The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 163

Passion Week ~ Yeshua’s Final Discourse ~ Part 5

In our last post, we continued to examine the final days of Yeshua’s life and ministry. This post continues to explore the events that occurred on Thursday Evening (now early on Friday in the Jewish culture).

“I Have Overcome the World”

25 “I have said these things to you with the help of illustrations; however, a time is coming when I will no longer speak indirectly but will talk about the Father in plain language. 26 When that day comes, you will ask in My name. I am not (emphasis added) telling you that I will pray to the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. 28 “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and returning to the Father.”

The depiction of Yeshua as having come from the Father … into the world and as leaving the world and returning to the Father is patterned after the portrayal of the Word of God, which is sent, accomplishes its purpose, and returns to the One who sent it (see Isaiah 55:11–12).

The Talmidim Respond

29 The talmidim said to Him, “Look, you’re talking plainly right now; you’re not speaking indirectly at all. 30 Now we know that you know everything and that you don’t need to have people put their questions into words. This makes us believe that you came from God.” 31 Yeshua answered, “Now you do believe. 32 But a time is coming—indeed it has come already—when you will be scattered, each one looking out for himself; and you will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone; because the Father is with me. 33 “I have said these things to you so that, united with me, you may have shalom. In the world, you have tsuris. But be brave! I have conquered the world!” [1]

The talmidim have at last come to the point of simple, childlike faith (compare Mattityahu 18:3). Nevertheless, Yeshua does not permit them to bask in it but at once calls their attention to its fickleness. The moment you feel secure, certain your faith is strong, may well be the very instant when you are scattered, each one looking out for himself, and you will leave me (Yeshua) all alone.

In the world, you have tsuris. The life of a believer in the Messiah is not the proverbial rose garden, except, perhaps, for the thorns. Nevertheless, Yeshua encourages us: Be brave! I have conquered the world! Tsuris, Yiddish adaptation of Hebrew tzarot, “troubles.” This could be an instance in the Brit Hadashah that Yeshua may, in this verse, be quoting a proverb already current in the Jewish culture of His own time.

I left this post deliberately short so we can explore the actual Lord’s Prayer in Yochanan 17:6-26.

Next, we continue to follow Yeshua into Yerushalayim for His Crucifixion by the week’s end and continue to explore Yeshua’s Final Discourse.

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[1] Yochanan 16:25-33

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 137

Passion Week ~ Tuesday (continued)

In our last post, we examined the final days of Yeshua’s life and ministry. In this post, we walk with Yeshua as He returns to Yerushalayim for the final time. As we will see in this and several more posts, Tuesday is hectic.

Religious Leaders Angered

45 As the head cohanim and the P’rushim listened to His stories, they saw that He was speaking about them. 46 But when they set about to arrest Him, they were afraid of the crowds; because the crowds considered Him a prophet. ~Mattityahu 21:45-46.

Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Yeshua again used parables in speaking to them: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son,

Festivities for such an event would have lasted several days. In this parable, Yeshua alludes to the great end-times feast (compare 8:11), when God’s people will enjoy fellowship with the Messiah in His fully inaugurated Kingdom (compare Revelation 19:6–10).

but when he sent his slaves to summon the invited guests to the wedding, they refused to come.

Refusing such an invitation from the king was a shocking insult. These invited guests represent those who respond to the message of the Kingdom of Heaven with indifference (v5) and hostility (v. 6).

So he sent some more slaves, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, I’ve prepared my banquet, I’ve slaughtered my bulls and my fattened cattle, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they weren’t interested and went off, one to his farm, another to his business; and the rest grabbed his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was furious and sent his soldiers, who killed those murderers and burned down their city.

Verse 7 foreshadows the Romans’ destruction of Yerushalayim in 70 CE.

“Then he said to his slaves, ‘Well, the wedding feast is ready; but the ones who were invited didn’t deserve it. So go out to the street corners and invite to the banquet as many as you find.’ 10 The slaves went out into the streets, gathered all the people they could find, the bad along with the good; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “Now when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who wasn’t dressed for a wedding; so he asked him,

This man accepted the king’s invitation but, on his terms, – which the king found improper. Kings sometimes give banquets for their subjects and invite them all, regardless of status, providing suitable clothing for those unable to afford it. Therefore the one not wearing what the king had provided was without excuse.

12 ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him outside in the dark!’ In that place, people will wail and grind their teeth, 14 for many are invited, but few are chosen.” [1]

Verse 14 summarizes the theme of the preceding parables (21:28–22:14). God invites many people into His Kingdom, as seen in this parable Yeshua has just told. However, as the man thrown out of the wedding feast illustrates (vv. 11–13), not all who consider themselves part of God’s Kingdom are genuine members (compare 7:13–14, 21–23). Those who hear and respond favorably to God’s invitation can join Him in celebration (compare 25:31–46).

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

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[1] Mattityahu 22:1–14.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 21

As I stated in Part 2 of this series, I want to set the stage for what Yeshua says. The first two topics are introductory to the third topic.

Yeshua Appoints His Emissaries

The three Synoptic Gospel accounts prioritize Kefa and end with Y’hudah (Judas from Iscariot).

12 It was around that time that Yeshua went out to the hill country to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 When day came, He called His talmidim and chose from among them twelve to be known as emissaries:

Luke has previously described how Yeshua called some of His talmidim (see 5:4–11, 27–28). Now He describes how He chose twelve of them to be his emissaries. Before this, He spent all night praying to God (6:12). Given this significant moment and the mounting hostility to His ministry, Yeshua sought time with His Father. This was how the Son of God approached critical moments and is the pattern we should follow when facing a decision.

14 Shim’on, whom he named Kefa; Andrew, his brother; Ya‘akov; Yochanan; Philip; Bar-Talmai; 15 Mattityahu; T’oma; Ya‘akov Ben-Halfai; 16 Shim’on, the one called the Zealot; Y’hudah Ben-Ya‘akov; and Y’hudah from K’riot, who turned traitor. ~ Luke 6:12-16 (see Mark 3:16-19 and Mattityahu 10:1-4)

Luke names the twelve men whom Yeshua designated as emissaries – including the one who turned traitor. These handpicked men would travel with Yeshua, learn from Him, and be granted special authority to share in the responsibility of proclaiming His Kingdom message.

Great Crowds Gather

17 Then, He came down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His talmidim was there with great numbers of people from all Y’hudah, Yerushalayim, and the coast around Tzor and Tzidon; they had come to hear Him and be healed of their diseases. 18 Those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being healed; 19 and the whole crowd was trying to touch Him because power kept going out from Him, healing everyone. ~ Luke 6:17-19

Having been on a mountain (6:12), Yeshua descended and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his talmidim who had traveled from far and wide to hear him teach and be healed (6:17–18). Thus we come now the Sermon on the Mount.

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part A

As most of you already know, the Sermon on the Mount covers Mattityahu 5-7. We start with the Beatitudes and the Woes.

Seeing the crowds, Yeshua walked up the hill. After He sat down, His talmidim came to Him, and He began to speak. This is what he taught them:
“How blessed are the poor in spirit!
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs

How blessed. Greek Makarios corresponds to Hebrew Asher and means “blessed,” “happy,” and “fortunate” all at once so that no one English word is adequate.

“How blessed are those who mourn!
for they will be comforted.
“How blessed are the meek!
for they will inherit the Land!
“How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness!
for they will be filled.
“How blessed are those who show mercy!
for they will be shown mercy.
“How blessed are the pure in heart!
for they will see God.
“How blessed are those who make peace!
for they will be called sons of God.
10 “How blessed are those who are persecuted
because they pursue righteousness!
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “How blessed you are when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of vicious lies about you because you follow me!
12 Rejoice, be glad because your reward in heaven is great—they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. ~Mattityahu 5:1-12 (see Luke 6:20-23)

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you, have already had all the comfort you will get! 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will go hungry! “Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and cry!
26 “Woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is just how their fathers treated the false prophets!
~ Luke 6:24-26

I deliberately did not comment on the Beatitudes or Woes in this post, as I will do that in the next post (or two).

In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 5

Yeshua’s Driving Merchants from the Temple

13 It was almost time for the festival of Pesach in Y’hudah, so Yeshua went up to Yerushalayim. 14 In the Temple grounds, He found those who were selling cattle, sheep, and pigeons and others who were sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 He made a whip from cords and drove them all out of the Temple grounds, the sheep, and cattle as well. He knocked over the moneychangers’ tables, scattering their coins; 16 and to the pigeon-sellers, he said, Get these things out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market?” 17 (His talmidim later recalled that the Tanakh says, “Zeal for your house will devour me.” [1]) 18 So the Judeans confronted him by asking him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove you have the right to do all this?” 19 Yeshua answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up again.” 20 The Judeans said, “It took 46 years to build this Temple, and you’re going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the “temple” He had spoken of was His body.

But the “Temple” He had spoken of was His body.Yeshua often spoke obliquely to those He knew lacked faith (for another example, see v. 25 below). At Mattityahu 13:10–17, He answered at length the question of His talmidim, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Like Nechemyah, he did not waste time in futile conversations with closed-minded people (Nehemiah 2:19–20, 6:2–3).

22 Therefore, when He was raised from the dead, His talmidim remembered that He had said this, and they trusted in the Tanakh and in what Yeshua had said.

At the end of Yeshua’s ministry, when He overturned the moneychangers’ tables a second time (Mattityahu 21:12), the talmidim recalled Yeshua’s quoting Psalm 69, “Zeal for your house will devour me” (above, v. 17). This shows that Yochanan’s Gospel attributes to the later overturning of tables in the Temple a significant immediate-causative role in Yeshua’s being brought to trial and death.

23 Now, while Yeshua was in Yerushalayim at the Pesach festival, there were many people who “believed in His name” when they saw the miracles He performed.

There were many people who “believed in his name” but not in Him (vv. 24–25). His miracles excited them, but they were not ready to acknowledge their sin and repent. In contrast, Nakdimon (3:1ff.) was a sincere seeker, and eventually, he came to genuine faith.

24 But He did not commit Himself to them, for He knew what people are like – 25 that is, He didn’t need anyone to inform Him about a person because He knew what was in the person’s heart. ~ Yochanan 2:13-25

He Has an Encounter with Nakdimon

There was a man among the P’rushim, named Nakdimon, who was a ruler of the Judeans. This man came to Yeshua by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know it is from God that you have come as a teacher; for no one can do these miracles you perform unless God is with him.” 3 “Yes, indeed,” Yeshua answered him, “I tell you that unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Yeshua neither criticizes Nakdimon for fearing to seek Him openly nor praises his insight in perceiving that Yeshua has come from God. Instead, He deals with him at his point of need, which is to be born again from above.

Nakdimon said to Him, “How can a grown man be ‘born’? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?” Yeshua answered, “Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

Born from water and the Spirit. Water immersion is connected with a ritual cleansing of the body (see above, 1:26–34, and Matt. 3:1–17). The Ruach gives power for turning from sin and living a holy life; both suggest aspects of purification. This is why born from water does not mean ordinary human birth; moreover, since everyone is “born from water” in that sense, it would be silly for Yeshua to make a condition out of it with the word unless.

 What is born from the flesh is flesh, and what is born from the Spirit is spirit. Stop being amazed at my telling you that you must be born again from above! The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. That’s how it is with everyone who has been born from the Spirit.”

The wind blows. There is a wordplay here since both the Greek word “pneuma” and the Hebrew word “ruach” may mean either “wind” or “spirit,” depending on context.

 Nakdimon replied, “How can this happen?” 10 Yeshua answered him, “You hold the office of teacher in Isra’el, and you don’t know this?

You hold the office of teacher in Isra’el, literally, “You are the teacher of Isra’el.” The use of the definite article implies that Nakdimon’s position was uniquely important, although it is difficult to reconstruct precisely what it was.

11 Yes, indeed! I tell you that what we speak about, we know, and what we give evidence of, we have seen, but you people don’t accept our evidence! 12 If you people don’t believe me when I tell you about the things of the world, how will you believe me when I tell you about the things of heaven? 13 No one has gone up into heaven; there is only the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

It is sometimes asserted that Yeshua never claimed to be more than an ordinary human being. But here, He affirms His heavenly origin, and indeed, throughout Yochanan’s Gospel, He presents Himself as divine as well as human, both in function and in essence. We speak … we give evidence. Yeshua is associating Himself with other witnesses: Yochanan the Immerser (1:7, 32–34), Yesha’yahu (12:41), Avraham (8:56), Moshe (5:46), and the writers and subjects of the Tanakh (5:39).

14 Just as Moshe lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life. ~ Yochanan 3:1-15

Just as the Isra’eli were saved from the plague of serpents when they gazed on the brass serpent raised by Moshe (Numbers 21:6–9), so all people are saved from eternal death, torment, and separation from God by gazing with spiritual eyes on the person of the Messiah Yeshua lifted up in death on the execution-stake.

Our next post will examine For God So Loved the World.

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[1] Psalm 69:10(9).

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 4

Yeshua Calls His First Talmidim

The early ministry of Yeshua is reported solely by the Apostle Yochanan. His account shows the Yeshua’s teaching quickly appeals to ordinary people and results in many faithful talmidim.

35 The next day, [1] Yochanan (the Immerser) was again standing with two of his talmidim. 36 On seeing Yeshua walking by, he said, “Look! God’s lamb!” 37 His two talmidim heard Him speaking, and they followed Yeshua. 38 Yeshua turned and saw them following Him, and He asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi!” (which means “Teacher!”) “Where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” So, they went and saw where He was staying and remained with Him the rest of the day – it was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who had heard Yochanan and had followed Yeshua was Andrew, the brother of Shim’on Kefa. 41 The first thing he did was to find his brother Shim’on and tell him, “We’ve found the Mashiach!”(The word means “one who has been anointed.”)

Mashiach …. The word means one who has been anointed. This is one of the two places in the Brit Hadashah where the Hebrew word for Messiah is transliterated into Greek as Messias (the other is at 4:25). It shows that the author wanted to reflect the Jewish or Hebraic character of the speaker’s words. [2]

42 He took him to Yeshua. Looking at him, Yeshua said, “You are Shimon Bar-Yochanan; you will be known as Kefa.” (The name means “rock.”)

43 The next day, having decided to leave for the Galil, Yeshua found Philip and said, “Follow Me!” 44 Philip was from Beit-Tzaidah, the town where Andrew and Kefa lived. 45 Philip found Natan’el and told him, “We’ve found the one that Moshe wrote about in the Torah, also the Prophets – it’s Yeshua Ben-Yosef from Natzeret!”

The one that Moshe wrote about in the Torah. See Deuteronomy 18:15–18 and Acts 3:22, which quotes this passage. Yeshua fulfills Moshe’s prophecy. Also the Prophets wrote about Yeshua.

It has always amazed me that all Yeshua had to say to Philip was Follow Me! He said the same thing to Mattityahu. In both narratives, there is no indication that Yeshua had any prior exposure to these two talmidim. According to my Logos software, thirty-nine times Follow Me is used by Yeshua in the Gospel’s.

Natan’el is not mentioned as one of the Twelve in the Synoptic Gospels but is usually identified with Bartholomew (whom Yochanan never mentions by name). Natan’el means “God has given.”

46 Natan’el answered him, “Natzeret? Can anything good come from there?” “Come and see,” Philip said to him. 47 Yeshua saw Natan’el coming toward him and remarked about him, “Here’s a true son of Isra’el – nothing false in him!” 48 Natan’el said to him, “How do you know me?” Yeshua answered him, “Before Philip called you when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Natan’el said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Isra’el!” 50 Yeshua answered him, “you believe all this just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than that!” 51 Then He said to him, “Yes indeed! I tell you that you will see heaven opened and the angels of God going up and coming down on the Son of Man!”  ~ ~ Yochanan 1:35-51

Yeshua Performs His First Miracle

In chapter 2, Yochanan (the Apostle) presents a series of signs or miracles designed to prove Yeshua’s identity as the Messiah and Son of God. In this first sign, Yeshua turns water into wine at a wedding in Kanah attended by His family and talmidim.

On Tuesday, there was a wedding at Kanah in the Galil; and the mother of Yeshua was there. Yeshua too was invited to the wedding, along with His talmidim. The wine ran out, and Yeshua’s mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.” Yeshua replied, “Mother, why should that concern me? – or you? My time hasn’t come yet.”

My time (literally, “my hour”) hasn’t come yet. Yochanan’s Gospel often has Yeshua speaking about His time (7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1), and each occasion has a reason. Here the reason is that Yeshua’s mother had been informed, even before He was born, that He was meant for greatness (Luke 1:35, 43); she had heard others prophesy about Him (Luke 2:25–38); she had observed His development (Luke 2:40, 51), although not always with understanding (Luke 2:41–50); and she had known that future generations would bless her (Luke 1:48). Yeshua’s comment is meant to aid her in the transition from seeing Him as her child to seeing Him as her Lord, to keep her from undue pride, and to indicate that He as Lord sovereignly determines when He will intervene in human affairs. He does not perform miracles on demand merely to impress His friends. [3]

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

From Miryam’s response, Do whatever he tells you, it is evident that she was neither dissatisfied nor put off by her son but received his communication in the right spirit.

Now, six stone water jars were standing there for the Jewish ceremonial washings, each with a capacity of twenty or thirty gallons. Yeshua told them, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. He said, “Now draw some out, and take it to the man in charge of the banquet,” and they took it. The man in charge tasted the water; it had now turned into wine! He did not know where it had come from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone else serves the good wine first and the poorer wine after people have drunk freely. But you have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This, the first of Yeshua’s miraculous signs, (emphasis added) He did at Kanah in the Galil; He manifested His glory, and His talmidim came to trust in Him.

This verse states the purpose of Yeshua’s miracle: to anchor the trust of His new talmidim in the glory of God as manifested through Him.

12 Afterwards, He, His mother and brothers, and His talmidim went down to K’far-Nachum and stayed there a few days. ~ Yochanan 2:1-12

Our next post will examine Yeshua’s Driving Merchants for the Temple, and He Has an Encounter with Nicodemus.

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[1] The day after His Baptism.

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

[3] Ibid.

Epistle of Ya’akov ~ 5:7-12

Patience in Suffering

We learned in our last post that the oppressors would be punished, but the oppressed have to wait on God rather than take matters violently into their own hands. This exhortation did not mean they could not speak out against injustice; it only forbade violence and personally hostile speech (5:9) as an appropriate solution to injustice. Oh, how we have forgotten this in our society today.

So, brothers, be patient until the Lord returns. See how the farmer waits for the precious “fruit of the earth”—he is patient over it until it receives the fall and spring rains. You too, be patient; keep up your courage; for the Lord’s return is near.

Until the Lord returns, anticipates an end to all exploitation and suffering. Consequently, the oppressed should exercise self-control in their reaction to their oppressors. “Fruit of the earth” is a quotation from the b’rakhah (blessing) said before eating berries or vegetables, “Blessed are you, Adonai our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the earth.” This is the blessing that Yeshua spoke over the wine during the Last Supper.

The fall and spring rains reference the climatic pattern in Isra’el, where the bulk of the rainfall comes between November and March. Harvest here becomes an image of the day of judgment, as elsewhere in Jewish literature. The Lord’s return is near, follows up his remark that this is the acharit-hayamim as we learned in verse 5:3 in our last post.

Don’t grumble against one another, brothers so that you won’t come under condemnation – look! The Judge is standing at the door!  This repeats the warning of 4:11–12.

10 As an example of suffering mistreatment and being patient, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of Adonai.

Most Tanakh prophets faced significant opposition for their preaching, some faced death. Jewish tradition had amplified martyrdom accounts even further; hence no one would dispute Ya’akov’s claim. Virtuous examples were an essential part of ancient argumentation.

11 Look, we regard those who persevered as blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Iyov (Job), and you know what the purpose of Adonai was, that Adonai is very compassionate and merciful.

The perseverance of Iyov (Job), and you know what the purpose of Adonai was, is reflected in Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” “to justify the ways of God to man.” Iyov’s troubles began when God chose to answer HaSatan’s challenge by permitting him to touch Iyov’s possessions and person, except that he could not take Iyov’s life (Job 1–2). Iyov persevered in the face of all his losses and pains, magnified by the unhelpful advice of his “friends” (Job 3–37). In the end, God vindicated himself and proved to Iyov that only God had the power and wisdom to deal with HaSatan.

12 Above all, brothers, stop swearing oaths – not “By heaven,” not “By the earth,” and not by any other formula; rather, let your “Yes” be simply “Yes” and your “No” simply “No,” so that you won’t fall under condemnation. ~ Ya’akov 5:7-12 (CJB)

Yeshua taught similarly at Matthew 5:33–37. We dare not take an oath if we do not know what tomorrow will bring because it is such a serious commitment. The law required a person to be true to an oath they had taken (Lev 19:12). A person should avoid invoking God’s name in a false oath.

In our next post, we complete our study of Ya’akov as we dig into what he says about The Prayer of Faith.

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Epistle of Ya’akov ~ 4:1-10

Warning Against Weariness ~ Part 1

What is causing all the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it your desires battling inside you? You desire things and don’t have them. You kill, and you are jealous, and you still can’t get them. So, you fight and quarrel. The reason you don’t have is that you don’t pray! Or you pray and don’t receive because you pray with the wrong motive, that of wanting to indulge your own desires.

You pray with the wrong motive. There is a heresy current among Believers, which, feeding off the excessive individualism and greed rampant in popular Western ideologies, purports to give God’s approval to selfish prayer. It beckons: “You are a child of God. He is a loving Father who would deny His children nothing. Therefore, you can pray for anything you want, and God will give it to you. Do you want a new car? A bigger house? Fancy clothes? Just ‘ask, and it will be given to you’ (Lk 11:10).” Besides misusing Scripture, raising false hopes, and making prayer a magic charm indistinct from witchcraft, this teaching ignores the fact that a truly loving father does not give his children whatever they ask for; fathers know better than their children what they need and act accordingly. The present verse refutes this selfish philosophy masquerading as biblical teaching.[1]

We will learn more about Ya‛akov’s scathing condemnation of the arrogant rich when we dig into 4:13–5:6.

You unfaithful wives! Don’t you know that loving the world is hating God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy! 

You unfaithful wives! In the Tanakh, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God her Ba’al (the Hebrew word means both “lord” and “husband”) is often expressed in terms of adultery and whoredom; see Ezekiel 23; Hosea 1–2, 9:1. Yeshua means the same thing when He calls His generation wicked and adulterous (Mt 12:39, 16:4).

Or do you suppose the Scripture speaks in vain when it says that there is a spirit in us which longs to envy? But the grace He gives is greater, which is why it says,

“God opposes the arrogant,
but to the humble he gives grace.”

Do you suppose the Tanakh speaks in vain when it says that there is a spirit in us which longs to envy? Bible scholars have had difficulty interpreting verse 6 since it is not an exact quote from the Tanakh. David Stern opines that Ya‛akov appears to be referring to Genesis 4:7, where God says to Cain, If you are doing what is good, shouldn’t you hold your head high? And if you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door—it wants you, but you can rule over it. All understand this to be speaking about HaSatan, who is the evil impulse in man.

Therefore, submit to God. Moreover, take a stand against the Adversary, and he will flee from you.

Take a stand against the Adversary (HaSatan) who stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour ~ 1 Kefa 5:8–9. Although he is the god of this world (2Cor. 4:4), Yeshua has overcome the world (John 16:33). Therefore, if you use Scripture properly (2 Tim. 2:15, Matt. 4:1–11) and employ the other available means of spiritual warfare (2Cor. 10:3–5, Ephesians 6:10–18), he will flee from you. The verse carries the same message as Genesis 4:7 (see above).

Come close to God, and He will come close to you. Clean your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded people!

Come close to God, and He will come close to you, as in Zechariah 1:3 Therefore, tell them that Adonai-Tzva’ot says this: “Return to me,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “and I will return to you,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot. Here the initiative for reconciliation is ours; elsewhere, Scripture places it in God’s hands, as at Lamentations 5:21 and Ephesians 2:4–10. Yochanan 3:16 expresses both sides equally.

Clean your hands … purify your hearts. Compare Isaiah 1:15–16: When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even when you make many prayers, I will not hear—for your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Also, Psalm 24:4(3): Who shall ascend into the mountain of Adonai? Who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.

9 Wail, mourn, sob! Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom! 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. ~ 4:1-10 (CJB)

Verses 9-10 explain what is meant by purifying one’s heart in v. 8.

We will learn more from Ya’akov as we dig into what he says about Warning Against Worldliness ~ Part 2.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

Epistle of Ya’akov ~ 3:13-18

Wisdom from Above

In this post, we learn that there are two kinds of wisdom. That which is worldly, unspiritual, and demonic produces jealousy and selfish ambition, followed by disharmony and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is from the Father, with whom there is neither variation nor darkness (1:17); it is extolled in Proverbs 8:22ff. Also, compare Isaiah 32:17 and Hebrews 12:11.

You may want to go back to Ya’akov 1:5-8 and review what he said about wisdom earlier.

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him demonstrate it by his good way of life, by actions done in the humility that grows out of wisdom.

The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh, often employs wise and understanding to describe a person who lives following the insight given by God (Deut. 1:13, 15; 4:6). People demonstrate wisdom if their deeds reflect God’s commands. Those who are wise should demonstrate their wisdom by actions done in the humility that grows out of wisdom.

14 But if you harbor in your heart’s bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, don’t boast and attack the truth with lies!

Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are the opposite of true wisdom as characterized by humility. They are also far different from the righteous character of a jealous God (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24), who appropriately yearns for His honor and the loyal devotion of His people, while the envious yearn for what does not belong to them. Selfish ambition is a divisive willingness to split the group to achieve personal power and prestige.

15 This wisdom is not the kind that comes down from above; on the contrary, it is worldly, unspiritual, demonic.

Worldly, unspiritual, demonic describes behavior that progresses from bad to worse, recalling the list in vv. 5b–6. Such behavior is ultimately earthbound, absolutely sensual as opposed to spiritual, and its origin is in the cosmic powers of darkness.

16 For where there are jealousy and selfish ambition, there will be disharmony and every foul practice.

Ya’akov describes the evil consequences of false wisdom. Earthly wisdom leads to jealousy and selfish ambition, culminating in a troubling situation for Messianic communities causing disharmony and every foul practice.

17 But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

The virtues Ya’akov lists are predominantly non-selfish and non-aggressive; those who practice these virtues show more concern for others than themselves. They are opposite of the vices described in vv. 14–16.

The answer to the disharmony and every foul practice (v.16) is to seek wisdom from above, which produces character qualities beginning with purity and concluding with mercy (cf. Gal. 5:22–23, where Godly qualities are the fruit of the Spirit).

18 And peacemakers who sow seed in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. ~ Ya’akov 3:13-18 (CJB)

The legacy of those who bring peace rather than conflict is a harvest of righteousness. The fruit that comes from peacemaking in the Messianic community will be the righteous conduct that God will bless.

We will learn more from Ya’akov as we dig into what he says about Warning Against Worldliness.

Click here for the PDF version.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 44

The Nicene Creed~ Part 30

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase and the life of the world to come in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

AND THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME ~ Blessedness and Condemnation

Both the second and third articles of the Nicene Creed conclude with eschatology. In this second section, commenting on the life of the world to come, we expand on the themes found in the second article in light of the life which is yet to come. The final section of the second article of the Nicene Creed includes the themes of Messianic eschatology—namely, Yeshua’s glorious return to earth, the final judgment, and the kingdom of Yeshua. In this final section of the commentary on this last phrase, we may observe how the complexity of ancient Messianic eschatology makes any attempt at schematization quite tricky. Numerous factors influenced the reflection of the Fathers. The patristic reflection on eschatology takes shape following historical-cultural shifts, which are influenced by the expansion of the Messianic movement. New times and situations led Messianic thinkers to formulate eschatological beliefs in a renewed way, even though they remained substantially faithful to the biblical spirit. New questions constantly arose concerning the final or last realities, thanks to the meeting of the Messianic movement with Greco-Roman pagan culture, to the influence of Gnosticism and the different Messianic heretical movements the dramatic experience of persecutions.

We will also notice the variety of language, symbols, and images used by the Fathers, at least up to Augustine. He was the first to give an organic arrangement to the eschatological questions, influencing most future reflections in this regard. The primary reference of patristic teaching is centered on the Yeshua event, with all its anthropological and soteriological reflections. Yeshua appears to be the hermeneutical key to any eschatological speech, the crucial element that resolves all questions.

The thematic kernels presented here are four in number: the glorious return of Yeshua, the final judgment, the intermediate state, and eternal life. The Parousia, or Yeshua’s second coming in glory, is the horizon within which all the final events of history find their position, so that history, according to the teaching of Sha’ul, assumes a global meaning that includes the victory of Yeshua over sin and death, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment. From this point of view, the passages from the Fathers reflect the complexity of the envisioned event, sometimes highlighting its most spiritual aspects, sometimes those which are more sensational and grotesque.

The theme of the final judgment is closely connected to the Parousia, which is presented both as a universal and individual event, even though it mostly appears to be universal and final. The judge is Yeshua, who will separate the good from the bad, destining the former to life and the latter to eternal damnation. We will notice that the Fathers linger on certain particularly terrifying elements of the judgment they indulge in graphic detail. These reflections offered them the opportunity to call the sinners to a worthy way of life and deter the believers from a sinful existence.

In the context of the end of the world, the Fathers do not neglect questions concerning the individual’s destiny. They face the theme of the so-called intermediate state. The souls of the dead are in a condition of waiting before the final resurrection when they will be reunited with their bodies and willfully receive their due reward. In particular, Augustine supposes a specific judgment for the individual immediately after death, which involves a specific reward. However, it is not the definitive one, and without precisely describing the location of this reward.

By presenting specific constant motifs in the early church’s heritage of faith, such as Yeshua’s glorious return, the final judgment, and the individual’s survival after death, this chapter reveals the Fathers’ efforts to comprehend faith in the first centuries of the Messianic age. Despite their disagreements, in the end, the comfort it afforded to those who look forward to that life that is yet to come cannot be overestimated.

Eternal life with God brings an incomparable blessing: communion with God amid the communion of the saints with God and with all who reflect God’s, holy love. This community embraces both the living faithful and the faithful departed who now enjoy eternal life with God. There is a unique union between the faithful on earth and in heaven, enabled by their mutual communion with the one Head and each other, a communion sustained by prayer, faith, hope, and love. The community or fellowship of the saints is a recurrent theme of the Brit Hadashah that points to communion with God and communion with all who share God’s life. The Son prayed to the Father that the whole community of faith “may be one, as we are one.”

The general scriptural term for the final state of the blessed is eternal life. This life is transmuted into a future life of glory that does not reach full expression until the general resurrection, final judgment, and the final destiny of the faithful. The living God permits the new life with God to continue without ceasing. Eternal life brings to completion the work of grace begun in this life, where one is delivered from sin, its roots, and consequences, fulfilling God’s purpose in creation, redemption, and consummation. The transformation begun in faithful baptism does not come to nothing but lives on. The spiritual life begun in penitent faith is imparted in spiritual rebirth, grows by sanctifying grace, and lives on by completing grace. The characteristic feature of eternal life is the complete and unending enjoyment of life with God.

In Messianic teaching, heaven is both a place and a condition of eternal rest and joy in the Lord. It is to be present with the Lord. Heaven is where the blessed clearly see God and incomparably enjoy the blessings of divine glory. Heaven is represented as a secure lodging of unutterable glory, joy, and peace. Its most prominent features are tranquility, holiness, light, beholding, happiness, and the presence of the Lord. What happens in heaven is complete and endless participation in God’s goodness and happiness. Those whose names are written in heaven have come to God. They are the spirits of righteous men made perfect. Yeshua promised his disciples: I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: AND THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME ~ Yeshua’s Return, the Judgment, and Eternal Life.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, p. 175).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 41

The Nicene Creed~ Part 27

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, w continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Acknowledge One Baptism in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


Messianic baptism (which means “immersion”) goes back to Yeshua because it is administered because of His mandate. It is distinct from other previous types of baptism in use among the Hebrews. Regardless of who officiates in baptism, it is considered that it is always Yeshua who baptizes: He will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh and in fire. In the letter to Titus, baptism is defined as the mikveh [1] of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh (Titus 3:5b ~ CJB). Already in the Brit Hadashah, there exists a rich theology about baptism as rebirth, regeneration, and purification by the Ruach; as seal of faith, as union with Yeshua in death and resurrection; and as forgiveness of sins and as a condition for entering the kingdom of God.

Mark and Matthew begin their Gospels with the baptism of John and conclude with the command of Yeshua to baptize all. The Gospel of Mark ends with the command of Yeshua: As you go throughout the world, proclaim the Good News to all creation. 16 Whoever trusts and is immersed will be saved; whoever does not trust will be condemned. Kefa, on the day of Shavu’ot, encourages the people to receive baptism for the remission of sins: 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! (Acts 2:38 ~ CJB) Thus, the forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Ruach are closely united. Yeshua, however, did not need a baptism of repentance. The connection between the Ruach and baptism also emerges from the baptism of the centurion at Caesarea, when Kefa affirms that if God gave them the same gift as He gave us after we had come to put our trust in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to stand in God’s way?(Acts 11:17 ~ CJB).

The Didache, a document that came from the countryside of Syria, from the second half of the first century, describes the rite as follows:

“Concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, baptize, ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit,’ in running water; but if you have no running water, baptize in other water, and if you cannot baptize in cold water, then use warm water. But if you have neither, pour water three times on the head ‘in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ and before the baptism let the baptizer and him who is to be baptized fast, and any others who are able. And you shall bid him who is to be baptized to fast one or two days before.”

In the normal rite, baptism consisted of a triple immersion: each following the response of the candidate to the minister who asked questions on the trinitarian faith. The Apostolic Tradition describes the central rite as follows:

Then after these things, let him be given over to the presbyter who stands at the water. And let them stand in the water naked. And let a deacon likewise go down with him into the water. As he goes down to the water, let him who baptizes lay hands on him, saying thus: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? And he who is being baptized shall say: I believe. Let him immediately baptize him once, having his hand laid on his head. And after this let him say: Do you believe in Yeshua, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose the third day living from the dead, and ascended into the heavens, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead? And when he says: I believe, let him baptize him the second time. And again, let him say: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit in the holy church and the resurrection of the flesh? And he who is being baptized shall say: I believe. And so let him baptize him the third time.

The whole ceremony ended with the kiss of peace on the part of the whole community.

In the fourth century, these rites tended to expand in number, extension, time, and dramatic power. The more significant number of candidates led to some of the rites being anticipated on Good Friday. One rite acquired a solid spiritual and social significance: the newly baptized wore a white garment for the whole week following the baptism.

Present research on the baptism of infants has come to a complete stop. It is believed that the practice existed from the apostolic period. However, we have explicit evidence only from the following centuries. Baptism of infants becomes more and more common beginning with the fifth century. An adequate period of preparation for baptism is something that caught hold only slowly: we find it fully developed only in the third century, and it reached its high point in the fourth century and then began to decline because of the spread of infant baptism. Several reasons pointed to its necessity and influenced its development: the numerous heresies, the conscious decision to break with the pagan world, the weakening of initial enthusiasm, and apostasy in times of persecution.

In the New Testament, much importance is given to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the newly converted. In the case of the centurion Cornelius, that outpouring comes before baptism, but this is an exceptional case. In general, the outpouring of the Ruach comes after baptism and by the imposition of the hands by the apostles, and it is a gesture that is necessary for the completion of baptism. When the emissaries in Yerushalayim heard that Shomron had received the Word of God, they sent them Kefa and Yochanan, 15 who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Ruach HaKodesh. 16 For until then, he had not come upon any of them; they had only been immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua. 17 Then, as Kefa and Yochanan placed their hands on them, they received the Ruach HaKodesh. ~ Acts 8:14-17 (CJB). In fact, to be a full member of the new community, both were necessary, the immersion (ablution) in water and the imposition of hands. Very soon, the rite became one continuous process, with no intervals in between the various parts. All the components ultimately were included together under the one name of baptism.[2]

Creating this post has been a real eye-opener for me. I was sprinkled as an infant and had hands laid on me when I was twelve. In later years, I was immersed years later after I had prayed for the infilling of the Ruach.

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Acknowledge One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bath or pool with a flow of freshwater; used in Orthodox Judaism to this day for ritual purification.

[2] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 87–90).

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