His resurrected body was not bound by the limitations of time and space. Did He not walk through walls and only moments later eat solid food? These are contradictions to the foolish, however to those being saved they are the sweet fragrance of mystery.
An examination of Luke 24:13-53 (Acts 1:1-11)
24:13 And behold, two of them were going that very day--Yom Rishon, resurrection Sunday, the second day of the omer—to a village named Emmaus, which was about eleven kilometers from Jerusalem--probably to the west.
Some have foolishly argued a discontinuity in the chronology of the following events, an opposing argument is beyond the scope of this commentary. Suffice to say, had Yeshua been nothing more than a normal human being devoid of deity there would be no need to pay any heed to these events. But to the contrary, we believe He is Emmanuel—G-d with us—and that His resurrected body was not bound by the limitations of time and space. Did He not walk through walls and only moments later eat solid food? These are contradictions to the foolish, however to those being saved they are the sweet fragrance of mystery. The Scripture rightly notes that, “A fool says in his heart, ‘there is no G-d.’”
Before going any further we should discuss the Jewish religious observance of Sefirat ha-omer—the counting of the sheaves—which proceeds the first fruits offering commanded in Scripture. This will give us a frame of reference for the wider Jewish religious consciousness of the time and a view into the hearts of Yeshua’s Talmidim—disciples.
The counting of the omer is commanded in Leviticus 23:15-16. The days of the omer are numbered from the day that the first barley sheaf is brought as a wave offering before HaShem. The count lasts for 49 days until seven sets of seven days have been completed, the 50th day is Shavuot—Pentecost.
At the time of these events there was a dispute between the Saddusim—Sadducees—and the Perushim—Pharisees—over which Sabbath the command in Leviticus referred to. The Perushim—who, for the most part, controlled the Sanhedrin and had the widest influence over the common Jewish people—believed that the Sabbath in question was the first day of Pesach—Passover, sighting the use of the word Shabbat in reference to all of the L-rd’s holy convocations. The Saddusim on the other hand believed that the Sabbath referred to, was the weekly Sabbath and therefore the omer should begin the day after that, on Yom Rishon—the first day of the week.
Most scholars agree that because the Perushim had the controlling stake in the Sanhedrin and daily Synagogue and village life, that their view was the one followed at the time of Yeshua’s ministry. It is however interesting to note that according to the Saddusim, the day of Yeshua’s resurrection was in fact both Yom Rishon—the first day—and Yom Ha-bikkurim—the day of first fruits, the first day of the omer. Ironic, given that the Saddusim did not believe in an afterlife, spirits, demons, miracles etc. In this particular case I find myself agreeing with their interpretation of the Torah, Yeshua is after all the first of many brothers—spiritual. I believe that further investigation of this disagreement would convince most unbiased students of the authenticity of the claim. However, with regard to the majority it seems clear that the nation of Israel would have brought their first barley sheaves to the Temple the day following the first day of Pesach and thus the current narrative is understood to have taken place on the second day of the counting of the omer, that is one day after the first fruits wave offering on the first day of the week Yom Rishon—resurrection Sunday.
The Rabbis taught that Pesach was the commemoration of Israel’s physical freedom from Egypt and that Shavuot was the promise of Israel’s spiritual freedom in the giving of the Torah. Therefore the counting of the omer became a journey of hope and repentance among many observant Jews. To this day prayers are said in anticipation of the coming feast of Shavuot. Each day a common brakha-blessing is said, followed by a specific blessing that identifies the number of days of the omer. All this is practiced in the light of the coming spiritual freedom which is to be poured out from heaven in fire text, that is, the very Torah/Word of G-d.
The blessings—which have been said for generations—are as follows:
Barukh ata AdoShem, Elohaynu melekh ha olam, asher kideshanu, bemitzvotav vetzivanu al sefirat ha-omer.
Blessing comes from You L-rd of G-d, Who sanctifies us by His mitzvot and has commanded us concerning the counting of the omer.
This is followed by the recitation of the day. In this case because the events take place on the second day we will count accordingly:
Haiyom sheni ba’omer.
Today is two days of the omer.
Finally each day the following prayer is said:
Harachaman hu Yachazir lanu, Avodat beit ha-Mikdash li’mekomo, bimhayra be’yameinu. Amen, Selah.
O compassionate One, may He return to us, the Temple to its place, speedily and in our time. We agree in contemplation.
It is startling to discover that up until this present day, Jews from all over the globe are symbolically anticipating the revelation of G-d’s Torah at Shavuot each year as we count the omer in hope for what is to come. This same hope-filled feeling would have been present in the hearts of the Jews of Yeshua’s time when counting the days following His execution. With this in mind, lets address the events that occurred later in the day of Yeshua’s resurrection--Haiyom sheni ba’omer.
14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
These two Talmidim—disciples—were not part of the eleven, however there is no reason to exclude them from the seventy which Yeshua had previously sent into the towns and villages of Israel. By doing this Yeshua was symbolically setting up His own Sanhedrin, one that would truly seek to be light to the nations according to the symbolic Hebrew number seventy which represented the nations. Cleopas (v18) may have been traveling with his wife or son. Emmaus—though its location cannot be known for certain—is only a few hours walk west of Jerusalem, it is therefore reasonable to assume that they were returning home for routine maintenance of their property and or to recover supplies to take back to the other disciples who were now meeting behind closed doors in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
They were discussing the events surrounding Yeshua’s death and were clearly disillusioned and broken up over all that had occurred.
The words, “Yeshua Himself” are here used for the first time. Luke takes care to emphasis that Yeshua is not appearing as a ghost/spirit or in some other incorporeal form. It is Yeshua the resurrected man—in a transformed but clearly physical body. After all, we believe in the physical resurrection of the dead at the last day. We Jews always have and we always will. G-d is more than able to reconstitute and transform particles. Even modern science confirms that nothing ever really ceases to exist, particles simply change, they don’t disappear, they are not annihilated, they do not cease to exist. This is true from a theological perspective also. “In Him all things exist and have their being.” (Colossians 1:17) G-d is eternal, therefore all things are eternal, some unto life, others unto punishment.
It is interesting to note that while they were prevented from recognizing Him—whether by G-d or the evil one the outcome is the same, G-d is in control—they readily accepted a strangers company on their journey. It was common practice at the time to travel in larger groups so as to ward off robbers. They probably recognized Him as a fellow Jew, this is emphasized by their willingness to listen to His teaching. It is possible He wore the robes of a rabbi and thus held their attention accordingly. It is also possible that being good Jews, they were grateful for the opportunity to discuss/debate religious matters.
17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?”And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning,23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
Perhaps we can read it this way, “Are you willing to let me in to your conversation?” Yeshua knows what they are discussing, He is giving them an opportunity to overcome their incredulity. Their response is to look sad, despondent. They are clearly deeply grieved by all that has taken place.
Cleopas is astounded by Yeshua’s seeming lack of knowledge of recent events. It makes sense to ask if He is visiting, after all, Pesach is an Aliyah feast and not all who attended would have stayed close enough to the city to be aware of all that had taken place.
Yeshua asks, “What things?” They respond by explaining Yeshua as a prophet sent by G-d and unjustly crucified. It is pointed out that both the yoke—word—of His teaching and the Halakhah—right action—were G-d honoring. It is the majority opinion of the Talmidim, Yeshua was a prophet but He was still not yet understood to be G-d with us. They also mention His home town so that the perceived traveler might have some context regarding the local nature of this prophet.
They mention only the role of the Chief Priests and rulers of the Jewish people, not because the author is an anti-Semite, but because they are Jews speaking to a fellow Jew and are incredulous at the ungodly actions of their own leaders. They then affirm their shared disappointment at the fact that Yeshua did not rise up as King of Israel and physically redeem them from Roman oppression. This is what they were focused on for Pesach, the physical redemption of Israel. Now as they begin the counting of the omer and look toward spiritual redemption, Yeshua Himself arrives to open the way before them.
The third day is mentioned here as a reminder of the Jewish belief that the soul stays with the body for three days before departing. If they were expecting another resurrection miracle prior to now, it seems obvious they had given up on that hope. It is also possible—but less likely, given their general disbelief—they were recalling that Yeshua had said He could rebuild the Temple within three days etc.
Finally they explain the missing body and emphasis their bewilderment.
25 And He said to them, “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
It is interesting to note that while Yeshua is very harsh with His rebuke toward them they say nothing to refute Him but listen to His explanations from the Tanakh—Scriptures. This may well be evidence of His attire and the weight of His Torah knowledge. They may well have perceived Him to be a Teacher or prophet. Or they may simply have had little energy left to argue.
28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them.
Yeshua was now in His resurrected body, both outside and within time and space, being that He knew He was going to stay with them, His seeming to continue was therefore an act.
They must have been encouraged by His words of explanation because they strongly urged Him to stay the night.
30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the matzah—and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.
Remember that this is taking place 4 days after the beginning of Pesach and the feast of unleavened bread. The bread here is without yeast, just as it was at the Pesach seder, Yeshua shared with His Talmidim before He died. Notice that they recline at the table—a custom associated with the remembering of Israel’s freedom. The fact that Yeshua has been given the honor of saying the brakha—blessing, Ha-motzi—shows that Cleopas—the probable head of this household—has conferred the rite upon Him, another sign of the fact that they were already respectful of His nature. Yeshua does what He had done several days prior, He passes the broken matzah to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
“Their eyes were opened.” This is both a spiritual revelation and a practical observation of Messiah resurrected among them. Then, being unfettered by time and space, Yeshua disappears. He doesn’t become incorporeal, He simply exists elsewhere, He is the physical-spiritual unity born of the seeded body of His burial. There is no need therefore for a timeline showing a consistent chronology of His post resurrection appearances.
32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the matzah.
Proof of the fact they had already been inspired by Yeshua on the road they confirm the burning excitement within them and immediately travel back to Jerusalem, by this time in the dark with no regard for their own safety. They were now convinced of the resurrected Messiah Yeshua.
36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Shalom Aleichim—Peace be to you.”
“He Himself.” Again, this is the present, physical, resurrected and transformed person of Messiah. Shalom Aliechim—Peace Himself is with you.
37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.
Luke confirms the former statement in much the same way that a Hebrew poet repeats and expands on ideas. He shows Yeshua as a present being in action by recording His physical injures and the consumption of solid food. Yeshua appears among them, from other accounts we know that He came through a locked door, then He eats fish, He’s no ghost/spirit.
44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Torah of Moses and the Nevi’im—Prophets—and the Tehillim/Ketuvim—Psalms—must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Again we are reminded that Messiah is spoken of throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as both a suffering and victorious Messiah. Yeshua once again opens the minds of His Talmidim, even with Him present they still require revelation: this is why He will send what the Father has promised, the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit. He then commands them to stay in Jerusalem, this is important because during the counting of the omer between Pesach and Shavuot many Jews would have returned to their own towns and then come back to Jerusalem for the Aliyah festival of Shavuot. Yeshua wanted the Talmidim to stay together and be together in one place for the promised spiritual redemption of Israel.
INSERTED to show chronology - ACTS 1:1-11
[1:1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”]
Luke 24:50-53 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,53 and were continually in the temple praising God.
Finally after 40 days of physical appearances to His Talmidim, Yeshua leads them out to Bethany at the foot of the Mount of Olives and there He shows Himself as High Priest over a renewed Jewish Priesthood. He lifts up His hands just as Aaron the High Priest did in the desert and He blesses them with the Priestly blessing;
“May Adonai bless you and keep you,
May Adonai make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you
May Adonai lift up His countenance upon you and give you His deep Peace”
Here Yeshua confers His Priesthood upon a Holy people, a royal nation, and a people belonging to G-d, that they might declare the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His wonderful light.
They have now counted 40 days of the omer together and in 10 days’ time they will receive the living Torah from Heaven in tongues of fire, the Ruach ha-kodesh, the Torah written on their hearts.
They worshipped Him, finally understanding that He is G-d with us. Not a separate god. G-d is three persons but He is not three separate persons, He is echad—One!
He departed from them going up into the heavens, why? He could simply have disappeared as before but His purpose here was to give a kinetic sign to His Talmidim, one they could recognize as being a signal from G-d. Just as Moses went up the mountain to receive the Torah so Yeshua went up to dwell at His Father’s right hand in unity, thus The Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son would be sent in unity as the Ruach Ha-kodesh to dwell intrinsically in the very beings of His servants, first for the Jew and also for the nations. The Spirit would descend upon the mountain just as Moses descended with the Torah, The Spirit would descend and teach every believer those things which Yeshua had passed on from the Father by revelation—the opening of their minds. Now Yeshua would always be among them to open their minds and each believer would be transformed by the renewing of their minds in the washing of the Word, the living Torah--Yeshua Himself.
They stayed in Jerusalem worshipping in the Temple. They were Jews, worshipping as Jews who had received their own Messiah. They continued to be Jews and they awaited the fulfillment of the promised Ruach ha-Kodesh. In 10 days time they would stay up all night on the evening before Shavuot, studying Torah and the scroll of Ruth as was their custom, praying and worshipping G-d along with all of Israel gathered together in Jerusalem. At the culmination of their study the heavens would open, the smoke would descend on the mountain of the L-rd dividing into many tongues, sounding like the wind blown through the shofar in a multiplicity of languages and the Spirit fire would fall, writing the fire text on the hearts of Jews from all over the known world. In the past, at Sinai three thousand had died in disobedience, here in Jerusalem three thousand would be reconciled to G-d through obedience to G-d through Messiah Yeshua.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Picture yourself standing chest high in a great fresh water lake during a warm summer rain, draw the water to you lips, this is what it means to draw near to G-d.
An examination of Yaakov/James Chapters 4 & 5
4:1-2a. What is the source of the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it your lusts--yetzer ha-ra—battling inside you? 2 You lust after things but don’t have them. You murder, and are jealous, and yet you still can’t obtain them. So you fight and quarrel.
Yaakov began this letter with an admonition against giving in to the yetzer ha-ra—evil inclination/fallen nature. As his teaching draws to a close he reminds his readers of the root of conflict and sin, by challenging wrong action born of human willfulness and rebellion against G-d. The desires or lusts at war within are parts of the evil inclination, this is not—as some mistakenly interpret—an allusion to the conflict between the yetzer tov—good inclination—and the yetzer ra. This is a description of evil divided against itself, a fallen kingdom within.
In the throes of lust we are disappointed, failing to obtain the object—when we lust after another person we make that person an object, they are no longer a person to us at this juncture—of our lust. This ironic dissatisfaction is the very nature of lust, like the Adversary—ha Satan—lust promises fulfillment but doesn’t deliver, we are left empty, unsatisfied. It is unlikely that the use of the term “murder” here is referring to physical murder, the whole synagogue is being rebuked regarding the core motives of human sin. We see a similar reprimand in 1 Yochanan/John 3:15, “Whoever hates another person is a murderer.” It is perhaps true to say that hate births jealousy, leading to murder, which in turn results in idolatry—the constant desire of the Adversary to usurp G-d’s throne. It seems even Satan is subject to lust, and has himself become a slave to his own degradation.
A similar concept regarding internal motivation is found in the Mishnah: “Whoever thinks, ‘Yours is mine’ is a Sodomite.” - Mishnah Avot 5:3
4:2b-3. The reason you don’t have is that you don’t converse with G-d! 3 Or, you speak to G-d and don’t receive, because you pray with the wrong motive, wanting to indulge the yetzer ha-ra—evil inclination—your own lusts—fallen nature.
Firstly, if we choose not to converse with G-d we should not expect to receive anything from Him. Yeshua says, “Ask and it will be given to you.” Secondly, simply speaking at G-d is not sufficient. Asking G-d to do what is evil is redundant, He cannot sin. When we ask G-d to provide us with the fruit of our fallen nature we are speaking in vain. A loving father doesn't respond to a teenage sons request for a porn-site subscription by giving him money.
4:4 You unfaithful wives! Don’t you know that love toward the world is hatred toward G-d? Whoever chooses to become a friend of the world makes himself G-d’s enemy!
The statement, “unfaithful wives” deserves our careful attention. For an observant Jew this is a familiar metaphor for spiritual unfaithfulness, found numerous times in the Tanakh—Hebrew Scriptures. It is important to understand that Israel herself is seen as a wife to HaShem—G-d. G-d is Israel’s Ba’al—lord and husband; see Ezekiel 23, Hosea 1-2, 9:1 & Exodus 34:15. Yeshua infers a similar meaning when He calls his generation “wicked and adulterous.” (Matthew 12:39, 16:4)
Regarding love for the world as hatred of G-d:
“Don’t love—agapeo/committed devotional love, friendship—the world—kosmos/not just the earth—or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, there is no love for the Father in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its lusts pass away, but whoever does the will of G-d lives forever.”
1 Yochanan/John 2:15-17
4:5-6 Or do you suppose the Tanakh--the only Scripture available to Yaakov’s readers—speaks in vain when it says that there is a spirit--yetzer ha-ra, the evil inclination—in us which longs to envy? 6 But the grace He gives is greater, which is why Scripture says, “G-d opposes the arrogant, but to the humble he gives grace.” (Proverbs 3:34)
In reference to this widely misunderstood passage, Rav Yechiel Tzvi Lichtenstein—as quoted by David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary—writes:
“The commentators have had great difficulty with this reference to the Tanakh. What verse is it? What does it mean? Who is the subject of it? Some say it speaks about G-d. Others say it speaks about the Holy Spirit. But according to all commentators, it is not found in the Scripture. In my opinion, the spirit it refers to is not G-d’s but Satan’s, as in Ep 6:12. The evil spirit is the evil impulse (yetzer ha-ra) in us. Yaakov refers to it in v. 7: ‘Take a stand against the Adversary and he will flee from you.’ Jews today still call Satan der ruach [Yiddish for “the spirit”; Lichtenstein was writing around 1900]. I believe Yaakov is referring to Genesis 4:7, where G-d says to Cain, ‘Sin lies at the door, and his desire shall be toward you, but you are to rule over him.’ This is understood by all to be speaking about Satan, who is the evil impulse in man; for example, in the Talmud (Bava /batra 16a), ‘He is Satan the evil impulse.’ The evil impulse is used by satanic angels to cause man to sin.” (Commentary to the New Testament, ad loc.)
4:7 Therefore, submit to G-d. Resist ha-Satan—the Adversary, and he will flee from you.
Because “G-d opposes the arrogant/proud and gives grace—that is greater—to the humble,” we should submit to Him. If a child is certain of his father’s love for him, he will readily submit to his father’s will, knowing that his father has his best interests in mind. Submission is an act of humility, resisting ha-Satan is an act of humility. Therefore, resisting the world is loving G-d.
Whether Satan is the yetzer ha-ra or the motivator of it, the response is the same, it is an act of the will to resist him/it. This act can only be practiced as the fruit of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh, the Spirit of Mashiyach—Messiah—who lives in us, that’s why v. 6 says, “But the grace He gives is greater.” Don’t be fooled, this is not a fair conflict, Satan is the dust on a Nat’s foot floating in the infinite ocean of G-d’s creation. There is no balance here between good and evil, the scales are immeasurably weightier in good’s favor and, only G-d is good. G-d’s character is never described as fair, rather He is just. The battle we wage against the evil inclination is won only in Him. We take hold of the sword—which He created, and it is His arm that strengthens the blow.
4:8a Draw near to G-d, and He will draw near to you.
Picture yourself standing chest high in a great fresh water lake during a warm summer rain, draw the water to you lips, this is what it means to draw near to G-d. It is the realization that He is closer to you than breathing.
We participate in relationship with Him. As I have said elsewhere, a husband cannot say “I will” on his wife’s behalf. The Scripture teaches G-d as the Originator of relationship and we as the participants in that relationship.
“Tishuvah—Turn us to You AdoShem, and we will return.” – Lamentations 5:21
4:8b-10 Wash your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded! 9 Wail, mourn, sob! Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into gloom! 10 Humble yourselves before the L-rd, and He will lift you up.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the acts of the yetzer ha-ra from before my eyes; cease to do evil and learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, give favor to the fatherless, plead for the widow.” – Yeshayahu/Isaiah 1:16
“Who shall ascend into the mountain of AdoShem? Who shall stand in His Holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Tehillim/Psalm 24:4(3)
Realizing the reality of G-d, by the Ruach Ha-Kodesh--Holy Spirit, we must make the choice of humility. He will lift us up, out of confusion and double mindedness and turn our mourning into dancing.
4:11-12 Fellow Israelites, stop speaking against each other! Whoever speaks against a brother or judges a sister is speaking against Torah and judging Torah. And if you judge Torah, you are not a doer of Torah, but a judge. 12 There is but one Giver of Torah; He is also the Judge, with the power to save and to destroy. Who do you think you are, judging a fellow human being?
When we concern ourselves with accessing the behavior of other believers we are already sinning. On the other hand, making a right judgment of the spiritual battle surrounding wrong action may allow us the opportunity to come alongside and redirect a brother or sister, Yaakov addresses this at the end of his letter.
The judgment spoken of here is a judgment of punitive motivation, a judgment that seeks to see others ridiculed and made slaves once more. When we judge others based on the very Torah we ourselves break we come under judgment, rather than living within the Judge. How often we sit in judgment of the Torah itself, critiquing it and tearing it apart. Sadly, it critiques us and finds us wanting.
4:13-17 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a city, stay there a year trading and make a profit”! 14 You don’t even know if you will be alive tomorrow! For all you are is a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If AdoShem wants it to happen, we will live” to do this or that. 16 But as it is, in your arrogance you boast. All such boasting is evil. 17 So then, anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, sins.
Some see a big jump in the subject matter here, suggesting that perhaps Yaakov has changed his audience and is speaking to traveling traders outside the synagogue. However the subject here is no different from the previous paragraphs. Yaakov continues to juxtapose humility and pride, the prideful merchant boasts and is motivated by financial gain, the humble merchant trusts HaShem and is motivated by G-dly vocation.
5:1-3 Next, a word for the rich: weep and wail over the hardships coming upon you! 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes have become moth-eaten; 3 your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat up your flesh like fire! These are the acharit-hayamim—last days, and you have been storing up wealth!
Again, the temptation to relegate this part of Yaakov’s teaching to outsiders rather than Jewish believers is unfounded. There are always rich among us, there will always be poor believers. Although the language is harsh it is also familiar. Yaakov knows he is speaking to Jews who are immersed in Torah, the prophets and writings of HaShem. The Tanakh uses similar terminology in Psalm 73 and Isaiah 5:8. These words are an admonition with the intent to encourage repentance—a tishuvah—turning back—to right Torah living in Messiah.
“These are the last days,” is a testimony against the Ludacris behavior of hording wealth only to see it destroyed. To the contrary Yaakov will soon call for patient trust in Messiah, a position that will bear fruitful and eternal treasure. Those being rebuked here are likened to a drug addict storing up drugs prior to an overdose.
5:4-6 Listen! The wages you have fraudulently withheld from the workers who mowed your fields are calling out against you, and the outcries of those who harvested have reached the ears of AdoShem-Tzva’ot—L-rd of heavens armies. 5 You have led a life of luxury and self-indulgence here on earth — in a time of slaughter, you have gone on eating to your heart’s content. 6 You have condemned, you have murdered the innocent; they have not withstood you.
This is straight out of the Torah, its Judaism 101:
“The wages of a hired man shall not stay with you until morning.” – Leviticus 19:13
See also: Deuteronomy 24:14-15 and Malachi 3:5
HaShem hears the cry of spilled blood and the agony of the oppressed. This too is a familiar refrain from the Tanakh; Genesis 4:10, Exodus 3:7
5:7 So, fellow Israelites, be patient until the L-rd returns. See how the farmer waits for the precious “fruit of the earth” — he is patient over it until it receives the fall and spring rains.
Patience, not boasting, is the path of the believer. It’s not patience in and off itself, rather it’s patience born of hope, that hope is in the Messiah’s return.
“Fruit of the earth” is a quotation from the brachah for eating berries and vegetables. A farmer’s patience is rewarded by the harvest. The fall rains are mentioned first, this is contrary to the rhythm of the Greek world which measures it’s year using different spiritual markers. The Jewish High Holy days occur at the end of the year approaching fall and winter, this is a metaphor for judgment. The spring rains coincide with Yom ha-bikkurim—day of first fruit, this is a metaphor for new life, resurrection. Again Yaakov is reminding Jewish believers in the diaspora that their roots are of the land and are intrinsically linked to the spiritual year as laid out in the Torah. Death, judgment and new life continue to be part of their journey. In the end it is the hope of new life, eternal life, which they must focus on.
5:8-9 You too, be patient; keep up your courage; for the L-rd’s return is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t come under condemnation — look! The Judge is standing at the door!
“Be patient, be courageous,” words like these were spoken to Moses, Joshua and the prophets.
“The L-rd’s return is near”--perhaps not near in terms of earth history, but in terms of eternal consciousness, very near. Therefore His return is now nearer still.
“The Judge is standing at the door,” see Revelation 22:20
5:10-11 As an example of suffering mistreatment and being patient, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of AdoShem. 11 You see, we regard those who persevered as blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Iyov—Job, and you know what the purpose of AdoShem was, that AdoShem is very compassionate and merciful.
Here perseverance is the key. One might become impatient, but like Job we must overcome impatience with perseverance, trusting, like Job, in the compassionate mercy of G-d, the ultimate positive outcome, Messiah’s return and an eternity of prosperity in G-d.
5:12 Above all, brothers and sisters, stop swearing oaths — not “By heaven,” not “By the earth,” and not by any other formula; rather, let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No,” so that you won’t fall under condemnation.
This is similar to Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5:33-37 and links to the frivolous boasting of the traders in 4:13-17. Simply put, oath taking was a big part of Jewish culture at the time and had become a means for justifying daily deception as a lesser form of communication. Speak the truth and don’t make promises you have no intention of keeping.
5:13 Is someone among you in trouble? He should converse with G-d. Is someone feeling good? He should sing songs of praise.
Both prayer and singing are forms of conversation with G-d. It seems that Yaakov’s best advice is this, “Be in relationship with the Creator.” As opposed to doing in relationship with the world.
5:14-15 Is someone among you weak? He should call for the elders of the congregation. They will pray for him and anoint olive oil on him in the name of the L-rd. 15 The prayer of faith will save the toiling one — the L-rd will wake him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Both the weary and the ill are offered anointing here. Oil has been used by Israel’s priests to anoint her Kings for centuries. It is a symbol of the Ruach ha-Kodesh and the rich blessing and healing of G-d. The faith spoken of here is not faith in healing, rather it is faith in the Healer, Messiah Yeshua/G-d the Father. This prayer will be the vehicle for revelation to the needy one. He will be delivered from needless toil and lifted up or awakened from his disappear or illness, made whole—not necessarily physically well but whole/complete, spiritually speaking. As a result of this prayer of faith in Messiah, sin will be covered and forgiven.
5:16a Therefore, openly acknowledge your sins to one another, and converse with G-d petitioning Him on behalf of one another, so that you may be made whole.
Openly vocalizing our sin as confession to one another can be a very powerful source of release from the burden of it. This is something the Catholic Church does well. It is true to say to a brother or sister, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” We are not saying that we have forgiven their sins, we are simply acknowledging that through the blood covering of Messiah’s sacrifice, their sin is forgiven.
The purpose of this open confession is not to publically humiliate or give opportunity for gossip. It should be undertaken only with trusted believers and then only by the leading of the Ruach ha-Kodesh. In petitioning G-d on behalf of one another we are to be motivated by mercy because “mercy triumphs over judgment.” Therefore we see the work of G-d here, denouncing false judgment and vindictiveness and announcing mercy and freedom. The result? Wholeness.
5:16a-18 The fervent prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Eliyahu was only a human being like us; yet he conversed with G-d fervently (and heard from G-d) that it would not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months.18 Then he conversed with G-d again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
It is important to note here that the type of prayer being spoken of is a form of fervent listening. After all, the narrative concerning Eliyahu’s—Elijah’s—life tells us only that he heard from G-d that the heavens would be shut up, following which he heard from G-d again some years later that the heavens would release rain upon the land. The pattern goes like this: Listen… No rain. Listen… rain. Listen… drought and death born of idolatry. Listen… Life giving waters welling up from Messiah in you. It is the Patient, or rather, persevering Eliyahu—like the farmer of verse 7, who received the later rain.
19 My fellow Israelites, if one of you wanders from the truth, and someone causes him to return--tishuvah, 20 you should know that whoever turns--shuvah—a sinner from his wandering path will save him from death and cover many sins.
Finally, and with concise literary beauty, Yaakov reminds us that in Messiah we live and breathe to see others reconciled to G-d.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
"They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace." - Yermiyahu 6:14
An examination of Yaakov/James 3
3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow Israelites, since you know that we will receive a stronger judgment.
Simply put, if we take on the responsibility as rabbi’s to pass on the teaching of Messiah, we must do so with considered accuracy, we must also accept that we will be assessed in a more detailed way. This warning is meant as a call to take care with the instruction we give to those who look to us for Godly council.
3:2 For we all stumble in many ways; but the man who does not stumble in what he says, he is a complete/perfect/mature man who can bridle his whole body.
“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d.” (Romans 3:23) Yaakov—James—makes it clear from the beginning of his teaching concerning the tongue, that none of us has complete control over it. He juxtaposes this fact with the man who does have control over the tongue—which is the director of our words. That man can be none other than Messiah Himself. Messiah, being the Word, is the only man able to perfectly control the rudder that directs the words of human beings.
3:3-5 f we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey us, we are able to direct its whole body. 4 And think of a ship — although it is huge and is driven by strong winds, yet the pilot can steer it wherever he wants with just a small rudder. 5 So too the tongue is a tiny part of the body, yet it boasts great things. See how a little fire sets a whole forest ablaze!
The tongue is like a bit or a rudder, both these tools are used by a rider or pilot, neither of them in and of themselves are able to direct anything. The tongue is a neutral muscle until such a time as it is directed.
The tongue, like a rudder, is small but powerful, with disproportionate control over the whole body. Like a rapidly spreading fire a small lie can destroy a nation.
3:6 Yes, the tongue is a fire, a world of wickedness. The tongue is so placed in our body that it defiles every part of it, setting ablaze the whole of our life; and it is set on fire by Gehennom itself.
The specific tongue in question here is the tongue that gives in to temptation—as explained in chapter 1—and is therefore used to direct our entire being toward evil. Because the tongue speaks forth that which is in the heart its words are the evidence of things kept deep within. If our hearts—core being—are given over to wickedness then our words will perpetuate that wickedness and we will act accordingly. Yeshua warned that what comes out of a man’s mouth is what defiles him. (Matthew 15:19-20) One might say that in contrast to the Messiah, whose tongue directs the body--Ecclesia/Church—toward perfection, our tongues have the potential to damage and defile the body--Ecclesia/Church.
It is important to note that Gehennom is spoken of as existing concurrently and as the ignition source for the corruptible fire that dances on the tongue when it is used by the yetzer ha-ra—evil inclination. Therefore the place to which Yaakov refers—which, at that time was understood by the rabbi’s to be the holding place for the wicked, perhaps a section of sheol, Hebrew for underworld (not grave, the Hebrew for grave is Kever.)--is believed to have existed for some time, probably having had its inception before the creation of humanity—that is after the fall of ha-Satan, the accuser.
We should also remember that Jewish tradition speaks of the Torah descending like tongues of fire. There is a fire born of truth and a fire born of evil. Truth is a fire that cleanses all in its path, evil is a fire that scars, damages, defiles and destroys all in its path. Truth is so hot that it has the power to transform the fuel it consumes, evil is only hot enough to deform the fuel it uses.
3:7-12 For people have tamed and continue to tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures; 8 but the tongue no one can tame — it is an unstable and evil thing, full of death-dealing poison! 9 With it we bless HaShem—YHVH--the Father; and with it we curse people, who were made in the image of G-d. 10 Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing! Brothers, it isn't right for things to be this way. 11 A spring doesn't send both fresh and bitter water from the same opening, does it?12 Can a fig tree yield olives, my brothers? Or a grapevine, figs? Neither does salt water produce fresh.
As stated previously, no one can tame the tongue, that is, no one except the man mentioned in verse 2—the man who does not stumble in anything He says but has power of all of His being. This of course is Messiah Yeshua. It is fallen humanity’s tongue that is an evil thing, not the physical muscle but the physical muscle misused for evil purpose.
Yaakov clarifies his position by identifying the motivation or intention behind the tongues use: firstly it is used correctly to bless G-d but incorrectly for cursing human beings made in G-d’s image. Therefore it is Messiah in us that steers the rudder of the tongue toward blessing and the evil inclination or fallen nature that is at work in the misuse of the tongue. The royal commandment or royal Torah mentioned in Chapter 2 of Yaakov’s book is here, reaffirmed as central to right action. One who blesses G-d with his tongue and then turns to his neighbor and curses him, has effectively blessed and cursed G-d in the same breathe. On the other hand, the one in whom the Son of G-d resides, calls out blessing with Messiah’s voice—and we cry Abba, through the spirit of son-ship—and from the same root turns and blesses his neighbor. This is born of Messiah, as opposed to the misuse of the tongue which is born of Gehnnom/ha-Satan when submitted to the evil inclination.
With reference to the spring we are reminded that it is from the source that the spring produces either fresh or bitter water. The fresh spring is born of a pure source, some might say it is of the heavens, while the bitter spring is born of an unclean source—deep within the earth, a metaphor for Gehennom. Our tongues must be guided by the pure life giving water of G-d’s Son, which comes from above. He guides us, we do not direct Him.
3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him demonstrate it by his good way of life, by actions done in the humility that grows out of wisdom.
Yaakov affirms pure core faith that bears the fruit of our humble Messiah.
3:14 But if you harbor in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, don’t boast and attack the truth with lies!
If the source of your words is evil, don’t think you will be able to delude others by attempting to twist the truth with lies. Again, it is from a man’s heart—core being—that he speaks.
3:15 This wisdom is not the kind that comes down from above; on the contrary, it is worldly, unspiritual, demonic.
Pretentious false wisdom doesn't come from G-d but from unspiritual fallen nature and from demonic sources, be it by influence or possession. Much of the philosophy of the day seemed wise on the surface but was soon exposed as Gnostic, ungodly and deceptive.
3:16 For where there are jealousy and selfish ambition, there will be disharmony and every foul practice.
Selfish ambition is idolatry and when fueled by jealousy it produces disharmony and abominable actions. Jealousy was the catalyst for Satan’s desire to become god. All sin is a form of idolatry and as the author has already said, it sets the tongue on fire. G-d is a G-d of symmetry and order, of harmony, unity and reconciliation. Satan on the other hand seeks to divide, taint, separate, defile and breed disharmony.
3:17 But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 And peacemakers who sow seed in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
The wisdom that comes from G-d is pure—like the fresh water of the previous analogy, peaceful, it doesn't seek to divide, it is kind—not nasty, listens to reason rather than jumping to conclusions, hence the previous chapters admonition to be quick to listen, slow to anger and slow to speak. The wisdom from above prefers mercy over judgment—as alluded to in the previous chapter, thus it produces the fruit of mercy which is reconciliation and unity—the opposite of disharmony. Again Yaakov reminds his readers that hypocrisy and partiality are the fruit of a misused tongue and a jealous, self-glorifying heart—core being.
Finally, the tongue that Messiah steers will be a platform for peaceful reconciliatory words that when sown into the lives of others will produce a harvest of right action both in the life of the speaker and in the lives of those who receive the Word.
“Peace makers who sow in peace will reap a harvest of righteousness—right action.” Notice that the text doesn't say, “Peacemakers will reap a harvest of righteousness.” Simply being a peacemaker is not enough, anyone can, by their own inclination, attempt to make peace. This does not always produce a righteous outcome. The peace process in the Middle East is a perfect example of this. The Scriptures remind us that, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14) Only peacemakers who sow in Shalom, will reap a harvest of righteousness, that is, a truly peace-filled outcome. Peace Himself is the key here. The Peace we sow in is Messiah Yeshua, Sar Shalom—the Prince of Peace.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.