The proselyte is dearer to G-d than all the Israelites who stood by Mount Sinai.
An examination of Yochanan/John 20:19-31
20:19-20 So when it was evening on that day, Yom Rishon—the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the Talmidim—disciples—were, for fear of the Judean leaders, Yeshua came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be (is) unto (with) you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His wrists and His side. The Talmidim then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
The disciples’ day had started with an hysterical woman telling them Yeshua had been taken away, now as they continued to sit shiva—seven days of grieving—gathered in a locked room—for fear of the ruling authorities, they are suddenly faced with Yeshua Himself.
Yochanan—John—and Kefa—Peter—had probably passed on the message of the angels concerning Yeshua’s resurrection to the others—who may well have consisted of the wider group of followers rather than the eleven only, including the likes of Joseph of Arimathea as well as family members. As first century Jews they gathered together in support of one another through the grieving process, meals would be brought and cooked, prayers of mourning—praise to HaShem—chanted. This would go on into the evening for seven days.
For some reason T’oma—Thomas—wasn’t present. Why wasn’t T’oma there? Perhaps, like many of us, he needed some personal space to grieve? Maybe he had gone out briefly to get food for the group or maybe he was keeping watch outside in case the authorities came? We simply can’t know for sure why he was absent. What we do know is that Yeshua knew T’oma would be absent and purposed to reveal Himself to T’oma on a later occasion for the purpose of further proof testimony regarding the resurrection and Messiah’s identity as G-d with us.
“Shalom Aleichem.” This familiar Hebrew greeting is said three times by Yeshua over the next few verses. So, what does it mean? This greeting is still used by Jews today, it carries its ancient meaning into our present lives, “I wish you Peace, wholeness, completion, security, structural soundness,” Literally, “Peace is with you,” or “Peace be unto you.” If we keep in mind that the speaker is Peace Himself--Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace—and that He will soon symbolically breathe that already present comfort into the room, then this simple phrase takes on an almost unfathomable relevance. Peace--Yeshua—breathes--Ruach ha-Kodesh, the comforter into the presence of those who are willing to receive Him.
We might read, “The Prince of Peace is with you,” or “I give you Myself,” or “Let My presence calm you.” Shalom Aleichem then becomes the pretext to all relational contact with the risen Messiah. If He is Peace Himself to those who receive Him, then it follows that when He enters the locked rooms of our core being, that peace will ensue. It’s then that He shows us His scars. Notice that it is after seeing His scars that the Talmidim rejoiced. Without the shedding of blood there can be no covering for sin, He has suffered for us, He has risen for us. In our own suffering we are able to turn to our advocate and recognize the scars of His suffering, He suffers with us and in us, because He lives forevermore. He is no longer dead but alive and it is in the knowledge of this eternal security that we rejoice and find hope.
The Talmidim know this is the same Yeshua they saw crucified. There is no disputing the empirical metaphysical evidence standing before them.
So how did He walk through the wall? It seems as if John—the writer of this gospel—went to lengths to set the scene, he describes the locked doors, the fear, the night, why? Because men don’t walk through locked doors, they knock on them or unlock them. On the other hand gods don’t suffer wounds, or carry the scares of old injuries. Yeshua has a physical body, it’s just not the same as the physical bodies of His disciples, He is the first born from the dead. Why first born and not first risen? Because risen is the same body as before but born is the wheat from the seed, the child from the egg, new life, without decay, the second Adam. If the first Adam was filled with life through the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit—then the Second Adam—G-d with us—will surely breathe life into the new creation—His Church. Yeshua then is G-d with us breathing life into the new creation.
20:21 So Yeshua said to them again, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be (is) unto (with) you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
“Remember, I am Peace and I am with you. Just as The Father has sent you Peace, I am sending you to reveal Peace to others.” We have been called “Sent Ones” for this reason. The very fact that we are sent affirms that our peace is not of ourselves but of G-d, our peace is the Prince of Peace. We are now sent by Messiah to fill the world, a light to the nations. Shalom means that in Him--Shalom—we are complete, structurally sound, whole, safe and peace-filled. We fool ourselves if we believe otherwise.
20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed in and out, and said to them, “Receive the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit.
This breath is a proclamation of what Yeshua now already observes outside of time, that within time’s future you will all receive the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Shavuot/Pentecost. It is also a present revelation to the Talmidim, Peace--Yeshua—and comfort--Ruach ha-Kodesh—are now here. So what is the result of this?
20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
As a result of the revelation of Peace that the resurrected Messiah has given His disciples, He reveals a practical lesson on what peace looks like in action, within time: anyone you choose to forgive will be forgiven from your perspective, this forgiveness will empty you of turmoil and hatred, you will no longer suffer the destructive effects of un-forgiveness and the resulting malice and sickness that follow it. On the other hand, if you choose not to forgive someone, the resulting resentment and festering hatred within you will steel your peace and affect your emotional, spiritual and physical health. Therefore from our perspective those we forgive have been released into the hands of G-d for judgment, we are free from the dark weight of the crime committed against us, those who’s sin against us we refuse to forgive will be retained within us and cause us to lose sight of Messiah’s Peace.
This verse can also be interpreted to refer to the benefit that the spreading of Messiah’s peace filled gospel message will have upon those who hear it. Meaning that those who receive the gospel willingly, are forgiven and free but for those who refuse the gospel, the benefit of forgiveness is retained by the Disciples or preachers of the gospel.
20:24-25 But T’oma--Thomas, one of the twelve, called “the twin,” was not with them when Yeshua came. 25 So the other Talmidim were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His wrists the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
I like T’oma, he’s the guy who said, “Let’s go too so that we can die with Him!”—concerning Lazarus’s resurrection. Let’s face it, the other Talmidim had the evidence right in front of them, why wouldn’t they believe? T’oma on the other hand had nothing but the word of a bunch of guys who, only days ago, had fled like unbelieving scaredy-cats. Hardly the most reliable witnesses. So, “enough of this hearsay says T’oma, show me da money!” Some say there is no room for doubt or skepticism in the Messianic journey, I say without doubt faith can’t exist. T’oma wants to see the risen Messiah for himself. I’m not sure I’d be as keen as he is to put my finger into the open wounds but whatever floats his boat I guess?
20:26- Eight days later His Talmidim were again inside, and T’oma with them. Yeshua came, the doors having been locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be (is) unto/with you.”
Eight days is important to Jews, eight is a number of new beginnings, and Biblically speaking eight is a number symbolic of completion and renewal. This fits perfectly into this account, both literally and metaphorically.
The doors were locked again when Yeshua came to stand amongst them—spirits don’t stand, they float.
Again He speaks peace to them. T’oma of course is hearing this for the first time since Yeshua’s resurrection.
20:27 Then He said to T’oma, “Reach here with your finger, and see My wrists; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; stop doubting and believe.”
So Yeshua says, “Stick your finger in the hole in my wrist, poke it into the cut in my side, you’ve got the evidence now, so stop your skepticism and accept the reality of this situation.” Yeshua is not necessarily rebuking T’oma for his doubt/skepticism, He’s simply saying, “Now that you have the evidence it’s time to move on.”
20:28 T’oma answered and said to Him, “Adoni v’lohay—My Lord and my God!”
T’oma clearly believes the evidence but more than that, he believes that Yeshua is G-d with us. If Yeshua is not G-d with us then T’oma just participated in the ultimate blasphemy.
20:29 Yeshua said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Yeshua doesn’t rebuke T’oma for blasphemy, rather He affirms his belief and adds a blessing for those who will believe because of the testimony of the likes of T’oma. G-d does not take kindly to men who claim deity. In Acts 12:20-23 we read of the gruesome death of Herod when he fails to give glory to G-d after being called a god by the people. Why then does Yeshua go unpunished? It is because He is G-d. Therefore T’oma’s statement is a statement of fact, Yeshua is L-rd and G-d—with us.
Then Yeshua blesses you and me. He says we are blessed because we have believed even though we have not seen the evidence T’oma has seen. We believe his testimony, we believe the testimony of the gospel writer and so according to Yeshua, we are blessed.
It is interesting to note that this same sentiment is recorded in rabbinical literature as follows:
“The proselyte is dearer to G-d than all the Israelites who stood by Mount Sinai. For if all the Israelites had not seen the thunder and the flames and the lightenings and the quaking mountain and the sound of the shofar they would not have accepted the Torah—Instruction—and taken upon themselves the kingdom of G-d. Yet this man has seen none of all these thing yet comes and gives himself to G-d and takes on himself the yoke of the kingdom of G-d. Is there any who is dearer than this man?
—Rabbi Simeon ben Laqish, Tanchuma 6:32a (AD 250)
20:30-31 Therefore many other signs Yeshua also performed in the presence of the Talmidim, which are not written in this book;31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Note the word signs in the text. In a first century Jewish context miracles are not simply understood as heaven invading earth, miracles are directly related to Israel’s prophetic history, her present and future, her prophets are identified by specific miracles, her hopes are triggered by them. Every action born of Messiah is a sign to Israel that the Kingdom of G-d has come. It is this kind of sign to which John is referring. This is why he has chosen specific examples of Yeshua’s miraculous signs to appear in an order that will best reveal to his readers the very real testimonial evidence for Yeshua’s deity and Kingship as Messiah of Israel and ruler of the nations. John is passing on the reality of G-d with us, ha-D’var—the Word become flesh.
All this so that we might “believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of G-d; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Life born in the soil of His scares and watered with the rain of His blood and spread in the wind of His Spirit in order to seed the nations with light and peace. The Light of the Prince of Peace. From our inception Israel has been called to be a light to the nations. Our name Y’isra—overcome—El—G-d—means to overcome in G-d. In Messiah we are able to overcome sin and self-delusion, thus we begin to fulfill our calling—in Messiah, outside of time, our calling is seen, complete.
It is for freedom He has set us free!
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Don’t cling to me now my love, I’ve given your Dad the down payment to seal our engagement, I’ll be back for you in about a year—by my reckoning—after I’ve prepared our home. I’ll be back sweetheart, don’t fret. You’ll never be without me again. I love you.
A concise commentary on John 20:1-18
20:1“Now on the first day of the week (Yom Rishon) Miryam—Mary—Magdala came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”
This opening statement brings up the issue of time frame relative to John’s description of Miryam’s—Mary’s--visit to the tomb. The other gospel writers’ record Miryam as having gone to the tomb with a group of women and reference the time as dawn or first light. This is only problematic if Miryam went to the tomb once: we see however both from John’s narrative and from the details given by the other gospel writers’ that Miryam traveled to the tomb several times. It has also been suggested that she may have arrived in the dark and left to tell of what she had found, as the sun rose: in either case the fact that it was still dark in the early hours when Miryam first visited the tomb does not invalidate the factual relevance of this record.
In stark contrast to the raising of Lazarus, the stone of Yeshua’s tomb had already been rolled away.
20:2 “So she ran and came to Shimon Kefa—Simon Peter—and to the other disciple whom Yeshua—Jesus—loved, and said to them, ‘they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’”
Miryam ran, just as we would if we were to find a deceased loved one’s body missing. In spite of Kefa’s—Peter’s--previous denial of Yeshua he was still considered a leader among the Talmidim—disciples—alongside John. This should not surprise us given that the other Talmidim also fled when Yeshua was captured. None of the Talmidim can claim to have been fearless in the face of calamity.
Miryam presumes a group of people—probably men—have taken Yeshua’s body. She also confirms the fact that other women must have arrived at the tomb after she did when she says, “we do not know where they have taken Him.” It is hard to determine whom she may have been referring to as having taken Yeshua away. Did she think the religious leaders had taken him? This is unlikely because the religious leaders were looking to keep His body inside the tomb as proof that He was no more or less human than any other rabbi or zealot Messianic want-to-be. Did she think that some of the other disciples had taken Him? Again, unlikely, they were all hiding from the authorities: the text seems to suggest that they were staying indoors, with the exception of Kefa and Yochanan. Perhaps Miryam suspected that grave robbers had taken Him? This is a possibility given the expensive ointments used to cover the smell of the dead and the fact that being Joseph’s tomb it was probably located among other tombs of the well-to-do. We cannot know for certain. What we do know is that Miryam did not yet believe Yeshua had raised from the dead.
20:3-5 “So Kefa and the other talmud went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other talmud ran ahead faster than Kefa and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.”
They raced to see if what Miryam had said was true. For most men the excited and emotional relaying of the facts by a woman may have been perceived as dramatic at best and delusional at worst. Also, the testimony of women was not considered valid at that time among religious leaders and other authorities.
Yochanan, the writer of this gospel clearly values Kefa’s friendship, as testified to in the loving record of events narrated throughout his book: there is also a sense of competition between them that ads humor and action to the account. Yochanan is honest enough to record his own hesitation at the mouth of the tomb. From his position he sees only the grave clothes.
20:6-7 “And so Shimon Kefa also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.”
Shimon, as per usual, has all the chuztpa of an excitable school boy and runs on past the stopped Yochanan and into the tomb. From his passionate position he sees both the grave clothes and the head veil neatly folded at each end of the stone bench where Yeshua once lay. This is evidence of a methodical undressing upon waking up from sleep—death. This is clearly not a grave robbery. Yeshua, unlike Lazarus, was not commanded to rise, He simply rose.
20:8-10 “So the other talmud who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture; that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the Talmidim went away again to their own homes.”
Encouraged inwardly by Kefa’s passion, Yochanan also enters the tomb. Seeing the evidence, he believes. But what is it that he believes? The text goes on to say that they did not yet understand from Scripture that Yeshua must raise from the dead. Therefore Yochanan cannot have believed in Yeshua’s resurrection at this point. It seems most likely that this is an observation of his belief in Miryam’s account of events.
Following this the two Talmidim return home to continue sitting shiva—seven days of grieving—with the other Talmidim and the family of Yeshua.
20:11-12 “But Miryam was standing outside the tomb wailing; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two messengers in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Yeshua had been lying.”
It is interesting to note that the other gospel accounts refer to either a singular angel or a man at the tomb. This can be explained by event chronology, narrative selection and the differing perspectives and information available to the writers. It may also be explained by theorizing a representation of the unity of G-d similar to that of G-d’s visit to Abraham in Genesis 18.
It is also interesting to note that Yochanan’s account gives us a beautiful view of the mercy seat of G-d. It is known that the Ark of the Covenant was not present in the Holy of Holies at this time in Israel’s history, that only the cap stone lay at the center of the Holy of Holies—an obvious allusion to Messiah as the cap or foundation stone. This is relevant because G-d’s mercy would now be manifest among all human kind in the resurrection power of His Son Yeshua. The two messengers or angels seated one at each end of where Yeshua had lay mirror the two Cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant, between whom lay the mercy seat of G-d. Yeshua had become the door through which all humanity might receive mercy. In Messiah we can now enter into the Holy of Holies situated in the heavens. A place for which the earthly temple was simply a representation. (For additional study read the book of Hebrews.)
20:13 “And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’”
Both the messengers and Yeshua ask Miryam the same question, “why are you weeping?” I don’t see this as an incredulous or disciplinary question, they are simply trying to help Miryam understand her own deep grief and the hope that awaits her at the end of her tears.
20:14 “When she had said this, she turned around and saw Yeshua standing there, and did not know that it was Yeshua.”
Why did Miryam not recognize Yeshua? After all, the text says she looked at Him or saw Him. Some suggest that the scarring from His crucifixion may have distorted His appearance, others say that it was simply the transformed nature of His body that caused Him to appear different. It is difficult to know for sure. What we must be certain of is that the Scripture refers to His resurrection body and not only to His resurrection spirit. Miryam and later Thomas both touch Yeshua physically. It seems that He has a new body that is both tangible and intangible but He is not simply a spirit being as the gnostic heresy attempts to suggest.
20:15 “Yeshua said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’
Yeshua ads the phrase, “whom are you seeking.” It seems that He wants to remind Miryam why she is weeping and to refocus her attention onto Himself. Perhaps it is her own grief that prevents her seeing Him for who He really is, after all her response affirms the fact that she still does not believe it possible that G-d has raised Him from the dead. Messiah often asks questions of us in order to help us journey past our own self-deception.
20:16 “Yeshua said to her, ‘Miryam!’ She turned and said to Him in Aramaic/Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means, Teacher).”
Last night while we ate the Shabbos meal together with of congregation the room was filled with conversation, a veritable cacophony of sound. Apparently my youngest daughter had been calling out to me saying, “Dad…Dad…Dad…Dad…” I had not heard her for what was approximately 20-30 seconds, finally she called, “Abba,” I turned to her instantly at the sound of what I recognized to be my true title, she scowled and said, “I’ve been trying to get your attention for ages!” I believe something similar has happened here to Miryam. The confusing miasma of emotion, environment and self-deception is severed by the voice of love calling her name, naming her identity as a child of G-d.
Miryam, overwhelmed by the epiphany of the resurrected Messiah—her dearly loved friend and teacher—calls out, “Rabboni,” which means my teacher. It is also a derivative of the rabbinical Hebrew phrase “Ribbono shel Olam”—Teacher of the world—which refers to G-d Himself. Perhaps Miryam is the first to begin to understand that Yeshua is G-d with us?
20:17-18 “Yeshua said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.”’18 Miryam Magdala came, announcing to the Talmidim, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and that He had said these things to her.”
Yeshua comforts Miryam with the words, “stop clinging to Me.” Perhaps best read as, “you don’t have to hold onto me now—I’m going to stay resurrected, you’re not going to lose me ever again.” He is preparing her for the future, when He will return to the Father and impart the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit—to be with her always. He also seems to be inferring that she will get another opportunity to hold Him. He sends her—after all we are to be sent ones—to His Talmidim whom He calls His brother’s—relatives—affirming His role as the first of many brothers and sisters born to the Kingdom.
So why did Yeshua appear first to Miryam? She was an ex-prostitute, had been demon possessed and is a woman to boot, in a society that valued the testimony of men above women. She is a poor logical choice for the successful spread of a new religious movement of Jews known as--Ha-derach—The Way. She is perhaps the weakest of candidates.
Clearly G-d chooses the weak to shame the strong. The gospel is the very antithesis to human logic and practicality. It directly opposes the notion that only the strong survive. Yeshua—probably chuckling to Himself a little at the arrogance of men—sends this humble, passionate, loving and desperate woman to a bunch of doubting men, her job, to tell them about the greatest miracle to ever have taken place in all of human history. A woman folks, the glory of creation, brings glory to the Son and in turn to the Father.
“Don’t cling to me now,” He says. Perhaps it is true as some have suggested, that this is an allegory for the second coming and the wedding feast of the Lamb. Miryam representing the bride of Messiah:
“Don’t cling to me now my love, I’ve given your Dad the down payment to seal our engagement, I’ll be back for you in about a year—by my reckoning—after I’ve prepared our home. I’ll be back sweetheart, don’t fret. You’ll never be without me again. I love you.”
Read that last statement again, only this time place your name where it says “my love” and “sweetheart”: this is Yeshua’s word to you.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Yeshua, having raged against death itself is again speaking to death with final resolve, His voice brimming with fierce power, 'Unbind my dearly loved friend and let him go!' He demands it. Yeshua speaks these same words on our behalf.
An examination of Yochanan/John 11:1-44
The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus: 11:1-2 “Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Miryam and her sister Martha. 2 It was this Miryam who anointed the Lord with scented oil, and wiped Yeshua’s feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.”
Why did John, the author of this gospel, feel the need to identify Miryam with such precise detail? It’s true that there may have been several, if not hundreds of women named after the great woman of Israel--Miryam, Moses sister—among the residents of Judea, however it is unlikely that many, if any, had both a sister named Marta and a brother named Lazarus. We can be fairly sure John’s audience were almost a generation hence from the events being recorded, so it is most likely that he was using the now famous event of Miryam’s having anointed Yeshua as a way of illuminating both Miryam’s character and her relationship to the Messiah. It is interesting to note that the event John uses to clarify which Miryam he is speaking of is yet to occur in the chronology of his gospel (John 12:1-11.)
11:3-6 “So the sisters sent word to Yeshua, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’ 4 But when Yeshua heard this, He said, ‘This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.’ 5 Now Yeshua loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”
John only uses the terminology, “whom You—Yeshua—love,” here and in relationship to himself as, “the disciple “whom Yeshua loved.”(This is a reoccurring chorus, sung throughout John’s gospel.) Primarily this indicates a special intimacy between Yeshua and those in question, a relationship which is set apart, different from the relationships He had with other disciples and family members. The point being that Lazarus was no schmo from Yeshua’s perspective, both his death and the grief of his sisters would surely have been of paramount importance to Yeshua. The text tells us that it is because He loved them that He stayed two more days in the place where He was. For most of us this seems counterintuitive but unlike Yeshua, most of us have very little idea of our own purpose or what we are capable of.
Yeshua says, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Firstly, Yeshua is indicating foreknowledge, secondly He is expressing knowledge of purpose. He’s speaking not only of physical death—as alluded to in the following verses—but also of eternal death. This is why He goes on to speak in metaphor, likening physical death to a temporary sleep state. This event is intended to be a platform, not only for Lazarus’s physical resurrection but also for the resurrection of Messiah and the filling of G-d’s promise for a final resurrection of all humanity: some to eternal life and some to eternal death. It is this glory that Yeshua is ultimately alluding to. This is the glory of G-d the Father and Yeshua’s glory is born of it.
11:7-8 “Then after this Yeshua said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ 8 The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Judeans’ were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?’”
This decision of Yeshua’s is probably best likened to a situation where any Israeli-Jew today were to suggest that he and his friends make a trip to Bethlehem—currently controlled by the Palestinian authority. In other words, “let’s go to a place where the authorities hate me and everything I represent and are willing to at very least attempt my murder.” Understanding it this way makes the disciples response seem more than justified. The Judean’s had only just attempted to stone Yeshua after His claim to deity in Jerusalem following the Chanukah celebrations recorded in John 10:22-42. From the disciples perspective there was a clear and present danger awaiting them throughout Judea. Not even the love of a dear friend would have ordinarily compelled them to go into that region given the religious-political situation.
It is important to note the use of the Greek word hra-bee for Rabbi, Later in this account Martha refers to Yeshua as the Teacher using a different Greek word didaskalos.
11:9-10 “ Yeshua answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’”
There are several meanings that can be gleaned from this statement. Relative to Yeshua’s own ministry He is insisting here that He has a mission to complete and it will be completed in the appropriate amount of time regardless of any attempts to thwart it. In other words, “They will not be allowed to kill me until I say so—I being I AM, I and the Father are echad.”
We could also observe in this an allusion to Messiah as light of the world. He will soon be gone, returned to heaven leaving behind His Spirit--Ruach ha-Kodesh—and a choice we all must make, choosing either to walk in His light or to stumble in the darkness of this fallen world. The key here is that the day He is speaking of doesn’t shine upon us, rather it shines from within us. Yeshua is that day, that light. Notice that the text says, “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” This is true of those who don’t accept their position as purchased children of G-d. They are said to have the night—darkness--in them, just as Yeshua has said elsewhere, “If the light inside you is darkness, how great is the darkness?” Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:23. May His light dwell in you richly as you choose to accept His atoning death and resurrection life, thus taking your place as a chosen child of G-d.
11:11 “This Yeshua said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”
Yeshua now uses sleep as a metaphor for physical death. This is not without Scriptural precedence, the patriarchs of Israel are said to have, “slept with their fathers.” (1 Melakhim/Kings 2:10.) However it was probably not a colloquial expression in common use at the time. What is important to understand is that Yeshua is not saying that Lazarus is sleeping because of the knowledge that He will soon raise him from the dead, rather He is saying that all physical death—that is death prior to the Judgment—is sleep, that is, temporary.
It is interesting to note that Yeshua begins by saying, “Our friends Lazarus,” but ends by saying, “I will awaken him from sleep.” Yeshua is obviously emphasizing the fact that only He is able to raise Lazarus; He may also be giving the disciples’ permission to stay behind: as disciples’ of Messiah we all find ourselves in situations where we are given a choice to remain safe or to follow Him into a terrifying situation, perhaps even at the risk of our very lives. It is important to remember that He is not giving us an ultimatum: He remains our Lord and redeemer regardless of whether we stay or go. However, if we go we may see His glory now in ways we might have missed if we had stayed.
11:12 “The disciples then said to Him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ 13 Now Yeshua had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Yeshua then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead,15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’ 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus—which means twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.’”
How did Yeshua know Lazarus was dead? When the messenger was sent he brought news of grave illness, not death. Clearly, despite the many commentaries to the contrary, Yeshua knew many things outside of time, either by intimate conversation with the Father or simply because He is G-d with us.
Yeshua is glad He did not rush to the aid of Lazarus because the coming miracle will be a catalyst for the disciples belief, both in the witnessing of it and in the recollection of it, post resurrection. His comment may seem harsh at first but as we read on we can understand why Yeshua was glad. How often it has been that I have wondered at the harshness of G-d, only to discover at a later date that what looked like cruelty within my situational experience is beheld as glory outside of time. Knowing this we can only ask that G-d grant us an unnatural ability in trusting Him beyond the grave, for there are some harsh realities for which we will not see a glorious end in this life.
T’oma—Thomas—speaks from the heart here, the guy has some chuztpa that’s for sure and he’s not the doubting Thomas we all remember—take note, we’ve all doubted, there is no faith without doubt. Many have supposed a number of options for the, “him,” Thomas is referring to: some say he is referring to Lazarus but I find that highly unlikely given that the context of this conversation relates to the danger threatening Yeshua upon His return to Judea. The only realistic interpretation is that Yeshua is perceived to be throwing His life away by returning to Judea to comfort the mourning sisters and family of Lazarus. If this is the correct interpretation then Thomas, far from doubting, has become a Yeshua zealot and—perhaps caught up in the emotion of the moment—has decided to lay his life on the line alongside his Lord. Thomas doesn’t keep his passion to himself either, he excitedly invites all the disciples’ to do the same. Boo yah! Personally I don’t know what the guy was thinking, I would have stayed where I was safe on the other side of the Jordan.
11:17 “So when Yeshua came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.”
It seems that based on this time frame that Lazarus had died soon after Yeshua and the disciples received the news of his illness. This is also significant due to the fact that there is a known first century Jewish belief that the spirit of a person stayed near the body for three days after death. After four days it was believed there was no chance of resuscitation or resurrection (Leviticus Rabbah a. 18:1.)
11:18-19 “Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 3 kilometers away; 19 and many of the Judeans’ had come to Martha and Miryam, to console them concerning their brother.”
This gives a pretty clear indication that the family was well loved or at very least well respected by many in Judea including religious leaders and that the funeral was well attended. Some also suggest that this is a sign of the families wealthy status.
11:20 “Martha therefore, when she heard that Yeshua was coming, went to meet Him, but Miryam stayed at the house.”
The, “Therefore,” here refers to the fact that because there were some present who might seek to take hold of Yeshua, Martha would leave quickly and avoid being seen.
Why did Miryam stay in the house? The most probable answer is that she hadn’t heard that Yeshua had arrived, after all, the text says that “Martha heard,” and later we read that when Martha secretly told Miryam that the Teacher was there, Miryam got up in a rush to go to Him. Obviously Martha had heard of Yeshua’s arrival in secret, due to the fact that to tell of it openly might have endangered Yeshua.
11:21 “Martha then said to Yeshua, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
This seems a reasonable observation from a grieving family member upon the arrival of the physician who could have saved her beloved brother had He been on time—that is our time. Some read malice into this, I do not. At best I hear incredulity and desperation in Martha’s voice, perhaps confusion, not anger. I think the following line affirms this.
11:22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of G-d, G-d will give You.”
Wow, what faith, this is not the Martha we have been told about, she is not the control freak of church tradition—perhaps we all have our weaknesses nu! Whatever her understanding was, and it clearly wasn’t full by any means, she believes in her Messiah, she desperately cleaves to what she knows her friend Yeshua can do, why? Because she has faith that G-d—whom she worships—will give Yeshua—perhaps, in her current estimation merely a prophet but a much loved one—whatever He asks. I suspect that at very least she saw her friend and Rabbi Yeshua as a prophet like Moses and believed in His ability to do mighty acts for the sake of Israel.
11:23-24 “Yeshua said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’”
In hindsight we say, “How could she not know He was referring to the imminent resurrection of Lazarus?” We are all about the instant miracle in the Church today, “Now Lord,” we demand. Perhaps we need to learn the opposite lesson to Martha, perhaps we need to learn to believe again in the Olam Haba—world to come—and the physical, yes I said physical, resurrection of the dead. We will not float in the ether friends, we will be raised to life and given new physical bodies for the purpose of living on a new physical earth in the presence of G-d eternally.
In fact Martha’s answer is a very good Jewish answer for the time. Other than the Sadducees, almost every Jewish sect believed in the Olam Habba—world to come, the last day (Judgment day)—and the physical resurrection of the dead. Martha merely responded with the then current Jewish theological understanding—which was not a wrong understanding, it was just incomplete. It was missing the Haf-tarah—filling/completing of the Torah. Again, her proclamation shows great faith even though it lacks a full understanding. Go Martha, you’re awesome.
11:25-26 “Yeshua said to her, ‘I AM the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
John is again using the Greek language to affirm a living title for HaShem, “I AM that I AM.” This is an unmistakable reference to the Holy One of Israel. Yeshua is claiming to be G-d with us. In addition He is identifying Himself to Martha as the past, present and future Resurrection. He is aware that the miracle He is about to perform in the physical world will echo in eternity. The raising of Lazarus and the subsequent affect it has on the people of Judea will become the catalyst for the religious leaders plan to put Yeshua to death. This in turn will produce His resurrection, a resurrection than will take hold of the keys of hades and death and consume them with victory and life.
When Yeshua says, “and the life,” He is speaking of eternal life: this is the juxtaposition to the temporary sleep of the present physical death—this is not to say that eternal life will not be physical, it will simply be a new kind of physical devoid of the effects of sin. Those who believe in Him then, even when they die in this present life are assured of eternal life beyond the grave, and those who believe in Him and live until His return will simply be transformed. As it is written elsewhere, “We will not all sleep but we will all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51.)
11:27 “She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.’”
Martha doesn’t really answer the question. Yeshua is asking if she believes He is the Resurrection, Martha clearly doesn’t understand what He’s asking—and neither would we—so she answers with what she does know, that He is the Messiah, the Son of G-d, the One Moses and the prophets had promised to Israel. Again, this shows great faith however she is yet to understand the all-encompassing reality of what it means for Yeshua to be the Messiah.
11:28 “When she had said this, she went away and called Miryam her sister, saying secretly, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’”
Martha probably says this secretly so as to protect Yeshua from danger. It seems obvious that Miryam had not been aware that Yeshua had come. While Yeshua’s personal request for Miryam is not stated it is inferred by the text. Martha calls Yeshua, “The Teacher,” using the Greek word didaskalos rather than the more common colloquial reference hra-bee—rabbi. Martha is making a confession of her belief that Yeshua is not merely a Jewish Rabbi, He is The Teacher, the One above all others; she leaves no room for confusion here. Perhaps, like Miryam, The Teacher is calling you, drawing you near in your hour of deep grief.
11:29-32 “And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.30 Now Yeshua had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Judeans’ who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Miryam got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Miryam came where Yeshua was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
Miryam rushed to see Yeshua and in turn the other Judean mourners rushed to pursue her, thinking they were going to the grave site. The, “therefore,” in the text tells us that it was as a result of Miryam’s rushing that she fell at Yeshua’s feet: exhausted from grief and abrupt exercise Miryam sees her close friend and Teacher Yeshua and falls at His feet, utterly spent. Miryam then repeats Martha’s question, probably for the same reasons but Yeshua, seeing her exhaustion from passionate grief does not enter into the same teaching dialogue He had shared previously with Martha, why? Because He connects with each person in the appropriate way for their personality and position.
11:33-36 “When Yeshua therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He snorted with anger, moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Yeshua wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’”
Some have suggested that Yeshua was angry due to the disbelief of Miryam and those with her, that He was also angered by the professional mourners present—something that is presumed by scholars but not stated in the Scripture account. This seems ludicrous at best, an idea perpetuated by scholars who have never met the merciful and compassionate Messiah of our faith. How could Yeshua be angry at Miryam, who had merely implored Him with the appropriate question of grief? A women whom the Scripture says, “He loved,” grieving with her friends for the tragic loss of her brother. Some refer to the conversation with Martha saying that Martha angered Yeshua with her failure to understand: what nonsense, Yeshua is not angered by our inability to understand but rather by our arrogant resistance in the face of understanding. Even if this was the case, Martha is not mentioned here directly.
In fact the text tells us what Yeshua is angry toward. It says, “Therefore,” that is, having seen what had come before, Miryam’s desperate rushing toward Him in hope of a miracle and “seeing her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He snorted with anger, moved in spirit and was troubled.” Yeshua was angry at the work of death itself, at the resulting suffering that death—born of sin, that is of the evil one—had brought to G-d’s children, and subsequently to Yeshua Himself, He would soon subject Himself to death on a cross for all our sakes.
The Greek word used to describe the weeping of the Judeans means a loud wailing however the word used to denote Yeshua’s weeping refers to a quiet, intimate and intense form of weeping. It was this contrasting and authentic grief that those around Yeshua witnessed, therefore causing them to say, “See how He loved him.”
11:37 “But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?’”
It is important to note that this statement does not have to be interpreted with malice. This is simply the valid public expression of the same question both Miryam and Martha had already asked. In addition, this was only spoken by some of those present.
11:38 “So Yeshua, again snorting with anger from within, came to the tomb.”
Note the fact that there is no, “Therefore,” here. Yeshua is not snorting with anger because of what has been said, the narrative simply proceeds to the next movement of the account. Again, Yeshua is angry at death itself and He is about to speak forth from the power of His own future resurrection—although, outside of time He has effectively already been crucified and resurrected from G-d’s perspective, therefore predestination and freewill are here working together.
11:38-39 “Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.39 Yeshua said, ‘remove the stone.’”
Here the stone is removed by human beings, this stands in stark contrast to the stone removed by angels at the mouth of Yeshua’s own tomb.
11:39 “Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.’”
After four days a body is already aggressively decaying, the skin takes on a grey pallor and is devoid of the natural oils that would normally moisten it. In addition the stench of decaying biological matter can cause those around the body to reach—vomit. This is compounded by that fact that modern techniques for preserving bodies were not available to the people of first century A.D. Therefore Martha’s statement is perfectly valid—something that was on the mind of all who heard Yeshua. There is no reason to read anything more than incredulity and confusion into her query, those who do are looking to place blame and missing the point entirely.
11:40 “Yeshua said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”
What is the glory of G-d? Certainly the miracle He is about to perform will bring glory to G-d and to Yeshua, but is this the ultimate form of the glory that will result from this event? Given that this event is the cause for the inception of the plan to put Yeshua to death I believe that Yeshua is looking past this event to His own death and resurrection. This is the fulfilling of the plan and glory of G-d relative to humanity.
11:41-42 “So they removed the stone. Then Yeshua raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’”
Simply put, “I could simply think this into being without any outward representation of power, but I want all these present to understand the relationship You and I have, so I’m going to say it all out loud for their sake.” Yeshua and the Father have probably been taking about this from before the birth of Moses, this whole event is a performance of grace and redemption, witnessed by the people of Judea.
11:43-44 “When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Yeshua said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”
I see Yeshua here fierce with love for Lazarus, screaming to His friend, ignoring death—who is desperately trying to hang on to Lazarus—and with the power of His own coming resurrection His words reach into sheol—which refers to a holding place and not to the grave, the Hebrew word for grave is Kever—like a hand wrenching Lazarus up into His light. Lazarus, having been disturbed from the bosom of Abraham—the holding place of the righteous—stumbles out of the tomb pulling at the grave cloth around his eyes, trying to see what’s going on, maybe a little dazed from the whole experience?
It’s here that I see the culmination of this wonderful miracle. Practically speaking Yeshua is asking that those present help Lazarus out of his grave clothes but there’s more: Yeshua, having raged against death itself is again speaking to death with final resolve, His voice brimming with fierce power, “Unbind my dearly loved friend and let him go!” He demands it. Yeshua speaks these same words on our behalf.
I am reminded of the words of the now famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953):
“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
From the poem “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night,” written for his dying father.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
True worship is not the use of any individual element of our being. It is our whole being in relationship to the Father, not something we can draw forth by our own efforts but rather something we receive from G-d through Messiah Yeshua.
Mayim Chayim—Waters of Life
4:3 “Yeshua left Judea and went back again to the Galil”
Yeshua knew (verses 1-2) that some of the Perushim—Pharisees—were getting up tight about His generating so much attention. It seems He was heading home for a break from the hoopla?
4:4 “He had to go through Samaria.”
Yeshua didn’t have to go through Samaria for ease of travel or because there was no other way to get to the Galil: on the contrary, most Jews crossed the Jordan and traveled its east back so as to avoid Samaria. Why? Because the Samaritans were spiritual apostates and had become a stench in the nostrils of the Jewish people. The Talmud, which has a small tractate that addresses the issue of the Kuthim—Samaritans along with other ancient rabbinical texts say the following:
“No Israelite is to eat--or drink for that matter—of anything that belongs to a Samaritan, for it is as if he should eat swine flesh.”
–Rabbi Tanchum (italic statement is added for the purpose of clarification)
“When may they--Samaritans—be received into the Jewish community? When they have renounced Mt Gerizim--that is the mountain where their apostate temple had been built—and acknowledge Jerusalem--as the true G-d ordained place of worship—and the resurrection of the dead--like the Saddusim—Sadducees, the Samaritans venerated only the Torah and did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.”
–Talmud, closing Statement of tractate Kuthim (italic statements are added for the purpose of clarification)
So why did Yeshua have to go to Samaria? The only contextual possibility is that it was always in G-d’s plan to reconcile the people of Samaria to Himself and that Yeshua intentionally sought out the Samaritan woman to arrange the salvation of her village. There is literally no other textual evidence that can offer us any options outside of this.
While it must be conceded that the origin of the Samaritan people may include a small number of intermarriages with Israelites, the Scripture clearly indicates that this was negligible at best and that the Samaritan blood line was so diluted that they could not be considered Jewish based on blood relationship. This is later confirmed by Yeshua Himself when He makes a clear distinction between the two people groups. For information regarding the inception of the Samaritan people read 2 Kings 17:22-34.
4:5 “Yeshua came to a town in Samaria called Sychar—possibly Shechem—near the plot of land Yaakov had given to his son Yosef. Yaakov’s well was there and Yeshua, who was exhausted from His journey, sat down beside the well.”
“Yeshua came to a town in Samaria,” in fact we know—from the previous verse—that he had to go to this town. The town Sychar has been identified by some scholars to be an alternate name or spelling for Shechem—the seat of Jeroboam’s idolatrous power (1 Kings 12:25-33). This is significant because it sheds light on the conversation that Yeshua has with the woman regarding places of worship. Jeroboam had sought to set up a new system of worship both as a political maneuver and as an act of willful rebellion against G-d. It seems that the sin of Jeroboam became a negative spiritual platform for idolatrous worship which found its fulfillment in the later syncretistic practices of the pagan peoples brought into the north of Israel by the Assyrian King in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E.
“Near the plot of land Yaakov had given to his son Yosef.” Joseph is probably mentioned here because the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, originally inherited the land that had later become the region of Samaria. Yochanan/John, the Jewish writer of this gospel may well have been alluding to the fact that the Samaritan claim on the land was a violation of its rightful allotment in Israel.
“Yaakov’s well,” may be mentioned as a further statement of irony, given that the author probably considers the Jews to be the true descendants of Jacob and therefore the rightful owners of the well. It is also likely that Jacob’s well is referenced as a precursor to the Samaritan ancestral claim that they were descended from Jacob—a dubious claim at best.
“Yeshua, who was exhausted from His journey, sat down beside the well.” Yeshua, G-d with us, was tired.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted (tried) in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
—Hebrews 4:15 (NASB)
4:6-9 “It was 12pm. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Yeshua said to her, ‘will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan woman. What are you thinking, asking me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)”
“It was midday.” It is rightly pointed out by a number of commentators that it was customary for water to be drawn in the cool of the day, either early in the morning or in the evening at sundown. This may indicate that the woman was an outcast, possibly due to her multiple husbands which would have been looked down upon as immorality.
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Yeshua said to her, ‘will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.)” Whilst it is possible the author was present and observing this event, it is unlikely. It seems more reasonable to assume that the textual note regarding the disciples’ absence is meant to emphasis the solitary aspect of this meeting. Yeshua was tired and if He had walked all day from sunrise, very thirsty. I believe He genuinely wanted a drink—the fact that He was able to use the metaphor of water to expound the deeper reality of His ministry is an example of the wonderful unity of the physical and spiritual within G-d’s creation.
“The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan woman. What are you thinking, asking me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” There are several perspectives to consider here. Firstly Yeshua was a thirsty stranger in obvious need of water, in a hot climate, having walked a great distance and in danger of passing out from heat exhaustion. Regardless of any animosity between Jews and Samaritans or any social educate issues regarding men and women, the fact is that both cultures had a policy of welcome and provision for travelers. The primary moral thing to do here was to give Yeshua a drink of water.
However, who’s to say the woman didn’t do that very thing as the conversation progressed? It was definitely an unusual situation from her perspective. Jewish men, especially Rabbis’ did not make a habit of being seen alone with women in public. Jews detested Samaritans and vice versa, so the woman’s incredulous question makes sense even if it was somewhat rude.
4:10 “Yeshua answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of G-d and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Mayim Chayim—Living water.”
Yeshua came here to meet this woman--He had to go. His intention is made full in the use of the water metaphor. He desires the salvation of this woman and her entire village. So, regardless of whether she gives Him physical water or not, He offers her a fresh spring of Life Water, perpetually running spiritual springs of water that sustain the soul for eternity. The Hebrew—and there’s no good reason to presume they were speaking a language other than Hebrew--Mayim Chayim, running waters full of life, is rhythmic and captivating: it’s a move away from the sitting water of the well.
It’s interesting to note that the key phrases in Yeshua’s response: gift, Who and given, are pretexted in John 3:27-31.
“An individual can only receive what is given from the heavens.” John 3:27
This explains both the gift and the giver. Yeshua is the gift and the extension of Who He is, the living water that flows from His sacrificial death, is a stream whose waters are eternal. He is explaining to the Samaritan woman that she could not possibly hope to draw this water herself because it can only be received as a gift from the heavens.
“The One Who comes from the heavens is above all.” John 3:31
Yeshua is the One Who comes from the heavens. This answers the Who.
4:11-12 “‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘You have no way of drawing water and the well is deep. Where can you get this mayim chayim—running waters that are alive? Are You greater than our Father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock?’”
She begins respectfully but soon issues a challenge that shows she is unable to perceive what Yeshua is offering. She refers to Jacob as her people’s ancestral father in much the same way the religious leaders of the Jews claimed affiliation to Moses and Abraham. The point is, she’s looking for excuses to avoid taking this crazy Jew seriously. She is also emphasizing the Samaritan claim to the well and land, both of which were purchased long ago and rightfully belonged to the Jewish people, not the Samaritans.
4:13-14“Yeshua answered, ‘everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give them--there’s the Who and the gift again—will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water bubbling up to eternal life.’”
It is important to note the difference between the well water and the water Yeshua offers. A well contains settled, unmoving water; on the other hand Yeshua is offering a kind of spiritual water that is like a bubbling fresh spring. Springs are moving, fresh water, that can bubble up through the ground. They are almost always from an abundant core source and rarely fail. In addition they do not require effort in collection of water because the water bubbles up and flows continuously, allowing the drinker to simply receive the water as a gift rather than work for it as a compensation. The water Messiah offers cannot be drawn up with human effort, it can only be received from the heavens.
4:15 “The woman said, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t continue to be thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’”
I’m not sure if this was a genuine request or a sarcastic jib? Either way, Yeshua is about to challenge her motivation.
4:16-18 “Yeshua told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied.’ Yeshua said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is that you have had five husbands, and the guy you’re sleeping with now is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’”
At the time, oral tradition indicates that for Jews up to three divorces was within morally acceptable parameters. Perhaps the number was slightly higher for Samaritans—but I find that unlikely. The point is that even by humanities immoral moral standards this woman was exceptionally wayward. Some suggest that she may have been widowed five times thus making her morally righteous, and it is true that the villagers—who based on her supposed immorality should have shunned her—did come out to see the man Yeshua based on her word. However I find this unlikely, especially given that her current sexual partner was not her husband, which infers he was either someone else’s husband or single: in either case it was not a morally acceptable Biblically or cultural situation for her to be in. What is apparent is that Yeshua is exposing her sinful lifestyle in order to show her a starting point for receiving salvation. No one can be saved without admitting their sinfulness before G-d. If we are sinless and there are no harmful consequences to our actions, what do we need saving from? It is important to note how gentle Yeshua is in exposing the Samaritan woman’s shortcomings.
4:19-26 “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain—Mt Gerizim—and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Yeshua said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I Am the One speaking to you.”
It has always been the primary role of Israel’s prophets to expose the nations’ sin with the purpose of bringing Israel to repentance. The Samaritans, who had a mosaic view of the coming Messiah based on their venerating only the Torah--Samaritan Pentateuch, would probably have understood the Messiah to be a prophet above all else. The woman’s response then is understandable. Her sin has been exposed in prophetic style by a man she doesn’t know, she assumes that He is a prophet at this point.
It seems thought that her heart was still hard toward Yeshua, she begins to start a new argument about rightful worship, or, is she genuinely wanting to know what this man—who is obviously a prophet—will say about true worship. Does she want Him to tell her once and for all which Mountain is the one she should be worshipping on? In the end the point is moot, for Yeshua is about to make forms of worship that rely on humanities efforts, obsolete.
“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” While Jerusalem was the G-d ordained location for worship, it would soon become immaterial. Yeshua confirms her worst fears, that the Samaritan religion is indeed apostate. He also affirms what was then Israel’s legitimate location for Temple worship. Yeshua, the Messiah is born of a Jewish mother, of the lineage of Jacob and here to save humanity. Yes Salvation--Yeshua—Himself comes from the Jews.
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. G-d is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The hour is coming means that soon, following Yeshua’s sacrifice, all who receive Him will receive the gift of the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit. This will enable people to worship anywhere. And has now come means that Yeshua, G-d with us, was standing right in front of her. It also means, just as it has always meant, that G-d sees the end from the beginning and that all things in Him are both future and present. From G-d’s perspective the past, future and the present are one and the same.
Filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh, the true worshippers of G-d will be able to worship in the Spirit and in the Truth. Messiah the physical person is Truth, His Spirit is power. This is the unity all believers live in. If we are in error when we don’t understand the Scriptures—Word—or the power—Holy Spirit, then we are in righteousness when the unity of those two aspects of G-d are present together in us through Messiah. True worship is not the use of any individual element of our being. It is our whole being in relationship to the Father, not something we can draw forth by our own efforts but rather something we receive from G-d through Messiah Yeshua.
“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’” Jesus said to her, ‘I Am the One speaking to you.’”
Yeshua here literally claims to be G-d with us—Emanuel. The Greek text, rendered literally simply says, “I Am the One…”
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.