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, Yeshua “took 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 (http://blog.renewal.asn.au/2023/09/26/repent-or-perish/), 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.
HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
—. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online] https://lsbible.org/.
Bible Commentaries. Luke 14:1. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: October 1st, 2023.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/14-1.htm.
Hartsock, Chad. The Healing of the Man with Dropsy (Luke 14:1-6) and the Lukan Landscape. BRILL. [Online] January 1st, 2013. https://brill.com/view/journals/bi/21/3/article-p341_4.xml#:~:text=Rather%2C%20the%20dropsy%20is%20itself,notice%20of%20the%20dropsy%20metaphor..
Smith, Ralph Allan. Everybody has Dropsy – Luke 14:1-24. Theopolis. [Online] July 2nd, 2019. https://theopolisinstitute.com/everybody-has-dropsy-luke-141-24/.
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. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/cambridge-world-history-of-human-disease/dropsy/C58BF7044399EE1E911299B54E39E484.
MY JEWISH LEARNING. Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals – The Netilat Yadayim practice and blessing. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: October 2nd, 2023.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hand-washing/.
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”?
Now at that same time there were some present who were reporting to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered these things? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you think that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse offenders than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 LSB
Yeshua countered the popular narrative concerning these terrible events – they were not God’s punishment on the individuals involved for their personal sins, but they were a warning to all that apart from repentance we will perish.
And He was telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in manure, and if it bears fruit next year, fine, but if not, cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9 LSB
Repentance bears fruit. John the baptizer had warned them before: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10 NIV). During this the third year of His ministry, Yeshua now bemoans: Behold, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree without finding any. God’s goodness is to lead men to repentance, the nation of Israel were experiencing His goodness in all Christ was doing and teaching, yet there had been no national repentance.
Shabbat Teaching in a Synagogue
The next time we read of Yeshua, He’s no longer with the innumerable multitude but in a synagogue on shabbat, teaching the people.
And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had a sickness caused by a spirit, and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. But when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, answered and was saying to the crowd, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath release his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead it away to water it? And this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for—behold—eighteen years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” And as He said this, all His opponents were being put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him. Luke 13:10-17 LSB
Once again the gentle love and purity of Yeshua’s actions generates conflict instead of peace in the community. His enacting of the kingdom rule of God is in stark parallel with the opposition that the coming of the kingdom provokes. Satan, the accuser, had bound this humble woman for eighteen cruel years but lost his hold immediately Yeshua spoke to her. She was set free and began glorifying God. But the proud synagogue official allied with the accuser in seeking to denigrate her for being healed on Shabbat. Yeshua replaced the woman’s shame with honour by referring to her as “a daughter of Abraham” and is so doing placed the shame where it belonged – on the accuser.
The synagogue official’s offence lay in his interpretation of Deuteronomy 5: 12-14: Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work. Yeshua’s interpretative strategy involved reading on, and more fully, to expound the theological principle of Sabbath observance rather than offering a mere surface reading. His response simply continues reading Deuteronomy 5 into its immediate context (Vs 14-15): On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Sabbath means rest and liberation, not only for God’s people but also for the ‘ox and the donkey’ that Yeshua mentions. He again employs the first of Hillel’s rabbinic rules of exegesis – qal wahomer, “light to heavy.” Essentially this rule posits that what applies in a less important case (the “light”) will also apply in a more important case (the “heavy”), often using the phrase “how much more” to draw a conclusion. Here Yeshua argues, if you are prepared to offer Sabbath rest to your animals, surely you cannot withhold this from a precious daughter of Abraham? The Sabbath itself is a reminder of the release from captivity that God effected – if they thus release their animals to water them on Shabbat how much more should this child of Abraham be released from the bondage of disease on Shabbat! Setting people free is not only not a breach of Shabbat but provides a perfect illustration of the meaning and purpose of Shabbat.
It is worth noting that the cause of this woman’s ailment is attributed to a spirit, and Yeshua’s healing released her whom ‘Satan has kept bound’, but it is not described as demonic, nor does her … there is no sense in which this is described as exorcism from demon possession; the language of ‘demon’ or ‘unclean spirit’, and the actions of ‘possession’ and ‘expelling’, found in other gospel accounts of exorcism, and are all absent here. Rather, the physical and the spiritual are seen as inextricably interlinked; it is striking that when she is physically able to stand and look up, this woman immediately breaks into praise to God (surely the purpose of Shabbat). The cause of physical ailments is cosmological disorder and healing is an act of liberation from satanic bondage, it involves direct engagement in cosmic conflict, in the kingdom of God expanding and being manifest on the earth, overthrowing the rule of darkness.
Therefore, He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three sata of flour until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:18-21 LSB
Having displayed the kingdom of God in healing the woman, Yeshua reiterated (Matthew 13 and Mark 4) two parables teaching on this kingdom. They are two parables by which Christ foretells the great success of the gospel, despite the present small appearance of the efficacy of it, like the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands in Daniel 2, that grew to fill the whole earth.
Proceeding on His way to Jerusalem
And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 LSB
The point here is that Yeshua was teaching everywhere He could as He proceeded in determination toward His crucifixion in Jerusalem. Everything is leading towards that fateful day when He paid the price for our sins.
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ And He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:23-30 LSB
We are to consider the question of salvation with reference to ourselves, not with reference to others. It is not “do they qualify to be saved”, but “do I qualify to be saved?” Have we entered through the narrow door or are we relying on knowing about Jesus or seeing His works, or our religious heritage to earn a place in the kingdom of God?
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Leave and go from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish.’ Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day, for it is not possible that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you did not want it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate, and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Luke 13:31-35 LSB
There is some evidence that Yeshua was during this time ministering in the towns and cities of the Peræan area “beyond the Jordan”, and thus His journeys may have brought Him near Machærus, where John the baptizer had been imprisoned and murdered, and in which was one of Herod’s most stately palaces. Thence the Pharisees may have come with a threat, in which we may possibly trace the hand of Herodias, and which, at least, reminds us of the message sent by Jezebel to Elijah (1Kings 19:2). Yeshua was not perturbed, this threat aroused no fear in Him, He knew the Father’s will and sovereignty, neither Herod nor anyone else could take Him before it was His time to lay His life down for us all and that would not happen here, for Jerusalem was the appointed place and Passover the appointed time. He would not enter Jerusalem again until the triumphal entry when the people cried out: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998. 3. Holy Bible.New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984. 4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020. 5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online] https://lsbible.org/. 6. Bible Commentaries. Luke 12:5. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: December 27th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/12-5.htm. 7. Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary. Luke 12:1. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: December 28th, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentary/luke/12-1.html. 8. Paul, Ian. The many layers of the story of the women bent double in Luke 13. Psephizo. scholarship. serving. ministry. [Online] August 21st, 2019. https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-many-layers-of-the-story-of-the-women-bent-double-in-luke-13/. 9. Burer, Michael H. Qal wahomer: light to heavy. Exegesis for Christ, the Gospel, and the Church. [Online] July 11th, 2012. https://michaelhburer.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/qal-wahomer-light-to-heavy/.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What are the warnings Jesus gave us in this chapter? * What do we learn from the woman’s healing in the synagogue on the Sabbath? * What do we learn about the kingdom of God from this chapter in Luke’s gospel?
After Yeshua’s clash with P’rushim (Pharisees) and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) in Capernaum over ritual hand-washing, when He went on to declare all foods “clean” (Mark 7:19), He led His talmidim into Gentile territories to minister to the Jewish diaspora there. The group travelling with Yeshua likely included other men and women along with the 12.
To the Lost Sheep of Israel in Gentile Territory
The warm sunny days of spring were melting into hot dry summer days as they ventured north-west towards the Mediterranean Coast. Apart from a quick boat trip across the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, Yeshua’s ministry had been confined to Israel until now – preaching the kingdom of God in the regions of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Now He started conducting short-term mission trips to the surrounding areas to minister to the Jews living outside their land, yet still within the land promised to their forefathers.
The gospel writers had earlier recorded for us that people came from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Perea, Tyre and Sidon to hear Yeshua speak and be healed of their diseases (Mark 3:6-12; Luke 6:17-19). Maybe some had begged Him to come back to their home towns and teach all the people there? Commentators have proposed three reasons for Jesus to lead His disciples on this journey into Gentile territory: * Jesus knew He had only one year left to instruct His disciples in sound doctrine and how to reach the world with the gospel before He returned to Heaven so shifted the focus of His ministry from the multitudes to His disciples, spending quality time instructing them in the word of God. * He wanted to avoid Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. After Jesus fed the multitudes, they wanted to make Him king (John 6:15). Antipas, who had imprisoned and murdered John the Baptist, would have seen this as an insurrection and a threat to his throne, and wanted Jesus arrested. *Jesus wanted to initiate another test for His disciples and teach them a valuable lesson about prejudice in preparation for sending them into all the world after His resurrection. What we do know is that the Father sent Him to each of these places in His good timing and for His purposes.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
This was not a journey the Jewish religious leaders were likely to make in order to keep trying to find fault with Him. Indeed, only the most committed of His followers would venture into these lands with Yeshua. This was not the sort of place where Jews could expect a warm welcome. Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian commented that “among the Phoenicians the Tyrians, are notoriously our bitterest enemies” (Against Apion 1:70, 71; LCL 1:191). Yet, less religious Jews had spread along all the trade routes and established communities in every place of commerce, adding to the productivity and wealth of cities such as Tyre and Sidon.
A Canaanite Woman’s Faith
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:21-28 ESV
From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed. Mark 7:24-30 NKJV
Yeshua left the Jewish territory of Galilee and headed north-west to the coastal Syro-Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Their ministry schedule had been so hectic back in Galilee, preaching to large crowds and multitudes coming for healing. Now Yeshua was taking His talmidim (disciples) on more long journeys by foot, through hostile lands, during which they could connect more deeply with Him and each other. Depending on which way Yeshua and His talmidim walked to Tyre and Sidon, their journey north would have been around 85 miles (136 km) putting one foot in front of the other over some steep and rugged country. Whereas their walks to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals, approximately 240 miles (386 km) round trip for each one, would have been on crowded roads as thousands of other pilgrims made the same journey, this mission took them along more isolated routes. There would be no clambering crowds in these areas. During their long days walking, and around the campfire at night, they saw different aspects of their rabbi, not the grand and exciting aspects that you tell the world but the close, intimate, indescribable things that draw hearts together.
Tyre was the main seaport of the Roman province of Syria and Phoenicia – a prosperous city with pagan temples and twin harbours built on either side of a small island. The Roman settlement, to the south of the island, was constructed adjacent to the causeway linking it to the mainland, built by Alexander the Great during his siege in 332BC. Strabo, a Greek geographer, wrote a description of the city of Tyre sometime at the beginning of the First Century AD stating: “The houses here, it is said, have many stories, even more than the houses at Rome… by means of the seamanship of its people, in which the Phoenicians in general have been superior to all peoples of all times, and by means of their dye-houses for purple; for the Tyrian purple has proved itself by far the most beautiful of all; and the shell-fish are caught near the coast; and the other things requisite for dyeing are easily got; and although the great number of dye-works makes the city unpleasant to live in, yet it makes the city rich through the superior skill of its inhabitants.” (Geography 16.2.23; LCL 7: 267, 269). The Greek god Heracles, known as Melkarth to the Phoenicians, was the main deity of Tyre. Yet he was not the only god worshipped in this city. An inscription was discovered in the necropolis of Tyre that dated the dedication of a temple to the god Apollo to around AD 28/29 (Rey-Coquais 1977:1-3, Plate 50; Bikai, Fulco, and Marchand 1996). Tyre would be one of the first Roman cities in the region to embrace Christianity, so the seeds planted during this trip would later produce much fruit.
Like many of the surrounding territories, there was a significant Jewish diaspora in this region and it was to these lost sheep of Israel that their Messiah had come. It is interesting that the gospel accounts tell us nothing about what He preached in their synagogues, whose house He stayed in, or any of the miracles He did among the Jews in this region. The most important lesson that Yeshua’s talmidim learnt from travelling to these coastal port cities of Tyre and Sidon was the faith of a Gentile woman, a Canaanite.
The woman was Hellenistic and spoke Greek, but ethnically she was a Canaanite and geographically she was Syrophoenician. Canaanites were the original inhabitants of the Promised Land. They lived on the shore of the Mediterranean from Lebanon to nearly Egypt, and east to the Jordan River. Descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:18–25), the Canaanites were known for being wicked and idolatrous. Yet this woman had learned enough from the Jews living in her region to recognize Yeshua as the Son of David, Messiah of the Jews (Matthew 15:22). She called Him “Lord”.
Incredibly, this woman of evil descent does something that most Jews, and even Yeshua’s talmidim, fail to do – understands the parable Yeshua answers her with. Her mind is not clouded by pride or self-righteousness. She is poor in spirit. She is not basing her request on anything of value or worth within herself – she has no status nor standing on which to base her claim on His healing power. She acknowledges that she has no right to demand anything of the Jewish messiah, so is not insulted by His parable which illustrates such: “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” The woman was a mother and Yeshua was saying to her, “You know how families eat: First the children eat at the table, and afterward the leftovers are thrown to the dogs. It is not right to violate that order. The puppies must not eat food from the table before the children do.” After the resurrection Yeshua would command His disciples “Go to all peoples of all nations“, but for now He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and she was not one of these. Yeshua’s parable to the Syrophoenician woman is basically saying, “Please understand, there’s an order here. I must go to Israel first, and not to the Gentiles until after the Jews have received from their Messiah.” In this, Yeshua presents her with both a challenge and an offer. Unlike most of the Jewish religious leaders, this woman understood what He was doing and responded accordingly.
“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” She doesn’t take offense or stand on her rights. She responds to the challenge: “Okay, I understand. I am not from Israel, I have not been worshiping the God that the Israelites worship nor living as they live. Therefore, I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that, but children can be messy with their food, not value what they have, such that some of it falls to the floor below them where the dogs are waiting; there’s more than enough on that table for everyone in the world, and I need mine now. Even the crumbs of what you’re giving are enough to set my daughter free.” She wrested with Yeshua in the most respectful way, in a very Jewish way, and she would not take no for an answer because her daughter had a need that only He could meet. This Gentile woman understood that He has such an abundance that her daughter could be delivered without it in any way diminishing what He had to give to the Jews. She sort after and would value what they discarded. Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
While the other Jewish rabbis insisted that any Gentile must first go through the long process of converting to Judaism by learning the Torah and adopting all the Jewish worship and cultural practices before they could expect anything from God, Yeshua made no such demands on this woman. Her simple, tenacious faith was enough. Her request was answered, her miracle received, her daughter healed.
This Syro-Phoenician Gentile woman’s faith was soon to be matched by evidence of the faith and obedience of a Greek Gentile man. Both had come to Yeshua seeking deliverance from demons, the woman sort Him for the sake of her daughter and the man had been possessed by a legion of unclean spirits.
Time to Be with Jesus
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon… Mark 7:31a
They continued walking north along the coast, away from Jewish Galilee and towards the city which had been the source of much of ancient’s Israel’s idolatry which led to their destruction.
Sidon is the Greek name (meaning ‘fishery’) for the ancient Phoenician port city of Sidonia. Sidon was a popular place of healing in Roman times – with a temple to Echmoun, a local god who was regarded by the Romans as Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Along with the city of Tyre, Sidon was the most powerful city-state of ancient Phoenicia and first manufactured the purple dye which made Tyre famous and was so rare and expensive that the colour purple became synonymous with royalty. Glass production made Sidon both rich and famous and the city was known for being very cosmopolitan and ‘progressive’. Sidon is considered the ‘seat’ of the Phoenician Civilization in that most of the ships which would plied the seas and spread Phoenician culture were launched from this city’s port. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Princess Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of Sidon, in the 9th century BCE, who later would become Queen of Israel (I and II Kings) when she was married to King Ahab to cement ties between the two kingdoms. Jezebel had brought the worship of Baal and Astarte to Israel that resulted in Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal and God sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18). This visit of the Redeemer of mankind to the city of Baal and Astarte is full of significance.
From Sidon to Decapolis
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.Mark 7:31
From Sidon, Yeshua turned east, then south to the area of the Decapolis, a further journey of about 120 miles (193 km) back over the mountains separating the coast from the Jordan Valley. The route followed is only vaguely indicated by the text, but it may have been designed to preclude the necessity of entering Galilee by staying on the east side of the Jordan River. 193 km is a lot of walking through hostile territory. It provided more time away from the clambering crowds. Time for silence. Walking. Time for prayer. Walking. Time for sharing. Walking. Time for being. Walking. These were intimate times, not shared with the rest of us. The precious, needed times in between ministry engagements. Every disciple of Jesus needs such times with Him.
The Decapolis was a league of ten Greek cities. Cultural clashes and strong animosities had continued to simmer between the Jews and the Greeks since the Greek leader Antiochus sacrificed a pig on an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and outlawed Jewish practices, resulting in the Maccabean Revolt whose victory continues to be celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. As Rome had assumed dominion in the East, leagues of Greek cities had formed to promote their common interests in trade and commerce, and for mutual protection against the peoples surrounding them. This particular league of 10 cities seems to have been constituted about the time of the Roman Emperor Pompey’s campaign in Syria, 65 B.C., by which several cities in Decapolis dated their eras. They were independent of the local tetrarchy, and answerable directly to the governor of Syria. They enjoyed the rights of association and asylum; they struck their own coinage, paid imperial taxes and were liable to military service. These cities were all on the east side of the Jordan River except for the capital of the league, Scythopolis, the ancient Bethshean (where King Saul’s headless body was strung up on the city gate by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:8-10). While they were part of the Promised Land, allocated to the tribes of Manasseh and Gad, and there is evidence of Jewish communities in these cities (most had synagogues), it seems clear that this area was now considered pagan by those Jews who were devoted to Israel’s God and His Torah as the guide for their lives. “Riotous living”, as was engaged in by the prodigal son in Yeshua’s parable, was commonplace in Scythopolis, leading some to believe this was the “distant country” where he fed the swine.
Down along the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee they travelled, until they came to the region of the Decapolis where the minority Jewish population were considered very backward and unsophisticated by the majority Greek population. The first time Yeshua had ventured into the Decapolis the local population had begged Him to depart. They wanted nothing to do with this man whose word had resulted in their pigs rushing down the hill and throwing themselves into the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:17, Luke 8:37). Yet, two men had been set free from demonic oppression that day and one of them responded by wanting to follow Yeshua and become His disciple. Instead of allowing this man to travel with Him, Yeshua had told him to return to his own people and tell them what God had done for him. In Jewish territory Yeshua kept commanding the recipients of His miracles to tell no one, but in this Gentile land He had instructed the Gentile recipient to go to his own people and tell them all what the Lord had done form him (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:38-39). See the end of Wind & Waves – Renewal Blog.
We can see how faithful this newly delivered man had been in obeying Yeshua andsharing his testimony throughout the region. His testimony about the great things that Yeshua had done for him had impact and the people’s response to Yeshua when He returned was totally different to their initial rejection of Him. This time large crowds flocked to hear Him, and those needing miracles were brought to Him.
There some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him. After He took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes he deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37 NIV
The scriptures do not tell us if the man who was deaf and had such difficulty talking was Jew or Gentile. Nor does it give us any details about those who begged Yeshua to lay His hands on this man. We know from Matthew 4:25 that there was a large Jewish population in the Decapolis, many of whom had followed Him: “Great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan followed Him”.
Yeshua and those walking with him were back in a populated area and the crowds were pressing in.
They begged Yeshua to place His hand on the man. He did not go with their prescribed method of healing. First, Yeshua took the man aside, away from the crowd. Then He did something different: put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (a Hebrew word which means “Be opened!”). It seems like a very unhygienic technique, and Yeshua did not perform these actions elsewhere, but for this man at this time this is what was needed. We can only speculate as to why that was. His talmidim were learning that there was no set “prayer formula” for healing – each case required listening to the Father’s voice and following His directions, even when they seemed strange or unusual.
Now Yeshua returned to His familiar injunction to Jews and in Israel: “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.” The people’s response was as it had been in Israel: “But the more He did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement.“
This miracle had quite an impact on the local population: “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” This populous who exalted in Greek culture and despised traditional Jewish ways were suddenly captured by the actions of the Jewish Messiah. His miracle cut through all their sophistication and prejudices, and they found themselves declaring “He does everything well” . Ancient Judaism really did have more to offer than all the modern sophistication of the Greeks and Romans.
Feeding the 4,000 (plus women and children)
Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Matthew 15:29-31 NIV
Word had spread that Yeshua was back from the region of Tyre and people had come from far and wide once more. Mark 8 tells us that some had come a long distance to hear and see Yeshua. They had brought supplies with them to this remote place, expecting a good long time of ministry. The scriptures do not specify whether the majority of the crowd who had come to see Yeshua in this Gentile area of Decapolis were Jews or Gentiles. Some commentators see strong evidence that they were Jews (eg. Cousland & McCall) and others see strong evidence that they were Gentiles (eg. Harvey & Franz). What we do know is that many had come in the hope of receiving healing, and they were not disappointed. For three days they had stayed up on the mountain with Yeshua, through the heat of the day and the cool of the night. For three days the lame, blind, crippled, mute and many others had been brought to Yeshua one after another and He had healed them. We are not told what Yeshua taught during those three days, maybe it was lessons that his disciples had already memorised and recorded for us. The focus of His ministry in this remote place was healing. The mute spoke, the crippled were restored, the lame walked and the blind could see. The people had responded as in the Psalms, praising the God of Israel, acknowledging Yeshua’s healings as connected to their covenant with God. This was a Jewish response to the Jewish Messiah.
Blessed be ADONAI the God of Isra’el from eternity past to eternity future. Amen. Amen. Psalm 41:13 CJB
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! Psalm 68:35 NIV
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Psalm 72:18 NIV
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD. Psalm 106:48 NIV
“They praised the God of Israel” could also have been a Gentile response acknowledging that the God of Israel had done what their gods could not.
Now Yeshua was getting ready to close the meeting and send everyone back to their own homes, but there was one more thing He wanted to do for them before they left. He had compassion on them.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then He took the seven loaves and the fish, and when He had given thanks, He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 15:32-38 NIV
The feeding of the 5,000 had been in early Spring when the ground was covered in a thick layer of lush grass for the people to sit on. Now the grass had dried up in the dry summer heat and the people had only the bare ground to sit on through the day and lay on through the night. Yet still they had come, even in the heat of summer, even carrying those who could not walk. They had come, some from a long distance, because they recognised that Yeshua was their only hope. He had not disappointed them. He healed them even as Psalm 103:2-3 described: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” Displaying the Father’s nature as Yahweh Ropheka: The God who Heals. Now He would display the Father’s nature as Yahweh Yireh: God will see/provide. Yeshua saw their need of food for the journey, and He provided.
During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When He had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, He broke them and gave them to His disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; He gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. Mark 8:1-9 NIV
In this, too, He was teaching His talmidim by involving them in the miracle. He began by calling His Talmidim to Him. Yeshua expressed His heart to them: “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” He waited for their response.
Yeshua saw the people’s need, His talmidim saw the impossibility. We learn from their response that this mountain was not close to any cities, towns or villages. There was no where close that they could go to but the food needed. No where close that the people could buy their own food on their way back home. “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
Yeshua’s response to them was as His response so often is to us – what do you have? Their combined supplies seemed so small and insignificant in comparison to the size of the people’s need. They had been part of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 but had no thought that Yeshua would do it again for this crowd until they heard His question: “How many loaves do you have?”
In their answer some see evidence that this was a feeding of Gentiles. The number seven is symbolic of God’s perfect, finished work, it is reminiscent of the seven days of creation when God created all humanity and so, they say, representative of not just Jews but Gentiles receiving His provision and being invited into the kingdom too. Not only did Yeshua give thanks for the bread, as was the Jewish tradition, but Mark records that He also gave thanks for the fish, which some think is also evidence that this was a ministry to Gentiles.
After everyone had eaten and been satisfied the broken pieces that remained were enough to fill seven baskets. Again we have a number symbolic of God’s perfect, finished work. In the feeding of the 5,000 the number of baskets filled with left-overs was twelve, symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was a difference in the type of basket filled on each occasion too. The kophinos used after the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13 ) may be confidently identified with the kūphtā’ of the Mishna which was a wicker basket provided with a cord for a handle by means of which it could be carried on the back with such provisions as the disciples would naturally have with them when travelling. The sphuris or spyris, large reed basket or hamper, used after the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8) was also used in letting Paul down from the wall at Damascus (Acts 9:25), so must have been considerably larger than the kophinos and quite different in shape and uses. That the disciples had brought larger baskets of food with them for their long journey to this remote location than they took to the grassy slopes near the city of Bethsaida would not be surprising. Interestingly, the seven hampers of food pieces from the 4,000 might have been more than the twelve baskets from the 5,000.
Through all this the talmidim were learning more about Yeshua’s priorities and the exercise of God’s power through Him.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Houdmann, S. Michael. Mark 7:26. Bible Ref. [Online] Got Questions. [Cited: February 17th, 2021.] https://www.bibleref.com/Mark/7/Mark-7-26.html. 3. Gentry, Austin. MEANING OF MARK 7:24-30. Austin Gentry. [Online] [Cited: February 17th, 2021.] https://www.austingentry.com/meaning-mark-724-30/. 4. Bible Hub. Mark 7:31. [Online] [Cited: February 18th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/7-31.htm. 5. Taylor, Chris & Jenifer. Jesus in Tyre and Sidon. The Bible Journey. [Online] [Cited: February 21st, 2021.] https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/5-jesuss-journeys-beyond-galilee/jesus-in-tyre-and-sidon/. 6. Jones, Brian. Jesus Walked, A Lot. BrianJones.com CHALLENGING PEOPLE TO LIVE MEANINGFUL LIVES FOR JESUS WITH LESS. [Online] [Cited: February 21st, 2021.] https://www.brianjones.com/jesus-walked-a-lot/. 7. Blessitt, Arthur. MILES JESUS AND MARY WALKED. The Official Website of Arthur Blessitt. [Online] [Cited: February 25th, 2021.] https://blessitt.com/miles-jesus-and-mary-walked/. 8. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Decapolis. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: Febriary 25th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/topical/d/decapolis.htm. 9. Stevenson, John. Feeding the 4,000 – Mark 8:1-10. Anglefire. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/mk08-01.html. 10. The Feeding of the Four Thousand Gentiles in Matthew? Matthew 15:29-39 as a Test Case. Cousland, J. R. C. 1, s.l. : Brill, January 1999, Novum Testamentum, Vol. 41, pp. 1-23. 11. Talbot, Elizabeth V. Bread of Satisfaction: A Narrative-Critical Study of the topic of Bread in the Gospel of Mark. Lasierra. [Online] November 2008. https://lasierra.edu/fileadmin/documents/religion/asrs/ASRS-Papers-2008-06-Talbot-Bread-of-Satisfaction.pdf. 12. Edersheim, Alfred. The Feeding of the Four Thousand – to Dalmanutha. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] https://biblehub.com/library/edersheim/the_life_and_times_of_jesus_the_messiah/chapter_xxxvi_the_feeding_of.htm. 13. Smith, Lee. MATTHEW 15:32-39 Pp Mark 8:1-10. Old Doctrines New Light. [Online] Arlev. [Cited: March 4th, 2021.] http://www.arlev.co.uk/matt053.htm. 14. McCall, Thomas S. The Feeding of the 4,000 — Were They Gentiles? Zola Levitt Ministries – the Jewish roots of Christianity. [Online] [Cited: March 4th, 2021] https://www.levitt.com/essays/feeding4000 15. Franz, Gordon. Jesus in the Region of Tyre and Sidon. Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/5052 16. Kelley, Jack. FEEDING 4,000 AND 5,000. Grace through Faith. October 12th, 2015. [Online] https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/feeding-4000-and-5000 17. Harvey, Ted. What’s the difference between the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000? Summerset Hills Baptist Church. February 11, 2020. [Online] https://www.somersethillsbc.org/shbc-blog/whats-the-difference-between-the-feeding-of-the-4000-and-the-5000/ 18. Franz, Gordon. The Feedings of the Multitudes – When, Where and Why? Plymouth Brethren Writings [Online] [Cited: 7th March, 2021.] http://plymouthbrethren.org/article/4968 19. Dr. See Seng Tan. The M&Ms of our Miracle Working God. International Students Inc. April 20th, 2020. [Online] https://www.seesengtan.com/blog/the-mms-of-our-miracle-working-god
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*If God has had you travel from your home town what purposes did you see Him fulfil through that? * Do you have any neighbouring regions where you might be considered an enemy because of your tribe or ethnicity, or are you living in an area or nation where this is the case? What do you think it would have been like for the disciples to walk with Jesus into this region where the people were considered the bitterest enemies of the Jews? * Describe a time when Jesus took you into a “hard place” or difficult time, to draw you closer to Him and equip you for future ministry. * Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere, they walked long distances, often over difficult terrain, to reach various places of ministry. What would have been some of the advantages of travelling on foot instead of having the vehicles often used today? * What was it about the Syro-Phoenician woman that led Jesus to declare “great is your faith” ? * Jesus’ ministry in these Gentile territories seems to be almost exclusively focused on healing and deliverance – why do you think that was and what do you think His disciples learnt from this? * What do you think the disciples learnt from the feeding of the 4,000 and how does this relate to your ministry?
Please read Matthew 10, 11:1, 25-30, 13:53-14:13a; Mark6:1-32; Luke 9:1-10
It was winter once more. Last winter Yeshua had set out from His home village of Nazareth, travelling south to ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ to be baptised by Yochanan. There was nothing remarkable in this, many from this pious region of Galilee were making the same pilgrimage. But something remarkable had occurred when Yeshua was baptised, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove from heaven, He was revealed as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and His ministry began. He had returned to teach in the Nazareth synagogue once since then, just before heading south to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Shavu‘ot – the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). After initially welcoming His teaching, they had turned on Him and tried to throw Him off the cliffs. Now He was back again, this time with His talmidim who had been following Him from town to town throughout the Galilee region.
Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary (Miryam), and aren’t his brothers James (Ya‘akov), Joseph (Yosef), Simon (Shim‘on) and Judas (Y’hudah)? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:53-58 NIV
Then Yeshua left and went to His home town, and His talmidim followed him. On Shabbat He started to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astounded. They asked, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom He has been given? What are these miracles worked through Him? Isn’t He just the carpenter? the son of Miryam? the brother of Ya‘akov and Yosi and Y’hudah and Shim‘on? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. But Yeshua said to them. “The only place people don’t respect a prophet is in his home town, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” So he could do no miracles there, other than lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of trust.
Then He went through the surrounding towns and villages, teaching. Mark 6:1-6 CJB
Once again the congregation in Nazareth were impressed with the wisdom of Yeshua’s teaching. They were impacted by the miracles He did. Yet, instead of responding in faith, instead of accepting the evidences that He was their long awaited Messiah, they became offended at Him. They had known Him as one of their own. They had known Him as Yosef (Joseph) and Miryam (Mary)’s son. Some elders whispered about Miryam having become pregnant with Him before she and Yosef had come together as man and wife. There was a hint of scandal in His background. They had known Him as Ya‘akov (James), Yosef (Joseph), Shim‘on (Simon) and Y’hudah (Judas)’ elder brother. His sisters had married their sons and were raising their own families in Nazareth. He was part of a normal family in Nazareth, how could He possibly claim to be anything more than that? Surely Messiah, surely the Lamb of God, surely the son of David, had to be someone other than a member of a normal family in their village! This lack of faith that Yeshua was sent to them from God meant that few came to Him with their needs, so there were few miracles for Him to do.
Yeshua, and His talmidim, continued on to the surrounding towns and villages.
12 Apostles Sent Out
These twelve had been following Yeshua for about a year now. During that time they had learnt so much and seen so much. Every time they saw a miracle it aroused a fresh sense of awe and wonder. No matter how many they witnessed there was still something amazing about each one. No matter how much of Yeshua’s teaching they memorised and meditated upon, there were still meanings that they were trying to grasp, still something surprising each time He shared with them. They had so much more to learn, yet they were ready. The time had come for them to put what they had been learning into practice – to go out and do what they had seen Yeshua do this past year.
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power (eksousia) over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease… … These twelve Jesus sent (apostéllō) out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. “Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” Matthew 10:1,5-15 NKJV
And He summoned the twelve and began to send (apostéllō) them out in pairs, and gave them authority (eksousia) over the unclean spirits; and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Mark 6:7-13 NASB
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power (dynamis) and authority (eksousia) to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent (apostéllō) them out to proclaim (kerysso) the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. Luke 9:1-6 NIV
None of these twelve had preached (kerysso) before. None had ever done a miracle before. None of them had healed the sick or cast out demons before. Yeshua did not have them do their first preaching or their first miracles under His careful guidance and watchful gaze – instead He simply gave them the spiritual power and authority and sent (apostéllō) them out ahead of Him.
Kerysso = to preach publicly and with conviction, preaching by a herald sent from God, proclaiming the gospel (good news) that all should repent because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand“.
Apostéllō = to commission, be sent on a defined mission by a superior, as an intensified form of ‘stéllō‘, ‘apostéllō‘ focuses back on the source – the one sending – to strongly connect the sender to the one sent.
Dynamis = ability to perform, power to achieve through God’s inherent ability – God sharing His inherent ability, empowered with God’s ability to do as He directs.
Eksousia = authority, delegated power, empowerment to operate decisively in a designated jurisdiction.
First Yeshua called them together. They came as one to Him. Then He imparted His ability into them and authorised them to publicly preach the kingdom of God, to heal the sick and to drive out demons. Then He sent them to go as an extension of Himself. Yeshua sent them out in pairs, so they could provide encouragement and accountability for one another. Interestingly, the scriptures do not tell us who was paired with whom.
Instructions for Short Term Missions
Go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Even though Yeshua had already taken them to witness Him ministering to Samaritans and to Gentiles, for this first mission trip Yeshuaapostéllō them only to their own people of their own culture. The Great Commission to all the world would come later.
Publicly preach, “repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
Take nothing for the journey—neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt, nor two tunics – for a worker is worthy of his food. Freely you have received, freely give. While charging nothing and making no profit from their ministry, they were to expect those they ministered to would provide for their basic needs on the road as per the Jewish laws of hospitality.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons – all of which could only be done because Yeshua had just imparted to them His ability to do so.
Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay in their house until you leave that town. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.
The Apostle’s Response
They went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and preaching that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Possibly to their own amazement, these twelve found themselves empowered to do just what Yeshua commissioned them to do. Just as He had said, people were healed and delivered at their word. His empowering really was enough to make it all happen. They followed His instructions and saw His miracles taking place at their hands.
Preparations for What Lies Ahead
Matthew then records Yeshua giving advise to help prepare them for the troubles that will accompany their triumphs. It was winter, the breeding season for Israel’s wolves.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves. But be on guard against people, for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you.
“Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he may become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they insult the members of his household!
“So do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops.
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Are two sparrows not sold for a copper coin? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows.
“Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household. “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.
“The one who receives you receives Me, and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:16-41
Yochanan the Immerser Beheaded
After Yeshua had finished instructing the twelve talmidim, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns nearby. Matthew 11:1 CJB
Now the work was multiplied. Six pairs of talmidim had been sent out in six different directions to spread the good news, heal the sick and cast out demons, and still a seventh, Yeshua Himself, went out to spread the word of the kingdom of heaven. There was an urgency, the time was short. People needed to see and hear for themselves, not just rely on the rumours spreading around Galilee about this radical new Rabbi. Everyone needed to have the chance to encounter the truth and power of God.
Meanwhile, Yochanan the Immerser’stalmidim had returned to him with all they saw Yeshua doing, and His words of encouragement. All was well. Yochanan had not run his race in vain. He had fulfilled what God had called him to do.
All was not well in the palace above him, however. Herodias continued to burn with anger and indignation at Yochanan calling out her husband’s sin in joining with her. A party was being prepared for Herod’s birthday and in the midst of all the drinking and boasting came the opportunity for Herodias to have her murderous way.
For Herod had arrested Yochanan, put him in chains and thrown him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip; since Yochanan had told Herod, “It violates the Torah for you to have her as your wife.” Herod had wanted to put Yochanan to death; but he was afraid of the people, in whose eyes Yochanan was a prophet. However, at Herod’s birthday celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced before the company and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of Yochanan the Immerser.” The king became deeply upset; but out of regard for the oaths he had sworn before his dinner guests, he ordered that her wish be granted, and sent and had Yochanan beheaded in prison. The head was brought on a platter to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. Matthew 14: 3-11 CJB
For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. Mark 6:17-28 NASB
Herod continued to be tormented by what he had done. Unlike Herodias, he conscience was not yet completely seared. It troubled him. He was haunted by the memory of that holy, innocent head on the platter. Oh, he had ordered many deaths before, but somehow this one was difference, this one would not let him sleep at night, this one kept invading his thoughts through the day. News reached him of all that Yeshua was doing, and how His talmidim were now also doing the same.
Around that time, Herod, the regional governor, heard of the fame of Yeshua and said to his attendants, “This must be Yochanan the Immerser. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” Matthew 14:1-2 CJB
And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!” Mark 6:14-16 NASB
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see Him. Luke 9:7-9 NIV
Yochanan’s talmidim came, took the body and buried it; then they went and told Yeshua. On hearing about this, Yeshua left in a boat to be by himself in the wilderness. Matthew 14:12-13a CJB
The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. Mark 6:30-32 NASB
When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida. Luke 9:10 NIV
It was a time of both great joy and sorrow. This had been the apostles’ first ministry trip and they were excited to report back to Yeshua all that they had done and taught. Miracles had taken place on their command, just like they did for Yeshua. They had boldly proclaimed the kingdom of heaven. They had preached repentance even as Yochanan used to preach repentance. The news that he had been so pointlessly executed hung heavily and their hearts were grieved at this horrible injustice and terrible loss. Yet, they could see in their own actions that all Yochanan had told them about Yeshua was true, and they were getting to live his dream. There was so much to think through, so much to process. It was good to withdraw and have time by themselves.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/. 2. Commentary, Ellicott’s. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm. 3. Commentary, Meyer’s NT. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm. 4. Testament, Expositor’s Greek. Matthew 10:16. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 20th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/10-16.htm.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*When Jesus returned to Nazareth with His disciples what the Nazarene’s response to His teaching and miracles, and why do you think they reacted like that? * How do you think the twelve felt when Jesus sent them out, and how do you think the people responded to them as they came to each town? * Describe the training that Jesus gave them before sending them out, and how this compares with the training people in your nation receive before being sent out to minister to others. *What directions did Jesus give the twelve when He sent them out and how do these compare with the expectations of missionaries in your nation? * What message did the apostles preach when Jesus sent them out? * What was it that enabled the twelve to heal and deliver people? * Which of the teachings that Jesus gave “Preparations for What Lies Ahead” is most important for people in your congregation now, and why is that? * What was the significance of John the Baptiser’s death?