The Pressing of Grapes

The amazing story of Redemption is hidden in these verses.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

This is a well-known saying of Jesus and I have read it many times. But, this time I decided to take a look at the Greek meanings and roots of the important concepts – narrow, wide, broad. I would like to share with you what I discovered and some related verses that help reveal the amazing story of Redemption hidden in these verses.

Enter through the narrow (stenos) gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small (stenos) is the gate …

The word translated “narrow” in verse 13 and the word translated “small” in verse 14 are the same Greek word, which is stenos. Stenos means narrow or strait, and it comes from the root word histemi, which means to stand, abide, continue, covenant, to be of a steadfast mind which does not hesitate or waiver.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NASB)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NASB)

But small is the gate and narrow (thlibo) the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The other word in verse 14 also translated “narrow” (or hard, difficult) is thlibo, which means to press like grapes, press hard upon, be crowded, afflicted, suffer tribulation and trouble. There are two breathtaking roots to this word: tragos = a male goat; and trauma = a wound or wounds.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 15:33 (NIV)

Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins … The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:21-22 (NASB)

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 (NIV)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

For wide (platus) is the gate and broad (euruchoros) is the road that leads to destruction

The word translated “wide” is platus. Its origin is the root word plasso, which means to form, mold, fabricate, or shape.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Finally, the word translated “broad”, or spacious, is euruchoros. It comes from chora which means and empty expanse or the space lying between two places or limits. Interestingly, the root of both these words is chasma, from which our English word chasm comes.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)

For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 (NIV)

Enter through the narrow gate, where you can abide in me, holding fast your confession without wavering. For wide is the gate where you are formed by the molding of the world, and broad is the road that leads to destruction and separation from God, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road, where you are pressed hard upon like grapes, afflicted, suffer tribulation and trouble for my sake, but that leads to life, and only a few find it.

I [Jesus] am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9 (NIV)

Friends

This completely turned upside down my thinking about John 21. I don’t think Jesus is settling for a lesser form of love from Peter. I don’t think this is another failure for Peter.

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapao) Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agapao) Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (phileo) Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:15-17 (NIV)

Much has been written about this passage of scripture. Many have thought that it was Jesus’ way of reinstating Peter after his three denials on the night Jesus was arrested – the three declarations of love wiping out the three denials – and I believe that was part of it. And many have pointed out the two forms of the word “love” used in these verses and wondered about the possible meaning. Jesus uses the word agapao in his first two questions, but phileo in his last question to Peter. Peter replies, “yes,” but uses phileo in all three of his answers.

Agapao simply means to love in a social or moral sense. E. Stauffer[i] writes that agapao, or love, of God means total commitment and total trust. So, when Jesus asks Peter, “do you agapao me?” He may have been asking also, “are you totally committed now, do you trust me?”

Peter replies, “yes,” but then goes on, not answering with agapao, but with the Greek word phileo. Phileo means to be a friend to, to be fond of an individual or an object, to have affection for, to kiss, to love. It would appear at first glance that this is a lesser form of love. And some have thought that Jesus was prodding Peter to the higher form of love, but Peter, after his devasting failure in the denial episode, could only promise the lesser form of love – to be a friend. They have concluded, “that Jesus finally concedes defeat and accepts only the lower form of love which is all that Peter is capable of offering.”[ii] But, when I looked further into the meaning of this word, phileo, I was amazed.

Phileo is the verb form of the noun philos, which means friend, dear friend, associate, neighbor. But, it also means this: “one of the bridegroom’s friends who on his behalf asked the hand of the bride and rendered him various services in closing the marriage and celebrating the nuptials.” This friend is acting as the best man. This friend carries a huge trust and responsibility. He asks for the hand of the Bride on behalf of the Bridegroom! This is the word for friend that John the Baptist used in this verse.

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. John 3:29 (NIV)

Jesus said, “You are my friends (philos) if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends (philos), for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14-15 NIV). This sounds like a greater call, a greater trust, a greater service to our Lord than to be a mere servant who is not privy to what his master is about. He’s calling us to be the friend, the best man, of the Bridegroom! To go out and ask for the hand of the Bride on His behalf. Isn’t that what evangelism is all about? What a precious thing this Bride! What an amazing responsibility and calling is given to us!

This completely turned upside down my thinking about John 21. I don’t think Jesus is settling for a lesser form of love from Peter. I don’t think this is another failure for Peter. I think Peter is saying, “Yes Lord, I love (agapao) you! I fully trust and am committed to you. But even more, I accept the calling and responsibility to go out and bring back to you your Bride.” That’s why Jesus can ask, in a way, the third time, Are you prepared to be my Best Man? Go find and take care my Bride.

Am I prepared? Are you? Can we say, Yes Lord, you know I phileo you!

The people I love (phileo, I am a friend to), I call to account–prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! Revelation 3:19 (MSG) 

 

[i] E. Stauffer in Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

[ii] NetBible.org. Translator’s Notes.

Photograph of the bride with the best man and groomsmen by Caitlyn Brouwer. All rights reserved by Jessica Bair.

The Last Adam

Could it be that, as the first Adam who sinned was made from the dust, this last perfect, sinless Adam would be crushed back into dust so that, through Him, humankind might be remade, reformed, become new creatures, transformed?

Surely (truly, verily, indeed) he took up (lifted up, bore) our infirmities (malady, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness) and [He himself] carried (bore, was laden or burdened with) our sorrows (anguish, figuratively affliction, grief, pain, sorrow), yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted (chastened, humbled, humiliated). But he was pierced (chalal) for our transgressions, he was crushed (daka) for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on (paga) him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)

The verses of Isaiah 53 are familiar as describing the Messiah, Jesus, and what he would do for us in his suffering on the cross. They are beautiful verses, full of wonderful promises, and I have read them many times over the years. But, this last time as I looked closer at the Hebrew meanings of the three words highlighted above – chalal, daka, paga – I saw some things I had never seen before. I would like to look at them here, saving daka for the last.

First, chalal (חָלַל) is a heartbreaking word. Translated “pierced”, it means to wound fatally, bore through, pierce. But it also means to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, to treat as common. One way a person could be defiled in the Old Testament was through contact with the dead (Leviticus 21:4). We were dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:1-6) yet Jesus had contact with us. He had contact with our pollution, our dirt. I like the image above. It’s messy and dirty. God got his hands dirty saving us. The sinless, perfect, unblemished Lamb of God allowed himself to be defiled, polluted, treated as a common criminal to carry our sins and rebellions to the cross, and there, do away with them (Isaiah 53:9, Luke 23:33). Not only did God get dirty, he also allowed his reputation to be destroyed. Psalm 8:9 proclaims, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name (reputation, fame, glory) in all the earth!” Yet, he laid it all down to completely identify with us. The Bob Carlile song calls Him a “Man of No Reputation.”[1]

The Hebrew word paga (פָּגַע) is translated here “laid upon” – God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. It means to lay upon or light upon, but it also means to cause to come between, cause to entreat, make intercession, meet together, pray, reach the mark. In laying on Jesus our iniquities, God caused Him to come between us and the justice due us from a righteous God. Jesus has become the Intercessor, entreating the Father for us, reaching the mark set by God for us – whereas we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”[2] – making the way for us to meet together, to come into His Presence.

Amazing grace! But it was the Hebrew verb translated “crushed” here – daka (דָּכָא) – that stunned me. It means to crumble, to bruise, beat to pieces, break in pieces, crush, destroy, humble, oppress, smite. The noun derivative of this word is dakka and literally means “dust.” It is used in Psalm 90, “You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men” (NIV). Could it be that, as the first Adam who sinned was made from the dust, this last perfect, sinless Adam would be crushed back into dust so that, through Him, humankind might be remade, reformed, become new creatures, transformed? “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV)

Could it be that Jesus, Son of God, became a human being so he could bear all the punishment and consequences of our rebellion against God? All the infirmities, malady, anxiety, calamity, disease, grief, sickness, sorrows, anguish, afflictions, and pain could be laid on Him? That He would become our sin there on the cross, and then would be crushed to dust so that the Potter could remake, reform humankind into a new creation?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8 (NASB)

But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again. Jeremiah 18:4 (NLT)

Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:7 (NASB)

 

Image detail: By Earthen Potter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54699329

[1] Man of No Reputation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVJtfXLqFr0

[2] Romans 3:23

This blog is also a Bible study, free to use, at The Last Adam Bible Study

One Thing

One thing only is necessary, that I find God, that I am one with Him – to see Him, to hear Him, to experience Him, to know Him.

The number one is very important in the Word. Old and New Testaments proclaim, “Hear … the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29). Having a oneness in ourselves, in our hearts – a unity and oneness with God in relationship and love is the theme throughout. David asks God, “Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11). James warns us not to be double-minded, but fixed, sold out.

Come near (be joined) to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (wavering, uncertain, doubting, divided in interest). James 4:8 (NIV)

 Marriage – the two becoming one – is a picture of this goal of oneness with God. So, idolatry, making anything more important than our relationship with God, is seen as adultery. We were made for this oneness, but our sin and rebellion has divided us from the One who loves us. Jesus came to show us the way back, to provide the way for this to happen. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NLT).

Karl Rahner wrote of Jesus’ life and acts as a demonstration this one essential thing.

Therefore Jesus goes into the desert, therefore he fasts; therefore he leaves behind everything else that a man needs even for bare existence, so that for this once not just in the depths of his heart but in the whole range of his being he can do and say what is the first and last duty of humankind – to find God, to see God, to belong to God to the exclusion of everything else that makes up human life. And therefore he fasts. Therefore through this cruelly hard act, this denial of all comfort, this refusal of food and drink, through the solitude and abandonment of the desert, through everything else that involves a rejection, a self-denial of the world and all earthly company, through all these he proclaims this fact: one thing only is necessary, that I be with God, that I find God, and everything else, no matter how great or beautiful, is secondary and subordinate and must be sacrificed, if needs be, to this ultimate movement of heart and spirit.[i] (emphasis mine)

One thing only is necessary, that I find God, that I am one with Him – to see Him, to hear Him, to experience Him, to know Him.

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

To see God
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

To hear God
One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! John 9:25

To experience God
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

To know God

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You more and more
You’re my one thing

Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with
My one thing
You’re my one thing

One Thing by Rich Mullins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aqP-A4tKCA

 

Image in the Public Domain: Mary Magdalene at the Feet of Jesus by James Tissot. In the Brooklyn Museum

[i] The Great Church Year, Karl Rahner.

Rags of lordship

We still wear in our hearts the “rags of lordship” as Tolkien called them, we have the sense of exile, yearn for what we have lost – the relationship with and Presence of God.

“Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile’.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 

 “I do not believe God has given up His world. I believe the human race was created in the image of God and though we fell into shameful disgrace and moral tragedy, God Almighty sent Someone to restore us again to that holy place from which we fell. I believe in the ultimate restoration of the world.” –A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:17-21 NIV)

Reconciliation: I. To bring (a person) again into friendly relations to or with (oneself or another) after an estrangement. II. To adjust, settle, bring to agreement (a controversy, quarrel, etc.)–Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

The Greek word translated “reconciliation” is katalegé (καταλλαγή). It means adjustment, restoration to divine favor and comes from katallasso: to change, exchange, reconcile. The verse above says that God has reconciled us to himself through the cross of Jesus Christ. If the human race can be reconciled, if we can be restored, to friendly relations as after an estrangement, there must have been a time when God and man were friends. Tolkien said that we feel that estrangement as a “sense of exile.” Genesis says that God walked daily with the man and woman in the Garden. But, that was lost and ever since we have had this quarrel with God, we are hostile to him. As hostile combatants, we need to adjust ourselves, make the carpenter’s level straight, come to our senses as the Prodigal, be brought back from exile, restored to our rightful places as sons of God. Part of it is adjusting ourselves through repentance; part is being made different, a new creation by the power of God, by the blood of the Lamb.

We still wear in our hearts the “rags of lordship” as Tolkien called them, we have the sense of exile, yearn for what we have lost – the relationship with and Presence of God. Deep down we yearn to walk again with Him, we know that we are supposed to be sitting with him in heavenly places, that we are supposed to someday rule and judge with Him. All who reject and rebel against God have that God hole in them that cannot be filled with anything else. And God’s yearning for that reconciliation is even greater. “Come back,” he whispers. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come” (Revelation 222:17 NIV).

“My wayward children,” says the LORD, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” (Jeremiah 3:22 NLT)

“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach …” (Colossians 1:19-22 NASB)

“The heart of man is not compound of lies
But draws some wisdom from the only Wise
And still recalls him. Though now long estranged
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned
And keeps the rags of lordship once he owned.”
—Tolkien, Mythopoeia

 

Look up and see

In Genesis 22:7-8 when Abraham is on his way to obey God in faith and sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering, Isaac asks his father, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answers, “God himself will provide (ra’ah) the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” God does provide a ram, “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw (ra’ah) a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide (ra’ah), or Jehovah Jireh. And to this day it is said, “’On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided (ra’ah).’” (Genesis 22:13-14).

The word translated both “saw” and “provide” in this verse is the same Hebrew word, ra’ah (רָאָה) which means:

to see, perceive, observe, consider, look at, give attention to, discern, gaze at, appear, present oneself, cause to see, show, cause to look intently at, behold, cause to gaze at, to be caused to see, be shown, be exhibited, to look at each other, face

God sees what’s going on, he is giving attention to it. Some people think it is like he is going to “see to it.” He is gazing at and sees the answer to the problem right now. He is going to cause us to see, behold, the answer too, as he caused Abraham to see the ram caught in the thicket. And he has been seeing the answer to all our problems from the beginning of time. The mountain, Moriah, where this all took place, and where “on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” is the same mount where Solomon built the first temple (2 Chronicles 3:1) and where the second temple was rebuilt (Ezra 5:13). God saw it all, from beginning to end, and provided the answer there on mount Moriah when Jesus came to offer himself up as the Passover Lamb. He let himself be caught like the ram in the thicket; he let himself be sacrificed.

At the temple Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus and he was prophesied over (Luke 2:22-32); “my eyes have seen your Salvation” (2:30). At the temple Jesus taught daily, demonstrating his power and authority and allowing the children to call him the Son of David or Messiah (Matthew 21:14). In the temple the veil dividing God from the people was torn in two from top to bottom as Jesus died, providing the way for reconciliation to God (Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45, Matt. 27:51). The sacrifice for our sins, providing reconciliation with God, was provided. And if we look up we will see it, and we will be able to look at God face to face.

For some reason this knowing that God sees, that he’s got it all under control, he’s planned and known the answer from the beginning of time – this has boosted my faith way more than just knowing that he is my provider, though that is a wonderful and awesome fact. I know I can trust in him, I can lean back on him, he’s got my back, he’s got it all figured out.

But you, O God, do see (ra’ah) trouble (misery, pain) and grief (vexation, frustration, anger); you consider it to take it in hand. The victim (or unfortunate one, poor) commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14 NIV)

 

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/