The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 19

Yeshua Discusses His Authority

We pick up our study where we left of in our last post. Yeshua continues to defend Himself against the false accusations of Judeans for healing on the Shabbat. Recall some eighteen years earlier when Yeshua stayed behind in Yerushalayim to listen to the Rabbis, everyone who heard him was astonished at His insight and responses ~ Luke 2:47.

30 I can’t do a thing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is right; because I don’t seek my own desire, but the desire of the one who sent me. 31 “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not valid.

Yeshua cites the Tanakh principle, central to later Jewish law (both that of the rabbis and that of the Dead Sea Scrolls), that two witnesses are necessary to prove a (capital) case ~ Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15.

After discounting His own witness (v. 31), Yeshua names five witnesses to who He is: Yochanan the Immerser (vv. 32–35), Yeshua’s works (v. 36), the Father (vv. 37–38), the Tanakh (v. 39) and Moshe (vv. 45–47).

32 But there is someone else testifying on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he is making is valid—33 you have sent to Yochanan, and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I collect human testimony; rather, I say these things so that you might be saved. 35 He was a lamp burning and shining, and for a little while, you were willing to bask in his light.

The hand-held oil lamps of the Herodian period were too small to give forth much light (they typically produced as much as a candle), and thus one would symbolize only a small reflection of his light.

36 “But I have a testimony that is greater than Yochanan’s. For the things the Father has given me to do, the very things I am doing now, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 “In addition, the Father who sent Me has Himself testified on my behalf. But you have never heard His voice or seen His shape; 38 moreover, His Word does not stay in you because you don’t trust the One He sent.

The Father who sent Me has Himself testified on My behalf. Compare Jeremiah 29:23, ‘“For I am the one who knows, and I am witness,’ says Adonai.” But these Judeans cannot receive the Father’s witness because His Word does not stay in them. This is due to their hard hearts that do not believe in God. The witness of the Father should be all that is necessary. Isra’el at Sinai supposedly saw His form and heard His voice and accepted His Word through His agent Moshe; Yeshua says that His own generation rejects the fuller revelation of God sent to them. Yeshua invites those who do not have the Word staying in them to search the Scriptures, just as the Jews of Berea later did (see Acts 17:11).

39 You keep examining the Tanakh because you think that in it, you have eternal life. Those very Scriptures bear witness to Me, 40 but you won’t come to Me in order to have life!

Scripture said, “Do this, and you will live,” which Jewish teachers read as: “Do this, and you will have life in the world to come.” Thus, they believed that one had eternal life through the Scriptures; but Yeshua says that the Scriptures witness about Him. Hence, to reject Him is to disobey the Scriptures.

41 “I don’t collect praise from men, 42 but I do know you people – I know that you have no love for God in you! 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you don’t accept Me; if someone else comes in his own name, him you will accept. 44 How can you trust? You’re busy collecting praise from each other instead of seeking praise from God only.

On the strength of what Yeshua has said, He now argues: (1) You do not have God’s love in you. (2) Instead, you seek honor from men and each other. (3) You refuse to come to Me (Yeshua) to have life because you prefer honor from each other and because you want to honor those who come in their own name, not in God’s name.

45 “But don’t think that it is I who will be your accuser before the Father. Do you know who will accuse you? Moshe, the very one you have counted on! 46 For if you really believed Moshe, you would believe me; because it was about me that he wrote. 47 But if you don’t believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” ~ Yochanan 5:30-47.

Yeshua saves for last the argument which would be the most meaningful to his hearers: Moshe wrote of Yeshua (see Lk 16:31, 24:44; Messianic Jews 11:26). Traditional Judaism denies this, but the early Messianic Jews often based their case for Yeshua’s Messiahship on Scripture passages, including those Moshe wrote, such as Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17, and Deuteronomy 18:15–18. Even within non-Messianic Judaism, all three refer to the Messiah. Therefore, says Yeshua, I don’t need to make a notable accusation because Moshe has done it already: if you don’t believe him, why would you believe me? (Compare Luke 16:31.)

Our next post will continue to examine the mounting opposition of the Jewish authorities when He Continues to Heal on the Shabbat.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 18

Resurrection and Life

16The Judeans began harassing Yeshua because He did these things on Shabbat. 17 But He answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I too am working.” 18 This answer made the Judeans all the more intent on killing Him – not only was He breaking Shabbat but also, by saying that God was His own Father, He was claiming equality with God.

My Father has been working on Shabbat since the beginning of time, and therefore I too am working on Shabbat. Here is an attractive alternative understanding: in the larger scheme of things, there is a Shabbat yet to come (Messianic Jews 4:9–11), so that the present era of history can be thought of as weekdays. The Talmud too recognizes this by dividing history into six 1,000–year “days” (Psalm 90:4 and see 2 Kefa 3:3–9), after which comes the Messianic millennium, the seventh “day” (Sanhedrin 97b). Since it is now still a 1,000–year “weekday,” even the Torah “permits” the Father and Yeshua to work, and they will continue working until the “day” comes that is entirely Shabbat. (But in what sense they will cease working then is not evident.)

Yeshua’s Judean opposition immediately perceived that by saying God was His own Father, He was claiming equality with God. Some Jews would like to reclaim Yeshua for the Jewish people by regarding him as a great teacher, which He was, but only human, not divine. Yeshua’s claim here makes that option impossible.

Yeshua’s words produced the first reported effort to kill Him. If He had been blaspheming God, as the Judeans thought, it would have been proper to be intent on killing Him, since “Anyone who blasphemes the name of Adonai shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:16. Yeshua’s healing and His claim to equality with Adonai occasioned His discourse in the rest of this chapter. [1]

19 Therefore, Yeshua said this to them: “Yes, indeed! I tell you that the Son cannot do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does, the Son does too.”

The Son cannot do anything on His own. Those who find Yeshua’s claim to divinity unpalatable are quick to point out that with these words, Yeshua seems to describe Himself in a way inconsistent with being divine. They say it is essential to God’s nature that He does everything on His own and is answerable only to Himself. But they miss the point, for Yeshua here is teaching something important about the inner nature of God, about how the Son and the Father relate to each other within the eternal unity of Adonai. Yeshua teaches that He is humanly capable of disobeying God and having His own contrary will (compare Mt 26:39).

For this reason, the divine Son “learned obedience” (MJ 5:8). He became utterly submissive to the Father’s will through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, who is with him “in unlimited measure” (3:34). Yeshua is not inferior to His Father: to submit and obey perfectly demonstrates one of God’s perfections; to will what is not God’s will is inferior to God.

What He sees the Father doing. Yeshua’s sight, whether spiritual only or physical, uniquely enables Him to perceive what His Father does and wants. Whatever the Father does, the Son does too. Yeshua is teaching that He has divine power. Specifically, He has the power to raise the dead (v. 21) and the authority to render divine judgment (v. 22).

20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He does, and He will show Him even greater things than these so that you will be amazed. 21 Just as the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, so too the Son makes alive anyone He wants. 22 The Father does not judge anyone but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,

The Father does not judge anyone; instead, He has given judgment over to His Son (v. 22 & 27). Yet the Tanakh tells us that God will one day judge all humanity, and if it is the Father who entrusts judgment to the Son, then the Father does, after all, have a role in judgment as to the delegator. All this follows that the Son is included in what is meant by “God.” This is one of the many ways Yochanan deals with the mystery and paradox of Yeshua’s simultaneous humanity and divinity.

23 so that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever fails to honor the Son is not honoring the Father who sent him.

Whoever fails to honor the Son is not honoring the Father who sent him. Compare Mt 22:33–46, 1 Yochanan 2:23, which also teaches against the idea that one can honor, worship, and believe in God without believing in Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God.

24 Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent Me has eternal life – that is, he will not come up for judgment but has already crossed over from death to life! 25 Yes, indeed! I tell you that there is coming a time – in fact, it’s already here – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will come to life. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given the Son life to have in Himself. 27 Also He has given Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be surprised at this; because the time is coming when all who are in the grave will hear His voice 29 and come out – those who have done good to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment. ~ Yochanan 5:16-29

The resurrection of life … resurrection of judgment are two kinds of deaths and resurrections; this is taught in the Tanakh at Daniel 12:2 and by Sha’ul at Romans 2:5–8. One is for those God considers righteous because they have done good. In the light of Yochanan 6:28–29 and Ephesians 2:8–10, this means they have trusted in Yeshua’s execution as atonement for their sin, been immersed into His death, risen to eternal life (Romans 6:3–11, 23), and been granted a share in the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4–6). The other is for those who have done evil, who have not trusted in Yeshua; they are subject to the “second death” (Rev. 20:12–15) (Compare Acts 24:15).

Our next post will continue to examine the mounting opposition of the Jewish authorities when Yeshua Discusses His Authority.

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[1] David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 17

A Question About Fasting

14 Next, Yochanan’s (this would be John the Baptist’s) talmidim came to Him and asked, “Why is it that we and the P’rushim fast frequently, but your talmidim don’t fast at all?” 15 Yeshua said to them, “Can wedding guests mourn while the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them; then they will fast. 16 No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunk cloth because the patch tears away from the coat and leaves a worse hole.

Verse sixteen and seventeen speak to the issue of whether faith in Yeshua the Messiah can be combined with Judaism. Here the old coat is Judaism. The unshrunk cloth is Messianic faith which has not been adapted (“shrunk”) to the framework of Judaism as currently practiced. Combining unadapted Messianic faith with traditional Judaism doesn’t work – the patch tears away from the coat; that is, faith in Yeshua apart from Judaism – and, later on in the case of Gentiles, faith in Yeshua apart from the foundational truths about God taught in the Tanakh – is useless and worthless. Not only that, but it leaves a worse hole – attempting to combine unadapted Messianic faith with traditional Judaism leaves Judaism worse off than before. The implication is that one must shrink the new cloth and adapt Messianic faith to Judaism – for Yeshua does not imply anything wrong with patching an old coat! The early Messianic Jews did adapt Messianic faith to Judaism, but the later Gentile Church did not. Instead, some forms of Gentile Christianity became paganized precisely because the Tanakh was forgotten or underemphasized. Messianic Jews today are once again trying to bring Brit Hadashah faith back to its Jewish roots. [1]

Nor do people put new wine in old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wine spills, and the wineskins are ruined. No, they pour new wine into freshly prepared wineskins, and in this way, both are preserved.” ~ Mattityahu 9:14-17 (compare Mark 2:18-22 & Luke 5:33-39)

Whereas in verse sixteen, Messianic faith has to be adapted to Judaism, Judaism must be adjusted to Messianic faith. If one tries to put new wine, Messianic faith, into old wineskins, traditional Judaism, the faith is lost, and Judaism ruined. But if Judaism is freshly prepared and reconditioned to accommodate trust in Yeshua HaMashiach, both the faith and the renewed Judaism, Messianic Judaism, are preserved.

Taken together, verses sixteen and seventeen imply that both Messianic faith and Judaism should adjust to each other. However, the accommodating must be faithful to God’s Word; on that; there is no room for compromise.[2]

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

After this, there was a Judean festival; and Yeshua went up to Yerushalayim.

The focus here is not on the Jewishness of the festival but on the fact that the Torah required all Jewish men to come to “the place Adonai your God shall choose” (Deuteronomy 16:16), which proved to be Yerushalayim in Y’hudah (Judea). Only in this verse is the festival not named. Chanukkah, a Jewish festival but not a pilgrim festival tied to Judea, is mentioned at 10:22 but is not called a Judean festival. [3]

In Yerushalayim, by the Sheep Gate, is a pool called in Aramaic, Beit-Zata, in which lay a crowd of invalids – blind, lame, crippled waiting for the water to move; 4 for at certain times an angel of Adonai went down into the pool and disturbed the water, and whoever stepped into the water first after it was disturbed was healed of whatever disease he had. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. Yeshua, seeing this man and knowing that he had been there a long time, said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered, “I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is disturbed, and while I’m trying to get there, someone goes in ahead of me.” Yeshua said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk!” Immediately, the man was healed, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was Shabbat, 10 so the Judeans said to the man who had been healed, “It’s Shabbat! It’s against Torah for you to carry your mat!” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me – He’s the one who told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 But the man who had been healed didn’t know who it was because Yeshua had slipped away into the crowd.

14 Afterwards, Yeshua found him in the Temple court and said to him, “See, you are well! Now stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you!”

Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you. While the disease is not invariably a consequence of sin, as Yeshua Himself affirms (9:3), it can be. Also, compare Mattityahu 12:43–45.

15 The man went off and told the Judeans it was Yeshua who had healed him; 16 and on account of this, the Judeans began harassing Yeshua because He did these things on Shabbat. ~ Yochanan 5:1-15

Our next post will continue to examine the mounting opposition of the Jewish authorities.

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[1] David Sterns, New Testament Commentary.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 16

Rise of Opposition

The confrontation we saw by the Scribes in our last post dealing with the healing of the paralytic was just the beginning. Declaring that He had the authority to forgive sins, Yeshua naturally arouse an immediate reaction from the Scribes and P’rushim. We pick up the story in Mark 2.

The Calling of Mattityahu

13 Yeshua went out again by the lake. All the crowd came to him, and he began teaching them. 14 As he passed on from there, he saw Levi Ben-Halfai sitting in his tax-collection booth and said to him, “Follow me!” And he got up and followed him. ~ Mark 2:13-14 (compare Matt. 9:9 and Luke 5:27-28)

I’ve always paused at the calling of Mattityahu (Levi). He is sitting in his tax collector’s booth. Yeshua passes by and says: “Follow me.” And Levi gets up as does just that. Why? There is no indication that he has heard Yeshua preach or seen Him heal. Did he even know what people saying about Him? I have learned from a couple of commentaries that Levi was the brother of Ya’akov (James) Ben-Halfai (Alphaeus) one of Yeshua’s Emissaries (Mark 3:18).

Jews who undertook to collect taxes for the Roman rulers were the most despised people in the Jewish community. Not only were they serving the oppressors, but they found it easy to abuse the system to line their own pockets by exploiting their fellow Jews.

Eating with Sinners

10 While Yeshua was in the house eating, many tax-collectors and sinners came and joined him and his talmidim at the meal. 11 When the P’rushim saw this, they said to his talmidim, “Why does your rabbi eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” 12 But Yeshua heard the question and answered, “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. 13 As for you, go and learn what this means: ‘I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifices.’ For I didn’t come to call the ‘righteous,’ but sinners!” ~ Mattityahu 9:10-13 (compare Mark 2:18-22 and Luke 5;29-32).

Sinners. This term came to be used by the P’rushim to refer to prostitutes, thieves, and others of low reputation whose sins were blatant and obvious, not the kind the establishment winked at. Yeshua taught that those who considered themselves not sinners but “righteous” (v. 13) were in fact worse because they made themselves unteachable (see also Yochanan 9:38–41).

Go and learn is a common formula used by rabbis to direct their followers toward a particular passage in the Scriptures. Yeshua’s use of this formula might be a subtle jab at the P’rushim, who are not His disciples and represent the learned of Jewish society. Because they have failed to properly understand the spirit of the law, Yeshua treats these experts as beginners.

Our next post will continue to examine the mounting opposition of the Jewish authorities.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 15

Yeshua’s Healing Ministry

A Leper Cleansed

After Yeshua had come down from the hill, large crowds followed him. Then a man afflicted with tzara’at came, kneeled down in front of him, and said, “Sir, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Yeshua reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I am willing! Be cleansed!” And at once, he was cleansed from his tzara’at. Then Yeshua said to him, “See that you tell no one; but as a testimony to the people, go and let the cohen examine you, and offer the sacrifice that Moshe commanded.” ~ Mattityahu 8:1-4 (compare Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-16).

By the first century, Judaism had developed a list of significant signs the true Messiah could be expected to give as proof of his identity (see 16:1–4). Healing a leper was one of them. Another was casting out a deaf, dumb, and blind demon (12:22–23).

Tell no one. In the early part of His ministry, Yeshua did not publicize the fact that He was the Messiah because the people expected a Messiah who would liberate Isra’el from Rome and rule in glory, not one who would die a criminal’s death. Had He been publicly identified as the Messiah, the people would have tried to make Him king then and there, as they did soon after (Yochanan 6:15). Yeshua’s ruling in glory would not have fulfilled Isaiah 53’s prophecy of a Messiah who must suffer and die had the attempt succeeded. Only at His Second Coming will Yeshua fulfill the prophecies concerning the Messianic Age of world peace. [1]

A Paralytic Healed

After a while, Yeshua returned to K’far-Nachum. The word spread that He was back, and so many people gathered around the house that there was no longer any room, not even in front of the door. While He was preaching the message to them, four men came to Him carrying a paralyzed man. They could not get near Yeshua because of the crowd, so they stripped the roof over the place where He was, made an opening, and lowered the stretcher with the paralytic lying on it. Seeing their trust, Yeshua said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” ~ Mark 2:1-5 (compare Mattityahu 2:1-2 and Luke 5:17-20).

Most buildings in ancient Isra’el had flat roofs made of a mixture of clay and brush, reinforced by wooden beams.

This is a great story to utilize Pastor Rick Warren’s “Picture It” method of Bible Study. Essentially, you place yourself in the story as one of the characters and see the story through their eyes. I always picture myself as the house owner, wanting to know who is going to repair my roof? 😊

People in ancient Isra’el commonly saw a relationship between sin and sickness. Although Mattityahu does not explicitly state this connection, it could explain why Yeshua begins by announcing forgiveness for the paralytic.

Scribes Question His Authority

On seeing this, some of the Torah-teachers said among themselves, “This man is blaspheming!” Yeshua, knowing what they were thinking, said, “Why are you entertaining evil thoughts in your hearts? Tell me, which is easier to say – ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? But look! I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He then said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your mattress, and go home!” And the man got up and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck and said a b’rakhah (blessing) to God the Giver of such authority to human beings. ~ Mattityahu 9:3-8

Our next post will begin to examine the Rise of Opposition.

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[1] Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 14

Admittedly, this post contains more background information than Red-Letter Words, but I think the background is too necessary not to include it.

Yeshua Drives Out an Unclean Spirit

21 They entered K’far-Nachum, and on Shabbat, Yeshua went into the synagogue and began teaching. 22 They were amazed at the way he taught, for he did not instruct them like the Torah-teachers but as one who had authority Himself.

Torah-teachers (scribes) were not ordained as rabbis; and, therefore, could not introduce new interpretations or make legal judgments. Therefore, the people were amazed: Yeshua taught like a rabbi and not like a scribe. This was one level of amazement.

The second level of amazement was that He taught as one who had authority himself. No rabbi taught or judged against the judgment of his own rabbi. But Yeshua, who had no rabbi of His own, appeared to have authority beyond that of any of the rabbis (vv. 23–27). By Yeshua’s own testimony throughout Yochanan 5–9, and summarized finally at Yochanan 12:44–50, His authority came directly from His Father, God.

Finally, in Mark 2:10, Yeshua claims, uniquely, that He has the authority to forgive sins. This is the highest authority given to human beings (Matt. 9:8), and people were amazed at this too (2:12).

23 In their synagogue just then was a man with an unclean spirit in him, who shouted, 24 “What do you want with us, Yeshua from Natzeret? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”

Mark emphasizes the demons’ recognition of Yeshua as the one God has set apart for a purpose. This highlights human ignorance of who Yeshua is and how fearful evil powers were of Him.

25 But Yeshua rebuked the unclean spirit, “Be quiet and come out of him!” 26 Throwing the man into a convulsion, it gave a loud shriek and came out of him. 27 They were all so astounded that they began asking each other, “What is this? A new teaching, one with authority behind it! He gives orders even to the unclean spirits, and they obey him!” 28 And the news about him spread quickly through the whole region of the Galil. ~ Mark 1:21-28 (compare Luke 4:31-37).

Yeshua’s inaugural exorcism sets off a chain reaction, as those who hear the good news respond to it.

Healing Others in Capernaum

29 They left the synagogue and went with Ya’akov and Yochanan to the home of Shim’on and Andrew. 30 Shim’on’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever, and they told Yeshua about her. 31 He came, took her by the hand, and lifted her onto her feet. The fever left her, and she began helping them. 32 That evening after sundown, they brought to Yeshua all who were ill or held in the power of demons, 33 and the whole town came crowding around the door. 34 He healed many who were ill with various diseases and expelled many demons, but he did not allow the demons to speak because they knew who he was. ~ Mark 1:29-34 (compare Matt. 8:14-17 and Luke 4:38-41)

Yeshua Goes Out to Pray

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Yeshua got up, left, went away to a lonely spot, and stayed there praying. 36 But Shim’on and those with him went after him; 37 and when they found him, they said, “Everybody is looking for you.” 38 He answered, “Let’s go somewhere else – to the other villages around here. I have to proclaim the message there too – in fact, this is why I came out.” 39 So he traveled all through the Galil, preaching in their synagogues and expelling demons. ~ Mark 1:35-39

Our next post will examine Yeshua’s Healing Ministry and the Scribes Question His Authority.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 13

Great Catch of Fish

One day, as Yeshua was standing on the shore of Lake Kinneret, with the people pressing in around Him in order to hear the word of God, He noticed two boats pulled up on the beach, left there by the fishermen, who were cleaning their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Shim’on, and asked him to put out a little way from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.

The shore of the lake functioned acoustically like an amphitheater; withdrawing a little from the crowd and addressing them from the boat thus would have made Yeshua much easier to hear.

 When He had finished speaking, He said to Shim’on, “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.” Shim’on answered, “We’ve worked hard all night long, Rabbi, and haven’t caught a thing! But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” They did this and took in so many fish that their nets began to tear. So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats to the point of sinking.

They motioned to their partners…the group likely includes Andrew, Kefa’s brother, since they fished together; this may also be a parallel, expanded account of Yeshua’s calling of these talmidim recorded in Mattityahu’s Gospel (see below). Luke likely leaves Andrew unnamed because this episode aims to record the calling of Yeshua’s three most influential talmidim.

When he saw this, Shim’on Kefa fell at Yeshua’s knees and said, “Get away from me, sir, because I’m a sinner!” For astonishment had seized him and everyone with him at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and likewise both Ya’akov and Yochanan, Shim’on’s partners. ~ Luke 5:1-10a

In verses 3–5, Luke called him merely Shim’on, but in verse 8, he pointedly notes that Shim’on Kefa (Simon the Rock) fell at Yeshua’s knees.

The Calling of Shim’on, Ya’akov, Yochanan, and Andrew

“Don’t be frightened,” Yeshua said to Shim’on, “from now on, you will be catching men—alive!”11 And as soon as they had beached their boats, they left everything behind and followed him. ~ Luke 5;10b-11 18 As Yeshua walked by Lake Kinneret, He saw two brothers who were fishermen – Shim’on, known as Kefa, and his brother Andrew – throwing their net into the lake.

Lake Kinneret is the name used in Isra’el for the body of freshwater formed by the River Yarden (Jordan) in the Galil (Galilee); it is so-called because it is shaped like a harp. English versions of the Bible identify it as the Sea of Galilee; at Yochanan 6:1, 23, and 21:1, the Greek text calls it the Sea of Tiberias.

Kefa is the name Yeshua gave Shim’on Bar-Yochanan (Yochanan 1:42); it means “rock” in Aramaic. The Greek word for “rock” is “Petros,” which is usually brought into English as Peter.

19 Yeshua said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers for men!” 2At once they left their nets and went with him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers – Ya’akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan his brother – in the boat with their father Zavdai, repairing their nets; and he called them. 22 At once, they left the boat and their father and went with Yeshua. ~ Matthew 4:18-22 (compare Mark 1:16-20) [emphasis added]

One of the things that has always fascinated me is Yeshua’s charisma in calling His talmidim. He spoke, and they followed. The Faithlife Study Bible explains it this way: Capernaum was small, and Yeshua had been preaching the coming of the kingdom of heaven (compare v. 17). The two brothers, Kefa and Andrew, had probably already heard of Yeshua. Ya’akov and Yochanan were associated with Andrew and Shim’on Kefa. They were likely also familiar with Yeshua. [1]

There’s an important principle here. If you’re not fishing, you’re not following. If your Messianic life does not involve evangelizing the lost, you’re not functioning like the talmid Yeshua intends you to be. Evangelism includes sharing the gospel and intentionally seeking to convert the hearer to faith in Yeshua HaMashiach.

Our next post will examine Yeshua Driving Out an Unclean Spirit and Healing Others in Capernaum.

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[1] Faithlife Study Bible. Lexham Press.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 12

Yeshua Rejected in Natzeret

16 Now when He went to Natzeret, where He had been brought up, on Shabbat He went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read, 17 and He was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha‘yahu. Unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written (emphasis added)

He went to the synagogue as usual, like any good Jew. He stood up to read publicly from a scroll. The custom in the synagogue now is to read through the Torah each year, with portions of several chapters read on Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat mornings, ending and beginning over again on Simchat-Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah”), which comes at the end of Sukkot (September 29th this year). At an earlier stage in Jewish history, three years were taken to read through the Torah.

There is a second reading called the haftarah (“conclusion”); it consists of portions from the Prophets and Writings related to the Parashat-hashavua’ (“[Torah] portion for the week”). While there is uncertainty over exactly what the first-century customs were, it seems clear that if Yeshua was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha‛yahu, He was being offered the haftarah reading. Since there is uncertainty about the practices of the time, it is not clear whether he found the place set by the lectionary for that Shabbat, or the place He himself chose, or the place where the scroll happened to open.

18 “The Spirit of Adonai is upon me
because He has anointed me
to announce Good News to the poor;
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned
and renewed sight for the blind,

to release those who have been crushed,
19 to proclaim a year of the favor of Adonai.

20 After closing the scroll and returning it to the shammash, He sat down, and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He started to speak to them: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” 22 Everyone was speaking well of Him and marveling that such appealing words were coming from His mouth. They were even asking, “Can this be Yosef’s son?”

Verses 18–19 quotes Isaiah 61:1–2a but do not include the immediately following words, “ … and the day of vengeance of our God.” Although usually, a citation of Scripture implies the surrounding context, here Yeshua may have stopped short so that he could say, Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh (up to but not including the “day of vengeance”) was fulfilled.

STOP!!!

Take a few moments to digest what He just said: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” Remember the setting. He was early in His ministry and speaking to His family and neighbors. No wonder C.S. Lewis opined that Yeshua was either a liar, lunatic, or the Lord.

For at His first coming, He healed and brought Good News of the Kingdom and salvation (Mt 4:17); it was not His time to take vengeance or judge (Yochanan 8:15, 12:47).

Shammash in Hebrew or shammes in Yiddish. A synagogue attendant or caretaker, the “servant” of the congregation (the word literally means). The Greek word here is upêretês (“attendant, servant”).

23 Then Yeshua said to them, “No doubt you will quote to me this proverb: “Doctor, cure yourself!” We’ve heard about all the things that have been going on over in K’far-Nachum; now do them here in your hometown!’ 24 Yes!” He said, “I tell you that no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 It’s true, I’m telling you – when Eliyahu was in Isra’el, and the sky was sealed off for three-and-a-half years, so that all the Land suffered a severe famine, there were many widows; 26 but Eliyahu was sent to none of them, only to a widow in Tzarfat in the Land of Tzidon. 27 Also, there were many people with tzara’at in Isra’el during the time of the prophet Elisha; but not one of them was healed, only Na‘aman the Syrian.”

28 On hearing this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with fury. 29 They rose up, drove him out of town, and dragged him to the edge of the cliff on which their town was built, intending to throw him off. 30 But he walked right through the middle of the crowd and went away. ~ Luke 4: 16-30

Everyone was filled with fury since Yeshua was implying that God’s grace would be withheld from them and given to the Gentiles. They drove him out of town and intended to kill Him by tossing Him off a cliff (4:29). Yet, He miraculously escaped what would have been a premature death (4:30). It was not yet His time. His death would be at the time and place of His choosing.

Our next post will examine a Great Catch of Fish and the calling of Shim’on, Ya’akov, Yochanan, and Andrew.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 11

Yeshua Begins His Galilean Ministry

Yeshua had spent two days with the Samaritans, and many had become Believers because of His words before He returned to Galilee.

But when He arrived in the Galil, the people there welcomed Him because they had seen all He had done at the festival in Yerushalayim since they had been there too. 46 He went again to Kanah in the Galil, where He had turned the water into wine. An officer in the royal service was there; His son was ill in K’far-Nachum (Capernaum).

The Greek term used here could denote a member of the royal family of Herod, but it more likely refers to a Roman official serving Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, on behalf of Rome.

47 This man, on hearing that Yeshua had come from Y’hudah to the Galil, went and asked Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Yeshua answered, “Unless you people see signs and miracles, you simply will not trust!” 49 The officer said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Yeshua replied, “You may go; your son is alive.” The man believed what Yeshua said and left.

The boy’s healing is connected to the father’s belief in Yeshua’s ability to heal.

51 As he was going down, his servants met him with the news that his son was alive 52 So he asked them at what time he had gotten better; and they said, “The fever left him yesterday at one o’clock in the afternoon.” 53 The father knew that that was the very hour when Yeshua had told him, “Your son is alive,” and he and all his household trusted. 54 This was a second sign that Yeshua did; He did it after He had come from Y’hudah into the Galil. ~ Yochanan 4:45-55

We will be shifting our focus away from Yochanan for several posts and looking at the other Gospel accounts of Yeshua’s ministry. We will learn that Yeshua does not come as a religious leader in the traditional sense. Instead, He takes His ministry to the city streets and country roads, homes and fields, and wherever else the ordinary people might be found. He is particularly fond of attending the Jewish Synagogues, where the commoner is permitted to discuss the meaning of the Scriptures.

Coming of the Kingdom Preached

Yeshua takes His ministry primarily to the Galil. He was using the city of K’far-Nachum as His base of operation. Mattityahu begins his account of that portion of Yeshua’s ministry by quoting from Yeshayahu (Isaiah).

12When Yeshua heard that Yochanan had been put in prison, he returned to the Galil; 13 but he left Natzeret and came to live in K’far-Nachum, a lakeshore town near the boundary between Z’vulun and Naftali. 14 This happened in order to fulfill what Yeshayahu the prophet had said,

15 “Land of Z’vulun and land of Naftali, toward the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the region, in the shadow of death, light has dawned.” [1]

17 From that time on, Yeshua began proclaiming, “Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” [2] 14 Reports about Him spread throughout the countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone respected Him. [3]

Our next post will examine Yeshua Rejected in Natzeret.

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[1] Yeshayahu 8:23-9:1.

[2] Mat., 4:12–17.

[3] Luke 4:14–15).

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 10

Yeshua Meets the Women at the Well ~ Part 3

We conclude the story of Yeshua’s ministry in Shomron.

27 Just then, His talmidim arrived. They were amazed that He was talking with a woman, but none of them said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

It would have been unusual for a rabbi (like Yeshua) or any Jewish man to converse publicly with a woman. Jewish teaching warned against spending too much time talking with women because of temptation and the appearance of impropriety. Through this interaction, Yeshua is showing care for the lowliest of people in the eyes of Jews.

28 So the woman left her water-jar, went back to the town and said to the people there, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could it be that this is the Messiah?” 

The woman’s question implies hesitation and doubt. The Greek text indicates that a negative response is expected: “This cannot be the Messiah, can it?”

30 They left the town and began coming toward Him. 31 Meanwhile, the talmidim were urging Yeshua, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But He answered, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

Just as with the Samaritan woman and the metaphor of living water, Yeshua uses tangible physical things to teach intangible spiritual truths.

33 At this, the talmidim asked one another, “Could someone have brought Him food?” 34 Yeshua said to them, “My food is to do what the one who sent me wants and to bring His work to completion. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest’? Well, what I say to you is: open your eyes and look at the fields! They’re already ripe for harvest!

Harvest imagery has overtones of end-time abundance (compare Joel 2:18–27). Yeshua draws on a common proverb about a lack of urgency to emphasize the immediacy of His work. (See Matthew 9:37–38).

36 The one who reaps receives his wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the reaper and the sower may be glad together –

The sowing was the expectation of the prophet laid out in Deuteronomy 18:18. The reaping will be the belief of the Samaritans. Yeshua emphasizes that it’s not always the one who first tells someone about salvation (as the prophets had done for the Samaritans) who brings them to believe, but often it’s those who come later. No matter who reaps, God alone deserves the credit.

37 for in this matter, the proverb, ‘One sows and another reaps,’ holds true. 38 I sent you to reap what you haven’t worked for. Others have done the hard labor, and you have benefited from their work…” 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. ~ Yochanan 4:27-43

Our next post will begin to examine that Yeshua’s Great Galilean Ministry.

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