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?

Wind & Waves

Please read Matthew 8:18-34, Mark 4:35-5:20 & Luke 8:22-39

Deep in the Jordan Great Rift Valley, a valley caused by the separation of the African and Arabian Plates, and surrounded by the hills of northern Israel, the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret – Hebrew: ים כנרת) is the lowest freshwater lake on earth at 209 meters (nearly 700 feet) below sea level. In places it plunges to depths of 60m. It is a relatively small lake, approximately 53 km (33 mi) in circumference, about 21 km (13 mi) long from north to south, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide at its widest point, with a surface area of of 170 km². In comparison, Lake Victoria (Victoria Nyanza) in East Africa is 1,135 meters above sea level, 337 km long and 240 km wide, with a surface area of 68,800 km².

From any point on the Sea of Galilee’s rocky shore, all other locations along the shoreline are visible. Much of the Sea’s beauty comes from being nestled among the hills; green in the spring, brown during the dry season, which contrast with the deep blue of the water. Around the sea, the hills of Galilee reach nearly 1,400 feet (425m) above sea level, and the mountains of the Golan Heights (called the Decapolis in Jesus’ time) reach more than 2,500 feet (760m).  These heights are a source of cool, dry air. The slopes of the Golan Heights on the east and Mount Arbel on the west drop sharply down to the Sea. The Sea’s location, so far below much of the country surrounding it, makes it subject to sudden and violent storms as the wind comes over the eastern mountains and drops suddenly onto the Sea. The large difference in height between surrounding land and the Sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds stirring up the Sea, funnelling through the hills. Storms are especially likely when an east wind blows cool air over the warm air that covers the Sea. The cold air (being heavier) surges down as the warm air rises. This sudden change can produce surprisingly furious storms in a short time. Many of the 12, being fishermen, were used to such storms – but there was a storm to come that would have even them quaking in fear.

When Yeshua saw the crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.   Matthew 8:18 CJB

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  Mark 4:35 NKJV

One day Yeshua got into a boat with his talmidim and said to them, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”  Luke 8:22 CJB

Mark lets us know this happened right at the end of the same day. “Evening”, from the Greek γίνομαι gínomai = to emerge, to become (come into being), transition from one point to another, signifies a change of condition, state or place;  it often describes what is to be created, come into being, happen, or what is about to be produced. Evening was the beginning of a new day. The new day was about to be produced. This was right on the transition from one day to the next. It had been a very long day, with the steady flow of people needing miracles from when Yeshua had arrived back in Capernaum the previous evening, the teaching of parables to the gathered multitude from a boat just off shore, the explanations to His talmidim back in the house, and now down to the sea shore again.

Still, the people kept crowding around Him, eager to learn from Him, to see Him do more miracles and to receive their healing. Yeshua was not drawn to the crowds like they were drawn to Him. He only did what He saw His Father doing. Obeying the Father’s voice was more important that “building His ministry”. The Father had His eye on a despised Gentile across the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a man who had been so violently driven by the enemy that even his own family and community had cut off from him. So Yeshua climbed back into a boat and gave the command to cross over to the other side of the lake.

Still the people kept calling out to Him. These Jews who had come from all around wanted Him to stay with them and keep feeding their thirsty souls.

Then a scribe (Torah-teacher) came and said to Him, “Teacher (Rabbi), I will follow You wherever You go.”  
Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head
.”
Matthew 8:19-20 NASB

As they were traveling on the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 
Yeshua answered him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.”

Luke 9:57-58 CJB

Was it exhaustion speaking? An overwhelming tiredness from constantly giving out and having no time to rest? Following Yeshua would not be an easy path. It was not the way to gain religious prestige nor earthly power or wealth. His was not the comfortable path. Was this Torah-teacher ready for the discomfort of such a self-sacrificing life?

Another of the talmidim said to him, “Sir, first let me go and bury my father.” 
But Yeshua replied, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Matthew 8:21-22 CJB

To another he said, “Follow me!”
But the man replied, “Sir, first let me go away and bury my father.” 
Yeshua said, “Let the dead bury their own dead; you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God!” Luke 9:59-60 CJB

Again we see the gospel tradition of not naming any of the male talmidim (disciples) except for the 12 foundational apostles. Those 12 had already been called and chosen for their unique role, but the call to discipleship, the call to “follow Me” kept being extended to others.

There are differing opinions among Bible commentators as to who this talmid was and whether his father was at this time still alive or had just that day died, or was awaiting his secondary burial a year after his death.

The traditional Jewish preference for prompt burial continued throughout the first century. In Mark 5:38, funeral preparations for Jairus’s daughter begin right away, and in John 11 Lazarus is buried on his day of death. According to Mishnah Sanhedrin 6.6, a corpse should not be kept unburied overnight except on rare occasions. The Jewish burial rite consisted of two parts – the primary burial on the day of death, and a secondary burial a year later.

As soon as death was certain, the deceased’s eyes were closed and the corpse was washed. Perfumes or ointments were used for this washing. The body was then wrapped and bound in strips of cloth. According to the third-century C.E. Jewish tractate Semahot, men could only prepare the corpse of a man, but women could prepare both men and women.   John 11 has such preparations in view: Lazarus’s “hands and feet [were] bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth” (John 11:44). Thus prepared, male relatives and friends would carry the corpse in a procession toward the place of interment, accompanied by friends, neighbours, and relatives. Jewish funeral processions made their way from the family home to the family tomb that day, for the primary burial. Members of the immediate family took the corpse into the tomb while friends and relatives waited outside.  The corpse would be brought into an outer room and laid on the floor, or in special slots in the wall. The ceremony of primary burial seems to have often included spoken words in appreciation for the dead and in sympathy for the bereaved.

After primary burial, the procession returned to the family home, where expressions of condolence continued. Rituals of death continued for several days thereafter. Literary sources, including John 11, agree that for the first seven days, the immediate family remained at home in mourning. If mourners left the house during this time, it was presumed that they would go to the tomb. After seven days, most aspects of ordinary life resumed.

The death of a parent was an exception: children mourned their parents for a full year, until the time of secondary burial.

The secondary burial would take place about a year after the primary burial. At that time, in a private ceremony, family members returned to the tomb, took the bones of the deceased from their resting place on a shelf or a niche, and placed them in another niche, pit, or ossuary, adding them to a pile of bones left by previous generations in an inner sanctum. The one thing expressed most clearly by Israelite burial practices is the common human desire to maintain some contact with the community even after death, through burial in one’s native land at least, and if possible with one’s ancestors.  Jacob’s request, “bury me with my fathers,” (Gen. 49:29), was the wish of every ancient Israelite. This practice of family burial, was common enough to give rise to the Hebrew expressions “to sleep with one’s fathers” (e.g., I Kings 11:23) and “to be gathered to one’s kin” (Gen. 25:8; et al.) as synonyms for “to die.”

Regardless of the individual circumstances of the talmid who responded: “first let me go and bury my father”, Yeshua’s reply  has echoed true down through to ages to so many of His followers in many different circumstances: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

The Wind & Waves Obey

He boarded the boat, and his talmidim followed.  Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake, so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. Matthew 8:23-24 CJB

So, leaving the crowd behind, they took him just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him.  A furious windstorm arose, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was close to being swamped.  But he was in the stern on a cushion, asleep. Mark 4:36-38a CJB

And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out.  But as they sailed He fell asleep. 
Luke 8:22b-23a NKJV

Yeshua had spoken the Father’s word: “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake” then, confident in the Father’s purposes and exhausted from all the ministry, He fell asleep in the boat. τὸ προσκεφάλαιον – “the pillow” was a part of the ship; no soft luxurious pillow but the leathern cushion of the steersman; the low bench at the stern on which the steersman sometimes sits, and the captain sometimes rests his head to sleep. None of the being tossed around in the boat, nor the water splashing over the sides and drenching Him could arouse Yeshua from this sleep of exhaustion.

We know that Andrew, Peter, James and John had all grown up on the Sea, being trained by their fathers’ as fishermen. Thomas, Nathaniel and Philip may have also worked as fishermen, for they were all together and fishing when Yeshua appeared to them in John 21:2-8, following His resurrection. This boat was being manned by an experienced crew who had plenty of practice handling a boat in stormy seas, yet something about this storm had even them worried and fearing for their lives.

So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” 
Matthew 8:25 CJB

They woke him and said to him, “Rabbi, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re about to be killed?”  Mark 4:38b CJB

And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.   And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Luke 8:23-24 NKJV

In the midst of their fear and panic they knew of only one place to turn for help. All their efforts were failing. All their strength, experience and ability were proving insufficient to save them. Each of us comes to this point when we realise our absolute need of what only He can do.

They knew Yeshua was their only hope, yet in their fear they doubted His love and care for them: “Rabbi, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re about to be killed?” They doubted God’s plan for them: “we are perishing!” Despite their doubts, they turned to Him. Despite their doubts they woke Yeshua and cried out for Him to help them. Despite their doubts, He arose and did what they could not believe. His nature and will for our lives is not confined to what we can believe for – even crying out to Him in our doubts is sufficient, because He is sufficient.

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm.  
The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:26-27 CJB

And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  
And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 
They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Mark 4:39-41 NASB

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm.  
But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”
And they were afraid, and marvelled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”

Luke 8:24-25 NKJV

Matthew gives us Yeshua’s first response, and it is to His talmidim: “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Theirs was not a false fear, a phobia of something conjured by their imagination – they were facing a very real and dangerous situation, a boat that is filled with water does not stay afloat and this violent tempest was tossing them around and filling their boat faster than they could empty it. We can likewise face very real and dangerous situations – famine, flood, drought, war, disease, the children are crying because they have no food, our loved one is dying and we have no money for treatment, our house has been washed away and we are left with nothing, enemies are closing in and we can see no way of escape, the boat is filling with water and we are a long way from land. Like the 12, we can doubt God’s care and provision for us in the mist of situations when we feel that we are perishing. We call out to Jesus, try to arouse Him, but we don’t really believe He will do anything to save us because He hasn’t done anything yet and our situation has just kept getting worse. Then He speaks, and His first words are not to our situation but to us: “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!”

Mark gives us Messiah’s words of rebuke to the wind and waves: σιώπα = “hush! be silent!” and πεφίμωσο = “be muzzled!” be put to silence and made still. Yeshua rebuked the wind and the waves as though they were a raging monster, a force sent to hinder the Father’s will. The Greek perfect tense implies that before the word was uttered, the thing was done by the power of his will preceding the word. The wind ἐκόπασεν = grew weary, died down and stopped. The Sea sank to rest as if exhausted by its own beating. It changed from a state of dangerous turmoil to one of tremendous and immediate calm.

“Where is your faith?” A question for each one of us. Is our faith in our own ability? Is our faith in our faith? Is our faith in the boat? Is our faith in what we think we know? Is our faith in our circumstances? Is our faith in what we can see and taste and touch? Is our faith in the One who rules over all?

The talmidim had never seen anything like this before. Even though they’d memorised the stories of Moses and the Red Sea and the pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day, they had never even imagined anything like this, that a man would command the wind and waves and they would obey Him. A whole new revelation began to dawn on them as to Who this was that they were following.

When Yeshua arrived at the other side of the lake, in the Gadarenes’ territory, there came out of the burial caves two men controlled by demons, so violent that no one dared travel on that road.  
They screamed, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 
Now some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding.  The demons begged him, “If you are going to drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”  
“All right, go!” he told them.
So they came out and went into the pigs, whereupon the entire herd rushed down the hillside into the lake and drowned.  The swineherds fled, went off to the town and told the whole story, including what had happened to the demonized men.  
At this, the whole town came out to meet Yeshua. When they saw him, they begged him to leave their district. Matthew 8:28-34 CJB

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.  When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,  and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;  because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.  Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.  
Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;  and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 
For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 
And He was asking him, “What is your name?” 
And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.  
Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.  The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”  
Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.  
They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.  Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.  And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 
As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.  And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”  
And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
Mark 5:1-20 NASB

Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee.  And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” 
For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.
Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?”
And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.  And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.
When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.  Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.  They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. 
Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.

Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying,  “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” 
And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:26-39 NKJV

They left Capernaum and, after Yeshua had demonstrated His power as the Son of God over the elements by stilling the wind and waves, arrived at the other side of the lake, in the Gadarenes’ territory (Matthew); the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes (Mark); the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee (Luke).

The closest city of any significance was Gadara, hence Matthew and Luke describe the place of this encounter as in χώρα (chóra = the space lying between two places or limits/the region/country/territory) of the Gadarenes. Gadara lay 8km (5 miles) southeast of the shoreline, its territory certainly reached the Sea of Galilee and would have included port towns, for Josephus mentions the fact and its coins show a ship. Gadara was a centre of Greek culture, containing temples to idols, theatres, a hippodrome, an aqueduct, etc., and produced a string of poets, satirists and philosophers.

Mark’s description of the country of the Gerasenes could be the use of a Semitic designation, “land of the foreigners” (Heb gerûšîm; Gk Gerasenoi), as the name for an entire region, or it could refer to the land around a village on the eastern shore that some have identified as Gergesa.  On the south of this village there is a cliff within forty meters of the shore and about 3km from there are cavern tombs. If this was the place of the encounter, as some early church father’s believed, then Hippos could have been the city that the herdsmen ran to.

We don’t have enough information to be confident of the exact location of their landing, but what we do know is that it was an area with a steep bank on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the Decapolis – Gentile territory of the ten independent cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee. We saw Yeshua go into Samaria to preach to the Samaritans at the beginning of His ministry, now He had crossed the boundary into Gentile territory to minister. Such a move would have horrified the Jewish religious leaders back in Galilee or Jerusalem. It may have been trepidation about doing something that they had always been taught was ungodly (going into Gentile territory) that had aroused the fears of the talmidim when the storm arose, thinking God had sent it to change their direction as He had to Jonah headed to Tarshish on a boat. Maybe they had not been trying to wake Yeshua to still the storm but in the hope that He would be convinced by the danger it posed to change direction and command they return back to the shore they had come from. Could this be where the charge of “you don’t care about us” came from, the belief that what was needed for their safety was a change in direction and Yeshua was not giving that command. But the storm was not heralding God’s displeasure, it was just hindering His will, until the Son of God arose and rebuked it so the Father’s purposes could be fulfilled.

What Yeshua met upon disembarking from the boat would have confirmed all the prejudices His talmidim had grown up with against Gentiles. This demon-possessed man was unclean in every sense of the word. Matthew, who was in the boat with Yeshua, records there actually being two demon possessed men. It appears that the fruit of one’s deliverance was much more significant than the other, so it is that one’s story which Mark and Luke share with us. Matthew describes them as: “so violent that no one dared travel on that road”. This major trading route, along the east coast of the Sea, was impassable because of the demonically controlled violence of these men. Mark and Luke describe the one who was going to be transformed as wearing no “himation” = outer garment, robe or cloak – often made of wool and also used as a blanket to keep warm at night – and as living in the tombs instead of a home. The people tried to keep him restrained under guard but he kept tearing the chains and shackles apart, self-harming and screaming day and night. These poor men were tormented, out of control, a danger to others, and a danger to themselves. Yet, their connection to the spirit realm also meant that they recognised Yeshua was the Son of God and, against the will of every demon inhabiting them, ran to Him.

Here we see the tremendous conflict within these men, running to Yeshua for deliverance and yet when Yeshua speaks that word of command for them to be set free, out of their mouths the demons speak, begging Him not to do so. The man Mark and Luke focus on was not possessed by just one unclean spirit, but rather he’s occupied by a host of them.  In the Roman army “legion” designated 6,000 soldiers. His condition seemed hopeless, even as the talmidim had felt hopeless in the face of the fierce storm on the Sea. His pitiful condition had become his identity. When asked his name, this man replied “Legion”. He had no name, no identity left, except for what he was captive to. Increasingly today we hear people proudly proclaim their identity as what they are captive to. This man had been completely defined by what assailed him, by what robed him of joy and health, by what hindered him and kept him bound, by all those things that kept him from experiencing life in its abundance.

According to the superstitions of the time these demons had the upper hand over Yeshua – they knew His name and position: Jesus, Son of the Most High God, and they had evaded His questioning their names and instead tried to intimidate by replying: “legion, for we are many.” But Yeshua’s power over them was not in the use of the “right formula”, but in the very nature of His being as the Son of God. No demon could resist His command, so these powerful forces that had exerted such devastating control of the men were reduced to begging. This was Gentile country, they farmed and ate what were for the Jews unclean animals such a pigs and there was a herd close by. The scripture does not tell us why Yeshua allowed the demons to enter the swine, instead of sending them to the abys, maybe it was so all the people could see how many this man was being set free from – no matter how large the enemy’s army is, one word from the Son of God sends them all fleeing. These demons were self-destructive in the man, even as he struggled against their power, in the swine they found no such resistance and the whole herd ran violently down the steep slope into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. Both Yeshua’s talmidim and all the herdsmen saw the destructive force that had been cast out of this man. Soon everyone in the closest city knew about it too.

Now we come to the pivotal part in the narrative. Luke gives us the insight: “whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.Yeshua had explained to Nicodemus:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21 NIV

The people of this region loved darkness, they delighted in things that God abhorred. They wanted nothing to do with the holiness of God, with the Light that had come into the world. When the power of God’s holiness was displayed in expelling the demons they were seized with fear that their sin would likewise be exposed for what it was. Two men, whom everyone had pitied and looked down on, two men who had been cast out of their families and society, two men whose deplorable state illustrated the direction their community was headed, these two men longed to be free from it all and came running to Yeshua. These two were set free and that freedom challenged the philosophy this society had been built on. The people were seized with fear and wanted Yeshua gone from their shores. We might think the Jews were resistant to the gospel, but these Gentiles were much worse. They did not come running, as thousands of the Jews had done, to seek Yeshua’s healing and deliverance, and to listen to His teaching. They only came running to get rid of Him, to send Him away, “don’t come back again.”

One man, all alone among His people. One man longing for light. One man hungering and thirsting for righteousness. One man begged (deomai = made an urgent appeal out of a pressing need due to lack) to stay (eimi syn = be thereafter forever joined closely together in full identification) with Yeshua and follow Him wherever He went. One man had become a talmid. His deliverance is recorded in all three synoptic gospels. Yeshua sent (apolyo = released him from all obligation – this man did not need to leave his people and become a Jew like Yeshua) him to return to his own household, become one with his own people again, and prioritise telling them everything that God, the creator and owner of all things, had done for him. This man obeyed Yeshua. This man shared his testimony throughout his region, to all the Gentiles of the Decapolis. This man was the reason Yeshua had told the twelve to take Him to the other side of the lake. This man was the reason the storm tried to stop that journey. This man was in Yeshua’s thoughts as He rebuked the wind and waves, commanded them: “peace, be still.” This man, whose family and community had given up on him. This man became the first messenger of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the first one sent to them with good news.

REFERENCES

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3. Donald DeYoung, Ph.D. What’s Special About the Sea of Galilee? Christian Answers. [Online] 2003. https://christiananswers.net/q-eden/ednk-seaofgalilee.html.
4. Bolen, Todd. The Sea of Galilee. Jerusalem Pwerspective. [Online] October 31, 1989. https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/1476/.
5. Gilad, Elon. The History of Jewish Burial Rites. Haaretz. [Online] April 22nd, 2015. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-the-history-of-jewish-burial-rites-1.5353617.
6. The Theological Implications of an Ancient Jewish Burial Custom. Meyers, Eric M. 2, Pennsylvania : University of Pennsylvania Press, October 1971, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 62. DOI: 10.2307/1453302.
7. McCane, Byron R. Burial Practices in First Century Palestine. Bible Odyssey. [Online] [Cited: October 24th, 2020.] https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/burial-practices-in-first-century-palestine.
8. Glenn. Questions on Mark’s Geographical Ignorance… Gadara versus Gerasa and the problem of the Long Trip Home. Christian Thinktank. [Online] March 23rd, 2008. https://www.christian-thinktank.com/giddygaddy.html.
9. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/8-28.htm.
10. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/5-1.htm.
11. [Online] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/8-26.htm.
12. McArthur, Dr. John. Matthew 8–15. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. s.l. : The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago., 1987, p. p. 41.
13. Lose, David. Legion. Working Preacher. [Online] June 16th, 2013. https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=2609.

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

*“The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.” What is some of the price that you have paid for following Jesus?
* Compare the burial customs in your region with the Jewish customs during Jesus’ time.
* Describe a time when you had to “let the dead bury their own dead” in order to follow Jesus, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
* Describe a time when Jesus has said to you: “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!”
* How do you answer people who define themselves in terms of their sin or deficiencies, setbacks, disappointments or failures?
* What was the significance of Jesus going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee? 
* What stories of deliverance do you have from God setting people in your community free?
* What is the most important lesson for your people from this section of scripture?

Misunderstood

Please read Mark 3:20-35, Matthew 12:22-50
& Luke 11:14-28, 8:1-21

After this, Yeshua travelled about from town to town and village to village, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. With Him were the Twelve,  and a number of women who had been healed from evil spirits and illnesses — Miryam (called Magdalit) (Mary called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out;  Yochanah (Joanna) the wife of Herod’s finance minister Kuza (Chuza); Shoshanah (Susanna); and many other women who drew on their own wealth to help him. Luke 8:1-3 CJB

Luke names three of the women who walked with Yeshua and the apostles, Mary called Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, then adds “and many other women”. These other women were strong and independently wealthy. They had the courage to go against the norms of their society to walk with Yeshua and fund His ministry. Following Yeshua was not a male only enterprise. This reforming rabbi accepted both women and men as His talmidim. He accepted both those who had been religious zealots and those who had been notorious sinners as His talmidim. All who were willing to lay aside everything to follow Him had an important part in His kingdom and ministry.

And He came home (into a house), and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal (ἄρτος bread).  When His own people (kinsmen) heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” Mark 3:20-21 NASB

Yeshua returned to Capernaum, probably to His house where the roof had been torn up to lower the paralysed man. Capernaum was no longer the welcoming place that it had once been. The last time He had been in Capernaum, Yeshua had healed a man’s hand in the synagogue on Shabbat, an act which the religious leaders considered to be a flagrant disregard for their Sabbath laws. This, on top of having the audacity to declare the paralytic’s sins forgiven and eating with Tax Collectors and “sinners”, had been the final straw. The religious leaders did not want Him back in their synagogue, nor in their town (http://blog.renewal.asn.au/2020/08/22/new-kingdom-new-structure/).

After a busy schedule as a travelling rabbi, Yeshua may have returned home for a little bit of rest and relaxation, to refresh before going back out to meet all the needs again. He probably arrived just as the sun was setting – at the beginning of a new Jewish day. But the crowds had grown even more since He was last here. So many people. So many needs. His home was not a reprieve from the needs of others, the needy multitudes came and filled it. There was no time for the evening meal. Yeshua just kept giving and giving to meet those needs. His focus was on the Father’s will. The people just kept coming, the more needs were met the more people came. It appeared there was no end to the needs, no end to the lines of people pressing in to receive their miracle as the night wore on. As we shall see, such crowds aroused the ire of the religious leaders and concern of Yeshua’s relatives.

It was for His sake, His relatives reasoned, that they had to stop His ministry, stop this craziness, and retrieve Him from the crowds. Yeshua’s actions were not those of a “normal” man seeking his own welfare and family honour. They were the actions of a man possessed with a passion for the Kingdom of Heaven. They were the actions of a man who cared not for the things of this world. Even His own relatives could not understand why He was acting thus. They were a devout, religious family, but this was outside of their traditions and contrary to everything that was considered to be sound reasoning. Jewish religious and family life revolved around meals, and Yeshua was ignoring these completely as He extended Himself in healing and teaching the people. There was little opportunity even for sleep that night.

Lost His senses” comes from the Greek root word eksistemi. It means to be mentally displaced, “beside oneself“, overwhelmed with the situation. The same word is used when Yeshua heals the paralytic (Mark 2:12) and Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:42), and when He calms the storm after walking on water (Mark 6:51). In this case, however, it suggests that Yeshua’s family had concluded that He was so overwhelmed by the crowds that He was no longer acting rationally and His actions—which they felt were out of control—could have a serious effect on the wellbeing of His family.

So they resolved to find and krateo Him. The Greek word krateo means to place under one’s grasp, to seize hold of and bring under one’s control. It implies forceful action which gains the upper hand. Yeshua’s relatives believed the gossip (“heard of this”) and concluded that they needed to take control of the situation – they needed to take forceful action to bring the Son of God under their control. He, however, was not the one who needed to be brought under control.

There was a battle going on over who would take control. While Yeshua’s relatives sort to take control of Him, demons had taken control of a man and this man’s friends brought Him to Yeshua to be set free. The Pharisees and religious leaders tried to take back control of the situation by accusing Yeshua of using demonic power to cast out the demons. Neither force nor accusation could stop what God was doing through His Son.

Then some people brought him a man controlled by demons who was blind and mute; and Yeshua healed him, so that he could both speak and see.  The crowds were astounded and asked, “This couldn’t be the Son of David, could it?” 

But when the P’rushim (Pharisees) heard of it, they said, “It is only by Ba‘al-Zibbul” — the ruler of the demons — “that this man drives out demons.”

However, knowing what they were thinking, Yeshua said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not survive. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; so how can his kingdom survive? Besides, if I drive out demons by Ba‘al-Zibbul (Beelzebul), by whom do your people drive them out? So, they will be your judges!  But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you! Or again, how can someone break into a strong man’s house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? After that he can ransack his house.

Those who are not with me are against me, and those who do not gather with me are scattering.  

Because of this, I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will not be forgiven.  One can say something against the Son of Man and be forgiven; but whoever keeps on speaking against the Ruach HaKodesh will never be forgiven, neither in the ‘olam hazeh (this age) nor in the ‘olam haba (age to come). Matthew 12:22-32 CJB

In asking: “This couldn’t be the Son of David, could it?” the crowd were questioning if Yeshua was Israel’s long awaited Messiah. Who else but Messiah, their eternal King, could exercise such power and authority over demonic forces? Many longed to see Him exercise such authority over the oppressive Roman forces as well – such was their expectation of Messiah. Yet, Yeshua makes it very clear that His arch enemy is not the Roman emperor, but Satan, and those who are not with Him are on Satan’s side, those who are not gathering the people to Him are scattering them for Satan. Thus, the very ones who are accusing Yeshua of being in league with the ruler of the demons are themselves engaged in Satan’s work.

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”  

Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.  But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armour on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. 

He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters. Luke 11:14-23 NASB

The finger of God bringing the Kingdom of God upon them raised such hopes in the people. Surely the Roman Empire would have to bow to such a kingdom. Messiah would cast out their enemies and set them free from Roman oppression. Yeshua was talking of a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom not of this world, and demonstrating God’s authority through this kingdom. Increasing numbers of the people were looking for this kingdom to demolish the Roman Empire of this world – they were looking for Messiah to reign over the whole world as Daniel’s rock which grew into a mountain which filled all the earth. Such expectations scared the Jewish leaders who feared Rome’s reaction should the people rise up against them. Yet, this expectation was also the standard by which the religious leaders judged any messianic claims. On both counts they stood against the Son of God and refused to accept the testimony of the miracles He did in delivering the people from demonic oppression.

The Torah-teachers who came down from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) said, “He has Ba‘al-Zibbul (Beelzebul) in him,” and “It is by the ruler of the demons that he expels the demons.” 

But he called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan expel Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom can’t survive;  and if a household is divided against itself, that household can’t survive. So if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he can’t survive either; and that’s the end of him.  Furthermore, no one can break into a strong man’s house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. After that, he can ransack his house. 


Yes! I tell you that people will be forgiven all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; however, someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” For they had been saying, “He has an unclean spirit in him.”
Mark 3:22-30 CJB

βλασφημέω – blasphēméō – comes from blax, meaning sluggish or slow, and pheme, meaning reputation or fame, thus denotes a refusal to acknowledge good or venerate that which is worthy of respect. Blasphemy slanders what is good by equating it with evil and thus reverses moral values. It misidentifies evil and good. It calls good evil, and evil good, thus defaming the good.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Isaiah 5:20 NASB

The Torah-teachers were misidentifying the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as an unclean or evil spirit by saying that it was by the ruler of the demons that Yeshua cast out demons. In so doing they were hardening their hearts against the truth, deliverance and salvation that God had sent them in Christ.

Yeshua is alluding to the Numbers 15 passage about blasphemy (Matt 12:31-32 ; Mark 3:28-29 ; Luke 12:10). Numbers 15:22-31 distinguishes between unintentional sin committed in ignorance (for which forgiveness is possible), and defiant sin, called blasphemy, for which there is no forgiveness.

‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner,  blasphemes Adonai (the Lord) and must be cut off from the people of Israel.  Because they have despised Adonai’s word and broken His commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.’”
. Numbers 15:30-31

Yeshua teaches that the blasphemy for which there is no forgiveness is that done defiantly against the Ruach HaKodesh; all other blasphemies, even those against “the Son of Man, ” may be forgiven (Matthew 12:32). Insults thrown at Yeshua may be forgiven because they are committed in ignorance of who He really is: His heavenly glory does not appear on earth. This is significant, in taking on human form and coming as the sacrifice for our sins, Yeshua laid aside His majesty that cannot be blasphemed because it was through bearing the ultimate blasphemy against Himself that our salvation was purchased, even as God had foretold through the prophet Isaiah:

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:3-12 NIV

This downgrading of the significance of blasphemy against Yeshua marks an important difference between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Muslims are bound to defend the honour of the Prophet, for Christians Yeshua is the one who says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Rom 15:3, quoting Psalm 69:9). He deliberately accepts the vilification of others and prays for the forgiveness of those who insult Him (Luke 23:34). In this, He sets an example for Christians to follow. According to Peter ( 1 Pe 2:19-25 ), we must accept insult and blasphemy without retaliation, as He did.

Yeshua said: “people will be forgiven all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter…” In this world we see so much sin and hear so many people call evil things good and good things evil. All this can be forgiven. Even the most heinous sins can be forgiven – such is the power of the cross. Whatever sins (and promotions of sin) really upsets or angers us – they have been, and will be, forgiven.

“…however, someone who blasphemes against the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” It was not those Jews who were identified as terrible sinners who were committing an eternal sin, but the religious leaders who identified themselves as the righteous in the community and example for others to follow. These were the ones who were blaspheming against the Ruach HaKodesh, who were deliberately misidentifying the HaKodesh (holy) as demonic in order to reject the truth of who Yeshua was and what He had come to do. To deliberately ascribe obvious manifestations of the Ruach HaKodesh to the devil’s agency is a serious offense not committed in ignorance but out of pride that refuses to submit to God’s working in our life.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37 NIV

Proverbs 18:21 states: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Here Yeshua links that power to the state of the heart that is producing the words uttered by the tongue. Those who are blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh by accusing Yeshua of having an unclean spirit in Him are, by their very words, giving evidence to the evil in their own hearts. “I didn’t mean it” is not an excuse that will stand on judgment day. Every utterance displays what type of person we are.

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. . Matthew 12:38-42 NIV

And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”
. Luke 11:29-32 NKJV

The prophet Jonah – יוֹנָה – is mentioned in II Kings 14:25 during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC) of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), before the Assyrians under King Shalmaneser conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Book of Jonah is one of the key readings in Judaism during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which occurs on the tenth day of Tishri following Rosh Hashanah. Jonah provides a parable of mercy, sin can be repented of and judgment averted, with God’s loving mercy and forgiveness. Jonah was a disobedient prophet, who ran away rather than perform God’s mission because he wanted Israel’s enemies destroyed for their sins. He is punished and swallowed by a great fish, but repents and prays, and receives God’s abundant mercy, and carries out his mission to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The King and all the people listened to Jonah’s warning of punishment and put on sackcloth and ash. When Jonah becomes upset over God’s mercy towards Israel’s enemy, God teaches him a lesson.

For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.” Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites of their sinfulness and need for repentance to avert the coming judgment. Likewise, Yeshua was a sign to that generation of Jews of their sinfulness and need for repentance to avert the coming judgment. All the Ninevites heeded the sign of Jonah which God had given to them and humbly repented. Only some of Yeshua’s generation heeded the sign of His death and resurrection and humbly repented. Yeshua is also a sign to us – how are we responding to this sign from God?

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.Yeshua did many miracles, but the sign of Him being their longed for Messiah would be His death, entombment in the ground for 3 days, and resurrection. If they refused to repent and believe after that they would be without excuse. From early in His ministry, Yeshua was telling the people about his upcoming death and resurrection, but they could not grasp what He was saying because it was so contrary to their expectations of Messiah.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
. Matthew 12:43-45 NIV

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26 NKJV

Having foretold that the existing generation would be condemned on the judgment day by the Ninevites and that queen from the South, Yeshua now proceeds to explain in an allegorical way the condition of things on which this melancholy certainty is founded. The case of this generation, He says, will be very much like that of a demoniac, into whom the demon that has been expelled from him is ever seeking to return. The demon finds his former abode ready for his reception, and, reinforced by seven others still more wicked than himself, he again enters the demoniac, making his latter condition worse than the former. So will it be with this generation, which, though it should happen to undergo a temporary amendment, will relapse into its old state of confirmed wickedness, and become worse than before. The reason of this is to be found in the fact that the people in question have never repented and entered into the kingdom of God. Attempts to mend their ways without changing their allegiances will ultimately prove worse than futile, as the coming degeneration and destruction by Rome would prove.

Luke’s account, in omitting the reference to “this wicked generation” brings the focus onto the individual. Deliverance is wonderful, but if not accompanied by repentance and coming under the protection of the Lordship of Christ, the individual is left open to re-possession that is worse than their original state.

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”

But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Luke 11:27-28 NKJV

A certain woman of the company: observing the miracle Yeshua had wrought, in casting out a demon, and being ravished with his wisdom, in which He so fully cleared Himself, and so strongly confuted His enemies, and perhaps believing Him to be their long-expected Messiah, expressed her admiration of His character: lifted up her voice, and called out above the noise of the gathered crowd, and with great earnestness and fervour proclaimed in the hearing of all the people: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” This was a form of blessing among the Jews: so it is said of R. Joshuah ben Chananiah, a disciple of R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who lived about these times, “blessed is she that bore him”. The religious leaders may have been full of blasphemy, but this woman recognised the good and had the courage to speak it out loudly in defiance of them. Her exhortation was with a Jewish blessing that proclaimed the honour brought to a family by one who gave so much to their community. This blessing refuted the actions of Yeshua’s relatives who had sort to forcefully bring Him in, considering Him to have “lost His mind”. This blessing refuted the accusations of the Torah teachers and P’rushim (Pharisees) who were saying He had an unclean spirit. This blessing was the first direct fulfilment of the words of the Magnificat, “All generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

Yeshua’s response affirms the woman’s words and then immediately points us to an even greater blessing, that of hearing and keeping God’s word. Acknowledging Christ’s greatness, as this woman was doing, is valuable only to the extent that it results in us hearing and obeying God’s word. That is the true measure of our praise.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 

Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50 NIV

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’
‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’
Mark 3:31-35 CJB

Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd.  And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”
But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
Luke 8:19-21 NKJV

Had Mary and her other sons heard the woman’s blessing? It is possible that this loud proclamation is what greeted Mary’s ears as she tried to approach the house where her first-born was crowded in on by the multitudes. Such was the crowd that she could not get through to Him, not even close enough to attract His attention. Yet there were some in the crowd who recognised Mary, and word spread that she was wanting to see her eldest son.

The context suggests that they held concerns for Him, no doubt some of the leaders who felt threatened by His words, actions and popularity had a few words to Mary about the deadly consequences if Yeshua continued down this defiant path. Even Yeshua’s own mother had times of doubt and concern over her son’s ministry, times when she misunderstood what He was doing and saying. Mary was a woman of great faith, but she was also a mother who longed to see only good come to her son. Yeshua was much more gentle with her than with His disciple Peter when he tried to hinder the path to the cross: “Get behind meSatan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23 NIV). The gentle reminder He sent to His mother, and to all of us, was: “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

REFERENCES

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6. Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/mark-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
7. Gill, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/mark.html. 1999.
8. Beza, Theodore. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The 1599 Geneva Study Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/mark-3.html. 1599-1645.
9. Lightfoot, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/mark-3.html. 1675.
10. Johnson, Barton W. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “People’s New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/mark-3.html. 1891.
11. Robertson, A.T. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/mark-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960
12. Vincent, Marvin R. DD. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/mark-3.html. Charles Schribner’s Sons. New York, USA
13. Wesley, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/mark-3.html. 1765.
14. J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “The Fourfold Gospel”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/mark-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.
15. Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Abbott’s Illustrated New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/mark-3.html. 1878.
16. Trapp, John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/mark-3.html. 1865-1868.
17. Coke, Thomas. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/mark-3.html. 1801-1803
18. Alford, Henry. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/mark-3.html. 1863-1878.
19. Bengel, Johann Albrecht. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Johann Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/mark-3.html. 1897
20. MacLaren, Alexander. “Commentary on Mark 3”. Alexander MacLaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/mark-3.html.
21. Edwards, Justin. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Family Bible New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/mark-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.
22. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/mark-3.html. 1896.
23. Whedon, Daniel. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/mark-3.html. 1874-1909.
24. Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/mark-3.html. 2013.
25. Schaff, Philip. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/mark-3.html. 1879-90.
26. Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. “Commentary on Mark 3”. The Expositor’s Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/mark-3.html. 1897-1910.
27. Ellicott, Charles John. “Commentary on Mark 3”. “Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/mark-3.html. 1905.
28. Howard Marshall, Theology 67 (1964): 65-67; R. Simpson. Blasphemy and the Law in a Plural Society.
29. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g987
30. The Book of the Prophet Jonah https://biblescripture.net/Jonah.html
31. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/12-43.htm
32. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/11-27.htm

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

* Even those Jesus had grown up with, His own family, could not understand His life and ministry, and concluded that He had lost His senses and needed to be protected from Himself. Often His disciples are misunderstood by those close to them, family and church. Describe a time when you have been misunderstood as you followed Jesus, or when you had misunderstood someone else and only later realised that they had been obeying God in what they were doing.
* In 1st Century Jewish culture there were strong family expectations and it was very difficult to do things differently. Such was considered to be bringing shame onto your family. How does that compare to your culture?
* What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ relatives attempt to forcefully bring Him under their control?
* What roles did women play in Jesus’ ministry?
* What do we learn about deliverance from these passages?
* What do your people need to learn from Jesus’ teachings in this portion of scripture?
* How do people in your culture speak a blessing over someone?
* What did your people learn from Jesus’ response to the woman’s blessing?
* What does it mean to do the will of our Father in heaven?