After traveling from the Galilee to Jerusalem for the Passover, Yeshua perhaps spent several weeks in an around Jerusalem and Judea teaching and performing miracles. His reputation grew and people came to hear his words and see the signs and miracles for themselves. He taught them many parables, giving new insight and interpretation, always speaking of the kingdom of heaven. But when it came time for Yeshua to return to his home in the Galilee, Yeshua, not unlike many of us today, experienced little respect from His family and friends in his home town.
We examined Yeshua’s ordination ceremony during which He was baptized, anointed with the Holy Spirit, and tested in the wilderness. He has called His first disciples and provided a picture of His ultimate goal of the Messianic age when He turned water into wine at a wedding feast. Yeshua’s ministry has truly begun. After spending the winter at Capernaum probably teaching His disciples, Yeshua and His disciples went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Who did Yeshua meet with during this journey to and from Jerusalem? How did He convey His message and what was His message?
Following Yeshua’s 40 days in the wilderness, He returned to the place across the Jordan river where John was still preaching and baptizing the people of Judea and surrounding areas who had come to hear John’s message of repentance and return to the Torah of God. While speaking and teaching his many disciples, John saw Yeshua approaching, and made a special announcement. John was pointing out someone in the crowd. Were his disciples straining to see who it might be that John called “the Lamb of God?” Yeshua was certainly not the blue eyed, fair haired individual depicted in numerous paintings and such that permeate our culture today. Yeshua would have looked gaunt and weathered after forty days of fasting in the wilderness. Yeshua did not, as yet, have an entourage of disciples and there was nothing to distinguish Him from the rest of the crowd. But John recognized Him and understood that the world was about to change.
Before Yeshua began His ministry, He observed two important rituals. They were being baptized by John and being subjected to temptation by Satan, the adversary. What is the significance of these two events? Matthew has meticulously introduced Yeshua as the Son of David and the rightful heir to his throne, how do these two events reinforce Yeshua’s kingship and inaugurate His ministry? How do these events confirm that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God?
The Bible tells us that Yeshua’s family fled to Egypt to escape certain death by order of King Herod. When they returned from Egypt they settled in Galilee instead of Bethlehem because they feared Herod’s son Archelaus, the new ruler of that region. What role did the political situation play in setting up the coming of the Messiah? In particular, did the corruption of the government and religious leadership die with Herod? The land of Israel, Judea, and Samaria were still under the watchful eye and control of Rome. Herod the great left three of his sons portions of his kingdom, but were they any less corrupt than their father?
After Yeshua’s birth, His family stayed in Bethlehem for up to two years. A visit from a group of Magi, or wise men, set off a renewed effort from Herod to eliminate any possible threat to his rule over Judea. Once Herod found about Yeshua, they had no choice but to flee from Herod. After the Magi found and visited Yeshua in Bethlehem, Joseph took his family to Egypt. What is the significance of including this event in the Bible? Why did God send Joseph and his family to Egypt?
It is entirely appropriate that this week’s Torah portion is titled “Vayera” which means “And He Appeared.” As we have been following the life and time of our Master Yeshua, we now come to the time of His birth; His appearing! Luke records that Joseph and Mary head off to Bethlehem, the ancestral home of Joseph’s family. Why would they travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth? Why travel so late in Mary’s pregnancy? Given the cultural norms of the day, Mary’s unexpected pregnancy during the time of her betrothal to Joseph would have caused somewhat of a scandal in Nazareth among family and friends. Because of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to both Mary and Joseph, they both knew the true identity and mission of the child Mary carried. Did they fully understand the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah? Or was this move to Bethlehem for another purpose?
The gospels of Matthew and Luke include genealogies of Yeshua. Matthew begins his in the very beginning. Luke places his genealogy later in his account, and, for some reason, the two accounts don’t agree. What does the latest research tell us about how these two genealogies both accurately describe Yeshua’s family? Why did Matthew and Luke include their genealogies? These genealogies are the last in a long line of genealogies scattered throughout the Torah and the writings of the Bible. What does the inclusion of these genealogies and their placement in scripture tell us about God’s redemption plan?
Luke begins his Gospel narrative with the story of and elderly priest, Zacharias and his barren wife Elisheva. What is the connection between the birth of John the Baptist, the son born to Zacharias and Elisheva, and the birth of Yeshua? They are both miraculous births only a few months apart. How do these births compare to the births of Isaac and Samuel? Every barren woman mentioned in the Bible eventually bears a son who is set apart for God. The sons born to Elisheva and Miriam are no exception.
As Moses winds up his discourse to the Children of Israel on the Plains of Moab as they are poised to enter the Promised Land, he spoke one last blessing on the Children of Israel. He began his blessing by speaking of their triumphant entry into the Promised Land as a holy, set apart army in covenant with their God. All of the events of the book of Deuteronomy took place on the plains of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho, nearly due east of Jerusalem 25 miles away above the Jordan River. Moses’ words following on the prophetic words of the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 are, also, prophetic, both of their upcoming entry into the Land and their future coming led by Messiah Yeshua.