"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption."
1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV
These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.
“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 NASB
This had been part of Yeshua’s instructions to the seventy He sent out ahead of Him to declare “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9b). In Matthew 10:40 part of the instructions that Yeshua gave the twelve as He sent them out was: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” The same theme is continued in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to be sharing our own opinion but faithfully representing the One who sent us and the position of the Kingdom of God on the issue, calling all to be reconciled to Him. Those who are sent by Messiah with His message will be treated as the One who sent them, who in turn is being treated as they treat the Father. No one can say they love God while despising those He sends with His message of reconciliation. People’s real attitudes towards God are revealed by how they treat Yeshua in those He sends.
Just as the twelve had witnessed God’s mighty power moving through them when Yeshua sent them to minister, now also with the seventy.
Now the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” And He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions, and authority over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
Miracles were not limited to Yeshua, or to the twelve. Every one of the seventy (some versions say seventy-two) also experienced the power of the name of Yeshua. He had sent them with one simple message, that Jesus was coming to town “the kingdom of God has come near to you“. With that message came the power to do as Yeshua did in His name. Indeed, Yeshua had told them (Vs 16) that dealing with them would be dealing with Him, which is dealing with the Father (The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.).
Yeshua’s kingdom is in direct opposition to Satan’s kingdom. The more Yeshua’s kingdom advances the more Satan’s is forced to retreat. The more Yeshua is exalted the more Satan is cast down. The impact of these seventy going out in obedience, declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God manifest in the name of Yeshua, was that Satan fell from heaven like lightening! Yet, it is not the power we can exercise that we are to rejoice over, but the love which records our names in heaven to be with Him forever.
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for doing so was well pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son determines to reveal Him.” Luke 10:17-22 NASB
Here we have a glimpse into Yeshua’s private prayer life. Notice that these seventy had not been chosen for their deep theological understanding, or their level of education or skills but simply because they were willing to trust and obey Yeshua like a little child, an infant.
Having spoken to His Father, Yeshua then turns to His talmidim (disciples) to encourage them. In Him is the fulfilment of all the prophets of Israel had longed for.
Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see;for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things that you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things that you hear, and did not hear them.” Luke 10:23-24 NASB
Who Is My Neighbour?
An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap Him by asking, “Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?” But Yeshua said to him, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?” He answered, “You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself.” “That’s the right answer,” Yeshua said. “Do this, and you will have life.” Luke 10:25-28 CJB
God is the same in Old Testament and New – this Torah expert knew what God desires of us – LOVE – but preferred the pride that exalted him over others to love which serves others. His attempt to trap Yeshua demonstrates that he was one of the “the wise and intelligent” from whom the kingdom of God was hidden. Yeshua used the opportunity to show this man the true state of his heart.
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Yeshua, “And who is my ‘neighbor’?” Taking up the question, Yeshua said: “A man was going down from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) to Yericho (Jericho) when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him naked and beat him up, then went off, leaving him half dead. By coincidence, a cohen (priest) was going down on that road; but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levi who reached the place and saw him also passed by on the other side. But a man from Shomron (Samaria) who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. So he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’ Of these three, which one seems to you to have become the ‘neighbor’ of the man who fell among robbers?” He answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Yeshua said to him, “You go and do as he did.” Luke 10:29-37 CJB
In this one parable Yeshua demolished the typical in-group morality, coupled with out-group hostility, so common to human nature and He extended the definition of “neighbour to be loved” from ‘those in my group‘ to ‘all people of all races and religions‘. Samaritans were not welcome in Judah to be walking on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Notice that in answering which man was the neighbour, this expert in Torah avoided saying “the Samaritan”. Yeshua had even admonished us to love our enemies during His sermon on the mount. There is no one to whom we do not owe a debt of love if we are to live as citizens of His kingdom. As Paul wrote in Romans 13:8 “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Yeshua was not talking about love as being a warm, fuzzy feeling, but as an action of doing the best for the other: “You go and do as he did.”
Listening to His Teaching
Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 AMP
Mary took the place of a talmid (disciple), sitting at their Rabbi’s feet listening to Him. In Jewish culture this was a position reserved for men. Martha was fulfilling the role of a good Jewish woman, busy with service providing the hospitality to her house full of guests, and she expected her sister to do likewise. Yeshua honoured and protected Mary’s desire to learn from Him as a disciple.
Pray and Keep on Praying
They continued travelling to all the villages that Yeshua had sent the Seventy to in preparation for His arrival. Often, they saw their Rabbi praying.
One time Yeshua was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of the talmidim said to Him, “Sir, teach us to pray, just as Yochanan taught his talmidim.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, May your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come. Give us each day the food we need. Forgive us our sins, for we too forgive everyone who has wronged us. And do not lead us to hard testing.’” Luke 11:1-4 CJB
Yeshua had taught them to pray near the beginning of His ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 6:5-18). There was something more they needed to learn as the time of His departing from them approached. So, Yeshua began with a brief recap of what He had previously taught them and then moved on to teach the need for persistence in prayer.
Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread]; for a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to visit me, and I have nothing to serve him’; and from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything just because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence and boldness he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. Luke 11:5-10 AMP
Pray and keep on praying, don’t give up until you receive God’s answer.
Asking for the Holy Spirit
Those who had been at Yeshua’s baptism had witnessed the Holy Spirit coming upon Him like a dove and heard that He would baptise them in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-33). They had heard, during Yeshua’s conflicts with the Pharisees, His statements about the Holy Spirit being on Him (Matthew 12:18) and that it was by the Spirit of God that He cast out demons (Matthew 12:28, 31-32). Now He began teaching them about receiving the Holy Spirit themselves, in the context of His exhortations to be persistent in asking God for their needs.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13 AMP
We need not be afraid that we will receive some unclean spirit if we are asking the Father for the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is in the goodness of God.
A Wicked Generation Demands a Sign
Now as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it demands a sign, and so no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:29-32 NASB
Yeshua Himself was going to be their sign – a sign of the horror of our sinfulness and of the greatness of God’s love and mercy. They were looking for a sign that He would conquer the Romans for them, but His was to be a sign that He conquered sin for us. Earlier, Yeshua had taught: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days and three nights, the Son of Man will also be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40.
The ultimate insult to a Jew was to suggest that any Gentiles responded better to G-d than they. Here, Yeshua gave two examples of Gentiles whose responses had been better than this generation of Jews. The men of Nineveh were known as an evil lot, fully deserving of God’s judgment, yet they had repented at the preaching of Jonah, but this generation of Jews were not repenting despite all the miracles Yeshua had done in their midst and His clear preaching to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. Instead of repenting, they were arguing over whether He had really given them enough signs to prove that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Interestingly, Jonah’s preaching was that the city of Nineveh would be overthrown in 40 days (Jonah 3:4) but their repentance led to them being spared judgment for over 140 years, until after they had returned to the full extent of their evil ways and failed to repent at the preaching of the prophet Nahum, and Jerusalem was overthrown about 40 years after Yeshua’s preaching and sign to them of their need for repentance.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. 4. Holy Bible. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020. 5. Zalmanov, Eliezer. Meal Hand-Washing – Beyond Pasteur! Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/607403/jewish/Meal-Hand-Washing.htm. 6. Chabad Editors. 6: Ritual Washing of the Hands. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/257763/jewish/6-Ritual-Washing-of-the-Hands.htm. 7. My Jewish Learning. Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals – The Netilat Yadayim practice and blessing. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hand-washing/. 8. Gagliardi, Gary. Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs,. Christ’s Words. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://christswords.com/main/content/luke-1142%C2%A0-woe-unto-you-pharisees-ye-tithe-mint-and-rue-and-all-manner-herbs.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What was Jesus’ message? * Are there sins your nation needs to repent of? * What does it mean to be an ambassador of Christ? * Are there people who are despised by your community like the Jews despised Samaritans? What are you doing to love these people as your neighbours? * What did Jesus teach his disciples about prayer and receiving the Holy Spirit?
Then came Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade (Solomon’s porch). John 10:22-23 CJB
Hanukkah is not a “biblical” holiday. That is, it is not one of the seven feasts which Moses instructed the Israelites to keep in the Torah, the first five books of the Holy Scriptures. Nor is it mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew scriptures (like Purim is described in the book of Ruth). Yet Yeshua made a special trip to Jerusalem for this festival that commemorated the re-dedication of the Second Temple in which He now stood and taught.
Hanukkah celebrates God’s deliverance from the hand of Israel’s enemies and the re-dedication of the Temple after its defilement under the evil Antiochus IV. 1 Maccabees 4:59 tells us:
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislov.
Thus, Hanukkah is a winter festival, in 2022 Hanukkah will be from the evening of Sunday, 18th December until the evening of Monday, 26th December.
Hanukkah originally resembled Sukkot (Festival of Booths / Tabernacles), partly because the Maccabees had been unable to properly celebrate Sukkot while in fierce battle against the much larger army of Antichus IV’s men who were occupying Jerusalem and desecrating the Temple. 2 Maccabees 10:6 tells us:
They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the Festival of Booths, remembering how not long before, during the Festival of Booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals.
Hanukkah was thus established to echo Sukkot and to commemorate the triumphs of this band of brave Jews who fought against overwhelming odds for their right to worship the one true God as He had commanded them – and won.
According to later rabbinical tradition:
When the rule of the Hasmoneans prevailed and they defeated the Hellenes, they searched and finally found a tiny pitcher of oil which bore the seal of the High Priest. In it was enough oil to last no more than one day. And a miracle occurred—it endured for eight days! For this reason, a period of eight days was marked off for thanksgiving and praise.
A traditional saying arose from this Hanukkah story: “nes gadol haya sham,” which means, “a great miracle happened there.” The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of God’s preserving power over the evil Antiochus IV and his mighty army, and God’s miraculous provision of oil for lighting the Menorah during the eight days of dedication until more sanctified oil could be made.
In the late First Century AD, Josephus recorded some detail about how Hanukkah was celebrated from the time of the Maccabees up to when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70:
Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival.
Hanukkah was initially focused on the Temple, with joyous celebration of it being the place where God’s presence dwelt (2 Chronicles 20:9) and of their regained freedom to worship and offer the daily sacrifices there. While not an official Pilgrimage Festival, as were Passover, Shavuot (feast of weeks) and Sukkot (festival of tabernacles), Hanukkah centred on the Temple and Yeshua travelled there to celebrate it with His countrymen and teach them through it.
The miracle of eight days’ oil for the Menorah has led to celebrating this festival with a nine-candlestick menorah—one for each day the oil burned, plus the shammos“servant candle” used to light the other eight. The “servant candle” sits in the middle of the others and its candleholder places it above them.
Every day for eight days the candles are lit by the servant candle: one on the first day, two on the second, etc., until on the last day all eight candles are lit by the servant.
With this focus on the light of the candlesticks Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. God spoke through His prophet Isaiah: “My servant shall bring light to the Gentiles.” (Isa. 42:1) John’s Gospel states, “Jesus is the true Light that lights everyone who comes into the world” (John 1:9). Yeshua Himself declared two months earlier, at the close of the Feast of Tabernacles, “I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). This is why Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights. There is no fasting or mourning in this festival, it is a celebration of victory and joy.
Many Hanukkah celebrations begin in full darkness, then the light of a candle – the first Hanukkah candle – pierces the darkness, and then – more candles and more lights! It’s very beautiful and very impressive! One of the central songs sung during Hanukkah is called BANU CHOSHECH LEGARESH – “WE CAME TO DRIVE AWAY THE DARKNESS” – and this is indeed the overwhelming feeling one gets during these celebrations: The light came to overcome the darkness!
In the world’s darkest hour, the light comes! This reminds us of the words of John’s Gospel about Yeshua: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Light of Yeshua also came at a time of the darkness and foreign oppression; the hand of Rome was heavy upon Israel, the nation could hardly bear this oppressive yoke. That was not the only darkness, there was corruption in the priesthood, prideful arrogance in religious leaders, and violent conflict between different Jewish sects. The Light of the word stepped into this darkness and it could not overcome Him.
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS?
The word “Christmas” literally means Christ’s Mass. “Christ” comes from Greek Χριστός (Christós), meaning anointed, which is a translation of Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ māšîaḥ (anointed) that has been incorporated into the English language as “messiah”. “Mass” is from Latin missa, which refers to the remembrance of Messiah through eating bread and drinking wine as His body and blood. (Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20 & 1 Cor.11:23-26). Thus Christmas is a festival that commemorates the incarnation of Messiah – Emmanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25) – who suffered and died to give us new life.
The birth of Jesus was celebrated by a large army of angels: Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night. An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them. The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city. This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly, a large army of angels appeared with the angel. They were praising God by saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have His good will!” Luke 2:8-14 GW
The birth of Jesus was celebrated by shepherds. The angels left them and went back to heaven. The shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they saw the child, they repeated what they had been told about him. Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was amazed. Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them. As the shepherds returned to their flock, they glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard. Everything happened the way the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20 GW
Some time later… The birth of Jesus was celebrated by ‘wise men’ from the East. After Jesus’ birth wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the one who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star rising and have come to worship him.” … The star they had seen rising led them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They were overwhelmed with joy to see the star. When they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. So they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1b-2, 9b-11 GW
The birth of Jesus was not celebrated by the apostles. Whereas all the Jewish leaders at the time of the temple rededication had been deeply involved in the events commemorated in Hanukkah and thus made it a law for the Jewish people to celebrate it annually, none of the apostles was present to witness the birth of Yeshua so it was not something that they testified to or celebrated – their commission was to be witnesses to what they had seen and heard (Acts 1:20-22, John 21:24), preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching them to do everything He had commanded. (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-49)
How the 25th December was Chosen The first church figure recorded discussing the date of Jesus’ birth was Clement (c. 200), an Egyptian preacher from Alexandria. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”
Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. Following a very Jewish idea – that the beginning and the end of important redemptive events often happen on the same date (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 10b-11a) Tertullian concluded that March 25 was therefor also the date of Jesus’ conception (it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation). Exactly nine months later, he reasoned, Jesus was born – on December 25.
Sextus Julius Africanus, (born c. AD 180, Jerusalem—died c. 250), was the first Christian historian to produce a universal chronology, Chronographiai (221) – a five-volume treatise relying on the Bible as the basis of his calculations, on the history of the world from Creation (which he placed at 5499 BC) to AD 221. In this work Sextus also proposed that Jesus’ birth was on December 25th.
In the beginning of the third century, Tertullian reported that since he knew precisely when Jesus died (14th of Nissan or March 25), he also knew exactly when he was conceived. If Jesus was conceived on March 25, then counting forward to the 9 months of Mary’s pregnancy would place His birth on December 25. This is especially intriguing because January 1st used to be celebrated as the Day of Christ’s circumcision (8 days from the evening of Dec. 24). It wasn’t until some 70 years after western Christians had settled on December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth, in 274 CE, a Roman Emperor declared December 25 to be, “The Day of the Unconquered Sun,” (Sol Invictus).
This reasoning appears to have been fairly widely accepted in the church. An anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa, states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.” And Augustine writes in On the Trinity (c. 399–419): “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”
In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.” However, instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas and the Epiphany (celebration of Jesus’ baptism).
When was Christmas first Celebrated? There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time. It is reported that Telesphorus, who was martyred in 136AD, declared that Church services should be held to celebrate “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.”
About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. Clement also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January).
During the persecution under Emperor Diocletian in 312 C.E. an Egyptian Christian group called the Donatists emerged, and they remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time. In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions the Donatists kept Christmas festivals on December 25 but refused to celebrate the Epiphany (celebration of Jesus’ baptism) on January 6, regarding it as an innovation.
In an old list of Roman bishops, compiled in A. D. 354 these words appear for A.D. 336: “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.” December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea. This day, December 25, 336 (during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine), is the first recorded celebration of Christmas, although the practice may have existed in various Christian congregations well before it was officially recorded in a document that survived the years.
At this time of celebrating God’s deliverance from the hand of Israel’s enemies there was strong messianic fervour as the people cried out for Messiah to come and deliver them from Roman occupation and oppression. The popular picture of the Messiah in Yeshua’s time was that he would be a “super-Maccabee,” a warrior priest who would destroy Israel’s enemies and bring in everlasting peace. It was easy to ‘forget’ that the Maccabees brought only a very fleeting peace. After 67 years the conflict between brothers for power over God’s people had descended into a 6 yearlong bloody civil war that killed over 50,000 Jews. Only 25 yrs after that civil war ended, they had descended into self-destruction of the nation once more, to the extent that soon each side was asking the Romans to come and assist them in dethroning the other. (For details see: The Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Period 166-40BC and Second Temple Period Under Roman Rule). Just 101 yrs after the Maccabee’s victory and cleansing of the temple, in 64 BC, Roman armies marched into Jerusalem at the behest of all the leaders of the Jewish people and their oppression under Roman rule began. What was needed was so much more than just a mighty warrior, Jewish history had proven that they needed someone to conquer their sinfulness before any peace could be lasting.
It was with this expectation of a “super-Maccabee”messiah that the Jews gathered around Yeshua as He taught in Solomon’s porch. This was a roofed and column-lined walkway, or portico. Winter is the wet season in Israel, so He may have been in the portico to keep out of the rain. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide (15 cubits), and the columns were about 40 feet tall (25 cubits). Josephus described them as white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling (Antiq. 15.11.3-5, §391-420; JW 5.5.1 §184-185). This was on the east side of the temple. The walkway itself was elevated from the surrounding land, and partly walled in. Because of the layout, a person walking along this portico had the temple on one side, and either a solid wall or a sheer drop on the other. A large portion of the outer edge was walled off. This meant Yeshua was in an area with only one reasonable means of exit: through the temple. The men who approach Him here are clearly intending to block off His escape route.
The Jews surrounded him. They asked him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I’ve told you, but you don’t believe me. The things that I do in my Father’s name testify on my behalf. However, you don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from me. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than everyone else, and no one can tear them away from my Father. The Father and I are one.” John 10:24-30 GW
In the gospel of John, the phrase “the Jews” is most often a reference to the religious leaders of Jerusalem and their followers. These are the Pharisees, scribes, and other officials. It is with these men that Yeshua has had His most cutting and divisive conflicts. Yeshua is “surrounded” by religious leaders. The Greek term used is ekyklōsan, which literally means “to surround, encircle, or encompass.” It’s a term often used to describe the act of siege. In other words, hostile religious leaders are ensuring Yeshua has no means of escape as He walks in the temple.
Later verses will describe them lifting stones to attack Yeshua (John 10:31)—but this is inside the grounds of the temple, where suitable stones are not simply laying around. Those who later sort to stone Him had brought rocks in advance, and with murderous intent. In this incident, Yeshua is not simply being challenged, He’s being threatened as they dare Him to repeat His former claims to give them an excuse to launch their rocks upon Him. The phrase “keep us in suspense” is tēn psychēn hēmōn aireis, which literally implies “holding our souls” or “restraining our spirits.”
Yeshua’s response brought both comfort to His followers, and condemnation to those determined to reject Him. For those of us who have responded to His voice and are following Him there’s the sweet assurance that He gives us eternal life, we will never be lost, and no one will tear us away from Him. Our lives are kept safely in our Father’s all-powerful hands.
Again the Jews brought up stones to stone Him. Jesus said to them, “My Father has enabled Me to do many good deeds. [I have shown many acts of mercy in your presence.] For which of these do you mean to stone Me?” The Jews replied, “We are not going to stone You for a good act, but for blasphemy, because You, a mere Man, make Yourself [out to be] God”. Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your Law, I said, You are gods (Psalm 82:6)? So men are called gods [by the Law], men to whom God’s message came—and the Scripture cannot be set aside or cancelled or broken or annulled— [If that is true] do you say of the One Whom the Father consecrated and dedicated and set apart for Himself and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming’, because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works [performing the deeds] of My Father, then do not believe Me [do not adhere to Me and trust Me and rely on Me]. But if I do them, even though you do not believe Me or have faith in Me, [at least] believe the works and have faith in what I do, in order that you may know and understand [clearly] that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father [One with Him]”. They sought again to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. John 10:31-39 AMP
Surrounded by His enemies who were angered by His declaration “My Father and I are One“, yet He escaped from their hands because His time was not yet. They had convinced themselves that they were being faithful to God as they sort to kill His beloved Son. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?“ Jeremiah 17:9.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Hershey, Doug. Hanukkah: Why Did Jesus Celebrate the Feast of Dedication? Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries. [Online] December 10th, 2020. https://firmisrael.org/learn/hanukkah-why-jesus-celebrated-feast-of-dedication/. 4. Bloom, Julia. Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah! Preach It Teach It. [Online] [Cited: October 10th, 2022.] https://preachitteachit.org/articles/detail/jesus-celebrated-hanukkah/. 5. Brickner, David. Jesus’ Celebration of Hanukkah. Jews for Jesus. [Online] December 1st, 1998. https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-dec-1998/jesus-celebration-of-hanukkah. 6. Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. John 10. Bible Gateway. [Online] God’s Word Mission society, 1995. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2010&version=GW. 7. Bible Ref. John 10:24 Parallel Verses. Bible Ref.com. [Online] Got Questions Ministries. [Cited: October 21st, 2022.] https://www.bibleref.com/John/10/John-10-24.html. 8. Long, Philip J. Acts 5:12 – Solomon’s Portico. Reading Acts. [Online] February 3rd, 2019. https://readingacts.com/2019/02/03/acts-512-solomons-portico/. 9. Marian, Jakub. Origin of the Words Christmas and Xmas . Jakub Marian Language Learning, Science & Arts. [Online] [Cited: October 21st, 2022.] https://jakubmarian.com/etymology-of-the-words-christmas-and-xmas/#:~:text=The%20word%20Christmas%20comes%20from,word%2C%20is%20not%20entirely%20clear.. 10. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Sextus Julius Africanus”. Britannica. [Online] July 20th, 1998. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sextus-Julius-Africanus.. 11. Hillerbrand, Hans J. Christmas. Britannica. [Online] Encyclopedia Britannica, October 25th, 2021. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas. 12. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Dr. Eli. Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? The Times of Israel. [Online] May 8th, 2021. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-christmas-a-pagan-holiday/. 13. Rickard, Stanley Edgar. Thesis. THE MOORINGS. [Online] Bible Studies at THE MOORINGS. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.themoorings.org/Jesus/birth/date.html. 14. McGowan, Andrew. How December 25 Became Christmas. Biblical Archaeology. [Online] July 23rd, 2022. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/how-december-25-became-christmas/.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*How would you describe the Jewish feasts? * What do you think God’s attitude is towards their celebrating additional feasts to those He commanded Moses? * What celebrations does your church have and how do you celebrate? * Why would a “super-Maccabee” be an inadequate Messiah? * Have you had, or witnessed, false expectations about God and how is what He did better than what people were asking or expecting Him to do? *What protection did Jesus have when they tried to arrest him during the Hanukkah celebrations?
And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; Luke 9:51 NIV
Yeshua’s focus was on the joy set before Him in His ascension (Hebrews 12:2) as He fulfilled Isaiah 50:4-7:
The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
…and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was proceeding toward Jerusalem. Luke 9:52-53 NASB
On the way to Judaea from Capernaum, Yeshua’s road probably lay over Mount Tabor, past Little Hermon (see Luke 7:11), past Nain, Enaor, and Shunem. The first Samaritan village at which He would arrive would be En Gannim (Fountain of Gardens), now Jenin, a pleasant village at the first pass into the Samaritan hills.
The Samaritans were a very religious people. Like the Jews, they were looking for Messiah, but their expectations were different.
These Samaritan Israelites kept the Hebrew Torah and cultic practices. They called themselves “the sons of Israel” or “Shomrim” (the keepers), considering themselves the be the keepers of the old ways, the ancient faith, the covenant promise. The Samaritans followed in the footsteps of the northern kingdom of Israel before them in opposing the worship of God in Jerusalem, convinced that the centre of Israel’s worship should be the mount of YHWH’s covenant blessing (Deuteronomy 27:12), Mount Gerizim, where they had built their own temple to Yahweh. They had a fourfold creed:
1. One God – YHWH 2. One Prophet – Moses 3. One Book – Torah 4. One Place – Mt Gerizim
The Jews (Judean Israelites) and Samaritans (Samaritan Israelites) each believed that they were the true worshippers of God and that the others were heretics and imposters who had taken the wrong path when the kingdom had separated into two after Solomon’s death.
Samaritans in the city of Sychar had been the first to believe that Yeshua is “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” (John 4) Yeshua now sent messengers ahead of Him into a smaller Samaritan village but the message they gave did not result in the same acceptance of Messiah. The reason Luke gives was Yeshua’s determination to go to Jerusalem. It is not clear whether their lack of receptiveness was due to the conflict between Jews and Samaritans over where the proper place to worship God is or, like the talmidim, was lack of acceptance of His purpose in pursuing the path to His death in Jerusalem. Now Yeshua had not only religious Jews, but also religious Samaritans rejecting Him.
If Anyone Will Not Welcome You
When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
And they went on to another village. Luke 9:54-56 NASB
The Sons of Thunder were living up to their nickname. Possibly stirred up by Yeshua’s continued insistence that He was going to be rejected and killed and by seeing Elijah during Christ’s transfiguration and remembering how he had called down fire. Such a demonstration of divine power would make them feel a whole lot more secure. It was not Messiah’s calling and He immediately rebuked them for such a destructive suggestion. Yeshua had previously given them instructions for when a town did not receive them: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 NIV His Word does not change – they left that town and went on to another Samaritan village that would gladly receive them.
Demands of Discipleship
As they continued into Judea this crowd attracted attention and many came out to see Yeshua. They wanted the rewards of discipleship but were not prepared to pay the price.
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And 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.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 NASB
Apostello 70 Others
After this, the Lord appointed seventy other talmidim and sent (apostello) them … Luke 10:1a CJB
Although many were not willing to pay the price of discipleship, there were still many who did, enough for Yeshua to appoint another 70 and apostello them into the harvest.
There was much significance in Yeshua appointing seventy others. (1) In Judaism the natural order is represented by the number 7. G‑d chose to create the world in 7 days, resulting in a week that consists of 7 days. Any number times 10 represents the completeness of that number. Thus, 7 times 10 (seventy) represents the completion of the natural order – each aspect of nature is complete. (2) Seventy members of Jacob’s family moved down to Egypt (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5). (3) The Torah (Genesis 10) lists seventy descendants of Noah after the Great Flood, and tells us, “These are the families of the sons of Noah . . . the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32) Deuteronomy 32:8 also draws a parallel between the number of descendants of Jacob (Israel) and the number of non-Israelite nations. (4) In the Feast of Tabernacles a great sacrifice of seventy oxen was offered as on behalf of all the non-Israelite members of the great family of mankind (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in Joann. 7). (5) Seventy elders had been appointed by Moses to help him in his work of teaching and judging the people (Numbers 11:16), and to these the spirit of prophecy had been given that they might bear the burden with him. (6) The Sanhedrin or great Council of scribes and priests and elders consisted of seventy members besides the president, the number having been fixed on the assumption that they were the successors of those whom Moses had appointed. (7) Israel has seventy holy daysevery year – 52 Shabbatot, the 7 days of Pesach, the 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shmini Atzeret, 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, 1 day Yom Kippur. (8) Israel suffered seventy years of exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10). (9)“Seventy ‘sevens’(weeks) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” Daniel 9:24 (10) LXXSeptuagint (from the Latin for “seventy“) is the name of the Greek translation of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) commissioned by the Egyptian king, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned from 285-246 BC). The full title (Ancient Greek: Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα, lit. ‘The Translation of the Seventy‘) derives from the story that it was translated into Greek by 70 Jewish scholars or, according to later tradition, 72: six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who independently produced identical translations.
These Seventy were ‘others’ Gk hetros = another who is different, a different group with a different mission. The mission of the Seventy is clearly distinguished from and contrasted with that of the Twelve by the word ‘others’ hetros. The Twelve were prohibited from going beyond Jews; the Seventy were under no such restriction. The number 12 had reference to the number of the Israeli tribes; that of 70 was representative of all the nations. None the less, much of the charge given to either is given to both – they had the same message, and both were sent to prepare for Christ’s personal ministry.
As the 12 had been, these 70 were apostello – commissioned, sent on a defined mission. Apostello focuses back on the source (the one sending) to strongly connect the sender the one sent, so this verb is used to emphasise the close connection of Yeshua (as the sender) to believers that He commissions. This is in contrast to the more general Greek term for ‘to send’, pempo.
…and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He said to them, “To be sure, there is a large harvest. But there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the Harvest that he speed workers out to gather in his harvest.” Luke 10:1b-2 CJB
Yeshua had said this before apostello the twelve, now we have a further fulfilment in the apostello of the seventy others. It was a lesson for the twelve as much as for the seventy – they were not to try to “own” the ministry and forbid others to partake in it, as indeed they had recently done. All disciples are called to minister, all saints are called to minister – to know Jesus and make Him known, to introduce others to Him.
“Get going now, but pay attention! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a money-belt or a pack, and don’t stop to shmoose with people on the road (but make haste to tell as many as possible about me, for the time is short).
“Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘Shalom!’ to the household. If a seeker of shalom is there, your ‘Shalom!’ will find its rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you. Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for a worker deserves his wages — don’t move about from house to house.
“Whenever you come into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is put in front of you. Heal the sick there, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you.’
“But whenever you enter a town and they don’t make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off as a sign against you! But understand this: the Kingdom of God is near!’ I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for S’dom than for that town.” Luke 10:3-12 CJB
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24 ESV
“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Beit-Tzaidah! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tzor and Tzidon, they would long ago have put on sackcloth and ashes as evidence that they had changed their ways. But at the Judgment it will be more bearable for Tzor and Tzidon than for you! And you, K’far-Nachum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Sh’ol! Luke 10:13-15 CJB
Yeshua did miracles out of compassion for the people, but it was not just compassion for their physical state. They were sheep without a shepherd and He was calling them to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Yet they received the miracles but did not repent, did not recognise their need to come under the Good Shepherd’s care. The Greek word translated “repented” in Vs 13 is metanoeo = “to think differently afterwards“; it focuses on the change of behaviour proceeding from a change in thinking; it starts seeing the thing from God’s point of view after being liberated from one’s own carnal perspective. Experiencing miracles did not cause the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, or Yeshua’s ministry capital of Capernaum, to start thinking differently – they continued on as they had done before.
1. HELPS Ministries.The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H.Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. 1995, 2020. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 4. The Holy Bible: The Amplified Bible. 1987. 2015. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 5. Yehuda Shurpin: Why is 70 Special? And ten instances in Jewish tradition where 70 is significant. Chabad.com [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/940857/jewish/Why-Is-70-Special.htm 6. Rev. E. H. Plumptre, D.D. Edited by: Charles John Ellicott. Luke 10:1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Bible Hub. [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/10-1.htm 7. Dr. Elana Yael Heideman. ISRAEL AND THE MEANING OF 70. The Israel Forever Foundation. [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://israelforever.org/interact/blog/israel_and_the_meaning_of_70/
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*Jesus knew the Father’s will and determined to follow it even when it led to suffering and death – does the gospel we preach include such willingness? * Jesus’ disciples sent to this Samaritan village appeared to fail as the villagers rejected Him instead of welcoming Him as Messiah from their message. What can we learn from Jesus’ response of sending out 70 others to prepare the way? * Have you heard ministers “call down fire”, or to speak curses over those who reject them or their message, or proclaim that God will punish them for “touching the Lord’s anointed”? How does Jesus respond to such? * What do we learn about how to respond to those who reject our message? * Some like to boast as if the miracles they received prove their spiritual superiority – but the miracles just place a greater burden of responsibility on us to repent, to think and act differently in response to such a display of God’s grace and power. What are some of the miracles that God has done in your life? * What evidence of repentance is in your life?
“What’s your opinion? What will somebody do who has a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go off to find the stray? And if he happens to find it? Yes! I tell you he is happier over it than over the ninety-nine that never strayed! Thus your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 CJB
Having reminded His talmidim of the horrific consequences of sin, Yeshua brings comfort once again. For those who have been ensnared and strayed He is the good shepherd searching for the lost sheep. The Father does not want any to be lost and there is joy in heaven over one who repents.
Love Looks Like Confronting Sin to Bring Reconciliation
“Now if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:15-20 NASB
Yeshua had been warning them about the dangers of getting entrapped in sin, suggesting that it would be better even to cut off their own hand or foot, or gauge out their own eye than let such lead them into sin because sin will take them straight to hell. Then He had brought the comfort of knowing that if they go astray the Good Shepherd will leave the ninety-nine to seek them out and rejoice greatly in bringing them back home. Now, He’s addressing His talmidim in their part of this process of seeking out the one who has gone astray in order to restore them to the fold.
“Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to be lost.” So, ” if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private“. When we become aware that our brother has sinned and is in danger of becoming entrapped and taken to hell we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to go to him and implore him to repent, be set free, and return to the Father’s arms.
It may be a sin against us, or a sin against others, or just a sin against his own soul – all sin is against God. As David wrote in prayer to God after Nathan the prophet went to him to convict him of his sin: “Against You, and You only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Your sight; that You may be proved right when You speak, and justified when You judge.” Even if our brother’s sin was against us, it was above all against God and we are tasked with laying aside our own hurts and agenda for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20) to implore them, on Christ’s behalf, to be reconciled to God. Moses wrote: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.“ (Leviticus 19:17) Paul wrote it thus in Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.“ We are to love one another enough to have the difficult conversations in order to draw our brother or sister back to the Father’s love.
Notice that this conversation is to be in private. It’s not something we post on Facebook, Instagram, twitter or other social media. It’s not something to be gossiped about with others. It is to be an act of love, not an opportunity to grandstand. We go to them privately to implore them to leave the sin behind and be reconciled to God. If they heed our pleading we have regained our brother and fulfilled our Father’s will – there’s joy in heaven.
But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. Don’t give up on him if he refuses to listen to you. Instead seek out one or two respected, mature saints who can both speak wisdom into the situation and bear witness to his response. This testimony of two or three witnesses is needed first to establish that the particular deed is sinful and in need of being turned from. We are very good at justifying our own actions, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Proverbs 17:9). Repentance involves changing our mind, stop justifying our sin and recognise it for the death-producing horror that God says it is. We won’t stop sinning until we go from loving our sin to hating it, from depending on it to despising it. The first task of the witnesses is to help the person see their actions from God’s perspective – to witness to what God says about such in His Word. Their second task is to witness the person’s response – that of repentance and reconciliation to God, or of stubborn rebellion against Him.
“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” If this small group of two or three cannot make the man see his true position then, and only then, are they to bring the matter before the ekklesia – people called out from the world and into the Kingdom of Heaven – so the whole community can reach out to him in love and concern for his spiritual welfare. Again, the purpose is to have him reconciled back to God who is, through His people, seeking this one who has strayed. If the community’s pleading cannot turn him then he can no longer remain part of that community. Instead of the sweet fellowship of the reconciled he is to be expelled and now loved as those outside the community of the saints are loved, like a Gentile or tax collector is loved. All this is in the hope that it will impress upon him the nature of what he’s doing and lead him to repentance and reconciliation. We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and then the resolution in 2 Corinthians 2:3-8 where we see this action led to repentance and Paul’s urging that the man be forgiven and comforted and fully embraced once more as part of the ekklesia.
We each have a simple choice – who do we want to be married to, sin or Jesus? We can’t have both. Jesus died as a result of our sin and to set us free from our bondage of sin so we could be given full citizenship in His Kingdom.
“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:18 NASB
Binding and loosing were Rabbinical terms for forbidding and permitting various activities and people in the community of the Jews. They believed that the power and authority to do such was established in the heavenly court and vested in the rabbinical body of each age and in the Sanhedrin. Yeshua was establishing a new body to carry this responsibility in His Kingdom – His ekklesia. They were not to establish their own law but administer His law, the Torah of the Kingdom of God, of which they were now citizens and priests.
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9 NASB
The pharisees had added many of their own rules and regulations and called these God’s Torah when they were not. Disciples of the King were to learn of Him and decree only that which He decreed.
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 AMP
Yeshua was directing His followers to establish His halakhah הֲלָכָה (the Way / the path that one walks) in His ekklesia (community of called out ones) “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of blindly following the Jewish religious laws that they had grown up with which had been established by the Pharisees whose teachings He had warned them to guard themselves against (Matthew 16:12). Notice that this was not to be established or administered by a single man but by the gathered group of called out ones under the leading of the Holy Spirit, as reflected in Acts 15:28 after much prayer and discussion led them to the point of agreement and unity in the Spirit: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…” As they had gathered in Yeshua’s name, He had been in their midst (Matthew 18:20) and made His will know to them through the Holy Spirit.
Love Sounds Like A Symphony – Coming into One Accord
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19-20 NASB
Prayer is essential to all the above exercise of God’s authority in the ekklesia. We are to come together in prayer and seek His will until we come into that place of sweet agreement (Gk: symphoneo), of harmony, in one accord – acting in spirit-led unity with the same divinely produced opinion. Even if there are only two or three of us, as we gather in Yeshua’s name, united with Him for the purpose of establishing His will, He is in our midst and that which He brings us into agreement with shall be done for us by our heavenly Father.
Love Looks Like Limitless Forgiveness
Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven). Matthew 18:21-22 NASB
The Rabbinical rule, derived from Amos 1:3, 2:1 and 2:6, was that no one should ask forgiveness of his neighbour more than thrice. Peter had recognised in Yeshua a more forgiving spirit than this, but was still caught up in the pharisees’ notion of quantifying everything to create fool-safe rules and regulations for keeping the people obedient to Torah. Once again Yeshua insisted that this was not His way, not the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. The difficulties of interpretation have some translations giving a number of seventy seven times, and others of seventy times seven. It matters not which one because the point Yeshua was making was that it was more than we could keep a track of. There is to be no end to our forgiving of the one who seeks it, because there is no end of God’s willingness to forgive us no matter how many times we sin against Him. As citizens of God’s Kingdom we are to forgive as out King forgives, for we are to express His character.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the master of that slave felt compassion, and he released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling, and went and threw him in prison until he would pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened. Then summoning him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart. Matthew 18:23-35 NASB
Forgive as we have been forgiven. No one owes us as much as we owe our King, and He has freely forgiven us of it all. The debt was calculated and no excuses allowed. But mercy was applied out of compassion and the full amount forgiven – the King carried our debt upon Himself.
The first step to forgiveness is acknowledging the debt owed. The second is recognising the total inability of the debtor to repay or make things right. The third is compassion for this one who cannot repay and is thus deserving of punishment. The fourth is mercy that relinquishes the right to demand what the debtor cannot give.
When we remember how much our King has forgiven us we are in no position to withhold such forgiveness from others.
1. HELPS Ministries.The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H.Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. 1995, 2020. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 4. The Holy Bible: The Amplified Bible. 1987. 2015. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What is God’s attitude towards those who have strayed and been ensnared by sin? * What did Jesus instruct us to do if we become aware that our brother has been ensnared in sin? * What should we do if that sin was a wrong against us? * What if our brother did or said something that we don’t like but scripture doesn’t call it sin? * Explain the severity and mercy of God. * What is the attitude towards forgiveness in your culture and how does that compare with what Jesus taught His disciples?
Please read Matthew 17:14-27, Mark 9:14-32 & Luke 9:37-45
At the Base of the Mountain
When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, “Because of your meager faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:14-20 NASB
In the shadow of Mount Hermon, by far the largest mountain in all of Israel, Yeshua stated that faith as tiny as a mustard seed could move such a mountain.
When they got back to the talmidim, they saw a large crowd around them and some Torah-teachers arguing with them. As soon as the crowd saw him, they were surprised and ran out to greet him. He asked them, “What’s the discussion about?” One of the crowd gave him the answer: “Rabbi, I brought my son to you because he has an evil spirit in him that makes him unable to talk. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground — he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked your talmidim to drive the spirit out, but they couldn’t do it.” “People without any trust!” he responded. “How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” They brought the boy to Him; and as soon as the spirit saw Him, it threw the boy into a convulsion. Yeshua asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been happening to him?” “Ever since childhood,” he said; “and it often tries to kill him by throwing him into the fire or into the water. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!” Yeshua said to him, “What do you mean, ‘if you can’? Everything is possible to someone who has trust!” Instantly the father of the child exclaimed, “I do trust — help my lack of trust!” When Yeshua saw that the crowd was closing in on them, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit! I command you: come out of him, and never go back into him again!” Shrieking and throwing the boy into a violent fit, it came out. The boy lay there like a corpse, so that most of the people said he was dead. But Yeshua took him by the hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. After Yeshua had gone indoors, his talmidim asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He said to them “This is the kind of spirit that can be driven out only by prayer.” (Some manuscripts add “and fasting.”) Mark 9:14-29 CJB
Yeshua and His three talmidim had stayed on the mountain all night. Which could explain why Peter, James and John had been sound asleep when Yeshua was transfigured and had awoken with such surprise (Luke 9:32).
This was not the first time Yeshua had spent the night in prayer. Such private communion with the Father was essential to His walk of only doing what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19). It was also, we have just read, essential for walking in the faith needed to drive out this type of unclean spirit (Mark 9:29). Such times of prayer (and some manuscripts add fasting) are needed for faith the size of a mustard seed.
On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. And a man from the crowd shouted for help, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, because he is my only child; and a spirit seizes him, and suddenly he cries out, and it throws him into a convulsion so that he foams at the mouth; and only with [great] difficulty does it leave him, mauling and bruising him as it leaves. I begged Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here [to Me].” Even while the boy was coming, the demon slammed him down and threw him into a [violent] convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father. They were all amazed [practically overwhelmed] at the [evidence of the] greatness of God and His majesty and His wondrous work. Luke 9:37-43 AMP
Walking back through Galilee by Themselves
And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be handed over to men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. Matthew 17:22-23 NASB
After leaving that place, they went on through the Galil. Yeshua didn’t want anyone to know, because He was teaching His talmidim. He told them, “The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men who will put Him to death; but after He has been killed, three days later He will rise.” But they didn’t understand what He meant, and they were afraid to ask Him. Mark 9:30-32 CJB
But while they were still awed by everything Jesus was doing, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: the Son of Man is going to be betrayed and handed over to men [who are His enemies].” However, they did not understand this statement. Its meaning was kept hidden from them so that they would not grasp it; and they were afraid to ask Him about it. Luke 9:43b-45
Teaching in Capernaum
It takes 10-11 hours to walk from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum, probably a bit longer for them to walk the back routs from the base of Mount Hermon to avoid the crowds. It had been a few months since Yeshua and His talmidim were at their home base in Capernaum, on the shores of the sea of Galilee. As Peter went about his business, possibly purchasing food for them all or returning to his house to spend some time with his wife, he was met by the honoured religious tax collectors.
Now when they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” Matthew 17:24-27 NASB
Every Jewish man, 20 years and older, was required by the law of Moses to contribute two drachmas, or half a shekel, to the tent of meeting each time a census of the people was taken (Exodus 30:11–16). This later became a yearly tax for the upkeep of the temple. The Greek word behind “tax” (NKJV) or “tribute” (KJV) in verse 24 is didrachma, equivalent to the Jewish “half-shekel,” the Temple rate paid by every male Israelite above age twenty. It was not hated like the Roman taxes, and was not collected by the sort of tax collectors that Matthew had been, but by religious leaders of the Jewish people. Notice that Yeshua only organised for the temple tax to be paid for himself and Peter, not any of the other apostles. This has led some to suggest that Peter was the only one of the apostles who was over 20 years of age and thereby subject to this tax.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives.” Exodus 30:11-16 NIV
The two-drachma temple tax was meant to be given to God, who is the king over all. Yeshua is God’s Son. The temple tax is not required of the Son of God any more than a regular tax is intended for the son of the king. Therefor Yeshua should not have been be required to pay this tax. He did not, however, demand this right, for His time had not yet come and this was not a fight His Father had called Him to. Instead, God paid the tax through this miracle of the exact amount for both Yeshua and Peter being in the mouth of the fish. What could have been a cause for conflict became instead an opportunity for miracle.
Then an argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, had a little child stand beside Him. And He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. For whoever is the least among all of you, he is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48 BSB
They arrived at K’far-Nachum (Capernaum). When Yeshua was inside the house, he asked them, “What were you discussing as we were traveling?” But they kept quiet; because on the way, they had been arguing with each other about who was the greatest. He sat down, summoned the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” He took a child and stood him among them. Then he put his arms around him and said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the One who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37 CJB
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:1-6 NASB
We need to be careful how we treat and teach children. They are of utmost importance to our heavenly Father, and they are dependent on us for nurture and protection. We are to humble ourselves like a small, helpless child, and we are to treat all such children in the same manner that we would treat Jesus Himself if He came into our midst. God’s wrath rests on those who abuse children or lead them astray into sin.
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10 NASB
“Woe to the world because of snares! For there must be snares, but woe to the person who sets the snare! Matthew 18:7 CJB
“Woe to the world because of snares! — That is, unspeakable misery will be in the world through them. The Greek word translated here as “snares” (or “offences” in the KJV) is skandalon which literally means the trigger of a trap – the mechanism which closes a trap on the unsuspecting victim. It refers to the means of stumbling or entrapment. Our most common snare is self-government, i.e. living outside of God’s inbirthings of faith (“divine persuasion”). For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
For there must be snares — Such is the nature of things, and such the weakness, folly, and wickedness of mankind, that it cannot be but they will come. It is inevitable that we are surrounded by means of stumbling or entrapment.
but woe to the person who sets the snare! — That is, miserable is that man; who sets the snare – the enticement that hinders themselves or another from walking in faith with God as Yeshua did.
So if your hand or foot becomes a snare for you, cut it off and throw it away! Better that you should be maimed or crippled and obtain eternal life than keep both hands or both feet and be thrown into everlasting fire! And if your eye is a snare for you, gouge it out and fling it away! Better that you should be one-eyed and obtain eternal life than keep both eyes and be thrown into the fire of Gei-Hinnom.” Matthew 18:8-9 CJB
And if your hand puts a stumbling block before you and causes you to sin, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to go into life that is really worthwhile maimed than with two hands to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot is a cause of stumbling and sin to you, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter into life [that is really worthwhile] crippled than, having two feet, to be cast into hell (Gehenna). And if your eye causes you to stumble and sin, pluck it out! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell (Gehenna), where their worm which preys on the inhabitants and is a symbol of the wounds inflicted on the man himself by his sins] does not die, and the fire is not put out. Mark 9:43-48 AMP
Yeshua was compassionate with sinners, but told the brutal truth about sin – it ensnares and destroys and will have you cast into hell. Gehenna (hell) is described in scripture as suffering in perpetual fire (Matthew 5:22, 18:9 & Mark 9:45), and it is contrasted as the opposite to the eternal life that Yeshua paid for us to receive. Yeshua is warning His talmidim that they are in danger of this if they do not cut off from themselves anything that leads them into sin, that is, anything that is not of faith. If they were in such danger what makes us think that we can play with sin and avoid like condemnation?
For everyone shall be salted with fire. Salt is good (beneficial), but if salt has lost its saltness, how will you restore [the saltness to] it? Have salt within yourselves, and be at peace and live in harmony with one another. Mark 9:49-50 AMP
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50 BSB
Yochanan said to him, “Rabbi, we saw a man expelling demons in your name; and because he wasn’t one of us, we told him to stop.” But Yeshua said, “Don’t stop him, because no one who works a miracle in my name will soon after be able to say something bad about me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Indeed, whoever gives you even a cup of water to drink because you come in the name of the Messiah — yes! I tell you that he will certainly not lose his reward. Mark 9:38-41 CJB
How often have ministers acted like the apostle Yochanan (John) here: “because he wasn’t one of us, we told him to stop“? Yeshua had already taught them: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Here was an additional labourer for the harvest and the apostles had tried to stop him working because “he’s not one of us“. Notice that this man was apparently successful in his casting out demons through Yeshua’s name, unlike the failure the disciples had endured at the base of Mount Hermon. This man who was “not one of us” was acting in faith as Yeshua had been teaching them to do. All who are doing the works of the Kingdom of God should be encouraged. Do not restrict any because they are not part of your group, or not ordained the way you were, or not from your tribe, or not from the same Bible college, or in any other way not like you. All men and woman, boys and girls are needed for the mighty job of bringing in the harvest – pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest and do not try to stop any of them stepping out in faith and ministering in His name.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Benson. Matthew 18:7. Bible Hub. [Online] Benson’s Comentary. [Cited: September 18th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/18-7.htm. 4. Multiple. Luke 9:38 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: September 18th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/9-38.htm. 5. Got Questions. What is the Temple Tax? Got Questions.org. [Online] [Cited: September 18th, 2022.] https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-tax.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* While His disciples were sleeping, Jesus was praying. What impacts did Jesus’ prayer life have? * What have you experienced in your life that has show that “all things are possible for the one believing?” * Why do you think it was so difficult for the disciples to grasp what Jesus was saying when He told them He was going to be killed and raised again on the third day? * Has God ever spoken anything to you that you did not understand until after it had happened? * How should we treat children if Jesus said: “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me“? * Proverbs 9:10 begins with: “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom...” How does that relate to what Jesus taught about removing anything from our life that becomes a snare or stumbling block that leads us into sin? * How do your people treat sin? Do they think they can get away with it or recognise the peril that Jesus said it puts them in? * Have you experienced trying to stop you from ministering, or know of others this has happened to?
Please read Matthew 16:19-17:13, Mark 8:31-9:13 & Luke 9:22-36
Yeshua’s new community, the ecclesia, was to be built on Him as the chief cornerstone and on people such as Simon bar Jonah who put their trust in Him. The Jewish community had also been built on people: the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whom God re-named Israel), and Israel’s 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes. It was built on the covenant God made with Abraham. After setting them free from Egyptian slavery God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and the Jewish community was built on the one God used to deliver them, Moses, and his God inspired writings: the Torah.
Before the Babylonian exile, Torah (Jewish Law) was interpreted and administered by the priests and Levites (Deut. 17:9, 18; 31:9; 33:10; Jer. 18:18; Mal. 2:7; II Chron. 19:8, 11; 31:4). By the time of Messiah, the rabbis – who were Pharisees and Sadducees had taken over this role. The pharisees claimed to have received the true interpretation of Torah as “the traditions of the Elders” in direct line from Moses. They formed the courts of justice in every town as well as the high court of justice, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem. They decreed how the people were to carry out Torah and what punishments were issued for failing to obey their edicts.
The power of these rabbis was threefold: (1) to amplify the Torah by prohibitory statutes for the prevention of transgressions (“gezerot“) or by mandatory statutes for the improvement of the moral or religious life of the people (“taḳḳanot“), and by the introduction of new rites and customs (“minhagim“); (2) to expound the Torah according to certain rules of hermeneutics, and thereby evolve new statutes as implied in the letter of the Law; and, finally, (3) to impart additional instruction based upon tradition.
So, it was significant that on their way to this place Yeshua had warned His disciples to beware of (guard themselves against) the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11-12), many of their interpretations on how God’s people should live were not what He intended when giving Torah to Moses.
Now a new community was to be built, Yeshua’sekklesia. In referring to building His ekklesia on “this rock“, Yeshua was also alluding to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24) “Everyone therefore who hears these words of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock“. “Hears these words and does them” is a good description of “Shema” and relates to Yeshua‘s words to Simon : “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17).
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Then He warned the talmidim (disciples) not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. Matthew 16: 19-20 CJB
Continuing to speak to the apostle Simon Bar Jonah, Yeshua stated: “I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven...” Notice the future tense of this verse. For now, Yeshua was with them to continue to teach and guide them, but the time was getting closer when He would no longer be physically with them and they would need to disciple others as He had been discipling them. He was preparing them for this. At that time, when He was risen and seated at the right hand of the Father, He was going to give Simon Bar Jonah the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (we will see later that these were not going to be given exclusively to Simon but would also be given to the other apostles).
This resonated with Isaiah 22:21b-22 “I will hand your authority over to him, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder; When he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.”
Keys were symbolic of authority. When a Jewish man was admitted to the esteemed office of scribe he was given a key to symbolise having the authority to “open the treasury of the divine oracles“. Scribes were the official scholars of the oral and written Torah and the instructors and interpreters of it (Mark 1:22). During the second temple period most scribes were from the sect of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:38). In their rejection of Yeshua as messiah and Son of God, Israel’s scribes had proven themselves unfit for this role in the Kingdom of Heaven (“Woe to you experts in the law! For you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.“ Luke 11:52; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.“ Matthew 23:13) They used their keys (their spiritual authority in the community) to shut people out, rather than to open the doors of the Kingdom. Simon Bar Jonah was thus in preparation for being “admitted to the office of scribe” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeshua was going to give him (and the other disciples) authority to teach the truths of the Kingdom to all peoples:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20
With the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven came the authority to bind and release. This is a Rabbinical term for “forbidding and permitting.” Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2) wrote: “The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit who they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.” The various schools of Pharisees claimed the authority to bind (forbid) and to loose (permit) – Talmud: Ta’anit 12a. The Jews believed that this power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age and in the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the heavenly court as confirmed by the divine voice (Sifra, Emor, ix; Talmud: Makkot 23b).
Notice that the binding and loosing that Yeshua authorised here was dependent on Shema (listening, hearing, understanding and responding appropriately to what the Father is saying – just like Simon Bar Jonah had done in his declaration that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of the living God). Yeshua addresses all His talmidim in Matthew 18:18:
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 AMP
By these words Yeshua invested His talmidim with the same authority as that which was claimed by the Scribes and Pharisees who were misusing it to “bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:2-4). In these commissioning passages (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18), the context is church discipline. The apostles are given the authority to both restrict and permit anything as led by the Holy Spirit in agreement with the Scriptures. Yeshua was directing His followers to establish His halakhah הֲלָכָה (the Way / the path that one walks) in His ekklesia (community of called out ones) “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of blindly following the Jewish religious laws established by the Pharisees whose teachings He had warned them to guard themselves against (Matthew 16:12).
What you shema has been bound (forbidden) in heaven you bind (forbid) on earth. What you shema has been released (permitted) in heaven you release (permit) on earth. Live and govern as Yeshua did on earth:
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19 NASB.
In the book of Acts we see the practical outworking of this – first in Peter’s actions and then in the actions of other leaders in the early church.
Peter set in motion the permitting of another to join the ranks of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26).
Peter loosed the crowd to receive salvation through his preaching (Acts 2:14-39).
Peter loosed the lame man from his infirmity (Acts 3).
Peter and John refused to be bound by the ruling of the Sanhedrin that they not speak or teach in the name of Jesus and instead declared their judgment (as heard from God) that they had to continue to testify about Jesus (Acts 4).
Peter forbade lying to the Holy Spirit and the power of God executed the Father’s judgment on such (Acts 5:1-11).
The twelve loosed seven men, chosen by the people, to take charge of meeting the needs of the widows (Acts 6:1-6).
Philip loosed the Samaritans to receive salvation, Peter bound (forbade) offering money for the power of God, and Philip loosed (allowed) the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptised (Acts 8).
Peter, in response to a vision from heaven, loosed the gentiles of Cornelius’ household to be baptised (Acts 10).
The Jerusalem Council, consisting of both apostles and elders, jointly considered what to bind (forbid) and loose (allow) for the gentiles who had come to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 15). While Peter played an important part in this meeting he did not dictate the outcome, nor have the final say, rather it was James who articulated the growing consensus in the room which was reflected in the letter they wrote “… being assembled with one accord… it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things (ie to only bind you in)”.
Then he warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:20 CJB
He commanded them that they should tell no one about Him. Mark 8:30 AMP
But He warned them, and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, ad the third day be raised up.” Luke 9:21-22 AMP
With this simple command Yeshua brought them back to the present. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and binding and loosing, were all to come, although they had tasted something of this authority when Yeshua had sent them out to preach the Kingdom. He had promised them, but for now He was with them and would have to suffer and die before the fulfilment of these future promises. Yeshua was increasingly preparing His apostles for the time when they would lead His community of called out ones, but that time was not yet.
From that time on, Yeshua began making it clear to his talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim (chief-priest) and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life. Kefa (Peter) took Him aside and began rebuking Him, “Heaven be merciful, Lord! By no means will this happen to you!” But Yeshua turned His back on Kefa, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path, because your thinking is from a human perspective, not from God’s perspective!” Matthew 16:21-23 CJB
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must [of necessity] suffer many things and be rejected [as the Messiah] by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and must be put to death, and after three days rise [from death to life]. He was stating the matter plainly [not holding anything back]. Then Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him. But turning around [with His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for your mind is not set on God’s will or His values and purposes, but on what pleases man.” Mark 8:31-33 AMP
And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Luke 9:21-22 NKJV
Yeshua’s second year of ministry was coming to a close. “From that time on“, now that they were well grounded in the reality that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God, He was telling them plainly what was going to take place in just a few months’ time. This revelation of His impending suffering and death, however, sounded so strange and horrible to them that their minds could not shema this.
Just as Simon Peter had been first to respond to “who do you say that I am“, so he was first to respond to these hated words “the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed“. His response demonstrated why Yeshua had spoken in the future tense when talking about giving him the authority to bind and loose, to forbid and permit. What Peter was trying to do in forbidding Yeshua’s suffering and death was an illegitimate use of that authority which he had not yet received, it was contrary to the Father’s will and contrary to what was being revealed from heaven through Yeshua’s words. The authority that Yeshua had been talking about giving Peter was not to be used to exert his own will, but the Father’s will on earth. It was a poignant lesson.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessedlife in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory (majesty, splendour) of His Father with His angels, and then He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27 AMP
Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34 – 38 NIV
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-27 NIV
“Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in (into) His kingdom.“ And six days after this, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. Matthew 16:28-17:1 AMP
And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. Mark 9:1-2 NIV
“But I tell you truthfully, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” About eight days after Jesus had said these things, He took with Him Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. Luke 9:27-28 BSB
Yeshua promised that some of His talmidim there with Him in Caesarea Philippi would see the Kingdom of God in this life. After this He took them away from the crowds for 6 days of spiritual preparation. On the seventh day Yeshua took some of them, three of them as chosen by His Father, up into the hill country and ascended a high mountain to witness a fulfilment of His promise that they would see.
This “high mountain” that we call the Mount of Transfiguration is never identified in Scripture. Yeshua came from Caesarea Philippi and would be going to Capernaum, but we don’t know if He took His talmidim to a mountain north-east or south-west from those places. There are two sites that have most often been proposed as the mountain that Yeshua ascended with Peter, James and John – the nearby Mount Hermon, tallest mountain in Israel, and the distant Mount Tabor. Both are mentioned in Psalm 89:12, which is part of the liturgy for the Orthodox celebration of the transfiguration: “You have created the north and the south. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.“
Mount Tabor, a prominent hill at the eastern end of the Jezreel valley, not far from Nazareth, is where the oldest recorded traditions place Christ’s transfiguration. The earliest recorded pronouncement that we have of Tabor being the Mount of Transfiguration was from Origen in the third century (A.D. 231-54): “Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured” (Comm. in Ps. lxxxviii, 13). The next are in the fourth century, from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech., II, 16) and St. Jerome (Ep. xlvi, ad Marcel.; Ep. viii, ad Paulin.; Ep. cviii, ad Eust.).
Mount Tabor appears loftier than it actually is in the otherwise flat Jezreel Valley and so commands a place of prominence. Visible all the way to Jerusalem, Mount Tabor was a familiar landmark to Yeshua and the disciples, who would have seen it often during their travels around Galilee. Jeremiah links Tabor’s prominence with that of Mount Carmel (see map above): “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty, ‘one will come who is like Tabor among the mountains, like Carmel by the sea’” (Jeremiah 46:18). In Judges, Deborah summoned Barak to gather an army at Mount Tabor to battle against and defeat Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army from Hazor (Judges 4:1–24).
Mount Tabor was settled during the First Temple Period (the city of Tabor was given to the Levites). Hosea also identifies Mount Tabor as one of the high places where Israel’s rulers had set up altars for the worship of false gods (Hosea 5:1). Antiochus the Great built a fortress on Mount Tabor in 219 BC, which may have continued to be utilised by the Romans throughout the time of Christ. The New Moon, signalling the beginning of each new Jewish month, was proclaimed by the Sanhedrin after at least two witnesses came to them with the news of the very first sighting of the New Moon. Using a long torch on top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a representative of the Sanhedrin would then light a fire whose flames people watching on nearby hills would see and light their own fires. Mount Tabor was one of the mountain peaks on which the Jews lit a signal fire announcing each new month.
The likely presence of others living on the summit of Mount Tabor, together with the distances that would need to be travelled have led some to believe that it is an unlikely place for the transfiguration.
Mount Hermon is called Jebel al-Sheikh (“the chieftain mountain“) by the Arabs. This imposing mountain, whose impressive peak is visible from a distance of more than 100km away, was considered to have deep spiritual significance to the various peoples who inhabited the area. The Sidonians called the mountain “Sirion”, and the Amorites called it “Senir” (Deuteronomy 3:9). It was considered to be the sacred mountain on which the council of the gods dwelt, presided over for much of the history of its usage by the Canaanite deity Baal and so called “Baal-Hermon” (compare Judges 3:3, 1 Chronicles 5:23). The name “Hermon” means “sacred, consecrated, dedicated”.
The Israelites saw Mount Hermon as a place where heaven touched earth. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Grigori (“Watcher“) class of fallen angels descended to Earth and swore upon this mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and then return (Enoch 6), an act corresponding loosely to the description of the Nephilim of Genesis 6, which speaks of a union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” While the Book of Enoch is not scripture, it does give us some insight into beliefs held by the Jewish people around the time of Christ to the extent that early theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, Hilary, Epiphanius and Augustine, referred to and used the book of Enoch, and the book of Jude quotes from Enoch 1:9 in verse 6.
MountHermon is a cluster of mountains with three distinct summits, each about the same height. This is an interesting illustration of God’s nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Psalm 133 connects the “dew of Hermon” with the anointing oil and with the blessing of brethren dwelling together in unity. In John 17 Jesus prays that we will be one as He and the Father are one.
Some scholars believe that the six days between Yeshua’s promise that some of them would see the Kingdom of God and the day of His transfiguration refer to a six-day period of spiritual preparation, fasting, and ritual purification before being invited up on the seventh day to behold God’s glory in Christ Jesus. When God gave the Torah, He invited Moses to ascend Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud of glory covered Mount Sinai. On the seventh day, the voice of the LORD called from within the cloud, and Moses went higher up the mountain to enter the cloud and stand in the presence of God.
Moses spoke these words to all Israel: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to Him you shall listen. This is in accordance with everything that you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Do not let me hear the voice of the Lord my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them everything that I command Him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which He speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him.’” Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Now God had sent that Prophet. After six days, Yeshua (the prophet like Moses), and three talmidim, three witnesses for any Jewish court, like the three peaks of Mount Hermon, climbed the high mountain. Like Moses, Yeshua and His talmidim were enveloped in a cloud of glory. Like Moses, they heard the voice of God speaking out of the cloud. Like Moses, Yeshua began to radiate the glory of God. He indeed was the promised Messiah and Son of God.
“After six days” is the seventh day. The seventh day was when God rested from creating heaven and earth, it was the day Jews were to keep holy, it also had end-times implications. The words “after six days” may offer an additional hint about Yeshua’s cryptic promise at the end of the previous chapter, “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels …” (Matthew 16:27). For Matthew and his readers, the term “after six days” might have alluded to the seventh millennium – the one-thousand-year rest of creation. The transfiguration allowed the disciples a glimpse of the Son of Man coming in His Father’s glory—the Messiah in the Messianic Age.
And His appearance underwent a change in their presence; and His face shone clear and bright like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, who kept talking with Him. Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if You approve, I will put up three booths here—one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a shining cloud [composed of light] overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, My Beloved, with Whom I am [and have always been] delighted. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were seized with alarm and struck with fear. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And when they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:2-8 AMP
There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. Mark 9:2-8 NIV
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed; and his clothing became gleaming white. Suddenly there were two men talking with him — Moshe and Eliyahu! They appeared in glorious splendour and spoke of His exodus, which He was soon to accomplish in Yerushalayim. Kefa and those with Him had been sound asleep; but on becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Yeshua, Kefa said to him, not knowing what he was saying, “It’s good that we’re here, Rabbi! Let’s put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” As he spoke, a cloud came and enveloped them. They were frightened as they entered the cloud;and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!” When the voice spoke, Yeshua was alone once more. Luke 9:28-35 CJB
Just as Yeshua had redeemed Caesarea Philippi, with His declaration there of “upon this rock“, so now – as He was praying – He redeemed Mount Hermon with heavenly visitation. These three talmidim had indeed seen the Kingdom of God come in glorious splendour. Peter would later write about their experience:
For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 2 Peter 1:16-17 BSB
The mountain on which Yahweh dwells in the Hebrew scriptures is known as ‘the mountain of assembly’ because it is not only His dwelling but also the place at which the divine council convenes. It is the place at which He is enthroned among the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the sons of God, and the rest of the angelic hosts. This dwelling and the meeting place of the divine council were depicted in the Ancient Near East as taking place in tents. The tabernacle built by Moses was seen to be an earthly copy of the heavenly sanctuary into which he entered atop Mt. Sinai (Acts 7:38-44; Heb 8:5). In addition to the uncreated glory of Christ which shines forth, Moses and Elijah, two humans who have joined the divine council, appear and take counsel with Christ on the mountain (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31). It is this understanding that triggers Simon Peter’s offer to put up three tents, for Christ, Moses and Elijah.
Luke tells us the topic of Moses’ and Elijah’s conversation with Yeshua: “they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” Luke 9:31 NLT. It was to the disciples a most horrible and incomprehensible subject. It was the very subject that Peter had chastised Yeshua for teaching them, which had earnt him the rebuke “get thee behind me Satan...” Yet, here it was in the midst of such a glorious display of the Kingdom of God and with the affirmation of God the father’s voice: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Then Moses and Elijah (representing the Torah and the Nevi’im – Law and Prophets) also appeared on the mountain with Yeshua. Elijah’s coming back has a deep eschatological meaning (both in the Hebrew and in the Christian Bibles) on its own, as his presence precedes that of the Messiah, and his “departure” prefigures Yeshua’s: the book of the prophet Malachi says Elijah will be sent back to earth “before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” The presence of Elijah in the Transfiguration reinforces the fulfilling of Malachi’s prophecy that had already been fulfilled with Yohannan the Immerser (John the Baptist), as if sealing it. The presence of these two also brings assurance that we do not cease to exist at death but there is indeed a resurrection of the dead.
The transfiguration functioned as a heavenly witness to confirm Simon Peter’s declaration, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” It also offered a partial fulfilment to the Yeshua’s promise that some would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God, i.e., the King in His glory. The transfiguration was an experience shared by “some” – three witnesses- of those who had stood with Him in Caesarea Philippi when Yeshua declared: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:28 “And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”“ Mark 9:1 NIV.
Having three witnesses is significant because the Torah states: “On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed“ (Deuteronomy 19:15). The disciple Peter later recalled, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty … when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16).
And as they were going down the mountain, Jesus cautioned and commanded them, “Do not mention to anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The disciples asked Him, “Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah does come and will get everything restored and ready. But I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know or recognize him, but did to him as they liked. So also the Son of Man is going to be treated and suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:9-13 AMP
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Mark 9:9-13 NIV
They kept quiet – at that time they told no one anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:36 CJB
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Turnage, Marc. Biblical Israel: Mount Tabor. CBN Israel. [Online] July 13th, 2021. https://cbnisrael.org/2021/07/13/biblical-israel-mount-tabor/. 4. Wheadon, Martin. Mount Tabor: The Importance of Mountains in the Bible. Gants Hill URC. [Online] October 25th, 2019. https://www.gantshillurc.co.uk/ministers-blog/mount-tabor-the-importance-of-mountains-in-the-bible. 5. McCoy, Glan. The Mount of Transfiguration. Forcey Bible Church. [Online] August 7th, 2020. https://www.forcey.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/07_bi_mount_of_transfiguration.pdf. 6. Stiles, Wayne. Mount Tabor – A Panorama of Beauty And Praise. Wayne Stiles. [Online] [Cited: August 29th, 2022.] https://waynestiles.com/blog/mount-tabor-a-panorama-of-beauty-and-praise?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+waynestiles+(Wayne+Stiles+Blog). 7. Young, Dr Stephen De. Tabor and Hermon. An Introduction to Your Bible2019. [Online] August, 5th. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/wholecounsel/2019/08/05/tabor-and-hermon/. 8. [Online] https://biblehub.com/topical/t/tabor.htm. 9. What is the significance of Mount Tabor in the Bible?Got Questions Ministries. [Online] [Cited: September 3rd, 2022.] https://www.gotquestions.org/Mount-Tabor.html. 10. Miller, Dr. Yvette Alt. The Moon:7 Jewish Facts. Aish. [Online] July 16th, 2019. https://aish.com/the-moon-7-jewish-facts/. 11. After Six Days. Torah Portions. [Online] First Fruits of Zion. [Cited: September 4th, 2022.] https://torahportions.ffoz.org/disciples/matthew/after-six-days.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What is the importance of our “shema” ? * Why do you think Jesus said “I will give you the keys” instead of “I have given you the keys of the Kingdom“? * What do the “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” represent and how are they to be used? * Can you think of any examples of when you have exercised the authority of having the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? * Why did Jesus react so strongly when Peter rebuked Him? * Has there been a time in your life when Christian friends or family have tried to save you from obeying God because they were looking at things from a human perspective? * What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus? * Do you have any mountains near you, and do they have any spiritual significance? * What impact do you think it had on Peter, James and John to see Jesus transfigured?
1.WINTER – Yeshua (Jesus) returned to Nazareth and taught in their synagogue – Lesson 1 2. Yeshua sent out the twelve two by two with power (dynamis) and authority (eksousia) – Lesson 1 3. Yeshua taught in nearby towns – Lesson 1 4. SPRING – Yochanan the Immerser was beheaded by Herod – Yeshua and the twelve regroup and sail to to a secluded place near Bethsaida Lesson 1 5. Yeshua fed 5,000 – Lesson 2 6. Yeshua walked on water – Lesson 2 7. Yeshua taught in Capernaum – Lesson 3 & Lesson 4 8. SUMMER – Yeshua took disciples to the district of Tyre & Sidon and delivered daughter of Syrophoenician woman – Lesson 5 9. Yeshua took disciples down to region of the Decapolis and healed deaf dumb man – Lesson 5 10. Yeshua fed the 4,000 – Lesson 5 11. Yeshua returns to Galilee – Lesson 6 12. AUTUMN (FALL)Yeshua goes to Jerusalem for Sukkot (the Festival of Tabernacles) – Lesson 6 – Woman caught in adultery – Lesson 7 – Teaching in the Temple –Lesson 8 & Lesson 9 – Giving sight to man born blind – Lesson 10 – and more Teaching in Jerusalem – Lesson 11 13. Yeshua returned to Bethsaida and healed a blind man – Lesson 12 14. Yeshua took His talmidim north to Caesarea Philippi (the Gates of Hell) to prepare them for leadership- Lesson 12 15. Yeshua took Kefa, Yochanan and Ya‘akov up a high mountain and was transfigured –Lesson 13 16. Yeshua delivered boy, father “help me in my unbelief” – Lesson 14 17. Walking to Capernaum, teaching on death and resurrection – Lesson 14 18. Temple tax fish, Teaching – avoid snares, reconcile brother, authority – Lesson 14 & Lesson 15 WINTER
Please read Matthew 16:1-20, Mark 8:11-30 & Luke 9:18-21
The weather was getting cooler and storms starting to brew as Israel’s rainy season began. Yeshua and His talmidim returned to Galilee from the Sukkot celebrations, and His increasing conflicts with the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Then some P’rushim and Tz’dukim came to trap Yeshua by asking Him to show them a miraculous sign from Heaven. But His response was, “When it is evening, you say, ‘Fair weather ahead,’ because the sky is red; and in the morning you say, ‘Storm today!’ because the sky is red and overcast. You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times!A wicked and adulterous generation is asking for a sign? It will certainly not be given a sign — except the sign of Yonah!” With that He left them and went off. Matthew 16:1-4 CJB
The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven to test Him. And He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And He left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. Mark 8:11-13 ESVUK
These P’rushim and Tz’dukim (Pharisees and Sadducees) had likely been in Jerusalem for the required pilgrimage festival of Sukkot and heard Yeshua teaching in the temple and the crowd whispering “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” (John 7:31-32). They had heard Yeshua shout on the last day of the festival: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38). They knew their colleagues’ concerns about the people believing Yeshua to be messiah. They were determined to turn the people against Him. But His time was not yet, so He continued to respond with such wisdom that every attempt to trick Him was doomed to failure. Yet even this sign they failed to notice and only got frustrated by it.
These religious leaders were supposed to be directing the people to God, but instead they were trying to divert them away from the Son of God. Yeshua warned His talmidim against these revered community leaders.
The talmidim, in crossing to the other side of the lake, had forgotten to bring any bread. So when Yeshua said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourselves against the hametz (leaven) of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim,” they thought He said it because they hadn’t brought bread. But Yeshua, aware of this, said, “Such little trust you have! Why are you talking with each other about not having bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you filled? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many baskets you filled? How can you possibly think I was talking to you about bread? Guard yourselves from the hametz of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim! (leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!)” Then they understood — they were to guard themselves not from yeast for bread but from the teaching of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim. Matthew 16:5-12 CJB
Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And He cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21 ESVUK
It can play on our minds when we have failed in some way. Yeshua’s talmidim had forgotten to bring the needed supplies. They were focusing on their lack. So, when Yeshua started instructing them to be careful of adopting the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or way of life of Herod, all they could hear was a rebuke for their failure and concern about their consequent lack. They missed the importance of this moment.
Yeshua’s second year of teaching His talmidim was coming to an end and soon He would be incarnate with them no more. They needed to know to guard themselves from the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees or they would never fulfil what He was calling them to as His ekklesia (assembly of called out ones).
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to Him a blind man and begged Him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spat on his eyes and laid His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” Mark 8:22-26
Yeshua was not interested in performing for the pharisees, doing a sign to impress or try to prove something to them, but He had compassion on people in need and did many miraculous signs of healing to demonstrate the nature of His kingdom and meet those needs. The people of Bethsaida had seen Yeshua perform many miracles. They had been among the 5,000 fed with just five loaves and two fish. A group of them were eager to see another miracle – the healing of this blind man. Yeshua had compassion on the man and took him by the hand to lead him away from the crowd of spectators. Once he had allowed Yeshua to lead him to a safe place this man was ready to begin to receive his miracle. Interestingly, this healing was not instantaneous as so many others had been, but was performed in stages, with the blind man being asked what he could see as it progressed.
Yeshua and His talmidim continued north from Bethsaida, following the Jordan River to its source, the deep spring of Caesarea Philippi at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. In so doing, they left the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas for a region governed by Herod Philip. Of greater significance was the history and current use of this location. Their next lesson was to take place in a region that most pious Jews at this time despised and avoided. It was an area associated with the most heinous of heathen practices and with the shame of Israel’s rebellion against God. A place notorious as “the Gates of Hell”.
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. Mark 8:27-30 ESV
GEOGRAPHY OF CAESAREA PHILIPPI On the southern slope of Mount Hermon, about 1150 feet above sea level, is a cliff more than 100 feet high. The area had a beautiful setting, it produced a lush oasis of life and overlooked the very fertile northern portion of the Jordan River Valley. In ancient times there was a deep, water filled, cavern in the limestone rock at the base of this cliff. Ferocious waters gushed from the massive spring in this limestone cave, and these provided the main source for the Jordan River. 1st century Jewish historian Josephus described it: “a dark cave opens itself; within which there is a horrible precipice, that descends abruptly to a vast depth: it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable; and when anybody lets down anything to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it. Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly; and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan.” – Josephus, Wars of the Jews 1,21,3. It was this dangerous, seemingly bottomless dark water-filled cavern that the ancients called the “Gates of Hades” or “Gates of Hell”.
HISTORY OF THE CAESAREA PHILIPPI REGION Before God gave this land to the Israelites it was part of the land of Canaan. The Canaanites were descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:18-19, Genesis 10:6, 15-20), Ham’s youngest son, who was cursed for his father’s disrespect of Noah when drunk (Genesis 9:20-27). The scriptures do not tell us why Canaan was cursed and not Ham or Ham’s other sons, so scholars have produced various theories to fill in the gaps. What we do know is that in describing how Israel came to be invading the Canaanites and taking over their land the curse on Canaan was considered significant and he is focused on before any of Noah’s older grandsons are mentioned in scripture.
Canaanite society was formed around city-states, each ruled by a warrior chieftain (malek), who held his position by virtue of being the fiercest warrior in the tribe. The Canaanite city-state in the area around the “Gates of Hell” was named Laish, Judges 18:7.
Many cultures adopt notable geographical features into the worship of their deities. Likewise, the Canaanites built a sanctuary to Baal around the entrance to the bottomless, water-filled cavern and it became central to their worship, which included child sacrifice (often of tiny babies).
According to Canaanite mythology, Baal was the son of El, the chief god, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea. Baal was considered the most powerful of all gods, eclipsing El, who was seen as rather weak and ineffective. In various battles Baal defeated Yamm, the god of the sea, and Mot, the god of death and the underworld.
Baal was portrayed as a man with the head and horns of a bull. Some idols had his right hand raised holding a lightning bolt, signifying both destruction and fertility, others had him seated on a throne. Baal worship included temple prostitution and human sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice of babies through fire. Some believe that babies were sacrificed to Baal by throwing them into the watery depths of this bottomless cavern.
When God led Israel into the Promised Land (Canaan) in c.1406 BC, the southern coastal plain, between Ephraim and Judah, was allocated to the tribe of Dan (see Joshua 19:40-46). However, due to the superior weaponry of the neighbouring Philistines, who used iron chariots to defend their cities, the Danites were insecure in this territory (see Judges 1:19) so they sent five valiant men to spy out a favourable land. Having the blessing of a Levite priest employed by Micah in the hill country of Ephraim, they continued north and found the unconquered Canaanite city of Laish with a fertile plain in the northern most reaches of Manasseh’s territory, under the shadow of Mount Hermon and including the main source of the Jordan River.
In response to the positive report that the five spies brought back, 600 Danites armed with weapons of war (Judges 18:11) set out to conquer the Canaanite city of Leshem (or Laish), stopping along the way to kidnap Micah’s Levite priest and take his graven images and idols from the hill country of Ephraim, threatening Micah’s life if he should attempt to stop them. Accompanied by their new priest, and the stolen idols from Micah, the Danites marched on the unsuspecting city of Laish. They struck down all of the people, and burnt the city to the ground, then rebuilt it and renamed it Dan (see Joshua 19:47 & Judges 18:1-31). While some Danites (such as Samson’s parents) remained in their allotted land in the south (see Judges 13:2), many of the tribe moved north to the new city of Dan and their territory included the notorious Gates of Hell.
As Dan was the most northerly city conquered by the Israelites, Israel was said to stretch “from Dan to Beersheba” (see Judges 20:1 & 2 Samuel 24:2).
“And the sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” Judges 18:30-31.
This laid the foundation for the two golden calves that King Jeroboam 1 would set up in Bethel and Dan after the kingdom was divided in 931BC (1 Kings 12:25-33). The city of Dan became a cultic centre of idol worship, in direct violation of God’s commands to Moses.
This ‘high place’ in Dan was renewed by King Ahab in 874BC as a centre of Baal worship (see 1 Kings 16:30-33). Ahab and his father Omri adopted a policy of combining Canaanite and Israelite religions, and Dan was the centre of this worship. It was not hard for the Israelites to slide from worshipping a calf to worshipping a creature which was a man with the head and horns of a bull, and then to the detestable sexual and sacrificial practices of the Canaanite religion.
They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. they worshipped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. (Psalm 106:34-39 NIV)
This detestable ‘high place’ was eventually destroyed when King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria conquered Dan in 732BC (see 2 Kings 15:29).
When the ancient Greeks conquered this area in 333BC, they adopted the seemingly bottomless cavern into their mythology, casting it as the birthplace of their fertility god, Pan.
Pan’s hindquarters, legs, and horns are like that of a goat while his upper body was of a man.
This Greek god was associated with music and fertility so his worship included prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats to entice the return of Pan to bring them prosperity.
They renamed the cavern the “Grotto of Pan” or “cave of Pan”, and renamed the nearby city “Paneas” (Banias in Arabic).
Over the years idols and statues of many gods and goddesses were placed into small openings cut into the rock face of the cliff and at the base of this cliff, more than one hundred feet high, people built temples and shrines dedicated to various gods.
The deep cavern was thought to be the gate to the underworld, where fertility gods dwelt during the winter and then returned to the earth each spring. Inside the grotto (cave) and etched in the walls was a Greek sign that said, “gates of Hades.”
Among the temples to pagan gods was an arena where worshippers of Pan would dance, and engage in sexual practices, with goats .
Herod the Great was given the area of Paneas (later to be known as Caesarea Philippi) by Caesar Augustus in 20 BC. In honour of Augustus’ visit to the area, Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus, called an Augusteum, near Paneas. His son, Philip, renamed the city Caesarea Philippi in honour of Caesar and himself.
It was to this source of the Jordan River, this centre of pagan worship, this place of the beginning of the fall of Israel, this “gates of hell”, miles north of Galilee and without Jewish settlements in the region, that Yeshua took His talmidim to declare the ultimate victory of the ecclesia (church) that He would build.
((N.B. Caesarea Philippi was at the foot of a cliff where spring water flowed directly from the cave’s mouth. This fast-moving stream, the beginning of the Jordan River, was created by seventy-two springs originating in the bowels of the mountain. The waters were so deep that ancients were unable to plumb the depths and therefore considered it bottomless. Over the centuries earthquakes have destroyed the cave, and modern engineering has diverted the waters, so we no longer see the bottomless cavern or furious torrents of water that Yeshua and His talmidim would have witnessed.))
When Yeshua came into the territory around Caesarea Philippi, He asked His talmidim, “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?” They said, “Well, some say Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), others Eliyahu (Elijah), still others Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) or one of the prophets.” “But you,” He said to them, “who do you say I am?” Shim‘on Kefa (Simon Peter) answered, “You are the Mashiach (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” “Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan (Simon son of Jonah),” Yeshua said to him, “how blessed you are! For no human being revealed this to you, no, it was my Father in heaven. I also tell you this: you are Kefa (Peter),” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock I will build My Community (ekklesia – people called out from the world and into the Kingdom of Heaven), and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it. ” Matthew 16: 13-18 CJB
Simon identified Yeshua as Messiah, Son of the living God. Yeshua responded by identifying Simon in the Aramaic form of his name, Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, to speak something deep into his life. שִׁמְעוֹן Shim‘on comes from the Hebrew word Shema which means “to hear, listen, understand and respond appropriately”. “The Shema”, which begins with the words “Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad” “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4), is considered the most important prayer in Judaism. Bar means “son of”. Yochanan means “God is gracious”. Yeshua was in effect speaking into Peter’s life: “Hearing and responding son of God is gracious, how blessed you are for it was my Father in heaven who revealed this to you – by God’s grace you heard Him and responded to Him well.”
Yeshua continued speaking into Simon’s life with a play on words that He intertwines with His reason for bringing them to this place of beginnings where they could see both the massive rockface and the hole in it that was infamous as the gates of hell, for His declaration about His community of called out ones (ekklesia). “I also say to you that you are Peter[Greek: Petros = masculine / bolder, single rock], and upon this rock [petra = feminine / foundational rock structure, cliff, mass of connected rock] I will build My church [Greek: ekklesia = assembly of called out ones]; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
There is a lot of controversy among scholars and theologians about the intended meaning of the Greek words “Petros” and “petra” in this passage. Some argue that Simon Peter was the rock that Yeshua was going to build His church on and others, that it was the confession that Peter made of Yeshua being the Messiah and Son of the living God that was the rock. Obviously “Petra” would be inappropriate as a name for Simon because is it feminine (a girl’s name), but “Petros” could have been used for the rock upon which Yeshua built His church to have the same word used in both places, and it was not. Likewise, Yeshua could have made things obvious for us by saying “and upon you (Peter) I will build My church” or “and upon your declaration of Me I will build My church“, but instead He said “upon this rock I will build“, after giving Simon a name that means “rock“.
Yeshua chose a play on words for a reason, but we don’t know exactly what play on words He was using because we don’t know what Hebrew or Aramaic words He used for this statement. Although the oldest copies of Matthew that we have are in Greek – with it’s use of “Petros” and “petra” – there is evidence from early church writers that this Gospel was originally written in a Semitic language (Hebrew or Aramaic), and we know that Greek was not the language that Yeshua used when when teaching the masses, discussing Torah with the Pharisees, conversing with fellow Jews or training His talmidim – so His original words to Simon Peter were not in Greek but in Hebrew or Aramaic. We have evidence of which Aramaic word was used for Peter – Cephas (sometimes spelt Kephas or Kefa, which means “huge, immovable rock“), as seen in the following N.T. scriptures where the Aramaic “Cephas” is used directly instead of being translated into the Greek “Petros” or English “Peter“:
And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A rock. (John 1:42).
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Cor 1:12)
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; (1 Cor 3:22).
Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Cor 9:5).
And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve (1 Cor 15:5).
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:18)
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9).
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. (Galatians 2:11)
What we don’t have is the Hebrew or Aramaic words that Yeshua used which led to the use of the Greek “petra” for the rock on which Yeshua’s assembly of called out ones was to be built.
The ambiguity in Yeshua’s statement gives room for layers of meaning. Firstly, He was speaking identity and calling to the apostle Simon Peter. This name that He had given Simon would become the one by which he was known throughout the time of the book of Acts, Cephas (Peter). It was a name that spoke of strength and stability, ability to stand through the storms of life. It was a name that Simon would need to grow into because his character was not there yet, as would be seen in His denial of Christ.
Ephesians 2:19-20 speaks of God’s household being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone“. Peter was to be part of this rock foundation but not the sole foundation. Yeshua was going to build His ekklesia on people, not on structures, principles, religious practices, ideas or doctrines, but on people, people like Simon Peter.
Secondly, Yeshua was speaking of His ekklesia being built on the massive foundational rock of Himself – on His nature as the Messiah and Son of God, and as such it will be unstoppably ever expanding until it fills the whole earth. In the very place of Israel’s shame and disgrace, the place of the beginning of their spiritual defeat which led to their decimation, in this stronghold of pagan worship and demonic activity, at the entrance to the gates of hell, Yeshua declared His ultimate victory. He was going to build His body of people called out from the world into the Kingdom of God, Daniel 2:34-35 & 44-45 was coming to pass and nothing could stop it.
“While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth….” 44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. (Daniel 2:34-35 & 44-45 NIV)
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Bible Hub. Mark 8:14 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: June 4th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/8-14.htm. 4. Bible History Editors. Ancient Caesarea Philippi. Bible History – Maps, Images, Archaelogy. [Online] [Cited: June 5th, 2022.] https://bible-history.com/biblestudy/ancient-caesarea-philippi. 5. Eddie. Jesus at Caesarea Philippi. Things Paul and Luke. [Online] Oct 02, 2019. https://thingspaulandluke.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/jesus-at-caesarea-philippi/. 6. Gawell, Donna. Caesarea Philippi: The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail. Donnagawell. [Online] January 31st, 2020. https://donnagawell.com/2020/01/31/caesarea-philippi-the-gates-of-hell-will-not-prevail/. 7. Stein, Dr. Robert. Lecture 26: Life of Jesus: Caesarea Philippi & Transfiguration. Biblical Training. [Online] [Cited: June 5th, 2022.] https://www.biblicaltraining.org/transcriptions/lecture-26-life-jesus-caesarea-philippi-transfiguration. 8. Associates for Biblical Reearch. The Temple of Caesar Augustus at Caesarea Philippi. Bible Archaeology. [Online] [Cited: June 18th, 2022.] https://biblearchaeology.org/research/new-testament-era/3473-the-temple-of-caesar-augustus-at-caesarea-philippi. 9. Verwysings. Mount Hermon: Gate of the Fallen Angels. Leef Jou Geloof. [Online] 11 12, 2014. https://leefjougeloof.co.za/mount-hermon-gate-of-the-fallen-angels/. 10. Commelin, Grietje. Why Did Noah Cures His Son Ham? Biblword. [Online] June 1st, 2022. https://www.biblword.net/why-did-noah-curse-his-son-ham/. 11. Frankel, Prof. Rabbi David. Noah, Ham and the Curse of Canaan: Who Did What to Whom in the Tent? The Torah.com. [Online] [Cited: June 25th, 2022.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/noah-ham-and-the-curse-of-canaan-who-did-what-to-whom-in-the-tent. 12. Farber, Dr. Rabbi Zev. Noah’s Nakedness: How the Canaan-Ham Curse Conundrum Came to Be. The Torah – com. [Online] [Cited: June 25th, 2022.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/noahs-nakedness-how-the-canaan-ham-curse-conundrum-came-to-be. 13. Stewart, Don. Why Was Canaan Cursed Instead of Ham? Blue Letter Bible. [Online] [Cited: 07 02, 2022.] https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_747.cfm. 14. Terry, Tom. The Surprising Sin of Ham and Curse of Canaan. Preach It Teach It. [Online] [Cited: 07 02, 2022.] https://preachitteachit.org/articles/detail/the-surprising-sin-of-ham-and-curse-of-canaan/. 15. Richoka. 9-7: Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham? Messianic Revolution. [Online] [Cited: July 5th, 2022.] https://messianic-revolution.com/9-7-canaan-cursed-instead-ham/. 16. Short, Larry. What is the relationship between Mount Hermon and the Nephilim in ancient times? Quora. [Online] [Cited: July 16th, 2022.] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-relationship-between-Mount-Hermon-and-the-Nephilim-in-ancient-times. 17. Farra-Hadad, Nour. Mount Hermon (Jabal El Sheikh) in Lebanon, A Sacred Biblical Mountain: Pilgrimages, traditions and rituals. International Journal of Religioous Tourism and Pilgrimage. [Online] Volume 9 Issue 2, 2021. https://arrow.tudublin.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1622&context=ijrtp. 18. Editors, Jewish Virtual Library. Mount Hermon. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: July 16th, 2022.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mount-hermon. 19. Kohler, Kaufmann. Authority, Rabbinical. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: July 16th, 2022.] https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2154-authority-rabbinical. 20. Church, J.R. Mount Hermon: Gate of the Fallen Angels. Leef Jou Geloof. [Online] 11 12, 2014. https://leefjougeloof.co.za/mount-hermon-gate-of-the-fallen-angels/. 21. Bonocore, Mark. Peter is not the Rock according to the Orthodox Study Bible. Catholic Bridge. [Online] [Cited: July 17th, 2022.] https://www.catholicbridge.com/orthodox/pope-is-peter-the-rock.php. 22. Staples, Tim. Seven Reasons Why Peter is the Rock. Catholic Answers. [Online] June 5th, 2020. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/peter-the-rock. 23. Stern, David H. Mattityahu Jewish New Testament Chapter 16. Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern. [Online] [Cited: July 17th, 2022.] https://kifakz.github.io/eng/bible/stern/stern_matfey_16.html. 24. Joosten, Strasbourg Jan. Aramaic or Hebrew behind the Greek Gospels? [Online] 06 2015. https://drmsh.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Joosten-Aramaic-or-Hebrew-behind_the_Gospels.pdf. 25. Fontecchio), Mark. Can You Clarify the Meaning of Matthew 16:19? Ask a Bible Teacher. [Online] [Cited: July 18th, 2022.] https://www.returntotheword.com/Can-You-Clarify-The-Meaning-Of-Matthew-1619-RttW. 26. Davis, Rabbi. Binding and Loosing. Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue. [Online] [Cited: July 19th, 2022.] https://www.rabdavis.org/binding-and-loosing/. 27. Huckey, Darren. Binding and Loosing Properly Understood. Emet HaTorah. [Online] [Cited: July 19th, 2022.] https://www.emethatorah.com/binding-and-loosing-properly-understood. 28. https://biblehub.com/greek/4073.htm 29. https://www.biblehub.com/greek/4074.htm
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* List some of the signs that the religious leaders had already seen which should have convinced them that Jesus was the messiah and Son of God. * Is there a time in your life when you were so focused on what you had failed to do that you misunderstood what God was saying to you? * What are your thoughts on this time when the miracle of total healing was not instant? * Jesus redeemed this most notorious place in ancient Israel, even the darkest places can be transformed by the Son of God. Do you have places with a dark history in your country and what impact has the gospel had in those places? * What does it mean to have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? * Wat does it mean to bind and loose?
Yeshua heard that they had thrown the man out. He found him and said, “Do you trust in the Son of Man?” “Sir,” he answered, “tell me who he is, so that I can trust in him.” Yeshua said to him, “You have seen Him. In fact, He’s the one speaking with you now.” “Lord, I trust!” he said, and he kneeled down in front of Him. John 9:35-38 CJB
Yeshua had found this man the first time to display God’s power in healing his blindness. Now, He found the man a second time to restore his soul, to invite this man to believe (trust) in Him. None had ever sort the man born blind to do him good before. He responded wholeheartedly.
Again a crowd was gathering.
Yeshua said, “It is to judge that I came into this world, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Some of the P’rushim nearby heard this and said to Him, “So we’re blind too, are we?” Yeshua answered them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you still say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” John 9:39-41 CJB
The way people responded to Jesus showed their true spiritual condition. Some called themselves teachers and thought they possessed religious insight, but in fact they were spiritually blind. Others knew they were blind and in the darkness of sin, but when they turned to Jesus they saw the light of God. There could be some excuse for those who were blind through ignorance, but there was sharp rebuke for those who claimed to have knowledge but deliberately rejected the plain evidence before them.
Yeshua continued addressing theP’rushim (Pharisees)…
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But He who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep. To Him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. And when He brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. John 10:1-6 NKJV
Yeshua described His mission in terms they were familiar with from the Hebrew scriptures. He is our shepherd who comes and calls us by name to lead us out to follow Him.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. . . Psalm 23:1-3 ESV
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. Isaiah 40:11 NASB
The day was coming to a close and shepherds were taking their sheep to the safety of the fold for the night. Yeshua had welcomed the man born blind into His fold after he’d been rejected by the false shepherds of Israel. The flocks of sheep spent the night in a fold (αὐλή, גְּדֵרָה) surrounded by a wall, at whose gate an under-shepherd (ὁ θυρωρός) kept watch during the night. There is only one gate, every other attempted means of entering the fold is illegitimate. The Pharisees thought themselves the gatekeepers of Israel, who protected the people from ungodly influences, so they were caught off-guard by this unfolding similitude.
So Yeshua said to them again, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that I am the gate for the sheep. All those who have come before Me have been thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate; if someone enters through Me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure.” John 10:7-10 CJB
Yeshua’s restoration and acceptance into the fold, of the man born blind, demonstrated that He indeed is the true entrance into God’s fold, the gate through which all need to pass if they are to enter. The Pharisees rejection and casting out of this man for speaking truth showed them to be thieves and robbers. Yeshua had come to bring life in its fullest measure where they had brought only destruction.
Yeshua is the gate, the one and only way into the kingdom of God.
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters the flock. He flees because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep.” John 10:11-13 NASB
No metaphor can adequately describe the Son of God so Yeshua shifts His self-description from the Gate to the Good Shepherd as He continues to contrast His ministry to that of the Pharisees. Again prophesying His upcoming death, Yeshua presents it as a requirement of the Good Shepherd. It will not be a meaningless tragedy but a necessity for our sake, and another proof that Yeshua is who He says He is.
Again, He was appealing to their knowledge of scripture, both in describing Himself as the good shepherd and in describing the religious leaders who had thrown out the man healed from congenital blindness as hired hands:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.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. “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep,therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. “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. … 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.” … “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. ” Ezekiel 34:1-17, 23
In declaring Himself to be the good shepherd, Yeshua was revealing His divinity. He is the one who seeks the lost, even as He sort the man born blind.
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 NASB
Those who hear and follow Yeshua belong to Him, are known by Him and know Him. What He invites us to in the call to follow is an intimate knowing, to know and be known by Jesus even as He knows and is known by the Father. There is no greater belonging. No greater acceptance.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd. John 10:16 NASB
This unity with God, this belonging to Yeshua, this knowing and being known by Him, is not only offered to the fold of the Jews. Yeshua came to the Jews as the promised Jewish Hamashiach (Messiah). But now He declares that they are not the only ones that He is calling, and dying for. The division between Jews and Gentiles was going to be removed as both would be called and together become one flock under the one shepherd, Yeshua Hamashiach.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ John 10:17-18 NIV
Again, Yeshua is preparing His talmidim for His death and resurrection. Although it will appear that He’s a hapless victim of the world’s evil, in reality He will simply be doing the Father’s will in choosing to lay down His life for His sheep, and then taking it up again.
The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, ‘He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?’ But others said, ‘These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ John 10:19-21 NIV
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
This man whom Jesus had healed from blindness was thrown out of his community by the religious leaders. Are people ever thrown out of your community, or disfellowshipped, or excommunicated. If so, what are the reasons for their rejection?
Jesus found the man after he had been thrown out of the synagogue and affirmed him as one of His sheep, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. How do you and your church respond to people who are despised and rejected by others?
Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and know Him as He knows the Father. How do you encourage people in your congregation to hear and obey the Good Shepherd’s voice?
As Yeshua passed along, He saw a man blind from birth. His talmidim asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned — this man or his parents — to cause him to be born blind?” Yeshua answered, “His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me; the night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:1-5 CJB
It was Shabbat. Yeshua had left from teaching in the temple grounds, narrowly escaping the attempt to stone Him, and was walking through the city of Jerusalem with His talmidim when He saw a man who had been blind from birth. Yeshua was not dwelling on the emotion of His rejection in the temple just minutes before this, His sole focus was on the Father’s will, and God’s will in this moment centred on a man who had been born blind. The blind man could not see Yeshua and did not cry out to Him, but Yeshua saw this man and stopped for him. Messiah always sees us before we see Him.
When Yeshua looked at the blind man He saw what God wanted to do for him.
When His talmidim (disciples) looked at the blind man they saw a theological dilemma: “who sinned – this man or his parents – to cause him to be born blind?” They were convinced that either one or the other had to be the case. Like Job’s comforters, they were possessed by the popular idea that special misfortunes were the punishment of special sins. Their compassion was stunted by the belief that either this man, or his parents, deserved the punishment of his being born blind. Their theological debate centred on whether so terrible a sin could be committed by a baby in the womb or just be the punishment for the parent’s sin placed on their unborn child. Like we so often are, they were wrong on both counts, totally missing God’s heart in the situation.
Yeshua corrected them:“His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.“ How often do we focus on what we think someone deserves instead of focusing on how God’s power might be seen at work?
“As long as it is day,” Yeshua continued, “we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me.” No matter what has just happened to us; no matter what others may be plotting to do to us; no matter what our situation or circumstance; our mandate remains the same – keep doing the work of God. Even if they threaten to stone you look away from the threat and towards our Father’s will. We MUST, it is not an optional extra, we MUST keep doing the work of God while we are able to do so.
For: “the night is coming, when no one can work.” Things were going to get worse, much worse, but that was no reason to dwell in gloom and doom. The prospect of night coming when things get so dark that it is impossible to work was simply more reason to keep focused on the Father and doing His work while they were able to.
Then Yeshuareminded them of what He’d been teaching in the temple: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” While ever He had breath Yeshua would shine the light of God into this dark world, doing the Father’s work and displaying God’s power in doing good and overcoming all the works of the evil one.
This time there was no noisy crowd accompanying Yeshua and shouting His praises, no excited chatter about His miracles, no one drawing attention to Him, He had slipped away from the crowds in the temple. There was nothing to alert the blind man to Who had seen him or what He could do for him. So he had not been calling out to Yeshua, had not been asking for his sight. But this blind man was at this place in this time by God’s purpose, even if he did not yet know it – his whole life, a life of being falsely judged and cruelly rejected because of his disability, had been for the sake of this moment. His congenital blindness was not a punishment but an opportunity for all in Jerusalem to see the glory of God displayed and believe Messiah at this crucial point in His ministry to them.
Having said this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash off in the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam)!” (The name means “sent.”) So he went and washed and came away seeing. John 9:6-7 CJB
Yeshua spat on the ground, the dust from which He had made man, and mixed the two together to form a holy mud to place upon these eyes which had never seen. Yeshua then sent this man to the very pool that had been the centre of a week of great rejoicing with the drawing of water for the festival. The water from this pool had been poured out with the offerings in the temple to the jubilation of all the people and now this source of joy was to be used for healing a man born blind.
The man knew this pool well, and could pick his way through the streets to get there on his own. This journey took him away from Yeshua, who continued along another path in staying hidden from the crowds. There, alone at the pool of Siloam, the man born blind washed the mud off his eyes and for the very first time in his life, they opened and he could see. Suddenly his life had been transformed and his excitement started attracting attention.
His neighbors and those who previously had seen him begging said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “Yes, he’s the one”; while others said, “No, but he looks like him.” However, he himself said, “I’m the one.” “How were your eyes opened?” they asked him. He answered, “The man called Yeshua made mud, put it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Shiloach (Siloam) and wash!’ So I went; and as soon as I had washed, I could see.” They said to him, “Where is He?” and he replied, “I don’t know.” John 9:8-12 CJB
Notice who the people were who saw that the man born blind could now see – neighbours and those who had previously seen him begging. No mention of friends. No one in this crowd really knew him, no one had helped him to the well – they even debated whether he was that blind man they’d seen begging or someone else. This was a man who had largely lived alone in society, begging for his needs, but rarely had anyone paid him much attention. None had bothered to get to know the blind beggar. Suddenly he was the centre of attention because of what Yeshua had done for him.
They took the man who had been blind to the P’rushim. Now the day on which Yeshua had made the mud and opened his eyes was Shabbat. So the P’rushim asked him again how he had become able to see; and he told them, “He put mud on my eyes, then I washed, and now I can see.” At this, some of the P’rushim said, “This man is not from God, because he doesn’t keep Shabbat.” But others said, “How could a man who is a sinner do miracles like these?” And there was a split among them. So once more they spoke to the blind man: “Since you’re the one whose eyes he opened, what do you say about him?” He replied: “He is a prophet.” John 9:13-17 CJB
Over and over again Yeshua demonstrated that the Jewish religious leaders had misunderstood His Shabbat commandment as He perfectly kept God’s law with God’s intent. Never had God designed Shabbat to limit compassion or healing. Whenever Yeshua came across someone who needed healing He healed them, whether it was Shabbat or not. So it was with this man born blind – God’s purpose was that His power would be seen at work in this man, Yeshua acted in accord with the Father’s purpose and did a creative miracle in healing this man on Shabbat.
WHAT THE TORAH COMMANDS CONCERNING KEEPING SHABBAT The first reference to the day of rest in scripture is Genesis 2:2-3 “On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.” CJB
The next reference is in Exodus 16 when God taught them practically through providing bread from heaven, Manna – twice as much on the sixth day and none on the seventh: “And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.” Vs 28-30 NKJV This rest was to take precedence even over the necessary work of providing for their family, as an expression of trust in God’s provision.
Then in Exodus 20 God gave the 10 Commandments and the 4th Commandment is: “Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for Himself.” Vs 8-11 CJB
For the next several chapters God gives Moses the laws that are to govern the nation of Israel and in Exodus 23:12 declares: “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.” NKJV All who dwelt with them were to be blessed with Shabbat, even the lowliest of slaves, even their work animals. This was so different to the cultures around them where workers and servants were expected to work every day, seven days a week. Here we see how, as Yeshua said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was created for the sake of man and not man for the sake of the Sabbath.” ABPE
Then, in Exodus 24, the people of Israel affirmed that they would do all that God had said and Moses was called up to God on Mt Zion for 40 days and nights – for the next 7 chapters God teaches Moses how the people were to build the Tabernacle, dress the priests, and worship Him. At the end of this teaching God says: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ Exodus 31:13-17 NKJV
After the sin of the golden calf, in Exodus, when Moses went back up the mountain God gave him instructions for when they would enter the Promised Land and declared: “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in ploughing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21 NKJV Even in the midst of the urgency of ploughing or bringing in the harvest they are to set aside the seventh day for rest and cease from this necessary work of providing for their family and community to set aside the day to God.
When Moses came down from the mountain, before giving the instructions for building the tabernacle he first taught the people: “These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” Exodus 35:1-3 NKJV It was not just outside work like ploughing and harvesting that was prohibited on Shabbat, but also the inside work of forging metals for their religious duty of making the tabernacle. Resting relationship with God was more important than the work of making the physical place for sacrifices and worship.
In Leviticus 19:3, 19:30, 23:3 and 26:2 God reiterates the command to keep Shabbat. Then Numbers 15:32-36 provides a solemn warning and example of profaning Shabbat: “While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” What a solemn warning of the seriousness of breaking this command! There was only one reason for gathering sticks – in order to kindle a fire.
Numbers 28:9-10 provides instructions for special offerings to be made each Shabbat.
Deuteronomy affirms the Shabbat command and links it to God’s deliverance of them from the slavery in Egypt: “‘Observe the day of Shabbat, to set it apart as holy, as Adonai your God ordered you to do. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your ox, your donkey or any of your other livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property — so that your male and female servants can rest just as you do. You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. ThereforeAdonai your God has ordered you to keep the day of Shabbat.” Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Shabbat was a reminder of God’s deliverance and a command to show His love to all, enabling all to enter into His rest.
In SUMMARY, the Torah teaches that Shabbat (the 7th day): 1) is blessed and separated from the other days as holy; 2) precluded collecting Manna, God provided twice as much on the 6th day so they would have no need to go out and collect it on Shabbat; 3) was to be a day of rest; 4) to be set apart for God; 5) all were to be given rest from any kind of work, including foreigners, slaves and animals; 6) to enable everyone to be refreshed; 7) any who worked on Shabbat were to be put to death; 8) even at the busiest times of the year, ploughing time and harvest, all were to stop and rest every 7th day; 9) forbidden to kindle a fire in their dwellings (burn in order to purge and utterly remove waste) to do the metalwork required in building the tabernacle – even this service to God is to be rested from on Shabbat; 10) a man who profaned Shabbat by going out and gathering sticks was to be stoned outside the camp; 11) special offerings were to be made in the tabernacle / temple each Shabbat; 12) give Shabbat rest to all, including servants, in remembrance of God’s deliverance from their slavery in Egypt.
In their development of Shabbat laws the Sanhedrin focused on God’s rest from creating on the seventh day and thus concluded that man is likewise to refrain from any constructive, creative effort that demonstrates man’s mastery over nature. To determine what constituted human acts of creation they looked to the juxtaposition of the endeavour to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with the commandment to observe Shabbat in Exodus 24-35, and from that deduced that the melachot (work forbidden on Shabbat) was any type of labor involved in construction of the Mishkan.
With typical Jewish regard for the importance of specific numbers their Oral Torah, as later written in the Mishnah, stated: “The primary categories of prohibited labors are forty minus one:” (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2). Forty days it rained to flood the whole earth; forty days Moses was up on the mountain neither eating or drinking as he received the Ten Commandments and instructions for worship; forty days the spies explored the Promised Land; forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after their disobedience; forty days Elijah walked to Horeb the mount of God after Jezebel’s threats against him, and the inhabitants of Nineveh were given forty days notice of God’s impending judgment.
Thus, the Jewish Rabbis designated forty minus one, ie 39, categories of activities forbidden on Shabbat, and each of these represented many different activities which they deemed unlawful on Shabbat.
THE39 PROHIBITED MELACHOT The first 11 melachotencompass all the steps that go into producing bread, from plowing the soil to baking the dough: (1) sowing, (2) plowing, (3) harvesting, (4) binding sheaves, (5) threshing, (6) winnowing, (7) selecting, (8) tochen (grinding), (9) sifting, (10) kneading, (11) baking. The next 13 melachot encompass all the steps that go into making material curtains: (12) shearing wool, (13) bleaching it, (14) hackling it, (15) dyeing it, (16) spinning, (17) stretching the threads, (18) making two meshes, (19) weaving two threads, (20) dividing two threads, (21) tying, (22) untying, (23) sewing two stitches, (24) tearing in order to sew two stitches. The following 7melachotencompass all the steps that go into making leather curtains: (25) hunting a deer / animal, (26) slaughtering it, (27) flaying it, (28) salting it, (29) curing its hide, (30) scraping it, (31) slicing it. The next 2 melachot were connected to the Krushim (beams of the Mishkan) which were inscribed with letters to facilitate matching them each time the Misgkan was erected: (32) writing two letters, (33) erasing in order to write two letters. The following 2 melachot were connected with putting up and taking down of the Mishkan: (34) building, (35) pulling down. The last 4 melachotwere related to the final touches of the Mishkan: (36) extinguishing, (37) kindling, (38) striking with a hammer and (39) taking out from one domain to another. Each one of these 39 categories of work is considered to have many “children”, related activities that are thus also forbidden – providing a very long list indeed of activities one must avoid doing on Shabbat.
Other parts of the Oral Torah developed by the Rabbis had additional activities forbidden on Shabbat: Mishnah Shabbat 12:2 prohibits plucking, trimming, and cutting; and Mekhilta d’Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, prohibits other activities “unbecoming the tone of Shabbat“, such as: buying, selling, loaning, placing an article in deposit, legal judgments, legal claims, appeals, other court activities, marriage, divorce, and accounting.
SHABBAT ACCUSATIONS AGAINST YESHUA THIS TIME The Sanhedrin reasoned that each of the above 39 categories of forbidden acts is a “father” that has many “offspring” that are also forbidden due to their intrinsic similarity to the parent act. An example of this is the rabbinic decree that refu’ah (an act of healing) is forbidden on Shabbat because it might violate the prohibition of the 8th category, tochen, by grinding herbs to produce medicine. Thus, they judged Yeshua guilty of breaking Shabbat for healing the man born blind. They also wanted to know how Yeshua provided the healing to determine if that was another violation of their Shabbat laws. Thus also judging Him guilty of breaking Shabbat for “toladot” – mixing sand or earth with liquid, as He did in making the mud that He placed on the blind man’s eyes – which they had forbidden as an “offspring” act to their 10th melachot of “kneeding”.
Straight after receiving his miracle the man born blind faced a character test – would he have the strength to stand on the truth under questioning and pressure from the Jewish leaders who refused to believe in Yeshua?
The Judeans, however, were unwilling to believe that he had formerly been blind, but now could see, until they had summoned the man’s parents. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind; but how it is that he can see now, we don’t know; nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him — he’s old enough, he can speak for himself!” The parents said this because they were afraid of the Judeans, for the Judeans had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Yeshua as the Messiah would be banned from the synagogue. This is why his parents said, “He’s old enough, ask him.” John 9:18-23 CJB
To be banned from the synagogue was to be shunned and ostracised from their whole community, with the religious assumption that this represented total rejection by God. The man’s parents were still trying to earn their place in society after suffering the shame of having a son born blind. They were honest, would not lie, but they had not encountered Yeshua and did not have the courage to stand up for their son and risk rejection from their community, expulsion from the synagogue. So they refused to answer how their son had been miraculously healed and instead let him stand alone on this.
So a second time they called the man who had been blind; and they said to him, “Swear to God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he’s a sinner or not I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” “I already told you,” he answered, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you too want to become his talmidim?” Then they railed at him. “You may be his talmid,” they said, “but we are talmidim of Moshe! We know that God has spoken to Moshe, but as for this fellow — we don’t know where he’s from!” “What a strange thing,” the man answered, “that you don’t know where he’s from — considering that he opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone fears God and does His will, God does listen to him. In all history no one has ever heard of someone’s opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He couldn’t do a thing!” “Why, you mamzer (born in sin)!”they retorted, “Are you lecturing us?” And they threw him out. John 9:24-34 CJB
These religious leaders made a pretence of wanting to know the truth while hating every word of truth that was spoken. The hypocrisy of it was glaring. The man born blind could see it clearly and became more and more emboldened in his replies to these deliberately blind guides. In the end they admitted that they knew he had indeed been born blind as they hurled their derogatory accusation against him referring to the belief that his blindness had come from pre-natal sin: “mamzer!”
They were not willing to believe the truth so they threw this man out whose very presence shouted the truth that Yeshua is the Son of God. Those who reject the truth will reject any who speak truth and want nothing to do with them. Those who love truth will welcome any who speak truth and want to hear all they have to say.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Chabad.org. The Shabbat Laws. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95907/jewish/The-Shabbat-Laws.htm. 4. OU Staff. The 39 Categories of Sabbath Work Prohibited By Law. Orthodux Union. [Online] July 17th, 2006. https://www.ou.org/holidays/the_thirty_nine_categories_of_sabbath_work_prohibited_by_law/#23. 5. Jewish Virtual Library. Shabbat: What is Shabbat? Jewish ?Virtual Library. [Online] AICE. [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/what-is-shabbat-jewish-sabbath. 6. Posner, Rabbi Menachem. What is Shabbat? Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/633659/jewish/What-Is-Shabbat.htm#Things. 7. Student, Gil. Medicine on Shabbos. Torah Musings. [Online] February 14th, 2013. https://www.torahmusings.com/2013/02/medicine-on-shabbos/. 8. Neustadt, Rabbi Doniel. Medicine on Shabbat. Halachipedia – Halacha On The Web. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Medicine_on_Shabbat. 9. Pfeffer, Rabbi Yehoshua. Medicine and Health-Related Activities on Shabbos. [Online] January 14th, 2015. https://dinonline.org/2015/01/14/medicine-and-health-related-activities-on-shabbos/. 10. Ellicott et all. John 9:35 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/9-35.htm. 11. Chabad.org. The 39 Melachot. Chabad.0rg. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/102032/jewish/The-39-Melachot.htm. 12. Wineberg, Mendy. Introduction to the 39 Melachot. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4739282/jewish/Introduction-to-the-39-Melachot.htm. 13. Chabad Editors. Melacha – A Unique Definition of Work. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95906/jewish/Melacha-A-Unique-Definition-of-Work.htm. 14. Aknlah Editors. 39 Melachot – 39 things prohibited on Shabbat. Akhlah: The Jewish Children’s Learning Network. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/shabbat/39-melachot/. 15. Hauptman, Prof. Rabbi Judith. 39 Melachot of Shabbat: What Is the Function of This List? The Torah. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/39-melachot-of-shabbat-what-is-the-function-of-this-list. 16. Drazin, Dr. Israel. Why Are 39 Labors Prohibited on the Sabbath? Books and Thoughts. [Online] January 4th, 2015. https://booksnthoughts.com/why-are-39-labors-prohibited-on-the-sabbath/. 17. Torahtots Editors. THE 39 MELACHOT – Lamed-Tet Melachot. Torah Tots. [Online] [Cited: March 26th, 2022.] https://www.torahtots.com/torah/39melachot.htm.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
Jesus healed all who came to Him, but this time the blind man had not come to Him nor called out to Him. Share an experience when God put on your heart to go to someone who had not been seeking God, and pray for them.
The disciples had missed God’s heart in the situation and instead were concerned with who was right about the reason for this man’s blindness. Share an example of where Christians have been more concerned about which one of them was right than what God wanted to do in the situation.
How can we keep from missing what God wants to do?
The Sanhedrin had turned God’s command to rest on Shabbat into a multitude of man-made rules. What man-made rules have you come across in churches in your region?
Church discipline is needful but must be motivated by love for the body of Christ and based on God’s word not man-made rules. Do you have any examples of God directed church discipline and what fruit it brought?