Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Community of the Kingdom of Heaven

By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
Moed Ministries International

The video version of this teaching is available at:
Scripture readings:
Mark 9:14-50-13 (Matthew 17:14- 18:35; Luke 9:37-50, 17:1-10)

After the transfiguration, the disciples recognized that they were truly disciples of the long-awaited Messiah. Peter, James and John had seen their Master Yeshua shining with light in the presence of the great prophets Moses and Elijah. I can imagine that they could hardly wait for Yeshua to declare Himself and set up His kingdom. Surely they would have positions of authority in the Kingdom. But Yeshua would demonstrate and teach them that the Kingdom of Heaven does not operate the way world does starting with the inability of the other nine disciples to cast out a demon, continuing with Yeshua’s repeated assurance that He came to suffer and die, and finally, turning the whole hierarchy of greatness on its head.
As soon as Peter, James and John returned with Yeshua from the mount of transfiguration, they were confronted by the multitude along with a disgruntled father.
Mark 9:17-18 NKJV 17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, "Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 "And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not."
Yeshua responds with what seems to be rather harsh criticism.
Mark 9:19 MKJV 19 He answered him and said, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me!
Even though the disciples weren’t able to cast out this demon, they cast out many other demons as well as healed the sick. But, like with the earlier accounts of healing the deaf-mute and the blind man, this situation was more than casting out a demon from this one man. Notice that Yeshua wasn’t addressing the disciples, he was addressing the entire generation! First Fruits of Zion in The Chronicles of the Messiah write:
“Instead, Rabbi Yeshua’s complaint applied not merely to that specific situation but more broadly as a commentary on the general malaise of the Master’s generation. … His exasperated denouncement of the generation alludes directly to the Song of Moses which describes the generation doomed to exile as “a perverse and crooked generation” (Deuteronomy 32:5)””[i]
We can see that this man, who was possessed since childhood represents Israel. In Hosea, God calls Israel His son and goes on to describe how He found and cared for Israel from its childhood.
Hosea 11:1-3 NKJV 1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. 2 As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images. 3 "I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them.
The father of the demon possessed man asks Yeshua to help if He can!
Mark 9:22b-23 NKJV 22 But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." 23 Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."
Yeshua did not promise that if we believe, then God would automatically do what we want. Yeshua’s answer is simply that all things are possible. In fact, in this case, it would take more than belief; it would take preparation to cast out the demon. Yeshua would later explain to His disciples that this type of demon required preparation in prayer and fasting to cast out.
When, then, did Yeshua prepare with prayer and fasting? The answer to that may be in the days leading up to the transfiguration. Any time God appeared in a significant event, He told His people to prepare ahead of time. At Mt. Sinai, God told them to prepare ahead of time by washing and abstaining from sexual relations for three days. The whole preparation for this event was six days from the time the children of Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai to the time that God spoke His ten Words from the mountain. The idea of the Sabbath is that the six days leading up to the Sabbath are always in preparation for the Sabbath. This concept is extended to the idea that six millennia are the preparation for the seventh millennia reign of Messiah.[ii] The phrase “after six days” in Mark 9:2 could refer to six days of preparation in prayer and fasting, leading to a seventh day or a “Sabbath” of transfiguration!
This expands the significance of the demon possessed man to include mankind who as a child succumbed to the temptations of this world, giving his soul over to Satan. As a result, mankind has become susceptible to the self-destruction incited by the enemy and, since he was mute, unable to sing the praises of His creator! The release of mankind from the hold that Satan has on it cannot be achieved except through prayer and fasting. The kingdom of heaven will not be achieved by military might or by a simple declaration; it will require preparation.
Yeshua goes on to explain to His disciples that He must first suffer and die.
Mark 9:30-32 NKJV 30 Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. 31 For He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day." 32 But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.
Yeshua first began to explain this to His disciples right before the transfiguration. It seems that this idea was so foreign to them, that they couldn’t even begin to grasp it and were afraid to even ask Yeshua what He meant. Instead they focused on what they perceived their role would be in the kingdom. When they arrived at Peter’s home in Capernaum, Yeshua brought the issue out in the open.
Mark 9:33-34 NKJV 33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
The rabbinical system of master and disciple had a hierarchy within the followers of a rabbi. The disciples of a master were ranked from “greatest” to “least” where those with the lower rank were referred to as “Little Ones.”[iii]
Yeshua took a child, a little one, and began to demonstrate the true hierarchy of the kingdom.
Mark 9:35-37 NKJV 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me."
The literal understanding of this verse is that we are to treat children with the same importance and respect as an adult. In the context of rabbinic hierarchy, the littlest disciple is in no way lesser than the greatest disciple.
Matthew records more about this conversation. Not only are children to be accepted and respected, but we are to be “converted” and become like children.
Matthew 18:2-5 NKJV 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
The word translated as “converted” is the Greek word “strepho”, #4762 in Strong’s Concordance, meaning to twist, turn around, or reverse. The seventeenth century theologian, Matthew Poole explains:
Converted here, strepho, doth not signify the change or conversion of a soul from a state of sin unto God, (so the apostles were already converted), but the turning of their souls from a particular lust or error, into the opposite right way of truth and holiness: except ye repent of your pride and ambition, ye cannot be saved.[iv]
The twelve disciples had been thoroughly rebuked for their pride in seeking to be the greatest in the kingdom! But John was not willing to let the issue go. Even though Yeshua made it plain there was not to be a hierarchy of greater or lesser among the twelve, did Yeshua intent that to include those not in their immediate group?
Mark 9:38 NKJV 38 Now John answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us."
John is seeking Yeshua’s approval of their actions in protecting Yeshua’s exclusive right to cast out demons. John objects that this man didn’t follow “us”; John did not object that he didn’t follow Yeshua. There was an earlier situation between John the Baptist’s disciples and Yeshua’s disciples. In that instance, both John and Yeshua’s disciples were baptizing in the Jordan. John’s disciples were outraged at the presumption of Yeshua’s disciples and complained to John. John refuses to support their jealously.
John 3:26-27 NKJV 26 And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified--behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!" 27 John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.
Similarly, when Moses appointed the seventy elders and called them to appear before the tabernacle, two of those called remained in the camp. When the Holy Spirit caused those gathered at the tabernacle to prophesy as a witness of their calling, even the two who remained in the camp prophesied. Joshua was outraged that this would occur away from the tabernacle. Joshua’s words sound a lot like the apostle John’s words of reproach.
Numbers 11:28-29 NKJV 28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, "Moses my lord, forbid them!" 29 Then Moses said to him, "Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!"
Yeshua’s response to John’s protest affirms the right of those who were not disciples to cast out demons in Yeshua’s name.
Mark 9:39-40 NKJV 39 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 "For he who is not against us is on our side.
These words seem to contradict Yeshua’s words in Matthew 7:22-23:
Matthew 7:22-23 NKJV 22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
However, these two situations of casting out demons in Yeshua’s name are quite different. The passage in Matthew is about attaining admittance to the kingdom of heaven. Prophesying and casting out demons in the name of Yeshua is not a means for attaining citizenship in the kingdom. Matthew Poole states that, “It is evident that the casting out of devils was no saving effect of the Holy Spirit.”[v] The situation in Mark’s gospel is a matter of who is the greatest within the kingdom. Clearly, Yeshua did not see this man as seeking to profit from his actions as did Simon, a magician newly converted to belief in Yeshua.
Acts 8:18-19 NKJV 18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
Also, this man was not attempting to cast out demons without the protection of Yeshua’s name, and perhaps speaking evil of Yeshua, as did the sons of the priest Sceva.
Acts 19:13-16 NKJV 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" 16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Matthew Poole explains that this man that John and the other disciples told not to cast out demons in the name of Yeshua may have been one who received the gospel but didn’t physically follow the master. He, also, may have been one of John the Baptist’s followers who received the truth. However, the issue here is not really this man’s identity; it is John’s reaction to someone outside their group who is acting in the name of Yeshua. Matthew Poole explains:
“So as John and the rest, forbidding him, seemed to be guilty of two no small errors:
1. Envying for Christ's sake, as Joshua did for Moses's sake, Nu 11:28, as John's disciples did for their master's sake, Joh 3:26, willing that Christ, and those whom he sent out, should have all the honour of those miraculous operations.
2. Limiting the grace of Christ to that congregation which followed Christ, and the twelve; a thing that good men are too prone unto.[vi]
In contrast to the exclusionary statement of John, Yeshua summarizes His point by stating that the least kindness done in His name is worthy of a reward.
Mark 9:41 NKJV 41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Yeshua warns that His disciples, great or little, need to receive one another in humility and be careful not to cause one of new or one of weaker faith to sin.
Matthew 18:5-7 NKJV 5 "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 "Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
In the context of this particular teaching of Yeshua’s about who is great in the kingdom, causing a little one to sin could very well be by projecting an attitude of “I’m greater than you.” This can be very damaging to a child or to a new believer. Yeshua specifically says not to despise or think down on a little one.
Matthew 18:10 NKJV 10 "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
These little ones are so important to the Father that the angels that watch over these little ones always have access to God the Father. Yeshua, then, relates the parable of the lost sheep to emphasize how important each little one is to Him.
Matthew 18:12-14 NKJV 12 "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 "And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 "Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Again, this conveys the antithesis of the attitude of the disciples’ who were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. The Father values and rejoices over the return of each little one!
But what should a follower of Yeshua do if a fellow believer does stumble and sin, or if he gives offense? The Father is not willing to let them go from the fellowship and the kingdom and, as a result, die! Yeshua explains how to handle the situation by an established sequence of judgment or jurisprudence first spelled out in the Torah.
Matthew 18:15-17 NKJV 15 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 "But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
The effort of reconciliation must be judged by two or three witnesses. If reconciliation cannot be made, then the person causing the offense is to be removed from the camp or the congregation. The decision by the congregation to “bind” or forbid fellowship or to “loose” or permit fellowship to continue is a legal one following the accepted jurisprudence.
Matthew 18:18-20 NKJV 18 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
Whenever we make a ruling about a fellow believer, Yeshua is there in the midst and we must be careful to hear His voice. Yeshua’s voice is one that encourages forgiveness and compassion.
Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
After illustrating His point with a parable, Yeshua concludes that as we forgive others, so will the Father forgive us.
Matthew 18:35 NKJV 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
It seems strange that the Father would humble Himself and forgive offenses against Him! So surely, we are to forgive our brothers. We are not to be arrogant and exalt ourselves above other believers, but we are to value them, caring for each other, serving each other and forgiving each other. We are not to be concerned with how great or how humble a position we may have in the kingdom of Heaven.
Study Questions:
1. What new insight did you gain by watching this video? How do you respond to this new insight? How will you realign your life based on this new understanding?

2. In what way does Yeshua’s statement that the generation that saw the acts he performed was a faithless generation (Mark 9:19) refer to the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:5?

3. First Fruits of Zion summarizes Matthew 17:19-21  to read,  “Do you think you failed because of the littleness of your faith? … But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”  Is this consistent with the rest of the passage? Compare with Matthew 21:21 and Luke 17:6.

4. Paul addresses a similar issue to the one of the man who cast out demons in Yeshua’s name ( Mark 9:38) yet was not a disciple in Philippians 1:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. What is Paul’s understanding of this issue?

5. The sequence of jurisprudence for a person who does evil is outlined in Deuteronomy 17:2-11. How does that compare to the sequence Yeshua described in Matthew 18:15-20? How does Yeshua say that forgiveness factors into this judgment in Matthew 18:21-35? How does Paul deal with the situation in the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 5?

6. Yeshua offers a frightening warning to those who are tempted to stumble in Mark 9:43-47 quoting Isiah 66:24. What is the warning issued in Isaiah 66:15-24?

© 2018 Moed Ministries International.  All Rights Reserved

[i] The Chronicles of the Messiah, Volume 3. Lancaster, D. Thomas. First Fruits of Zion. 2018. Page 835.
[ii] Benjamin W. Bacon. “After Six Days: A New Clue for Gospel Critics”. The Harvard Theological Review Vol. 8, January 1915. P. 94. (as referenced by The Chronicles of the Messiah, Volume 3. Lancaster, D. Thomas. First Fruits of Zion. 2018. P. 866.)
[iii] David Bivin. “The Kingdom’s ‘Little Ones’”. Pipeline Vol 2:1. January 2002 (as referenced by The Chronicles of the Messiah, Volume 3. Lancaster, D. Thomas. First Fruits of Zion. 2018. P. 867)
[iv] Poole, Matthew. English Annotations on the Holy Bible.  Commentary on Matthew 18:3-4. 1683
[v] Ibid Commentary on Mark 0:38-40.
[vi] Ibid.

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