Keys, Suffering & Glory

Please read Matthew 16:19-17:13, Mark 8:31-9:13
& Luke 9:22-36

Yeshua’s new community, the ecclesia, was to be built on Him as the chief cornerstone and on people such as Simon bar Jonah who put their trust in Him. The Jewish community had also been built on people: the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whom God re-named Israel), and Israel’s 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes. It was built on the covenant God made with Abraham. After setting them free from Egyptian slavery God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and the Jewish community was built on the one God used to deliver them, Moses, and his God inspired writings: the Torah.

Before the Babylonian exile, Torah (Jewish Law) was interpreted and administered by the priests and Levites (Deut. 17:9, 18; 31:9; 33:10; Jer. 18:18; Mal. 2:7; II Chron. 19:8, 11; 31:4). By the time of Messiah, the rabbis – who were Pharisees and Sadducees had taken over this role. The pharisees claimed to have received the true interpretation of Torah as “the traditions of the Elders” in direct line from Moses. They formed the courts of justice in every town as well as the high court of justice, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem. They decreed how the people were to carry out Torah and what punishments were issued for failing to obey their edicts.

The power of these rabbis was threefold:
(1) to amplify the Torah by prohibitory statutes for the prevention of transgressions (“gezerot“) or by mandatory statutes for the improvement of the moral or religious life of the people (“taḳḳanot“), and by the introduction of new rites and customs (“minhagim“);
(2) to expound the Torah according to certain rules of hermeneutics, and thereby evolve new statutes as implied in the letter of the Law; and, finally,
(3) to impart additional instruction based upon tradition.

So, it was significant that on their way to this place Yeshua had warned His disciples to beware of (guard themselves against) the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11-12), many of their interpretations on how God’s people should live were not what He intended when giving Torah to Moses.

Now a new community was to be built, Yeshua’s ekklesia. In referring to building His ekklesia on “this rock“, Yeshua was also alluding to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24) “Everyone therefore who hears these words of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. “Hears these words and does them” is a good description of “Shema” and relates to Yeshua‘s words to Simon : “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17).

Keys

I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 
Then He warned the talmidim
(disciples) not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. Matthew 16: 19-20 CJB

Continuing to speak to the apostle Simon Bar Jonah, Yeshua stated: “I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven...” Notice the future tense of this verse. For now, Yeshua was with them to continue to teach and guide them, but the time was getting closer when He would no longer be physically with them and they would need to disciple others as He had been discipling them. He was preparing them for this. At that time, when He was risen and seated at the right hand of the Father, He was going to give Simon Bar Jonah the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (we will see later that these were not going to be given exclusively to Simon but would also be given to the other apostles).

This resonated with Isaiah 22:21b-22 “I will hand your authority over to him, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder; When he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.”

Keys were symbolic of authority. When a Jewish man was admitted to the esteemed office of scribe he was given a key to symbolise having the authority to “open the treasury of the divine oracles“. Scribes were the official scholars of the oral and written Torah and the instructors and interpreters of it (Mark 1:22). During the second temple period most scribes were from the sect of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:38). In their rejection of Yeshua as messiah and Son of God, Israel’s scribes had proven themselves unfit for this role in the Kingdom of Heaven (Woe to you experts in the law! For you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering. Luke 11:52; Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter. Matthew 23:13) They used their keys (their spiritual authority in the community) to shut people out, rather than to open the doors of the Kingdom. Simon Bar Jonah was thus in preparation for being “admitted to the office of scribe” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeshua was going to give him (and the other disciples) authority to teach the truths of the Kingdom to all peoples:

Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20 

With the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven came the authority to bind and release. This is a Rabbinical term for “forbidding and permitting.” Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2) wrote: The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit who they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind. The various schools of Pharisees claimed the authority to bind (forbid) and to loose (permit) – Talmud: Ta’anit 12a. The Jews believed that this power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age and in the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the heavenly court as confirmed by the divine voice (Sifra, Emor, ix; Talmud: Makkot 23b).

Notice that the binding and loosing that Yeshua authorised here was dependent on Shema (listening, hearing, understanding and responding appropriately to what the Father is saying – just like Simon Bar Jonah had done in his declaration that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of the living God). Yeshua addresses all His talmidim in Matthew 18:18:

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 AMP

By these words Yeshua invested His talmidim with the same authority as that which was claimed by the Scribes and Pharisees who were misusing it to “bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:2-4). In these commissioning passages (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18), the context is church discipline. The apostles are given the authority to both restrict and permit anything as led by the Holy Spirit in agreement with the Scriptures.  Yeshua was directing His followers to establish His halakhah הֲלָכָה (the Way / the path that one walks) in His ekklesia (community of called out ones) “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of blindly following the Jewish religious laws established by the Pharisees whose teachings He had warned them to guard themselves against (Matthew 16:12).

What you shema has been bound (forbidden) in heaven you bind (forbid) on earth. What you shema has been released (permitted) in heaven you release (permit) on earth. Live and govern as Yeshua did on earth:

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them,Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19 NASB.

In the book of Acts we see the practical outworking of this – first in Peter’s actions and then in the actions of other leaders in the early church.

  • Peter set in motion the permitting of another to join the ranks of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26).
  • Peter loosed the crowd to receive salvation through his preaching (Acts 2:14-39).
  • Peter loosed the lame man from his infirmity (Acts 3).
  • Peter and John refused to be bound by the ruling of the Sanhedrin that they not speak or teach in the name of Jesus and instead declared their judgment (as heard from God) that they had to continue to testify about Jesus (Acts 4).
  • Peter forbade lying to the Holy Spirit and the power of God executed the Father’s judgment on such (Acts 5:1-11).
  • The twelve loosed seven men, chosen by the people, to take charge of meeting the needs of the widows (Acts 6:1-6).
  • Philip loosed the Samaritans to receive salvation, Peter bound (forbade) offering money for the power of God, and Philip loosed (allowed) the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptised (Acts 8).
  • Peter, in response to a vision from heaven, loosed the gentiles of Cornelius’ household to be baptised (Acts 10).
  • The Jerusalem Council, consisting of both apostles and elders, jointly considered what to bind (forbid) and loose (allow) for the gentiles who had come to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 15). While Peter played an important part in this meeting he did not dictate the outcome, nor have the final say, rather it was James who articulated the growing consensus in the room which was reflected in the letter they wrote “… being assembled with one accord… it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things (ie to only bind you in)”.

Then he warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:20 CJB

He commanded them that they should tell no one about Him. Mark 8:30 AMP

But He warned them, and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, ad the third day be raised up.” Luke 9:21-22 AMP

With this simple command Yeshua brought them back to the present. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and binding and loosing, were all to come, although they had tasted something of this authority when Yeshua had sent them out to preach the Kingdom. He had promised them, but for now He was with them and would have to suffer and die before the fulfilment of these future promises. Yeshua was increasingly preparing His apostles for the time when they would lead His community of called out ones, but that time was not yet.

Suffering

From that time on, Yeshua began making it clear to his talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim (chief-priest) and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life.
Kefa
(Peter) took Him aside and began rebuking Him, “Heaven be merciful, Lord! By no means will this happen to you!”
But Yeshua turned His back on Kefa, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path, because your thinking is from a human perspective, not from God’s perspective!”
Matthew 16:21-23 CJB

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must [of necessity] suffer many things and be rejected [as the Messiah] by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and must be put to death, and after three days rise [from death to life]. He was stating the matter plainly [not holding anything back].
Then Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him. 
But turning around [with His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for your mind is not set on God’s will or His values and purposes, but on what pleases man.” Mark 8:31-33 AMP

And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one,  saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Luke 9:21-22 NKJV

Yeshua’s second year of ministry was coming to a close. “From that time on“, now that they were well grounded in the reality that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God, He was telling them plainly what was going to take place in just a few months’ time. This revelation of His impending suffering and death, however, sounded so strange and horrible to them that their minds could not shema this.

Just as Simon Peter had been first to respond to “who do you say that I am, so he was first to respond to these hated words the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed“. His response demonstrated why Yeshua had spoken in the future tense when talking about giving him the authority to bind and loose, to forbid and permit. What Peter was trying to do in forbidding Yeshua’s suffering and death was an illegitimate use of that authority which he had not yet received, it was contrary to the Father’s will and contrary to what was being revealed from heaven through Yeshua’s words. The authority that Yeshua had been talking about giving Peter was not to be used to exert his own will, but the Father’s will on earth. It was a poignant lesson.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessed life in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory (majesty, splendour) of His Father with His angels, and then He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27 AMP

Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34 – 38 NIV

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-27 NIV

Glory

Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in (into) His kingdom.
And six days after this, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. Matthew 16:28-17:1 AMP

And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. Mark 9:1-2 NIV

“But I tell you truthfully, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”  
About eight days after Jesus had said these things, He took with Him Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray.
Luke 9:27-28 BSB

Yeshua promised that some of His talmidim there with Him in Caesarea Philippi would see the Kingdom of God in this life. After this He took them away from the crowds for 6 days of spiritual preparation. On the seventh day Yeshua took some of them, three of them as chosen by His Father, up into the hill country and ascended a high mountain to witness a fulfilment of His promise that they would see.

This “high mountain” that we call the Mount of Transfiguration is never identified in Scripture. Yeshua came from Caesarea Philippi and would be going to Capernaum, but we don’t know if He took His talmidim to a mountain north-east or south-west from those places. There are two sites that have most often been proposed as the mountain that Yeshua ascended with Peter, James and John – the nearby Mount Hermon, tallest mountain in Israel, and the distant Mount Tabor. Both are mentioned in Psalm 89:12, which is part of the liturgy for the Orthodox celebration of the transfiguration: “You have created the north and the south. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.

Matthew and Mark emphasise a time period of 6 days after Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in Caesarea Philippi and before their ascent up the mountain. Luke writes it as “about 8 days” – including the day of the conversation and the day of the ascent. Was this emphasis on the intervening time to indicate that they had time to walk the 45 miles (72km) down to Mt Tabor, or do those 6 days have a different significance?  
The 7th day had great significance for Yeshua and the Jewish people. God blessed the 7th day, for He rested on it after creating the heavens and earth (Exodus 31:17). It is out of that place of rest…ceasing from our works that the Lord calls us from within “the cloud.” On the 7th day Moses had been invited up into the cloud of God’s glory, just as Peter, James and John were being invited up to behold God’s glory in Christ on this 7th day.

Mount Tabor, a prominent hill at the eastern end of the Jezreel valley, not far from Nazareth, is where the oldest recorded traditions place Christ’s transfiguration. The earliest recorded pronouncement that we have of Tabor being the Mount of Transfiguration was from Origen in the third century (A.D. 231-54): “Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured” (Comm. in Ps. lxxxviii, 13). The next are in the fourth century, from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech., II, 16) and St. Jerome (Ep. xlvi, ad Marcel.; Ep. viii, ad Paulin.; Ep. cviii, ad Eust.). 

Mount Tabor appears loftier than it actually is in the otherwise flat Jezreel Valley and so commands a place of prominence. Visible all the way to Jerusalem, Mount Tabor was a familiar landmark to Yeshua and the disciples, who would have seen it often during their travels around Galilee.  Jeremiah links Tabor’s prominence with that of Mount Carmel (see map above): “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty, ‘one will come who is like Tabor among the mountains, like Carmel by the sea’” (Jeremiah 46:18). In Judges, Deborah summoned Barak to gather an army at Mount Tabor to battle against and defeat Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army from Hazor (Judges 4:1–24).

Mount Tabor was settled during the First Temple Period (the city of Tabor was given to the Levites). Hosea also identifies Mount Tabor as one of the high places where Israel’s rulers had set up altars for the worship of false gods (Hosea 5:1). Antiochus the Great built a fortress on Mount Tabor in 219 BC, which may have continued to be utilised by the Romans throughout the time of Christ. The New Moon, signalling the beginning of each new Jewish month, was proclaimed by the Sanhedrin after at least two witnesses came to them with the news of the very first sighting of the New Moon. Using a long torch on top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a representative of the Sanhedrin would then light a fire whose flames people watching on nearby hills would see and light their own fires.  Mount Tabor was one of the mountain peaks on which the Jews lit a signal fire announcing each new month.

The likely presence of others living on the summit of Mount Tabor, together with the distances that would need to be travelled have led some to believe that it is an unlikely place for the transfiguration.

Mount Hermon is called Jebel al-Sheikh (“the chieftain mountain“) by the Arabs. This imposing mountain, whose impressive peak is visible from a distance of more than 100km away, was considered to have deep spiritual significance to the various peoples who inhabited the area. The Sidonians called the mountain “Sirion”, and the Amorites called it “Senir” (Deuteronomy 3:9). It was considered to be the sacred mountain on which the council of the gods dwelt, presided over for much of the history of its usage by the Canaanite deity Baal and so called “Baal-Hermon” (compare Judges 3:3, 1 Chronicles 5:23). The name “Hermon” means “sacred, consecrated, dedicated”.  

The Israelites saw Mount Hermon as a place where heaven touched earth. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Grigori (“Watcher“) class of fallen angels descended to Earth and swore upon this mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and then return (Enoch 6), an act corresponding loosely to the description of the Nephilim of Genesis 6, which speaks of a union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” While the Book of Enoch is not scripture, it does give us some insight into beliefs held by the Jewish people around the time of Christ to the extent that early theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, Hilary, Epiphanius and Augustine, referred to and used the book of Enoch, and the book of Jude quotes from Enoch 1:9 in verse 6.

Mount Hermon is a cluster of mountains with three distinct summits, each about the same height. This is an interesting illustration of God’s nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Psalm 133 connects the “dew of Hermon” with the anointing oil and with the blessing of brethren dwelling together in unity. In John 17 Jesus prays that we will be one as He and the Father are one.

Some scholars believe that the six days between Yeshua’s promise that some of them would see the Kingdom of God and the day of His transfiguration refer to a six-day period of spiritual preparation, fasting, and ritual purification before being invited up on the seventh day to behold God’s glory in Christ Jesus. When God gave the Torah, He invited Moses to ascend Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud of glory covered Mount Sinai. On the seventh day, the voice of the LORD called from within the cloud, and Moses went higher up the mountain to enter the cloud and stand in the presence of God.

Moses spoke these words to all Israel: The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to Him you shall listen.  This is in accordance with everything that you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Do not let me hear the voice of the Lord my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!’  And the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well.  I will raise up for them a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them everything that I command Him.  And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which He speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him.’”  Deuteronomy 18:15-19

Now God had sent that Prophet. After six days, Yeshua (the prophet like Moses), and three talmidim, three witnesses for any Jewish court, like the three peaks of Mount Hermon, climbed the high mountain. Like Moses, Yeshua and His talmidim were enveloped in a cloud of glory. Like Moses, they heard the voice of God speaking out of the cloud. Like Moses, Yeshua began to radiate the glory of God. He indeed was the promised Messiah and Son of God.

After six days” is the seventh day. The seventh day was when God rested from creating heaven and earth, it was the day Jews were to keep holy, it also had end-times implications. The words “after six days” may offer an additional hint about Yeshua’s cryptic promise at the end of the previous chapter,The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels …” (Matthew 16:27). For Matthew and his readers, the term “after six days” might have alluded to the seventh millennium – the one-thousand-year rest of creation. The transfiguration allowed the disciples a glimpse of the Son of Man coming in His Father’s glory—the Messiah in the Messianic Age.

And His appearance underwent a change in their presence; and His face shone clear and bright like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, who kept talking with Him.
Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if You approve, I will put up three booths here—one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold, a shining cloud [composed of light] overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, My Beloved, with Whom I am [and have always been] delighted. Listen to Him!”
When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were seized with alarm and struck with fear. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”
And when they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:2-8 AMP

There He was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. Mark 9:2-8 NIV

 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed; and his clothing became gleaming white.  Suddenly there were two men talking with him — Moshe and Eliyahu!  They appeared in glorious splendour and spoke of His exodus, which He was soon to accomplish in Yerushalayim.   
Kefa and those with Him had been sound asleep; but on becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  
As the men were leaving Yeshua, Kefa said to him, not knowing what he was saying, “It’s good that we’re here, Rabbi! Let’s put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.”  
As he spoke, a cloud came and enveloped them. They were frightened as they entered the cloud; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!” 
 When the voice spoke, Yeshua was alone once more.
Luke 9:28-35 CJB

Just as Yeshua had redeemed Caesarea Philippi, with His declaration there of upon this rock, so now – as He was praying – He redeemed Mount Hermon with heavenly visitation. These three talmidim had indeed seen the Kingdom of God come in glorious splendour. Peter would later write about their experience:

For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 2 Peter 1:16-17 BSB

The mountain on which Yahweh dwells in the Hebrew scriptures is known as ‘the mountain of assembly’ because it is not only His dwelling but also the place at which the divine council convenes.  It is the place at which He is enthroned among the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the sons of God, and the rest of the angelic hosts.  This dwelling and the meeting place of the divine council were depicted in the Ancient Near East as taking place in tents.  The tabernacle built by Moses was seen to be an earthly copy of the heavenly sanctuary into which he entered atop Mt. Sinai (Acts 7:38-44; Heb 8:5).  In addition to the uncreated glory of Christ which shines forth, Moses and Elijah, two humans who have joined the divine council, appear and take counsel with Christ on the mountain (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31).  It is this understanding that triggers Simon Peter’s offer to put up three tents, for Christ, Moses and Elijah.  

Luke tells us the topic of Moses’ and Elijah’s conversation with Yeshua:they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” Luke 9:31 NLT. It was to the disciples a most horrible and incomprehensible subject. It was the very subject that Peter had chastised Yeshua for teaching them, which had earnt him the rebuke “get thee behind me Satan...” Yet, here it was in the midst of such a glorious display of the Kingdom of God and with the affirmation of God the father’s voice: This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Then Moses and Elijah (representing the Torah and the Nevi’im – Law and Prophets) also appeared on the mountain with Yeshua.  Elijah’s coming back has a deep eschatological meaning (both in the Hebrew and in the Christian Bibles) on its own, as his presence precedes that of the Messiah, and his “departure” prefigures Yeshua’s: the book of the prophet Malachi says Elijah will be sent back to earth before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.  The presence of Elijah in the Transfiguration reinforces the fulfilling of Malachi’s prophecy that had already been fulfilled with Yohannan the Immerser (John the Baptist), as if sealing it. The presence of these two also brings assurance that we do not cease to exist at death but there is indeed a resurrection of the dead.

 The transfiguration functioned as a heavenly witness to confirm Simon Peter’s declaration, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It also offered a partial fulfilment to the Yeshua’s promise that some would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God, i.e., the King in His glory. The transfiguration was an experience shared by “some” – three witnesses- of those who had stood with Him in Caesarea Philippi when Yeshua declared:
 Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Matthew 16:28
And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Mark 9:1 NIV.

Having three witnesses is significant because the Torah states: “On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed (Deuteronomy 19:15). The disciple Peter later recalled, We were eyewitnesses of His majesty … when we were with Him on the holy mountain(2 Peter 1:16).

And as they were going down the mountain, Jesus cautioned and commanded them, “Do not mention to anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The disciples asked Him, “Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah does come and will get everything restored and ready. But I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know or recognize him, but did to him as they liked. So also the Son of Man is going to be treated and suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:9-13 AMP

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?  But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
Mark 9:9-13 NIV

They kept quiet – at that time they told no one anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:36 CJB

References

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Turnage, Marc. Biblical Israel: Mount Tabor. CBN Israel. [Online] July 13th, 2021. https://cbnisrael.org/2021/07/13/biblical-israel-mount-tabor/.
4. Wheadon, Martin. Mount Tabor: The Importance of Mountains in the Bible. Gants Hill URC. [Online] October 25th, 2019. https://www.gantshillurc.co.uk/ministers-blog/mount-tabor-the-importance-of-mountains-in-the-bible.
5. McCoy, Glan. The Mount of Transfiguration. Forcey Bible Church. [Online] August 7th, 2020. https://www.forcey.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/07_bi_mount_of_transfiguration.pdf.
6. Stiles, Wayne. Mount Tabor – A Panorama of Beauty And Praise. Wayne Stiles. [Online] [Cited: August 29th, 2022.] https://waynestiles.com/blog/mount-tabor-a-panorama-of-beauty-and-praise?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+waynestiles+(Wayne+Stiles+Blog).
7. Young, Dr Stephen De. Tabor and Hermon. An Introduction to Your Bible2019. [Online] August, 5th. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/wholecounsel/2019/08/05/tabor-and-hermon/.
8. [Online] https://biblehub.com/topical/t/tabor.htm.
9. What is the significance of Mount Tabor in the Bible? Got Questions Ministries. [Online] [Cited: September 3rd, 2022.] https://www.gotquestions.org/Mount-Tabor.html.
10. Miller, Dr. Yvette Alt. The Moon: 7 Jewish Facts. Aish. [Online] July 16th, 2019. https://aish.com/the-moon-7-jewish-facts/.
11. After Six Days. Torah Portions. [Online] First Fruits of Zion. [Cited: September 4th, 2022.] https://torahportions.ffoz.org/disciples/matthew/after-six-days.html.

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

*What is the importance of our “shema” ?
* Why do you think Jesus said “I will give you the keys” instead of “I have given you the keys of the Kingdom“?
* What do the “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” represent and how are they to be used?
* Can you think of any examples of when you have exercised the authority of having the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?
* Why did Jesus react so strongly when Peter rebuked Him?
* Has there been a time in your life when Christian friends or family have tried to save you from obeying God because they were looking at things from a human perspective?
* What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus?
* Do you have any mountains near you, and do they have any spiritual significance?
* What impact do you think it had on Peter, James and John to see Jesus transfigured?

Parables

Please read Mathew 13:1-52, Mark 4:1-34 & Luke 8:4-18
and memorise the Parables

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Matthew 13:1-2 NKJV

Again Yeshua began to teach by the lake, but the crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the crowd remained on shore at the water’s edge. Mark 4:1 CJB

Ministering in a house was good for meeting individual needs, but not for teaching the multitude, and multitudes had come to hear Him. That same day Yeshua had returned to His home – probably arriving in the evening, just after the sun set and so at the beginning of a new Jewish day. That same day His relatives had thought He was loosing His senses and set out to bring Him into custody, he’d not even had time for the evening meal. That same day He had delivered the blind and mute man, possibly as the night had worn on. That same day His mother and brothers had sort to see Him. “On the same day” may have been what we in the west would call “the next morning”, as the crowds starting increasing once more, Yeshua went from His house in Capernaum and walked to the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is also called Lake Gennesaret, Lake Tiberias, or Lake Kinnereth. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth, at levels between 215 metres and 209 metres below sea level. This lake is approximately 53 km in circumference, about 21 km long, and 13 km wide. From its southern end the Jordan River (Hebrew: נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּן‎, Nahar ha-Yarden) continues downward through the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley (Hebrew: בִּקְעָת הַיַרְדֵּן‎ Bik’at HaYarden) is an elongated geological trough, nestled between mountain ranges to the west and to the east, that runs some 105 km (65 miles) from the Sea of Galilee, if measured “as the crow flies”, with a width averaging 10 km (6.2 mile) with some points narrowing to 4 km (2.5 mile), before widening out to a 20 km (12 mile) delta when reaching the mineral-rich Dead Sea, the lowest lake on Earth. Due to meandering, the length of the Jordan River itself is 220 km (140 mi). This is the valley with the lowest elevation in the world, beginning at −212 m (−696 ft) below sea level (BSL) and descending to the surface of the Dead Sea, which is approximately 1,385 feet (408m) below sea level. As the lowest place on earth, the Jordan valley has a unique climate that can produce fruits and vegetables year-round.

The crowds followed in this low place. Now was the time to teach them. Yeshua got into a boat and sat as one did to teach in the synagogue. The crowd hushed, eager to listen to His words. Yet, those words revealed that He knew most of them would not produce the fruit of His teaching.

The Parable of the Sower

This is the first occurrence of the word “Parable” in St. Matthew’s Gospel, and it is clear from the question of the disciples in Matthew 13:10 that it was in some sense a new form of teaching to them. There had been illustrations before, as in that of the houses built on the sand and on the rock in Matthew 7:24-27, but now for the first time He speaks to the multitude in a parable, without an explanation. Not all of the parables Yeshua spoke are recorded for us, but this first parable was particularly significant, and so recorded in all three synoptic gospels. The only other parable thus presented in all three, Matthew, Mark and Luke, is the Parable of the Vine-dressers, one of the last spoken.

Illustration is an example used to explain or prove something. “By way of illustration” = to show the meaning more clearly.

Parable is from the Greek παραβολαῖς, parabolḗ, which comes from pará, “close beside, withand bállō, “to cast“. παραβολαῖς, parabolḗ had been employed by the Greek translators of the Old Testament for the Hebrew word מִשְלֵי, Míshlê, which we commonly render by “proverb,” and which, like the Greek parabole, has the sense of similitude. Eastern proverbs were usually condensed parables, and parables were expanded proverbs. In the later and New Testament use of the word, however, the parable takes the fuller form of a narrative embracing facts natural and probable in themselves. A parable is a teaching aid cast alongside the truth being taught: “to put one thing by the side of another for the sake of comparison, to compare, liken“. Jesus’ parables cast additional light by using an arresting or familiar analogy. A Parable is a pictorial or narrative exhibition of some spiritual or moral truth, by means of actual and not fanciful elements of comparison.

Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story that features animals,  legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are anthropomorphized, and that illustrates or leads to a particular moral  lesson (a “moral“), which may at the end be added explicitly as a concise  maxim or saying. Judges 9:1-15 contains a fable about trees choosing a king to rule over them that Jotham, Gideon’s son, spoke to the people of Shechem.

Allegory is a simple story that represents a larger point about society or human nature, whose different characters may represent real-life figures. It may have meaning on two or more levels that the reader can understand only through an interpretive process. The Song of Solomon is an allegory. Yeshua used allegories such as those of the vine and the good shepherd.

Yeshua spoke in illustrations, allegories and parables, not fables – His teachings moved solely within the bounds of the people’s lived experiences and used these to illustrate deeper truths. He never used animals, plants, inanimate objects, imaginary beings and forces of nature as actors that assume speech or other powers of humankind. The mode of teaching by parables was familiar enough in the schools of the Rabbis, and the Talmud contains many of great beauty and interest. As used by the Pharisees and Torah Teachers, however, they were regarded as belonging to those who were receiving a higher education, and the son of Sirach was expressing the current feeling of the rabbinical schools when he said of the tillers of the soil and the herdsmen of flocks that they “were not found where parables were spoken” (Ecclesiasticus 38:33). Yeshua had gone down to the low point of the head of the Jordan valley, the Sea of Galilee, to share parables with all the people during this time when seeds were being sown.

It was now the winter wet season. The fields had been ploughed, the fallow ground broken up. The first rains had come, refreshing the soil. Now it was time for the grain planting throughout the Galilee region.

Yeshua taught the people in parables, using stories of the things they knew to be true in order to illustrate principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. Many of the crowd who had gathered from all over Galilee to listen to this rabbi had walked through fields that were being prepared and sown. The image was fresh in their minds.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” . Matthew 13:3-9 NKJV

He taught them many things in parables. In the course of his teaching, he said to them:  “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he sowed, some seed fell alongside the path; and the birds came and ate it up.  Other seed fell on rocky patches where there was not much soil. It sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow;  but when the sun rose, the young plants were scorched; and since their roots were not deep, they dried up.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked it; so that it yielded no grain.  But other seed fell into rich soil and produced grain; it sprouted, and grew, and yielded a crop — thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown.” And he concluded, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!” Mark 4:2-9 CJB

After a large crowd had gathered from the people who kept coming to him from town after town, Yeshua told this parable:  “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was stepped on, and the birds flying around ate it up.  Some fell on rock; and after it sprouted, it dried up from lack of moisture.  Some fell in the midst of thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.  But some fell into rich soil, and grew, and produced a hundred times as much as had been sown.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!”
Luke 8:4-8 CJB

The Parable of the Sower is identical in structure and in teaching in the three synoptic gospels, which shows that they were relating the same story. It differs, however, in detail; we thus gather that the three did not copy from one primitive document as some suppose, but that these memories were derived either from their own recollections (Matthew), or at least from different sources (Mark and Luke). The fourth gospel continues to remain silent on this season of Yeshua’s ministry in Galilee.

Mark introduces the parable thus, ἀκούωakouō – meaning hearken! / behold! / listen! / pay attention so as to understand! He thus emphasised that what was about to be spoken was a matter of great importance and concern that deserves our most diligent attention. By “the sower” is meant “the son of man“, as may be learnt from the explanation of another parable (Matthew 13:37), which is Yeshua Himself, who is often so called on account of his human nature. “His seed“; refers to the Gospel, of which He is the author, publisher, sum and substance; and since He is, by way of eminency, “the sower“; which must be understood of him as a prophet, or preacher of the word, who was eminently sent of God, and richly qualified for such an office, and was most diligent in it, and yet the majority of those who had gathered to hear Him would fail to bear fruit. Despite this apparent lack of success, the Kingdom of God would grow exponentially because those who did bear fruit produced up to a hundred times what had been sown into their lives.

Parable of the Lamp

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?  For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:21-23 NIV

No one who has lit a lamp covers it with a bowl or puts it under a bed; no, he puts it on a stand; so that those coming in may see the light.  For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nothing is covered up that will not be known and come out into the open.”  Luke 8:16-17 CJB

The furniture of a very humble Eastern home is brought before us in this saying. In the original, each of the nouns has the definite article attached to it, and so suggests that in the house there was but one of each article; one lamp; one ‘bowl’- μόδιος módios – a small piece of furniture that was “a sort of tub in the form of a truncated cone whose base is supported by three or four feet and which contains the wheat supply needed for the household“; one bed, raised slightly, but sufficiently to admit the lamp being put under it without danger; and one lampstand.

The saying appeals to common-sense. A woman does not light a lamp and then hide it. The act of lighting implies the purpose of illumination, and, with everybody who acts logically, its sequel is to put the lamp on a stand, where it may be visible. All was part of the nightly routine of every Jewish household.

All that had hitherto been secret, relative to the salvation of a lost world, or only obscurely pointed out by types and sacrifices, shall now be uncovered and made plain by the everlasting Gospel. The doctrine of Yeshua HaMashiach has nothing in it which fears the light; it is itself the light which must enlighten the world. Everything is brought to light sooner or later. The humble person conceals his virtue in this life, but God will disclose it at the day of eternity. The hypocrite attempts to hide his wickedness here, but all shall be exposed in the sight of heaven and earth.

Openness, honesty and accountability. Nothing will stay hidden. Nothing will remain concealed. Nothing will keep being covered up. Satan plays in the darkness, but Yeshua brings all things into the light. Everything will be disclosed, brought out into the open and made known.

Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
Mark 4:24-25 NKJV

Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:18 CJB

Yeshua was encouraging them all to be like the good soil, to take heed and pay careful attention to what they were hearing Him say, to take in and receive that life-giving seed He was planting with His words, to allow it to take root and grow within them. He was urging them not to be like the ground by the wayside that was so hard it did not receive the seed sown and had it all taken away by the birds. He was urging them not to be like the rocky ground whose soil was not deep enough for His word to take root properly and survive the heat of the day, nor like that which was full of thorns choking out His word so that even what they seemed to hear made no difference to how they lived and was “taken away”. How were they hearing? Were they hearing in order for His words to take root and transform their lives, to bring all the hidden things to light, or were they listening just to try to find a way to justify their darkness and refuse to allow His word to take root in their hearts?

Take heed what you hear” can also be an injunction to be careful in choosing what we listen to. Refuse to give ear to anything that is unwholesome. Turn a deaf ear to gossip and the maligning of others. Turn your ears away from all that is ungodly and tune them in to the Word of God.

Parable of the Growing Seed

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29 NKJV

There is something mysterious and miraculous in both how a seed grows in the ground to produce new life and fruitfulness, and how the word of God grows in a person’s heart to produce new life and fruitfulness in the kingdom of God. It is not the farmer who scatters the seed who causes it to grow, but something within the very DNA of the seed itself that produces growth given the right conditions. It is not the one who preaches the word of God, nor is it a matter of how skilled he is in preaching nor how well he is dressed, nor how skilled the musicians are nor how loud the praise and worship music is – but something within the very word of God itself which, given the right conditions within the human heart, grows and produces a great harvest. This growth is not what happens as the word is being preached, but the miraculous work it does in the heart after the preacher has finished preaching, and even while he is sleeping, as the one who heard the word takes heed to what they heard, meditates on it, has their mind renewed by the washing of the word: “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Parable of the Wheat and Tares

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.
’”
Matthew 13:24-30 NIV

A man (in Vs 37-43 Yeshua explains to His talmidim that this man is “the Son of Man”) sowed good seed (children of the Kingdom) in His field (the world – for the whole world is Him). While not all the seed would fall on good soil so not all would be productive, one would expect that everything produced from good seed would be good grain. But that is not the only thing that happened to that field. While everyone was sleeping, without the people being aware, when no one was alert to what was happening, the enemy (Greek = exthros = one who is irreconcilably hostile, animated by deep-seated personal hatred bent on inflicting harm, in Vs 39 Yeshua identifies this enemy as the devil) came and sowed tares (children of the evil one) among the wheat. This enemy carefully chose the type of weed to inflict the most damage to the crop and the farmer – that which looks like the good grain but is not and is indeed poisonous. Tares (Greek = zizania) are very similar in appearance to wheat during their early stages of growth, but even then they taste very different – a young tare is bitter and can cause dizziness if eaten.

The Bearded Darnel, lolium temulentum, was a common tare in Galilee and resembles wheat except that the grains are black. In its early stages it is indistinguishable in appearance from the wheat stalks. Towards the end of their life cycle, when the head of grain forms, the tares become distinguishable and must be separated because at this time they are poisonous and can ruin the harvest. At harvest time – the end of the age -, wheat bends over from the weight of its fruit (grain). Tares, however, remain erect like the head of an arrogant person. At this time the alert farmer separates them – Yeshua sends His angels to remove all who cause others to sin and all evildoers – burning the poisonous tares and reaping the wheat, which shall shine like the sun in the Father’s kingdom.

Parable of the Mustard Seed

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31-32 NIV

Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it?  It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth;  but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
Mark 4:30-32 NKJV

The mustard tree has been grown and written about by various cultures for centuries. The Talmud mentions a mustard-tree so large that a man might with ease sit in it; and another, one of whose branches covered a tent. Mustard trees have been found throughout the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. The seeds are one of the smallest in the world and considered a spice in many parts of the world, making its way along trading routes during history. The mustard tree is classified by horticulturalists as an evergreen shrub. It reaches a height of 7m (21 feet) and can be as wide as it is tall with low branches being very close to the ground. The leaves are oval; starting out as dark green and progressing to a light green as the tree ages. The flower is green or yellow and is found in long tendrils. The fruit of the tree is purple with pink or purple seeds. Persia is where mustard trees originated and they  grow best in hot, arid climates, and especially in the rich of the Jordan valley. They sometimes grew to a great height on the banks of the Jordan. 

Mustard trees have a variety of uses. Toothbrushes are made from the branches in rural communities because they contain properties that resist bacteria and plaque. The fruit is eaten for nutrition as well as the seeds; the Punjab region uses the fruit as a dried sweet similar to currants. Mustard trees are also used for shading because of the low branches. Animals can feed on the tree shoots. The different types of mustard trees produce varying seeds. The white mustard tree produces a round seed that is used for mild flavouring and pickling. The black mustard tree also produces hard round seeds; these seeds are more spicy compared to white mustard seeds. Brown mustard trees produce seeds similar to black mustard trees but the seeds have less flavour and is often used in fried foods. Seeds from these trees can also be crushed and used as a spice.

Yeshua was planting the kingdom of heaven in His garden, the Jewish people. This kingdom did not come as a mighty conquering army, but as a tiny seed. He did not demolish Roman or Jewish society, but planted within them the seed of His kingdom that would grow to become larger and more powerful than all – a kingdom of refuge, healing, nurture and shelter for all.

Parable of the Leaven

He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33 NASB

Three can be symbolic of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It can also refer to the whole human race, which consists of three measures, having spread over the earth from the three sons of Noah. The peck here designed, is the Hebrew seah, which held a gallon and an half, and three of these made an ephah; and which is often rendered by the Targumists, (Nyao tlt) , “three specks (ie three pecks)”, the very phrase here used. Genesis 18 contains the first biblical usage of “three seahs of meal.”

And Yahweh appeared to him (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre. And he was sitting in the doorway of the tent at the heat of the day.  And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing near him. And he saw them and ran from the doorway of the tent to meet them. And he bowed down to the ground.  
And he said, “My lord, if I have found favour in your eyes do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest under the tree.  And let me bring a piece of bread, then refresh yourselves.  Afterward you can pass on, once you have passed by with your servant.”
Then they said, “Do so as you have said.”  
Then Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and he said, “Quickly—make three seahs of fine flour for kneading and make bread cakes!
” 
Genesis 18:1-6 LEB

Here, “three seahs of meal” is used in the context of a fellowship meal—giving hospitality, in this case, to God. In Israelite dry measures the smallest unit of measure is an omer. Three omers equal about one seah. There is also the ephah, which is ten omers. Three seahs made up of about three omers equal one ephah. Judges 6:18-19 shows Gideon’s offering to the Lord of an ephah, three seahs, of meal.  I Samuel 1:24 tells of Hannah’s thank offering of one ephah, three seahs of meal. In Ezekiel 45:24 and 46:5, 7, 11 an ephah, three seahs ,of meal is the offerings given at the Feast during the Millennium.

While the Israelites were to totally remove all leaven from their homes in the lead up to the feast of unleavened bread, and no leaven or honey was to be used in any offering that was made by fire to the Lord, there were offerings which the Israelites were to wave before God then eat in fellowship with one another and these were to be of leavened bread:

No grain offering, which you bring to the Lord, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the Lord. Leviticus 2:11

With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. Leviticus 7:13

‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord. The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the Lord; they are to be holy to the Lord for the priest. 
Leviticus 23:15-17, 20 NASB

The woman, as any woman would, hid the leaven in the flour as she kneaded it. For leaven is of no use sitting up on top of the loaf for all to see – it cannot do it’s work of raising the whole loaf from that position. It is only when it is hidden, mingled in with all the flour and distributed throughout the loaf, that it can raise and aerate the bread.

Parables Explained

Then the talmidim came and asked Yeshua, “Why are you speaking to them in parables?” He answered, “Because it has been given to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it has not been given to them. For anyone who has something will be given more, so that he will have plenty; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away. Here is why I speak to them in parables: they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.  That is, in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah) which says,
‘You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive, because the heart of this people has become dull — with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed,
so as not to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do t’shuvah (turn to Me / repent), so that I could heal them.’
But you, how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear! Yes indeed! I tell you that many a prophet and many a tzaddik longed to see the things you are seeing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.
Matthew 13:10-17 CJB

All these things Yeshua said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without using a parable.  This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet,
I will open my mouth in parables, I will say what has been hidden since the creation of the universe. Matthew 13:34-35 CJB

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
Psalm 78:1-4 NASB

His talmidim asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God; but the rest are taught in parables, so that they may look but not see, and listen but not understand (Isaiah 6:9). Luke 8:9-10 CJB

And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them.
And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
Mark 4:33-34 NKJV

The words “he said nothing to them without using a parable” are, of course, limited by the context to this occasion. All of Yeshua‘s teachings to the multitude this day, from this boat on the Sea of Galilee, were in parables. It is also noticeable from this time forward that parables are the dominant element in Yeshua’s teaching to the multitude, and that the mysteries of the kingdom are reserved for the more esoteric instruction of the disciples.

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him… Matthew 13:36 AMP

From the boat in the amphitheatre of the Galilee basin Yeshua projected His voice for all the multitude to hear these parables. They could easily remember and relate to the scenes He portrayed, and ponder on His meaning. After He had finished teaching the multitudes, Yeshua retired again to His house in Capernaum with just His talmidim – men and women who had left everything to sit at His feet to learn of Him; “With Him were the Twelve, and a number of women” (Luke 8:1-2). The first explained parable we have recorded is that of the sower:

Listen then to the [meaning of the] parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom [regarding salvation] and does not understand and  grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 
Matthew 13:18-19 AMP

And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. Mark 4:13-15 NKJV

“The parable is this: the seed is God’s message.   The ones along the path are those who hear, but then the Adversary comes and takes the message out of their hearts, in order to keep them from being saved by trusting it.
Luke 8:11-12 CJB

The one on whom seed was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and at once welcomes it with joy;  yet he has no  [substantial] root in himself, but is only temporary, and when pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles and falls away [abandoning the One who is the source of salvation].
Matthew 13:20-21 AMP

These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.
Mark 4:16-17 NKJV

The ones on rock are those who, when they hear the word, accept it with joy; but these have no root — they go on trusting for awhile; but when a time of testing comes, they apostatize. Luke 8:13 CJB

And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit. Matthew 13:22 AMP

Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word,  and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  Mark 4:18-19 NKJV

As for what fell in the midst of thorns these are the ones who hear; but as they go along, worries and wealth and life’s gratifications crowd in and choke them, so that their fruit never matures.  Luke 8:14 CJB

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands and grasps it; he indeed bears fruit and yields, some a hundred times [as much as was sown], some sixty [times as much], and some thirty.” Matthew 13:23 AMP

But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word,  accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
Mark 4:20 NKJV

But what fell in rich soil — these are the ones who, when they hear the message, hold onto it with a good, receptive heart; and by persevering, they bring forth a harvest. Luke 8:15 CJB

As the afternoon wore on, Yeshua continued teaching His disciples, and answering their questions. Yeshua did not shy away from declaring the coming judgment, and describing it in vivid terms:

His disciples came to Him saying, “Explain [clearly] to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,  and the field is the world; and [as for] the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the weeds are the sons of the evil one;   and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.  
So just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend [those things by which people are led into sin], and all who practice evil [leading others into sin],  and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping [over sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [over distress and anger].  Then the righteous [those who seek the will of God] will shine forth [radiating the new life] like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears [to hear], let him hear and heed My words.
Matthew 13:36-43 AMP

Parables for His Talmidim

Yeshua continued with His teaching of this smaller group who walked with Him, affirming their decision to give up all for the sake of the kingdom of heaven…

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.  

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.  

Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

What terrific strength of language—the “casting” or “flinging” expressive of indignation, abhorrence, contempt (compare Ps 9:17; Da 12:2): “the furnace of fire” denoting the fierceness of the torment: the “wailing” signifying the anguish this causes; while the “gnashing of teeth” is a graphic way of expressing the despair in which its remedilessness issues (see Mt 8:12)! Yeshua deemed this warning so important that He repeated it (Vs 42 & 50).

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.” 

And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”  Matthew 13:44-52 NABRE

When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
Matthew 13:53 NABRE

REFERENCES

1.https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-3.htm
2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/matthew-13-3.html
3. https://www.studylight.org/commentary/mark/4-2.html
4. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/4-9.htm
5. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/8-4.htm
6. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/4-21.htm
7. https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/kingdom-god-mustard-seed.html
8. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/4-30.htm
9. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-31.htm
10. https://www.gardenguides.com/124943-mustard-tree.html
11. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-33.htm
12. https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/3589/Three-Measures-of-Meal-.htm
13. https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Leaven
14. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-34.htm
15. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/13-42.htm
16. HELPS Ministries, The Discovery Bible. https://thediscoverybible.com/

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

* Are there any cultural differences between the farmer sowing his seeds in Jesus’ parable and methods of farming or types of crops in your region?
* What does the parable of the sower teach your people?
* What lighting do you have for houses in your region or in other areas where you minister?
* What does the parable of the lamp teach your people?
* What does the parable of the growing seed teach your people?
* What weeds do your farmers have to deal with, are there any which look like the good plants they are trying to grow? What methods work best in your area for destroying the weeks while saving the good plants?
* What does the parable of the parable of the wheat and tares teach your people?
* Do you have mustard seeds and trees in your area, how well do they grow where you live? If not, do you have another large, useful plant that grows from a tiny seed?
* What does the parable of the mustard seed teach your people?
* What does the parable of the leaven teach your people?
* What are the most important lessons for your people from these parables?
* Write a parable that teaches your people one of the spiritual truths that Jesus taught by relating it to something in everyday life in your country.

The Beatitudes (blessings)

Please read Matthew 4:23 – 5:12

When day had come, he left and went away to a lonely spot. The people looked for him, came to him and would have kept him from leaving them.  But he said to them, “I must announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the other towns too — this is why I was sent.”   Luke 4:42-43 CJB

So he travelled all through the Galil, preaching in their synagogues and expelling demons. Mark 1:39 CJB

The news spread quickly, and people came from everywhere to hear Yeshua speak, and to be healed by Him.   Soon there was not just Andrew, Šimʻôn, James and Yochanan (John) following Yeshua and listening to His every word, there were multitudes.  Philip, from nearby Bethsaida, and Natan’el, from Cana, were likely quickly among them, eager to keep following the Lamb of God whom Yochanan the Immerser had introduced them to.   We know from Acts 1:21-23 that Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthiah were also among them. 

The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them.   Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.  Matthew 4:24-25 NASB

Although much of Yeshua’s earliest ministry had been in Jerusalem and Judea for the feasts, it was now predominantly in the norther region, in Galilee.   It appears that the author of the fourth gospel was either unaware of the new developments in Galilee, or unable to leave his responsibilities in Jerusalem at this time to join the multitudes, as this ‘John’ does not provide witness to any of this in his gospel account. On the other hand, Matthew the tax collector appears to have left his booth and followed the crowds to hear what this new teacher had to say – for he gives us a carefully compiled account of the full days’ teaching. Being a tax collector, Matthew would have been shunned in the synagogue, but there was no one policing who came up this mountain to listen to Yeshua. It had a profound impact on this outcast from Jewish religious society.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying…  Matthew 5:1-2 NASB

Large crowds in towns and cities attract attention, sometimes the unwanted attention of Roman soldiers. Yeshua led His group away to the safety of a more isolated place. Here, on this unknown mountain, probably just outside Capernaum where Matthew collected taxes, the people could relax and focus on what Yeshua was saying. Just as Moses had given the Israelites God’s laws for living as His chosen people on earth, so now Yeshua was going to explain to the people how to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first part of the lesson was a very practical one – get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and take time out to commune with Him.

Yeshua sat to teach the people on the mountain, just as He did to teach them in the synagogue (Luke 4:20). “He sat as a refiner and His word was as a fire.“(C. H. Spurgeon). Yeshua had chosen the place for this teaching. Once He came to the perfect spot He sat down, and those following Him gathered around to hear what He would say. Yeshua spoke with an uncommon authority, He sat as a king decreeing the laws of His Kingdom, a kingdom so unlike any other they had ever known.

As the crows eagerly watched Him, Yeshua opened His mouth and began teaching them. The topography of the region around the Sea of Galilee allowed His voice to travel well as He opened his mouth to project it out to the crowd. Spurgeon wrote: “Jesus Christ spoke like a man in earnest; he enunciated clearly, and spoke loudly. He lifted up his voice like a trumpet, and published salvation far and wide, like a man who had something to say which he desired his audience to hear and feel.” God had spoken to His people through the prophets in times past, now He opened His mouth and spoke to them directly through His Son.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son… Hebrews 1:1-2a NIV

What Yeshua had to say goes straight to how we live every moment of our lives. Judaism had always been as much about how one lived their life as about what one believed – the two were inseparable. Belief manifests itself in attitudes and actions, in a total way of life. Yeshua’s words deconstruct our habits and ways of being and reform them into His likeness – they teach us what it is to be His disciple. Importantly, Yeshua‘s words were meant to be memorised and serve as a source of constant meditation.

Talmidim (disciples) were to memorise the words of their rabbi, meditate on those words, discuss those words, live out those words, and then teach others those words – that was the task of a disciple. (1)

Memorisation was essential to all first centenary Jewish education. With manuscripts being expensive, and having to be written by hand, most did not have direct access to them, so learning was dependent on being able to memorise large portions of scripture and children were expected to memorise the whole Torah through their first five years of schooling. In nations where many cannot read, or afford their own copy of the written word, and in those where persecution robs people of their written copies of the scriptures, returning to the way Yeshua taught His disciples offers opportunity to truly learn from Him. Yeshua made it easy for his first disciples, and for us, to memorise His words by presenting them in a memorable thematic structure with vivid images and poetic language. So, as we go through Yeshua’s verbal teachings, take the time to memorise what He says, and in your sermons teach your people also to memorise the words of our Saviour, recite them to each other, think on them and discuss them through the week, and share them with others.

The Beatitudes

The first section of Yeshua’s teaching is often called “the Beatitudes“, which means “the Blessings”. The Beatitudes were spoken in two sets of four, with the fourth one in each set focusing on righteousness. The first four Beatitudes speak to how we enter the kingdom of heaven – by acknowledging our lack and pain, acknowledging Jesus’ right to reign over us and longing for His righteousness. The second four speak to how we live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven – loyal to His covenant with us, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted because our loyalty has shifted from the world to God. There is nothing in here which is an optional extra if we want to be Jesus’ disciples. Some emphasise this with a play on words, the “beatitudes” giving the believer our “be – attitudes” – the “attitudes” we should “be.” We have no part in Jesus, or in His kingdom, if we are not committed to His ways.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.


Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
” Matthew 5:3-12

Each statement begins with the word “Blessed“. This comes from the Greek μακάριος, makarios, which describes the enviable position of being in receipt of God’s grace, provision and benefits. It expresses the life-joy and satisfaction of the person who experiences God’s favour and salvation. Shaking itself loose from all thoughts of outward good, makarios becomes the express symbol of a joyous fulfilment identified with pure character in receipt of God literally extending Himself.

The first reward, or state of blessedness, that Yeshua offers us is the kingdom of heaven. Yochanan the Immerser had preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) After Yeshua heard that Yochanan had been imprisoned He began to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) Now He describes the state of those who will become citizens of the kingdom of heaven, those whom God will extend it to: the “poor in spirit“.

The Greek noun πτωξοςptochos – translated “poor” in this beatitude means literally: “one who is bent over or folded;” metaphorically “one utterly destitute.” The one who is ptochos has nothing and no means to care for themselves nor to give to another, they are totally destitute. “Poor in spirit” is repentant – coming to God recognising that we have no righteousness of our own, we are utterly destitute with regards to the moral strength and character needed to be citizens of heaven, and are totally dependant on His forgiveness and His righteousness.

We need to come to the realization of our own spiritual bankruptcy and tum in total dependence to God if we are to come into His kingdom. The Pharisees were basing their approach to God on their good works and strict Torah obedience, but Yeshua was declaring that was not the way to come to God. We are not good enough in ourselves, nor nearly good enough, nor somewhat good enough, we are utterly destitute when it comes to the righteousness required for the kingdom of heaven. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells...” Romans 7:18a.  “Not what I have, but what I have not, is the first point of contact, between my soul and God.” (Spurgeon)

For the high and exalted One, He who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy says this, “I dwell on the high and holy place, but also with the contrite and humble in spirit. In order to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite [overcome with sorrow for sin].” Isaiah 57:15 AMP

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:1-3 NIV

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6 NIV

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one..”… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:10, 23-24 NIV

The acknowledged owners of nothing shall be the recipients of everything.

Blessed are the poor in spirit – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are the repentant who recognise their own sinfulness and inability to save themselves – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The next reward, or state of blessedness, that Yeshua offers us is comfort. The Greek verb translated comfort, παρακαλέω parakaléō, comes from para, meaning “from close beside”, and kaléō, meaning “to call”. To be comforted is to be called near, to have God come to our side, as He describes in Isaiah 57:15 which we read above. It is not just an emotional comfort that Yeshua is offering us here, although that is an essential part of His offer. Parakaléō also has legal overtones – He is offering to be our advocate before the throne of God, as well as One coming close beside with emotional comfort.

My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik (Righteous One), who pleads our cause with the Father. Also, He is the kapparah (atonement) for our sins… 1 John 2:1-2a CJB

Mourning is the pre-requisite for this life-giving comfort. The Greek verb πτωξος pentheo, means deep grief or intense sorrow, openly manifested by weeping audibly. This speaks of the most intense human emotional pain and suffering. It can be anguish over the personal losses we experience in life, or anguish felt within the spirit of man for the state of his own soul held captive in sin and death, or for the state of a lost sinful world. Those who mourn experience a closeness with Yeshua, the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), as they partake in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). Intense pain is intense pain, and Yeshua makes no distinction here as to the cause of our deep grief and intense sorrow. All who mourn, all who suffer from deep grief and intense sorrow, all who choose not to hide from that pain or deflect it onto others, all who are willing to experience the agonies of truly loving in this world, all who mourn will be comforted.

The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me, because Adonai has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; to proclaim the year of the favour of Adonai and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” Isaiah 61:1-2 CJB

Blessed are those who mourn – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are those who do not try to hide from their pain but agonise in overwhelming grief and sorrow – for God Himself shall draw near and they shall be comforted.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 KJV

Next Yeshua offers the state of blessedness of inheriting the earth. The Greek noun, γῆ gê, refers to the physical earth, to land, country, soil. Many indigenous people groups understand such a blessing, for they are closely tied to their land, even as the Jews were closely tied to their land.

It appeared as though the Romans, with their brute force, were inheriting the earth – conquering one people’s land after another. Their whole lives these people had witnessed Rome fulfilling Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast:

After this, I looked in the night visions; and there before me was a fourth animal, dreadful, horrible, extremely strong, and with great iron teeth. It devoured, crushed and stamped its feet on what was left. Daniel 7:7a CJB

But Yeshua assures the people that this is not the end of the story. Despite the fact that all of history shouts that it is the brutes, the devious schemers, the warlords, who inherit the earth, yet still all of Daniel’s vision shall come to pass:

“As I watched, thrones were set in place; and the Ancient One took his seat. His clothing was white as snow, the hair on his head was like pure wool. His throne was fiery flames, with wheels of burning fire. A stream of fire flowed from his presence; thousands and thousands ministered to him, millions and millions stood before him. Then the court was convened, and the books were opened. … …
“I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence.  To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:9-14 CJB

The promise of messiah was not for the Zealots engaged in gorilla warfare to try to re-take their land, convinced that their acts of bravery and brutality would entice the anointed one to join them and supernaturally defeat the Roman armies and remove all gentiles in a great slaughter. It was not physical violence that would restore the land to Israel or bring God’s kingdom to earth.

Yeshua’s words were not new to Judaism, King David had written:

Don’t be upset by evildoers or envious of those who do wrong, for soon they will wither like grass and fade like the green in the fields. Trust in Adonai, and do good; settle in the land, and feed on faithfulness.  Then you will delight yourself in Adonai, and he will give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to Adonai; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine forth like light, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before Adonai; wait patiently till he comes. Don’t be upset by those whose way succeeds because of their wicked plans. Stop being angry, put aside rage, and don’t be upset — it leads to evil.
For evildoers will be cut off, but those hoping in Adonai will inherit the land. Soon the wicked will be no more; you will look for his place, and he won’t be there. But the meek will inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Psalm 37:1-11 CJB

So, what is it to be meek? The Greek πραΰς, praǜs, is usually translated as ‘meek’ or ‘gentle’. It contains the idea of having power under authority, strength under control. Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us without disputing or resisting, it involves relying on God, rather than our own strength, to defend us against injustice. The meek quietly accept criticism without retaliation or defensiveness. It is humility toward God and toward others. It is having the right or the power to do something but refraining for the benefit of someone else. Most importantly, meekness is acknowledging Christ’s lordship over us, and placing our lives in His hands to do with as He pleases.

In another context, the Greek word praǜs was used to describe a well trained horse that would respond fully, and only, to it’s rider’s command, a horse that was unmoved by everything else happening around it. A praǜs (meek) horse was one that did not demand its own way, one that went wherever the rider wanted to go at the speed the rider wanted to travel, one that you could trust to walk behind, one that did not shy or buck at sudden movements or loud noises, or even at threats like a snake or battle, because it was so yielded to its rider that its only response in every situation was obedience to the will of the rider. The strength of this powerful animal was totally under the control of the slightest whisper of the rider, or movement of their finger. Only such a horse can be trusted in battle.

Blessed are the meek – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to those who totally yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives – for they shall inherit the land.

To be ‘filled‘, some versions translate this as ‘satisfied‘, is to have all that you were longing for. It can also be translated ‘to be made fat’. Righteousness shall not evade those who hunger and thirst for it. We are not called to be content with partial righteousness, or with a little righteousness. A hungry man will not be satisfied with just one grain of rice, nor even with a handful. He will eat, and eat, and eat until he cannot fit any more food in, only then will he be full. If he has eaten in the morning, he will be hungry again before the day is through, and once more eat and eat until there is no more space left in his stomach. The offer here is to be so full of righteousness that there is no room for anything else in our lives. Such fullness is not a once only event, but a continual process of hungering and being filled, hungering and being filled. The moment we cease to hunger and thirst for righteousness we shall cease to be filled, and the resulting emptiness will attract all sorts of other things into our lives.

So, what is righteousness? The original Greek word δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosýnē, comes from dike, which translates as “a judicial verdict”. You will remember that the Greek word translated comfort, parakaléō, also has legal overtones which places Yeshua as our legal advocate before the Father who judges all. The literal translation of dikaiosýnē is “judicial approval”. God is the judge of all, so righteousness is that which has divine approval. It is that which God, as judge over the universe, approves of.

Isaiah calls to the people:

Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no silver come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you weigh out silver for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that your soul may live. Isaiah 55:1-3a

Yeshua calls us to hunger and thirst for both personal righteousness and community righteousness. Personally, we enter into God’s divine approval when we welcome Jesus Christ as our saviour and lord. We are to hunger and thirst for the approval of God which can only come through Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us on the cross. We are also to hunger and thirst for our thoughts, words and actions to be pleasing to God, to be that which He approves of. Since God isn’t about to change and start approving of sin or the works of the flesh, we hunger and thirst for our lives to be brought into line with His will, to walk by the Spirit.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-25

Righteousness produces love and concern for others and their wellbeing. It is not greedy, self seeking or corrupt. We need only look around to see that our world is grieving and groaning, longing to be made right. So many are suffering through injustice, poverty, immorality and the greed of others. It is not God’s righteousness for people to go hungry, that is not what He approves of. It is not God’s righteousness for people to suffer sickness and disease, that is not what He approves of. It is not God’s righteousness for people to be oppressed by the Devil, that is not what He approves of. Yeshua invites us to hunger and thirst, to connect to our deep longings and needs, to grieve and groan with our world, and to call on God to bring justice, peace and wholeness to our world. When we’re surrounded by so much suffering and injustice, it can be easy to become numb or indifferent to the pain around us. But God calls us to long for righteousness so much that we keep crying out to Him for it like a child cries for food or drink when they have none, and we keep living out righteousness in holiness, showing love and kindness to our neighbours.

If we do not desire God’s righteousness, we do not desire Him. If we do not hunger and thirst for righteousness, both in our own actions and in this world, we do not know Him. There is no fellowship with God apart from righteousness.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are those who long, as a desperate necessity, for that which God approves of – for they shall be filled.

Now that we have seen what is needed to enter the kingdom of heaven and be granted citizenship there, we come to the four beatitudes which describe our lives as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. These next attributes are not ones that the natural man is capable of, hence our need for the emptying and longing of the first four beatitudes that bring us to the cross, dependent on receiving God’s righteousness through His grace towards us who are incapable of meriting such. It is only on the basis of God filling us with righteousness, as He promises in the fourth beatitude, that we are able to live the following beatitudes – merciful, pure peacemakers rejoicing even in persecution.

The Cambridge dictionary defines mercy as: kindness shown toward someone whom you have the right or power to punish. While this definition describes an element of mercy, it lacks a crucial component of Biblical mercy, the Greek ἔλεος éleos, being translated from the Hebrew חַסְדֹּֽו׃ , chas·dov, which involves loyalty to God’s covenant with us (The Discovery bible). Biblical mercy is ‘covenant-loyaltymercy‘ or ‘covenant-love-mercy‘, it is an attitude and actions that are founded on God’s covenant with us and are consistent with that covenant. It is the loving loyalty which actively affirms all that is in keeping with God’s covenant, and equally opposes all that is contrary to it. Thus, it is inextricably linked to faith. It is an act of mercy to bring God’s righteousness to a situation.

Psalm 136 is the great mercy psalm as it traces God’s actions in covenant with Israel. Some of those actions might not sound merciful to western ears, like killing the firstborn of Egypt, or drowning their army in the sea, but they were all merciful by God’s standards because they were all in fulfilment of His covenant.

To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever: and brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever: with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever: and made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever: but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: and slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: … … And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever: even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: and hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 136:10-26 KJV

God’s mercy is His covenant with us. That covenant is through Christ Jesus and His blood atoning for our sins. Again we see the graciousness and severity of God’s mercy, for it doesn’t evade His judgment on sin but rather executes that judgment on His Son in our place. God said of the Jewish people:

For I desired mercy (loyalty to My covenant), and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. Hosea 6:6-7 KJV

So, how does loyalty to God’s covenant fit with “kindness shown toward someone whom you have the right or power to punish?” God’s covenant is a covenant of sacrificial love. When God’s people repeatedly broke the covenant they made with Him in Exodus 24, He showed unmerited kindness towards them whom He had the right and power to punish, by sending His Son as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. God’s mercy established a new covenant.

He had promised this back in Jeremiah 31:

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” … … “Behold, the days come”, saith the Lord, “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them”, saith the Lord: “but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days”, saith the Lord, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord’: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them”, saith the Lord: “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:3,31-34 KJV

Yeshua confirmed that He had come to establish a new covenant with us, this is the mercy we obtain from Him:

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20 NIV

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:14-15, NIV

This covenant was for those who deserve God’s punishment, those who were sinners and enemies of God:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Romans 5:8-10 NIV

It is a merciful covenant, but not an unconditional one. We need to remain loyal to our covenant with God:

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:21-23 NIV

Blessed are the merciful, ἐλεήμονες eleēmones, those who act consistently with the revelation of God’s covenant. A believer is being merciful when we forgive another because Christ has forgiven us, regardless of whether the other has done anything to deserve forgiveness or not. Mercy is responding to God’s covenant rather than to the other’s actions or attitudes. When we remain loyal to God’s covenant in all our dealings with others then we receive all the benefits of that covenant, we receive mercy.

Blessed are the merciful – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are those who lovingly live in absolute loyalty to God’s covenant – for they shall receive the mercy of all the benefits of God’s covenant.

The longing to see God, to perceive His presence, to behold His glory, is at the heart of all spiritual practice. Abraham had such an experience with God and Moses did not want to move unless God’s presence would go with them:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Genesis 17:1 NIV

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. … …
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:13-18 NIV

David beautifully depicted the intensity of that longing:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Psalm 63:1-2 NIV

Isaiah saw the Lord and immediately recognised his need to be purified:

I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. …
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah 6:1,5-7 NIV

The Sadducees sought purity to be able to see God and live in His favour through the temple sacrifices. The Pharisees sought purity to be able to see God and live in His favour through strict obedience to all the laws and customs they had built as a fence around the Torah, including all their ceremonial washings and bodily immersions. Yeshua’s audience were well aquatinted with all the ceremonial washings and immersions required by the Pharisees before entering the synagogue or temple to ‘see’ God through the sacrifices, worship or Torah reading. Yeshua here reminds the people that God’s focus is not on how they wash their hands or immerse their bodies, but on the condition of their hearts.

Our perception of God is dimmed and distorted by any impurities that we harbour in our heart. To be pure, καθαροὶ katharos, in heart is to be without mixture, free from contaminants, separated from all the lusts of the flesh, all false concepts of God and all hurts and wounds that distort our perceptions. David prayed:

...give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart… Psalm 86:11-12a

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 AMP

Such purity of heart is not something that we come to God with. It is not something that we can bring about through our own efforts. We come to Him poor in spirit, hurting and mourning, willing to yield completely to Him and hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness, purifies and fills us. That is His covenant with us, His mercy towards us, that we loyally honour out of gratitude for all that He has done for us by guarding our hearts.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful (lying, misleading) mouth, and put devious lips far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage]
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, and all your ways will be steadfast and sure.
Proverbs 4:23-26

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 NIV

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

Blessed are the pure in heart – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are those whose heart is free from all contamination – for they shall see and truly know God.

The previous blessing spoke of our vision of God, our capacity to perceive His presence, His goodness, in our lives. This one speaks of our relationship to God. The Greek word κληθήσονται, klēthēsontai, translates as to be called, invited, chosen. This blessing, this joyous fulfilment as God extends Himself to us, is a calling into the most exalted place. Not just called to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, but called to be members of the royal family, nay even more than that, called to be sons and heirs of God.

The Greek word υἱός, hyiós, is literally translated as a son (by birth or adoption). Figuratively it is used to denote anyone sharing the same nature as their Father. Hyiós, both emphasizes likeness of the believer to the heavenly Father and highlights the legal right to the Father’s inheritance. We are called to share the same nature as the Father. Back in the garden we were created in God’s image. This image was distorted by sin but is now restored through Christ. Our great privilege now is to resemble our Father.

Paul expands on the theme of our sonship:

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NKJV

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”   Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7 NASB

The Greek word translated as “peacemaker” is εἰρηνοποιός, eirēnopoiós, and it denotes a person who bravely declares God’s terms to make someone whole. That is, a person who shares the gospel with others. A “peacekeeper” might try to avoid controversy or saying anything unpopular, but a “peacemaker” confronts sin and offers God’s terms for reconciliation, which brings His gift of wholeness. Paul wrote on this in his second letter to the church at Corinth:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NASB

Blessed are the peacemakers – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are those who boldly declare the gospel, begging people on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God – for they shall be called sons of God, resembling the Father and being heirs.

We have returned to where we began with these blessings – the kingdom of heaven. Yeshua sandwiched all the other blessings between two assurances of the kingdom of heaven. We gain a bit more insight into the kingdom of heaven in the revelation of Jesus Christ that John received when he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10 NIV

The kingdom of heaven consists of people from every tribe and language and nation. This is where Yeshua had come into conflict with the good people of his hometown, Nazareth – they were convinced that God’s blessings were exclusively for the Jews and so became violent when Yeshua gave examples from the Hebrew scriptures showing that God also extends His blessings and calling to those of other nations. Revelation had not yet been written, but Yeshua’s audience had Isaiah and Daniel’s prophesies, and on this basis they had been hoping for a messiah and a kingdom. This is what they could learn from the prophets about the kingdom of heaven:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Isaiah 2:2-4 NIV

In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders—with great glory. Isaiah 24:21-23 NIV

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8 NIV

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” Isaiah 28:16-17a

Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.  Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour.
Isaiah 60:17-21 NIV

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.  They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labour in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 65: 17-25 NIV

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:22-23

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44 NIV

Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. Daniel 7:27 NIV

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:2-3 NIV

As we follow through Yeshua’s ministry we will explore the many parables He told to help the people understand more of what the kingdom of heaven is like. For now they knew enough to know it was their heart’s desire to be part of this kingdom. In this blessing we see clearly how all the blessings surpass the things of this world. Blessings is not health, wealth, prestige, power or physical life, for any or all of these may be taken from us through persecution, yet still we are blessed, joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to us.

It is worth noting that the blessing is not for any and every persecution, but only for that which ignited by being filled with righteousness as in the fourth blessing. There is no blessing in being persecuted for being an idiot, for doing wrong, for lying, for being proud and arrogant, or for being bitter, critical or hateful. Where as all who mourn, agonise in overwhelming grief and sorrow, are comforted, only those whose persecution arises out of their walk with Jesus receive the blessing. Only those who are living the other seven beatitudes can live this one. Only those who are living Christ (verse 11), are blessed with great reward when they are persecuted, .

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12

Persecution can take many forms. Three different words are used in verse 11 to describe what we might suffer for righteousness sake. The first is ὀνειδίσωσιν, oneidízō, which is to disgrace, reproach, mock, curse, insult, shame, cast blame – viewing someone as culpably guilty and therefore deserving punishment. The second is διώξωσιν, diṓkō, which is to aggressively chase, like a hunter pursuing a catch. The third is ψευδόμενοι, pseúdomai, which is to lie, falsify, and wilfully misrepresent in accusing of all kinds of πονηρὸν, ponērós, that is evil which causes pain and agony. Just because a follower of Jesus is doing good does not mean that they will be honoured for that good, often the reverse is true, as it was true of our Saviour. Isaiah had written:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20 NIV

Many times people will try to hide from their own sin and shame by calling evil good and good evil. Such is the opposite of being poor in spirit. Persecution aims to silence the peacemakers and cause the righteousness to suffer. It seeks to bring disgrace and shame to the righteous, casting them as being unfit for ministry, or for life. It lies. Yeshua assures us that it does not matter if others call our good evil, because the reward for the righteous is not on this earth but is great in heaven (the infinite dimensions in which God dwells).

Blessed are those who are persecuted – joyously fulfilled as God extends Himself to them are those who suffer disgrace, reproach, mockery, curses, insults, shame, false blame, declared guilty, are hunted down, misrepresented and accused of evil for righteousness sake – for theirs is the everlasting kingdom of heaven.

Summary

Christ leads us to the kingdom of heaven through repentance (poor in spirit), acknowledging our pain (mourning), yielding completely to God (meek) and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. He answers that hunger and thirst by filling us with righteousness, the old has passed away behold all things have become new. Out of the fullness of righteousness that we receive in Him we respond with loyalty to His covenant of mercy (merciful), our filled hearts have no room for the things of this world (pure heart), we boldly declare the gospel that people may be reconciled to God (peacemakers) and suffer persecution for our shift in loyalty from this world system to God. In all this God blesses us with the kingdom of heaven, His comfort, the earth (our land), righteousness, mercy (all the benefits of His covenant with us), seeing God and adopting us as His children. How wonderous is all that Jesus offers us through His teaching on blessings.

REFERENCES

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14. Piper, John. Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness . Desiring God. [Online] 16th February 1986. [Cited: 25th April 2020.] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/blessed-are-those-who-hunger-and-thirst-for-righteousness.
15. Kreminski, Karina. Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness. Common Grace. [Online] [Cited: 25th April 2020.] https://www.commongrace.org.au/beatitudes_hunger_and_thirst_for_righteousness.
16. Kinsolving, Carey. What Does It Mean to Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness? Creators. [Online] 17th June 2013. [Cited: 25th April 2020.] https://www.creators.com/read/kids-talk-about-god/06/13/what-does-it-mean-to-hunger-and-thirst-for-righteousness.
17. Doriani, Daniel. Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness. Tabletalk. [Online] June 2017. [Cited: 25th April 2020.] https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2017/06/blessed-are-those-who-hunger-and-thirst-for-righteousness/.
18. mercy. Cambridge Dictionary. [Online] [Cited: 25th April 2020.] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/mercy.
19. New Covenant. Bible Info. [Online] [Cited: 25th April 2020.] https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/new-covenant.
20. Travers, Joshua. Blessed Are Those Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake. Life, Hope & Truth. [Online] [Cited: 27th April 2020] https://lifehopeandtruth.com/change/christian-conversion/the-sermon-on-the-mount/beatitudes/blessed-persecuted-righteousness-sake/

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

* How have your people responded to memorising Jesus’ words?
* What insights have your congregation shared with you from their week of meditating on the words of Jesus that they memorised and talking with each other about what He said?
* What has been the response to members of your congregation sharing Jesus’ words with others?
* How did Jesus present the gospel of the kingdom in the Beatitudes?
* What additional insights have you gained about the gospel through studying Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:4-12