The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 132

Passion Week ~ Sunday (continued)

In our last post, we examined the final days of Yeshua’s life and ministry. In this post, we walk with Yeshua as He returns to Yerushalayim for the final time.

Yeshua Enters Yerushalayim

33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34, and they said, “Because the Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Yeshua, and, throwing their robes on the colt, they put Yeshua on it. 36 As he went along, people carpeted the road with their clothing; 37 and as he came near Yerushalayim, where the road descends from the Mount of Olives, the entire band of talmidim began to sing and praise God at the top of their voices for all the powerful works they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the King who is coming in the name of Adonai!” [1]
“Shalom in heaven!” and “Glory in the highest places!”

39 Some of the P’rushim in the crowd said to him, “Rabbi! Reprimand your talmidim!” 40 But he answered them, “I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones will shout!” [2] 8 Many people carpeted the road with their clothing, while others spread out green branches which they had cut in the fields. [3]

Carpeting the road with their clothing was a public declaration of political allegiance (compare 2 Kings 9:13). Yeshua enters Yerushalayim as its king, and the people accept Him as such.

Yeshua Foresees Destruction

41 When Yeshua had come closer and could see the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for shalom! But for now, it is hidden from your sight. 43 For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will set up a barricade around you, encircle you, hem you in on every side,

This mode of punishment for Yerushalayim is spoken of in Isaiah 29:3, Jeremiah 6:6, and Ezekiel 4:2. The very explicit prophecy of this and the following verse was fulfilled in the Roman conquest of Yerushalayim, 66–70 CE.

44 and dash you to the ground, you and your children within your walls, leaving not one stone standing on another—and all because you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it![4]

Yeshua’s Popularity Recognized

10 When He entered Yerushalayim, the whole city was stirred. “Who is this?” they asked. 11 And the crowds answered, “This is Yeshua, the prophet from Natzeret in the Galil.” [5] 17 The group that had been with Him when he called El’azar out of the tomb and raised Him from the dead had been telling about it. 18 It was because of this, too, that the crowd came out to meet Him – they had heard that He had performed this miracle. 19 The P’rushim said to each other, “Look, you’re getting nowhere! Why the whole world has gone after Him!” [6]

Yeshua Returns to Beit-Anyah

11 Yeshua entered Yerushalayim, went into the Temple courts, and took a good look at everything, but since it was now late, He went out with the Twelve to Beit-Anyah. [7]

In our next, we continue to follow Yeshua into Yerushalayim for His Crucifixion by the end of the week.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Psalm 118:26.
[2] Luke 19:33–40.
[3] Mark 11:8.
[4] Luke 19:41–44.
[5] Mattityahu 21:10–11.
[6] Yochanan 12:17–19.
[7] Mark 11:11.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 131

Passion Week ~ Sunday

In our last post, we examined the final days of Yeshua’s life and ministry. In this post, we walk with Yeshua as He returns to Yerushalayim for the final time.


It is now late March, and Pesach is near. The time has come for Yeshua to be delivered up as our Pesach Lamb. Both Pesach and Hag HaMatzah (Feast of Unleavened Bread) are tied to the remembrance of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The principal Scriptural reference for Pesach is in B’midbar (Exodus) 12:1-13 and Hag HaMatzah in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:5-8. Yeshua is about to be slain for the salvation of all who would recognize and accept the power in His blood.

Even as He approached Yerushalayim, His enemies were plotting His death. Riding on a lowly colt, Yeshua is met by multitudes who shout praise to God for having sent this “great prophet” in whom they now believe. He knows that most of them still do not understand the true nature of His messiahship and deity. He is now given the most incredible welcome of His ministry. His enemies now let Him have His day of glory. [1]

12 The next day, the large crowd that had come for the festival heard that Yeshua was on His way into Yerushalayim. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting,

“Deliver us!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai, the King of Isra’el!”  [2]

29 As he approached Beit-Pagei and Beit-Anyah, by the Mount of Olives, He sent two talmidim, 30 instructing them, “Go into the village ahead; on entering it, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks why you are untying it, tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.'” [3]

This happened in order to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet,

“Say to the daughter of Tziyon,
‘Look! Your King is coming to you,
riding humbly on a donkey
and on a colt, the offspring of a beast of burden!'” [4]

16 His talmidim did not understand this at first, but after Yeshua had been glorified, then they remembered that the Tanakh said this about Him and that they had done this for Him. [5]

They went off and found a colt in the street tied in a doorway, and they untied it. The bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They gave the answer Yeshua had told them to give, and they let them continue. They brought the colt to Yeshua and threw their robes on it, and he sat on it. [6]

In our next, we follow Yeshua into Yerushalayim for His Crucifixion by the end of the week.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1]  F. LaGard Smith, The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order.
[2]  Yochanan 12:12–13.
[3]  Luke 19:29–31.
[4]  Mattityahu 21:4–5 (quoting Zechariah 9.:9).
[5]  Yochanan 12:16.
[6]  Mark 11:4–7.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 90

In Yerushalayim for Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) ~ Part 4

In our last post, we learned that People Ask If Yeshua is the Messiah, and the P’rushim Seek to Arrest Him. In this post, we will learn about Spiritual Drinks and more.

Spiritual Drinks

37 Now, on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and drinking! 38 Whoever puts his trust in Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” 39 (Now He said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in Him were to receive later – the Spirit had not yet been given because Yeshua had not yet been glorified.)  [1]

On the festival’s last day, Hoshana Rabbah, literally, “on the last day, the great, of the festival.”. The seventh and last day of Sukkot was its climax. Throughout the seven days of the festival, a special cohen had carried water in a gold pitcher from the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam) to be poured into a basin at the foot of the altar by the Cohen HaGadol (the Great High Priest). It symbolized prayer for rain, which begins the next day on Sh’mini Atzeret. It also pointed toward the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) on the people of Isra’el.

It was in the midst of this water pouring, trumpet blasting, palm waving, psalm chanting, and ecstatic joy on the part of people seeking forgiveness – and in the presence of all 24 divisions of the priesthood (see Luke 1:5) – that Yeshua cried out in the Temple courts, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever trusts in me, as the Tanakh says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being! His dramatic cry, supported by the full display of Temple ritual, was not misunderstood as vv. 40 – 43 below make abundantly clear.

More Division Among the Jews

40 On hearing His words, some people in the crowd said, “Surely this man is ‘the prophet’ “; 41 others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “How can the Messiah come from the Galil? 42 Doesn’t the Tanakh say that the Messiah is from the seed of David and comes from Beit-Lechem, the village where David lived?” 43 So the people were divided because of Him. 44 Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand on Him.  [2]

But others said, “How can the Messiah come from the Galil? Doesn’t the Tanakh say that the Messiah is from the seed of David and comes from Beit-Lechem?” Yes, the Tanakh does say that (2 Samuel 7:12–13; Jeremiah 23:5–6; Micah 5:1(2)); Psalms 89:36–38(35–37), 132:11; 1 Chronicles 7:11, 14). Chapter 2 of Mattityahu explains how the Messiah could come from both Beit-Lechem in Y’hudah and Natzeret in the Galil: He was born in Beit-Lechem, taken to Egypt to escape the massacre of infants ordered by Herod, and by God’s command returned to Natzeret. Luke 2:1–7 further explains why a family from Natzeret happened to be in Beit-Lechem for Yeshua’s birth: the Romans ordered a census and required everyone to return to his own city for it. Doubters could have inquired and learned these things, but as is familiar with people whose minds are made up, they did not wish to be “confused by the facts.” So the people were divided because of Him. Yeshua the Messiah always divides people into two camps: those who are with Him and those who are not. The middle ground quickly disappears.

In our next post, we continue with our new series on Yeshua’s Journey to Yerushalayim for the Feast of Sukkot. In our next post, we learn that Nakdimon (Nicodemus) Counsels Caution and about the Women Caught in Adultery.

Clcik here for the PDF version.

[1]  Yochanan 7:37–39.
[2]  Yochanan 7:40–44.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 88

In Yerushalayim for Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) ~ Part 2

In our last post, we began our series on In Yerushalayim for the Feast of Sukkot. In this post, we learn that He goes privately to Yerushalayim and Teaches in the Temple.

Yeshua Goes Privately to Yerushalayim

10 But after His brothers had gone up to the festival, He too went up, not publicly but in secret. 11 At the festival, the Judeans were looking for Him. “Where is He?” they asked. 12 And among the crowds, there was much whispering about Him. Some said, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “No, He is deceiving the masses.” 13 However, no one spoke about him openly for fear of the Judeans. [1]

In verse 12, the Greek noun used here for whispering refers to behind-the-scenes talk that can be either positive or negative depending on context. In private discussions, people speculated about Yeshua and had positive and negative opinions about Him. The accusation that He was deceiving the masses is intended to depict Yeshua as one among the false teachers and messianic pretenders of the day (compare Matt 27:63). Based on this accusation, later Jewish tradition condemned Yeshua of sorcery and leading Isra’el astray.

Yeshua Teaches in the Temple

14 Not until the festival was half over did Yeshua go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Judeans were surprised: “How does this man know so much without having studied?” they asked.

Without having studied, that is, without having attended any of the usual yeshivot, sitting under the Rabbis and Torah teachers who taught the Pharisaic oral tradition of Torah. The implication is that the speakers regarded Yeshua as an ‘am-ha’aretz, that is, a “hick.”

16 So Yeshua gave them an answer: “My teaching is not My own; it comes from the One who sent me. 17 If anyone wants to do His will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own.

If anyone wants to do His will refers not merely to feelings, attitudes, or mental assent but to having decided to obey God. Such a person will come to know whether Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, as He himself teaches.

18 A person who speaks on his own is trying to win praise for himself, but a person who tries to win praise for the one who sent him is honest; there is nothing false about him. 19 Didn’t Moshe give you the Torah? Yet not one of you obeys the Torah! Why are you out to kill Me?”

Two quick observations: (1) the people are not obeying the Torah Moshe gave them, even though they suppose they are; for if they were, they would welcome Yeshua. (2) Yeshua was spiritually discerning: He spoke what they felt in their hearts (2:25) but did not want to admit (see next verse).

20 “You have a demon!” the crowd answered. “Who’s out to kill you?”

A godly person reacts to having his sin exposed by admitting it, being sorry for having done wrong, and resolving, with God’s power, to change. Here we see the typical reaction of a worldly person to having his sin exposed: the accusation of the exposer and denial of the sin.

21 Yeshua answered them, “I did one thing; and because of this, all of you are amazed.

I did only one thing, literally, “one work,” the miracle in Yochanan 5:9, and because of merely this, all of you are, in fact, amazed despite yourselves, even though at the same time you are out to kill Me because I did it on Shabbat.

22 Moshe gave you b’rit-milah – —not that it came from Moshe but from the Patriarchs—and you do a boy’s b’rit-milah on Shabbat. 23 If a boy is circumcised on Shabbat so that the Torah of Moshe will not be broken, why are you angry with me because I made a man’s whole body well on Shabbat? 24 Stop judging by surface appearances and judge the right way!” [2]

Moshe gave you b’rit-milah (circumcision) in the Torah at Leviticus 12:3. Not that it came from Moshe but from the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya‛akov; for God gave the command of circumcision to Avraham in Genesis 17:1–27, and he carried it out on Yitzchak at Genesis 21:4, all centuries before Moshe. A boy is circumcised on Shabbat so that the Torah of Moshe will not be broken. The Torah states that a Jewish male child is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life (Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3), but it also prohibits work on Shabbat (Exodus 20:9–10, 23:12, 31:14–15, 34:21, 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:12–14). Therefore, if the eighth day of a boy’s life falls on Shabbat, is circumcision to be put off till the ninth day, or is Shabbat to be broken by doing the work of tool-carrying and cutting needed for the operation? The Judeans (the Jewish religious authorities centered in Judea) of Yeshua’s time had already decided the question, and their decision stands on record in the Talmud. The rabbis were confronted with the conflict between the law against working on Shabbat and the commandment that a man should circumcise his son on the eighth day of his life. The conflict arises from the fact that cutting and carrying through a public domain the tools needed to perform a b’rit-milah are kinds of work forbidden by the rabbis on Shabbat. They decided that if the eighth day falls on Shabbat, one does the necessary work and circumcises the boy. Still, if the circumcision must occur after the eighth day for health reasons, it may not be done on Shabbat in violation of the work prohibitions – one waits till a weekday.

In our next post, we continue with our new series on Yeshua’s Journey to Yerushalayim for the Feast of Sukkot. In our next post, we will learn more about Yeshua’s Teaching in the Temple.

Clcik here for the PDF version.

[1]  Yochanan 7:10–13.
[2]  Yochanan 7:14–24.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 87

In Yerushalayim for Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) ~ Part 1

In our last post, we concluded our series on Yeshua’s Preparation of the Emissaries for the End. This post begins a new series on Yeshua’s journey to Yerushalayim for the Feast of Sukkot. To learn the background of this Feast, click HERE.


It has been six months since the last Pesach (Passover), which Yeshua did not attend due to a threat to His life. However, Yeshua believes He can once again journey safely to Yerushalayim. However, He delays going with His step-brothers and goes separately. When He does arrive, He will spend time teaching and confronting the religious leaders who have assembled.

His Brothers, Taunt Yeshua

But the festival of Sukkot in Y’hudah was near; so his brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Y’hudah so that your talmidim can see the miracles you do; for no one who wants to become known acts in secret. If you’re doing these things, show yourself to the world!” (His brothers spoke this way because they had not put their trust in Him.) Yeshua said to them, “My time has not yet come; but for you, any time is right. The world can’t hate you, but it does hate Me because I keep telling it how wicked its ways are. You, go on up to the festival; as for Me, I am not going up to this festival now because the right time for Me has not yet come.”

Yeshua’s brothers … had not put their trust in Him (v. 5). It is sometimes argued that if His brothers did not believe in Him, why should we? But one of them, Ya‛akov (James), not only came to trust in Him later but became the leader of the Messianic Jewish community in Yerushalayim (Acts 2:17; 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12); and he is usually credited with authorship of the book of Ya‛akov. Likewise, another brother, Y’hudah (Jude), is thought to be the author of the Brit Hadashah book bearing his name.

Yeshua was not swayed by His brothers’ challenge, which seems to have stemmed from a reasonable and friendly – yet entirely human – motive, the desire to see their brother succeed and become famous. Yeshua had performed miracles in the Galil; His brothers apparently felt He should not delay in developing His reputation in Judea too and even gave a plausible argument (v. 4). But Yeshua had another plan. My time has not yet come (v. 6), either to go to the festival or to do miracles in Judea. Underlying the repeated mentioning of Yeshua’s “time” is the theme of His fundamental mission, to die for the sins of humankind; this was to take place precisely at God’s right moment and was not to be precipitated by any human challenge.

Having said this, He stayed on in the Galil. [1]

In our next post, we continue with our new series on Yeshua’s Journey to Yerushalayim for the Feast of Sukkot. In our next post, we learn that Yeshua does indeed Journey to Yerushalayim and Teaches in the Temple.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Yochanan 7:2–9.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 2

Rather than just copying what He says, I want to set the stage when He does speak.

The Young Yeshua at the Temple

41 Every year Yeshua’s parents went to Yerushalayim for the festival of Pesach (Passover). 42 When He was twelve years old, they went up for the festival, as custom required. 43 But after the festival was over when His parents returned, Yeshua remained in Yerushalayim. [Think back when you were twelve. Would you have been that brave?] They didn’t realize this; 44 supposing that He was somewhere in the caravan, they spent a whole day on the road before they began searching for Him among their relatives and friends. 45 Failing to find Him, they returned to Yerushalayim to look for Him. 46 On the third day they found Him – He was sitting in the Temple court among the rabbis, not only listening to them but questioning what they said; 47 and everyone who heard Him was astonished at His insight and His responses. 48 When his parents saw Him, they were shocked; and His mother said to him, “Son! Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been terribly worried looking for you!” 49 He said to them, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be concerning myself with my Father’s affairs?”50 But they didn’t understand what He meant. 51 So He went with them to Natzeret and was obedient to them. But his mother stored up all these things in her heart. 52 And Yeshua grew both in wisdom and in stature, gaining favor both with other people and with God. ~ Luke 2:41-52

This single incident from Yeshua’s“silent years” (see Matt. 2:16 & Luke 3:23) took place near the age at which a Jewish boy today undergoes his bar-mitzvah ceremony and becomes a “son of the commandment,” personally responsible for keeping the Torah given by God to Moshe on Mount Sinai. At this time, he dons t’fillin [1] for the first time officially, and for the first time, he is given an aliyah (call-up) to come to the bimah (lectern) and read from the Sefer-Torah (Torah scroll) in a synagogue service. Verses 46–47 suggest a comparable “coming out” for Yeshua, but there the parallel ends. Bar-mitzvah did not start to become a major ceremonial event in the Jewish life-cycle until the Middle Ages, and only in modern times has it become the focus of grandiose celebrations. Moreover, the age for bar-mitzvah is not twelve but thirteen. [2]

According to John MacArthur: Yeshua’s reply was in no sense insolent but reveals a genuine amazement that they did not know where to look for Him. This also reveals that even at so young an age, He had a clear consciousness of His identity and mission.[3]

In our next post, we will examine Yeshua’s Baptism and The Temptation of Yeshua.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] T’fillin are small leather boxes containing parchment scrolls on which are written excerpts from the Tanakh (specifically, Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13–20, Exodus 13:1–16).

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

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur Study Bible: NASB.

Shavuot (Pentecost)

God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Creeds and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2021, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Sunday, May 16th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, May 23rd.

Scriptural Basis

15 ” ‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days, and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull, and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Yerushalayim. Shavu’ot means “weeks.” It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach. In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost. Pentecost means “fifty.” It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest. Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead. Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.


The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and, with grand ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. Also, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people. Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed. Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot. Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers, and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people andMessianic Believers. When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her, “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16), binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el. Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience. Like Ruth, the Gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish Believers, your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most crucial moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai. Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah. In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival. From God’s perspective, the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-43). The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may therefore symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Ruach in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4). Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4). The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival. Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest. This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God. The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah. Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male. He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their language. They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends. As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival. The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy. It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41). Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshipping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is the Biblical Feast of Shavu’ot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavu’ot. It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar. Instead, He gave a formula for calculating the day. Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavu’ot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference in opinion. In the first century, the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date Shavu’ot was to celebrate. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh-day Sabbath, i.e., Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct? Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So, it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct.

Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on a Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our series on the Creeds.

Click here for the PDF version.

Pesach and Hag HaMatzah ~ 20211

(Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
God’s Appointed Times

We return to God’s Appointed Times from the Tanakh.  Both Pesach (Passover) and Hag HaMatzah are tied to the remembrance of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The principle Scriptural reference for Pesach is in B’midbar (Exodus) 12:1-13 and Hag HaMatzah in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:5-8.  In 2021, Pesach starts on the eve of March 27th  and Hag HaMatzah on the eve of March 28th.   This eight-day remembrance ends at sundown on April 4th.

For Believers in Yeshua, this time can be a great time to reflect not only on the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage and death of the first-born by the shedding of the lamb’s blood on the doorpost; but also on the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross.  His death and resurrection paid for our sins and purchased for us eternal salvation.

I’ve included a great video from Friends of Israel which takes you through the Pesach Seder.

I have attached a PDF version of an explanation of the traditional Pesach Seder provided by Chosen People Ministries.  Click here.

However, for those of you who want to have a Scriptural-based observation of Pesach, I highly recommend Kevin Geoffrey’s “Behold the Lamb and Preparation Guide.”  Click here to order.

Hanukkah – 5781 (2020)

Should Christians Observe Hanukkah?

WARNING: This post is longer than normal. You may want to click below for the PDF version.

Today we are going to focus on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. We’re going to learn a lot about Hanukkah. I’ve entitled this teaching “Should Christians Observe Hanukkah?” By the end of today’s lesson, I hope that you will agree with me that the answer is a resounding, YES!!

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an annual festival celebrated on eight successive days, during which no eulogies are delivered, nor is fasting permitted. It begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar, corresponding, approximately, to December in the Gregorian calendar. This year (2020), Hanukkah starts at sundown on December 11th. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication, and Feast of the Maccabees.

As an aside, the name Hanukkah can also be read as a combination of the two words “Chanu k’h” which means “they rested on the 25th” – an allusion to the “resting” that occurred after the Jews were victorious in their battles.

Hanukkah is not one of the feasts or festivals commanded in the Torah in Leviticus 23 (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot) but, like Purim and Yom HaShoah (The Day of Remembrance for those who died in the Holocaust), it is Rabbinically prescribed.

To learn some of the details of the Hanukkah story, we have to turn to the apocryphal books of I & II Maccabees. While the books are not a part of the traditional Hebrew or Protestant canon of Scripture, they are considered authoritative accounts and are useful historical documents that can be read for example of life and instruction of manner, yet not for the establishment of doctrine.

History of Hanukkah

To fully understand this holiday, we need to go back to a tumultuous time in the history of Israel to the Hellenistic period around 168 BCE. A few generations earlier, the Greeks had come to world power under the remarkable leadership of Alexander the Great. After his untimely death, there was a scramble for political power among four generals, resulting in the division of the Hellenistic empire. Eventually, the Syrians, under the leadership of Antiochus IV, gained power and control over Israel.

Seeking to unify his holdings, Antiochus enforced a policy of assimilation into the prevailing Hellenistic culture. Many Jews in Judea had converted to the Hellenistic way and openly advocated adherence to it. However, there were a significant number of traditional Jews who were appalled at the changes in their society. An ultimatum was eventually given: either the Jewish community must give up its distinctive customs (Shabbat, kosher food laws, circumcision, etc.) or die.

In 168 BC, on a date corresponding approximately to December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, the temple was dedicated to the worship of the pagan god Zeus by order of Antiochus, who forbade the practice of Judaism. An altar to Zeus was set up on the high altar. Antiochus also ordered that a pig be sacrificed on the holy altar and insisted on being called ‘epiphanies’ which means “God manifest.”

Pushed to their limit, the Jews revolted. Chapter two of 1 Maccabees introduces the man credited with leading the revolt: 1In those days Mattathias, son of John son of Simeon, a priest of the family of Joarib, moved from Jerusalem and settled in Modein. 2He had five sons … [including] 4Judas called Maccabeus. …6He saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem, 7and said, “Alas! Why was I born to see this, the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city, and to live there when it was given over to the enemy, the sanctuary given over to aliens?8 Her temple has become like a person without honor;9 her glorious vessels have been carried into exile. Her infants have been killed in her streets, her youths by the sword of the foe.10 What nation has not inherited her palaces and has not seized her spoils? 11 All her adornment has been taken away; no longer free, she has become a slave. 12 And see, our holy place, our beauty, and our glory have been laid waste; the Gentiles have profaned them. 13 Why should we live any longer?”  The rebellion had begun.

In 165 BC, Judas Maccabee recaptured Jerusalem, he had the temple purged, and a new altar put up in place of the desecrated one. The temple was then rededicated to God with festivities that lasted eight days. A year later the Rabbis designated these days as Yomim Tovim (Holidays) on which praise and thanksgiving were to be said.

The Miracle of the Oil

When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils, and when the Maccabees defeated them, they searched and found only one remaining jar of oil with the seal of the Cohen Gadol (the High Priest). According to tradition, just a one-day supply of non-desecrated olive oil could be found for the rededication, but that small quantity burned miraculously for eight days. Jews commemorate this event by lighting candles for the eight nights of Hanukkah.

The rabbis decreed that the eight days beginning with the 25th of Kislev should be days of rejoicing; that Hallel (praise) be recited and that lights be lit in the entrance to their homes each of the eight nights, in order to publicize the two-fold miracle: the miracle of the oil as well as the miraculous military victory.

Why Is Hanukkah Celebrated for Eight Days?

Questions have arisen over the years about the actual miracle of the oil. If there was enough oil in the flask that was found to last one day, then the miracle of the oil enduring was really only a miracle for the latter seven of the eight days. Yet, we know that the Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days! What is the reason behind the eight-day celebration?

The Jewish sages offer three possible answers:

  1. Those who were preparing the Menorah for lighting knew that it would take eight days until new oil could be obtained. They, therefore, divided the flask into eight parts, so that at least the Menorah would be lit every day, albeit not for the entire day. A miracle occurred and the small amount of oil that was placed in the Menorah each day lasted a full day. Hence, there was a miracle on the first day as well.
  2. On the first night, the contents of the flask were emptied into the Menorah. This would enable the Menorah to be lit for one entire day. However, after filling the Menorah, it was discovered that the flask miraculously was still full. This miracle repeatedly occurred for each of the days. Hence, there was a miracle on each of the eight days.
  1. On the first night, the entire contents of the flask were emptied into the Menorah. This would enable the Menorah to be lit for a whole day. When the Menorah was checked on in the morning, it was discovered that none of the oil burned up, and the Menorah was still full, although the flame was lit. This miracle occurred for each of the days. Hence, the first day when the oil did not burn up was miraculous as well.

I’ll leave it to you to determine which of these three explanations or some other is the correct answer to the question.

When and How Does One Light the Candles?

Unlike the Shabbat candles that are always lit before sundown, the Hanukkah menorah is lit after dark by the head of the household, usually in connection with a festive meal. There is also a custom of using an extra candle, the Shamash to light the other candles. For messianic believers, the Shamash is symbolic of Yeshua, the Light of the World.

To be kosher, the eight candles of the menorah must be in a straight line with the Shamash, or middle candle, a little bit above them. Any menorah that is fancily shaped in a circle or square…is not permitted to be used since the candles must be in a straight line and none may be higher or lower than the others, except for the Shamash. There must also be enough space between one candle and another so that the flames of each are not intermingled.

On the first night of Hanukkah, one candle is lit, and on each successive night, another candle is added until by the eighth night all the candles are lit. When one lights the candle on the first night, one lights the candle on the extreme right. The following evening he adds one immediately to the left and kindles it first. He then turns to the right and kindles the light of the previous night. He follows the same procedure each night always adding from right to left but always lighting from left to right. The reason for this method is that the additional light recalls the greatness and growth of the miracle.

[Go to the last page for the traditional Hanukkah blessings and prayer.]

Foods Associated With Hanukkah

Like most of the other festivals, there is specific food associated with the celebration of Hanukkah. There is a custom to eat dairy products and cheese on Hanukkah. This tradition stems from the heroism of Yehudis, of the Chashmonean family. Yehudis, a beautiful woman, was taken by the leader of the Greek troops. While she was with the Greek officer, Yehudis fed him a dish cooked with cheese so he would become thirsty. Once he became thirsty, she gave him wine to drink so he would become drowsy. When he fell asleep, she took his sword and beheaded him. She then carried his head back to Jerusalem and displayed it, so that the Greek troops would become demoralized. Her plan worked, and the soldiers retreated.

There is a custom as well to eat foods cooked in oil. The reason for this tradition is because by eating these foods, we are reminded of the miracle that occurred with the oil. Two of the most common foods associated with this tradition are “Latkes,” potato pancakes and “Sufganiot,” which are doughnuts (or flour pancakes), both of which are fried in oil.

The Dreidel – The Hanukkah Top

On Hanukkah, there is a custom to play with a four-sided top. It is said that the Jewish children of Judea, during the Hellenistic period, wanted to study the Torah, but the anti-Semitic policies of Antiochus made this problematic. They came up with a creative answer: they would study the scrolls in the streets until a foreign soldier came. Then they would quickly hide the scroll, bring out the dreidels, and pretend to be engrossed in a game of tops! When the soldier left, the Torah study would begin again.

What Do The Letters On The Dreydel Stand For?

The letters will vary depending on where you are. In the Diaspora, the letters are “nun” “gimel” “hay” “shin” which stands for “Nes gadol haya sham”– “A great miracle happened there.” In Israel, the “hay” is replaced with a “peh” which stands for “poh,” so that the sentence reads “A great miracle happened here.”

Traditionally, Hanukkah was one of the only times that rabbis permitted games of chance. Before play begins, each player puts a certain number of coins, candies, or another object into a “pot.” One player then spins the Dreydel. Each of the four sides of the Dreydel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the side that lands up when the Dreydel stops spinning indicates which part of the pot the player will receive. The Hebrew letter nun indicates “nothing”; the letter gimel, “all”; hay, “half”; and shin, “put in” or “match the pot.” Children also play by guessing which letter will appear when the Dreydel stops, with the winner claiming the pot.

More recently, the custom of giving gifts has found its way into the celebration of this joyous festival. Each day a new gift is given to the children. This appears to be Jewish response to the Christmas gift-giving custom.

Hanukkah – A Spiritual Holiday

There have been many times that oppressive nations sought to destroy the Jewish people, and they were miraculously saved from their designs. Upon two of these occasions (Purim and Hanukkah), the Rabbis saw fit to establish an annual holiday commemorating the miraculous salvation, providing us with an opportunity to remember Adonai’s kindness and thank him for His salvation. Hanukkah is observed spiritually, with expressions of thanks and praise to Adonai.

The oppressive acts of Antiochus and the Syrian-Greeks were of a different nature. Had the Jews agreed to abandon their customs and beliefs, and become integrated into the Greek lifestyle, they would have been left alone. Their oppressors sought only to destroy them spiritually. And so, when Adonai granted the Maccabees victory over the Syrian-Greeks, he was preserving the spirituality of the Jewish nation. Our appreciation for this gift, the opportunity to serve Adonai and recognize him as our God, is best acknowledged through spiritual expressions of His praise.

Hanukkah is a holiday on which we celebrate our freedom from religious oppression. The Syrian-Greeks’ tyranny of the Jews was not physical. They did not want to annihilate the Jews. They did, however, want to destroy Judaism. They applied whatever pressure they could to “convince” the Jews to abandon the ways of their fathers. Many Jews indeed succumbed to this demand. Hellenism made inroads into the Jewish communities. At times, the pressure to give in to popular culture was overwhelming. Ultimately, the Jews withstood this pressure and fought with all their might against it. The Jews were victorious. Today, all that we know of the Syrian-Greeks is from history books, while Judaism lives on. When we look at the olive oil burning brightly on Hanukkah, we should be reminded that the olive is a symbol of the courage our spiritual forefathers had. They withstood the pressure to deviate from the word of God. We should allow the light of the olive oil to inspire us to stand steadfast against the force, whatever it may be, to deviate from the word of God.

Significance of Hanukkah to Messianic Believers

So now, we come to my original question, should Christians observe Hanukkah? Although the story of Hanukkah is contained in the apocryphal book of I Maccabees, it is foretold in the Book of Daniel 8:21ff. Daniel has seen a vision, and the Angel Gavri’el is giving the interpretation. Surprisingly, the most explicit mention of Hanukkah in the Bible is in the Brit Hadashah in John 10:22. This brings us to the first reason believers in Yeshua should celebrate this holiday – it appears that Yeshua may have celebrated it! At the least, He observed the celebration in the same Temple that had been cleansed and rededicated just a few generations earlier under the Maccabees.

Because Hanukkah is a celebration of deliverance, it has also become a time to express messianic hope. The festival commemorates a time when the true worship of God was restored in Jerusalem. Indeed, all believers in Yeshua have significant reasons to remember this Feast of Dedication. Messiah, our deliverer, has come!

I started this teaching by asking should Christians observe Hanukkah? The answer is a resounding, YES!

Hanukkah Candle Lighting

Blessings before you light the candles

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hallowed us by your commandments and allowed us to light the Hanukkah lights.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who worked miracles for our fathers in days of old, during this season.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who kept us alive, sustained us and privileged us to reach this season.

Light the candle(s)

We light these candles because of the miracles, deliverance, and wonders you performed for our fathers by means of your holy priests. During the eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred. We look at them in order to remember to thank you for your miracles, deliverance, and wonders.

Hanukkah Prayer

We praise you for the miracles, for the deliverance, for the great deeds and victories, for the battles you fought for our fathers in those days at this time.

In the days of the Hasmonean, Mattityahu ben Yochanan, the great priest, and his sons, when a wicked Hellenistic government rose up against Israel, your people, to make them forget your Torah and to break the laws you gave, you with great mercy stood by them in the time of their distress. You championed their cause, defended their rights and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the ungodly into the hands of the godly and the arrogant into the hands of the students of Torah. You made a great and holy name for yourself in the world, and for your people Israel you performed a great deliverance. Whereupon your children entered your sanctuary, cleaned the Temple, purified your house, kindled lights in your holy courts and instituted these eight days of Hanukkah for thanksgiving and praise to your great name.

And for all these blessings, we will thank you always and praise your name faithfully, God of salvation and deliverance. Deserving of praise are you, O Lord, gracious One, to whom it is pleasant to give thanks. AMEN

Click here for the PDF version.

The Ultimate Sukkah ~ Sukkot 5781

We continue to interrupt our series on Kefa once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2020, the festival of Sukkotthe Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Friday, October 2nd.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43). Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13). It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43). During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).

Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40). The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls. The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams. It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah. The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle). The etrog is a citron. Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14). He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot. We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth. But we do know; it indeed wasn’t December 25th. For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80). The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come! The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice. And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it entirely comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time. God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua resides as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach. Because of its latter-day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2) The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives. By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain. He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19). Can’t you imagine it? The feast of the Millennium! What a party that will be! This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy. This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory. All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day. God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua! Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Kefa.