Welcome to our in-depth Bible Course

I pray that you are blessed and encouraged in your walk with Christ as you work through these lessons and read the insightful comments made by other ministers doing the course. That your love for Christ Jesus will deepen and your commitment strengthen. That your faith will prove genuine and endure to the end with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as we receive the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

Each lesson is linked below, to make it easier to work through the whole course…

INTRODUCTION – How do We Faithfully Serve in Christ’s Mission

This course is focused on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach. We begin by developing an understanding of the world He was born into, and how it had been shaped in preparation for His coming – looking at the developments in Judaism from the Babylonian exile until the rule of Rome, and how the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophesies elicited strong expectations of Messiah’s coming.

SECTION 1 Setting the Stage ~ How Judaism Developed from Kingdom Division to Roman Occupation

1. Israel Replaced with Samaritans & the Kingdom of God Prophesied (931-627 BC)
2. Judah Taken Captive to Babylon & the Temple Destroyed (627 – 586 BC)
3. A New Judaism – without Land or Temple (586 – 537 BC)
4. Rebuilding the Temple (539 – 517 BC)
5. Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem (486 – 430 B.C.)
6. Developments in Judaism under Persian Occupation (430 – 332 BC)
7. Greek Conquest and Hellenization (332 – 166 BC)
8. The Maccabean Revolt & Hasmonean Period (166 – 40 BC)
9. Second Temple Period under Roman Rule until Messiah (63 BC – 1BC)

We have an INTERLUDE between SECTION 1 and SECTION 2 – which looks at the authors of each of the four gospel accounts to provide some background information on their perspective of Jesus’ life.

Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 1 – Introduction
Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 2 – The Witness of Church Tradition
Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 3 – The Witness of the Scriptures
The Witness of the Scriptures on Luke
The Witness of the Scriptures on Mark
The Witness of the Scriptures on Matthew
The Witness of the Scriptures on John

In SECTION 2 we take an in-depth look at Jesus’ life in the context of this culture which we have seen develop in the centuries leading up to His birth. As language is an essential part of culture, names in this course are often written in their original Hebrew (along with the English translations that most of us are more familiar with).

SECTION 2 – The Apostolic Reformation Begins ~ Jesus (Yeshua) as a Jewish Reformer

God Sent His Son
1. A Child Is Born
2. Yeshua’s Youth

The First Year of Yeshua’s Ministry
1. Yochanan & Yeshua as God Sent Jewish Reformers
2. Yeshua Introduces God’s Kingdom as a Wedding
3. Yeshua’s 2nd lesson – Passover
4. The Harvest is Ripe, Where You Least Expect It
5. Yeshua Taught in their Synagogues
6. Confronting Power and Expectation
7. Healing at the Pool of Bethesda
8. Starting Again
9. The Beatitudes (blessings)
10. Salt and Light
11. Fulfilling Torah
12. Living Prayer
13. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
14. Discernment Sayings
15. Cleansing, Forgiving & Calling
16. New Kingdom – New Structure
17. 12 Chosen
18. Sermon on the Plain
19. Misunderstood
20. Parables
21. Wind & Waves
22. Yochanan’s Question
Map Summary of the First Year of Yeshua’s Ministry

The Second Year of Yeshua’s Ministry
1. 12 Apostello
2. Feeding the 5,000
3. The Tide is Turning
4. Clash of Tradition & Torah
5. Mission into Gentile Territory
6. Sukkot
7. Teaching in the Temple
8. Light of the World
9. I AM – Truth and Freedom
10. Healing the Blind
11. The Good Shepherd
12. The Gates of Hell

Simply click on the title of your next lesson to be taken to that lesson so you can read through it and answer the questions at the end.

New lessons will be added as we explore all of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

Yeshua’s Second Year of Ministry

1.WINTER – Yeshua (Jesus) returned to Nazareth and taught in their synagogueLesson 1
2. Yeshua sent out the twelve two by two with power (dynamis) and authority (eksousia)Lesson 1
3. Yeshua taught in nearby towns – Lesson 1
4. SPRING Yochanan the Immerser was beheaded by Herod – Yeshua and the twelve regroup and sail to to a secluded place near Bethsaida Lesson 1
5. Yeshua fed 5,000 – Lesson 2
6. Yeshua walked on water – Lesson 2
7. Yeshua taught in Capernaum – Lesson 3 & Lesson 4
8. SUMMERYeshua took disciples to the district of Tyre & Sidon and delivered daughter of Syrophoenician woman – Lesson 5
9. Yeshua took disciples down to region of the Decapolis and healed deaf dumb man – Lesson 5
10. Yeshua fed the 4,000 – Lesson 5
11. AUTUMN (FALL)Yeshua returns to Galilee – Lesson 6
12. Yeshua goes to Jerusalem for Sukkot (the Festival of Tabernacles) – Lesson 6 – Woman caught in adultery – Lesson 7 – Teaching in the Temple –Lesson 8 & Lesson 9 – Giving sight to man born blind – Lesson 10 – and more Teaching in Jerusalem – Lesson 11
13. Yeshua returned to Bethsaida and healed a blind man – Lesson 12
14. Yeshua took His talmidim north to Caesarea Philippi (the Gates of Hell) to prepare them for leadership- Lesson 12

The Gates of Hell

Please read Matthew 16:1-20, Mark 8:11-30 & Luke 9:18-21

The weather was getting cooler and storms starting to brew as Israel’s rainy season began. Yeshua and His talmidim returned to Galilee from the Sukkot celebrations, and His increasing conflicts with the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Then some P’rushim and Tz’dukim came to trap Yeshua by asking Him to show them a miraculous sign from Heaven.  
But His response was, “When it is evening, you say, ‘Fair weather ahead,’ because the sky is red;  and in the morning you say, ‘Storm today!’ because the sky is red and overcast. You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times! A wicked and adulterous generation is asking for a sign? It will certainly not be given a sign — except the sign of Yonah!”
With that He left them and went off. Matthew 16:1-4 CJB

The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven to test Him.  And He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”   
And He left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. Mark 8:11-13 ESVUK

These  P’rushim and Tz’dukim (Pharisees and Sadducees) had likely also been in Jerusalem for the required pilgrimage festival of Sukkot and heard Yeshua teaching in the temple and heard the crowd whispering “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” (John 7:31-32). They had heard Yeshua shout on the last day of the festival: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38). They knew their colleagues’ concerns about the people believing Yeshua to be messiah. They were determined to show Him up to be a fraud. But His time was not yet, so He continued to respond with such wisdom that every attempt to trick Him was doomed to failure. Yet even this sign they failed to notice and only got frustrated by it.

These religious leaders were supposed to be directing the people to God, but instead they were trying to divert them away from the Son of God.

 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.  And He cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 
And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.  
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” 
They said to Him, “Twelve.”  
“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” 
And they said to him, “Seven.”  And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Mark 8:14-21 ESVUK

The talmidim, in crossing to the other side of the lake, had forgotten to bring any bread.  So when Yeshua said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourselves against the hametz of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim,”  they thought he said it because they hadn’t brought bread.  But Yeshua, aware of this, said, “Such little trust you have! Why are you talking with each other about not having bread?  Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you filled? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many baskets you filled?  How can you possibly think I was talking to you about bread? Guard yourselves from the hametz of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim! (leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!)”  
Then they understood — they were to guard themselves not from yeast for bread but from the teaching of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim. Matthew 16:5-12 CJB

It can play on our minds when we have failed in some way. Yeshua’s talmidim had forgotten to bring the needed supplies. They were focusing on their lack. So, when Yeshua started instructing them to be careful of adopting the teachings of the Pharisees, Sadducees or way of life of Herod, all they could hear was a rebuke for their failure and concern about their consequent lack. They missed the importance of this moment.

Yeshua’s second year of teaching His talmidim was coming to an end and soon He would be incarnate with them no more. They needed to know to guard themselves from the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees or they would never fulfil what He was calling them to as His ekklesia.

 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to Him a blind man and begged Him to touch him.  And He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spat on his eyes and laid His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” 
 And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”  
Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 
And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Mark 8:22-26

People in Bethsaida had seen Yeshua perform many miracles. They had been among the 5,000 fed with just five loaves. A group of them were eager to see another miracle – the healing of this blind man. Yeshua had compassion on the man and took him by the hand to lead him away from the crowd of spectators. Once he had allowed Yeshua to lead him to a safe place this man was ready to begin to receive his miracle. Interestingly, this healing was not instantaneous as so many others had been, but was performed in stages, with the blind man being asked what he could see as it progressed.

Yeshua and His talmidim continued north from Bethsaida, following the Jordan River to its source, the deep spring of Caesarea Philippi at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon.  In so doing, they left the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas for a region governed by Herod Philip.  Of greater significance was the history and current use of this location. Their next lesson was to take place in a region that most pious Jews at this time despised and avoided. It was an area associated with the most heinous of heathen practices and with the shame of Israel’s rebellion against God. A place notorious as “the Gates of Hell”.

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  
And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”  
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” 
Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”  
And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Mark 8:27-30 ESV

On the southern slope of Mount Hermon, about 1150 feet above sea level, is a cliff more than 100 feet high. The area had a beautiful setting, it produced a lush oasis of life and overlooked the very fertile northern portion of the Jordan River Valley. In ancient times there was a deep, water filled, cavern in the limestone rock at the base of this cliff. Ferocious waters gushed from the massive spring in this limestone cave, and these provided the main source for the Jordan River. 1st century Jewish historian Josephus described it: “a dark cave opens itself; within which there is a horrible precipice, that descends abruptly to a vast depth: it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable; and when anybody lets down anything to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it. Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly; and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan.” – Josephus, Wars of the Jews 1,21,3. It was this dangerous, seemingly bottomless dark water-filled cavern that the ancients called the “Gates of Hades” or “Gates of Hell”.

Before God gave this land to the Israelites it was part of the land of Canaan. The Canaanites were descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:18-19, Genesis 10:6, 15-20), Ham’s youngest son, who was cursed for his father’s disrespect of Noah when drunk (Genesis 9:20-27). The scriptures do not tell us why Canaan was cursed and not Ham or Ham’s other sons, so scholars have produced various theories to fill in the gaps. What we do know is that in describing how Israel came to be invading the Canaanites and taking over their land the curse on Canaan was considered significant and he is focused on before any of Noah’s older grandsons are mentioned in scripture.

Canaanite society was formed around city-states, each ruled by a warrior chieftain (malek), who held his position by virtue of being the fiercest warrior in the tribe. The Canaanite city-state in the area around the “Gates of Hell” was named Laish, Judges 18:7.

Many cultures adopt notable geographical features into the worship of their deities. Likewise, the Canaanites built a sanctuary to Baal around the entrance to the bottomless, water-filled cavern and it became central to their worship, which included child sacrifice (often of tiny babies).

According to Canaanite mythology, Baal was the son of El, the chief god, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea. Baal was considered the most powerful of all gods, eclipsing El, who was seen as rather weak and ineffective. In various battles Baal defeated Yamm, the god of the sea, and Mot, the god of death and the underworld.

Baal was portrayed as a man with the head and horns of a bull. Some idols had his right hand raised holding a lightning bolt, signifying both destruction and fertility, others had him seated on a throne. Baal worship included temple prostitution and human sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice of babies through fire. Some believe that babies were also sacrificed to Baal in this dark, bottomless cavern.

When God led Israel into the Promised Land (Canaan) in c.1406 BC, the southern coastal plain, between Ephraim and Judah, was allocated to the tribe of Dan (see Joshua 19:40-46). However, due to the superior weaponry of the neighbouring Philistines, who used iron chariots to defend their cities, the Danites were insecure in this territory (see Judges 1:19) so they sent five valiant men to spy out a favourable land. Having the blessing of a Levite priest employed by Micah in the hill country of Ephraim, they continued north and found the unconquered Canaanite city of Laish with a fertile plain in the northern most reaches of Manasseh’s territory, under the shadow of Mount Hermon and including the main source of the Jordan River.

In response to the positive report that the five spies brought back, 600 Danites armed with weapons of war (Judges 18:11) set out to conquer the Canaanite city of Leshem (or Laish), stopping along the way to kidnap Micah’s Levite priest and take his graven images and idols from the hill country of Ephraim, threatening Micah’s life if he should attempt to stop them. Accompanied by their new priest, and the stolen idols from Micah, the Danites marched on the unsuspecting city of Laish. They struck down all of the people, and burnt the city to the ground, then rebuilt it and renamed it Dan (see Joshua 19:47 & Judges 18:1-31). While some Danites (such as Samson’s parents) remained in their allotted land in the south (see Judges 13:2), many of the tribe moved north to the new city of Dan and their territory included the notorious Gates of Hell.

As Dan was the most northerly city conquered by the Israelites,  Israel was said to stretch “from Dan to Beersheba” (see Judges 20:1 & 2 Samuel 24:2). 

And the sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” Judges 18:30-31.

This laid the foundation for the two golden calves that King Jeroboam 1 would set up in Bethel and Dan after the kingdom was divided in 931BC (1 Kings 12:25-33). The city of Dan became a cultic centre of idol worship, in direct violation of God’s commands to Moses.

This ‘high place’ in Dan was renewed by King Ahab in 874BC as a centre of Baal worship (see 1 Kings 16:30-33). Ahab and his father Omri adopted a policy of combining Canaanite and Israelite religions, and Dan was the centre of this worship. It was not hard for the Israelites to slide from worshipping a calf to worshipping a creature which was a man with the head and horns of a bull, and then to the detestable sexual and sacrificial practices of the Canaanite religion.

They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. they worshipped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. (Psalm 106:34-39 NIV)

This detestable ‘high place’ was eventually destroyed when King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria conquered Dan in 732BC (see 2 Kings 15:29).

When the ancient Greeks conquered this area in 333BC, they adopted the seemingly bottomless cavern into their mythology, casting it as the birthplace of their fertility god, Pan.

Pan’s hindquarters, legs, and horns are like that of a goat while his upper body was of a man.

This Greek god was associated with music and fertility so his worship included prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats to entice the return of Pan to bring them prosperity.

They renamed the cavern the “Grotto of Pan” or “cave of Pan”, and renamed the nearby city “Paneas” (Banias in Arabic).

The deep cavern was thought to be the gate to the underworld, where fertility gods dwelt during the winter and then returned to the earth each spring. Inside the grotto (cave) and etched in the walls was a Greek sign that said, “gates of Hades.”

Over the years idols and statues of many gods and goddesses were placed into small openings cut into the rock face of the cliff and at the base of this cliff, more than one hundred feet high, people built temples and shrines dedicated to various gods.

Among the temples to pagan gods was an arena where worshippers of Pan would dance, and engage in sexual practices, with goats .

Herod the Great was given the area of Paneas (later to be known as Caesarea Philippi) by Caesar Augustus in 20 BC. In honour of Augustus’ visit to the area, Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus, called an Augusteum, near Paneas. His son, Philip, renamed the city Caesarea Philippi in honour of Caesar and himself.

It was to this source of the Jordan River, this centre of pagan worship, this place of the beginning of the fall of Israel, this “gates of hell”, miles north of Galilee and without Jewish settlements in the region, that Yeshua took His talmidim to declare the ultimate victory of the ecclesia (church) that He would build.

((N.B.  Caesarea Philippi was at the foot of a cliff where spring water flowed directly from the cave’s mouth. This fast-moving stream, the beginning of the Jordan River, was created by seventy-two springs originating in the bowels of the mountain. The waters were so deep that ancients were unable to plumb the depths and therefore considered it bottomless. Over the centuries earthquakes have destroyed the cave, and modern engineering has diverted the waters, so we no longer see the bottomless cavern or furious torrents of water that Yeshua and His talmidim would have witnessed.))

When Yeshua came into the territory around Caesarea Philippi, He asked His talmidim, “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?” 
They said, “Well, some say Yochanan the Immerser
(John the Baptist), others Eliyahu (Elijah), still others Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) or one of the prophets.” 
 “But you,” He said to them, “who do you say I am?” 
Shim‘on Kefa
(Simon Peter) answered, “You are the Mashiach (Messiah), the Son of the living God.”
“Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan
(Simon son of Jonah),” Yeshua said to him, “how blessed you are! For no human being revealed this to you, no, it was my Father in heaven.  I also tell you this: you are Kefa (Peter),” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock I will build My Community (ekklesia – people called out from the world and into the Kingdom of Heaven), and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it. ” Matthew 16: 13-18 CJB  

Simon identified Yeshua as Messiah, Son of the living God. Yeshua responded by identifying Simon in the Aramaic form of his name, Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, to speak something deep into his life. שִׁמְעוֹן Shim‘on comes from the Hebrew word Shema which means “to hear, listen, understand and respond appropriately”. “The Shema”, which begins with the words “Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad”Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4), is considered the most important prayer in Judaism. 
Bar means “son of”.
Yochanan means “God is gracious”.  
Yeshua was in effect speaking into Peter’s life: “Hearing and responding son of God is gracious, how blessed you are for it was my Father in heaven who revealed this to you – by God’s grace you heard Him and responded to Him well.

Yeshua continued speaking into Simon’s life with a play on words that He intertwines with His reason for bringing them to this place of beginnings where they could see both the massive rockface and the hole in it that was infamous as the gates of hell, for His declaration about His community of called out ones (ekklesia). “I also say to you that you are Peter [Greek: Petros = masculine / bolder, single rock], and upon this rock [petra = feminine / foundational rock structure, cliff, mass of connected rock] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

There is a lot of controversy among scholars and theologians about the intended meaning of the Greek words “Petros” and “petra” in this passage. This is significant in that it goes to arguments about whether Simon Peter, or the confession that Peter made of Yeshua being the Messiah and Son of the living God, was the rock that Yeshua was going to build His church on. Obviously “Petra” would be inappropriate as a name for Simon because is it feminine (a girl’s name), but “Petros” could have been used for the rock upon which Yeshua built His church to have the same word used in both places, and it was not. Likewise, Yeshua could have made things obvious for us by saying “and upon you (Peter) I will build My churchorand upon your declaration of Me I will build My church“, but instead He said “upon this rock I will build“, after giving Simon a name that means “rock“.

Yeshua chose a play on words for a reason, but we don’t know exactly what play on words He was using because we don’t know what Hebrew or Aramaic words He used for this statement. Although the oldest copies of Matthew that we have are in Greek – with it’s use of “Petros” and “petra” – there is evidence from early church writers that this Gospel was originally written in a Semitic language (Hebrew or Aramaic), and we know that Greek was not the language that Yeshua used when when teaching the masses, discussing Torah with the Pharisees, conversing with fellow Jews or training His talmidim – so His original words to Simon Peter were not in Greek but in Hebrew or Aramaic. We have evidence of which Aramaic word was used for Peter – Cephas (sometimes spelt Kephas or Kefa, which means “huge, immovable rock“), as seen in the following N.T. scriptures where the Aramaic “Cephas” is used directly instead of being translated into the Greek “Petros” or English “Peter“:

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A rock. (John 1:42).

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Cor 1:12)

Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; (1 Cor 3:22).

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Cor 9:5).

And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve (1 Cor 15:5).

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:18)

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9).

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. (Galatians 2:11)

What we don’t have is evidence of whether Yeshua used the same word, “Cephas” for “upon this rock or a different Hebrew/Aramaic word that was translated into Greek as “petra“.

The ambiguity in Yeshua’s statement gives room for layers of meaning. Firstly, He was speaking identity and calling to the apostle Simon Peter. This name that He had given Simon would become the one by which he was known throughout the time of the book of Acts, Cephas (Peter). It was a name that spoke of strength and stability, ability to stand through the storms of life. It was a name that Simon would need to grow into because his character was not there yet, as would be seen in His denial of Christ. Ephesians 2:19-20 speaks of God’s household being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone“. Peter was to be part of this rock foundation. Yeshua was going to build His ekklesia on people, not on structures, principles, religious practices, ideas or doctrines, but on people, people like Simon Peter. Secondly, Yeshua was speaking of His ekklesia being built on the massive foundational rock of Himself – on His nature as the Messiah and Son of God, and as such it will be unstoppably ever expanding until it fills the whole earth.

In the very place of Israel’s shame and disgrace, the place of the beginning of their spiritual defeat which led to their decimation, in this stronghold of pagan worship and demonic activity, at the entrance to the gates of hell, Yeshua declared His ultimate victory. He was going to build His body of people called out from the world into the Kingdom of God, Daniel 2:34-35 & 44-45 was coming to pass and nothing could stop it.

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth….”
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. (Daniel 2:34-35 & 44-45 NIV)

There was a massive petra (foundational rock structure, cliff, mass of connected rock) that dominated the landscape in which Yeshua had declared “and on this rock (petra) I will build My church (ekklesia) and the gates of hades will not prevail against it.” Within that very petra were the gates of hades. Was Yeshua showing His talmidim a picture not of the gates of hades as this separate, evil, pagan thing that the church would advance towards in order to destroy, but of the evil which would try to threaten the church from within but still fail to hinder His building? Could Yeshua have been saying that He knew bad things were going to be done by His called-out ones, even after He sent the Holy Spirit? Was He declaring that even the faults and weaknesses of those joined in this mass of connected rock (petra), even our fallen human nature, even the tares sown among the wheat, even all the wrongs that would later be done in His name, would not be able to destroy what He was building?

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

The Jewish community was built on the rock of Torah. God had written the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. 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 Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees had taken over this role, claiming 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 decided how the people were to carry out Torah and what punishments were issued for failing to obey their decrees. The power of these rabbis was a threefold one:
(1) to amplify the Torah either 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 Law 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).

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 had risen and was 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). 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). In 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 Christ’s Kingdom (Luke 11:52 “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.”; Matthew 23:13 “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.“) They used their keys (their spiritual authority in the community) to shut people out, rather than to open the doors of the Kingdom. Peter was thus in preparation for being “admitted to the office of scribe” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeshua was going to give him authority to teach the truths of the Kingdom:

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). Likewise in Matthew 18:18 where Yeshua is addressing all His talmidim:

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), 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). “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

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. Acts 1:15-26 Peter set in motion the permitting of another to join the ranks of the twelve apostles. Acts 2:14-39 Peter loosed the crowd to receive salvation through his preaching. Acts 3 Peter loosed the lame man from his infirmity. Acts 4 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 5:1-11 Peter forbids lying to the Holy Spirit and the power of God executes the Father’s judgment on such. Acts 6:1-6 the twelve loosed seven men, chosen by the people, to take charge of meeting the needs of the widows. Acts 8 Philip loosed the Samaritans to receive salvation, Peter bound (forbade) offering money for the power of God, and Philip loosed the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptised. Acts 10 Peter, in response to a vision from heaven, loosed the gentiles of Cornelius’ household to be baptised. Acts 15 the Jerusalem Council, consisting of both apostles and elders, jointly considered what to bind and loose for the gentiles who had come to faith in Jesus Christ. 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 people, but that time was not yet.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Bible Hub. Mark 8:14 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: June 4th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/8-14.htm.
4. Bible History Editors. Ancient Caesarea Philippi. Bible History – Maps, Images, Archaelogy. [Online] [Cited: June 5th, 2022.] https://bible-history.com/biblestudy/ancient-caesarea-philippi.
5. Eddie. Jesus at Caesarea Philippi. Things Paul and Luke. [Online] Oct 02, 2019. https://thingspaulandluke.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/jesus-at-caesarea-philippi/.
6. Gawell, Donna. Caesarea Philippi: The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail. Donnagawell. [Online] January 31st, 2020. https://donnagawell.com/2020/01/31/caesarea-philippi-the-gates-of-hell-will-not-prevail/.
7. Stein, Dr. Robert. Lecture 26: Life of Jesus: Caesarea Philippi & Transfiguration. Biblical Training. [Online] [Cited: June 5th, 2022.] https://www.biblicaltraining.org/transcriptions/lecture-26-life-jesus-caesarea-philippi-transfiguration.
8. Associates for Biblical Reearch. The Temple of Caesar Augustus at Caesarea Philippi. Bible Archaeology. [Online] [Cited: June 18th, 2022.] https://biblearchaeology.org/research/new-testament-era/3473-the-temple-of-caesar-augustus-at-caesarea-philippi.
9. Verwysings. Mount Hermon: Gate of the Fallen Angels. Leef Jou Geloof. [Online] 11 12, 2014. https://leefjougeloof.co.za/mount-hermon-gate-of-the-fallen-angels/.
10. Commelin, Grietje. Why Did Noah Cures His Son Ham? Biblword. [Online] June 1st, 2022. https://www.biblword.net/why-did-noah-curse-his-son-ham/.
11. Frankel, Prof. Rabbi David. Noah, Ham and the Curse of Canaan: Who Did What to Whom in the Tent? The Torah.com. [Online] [Cited: June 25th, 2022.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/noah-ham-and-the-curse-of-canaan-who-did-what-to-whom-in-the-tent.
12. Farber, Dr. Rabbi Zev. Noah’s Nakedness: How the Canaan-Ham Curse Conundrum Came to Be. The Torah – com. [Online] [Cited: June 25th, 2022.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/noahs-nakedness-how-the-canaan-ham-curse-conundrum-came-to-be.
13. Stewart, Don. Why Was Canaan Cursed Instead of Ham? Blue Letter Bible. [Online] [Cited: 07 02, 2022.] https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_747.cfm.
14. Terry, Tom. The Surprising Sin of Ham and Curse of Canaan. Preach It Teach It. [Online] [Cited: 07 02, 2022.] https://preachitteachit.org/articles/detail/the-surprising-sin-of-ham-and-curse-of-canaan/.
15. Richoka. 9-7: Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham? Messianic Revolution. [Online] [Cited: July 5th, 2022.] https://messianic-revolution.com/9-7-canaan-cursed-instead-ham/.
16. Short, Larry. What is the relationship between Mount Hermon and the Nephilim in ancient times? Quora. [Online] [Cited: July 16th, 2022.] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-relationship-between-Mount-Hermon-and-the-Nephilim-in-ancient-times.
17. Farra-Hadad, Nour. Mount Hermon (Jabal El Sheikh) in Lebanon, A Sacred Biblical Mountain: Pilgrimages, traditions and rituals. International Journal of Religioous Tourism and Pilgrimage. [Online] Volume 9 Issue 2, 2021. https://arrow.tudublin.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1622&context=ijrtp.
18. Editors, Jewish Virtual Library. Mount Hermon. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: July 16th, 2022.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mount-hermon.
19. Kohler, Kaufmann. Authority, Rabbinical. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: July 16th, 2022.] https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2154-authority-rabbinical.
20. Church, J.R. Mount Hermon: Gate of the Fallen Angels. Leef Jou Geloof. [Online] 11 12, 2014. https://leefjougeloof.co.za/mount-hermon-gate-of-the-fallen-angels/.
21. Bonocore, Mark. Peter is not the Rock according to the Orthodox Study Bible. Catholic Bridge. [Online] [Cited: July 17th, 2022.] https://www.catholicbridge.com/orthodox/pope-is-peter-the-rock.php.
22. Staples, Tim. Seven Reasons Why Peter is the Rock. Catholic Answers. [Online] June 5th, 2020. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/peter-the-rock.
23. Stern, David H. Mattityahu Jewish New Testament Chapter 16. Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern. [Online] [Cited: July 17th, 2022.] https://kifakz.github.io/eng/bible/stern/stern_matfey_16.html.
24. Joosten, Strasbourg Jan. Aramaic or Hebrew behind the Greek Gospels? [Online] 06 2015. https://drmsh.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Joosten-Aramaic-or-Hebrew-behind_the_Gospels.pdf.
25. Fontecchio), Mark. Can You Clarify the Meaning of Matthew 16:19? Ask a Bible Teacher. [Online] [Cited: July 18th, 2022.] https://www.returntotheword.com/Can-You-Clarify-The-Meaning-Of-Matthew-1619-RttW.
26. Davis, Rabbi. Binding and Loosing. Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue. [Online] [Cited: July 19th, 2022.] https://www.rabdavis.org/binding-and-loosing/.
27. Huckey, Darren. Binding and Loosing Properly Understood. Emet HaTorah. [Online] [Cited: July 19th, 2022.] https://www.emethatorah.com/binding-and-loosing-properly-understood.
28. https://biblehub.com/greek/4073.htm
29. https://www.biblehub.com/greek/4074.htm

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

* List some of the signs that the religious leaders had already seen which should have convinced them that Jesus was the messiah and Son of God.
* Is there a time in your life when you were so focused on what you had failed to do that you misunderstood what God was saying to you?
* What are your thoughts on this time when the miracle of total healing was not instant?
* Jesus redeemed this most notorious place in ancient Israel, even the darkest places can be transformed by the Son of God. Do you have places with a dark history in your country and what impact has the gospel had in those places?
* What does it mean to have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?
* Wat does it mean to bind and loose?

The Good Shepherd

Please read John 9:35 – 10:21

Yeshua heard that they had thrown the man out. He found him and said, “Do you trust in the Son of Man?” 
 “Sir,” he answered, “tell me who he is, so that I can trust in him.” 
Yeshua said to him, “You have seen Him. In fact, He’s the one speaking with you now.” 
“Lord, I trust!” he said, and he kneeled down in front of Him.

John 9:35-38 CJB

Yeshua had found this man the first time to display God’s power in healing his blindness. Now, He found the man a second time to restore his soul, to invite this man to believe (trust) in Him. None had ever sort the man born blind to do him good before. He responded wholeheartedly.

Again a crowd was gathering.

 Yeshua said, “It is to judge that I came into this world, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” 
Some of the P’rushim nearby heard this and said to Him, “So we’re blind too, are we?”  
Yeshua answered them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you still say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
John 9:39-41 CJB

The way people responded to Jesus showed their true spiritual condition. Some called themselves teachers and thought they possessed religious insight, but in fact they were spiritually blind. Others knew they were blind and in the darkness of sin, but when they turned to Jesus they saw the light of God. There could be some excuse for those who were blind through ignorance, but there was sharp rebuke for those who claimed to have knowledge but deliberately rejected the plain evidence before them.

Yeshua continued addressing the P’rushim (Pharisees)…

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But He who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep.  To Him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.  And when He brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.  Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  

Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. John 10:1-6 NKJV

Yeshua described His mission in terms they were familiar with from the Hebrew scriptures. He is our shepherd who comes and calls us by name to lead us out to follow Him.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. . . Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Isaiah 40:11 NASB

The day was coming to a close and shepherds were taking their sheep to the safety of the fold for the night. Yeshua had welcomed the man born blind into His fold after he’d been rejected by the false shepherds of Israel. The flocks of sheep spent the night in a fold (αὐλήגְּדֵרָה) surrounded by a wall, at whose gate an under-shepherd (ὁ θυρωρός) kept watch during the night.  There is only one gate, every other attempted means of entering the fold is illegitimate. The Pharisees thought themselves the gatekeepers of Israel, who protected the people from ungodly influences, so they were caught off-guard by this unfolding similitude.

So Yeshua said to them again, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that I am the gate for the sheep. All those who have come before Me have been thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate; if someone enters through Me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure.” John 10:7-10 CJB

Yeshua’s restoration and acceptance into the fold, of the man born blind, demonstrated that He indeed is the true entrance into God’s fold, the gate through which all need to pass if they are to enter. The Pharisees rejection and casting out of this man for speaking truth showed them to be thieves and robbers. Yeshua had come to bring life in its fullest measure where they had brought only destruction.

Yeshua is the gate, the one and only way into the kingdom of God.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  
He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters the flock.  He flees because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep.”  John 10:11-13 NASB

No metaphor can adequately describe the Son of God so Yeshua shifts His self-description from the Gate to the Good Shepherd as He continues to contrast His ministry to that of the Pharisees. Again prophesying His upcoming death, Yeshua presents it as a requirement of the Good Shepherd. It will not be a meaningless tragedy but a necessity for our sake, and another proof that Yeshua is who He says He is.

Again, He was appealing to their knowledge of scripture, both in describing Himself as the good shepherd and in describing the religious leaders who had thrown out the man healed from congenital blindness as hired hands:

The word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:  Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for My sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  …  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
” … “ And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. ” Ezekiel 34:1-17, 23

In declaring Himself to be the good shepherd, Yeshua was revealing His divinity. He is the one who seeks the lost, even as He sort the man born blind.

 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me,  just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  John 10:14-15 NASB

Those who hear and follow Yeshua belong to Him, are known by Him and know Him. What He invites us to in the call to follow is an intimate knowing, to know and be known by Jesus even as He knows and is known by the Father. There is no greater belonging. No greater acceptance.

 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd. John 10:16 NASB

This unity with God, this belonging to Yeshua, this knowing and being known by Him, is not only offered to the fold of the Jews. Yeshua came to the Jews as the promised Jewish Hamashiach (Messiah). But now He declares that they are not the only ones that He is calling, and dying for. The division between Jews and Gentiles was going to be removed as both would be called and together become one flock under the one shepherd, Yeshua Hamashiach.

 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ John 10:17-18 NIV

Again, Yeshua is preparing His talmidim for His death and resurrection. Although it will appear that He’s a hapless victim of the world’s evil, in reality He will simply be doing the Father’s will in choosing to lay down His life for His sheep, and then taking it up again.

The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, ‘He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?’
But others said, ‘These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
John 10:19-21 NIV

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.

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

  • This man whom Jesus had healed from blindness was thrown out of his community by the religious leaders. Are people ever thrown out of your community, or disfellowshipped, or excommunicated. If so, what are the reasons for their rejection?
  • Jesus found the man after he had been thrown out of the synagogue and affirmed him as one of His sheep, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. How do you and your church respond to people who are despised and rejected by others?
  • Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and know Him as He knows the Father. How do you encourage people in your congregation to hear and obey the Good Shepherd’s voice?

Healing the Blind

Please read John 9: 1-34

As Yeshua passed along, He saw a man blind from birth. 
His talmidim asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned — this man or his parents — to cause him to be born blind?” 
Yeshua answered, “His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.  

As long as it is day, we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me; the night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:1-5 CJB

It was Shabbat. Yeshua had left from teaching in the temple grounds, narrowly escaping the attempt to stone Him, and was walking through the city of Jerusalem with His talmidim when He saw a man who had been blind from birth. Yeshua was not dwelling on the emotion of His rejection in the temple just minutes before this, His sole focus was on the Father’s will, and God’s will in this moment centred on a man who had been born blind. The blind man could not see Yeshua and did not cry out to Him, but Yeshua saw this man and stopped for him. Messiah always sees us before we see Him.

When Yeshua looked at the blind man He saw what God wanted to do for him.

When His talmidim (disciples) looked at the blind man they saw a theological dilemma: “who sinned – this man or his parents – to cause him to be born blind?” They were convinced that either one or the other had to be the case. Like Job’s comforters, they were possessed by the popular idea that special misfortunes were the punishment of special sins. Their compassion was stunted by the belief that either this man, or his parents, deserved the punishment of his being born blind. Their theological debate centred on whether so terrible a sin could be committed by a baby in the womb or just be the punishment for the parent’s sin placed on their unborn child. Like we so often are, they were wrong on both counts, totally missing God’s heart in the situation.

Yeshua corrected them: “His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. How often do we focus on what we think someone deserves instead of focusing on how God’s power might be seen at work?

As long as it is day,” Yeshua continued, “we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me.” No matter what has just happened to us; no matter what others may be plotting to do to us; no matter what our situation or circumstance; our mandate remains the same – keep doing the work of God. Even if they threaten to stone you look away from the threat and towards our Father’s will. We MUST, it is not an optional extra, we MUST keep doing the work of God while we are able to do so.

For: “the night is coming, when no one can work.” Things were going to get worse, much worse, but that was no reason to dwell in gloom and doom. The prospect of night coming when things get so dark that it is impossible to work was simply more reason to keep focused on the Father and doing His work while they were able to.

Then Yeshua reminded them of what He’d been teaching in the temple: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” While ever He had breath Yeshua would shine the light of God into this dark world, doing the Father’s work and displaying God’s power in doing good and overcoming all the works of the evil one.

This time there was no noisy crowd accompanying Yeshua and shouting His praises, no excited chatter about His miracles, no one drawing attention to Him, He had slipped away from the crowds in the temple. There was nothing to alert the blind man to Who had seen him or what He could do for him. So he had not been calling out to Yeshua, had not been asking for his sight. But this blind man was at this place in this time by God’s purpose, even if he did not yet know it – his whole life, a life of being falsely judged and cruelly rejected because of his disability, had been for the sake of this moment. His congenital blindness was not a punishment but an opportunity for all in Jerusalem to see the glory of God displayed and believe Messiah at this crucial point in His ministry to them.

Having said this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash off in the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam)!” (The name means “sent.”) So he went and washed and came away seeing. John 9:6-7 CJB

Yeshua spat on the ground, the dust from which He had made man, and mixed the two together to form a holy mud to place upon these eyes which had never seen. Yeshua then sent this man to the very pool that had been the centre of a week of great rejoicing with the drawing of water for the festival. The water from this pool had been poured out with the offerings in the temple to the jubilation of all the people and now this source of joy was to be used for healing a man born blind.

The man knew this pool well, and could pick his way through the streets to get there on his own. This journey took him away from Yeshua, who continued along another path in staying hidden from the crowds. There, alone at the pool of Siloam, the man born blind washed the mud off his eyes and for the very first time in his life, they opened and he could see. Suddenly his life had been transformed and his excitement started attracting attention.

His neighbors and those who previously had seen him begging said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”  
Some said, “Yes, he’s the one”; while others said, “No, but he looks like him.”

However, he himself said, “I’m the one.”  
“How were your eyes opened?” they asked him.  
He answered, “The man called Yeshua made mud, put it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Shiloach
(Siloam) and wash!’ So I went; and as soon as I had washed, I could see.”  
They said to him, “Where is He?” and he replied, “I don’t know.”

John 9:8-12 CJB

Notice who the people were who saw that the man born blind could now see – neighbours and those who had previously seen him begging. No mention of friends. No one in this crowd really knew him, no one had helped him to the well – they even debated whether he was that blind man they’d seen begging or someone else. This was a man who had largely lived alone in society, begging for his needs, but rarely had anyone paid him much attention. None had bothered to get to know the blind beggar. Suddenly he was the centre of attention because of what Yeshua had done for him.

 They took the man who had been blind to the P’rushim.  Now the day on which Yeshua had made the mud and opened his eyes was Shabbat.  So the P’rushim asked him again how he had become able to see; and he told them, “He put mud on my eyes, then I washed, and now I can see.”  
At this, some of the P’rushim said, “This man is not from God, because he doesn’t keep Shabbat.”
But others said, “How could a man who is a sinner do miracles like these?” And there was a split among them.  
So once more they spoke to the blind man: “Since you’re the one whose eyes he opened, what do you say about him?”
He replied: “He is a prophet.” John 9:13-17 CJB


Over and over again Yeshua demonstrated that the Jewish religious leaders had misunderstood His Shabbat commandment as He perfectly kept God’s law with God’s intent. Never had God designed Shabbat to limit compassion or healing. Whenever Yeshua came across someone who needed healing He healed them, whether it was Shabbat or not. So it was with this man born blind – God’s purpose was that His power would be seen at work in this man, Yeshua acted in accord with the Father’s purpose and did a creative miracle in healing this man on Shabbat.

The first reference to the day of rest in scripture is Genesis 2:2-3 “On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.  God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.” CJB

The next reference is in Exodus 16 when God taught them practically through providing bread from heaven, Manna – twice as much on the sixth day and none on the seventh: “And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?  See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”  So the people rested on the seventh day.” Vs 28-30 NKJV This rest was to take precedence even over the necessary work of providing for their family, as an expression of trust in God’s provision.

Then in Exodus 20 God gave the 10 Commandments and the 4th Commandment is: “Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.  You have six days to labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property.   For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for Himself.” Vs 8-11 CJB

For the next several chapters God gives Moses the laws that are to govern the nation of Israel and in Exodus 23:12 declares: “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.” NKJV All who dwelt with them were to be blessed with Shabbat, even the lowliest of slaves, even their work animals. This was so different to the cultures around them where workers and servants were expected to work every day, seven days a week. Here we see how, as Yeshua said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was created for the sake of man and not man for the sake of the Sabbath.” ABPE

Then, in Exodus 24, the people of Israel affirmed that they would do all that God had said and Moses was called up to God on Mt Zion for 40 days and nights – for the next 7 chapters God teaches Moses how the people were to build the Tabernacle, dress the priests, and worship Him.  At the end of this teaching God says: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.  You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ Exodus 31:13-17 NKJV

After the sin of the golden calf, in Exodus, when Moses went back up the mountain God gave him instructions for when they would enter the Promised Land and declared: “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in ploughing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21 NKJV Even in the midst of the urgency of ploughing or bringing in the harvest they are to set aside the seventh day for rest and cease from this necessary work of providing for their family and community to set aside the day to God.

When Moses came down from the mountain, before giving the instructions for building the tabernacle he first taught the people: “These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.  You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” Exodus 35:1-3 NKJV It was not just outside work like ploughing and harvesting that was prohibited on Shabbat, but also the inside work of forging metals for their religious duty of making the tabernacle. Resting relationship with God was more important than the work of making the physical place for sacrifices and worship.

In Leviticus 19:3, 19:30, 23:3 and 26:2 God reiterates the command to keep Shabbat. Then Numbers 15:32-36 provides a solemn warning and example of profaning Shabbat: “While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” What a solemn warning of the seriousness of breaking this command! There was only one reason for gathering sticks – in order to kindle a fire.

Numbers 28:9-10 provides instructions for special offerings to be made each Shabbat.

Deuteronomy affirms the Shabbat command and links it to God’s deliverance of them from the slavery in Egypt: “‘Observe the day of Shabbat, to set it apart as holy, as Adonai your God ordered you to do.  You have six days to labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your ox, your donkey or any of your other livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property — so that your male and female servants can rest just as you do.  You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore Adonai your God has ordered you to keep the day of Shabbat.” Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Shabbat was a reminder of God’s deliverance and a command to show His love to all, enabling all to enter into His rest.

In SUMMARY, the Torah teaches that Shabbat (the 7th day):
1) is blessed and separated from the other days as holy;
2) precluded collecting Manna, God provided twice as much on the 6th day so they would have no need to go out and collect it on Shabbat;
3) was to be a day of rest;
4) to be set apart for God;
5) all were to be given rest from any kind of work, including foreigners, slaves and animals;
6) to enable everyone to be refreshed;
7) any who worked on Shabbat were to be put to death;
8) even at the busiest times of the year, ploughing time and harvest, all were to stop and rest every 7th day;
9) forbidden to kindle a fire in their dwellings (burn in order to purge and utterly remove waste) to do the metalwork required in building the tabernacle – even this service to God is to be rested from on Shabbat;
10) a man who profaned Shabbat by going out and gathering sticks was to be stoned outside the camp;
11) special offerings were to be made in the tabernacle / temple each Shabbat;
12) give Shabbat rest to all, including servants, in remembrance of God’s deliverance from their slavery in Egypt.

In their development of Shabbat laws the Sanhedrin focused on God’s rest from creating on the seventh day and thus concluded that man is likewise to refrain from any constructive, creative effort that demonstrates man’s mastery over nature. To determine what constituted human acts of creation they looked to the juxtaposition of the endeavour to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with the commandment to observe Shabbat in Exodus 24-35, and from that deduced that the melachot (work forbidden on Shabbat) was any type of labor involved in construction of the Mishkan.  

With typical Jewish regard for the importance of specific numbers their Oral Torah, as later written in the  Mishnah, stated: “The primary categories of prohibited labors are forty minus one:” (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2). Forty days it rained to flood the whole earth; forty days Moses was up on the mountain neither eating or drinking as he received the Ten Commandments and instructions for worship; forty days the spies explored the Promised Land; forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after their disobedience; forty days Elijah walked to Horeb the mount of God after Jezebel’s threats against him, and the inhabitants of Nineveh were given forty days notice of God’s impending judgment.

Thus, the Jewish Rabbis designated forty minus one, ie 39, categories of activities forbidden on Shabbat, and each of these represented many different activities which they deemed unlawful on Shabbat.

The first 11 melachot encompass all the steps that go into producing bread, from plowing the soil to baking the dough: (1) sowing, (2) plowing, (3) harvesting, (4) binding sheaves, (5) threshing, (6) winnowing, (7) selecting, (8) tochen (grinding), (9) sifting, (10) kneading, (11) baking.
The next 13 melachot encompass all the steps that go into making material curtains: (12) shearing wool, (13) bleaching it, (14) hackling it, (15) dyeing it, (16) spinning, (17) stretching the threads, (18) making two meshes, (19) weaving two threads, (20) dividing two threads, (21) tying, (22) untying, (23) sewing two stitches, (24) tearing in order to sew two stitches.
The following 7 melachot encompass all the steps that go into making leather curtains: (25) hunting a deer / animal, (26) slaughtering it, (27) flaying it, (28) salting it, (29) curing its hide, (30) scraping it, (31) slicing it.
The next 2 melachot were connected to the Krushim (beams of the  Mishkan) which were inscribed with letters to facilitate matching them each time the Misgkan was erected: (32) writing two letters, (33) erasing in order to write two letters.
The following 2 melachot were connected with putting up and taking down of the Mishkan: (34) building, (35) pulling down.
The last 4 melachot were related to the final touches of the Mishkan: (36) extinguishing, (37) kindling, (38) striking with a hammer and (39) taking out from one domain to another.
Each one of these 39 categories of work is considered to have many “children”, related activities that are thus also forbidden – providing a very long list indeed of activities one must avoid doing on Shabbat.

Other parts of the Oral Torah developed by the Rabbis had additional activities forbidden on Shabbat: Mishnah Shabbat 12:2 prohibits plucking, trimming, and cutting; and Mekhilta d’Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, prohibits other activities “unbecoming the tone of Shabbat“, such as: buying, selling, loaning, placing an article in deposit, legal judgments, legal claims, appeals, other court activities, marriage, divorce, and accounting.

The Sanhedrin reasoned that each of the above 39 categories of forbidden acts is a “father” that has many “offspring” that are also forbidden due to their intrinsic similarity to the parent act. An example of this is the rabbinic decree that refu’ah (an act of healing) is forbidden on Shabbat because it might violate the prohibition of the 8th category, tochen, by grinding herbs to produce medicine. Thus, they judged Yeshua guilty of breaking Shabbat for healing the man born blind. They also wanted to know how Yeshua provided the healing to determine if that was another violation of their Shabbat laws. Thus also judging Him guilty of breaking Shabbat for “toladot” – mixing sand or earth with liquid, as He did in making the mud that He placed on the blind man’s eyes – which they had forbidden as an “offspring” act to their 10th melachot  of “kneeding”.

Straight after receiving his miracle the man born blind faced a character test – would he have the strength to stand on the truth under questioning and pressure from the Jewish leaders who refused to believe in Yeshua?

The Judeans, however, were unwilling to believe that he had formerly been blind, but now could see, until they had summoned the man’s parents.  They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” 
His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind;  but how it is that he can see now, we don’t know; nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him — he’s old enough, he can speak for himself!” 
The parents said this because they were afraid of the Judeans, for the Judeans had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Yeshua as the Messiah would be banned from the synagogue.  This is why his parents said, “He’s old enough, ask him.” John 9:18-23 CJB

To be banned from the synagogue was to be shunned and ostracised from their whole community, with the religious assumption that this represented total rejection by God. The man’s parents were still trying to earn their place in society after suffering the shame of having a son born blind. They were honest, would not lie, but they had not encountered Yeshua and did not have the courage to stand up for their son and risk rejection from their community, expulsion from the synagogue. So they refused to answer how their son had been miraculously healed and instead let him stand alone on this.

So a second time they called the man who had been blind; and they said to him, “Swear to God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man is a sinner.” 
He answered, “Whether he’s a sinner or not I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, now I see.” 
So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 
“I already told you,” he answered, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you too want to become his talmidim?” 
 Then they railed at him. “You may be his talmid,” they said, “but we are talmidim of Moshe!  We know that God has spoken to Moshe, but as for this fellow — we don’t know where he’s from!” 
“What a strange thing,” the man answered, “that you don’t know where he’s from — considering that he opened my eyes!  We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone fears God and does His will, God does listen to him.  In all history no one has ever heard of someone’s opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, He couldn’t do a thing!” 
“Why, you mamzer (born in sin)!” they retorted, “Are you lecturing us?” And they threw him out. John 9:24-34 CJB

These religious leaders made a pretence of wanting to know the truth while hating every word of truth that was spoken. The hypocrisy of it was glaring. The man born blind could see it clearly and became more and more emboldened in his replies to these deliberately blind guides. In the end they admitted that they knew he had indeed been born blind as they hurled their derogatory accusation against him referring to the belief that his blindness had come from pre-natal sin: “mamzer!”

They were not willing to believe the truth so they threw this man out whose very presence shouted the truth that Yeshua is the Son of God. Those who reject the truth will reject any who speak truth and want nothing to do with them. Those who love truth will welcome any who speak truth and want to hear all they have to say.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Chabad.org. The Shabbat Laws. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95907/jewish/The-Shabbat-Laws.htm.
4. OU Staff. The 39 Categories of Sabbath Work Prohibited By Law. Orthodux Union. [Online] July 17th, 2006. https://www.ou.org/holidays/the_thirty_nine_categories_of_sabbath_work_prohibited_by_law/#23.
5. Jewish Virtual Library. Shabbat: What is Shabbat? Jewish ?Virtual Library. [Online] AICE. [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/what-is-shabbat-jewish-sabbath.
6. Posner, Rabbi Menachem. What is Shabbat? Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/633659/jewish/What-Is-Shabbat.htm#Things.
7. Student, Gil. Medicine on Shabbos. Torah Musings. [Online] February 14th, 2013. https://www.torahmusings.com/2013/02/medicine-on-shabbos/.
8. Neustadt, Rabbi Doniel. Medicine on Shabbat. Halachipedia – Halacha On The Web. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Medicine_on_Shabbat.
9. Pfeffer, Rabbi Yehoshua. Medicine and Health-Related Activities on Shabbos. [Online] January 14th, 2015. https://dinonline.org/2015/01/14/medicine-and-health-related-activities-on-shabbos/.
10. Ellicott et all. John 9:35 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: March 12th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/9-35.htm.
11. Chabad.org. The 39 Melachot. Chabad.0rg. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/102032/jewish/The-39-Melachot.htm.
12. Wineberg, Mendy. Introduction to the 39 Melachot. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4739282/jewish/Introduction-to-the-39-Melachot.htm.
13. Chabad Editors. Melacha – A Unique Definition of Work. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95906/jewish/Melacha-A-Unique-Definition-of-Work.htm.
14. Aknlah Editors. 39 Melachot – 39 things prohibited on Shabbat. Akhlah: The Jewish Children’s Learning Network. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/shabbat/39-melachot/.
15. Hauptman, Prof. Rabbi Judith. 39 Melachot of Shabbat: What Is the Function of This List? The Torah. [Online] [Cited: March 19th, 2022.] https://www.thetorah.com/article/39-melachot-of-shabbat-what-is-the-function-of-this-list.
16. Drazin, Dr. Israel. Why Are 39 Labors Prohibited on the Sabbath? Books and Thoughts. [Online] January 4th, 2015. https://booksnthoughts.com/why-are-39-labors-prohibited-on-the-sabbath/.
17. Torahtots Editors. THE 39 MELACHOT – Lamed-Tet Melachot. Torah Tots. [Online] [Cited: March 26th, 2022.] https://www.torahtots.com/torah/39melachot.htm.

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

  • Jesus healed all who came to Him, but this time the blind man had not come to Him nor called out to Him. Share an experience when God put on your heart to go to someone who had not been seeking God, and pray for them.
  • The disciples had missed God’s heart in the situation and instead were concerned with who was right about the reason for this man’s blindness. Share an example of where Christians have been more concerned about which one of them was right than what God wanted to do in the situation.
  • How can we keep from missing what God wants to do?
  • The Sanhedrin had turned God’s command to rest on Shabbat into a multitude of man-made rules. What man-made rules have you come across in churches in your region?
  • Church discipline is needful but must be motivated by love for the body of Christ and based on God’s word not man-made rules. Do you have any examples of God directed church discipline and what fruit it brought?

I AM – Truth and Freedom

Please read John 8:21-59

Again He told them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin — where I am going, you cannot come.”  
The Judeans said, “Is he going to commit suicide? Is that what he means when he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”  
Yeshua said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.  This is why I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I AM [who I say I am], you will die in your sins.”
John 8:21-24 CJB

Again” indicates that there was an interval between Yeshua’s last words and this discourse, but gives no indication as to whether that interval was minutes, hours, days or weeks. Certainly, it was long enough for His last words to sink in: “You know neither Me nor my Father; if you knew Me, you would know my Father too.”

It was just six months until Yeshua would be crucified as the ultimate act of their rejection of His teaching and of Himself. He could feel the pressure mounting, already many of the leaders were plotting to have Him killed and it was only divine intervention staying their hand. So there was a certain urgency in His teaching, these people needed to see the reality of what was soon to take place if they were to be saved from dying in their sins.

Where was Yeshua going? He was returning to the Father, He was going to sit at the Father’s right hand. “which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:20-21 NASB. “…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21b-22 NASB. This is where Yeshua was going, and we cannot go there with Him unless we believe in Him.

In verse 21, and then twice in verse 24, Yeshua tells them they will die in their sin – (Gk) hamartia = having forfeited God’s approval because of missing His mark; failing to hit the target of obedience to God; every decision not of faith, not inspired and empowered by God; being in the condition of estrangement from God. In verse 24 Yeshua makes it plain that the core of their sin is unbelief – all those who refuse to believe what He says or who He is have, by that unbelief, rejected God and thereby forfeited His approval, regardless of how hard they may work at religious practices. Religious, or ‘spiritual’, activities are no substitute for believing and obeying God.  

Importantly, Yeshua equates Himself with God by speaking of Himself as I AM. Unless we believe that Yeshua is I AM יהוה we will die in our sins.

We first encounter this name for God in Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks God for His name and God replies: (as translated into English) “I AM WHO I AM (Hebrew: Ehyeh asher Ehyeh – which also translates as “I will be what I will be”) … tell them I AM (Hebrew: YHWH – known as the tetragrammaton because of the 4 letters) has sent me to you”. Yahweh is the third person version of Ehyeh, which is first person. In the postexilic period the Jews, for reverence reasons, did not pronounce the name YHWH but substituted for it the word adonai (lord), and in written form attached these vowels to the tetragrammaton. The resulting misguided pronunciation of the name Yhwh as the three-syllable word, Y[J]ehovah, continued in English Bible translations until early in the twentieth century. Evidence from Greek usage in the Christian era points to the two-syllable pronunciation, “Yahweh.” In giving this name for His people to call Him, God conveyed His dominion over all things, the source of His power, and His eternal nature: I AM. He is the self-sufficient, self-sustaining God who was, who is, and who will be.  

 At this, they said to him, “You? Who are you?”
Yeshua answered, “Just what I’ve been telling you from the start. There are many things I could say about you, and many judgments I could make. However, the One who sent Me is true; so I say in the world only what I have heard from Him.”  
They did not understand that He was talking to them about the Father.  So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM [who I say I am], and that of Myself I do nothing, but say only what the Father has taught Me.  Also, the One who sent Me is still with Me; He did not leave Me to Myself, because I always do what pleases Him.”
Many people who heard Him say these things trusted in Him.
John 8:25-30 CJB

The religious leaders in the temple ask the question “You? Who are you?” in the tone of scorn. The pronoun is the emphatic word and the phrase was in frequent use to express contempt. He had said, “I AM;” but they do not accept His divinity so they are attempting to draw from Him some definite statement that they can use as technical grounds to charge Him with blasphemy. Yeshua affirms His identity without falling into their trap: “Just what I’ve been telling you from the start.” All of His teaching points to who He is – the light of the world, the way the truth and the life, the Son of God, the great I AM – and unless we are willing to believe who He is we forfeit God’s approval and will die in our sin.

Yeshua’s reference to Himself as “the Son of Man” alludes to Daniel 7:13-14:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

The title “Son of Man” thereby encompasses both Yeshua’s humanity and His divinity as the One who has everlasting dominion and is to be worshipped by all peoples. The Jewish pseudepigraphal writings of 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra give evidence of the understanding of the Jews of that time, presenting ‘the Son of Man‘ as an individual and a messianic figure, so Yeshua’s use of the term would have been clearly understood by His Jewish audience.

Yeshua generally used the term Son of Man when explaining His authority in terms of the humiliation, suffering and death He was to suffer in giving His life as a ransom for us. Likewise the phrase “lift up” – (Gk) hypsoo = to raise high, elevate, exalt – refers both to Yeshua’s crucifixion, and beyond that to His glorification. Those who were looking for a conquering Messiah could not comprehend that the Son of Man was given the authority, glory, sovereign power and an everlasting dominion of Daniel 7:13-14, only after such had been earnt through the sufferings of Isaiah 53. Our Messiah’s suffering and glory are intertwined.

We are called to follow in His footsteps: And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ–if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:17).

Many of the people who heard Yeshua say these things about Himself believed in Him, put their trust in Him. They had taken the first step but such belief is not the fullness of what God requires. So, now Yeshua addresses these ones who had believed in Him, instructing them on what it takes to be His talmid (disciple).

 So Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, “If you obey what I say, then you are really my talmidim, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free .”  John 8:31-32 CJB

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know (γινώσκω) the truth, and the truth will make you free ( ἐλεύθερος ).” John 8:31-32 NASB

What does it take to be Yeshua’s talmid (disciple)? It is more than just believing in Him. Even the Devil believes that Yeshua is the Son of God (He also drove out many demons, but He would not let the demons speak because they knew who He was (Mark 1:34). Moreover demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah (Luke 4:41) ). Many of the Judeans listening to Yeshua teaching in the Temple that day had come to the point of believing in Him, but that alone is not sufficient. Yeshua addressed them, and all those who likewise today claim to believe in Jesus but want to keep living for themselves. To be Yeshua’s talmid requires that we obey what He says, that we abide in His word, that we live in His word, that we remain in His word, that we stand in His word, that we stay in His word. This is so much more than just saying that we believe Jesus is Lord, it requires a total life commitment that brings all we think, say and do into line with His word. If we do not obey Yeshua, He is not our Lord and we are not His disciples.

When Yeshua spoke of knowing (γινώσκω) the truth, He was not talking just about head knowledge. The Greek word used in scripture, γινώσκω, ginōskō, refers to knowing through personal experience, it is the kind of knowing that comes from an active relationship between the one who knows and the person (or thing) known. What sets us free is not just knowing some facts about Jesus, but personally knowing (being in intimate relationship, united as one with) the One who is the truth.

ἐλεύθερος – eleutheria (translated as free; one who is not a slave; one who ceases to be a slave, freed, manumitted; one who is exempt, unrestrained, not bound by an obligation; released from confinement or distress or physical sickness; liberated from political domination and oppression; especially: a state of freedom from slavery)- was an ancient Greek term for, and personification of, liberty. In NT times ἐλεύθερος was used literally of becoming a Roman citizen, something that slaves were not allowed to do. These religious Jews in the temple knew that Yeshua’s invitation was not to Roman citizenship but to citizenship in the kingdom of God. Instead of rejoicing in this invitation, they riled against it because their hope and identity was placed in their ethnicity, in being descendants of Abraham.

They answered, “We are the seed of Avraham and have never been slaves to anyone; so what do you mean by saying, ‘You will be set free’?” 
Yeshua answered them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. 
 Now a slave does not remain with a family forever, but a son does remain with it forever. So if the Son frees you, you will really be free!   John 8:33-36 CJB

Instead of rejoicing in the hope of being made free, these ones who said they believed in Jesus refused to acknowledge their bondage. Like so many who are enslaved by sin, these Judeans in the temple refused to concede their lack of freedom. It was a matter of personal pride. It was a matter of identity – they were God’s chosen people. It was a matter of accepted doctrine – all Jews were part of God’s household. It was a matter of ethnicity – they were descendants of Abraham and had never been disqualified (put out of the camp of Israel) by slavery.

These were ones who had believed in Him, yet Messiah knew their hearts that they were not willing to live His teachings. Like those today who call themselves “Christians” but reject God’s commands on how they should live, not willing to submit to His lordship over their lives. Belief that does not result in obedience is not discipleship. Belief that rejects the demands of obedience will quickly expose itself as murderous unbelief when challenged. So it was that at Yeshua‘s challenge to a life of obedience they responded very defensively, even ridiculously as their national pride rose to the fore, claiming while in the shadow of the Roman garrison that they had never been slaves to anyone.

I know you are the seed of Avraham. Yet you are out to kill me, because what I am saying makes no headway in you.  I say what my Father has shown me; you do what your father has told you!”
They answered him, “Our father is Avraham.”
Yeshua replied, “If you are children of Avraham, then do the things Avraham did!  As it is,
you are out to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Avraham did nothing like that! You are doing the things your father does.”
“We’re not illegitimate children!” they said to him. “We have only one Father — God!” 
Yeshua replied to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; because I came out from God; and now I have arrived here. I did not come on My own; He sent Me.  Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to My message. 
John 8:37-43 CJB

The Jews believed that being descendants of Abraham made them part of the household of God. Yeshua directly challenged this. He affirmed that they were Abraham’s seed (descendants) but disputed that this made them Abraham’s “children” – part of God’s household of faith. Our ‘father’, the one whose spiritual heritage we carry, is the one whose actions we do. Their actions, that which they were to do, would make a lie out of their claim to be Abraham’s children and their claim to be God’s children. The problem was that what Yeshua said made no headway in them / His word had no place in them / there was no room in their hearts for His word. Their hearts were full of opinions, beliefs and passions that were contrary to Yeshua’s word, and these are what defined them in His sight, not their earthly heritage.

You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. From the start he was a murderer, and he has never stood by the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking in character; because he is a liar — indeed, the inventor of the lie!  John 8:44 CJB

Yeshua’s assessment was that they were filled with the nature of Satan and so belonged to him and desired what he desired. Thus He described the awful state of unregenerate men. “From the start he was a murderer” — It was through Satan that Adam transgressed; in consequence of which death entered into the world, and slew Adam and all his posterity. This was the sentiment of the Jews themselves. In Sohar Kadash, the wicked are called, “The children of the old serpent, who slew Adam and all his descendants.” 

Every thought they had that stood against Yeshua’s teaching was a lie from the father of lies. Every thought we have that contradicts Jesus’ teaching is a lie from the father of lies. Yeshua is the Word of God. Yeshua is the truth and speaks only truth. If they could not believe and take to heart what He was saying it was because they had believed lies from Satan that had become entrenched in their hearts and minds. The choice was stark – believe truth or lies, believe Yeshua or Satan.

But as for me, because I tell the truth you don’t believe me. Which one of you can show me where I’m wrong? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says; the reason you don’t listen is that you don’t belong to God.” John 8:44-47 CJB

Those who have believed lies cannot accept the truth. Hence the call from both Yochanan the immerser and Yeshua Hamashiach to “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17).  “Repent” in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoia, which literally means “to change the mind.” They, like us, had been thinking one way and needed to think the opposite way to be able to believe the truth Yeshua was telling them. Repentance is a change in the way I think that leads to change in the way I live. When you really change your mind about something, it’s going to change the way you think about it, talk about it, feel about it, and act concerning it. True repentance is more than just a mental game. Repentance is a decisive change in direction. It’s a change of mind that leads to a change of thinking that leads to a change of attitude that leads to a change of feeling that leads to a change of values that leads to a change in the way you live. It was to such repentance that Yeshua was calling these ones who had begun to believe in Him.

The Judeans answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying you are from Shomron (Samaria) and have a demon?”  John 8:48 CJB

They were unwilling to repent, or even acknowledge their need of repentance. They had more confidence in their own rightness than in their messiah. To avoid repenting they turned on Him and started arguing and verbally attacking Him.

Yeshua replied, “Me? I have no demon. I am honoring my Father. But you dishonor me.  I am not seeking praise for myself. There is One who is seeking it, and He is the judge.  Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever obeys My teaching will never see death.”
The Judeans said to him, “Now we know for sure that you have a demon! Avraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever obeys my teaching will never taste death.’ Avraham avinu died; you aren’t greater than he, are you? And the prophets also died. Who do you think you are?” 
John 8:49-53 CJB

Once again it came back around to who Yeshua is, what is His real identity? This is the core question we have to answer.

Yeshua answered, “If I praise myself, my praise counts for nothing. The One who is praising me is my Father, the very One about whom you keep saying, ‘He is our God.’ Now you have not known Him, but I do know Him; indeed, if I were to say that I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you! But I do know Him, and I obey His word.  John 8:54-55 CJB

Avraham, your father, was glad that he would see My day; then he saw it and was overjoyed.”
“Why, you’re not yet fifty years old,” the Judeans replied, “and you have seen Avraham?” 
Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM!” 
John 8:56-58 CJB

They had asked in scorn if He were greater than their father Abraham (John 8:53). .His words have shown that He was. He now, with the thoughts of John 8:39 still present, contrasts the exultation of Abraham whom they claimed as father, when he saw from afar the Messianic advent, with their rejection of the Messiah who is actually among them.

Yeshua is, always was, and always will be, God – “I Am”. Such a proclamation is either the most essential truth or a terrible blasphemy. Refusing to believe Him, they decided that it was the latter.

At this, they picked up stones to throw at him; but Yeshua was hidden and left the Temple grounds. John 8:59 CJB

It was not God’s time yet, nor was this the way prophesised for Him to die, so once again Yeshua slipped away from a murderous crowd angered by His proclamation of truth that they were unwilling to hear.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Coffman, James Burton. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible John 8. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-8.html.
4. John 8:8-15 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-15.htm.
5. Guzik, David. John 8 Bible Commentary. Enduring Word. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/john-8/.
6. Henry, Matthew. John 8 Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/john/8.html.
7. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. John 8 Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] 1871. [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/john/john-8.html.
8. Mounce, Bill. γινώσκω. Bill Mounce – For an Informed Love of God. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/ginosko.
9. —. ἐλεύθερος. Bill Mounce – For and Informed Love of God. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/eleutheros.
10. freedom in the ancient world. Oxford University Press. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110810104937413.
11. Culture and religion. Britanica. [Online] [Cited: December 11th, 2021.] https://www.britannica.com/place/ancient-Rome/Culture-and-religion.
12. Commentaries John 8:44. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: January 1st, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-44.htm.
13. Verrett, Bethany. Why Does God Call Himself “I Am that I Am”? Bible Study Tools. [Online] November 1st, 2019. https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/why-does-god-call-himself-i-am-that-i-am.html.
14. The Meaning of “Son of Man”. Redemption Seminary. [Online] [Cited: December 4th, 2021.] https://redemptionseminary.org/redemption-blog/son-of-man.
15. John 8:37. BIBLE REF. [Online] Got Questions Ministries. [Cited: January 1st, 2022.] https://www.bibleref.com/John/8/John-8-37.html.
16. Verse-by-Verse Commentary John 3:37. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: January 1st, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentary/john/8-37.html.

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

*What has God taught you as you have meditated on these words of Christ?
* How would you describe who Jesus is and why it is important to believe in Him?
* What does it take to be a disciple of Jesus?
* How would you describe the state of someone who believes in Jesus but has no interest in reading the Bible or obeying His word?
* The Jews put their trust in being Abraham’s children for their salvation. What do people in your area trust in?

Light of the World

Please read John 8:12-20

After exhorting the women caught in adultery to sin no more Yeshua resumed His teaching in the temple.

Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.” John 8:12 CJB

I am the Light of the world” is the second of seven “I AM” declarations of Yeshua that point to His unique divine identity and purpose. In all seven, Yeshua combines I AM with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world. They are: 

  1. I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51); 
  2. I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12); 
  3. I AM the Door of the Sheep (John 10:7, 9); 
  4. I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14); 
  5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25); 
  6. I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); and 
  7. I AM the True Vine (John 15:1, 5).

Light was an important symbol in the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). One ceremony associated with Sukkot was known as The Illumination of the Temple which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge menorahs/candelabras (seventy-five feet high) lighted in the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. All night long the lights shone their brilliance, illuminating the entire city. In celebration and anticipation, the holiest of Israel’s men danced and sang psalms of joy and praise, before the Lord. This festival was a reminder that God had promised to send a light, the Light, to a sin-darkened world. God promised to send the Messiah to renew Israel’s glory, release them from bondage, and restore their joy.

Now, Yeshua took this important symbol and applied it to Himself but He did not just say “I am the light of Jerusalem“, nor even “I am the light of Israel” but applied His statement equally to all peoples in all nations: “I am the light of the world.”

The Hebrew Scriptures spoke of God’s Word as light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105); “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130); and: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). Since Yeshua is the Word (John 1:1) it makes perfect sense that He is also the light. In declaring Himself to be the Light of the world, Yeshua was claiming that He is the exclusive source of spiritual light. No other source of spiritual truth is available to mankind, we can only come to the Father through Christ.

Yeshua’s declaration that He is the light of the world reflected Isaiah’s prophesy of Messiah:

I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations. Isaiah 42:6 ESV

The people were drinking it in, but many of the Pharisees were becoming increasingly desperate to prove Him wrong. Although those Pharisees that set up and accused the woman had absconded, yet there were other Pharisees to confront Christ. Some of their party having been put to such a shameful retreat may have made them even more determined to retrieve, if possible, the reputation of their baffled party and prove to all the people their superiority over this teacher from Galilee. More than anything else, Yeshua’s message of the kingdom of God was a message of Himself as the embodiment of that kingdom.

These Pharisees and Torah teachers understood something that we often miss in Yeshua’s claims about Himself – the implied judgment of those who refuse to believe in Him: ” whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. ” (John 3:18b-19 NIV). Thus they demand for such a claim the same level of evidence as Torah required for convicting a person of a crime deserving of the death penalty.

So the P’rushim (Pharisees) said to Him, “Now you’re testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid  ( ἀληθής ).”

They claimed that Yeshua’s testimony was not “valid” – ἀληθής (alēthḗs) in the Greek. alēthḗs literally means “what cannot be hidden“, it stresses the undeniable reality when something is fully tested and shown to be fact. This is what the Pharisees were claiming Yeshua‘s words were not. A single person’s testimony was not enough to establish anything in their court of law, it had to be corroborated. They were claiming that Yeshua’s testimony proved nothing about Himself and so should be dismissed as worthless and thus they could not be held to account for refusing to believe it.

Yeshua had answered this when teaching them in this very temple court after healing the lame man some 16 months previously, during the Shavu‘ot of the first year of His ministry (http://blog.renewal.asn.au/category/section-2-yeshua-as-a-jewish-reformer/2-yr1/healing-at-pool-of-bethesda/):

“If I testify on My own behalf, My testimony is not valid. But there is Someone else testifying on My behalf, and I know that the testimony He is making is valid — you have sent to Yochanan (John the Baptist) , and he has testified to the truth. Not that I collect human testimony; rather, I say these things so that you might be saved. He was a lamp burning and shining, and for a little while you were willing to bask in his light.  But I have a testimony that is greater than Yochanan’s. For the things the Father has given Me to do, the very things I am doing now, testify on My behalf that the Father has sent Me.
In addition, the Father who sent Me has Himself testified on My behalf. But you have never heard His voice or seen His shape; moreover, His word does not stay in you, because you don’t trust the One He sent. You keep examining the Tanakh (Old Testament) because you think that in it you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness to Me, but you won’t come to Me in order to have life!” Matthew 5:31-40 CJB

Not only had Yochanan the Immerser testified to who Yeshua is, Yeshua’s works testify that God has sent Him, and the scriptures also testify as His life fulfils them. This time Yeshua simply states that His testimony is ἀληθής – undeniable reality that has been fully tested and found true. Light cannot do otherwise than bear its own witness. The Pharisees are claiming the need for human proof of that which transcends human knowledge. They claim the need for evidence of a human witness to a truth for which there could not possibly be a human witness, for all the people around had only witnessed that which is on this earth and Yeshua was from heaven.

Yeshua answered them, “Even if I do testify on My own behalf, My testimony is indeed valid ( ἀληθής) ; because I know where I came from and where I’m going; but you do not know where I came from or where I’m going.”   John 8:14 CJB

It was commonly believed among the people, and resonated through these courts when Yeshua was teaching them during Sukkot, that: “ when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He comes from” (John 7:27). He had fulfilled the people’s test, and so His answer was not so much for the Pharisee’s benefit for they had hardened their hearts against Him, but for the benefit of those among the people still questioning who He really was. 

You judge by merely human standards. As for Me, I pass judgment on no one; but if I were indeed to pass judgment, my judgment would be valid ( ἀληθής) ; because it is not I alone who judge, but I and the One who sent Me.  And even in your Torah it is written that the testimony of two people is valid ( ἀληθής) I myself testify on My own behalf, and so does the Father who sent Me.” John 8:15-18 CJB

Yeshua is referring here to Deuteronomy 17:6 and Deuteronomy 19:15 but substitutes “two men” for “two or three witnesses”. This prepares the way for the full thought of the “witnesses” in the next verse. The Pharisees are requiring the evidence of two men but Yeshua is offering them the witness of two Persons, each of whom is Divine – He and His Father. They were willing to accept the testimony of men but rejected the testimony of God as being unproven and unreliable. Do we likewise reject God’s testimony when we read something in the Word which contradicts the reasoning of man or our understanding of our own experiences?

Yeshua had taught the open-hearted Pharisee, Nicodemus, that He had not come to pass judgment on a world already condemned:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.   John 1:17 NIV

Thus, Yeshua is assuring them that He is not now passing judgment on them through His words, but that does not mean they will be declared innocent. They have no basis for complaint if they be punished for their unbelief, since their own law directs them to believe every matter that is confirmed by the concurring testimony of two witnesses, as Yeshua’s mission evidently was. “For I am one that bear witness of myself “— not by words only, but by all the actions of His life, which are agreeable to the character of a messenger from heaven; “and the Father, that sent me, beareth witness of me” — by the miracles which He enabled Yeshua to perform. So the Pharisees were altogether culpable in rejecting Messiah

Still they remained blind and deaf to the intent of what He was saying:

They said to him, “Where is this ‘father’ of yours?”

Yeshua answered, “You know neither Me nor my Father; if you knew Me, you would know my Father too.”  John 8:19 CJB

Yeshua‘s declaration here that they did not know His Father is eloquent testimony of His virgin birth. Our Lord here plainly intimates, that the Father and He were distinct persons, as they were two witnesses; and yet one in essence, as knowledge of Him is knowledge of the Father.

He said these things when He was teaching in the Temple treasury room; yet no one arrested him, because His time had not yet come. John 8:20 CJB

The “treasury” referred to the area in the court of the women that was sheltered by the colonnades and where thirteen brazen trumpet-shaped chests were placed for the reception of taxes and charitable offerings. Each of the chests bore an inscription showing to what purpose the alms placed in it would be devoted. This notice of place is interesting in many ways. The court of the women was one of the most public places in the Temple area. He taught, then, openly and fearlessly. The chamber in which the Sanhedrin held their session was between the court of the women and that of the men. They had on several occasions assembled in that place to take counsel against Him, yet none of their plans could succeed until it was the Father’s time.

We can likewise have confidence in Christ that the time of our departure out of the world depends upon God. Our enemies cannot hasten it any sooner, nor can our friends delay it any longer, than the time appointed of the Father. Every true believer can look up and say with pleasure, “My times are in Your hand, and better there than in my own.” To all God’s purposes there is a time.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Coffman, James Burton. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible John 8. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-8.html.
4. John 8:8-15 Commentaries. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-15.htm.
5. Guzik, David. John 8 Bible Commentary. Enduring Word. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/john-8/.
6. Henry, Matthew. John 8 Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/john/8.html.
7. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. John 8 Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Bible Study Tools. [Online] 1871. [Cited: November 27th, 2021.] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/john/john-8.html.

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

* What is the significance of Jesus’ words: “I am the light of the world whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life“?
* What is the connection between Jesus being the Word and being the light of the world?
* All the Pharisees and priests danced and sang psalms of joy and praise before the Lord in response to the symbol of His light coming to His people. Why do you think their response to the reality of His light (Jesus) was so opposite to this?
* On what basis does God judge us?
* How do we know that Jesus’ testimony about Himself is ἀληθής – undeniable reality that has been fully tested and found true ?

Teaching in the Temple

Please read John 7:37 – 8:12

Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drink!   Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” 
(Now He said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in Him were to receive later — the Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified.)
John 7:37-39 CJB

The seventh (and last) day of the festival of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah, and is considered the final day of the divine judgment in which the fate of the new year is determined. In Jewish tradition it is the day when the verdict that was issued on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is finalised. Some of the sages taught that G‑d told Abraham: “If atonement is not granted to your children on Rosh Hashanah, I will grant it on Yom Kippur; if they do not attain atonement on Yom Kippur, it will be given on Hoshana Rabbah.” This day’s name means “the great hoshanah.” A hoshanah is a series of seven liturgical poems calling upon God to rescue and redeem the Jewish people, primarily by sending rain.

Hoshanah Rabbah was viewed by many rabbis of the time as a mini-Yom Kippur, a day on which the entire Jewish community was judged by God to be worthy or unworthy of the seasonal rains. So it is significant that Yeshua chose this day, when the people were focused on their need of water from heaven, to cry out in the temple: “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drink! Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!

Yeshua, teaching in the temple that had been built by the despotic Herod for his own glory, the temple that was defiled by a corrupt priesthood, used this powerful allusion to God’s pure, lifegiving temple described in Ezekiel 47:1-12. The temple that God gave Ezekiel vision of was not a physical structure built of rocks, but a spiritual structure built of lives connected to the chief cornerstone, Messiah Himself – it was the kingdom of God.

Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar.
Next he brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and there I saw the water trickling out from the south side.
As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and led me through ankle-deep water.
Then he measured off a thousand cubits and led me through knee-deep water.
Again he measured a thousand cubits and led me through waist-deep water.
Once again he measured off a thousand cubits, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough for swimming—a river that could not be crossed on foot.
“Son of man, do you see this?” he asked.

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived, I saw a great number of trees along both banks of the river. 
And he said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Wherever the river flows, there will be swarms of living creatures and a great number of fish, because it flows there and makes the waters fresh; so wherever the river flows, everything will flourish. Fishermen will stand by the shore; from En-gedi to En-eglaim they will spread their nets to catch fish of many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of all kinds will grow. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. Each month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be used for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:1-12 BSB

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB

Another thing to note in John 7:37-39 is that Yeshua took the blessings of God out of the realm of works – that which was earnt through human effort to produce goodness – and into the realm of grace and faith. His message was not ‘work hard and earn’ but ‘come to Me and receive’. It was a message that addressed human need but gave no place to human pride.

Dispute over whether Yeshua was the Messiah

On hearing His words, some people in the crowd said, “Surely this Man is ‘the prophet’”;  others said, “This is the Messiah.”

But others said, “How can the Messiah come from the Galil (Galilee)? Doesn’t the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures) say that the Messiah is from the seed of David[2 Samuel 7:12] and comes from Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem),[Micah 5:1(2)] the village where David lived?” 

So the people were divided because of Him.   Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand on Him. John 7:40-44 CJB

Some recognised in Yeshua’s words that He is “the prophet” Moses had foretold:

Adonai will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to Him… …  “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I order Him.   Whoever doesn’t listen to My words, which He will speak in My name, will have to account for himself to Me.” ” Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19 CJB

Some recognised in Yeshua’s words that He is the Messiah they had been waiting for:

 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. Jeremiah 23:5

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2

And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Daniel 9:26

Some, who considered themselves to be learned, looked only to what they knew, and as far as they knew Yeshua came from Galilee, not Bethlehem, so instead of seeking to learn more they closed their minds to what He was saying.

The guards came back to the head cohanim (chief priest) and the P’rushim (Pharisees), who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 
The guards replied, “No one ever spoke the way this man speaks!” 
“You mean you’ve been taken in as well?” the P’rushim retorted. “Has any of the authorities trusted him? Or any of the P’rushim? No! True, these ‘am-ha’aretz do, but they know nothing about the Torah, they are under a curse!”
John 7:45-49 CJB

Am-ha’aretz: The literal meaning of the phrase is “people (am) of the earth (aretz).” Originally it could mean “the People of Israel.” However, its usual meaning by the time of Yeshua came from the notion of “people who work the land,” i.e., “peasant.” Am ha’aretz were looked down on by the religious establishment in Jerusalem as being “ignoramus, uneducated and boorish”. To these Pharisees, an am ha’aretz, by virtue of his ignorance of their superior ways, was deemed likely to be lax in his observance of the commandments. One common implication of this was that one couldn’t count on an am ha’aretz separating tithes from his produce in the way that the Pharisees deemed appropriate.

There was disagreement among the Pharisees over how to recognise an am ha’aretz. Some of their theories were that an am ha’aretz was:
* one who doesn’t say the Shema with its blessings morning and night;
* one who doesn’t put on tzitzit or tefilin. Tzitzit = eight threads with five knots attached to each corner of a four-cornered garment. A large four-cornered garment is called a Tallit Gadol. A small garment is called a Tallit Katan.  The numerical value of Tzitzit is 600 add on 5 knots and 8 threads, makes a total of 613 to serve as a reminder of the covenant between the Jewish people and God and symbolize one’s commitment to obeying all 613 mitzvot that the Jewish sages had derived from God’s commandments. Tefilin (phylacteries) = two black boxes connected to leather straps that are wrapped around the head and arm during morning prayers. These boxes contain 4 passages, referring to the unity of God, God’s capacity to perform miracles and God’s omnipotence in both the physical and spiritual worlds;
* one who has children but doesn’t care to give them a Jewish education.
* even one who learnt Torah and Mishnah, but didn’t frequent Torah scholars, could be considered an am ha’aretz; judging that their knowledge would likely be unreliable if they didn’t spend their time learning face-to-face from a living sage (Talmud Berachot 47b, Sotah 22a).

Sukkot was the festival that most focused on the unity of the Jewish people. That is the whole focus of the “four species”, “the lulav and etrog” that the Jewish people wave in all six directions (north, south, east, west, up and down – symbolizing the fact that HaShem (God) is everywhere around us) sing the Hallel (psalms of praise) and during the Hoshanot (hymns recited every day of Sukkot as they danced in procession), and while singing the refrain  hoshanah, “save us.” 

Etrog -Shaped like a heart it symbolizes the driving force behind all of our actions.
Lulav – The Lulav comes from a date palm, the fruit has a good taste, but no smell. It symbolizes someone with knowledge of the Torah but no good deeds.
Hadas – The myrtle has a wonderful smell, this symbolizes the good deeds, but not knowledge of the Torah.
Aravah – The willow branch has neither good taste or smell. This symbolizes someone who has neither good deeds or knowledge of the Torah.

Holding these four in a tight bond represents the unity that is HaShem’s goal for the Jewish People (Hashem is a Hebrew term for God, it literally means “the name”). The bond represents the conversion of a set of separate individuals into a People, which is far greater than any individual in both Torah and Good Deeds, and is far more deserving than any individual of the blessings of HaShem.

This message of the intrinsic unity of the Jewish people that was a focus of this festival seems to have been lost on these Pharisees who disparagingly described those who believed in Yeshua as am-ha’aretz who know nothing about the Torah and are under a curse.

Nakdimon, the man who had gone to Yeshua before and was one of them, said to them,  “Our Torah doesn’t condemn a man — does it? — until after hearing from him and finding out what he’s doing.”  
They replied, “You aren’t from the Galil too, are you? Study the Tanakh, and see for yourself that no prophet comes from the Galil!” 
John 7:50-52 CJB

Not all of the Pharisees had hardened hearts. Nicodemus appealed to the Torah in his defence of Yeshua. He was shouted down by those who thought they knew what they were talking about. They looked down on the more rural people of Galilee and didn’t realise what they didn’t know – that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem.

After the Festival of Sukkot

Then they all left, each one to his own home. But Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives. John 7:53 – 8:1 CJB

Sukkot finished. Everyone left the temple and, instead of going to their “sukkah”, each returned to their own home, to a solid structure. Many of the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the festival began the long journey back to their homes in the surrounding regions. Yeshua had not finished His Father’s business in Jerusalem, there was still more that needed to be taught to the religious leaders in His nation’s capitol. So he retired to the Mount of Olives for the night. This was the place in which He probably often passed the night when attending the feasts in Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane was on the western side of that mountain, and Bethany, the abode of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, was on its east side.

At daybreak, He appeared again in the Temple Court, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them.  

The Woman Caught in Adultery…
The Men Caught Adulterating the Law of God…

Yeshua’s teaching was interrupted. The attention of the crowd suddenly shifted from Him to an unholy commotion as ‘experts’ in the Law pushed through the crowd with their challenge to His authority, confident that now they had what was needed to trap Yeshua in His own words.

The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery and made her stand in the centre of the group.  Then they said to him, “Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in our Torah, Moshe commanded that such a woman be stoned to death. What do you say about it?”  

Tannaitic sources describe the Great Sanhedrin of Yeshua’s time as a religious assembly of 71 sages who were the ultimate Jewish court and met in the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Jerusalem Temple. It was led by a president called the nasi (lit. “prince”) and a vice president called the av bet din (lit. “father of the court”). The other 69 Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) sat in a semicircle facing the leaders. 

The Great Sanhedrin dealt with both religious and criminal matters, including trials of adulterous wives (interestingly, contrary to Torah, no mention is made of trials of the men involved in this adultery). They met daily during the daytime, but did not meet on the Sabbath, festivals or festival eves. So it was that on this, the first day after the festival of Sukkot, that they brought this accused woman to the Temple to be judged and sentenced.

They said this to trap Him, so that they might have ground for bringing charges against Him;

The Great Sanhedrin was the final authority on Jewish law and any teacher who went against a decision of the Great Sanhedrin was put to death as a zaken mamre (rebellious elder). 

In about 30 C.E., not long before the time of this incident, the Great Sanhedrin lost its authority to inflict capital punishment. This loss, by Roman decree, of the right to execute the death penalty when required by Torah was a matter of great consternation for many on the Sanhedrin. Now they would try to use it to their advantage in getting rid of this unwanted Messiah.

Torah stresses that the judges in ancient Israel were to pursue justice and only justice: “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) Those who brought this shamed woman to Yeshua were pursuing something other than justice. They were trying to twist and distort the Torah to suit their own purposes in condemning the Son of God.

Yeshua recognises this performance as a trap, not an attempt at justice. The Torah-teachers and P’rushim were using this woman they had caught in adultery to try to put Yeshua in an impossible situation where He would be condemned by Roman law that had recently prohibited Jews from carrying out capital punishment if He declared the Torah’s punishment for adultery, and He would be condemned by His own people for rejecting the Law of Moses if He did not declare the judgment of death on the woman. This was not about the woman. It was not about the evil of adultery. It was about trying to trap Yeshua.

We need to remember that often other’s attacks against us are not about us at all. Ultimately, everything is about Yeshua. Keep our eyes on Him and see what He will do in the situation.

but Yeshua bent down and began writing in the dust with His finger. 

Yeshua’s response was unexpected. He did not dignify their actions with a reply. Instead, He silently stooped down and wrote in the dust on the ground. Dust from which He had created man who now sort to have Him condemned. This was a prophetic act that His detractors, who had memorised and were forever quoting the scriptures, would have recognised all too well. This was a pronouncement of God’s judgment on those who sort to bring charges against Him: Hope of Isra’el, Adonai! All who abandon you will be ashamed, those who leave you will be inscribed in the dust, because they have abandoned Adonai, the source of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13 CJB) It was in this very place, on the previous day – Hoshana Rabbah – that Yeshua had described Himself as the “fountain of living water” (John 7:38). Thus, by His writing in the dust, Yeshua was drawing the attention of His audience to the message of Jeremiah. He was declaring that the message of the prophet and His own message were the same: rejection of and disobedience to the Word of Adonai (the Lord) will bring about their demise.  Yeshua’s stooping and writing in the dust was declaring that this action of theirs in trying to trap Him was abandoning the hope of Israel, Adonai, and so would result in them being blown away as dust with nothing to hold it in place.

When they kept questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 

These Torah-teachers and the P’rushim (Pharisees), men who should have known better, only brought the woman to Yeshua. Men who set themselves up as the ones to teach the people the proper application of the Torah (Law) and to execute judgment according to Torah were flagrantly flouting it. Not only that, but they had established systems within their institutions that twisted and distorted the Law. This is what Torah, that they were claiming to be asking Yeshua to uphold, commands concerning adultery:

The man who commits adultery with another’s wife, even his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
And the man who lies carnally with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of the guilty ones shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon their own heads.
And if a man lies carnally with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have wrought confusion, perversion, and defilement; their blood shall be upon their own heads.
If a man lies with a male as if he were a woman, both men have committed an offense (something perverse, unnatural, abhorrent, and detestable); they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
And if a man takes a wife and her mother, it is wickedness and an outrageous offense; all three shall be burned with fire, both he and they [after being stoned to death], that there be no wickedness among you.
. Leviticus 20:10-14 (AMPC)

If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.
If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbour’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.
But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.  But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbour and kills him, even so is this matter.  For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her
. Deuteronomy 22:22-27.

Torah focuses first on the man who committed adultery, and declares both adulterer and adulteress must be brought to judgment and put to death. It takes two people to commit an act of adultery, and if the woman was caught in the act the other party to this act must have been there as well. Where was he now? The text does not say, but the very fact that only the woman is charged shows that these religious leaders were not concerned with ensuring obedience to Torah. This all too convenient catching of a woman in the very act of adultery on the first day that Yeshua was teaching in the Temple after Sukkot suggests a set-up. Had they orchestrated the whole thing to try to trap Yeshua? Were they genuine witnesses to her crime, or complicit orchestrators of it?

They persisted in asking Him, still convinced that they had Him trapped. So Yeshua straightened up and stood tall and strong as He pronounced His judgment: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. Then He returned to His humble position stooped down writing in the dust.

Torah required a minimum of two witnesses to convict a suspect. The accusing witnesses would state the offense in the presence of the accused and the accused could call witnesses on their own behalf. Now that the Sanhedrin was the body entrusted by Jewish society to judge all serious legal matters, they would question the accused, the accusers and the defence witnesses before announcing their judgment. Yet, by this time the Sanhedrin had dropped all reference to the men who committed adultery and judged only the adulterous married woman. Their whole court system had lost focus on obedience to the fullness of Torah.

Like other great rabbis of His day, Yeshua often quoted a part of a verse, intending His audience to know the rest by heart and bring the entire verse to bear on the subject under discussion. Here, the phrase “be the first to” hearkens back to Moses’ rules for determining guilt. There were to be at least two witnesses to establish fact (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). According to the same code, it is these individuals who are to “be the first…to put him to death” (Deuteronomy 17:7).  In alluding to this component of the judicial code, Yeshua is requiring that the Law of Moses be fully followed: the witnesses upon whose testimony the woman had been accused of a capital crime must come forward and identify themselves. Such witnesses are not merely subject to cross-examination. They also become subject to all laws pertaining to false witnesses, and the one most applicable at this point in the proceedings comes from the same section of the Law of Moses as the previous passages. “And the judges shall investigate thoroughly; and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 19:18-19).

His eyes had pierced them as Yeshua stood looking straight through each one and declaring: “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” This was not just a general ‘whoever has never sinned in his life’, for such would preclude any court from ever being able to pass judgment on any wrongdoer, but a specific, ‘the one of you who claims to have witnessed this woman committing adultery and not sinned in providing false or incomplete witness’, ‘the one whose witness is pure and not intended to pervert justice’.

Suddenly the stakes were much higher. By strict adherence to the Law of Moses, Yeshua had placed the responsibility squarely on the accusers to put forward their witnesses or release the accused.  As for the witnesses themselves, they knew that if upon cross-examination they were found to be false, they stood to incur the same penalty the accused would have suffered: death by stoning! How many of them know of her guilt because they too had committed adultery with her? Did they dare declare the details of what they had seen and how they knew to look in that place at that time? Did they dare to whitewash their tale to keep the identity of the adulterous man hidden? Would any of them speak up to declare “I witnessed this woman commit adultery“?

They had brought this woman to Yeshua in front of the crowd in hopes that they could incite the crowd to turn against Him in religious fervour, now they began fearing that religious fervour could be turned against them if their plans were exposed.

Yeshua’s word has power. It cuts right to the heart, even of these hard-hearted men. They could not stand against it. One by one, beginning with the eldest and most esteemed, their hearts condemned them and they left until none of this woman’s accusers remained. These men were dressed in the appearance of righteousness, with their large tzitzit and tefilin prominently displayed for all to see. But their outward appearance was not the condition of their heart and Yeshua’s words exposed this. For all their rigorous religious observance they could not stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Then He bent down and wrote in the dust again. 

On hearing this, they began to leave, one by one, the older ones first, until He was left alone, with the woman still there. 

It was not an overriding of the Law that saved this woman, but a true application of it. Yeshua came to fulfil the Law, not to do away with it. His problem with the religious leaders was not that they focused on keeping the Law, but that they did not keep it in the manner that He, as the author of the Law, had intended it to be kept. They had twisted and perverted Torah and failed to recognise how far they had drifted from its original intent.

Standing up, Yeshua said to her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

She said, “No one, sir.”

Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and don’t sin any more.” John 8:2-11 CJB

The woman was left with none to condemn her. With no witnesses remaining to declare her crime, Yeshua would not go against the Law of Moses to condemn her. Yet He knew her heart. He saw her guilt. She had been saved from the death penalty because her accusers had been faulty in the way they presented their accusations, but her guilt remained. Her sin still carried with it the wages of death. She needed to leave that sin behind. So much was carried in that simple statement “now go, and don’t sin any more“.  The form of the command implied a ceasing to commit an action already started: ‘Stop your sinful habit’. And the ‘no more’ pointed to the thought of no return. It was a call to repentance, and in that call was the empowerment to leave her sinful ways behind.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Sinclair, Rabbi Julian. Am ha’aretz. The Jewish Chronicle. [Online] October 28th, 2008. https://www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/am-ha-aretz-1.5776.
4. Minim, Arba. The Four Species of Sukkot. Akhlah. [Online] [Cited: May 8th, 2021.] https://www.akhlah.com/jewish-holidays/sukkot/sukkot-four-species/ .
5. Judaica, Shalom House Fine. Talit, Tzitzit, Tefillin – The Winding Path from Mitzvah to Maaseh (deeds). Shalom House. [Online] April 8th, 2019. https://www.shalomhouse.com/blog/talit-tzitzit-tefillin.htm.
6. Dubov, Nissan Dovid. Sefer Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzah, Tzitzit. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: May 22nd, 2021.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2313780/jewish/Sefer-Torah-Tefillin-Mezuzah-Tzitzit.htm.
7. Barnes’, Albert. Notes on the Whole Bible. Bible Commentaries. [Online] Truth According to Scripture. [Cited: May 22nd, 2021.] https://www.truthaccordingtoscripture.com/commentaries/bnb/john-8.php#.YKhxv3nis2w.
8. Nunnally, Wave. Jesus and the Law of Moses: The woman Caught in Adultery. Assemblies of God. [Online] April 28th, 2017. https://news.ag.org/features/jesus-and-the-law-of-moses-the-woman-caught-in-adultery. https://www.holylandsstudies.org/post/jesus-and-the-law-of-moses-the-woman-caught-in-adultery.
9. Dave Miller, Ph.D. The Adulterous Woman. Apologetics Press. [Online] [Cited: May 22nd, 2021.] https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1277.
10. Schoenberg, Shira. Ancient Jewish History: The Sanhedrin. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] AICE. [Cited: May 23rd, 2021.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sanhedrin.

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

*What is the significance of Jesus’ words: “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drink!  Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” 
* When some people in the crowd said: “Surely this Man is ‘the prophet’“, what were they talking about?
* Some people misjudged Jesus because they assumed He came from Galilee and didn’t know that He was born in Bethlehem. What are some assumptions that people in your area make about Jesus or the church that keep them from coming to know Him?
* The Pharisees called those who believed in Jesus “am ha’aretz” in order to dismiss them as being incapable of knowing truth. What derogatory terms have you heard used to discredit those who believe in Christ and seek to obey His word?
* Part of the Sukkot celebrations involved holding arts of four different types of tree together in tight bond – what did that represent and what application does it have for us?
* What examples of distorted judgment have you seen and how do you think Jesus would address these if they had been brought to Him as the woman caught in adultery was?


Please read Matthew 15:39, Mark 8:9b-10 & John 7:1-36

After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan. Matthew 15:39 NIV
 After He had sent them away,  He got into the boat with His disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. Mark 8:9b-10 NIV

Having fed the 4,000 men, plus women and children, in the Gentile dominated region of the Decapolis on the eastern side of Lake Gennesaret (the Sea of Galilee) Yeshua and His talmidim got into a boat and crossed the Sea again. Whereas the original readers of these Gospels would have known where Magadan and the region of Dalmanutha were, their locations have been lost to us over the passage of time. Most scholars believe them to be referring to the same area back in Galilee on the western side of Lake Gennesaret and some think it might be around the region of Magdala.

After this [after His dispute with the Pharisees and Scribes from Jerusalem in the Capernaum synagogue (John 6)], Yeshua travelled around in the Galil (Galilee), intentionally avoiding Y’hudah (Judea) because the Judeans were out to kill him.  

But the festival of Sukkot in Y’hudah was near. John 7:1-2 CJB

Each year to prepare for the fall festivals, and the prophetic foreshadowing of the coming of the King, all of Israel would begin repenting from the beginning of the sixth month in the Jewish calendar, Elul, for 30 days up to Yom Hateruah/Rosh Hashanah, and then 10 final days leading up to Yom Kippur.  This tradition comes from the 40 days Moses pleaded with God at the top of Mount Sinai to forgive the Jewish people for worshipping the Golden Calf. That 40 day period began on the first day of Elul and culminated on Yom Kippur, when Moses came down with the second set of tablets, signifying that God had forgiven the Jewish people and was entering into covenant with them. It was during these 40 days of teshuvah (repentance) that Yeshua had preached His Sermon on the Mount to prepare the people for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) the year before.

The last three holy convocations or “festivals” that the Lord commanded the Jewish people to observe are Yom Hateruah (the Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and the festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Each occurred in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, Tishrei. Of these three, only Sukkot was a pilgrimage festival where the Torah required all the men to travel to Jerusalem for the celebration. While significant things happened in the temple on Yom Hateruah and Yom Kippur, the rest of the population was not required to be there to witness them but rather to Shabbat at home and repair relationships within their own family and community during this time of teshuvah (repentance – turning back to God).

Yom Hateruah has become known as Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “head of the year” and is colloquially referred to as the Jewish New Year. Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of creation, specifically the day God created Adam and Eve. As such, God the Creator is hailed and crowned as “our King” on that day even as the Jew’s covenant with creator God is remembered and they work on turning from everything they have done in breach of this covenant. In the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah Psalm 47 is read seven times before the blowing of the shofar. Verse five of Psalm 47 reads as follows: God goes up to shouts of acclaim, Adonai to a blast on the shofar.  The arrival and splendour of Almighty God are marked by the blowing of the shofar in the Scriptures. A festive meal at the start of the holy day includes eating apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year, in hope that God will be merciful towards His people and favourable toward them in judgment; dates—that their enemies would be consumed; pomegranate seeds—that they would bear much fruit; eating round hallah, symbolizing the circle of life and the crown of God’s Kingship; and eating a fish or ram’s head, symbolic of being the head and not the tail in the year to come. The common expression on Rosh HaShanah is L’shannah tovah tikatev v’tachatem – meaning May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year! 

God instructed Israel on Yom Hateruah (the Feast of Trumpets) thus:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’ ” Leviticus 23:23-25 NKJV

The only other reference to this festival in the Torah is Numbers 29:1 “On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, (ESV). The blowing of the trumpet (or shofar) carries with it significant meaning in the Bible being used both to gather the people and send them to war and to herald the appointed time of their feasts (Num. 10:1-10) and new moons. The blowing of trumpets was a reminder of God’s presence with the people during war and during days of joy. It was also used to signify judgment and the coming of the LORD (Joel 2:1).

The word “memorial” indicates that the event to be remembered had taken place prior to this ordinance. There was a spiritual event involving trumpet (sopher) blasts that was of such great importance that God commanded the people to remember it every year. We find a description of such an even in Exodus 19, where God invited the children of Israel into covenant amidst the sound of a trumpet that caused the people to tremble. 

When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain. So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. Exodus 19:13b, 16-19

This resounding event was to be stamped indelibly upon the memory of the people of Israel. Every year, at Yom Hateruah (the Feast of Trumpets), those same-sounding trumpet blasts heralded the arrival of the Jewish seventh month with a reminder that they were a people under covenant; a nation who had accepted the responsibilities of being God’s people. Such a covenant with God requires ongoing repentance, a continual turning to God and away from our sins in order to receive His atonement. The piercing blast of the shofar reminds the hearer to repent of their sins and make things right with their brothers and sisters, and with God. The rabbis say that reconciliation with God and man will confound the enemy.

Yom Hateruah (the Feast of Trumpets) thus begins what is known as aseret yemei teshuvah (Ten Days of Awe) wherein the penitent humble themselves in preparation for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

On the afternoon of the first day it is customary for the Jewish people to perform a rite known as Tashlik.  To do this, they usually walk to a river, spring or body of water and recite special penitential prayers and Psalms, while at the same time emptying their pockets and the hems of their garments, or casting bread crumbs onto the water.  All this is symbolic of casting away their sins into the deep (Mic.7:18-20) as they begin these intense days of repentance and forgiveness leading up to Yom Kippur when they believe God makes the final judgment as to that person’s life for the coming year.

The Torah gave instructions for the people concerning Yom Kippur in Numbers 29:7 and Leviticus  23:26-32 that they were to do no work, have it as a a day of sabbath rest, and deny themselves (generally interpreted as fasting). Yom Kippur is dedicated to introspection, prayer and asking God for forgiveness.

Full instructions for what was to take place in the Temple to make atonement for all the sins of the Israelites that year were provided in Leviticus 16. It was the only day of the year in which the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies (Most Holy Place), and it was the day on which all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – were placed on the scapegoat’s head to carry on itself all their sins away to a remote place. So it was, this year, that the Father had led Yeshua away from Judea and Galilee to remote places, symbolising that all the sins of Israel were to be placed on Him to be removed from the nation.

The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord.  The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

“This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.  

“From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

“Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 

“Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering.  But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

“Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.  He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain.   He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.  He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

“He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it.  In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.  No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

“Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.

“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

“Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there.  He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people.  He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

“The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.  

“The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.  It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.  The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments  and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

In the Torah, the root kpr has two levels of meaning. On the one hand, it denotes the “price of life” as reflected in the term kofer – a ransom. A second meaning of kpr is “to wipe off or to cleanse”. The timeless message of the scapegoat ritual was that to truly achieve kapparah (atonement), there must be both aspects – the payment of a price and a cleansing of our sins. That is why there are two goats in the scapegoat ritual – one that is sacrificed to God as a sin-offering paying the price as a kopher (a ransom or substitute), and one that is sent to the wilderness bearing the sins of the people as a reminder that sin must be fully confessed and removed so that it is no longer part of our being or our space.

Now Yeshua had returned to Galilee with His talmidim even as the pilgrimage festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) was soon to begin in Jerusalem. Sukkot begins on Tishri  15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It was quite a drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays in the year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z’man Simchateinu – the Season of our Rejoicing. Indeed, full repentance leads us into the most overwhelming and sustaining joy.

It was now mid-autumn, when the weather is cooling down but the ground can be dry and dusty awaiting the onset of the winter rains.

The festival of Sukkot in Y’hudah (Jerusalem) was near; so His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Y’hudah, so that Your talmidim can see the miracles You do; for no one who wants to become known acts in secret. If You’re doing these things, show Yourself to the world!” 

(His brothers spoke this way because they had not put their trust in Him.)  John 7:2-5 CJB

When we, like Yeshua’s brothers, try to tell Messiah what to do and how to do it we demonstrate that we likewise have not yet put our trust in Him.

Yeshua said to them, “My time has not yet come; but for you, any time is right. The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me, because I keep telling it how wicked its ways are. You, go on up to the festival; as for me, I am not going up to this festival now, because the right time for me has not yet come.”  John 7:6-8 CJB

There is one way to guarantee being hated by the world – keep telling them how wicked their ways are. Those who conform to the ways and standards of the world are loved by the world but those who declare God’s righteous standards are both hated by the world and called “haters” by the world. Yeshua’s reference to “the world” here refers as much to the religious establishment as to the irreligious or the pagans, all were part of a system in rebellion against God, even during this time of great displays of repentance.

Having said this, He stayed on in the Galil. But after His brothers had gone up to the festival, He too went up, not publicly but in secret.  John 7:9-10 CJB

We know from John 9, that Yeshua’s talmidim went up to Jerusalem with Him for this festival.

During the 7 days of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) the Jews commemorate the journey of the children of Israel towards the promised land, following God through the desert to the unknown, dependent entirely on Him for survival:

“You shall dwell in Sukkot for seven days… so that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in Sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt….” Leviticus 23:42-43

Sukkot is also a harvest holiday, celebrating the fullness of the harvest having been gathered in and thus the end of the agricultural year in Israel.

On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the LORD your G-d for seven days.  Leviticus 23:40

Another observance during Sukkot involves what are known as the Four Species. The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit similar to a lemon native to Israel; in English it is called a citron), a lulav (palm branch), two aravot (willow branches) and three hadassim (myrtle branches). The six branches are bound together with dried palm leaves, the willow positioned on the left, the palm in the middle and the myrtle on the right. They are referred to collectively as the lulav, because the palm branch is by far the largest part. The etrog is held separately and collectively they are used to “rejoice before the Lord.”

The Hebrew word “sukkah” (plural=sukkot) is a temporary walled structure covered with s’chach (plant material such as overgrowth or palm leaves). This is the type of dwelling in which the farmers of ancient Israel would live during harvesting and that which the children of Israel used during their forty years in the desert, following the Exodus. Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the miraculous protection God provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt. There is a triple commandment in the Torah to rejoice during Sukkot: “…you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40). “And you shall rejoice in your feast…” (Deuteronomy 16:14). “…the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice” (Deuteronomy 16:15).

Each Sukkot streams of Jewish families—farmers, vintners, shepherds, merchants, craftspeople, and scholars—flooded in from every part of Israel, Syria, Babylonia, Egypt, and other nearby lands, converged upon Jerusalem and celebrated joyously day and night, non-stop for eight days. At the close of the first day of Sukkot, Temple workers furiously began inserting sturdy poles into their brackets in the walls of the Temple courtyard. Over the poles they lay wooden boards, creating cascades of bleachers so that women could stand on the higher bleachers, with the men below. Torch-laden boys scrambled up ladders scaling massive candelabras 25-50m tall to light the thick wicks of the candelabras’ four enormous lanterns so that all of Jerusalem was filled with light like day. The kohanim (priests) sounded their trumpets, the levi’im (Levites) played their flutes, lyres, cymbals, and every sort of instrument in thunderous, heavenly music, while all the people joined in song and dance. Even distinguished elders, with their long white beards, sang at the top of their lungs, dancing wildly, performing acrobatic feats, and even juggling acts.

At dawn fresh water was drawn from the pool of Siloam. As the flasks of water were ushered in through the Water Gate of the Temple, accompanied by the sound of the shofar, and then they would pour the water so that it flowed over the altar, along with wine from another bowl. This would begin the prayers for rain in earnest, and there was much rejoicing at this ceremony.

Here’s how the Talmud describes it:

“He who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the water-drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life. At the conclusion of the first festival day of Tabernacles they descended to the court of the women where they had made a great enactment. There were there golden candlesticks with four golden bowls on the top of each of them and four ladders to each, and four youths drawn from the priestly stock in whose hands were held jars of oil… there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illumined by the light of the place of the water-drawing. Men of piety and good deeds used to dance before them with lighted torches in their hands, and sing songs and praises. And Levites without number with harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and other musical instruments were there upon the fifteen steps leading down from the court of the Israelites to the court of the women, corresponding to the fifteen songs of ascents in the psalms…” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sukkah 51a and 51b)

On a regular morning, the offering in the Temple was the meat of one sheep accompanied by a flour-and-oil mix, both thrown into the fire of the altar, along with one flask of wine poured by a kohen (priest) at the altar’s corner. But on the days of Sukkot, there was another flask, filled with this water freshly drawn from the Pool of Siloam, poured by the same kohen together with that flask of wine – and the joyous celebrations would begin again as the Jews believed that the Holy Spirit only rested upon a joyous heart. The water drawing and pouring became a focus of the joy that the Torah commands for Sukkot. Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” Isaiah 12:3. On no other festival were the people literally commanded to be joyful, and as a result Sukkot became known as “the season of our joy,” just as Passover is “the season of our freedom.

There was a special regimen of sacrifices that were brought to the altar in the Temple. On the first day, no less than 13 bulls, two rams, and 14 lambs were to be sacrificed. Every day, the number of bulls was depleted by one. All in all, 70 bulls were brought, corresponding to the 70 nations of the world. Talmudic writings attributed this to God’s concern for the Gentiles, and Israel’s role in world redemption. As the Feast of Ingathering, Sukkot looks forward to the ingathering of all nations to the God of Israel—a final harvest of souls for His Kingdom. The traditional Bible reading on the second day of Sukkot is taken from Zechariah 14 and highlights the role of the Gentile nations during Yeshua’s future earthly reign. All nations will be required to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King and to celebrate Sukkot: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16; see also verse 17).

After the morning offerings, the communal prayers, the priestly blessings, the additional offerings, and more prayers and priestly blessings, the people parted to the study halls to review their Torah knowledge and hear the talks of great scholars. It was at these times they expected Yeshua to make Himself known and start teaching the people, but for the first half of the festival He kept hidden.

At the festival, the Judeans were looking for Him. “Where is He?” they asked. And among the crowds there was much whispering about Him. Some said, “He’s a good man”; but others said, “No, He is deceiving the masses.” However, no one spoke about Him openly, for fear of the Judeans. John 7:11-13 CJB

After listening to the great scholars the people returned to their sukkah throughout Jerusalem to feast, sing and celebrate some more until returning to the Temple Mount for the afternoon offerings, followed by, once again, a night of music, dance, acrobatic spectacles, and celebration. One of the sages, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, was said to have danced with ecstasy juggling eight flaming torches with great skill at these celebrations.

Jerusalem was full of Israelite pilgrims from many regions. They expected Yeshua, as a Torah observant Jew, to be there with them – and indeed He was, even though at this time He was remaining hidden from them. God’s protection of His Son until the appointed time was on occasion through miraculous intervention and on occasion simply through direction to remain hidden from the masses so the authorities would be caught off-guard and not have time to execute a murderous plan. In place of the traditional Jewish open debate and testing of ideas the authorities had instilled fear of even speaking about Yeshua.

Not until the festival was half over did Yeshua go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach.   The Judeans were surprised: “How does this Man know so much without having studied?” they asked.  John 7:14-15 CJB

Yeshua had not studied under the schools of Hillel or Shammai, who dominated the teachings in the Temple. His teaching was not the wisdom of man but the revelation of God.

So Yeshua gave them an answer: “My teaching is not My own, it comes from the One who sent Me.  If anyone wants to do His will, he will know whether My teaching is from God or I speak on My own.  A person who speaks on his own is trying to win praise for himself; but a person who tries to win praise for the One who sent Him is honest, there is nothing false about Him.  Didn’t Moshe give you the Torah? Yet not one of you obeys the Torah! Why are you out to kill me?”  

“You have a demon!” the crowd answered. “Who’s out to kill you?” 

Yeshua answered them, “I did one thing; and because of this, all of you are amazed.  Moshe gave you b’rit-milah
(circumcision) – not that it came from Moshe but from the Patriarchs – and you do a boy’s b’rit-milah on Shabbat.  If a boy is circumcised on Shabbat so that the Torah of Moshe will not be broken, why are you angry with Me because I made a man’s whole body well on Shabbat? Stop judging by surface appearances, and judge the right way!” John 7:16-24 CJB

The “one thing” Yeshua was talking about here was the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda on Shabbat (John 5) during celebrations for the Feast of Weeks (Shavu‘ot) – Pentecost – the previous year (Healing at the Pool of Bethesda – Renewal Blog). The response of the Jewish religious leaders had been that they: “sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:18 NKJV) They were still harbouring such thoughts in their hearts, and thinking it was from God and in obedience to His word. Yeshua showed them the fallacy of their thinking but pride would not let them concede their error so their hatred of Him only grew.

Some of the Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) people said, “Isn’t this the Man they’re out to kill?  Yet here He is, speaking openly; and they don’t say anything to Him. It couldn’t be, could it, that the authorities have actually concluded He’s the Messiah? Surely not – we know where this Man comes from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He comes from.” 

Whereupon Yeshua, continuing to teach in the Temple courts, cried out, “Indeed you do know Me! And you know where I’m from! And I have not come on my own! The One who sent Me is real. But Him you don’t know!  I do know Him, because I am with Him, and He sent Me!” John 7:25-29 CJB

These religious Jerusalem Jews claimed to be doing God’s will but most of them did not know Him. If they had truly known the Father they would have recognised His Son.

At this, they tried to arrest Him; but no one laid a hand on Him; because His time had not yet come. However, many in the crowd put their trust in Him and said, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more miracles than this Man has done?” John 7:30-31 CJB

God kept His son safe during the first half of the feast by instructing Him to stay hidden, and through the second half by thwarting all plans to lay hold of Him. The crowd gathered for these pilgrimage festivals came from throughout Israel and beyond. Different sections of the crowd had formed different opinions and responded to Messiah in different ways. So we see contradictory responses from the crowds to Yeshua. Those from regions further afield were not so heavily influenced by the Judean religious leaders in the temple as those living in Jerusalem.

The P’rushim (Pharisees) heard the crowd whispering these things about Yeshua; so the head cohanim (Priest) and the P’rushim sent some of the Temple guards to arrest him. 

Yeshua said, “I will be with you only a little while longer; then I will go away to the One who sent Me. You will look for Me and not find Me; indeed, where I am, you cannot come.” 

The Judeans said to themselves, “Where is this man about to go, that we won’t find him? Does He intend to go to the Greek Diaspora and teach the Greek-speaking Jews?  And when He says, ‘You will look for Me and not find Me; indeed, where I am, you cannot come’ — what does He mean?”
John 7:32-36 CJB

Yeshua responded to the threat of arrest with a riddle that left them questioning.

He still had a lot more to teach His people during His last Sukkot with them.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Leigh, Lev. The Feast of Trumpets: background and fullfilment. Jews for Jesus. [Online] September 1st, 2000. https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-sep-2000/the-feast-of-trumpets/.
3. Stahl, Julie. Rosh Hashanah: Feast of Trumpets. CBN Israel. [Online] September 19th, 2020. https://cbnisrael.org/2020/09/19/rosh-hashanah-feast-of-trumpets/.
4. Jewels of Judaism. Rosh HaShanah! – Feast of Trumpets. [Online] [Cited: March 21st, 2021.] https://www.jewelsofjudaism.com/rosh-hashanah/.
5. My Jewish Learning. Yom Kippur FAQ: All About the Day of Atonement. [Online] [Cited: March 28th, 2021.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/yom-kippur-faq-all-about-the-day-of-atonement/.
6. History.com Editors. Yom Kippur. History. [Online] A&E Television Networks, September 16th, 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/yom-kippur-history.
7. Shirlaw-Ferreira, Diane. What Happened on the Day of Atonement? Worth Beyond Rubies. [Online] September 15th, 2020. https://www.worthbeyondrubies.com/what-happened-on-the-day-of-atonement/.
8. Friedman, Rachel. Shabbat Shuva: The scapegoat ritual of Yom Kippur. Jewish Standard. [Online] September 13th, 2018. https://jewishstandard.timesofisrael.com/shabbat-shuva-the-scapegoat-ritual-of-yom-kippur/.
9. Isaac, Rabbi. Understanding the 10 Days of Awe. Called Out Believers. [Online] September 19th, 2020. https://www.calledoutbelievers.org/understanding-the-10-days-of-awe/.
10. Freeman, Tzvi. The Joyous Water-Drawing Ceremony. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: May 6th, 2021.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1971019/jewish/The-Joyous-Water-Drawing-Ceremony.htm.
11. One For Israel. YESHUA AND THE SUKKOT WATER DRAWING FESTIVAL. [Online] June 1st 2016. https://www.oneforisrael.org/holidays/yeshua-and-the-sukkot-water-drawing-festival/
12. Robin Main. CELEBRATION OF WATER POURING – FEAST OF TABERNACLES. [Online]. 2017 October 6th. https://sapphirethroneministries.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/celebration-of-water-pouring-feast-of-tabernacles/
13. Tiferet Yeshua. An Ancient Sukkot Tradition – The Joy of Drawing Water. [Online] October 5 2020. https://www.tiferetyeshua.org/2020/10/05/an-ancient-sukkot-tradition-the-joy-of-drawing-water/

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

*What can we learn from the Jewish festival of Yom Hateruah (the Feast of Trumpets) ? 
* What can we learn from the Jewish ten Days of Awe?
* What can we learn from Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)?
* Describe any festivals in your culture that focus on repentance and being reconciled to God.
* In what ways is the goat that is sacrificed representative of Jesus?
* In what ways is the scapegoat representative of Jesus? 
* What can we learn from the Jewish celebration of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)?
* Describe any festivals in your culture – how are they like the festivals that Jesus participated in and how are they different?
* What evils was Jesus identifying in “the world” of His time, and what would He identify in “the world” of your area? The purpose of identifying evil was to lead to repentance and forgiveness, atonement. How would things be different in your region if people truly repented?

Mission into Gentile Territory

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

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

To the Lost Sheep of Israel in Gentile Territory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Be with Jesus

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

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

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

From Sidon to Decapolis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeding the 4,000 (plus women and children)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Houdmann, S. Michael. Mark 7:26. Bible Ref. [Online] Got Questions. [Cited: February 17th, 2021.] https://www.bibleref.com/Mark/7/Mark-7-26.html.
3. Gentry, Austin. MEANING OF MARK 7:24-30. Austin Gentry. [Online] [Cited: February 17th, 2021.] https://www.austingentry.com/meaning-mark-724-30/.
4. Bible Hub. Mark 7:31. [Online] [Cited: February 18th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/7-31.htm.
5. Taylor, Chris & Jenifer. Jesus in Tyre and Sidon. The Bible Journey. [Online] [Cited: February 21st, 2021.] https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/5-jesuss-journeys-beyond-galilee/jesus-in-tyre-and-sidon/.
6. Jones, Brian. Jesus Walked, A Lot. BrianJones.com CHALLENGING PEOPLE TO LIVE MEANINGFUL LIVES FOR JESUS WITH LESS. [Online] [Cited: February 21st, 2021.] https://www.brianjones.com/jesus-walked-a-lot/.
7. Blessitt, Arthur. MILES JESUS AND MARY WALKED. The Official Website of Arthur Blessitt. [Online] [Cited: February 25th, 2021.] https://blessitt.com/miles-jesus-and-mary-walked/.
8. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Decapolis. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: Febriary 25th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/topical/d/decapolis.htm.
9. Stevenson, John. Feeding the 4,000 – Mark 8:1-10. Anglefire. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/mk08-01.html.
10. The Feeding of the Four Thousand Gentiles in Matthew? Matthew 15:29-39 as a Test Case. Cousland, J. R. C. 1, s.l. : Brill, January 1999, Novum Testamentum, Vol. 41, pp. 1-23.
11. Talbot, Elizabeth V. Bread of Satisfaction: A Narrative-Critical Study of the topic of Bread in the Gospel of Mark. Lasierra. [Online] November 2008. https://lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/religion/asrs/ASRS-Papers-2008-06-Talbot-Bread-of-Satisfaction.pdf.
12. Edersheim, Alfred. The Feeding of the Four Thousand – to Dalmanutha. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/library/edersheim/the_life_and_times_of_jesus_the_messiah/chapter_xxxvi_the_feeding_of.htm.
13. Smith, Lee. MATTHEW 15:32-39 Pp Mark 8:1-10. Old Doctrines New Light. [Online] Arlev. [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] http://www.arlev.co.uk/matt053.htm.
14. McCall, Thomas S. The Feeding of the 4,000 — Were They Gentiles? Zola Levitt Ministries – the Jewish roots of Christianity. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021] https://www.levitt.com/essays/feeding4000
15. Franz, Gordon. Jesus in the Region of Tyre and Sidon. Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/5052
16. Kelley, Jack. FEEDING 4,000 AND 5,000. Grace through Faith. October 12th, 2015. [Online] https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/feeding-4000-and-5000
17. Harvey, Ted. What’s the difference between the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000? Summerset Hills Baptist Church. February 11, 2020. [Online] https://www.somersethillsbc.org/shbc-blog/whats-the-difference-between-the-feeding-of-the-4000-and-the-5000/
18. Franz, Gordon. The Feedings of the Multitudes – When, Where and Why? Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/4968
19. Dr. See Seng Tan. The M&Ms of our Miracle Working God. International Students Inc. April 20th, 2020. [Online] https://www.seesengtan.com/blog/the-mms-of-our-miracle-working-god

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

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

Clash of Tradition and Torah

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

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

Matthew 15:1-9 CJB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewish Ritual Handwashing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference List

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

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

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