Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Tree of Life: Messianic Parsha-Haftorah-Brit Hadashah CommentaryFor This Week

Genesis 1:1-6:8; ; Isaiah 42:5-43:10; John 1:1-5; Revelations 22:6-21

The Messianic Parsha readings this week are wonderfully interlinked. As we open the scroll again to begin at the beginning we also have a glimpse of the ending and the thread that ties it all together, the alef, the taf, and the Word Himself.

Adam and Chavah are created mortal with the potential to become immortal. Gods breath sustains them but after they eat from the Tree of Life they will be by nature deathless. They are created, blessed and given freedom and pleasure. There is only one thing requested of them: to live in and by faith, through God. They are to live in reception of God, which is not an obligation or task but a blissful blessing.

As we know the story takes a long, crooked turn. Adam and Chavah believe the lie of the serpent and distrust God- they take matters into their own hands. As Bonhoeffer says, they desire "their own possibilities" good and bad; they eat the fruit. Through this fall they fall into death and away from the life of their Father. They leave the Garden mortal and vulnerable, estranged from the Tree of Life (etz chayyim).

God's redemption plan is revealed in this week's haftorah: Isaiah 42. In Rabbinic synagogues they will begin the reading at 42:5, but this misses the first key verses which will be so resonant to believers in Yeshua (42:1-5):

Behold my Servant whom I uphold
My chosen one in whom my soul delights
I have put my spirit upon Him
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or raise His voice
Nor make his voice heard in the street 
A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or discouraged
Until He has established justice in the earth
And the coastlands wait for His teaching.

The Rabbinic opening passage was perhaps chosen because it echoes Bereishit: 

42:5-7: Thus says YHVH The Lord
who created the heavens and stretched them out
who spread the earth and what comes from it
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk on it......

Here YHVH describes Himself as both the Creator and the enlivener: it is YHVH who gives breath and spirit to those who walk the earth. YHVH is the source of life, has given it and continues to give it. That we walk around breathing is his moment-to-moment gift. Should he withdraw his spirit we would perish. 

In the next verses YHVH says that He will give Yeshua as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 

The key image here is the transition from darkness to light. What is this light?

John 1:4-5:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

The light, then, is actually the servant Himself- it is in Him. The very light that enlightens human beings is His light. 

And what is the dungeon? This liberation is not just political or juridical, no it is universal in scope and arouses overhelming gratitude and joy:

Sing to YHVH a new song
His praise from the ends of the earth
you who go down to the sea and all that fills it
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice.......
let them shout from the top of the mountains
Let them give glory to YHVH
and declare His praise.....

What causes this eruption of joy is the work of Hashem's servant, the one who liberates from the dungeon and the prison. What could this universal prison be but the entrapment to sin and its wages? The lies of the serpent are darkness; the narrowing and bondage of human life "turned inward on itself" (incurvatus in se) is the dungeon. This "slavery to sin" and its result, death, alienate us from God now in His miraculous Creation and can alienate us from the eternity of intra-trinitarian love He wishes to give us in the New Creation. 

The (4th-8th century?) Jewish Targum Yerushalmi, a midrashic translation of the Tanakh, translates the story of Adam and Chavah to show Hashem's Messianic rescue mission. T.Yerushalmi adds the following to the famous protoevangelium of Bereishit 3:15:

For them (Adam and Chavah)....there will be a remedy, but for you (ie. the serpent) there will be no remedy; and they are to make peace in the end, in the days of King Messiah. 

(M.Maher, Pseudo-Jonathan, 3:15, 27-28, quoted in Shapira, Return of the Kosher Pig p.123). 

This New Creation is symbolized in the book of Revelation as the "new jerusalem" or "holy city". It is those who "wash their robes" in the blood of the Lamb who "have the right to the tree of life" and "enter the city" (Rev 22:14). This is the completion of God's saga and of our rescue from ourselves.  

Hesed Ha'Adon Yeshua Im Kol HaKedoshim. Amen. 

The Grace of The Lord Yeshua be with all the Holy Ones, amen. 

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