Last week we saw Yeshua healing two blind men and again feeding a multitude of people with what appeared to be meager provisions only to find that there was plenty of leftovers. After most such busy times, Yeshua would go to a hill or mountain to spend time in prayer. He sometimes took several disciples with him. On this occasion he took three, Peter, James and John. But this time was different; this time something extraordinary happened. On this mountain, on this day, the disciples encountered the very Glory of the divine Yeshua; transfigured before their eyes! Mountains are a common place for Yeshua and the disciples to find solitude to pray and to seek out divine revelation. The scriptures have many examples. But what is the significance of this encounter with Moses and Elijah? What was the purpose of these specific disciples being allowed to see a glimpse of the kingdom of God and the glory and majesty of Yeshua that was yet to come?
As Yeshua’s ministry progressed, the crowds around Him grew larger and larger. It became more difficult for Him to take His disciples apart from the multitude to teach them. Yeshua first took His disciples to the region of Tyre and Sidon. When He was inevitably found, He healed the daughter of a Canaanite. Afterwards, Yeshua moved through the wilderness area of the Decapolis region to approach the Sea of Galilee from the east side. What was Yeshua’s primary goal during this phase of His ministry? How did Yeshua accomplish this goal?
Last week we celebrated the Passover. Most Christians consider Passover to be a Jewish holiday or festival. But as we have learned, all the Feasts of the LORD, as they are referred to in the scriptures, are given to all who believe in Him. The Hebrew word that is translated as “feast” is Moed which means an appointed time. God purposely set aside Passover and six additional feasts as days appointed to accomplish His redemption plan! Most Christians are aware that Yeshua died at Passover and that we have redemption because He died as our Passover Lamb. It wasn’t a coincidence that Yeshua died on Passover. But did you know that Yeshua was placed in the burial cave just as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the second of God’s feast days, established in the scriptures began? What is the significance of this aspect of Yeshua’s crucifixion? What is the observance of Unleavened bread all about?
When God spoke to Moses from out of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, He gave Moses instructions on how to draw near to Him through the five different offerings. This occurred after God brought them out of Egypt and after He took them for His people through the covenant mediated by Moses. The system of offerings was designed to allow God’s already chosen and covenant people to draw near to Him. When we accept that Yeshua is our offering that allows us to draw near to God, we need to realize that this happens after we are taken out of slavery in Egypt and after entering into the New Covenant.
How can this be? If it is not the offerings that shadow salvation through Yeshua, what does? How are we redeemed from slavery to sin? How do we enter into the New Covenant? It all begins back in Egypt with the Passover sacrifice.
Yeshua’s actions and the actions of His disciples fell under that constant scrutiny of the religious authorities of His day chief of whom were the Pharisees and the scribes. They saw the influence that Yeshua had over the masses and wanted to determine if Yeshua followed Torah. After Yeshua fed the five thousand, some Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to where Yeshua was ministering to the masses in Galilee. The Pharisees and scribes immediately found fault with Yeshua’s disciples, and through them, found fault with Yeshua. What is the criticism of the Pharisees based on? What is the custom of washing or immersing hands as it was practiced in the time of Messiah?
Yeshua had sent out twelve apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to proclaim the kingdom of God, heal the sick, and cast out demons. After their return, the crowds of people that followed Yeshua wherever He went increased dramatically. Some followed Him to for healing or deliverance; others followed Him to see signs and wonders. Some followed Him because they wanted to be His disciples. They wanted to study and learn from this new Rabbi who taught with such authority and did miraculous signs. However, being a disciple wasn’t for the faint of heart; not only was the journey that Yeshua described for His disciples difficult, the teaching would stretch their thinking and understanding of the God and the Messiah. Until, one day when Yeshua was teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum, some of His disciples couldn’t accept what Yeshua was teaching. What was it that Yeshua was teaching that was so hard to understand? What was it that they couldn’t accept and caused many to turn back? How important is this same concept for those of us who would follow Yeshua today?
The Master Yeshua and His twelve disciples continued to minister in and around the towns of the Galilee. Here they brought the message of the kingdom of God to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. On the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, sat another city, the city of Tiberias that Christian tradition tells us the disciples did not visit. Tiberias was built by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and named after the emperor of Rome, Tiberias Caesar.
The two cities were less than 12 miles apart from each other. Herod Antipas held the official title of Tetrarch and, although not connected in any way to Jewish blood, desired deeply to be named King of the Jews like his father before him. Yeshua, on the other hand, was a direct descendant of the line of David and the rightful heir to the office and title of King of the Jews.
As Yeshua traveled throughout the Galilee region, He taught His disciples about who could enter the kingdom of heaven in the Sermon on the Mount and what the kingdom of heaven was like through comparisons in His parables. He continued to heal the sick and cast out demons. More and more people began to flock to Him wherever He went. The crowds grew so large that even He could not meet all their needs by Himself. It was time for Yeshua to share His mission with His disciples, to send them out as laborers in the harvest. What would this mean for those first disciples Yeshua sent out as well as for all those who would become Yeshua’s disciples over the centuries? What would their commitment to the mission entail? How would their lives change?
Yeshua again returned to His primary headquarters of Peter’s home in Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. There He engaged in teaching His followers and disciples about the kingdom of God with many parables. His reputation was now such that huge crowds gathered around Him wherever He went. Privacy was nearly impossible, even while in Peter’s house there were multitudes of people gathered outside waiting and calling for the Master to come meet with them. One day, when evening came, Yeshua had a plan. Slipping out of Peter’s house after dark, Yeshua along with Peter, James, and John, got into the boat that, earlier in the day Yeshua had used as a speaking platform, and set out to the other side of the Galilee to the Gentile territory of Gadriyim. It would not be an easy crossing.
Parables were widely used in Jewish Literature to put concepts in terms that people could understand. This is not unique to Jewish literature. Aesop’s Tales are stories designed to teach a lesson or concept illustrating different aspects of human nature. The rabbis of Yeshua’s age made extensive use of the parable to teach concepts about God. Many of these parables have been preserved in the Talmud. Yeshua used parables to teach the multitudes about the kingdom of God. The idea that Messiah would come to bring in a spiritual kingdom was contrary to the expectations of the Jewish people. Yeshua needed to redirect their thoughts. Did Yeshua speak parables to clarify or confuse the understanding of the multitudes? What do the parables reveal about the kingdom of heaven?