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?
Yeshua’s cousin, John the Baptist had been jailed by Herod Antipus and exiled to the desert fortress at Machaerus. From his prison, John the Baptist sent a few of his disciples to ask Yeshua a critical question. Was John having doubts about the identity and mission of Yeshua? What did John expect to see? Yeshua answers John in what seems to be a cryptic manner. Then, Yeshua turns it back on those following Him. What do they expect to see?
Yeshua said to His disciples that were gathered around Him at Capernaum that those who do the will of the Father are His mother, brothers, and sisters. After this, Yeshua took His disciples apart from the crowds and taught them more about the importance of doing the will of the Father.
Doing the will of the Father is of the greatest importance! Only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven! These words come at the end of this particular teaching session of Yeshua’s that we call the Sermon on the Mount! What did Yeshua teach on this occasion about the kingdom of heaven and doing the will of the Father?
After Yeshua finalized the selection of His inner circle of twelve disciples, he set about to teach them how to continue His message of “repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” Already Yeshua’s reputation was growing rapidly throughout the land but especially in the Galilee region. Large crowds came from all around and followed Him where ever he went. The sick and infirm, the troubled and the simply curious and the skeptical. The Gospels record many instances of Yeshua fleeing the crowds alone or with His disciples to seek a place of solitude for prayer or teaching. And so, it was in the hills above the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, that Yeshua took His chosen twelve disciples and began to teach them in the ways of the Torah.
As word of Yeshua’s healings spread, He attracted more and more attention both good and bad. People from all over Jerusalem, Judea, and Galilee flocked to Him for healing. Pharisees and scribes sought Him out to hear this new teaching, but were angered when Yeshua challenged their interpretation and practice of the Torah. After one such instance when Yeshua corrected their hierarchy of following conflicting commandments in regards to Sabbath observance, a group of Pharisees took offense and decided to make trouble for Yeshua. What impact did this have on His ministry and how others perceived Him? Was Yeshua’s mission to be a humble servant, or a revolutionary leader?
As with today’s political climate, it was no different in the time of Yeshua and the disciples. The corrupt leadership in Jerusalem were looking for anything that they could accuse Yeshua of doing that would conceivably be a violation of the law in order to discredit Him before the people. The Jewish laws regarding the Sabbath were perhaps the most visible and strict set of rules that Jewish society had. The Pharisees and scribes had prescribed a detailed listing of prohibited activities on the Sabbath. The Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Messiah Yeshua are full of incidents where Yeshua is accused of violating one law or another.