Kefa Learns the Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kefa Goes Up the Mountain

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

The Mount of the Transfiguration

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

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

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

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

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

The second occasion is our passage today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kefa Rebukes Yeshua

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

Yeshua Predicts His Death and Resurrection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa  Learns Why Yeshua Teaches in Parables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kefa Again Acknowledges that Yeshua is the Messiah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa Gets Wet and Declares His Loyalty

In my last post, we looked at Kefa’s Involvement with Yeshua’s Healing of a Woman and Ya’ir’s (Jarius’s) Daughter. In this post, we learn that Kefa Gets Wet and Declares His Loyalty.

Immediately following the feeding of the five thousand, Yeshua had the talmidim get in the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. Night came on, and He was there alone. 24 But by this time, the boat was several miles from shore, battling a rough sea and a headwind.

Harsh storms often arise suddenly on the Sea of Galilee.

25 Around four o’clock in the morning, He came toward them, walking on the lake! 26 When the talmidim saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said and screamed with fear. 27 But at once, Yeshua spoke to them. “Courage,” He said, “it is I. Stop being afraid.”

Belief in ghosts or disembodied spirits was common on a popular level in antiquity, even though the idea of ghosts contradicted popular Jewish teachings about the resurrection from the dead. [1] It is I is the equivalent of saying I Am.

28 Then Kefa called to him, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come!” He said. So Kefa got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Yeshua. 30 But when he saw the wind, he became afraid; and as he began to sink, he yelled, “Lord! Save me!” 31 Yeshua immediately stretched out His hand, took hold of him, and said to him, “Such little trust! Why did you doubt?” 32 As they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 The men in the boat fell down before Him and exclaimed, “You really are God’s son!” ~ Matthew 14:22-33 (CJB)

Such little trust! Kefa has, even though a moment before he had much to get out of the boat. Faith is only present-tense; it does not build up like a bank account (see James 1:6-7). Yeshua’s rebuke restored it and Kefa walked back to the boat holding Yeshua’s hand.

Despite Kefa’s failure to follow through, by beginning to walk on water, he had done something that not even the greatest prophets of the Tanakh had done. Would you or I have faith to get out of the boat in the middle of a storm?

Walking on water might remind readers of Isra’el passing through the Red Sea or the Yarden, but this was a greater miracle. Faith to step into the water could also evoke Joshua 3:13-17.

The talimidim’s confession of Yeshua as God’s Son is not surprising. The title Son of God often serves as a messianic title in the Brit Hadashah, but here it also implies Yeshua’s deity. The talmidim likely interpreted the miracle in light of Job 9:8, which states that Adonai walked on the sea as if it were dry land. Their worship of Yeshua also confirmed their growing recognition of His divine nature.

After they had crossed the Sea of Galilee, Yeshua gave His famous discourse that He was the Bread of Life. Many of the talmidim found this saying too hard to understand or accept. We learn 66 From this time on, many of his talmidim turned back and no longer traveled around with him. 67 So Yeshua said to the Twelve, “Don’t you want to leave too?”

Yeshua succeeded in winnowing out those who were not sincere or who found too high the cost of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Literally, this sounds very cannibalistic. Many must have recalled their history when their ancestors were forced to become cannibals to survive. Fortunately, we now know that He was speaking symbolically of giving up His body and blood on the execution stake to cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

68 Shim’on Kefa answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the word of eternal life. 69 We have trusted, and we know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Yeshua answered them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is an adversary.” ~ John 6:66-70 (CJB)

Kefa’s confession of Yeshua as the Holy One of God anticipates later references to Yeshua being set apart for Adonai. In the Tanakh, Adonai was called “the Holy One of Israel” (Ps 71:22; Isa. 43:3; 54:5). Kefa’s confession of faith in Yeshua may be compared with Matt. 16:16, Mark 8:29, and Luke 9:20.

In my next post, we pick up our chronological journey of Kefa in the Gospels when he once again asks Yeshua to explain a parable.

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa’s Involvement with Yeshua’s Healing of a Woman and Ya’ir’s Daughter

In my last post, we looked at Kefa’s appointment as an Emissary and his inquiring mind from the Parable of the Watchful Servants. In this post, I will turn to Kefa’s Involvement with Yeshua’s Healing of a Woman and Ya’ir’s (Jarius’s) Daughter.

Most of us a familiar with this account of Yeshua healing the woman who had had a hemorrhaging of blood for twelve years. Under Jewish law, because of that, she was considered unclean and had to live apart from her family and community. She was obviously desperate for healing after consulting with multiple physicians. Rather than quoting the entire passage, I want to focus in on Kefa’s involvement.

The woman came up behind Him and touched the tzitzit on His robe; instantly, her hemorrhaging stopped. 45 Yeshua asked, “Who touched me?” When they all denied doing it, Kefa said, “Rabbi! The crowds are hemming you in and jostling you!” 46 But Yeshua said, “Someone did touch me because I felt power go out of me.” ~ Luke 8:44-46 (CJB)

A couple of thoughts on this portion of the story:

  • Kefa was close to Yeshua when this incident occurred. He, too, was probably being pushed and shoved by the crowd as made its way towards Ya’ir’s
  • Kefa gave the response to Yeshua that I assume most of us would have also given. I can recall many times when I have been in a crowd to get into a concert or football game where I have been jostled by some unknown person. Pastor Tony Evans has this fascinating insight:

When He asked who had touched Him, Peter was astonished. Jesus was being accosted from every side. Everyone was touching him! But the Son of God knows when someone has reached out to him in faith.[1]

We pick up our account with Yeshua and the crowd continuing their journey to Ya’ir’s home to health his daughter. By now, however, they had learned that his little girl had died, and the mourners [2] were on their way. Again, rather than quoting the entire passage, I want to focus in on Kefa’s involvement.

51 When he arrived at the house, he didn’t allow anyone to go in with him except Kefa, Yochanan, Ya’akov and the child’s father and mother 52 All the people were wailing and mourning for her; but he said, “Don’t weep; she hasn’t died, she’s sleeping.” ~ Luke 8:51-52 (CJB)

The timing of this passage is still early in Yeshua’s ministry, and Kefa being called to be an emissary. Here we see the beginning of the triumvirate of Kefa, Yochanan, and Ya’akov as the leaders of the pack. We will see them later at the Mount of Transfiguration and the Mount of Olives on Yeshua’s last night before His crucifixion.

I am not going to speculate on any significance or the lack thereof in the order of the listing of their names.

In my next post, we will look at Kefa Getting Wet.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Tony Evans Bible Commentary, Advancing God’s Kingdom Agenda.

[2] At least two or three professional mourners (two flute players and a mourning woman) were required at the funeral of even the poorest person; the funeral for a member of a prominent family like this one would have many mourners. Because bodies decomposed rapidly in Palestine, mourners had to be assembled as quickly as possible, and they had gathered before word even reached Jairus that his daughter had died. ~ Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Kefa’s Appointment As An Emissary & His Inquiring Mind

In my last post, we looked at Kefa’s calling by Yeshua to follow Him. In this post, will turn to Kefa’s appointment as an Emissary and his inquiring mind from the Parable of the Watchful Servants.

1 Yeshua called His twelve talmidim and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to heal every kind of disease and weakness. 2 These are the names of the twelve emissaries:

First, Shim’on, called Kefa, and Andrew his brother, Ya’akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan, his brother, 3 Philip and Bar-Talmai, T’oma and Mattityahu the tax-collector, Ya’akov Bar-Halfai and Taddai, 4 Shim ‘on the Zealot, and Y’hudah from K’riot, who betrayed Him. ~ Matthew 10:1-4 (CJB) [1]

These men had been traveling with Yeshua, listening to Yeshua, and hanging out with Yeshua. They were learners. Yeshua called them talmidim (disciples) and transformed them into emissaries (“apostles” or “sent out ones.”)

An emissary was a Hebrew term that was used for business agents, although the general concept is broader than that; a “sent one” acted on the full authority of the sender to the extent that one accurately represented the sender’s mission. [2]

I find it interesting that Mattityahu (Matthew), as well as the other Gospel writer’s list Kefa, first when it was his brother Andrew who was one of Yeshua’s first talmidim. Here we see that Yeshua does have leaders among leaders. And Kefa, indeed, was a leader amongst these leaders.

Nonetheless, Kefa was the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth, often saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Maybe you enjoy talking, and your heart is as big as the world, but you have a tendency to speak and to think later. Kefa was like that.

The Lord changed Shim’on from one who was shifting and unstable into Kefa or “Rock.” Yeshua renamed Kefa because He transformed him from one who was shifting and unstable to one who would become trustworthy and reliable.

Yeshua’s selection of 12 talmidim is also reminiscent of the 12 tribes of Isra’el. Moving on in chronological order, we come to the:

Parable of the Watchful Servants

As Yeshua is speaking to His followers, he says:

35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit, 36 like people waiting for their master’s return after a wedding feast; so that when he comes and knocks, they will open the door for him without delay. 37 Happy the slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes! Yes! I tell you he will put on his work clothes, seat them at the table, and come serve them himself! 38 Whether it is late at night or early in the morning, if this is how he finds them, those slaves are happy.

39 “But notice this: no house-owner would let his house be broken into if he knew when the thief was coming. 40 You too, be ready! For the Son of Man will come when you are not expecting him.”

41 Kefa said, “Sir, are you telling this parable for our benefit only or for everyone’s?”42 The Lord replied, “Nu,[3] who is the faithful and sensible manager whose master puts him in charge of the household staff to give them their share of food at the proper time? 43 It will go well with that servant if he is found doing his job when his master comes. 44 Yes, I tell you he will put him in charge of all he owns. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking his time coming,’ and starts bullying the men- and women-servants, and eating and drinking, getting drunk, 46, then his master will come on a day when the servant isn’t expecting him, at a time he doesn’t know in advance, his master will cut him in two and put him with the disloyal. 47 Now the servant who knew what his master wanted but didn’t prepare or act according to his will, will be whipped with many lashes; 48; however, the one who did what deserves a beating, but didn’t know, will receive few lashes. From him who has been given much, much will be demanded — from someone to whom people entrust much, they ask still more. ~ Luke 12:35-48 (CJB)

Talmidim often sought clarification from their teachers by asking questions, so Kefa’s question was not unusual. After all, inquiring minds want to know. Yeshua previously told His disciples that His parables held secrets that were only for His followers. Yeshua did not answer Kefa’s question directly. Instead, He told another story about a master and his manager. This story emphasized that the master’s servant should be watching, but this story made it clear that the servant must also be working.

The faithful servant of Yeshua is the one who is given a task, performs it, and is blessed by it. The reward that Yeshua will give to the faithful steward will be far greater than the challenges encountered in this service. Faithful believers will receive greater responsibility at His return.

In my next post, we will turn to Kefa’s involvement with the healing of a woman with a hemorrhaging of blood and Ya’ir’s (Jarius) daughter.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] See also Mark 3:16 & Luke 6:14.

[2] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

[3]Nu is a general-purpose Yiddish word meaning variously, “Well?” “So?” “Indeed!” “I challenge you,” or, “If not that, then what?”—with many possible inflections and overtones.

Shavuot (Pentecost) 2020 ~ God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Kefa and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2020, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Thursday, May 28th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, May 31st. Essentially, Jews and Christians will be celebrating on the same weekend, albeit for slightly different reasons.

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 Jerusalem. 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.

Observance

The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. In addition, 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 and Messianic 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 important 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 the time 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 Spirit 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 own 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 Shavuot?

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. Rather 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 of opinion on the matter. In the first century the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. 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 as well. 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 new series on Kefa.

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