Mission into Gentile Territory

Please read Matthew 15:21-38 & Mark 7:24- 8:9

After Yeshua’s clash with P’rushim (Pharisees) and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim (Jerusalemin Capernaum over ritual hand-washing, when He went on to declare all foods “clean” (Mark 7:19), He led His talmidim into Gentile territories to minister to the Jewish diaspora there. The group travelling with Yeshua likely included other men and women along with the 12.

To the Lost Sheep of Israel in Gentile Territory

The warm sunny days of spring were melting into hot dry summer days as they ventured north-west towards the Mediterranean Coast. Apart from a quick boat trip across the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, Yeshua’s ministry had been confined to Israel until now – preaching the kingdom of God in the regions of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Now He started conducting short-term mission trips to the surrounding areas to minister to the Jews living outside their land, yet still within the land promised to their forefathers.

The gospel writers had earlier recorded for us that people came from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Perea, Tyre and Sidon to hear Yeshua speak and be healed of their diseases (Mark 3:6-12Luke 6:17-19). Maybe some had begged Him to come back to their home towns and teach all the people there? Commentators have proposed three reasons for Jesus to lead His disciples on this journey into Gentile territory:
* Jesus knew He had only one year left to instruct His disciples in sound doctrine and how to reach the world with the gospel before He returned to Heaven so shifted the focus of His ministry from the multitudes to His disciples, spending quality time instructing them in the word of God.
* He wanted to avoid Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. After Jesus fed the multitudes, they wanted to make Him king (John 6:15). Antipas, who had imprisoned and murdered John the Baptist, would have seen this as an insurrection and a threat to his throne, and wanted Jesus arrested.
*Jesus wanted to initiate another test for His disciples and teach them a valuable lesson about prejudice in preparation for sending them into all the world after His resurrection.  
What we do know is that the Father sent Him to each of these places in His good timing and for His purposes.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.   

This was not a journey the Jewish religious leaders were likely to make in order to keep trying to find fault with Him. Indeed, only the most committed of His followers would venture into these lands with Yeshua. This was not the sort of place where Jews could expect a warm welcome. Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian commented that “among the Phoenicians the Tyrians, are notoriously our bitterest enemies” (Against Apion 1:70, 71; LCL 1:191). Yet, less religious Jews had spread along all the trade routes and established communities in every place of commerce, adding to the productivity and wealth of cities such as Tyre and Sidon.

Tyre and Sidon were originally part of the Promised Land, allocated to the tribe of Asher, but they had not been part of Israeli territory for many centuries. They were now part of Gentile Syro-Phoenicia. Yet there were communities of the Jewish diaspora in this region, and it was to these lost sheep of the house of Israel that Yeshua had gone.
A Canaanite Woman’s Faith

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying,  “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 
But he did not answer her a word.
And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 
But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Matthew 15:21-28 ESV

From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.  For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet.  The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 
But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
Mark 7:24-30 NKJV

Yeshua left the Jewish territory of Galilee and headed north-west to the coastal Syro-Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Their ministry schedule had been so hectic back in Galilee, preaching to large crowds and multitudes coming for healing. Now Yeshua was taking His talmidim (disciples) on more long journeys by foot, through hostile lands, during which they could connect more deeply with Him and each other. Depending on which way Yeshua and His talmidim walked to Tyre and Sidon, their journey north would have been around 85 miles (136 km) putting one foot in front of the other over some steep and rugged country. Whereas their walks to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals, approximately 240 miles (386 km) round trip for each one, would have been on crowded roads as thousands of other pilgrims made the same journey, this mission took them along more isolated routes. There would be no clambering crowds in these areas. During their long days walking, and around the campfire at night, they saw different aspects of their rabbi, not the grand and exciting aspects that you tell the world but the close, intimate, indescribable things that draw hearts together.

Tyre was the main seaport of the Roman province of Syria and Phoenicia – a prosperous city with pagan temples and twin harbours built on either side of a small island. The Roman settlement, to the south of the island, was constructed adjacent to the causeway linking it to the mainland, built by Alexander the Great during his siege in 332BC.  Strabo, a Greek geographer, wrote a description of the city of Tyre sometime at the beginning of the First Century AD stating: “The houses here, it is said, have many stories, even more than the houses at Rome… by means of the seamanship of its people, in which the Phoenicians in general have been superior to all peoples of all times, and by means of their dye-houses for purple; for the Tyrian purple has proved itself by far the most beautiful of all; and the shell-fish are caught near the coast; and the other things requisite for dyeing are easily got; and although the great number of dye-works makes the city unpleasant to live in, yet it makes the city rich through the superior skill of its inhabitants.” (Geography 16.2.23; LCL 7: 267, 269). The Greek god Heracles, known as Melkarth to the Phoenicians, was the main deity of Tyre. Yet he was not the only god worshipped in this city. An inscription was discovered in the necropolis of Tyre that dated the dedication of a temple to the god Apollo to around AD 28/29 (Rey-Coquais 1977:1-3, Plate 50; Bikai, Fulco, and Marchand 1996). Tyre would be one of the first Roman cities in the region to embrace Christianity, so the seeds planted during this trip would later produce much fruit.

Like many of the surrounding territories, there was a significant Jewish diaspora in this region and it was to these lost sheep of Israel that their Messiah had come. It is interesting that the gospel accounts tell us nothing about what He preached in their synagogues, whose house He stayed in, or any of the miracles He did among the Jews in this region. The most important lesson that Yeshua’s talmidim learnt from travelling to these coastal port cities of Tyre and Sidon was the faith of a Gentile woman, a Canaanite.

The woman was Hellenistic and spoke Greek, but ethnically she was a Canaanite and geographically she was Syrophoenician.  Canaanites were the original inhabitants of the Promised Land. They lived on the shore of the Mediterranean from Lebanon to nearly Egypt, and east to the Jordan River. Descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:18–25), the Canaanites were known for being wicked and idolatrous. Yet this woman had learned enough from the Jews living in her region to recognize Yeshua as the Son of David, Messiah of the Jews (Matthew 15:22). She called Him “Lord”.

Incredibly, this woman of evil descent does something that most Jews, and even Yeshua’s talmidim, fail to do – understands the parable Yeshua answers her with. Her mind is not clouded by pride or self-righteousness. She is poor in spirit. She is not basing her request on anything of value or worth within herself – she has no status nor standing on which to base her claim on His healing power. She acknowledges that she has no right to demand anything of the Jewish messiah, so is not insulted by His parable which illustrates such: “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” The woman was a mother and Yeshua was saying to her, “You know how families eat: First the children eat at the table, and afterward the leftovers are thrown to the dogs. It is not right to violate that order. The puppies must not eat food from the table before the children do.” After the resurrection Yeshua would command His disciples “Go to all peoples of all nations“, but for now He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and she was not one of these. Yeshua’s parable to the Syrophoenician woman is basically saying, “Please understand, there’s an order here. I must go to Israel first, and not to the Gentiles until after the Jews have received from their Messiah.” In this, Yeshua presents her with both a challenge and an offer. Unlike most of the Jewish religious leaders, this woman understood what He was doing and responded accordingly.

“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” She doesn’t take offense or stand on her rights. She responds to the challenge: “Okay, I understand. I am not from Israel, I have not been worshiping the God that the Israelites worship nor living as they live. Therefore, I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that, but children can be messy with their food, not value what they have, such that some of it falls to the floor below them where the dogs are waiting; there’s more than enough on that table for everyone in the world, and I need mine now. Even the crumbs of what you’re giving are enough to set my daughter free.” She wrested with Yeshua in the most respectful way, in a very Jewish way, and she would not take no for an answer because her daughter had a need that only He could meet.  This Gentile woman understood that He has such an abundance that her daughter could be delivered without it in any way diminishing what He had to give to the Jews. She sort after and would value what they discarded. Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

While the other Jewish rabbis insisted that any Gentile must first go through the long process of converting to Judaism by learning the Torah and adopting all the Jewish worship and cultural practices before they could expect anything from God, Yeshua made no such demands on this woman. Her simple, tenacious faith was enough. Her request was answered, her miracle received, her daughter healed.

This Syro-Phoenician Gentile woman’s faith was soon to be matched by evidence of the faith and obedience of a Greek Gentile man. Both had come to Yeshua seeking deliverance from demons, the woman sort Him for the sake of her daughter and the man had been possessed by a legion of unclean spirits.

Time to Be with Jesus

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon… Mark 7:31a

They continued walking north along the coast, away from Jewish Galilee and towards the city which had been the source of much of ancient’s Israel’s idolatry which led to their destruction.

Sidon is the Greek name (meaning ‘fishery’) for the ancient Phoenician port city of Sidonia. Sidon was a popular place of healing in Roman times – with a temple to Echmoun, a local god who was regarded by the Romans as Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Along with the city of Tyre, Sidon was the most powerful city-state of ancient Phoenicia and first manufactured the purple dye which made Tyre famous and was so rare and expensive that the colour purple became synonymous with royalty. Glass production made Sidon both rich and famous and the city was known for being very cosmopolitan and ‘progressive’. Sidon is considered the ‘seat’ of the Phoenician Civilization in that most of the ships which would plied the seas and spread Phoenician culture were launched from this city’s port.  It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Princess  Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of Sidon, in the 9th century BCE, who later would become Queen of Israel (I and II Kings) when she was married to King Ahab to cement ties between the two kingdoms. Jezebel had brought the worship of Baal and Astarte to Israel that resulted in Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal and God sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18). This visit of the Redeemer of mankind to the city of Baal and Astarte is full of significance.

From Sidon to Decapolis

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. Mark 7:31

From Sidon, Yeshua turned east, then south to the area of the Decapolis, a further journey of about 120 miles (193 km) back over the mountains separating the coast from the Jordan Valley. The route followed is only vaguely indicated by the text, but it may have been designed to preclude the necessity of entering Galilee by staying on the east side of the Jordan River. 193 km is a lot of walking through hostile territory. It provided more time away from the clambering crowds. Time for silence. Walking. Time for prayer. Walking. Time for sharing. Walking. Time for being. Walking. These were intimate times, not shared with the rest of us. The precious, needed times in between ministry engagements. Every disciple of Jesus needs such times with Him.

The Decapolis Cities, designated with the red dot, were administrative capital cities established by the Greeks.

The Decapolis was a league of ten Greek cities. Cultural clashes and strong animosities had continued to simmer between the Jews and the Greeks since the Greek leader Antiochus sacrificed a pig on an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and outlawed Jewish practices, resulting in the Maccabean Revolt whose victory continues to be celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. As Rome had assumed dominion in the East, leagues of Greek cities had formed to promote their common interests in trade and commerce, and for mutual protection against the peoples surrounding them. This particular league of 10 cities seems to have been constituted about the time of the Roman Emperor Pompey’s campaign in Syria, 65 B.C., by which several cities in Decapolis dated their eras. They were independent of the local tetrarchy, and answerable directly to the governor of Syria. They enjoyed the rights of association and asylum; they struck their own coinage, paid imperial taxes and were liable to military service. These cities were all on the east side of the Jordan River except for the capital of the league, Scythopolis, the ancient Bethshean  (where King Saul’s headless body was strung up on the city gate by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:8-10). While they were part of the Promised Land, allocated to the tribes of Manasseh and Gad, and there is evidence of Jewish communities in these cities (most had synagogues), it seems clear that this area was now considered pagan by those Jews who were devoted to Israel’s God and His Torah as the guide for their lives.  “Riotous living”, as was engaged in by the prodigal son in Yeshua’s parable, was commonplace in Scythopolis, leading some to believe this was the  “distant country” where he fed the swine.

Down along the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee they travelled, until they came to the region of the Decapolis where the minority Jewish population were considered very backward and unsophisticated by the majority Greek population. The first time Yeshua had ventured into the Decapolis the local population had begged Him to depart. They wanted nothing to do with this man whose word had resulted in their pigs rushing down the hill and throwing themselves into the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:17, Luke 8:37). Yet, two men had been set free from demonic oppression that day and one of them responded by wanting to follow Yeshua and become His disciple. Instead of allowing this man to travel with Him, Yeshua had told him to return to his own people and tell them what God had done for him. In Jewish territory Yeshua kept commanding the recipients of His miracles to tell no one, but in this Gentile land He had instructed the Gentile recipient to go to his own people and tell them all what the Lord had done form him (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:38-39). See the end of Wind & Waves – Renewal Blog.

We can see how faithful this newly delivered man had been in obeying Yeshua and sharing his testimony throughout the region. His testimony about the great things that Yeshua had done for him had impact and the people’s response to Yeshua when He returned was totally different to their initial rejection of Him. This time large crowds flocked to hear Him, and those needing miracles were brought to Him.

There some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him. After He took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).   At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes he deaf hear and the mute speak.
” Mark 7:31-37 NIV

The scriptures do not tell us if the man who was deaf and had such difficulty talking was Jew or Gentile. Nor does it give us any details about those who begged Yeshua to lay His hands on this man. We know from Matthew 4:25 that there was a large Jewish population in the Decapolis, many of whom had followed Him: “Great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan followed Him”.

Yeshua and those walking with him were back in a populated area and the crowds were pressing in.

They begged Yeshua to place His hand on the man. He did not go with their prescribed method of healing. First, Yeshua took the man aside, away from the crowd. Then He did something different: put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (a Hebrew word which means “Be opened!”).  It seems like a very unhygienic technique, and Yeshua did not perform these actions elsewhere, but for this man at this time this is what was needed. We can only speculate as to why that was. His talmidim were learning that there was no set “prayer formula” for healing – each case required listening to the Father’s voice and following His directions, even when they seemed strange or unusual.

Now Yeshua returned to His familiar injunction to Jews and in Israel: “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.” The people’s response was as it had been in Israel: “But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement.

This miracle had quite an impact on the local population: “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” This populous who exalted in Greek culture and despised traditional Jewish ways were suddenly captured by the actions of the Jewish Messiah. His miracle cut through all their sophistication and prejudices, and they found themselves declaring “He does everything well” . Ancient Judaism really did have more to offer than all the modern sophistication of the Greeks and Romans.

Feeding the 4,000 (plus women and children)

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.  The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Matthew 15:29-31 NIV

Word had spread that Yeshua was back from the region of Tyre and people had come from far and wide once more. Mark 8 tells us that some had come a long distance to hear and see Yeshua. They had brought supplies with them to this remote place, expecting a good long time of ministry. The scriptures do not specify whether the majority of the crowd who had come to see Yeshua in this Gentile area of Decapolis were Jews or Gentiles. Some commentators see strong evidence that they were Jews (eg. Cousland & McCall) and others see strong evidence that they were Gentiles (eg. Harvey & Franz). What we do know is that many had come in the hope of receiving healing, and they were not disappointed. For three days they had stayed up on the mountain with Yeshua, through the heat of the day and the cool of the night. For three days the lame, blind, crippled, mute and many others had been brought to Yeshua one after another and He had healed them. We are not told what Yeshua taught during those three days, maybe it was lessons that his disciples had already memorised and recorded for us. The focus of His ministry in this remote place was healing. The mute spoke, the crippled were restored, the lame walked and the blind could see. The people had responded as in the Psalms, praising the God of Israel, acknowledging Yeshua’s healings as connected to their covenant with God. This was a Jewish response to the Jewish Messiah.

Blessed be ADONAI the God of Isra’el from eternity past to eternity future. Amen. Amen. Psalm 41:13 CJB

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! Psalm 68:35 NIV

Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Psalm 72:18 NIV

Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD. Psalm 106:48 NIV

“They praised the God of Israel” could also have been a Gentile response acknowledging that the God of Israel had done what their gods could not.

Now Yeshua was getting ready to close the meeting and send everyone back to their own homes, but there was one more thing He wanted to do for them before they left. He had compassion on them.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  Then He took the seven loaves and the fish, and when He had given thanks, He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.  
Matthew 15:32-38 NIV

The feeding of the 5,000 had been in early Spring when the ground was covered in a thick layer of lush grass for the people to sit on. Now the grass had dried up in the dry summer heat and the people had only the bare ground to sit on through the day and lay on through the night. Yet still they had come, even in the heat of summer, even carrying those who could not walk. They had come, some from a long distance, because they recognised that Yeshua was their only hope. He had not disappointed them. He healed them even as Psalm 103:2-3 described: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.”  Displaying the Father’s nature as Yahweh Ropheka: The God who Heals. Now He would display the Father’s nature as Yahweh Yireh: God will see/provide. Yeshua saw their need of food for the journey, and He provided. 

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When He had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, He broke them and gave them to His disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; He gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present.
Mark 8:1-9 NIV

In this, too, He was teaching His talmidim by involving them in the miracle. He began by calling His Talmidim to Him. Yeshua expressed His heart to them: “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” He waited for their response.

Yeshua saw the people’s need, His talmidim saw the impossibility. We learn from their response that this mountain was not close to any cities, towns or villages. There was no where close that they could go to but the food needed. No where close that the people could buy their own food on their way back home. “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

Yeshua’s response to them was as His response so often is to us – what do you have? Their combined supplies seemed so small and insignificant in comparison to the size of the people’s need. They had been part of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 but had no thought that Yeshua would do it again for this crowd until they heard His question: “How many loaves do you have?” 

In their answer some see evidence that this was a feeding of Gentiles. The number seven is symbolic of God’s perfect, finished work, it is reminiscent of the seven days of creation when God created all humanity and so, they say, representative of not just Jews but Gentiles receiving His provision and being invited into the kingdom too. Not only did Yeshua give thanks for the bread, as was the Jewish tradition, but Mark records that He also gave thanks for the fish, which some think is also evidence that this was a ministry to Gentiles.

After everyone had eaten and been satisfied the broken pieces that remained were enough to fill seven baskets. Again we have a number symbolic of God’s perfect, finished work. In the feeding of the 5,000 the number of baskets filled with left-overs was twelve, symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was a difference in the type of basket filled on each occasion too. The kophinos used after the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13 ) may be confidently identified with the kūphtā’ of the Mishna which was a wicker basket provided with a cord for a handle by means of which it could be carried on the back with such provisions as the disciples would naturally have with them when travelling. The sphuris or spyris, large reed basket or hamper, used after the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8) was also used in letting Paul down from the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:25), so must have been considerably larger than the kophinos and quite different in shape and uses.   That the disciples had brought larger baskets of food with them for their long journey to this remote location than they took to the grassy slopes near the city of Bethsaida would not be surprising. Interestingly, the seven hampers of food pieces from the 4,000 might have been more than the twelve baskets from the 5,000.

Through all this the talmidim were learning more about Yeshua’s priorities and the exercise of God’s power through Him.  

Reference List

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11. Talbot, Elizabeth V. Bread of Satisfaction: A Narrative-Critical Study of the topic of Bread in the Gospel of Mark. Lasierra. [Online] November 2008. https://lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/religion/asrs/ASRS-Papers-2008-06-Talbot-Bread-of-Satisfaction.pdf.
12. Edersheim, Alfred. The Feeding of the Four Thousand – to Dalmanutha. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/library/edersheim/the_life_and_times_of_jesus_the_messiah/chapter_xxxvi_the_feeding_of.htm.
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17. Harvey, Ted. What’s the difference between the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000? Summerset Hills Baptist Church. February 11, 2020. [Online] https://www.somersethillsbc.org/shbc-blog/whats-the-difference-between-the-feeding-of-the-4000-and-the-5000/
18. Franz, Gordon. The Feedings of the Multitudes – When, Where and Why? Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/4968
19. Dr. See Seng Tan. The M&Ms of our Miracle Working God. International Students Inc. April 20th, 2020. [Online] https://www.seesengtan.com/blog/the-mms-of-our-miracle-working-god

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

*If God has had you travel from your home town what purposes did you see Him fulfil through that?
* Do you have any neighbouring regions where you might be considered an enemy because of your tribe or ethnicity, or are you living in an area or nation where this is the case? What do you think it would have been like for the disciples to walk with Jesus into this region where the people were considered the bitterest enemies of the Jews?
* Describe a time when Jesus took you into a “hard place” or difficult time, to draw you closer to Him and equip you for future ministry.
* Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere, they walked long distances, often over difficult terrain, to reach various places of ministry. What would have been some of the advantages of travelling on foot instead of having the vehicles often used today?
* What was it about the Syro-Phoenician woman that led Jesus to declare “great is your faith” ?
* Jesus’ ministry in these Gentile territories seems to be almost exclusively focused on healing and deliverance – why do you think that was and what do you think His disciples learnt from this?
* What do you think the disciples learnt from the feeding of the 4,000 and how does this relate to your ministry?

Clash of Tradition and Torah

Please read Matthew 15:1-20 & Mark 7:1-23

Then some P’rushim (Pharisees) and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) came to Yeshua and asked him,  “Why is it that your talmidim (disciples)  break the Tradition of the Elders? They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim (ritual hand-washing) before they eat!”  
He answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?  For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother, and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother, “I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,”  then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.’ Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God! You hypocrites! Yesha‘yahu (
Isaiah) was right when he prophesied about you,
These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far away from me.
Their worship of me is useless,
because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.’”

Matthew 15:1-9 CJB

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.  For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. 
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?”
He answered and said unto them, “Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honoureth me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me,

teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
And He said unto them, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’; and, ‘Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death’: But ye say, ‘If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.’  And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Mark 7:1-13 KJV

We learnt something of the Jewish purification rituals in the section on Mikveh here: Yochanan & Yeshua as God Sent Jewish Reformers . As we read in Mark, they had many other traditions for ritual cleansing with water. These had been part of the developing Halakhah ( הֲלָכָה, the Way, ie the way a Jew should walk, – the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from both the “Written Torah” and the “Oral Torah”), which began being developed during the Babylonian captivity (A New Judaism – without Land or Temple (586 – 537 BC)) and continued under Persian Occupation (Developments in Judaism under Persian Occupation (430 – 332 BC), and then further under Greek and Roman occupation.

TRADITIONS OF THE ELDERS // ORAL TORAH
Mitzvot D’rabbanan (Aramaic for “from the rabbis”)  all three categories of rabbinic commandments, which also became known as the “Oral Torah” and came to be attributed to Moses’ revelation on Mount Sinai, thus giving them, according to many Pharisees, the same status as the Written Torah (ie. books of Moses, first 5 books in the Bible).  They consisted of:
Gezeirah – laws instituted by the rabbis/“elders” to prevent people from accidently violating a Torah Mitzvot (law).  Commonly referred to as a ‘fence’ around the Torah.
Takkanot – laws unrelated to the Biblical commandments that were created by the rabbis/“elders” for the public welfare, to ‘make the world a better place’. 
Minhag – long-standing customs of the community.

By the time the Jewish schools of Hillel and Shammai became well established, during Yeshua’s childhood, disputes on the Oral Torah had become so widespread that there was fear that it would eventually seem like there were really “two Torahs” prescribing two different ways to live as Jews.  It was in the context of this time of contest and debate within Judaism that Yeshua trained His talmidim, sometimes in agreement with the prevailing opinions of the Torah scholars, and sometimes in stark contrast to them.  

As the Son of God and as Messiah, Yeshua was not bound to submit to the authority of earthly religious leaders in determining how to live as a Torah observant Jew. Prophetically, Deuteronomy 18:15-19 speaks of God raising up a prophet like Moses for the people of Israel:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.  And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NKJV

Yeshua was this prophet like Moses who would speak to the Jewish people all that God commanded. The Sanhedrin (who were the supreme religious council, or court, in Israel during His time) claimed to trace their origin and authority to the elders appointed by Moses (Exodus 18:25-26 & Numbers 11:16-30). These were appointed to serve under Moses in judging the people so that they would follow God’s Torah as He had delivered it to Moses. No Jew would suggest that Moses was helplessly bound to accept the rulings of these elders. His role rather, was to teach these elders to make rulings he would be agreeance with even as he sort to hear from God to rule in such manner that agreed with God.  Yeshua, as Messiah, held Moses’ own authority and, like Moses, had the right to approve, modify or reject any ruling by the elders, the Sanhedrin and all the Jewish religious leaders. Yeshua was thus perfectly within His right, and fulfilling His God-given role, to put aside the traditions of the elders (takkanot and gereirah) that He  disagreed with.  Thus it was in uniformity with Torah that Yeshua put aside some of the traditions of the elders in order to teach the people how to truly obey God’s commandments and live in His halakhah.

Jewish Ritual Handwashing

As would later be written in the Talmud, Jews are required to wash their hands and say a blessing before eating any meal that includes bread or matzah (the unleavened cracker-like bread eaten at Passover). The ritual, known as netilat yadayim, is typically done using a two-handled cup, but other vessels can be used. There are various customs regarding how the water should be poured, but a common practice is to pour twice on the right hand followed by twice on the left (this is reversed for those who are left-handed). Hasidic custom is to pour three times on each hand.

Using the non-dominant hand to pour first can feel unnatural or awkward, highlighting that the washing is done for ritual rather than pragmatic purposes. The tradition is unrelated to personal hygiene, and a person is still required to perform this ritual even if his or her hands are clean. It is also customary not to speak following the recitation of this blessing until reciting the blessing for bread and partaking of some.

Some passages in the Talmud indicate that failing to undertake the ritual hand washing before a meal is a significant transgression. One talmudic sage even said that eating bread without ritual washing is tantamount to having sex with a prostitute, while another stated that acting contemptuously toward this ritual causes one to be uprooted from the world.

So it was that these Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem “found faultμέμφομαι – a deeply personal rejecting as fully blameworthy, disgraceful and condemnable due to deep wrongs done by omission or commission. Their condemning question: “Why is it that your talmidim (disciples)  break the Tradition of the Elders? They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim (ritual hand-washing) before they eat!”, or “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders?” was a back-handed way of condemning Yeshua, for His talmidim were doing what talmidim do – following in their rabbi’s footsteps and imitating His ways. Yeshua had chosen to avoid complying with this tradition of His people in order to provoke a response that would provide a teaching opportunity. He shunned their valued tradition because He wanted to open their eyes to the ways in which they were using their traditions, which they were claiming as commandments from God, to avoid obedience to God’s actual commands. Yeshua was teaching His talmidim, and us, the dangers of unwittingly substituting the commandments and teachings of men for God’s commands. The Jewish religious leaders thought their developing Halakhah dictating every aspect of their lives, ensured walking in meticulous obedience to God’s commandments, when it was actually enabling a rejection of God’s commands, as so much religious activity can do.

What lesson did Yeshua consider to be so important that He led His talmidim in disregarding the traditions of His people in order to highlight it? The 5th commandment – honour your father and mother. Yeshua accused the religious leaders of encouraging the breaking this command of God in the most practical, life affecting way. Here Yeshua was not presenting honouring our parents as some warm emotion or thinking them to be the best people in the world, although it can include such. Nor was He highlighting the need for children to obey their parents, as important as that is. He was speaking to adults about our obligation, before God, to provide for our parent’s needs as they age. His rebuke of these religious leaders was scathing: “But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother, “I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,” then he is rid of his duty to honour his father or mother.’ Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God! You hypocrites!”

Giving into the hands of religious leaders is no excuse for failing to meet the needs of our aging parents. Building a church is no substitute for meeting the needs of our aging parents. Religious rituals or gifts are no substitute for treating others right and fulfilling our obligations towards them. Paul understood what Yeshua was talking about when he wrote: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8). This reformation that Yeshua was bringing to Judaism refocused attention on God’s commands to love one another and to honour parents in real and practical ways.

When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand:  Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
Matthew 15:10-20 NKJV

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.
” Mark 7:14-23 NIV

Yeshua was giving them a big priority reset. Through the generations the Jews had developed multitudes of religious rituals which they equated with God’s commands, and so much of their theological debate centred on the “correct” way to undertake these rituals in order to be acceptable to God. Yeshua contended that godliness was not about how one performed a series of religious rituals but about how one treated others. No ritual could cleanse the heart, nor was it ritual failure that defiled the heart before God. In both accounts Yeshua lists actions that defile and these are all about how we treat others, not about religious rituals. These are the things that Yeshua declared defile us:

  • evil thoughtsπονηρός διαλογισμός – ponērós dialogismos.
    πονηρός ponērós= pain-ridden, having a miserable preference for choosing actions that exacerbate and spread their emotional pain and then blame others, ponērós is “like a nasty cloud – always ready to spread its misery”, laborious trouble, the active outworking of sin spreading contagious suffering and hardships.
    διαλογισμός dialogismos = back and forth reasoning, self-based reasoning which inevitably grows in confusion as it seeks ones own purposes, the prefix dia indicating going too far, over to the other side – this reasoning will reinforce others who share the same personal prejudice.
    So, πονηρός διαλογισμός – ponērós dialogismos are pain-ridden self-based reasonings that exacerbate and spread their misery.
  • murdersφόνος phónos = to slay, murder, slaughter, intentional unjustified homicide.
  • adulteriesμοιχεία moicheía = adultery, adulteries, sexual actions with, or thoughts focused on, another person’s spouse.
  • fornicationsπορνεία porneía = a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity, promiscuity of any and every type, any sexual impurity in mind or body, includes all forms of sexual sin from impure sexual thoughts to prostitution, unchastity, fornication and every kind of unlawful (contrary to Torah) sexual intercourse, πορνεία is also used metaphorically of the worship of idols. Any sexual activity that is not a loving total giving of husband to his wife and wife to her husband, or any worship that is not a loving total giving of oneself to God.
  • theftsκλοπαί  klopé = theft done secretly, not out in the open or with violence, fraud, stealing.
  • false witnessψευδομαρτυρία pseudomartyria = false testimony, false witness, lying about others.
  • blasphemies / slanderβλασφημία blasphēmia = from blax, “sluggish/slow,” and phḗmē, “reputation, fame” –  literally, slow (sluggish) to call something good (that really is good) and slow to identify what is truly bad. Slander, detraction, speech injurious to another’s good name, vilification (especially against God):—blasphemy, evil speaking, railing. Reversing moral values – calling evil good and calling good evil, redefines what is moral as immoral, a perversion of spirit which, in defiance of the truth, chooses to call light darkness.
  • evil thoughtsκακός διαλογισμός kakós dialogismos. = inwardly foul,  rotten (poisoned); inner malice flowing out of a morally-rotten character, wickedness, worthless, depraved, bad, harm, inner evil, sinful nature, the intrinsic indwelling principle of evil. 
  • coveting” πλεονεξίαι pleoneksía from pleíōn, “numerically more” and éxō, “have”) – properly, the desire for more (things), i.e. lusting for a greater number of temporal things, covetousness, converting, desiring that which is outside of God’s will for you, greed, stooping to unscrupulous behaviour to gratify the longing to have more, in placing the desire for money or things above the desire for God pleoneksía is a form of idolatry. 
  • malice” πονηρία ponēria = depravity, iniquity, wickedness, malice, evil purposes and desires, spreading evil – emphasises the painful effects of sin.
  • deceit” δόλος dólos = to catch with a bait, deceit, trickery, guile, to speak deceitfully, uses decoys to snare and deceive people and hence implies treachery to exploit the undiscerning, baiting people through their own greed or sinful desires in order to deceive and exploit them.
  • lewdnessἀσέλγεια asélgeia = unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence; reckless action that utterly disregards others, wanton disregard for what God defines as decent; behaviour that completely lacks moral restraint; Barclay (New Testament Words, p. 62) said aselgeiais a grim word.  It is the wanton insolence that is lost to shame.  It is a grim commentary on human nature that a man can be so mastered by sin that in the end he loses even shame.
  • envyὀφθαλμός πονηρός ophthalmós ponērós = literally “eye evil“, “an evil eye,” which is a Semitic term for stinginess (Deuteronomy 15:9). It means to sin with one’s eyes or to see something with a wicked intent. In the Bible the expression is synonymous with envy, jealousy and some forms of covetousness.
  • arrogance ὑπερηφανία hyperēphanía = excessive shining, ie self-exaltation, pride, haughtiness, arrogance; the character of one who, with a swollen estimate of his own powers or merits, looks down on others and even treats them with insolence and contempt.
  • follyἀφροσύνη aphrosýnē = lack of perspective, want of sense, foolishness, impiety, wickedness, thoughtlessness, recklessness.

Yeshua described all these as evils that defile a person, strip what is sacred of its specialness to God, remove them from being sanctified (set apart to God). He was not an “anything goes” reformer. His dismissal of ritual washings was not an invitation to lawlessness but to true righteousness. The heart had greater need of cleansing with true washing than the hands had of cleansing with ritual washings. Being set apart to God is not a matter of ritual but of heart attitude which is displayed in our actions. Engaging in any of the above defiles us, causes us to cease being set apart to God.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Andrews, Edward D. Why Is the Greek Verb Pisteuo (faith, Believe, trust in) Rendered Differently at Times? Christian Publishing House. [Online] November 1st, 2016. https://christianpublishinghouse.co/2016/11/01/why-is-the-greek-verb-pisteuo-rendered-differently-at-times/#:~:text=Believe%2C%20faith%2C%20Trust%20in%3A%20(Gr..
3. Shurpin, Yehuda. What Is the Talmud? Definition and Comprehensive Guide. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: January 9th, 2021.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3347866/jewish/What-Is-the-Talmud-Definition-and-Comprehensive-Guide.htm.
4. Commentaries. John 6:36. Bible Hub. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/6-36.htm.
5. Garcia, Vince. Should Jews be “Targeted” for conversion? or Sharing one’s faith with a Jewish person. A New Christian’s Handbook. [Online] [Cited: February 6th, 2021.] http://centralcal.com/crist13.htm.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

*What can we learn from Jesus’ attitude towards His people’s ritual cleansing of hands?
* What traditions and rituals have been established in your church and what effect do they have on the people’s walk with God?
* What teachings have you identified that hinder people from obeying God’s Word in the scriptures?
* How can we avoid being like the religious leaders who “found fault” μέμφομαι – a deeply personal rejecting as fully blameworthy, disgraceful and condemnable – with Jesus when He was only doing the Father’s will?
*What does it mean to honour our father and mother and why do you think Jesus placed so much importance on this?
* When dismissing the ritual washing of hands as having any relevance to our being set apart to God, Jesus gave us a long list of sins that defile and interrupt our relationship to the Father – which of these sins in most prevalent in your church or in your culture and what difference would it make to your community if people repented of those sins and truly lived as disciples of Jesus?

The Tide is Turning

Please read and memorise Jesus’ words in John 6:25-71
& read Mark 6:56

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.
” John 6:25-27

Having been silent on the previous 10 months of Yeshua’s ministry, John now, as he did in the beginning, gives us details of Yeshua’s teaching that are not included in the other gospel accounts. As he states in John 20:31, this gospel author focused on those things which demonstrated that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God. So it was with the teaching Yeshua now gave to the crowd who had eaten the miraculous provision the day before.

Seekers

He began with an affirmation: “you seek (ζητέω zētéō) Me”. Zētéō refers to more than just looking for. It means to seek by inquiring, investigating to reach a binding resolution, it focuses on the moral attitude, the internal convictions, driving the seeker. These people were seekers, looking for spiritual truth, trying to work out if Yeshua really was their long hoped for Messiah.

Blind Seekers

Not because you saw (ὁράω horáō) signs (σημεῖον sēmeîon)”. Horáō = to see, as in to perceive, it implies comprehension (“I see what you mean”), seeing with the mind, perceiving the spiritual reality behind what is physically seen. Sēmeîon = a miraculous sign which confirms, corroborates and authenticates eternal realities. They were seekers yet they had not perceived, they had not yet comprehended, the eternal reality of who Yeshua is. They had seen, and benefited from, the miracles, but had not seen the signs that those miracles were in pointing to Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of God.

So, He began teaching them from the last sign they had all witnessed yet not seen (not perceived the spiritual significance of) – the feeding of the 5,000 men, plus women and children: “you ate the loaves and had your fill“. They had eaten of this miraculous provision, just like the children of Israel had eaten of the miraculous provision of Manna in the desert. Then, in explaining to them the spiritual significance of this miracle, Yeshua alluded to Isaiah 55:2. Most of the Jewish men listening to Him had memorised these verses in school, so just alluding to one verse brought the passage to mind.

Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you without money,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!
 Why do you spend money on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the promises assured to David.”

Isaiah 55:1-3 HCSB

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” All the miracles they had witnessed, and the miraculous provision of bread they had eaten, were signs of God’s seal of approval on Yeshua. He alone was able to give them eternal life.

What is the Work of God?

Now their question was deeper…

So they said to Him, “What should we do in order to perform the works of God?” 
Yeshua answered, “Here’s what the work of God is: to trust (πιστεύω  
pisteúō) in (εἰς eis) the one He sent!” John 6:25-29 CJB

This was such a radically different answer to their question. πιστεύω pisteúō = believe, have faith; εἰς eis = into, extension towards a special goal, penetration to become one with. The grammatical construction of the Greek verb pisteúō  “believe” followed by the Greek preposition eis “into” in the accusative gives us the sense of having faith into Yeshua, putting faith in, trusting in Yeshua. It is something that we choose to do. It is the pre-requisite for every other act of faith and obedience. God sent His Son into the world, it is incumbent on us to choose to place our trust in Him. The expected answer was an injunction to follow the Jewish religious laws which govern daily life, with a specific emphasis on one of them. Instead, Yeshua continued with His theme from Isaiah 55:”Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live.

Yeshua is the Bread from Heaven that Gives Life

They said to him, “Nu, what sign will you do for us, so that we may see it and trust you? What work can you perform? Our fathers ate manna in the desert — as it says in the Tanakh, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’  
Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you it wasn’t Moshe
(Moses) who gave you the bread from heaven. But my Father is giving you the genuine bread from heaven;  for God’s bread is the One who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread from now on.” 
Yeshua answered, “I am the bread which is life! Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in Me will never be thirsty. 
John 6:30-35 CJB

Still they had not seen, they had not perceived, the signs He had already given them. They asked for another miracle, another sign, another work to be performed before they would choose to put their trust in Him. They asked for a miracle like the manna from heaven which God had given their ancestors to eat, yet they had just eaten the day before bread miraculously provided, with 12 full baskets left over as a sign to them. Yet, right before them was the greater miracle, the incarnation, the One come down from heaven to give them life, eternal life.

How difficult it was to move them from wanting miracles to choosing to put their trust in the One who had been doing these miracles.

I told you that you have seen but still don’t trust.  Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will certainly not turn away.  For I have come down from heaven to do not My own will but the will of the One who sent Me.  And this is the will of the One who sent Me: that I should not lose any of all those He has given Me but should raise them up on the Last Day.   Yes, this is the will of My Father: that all who see the Son and trust in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise them up on the Last Day.” John 6:36-40 CJB

They had now horáō = seen, as in perceived, comprehended (“I see what you mean”), seeing with the mind, perceived the spiritual reality behind the miracles they had seen, grasped what He was saying, and yet still decisively chosen to not pisteúō = believe, have faith. It was not lack of evidence on His part, but lack of will on their part, even as it is today for those who choose to not believe.

Yeshua affirms once again that all have the opportunity to be saved, everyone who comes to Him will be accepted, none will be turned away regardless of how other men judge them. He has come to do the Father’s will and it is the Father’s will that none who trust in His Son will be lost, everyone of us shall be resurrected to eternal life.

The crowds had been eagerly listening to Him and excitedly seeing the miracles, and happily ate of the miraculous provision the day before, but they were not ready to believe in Him. The believed He could do miracles, they’d been excited about the miracles, but they did not believe in Him.

Grumbling and Refusing to Trust in Him

Shabbat found Yeshua back in the synagogue in Capernaum, having raised the daughter of one of the synagogue ruler’s from the dead they could hardly refuse Him to opportunity to teach there once again. He kept pressing the point – that miracle feeding 5,000 they had been a part of had been a sign that He is the bread which has come down from heaven, He is the bread of life.

 At this the Judeans began grumbling about Him because He said, “I am the bread which has come down from heaven.”  They said, “Isn’t this Yeshua Ben-Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph)? We know his father and mother! How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  

Yeshua answered them, “Stop grumbling to each other! No one can come to me unless the Father — the One who sent me — draws him. And I will raise him up on the Last Day.  It is written in the Prophets, They will all be taught by Adonai. Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God — He has seen the Father. Yes, indeed! I tell you, whoever trusts has eternal life:  I am the bread which is life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the desert; they died.  But the bread that comes down from heaven is such that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live (ζάω zaō) forever. Furthermore, the bread that I will give is My own flesh (σάρκα  sárks); and I will give it for the life of the world.” John 6:41-51 CJB

Eat His Flesh & Drink His Blood

This revelation was to be fixed in the life of the church with the instructions that Yeshua gave His talmidim at the Last Supper. Every time we take Communion we declare this reality – that Jesus is the bread of life and we need to eat His flesh, σάρκα  sárks = flesh, merely of human origin or empowerment, human nature (Jesus’ human nature was pure and holy, not corrupted like ours) can we live (ζάω zaō) forever. ζάω zaō = to live; to experience God’s gift of living; God infusing His indestructible, self-existent life which makes believers lively in heart, soul, mind, strength and relationships; to be fully alive. Only in partaking of His human nature can we partake of His divine nature, only in recognising God in the flesh can we see God in the spirit. Yeshua gave His flesh, his holy physical human life, that we might have spiritual eternal life.

At this, the Judeans disputed with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  

Then Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life — that is, I will raise him up on the Last Day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I live in him.
” 

“Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live through the Father, so also whoever eats Me will live through Me. So this is the bread that has come down from heaven — it is not like the bread the fathers ate; they’re dead, but whoever eats this bread will live forever!”  

He said these things as He was teaching in a synagogue in K’far-Nachum (Capernaum)
. John 6:52-59 CJB

Yeshua explained it clearly to them: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me and I in him.” It is all about living in Christ, and He in us. It is not about what goes into our mouth, but what goes into, and comes out of, our heart. It is about abiding in Him, partaking of His nature, being clothed in His righteousness. It is about Yeshua abiding in us, infusing us with His nature. The apostle Paul would later write: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)

The author, John, had already told us that: “the Judean festival of Pesach was coming up” (John 6:4). The Gospel accounts do not tell us if Yeshua went down to Jerusalem for the festival this year, or just celebrated it with His talmidim in Capernaum. Certainly it was on His mind that He would be the lamb of God sacrificed at Pesach (Passover) the following year. His communion teaching of His talmidim started one year before they would be confronted with the reality of it all. For now, even they could not grasp the meaning of His words.

Turning Back

On hearing it, many of his talmidim said, “This is a hard word — who can bear to listen to it?” 
But Yeshua, aware that His talmidim were grumbling about this, said to them, “This is a trap for you?  Suppose you were to see the Son of Man going back up to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life,  yet some among you do not trust.” (For Yeshua knew from the outset which ones would not trust him, also which one would betray him.)  

“This,” He said, “is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has made it possible for him.” John 6:60-65 CJB

The tide had begun turning, the sifting was taking place. Not everyone who was drawn to Yeshua’s miracles was willing to embrace His nature. Not all who thronged as part of the excited crowd were hungry for the life and truth of God. Yeshua had poured Himself out in meeting their physical needs, healing all who came to Him, but now He was demanding something of them. Now He was confronting their heart attitudes. Now Yeshua was asking them to go beyond believing that He could do miracles to placing their trust in Him as the source of life from heaven.

 From this time on, many of his talmidim turned back and no longer travelled around with him.   John 6:66 CJB

They had come from far and wide to follow Yeshua, from throughout Galilee, from the regions of Tyre and Sidon to the north-east, from the Decapolis to the south-west, from Judah to the south. This miracle worker had attracted huge crowds of adoring fans. But adoring fans are not true disciples. Yeshua was not looking for celebrity status, He was not impressed with the crowds or in need of large audiences. He was looking for those who were hungry to partake of His nature, to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, to give up all to follow Him. Yeshua did not shrink back from testing them with His words. He would not water-down the demands of Heaven to suit the likes of men. They were free to choose to stay or go, but if they stayed, if they were to enter the kingdom of heaven, it would be on God’s terms, not theirs. As He had told them in the Parable of the Sower, most hearts were not good soil for His word to grow in.

Word of Eternal Life

So Yeshua said to the Twelve, “Don’t you want to leave too?” 
Shim‘on Kefa
(Simon Peter) answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the word of eternal life.  We have trusted, and we know that you are the Holy One of God.” 
Yeshua answered them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is an adversary.”
 (He was speaking of Y’hudah Ben-Shim‘on, from K’riot (Judas, son of Simon Iscariot); for this man — one of the Twelve! — was soon to betray him.) John 6:67-71 CJB

A full year before His betrayal, Yeshua was preparing His talmidim for the harsh realities of what was to come. He knew who would betray Him, yet still included Y’hudah in everything, still taught him with the others, still invested in him, still kept his identity as future betrayer secret, for the time was not yet. As He had told them in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, evil doers would be allowed to grow undisturbed with the true sons of the kingdom until the time of harvest. This was, paradoxically, for the sake of the wheat.

And wherever He went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. Mark 6:56 NIV

Despite many leaving from following Him, deciding that being His disciple was not for them, Yeshua continued going to every village and town and healing all who reached out to touch Him. Despite the fact that much of the seed that fell on the ground of man’s hearts would fail to produce a crop, He still kept going and sowing. Everyone was given a chance, but the criteria for discipleship would not be altered for any of them. Entrance into the kingdom of heaven required “eating His flesh and drinking His blood“, a concept that only those being drawn by the Father could embrace.

Reference List

 1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Andrews, Edward D. Why Is the Greek Verb Pisteuo (faith, Believe, trust in) Rendered Differently at Times? Christian Publishing House. [Online] November 1st, 2016. https://christianpublishinghouse.co/2016/11/01/why-is-the-greek-verb-pisteuo-rendered-differently-at-times/#:~:text=Believe%2C%20faith%2C%20Trust%20in%3A%20(Gr..
3. Commentaries. John 6:36. Bible Hub. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/6-36.htm.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

*What insights did you gain as you memorised Jesus’ words in John 6?
* What does it mean to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood?
* What attracted people to Jesus, and what repelled them from Him?
* What brings more people to your meetings, and what causes them to leave your church?

Feeding 5,000 & Walking on Water

Please read Matthew 14:13-36; Mark 6:30-55; Luke 9:10-17 & John 6:1-25

When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:13-14 NIV

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things. Mark 6:30-43 NIV

Sheep without a shepherd” is an Old Testament picture of Israel without spiritual leadership (Numbers 27:15-21, 1 Kings 22:17). Then, in Ezekiel 34 God condemns the shepherds of Israel, those where were meant to be caring for His flock and leading them in His ways, concluding in Vs 5&6: “So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” Ezekiel then went on to prophesy God’s solution to this problem:

For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” Ezekiel 34:11-16 ESV

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then He took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. Luke 9:10-11 NIV

Bethsaida means “house of fishing“. How appropriate that in the region of this village Yeshua so effectively ‘fished for men’ with His talmidim. Bethsaida was a fishing village east of the Jordan River and close to where it enters the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). The shore of the Sea of Galilee that was east of the Jordan River was, to the Galileans, the far side of the Lake. History records the village of Bethsaida in Lower Gaulonitis being raised to the rank of a city by the Tetrarch Philip, and called Julias, in honour of Julia, the daughter of Augustus (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1; BJ, II, ix, 1; III, x, 7; Vita, 72). Ruins of a city have been found on rising ground, fully a mile from the sea, so this is the place allocated to Bethsaida on many maps of the region during Jesus’ time. As this is too far from the sea for a fishing village, Schumacher (The Jaulan, 246) suggests that el-`Araj, “a large, completely destroyed site close to the lake,” connected in ancient times with et-Tellby the beautiful roads still visible,” may have been the fishing village, and et-Tell the princely residence. 

They may have rowed their boat up the Jordan River past Bethsaida in order to try to avoid the crowded shoreline of the Sea of Galilee where the fishermen were sorting their catch and mending their nets. “They went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

The “green grass” of Mark 6:39, and the “much grass” of John 6:10, point both to the time of year – early Spring, just before Passover, when the grass is green from the winter rains, and to the place being on the plain of el-BaTeichah, which has rich soil producing plentiful green grass compared with the scanty herbage on the higher slopes.

Some time later, Yeshua went over to the far side of Lake Kinneret (that is, Lake Tiberias), and a large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miracles He had performed on the sick. Yeshua went up into the hills and sat down there with His talmidim.  Now the Judean festival of Pesach was coming up John 6:1-4 CJB

Spring had begun, the beginning of the Jewish month of Nisan. Many were getting ready to make their pilgrimage down to Jerusalem for the annual festival of Pesach (Passover). For the first time in ten months the author of John’s Gospel re-joins the commentary. There were even more people gathering around Yeshua and His talmidim now than before. Some had come from Jerusalem for solace after hearing of Yochanan’s beheading, desperate to know that all was not now lost for them and their nation after this crime had been committed against God’s prophet. Had the author of John’s Gospel been one of these? Others came because they had seen Yeshua, or His apostles, do healings and miracles as they had gone out in pairs to all the surrounding towns. Some came because they needed a miracle. Some were hungry to learn more of the kingdom of heaven. Some had begun their pilgrimage from more northern regions to Jerusalem for the Feast and detoured to see this ‘miracle man’ whose fame was spreading far and wide. When they saw Yeshua and His talmidim leave by boat this multitude followed, traversing the well worn shoreline route. Some even made it to Bethsaida before Yeshua and His crew. When Yeshua landed He went to a solitary place, and sat down there with His talmidim. The multitude followed. So He welcomed them and spoke to them all about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

The 12 had just returned from seeing God do miracles through them as they ministered 2 by 2, but they were not prepared for Yeshua’s next instruction: “You give them something to eat”.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. 
And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 14:15-21 NIV

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late.  Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied,  and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Mark 6:35-44 NIV

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”
He replied, “You give them something to eat.”
They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 
The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over
. Luke 9:12-17 NI

Philip’s home town was Bethsaida. James & John and Peter & Andrew had also been born in Bethsaida but had moved to Capernaum before they met Yeshua. So Philip was the only one who still called Bethsaida home. Maybe this had something to do with why Yeshua asked Philip where the best place to buy bread was…

...so when Yeshua looked up and saw that a large crowd was approaching, He said to Philip, “Where will we be able to buy bread, so that these people can eat?”  (Now Yeshua said this to test Philip, for Yeshua himself knew what He was about to do.) 
Philip answered, “Half a year’s wages wouldn’t buy enough bread for them — each one would get only a bite!” 
One of the talmidim, Andrew the brother of Shim‘on Kefa, said to Him,  “There’s a young fellow here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish. But how far will they go among so many?”
Yeshua said, “Have the people sit down.”

There was a lot of grass there, so they sat down. The number of men was about five thousand. 
Then Yeshua took the loaves of bread, and, after making a b’rakhah (giving thanks), gave to all who were sitting there, and likewise with the fish, as much as they wanted.  
After they had eaten their fill, He told His talmidim, “Gather the leftover pieces, so that nothing gets wasted.” 
They gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.
John 6:5-13 CJB

This miracle brought to remembrance a miracle that God had done through the prophet Elisha:

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain.
“Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.
“How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.
But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” 
Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.
2 Kings 4:42-44 NIV

In both instances the amount of bread was inadequate for the number of people. In both instances everyone ate their fill and there were leftovers. Elisha had fed 100 men with 20 loaves, and now Yeshua had fed 5,000 men with just 5 loaves. All Israel recognised Elisha as a prophet, how could they not recognise Yeshua? In Deuteronomy 18 Moses states, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen”. (verse 15). And later in verse 18 God declares; “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers . And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” Those who ate the bread had memorised these verses from childhood.

There were many ways in which they could see that Yeshua was a prophet like Moshe (Moses):

  • Both were sent to bring salvation after 400 years of ‘silence’ from God – the Israelites had been enslaved for 400 years in Egypt with no leader or prophet, and the 400 years before Yeshua came had been notably without any prophet from God.
  • Both fasted for 40 days and nights – Moses while on Mount Sinai, and Yeshua in the Judean desert after His baptism.
  • Both spent time in Egypt as children (as Yeshua had to be hidden there for a while as a baby to escape Herod).
  • Both were born at a time when evil kings pronounced death to all Jewish baby boys in the area – Pharaoh had commanded all Hebrew baby boys to be drowned at birth, and Herod had issued a command to kill all baby boys under the age of two. Both were miraculously rescued from that threat.
  • Both did miracles to testify to their God-given authority.
  • Both were given God’s public stamp of approval with an audible voice from heaven, heard by the crowd – Moses at Sinai, and Yeshua at his baptism.
  • Both miraculously provided the people with bread to eat – manna was sent from heaven for the Israelites and Yeshua had just fed a multitude, with 12 baskets of food left over – one for each of the tribes of Israel.

When the people saw the miracle He had performed, they said, “This has to be ‘the prophet’ who is supposed to come into the world.”  Yeshua knew that they were on the point of coming and seizing Him, in order to make Him king; so He went back to the hills again. This time He went by Himself. John 6:14-15 CJB

The people were still in shock over John the Baptiser’s murder. Anger, shock and grief mingled. Religious and nationalistic fervour was high. John had pointed to this Man, and He’d just fed all of them abundantly, out of next to nothing, and with one full basket of food left over for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Surely this was the One they had been waiting for, the One who would set their nation free, the son of David, the righteous Branch, their rightful ruler and national leader as Jeremiah had prophesied:

“I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ ” Jeremiah 23:4-6 ESV

Yeshua’s kingdom is not of this world and “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17) – He sent them away and withdrew to pray.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Matthew 14:22-23 NIV

Through the night He prayed.

And immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself dismissed the crowd.  And after saying goodbye to them, He left for the mountain to pray. Mark 6:45-46 NASB

All three gospels that mention this journey are in agreement that it involved getting into a boat and going across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). There is an apparent discrepancy, however, with Luke having said that they withdrew “to a town called Bethsaida“, from whence the feeding of the 5,000 took place, and John having written that they went “to the far side of the Lake” – ie the eastern shore, of which Bethsaida is the most northerly point, and Mark’s account here of them leaving the place of feeding the 5,000 and getting into a boat to go “to the other side, to Bethsaida.” Over the centuries Bible scholars have proposed different theories to try to explain this – including the suggestion that there were two Bethsaidas – Bethsaida Galilee (John 12:21 refers to Bethsaida in Galilee) on the western shore and Bethsaida Julias on the eastern shore.

Then, there is dispute over which Bethsaida the feeding of the 5,000 was near to. The answers to these questions were probably obvious in the 1st Century, but the passage of time has hidden some of the evidence from us, leaving it impossible to know the exact locations now. Those uncertainties, however, don’t diminish our understanding of the message.

  • Multitudes came to hear Yeshua speak and see Him heal the sick.
  • After a day of teaching and healing, He miraculously fed 5,000 men, plus all the women and children, with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.
  • There were 12 baskets of food left over, indicating that Yeshua is the bread of life for all 12 tribes of Israel.
  • Yeshua rejected all attempts to make Him an earthly king and raise up an army of men around Him – His kingdom is not of this world.
  • Yeshua prioritised times of private prayer – He spent the night in prayer.
  • Sometimes when we are obeying God and attempting to do what He has told us, “go to the other side”, everything seems to fight against us and all our work doesn’t get us very far. Yeshua has not abandoned us at those times, He is watching over us and will enter into our boat and we will reach our destination with Him.
  • Yeshua can walk on water – He rules over the laws of physics and over the basic elements of life.

When evening came, his talmidim went down to the lake, got into a boat and set out across the lake toward K’far-Nachum (Capernaum) . By now it was dark, Yeshua had not yet joined them,  and the sea was getting rough, because a strong wind was blowing. 
They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Yeshua approaching the boat, walking on the lake! They were terrified; but He said to them, “Stop being afraid, it is I.” John 6:19-20 CJB

They had spent most of the night straining at the oars and yet had only gone 5-6 kms. It was not a long journey across that northern section of the Sea, about 8km. They had managed most of it through their nocturnal strenuous efforts, yet still the shoreline seemed to allude them. God lets us struggle so that we might be humbled by our struggle. He lets us struggle so that we might see that we have nothing. He lets us struggle so that we might have faith; and God lets us struggle so that we might see the reality of who He is. 

Suddenly there was Yeshua, striding across those 5-6kms as though they were nothing, coming straight to them, even about to go past them, walking on the sea that had been buffeting them so badly!

After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 
When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.  
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:23-27 NASB

Shortly before dawn He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  Mark 6:48b – 50 NIV

It is significant that Job 9:8 declares of God: “He alone stretches out the heavens  and treads on the waves of the sea.” This was another sign specifically of Yeshua’s divinity.

Peter responded and said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command (keleuo) me to come to You on the water.”  
And He said, “Come!” 
And Peter got down out of the boat and walked (peripateo) on the water, and came toward (pros) Jesus.  But seeing (blepo) the wind (anemos), he became frightened (phobeo), and when he began to sink, he cried out (krazo), saying, “Lord, save (sozo) me!”  
Immediately Jesus reached out with His hand and took hold (epilambanomai) of him, and said to him, “You of little faith (oligopistos), why did you doubt (distazo)?” Matthew 14:28-31 NASB

Only Matthew tells us that someone else walked on water that night. Someone who was bold enough to want to do what his Rabbi was doing. Yeshua had not long ago given them authority over sickness and demons – and it had worked! Could He also give this authority over the laws of nature? Knowing that spiritual authority only operated through obedience Peter asked Yeshua: command me to come to you on the water.” Keleuo = to command, to give the order. In the Greek aorist imperative it commands the action to reach completion. Yeshua spoke the word. It is written in the Greek aorist imperative. It only took one word, “come” to transfer that authority and enable Peter to walk on the water.

This is one of those passages of scripture that yields more insights when we delve into the meaning of key words in the Greek.
Peripateo = walked comprehensively around; walked around in a complete circuit; walking with God in the complete circuit of faith.
Pros = moving towards a goal or destination with contact and reaction; in living relationship with the goal; the cycle of initiation and response.
Blepo = physically observe to spiritually perceive; conveys the spiritual impact of physically seeing; grasping the spiritual realities which play out in the physical world.
Anemos = a gust of air / wind; something with gusting, storm-like force like someone bent in a particular direction.
Phobeo = wanting to flee, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to meet the situation.
Krazo = an onomatopoetic term imitating the sound of a raven’s piercing cry; to cry out loudly with an urgent scream or shriek; an exclamation of fear or pain, using inarticulate sounds that express deep emotion; it was also a technical, rabbinic term to refer to the loud summons of a prophet, needing to be heard.
Sozo = to deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin and into His shalom.
Epilambanomai = lay hold of something by showing personal initiative, focused resolve; lay hold in the way that is needed and doing so with resolve.
Oligopistos = oligos little in number and low in quality + pistis faith; infrequent faith; inconsistent faith.
Distazo = double stance; to go two ways at once; be double-minded; to vacillate / waver between two opinions or beliefs.

Peter climbed down out of the boat and peripateo – walked comprehensively around in a complete circuit of faith that included fear, phobeo – feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to meet the situation – and doubt, distazo – being doubleminded – but ultimately cried out with everything within him, krazo, to Yeshua to save him. What caused the double-mindedness was blepo anemos – seeing the storm-like force of the wind stirring up the Sea and perceiving that the sea of humanity would likewise be stirred up against them and it would be difficult to make any real headway. If he kept following Yeshua the road ahead would be full of difficulty and struggle. Peter was overtired, he was exhausted from struggling against the wind all night and the thought of further struggle was just too much for him. He started to sink. Yeshua epilambanomai – laid hold of Peter with focused resolve, He was not going to let Peter drown, He was determined to  keep Peter from sinking too low, and to present him faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).

Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished,  for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored at the shore.  And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him,  and ran about that entire country and began carrying here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to wherever they heard He was.  Mark 6:51-55 NASB

When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are truly God’s Son!”
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding region and brought to Him all who were sick; and they pleaded with Him that they might just touch the border of His cloak; and all who touched it were cured.
Matthew 14:32-36 NASB

Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and instantly the boat reached the land they were heading for.
The next day, the crowd which had stayed on the other side of the lake noticed that there had been only one boat there, and that Yeshua had not entered the boat with his talmidim, but that the talmidim had been alone when they sailed off.  
Then other boats, from Tiberias, came ashore near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had made the b’rakhah
(given thanks). Accordingly, when the crowd saw that neither Yeshua nor his talmidim were there, they themselves boarded the boats and made for K’far-Nachum (Capernaum) in search of Yeshua. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” John 6:21-25 CJB

While both Matthew and Mark record the talmidim in the boat as being overwhelmingly amazed from seeing Yeshua walk on water and then the wind stopping the moment He climbed into their boat, Mark’s perception was that their hearts were still hardened and unable to perceive the fullness of who Yeshua was, while Matthew’s was of them worshipping Him as God’s Son. As Yeshua spoke of them having oligopistos – inconsistent faith – it is possible that both were true and they were still oscillating between faith and unbelief, even as we can find ourselves doing.

Capernaum was known as Yeshua’s ministry base, so it is not surprising that is where the crowds headed in search of Him. It was just a 3 mile (under 5km) walk from there to the wide open plains of Gennesaret where Yeshua was already healing the multitudes who were being brought to him from all the surrounding region. The crowds were now so big that wide open plains were needed to accommodate them all. Still they had no time to rest.

This photo was taken towards the NE from the Arbel cliffs and shows the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee with the Plain of Gennesaret in the foreground. The first-century A.D. Jewish historian Josephus described this fertile Plain thus:
Skirting the lake of Gennesar [Sea of Galilee], and also bearing that name, lies a region whose natural properties and beauty are very remarkable. There is not a plant which its fertile soil refuses to produce, and its cultivators in fact grow every species; the air is so well-tempered that it suits the most opposite varieties. The walnut, a tree which delights in the most wintry climate, here grows luxuriantly, beside palm-trees, which thrive on heat, and figs and olives, which require a milder atmosphere.
One might say that nature had taken pride in thus assembling, by a tour de force, the most discordant species in a single spot, and that, by a happy rivalry, each of the seasons wished to claim this region for her own. For not only has the country this surprising merit of producing such diverse fruits, but it also preserves them: for ten months without intermission it supplies those kings of fruits, the grape and the fig; the rest mature on the trees the whole year round. Besides being favoured by its genial air, the country is watered by a highly fertilizing spring, called by the inhabitants Capharnaum [Capernaum]…. This region extends along the border of the lake which bears its name for a length of thirty furlongs [5.6 kilometers] and inland to a depth of twenty [3.8 kilometers].

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Zakian, Christopher H. WALKING ON WATER: A RESCUE ON THE SEA OF DESPAIR. Armenian Church. [Online] February 26th, 2019. https://armenianchurch.us/2019/02/26/walking-on-water-a-rescue-on-the-sea-of-despair/.
3. Miller, Stephen M. Casual English Bible Maps For Mark. Casual English Bible. [Online] https://www.casualenglishbible.com/casual-english-bible-maps-for-mark/.
4. Zyl, Jacob M. Van. Where did Jesus feed the 5000? Near Bethsaida Galilee / Near Bethsaida Julias? Messiah Study. [Online] https://www.messiah-study.net/Feeding5000.htm.
5. Phillips, J B. An Outline of the Story of Jesus Using Maps. J B Phillips New Testament. [Online] https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm.
6. Atlas, Bible. Bethsaida. Bible Hub. [Online] https://bibleatlas.org/bethsaida.htm.
7. Rogers, Kevin. Is the feeding of the 5000 historical? Reasonable Faith. [Online] March 25, 2018. https://reasonablefaithadelaide.org.au/the-feeding-of-the-5000/.
8. Rushlive, Omar. Where did the feeding of the five thousand happen? RZIM Connect. [Online] April 19, 2019. https://connect.rzim.org/t/where-did-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand-happen/15837.
9. Licona, Michael R. WAS MARK CONFUSED PERTAINING TO THE LOCATION OF THE FEEDING OF THE 5,000? Risen Jesus. [Online] August 22, 2016. https://www.risenjesus.com/mark-confused-pertaining-location-feeding-5000.
10. Collins, Martin G. What the Bible says about Feeding of 5000. Bible Tools. [Online] https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/15518/Feeding-5000.htm.
11. Pratt, Bill. COMMENTARY ON MARK 6 (JESUS FEEDS 5,000 AND WALKS ON WATER). Tough Questions answered. [Online] November 28th, 2016. https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/11/28/commentary-on-mark-6-jesus-feeds-5000-and-walks-on-water/.
12. Commentaries, Matthew. Matthew 14:25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. Bible Hub. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/14-25.htm.
13. Coles, Fr. James. Why Does Jesus Sometimes Wait Until the 4th Watch of the Night – 9th Sunday of Pentecost. Scholé. [Online] August 9th, 2009. https://frjamescoles.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/why-does-jesus-sometimes-wait-until-the-4th-watch-of-the-night-9th-sunday-of-matthew/.
14. One for Israel. 21 PROOFS THAT YESHUA IS THE “PROPHET LIKE MOSES”. ONE for ISRAEL. [Online] May 30th, 2016. https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/21-ways-yeshua-is-a-prophet-like-moses/.
15. Bivin, Davin N. Gennesaret According to Josephus. Jerusalem Perspective. [Online] September 6th, 2012. https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/579/.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

*Sending the 12 out to minister in pairs seemed to just increase the work load instead of reducing it – so many more people were now coming to Jesus. How do you deal with it when the demands of ministry become too much?
* Jesus took them away to rest, but the crowds followed – thousands of them! How do you deal with it when your attempts to rest are interrupted by the needs of others?
* It is easy to burn out in ministry with the constant pressure of people’s needs. How did Jesus deal with this, what did He do to get refreshed and able to keep giving to others?
* What are the evidences in this passage that Jesus is the Son of God and the “prophet like Moses” that the Jewish people were waiting for?
* What storms in your life have caused you to start to sink, and how did Jesus lift you out of that?

Sent Out

Please read Matthew 10, 11:1, 25-30, 13:53-14:13a; Mark6:1-32; Luke 9:1-10

It was winter once more. Last winter Yeshua had set out from His home village of Nazareth, travelling south to ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ to be baptised by Yochanan. There was nothing remarkable in this, many from this pious region of Galilee were making the same pilgrimage. But something remarkable had occurred when Yeshua was baptised, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove from heaven, He was revealed as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and His ministry began. He had returned to teach in the Nazareth synagogue once since then, just before heading south to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Shavu‘ot – the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). After initially welcoming His teaching, they had turned on Him and tried to throw Him off the cliffs. Now He was back again, this time with His talmidim who had been following Him from town to town throughout the Galilee region.

Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. 
“Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary (Miryam), and aren’t his brothers James (Ya‘akov), Joseph (Yosef), Simon (Shim‘on) and Judas (Y’hudah)? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 
And they took offense at Him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.”
And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Matthew 13:53-58 NIV

Then Yeshua left and went to His home town, and His talmidim  followed him.  On Shabbat He started to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astounded.
They asked, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom He has been given? What are these miracles worked through Him?  Isn’t He just the carpenter? the son of Miryam? the brother of Ya‘akov and Yosi and Y’hudah and Shim‘on? Aren’t His sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at Him. 
But Yeshua said to them. “The only place people don’t respect a prophet is in his home town, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”  
So he could do no miracles there, other than lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of trust.

Then He went through the surrounding towns and villages, teaching.
Mark 6:1-6 CJB

Once again the congregation in Nazareth were impressed with the wisdom of Yeshua’s teaching. They were impacted by the miracles He did. Yet, instead of responding in faith, instead of accepting the evidences that He was their long awaited Messiah, they became offended at Him. They had known Him as one of their own. They had known Him as Yosef (Joseph) and Miryam (Mary)’s son. Some elders whispered about Miryam having become pregnant with Him before she and Yosef had come together as man and wife. There was a hint of scandal in His background. They had known Him as Ya‘akov (James), Yosef (Joseph), Shim‘on (Simon) and Y’hudah (Judas)’ elder brother. His sisters had married their sons and were raising their own families in Nazareth. He was part of a normal family in Nazareth, how could He possibly claim to be anything more than that? Surely Messiah, surely the Lamb of God, surely the son of David, had to be someone other than a member of a normal family in their village! This lack of faith that Yeshua was sent to them from God meant that few came to Him with their needs, so there were few miracles for Him to do.

Yeshua, and His talmidim, continued on to the surrounding towns and villages.

12 Apostles Sent Out

These twelve had been following Yeshua for about a year now. During that time they had learnt so much and seen so much. Every time they saw a miracle it aroused a fresh sense of awe and wonder. No matter how many they witnessed there was still something amazing about each one. No matter how much of Yeshua’s teaching they memorised and meditated upon, there were still meanings that they were trying to grasp, still something surprising each time He shared with them. They had so much more to learn, yet they were ready. The time had come for them to put what they had been learning into practice – to go out and do what they had seen Yeshua do this past year.

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power (eksousia) over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease… …
These twelve Jesus sent
(apostéllō) out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 
Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.  And when you go into a household, greet it.  If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.  Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” Matthew 10:1,5-15 NKJV

And He summoned the twelve and began to send (apostéllō) them out in pairs, and gave them authority (eksousia) over the unclean spirits; and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 
And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town.  Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.”  
They went out and preached that men should repent.  And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Mark 6:7-13 NASB

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power (dynamis) and authority (eksousia) to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent (apostéllō) them out to proclaim (kerysso) the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 
Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 
So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. Luke 9:1-6 NIV

None of these twelve had preached (kerysso) before. None had ever done a miracle before. None of them had healed the sick or cast out demons before. Yeshua did not have them do their first preaching or their first miracles under His careful guidance and watchful gaze – instead He simply gave them the spiritual power and authority and sent (apostéllō) them out ahead of Him.

Kerysso = to preach publicly and with conviction, preaching by a herald sent from God, proclaiming the gospel (good news) that all should repent because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand“.

Apostéllō = to commission, be sent on a defined mission by a superior, as an intensified form of ‘stéllō‘, ‘apostéllō‘ focuses back on the source – the one sending – to strongly connect the sender to the one sent.

Dynamis = ability to perform, power to achieve through God’s inherent ability – God sharing His inherent ability, empowered with God’s ability to do as He directs.

Eksousia = authority, delegated power, empowerment to operate decisively in a designated jurisdiction.

First Yeshua called them together. They came as one to Him. Then He imparted His ability into them and authorised them to publicly preach the kingdom of God, to heal the sick and to drive out demons. Then He sent them to go as an extension of Himself. Yeshua sent them out in pairs, so they could provide encouragement and accountability for one another. Interestingly, the scriptures do not tell us who was paired with whom.

Instructions for Short Term Missions

  • Go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Even though Yeshua had already taken them to witness Him ministering to Samaritans and to Gentiles, for this first mission trip Yeshua apostéllō them only to their own people of their own culture. The Great Commission to all the world would come later.
  • Publicly preach, “repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
  • Take nothing for the journeyneither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt, nor two tunics – for a worker is worthy of his food.  Freely you have received, freely give. While charging nothing and making no profit from their ministry, they were to expect those they ministered to would provide for their basic needs on the road as per the Jewish laws of hospitality.
  • Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons – all of which could only be done because Yeshua had just imparted to them His ability to do so.
  • Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay in their house until you leave that town.  And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them. 

The Apostle’s Response

They went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and preaching that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Possibly to their own amazement, these twelve found themselves empowered to do just what Yeshua commissioned them to do. Just as He had said, people were healed and delivered at their word. His empowering really was enough to make it all happen. They followed His instructions and saw His miracles taking place at their hands.

Preparations for What Lies Ahead

Matthew then records Yeshua giving advise to help prepare them for the troubles that will accompany their triumphs. It was winter, the breeding season for Israel’s wolves.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves;

so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves. But be on guard against people, for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour.  For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you.

“Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he may become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they insult the members of his household!

“So do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  What I tell you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops.  

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 

Are two sparrows not sold for a copper coin? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows.

“Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;  and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household.
“The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  
“The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.

“The one who receives you receives Me, and the one who receives Me  receives Him who sent Me.  The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:16-41

Yochanan the Immerser Beheaded

After Yeshua had finished instructing the twelve talmidim, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns nearby. Matthew 11:1 CJB

Now the work was multiplied. Six pairs of talmidim had been sent out in six different directions to spread the good news, heal the sick and cast out demons, and still a seventh, Yeshua Himself, went out to spread the word of the kingdom of heaven. There was an urgency, the time was short. People needed to see and hear for themselves, not just rely on the rumours spreading around Galilee about this radical new Rabbi. Everyone needed to have the chance to encounter the truth and power of God.

Meanwhile, Yochanan the Immerser’s talmidim had returned to him with all they saw Yeshua doing, and His words of encouragement. All was well. Yochanan had not run his race in vain. He had fulfilled what God had called him to do.

All was not well in the palace above him, however. Herodias continued to burn with anger and indignation at Yochanan calling out her husband’s sin in joining with her. A party was being prepared for Herod’s birthday and in the midst of all the drinking and boasting came the opportunity for Herodias to have her murderous way.

For Herod had arrested Yochanan, put him in chains and thrown him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip;  since Yochanan had told Herod, “It violates the Torah for you to have her as your wife.”  Herod had wanted to put Yochanan to death; but he was afraid of the people, in whose eyes Yochanan was a prophet.  
However, at Herod’s birthday celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced before the company and pleased Herod so much  that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.  Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of Yochanan the Immerser.”  
The king became deeply upset; but out of regard for the oaths he had sworn before his dinner guests, he ordered that her wish be granted,  and sent and had Yochanan beheaded in prison.  The head was brought on a platter to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. Matthew 14: 3-11 CJB

For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her.  For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  
Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so;  for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. 
A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee;  and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.”  
And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”  
Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 
And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her.  Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.

Mark 6:17-28 NASB

Herod continued to be tormented by what he had done. Unlike Herodias, he conscience was not yet completely seared. It troubled him. He was haunted by the memory of that holy, innocent head on the platter. Oh, he had ordered many deaths before, but somehow this one was difference, this one would not let him sleep at night, this one kept invading his thoughts through the day. News reached him of all that Yeshua was doing, and how His talmidim were now also doing the same.

Around that time, Herod, the regional governor, heard of the fame of Yeshua  and said to his attendants, “This must be Yochanan the Immerser. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” Matthew 14:1-2 CJB

And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 
But others were saying, “He is Elijah.”
And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”  
But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!” Mark 6:14-16 NASB

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life.  
But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see Him.
Luke 9:7-9 NIV

Yochanan’s talmidim came, took the body and buried it; then they went and told Yeshua. On hearing about this, Yeshua left in a boat to be by himself in the wilderness. Matthew 14:12-13a CJB

The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)  They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
Mark 6:30-32 NASB

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida. Luke 9:10 NIV

It was a time of both great joy and sorrow. This had been the apostles’ first ministry trip and they were excited to report back to Yeshua all that they had done and taught. Miracles had taken place on their command, just like they did for Yeshua. They had boldly proclaimed the kingdom of heaven. They had preached repentance even as Yochanan used to preach repentance. The news that he had been so pointlessly executed hung heavily and their hearts were grieved at this horrible injustice and terrible loss. Yet, they could see in their own actions that all Yochanan had told them about Yeshua was true, and they were getting to live his dream. There was so much to think through, so much to process. It was good to withdraw and have time by themselves.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Commentary, Ellicott’s. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm.
3. Commentary, Meyer’s NT. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm.
4. Testament, Expositor’s Greek. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

*When Jesus returned to Nazareth with His disciples what the Nazarene’s response to His teaching and miracles, and why do you think they reacted like that?
* How do you think the twelve felt when Jesus sent them out, and how do you think the people responded to them as they came to each town?
* Describe the training that Jesus gave them before sending them out, and how this compares with the training people in your nation receive before being sent out to minister to others.
*What directions did Jesus give the twelve when He sent them out and how do these compare with the expectations of missionaries in your nation?
* What message did the apostles preach when Jesus sent them out?
* What was it that enabled the twelve to heal and deliver people?
* Which of the teachings that Jesus gave “Preparations for What Lies Ahead” is most important for people in your congregation now, and why is that?
* What was the significance of John the Baptiser’s death?