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Born to Win with Ronald L. Dart

 

Christian Holidays #8

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Ronald L. Dart

I have asked this before, but let me ask it again: Why was a gentile church, decades after the ascension of Christ, observing the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread—what is generally assumed to be a Jewish holiday? And why is such a notable Christian observance as Easter never mentioned in the Bible?

Now if you are a King James reader, you may recall Acts 12:4, where Herod has arrested Peter, and put him in prison, “intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” The problem is that the Greek word translated “Easter” is the Greek Pascha, which means “Passover”. So why, 1600 years later, did the KJV translators use “Easter” instead of “Passover” here?

Well, the reason is that by the third century the entire church had begun to confuse Easter and Passover. How did it happen that the early church stopped observing the Passover and began observing Easter? It is quite an interesting story.

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Christian Holidays #7 - Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Unless you’ve recently arrived from another planet, you already know that most Christian people believe that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and he was raised from the dead on Sunday morning. But if you read the New Testament with any care at all, you probably have got a lingering question about this. Because Jesus said plainly that he would be in the grave for three days and three nights. Here’s what he said in Matthew 12, verse 39.

“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Now, how do you get three days and three nights from late Friday afternoon to Sunday morning before daybreak? You’ve got Friday night—that’s one night. You’ve got Saturday—that’s one day. You’ve got Saturday night—that’s one night. You’ve got one day and two nights. You have to reach to find any even a part of three days. But three days and three nights? Yes, I know some people think it’s a Greek idiom. But you don’t have to be a scholar to check that out. You can use your concordance and run down both the Greek and Hebrew words that are used in the Bible and check the usage there. Now, when you toss in that expression “and three nights” you add an emphasis to the expression that really requires that third night or at least some part of that third night. Now let me suggest an alternative for you consider…

Christian Holidays #6 - Monday, April 22, 2019

Sometimes the simplest answers are the best. I've asked again and again why it was that, thirty years after the ascension of Christ—long after everything that was nailed the cross was nailed there—a gentile church was observing the Passover and the days of unleavened bread that go along with it? Well, the simple answer is that the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are all about Christ.

It was Paul who said it in his first letter to the Corinthians. “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

According to Paul, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are about Christ. But how so?

The Resurrection of Jesus - Friday, April 19, 2019

There is one event upon which all of history turns. It is an event attested well enough that millions of people believe it, and yet vague enough that some do not; although most of those who do not have never really looked at the evidence.

There was a man who was dead and buried. He was stone-cold dead. He had a spear thrust into him and the blood drained from his body. He had been carefully prepared for burial, his body wrapped in a shroud with burial spices place all around him. He was laid in a tomb in the rock, and a great stone was rolled over the entrance to the tomb. Guards were placed there to ensure that he stayed dead. He lay in that sealed tomb for three days and three nights.

And at the end of that 72 hours, there was a great earthquake, the stone rolled away, and the man walked out of that tomb alive. This is the man who looked death in the face and won. And as you know. His name was Jesus. What makes this the most important event in history is that he defeated death for all of us. But there is another reason why this event is so crucial in human history...

Christian Holidays #5 - Thursday, April 18, 2019

It seems odd, doesn’t it, that a Gentile church, 30 years after the ascension of Christ, was observing the Passover and the seven days of unleavened bread that follow it? And just as odd that there is not a single mention of “Easter” in the early church. Well, if that seems strange, consider this. The vast majority of the Christian world still observes the Passover—in their own way.

The word for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus in Latin, Spanish, Italian, and all the Romance languages is Pascha. And Pascha is the Greek and Latin word for “Passover”. This is the word that is usually translated “Easter”. So in Latin or Spanish, resurrection Sunday is not called “Easter”. It is called “Passover”.

Now, why is that? And what is the connection of the Jewish Passover to Christianity? Well, the connection comes straight out of the ministry of Jesus Christ. If we turn to Matthew 26, we’ll find an interesting passage in here about the last supper of Jesus that many Christian-professing people don’t really understand.

Three Days and Three Nights - Wednesday, April 17, 2019

I love a good mystery. Puzzle solving is a favorite pastime of mine. So perhaps I can be forgiven for saying in a recent radio program that God also loves a mystery.

Sometimes of course, God speaks plainly—the Ten Commandments are plain enough—but at other times the truth is far more subtle. I might offer reasons for God’s subtlety, and they are there, but I hardly need to prove that. Anyone who pays attention to God’s actions in the world will be well aware that God prefers to be subtle, even when you’re confident that when something has happened has been his intervention.

The Bible is more than mere subtlety. It is a collection of the testimony of witnesses, and while I certainly believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I also believe that God doesn’t engage in witness tampering. The Holy Spirit sees to it that the witnesses are in court and that they tell the truth. After that, we the jury have to evaluate their testimony and try to figure out the larger picture.

Now, if you have ever watched a bunch of Perry Mason mysteries, or this type of courtroom dramas, you can often find your way to the truth of what happened. We know this even though no individual witness knows the whole story. You get a little bit from this fellow, you get a little bit from that fellow, and you get something from a third lady; and between those three things, the picture comes together.

Well, something like that exists in the Bible. There is enough corroboration of the gospel accounts to support the key elements of their stories. They all saw the resurrected Christ, for example, and they are all unified. Now there may be little details, but those aren’t important. The differences that you find in the accounts show us that the witnesses were not in collusion, in other words, this is important to establish the fact that there were four witnesses, not four witnesses telling one witnesses’ story, if you follow me. There are some first-class mysteries in the New Testament and many of them have kept scholars scratching their heads for years and provided material for countless doctoral dissertations.

Consider a case in point, the mystery of how you get three days and three nights between Friday night to Sunday morning?

Christian Holidays #4 - Tuesday, April 16, 2019

There’s an old hymn I remember singing in church when I was just a boy. It’s striking to me today, because it represents an understanding of the Bible in earlier generations that I think has been lost in many churches today. The song goes:

Christ our redeemer died on the cross
died for the sinner, paid all his due,
All who receive him need never fear
Yes, He will pass, will pass over you.
When I see the blood, [repeated three times]
I will pass, I will pass over you.

Now, I sang that song for years and never realized where the theme—Passover—came from. There was a time when the great hymn writers had a sense of the connection between old and new. They realized that there is a strong tie between the death of Jesus and the Passover of the Jews. But just as that connection presented problems for the early church (and it did), it presents problems today, as well. A lot of folks don’t like the idea of anything Jewish connected with their Christianity. Yet here is this old hymn. And here is something that inspired it: what God said to Moses in Exodus, chapter 12.

Christian Holidays #3 - Monday, April 15, 2019

How is it possible that a Christian church, some 25 years after the ascension of Christ, was still observing the oldest known Jewish holiday? And they were. It is easily demonstrated. And they weren’t even a Jewish church. This one was mostly Gentile.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in about AD 55, and scholars generally agree that the letter was written about Passover season. He was addressing a problem that was disgracing the church, and almost in passing—as though he took it for granted—he made a remark about the Passover that is somewhat startling.

“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 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.” Now, how is the connection made here to the Passover, and why was this church observing it, and why was Paul advocating it?

Christian Holidays #2 - Friday, April 12, 2019

Not long ago, a woman asked me a hard question: “Why did God have to kill all the firstborn children in Egypt. After all, He is God. He is sovereign. He can do anything He wants. Wasn’t there a better way of getting them out of there than killing innocent children?” I thought it was a fair question and it deserved a better answer than she had previously received.

The question raises the issue of the nature of God. God is all-powerful, merciful, kind, and gracious. He is forgiving and gentle. But there is a quality of the divine nature that is often overlooked. God is also just—that is, He is a God of Justice.

Mercy is the quality we all desire of God, but if there is no justice, then there is no mercy. If there is no justice, then one pattern of conduct is as good as any other. In fact, it is out of a sense of justice that this question arises in the first place. Was it just for God to kill all the firstborn of Egypt? That is a question we must answer. And, oddly enough, it is closely related to this series of programs on Christian holidays. This is the story of the book of Exodus.

Christian Holidays #1 - Thursday, April 11, 2019

Are you ready for a quiz? Grab pencil and pad and write down the names of the two most important Christian Holidays. It should only take you a few seconds. No consulting your calendar allowed; just write down two holidays. Got it? And the days are: Christmas and Easter—and I’ll bet you got it right.

But let me tell you something curious. Neither one of these days is found observed anywhere in the Bible. And if they had the importance in the early church that they do today, you would think they would have mentioned them. You would think Luke would have recorded somewhere in Acts that “we stayed over at Troas through Christmas and then sailed across to Philippi.” Or maybe: “We hastened in order to be in Jerusalem at Easter.” But no, nothing like that is found in the Bible at all.

Luke, though, does reference holidays in his travelogue. Acts 20:6 says: “And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” In Acts 20:16, he records this: “For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.” What if I told you that these holidays of the Bible, while they have a Jewish/historical significance, are actually Christian in their meaning and application? Would that change the way you look at them?

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, April 24th, 2019
Wednesday in Easter Week
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