Leaders Serve

Please read: Matthew 20:20-34, Mark 10:35-52,
Luke 18:35 – 19:28 & John 11:55-57

Yeshua continued travelling towards Jerusalem where many were already waiting for Him as they prepared for Passover.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.  They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?”  
But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
John 11:55-57 NIV

This journey took Him, and multitudes travelling from the northern regions, along the Jordan Valley and through Jericho before climbing up the mountain trail to Jerusalem. Yeshua had been telling them: we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. His disciples seemed incapable of hearing those words, seeking instead their own advancement in God’s kingdom.

 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came with her sons to Yeshua, and she was kneeling down and asking something from Him.
“What do you want?” He said to her.
She said to Him, “Declare that these two sons of mine might sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your kingdom.”
But Yeshua replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?”
“We are able,” they say to Him.
He said to them, “You shall indeed drink My cup. But to sit on My right and left, this isn’t Mine to grant. Rather, it’s for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”
Now when the ten heard, they became indignant with the two brothers. But Yeshua called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones play the tyrant over them.  It shall not be this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:20-28 TLV

Then James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”
And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
And they said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
And hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.
And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men
exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:35-45 LSB

The twelve were not the only ones who were travelling with Yeshua. Every so often, like in this instance, we find another of the entourage following Yeshua brought into focus. In this case it is a woman, the mother of James and John. If James and John were in their thirties when Yeshua called them it would seem strange for their mother to make such a request on their behalf. But there is evidence to suggests that Peter was the only one of the apostles who was more than 20yo (2-Yr1-17 12 Chosen – Renewal Blog), James and John just being teenagers at this time. Mark places the initiative on the two young men. It appears likely that they had been contemplating Yeshua’s words: when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel and developing a sense of self-importance. They still had little understanding of what Yeshua was saying, but their imaginations were captured by the image of sitting on thrones with Him, judging their fellow Israelites.

Yeshua responds by reminding them of something we all prefer to ignore, and hope will not be, that suffering precedes His glorification and ours. Oh how we want the glory, the blessings, the prosperity, all the promises, and to have them instead of the suffering that Yeshua declared would be the lot of all who chose to follow Him. They shall indeed suffer, but positions of authority are not for the asking.

The other apostles were indignant with James and John, angry that they had sort something which they considered to be so unjust and unfair. Yeshua used the opportunity to teach them what true leadership in His kingdom looks like and share, once again, about His impending death for them. The ways of the world are for everyone to serve the leader, the one considered great among them, but the ways of God’s kingdom are for the leader to serve everyone else. Yeshua was our example in this, washing His disciple’s feet and serving us to the extent of giving His life for us.

A rift valley is a lowland region that forms where Earth’s tectonic plates move apart, or rift.  The “Great Rift Valley System,” stretches from Israel in the north to Mozambique in the south. The area is geologically active, and features volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, and frequent earthquakes. The northern part of this system is the Jordan Rift Valley. The Jordan Rift Valley stretches from the Golan Heights, near Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon, to the Dead Sea, to the Gulf of Aqaba—an inlet of the Red Sea that separates the Sinai Peninsula from the Arabian Peninsula. Jericho lies deep in the northern section of this Jordan Rift Valley

The oasis of Jericho, some 25 km east of Jerusalem, lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, about 390m below sea level. It has natural fortifications, an abundant water supply and warm pleasant winters. Jericho was chosen as the site for the winter palaces of the kings of the Hasmonean dynasty (The Maccabean Revolt & Hasmonean Period (166 – 40 BC) – Renewal Blog), and of King Herod, under Roman rule. In this plain with fertile soil and an abundance of water from nearby springs, rare plants producing aromatic essences and spices, were grown. Most famous among these was the opobalsamum plant, whose oil was among the costliest substances in the ancient world, and very profitable to the growers.

An earthquake in 31BC destroyed the Hasmonean palaces so Herod had built two additional winter palaces for himself near the edge of the Wadi Qelt valley, overlooking the oasis of Jericho. The palaces were situated below the high cliffs of the Judean Desert at the entrance to Wadi Qelt – west of the Jericho oasis – about a day’s horseback riding from Jerusalem.

The palaces were planned for rest and recreation, a winter resort for Jerusalem’s aristocracy, but also as administrative centers; the proximity to Jerusalem made it possible for the king to efficiently deal with affairs of state during his winter sojourn there.

Shortly after ordering the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem, Herod died here.

Abundant water delivered via aqueduct from the springs in Wadi Qelt (wadi = dry riverbed) filled reservoirs, Mikvahs and large Roman baths, and was used to irrigate the palace gardens as well as tens of acres of agricultural land belonging to the king, where dates and costly aromatic plants and spices were grown. The palaces and the road from Jericho to Jerusalem were protected by the fortresses of Doq (Qarantal) and Cypros, built atop the cliffs at the entrance to Wadi Qelt. In the first century the Greek geographer Strabo described the city like this: Jericho is surrounded by mountainous country which slopes toward it like a theatre. It is mixed with all kinds of cultivated and fruitful trees, though it consists mostly of palm trees. It is everywhere watered with streams.

It was both on His way into this famed city of luxury, and on His way out, that Yeshua encountered men who were blind.

Now as Yeshua was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging.   But when he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening.  
They told him that Yeshua ha-Natzrati was passing by. 
And he cried out, saying, “Yeshua, Ben-David, have mercy on me!”
And those leading the way were scolding him, so he would be quiet. But he kept shouting all the more, “Ben-David, have mercy on me!”
So Yeshua stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to Him. And when he came near, Yeshua asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
And he said, “Master, I want to see again!”
Yeshua said to him, “Receive your sight. Your faith has made you well.” 
Immediately the man received his sight and began following Yeshua, glorifying God. And when all the people saw it, they also gave praise to God.

Luke 18:35-43 TLV

Again, a crowd had formed around Yeshua. They answered the blind man by saying that Yeshua ha-Natzrati (Jesus of Nazareth) was passing by. He immediately knew who they were speaking of, the Messiah, the One who had healed so many others. Israel’s prophets had referred to their coming Messiah as “the Son of David“.

“In those days and at that time, I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; He will do what is just and right in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15).
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

So, this man who had become blind cried out in a way to let Yeshua know that he believed in Him, using the known Messianic term Ben-David (son if David): “Yeshua, Ben-David, have mercy on me!” Yeshua healed him with a word and declared: “Your faith has made you well.” This man of faith, now healed, kept glorifying God as he now followed Yeshua.

 Then they came to Jericho. Mark 10:46a

And He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. And Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on before and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.
And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
But Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have extorted anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-10 LSB

Jericho was a good place to collect taxes, on a major trade route, close to the fords of the Jordan, on the frontier of Peraea, and on the richest plain of Israel, abounding in the choicest productions, especially balsam. Zaccheus had risen through the ranks to become a chief tax collector in this prosperous area and had accumulated a lot of wealth along the way. Yet, he recognized an emptiness in his life. Everyone else looked at Zaccheus’ lifestyle and assumed he had all he wanted and harbored no desire for godliness. Yeshua saw something different. The name Zacchæus appears in the Old Testament in the form Zaccai (Ezra 2:9; Nehemiah 7:14), and meant “pure” or “innocent”, the opposite of what his countrymen thought of this Jewish tax collector for their Roman oppressors.

The crowd following Yeshua were shocked to see Him give attention to such a man. But Yeshua did not go to Zaccheus’ house to condone his sin but to offer the type of acceptance that brings men to repentance. Zaccheus responded to this hand of fellowship from the holy One with an exuberant declaration: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have extorted anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” If those so eager to condemn Yeshua for fellowshipping with a tax collector were as whole-hearted in their repentance He would not have gone on to weep over Jerusalem.

As they were listening to this, Yeshua went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they supposed that the kingdom of God was about to appear at once.  Therefore He said, “A certain nobleman went to a faraway land to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.  And calling ten of his own slaves, he gave them ten minas (1 mina = 100 denarii = about four months’ wages for an average worker) and said to them, ‘Do business until I come back.’  
But his citizens detested him and they sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We don’t want this fellow to reign over us!’ 
When he returned after receiving the kingdom, he called for those slaves to whom he had given the money. He wanted to know how much business they had done.  
Now the first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your one mina has made ten.’ 
The master said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you were faithful with so little, take charge over ten cities.’  
Also, the second slave came, saying, ‘Your mina, Master, made five.’ 
Then he also said to this one, ‘You are likewise over five cities.’ 
But another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina. I was keeping it safe in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you because you are a strict man. You take what you did not make and reap what you did not sow.’ 
He said to him, ‘By the words of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked slave! You knew that I am strict, taking what I did not make and reaping what I did not sow?  Then why didn’t you put my money in the bank, so that when I came back I could have collected it with interest?’  
Then to the bystanders he said, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 
But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten minas!’  
‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more shall be given. But from the one who doesn’t have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 
But those hostile to me, who didn’t want me to reign over them, bring them here and execute them before me.’”
Luke 19:11-27 TLV

Zaccheus had a large and opulent house, which had now been opened up to the people as they followed Yeshua there. In the midst of all this opulence Yeshua declared the salvation of this household. As the crowd were listening, He then went on to address the growing expectation among them. They were approaching Jerusalem and even this powerful and wealthy man was transformed and following Yeshua (maybe Zaccheus had already started handing over half his wealth to the poor among them, so their expectations rose as to what was possible). In all previous visits to Jerusalem, the city of David, our Lord had gone up either alone or accompanied only by His chosen disciples. Now the “son of David” was followed by a crowd, gathering strength as they journeyed on, and roused, by their very nearness to the Holy City, to an almost uncontrollable excitement. Surely, their Messiah would claim the throne of His father David and deliver them from the dominion of the Romans, set them at liberty and restore the greatness of the state of Israel – the kingdom of God would appear this Passover. Yeshua responded with a prophetic sketch in parabolic form of the real future before them, the fortunes of the King and the various attitudes of men towards Him. He tells them of a man who had a right to the kingdom, yet who, before taking possession of it, went into another kingdom to receive a confirmation of his title, thus intimating that He would also go away and have His authority affirmed before He would set up His rule over the earth and execute judgment on His enemies, those of His own citizens who rejected Him.

In this parable, each of His servants received the same to do business with, one mina. All who obeyed Him and did business with what they were given were declared faithful and rewarded for their faithfulness in accordance with their ability. The one who disobeyed and hid instead of investing his mina was judged by his own false ideas and had what he’d been given taken from him. For those who are hostile to the King and don’t want Him reigning over them there is no mercy.

After saying these things, Yeshua was going on ahead, up to Jerusalem.
Luke 19:28 TLV

Now as they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him.  And here two blind men sitting by the roadside, when they heard that Yeshua was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Master, Ben-David!” 
The crowd warned them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Master, Ben-David!”
Yeshua stopped and called out to them. “What do you want Me to do for you?”
They said to Him, “Master, let our eyes be opened!” 
Moved with compassion, Yeshua touched their eyes. Instantly they regained their sight and followed Him.
Matthew 20:29-33 TLV

As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Mark 10:46b-52 NIV

Most of the dedicated Jews were already in Jerusalem preparing for pilgrimage festival of Pesach (Passover), having arrived at least a week before it started so they had time for all the ritual purification needed before partaking. Yet still, increasing numbers of people joined in the throng following Yeshua in eager expectation as He continued towards Jerusalem to fulfil His mission.

Matthew mentions two blind men sitting by the side of the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, while Mark focuses on one of these, Bartimaeus. His name means son of Timaeus, and Timaeus is a Greek name meaning valuable or honorable. Few of the people Yeshua healed are named in the gospels so it’s interesting that one of the blind men around Jericho that He healed has been named in Mark but only this once, and that name is Greek, not Hebrew. Although many Jews, even some of Yeshua’s 12 apostles, had Greek names it is possible that this healed man was a gentile. Like the man on the way to Jericho, these cried out “Ben-David“, acknowledging Yeshua as Messiah, were persistent in their cries even in the face of opposition, asked for their sight to be restored and Yeshua declared that their faith had healed them. They joined the crowd following Him to Jerusalem.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars. Holy Scriptures Tree of Life Version (TLV). s.l. : Baker Books.
6. Translation Committee. The Legacy Standard Bible (LSB). LSB. [Online] https://read.lsbible.org/.
7. Bible Commentaries. Matthew 19:24. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 16th, 2023.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/19-24.htm.
8. Geva, Hillel. Archaeology in Israel: Jericho – The Winter Palace of King Herod. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: October 17th, 2023.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jericho-the-winter-palace-of-king-herod.
9. Bible Walks staff. Jericho. Bible Walks. [Online] September 15th, 2015. https://www.biblewalks.com/Jericho.
10. (Editor), Jeannie Evers. Rift Valley. National Geographic. [Online] September 12th, 2023. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/rift-valley/.
11. Bonne, Kathelijne. The East African Rift System: a belt of natural wonders. Gondwana Talks. [Online] [Cited: October 17th, 2023.] https://www.gondwanatalks.com/l/east-african-rift-system/.
12. . Timaeus meaning. Abarim Publications. [Online] [Cited: October 19th, 2023.] https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Timaeus.html.

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

* What are the differences between being a leader or “great man” in the Roman world and being a leader or “great man” in the kingdom of God?
* What are the similarities and differences between your culture’s ideas of greatness and those of the kingdom of God?
* How do you act as a servant and slave to the other members of the body of Christ in your area?
* What was the significance of calling Jesus the son of David?
* What is Jesus’ attitude towards those who don’t want Him to reign over them?
* How did the faith of the blind men heal them?