Matthew 8 – The Leper Cleansed & Demons

Nobody can prove that demons exist, but we can’t prove the God exits either.  I know that He is real, but I can’t prove it.  Yet, all one has to do is look around.  Where did all of this come from without God?

Oldest Evidence Of Leprosy Found In India
The skeleton was around 37 years old when it was buried 4,000 years ago.

Leprosy is a granulomatous (nodule) disease of the peripheral nerves and upper respiratory tract mucosa, caused by immune system unsuccessfully trying to sequester the infectious bacterium Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.

Unlike popular belief, body parts falling off is not the primary symptom of leprosy, but rather skin lesions are the main external manifestation of the disease. The damage to the nerves affects blood flow and ultimately causes necrosis of tissue, which happens in during the advanced lepromatous stages.

God created every (Jn 1:3), even evil (Is 45:7), and He created Satan and booted him out so I believe in him too.  And Paul even claims they exist:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12).

In the next chapter Jesus does a good thing, something that no man has ever been able to do, and what do they do?

 Matthew 8
The Leper Cleansed

1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

Capernaum
This village is on the northern side of Sea of Galilee, and was the center of the activities of Jesus and his town during that time. A grand 4th C Ad Synagogue was excavated, which stood over the Synagogue from the time of Jesus.

“Centurion” – a Roman soldier in charge of 100 soldiers.

6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

10 When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The synagogue from Peter’s house
Situated prominently in ancient Capernaum is the white stone synagogue, much of it still standing. This present structure has been dated to the fourth century A.D. However, underneath the synagogue is a black basalt foundation of an earlier structure. Some feel this foundation belongs to the synagogue in Jesus’ time.

“Children of the kingdom” – Jews who thought their Judaism was an inherited passport for entrance into the kingdom.

13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.

15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.

16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:

17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.

Ancient synagogue at Capernaum from around the fourth or fifth century A.D.

19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

“Let the dead bury their dead” – let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.  The time of Jesus’ ministry was short and demanded full attention and commitment.  This statement stresses the radical demands of Jesus’ discipleship, since Jews placed great importance on the duty of children to bury their parents.

23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

Kursi (Gergesa) is a picturesque setting on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The site has a rich history. A Byzantine community was established here and it thrived for over two centuries.

27 But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

“Country of the Gergesnes” – the region around the city of Gergesa, in the hills of the east of the sea of Galilee.  Mark and Luke identify the region by the city of Gadara, located about six miles southeast of the sea.

29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.

“Herd of many swine” – large numbers of Gentiles lived in Galilee.  Normally Jews didn’t raise pigs since they were considered the most “unclean” of all animals.

31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

Israel, Sea Of Galilee, Kursi, Gergesa, Byzantine Monastery And Mosaic Floor The Traditional Site Of Jesus Miracle Of Casting Out The Legion Of Demons Into A Herd Of Swine

32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told everything, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.

34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.

“Besought him that he would depart” – they were probably more concerned about their financial loss than about the deliverance of the miserable demon-possessed man.

Instead of thanking Him they wanted Him to leave.  That’s the Jews for you, and what makes it worse is that Jesus was a Jew.  The majority of the Jewish were of Judaism. 

They didn’t and still don’t believe Jesus is the Messaih and they live by Old Testament traditions, so let’s take a look at the Jewish Meals and Meal Customs.

Demons

Many readers assume that the belief in demons attested in the New Testament is simply a function of its authors’ sharing in the superstitious beliefs and practices of all ancient peoples. The question of the reality of demons, of course, cannot be settled by archaeology.

After Samuel had died, he was buried in Ramah. After Samuel’s death, Saul received no answer from God from dreams, prophets, or the Urim and Thummim as to his best course of action against the assembled forces of the Philistines.

Consequently Saul, who has earlier driven out all necromancers and magicians from Israel, seeks out a medium, anonymously and in disguise. Following the instruction of her visitor, the woman claims that she sees the ghost of Samuel rising from the abode of the dead.

The voice of the prophet’s ghost, after complaining of being disturbed, berates Saul for disobeying God, and predicts Saul’s downfall, with his whole army, in battle the next day, then adds that Saul and his sons will join him, then, in the abode of the dead. Saul is shocked and afraid, and following the encounter his army is defeated and Saul commits suicide after being wounded.

The woman is described as “a woman with an ob” (אוֹב, a talisman or perhaps wineskin) in Hebrew, which may be a reference to ventriloquism, and claims to see “elohim arising” from the ground.

Researchers can demonstrate, however, that the notion that the New Testament writers simply shared the prescientific views of their contemporaries is simplistic and misleading.

Demons in the
Ancient Near East

Ancient Near Eastern society was awash in texts containing magical incantations and amulets intended to protect people from evil spirits (spells for defense against demons are called “apotropaic spells”).

For example, one of the feared demons of Neo-Assyrian times was the lion-headed female figure Lamash-tu, who was thought especially to attack pregnant women and babies. For protection women wore a necklace with a pendant of the god Pazuzu.

An enormous number of apotropaic spells have survived from Babylonia, employing magical words and rituals involving plants, animal parts and other sacred objects.  Even today in the eastern Mediterranean it is not uncommon to see amulets intended to ward off the “evil eye.”

Demons in Non-biblical Jewish Literature

Ancient Jewish literature was also fascinated with magic as a means of dealing with demons. The Apocryphal book of Tobit tells the story of one “Sarah, daughter of Raguel,” who had been married—and widowed on her wedding night through the intervention of the demon Asmodeus—seven times.

This Jewish incantation bowl features ancient magic spells written in Aramaic script spiraling around a bound demon in the hope that it will ward off evil.

Meanwhile Tobias, the son of the blind Tobit, journeyed to Media, where Sarah lived, traveling in the company of a man who turned out to be the angel Raphael. While Tobias was sitting by the Tigris River a fish tried to eat his foot.

Raphael instructed Tobias to seize the fish and extract its gall, heart and liver. If he would burn the heart and liver in the presence of an individual afflicted by a demon, that person would be delivered.

Arriving in Media, Raphael informed Tobias that he was to marry Sarah but that he could thwart the demon, Asmodeus, by burning the fish’s liver and heart when he went in to her. Tobias safely took Sarah as his wife, after which he used the fish gall to cure his father’s blindness.

The Testimony of Solomon further illustrates the widespread belief in apotropaic magic. This is a pseudepigraphical work (one that falsely claims to have been written by a famous person of the Old Testament) attributed to Solomon.

In this work Solomon received a powerful ring from the angel Michael. With it he could imprison or control demons and deliver people from affliction. For example, Solomon forced the demon LixTet-rax to help build the temple by hurling stones up to the workers.

Demons in the Old Testament

The Old Testament is remarkably reticent about evil spirits, so much so that it seems to have no developed demonology. Even so, three facts stand out:

– There are no incantations, rituals or amulets prescribed for giving an individual protection from spirits. Considering how much of the Torah is devoted to ritual and to sacred objects, this is a remarkable omission.

This Jewish incantation bowl features ancient magic spells written in Aramaic script spiraling around a bound demon in the hope that it will ward off evil.

– God is said to have complete authority over the spirits, which cannot operate in the world without his approval. If a “lying spirit” goes out, it is only with divine consent (1 Kgs 22:23; cf. Job 1-2).

– The main concern of the Old Testament writers was that people avoid seeking to avail themselves of magical powers through contact with spirits (e.g., Deut 18:10-12).

Demons in
the New Testament

The New Testament demonstrates two realities about evil spirits:

– Jesus alone (Lk 4:41) has absolute power over them, but this was a matter of divine authority, not magic or sorcery.

Bronze amulet head of Pazuzu. Neo-Assyrian period, circa 800-550 BCE. Probably from Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq

– The New Testament mocks the claims of magicians by describing their inability to deal with real spirits. The failed efforts of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) and the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14-16) to obtain apostolic authority illustrates the point that the miracles of the New Testament had nothing in common with ancient magic.

Jesus had no use for demonic spirits and did not seek to employ them to do his bidding.

 

Matthew 7 – Judging and Hypocrisy & Fasting in the Ancient Near East

Chapter 7 ends with the clarification that when Jesus spoke He did it with Divine Authority, not like the hypocrites or false prophets. 

We have talked about false prophets in the past, so let’s take a look at…

Matthew 7
Judging and Hypocrisy

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

The Christin is not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously, as can be seen from the context (v. 5).  The same thought is expressed in 23:13-39 (cf. Rom 2:1). 

To obey Christ’s commands in this chapter, we must first evaluate a person’s character – whether he is a “dog” (v. 6) or a false prophet (v. 15), or whether his life shows fruit (v. 16).

Scripture repeatedly exhorts believers to evaluate carefully and choose between good and bad people and things (sexual immoral, 1 Cor 5:9; those who masquerade as angles of light, 2 Cor 11:14; dogs, Phil 3:2; false prophets, 1 Jn 4:1).

The Christian is to “prove all things” (1 Thess 5:21).

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

“Mote…beam” – an example of a hyperbole in the teachings of Jesus (cf. 19:24, where Jesus speaks of a camel going through the eye of a needle).  Its purpose is to drive home a point.

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Teaching should be given in accordance with the spiritual capacity of the learners.

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

The so-called Golden Rule is found in negative form in rabbinic Judaism and also in Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.  It occurred in various forms in Greek and Roman ethical teaching.  Jesus stated it in positive form.

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at:

“Strait gate” – the gate that leads into the kingdom of God.  It’s synonymous with “life.”

“Destruction” – separation from God, i.e., eternal damnation/Hell/Lake of Fire.

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

“That day” – the day of judgment (cf. Mal 3:17-18).

“Prophesied” – in the New Testament this verb primarily means to give a message from God, not necessarily to predict.

“Devils” – people possessed by demonic power.

23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

“Authority” – the teachers of the law quoted other rabbis to support their own teaching, but Jesus spoke with divine authority.

Fasting in the Ancient Near East

While the Day of Atonement was the only required day of fasting in the Old Testament, there were occasions throughout the year for voluntary fasting. Rather than avoiding specific foods, fasting usually involved abstinence from all food for a predetermined period of time.

This is from Book 1 of The Essene Gospel of the Peace. It states that Jesus Himself wrote it, but it has been proven to be false.

He states that Jesus taught people how to water fast and eat raw food? Yet, it was in 1928 that Edmond Bordeaux Szekely first published his translation of this book.

Therefore, be careful what you read and listen too, cling to God (Jas 4:8).

It was always accompanied by prayer and was used to express grief, penitence or humble devotion to God. Fasting was encouraged at times of national crisis as an indication that Israel or Judah was wholeheartedly dedicated to the Lord (Jdg 20:26; Joel 1:14).

True fasting is without food or water and individuals in particular distress also fasted (1 Sam 1:7; 2 Sam 12:22). The duration of a given fast ranged from 1 to 3 to 40 days.  After the exile there were at least four practiced periods of fasting (Zec 8:19).

For example, a tradition began of fasting on the 9th of Ab (the 5th month, spanning our July and August). This fast was intended to commemorate the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, and it became customary to read Lamentations on that day.

Fasting in Pagan Religion

Fasting was also practiced in some forms of Greek pagan religion. One of the initiatory rites of the Eleusinian mystery religion involved a fast, and the cults of Isis and Cybele also entailed some fasting.

Abstinence from food, as well as sexual abstinence (water was okay though), was often thought to be a necessary preparation before undergoing a ritual. The Greeks rarely practiced lengthy fasts, but many cults had a number of taboos involving food (the Pythagoreans, e.g., were vegetarian).

They fast for themselves, not for God.
Many Ashkenazi Jews still fast on the B’hab days—an acronym meaning Monday-Thirsday-Monday. Now the 5:2 diet is taking over the UK and the US – using the same principles.

Fasting in the New Testament

Fasting remained common throughout the New Testament era. The Pharisees fasted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (Lk 18:12). Jesus, the disciples of John the Baptist and Paul practiced substantial fasts as well.

Matthew 6:16-18 indicates that fasting remains a legitimate form of worship for Christians. During the first few centuries of the Christian church a theology of asceticism with heroic acts of prolonged fasting arose.

But Jesus’ words also provide a reminder that true fasting is directed toward God, not toward impressing others. Like the prophets before him (Isa 58:1-12; Jer 14:10-12;  Zee 7).  Jesus proclaimed that true fasting is an indication of the heart’s inclination toward God.

…Demons.

Matthew 6 – Piety and Almsgiving & The Sanhedrin

Ancient Sanhedrin tombs and their modern-day revival

I have said that the Sanhedrin is just like the White House, some may think it’s more like the United States Supreme Court, but I beg to differ because I would say that a very small amount, if any of them are intentionally evil, just weak.

The entire White House is evil, just like the Sanhedrin.

In chapter 6 you should recognize many people, i.e., those that are wealthy and greedy.  The amount you give to help others is what Jesus is talking about when He talks about having “treasures in heaven.”

It isn’t the amount you give, but the amount you hoard – see Mk 12:41-44.  God will punish the greedy, as He did the couple in Acts 5:1-10.

I want to review…

Matthew 6
Piety and Almsgiving

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Rush Limbaugh:
“I gotta be very careful. I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn’t exist without tons of money. But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him.

This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn’t exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States. Unfettered, unregulated.”

Catholics In Alliance:
“We are disturbed by Rush Limbaugh’s incendiary comments last Wednesday, November 27th about Pope Francis and are joining together with Catholics and other allies throughout the nation to support the Holy Father.

To call the Francis a proponent of “pure marxism” is both mean spirited and naive. Francis’s critique of unrestrained capitalism is in line with the Church’s social teaching. His particular criticism of “trickle down economics” strengthens what Church authorities have said for decades: any economic system which deprives the poor of their dignity has no place within a just society.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

“Let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth” –Not to be taken literally, but as a way of emphasizing that one should not call attention to one’s giving.  [Self-glorification is always a present danger, i.e., “Verily I say unto you, they have their reward,” Matt 6:2].

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

“Closet” – the Greek word means “storeroom.”  Unlike most of the rooms in the house, it had  a door that could be shut.  In other words, do it privately.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

“Use not vain repetition, as the heathen do” – they used long lists of the names of their gods in their prayers, hoping that by constantly repeating them they would call on the name of the god that could help them.  Like those of the Islamic and Muslim faiths do today.

Jesus is not necessarily condemning all long prayers, but meaningless verbiage in prayer.  God knows what we want and need before we even ask (next verse).

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

“Debts” – sins.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

“Fast” – in the Mosaic law only the fast of the day of atonement was required (Lev 16:29, 31, 23:27-32; Num 29:7).  After the Babylonian exile four other yearly fasts were observed by the Jews (Zech 7:5, 8:19).  In Jesus’ time the Pharisees fasted twice a week.

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

“Anoint thine head and wash thy face” – Jews put ashes on their heads when fasting.  But Jesus told them to maintain their regular appearance.  Fasting should not be done in an ostentatious way.

18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

6:19-21 – the dangers of riches are often mentioned in the New Testament (e.g., v. 24, 13:22, 19:22; Mk 10:17-30; Lk 12:16-21; 1 Tim 6:9-10, 17-1-; Heb 13:5), but nowhere are they condemned in and of themselves.  What Jesus condemns here is greed and hoarding of money.

“Moth and rust” – representatives of all agents and processes (primarily politicians, the majority of Jews and Catholics) that destroy worldly possessions.

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

“Treasures in heaven” – anything done in this life that has eternal value.  The phrase is the equivalent of being “rich toward God” (Lk 12:21).  In this context it means to use one’s material wealth for the good cause of God (cf. Phil 4:10-13).

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God” – see Rom 14:17.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

The Sanhedrin

The official website of the Israeli Sanhedrin gives us it’s aims:
This court has been set up to serve the needs of B’nei Noach worldwide. Judaism does not view itself as a universal religion, instead it sees itself as a national faith.

This is understood within the context of the Jewish teaching that there are seventy nations or groups of people in the world. Each group of people must develop its own form of worship, unique to its own character. There is however a basic minimum common to all proper faiths, and this is the Noahide teachings.

The Sanhedrin, through this court, is required to play a role in helping to clarify these most basic teachings, and each group of people in turn must set up its own religious court to expand, develop and adapt these laws to fit the needs of its community of believers.

These Jews from the Israeli Sanhedrin want to chop your head off.

The Sanhedrin (legal court) was an assembly of twenty to twenty-three men appointed in every city in the biblical Land of Israel.

This court dealt with only religious matters. The Great Sanhedrin was made up of a Chief/Prince/Leader called Nasi (at some times this position may have been held by the Kohen Gadol or the High Priest), a vice chief justice (Av Beit Din), and 69 general members.

In the Second Temple period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple in Jerusalem. The court convened every day except festivals and Shabbat. In the late 3rd century, to avoid persecution, its authoritative decisions were issued under the name of Beit HaMidrash.

The final binding decision of the Sanhedrin was in 358, when the Hebrew Calendar was adopted. The Sanhedrin was dissolved after continued persecution by the Roman Empire. Over the centuries, there have been attempts to revive the institution, such as the Grand Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon Bonaparte and modern attempts in Israel.

The Sanhedrin is mentioned in the Gospels in relation to the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus and several times in the Acts of the Apostles, including a Great Sanhedrin in chapter 5 where Gamaliel appeared, and in the stoning death of Stephen the deacon in chapter 7.

Early Sanhedrin

The Hasmonean court in the Land of Israel, presided over by Alexander Jannaeus, king of Judea until 76 BC, followed by his wife, was called Synhedrion or Sanhedrin.

The exact nature of this early Sanhedrin is not clear. It may have been a body of sages and/or priests, or a political, legislative and judicial institution. Only after the destruction of the Second Temple was the Sanhedrin made up only of sages.

The ancient Synagogue of Shfaram, built on the site where, according to tradition, the Sanhedrin sat.

…fasting.  I had talked about the meaning of fasting when we read Isaiah 58, now I want look at Fasting in the Ancient Near East.

Matthew 5 – The Beatitudesn & The Sadducees

There is one more horrible group of men.  As I had stated yesterday, the Catholics are the same as the Pharisees, our Congress is the same as the Sadducees, and the White House are…

Matthew 5
The Beatitudes

1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

5:1-7:29 – the Sermon on the Mount is the first of six great discourses in Matthew (chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23, 24-25).  It contains three types of material:

1. Beatitudes, i.e., declarations of blessedness,

2. Ethical admonitions and

3. Contrasts between Jesus’ ethical teachings and Jewish legalistic traditions.

The Sermon ends with a short parable stressing the importance of practicing what has just been taught (7:24-27) and an expression of amazement by the crowds at the authority with which Jesus spoke.

Opinion differs as to whether the Sermon is a summary of what Jesus taught on one occasion or a compilation of teachings presented on numerous occasions.  Matthew possibly took a single sermon and expanded it with other relevant teachings of Jesus.

Thirty-four of the verses in Matthew’s Sermon occur in different contexts in Luke than the apparently parallel Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:17-49).

The Sermon on the Mount’s call to moral and ethical living is so high that some have dismissed it as being completely unrealistic or have projected its fulfillment to the future kingdom. 

Today the Hinnom Valley is covered with green grass. This photo was taken on the west side of the Mount of Olives near the southwest corner of the Old City walls.

An Arab family is resting in the shade of a tree while their children play in the Hinnom Valley.

The Hinnom Valley is also called “the valley of the son of Hinnom” or “Valley of Benhinnom.” This was shortened to “Valley Hinnom” which in Hebrew is pronounced, “Ge Hinnom” and transliterated into Greek as “Gehenna.”

Thus, the Hinnom Valley is the Gehenna of the New Testament, which is associated with fire, judgment, the Lake of Fire, eternal fire and Hell. The border for the land allotted to the tribe of Judah is partially identified with this valley by Joshua in 1400 BC:

Then it ran up the Valley of Ben Hinnom along the southern slope of the Jebusite city (that is,
Jerusalem). From there it climbed to the top of the hill west of the Hinnom Valley at the northern end
of the Valley of Rephaim. – Josh15:8

There is no doubt, however, that Jesus (and Matthew) gave the Sermon as a standard for all Christians, realizing that its demands cannot be met in our own power.  It is also true that Jesus occasionally used hyperbole to make His point.

2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed” – the word means more than “happy” because happiness is an emotion often dependent on outward circumstances.  “Blessed” here refers to the ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy of those who share in the salvation of the kingdom of God.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Ahaz was twenty when he became king of Judah and reigned for 16 years.

His reign commenced in the seventeenth year of the reign of Pekahof Israel. Edwin Thiele concluded that Ahaz was coregent with Jotham from 736/735 B.C., and that his sole reign began in 732/731 and ended in 716/715 B.C. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 744 – 728 (16 years) B.C.

His reign is described in 2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7-9; and 2 Chronicles 28. He is said to have given himself up to a life of wickedness, introducing many pagan and idolatrous customs (Isaiah 8:19; 38:8; 2 Kings 23:12).

Perhaps his wickedest deed was sacrificing his own son, likely to have been Rimmon. He also added an idolatrous altar into the Temple. He ignored the remonstrances and warnings of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

“Jot” – Greek iota, which we use when we say, “It doesn’t make one iota of difference.”  It is the nearest Greek equivalent to the Hebrew yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he hall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

“Ye have heard that it was said” – the contrast that Jesus sets up is not between the Old Testament and His teaching (He has just established the validity of the Old Testament Law).  Rather, it is between externalistic interpretation of the rabbinic tradition on the one hand and Jesus’ correct interpretation of the Law on the other.

“Kill” – this word, as that used in Ex 20:13 specifically means “murder.”

22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

“Raca” – this word may be related to the Aramaic word for “empty” and mean “Empty-head!”

“Hell” – the Greek word is ge(h)enna, which derives its name from a deep ravine south of Jerusalem, the “Valley of (the Sons of) Hinnom” (Hebrew ge hinnom).  During the reign of the wicked Ahaz and Manasseh, human sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molech were offered there.

Josiah desecrated the valley because of the pagan worship there.  It became a sort of perpetually burning city dump and later a figure for the place of final punishment.

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

5:23-26 – Two illustrations of dealing with anger by means of reconciliation.

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

“Looketh on a woman to lust after her” – not a passing glance but a willful, calculated stare that arouses sexual desire.  According to Jesus this is a form of adultery even if it is only “in his heart.”  This does not mean you take a second look at a beautiful woman, you can, as long as that second look isn’t due to sexual desire.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

5:29-30 – Jesus is not teaching self-mutilation, for even a blind man can lust.  The point is that we should deal as drastically with sin as necessary.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

Thou shalt not commit adultery by Baron Henri de Triqueti (1803-74). 1837. Bronze bas-relief panel on the door of the Madeleine Place de La Madeleine, Paris.

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

“Saving for the cause of fornication” – this I am uncertain of, but I think Jesus is talking about a married couple that both believe in Him.  If so then they should work it out, unless one cheats on the other, and even then that doesn’t mean you can’t work it out.

God does not like divorce, married people are supposed to treat each other as though their partner is a prize of all prizes, men should especially do that. God obviously wants everybody happy. 

Now if one partner is abusive than I say it would be okay to divorce because that means the abusive partner is not a believer and Paul says that a believer should not be with a non-believer (2 Cor 6:14).  But if you are looking for divorce, I’d take it up with God first.

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

5:33-37 – the Old Testament allowed oaths except those that profaned the name of God.  Jesus would do away with all oaths, in favor of always peaking the truth.

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

“Resist” – here is probably means in a court of law.

Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah. He was born during the additional 15 years that God gave to Hezekiah after he healed him from an illness. Manasseh did what was evil in God’s eyes.

He was the most wicked king of Judah as he killed so many innocent people, that their blood will fill Jerusalem from end to end. King Manasseh built altars to the starry hosts in the two courts of the temple. He put the Asherah pole in the temple. He burned his son to offer him as sacrifice, practiced divination, omens, consulted mediums and spiritists.

God sent his prophets to speak to Manasseh and the people and they did not repent. Therefore, God handed Manasseh into the hand of the king of Assyria. Manasseh was carried away into Babylon with a hook in hisnose, and bronze shackles.

Manasseh sought God and asked for forgiveness and repented from his sins. Manasseh prayed for God to deliver him and God brought him back to Jerusalem.

 “Smite thee” – the Greek verb used here means “slap you with the back of the hand.”  it was more of an insult than an act of violence.  The point is that it is better to be insulted even twice than to take the matter to court.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Probably not a general requirement to give to everyone who asks, but a reference to the poor (cf. Deut 15:7-11; Ps 112:5, 9).  We are to give to the needy, not necessarily to the lazy and greedy.  As Paul said, “…if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess 3:10).

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

“Hate thine enemy” – words not found anywhere in the Old Testament.  However, hatred for one’s enemies was an accepted part of the Jewish ethic at that time.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“Pray” – prayer is one of the practical ways love expresses itself (cf. Job 42:8-10).

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” – loving one’s enemy does not make one a son of the heavenly Father.  But it does make one known as a son.

“On the just and on the unjust” – God shows His love to people without distinction.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“Publican” – or “tax collectors,” local men employed by Roman tax contractors to collect taxes for them.  Because they worked for Rome and often demanded unreasonable payments (they had the IRS too), the tax collectors gained a bad reputation and were generally hated and considered traitors.

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

“Be ye therefore perfect” – Christ sets up the high ideal of perfect love, not that we can fully attain it in this life.  That, however, is God’s high standard for us.

The Sadducees

The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century B.C. through the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.

The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple.

The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

Role of the Sadducees

Religious

The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah.

AD 70 and the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans
Jesus Christ, upon visiting the temple in his day, had this to say about the temple which was situated at Jerusalem:

“And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he (Jesus) said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Luke 21:5-6

Jesus here was prophesying of the destruction of the temple by the Roman power in AD70. The Romans, led by Titus, besieged, conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem.

The city had previously been in subjection to the Romans in Christ’s day but the Jewish occupants had rebelled. The temple was destroyed by the Romans as Jesus had prophesied – they threw down all the stones which made up the temple from a large raised courtyard.

The Sadducee party was effectively destroyed in AD 70 when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Many were slaughtered. Without the Temple or the political support of Rome, the Sadducees effectively ceased to exist.

The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society. It is important to note that the Sadducees and the priests were not completely synonymous.

Cohen points out that “not all priests, high priests, and aristocrats were Sadducees; many were Pharisees, and many were not members of any group at all.”

Political

The Sadducees oversaw many formal affairs of the state.  Members of the Sadducees:

– Administered the state domestically

– Represented the state internationally

– Participated in the Sanhedrin, and often encountered the Pharisees there.

– Collected taxes. These also came in the form of international tribute from Jews in the Diaspora.

– Equipped and led the army

– Regulated relations with the Romans

– Mediated domestic grievances.

Beliefs

According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed that:

– There is no fate

– God does not commit evil

– Man has free will; “man has the free choice of good or evil”

– The soul is not immortal; there is no afterlife, and

– There are no rewards or penalties after death

The Sadducees rejected the belief in resurrection of the dead which often provoked hostilities.  Furthermore, the Sadducees rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. Rather, they saw the Torah as the sole source of divine authority.

The written law, in its depiction of the priesthood, corroborated the power and enforced the hegemony of the Sadducees in Judean society.

…The Sanhedrin.

Who the members of the Sadducees would be today.

Matthew 4 – The Temptation in the Wilderness & The Pharisees

The Pharisees were bad, but as I said yesterday, they weren’t the worst, so tomorrow we’ll look at…

Matthew 4
The Temptation in the Wilderness

1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

The devil lost.
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18).

“Led up to the Spirit…to be tempted” – this testing of Jesus which was divinely intended  has as its primary background Deut 8:1-5, from which Jesus also quotes in His first reply to the devil.

There Moses recalls how the Lord led the Israelites in the wilderness 40 years:

“To humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no (Deut 8:1-5).

Here at the beginning of His ministry Jesus is subjected to a similar test and shows himself to be the true Israelite who lives “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of The LORD.”

And whereas Adam failed the great test and plunged the whole race into sin (Gen 3), Jesus was faithful and thus demonstrated His qualification to become the Savior of al who receive Him.

It was, moreover, important that Jesus be tested/tempted as Israel and we are, so that He could become our “merciful and faithful high priest (Heb 2:17) and thus be “able to succor them that are tempted” (Heb 2:18, see Heb 4:15-16).

“That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7).

Finally, as the one who remained faithful in temptation He became the model for all believers when they are tempted.

“Tempted of the devil” – God surely tests His people but it is the devil who tempts us with evil (see 1 Jn 3:8; Rev 2:9-10, !2:9-10).  Like the Hebrew for “Satan,” the Greek for “devil” means “accuser” or “slanderer.”

The devil is a personal being, a fallen angel, not a mere force or influence.  He is the great archenemy of God and the leader of the hosts of darkness.

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

“Forty days and forty nights” – the number recalls the experiences of Moses (Ex 24:18, 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kgs 19:8), as well as the 40 years of Israel’s temptation (testing) in the wilderness (Deut 8:2-3), which they, like Adam, failed.

3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

“If thou be the Son of God” – the devil knows exactly who Jesus is, but is wanting Him to use His supernatural powers as the Son of God for His own ends.

The temple, including the entire temple area, had been rebuilt by Herod the Great. The courtyard had been greatly enlarged, to about 330 by 550 yards. To accomplish this huge platform had been erected to compensate for the sharp falling off of the land to the southeast.

An enormous retaining wall made of massive stones was built to support the platform. Today the drop from the pinnacle area is large. It was even more pronounced in Jesus’ day. On the platform stood the temple building, porches and courtyards flanked by beautiful colonnades.

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Just as God gave the Israelites manna in a supernatural way (Deut 8:3), so also man must rely on God for spiritual feeding.  Jesus relied on His Father, not His own miracle power, for provision of food.

5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

“Temple” – the temple, including the entire temple area, had been rebuilt by Herod the Great. 

6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Ruins of the Roman Forum and St Peter Basilica in Rome Italy

11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;

13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:

“Capernaum” – although not mentioned in the Old Testament, it was evidently a sizable town in Jesus’ day.  Peter’s house there because Jesus’ base of operations during His extended ministry in Galilee (see Mk 2:1, 9:33).

14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;

4:15-16 – another Messianic prophecy from Isaiah.  Jesus spent most of His public ministry “in the land of Zabulon and Nephthlim, which is north and west of the sea of Galilee (see Isa 9:6-7).

Night view of the grand east facade of St Peter’s Basilica, 380 feet wide and 174 feet high. Built from 1608 to 1614, it was designed by Carlo Modeno.

The central balcony is called the Loggia of the Blessings and is used for the announcement of the new pope with “Habemus Papum” and his Urbi et Orbi blessing. The relief under the balcony, by Buonvicino, shows Christ giving the keys to St. Peter. The facade is topped by 13 statues of apostles in travertine. The dome was designed by Michelangelo and completed in 1593.

16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

“From that time” – these words indicate an important turning point in the life of Jesus and occur three times in Matthew’s Gospel (see also 16:21, 26:16).  Something these words mark the three main sections of the book.

“Repent” – Jesus began His public ministry with the same message as John the Baptist (3:2).  The people must repent because God’s reign was drawing near in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. 

We must remember that even though it seems like Jesus was here a very long time ago it was just the other day because God doesn’t live according to time, only we do.  With God there is no day or night, so as Peter said, “…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years…” (2 Pet 3:8).

Repentance is more than a change of mind or feeling sorry for one’s sins.  It is a radical and deliberate change that affects one’s intellect, emotions and will.

For an alcoholic to stop drinking, for a drug addict to stop using, for a smoker to stop smoking, for a glutton to stop overeating are all extremely difficult, but can be done.  Yet, to obtain complete repentance within your heart we need Jesus Christ.

We are able to control our behavior, some better than others, but nobody can change their own heart – read Matt 6:2-33 for a better understanding.

If you ask Jesus to come into your heart He will (Rev 3:20) and He will change what we cannot (Rev 3:21).  We can do nothing without Him (Jn 15:1-5).  This I guarantee because He did it for me.  I’m the same person I have always been, but with a different heart.

18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

“Fishers of men” – evangelism was at the heart of Jesus’ call to His disciples.  I’m not an evangelist.

20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

A statue of Jesus Christ has been installed in war-torn Syria. The statue titled “I have come to save the world” rises above the historic pilgrimage route from Constantinople to Jerusalem, on top of the mountain near the Monastery of the Cherubim in the Syrian city of Saidnaya (2,100 meters above sea level), Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

The height of the bronze statue is 128 feet together with the plinth, which is taller than the statue of the Christ in Rio de Janeiro (125 feet).

One can see the sculpture from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. The installation coincided with the Orthodox feast day of the Protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Muslim feast of Kurban Bayram.

 23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

“Syria’ – the area north of Galilee and between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea.

“Lunatick” – the Greek word for this expression originally meant “moonstruck” and reflects the ancient superstition that seizures were caused by changes of the moon.

“Palsy” –  a transliteration of the Greek, paralytic, has come directly into English.  Greek physicians were among the best in ancient times, and many of our medical terms come from their language.

25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

“Decapolis” – a league of free cities (Decapolis means “the Ten Cities”) characterized by high Greek culture.  All but one, Scythopolis (Beth Shan), were east of the sea of Galilee and the Jordan River.  The league stretched from a point northeast of the sea of Galilee southward to Philadelphia (modern Amman).

The Pharisees

The Pharisees were an influential political and religious sect during the Second Temple period. During this time of increasing foreign influence, they promoted the faithful observance of Jewish law at both a national and an individual level.

The writings of Josephus help to shed light on Jesus’ encounter with the religious leaders with their oral traditions.

These oral traditions were later codified about 200 C.E. The Pharisees built up a body of tradition that was as binding as the written Torah. Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, written ca. 94 CE, wrote of the traditions of the Pharisees:

What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers.

The exact meaning of the term Pharisee remains uncertain. The noun derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “to separate” or “to distinguish.” 

The title appears to have been applied originally in a negative sense when the Pharisees were expelled from membership in the Sanhedrin under John Hyrcanus (135-104 B.C.), though it was later understood in a positive sense either as “those who separated themselves” from all sources of ritual uncleanness (see Mk 7:1 -23; Gal 2:12-13) or “those who interpreted the law precisely” (Josephus’s Antiquities, 17.2.4).

The Pharisees believed that God was the sovereign Creator, who expressed His will to humanity through Scripture. Moreover, He granted humanity the gifts of responsible moral choice and reason in order to apply the Scriptures to this life in preparation for the resurrection, judgment and the life to come (cf. Acts 23:6-8).

Members of this sect carefully observed the Mosaic Law, systematically interpreting and adapting it to the conditions of their own time in order to maintain a sense of purity among the populace (Matt 23:2-3), much like the Catholics.

This system of interpretation and way of life were transmitted by generations of teachers and became known variously as the oral law, the tradition of the elders (Mk 7:3-5; Gal 1:14),the works of the law (Rom 3:20-28; Gal 2:16—3:10) or simply the Halakhah (from a Hebrew word meaning “walk”; Halakhah is traditional Jewish teaching that governs behavior and religious practice).

The Pharisees saw themselves as the heirs of a vast body of interpretative tradition that enabled them to function as reliable guides for the Jewish people during a tumultuous era (Rom 2:17-20).

Although some Pharisees came to believe in Jesus as the Christ (Acts 15:5; Phil 3:4-11), the majority justified their opposition to him on the grounds that Jesus ostensibly taught on his own authority (Matt 7:29; Jn 3:1 -3; 8:13), as well as on the basis of his interpretations of various issues that were of vital concern to them.

Again, we see the Catholic religion.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees on the grounds that, for all of their commendable observance of rules and traditions, they were fundamentally unrepentant, neither knowing God nor loving people (Matt 23).

And again, the Catholics to a Tee.

…the Sadducees.