Preparing for Passover – 9th Nissan

Please read: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:1-19

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:1-8 NIV

9th Nissan: Six days before the Pesach – the Pesach sacrifice was slaughtered on Nissan 14th. In the ancient world when one counted a sequence, one counted the day that started the sequence as #1-the ancients had no concept of a ‘0’ place value. Therefore, counting as the ancients counted, six days before Nisan 14th, would be Nisan 9th.

The journey from Jericho to Bethany is 17 miles (27.3 kilometers) with an elevation increase of about 3,400 feet (1,060 m).

These pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem for Pesach (Passover) would have spent most of the day walking uphill. Before He reached Jerusalem, Yeshua turned off to visit with His dear friends in Bethany.

The last time He had been in Bethany, Yeshua had raised Lazareth from the dead. Many had joined the sisters in mourning for four days before Yeshua arrived and brought Lazareth back to life, so all knew of this incredible miracle that had been done in their midst. They had likely heard that He was on His way from Jericho and spent most of the day preparing to welcome Him with this dinner in His honour.

Lazareth was among those who ate with Him, Martha served and Mary expressed her love in a most extravagant way that changed the atmosphere of the whole house. In defending Mary’s actions Yeshua quotes from Deuteronomy 15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. The command to be openhanded towards the poor is for all people in all times, but this was the only time Mary had opportunity to prepare Yeshua’s body for burial and be that living example of the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Now a large crowd of Judeans knew He was there and came, not only for Yeshua but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 
So the ruling kohanim (chief priests) made plans to kill Lazarus also, because on account of him many of the Jewish people were going and putting their trust in Yeshua. John 12:9-11 TLV

Some of the pilgrims who had come from Jericho would have told this in Jerusalem, less than two miles away, where pilgrims were earnestly asking about Him (John 11:55). Great numbers of the people wished to see the man that had been raised from the dead, and even more so, the Man who had raised him.  Messianic expectations were running at an all-time high. In the celebration of Pesach (Passover), the Festival of Redemption, the people had an eschatological hope. It was believed that the Ultimate Redemption, which was to be brought about through the Messiah, would take place at Passover. The expectation was that Messiah would be a second Moses who would lead Israel out from under the bondage of the nations. Hence, two of Yeshua‘s talmidim had earlier asked to sit at His right hand and left hand in the kingdom to come. For most of the Jews, putting their trust in Yeshua involved such messianic expectations for this coming Pesach.

Scholars estimate that the usual population of Jerusalem was around 40,000 and it could escalate to six times that number during Pesach. It was a time of much overcrowding, much religious fervor and heightened expectations of a Messianic overthrow of the Romans, so it was also a time when extra Roman soldiers were assigned to the city and their army was on heightened alert, ready to crush anything that looked like it could become an insurrection. Having a noisy parade going into Jerusalem at this time of year was not a safe thing to do, and it caused heightened fears among the Jewish authorities who wanted to keep a good reputation with Rome to avoid any Roman reprisals.

10th Nissan

In Exodus chapter 12, the Torah gives instructions for the celebration of Passover. The children of Israel were to choose a lamb for the Pesach sacrifice on the 10th day of the 1st month (Nissan), 4 days before the actual slaughtering was to be done: Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb for his family one lamb for the household. … Your lamb is to be without blemish… You must watch over it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight (lit: between the evenings). It is on the 10th day of the 1st month that Yeshua entered Jerusalem, and the people made their choice.

And when they had approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
And this took place in order that what was spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and mounted on a donkey,
And on a colt, the foal of a pack animal.’”
And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their garments on them; and He sat on the garments. And most of the crowd spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. And the crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were crying out, saying,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”
And when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”
And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew 21:1-11 LSB

And as they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied there, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.” 
They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it.  And some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 
And they told them just as Jesus had said, and they gave them permission. 
They brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks on it; and He sat on it. And many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.  And those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”

Mark:11:1-10 NASB

When He got near Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead. As you enter, you will find a colt tied up, that no one has ever sat upon. Untie it and bring it.  And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Master needs it.’”
Those who were headed out found things just as He told them.  Then as they were untying the colt, his owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They said, “The Master needs it.”  
Then they brought it to Yeshua, threw their cloaks on the colt, and set Yeshua on it.  And as He went along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road. 
When Yeshua came near the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to rejoice. They praised God with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of Adonai!
Shalom in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”
But answering, Yeshua said, “I tell you that if these keep silent, the stones will shout out!”
Luke 19:30-40 TLV

The next day, the huge crowd that had come up for the feast heard that Yeshua was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting,
“‘Hoshia-na! Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai!
     Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
     The King of Israel!”
Finding a young donkey, Yeshua sat on it, as it is written,
“Fear not, Daughter of Zion!
Look! Your King is coming,
     sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
His disciples did not understand these things at first. But when Yeshua was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that the crowd had done these things for Him.

So the crowd, which had been with Yeshua when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, kept on telling everyone about it.  It was also for this reason that the crowd came out to meet Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to each other, “You see that you can’t do anything. Look, the whole world has taken off after Him!” John 12:12-19 TLV

As Jewish pilgrims approached Jerusalem, they sang psalms of ascent – generally recognized as Psalms 120 to 134 – expressing their delight at coming into God’s presence:
I was glad when they said to me,
     “Let us go to the house of the Lord!
(Psalm 122:1).

It was not far from Bethany (house of dates) to Bethphage (house of figs) where two disciples were instructed to go to get the donkey colt for Yeshua to ride into Jerusalem, the city of David, through the East Gate. This is the only time He is recorded as having ridden anywhere instead of walking. It signified that Yeshua was coming as the prophesied king: “Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” (Zechariah 9:9). A king going to war rode a horse, or sat in a chariot pulled by horses, but a king coming in peace rode a donkey as he was conveyed to his palace – Yeshua was conveyed by this donkey to the temple, which, as a twelve-year-old, He had described as “My Father’s house“. The Triumphal Entry was reminiscent of David’s son Solomon riding on a donkey to his coronation (1 Kings 1:28-40). The presence of a donkey also harkened to Abraham’s journey to sacrifice his son Issac (Genesis 22:1-19). The spreading of cloaks was an act of homage for royalty (see 2 Kings 9:13) as the people recognised Yeshua as the blessed king coming in the name of the LORD and hoped to see Him miraculously deliver them from harsh Roman rule.

There was another procession into Jerusalem as the pilgrims were pouring in for Passover. This one came through the West Gate. Pontius Pilate was governor of the Roman province of Judea from AD 26 to 36, under the rule of Emperor Tiberius, who reigned from AD 14 to 37. For most of the year Pilate resided in his splendid palace in Caesarea Maritima (on-the-sea), but he came to Jerusalem with legions of chariots, horses, and foot soldiers, dressed for battle and armed with swords and spears to reinforce the Fortress Antonia (which overlooked the Temple) and “maintain the peace” during each of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot (literally ‘weeks’, or Pentecost); and Sukkot (‘tabernacles’) – when the city swelled with pilgrims and religious fervor.  Part of the governor’s role when visiting major cities in his province was presiding over court sessions and ensuring his deemed punishments are carried out against those he finds guilty of crimes against the empire.

New Testament scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book, The Last Week, describe Pilate’s procession into Jerusalem:

All of this was a painful slap in the face to the Jews, reminding them of their subjugation and yet, all the “important people” of the city (like the chief priests), and those who wanted to be upwardly mobile, attended this procession with a great show of welcome to the governor under whose authority they personally ruled and prospered even while their people suffered.

Pilate entered the city proclaiming the power of the Empire. Yeshua’s procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God. Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and imperial theology.  The emperor was not just viewed as the ruler of Rome, but also declared to be the son of god. It began with Augustus who ruled from 31 BC to 14 AD. His father was said to be the god Apollo. Inscriptions refer to him as son of god, lord, savior, and one who had “brought peace on earth.” His successors had continued to take on the divine titles. Yeshua’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Yeshua brought an alternate vision of the Kingdom of God where love rules, leadership is exercised through service and the meek inherit the earth.

Zachariah’s prophesy contained more than just details about riding on a donkey, it went on to proclaim Israel’s King’s victory over all the armies of the world and rule over the whole earth – this is the deliverance they were expecting from their Messiah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. 
Zechariah 9:9-12 (NIV)

The people were crying out: “‘Hoshia-na! Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai!
     Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
     The King of Israel!”

It’s a phrase found in the Hebrew Scriptures, Psalm 118, which rejoices in the Lord’s triumph. It is one of the Messianic Psalms that Yeshua quoted from when teaching the people:

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.

23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 118:19-29

By verse 22 of this Psalm, the rejected stone has become the “cornerstone”. This is a marvelous work — by God’s doing — which then launches the day of salvation, verse 23-24. This day of salvation is the long-anticipated deliverance that Israel thought might never come. Verse 25 captures the hope: “Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!”

Now this salvation and success was to come through a person — the Messiah of God — the one sent to rescue His people. So goes the shout in verse 26: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Without doubt, this rambling crowd in Jerusalem, taking its cues from Psalm 118, is declaring Yeshua to be the kingly Messiah come to deliver Israel. That’s why Luke records the Pharisees telling Yeshua to rebuke His disciples. Do you hear what they are saying? They think you’re the Messiah come to save us. Tell them to shut up. Anger and fear are closely related, fear of how the Romans might respond if they understood the significance of what the crowd was shouting aroused murderous anger in the Jewish leaders. Their security weas dependent on maintaining Pilate’s favor. The Hope of Israel had come, but the religious leaders responded out of fear instead of faith, and so failed to recognize the day and take hold of that which would lead to shalom (peace, restoration, wholeness and wellbeing).

Those who were shouting so joyfully in recognizing Yeshua as Messiah, failed to fully understand the significance of Him riding a donkey instead of a horse. They expected Him to march into the city and overthrow Rome, to destroy all their instruments of war. They wanted to be free from Gentile oppression, even if by force, even if by threats and plagues and a split sea, as they recounted so well from Moses’ deliverance from Egypt. They wanted another exodus, one that expelled and annihilated the Romans, and every other Gentile army.

As He drew near and saw Jerusalem, He wept over her, saying, “If only you had recognized this day the things that lead to shalom! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with barricades and hem you in on all sides.   And they will smash you to the ground—you and your children within you. And they won’t leave within you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 TLV

Instead of sounding the battle cry as He drew near to Jerusalem, Yeshua wept. For all their praises, these people had not understood what He’d come to deliver them from.

As the road from Bethany crossed the ridge and dipped down the western slope of the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem was spread out before them with its magnificent gilded white marble temple flashing resplendently in the spring sunlight. And yet this vision evoked not awe in Yeshua but heartsickness. He wept over her. The word translated “wept” is the Greek verb klaiō, “weep, cry, bewail.”  Yeshua burst into sobbing. He wept for their blindness, and for the pain of plunder, death and total destruction of Jerusalem this would lead to in 70AD.

And Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple area; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late. Mark 11:11 NASB

By the time of Christ, ceremonial cleanliness by water had become institutionalized into a purity ritual involving full immersion in a mikveh. Purification through full immersion in a Mikveh was required of all Jews before they could enter the Temple or participate in major festivals. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims converged on Jerusalem for Passover and other major feasts. So, even with all the Mikvehs around the temple (large and small) it may still have taken some time waiting to go through the purification process before Yeshua could enter the temple that afternoon. It was already late by the time He entered the temple courts, and everything was coming to an end for the day. The remnants of the day’s activities were keenly observed before Yeshua led the twelve back to Bethany.

Reference List

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

* Describe a time when you witnessed someone express their love for Jesus in an extravagant way, and how others responded to this.
* Two kingdoms were on display – Rome and the kingdom of God – describe significant differences between them.
* What reasons did the chief priests have for being so upset that many of the people were putting their trust in Jesus?
* What was the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem being on 10th Nissan ?

Leaders Serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 18:35-43 TLV

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

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

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

 Then they came to Jericho. Mark 10:46a

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

Luke 19:1-10 LSB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars. Holy Scriptures Tree of Life Version (TLV). s.l. : Baker Books.
6. Translation Committee. The Legacy Standard Bible (LSB). LSB. [Online]
7. Bible Commentaries. Matthew 19:24. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 16th, 2023.]
8. Geva, Hillel. Archaeology in Israel: Jericho – The Winter Palace of King Herod. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: October 17th, 2023.]
9. Bible Walks staff. Jericho. Bible Walks. [Online] September 15th, 2015.
10. (Editor), Jeannie Evers. Rift Valley. National Geographic. [Online] September 12th, 2023.
11. Bonne, Kathelijne. The East African Rift System: a belt of natural wonders. Gondwana Talks. [Online] [Cited: October 17th, 2023.]
12. . Timaeus meaning. Abarim Publications. [Online] [Cited: October 19th, 2023.]

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

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

On the Way to Jerusalem

Please read: Matthew 19:16-20:19, Mark 10:17-34,
Luke 17:11-37, 18:1-14 & 18-34

While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, ten men with leprosy who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 
When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” 
And as they were going, they were cleansed. 
Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 
But Jesus responded and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?  Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 
And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 NASB

As Passover approached, Yeshua left the seclusion of Ephraim and headed back up towards Galilee to join the caravans of His countrymen making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This would be His last pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As He walked towards His destiny the crowds began to gather again, eager to see miracles and hear His teachings. Word quickly spread ahead to each village He approached that Yeshua was coming. As He approached a village on the border of Samaria and Galilee ten men with leprosy started crying out to Him. Yeshua responded to their cry by instructing them to act as though they had been healed by going to the priests to confirm their healing, and as they obeyed His word, they were all healed. Nine continued on to get the official declaration of cleanliness from the priest but one returned to Him giving thanks and glorifying God. This one was a Samaritan.

 Now when Yeshua was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be seen.  Nor will they say, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘There!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21 TLV

It wasn’t just well-wishers who hear of Yeshua coming, the Pharisees in each village also heard the news and came out to test Him. They had been expecting Messiah to come and establish the Kingdom of God by defeating the Roman army and setting the Jews free from all their oppressors, even setting them up in authority over all the other nations. Yeshua had been doing much to commend Him as Messiah, but He had not shown any propensity to take up the sword and slay Romans, nor even to call out to God for a supernatural demolition of the Roman army. When was He going to do this? Yeshua’s idea of the kingdom of God was very different. As he would later say to Pilate: “my Kingdom is not of this world“. What Messiah had come to establish was not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual Kingdom set up in the heart by divine grace. He had not come to condemn and defeat human armies, but to conquer demons, sin and death. “If I, by the finger of God, cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come among you” Matthew 12:28.

Then Yeshua said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.  They will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go and chase after them.  For just as the lightning flashes from one part of the sky and lights up another part, so will the Son of Man be in His day.  But first He must suffer much and be rejected by this generation.   Luke 17:22-25 TLV

Yeshua turns now to His talmidim (probably after the departure of the Pharisees, as they do not appear again in what follows, and as the discourses themselves bear an unreserved character, wholly different from Luke 17:20), in order to give to them instructions in reference to the question raised by the Pharisees, and the questions that would torment their own hearts after He was crucified. Once again, Yeshua took opportunity to let His talmidim know that He was soon to depart from them and indeed, after His resurrection from having a physical presence on the earth would be for much longer, but He will one day return victorious and fulfil all the that Pharisees were now expecting Messiah to fulfil and so much more so than they could currently even imagine. His upcoming suffering and rejection would not be a failure or catastrophe but part of God’s good purposes.

“As it was in the days of Noah, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man.  They were eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
“It was just the same in the days of Lot.  They were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building. But on the day Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed them all. Things will be the same on the day when the Son of Man is made fully known. 
“In that day, the one who is on the roof, and his possessions in the house, must not go down to take them away. In the same way, the one who is in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife!  Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life will preserve it.
“I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken along and the other left. There will be two women grinding at the same place. One will be taken and the other left.” 
“Where, Lord?” they replied.
And He said to them, “Where there is a corpse, there also will the vultures be gathered.”
Luke 17:26-37 TLV

In both the days of Noah and those of Sodom, the people had heard the cry to repent but rejected it and continued on with life as usual, oblivious to the destruction coming their way. The great vulture, well known in Syria, and can be seen in hundreds on the Plain of Gennesaret, is a hideous looking bird, equal to the eagle in size and strength. It acts as a scavenger to purify the earth from the putrid carcasses with which it would otherwise be encumbered. When Yeshua’s talmidim asked “where, Lord“, He replied ‘everywhere there is corruption (a corpse)’. The whole of humanity has been corrupted by sin that needs to be purified even as the great vultures purify the earth from rotting carcasses.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great feast of God,  so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, both free and slaves, and small and great.” Revelation 19:17-18 NASB

Then Yeshua told them a parable to show that they should always pray and not be discouraged, He said, “There was a judge in a certain city who neither feared God nor respected people.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my opponent.’
“He was unwilling at the time. But afterward he said to himself, ‘Although I don’t fear God or respect people, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so she won’t wear me out by her incessant coming.’”
Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge is saying.  Won’t God do justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He be slow to help them?  I tell you, He will quickly give them justice. But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
Luke 18:1-8 TLV

Only here and in Luke 18:9 does Yeshua give the explanation or point of the parable before the parable itself. “not be discouraged” = the Greek word means to give in through cowardice or give up from faint-heartedness. No matter what our circumstances, no matter how far away it feels like God is or how ineffective it feels like our prayers are, no matter how fierce the attack against us, never lose heart and give up, never give in to fear. Keep praying, keep seeking Him, keep standing firm in the faith and God will answer your cry.

 Then Yeshua spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, while holding others in contempt.  “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘O God, I thank You that I am not like other people—thieving, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and tithe on all that I get.’
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, wouldn’t even lift his eyes toward heaven, but beat his chest, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’   I tell you, this man, rather than the other, went down to his home declared righteous. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 TLV

The ones Yeshua spoke this parable to were those whose attitude was in equal parts adulation of themself and slander of others. Yeshua exposed how who trusted in themselves did not trust in God.  The Pharisee thought he was praying to God, but Yeshua reveals that he was, in fact, just “praying this to himself.” In truly praying to God we trust in His righteousness, not our own, we rely on His mercy not our works.

And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”
And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” And looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
Mark 10:17-22 LSB

 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?” 
And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 
Then he said to Him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony;  Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  
The young man said to Him, “All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?”  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
Matthew 19:16-22 NASB

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 
And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” 
And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 
But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich.
Luke 18:18-23 TLV

Setting out on a journey, heading towards Jerusalem for Passover, towards Jerusalem for His crucifixion. This wealthy young Jewish man who held a position of authority in his community recognized in Yeshua One who taught with authority. He longed to know how to inherit eternal life. He felt in himself that he was lacking something but could not reason what that was. Not worrying what other leaders of the Jewish people might think of him, this rich young ruler ran up and knelt before Yeshua. He was humble.

Yeshua answered this Jew by pointing him to the commandments. Matthew has the young man asking “which ones“, not such a strange question when you remember that the Jews have derived 613 commandments from the Torah. Yeshua’s list of commandments come from the 10 God gave to Moses on Sinai: #6 Do not murder; #7 Do not commit adultery; #8 Do not steal; #9 Do not bear false witness; #5 Honor your father and mother.

Mark adds Do not defraud : this is not in the Ten Commandments, although the Mosaic law does speak of it. Leviticus 19:35 says, “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin.” Deuteronomy 25:13–16 also demands that Jews not cheat in their weights and measures, ending with “For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.” It may be that Yeshua used defrauding as an outworking of #10 Do not covet.

Matthew adds You shall love your neighbor as yourself from Leviticus 19:18b. Again, not one of the ten but Yeshua had already identified it as the second most important commandment of all (Luke 10:27). Still this young man could not identify his lack, for he had been a good Jewish boy, carefully obeying each of these commands on how to treat others even as his parents had taught him. It was a culture in which obeying parents was the norm and anything else was frowned upon by the whole community. Yeshua loved this humble, sincere young man so He exposed the idol in his heart, that which came between him and fulfilling the most important command, loving the Lord God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength: Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. It was a challenge and an invitation. Following Christ requires giving up everything, taking up our cross, losing our life in order to gain it, dying in order to live.

This wealthy young man recognised the powerful truth in Yeshua’s words to him, but was not yet willing to pay the price. His heart was still soft, he went away grieving. Now he knew his lack but could not overcome it, too much of his security and identity had become attached to his wealth.

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 
And looking at them, Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Then Peter responded and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” 
And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms on account of My name, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”
Matthew 19:23-30 NASB

And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”
And the disciples were amazed at His words.
But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
And they were even more astonished, saying to Him, “Then who can be saved?”
Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”
Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, except one who will receive one hundred times as much now in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”
Mark 10:23-31 LSB

Gazing at him, Yeshua said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Then those who heard said, “Then who can be saved?”
But Yeshua said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Then Peter said, “Look, we’ve left everything of our own to follow You.”
And Yeshua said to them, “Amen, I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much in this age; and in the olam ha-ba, eternal life.
” Luke 18:24-30 TLV

Peter spoke for all the disciples when he said “we’ve left everything to follow You” and Yeshua responds by assuring them that such a priority, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, will always be rewarded both in this life and with eternal life in the age to come. In Matthew we also see a promise just for the twelve apostles: when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. There is evidence later that James and John took this to heart and spent time imagining themselves on these thrones.

Matthew gives us the parable Yeshua then told to explain His comment that “many who are first will be last, and the last, first.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.  About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.   When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20:1-16 NIV

 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:17-19 NIV

And they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.” Mark 10:32-34 LSB

Then Yeshua took the twelve aside and said to them, “Look, we’re going up to Jerusalem, and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be carried out.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and He will be mocked and insulted and spat upon.  After they have scourged Him, they will kill Him. Yet on the third day, He will rise again.”  
But they understood none of these things; this message was hidden from them, and they did not understand what He was saying.
Luke 18:31-34 TLV

This revelation was just for His closest friends, but even they were not yet able to grasp it. Even as He walked with determination towards this awful fate, Yeshua’s focus was on preparing His followers for the shock, confusion and grief they would endure when He was taken from them. It would not be the tragedy it appeared, but a direct fulfilment of prophesies written about Him and further proof that He truly is the famed Son of Man whom Daniel saw reigning at the right hand of the Father.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars. Holy Scriptures Tree of Life Version (TLV). s.l. : Baker Books.
6. The Legacy Standard Bible (LSB). LSB. [Online]
7. Bible Commentaries. Matthew 19:24. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 16th, 2023.]
8. Hecht, Mendy. The 613 Commandments (Mitzvot). Chabad. [Online] [Cited: October 15th, 2023.]
9. Bible Ref Editors. What does Mark 10:19 mean? Bible Reference. [Online] [Cited: October 15th, 2023.],weights%2C%20a%20just%20ephah%2C%20and%20a%20just%20hin.%22.

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

* Why do you think it was only the Samaritan who returned to give thanks for his healing from leprosy?
* How is the kingdom of God evident in your life and in your church?
* In what ways did Jesus explain to His disciples that He was about to be crucified and raise from the dead?

Lazarus Death & Resurrection

Please read John 11:1-54

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with perfume, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.   John 11:1-2 NASB

Bethany lay on the south-east slope of the Mount of Olives, and, according to John 11:18, nearly two miles from Jerusalem. The village was known, then, in the circles of the first disciples, as the village of Mary and Martha, by way of distinction from the “Bethany beyond Jordan” referred to in John 1:28.

Lazarus,” the Greek form of Eleazar = God is my Help .  Many commentators conclude that Lazarus was younger than his sisters.

It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with perfume” — See John 12:3; and Matthew 26:7.

So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”  

The sisters knew well what peril Yeshua and His disciples would encounter by returning to Bethany in Judea, so close to those in Jerusalem who were seeking His life, and they must have known that He could have healed Lazareth by a word; so, they simply state the case.

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not meant for death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” (Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus.) 
So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. John 11:3-6 NASB

Yeshua was teaching the people throughout the region of Peræa, beyond (to the east of) the Jordan River, when the sisters in Bethany sent word to Him about Lazarus’s grave sickness. He could have prayed for Lazarus’ healing right there and then, effecting the cure from a distance as He had done for the Centurian’s servant – but He did not. He could have left what He was doing and hastened back to Bethany to lay hands on Lazarus, but He did not. Instead, He said some cryptic comment about it being for the glory of God and then stayed where He was for two whole days more, neither continuing to travel further afield nor returning back towards Judea. Those whom Christ loves are no more exempt than others from their share of earthly trouble and anguish. Yeshua loved Lazarus, and his sisters, but still He only did what He saw the Father doing, knowing this would also prove best for those He loved.

Yeshua delayed His return to Mary and Martha not only though He loved them, but because God loved them. He loved them, and therefore He designed to do something great and extraordinary for them; to work such a miracle for their relief, as He had not wrought for anyone else. If Yeshua had gone immediately, and had arrived at Bethany while Lazarus was still alive, and had cured his sickness, He would have done no more for him than He had done for many; if Yeshua had come to him, and raised him when he was but just dead, He would have done no more than He had done for some; but deferring His relief so long, Yeshua had an opportunity of doing more for Lazareth than He had done, or ever should do, for any other. Observe that God has gracious intentions even in his apparent delays. (See Isaiah 54:7-8). Christ’s friends at Bethany were not out of His thoughts, nor was His affection to them lessened, though when He heard of their distress He made no haste to give them relief. His lingering so long after their message came, did not proceed from want of concern for his friends, but happened according to the counsels of God’s wisdom. For the length of time that Lazarus lay in the grave put his death beyond all possibility of doubt, and removed every suspicion of a fraud, and so afforded Yeshua a fit opportunity of displaying the love He bare to Lazarus, as well as His own almighty power, in his unquestionable resurrection from the dead. It is true, the sisters were thus kept a while in painful anxiety, on account of their brother’s life, and in the conclusion were pierced with the sorrow of seeing him die. 

Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.”  
The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and yet You are going there again?”  
Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  But if anyone walks during the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
John 11:7-10 NASB

Yeshua does not identify their destination more definitely, and the word “again” recalls the dangers from which they had escaped at the close of their last visit to Jerusalem in Judea. His talmidim (disciples) expressed some unwillingness to undertake the journey back into danger; not imagining that it was proposed on Lazarus’s account, whom they supposed out of danger because Yeshua had said of his sickness that it was not unto death.

Are there not twelve hours in the day? — The Jews always divided the space from sunrise to sunset, whether the days were longer or shorter, into twelve parts, so that the hours of their day were all the year the same in number, though much shorter in winter than in summer. Day represented the time for Yeshua teach the people before the dark night of His crucifixion. The length of the day was set, they could not make it longer or shorter. While ever it was day no efforts to kill Christ could succeed (and various opponents had tried). Not one moment of this time was to be wasted worrying about their personal safety instead of moving forward with proclamation of the kingdom of God.

Because there is no light in him — Or rather, in it, as εν αυτω, should be translated, referring to the noun, κοσμουworld, in the end of the preceding verse. For his stumbling in the night is occasioned by the want of that which prevents his stumbling in the day, namely, light, the sun not being above the horizon. Dr. Campbell, however, thinks that, in it, or, in him, is better omitted in English, where it would encumber rather than enlighten the expression. He therefore reads, He stumbleth because there is no light.

He said these things, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him.”
The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be saved from his sickness.”
Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of actual sleep.
So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

John 11:11-15 LSB

Yeshua’s disciples were soon going to witness His death. They needed to believe that He had authority over death. What appeared to be a heartless delay was actually a merciful show of love and care. Often, what feels unfair and as though God has forgotten us in the moment is actually an expression of His lovingkindness towards us as He prepares us for what we don’t know is to come.

Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” John 11:16 LSB

The threat of stoning Yeshua in the temple (John 10:31) was still very fresh in their minds (The Divine Council – Renewal Blog). Yeshua’s disciples felt it not only as a threat against Him, but a threat against themselves as well as His followers. Each had times of being brave and willing to face those threats, willing to die for Him if that was the cost of following Him. But they did not yet have the empowering of the Holy Spirit to be able to stand unmovable in such.

So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia away; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them about their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.
Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who comes into the world.”
And when she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.
Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews—who were with her in the house and consoling her—when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to cry there.
Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus therefore saw her crying, and the Jews who came with her also crying, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus wept.

So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
John 11:17-37 LSB

The Jewish custom was to bury on the day of death (see Acts 5:6-10), followed by a weeklong mourning period (“shiva“) during which mourners are visited at home by family and community. It was Jewish belief that after death the soul lingers near the body for three days, hoping that it will return to life (Tanhuma, Miqetz 4; Pequdei 3), but after those three days, the soul returns to God (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 90b-91a). It was after those three days had passed, but still during the shiva, that Yeshua came to raise Lazareth from the grave.

We do not know where in Peraea Jesus was sojourning when He received the message announcing Lazarus’s illness.  We do know that Yeshua had spent some time walking through Peraea – ministry on two separate shabbat days has been specifically recorded. So, He could have been at least four day’s walk from Bethany when He received the news from Mary and Martha.

Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia away – possibly 2 miles or 3 km; a Roman stadion was around 607 ft. or 185 m long. Many of the Jews from the nearby city of Jerusalem had come to comfort Mary and Martha during shiva. Lazarus had been deeply loved by many.

Yeshua wept. He didn’t lack faith. He knew He was going to raise Lazarus back to life and very soon would be enjoying his friend once more. But He wept. He mourned. His grief was real and all could see how much He had loved Lazarus.

So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”
Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time he smells, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they removed the stone.
Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the crowd standing around I said this, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”
And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”
The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
John 11:36-44 LSB

They all knew that Yeshua could have kept this man from dying, but none believed that after four days Lazarus could be raised from the dead. By that time his soul would have departed and his body stink from the process of decay. It was too late now, all hope had gone, nothing could be done. Or so they thought.

 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. John 11:45-46 NASB

 But some of them went off to the P’rushim (Pharisees) and told them what He had done.  So the head cohanim (chief priests) and the P’rushim called a meeting of the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? — for this man is performing many miracles.  If we let Him keep going on this way, everyone will trust in Him, and the Romans will come and destroy both the Temple and the nation.” 
But one of them, Kayafa (Caiaphas), who was cohen gadol (high priest) that year, said to them, “You people don’t know anything!  You don’t see that it’s better for you if one man dies on behalf of the people, so that the whole nation won’t be destroyed.” 
Now he didn’t speak this way on his own initiative; rather, since he was cohen gadol that year, he was prophesying that Yeshua was about to die on behalf of the nation, and not for the nation alone, but so that He might gather into one the scattered children of God.

Acts 6:7 tells us that: And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. John likely learned of what happened in this meeting through believers (like Nicodemus) who were there and those priests who later became obedient to the faith. Notice God’s hand even in what appears to be the evil plans of Yeshua’s enemies: since he was cohen gadol that year, he was prophesying that Yeshua was about to die on behalf of the nation

From that day on, they made plans to have him put to death.  
Therefore Yeshua no longer walked around openly among the Judeans but went away from there into the region near the desert, to a town called Efrayim (Ephraim), and stayed there with His talmidim. John 11:46-54 CJB

Yeshua had returned to where His ministry began, Bethany beyond Jordan (John 10:40), immediately after leaving Jerusalem following Hanukkah (the feast of Dedication). It was the winter month of Tevet, in the middle of the wet season, as it had been when He was baptised by Yochanan three years before. Yeshua had continued teaching throughout the region of Peræa for some weeks before He heard that Lazarus was sick. Returning to Bethany four days after Lazarus’ death to raise him from the dead, Yeshua then departed to Ephraim in the month of Shevat. Here He continued till the week leading to Passover. The crowds had been bigger than ever in Peræa but now, after His most spectacular attention getting miracle, Yeshua hid away in Ephraim for around six weeks, about the same time He had spent alone in the wilderness being tempted at the beginning of His ministry. Ephraim was a secluded spot on the edge of the wilderness where He could avoid the observation of His enemies until the appointed hour had come. How little the people at large knew where He was, appears from the fact that those who went up early to the feast, sought Him at Jerusalem. These days of preparation, it seems, were spent in times of solitary communion with His Father and fellowship with his talmidim .

It is believed that the Biblical town of Ephraim is now called Taybeh. This Palestinian village is the only Christian town left in Israel or Palestine. The people of Taybeh hold fast to their heritage of Yeshua seeking refuge there shortly before his crucifixion. They also see the pomegranate as a symbol of the fullness of Jesus’ suffering and Resurrection. This fruit appears as a motif in religious art in Taybeh. A tradition says Jesus told the villagers a parable relating to this fruit, whose sweet seeds are protected by a bitter membrane. Using this image, Jesus explained that to reach the sweetness of his Resurrection he had to go through the bitterness of death.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. Bible Commentaries. John 11:1. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 1st, 2023.]
6. My Jewish Learning . Jewish Death and Mourning 101. My Jewish LKearning. [Online] [Cited: October 9th, 2023.]
7. Jews for Judaism. Does the Talmud talk about a ressurection 3 days after the end of the world? Jews for Judaism. [Online] [Cited: October 9th, 2023.]
8. Administrator. Jesus’ Final Journey to Jerusalem. Bible Mapper. [Online] September 5th, 2022.
9. See The Holy Land Editors. Taybeh. seetheholyland. [Online] [Cited: October 10th, 2023.]

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

* Describe a time in your life when God didn’t appear to answer your prayer, but looking back you can see how what He did was better than what you were asking for?
* When has God directed you to do something that didn’t appear to display your care for ones you loved?
* What is a trial that you have gone through that you later realised had been God’s mercy in preparing you for what was to come?
* What comfort do we get from knowing that Jesus wept here?
* Has there been a time in your life when it seemed that God had waited too long to help you and all hope had gone?
*How can we see God’s hand even in an enemy’s attack and so walk confident in His sovereignty and goodness towards us?
* What is the significance of Jesus’ time in Ephraim?

Nothing in Torah Fails

Please read Matthew 19:3-15, Mark 10:2-16,
Luke 16:16-18, 17:1-10, 18:15-17

“The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.   And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.” Luke 16:16-17 NKJV

 “Up to the time of Yochanan there were the Torah and the Prophets. Since then the Good News of the Kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is pushing to get in.  But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the Torah to become void.”  Luke 16:16-17 CJB

The word for ‘tittle’ is keraia, the tip or horn of a letter, the smallest stroke in a Hebrew letter, such as that which distinguishes ב from כ or ה from ח.

The Septuagint rendered the Hebrew Torah‘ (תורה) by the Greek nomos (“Law”), probably in the sense of a living network of traditions and customs of a people. The designation of the Torah by nomos, and by its Latin successor lex (whence, “the Law”) has historically given rise to the misunderstanding that Torah means legalism. Torah‘ (תורה) can also be translated as instruction, teaching, direction or guidance. The root, yod-resh-hey (ירה), originally meant to throw or shoot an arrow. The noun torah literally means to cause something (or someone) to move straight and true.   The most prominent meaning of Torah for Jews is that it constitutes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, the five books of Moses, (also called the Pentateuch, ‘five books’ in Greek – Genesis (Bereshit), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Va-yikra), Numbers (Bamidbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim)). Sometimes the word Torah is used to refer to the whole Hebrew Bible (TaNaKh) which contains the books of Moses – Torah, the Prophets – Nevi’im (נביאים), and the Writings – Ketuvim (כתובים). Yeshua may well have been referring to the whole TaNaKh in Luke 16 when He spoke of “the law and the prophets“, not even the smallest part of which will become void or fail.

Yeshua made a distinction between the age of the law and the prophets and the age of the kingdom of God – this shift from one age to the next was marked by the ministry of Yochanan the baptiser. The end of the age of the law and prophets does not, however, mean an end to the value or necessity of such for God’s word is eternal.

God’s Law (the whole TaNaKh) is eternal and unbreaking. It never changes. It will not shift or realign itself to the opinions of men. We are wrong if we think that we can go up against God’s laws and win. We will lose. God is not mocked. 

Luke continues with his download of Messiah’s teachings:

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”  Luke 17:1-2 NASB

See also commentary on Matthew 18:1-7 @ Help Me in My Unbelief – Renewal Blog.

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4 NKJV

See also commentary on Matthew 18:15-20 @ What Love Looks Like – Renewal Blog

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Luke 17:5-6 NKJV

The apostles thought it was more faith that they needed but Yeshua responded that they didn’t need much, the smallest amount of faith can overcome any obstacle.

“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?  
But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  
Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.  
So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”
Luke 17:7-10 NKJV

 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
Matthew 19:3-12 NKJV

And some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.
And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
And they said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote for you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
And in the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again.
And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
Mark 10:2-12 LSB

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18 LSB

His teaching had been clear on this (see Fulfilling Torah – Renewal Blog). But here in Peræa Judea, beyond the Jordan, in the territory of Herod Antipas and close to where he had imprisoned and beheaded Yohannan the immerser for calling him out on divorced the daughter of Aretas and marrying his brother’s wife, these pharisees asked him: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” He was more lenient than they with regards to all the added ceremony of the Oral Torah but demanded a much higher standard with regard to living out the love of God.

Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.  But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  
And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. Matthew 19:13-15 NKJV

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark 10:13-16 LSB

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them.
When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  
But Jesus called the children to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17 NIV

Little children were brought to Yeshua, as to a man of extraordinary sanctity, whose prayer was supposed to have peculiar efficacy (John 9:31); as, in a similar way, children were also brought to the presidents of the synagogues in order that they might pray over them. The laying on of the hands (Genesis 48:14) was desired as a means of communicating the blessing prayed for (Acts 6:6). Yeshua honoured those who brought the children to Him and spent the time to meet their request, at the same time teaching His followers the need to be as a little child to enter His kingdom.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. Bible Commentaries. Luke 14:1. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 1st, 2023.]
6. Saunders, Maryanne. The Torah – Judaism, Sacred texts. British Library. [Online] September 23rd, 2019.,have%20been%20composed%20by%20Moses..
7. Freeman, Tzvi. What is Torah? A Comprehensive Overview. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: October 4th, 2023.]
8. My Jewish Learning Editors. What Does ‘Torah’ Mean? My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: October 4th, 2023.]
9. Rabinowitz, Louis. Judaism: The Written Law – Torah. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: October 4th, 2023.]
10. Rich, Tracey R. Torah. Judaism 101. [Online] [Cited: October 5th, 2023.]
11. Commentaries. Matthew 19:13. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 5th, 2023.]
12. The Bible Says. Luke 16:16-17 meaning. The Bible Says. [Online] [Cited: October 5th, 2023.],You%20will%20lose..
13. Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass,. Christ’s Words. [Online] [Cited: October 5th, 2023.]

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

* What does it mean that God’s law will not fail or become void?
* Why would Jesus give the same teachings at different times during His ministry?
* What is your understanding of Jesus’ teaching on divorce and how do you apply that in your church and community?
* How are children viewed and treated in your community?

Invitation & Costs of Discipleship

Please read Luke 14:25-35, 15 & 16:1-15, 19-31

Now many crowds were going along with Him, and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  Luke 14:25-27 CJB

The word hate in Luke 14:26 deserves a closer look. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the contrast between “love” and “hatred” is sometimes used to communicate preference. For example, in dealing with inheritances in polygamous marriages, the Mosaic Law referred to “two wives, one beloved, and another hated” (Deuteronomy 21:15). Our love for Christ needs to be such that He is preferred above all else, even our own life.

Then Yeshua shared two more parables to illustrate our need to count the cost of following Him:

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Lest, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:28-30 LSB

Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Luke 14:31-33 LSB

Therefore, salt is good, but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:34-35 LSB

Then three parables to demonstrate God’s eagerness in seeking those who are lost.

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has one hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:1-7 LSB

This parable is also shared in Matthew 18:12-14 – see What Love Looks Like – Renewal Blog.

“Or what woman, if she has ten drachmas and loses one drachma, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10 LSB

And He said, “A man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate living recklessly. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he was desiring to be fed with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will rise up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’
So he rose up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet, and bring the fattened calf, slaughter it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And summoning one of the servants, he began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’
But he became angry and was not wanting to go in, and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and never have I neglected a command of yours. And yet never have you given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
And he said to him, ‘Child, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive, and was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 LSB

Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a steward, and this steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called for him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’
And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship people will take me into their homes.’
And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
And he said, ‘One hundred baths of oil.’
And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’
Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’
And he said, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’
And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly, for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves from the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will take you into the eternal dwellings.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?
Luke 16:1-12 LSB

Yeshua repeated some of His teaching as He spoke in different regions.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.

And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts, for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
Luke 16:13-15

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. But a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom, and the rich man also died and was buried.
And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things. But now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you are not able, and none may cross over from there to us.’
And he said, ‘Then I am asking you, father, that you send him to my father’s housefor I have five brothers – in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’
But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Luke 16:19-31 LSB

Moses and the Prophets wrote of Messiah to come. Here He was but those religious leaders who proclaimed most loudly that they obeyed Moses refused to believe in the One that he spoke of. refusing to believe in Him. Yeshua prophesied their reaction of failing to be persuaded even by His resurrection and diagnosed this as a failure to listen to Moses and the Prophets.

  1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
  2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
  3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
  4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
  5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online]
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* Who is invited to God’s banquet?
* What is God’s response to those who are lost and trapped in sin?
* What are the costs of discipleship in these passages?
* God accepts anyone, no matter how sinful they have been, but what does He demand if we choose to come to him?

Dining with a Leader of the Pharisees

Please read Luke 14:1-24.

And it happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. Luke 14:1 LSB

And it happened, probably just as Yeshua was finishing His journey through Herod’s southern dominion (the region of Peræa). This leader of the Pharisees was likely a member of the Sanhedrin (Jewish supreme court or Sanhedrin ha-Gadol “the Great Council” that consisted of 71 rabbis), and he had invited several other scholars of the Law and Pharisees to join in assessing the merits of this outsider who was teaching the people. Yeshua was invited to their Friday evening meal that welcomed in Shabbat. Such were often lavish and joyous affairs, the whole day having been spent on preparations before the Sabbath candles or lanterns were lit to herald its arrival as the day faded into evening.

Yeshua never refused an invitation, whether the inviter were a Pharisee or a publican, a friend or a foe. He never mistook the disposition of His host and always in His presence their hearts were exposed. On this occasion His host and their esteemed guests were watching Him closely to judge His response to each part of the situation before Him. The chill atmosphere of suspicion did not freeze the flow of His gentle beneficence and wise teaching. Yeshua’s meek goodness remained itself in the face of hostile observers. The miracle and the two parables are aimed straight at their errors.

To eat bread – in Jewish households, a meal is considered any repast in which bread is consumed, so Jewish meals begin with the blessing over bread and then the sharing of bread together. Bread and wine are the two food items that are always present at the Shabbat evening meal every Friday night, and prayers are said for both. In fact, on Shabbat evening it is traditional to have two challahs (loafs of bread) with the meal to symbolize the double portion of mana that the Jewish people received every Friday while wandering the desert.

And behold, in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the scholars of the Law and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”
But they were silent.
And He took hold of him, healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?”
And they could make no reply to this.
Luke 14:2-6 LSB

The term “dropsy” is a shortening of “hydropsy” (Greek, “hudropikos, “watery looking”). Better known as edema today, this is swelling due to excess fluid in the body, leading to unsightly, bloated limbs whose movements are limited and awkward. Dropsy could be a symptom of cancer or diseases of the kidney, liver, or heart, most often congestive heart failure. In the ancient world, untreated dropsy was, eventually, always fatal. It was considered ironic that one afflicted with dropsy was swollen because of excess water in the body but was at the same time thirsty for more water. Metaphorically, dropsy was used widely as a metaphor for greed and wealth, particularly in the writings of Greek philosophers.

Before they had done the ritual handwashing and taken their seats Yeshua was confronted with this man suffering from a fatal disease that carried connotations of guilt and shame. Yeshua answered the thoughts which He saw arising in the hearts of His host and their esteemed guests: Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not? They refused to answer.

Displaying the kingdom of God, Yeshuatook hold of him, healed him, and sent him away.” The moment that Yeshua laid His hand on the man, his complexion returned, and his body was reduced to its ordinary size; becoming, at the same time, vigorous and fit for action so he could with ease go on his way. As He had done in the synagogue on a previous Shabbat (, Yeshua reminded these religious leaders that the Sabbath itself is a reminder of the release from captivity that God effected. What is more fitting for such a day than to release people from the bondage of sickness and disease?

And He was telling a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they were picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not recline at the place of honor, lest someone more highly regarded than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in shame you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who recline at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11 LSB

As each guest completed their hand washing ceremony they proceeded to the table, seeking the seats of highest honour. Jews are required to wash their hands and say a blessing before eating any meal that includes bread or matzah (the unleavened bread eaten at Passover). The ritual, known as netilat yadayim is unrelated to personal hygiene, and a person is still required to perform this ritual even if his or her hands are clean. It was customary to avoid speaking following the recitation of the netilat yadayim blessing until reciting the blessing for bread and partaking of some. Yeshua, who was waiting, watching and observing those who pushed ahead to wash their hands first so they could get the good seats at the table, used this period of enforced silence to teach His next lesson to these religious leader: everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Then Jesus said to the man who had invited Him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you host a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed. Since they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14 BSB

Then, after He too had washed His hands, reclined at the table and the blessing on the bread had been said and partaken of, Yeshua speaks to His host. Those who would have been excluded from this man’s banquets are the very people Yeshua exhorts him to invite. Those who can do nothing to raise his social, political or financial standing are the ones he should be reaching out to, for such is the kingdom of God in action. Yeshua is challenging him to shift his focus from earthly rewards to heavenly rewards.

On hearing this, one of the people at the table with Yeshua said to Him, “How blessed are those who eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” 

But He replied, “Once a man gave a banquet and invited many people. When the time came for the banquet, he sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come! Everything is ready!’ 
But they responded with a chorus of excuses. The first said to him, ‘I’ve just bought a field, and I have to go out and see it. Please accept my apologies.’ Another said, ‘I’ve just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to test them out. Please accept my apologies.’ Still another said, ‘I have just gotten married, so I can’t come.’  The slave came and reported these things to his master.
“Then the owner of the house, in a rage, told his slave, ‘Quick, go out into the streets and alleys of the city; and bring in the poor, the disfigured, the blind and the crippled!’ 
 The slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 
The master said to the slave, ‘Go out to the country roads and boundary walls, and insistently persuade people to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet!’”
Luke 14:15-24 CJB

The guest presumed that one would have to work hard at diligently obeying all the commandments to try to earn his way into this banquet and Yeshua paints a totally different picture. Those who were invited had all sorts of worldly excuses for not attending, they thought they wanted such an honour but in reality they were too tied to the things of this world. So, it was all those who were thought not to qualify who were sort out, brought in and insistently persuaded to attend. What the Jews had presumed had to be earnt would be received through simple acceptance of the invitation.

  1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
  2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
  3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
  4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
  5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online]
  6. Bible Commentaries. Luke 14:1. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 1st, 2023.]
  7. Hartsock, Chad. The Healing of the Man with Dropsy (Luke 14:1-6) and the Lukan Landscape. BRILL. [Online] January 1st, 2013.,notice%20of%20the%20dropsy%20metaphor..
  8. Smith, Ralph Allan. Everybody has Dropsy – Luke 14:1-24. Theopolis. [Online] July 2nd, 2019.
  9. Estes, J. Worth. VIII.39 – Dropsy from Part VIII – Major Human Diseases Past and Present. The Cambridge World History of Disease. [Online] March 28th, 2008.
  10. MY JEWISH LEARNING. Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals – The Netilat Yadayim practice and blessing. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: October 2nd, 2023.]
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* What do you think brought the man with “dropsy” to this Shabbat meal? Was he seeking healing? Was he a plant by the pharisees to bring occasion to accuse Jesus? What in the text has led you to this conclusion?
* Did you notice any shift in attitudes towards Jesus during the course of this meal? Explain.
* What must we do to qualify to “eat bread in the kingdom of God”?