I have always been fascinated with ‘time’. Books and movies about the future, of people from today going to back into the past, time travel in general always captures my attention.
I have the blessing and the curse of a very good memory. I remember things many others do not; not because I try, but just because I do. I once had a person call me who really did not know me, just to find out something that happened years ago. They were told by not so close a friend that I would probably remember. I did. In quite some detail.
I study the past. As a historian, I am fascinated with the origin of things. I always have been. As one who remembers things, I suppose it’s appropriate that I hold such a fascination of what others remember, or wrote down to be remembered.
And then there’s the future. Since I was a child, I have always ventured forward in my mind, imagining what things might be like. Hoping for things. I read books about the future. I wrote down things I hoped would happen, and some of them did; maybe not quite exactly like I thought, but generally the thing came about.
Yes, this means I am captivated by biblical prophecy. And that fascination with the divine influence on our future has driven people away from me. But, there are certain things that I believe and say with absolute confidence they will happen. Because God has already told us.
I have been the purveyor of prophetic things once or twice, in very accurate detail, though I do not tout myself as a prophet. [I do not think anyone holds the office of a prophet today; I think that God uses certain humble human beings, or the occasional donkey, to give necessary prophecies on a very small scale at times, but I do not think anyone is “a prophet” on the biblical scale.]
While I do hold a certain fascination with yesterday and the distant tomorrow, I am not divorced from the reality of NOW. But, in my many years of living in our ‘continuum’, I have noticed an irrevocable link between all three: יהוה . The Creator. He is not bound by time, and traverses all three epochs. His Name, יהוה , in fact, transverses past, present and future grammatical tenses. It is the verb ‘to be’ in Hebrew, across all “tenses”.
And there is ONE MOMENT in time that is the ‘portal’ to remove the ‘tense’ of pain from all three. What I mean by that, is that our past can hold us in a prison; today’s issues can hold us in a prison, and the fear of tomorrow can as well. But one moment in history, to which the people of faith before it looked for “Shalom”, is the door to removing all that ‘tension’: the tug between our past failures/losses, today’s problems, and tomorrow’s calamities, is dissolved by that one, singular moment: The execution of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God. In that moment, God transports us to the past, fixes our past mistakes, consoles our current soul’s condition, and assures our future. He does so through and because of His Son, יהוה Yeshua the Messiah.
What started me on this line of thinking was a young man. A year ago, he asked me if I believed that Yeshua [he called him Jesus] died on the cross for my sins. He was not trying to save me; he was challenging me, not understanding as yet that as a Messianic Jew I believe in the Son of God. I told him, “Yes, I believe that Yeshua died for my sins, in a crucifix form, but He was actually nailed to a tree.” A year ago, that was a mistake. That young man and his cousin were not ready to hear an alternate view of the execution of the Messiah, nor did they have the capacity to understand that it was scripture from where I drew my conclusion, and scripture alone. All they heard was that Jesus did not die on a cross. Shut down.
But, last week, that same young man came back to me wanting to talk about it. I immediately told him, “We can talk, but we are not going to argue. Will you listen to me?” Surprisingly, he agreed.
I explained to him that the reason this moment in time is so critical to me, and NOT the ‘symbol’ that people of faith are emotionally attached to, is because His execution is the ONE THING that brings people to a true understanding of God and His Compassion, and thus invokes real, biblical repentance.
We went to a computer, and I called up the King James Bible, as I knew that was his version of choice, and we read four passages [I’ve inserted ours from the Aramaic/Hebrew after each]:
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” ~ Acts 5:30
- [“The Elohim of our fathers has raised up Yeshua whom you killed when you nailed Him on the tree.”]
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:” ~Acts 10:39
- [“This very one the Y’hudim hung upon a tree and killed Him”]
“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.” ~Acts 13:29
- [“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they lowered him from the tree and laid him in a grave.”]
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed”. ~1 Peter 2:24
- [“and He bore all our sins, and lifted them with His body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live through His tzedaka, and by His wounds you were healed. …”]
Looking only at his favored text, I showed him that the only places in all of scripture that actually says what he hung on said ‘tree’, all four of them, and that there was also a prophecy about Him hanging on a tree in Galatians: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” Gal 3:13, which Paul asserts is a prophecy concerning Yeshua from Deuteronomy, who was cursed for our sakes: ON THE TREE. Five BIBLICAL witnesses, therefore, give me my understanding of the mode of His death.
I explained that the greek word here is “xulon,” showing him the actual greek text online. Then I explained that the greek word for ‘cross’ was ‘tau’, and it is not even in the greek texts of the Bible. Anywhere.
I told him that people get emotionally attached to the symbol, and vehemently defend the symbol because of songs they sing, messages they’ve heard, and because of one verse: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” I explained that the ENGLISH has been massaged to match the prevailing TRADITION that had been in the world since the time of Constantine, up to the King James Version in 1611 A.D. The greek actually reads roughly this way, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the stake/beam of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is staked unto me, and I unto the world.” This is also very close to how the Aramaic reads: “But as for me, I have nothing on which to boast except the staking of Adoneinu Yeshua HaMashi’akh, by whom the world is executed to me and I am executed to the world.”
And that is what I meant when I said there is ONE MOMENT in which we should all GLORY: HIS EXECUTION. NOT in a symbol. Especially since that symbol existed no where in any early congregation in Israel, nor in many others, for years and years. The ‘cross’ wasn’t added to the liturgy until Jerome translated it into Latin in the mid fourth century A.D.
What I finally managed to get that young man to understand is that, yes, Yeshua was hanging in a cruciform fashion, arms extended, feet below Him, nailed up as we understand. But, I explained, He was under a canopy of living olives, the source of the oil of anointing in the Temple, hanging over the head of the Anointed One.
He was not hanging so high off the ground as traditional images depict, but low, on an olive tree, such that His belabored speech could be heard by those near Him on the ground. And, that the two men executed with him, one on his right, and one on his left, were actually on the same tree with Him, and Yokhanan’s account seems to prove it. Yokhanan was the ONLY EYE WITNESS who wrote about Yeshua’s execution. We read from Yokhanan/John 19:
“So they besought Pilatos to have the legs of those who were executed broken, and to have the bodies lowered down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who was executed with Him. But when they came to Yeshua, they saw that He was dead already, so they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” ~Yokh 19:31-34
In the traditional scene, one guy is way over to the left; they break his legs, WALK PAST YESHUA, to break the other guy’s legs? And THEN walk back and then see that Yeshua was dead? Not likely! But, hanging on the tree, it would be easy to see how the soldiers could go from one on his right or left, to the other on his right or left, without having to pass Yeshua first, to miss the fact that He’d already died. This part may or may not be the actual configuration of the three executed men, but, for me, it makes more sense. Neither scenario, however, is critical to our salvation. But, understanding should be rooted in His Word.
I explained to this young man that one thing he should have learned about me is that I believe the Word of God over EVERY HUMAN BEING. EVEN if the masses believe contrary to what I see in the Word of God. I further reiterated that the way I ‘see’ the execution does in no way change the nature of His death, its purpose, or its net effect: but the moment that His side was pierced and blood and water flowed, the ‘new birth’ for mankind was transacted: the moment that all the Holy Ones before had been looking forward to had happened; the moment that all of us since have looked back to in order to SEE the Compassion of God had happened. That moment is the portal of time where we all meet: God, Yeshua His Son, those dead in Messiah, and we who are alive. And all the ‘tensions’ of the world are melted away by returning to that moment. It is there that we meet יהוה , and His Son, to whom He has given the Name by which we are saved:
“He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the stake; therefore, Elohim also has highly exalted Him and given Him a Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Yeshua every knee should bow, of those in heaven, of those on earth, and those under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that He, Yeshua HaMashi’akh, is יהוה , to the glory of Elohim His Father.” ~Phil 2:8-11
Therein is “shalom”, the peace that surpasses all understanding. There is no ‘tense’ in Him, יהוה, Yeshua HaMashi’akh.