And the second is after the first
This year, April roughly coincides with the month of Nisan, and Nisan is the month in which we celebrate our Messiah’s death and resurrection at the Passover Seder. Four times in the Seder we say “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Who brings forth the fruit of the vine.” At our Lord Yeshua’s last supper and last seder, He took of the fruit of the vine and identified it with His blood, shed for us.
The connection is more than superficial. Yeshua had already identified Himself as the Vine in Yohanan (John) 15:5 saying “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Right away we are led to understand that we are part of Him – the true Vine. In Isaiah 5:1-7 Israel is described in an analogy as the vine that the Lord has planted as well (see also Psalm 80:9-10). We don’t have to be profound thinkers to realize that the vine speaks of both our Lord and our relationship to him. If we remain in him we will produce fruit. It is inevitable. Inescapable. For He is a healthy vine.
If you have ever grown grapes, you have probably been amazed at the profusion of grapes, over quite a time, that come from the grape vine. The healthy vine is abundantly and obviously a fruitful plant and a delight to its owners. All of these things, the Last Seder of Yeshua, Yeshua being the Vine, and His people who remain in Him bearing fruit are bursting with meaning for us each time we celebrate the Seder and remember Yeshua in the Fruit of the Vine.
The earliest believers in Yeshua also “connected the dots” and Jewish tradition, and each time they broke bread together would thank the Father “on account of the holy vine of David your servant, which you made known to us through Yeshua your Servant” (Didache 9:2). The tradition was rich, for in the daily prayers there is a regular prayer for the restoration of the “Shoot of David.” It was for the early believers a recognition that our prayers have been fulfilled. Messiah has come!
At our Passover Seder, we sit together and worship the Almighty both for the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and the redemption offered through His Son, Yeshua. When we do so, the implication is clear. This is more than a one-time event. We have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility to remain in (read: in communion with) Him, and if we do so, we will bear much fruit.
2017 – an auspicious year.
On October 31, 1517, exactly 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. This date is commonly regarded as the start of the Protestant Reformation, although some Protestants had already been burned at the stake in the Netherlands earlier that year.
On August 29, 1897, exactly 120 years ago, Theodor Herzl called the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, as a symbolic Parliament for those in sympathy with the implementation of Zionist goals. The Zionist movement was officially born! In the first Aliyah, between 1882 and 1903, 25,000 Jews entered Palestine to join the ancient community there.
On November 2, 1917, exactly 100 years ago, Lord Balfour of England issued a declaration to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland saying: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This set the stage for the British role in the establishment of the Jewish state.
On 29 November, 1947, exactly 70 years ago, the United Nations voted against Arab protests to recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. This plan stipulated that the British Mandate would be terminated as soon as possible and the United Kingdom would withdraw no later than 1 August 1948. The new states would come into existence two months after the withdrawal, but no later than 1 October 1948.
On June 11, 1967, exactly 50 years ago, the Six Day War in which Israel defended her right to exist came to an end. Israel begged Jordan not to enter the war, but after Jordan attacked Israel following Israel’s pre-emptive strike on Egypt’s air force, Israel fought back. As a result, the ir hakodesh (the Holy City Jerusalem) and the entire west bank of the Jordan was won back in that defensive war. To at least some degree, 2000 years of being “trodden down by the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) suddenly came to an end.
Zionism was called that because Zion has always been the heart of Jewish aspirations to return to our ancestral homeland. While others suggested the Jews could live in a region in Far-East Russia, Uganda, or the USA, no other place would do. As one commented, “telling Jews to live anywhere else is like telling someone why travel to visit your mother when there are so many elderly ladies much closer by”!
Kehillath Tsion is called the “Congregation of Zion” because we care about Zion – the place where the Name of the Almighty is uniquely identified. We are unabashedly Zionist, and call upon all to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6). Israel turns 69 this year, and it will be a sign of the faithfulness of Him who promised “Again I will build you, so you will be rebuilt, virgin Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines as ornaments, and go out to dances of merrymakers. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria— planters will plant and use them. For there will be a day when watchmen will call out in the hill country of Ephraim, ‘Arise, let us go up to Zion, to Adonai our God’” (Jeremiah 31:3-5).
Tonight (starting at sunset, Wednesday May 26th) is Lag B’omer – the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. It is a minor festival, but a popular one. The counting of the Omer is the 50 day count from Yom Habikkurim (the Feast of Firstfruits) after Passover until Shavuot (Pentecost). “Lag” in Lag B’omer is the equivalent of 33, and this is the 33rd day of counting the Omer.
Traditions: Lag B’omer is a time during the Counting of the Omer when people can celebrate. While the Omer is a time of mourning, on Lag B’omer marriages can be performed, children are taken to parks to play, and people often gather for large bonfires. The fires represent the light of the Torah, but also have some dark mystical overtones that should give us pause.
Since the ancient rabbi, Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) died on this date, he is also celebrated. This is where the bonfires come in, and people flock to Tzfat in the Galilee to get mystical around the fires. Interestingly, Chaim Lucky, a Chassidic believer in Yeshua argued about a century ago, that Rashbi knew about Yeshua and passed on at least some of Yeshua’s teachings in his own writings. For Lucky’s article, go here: rabbi-shimon-bar-yochai.html
Kehillath Tsion is celebrating thirty years of service to the Jewish community of Vancouver in 2016 / 5775.