Jesus, Our Burnt Offering — Holy Week

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 1.3-4
3 “ ‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. 4 You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you.

John 20.19-20
19 …Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 

Reflection: Jesus, Our Burnt Offering — Holy Week
By John Tillman

In John’s gospel, he wastes no time telling us, through the testimony of John the Baptizer, that Jesus is the “Lamb of God.” (John 1.29, 36)

John’s gospel often connects Jesus to ritual practices or feasts that were part of the worship of God. Perhaps this is because of his familiarity with the priesthood. John’s rabbi before Jesus, John the Baptizer, was from a priestly family and John, the writer, was allowed into Jesus’ trial before Caiphas because he was “known” to the high priest. (John 18.15)

Many offerings were ritual meals. A representative portion would be burned. The priest would eat a portion as well as the offeror and offeror’s family. Leftovers also were burned. Burnt offerings, however, were different. Everything had to be consumed by fire. In both cases, offerings were to be totally consumed on the day offered, by fire or as food.

When bringing a burnt offering, one placed one’s hands on the animal as a recognition that the offering was a substitute for the offeror. This represented transferring one’s sins to the animal. Burnt offerings for sin made “peace” with God.

The head of a family brought a burnt offering on behalf of himself and his family. God offered Jesus as a lamb on our behalf, to bring us into his family. Jesus is the Lamb of God, a “male without defect,” who takes our sins upon himself. When Jesus spoke to Mary outside the tomb, “peace” had been accomplished in Christ’s resurrected body through his sacrifice on the cross.

As we pass through Holy Week, we see Jesus offer his back to the whips, his hands to the cruel nails, his body to the abuse of those he came to save. We see his blood sprinkled on those who assault him and on the cross that became an altar. We see him poured out before God as a drink offering. We see him raised in the air as a wave offering. 

In Holy Week, Jesus was being consumed. He was burned up for our sin. As we reflect on Holy Week, as we watch him burn, may we humble ourselves and repent. 

Rather than us placing our hands on a lamb’s head, let us bow our heads in humility. The resurrected Lamb of God, who died to take away our sin, will lift our heads to see his loving face.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord. — Psalm 118.19

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Leviticus 1 (Listen – 2:37) 
John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

Read more about Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”

Read more about Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances
Related post either “from” the same author/source or “about” the same topic

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Brad
I loved how this commentary highlighted afresh the especially current relevance of Jesus’ ministry, his focus on the marginalized, elevating their status and making them central figures in the gospel story.  As Jesus’ followers, we get to continue his example in treating all people with dignity and respect, being God’s image-bearers. 

Originally published, April 13, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 31 & 1 Timothy 2.

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. — Psalm 98.1– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 34 (Listen – 4:15)
Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post helped you better understand scripture?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: John 20.27
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Reflection: Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

John, the first disciple to believe Jesus is alive without seeing him face-to-face has a purpose in recording the doubts of Thomas, the last disciple to believe Jesus is alive. 

Far from putting Thomas down, John treats Thomas’s journey from doubt to faith with respect and tenderness. It was not John’s intention to make Thomas the butt of pastors’ “doubt” jokes for millennia.

Every moment in John’s gospel is carefully crafted and chosen, appearing for a purpose. Where the synoptic gospel writers focus heavily on sequential timelines and explicitly tying events to historical markers, John does not. John’s gospel arrangement is thematic rather than chronological and pedagogical rather than historical. There are seven signs or miracles, seven “I am” statements by Jesus, seven “You are” statements of witnesses about Jesus, seven statements of aspects of Jesus’ equality with God, and seven word-pictures of faith.

John confesses that there are not enough books to contain an unabridged record of what Jesus did. Instead, John’s purpose is setting forth Christ’s deity that we may believe and have life. (John 20.31) Jesus also says to Thomas and the rest of the disciples, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

John was writing later than the other evangelists (between 85-95 A.D, 20 years after the synoptics) and probably from Ephesus. Other than the synoptics, his audience had little access to direct eyewitness accounts other than his own. This may be why John may have emphasized the importance of belief in Jesus without physically seeing him and he uses Thomas as his example.

Instead of being the butt of bad jokes about doubt Thomas could be held up as a model of how to seek to overcome doubt. It is easy to take shots at Thomas for not taking the other disciples at their word, however, none of them (except John) believed without seeing, and even John had the benefit of seeing the empty tomb. Thomas stayed near, continued searching, continued in fellowship with his friends for a week that must have seemed like a year before Jesus finally appears personally to him.

Encourage those in doubt to follow the path of Thomas. Stay connected. Keep seeking. Keep asking. Keep knocking. Those who truly wish to conquer doubt will not fail to find Jesus showing them his hands, feet, and side.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 2 (Listen -4:03)
1 Timothy 4 (Listen -2:05)

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful :: Readers’ Choice 
The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe

Read more about The Miracle of Faith
Jesus’ greatest miracles were not ones of stopping storms or diseases or demons. His greatest miracles were helping the faithless to believe again. Helping the cynical to trust again. Helping the hardened to love again.

First to Believe Without Seeing—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: John 20.3-9
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1 Timothy 3.16
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.

Reflection: First to Believe Without Seeing—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

Another “first” to note in the resurrection appearances of Jesus, is the first person to believe that Jesus was resurrected without seeing him.

After appearing first to the women and specifically to Mary Magdalene, Jesus appears to Peter, to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple (possibly Cleopas’s wife) on the Emmaus road, then he appears to some of the gathered disciples, and then again to the group of disciples when Thomas joins them. As far as we know, John did not see Jesus in the flesh until the first appearance of Jesus to the gathered disciples in the upper room.

John is the disciple who seemed closer to Jesus than any other. He is the one they sent to Jesus to ask questions they were afraid to ask. (John 13.22-24) He was the one who, along with his brother, James, expected to be closest to Jesus in his kingdom. (Mark 10.35-37) This was the disciple who wrote most passionately and poetically about the life and divinity of Jesus. (John 1.1-14) It was John who remembered and recorded the longest, most intimate and meaningful discourses of Jesus’ teaching, his struggles, and his demonstrations of love to the disciples. This disciple—the disciple whom Jesus loved—is one of the last to see him alive? 

Perhaps this was because he did not need to see to believe. John reports that he believed after seeing the empty tomb with its well-folded graveclothes, but before seeing Jesus alive. 

As Paul writes to Timothy, and to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15.3-8), Jesus did indeed appear “in the flesh,” not just to a few, but to many. This was an important distinction to dispel ideas about a “ghostly” Jesus and to dispute gnostic accounts that never believed Jesus had a physical body to begin with.

But John leads the way for us, being the first to believe without seeing him. As Jesus tells Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed..” (John 20.29)

There are real and tangible reasons and evidence to lead us toward belief—for John, the condition of the empty tomb or for us, the testimony of the early eyewitnesses—but the final line of belief can only be stepped over in faith.

*For information on the historical evidence of the consistency and reliability of the gospel message, see this video from scholar, Gary Habermas — 1:20

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 1 (Listen -2:21)
1 Timothy 3 (Listen -2:10)

Read more about In the Face of Grief
The resurrected Christ seems to have a special preference for appearing to the grieving. Why then do we seem to assume that this stopped when he ascended?

Read more about Further up, Further in
The grave is open, that we may see He is risen.
The veil is open, that we may follow our High Priest.
Hell is open if we will but make for the exit.
Heaven is open, if we will but enter.

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

*This Easter week as we shelter in our homes due to COVID-19, we may feel more like the fearful gathered disciples than we ever have before. We will look this week at the appearances of Jesus, who comes to stand in our troubled midst and say, “Peace be with you.”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first, but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them, but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight, is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 31 (Listen -2:50)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen -1:38)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is not a happy ending. It is a happy beginning.

Read more about A New Day :: Worldwide Prayer
May we follow the example of the first witnesses: the women who were more faithful than the betrayers, braver than the soldiers, and the first to believe in and spread the gospel.


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