Yeshua Reveals the Father

Please read Luke 10:16-42, 11:1-13, 29-32

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 NASB

This had been part of Yeshua’s instructions to the seventy He sent out ahead of Him to declare “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9b). In Matthew 10:40 part of the instructions that Yeshua gave the twelve as He sent them out was: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” The same theme is continued in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to be sharing our own opinion but faithfully representing the One who sent us and the position of the Kingdom of God on the issue, calling all to be reconciled to Him. Those who are sent by Messiah with His message will be treated as the One who sent them, who in turn is being treated as they treat the Father. No one can say they love God while despising those He sends with His message of reconciliation. People’s real attitudes towards God are revealed by how they treat Yeshua in those He sends.

Just as the twelve had witnessed God’s mighty power moving through them when Yeshua sent them to minister, now also with the seventy.

Now the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” 
And He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  Behold, I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions, and authority over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.

Miracles were not limited to Yeshua, or to the twelve. Every one of the seventy (some versions say seventy-two) also experienced the power of the name of Yeshua. He had sent them with one simple message, that Jesus was coming to town “the kingdom of God has come near to you“. With that message came the power to do as Yeshua did in His name. Indeed, Yeshua had told them (Vs 16) that dealing with them would be dealing with Him, which is dealing with the Father (The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.).

Yeshua’s kingdom is in direct opposition to Satan’s kingdom. The more Yeshua’s kingdom advances the more Satan’s is forced to retreat. The more Yeshua is exalted the more Satan is cast down. The impact of these seventy going out in obedience, declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God manifest in the name of Yeshua, was that Satan fell from heaven like lightening! Yet, it is not the power we can exercise that we are to rejoice over, but the love which records our names in heaven to be with Him forever.

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for doing so was well pleasing in Your sight.  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son determines to reveal Him.” Luke 10:17-22 NASB

Here we have a glimpse into Yeshua’s private prayer life. Notice that these seventy had not been chosen for their deep theological understanding, or their level of education or skills but simply because they were willing to trust and obey Yeshua like a little child, an infant.

Having spoken to His Father, Yeshua then turns to His talmidim (disciples) to encourage them. In Him is the fulfilment of all the prophets of Israel had longed for.

Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things that you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things that you hear, and did not hear them.” Luke 10:23-24 NASB

Who Is My Neighbour?

An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap Him by asking, “Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?” 
But Yeshua said to him, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?” 
He answered, “You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself.” 
“That’s the right answer,” Yeshua said. “Do this, and you will have life.”
Luke 10:25-28 CJB

God is the same in Old Testament and New – this Torah expert knew what God desires of us – LOVE – but preferred the pride that exalted him over others to love which serves others. His attempt to trap Yeshua demonstrates that he was one of the “the wise and intelligent” from whom the kingdom of God was hidden. Yeshua used the opportunity to show this man the true state of his heart.

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Yeshua, “And who is my ‘neighbor’?” 
Taking up the question, Yeshua said: “A man was going down from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) to Yericho (Jericho) when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him naked and beat him up, then went off, leaving him half dead.  By coincidence, a cohen (priest) was going down on that road; but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levi who reached the place and saw him also passed by on the other side. But a man from Shomron (Samaria) who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion.  So he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’  Of these three, which one seems to you to have become the ‘neighbor’ of the man who fell among robbers?” 
He answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Yeshua said to him, “You go and do as he did.” Luke 10:29-37 CJB

In this one parable Yeshua demolished the typical in-group morality, coupled with out-group hostility, so common to human nature and He extended the definition of “neighbour to be loved” from ‘those in my group‘ to ‘all people of all races and religions‘. Samaritans were not welcome in Judah to be walking on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Notice that in answering which man was the neighbour, this expert in Torah avoided saying “the Samaritan”. Yeshua had even admonished us to love our enemies during His sermon on the mount. There is no one to whom we do not owe a debt of love if we are to live as citizens of His kingdom. As Paul wrote in Romans 13:8 “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.Yeshua was not talking about love as being a warm, fuzzy feeling, but as an action of doing the best for the other: “You go and do as he did.”

Listening to His Teaching

Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching.  
But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” 
But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 AMP

Mary took the place of a talmid (disciple), sitting at their Rabbi’s feet listening to Him. In Jewish culture this was a position reserved for men. Martha was fulfilling the role of a good Jewish woman, busy with service providing the hospitality to her house full of guests, and she expected her sister to do likewise. Yeshua honoured and protected Mary’s desire to learn from Him as a disciple.

Pray and Keep on Praying

They continued travelling to all the villages that Yeshua had sent the Seventy to in preparation for His arrival. Often, they saw their Rabbi praying.

One time Yeshua was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of the talmidim said to Him, “Sir, teach us to pray, just as Yochanan taught his talmidim.” 
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father,
May your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come.
Give us each day the food we need.
Forgive us our sins, for we too forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And do not lead us to hard testing.’”
Luke 11:1-4 CJB

Yeshua had taught them to pray near the beginning of His ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-18). There was something more they needed to learn as the time of His departing from them approached. So, Yeshua began with a brief recap of what He had previously taught them and then moved on to teach the need for persistence in prayer.

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread]; for a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to visit me, and I have nothing to serve him’; and from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything just because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence and boldness he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. 
Luke 11:5-10 AMP

Pray and keep on praying, don’t give up until you receive God’s answer.

Asking for the Holy Spirit

Those who had been at Yeshua’s baptism had witnessed the Holy Spirit coming upon Him like a dove and heard that He would baptise them in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-33). They had heard, during Yeshua’s conflicts with the Pharisees, His statements about the Holy Spirit being on Him (Matthew 12:18) and that it was by the Spirit of God that He cast out demons (Matthew 12:28, 31-32). Now He began teaching them about receiving the Holy Spirit themselves, in the context of His exhortations to be persistent in asking God for their needs.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13 AMP

We need not be afraid that we will receive some unclean spirit if we are asking the Father for the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is in the goodness of God.

A Wicked Generation Demands a Sign

Now as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it demands a sign, and so no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  
The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.  
The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:29-32 NASB

Yeshua Himself was going to be their sign – a sign of the horror of our sinfulness and of the greatness of God’s love and mercy. They were looking for a sign that He would conquer the Romans for them, but His was to be a sign that He conquered sin for us. Earlier, Yeshua had taught: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days and three nights, the Son of Man will also be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40.

The ultimate insult to a Jew was to suggest that any Gentiles responded better to G-d than they. Here, Yeshua gave two examples of Gentiles whose responses had been better than this generation of Jews. The men of Nineveh were known as an evil lot, fully deserving of God’s judgment, yet they had repented at the preaching of Jonah, but this generation of Jews were not repenting despite all the miracles Yeshua had done in their midst and His clear preaching to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. Instead of repenting, they were arguing over whether He had really given them enough signs to prove that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Interestingly, Jonah’s preaching was that the city of Nineveh would be overthrown in 40 days (Jonah 3:4) but their repentance led to them being spared judgment for over 140 years, until after they had returned to the full extent of their evil ways and failed to repent at the preaching of the prophet Nahum, and Jerusalem was overthrown about 40 years after Yeshua’s preaching and sign to them of their need for repentance.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. Holy Bible. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. Zalmanov, Eliezer. Meal Hand-Washing – Beyond Pasteur! Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/607403/jewish/Meal-Hand-Washing.htm.
6. Chabad Editors. 6: Ritual Washing of the Hands. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/257763/jewish/6-Ritual-Washing-of-the-Hands.htm.
7. My Jewish Learning. Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals – The Netilat Yadayim practice and blessing. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hand-washing/.
8. Gagliardi, Gary. Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs,. Christ’s Words. [Online] [Cited: October 29th, 2022.] https://christswords.com/main/content/luke-1142%C2%A0-woe-unto-you-pharisees-ye-tithe-mint-and-rue-and-all-manner-herbs.

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

*What was Jesus’ message?
* Are there sins your nation needs to repent of?
* What does it mean to be an ambassador of Christ?
* Are there people who are despised by your community like the Jews despised Samaritans? What are you doing to love these people as your neighbours?
* What did Jesus teach his disciples about prayer and receiving the Holy Spirit?

Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication)

Please read John 10:22-39

 Then came Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade (Solomon’s porch). John 10:22-23 CJB

Hanukkah is not a “biblical” holiday. That is, it is not one of the seven feasts which Moses instructed the Israelites to keep in the Torah, the first five books of the Holy Scriptures.   Nor is it mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew scriptures (like Purim is described in the book of Ruth). Yet Yeshua made a special trip to Jerusalem for this festival that commemorated the re-dedication of the Second Temple in which He now stood and taught.

For more details on when and why this Jewish celebration began see: The Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Period 166-40BC.

Hanukkah celebrates God’s deliverance from the hand of Israel’s enemies and the re-dedication of the Temple after its defilement under the evil Antiochus IV. 1 Maccabees 4:59 tells us:

Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislov.

Thus, Hanukkah is a winter festival, in 2022 Hanukkah will be from the evening of Sunday, 18th December until the evening of Monday, 26th December.

Hanukkah originally resembled Sukkot (Festival of Booths / Tabernacles), partly because the Maccabees had been unable to properly celebrate Sukkot while in fierce battle against the much larger army of Antichus IV’s men who were occupying Jerusalem and desecrating the Temple. 2 Maccabees 10:6 tells us:

They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the Festival of Booths, remembering how not long before, during the Festival of Booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals.

Hanukkah was thus established to echo Sukkot and to commemorate the triumphs of this band of brave Jews who fought against overwhelming odds for their right to worship the one true God as He had commanded them – and won.

According to later rabbinical tradition:

When the rule of the Hasmoneans prevailed and they defeated the Hellenes, they searched and finally found a tiny pitcher of oil which bore the seal of the High Priest. In it was enough oil to last no more than one day. And a miracle occurred—it endured for eight days! For this reason, a period of eight days was marked off for thanksgiving and praise.

A traditional saying arose from this Hanukkah story: “nes gadol haya sham,” which means, “a great miracle happened there.”   The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of God’s preserving power over the evil Antiochus IV and his mighty army, and God’s miraculous provision of oil for lighting the Menorah during the eight days of dedication until more sanctified oil could be made.

In the late First Century AD, Josephus recorded some detail about how Hanukkah was celebrated from the time of the Maccabees up to when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70:

Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival.

Hanukkah was initially focused on the Temple, with joyous celebration of it being the place where God’s presence dwelt (2 Chronicles 20:9) and of their regained freedom to worship and offer the daily sacrifices there. While not an official Pilgrimage Festival, as were Passover, Shavuot (feast of weeks) and Sukkot (festival of tabernacles), Hanukkah centred on the Temple and Yeshua travelled there to celebrate it with His countrymen and teach them through it.

The miracle of eight days’ oil for the Menorah has led to celebrating this festival with a nine-candlestick menorah—one for each day the oil burned, plus the shammos “servant candle” used to light the other eight. The “servant candle” sits in the middle of the others and its candleholder places it above them.

Every day for eight days the candles are lit by the servant candle: one on the first day, two on the second, etc., until on the last day all eight candles are lit by the servant.

With this focus on the light of the candlesticks Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. God spoke through His prophet Isaiah: My servant shall bring light to the Gentiles. (Isa. 42:1)  John’s Gospel states, Jesus is the true Light that lights everyone who comes into the world (John 1:9). Yeshua Himself declared two months earlier, at the close of the Feast of TabernaclesI am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).   This is why Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights.  There is no fasting or mourning in this festival, it is a celebration of victory and joy.

Many Hanukkah celebrations begin in full darkness, then the light of a candle – the first Hanukkah candle – pierces the darkness, and then – more candles and more lights! It’s very beautiful and very impressive!  One of the central songs sung during Hanukkah is called BANU CHOSHECH LEGARESH – “WE CAME TO DRIVE AWAY THE DARKNESS” – and this is indeed the overwhelming feeling one gets during these celebrations: The light came to overcome the darkness!  

In the world’s darkest hour, the light comes! This reminds us of the words of John’s Gospel about YeshuaThe light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  The Light of Yeshua also came at a time of the darkness and foreign oppression; the hand of Rome was heavy upon Israel, the nation could hardly bear this oppressive yoke.  That was not the only darkness, there was corruption in the priesthood, prideful arrogance in religious leaders, and violent conflict between different Jewish sects. The Light of the word stepped into this darkness and it could not overcome Him.

WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS?

The word “Christmas” literally means Christ’s Mass.
Christ” comes from Greek Χριστός (Christós), meaning anointed, which is a translation of Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ māšîaḥ (anointed) that has been incorporated into the English language as “messiah”.
Mass” is from Latin missa, which refers to the remembrance of Messiah through eating bread and drinking wine as His body and blood.
(Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20 & 1 Cor.11:23-26).
Thus Christmas is a festival that commemorates the incarnation of MessiahEmmanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25) – who suffered and died to give us new life.

The birth of Jesus was celebrated by a large army of angels:
Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night. An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them.
The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. 
 The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy.  Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city.  This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, a large army of angels appeared with the angel.
They were praising God by saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those who have His good will!”

Luke 2:8-14 GW

The birth of Jesus was celebrated by shepherds.
The angels left them and went back to heaven. The shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.”
They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby, who was lying in a manger.  When they saw the child, they repeated what they had been told about him. 
Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was amazed.
Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them.
As the shepherds returned to their flock, they glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard. Everything happened the way the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20 GW

Some time later…
The birth of Jesus was celebrated by ‘wise men’ from the East.
After Jesus’ birth wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the one who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star rising and have come to worship him.” …
The star they had seen rising led them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overwhelmed with joy to see the star. 

When they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary.
So they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1b-2, 9b-11 GW

The birth of Jesus was not celebrated by the apostles.
Whereas all the Jewish leaders at the time of the temple rededication had been deeply involved in the events commemorated in Hanukkah and thus made it a law for the Jewish people to celebrate it annually, none of the apostles was present to witness the birth of Yeshua so it was not something that they testified to or celebrated – their commission was to be witnesses to what they had seen and heard (Acts 1:20-22, John 21:24), preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching them to do everything He had commanded.
(Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-49)

How the 25th December was Chosen
The first church figure recorded discussing the date of Jesus’ birth was Clement (c. 200), an Egyptian preacher from Alexandria. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. Following a very Jewish idea – that the beginning and the end of important redemptive events often happen on the same date (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 10b-11a) Tertullian concluded that March 25 was therefor also the date of Jesus’ conception (it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation). Exactly nine months later, he reasoned, Jesus was born – on December 25.

Sextus Julius Africanus, (born c. AD 180, Jerusalem—died c. 250), was the first Christian historian to produce a universal chronology, Chronographiai (221) – a five-volume treatise relying on the Bible as the basis of his calculations, on the history of the world from Creation (which he placed at 5499 BC) to AD 221. In this work Sextus also proposed that Jesus’ birth was on December 25th.

In the beginning of the third century, Tertullian reported that since he knew precisely when Jesus died (14th of Nissan or March 25), he also knew exactly when he was conceived. If Jesus was conceived on March 25, then counting forward to the 9 months of Mary’s pregnancy would place His birth on December 25This is especially intriguing because January 1st used to be celebrated as the Day of Christ’s circumcision (8 days from the evening of Dec. 24). 
It wasn’t until some 70 years after western Christians had settled on December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth, in 274 CE, a Roman Emperor declared December 25 to be, “The Day of the Unconquered Sun,” (Sol Invictus).

This reasoning appears to have been fairly widely accepted in the church. An anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa, states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.” And Augustine writes in On the Trinity (c. 399–419): “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”

In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.” However, instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas and the Epiphany (celebration of Jesus’ baptism).

When was Christmas first Celebrated?
There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.
It is reported that Telesphorus, who was martyred in 136AD, declared that Church services should be held to celebrate “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.”

About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus.  Clement also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January).

During the persecution under Emperor Diocletian in 312 C.E. an Egyptian Christian group called the Donatists emerged, and they remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time. In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions the Donatists kept Christmas festivals on December 25 but refused to celebrate the Epiphany (celebration of Jesus’ baptism) on January 6, regarding it as an innovation.

In an old list of Roman bishops, compiled in A. D. 354 these words appear for A.D. 336: “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea. This day, December 25, 336 (during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine), is the first recorded celebration of Christmas, although the practice may have existed in various Christian congregations well before it was officially recorded in a document that survived the years.

At this time of celebrating God’s deliverance from the hand of Israel’s enemies there was strong messianic fervour as the people cried out for Messiah to come and deliver them from Roman occupation and oppression. The popular picture of the Messiah in Yeshua’s time was that he would be a “super-Maccabee,” a warrior priest who would destroy Israel’s enemies and bring in everlasting peace. It was easy to ‘forget’ that the Maccabees brought only a very fleeting peace. After 67 years the conflict between brothers for power over God’s people had descended into a 6 yearlong bloody civil war that killed over 50,000 Jews. Only 25 yrs after that civil war ended, they had descended into self-destruction of the nation once more, to the extent that soon each side was asking the Romans to come and assist them in dethroning the other. (For details see: The Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Period 166-40BC and Second Temple Period Under Roman Rule). Just 101 yrs after the Maccabee’s victory and cleansing of the temple, in 64 BC, Roman armies marched into Jerusalem at the behest of all the leaders of the Jewish people and their oppression under Roman rule began. What was needed was so much more than just a mighty warrior, Jewish history had proven that they needed someone to conquer their sinfulness before any peace could be lasting.

It was with this expectation of a “super-Maccabee” messiah that the Jews gathered around Yeshua as He taught in Solomon’s porch. This was a roofed and column-lined walkway, or portico. Winter is the wet season in Israel, so He may have been in the portico to keep out of the rain.  According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide (15 cubits), and the columns were about 40 feet tall (25 cubits). Josephus described them as white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling (Antiq. 15.11.3-5, §391-420; JW 5.5.1 §184-185). This was on the east side of the temple. The walkway itself was elevated from the surrounding land, and partly walled in. Because of the layout, a person walking along this portico had the temple on one side, and either a solid wall or a sheer drop on the other. A large portion of the outer edge was walled off. This meant Yeshua was in an area with only one reasonable means of exit: through the temple. The men who approach Him here are clearly intending to block off His escape route.

 The Jews surrounded him. They asked him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I’ve told you, but you don’t believe me. The things that I do in my Father’s name testify on my behalf. However, you don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from me. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than everyone else, and no one can tear them away from my Father.  The Father and I are one.” John 10:24-30 GW

In the gospel of John, the phrase “the Jews” is most often a reference to the religious leaders of Jerusalem and their followers. These are the Pharisees, scribes, and other officials. It is with these men that Yeshua has had His most cutting and divisive conflicts. Yeshua is “surrounded” by religious leaders. The Greek term used is ekyklōsan, which literally means “to surround, encircle, or encompass.” It’s a term often used to describe the act of siege. In other words, hostile religious leaders are ensuring Yeshua has no means of escape as He walks in the temple.

Later verses will describe them lifting stones to attack Yeshua (John 10:31)—but this is inside the grounds of the temple, where suitable stones are not simply laying around. Those who later sort to stone Him had brought rocks in advance, and with murderous intent. In this incident, Yeshua is not simply being challenged, He’s being threatened as they dare Him to repeat His former claims to give them an excuse to launch their rocks upon Him. The phrase “keep us in suspense” is tēn psychēn hēmōn aireis, which literally implies “holding our souls” or “restraining our spirits.

Yeshua’s response brought both comfort to His followers, and condemnation to those determined to reject Him. For those of us who have responded to His voice and are following Him there’s the sweet assurance that He gives us eternal life, we will never be lost, and no one will tear us away from Him. Our lives are kept safely in our Father’s all-powerful hands.

Again the Jews brought up stones to stone Him.  
Jesus said to them, “My Father has enabled Me to do many good deeds. [I have shown many acts of mercy in your presence.] For which of these do you mean to stone Me?”
The Jews replied, “We are not going to stone You for a good act, but for blasphemy, because You, a mere Man, make Yourself [out to be] God”.
 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your Law, I said, You are gods (Psalm 82:6)? So men are called gods [by the Law], men to whom God’s message came—and the Scripture cannot be set aside or cancelled or broken or annulled—  [If that is true] do you say of the One Whom the Father consecrated and dedicated and set apart for Himself and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming’, because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works [performing the deeds] of My Father, then do not believe Me [do not adhere to Me and trust Me and rely on Me].  But if I do them, even though you do not believe Me or have faith in Me, [at least] believe the works and have faith in what I do, in order that you may know and understand [clearly] that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father [One with Him]”.
They sought again to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands.
John 10:31-39 AMP

Surrounded by His enemies who were angered by His declaration “My Father and I are One“, yet He escaped from their hands because His time was not yet. They had convinced themselves that they were being faithful to God as they sort to kill His beloved Son. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Hershey, Doug. Hanukkah: Why Did Jesus Celebrate the Feast of Dedication? Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries. [Online] December 10th, 2020. https://firmisrael.org/learn/hanukkah-why-jesus-celebrated-feast-of-dedication/.
4. Bloom, Julia. Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah! Preach It Teach It. [Online] [Cited: October 10th, 2022.] https://preachitteachit.org/articles/detail/jesus-celebrated-hanukkah/.
5. Brickner, David. Jesus’ Celebration of Hanukkah. Jews for Jesus. [Online] December 1st, 1998. https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-dec-1998/jesus-celebration-of-hanukkah.
6. Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. John 10. Bible Gateway. [Online] God’s Word Mission society, 1995. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2010&version=GW.
7. Bible Ref. John 10:24 Parallel Verses. Bible Ref.com. [Online] Got Questions Ministries. [Cited: October 21st, 2022.] https://www.bibleref.com/John/10/John-10-24.html.
8. Long, Philip J. Acts 5:12 – Solomon’s Portico. Reading Acts. [Online] February 3rd, 2019. https://readingacts.com/2019/02/03/acts-512-solomons-portico/.
9. Marian, Jakub. Origin of the Words Christmas and Xmas . Jakub Marian Language Learning, Science & Arts. [Online] [Cited: October 21st, 2022.] https://jakubmarian.com/etymology-of-the-words-christmas-and-xmas/#:~:text=The%20word%20Christmas%20comes%20from,word%2C%20is%20not%20entirely%20clear..
10. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Sextus Julius Africanus”. Britannica. [Online] July 20th, 1998. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sextus-Julius-Africanus..
11. Hillerbrand, Hans J. Christmas. Britannica. [Online] Encyclopedia Britannica, October 25th, 2021. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas.
12. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Dr. Eli. Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? The Times of Israel. [Online] May 8th, 2021. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-christmas-a-pagan-holiday/.
13. Rickard, Stanley Edgar. Thesis. THE MOORINGS. [Online] Bible Studies at THE MOORINGS. [Cited: October 22nd, 2022.] https://www.themoorings.org/Jesus/birth/date.html.
14. McGowan, Andrew. How December 25 Became Christmas. Biblical Archaeology. [Online] July 23rd, 2022. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/how-december-25-became-christmas/.

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

*How would you describe the Jewish feasts?
* What do you think God’s attitude is towards their celebrating additional feasts to those He commanded Moses?
* What celebrations does your church have and how do you celebrate?
* Why would a “super-Maccabee” be an inadequate Messiah?
* Have you had, or witnessed, false expectations about God and how is what He did better than what people were asking or expecting Him to do?
*What protection did Jesus have when they tried to arrest him during the Hanukkah celebrations?

Yeshua set His face to go to Jerusalem

Please read Luke 9:51-10:15 & Matthew 11:20-24

And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem; Luke 9:51 NIV

Yeshua’s focus was on the joy set before Him in His ascension (Hebrews 12:2) as He fulfilled Isaiah 50:4-7:

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
    I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.
 I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was proceeding toward Jerusalem.  Luke 9:52-53 NASB

On the way to Judaea from Capernaum, Yeshua’s road probably lay over Mount Tabor, past Little Hermon (see Luke 7:11), past Nain, Enaor, and Shunem. The first Samaritan village at which He would arrive would be En Gannim (Fountain of Gardens), now Jenin, a pleasant village at the first pass into the Samaritan hills.

Samaritans

The Samaritans were a very religious people. Like the Jews, they were looking for Messiah, but their expectations were different.

These Samaritan Israelites kept the Hebrew Torah and cultic practices.  They called themselves “the sons of Israel” or “Shomrim” (the keepers), considering themselves the be the keepers of the old ways, the ancient faith, the covenant promise. The Samaritans followed in the footsteps of the northern kingdom of Israel before them in opposing the worship of God in Jerusalem, convinced that the centre of Israel’s worship should be the mount of YHWH’s covenant blessing (Deuteronomy 27:12), Mount Gerizim, where they had built their own temple to Yahweh. They had a fourfold creed:

1. One God – YHWH
2. One Prophet – Moses
3. One Book – Torah
4. One Place – Mt Gerizim

The Jews (Judean Israelites) and Samaritans (Samaritan Israelites) each believed that they were the true worshippers of God and that the others were heretics and imposters who had taken the wrong path when the kingdom had separated into two after Solomon’s death. 

Samaritans in the city of Sychar had been the first to believe that Yeshua is “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” (John 4) Yeshua now sent messengers ahead of Him into a smaller Samaritan village but the message they gave did not result in the same acceptance of Messiah. The reason Luke gives was Yeshua’s determination to go to Jerusalem. It is not clear whether their lack of receptiveness was due to the conflict between Jews and Samaritans over where the proper place to worship God is or, like the talmidim, was lack of acceptance of His purpose in pursuing the path to His death in Jerusalem. Now Yeshua had not only religious Jews, but also religious Samaritans rejecting Him.

If Anyone Will Not Welcome You

When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 
 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

And they went on to another village. Luke 9:54-56 NASB

The Sons of Thunder were living up to their nickname. Possibly stirred up by Yeshua’s continued insistence that He was going to be rejected and killed and by seeing Elijah during Christ’s transfiguration and remembering how he had called down fire. Such a demonstration of divine power would make them feel a whole lot more secure. It was not Messiah’s calling and He immediately rebuked them for such a destructive suggestion. Yeshua had previously given them instructions for when a town did not receive them:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 NIV His Word does not change – they left that town and went on to another Samaritan village that would gladly receive them.

Demands of Discipleship

As they continued into Judea this crowd attracted attention and many came out to see Yeshua. They wanted the rewards of discipleship but were not prepared to pay the price.

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  
And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  
And He said to another, “Follow Me.” 
But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”  
But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  
Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”  
But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:57-62 NASB

Apostello 70 Others

After this, the Lord appointed seventy other talmidim and sent (apostello) them … Luke 10:1a CJB

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers states: Some MSS. of importance give “seventy-two,” but the evidence preponderates in favour of the reading “seventy.”

Although many were not willing to pay the price of discipleship, there were still many who did, enough for Yeshua to appoint another 70 and apostello them into the harvest.  

There was much significance in Yeshua appointing seventy others.
(1) In Judaism the natural order is represented by the number 7. G‑d chose to create the world in 7 days, resulting in a week that consists of 7 days. Any number times 10 represents the completeness of that number.  Thus, 7 times 10 (seventy) represents the completion of the natural order – each aspect of nature is complete.
(2) Seventy members of Jacob’s family moved down to Egypt (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5).
(3) The Torah (Genesis 10) lists seventy descendants of Noah after the Great Flood, and tells us, “These are the families of the sons of Noah . . . the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32) Deuteronomy 32:8 also draws a parallel between the number of descendants of Jacob (Israel) and the number of non-Israelite nations.
(4) In the Feast of Tabernacles a great sacrifice of seventy oxen was offered as on behalf of all the non-Israelite members of the great family of mankind (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in Joann. 7). 
(5) Seventy elders had been appointed by Moses to help him in his work of teaching and judging the people (Numbers 11:16), and to these the spirit of prophecy had been given that they might bear the burden with him.
(6) The Sanhedrin or great Council of scribes and priests and elders consisted of seventy members besides the president, the number having been fixed on the assumption that they were the successors of those whom Moses had appointed.
(7) Israel has seventy holy days every year – 52 Shabbatot, the 7 days of Pesach, the 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shmini Atzeret, 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, 1 day Yom Kippur.
(8) Israel suffered seventy years of exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10).
(9) “Seventy ‘sevens’(weeks) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” Daniel 9:24
(10) LXX Septuagint (from the Latin for “seventy“) is the name of the Greek translation of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) commissioned by the Egyptian king, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned from 285-246 BC). The full title (Ancient Greek: Ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν Ἑβδομήκοντα, lit. The Translation of the Seventy‘) derives from the story that it was translated into Greek by 70 Jewish scholars or, according to later tradition, 72: six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who independently produced identical translations.

These Seventy were ‘others’ Gk hetros = another who is different, a different group with a different mission. The mission of the Seventy is clearly distinguished from and contrasted with that of the Twelve by the word ‘others’ hetros. The Twelve were prohibited from going beyond Jews; the Seventy were under no such restriction. The number 12 had reference to the number of the Israeli tribes; that of 70 was representative of all the nations.  None the less, much of the charge given to either is given to both – they had the same message, and both were sent to prepare for Christ’s personal ministry.

As the 12 had been, these 70 were apostello – commissioned, sent on a defined mission. Apostello focuses back on the source (the one sending) to strongly connect the sender the one sent, so this verb is used to emphasise the close connection of Yeshua (as the sender) to believers that He commissions. This is in contrast to the more general Greek term for ‘to send’, pempo.

 …and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He said to them, “To be sure, there is a large harvest. But there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the Harvest that he speed workers out to gather in his harvest.”   Luke 10:1b-2 CJB

Yeshua had said this before apostello the twelve, now we have a further fulfilment in the apostello of the seventy others. It was a lesson for the twelve as much as for the seventy – they were not to try to “own” the ministry and forbid others to partake in it, as indeed they had recently done. All disciples are called to minister, all saints are called to minister – to know Jesus and make Him known, to introduce others to Him.

“Get going now, but pay attention! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Don’t carry a money-belt or a pack, and don’t stop to shmoose with people on the road (but make haste to tell as many as possible about me, for the time is short).

“Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘Shalom!’ to the household.  If a seeker of shalom is there, your ‘Shalom!’ will find its rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you.  Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for a worker deserves his wages — don’t move about from house to house.

“Whenever you come into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is put in front of you.  Heal the sick there, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you.’  

“But whenever you enter a town and they don’t make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off as a sign against you! But understand this: the Kingdom of God is near!’  I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for S’dom than for that town.” Luke 10:3-12 CJB

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24 ESV

“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Beit-Tzaidah! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tzor and Tzidon, they would long ago have put on sackcloth and ashes as evidence that they had changed their ways.  But at the Judgment it will be more bearable for Tzor and Tzidon than for you! And you, K’far-Nachum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Sh’ol! Luke 10:13-15 CJB

Yeshua did miracles out of compassion for the people, but it was not just compassion for their physical state. They were sheep without a shepherd and He was calling them to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Yet they received the miracles but did not repent, did not recognise their need to come under the Good Shepherd’s care. The Greek word translated “repented” in Vs 13 is metanoeo = “to think differently afterwards“; it focuses on the change of behaviour proceeding from a change in thinking; it starts seeing the thing from God’s point of view after being liberated from one’s own carnal perspective. Experiencing miracles did not cause the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, or Yeshua’s ministry capital of Capernaum, to start thinking differently – they continued on as they had done before.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries.The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H.Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy BibleNew American Standard Bible. 1995, 2020. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
4. The Holy BibleThe Amplified Bible. 1987. 2015. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
5. Yehuda Shurpin: Why is 70 Special? And ten instances in Jewish tradition where 70 is significant. Chabad.com [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/940857/jewish/Why-Is-70-Special.htm
6. Rev. E. H. Plumptre, D.D. Edited by: Charles John Ellicott. Luke 10:1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Bible Hub. [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/10-1.htm
7. Dr. Elana Yael Heideman. ISRAEL AND THE MEANING OF 70. The Israel Forever Foundation. [Online] Sited October 23rd 2022. https://israelforever.org/interact/blog/israel_and_the_meaning_of_70/

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

*Jesus knew the Father’s will and determined to follow it even when it led to suffering and death – does the gospel we preach include such willingness?
* Jesus’ disciples sent to this Samaritan village appeared to fail as the villagers rejected Him instead of welcoming Him as Messiah from their message. What can we learn from Jesus’ response of sending out 70 others to prepare the way?
* Have you heard ministers “call down fire”, or to speak curses over those who reject them or their message, or proclaim that God will punish them for “touching the Lord’s anointed”? How does Jesus respond to such?
* What do we learn about how to respond to those who reject our message?
* Some like to boast as if the miracles they received prove their spiritual superiority – but the miracles just place a greater burden of responsibility on us to repent, to think and act differently in response to such a display of God’s grace and power. What are some of the miracles that God has done in your life?
* What evidence of repentance is in your life?