attempt to show the hidden meaning of the events of Holy Week, I will share several of the most precious gems I have discovered over the years. To begin, I will start with Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday

Each of the four Gospels records the events of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. According to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), the event took place on the 10th day of the month of Abib, the same day when all Jews were choosing their Passover lambs. According to the Law of Moses, the Israelites were to select their lambs on the 10th day of the month, five days before Passover (see Exodus 12:3). Once selected, the lamb was then taken into the homes of the families of Israel where it lived for the next five days (see Exodus 12:3-6). On the fourteenth day of the month, the family was then to take the lamb to the temple, kill it without breaking any bones, and then take the carcass back to the home for the Passover feast. During the first Passover, when Israel was still in Egypt, the blood of the lamb was then dabbed on the doorposts, protecting their home from the destroying angel. This made for a poignant lesson for the children, who after living with the lamb and becoming fond of it, would see it killed and eaten, so that they could be saved.

The significance of the timing is that on the very same day that all Jews were choosing their Passover lambs, Jesus (the true Lamb of God) rides into Jerusalem and is chosen by the people as their Messiah (Matthew 21:1-11). It is also significant that during the same time period that the Passover lambs were being taken into the Jewish homes for the next five days, Jesus is found teaching in his Father's house, the Temple of God (Luke 19:47). According to John, five days later, at the same time when thousands of Passover lambs were being sacrificed, the true Passover lamb, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. Truly, it was the blood of the Lamb of God, that was shed on the cross, that protects us from the destroying angel of death and sin. It is because of Him, that we can live.