"Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." (Matthew 16:18)
It's been a long vacation week. I fully expected to take it easy and get a little well-deserved rest. That was until the sudden panic call from my Bible seminary Dean of Early Church History.
"I really hate to impose, knowing how you had looked forward to your well- deserved vacation, but we have a dire emergency. You see, my professor of Jewish History has suddenly become ill and I need a substitute for his upcoming lecture study entitled "Upon This Rock."
"It's a badly needed lecture on the philosophy of our Christian roots, particularly in light of God's chosen people and the church. You see, the world's viewpoint is surely changing. We need to do our part in bringing back the Old Time Religion roots."
"I know you're the right man for this quick assignment. I'm sure you'll give it your best professional service," he said, taking his hat in his hand, so to speak, by phone.
What could I say? I was really lucky, however, as that particular subject happened to be part of my thesis of my doctrinal presentation for my professorship.
Now, if I can just recover that paper. All I'll need, after blowing off the dust, is to bring it up to date to comply with the Twenty-First Century religious mind set. That should be rather simple. Let me just sleep on it and I'll get started early tomorrow.
Then it happened. In spite of trying to get some much needed rest, I seemed to have drifted off into another of my wild dreams. I just hope I can remember it, come tomorrow.
Suddenly I found myself standing on the summit of a very high mountain. Appearing in the backdrop of the clouds was a rather large ornate Jewish synagogue, surrounded by a collection of white marbled memorial pillars, seemingly aglow by some sort of divine light source. Each held an inscription of one of the Jewish high holy days, etched in the ancient Hebrew language.
Subsequent to this rather strange synagogue setting I heard what appeared to be a rustle in the surrounding undergrowth, partly hidden by fog, I looked up and standing there was a strange-looking character looking me straight in the eyes.
He was an old-fashioned Jewish rabbi, decked out in ultra-orthodox rabbi's clothing, including the big black hat, long black beard and the traditional, customary side-locks.
What a near-mythical sight he was. As he stared, his eyes seemed to take on a piercing, hypnotic effect. In his hand was a large scroll, bearing the heading "Upon This Rock."
As if by divine direction, I realized that this Rabbi happened to be slightly over-protective of this particular scroll.
"Sir, I don't rightly know who you are. But I need very badly to see your scroll," I said.
"Oh no, my child, this scroll is sacred. It contains the holy, inspired writings of days gone by," he replied, quoting (II Timothy 3:16) (II Peter 1:20-21).
"Okay then can you just give me a little critique as to its context, by reading a little of the introduction. You see, I may be familiar with this particular exposition," I begged.
Continuing in the fluent Old Hebrew vernacular, and holding the scroll up close to his eyes, he began to read.
UPON THIS ROCK
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1- The Prediction (Matthew 16:15-19)
Chapter 2- The Power Came Down (Acts 2:1-6).
Chapter 3- The First Evangelist (Acts 2:14-36)
Chapter 4- The Church Begins. (Acts 2:41-47):
"OK, enough already, just get to the Introduction, if you will," I responded rather sarcastically to his reading.
Without any verbal acknowledgement, and with a simple nod of the head, he began reading.
The church, God's Church. When did it began? Where did it start? How did it start? How and when will it end?
The Christian Church, originating in the first century AD, was founded on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who first gathered disciples Those disciples later became known as "Christians." According to Scripture, Jesus commanded them to spread his teachings to all the world And so the church was born. (Matthew 28:19-20) (Acts 1:8)
For most Christians, the holiday of Pentecost (an event that occurred after Jesus' ascension to Heaven) represents the birthday of the Church, signified by the descent of the Holy Spirit on gathered disciples. The leadership of the Christian Church began with the apostles.(Acts 2:1-6)
So the church actually started in Jerusalem Israel, under the direction of the Jewish apostles (Acts 2:41-47) and moved outward to the Gentiles.
Our Savior, Jesus, was a Jew. He was born into a Jewish family and was reared according to Jewish law in a Jewish town.
Without the Jews, we would have no Bible. Without the Jews, there would be no Ten Commandments. Without the Jews, there would be no Jesus. Without the Jews, there would be no Christianity.
Jesus was clear that He was the Good Shepherd of the Jews and Gentiles alike when He predicted that His flock would be greatly expanded. (John 10:16).
And Scripture is very clear that Jesus came to save everybody (I John 2:2). Jesus Christ is God Himself (John 1:1). He died on the cross as the payment for all our sins, and He rose from death in resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3–4).
Enter the Apostle Paul, a devoted Jew determined to persecute 'those of the way', Christians. (Acts 9:1-2) However, Jesus drew his attention and he was changed forever. (Act 9:3-5) Almost immediately He began his life-long journey of proclaiming Jesus. (Acts 9:20) Aside from Jesus himself, the Apostle Paul was the most prominent Christian player of the New Testament. Without doubt, I personally know this to be true.
And so throughout the land, the church grew mightily by being built up in the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and continued to increase. (Acts 9:31)
After which, through the preparation of the apostle Peter, Gentiles were also converted to the Gospel. (Acts 9:32-10:22)
So now, we Christians are delivered from the law. The law could not justify us because we could not keep the law. (Romans 8:3). So God provided us His Son who perfectly met the requirements of the law (Romans 8:4) and then took our place as the perfect offering for sin. (Romans 8:3)
Knowing that our sinful nature remained in us, God sent us His Holy Spirit to help us (Romans 8:5-9), and strengthen us (Romans 8:13) as God's children. (Romans 8:15-16) The Spirit also prays for us. (Romans 8:26-27)"
"Wait just a minute, Sir, you have just read the Introduction of my doctoral dissertation. Just where did you get that?" I questioned.
Without any hesitation, and not saying a word, he simply gave out a big smile, motioning for me to follow him inside the synagogue.
Once inside, I was instantly shocked at what I observed. This strange rabbi hurriedly walked up to the front stage, taking charge of the church service.
What was also so amazing were the number of people sitting in the pews, people of all ages, and apparently from every social status. All were dressed in the traditional Jewish clothing as was the Rabbi.
I will never forget this gathering; several hundred loyal Jewish worshipers, all in one accord. First, my new-found rabbi friend donned a prayer shawl, then he began his teaching about how Jesus had fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53.(Please read this chapter) When he had finished, he and the congregation knelt in prayer. What a wonderful sight to behold! Hundreds of dedicated Jewish Christians were praying in their native Hebrew language, lifting raised hands towards their heavenly God.
Then, I got the surprise of my life. As the prayer time ended, the rabbi stood up with an all-important announcement.
"The Lord has blessed us in His Word and in prayer. Let us now bless the Lord in worship.”
I then heard a loud bang behind me, and then another and another. I looked around and saw people folding up the chairs and putting them against the walls. Then I heard the startup of some very rhythmic Jewish music. The next thing I knew, we were in a large circle dancing with shouts of joy, while singing praises to the Lord.
What a sight to behold! I just have to thank my new-found rabbi friend for allowing me to worship together with his church.
"Sir, Sir, where did you go?" I began echoing loudly at the top of my lungs, throughout the synagogue, but to no avail. It was all a dream, and a rather intense dream at that. It was much like all my other dreams of late.
Awakening, I found myself slumped back in my man-cave lounge chair. Luckily, I had my desk right in front of my eyes and lying on the desk was my long-lost dissertation paper addressing the subject I was to lecture on.
Yes, He does work in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. I just can't wait to show off with my well planned "show and tell" dream performance. I'm ready now, Father, Amen.
One last parting thought: Who was this well-dressed rabbi well-versed in the Jewish vernacular, who suddenly appeared to help out our main blog character?
Here's a little hint. This well-educated Jewish Rabbi seemed to have had bad eyesight. He had held the scroll close to his face as he read. Was his bad eyesight a thorn in the flesh? (Acts 23:5) (Acts 28:1-3) (Galatians 4:15) (Galatians 6:11) We too may all have our own personal thorns in the flesh. Get the picture here? Amen!
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