The following Scripture passages are offered to aid beginning fellowships. The readings and commentary for this week are more in line with what has become usual; for the following will most likely be familiar observations. The concept behind this Sabbath’s selection is informing narrative.
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For the Sabbath of January 21, 2012
The person conducting the Sabbath service should open services with two or three hymns, or psalms, followed by an opening prayer acknowledging that two or three (or more) are gathered together in Christ Jesus’ name, and inviting the Lord to be with them.
And this is the testimony of John [the Baptist], when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." So they said to him, "Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said." (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:19–51 emphasis and highlighting added)
The principle of narrative economy makes the timing of when the above events occurred important: if when these events occurred were not important, then no time marker would have been included in the text. And the beginning mark is not when Jesus was baptized but when priests and Levites came to John and asked if he was the Christ, the last Elijah, or the Prophet, with their coming to John about six months after his ministry began.
The timed sequence of events continues into chapter two:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1–11 highlighting added)
In a three days span that began with representatives of the Pharisees coming to where John was baptizing, John testified that he was not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, and that he merely was preparing the way for the One who was to come and who had already come but was unrecognized by Israel. On the following day, John identifies Jesus as this unknown Lamb of God. Note, John does not identify Jesus as the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, but as the sacrificial Lamb of God, the One who would bear Israel’s sins and who would take away the sins of the world. For John, like the Pharisees and Levites of the temple, believed that the Christ, the last Elijah, and the Prophet would be three distinct individuals. And on the same day as when John identifies Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God, two of John’s disciples, upon hearing John identify Jesus as the Lamb of God, began to follow Jesus.
One of the two, Andrew, upon hearing Jesus speak, went and found his brother, Simon, and told his brother that they had found the Christ, with John’s disciples making the connection between Jesus being the Lamb of God and Jesus being the Christ.
On the second day after representatives of the temple leaders asked John if he was one of the three for whom Israel waited, Jesus with three disciples in tow set off for Galilee. He found Philip, and told Philip to follow Him—and Philip found Nathanael and said that they had found the Prophet of whom Moses wrote and by implication, the Elijah about whom the prophet Malachi wrote.
John the Baptist, by identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God, caused the young men who followed him [John was not old: he was thirty years of age, about six months older than Jesus] to link Jesus to the Christ, Elijah, and the Prophet that Israel expected. Whether John himself had taught them that these three would be embodied in one person is difficult to discern; for the text seems to suggest that John saw the three prophesied deliverers of Israel as three separate men although after John is imprisoned he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” (Matt 11:3).
When John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, John did not connect Jesus to being the Christ, the one who was to come, the reason why John needed to know if Jesus was the Christ; for Jesus wasn’t doing those things that Israel expected the Christ to do, principally, drive Rome out of the city of God and the Promised Land … the Jews of the temple linked Rome with Babylon even though Rome never ruled over earthly Babylon whereas the Greeks did, and the Parthian Empire was then ruling Babylonia. And far too many endtime Christians, having eaten the leaven of 1st-Century Pharisees, mistakenly identify the two legs of the humanoid image that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, saw in a vision about what would be in the latter days as the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, whereas Rome never ruled Babylonia and would have nothing to do with what happens to Babylon in the latter days. The Greeks under Alexander defeated the Persians and for a while made Babylon the capital of the Greek Empire. It was this Greek Empire that divided into the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires, with Rome eventually conquering the Ptolemaic Empire and some of the disputed western territories of the Seleucid Empire while Parthia conquered the majority of the Seleucid Empire and became an empire that rivaled the Roman Empire and the Chinese Empire in size and technology.
When Jesus warned His disciples, “‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees’” (Matt 16:6), His disciples thought He was talking about bread:
And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread." But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matt 16:7–12)
The teachings of the Pharisees, in particular, have greatly affected the Sabbatarian churches of God, even causing these Sabbatarian Christians to miss the Passover approximately one of every three years, thereby leaving these Christians out of covenant with Christ and with their sins not covered. So ingesting the leaven of the Pharisees is seriously harmful. And almost all of Sabbatarian Christendom’s understanding of endtime biblical prophecies come from eating at the table of second temple Pharisees.
Still on the second day after Jews came from the temple came to inquire of John the basis for his ministry—and were officially given notice that a great man of Israel was among them and was unknown to them—Nathaniel, following Philip, approached Jesus, and was told by Jesus that he was an Israelite without guile. Apparently, this was how Nathaniel inwardly saw himself, which again, operating on the principle of narrative economy, sets the stage for the third day when Jesus and His disciples attend the wedding at Cana.
In a text in which Jesus says He only spoke to His disciples in figures of speech, does John, under inspiration, also only write in metaphoric language that functions as parables? This question cannot be resolved in one Sabbath Reading, but it can be introduced.
In his gospel, Matthew records a parable that Jesus tells of a wedding feast:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:2–14 emphasis added)
Usually this parable is read as the wedding feast being analogous to the glorification of the holy ones at the Second Advent, and that reading, at a surface level, has validity. But the comparison is to the kingdom of the heavens being like a human king that gives a wedding feast for his son: the analogy has the single kingdom of the heavens functioning as a single entity reacting to a single event, with outwardly circumcised Israel representing those who are initially invited to this wedding feast, and with Gentiles constituting whomever can be found to attend the wedding feast, not as the bride to the king’s son but as guests to this wedding. And of those who could be found, one was without a wedding garment … was he told that he needed a wedding garment? To even be a previously uninvited guest to this wedding feast, a person needed a wedding garment; for many are called but few are chosen, a curious ending considering that none of those invited were to come as the bride. And when Christ Jesus as the Bridegroom marries the Church, His Bride, Christ Jesus doesn’t marry guests.
The Apostle John does for endtime Christians what John the Baptist did for Israel of the second temple in that John/John makes straight the way to God, correcting misunderstandings, adding revelation, and partnering with endtime disciples in knowledge of the Affliction, Kingdom, and Endurance of Jesus.
Could it be culturally assumed that anyone invited as a guest to a wedding would go in a wedding garment, whatever that was … this garment has traditionally been read as righteousness, that invited guests must be garmented in righteousness. But Jesus’ comment at the end of this parable that many are called but few chosen is not suggested by the parable itself where whomever could be found, good and bad, were hastily invited as guests to this wedding supper.
In John’s gospel, Jesus and His disciples are invited guests to the wedding at Cana: Jesus and His disciples are neither the Bridegroom, nor the Bride. Now, if we take this Cana narrative and overlay it on the parable Matthew records, Jesus’ mother and disciples are guests; for of all who attended this wedding, only Jesus was born of God as a son.
The presence or absence of a second breath of life, the indwelling breath of God [B<,Ø:" 1,@Ø] in the breath of Christ [B<,Ø:" OD4FJ@Ø], must be held in tension with the difference between a king and his son [heir] and the commoners of the king’s domain: the guests are commoners, are those disciples who are not yet born of God as sons. And in the wedding-at-Cana narrative, there is no king, only a master of the feast, with the transformation of water into wine forming an analogy for receipt of spiritual birth that causes the dead inner self to become an inner son of God on the third day.
John self-identifies himself as the disciple who loved Jesus: English translations of what John says of himself err in identifying John as the disciple whom Jesus loved as if Jesus didn’t love the others. Apparently John loved Jesus to a greater degree than did the others; for of the Twelve, only John stood with the women at the base of the stake on which Jesus was crucified. And it is this love that John references in his gospel.
The poor wine/good wine reference would seem to apply to the earnest of the spirit being given in the 1st-Century (the poor wine) and disciples being filled-with and empowered by the spirit (the good wine) in the 21st-Century when the Second Passover liberation of Israel occurs. The poor wine comes by natural processes: grapes are harvested, crushed, their juice fermented, aged, and bottled. The good wine comes when the spirit is poured out on Christians immediately prior to the Affliction, then upon all of humankind at the end of the Affliction.
Does the above read too much into the Cana wedding narrative? Why does John record that the Cana wedding took place on the third day? What is important about the third day? And continuing in John’s gospel, readers find,
After this he [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade." His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:12–25 emphasis added)
A few days passed between the wedding at Cana and when Jesus went to Jerusalem to keep the Passover as all males of Israel were commanded to do (cf. Ex 23:14; 34:23; Deut 16:16); thus, when the count for the third day on which the Cana wedding was held does not—as previously stated—begin when John baptized Jesus but nearly six months later on or about the first of the new year [the 1st of Aviv], or six months into Jesus’ ministry, with John’s gospel adding time into Matthew’s gospel that is not readily apparent, but is in evidence in Matthew recording that Jesus began His ministry when He heard that John had been arrested (Matt 4:12–17).
Evidently when those Jews from the temple came to question John as to why he baptized men of Israel, they were preparing to arrest John, who would have had about a year long ministry by this time. And if endtime Sabbatarian Christians know as much of what happened at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as they think they know, John’s ministry began in 27 CE on or about the Passover when John was thirty years old. Jesus was six months younger than John, and His ministry began when He was about thirty years old. But both John’s and Jesus’ ministry began before Matthew, Mark, or Luke were disciples of either man. Thus, these three gospel writers crafted their narratives from inspiration and secondhand information, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, apparently supplying to Luke much of what he recorded.
If Jesus was baptized when He turned thirty and was old enough that He could serve in the priesthood even though he wasn’t of Levi, Jesus would have been baptized in the autumn of 27 CE, and would have begun His ministry by cleansing the temple just before Passover 28 CE … there would then be a six month period at the beginning of His ministry that is analogous to the half day period when Jesus was resurrected from death but before He ascended to heaven, with the remaining three years of His ministry being comparable to days five, six, and seven of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the year 31 CE [or April 26, 27th, 28th Julian], with the Cana-wedding-narrative forming a metaphor for the resurrection of the holy ones when Christ Jesus returns as the Messiah, the reality of the last high Sabbath of Unleavened Bread.
The reader needs to be mentally nimble to keep from tripping over the preceding paragraph … the only day to date that we have for the years of Jesus’ ministry is His Ascension on the day after the Sabbath [the first day of the week] during the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the year Jesus was crucified. Jesus cited the sign of Jonah, saying the He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish [whale] three days and three nights, with there being no ambiguity in the Hebrew account. And Jesus was crucified on the Preparation Day for the great Sabbath of the Sabbath (John 19:31), or the first High Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the 15th day of Aviv. If what Jesus said about Himself was true, then Jesus would have been in the grave all day on the 15th of Aviv, all day on the 16th, and all day on the weekly Sabbath on the 17th. He would, after the end of the Sabbath, have been resurrected from death, and for the next nearly fifteen hours, He would have been somewhere here on earth until He ascended to His Father and our Father, His God and our God as the reality of the Wave Sheaf Offering. Therefore, the 15th of Aviv would have been on Thursday, the fifth day of the week; the 16th would have been Friday; the 17th would have been the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day, with the 18th being the day after the Sabbath and the fourth day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a day foreshadowed by the Preparation Day on which Jesus was crucified.
Jesus entering the heart of the earth for three days and three nights forms the dark shadow and copy [the left hand enantiomer] of Jesus entering heaven for three days [not time-linked days] before returning as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
With the preceding as background, Jesus cleansing the temple and citing His authority for doing so by simply saying, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up, loops back to the Cana wedding narrative that occurs on the third day (the fourth day if “day one” is the day on which Jews from the temple challenged John the Baptist), with these Jews challenging John forming a shadow and type of the man Jesus being crucified and of the glorified Jesus ascending to the Father.
By the time John wrote his gospel, his epistles, and received the vision that is the Book of Revelation, John would have known that Christendom had real problems, that Christians had strayed far from walking as Jesus walked, that the Christian Church was more dead than alive even though many converts were coming to lawless teachers and from them learning error. John, being the disciple who loved Jesus, would have realized that he had to set Christendom back on the path to righteousness as John the Baptist had preached repentance nearly seven decades earlier. Most likely, John would have realized that his name 3S!;;/; had significance coming from the location of aspiration preceding the nasal consonant rather than following the nasal consonant as in 3S;!. So late in his life John would have realized the Church was spiritually dead: except for himself, all Christians had only one breath of life, the breath they received from the first Adam, the breath that entered them through the nose. And it fell to him, who had seen the vision of the latter days, to prepare a people to return to the ways of the Lord …
In the Cana wedding narrative, for a while there was no wine. Mary did not ask her Son to perform a miracle because wine was in short supply, but because there was no wine. And how was John to convey to the many Christian converts who were necessary to insure the preservation of the word of Jesus but who were not born of God that the Body of Christ was about to breathe its last breath before it would be returned to life on the day portion of the third day of the Genesis “P” creation account? What coded message could John send that would be preserved by dead Christians but yet understood in the latter days?
John went to his death knowing that he had been successful in reaching across time to endtime disciples, but we as endtime disciples have been pretty dense, not quickly understanding the inspired words of this old man who loved Jesus more than did others whose love was tested in martyrdom. John’s love didn’t need to be tested beyond what it had been when he stood at the foot of the stake on which Jesus hung.
As Paul wrote to spiritual infants (see 1 Cor 1:1–3), Christians unable to truly comprehend dual referents, John wrote to those who were mature in the faith, but mature 1900 years in the future. He wrote as one who was mature, and he wrote expecting that his construction of his gospel would be comprehended by endtime disciples. However, he had some doubts, which is why he lays out the structure of Peter’s epistles:
This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21:14–19)
In Peter’s first epistle, he feeds newly born of spirit disciples, then addresses how overseers are to tend these lambs. In his second epistle, Peter feeds those disciples who have a faith comparable to the apostles.
John relates the narrative structure of his vision by saying that he is our brother and partner in the Affliction and Kingdom and Endurance in Jesus (Rev 1:9), the structure of chapters six through twenty-two.
So it should come as no surprise that John would also lay out the structure of Jesus’ ministry in selected narrative accounts that function together as a single metaphor describing the beginning and the end. But more about this in another Reading.
The person conducting the Sabbath service should close services with two hymns, or psalms, followed by a prayer asking God’s dismissal.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
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