The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 52

Teaching Through Parables ~ Part 1

We are starting a new Section in our series on the Red-Letter Words of Yeshua. Between the many heated confrontations, Yeshua continues to teach His talmidim quietly about the Kingdom of God. As the Great Teacher, Yeshua uses numerous methods of instructing His talmidim. He employs hyperbole, warnings, laments, and denunciations. He presents truth through beatitudes, proverbs, and dialogue. However, of all His methods, perhaps the most exciting and distinctive teaching mode is His use of parables.

In my studies of God’s Word, and I assume in yours, I have always wondered why He taught this way.

The Purpose of Parables

10 Then the talmidim came and asked Yeshua, “Why are you speaking to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “Because it has been given to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it has not been given to them.

Secrets, KJV “mysteries.” Greek mystêria means truths hitherto kept secret but now revealed. Both then and now, several religions claim to make available special knowledge or mysteries to an inner circle. Biblical religion is not so. Its truths are available to all who read and believe the Bible. While Yeshua walked the earth, there was an inner circle of talmidim who precisely received the knowledge necessary to disseminate God’s truth to all people. But nothing in Scripture supports the notion, found today in cultish, occult, and New Age circles, that true Christianity depends on teachings above or beyond the Bible.[1]

 12 For anyone who has something will be given more so that he will have plenty, but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away.

13 Here is why I speak to them in parables: they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.”14 That is, in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Yesha’yahu (6:9-10), which says,

You will keep on hearing but never understand,
and keep on seeing but never perceive,
15 because the heart of this people has become dull—
with their ears, they barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
so as not to see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and do t’shuvah,
so that I could heal them.’

16 But you, how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear! 17 Yes indeed! I tell you that many a prophet and many a tzaddik longed to see the things you are seeing but did not see them and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them ~ Mattityahu 13:10-17

It should not be surprising that people look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding since Yesha’yahu predicts such a phenomenon, as do Jeremiah 5:21 and Ezekiel 12:2. If they were to see, hear, and understand, they would do t’shuvah (return to God), that is, “repent, and God would heal them.

Tzaddik means righteous one. In Jewish tradition, generally, a godly, holy, righteous man. The implication of vv. 16–17 is that nothing inherent in the talmidim earned them the privilege of seeing the things you are seeing; the prophets and tzaddikim may have been more worthy, but God reveals Himself not based on human merit by His own sovereign will. In this sense, since Yeshua had to be born at a particular time and place (Galatians 4:4–5), there necessarily had to be some to whom it was given (v. 11) and others to whom it was not.

In our next post, we continue to focus on Yeshua’sTeaching Through Parables by returning to Mattityahu 13:1.

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[1] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 51

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 15

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke13:1.

Repent or Perish

Continuing the theme of judgment from chapter 12, Yeshua uses two calamities that befell certain Jews to illustrate the fate that awaits those who do not repent. This material is unique to Luke’s Gospel. These verses exemplify Pilate’s brutality (see Mattityahu 27:2, 16–24).

1 Just then, some people came to tell Yeshua about the men from the Galil whom Pilate had slaughtered even while they were slaughtering animals for sacrifice. 2 His answer to them was, “Do you think that just because they died so horribly, these folks from the Galil were worse sinners than all the others from the Galil? 3 No, I tell you. Rather, unless you turn to God from your sins, you will all die as they did! 4 “Or what about those eighteen people who died when the tower at Shiloach fell on them? Do you think they were worse offenders than all the other people living in Yerushalayim? 5 No, I tell you. Rather, unless you turn from your sins, you will all die similarly.” ~ Luke 13:1-5.

Unless you turn to God from your sins (repent, do t’shuvah [1]), you will all die as they did. The “Bad News” (Romans 1:18–2:8) is explicit, the Good News implicit (Romans 3:19–3:26). Then as now, people did not want to think about their evil ways, so they put their attention on current events to distract them. News is the opiate of the people. In today’s world, it is overwhelming. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, it is tough for me to take a break from the day’s news, but occasionally I have to. Most of us cannot affect world events very much, but all of us can worry about them and criticize the sins of others – instead of focusing on our own lives and our sins.

Yeshua’s Illustration Using A Barren Fruit Tree

Then Yeshua gave this illustration: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit but didn’t find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘Here, I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree for three years now without finding any. Cut it down -why let it go on using up the soil?’ But he answered, ‘Sir, leave it alone one more year. I’ll dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; if not, you will have it cut down then.’ ~ Luke 13:6-9

(As an aside, when I worked on my grandfather’s date ranches in the Coachella Valley of California, I learned it took at least five years for a newly planted date tree to bear fruit and at least a couple more years to bear a decent crop.)

Yeshua shows how patient God is with wayward humanity in general in these verses. However, the fig tree metaphor is frequently used in the Tanakh and also at Mattityahu 21:18–22 to represent the Jewish people, who were expected to bear fruit (v. 9) by leading righteous lives and by communicating God’s truth to the other nations of the world (Isaiah 49:6). So, has the one more year ended? – are the Jewish people cut down or set aside by God? Certainly not! (Jeremiah 31:34–36 (35–37)) Heaven forbid! (Romans 11:1–2, 11–12) Some Jews, having trusted in Yeshua HaMashiach and remained united with Him, bear fruit (Yochanan 15:1–8), while God patiently preserves the Jewish people until “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

A Woman with a Disabling Spirit

In another passage unique to Luke, Yeshua again faces criticism after He performs a healing on the Sabbath (compare 6:6–11).

10 Yeshua was teaching in one of the synagogues on Shabbat. 11 A woman came up who had a spirit which had crippled her for eighteen years; she was bent double and unable to stand erect at all.

The woman’s distorted posture appears to be the result of demonic activity instead of a defect suffered from birth.

 12 On seeing her, Yeshua called her and said to her, “Lady, you have been set free from your weakness!” 13 He put His hands on her, and at once, she stood upright and began to glorify God. 14 But the president of the synagogue, indignant that Yeshua had healed on Shabbat, spoke up and said to the congregation, “There are six days in the week for working; so come during those days to be healed, not on Shabbat!”

The people were coming to Yeshua for healing without regard for the day. Yeshua was not bothered by this; indeed, His actions encouraged it. The religious leaders saw His healings as a violation of God’s command to honor the Sabbath by refraining from work.

 15 However, the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Each one of you on Shabbat – don’t you unloose your ox or your donkey from the stall and lead him off to drink?

Yeshua calls attention to the religious leaders’ willingness to make exceptions to the law to care for animals but not to care for God’s people.

16 This woman is a daughter of Avraham, and the Adversary kept her tied up for eighteen years! Shouldn’t she be freed from this bondage on Shabbat?” 17 By these words, Yeshua put to shame the people who opposed Him; but the rest of the crowd were happy about all the wonderful things that were taking place through Him. ~ Luke 13:10-17

In our next post, we will focus on Yeshua’sTeaching Through Parables beginning in Mattityahu 13.

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[1] Turning from sin to God.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 50

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 14

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 12:49.

Not Peace but Division

49 “I have come to set fire to the earth! And how I wish it were already kindled!

Fire. Primarily the refining fire of holiness and the ultimate fire of judgment against sin (compare Isaiah 66:24; Malachi 3:2–3; 1 Cor. 3:13–15; Rev. 19:20, 20:14–15). Secondarily a fire of hostility between unbelievers and believers (see below in verse 53).

50 I have an immersion to undergo—how pressured I feel till it’s over!

This immersion involves Yeshua’s total identification with sinful humanity. He bears our sins and their punishment, in keeping with Isaiah 53:6, “Adonai has laid on him the iniquities of us all.” He thus becomes a sacrifice for our sins, giving up His very life and immersing Himself into death, paying the death penalty we owe for our sins “like a lamb brought for slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace in the Land? Not peace, I tell you, but division!

Yeshua is not to rule in glory at His first coming; He is not at that time to fulfill the Messianic prophecies of world peace, e.g., “They shall beat their swords into plowshares …” (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). For this reason, He will bring … division: some will acknowledge Him as Messiah, while others will not so that families will be split down the middle over this issue (vv. 52–53).

52 For from now on, a household of five will be divided, three against two, two against three.

53 Father will be divided against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.[1] ~ Luke 12:49-53

Interpreting the Time

54 Then to the crowds, Yeshua said, “When you see a cloud-bank rising in the west, at once you say that a rainstorm is coming; 55 and when the wind is from the south, you say there will be a heatwave, and there is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky – how is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? ~ Luke 12:54-56

Once again, Yeshua speaks differently to the crowds than to His talmidim (vv. 22–53). To His own talmidim, He entrusted information about His ministry and about how to obey Him in a manner reflecting their already existing commitment to Him. His only task with the crowds was to awaken them to their need to commit their lives to Him, to become talmidim. As with the preceding sections, this one is oriented toward the final judgment.

Settle with Your Accuser

57 Why don’t you decide for yourselves what is the right course to follow? 58 If someone brings a lawsuit against you, take pains to settle with him first; otherwise, he will take the matter to court, and the judge will turn you over to the bailiff, and the bailiff will throw you in jail. 59 I tell you, you won’t get out of there till you have paid the last penny! ~ Luke 12:57-59

This section parallels Mattityahu 5:25–26, part of Yeshua’s teaching about anger in the Sermon on the Mount. Here, Luke incorporates the same material into Yeshua’s teaching about the final judgment.

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke13:1. Hopefully, we will complete the section on The Ministry Continues to concentrate on Teaching Through Parables.

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[1] Micah 7:6

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 49

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 13

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 12:35.

You Must Be Ready

Yeshua encourages His talmidim to remain faithful to Him and ready for His return.

35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit, 36 like people waiting for their master’s return after a wedding feast; so that when he comes and knocks, they will open the door for him without delay.

It possibly alludes to the sumptuous meal that was expected to accompany the start of the era inaugurated by the Messiah (see Rev 19:6–9; compare Luke 14:15; 22:29–30; Isa 25:6–8; 55:1–2).

37 Happy the slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes! Yes! I tell you, he will put on his work clothes, seat them at the table, and come serve them Himself!

Come serve them Himself describes the master serving his slaves – an unusual role reversal (compare Luke 13:30; John 13:1–20).

38 Whether it is late at night or early in the morning if this is how He finds them, those slaves are happy. 39 “But notice this: no house-owner would let his house be broken into if he knew when the thief was coming. 40 You too, be ready! For the Son of Man will come when you are not expecting Him.”

This is a reference to Yeshua’s return (compare Luke 9:26). The title Son of Man is associated with divine judgment on the Day of the Lord (see Mattityahu 8:20).

Exhortation to Watchfulness

Kefa asks Yeshua to clarify whether His remarks about the master’s return are addressed to the entire crowd or only to the Twelve.

41 Kefa said, “Sir, are you telling this parable for our benefit only or for everyone’s?” 42 The Lord replied, “Who is the faithful and sensible manager whose master puts him in charge of the household staff to give them their share of food at the proper time?

Yeshua responds to Kefa’s question with a parable hinting at the role the Emissaries will play after His ascension (compare Acts 1:8; 20:28).

43 It will go well with that servant if he is found doing his job when his master comes. 44 Yes, I tell you, he will put him in charge of all he owns. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking His time coming,’ and starts bullying the men- and women-servants, and eating and drinking, getting drunk,

They were perhaps anticipating a lengthy interval before Yeshua’s return.

46 then his master will come on a day when the servant isn’t expecting him, at a time he doesn’t know in advance; his master will cut him in two and put him with the disloyal. 47 Now, the servant who knew what his master wanted but didn’t prepare or act according to his will, will be whipped with many lashes; 48 however, the one who did what deserves a beating, but didn’t know, will receive few lashes. From him who has been given much, much will be demanded—from someone to whom people entrust much, they ask still more. ~ Luke 12-35-48

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke 12:49.

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The Red Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 48

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 12

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 12:13.

Foolish Rich Man

No passage could be more to the point for modern man than these verses about the nature, origin, and cure for greed.

13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Rabbi, tell my brother to share with me the property we inherited.” 14 But Yeshua answered him, “My friend, who appointed me judge or arbitrator over you?”

Rabbi, tell my brother… Traditionally, a Rabbi was not a clergyman but a teacher of Jewish values and customs. Consequently, an authoritative judge or arbitrator would decide points of law and ethics central to people’s lives. Yeshua rejects that role to probe the attitude motivating His questioner while implicitly rejecting his request

15 Then to the people he said, “Be careful to guard against all forms of greed, because even if someone is rich, his life does not consist in what he owns.” 16 And He gave them this illustration: “There was a man whose land was very productive. 17 He debated with himself, ‘What should I do? I haven’t enough room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and I’ll store all my wheat and other goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You’re a lucky man! You have a big supply of goods laid up that will last many years. Start taking it easy! Eat! Drink! Enjoy yourself!” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night you will die! And the things you prepared—whose will they be?’ 21 That’s how it is with anyone who stores up wealth for himself without being rich toward God.”  ~Luke 12:13-21

Yeshua addresses His remarks to the people. Apparently, Yeshua regards the questioner’s attitude as typical.

Trusting God’s Providence

Luke appropriately connects Yeshua’s parable about greed (vv. 13-21) with His teaching on anxiety over material provisions (vv. 22-34). The parable, it seems, is directed toward the rich, whereas this section addresses the impoverished. The point is that material possessions can overcome the faith of those who have much and those who have little – both types of people need to seek God and trust Him with the outcome.

22 To his talmidim Yeshua said, “Because of this I tell you, don’t worry about your life—what you will eat or drink; or about your body—what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Think about the ravens! They neither plant nor harvest, they have neither storerooms nor barns, yet God feeds them. You are worth much more than the birds!

To his talmidim, He goes into the matter more deeply, as was His practice (see Mattityahu 13:10-17). He identifies fear as the source of greed (v.22). One way to relieve anxiety over material matters is by seeking God’s Kingdom (v. 31) and its eternal riches. This is accomplished through doing tzedakah (literally, “doing righteousness,” but understood as “giving to charity”), that is, by not being selfish but sharing the wealth (v.33). Yeshua is not against having wealth but against making wealth the be-all and end-all of life (vv. 21, 31, 34).

25 Can any of you by worrying add an hour to his life? 26 If you can’t do a little thing like that, why worry about the rest? 27 Think about the wild irises, and how they grow. They neither work nor spin thread; yet, I tell you, not even Shlomo in all his glory was clothed as beautifully as one of these. 28 If this is how God clothes grass, which is alive in the field today and thrown in the oven tomorrow, how much more will he clothe you! What little trust you have! 29 “In other words, don’t strive after what you will eat and what you will drink—don’t be anxious. 30 For all the pagan nations in the world set their hearts on these things. Your Father knows that you need them too. 31 Rather, seek his Kingdom; and these things will be given to you as well. 32 Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has resolved to give you the Kingdom! 33 Sell what you own and do tzedakah—make for yourselves purses that don’t wear out, riches in heaven that never fail, where no burglar comes near, where no moth destroys. 34 For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also. ~ Luke 12:22-34

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke12:35.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 47

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 11

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 12:1.

Warning Against Hypocrisy

Meanwhile, as a crowd in the tens of thousands gathered so closely as to trample each other down, Yeshua began to say to His talmidim first, “Guard yourselves from the hametz (leaven)of the P’rushim, by which I mean their hypocrisy. There is nothing covered up that will not be uncovered or hidden that will not become known. What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. ~ Luke 12:1-3

Yeshua refers to the P’rushim hidden sins, which will be exposed at the Final Judgment. (compare Rev. 20:11–15).

Fearing God, Not Man

“My friends, I tell you: don’t fear those who kill the body but then have nothing more they can do. I will show you whom to fear: fear him who, after killing you, has authority to throw you into Gei-Hinnom! (Hell)Yes, I tell you, this is the one to fear! Aren’t sparrows sold for next to nothing, five for two assarions? (The assarion was the smallest Roman coin.) And not one of them has been forgotten by God. Why, every hair on your head has been counted! Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Moreover, I tell you, whoever acknowledges me in the presence of others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before God’s angels. 10 Also, everyone who says something against the Son of Man will have it forgiven him, but whoever has blasphemed the Ruach HaKodesh will not be forgiven.

Luke is the only writer who places all this material in one passage (compare Mattityahu 10:32–33, 12:31–32; Mark 3:28–29 corresponds to v. 10 only). In counseling His followers against fear generally (vv. 4–7), Yeshua encourages them not to be afraid to acknowledge their faith publicly. One need not be a behavioristic psychologist to understand His means: reward (v. 8) and punishment (v. 9). Verse 10 explains what v. 9 means by “disowning Yeshua: a person unenlightened by the working of the Ruach in him may say something against the Son of Man, but he will have it forgiven him because he doesn’t really grasp the full import of his words. But if the Ruach has caused genuine knowledge of Yeshua to enter his spirit, then in speaking against Yeshua, he may well be blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh.

What conclusions are to be drawn? On the one hand, Believers in Yeshua should note that non-Believers may “say something against the Son of Man” without incurring God’s wrath because they are “unaware of what they are doing” (Acts 3:17; also Luke 23:34) since the Ruach has not brought the significance home to them. Even now, the Good News about Yeshua has never been presented to thousands, if not millions of people in a way that made sense to them. Only when a person understands the Gospel in his mind, heart, and spirit yet still rejects it does he blaspheming the Ruach and risk eternal punishment. [1]

11 “When they bring you before the synagogues and the ruling powers and the authorities, don’t worry about how you will defend yourself or what you will say; 12 because when the time comes, the Ruach HaKodesh will teach you what you need to say.” ~ Luke 12:4-12

The ruling powers and the authorities include both Jewish and Gentile (in this case, Roman) tribunals. Yeshua continues to comfort believers concerning fear: they need not be anxious about committing the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Ruach when under investigation by hostile officialdom because the Ruach Himself will provide the words they need glorify God in such dire moments. [2]

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke 12:13. We will continue in Luke until we finish the topic of The Ministry Continues.

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[1] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary: A Companion Volume to the Jewish New Testament,.

[2] Ibid.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 46

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 10

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 11:44.

Lawyers Condemned

Recall how we ended up in our last post with Yeshua’s first set of Woes: Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.  ~ Luke 11:44. We pick up the second set of Woes. The second set of Woes (vv. 46–52) is directed at lawyers (experts in the law, another expression for scribes of the P’rushim (see Mark 2:16; Luke 11:53; and Mattityahu 23:2).

45 One of the experts in Torah answered Him,“Rabbi, by saying these things, you are insulting us also.” 46 Yeshua said, “Woe to you Torah experts too! You load people down with burdens they can hardly bear, and you won’t lift a finger to help them!

The first Woe involves the lawyers load people down with burdens by interpreting the Torah, considering their extra-biblical traditions, and making it hard to bear. Worse still, they won’t lift a finger to help them! i.e., they make no effort to help people keep these laws.

47 “Woe to you! You build tombs in memory of the prophets, but your fathers murdered them! 48 Thus, you testify that you completely approve of what your fathers did – they did the killing, you do the building! 49 Therefore the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and emissaries; they will kill some and persecute others’; 50 so that on this generation will fall the responsibility for all the prophets’ blood that has been shed since the world was established, 51 from the blood of Hevel to the blood of Z’kharyah, who was killed between the altar and the Holy Place. Yes, I tell you, the responsibility for it will fall on this generation!

The second Woe involves the lawyers’ hypocrisy in building monuments to the prophets. However, their fathers murdered those same prophets, and they continue to kill and persecute them (v. 49). The unusual expression Wisdom of God probably means “God in His wisdom” or “God, speaking to express His wisdom.From the blood of Hevel (Abel in Genesis 4) to the blood of Z’kharyah (2 Chron. 24:20–22), i.e., from the beginning of the first book to the end of the last book in the Hebrew Bible.[1]

52 “Woe to you Torah experts! For you have taken away the key of knowledge! Not only did you yourselves not go in, you also have stopped those who were trying to enter! 53 As Yeshua left that place, the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim began to oppose Him bitterly and to provoke Him to express His views on all sorts of subjects, 54 laying traps to catch Him in something He might say. ~ Luke 11:45-54

The last Woe condemns the Torah experts (lawyers) for their interpretations of Scripture that deprive the people of the key of knowledge needed to understand God’s plan of salvation. Not only do they refuse to enter into God’s plan and be saved, but their distorted interpretations keep others from truly knowing God. The Torah experts and the P’rushim began to oppose him bitterly and to provoke him to express his views on all sorts of subjects describes a continual attempt to ambush Yeshua as they tried to lay traps to catch him in something he might say.

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke 12:1. We will continue in Luke until we finish the topic of The Ministry Continues.

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[1] The Hebrew Scriptures place 1 & 2 Chronicles at the end of their canon.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 45

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 9

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 11:33-36.

The Light in You

Yeshua uses the imagery of light and darkness to teach about the Kingdom of God.

33 “No one who has kindled a lamp hides it or places it under a bowl; rather, he puts it on a stand so that those coming in may see its light. 34 The lamp of your body is the eye. When you have a ‘good eye,’ [that is when you are generous,] your whole body is full of light; but when you have an ‘evil eye,’ [when you are stingy,] your body is full of darkness. 35 So take care that the light in you is not darkness! 36 If, then, your whole body is filled with light, with no part dark, it will be wholly lighted, as when a brightly lit lamp shines on you.”  ~ Luke 11:33-36

The lamp of your body is a different metaphor from the one in v. 33. There the lamp speaks of the Word of God; here, the eye is the “lamp” – i.e., the source of light – for the body. Light and darkness are often used as metaphors for spiritual conditions. When you have an ‘evil eye,’ the problem is perception, not a lack of light. They did not need a sign; they needed hearts to believe the incredible display of divine power they had already seen.

Hypocrisy Condemned

37 As Yeshua spoke, a Parush asked Him to eat dinner with him; so He went in and took His place at the table; 38 and the Parush was surprised that He didn’t begin by doing n’tilat yadayim [1] before the meal. 39 However, the Lord said to him, “Now then, you P’rushim, you clean the outside of the cup and plate; but inside, you are full of robbery and wickedness.

You clean the outside of the cup and plate. Yeshua contrasts external purity (proper behavior) with internal cleansing (transformation of the heart).

40 Fools! Didn’t the One who made the outside make the inside too? 41 Rather, give as alms what is inside, and then everything will be clean for you! 42 “But woe to you, P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You have an obligation to do these things—but without disregarding the others!

Mint and rue and every garden herb as examples of tithing illustrate the P’rushim meticulous attention to the minor details of the law of Moses. You ignore justice, and the love of God echoes the two greatest commandments (Luke 10:27–28) and the teaching of the prophets (e.g., Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3; Zachariah 7:9–10; Micha 6:8).

43 “Woe to you, P’rushim, because you love the best seat in the synagogues and being greeted deferentially in the marketplaces! 44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”  ~ Luke 11:37-44

Unmarked graves are a metaphor for the Pharisees’ pious appearances, which disguised their inner wickedness (compare Luke 11:39). When graves were not appropriately marked, people could walk over them and potentially become ritually unclean.

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke 11:45. We will continue in Luke until we finish the topic of The Ministry Continues.

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[1] Ceremonial handwashing prescribed by the Oral Torah to be done before meals and at other times to be ritually pure; it continues to be a norm in Orthodox Judaism. (CJB)

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 44

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 8

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Mattityahu 12:46-50.

Yeshua’s Mother and Brothers

46 He was still speaking to the crowd when His mother and brothers appeared outside, asking to talk with Him.

Brothers. At Mattityahu 13:55, we are given their names. The Roman Catholic tradition is that these “brothers” were more distant relatives; hence their doctrine that Miryam remained a virgin throughout her lifetime. Hebrew ach (“brother”) can have a broader range of meanings than Greek adelphos, and this broader sense could be read from the Synoptic Gospels, which probably had Hebrew or Aramaic backgrounds. But the mention in Sha’ul’s letters, written in Greek for Greek-speakers, of Yeshua’s brothers suggests that the word was meant to have a narrower Greek meaning. Protestants take the word to refer to children born to Miryam after Yeshua’s birth; they would be half-brothers since their physical father, but not Yeshua’s, would have been Yosef. [1]

Yeshua’s earthly stepfather, Josef, is not mentioned in any of the Gospels after the trip to Yerushalayim when Yeshua was 12 (Luke 2:41–51). His absence might indicate that he had died.

47 [Some manuscripts include verse 47: Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, asking to talk with you.”] 48 But to the one who had informed Him, He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to His talmidim, He said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants, that person is my brother and sister and mother.”  ~ Mattityahu 12:46-50 (see also Luke 8:19-21 & Mark 3:31-35).

This is the first of several incidents in which some consider Yeshua’s treatment of His family disrespectful and cavalier, even though elsewhere He affirmed the fifth commandment to honor your father and mother and even disputed with the P’rushim about it (Matt. 15:4–6). Why did His family wish to see Him? We do not know for sure; we do know that His brothers had little understanding of His ministry (Yochanan 7:2–9) and that His mother, even though she had been given unique insight through the angel Gavri’el (Luke 1:26–56) and Shim‛on and Chanah (Luke 2:25–38), was at times puzzled by His actions (e.g., Lk 2:41–51), although upon being reminded by Him, she could summon up a measure of trust (Yochanan 2:3–5).

They may have wanted to bring Him food and supplies out of concern for His well-being, or, fearing the opposition, they may have wanted to stop or even seize Him (as His friends had wanted to, Mark 3:21). Under such circumstances, when busy ministering to a crowd and fielding opposition, Yeshua may have found it best to communicate that even though blood is thicker than water, spiritual family ties supersede physical ones. His remarks do not come from a lack of respect but from His desire to point to the Kingdom of God. Eventually, His relatives became members of His spiritual family. (Acts 1:14, Galatians 1:19). [2]

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke 11:33-36. We will continue in Luke until we finish the topic of The Ministry Continues.

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[1] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[2] Ibid.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 43

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 7

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Mattityahu 12:38-42. We will be interspersing quotes from Mattityahu, Luke, and Mark in this post. Thus, the footnotes for the citation.

The Sign of Yonah (Jonah)

Yeshua never cheapens Himself or dilutes His message for those whose interest in Him is casual or hostile, and nowhere is this more valid than when He predicts His own resurrection.

38 At this, some of the Torah-teachers said, “Rabbi, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” 39 He replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign? No! None will be given to it but the sign of the prophet Yonah. 40 For just as Yonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the depths of the earth.

Yonah was sent to prophesy to the non-Jews of Nineveh in Assyria. Adultery is widely used in Scripture as a metaphor for sin and unfaithfulness to God (e.g., Isaiah 57:3; Ezekiel 16:32; Hosea 1–3; James 4:4).

Three days and three nights in Jewish reckoning is inclusive, meaning no more than three days or the combination of any part of three separate days. Yeshua was raised “in three days,” although he was buried Friday afternoon and resurrected Sunday morning (i.e., part of Friday is day one, all of Saturday is day two, and part of Sunday is day three).

41 The people of Ninveh will stand up at the Judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they turned from their sins to God when Yonah preached, but what is here now is greater than Yonah.

In contrast to many of Yeshua’s contemporaries, the recipients of Yonah’s message – who were Assyrians, the enemy of God’s people – repented.

42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the Judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Shlomo, but what is here now is greater than Shlomo. [1]

Queen of the South, i.e., the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1–10, 2 Chronicles 9:1–12), also was not Jewish.

Return of an Unclean Spirit

Yeshua describes the evil and adulterous generation as a disembodied spirit who returns to its host with greater severity.

43 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it travels through dry country seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says to itself, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house standing empty, swept clean, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they come and live there—so that in the end, the person is worse off than he was before. This is how it will be for this wicked generation.” [2]

True Blessedness

27 As Yeshua was saying these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice to call out, “How blessed is the mother that gave birth to you and nursed you from her breast!”

Blessed is the mother that gave birth to you echoes of what Mariyam, the mother of Yeshua, has already articulated about her own role. As Yeshua moves toward His death, He states the inverse of the woman’s cry, pronouncing that someday those who are childless will be called blessed.

28 But he said, “Far more blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”[3]

True blessedness, according to Yeshua, is found in obedience to God’s revelation.

In our next post, we will pick up where we left off in Mattityahu 12:46-50.

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[1] Mattityahu 12:39–42 (see also Luke 11:29-32).
[2] Mattityahu 12:43–45 (see also Luke 11:24-28).
[3] Luke 11:27–28.