Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bringing Light to a Darkened World

By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
Moed Ministries International

The video version of this teaching is available at:

Scripture reading for this teaching:
Luke 13:1-33 (John 10)

Following the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, Yeshua and His disciples returned to the Galilee.  But they didn’t find much respite from the near constant hounding by Herod Antipas who was bent on putting a stop to Yeshua’s exploits.  More and more, the people were speaking of Yeshua as the desired king of Israel, a title and office which Herod Antipas was determined to obtain.  We taught on this antagonism between Yeshua and Herod Antipas in our previous study titled, “A Tale of Two Kings” available in our video archives and on our blog.
It wasn’t long after arriving back in the Galilee, Yeshua once again set out for Jerusalem.  But it was not yet Passover; it was not yet time for Yeshua to face His execution and resurrection.  It was the time of the Feast of Dedication or better known to us as Hanukkah.  This was not a feast mentioned at all in the Hebrew scriptures.  It was not a pilgrimage feast requiring all males to attend.  The only place in scripture which makes mention of the feast of Hanukkah in in the gospel account of John.
John 10:22 NKJV 22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.
Knowing the hostility and enmity that He faced in Jerusalem just a few weeks prior, why would Yeshua risk another trip to Jerusalem, the very heart of His enemy’s territory, when it was not required of Him?  Why would He risk being arrested or even killed “before His time?”  There is much more to this journey than simply celebrating this minor and relatively new festival.
The Festival of Hanukkah was established less than two hundred years prior to Yeshua’s time.  It was established to commemorate the rededication of the Temple following the victory of Judah Maccabees and the Hasmonaeans over the Greek empire of Antiochus IV Epiphanies.
There is very little record of how Hanukkah was actually celebrated in Yeshua’s day.  The Jewish historian Josephus, who was alive at the time of the late Second Temple period and was an eye witness to its destruction in 70 CE does give us a brief description of Hanukkah:
“So on the five and twentieth day of the month of Kislev, which the Macedonians call Apellaios, (the Maccabees) lit the lamps that were on the menorah, and offered incense upon the (golden) altar, and had laid loaves out upon the table (of the bread of the Presence), and offered burnt offerings on the new altar (which they had constructed)… And Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the Temple for eight days… they made a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival on account of the restoration of their Temple worship, for eight days.  And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and it is called “Lights.”  I suppose the reason was, because this liberation exceeding our hopes shined on us, and that hence became the name given to that festival.”[1]
The gospel accounts do not elaborate on the possible reasons why Yeshua would decide to go up to Jerusalem for this minor festival.  I am sure that the pressure from both Herod Antipas and from the corrupt Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, who had given their allegiance to Rome, was mounting and becoming a major issue and potential hinderance to Yeshua’s mission and ministry.
Yeshua may have decided to return to Jerusalem after news of the attack and slaughter of many Galileans in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate, who was a man of unusual and sadistically brutal character, even for Roman standards.
Luke 13:1-2 NKJV 1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
Were these Galileans whom Pilate had slaughtered, believers and followers of Yeshua?  We do not know.  We can infer from the text of the gospels that the news of this quickly reach Yeshua in the Galilee. By the phrasing of Yeshua’s answer to them, those bearing this news were most likely a few of His detractors and not followers or disciples.  Yeshua never-the-less, took the opportunity to teach them about the nature of the kingdom of God.  Continuing with Yeshua’s answer in verses 3 through 5:
Luke 13:3-5 NKJV 3 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Based upon many texts, Judaism of Yeshua’s day equated sickness and death, suffering and mortality, with the punishment for sin.  There are numerous examples in the Torah of those struck with leprosy because of some committed sin.
Deuteronomy 24:8 NKJV 8 "Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do.
Many people in the Bible were struck with leprosy, even kings were not immune to the effects of sin.
2 Chronicles 26:19 NKJV 19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar.
Yeshua meets the news of the death of the Galileans at the hand of Pilate by posing a rhetorical question in verse four.  There is no record of a fallen tower and the death of eighteen people outside the Biblical account, yet it seems that this incident was recent and commonly known or perhaps happened while Yeshua and the disciple were last in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Yeshua was using the death of the Galileans and those killed in the collapse of the tower to make a point and perhaps a prophetic statement about the near-future destruction that awaits the City of Jerusalem.  He appears to use these incidents to teach about guilt and repentance.
The apostle James later wrote of the equation of sin and death:
James 1:15 NKJV 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Paul, in his numerous epistles, writes often of the “wages of sin and death.” James, Paul and the Master Himself were all speaking in broader terms.  Natural disasters and accidents befall us all.  But does falling victim to such things mean that we are being punished for some hidden or open sin?  I don’t think that is what Yeshua or the apostles are saying.
We have probably all witnessed the death of a close friend or loved one by disease or accident through no fault of their own.  The saying that “bad things happen to good people” is true.  Yeshua had a bigger lesson in mind that we should take hold of when we experience death and disease around us.  Yeshua taught that the death of the Galileans who were slaughtered in the Temple, and those who died in the collapse of the tower suffered the fate that awaits an entire generation.  He treated both incidents as a harbinger to the future and a continuation of His central message to repent for the kingdom of God is near!
Yeshua then shares the parable of the Fig Tree with His followers:
Luke 13:6-9 NKJV 6 He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' 8 "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'"
Yeshua uses this parable to further His message of repentance. If we observe the illustration in these terms, we get a clearer picture of the Master’s teaching: First, the fig tree in this parable is in the vineyard and is indicative of the messianic age! God is the owner of the vineyard. The vineyard itself is Israel. The Fig tree is the generation that Yeshua indicated would face judgment and Yeshua is the vinedresser.  The fruit of the tree is repentance.  The husbandry performed is the ministry of proclaiming the kingdom and calling for repentance.  The cutting down of the tree is judgement.
The overall message is that the time for repentance and returning to God is short. The fig tree was young, at only three years old.  Yeshua’s ministry here on earth was exactly three years old at this point and His time remaining with them was also short! He had to quickly get His message across and prepare His disciple to continue His mission.
Not long after this, Yeshua heads for Jerusalem and the Feast of Hanukkah.  On His way he stops off in many villages and teaches His disciple using many parables. Two of which are the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven.
Luke 13:18-22 NKJV 18 Then He said, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 "It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches." 20 And again He said, "To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 "It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." 22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
Yeshua was looking to guide and redirect the thinking of His followers.  They were continuing to question Him about His kingdom in terms of Him leading a rebellion, defeating the Roman occupation and re-establishing the Davidic kingdom as spoken of by the prophets.  Yeshua, on the other hand, wanted to bring them a message of a different kind of kingdom which would be established prior to the final redemption; prior to the physical defeat of their earthy enemies.  He wanted them to understand the establishment of the Messianic Age was here and now!  In these two, short parables He was illustrating this Messianic Age.
The sower is the Son of Man, Yeshua. The mustard seed is the message of the kingdom of heaven. The field is the world. The tree, when fully grown is the kingdom fully realized, and the birds of the air are the nations.  The lesson to be learned in this parable is that the kingdom starts out small but grows to dominate the surrounding land.
In the second parable Yeshua is like the woman folding in a small amount of leaven into a large batch of dough. The leaven represents the message of the kingdom of God rather than the more common representation of sin.  Leaven is used here in a positive sense rather than a negative.  Just as the small amount of leaven will be spread throughout the entire batch of dough, so, too will the message of the kingdom of God. Introduced in a small amount by Yeshua Himself, it will be spread out to the whole world by his disciples!
While still traveling and taking the time to stop and teach in the various villages along the way, Yeshua is approached by a man with an important and timely question.
Luke 13:23-24 NKJV 23 Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
In other words, the man wanted to know if entrance to the kingdom of God and the World to Come was broad or narrow.  The popular view among first century Judaism is a broad view that all Israel will be saved.  At first glance, Paul seems to take the broad view position in Romans.
Romans 11:25-28 NKJV 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." 28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
However, because Paul is rather thorough and long winded in his dissertations, we must look at Paul’s writings in a broader context.  In keeping with the teachings of Yeshua as well as those of John the Baptist, Paul teaches that one’s Jewishness is not the basis for salvation.
Romans 9:4-6 NKJV 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. 6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,
Yeshua also held the narrow view and warned His followers not to rely on their Jewish heritage to save them or guarantee their entrance into the kingdom of heaven. One must accept and walk in the covenant by faith!  Yeshua warned Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin to seek a spiritual transformation.
John 3:1-3 NKJV 1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Yeshua was teaching them that if they desired to enter into eternal life, they must first love God with all their heart, and love their neighbor as themselves.  This is the very foundation of the Law or Torah!  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments! Yeshua addresses the man’s question directly
Luke 13:24-27 NKJV 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 "When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' 26 "then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' 27 "But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.'
Again, Yeshua answers by including a brief parable. In the parable of the closed door, the master of the house closes the door after all his invited guests arrived.  When more come knocking on the door, the master of the house does not recognize them.  He answers their knock by sending them away with the words “I do not know you, where you are from.” This is similar to the Rabbinic practice of “banning” a disciple or student from the presence of their master or Rabbi for various reasons.  In this parable we perhaps see an example of disciples becoming too comfortable or arrogant and complacent in their position with the master of this particular house.  They ate and drank in his presence while the master taught in their streets, but did they take his teaching seriously?
In this parable the owner of the house represents the Son of Man.  The house is the Messianic banquet in the kingdom.  The door on which they knock is salvation or entrance to the kingdom.  Those left outside are the unrepentant
The meaning of this parable is summed up nicely in its similar elements to those found in the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the ten virgins.
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!'
Matthew 25:10-12 NKJV 10 "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' 12 "But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
According to Jewish belief about the Messianic Age, we will be present at a great banquet, and the Messiah will gather the exiles from the four corners of the earth.  This is reflected in Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew 8:11 NKJV 11 "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Those of us who are the resurrected disciples will have a seat at the table along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!  But there will, unfortunately be those who knock at the door and will be turned away.
Yeshua continued on His journey up to Jerusalem for the Festival of Lights, teaching and admonishing His disciples and followers in the villages along the way.  Many believed Him and began to see the kingdom of God and the Messianic Age revealed before them.  It is appropriate that Yeshua would return to Jerusalem for Festival of Hanukkah.  In His journey to attend the Festival of Light, realizing that time is of the essence, Yeshua, the light of the world, travels once again to Jerusalem to light the pathway of salvation; to shine His light on the very gates of the kingdom of heaven.  Yeshua, the light of the world is bringing the great light to a spiritually darkened House of God for all to see.
Study Questions:
1. Josephus supposes that the Festival of Dedication was called “Lights” because the liberation exceeded their hopes.  How does this add meaning to Yeshua’s celebration and words at the festival? (John 10)
2. What other evidence is there for the idea of a “narrow gate” to enter the kingdom of heaven?  What about the idea of a wide gate?
3. What did Yeshua mean when He stated that those whom Pilate murdered in the Temple and those who died in the collapse of the tower were no different than anyone else? (Luke 13:1-5)
4. Yeshua uses many parables in His teaching while on the road up to Jerusalem.  How does His use of parables illustrate the kingdom of heaven?  What are other parables Yeshua used to communicate the same theme?
5. In this teaching, we mention the rabbinic practice of “banning” a student or disciple from the presence of the master rabbi.  This was usually done for a short time period.  The disciple could return once certain conditions were met.  How does this practice relate to Yeshua’s parable of the ten virgins?  How does it relate to his statement, “depart from me,” or “I do not know you, where you are from?” 

© 2018 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved

[1] Flavious Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 12:139, 323-325/vii. 6-7)

No comments:

Post a Comment

You must include your name, city and state at the end of your comment. I do not accept comments from any one who identifies themselves as anonymous. All comments are moderated prior to appearing on this blog.