The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 131

Passion Week ~ Sunday

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 57

As I have stated previously, I am following F. LaGard Smith’s “The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order” for the outline of this series and his introductions to the topics. As usual, Scripture quotations are from the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) by David Stern. Since the CJB is not a Red-Letter edition, I double-checked the red versus green with the English Standard Version (ESV).

Performing Miracles ~ Part 1

It is one thing for a man to teach what he claims is truth; it is another thing to demonstrate one’s authority to claim the truth. [Think Moshe and Aharon before Pharoah.] That is why Yeshua’s miracles are such a vital part of His ministry. They are not being performed to entertain, show off His divine power, or even convince skeptics. The miracles are a means of confirming the message that the Kingdom of God is now being established with power!

Challenging Followers

 MT 18 When Yeshua saw the crowd around him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 A Torah-teacher approached and said to Him, “Rabbi, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Yeshua said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.”

Son of Man. One of the titles of the Messiah is based on Daniel 7:13–14, where the text has bar-enosh(Aramaic). Bar-enosh,” like Hebrew ben-adam, can also mean “son of man,” “typical man,” “one schooled to be a man,” or simply “man.”. Yeshua is all of these: the Messiah, a typical (ideal) man, and one schooled both in heaven and on earth to be a man. Yeshua refers to Himself by this title frequently, stressing His complete identification with the human condition. [1]

LK 59 To another, He said, Follow me!” but the man replied, “Sir, first let me go away and bury my father.” 60 Yeshua said, “Let the dead bury their own dead; you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God!”

The call to discipleship takes precedence over all other duties.

61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me say goodbye to the people at home.” 62 To him, Yeshua said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back is fit to serve in the Kingdom of God.”~ Mattityahu 8:18-22 (see Luke 9:59-62).

Followers of Yeshua must have a singular focus on the work of God’s Kingdom.

Yeshua Calms the Sea

 23 He boarded the boat, and his talmidim followed. 24 Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. 25 So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!”Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm.

Yeshua uses this phrase at the beginning of verse 26 to respond to His talmidim doubt that God would care for them. Their weak faith contrasts with the centurion’s great faith (v. 8:10).

27 The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this that even the winds and sea obey him?” ~ Mattityahu 13:44

In our next post, we continue to focus on Yeshua Performing Miracles in Mattityahu 8:28-34.

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[1] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 56

Teaching Through Parables ~ Part 5

In our first post in this mini-series on the Parables of Yeshua, we looked at why He spoke in parables. In Part 2, we examined the Parable of the Sower and its explanation. In Part 3, we examined The Parable of the Weeds and its explanation. In Part 4, we examined the Parable of the Lighted Lamp, The Parable of The Seed Growing, and The Parable of The Mustard Seed. Now, we come to Mattityahu 13:33.

The Parable of The Yeast

33 And he told them yet another parable. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with a bushel of flour, then waited until the whole batch of dough rose.”  ~ Mattityahu 13:33 (see Luke 13:20-21).

Yeast (or leaven) usually represents evil (compare 1 Corinthians 5:6–8). If so, it represents the evil mixed with the good as in the previous two parables. Some interpret the parable to mean that the Kehillah will beneficially influence the world.

The Parable of Hidden Treasure

The first of the following two parables (v.44) deals with the unexpected discovery of the Kingdom of God, the second (vv.45-46) with the successful conclusion to a search for it. The person who comes upon it recognizes its great value and is willing to give up all (he sold everything he owned).

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. A man found it, hid it again, then in great joy went and sold everything he owned and bought that field. ~ Mattityahu 13:44

According to halakhah [1], if the treasure is unmarked and found on public land, it belongs to the finder. If it is marked, the owner must be sought. If it is natural (a gold nugget or a diamond) or unmarked and on private land, it belongs to the landowner; that’s why the finder bought that field to become the owner. But the story seems to imply that the finder bought the field at the “pre-treasure” price and that if the owner had known the treasure was there, he wouldn’t have sold the field at that price.

The Parable of the Valuable Pearl

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for fine pearls. 46 On finding one very valuable pearl, he went away, sold everything he owned, and bought it. ~ Mattityahu 13:45-46.

The point is not that the man purchased a place in the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather than entering the Kingdom is worth giving up everything.

The Parable of the Net

Like the weeds parable (Mattityahu 13:24–30), this parable describes the ingathering of the righteous and wicked and their subsequent fates. The Kingdom of Heaven will consist of those who follow Yeshua.

47 “Once more, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the lake that caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen brought the net up onto the shore, sat down, and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad fish away. 49 So it will be at the close of the age – the angels will go forth and separate the evil people from among the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will wail and grind their teeth. 51 Have you understood all these things? “Yes,” they answered. 52 He said to them,So then, every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old.”  ~ Mattityahu 13:47-50

A Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, a committed and knowledgeable Jew who has become Messianic, brings out of his storage room, out of his treasury of knowledge, both new things relating to Yeshua and the New Covenant and old things, relating to the pre-Messianic Judaism he already understands. The storage room contains good things, things the house owner wants, and treasures. Some of the good things are new, and some are old. Likewise, the new Messianic and old Jewish things can both be good. Thus, the Messianic Torah-teacher is uniquely placed to enrich Messianic Judaism by expressing Messianic truth in Jewish relevant ways, repairing old coats with good patches, and restoring old wineskins for new wine. The outstanding New Covenant example is Sha’ul.

Parables Fulfill Prophecy

Like Mattityahu 13:10–17, this section reiterates Yeshua’s purpose in using parables.

34 All these things Yeshua said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without using a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet,

“I will open my mouth in parables.
I will say what has been hidden since
the creation of the universe.”

The quotation in this verse is from Psalm 78:2. This psalm identifies its author as Asaph, described in 2 Chronicles as a seer.

In our next post, we will begin to focus on Yeshua Performing Miracles beginning in Mattityahu 8:18-22.

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[1] Halakhah is how often ambiguous legal passages are clarified and interpreted for application in new and changed circumstances. ~ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 46

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 10

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 11:44.

Lawyers Condemned

Recall how we ended up in our last post with Yeshua’s first set of Woes: Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.  ~ Luke 11:44. We pick up the second set of Woes. The second set of Woes (vv. 46–52) is directed at lawyers (experts in the law, another expression for scribes of the P’rushim (see Mark 2:16; Luke 11:53; and Mattityahu 23:2).

45 One of the experts in Torah answered Him,“Rabbi, by saying these things, you are insulting us also.” 46 Yeshua said, “Woe to you Torah experts too! You load people down with burdens they can hardly bear, and you won’t lift a finger to help them!

The first Woe involves the lawyers load people down with burdens by interpreting the Torah, considering their extra-biblical traditions, and making it hard to bear. Worse still, they won’t lift a finger to help them! i.e., they make no effort to help people keep these laws.

47 “Woe to you! You build tombs in memory of the prophets, but your fathers murdered them! 48 Thus, you testify that you completely approve of what your fathers did – they did the killing, you do the building! 49 Therefore the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and emissaries; they will kill some and persecute others’; 50 so that on this generation will fall the responsibility for all the prophets’ blood that has been shed since the world was established, 51 from the blood of Hevel to the blood of Z’kharyah, who was killed between the altar and the Holy Place. Yes, I tell you, the responsibility for it will fall on this generation!

The second Woe involves the lawyers’ hypocrisy in building monuments to the prophets. However, their fathers murdered those same prophets, and they continue to kill and persecute them (v. 49). The unusual expression Wisdom of God probably means “God in His wisdom” or “God, speaking to express His wisdom.From the blood of Hevel (Abel in Genesis 4) to the blood of Z’kharyah (2 Chron. 24:20–22), i.e., from the beginning of the first book to the end of the last book in the Hebrew Bible.[1]

52 “Woe to you Torah experts! For you have taken away the key of knowledge! Not only did you yourselves not go in, you also have stopped those who were trying to enter! 53 As Yeshua left that place, the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim began to oppose Him bitterly and to provoke Him to express His views on all sorts of subjects, 54 laying traps to catch Him in something He might say. ~ Luke 11:45-54

The last Woe condemns the Torah experts (lawyers) for their interpretations of Scripture that deprive the people of the key of knowledge needed to understand God’s plan of salvation. Not only do they refuse to enter into God’s plan and be saved, but their distorted interpretations keep others from truly knowing God. The Torah experts and the P’rushim began to oppose him bitterly and to provoke him to express his views on all sorts of subjects describes a continual attempt to ambush Yeshua as they tried to lay traps to catch him in something he might say.

In our next post, we will pick back up in Luke 12:1. We will continue in Luke until we finish the topic of The Ministry Continues.

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[1] The Hebrew Scriptures place 1 & 2 Chronicles at the end of their canon.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 39

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 3

We continue our study of The Ministry Continues, beginning in Luke 7:24-30.

Yeshua Praises Yochanan the Immerser

Once Yeshua answers Yochanan’s questions, He goes on to praise him.

24 When the messengers from Yochanan had gone, Yeshua began speaking to the crowds about Yochanan: “What did you go out into the desert to see? Reeds swaying in the breeze? 25 No? Then what did you go out to see? Someone who was well dressed? But people who dress beautifully and live in luxury are found in kings’ palaces. 26 Nu, [1] so what did you go out to see? A prophet! Yes, and I tell you, he’s much more than a prophet.

Yochanan was not only a prophet; he was the forerunner to the Messiah.

27 This is the one about whom the Tanakh says,

‘See, I am sending out my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.’ [2]

28 I tell you that among those born of women, there has not arisen anyone greater than Yochanan the Immerser! Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he!” ~ Luke 7:24-28

Yeshua emphasizes the superiority of God’s Kingdom, contrasting heavenly greatness with earthly greatness. Yochanan was great because he had prepared for the Messiah; now the Messiah and His Kingdom are here, offering a far more excellent ministry of righteousness.

12 From the time of Yochanan the Immerser until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been suffering violence; yes, violent ones are trying to snatch it away. 13 For all the prophets and the Torah prophesied until Yochanan. 14 Indeed, if you are willing to accept it, he is Eliyahu, whose coming was predicted. 15 If you have ears, then hear!  ~ Mattityahu 11:12-15 [3]

29 All the people who heard him, even the tax-collectors, by undergoing Yochanan’s immersion acknowledged that God was right; 30 but the P’rushim and the Torah-teachers, by not letting themselves be immersed by him, nullified for themselves God’s plan. ~ Luke 7:29-30

Verse 30 refers to a rejection of God’s plan for salvation. Yochanan’s baptism had announced a new era in God’s redemptive work – the coming of the Messiah and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God.

In our next post, we continue to explore The Ministry Continues in Luke & Mattityahu’s Gospel.

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[1] Nu. A general-purpose Yiddish word meaning variously, “Well?” “So?” “Indeed!” “I challenge you,” or, as in this case, “If not that, then what?” – with many possible inflections and overtones.

[2] Malachi 3:1

[3] As I shared before, F. LaGard Smith intersperses readings from the Gospel accounts in chronological order.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 37

The Ministry Continues ~ Part 1

After completing Mattityahu 5-7 on the Sermon on the Mount, we now move on chronologically to The Ministry Continues in K’far-Nachum (Capernaum). Most of the scripture references will be from the Gospel of Luke.

A Centurion‘s Slave Is Healed

The report of Yeshua healing the Centurion’s slave demonstrates that not just Jews but also Gentiles (non-Jews) can have faith that is acceptable to Yeshua. By including narratives like this one, Luke supports his central theme that Yeshua is the Messiah for the whole world.

When Yeshua had finished speaking to the people, he went back to K’far-Nachum.

A fishing town with Jewish and Gentile inhabitants, K’far-Nachum position on a trade route made it more cosmopolitan and diverse than other towns of similar size. Yeshua performed many of His signs in K’far-Nachum and made an extraordinary example of its residents’ unbelief (Matt 11:23). However, much of Galil was ruled by Herod Antipas or was considered part of Philip’s territory since it was close to the assumed border and since he ruled over the smaller enclave northeast of the Sea of Galil.

A Roman army officer there had a servant he regarded highly, who was sick to the point of death. Hearing about Yeshua, the officer sent some Jewish elders to him with the request that he come and heal his servant. They came to Yeshua and pleaded earnestly with him, “He really deserves to have you do this, for he loves our people – in fact, he built the synagogue for us!”

He loves our people – in fact, he built the synagogue for us! As is usual, the normal relationship between Romans and Jews between conquerors and conquered was not one of love and trust from either side. But this pagan Roman officer had demonstrated a love for the Jewish people, which moved the Jewish leaders to plead on his behalf before Yeshua, whose primary ministry was not to Gentiles but Jews (Mattityahu 10:5, 15:26; Yochanan 1:11). Love was demonstrated to be a matter of deeds – he built the synagogue for us! – not mere words or feelings, and this is its primary meaning throughout Scripture. Similarly, in modern times Righteous Gentiles have been honored by trees planted along the road to Israel’s Yad VaShem Memorial of the Holocaust because they risked their death to save Jewish lives. [1]

So Yeshua went with them. He had not gone far from the house when the officer sent friends who said to him, “Sir, don’t trouble yourself. I’m not worthy to have you come under my roof –

I am not worthy. Coming from a leader in the Roman occupying force, this would have been a shocking expression of reverence toward a Jewish teacher. The Centurion probably knew that a Jew who entered a Gentile’s house became ritually unclean. Thus, doing so would have been a severe inconvenience for a Jewish person like Yeshua.

this is why I didn’t presume to approach you myself. Instead, just give a command and let my servant recover. For I, too, am a man set under authority. I have soldiers under me, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Yeshua was astonished at him when he heard this, and he turned and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Isra’el have I found such trust!”

Such trust. This statement, praising one of the Isra’eli foreign rulers, would not have been well received by Yeshua’s Jewish listeners. Yeshua frequently links faith and healing.

10 When the messengers got back to the officer’s house, they found the servant in good health. ~ Luke 7:1-10 (see Mattityahu 8:5-13)

Repeatedly, we have seen the crowds amazed at Yeshua. But on this occasion, Yeshua himself was amazed. This Gentile had more faith than anyone Yeshua had met in Isra’el. When the messengers returned home, they found the servant in good health. Yeshua healed the servant from a distance, rewarding the Centurion’s faith by doing precisely what he had believed Yeshua could do. The key to having truly great faith is to believe that the object of your faith is great. In the same way, Yeshua does not have to be physically present for his Word to work when we are operating under His Kingdom authority.

Ok, so there is but one sentence that is Red Letter, but I thought the background for it was important. I’m personally studying the Miracle of the Bible in my personal devotions.

In our next post, we continue to explore The Ministry Continues in Luke & Mattityahu’s Gospel.

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[1] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 36

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part O

We continue our study of the Sermon in the Mount, beginning in Mattityahu 7:21.

As with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua describes how to live as members of the Kingdom of Heaven.

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants. 

Lord, Lord, Greek Kurios, has several possible meanings. In the present verse, Yeshua seems to say that a day will come when people address Him as the divine Lord – more than human but not necessarily YHVH. In the Septuagint, Kurios is the most common rendering of YHVH. Sha’ul’s writings and the General Letters Kurios sometimes refers to Yeshua.

22 On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we expel demons in your name? Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’

On that Day refers to the Day of Judgment (compare Isaiah 2:11, 17; Zechariah 14:4–21; Revelation 20:11–15).

23 Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’ (see Psalm 6:8) (compare this section with Luke 6:43-45).

I never knew you communicates disassociation or estrangement.

Build Your House on the Rock

24 “So, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse because its foundation was on rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed—and its collapse was horrendous!”

The rabbis debated whether hearing or doing the law was more critical; most concluded that hearing it was more important because one could not do it without hearing it. But they did insist that both were necessary. Again, the image is of the Day of Judgment. The idea of ultimately being judged for hearing but not obeying was familiar (Ezekiel 33:32–33). But no Jewish teacher apart from Yeshua claimed so much authority for his own words; such authority was reserved for the law itself. Some of Yeshua’s more biblically literate hearers may have thought of Proverbs 24:3 (“by wisdom, a house is built”) and the contrast between wisdom (which builds a house in 9:1) and folly in Proverbs 9:1–18. (compare this section with Luke 6:46-49).

The Authority of Jesus

28 When Yeshua had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at the way he taught, 29 for he was not instructing them like their Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself. ~ Mattityahu 7:21-28

The crowds immediately recognize Yeshua’s authority. He does not interpret or teach based on the interpretation of earlier rabbis, as was the custom; instead, He speaks prophetically on behalf of God.

In our next post, we move from the Sermon on the Mount to The Ministry Continues in Luke & Mattityahu’s Gospel.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 35

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part O

We continue our study of the Sermon in the Mount, beginning in Mattityahu 7:12.

As with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua describes how to live as members of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Golden Rule

12 “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets. ~ Mattityahu 7:12

The Golden Rule can be found in Jewish writings as early as the Apocryphal book of Tobit (third century BCE), What you hate, do to no one” (Tobit 4:15); similar sayings are attributed to Isocrates, Aristotle, and Confucius. The Golden Rule paraphrases Leviticus 19:18, “You are to love your neighbor as yourself,” which Yeshua called the second-greatest commandment (Mark 12:28–31). [1]

The Two Ways

13 “Go in through the narrow gate; for the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the road broad, and many travel it; 14 but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it. ~ Mattityahu 7:13-14

Yeshua’s hearers would have been familiar with the image of “two ways” – one leading to life and the other to death; it was common in Judaism. Most Jewish people believed that Isra’el would be saved and that the few who were lost would be exceptions to the general rule.

False Prophets

15 “Beware of the false prophets! They come to you wearing sheep’s clothing, but underneath they are hungry wolves!

Although most educated Jewish people did not believe that prophets had continued in the Tanakh sense, they believed that false prophets (see Jeremiah 2:8; 5:30) continued; Josephus mentioned many of them in the first century. The contrast between vicious wolves and harmless lambs or sheep was proverbial.

16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Can people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 

Like wheat and barley, grapes and figs were among the earth’s most valuable and widely consumed fruits; thorns and thistles were worthless and troublesome to harvesters, as the Tanakh often mentions. For a figurative use of “fruits” in the Tanakh, see Isaiah 5:6.

17 Likewise, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a poor tree produces bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree good fruit. 19 Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire! 20 So you will recognize them by their fruit. ~ Mattityahu 7:15-20

In our next post, we continue to explore the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount from Mattityahu’s Gospel.

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[1] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 25

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part E

We continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Mattityahu 5:17.

Yeshua Came to Fulfill the Law ~ Part 1

17 “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.

This is an essential verse for us to wrap our minds around. Briefly, Yeshua states that He wants to make the meaning of the Torah and the Prophets complete. David Stern provides some further insight for us:

The Hebrew word “Torah,” literally “teaching, doctrine,” is rendered in both the Septuagint and the Brit Hadashah by the Greek word “nomos,” which means “law.” Greek has had a more direct and pervasive influence on English and other modern languages than Hebrew has, and this is why in most languages, one speaks of the “Law of Moshe” rather than the “Teaching of Moshe”. It is also part of the reason why the Torah has mistakenly come to be thought of by Christians as legalistic (see Romans 3:20b, Galatians 3:23b).

In Judaism, the word Torah may mean:

  1. Chumash (the Pentateuch, the five books of Moshe); or
  2. That plus the Prophets and the Writings, i.e., the Tanakh (known by Christians as the Old Testament; see 4:4–10; or
  3. That plus the Oral Torah, which includes the Talmud and other legal materials; or
  4. That plus all religious instruction from the rabbis, including ethical and aggadic (homiletical) materials.

Here it means the first of these, since “the Prophets” are mentioned separately.

The word “Prophets,” capitalized, refers to the second of the three main parts of the Tanakh (both Major and Minor). When the Tanakh prophets as persons are referred to, the word is not capitalized; “prophet” in the singular is never capitalized. By mentioning both the Torah and the Prophets, Yeshua says that He has not come to modify or replace God’s Word, the Tanakh. Compare Luke 24:44–45.

The Greek word for “to complete” is plêrôsai,” literally, “to fill”; the usual rendering here, however, is “to fulfill.” Replacement theology, which wrongly teaches that the Church has replaced the Jews as God’s people, misunderstands this verse in two ways.

First, Yeshua’s “fulfilling” the Torah means that it is unnecessary for people to fulfill it now. But there is no logic to the proposition that Yeshua’s obeying the Torah does away with our need to obey it. In fact, Sha’ul, whose object in his letter to the Romans is to foster “the obedience that comes from trusting” in Yeshua, teaches that such trusting does not abolish Torah but confirms it (Romans 1:5, 3:31).

Second, with an identical lack of logic, Yeshua’s “fulfilling” the Prophets is thought to imply that no prophecies from the Tanakh remain for the Jews. But the Hebrew Bible’s promises to the Jews are not abolished in the name of being “fulfilled in Yeshua.” Instead, fulfillment in Yeshua is an added assurance that everything God has promised the Jews will yet come to pass (see 2 Corinthians 1:20).

It is true that Yeshua kept the Torah perfectly and fulfilled predictions of the Prophets, but that is not the point here. Yeshua did not come to abolish but “to make full” (plêrôsai) the meaning of what the Torah and the ethical demands of the Prophets require. Thus he came to complete our understanding of the Torah and the Prophets to try more effectively to be and do what they say to be and do.

We will learn in verses 18–20 three ways in which the Torah and the Prophets remain necessary, applicable, and in force. The remainder of chapter 5 gives six specific cases in which Yeshua explains the fuller spiritual meaning of points in the Jewish Law. In fact, this verse states the theme and plan of the entire Sermon on the Mount. Yeshua completes, makes fuller, the understanding of His talmidim concerning the Torah and the Prophets so that they can more fully express what being God’s people is all about. [1]

Well, we didn’t get very far in our study of this complete passage, but we’ll pick it up next time around.

18 Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened. 19 So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!  ~ Mattityahu 5:17-20.

In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount from Mattityahu’s Gospel.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 23

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part C

Before we move on to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, I want to continue to go back to the first twelve verses of Chapter 5 and provide some commentary. We pick up in verse 6.

“How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! for they will be filled.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness is a metaphor for moral uprightness. This may allude to Psalm 37:12–17, which speaks of a time when oppressors will be no more. This line expresses a deep desire for personal righteousness and a world characterized by God’s righteousness.

“How blessed are those who show mercy! for they will be shown mercy.

To receive mercy is not getting what you deserve, to receive pity instead of just condemnation. Rather, when you’re guilty, mercy removes the misery you ought to receive. There’s a blessing for those who extend it because you can bank on the fact that a time is coming when you’ll need mercy. This is the Golden Rule in action: “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.” ~ Matt 7:12.

“How blessed are the pure in heart! for they will see God.

The pure in heart (Psalm 73:1) were those in Isra’el whose hearts were clean or undefiled, those who recognized that God alone was their help and reward (Psalm 73:2–28). The righteous would see God on the day of judgment (e.g., Isaiah 30:20), as in the first exodus (Ex 24:10–11).

“How blessed are those who make peace! for they will be called sons of God.

To be at peace is to be in harmony. To be a peacemaker is to be a mediator and resolve conflicts between estranged parties – whether individuals or groups. You make peace by identifying the truth, addressing the sin, and constructing a bridge between those at odds with one another. Peacemaking can be difficult work. But, if we persevere in it, we will be called sons and daughters of God because we will resemble our Father. He sent the Son of God to be our mediator, bridging the gap created by our sin and granting us peace with Him.

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 5:6-12.

Verses 10-12 address persecution and likely reflect those who first read Mattityahu’s Gospel which may explain why the theme receives such extensive treatment. Later in the narrative, Yeshua encounters each form of persecution recorded here and suffers the same fate as many of the prophets in the Tanakh (see Matt 23:29–37).

It’s hard to believe that undergoing persecution is a blessing, but Yeshua wanted His talmidim to know that He was serious. Notice that the persecution that brings blessing is directly tied to Yeshua. You are blessed when people insult you and tell lies about you because of Yeshua (5:11). Since essentially the same thing happened to the prophets in the Tanakh, you’re in good company. But how can you be glad and rejoice amid the mess? You can remember that your reward is great (5:12). God knows how to deliver. And as Sha’ul told the Romans, I don’t think the sufferings we are going through now are even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us in the future ~ Romans 8:18.

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

Click here for the PDF version.