I pray that you are blessed and encouraged in your walk with Christ as you work through these lessons and read the insightful comments made by other ministers doing the course. That your love for Christ Jesus will deepen and your commitment strengthen. That your faith will prove genuine and endure to the end with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as we receive the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
Each lesson is linked below, to make it easier to work through the whole course…
This course is focused on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach. We begin by developing an understanding of the world He was born into, and how it had been shaped in preparation for His coming – looking at the developments in Judaism from the Babylonian exile until the rule of Rome, and how the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophesies elicited strong expectations of Messiah’s coming.
In SECTION 2 we take an in-depth look at Jesus’ life in the context of this culture which we have seen develop in the centuries leading up to His birth. As language is an essential part of culture, names in this course are often written in their original Hebrew (along with the English translations that most of us are more familiar with).
After Yeshua’s clash with P’rushim (Pharisees) and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) in Capernaum over ritual hand-washing, when He went on to declare all foods “clean” (Mark 7:19), He led His talmidim into Gentile territories to minister to the Jewish diaspora there. The group travelling with Yeshua likely included other men and women along with the 12.
To the Lost Sheep of Israel in Gentile Territory
The warm sunny days of spring were melting into hot dry summer days as they ventured north-west towards the Mediterranean Coast. Apart from a quick boat trip across the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, Yeshua’s ministry had been confined to Israel until now – preaching the kingdom of God in the regions of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Now He started conducting short-term mission trips to the surrounding areas to minister to the Jews living outside their land, yet still within the land promised to their forefathers.
The gospel writers had earlier recorded for us that people came from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Perea, Tyre and Sidon to hear Yeshua speak and be healed of their diseases (Mark 3:6-12; Luke 6:17-19). Maybe some had begged Him to come back to their home towns and teach all the people there? Commentators have proposed three reasons for Jesus to lead His disciples on this journey into Gentile territory: * Jesus knew He had only one year left to instruct His disciples in sound doctrine and how to reach the world with the gospel before He returned to Heaven so shifted the focus of His ministry from the multitudes to His disciples, spending quality time instructing them in the word of God. * He wanted to avoid Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. After Jesus fed the multitudes, they wanted to make Him king (John 6:15). Antipas, who had imprisoned and murdered John the Baptist, would have seen this as an insurrection and a threat to his throne, and wanted Jesus arrested. *Jesus wanted to initiate another test for His disciples and teach them a valuable lesson about prejudice in preparation for sending them into all the world after His resurrection. What we do know is that the Father sent Him to each of these places in His good timing and for His purposes.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
This was not a journey the Jewish religious leaders were likely to make in order to keep trying to find fault with Him. Indeed, only the most committed of His followers would venture into these lands with Yeshua. This was not the sort of place where Jews could expect a warm welcome. Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian commented that “among the Phoenicians the Tyrians, are notoriously our bitterest enemies” (Against Apion 1:70, 71; LCL 1:191). Yet, less religious Jews had spread along all the trade routes and established communities in every place of commerce, adding to the productivity and wealth of cities such as Tyre and Sidon.
A Canaanite Woman’s Faith
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:21-28 ESV
From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed. Mark 7:24-30 NKJV
Yeshua left the Jewish territory of Galilee and headed north-west to the coastal Syro-Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Their ministry schedule had been so hectic back in Galilee, preaching to large crowds and multitudes coming for healing. Now Yeshua was taking His talmidim (disciples) on more long journeys by foot, through hostile lands, during which they could connect more deeply with Him and each other. Depending on which way Yeshua and His talmidim walked to Tyre and Sidon, their journey north would have been around 85 miles (136 km) putting one foot in front of the other over some steep and rugged country. Whereas their walks to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals, approximately 240 miles (386 km) round trip for each one, would have been on crowded roads as thousands of other pilgrims made the same journey, this mission took them along more isolated routes. There would be no clambering crowds in these areas. During their long days walking, and around the campfire at night, they saw different aspects of their rabbi, not the grand and exciting aspects that you tell the world but the close, intimate, indescribable things that draw hearts together.
Tyre was the main seaport of the Roman province of Syria and Phoenicia – a prosperous city with pagan temples and twin harbours built on either side of a small island. The Roman settlement, to the south of the island, was constructed adjacent to the causeway linking it to the mainland, built by Alexander the Great during his siege in 332BC. Strabo, a Greek geographer, wrote a description of the city of Tyre sometime at the beginning of the First Century AD stating: “The houses here, it is said, have many stories, even more than the houses at Rome… by means of the seamanship of its people, in which the Phoenicians in general have been superior to all peoples of all times, and by means of their dye-houses for purple; for the Tyrian purple has proved itself by far the most beautiful of all; and the shell-fish are caught near the coast; and the other things requisite for dyeing are easily got; and although the great number of dye-works makes the city unpleasant to live in, yet it makes the city rich through the superior skill of its inhabitants.” (Geography 16.2.23; LCL 7: 267, 269). The Greek god Heracles, known as Melkarth to the Phoenicians, was the main deity of Tyre. Yet he was not the only god worshipped in this city. An inscription was discovered in the necropolis of Tyre that dated the dedication of a temple to the god Apollo to around AD 28/29 (Rey-Coquais 1977:1-3, Plate 50; Bikai, Fulco, and Marchand 1996). Tyre would be one of the first Roman cities in the region to embrace Christianity, so the seeds planted during this trip would later produce much fruit.
Like many of the surrounding territories, there was a significant Jewish diaspora in this region and it was to these lost sheep of Israel that their Messiah had come. It is interesting that the gospel accounts tell us nothing about what He preached in their synagogues, whose house He stayed in, or any of the miracles He did among the Jews in this region. The most important lesson that Yeshua’s talmidim learnt from travelling to these coastal port cities of Tyre and Sidon was the faith of a Gentile woman, a Canaanite.
The woman was Hellenistic and spoke Greek, but ethnically she was a Canaanite and geographically she was Syrophoenician. Canaanites were the original inhabitants of the Promised Land. They lived on the shore of the Mediterranean from Lebanon to nearly Egypt, and east to the Jordan River. Descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:18–25), the Canaanites were known for being wicked and idolatrous. Yet this woman had learned enough from the Jews living in her region to recognize Yeshua as the Son of David, Messiah of the Jews (Matthew 15:22). She called Him “Lord”.
Incredibly, this woman of evil descent does something that most Jews, and even Yeshua’s talmidim, fail to do – understands the parable Yeshua answers her with. Her mind is not clouded by pride or self-righteousness. She is poor in spirit. She is not basing her request on anything of value or worth within herself – she has no status nor standing on which to base her claim on His healing power. She acknowledges that she has no right to demand anything of the Jewish messiah, so is not insulted by His parable which illustrates such: “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” The woman was a mother and Yeshua was saying to her, “You know how families eat: First the children eat at the table, and afterward the leftovers are thrown to the dogs. It is not right to violate that order. The puppies must not eat food from the table before the children do.” After the resurrection Yeshua would command His disciples “Go to all peoples of all nations“, but for now He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and she was not one of these. Yeshua’s parable to the Syrophoenician woman is basically saying, “Please understand, there’s an order here. I must go to Israel first, and not to the Gentiles until after the Jews have received from their Messiah.” In this, Yeshua presents her with both a challenge and an offer. Unlike most of the Jewish religious leaders, this woman understood what He was doing and responded accordingly.
“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” She doesn’t take offense or stand on her rights. She responds to the challenge: “Okay, I understand. I am not from Israel, I have not been worshiping the God that the Israelites worship nor living as they live. Therefore, I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that, but children can be messy with their food, not value what they have, such that some of it falls to the floor below them where the dogs are waiting; there’s more than enough on that table for everyone in the world, and I need mine now. Even the crumbs of what you’re giving are enough to set my daughter free.” She wrested with Yeshua in the most respectful way, in a very Jewish way, and she would not take no for an answer because her daughter had a need that only He could meet. This Gentile woman understood that He has such an abundance that her daughter could be delivered without it in any way diminishing what He had to give to the Jews. She sort after and would value what they discarded. Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
While the other Jewish rabbis insisted that any Gentile must first go through the long process of converting to Judaism by learning the Torah and adopting all the Jewish worship and cultural practices before they could expect anything from God, Yeshua made no such demands on this woman. Her simple, tenacious faith was enough. Her request was answered, her miracle received, her daughter healed.
This Syro-Phoenician Gentile woman’s faith was soon to be matched by evidence of the faith and obedience of a Greek Gentile man. Both had come to Yeshua seeking deliverance from demons, the woman sort Him for the sake of her daughter and the man had been possessed by a legion of unclean spirits.
Time to Be with Jesus
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon… Mark 7:31a
They continued walking north along the coast, away from Jewish Galilee and towards the city which had been the source of much of ancient’s Israel’s idolatry which led to their destruction.
Sidon is the Greek name (meaning ‘fishery’) for the ancient Phoenician port city of Sidonia. Sidon was a popular place of healing in Roman times – with a temple to Echmoun, a local god who was regarded by the Romans as Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Along with the city of Tyre, Sidon was the most powerful city-state of ancient Phoenicia and first manufactured the purple dye which made Tyre famous and was so rare and expensive that the colour purple became synonymous with royalty. Glass production made Sidon both rich and famous and the city was known for being very cosmopolitan and ‘progressive’. Sidon is considered the ‘seat’ of the Phoenician Civilization in that most of the ships which would plied the seas and spread Phoenician culture were launched from this city’s port. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Princess Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of Sidon, in the 9th century BCE, who later would become Queen of Israel (I and II Kings) when she was married to King Ahab to cement ties between the two kingdoms. Jezebel had brought the worship of Baal and Astarte to Israel that resulted in Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal and God sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18). This visit of the Redeemer of mankind to the city of Baal and Astarte is full of significance.
From Sidon to Decapolis
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.Mark 7:31
From Sidon, Yeshua turned east, then south to the area of the Decapolis, a further journey of about 120 miles (193 km) back over the mountains separating the coast from the Jordan Valley. The route followed is only vaguely indicated by the text, but it may have been designed to preclude the necessity of entering Galilee by staying on the east side of the Jordan River. 193 km is a lot of walking through hostile territory. It provided more time away from the clambering crowds. Time for silence. Walking. Time for prayer. Walking. Time for sharing. Walking. Time for being. Walking. These were intimate times, not shared with the rest of us. The precious, needed times in between ministry engagements. Every disciple of Jesus needs such times with Him.
The Decapolis was a league of ten Greek cities. Cultural clashes and strong animosities had continued to simmer between the Jews and the Greeks since the Greek leader Antiochus sacrificed a pig on an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and outlawed Jewish practices, resulting in the Maccabean Revolt whose victory continues to be celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. As Rome had assumed dominion in the East, leagues of Greek cities had formed to promote their common interests in trade and commerce, and for mutual protection against the peoples surrounding them. This particular league of 10 cities seems to have been constituted about the time of the Roman Emperor Pompey’s campaign in Syria, 65 B.C., by which several cities in Decapolis dated their eras. They were independent of the local tetrarchy, and answerable directly to the governor of Syria. They enjoyed the rights of association and asylum; they struck their own coinage, paid imperial taxes and were liable to military service. These cities were all on the east side of the Jordan River except for the capital of the league, Scythopolis, the ancient Bethshean (where King Saul’s headless body was strung up on the city gate by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:8-10). While they were part of the Promised Land, allocated to the tribes of Manasseh and Gad, and there is evidence of Jewish communities in these cities (most had synagogues), it seems clear that this area was now considered pagan by those Jews who were devoted to Israel’s God and His Torah as the guide for their lives. “Riotous living”, as was engaged in by the prodigal son in Yeshua’s parable, was commonplace in Scythopolis, leading some to believe this was the “distant country” where he fed the swine.
Down along the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee they travelled, until they came to the region of the Decapolis where the minority Jewish population were considered very backward and unsophisticated by the majority Greek population. The first time Yeshua had ventured into the Decapolis the local population had begged Him to depart. They wanted nothing to do with this man whose word had resulted in their pigs rushing down the hill and throwing themselves into the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:17, Luke 8:37). Yet, two men had been set free from demonic oppression that day and one of them responded by wanting to follow Yeshua and become His disciple. Instead of allowing this man to travel with Him, Yeshua had told him to return to his own people and tell them what God had done for him. In Jewish territory Yeshua kept commanding the recipients of His miracles to tell no one, but in this Gentile land He had instructed the Gentile recipient to go to his own people and tell them all what the Lord had done form him (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:38-39). See the end of Wind & Waves – Renewal Blog.
We can see how faithful this newly delivered man had been in obeying Yeshua andsharing his testimony throughout the region. His testimony about the great things that Yeshua had done for him had impact and the people’s response to Yeshua when He returned was totally different to their initial rejection of Him. This time large crowds flocked to hear Him, and those needing miracles were brought to Him.
There some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him. After He took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes he deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37 NIV
The scriptures do not tell us if the man who was deaf and had such difficulty talking was Jew or Gentile. Nor does it give us any details about those who begged Yeshua to lay His hands on this man. We know from Matthew 4:25 that there was a large Jewish population in the Decapolis, many of whom had followed Him: “Great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan followed Him”.
Yeshua and those walking with him were back in a populated area and the crowds were pressing in.
They begged Yeshua to place His hand on the man. He did not go with their prescribed method of healing. First, Yeshua took the man aside, away from the crowd. Then He did something different: put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (a Hebrew word which means “Be opened!”). It seems like a very unhygienic technique, and Yeshua did not perform these actions elsewhere, but for this man at this time this is what was needed. We can only speculate as to why that was. His talmidim were learning that there was no set “prayer formula” for healing – each case required listening to the Father’s voice and following His directions, even when they seemed strange or unusual.
Now Yeshua returned to His familiar injunction to Jews and in Israel: “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.” The people’s response was as it had been in Israel: “But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement.“
This miracle had quite an impact on the local population: “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” This populous who exalted in Greek culture and despised traditional Jewish ways were suddenly captured by the actions of the Jewish Messiah. His miracle cut through all their sophistication and prejudices, and they found themselves declaring “He does everything well” . Ancient Judaism really did have more to offer than all the modern sophistication of the Greeks and Romans.
Feeding the 4,000 (plus women and children)
Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Matthew 15:29-31 NIV
Word had spread that Yeshua was back from the region of Tyre and people had come from far and wide once more. Mark 8 tells us that some had come a long distance to hear and see Yeshua. They had brought supplies with them to this remote place, expecting a good long time of ministry. The scriptures do not specify whether the majority of the crowd who had come to see Yeshua in this Gentile area of Decapolis were Jews or Gentiles. Some commentators see strong evidence that they were Jews (eg. Cousland & McCall) and others see strong evidence that they were Gentiles (eg. Harvey & Franz). What we do know is that many had come in the hope of receiving healing, and they were not disappointed. For three days they had stayed up on the mountain with Yeshua, through the heat of the day and the cool of the night. For three days the lame, blind, crippled, mute and many others had been brought to Yeshua one after another and He had healed them. We are not told what Yeshua taught during those three days, maybe it was lessons that his disciples had already memorised and recorded for us. The focus of His ministry in this remote place was healing. The mute spoke, the crippled were restored, the lame walked and the blind could see. The people had responded as in the Psalms, praising the God of Israel, acknowledging Yeshua’s healings as connected to their covenant with God. This was a Jewish response to the Jewish Messiah.
Blessed be ADONAI the God of Isra’el from eternity past to eternity future. Amen. Amen. Psalm 41:13 CJB
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! Psalm 68:35 NIV
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Psalm 72:18 NIV
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD. Psalm 106:48 NIV
“They praised the God of Israel” could also have been a Gentile response acknowledging that the God of Israel had done what their gods could not.
Now Yeshua was getting ready to close the meeting and send everyone back to their own homes, but there was one more thing He wanted to do for them before they left. He had compassion on them.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then He took the seven loaves and the fish, and when He had given thanks, He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 15:32-38 NIV
The feeding of the 5,000 had been in early Spring when the ground was covered in a thick layer of lush grass for the people to sit on. Now the grass had dried up in the dry summer heat and the people had only the bare ground to sit on through the day and lay on through the night. Yet still they had come, even in the heat of summer, even carrying those who could not walk. They had come, some from a long distance, because they recognised that Yeshua was their only hope. He had not disappointed them. He healed them even as Psalm 103:2-3 described: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” Displaying the Father’s nature as Yahweh Ropheka: The God who Heals. Now He would display the Father’s nature as Yahweh Yireh: God will see/provide. Yeshua saw their need of food for the journey, and He provided.
During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When He had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, He broke them and gave them to His disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; He gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. Mark 8:1-9 NIV
In this, too, He was teaching His talmidim by involving them in the miracle. He began by calling His Talmidim to Him. Yeshua expressed His heart to them: “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” He waited for their response.
Yeshua saw the people’s need, His talmidim saw the impossibility. We learn from their response that this mountain was not close to any cities, towns or villages. There was no where close that they could go to but the food needed. No where close that the people could buy their own food on their way back home. “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
Yeshua’s response to them was as His response so often is to us – what do you have? Their combined supplies seemed so small and insignificant in comparison to the size of the people’s need. They had been part of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 but had no thought that Yeshua would do it again for this crowd until they heard His question: “How many loaves do you have?”
In their answer some see evidence that this was a feeding of Gentiles. The number seven is symbolic of God’s perfect, finished work, it is reminiscent of the seven days of creation when God created all humanity and so, they say, representative of not just Jews but Gentiles receiving His provision and being invited into the kingdom too. Not only did Yeshua give thanks for the bread, as was the Jewish tradition, but Mark records that He also gave thanks for the fish, which some think is also evidence that this was a ministry to Gentiles.
After everyone had eaten and been satisfied the broken pieces that remained were enough to fill seven baskets. Again we have a number symbolic of God’s perfect, finished work. In the feeding of the 5,000 the number of baskets filled with left-overs was twelve, symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was a difference in the type of basket filled on each occasion too. The kophinos used after the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13 ) may be confidently identified with the kūphtā’ of the Mishna which was a wicker basket provided with a cord for a handle by means of which it could be carried on the back with such provisions as the disciples would naturally have with them when travelling. The sphuris or spyris, large reed basket or hamper, used after the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8) was also used in letting Paul down from the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:25), so must have been considerably larger than the kophinos and quite different in shape and uses. That the disciples had brought larger baskets of food with them for their long journey to this remote location than they took to the grassy slopes near the city of Bethsaida would not be surprising. Interestingly, the seven hampers of food pieces from the 4,000 might have been more than the twelve baskets from the 5,000.
Through all this the talmidim were learning more about Yeshua’s priorities and the exercise of God’s power through Him.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Houdmann, S. Michael. Mark 7:26. Bible Ref. [Online] Got Questions. [Cited: February 17th, 2021.] https://www.bibleref.com/Mark/7/Mark-7-26.html. 3. Gentry, Austin. MEANING OF MARK 7:24-30. Austin Gentry. [Online] [Cited: February 17th, 2021.] https://www.austingentry.com/meaning-mark-724-30/. 4. Bible Hub. Mark 7:31. [Online] [Cited: February 18th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/7-31.htm. 5. Taylor, Chris & Jenifer. Jesus in Tyre and Sidon. The Bible Journey. [Online] [Cited: February 21st, 2021.] https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/5-jesuss-journeys-beyond-galilee/jesus-in-tyre-and-sidon/. 6. Jones, Brian. Jesus Walked, A Lot. BrianJones.com CHALLENGING PEOPLE TO LIVE MEANINGFUL LIVES FOR JESUS WITH LESS. [Online] [Cited: February 21st, 2021.] https://www.brianjones.com/jesus-walked-a-lot/. 7. Blessitt, Arthur. MILES JESUS AND MARY WALKED. The Official Website of Arthur Blessitt. [Online] [Cited: February 25th, 2021.] https://blessitt.com/miles-jesus-and-mary-walked/. 8. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Decapolis. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: Febriary 25th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/topical/d/decapolis.htm. 9. Stevenson, John. Feeding the 4,000 – Mark 8:1-10. Anglefire. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/mk08-01.html. 10. The Feeding of the Four Thousand Gentiles in Matthew? Matthew 15:29-39 as a Test Case. Cousland, J. R. C. 1, s.l. : Brill, January 1999, Novum Testamentum, Vol. 41, pp. 1-23. 11. Talbot, Elizabeth V. Bread of Satisfaction: A Narrative-Critical Study of the topic of Bread in the Gospel of Mark. Lasierra. [Online] November 2008. https://lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/religion/asrs/ASRS-Papers-2008-06-Talbot-Bread-of-Satisfaction.pdf. 12. Edersheim, Alfred. The Feeding of the Four Thousand – to Dalmanutha. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/library/edersheim/the_life_and_times_of_jesus_the_messiah/chapter_xxxvi_the_feeding_of.htm. 13. Smith, Lee. MATTHEW 15:32-39 Pp Mark 8:1-10. Old Doctrines New Light. [Online] Arlev. [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] http://www.arlev.co.uk/matt053.htm. 14. McCall, Thomas S. The Feeding of the 4,000 — Were They Gentiles? Zola Levitt Ministries – the Jewish roots of Christianity. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021] https://www.levitt.com/essays/feeding4000 15. Franz, Gordon. Jesus in the Region of Tyre and Sidon. Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/5052 16. Kelley, Jack. FEEDING 4,000 AND 5,000. Grace through Faith. October 12th, 2015. [Online] https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/feeding-4000-and-5000 17. Harvey, Ted. What’s the difference between the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000? Summerset Hills Baptist Church. February 11, 2020. [Online] https://www.somersethillsbc.org/shbc-blog/whats-the-difference-between-the-feeding-of-the-4000-and-the-5000/ 18. Franz, Gordon. The Feedings of the Multitudes – When, Where and Why? Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/4968 19. Dr. See Seng Tan. The M&Ms of our Miracle Working God. International Students Inc. April 20th, 2020. [Online] https://www.seesengtan.com/blog/the-mms-of-our-miracle-working-god
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*If God has had you travel from your home town what purposes did you see Him fulfil through that? * Do you have any neighbouring regions where you might be considered an enemy because of your tribe or ethnicity, or are you living in an area or nation where this is the case? What do you think it would have been like for the disciples to walk with Jesus into this region where the people were considered the bitterest enemies of the Jews? * Describe a time when Jesus took you into a “hard place” or difficult time, to draw you closer to Him and equip you for future ministry. * Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere, they walked long distances, often over difficult terrain, to reach various places of ministry. What would have been some of the advantages of travelling on foot instead of having the vehicles often used today? * What was it about the Syro-Phoenician woman that led Jesus to declare “great is your faith” ? * Jesus’ ministry in these Gentile territories seems to be almost exclusively focused on healing and deliverance – why do you think that was and what do you think His disciples learnt from this? * What do you think the disciples learnt from the feeding of the 4,000 and how does this relate to your ministry?
Then some P’rushim (Pharisees) and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) came to Yeshua and asked him, “Why is it that your talmidim (disciples) break the Tradition of the Elders? They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim (ritual hand-washing) before they eat!” He answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother, “I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,” then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.’ Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God! You hypocrites! Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah) was right when he prophesied about you, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.’” Matthew 15:1-9 CJB
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” He answered and said unto them, “Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And He said unto them, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’; and, ‘Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death’: But ye say, ‘If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.’ And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mark 7:1-13 KJV
TRADITIONS OF THE ELDERS // ORAL TORAH Mitzvot D’rabbanan (Aramaic for “from the rabbis”) – all three categories of rabbinic commandments, which also became known as the “Oral Torah” and came to be attributed to Moses’ revelation on Mount Sinai, thus giving them, according to many Pharisees, the same status as the Written Torah (ie. books of Moses, first 5 books in the Bible). They consisted of: ~ Gezeirah – laws instituted by the rabbis/“elders” to prevent people from accidently violating a Torah Mitzvot (law). Commonly referred to as a ‘fence’ around the Torah. ~ Takkanot – laws unrelated to the Biblical commandments that were created by the rabbis/“elders” for the public welfare, to ‘make the world a better place’. ~ Minhag – long-standing customs of the community.
By the time the Jewish schools of Hillel and Shammai became well established, during Yeshua’s childhood, disputes on the Oral Torah had become so widespread that there was fear that it would eventually seem like there were really “two Torahs” prescribing two different ways to live as Jews. It was in the context of this time of contest and debate within Judaism that Yeshua trained His talmidim, sometimes in agreement with the prevailing opinions of the Torah scholars,and sometimes in stark contrast to them.
As the Son of God and as Messiah, Yeshua was not bound to submit to the authority of earthly religious leaders in determining how to live as a Torah observant Jew. Prophetically, Deuteronomy 18:15-19 speaks of God raising up a prophet like Moses for the people of Israel:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NKJV
Yeshua was this prophet like Moses who would speak to the Jewish people all that God commanded. The Sanhedrin (who were the supreme religious council, or court, in Israel during His time) claimed to trace their origin and authority to the elders appointed by Moses (Exodus 18:25-26 & Numbers 11:16-30). These were appointed to serve under Moses in judging the people so that they would follow God’s Torah as He had delivered it to Moses. No Jew would suggest that Moses was helplessly bound to accept the rulings of these elders. His role rather, was to teach these elders to make rulings he would be agreeance with even as he sort to hear from God to rule in such manner that agreed with God. Yeshua, as Messiah, held Moses’ own authority and, like Moses, had the right to approve, modify or reject any ruling by the elders, the Sanhedrin and all the Jewish religious leaders. Yeshua was thus perfectly within His right, and fulfilling His God-given role, to put aside the traditions of the elders (takkanot and gereirah) that He disagreed with. Thus it was in uniformity with Torah that Yeshua put aside some of the traditions of the elders in order to teach the people how to truly obey God’s commandments and live in His halakhah.
Jewish Ritual Handwashing As would later be written in the Talmud, Jews are required to wash their hands and say a blessing before eating any meal that includes bread or matzah (the unleavened cracker-like bread eaten at Passover). The ritual, known as netilat yadayim, is typically done using a two-handled cup, but other vessels can be used. There are various customs regarding how the water should be poured, but a common practice is to pour twice on the right hand followed by twice on the left (this is reversed for those who are left-handed). Hasidic custom is to pour three times on each hand.
Using the non-dominant hand to pour first can feel unnatural or awkward, highlighting that the washing is done for ritual rather than pragmatic purposes. The tradition is unrelated to personal hygiene, and a person is still required to perform this ritual even if his or her hands are clean. It is also customary not to speak following the recitation of this blessing until reciting the blessing for bread and partaking of some.
Some passages in the Talmud indicate that failing to undertake the ritual hand washing before a meal is a significant transgression. One talmudic sage even said that eating bread without ritual washing is tantamount to having sex with a prostitute, while another stated that acting contemptuously toward this ritual causes one to be uprooted from the world.
So it was that these Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem “found fault“μέμφομαι – a deeply personal rejecting as fully blameworthy, disgraceful and condemnable due to deep wrongs done by omission or commission. Their condemning question: “Why is it that your talmidim (disciples) break the Tradition of the Elders? They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim (ritual hand-washing) before they eat!”, or “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders?” was a back-handed way of condemning Yeshua, for His talmidim were doing what talmidim do – following in their rabbi’s footsteps and imitating His ways. Yeshua had chosen to avoid complying with this tradition of His people in order to provoke a response that would provide a teaching opportunity. He shunned their valued tradition because He wanted to open their eyes to the ways in which they were using their traditions, which they were claiming as commandments from God, to avoid obedience to God’s actual commands. Yeshua was teaching His talmidim, and us, the dangers of unwittingly substituting the commandments and teachings of men for God’s commands. The Jewish religious leaders thought their developing Halakhah dictating every aspect of their lives, ensured walking in meticulous obedience to God’s commandments, when it was actually enabling a rejection of God’s commands, as so much religious activity can do.
What lesson did Yeshua consider to be so important that He led His talmidim in disregarding the traditions of His people in order to highlight it? The 5th commandment – honour your father and mother. Yeshua accused the religious leaders of encouraging the breaking this command of God in the most practical, life affecting way. Here Yeshua was not presenting honouring our parents as some warm emotion or thinking them to be the best people in the world, although it can include such. Nor was He highlighting the need for children to obey their parents, as important as that is. He was speaking to adults about our obligation, before God, to provide for our parent’s needs as they age. His rebuke of these religious leaders was scathing: “But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother, “I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,” then he is rid of his duty to honour his father or mother.’ Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God! You hypocrites!”
Giving into the hands of religious leaders is no excuse for failing to meet the needs of our aging parents. Building a church is no substitute for meeting the needs of our aging parents. Religious rituals or gifts are no substitute for treating others right and fulfilling our obligations towards them. Paul understood what Yeshua was talking about when he wrote: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8). This reformation that Yeshua was bringing to Judaism refocused attention on God’s commands to love one another and to honour parents in real and practical ways.
When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15:10-20 NKJV
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:14-23 NIV
Yeshua was giving them a big priority reset. Through the generations the Jews had developed multitudes of religious rituals which they equated with God’s commands, and so much of their theological debate centred on the “correct” way to undertake these rituals in order to be acceptable to God. Yeshua contended that godliness was not about how one performed a series of religious rituals but about how one treated others. No ritual could cleanse the heart, nor was it ritual failure that defiled the heart before God. In both accounts Yeshua lists actions that defile and these are all about how we treat others, not about religious rituals. These are the things that Yeshua declared defile us:
“evil thoughts” πονηρόςδιαλογισμός – ponērósdialogismos. πονηρόςponērós= pain-ridden, having a miserable preference for choosing actions that exacerbate and spread their emotional pain and then blame others, ponērós is “like a nasty cloud – always ready to spread its misery”, laborious trouble, the active outworking of sin spreading contagious suffering and hardships. διαλογισμόςdialogismos = back and forth reasoning, self-based reasoning which inevitably grows in confusion as it seeks ones own purposes, the prefix dia indicating going too far, over to the other side – this reasoning will reinforce others who share the same personal prejudice. So, πονηρόςδιαλογισμός – ponērósdialogismos are pain-ridden self-based reasonings that exacerbate and spread their misery.
“murders” φόνοςphónos = to slay, murder, slaughter, intentional unjustified homicide.
“adulteries” μοιχείαmoicheía = adultery, adulteries, sexual actions with, or thoughts focused on, another person’s spouse.
“fornications” πορνείαporneía = a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity, promiscuity of any and every type, any sexual impurity in mind or body, includes all forms of sexual sin from impure sexual thoughts to prostitution, unchastity, fornication and every kind of unlawful (contrary to Torah) sexual intercourse, πορνεία is also used metaphorically of the worship of idols. Any sexual activity that is not a loving total giving of husband to his wife and wife to her husband, or any worship that is not a loving total giving of oneself to God.
“thefts” κλοπαί klopé = theft done secretly, not out in the open or with violence, fraud, stealing.
“blasphemies / slander” βλασφημίαblasphēmia = from blax, “sluggish/slow,” and phḗmē, “reputation, fame” – literally, slow (sluggish) to call something good (that really is good) and slow to identify what is truly bad. Slander, detraction, speech injurious to another’s good name, vilification (especially against God):—blasphemy, evil speaking, railing. Reversing moral values – calling evil good and calling good evil, redefines what is moral as immoral, a perversion of spirit which, in defiance of the truth, chooses to call light darkness.
“evil thoughts” κακόςδιαλογισμόςkakósdialogismos. = inwardly foul, rotten (poisoned); inner malice flowing out of a morally-rotten character, wickedness, worthless, depraved, bad, harm, inner evil, sinful nature, the intrinsic indwelling principle of evil.
“coveting” πλεονεξίαιpleoneksía from pleíōn, “numerically more” and éxō, “have”) – properly, the desire for more (things), i.e. lusting for a greater number of temporal things, covetousness, converting, desiring that which is outside of God’s will for you, greed, stooping to unscrupulous behaviour to gratify the longing to have more, in placing the desire for money or things above the desire for God pleoneksía is a form of idolatry.
“malice”πονηρίαponēria = depravity, iniquity, wickedness, malice, evil purposes and desires, spreading evil – emphasises the painful effects of sin.
“deceit” δόλοςdólos = to catch with a bait, deceit, trickery, guile, to speak deceitfully, uses decoys to snare and deceive people and hence implies treachery to exploit the undiscerning, baiting people through their own greed or sinful desires in order to deceive and exploit them.
“lewdness” ἀσέλγειαasélgeia = unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence; reckless action that utterly disregards others, wanton disregard for what God defines as decent; behaviour that completely lacks moral restraint; Barclay (New Testament Words, p. 62) said aselgeia “is a grim word. It is the wanton insolence that is lost to shame. It is a grim commentary on human nature that a man can be so mastered by sin that in the end he loses even shame.”
“envy” ὀφθαλμόςπονηρόςophthalmós ponērós = literally “eye evil“, “an evil eye,” which is a Semitic term for stinginess (Deuteronomy 15:9). It means to sin with one’s eyes or to see something with a wicked intent. In the Bible the expression is synonymous with envy, jealousy and some forms of covetousness.
“arrogance“ὑπερηφανίαhyperēphanía = excessive shining, ie self-exaltation, pride, haughtiness, arrogance; the character of one who, with a swollen estimate of his own powers or merits, looks down on others and even treats them with insolence and contempt.
“folly” ἀφροσύνηaphrosýnē= lack of perspective, want of sense, foolishness, impiety, wickedness, thoughtlessness, recklessness.
Yeshua described all these as evils that defile a person, strip what is sacred of its specialness to God, remove them from being sanctified (set apart to God). He was not an “anything goes” reformer. His dismissal of ritual washings was not an invitation to lawlessness but to true righteousness. The heart had greater need of cleansing with true washing than the hands had of cleansing with ritual washings. Being set apart to God is not a matter of ritual but of heart attitude which is displayed in our actions. Engaging in any of the above defiles us, causes us to cease being set apart to God.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Andrews, Edward D. Why Is the Greek Verb Pisteuo (faith, Believe, trust in) Rendered Differently at Times? Christian Publishing House. [Online] November 1st, 2016. https://christianpublishinghouse.co/2016/11/01/why-is-the-greek-verb-pisteuo-rendered-differently-at-times/#:~:text=Believe%2C%20faith%2C%20Trust%20in%3A%20(Gr.. 3. Shurpin, Yehuda. What Is the Talmud? Definition and Comprehensive Guide. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: January 9th, 2021.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3347866/jewish/What-Is-the-Talmud-Definition-and-Comprehensive-Guide.htm. 4. Commentaries. John 6:36. Bible Hub. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/6-36.htm. 5. Garcia, Vince. Should Jews be “Targeted” for conversion? or Sharing one’s faith with a Jewish person. A New Christian’s Handbook. [Online] [Cited: February 6th, 2021.] http://centralcal.com/crist13.htm.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What can we learn from Jesus’ attitude towards His people’s ritual cleansing of hands? * What traditions and rituals have been established in your church and what effect do they have on the people’s walk with God? * What teachings have you identified that hinder people from obeying God’s Word in the scriptures? * How can we avoid being like the religious leaders who “found fault”μέμφομαι – a deeply personal rejecting as fully blameworthy, disgraceful and condemnable – with Jesus when He was only doing the Father’s will? *What does it mean to honour our father and mother and why do you think Jesus placed so much importance on this? * When dismissing the ritual washing of hands as having any relevance to our being set apart to God, Jesus gave us a long list of sins that defile and interrupt our relationship to the Father – which of these sins in most prevalent in your church or in your culture and what difference would it make to your community if people repented of those sins and truly lived as disciples of Jesus?
Please read and memorise Jesus’ words in John 6:25-71 & read Mark 6:56
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” John 6:25-27
Having been silent on the previous 10 months of Yeshua’s ministry, John now, as he did in the beginning, gives us details of Yeshua’s teaching that are not included in the other gospel accounts. As he states in John 20:31, this gospel author focused on those things which demonstrated that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God. So it was with the teaching Yeshua now gave to the crowd who had eaten the miraculous provision the day before.
He began with an affirmation: “you seek (ζητέωzētéō) Me”. Zētéō refers to more than just looking for. It means to seek by inquiring, investigating to reach a binding resolution, it focuses on the moral attitude, the internal convictions, driving the seeker. These people were seekers, looking for spiritual truth, trying to work out if Yeshua really was their long hoped for Messiah.
“Not because you saw (ὁράωhoráō) signs (σημεῖονsēmeîon)”. Horáō = to see, as in to perceive, it implies comprehension (“I see what you mean”), seeing with the mind, perceiving the spiritual reality behind what is physically seen. Sēmeîon = a miraculous sign which confirms, corroborates and authenticates eternal realities. They were seekers yet they had not perceived, they had not yet comprehended, the eternal reality of who Yeshua is. They had seen, and benefited from, the miracles, but had not seen the signs that those miracles were in pointing to Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of God.
So, He began teaching them from the last sign they had all witnessed yet not seen (not perceived the spiritual significance of) – the feeding of the 5,000 men, plus women and children: “you ate the loaves and had your fill“. They had eaten of this miraculous provision, just like the children of Israel had eaten of the miraculous provision of Manna in the desert. Then, in explaining to them the spiritual significance of this miracle, Yeshua alluded to Isaiah 55:2. Most of the Jewish men listening to Him had memorised these verses in school, so just alluding to one verse brought the passage to mind.
“Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods. Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.” Isaiah 55:1-3 HCSB
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” All the miracles they had witnessed, and the miraculous provision of bread they had eaten, were signs of God’s seal of approval on Yeshua. He alone was able to give them eternal life.
What is the Work of God?
Now their question was deeper…
So they said to Him, “What should we do in order to perform the works of God?” Yeshua answered, “Here’s what the work of God is: to trust (πιστεύω pisteúō) in (εἰς eis) the one He sent!” John 6:25-29 CJB
This was such a radically different answer to their question. πιστεύωpisteúō = believe, have faith; εἰς eis = into, extension towards a special goal, penetration to become one with. The grammatical construction of the Greek verb pisteúō “believe” followed by the Greek preposition eis “into” in the accusative gives us the sense of having faith into Yeshua, putting faith in, trusting in Yeshua. It is something that we choose to do. It is the pre-requisite for every other act of faith and obedience. God sent His Son into the world, it is incumbent on us to choose to place our trust in Him. The expected answer was an injunction to follow the Jewish religious laws which govern daily life, with a specific emphasis on one of them. Instead, Yeshua continued with His theme from Isaiah 55:”Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live.“
Yeshua is the Bread from Heaven that Gives Life
They said to him, “Nu, what sign will you do for us, so that we may see it and trust you? What work can you perform? Our fathers ate manna in the desert — as it says in the Tanakh, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you it wasn’t Moshe (Moses) who gave you the bread from heaven. But my Father is giving you the genuine bread from heaven; for God’s bread is the One who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread from now on.” Yeshua answered, “I am the bread which is life! Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in Me will never be thirsty. John 6:30-35 CJB
Still they had not seen, they had not perceived, the signs He had already given them. They asked for another miracle, another sign, another work to be performed before they would choose to put their trust in Him. They asked for a miracle like the manna from heaven which God had given their ancestors to eat, yet they had just eaten the day before bread miraculously provided, with 12 full baskets left over as a sign to them. Yet, right before them was the greater miracle, the incarnation, the One come down from heaven to give them life, eternal life.
How difficult it was to move them from wanting miracles to choosing to put their trust in the One who had been doing these miracles.
“I told you that you have seen but still don’t trust. Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will certainly not turn away. For I have come down from heaven to do not My own will but the will of the One who sent Me. And this is the will of the One who sent Me: that I should not lose any of all those He has given Me but should raise them up on the Last Day. Yes, this is the will of My Father: that all who see the Son and trust in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise them up on the Last Day.” John 6:36-40 CJB
They had now horáō = seen, as in perceived, comprehended (“I see what you mean”), seeing with the mind, perceived the spiritual reality behind the miracles they had seen, grasped what He was saying, and yet still decisively chosen to not pisteúō = believe, have faith. It was not lack of evidence on His part, but lack of will on their part, even as it is today for those who choose to not believe.
Yeshua affirms once again that all have the opportunity to be saved, everyone who comes to Him will be accepted, none will be turned away regardless of how other men judge them. He has come to do the Father’s will and it is the Father’s will that none who trust in His Son will be lost, everyone of us shall be resurrected to eternal life.
The crowds had been eagerly listening to Him and excitedly seeing the miracles, and happily ate of the miraculous provision the day before, but they were not ready to believe in Him. The believed He could do miracles, they’d been excited about the miracles, but they did not believe in Him.
Grumbling and Refusing to Trust in Him
Shabbat found Yeshua back in the synagogue in Capernaum, having raised the daughter of one of the synagogue ruler’s from the dead they could hardly refuse Him to opportunity to teach there once again. He kept pressing the point – that miracle feeding 5,000 they had been a part of had been a sign that He is the bread which has come down from heaven, He is the bread of life.
At this the Judeans began grumbling about Him because He said, “I am the bread which has come down from heaven.” They said, “Isn’t this Yeshua Ben-Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph)? We know his father and mother! How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Yeshua answered them, “Stop grumbling to each other! No one can come to me unless the Father — the One who sent me — draws him. And I will raise him up on the Last Day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘They will all be taught by Adonai.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God — He has seen the Father. Yes, indeed! I tell you, whoever trusts has eternal life: I am the bread which is life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert; they died. But the bread that comes down from heaven is such that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live (ζάω zaō) forever. Furthermore, the bread that I will give is My own flesh (σάρκα sárks); and I will give it for the life of the world.” John 6:41-51 CJB
Eat His Flesh & Drink His Blood
This revelation was to be fixed in the life of the church with the instructions that Yeshua gave His talmidim at the Last Supper. Every time we take Communion we declare this reality – that Jesus is the bread of life and we need to eat His flesh, σάρκα sárks = flesh, merely of human origin or empowerment, human nature (Jesus’ human nature was pure and holy, not corrupted like ours) can we live (ζάω zaō) forever. ζάω zaō = to live; to experience God’s gift of living; God infusing His indestructible, self-existent life which makes believers lively in heart, soul, mind, strength and relationships; to be fully alive. Only in partaking of His human nature can we partake of His divine nature, only in recognising God in the flesh can we see God in the spirit. Yeshua gave His flesh, his holy physical human life, that we might have spiritual eternal life.
At this, the Judeans disputed with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Then Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life — that is, I will raise him up on the Last Day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I live in him.”
“Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live through the Father, so also whoever eats Me will live through Me. So this is the bread that has come down from heaven — it is not like the bread the fathers ate; they’re dead, but whoever eats this bread will live forever!”
He said these things as He was teaching in a synagogue in K’far-Nachum (Capernaum). John 6:52-59 CJB
Yeshua explained it clearly to them: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me and I in him.” It is all about living in Christ, and He in us. It is not about what goes into our mouth, but what goes into, and comes out of, our heart. It is about abiding in Him, partaking of His nature, being clothed in His righteousness. It is about Yeshua abiding in us, infusing us with His nature. The apostle Paul would later write: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
The author, John, had already told us that: “the Judean festival of Pesach was coming up” (John 6:4). The Gospel accounts do not tell us if Yeshua went down to Jerusalem for the festival this year, or just celebrated it with His talmidim in Capernaum. Certainly it was on His mind that He would be the lamb of God sacrificed at Pesach (Passover) the following year. His communion teaching of His talmidim started one year before they would be confronted with the reality of it all. For now, even they could not grasp the meaning of His words.
On hearing it, many of his talmidim said, “This is a hard word — who can bear to listen to it?” But Yeshua, aware that His talmidim were grumbling about this, said to them, “This is a trap for you? Suppose you were to see the Son of Man going back up to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life, yet some among you do not trust.” (For Yeshua knew from the outset which ones would not trust him, also which one would betray him.) “This,” He said, “is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has made it possible for him.” John 6:60-65 CJB
The tide had begun turning, the sifting was taking place. Not everyone who was drawn to Yeshua’s miracles was willing to embrace His nature. Not all who thronged as part of the excited crowd were hungry for the life and truth of God. Yeshua had poured Himself out in meeting their physical needs, healing all who came to Him, but now He was demanding something of them. Now He was confronting their heart attitudes. Now Yeshua was asking them to go beyond believing that He could do miracles to placing their trust in Him as the source of life from heaven.
From this time on, many of his talmidim turned back and no longer travelled around with him. John 6:66 CJB
They had come from far and wide to follow Yeshua, from throughout Galilee, from the regions of Tyre and Sidon to the north-east, from the Decapolis to the south-west, from Judah to the south. This miracle worker had attracted huge crowds of adoring fans. But adoring fans are not true disciples. Yeshua was not looking for celebrity status, He was not impressed with the crowds or in need of large audiences. He was looking for those who were hungry to partake of His nature, to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, to give up all to follow Him. Yeshua did not shrink back from testing them with His words. He would not water-down the demands of Heaven to suit the likes of men. They were free to choose to stay or go, but if they stayed, if they were to enter the kingdom of heaven, it would be on God’s terms, not theirs. As He had told them in the Parable of the Sower, most hearts were not good soil for His word to grow in.
Word of Eternal Life
So Yeshua said to the Twelve, “Don’t you want to leave too?” Shim‘on Kefa (Simon Peter) answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the word of eternal life. We have trusted, and we know that you are the Holy One of God.” Yeshua answered them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is an adversary.”(He was speaking of Y’hudah Ben-Shim‘on, from K’riot (Judas, son of Simon Iscariot); for this man — one of the Twelve! — was soon to betray him.) John 6:67-71 CJB
A full year before His betrayal, Yeshua was preparing His talmidim for the harsh realities of what was to come. He knew who would betray Him, yet still included Y’hudah in everything, still taught him with the others, still invested in him, still kept his identity as future betrayer secret, for the time was not yet. As He had told them in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, evil doers would be allowed to grow undisturbed with the true sons of the kingdom until the time of harvest. This was, paradoxically, for the sake of the wheat.
And wherever He went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. Mark 6:56 NIV
Despite many leaving from following Him, deciding that being His disciple was not for them, Yeshua continued going to every village and town and healing all who reached out to touch Him. Despite the fact that much of the seed that fell on the ground of man’s hearts would fail to produce a crop, He still kept going and sowing. Everyone was given a chance, but the criteria for discipleship would not be altered for any of them. Entrance into the kingdom of heaven required “eating His flesh and drinking His blood“, a concept that only those being drawn by the Father could embrace.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Andrews, Edward D. Why Is the Greek Verb Pisteuo (faith, Believe, trust in) Rendered Differently at Times? Christian Publishing House. [Online] November 1st, 2016. https://christianpublishinghouse.co/2016/11/01/why-is-the-greek-verb-pisteuo-rendered-differently-at-times/#:~:text=Believe%2C%20faith%2C%20Trust%20in%3A%20(Gr.. 3. Commentaries. John 6:36. Bible Hub. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/6-36.htm.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What insights did you gain as you memorised Jesus’ words in John 6? * What does it mean to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood? * What attracted people to Jesus, and what repelled them from Him? * What brings more people to your meetings, and what causes them to leave your church?
WINTER – Yeshua (Jesus) left Nazareth and travelled down to Bethany beyond the Jordan to be baptised by Yochanan (John). Lesson 1
Yeshua went into the Jordan wilderness for 40 days. Lesson 1
Yeshua returned to Bethany beyond the Jordan in Holy Spirit power – some of Yochanan’stalmidim (disciples) followed Him, including first followers – Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip & Nathaniel (Bartholomew). Lesson 1
Yeshua took these disciples to a wedding in Cana – water into wine. Lesson 2
Yeshua went with His family and talmidim to Capernaum. Lesson 2
SPRING – Yeshua took His talmidim to Jerusalem for Pesach (Passover) – cleansed the temple, miracles, spoke with Nicodemus about being born again. Lesson 3
Yeshua took His disciples for them to baptise people – more came to them than to Yochanan. Lesson 3
Yeshua took His disciples to Jacob’s Well in Samaria – spoke to woman at the well and whole city of Sychar came to him. Lesson 4
Yeshua ministered in different villages in Galilee until He returned to Cana – officer of Herod’s court’s son healed in Capernaum at His word. Lesson 5 & Lesson 6
Talmidim went back to their families in Capernaum and Bethsaida while Yeshua returned to Nazareth alone – loved His preaching, then hated it and tried to throw Him off the cliffs. Lesson 6
Yeshua travelled to Jerusalem for Shavu’ot (Feast of Weeks / Pentecost) – healed lame man at Pool of Bethesda and taught in the temple, ‘John’ was there. Lesson 7
SUMMER – Moved to Capernaum, set up house, taught in the synagogue every sabbath, called Simon Peter & Andrew, James & John from their fishing to follow Him, delivered unclean spirit from man, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and everyone else brought to Him. Lesson 8
Yeshua went to a lonely spot to pray, and then ministered in different towns throughout Galilee. Lesson 8
Yeshua walked up Mt Eremos with large crowd – Sermon on the Mount, Beatitudes. Lessons 9, through to 14 .
AUTUMN (FALL) – Large crowds followed, healed leper and made a practice of withdrawing to remote places to pray. Lesson 15Yeshua returned to Capernaum – forgave and healed paralysed man lowered through the roof, called the tax collector Matthew (Levi) to follow, ate with Levi and his friends, healed a withered hand in the synagogue on Shabbat – Pharisees plotted against Him – so taught the multitudes from a boat at the shore. Lesson 16
Yeshua went up a mountain to pray, then chose the 12 and also named them apostles. Lesson 17 Then came down with them to a level place – Sermon in the Plain. Lesson 18
Yeshua returned to Capernaum, relatives came to take custody of Him thinking He had lost His senses, delivered and healed blind and mute man, accused of using Satan’s power to drive out demons, taught sign of Jonah – will be three days and nights in tomb, mother & brothers outside. Lesson 19Yeshua went out of the house and sat by the Sea, then in a boat, to teach the multitude in parables. Lesson 20
Yeshua gave orders to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – storm while He sleeps, wind and waves obey Him, delivers “Legion” and another man, all the people ask Him to leave. Lesson 21
Yeshua returned by boat to Capernaum – healed woman with issue of blood and resurrected the daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. Lesson 22
Yeshua continued travelling and teaching in all the towns of Galilee and came to the town of Nain where He resurrected the widow’s son, Yochanan‘s talmidim bring his question to Yeshua, dinner at Simon the Pharisee’s home and anointed by sinful woman. Lesson 22
WINTER – Yeshua returns to Nazareth with His talmidim.
Please read Matthew 14:13-36; Mark 6:30-55; Luke 9:10-17 & John 6:1-25
When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:13-14 NIV
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things. Mark 6:30-43 NIV
“Sheep without a shepherd” is an Old Testament picture of Israel without spiritual leadership (Numbers 27:15-21, 1 Kings 22:17). Then, in Ezekiel 34 God condemns the shepherds of Israel, those where were meant to be caring for His flock and leading them in His ways, concluding in Vs 5&6: “So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” Ezekiel then went on to prophesy God’s solution to this problem:
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” Ezekiel 34:11-16 ESV
When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then He took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. Luke 9:10-11 NIV
Bethsaida means “house of fishing“. How appropriate that in the region of this village Yeshua so effectively ‘fished for men’ with His talmidim.Bethsaida was a fishing village east of the Jordan River and close to where it enters the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). The shore of the Sea of Galilee that was east of the Jordan River was, to the Galileans, the far side of the Lake. History records the village of Bethsaida in Lower Gaulonitis being raised to the rank of a city by the Tetrarch Philip, and called Julias, in honour of Julia, the daughter of Augustus (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1; BJ, II, ix, 1; III, x, 7; Vita, 72). Ruins of a city have been found on rising ground, fully a mile from the sea, so this is the place allocated to Bethsaida on many maps of the region during Jesus’ time. As this is too far from the sea for a fishing village, Schumacher (The Jaulan, 246) suggests that el-`Araj, “a large, completely destroyed site close to the lake,” connected in ancient times with et-Tell “by the beautiful roads still visible,” may have been the fishing village, and et-Tell the princely residence.
The “green grass” of Mark 6:39, and the “much grass” of John 6:10, point both to the time of year – early Spring, just before Passover, when the grass is green from the winter rains, and to the place being on the plain of el-BaTeichah, which has rich soil producing plentiful green grass compared with the scanty herbage on the higher slopes.
Some time later, Yeshua went over to the far side of Lake Kinneret (that is, Lake Tiberias), and a large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miracles He had performed on the sick. Yeshua went up into the hills and sat down there with His talmidim. Now the Judean festival of Pesach was coming up John 6:1-4 CJB
Spring had begun, the beginning of the Jewish month of Nisan. Many were getting ready to make their pilgrimage down to Jerusalem for the annual festival of Pesach (Passover). For the first time in ten months the author of John’s Gospel re-joins the commentary. There were even more people gathering around Yeshua and His talmidim now than before. Some had come from Jerusalem for solace after hearing of Yochanan’s beheading, desperate to know that all was not now lost for them and their nation after this crime had been committed against God’s prophet. Had the author of John’s Gospel been one of these? Others came because they had seen Yeshua, or His apostles, do healings and miracles as they had gone out in pairs to all the surrounding towns. Some came because they needed a miracle. Some were hungry to learn more of the kingdom of heaven. Some had begun their pilgrimage from more northern regions to Jerusalem for the Feast and detoured to see this ‘miracle man’ whose fame was spreading far and wide. When they saw Yeshua and His talmidim leave by boat this multitude followed, traversing the well worn shoreline route. Some even made it to Bethsaida before Yeshua and His crew. When Yeshua landed He went to a solitary place, and sat down there with His talmidim. The multitude followed. So He welcomed them and spoke to them all about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
The 12 had just returned from seeing God do miracles through them as they ministered 2 by 2, but they were not prepared for Yeshua’s next instruction: “You give them something to eat”.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:15-21 NIV
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. Mark 6:35-44 NIV
Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”(About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Luke 9:12-17 NI
Philip’s home town was Bethsaida. James & John and Peter & Andrew had also been born in Bethsaida but had moved to Capernaum before they met Yeshua. So Philip was the only one who still called Bethsaida home. Maybe this had something to do with why Yeshua asked Philip where the best place to buy bread was…
...so when Yeshua looked up and saw that a large crowd was approaching, He said to Philip, “Where will we be able to buy bread, so that these people can eat?” (Now Yeshua said this to test Philip, for Yeshua himself knew what He was about to do.) Philip answered, “Half a year’s wages wouldn’t buy enough bread for them — each one would get only a bite!” One of the talmidim, Andrew the brother of Shim‘on Kefa, said to Him, “There’s a young fellow here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. But how far will they go among so many?” Yeshua said, “Have the people sit down.” There was a lot of grass there, so they sat down. The number of men was about five thousand. Then Yeshua took the loaves of bread, and, after making a b’rakhah (giving thanks), gave to all who were sitting there, and likewise with the fish, as much as they wanted. After they had eaten their fill, He told His talmidim, “Gather the leftover pieces, so that nothing gets wasted.” They gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. John 6:5-13 CJB
This miracle brought to remembrance a miracle that God had done through the prophet Elisha:
A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. 2 Kings 4:42-44 NIV
In both instances the amount of bread was inadequate for the number of people. In both instances everyone ate their fill and there were leftovers. Elisha had fed 100 men with 20 loaves, and now Yeshua had fed 5,000 men with just 5 loaves. All Israel recognised Elisha as a prophet, how could they not recognise Yeshua? In Deuteronomy 18 Moses states, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen”. (verse 15). And later in verse 18 God declares; “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers . And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” Those who ate the bread had memorised these verses from childhood.
There were many ways in which they could see that Yeshua was a prophet like Moshe (Moses):
Both were sent to bring salvation after 400 years of ‘silence’ from God – the Israelites had been enslaved for 400 years in Egypt with no leader or prophet, and the 400 years before Yeshua came had been notably without any prophet from God.
Both fasted for 40 days and nights – Moses while on Mount Sinai, and Yeshua in the Judean desert after His baptism.
Both spent time in Egypt as children (as Yeshua had to be hidden there for a while as a baby to escape Herod).
Both were born at a time when evil kings pronounced death to all Jewish baby boys in the area – Pharaoh had commanded all Hebrew baby boys to be drowned at birth, and Herod had issued a command to kill all baby boys under the age of two. Both were miraculously rescued from that threat.
Both did miracles to testify to their God-given authority.
Both were given God’s public stamp of approval with an audible voice from heaven, heard by the crowd – Moses at Sinai, and Yeshua at his baptism.
Both miraculously provided the people with bread to eat – manna was sent from heaven for the Israelites and Yeshua had just fed a multitude, with 12 baskets of food left over – one for each of the tribes of Israel.
When the people saw the miracle He had performed, they said, “This has to be ‘the prophet’ who is supposed to come into the world.” Yeshua knew that they were on the point of coming and seizing Him, in order to make Him king; so He went back to the hills again. This time He went by Himself. John 6:14-15 CJB
The people were still in shock over John the Baptiser’s murder. Anger, shock and grief mingled. Religious and nationalistic fervour was high. John had pointed to this Man, and He’d just fed all of them abundantly, out of next to nothing, and with one full basket of food left over for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Surely this was the One they had been waiting for, the One who would set their nation free, the son of David, the righteous Branch, their rightful ruler and national leader as Jeremiah had prophesied:
“I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ ” Jeremiah 23:4-6 ESV
Yeshua’s kingdom is not of this world and “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17) – He sent them away and withdrew to pray.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Matthew 14:22-23 NIV
Through the night He prayed.
And immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself dismissed the crowd. And after saying goodbye to them, He left for the mountain to pray. Mark 6:45-46 NASB
All three gospels that mention this journey are in agreement that it involved getting into a boat and going across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). There is an apparent discrepancy, however, with Luke having said that they withdrew “to a town called Bethsaida“, from whence the feeding of the 5,000 took place, and John having written that they went “to the far side of the Lake” – ie the eastern shore, of which Bethsaida is the most northerly point, and Mark’s account here of them leaving the place of feeding the 5,000 and getting into a boat to go “to the other side, to Bethsaida.” Over the centuries Bible scholars have proposed different theories to try to explain this – including the suggestion that there were two Bethsaidas – Bethsaida Galilee (John 12:21 refers to Bethsaida in Galilee) on the western shore and Bethsaida Julias on the eastern shore.
Then, there is dispute over which Bethsaida the feeding of the 5,000 was near to. The answers to these questions were probably obvious in the 1st Century, but the passage of time has hidden some of the evidence from us, leaving it impossible to know the exact locations now. Those uncertainties, however, don’t diminish our understanding of the message.
Multitudes came to hear Yeshua speak and see Him heal the sick.
After a day of teaching and healing, He miraculously fed 5,000 men, plus all the women and children, with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.
There were 12 baskets of food left over, indicating that Yeshua is the bread of life for all 12 tribes of Israel.
Yeshua rejected all attempts to make Him an earthly king and raise up an army of men around Him – His kingdom is not of this world.
Yeshua prioritised times of private prayer – He spent the night in prayer.
Sometimes when we are obeying God and attempting to do what He has told us, “go to the other side”, everything seems to fight against us and all our work doesn’t get us very far. Yeshua has not abandoned us at those times, He is watching over us and will enter into our boat and we will reach our destination with Him.
Yeshua can walk on water – He rules over the laws of physics and over the basic elements of life.
When evening came, his talmidim went down to the lake, got into a boat and set out across the lake toward K’far-Nachum (Capernaum) . By now it was dark, Yeshua had not yet joined them, and the sea was getting rough, because a strong wind was blowing. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Yeshua approaching the boat, walking on the lake! They were terrified; but He said to them, “Stop being afraid, it is I.” John 6:19-20 CJB
They had spent most of the night straining at the oars and yet had only gone 5-6 kms. It was not a long journey across that northern section of the Sea, about 8km. They had managed most of it through their nocturnal strenuous efforts, yet still the shoreline seemed to allude them. God lets us struggle so that we might be humbled by our struggle. He lets us struggle so that we might see that we have nothing. He lets us struggle so that we might have faith; and God lets us struggle so that we might see the reality of who He is.
Suddenly there was Yeshua, striding across those 5-6kms as though they were nothing, coming straight to them, even about to go past them, walking on the sea that had been buffeting them so badly!
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:23-27 NASB
Shortly before dawn He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Mark 6:48b – 50 NIV
It is significant that Job 9:8 declares of God: “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” This was another sign specifically of Yeshua’s divinity.
Peter responded and said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command (keleuo) me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got down out of the boat and walked (peripateo) on the water, and came toward (pros) Jesus. But seeing (blepo) the wind (anemos), he became frightened (phobeo), and when he began to sink, he cried out (krazo), saying, “Lord, save (sozo) me!” Immediately Jesus reached out with His hand and took hold (epilambanomai) of him, and said to him, “You of little faith (oligopistos), why did you doubt (distazo)?” Matthew 14:28-31 NASB
Only Matthew tells us that someone else walked on water that night. Someone who was bold enough to want to do what his Rabbi was doing. Yeshua had not long ago given them authority over sickness and demons – and it had worked! Could He also give this authority over the laws of nature? Knowing that spiritual authority only operated through obedience Peter asked Yeshua: “command me to come to you on the water.”Keleuo = to command, to give the order. In the Greek aorist imperative it commands the action to reach completion. Yeshua spoke the word. It is written in the Greek aorist imperative. It only took one word, “come” to transfer that authority and enable Peter to walk on the water.
This is one of those passages of scripture that yields more insights when we delve into the meaning of key words in the Greek. Peripateo = walked comprehensively around; walked around in a complete circuit; walking with God in the complete circuit of faith. Pros = moving towards a goal or destination with contact and reaction; in living relationship with the goal; the cycle of initiation and response. Blepo = physically observe to spiritually perceive; conveys the spiritual impact of physically seeing; grasping the spiritual realities which play out in the physical world. Anemos = a gust of air / wind; something with gusting, storm-like force like someone bent in a particular direction. Phobeo = wanting to flee, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to meet the situation. Krazo = an onomatopoetic term imitating the sound of a raven’s piercing cry; to cry out loudly with an urgent scream or shriek; an exclamation of fear or pain, using inarticulate sounds that express deep emotion; it was also a technical, rabbinic term to refer to the loud summons of a prophet, needing to be heard. Sozo = to deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin and into His shalom. Epilambanomai = lay hold of something by showing personal initiative, focused resolve; lay hold in the way that is needed and doing so with resolve. Oligopistos = oligos little in number and low in quality + pistis faith; infrequent faith; inconsistent faith. Distazo = double stance; to go two ways at once; be double-minded; to vacillate / waver between two opinions or beliefs.
Peter climbed down out of the boat and peripateo – walked comprehensively around in a complete circuit of faith that included fear, phobeo – feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to meet the situation – and doubt, distazo – being doubleminded – but ultimately cried out with everything within him, krazo, to Yeshua to save him. What caused the double-mindedness was blepoanemos – seeing the storm-like force of the wind stirring up the Sea and perceiving that the sea of humanity would likewise be stirred up against them and it would be difficult to make any real headway. If he kept following Yeshua the road ahead would be full of difficulty and struggle. Peter was overtired, he was exhausted from struggling against the wind all night and the thought of further struggle was just too much for him. He started to sink. Yeshua epilambanomai – laid hold of Peter with focused resolve, He was not going to let Peter drown, He was determined to keep Peter from sinking too low, and to present him faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored at the shore. And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, and ran about that entire country and began carrying here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to wherever they heard He was. Mark 6:51-55 NASB
When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are truly God’s Son!” When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding region and brought to Him all who were sick; and they pleaded with Him that they might just touch the border of His cloak; and all who touched it were cured. Matthew 14:32-36 NASB
Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and instantly the boat reached the land they were heading for. The next day, the crowd which had stayed on the other side of the lake noticed that there had been only one boat there, and that Yeshua had not entered the boat with his talmidim, but that the talmidim had been alone when they sailed off. Then other boats, from Tiberias, came ashore near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had made the b’rakhah (given thanks). Accordingly, when the crowd saw that neither Yeshua nor his talmidim were there, they themselves boarded the boats and made for K’far-Nachum (Capernaum) in search of Yeshua. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” John 6:21-25 CJB
While both Matthew and Mark record the talmidim in the boat as being overwhelmingly amazed from seeing Yeshua walk on water and then the wind stopping the moment He climbed into their boat, Mark’s perception was that their hearts were still hardened and unable to perceive the fullness of who Yeshua was, while Matthew’s was of them worshipping Him as God’s Son. As Yeshua spoke of them havingoligopistos – inconsistent faith – it is possible that both were true and they were still oscillating between faith and unbelief, even as we can find ourselves doing.
Capernaum was known as Yeshua’s ministry base, so it is not surprising that is where the crowds headed in search of Him. It was just a 3 mile (under 5km) walk from there to the wide open plains of Gennesaret where Yeshua was already healing the multitudes who were being brought to him from all the surrounding region. The crowds were now so big that wide open plains were needed to accommodate them all. Still they had no time to rest.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Zakian, Christopher H. WALKING ON WATER: A RESCUE ON THE SEA OF DESPAIR. Armenian Church. [Online] February 26th, 2019. https://armenianchurch.us/2019/02/26/walking-on-water-a-rescue-on-the-sea-of-despair/. 3. Miller, Stephen M. Casual English Bible Maps For Mark. Casual English Bible. [Online] https://www.casualenglishbible.com/casual-english-bible-maps-for-mark/. 4. Zyl, Jacob M. Van. Where did Jesus feed the 5000? Near Bethsaida Galilee / Near Bethsaida Julias? Messiah Study. [Online] https://www.messiah-study.net/Feeding5000.htm. 5. Phillips, J B. An Outline of the Story of Jesus Using Maps. J B Phillips New Testament. [Online] https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm. 6. Atlas, Bible. Bethsaida. Bible Hub. [Online] https://bibleatlas.org/bethsaida.htm. 7. Rogers, Kevin. Is the feeding of the 5000 historical? Reasonable Faith. [Online] March 25, 2018. https://reasonablefaithadelaide.org.au/the-feeding-of-the-5000/. 8. Rushlive, Omar. Where did the feeding of the five thousand happen? RZIM Connect. [Online] April 19, 2019. https://connect.rzim.org/t/where-did-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand-happen/15837. 9. Licona, Michael R. WAS MARK CONFUSED PERTAINING TO THE LOCATION OF THE FEEDING OF THE 5,000? Risen Jesus. [Online] August 22, 2016. https://www.risenjesus.com/mark-confused-pertaining-location-feeding-5000. 10. Collins, Martin G. What the Bible says about Feeding of 5000. Bible Tools. [Online] https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/15518/Feeding-5000.htm. 11. Pratt, Bill. COMMENTARY ON MARK 6 (JESUS FEEDS 5,000 AND WALKS ON WATER). Tough Questions answered. [Online] November 28th, 2016. https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/11/28/commentary-on-mark-6-jesus-feeds-5000-and-walks-on-water/. 12. Commentaries, Matthew. Matthew 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. Bible Hub. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/14-25.htm. 13. Coles, Fr. James. Why Does Jesus Sometimes Wait Until the 4th Watch of the Night – 9th Sunday of Pentecost. Scholé. [Online] August 9th, 2009. https://frjamescoles.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/why-does-jesus-sometimes-wait-until-the-4th-watch-of-the-night-9th-sunday-of-matthew/. 14. One for Israel. 21 PROOFS THAT YESHUA IS THE “PROPHET LIKE MOSES”. ONE for ISRAEL. [Online] May 30th, 2016. https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/21-ways-yeshua-is-a-prophet-like-moses/. 15. Bivin, Davin N. Gennesaret According to Josephus. Jerusalem Perspective. [Online] September 6th, 2012. https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/579/.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*Sending the 12 out to minister in pairs seemed to just increase the work load instead of reducing it – so many more people were now coming to Jesus. How do you deal with it when the demands of ministry become too much? * Jesus took them away to rest, but the crowds followed – thousands of them! How do you deal with it when your attempts to rest are interrupted by the needs of others? * It is easy to burn out in ministry with the constant pressure of people’s needs. How did Jesus deal with this, what did He do to get refreshed and able to keep giving to others? * What are the evidences in this passage that Jesus is the Son of God and the “prophet like Moses” that the Jewish people were waiting for? * What storms in your life have caused you to start to sink, and how did Jesus lift you out of that?
Please read Matthew 10, 11:1, 25-30, 13:53-14:13a; Mark6:1-32; Luke 9:1-10
It was winter once more. Last winter Yeshua had set out from His home village of Nazareth, travelling south to ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ to be baptised by Yochanan. There was nothing remarkable in this, many from this pious region of Galilee were making the same pilgrimage. But something remarkable had occurred when Yeshua was baptised, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove from heaven, He was revealed as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and His ministry began. He had returned to teach in the Nazareth synagogue once since then, just before heading south to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Shavu‘ot – the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). After initially welcoming His teaching, they had turned on Him and tried to throw Him off the cliffs. Now He was back again, this time with His talmidim who had been following Him from town to town throughout the Galilee region.
Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary (Miryam), and aren’t his brothers James (Ya‘akov), Joseph (Yosef), Simon (Shim‘on) and Judas (Y’hudah)? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:53-58 NIV
Then Yeshua left and went to His home town, and His talmidim followed him. On Shabbat He started to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astounded. They asked, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom He has been given? What are these miracles worked through Him? Isn’t He just the carpenter? the son of Miryam? the brother of Ya‘akov and Yosi and Y’hudah and Shim‘on? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. But Yeshua said to them. “The only place people don’t respect a prophet is in his home town, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” So he could do no miracles there, other than lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of trust.
Then He went through the surrounding towns and villages, teaching. Mark 6:1-6 CJB
Once again the congregation in Nazareth were impressed with the wisdom of Yeshua’s teaching. They were impacted by the miracles He did. Yet, instead of responding in faith, instead of accepting the evidences that He was their long awaited Messiah, they became offended at Him. They had known Him as one of their own. They had known Him as Yosef (Joseph) and Miryam (Mary)’s son. Some elders whispered about Miryam having become pregnant with Him before she and Yosef had come together as man and wife. There was a hint of scandal in His background. They had known Him as Ya‘akov (James), Yosef (Joseph), Shim‘on (Simon) and Y’hudah (Judas)’ elder brother. His sisters had married their sons and were raising their own families in Nazareth. He was part of a normal family in Nazareth, how could He possibly claim to be anything more than that? Surely Messiah, surely the Lamb of God, surely the son of David, had to be someone other than a member of a normal family in their village! This lack of faith that Yeshua was sent to them from God meant that few came to Him with their needs, so there were few miracles for Him to do.
Yeshua, and His talmidim, continued on to the surrounding towns and villages.
12 Apostles Sent Out
These twelve had been following Yeshua for about a year now. During that time they had learnt so much and seen so much. Every time they saw a miracle it aroused a fresh sense of awe and wonder. No matter how many they witnessed there was still something amazing about each one. No matter how much of Yeshua’s teaching they memorised and meditated upon, there were still meanings that they were trying to grasp, still something surprising each time He shared with them. They had so much more to learn, yet they were ready. The time had come for them to put what they had been learning into practice – to go out and do what they had seen Yeshua do this past year.
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power (eksousia) over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease… … These twelve Jesus sent (apostéllō) out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. “Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” Matthew 10:1,5-15 NKJV
And He summoned the twelve and began to send (apostéllō) them out in pairs, and gave them authority (eksousia) over the unclean spirits; and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Mark 6:7-13 NASB
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power (dynamis) and authority (eksousia) to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent (apostéllō) them out to proclaim (kerysso) the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. Luke 9:1-6 NIV
None of these twelve had preached (kerysso) before. None had ever done a miracle before. None of them had healed the sick or cast out demons before. Yeshua did not have them do their first preaching or their first miracles under His careful guidance and watchful gaze – instead He simply gave them the spiritual power and authority and sent (apostéllō) them out ahead of Him.
Kerysso = to preach publicly and with conviction, preaching by a herald sent from God, proclaiming the gospel (good news) that all should repent because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand“.
Apostéllō = to commission, be sent on a defined mission by a superior, as an intensified form of ‘stéllō‘, ‘apostéllō‘ focuses back on the source – the one sending – to strongly connect the sender to the one sent.
Dynamis = ability to perform, power to achieve through God’s inherent ability – God sharing His inherent ability, empowered with God’s ability to do as He directs.
Eksousia = authority, delegated power, empowerment to operate decisively in a designated jurisdiction.
First Yeshua called them together. They came as one to Him. Then He imparted His ability into them and authorised them to publicly preach the kingdom of God, to heal the sick and to drive out demons. Then He sent them to go as an extension of Himself. Yeshua sent them out in pairs, so they could provide encouragement and accountability for one another. Interestingly, the scriptures do not tell us who was paired with whom.
Instructions for Short Term Missions
Go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Even though Yeshua had already taken them to witness Him ministering to Samaritans and to Gentiles, for this first mission trip Yeshuaapostéllō them only to their own people of their own culture. The Great Commission to all the world would come later.
Publicly preach, “repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
Take nothing for the journey—neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt, nor two tunics – for a worker is worthy of his food. Freely you have received, freely give. While charging nothing and making no profit from their ministry, they were to expect those they ministered to would provide for their basic needs on the road as per the Jewish laws of hospitality.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons – all of which could only be done because Yeshua had just imparted to them His ability to do so.
Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay in their house until you leave that town. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.
The Apostle’s Response
They went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and preaching that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Possibly to their own amazement, these twelve found themselves empowered to do just what Yeshua commissioned them to do. Just as He had said, people were healed and delivered at their word. His empowering really was enough to make it all happen. They followed His instructions and saw His miracles taking place at their hands.
Preparations for What Lies Ahead
Matthew then records Yeshua giving advise to help prepare them for the troubles that will accompany their triumphs. It was winter, the breeding season for Israel’s wolves.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves. But be on guard against people, for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you.
“Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he may become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they insult the members of his household!
“So do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops.
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Are two sparrows not sold for a copper coin? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows.
“Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household. “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.
“The one who receives you receives Me, and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:16-41
Yochanan the Immerser Beheaded
After Yeshua had finished instructing the twelve talmidim, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns nearby. Matthew 11:1 CJB
Now the work was multiplied. Six pairs of talmidim had been sent out in six different directions to spread the good news, heal the sick and cast out demons, and still a seventh, Yeshua Himself, went out to spread the word of the kingdom of heaven. There was an urgency, the time was short. People needed to see and hear for themselves, not just rely on the rumours spreading around Galilee about this radical new Rabbi. Everyone needed to have the chance to encounter the truth and power of God.
Meanwhile, Yochanan the Immerser’stalmidim had returned to him with all they saw Yeshua doing, and His words of encouragement. All was well. Yochanan had not run his race in vain. He had fulfilled what God had called him to do.
All was not well in the palace above him, however. Herodias continued to burn with anger and indignation at Yochanan calling out her husband’s sin in joining with her. A party was being prepared for Herod’s birthday and in the midst of all the drinking and boasting came the opportunity for Herodias to have her murderous way.
For Herod had arrested Yochanan, put him in chains and thrown him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip; since Yochanan had told Herod, “It violates the Torah for you to have her as your wife.” Herod had wanted to put Yochanan to death; but he was afraid of the people, in whose eyes Yochanan was a prophet. However, at Herod’s birthday celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced before the company and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of Yochanan the Immerser.” The king became deeply upset; but out of regard for the oaths he had sworn before his dinner guests, he ordered that her wish be granted, and sent and had Yochanan beheaded in prison. The head was brought on a platter to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. Matthew 14: 3-11 CJB
For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. Mark 6:17-28 NASB
Herod continued to be tormented by what he had done. Unlike Herodias, he conscience was not yet completely seared. It troubled him. He was haunted by the memory of that holy, innocent head on the platter. Oh, he had ordered many deaths before, but somehow this one was difference, this one would not let him sleep at night, this one kept invading his thoughts through the day. News reached him of all that Yeshua was doing, and how His talmidim were now also doing the same.
Around that time, Herod, the regional governor, heard of the fame of Yeshua and said to his attendants, “This must be Yochanan the Immerser. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” Matthew 14:1-2 CJB
And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!” Mark 6:14-16 NASB
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see Him. Luke 9:7-9 NIV
Yochanan’s talmidim came, took the body and buried it; then they went and told Yeshua. On hearing about this, Yeshua left in a boat to be by himself in the wilderness. Matthew 14:12-13a CJB
The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. Mark 6:30-32 NASB
When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida. Luke 9:10 NIV
It was a time of both great joy and sorrow. This had been the apostles’ first ministry trip and they were excited to report back to Yeshua all that they had done and taught. Miracles had taken place on their command, just like they did for Yeshua. They had boldly proclaimed the kingdom of heaven. They had preached repentance even as Yochanan used to preach repentance. The news that he had been so pointlessly executed hung heavily and their hearts were grieved at this horrible injustice and terrible loss. Yet, they could see in their own actions that all Yochanan had told them about Yeshua was true, and they were getting to live his dream. There was so much to think through, so much to process. It was good to withdraw and have time by themselves.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Commentary, Ellicott’s. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm. 3. Commentary, Meyer’s NT. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm. 4. Testament, Expositor’s Greek. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*When Jesus returned to Nazareth with His disciples what the Nazarene’s response to His teaching and miracles, and why do you think they reacted like that? * How do you think the twelve felt when Jesus sent them out, and how do you think the people responded to them as they came to each town? * Describe the training that Jesus gave them before sending them out, and how this compares with the training people in your nation receive before being sent out to minister to others. *What directions did Jesus give the twelve when He sent them out and how do these compare with the expectations of missionaries in your nation? * What message did the apostles preach when Jesus sent them out? * What was it that enabled the twelve to heal and deliver people? * Which of the teachings that Jesus gave “Preparations for What Lies Ahead” is most important for people in your congregation now, and why is that? * What was the significance of John the Baptiser’s death?
Please read Matthew 9:18-26, 11:2-19, Mark 5:21-43 & Luke 8:40-56, 7:11-50
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. Luke 8:40-42 NIV
Yeshua crossed in the boat to the other side of the lake, and a great crowd gathered around him. There came to him a synagogue official, Ya’ir (Jairus) by name, who fell at his feet and pleaded desperately with him, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Please! Come and lay your hands on her, so that she will get well and live!” Mark 5:21-23 CJB
While he was talking, an official came in, kneeled down in front of him and said, “My daughter has just died. But if you come and lay your hand on her, she will live.” Yeshua, with his talmidim, got up and followed him. Matthew 9:18-19 CJB
Yeshua had returned from the Gentile territory of the Decapolis to Capernaum by boat. No storm this time. The new gentile believer left to share his story with all his people. One would expect the religious leaders to have even more accusations against Yeshua after He had chosen to go into Gentile territory, but something had changed. Great personal loss and pain sent one of the synagogue officials running to Him and falling at His feet.
The last time Yeshua had been in the Capernaum synagogue He had healed a man’s withered hand on Shabbat. This had filled the religious leaders, likely including this synagogue official, with such fury that they began plotting against Him (Luke 6:6-11). So He had left the synagogue and began travelling through many towns and villages sharing the good news, only returning to Capernaum for one day of healings, deliverances and teaching before crossing the border by boat to the Decapolis to deliver a gentile from a legion of demons. Now He had returned. All this synagogue official‘s religious pomp and ceremony, all his self-righteous judgment of Yeshua’s healing miracles, had been demolished by the impending tragic loss of his beautiful daughter. Jairus had gone from standing to denounce and expel Yeshua, to falling at his feet pleading with Him to come. In his hour of need Jairus found that he had faith: “if you come and lay your hand on her, she will live.”
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, and she had spent all she had on doctors, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8: 42b-48 NIV
A woman who had had a haemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe. For she said to herself, “If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.” Yeshua turned, saw her and said, “Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you.” And she was instantly healed. Matthew 9:20-22 CJB
He went with him; and a large crowd followed, pressing all around him. Among them was a woman who had had a haemorrhage for twelve years and had suffered a great deal under many physicians. She had spent her life savings; yet instead of improving, she had grown worse. She had heard about Yeshua, so she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his robe; for she said, “If I touch even his clothes, I will be healed.” Instantly the haemorrhaging stopped, and she felt in her body that she had been healed from the disease. At the same time, Yeshua, aware that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” His talmidim responded, “You see the people pressing in on you; and still you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But he kept looking around to see who had done it. The woman, frightened and trembling, because she knew what had happened to her, came and fell down in front of him and told him the whole truth. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your trust has healed you. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:24-34 CJB
This woman of faith reached out and touched the “tzitzit on his robe“. ‘Tzitzit’ were fringes that God commanded the Jews to make on the corners of their garments to remind them to meditate on, and obey, all His commandments.
Adonai (The Lord) said to Moshe (Moses), “Speak to the people of Isra’el, instructing them to make, through all their generations, tzitziyot (fringes) on the corners of their garments, and to put with the tzitzit (fringe) on each corner a blue thread. It is to be a tzitzit for you to look at and thereby remember all of Adonai’s mitzvot (commandments) and obey them, so that you won’t go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves; but it will help you remember and obey all my mitzvot and be holy for your God. I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt in order to be your God. I am Adonai your God.” Numbers 15:38-39 CJB
As we have seen continually throughout the Gospels, Yeshua obeyed all that God had commanded the Jewish people. So He had these tzitzit, fringes with a blue thread in them, on the corners of His garment. Visual reminders of the need to obey all the Torah. Blue representative of God’s kingdom that He had come to proclaim in word and deed. It was this that the “unclean”, unwell, bleeding woman had secretly touched from behind in desperate faith that this last hope of being whole would not disappoint her as every other hope had done.
The halug or kethōneth was an inner garment made of wool or linen. The earliest of these garments were made from two rectangular pieces of cloth sown together at the top with a hole for the head, and sown down each side under the arms. The kethōneth of the wealthier extended to the wrists and ankles. Anyone dressed only in the kethōneth was described as naked (1Samuel 19:24, Isaiah 20:2, 2Kings 6:30, John 21:7)
The simlāh, שִׂמְלָה , was the heavy outer garment or shawl. It consisted of a large rectangular piece of rough, heavy woollen material, crudely sewed together so that the front was unstitched and with two openings left for the arms. It had a tzitzit (fringe) at each corner. During the day it was protection from rain and cold, and at night it served as a blanket, wrapped around the body to keep them warm.
Leather sandals (na’alayim) were worn to protect the feet. Some sandals had wooden soles and leather straps.
The belt(also called a cincture or girdle)was a band of cloth, cord, or leather that could be loosened or tightened. It was worn around the inner and/or outer garment. Its use prevented the flowing robes (often long) from interfering with movement. The biblical expression “to gird up the loins” meant to put on the belt, thus freeing the lower legs to permit work and easy walking. The expression signified that the person was ready for service.
For women, the inner garment was largely identical to that for men. However, the outer garment was longer, with enough border fringe to largely cover the feet (Isaiah 47:2; Jeremiah 13:2). The outer garment was cinched with a belt similar to that used by men, but it was ornamented differently (and usually more elaborately).
The tallit(prayer shawl) is perhaps the most recognizable and universal Jewish ritual object. Originally, the tallit may have appeared as an outer garment bearing the fringes commanded by God. After the Jewish people were exiled from Israel, their style of dress was influenced by their Gentile neighbours, and the tallit became a special garment worn for prayer instead of normal attire.
The moment she touched His tzitzit the bleeding stopped. For the first time in 12 years it stopped. Strength started returning to her body. It had been a daring thing to do, go out in public, reach out to touch the holy One when her illness had her in a perpetual state of ritual uncleanliness. “If a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And everything that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean” (Lev. 15:19-20 KJV). So you can understand her fear when Yeshua asked “who touched me?” She knew the condemnation that the pulsating crowd would heap upon her, the unclean one. But there was no hiding from Messiah. He had felt the power of God go out from Him in healing her, and knew she needed to be brought to shalom, brought to the peace of full healing and wholeness emotionally and socially too. When she confessed all to Him, His response brought her shalom, and everyone else just marvelled.
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house came, saying, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the rabbi any longer?” Ignoring what they had said, Yeshua told the synagogue official, “Don’t be afraid, just keep trusting.” He let no one follow him except Kefa (Peter), Ya‘akov (James) and Yochanan (John), Ya‘akov’s brother. Mark 5:35-37 CJB
While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Luke 8:49-51 NIV
The news was devastating. Too late, too late. Dealing with that unclean woman had delayed Yeshua’s walk to his house, and now it was too late, his beautiful daughter was dead. Before Jairus could get too overwhelmed by the news a still, calm voice interrupted his thoughts: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Words of promise, words of hope, words of life.
They continued on, but the thronging crowd was dismissed. Even most of the 12 were dismissed. Only Peter, James and John were allowed to follow Yeshua on this assignment. The family did not need to be overwhelmed by curious onlookers at this time.
When Yeshua arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in an uproar, he said, “Everybody out! The girl isn’t dead, she’s only sleeping!” And they jeered at him. But after the people had been put outside, he entered and took hold of the girl’s hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region. Matthew 9:23-26 CJB
When they came to the synagogue official’s house, he found a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. On entering, he said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead, she’s just asleep!” And they jeered at him. But he put them all outside, took the child’s father and mother and those with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talita, kumi!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). At once the girl got up and began walking around; she was twelve years old. Everybody was utterly amazed. He gave them strict orders to say nothing about this to anyone, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:38-43 CJB
When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Luke 8:51-56 NIV
Still the fourth gospel account, that attributed to the apostle John who was one of the three allowed to go with Yeshua and witness this miracle, remains silent on this year of Yeshua’s ministry following His attendance at the pilgrimage festival of Shavu‘ot (Feast of Weeks / Pentecost). (See http://blog.renewal.asn.au/2020/06/20/healing-at-the-pool-of-bethesda/)
This 12yo girl was likely the first of three people whom Yeshua is recorded as having raised from the dead, the other two were a widow’s only son in the village of Nain and His friend Lazarus. It is likely that there were others whom Yeshua raised, but these are the only three specifically recorded for us in the gospels. Yeshua could have ordered Jairus to go back to all the synagogue officials who were plotting against Him and convince them to cease scheming and to allow Him to teach in their synagogue once more, Yeshua could have ordered Jairus to spread the news to all the synagogues in the region so they would open their pulpits to Him, instead Yeshua ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened, to say nothing about this incredible miracle to anyone, but instead care for their daughter’s needs by giving her something to eat.
Yet, such a miracle would not stay hidden. All those who had gathered in the house to mourn now saw the girl they were mourning was alive. All who had been pressing in on Yeshua when Jairus came desperately to Him saw his daughter alive and well in the following days as she returned to her normal activities with her mother in Capernaum.
The next day Yeshua, accompanied by his talmidim and a large crowd, went to a town called Na‘im. As He approached the town gate, a dead man was being carried out for burial. His mother was a widow, this had been her only son, and a sizeable crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her and said to her, “Don’t cry.” Then He came close and touched the bier, and the pallbearers halted. He said, “Young man, I say to you: get up!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Yeshua gave him to his mother. They were all filled with awe and gave glory to God, saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us,” and, “God has come to help his people.” This report about him spread throughout all Y’hudah (Judea) and the surrounding countryside. Luke 7:11-17 CJB
Yeshua did not stay in Capernaum, where He had raised the synagogue official’s daughter, but continued leading His Talmidim to share the Good News in all the villages and towns of the Galilee region. “After Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.” (Matthew 11:1) Now they had travelled a full day’s journey south from Capernaum to Nain. All this distance traversed for an unnamed widow. The last resurrection had been for a man of some power and influence in his community. Now the Father led Yeshua on a long journey to an insignificant town, mentioned no where else in scripture, to meet the need of a powerless woman who was considered so unimportant in her community that her name is not even recorded for us. Yet, the plight of this godly woman who had already suffered so much had aroused the sympathies of many in her town and a large crowd accompanied her in this funeral procession.
Nain, in Hebrew נעם , means green pastures, lovely, pleasant, delightful or sweet. This may, indeed, describe the character of the widow, as her loss attracted the sympathies of many from her home town. Nain is approached by a steep ascent, and on either side of the road the rock is full of sepulchral caves. The funeral procession would have been on its way to one of these when Yeshua, His talmidim, and the large crowd following Him from Capernaum, met them coming out the town gate. How perfect God’s timing is.
We may reasonably infer that the miracle that followed was one which, from its circumstances, had specially fixed itself in the memories of the “devout women” of Luke 8:1, and that it was from them that Luke obtained his knowledge of it. The fact that the other gospel accounts did not record this resurrection lends credence to the idea that there could have been other miracles and resurrections not specifically recorded in the gospel accounts – what we receive is a sampling of the miracles Yeshua did, not a full account of them all. This too, concurs with John 21:25 KJV: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.“
Yeshua was moved by compassion. There is no mention of this woman having the faith to believe that her son could or would be raised from the dead. She did not ask Yeshua to raise him, she may not have even taken any notice of this man being followed by the crowds, her eyes were filled with tears as she focused on her dead son, on her loss of everything. Before she even had time to comprehend what was happening, Yeshua had spoken the word and her son was alive and back in her arms once more. Her grief was overtaken by joy. God responds to our faith, but He is not limited by it. He has a bigger agenda that will be fulfilled.
Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) Questions
News of all that Yeshua had been doing travelled far and wide throughout Galilee and Judea. It travelled all the way down to the Fortress of Machaerus where Yochanan the Immerser had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas. Yochanan had been kept in a dark, damp, rat infested cell below Herod’s lavish palace for about 10 months now. Something about Yochanan’s courage and purity attracted Herod, who would eagerly listen to him but kept refusing to repent (Mark 6:20). Ten months is a long time in such horrid conditions with no hope of release.
Meanwhile, Yochanan the Immerser, who had been put in prison, heard what the Messiah had been doing; so he sent a message to him through his talmidim, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for someone else?” Yeshua answered, “Go and tell Yochanan what you are hearing and seeing — the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking, people with tzara’at are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised,the Good News is being told to the poor — and how blessed is anyone not offended by me!” Matthew 11:2-6 CJB
Yochanan’s talmidim informed him of all these things. Then Yochanan called two of his talmidim and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are You the one who is to come? Or should we look for someone else?” When the men came to Him, they said, “Yochanan the Immerser has sent us to You to ask, ‘Are You the One who is to come? Or should we keep looking — for someone else?’”
Yochanan (John the Baptist) had undertaken the ministry of immersing (baptising) the Jewish people in water so that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world could be revealed to Israel (John 1:29-31). When G-d had sent Yochanan to baptise with water He had instructed: “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Yochanan had seen the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Yeshua. Yochanan had testified that Yeshua was God’s Chosen One, the Son of God, who would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Now, in this dark place of trial and torment, he started questioning if he had really heard God right. Had he really pointed Israel to the true Messiah, or had he been the failure that he was now feeling like? The reports of Yeshua’s miracles, even raising the dead, seemed to confirm his hopes, but still the dark, depressive clouds of doubt weighed heavily upon Yochanan. He needed reassurance, he needed to know for sure, so he sent two of his most trusted talmidim to ask Yeshua the question his heart needed settled.
Right then He was healing many people of diseases, pains and evil spirits, and giving sight to many who were blind. So He answered them by saying, “Go, tell Yochanan what you have been seeing and hearing: the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking, people with tzara‘at are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the Good News is being told to the poor — and how blessed is anyone not offended by Me!” Luke 7:18-23 CJB
It was a long walk from the Fortress of Machaerus up to Galilee where Yeshua continued ministering from town to town. It would have taken several days for Yochanan’s talmidim to travel up to the Galilee region, and then find where Yeshua was now ministering. Here, again, we find more evidence that Yeshua did a lot more miracles than the ones detailed for us in the gospels. None of the many miracles Yochanan’s talmidim witnessed that day are detailed for us.
“Faith is fashioned in the workshop of doubt” (Allan R. Bevere). Yochanan’s doubt did not disqualify him. Yeshua answered with the evidence of His ministry – the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking, people with tzara‘at are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the Good News is being told to the poor. Then He encouraged Yochanan, “And blessed (happy—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favour and salvation, apart from outward conditions—and to be envied) is he who takes no offense in Me and who is not hurt or resentful or annoyed or repelled or made to stumble [whatever may occur].” (Luke 7:23 AMPC) Yochanan’s circumstances were dire, but his life was not, his life was fulfilled, his life was blessed in God’s favour and salvation, regardless of the dungeon of his imprisonment, as long as he kept his heart attitude right. It is easy to get offended at God when our circumstances are difficult and painful, it is easy to allow doubt to overcome us when our prayers don’t seem to be answered, yet even when God is not rescuing us from our painful trial we can still see the evidence of His goodness and grace in the works of His hand and what He is doing for others.
The Hebrew word צרעת tzara‘atis translated into the Greek λέπος lepros, which in English is leper. Leprosy, medical name ‘Hansen’s disease’, was common in the ancient world, and still is today in some nations. However, the skin disease that the Greeks and Romans called ‘leprae’ is NOT the same disease that appears in Leviticus 13-14. These two chapters of the Book of Leviticus are devoted to the regulations for tzara’at – any defiling skin disease, for a sore, for defiling moulds in fabric or in a house, and for a swelling, a rash or a shiny spot, “to determine when something is clean or unclean.” (Leviticus 14:54-57).
Leviticus 13:1. “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become tzara’at, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is tzara’at. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean.”
The symptoms of tzara’at listed above are very different to those of leprosy. Leprosy symptoms are: discoloured patches of skin, usually flat, that may be numb and look faded (lighter than the skin around); growths (nodules) on the skin.; thick, stiff or dry skin; painless ulcers on the soles of feet; painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes; and loss of eyebrows or eyelashes.
The ancient Rabbis argued that tzara’at referred not to a bodily disease but to a physical manifestation of a spiritual and social malaise, a spiritual punishment designed to show a malefactor that they must mend their ways. The tzara’at white skin was a sign of sin, visible to all and confirmed by the priest’s examination. The Talmud states that it is an affliction meted out directly from God as a result of sin, particularly anti-social sins such as murder, lying for selfish ends, sexual immorality, false oaths, pride, and especially lashon hara (slander). The social issue underlying tzara’at is implied by its very name. A person who has tzara’at is called a מצורעmetzora. According to rabbinic tradition, this word is a contraction of the Hebrew words motzi and ra, which loosely means “one who spreads slander”, or an acronym for מוציא שם רע ‘MoTZi Shem RA’ – which means in English ‘to muddy someone’s name’.
The first person mentioned in the Torah as being afflicted with tzara’at was Miriam, Numbers 12:9-13. It was her punishment from God for committing the sin of lashon hara,or evil tongue, speaking against her brother Moshe (Moses). Thus, the Rabbis suggest, a person becomes “unclean”, afflicted with tzara’at, as a consequence of spreading slander. In Matthew 15:18-20, we find Yeshua in agreement: “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’.” Leviticus 19:16 teaches: “Do not go about as a talebearer among your people.” James 4:11 repeats this commandment: “Speak not evil one of another.” Proverbs 16:27-28: “An ungodly man digs up evil, and in his lips is a scorching fire. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” Matthew 12:35-36: “I say unto you, For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” 2 Cor 12:20 lists the sins of “quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him:haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” How we speak about others is not a small, insignificant thing – lashon hara, in all its forms, is detestable to Him.
The prescribed treatment for tzara’at in Leviticus was social exclusion – the person was to live outside the camp, cloak themselves up to their lips, and cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” Even after Moshe pleaded with God to heal his sister, Miriam still had to remain outside the camp for seven days before she could re-join her community healed. This social exclusion was aimed at bringing repentance, and thus healing.
Another midrash from the Talmud suggests that tzara’at is a punishment for selfishness. 1 Kings 7:3-20 is thus viewed as showing four men afflicted with tzara’at due to previous acts of selfishness, punished by being isolated from their community (put outside the city) which motivates them to cease acting selfishly and begin to put the needs of the community ahead of their own. As a result of their “rehabilitation” the four men are redeemed, the enemy is scattered and the city of Samaria is saved from attack.
Once a person was healed of their tzara’at they had to undergo detailed ceremonial cleansing rites, including ritual bathing, a sin offering, a burnt offering and a grain offering, over eight days with the priest making atonement for them before the Lord. Only then could they return to their home and once again be accepted as part of the community of Israel (Leviticus 14:1-32).
One of the aspects of Yeshua’s ministry was that people with tzara‘at were being cleansed.
Yeshua honoured Yochanan
Yeshua taught His talmidim to honour. He spoke truth and rebuked when rebuke was needed, but He also honoured where honour was due. When Yeshua spoke about Yochanan to the crowd He did not rebuke or make example of Yochanan’s doubting, but rather declared: “among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!”
As these disciples of John were going away, Jesus beganspeaking to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:7-15 NASB
When the messengers from Yochanan had gone, Yeshua began speaking to the crowds about Yochanan: “What did you go out into the desert to see? Reeds swaying in the breeze? No? then what did you go out to see? Someone who was well dressed? But people who dress beautifully and live in luxury are found in kings’ palaces. No, so what did you go out to see? A prophet! Yes, and I tell you he’s much more than a prophet. This is the one about whom the Tanakh says, ‘See, I am sending out my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you that among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than Yochanan the Immerser! Luke 7:24-28a CJB
Yeshua honoured Yochanan’s rugged strength and fortitude. He honoured Yochanan’s prophetic call. He honoured Yochanan’s unique role in fulfilling scripture and preparing the way for Him.
Like commendations of faithfulness to God could not be said for most of the religious leaders of His day. Nor, even for the populace of the towns where He had performed most of His miracles. Yeshua’s miraculous healings and deliverances were not a sign of God’s favour on the people, but a sign of their need to repent, even as Yochanan had preached to them: “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Most people enjoyed the spectacle of the miracles but failed to heed their message. Yet, still the religious leaders thought themselves qualified to judge what was from God or not, and in their judgment they rejected both God’s messenger, Yochanan, and the One he had pointed them to, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Yeshua.
“Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he!” All the people who heard him, even the tax-collectors, by undergoing Yochanan’s immersion acknowledged that God was right; but the P’rushim (Pharisees) and the Torah-teachers, by not letting themselves be immersed (baptised) by him, nullified for themselves God’s plan. “Therefore,” said the Lord, “how can I describe the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces, calling to one another, ‘We made happy music, but you wouldn’t dance! We made sad music, but you wouldn’t cry!’ For Yochanan has come not eating bread and not drinking wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Aha! A glutton and a drunkard! A friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Well, the proof of wisdom is in all the kinds of people it produces.” Luke 7:28b-35 CJB
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a song of mourning, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a heavy drinker, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ And yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Then He began to reprimand the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment, than for you.” Matthew 11:16-24 NASB
It was coming to the close of the first year of Yeshua’s ministry. His talmidim had witnessed so much in this year, from His first miracle of wine at the wedding to cleansing the temple, to a whole Samaritan city repenting, to multitudes of healings and deliverances and even the dead being raised. The kingdom of heaven was powerful, but it was not an earthly power of soldiers and swords. They had seen religious leaders rebuked and sinners accepted, the proud brought low and the lowly exalted. The kingdom of heaven was an upside down kingdom and operated on principals which were opposite to those of worldly kingdoms. Twelve of Yeshua’s talmidim had been chosen as a foundation for the establishment of this kingdom on earth, soon they would be sent out to do what they had been witnessing Yeshua do. But, first, they needed one more lesson in what this was all about – saving sinners. The setting for that lesson was an unexpected place – the house of a Pharisee.
On the way Yeshua taught the people something so liberating that one of the women who was renown in this town for her sinfulness, one who had given up on ever being free or clean or acceptable, one who had suffered so much abuse, grasped hold of those words and would not let them go. The more she meditated on these words the more she just had to come to Him.
It was at that time that Yeshua said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated and revealed them to ordinary folks. Yes, Father, I thank You that it pleased You to do this.”
“My Father has handed over everything to me. Indeed, no one fully knows the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.
“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart,and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30 CJB
This woman was not sophisticated or educated. She was ordinary, very ordinary. She was struggling and burdened, weighed down with burdens too heavy to carry. Life was hard and painful. She felt trapped and exhausted with life. Yeshua’s words pierced through all her defences with an invitation to receive what she thought she could never have, rest for her troubled soul. Everything within her cried out with the need to take His yoke upon her, to learn from Him, to find rest.
One of the P’rushim invited Yeshua to eat with him, and he went into the home of the Parush and took his place at the table.
Yeshua came to the home of this well-respected, fine religious man. He was an admired member of the community, a man who no doubt contributed to the Temple, dressed appropriately, and was considered a model of what Judaism should be. This pillar of the community had just done, he thought, Yeshua the tremendous favour of inviting him to dine. In so doing Simon also provided his other, more distinguished, guests the opportunity to examine this radical itinerant preacher more closely. Simon’s invitation was not motivated by the honoured Jewish practice of hospitality, as can be seen by how he treated Yeshua on His arrival.
A woman who lived in that town, a sinner, who was aware that he was eating in the home of the Parush, brought an alabaster box of very expensive perfume, stood behind Yeshua at his feet and wept until her tears began to wet his feet. Then she wiped his feet with her own hair, kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.
Again it is Luke who shares with us this incident focused on a woman. She dared come into this house where she knew she would not be welcome. She was not refined. No one would consider her a fine religious woman. She risked open rejection, denouncement and rough expulsion. This woman was doing what all the good people of the cities where Yeshua had done most of His miracles failed to do – repenting. Her attitude in stark contrast to that of the multitudes. Her attitude in stark contrast to that of the Pharisees sitting at Simon’s table who felt it their job to stand in judgment over the Son of God. She came, stood humbly behind Him, and wept. The tears kept flowing. She was in desperate need of the rest for her soul that Yeshua had been teaching about. Tears ran down her cheeks and onto His feet below. She knelt down behind Him, wiped His feet with her hair to dry them, kissed these precious feet and lavished her expensive perfume on them. The scent filled the room.
When the Parush (Pharisee) who had invited Him saw what was going on, he said to himself, “If this man were really a prophet, He would have known who is touching Him and what sort of woman she is, that she is a sinner.”
Simon was inwardly outraged. Surely this was all the proof they needed that Yeshua was indeed no prophet from God. Fraud, obviously a fraud. If this man had any discernment He would know what a vile sinner that woman was and show her the same distain the rest of them were heaping upon her. Yeshua had discernment, a much higher level of discernment than any of the Pharisees there. He discerned repentance, He discerned love, He discerned faith. These are what He came for.
Yeshua answered, “Shim‘on, I have something to say to you.” “Say it, Rabbi,” he replied. “A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed ten times as much as the other. When they were unable to pay him back, he cancelled both their debts. Now which of them will love him more?” Shim‘on answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” “Your judgment is right,” Yeshua said to him. Then, turning to the woman, he said to Shim‘on, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house — you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair! You didn’t give me a kiss; but from the time I arrived, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet! You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet! Because of this, I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.”
Simon may have referred to Yeshua as “rabbi” out of some feigned respect, but his words were shallow. He had not offered the basics of hospitality to this invited guest. In ancient Israel, hospitality was not merely a question of good manners, but a moral imperative and highly esteemed virtue.
Among the ethical teachings of the Rabbis (the Oral Torah which the Pharisees followed fastidiously), the duties of hospitality occupy a very prominent position. Some regard hospitality more highly than the reception given to the Shekinah (Divine Presence); others make it superior to visiting the house of study; others, again, consider it as one of the six meritorious deeds whose reward is like a tree, the fruit of which man enjoys in this world, while the trunk remains for his enjoyment in the world to come (Shab. 127a). Special emphasis was laid upon the hospitality due to a scholar, so that it was said that one who shows hospitality to a Torah student is regarded as if he had offered the daily sacrifice (Ber. 10b, 63b, Ḳid. 76b; Gen. R. lviii. 12).
The traveller was expected to accept a host’s invitation to dine. To refuse such hospitality was an insult that only an enemy would inflict. When the guest arrived the host and guest would bow to greet each other. Then the host placed their right hand on their guest’s left shoulder and kissed his right cheek, and then reversing the action, placed their left hand on the guest’s right shoulder, and kissed his left cheek. Upon entering the house the guest would take off their sandals and be offered water for washing his feet. A servant would assist the guest by pouring the water upon his feet over a copper basin, rubbing the feet with his hands, and wiping them with a napkin. The custom of anointing the head of guests with oil is an ancient one, olive oil was often used, sometimes mixed with fragrant spices. Any lack of this etiquette was considered a profound insult that suggested hostility towards the guest.
Yeshua turned the tables on Shim‘on. According to the Pharisees’ own Oral Torah, providing the correct hospitality to a guest was a moral imperative, a divine law of utmost importance. This woman, whom Shim‘on had denounced as sinful, had fulfilled that law where he had broken it. Shim‘on too was a sinner, a law-breaker. His actions at this meal had exposed him. The woman’s sins may have been far more numerous than Shim‘on‘s, but he, too, was in need of forgiveness. The woman’s fulfilment of the laws of hospitality did not negate her numerous sins, but her coming to Yeshua in repentance put her in the position to receive that which would negate them – God’s forgiveness.
Then he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” At this, those eating with him began saying among themselves, “Who is this fellow that presumes to forgive sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your trust has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50 CJB
The woman received her forgiveness, was saved and filled with the peace of God. Shim‘on and his fellow Pharisees were too busy judging Yeshua for declaring such forgiveness of sins to be able to receive it for themselves. They remained guilty lawbreakers.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Readers, Ellicott’s Commentary for English. Luke 7:11. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/7-11.htm. 3. Bengel, Johann. Luke 7:11. Bible Hub. [Online] 1759. [Cited: November 2020, 14.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/7-11.htm. 4. Bevere, Allan R. Is Jesus the One? Ministry Matters. [Online] December 8th, 2011. https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/2131/is-jesus-the-one. 5. Calahan, John. John the Baptist Has Doubts About Christ. Never Thirsty. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/life-of-christ-ministry-in-galilee-early-a-d-32/john-the-baptist-has-doubts-about-christ/. 6. Ariel. WHAT IS TZARA’AT? Hebrewversity. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.hebrewversity.com/what-is-tzaraat/. 7. Fox, Tamar. Tzaraat–A Biblical Affliction. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tzaraat-a-biblical-affliction/. 8. Blank, Glenn David. The Hidden Meaning of Tzara’at (skin disease). Lehigh University. [Online] April 8th, 2000. https://www.lehigh.edu/~gdb0/simcha/tzaraat.htm. 9. Cohen, Rabbi Howard. Tzara’at and Selfishness. Reconstructing Judaism. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/dvar-torah/tzaraat-and-selfishness. 10. Rosenfeld, Rabbi Dovid. Tzara’at versus Leprosy. Aish. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.aish.com/atr/Tzaraat-versus-Leprosy.html. 11. Bratcher, Dennis. Travelers and Strangers: Hospitality in the Biblical World. The Voice – Biblical and Theological Resources. [Online] 2018. http://www.crivoice.org/travelers.html. 12. History, Bible. Hospitality. Bible History Maps, Images, Archaeology. [Online] [Cited: November 15th, 2020.] https://www.bible-history.com/links.php?cat=39&sub=407&cat_name=Manners+%26+Customs&subcat_name=Hospitality 13. Wight, Fred H. The Sa cred duty of Hospitality. Ancient Hebrew Research Centre. [Online] [Cited: November 15th, 2020.] https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/manners/the-sacred-duty-of-hospitality.htm.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What do we learn from Jairus coming to Jesus and pleading with Him to come and heal his daughter? * What do we learn from Jesus’ response to Jairus? How does this apply to your ministry? * Even the Jew’s clothing was distinctive to remind them to focus on God and obey Him. Is there clothing in your culture that has special significance? * What were the differences between men’s and women’s clothing in Jesus’ time? What are the differences in your culture? Compare the clothing in your culture to that in Jesus’ culture. * What do we learn from the woman with the issue of blood? * Why do you think Jesus only allowed Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John to go with Him to witness the girl’s resurrection? * Why do you think Jesus gave the girl’s parents “strict orders to say nothing about this to anyone, and told them to give her something to eat“? * What do we learn from the resurrection of the widow’s son? * Why do you think John the Baptist started having doubts about whether Jesus was the One he had been send to prepare the way for? * How did Jesus respond to John’s doubts, and how does He respond to our doubts? * What do we learn from tzara’at and how is it important in our Christian walk? * Did everyone that Jesus healed or who saw His miracles repent and get saved? How does this fit with the parable Jesus told about the four different types of ground that seed falls on? * Compare the Jewish culture of hospitality with hospitality in your culture. * What do we learn from Jesus’ meal at Simon the Pharisee’s house and how would this help prepare the apostles to be sent out with the Gospel? * What does it mean to find rest for our soul?
Please read Matthew 8:18-34, Mark 4:35-5:20 & Luke 8:22-39
Deep in the Jordan Great Rift Valley, a valley caused by the separation of the African and Arabian Plates, and surrounded by the hills of northern Israel, the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret – Hebrew: ים כנרת) is the lowest freshwater lake on earth at 209 meters (nearly 700 feet) below sea level. In places it plunges to depths of 60m. It is a relatively small lake, approximately 53 km (33 mi) in circumference, about 21 km (13 mi) long from north to south, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide at its widest point, with a surface area of of 170 km². In comparison, Lake Victoria (Victoria Nyanza) in East Africa is 1,135 meters above sea level, 337 km long and 240 km wide, with a surface area of 68,800 km².
From any point on the Sea of Galilee’s rocky shore, all other locations along the shoreline are visible. Much of the Sea’s beauty comes from being nestled among the hills; green in the spring, brown during the dry season, which contrast with the deep blue of the water. Around the sea, the hills of Galilee reach nearly 1,400 feet (425m) above sea level, and the mountains of the Golan Heights (called the Decapolis in Jesus’ time) reach more than 2,500 feet (760m). These heights are a source of cool, dry air. The slopes of the Golan Heights on the east and Mount Arbel on the west drop sharply down to the Sea. The Sea’s location, so far below much of the country surrounding it, makes it subject to sudden and violent storms as the wind comes over the eastern mountains and drops suddenly onto the Sea. The large difference in height between surrounding land and the Sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds stirring up the Sea, funnelling through the hills. Storms are especially likely when an east wind blows cool air over the warm air that covers the Sea. The cold air (being heavier) surges down as the warm air rises. This sudden change can produce surprisingly furious storms in a short time. Many of the 12, being fishermen, were used to such storms – but there was a storm to come that would have even them quaking in fear.
When Yeshua saw the crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Matthew 8:18 CJB
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Mark 4:35 NKJV
One day Yeshua got into a boat with his talmidim and said to them, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” Luke 8:22 CJB
Mark lets us know this happened right at the end of the same day. “Evening”, from the Greek γίνομαιgínomai= to emerge, to become (come into being), transition from one point to another, signifies a change of condition, state or place; it often describes what is to be created, come into being, happen, or what is about to be produced. Evening was the beginning of a new day. The new day was about to be produced. This was right on the transition from one day to the next. It had been a very long day, with the steady flow of people needing miracles from when Yeshua had arrived back in Capernaum the previous evening, the teaching of parables to the gathered multitude from a boat just off shore, the explanations to His talmidim back in the house, and now down to the sea shore again.
Still, the people kept crowding around Him, eager to learn from Him, to see Him do more miracles and to receive their healing. Yeshua was not drawn to the crowds like they were drawn to Him. He only did what He saw His Father doing. Obeying the Father’s voice was more important that “building His ministry”. The Father had His eye on a despised Gentile across the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a man who had been so violently driven by the enemy that even his own family and community had cut off from him. So Yeshua climbed back into a boat and gave the command to cross over to the other side of the lake.
Still the people kept calling out to Him. These Jews who had come from all around wanted Him to stay with them and keep feeding their thirsty souls.
Then a scribe (Torah-teacher) came and said to Him, “Teacher (Rabbi), I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:19-20 NASB
As they were traveling on the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Yeshua answered him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.” Luke 9:57-58 CJB
Was it exhaustion speaking? An overwhelming tiredness from constantly giving out and having no time to rest? Following Yeshua would not be an easy path. It was not the way to gain religious prestige nor earthly power or wealth. His was not the comfortable path. Was this Torah-teacher ready for the discomfort of such a self-sacrificing life?
Another of the talmidim said to him, “Sir, first let me go and bury my father.” But Yeshua replied, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22 CJB
To another he said, “Follow me!” But the man replied, “Sir, first let me go away and bury my father.” Yeshua said, “Let the dead bury their own dead; you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God!” Luke 9:59-60 CJB
Again we see the gospel tradition of not naming any of the male talmidim (disciples) except for the 12 foundational apostles. Those 12 had already been called and chosen for their unique role, but the call to discipleship, the call to “follow Me” kept being extended to others.
There are differing opinions among Bible commentators as to who this talmid was and whether his father was at this time still alive or had just that day died, or was awaiting his secondary burial a year after his death.
The traditional Jewish preference for prompt burial continued throughout the first century. In Mark 5:38, funeral preparations for Jairus’s daughter begin right away, and in John 11 Lazarus is buried on his day of death. According to Mishnah Sanhedrin 6.6, a corpse should not be kept unburied overnight except on rare occasions. The Jewish burial rite consisted of two parts – the primary burial on the day of death, and a secondary burial a year later.
As soon as death was certain, the deceased’s eyes were closed and the corpse was washed. Perfumes or ointments were used for this washing. The body was then wrapped and bound in strips of cloth. According to the third-century C.E. Jewish tractate Semahot, men could only prepare the corpse of a man, but women could prepare both men and women. John 11 has such preparations in view: Lazarus’s “hands and feet [were] bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth” (John 11:44). Thus prepared, male relatives and friends would carry the corpse in a procession toward the place of interment, accompanied by friends, neighbours, and relatives. Jewish funeral processions made their way from the family home to the family tomb that day, for the primary burial. Members of the immediate family took the corpse into the tomb while friends and relatives waited outside. The corpse would be brought into an outer room and laid on the floor, or in special slots in the wall. The ceremony of primary burial seems to have often included spoken words in appreciation for the dead and in sympathy for the bereaved.
After primary burial, the procession returned to the family home, where expressions of condolence continued. Rituals of death continued for several days thereafter. Literary sources, including John 11, agree that for the first seven days, the immediate family remained at home in mourning. If mourners left the house during this time, it was presumed that they would go to the tomb. After seven days, most aspects of ordinary life resumed.
The death of a parent was an exception: children mourned their parents for a full year, until the time of secondary burial.
The secondary burial would take place about a year after the primary burial. At that time, in a private ceremony, family members returned to the tomb, took the bones of the deceased from their resting place on a shelf or a niche, and placed them in another niche, pit, or ossuary, adding them to a pile of bones left by previous generations in an inner sanctum. The one thing expressed most clearly by Israelite burial practices is the common human desire to maintain some contact with the community even after death, through burial in one’s native land at least, and if possible with one’s ancestors. Jacob’s request, “bury me with my fathers,” (Gen. 49:29), was the wish of every ancient Israelite. This practice of family burial, was common enough to give rise to the Hebrew expressions “to sleep with one’s fathers” (e.g., I Kings 11:23) and “to be gathered to one’s kin” (Gen. 25:8; et al.) as synonyms for “to die.”
Regardless of the individual circumstances of the talmid who responded: “first let me go and bury my father”, Yeshua’s reply has echoed true down through to ages to so many of His followers in many different circumstances: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
The Wind & Waves Obey
He boarded the boat, and his talmidim followed. Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake, so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. Matthew 8:23-24 CJB
So, leaving the crowd behind, they took him just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. A furious windstorm arose, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern on a cushion, asleep. Mark 4:36-38a CJB
And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. Luke 8:22b-23a NKJV
Yeshua had spoken the Father’s word: “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake” then, confident in the Father’s purposes and exhausted from all the ministry, He fell asleep in the boat. τὸ προσκεφάλαιον – “the pillow” was a part of the ship; no soft luxurious pillow but the leathern cushion of the steersman; the low bench at the stern on which the steersman sometimes sits, and the captain sometimes rests his head to sleep. None of the being tossed around in the boat, nor the water splashing over the sides and drenching Him could arouse Yeshua from this sleep of exhaustion.
We know that Andrew, Peter, James and John had all grown up on the Sea, being trained by their fathers’ as fishermen. Thomas, Nathaniel and Philip may have also worked as fishermen, for they were all together and fishing when Yeshua appeared to them in John 21:2-8, following His resurrection. This boat was being manned by an experienced crew who had plenty of practice handling a boat in stormy seas, yet something about this storm had even them worried and fearing for their lives.
So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” Matthew 8:25 CJB
They woke him and said to him, “Rabbi, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re about to be killed?” Mark 4:38b CJB
And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Luke 8:23-24 NKJV
In the midst of their fear and panic they knew of only one place to turn for help. All their efforts were failing. All their strength, experience and ability were proving insufficient to save them. Each of us comes to this point when we realise our absolute need of what only He can do.
They knew Yeshua was their only hope, yet in their fear they doubted His love and care for them: “Rabbi, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re about to be killed?” They doubted God’s plan for them: “we are perishing!” Despite their doubts, they turned to Him. Despite their doubts they woke Yeshua and cried out for Him to help them. Despite their doubts, He arose and did what they could not believe. His nature and will for our lives is not confined to what we can believe for – even crying out to Him in our doubts is sufficient, because He is sufficient.
He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm. The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:26-27 CJB
And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Mark 4:39-41 NASB
Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marvelled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” Luke 8:24-25 NKJV
Matthew gives us Yeshua’s first response, and it is to His talmidim: “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Theirs was not a false fear, a phobia of something conjured by their imagination – they were facing a very real and dangerous situation, a boat that is filled with water does not stay afloat and this violent tempest was tossing them around and filling their boat faster than they could empty it. We can likewise face very real and dangerous situations – famine, flood, drought, war, disease, the children are crying because they have no food, our loved one is dying and we have no money for treatment, our house has been washed away and we are left with nothing, enemies are closing in and we can see no way of escape, the boat is filling with water and we are a long way from land. Like the 12, we can doubt God’s care and provision for us in the mist of situations when we feel that we are perishing. We call out to Jesus, try to arouse Him, but we don’t really believe He will do anything to save us because He hasn’t done anything yet and our situation has just kept getting worse. Then He speaks, and His first words are not to our situation but to us: “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!”
Mark gives us Messiah’s words of rebuke to the wind and waves: σιώπα = “hush! be silent!” and πεφίμωσο = “be muzzled!” be put to silence and made still. Yeshua rebuked the wind and the waves as though they were a raging monster, a force sent to hinder the Father’s will. The Greek perfect tense implies that before the word was uttered, the thing was done by the power of his will preceding the word. The wind ἐκόπασεν = grew weary, died down and stopped. The Sea sank to rest as if exhausted by its own beating. It changed from a state of dangerous turmoil to one of tremendous and immediate calm.
“Where is your faith?” A question for each one of us. Is our faith in our own ability? Is our faith in our faith? Is our faith in the boat? Is our faith in what we think we know? Is our faith in our circumstances? Is our faith in what we can see and taste and touch? Is our faith in the One who rules over all?
The talmidim had never seen anything like this before. Even though they’d memorised the stories of Moses and the Red Sea and the pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day, they had never even imagined anything like this, that a man would command the wind and waves and they would obey Him. A whole new revelation began to dawn on them as to Who this was that they were following.
When Yeshua arrived at the other side of the lake, in the Gadarenes’ territory, there came out of the burial caves two men controlled by demons, so violent that no one dared travel on that road. They screamed, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Now some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged him, “If you are going to drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” “All right, go!” he told them. So they came out and went into the pigs, whereupon the entire herd rushed down the hillside into the lake and drowned. The swineherds fled, went off to the town and told the whole story, including what had happened to the demonized men. At this, the whole town came out to meet Yeshua. When they saw him, they begged him to leave their district. Matthew 8:28-34 CJB
They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea. Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to implore Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. Mark 5:1-20 NASB
Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned. When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned. Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:26-39 NKJV
They left Capernaum and, after Yeshua had demonstrated His power as the Son of God over the elements by stilling the wind and waves, arrived at the other side of the lake, in the Gadarenes’ territory (Matthew); the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes (Mark); the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee (Luke).
The closest city of any significance was Gadara, hence Matthew and Luke describe the place of this encounter as in χώρα (chóra = the space lying between two places or limits/the region/country/territory) of the Gadarenes. Gadara lay 8km (5 miles) southeast of the shoreline, its territory certainly reached the Sea of Galilee and would have included port towns, for Josephus mentions the fact and its coins show a ship. Gadara was a centre of Greek culture, containing temples to idols, theatres, a hippodrome, an aqueduct, etc., and produced a string of poets, satirists and philosophers.
Mark’s description of the country of the Gerasenes couldbe the use of a Semitic designation, “land of the foreigners” (Heb gerûšîm; Gk Gerasenoi), as the name for an entire region, or it could refer to the land around a village on the eastern shore that some have identified as Gergesa. On the south of this village there is a cliff within forty meters of the shore and about 3km from there are cavern tombs. If this was the place of the encounter, as some early church father’s believed, then Hippos could have been the city that the herdsmen ran to.
We don’t have enough information to be confident of the exact location of their landing, but what we do know is that it was an area with a steep bank on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the Decapolis– Gentile territory of the ten independent cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee. We saw Yeshua go into Samaria to preach to the Samaritans at the beginning of His ministry, now He had crossed the boundary into Gentile territory to minister. Such a move would have horrified the Jewish religious leaders back in Galilee or Jerusalem. It may have been trepidation about doing something that they had always been taught was ungodly (going into Gentile territory) that had aroused the fears of the talmidim when the storm arose, thinking God had sent it to change their direction as He had to Jonah headed to Tarshish on a boat. Maybe they had not been trying to wake Yeshua to still the storm but in the hope that He would be convinced by the danger it posed to change direction and command they return back to the shore they had come from. Could this be where the charge of “you don’t care about us” came from, the belief that what was needed for their safety was a change in direction and Yeshua was not giving that command. But the storm was not heralding God’s displeasure, it was just hindering His will, until the Son of God arose and rebuked it so the Father’s purposes could be fulfilled.
What Yeshua met upon disembarking from the boat would have confirmed all the prejudices His talmidim had grown up with against Gentiles. This demon-possessed man was unclean in every sense of the word. Matthew, who was in the boat with Yeshua, records there actually being two demon possessed men. It appears that the fruit of one’s deliverance was much more significant than the other, so it is that one’s story which Mark and Luke share with us. Matthew describes them as: “so violent that no one dared travel on that road”. This major trading route, along the east coast of the Sea, was impassable because of the demonically controlled violence of these men. Mark and Luke describe the one who was going to be transformed as wearing no “himation” = outer garment, robe or cloak – often made of wool and also used as a blanket to keep warm at night – and as living in the tombs instead of a home. The people tried to keep him restrained under guard but he kept tearing the chains and shackles apart, self-harming and screaming day and night. These poor men were tormented, out of control, a danger to others, and a danger to themselves. Yet, their connection to the spirit realm also meant that they recognised Yeshua was the Son of God and, against the will of every demon inhabiting them, ran to Him.
Here we see the tremendous conflict within these men, running to Yeshua for deliverance and yet when Yeshua speaks that word of command for them to be set free, out of their mouths the demons speak, begging Him not to do so. The man Mark and Luke focus on was not possessed by just one unclean spirit, but rather he’s occupied by a host of them. In the Roman army “legion” designated 6,000 soldiers. His condition seemed hopeless, even as the talmidim had felt hopeless in the face of the fierce storm on the Sea. His pitiful condition had become his identity. When asked his name, this man replied “Legion”. He had no name, no identity left, except for what he was captive to. Increasingly today we hear people proudly proclaim their identity as what they are captive to. This man had been completely defined by what assailed him, by what robed him of joy and health, by what hindered him and kept him bound, by all those things that kept him from experiencing life in its abundance.
According to the superstitions of the time these demons had the upper hand over Yeshua – they knew His name and position: Jesus, Son of the Most High God, and they had evaded His questioning their names and instead tried to intimidate by replying: “legion, for we are many.” But Yeshua’s power over them was not in the use of the “right formula”, but in the very nature of His being as the Son of God. No demon could resist His command, so these powerful forces that had exerted such devastating control of the men were reduced to begging. This was Gentile country, they farmed and ate what were for the Jews unclean animals such a pigs and there was a herd close by. The scripture does not tell us why Yeshua allowed the demons to enter the swine, instead of sending them to the abys, maybe it was so all the people could see how many this man was being set free from – no matter how large the enemy’s army is, one word from the Son of God sends them all fleeing. These demons were self-destructive in the man, even as he struggled against their power, in the swine they found no such resistance and the whole herd ran violently down the steep slope into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. Both Yeshua’stalmidim and all the herdsmen saw the destructive force that had been cast out of this man. Soon everyone in the closest city knew about it too.
Now we come to the pivotal part in the narrative. Luke gives us the insight: “whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.” Yeshua had explained to Nicodemus:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21 NIV
The people of this region loved darkness, they delighted in things that God abhorred. They wanted nothing to do with the holiness of God, with the Light that had come into the world. When the power of God’s holiness was displayed in expelling the demons they were seized with fear that their sin would likewise be exposed for what it was. Two men, whom everyone had pitied and looked down on, two men who had been cast out of their families and society, two men whose deplorable state illustrated the direction their community was headed, these two men longed to be free from it all and came running to Yeshua. These two were set free and that freedom challenged the philosophy this society had been built on. The people were seized with fear and wanted Yeshua gone from their shores. We might think the Jews were resistant to the gospel, but these Gentiles were much worse. They did not come running, as thousands of the Jews had done, to seek Yeshua’s healing and deliverance, and to listen to His teaching. They only came running to get rid of Him, to send Him away, “don’t come back again.”
One man, all alone among His people. One man longing for light. One man hungering and thirsting for righteousness. One man begged (deomai = made an urgent appeal out of a pressing need due to lack) to stay (eimi syn = be thereafter forever joined closely together in full identification) with Yeshua and follow Him wherever He went. One man had become a talmid. His deliverance is recorded in all three synoptic gospels. Yeshua sent (apolyo = released him from all obligation – this man did not need to leave his people and become a Jew like Yeshua) him to return to his own household, become one with his own people again, and prioritise telling them everything that God, the creator and owner of all things, had done for him. This man obeyed Yeshua. This man shared his testimony throughout his region, to all the Gentiles of the Decapolis. This man was the reason Yeshua had told the twelve to take Him to the other side of the lake. This man was the reason the storm tried to stop that journey. This man was in Yeshua’s thoughts as He rebuked the wind and waves, commanded them: “peace, be still.” This man, whose family and community had given up on him. This man became the first messenger of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the first one sent to them with good news.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Laan, Ray Vander. Sea of Galilee Geography. That The World May Know. [Online] [Cited: October 21st, 2020.] https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/sea-of-galilee-geography. 3. Donald DeYoung, Ph.D. What’s Special About the Sea of Galilee? Christian Answers. [Online] 2003. https://christiananswers.net/q-eden/ednk-seaofgalilee.html. 4. Bolen, Todd. The Sea of Galilee. Jerusalem Pwerspective. [Online] October 31, 1989. https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/1476/. 5. Gilad, Elon. The History of Jewish Burial Rites. Haaretz. [Online] April 22nd, 2015. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-the-history-of-jewish-burial-rites-1.5353617. 6. The Theological Implications of an Ancient Jewish Burial Custom. Meyers, Eric M. 2, Pennsylvania : University of Pennsylvania Press, October 1971, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 62. DOI: 10.2307/1453302. 7. McCane, Byron R. Burial Practices in First Century Palestine. Bible Odyssey. [Online] [Cited: October 24th, 2020.] https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/burial-practices-in-first-century-palestine. 8. Glenn. Questions on Mark’s Geographical Ignorance… Gadara versus Gerasa and the problem of the Long Trip Home. Christian Thinktank. [Online] March 23rd, 2008. https://www.christian-thinktank.com/giddygaddy.html. 9. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/8-28.htm. 10. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/5-1.htm. 11. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/8-26.htm. 12. McArthur, Dr. John. Matthew 8–15. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. s.l. : The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago., 1987, p. p. 41. 13. Lose, David. Legion. Working Preacher. [Online] June 16th, 2013. https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=2609.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*“The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.” What is some of the price that you have paid for following Jesus? * Compare the burial customs in your region with the Jewish customs during Jesus’ time. * Describe a time when you had to “let the dead bury their own dead” in order to follow Jesus, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. * Describe a time when Jesus has said to you: “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” * How do you answer people who define themselves in terms of their sin or deficiencies, setbacks, disappointments or failures? * What was the significance of Jesus going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee? * What stories of deliverance do you have from God setting people in your community free? * What is the most important lesson for your people from this section of scripture?
Please read Mathew 13:1-52, Mark 4:1-34 & Luke 8:4-18 and memorise the Parables
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Matthew 13:1-2 NKJV
Again Yeshua began to teach by the lake, but the crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the crowd remained on shore at the water’s edge. Mark 4:1 CJB
Ministering in a house was good for meeting individual needs, but not for teaching the multitude, and multitudes had come to hear Him. That same day Yeshua had returned to His home – probably arriving in the evening, just after the sun set and so at the beginning of a new Jewish day. That same day His relatives had thought He was loosing His senses and set out to bring Him into custody, he’d not even had time for the evening meal. That same day He had delivered the blind and mute man, possibly as the night had worn on. That same day His mother and brothers had sort to see Him. “On the same day” may have been what we in the west would call “the next morning”, as the crowds starting increasing once more, Yeshua went from His house in Capernaum and walked to the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is also called Lake Gennesaret, Lake Tiberias, or Lake Kinnereth. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth, at levels between 215 metres and 209 metres below sea level. This lake is approximately 53 km in circumference, about 21 km long, and 13 km wide. From its southern end the Jordan River (Hebrew: נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּן, Nahar ha-Yarden) continues downward through the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley (Hebrew: בִּקְעָת הַיַרְדֵּן Bik’at HaYarden) is an elongated geological trough, nestled between mountain ranges to the west and to the east, that runs some 105 km (65 miles) from the Sea of Galilee, if measured “as the crow flies”, with a width averaging 10 km (6.2 mile) with some points narrowing to 4 km (2.5 mile), before widening out to a 20 km (12 mile) delta when reaching the mineral-rich Dead Sea, the lowest lake on Earth. Due to meandering, the length of the Jordan River itself is 220 km (140 mi). This is the valley with the lowest elevation in the world, beginning at −212 m (−696 ft) below sea level (BSL) and descending to the surface of the Dead Sea, which is approximately 1,385 feet (408m) below sea level. As the lowest place on earth, the Jordan valley has a unique climate that can produce fruits and vegetables year-round.
The crowds followed in this low place. Now was the time to teach them. Yeshua got into a boat and sat as one did to teach in the synagogue. The crowd hushed, eager to listen to His words. Yet, those words revealed that He knew most of them would not produce the fruit of His teaching.
The Parable of the Sower
This is the first occurrence of the word “Parable” in St. Matthew’s Gospel, and it is clear from the question of the disciples in Matthew 13:10 that it was in some sense a new form of teaching to them. There had been illustrations before, as in that of the houses built on the sand and on the rock in Matthew 7:24-27, but now for the first time He speaks to the multitude in a parable, without an explanation. Not all of the parables Yeshua spoke are recorded for us, but this first parable was particularly significant, and so recorded in all three synoptic gospels. The only other parable thus presented in all three, Matthew, Mark and Luke, is the Parable of the Vine-dressers, one of the last spoken.
Illustration is an example used to explain or prove something. “By way of illustration” = to show the meaning more clearly.
Parable is from the Greek παραβολαῖς, parabolḗ, which comes frompará, “close beside, with” andbállō, “to cast“. παραβολαῖς, parabolḗ had been employed by the Greek translators of the Old Testament for the Hebrew wordמִשְלֵי, Míshlê, which we commonly render by “proverb,” and which, like the Greek parabole, has the sense of similitude. Eastern proverbs were usually condensed parables, and parables were expanded proverbs. In the later and New Testament use of the word, however, the parable takes the fuller form of a narrative embracing facts natural and probable in themselves. A parable is a teaching aid cast alongside the truth being taught: “to put one thing by the side of another for the sake of comparison, to compare, liken“. Jesus’ parables cast additional light by using an arresting or familiar analogy. A Parable is a pictorial or narrative exhibition of some spiritual or moral truth, by means of actual and not fanciful elements of comparison.
Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are anthropomorphized, and that illustrates or leads to a particular moral lesson (a “moral“), which may at the end be added explicitly as a concise maxim or saying. Judges 9:1-15 contains a fable about trees choosing a king to rule over them that Jotham, Gideon’s son, spoke to the people of Shechem.
Allegoryis a simple story that represents a larger point about society or human nature, whose different characters may represent real-life figures. It may have meaning on two or more levels that the reader can understand only through an interpretive process. The Song of Solomon is an allegory. Yeshua used allegories such as those of the vine and the good shepherd.
Yeshua spoke in illustrations, allegories and parables, not fables – His teachings moved solely within the bounds of the people’s lived experiences and used these to illustrate deeper truths. He never used animals, plants, inanimate objects, imaginary beings and forces of nature as actors that assume speech or other powers of humankind. The mode of teaching by parables was familiar enough in the schools of the Rabbis, and the Talmud contains many of great beauty and interest. As used by the Pharisees and Torah Teachers, however, they were regarded as belonging to those who were receiving a higher education, and the son of Sirach was expressing the current feeling of the rabbinical schools when he said of the tillers of the soil and the herdsmen of flocks that they “were not found where parables were spoken” (Ecclesiasticus 38:33). Yeshua had gone down to the low point of the head of the Jordan valley, the Sea of Galilee, to share parables with all the people during this time when seeds were being sown.
It was now the winter wet season. The fields had been ploughed, the fallow ground broken up. The first rains had come, refreshing the soil. Now it was time for the grain planting throughout the Galilee region.
Yeshua taught the people in parables, using stories of the things they knew to be true in order to illustrate principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. Many of the crowd who had gathered from all over Galilee to listen to this rabbi had walked through fields that were being prepared and sown. The image was fresh in their minds.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” . Matthew 13:3-9 NKJV
He taught them many things in parables. In the course of his teaching, he said to them: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some seed fell alongside the path; and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky patches where there was not much soil. It sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow; but when the sun rose, the young plants were scorched; and since their roots were not deep, they dried up. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked it; so that it yielded no grain. But other seed fell into rich soil and produced grain; it sprouted, and grew, and yielded a crop — thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown.”And he concluded, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!” Mark 4:2-9 CJB
After a large crowd had gathered from the people who kept coming to him from town after town, Yeshua told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was stepped on, and the birds flying around ate it up. Some fell on rock; and after it sprouted, it dried up from lack of moisture. Some fell in the midst of thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. But some fell into rich soil, and grew, and produced a hundred times as much as had been sown.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!” Luke 8:4-8 CJB
The Parable of the Sower is identical in structure and in teaching in the three synoptic gospels, which shows that they were relating the same story. It differs, however, in detail; we thus gather that the three did not copy from one primitive document as some suppose, but that these memories were derived either from their own recollections (Matthew), or at least from different sources (Mark and Luke). The fourth gospel continues to remain silent on this season of Yeshua’s ministry in Galilee.
Mark introduces the parable thus, ἀκούω – akouō – meaning hearken! / behold! / listen! / pay attention so as to understand! He thus emphasised that what was about to be spoken was a matter of great importance and concern that deserves our most diligent attention. By “the sower” is meant “the son of man“, as may be learnt from the explanation of another parable (Matthew 13:37), which is Yeshua Himself, who is often so called on account of his human nature. “His seed“; refers to the Gospel, of which He is the author, publisher, sum and substance; and since He is, by way of eminency, “the sower“; which must be understood of him as a prophet, or preacher of the word, who was eminently sent of God, and richly qualified for such an office, and was most diligent in it, and yet the majority of those who had gathered to hear Him would fail to bear fruit. Despite this apparent lack of success, the Kingdom of God would grow exponentially because those who did bear fruit produced up to a hundred times what had been sown into their lives.
Parable of the Lamp
He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:21-23 NIV
“No one who has lit a lamp covers it with a bowl or puts it under a bed; no, he puts it on a stand; so that those coming in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nothing is covered up that will not be known and come out into the open.” Luke 8:16-17 CJB
The furniture of a very humble Eastern home is brought before us in this saying. In the original, each of the nouns has the definite article attached to it, and so suggests that in the house there was but one of each article; one lamp; one ‘bowl’- μόδιοςmódios – a small piece of furniture that was “a sort of tub in the form of a truncated cone whose base is supported by three or four feet and which contains the wheat supply needed for the household“; one bed, raised slightly, but sufficiently to admit the lamp being put under it without danger; and one lampstand.
The saying appeals to common-sense. A woman does not light a lamp and then hide it. The act of lighting implies the purpose of illumination, and, with everybody who acts logically, its sequel is to put the lamp on a stand, where it may be visible. All was part of the nightly routine of every Jewish household.
All that had hitherto been secret, relative to the salvation of a lost world, or only obscurely pointed out by types and sacrifices, shall now be uncovered and made plain by the everlasting Gospel. The doctrine of Yeshua HaMashiach has nothing in it which fears the light; it is itself the light which must enlighten the world. Everything is brought to light sooner or later. The humble person conceals his virtue in this life, but God will disclose it at the day of eternity. The hypocrite attempts to hide his wickedness here, but all shall be exposed in the sight of heaven and earth.
Openness, honesty and accountability. Nothing will stay hidden. Nothing will remain concealed. Nothing will keep being covered up. Satan plays in the darkness, but Yeshua brings all things into the light. Everything will be disclosed, brought out into the open and made known.
Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Mark 4:24-25 NKJV
“Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:18 CJB
Yeshua was encouraging them all to be like the good soil, to take heed and pay careful attention to what they were hearing Him say, to take in and receive that life-giving seed He was planting with His words, to allow it to take root and grow within them. He was urging them not to be like the ground by the wayside that was so hard it did not receive the seed sown and had it all taken away by the birds. He was urging them not to be like the rocky ground whose soil was not deep enough for His word to take root properly and survive the heat of the day, nor like that which was full of thorns choking out His word so that even what they seemed to hear made no difference to how they lived and was “taken away”. How were they hearing? Were they hearing in order for His words to take root and transform their lives, to bring all the hidden things to light, or were they listening just to try to find a way to justify their darkness and refuse to allow His word to take root in their hearts?
“Take heed what you hear” can also be an injunction to be careful in choosing what we listen to. Refuse to give ear to anything that is unwholesome. Turn a deaf ear to gossip and the maligning of others. Turn your ears away from all that is ungodly and tune them in to the Word of God.
Parable of the Growing Seed
And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29 NKJV
There is something mysterious and miraculous in both how a seed grows in the ground to produce new life and fruitfulness, and how the word of God grows in a person’s heart to produce new life and fruitfulness in the kingdom of God. It is not the farmer who scatters the seed who causes it to grow, but something within the very DNA of the seed itself that produces growth given the right conditions. It is not the one who preaches the word of God, nor is it a matter of how skilled he is in preaching nor how well he is dressed, nor how skilled the musicians are nor how loud the praise and worship music is – but something within the very word of God itself which, given the right conditions within the human heart, grows and produces a great harvest. This growth is not what happens as the word is being preached, but the miraculous work it does in the heart after the preacher has finished preaching, and even while he is sleeping, as the one who heard the word takes heed to what they heard, meditates on it, has their mind renewed by the washing of the word: “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Parable of the Wheat and Tares
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 NIV
A man (in Vs 37-43 Yeshua explains to His talmidim that this man is “the Son of Man”) sowed good seed (children of the Kingdom) in His field (the world – for the whole world is Him). While not all the seed would fall on good soil so not all would be productive, one would expect that everything produced from good seed would be good grain. But that is not the only thing that happened to that field. While everyone was sleeping, without the people being aware, when no one was alert to what was happening, the enemy (Greek = exthros = one who is irreconcilably hostile, animated by deep-seated personal hatred bent on inflicting harm, in Vs 39 Yeshua identifies this enemy as the devil) came and sowed tares (children of the evil one) among the wheat. This enemy carefully chose the type of weed to inflict the most damage to the crop and the farmer – that which looks like the good grain but is not and is indeed poisonous. Tares (Greek = zizania) are very similar in appearance to wheat during their early stages of growth, but even then they taste very different – a young tare is bitter and can cause dizziness if eaten.
The Bearded Darnel, lolium temulentum, was a common tare in Galilee and resembles wheat except that the grains are black. In its early stages it is indistinguishable in appearance from the wheat stalks. Towards the end of their life cycle, when the head of grain forms, the tares become distinguishable and must be separated because at this time they are poisonous and can ruin the harvest. At harvest time – the end of the age -, wheat bends over from the weight of its fruit (grain). Tares, however, remain erect like the head of an arrogant person. At this time the alert farmer separates them – Yeshua sends His angels to remove all who cause others to sin and all evildoers – burning the poisonous tares and reaping the wheat, which shall shine like the sun in the Father’s kingdom.
Parable of the Mustard Seed
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32 NIV
Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” Mark 4:30-32 NKJV
The mustard tree has been grown and written about by various cultures for centuries. The Talmud mentions a mustard-tree so large that a man might with ease sit in it; and another, one of whose branches covered a tent. Mustard trees have been found throughout the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. The seeds are one of the smallest in the world and considered a spice in many parts of the world, making its way along trading routes during history. The mustard tree is classified by horticulturalists as an evergreen shrub. It reaches a height of 7m (21 feet) and can be as wide as it is tall with low branches being very close to the ground. The leaves are oval; starting out as dark green and progressing to a light green as the tree ages. The flower is green or yellow and is found in long tendrils. The fruit of the tree is purple with pink or purple seeds. Persia is where mustard trees originated and they grow best in hot, arid climates, and especially in the rich of the Jordan valley. They sometimes grew to a great height on the banks of the Jordan.
Mustard trees have a variety of uses. Toothbrushes are made from the branches in rural communities because they contain properties that resist bacteria and plaque. The fruit is eaten for nutrition as well as the seeds; the Punjab region uses the fruit as a dried sweet similar to currants. Mustard trees are also used for shading because of the low branches. Animals can feed on the tree shoots. The different types of mustard trees produce varying seeds. The white mustard tree produces a round seed that is used for mild flavouring and pickling. The black mustard tree also produces hard round seeds; these seeds are more spicy compared to white mustard seeds. Brown mustard trees produce seeds similar to black mustard trees but the seeds have less flavour and is often used in fried foods. Seeds from these trees can also be crushed and used as a spice.
Yeshua was planting the kingdom of heaven in His garden, the Jewish people. This kingdom did not come as a mighty conquering army, but as a tiny seed. He did not demolish Roman or Jewish society, but planted within them the seed of His kingdom that would grow to become larger and more powerful than all – a kingdom of refuge, healing, nurture and shelter for all.
Parable of the Leaven
He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33 NASB
Three can be symbolic of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It can also refer to the whole human race, which consists of three measures, having spread over the earth from the three sons of Noah. The peck here designed, is the Hebrew seah, which held a gallon and an half, and three of these made an ephah; and which is often rendered by the Targumists, (Nyao tlt) , “three specks (ie three pecks)”, the very phrase here used. Genesis 18 contains the first biblical usage of “three seahs of meal.”
And Yahweh appeared to him (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre. And he was sitting in the doorway of the tent at the heat of the day. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing near him. And he saw them and ran from the doorway of the tent to meet them. And he bowed down to the ground. And he said, “My lord, if I have found favour in your eyes do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest under the tree. And let me bring a piece of bread, then refresh yourselves. Afterward you can pass on, once you have passed by with your servant.” Then they said, “Do so as you have said.” Then Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and he said, “Quickly—make three seahs of fine flour for kneading and make bread cakes!” Genesis 18:1-6 LEB
Here, “three seahs of meal” is used in the context of a fellowship meal—giving hospitality, in this case, to God. In Israelite dry measures the smallest unit of measure is an omer. Three omers equal about one seah. There is also the ephah, which is ten omers. Three seahs made up of about three omers equal one ephah. Judges 6:18-19 shows Gideon’s offering to the Lord of an ephah, three seahs, of meal. I Samuel 1:24 tells of Hannah’s thank offering of one ephah, three seahs of meal. In Ezekiel 45:24 and 46:5, 7, 11 an ephah, three seahs ,of meal is the offerings given at the Feast during the Millennium.
While the Israelites were to totally remove all leaven from their homes in the lead up to the feast of unleavened bread, and no leaven or honey was to be used in any offering that was made by fire to the Lord, there were offerings which the Israelites were to wave before God then eat in fellowship with one another and these were to be of leavened bread:
‘No grain offering, which you bring to the Lord, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the Lord. Leviticus 2:11
With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. Leviticus 7:13
‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord. … The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the Lord; they are to be holy to the Lord for the priest. Leviticus 23:15-17, 20 NASB
The woman, as any woman would, hid the leaven in the flour as she kneaded it. For leaven is of no use sitting up on top of the loaf for all to see – it cannot do it’s work of raising the whole loaf from that position. It is only when it is hidden, mingled in with all the flour and distributed throughout the loaf, that it can raise and aerate the bread.
Then the talmidim came and asked Yeshua, “Why are you speaking to them in parables?” He answered, “Because it has been given to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it has not been given to them. For anyone who has something will be given more, so that he will have plenty; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away. Here is why I speak to them in parables: they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. That is, in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah) which says, ‘You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive, because the heart of this people has become dull — with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, so as not to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do t’shuvah (turn to Me / repent), so that I could heal them.’ But you, how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear! Yes indeed! I tell you that many a prophet and many a tzaddik longed to see the things you are seeing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them. Matthew 13:10-17 CJB
All these things Yeshua said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without using a parable. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will say what has been hidden since the creation of the universe.” Matthew 13:34-35 CJB
Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. Psalm 78:1-4 NASB
His talmidim asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God; but the rest are taught in parables, so that they may look but not see, and listen but not understand (Isaiah 6:9). Luke 8:9-10 CJB
And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. Mark 4:33-34 NKJV
The words “he said nothing to them without using a parable” are, of course, limited by the context to this occasion. All of Yeshua‘s teachings to the multitude this day, from this boat on the Sea of Galilee, were in parables. It is also noticeable from this time forward that parables are the dominant element in Yeshua’s teaching to the multitude, and that the mysteries of the kingdom are reserved for the more esoteric instruction of the disciples.
Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him… Matthew 13:36 AMP
From the boat in the amphitheatre of the Galilee basin Yeshua projected His voice for all the multitude to hear these parables. They could easily remember and relate to the scenes He portrayed, and ponder on His meaning. After He had finished teaching the multitudes, Yeshua retired again to His house in Capernaum with just His talmidim – men and women who had left everything to sit at His feet to learn of Him; “With Him were the Twelve, and a number of women” (Luke 8:1-2). The first explained parable we have recorded is that of the sower:
Listen then to the [meaning of the] parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom [regarding salvation] and does not understand and grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. Matthew 13:18-19 AMP
And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. Mark 4:13-15 NKJV
“The parable is this: the seed is God’s message. The ones along the path are those who hear, but then the Adversary comes and takes the message out of their hearts, in order to keep them from being saved by trusting it. Luke 8:11-12 CJB
The one on whom seed was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and at once welcomes it with joy; yet he has no [substantial] root in himself, but is only temporary, and when pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles and falls away [abandoning the One who is the source of salvation]. Matthew 13:20-21 AMP
These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Mark 4:16-17 NKJV
The ones on rock are those who, when they hear the word, accept it with joy; but these have no root — they go on trusting for awhile; but when a time of testing comes, they apostatize. Luke 8:13 CJB
And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit. Matthew 13:22 AMP
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19 NKJV
As for what fell in the midst of thorns these are the ones who hear; but as they go along, worries and wealth and life’s gratifications crowd in and choke them, so that their fruit never matures. Luke 8:14 CJB
And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands and grasps it; he indeed bears fruit and yields, some a hundred times [as much as was sown], some sixty [times as much], and some thirty.” Matthew 13:23 AMP
But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:20 NKJV
But what fell in rich soil — these are the ones who, when they hear the message, hold onto it with a good, receptive heart; and by persevering, they bring forth a harvest. Luke 8:15 CJB
As the afternoon wore on, Yeshua continued teaching His disciples, and answering their questions. Yeshua did not shy away from declaring the coming judgment, and describing it in vivid terms:
His disciples came to Him saying, “Explain [clearly] to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and [as for] the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the weeds are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend [those things by which people are led into sin], and all who practice evil [leading others into sin], and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping [over sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [over distress and anger]. Then the righteous [those who seek the will of God] will shine forth [radiating the new life] like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears [to hear], let him hear and heed My words. Matthew 13:36-43 AMP
Parables for His Talmidim
Yeshua continued with His teaching of this smaller group who walked with Him, affirming their decision to give up all for the sake of the kingdom of heaven…
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Matthew 13:44-52 NABRE
When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there. Matthew 13:53 NABRE
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* Are there any cultural differences between the farmer sowing his seeds in Jesus’ parable and methods of farming or types of crops in your region? * What does the parable of the sower teach your people? * What lighting do you have for houses in your region or in other areas where you minister? * What does the parable of the lamp teach your people? * What does the parable of the growing seed teach your people? * What weeds do your farmers have to deal with, are there any which look like the good plants they are trying to grow? What methods work best in your area for destroying the weeks while saving the good plants? * What does the parable of the parable of the wheat and tares teach your people? * Do you have mustard seeds and trees in your area, how well do they grow where you live? If not, do you have another large, useful plant that grows from a tiny seed? * What does the parable of the mustard seed teach your people? * What does the parable of the leaven teach your people? * What are the most important lessons for your people from these parables? * Write a parable that teaches your people one of the spiritual truths that Jesus taught by relating it to something in everyday life in your country.
Please read Mark 3:20-35, Matthew 12:22-50 & Luke 11:14-28, 8:1-21
After this, Yeshua travelled about from town to town and village to village, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. With Him were the Twelve, and a number of women who had been healed from evil spirits and illnesses — Miryam (called Magdalit) (Mary called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out; Yochanah (Joanna) the wife of Herod’s finance minister Kuza (Chuza); Shoshanah (Susanna); and many other women who drew on their own wealth to help him. Luke 8:1-3 CJB
Luke names three of the women who walked with Yeshua and the apostles, Mary called Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, then adds “and many other women”. These other women were strong and independently wealthy. They had the courage to go against the norms of their society to walk with Yeshua and fund His ministry. Following Yeshua was not a male only enterprise. This reforming rabbi accepted both women and men as His talmidim. He accepted both those who had been religious zealots and those who had been notorious sinners as His talmidim. All who were willing to lay aside everything to follow Him had an important part in His kingdom and ministry.
And He came home (into a house), and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal (ἄρτος bread). When His own people (kinsmen) heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” Mark 3:20-21 NASB
Yeshua returned to Capernaum, probably to His house where the roof had been torn up to lower the paralysed man. Capernaum was no longer the welcoming place that it had once been. The last time He had been in Capernaum, Yeshua had healed a man’s hand in the synagogue on Shabbat, an act which the religious leaders considered to be a flagrant disregard for their Sabbath laws. This, on top of having the audacity to declare the paralytic’s sins forgiven and eating with Tax Collectors and “sinners”, had been the final straw. The religious leaders did not want Him back in their synagogue, nor in their town (http://blog.renewal.asn.au/2020/08/22/new-kingdom-new-structure/).
After a busy schedule as a travelling rabbi, Yeshua may have returned home for a little bit of rest and relaxation, to refresh before going back out to meet all the needs again. He probably arrived just as the sun was setting – at the beginning of a new Jewish day. But the crowds had grown even more since He was last here. So many people. So many needs. His home was not a reprieve from the needs of others, the needy multitudes came and filled it. There was no time for the evening meal. Yeshua just kept giving and giving to meet those needs. His focus was on the Father’s will. The people just kept coming, the more needs were met the more people came. It appeared there was no end to the needs, no end to the lines of people pressing in to receive their miracle as the night wore on. As we shall see, such crowds aroused the ire of the religious leaders and concern of Yeshua’s relatives.
It was for His sake, His relatives reasoned, that they had to stop His ministry, stop this craziness, and retrieve Him from the crowds. Yeshua’s actions were not those of a “normal” man seeking his own welfare and family honour. They were the actions of a man possessed with a passion for the Kingdom of Heaven. They were the actions of a man who cared not for the things of this world. Even His own relatives could not understand why He was acting thus. They were a devout, religious family, but this was outside of their traditions and contrary to everything that was considered to be sound reasoning. Jewish religious and family life revolved around meals, and Yeshua was ignoring these completely as He extended Himself in healing and teaching the people. There was little opportunity even for sleep that night.
“Lost His senses” comes from the Greek root word eksistemi. It means to be mentally displaced, “beside oneself“, overwhelmed with the situation. The same word is used when Yeshua heals the paralytic (Mark 2:12) and Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:42), and when He calms the storm after walking on water (Mark 6:51). In this case, however, it suggests that Yeshua’s family had concluded that He was so overwhelmed by the crowds that He was no longer acting rationally and His actions—which they felt were out of control—could have a serious effect on the wellbeing of His family.
So they resolved to find and krateo Him. The Greek word krateo means to place under one’s grasp, to seize hold of and bring under one’s control. It implies forceful action which gains the upper hand. Yeshua’s relatives believed the gossip (“heard of this”) and concluded that they needed to take control of the situation – they needed to take forceful action to bring the Son of God under their control. He, however, was not the one who needed to be brought under control.
There was a battle going on over who would take control. While Yeshua’s relatives sort to take control of Him, demons had taken control of a man and this man’s friends brought Him to Yeshua to be set free. The Pharisees and religious leaders tried to take back control of the situation by accusing Yeshua of using demonic power to cast out the demons. Neither force nor accusation could stop what God was doing through His Son.
Then some people brought him a man controlled by demons who was blind and mute; and Yeshua healed him, so that he could both speak and see. The crowds were astounded and asked, “This couldn’t be the Son of David, could it?”
But when the P’rushim (Pharisees) heard of it, they said, “It is only by Ba‘al-Zibbul” — the ruler of the demons — “that this man drives out demons.”
However, knowing what they were thinking, Yeshua said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not survive. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; so how can his kingdom survive? Besides, if I drive out demons by Ba‘al-Zibbul (Beelzebul), by whom do your people drive them out? So, they will be your judges! But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you! Or again, how can someone break into a strong man’s house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? After that he can ransack his house.
Those who are not with me are against me, and those who do not gather with me are scattering.
Because of this, I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will not be forgiven. One can say something against the Son of Man and be forgiven; but whoever keeps on speaking against the Ruach HaKodesh will never be forgiven, neither in the ‘olam hazeh (this age) nor in the ‘olam haba (age to come). Matthew 12:22-32 CJB
In asking: “This couldn’t be the Son of David, could it?” the crowd were questioning if Yeshua was Israel’s long awaited Messiah. Who else but Messiah, their eternal King, could exercise such power and authority over demonic forces? Many longed to see Him exercise such authority over the oppressive Roman forces as well – such was their expectation of Messiah. Yet, Yeshua makes it very clear that His arch enemy is not the Roman emperor, but Satan, and those who are not with Him are on Satan’s side, those who are not gathering the people to Him are scattering them for Satan. Thus, the very ones who are accusing Yeshua of being in league with the ruler of the demons are themselves engaged in Satan’s work.
And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed.
But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”
Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armour on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters. Luke 11:14-23 NASB
The finger of God bringing the Kingdom of God upon them raised such hopes in the people. Surely the Roman Empire would have to bow to such a kingdom. Messiah would cast out their enemies and set them free from Roman oppression. Yeshua was talking of a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom not of this world, and demonstrating God’s authority through this kingdom. Increasing numbers of the people were looking for this kingdom to demolish the Roman Empire of this world – they were looking for Messiah to reign over the whole world as Daniel’s rock which grew into a mountain which filled all the earth. Such expectations scared the Jewish leaders who feared Rome’s reaction should the people rise up against them. Yet, this expectation was also the standard by which the religious leaders judged any messianic claims. On both counts they stood against the Son of God and refused to accept the testimony of the miracles He did in delivering the people from demonic oppression.
The Torah-teachers who came down from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) said, “He has Ba‘al-Zibbul (Beelzebul) in him,” and “It is by the ruler of the demons that he expels the demons.”
But he called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan expel Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom can’t survive; and if a household is divided against itself, that household can’t survive. So if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he can’t survive either; and that’s the end of him. Furthermore, no one can break into a strong man’s house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. After that, he can ransack his house.
Yes! I tell you that people will be forgiven all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; however, someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” For they had been saying, “He has an unclean spirit in him.” Mark 3:22-30 CJB
βλασφημέω – blasphēméō – comes from blax, meaning sluggish or slow, and pheme, meaning reputation or fame, thus denotes a refusal to acknowledge good or venerate that which is worthy of respect. Blasphemy slanders what is good by equating it with evil and thus reverses moral values. It misidentifies evil and good. It calls good evil, and evil good, thus defaming the good.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 NASB
The Torah-teachers were misidentifying the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as an unclean or evil spirit by saying that it was by the ruler of the demons that Yeshua cast out demons. In so doing they were hardening their hearts against the truth, deliverance and salvation that God had sent them in Christ.
Yeshua is alluding to the Numbers 15 passage about blasphemy (Matt 12:31-32 ; Mark 3:28-29 ; Luke 12:10). Numbers 15:22-31 distinguishes between unintentional sin committed in ignorance (for which forgiveness is possible), and defiant sin, called blasphemy, for which there is no forgiveness.
“‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes Adonai (the Lord) and must be cut off from the people of Israel. Because they have despised Adonai’s word and broken His commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.’” . Numbers 15:30-31
Yeshua teaches that the blasphemy for which there is no forgiveness is that done defiantly against the Ruach HaKodesh; all other blasphemies, even those against “the Son of Man, ” may be forgiven (Matthew 12:32). Insults thrown at Yeshua may be forgiven because they are committed in ignorance of who He really is: His heavenly glory does not appear on earth. This is significant, in taking on human form and coming as the sacrifice for our sins, Yeshua laid aside His majesty that cannot be blasphemed because it was through bearing the ultimate blasphemy against Himself that our salvation was purchased, even as God had foretold through the prophet Isaiah:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:3-12 NIV
This downgrading of the significance of blasphemy against Yeshua marks an important difference between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Muslims are bound to defend the honour of the Prophet, for Christians Yeshua is the one who says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Rom 15:3, quoting Psalm 69:9). He deliberately accepts the vilification of others and prays for the forgiveness of those who insult Him (Luke 23:34). In this, He sets an example for Christians to follow. According to Peter ( 1 Pe 2:19-25 ), we must accept insult and blasphemy without retaliation, as He did.
Yeshua said: “people will be forgiven all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter…” In this world we see so much sin and hear so many people call evil things good and good things evil. All this can be forgiven. Even the most heinous sins can be forgiven – such is the power of the cross. Whatever sins (and promotions of sin) really upsets or angers us – they have been, and will be, forgiven.
“…however, someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” It was not those Jews who were identified as terrible sinners who were committing an eternal sin, but the religious leaders who identified themselves as the righteous in the community and example for others to follow. These were the ones who were blaspheming against the Ruach HaKodesh, who were deliberately misidentifying the HaKodesh (holy) as demonic in order to reject the truth of who Yeshua was and what He had come to do. To deliberately ascribe obvious manifestations of the Ruach HaKodesh to the devil’s agency is a serious offense not committed in ignorance but out of pride that refuses to submit to God’s working in our life.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37 NIV
Proverbs 18:21 states: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Here Yeshua links that power to the state of the heart that is producing the words uttered by the tongue. Those who are blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh by accusing Yeshua of having an unclean spirit in Him are, by their very words, giving evidence to the evil in their own hearts. “I didn’t mean it” is not an excuse that will stand on judgment day. Every utterance displays what type of person we are.
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. . Matthew 12:38-42 NIV
And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” . Luke 11:29-32 NKJV
The prophet Jonah – יוֹנָה – is mentioned in II Kings 14:25 during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC) of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), before the Assyrians under King Shalmaneser conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Book of Jonah is one of the key readings in Judaism during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which occurs on the tenth day of Tishri following Rosh Hashanah. Jonah provides a parable of mercy, sin can be repented of and judgment averted, with God’s loving mercy and forgiveness. Jonah was a disobedient prophet, who ran away rather than perform God’s mission because he wanted Israel’s enemies destroyed for their sins. He is punished and swallowed by a great fish, but repents and prays, and receives God’s abundant mercy, and carries out his mission to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The King and all the people listened to Jonah’s warning of punishment and put on sackcloth and ash. When Jonah becomes upset over God’s mercy towards Israel’s enemy, God teaches him a lesson.
“For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.” Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites of their sinfulness and need for repentance to avert the coming judgment. Likewise, Yeshua was a sign to that generation of Jews of their sinfulness and need for repentance to avert the coming judgment. All the Ninevites heeded the sign of Jonah which God had given to them and humbly repented. Only some of Yeshua’s generation heeded the sign of His death and resurrection and humbly repented. Yeshua is also a sign to us – how are we responding to this sign from God?
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Yeshua did many miracles, but the sign of Him being their longed for Messiah would be His death, entombment in the ground for 3 days, and resurrection. If they refused to repent and believe after that they would be without excuse. From early in His ministry, Yeshua was telling the people about his upcoming death and resurrection, but they could not grasp what He was saying because it was so contrary to their expectations of Messiah.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” . Matthew 12:43-45 NIV
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26 NKJV
Having foretold that the existing generation would be condemned on the judgment day by the Ninevites and that queen from the South, Yeshua now proceeds to explain in an allegorical way the condition of things on which this melancholy certainty is founded. The case of this generation, He says, will be very much like that of a demoniac, into whom the demon that has been expelled from him is ever seeking to return. The demon finds his former abode ready for his reception, and, reinforced by seven others still more wicked than himself, he again enters the demoniac, making his latter condition worse than the former. So will it be with this generation, which, though it should happen to undergo a temporary amendment, will relapse into its old state of confirmed wickedness, and become worse than before. The reason of this is to be found in the fact that the people in question have never repented and entered into the kingdom of God. Attempts to mend their ways without changing their allegiances will ultimately prove worse than futile, as the coming degeneration and destruction by Rome would prove.
Luke’s account, in omitting the reference to “this wicked generation” brings the focus onto the individual. Deliverance is wonderful, but if not accompanied by repentance and coming under the protection of the Lordship of Christ, the individual is left open to re-possession that is worse than their original state.
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:27-28 NKJV
A certain woman of the company: observing the miracle Yeshua had wrought, in casting out a demon, and being ravished with his wisdom, in which He so fully cleared Himself, and so strongly confuted His enemies, and perhaps believing Him to be their long-expected Messiah, expressed her admiration of His character: lifted up her voice, and called out above the noise of the gathered crowd, and with great earnestness and fervour proclaimed in the hearing of all the people: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” This was a form of blessing among the Jews: so it is said of R. Joshuah ben Chananiah, a disciple of R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who lived about these times, “blessed is she that bore him”. The religious leaders may have been full of blasphemy, but this woman recognised the good and had the courage to speak it out loudly in defiance of them. Her exhortation was with a Jewish blessing that proclaimed the honour brought to a family by one who gave so much to their community. This blessing refuted the actions of Yeshua’s relatives who had sort to forcefully bring Him in, considering Him to have “lost His mind”. This blessing refuted the accusations of the Torah teachers and P’rushim (Pharisees) who were saying He had an unclean spirit. This blessing was the first direct fulfilment of the words of the Magnificat, “All generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
Yeshua’s response affirms the woman’s words and then immediately points us to an even greater blessing, that of hearing and keeping God’s word. Acknowledging Christ’s greatness, as this woman was doing, is valuable only to the extent that it results in us hearing and obeying God’s word. That is the true measure of our praise.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50 NIV
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’ Mark 3:31-35 CJB
Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:19-21 NKJV
Had Mary and her other sons heard the woman’s blessing? It is possible that this loud proclamation is what greeted Mary’s ears as she tried to approach the house where her first-born was crowded in on by the multitudes. Such was the crowd that she could not get through to Him, not even close enough to attract His attention. Yet there were some in the crowd who recognised Mary, and word spread that she was wanting to see her eldest son.
The context suggests that they held concerns for Him, no doubt some of the leaders who felt threatened by His words, actions and popularity had a few words to Mary about the deadly consequences if Yeshua continued down this defiant path. Even Yeshua’s own mother had times of doubt and concern over her son’s ministry, times when she misunderstood what He was doing and saying. Mary was a woman of great faith, but she was also a mother who longed to see only good come to her son. Yeshua was much more gentle with her than with His disciple Peter when he tried to hinder the path to the cross: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23 NIV). The gentle reminder He sent to His mother, and to all of us, was: “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.“
1. “What Does Mark 3:21 Mean?,” Got Questions Ministries, accessed October 3, 2020, [https://www.bibleref.com/Mark/3/Mark-3-21.html] 2. “What Does Mark 3:22 Mean?,” Got Questions Ministries, accessed October 3, 2020, https://www.bibleref.com/Mark/3/Mark-3-22.html 3. Clarke, Adam. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The Adam Clarke Commentary”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/mark-3.html. 1832. 4. Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/mark-3.html. 1870. 5. Exell, Joseph S. “Commentary on “Mark 3”. The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/mark-3.html. 1905-1909. New York. 6. Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/mark-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999. 7. Gill, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/mark.html. 1999. 8. Beza, Theodore. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The 1599 Geneva Study Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/mark-3.html. 1599-1645. 9. Lightfoot, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/mark-3.html. 1675. 10. Johnson, Barton W. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “People’s New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/mark-3.html. 1891. 11. Robertson, A.T. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/mark-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960 12. Vincent, Marvin R. DD. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/mark-3.html. Charles Schribner’s Sons. New York, USA 13. Wesley, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/mark-3.html. 1765. 14. J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The Fourfold Gospel”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/mark-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914. 15. Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Abbott’s Illustrated New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/mark-3.html. 1878. 16. Trapp, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/mark-3.html. 1865-1868. 17. Coke, Thomas. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/mark-3.html. 1801-1803 18. Alford, Henry. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/mark-3.html. 1863-1878. 19. Bengel, Johann Albrecht. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Johann Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/mark-3.html. 1897 20. MacLaren, Alexander. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Alexander MacLaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/mark-3.html. 21. Edwards, Justin. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Family Bible New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/mark-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851. 22. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/mark-3.html. 1896. 23. Whedon, Daniel. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/mark-3.html. 1874-1909. 24. Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/mark-3.html. 2013. 25. Schaff, Philip. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/mark-3.html. 1879-90. 26. Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. “Commentary on Mark 3”. The Expositor’s Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/mark-3.html. 1897-1910. 27. Ellicott, Charles John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/mark-3.html. 1905. 28. Howard Marshall, Theology 67 (1964): 65-67; R. Simpson. Blasphemy and the Law in a Plural Society. 29. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g987 30. The Book of the Prophet Jonah https://biblescripture.net/Jonah.html 31. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/12-43.htm 32. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/11-27.htm
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* Even those Jesus had grown up with, His own family, could not understand His life and ministry, and concluded that He had lost His senses and needed to be protected from Himself. Often His disciples are misunderstood by those close to them, family and church. Describe a time when you have been misunderstood as you followed Jesus, or when you had misunderstood someone else and only later realised that they had been obeying God in what they were doing. * In 1st Century Jewish culture there were strong family expectations and it was very difficult to do things differently. Such was considered to be bringing shame onto your family. How does that compare to your culture? * What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ relatives attempt to forcefully bring Him under their control? * What roles did women play in Jesus’ ministry? * What do we learn about deliverance from these passages? * What do your people need to learn from Jesus’ teachings in this portion of scripture? * How do people in your culture speak a blessing over someone? * What did your people learn from Jesus’ response to the woman’s blessing? * What does it mean to do the will of our Father in heaven?