Miracles & Yochanan the Immerser’s Question

Please read Matthew 9:18-26, 11:2-19, Mark 5:21-43 & Luke 8:40-56, 7:11-50

Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house  because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. Luke 8:40-42 NIV

Yeshua crossed in the boat to the other side of the lake, and a great crowd gathered around him. There came to him a synagogue official, Ya’ir (Jairus) by name, who fell at his feet  and pleaded desperately with him, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Please! Come and lay your hands on her, so that she will get well and live!” Mark 5:21-23 CJB

While he was talking, an official came in, kneeled down in front of him and said, “My daughter has just died. But if you come and lay your hand on her, she will live.”  
Yeshua, with his talmidim, got up and followed him. Matthew 9:18-19 CJB

Yeshua had returned from the Gentile territory of the Decapolis to Capernaum by boat. No storm this time. The new gentile believer left to share his story with all his people. One would expect the religious leaders to have even more accusations against Yeshua after He had chosen to go into Gentile territory, but something had changed. Great personal loss and pain sent one of the synagogue officials running to Him and falling at His feet.

The last time Yeshua had been in the Capernaum synagogue He had healed a man’s withered hand on Shabbat. This had filled the religious leaders, likely including this synagogue official, with such fury that they began plotting against Him (Luke 6:6-11). So He had left the synagogue and began travelling through many towns and villages sharing the good news, only returning to Capernaum for one day of healings, deliverances and teaching before crossing the border by boat to the Decapolis to deliver a gentile from a legion of demons. Now He had returned. All this synagogue official‘s religious pomp and ceremony, all his self-righteous judgment of Yeshua’s healing miracles, had been demolished by the impending tragic loss of his beautiful daughter. Jairus had gone from standing to denounce and expel Yeshua, to falling at his feet pleading with Him to come. In his hour of need Jairus found that he had faith: “if you come and lay your hand on her, she will live.”

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, and she had spent all she had on doctors, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Luke 8: 42b-48 NIV

A woman who had had a haemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe.  For she said to herself, “If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.”  
Yeshua turned, saw her and said, “Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you.”
And she was instantly healed. Matthew 9:20-22 CJB

He went with him; and a large crowd followed, pressing all around him.  Among them was a woman who had had a haemorrhage for twelve years  and had suffered a great deal under many physicians. She had spent her life savings; yet instead of improving, she had grown worse.  She had heard about Yeshua, so she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his robe;  for she said, “If I touch even his clothes, I will be healed.” 
Instantly the haemorrhaging stopped, and she felt in her body that she had been healed from the disease. 
At the same time, Yeshua, aware that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 
His talmidim responded, “You see the people pressing in on you; and still you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 
But he kept looking around to see who had done it. 
The woman, frightened and trembling, because she knew what had happened to her, came and fell down in front of him and told him the whole truth.  
“Daughter,” he said to her, “your trust has healed you. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Mark 5:24-34 CJB

This woman of faith reached out and touched the “tzitzit on his robe“. ‘Tzitzit’ were fringes that God commanded the Jews to make on the corners of their garments to remind them to meditate on, and obey, all His commandments.

Adonai (The Lord) said to Moshe (Moses), “Speak to the people of Isra’el, instructing them to make, through all their generations,  tzitziyot (fringes) on the corners of their garments, and to put with the  tzitzit  (fringe) on each corner a blue thread.  It is to be a tzitzit for you to look at and thereby remember all of Adonai’s mitzvot  (commandments) and obey them, so that you won’t go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves;  but it will help you remember and obey all my  mitzvot and be holy for your God. I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt in order to be your God. I am Adonai  your God.” Numbers 15:38-39 CJB

As we have seen continually throughout the Gospels, Yeshua obeyed all that God had commanded the Jewish people. So He had these tzitzit, fringes with a blue thread in them, on the corners of His garment. Visual reminders of the need to obey all the Torah. Blue representative of God’s kingdom that He had come to proclaim in word and deed. It was this that the “unclean”, unwell, bleeding woman had secretly touched from behind in desperate faith that this last hope of being whole would not disappoint her as every other hope had done.

Jewish Clothing

The halug or kethōneth was an inner garment made of wool or linen. The earliest of these garments were made from two rectangular pieces of cloth sown together at the top with a hole for the head, and sown down each side under the arms. The kethōneth of the wealthier extended to the wrists and ankles.  Anyone dressed only in the kethōneth was described as naked (1Samuel 19:24, Isaiah 20:2, 2Kings 6:30, John 21:7)

The simlāhשִׂמְלָה , was the heavy outer garment or shawl. It consisted of a large rectangular piece of rough, heavy woollen material, crudely sewed together so that the front was unstitched and with two openings left for the arms. It had a tzitzit (fringe) at each corner. During the day it was protection from rain and cold, and at night it served as a blanket, wrapped around the body to keep them warm.

Leather sandals (na’alayim) were worn to protect the feet. Some sandals had wooden soles and leather straps.

The belt (also called a cincture or girdle) was a band of cloth, cord, or leather that could be loosened or tightened. It was worn around the inner and/or outer garment. Its use prevented the flowing robes (often long) from interfering with movement. The biblical expression “to gird up the loins” meant to put on the belt, thus freeing the lower legs to permit work and easy walking. The expression signified that the person was ready for service.

For women, the inner garment was largely identical to that for men. However, the outer garment was longer, with enough border fringe to largely cover the feet (Isaiah 47:2; Jeremiah 13:2). The outer garment was cinched with a belt similar to that used by men, but it was ornamented differently (and usually more elaborately).

The tallit (prayer shawl) is perhaps the most recognizable and universal Jewish ritual object. Originally, the tallit may have appeared as an outer garment bearing the fringes commanded by God.  After the Jewish people were exiled from Israel, their style of dress was influenced by their Gentile neighbours, and the tallit became a special garment worn for prayer instead of normal attire.

The moment she touched His tzitzit the bleeding stopped. For the first time in 12 years it stopped. Strength started returning to her body. It had been a daring thing to do, go out in public, reach out to touch the holy One when her illness had her in a perpetual state of ritual uncleanliness. “If a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And everything that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean” (Lev. 15:19-20 KJV). So you can understand her fear when Yeshua asked “who touched me?” She knew the condemnation that the pulsating crowd would heap upon her, the unclean one. But there was no hiding from Messiah. He had felt the power of God go out from Him in healing her, and knew she needed to be brought to shalom, brought to the peace of full healing and wholeness emotionally and socially too. When she confessed all to Him, His response brought her shalom, and everyone else just marvelled.

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house came, saying, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the rabbi any longer?”  
Ignoring what they had said, Yeshua told the synagogue official, “Don’t be afraid, just keep trusting.”  
He let no one follow him except Kefa
(Peter), Ya‘akov (James) and Yochanan (John), Ya‘akov’s brother. Mark 5:35-37 CJB

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 
Luke 8:49-51 NIV

The news was devastating. Too late, too late. Dealing with that unclean woman had delayed Yeshua’s walk to his house, and now it was too late, his beautiful daughter was dead. Before Jairus could get too overwhelmed by the news a still, calm voice interrupted his thoughts: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Words of promise, words of hope, words of life.

They continued on, but the thronging crowd was dismissed. Even most of the 12 were dismissed. Only Peter, James and John were allowed to follow Yeshua on this assignment. The family did not need to be overwhelmed by curious onlookers at this time.

When Yeshua arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in an uproar,  he said, “Everybody out! The girl isn’t dead, she’s only sleeping!”
And they jeered at him.  But after the people had been put outside, he entered and took hold of the girl’s hand, and she got up.  
News of this spread through all that region
. Matthew 9:23-26 CJB

When they came to the synagogue official’s house, he found a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. On entering, he said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead, she’s just asleep!” 
And they jeered at him. But he put them all outside, took the child’s father and mother and those with him, and went in where the child was. 
Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talita, kumi!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 
At once the girl got up and began walking around; she was twelve years old. Everybody was utterly amazed. He gave them strict orders to say nothing about this to anyone, and told them to give her something to eat
. Mark 5:38-43 CJB

When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. 
“Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 
But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!”  
Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.  Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
Luke 8:51-56 NIV

Still the fourth gospel account, that attributed to the apostle John who was one of the three allowed to go with Yeshua and witness this miracle, remains silent on this year of Yeshua’s ministry following His attendance at the pilgrimage festival of Shavu‘ot (Feast of Weeks / Pentecost). (See http://blog.renewal.asn.au/2020/06/20/healing-at-the-pool-of-bethesda/)

This 12yo girl was likely the first of three people whom Yeshua is recorded as having raised from the dead, the other two were a widow’s only son in the village of Nain and His friend Lazarus. It is likely that there were others whom Yeshua raised, but these are the only three specifically recorded for us in the gospels. Yeshua could have ordered Jairus to go back to all the synagogue officials who were plotting against Him and convince them to cease scheming and to allow Him to teach in their synagogue once more, Yeshua could have ordered Jairus to spread the news to all the synagogues in the region so they would open their pulpits to Him, instead Yeshua ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened, to say nothing about this incredible miracle to anyone, but instead care for their daughter’s needs by giving her something to eat.

Yet, such a miracle would not stay hidden. All those who had gathered in the house to mourn now saw the girl they were mourning was alive. All who had been pressing in on Yeshua when Jairus came desperately to Him saw his daughter alive and well in the following days as she returned to her normal activities with her mother in Capernaum.

The next day Yeshua, accompanied by his talmidim and a large crowd, went to a town called Na‘im.  As He approached the town gate, a dead man was being carried out for burial. His mother was a widow, this had been her only son, and a sizeable crowd from the town was with her. 
When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her and said to her, “Don’t cry.” 
Then He came close and touched the bier, and the pallbearers halted. He said, “Young man, I say to you: get up!”  
The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Yeshua gave him to his mother.  
They were all filled with awe and gave glory to God, saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us,” and, “God has come to help his people.” 
This report about him spread throughout all Y’hudah
(Judea) and the surrounding countryside. Luke 7:11-17 CJB

Yeshua did not stay in Capernaum, where He had raised the synagogue official’s daughter, but continued leading His Talmidim to share the Good News in all the villages and towns of the Galilee region. “ After Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.” (Matthew 11:1) Now they had travelled a full day’s journey south from Capernaum to Nain. All this distance traversed for an unnamed widow. The last resurrection had been for a man of some power and influence in his community. Now the Father led Yeshua on a long journey to an insignificant town, mentioned no where else in scripture, to meet the need of a powerless woman who was considered so unimportant in her community that her name is not even recorded for us. Yet, the plight of this godly woman who had already suffered so much had aroused the sympathies of many in her town and a large crowd accompanied her in this funeral procession.

Nain, in Hebrew נעם , means green pastures, lovely, pleasant, delightful or sweet. This may, indeed, describe the character of the widow, as her loss attracted the sympathies of many from her home town. Nain is approached by a steep ascent, and on either side of the road the rock is full of sepulchral caves. The funeral procession would have been on its way to one of these when Yeshua, His talmidim, and the large crowd following Him from Capernaum, met them coming out the town gate. How perfect God’s timing is.

We may reasonably infer that the miracle that followed was one which, from its circumstances, had specially fixed itself in the memories of the “devout women” of Luke 8:1, and that it was from them that Luke obtained his knowledge of it. The fact that the other gospel accounts did not record this resurrection lends credence to the idea that there could have been other miracles and resurrections not specifically recorded in the gospel accounts – what we receive is a sampling of the miracles Yeshua did, not a full account of them all. This too, concurs with John 21:25 KJV: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Yeshua was moved by compassion. There is no mention of this woman having the faith to believe that her son could or would be raised from the dead. She did not ask Yeshua to raise him, she may not have even taken any notice of this man being followed by the crowds, her eyes were filled with tears as she focused on her dead son, on her loss of everything. Before she even had time to comprehend what was happening, Yeshua had spoken the word and her son was alive and back in her arms once more. Her grief was overtaken by joy. God responds to our faith, but He is not limited by it. He has a bigger agenda that will be fulfilled.

Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) Questions

News of all that Yeshua had been doing travelled far and wide throughout Galilee and Judea. It travelled all the way down to the Fortress of Machaerus where Yochanan the Immerser had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas. Yochanan had been kept in a dark, damp, rat infested cell below Herod’s lavish palace for about 10 months now. Something about Yochanan’s courage and purity attracted Herod, who would eagerly listen to him but kept refusing to repent (Mark 6:20). Ten months is a long time in such horrid conditions with no hope of release.

Meanwhile, Yochanan the Immerser, who had been put in prison, heard what the Messiah had been doing; so he sent a message to him through his talmidim, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for someone else?” 
Yeshua answered, “Go and tell Yochanan what you are hearing and seeing — the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking, people with tzara’at are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the Good News is being told to the poor —  and how blessed is anyone not offended by me!
” Matthew 11:2-6 CJB

Yochanan’s talmidim informed him of all these things. Then Yochanan called two of his talmidim and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are You the one who is to come? Or should we look for someone else?”  
When the men came to Him, they said, “Yochanan the Immerser has sent us to You to ask, ‘Are You the One who is to come? Or should we keep looking — for someone else?’” 

Yochanan (John the Baptist) had undertaken the ministry of immersing (baptising) the Jewish people in water so that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world could be revealed to Israel (John 1:29-31). When G-d had sent Yochanan to baptise with water He had instructed: “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.Yochanan had seen the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Yeshua. Yochanan had testified that Yeshua was God’s Chosen One, the Son of God, who would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Now, in this dark place of trial and torment, he started questioning if he had really heard God right. Had he really pointed Israel to the true Messiah, or had he been the failure that he was now feeling like? The reports of Yeshua’s miracles, even raising the dead, seemed to confirm his hopes, but still the dark, depressive clouds of doubt weighed heavily upon Yochanan. He needed reassurance, he needed to know for sure, so he sent two of his most trusted talmidim to ask Yeshua the question his heart needed settled.

Right then He was healing many people of diseases, pains and evil spirits, and giving sight to many who were blind.  So He answered them by saying, “Go, tell Yochanan what you have been seeing and hearing: the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking, people with tzara‘at are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the Good News is being told to the poor — and how blessed is anyone not offended by Me!” Luke 7:18-23 CJB

It was a long walk from the Fortress of Machaerus up to Galilee where Yeshua continued ministering from town to town. It would have taken several days for Yochanan’s talmidim to travel up to the Galilee region, and then find where Yeshua was now ministering. Here, again, we find more evidence that Yeshua did a lot more miracles than the ones detailed for us in the gospels. None of the many miracles Yochanan’s talmidim witnessed that day are detailed for us.

“Faith is fashioned in the workshop of doubt” (Allan R. Bevere). Yochanan’s doubt did not disqualify him. Yeshua answered with the evidence of His ministry – the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking, people with tzara‘at are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the Good News is being told to the poor. Then He encouraged Yochanan, “And blessed (happy—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favour and salvation, apart from outward conditions—and to be envied) is he who takes no offense in Me and who is not hurt or resentful  or annoyed or repelled or made to stumble [whatever may occur].” (Luke 7:23 AMPC) Yochanan’s circumstances were dire, but his life was not, his life was fulfilled, his life was blessed in God’s favour and salvation, regardless of the dungeon of his imprisonment, as long as he kept his heart attitude right. It is easy to get offended at God when our circumstances are difficult and painful, it is easy to allow doubt to overcome us when our prayers don’t seem to be answered, yet even when God is not rescuing us from our painful trial we can still see the evidence of His goodness and grace in the works of His hand and what He is doing for others.

צרעת tzara‘at 

The Hebrew word צרעת tzara‘at is translated into the Greek λέπος lepros, which in English is leper. Leprosy, medical name ‘Hansen’s disease’, was common in the ancient world, and still is today in some nations. However, the skin disease that the Greeks and Romans called ‘leprae’ is NOT the same disease that appears in Leviticus 13-14. These two chapters of the Book of Leviticus are devoted to the regulations for tzara’at – any defiling skin disease, for a sore,  for defiling moulds in fabric or in a house,  and for a swelling, a rash or a shiny spot,  to determine when something is clean or unclean.” (Leviticus 14:54-57).

Leviticus 13:1. “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become tzara’at, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is tzara’at. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean.

The symptoms of tzara’at listed above are very different to those of leprosy. Leprosy symptoms are: discoloured patches of skin, usually flat, that may be numb and look faded (lighter than the skin around); growths (nodules) on the skin.; thick, stiff or dry skin; painless ulcers  on the soles of feet; painless swelling or lumps on the face or earlobes; and loss of eyebrows or eyelashes.

The ancient Rabbis argued that  tzara’at referred not to a bodily disease but to a physical manifestation of a spiritual and social malaise, a spiritual punishment designed to show a malefactor that they must mend their ways. The tzara’at white skin was a sign of sin, visible to all and confirmed by the priest’s examination. The Talmud states that it is an affliction meted out directly from God as a result of sin, particularly anti-social sins such as murder, lying for selfish ends, sexual immorality, false oaths, pride, and especially lashon hara (slander). The social issue underlying tzara’at is implied by its very name. A person who has tzara’at is called a מצורע metzora. According to rabbinic tradition, this word is a contraction of the Hebrew words motzi and ra, which loosely means “one who spreads slander”, or an acronym for מוציא שם רע ‘MoTZi Shem RA’ – which means in English ‘to muddy someone’s name’.

The first person mentioned in the Torah as being afflicted with tzara’at was Miriam, Numbers 12:9-13. It was her punishment from God for committing the sin of lashon hara, or evil tongue, speaking against her brother Moshe (Moses). Thus, the Rabbis suggest, a person becomes “unclean”, afflicted with tzara’at, as a consequence of spreading slander. In Matthew 15:18-20, we find Yeshua in agreement: “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’.” Leviticus 19:16 teaches: “Do not go about as a talebearer among your people.” James 4:11 repeats this commandment: “Speak not evil one of another.” Proverbs 16:27-28: “An ungodly man digs up evil, and in his lips is a scorching fire. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” Matthew 12:35-36: “I say unto you, For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” 2 Cor 12:20 lists the sins of “quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” How we speak about others is not a small, insignificant thing – lashon hara, in all its forms, is detestable to Him.

The prescribed treatment for tzara’at in Leviticus was social exclusion – the person was to live outside the camp, cloak themselves up to their lips, and cry out, “Unclean, unclean!” Even after Moshe pleaded with God to heal his sister, Miriam still had to remain outside the camp for seven days before she could re-join her community healed. This social exclusion was aimed at bringing repentance, and thus healing.

Another midrash from the Talmud suggests that tzara’at is a punishment for selfishness. 1 Kings 7:3-20 is thus viewed as showing four men afflicted with  tzara’at due to previous acts of selfishness, punished by being isolated from their community (put outside the city) which motivates them to cease acting selfishly and begin to put the needs of the community ahead of their own. As a result of their “rehabilitation” the four men are redeemed, the enemy is scattered and the city of Samaria is saved from attack.

Once a person was healed of their tzara’at they had to undergo detailed ceremonial cleansing rites, including ritual bathing, a sin offering, a burnt offering and a grain offering, over eight days with the priest making atonement for them before the Lord. Only then could they return to their home and once again be accepted as part of the community of Israel (Leviticus 14:1-32).

One of the aspects of Yeshua’s ministry was that people with tzara‘at were being cleansed.

Yeshua honoured Yochanan

Yeshua taught His talmidim to honour. He spoke truth and rebuked when rebuke was needed, but He also honoured where honour was due. When Yeshua spoke about Yochanan to the crowd He did not rebuke or make example of Yochanan’s doubting, but rather declared: “among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!

As these disciples of John were going away, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?  But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft  clothing? Those who wear soft  clothing are in kings’  palaces!  But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’  Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!

Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:7-15 NASB

When the messengers from Yochanan had gone, Yeshua began speaking to the crowds about Yochanan: “What did you go out into the desert to see? Reeds swaying in the breeze?  No? then what did you go out to see? Someone who was well dressed? But people who dress beautifully and live in luxury are found in kings’ palaces.  No, so what did you go out to see? A prophet! Yes, and I tell you he’s much more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom the Tanakh says,
‘See, I am sending out my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’
I tell you that among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than Yochanan the Immerser!
Luke 7:24-28a CJB

Yeshua honoured Yochanan’s rugged strength and fortitude. He honoured Yochanan’s prophetic call. He honoured Yochanan’s unique role in fulfilling scripture and preparing the way for Him.

Like commendations of faithfulness to God could not be said for most of the religious leaders of His day. Nor, even for the populace of the towns where He had performed most of His miracles. Yeshua’s miraculous healings and deliverances were not a sign of God’s favour on the people, but a sign of their need to repent, even as Yochanan had preached to them: “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Most people enjoyed the spectacle of the miracles but failed to heed their message. Yet, still the religious leaders thought themselves qualified to judge what was from God or not, and in their judgment they rejected both God’s messenger, Yochanan, and the One he had pointed them to, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Yeshua.

Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he!”
All the people who heard him, even the tax-collectors, by undergoing Yochanan’s immersion acknowledged that God was right; but the P’rushim (Pharisees) and the Torah-teachers, by not letting themselves be immersed (baptised) by him, nullified for themselves God’s plan.
“Therefore,” said the Lord, “how can I describe the people of this generation? What are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplaces, calling to one another, ‘We made happy music, but you wouldn’t dance! We made sad music, but you wouldn’t cry!’ For Yochanan has come not eating bread and not drinking wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Aha! A glutton and a drunkard! A friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Well, the proof of wisdom is in all the kinds of people it produces.”
Luke 7:28b-35 CJB

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call out to the other children,  and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a song of mourning, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a heavy drinker, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ And yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

Then He began to reprimand the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment, than for you.”
Matthew 11:16-24 NASB

It was coming to the close of the first year of Yeshua’s ministry. His talmidim had witnessed so much in this year, from His first miracle of wine at the wedding to cleansing the temple, to a whole Samaritan city repenting, to multitudes of healings and deliverances and even the dead being raised. The kingdom of heaven was powerful, but it was not an earthly power of soldiers and swords. They had seen religious leaders rebuked and sinners accepted, the proud brought low and the lowly exalted. The kingdom of heaven was an upside down kingdom and operated on principals which were opposite to those of worldly kingdoms. Twelve of Yeshua’s talmidim had been chosen as a foundation for the establishment of this kingdom on earth, soon they would be sent out to do what they had been witnessing Yeshua do. But, first, they needed one more lesson in what this was all about – saving sinners. The setting for that lesson was an unexpected place – the house of a Pharisee.

On the way Yeshua taught the people something so liberating that one of the women who was renown in this town for her sinfulness, one who had given up on ever being free or clean or acceptable, one who had suffered so much abuse, grasped hold of those words and would not let them go. The more she meditated on these words the more she just had to come to Him.

It was at that time that Yeshua said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated and revealed them to ordinary folks.  Yes, Father, I thank You that it pleased You to do this.”

“My Father has handed over everything to me. Indeed, no one fully knows the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.

Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30 CJB

This woman was not sophisticated or educated. She was ordinary, very ordinary. She was struggling and burdened, weighed down with burdens too heavy to carry. Life was hard and painful. She felt trapped and exhausted with life. Yeshua’s words pierced through all her defences with an invitation to receive what she thought she could never have, rest for her troubled soul. Everything within her cried out with the need to take His yoke upon her, to learn from Him, to find rest.

One of the P’rushim invited Yeshua to eat with him, and he went into the home of the Parush and took his place at the table. 

Yeshua came to the home of this well-respected, fine religious man. He was an admired member of the community, a man who no doubt contributed to the Temple, dressed appropriately, and was considered a model of what Judaism should be. This pillar of the community had just done, he thought, Yeshua the tremendous favour of inviting him to dine. In so doing Simon also provided his other, more distinguished, guests the opportunity to examine this radical itinerant preacher more closely. Simon’s invitation was not motivated by the honoured Jewish practice of hospitality, as can be seen by how he treated Yeshua on His arrival.

A woman who lived in that town, a sinner, who was aware that he was eating in the home of the Parush, brought an alabaster box of very expensive perfume, stood behind Yeshua at his feet and wept until her tears began to wet his feet. Then she wiped his feet with her own hair, kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.

Again it is Luke who shares with us this incident focused on a woman. She dared come into this house where she knew she would not be welcome. She was not refined.  No one would consider her a fine religious woman. She risked open rejection, denouncement and rough expulsion. This woman was doing what all the good people of the cities where Yeshua had done most of His miracles failed to do – repenting. Her attitude in stark contrast to that of the multitudes. Her attitude in stark contrast to that of the Pharisees sitting at Simon’s table who felt it their job to stand in judgment over the Son of God. She came, stood humbly behind Him, and wept. The tears kept flowing. She was in desperate need of the rest for her soul that Yeshua had been teaching about. Tears ran down her cheeks and onto His feet below. She knelt down behind Him, wiped His feet with her hair to dry them, kissed these precious feet and lavished her expensive perfume on them. The scent filled the room.

When the Parush (Pharisee) who had invited Him saw what was going on, he said to himself, “If this man were really a prophet, He would have known who is touching Him and what sort of woman she is, that she is a sinner.”  

Simon was inwardly outraged. Surely this was all the proof they needed that Yeshua was indeed no prophet from God. Fraud, obviously a fraud. If this man had any discernment He would know what a vile sinner that woman was and show her the same distain the rest of them were heaping upon her. Yeshua had discernment, a much higher level of discernment than any of the Pharisees there. He discerned repentance, He discerned love, He discerned faith. These are what He came for.

Yeshua answered, “Shim‘on, I have something to say to you.”
“Say it, Rabbi,” he replied.  
“A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed ten times as much as the other.  When they were unable to pay him back, he cancelled both their debts. Now which of them will love him more?” 
Shim‘on answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
“Your judgment is right,” Yeshua said to him.
Then, turning to the woman, he said to Shim‘on, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house — you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair! You didn’t give me a kiss; but from the time I arrived, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet!  You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet!  Because of this, I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” 

Simon may have referred to Yeshua as “rabbi” out of some feigned respect, but his words were shallow. He had not offered the basics of hospitality to this invited guest. In ancient Israel, hospitality was not merely a question of good manners, but a moral imperative and highly esteemed virtue.

Jewish Hospitality

Among the ethical teachings of the Rabbis (the Oral Torah which the Pharisees followed fastidiously), the duties of hospitality occupy a very prominent position. Some regard hospitality more highly than the reception given to the Shekinah (Divine Presence); others make it superior to visiting the house of study; others, again, consider it as one of the six meritorious deeds whose reward is like a tree, the fruit of which man enjoys in this world, while the trunk remains for his enjoyment in the world to come (Shab. 127a). Special emphasis was laid upon the hospitality due to a scholar, so that it was said that one who shows hospitality to a Torah student is regarded as if he had offered the daily sacrifice (Ber. 10b, 63b, Ḳid. 76b; Gen. R. lviii. 12).

The traveller was expected to accept a host’s invitation to dine. To refuse such hospitality was an insult that only an enemy would inflict. When the guest arrived the host and guest would bow to greet each other. Then the host placed their right hand on their guest’s left shoulder and kissed his right cheek, and then reversing the action, placed their left hand on the guest’s right shoulder, and kissed his left cheek. Upon entering the house the guest would take off their sandals and be offered water for washing his feet. A servant would assist the guest by pouring the water upon his feet over a copper basin, rubbing the feet with his hands, and wiping them with a napkin.  The custom of anointing the head of guests with oil is an ancient one, olive oil was often used, sometimes mixed with fragrant spices. Any lack of this etiquette was considered a profound insult that suggested hostility towards the guest.

Yeshua turned the tables on Shim‘on. According to the Pharisees’ own Oral Torah, providing the correct hospitality to a guest was a moral imperative, a divine law of utmost importance. This woman, whom Shim‘on had denounced as sinful, had fulfilled that law where he had broken it. Shim‘on too was a sinner, a law-breaker. His actions at this meal had exposed him. The woman’s sins may have been far more numerous than Shim‘on‘s, but he, too, was in need of forgiveness. The woman’s fulfilment of the laws of hospitality did not negate her numerous sins, but her coming to Yeshua in repentance put her in the position to receive that which would negate them – God’s forgiveness.

Then he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”  
At this, those eating with him began saying among themselves, “Who is this fellow that presumes to forgive sins?”
But he said to the woman, “Your trust has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50 CJB

The woman received her forgiveness, was saved and filled with the peace of God. Shim‘on and his fellow Pharisees were too busy judging Yeshua for declaring such forgiveness of sins to be able to receive it for themselves. They remained guilty lawbreakers.

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Readers, Ellicott’s Commentary for English. Luke 7:11. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/7-11.htm.
3. Bengel, Johann. Luke 7:11. Bible Hub. [Online] 1759. [Cited: November 2020, 14.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/7-11.htm.
4. Bevere, Allan R. Is Jesus the One? Ministry Matters. [Online] December 8th, 2011. https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/2131/is-jesus-the-one.
5. Calahan, John. John the Baptist Has Doubts About Christ. Never Thirsty. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/life-of-christ-ministry-in-galilee-early-a-d-32/john-the-baptist-has-doubts-about-christ/.
6. Ariel. WHAT IS TZARA’AT? Hebrewversity. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.hebrewversity.com/what-is-tzaraat/.
7. Fox, Tamar. Tzaraat–A Biblical Affliction. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tzaraat-a-biblical-affliction/.
8. Blank, Glenn David. The Hidden Meaning of Tzara’at (skin disease). Lehigh University. [Online] April 8th, 2000. https://www.lehigh.edu/~gdb0/simcha/tzaraat.htm.
9. Cohen, Rabbi Howard. Tzara’at and Selfishness. Reconstructing Judaism. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/dvar-torah/tzaraat-and-selfishness.
10. Rosenfeld, Rabbi Dovid. Tzara’at versus Leprosy. Aish. [Online] [Cited: November 14th, 2020.] https://www.aish.com/atr/Tzaraat-versus-Leprosy.html.
11. Bratcher, Dennis. Travelers and Strangers: Hospitality in the Biblical World. The Voice – Biblical and Theological Resources. [Online] 2018. http://www.crivoice.org/travelers.html.
12. History, Bible. Hospitality. Bible History Maps, Images, Archaeology. [Online] [Cited: November 15th, 2020.] https://www.bible-history.com/links.php?cat=39&sub=407&cat_name=Manners+%26+Customs&subcat_name=Hospitality
13. Wight, Fred H. The Sa cred duty of Hospitality. Ancient Hebrew Research Centre. [Online] [Cited: November 15th, 2020.] https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/manners/the-sacred-duty-of-hospitality.htm.

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

* What do we learn from Jairus coming to Jesus and pleading with Him to come and heal his daughter?
* What do we learn from Jesus’ response to Jairus? How does this apply to your ministry?
* Even the Jew’s clothing was distinctive to remind them to focus on God and obey Him. Is there clothing in your culture that has special significance?
* What were the differences between men’s and women’s clothing in Jesus’ time? What are the differences in your culture? Compare the clothing in your culture to that in Jesus’ culture.
* What do we learn from the woman with the issue of blood?
* Why do you think Jesus only allowed Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John to go with Him to witness the girl’s resurrection?
* Why do you think Jesus gave the girl’s parents “strict orders to say nothing about this to anyone, and told them to give her something to eat“?
* What do we learn from the resurrection of the widow’s son?
* Why do you think John the Baptist started having doubts about whether Jesus was the One he had been send to prepare the way for?
* How did Jesus respond to John’s doubts, and how does He respond to our doubts?
* What do we learn from tzara’at and how is it important in our Christian walk?
* Did everyone that Jesus healed or who saw His miracles repent and get saved? How does this fit with the parable Jesus told about the four different types of ground that seed falls on?
* Compare the Jewish culture of hospitality with hospitality in your culture.
* What do we learn from Jesus’ meal at Simon the Pharisee’s house and how would this help prepare the apostles to be sent out with the Gospel?
* What does it mean to find rest for our soul?

Yochanan & Yeshua as God Sent Jewish Reformers

With reformation, the purpose is not to destroy the old but to set it back on the right path, to restore to original purity.

Read Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3 and John 1

Reformers are often popular with the people but never with the authorities whose power, status and security are based on the status quo.  With reformation, the purpose is not to destroy the old but to set it back on the right path, to restore to original purity.  Judaism had a long and proud history of reformers which included Moses, the judges, prophets, kings such as Josiah, priests such as Ezra, civic leaders such as Nehemiah, and movements such as the Hasidim from which had also come Pharisees, Essenes and Zealots

Now two new reformers stepped onto the stage. The first was Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), a Nazirite from birth, as had been Samson and Samuel.   Although a Levitical cohen (priest), Yochanan, like the Essenes, had withdrawn from all the priestly and political power structures to seek God in the wilderness. There in the desert he waited for his commission from God to fulfil the prophesy that the angel had given to his father in the temple, and the prophesy that his father had spoken over him at his brit milah (circumcision and naming ceremony): 

…You, child, will be called a prophet of Ha‘Elyon (the Most High); you willgo before the Lord to prepare his wayby spreading the knowledge among his people that deliverance comes by having sins forgiven through our God’s most tender mercy… ”   Luke 1:76-78 CJB

God apostéllō Yochanan to prepare the way…

At last it transpired, in the autumn of his thirtieth year God spoke to Yochanan and, during the days of repentance leading up to the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Yochanan was apostéllō (sent with a commission to fulfil the task).

There came a man, sent (apostéllō) from God, whose name was Yochanan. John 1:6 HNV

Luke provides historical details to help us pinpoint time and chronology:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to Yochanan, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He came into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming the immersion of repentance for remission of sins. As it is written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled. Every mountain and hill will be brought low. The crooked will become straight, and the rough ways smooth. All flesh will see God’s salvation.’” (Isaiah 40:3-4) Luke 3:1-6 HNV

Mark provides the prophetic background from the Tanakh:

As it is written in the Prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. (Malachi 3:1) The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord! Make his paths straight!’” (Isaiah 40:3-4)

Yochanan came immersing in the wilderness and proclaiming the immersion of repentance for forgiveness of sins.          Mark 1:2-4 HNV

Matthew gives us a summation of his message:

In those days, Yochanan the Immerser came, proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”       Matthew 3:1-2 HNV

Jewish Mikveh and baptism…

There was also a cultural context in which Yochanan’s baptism was proclaimed.  For the observant Jew tevilah (full body immersion) in a mikveh (Hebrew מִקְוֶה – literally translated as a “collection” of “gathering”, a body of ‘living’ water) had become the accepted way of attaining the ritual purity needed as God’s people.

Jewish Mikveh and John’s Baptism

Beginning in the late Hasmonean period, around the end of the second century BC or very early in the first century BC, Jews started developing a very distinctive practice of purification within water installations known as mikva’ot (plural of mikveh).  By the time of John the Baptist there were large numbers of especially constructed mikvah.  These have been found in excavations in Jerusalem, in outlying villages, and in rural areas.  There were even several in the temple and in Herod’s palace.  They were attached to synagogues and many larger homes.  This was part of the Mishnah (Oral Law) being formed during this period to guide the people in keeping the Torah.  (1)

The scriptural basis on which this practice was built begins on the third day of creation where the word ‘mikveh’ is first used in Genesis 1:10: “… to the gathering (mikveh) of waters, He called seas.”

The reasoning then follows to the Jew’s ‘baptism’ as they passed through the Red Sea in coming out of Egypt and being separated from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:15-22) with the waters piled up higher than their heads on their right and on their left.   Then to the injunction that before the LORD would come down on Mount Sinai to give them the Law the people had to consecrate themselves and wash their clothes, ascribed as a ‘baptism’ by these rabbis (Exodus 19:1-11).  When God instructed Moses on building the tabernacle He included the making of a bronze laver to be filled with water for Aaron and his sons to wash their hands and feet before going near the alter to minister or entering the tent of meeting (Exodus 30:1-21).  Not only did the priests need to be ritually clean (tahor) in order to serve at the tabernacle, but Leviticus 15 also prescribed the need for any Israelite who became ritually unclean (tamay) to bath and wash their clothes for ritual cleansing so as not to defile God’s dwelling place through their uncleanness.  

So it was, that the scholars of the Law came to insist that everyone be fully immersed in a mikveh to become ritually clean before entering the temple and that each man should immerse himself in a mikveh before praying or studying (activities of the synagogue), and some schools of the Pharisees also decreed that all the pots and utensils that the Jews ate or drank from also had to be first immersed in the mikveh, particularly if they had been made, sold or touched by a gentile.  The mikveh came to be seen as offering the individual, the community and the nation of Israel the remarkable gift of purity and holiness.  Even for the ritually pure, ascension to a higher level of spiritual involvement or holiness necessitated immersion in a mikveh.  So it made perfect sense for Yeshua to be baptised before his higher level of spiritual involvement of beginning his ministry.  

Several Jewish groups at this time, including the Essenes, observed ritual immersion every day to assure readiness for the coming of the Messiah.  What are we doing to make ourselves ready for the coming of the Messiah?  Are we living in that same expectancy of Christ’s return?

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)  Revelation 19:7-8 NIV

Such was the perceived importance of this cleansing that Jewish law would come to state that constructing a mikveh take precedence even over building a synagogue or having a Torah scroll.

Another use of symbolic purification through immersion in water became part of Jewish tradition in the decades leading up to Yochanan’s immersion (John’s baptism) – that was immersion of Gentile converts to Judaism.  Debates on the subject of proselyte baptism are recorded between the rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel.   Whereas the school of Shammai stressed circumcision as the point of transition from Gentile to Jew, the Hillelites considered immersion (baptism) most important because it portrayed spiritual cleansing and the beginning of a new life.  The conversion to Judaism has been summed up as follows:

          “By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant: by circumcision, and baptism and sacrifice.  Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: ‘No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof’ (Exodus 12:48).   Baptism was in the wilderness, just before giving of the Law it is written” ‘Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes’ (Exodus 19:10).  And sacrifice, as it is said: ‘And he sent young men of the children of Israel which offered burnt offerings’ .      (Exodus 24:5)… When a gentile is willing to enter the covenant… He must be circumcised and be baptised and bring a sacrifice.”  (Maimonides, 12th C)

Judaism regards the mikvah as personifying both the grave and the womb.  For the new convert, immersing fully into the water of the mikveh is both representative of descending into a grave in leaving the old pagan life behind, and of re-entering the womb, the place of mercy and God’s creative power.  Rising out of the water is a coming back to life as a newborn child, a new creation, with an entirely new identity as a Jew.  They are in essence reborn.  The Mishnah (Oral Law) states, “When he comes up after his immersion, he is deemed an Israelite in all respects.”  (Yevamot 47b)  “The individual who descends into the mikveh as a gentile emerges from beneath its waters as a Jew.” (2)

Rabbinical Judaism stressed that the entire body must come in contact with the water of the mikveh so no clothing or individual could touch the candidate when they descended under the water.  The person baptising was not present to dunk the candidate but to witness their profession of repentance and faith and to pronounce exhortations and benedictions over them.   The candidate would walk into water that was somewhere between chest to chin deep, and stand with feet apart and hands held out in front while making their professions, totally immerse themselves by squatting in the water then come straight away up out of the water.   Jewish baptismal candidates were often immersed three times because the word mikveh occurs three times in the Torah.

Not all mikva’ot were constructed.  Indeed those considered of the highest order were created by God.  The Mishnah (Mik. 1:1–8, ed. Danby) indicates that there were at least six grades of acceptable mikva’ot, listed from the worst to the best: (1) ponds; (2) ponds during the rainy season; (3) constructed immersion pools containing more than 40 se’ah of water; (4) wells with natural groundwater; (5) salty water from the sea and hot springs; and (6) natural flowing “living” waters from springs and in rivers.   So it was that Yochanan chose the highest grade of mikveh in which to immerse (baptise) the people who responded to his message – the flowing living waters of the Jordan River.

Yochanan’s message of repentance, teshuvah, is a familiar message during the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and the following “10 Days of Awe”, a period of introspection, repentance and good deeds in preparation for Judaism’s most sacred day of the year Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  It was a yearly time for the whole nation to assess their spiritual condition and turn back to God, just as Yochanan was preaching.  Being immersed (baptised) during these days was a sign of inward cleansing in spiritual preparation for the Holy Days.  Yet, Yochanan did not cease baptising after the Day of Atonement, for his mission was not to prepare the people for the High Priest to enter into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, but to prepare the people for God to enter into their presence as the Messiah, to “make ready the way of the Lord”. (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11)

Yochanan was not introducing a new concept to the Jewish people with his immersion (baptism), but rather tapping in to something that had become strongly imbedded in their culture and religious practice – the exercise of fully immersing in water to become pure to enter God’s presence, whether that was entering the synagogue, entering the temple, or preparing to meet Messiah.

Yochanan as prophet…

Like the prophets before him, Yochanan was not a man who used flattering words to try to get the people to like him.  His message was uncompromising and his words sharp and to the point, removing every excuse and false sense of spiritual security:  

He said therefore to the multitudes who went out to be immersed by him, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and don’t begin to say among yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones! Even now the axe also lies at the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doesn’t bring forth good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:7-9 HNV

Yet, despite what might appear at first glance to be harsh insults, there was something about this man, a holiness, a genuineness, a total lack of hypocrisy, and a real love for the people that just kept drawing them to him even when his words were confronting.   Yochanan’s instructions on how they needed to change did not involve performing religious rites or endless purification ceremonies or bringing honours to himself, but a simple returning to the basics of their faith in living with integrity and demonstrating practical love for one another:

The multitudes asked him, “What then must we do?”

He answered them, “He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.”

Tax collectors also came to be immersed, and they said to him, “Rabbi, what must we do?”

He said to them, “Collect no more than that which is appointed to you.”

Soldiers also asked him, saying, “What about us? What must we do?”

He said to them, “Extort from no one by violence, neither accuse anyone wrongfully. Be content with your wages.”            Luke 3:14-18 HNV

Now Yochanan himself wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him. They were immersed by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:4-6 HNV

To be baptised by Yochanan was a humbling experience, it involved acknowledging and confessing one’s sins.   This man could spot a phoney a mile away, no self-righteous religiosity earned any credence with him.  Only those willing to admit that they were sinners, that they had been failing to live as the people of God, and to confess the sins they had committed, would be baptised by Yochanan.   Just as the developing Jewish Oral Law demanded that the baptismal candidate strip naked so that no clothing could hinder the water from contact with every part of their body, so Yochanan demanded that they be stripped spiritually naked, every stitch of pride, self-righteousness and dependence on their Jewish heritage discarded to come before God in need of His forgiveness, cleansing and new life.

So many from all over Judea and even up in the Galilee were gathering to hear Yochanan and having their lives changed through their encounter with him that questions started arising.   “Who is this man?  Could he be the messiah we’ve been waiting for?” 

As the people were in expectation, and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning Yochanan, whether perhaps he was the Messiah, Yochanan answered them all,
“I indeed immerse you with water, but he comes who is mightier than I, the latchet of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen. He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Then with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. Luke 3:15-18 HNV

He preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen.  I immersed you in water, but he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”     Mark 1:7-8 HNV

Yeshua comes to be immersed by Yochanan

The Jordan River after heavy winter rains
The Jordan River after heavy winter rains

It was now winter, the wet season in Israel, which brings with it dark and gloomy days and heavy rainfalls, ensuring a good flow in the Jordan River.  Yet not all was dark and gloomy, the clouds would clear and bright sunlight shine through, warming up the land.   The second reformer was about to be revealed, just as Yochanan was prophesying to all the people who came to him:

It happened in those days that Yeshua came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was immersed by Yochanan in the Jordan. Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  A voice came out of the sky, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”   Mark 1:9-11HNV

Map of Jesus' travel form Nazareth to John's baptism, then to the wilderness...

Then Yeshua came from Galilee to the Jordan to Yochanan, to be immersed by him.  But Yochanan would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be immersed by you, and you come to me?”
But Yeshua, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfil all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him. Yeshua, when he was immersed, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him.  Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17 HNV

Now it happened, when all the people were immersed, Yeshua also had been immersed, and was praying. The sky was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove on him; and a voice came out of the sky, saying “You are my beloved Son. In You I am well pleased.”   Luke 3:21-22 HNV

Yeshua is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit…

Jordean wilderness

Yochanan had come from the wilderness call Israel to repentance and baptise them, now Yeshua had been baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit He went into the wilderness for forty days in preparation for His ministry.   In the wilderness, He whose ministry would set people free from sin and the consequences thereof was tempted by Satan, the accuser:

Immediately the Spirit drove Him out into the wilderness.  He was there in the wilderness forty days tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals; and the angels were serving Him.           Mark 1:12-13 HNV

Yeshua, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days.    Luke 4:1-2a HNV

Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was hungry afterward.             Matthew 4:1-2 HNV

Matthew presents the three scriptural passages cited by Jesus (Deut 8:3, Deut 6:13, and Deut 6:16) not in their order in Deuteronomy, but in the sequence of the trials of Israel as they wandered in the desert, as recorded in Exodus.  Both Matthew and Luke describe that tempting in the wilderness and Yeshua’s response to each one with “It is written” and Torah obedience.  Throughout his life and ministry Yeshua placed heavy reliance on “it is written”.  It was the ‘Written Torah’ (ie the Tanakh – Hebrew scriptures) that He acclaimed as divinely inspired and needing to be followed in daily life.  Unlike the Sadducees, Yeshua attested to the divine inspiration of all three sections; Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and K’tuvim (Writings).  

Delegation of religious leaders from Jerusalem question Yochanan…

John testifies about Jesus, and then He returns from the wildness in the power of the Holy Spirit and John points everyone to the Lamb of God.

While Yeshua was winning the battle in the wilderness, the religious leaders in Jerusalem sent some of their own to question Yochanan.  The impact he was having on the Jewish people was such that they felt that they needed to know what he was about. 

Here is Yochanan’s (John’s) testimony: when the Judeans sent cohanim (priests) and L’vi’im (Levites) from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) to ask him, “Who are you?” 
He was very straightforward and stated clearly, “I am not the Messiah.”      John 1:19-20 CJB

It is possible that this fourth gospel was written by one of those priests or Levites, as it provides no account of Yeshua’s baptism, which happened before they arrived, but detailed descriptions of what happened after they came from Jerusalem to question Yochanan (see blog on ‘Who Wrote the Gospels?’).

“Then who are you?” they asked him. “Are you Eliyahu (Elijah)?”
“No, I am not,” he said.
“Are you `the prophet,’ the one we’re expecting?”
“No,” he replied. 
So they said to him, “Who are you? — so that we can give an answer to the people who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” 
He answered in the words of Yesha`yahu (Isaiah) the prophet, “I am The voice of someone crying out: `In the desert make the way of ADONAI straight!'” 
Some of those who had been sent were P’rushim (Pharisees). They asked him, “If you are neither the Messiah nor Eliyahu (Elijah) nor `the prophet,’ then why are you immersing (baptising) people?” 
To them Yochanan replied, “I am immersing people in water, but among you is standing someone whom you don’t know.  He is the one coming after me — I’m not good enough even to untie his sandal!” 
All this took place in Beit-Anyah (Bethany), east of the Yarden (Jordan River), where Yochanan was immersing.      John 1:21-28 CJB

Yeshua returns from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit…

Luke describes Yeshua as being “full of the Holy Spirit” after His baptism (Lk 4:1) and being “in the power of the Spirit” after his fasting and overcoming the temptations in the wilderness through Torah quotation and obedience (Lk 4:14).   In that power Yeshua was about to start preaching and performing miracles.

Yeshua (Jesus) returned to Beit-Anyah (Bethany), east of the Jordan, where Yochanan (John) was with his talmidim (disciples) continuing to preach and immerse (baptise) the people and testify to those sent from Jerusalem.  Yochanan now knew exactly what he had been apostéllō from God to do – prepare the way for the people to come to Yeshua:

The next day, he saw Yeshua coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’ I didn’t know him, but for this reason I came immersing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel.”

Yochanan testified, saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him.  I didn’t recognize him, but he who sent me to immerse in water, he said to me, ‘On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who immerses in the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34 HNV

Yeshua’s first followers…

It was from Yochanan’s talmidim that Yeshua’s first followers came.  They had witnessed Yeshua’s baptism, seen the dove, heard the heavenly voice and now their own rabbi, Yochanan, was testifying that this man was indeed the One he had been preparing them for, the Messiah, the Son of God. 

The Gospel’s Silence on the Names of all Disciples
Except the Twelve

All four gospels adopted the practice of only naming as disciples the twelve whom Yeshua also chose as foundational apostles.  Whenever others of His disciples are mentioned in the gospels they are not named, so that the focus remains on the twelve – such was the profound significance of having a group of twelve as foundational to the church.  

…God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.    Ephesians 2:19b-20  BSB

Since the gospel accounts focus on the twelve whom Yeshua would later choose out of the multitude of talmidim to be foundational apostles (Luke 6:12-16) it can be easy to miss the fact that others also followed Him, and were discipled by Him, throughout His ministry.  Acts 1:21-23 gives us the names of two of these faithful other talmidim (disciples) of Yeshua who were not recorded by name in the gospel accounts – Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthiah.  They are named in Acts only because they were both nominated as potential replacements for Judas Iscariot so that the twelve could be restored to being a foundation of twelve.  

Let us enter into the talmidim’s journey as they learn what it is to be a follower of Yeshua and become part of His apostolic reformation (God-sent restoration and fulfilment of Judaism).

Again, on the next day, Yochanan was standing with two of his talmidim, and he looked at Yeshua as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
The two talmidim heard him speak, and they followed Yeshua.     John 1:35-37 HNV

The scripture then goes into more detail about what following Yeshua involved in a practical sense on that day.

Yeshua turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), “where are you staying?” 
He said to them, “Come, and see.”
They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.          John 1:38-39 HNV

This detail the gospel writer gives us about it being the 10th hour (about 4pm) is not only suggestive of intimate knowledge of the event but also ties in with Yochanan’s proclamation of: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”   The Passover lamb for each household was chosen on the 10th day of the first month (Exodus 12:3) and the Day of Atonement, on which the Israelites were cleansed from all their sins, was on the 10th day of the seventh month each year (Leviticus 16:29-30).

One of the two who had heard Yochanan and had followed Yeshua was Andrew the brother of Šimʻôn Kefa (Simon Peter).        John 1:40 CJB

Andrew (Ἀνδρέας, Andreas, in Greek), unlike his older brother, did not have a Hebrew name but a Greek one.  Giving your child a Greek name may not have been significant when Andrew was born as Bet Hillel still dominated the Sanhedrin with their open stance towards Gentiles and eagerness to proselytise them, but all that changed on the day when the Shammaites and Zealots triumphed over the Hillelites and the Sanhedrin adopted the “Eighteen Articles” which prevented all communication between Jew and Gentile by prohibiting the Jews from buying any article of food or drink from their heathen neighbours.  Andrew was likely just a young boy when this took place and the politics of hate escalated.   Having a Greek name during such a time could easily attract bullying in the schoolyard and derision from religious zealots who measured their own holiness by their disdain for all things heathen.   The name Andrew means “manly” and carries with it connotations of “brave”, “strong”, “courageous” and “warrior”.  This young man may have felt that he needed all these attributes to cope with the “religious” attitudes towards his name as he was growing up.  No doubt big brother Simon helped defend Andrew in many a youthful spat.  There were rabbis who would not have countenanced having a talmid with a Greek name, but neither Yochanan nor Yeshua were put off by Andrew’s name, nor did Yeshua see any need to give him a new name.  For these reformers true holiness did not rest on how exclusively Jewish one could claim to be, but on one’s demonstrated love for God and others.  Andrew was accepted by Yeshua just as he was, Greek name and all.

The other one who followed Yeshua that day remains unnamed.  This is in line with the convention in all four gospels of only ever naming as talmidim those who were numbered among the twelve.  Such was the significance and theological importance of the twelve that every other talmid (disciple) of Yeshua is either named but not referred to as a talmid, if the story necessitates the naming of those involved, or referred to as an unnamed talmid.  There is speculation that the other talmid with Andrew could be the author of this gospel, or maybe Joseph called Barsabas (whose surname was Justus) or Matthiah whom Acts 1:21-23 declares accompanied the twelve all the time that Yeshua walked among them from His baptism by Yochanan until His ascension even though their names are never mentioned as talmidim in the gospels.   It is impossible to know the identity of this talmid because we are given very few clues.    Some who walk with Yeshua have a public role to fulfil and are thrust into the spotlight of human records, while others have a more private role impacting those they walk with but hidden from the spotlight.   Here in this anonymous disciple is our first glimpse of the unknown and unnamed ones who walked with Yeshua. (12) (13) (14) (15).

Andrew was the first of Yeshua’s talmidim to engage in evangelism.   It was his natural and primal instinct.  When he is mentioned in the gospels Andrew is generally bringing someone to Yeshua.   He was a believer and an evangelist.  (16) (17) Not only did Andrew immediately believe Yochanan the Immerser and follow Yeshua, but scripture tells us that:

The first thing He did was to find his brother, Šimʻôn Bar-Yochanan (Simon son of John / Jonas in some versions), and take him to Yeshua with exclamations of “We have found the Messiah!”       John 1:40-41 CJB 

Šimʻôn was to have a major role in the spotlight.  Such roles display the individual’s strengths, and weaknesses, for all the see.  None except Yeshua can remain in the spotlight for long without being exposed as very flawed.  Reading the lives of those in the spotlight encourages us that God can do great things even through people as full of weaknesses and failures as ourselves.  Šimʻôn was a common Hebrew name which means “listen”.  Every time his mother called his name she was also calling for him to listen to her, but he did not have to carry his younger brother’s burden of having a foreign name.  Yet, Yeshua chose to give Šimʻôn a new name the very first time they met.  It was a prophetic name, speaking of the identity that Yeshua would be building into Šimʻôn to enable him to fulfil the task he would be given.  

Looking at him, Yeshua said,  “You are Šimʻôn Bar-Yochanan (Simon, son of John); you will be known as Kefa.(Peter)” (The name means “rock”).     (John 1:42b CJB)

Yeshua was determined to leave for Galilee the next day but took the time to search for Philip first.  The Good Shepherd seeks His sheep.  Plans were not more important than the people those plans involved and the Father’s will was for the unnamed talmid, Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, and Philip and his friend Nathaniel, and possibly others who are not named in this account, to accompany Yeshua to Galilee to be introduced to the Kingdom of God there.

The next day, having decided to leave for the Galil, Yeshua found Philip and said, “Follow me!”               (John 1:43 CJB)

The Greek text makes it clear that this was not just a call to casual acquaintance or a brief journey, but the present imperative tense commands ongoing action that calls for an ongoing lifestyle – a regular, long-term way of acting, a call to discipleship.   

Philip had grown up with Šimʻôn Kefa (Simon Peter) and Andrew in their fishing village of Beit-Tzaidah (Bethsaida), on the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Being on the east side of the Jordan River, Bethsaida was in the territory of Herod Philip.  Like Andrew, Philip had a Greek name – Φιλιππος (Philippos) meaning “friend of horses”.  This distinction may have helped bind them close together growing up.  Also like Andrew, Philip’s first response to having been found by Yeshua was to seek out someone else and bring them to the Messiah.  Thus, Philip was the second of Yeshua’s talmidim to engage in evangelism and the first to do so outside of his immediate family.  It is unclear how Philip knew Natan’el, they may have become acquainted through their time with Yochanan the Immerser.

Philip found Natan’el and told him, “We’ve found the one that Moshe (Moses) wrote about in the Torah, also the Prophets — it’s Yeshua Ben-Yosef from Natzeret!”    (John 1:45 CJB)

Natan’el (Nathaniel) is a Hebrew name meaning “God had given”.  He came from a different more western town in the Galilee, Cana.  Most scholars believe that Natan’el is called Bar- Tôlmay (Bartholomew) in the synoptic gospels, which means “son of Tolmay” or “son of the furrows” which could mean that he was the son of a ploughman or farmer. (18) (19)  Natan’el retained some scepticism, even prejudice against anyone from Nazareth, which Philip responded to with the simple words “come and see”.  Yeshua’s declaration of Natan’el’s character upon seeing him, followed by a description of where Natan’el had been when Philip had called him was all that was needed to convince this earnest seeker and elicit the first declaration by any of the talmidim of Yeshua’s deity:

“Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are King of Israel!” (Jn 1:49).

The baton passing from Yochanan to Yeshua

Less than a year after Yochanan had begun his ministry, the passing on of the baton of reform from Yochanan to Yeshua had begun.  Yochanan’s talmidim were becoming Yeshua’s talmidim (disciples).  At least five of them were now following Yeshua to Galilee (more if we believe the testimony of Acts 1:21-23): the unnamed disciple who may have been the author of this gospel, Andrew, Šimʻôn Kefa (Simon Peter), Philip, and Natan’el

Both Yochanan and Yeshua preached the same reformation message “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:1 & 4:17)  It was a message with strong messianic overtones.  It fitted with the expectations of many of the Jews at that time that there was something they needed to do to help usher in God’s kingdom on earth.  Unlike the Zealots, this reformation was not about raising an army against the Romans, or murdering gentiles who dared occupy the Holy Land or fellow Jews accused of associating with such gentiles; it was not purifying their land of evil (i.e. ‘others’) but purifying their own hearts and lives of evil.  Repent, turn back to God.  Stop living as rebels against Him and start living according to His ways, which are the ways of love.   In both Yochanan and Yeshua’s preaching, such repentance was to be evidenced in very practical ways in how they treated others.  This apostolic reformation was not focused on ritual purification or political power but on what these reformers saw as being of far greater importance, how each person treated others created in the image of God:

“He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.”      Luke 3:11

With this emphasis on practical love in action being central to the whole Jewish faith as God had ordained it, Yeshua and Yochanan were not far from the Pharisaic School of Hillel who had, at that time, been reduced to a minority party of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin.  Hillel is recorded as saying:

Don’t do unto others what you would not want done to you – that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary – go study” Babylonian Talmud, Shabbos 31a. (20) (21) (22)

Yeshua stated:

Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the Torah and the Prophets.     Matthew 7:12 HNV

And when a Torah scholar asked him “which is the greatest commandment in the lawYeshua answered:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  The whole Torah and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”          Matthew 22:37-40 HNV

Jewish Rabbis only chose the best and brightest as talmidim.   As we have seen,the academic and intellectual testing for admittance was gruelling and only those with the sharpest wit and most exacting understanding of both Written and Oral Law would be accepted to take a Rabbi’s ‘yoke’ (teachings) upon them.   Yet both Yochanan and Yeshua appeared willing to accept anyone, regardless of family background, theological knowledge or capacity to provide a witty and insightful reply.

Reference List

1. Judaica, Encyclopaedia. Mikveh. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] 2008. [Cited: 29th July 2019.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mikveh#4.
2. Slonim, Rivkah. The Mikvah. Chabad – The Jewish Woman. [Online] 29th July 2019. https://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm.
3. Editors, History.com. Yom Kippur. History. [Online] 21st August 2018. [Cited: 4th August 2019.] https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/yom-kippur-history.
4. Moseley, Ron. Mystical Mikveh Immersion – The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism. Essene. [Online] 2016. [Cited: 19th August 2019.] http://essene.com/B’nai-Amen/MysticalImmersion.htm.
5. Schiffmen, Lawrence H. From Text to Tradition – A History of Second Temple & Rabbinic Judaism. Brooklyn, NY : KTAV Publishing House, 1991.
6. Friedlander, Marty. Why Jews Immerse in the Mikveh. Haaretz. [Online] 1st Nov 2015. [Cited: 4th Aug 2019.] https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/why-jews-immerse-in-the-mikveh-1.5416019.
7. Slonim, Rivkah. The Mikvah. The Jewish Woman. [Online] 28th Dec 2017. [Cited: 4th Aug 2019.] https://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm.
8. Editors, One for Israel. The Jewish Roots of Baptism. One for Israel (Messianic Jews in Israel). [Online] [Cited: 4th Aug 2019.] https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/messianic-perspective/was-baptism-originally-jewish/.
9. Rosen, Ceil. Baptism: Pagan or Jewish? Jews for Jesus. [Online] [Cited: 4th Aug 2019.] https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v02-n10/baptism-pagan-or-jewish/.
10. Editors, Bibles for Israel. Mikvah (Baptism): The Connection Between Immersion, Conversion nd Being Born Again. The Messainic Prophecy Bible Project. [Online] [Cited: 4th Aug 2019.] https://free.messianicbible.com/feature/mikvah-baptism-the-connection-between-immersion-conversion-and-being-born-again/.
11. Peterson, Dr. Galen. Baptism. The Remnant. [Online] 2017. [Cited: 4th Aug 2019.] http://www.remnant.net/baptism.htm.
12. Biblical Hermeneutics. Stack Exchange. [Online] [Cited: 17th Oct. 2016.] http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/15372/in-john-135-who-were-the-two-disciples-of-john-the-baptist.
13. Iverach, James. John, The Apostle. Bible Study Tools. [Online] [Cited: 17th Oct. 2016.] http://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/john-the-apostle.html.
14. Phillips, J. The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. Lockport, IL : TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com, 2011, Fifth Edition. ISBN 13: 978-0-9702687-3-0.
15. Hulen, Amos B. The Call of the Four Disciples in John 1. 2, 1948, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 67, pp. 153-157.
16. Wellman, Jack. The Apostle Andrew Biography, Life and Death. What Christians Want to Know. [Online] [Cited: 10th Aug 2019.] https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/the-apostle-andrew-biography-life-and-death/.
17. Andrew, the First Apostle. 12.eu. [Online] 2011. [Cited: 10th Aug 2019.] http://www.12.eu/andrew.
18. Wellman, Jack. Who Was Bartholomew In The Bible? What Christians Want to Know. [Online] [Cited: 11th Aug 2019.] https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/who-was-bartholomew-in-the-bible/.
19. Zavada, Jack. Nathanael – The ‘True Israelite’. Learn Religions. [Online] 25th January 2019. [Cited: 11th August 2019.] https://www.learnreligions.com/nathanael-the-true-israelite-701068.
20. Astor, Yaakov. Loving Thy Neighbor: Judaism’s Unique Approach. SimpleToRememer – Judaism Online. [Online] 1st June 2012. [Cited: 15th Oct. 2016.] http://www.simpletoremember.com/jewish/blog/loving-thy-neighbor-judaism/.
21. Jacobs, Rabbi Louis. Hillel – The preeminent rabbi of first century Palestine. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 15th Oct. 2016.] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hillel/#.
22. Philologos. The Rest of ‘The Rest Is Commentary’. Forward. [Online] 24th Sept. 2008. [Cited: 15th Oct. 2016.] http://forward.com/culture/14250/the-rest-of-the-rest-is-commentary-02564/.

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

* Who are some of the people that God called to reform His people?
* How did John the Baptist prepare for his calling? What has God used to prepare you for your calling?
* What propelled John into his ministry? What propelled you into your ministry?
* What was John the Baptist’s message?
* How had the development of the Jewish Mikvah prepared the people for John’s baptism? What has God implanted in your culture to prepare your people for what God is calling them to do?
* Which two of Jesus’ first disciples immediately reached out to invite others to follow Him? What do you think of the other first disciples who didn’t immediately evangelise, and what do you think Jesus’ reaction to them was?
* What did the repentance that both John and Jesus preached involve?