Preparing for Passover – 9th Nissan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10th Nissan

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

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

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

Mark:11:1-10 NASB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 118:19-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference List

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

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

Leaders Serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 18:35-43 TLV

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

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

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

 Then they came to Jericho. Mark 10:46a

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

Luke 19:1-10 LSB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference List

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

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

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