Yeshua is the Mashiach, Saviour and founder of the Christian Church. Some know Him by a more personal Name. To Christians, He is the Lord of their lives. Regardless of His title, Yeshua HaMashiach is the most interesting figure in human history. Although He lived on earth only 33 years, He has had the greatest impact of any person who ever lived: even on those who do not believe He is YHVH’s Son. The Bible describes Yeshua HaMashiach in detail: His life, His work and His teachings; in the four books called the Gospels. Each of the four Gospels has a distinctive purpose. Matthew, for instance, presents Yeshua as the long-awaited King of the Jewish people. Mark focuses more on Yeshua as the Servant of all. Luke tends to present Yeshua in a softer light, showing His amazing compassion for the poor. Finally, John describes a love relationship with Yeshua. Each author wrote about Yeshua for a different reason. They arranged the events of Yeshua’s life slightly differently. A picture of the same person from four different angles is the result. Yet all of the Gospels agree on one thing: Yeshua is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.

The following sections present the main events in what may be regarded as the chief stages in the life of Yeshua. These stages show a definite progression from HaMashiach’s incarnation or entrance into the world to His dying moments on the cross. The Gospels do not read like an ordinary biography. Their story is not so much about the life of Yeshua as it is about YHVH’s story. The whole presentation of HaMashiach’s life centres on the cross and His triumphant resurrection. It is YHVH’s message to humanity rather than a plain historic account of the life of Yeshua.

The major event of this initial stage was the Incarnation. Only Matthew and Luke give accounts of Yeshua’s birth. John reflects on what preceded the birth.

It may seem strange that John began his Gospel with a reference to the Word (John 1:1), but it is in this way that he delivers to the reader an exalted view of Yeshua. John saw Yeshua as existing even before the creation of the world (1:2). In fact, he saw Him as having a part in the act of creation (1:3). Therefore, when Yeshua was born, it was both an act of humiliation and an act of illumination. The light shone, but the world preferred to remain in darkness (1:4-5, 10). Therefore, anyone reading John’s records of the life of Yeshua would know at once, before even being introduced to the man named Yeshua that this was no ordinary man. The account of His life and teachings could not be properly understood except by acknowledging that Yeshua had always existed.

Yeshua was surrounded by controversy even from the time of His birth. The birth stories in Matthew 1 and Luke 1-2 say that Yeshua HaMashiach was conceived of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and born of the Virgin Mary. In order for Yeshua to be fully YHVH and fully man, He could not have been naturally conceived. His miraculous birth is no side note; it is central to the story of Yeshua. At the same time, many critics deny this miracle, stating that the early Christians created a rumour.

Isaiah 7:14 (King James Version) says that a “Virgin” shall “conceive and bear a son…Immanuel.” Matthew 1:22-23 expressly states that this was fulfilled in Yeshua’s birth. This passage has been greatly debated, especially since another credible translation, the Revised Standard Version, changed the King James Version “virgin” to “young woman,” based on the ambiguity of the term in the original manuscripts. The Hebrew ‘Almah refers generally to a young girl who has passed puberty and thus is of marriageable age. Another Hebrew word (Bethulah) specifies a woman who is a virgin. The early translators, nevertheless, translated ‘Almah as parthenos, which denotes a virgin. The following are four popular interpretations concerning the “virgin” prophecy:

  1. The “virgin” (Isaiah 7:14) was Ahaz’s new wife and the son was Hezekiah: contemporary characters of Isaiah. But Hezekiah was nine years old when Ahaz began to reign, so this prophecy must look to the future.

  2. She was Isaiah’s wife and the son was Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Many scholars support this interpretation because the definite article with ‘Almah seems to indicate that “the woman” was known to Isaiah and Ahaz. Also, Isaiah 7:14-16 seems to indicate that the prophecy was to be fulfilled in Isaiah’s time. The difficulty here is that Isaiah’s wife already had a son and so she could not be called a virgin, ‘Almah.

  3. The prophecy is purely about Yeshua HaMashiach. This is the traditional evangelical position, based on the Name of the Child; Immanuel, “God with us”; and the reference (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5), which points to a divine person.

  4. Still, there is a fourth interpretation, which says the prophecy refers to both Isaiah’s day and a future day. This view takes into account the historical fulfilment intended in Isaiah 7:15-16 while seeing the future as being fulfilled through the virgin birth of Yeshua, as indicated in Matthew 1:22-23.

Neither Mark nor John provides an account of the birth of HaMashiach; the actual event is only in Matthew and Luke. Both agree that a Virgin Mary, conceived of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and bore a Son, Yeshua. Matthew’s account is simpler and more direct. Yeshua is called the “HaMashiach,” the son of David (Matthew 1:1), who signals the beginning of the Kingdom of YHVH. Yeshua fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (1:22-23) and was born of a virgin (1:18-20). Therefore, Yeshua is “YHVH with us,” now come to “save His people from their sins” (1:21). The scene where Joseph decides to privately divorce Mary is added to give further evidence that Yeshua was miraculously conceived. Luke told the nativity story from the perspective of Mary. The angel Gabriel visited her and announced that she would give birth to the Mashiach (Luke 1:26-38). She conceived miraculously by the Ruach HaKodesh, as was foretold by the angel Gabriel: “The Ruach HaKodesh will come upon you; therefore the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of YHVH” (Luke 1:35, RSV). Luke says Mary willingly surrendered to the purposes of YHVH. John simply says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Matthew and Luke fill in some of the details of how this happened. Each approaches the subject from a different point of view, but the supernatural is evident in both. The coming of Yeshua is announced beforehand, through dreams to Joseph in Matthew’s account (Matthew 1:20-21) and through an angel to Mary in Luke’s account (Luke 1:26-33).

Matthew leaves his readers in no doubt that the one to be born had a mission to accomplish; to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Luke sets his story of Yeshua’s coming in an atmosphere of great rejoicing. He includes exquisite songs, which have formed part of the church’s worship ever since (Luke 1:46-55, 68-79). The visit of the wise men in Matthew 2:1-12 is significant because it links the beginning of the Gospel to its ending (compare to 28:19-20). A similar emphasis is introduced in the angel’s announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2:14 and in Simeon’s song (2:32), where he predicts that Yeshua would be a light for Gentiles as well as a glory for Israel. The flight into Egypt for safety (Matthew 2:13-15) shows the contribution of a gentile nation in providing protection for a Jewish child. One feature of the birth stories in Matthew and Luke is that they are both linked to genealogies. It is difficult to harmonize these genealogies since they appear to be drawn from different sources, but the purpose in both cases is to show that Jesus was descended from Abraham and David. The latter fact gave rise to Yeshua’s title as Son of David. Luke was the only Gospel writer who attempted to link the coming of Yeshua with events in secular history. Since he was a doctor by trade, some imagine his attention to detail shows in his writing. Although problems arise over the dating of the census of Quirinius (Luke 2:1-2), Luke mentions it to demonstrate that the Christian faith is a historic faith centred on a historic person.

Some of the earliest church fathers stressed the virgin birth more than any other event in Yeshua’s life as proof of the Incarnation and that HaMashiach was indeed YHVH. It was essential to their Christology; the significance of HaMashiach’s divine role. Justin Martyr and Ignatius defended the virgin birth against opponents at the beginning of the second century. The virgin birth continued to be a hot topic for the next three centuries. Gnosticism was a belief that HaMashiach descended directly from heaven and so He was never truly human. On the other hand others, such as the Arians, also denied the virgin birth because they wanted to say He was never truly YHVH. They say Yeshua was “adopted” as Son of YHVH at His baptism. The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 affirmed that Yeshua was truly YHVH and then the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 stated that Yeshua was at the same time truly human and divine. The Apostles’ Creed from the fifth century is still often recited in modern church services. It declares, “I believe in…Yeshua HaMashiach, His only Son, our Lord, conceived of the Ruach Hakodesh, born of the Virgin Mary.”

The years of Yeshua HaMashiach’s human development are given only a few lines in the Gospels. Details are given of only one incident belonging to the period of childhood, the discussion of the 12-year-old Jesus with the Jewish teachers in the temple (Luke 2:41-50). This event is a pointer to one of the most characteristic features of Yeshua’s later ministry: His display of irrefutable wisdom in dialogue with His Jewish contemporaries. It also reveals that at an early age Yeshua was acutely aware of a divine mission. Nevertheless, Luke notes that in Yeshua’s formative years He was obedient to His parents (2:51). It is assumed that during thirty years at Nazareth Yeshua learned the carpenter’s trade from His earthly father Joseph and became the village carpenter after Joseph’s death. However, there is no account of this period in the Gospels. This has led many to fill in the blanks about Yeshua’s childhood. Many of these fables are recorded in what are called apocryphal gospels; writings that are steeped in tradition and not counted as the inspired Word of YHVH. Luke’s account is unembellished about the missing facts. Its remarkable reserve is a strong indication of its historical reliability.

All four Gospels refer to a brief preparatory period before HaMashiach’s public Ministry. This period focused on three important events.

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness and caused an immediate stir in Judea, particularly
as a result of his call to repentance and to baptism (Matthew 3:1-6). John was like one of the Old Testament prophets, but he disclaimed any importance in his own office except as the herald of a greater person to come. His stern appearance and uncompromising moral challenge effectively prepared the way for the public appearance of Yeshua (Luke 3:4-6). It is important to note that John the Baptist’s announcement of the imminent coming of the Kingdom (Matthew 3:2) was the same theme with which Yeshua began His own Ministry (4:17). This shows that John the Baptist’s work was an integral part of the preparation for the public Ministry of Yeshua. The same may be said of the rite of baptism, although John recognized that Yeshua would add a new dimension in that He would baptize with the Ruach HaKodesh and with fire (3:11). As the forerunner of Yeshua HaMashiach, John proclaimed that the One to follow would not only be greater than he but would also come with high standards of judgment (3:12). The stage was therefore set in stern terms for the initial public act of Yeshua; His willingness to be baptized (3:13-15; Luke 3:21).

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Since Yeshua submitted to this, are we to suppose that Yeshua Himself needed to repent? If this were the case, it would mean that Yeshua had sinned. This is contrary to other evidence in the New Testament. But if Yeshua did not need to repent, what was the point of His requesting baptism at the hands of John? Yeshua had come on a mission to others and it is possible that he deliberately submitted to John’s baptism in order to show that he was prepared to take the place of others. This explanation is in line with Paul’s later understanding of the work of Yeshua HaMashiach (2 Corinthians 5:21). Matthew is the one Gospel that records John’s hesitation to baptize Yeshua (Matthew 3:14-15). The most important part of the baptism of Yeshua was the Heavenly Voice, which declared pleasure in the beloved Son (Matthew 3:17). This announcement by YHVH was the real starting point of the public Ministry of Yeshua. It revealed that the Ministry was no accident or sudden inspiration on the part of Yeshua. He went into His work with the full approval of the Father. A further important feature is the part played by the Ruach HaKodesh in this scene. The dovelike description is full of symbolic meaning (3:16). The activity of the Ruach HaKodesh in the Ministry of Yeshua, although not emphasized in the Gospels, is nevertheless key to having a true understanding of Yeshua HaMashiach.

Yeshua’s baptism showed the nature of His mission. The temptation showed the nature of the environment in which He was to Minister (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1-2). Confrontation with adverse spiritual forces characterized Yeshua’s whole Ministry. Only Matthew and Luke record details of the temptations to which Yeshua was subjected by the devil. All these temptations presented spiritual shortcuts to Yeshua’s Mission. However, Yeshua gained the victory. Both Gospels show that He accomplished this by appealing to Scripture. Yeshua leading by example shows us the proper weapon against temptation. Yeshua is also seen in this event as a genuine human who, like all other humans, was subject to temptation. The writer of the Hebrews notes that this fact qualified Yeshua to act as High Priest and to intercede on behalf of His people (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). He was fully YHVH and fully man. He was like us in every way, except that He never sinned. As a result, He was the perfect, innocent sacrifice required for our sins.

Only John’s Gospel tells of the work of Yeshua in Judea following His baptism. It first describes His calling of two disciples, John and Andrew (John 1:35-39). This event is set against the background of John the Baptist’s announcement of Yeshua as the Lamb of YHVH who was to take away the sin of the world (1:29). Three others soon joined these first two disciples: Peter, Philip and Nathanael (1:41-51). These five formed part of the nucleus of Yeshua’s followers who came to be known as the Twelve. One feature of John’s account is the early recognition by the disciples of Yeshua as HaMashiach (1:41) and Son of YHVH (1:49). Soon after Yeshua began His Ministry in Jerusalem, John relates an incident at Cana in Galilee in which water was turned into wine (John 2:1-10). This event is important in John’s account because it is the first of the “signs” that he records (2:11). He saw Yeshua’s miracles as signs of the truth of the Gospel rather than as mere wonders. John sets two incidents at Jerusalem in this initial period. The first is the cleansing of the temple (2:13-16). Matthew, Mark and Luke all place this event just before Yeshua’s trial, but John places it at this early stage. The moral intention of Yeshua’s work is seen in His driving out the moneychangers who were inappropriately profiting from worshipers. This was apparently acceptable in Judaism but was unacceptable to Yeshua. The other Gospel writers imply that this authoritative act was the event that sparked the final hostility of His opponents. John tells the story for a theological reason; to him, the cleansing of the temple was a parable telling of what Yeshua had come to do. The other incident in Jerusalem is the meeting between Yeshua and Nicodemus (3). Nicodemus was closely associated with Judaism, yet he was also searching for truth. He was unable to understand however, the spiritual truth about being born again through the Spirit. Christians receive a new start in life; as if they had been born again. Their spiritual rebirth marks the moment they accept Yeshua HaMashiach as Lord and Saviour and receive the Ruach HaKodesh. John’s story then moves from Judea to Samaria and the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Yeshua used her physical thirst to point to her deeper spiritual thirst. She realized that Yeshua had something to offer her that she had not previously known. As a result of this woman’s experience and testimony, many of the Samaritan people came to believe in Yeshua as the Saviour of the world (4:42). In this case, John appreciates the fuller significance of the words of Yeshua by viewing them in the light of the resurrection.

Almost all the information on this period is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke; referred to as the synoptic Gospels. These may be conveniently divided into three sections. The first briefly outlines the events leading up to the choosing of the Twelve; the second deals with Yeshua’s withdrawal from northern Galilee; and the third deals with his departure for Jerusalem. While the synoptic Gospels concentrate exclusively on the events in Galilee, John’s account indicates that there were some visits by Yeshua to Jerusalem during this period. Also, John records another incident at Cana, where the son of a Capernaum official was healed. This is noted as the second of Yeshua’s signs (John 4:54). It is chiefly important because of the extraordinary faith of the father, who was prepared to take Yeshua at His Word.

In the synoptic Gospels, there is an account of the initial call to four of the disciples to leave their fishing boats and to become fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). They had already met Yeshua and must have had some idea what was involved in following Him. Yeshua did not at this time appoint them to be apostles, but this call was an indispensable step toward the establishment of the Twelve as a group. Setting apart a particular number of disciples formed an important part of the Ministry of Yeshua. The miraculous catch of fish, which preceded the call of the disciples in Luke’s account, served to highlight the superiority of the spiritual task of “catching” people rather than fish. Yeshua offered to teach them how to be fishers of unbelieving men and women. Another significant call came to Levi, otherwise known as Matthew (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28). As a tax collector, he was of a different type from most of the other disciples. Jewish contemporaries despised him because of his profession. But his inclusion in the special circle of Yeshua’s disciples shows the broad basis on which these men were chosen. One of the others, Simon the Zealot, may have belonged to a group of revolutionaries who were religious as well as political. Even a man like Judas Iscariot was numbered among the Twelve and he would later betray Yeshua to His enemies for a small sum of money. Yeshua accepted them as they were and moulded them into men who later came to learn how to be totally dependent on YHVH and the power of His Spirit.

The Gospel of Matthew presents a substantial sample of Yeshua’s teachings commonly called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). Some of the same material occurs in Luke in a different context and different arrangement. It is possible that Yeshua often repeated His teachings on different occasions and with different combinations. Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount presents an impressive body of teaching, mainly focusing on morals. Yeshua upholds the Law and at the same time, goes beyond it. The beginning of this sermon has been called the Beatitudes (5:3-12). It commends moral and spiritual values. The teachings recorded in this section were radical but not in a political sense. The Sermon on the Mount may be taken as a fair sample of the kind of discourses that must have abounded in the Ministry of Yeshua.

Throughout the Gospels there are records of miracles involving Yeshua healing people. There are more of these miracles than any other type. A section in Matthew is devoted to a sequence of healings: (Matthew 8:1-9:34), a leper, a centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, a demon-possessed person, a paralyzed person, a woman with a haemorrhage, blind men and a man who was mute. In addition, Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead. This concentration of healings focuses on Yeshua as a miracle worker, but throughout the Gospels there is no suggestion that Yeshua healed by magical means. In some cases an individual’s faith was acknowledged (8:10; 9:22). In at least one incident, the healing was accompanied by an announcement of the forgiveness of the sins of the one healed (9:2; Mark 2:5). This shows that Yeshua considered a person’s spiritual needs to be of greater consequence than the physical problems. Yeshua gives us an example to follow in how to truly help and bless people by meeting their spiritual needs. At that time, people held a widespread belief in the powerful influence of evil spirits over human lives. Yeshua is seen exercising his power of exorcism over demons. Yeshua’s Ministry was set in an atmosphere of spiritual conflict, so the confrontations between the forces of darkness and the Light of the World were to be expected. Those who explain away these cases of demon-possession in psychiatric terms miss this key feature of Yeshua’s Ministry. Each time He exorcised a demon, He was demonstrating a victory, which reached its most dramatic expression in His victory over death at His resurrection. In addition to the healing miracles in this early section, one nature miracle is recorded, that of the stilling of the storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). This miracle focused both on the lack of faith in the disciples and the mysterious power of the presence of Yeshua.

In the early stages of His Ministry, Yeshua was very popular with the ordinary people. There are several notices to this effect (Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 3:7-8). This popularity showed no appreciation of the spiritual purpose of Yeshua’s Mission (Luke 13:17). Nevertheless, it stands in stark contrast to the nit-picking opposition of the religious leaders, who even plotted to kill Yeshua in the early period of His Ministry (Mark 3:6). Yeshua and the religious leaders often clashed over the observance of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:9-18). Yeshua adopted a more human-centred view than the strict interpretation of some other religious leaders; as in the instances when He was criticized for healing on the Sabbath even though the Jewish law allowed the rescuing of trapped animals on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11; Luke 13:15). To the Pharisees, Yeshua was a lawbreaker. They feared that it would undermine their authority if Yeshua’s teaching were permitted to influence popular opinion.

The synoptic Gospels supply lists of the names of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). Both Matthew and Mark name them in the context of their exercising authority over evil spirits, showing that these men were being called to enter the same spiritual conflict as Yeshua. The synoptic Gospels also give details of the instructions Yeshua gave to these disciples before sending them to Minister in Israel (Matthew 10:5-42; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6). Matthew included material that appears in a different context in Mark and Luke, but he still shows the concern of Yeshua to prepare His disciples for their future work. They were to proclaim the Kingdom as He had done, but they were not to expect that all would respond to it. They were warned about coming hostility and even persecution. It is important to note that Yeshua warned His disciples against burdening themselves with material possessions. Although the instructions given related immediately to a tour of ministry, He was laying the foundation for the future work of the Church.

For a while, there were preaching and baptisms by both John the Baptist with his followers and Yeshua with His disciples (John 4:1-2). After John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod because of his condemnation of Herod’s marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4), John began to have doubts about Yeshua (11:1-19; Luke 7:18-35). He may have been expecting Yeshua if He really was the Mashiach, to come to his rescue. When John sent his disciples to Yeshua to express his doubts, Yeshua took the opportunity to tell the crowds of the greatness of John the Baptist. He said there was no human that was greater than John.

Yeshua did not hesitate to confront others on issues that involved moral or religious questions. John’s Gospel recorded a controversy over the keeping of the Sabbath that arose when a lame man was healed on that day (John 5:1-18). It shows once again that the law of the Sabbath was regarded by the Pharisees as of greater importance than concern for the physical welfare of the lame man. This was typical of the Jewish approach and led at once to a persecuting attitude toward Yeshua, particularly because He claimed to be doing the work of YHVH. A similar conflict arose after Yeshua’s disciples had plucked grain in the fields on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:1-8). The Pharisees assumed that this act was work and saw it as a reason enough to plot to destroy Yeshua. After this event, He healed a paralyzed man on the same Sabbath day (12:9-14). The Jewish leaders clearly regarded Him as a direct threat to their position among the people. The rising opposition did not discourage Yeshua from further healings (Matthew 12:15-32), which Matthew shows as the fulfilment of Scripture. But when Yeshua healed a blind and mute demon-possessed man, the Pharisees charged Him with casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. Yeshua told them that to blaspheme the Ruach HaKodesh was an unforgivable sin. This incident not only brings out the perversity of the religious leaders but also shows that the Ministry of Yeshua was under the direct control of the Spirit. Other notable miracles were the healing of the centurion’s servant, as recorded by Luke (Luke 7:1-10) and the raising from the dead of the widow’s son at Nain (7:11-17). The former of these is notable because of the remarkable faith of a Gentile. Another example of the Pharisees’ criticism was when Yeshua attended a meal in Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:36-50). His host had not provided for the usual courtesies toward guests and yet was critical of Yeshua for allowing an immoral woman to wash His feet with tears, dry them with her hair and anoint them with ointment. There is no doubt that most of Simon’s colleagues would have shared his reaction, but Yeshua did not stop the woman because He knew she was motivated by love. He told Simon a parable to press home His point. John records two visits by Yeshua to Jerusalem. These are difficult to date, but they probably occurred during the early period of the ministry. He attended the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) and the Feast of Dedication (10:22). At these times, Yeshua taught in the temple area and debated with the religious leaders. The chief priests became alarmed at His presence and sent officers to arrest Him (7:32). They were unable to do so; instead, they themselves were captivated by His teachings. More discussions with the Jewish leaders followed. They charged Yeshua with being demon-possessed (8:48). Both in this case and in the event of the healing of the blind man (9), the hostility of the Jewish leaders toward Yeshua is clear. When Yeshua spoke of Himself as the Shepherd, His teaching again raised the anger of his Jewish hearers, who took up stones to kill Him (10:31).

Matthew’s Gospel gives a sample of a sermon by Yeshua (Matthew 5:1-7:29), but Yeshua more often spoke in parables. Matthew collected into a group some of the parables that concern the theme of the Kingdom (13). Luke tends to preserve parables of a different kind that are not specially linked to the Kingdom. Mark has the least number of parables among the synoptic Gospels, but his writing shows little interest in Yeshua as a Moreh (teacher). John does not relate any parables, although he does preserve two allegories; the Sheepfold and the Vine; which could be regarded as extended parables. The parable was a favourite teaching form of Yeshua. Yeshua used parables even in the middle of His more formal sermons. The parable was valuable because everyone can relate to a story and still be challenged. Yeshua did not speak in parables in order to obscure His meaning. This would be contrary to all that He aimed to do through His work and teaching.

In Nazareth, there was a striking lack of response to the ministry of Yeshua. The people of His hometown proved so hostile that He could perform very few miracles there (Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6). This incident is important because it shows that faith was especially necessary for people to receive His healing miracles. The one miracle performed by Yeshua that all four Gospels describe is the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). This occasion shows the great popularity of Yeshua at this stage of His Ministry. It also reveals that He was mindful of the physical needs of people. After this miracle, some wanted to make Yeshua king. This casts considerable light on their real motives. They were more concerned with material and political issues than with spiritual truth. This is why Yeshua immediately withdrew from them. When the people found Him the next day, He instructed them about the spiritual bread that comes from heaven (6:25-40). At this point in John’s Gospel, Yeshua is often seen speaking with His opponents. This style of teaching is different from the synoptic parables but familiar in Jewish-style debate. Many of the people found the spiritual themes in the teaching of Yeshua too difficult to accept and ceased to be His disciples (John 6:51-52, 60, 66). This incident shows the unique challenge presented by Yeshua and His teaching. Another miracle closely linked with this is when Yeshua walked on the water, demonstrating His power in the natural world. Many have sought to rationalize the event by supposing that Yeshua was really walking on the shore and that the disciples did not realize this in the haze. But this miracle is no more extraordinary than the massive multiplication of loaves and fishes, nor is it inconceivable if the miracle worker was all that He claimed to be. It has been said that Yeshua was either telling the truth, lying incessantly or was criminally insane. These are the three options; with two and three being a direct contradiction to everything else we know about HaMashiach.

Yeshua spent a brief time in the region of Tyre and Sidon, where He performed further healings and made it clear that His main mission was to the house of Israel (Matthew 15:21-28). He then moved on to Caesarea Philippi; this was the turning point of His Ministry (16:13-20; Mark 8:27-38; Luke 9:18-27). It was there that Yeshua asked His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” This caused Peter to confess: “You are HaMashiach, the Son of the living YHVH.” This impressive confession led Yeshua to promise that He would build His church on “this rock.” There has been much discussion about the meaning of this saying. It is open to some doubt whether Yeshua intended to build His church on Peter, on his confession or on Peter’s making the confession. Historically, Peter was the instrument YHVH used for the entrance into the Church of both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2; 10). There is no doubt about Yeshua’s intention to found a Church, since the word occurs again in Matthew 18:17. Despite the glorious revelation of Yeshua on this occasion, He took it as an opportunity to begin to inform His disciples of His death and resurrection (16:21-23). This revelation of Yeshua was considerably reinforced by the event known as the Transfiguration, when Yeshua was changed in appearance in the presence of three of His disciples (Matthew 17:1-8). It was natural for them to want to keep this glorious vision of Yeshua for themselves, but the vision vanished as rapidly as it came. Its purpose was evidently to show the three leading disciples something of the nature of Yeshua, which was hidden by His normal human form. A further feature of the vision was the appearance with Yeshua of Moses and Elijah, representatives of the Law and the Prophets. After the Transfiguration, Yeshua made two predictions concerning His death. These announcements were confusing to the disciples. In Matthew 16, when Yeshua mentioned His death, Peter attempted to rebuke Yeshua and was rebuked by Yeshua in kind.

When Yeshua mentioned His death again in Matthew 17, Matthew noted that the disciples were greatly distressed (17:23), while Mark and Luke mentioned the disciples’ lack of understanding (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45). Yeshua was approaching the cross with no support from those closest to Him. It is not surprising that when the hour arrived they all betrayed Him. After the Transfiguration revealed that Yeshua was greater than Moses and Elijah and in fact was the beloved Son of YHVH, He was asked to pay the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27). This incident illustrates the attitude of Yeshua toward the authorities and practical responsibilities. He paid the tax, although He did not acknowledge any obligation to do so. The method of payment was extraordinary, for it involved the miracle of the coin in the fish. But the greater importance of the incident is Yeshua’s independence from the Jewish law. Luke devotes more than half his Gospel to the period that begins with Yeshua leaving Galilee and ends with His death and resurrection in Jerusalem. In this section of his Gospel, Luke introduces a great deal of material that does not occur elsewhere. We can do no more than summarize some of the more striking items that throw light on the life of Yeshua. In addition to the mission of the Twelve, Luke records the mission of the Seventy (or Seventy-two; see Luke 10:17-20). Luke records special parables in this section like the Good Samaritan (10:29-37), the lost sheep (15:3-7), the lost coin (15:8-10) and the prodigal son (15:11-32). As Yeshua moved toward Jerusalem, He was concerned with developing the spiritual life of His disciples. He was mindful of the fact that He would not be with them long and wished to prepare them for the future. He taught them about prayer (11:1-13), the Father’s care for them (12:13-34) and preparation for the coming of the Son of Man (12:35-56).

On the approach to Jerusalem, Yeshua visited both Jericho and Bethany. At Jericho he healed Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35-43) and had a fruitful encounter with Zacchaeus, who reformed his ways as a tax collector (19:1-10). Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, whom Yeshua had raised from the dead (John 11). Yeshua spent His remaining days in Jerusalem but returned each night to stay at Simon the Leper’s house in Bethany in the presence of those who loved Him (Matthew 26:6). It was there that a woman anointed His Body with costly ointment. This was a controversial and prophetic act preparing Yeshua for His burial (26:6-13).

All four Gospels relate the entry of Yeshua into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12:12-15). At this time, crowds greeted Yeshua and praised Him as their king. This welcome stands in stark contrast with the crowd’s later cry for His death. In fact, it was the second crowd that was doing YHVH’s bidding, since Yeshua had not come to Jerusalem to reign but to die. The synoptic Gospels place the cleansing of the temple as the first main event following Yeshua’s entry into the city (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). The clouds of opposition had been thickening, but the audacity of Yeshua in clearing out the moneychangers from the temple area was too much for the authorities (Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47). The crucifixion loomed closer. Further controversies developed between Yeshua and the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 21:23-22:45). In several cases, trick questions were posed in order to trap Yeshua, but with consummate skill He turned their questions against them. The opposition eventually reached the point where they dared not ask Him any more questions (22:46). Nearing His final hour, Yeshua took the opportunity to instruct His disciples about future events, especially the end of the world. He reiterated the certainty of His return and mentioned various signs that would precede that coming (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21). The purpose of this teaching was to provide a challenge to the disciples to be watchful (Matthew 25:13) and diligent (25:14-30).

This section prepares the way for the events of the arrest, the trial, the scourging and crucifixion that followed soon after. But first we must note the importance of the Lord’s Supper. When Yeshua sat at the table with His disciples on the night before He died, He wished to give them a picture of His death’s significance (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The use of the bread and wine for this purpose was a happy choice because they were basic elements in everyday life. Through this symbolic significance Yeshua gave an interpretation of His approaching death; His Body broken and His blood poured out for others. It was necessary for Yeshua to provide this reminder that His sacrificial death would seal a completely New Covenant. Each time we celebrate communion, we help prevent the Church from losing sight of the centrality of the cross. John’s Gospel does not tell the story of the Last Supper. Nevertheless, it does record a significant act in which Yeshua washed the feet of the disciples as an example of humility (John 13:1-20). He impressed on the disciples the principle of service to others. John follows this display of humility with a series of teachings Yeshua gave on the eve of the Passion (chapters 14-16). The most important feature of this teaching was the promise of the coming of the Ruach HaKodesh to the disciples after Yeshua had gone. Even with His mind occupied by thoughts of approaching death, Yeshua showed Himself more concerned about His disciples than about Himself. This is evident in the prayer of Yeshua in John 17. All the Gospel writers refer in advance to the betrayal by Judas (Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30), which prepares readers for the final stages of Jesus journey to the cross.

The various outbursts of popular support were soon over and the determined opposition seemed to resume control. In John’s Gospel, the sense of approaching climax is expressed in terms of “His hour” (John 13:1). When this at length comes, the betrayal and arrest are seen as part of a larger plan. From the upper room where the Last Supper was eaten, Yeshua went straight to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46), where He prayed to His Father with deep intensity and agony. It cost Yeshua to identify Himself with man’s need. He prayed for the cup of suffering to pass from Him, but at the same time He submitted to the Father’s will. The three disciples He took with Him all fell asleep, while one of His other disciples, having betrayed his master, appeared at the gates at the head of the group who had come to arrest Him. At the moment of confrontation with Judas, Yeshua exhibited an amazing dignity when He addressed the betrayer as His “friend” (Matthew 26:50). He offered no resistance when He was arrested and chided the crowd of people for their swords and clubs (26:55).

Yeshua was first taken to the house of Annas, one of the high priests, for a preliminary examination (John 18:13). During His trial, He was scorned by His enemies and one of His disciples Peter, denied Him three times (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-27), as Yeshua predicted he would (Matthew 26:34; Mark 14:30; John 13:38). The official trial before the Sanhedrin was presided over by Caiaphas, who was puzzled when Yeshua at first refused to speak. At length Yeshua predicted that the Son of Man would come on the clouds of heaven; this was enough to make the high priest charge Him with blasphemy (Mark 14:62-64). Although He was spat upon and His face was struck, Yeshua remained calm and dignified. He showed how much greater He was than those who were treating Him with contempt. The further examinations before Pilate (Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:28) and Herod (Luke 23:7-12) were more examples of injustice. Again Yeshua did not answer when asked about the charges before either Pilate (Matthew 27:14) or Herod (Luke 23:9). He remained majestically silent, except to make a comment to Pilate about the true nature of His Kingship (John 18:33-38). The pathetic governor declared Yeshua innocent, offered the crowds the release of either Yeshua or Barabbas and then publicly disclaimed responsibility by washing his hands. Pilate then had Yeshua scourged and handed Him over to be crucified.

The soldiers’ mocked Yeshua (Matthew 27:27-30), mixing a royal robe with a painful crown of thorns (Mark 15:17) and compelling a passerby to carry the cross (Luke 23:26). They then nailed Yeshua to the cross and played a cruel game, casting lots for His garment (John 19:23-24). They scornfully challenged Him to use His power to escape (Matthew 27:40-44). But against this is Yeshua’s concern about the repentant criminal who was crucified with Him (Luke 23:39-43). He also expressed concern for His mother (John 19:25-27), prayed for forgiveness for those responsible for the Crucifixion (Luke 23:34) and made one final triumphant cry (Mark 15:37). He showed a nobility of mind that contrasted strongly with the meanness of those about Him. A few observers showed a better appreciation, like the centurion who was convinced of Yeshua’s innocence (15:39) and the women who followed Him and stood at a distance (Matthew 27:55-56). At Yeshua’s forsaken cry (Mark 15:34), there was darkness and an earthquake, as if nature itself were acknowledging the significance of the event. Even the temple veil was torn in two, as though it no longer had any right to bar the way into the Holy of Holies (Matthew 27:51). Yeshua’s death had paved the way for all people to freely enter YHVH’s presence and worship Him. He paid for our sins and brought us back to YHVH.

Yeshua’s Body was placed in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was assisted by Nicodemus in laying the Body to rest (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:39). But the tomb played only an incidental part in the resurrection. The Gospel writers concentrate on the appearances of Yeshua not only on the day of resurrection but also afterward. The disciples were convinced that Yeshua was alive. Some like Thomas, had doubts to overcome (John 20:24-29). Others like John, were more ready to believe when they saw the empty tomb (20:2-10). The first to see the risen Lord was a woman, Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:61; Matthew 28:1, 5-9), whose presence at the cross put to shame those disciples who had run away (Matthew 26:56; John 19:25). We may note that in His glorified, risen state Yeshua was in a human form, although He was not at once recognized (John 20:15-16). The appearances were occasions of both joy and instruction (compare to Luke 24:44 and Acts 1:3). The Resurrection in fact, had transformed the Crucifixion from a tragedy into a triumph. His Ascension into heaven came forty days after His resurrection. Yeshua ascended into heaven to join His Father in glory (Luke 24:51; John 20:17; Acts 1:9-11).

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