Kefa Learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Asks Yeshua, “What Is in It for Us?” Continuing in our chronological journey of Kefa in this post, Kefa learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree.

The lesson is contained in passages from both Mathew and Mark. I have combined them, so we get a bigger picture of what Yeshua is teaching to the talmidim. The order is contained in the “Narrated Bible in Chronological Order” by F. LaGard Smith. The lesson was taught on Tuesday morning of Passion week as Yeshua and His talmidim were going to Yerushalayim from Beit-Anyah (Bethany).

20 In the morning, as the talmidim passed by, they saw the fig tree withered all the way to its roots. 21 Kefa remembered and said to Yeshua, “Rabbi! Look! The fig tree that you cursed has dried up!” ~ Mark 11:20-21 (CJB)

This fig tree that Yeshua had cursed the previous day (see Mark 11:12-14). In twenty-four hours, it had dried up from root to branch! Kefa was stunned. How could this have happened – and so quickly? The answer lies in Mark 11:22, which we will get to momentarily.

This is the second time Mark recorded Kefa addressing Yeshua as Rabbi (see 9:5). By now, Kefa is serving as spokesperson for the talmidim (see Mark 8:29,32; 9:5; 10:28).

Typically, by this time of year, fig trees near the Mount of Olives would have leaves, but only green fruit with an unpleasant taste appeared this early; edible figs appeared around early June. Often the green fruit would fall off so that only leaves remained.

Considering Micah 5:7, the fruitless fig tree symbolized Yerushalayim’s moral barrenness. The cursing of the tree forewarned of God’s coming judgment against Jerusalem and its Temple.

20 The talmidim saw this and were amazed. “How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?” they asked. 21 Yeshua answered them, “Yes! I tell you, if you have trust and don’t doubt, you will not only do what was done to this fig tree; but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea!’ it will be done. 22 In other words, you will receive everything you ask for in prayer, no matter what it is, provided you have trust.” ~ Matthew 21:20-22 (CJB)

Throwing a mountain into the sea was a figure of speech for doing what was virtually impossible. From where Yeshua and His talmidim are standing, the Dead Sea would probably have been visible; thus, Yeshua’s illustration would have been vivid to His talmidim.

Yeshua’s talmidim overlooked the symbolic significance of Yeshua’s miracle and focused on the power of His command. Although this mountain could be a reference to the Mount of Olives or the Temple Mount, it probably referred to God’s power to do humanly impossible things in response to prayer (see 1Cor. 13:2).

In contrast to the impotent, barren state of the fig tree, here, Yeshua speaks of the power of prayer and the potency of trust.

22 He responded, “Have the kind of trust that comes from God!

The answer to Kefa’s earlier question above, according to Yeshua, boiled down to trust in God. The proper object of trust is God, not the Temple.

23 Yes! I tell you that whoever does not doubt in his heart but trusts that what he says will happen can say to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea!’ and it will be done for him. ~ Mark 11:22-23 (CJB)

Some Jewish texts speak of “removing mountains” as an infinitely long or virtually impossible task, accomplished only by the most pious (later Rabbis applied it to mastering studies that appeared humanly impossible to master). [1]

Yeshua’s saying on trust and impossibilities began with His solemn formula, Yes! I tell you. He gave a negative condition (does not doubt in his heart) and a positive condition (but trusts) for the fulfillment of this promise (cp. James 1:6).

How do we satisfy the hunger of our Lord? How do we keep the hidden part of our life from becoming dry? The root of the answer is trust.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learns about the Destruction of the Temple.

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa Asks Yeshua, “What Is in It for Us?”

In my last post, we learned that Kefa asked Yeshua About Forgiveness. Continuing in our chronological journey of Kefa in this post, Kefa Asks Yeshua, “What Is in It for Us?”

The teaching in this passage occurs after the raising of El’azar (Lazarus) as Yeshua, and the talmidim continue their journey to Yerushalayim for the final time together. This passage is also recorded in Mark 10:28-31 and Luke 18:28-30.

The following four verses are presented to set the context for Kefa’s question:

23 Then Yeshua said to His talmidim, “Yes. I tell you that it will be very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 Furthermore, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” 25 When the talmidim heard this, they were utterly amazed. “Then who,” they asked, “can be saved?” 26 Yeshua looked at them and said, “Humanly, this is impossible; but with God, everything is possible.”

There is a lot of meat in those four verses, but I will leave that for a later time.

27 Kefa replied, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. So, what will we have?”

“We’ve left everything to follow You,” Kefa says. “What the rich young ruler (see Matt. 19:16) wasn’t willing to do, we’ve done. How will our faithfulness be rewarded? What’s the payoff for our commitment to you?”

Kefa was quick to see the contrast between the wealthy ruler and the poor disciples. Yeshua detected in Kefa’s question the possibility of a wrong motive for service. Yeshua gave them a marvelous promise of rewards in this life and the next. They would even have thrones when He established His kingdom. In other words, they were not making sacrifices – they were making investments. But not all of the dividends would be received in this life.

28 Yeshua said to them, “Yes. I tell you that in the regenerated world when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Isra’el. 29 Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times more, and he will obtain eternal life.

“Regeneration” was a term used for the future renewal of the world in Greek circles and naturally applied to Jewish expectations of a new world order. The Tanakh speaks of a regenerated world at Isaiah 1:25-2:5, 11:1-16, 65:17; Jeremiah 23:3-8, 30:1-31:40; Micah 4:1-5:3; Zechariah 12:1-14:21; Psalms 2, 22, 89; Daniel 7-12. That the twelve tribes would be restored was one of the standard Jewish beliefs about the end times.

You… will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Isra’el. A vital verse confirming God’s promises to national Isra’el, e.g., Isaiah 1:26, I will restore your judges as at first.” This verse gives a rationale for choosing twelve emissaries (10:2-4) and maintaining that number.

All Believers who genuinely identify with Yeshua and forsake worldly gain to obtain heavenly gain through serving Him will receive a hundred times more, and he will obtain eternal life.

30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. ~ Matthew 19:23-30 (CJB)

Because of Kefa’s wrong motive, Yeshua added the warning that some who were first in their own eyes would be last in the judgment, and some who were last would be first. This truth was amplified in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (see Mathew 20:1ff.)

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree.

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Kefa Asks About Forgiveness

In my last post, we learned that Yeshua asks Kefa to Go Fishing Again. He put his line in the Sea of Galilee and miraculously caught a fish with a gold coin in its mouth to pay the Temple tax for Yeshua and himself. Continuing in our chronological journey of Kefa in this post, the talmidim were sitting at Yeshua’s feet as He was teaching them by asking several questions dealing with humility and honesty.

Immediately after teaching about the subject on the discipline of a wayward member of the kehilah, Kefa asks his question on the number of times they should forgive.

21 Then Kefa came up and said to Him, “Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me, and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” answered Yeshua, “but seventy times seven! ~ Matthew 18:21-22 (CJB)

To further set the context of Yeshua’s teaching, this event happens after Yeshua had taught them how they should pray in Matthew 16 and immediately follows by saying:

14 For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours. ~ Matthew 6:14-15 (CJB)

Because true repentance should involve turning from sin, some rabbis limited opportunities for forgiveness for a given sin to three times. So Kefa may have thought he was being generous by suggesting that he forgive his brother seven times.

Interpreters and translators dispute whether Yeshua demanded forgiving one’s brother seventy-seven times or seventy times seven (four hundred and ninety times). I am not a Greek scholar, but what difference does it really make? Who would keep track of either one? Yeshua’s point is that forgiveness should be unlimited when true repentance is present.

When we start living in an atmosphere of humility and honesty, we must take some risks and expect some dangers. Unless humility and honesty result in forgiveness, relationships cannot be mended and strengthened.

Kefa recognized the risks involved and asked Yeshua how he should handle them in the future. But Kefa made some serious mistakes. To begin with, he lacked humility himself. He was sure his brother would sin against him, but not he against his brother! Kefa’s second mistake was in asking for limits and measures. Where there is love, there can be no limits or dimensions.

4 Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, 5 not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (CJB)

Love keeps no record of wrongs. By the time we have forgiven a brother that many times, we are in the habit of forgiving.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he asks Yeshua what is in it for him?

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Kefa Goes Fishing Again

In my last post, we learned that Kefa accompanied Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration. In this post, we see that Yeshua asks Kefa to Go Fishing Again.

24 When they came to K’far-Nachum (Capernaum), the collectors of the half-shekel came to Kefa and said, “Doesn’t your rabbi pay the Temple tax?”

The Temple tax goes back to the time of the Exodus when the Israeli’s were levied the tax to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle and was carried over when the Temple was built.

13 Everyone subject to the census is to pay as an offering to Adonai half a shekel [one-fifth of an ounce of silver] – by the standard of the sanctuary shekel (a shekel equals twenty gerahs). 14 Everyone over twenty years of age who is subject to the census is to give this offering to Adonai –15 the rich is not to give more or the poor less than the half-shekel when giving Adonai’s offering to atone for your lives. 16 You are to take the atonement money from the people of Isra’el and use it for the service in the tent of meeting so that it will be a reminder of the people of Isra’el before Adonai to atone for your lives.” ~ Exodus 30:13-16 (CJB)

The tax was equivalent to one or two days’ wages for an average worker.

25 “Of course He does,” said Kefa. When he arrived home, Yeshua spoke first. “Shim’ on, what’s your opinion? The kings of the earth – from whom do they collect duties and taxes? From their sons or from others?”

Like a good prophet, Yeshua responds to Kefa before Kefa even brings up the matter (see 1 Sam 9:20; 1 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 5:26; 6:32).

Remember, when Kefa was on the mountain, the voice of the Father interrupted him. Here in the house, he’s interrupted by the Son.

26 “From others,” he answered. “Then,” said Yeshua, “The sons are exempt.

In tax contexts, exempt means typically “free from obligation” concerning tax. Since a royal family did not tax itself, Yeshua’s point is that the Son of God should not be taxed for the upkeep of His Father’s house.

Because Yeshua’s disciples were children of the true King, they were also exempt from the obligation to support the Temple. This had enormous implications for Jewish Believers. If Temple taxes were no longer obligatory, sacrifices and other offerings were also now optional.

27 But to avoid offending them – go to the lake, throw out a line, and take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth, and you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them for me and for you.” ~ Matthew 17:24-27 (CJB)

Based on solidarity with the rest of the Jewish community, however, Yeshua pays the tax. If some of Matthew’s [1] Messianic readers were looking for an excuse to avoid paying the tax on their own day, this text would encourage them to pay it instead.

Through divine knowledge, Yeshua knew that a nearby fish had swallowed an amount of money that was sufficient to pay the tax. He also exercised authority over nature, ensuring that the fish would take the bait Kefa offered.

Yeshua commanded Kefa to throw out a line. Jon Courson has an interesting take on this command.

The command in itself would have been most curious because professional fishermen like Kefa didn’t use a hook and line. That was rookie equipment. It would be like Jose Canseco [2] using a batting tee. Real fishermen used nets and boats. But Kefa humbly obeyed. And I can see him walking along the shore, carrying his little pole and tackle box, as his colleagues looked at each other and whispered, “What’s he doing?”[3]

It is the only miracle using one fish. Yeshua had multiplied the fish for Kefa (see Luke 5:1-11), and He would repeat that miracle (see John 21:1ff). But in this case, He used only one fish. When we consider the complexity of this miracle, it amazes us. First, someone had to lose a coin in the water. Then, a fish had to take that coin in its mouth and retain it. That same fish then had to bite on Kefa’s hook – with an impediment in its mouth – and be caught. You cannot naturally explain all of this. It is too complicated for an accident and too impossible for human management.

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he asks Yeshua about forgiveness.

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[1] Matthew’s account is the only one presented in the Gospels.

[2] For those who may not know, Jose was an MLB outfielder and designated hitter from 1985-2001 playing most of his career with the Oakland A’s. He admitted using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids) and wrote a tell-all book in 2005.

[3] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament.

Kefa Goes Up the Mountain

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Rebukes Yeshua. In this post, we see that Kefa accompanies Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration.

The Mount of the Transfiguration

This story has always fascinated me. It is told in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. As we explore this passage, put yourself on the mountain with Yeshua, Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan. This passage includes so many allusions to God, revealing his glory to Moshe on Mount Sinai that most ancient Jewish readers would undoubtedly have caught them.

Chronologically, this occurs within a week of Kefa rebuking Yeshua. 1 Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya’akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately.

The reference to six days draws a parallel between Yeshua’s Transfiguration and God’s revelation of Himself to Moshe in Exodus 24:13-18. As we learn below, other parallels include the reference to a cloud, a brilliant light, a mountain, and the separation of a small number of men from the larger group. Moshe’s face shone brilliantly after he met with God, so Yeshua’s Transfiguration serves to identify Him as the new Moshe.

Scripture records three times when Yeshua took these same three and ministered to them in very unique ways. Interestingly, each of those occasions dealt with death.

The first time we have learned that Yeshua singled out Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan, He took them into the house of a man whose daughter had died. Yeshua brought the young girl back to life, and Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan saw that He was victorious over death (see Luke 8:49-55).

The second occasion is our passage today.

The third occasion is when Yeshua takes them into the Garden of Gethsemane. As He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done,” Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan would understand that He was submitted to death.

2 As they watched, He began to change form – His face shone like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light.

These three Jewish fishermen were given a glimpse of the glory of the coming King and His kingdom.

3 Then they looked and saw Moshe and Eliyahu speaking with Him.

Jewish people understood Scripture as denying that Eliyahu had ever died; God himself had buried Moshe. Jewish people expected the return of both Eliyahu and Moshe at the end of the age (Deut.18:15-18; Mal. 4:5). Both of them heard from God at Mount Sinai.

This scene informs us that those who experience death (Moshe) have a cognitive understanding and an ability to communicate. Together, they symbolize all those who make up God’s kingdom – those who will be raptured and not see death (like Eliyahu) and those who will die and go to be with the Lord (like Moshe). Moreover, Moshe represented the Law, and Eliyahu represented the Prophets. Together they represented the complete Tanakh. Along with the talmidim, they represent both the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah centered on Yeshua.

4 Kefa said to Yeshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Lord. I’ll put up three shelters if you want – one for You, one for Moshe, and one for Eliyahu.”

Isra’el had dwelt in shelters in the wilderness while the presence and glory of God was among them. Jews commemorated this annually by building shelters (sukkahs), so Kefa would know how to build one. But once again, Kefa has to control is impetuous behavior.

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

The cloud of glory also overshadowed the mountain in Exodus 24:15 and the Tabernacle in 40:34.

As Jon Courson’s says, Kefa, I’m going to interrupt you once again,” said God the Father from the cloud over the mountain. “You want to build three booths, but you can’t put the Law and the Prophets on the same plane as My Son.” [1]

Listen to Him! because He is the “prophet like Moshe” (Deut. 18:15-19, Acts 3:22-23), whom you have just seen.

6 When the talmidim heard this, they were so frightened that they fell face down on the ground. 7 But Yeshua came and touched them. “Get up!” He said, “Don’t be afraid.”8 So they opened their eyes, looked up, and saw only Yeshua by Himself.

The talmidim fear and falling on their faces were characteristic of people in the Tanakh and later Jewish tradition when they experienced revelations of God. When Yeshua touched them and told them not to be afraid, the three disciples looked and saw no one but him. Why? Because Yeshua isn’t merely one among many faithful servants of God. He is superior to them all. The ministries of Moshe and Eliyahu ultimately pointed toward Yeshua. In fact, all of Scripture has Him as its focus.

9 As they came down the mountain, Yeshua ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” ~ Matthew 17:1-9 (CJB)

The Transfiguration confirmed Yeshua’s “coming in his kingdom” (Matt.16:28) to these three talmidim. Still, without the more public confirmation which followed His resurrection, the testimony would have been of little value in proving Yeshua’s identity. It would have raised more questions than it answered. Hence Yeshua advised closed mouth for the time being. Given Kefa’s personality, that must have been extremely hard to do. But wait until we get to Acts 2. For us, our job is to proclaim His resurrection and love from in the highways and byways. When is the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn he is asked by Yeshua to go fishing again.

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[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament.

Kefa Rebukes Yeshua

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Learns Why Yeshua Teaches in Parables. In this post, we see that Kefa Rebukes Yeshua.

Yeshua Predicts His Death and Resurrection

Immediately after Yeshua warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah, He 21began making it clear to His talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life.

As we have learned earlier in Mathew 16:16, Kefa had previously divulged Yeshua’s secret identity yet retained a flawed concept of what that identity entailed. Yeshua teaches His talmidim what must happen to Him as Messiah and is completely misunderstood, both here and on two later occasions (Matthew 17:22-23, 20:17-19), so different is His scenario from that popularly expected. Even at the Last Supper (Yochanan 14:28) and after his resurrection (Acts 1:6-7), they did not comprehend God’s plan for the Messiah.

Even most of the prophets in the Tanakh sought to avoid martyrdom insofar as possible and complained about their sufferings (1 Kings 19:3-4; Jer. 20:7-18). Although martyrdom was associated with the prophets, it was not their goal; but it seems to be Yeshua’s goal here. Yeshua foreknows His death as a prophet. Still, He also orchestrated it in a sense: no one could stir a commotion in the Temple and defy its officials as Yeshua did, then remain in the city unarmed, without expecting martyrdom.

22 Kefa took Him aside and began rebuking him, “Heaven be merciful, Lord! By no means will this happen to you!” 23 But Yeshua turned His back on Kefa, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path because your thinking is from a human perspective, not from God’s perspective!” ~ Matthew 16:21-23 (CJB)

However, Kefa could not accept the warning because his messianic expectations did not include a suffering, executed Messiah.

Jewish tradition in this period emphasized a triumphant Messiah; only a century after Yeshua’s teaching did Jewish teachers begin to accept the tradition of a suffering Messiah in addition to a triumphant one. One of the first rules of ancient discipleship (with noticeably rare exceptions) was: Never criticize the teacher, especially publicly. Here Kefa breaks that rule, even on standard cultural grounds. [1]

Talmidim sometimes walked behind their teachers to signify submission. The term obstacle (stumbling block in many translations) is referring to something over which people tripped, and came to be used figuratively for things that led people to sin or stumble in their faith. Kefa here offers the same temptation as Satan, the Kingdom without the cross.

Your thinking is from a human perspective means Kefa’s viewpoint was warped. He saw things from a merely human perspective, not a divine perspective. His words were flawed because his thinking was flawed. He had aligned himself with Satan’s program without realizing it.

How often do we follow Kefa in our thinking? How often do we make decisions without consulting with Yeshua first?

In my next post, we continue our chronological journey of Kefa and learn that he accompanies Yeshua, Ya’akov, and Yochanan Up to the Mount of the Transfiguration.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa  Learns Why Yeshua Teaches in Parables

In my last post, we learned that Kefa once again acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah. In this post, we were going to lean that Kefa RebukesYeshua. However, that all changed after listening to our Pastor preach this past Sunday on the Parable of the Soils from Mark 4:1-20. I realized that I had missed this teaching to Kefa and his fellow emissaries in going through our chronological journey.

I initially searched for all instances of Kefa in the Brit Hadashah. Kefa is not mentioned by name in this passage from Mark, but he is by reference: When Yeshua was alone, the people around Him with the Twelve asked Him about the parables. Mark 4:10 (CJB)

So why is this important? Because this teaching comes after the Parable of the Watchful Servant and when Kefa asks Yeshua to explain another parable. I previously wrote on the parallel passage in Mathew here four years ago.

1 Again Yeshua began to teach by the lake, but the crowd that gathered around Him was so large that He got into a boat on the lake and sat there while the crowd remained onshore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things in parables. In the course of His teaching, He said to them: 3

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he sowed, some seed fell alongside the path; and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky patches where there was not much soil. It sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow; 6 but when the sun rose, the young plants were scorched; and since their roots were not deep, they dried up. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked it; so that it yielded no grain. 8 But other seed fell into rich soil and produced grain; it sprouted, and grew, and yielded a crop — thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown.”

9 And He concluded, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!”

10 When Yeshua was alone, the people around him with the Twelve asked Him about the parables. 11 He answered them, “To you, the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given, but to those outside, everything is in parables, 12 so that they may be always looking but never seeing; always listening but never understanding. Otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven!”
13 Then Yeshua said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How will you be able to understand any parable? 14 The sower sows the message. 15 Those alongside the path where the message is sown are people who no sooner hear it than the Adversary comes and takes away the message sown in them. 16 Likewise, those receiving seed on rocky patches are people who hear the message and joyfully accept it at once; 17, but they have no root in themselves. So they hold out for a while, but as soon as some trouble or persecution arises on account of the message, they immediately fall away. 18 Others are those sown among thorns — they hear the message; 19 but the worries of the world, the deceitful glamor of wealth and all the other kinds of desires push in and choke the message; so that it produces nothing.20 But those sown on rich soil hear the message, accept it and bear fruit — thirty, sixty or a hundredfold.” ~ Mark 4:1-20 (CJB)

This is one of my favorite parables from our Lord. Understanding it is fundamental to our evangelism. We need to learn what soil we are planting our seeds in.

Ok, so why is it important to backtrack in our chronological journey of Kefa? Because I missed it, and it brings up an interesting question when we examine why Kefa asks Yeshua to explain another parable.

Yeshua is clear in the Parable of the Soils why it is essential to use parables as a teaching method. Parables are nothing more than using one thing next to something else to teach a fundamental principle. Yeshua taught in parables to reveal the truth to the humble, to cancel truth from the arrogant; and, to fulfill prophecy.

So, having listened to the Parable of the Soils before hearing Yeshua uses a parable to discuss the tradition of the leaders, why did Kefa have to ask Yeshua again to explain the parable? Truthfully, I do not know the answer. But I do think it is vital for Kefa and us to understand what the Teacher was telling them thoroughly. The Gospel message is a heart issue. To understand Yeshua, we must focus on our hearts.

Here is the illustration Pastor Doug Long used to explain the Parable of the Soils:

In my next post, we will pick up our chronological journey of Kefa and learn that he Rebukes Yeshua.

Ckick here for the PDF version.

Kefa Again Acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah

In my last post, we examined another parable of Yeshua’s that Kefa needed to be explained. In this post, we learn that Kefa once again acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah.

13 When Yeshua came into the territory around Caesarea Philippi, he asked His talmidim, “Who are people saying the Son of Man is?”

Caesarea Philippi was pagan territory, near a cave devoted to the worship of the Greek woodland deity Pan; Herod had also dedicated a temple for the worship of Caesar there. Few Jewish people would have expected it as a site for a divine revelation. The city was some twenty-five miles from the Sea of Galilee and about seventeen hundred feet higher. Caesarea Philippi, the present-day town of Banyas, sits at the foot of Mount Hermon, where the Yarden River springs forth. Herod Philip refurbished this town and renamed it in honor of the Emperor and himself. [1]

14 They said, “Well, some say Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), others Eliyahu (Elijah), still others Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) or one of the prophets.”

All these answers about who Yeshua falls into the “prophets” category, though many members of the Jewish elite held that prophets had ceased, a widespread expectation of end-time prophets remained strong. Eliyahu was expected to return (Malachi 4:5), and many of Yeshua’s miracles resembled Eliyahu’s. His judgment oracles (Mt 11:20-24) or downplaying the Temple (cf. Mt 12:6; 24:1-2) may have evoked the comparison with Yirmeyahu.

 15 “But you,” He said to them, “who do you say I am?” 16 Shim ‘on Kefa answered, “You are the Mashiach, the Son of the living God”(emphasis added). 17 “Shim ‘on Bar-Yochanan,” Yeshua said to him, “how blessed you are! For no human being revealed this to you, no, it was my Father in heaven.

Kefa announces for all to hear the Yeshua is the Mashiach (Messiah), the Son of the living God. Because he recognized who Yeshua was, he is blessed by Yeshua with an insight into who he will become.

Shim’ on Bar-Yochanan, Aramaic for “Shim’ on, Son of Yochanan.” How blessed you are is a standard form of blessing. A human being, literally, “flesh and blood” corresponding to Hebrew basar v’dam, a common expression stressing human limits and weakness. [2]

18 I also tell you this: you are Kefa,” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock, I will build my Community, and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it.

Kefa is an Aramaic word equivalent to Greek “Petros,” which means rock.

I want to pause for a moment and concentrate on the use of the word Community. In Hebrew, it is Kehilah, which means “assembly, congregation, community.” In Greek, it is Ekklesia, which means “called-out ones.” Unfortunately, most English translation of Ekklesia is “church,” and from it comes the word “ecclesiastical,” meaning “having to do with the church.” However, what is being spoken about here is a spiritual community of people based on trust in God and His Son, the Messiah Yeshua. This can be all people throughout history who so commit themselves, or a group of such people at a particular time and place, such as the Messianic Community in Corinth or Yerushalayim. Unlike “church,”Ekklesia never refers either to an institution or to a building. [3] Personally, I don’t go to church. I go to worship God and fellowship with my congregation (Community) of Believers, where I live.

19 I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

The keeper of the keys was one of the most critical roles a household servant could hold. Because keys were bulky and might be carried by only a single person, they also symbolized authority; a high official held the keys in a royal kingdom and God’s house, the Temple. Keys here may signify the authority to admit into the Kingdom (Mt 23:13), based on the knowledge of the truth about Yeshua. The Qumran community also had officials deciding whether to admit members; the decision was made based on the prospective member’s acceptance of the Community’s rule of life. [4]

In consequence of his confession, Yeshua makes Kefa both (1) Shammash (steward) with the keys, and (2) Dayan (judge), who, as the one who can prohibit and permit, establishes new covenant halakhah (to make authoritative decisions). From this passage, the tradition of St. Peter standing at the Pearly Gates originated.

20 Then He warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. ~ Matthew 16:13-20 (CJB)

In my next post, we pick up our chronological journey of Kefa and lean that he rebukes Yeshua.

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa Asks Yeshua to Explain Another Parable

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Gets Wet and Declares His Loyalty. In this post, we examine another parable of Yeshua’s that Kefa needs to be explained.

Let me briefly set the stage from Matthew 15 and Mark 7. We pick up the story right after Kefa has declared his loyalty to Yeshua by proclaiming that He is the Holy One of God.

1 Then some P’rushim and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim came to Yeshua and asked him, 2 “Why is it that your talmidim break the Tradition of the Elders? They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim before they eat!” ~ Matthew 15:1-2 (CJB)

N’tilat-yadayim is the rabbinical hand-washing ritual done by observant Jews even today. Yeshua banters back and forth with the P’rushim and Torah-teachers about what God has said in His Word and what they have established as tradition. (I can’t write or say that word without remembering “The Fidler on the Roof.”)

10 Then He called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen and understand this! 11 What makes a person unclean is not what goes into his mouth; rather, what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean!”

12 The talmidim came to Him and said, “Do you know that the P’rushim were offended by what you said?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Let them be. They are blind guides. When a blind man guides another blind man, both will fall in a pit.”

15 Kefa said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 So He said, “Don’t you understand even now? 17 Don’t you see that anything that enters the mouth goes into the stomach and passes out into the latrine? 18 But what comes out of your mouth is actually coming from your heart, and that is what makes a person unclean. 19 For out of the heart come forth wicked thoughts, murder, adultery and other kinds of sexual immorality, theft, lies, slanders…. 20 These are what really make a person unclean, but eating without doing n’tilat-yadayim does not make a person unclean.” ~ Matthew 15:10-20 (CJB)

Don’t you understand even now? It is not clear from the context if this was solely directed towards Kefa alone or to all His remaining talmidim. When Kefa asked Him to explain His comments about being defiled, Yeshua answered. When you eat food, it enters the mouth goes into the stomach and passes out into the latrine. No harm is done. Eating with unwashed hands might make you sick, but it can’t defile you.

Yeshua was teaching that the human heart is innately corrupt, but He also described His followers as pure in heart in the Beatitudes. From this, we conclude that following Yeshua results in a transformation of the heart that dramatically diminishes our love of sin.

You can engage in endless religious habits, but these don’t have the power to make you a better man or woman because following external traditions can’t change a wicked heart. But Yeshua can because he’s a heart specialist. Through a relationship with Him, your heart can be transformed so that you love God and love people.

In my next post, we pick up our chronological journey of Kefa in the Gospels when he once again acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah.

Click here for the PDF version.