Yeshua in the War Zone — A Template for Ministry

Mark 1–3

It is interesting to note the order of events as Yeshua was launching his ministry. He was about to enter a war zone!

After John baptized Yeshua and he received his heavenly empowerment, he first went through a spiritual boot camp before stepping onto the battlefield of public ministry. Once in the “war,” it’s worth noting where the battle lines fell.


  • His spiritual boot camp was the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights to get his body, soul and spirit, and his mind, will and emotions in sync with the will of his Father in heaven (Mark 1:12–15).
  • His first battle was an internal one. The devil tested him in three areas: his body, soul and spirit, or, to put it another way, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (Mark 1:13). After overcoming himself and submitting to the will of his Father, he was now ready to launch into the war zone of public ministry.
  • His mission was to preach the message of the gospel of the kingdom of Elohim and repentance from sin (i.e. Torahlessness, 1 John 3:4; Mark 1:14–15).
  • Next he chose his cadre of spiritual warriors — his “army”— the twelve disciples (Mark 1:16–20).
  • Where better to start proclaiming the gospel message than in the local synagogue on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21)? After all, the religious folks there should be overjoyed to hear this good news, fresh message from heaven. Right? Continue reading

Yeshua Eating With Sinners — Will the Real Sinner Stand Up?

Matthew 9:10, Sinners. What is behind the Gospel writers’ use of the word sinner (see also Mark 2:16) to designate a class of people along with tax collectors? To the modern reader, this likely begs the question, aren’t all people sinners? This depends on one’s religious point of view. To understand the term sinners as used by the Gospel writers, we must understand the cultural, religious context of the day. According to David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary, this term was used by the Pharisees (who were present at the time this event occurred, see verse 11) to refer to those of low reputation in society including prostitutes and thieves along with the despised, often greedy and mendacious tax collectors (or publicans), whose sins were blatant and obvious.


Furthermore, in Hebraic culture, table fellowship indicated intimate relations among those who shared it. As Keener points out (The IVP Bible Background Commentary NT in his notes on Mark 2:16), the Pharisees were especially scrupulous about their special rules on eating, and they didn’t like eating with who were less scrupulous than them — especially those of low reputation.

In this case, Yeshua responded graciously to his accusers (vv. 12–13) by pointing out to them the Father’s heart of mercy in reaching out to lost sinners. At other times, Yeshua, the spiritual activist, turned the tables on the self righteous and sacrosanct Pharisees when he taught that those who considered themselves righteous were, in reality, often worse off spiritually than those they ridiculed (see the Parable of the Pharisee  and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:10–14). From Yeshua’s example in dealing with the Pharisees, we learn that when we are accused there are times to be gracious and to turn the other cheek, and there are times to push back hard. Wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will help us to determine which response is appropriate at any given time.


Yeshua Was the Life of the Party—But in a Different Way

Nuggets from Luke 14: Yeshua Was a Salty Character

Luke 14:1, House of one of the rulers. Yeshua was invited to a Sabbath meal at the home of a Pharisee who was a ruler (likely a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin). Had Yeshua been a typical man, he would have engaged in the customary small talk of a polite and gracious dinner guest not wanting to offend his host. Yet Yeshua was not there to schmooze—to curry anyone’s favor in an effort to gain personal influence. As he required his own disciples to maintain a salty or spicy demeanor at all times (Matt 5:13; Luke 14:34–35), he was definitely up to the task to lead his disciples by example.

"May I have your attention please? Yeshua has something to say."

“May I have your attention please? Yeshua has something to say.”


The following discussion that Yeshua initiates is what some may consider to be a prime example of how to insult one’s host and the other guests. Continue reading


Designer Labels of the Pharisees

Luke 7:36–37, The Pharisees… a woman… who was a sinner. The name Pharisee itself tells much about this sect or denomination within the first-century religious Jewish landscape. It derives from the Hebrew word perushim meaning “separatist,” and was born out of the fact that Pharisees didn’t associate with Am Ha-Eretz  or the common people (Yeshua: a Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church, p. 86, by Ron Mosely), who in their view who were impure by the standards of the Levitical law (The Jewish Background of the New Testament, p. 203, by J. Julius Scott Jr.), and their high standards of holiness (Mosely, p 86).

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Acting like an elite religious fraternity (The Sketches of Jewish Life, p. 208, by Alfred Edersheim), the Pharisees were known for their strict observance of the Torah or the law of Moses, as well as numerous additional laws or “traditions of the elders” that were added to the Torah along the way (From the Maccabeees to the Mishnah, p. 149, by Shaye J. D. Cohen; Scott, pp, 206–207; Edersheim, p. 217).

Though this sect probably numbered only 6,000 at the time of Yeshua (Cohen, p. 146), they wielded a great deal of power and influence in Jewish society, since they were viewed as the most accurate interpreters of the Torah (Scott, p. 203; Mosely, p. 92), and they were the leaders and teachers of the masses in the local synagogues (Cohen, pp. 147, 148).

For the Pharisee, personal holiness was a badge of honor. To remain a member of this elite sect, one was required to maintain a high standard of holiness relating to tithing, piety, cleanliness and ritual purity, or one would face demotion within the social status of this community, or worse yet, face excommunication and shunning (Mosely, p. 86).

It can be safe to say that the Pharisaic religious system promoted an elitist and holier-than-thou religious demeanor among many of its members who hyper-focused on legalism and religious form and trappings. The result was “a system of pure externalism, which often contravened the spirit of those very ordinances, the letter of which was slavishly worshipped” resulting in hypocrisy (Edersheim, p. 217).

For these reasons, this may be why the woman in Luke 7:37 was labeled as a sinner. It wasn’t that she was a sinner any more than anyone else, but that she was not part of any recognized religious sect that labeled her as being righteous as opposed to being a sinner. Because she was probably outside of the accepted religious system of her day, she was automatically given the label of a sinner. In our day, this would be like a church-going Christian viewing a non-church going person as a heathen.

The problem is this. Can we know for certain the condition of a person’s heart and their relationship with the Almighty simply because of their external religious involvements? This is what Yeshua is addressing in this passage—the condition of the heart. To Yeshua, the woman who was labeled as a sinner was much more righteous, in a certain sense, than those of the most preeminent religious club of the day. Look at her humble and repentant demeanor at the feet of Yeshua!

Yeshua was known for shining the sharp light of truth on a situation and then turning that situation on its head. The end result was that those who thought they were in first place spiritually, were now in last place, and those who were in last place were first. This gives added meaning to Yeshua’s words, “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory…many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:28–30).


Some Nuggets from Matthew

Matthew 1:21, Call his name Yeshua. (Also see notes at Mark 5:41; Luke 19:9.) This verse is proof that Matthew was not originally written in Greek, since the word Jesus (Gr. Iesous a transliteration from the Hebrew word Yeshua, in English Joshua or, in Hebrew, Yehoshuah meaning “YHVH is salvation”) is an unintelligible word in Greek. Only if it were originally written in Hebrew would the name Yeshua, and the corresponding angelic declaration “for he shall save his people from their sins” make any logical sense.

Matthew 3:7, Brood/offspring of vipers. John is calling the religious leaders of his day offspring or children of the n’chashim [Heb. serpents], which was another name for the devil (Gen 3:1 cp. Rev 12:9; 20:2). Yeshua labeled the same thusly in Matthew 23:33 where he accused them of devouring widows houses (verses 14). The serpent was cursed to eat dust (Gen 3:14). As the serpent eats dust (loose earth or admah), the devil’s religious pawns “eat”man (adam) who is made of dust. False religious systems prey on man/dust—especially the widows and the poor (who, like the dust of the earth, are at the lowest strata economically), and who have no one to protect them from these false systems. The nachash was a liar and used smooth words to entice man into sin and rebellion against Elohim to satisfy his own arrogance and avarice, not unlike the silver and split tongued preachers of today who are cunning in their abilities to separate people from their money.

Matthew 4:17, Repent…at hand. Yeshua continued preaching the repentance message of John, and this became the essence of the gospel message (see verse 23). When Yeshua sent out his disciples two-by-two, he instructed them to preach the same message (Matt 10:7; Luke 9:6), the same message of repentance became part of the great commission (Luke 24:47). On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the same message of repentance (Acts 2:38).

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” is a message that is seldom heard in the Christian churches today, nor has it been consistently preached for a long time. In the late nineteenth century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great English preacher, complained in his day that “Repentance is an old-fashioned word not much used by modern revivalists” (The Soul Winner, p. 27 published in 1895!). If this was true in Spurgeon’s day, how much more so today?! Yet, this seldom used word in the lips of today’s Christian preachers was the first word out of John and Yeshua’s mouths when they began their preaching careers. Even so, if we are to be imitators of Yeshua, repent must be the first word out of our mouths when sharing the gospel to a sinful world!

Why should “repentance from sin” to be the first words out of the gospel preacher’s mouth? Quite simply, Adam and Eve fell out of fellowship with Elohim because of sin, and the only way for man to restore relationship with his Creator is to go back to the place where our first parents got off of YHVH’s spiritual path, to repent of that sin and to — from that point on — walk in obedience to his Word. Yeshua, as the Second Adam, leads man in that restoration process to undo the evil that the first Adam did. Repentance is the first step.