In his second book, Acts, Luke makes it clear that Jesus appeared to his disciples for 40 days after His resurrection from the dead. Jesus dedicated those 40 days to helping His disciples understand the Scriptures and to explaining the Kingdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to them. We are currently in the same 40-day time period between the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension.
The disciples were given a life calling which has been handed down to us. Jesus told them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
The gospel of Mark gives more detail about the power and authority for the disciples. "And these signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (Mark 16:17-18)
In the gospel of Luke, we are told that Jesus "opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." He reminded them of this: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:45-49)
John includes some stories of the disciples' encounters with Jesus that are not in the other three gospels. One story recounts the appearance of Jesus to Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, and John as they fished on Lake Galilee. He instructs them to fish on the starboard side of the boat after they caught nothing. Their catch was so large that it made pulling in their net almost impossible. Scripture tells us there were 153 fish in the net, a number that represents the harvest that was to come from the people groups of the world. (Footnote from The Passion Translation)
Before Jesus ascended, He advised His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them. (Acts 1:4) Can you imagine the conversation that took place among the disciples as they waited for the infilling of the Holy Spirit? They probably spoke about the events of the last three years of their lives with Jesus and wondered what the next chapter would look like. The 50 days between the Resurrection and Pentecost should also be one of review and preparation for us. There is always more with Jesus! Perhaps we will have a new perspective on our lives as we wait upon the Holy Spirit to reinvigorate and renew us. The Bible tells us, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)
The one who created the heavens and the earth existed before there was creation. Genesis 1:1 used the Hebrew word Elohim which translates God, Mighty Creator, Omnipotent Power. With His breath He made everything from nothing, spoke order into chaos, and light into darkness. Elohim is the plural form of El that gives recognition to the truth that He is a Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the sixth day "God created man in His own image..." (Genesis 1:27) His desire was and is to fill our lives with blessings. Psalm 102:27 tells us about the infinity of God. "But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
After destroying life on earth because of its wickedness, God started again with Noah and his family and demonstrated that He is the God who keeps covenant with His people. Nations were birthed from Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From Shem's family came Abram and another covenant with God. God said, "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) Abram was blessed with abundant provision through God. To broaden Abram's understanding of Elohim, God said to him, "Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." (Genesis 15:1) The covenant God made with Abram (who He renamed Abraham, meaning "Father of a multitude") was sealed with a sign. Every male was to be a sign of the covenant through circumcision. In the generations to come, all male children would be circumcised on the eighth day. (Genesis 17:12) Eight is the number of new beginnings.
The story of Abraham and his relationship with God was verbally shared through the generations. However, when the children of Israel were detained as slaves in Egypt, much of what had been handed down from generation to generation was forgotten. After 430 years of oppression and slavery, God appointed Moses to lead them to the Promised Land and used the events of their journey as a way to reintroduce His character. This took place during the second month on the Hebrew calendar. This month has two names: Iyar and Ziv, which means radiance. We are in the first week of this month and can learn from the Israelite journey. Since this month is linked with light it is time for us to ask God for revelation and to radiate God's glory as we learn more about Him.
As we look back at the events of this month, we can see that God's desire is for greater intimacy with His children. One of ways that we can accomplish this is through getting to know His names. With multiple names, we have multiple ways to relate to Him. Worship leader Paul Wilbur wrote a song called "The Diamond Turns." He asks the question: "Who is like You Oh Lord among gods? Who can worship as You shine? Who could even know in just a single gaze all the glory of Your face?" God is like a diamond with multiple facets. He is radiant; His light is blinding! Every facet of the Lord is unique and meant to help us in our journey on earth.
Again, let's look back at the children of Israel and see how they were developing a new level of relationship with God as they traveled. They saw that God would fight for them as He opened the Red Sea. In the Song of Moses they sang, "The Lord is a warrior." (Exodus 15:3) Then they learned that God is Jehovah Rapha (The God who Heals) when he purified the bitter waters of Marah. God led them as a shepherd so that they became familiar with His name Yahweh Rohi. As they grumbled about the lack of food, God provided manna for sustenance and called Himself Jehovah Jaira (The Lord Will Provide). When they went to battle against the Amalekites, the Lord fought with Joshua and the troops and helped Moses hold up his hands in victory through the battle. Moses built an altar to His name, Jehovah Nissi. (The Lord is My Banner)
With God everything is personal. May I suggest that we investigate some of the names of God during this month of radiance. As we get to know Him more intimately, we will radiate HIs light and glory.
Why is it that some children seem to be born with a predisposition toward a specific focus in life? My only explanation for this is that God makes it part of their DNA. Such was the case for Evan Roberts, a young revivalist from Wales with an unquenchable passion for the presence of the Lord. Born on June 8, 1878, he was part of a family of Calvinist-Methodists. I surmise that God intended this to be, so that his hunger for revival would be encouraged. As was the case with most men who lived in Southern Wales, Evan's father worked in the coal mines. When he was in a mining accident, Evan was taken out of school to work in the mines. However, his love of the Lord and of God's Word was the foundation upon which he built his life. His Bible went to the mines with him daily. He even shared a Scripture with the workers as they went down into the mine and encouraged them to meditate on it during the workday.
It was at age 13 that Evan had an encounter with God at his church named Moriah Chapel. He became obsessed with living a life that pleased the Lord and regularly asked himself the question, "What would Jesus do?" Evan's life as a teenager was marked by fervent prayer. His dedication to God and desire for intimacy with Him brought him spiritual power. He felt called to enter full-time ministry and focused his long prayers on asking God to bring revival to his Welsh community. He told the congregation at Moriah Chapel, "I have reached out my hand and touched the flame. I am burning and waiting for a sign." (Page 82, God's Generals by Roberts Liardon)
On October 31, 1904, Evan's 13-year prayer burden was answered. He saw the fruit of his prayers through a revival that broke out among a group of young people who received Christ as their personal Savior. While the Holy Spirit was poured out in the southern part of Wales, God orchestrated revival in villages in north Wales. At Moriah, Evan shared his belief that God had promised to save 100,000 individuals. Revival meetings took place nightly. Those who attended the meetings were instructed by Evan to "Pray, believe, and wait." He also told them to pray a specific prayer: "Send the Holy Spirit now for Jesus Christ's sake."
Revival spilled out on to the streets and into homes, workplaces, and shops. Many traveled from England and Scotland to participate in the Wales revival. The bulk of their meeting time was filled with singing. But Evan was convinced of the priority of prayer. He said, "We may sing all night without saving. It is prayer that tells, that saves, and that brings heaven down among us. Pray, friends, pray!"
The consistent, fervent, unending prayers of a young man transformed the southern part of Wales and spread revival around the country and into others. Evan believed that the Holy Spirit of God would bring revival as the prayer bowls in heaven were filled. Oh, how I desire to see that conviction fall upon our nation! I believe that only the Lord can change the destructive path we are on and bring us back to the godly foundations from which we have fallen. Evan Robert would pray: "Bend the church and save the world. Bend me. Bend me." Let us join together in this prayer to fill the bowls in heaven so that they overflow and pour revival upon us.
Why would He do it? Why would King Jesus leave His throne in heaven to come to earth where He would be ridiculed, disrespected, and hunted down to be brutally murdered? Jesus knew exactly what would happen to Him. Psalm 22 author, King David, a member of the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:6-7), wrote a prophetic picture of the Cross of Christ. According to a footnote in The Passion Translation, thirty-three of the prophecies from this Psalm were fulfilled when Jesus was on the Cross. That would be one for each year of His life.
The first verse of Psalm 22 is a question that was asked by Jesus as He hung on the Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Verse 6: "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people." It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for worm is "tola," which is also the word for crimson. There was a worm in the Middle East that bled crimson when it was crushed. Jesus was comparing Himself to this worm.
Verse 12: "Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me," The root word for bull means "to break or destroy." The word Bashan is a place but is also a word for serpent. David is describing the demonic spirits that would come against Jesus.
Verses 16-18: "...They pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garments."
Verses 23-24: "You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him! Revere Him, all you descendants of Israel! For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from Him but has listened to His cry for help." Jesus is the one who cried to Father God for help.
Verses 27-28: "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him, for dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations." Can Jesus find some comfort in knowing that His suffering will bring the people of the world into relationship with His Father?
Verses 30-31 (TPT): "His spiritual seed shall serve Him. Future generations will hear from us about the wonders of the Sovereign Lord. His generation yet to be born will glorify Him. And they will all declare, 'It is finished!'"
Notice the bookends for this Psalm. While Jesus was on the Cross, around 3:00 in the afternoon He cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) Having accomplished on the Cross all that Father God sent Him to do on the earth, Jesus declared, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) The death of Jesus completed the work of salvation for His Bride, The Church.
In His foreknowledge of what He would have to endure, Jesus asked His Father if He would take away His cup of suffering. (Matthew 26:59) But His priority was to complete His mission--to demonstrate the love of God. It was not the nails that held Jesus to the Cross; it was His love for us. We are the recipients of such love and can celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today. As the apostle Paul says, "Your hearts can soar with joyful gratitude when you think of how God made you worthy to receive the glorious inheritance freely given to us by living in the light. He has rescued us completely from the tyrannical rule of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom realm of His beloved Son. For in the Son all our sins are canceled, and we have the release of redemption through His very blood." (Colossians 1:12-14 - TPT) Hallelujah!!
Why should Passover be important for Christians? Robert Heidler, in his book The Messianic Church Arising, gives us several explanations:
(1) The root of our faith comes from the Jews, and we are spiritually united with Israel.
(2) Our Scriptures contain multiple references to the celebration of Passover and tell us to remember God's Word. "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord." (Exodus 12:14)
(3) Passover is included as part of God's plan of salvation. Without Passover the Jews would have died in Egypt and Jesus would not have been born. Without Jesus there is no salvation.
(4) Passover teaches us about Jesus—The Passover Lamb. (1 Corinthians 5:7) It was by His blood that we were redeemed and set free to walk in the promises of God.
Robert Heidler's book explains that "Every element (of Passover) points to Jesus." Jesus is the One who brings us deliverance, redemption, and freedom. He celebrated the Passover with His disciples: "Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'" (Luke 22:7)
Under two kings of Judah, the temple was cleansed, items of defilement were removed from the sanctuary, and the covenant with the Lord was renewed. Hezekiah had the Levites consecrate themselves so that they could make sacrifices to the Lord. He then reinstated the practice of celebrating Passover. Though it was done in the second month of the year instead of the first, God was pleased with their offerings and blessed the people. A spirit of generosity came upon them as they were revived. (2 Chronicles 30)
Josiah's acts of devotion to the Lord are recorded in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35. He destroyed idols, purified the land and the temple, and read the Book of the Covenant. He reinstituted the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 35:18 tells us, "...none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah..." A celebration like this brings unity to the community and revives it.
It appears that the celebration of Passover is directly linked with revival. My belief is that if the church began to acknowledge and honor Passover, She would be renewed and revived. Even the simple act of reading the Biblical accounts of Passover and acknowledging that Jesus is our Passover Lamb could begin a revival of our faith. Wednesday at sundown begins Passover. Are we ready to celebrate?
Joan E. Mathias