Month 7:18, Week 3:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year:Day 5941:194 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 7 October 2017
Sukkot 2017 IV
Salvational Joy in the Four Gospels
Continued from Part 3
Chag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the fourth day of celebration in this Feast of Tabernacles! Our theme this year is simcha or joy in spite of half of yesterday and half of day being spoiled by a ransomware attack which I freely confess did rob me of my simcha (joy) as I contemplated with horror the thought of either losing lots of ministry work (I managed to save it in the end) and of not being able to get out these Sukkot sermons to you during the season. I can tell you that my simcha (joy) did return after I managed to fix the issue! Thank you those of you who were praying for me or otherwise lending technical assistance.
Different Covenant 'Joys'?
We resume our Sukkot theme of simcha (joy) today by turning to testimony of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) and I want to begin by correcting a common misperception that the 'spirit', 'joy' and such important manifestations of relationship with Yahweh was somehow 'inferior' in Tanakh (Old Testament) times to Messianic Scripture (New Testament) times. The experience of simcha (joy) with Elohim (God) by the godly was essentially the same with one difference: the simcha (joy) of redemption in Messiah brought with it a sense of permanence because no further annual sacrifices were required to renew it. But let's rummage a little through the Scriptures and see what we can find today.
The Joy of Proclamation
As you read the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) you are at once struck by the fact that simcha (joy) centres around the proclamation of the Besorah (Gospel), in all its varied forms, for Good News is Joyful News! I think it is a wonderfully eddifying thing to witness!
Different Spirits of Proclamation - the Jehovah's Witnesses
The spirit in which you proclaim, preach, teach or witness says a lot as to whether you have received authentic salvation or not. Every time I have been to a Jehovah's Witness meeting, for example, or spoken with some of their people when they drop by, I am always left with a sense of emptiness. Indeed their witness can sometimes be so suffocating that I just can't wait to get away. Try as I may to worship amongst them, it just doesn't work. There is no authentic simcha (joy) because there is no authentic Ruach (Spirit). Their 'Good News' is the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society organisation, publications, and so on, not that of the resurrection and of the filling of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). First, because they don't believe in a physical resurrection, and second, because they don't believe the 'spirit' has any discernable effect. Salvation by faith in an organisation cannot have an eternal component to it, so it must ebb and flow.
The Main Areas of Joyful Proclamation
There may be said to be three areas of joyful proclamation in which a strong element of simcha (joy) is involved:
We'll take a look at each of these in turn.
- 1. The Birth of Messiah;
- 2. The Triumphal Entry; and
- 3. The Resurrection
1. The Birth of Messiah
The very first appearance of simcha (joy) in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) concerns the Birth of Yah'shua (Jesus) (Lk.2:10) and though evangelicals have, as an outlet and expression of this simcha (joy) a pagan day (Christmas) on which to celebrate, they at least have a point of expression which I have noticed sorely lacking amongst messianics. And whilst it is true we are nowhere commanded to observe a moed (appointment) celebrating His Birth, to be able to express that simcha (joy) is, I think, important, since it was clearly expressed in Scripture and is something we need to be grateful for.
When Was He Born?
Part of our problem is that messianics are not agreed when Yah'shua (Jesus) was actually born even if they are all agreed he was not born on the Catholic/Protestant 25 December or on the Eastern Orthodox 6 January. Most believe He was born either at Sukkot (i.e. now) or some time during the autumn (fall) festivals. Others like ourselves believe He was born at Pesah (Passover) or, as the famous Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn claims, on Aviv 1 or the biblcial New Year. Because of the difficulty of observing Yah'shua's (Jesus) birth at the same time as Pesach (Passover), which was also the day He died (something we consider very significant), many Messianic Evangelicals privately commemorate His birth at Aviv 1, at the New Year, on a purely voluntary basis .
2. The Triumphal Entry
The second area of simcha (joy) in proclamation in the Synoptics was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, one of the few incidents that appears in all four Gospel accounts (Mt.21:1-17; Mk.11:1-11; Lk.19:29-40; Jn.12:12-19). Evangelicals celebrate this as 'Palm Sunday'. What was the purpose of this ceremonial journey into the City on a donkey? It was to make public His claim to be their Messiah and King of Israel in fulfillment of Tanakh (Old Testament) prophecy, a visible display, if you will, and fulfilling that prophecy in Zecharaiah:
Two Prophecies Rolled into One
"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech.9:9, NIV).
He is coming as a conquering king. The people interpreted this to mean that he was coming, like a Zealot, to physically liberate them from Roman occupation and oppression. They failed to understand that in the first instance this was a proclamation of salvation. As this was the spring, it concerned only the fulfilment of the spring festivals but it was also pointing to which other set of festivals? Yes, the autumn (fall) festivals and the Day of Shouting (Yom Teruah) - "shout greatly" - and to Sukkot when He will return a second time and destroy all His enemies the way the Zealots wanted it except He won't be coming for revolutionaries but for those who are saved. And to be saved, you must be humble, riding a donkey, not brandishing a sword in nationalistic fervour as the Maccabees or Hasmoneans once had done, inventing their own festival of Hanukkah by developping it out of Sukkot! Hanukkah belongs to the secular revolutionaries but Sukkot belongs to the saved. The one achieves the kingdom in blood, the other in emunah (faith), ahavah (love) leading to simcha (joy) and shalom (peace). So the Triumphal Entry is joyous on two counts because it represents:
3. The Resurrection
- 1. Salvation through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ); and
- 2. Deliverance from the evil of this world leading to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
The third proclamation of simcha (joy) concerns the resurrection:
A Very Good Reason for Simcha
"The malak (angel) said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Yah'shua (Jesus), who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His talmidim (disciples): 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.' Now I have told you.'
"So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with simcha (joy), and ran to tell His talmidim (disciples)" (Matt.28:5-8, NIV).
Fear mingled with simcha (joy) - fear because this was awesome, so great, making them feel so small before the power of the Creator of the Universe - yet joyful because He who was dead was alive! Our proclamation of the resurrection of Yah'shua (Jesus) is joyful because it means death has been conquered and there is tiqveh (hope) even in mortality and physical death - there is the tiqveh (hope) of something better, a life more glorious than anything this life can offer us. If that is not an occasion for simcha (joy), in a world filled with so much death, destruction, misery and hopelessness, then I don't know what is. That is a message of Sukkot - what was proclaimed in the spring festivals becomes a fact in the autumnal (fall) ones, culminating in Sukkot. And that is a reason we are celebrating.
And finally we come to John's Gospel where a new element is added - a fundamental emet (truth) that underlies the testimony of the Synoptists: it is Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself who communicates this simcha (joy):
Not a Transient Joy
"I have told you this so that My simcha (joy) may be in you and that your simcha (joy) may be complete" (John 15:11, NIV).
This is not a joy that comes from something good happening (like my managing to remove the ransomware from my computer earlier today) but a simcha (joy) that comes from communion with the Saviour - knowing Him through regularly immersing yourself in the Davar (Word), in prayer and in service for His Kingdom. Dare to ask Him for that, and see what He promises:
Times and Seasons
"Until now you have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask and you will receive, and your simcha (joy) will be complete" (John 16:24, NIV).
There are also times and seasons to be considered:
A Permanent Kind of Joy
"Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your simcha (joy)" (John 16:22, NIV).
Notice this is a simcha (joy) that does not come and go like the tide. The 'joy' I felt at removing that computer virus dissipated some hours ago, within minutes in fact, but the simcha (joy) that comes from being IN Messiah cannot be removed even if you find yourself in hellish circumstances. It's always there because so long as you have your eyes on Him it cannot be snatched away, even if you are grieving because of the loss of a loved one or because of some other tragedy or traumatic event. This may not make much sense to the unsaved, because there is no comparible experience outside of salvation, but it is real enough. It is why martyrs like Jan Hus could sing joyfully to Yahweh whilst being burned at the stake by the murderous Catholic Church in Bohemia.
So in conclusion, brethren and sisters, this deep simcha (joy) of which all four Gospels speaks becomes the result of deep fellowship between the Messianic Community (Church) and Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself. It is both personal and corporate, like I mentioned the other day. And like all relationships, it has to be cultivated - it requires time and effort. May you so cultivate this, and know heavenly simcha (joy) even more this Sukkot, is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Tomorrow we shall look at the rest of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament)...
 See also see our position on Birthday Celebration
Continued in Part 5