Be Ministers of Reconciliation ~ Rosh Hashanah – 5781

In this post, we take a break from our series on Kefa to observe the first of the fall Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah: The key is Repentance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Biblical References: B’midbar (Numbers) 29:1–6 and Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23 – 25 ~ Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets). In 2020, the appointed time begins at sundown on September 18th.

Rabbinic Change: Since this is a Shabbat of the Fall Appointed Times, it has been considered as the “spiritual” New Year. Hence, the name changed to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year.” It is also seen as the anniversary of creation; the sacrifice of Yitz’chak; the release of Yosef from Pharaoh’s prison; and, the birth of Sh’mu’el, the prophet.

The purpose and traditional observance of the Holy Day is summed up in one word – regathering. Since the Fall Appointed Times call us to regather to pure faith in Adonai, Rosh Hashanah has come to represent the Day of Repentance. It is the day when people of Isra’el take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to ensure that the upcoming New Year will be pleasing to Adonai.

The shofar is sounded daily to alert the faithful that the time of repentance is near. The observance takes on a somber character, yet always with a hint of hope because of Adonai’s forgiveness.

The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize Adonai’s Kingship and the coming of the Messiah. Sweet honey cakes and apples dipped in honey are a real treat and express the hope of a new fresh year.

Tradition tells of three books that are opened in the heavenly courts during the feast of Rosh Hashanah; one for the thoroughly righteous, one for the thoroughly wicked, and one for the average person. The thoroughly righteous are immediately inscribed in the Book of Life. The completely wicked are directly written in the book of death. The average person is kept in suspension from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the Book of Life; if they do not deserve well, they are written in the book of death. Consequently, the Ten Days of Awe are a time of solemn self-examination with time spent in seeking reconciliation and doing good works in the Jewish tradition.

Since the 15th Century, the ceremony of Tashlich is celebrated in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. The congregation meets at a river or stream. Special prayers of repentance are recited, and a portion of Micah is read. People then take breadcrumbs and cast them into the water symbolizing that our sins are carried away by the water.

Rosh Hashanah has profound Messianic significance! The rabbis have taught that one day the shofar would sound, and the Messiah would come. According to Rabbi Sha’ul, in the future, all true believers in Yeshua will be gathered to meet Him in the clouds. The dead in Messiah will rise first, to be followed immediately by those believers alive at the time. “For the Lord, Himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar, those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we will always be with the Lord. So, encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) That day will indeed be characterized by joy, delight, and sweetness for those who are called home! As we observe Rosh Hashanah, we should anticipate the time of Yeshua’s return.

The traditional greeting during Rosh Hashanah is, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu!” May your name be inscribed in the book of life! As Messianic Believers, we can rightly say, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu b’shem Yeshua!” May your name be inscribed in the book of life, in the name of Yeshua!

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21. Rosh Hashanah: repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to the Corinthians about these key ingredients in our annual observation of this holy appointed time. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new spiritual year, so it is that we become new creations when we are united with Yeshua as our Messiah.

The fundamental idea in this passage is reconciliation. Because of our rebellion, we are the enemy of Adonai and out of fellowship with Him. Through the work of the execution stake, Yeshua has brought Adonai and us together again. Adonai has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world. The essential meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.” It refers to a restored relationship with Adonai and the lost world. “And it is all from God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

Adonai does not have to be reconciled to man because Yeshua accomplished that on the execution stake. It is the sinful man who must be reconciled to Adonai. “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to Adonai, efforts that are bound to fail. The Person who reconciles us to Adonai is Yeshua, and the place where He reconciles us is His execution stake. He not only reconciles us to Himself, but he gives us the task of reconciling other people to Him. We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

Another fundamental idea in this paragraph is that Adonai does not count our sins against us. In the KJV, the term used is imputing. This is a word borrowed from banking; it just means, “to put to one’s account.” When you deposit money in the bank, the teller puts that amount into your account. When Yeshua died on the execution stake, all our sins were imputed to Him – put into His account. Adonai treated Him as though He had committed those sins.

What was the result? All those sins have been paid for, and Adonai no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Yeshua as our Messiah. But even more: Adonai has put into our account the very righteousness of Yeshua! “God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in Gods’ righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of Adonai’s Torah have been fully met on the execution stake, Adonai can be reconciled to sinners. Those who believe in Yeshua, as their Messiah will never have their sins imputed to them again (see Psalms 32:1-2; Romans. 4:1-8). As far as their records are concerned, they share the righteousness of Yeshua!

How does this beautiful doctrine of reconciliation motivate us to serve Yeshua? We are ambassadors with a message. Adonai has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Since we are the ambassadors of Yeshua, this means that the world is in rebellion against Adonai. He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war. “Be reconciled to God!” We represent Yeshua (see John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5). If sinners reject our message and us, it is Yeshua who is rejected. What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world!

Adonai has not declared war on the world; at the execution stake, He said peace. But one day, He will declare war; and then it will be too late for those who have rejected Yeshua (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10). Satan is seeking to tear everything apart in this world, but Yeshua and His Messianic community are involved in the ministry of reconciliation, bringing things back together again, and back to Adonai.

Ministry is not easy. If we are to succeed, we must be motivated by the fear of the Lord, the love of Yeshua, and the commission that He has given to us. It is indeed a privilege to serve Him!

During these next ten days before Yom Kippur, I encourage you to do some self-reflection. Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you? Are there any relationships that require reconciliation? As we enter the start of a new spiritual year, resolve to make a fresh start and be ambassadors of Yeshua HaMashiach, “so that in union with Him, we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”

In my next post, we will return to our study of Kefa.

Kefa Heals A Disabled Beggar ~ Part 2

In my last post, we learned about Kefa Heals A Disabled Beggar. In this post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing. We pick up the story in Acts 3:11.

11 While he clung to Kefa and Yochanan, all the people came running in astonishment toward them in Shlomo’s Colonnade. 12 Seeing this, Kefa addressed the people: “Men of Isra’el! Why are you amazed at this? Or why do you stare at us as if we had made this man walk through some power or godliness of our own?

Recognizing that the onlookers were amazed, Kefa seized the moment to testify about Yeshua HaMashiach. Signs of God’s power can point to the truth about Yeshua.

I love this comment from David Stern regarding Men of Isra’el!:

A personal reaction: the start of Kefa’s speech is so Jewish! The crowd had just witnessed an unbelievable miracle, and he asks, deadpan, “What are you all so surprised about?” [1]

13 The God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya‘akov, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Yeshua — the same Yeshua you handed over and disowned before Pilate, even after he had decided to release him.

The phrase the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya‘akov, the God of our fathers, is not accidental in Kefa’s sermon. Its two parts are found in the first paragraph of the ‘Amidah, the central section of the Minchah prayer service, which begins: Praised be to You, Adonai our God and God of our fathers, God of Avraham. God of Yitzchak and God of Ya’akov… and which Kefa’s hearers would just then have been reciting in their minchah prayers in minyans (groups of ten men required for corporate worship) throughout the Temple grounds, much as is done today at the Western Wall.

Kefa’s point is the very God to whom they were just now praying in these words has glorified. His servant is identified in Isaiah 42-43 as God’s suffering servant, Yeshua.

14 You denied the holy and innocent one, and instead asked for the reprieve of a murderer!

Holy and innocent one applied, especially to God in Jewish literature. Because the healing did not occur during Pesach, most of Kefa’s audience are residents of Yerushalayim. Still, the corporate accusation against his audience is no stronger than denunciations of the Tanakh prophets (see Amos 2:6-3:8). Calling a revolutionary (Barabbas), a murderer starkly distinguishes the emissaries from the sort of people who had revolutionary sympathies. Gee that sounds like our calling some protesters as “peaceful” versus the “anarchists” many are. Yes, many are peaceful and have a constitutional right to do so.

15 You killed the author of life! “But God has raised him from the dead! Of this, we are witnesses.

Wow, what an indictment to the average listener in the crowd! The P’rushim would probably shrug it off, but not your average worshipper who may not have been in the crowd, yelling, Crucify Him!”

16 And it is through putting trust (faith) [2]  in his name that his name has given strength to this man whom you see and know. Yes, it is the trust that comes through Yeshua, which has given him this perfect healing in the presence of you all. ~ Acts 3:11-16 (CJB)

Kefa and Yochanan had a chance to claim credit for the miraculous healing of the disabled man but instead insisted it was trust in His name that had given strength to this man. The emissaries were merely God’s chosen instruments for conveying the miracle.

In my next post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing of the man disabled since birth when Kefa Preaches Repentance.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[2] The Jewish New Testament generally uses the word “trust” instead of “faith” to translate the Greek “pistis” because “trust” more clearly signifies to English-speakers the confident reliance of God that generates holy deeds, as opposed to a mere mental acknowledgment of facts and ideas. I agree.

Kefa’s First Public Sermon

In my last post, we examined Kefa Calls for the Replacement of Y’hudah. In this post, we examine Kefa’s First Public Sermon.

Some fifty days after Pesach when Yeshua was arrested, the Believers were gathered in Yerushalayim for Shavu’ot. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. ~ Acts 2:2-4 (CJB) Now when the pilgrims heard the sound a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language. Acts 2:5-6 (CJB)

14 Then Kefa stood up with the Eleven and raised his voice to address them: “You Judeans, and all of you staying here in Yerushalayim! Let me tell you what this means! Listen carefully to me! 15 “These people aren’t drunk, as you suppose – it’s only nine in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yo’el:

17 ‘Adonai says: “In the Last Days, I will pour out from my Spirit upon everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my slaves, both men and women, will I pour out from my Spirit in those days; and they will prophesy. 19 I will perform miracles in the sky above and signs on the earth below — blood, fire and thick smoke. 20 The sun will become dark and the moon blood before the great and fearful Day of Adonai comes. 21 And then, whoever calls on the name of Adonai will be saved.”’ [1]

22 “Men of Isra’el! Listen to this! Yeshua from Natzeret was a man demonstrated to you to have been from God by the powerful works, miracles, and signs that God performed through Him in your presence. You yourselves know this. 23 This man was arrested in accordance with God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge; and, through the agency of persons not bound by the Torah, you nailed Him up on a stake and killed him! 24 “But God has raised Him up and freed Him from the suffering of death; it was impossible that death could keep its hold on Him. 25 For David says this about Him:

‘I saw Adonai always before me, for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. 26 For this reason, my heart was glad; and my tongue rejoiced; and now my body too will live on in the certain hope 27 that you will not abandon me to Sh’ol or let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy by your presence.” [2]

29 “Brothers, I know I can say to you frankly that the patriarch David died and was buried – his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that one of his descendants would sit on his throne, 31 he was speaking in advance about the resurrection of the Messiah, that it was he who was not abandoned in Sh’ol and whose flesh did not see decay. 32 God raised up this Yeshua! And we are all witnesses of it! 33 “Moreover, he has been exalted to the right hand of God; has received from the Father what he promised, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh; and has poured out this gift, which you are both seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into heaven. But he says,

35 ‘Adonai said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ [3]

36 Therefore, let the whole house of Isra’el know beyond doubt that God has made him both Lord and Messiah — this Yeshua, whom you executed on a stake!”  37 On hearing this, they were stung in their hearts; and they said to Kefa and the other emissaries, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Kefa answered them, “Turn from sin, return to God, and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh! 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for those far away — as many as Adonai our God may call!” 40 He pressed his case with many other arguments and kept pleading with them, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” 41 So those who accepted what he said were immersed, and there were added to the group that day about three thousand people. ~ Acts 2:14-41 (CJB)

Kefa disposes of the closed-minded skeptics and scorners before addressing the open-minded but bewildered remainder. In quoting from Yo’el, he explains that the Last Days have already begun. We know that they are continuing now, and they will culminate on the Last Day, here called the great and fearful Day of Adonai.

Men of Isra’el…you killed Him! Like a knife, the accusation pierced their hearts. But the Messiah’s death was in accordance with God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge. It was not an accident, not a miscalculation on the part of Yeshua and His talmidim. God knew and planned Yeshua’s death as atonement for humanity’s sins. But that provides the killers no excuse; they had free will and could have chosen to act differently. Also, Gentiles – Pontius Pilate and Roman soldiers – were directly involved in killing Yeshua. Kefa does not measure the degree of their guilt because he is not speaking to them.

But God has raised Him up. It is of the essence of Messianic faith that Yeshua is alive. If He were not, we could feel sorry but could do nothing to repair the relationship between Him and us, and Kefa would not have delivered this sermon.

The patriarch David died. According to Jewish tradition, he died on Shavu’ot, as Kefa’s Shavu’ot audience was undoubtedly aware, The Tanakh says he was buried in the City of David, southeast of the present Western Wall (1 Kings 2:10).

Kefa’s central point is that all Jews, the whole house of Isra’el, should acknowledge Yeshua as Lord and Messiah because God had made Him fulfill those roles in Jewish life and human history.

Verse 41 is a mindblower to me. Most preachers are grateful when a handful accepts the invitation, and I am sure none of them used the tactics Kefa used. I know that the late Billy Graham did use the same tactics, but do not know his stats for one message. My wife and I attended two of his meetings at Anaheim Stadium and saw many come forward. But his message was much more low-keyed than Kefa’s and the response was probably only in the high hundreds.

In my next post, we will learn that Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar.

Click here for the PDF version.

 

[1] Joel 2:28-32

[2] Psalm 16:8-11

[3] Psalm 110:1

Kefa Calls for the Replacement of Y’hudah

In my last post, we concluded our story of Kefa in the Gospels and the beginning of the Acts of the Emissaries of Yeshua, the Messiah. Recall from the last post that we learned that they all devoted themselves single-mindedly to prayer, along with some women, including Miryam (Yeshua’s mother), and his brothers. In this post, we examine Kefa’s Calls for the Replacement of Y’hudah.

15 During this period, when the group of believers numbered about 120, Kefa stood up and addressed his fellow-believers:

16 “Brothers, the Ruach HaKodesh spoke in advance through David about Y’hudah (Judas Iscariot), and these words of the Tanakh had to be fulfilled. He was guide for those who arrested Yeshua –
17 he was one of us and had been assigned a part in our work.” 18 (With the money Y’hudah received for his evil deed, he bought a field; and there he fell to his death. His body swelled up and burst open, and all his insides spilled out. 19 This became known to everyone in Yerushalayim, so they called that field Hakal-D’ma – which in their language means “Field of Blood”).
[1]
20 “Now,” said Kefa, “it is written in the book of Psalms,

‘Let his estate become desolate, let there be no one to live in it’;
and
‘Let someone else take his place as a supervisor.’

21 Therefore, one of the men who have been with us continuously throughout the time the Lord Yeshua traveled around among us, 22 from the time Yochanan was immersing people until the day Yeshua was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” ~ Acts 1:15-22 (CJB)

The Ruach HaKodesh spoke in advance. Notice that Kefa was a student of prophecy. He said these words of the Tanakh had to be fulfilled. He was confident that prophecy would come to pass. Not only was Kefa a student of prophecy, but he believed in the divine inspiration of Scripture, saying it was the Ruach HaKodesh who spoke through David.

It is written was a typical Jewish quotation formula. Here Kefa refers to Psalm 69:25 and 109:8. Again, this is another instance that points our that Kefa knew the Tanakh.

Eyewitnesses were especially important in ancient times, as they are today, hence the need to select someone who had been with us continuously throughout the time the Lord Yeshua traveled around among us.

23 They nominated two men – Yosef Bar-Sabba, surnamed Justus, and Mattityahu. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25  to take over the work and the office of emissary that Y’hudah abandoned to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they drew lots to decide between the two, and the lot fell to Mattityahu. So, he was added to the eleven emissaries. ~ Acts 1:23-26 (CJB)

In my next post, we will examine Kefa’s First Public Sermon.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Yes, I know that Luke disagrees with Matthew’s account in 27:3-5, but that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Yeshua’s Final Instructions Before His Ascension

In my last post, we concluded our story in Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~Part 4. In this post, we examine Yeshua’s Final Instructions Before His Ascension. Although Kefa is only briefly mentioned in the following passages, I thought it beneficial to our understanding of his ministry as we begin to explore the Acts of the Emissaries of Yeshua, the Messiah in my next post.

Yeshua Commissions the Emissaries

16 So the eleven talmidim went to the hill in the Galil, where Yeshua had told them to go. 17 When they saw Him, they prostrated themselves before Him; but some hesitated. 18 Yeshua came and talked with them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:16-20 (CJB)

God often revealed Himself on mountains, especially in the narratives about Moshe. According to 1 Corinthians 15:6, this may have been the time when Yeshua appeared to the five hundred. In verse 18, Yeshua alludes to Daniel 7:13-14. Make people from all nations into talmidim must have shocked His hearers, who thought that the Messiah was only, or at least primarily, for Jews. Today the situation is reversed, for many Believers think it wrong to evangelize Jews. But their position is inconsistent, for if they respect Yeshua, they should obey His command to make people from all nations, including the Jewish nation, into talmidimImmersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh would lead us down an extensive “rabbit trail,” so I will leave that for another day. Suffice it to say that this is the closest the Brit Hadashah comes to stating the proposition that the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One final note, making talmidim, was the sort of thing rabbis would do, but Yeshua’s followers are to make talmidim for Him, not for themselves.

Yeshua’s Parting Instructions

45 Then He opened their minds so that they could understand the Tanakh, 46 telling them, “Here is what it says: the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day; 47 and in His name repentance leading to forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to people from all nations, starting with Yerushalayim. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Now I am sending forth upon you what My Father promised, so stay here in the city until you have been equipped with power from above.” ~ Luke 24:45-49 (CJB)

The Tanakh (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms) represents the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible. Yeshua now did for the broader group of talmidim essentially what He had already done for the two on the road to Emmaus. He explained the Scriptures. What my Father promised was the Ruach HaKodesh (see Joel 3:1-5; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 16-21). The Holy Spirit gives the power necessary for being witnesses.

Yeshua Ascends to Heaven

50 He led them out toward Beit-Anyah; then, raising his hands, He said a b’rakhah over them.  blessing them, He withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. ~ Luke 24:50 (CJB)

6 They asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra’el?” 7 He answered, “You don’t need to know the dates or the times; the Father has kept these under His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Ruach HaKodesh comes upon you; you will be My witnesses both in Yerushalayim and in all Y’hudah and Shomron, indeed to the ends of the earth!” 9 After saying this, He was taken up before their eyes; and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky after Him, suddenly they saw two men dressed in white standing next to them. 11 The men said, “You Galileans! Why are you standing, staring into space? This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:6-11 (CJB)

Raising his hands, he said a b’rakhah. To this day, there is a portion of the synagogue service wherein a cohen raises his hands and pronounces over the congregation the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6:24-26.

Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra’el? Virtually all Jews expected that when the Messiah came, He would deliver Isra’el from Roman oppression and become king over the Jewish nation reunited and sovereign as it had been under Kings Saul, David, and Solomon. Yeshua’s answer to His talmidim was you don’t need to know the dates or the times; the Father has kept these under His own authority. From this, we learn (contrary to the teaching of Replacement Theology) that the kingdom indeed will be restored to Isra’el. The only question is when, and that still is not presently ours to know.

To be Yeshua’s witnesses in both word and deed means communicating the verbal content of the Gospel and living God’s way and not our own. This is the central task of the people of God, but it can be accomplished only with power from the Ruach HaKodesh. The talmidim are to start evangelizing where they are, in Yerushalayim, the center of the Jewish people. Then they are to move out into all Y’hudah (Judea, the Jewish countryside) and Shomron (Samaria, populated by half-Jews), and finally to go to the ends of the earth, that is, to reach Gentile peoples.

A cloud hid him…. Yeshua… will come back in just the same way, fulfills Daniel 7:13 and Yeshua’s predictions (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62; Lk 21:27; Rev 1:7, 13; 14:14). In the Tanakh, a cloud often expresses God’s glory (Exodus 13:21), His Sh’khinah (“radiance,” Hebrews 1 3). The reply of the two men dressed in white, evidently angels, supports our hope (Titus 2:13) that Yeshua is coming back and at the same time implies a partial answer to the talmidim question in v. 6: Yeshua will restore self-rule to Isra’el and bring peace to the earth when He comes back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

The Emissaries Return to Yerushalayim

52 They bowed in worship to Him, then returned to Yerushalayim, overflowing with joy. 53 And they spent all their time in the Temple courts, praising God. ~ Luke 24:52-53 (CJB) 12 Then they returned the Shabbat-walk distance from the Mount of Olives to Yerushalayim. 13 After entering the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. The names of the emissaries were Kefa, Ya’akov, Yochanan, Andrew, Philip, T’oma, Bar-Talmai, Mattityahu, Ya’akov Ben-Halfai, Shim’on “the Zealot,” and Y’hudah Ben-Ya’akov. 14 These all devoted themselves single-mindedly to prayer, along with some women, including Miryam (Yeshua’s mother), and his brothers.  ~ Acts 1:12-14 (CJB) 20 And they went out and proclaimed everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the message by the accompanying signs. ~ Mark 16:20 (CJB)

As Yeshua had requested (v. 49), the talmidim returned to Yerushalayim and stayed there until the events of the day of Shavuot (Acts 2). They bowed in worship to him because they now understood who He was, the Son of God, divine and worthy of worship. They spent all their time in the Temple courts praising God. The early Believers had a living faith and a close relationship with God; being Jews, they expressed that faith by praising God at His Temple. We pick them up praising God at Acts 1:14. Note that Kefa is mentioned first in the list of the eleven.

And they went out and proclaimed everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the message by the accompanying signs. Are you witnessing what the Lord has done for you – or are you expecting others to evangelize? Are you serving – or are you expecting others to serve you?

In my next post, we will examine Kefa Calls for the Replacement of Y’hudah.

Click here for the PDF version.

Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 4

In my last post, we examined when Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 3. In this post, we conclude our story in Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 4.

We pick up our story by the seashore after Kefa confirms his allegiance to Yeshua with a discussion of what would happen to Yochanan.

20 Kefa turned and saw the talmid Yeshua especially loved following behind, the one who had leaned against him at the supper and had asked, “Who is the one who is betraying you?” 21 On seeing him, Kefa said to Yeshua, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Yeshua said to him, “If I want him to stay on until I come, what is it to you? You follow me!”

So Kefa asked Yeshua, what about him? Kefa accepted that he had a martyr’s death awaiting him (see my last post), but he wanted to know what Yeshua’s plans were for Yochanan. Yeshua’s response was short and to the point: If I want him to stay on until I come, what is it to you? You, follow me!”

So, in essence, Yeshua said, “That’s none of your business, Kefa. If I want him to remain alive until my second coming, what difference does that make to you? You worry about yourself and follow me.”

God has a general will for all of his people. This is expressed in his biblical commands for all of his followers. But he also has a specific will for each Believer. Yeshua graciously revealed to Kefa his will for him. But he wasn’t about to tell Kefa his specific will for Yochanan.

We are called to follow Yeshua corporately as the Kehilah and personally as individuals. Each of us is to have a personal relationship with God through Yeshua and seek to discern how he wants us to serve and glorify him. You are not to use God’s specific will for you to measure anyone else, nor are you to take his specific will for another and use it to measure your circumstances. We are not to sit as judges regarding how God chooses to use other believers.

Yeshua rules out curiosity about matters that do not concern us or help us live a holy life, although he does not rule out a scientific inquiry into how the world works. Likewise, he excludes unhealthy, jealous competition concerned with comparing our lives, tasks, gifts, accomplishments, interests, and calling with those of others. In both matters, Yeshua’s central point is: You, follow me!

23 Therefore the word (rumor) spread among the brothers that that talmid would not die. However, Yeshua didn’t say he wouldn’t die, but simply, “If I want him to stay on until I come, what is it to you?” ~ John 21:1-23 (CJB)

Like the final chapter of Matthew, the closing verses of Yochanan’s Gospel dispel a rumor. Matthew denied that Yeshua’s talmidim stole His body (Mat 28:11-15), while Yochanan sought to lay to rest the rumor that Yeshua had promised to return during Yochanan’s lifetime.

In my next post, we examine Yeshua’s Final Instructions before His Ascension.

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Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 3

In my last post, we examined when Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 2. In this post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 3.

We pick up the story as the fishermen are eating the breakfast that Yeshua had prepared for them.

15 After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim’on Kefa, “Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, do you love (agapaô) me more than these?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

After breakfast, Yeshua talked with Shim’on Kefa. He asked him, Shim’on Bar-Yochanan, do you love (agapaô) me more than these? Why would Yeshua ask this? Because when he had predicted that the emissaries would fall away, Kefa had vowed, “I will never lose faith in you,” Kefa answered, “even if everyone else does.” Matthew 26:33 (CJB). Kefa had wanted Yeshua to know that though the devotion of the other emissaries might waver, he could count on Kefa remaining steadfast. He would be the one talmid that Yeshua could trust. But here, after Kefa had shamefully denied Yeshua three times, Yeshua basically asked Kefa, “Are you still the most committed talmid?”

I really like how Stern translates Kefa’s response as I’m your friend. Most other English translations have him say, “You know that I love (phileō) You.” Previously, Kefa had claimed that his love for and commitment to Yeshua was superior to that of the others. But after his failure and denial, he wasn’t willing to proudly say that he loved Yeshua with a sacrificial love. In light of this humble response, Yeshua told him, Feed my lambs. In other words, “Since you’re not thinking so highly of yourself anymore, I can use you to lead and care for my people.”

16 A second time he said to him, “Shim’on Bar-Yochanan, do you love (agapaô) me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend.” He said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Shim’on Bar-Yochanan, are you, my friend?” Shim’on was hurt that he questioned him a third time: “Are you, my friend?” So he replied, “Lord, you know everything! You know, I’m your friend!” Yeshua said to him, “Feed my sheep!

Two Greek verbs with related meanings are used in this passage. Greek agapaô is selfless, self-giving love, the kind of love God has for his human creations; phileô is the love friends or brothers have for each other. Scholars are divided on the degree to which the use of these two different words for “love” affects the sense of this exchange between Yeshua and Kefa.

The exchange goes like this: “Do you agapaô me?”“I phileô you.”“Feed my lambs. Do you agapaô me?” “I phileô you.” “Shepherd my sheep. Do you phileô me?” “You know I phileô you.” “Feed my sheep.”

I believe that Bible translators do us a great disservice by not keeping the original Greek and providing the English definition in a footnote. I’ve often said that love in the English language is just too “squishy” of a word.

So, seeing Kefa humbled, Yeshua came down to Kefa’s level and met him where he was. Shim‘on was hurt. A question Yeshua had now matched his three denials of Yeshua repeated three times: “Do you love me?” It broke Kefa’s heart. All he could do was say, “Lord, you know everything! You know, I’m your friend!” When Kefa was proudly self-assured about his ability to stand fast at a critical moment, Yeshua knew that he would crack under pressure. He knew Kefa’s heart better than Kefa did. The grieving talmid understood that now. And since Yeshua knew all things, Kefa was convinced that Yeshua also knew that Kefa loved him despite his prior failure.

Again, Yeshua told him, Feed my sheep. Thus, Yeshua was restoring his humbled talmid to ministry. Kefa’s repentance allowed for restoration. Though Kefa had previously thought highly of himself, he had come to adopt Yeshua’s view of leadership in ministry. Kefa understood that being a leader of God’s people is not about arrogantly exercising power. Therefore, he could later write to other church leaders, “Shepherd God’s flock among you . . . not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3). Kefa had taken to heart Yeshua’s command, “Shepherd my sheep.” Sometimes God lets His people fail to develop them spiritually and prepare them for greater usefulness (see Luke 22:31-32).

The books of Acts, 1 Kefa, and 2 Kefa demonstrate that Kefa more than rose to the occasion and fulfilled Yeshua’s calling.

18 Yes, indeed! I tell you, when you were younger, you put on your clothes and went where you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 He said this to indicate the kind of death by which Kefa would bring glory to God. Then Yeshua said to him, “Follow me!”

Stretch out your hands refers to crucifixion, where a person’s hands and arms are spread out and nailed to the crossbeam. Tradition says Kefa chose to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the same manner as Yeshua. He is believed to have died in Rome in the mid-60’s CE.

Despite what was to come, Yeshua urged Kefa, Follow me! The Brit Hadashah shows that Kefa did indeed humbly follow his Lord and devote himself to gospel ministry. Are you prepared to follow Yeshua in good times and bad, at whatever the cost?

In my next post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 4.

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Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 2

In my last post, we examined when Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 1. In this post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 2.

We pick up the story as the fishermen haul their large catch to shore:

9 When they stepped ashore, they saw a fire of burning coals with a fish on it and some bread. 10 Yeshua said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Although Yeshua provides as he did in the feeding of the five thousand, this time, he gives them a chance to share as the lad had in with his loaves and fishes.

11 Shim‘on Kefa went up and dragged the net ashore. It was full of fish, 153 of them, but even with so many, the net wasn’t torn.

Various attempts have been made to interpret the number 153 symbolically, but most likely, it merely represents the actual number of fish. Large numbers elsewhere in Yochanan are meant literally as well (2:6; 12:3). [1]

When they arrived on the beach, they saw that Yeshua had cooked breakfast of fish and bread on a fire of burning coals. Who knew Yeshua was a cook as well?

The Greek word for burning coals appears two times in Yochanan’s Gospel: here and at 18:18 when Kefa was warming himself by another such blaze. On that occasion, Kefa had denied three times that he knew Yeshua. Thus, the Lord was reminding Kefa of his recent past. We can be confident of this because of the conversation that follows. Kefa never forgot this meal; he even mentioned it in his preaching (see Acts 10:41).

12 Yeshua said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the talmidim dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Yeshua came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Yeshua had appeared to the talmidim after being raised from the dead.

Yeshua invited them to join Him for breakfast. Yochanan tells us that none of the talmidim dared to ask him, Who are you? They all recognized that this was their risen Lord. This was now the third time Yeshua had appeared to the talmidim after being raised from the dead.  The Resurrection of Yeshua was neither a fairytale nor a hallucination. He showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. During a period of forty days, they saw him, and he spoke with them about the Kingdom of God. Acts 1:3 (CJB) As Yeshua himself told them, Look at my hands and my feet — it is I, myself! Touch me and see — a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you can see, I do.” Luke 24:39 (CJB)

In my next post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 3 when Yeshua asks Kefa, do you love me more than these?

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[1] HCSB Study Bible.

Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 1

In my last post, we examined when Kefa Learns of Yeshua’s Resurrection. In this post, we continue with the sightings of our resurrected Lord when Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 1.

Fair Warning: There is so much “meat” in this last chapter of Yochanan that it will take us several posts to digest it.

The Synoptic Gospels had mentioned that Yeshua would appear to the talmidim in the Galil (Mat. 28:7, 10; Mk. 16:7), and Mat. 28:16-20 reports one such appearance. Here Yochanan describes another earlier appearance. Yochanan is the only author of the Gospels to record this account of Yeshua’s appearance.

Jon Courson has this to say about this last chapter of Yochanan:

Seven of the twelve disciples were fishermen. I find it interesting that Jesus seemed to be inclined toward choosing fishermen to be His disciples. Fishermen, by nature, must know how to persevere through both calm seas and stormy weather. The same is true of ministry. If you want to serve the Lord, you must learn to serve Him, as Paul would tell Timothy, “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Whether the sun is shining or the trials abounding, we must be like fishermen, who, regardless of the weather, make their way to the sea. Working in teams, fishermen were those who could take commands. One would tell the other where to cast the net and when to draw it in. Certainly, those of us who want to be used by the Lord must be those who work as a team and take commands easily. Perhaps more than any other occupation, any other endeavor, fishing requires patience. So, too, those who minister for the Lord must be those who are exceedingly patient as they wait for the haul to come in.[1]

1 After this, Yeshua appeared again to the talmidim at Lake Tiberias (Gallilee or Galil). Here is how it happened: 2 Shim ‘on Kefa and T’oma (his name means “twin”) were together with Natan’el from Kanah in the Galil, the sons of Zavdai, and two other talmidim. 3 Shim ‘on Kefa said, “I’m going fishing.” They said to him, “We’re coming with you.” They went and got into the boat, but that night they didn’t catch anything.

The names of the sons of Zavdai are given in the Synoptic Gospels as Ya’akov and Yochanan (see Mathew 4:21). Luke mentioned that they were Shim’on’s partners in the fishing business before they were called to follow Yeshua as emissaries.

Even around Lake Tiberias, agriculture constituted the primary occupation; fishing was nevertheless a major industry there, and fishing there often provided an ample income. Fishing was often done at night. Some people have reported that fish are more easily caught at night than in the day on the Lake Tiberias; they could then be sold in the morning.

Shim’on Kefa said I’m going fishing. He was going back to his old way of life, apparently unaware of what Yeshua’s commission (20:21) meant. The others followed his example and went with him. The result of this self, rather than God, determined activity was that they didn’t catch anything. When they allowed the Messiah to determine what they should do, they caught a netful.

4 However, just as day was breaking, Yeshua stood on shore, but the talmidim didn’t know it was he. 5 He said to them, “You don’t have any fish, do you?” “No,” they answered him. 6 He said to them, “Throw in your net to starboard, and you will catch some.” So they threw in their net, and there were so many fish in it that they couldn’t haul it aboard.

Yeshua was standing on shore, but they didn’t recognize Him because it was only daybreak, and they were still some distance away. He called to them to throw in your net to starboard, and they caught so many fish in it that they couldn’t haul it aboard.

Kefa had been a fisherman all his life. Nevertheless, he had failed without the Lord’s enablement, something that Yeshua had shown him previously (see Luke 5:4-11). Kefa was not ultimately self-sufficient but entirely dependent on God, even to accomplish work that had been his whole life. As Yeshua told his emissaries, apart from me, you can’t do a thing (John 15:5). It appears that Kefa was a slow learner.

7 The talmid Yeshua loved (Yochanan) said to Kefa, “It’s the Lord!” On hearing it was the Lord, Shim ‘on Kefa threw on his coat, because he was stripped for work, and plunged into the lake; 8 but the other talmidim followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; for they weren’t far from shore, only about a hundred yards. John 21:1-8 (CJB)

This miraculous catch of fish opened the eyes of Yochanan. When he said, It’s the Lord!, Kefa threw on his coat, because he was stripped for work, and plunged into the lake. The impetuous talmid couldn’t wait. Then the rest of the talmidim followed, dragging the net full of fish behind them.

In my next post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 2.

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

Kefa Learns of Yeshua’s Resurrection

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Denies His Knowledge of Yeshua three times before the rooster crowd, as Yeshua had predicted. In this post, Kefa Learns of Yeshua’s Resurrection.

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Miryam from Magdala went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she came running to Shim’ on Kefa and the other talmid, the one Yeshua loved, and said to them, “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him!”

Romans saw to it that those crucified were dead. Apart from a resurrection, which no one expected, Miryam could only imagine that the body had been stolen, that the authorities had confiscated it, or that owners of the site had moved it. It had also been dark when Miryam first reached the tomb. Still, they would, in any case, want to learn what happened to the body.

3 Then Kefa and the other talmid started for the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other talmid outran Kefa and reached the tomb first. 5 Stooping down, he saw the linen burial-sheets lying there but did not go in.

The stooping suggests a tomb with a low entrance leading to a lower pit; the lighting or the positioning of Yeshua’s body would explain why the head veil was not visible before entering.

Yochanan did not go in, presumably in deference to Kefa, a leader among the Twelve.

6 Then, following him, Shim’ on Kefa arrived, entered the tomb, and saw the burial-sheets lying there, 7 also the cloth that had been around his head, lying not with the sheets but in a separate place and still folded up.

The burial clothes consisted of a shroud around the body and a head-cloth. Yochanan’s description of their undisturbed location, especially the separate position of the still folded headcloth, tells us that Yeshua’s body was miraculously loosed from the burial clothes so that they collapsed in place. Therefore, as we learn in verse 8, Yochanan saw, and he trusted.

8 Then the other talmid, who had arrived at the tomb first, also went in; he saw, and he trusted. 9 (They had not yet come to understand that the Tanakh teaches that the Messiah has to rise from the dead.)

The Tanakh teaches that the Messiah has to rise from the dead at Isaiah 53:9-12 and Psalm 16:10.

The presence of two witnesses rendered the evidence admissible under Jewish law (see Deut. 17:6; 19:15). The Yochanan believed based on what he saw, not on an understanding from Scripture that Yeshua must rise from the dead. This lack of expectation of resurrection shows that the talmidim did not fabricate the resurrection story to fit their preconceived expectations. Instead, the resurrection shocked them and did not fit with what they understood from Scripture. As the saying goes, seeing is believing!

10 So the talmidim returned home. ~ John 20:1-10 (CJB)

Note: Because Kefa is not personally mentioned in either of the Upper Room appearances of Yeshua that night or the following week to T’oma, I will skip over those accounts. However, I do not doubt that he was there!

In my next post, Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time.

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