“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?
Again He told them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin — where I am going, you cannot come.” The Judeans said, “Is he going to commit suicide? Is that what he means when he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” Yeshua said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. This is why I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I AM [who I say I am], you will die in your sins.” John 8:21-24 CJB
“Again” indicates that there was an interval between Yeshua’s last words and this discourse, but gives no indication as to whether that interval was minutes, hours, days or weeks. Certainly, it was long enough for His last words to sink in: “You know neither Me nor my Father; if you knew Me, you would know my Father too.”
It was just six months until Yeshua would be crucified as the ultimate act of their rejection of His teaching and of Himself. He could feel the pressure mounting, already many of the leaders were plotting to have Him killed and it was only divine intervention staying their hand. So there was a certain urgency in His teaching, these people needed to see the reality of what was soon to take place if they were to be saved from dying in their sins.
Where was Yeshua going? He was returning to the Father, He was going to sit at the Father’s right hand. “which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:20-21 NASB. “…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21b-22 NASB. This is where Yeshua was going, and we cannot go there with Him unless we believe in Him.
In verse 21, and then twice in verse 24, Yeshua tells them they will die in their sin – (Gk) hamartia = having forfeited God’s approval because of missing His mark; failing to hit the target of obedience to God; every decision not of faith, not inspired and empowered by God; being in the condition of estrangement from God. In verse 24 Yeshua makes it plain that the core of their sin is unbelief – all those who refuse to believe what He says or who He is have, by that unbelief, rejected God and thereby forfeited His approval, regardless of how hard they may work at religious practices. Religious, or ‘spiritual’, activities are no substitute for believing and obeying God.
Importantly, Yeshua equates Himself with God by speaking of Himself as I AM. Unless we believe that Yeshua isI AM יהוה we will die in our sins.
We first encounter this name for God in Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks God for His name and God replies: (as translated into English) “I AM WHO I AM (Hebrew: Ehyeh asher Ehyeh – which also translates as “I will be what I will be”) … tell them I AM (Hebrew: YHWH – known as the tetragrammaton because of the 4 letters) has sent me to you”. Yahweh is the third person version of Ehyeh, which is first person. In the postexilic period the Jews, for reverence reasons, did not pronounce the name YHWH but substituted for it the word adonai (lord), and in written form attached these vowels to the tetragrammaton. The resulting misguided pronunciation of the name Yhwh as the three-syllable word, Y[J]ehovah, continued in English Bible translations until early in the twentieth century. Evidence from Greek usage in the Christian era points to the two-syllable pronunciation, “Yahweh.” In giving this name for His people to call Him, God conveyed His dominion over all things, the source of His power, and His eternal nature: I AM. He is the self-sufficient, self-sustaining God who was, who is, and who will be.
At this, they said to him, “You? Who are you?” Yeshua answered, “Just what I’ve been telling you from the start. There are many things I could say about you, and many judgments I could make. However, the One who sent Me is true; so I say in the world only what I have heard from Him.” They did not understand that He was talking to them about the Father. So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM [who I say I am], and that of Myself I do nothing, but say only what the Father has taught Me. Also, the One who sent Me is still with Me; He did not leave Me to Myself, because I always do what pleases Him.” Many people who heard Him say these things trusted in Him. John 8:25-30 CJB
The religious leaders in the temple ask the question “You? Who are you?” in the tone of scorn. The pronoun is the emphatic word and the phrase was in frequent use to express contempt. He had said, “I AM;” but they do not accept His divinity so they are attempting to draw from Him some definite statement that they can use as technical grounds to charge Him with blasphemy. Yeshua affirms His identity without falling into their trap: “Just what I’ve been telling you from the start.” All of His teaching points to who He is – the light of the world, the way the truth and the life, the Son of God, the great I AM – and unless we are willing to believe who He is we forfeit God’s approval and will die in our sin.
Yeshua’s reference to Himself as “the Son of Man” alludes to Daniel 7:13-14:
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
The title “Son of Man” thereby encompasses both Yeshua’s humanity and His divinity as the One who has everlasting dominion and is to be worshipped by all peoples. The Jewish pseudepigraphal writings of 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra give evidence of the understanding of the Jews of that time, presenting ‘the Son of Man‘ as an individual and a messianic figure, so Yeshua’s use of the term would have been clearly understood by His Jewish audience.
Yeshua generally used the term Son of Man when explaining His authority in terms of the humiliation, suffering and death He was to suffer in giving His life as a ransom for us. Likewise the phrase “lift up” – (Gk) hypsoo = to raise high, elevate, exalt – refers both to Yeshua’s crucifixion, and beyond that to His glorification. Those who were looking for a conquering Messiah could not comprehend that the Son of Man was given the authority, glory, sovereign power and an everlasting dominion of Daniel 7:13-14, only after such had been earnt through the sufferings of Isaiah 53. Our Messiah’s suffering and glory are intertwined.
We are called to follow in His footsteps: And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ–if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:17).
Many of the people who heard Yeshua say these things about Himself believed in Him, put their trust in Him. They had taken the first step but such belief is not the fullness of what God requires. So, now Yeshua addresses these ones who had believed in Him, instructing them on what it takes to be His talmid (disciple).
So Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, “If you obey what I say, then you are really my talmidim, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free .” John 8:31-32 CJB
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know (γινώσκω) the truth, and the truth will make you free ( ἐλεύθερος ).” John 8:31-32 NASB
What does it take to be Yeshua’s talmid (disciple)? It is more than just believing in Him. Even the Devil believes that Yeshua is the Son of God (He also drove out many demons, but He would not let the demons speak because they knew who He was (Mark 1:34). Moreover demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah (Luke 4:41) ). Many of the Judeans listening to Yeshua teaching in the Temple that day had come to the point of believing in Him, but that alone is not sufficient. Yeshua addressed them, and all those who likewise today claim to believe in Jesus but want to keep living for themselves. To be Yeshua’s talmid requires that we obey what He says, that we abide in His word, that we live in His word, that we remain in His word, that we stand in His word, that we stay in His word. This is so much more than just saying that we believe Jesus is Lord, it requires a total life commitment that brings all we think, say and do into line with His word. If we do not obey Yeshua, He is not our Lord and we are not His disciples.
When Yeshua spoke of knowing (γινώσκω) the truth, He was not talking just about head knowledge. The Greek word used in scripture, γινώσκω, ginōskō, refers to knowing through personal experience, it is the kind of knowing that comes from an active relationship between the one who knows and the person (or thing) known. What sets us free is not just knowing some facts about Jesus, but personally knowing (being in intimate relationship, united as one with) the One who is the truth.
ἐλεύθερος – eleutheria (translated as free; one who is not a slave; one who ceases to be a slave, freed, manumitted; one who is exempt, unrestrained, not bound by an obligation; released from confinement or distress or physical sickness; liberated from political domination and oppression; especially: a state of freedom from slavery)- was an ancient Greek term for, and personification of, liberty. In NT times ἐλεύθερος was used literally of becoming a Roman citizen, something that slaves were not allowed to do. These religious Jews in the temple knew that Yeshua’s invitation was not to Roman citizenship but to citizenship in the kingdom of God. Instead of rejoicing in this invitation, they riled against it because their hope and identity was placed in their ethnicity, in being descendants of Abraham.
They answered, “We are the seed of Avraham and have never been slaves to anyone; so what do you mean by saying, ‘You will be set free’?” Yeshua answered them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. Now a slave does not remain with a family forever, but a son does remain with it forever. So if the Son frees you, you will really be free! John 8:33-36 CJB
Instead of rejoicing in the hope of being made free, these ones who said they believed in Jesus refused to acknowledge their bondage. Like so many who are enslaved by sin, these Judeans in the temple refused to concede their lack of freedom. It was a matter of personal pride. It was a matter of identity – they were God’s chosen people. It was a matter of accepted doctrine – all Jews were part of God’s household. It was a matter of ethnicity – they were descendants of Abraham and had never been disqualified (put out of the camp of Israel) by slavery.
These were ones who had believed in Him, yet Messiah knew their hearts that they were not willing to live His teachings. Like those today who call themselves “Christians” but reject God’s commands on how they should live, not willing to submit to His lordship over their lives. Belief that does not result in obedience is not discipleship. Belief that rejects the demands of obedience will quickly expose itself as murderous unbelief when challenged. So it was that at Yeshua‘s challenge to a life of obedience they responded very defensively, even ridiculously as their national pride rose to the fore, claiming while in the shadow of the Roman garrison that they had never been slaves to anyone.
I know you are the seed of Avraham. Yet you are out to kill me, because what I am saying makes no headway in you. I say what my Father has shown me; you do what your father has told you!” They answered him, “Our father is Avraham.” Yeshua replied, “If you are children of Avraham, then do the things Avraham did! As it is, you are out to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Avraham did nothing like that! You are doing the things your father does.” “We’re not illegitimate children!” they said to him. “We have only one Father — God!” Yeshua replied to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; because I came out from God; and now I have arrived here. I did not come on My own; He sent Me. Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to My message. John 8:37-43 CJB
The Jews believed that being descendants of Abraham made them part of the household of God. Yeshua directly challenged this. He affirmed that they were Abraham’s seed (descendants) but disputed that this made them Abraham’s “children” – part of God’s household of faith. Our ‘father’, the one whose spiritual heritage we carry, is the one whose actions we do. Their actions, that which they were to do, would make a lie out of their claim to be Abraham’s children and their claim to be God’s children. The problem was that what Yeshua said made no headway in them / His word had no place in them / there was no room in their hearts for His word. Their hearts were full of opinions, beliefs and passions that were contrary to Yeshua’s word, and these are what defined them in His sight, not their earthly heritage.
You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. From the start he was a murderer, and he has never stood by the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking in character; because he is a liar — indeed, the inventor of the lie! John 8:44 CJB
Yeshua’s assessment was that they were filled with the nature of Satan and so belonged to him and desired what he desired. Thus He described the awful state of unregenerate men. “From the start he was a murderer” — It was through Satan that Adam transgressed; in consequence of which death entered into the world, and slew Adam and all his posterity. This was the sentiment of the Jews themselves. In Sohar Kadash, the wicked are called, “The children of the old serpent, who slew Adam and all his descendants.”
Every thought they had that stood against Yeshua’s teaching was a lie from the father of lies. Every thought we have that contradicts Jesus’teaching is a lie from the father of lies.Yeshua is the Word of God. Yeshua is the truth and speaks only truth. If they could not believe and take to heart what He was saying it was because they had believed lies from Satan that had become entrenched in their hearts and minds. The choice was stark – believe truth or lies, believe Yeshua or Satan.
But as for me, because I tell the truth you don’t believe me. Which one of you can show me where I’m wrong? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says; the reason you don’t listen is that you don’t belong to God.” John 8:44-47 CJB
Those who have believed lies cannot accept the truth. Hence the call from both Yochanan the immerser and Yeshua Hamashiach to “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). “Repent” in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoia, which literally means “to change the mind.” They, like us, had been thinking one way and needed to think the opposite way to be able to believe the truth Yeshua was telling them. Repentance is a change in the way I think that leads to change in the way I live. When you really change your mind about something, it’s going to change the way you think about it, talk about it, feel about it, and act concerning it. True repentance is more than just a mental game. Repentance is a decisive change in direction. It’s a change of mind that leads to a change of thinking that leads to a change of attitude that leads to a change of feeling that leads to a change of values that leads to a change in the way you live. It was to such repentance that Yeshua was calling these ones who had begun to believe in Him.
The Judeans answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying you are from Shomron (Samaria) and have a demon?” John 8:48 CJB
They were unwilling to repent, or even acknowledge their need of repentance. They had more confidence in their own rightness than in their messiah. To avoid repenting they turned on Him and started arguing and verbally attacking Him.
Yeshua replied, “Me? I have no demon. I am honoring my Father. But you dishonor me. I am not seeking praise for myself. There is One who is seeking it, and He is the judge. Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever obeys My teaching will never see death.” The Judeans said to him, “Now we know for sure that you have a demon! Avraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever obeys my teaching will never taste death.’ Avraham avinu died; you aren’t greater than he, are you? And the prophets also died. Who do you think you are?” John 8:49-53 CJB
Once again it came back around to who Yeshua is, what is His real identity? This is the core question we have to answer.
Yeshua answered, “If I praise myself, my praise counts for nothing. The One who is praising me is my Father, the very One about whom you keep saying, ‘He is our God.’ Now you have not known Him, but I do know Him; indeed, if I were to say that I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you! But I do know Him, and I obey His word. John 8:54-55 CJB
Avraham, your father, was glad that he would see My day; then he saw it and was overjoyed.” “Why, you’re not yet fifty years old,” the Judeans replied, “and you have seen Avraham?” Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM!” John 8:56-58 CJB
They had asked in scorn if He were greater than their father Abraham (John 8:53). .His words have shown that He was. He now, with the thoughts of John 8:39 still present, contrasts the exultation of Abraham whom they claimed as father, when he saw from afar the Messianic advent, with their rejection of the Messiah who is actually among them.
Yeshua is, always was, and always will be, God – “I Am”. Such a proclamation is either the most essential truth or a terrible blasphemy. Refusing to believe Him, they decided that it was the latter.
At this, they picked up stones to throw at him; but Yeshua was hidden and left the Temple grounds. John 8:59 CJB
It was not God’s time yet, nor was this the way prophesised for Him to die, so once again Yeshua slipped away from a murderous crowd angered by His proclamation of truth that they were unwilling to hear.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Coffman, James Burton. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible John 8. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-8.html. 4. John 8:8-15 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-15.htm. 5. Guzik, David. John 8 Bible Commentary. Enduring Word. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/john-8/. 6. Henry, Matthew. John 8 Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/john/8.html. 7. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. John 8 Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] 1871. [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/john/john-8.html. 8. Mounce, Bill. γινώσκω. Bill Mounce – For an Informed Love of God. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/ginosko. 9. —. ἐλεύθερος. Bill Mounce – For and Informed Love of God. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/eleutheros. 10. freedom in the ancient world. Oxford University Press. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110810104937413. 11. Culture and religion. Britanica. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.britannica.com/place/ancient-Rome/Culture-and-religion. 12. Commentaries John 8:44.Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: January 1st, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-44.htm. 13. Verrett, Bethany. Why Does God Call Himself “I Am that I Am”? Bible Study Tools. [Online] November 1st, 2019. https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/why-does-god-call-himself-i-am-that-i-am.html. 14. The Meaning of “Son of Man”. Redemption Seminary. [Online] [Cited: December 4th, 2021.] https://redemptionseminary.org/redemption-blog/son-of-man. 15. John 8:37. BIBLE REF. [Online] Got Questions Ministries. [Cited: January 1st, 2022.] https://www.bibleref.com/John/8/John-8-37.html. 16. Verse-by-Verse Commentary John 3:37. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: January 1st, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentary/john/8-37.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What has God taught you as you have meditated on these words of Christ? * How would you describe who Jesus is and why it is important to believe in Him? * What does it take to be a disciple of Jesus? * How would you describe the state of someone who believes in Jesus but has no interest in reading the Bible or obeying His word? * The Jews put their trust in being Abraham’s children for their salvation. What do people in your area trust in?
After exhorting the women caught in adultery to sin no more Yeshua resumed His teaching in the temple.
Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.” John 8:12 CJB
“I am the Light of the world” is the second of seven “I AM” declarations of Yeshua that point to His unique divine identity and purpose. In all seven, Yeshua combines I AM with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world. They are:
I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51);
I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12);
I AM the Door of the Sheep (John 10:7, 9);
I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14);
I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25);
I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); and
I AM the True Vine (John 15:1, 5).
Light was an important symbol in the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). One ceremony associated with Sukkot was known as The Illumination of the Temple which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge menorahs/candelabras (seventy-five feet high) lighted in the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. All night long the lights shone their brilliance, illuminating the entire city. In celebration and anticipation, the holiest of Israel’s men danced and sang psalms of joy and praise, before the Lord. This festival was a reminder that God had promised to send a light, the Light, to a sin-darkened world. God promised to send the Messiah to renew Israel’s glory, release them from bondage, and restore their joy.
Now, Yeshua took this important symbol and applied it to Himself but He did not just say “I am the light of Jerusalem“, nor even “I am the light of Israel” but applied His statement equally to all peoples in all nations: “I am the light of the world.”
The Hebrew Scriptures spoke of God’s Word as light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105); “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130); and: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). Since Yeshua is the Word (John 1:1) it makes perfect sense that He is also the light. In declaring Himself to be the Light of the world, Yeshua was claiming that He is the exclusive source of spiritual light. No other source of spiritual truth is available to mankind, we can only come to the Father through Christ.
Yeshua’s declaration that He is the light of the world reflected Isaiah’s prophesy of Messiah:
I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations. Isaiah 42:6 ESV
The people were drinking it in, but many of the Pharisees were becoming increasingly desperate to prove Him wrong. Although those Pharisees that set up and accused the woman had absconded, yet there were other Pharisees to confront Christ. Some of their party having been put to such a shameful retreat may have made them even more determined to retrieve, if possible, the reputation of their baffled party and prove to all the people their superiority over this teacher from Galilee. More than anything else, Yeshua’s message of the kingdom of God was a message of Himself as the embodiment of that kingdom.
These Pharisees and Torah teachers understood something that we often miss in Yeshua’s claims about Himself – the implied judgment of those who refuse to believe in Him: ” whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. ” (John 3:18b-19 NIV). Thus they demand for such a claim the same level of evidence as Torah required for convicting a person of a crime deserving of the death penalty.
So the P’rushim (Pharisees) said to Him, “Now you’re testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid ( ἀληθής ).”
They claimed that Yeshua’s testimony was not “valid” – ἀληθής (alēthḗs) in the Greek. alēthḗs literally means “what cannot be hidden“, it stresses the undeniable reality when something is fully tested and shown to be fact. This is what the Pharisees were claiming Yeshua‘s words were not. A single person’s testimony was not enough to establish anything in their court of law, it had to be corroborated. They were claiming that Yeshua’s testimony proved nothing about Himself and so should be dismissed as worthless and thus they could not be held to account for refusing to believe it.
“If I testify on My own behalf, My testimony is not valid. But there is Someone else testifying on My behalf, and I know that the testimony He is making is valid — you have sent to Yochanan (John the Baptist) , and he has testified to the truth. Not that I collect human testimony; rather, I say these things so that you might be saved. He was a lamp burning and shining, and for a little while you were willing to bask in his light. But I have a testimony that is greater than Yochanan’s. For the things the Father has given Me to do, the very things I am doing now, testify on My behalf that the Father has sent Me. “In addition, the Father who sent Me has Himself testified on My behalf. But you have never heard His voice or seen His shape; moreover, His word does not stay in you, because you don’t trust the One He sent. You keep examining the Tanakh (Old Testament) because you think that in it you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness to Me, but you won’t come to Me in order to have life!” Matthew 5:31-40 CJB
Not only had Yochanan the Immerser testified to who Yeshua is, Yeshua’s works testify that God has sent Him, and the scriptures also testify as His life fulfils them. This time Yeshua simply states that His testimony is ἀληθής – undeniable reality that has been fully tested and found true. Light cannot do otherwise than bear its own witness. The Pharisees are claiming the need for human proof of that which transcends human knowledge. They claim the need for evidence of a human witness to a truth for which there could not possibly be a human witness, for all the people around had only witnessed that which is on this earth and Yeshua was from heaven.
Yeshua answered them, “Even if I do testify on My own behalf, My testimony is indeed valid ( ἀληθής) ; because I know where I came from and where I’m going; but you do not know where I came from or where I’m going.” John 8:14 CJB
It was commonly believed among the people, and resonated through these courts when Yeshua was teaching them duringSukkot, that: “when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He comes from” (John 7:27). He had fulfilled the people’s test, and so His answer was not so much for the Pharisee’s benefit for they had hardened their hearts against Him, but for the benefit of those among the people still questioning who He really was.
You judge by merely human standards. As for Me, I pass judgment on no one; but if I were indeed to pass judgment, my judgment would be valid ( ἀληθής) ; because it is not I alone who judge, but I and the One who sent Me. And even in your Torah it is written that the testimony of two people is valid ( ἀληθής). I myself testify on My own behalf, and so does the Father who sent Me.” John 8:15-18 CJB
Yeshua is referring here to Deuteronomy 17:6 and Deuteronomy 19:15 but substitutes “two men” for “two or three witnesses”. This prepares the way for the full thought of the “witnesses” in the next verse. The Pharisees are requiring the evidence of two men but Yeshua is offering them the witness of two Persons, each of whom is Divine – He and His Father. They were willing to accept the testimony of men but rejected the testimony of God as being unproven and unreliable. Do we likewise reject God’s testimony when we read something in the Word which contradicts the reasoning of man or our understanding of our own experiences?
Yeshua had taught the open-hearted Pharisee, Nicodemus, that He had not come to pass judgment on a world already condemned:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 1:17 NIV
Thus, Yeshua is assuring them that He is not now passing judgment on them through His words, but that does not mean they will be declared innocent. They have no basis for complaint if they be punished for their unbelief, since their own law directs them to believe every matter that is confirmed by the concurring testimony of two witnesses, as Yeshua’s mission evidently was. “For I am one that bear witness of myself “— not by words only, but by all the actions of His life, which are agreeable to the character of a messenger from heaven; “and the Father, that sent me, beareth witness of me” — by the miracles which He enabled Yeshua to perform. So the Pharisees were altogether culpable in rejecting Messiah.
Still they remained blind and deaf to the intent of what He was saying:
They said to him, “Where is this ‘father’ of yours?”
Yeshua answered, “You know neither Me nor my Father; if you knew Me, you would know my Father too.” John 8:19 CJB
Yeshua‘s declaration here that they did not know His Father is eloquent testimony of His virgin birth. Our Lord here plainly intimates, that the Father and He were distinct persons, as they were two witnesses; and yet one in essence, as knowledge of Him is knowledge of the Father.
He said these things when He was teaching in the Temple treasury room; yet no one arrested him, because His time had not yet come. John 8:20 CJB
The “treasury” referred to the area in the court of the women that was sheltered by the colonnades and where thirteen brazen trumpet-shaped chests were placed for the reception of taxes and charitable offerings. Each of the chests bore an inscription showing to what purpose the alms placed in it would be devoted. This notice of place is interesting in many ways. The court of the women was one of the most public places in the Temple area. He taught, then, openly and fearlessly. The chamber in which the Sanhedrin held their session was between the court of the women and that of the men. They had on several occasions assembled in that place to take counsel against Him, yet none of their plans could succeed until it was the Father’s time.
We can likewise have confidence in Christ that the time of our departure out of the world depends upon God. Our enemies cannot hasten it any sooner, nor can our friends delay it any longer, than the time appointed of the Father. Every true believer can look up and say with pleasure, “My times are in Your hand, and better there than in my own.” To all God’s purposes there is a time.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Coffman, James Burton. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible John 8. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-8.html. 4. John 8:8-15 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-15.htm. 5. Guzik, David. John 8 Bible Commentary. Enduring Word. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/john-8/. 6. Henry, Matthew. John 8 Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/john/8.html. 7. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. John 8 Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] 1871. [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/john/john-8.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What is the significance of Jesus’ words: “I am the light of the worldwhoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life“? * What is the connection between Jesus being the Word and being the light of the world? * All the Pharisees and priests danced and sang psalms of joy and praise before the Lord in response to the symbol of His light coming to His people. Why do you think their response to the reality of His light (Jesus) was so opposite to this? * On what basis does God judge us? * How do we know that Jesus’ testimony about Himself is ἀληθής – undeniable reality that has been fully tested and found true ?
Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drink! Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (Now He said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in Him were to receive later — the Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified.) John 7:37-39 CJB
The seventh (and last) day of the festival of Sukkot is called HoshanaRabbah, and is considered the final day of the divine judgment in which the fate of the new year is determined. In Jewish tradition it is the day when the verdict that was issued on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is finalised. Some of the sages taught that G‑d told Abraham: “If atonement is not granted to your children on Rosh Hashanah, I will grant it on Yom Kippur; if they do not attain atonement on Yom Kippur, it will be given on Hoshana Rabbah.” This day’s name means “the great hoshanah.” A hoshanah is a series of seven liturgical poems calling upon God to rescue and redeem the Jewish people, primarily by sending rain.
Hoshanah Rabbah was viewed by many rabbis of the time as a mini-Yom Kippur, a day on which the entire Jewish community was judged by God to be worthy or unworthy of the seasonal rains. So it is significant that Yeshua chose this day, when the people were focused on their need of water from heaven, to cry out in the temple: “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drink! Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!“
Yeshua, teaching in the temple that had been built by the despotic Herod for his own glory, the temple that was defiled by a corrupt priesthood, used this powerful allusion to God’s pure, lifegiving temple described in Ezekiel 47:1-12. The temple that God gave Ezekiel vision of was not a physical structure built of rocks, but a spiritual structure built of lives connected to the chief cornerstone, Messiah Himself – it was the kingdom of God.
Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. Next he brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and there I saw the water trickling out from the south side. As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and led me through ankle-deep water. Then he measured off a thousand cubits and led me through knee-deep water. Again he measured a thousand cubits and led me through waist-deep water. Once again he measured off a thousand cubits, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough for swimming—a river that could not be crossed on foot. “Son of man, do you see this?” he asked. Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived, I saw a great number of trees along both banks of the river. And he said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Wherever the river flows, there will be swarms of living creatures and a great number of fish, because it flows there and makes the waters fresh; so wherever the river flows, everything will flourish. Fishermen will stand by the shore; from En-gedi to En-eglaim they will spread their nets to catch fish of many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of all kinds will grow. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. Each month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be used for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:1-12 BSB
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB
Another thing to note in John 7:37-39 is that Yeshua took the blessings of God out of the realm of works – that which was earnt through human effort to produce goodness – and into the realm of grace and faith. His message was not ‘work hard and earn’ but ‘come to Me and receive’. It was a message that addressed human need but gave no place to human pride.
Dispute over whether Yeshua was the Messiah
On hearing His words, some people in the crowd said, “Surely this Man is ‘the prophet’”; others said, “This is the Messiah.”
But others said, “How can the Messiah come from the Galil (Galilee)? Doesn’t the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures) say that the Messiah is from the seed of David[2 Samuel 7:12] and comes from Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem),[Micah 5:1(2)] the village where David lived?”
So the people were divided because of Him. Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand on Him. John 7:40-44 CJB
Some recognised in Yeshua’s words that He is “the prophet” Moses had foretold:
Adonai will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to Him… … “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I order Him. Whoever doesn’t listen to My words, which He will speak in My name, will have to account for himself to Me.” ” Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19 CJB
Some recognised in Yeshua’s words that He is the Messiah they had been waiting for:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. Jeremiah 23:5
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2
And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Daniel 9:26
Some, who considered themselves to be learned, looked only to what they knew, and as far as they knew Yeshua came from Galilee, not Bethlehem, so instead of seeking to learn more they closed their minds to what He was saying.
The guards came back to the head cohanim (chief priest) and the P’rushim (Pharisees), who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” The guards replied, “No one ever spoke the way this man speaks!” “You mean you’ve been taken in as well?” the P’rushim retorted. “Has any of the authorities trusted him? Or any of the P’rushim? No! True, these ‘am-ha’aretz do, but they know nothing about the Torah, they are under a curse!” John 7:45-49 CJB
Am-ha’aretz: The literal meaning of the phrase is “people (am) of the earth (aretz).” Originally it could mean “the People of Israel.” However, its usual meaning by the time of Yeshua came from the notion of “people who work the land,” i.e., “peasant.” Am ha’aretz were looked down on by the religious establishment in Jerusalem as being “ignoramus, uneducated and boorish”. To these Pharisees, an am ha’aretz, by virtue of his ignorance of their superior ways, was deemed likely to be lax in his observance of the commandments. One common implication of this was that one couldn’t count on an am ha’aretz separating tithes from his produce in the way that the Pharisees deemed appropriate.
There was disagreement among the Pharisees over how to recognise an am ha’aretz. Some of their theories were that an am ha’aretz was: * one who doesn’t say the Shema with its blessings morning and night; * one who doesn’t put on tzitzit ortefilin. Tzitzit = eight threads with five knots attached to each corner of a four-cornered garment. A large four-cornered garment is called a Tallit Gadol. A small garment is called a Tallit Katan. The numerical value of Tzitzit is 600 add on 5 knots and 8 threads, makes a total of 613 to serve as a reminder of the covenant between the Jewish people and God and symbolize one’s commitment to obeying all 613 mitzvot that the Jewish sages had derived from God’s commandments. Tefilin(phylacteries) = two black boxes connected to leather straps that are wrapped around the head and arm during morning prayers. These boxes contain 4 passages, referring to the unity of God, God’s capacity to perform miracles and God’s omnipotence in both the physical and spiritual worlds; * one who has children but doesn’t care to give them a Jewish education. * even one who learnt Torah and Mishnah, but didn’t frequent Torah scholars, could be considered an am ha’aretz; judging that their knowledge would likely be unreliable if they didn’t spend their time learning face-to-face from a living sage (Talmud Berachot 47b, Sotah 22a).
Sukkot was the festival that most focused on the unity of the Jewish people. That is the whole focus of the “four species”, “the lulav and etrog” that the Jewish people wave in all six directions (north, south, east, west, up and down – symbolizing the fact that HaShem (God) is everywhere around us) sing the Hallel (psalms of praise) and during the Hoshanot (hymns recited every day of Sukkot as they danced in procession), and while singing the refrain hoshanah, “save us.”
Etrog -Shaped like a heart it symbolizes the driving force behind all of our actions. Lulav – The Lulav comes from a date palm, the fruit has a good taste, but no smell. It symbolizes someone with knowledge of the Torah but no good deeds. Hadas – The myrtle has a wonderful smell, this symbolizes the good deeds, but not knowledge of the Torah. Aravah – The willow branch has neither good taste or smell. This symbolizes someone who has neither good deeds or knowledge of the Torah.
Holding these four in a tight bond represents the unity that is HaShem’s goal for the Jewish People (Hashem is a Hebrew term for God, it literally means “the name”). The bond represents the conversion of a set of separate individuals into a People, which is far greater than any individual in both Torah and Good Deeds, and is far more deserving than any individual of the blessings of HaShem.
This message of the intrinsic unity of the Jewish people that was a focus of this festival seems to have been lost on these Pharisees who disparagingly described those who believed in Yeshua as am-ha’aretz who know nothing about the Torah and are under a curse.
Nakdimon, the man who had gone to Yeshua before and was one of them, said to them, “Our Torah doesn’t condemn a man — does it? — until after hearing from him and finding out what he’s doing.” They replied, “You aren’t from the Galil too, are you? Study the Tanakh, and see for yourself that no prophet comes from the Galil!” John 7:50-52 CJB
Not all of the Pharisees had hardened hearts. Nicodemus appealed to the Torah in his defence of Yeshua. He was shouted down by those who thought they knew what they were talking about. They looked down on the more rural people of Galilee and didn’t realise what they didn’t know – that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem.
After the Festival of Sukkot
Then they all left, each one to his own home.But Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives. John 7:53 – 8:1 CJB
Sukkot finished. Everyone left the temple and, instead of going to their “sukkah”, each returned to their own home, to a solid structure. Many of the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the festival began the long journey back to their homes in the surrounding regions. Yeshua had not finished His Father’s business in Jerusalem, there was still more that needed to be taught to the religious leaders in His nation’s capitol. So he retired to the Mount of Olives for the night. This was the place in which He probably often passed the night when attending the feasts in Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane was on the western side of that mountain, and Bethany, the abode of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, was on its east side.
At daybreak, He appeared again in the Temple Court, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them.
The Woman Caught in Adultery… The Men Caught Adulterating the Law of God…
Yeshua’s teaching was interrupted. The attention of the crowd suddenly shifted from Him to an unholy commotion as ‘experts’ in the Law pushed through the crowd with their challenge to His authority, confident that now they had what was needed to trap Yeshua in His own words.
The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery and made her stand in the centre of the group. Then they said to him, “Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in our Torah, Moshe commanded that such a woman be stoned to death. What do you say about it?”
Tannaitic sources describe the Great Sanhedrin of Yeshua’s time as a religious assembly of 71 sages who were the ultimate Jewish court and met in the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Jerusalem Temple. It was led by a president called the nasi (lit. “prince”) and a vice president called the av bet din (lit. “father of the court”). The other 69 Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) sat in a semicircle facing the leaders.
The Great Sanhedrin dealt with both religious and criminal matters, including trials of adulterous wives (interestingly, contrary to Torah, no mention is made of trials of the men involved in this adultery). They met daily during the daytime, but did not meet on the Sabbath, festivals or festival eves. So it was that on this, the first day after the festival of Sukkot, that they brought this accused woman to the Temple to be judged and sentenced.
They said this to trap Him, so that they might have ground for bringing charges against Him;
The Great Sanhedrin was the final authority on Jewish law and any teacher who went against a decision of the Great Sanhedrin was put to death as a zaken mamre (rebellious elder).
In about 30 C.E., not long before the time of this incident, the Great Sanhedrin lost its authority to inflict capital punishment. This loss, by Roman decree, of the right to execute the death penalty when required by Torah was a matter of great consternation for many on the Sanhedrin. Now they would try to use it to their advantage in getting rid of this unwanted Messiah.
Torah stresses that the judges in ancient Israel were to pursue justice and only justice: “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) Those who brought this shamed woman to Yeshua were pursuing something other than justice. They were trying to twist and distort the Torah to suit their own purposes in condemning the Son of God.
Yeshua recognises this performance as a trap, not an attempt at justice. The Torah-teachers and P’rushim were using this woman they had caught in adultery to try to put Yeshua in an impossible situation where He would be condemned by Roman law that had recently prohibited Jews from carrying out capital punishment if He declared the Torah’s punishment for adultery, and He would be condemned by His own people for rejecting the Law of Moses if He did not declare the judgment of death on the woman. This was not about the woman. It was not about the evil of adultery. It was about trying to trap Yeshua.
We need to remember that often other’s attacks against us are not about us at all. Ultimately, everything is about Yeshua. Keep our eyes on Him and see what He will do in the situation.
but Yeshua bent down and began writing in the dust with His finger.
Yeshua’s response was unexpected. He did not dignify their actions with a reply. Instead, He silently stooped down and wrote in the dust on the ground. Dust from which He had created man who now sort to have Him condemned. This was a prophetic act that His detractors, who had memorised and were forever quoting the scriptures, would have recognised all too well. This was a pronouncement of God’s judgment on those who sort to bring charges against Him:“Hope of Isra’el, Adonai! All who abandon you will be ashamed, those who leave you will be inscribed in the dust, because they have abandoned Adonai, the source of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13 CJB) It was in this very place, on the previous day – HoshanaRabbah – that Yeshua had described Himself as the “fountain of living water” (John 7:38). Thus, by His writing in the dust, Yeshua was drawing the attention of His audience to the message of Jeremiah. He was declaring that the message of the prophet and His own message were the same: rejection of and disobedience to the Word of Adonai (the Lord) will bring about their demise. Yeshua’s stooping and writing in the dust was declaring that this action of theirs in trying to trap Him was abandoning the hope of Israel, Adonai, and so would result in them being blown away as dust with nothing to hold it in place.
When they kept questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
These Torah-teachers and the P’rushim (Pharisees), men who should have known better, only brought the woman to Yeshua. Men who set themselves up as the ones to teach the people the proper application of the Torah (Law) and to execute judgment according to Torah were flagrantly flouting it. Not only that, but they had established systems within their institutions that twisted and distorted the Law. This is what Torah, that they were claiming to be asking Yeshua to uphold, commands concerning adultery:
The man who commits adultery with another’s wife, even his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man who lies carnally with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of the guilty ones shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon their own heads. And if a man lies carnally with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have wrought confusion, perversion, and defilement; their blood shall be upon their own heads. If a man lies with a male as if he were a woman, both men have committed an offense (something perverse, unnatural, abhorrent, and detestable); they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man takes a wife and her mother, it is wickedness and an outrageous offense; all three shall be burned with fire, both he and they [after being stoned to death], that there be no wickedness among you. . Leviticus 20:10-14 (AMPC)
If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel. If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbour’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbour and kills him, even so is this matter.For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her. Deuteronomy 22:22-27.
Torah focuses first on the man who committed adultery, and declares both adulterer and adulteress must be brought to judgment and put to death. It takes two people to commit an act of adultery, and if the woman was caught in the act the other party to this act must have been there as well. Where was he now? The text does not say, but the very fact that only the woman is charged shows that these religious leaders were not concerned with ensuring obedience to Torah. This all too convenient catching of a woman in the very act of adultery on the first day that Yeshua was teaching in the Temple after Sukkot suggests a set-up. Had they orchestrated the whole thing to try to trap Yeshua? Were they genuine witnesses to her crime, or complicit orchestrators of it?
They persisted in asking Him, still convinced that they had Him trapped. So Yeshua straightened up and stood tall and strong as He pronounced His judgment: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. Then He returned to His humble position stooped down writing in the dust.
Torah required a minimum of two witnesses to convict a suspect. The accusing witnesses would state the offense in the presence of the accused and the accused could call witnesses on their own behalf. Now that the Sanhedrin was the body entrusted by Jewish society to judge all serious legal matters, they would question the accused, the accusers and the defence witnesses before announcing their judgment. Yet, by this time the Sanhedrin had dropped all reference to the men who committed adultery and judged only the adulterous married woman. Their whole court system had lost focus on obedience to the fullness of Torah.
Like other great rabbis of His day, Yeshua often quoted a part of a verse, intending His audience to know the rest by heart and bring the entire verse to bear on the subject under discussion. Here, the phrase “be the first to” hearkens back to Moses’ rules for determining guilt. There were to be at least two witnesses to establish fact (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). According to the same code, it is these individuals who are to “be the first…to put him to death” (Deuteronomy 17:7). In alluding to this component of the judicial code, Yeshua is requiring that the Law of Moses be fully followed: the witnesses upon whose testimony the woman had been accused of a capital crime must come forward and identify themselves. Such witnesses are not merely subject to cross-examination. They also become subject to all laws pertaining to false witnesses, and the one most applicable at this point in the proceedings comes from the same section of the Law of Moses as the previous passages. “And the judges shall investigate thoroughly; and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 19:18-19).
His eyes had pierced them as Yeshua stood looking straight through each one and declaring: “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” This was not just a general ‘whoever has never sinned in his life’, for such would preclude any court from ever being able to pass judgment on any wrongdoer, but a specific, ‘the one of you who claims to have witnessed this woman committing adultery and not sinned in providing false or incomplete witness’, ‘the one whose witness is pure and not intended to pervert justice’.
Suddenly the stakes were much higher. By strict adherence to the Law of Moses, Yeshua had placed the responsibility squarely on the accusers to put forward their witnesses or release the accused. As for the witnesses themselves, they knew that if upon cross-examination they were found to be false, they stood to incur the same penalty the accused would have suffered: death by stoning! How many of them know of her guilt because they too had committed adultery with her? Did they dare declare the details of what they had seen and how they knew to look in that place at that time? Did they dare to whitewash their tale to keep the identity of the adulterous man hidden? Would any of them speak up to declare “I witnessed this woman commit adultery“?
They had brought this woman to Yeshua in front of the crowd in hopes that they could incite the crowd to turn against Him in religious fervour, now they began fearing that religious fervour could be turned against them if their plans were exposed.
Yeshua’s word has power. It cuts right to the heart, even of these hard-hearted men. They could not stand against it. One by one, beginning with the eldest and most esteemed, their hearts condemned them and they left until none of this woman’s accusers remained. These men were dressed in the appearance of righteousness, with their large tzitzit andtefilin prominently displayed for all to see. But their outward appearance was not the condition of their heart and Yeshua’s words exposed this. For all their rigorous religious observance they could not stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Then He bent down and wrote in the dust again.
On hearing this, they began to leave, one by one, the older ones first, until He was left alone, with the woman still there.
It was not an overriding of the Law that saved this woman, but a true application of it. Yeshua came to fulfil the Law, not to do away with it. His problem with the religious leaders was not that they focused on keeping the Law, but that they did not keep it in the manner that He, as the author of the Law, had intended it to be kept. They had twisted and perverted Torah and failed to recognise how far they had drifted from its original intent.
Standing up, Yeshua said to her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, sir.”
Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and don’t sin any more.” John 8:2-11 CJB
The woman was left with none to condemn her. With no witnesses remaining to declare her crime, Yeshua would not go against the Law of Moses to condemn her. Yet He knew her heart. He saw her guilt. She had been saved from the death penalty because her accusers had been faulty in the way they presented their accusations, but her guilt remained. Her sin still carried with it the wages of death. She needed to leave that sin behind. So much was carried in that simple statement “now go, and don’t sin any more“. The form of the command implied a ceasing to commit an action already started: ‘Stop your sinful habit’. And the ‘no more’ pointed to the thought of no return. It was a call to repentance, and in that call was the empowerment to leave her sinful ways behind.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Sinclair, Rabbi Julian. Am ha’aretz. The Jewish Chronicle. [Online] October 28th, 2008. https://www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/am-ha-aretz-1.5776. 4. Minim, Arba. The Four Species of Sukkot. Akhlah. [Online] [Cited: May 8th, 2021.] https://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/sukkot/sukkot-four-species/ . 5. Judaica, Shalom House Fine. Talit, Tzitzit, Tefillin – The Winding Path from Mitzvah to Maaseh (deeds). Shalom House. [Online] April 8th, 2019. https://www.shalomhouse.com/blog/talit-tzitzit-tefillin.htm. 6. Dubov, Nissan Dovid. Sefer Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzah, Tzitzit. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: May 22nd, 2021.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2313780/jewish/Sefer-Torah-Tefillin-Mezuzah-Tzitzit.htm. 7. Barnes’, Albert. Notes on the Whole Bible. Bible Commentaries. [Online] Truth According to Scripture. [Cited: May 22nd, 2021.] https://www.truthaccordingtoscripture.com/commentaries/bnb/john-8.php#.YKhxv3nis2w. 8. Nunnally, Wave. Jesus and the Law of Moses: The woman Caught in Adultery. Assemblies of God. [Online] April 28th, 2017. https://news.ag.org/features/jesus-and-the-law-of-moses-the-woman-caught-in-adultery. https://www.holylandsstudies.org/post/jesus-and-the-law-of-moses-the-woman-caught-in-adultery. 9. Dave Miller, Ph.D. The Adulterous Woman. Apologetics Press. [Online] [Cited: May 22nd, 2021.] https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1277. 10. Schoenberg, Shira. Ancient Jewish History: The Sanhedrin. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] AICE. [Cited: May 23rd, 2021.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sanhedrin.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What is the significance of Jesus’ words: “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drink! Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” * When some people in the crowd said: “Surely this Man is ‘the prophet’“, what were they talking about? * Some people misjudged Jesus because they assumed He came from Galilee and didn’t know that He was born in Bethlehem. What are some assumptions that people in your area make about Jesus or the church that keep them from coming to know Him? * The Pharisees called those who believed in Jesus “am ha’aretz” in order to dismiss them as being incapable of knowing truth. What derogatory terms have you heard used to discredit those who believe in Christ and seek to obey His word? * Part of the Sukkot celebrations involved holding arts of four different types of tree together in tight bond – what did that represent and what application does it have for us? * What examples of distorted judgment have you seen and how do you think Jesus would address these if they had been brought to Him as the woman caught in adultery was?