Matthew 13 is the beginning of Yeshua sharing parables in fulfillment of Psalm 78:2. When His disciples asked Him about it His answer was twofold. First, He quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10 as He spoke of the masses, “Go! Say to these people: Shema, shema/be ever listening, but do not discern/understand; keep looking, but do not know what you are looking at/perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and shema/hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.”
In the time of Yeshua the masses did not discern what He was saying or know Who they were looking at. So, it has been for the last 1900 years in the Jewish community in regards to Yeshua being the Messiah and in the Christian community in regards to His Jewishness and the implications therein.
The second part of His answer said that His disciples were blessed because what they were discerning and knowing were the things the prophets longed to hear and see. So, it is today, many Jews are coming to faith in Yeshua as their Messiah and they are truly blessed because not only do they understand and perceive Who Yeshua is, but they also live in a time that the prophets and righteous people longed to see; a time when the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are realizing Who the Messiah is and being forgiven.
We are also living in a time when Gentile believers are coming to realize the Jewish roots of the faith and the two are, at this point, slowly becoming one in Messiah.
Let us pray that more eyes on both sides will be opened to know and more ears will shema/hear to discern or understand so that we can be about the work of the Kingdom together, side by side as it should be!
In Matthew 12:7, in the context of speaking to the Pharisees about who He was, Yeshua refers to something that the prophet Hosea wrote. It was, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In order to understand this statement and the way Yeshua is using it we must go back to the Hebrew in Hosea 6:6 and also look at the rest of the verse.
In Hosea the Hebrew of the verse means this, “I am pleased with loving kindness not slaughter, the knowledge of God from ‘olah’ (the burnt offering sacrifice that goes up or ascends to the LORD). In other words, the olah was meant to teach us something about God and what He wanted from us. This sacrifice that goes up to God was a daily sacrifice that represented His people and what He wanted from them. The word is connected to the word ‘aliyah’, which also means to ascend and is used today in the context of the people returning to the land of Israel.
The greatest commandment and the second are to love God and your neighbor. The apostle Paul in Romans 12 tells us that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, referring back to the daily burnt offering. This verse in Hosea is saying that it is not about the sacrifice or slaughter of the animal, but about the kindnesses we show God and our neighbor.
Therefore, when Yeshua in Matthew 12 refers to this verse in Hosea and tells them that something greater than the Temple is here, Himself, the Messiah, He is showing and teaching them the lesson of the sacrifice. It is to truly show kindness and to understand that everything that God has given was meant to teach them something about Himself, whether it be the laws of the Torah, the daily sacrifice or the shew bread in the Tabernacle.
Instead of showing such kindness the Pharisees were more interested in condemning the innocent, namely Yeshua.
We also see that as Yeshua continues in this chapter of Matthew that it is lawful to heal on Shabbat because it is showing your neighbor the kindness of God.
The lessons of the Temple were given for a reason. They teach us what God wants from us and they point us to the One greater than the Temple.
With the coming of the Messiah, He was to have a forerunner. In Matthew 11 Yeshua says that the forerunner was John the immerser. Yet John had a question for Yeshua when he was in prison about whether He/Yeshua was the One they were all waiting for.
Yeshua’s answer is quite interesting. Much of His answer can be found in Isaiah 35:4-6. There are a couple more things that Yeshua speaks of doing, although from the Isaiah list He does not list the casting out of demons. The two other things that Yeshua lists are the healing of leprosy, specifically that would be what is called tza’arat in the Hebrew, and the raising of the dead.
The healing of the leper in the beginning of Matthew 8 is particularly interesting in witnessing to our Jewish friends. Yeshua tells the leper, after He has cured him, to go to the priests for a testimony to them/the priests that he is cured and needs to be declared clean and go through the ceremony for being cleansed of leprosy. This is important because the Jews understood this to be a sign of the Messiah so the testimony to the priests was that the Messiah was there.
Yeshua wanted John to know that He was the One that they were waiting for. Yeshua was not trying to keep it secret as to who He was, He wanted the highest officials to know, as well as, the prisoner, in this case John.
Then Yeshua ends that statement in Matthew 11:6 with this, “Blessed is the one who does not fall away because of me.” What does He mean by this? He goes on in Matthew 11 (Also see Luke 16) to say that the Torah/Law and the Prophets have prophesied until John. In other words, up until John the Torah and Prophets were all still pointing forward to things yet to be fulfilled, but with the coming of John what was prophesied was beginning to be revealed.
Yeshua was telling those listening that they were living in a time of fulfillment, a time that the prophets had longed to see but were only able to prophesy about. Now the Kingdom of God was being preached, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).
However, it was not going to happen the way some wanted it to. It was going to be the way God had designed it and in its proper order. In order for God’s children to be able to come into His presence their sin had to be dealt with, it had to be atoned for and the true price was higher than the blood of bulls, lambs and goats.
According to Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10 the price would be much higher. The Messiah Himself would have to be sacrificed and only His blood would truly atone for and cover sin. Needless to say, that is not what some wanted. They were ready to force the fulfillment of the Kingdom then and there. Remember some even tried to make Him King by force (John 6:15).
However, the Kingdom cannot come by us forcing it. It will be fulfilled as the Torah and Prophets have said, in His way and in His time. Again, in its proper order. Sin had to be dealt with, the good news spread and then the Kingdom will be restored.
Do we once again live in a time of fulfillment? I believe so! We are seeing what the Torah and Prophets spoke of happening all around us once again. Can we force it to come? No! But we can be ready and watching and faithful. We can be the people He has called us to be and have our hearts on the Kingdom and not on our own earthly gain. Yes, we must occupy till He comes, but we should also be looking up, for our redemption is drawing nigh.
So, what did He mean when He said, “Blessed is the one who does not fall away because of me.”? It would appear that He was saying that one is blessed if they do not fall away by trying to force things to happen their way, but to wait upon the Father to do things His way and to trust that He knows what He is doing. Yeshua did not want the people to fall away because they did not want a suffering servant, but instead wanted a King who would kick out Rome. Awaiting Messiah Ben David is a good thing, but Yeshua did not want that to make them miss Messiah Ben Joseph.
Yeshua obeyed and taught the Torah. The sermon on the Mount, the only sermon recorded for us, is His teaching of the Torah. It begins with the Beatitudes that sound like a Psalm.
He then goes on to speak of not abandoning the Torah but practicing it and the importance of teaching it. His standards are high, and it is not as if He has a higher standard than His Father. No, He is giving the proper interpretation.
For any commandment that is given by God there is the issue of the heart at its core. Adonai sees the heart, not just the outward appearance or observance. That does not mean that the outward observance is not important. Instead it means that the observance should flow from a heart truly devoted to Him. Out of such a heart the observance of the commandment will be true and pure.
To observe the commandments with an impure heart is sin and to have a pure heart and not actually observe the commandment is also sin. Both are disobedience. It cannot just be interesting information to enlighten our hearts, it must move to observing what has been learned to make a true and complete transformation in the person.
Let us love Him with a pure and clean heart so that we may serve Him through obedience to His commands!
This is what we are to strive for through the power of the Holy Spirit!
In Matthew 4 we see that Yeshua leaves Nazareth and goes to live in Capernaum. Matthew in verses 14-16 connects this move to the fulfillment of another prophecy by Isaiah in 9:1-2. Matthew records it like this, “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, along the road by the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles! The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, a light has dawned for those living in the land of the shadow of death.”
Isaiah lets us know that God had formerly humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. The enemies of Israel would come through them first as they came from the north and moved southward through the country. These tribal territories were the first to see the terror, the first to experience the pain, humiliation and defeat.
However, with the coming of the Messiah they would experience a great Light and they would be honored instead of shamed. I find this interesting since Yeshua was, of course, born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judah as fitting for a Davidic King then grew up in Nazareth to be the Branch and now His ministry would be from Capernaum in Galilee to be the Light.
Yeshua cared for all Israel, from the south to the north. Every tribe and every part of the land was special to Him.
He would fulfill prophecy! He is the King, He is the Branch, He is the Light. God be Praised!
In talking to our Jewish friends about Yeshua one of the things that might come up is Matthew 2:23, “Then he went to settle in a town called Nazareth to fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, that He will be called a Nazarene.” The reason that it comes up is because they struggle to find the prophecy that it speaks of fulfilling in the prophets.
This is an honest issue however, it is brought on by our English versions that were, of course, translated from the Greek. This is important because with this verse one must have a background in the Hebrew language and mindset. This verse is perhaps one of the strongest arguments that Matthew may have been written in Hebrew originally and definitely to the Jewish people.
Let me explain what I mean. Translating this verse from the Greek to the English you really don’t get the proper understanding of what is being said here. The prophets do not speak of the Messiah as being a Nazarene the way we understand it. It is the Hebrew word that Nazarene represents that gives this significance and the proper understanding.
The prophecy that it comes from is found in Isaiah 11:1 where Isaiah says this, “Then a shoot will grow from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from out of his roots will bear fruit.” The word being spoken of in Matthew is the word for “branch” in this verse. The Hebrew word here is “netser”. This is the Hebrew word that was used in the naming of the Hebrew village, Natzeret.
It is also important to know what this type of branch is. This word for branch means a shoot that grows up away, sometimes quite a distance away, from the original tree. It can also spring up many years later, yet it is connected to the original tree.
Yeshua sprung up many years after Jesse and to grow up in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem means that he is also coming up a distance away as well, yet he is connected to the tree of Jesse. In both ways Yeshua fulfills the definition of this type of branch. How awesome is that! Therefore, the prophet Isaiah did say that He would be a Netser, a Natzeret.
Matthew in 2:6 quotes from Micah 5:2 & 4, “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the princes of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”
This quote only quotes part of the verses. Here are both verses in their entirety in Micah, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; yet one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from everlasting…He will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of ADONAI His God. They will live securely, for then His greatness will extend to the ends of the earth.”
This One to be born in Bethlehem, the Messiah, would be from eternity. In other words, He is God, yet the LORD is His God. Suggesting the Messiah is the Son of God, born in Bethlehem to the family of David. And this Son of David would have a Kingdom that would extend to the ends of the earth.
Even the scholars who were speaking to Herod in Matthew 2 understood that the true King of Israel would come from Bethlehem and that His Kingdom would be greater than any kingdom that the earth has seen. The Magi from the East ascribed this identity to Yeshua, who they had come very far to worship.
So, in this passage we see that the One who would shepherd the people of Israel had to be born in Bethlehem, which the census of Caesar Augustus, arranged by the LORD, made possible. Ha Shem (The Name/The LORD) had this all planned out!
Next verse 15 Matthew says, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” When referring to this prophecy from Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1 Matthew is connecting what happened to Israel as God’s firstborn son to the Messiah.
The Messiah was called out of Egypt not because He was redeemed, but so that He could redeem. The Lamb of God had to be called out of the world, which Egypt represents, in order to save the world. He was set apart for this purpose as Ben Yoseph.
He did not go to the mountain to receive the Law but will one day, according to Isaiah 2, teach the Law Himself from Jerusalem as the Living Word. In doing so, He will rule as King as Messiah Ben David.
Then Matthew connects the killing of the babies in Bethlehem by Herod to Jeremiah 31:15. Jeremiah is taking up a lament for the lost children of Rachel. Why Rachel when Bethlehem is the home of David who was a descendant of Leah? It is because Rachel was buried near Bethlehem after she gave birth to Benjamin.
It is as if Rachel is weeping over those young ones who suffered the pain of death at the hand of the tyrant, Herod. What I find interesting about this passage in Jeremiah is that this verse that Matthew uses here comes directly after a prophecy about God returning His people to the land of Israel and giving them great prosperity in the land. It is then followed by the prophecy of Ephraim calling out to the LORD and being restored (returning to God by obedience to Torah – Psalm 19:7). God calls Ephraim His precious son. Rachel is the mother of Ephraim.
So, we see that this passage in Jeremiah is speaking of the loss of children in Bethlehem (from Judah) in the time of Yeshua, but it is also speaking of the return of Ephraim. Again, God will reconnect Ephraim with Judah. It will be the Messiah that returns us all to the land together as one people (Jew and Gentile together as one new man), Israel. What rejoicing that will be!