Conflicts Increase As The Disciples’ Ministry Begins
Conflicts Increase As The Disciples’ Ministry Begins
The Disciples Begin To Function As Apostles
10.01.00.A. JESUS WALKS ON WATER AT NIGHT. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. The wind was unpredictable and the disciples had rowed all night long. In the fourth watch (between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.) they saw what appeared to be a ghost walking toward them on the water. It was Jesus.
As Jesus ministered to the people, He prepared His disciples to continue His work. Part of that preparation was not only for them to realize who He was and the full dynamics of His word – work that they would continue, but also for them to realize they would be persecuted. His hometown village of Nazareth became a microcosm of Israel. Some believed in Him but many rejected Him. He was limited in the number of miracles due to their unbelief and rejection, and so likewise Israel would one day reject Him as well. The disciples would experience the same, though in the process, many would come to faith.
10.01.02 Mk. 6:1-6a (See also Mt. 13:53-58) Nazareth
JESUS REJECTED AGAIN
1 He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. 2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. “Where did this man get these things?” they said. “What is this wisdom given to Him, and how are these miracles performed by His hands? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t His sisters here with us?” So they were offended by Him.
4 Then Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his household.” 5 So He was not able to do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He was amazed at their unbelief.
Jesus returned to Nazareth, the village of His youth and young adulthood. It was here where He spent many years working with Joseph as a carpenter. His neighbors and friends could not believe that this exceptional carpenter was more than a carpenter.
“Isn’t this the carpenter?” After many miracles, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where the local folks of the community still considered Him the son of a carpenter, one who built various objects of wood and possibly stone (see 04.07.01.). Many of them probably employed Jesus at one time or another. Carpenters were highly respected master tradesmen. However, the carpenter, or tek-ton, was not a carpenter in the modern sense of the word, but one who built with wood, and at times, stone and even metal. Nonetheless, the fact that a son of their village could perform mighty works of God was beyond their comprehension, especially one who was born out of wedlock. They chose not to believe. The two highly acclaimed first century Jewish rabbis, Hillel and Shammai, were both master carpenters.
The second century church father Justin Martyr (100 – 165) lived in Samaria, a short distance from Nazareth. He was a strict defender of the faith and in his Dialogue with Trypho, he stated that Joseph and Jesus made “ploughs and yokes.”
And when Jesus came to the Jordan, He was considered to be the son of Joseph the carpenter; and He appeared without comeliness, as the Scriptures declared, and He was deemed a carpenter for He was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 88
“And the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon?” There are three views of the relationship of these four men to Jesus.
Protestants believe that there are no biblical sources to support the second and third interpretations. In light of the fact that the gospel writer makes a clear connection to Mary and His brothers in verse 3, there is no other interpretation acceptable other than Mary and Joseph had at least seven children (Jesus, four brothers, and two or more daughters).
10.01.02.A. A TYPICAL FARM PLOW. Agricultural tools like this plow were among many implements built by carpenters. This design of a simple tool did not change from the days of the Egyptians 2000 B.C. until the industrial revolution. It is believed that the carpentry trade included not only the manufacture of a wide variety of wooden objects, but also masonry works, since buildings were constructed of stone. Photographed at the Philistine Museum in Ashkelon by the author.
“Prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his household.” Jesus was not only rejected by His hometown community, but even His family had difficulties accepting Him and His ministry, though they were obviously aware of His virgin birth. In fact, his half-brother James failed to realize His true identity until after the resurrection. This underscores the fact that tensions must have existed in the family. They would bear unjust shame from friends and neighbors who could not accept the message and miracles of Jesus (see commentary on Jn. 19:25-27). That conflict sheds light on what Jesus said: whoever does the will of His Father in heaven is truly His brother and sister (Mt. 12:48-50).
Jesus must have left His hometown in great sadness knowing what His family’s future would eventually be. These were people He loved, His neighbors, also His friends, with whom He spent many years. It saddened Him because “he was not able to do any miracles.” Wherever the gospel writers said Jesus could not perform any miracles, it was not because He had any limitations or His divinity, but because He refused to cast pearls before swine; to heal those who had ulterior motives. Yet Nazareth did not receive the same fate as Capernaum, Chorizim, and Bethsaida.
. Batey, Jesus and the Forgotten City. 74; Packer, “Carpenter, Builder, Workman, Craftsman, Trade.” 1:279.
. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 12; Issler, “Exploring the Pervasive References to Work in Jesus’ Parables.” 327.
. Campbell, “What was Jesus’ Occupation?” 512.
. Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament. 90.
. Joses is often translated as Joseph.
. Tasker, “Brethren of the Lord.” 1:207-08; Wessel, “Mark.” 8:665.
10.01.03 Mt. 9:35-38 (See also Mk. 6:6b)
NEED FOR WORKERS
35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Finding good employees has always been a problem for employers throughout history. Again, Jesus used a common phrase later recorded in the Mishnah: “One rabbi said, ‘The day is short and the task is great, and the laborers are lazy; but the wages are high, and the master of the house is urgent.’” The common people, known as the am-ha-arets, meaning the unlearned, were uneducated by Jerusalem standards, but were well educated in biblical knowledge.
“Their synagogues.” Matthew used this phrase several times, as if to suggest a future separation between Jesus and traditional Judaism (although a break was never the intent). He also spoke of “their” scribes (Mt. 7:29) and “their” cities (Mt. 11:1). Even though followers of Jesus functioned within Judaism throughout most of the first century, by the end of the Second Revolt in A.D. 135, there was a clear separation.
“Harvest.” The term is symbolic of fullness of time, in-gathering, ripeness, as well as judgment. But now is the time of gathering the proverbial crops, those lost souls who have not heard of the Kingdom of God. Then will be the separation of the sheep from the goats (Mt. 25:31-46).
10.01.03.Q1 Concerning Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2, who is the “Lord of the harvest?”
The Lord of’ the Harvest is none other than God the Father. It is Jesus who sows the good seed
and an angel that will be the harvester. Jesus has been given the authority by God the Father to give blessings to His children and to execute judgment upon those who have rejected Him.
. Mishnah, Aboth 2:15.
. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 292; Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 2:348.
. Mt. 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54; 23:34.
. 4 Ezra 4:28-32; Jer. 51:33; Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:13; Mt. 3:12; 13:30, 39; Jn. 4:35; Rev. 14:15.
. See 09.03.15, the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. Mt. 9:38; Lk. 10:2.
10.01.04 Mt. 10:1-4; Mk. 6:7 (See also Lk. 9:1-2)
DISCIPLES GIVEN POWER TO HEAL
Mt. 1 Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the 12 apostles:
First, Simon, who is called Peter,
and Andrew his brother;
James the son of Zebedee,
and John his brother;
3 Philip and Bartholomew;
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot,
who also betrayed Him.
Mk. 7 He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
“Disciples…apostles.” In verse 1 Jesus refers to the Twelve as “disciples” and in verse 2 as “apostles.” Later they are called “disciples” again. Jesus, the Master Teacher, knew that learning is most comprehensive when occasionally put into practice. These men were not being trained for the sake of learning, but trained for a purpose of expanding the Kingdom of God.
The ministry of the disciples was the same as that of their Master – to speak the Word and perform the works of the Kingdom of God. They were to be dependent on the hospitality of the villagers wherever they traveled, expecting God to provide for all their needs as they journeyed throughout the land.
10.01.05 Mt. 10:5-15; Mk. 6:11b (See also Mk. 6:8-11a; Lk. 9:3-5)
5Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. 6 Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge. 9 Don’t take along gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. 10 Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick, for the worker is worthy of his food.
11 “When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town…Mk. 11 as a testimony against them…. Mt. 15 I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
“Don’t take the road leading to other nations.” Literally, Jesus said do not go among the Gentiles; do not minister to them. This hard saying must be observed from the covenant viewpoint of Jesus. While He did come to bring salvation for all humanity, proper protocol required that message to be given first to the Jews because it was the fulfillment of the promises in the Jewish covenant with God. Thereafter, the message was to go to the Samaritans (who had a modified edition of the books of Moses), and then on to the Gentiles (Acts 1:8). After the religious leaders refused the words and ministry of Jesus, the message of the gospel was to be carried worldwide by the Church. Hence, Matthew gave the prophetic statement that not only would the gospel be preached throughout the world, but also that He, Jesus, would be with all believers (Jews and Gentiles) “to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).
It has been suggested that Matthew had an anti-Gentile bias since his gospel was written to the Jews. However, this is hardly the case since he previously presented details of the magi, who were obviously Gentiles. He concluded his work by stating that the message of Jesus would be preached throughout the world to all nations (cf. Mt. 24:14, 28:19). The fact that Matthew recorded praise for the Roman centurion (Mt. 8:5-13) and condemned the religious Jewish leaders also negates the theory of any anti-Gentile Bias.
Finally, Jesus did not give instructions for them to go the synagogues. This may have been for two possible reasons:
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Greek order of words places the emphasis on lost rather than on sheep. Jesus used the term lost more frequently than the term led astray. Centuries earlier, when the Assyrians invaded the ten northern tribal area, some realized they had to quickly leave or face destruction. So they moved south into Judah (1 Kg. 12:16-20; 2 Chron. 11:16-17). Thus, Judah became the embodiment of all 12 tribes. The New Testament does not assume that the 12 tribes were lost. So when Jesus spoke of ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He meant all 12 tribes.
“Don’t take a traveling bag … extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick.” In contrast to the other itinerant rabbis with their disciples, there were also traveling Gnostic, Cynic and Stoic philosophers who were attempting to evangelize the Jews to their ideas. The Greek word for bag is pera, which means beggar’s collection bag. For many common folk, it was a bread bag. These itinerant philosophers not only carried their own supplies, but were also begging as they traveled from village to village. Obviously they were not welcomed in the local synagogue. The point that Jesus and the early Church fathers made, was that their missionaries and rabbis were not to have any resemblance to these philosophers. Neither were believers to have these philosophers in their homes. Jesus warned against the appearance of pagan Gnostic, Cynic and Stoic philosophers at least twice:
In addition to not having the appearance of these false teachers, neither were the disciples to take extra clothing because they were to be like the peasant people to whom they would minister (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). Roman tyranny and high taxes had reduced the common Jew to a state of dire poverty and, therefore, the average person had only one tunic. If they would have entered a village dressed as wealthier men, they would have been suspected of being dishonest and corrupt, attributes commonly associated with being wealthy. Notice that Jesus did not ask the disciples to give away their extra clothing, but simply to set them aside so these items would not interfere with the message.
Furthermore, literary documentation and archaeological evidence all point to the fact that village synagogues provided the traveling Jew with accommodation and food. An example is the “Jerusalem Synagogue Dedication Inscription” quoted below.
“Shake the dust off your feet.” Shaking the dust off one’s feet was a strong body language announcing discontentment. The dust of a heathen country was considered defilement, and the Jews of Israel could not wait to leave the foreign country and visibly and literally shake the dust off their feet. Ironically, when Jews from foreign countries came to Jerusalem to observe the festivals, they often encountered the same snobbish attitudes from the locals. This was also the case whenever traveling Jews exited the Samaritan region. They had such great disdain for the Samaritans, that they considered themselves defiled if there was even a speck of Samaritan dust on their sandals.
Throughout the Middle East, in ancient times and today, feet were and still are considered defiled. The reason is that roads and walkways were always dirty and dusty. Throughout most of history, wherever anyone walked, livestock also walked and, therefore, stepping into animal dung was unavoidable. In Samaria there was the additional factor of ethnic hatred. Common people wore sandals; the wealthy wore shoes. Both were removed when entering a home so feet could be washed. Only the lowest of servants or slaves untied sandals for visitors, and if there were no servants or slaves, then it was the woman’s responsibility to do so.
In this case, Jesus spoke to His disciples, telling them that if Samaritans did not accept the plan of salvation, shake the Samaritan dust off their feet and go elsewhere. As previously stated, there was a long history of animosity between the two groups for both theological and social reasons. A few are as follows.
These actions, as well as theological differences, created great anger and hatred between the two groups. As a result, the Jews insisted there be no trace of the Samaritan soil on their sandals after walking through the land. Jesus instructed His disciples that they were to have a similar attitude toward those who reject the gospel. As to His attitude toward the Samaritans, He demonstrated love and compassion towards them numerous times (cf. Jn. 4). To those who did not know of the Divine plan or were curious, He taught with love and compassion. If His message was rejected then the relationship was broken.
About two centuries before Jesus, a rabbinic teacher, Yose ben Yoezer, commented on the actions of a good student (disciple). He said,
“Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.”
Mishnah, Aboth 1:4
An abbreviated form of this verse became the following proverb,
“Follow the rabbi, drink in his words and be covered with the dust of his feet.”
Mark added the legal terminology “as a testimony against them” which was not a curse, but shaking dust off one’s feet was ancient body language declaring the relationship was broken and there would be no further contact – an action of which there is no modern equivalent.
The consequence of rejecting God’s Word has always been severe. The old phrase, “decisions determine destiny,” was true for the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah and would be true for any other community or persons as well. The disciples were God’s messengers who were rejected by the Samaritans. Quite possibly this is why James and John were quick to call destruction from heaven (Mk. 10:35-36). The pattern of rejection would not only continue with them in the future, but the Apostle Paul would also face repeated rejection, beatings, and scourgings.
“It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment.” This passage (v. 15) provides clear evidence that there are various levels of punishment in hell. In Matthew 11:24-24 Jesus clearly affirmed that while Scripture is inspired, some laws have a higher priority than others (cf. Mt. 23:23-24; 22:38-39). He never said that every law has equal weight to every other law.
10.01.05.Q1 Which is correct: “To take a staff, or nothing . . . except a staff (Mk. 6:8-9 vs. Mt. 10:9-10; Lk. 9:3)?”
One of the difficulties in this passage and the parallels is whether Jesus said a walking staff should be taken along on a missionary journey. Mark recorded (Mk. 6:8-9) that Jesus told His disciples to take nothing, only a walking staff. But Matthew and Luke said (Mt. 10:9-10); Lk. 9:3) that the staff was not to be taken. Even though the difference may be a minor point, it is worthy of study.
In the three and a half year ministry of Jesus, there was sufficient time for several missionary trips. In fact, it is difficult to conclude that there was only one missionary journey. Therefore, the occasion recorded by Mark cannot be the same as the one(s) recorded by Matthew and Luke. The early ministry of Jesus was restricted to Jews who lived in the three small provinces of Galilee, Perea, and Judea. One could easily walk to any of the districts in a few days. As to why a staff was to be taken on one journey and not another, that may never be known. Therefore, it must be concluded that the gospel writers reported on two or more trips for which Jesus gave different instructions. Yet, other early documents also preserved valuable insights.
In the early second century, Church leaders recorded instructions for Church life and service. This document, known as the Didache, applied the instruction of Jesus. The overall tenor of the directives follows:
Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. He shall stay only one day, or, if need be another day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. When the apostle leaves, let him receive nothing but enough bread to see him through until he finds lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
Not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet but only the one whose Savior is the Lord’s. So the false prophet and the prophet will be recognized by their behavior. No prophet who orders a meal for himself in the Spirit eats of it himself; if he does, he is a false prophet. If any prophet teaching the truth does not do what he teaches, he is a false prophet….You shall not listen to anyone who says in the Spirit, “Give me money or something,” but if he is asking that something be given for others who are in need let no one judge him.
Didache 11:8-10, 12
The instruction of Jesus was continued by the first century Jewish believers. However, there is considerable documented evidence to suggest that synagogues, especially those in Jerusalem, provided traveling Jews with food and accommodations. One of those surviving documents makes specific mention of the intended use of a new first century synagogue in Jerusalem. It states,
Theodotos, son of Vettenus, priest and archisynagogos, son of an archisynagogos, grandson of an archisynagogos, built this synagogue for the reading of the Law and for the teaching of commandments, as well as the hostel, the rooms and the water fittings (?), as a lodging for those coming from a foreign country, which his father established as well as the presbyters and Simonides.
Jerusalem Synagogue Dedication Inscription
Jesus sent His disciples out into the Jewish communities knowing that they would be cared for. Later, Luke mentioned that the Apostle Paul stayed in private homes and, thereby, followed the same principle.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:58.
. See Mt. 4:13, 15; Lk. 2:36; Acts 4:36; 26:27; Phil. 3:5; Jas. 1:1.
. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:367.
. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East. 108.
. Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, and Brauch, Hard Sayings of the Bible. 422-23.
. For more information, see 02.02.10 Gnosticism, 02.02.10 Romans, commentary on “The Word” in 04.01.03, and “Gnosticism” in Appendix 26.
. Babylonian Talmud, Moed Katan 14a (Mid-Festival Days).
. Llewelyn, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. 7:89-90.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:59; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 2:185-87.
. Bailey, Jesus through Eastern Eyes. 246. The ultimate act of humiliation was to place a foot on the neck of an enemy (Ps. 110:1) or to throw a shoe at him (Ps. 60:8). David Rubin (The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama. 134) reports that in December of 2008, when U.S. President Bush was in Baghdad, a reporter threw a shoe at him. The Western media reported the incident but failed to understand its meaning (or failed to report its meaning). However, the people of the Middle East understood the grave insult very well. On the contrary, one always removed shoes or sandals when a holy site was entered (Ex. 3:5). The practice continues today, as when entering a mosque See also “Defiled” in Appendix 26.
. See 02.01.17 for more details on the Samaritan-Jew controversy.
. For more details, see “Samaritans” 02.01.17.
. See Acts 13:46 and 2 Pet. 2:6.
. See also Mt. 23:23-24 in 13.05.03.
. The Didache is a book on church order that was written within a century of the life of Jesus. For more information, see 02.02.08.
. Llewelyn, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. 7:89-90.
. As this writer has experienced, one does not understand hospitality until invited in a Middle Eastern Home, whether Jewish, Arab, or Samaritan.
. That the apostles stayed in private homes is illustrated in Acts 21:4, Tyre; Ptolemais in Acts 21:7; Caesarea in Acts 21:8; and in Jerusalem, Acts 21:16.
10.01.06 Mt. 10:16-33
16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. 17 Because people will hand you over to Sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will even rise up against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. 23 When they persecute you in one town, escape to another. For I assure you: You will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household!
26 “Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known.
27 What I tell you in the dark,
speak in the light.
What you hear in a whisper,
proclaim on the housetops.
28 Don’t fear those who kill the body
but are not able to kill the soul.
Rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men,
I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.
33 But whoever denies Me before men,
I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.
As the Christian faith spread, persecution increased. It began as Jewish anti-Semitism; Jews persecuting other Jews for their faith in Jesus, (Heb. Yeshua,) during which time the primitive church prayed for boldness (Acts 4:23-31). Those who suffered frequently quoted Psalm 2 as they realized they were witnessing the fulfillment of the prophetic words of Jesus. It is striking how these words of warning expressed the solidarity of Jesus with the early believers and these believers with Jesus.
“Sheep among wolves.” Sheep are peaceful creatures while wolves were among the worst predators in the biblical period. Shepherds were not the only ones who feared wolves; travelers and villagers did as well. Jesus said that believers ought to be similar to sheep in that they are peaceful, causing no harm to anyone.
However, Jesus also told them to “be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves” meaning to be fully aware of their spiritual and social environment including the “wolves” around them. Their enemies were both human and demonic. At no point did Jesus express any comments that ignorance of them is a virtue, but rather He said believers should be knowledgeable and discerning (i.e. shrewd). Christians are to be honest and harmless, but use wisdom with the gift of discernment. In many countries today true believers are being persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus. They need to be like the sons of Issachar who, understood the times and knew what Israel needed to do (1 Chron. 12:32). Today snakes are seen as being symbolic of Satan; imagery derived from the Garden of Eden narrative. However, during the biblical period, snakes were seen as symbolic of eternal life because they shed their skin every year. That is why Moses placed a bronze serpent on a pole in Numbers 21:4-9. Farmers and shepherds knew from experience that snakes are shrewd and smart.
“Because people will hand you over to Sanhedrins.” The fact that the disciples were to be harmless as doves and as shrewd as snakes did not mean they would not face persecution. Being an evangelist in a pagan world is a life of danger, but one that has its eternal rewards. Jesus was very clear that difficulties would come. And since they had spent three years of training with Him, the promise of the Holy Spirit would give them the wisdom of the right words at the right time. The term “Spirit” (Gk. parakletos) meaning “counselor” would help the believer live victoriously in a world full of dangers and difficulties.
In villages and small cities that had a minimum population of 120 men, there were local councils or tribunals of three judges. In a larger community there was a council of 23 judges known as a “Small Sanhedrin.” Jerusalem, of course, had the “Great Sanhedrin” with 70 members plus the high priest as president. Considering how the Great Sanhedrin treated Jesus and His apostles, it is clear that the disciples would be in for some ill treatment. In fact, except for Judas and John, all were eventually martyred. Persecutions have always separated the true believers from those who preferred luke-warmness.
An examination of the Old Testament reveals that nearly all the great leaders and prophets had been persecuted. Jesus said those who would be persecuted because of righteousness would be blessed (Mt. 5:10-12). The famous “Faith Hall of Fame” of Hebrews 11 is awesome in terms of faith, and challenging in terms of the difficulties and persecutions these men experienced. This writer believes that those challenging days have returned to many countries and will be worldwide before Jesus comes for His Church. The citizenship of true followers of Jesus has always been in heaven (Philip. 3:20; Gal. 6:14).
“When they persecute you in one town, escape to another.” This was a clear promise of persecution. Those who trust and obey God have always been in conflict with the systems of this world. It was intense immediately after Jesus, and it appears to this writer that it will be intense immediately before Jesus returns. While difficulties and challenges will come, wisdom and divine guidance are to be applied to life situations. One should not seek persecution or martyrdom for the sake of persecution or martyrdom. Obedience, love, and faithfulness are to be the hallmarks of those experiencing such trials, and those who endure to the end will be saved (Mt. 10:22). They will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10), which is encouraging news that none will lose heart or become weary (Heb. 12:3).
“You will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” This passage has been interpreted to mean that Jesus promised to return to earth before the disciples completed their ministry to all the communities throughout Israel, implying a very soon return. By the time the apostles died, Jesus obviously had not yet returned. Was there an error as some have suggested? Hardly! The word “You,” was interpreted to refer to the evangelists individually, but evidently, Jesus meant that they would be part of a larger group of individuals who would preach throughout the cities. The passage simply means that Israel would not be evangelized prior to the end of the present age (the Church Age) when Christ returns to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem.
As stated previously, and this point is critical, the phrase Son of Man, or Bar Enosh in Aramaic, in the book of Enoch is a figure who is waiting in heaven until God sends him to earth where he would establish his kingdom and rule over it. This book was common knowledge, so when Jesus used the phrase about Himself, He was clearly claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah. That is quite interesting, because the book of Enoch was written in the Inter-Testamental Period, and the expressions of “Son of Man” and “Son of God,” foretell the deity of Jesus, but the former title also asserts His humanity. How did the writer of Enoch know this? This mystery continues to be hidden Galatians 4:4.
“A disciple is not above his teacher.” Jesus again made reference to the disciple – rabbi relationship. As previously stated, the title “rabbi” literally means “my teacher” or “my master.” This phrase, of course, was in effect as long as the disciple was under the mentorship of his rabbi. Once the student-disciple became recognized as a rabbi in his own right, then they became peers although the mentor-rabbi was always held in highest esteem.
The position of rabbi carried expectations of those who followed him. For example, disciples were always expected to do whatever the “master” requested of them (cf. Lk. 6:46). This was also illustrated when Jesus asked His disciples to buy food (Jn. 4:8) and make Passover preparations (Lk. 22:8). The master-disciple relationship has not changed over the centuries.
“Beelzebul.” Also spelled Beelzebub, the name reflects the interesting and sarcastic attitude the Jews had for their pagan neighbors. This Philistine god was the “lord of the royal palace.” The politically correct name is Baal-Zebul meaning Exalted Baal or Prince Baal. But by a slight change of pronunciation to Beelzebub the meaning was changed to Lord of the Flies (cf 2 Kg. 1:2), referring to flying insects that thrive in summertime manure. There is also a second pun to the change of pronunciation. The word zibbul means sacrificing to idols. Beelzebul meant “chief of idolatrous sacrificing.” Jesus is the rightful “Head of the house,” and He turned that around and said that the head of the house for the Jews was the chief of idolatrous sacrificing to swarming flies upon a manure pile. This illustration demonstrates how puns were used and occasionally had more than one meaning. In Scripture Beelzebul is the prince of demons, meaning Satan.
Between the mentioning of Beelzebul and the warning to fear him who is able to destroy soul and body, is the warning against gnostic teaching. Gnostic teachers claimed they had secret teachings of wisdom and of Jesus not found in the Scriptures. While Jesus did not identify them by name, He did identify them by how they spoke – using terms such as “uncovered,” “hidden,” and “whisper.” He clearly said not to be afraid of them but simply speak His truth so that everyone will hear it.
26 “Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. In these two verses Jesus clearly indicated that all sin will be revealed – nothing can be hidden from God. However, verses 26 and 27 are a clear defense against the growing Gnosticism that was beginning to take hold in the land. It promoted so-called secrets of deeper spiritual knowledge. This influence of wandering Greek philosophers and mystics is often overlooked in the studies of Jesus.
“Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” While it is natural to fear those who would harm or kill us, Jesus clearly stated that He, Himself, should be feared because He is the One who is able to ultimately send unbelievers into the lake of fire. This statement had a profound allusion for the audience, and the word for “hell” has reference to the Valley of Hinnom, a/k/a the Valley of Ge-henna. It was in this valley centuries earlier Manasseh offered living infants in a fiery sacrifice to the god Molech. This is a shameful period in Jewish history. Yet Jesus used this imagery to underscore the deadly powers of Satan. Jesus warned against the appearance of pagan Gnostic, Cynic and Stoic philosophers at least twice:
“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?” This phrase indicates the minimal value of two common birds. Yet elsewhere the price may be different from that stated here. This is not a mistake in Scripture, but rather in ancient times, as in most areas today in the Middle East, the purchase price of any item is frequently the subject of bargaining. Hence, two buyers may make similar purchases and pay different prices. A “penny” is the smallest coin in the British currency, and not an ancient coin. The word is used in this verse to denote the smallest minted coin.
“Everyone who will acknowledge Me.” The phrase literally means “anyone who will confess in me,” which is to identify himself with Christ. The language used by Jesus is not exclusive to the New Testament. Matthew again demonstrated that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
9b If you seek Him,
He will be found by you;
But if you forsake Him,
He will reject you forever.
I Chronicles 28:9b
2b If you seek Him
He will be found by you;
But if you abandon Him
He will abandon you.
2 Chronicles 15:2b
To acknowledge Jesus after His resurrection was and continues to be a confession of His deity, that He is God of creation and, therefore, He is the Messiah. Believers confess that Jesus, in human form, is the Son of God. They believe that He came to earth in human form  and confess the reality of His resurrection and ascension. To confess Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior will inherently make one realize who he or she is and result in the confession of sin. One looks to Jesus for forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:5-10). He receives a cleansing, is renewed, and receives eternal life. This greatest of miracles occurs with a simple prayer. Thereafter, Jesus is the believer’s advocate before the Father who tells Him we are members of His kingdom whenever that accuser, Satan, lies about us. Conversely, just as confession of Christ leads to eternal life, rejection of His love and forgiveness leads to eternal damnation in the lake of fire known as Hell. However, the central focal point of Scripture is one of restoration; the restoration of man to the image of God – the imago dei.
“But whoever denies Me before men.” The Apostle Paul underscored this important thought when he said that if we deny Him, He will deny us (2 Tim. 2:12). The Greek phrase arneomai is translated deny meaning to refuse or to say no to. The English terms denies or denial are often understood as a legalistic terms that one would outright declare he is not a follower of Jesus. While that is true, the Hebraic meaning is much broader and includes several forms. Four of them are:
On the other hand, whatever one does for someone else in the name of Jesus, is equal to doing it personally to Jesus (Mt. 10:40-42; 25:40). Yet the Jewish leadership looked upon Jesus with great disdain, although some admired His ability to perform miracles. This is evidenced by two interesting accounts that happened later – possibly in the second or early third century. In both stories someone is sick and another offers to pray in the name of Jesus, but it is a prayer in the name of Jesus, the son of Pandira, also known as the son of Parthera. Jewish critics claimed that Jesus was not born of a virgin, but of Mary who was a harlot and His true father was a Roman soldier known as Pandira or Parthera. Therefore, these examples of the healing power of Jesus are of particular interest.
While these accounts occurred long after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, they reflect two important insights:
The core issue was that they did not want to admit who Jesus was, even though He had demonstrated all the signs and wonders they expected the messiah to perform with the exception of overthrowing the Romans – an expectation obviously not cited in the Hebrew Bible.
. Mills and Michael, Messiah and His Hebrew Alphabet. 7.
. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 563.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 443.
. Mt. 10:19-20; Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:11-12.
. Cressey, “Counselor.” 1:325.
. Wijngaards, Handbook to the Gospels. 44.
. Jn. 3:13; 5:27; 6:27; cf. Mt.26:63-64; Tenney, The Gospel of John. 105.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:312.
. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 10, page 11.
. New International Version Study Bible footnote for Matthew 10:25; See also 09.01.02.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 446.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:60-61.
. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 149.
. See “Gnosticism” in Appendix 26 and “Gnostic” in 02.02.10.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus, 41; Miethe, The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words. 97.
. Lev. 18:21; 2 Kg. 21:1, 6; Jer. 7:31-32; Zeph. 1:5; Acts 7:43.
. For more information, see 02.02.10 Gnosticism, 02.02.10 Romans, commentary on “The Word” in 04.01.03, and “Gnosticism” in Appendix 26.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:61-62.
. Mt. 16:16; Mk. 4:29; Jn. 1:1-14, 41; 9:22.
. Mt. 8:29; Jn. 1:34,39; 1 Jn. 4:15.
. Some translations use the word “flesh” for human form. See 1 Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7.
. Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil 2:11.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 127.
. See the discussion on hypocrites/hypocrisy in 08.03.04 (Mt. :5-15) and in “Pharisees” in 02.01.14.
. See 04.03.08.Q4 “Can the concept of the virgin birth be supported historically?”
. Adapted from Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:150.
10.01.07 Mt. 10:34-39 (See comments on Lk. 12:49-53)
CONFLICT AND SACRIFICE.
34 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn
A man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
A daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household (Micah 7:6).
37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me
is not worthy of Me;
The person who loves son or daughter more than Me
is not worthy of Me.
38 And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me
is not worthy of Me.
39 Anyone finding his life will lose it,
and anyone losing his life because of Me
will find it.
“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus, who is often known as the Price of Peace, said, “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” What did He mean when He said He came to bring a sword?
Those who accepted Him were rejected by family members who did not accept Him. Complete dedication will be opposed by others in the family who do not agree to such a commitment. This imagery is based upon Micah 7:6. For two thousand years many Jews who did come to faith did so at the great cost of being permanently separated from the families whom they dearly loved. The sword is clearly symbolic of the division within many families concerning the identity of Jesus. For example, in the Muslim world today, those who come to faith in Christ Jesus are often confronted with the option of renouncing Christianity and returning to Islam, or face death. Another example is a personal one. Once, when this writer taught ministry students in the Middle East, one day a student was missing from class. Then there was a knock on the door and two men were looking for him. He fled for his life and I never saw him again.
In this passage, the Greek word for peace (Gk. eirene 1515) simply does not do justice to the statement of Jesus. As a Jewish rabbi, He spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, although He was certainly fluent in Greek as well. But His teaching language was the common language of the people – Aramaic. The Hebrew word (salon 7965), like that of its sister language Aramaic, means peace, completeness, good health and welfare. Since Jesus would have thought and spoken as a Jew, not as a Greek, this is a classic example where word-study students conclude that Jesus meant the Greek definition of the term, rather than the Hebraic meaning. In fact, the Greek meaning most likely had nothing to do with Jesus.
“The person who loves father or mother more than Me.” The absolutism of Hebrew idioms is more than a mere challenge to the modern reader. Parents were highly respected since they brought forth life into this world. Jesus required a commitment of devotion that was beyond their customary understanding. Teachers – including sages and rabbis – were held in higher esteem than parents because they taught man how to live and how to prepare for the world to come. The Oral Law gives an example of this prioritized devotion:
If his father and his teacher each bore a burden, he must first relieve his teacher and afterward relieve his father. If his father and teacher were each taken captive, he must first ransom his teacher and afterward ransom his father; but if his father was also a Sage he must first ransom his father and afterward ransom his teacher.
Mishnah, Baba Metzia 2.11
“And whoever doesn’t take up his cross.” This phrase was not a Jewish proverb nor was it a form of Jewish execution, but everyone was were all too familiar with this horrific form of capital punishment. The word “cross” not only meant execution, but it was also the universal symbol of an agonizing death. Jesus demanded His disciples follow Him even if their decision would result in martyrdom upon a cross. In the early first century, it symbolized death, but within a few years of the resurrection, it symbolized eternal life.
“Anyone finding his life will lose it.” There is a deep internal desire in everyone to continue life eternally; no one desires death. Jesus here emphasized the need of commitment in carrying His cross in a different way. Anyone who determines to find his own way to salvation will fail. Jesus is the only way to obtain eternal life.
. See also Jubliees 23:16, 19; Mishnah, Sotah 9.15.
. Vine, “Peace.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 1:173-74; 2:464.
. The difficulty that has been revealed here with the word “peace” extends to many other words, such as the word “law,” where the Hebrew definition emphasizes “instruction” which is completely missed in the Greek.
10.01.08 Mt. 10:40-42 (See also Mk. 9:41)
40 “The one who welcomes you
And the one who welcomes Me
welcomes Him who sent Me.
41 Anyone who welcomes a prophet
because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward.
And anyone who welcomes a righteous person
because he’s righteous
will receive a righteous person’s reward.
42 And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones
because he is a disciple
I assure you: He will never lose his reward!”
“And whoever gives just a cup of cold water.” The giving of a cold cup (poterion 4221)  of water was a sign of hospitality – an incredible important virtue in biblical times. Many of the sayings of Jesus were known by the Jewish people for two reasons.
Jesus, the Master Teacher, used ideas found in stories, sayings, parables, daily events of life,  and used them to teach His message of the Kingdom of God. Walking righteously, which is the same as living a life according to the directives of God, is the principal idea behind giving a cup of water, which is identical to clothing a naked person, as shown in the Babylonian Talmud:
Is it possible for a human being to walk after the Shekinah; has it not been said: For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire? But the meaning is to walk in the ways of the Lord. As he clothes the naked so do you also clothe the naked; as he visited the sick, so do you also visit the sick; as he comforted the mourners; so do you also comfort the mourners.”
Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14a
Jesus taught that every act done in His name is important, and that every moment has an extraordinary occasion that will have guaranteed blessings in the world to come.
“I assure you.” This phrase is a pledge that is almost as strong as an oath, although some have suggested that it is as strong as an oath. It was said to affirm to His audience the sincerity of His teaching. Yet the disciples at this point still did not realize His divine nature, perfect humanity, or His mission to save man from his sins.
. Vine, “Cup” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:141.
. See Mt. 5:14-16; 6:26-30; 7:6; 9:16-17; 10:24-25; 12:25; 13:31-33; 24:43-51; et.al.
. The concept that intellectual teaching is based upon what is previously known to the person taught has generally been credited to Aristotle, in Posteriora Analytica 1.1. However, the concept, although not described in this manner, is elementary and was practiced by the Jewish rabbis and prophets for centuries.
. The word Shekinah refers to the presence of God and means that which dwells. See Appendix 26.
. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 5.