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BIBLICAL CONCEPTS

BIBLICAL CONCEPTS

ADAM’S SKULL

Traditional belief was that Adam’s skull was buried at Golgotha. According to Jewish tradition, Noah confided the skull of Adam to his son Shem who later did the same to Melchizedek. The skull was finally deposited at the mountain that came to be known as Golgotha because of the skull of Adam. Some early Christian writings also give similar accounts. That is why the skull of Adam is depicted at the foot of Christ’s cross to show that Adam’s sin was compensated by the blood that fell on the skull of Adam from the crucified body of Jesus. This was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Adam that he would send a redeemer (Genesis 3:15).

AFTER THIS

It is John’s style to use “After this” at the beginning of a section or chapter to connect the event that follows to what had happened earlier. We see the same expression in his gospel in 5:1, 6:1, 7:1 and 21:1. It need not be an immediate succession but can be after a short interval.

AFRAID, DO NOT BE

Whenever there was a divine vision, we see the phrase, “Do not be afraid” in the Bible because of the fear of the visionaries. When the Risen Lord appeared to his apostles, despite their familiarity with Jesus, the sudden sight of the Lord terrified them (Lk 24:36). Other such instances were: Abraham’s vision of God (Gen 15:1), Joshua’s vision (Josh 1:9), Daniel’s vision (Dan 10:12, 19), the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary (Lk 1:30), and the angels announcing the birth of the Christ child to the shepherds (Lk 2:10).

AMAZED, JESUS WAS

There are only two instances when Jesus is reported as amazed at the response of others. One was the faith expressed by the centurion who approached Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant (Matthew 8:10) and another was at the reaction of his natives in the synagogue of Nazareth. When he taught there, his listeners were astonished and were doubting on his authority because they knew him and his family. Instead of appreciating him and thanking God for his power, they took offense at him. Mark the Evangelist reports that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:6).

Another instance where Jesus was amazed at the faith of a person was at the reply of a Greek woman who was Syrophoenician by birth at Tyre. When she pleaded to heal her daughter who was possessed with unclean spirit, Jesus had tested her saying, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Her reply was: “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” (Mark 7:27-28). Though the term “amazed” was not used, Jesus was astonished at the reply of this Gentile woman and healed her daughter (Mark 7:24-30).

AMEN, AMEN

Amen means acceptance or affirmation. The Bible uses it at the end of a prayer, blessing, curse, or statement expressing one’s endorsement or truthfulness of what was said. For example, when Ezra opened the scroll and blessed the LORD, all people raised their hands high and pronounced, “Amen, amen!” (Neh 8:5-6). In Deuteronomy 27:14-26, God asked the Israelites to answer “amen” to the 12 curses the Levites pronounced at Mount Ebal. By that, they were accepting the curses that would fall on them if they would violate the laws that God gave them through Moses.

Amen stands for truth, and the Bible uses it as a title of God. One of God’s titles is “The God of Amen” or “The God of Truth” (Isa 65:16). Revelation 3:14 presents Jesus as: “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation.” The Holy Bible ends with “Amen” that Saint John expresses as the author of Revelation (Rev 22:20-21).

Jesus used the Hebrew word, “Amen” at the beginning of a statement, or even twice as “Amen, Amen, I say to you” (Jn 3:3). The meaning is “truly, truly, I say to you” or “I solemnly tell you the truth.” By these statements, Jesus affirmed the truthfulness of what followed in his discourse.

Repetition of the word “amen” or “truly” signified the authenticity of the truth compared to ordinary statements. Jesus was the only one who knew all the truth because he came down from heaven and he was one with the Father.

BANQUET

Jesus compared the joy of the Kingdom of heaven like a banquet that is enjoyable, relaxed, and involves good friendship. However, Jews used to exclude Gentiles from their banquets. For example, when Peter went to Jerusalem, “the circumcised believers confronted him, saying, ‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.’” (Acts 11:2-3). When Jews used to avoid eating with the Gentiles, Jesus taught that people from all nations including Gentiles would recline at the Table of the Lord in heaven while many chosen people of Israel would be cast out. The Jews would hate to hear such teachings from anyone.

BAPTISM AND COMING OF THE MESSIAH

The Jewish leaders had associated baptism with the coming of the Messiah. That was why they sent priests and Levites to John asking him whether he was the Messiah, Elijah or the Prophet (John 1:19-28). Only these three were supposed to baptize. When John said none of them, they questioned him for the reason of his act of baptism. John’s reply was based on Isaiah 40:3. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” Jesus later identified John with the second coming of Prophet Elijah (Mathew 17: 12-13) as prophesied by Malachi in 4:5-6.

Besides Messiah and Elijah both representing Jesus and John, the reference of “the prophet” was based on Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses said: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen.” In the transfiguration scene in Mathew 17:5, we read: “then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Hence, that prophecy was also fulfilled in Jesus.

Since act of baptism was associated with the coming of the Messiah, the baptism of Jesus and John were signs of the imminent coming of the Messiah. John confirmed this by his proclamation that he was preparing the way for the one who was coming after him.

BLOOD

From creation until the Great Flood, humans and animals were vegetarians (Gen. 1:29-30). God changed the rule after the flood allowing people to eat meat and vegetables (Gen. 9:3). However, God made restriction stating, “But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.” (Gen. 9:4). God told the Israelites, “You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.' So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community.” (Lev. 17:14). Avoiding consumption of blood, that represents the life of the animal, is a reminder that animals were not originally intended for eating. Blood of the sacrificed animal was to be offered to God in the Temple as ransom for the lives of Israelites.

It was scandalous for Israelites to hear Jesus asking them to drink his blood that was prohibited in the Torah. But for Jesus, who purposefully offered his blood to drink, had a special meaning to it. Through his precious blood, Jesus was offering his life to us. So, when we drink the blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, he makes his dwelling within us as the temple of God.

Blood is also used to make covenant. At Mount Sinai, when God made covenant with Israelites, “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’" (Exodus 24:8). At the last supper, Jesus took the cup and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mathew 26:27-28). So, when we partake in the cup of Jesus during the Holy Mass, we are renewing our covenant with Jesus.

BREAD, DAILY

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That bread is not just the physical bread that we make or buy from market, but the supernatural bread, the Holy Eucharist. God fed Israelites with manna daily in the desert for forty years for their physical survival until they reached the promised land. Jesus is nourishing the Christians with another supernatural bread, his Body and Blood, until we reach heaven, the next promised land.

BREAD FROM HEAVEN

The listeners of Jesus knew of the bread from heaven that was the manna that God provided daily from above. God told Moses: “I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you.” (Exodus 16:4). “In the evening, quailc came up and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp.” (Exodus 16:13). Jesus is the new bread and flesh that came down from heaven to sustain our spiritual life and he continues nourishing us with the Holy Eucharist which is his own body and blood.

As per the instruction of God, Moses asked Aaron to put full omer (measure) of manna in a jar and place it in front of the covenant of the Lord in the Tabernacle (Exodus 16:33-34). Thus, the Israelites used to keep manna in a jar close to the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. In the New Testament we place the new manna, the Holy Eucharist, in a tabernacle close to the altar that represents the throne of the Almighty Lord.

BREAD, THE LIVING

Bread is necessary for humans to sustain their physical lives. Jesus came down from heaven as spiritual bread to nourish our souls. Our souls cannot live without this lifegiving bread.

Bread is made from the plants or trees using their leaves, stems, roots, seeds, or nuts. Besides, we also nourish ourselves by eating the fruits, fish, and meat of animals and birds. A partial or full sacrifice of life of plants or animals are involved in the making of our food or bread. Likewise, the sacrifice and death of Jesus was necessary for our spiritual food. By his self-sacrifice, Jesus became our living and lifegiving bread for our souls.

Eating the living bread, that is the body and blood of Jesus, is required for eternal life. The physical food can keep our life only until death. The bread that Jesus gives is for the nourishment of our eternal soul

CHALICE / CUP

Cup in the Bible was a symbol of life and was used in a positive or negative sense. In the positive sense, a cup could mean whatever God fills in one’s life (Psalm 11:6 16:5), or the blessings of life that God provides (Psalm 23:5), or a thank-offering from man to God (Exodus 29:40, Psalm 116:13).

The "drinking cup" has special importance in the Bible. Just like many people have their personal cup at home for regular use, some Biblical characters had the same.  Pharaoh had his own cup and a personal cup bearer. Joseph, the second in command of Pharaoh, had a silver cup and he used to play trick on his brothers.

Cup or chalice, in the Bible, signified the wine that it contained because the chalice was to hold wine in it. So, when Jesus said, “Can you drink the cup?” the meaning was could they drink the wine that he was going to drink. Sharing one cup of wine by the groom and bride was a Hebrew tradition of betrothal. When the groom offered the wine and bride drank from it, she was agreeing to share all the joys and hardships of his life. For Jesus, he used the term “cup” in a spiritual sense to signify his mission of passion, death and resurrection. Cup or chalice also had a positive sense in the Bible. A cup could mean whatever God fills in one’s life (Psalm 11:6 16:5), or the blessings of life that God provides (Psalm 23:5), or a thank-offering from man to God (Exodus 29:40, Psalm 116:13). In that sense, Jesus was asking the sons of Zebdee whether they were ready to share with his sufferings as well.

CHILDLESS, (LATE BIRTH)

Some of the prominent persons in the Salvation History were born late to their parents when it was impossible by the laws of nature.  Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist are examples. According to the Proto-evangelium of St. James, Mary the mother of Jesus was also born late to her parents Joachim and Anne. The late birth when there was no hope as per natural law was an indication of the divine intervention in the birth of these chosen leaders.

CHILDREN, LATE BORN

Popular belief of the Biblical times was that childlessness was a punishment from God. So, the society could reasonably assume that, childless parents though appeared to be pious, were not justifiable before God. However, some of the prominent persons in the Salvation History were born late to their parents when childbirth was impossible by the laws of nature.

The late-born children had been special to God. Sarah’s son Isaac (Gen 11:30; 21:1-2), Rebekah’s son Jacob (Gen 25:21), Rachel’s son Joseph (Gen 29:31; 30:22), Samson whose mother’s name is unknown (Judg 13:1-3), Hannah’s son Samuel (1 Sam 1:5-6, 20) are examples of late-born sons, who had special roles in the salvation history. Mary, who had a unique role in God’s plan, was a late-born daughter of Joachim and Anne.

CHILDREN / CHILDLIKE

Children have characteristics different from the adults. They are innocent, humble, content with little things, not anxious about the future, when helpless or in doubt they turn to their parents believing that the parents are omniscient and omnipotent, they trust their parents, exchange love with their parents, they do what the parents tell them, they will not keep up rivalry for long, they are open for new ideologies, and they are not position seeking.

The adult Christians have to keep up these qualities of children in their relationship with God, who is a parent to them. When Jesus said to the disciples that they have to turn or convert and become like children, he meant that they have to change their life of sinfulness to a life of innocence and obedience according to the parental guidance of God.

Jesus did not select his apostles from the elite group of Jews because they were not like God’s children. He told about them to the crowds and his disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” (Matthew 23:1-3). Since they were unwilling to comply with the genuine teaching of Jesus, he selected those who had the heart and mind of children.

Jesus fulfilled what God had promised through Prophet Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

CHILDREN / CHILDLIKE, CARE OF

Children belong to God and are entrusted to parents to bring them up as God’s own. So, when parents and others take care of children they are involved in the service of God. When children, who are orphaned, sick, or disabled, are taken care of by others, they are also doing the service pleasing to God. Jesus loved and cared for children. He cured sick children like curing an official’s son in Galilee (John 4:46-54) and healing a child with epilepsy (Matthew 17:14-16). Jesus even raised the dead children like a widow’s only son in Nain (Luke 7: 11-17) and Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter (Luke 8:40-56).

Who are the childlike?

1. They can be adults who deserve help from others for their basic necessities like hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, or prisoner (Matthew 25:35-36) regardless of whether they came to that stage because of their fault or not.

2. People born or turned out in a later stage with physical, mental or spiritual disabilities can be considered as childlike. For example: elderly, blind, deaf and mute, lame, mentally ill, physically or mentally disabled, addicted, distressed with crisis in life, depressed, in grief a the death of dear person.

3. The childlike can also be a disciple of Jesus who gave up everything for the church and involved in the missionary work of Jesus.

CHILDREN OF GOD

The Israelites considered themselves as the children of God (Deut. 14:1). They distinguished themselves as distinct from the Gentiles who did not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So the Israelites believed that the inheritance in the kingdom of God would be only for them. According to St. Paul, “through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. … And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29). Those Israelites who rejected Jesus were losing their divine inheritance and the Gentiles who accepted Jesus were becoming children of God.

CONDEMNATION

Jesus came into the world with the mission of salvation. The Greek word for “condemn” means both judgment and condemnation. God never condemns people. They bring it on themselves by turning away from God like the prodigal son. Jesus came for our rescue, to which we need to cooperate for our salvation. Judas preferred wealth to Jesus. The choice was his and not God’s. People have the opportunity and freedom to come to the light of Jesus or to remain in the world’s darkness. We select our reward or condemnation as Eve did along with Adam.

CORNER STONE REJECTED

(Ref. Matthew 21:42). Jesus quoted from Psalm 118:22–23 that was used in the early church as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. The origin of the psalm was believed to be based on a stone that the builders of the Temple of Jerusalem kept away from the site without knowing the plan of the chief architect. Later the architect used the stone that was once rejected by the builders as the chief cornerstone when the two walls of the temple were bonded together. The Psalmist used this as a parable for the selection of David as the king, and Israel as the chosen nation out of all the nations in the world. Though the chief priests and the Sanhedrin who were the builders of the temple rejected Jesus, he became the cornerstone of the new temple, the church. God, the chief architect made Jesus as the corner stone uniting two walls: the Jews and the gentiles (Ephesians 2:19-22).

COURT

See JUDGE / COURT

CREATION

God the Father is creator of heaven and earth and everything in it. That doesn’t mean that only God the Father was at work. The Son and the Holy Spirit were also involved in the creation. The participation of the three persons in one God is evident in the creation account of man. God said: "Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.” (Genesis 1:26).  This verse says that God is more than one person, while remaining one God.  St. Paul writes about the involvement of Jesus in the creation: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17). St. John also writes about the role of Jesus in creation: “God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” (John 1:3). The Holy Spirit was involved in the creation is evident from Genesis 1:2 “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Psalm 104:30 is as follows: “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” Thus, unified work of the three persons of the Trinity is seen in the creation.

CRUCIFIXION

Crucifixion was a most disgraceful and most brutal manner of death. It was originated probably by Assyrians and Babylonians and later developed by Persians in the sixth century BC. Romans perfected it and used it until the Christian Emperor Constantine I abolished it in the fourth century AD. According to Deuteronomy 21:23, anyone who was hanged on a tree was a curse of God. Jesus became the “curse” for us sinners.

DARKNESS, INTO OUTER

According to the Bible, darkness is the absence of spiritual light and is the domain of evil. Jesus, the Light of the World, came to rescue us from the darkness of sin and the influence of evil. He commissioned his disciples to continue that mission. Addressing King Agrippa, Saint Paul said that Jesus sent him, “that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). To Colossians Saint Paul wrote of Christ: “He rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). While Jesus saved many from darkness, those who rejected him stayed in darkness because they judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46). At the last judgement, he will drive them out into the eternal darkness.

DEMONS’ APPOINTED TIME

God has allowed the evil spirits to torment the humans only until the time of final judgement (Enoch 16:1, Jubilees 10:7–10). The demons knew that the appointed time had not arrived. So, they considered that they had the opportunity to continue tormenting the humans. However, Jesus who had power over the evil spirits, was going to expel the demons from the demoniacs and liberate them from their bondage.

DESERT, SPIRITUALITY

The desert is considered to be an ideal place for fasting, prayer and communion with God. It provides silence, seclusion, distancing from material goods and freedom from distractions. Moses, Prophet Elijah, the Essenes community, John the Baptist, and many early fathers of the church preferred the desert as a perfect place for communion with God. Jesus also chose the desert to prepare for his public ministry. The synoptic gospels record that, after his baptism, Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the desert. The devil tempted him there at the end of his fasting.

DESCIPLESHIP

There were different stages of call to discipleship of Jesus for at least some of the apostles. John the Evangelist, who gives a detailed account of the first year public ministry of Jesus, gives details of the early call of some of the disciples of Jesus. Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist followed Jesus when he heard John introducing Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:35-37). Peter came to know Jesus through Andrew his brother and followed Jesus (John 1:40-42). The next day, Jesus called Philip from Bethsaida and Nathaniel as his disciples (John 1:43-51). These might have attended the wedding at Cana in Galilee with Jesus. However, when Jesus went to Judea for his ministry, they might have gone back to their profession of fishing in the Sea of Galilee.

When Jesus had objection from the Jewish leaders in Judea, Jesus returned to Galilee. That was the time, probably the beginning of the second year of his public ministry, that Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave everything they had, their profession, friends, family, and home, to accompany him fulltime. So for them, the call from Jesus was something they might have expected and they might have been looking forward for such an invitation from Jesus.

So, when the opportune time came, Simon and Andrew realized that they will be better following Jesus than keeping up their worldly possessions and profession they had. They realized the greatest treasure in their life was following Jesus (Matthew 13:46). Later, Peter, Andrew, James and John were selected as apostles when Jesus finalized the 12 as the pillars of his church. They even became martyrs for Jesus. However, they gained eternal life and high position in heaven.

DOVE

Dove has several implications in the Bible:

At the time of creation, “the Spirit of God hovered upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). The Hebrew word for hovering is like a mother bird brooding over her eggs. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, the dove had moved upon the waters of Jordan and descended upon Jesus to start a new spiritual creation through Jesus.

Dove was the symbol of a renewed creation in the story of Noah. At the end of the flood, he sent out from the ark a raven and a dove. Raven, an unclean bird, ate dead bodies and did not return. Dove, a clean bird, flew over the waters and returned to Noah (Gen 8:7-12).

Hosea 11:11 compares Israel to a dove.

The dove is a tame bird and a symbol of peace, purity, and love. It symbolises innocence. Jesus told his disciples: “Behold, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. You must be clever as snakes and gentle as doves” (Mt 10:16).

The dove was a sacred bird in Palestine. The Law accepted it for temple sacrifices. Those who could not afford sacrificial animals could offer doves instead (Lev 5:7-11).

Dove had different connotations in the Bible:

At the time of creation “the Spirit of God hovered upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2). The Hebrew word for hovered is like a mother bird brooding over her eggs. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, the dove had moved upon the waters of Jordan and descended upon Jesus to initiate a new spiritual creation through Jesus.

Dove was the symbol of a new creation in the story of Noah. At the end of the flood he sent out from the ark a raven and a dove. Raven, an unclean bird, ate dead bodies and did not return. Dove, a clean bird, flew over the waters and returned to Noah (Genesis 8: 7-12).

Israel is compared to a dove in Hosea 11:11.

Dove is a taming bird and a symbol of peace, purity and love. It is symbolic of innocence. Jesus told his disciples: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” (Mathew 10:16).

Dove was a sacred bird in Palestine. It was acceptable for sacrifice in the Temple. Those who could not afford to offer animals of sin offering for sacrifice could offer doves (Lev 5:7-11).

The dove is a docile bird and a symbol of peace, purity, and love. It is symbolic of innocence. Jesus told his disciples: “Look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. You must be clever as snakes and gentle as doves” (Mt 10:16).

Dove was a sacred bird in Palestine. It was acceptable for sacrifice in the Temple. Those who could not afford to offer animals for sin offering could offer doves instead (Lev 5:7-11).

DOVE AND HOLY SPIRIT

The Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove. It was not a normal dove flying in the sky. The invisible Holy Spirit took the shape of a dove to make the Spirit visible to John. This dove came from the sky, which stands for heaven.

Dove has different implications in the Bible: At the time of creation, “the spirit of God hovered over the waters” (Gen 1:2). The Hebrew word for hovering conveyed the sense of a mother bird brooding over her eggs. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, the dove had moved upon the waters of Jordan and descended upon Jesus to start a spiritual renewal through Jesus.

The dove is the symbol of new creation in the story of Noah. At the end of the flood, he sent out from the ark, a raven and a dove. Raven, an unclean bird, ate dead bodies and did not return. Dove, a clean bird, flew over the waters and returned to Noah (Gen 8:7-12).

DREAM

The Bible gives importance to dreams and interpretation of dreams. It uses dreams for various purposes. God used dreams to reveal prophecies. Like Joseph, the husband of Mary, Joseph of the Old Testament was also a dreamer. He had the gift to interpret dreams. His dream on his brothers bowing down to him came true. His interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream saved Egypt and Jacob’s family from seven years of famine. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Prophet Daniel’s interpretation came true. Gideon got encouragement for winning a war through a dream (Judg 7:5).

The Bible used dreams also to give warning from dangers. The Magi did not return to King Herod because God cautioned them to do so in a dream (Mt 2:12). God warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt for saving the Infant Jesus’ life (Mt 2:13). Joseph’s other dream brought the Holy Family back to Nazareth (Mt 2:19-22). These dreams differed from ordinary dreams.

DREAM VS VISION

A vision happens when one is awake and conscious. Whereas, a dream occurs while one is asleep and not conscious. That means the dreamer is not free to ask clarification like Zachariah or Mary did during their vision. Unlike Zachariah and Mary who had vision of angel Gabriel, Joseph had only a dream revealing the innocence of Mary and his special vocation as foster father of Jesus. Some studies show that people always dream when they sleep. But people remember only the dream they have right before they wake up or the dream that makes them wake up.

The Biblical concepts of vision and dream are different. Visions occur when one is awake, while dreams come when the person is asleep. Some studies show that people always dream when they sleep. But they remember only the dreams they had right before they wake up or the dreams that make them wake up. Joseph’s dream was so real and moving that he woke up and considered it as a divine message for him.

EAST AND THE WEST, MANY WILL COME FROM THE

According to God’s promise to Abraham, “All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.” (Genesis 12:3). The east and west represented all directions of the world. The people from the four corners of the world (Luke 13:29) represent the Gentiles who would also recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. This was a reminder of Isaiah 45:6, “all may know, from the rising of the sun to its setting, that there is none besides me.” So, people from all the nations, including those who live far away, are invited to the Kingdom of God that Jesus established. That was why Jesus said to his apostles, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16). So, the Kingdom of God is not restricted to any nation but open for all who are willing to follow Jesus. Those who were dispersed all over the world to 70 nations at the tower of Babel because of sin would be gathered in Jesus’s name in the new kingdom. This was in contrast to the misunderstanding of the Jewish leaders and teachers of the time. They misunderstood the plan of God and they did not expect salvation of the gentiles. For Jesus, gentiles are equally eligible to enter the Kingdom of God, provided they accept his gospel. Even in the history of Israel after Jesus, the nation that considered itself to be first, lost its nation and was scattered all over.

EIGHTH DAY / FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

Number eight, according to the Biblical numerology stands for recreation. In the New Testament “eighth” day and “first day of the week” are the same. Jesus rose from the dead on the "first day of the week." (Mathew 28:1). Jesus appeared to his disciples several times “on the first day of the week” in between his resurrection and ascension. Pentecost was also on the first day of the week.  The early Christians kept the first day as holy day and called it the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10) in the place of the sabbath observed by the Jews (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

ESSNES COMMUNITY

The Essenes were a group of priests who left Jerusalem in disagreement with the governing priests of the Temple of Jerusalem. They moved to the wilderness to prepare for the way of the Lord and concentrated on the study of the Holy Scripture. They were active for about 100 years by the time Jesus started his public ministry. John might have been trained by this group though there is no evidence for it now.

ETERNAL KINGDOM / ETERNITY

In the Davidic covenant, God promised David a heir from him whose kingdom will be everlasting (2 Samuel 7:13-16). According to Daniel, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14). St. Peter wrote: “Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). According to the vision of John in the book of Revelation: “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Rev. 11:15).

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). A rich man also had asked Jesus the same question (Mark 10:17). The inheritance of eternal life was a controversial issue between Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (Mark 12:18-27) and Pharisees who believed in life after death (Acts 23:8). Even for those who believed in the life after death, the question of what must be done to inherit eternal life was not clear.

There were teachings on the life after death in the Old Testament, but they were less and some of them were unclear. “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isiah 26:19). Daniel 12:1-3 is another clear example of the prophesy of the resurrection and final reward or punishment. However, the issue was that these and similar writings on the life after death were prophetic works or psalms, and not in the earlier laws given by Moses in which this scholar of the law was specialized. Moses gave importance to long and fulfilling life in the promised land in Canaan for those who keep the commandments of God. “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).

It was Jesus who gave more clarity on resurrection of the dead, the final judgement and reward or punishment after death.

EUCHARIST, THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT

Jesus used the same phrase that used for the Old Covenant that God made with Israelites through Moses at Mount Sinai as given in Exodus 24:3-8. People agreed to all the ordinances of the Lord when Moses came down from the mountain and related it to them. Moses then built an altar at the foot of the mountain. The Israelites offered burnt offerings of young bulls. Moses took half of the blood in large bowls and the other half he splashed on the altar. Moses read aloud from the book of the covenant to the people who responded, “All that the LORD has said, we will hear and do.” Moses splashed the blood on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” (Matthew 26:28).

Just as Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, Jesus became the mediator of the New Covenant established at the last supper and fulfilled on Calvary. After using wine for his blood, Jesus shed his blood for humanity through the torture and crucifixion he underwent. This was the fulfillment of the new covenant prophesied by Prophet Jeremiah in 31:31-33.

EXAGGERATION

See HYPERBOLE / EXAGGERATION

FEAR OF GOD

Biblical meaning of fear of God is “reverence to God respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline, and worshipping Him in awe.” As a Father we originate from Him and we are under his constant care and protection. The fear of punishment happens because of our the lack of reverence or unfaithfulness to God. The method of “the fear of the Lord” is by keeping all the statutes and commandment of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:2).

FEET, PLACING UNDER THE

In the past there was a practice of the conquerors placing their feet upon the neck or body of their defeated enemies. A typical example is given in Joshua 10:16-27 on the surrender and execution of five Amorite Kings who were hiding in a cave at Makkedah when Israelites conquered their nation. When these kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon were brought to Joshua, he asked the commanders of his army to put their feet on the necks of the kings in the presence of all the army of Israel. It was a sign of the victory of Israel over those kings. So also, the Spirit inspired David to say that one day the spiritual enemies will be brought under the feet of the ‘lord’ who sits at the right hand of the LORD.

FIRE AS DIVINE PRESENCE

God appeared in the form of fire several times in the Bible. For example, God appeared to Moses at Mount Horeb in a burning bush while he was tending the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro (Exodus 3:2). The Lord preceded the Israelites in the desert in the form of a column of fire at night (Exodus 13:21). The Lord came down upon Mount Sinai in fire (Exodus 19:18). The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in the form of fire. At Mount Sinai, the fire was visible as one body and seen by all. The fire at Pentecost was individual pieces that rested on each of the apostles. While people kept away from fire at Mount Sinai, at Pentecost, people received the tongues of fire upon them.

Holy Spirit is represented by fire because fire has purity, light, and heat. It can purify a metal by burning away the impurities on it. The fire can also melt the metal to mold it in the desired shape. Thus, the Holy Spirit can purify us from sin and mold us as God’s instruments. The Spirit can enlighten our minds with the truths of the gospel of Jesus. It can also make us zealous to work for the Kingdom of God and to defend the Christian faith. Fire causes the rebuilding of a city or regeneration of a forest in a better form. The Holy Spirit is so powerful that it can spiritually renew a person. “The spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will join them in their prophetic ecstasy and will become a changed man.” (1 Samuel 10:6). The coming of the Holy Spirit reformatted the mind and spirit of the apostles.

FIREY SNAKE

While wandering in the desert, the Israelites complained against Moses and God for lack of food and water and the quality of food they got by the grace of God. In response, God punished them by sending fiery serpents. The snakes were called “fiery” because the bite by these snakes caused great fever and inflammation leading to death. Some other interpreters guess that these snakes had the color of fire. People asked Moses to intercede for them to God to take away the serpents. Instead of eliminating the serpents, God asked Moses to make an image of the fiery serpent made of bronze and raise it on a pole so that it could be seen from all parts of the camp. Whoever bitten by snake was asked to look at the bronze snake and their life was saved from death.

FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

See EIGHTH DAY

FISHING NET

There were mainly two types of fishing nets used in the Sea of Galilee: drag-net and casting-net. Drag-net was a large one cast from the back of the boat that while moves forward, the four corners of the net were drawn together to catch the fish that get inside the bag-like shape of the net. Simon and Andrew were using the casting-net that was skillfully cast by hand into the water to form an umbrella-like shape to catch the fish. Jesus called Simon and Andrew while they were working. Jesus wanted people who were humble and hard working.

GLORY OF GOD

The glory of God has various shades of meaning according to the context of its usage.

1. God’s glory is fully manifested in heaven. St. Stephen saw the glory of God in heaven from the earth before his martyrdom (Acts 7:55). Jesus, being God, also shares this glory.

2. The heavens and the earth, that God created, manifest the glory of God. According to Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.”

3. Humans had shared the glory of God as they are wonderful creations of God. “All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them.” (Isaiah 43:7). Though God created all, the chosen people were created by God for his glory. According to Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” Since we are deprived of this glory because of sin, Jesus came to restore it.

4. Jesus was the manifestation of God’s glory among us. According to John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The shekinah, the glorious and visible manifestation of God in the form of radiant could or brilliant light within a cloud, was missing in the Temple since the Babylonian exile. It had returned in human flesh in Jesus.

5. The miracles of Jesus were to reveal the glory of God. Thus, was the first miracle at Cana (John 2:11). Regarding the sickness of Lazarus, Jesus said: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4). So, through the miracles, the Father glorified the Son also.

6. Jesus shared his glorious power to his disciples to preach the word of God and to perform miracles. He sent them with these words: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8). Thus, Jesus shared his glorious power and mission to his disciples as they were entrusted to Jesus by the Father. Jesus prayed that they be united in continuing his mission.

HAND OVER

(Ref. to Matthew 2:19). After Judas handed over Jesus to the soldiers of Jews (Matthew 26:49), the soldiers handed him over to the chief priest and the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57), then Sanhedrin handed over Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor (Matthew 27:1-1–2), Pilate handed over Jesus to the public to decide between Jesus and Barabbas (Matthew 27: 17), Pilate then handed over Jesus to soldiers to crucify Jesus (Matthew 27: 26). Jesus predicted that his disciples will also face similar situation: “they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues.” (Matthew 10:17).

HEART OF JESUS PIERCED

The purpose of piercing the side of Jesus with spear was not to kill him because he was already dead. The soldier or centurion, who is named as Longinus in the non-canonical books, wanted to confirm that he was dead. The water that flowed was believed to be the watery lymph from the pericardium and blood from the heart. The human heart is on the left side of the body. However, artists make this wound on the right. The soldier might have pierced from the right side from below to bypass the ribs and to push the heart against the ribs on the left side. This, by divine providence, assured that his rib was not broken and that he was dead before taken down from the cross proving beyond any doubt that he had risen from the dead.

HEART: SYMBOLIC MEANING OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

Based on her visions, St. Margaret Mary designed and produced the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the image of the Sacred Heart, we see the heart outside the chest of Jesus, shining with divine light. It is wounded and bleeding, encircled by the crown of thorns, and with a cross on the top. The wounded hands of Jesus point to the heart.

The Heart represents the physical heart of Jesus and his sacrificial love for humanity.

The pierced and bleeding heart reminds us the piercing of his heart while he was on the cross and the last drop of blood and water that came out of his sacrifice.

The crown of thorns is the symbol of the real crown of sharp thrones placed on the head of Jesus to humiliate him and torture him before his crucifixion.

The cross on the top of the heart is representing the cross that won victory for humanity and the ladder that connects the heaven and the earth through the redemptive work of Jesus.

Flames on the heart is symbolic of the burning flame of love of Jesus for humanity.

The light surrounding the heart is representing the divine light that shines in the darkness of this world 

HEAVENS

Genesis 1:1 state: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.” So, there are over one heaven. The Bible presents three heavens:

1. The atmosphere where the birds fly beneath the dome of the sky (Gen 1:20). The Psalmist refers to this heaven: “Beside them the birds of heaven nest; among the branches, they sing” (104:12).

2. The dome where God set up sources of light including sun, moon, and stars (Gen 1:14-18). The Psalmist refers to this heaven saying: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of his hands” (Ps 19:1).

3. The third heaven is the dwelling place of God and is the highest heavens or the heaven of heavens. Moses told the Israelites: “See, the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to the LORD, your God” (Deut  10:14). Saint Paul had an experience of being taken up to the third heaven where he had God’s revelation (2  Cor 12:1-4). He calls this third heaven also paradise.

HEAVENS OPENED

There are several references in the Bible on the opening of the heavens. Here are some of them.

In Old Testament:

1) The floodgates of the sky (heaven) were opened during the flood at the time of Noah (Genesis 7:11).

2) Prophet Ezekiel, while he was by the river Chebar among the exiles, saw the heavens opened (Ezekiel 1:1).

In the New Testament:

1) The first mention of the heavens opened was when Jesus was baptized (Mathew 3:1; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21).

2) St. Stephen, while he was on trial by the Sanhedrin, saw the heaven opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56).

3) St. Peter saw the sky opened, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground (Acts 10:11).

4) John the Evangelist saw the heaven opened while he was in the Island of Patmos based on which he wrote the book of Revelation (Revelation 4:1; 19:11).

Mark presents the heaven’s opening at the baptism of Jesus as an extraordinary event. The Greek word used for torn open is “schizo.” The English word “scissors” has derived from this word. This image is vivid, like what happened at the death of Jesus on the cross, “And immediately the curtain which enclosed the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mk 15:38). The other occasions when God opened the heavens were for the destruction of sinners. After Noah built the ark, “the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (Gen 7:11) to destroy the sinners with a deluge while saving Noah and his family. “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from heaven,” (Gen 19:24) to destroy the sinners while saving the life of Lot. However, when John baptized Jesus, the heavens were torn open to reveal the Most Holy Trinity.

HELL, JESUS DESCENDED INTO

According to the Apostles’ Creed, we profess, “He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.” Did Jesus really go to hell before his resurrection? According to Ephesians 4:9-10, Jesus "descended into the lower parts of the earth.” The resurrection of Jesus presupposes that he stayed in the realm of the dead prior to his rising from the dead. In 1Peter 3:18-20 we read, “He was put to death in the body, but made alive in the spirit, in which He also went and preached to the spirits in prison.” Jesus descended among the dead who were waiting to enter heaven and proclaimed the Good News that he has going to open the gates of heaven. He did not go to the hell of the damned for their liberation but to “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:19-31) as in the story of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. So “hell” in the Apostles Creed is the Hades where the deceased are deprived of the vision of God and awaiting the victory of the Redeemer. Thus, "The gospel was preached even to the dead." (1Peter 4:6). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment.” (484). “He opened heaven's gates for the just who had gone before him.” (637).

In the funeral chapel of the Church of Chora in Istbabul, Turkey, there is a famous icon called, “The Harrowing of Hell.” It is the depiction of Christ's descent into hell. In this icon, Jesus is standing over the broken gates of hell, fallen in cross shape over the pit of darkness. Tis chained and falling into the pit of darkness. Jesus in his glorious dress is lifting Adam and Eve out of their graves by the wrists because they cannot rise themselves. It shows Jesus as a conqueror and rescuer of humanity represented by the first parents. In that icon, we see kings, prophets and the righteous of Israel, including David, Solomon, Moses, Daniel, Zechariah and John the Baptist standing beside Jesus.

HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID

Hosanna is a combination of two words Hoshia-na means “save now.” It refers to Psalm 118 that had been a liturgical hymn of the Feast of Tabernacle seeking God’s salvation of humanity and was associated with the use of palm-branches. This invocation for help had eventually become an acclamation of jubilation and welcome to the pilgrims by the native people in Jerusalem. When the people acclaimed Hosanna to the “Son of David,” it was directed specifically to Jesus and was an acknowledgement of him as the Messiah, the successor of David. According to God’s covenant with King David, the messiah would come from David’s lineage and the messiah will rule all nations for eternity (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). 

HOUR OF JESUS

We often hear in the gospel that the hour of Jesus had not yet come. The evangelist gives the meaning of the hour of Jesus stating that it was the time, “to pass from this world to the Father” (John 13:1) by fulfilling his mission through his passion, death, and resurrection. That appointed time was determined by the Father. This shows that the sacrifice of Jesus was a willful act of God.

HYPERBOLE / EXAGGERATION

Bible uses hyperbole which is an exaggerated expression for emphasis. Hyperbole was used mostly by the Eastern people to add vividness and power to the matter. We see this in Semitic languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. So, hyperboles are not supposed to be taken literally. Jesus at times used hyperbole in his teaching. When he said, “if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 18:9), he did not want us to blind ourselves. Instead, he makes it clear that we should take aggressive action to stop committing sins.

I AM

“I am” is the name of God that God revealed to Moses when he asked for God’s name at Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:13-14). When Jesus used “I am” for himself the Jews tried to stone him (John 8:56–59) because they understood that Jesus was making himself equal to God. John the Evangelist presents Jesus, the “I am” incarnate, using the same name seven times clarifying who “I am” is. Jesus combines it with metaphors which express his saving relationship with humanity. All of them appear in the gospel of John as follows:

1. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

2. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

3. “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture (John 10:9)

4. “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

5. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” (John 11:25)

6. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

7. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

All the above seven attributes give a glimpse of who Jesus is for us.

IMMEDIATELY

The Greek word used for at once or immediately is the adverb “euthus.” This word is used 40 times in the Gospel of Mark out of 59 times of its use in the New Testament. There are several assumptions for its frequent use in Mark.

1. Mark’s is a fast-paced Gospel who gives the actions in Jesus’ life brief and moves fast from one event to another. So, it is natural that he uses the term as a word of transition from one incident to another.

2. Mark presents Jesus as Son Man and a servant of God. A good servant implements the commands of the master immediately. So, Mark presents Jesus as one who does the will of God promptly.

3. The Greek “euthus” can mean “immediately” when used for time and can mean straight when used in a moral sense. In that sense it is used in Mark 1:3 “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” The Spirit led Jesus straight to test in the desert immediately after his baptism.

INRI

The offense of a person condemned to death by crucifixion was written on a tablet that was displayed on the way of the cross and nailed on the cross. Since the Romans did the execution of Jesus, Jews had no control on this. The charge against Jesus was that he had claimed to be the King of the Jews. However, Pilate purposefully wrote: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” The inscriptions were in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. In Latin it was, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (INRI). That is why this acronym is written on the crucifix. Chief priests requested Pilate to change it as, “He said, I am the King of Jews.” But Pilate did not change it affirming from his part that Jesus was their spiritual king.

INTERTESTAMENTAL PERIOD

There was no prophet in Israel for about five centuries after Prophet Malachi who lived around 450 BC. During this intertestamental period without any prophet, the Jews were divided as different groups and interpreted the Holy Scripture according to their own views. That was why Jesus had to reinstate the laws to their original intentions and there were disagreements between Jesus and the Jewish groups 

JESUS, IN THE NAME OF

Name of Jesus is most used in prayers and baptism. We start prayers in the name of the Most Holy Trinity by saying, “In the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit.” We usually conclude a Christian prayer by saying, “We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord” because Jesus taught us to pray in his name. “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13).

According to the instruction of Jesus, (Matthew 28:19) every person is baptized in the Trinitarian formula by saying “In the name of the …” Apostles did the healing or miracles in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:10; 16:18). Thus, prayer and baptism were done in the name of Jesus in the early church and it continues.

JUDGE / COURT

For Jews, one person alone could not make judgement. The minimum number of judges required was three in small villages of less than 120 men. If the number was higher in the village, they were judged by a Sanhedrin or court of 23 judges. The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem consisting of 71 was the supreme court of Jews. Thus, there were three classes of courts: The Great Sanhedrin, the Lesser Sanhedrin, and the Court of Three or Seven.  The head (nasi) of the Sanhedrin or its three members had to duly authorize and ordain judges. Such judges would-be God-fearing Jews. Verdict of a single Jewish judge was considered only as an advice and had no juridical value.

The qualification of minor judges of Israel are described in Exodus 18: 13-27. The judges should be “able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.” (Exodus 18:21). The judge whom the widow approached was just the opposite of these qualifications because he did not fear God and had no respect for humans. So, even if the judge in the parable was a Jew, he did not meet the standards of the Holy Scripture.

JUDGEMENT, FINAL

The Father has entrusted the judgement of the world to his Son (John 5:22). This judgement will be based on one’s own choice of belief in Jesus or not. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18). The final judgement is to separate the good from the evil who have been growing together (Mathew 25:31-46).

KEY TO PETER

Key is the symbol of authority. In the ancient world, a walled city will have only one prominent gate with one lock and key. To hand over the key hallmarked handing over authority over the city. When Joseph interpreted the dream of Pharaoh in Egypt, he said to Joseph: “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. You shall be in charge of my household, and all my people will obey your command. Only in respect to the throne will I outrank you.” (Genesis 41: 39-40). Jesus also made a similar remark to Peter because God had made His revelation to him. Just like Pharaoh handed over his signet ring to Joseph saying, “I put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:41), Jesus handed over the keys of the heavenly city to Peter. This also reminds us of Eliakim who was entrusted with the key of the House of David. “I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open.” Isaiah 22:22).

KINGDOM OF GOD / KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

The kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is widely used in the Synoptic gospels. Both mean the same. Matthew preferred Kingdom of heaven because he wanted to avoid the word “God” that his Jewish readers would not use. In a broader sense, both refer primarily to the rule of the Almighty over all the whole universe without any territory because the everything belongs to God without any border. “The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all.” (Psalm 103:19).

In a specific sense, Israel was the kingdom of God because God’s kingdom is a spiritual rule over the lives and hearts of those remain faithful to God. Jesus reconstituted it forming the church with Jesus as its head. This kingdom is spiritual and that is why Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” (John 18:36). The church is only a foretaste of God’s kingdom that will happen later in its fullness when the time of redemption is over and when the time of judgement will arrive with the second coming of Christ. This kingdom will be governed by God, eternal, peaceful, free from any struggle, and is open only for the faithful children of God. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44). Thus, the Kingdom of God has different stages. It was initially established in the world at large, then among the chosen people of Israel, renewed later by Jesus by establishing the church, and will come to its perfection with the second coming of Christ.

KNELT / KNEELING

Kneeling is a posture of reverence and worship. The Hebrews considered knee as a symbol of strength. So, bending the knee represents one’s surrender before the Almighty. At the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem, King “Solomon knelt in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel and stretched forth his hands toward heaven.” (2 Chronicles 6:13). After return to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile, Ezra’s posture of prayer was in a similar fashion: “Then, at the time of the evening sacrifice, I rose in my wretchedness, and with cloak and mantle torn I fell on my knees, stretching out my hands to the LORD, my God.” (Ezra 9:5). During the public ministry of Jesus, many people who sought his help knelt before him as sign of their devotion. Jesus himself prayed on his knees at the Garden of Gethsemane before his passion and crucifixion (Luke 22:41). St. Stephen (Acts 7:60), St. Peter (Acts 9:40), St. Paul (Acts 20:36) and the early Christian Community (Acts 21:5) used to pray on their knees. So, kneeling is a biblical posture of prayer and surrender before God.

Kneeling is an expression of humility, repentance or surrender to the mercy of another. According to Psalm 95:6-7, kneeling and bowing down are forms of worship before God who shepherd us. In Isaiah 45:23, the Lord says: “To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear.” Daniel had a “custom of going home to kneel in prayer and give thanks to his God in the upper chamber three times a day, with the windows open toward Jerusalem.” (Daniel 6:11). When Simon Peter had a miraculous catch of fish before Jesus called him, “he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” (Luke 5:8). According to Mathew 8:2 a leper worshipped Jesus appealing for his healing.

LAMB OF GOD

For John the Baptist and his listeners, the “Lamb of God” had several implications.

1. It could mean the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel at the time of exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13). The pascal lamb without blemish stood for Jesus the sinless God, the blood of the lamb at the door posts stood for the blood of Jesus posted on the cross, and sacrifice of the innocent lamb for the deliverance from slavery stood for the innocent Jesus who delivered sinful humanity from the bondage of sin or Satan.

2. “Lamb of God” means a lamb provided by God. When Abraham was going with his son Isaac for sacrifice at Mount Moriah, Isaac asked "’Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’" (Gen. 22:7-8). God gave a ram (Gen. 22:13) to substitute the sacrifice of Isaac. The lamb that Abraham predicted was given at the same mountain when God gave His only begotten son (John 3:16), Jesus as the lamb of sacrifice.

3. Jesus represented the sacrificial lamb in the Temple of Jerusalem. Every morning and evening a lamb each were slain in the Temple as reparation for people’s sins (Exodus 29:38-42). Lambs and other animals were slain during Passover. However, these animal sacrifices were not able to take away the original sin and was a foreshadowing of the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

4. Prophets Jeremiah and Isiah predicted a suffering servant led like a lamb to be slaughtered as a sin-offering (Jeremiah 11:19). “Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; Like a lamb led to slaughter.” (Isiah 53:7).

5. Instead of a suffering lamb, at the end we will see a victorious apocalyptic lamb who would destroy evil in the world (Rev. 5–7). John the Evangelist saw “a Lamb that seemed to have been slain. He had seven horns and seven eyes; these are the [seven] spirits of God sent out into the whole world.” (Rev. 5:6). “They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings, and those with him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14)

LEPROSY

Leprosy has been known and reported since 600 BC in countries like Egypt, China and India. It is also seen in many other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is believed that Israelites inherited the disease from Egypt while they were slaves there for 400 years. Researchers found leprosy bacteria among some mummies in Egypt. The leprosy causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness and would worsen slowly. Leprosy was misunderstood and feared throughout history as incurable and contagious. Its cause was unknown.

The first successful multi-drug treatment (MDT) for leprosy was developed only in the 1970s on the island of Malta. Leprosy is now known as caused by bacteria that are not usually contagious and can be treated by antibiotics. It is more a disease of the nervous system that affects skin, limbs, and other parts of the body by the working of leprosy bacterium. It is spread only by constant contacts with the lepers. 

The Biblical understanding of leprosy is wider than what we understand today as Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy). It also included a variety of infectious skin diseases. Cancer and elephantiasis were also considered as leprosy. It was considered as a contagious and dreadful disease in the Biblical times. Besides, it was also considered as a curse or punishment from God for the sins of the affected people. According to Deuteronomy 28:27 Moses said: “The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.”

The lepers were considered as sinners and spiritually dead. So, they were declared unclean officially by priests after inspection and were expelled as outcasts from their family and society. Leviticus chapter 13 and 14 give details on the symptoms of leprosy and the procedures associated with handling the lepers. The main symptoms of a leper according to Leviticus 13:1-3 are: a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot on the skin that becomes like a leprous sore. The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the leper and “if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore.” The priest will pronounce such a person unclean.

If leprosy was confirmed, the person was not allowed to come to the Tabernacle, and he had to live outside the regular community. “The garments of one afflicted with a scaly infection shall be rent and the hair disheveled, and the mustache covered. The individual shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’” (Lev. 13:45). Contact with a leper made one unclean and unable to attend any religious service. So, the public avoided any contact with lepers, and they had to keep a distance from others (Leviticus 13:45-46). The places where lepers entered were considered defiled. Though they could enter in the synagogue for worship, they had an isolated place there. They had to enter together before the congregation entered and leave only after they left. If the lepers go beyond their allowed boundary anywhere, they were punished with forty whip stripes. Hence the lepers had spiritual, emotional, social, and economic misery.

Leprosy is first mentioned in Bible as one of the three signs God gave to Moses out of the Burning Bush to convince the people of Israel that God sent Moses as their liberator. The power of Moses to heal leprosy was a miraculous authority God gave to Moses (Exodus 4:4-8). So also, Jesus the liberator of humanity from sin could also heal the lepers using his miraculous power.

The Old Testament records two instances of healing of lepers. One was Miriam, the sister of Moses who along with her brother Aaron spoke against Moses. As a result of this sin, Miriam was affected with leprosy and was healed after seven days by the intervention of Moses to God to heal her (Numbers 12:1-15). The other instance was the cure of Naaman, a pagan and army commander of the king of Aram, by Prophet Elisha (2 Kings 1:14). The others who were affected with leprosy and mentioned by name are Joab (2 Samuel 3:29), Gehazi (2 Kings 5:20-27), and King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). They got leprosy as punishment from God for their sins and were not cured. Thus, leprosy was associated with sin during the Old Testament times.

The Gospels record Jesus healing 11 lepers. Besides Jesus healing the leper who approached him at Capernaum for curing (Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, Luke 5:12-15), he also healed a team of ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus might have healed more lepers that are not recorded in the gospels. Jesus had given authority to his 12 apostles also to heal the lepers. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:8). These were signs of the apostles sharing the Messianic authority of Jesus like Moses received from God at the Burning Bush.

Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9) give the name of another leper who invited Jesus for dinner in his house. This leper lived in his own house in Bethany and while Jesus was dining at his house a woman anointed the feet of Jesus. This leper was living in the community because his leprosy might have been a light one or he must have already been healed and still known as Simon the Leper. There is no mention of Jesus healing him in the gospels. He might have been one of the lepers Jesus might have healed previously. Some types of leprosy would cure while an instant cure of leprosy was a miracle as Jesus did.

LOST SHEEP

Jeremiah presented Israel as a “lost sheep” misled by their shepherds (Jeremiah 50:6). Ezekiel spoke of the selfish shepherds of Israel and God promised that He himself would rescue his sheep. “I will search for my sheep myself, and I will look after them.” (Ezekiel 34:11).  Jesus, the Son of God, came as a shepherd to his sheep, Israel (John 10:11-16).

LUNATIC

The term lunatic is from the Latin word lunaticus, which means moon. Its equivalent word in English is “moonstruck.” People with mental disorder who are believed to have aggravated symptoms during full moon were classified as lunatic. They were distinct from demon possessed. Most of them are epileptic. Astrologers had used this term to refer to neurological and psychiatric diseases. They believed that the moon could disturb the brain. In the olden days when people were sleeping in the open air without any shelter used to keep awake because of the intense light of the full moon. That would affect the health and behavior of a mentally sick person. Other than this, there is no scientific evidence for the full moon’s influence on human behavior.

MANY, REDEMPTION OF

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The term “many” is a reference to Isaiah 53:11-12 where it did not mean for few but the outcome of Christ's redemption. Only those who accept Jesus and his message will be saved. At the Last Supper, Jesus said to Thomas: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

Jesus used “many” when he instituted the Holy Eucharist. After blessing the cup, he said: “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14:24; Matthew 26:28). After healing the centurion’s servant in Capernaum, Jesus said: “I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11). The rabbis and the Qumran community used this term for the community of faith or the chosen people. St. Paul also use “all” and “many” as interchangeable terms in his letter to Romans verses 18 and 19. So the redemption of Jesus is intended for all. Many will find salvation from him.

MARRIAGE, DIVINE PURPOSE

Marriage along with family responsibilities in this world is a heavenly design on the earth to take part in the loving relationship of couples ("It is not good for the man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18), procreation (“Be fruitful and increase in number.” Genesis 1:28) and growing up of children (“Train up a child in the way he should go.” Proverbs 22:6).  This setup is necessary to perpetuate the mortal human race.

MERCY

The term “mercy” has different shades of meaning in the Bible. God is the best example of mercy because even when the first parents sinned, He did not abandon them but showed them mercy like a father to his children.  “The LORD God made for the man and his wife garments of skin, with which he clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21). He promised them a redeemer to rescue them from their fallen state (Genesis 3:15). Psalm 33:5 says: “The earth is full of the mercy of the LORD.” God repeated his mercy even when Israel, the chosen people committed sin violating their covenant with God. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13). Every verse in Psalm 136 repeats saying: “for his mercy endures forever.” Thus, recurring mercy came initially from God withholding the implementation of his justice over humanity. Jesus taught that God also expects us to forgive those who offended us as an act of mercy. “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus taught the precedence of mercy over sacrifice by saying: “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Mercy also means showing kindness towards one another. “Love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). The final judgement is also based on the acts of mercy (Matthew 25: 31-46).

MESSIANIC MIRACLES

Though Jesus performed many miracles at the house of Simon Peter, his miraculous healing of the leper caused more fame for him than any other miracles he performed so far. The instant healing of a person full of leprosy was considered as one of the messianic miracles. The ancient rabbis who lived before the birth of Christ used to classify miracles as two categories. There were miracles that anyone could perform provided if the person was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then there were miracles that only the messiah could do known as messianic miracles. Jesus performed both general and three messianic miracles that made the chief priests of the time concerned about Jesus.

The messianic miracles were taken from Isaiah 35:5-6.  “Then the eyes of the blind shall see,

and the ears of the deaf be opened; Then the lame shall leap like a stag, and the mute tongue sing for joy.” One of the messianic miracles that Jesus performed was healing of the Jewish leper (Mark 1:40-45) fulfilling the prophesy that the lame shall leap like a stag. Though there were instructions on inspecting a healed leper, the priests never got a chance to inspect them because no Jewish leper was healed since the Torah was completed. So, Jesus healing the leper was an indication that the messiah had arrived. That was why many people rushed to see Jesus to observe his actions and his teachings. That was the first step to find out if the person was the Messiah or not. However, the approval of the Messiah had to come from the Sanhedrin after a stage of observation and a second stage of interrogation. Jesus had undergone both. However, Sanhedrin did not approve him as their messiah.

The second messianic miracle of Jesus was the exorcism of a mute demon (Matthew 12:22-32). That was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy that “the mute tongue sing for joy.” Though some of the Jewish leaders also could do exorcism, they could not do it for mute demons because the exorcist could not communicate with the mute as part of the procedure for exorcism. However, Jesus could exorcise even the mute demon with his command. That was why, “All the crowd was astounded, and said, ‘Could this perhaps be the Son of David?’” (Mark 12:23). They had realized that the miracle was not of a general nature but a messianic one.

The third messianic miracle of Jesus was the healing of a man born blind (John 9:1-38). This was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy that “the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 35:5). Healing a person born blind was different from healing a person who became blind later in life.

The first messianic miracle led to the investigation of the messiahship of Jesus, the second messianic miracle led to the conclusion of the Jewish leaders that he was not the Messiah but was demon possessed. And the third one led to the decision that anyone believed in Jesus would be excommunicated.

MIRACLES BY DISCIPLES OF JESUS

Jesus shared his power to do miracles with his apostles and other disciples during and after his public ministry. After selecting his 12 apostles, Jesus sent them to preach to Jews alone. Along with that he gave them power to do miracles: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” (Mathew 10:8). “When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done.” (Luke 9:10). Later Jesus appointed 72 disciples and “sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” (Luke 10:1). They returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” (Luke 10:17).

During his last discourse to the apostles, Jesus told them that even after his physical departure, they will continue to do greater miracles than they did before or even what Jesus did. The Acts of the Apostles written by Luke gives accounts of many miracles performed by Peter, Paul, Stephen, Barnabas, Silas and others. “A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5:16). Some of them were miracles that even Jesus did not perform during his public ministry. “Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5:15-16). Acts 16:16-18 describes how Paul expelled a demon from a slave girl who was also a fortune teller. “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12). Relics of saints have been used by the faithful as instruments of God’s miracles and healing on people.

While St. Paul was in Melita (Acts 28:3-5) a viper fastened on his hand. He escaped from snake bite.

Papias records the oral tradition that Joseph Barsabbas, one of the 70 disciples of Jesus (Luke 10:1) drank a cup of poison without harm. Joseph and Mathias were the two candidates to replace Judas Iscariot, out of which Mathias was selected. Both had accompanied Jesus during his public ministry (Acts 1:21).

Another tradition is that St. John the Apostle was taken to Rome for trial during the time of emperor Nero (56-68), where he drank a cup of deadly poison, but remained alive.

The Acts of the Apostles gives several instances of healing of the sick by the disciples of Jesus.

1. Peter healed a lame man in Jerusalem (3:1-11)

2. Apostles healed many in Jerusalem (5:15-16)

3. Peter healed Eneas who was paralyzed for eight years (9:33-34)

4. Peter raised Tabitha to life in Joppa (9:36-41)

5. Paul healed a crippled man in Lystra (14:8-10)

6. Paul healed a multitude in Corinth (19:11-12)

7. Paul restored the life of Eutychus who fell from the third story window (20:9-12)

8. Paul healed the father of Publius and others in Malta (28:7-9)

When we take the miracles and wonderful achievements of the church throughout the centuries, we notice the marvelous growth and service of Christ’s disciples in the world. The force behind all these is none other than Jesus who is the head of the church. Peter (Acts 2:33) and Paul (2 Corinthians 10:17) acknowledged that the miracles they performed were not by them but by the power of God working through them.

MONEY CHANGERS

See TEMPLE, MONEY CHANGERS

MY LORD AND MY GOD

There are different shades of meaning for the words “Lord” and “God.” The term God comes from Hebrew “Elohim” and Greek “Theos.” God stands for the all-powerful one who created the world and sustains it. The word “Lord” comes from Hebrew “Adonai” and Greek “Kurios”. It is also translated as Yahweh (Jehovah), who interacts with people like making Adam out of clay, conversing with first parents, and making covenant with the people. Elohim came from Priestly tradition and Yahweh came from Yahwistic tradition in the Bible. Thus, Old Testament used both Lord and God when referring to God the almighty. Psalm 35:23 uses, “my God and my Lord.”

Jesus was usually called as Lord by his disciples. The Lord could mean someone in higher rank or the “Son of God.” In Mathew 16:16, Simon Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus had asserted that he was God and that was why he was accused of blasphemy. However, it was Thomas who was inspired to say to the Risen Lord, “My Lord and my God.” By that, Thomas declared that he had seen Jesus so far, as his Lord. However, he acknowledged that the Lord was also the mighty God. Hence, Thomas had advanced in his belief and conviction. He expressed his faith in the divinity of Jesus. Jesus had told in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Thomas while seeing the Risen Lord acknowledged that the God the Father was visible in Jesus.

NAME

Name to identify one person from another. Name had much significance in the Bible. The Hebrews considered a person's name as equivalent to that person signifying his worth, character, reputation, authority, will, or ownership. In the Bible, the name of a person stands for that individual (Rev. 3:4) and the name of the Lord stands for God or Jesus himself.  (Proverbs 16:10, Psalm 18:49; 86:12; Malachi 3:16; Matthew 10:22; 19:29; John 3:18).

Name that stands for a person had different significance in the Bible:

1) To forget God's name was equal to deviating from Him (Jeremiah 23:37)

2) To name something indicated one's ownership of that person or thing (Genesis 1:5, 8, 10; 2:19-20; II Samuel 12:28; Amos 9:12)

3) To speak or write in one’s name shows authority (Exodus 5:23; I Kings 21:8)

4) To act in someone's name was to represent that person (Deuteronomy 25:6)

5) To blemish someone's name is to destroy that person (Deuteronomy 9:14; II Kings 14:27; Isaiah 14:22; Revelation 3:5)

6) Name signified a person’s reputation (Mark 6:14; Revelation 3:1), and their character (Ecclesiastes 7:1; Matthew 6:9).

7) Christ revealed the Father's name, meaning that He has made God known to humanity (John 17:26).

8) To believe on the name of Christ is to believe in the person of Christ (John 1:12; 2:23).

9) To be gathered in Jesus' name is to be gathered in His mind, will, and purpose (Matthew 18:20).

(Ref. John 14:13) Here, the point was whatever the disciples ask, “in my name.” The name represents a person. Apostles and other disciples were assigned as representatives of Jesus to continue his mission. So, when they ask anything on Jesus’ behalf, he will do. That is why many of the Christian prayers end by saying, “in the name of Jesus, the Lord.” The prayers in Jesus name should have the spirit of Jesus’ prayer at the garden of Gethsemane: “not as I will, but as you will.” (Mathew 26:39).

NAMING BY GOD

In exceptional cases like in the case of John the Baptist or Jesus, the child was named before conception. Instead of the human father, the Divine Father named such children making them God’s special children born of human parents. Such children had some extraordinary mission from God. Examples of naming given by God before the birth are: Ishmael (Gen. 16:11), Isaac (Gen. 17:19), Jezreel (Hos. 1:4), Lo-Ruhamah (Hos. 1:6), Lo-Ammi (Hos. 1:9), Jesus (Mt. 1:21) (Lk. 1:31) and John (Lk. 1:13). Adam is believed to be named by God. Examples of name changes by God are: Abram to Abraham (Gen. 17:5), Sarai to Sarah (Gen. 17:15), Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:29) (Gen. 35:10), Solomon to Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:24-25) and Simon to Peter (Mt. 16:17-18).

In exceptional cases, God names or renames a person because of that person’s special assignment. Examples of God-given names before birth are Ishmael (Gen 16:11), Isaac (Gen 17:19), Jezreel (Hos 1:4), Lo-Ruhamah (Hos 1:6), Lo-Ammi (Hos 1:9), Jesus (Mt 1:21) (Lk 1:31) and John (Lk 1:13). God might have named Adam. Examples of God renaming are: Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:5), Sarai to Sarah (Gen 17:15), Jacob to Israel (Gen 32:29; 35:10), Solomon to Jedidiah (2 Sam 12:24-25) and Jesus renamed Simon to Peter (Mt 16:17-18).

NARROW GATE, STRIVE TO ENTER THROUGH

“Strive” is the key word here. The entry into the Kingdom of God is not easy but maximum effort is required for this entrance. It can be compared to an athlete who does all kinds of strenuous preparations to win the contest. St. Paul had clarified this, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Cor. 9:25). Again, he says. “Fight the good fight for the true faith.” (1 Tim 6:12a). Conversion and reconciliation cannot be postponed. They should be followed up by constant dedication and commitment for the church and the people. We see such lifestyle in the lives of many saints, especially St. Paul, St. Augustine, Fr. Damien of Molokai, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

NET, FISHING

See FISHING NET

PARABLE

A parable is a story with a spiritual message. However, some of the stories are partially or fully allegorical. In an allegory, the characters or events are symbols of something moral or religious. The literal meaning of parable is “cast alongside.” It can be a comparison or similitude of a spiritual fact to figures taken from everyday life. Parables are also considered as an expanded proverb because proverbs are condensed similitudes serving similar purpose.

Jesus used parables extensively to teach the spiritual truth that he wanted to communicate to ordinary people. Synoptic gospels give 35 parables. Jesus used parables to illustrate a spiritual truth by casting it alongside an earthly story that could be remembered and handed over to different cultures and generations. Parables were good teaching aids because they are still relevant now.

In the early part of his ministry, Jesus taught without parables. Later, when the Pharisees confronted Jesus, he began to teach in parables. The higher-class Jews who were against Jesus were close minded. So, Jesus wanted to conceal the truth from them; while he continued communicating truth to his disciples. He even explained the meaning of some of the parables to his disciples. There was a time when he did not say anything without using parables (Mark 4:34). That was why the disciples asked Jesus why he was speaking to the people in parables (Matthew 13:10).

PARABLE, DOUBLE EDGED

A double-edged parable has two parts with double message. For a double-edged parable, the message of the second part has precedence over the first.

PEACE BE WITH YOU

This was a usual form of salutation among the Jews. Israel had peace and prosperity when they were faithful to God.

Jesus appeared to his disciples after the successful offering of himself as the Lamb of God like the return of the high priest from the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:34). On the Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement each year, the high priest used to go into the holy of holies and sprinkle the mercy seat with the blood of a bull for the purification of the priests and the blood of a goat for the forgiveness of sins of all Israelites. Jesus, the Lamb of God, had sacrificed himself as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins of all who turn to him in faith. Thus, peace was established, and Jesus was communicating that to the world through his apostles.

Unlike the same greeting in John 20:19, this repeated greeting of Jesus was an assurance he was offering to his apostles as he was sending them out with a mission to the world. In John 14:27, Jesus had assured his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Even during severe persecution, they would experience peace of mind as he himself had during his passion and crucifixion.

PENTECOST AND LAW GIVEN AT MOUNT SINAI

There is parallelism between the 50th day event at Mount Sinai and the Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the 50th day after the Passover sacrifice of Jesus.

1. Both the giving of the commandment on Mount Sinai and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost happened on the 50th day after Passover. Israelites traveled around 40 days to reach from Egypt to Mount Sinai. They left Egypt on the 15th day of the first month and arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai on the first day of the third month (Exodus 19:1). Moses went up to Mount Sinai on the 40th day to meet with God and God came down on the mountain to meet the Israelites and gave them Ten Commandments on the 50th day after Passover. Similarly, Jesus ascended to heaven on the 40th day to join with the Father, and the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles on the 50th day.

2. The extraordinary signs at Mount Sinai and Mount Zion (Jerusalem) at the time of Pentecost were similar. Both happened on holy mountains selected by God. At Mount Sinai there were thunder and lightning, heavy cloud and loud blast of the shofar (Exodus 19:16). “Now Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” (Exodus 19:18). During the Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus, there were a sudden noise from the sky like a strong driving wind, tongues of fire that rested on the apostles, and gift of speaking in different languages (Acts 2: 2-4).

3. God gave the Torah on Mount Sinai as teachings for God’s chosen people. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came as the Teacher of believers. “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that told you.” (John 14:26).

4. The laws given at Mount Sinai were written on two stone tablets. The new law given at the time of Pentecost was written on the human hearts of Christians. On the Pentecost day, when people heard the preaching of Peter, “they were cut to the heart.” (Acts 2:37).

5. At Mount Sinai, God came down to dwell among the people of Israel. He led them in the form of column of cloud during day and column of fire at night (Exodus 13:21-22). Later God dwelt with them in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple of Jerusalem. God’s presence in the Temple was lost before Babylonian exile, because of the sins of the Israelites. However, the Lord’s dwelling came back through Jesus when he was born in Bethlehem and later to the Christian hearts from the time of Pentecost. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).

6. Both events led to the formation of a newly redeemed community of God’s chosen people. The Exodus gave birth of the Israelite nation while the Pentecost inaugurated the formation of the Christian community.

7. When God gave the Torah to Moses on the Mountain, the people were worshiping golden calf. Because of this sin, 3,000 people were killed as punishment (Exodus 32:25-28). On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people received baptism at the preaching of Peter (Acts 2:41).

PERISH

The influence of Satan, sin, disease, and death came into the world because of the fall of the first parents. Jesus had spiritually redeemed us. However, if we voluntarily reject his salvation, we will perish for eternity. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The Greek word for perish is “apollumi” which means “to lose.” We are already lost by the original sin. Only Jesus can redeem us through his redemptive action 

The expulsion of first parents from paradise was a temporary removal with the promise of retrieval through a savior. That is why Jesus came in search of the lost sheep (Mathew 15:24). Just like the fall of the first parents was a free will decision, our acceptance of salvation through repentance also is a free will choice we have to make. If we opt not, we are losing our chance for rescue and willfully accepting our final and everlasting destruction. So our destruction is not from God but by our own selection.

Here are some examples of choice in favor of saving or perishing: Careless parents might be destroying the life of a child. A lazy student might be opting for a less quality adult life. A patient who denies taking medication or required surgery for terminal illness is accepting his own termination of life. A driver disregarding the traffic signal can lead to accident and even death. In each of these examples, there is an external support to guide for better life. Jesus is that guide and final rescuer for regaining our sonship with God.

PRAY ALWAYS

Jews used to pray three times daily, four times on Sabbath, and five times on the feast of Yom Kippur (Sabbath of the Sabbaths). Jesus did not specifically assign any time for prayer. Instead he said, we must pray always. For Jesus, besides personal, family, and church prayer, all our activities and services must be prayer based. Payer without mercy is meaningless for Jesus (Matthew 9:13). They should go together. Our work should be service oriented fulfilling the Lord’s prayer: to make the Lord’s name revered (Holy be your name), to establish the Kingdom of God (Thy Kingdom come), and to accomplish the will of God (Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven).

PRAYERS ANSWERED AFTER LONG WAIT

The early church went through persecution from Jews and Romans. At least some members of the suffering and tortured church felt like their prayers were in vain and that they were not getting justice on time. However, they had to persist in faith, hope, and charity. Their persistence was necessary for the survival of the church. They had to defend their faith until their death or until the second coming of Christ.  God would do justice and bring peace in due time. It happened with a divine intervention when the Christian persecution in the Roman empire was ended through conversion and reformation of the Emperor Constantine in 312 A.D.

There are people who pray for long time for the conversion of their spouse, child, or anyone dear to them. They might wonder why God delays in answering prayers for a good cause. St. Monica persisted in her prayer for around 17 years for the conversion of her son Augustine and her pagan husband Patricius. Finally, God answered the prayer and even raising her and her son as saints. A Canaanite woman in (Matthew 15:21-28) kept on seeking the mercy of Jesus, and she got it. A sick person at the Bethesda pool waited 38 years for a divine intervention without losing hope and he got healing from Jesus (John 5:1-15). A woman who had hemorrhage continued treatment and prayer for her healing for twelve years (Mark 25:5-34). She also got the healing from Jesus. During the public ministry of Jesus, he answered the long-awaited prayers of many sick people. His second coming would provide consolation for all who are suffering now.

PROPHETS, FALSE

The prophet was a representative and a spokesperson of God. This being a privileged position, there were people who pretended as prophets in the Old and New Testament times. Jesus warned his disciples to be cautious of false prophets who misguided people and led them to eternal destruction. In the modern times also, there are people without any apostolic succession who start churches of their own and try to convert people, including Catholics, to their sheep promising eternal reward through the easy way. Many of these evangelists do this for their own selfish motives.

Jesus warned that “False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24). Even when the Israelites where in the desert, God reminded them through Moses: “If there arises in your midst a prophet or a dreamer who promises you a sign or wonder, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’” whom you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ and the sign or wonder foretold to you comes to pass, do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer; for the LORD, your God, is testing you to know whether you really love the LORD, your God, with all your heart and soul.” (Deuteronomy 13: 2-4). So, God allows false prophets to test our fidelity to Him.

PROPHETESS

There were mainly five prophetesses before Christ. Miriam, the sister of Moses was a first one (Exodus 15:20) who led the women of Israel in praising God for drowning Pharaoh and his army. Another prophetess was Deborah (Judges 4:4) who was also a judge of Israel before the rule of kings. Huldah was another prophetess (2 Kings 22:14). The other prophetesses were Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14) and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). Then came Anna who came at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The prophetesses were very few and served only short-term compared to male prophets of the Old Testament.

PURGATORY

(Ref. Luke 12:59) “I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” This parable is a biblical proof for the existence of purgatory. In the parable, the accused person is not in prison for lifelong but until he paid the last penny, the least valuable coin. Most humans are gray, and not black or white in their spiritual status. Though sins are forgiven or absolved through sacraments, especially sacrament of reconciliation and anointing of the sick, the stains of sins are to be cleansed and compensations are to be made.

PURPLE GARMENTS AND FINE LINEN

(Ref. 16:19-31). Purple color is a combination of blue and red like violet but visibly better than violet. Garments made of natural dye was traditionally associated with royalty or piety and was worn by emperors of Rome, Byzantium and Japan or by highly rich and prominent people. The purple garments and fine linen were also the official dress of the high priest. The purple dye was the mucus secretion of predatory sea snails of Murex family found in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It had to be extracted from thousands of snails involving extensive human labor. So, purple garments were of high value and only rich and royal people could afford to buy them. Thus, garments made of natural dye became a status symbol.

Dress made of fine linen (byssus) was another expensive and prestigious clothing of the past. This silk dress originated in Egypt was worn by Egyptian priests. Egyptians got the material for this fine linen from India. When Pharaoh shared his power with Joseph, he dressed Joseph in robes of fine linen clothes (Genesis 41:42).  When the prodigal son returned after repentance, his father dressed him with finest linen (Luke 15:22). It had double the price of gold and could stand for luxury (Luke 16:19) or moral purity (Rev. 15:6). The rich man in this parable enjoyed being dressed in fine linen like the prominent Jews who also preferred to dress well in public. The purple garments and fine linen of the rich man were highlighted to show their contrast with the dirty and torn clothes of Lazarus.

QURBAN

(Ref. Mark 7:11-12). The literal meaning of “Corban” is “that which is brought near.” It was an offering made to God in the Temple to substitute an obligation. Such an offering and replacement of responsibility could not be withdrawn later. The temple authorities encouraged such offerings because they would benefit from the offerings made in the name of God. Jesus condemned such practices fostered by the Pharisees and Scribes because no temple offering could substitute the love and care to be given to the parents, especially when they needed care. It was also against the commandment of God and such an offering was not pleasing to God. Thus, Jesus was proving how the Jewish religious leaders were manipulating God’s commandments by substituting their own traditions.

Once a “corban” was offered, the person was free from any obligation to the parents. He could not reverse that by himself even if he changes his mind considering the needs of his parents. The exception should be sought from a wise man who had to formally approve to care for the parents whose services were already paid by corban. Jesus was criticizing that practice. Parents were suffering because of such false teachings and traditions the leaders had developed against the will of God.

RECLINE AT TABLE

According to the Jewish custom during the Biblical times, people were reclining on cushions around a low-level table for banquets. “Recline at table” represents the love, relaxation, joy, intimacy, and communion of saints at the Kingdom of God. This was how Jesus used to eat at houses and at the last supper. The prominent persons were in the middle and others were on the two sides of a U-shaped table setting. Though seats were not pre-assigned, guests were supposed to know where to recline. Once the guests seated themselves, the host would come to see the guests as given in the parable of the wedding garment (Matthew 22:11).

The original Passover in Egypt was done in a standing position. Later it was done on reclining position to show their relaxation and freedom because of their redemption from slavery.

REPENTANCE

Repentance is a prevalent theme in the Old and New Testament. Whenever Israelites broke away from God, God sent prophets asking them to repent and reconcile with God. The message of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for the Lord was also repentance. The baptism he administered was external sign of accepting repentance. Jesus and his disciples also called people to repent.

Jesus presented repentance in the vivid parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The son had deviated from his father by his own mistake. He came back to his senses and returned and reconciled with the father. However, the father was generous to accept him as his son with full rights which was more than the expectation of the prodigal son. In the parable, repentance presumes sin, that is deviation from the intimate relationship with God by our own fault. Our reviewing of faults, feeling of regret for the wrong actions, a resolution to change our behavior, and meeting God through baptism and later through the sacrament of reconciliation are necessary.

The Greek word for repentance is Metanoia. It implies a change of mind and change of conduct. The prodigal son was supposed to change his behavior and relation with his father. Jesus said to the adulterous woman who was brought to be stoned, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Repentance and reconciliation become complete only with the grace of God’s acceptance of our repentance and our willingness to change our sinful life.

Jesus came to help people to repent so that they shall be saved and become citizens of the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist also asked people to repent before the imminent judgment. Repentance included regret on one’s failures along with a change of mind, heart, and lifestyle. 

Repentance primarily involves turning away from sinful life. When tax collectors and soldiers came to John for baptism, they asked what they should do as part of repentance. He said to tax collectors: “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” To the soldiers he said: “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” (Luke 3:12-14).

Repentance also involves compensation for the mistakes done. When Jesus came to the house of Zacchaeus, out of repentance he declared: ‘“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’” (Luke 19:8-9). Saul, who persecuted the early church, compensated by working enthusiastically for evangelization and even becoming a martyr for Jesus. Augustine who had led a sinful life in the early stages of his life, when converted by the prayers of his mother Monica, served the church earnestly and became a bishop and doctor of the church. Church declared him as a saint.

Repentance is required from the righteous also. It can mean a change of mind or direction for betterment. God who is perfect is said to have repented. God had decided to destroy the people of Israel at Mount Sinai because they worshipped golden calf under the leadership of Aaron. However, Moses interceded for them. Then “Then the LORD repented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” (Exodus 32:14). Here, the meaning of repentance is a change of mind as given in modern translations of the Bible.

Taking care of the needy by acts of charity was also a sign of repentance. John the Baptist’s reply to the crowds that asked him what they should do for repentance was: “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” (Luke 3:10-11). He asked people “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance” (Luke 3:8). Again, John said, “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:9).

Lack of good work also is part of sin. People who do not produce good fruit out of the resources God gave them need repentance. That was why Jesus asked the young man who kept all the commandments of God, to sell his property, give to the poor and then follow Jesus. The prodigal son’s elder brother did not commit any sin other than his unwilling to accept his repentant brother. This elder son also had to turn away from his ill feeling against his brother whom the father welcomed. The action required is as Jesus taught, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). Thus, its twofold dimension is turning away from sin and turning towards God. So, after giving up sinful ways, we must put into practice the gospel of Jesus Christ in preparation for the Kingdom of God that would be fulfilled in his second coming.

Repentance, like faith, is also a gift of God to which we cooperate. Jesus came to the world with this gift for which he gave his life as ransom for our sins. When we positively respond to it, we become eligible for its benefits. Repentance is not a ritual of baptism alone. It is an ongoing process of renewing our life in Jesus and trying to do good in favor of the Kingdom of God.

RIGHT HAND OF GOD

Bible presents Jesus as one sitting at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110:1,5, Matthew 26:64, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, and Acts 2:33, 7:55). The biblical meaning of right hand is power, authority, or honor. “Sitting at the right hand” shows the high position Jesus has in heaven. The one who sits at the right hand of the supreme head is the second in command like a prime minister, or queen. When Jesus was seated at the right hand of God, he was exalted above all others in heaven. “Sitting” refers to the completion of the mission of Jesus and it also is another symbol of authority. Jesus oversees everything and it is only through him we reach the Father. Thus, the Messianic Kingdom, as envisioned by Daniel was inaugurated by the ascension of Jesus to heaven. “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.” (Daniel 7:14)

The ancient patriarchs usually blessed their children and grandchildren with their right hand. For example, while blessing the two sons of Joseph, Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim as the favored one (Genesis 48:13-14). The bride of the king stands at the right side of the king (Psalm 45:9). Since most people use right hand and because it is considered stronger than the left, the right hand stands for strength. The second in rank of the king would be seated at his right-hand side. When Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, came to the court of Solomon, he bowed before her, and then ordered to bring a second throne for her and placed at the right side of his throne to show her authority and honor in his kingdom (1 Kings 2:19). St. Stephen before his martyrdom was privileged to have a vision of heaven. He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55). This standing is interpreted as Jesus stood up to encourage and welcome Stephen to heaven. St. Paul wrote to Philippians: “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (2:9-11). There is no mention in the Bible as anyone sitting at the left side of God though there is a Jewish belief that Abraham sits at the left side of Yahweh.

As Christians, our goal is to reach at the right-hand side of Jesus. According to Mathew 25:31-46, there will be a separation of the faithful at the final judgement. Our position at right or left side of Jesus will be determined by how we practice our faith. The reward is for those who are eligible to be at the right side of Jesus, the supreme judge.

SANHEDRIN

Sanhedrin literally meant “sitting together” or assembly. Sanhedrin was established after Babylonian exile with religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction over the Israelites. Each city in the ancient land of Israel had a Sanhedrin consisting of 23 rabbis. The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem consisting of 71 judges headed by the Hight Priest was the supreme council and tribunal.  It also acted as the Supreme Court, taking appeals referred by lesser Sanhedrin. When “The Sanhedrin” was used it was referring to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. This Sanhedrin met every day except festivals and the sabbath day in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple. Romans had restricted their authority.

SERPENT IN THE DESERT AND JESUS

The Israelites had been wandering in the desert for 40 years since they left Egypt. It took such a long time because of their sins. Many had died in the desert. They had no immediate hope of entering the promised land because they were denied passage through the land of Edom. Though they were close to the promised land, Moses was leading the people in the opposite direction to travel around the land of Edom. That made the people upset. They again complained against Moses and God for lack of food and water and the quality of food they got by the grace of God. In response, God punished them by sending fiery serpents.  The snakes were called “fiery” because the bite by these snakes caused great fever and inflammation leading to death. Some other interpreters guess that these snakes had the color of fire. People asked Moses to intercede for them to God to take away the serpents. Instead of eliminating the serpents, God asked Moses to make an image of the fiery serpent made of bronze and raise it on a pole so that it could be seen from all parts of the camp. Whoever bitten by snake was asked to look at the bronze snake and their life was saved from death.

God who had denied making any image had ordered to create the image of a fiery serpent on a pole as a foreshadow of the crucified Jesus in the future. Looking at the bronze serpent did not mean to worship it but to remember their sin like the original sin committed by Eve at the temptation of the serpent and ask God’s mercy. It was not the bronze serpent that saved them but God who asked to look at it to remember God. However, the bronze serpent later became an object of worship. People were burning incense to it during the time of Hezekiah. So, the king destroyed it to regain proper worship of the Lord (2Kings 18:4).

Instead of the pole and bronze serpent of the Old Testament, now we have the cross and the body of Jesus on the cross to look at with faith and repentance for our salvation. The fact that there was a bronze serpent raised on a pole by Moses was not enough for saving the lives of the people. Those who were bitten by snake had to look at it with repentance and seeking mercy of God rather than relying on medical remedies of the time. The death of Jesus on the cross brought us salvation. However, we need to look at him with faith for our redemption. The cross of Jesus was also the way to the glory of Jesus. Our sufferings for Christ and his church also will lead us to partake in the glory of Jesus.

The bronze serpent was free from poison. So also, Jesus raised on the cross was free from sin.

SHEEP’S CLOTHING

Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). It was often difficult to recognize false prophets from the true ones. The false prophets used the same attire and language of true prophets. But they could be distinguished from their attitude and goals in their ministry. Jesus warned on such “wolves” that approach the sheep covered with sheepskin to misguide and destroy them.

There were people who abused the office of prophets during the early church. They were doing offensive and punishable actions in front of God. In the modern times, there are false prophets within the church and outside who seem to be true and try to mislead the faithful.

SHEKINAH

The glory of the Lord means a manifestation of God’s presence. The rabbis call it Shekinah, which means “that which dwells.” Though the Bible does not use that term, the rabbis coined it to signify God’s dwelling on the earth. It was first visible when the Israelites left from Succoth escaping from Egypt. The Lord appeared to them in a cloudy pillar during the day and a fiery pillar by night (Ex 13:20-22). The Lord’s glory later filled the tabernacle. “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle” (Ex 40:34). This glorious presence of God continued in the Temple of Jerusalem (1 Kgs 8:10-11).

SHEPHERD

The Bible characterizes kings as shepherds of their people. It even considers God and Messiah also as shepherds of the people (Ezek 34:1-10). In Psalm 23:1, David says, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

SIN AND SICKNESS

Traditionally sin was considered as the cause of sickness. This cause and effect were confirmed in the words of Jesus when he told the sick person whom he cured at the pool of Bethesda, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:14). Sickness could also happen as punishment for the sins of parents. “Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 20:5). Punishment for sins to generations is repeated in Exodus 34:7 and Number 14:18. That was the reason for the question of the disciples of Jesus when they saw this blind person from birth (John 9:2). They provided only two choices to choose from: his sin or the sins of his parents. Since he was born blind it could not be because of his sin. The probable answer they expected was that it was because of the sins of his parents or other ancestors.

SON OF DAVID

“Son of David” was a Messianic title originating from the covenant God made with King David around 1000 years before Christ. When King David asked permission from God through Prophet Nathan to construct a house for the Lord, the Lord did not allow his wish. However, God made promises to David that He would fulfill it through his son (2 Samuel 7:12–17). Who was this son through whom the promises were fulfilled? They were only partially realized through Solomon, the biological son and successor of David. And the rest had to be fulfilled through the Messiah, the seed of Eve (Genesis 3:14–15) and a greater son from the lineage of David.

Though Solomon built the Temple, the promise of God that “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13) did not happen in the life of Solomon. He ruled only for 40 years and committed sin, especially during his later age. So God said, “If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments.” (2 Samuel 7:14). This was only applicable to Solomon and not to the Messiah who was God who took human flesh. God continued in verse 16: “Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.” Thus, “forever” is repeated thrice (verses 13 and 16) emphasizing the everlasting nature of the Kingdom of David’s grater son.

Because of God’s promise to David that his son would establish his kingdom firmly forever, the Israelites have been hoping for an everlasting king from the line of David to sit on the throne of David and to rule the kingdom for eternity without any failure. God revealed this son of David through Angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of the Messiah. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). Matthew starts his gospel stating: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The “son of David” is used 17 times in the New Testament for Jesus meaning that he was the promised and long-awaited Messiah. The people acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah by proclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) during his triumphant entry into the temple of Jerusalem. 

“Son of David” was used for Jesus several times by people who were seeking his mercy.  For example, a Canaanite woman called Jesus, “Lord, Son of David” while asking him to cure her daughter who was tormented by a demon (Matthew 15:22). Two blind men requesting healing from Jesus also called him, “Lord, Son of David.” (Matthew 20:30). In these cases, they were acknowledging Jesus as their savior using the term Lord and the Messianic title “Son of David.” The usage of “son of David” by the angel to Joseph is not the messianic title but only meant that God sees his ancestral connection with David, from whose line the deliverer would come. There is difference in the use by “son” by translators: “S” is capital when “Son of David” is used for Jesus and “s” is small letter when it is used for Joseph.

The angel’s salutation to Joseph as “son of David” catches the attention. It is an acknowledgement of the fact that Joseph was descended from the bloodline of King David. Through this, the angel prepared Joseph for the next part of the message. Israelites were expecting a Messiah who would be a descendant of King David because of God’s covenant with him (2 Sam 7:12-16). So Joseph, as the legal father, also had a role in the genealogy of the Messiah.

Several people, while seeking the mercy of Jesus, called him “Son of David.” For example, a Canaanite woman called Jesus, “Lord, Son of David” when she beseeched him to cure her demon-tormented daughter (Mt 15:22). Two blind men requested healing from Jesus calling him, “Lord, Son of David.” (Mt 20:30). In these cases, they were acknowledging Jesus as their saviour using the term Lord and the messianic title “Son of David.” The angel addressing Joseph, “son of David” is not the messianic title, but only meant that God sees his ancestral connection with David, from whose line the deliverer would come. There is a difference in using “son” by the translators: They use capital “S” for Jesus as the “Son of David” and the lower case “s” for Joseph as the “son of David.”

SON OF GOD

The title "son of God" is used in the Old Testament for persons who had intimate relationship with God. Angels, Adam, the descendants of Seth, the selected representatives of God to lead Israel like the kings, princes, and judges, just or pious men were known as the "sons of God." (Job 1:6; 2:1; Psalm 89:7; Wisdom 2:13). God considered the nation of Israel as his first-born son (Exodus 4:22). They were creations of God and not sons in the strict sense. However, Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. Meaning of begotten is fathered or generated by procreation. So, Jesus as the begotten son of God means he is also God. No one else can claim this position. Hence, the Son of God when applied for Jesus had a special meaning in the New Testament because of the divinity of Jesus. So, the initial letter of “Son” is capitalized when used for Jesus to distinguish him from other sons of God.

“Son of God” has a greater and unique meaning when applied for the Messiah. At the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus, the voice of the Father declared Jesus as his “beloved Son.” Church believes that Jesus existed as the eternal son of God. The Nicene Creed of 325 AD states: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.” The creation of the world through the Son of God is mentioned in Colossians 1:15-18 and Hebrews 1:2.

SON OF MAN / SON OF GOD

The Hebrew phrase "the Son of Man" means a human being (Ezekiel 2:1). However, when the same phrase was used in the vision of Prophet Daniel (7:13), it acquired divine qualities because the son of man came with the clouds of heaven. Ordinary humans cannot travel on the clouds.  Jesus chose this phrase for himself out of his humility while others used “Son of God” that gives emphasis to the divine origin of Jesus. So, it designates the human and divine nature of Jesus.

STRAIGHTEN THE PATH

John the Baptist came to straighten the path for Jesus (Mk 1:3). There was a practice of widening the highways, cutting down and levelling the hills, filling dips and valleys, straightening the crooked roads, and thus removing all hindrances to a smooth ride where the king would pass. In the spiritual sense, John came to remove the hindrances of sin to clear the path for the everlasting King of Israel. So, John had to level the spiritual pride of the Jewish leaders, straighten the crooked ways of the rulers and the priests, and fill up the spiritual valleys of the sinners and the Gentiles.

SWADDLING CLOTHES

Wisdom 7:4 narrates that King David’s son Solomon was wrapped in swaddling clothes when he was born. Mary wrapped Jesus, the “Son of David” in the same manner. She had to do this herself because there was none to help her other than Joseph.

TEST / TEMPTATION

A test comes from God and temptation from Satan and not vice versa. God would never tempt a person to do evil. Whereas, the purpose of Satan is to lead us to sin against God. When God allows a person to be tested, the devil might take over as in the case of the story of Job. The Spirit led Jesus to the desert for testing his integrity as a human person. The devil took over as the tempter. Test is a challenging situation where we make a choice between acceptance or rejection of our loyalty to God. Satan might even manipulate the Word of God, to make us sin against the Divine as he did to Eve and to Jesus. Our response is significant. Adam and Eve failed where Jesus succeeded.

The Greek word for “to be tempted” (peirazein) means to assess like we test-drive a car before we buy or interview a person before an appointment. A Biblical example is Abraham who was tested before God made covenant with him as the father of all nations (Genesis 22:1). God also tested Israel for 40 years before their entry into the promised land: “Remember how for these forty years the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart: to keep his commandments, or not.” (Deut. 8:2). The intention was not to lead them to sin but to prove their commitment to God and to empower them to resist future temptations in their religious journey. The first parents failed in their test and later tests were for people selected to recompense that failure.

TOUNGES, GIFT OF

In Mark 16:17, Jesus had foretold the disciples, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues.” With the coming of the Holy Spirit, they were gifted with new languages. This can be understood in different ways: (1) They could speak with better understanding of the scripture, (2) they could speak different languages that they had not learnt before, or (3) others who did not know their language could follow what they spoke.

TRANSITION OF LEADERSHIP

John the Baptist’s approach to Jesus contrasted with an Old Testament event in the transition stage of King Saul to his successor David. When David, the anointed second King of Israel, became popular, King Saul got jealous and was chasing to kill him (1 Samuel 18:6-9). All his attempts were in vain because the Spirit of the Lord was upon David. King Saul had warned his elder son Jonathan: “For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, you cannot make good your claim to the kingship! Now send for him, and bring him to me, for he must die.” (1 Samuel 20:31). However, Jonathan kept a good friendship with David and protected his life from assassination attempts of his father. Jonathan said to David: “Have no fear, my father Saul shall not lay a hand to you. You shall be king of Israel and I shall be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (1Samuel 23:17). Though King Saul wanted his son Jonathan to be his successor, Jonathan was behaving like John the Baptist, preparing the way for the enthronement of David, God’s anointed king, and considered himself as second to him (1 Samuel chapters 19-24).

VINEYARD OF THE LORD

According to Isaiah 5:7a, “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in.” So, God is the landowner and Israel is the vineyard. Like a good landowner, God provided everything needed for the protection and development of Israel. In Isaiah 5:1b-2 we read, “My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.” Jesus presented God like a human who took special care of his vineyard. Though God owned all humanity, his favorite land was his vineyard, Israel.

VINEYARD, HEDGE OF

(Ref. Matthew 21:33) For the real vineyards, there were hedges made of stones to protect them from intrusions of wild animals and thieves. Hedge in the parable represents everything that God provided to separate Israelites from the rest of the nations. The Holy Land was geographically protected by natural defense like deserts, seas, rivers, and mountains. God also provided Israelites strict laws and made covenant with them to separate them from people who worshiped false gods.

VINEYARD, TOWER BUILT

(Ref. Matthew 21:33) Towers were built in the vineyards for observation and defense against the attacks of robbers. Jerusalem was built on a high place with God’s representatives watching over them to protect their covenant relationship with God.

VINEYAND, WINE PRESS

(Ref. Matthew 21:33) Wine press was to squeeze the grapes for making wine. The wine press of Israel was the tabernacle and later the Temple of Jerusalem, and wine was the divine worship and charity that flowed from the temple and the worshippers.

VIRGIN BIRTH

The ever-virgin motherhood of Mary is a miracle. Fathers of the Church taught that Jesus was born while his mother’s womb was closed. This is compared to sun rays penetrating through glass. Since Blessed Virgin Mary was born free from original sin, she was exempt from the punishment God gave to Eve, “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” (Genesis 3:16). So, Fathers of the Church believed that Mary was free from pain when she gave birth to Jesus.

From the gospel accounts it is not clear how Mary gave birth to Jesus without losing her virginity. The Theologians differ in assuming how this happened. Regardless of whether Jesus’ birth was by opening the womb of Mary by a normal childbirth or by a miraculous birth without opening the womb of Mary does not affect the virginity of Mary because the virginity is morally lost not by birth or by any other cause, but by sexual union. In Mary’s case, this did not happen. Mary, in her apparition in Mexico on 12 December, 1531 to Juan Bernardino, said that the church should title her as “The Ever Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe.” Thus, she herself has revealed her virginity (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/mary/popular-marian-devotions/our-lady-of-guadalupe).

Some Theologians interpret that Jesus was born while his mother’s womb was closed. They compare it to sun rays penetrating through the glass. According to this concept, Blessed Virgin Mary was born free from original sin, she was exempt from the punishment God gave to Eve, “I will increase your suffering in child-bearing, and you will give birth to your children in pain” (Gen 3:16). So, they believed that Mary was free from pain when she gave birth to Jesus.

VISION

See DREAM VS VISION

VOICE FROM HEAVEN

Only Jesus had seen God the Father. “No one has ever seen God, but the only Son made him known, the one who is closest to the heart of the Father” (Jn 1: 18). Whereas many had the privilege to listen to the voice of God. Jesus said: “It has been written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God” (Jn 6:45).

The following are some other examples of people who heard the voice of God the Father:

After giving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, “The LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from the heavens’  ” (Ex 20:22). Later Moses told to Israelites: “He let you hear his voice from heaven that he might instruct you; on earth he let you see his blazing fire and from the midst of the fire you heard his words” (Deut 4:36).

While the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his royal palace boasting of himself, “a voice came down from heaven, ‘this is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you’ ” (Dan 4:28).

 Saint Peter documented the transfiguration experience he, James, and John had: “when he received glory and honour from God the Father when from the magnificent glory this most extraordinary word came upon him: ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One.’ We ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pet 1:17-18).

While Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed in distress and asked the Father to glorify His name. “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and I will glorify it again’  ”  (Jn 12:28).

WAILING AND GRINDING OF TEETH

The Bible uses this phrase in several places. Wicked persons gnash their teeth against the righteous to express their hatred or anger as they did at the trial of Saint Stephen (Acts 7:54). Psalm 37:12 states: “The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them.” Jesus used this as a part of the last judgement. “That is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13:49-50). The grinding of teeth, along with wailing, expresses great and lasting anguish at the loss of everlasting life in heaven. It also would be their expression of disagreement in seeing others, like the Gentiles and former sinners, enjoying eternal reward with the forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

WATER AND BLOOD FROM THE HEART OF JESUS

Symbolic interpretations are given for the water and blood that came from the heart of Jesus. Water represents baptism and blood stands for the Holy Eucharist. This interpretation was confirmed in the vision to Sr. Faustina who was instrumental in propagating the Divine Mercy. Some believe that just was Adam’s side was opened to create Eve, God opened the side of Jesus to generate the church. Church uses water (baptism) and blood (Holy Eucharist) of Jesus to give spiritual birth and to initiate to Christian life. Through the baptismal water, Jesus cleans the stains of original sins and through the Eucharistic body and blood, he nourishes our soul for eternal life.

WAY OF THE LORD

John the Baptist preached the Way of the Lord (Mk 1:2). The way of the Lord is not the worldly highway that we use for transportation. It is a passage for holy people to reach the Holy Place of God. “There will be a highway which will be called the Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass through it, nor will any wicked fool stray into it” (Isa 35:8).

WEEDS

The weeds were not part of the creation of the world. They came into existence only after the fall of the first parents. While judging Adam God said: “Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field.” (Genesis 3: 17-18).

In contrast to the wheat that is used for making bread keeping human life alive, the enemy sows weeds, called darnel that produces poisonous seeds. Their roots weaken the wheat or don’t allow some to grow. Consumption of the weed called darnel can cause trembling, vomiting, hindered speech, inability to walk, convulsions, diarrhea, and even death. Small doses of darnel with fungus can cause hallucinations and high doses can damage the central nervous system. Spiritually speaking, only strong Christians can withstand the influence of the evil ones.

The devil has been sowing weeds or evil among God’s people all over the world and throughout the history of the world. It started with the temptation of Eve followed by Adam tempted by Eve. Later Satan tempted Cain to kill his brother Abel. During the time of Noah, most people were in sin and became like weed-filled world. During their journey to the promised land, the Israelites repeatedly sinned against Moses and God. Even after entering the promised land, they were influenced by the evil. Satan attempted to tempt Jesus. Satan used Peter and Judas against Jesus. Spiritual tares or weeds continue to torment the followers of Christ.

The darnel and wheat have great resemblance at the early stage of growth. While they grow together, it is hard to distinguish them. The Christians also face the same challenge in spiritual life. They cannot distinguish the right and wrong teachings and teachers. Heresies had happened in the history of the church. Just like the wheat and weed look similar, the good and bad teachings and teachers might look alike and attractive. Only by the time of their seeds or outcomes, people will realize their difference.

WENT UP

On the map, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are below or south of Nazareth. The text could be “went down from Nazareth.” Bethlehem that is near Jerusalem is at a high altitude than Nazareth in Galilee. So, one who travels from the north to the south was climbing up.

WIDOW

Widow who was a symbol of helplessness in the Biblical times. Compared to any other books written, the Holy Bible gives importance to the care and protection of widows. God commanded the nation of Israel to take special care for widows along with others who need their care. God commanded through Moses: “You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.” (Exodus 22:21-23). Psalm 68:5 presents God as the defender of the widows. God asked the Israelites to give full participation for widows in the celebration of the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles along with their children, slaves, Levites, resident alien, and orphans (Deut. 16:11-14).

Jesus, the Son of God, also gave special care for the widows: He raised the dead son of a widow in the city of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). He spoke high of a poor widow who could offer only two small copper coins in the Temple treasury. "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on." (Mark 12:42-44). Jesus criticized the Scribes “who devour widows’ houses (Luke 20:47). While dying on the cross, Jesus entrusted his widowed mother to John’s care (John 19:25-27).

WINE

Wine was an integral part of the Jewish meal. During those days, there was no purification of water. Since sickness could happen because of contaminated water consumption, authorities asked people to drink water mixed with wine (1 Tim 5:23). To get drunk from wine was a disgrace. So, Mary and Jesus were not promoting alcohol consumption but compensating for the lack of popular healthy drink for the banquet.

WHOEVER HAS EARS OUGHT TO HEAR

This has been a phrase Jesus used at the close of some of his serious teachings. It means that God has formed us with ears to hear and ability to understand the commandments of the Lord by the working of the Holy Spirit. We must respond to that by obeying them. This hearing is not just an external hearing but hearing with a good heart to produce its fruit. Jesus used this phrase when the teaching was important, not easy to comprehend, and to stir up the immediate attention of the listeners for action.

WOLVES, RAVENOUS

False prophets and false rulers were nicknamed as wolves. Ezekiel spoke of bad rulers of Jerusalem: “Within her, her officials are like wolves tearing prey, shedding blood and destroying lives to extort profit.” (Ezekiel 22:27). Jesus sent his disciples “like sheep in the midst of wolves.” (Matthew 10:16). The seriousness of the damage that these “wolves” cause is emphasized by using the adjective “ravenous.”

WOMAN

There are cultural differences in saluting others. Jesus calling his mother “woman” was a normal, polite form of address and had a formal implication. The reference is to the book of Genesis where God declares enmity between the “woman” and the serpent (Gen  3:15). Jesus used the same term “woman” when he entrusted Mary to the Apostle John while he was on the cross (Jn 19:26).

ZEALOTS

The Zealots were a group of revolutionaries organized against the Roman rule. Their hatred to Rome later led to fight against Romans and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.