Unless we understand the origin of the Shavuot festival (approx. 1300 BCE), we will never properly understand the beginning of its fullness in the first century CE (Acts 2). Remember that the Goal of Shavuot, like the Goal of the Torah is Yeshua. And Yeshua’s Goal is to do the Father’s will reconciling the repentant to HaShem (God).
Yeshua is the Lamb, the Sheep Gate, and the Shepherd...
The text that follows is a continuation of the dialogue begun in the previous chapter. The nearest subjects are the Pharisees and crowd gathered following the healing of the man born blind. Therefore, the dialogue of verses 1-21 of chapter 10 occurs in Jerusalem and given the subject matter is a conversation that was probably held near to the sheep gate on the north side of the Temple complex on Mt Moriah (The Temple Mount).
Verse 21 brings to conclusion the events surrounding the healing of the man born blind and there is a significant gap in time between verse 21 and verse 22 which records a unique set of events that take place several months later during winter, at the time of Chanukah (Dedication).
In the interest of continuity, we should begin this chapter by repeating the last few verses of the previous chapter:
“39 And Yeshua said, “For a decree, judgment (krima[G]) I came into this world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]), so that those who do not see with their eyes (blepo[G]) may see with their eyes (blepo[G]), and that those who see with their eyes (blepo[G]) may become blind (tuphlos[H]).” 40 Those of the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind (tuphlos[H]) too, are we?” 41 Yeshua said to them, “If you were blind (tuphlos[H]), you would have no sin (hamartia[G]); but since you say, ‘We see with our eyes (blepo[G]),’ your sin (hamartia[G]) remains (meno[G]).” (John 9:39-41)
1 “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you (all) (lechem[H]), the one [it] (ekeinos[G]) who does not enter (eiserchomai[G], yavo[H]) through (dia[G]) the (ho[G]) way (derekh[H]) of the door, gate, passage (thrua[G], ha-sha’ar[H], tara[A]) into the uncovered space around the house, the fold (aule[G], latyara[A]) of the sheep (probaton[G]), but ascends, climbs up (anabaino[G]) from another place (allachothen[G]), that one [it] (ekeinos[G]) is a thief, embezzler [fig. false teacher] (kleptes[G], ganav[H]) and a robber, plunderer, brigand [by nature] (lestes[G]). 2 But he who enters (eiserchomai[G], yavo[H]) by the way (b’derekh[H]) of the door, gate, passage (thrua[G], ha-sha’ar[H], tara[A]) is a shepherd (poimen[G], roeih[H]) of the sheep (probaton[G], hatzon[H]).
It seems likely, given the details concerning the events of the previous chapter and the subject matter of the dialogue that continues on from that chapter, that the present teaching is taking place somewhere in the vicinity of the sheep gate at the north entrance to the first century Temple complex in Jerusalem.
Yeshua continues to make a clear distinction between Himself and the accuser Satan. He is further illuminating the ideas of lineage, legitimacy, occupation, service, and authority. Some of those listening had already heard Him accuse the religious leaders of being children of the Devil. Here, Yeshua adds to the distinction between the children of God and the children of the fallen nature by using the shepherd and sheep analogy. The sheep are the children of Israel and from verse 16 onward by extension the believing children of humanity as a whole. The Good Shepherd is God, manifest as God with us the King Messiah Yeshua, Who has entered humanity and the people of Israel legitimately. The thief and robber is the “original murderer… the father of lies”, Satan, the Devil, Accuser of the people of Israel and of all humanity. The Shepherd seeks to save His sheep, whereas the robber seeks only to steel and destroy. Therefore, Satan is not the Shepherd of the sheep, but he is a false shepherd, like the many false shepherds he has influenced throughout the history of humanity and of Israel.
Yeshua has entered both the sin affected world and the tribe of Judah from God and through Miriyam (Mary), a daughter of Eve and of Israel. He has also been obedient to the Torah and its requirements in every way and has entered the courts of the Temple according to the appropriate protocol, speaking, working wonders and teaching in public where all can access his message and make a reasoned assessment of His authenticity. Therefore, Yeshua, born of a woman, has entered humanity and the Jewish people legitimately, through the appropriate gate as Shepherd (and Lamb for slaughter).
Satan, on the other hand, “a murderer from the beginning… the father of lies” and “a thief and robber”, seeks to deceive the sheep, God’s people Israel (ethnic, religious, chosen, empirical). Satan works in darkness, spreads lies, works lesser signs to seek his own glory rather than God’s. Satan does not keep Torah, nor does he follow religious protocol. Ultimately, Satan cannot be born of a woman because he has no creative authority, nor can the angelic mate with humanity (Matt.23:30, which also puts to death the foolish notion that the Nephilim are the progeny of angels and humans). The best he can hope for is to manipulate one born of a woman. Therefore, Satan has not entered through the door/gate of the human womb and has no legitimate right to exert authority as one who has entered through that gate.
It is interesting to note that the Greek kleptes which is used here to describe Satan, is the root for the modern English word kleptomania. Kleptes-mainesthai meaning “mad thief”. This word denotes a nature of theft that is beyond the thief’s ability to perceive the error of it. In other words, Satan is incapable of doing anything other than to steel, murder, lie and destroy, because it has become his nature. In addition, the Devil is here called a “thief… robber”, rather than one who has committed a theft or robbery. The former denotes nature, the latter an act of sin. Therefore, those who refuse Yeshua are children of the Devil by nature, whereas those who receive Yeshua become righteous in His nature and whilst we occasionally commit sin acts, it is no longer our nature to do so. This is why the Scripture says, “Through one sacrifice Messiah has made perfect forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb.10:14)
1 “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain,” The doubling of this firm agreement is a Hebraism that denotes a matter firmly established.
“…the one [it] (ekeinos[G]) who does not enter (eiserchomai[G], yavo[H]) through (dia[G]) the (ho[G]) way (derekh[H]) of the door, gate, passage (thrua[G], ha-sha’ar[H])” The one who doesn’t enter legitimately is the enemy of God and the accuser of humanity, the Devil. The gate is both literal and metaphorical.
These words are likely spoken near to the sheep gate, the gate through which the sacrificial animals were brought into the Temple complex. Yeshua, Who the Gospel writer calls “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world” has probably entered through this gate many times in observance of the sacrificial rite and is perhaps even entering as He speaks these words, or has just entered and has begun to speak these words. Thus, “the Lamb” of God literally enters the sheep gate as a figure for what is to come, that is, His being led as a lamb to slaughter, sacrificed (crucified) for the sins of Israel and all humanity.
In the Hebrew text we read “the way of the gate”, making the way an intrinsic part of both the entering and the gate itself. In short, how one enters is as significant as the gate through which one enters. This is to do not only with action but also with the nature that fuels that action.
“…into the uncovered space around the house, the fold (aule[G]), of the sheep (probaton[G])” The Greek text here is fascinating. Note that the word used to refer to the sheep fold relates specifically to a walled area surrounding a house. Yeshua has probably just entered through the literal sheep gate, that gate being one of the entrances to the outer walled area that surrounds the House of God (the Temple). In fact, one of the Hebrew names for the Temple mount is “Har Beit” literally “Mountain House”.
The Aramaic text is also interesting “Men tara latyara” is a word play combing the like sounds of the Aramaic tara (gate) and tyara (sheepfold), literally “in a gate to the sheepfold”.
The false shepherds and teachers of Israel, like their father (Satan) were not willing to sacrifice themselves for the people. They preferred to enter through the more prestigious gates where they might be afforded honour and acclamation. Yeshua on the other hand was entering as a humble Galilean lamb through the gate that would lead to His slaughter, knowing that He would be despised and rejected.
“…but ascends, climbs up (anabaino[G]) from another place (allachothen[G]),” Notice that the evil one “ascends from another place”. Meaning that he [it] has not descended from above but has ascended from below. The thief and plunderer invades the city by scaling the walls.
“…that one [it] (ekeinos[G]) is a thief, embezzler [fig. false teacher] (kleptes[G], ganav[H]) and a robber, plunderer, brigand [by nature] (lestes[G]).” This describes not only the actions of theft and plunder but also the nature of these things which denotes that they are attributes of the individual. The Devil, a murderer and a liar from the beginning, the father of lies, the language of lying being his native tongue. The thief is also a figure for false teachers.
According to our rabbis the difference between a thief and a robber was that the former stole a person’s property in secret while the latter stole a person’s property publicly (Maimon. Hilchot Genuba, c. 1. sect. 3.)
Therefore, in a world where secret theft is no longer frowned upon, public theft slowly becomes acceptable. We are seeing this very thing unfold in our time.
“…But he who enters (eiserchomai[G], yavo[H]) by the way (b’derekh[H]) of the door, gate, passage (thrua[G], ha-sha’ar[H]) is a shepherd (poimen[G], roeih[H]) of the sheep (probaton[G], hatzon[H]).” What beautiful redemptive irony. The Lamb Who enters the gate legitimately as a willing sacrifice is also the Shepherd Who seeks to protect and save His flock.
For further study regarding Yeshua as the Good Shepherd: John 21:15-17; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4; Exodus 3:1; 2 Sam. 5:2; Ezekiel 34:23, 37:24, Also compare Psalm 23, where God the Father (YHVH) is seen as the Shepherd. In addition compare the false shepherds of Israel Ezekiel 34:1-22; Acts 5:36-37.
3 To this one (touto[G]) the doorkeeper, gatekeeper (thuroros[G]) opens, and the sheep (probaton[G]) hear (tishmanah[H]) His voice, sound (phone[G], kol[H]), and he calls His own sheep (probaton[G]) by name (onoma[G]) and leads them out (exago[G]). 4 When He sends out (ekballo[G]) all his own (individually), He goes ahead, leading (poreuomai[G]) them, and the sheep (probaton[G]) follow, join themselves to (akoloutheo[G]) Him because they see, perceive (eido[G]) His voice, sound (phone[G], kol[H]).
“To this one (touto[G]) the doorkeeper, gatekeeper (thuroros[G]) opens” The ultimate Gatekeeper HaShem opens the gate to allow the true Shepherd Yeshua entry. Also, the watchmen assigned by HaShem upon the walls and at the gates of the city of Jerusalem, give entry to the legitimate Shepherd.
In particular the watchman assigned to the spiritual sheep gate, that being Yochanan (John) the immerser (Baptist), who, being born of the priestly line through his father Zechariah, may well have also come from the lineage of priests who were gatekeepers of the sheep gate, opens the gate to Yeshua and proclaims “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!”
“and the sheep (probaton[G]) hear (tishmanah[H]) his voice, sound (phone[G], kol[H])” The sheep are Israel, ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen and from verse 16 onward by extension, all who might receive Yeshua the Lamb and Shepherd. Note that “hearing” in Hebrew tishmanah, denotes receipt of sound, voice. It is an act rather than a passive ability to hear. Therefore, to hear means to receive and perceive the voice of the Shepherd (Yeshua). The sheep in question are those who God knows will receive their Shepherd.
“and he calls His own sheep (probaton[G]) by name (onoma[G])” To “call His own sheep by name” has great significance in Hebrew thought. The Biblical narrative observes the Hebrew naming practice in relationship to the birthing process. A Hebrew child is often named based on the circumstances of his or her gestation, birth or early childhood, as this process reveals figuratively the prophetic implications for the child’s life. Thus, Moses is named for his being “drawn out” of the deadly waters of the Nile river, and Yaakov is named for the gripping of his brother’s heel as he came forth from the birth canal, and so on. Therefore, calling His own sheep by name denotes a birth and prophetic calling on the lives of every one of those sheep. God, Who sees the end from the beginning has chosen the names of each sheep in the flock for the purposes of His glory, thus each sheep is “born from above”(John 3:3, 7).
“and leads them out (exago[G]). When He sends out (ekballo[G]) all his own (individually), He goes ahead, leading (poreuomai[G]) them,” The Shepherd does not send the sheep out vulnerable to the conditions outside the safety of the sheepfold, rather He leads them out. He is first to go out through the gate. He does not ask the sheep to do what He has been unwilling to do.
“and the sheep (probaton[G]) follow, join themselves to (akoloutheo[G]) Him because they see, perceive (eido[G]) His voice, sound (phone[G], kol[H]).” Note that the sheep join themselves to the Shepherd, they don’t simply follow, they follow closely. The sheep “see”, that is they “perceive” the Shepherds voice, sound. This is outside of the reach of mere human intellect, it is a transcendent perception born of God because eyes can’t see sound, ears hear it. In first century Judaism “sight” relates to what is seen with the eyes both practically and spiritually and hearing to what is heard with the ears and spiritually speaking, that which is heard in the spirit. Therefore, when the writer of John’s gospel chooses the Greek eido to convey the idea of seeing the Shepherd’s voice, He is intentionally showing the sight in question to be a transcendent ability gifted of God and not achievable through human effort or natural ability.
5 Therefore, one belonging to another [A stranger] (allotrios[G]) they will not follow, not in the lest, but will flee (pheugo[G]) separating (apo[G]) themselves from that one [it] (autos[G]), because they do not see, perceive (eido[G]) the voice, sound (phone[G], kol[H]) of one belonging to another [A stranger] (allotrios[G]).” 6 This parable, figure of speech (paroimia[G], mashal[H]) Yeshua spoke to them, but they did not understand, comprehend, learn [intellectually] (ginosko[G]) who it was that He had been speaking of.
“Therefore, one belonging to another [A stranger] (allotrios[G]) they will not follow not in the lest, but will flee (pheugo[G]) separating (apo[G]) themselves from that one [it] (autos[G])” Here the false one who climbs over the wall illegitimately seeking entry is said to belong to another, meaning that the intruder is not a Shepherd of God but of Satan. This speaks of a secondary figure, one who might seek to fool the sheep, a man (anti-Messiah: 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The sheep perceive the voice of the true Shepherd and are therefore unable to receive the false voice of the intruder. Stranger means not only a non-Jew but also one who holds to strange teaching, a Hebrew idiom denoting idolatry. We note the “strange fire” brought by the sons of Aaron and the punishment they received (Lev.10:1-2).It is important to note that at the time of this teaching there were certain illegitimate priests who had come from the Hasmonean dynasty and were not descendants of Zadok. In other words, there were priests at the time that were not descendants of Levi and therefore quit literally “belonged to another”, strangers from another tribe, some even being of mixed bloodlines.
“This parable, figure of speech (paroimia[G], mashal[H]) Yeshua spoke to them, but they did not understand, comprehend, learn [intellectually] (ginosko[G]) who it was that He had been speaking of.” Yeshua was using a familiar rabbinical method of teaching by using an everyday vocation as a mashal (teaching story) to illuminate a spiritual principal. The fact that some of those listening did not comprehend it intellectually shows that they were not seeking to perceive His words spiritually. It seems that they had already decided to assign Yeshua’s words to the domain of rambling nonsense. Therefore, they were unable to learn and could not perceive that the parable concerned Yeshua as Shepherd.
7 So Yeshua said to them again, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, I am (ena[A]) the door, opening, passage (ho thura[G], petach[H]) of the sheep, flock (probaton[G], ana[A]).
Seeing that many listening were not comprehending, perceiving, Yeshua returns to the Hebraic modus operandi of repetition and affirmation.
“I am the door” in the Greek is “I am the opening” in Hebrew. Yeshua has now identified Himself as the Lamb entering through the sheep gate as a willing unblemished sacrifice, the Shepherd entering the sheepfold with Divine authority by legitimate means, and now as the door/gate/opening itself, the means of entry into that walled space that surrounds the house (Temple) and protects the sheep. That same door/opening is also the means by which the sheep go out. Therefore, through Yeshua the Lamb and Shepherd, the chosen sheep come in and go out. They come in through Him and under His protection and they go out through Him and under His protection. He is speaking of His vicarious sacrifice which makes it possible for the sheep of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen) to enter God’s everlasting Kingdom.
In the Aramaic text there is a word play using ena (I) and ana (flock) to denote Yeshua’s intrinsic connection to the flock for whom He is the gate (means of entry to God’s Kingdom).
8 All (individually) who came before Me are thieves, embezzlers [fig. false teachers] (kleptes[G], ganav[H]) and robbers, plunderers, brigands [by nature] (lestes[G]), but the sheep (probaton[G]) did not hear, receive, accept (lo shamu[H]) them.
“All” means all who have come before Him claiming to be the Messiah. They were clearly not the Messiah but were false messiah’s manipulated by the evil one for the purpose of leading Israel astray. There were numerous would be messiah’s in the first century who lead failed revolts against the Roman occupation.
The text of Zechariah 11 alludes in part to the treatment of Yeshua the Shepherd at the hands of false shepherds:
“So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD, to the potter.” -Zechariah 11:7-13 ESV
9 I Am, I exist (ego eimi[G]) the door, opening (ho thura[G], ha-patach[H]); if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved (sozo[G]), and will go in and out and find pasture.
“I AM” is yet another statement of divinity. Yeshua is God with us.
Entering the sheepfold of God’s everlasting kingdom is only possible through the opening made through Yeshua’s blood. Thus the sheep who enter through Yeshua will never again be threatened by the wolf of sin or the lion of death.
The coming in and going out expresses the freedom afforded to every believer in God’s kingdom and speaks prophetically of that time yet future when the heavens and the earth will be renewed and God and the Lamb will dwell with humanity. At that time there will be no need for the sheep to remain behind walls of protection because they will never be threatened again.
At this point Yeshua is speaking specifically to the sheep of the sheepfold of ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen Israel, the Jewish people. It is only later that He will widen His message to include the sheep that are not of the sheepfold of Israel (the Gentiles)[v.16].
10 The thief, embezzler [fig. false teacher] (kleptes[G], ganav[H]) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have living (zoe[G], chayiym[H]), and have it abundantly (perissos[G]).
Here, Yeshua shows the stark contrast between Himself and the enemy of Israel Satan. The Devil, a murderer and liar from the beginning, comes only to steal, kill and destroy. To steal what is good by tempting us to defile it, to kill what is living through the fruit of sin, and to destroy and put an end to our hope through deception. On the other hand, Yeshua has come to give perpetual living in place of temporal death, a life devoid of the fruit of sin, overflowing with abundant and transcendent joy.
11 “I Am, I exist (ego eimi[G], Anochiy[H]) the good, commendable, surpassing, excellent (kalos[G], ha-tov[H]) shepherd (poimen[G], ha-roeh[H]); the good (kalos[G], ha-tov[H]) shepherd (poimen[G], ha-roeh[H]) lays down His life breath, soul (psuche[G], et-nafsho[H]) for the sheep (probaton[G], ha-tzon[H]).
Once again Yeshua premises His words with a statement of His all existing nature. In Hebrew ha-tov (the good) expresses a state of unmitigated purity, wholesomeness, surpassing excellence, unparalleled goodness, perfection. This is why Yeshua says elsewhere, “Why do you call me tov, there is none tov but Elohiym (God).” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). When Yeshua says that He is the good Shepherd, He is in fact once again claiming to be God with us, because only God qualifies as the Good Shepherd. Therefore, where Yeshua says elsewhere, “Why do you call me tov, there is none good but God” He means to say, “Ask yourself why you called me good and you will see that none is good but God”.
The Good Shepherd is no ordinary Shepherd, He is the ultimate Shepherd, unmatched in purity, faithfulness, dedication and love for His sheep. Although He is already the rightful owner of the sheep, He none the less gives His life (Hebrew nafsho – soul existence) as the price for their protection from death (fig. eternal death).
Genesis speaks of Joseph as a figure for the future King Messiah, Yeshua the Shepherd of Israel:
“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),” -Genesis 49:22-24
12 The hired hand, who is not a shepherd (poimen[G], ha-tzon[H]), and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep (poimen[G], ha-tzon[H]) and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
The wolf, like the thief, seeks only to steel, kill and destroy. A hired person has nothing to loose by saving his own skin when the wolf comes, whereas the owner has a vested interest in saving the sheep. In the case of this mashal (parable), the Owner lays down His life for the sheep, allowing the wolf to take His life so that the sheep can go free.
“The hired hand” is a figurative allusion to the false shepherds and misguided religious and political leaders of Israel.
“Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to [a]those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord [b]God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been [c]feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds [d]feed the flock? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without [e]feeding the flock. 4 Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the [f]diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. 5 They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. 6 My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.”’” 7 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock; 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My [g]sheep [h]from them and make them cease from feeding [i]sheep. So the shepherds will not [j]feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.”’” -Ezekiel 34:1-10 NASB
Jewish commentary speaks of Satan, as, הוא הזאב, "he is the wolf" and by extension he is said to influence all false prophets, and teachers, who are ravenous wolves (sometimes in sheep's clothing). So too are tyrants, oppressors, and persecutors of Israel.
“a shepherd that feeds his flock, and leaves it, and goes to the city, and a wolf comes and ravines, and the lion comes and tears in pieces, he is free; but if he leaves by it his staff and his scrip, he is guilty.'' - Talmud. Bavliy. Bava Metzia, fol. 41. 1. & 93. 2. & 106. 1.
“a shepherd who can deliver that which is torn, and that which is carried captive, with other shepherds, and with staves, and does not call the other shepherds, nor bring the staves to deliver them, he is guilty: one that keeps freely, and one that keeps for hire; he that keeps freely, calls the shepherds, and brings the staves freely; and if he does not find them, he is not guilty; but he that keeps for hire, is obliged to hire shepherds and staves, in order to deliver them.'' -Maimonides, Hilchot Shechirut c. 3. sect. 6.
13 He (hired person) flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep (poimen[G], ha-tzon[H]). 14 I Am, I exist (ego eimi[G], Anochiy[H]) the good, commendable, surpassing, excellent (kalos[G], ha-tov[H]) shepherd (poimen[G], ha-roeh[H]), and I know (ginosko[G], yodatiy[H]) My own and My own know (ginosko[G], yodatiy[H]) Me, 15 even as the Father (ho Pater[G], ha Av[H]) knows (ginosko[G], yodatiy[H]) Me and I know (ginosko[G], yodatiy[H]) the Father (ho Pater[G], ha Av[H]); and I lay down My life breath, soul (psuche[G], et-nafsho[H]) for the sheep (probaton[G], ha-tzon[H]).
“Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” -Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV
""He shall feed his flock like a shepherd"; not as he that feeds the flock of others, for the hire they give him, but as a shepherd that feeds his own flock; who has compassion more abundantly on it, because it is his own flock; and therefore he says, "behold his reward is with him", for he does not seek a reward from another; "and his work is before him"; for he feeds what is his own, and therefore his eyes and his heart are there.'' -Abarbinel, Mashmia Yeshua, fol. 20. 4.
Therefore, “His reward is with Him” in the form of that which He brings as a reward to the faithful sheep and in terms of the sheep themselves who are His reward, inheritance, joy. HaShem is the perfect Father, Yeshua, the perfect Son.
When Yeshua says He “knows” His sheep and that they “know” Him, He is not speaking of the intellectual knowledge of humanity but of the transcendent knowledge of God. This is made clear by the affirmation in the Father, “Even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” In Hebrew the word yada (know), infers an intimate soul tie. This is why it is used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. In other words, the knowledge Yeshua speaks of denotes an inseparable relational connection.
16 I have other (allos[G]) sheep (probaton[G], tzon[H]), which are not of this uncovered space around the house, the fold (aule[G], latyara[A]); I must bring them also, and they will hear (tishmanah[H]) My voice, sound (phone[G], koliy[H]); and they will become one, a complex, unified (heis[G], echad[H]) flock (poimne[G]) with one, complex, unified (heis[G], echad[H]) shepherd (poimen[G], roeh[H]).
Up to this point the sheep Yeshua has been referring to are the ethnic, religious, chosen people of Israel (the Jewish people), and the sheepfold of God’s Kingdom as it is outworked through Israel upon the throne of David in the greater Son of David the King Messiah Yeshua. Now He alludes to sheep who are not from the tribes (sheepfold) of Israel.
The Tanakh (OT) alludes to the salvation of Gentiles on numerous occasions (Gen.12:3, 18:14, 22:18, 26:4; Isaiah 11:10, 19:6, 54:1-3, 60:1-3; Hosea 1:10; Amos 9:11; Malachi 1:11; Psalms 72, 87.
The “Aleinu” prayed daily by observant Jews acknowledges God’s rule over all the earth and the future unity of His rule and Kingdom and Name according to the prophet Zechariah:
“And HaShem will be King over all the earth; on that day HaShem will be one and His Name one.” (Zechariah 14:9).
It is important to note that the one flock will be housed in the sheepfold of Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen). With reference to the Gentile sheep not of the sheepfold Yeshua says He will “bring them”, that is, they will be afforded a concession to come into the commonwealth of Israel. Note carefully that Ezekiel the prophet speaks God’s word identifying ethnic Israel as His chosen sheep and the greater Son of David (the King Messiah Yeshua) as the Shepherd:
“I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.” -Ezekiel 34:22-24 ESV
“They will become one” Note that they are not yet one but will become one. The present manifestation of the body of believers is truly a complex unity in that it continues to await the fullness of these words of Yeshua. Those Jews who are presently Messiah followers remain Jews, while those of the nations who are presently Messiah followers are not Jews but are one with their Jewish brothers and sisters. The body of believers awaits the inclusion of all of the remaining Jewish people through Yeshua (Romans 11:25-36). There is a convergent aspect to the present state of the body of believers (Ecclesia) where Jewish believers meet the circle of the wider body, which includes Gentiles. This does not mean that the Church is a continuation of the Jewish people, rather, it means (according to Romans) that the body of believers is yet to see its fullness. That fullness being revealed at the end of the age when the entire remnant of the ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen people of Israel (the Jewish people) will be saved through Yeshua and we will truly be one, complex and unified people in God. Complex because we will not be robbed of our uniqueness, and unified because in Messiah we will delight in the diversity of the body.
The Ecclesia (Body of believers, Church) is made up of Jews (Sheepfold of God) and Gentiles (Not of the sheepfold of God but brought in through Yeshua), while the chosen people of God, ethnic, religious, empirical Israel (the Jewish people) continue in their unique role as a sign pointing toward the fullness of God’s redemptive plan for humanity, that being the salvation of all ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen Israel (the Jewish people) at the end of the age after all who will come in from the nations (Gentiles) have come. Thus, those not of the sheepfold of Israel are afforded through Yeshua the opportunity to become part of the commonwealth of Israel in the similar way to that of people of other tribes and nations becoming part of the commonwealth of Great Britain, or some other such collective. Therefore, no tribe or nation loses their unique identity, rather in Messiah all are made a complex unity of diverse expression, just as the body has many parts but functions as one entity reliant on all its parts, guided by the head and powered by the heart and lungs.
Therefore, the Church is not a continuation of Israel, nor is it the continuation of the faith of Abraham. Rather, it is the living organism that having been born of the Jews in Yeshua seeks its fullness in the redemption of ethnic, religious, empirical, chosen Israel through Yeshua at the end of the age and into the Olam Haba, world to come.
The primary flaw in misunderstanding this truth is born of the pride of the Gentile Church, which has come to see itself as the rightful heir. To the contrary, the Gentiles are afforded an opportunity to come into the sheepfold of Israel as a concession and not as a right.
The redemptive plan of God comes through and from the Jews and draws others inward, it does not progress outward with the intention of making the Jews obsolete. This is made abundantly clear by Yeshua when He says “I must bring them (Gentiles) also…” Therefore, the Gentiles are brought in but the place of the chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious) does not change. After all, it is the sheepfold of Israel that the believing Gentiles are being welcomed into.
Rav Shaul writes using the wall that separates Gentiles from the courts of the woman and of Israel saying:
“For He (Yeshua) is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us;” -Ephesians 2:14
We note that the breaking down of this wall is intended to bring the Gentiles in to the worship practices of Israel and is not taken down in order to have the Gentiles leave behind the Jewish roots of their faith. And yet, that is exactly what the Gentile Church has done. For centuries it has turned its back on the people and worship practice from which it was born and in doing so has directly opposed the words of both Rav Shaul and Yeshua.
17 For this reason the Father (ho Pater[G], ha Av[H]) loves (oheiv[H]) Me, because I lay down My life, breath, soul existence (et-nafshiy[H]) so that I may take it up again. 18 No one, nothing (oudeis[G]) has taken it away from Me or separated (apo[G]) Me from it, but I lay it down on My own initiative, in My Own power, by My Own choice (exousia[G]). I have authority, power, choice (exousia[G]) to lay it down, and to take it up again. This commandment (entole[G]) I received from My Father (Pater mou[G], Aviy[H]).”
The Messiah was prophesied to lay down His life for the people of Israel (Isaiah 53:1-12; Psalm 16:8-11).
Note that Yeshua lays down His life of His own fruition and power. Neither the thief, nor the wolf, nor any other power is able to take the life of the Messiah except that He allows it. The giving of His life is entirely His decision.
Notice the relational language and convergence of authority, freewill and command. Yeshua has been given full authority from the Father and in turn submits His will by His own choosing to the Father in obedience to the Father’s instruction. After all, God cannot refuse to act according to His Own character and nature.
19 A tear, division (schisma[G]) occurred again among the Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]]) because of these words, essences, substances (logos[G], d’variym[H]). 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon, false divinity, evil spirit (daimonion[G], sheid[H]) and is meshuggah[H] out of his mind, insane. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon, false divinity, evil spirit (daimonion[G], sheid[H]) can’t open the eyes of the blind, can it?”
Again Yeshua is accused by some of being insane. The use of the word “demon” as it is understood by the modern reader is misleading in many respects. In modern terms they were accusing Yeshua of being schizophrenic, bipolar, severally mentally ill, and yes, at times these conditions may be exacerbated by demonic forces, but the point here is to discredit Yeshua as a mentally ill fool who talks nonsense.
Jewish tradition speaks of a spirit which called Tazazit, which is an evil spirit that takes away the understanding of human beings (R. David Kimchi, Sepher Shorash rad.).
Also note that once more the religious leaders are divided in their opinions of Yeshua. The word schisma suggests an even division, meaning that at least half the leaders were in favour of Yeshua after hearing His words. It is utter nonsense to make “Pharisee” or “Jew” synonymous with “disbeliever”. This kind of antisemitism has been far too prevalent in the common theological language of the Gentile Christian Church for too long.
“A demon, false divinity, evil spirit (daimonion[G], sheid[H]) can’t open the eyes of the blind, can it?” In fact, in the latter days those manipulated by demonic forces will produce miracles like the giving of sight to the blind in order to fool people into following a false god. The One Who is of God is proved by His pointing people to God. Therefore, as I’ve said previously, miraculous signs in and of themselves are not evidence of a true prophet.
“[a]If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has [b]counseled [c]rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of [d]slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.” -Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NASB
“For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will [n]show great [o]signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the [p]elect.” -Matthew 24:24 NASB
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Ha-Sefer shel Yochanan John 9: Here’s Mud in Your Eye (Recently Healed Beggar Schools a Group of Religious Leaders)
It’s important to note that Yeshua utilized miraculous signs, He did not venerate them. Every miracle He performed was done to point people to salvation through Him. Any miracle that does not point people to Yeshua and reconciliation to God is not of God.
This miracle (sign), found only in John’s gospel, is unique in many ways: the young man has been blind from birth, Yeshua uses inanimate matter (earth) in the healing process, and the healing generates a wide range of responses from observers and an argument over halakhah (application of Torah principles) that involves the parents of the recipient and the religious leaders--P’rushiym (Pharisees). John is concerned with revealing the Davar[H], logos[G] (Word, essence, substance) of Adonai made flesh, and also uses terms like light, dark, day and night, to show the stark contrast of the Messiah’s light against the dark night of this world (figurative of blindness and hidden deeds of evil). Thus, conveying the deeper meaning in the metaphor of light and its relationship to sight and revelation (lifting of a veil) throughout his gospel. John is clearly intending to make the Deity of Messiah plain for all to see. He wants us to understand what it truly means to behold Immanuel (God with us), literally “Imanu (He is with us) El (God)”. All this happens following Yeshua’s last words in John 8: “Before Avraham was born, I AM!”
There are also aspects of this miraculous sign that affirm the cultural and spiritual miss beliefs of some of the first century Jewish people and their leaders. However, before we become too critical we should remind ourselves that we continue to hold many of the same miss beliefs in the modern Christian Ecclesia (Church) to this day. In our text the disciples suggest by inference that personal or parental sin is the cause of the young man’s blindness, some of the Pharisees again accuse Yeshua of working on the Sabbath (the added action of mud making helps to fuel their zeal), excommunication (possibly cherem, indefinite cutting off from the community) is threatened against the young man’s parents and so the list goes on.
Yochanan (John, the writer of this gospel) tackles a wide range of issues in this concise but diverse account. If we are to understand it well, we will need to ask both the obvious questions regarding the healing itself and the deeper questions of religious culture and colloquial presumption. My hope is, that having studied this passage, we will be able to avoid the conclusion, “It’s clear as mud.” Though on second thought, perhaps in this case at least, the idiom denotes significant clarity.
1 As He (Yeshua) passed by, He saw (eido[G], va’yare[H]) a man blind, sightless (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]) from the day of (miyom[H]) his birth (genete[G], hivaldo[H]). 2 And His disciples (mathetes[G], talmidim[H]) asked Him, “Rabbi[H] (My Great One, Pastor, Teacher), who is the sinner (hamartano[G], ha’chote[H], missed the mark set by God), this man or his parents, in order (hina[G]) that he would be fathered (gennao[G]) blind, sightless (tuphlos[G], iveir[H])?”
“He (Yeshua) saw…” Note that this account begins by stating that Yeshua “sees, perceives”. This in contrast to the one born blind, sightless. The figurative meaning is that Yeshua, Whose origin is from above, sees and imparts sight, whereas the man (human being) is born of the earth, into a sin affected creation and is therefore blind, sightless from birth (Psalm 51:5). The opening verse essentially conveys the core premise for the Gospel’s purpose, to give sight to the spiritually blind and set them free from bondage to the deeds of darkness.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua:
25 Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believe in Yeshua.” -Romans 3:23-26
“Blind from birth.” This statement is significant, as testified to by the healed man himself in verse 32 of this same chapter. This is intended to set up the many Messianic overtones of the healing. For years prior Israel had been awaiting a Messiah for Whom one of the significant signs of His validity would be the giving of sight to the blind (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 29:18, 35:5, 42:7).
“On that day the deaf will hear d’variy My word, essence, substance, a sepher scroll, book, and out of their gloom and choshek darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” -Isaiah 29:18 (Author’s translation)
“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.” -Isaiah 35:5 NASB
Notice that Isaiah uses the Hebrew word “Davar”, the same word Yochanan uses to describe Yeshua (John 1).
“To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” -Isaiah 42:7 NASB
“Who sinned?” This question is not without foundation. There are clear examples both in Scripture and in life, of personal sin that results in illness. In the case of humanity’s fall, sin entered the world and death with it, therefore sin can be linked to all sickness to some degree. However, this does not always mean that personal sin has caused illness. Therefore, the disciples’ question can be seen as presumptuous, given that not all cases of illness are the direct result of personal sin.
There is substantial evidence indicating that the commonly held perception at that time, regarding illness, was that those who were severely ill had committed some great sin or had parents who had sinned and therefore were reaping the curse of the four generations as outlined in the Torah. To this the rabbis added arguments such as those regarding the ante-natal behaviour of Esau and Jacob (these rabbinical conversations are found in extra-Biblical texts which record the oral traditions and debates of the first century CE, e.g. Bereishit Rabbah 63:6 on Gen 25:22), some suggesting Esau’s sin in the womb as being the reason for his later loss of birth-rite. Needless to say, the question of the disciples was not unwarranted, given the social and religious connotations associated with severe sickness as understood by the Judaism of the first century CE.
“…fathered (gennao[G]) blind” This phrase infers something different from simply having been born (genete[G]) blind. To be “fathered blind” denotes blindness passed on by the father. In short, the disciples were inferring that the father (parents) were responsible.
Therefore, in this context “fathered blind” denotes that the “sins of the father” have been “visited on the son” (Exodus 20:4-6). The Torah text that explains this idea is associated to idolatry and therefore, infers that the one suffering under generational sin is reaping the fruit of an idolatrous forebear.
However, the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18), speaking the Word (Davar) of the Lord (YHVH) explains that each person is judged according to their own actions. This is consistent with the Torah because the Torah explains (Exodus 20:6) that the one who loves God and obeys His Instruction will see perpetual (everlasting) blessing (the number 1000 is a figurative Hebraism meaning “everlasting”). Therefore, at any point in the generations of the wicked a son might turn to God in repentance and reap blessing, thus cancelling out the curse of the four generations and redeeming the family line. Ezekiel’s words do not oppose the words of Exodus, rather they illuminate them. Yeshua has come to illuminate them further, and to add the need for discernment in all such situations so as to leave room for the redemptive works of God.
3 Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves: Iesous[G], Joshua, Jesus) answered, “Neither this man sinned (hamartano[G], chata[H], missed the mark set by God), nor his parents; this has occurred (but) in order to manifest, display, make visible (phaneroo[G]) in him the business, occupation (ergon[G]) of the God (ho Theos[G], El[H]). 4 We must labour in (ergazomai[G]) the business, occupation (ergon[G]) of Him who sent Me (pempo[G]) as long as it is day (hemera[G], yom[H]); night (nux[G], halaylah[H]) is coming when no one can labour (ergazomai[G]). 5 While I am in the world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]), I am the uncreated Light (phos[G], Or[H]) of the world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]).”
Yeshua illuminates the small view of His disciples and shows them the big picture, the meta-narrative of redemption. He is explaining that individual sin is a symptom of the sin affected creation, and that God has made a way for all, parents and children to be delivered from their inherent blindness. “The works of God” which Yeshua is displaying are intended to point all to the King Messiah and redemption through His vicarious sacrifice.
Yeshua never performed a miracle (sign) simply for the sake of healing a person or as a display of His prowess. After all, what good is temporal healing if that same person fails to receive Yeshua and thus ends up in perpetual torment for all eternity? Yeshua is no magician, He’s not a doctor, nor any other kind of crass performer of temporal cures. He is God with us. He need not gain an audience.
“Neither… but this happened so that the works/signs of God might be displayed in him.” Yeshua is not saying that it’s impossible for personal sin to result in severe sickness. He is simply saying that it’s not the only option, that there are times when people get sick for other reasons. In this case the reason is that the purpose of God be made manifest. That is, a sign, work, action, that reveals the true identity of the Messiah as one who causes the blind to see—in fulfilment of the afore mentioned Messianic passages of Isaiah.
“As long as it is day…” It is here that John begins to juxtapose concepts of light and darkness, right action and sin, day and night. These themes become a metaphor for the stark contrast between blindness and sight. The conclusion will be that spiritual blindness is the greater danger. Only Messiah can act in this world to bring sight to that kind of blindness, and only those who are willing to accept that they are blind are able to receive sight. While Yeshua is with them, He is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5).
“The occupation of God..” mirrors the language in Yeshua’s accusation against the religious leaders regarding the fact that they claimed to be children of Avraham and yet did not walk in the occupation, business of Avraham (John 8:39).
6 When He (Yeshua) had said this, He spat on the ground (chamai[G], ha-aretz[H]), and made clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]) of the spittle, and applied, spread (epichrio[G]) the clay on his eyes (ophthalmos[G]), 7 and said to him, “Go, wash, ritually purify yourself, bathe (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H]) in the pool of Shiloach[H] (Siloam[G])” [which is translated, Sent]. So he went away and washed (nipto[G], ashiyg[A]), and came back seeing.
“He spit on the ground and made mud and put it on the blind man’s eyes.” If, as is clear from Scripture (Mark 10:51-52; Luke 18:41-43; John 4:50 etc), Messiah Yeshua did not need to use anything other than the word of His mouth or the intention of His will to heal, why did He make mud? Was He emulating an occult practice as some foolishly claim? Certainly not, He’s the Author of the Torah, which forbids such practice. Was He using a microbial herbal healing technique, perhaps knowing that the mud and saliva somehow combined to become a natural healing balm? Extremely unlikely. It is noteworthy that Yeshayahu/Isaiah—the prophet Yeshua quotes most—healed Hezekiah with a fig poultice, however there is no real correlation here, except to validate the authenticity of Yeshua as a prophet of God. Why then, did Yeshua act out this show of ritual in full view of those observing the miraculous sign? The most obvious answer is that it was intended as a living parable, like those performed by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:9-12).
So, what exactly is Yeshua saying through this action? Firstly, we should ask, “What is the gospel writer’s agenda in writing?” John is concerned essentially with the theme of God’s coming down and dwelling among us. John uses the terms, Word and Light to describe Immanuel (God with us), the King Messiah Yeshua. He begins his gospel with the words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He goes on to emphasise that, “The Word (God’s very essence/intention/breathe/saliva) became flesh (Adam) and dwelt among us.” Yeshua (God with us) is the person who embodies the very intention/essence/saliva of God, He is a physical symbol of the issued mouth essence of God (Ruach—breath), combining this essence with the soil (adamah—earth, ha’aretz—ground, land) is a recreation (a figure) reflecting the creation of the first Adam (human-being), and pointing to the last Adam (Yeshua). After sinning and allowing sin to enter into the world, the first Adam was unable to heal in this way but Yeshua is not the first Adam. We are told by Rabbi Shaul (Paul the Apostle) that Yeshua is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). This physical parable then is most likely meant as a sign/work of Divine creative power and a figure alluding to the Messiah, a representation of His physical being and His status as God with us. He is the Shiloach (Sent One) Who Yeshayahu/Isaiah prophesied would open the eyes of the blind. He has come down as the essence (Saliva) of God and has been joined to the adamah (earth/soil) and has become the last Adam (Fully God and fully man), God with us, Immanuel. Only He is capable of a miracle of such significance.
“‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (Shiloach),’ (this word means “Sent”). So, the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” In order to fully understand this statement of Yeshua we must first gain an understanding of the Hebrew word Shiloach, which John chooses to transliterate into Greek as Siloam, explaining that it means sent. This is the same pool from which the water was drawn for the ritual libation offering of Sukkot (see my previous article on John 7:25-53).
This pool gains its name from the Hebrew Shalach (go or send) and is closely related to the Hebrew Shiloh meaning sent one. Hebrew readers will recognize this word from the title to the Torah portion B’shalach (In going forth). We should begin with the term Shiloh because it was known in ancient Judaism to represent the Mashiyach (Messiah). We find the first reference to this term (which is a Proper Noun/name) in Bereishit/Genesis 49:10:
“The sceptre shall not depart from Y’hudah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet (that is from his issue, children’s children) until Shiloh (the sent one) comes: and the people will be obedient to Him. (Shiloh)”
Without knowledge of the proper noun/name Shiloh, this account (John 9) is difficult to understand.
The meaning then is grounded in the fact that Shiloh, the One Genesis 49:10 speaks of is the Sent One, the Mashiyach/Messiah, Yeshua. Once we understand this we move to the next key text, this text mentions the derivative term shiloach (Siloam), Yeshayahu/Isaiah 8:9
“This people have refused the softly flowing waters of Shiloach (the sent one) and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son. (Meaning the false ruler and his false deities)”
Israel are seen here as both presently and prophetically rejecting the cleansing (waters) of the Sent One (Shiloach) Who is the Messiah Yeshua (God with us).
With this understanding as our foundation we now look at the present text and the rich meaning displayed in Yeshua’s command for the blind man to wash in the waters of Siloam (Shiloach). Yeshua is effectively saying:
“Go, wash in the gently flowing waters of the Sent One.” Yeshua is Shiloh, He is Shiloach and He is sending the blind man to the waters of the Sent One so that he might gain his sight (A sure sign of the fact that Yeshua is the Messiah [see previous Isaiah passages]). Thus, the blind man, in obedience, does the opposite of the people of Yeshayahu/Isaiah 8:6 and so, he receives sight, both physical and, spiritual. The blind man himself is sent by the Sent One to be a tributary, a little sent one. Why? Because “while it is day we must do the works of Him who sent us. Night is coming when no one can work”, unless, the Light of the World lives in us, so that we might become light in the night.
The once blind man now returns home as a sent one who will shine his light in the darkness. This is God’s desire for each of us, we have all been blind and need the Sent One (Yeshua) and His cleansing, so that we might receive true spiritual sight, thus avoiding the deeds of darkness and disbelief. Some see tevilah (baptism) or mikveh in the washing of the blind man, but it is more likely that he simply washed his eyes clean of the mud. Needless to say, rabbinical teaching would have seen the very act of washing as a defilement of the Sabbath (this of course is not a Torah understanding, it is simply a law of men).
It’s important to note that Yeshua utilized miraculous signs, He did not venerate them. Every miracle He performed was done to point people to salvation through Him. Any miracle that does not point people to Yeshua and reconciliation to God is not of God. Many blind guides in the body of believers today place great emphasis on the miraculous. They decontextualize Scripture saying “We’re able to do greater things than Yeshua…” as a basis for their witchcraft, manipulations, invocations and celebrated manifestations. They lack the discernment required to distinguish between manifestation of the Spirit and the manifestation of the demonic and thus place the body of believers in grave danger. The Scripture they often refer to in defence of their idolatry (John 14:12), when read in context, teaches that by the Spirit of the Father and the Son (“because I am going to the Father”), those who believe in Yeshua will enact something greater than the miracles Yeshua performed during His earthly ministry, in that the greater purpose of those miracles was always to point people to salvation through Him. Therefore, our doing “greater than these” (What is greater than raising a person from the dead?) is us working to spread the gospel throughout the known world, something that Yeshua did not physically carry out during His earthly ministry because He had come “only for the lost sheep of Israel”(Matt. 10:6; 15:24). In conclusion, to pursue miracles is idolatry, whereas to focus on the Miracle Maker (Yeshua) is righteousness.
Interestingly, the extra-Biblical teaching of the Mishnah (Oral Law) lists making mud or clay as one of the thirty nine kinds of work that is unlawful (according to the rabbis) on the Shabbat (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2;).
8 Consequently the neighbours (of the man born blind), and those who previously observed (theoreo[G]) him as a beggar, were saying, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He (the once blind man) kept saying, “I am the one (who was born blind).” 10 So they were saying to him (who was born blind), “How then were your eyes opened?”
In religious Jewish thought giving tzedakah “Charity” should produce and opportunity for self-worth. A sitting beggar of the first century would probably have been considered an unworthy recipient because of the appearance that he was not willing to further himself. In addition, if his blindness were considered the result of sin he would have earned very little from begging. This shows the depth of desperation of this man prior to his healing.
When the blind man came home seeing, he was met with a divided response from those who knew him. Some were so confused by this miraculous event that they doubted he was the same man who had been born blind. Others were certain it was the ex-blind beggar they had known for so long. The man himself was adamant, “I am the man!” The people respond, “How were you healed then?” If this was that blind guy, something pretty amazing was happening and they genuinely wanted to know what that was.
11 He answered, “The man who is called Yeshua made clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]), and applied, spread (epichrio[G]) it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Shiloach[H] (Siloam[G]: sent) and wash, ritually purify yourself, bathe (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H])’; so I went away and washed, ritually purified myself, bathed (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H]), and I looked up (anablepo[G]), received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He (Yeshua)?” He said, “I don’t know.” 13 They brought to the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) the man who was formerly blind.
“The man they call Yeshua made some mud and put it on my eyes and sent me to wash in the pool of Shiloach, as soon as I had done this I could see.” This is the first in a progression of chronological statements that show the man’s journey to salvation (John, the writer of this gospel, is rightly called the Evangelist by early Church fathers).
Here, the man has not yet seen Yeshua, he barely even knows Who He (Yeshua) is, so he says, “the man they call Yeshua.” This statement shows the relational distance between the man and Yeshua directly after his healing. He is referring to Yeshua, not as an acquaintance but rather as someone that others talk about. This is step one in the man’s journey to identifying and understanding who Yeshua is.
“Where is this man?” The now seeing beggar responds, “I don’t know.” Yeshua has obviously left the location of the healing (the place where the clay was applied). The man upon receiving his sight, is so excited that he goes straight home to show everybody what a wonderful miracle has happened to him. He has not yet seen Yeshua.
“They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees.” There is no need to see this as an act of malice. The people were socially and religiously accustomed to seeking the advice and opinions of the P’rushiym (Pharisees), who were entrusted as leaders of their synagogues and as spiritual shepherds of Israel.
14 Now it was a Shabbat[H] (Sabbath) on the day when Yeshua made the clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]) and opened his eyes. 15 Then the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay (pelos[G], tiyt[H]) to my eyes, and I washed, ritually purified myself, bathed (nipto[G], ashiyg[A], ur’chatz[H]) and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the P’rushiym[H] (Pharisees: chased ones) were saying, “This man is not from God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), because He does not keep the Shabbat[H] (Sabbath).” But others were saying, “How can a man who is devoted to sin (hamartolos[G]) perform such signs (otot[H])?” And there was a rent, tear, division (schisma[G]) among them.
“The day on which Yeshua made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.” This Sabbath is either the eighth day celebration Shmini Atzeret which follows the Sukkot week, or it is the weekly Sabbath following Sukkot.
This is obviously important to the discussion that follows. Throughout His ministry Yeshua is criticized by the Pharisees for His actions on the Sabbath (Yeshua keeps the Torah but He does not bow to the wider added traditions of the rabbis’ concerning the Sabbath). The making of the mud in addition to the actual healing was of particular concern to them in light of rabbinic oral tradition (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2).
"it is forbidden to put fasting spittle even on the eyelid on a sabbath day.''
-T. Hieros. Sabbat, fol. 14. 4. & Avoda Zara, fol. 40. 4. & T. Bab. Sabbat, fol 108. 2. & Maimon. Hilchot Sabbat, c. 21. sect. 25.
The Pharisees asked how the man had been healed and upon finding out, they were divided in their opinions of Yeshua and the event itself. Some of them felt that He had broken the Sabbath laws (of course He had only broken their man-made laws), others were convinced that because Yeshua had worked such a great miracle that they should not be so hasty to condemn Him. Neither argument was valid, the Torah warns that false prophets may work great miracles, so the fact that this healing was miraculous was not proof of Yeshua’s standing as a prophet of God.
The working of miraculous signs does not qualify a prophet of God. Rather, miraculous signs that point to salvation (the spiritually blind being given sight) are the fruit of a godly prophet.
“21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” -Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 7:21-23 TLV
It’s worth noting that what follows is a spontaneous and unlawful trial, conducted against both the once blind man and Yeshua.
Our rabbis explicitly forbid courts (trials) to be in session on the Sabbath (y. Sanh. 4:6).
17 So they said to the blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]) man again, “What is your opinion of Him (Yeshua), since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet (prophetes[G], navi[H]).”
As is the proper thing to do they turn to the man who had been healed and ask him, “What do you have to say about Him?” To which the man replies, “He is a prophet.” This is the second stage in the development of the man’s relationship to Yeshua. Here he has progressed from speaking of Yeshua as one Whom others speak of, to naming him a prophet. The full impact of what has happened to him is beginning to sink in and he is starting to see glimpses of who Yeshua really is.
18 The religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym) then did not believe, trust, were not persuaded (pisteuo[G]) of him, that he had been blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]) and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19 and they questioned his parents, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H])? Then how is it that he now sees?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born, fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]); 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not see, perceive (eido[G]). Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaio[G]s, Yehudiym[H]); for the religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Messiah, he was to be cast (ekballo[G]) out of the synagogue (meeting place). 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
Finding it too hard to accept that the man was ever blind, the Pharisees send for his parents to get confirmation.
“Is this your son, who you say was fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H])? This is a tacit accusation inferring that the father of this man is an idolater.
The parents acknowledge that their son has been blind from birth but they are as confused as everybody else as to how he can now see. They are not willing to enter the debate, sighting his being of age (that is older than thirteen and showing the signs of puberty [Maimon. Hilchot Eduth, c. 9. sect. 7.]) as reason for questioning him and allowing his testimony to stand for itself. His parents were scared of being kicked out of the synagogue. In the first century it was more common to refer to being cast out of the “Congregation of Israel” when referring to full excommunication from the people and religion of Judaism. The rabbinical equivalent exercised against the messianic Jewish community of the early body of believers was called “cherem” (lit. devote to destruction) The threat of the present text does not necessarily refer to cherem, a form of complete excommunication from the congregation of Israel, meaning they would shunned by the community but not refused entry to the Temple precinct (there was no Great Synagogue at the time because the Temple was the central place of Jewish Worship until 70 CE). However, regardless of the specific intent, it was a significant threat, given that the local synagogue acted as a type of community centre, as well as a subsidiary place of worship and Torah study, and that those who were “cherem” (if this was the implied threat) were only to enter through the mourners (and the excommunicated) gate of the Temple and move to the left contrary to the practice of others, proclaiming the state of their excommunication.
"all that go into the temple, go in, in the right hand way, and go round, and come out in the left, except such an one to whom anything has befallen him, and he goes about to the left; (and when asked) why dost thou go to the left? (he answers) because I am a mourner; (to whom it is replied) he that dwells in this house comfort thee: (or) שאני מנודה, "because I am excommunicated"; (to whom they say) he that dwells in this house put it into thy heart (that thou mayest hearken to the words of thy friends, as it is afterwards explained) and they may receive thee.'' -Mishnah. Middot, c. 2. sect. 2.
24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]), and said to him, “Give (didomi[G], tein[H]) glory, judgement (doxa[G], kavod[H]) to the God (ho Theos[G], leiElohiym[H]) ; we know that this man is devoted to sin (hamartolos[G], chotei[H], has missed the mark set by God) .” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is devoted to sin (hamartolos[G], chotei[H], has missed the mark set by God), I do not see, perceive (eido[G]); one thing I do see, perceive (eido[G]), that though I was blind (tuphlos[G], iveir[H]), now I see with my own eyes (blepo[G]).” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open (anoigo[G]) your eyes (ophthalmos[G], eiyneycha[H])?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you didn’t listen, hear, recieve (sh’matem[H]); why do you want to hear (lishmoa[H]) again? You do not want to become His disciples (talmiydayv[H]) too, do you?” 28 They heaped abuse (loidoreo[G]) on him and said, “You are His disciple (mathetes[G], talmid[H]), but we are disciples (talmidiym[H]) of Moshe[H] (Moses: drawn out).
“Give (didomi[G], tein[H]) glory, judgement (doxa[G], kavod[H]) to the God (ho Theos[G], leiElohiym[H]) ; we know that this man is devoted to sin…” There is an interesting juxtaposition here. The “cherem” excommunication possibly referred to in the previous verses literally means “devoted to destruction”. Here, the religious leaders accuse the improperly tried Yeshua of being “devoted to sin”.
The Pharisees, beside themselves with frustration, send for the man a second time (at this point they were conducting what was effectively an illegal trial of both Yeshua and the healed man).
The use of the idiom, “Give glory to HaShem!”—which means tell the truth or in modern terms “swear on the Bible”), literally translates as “Give a judgement of God”. Today we say something similar in Hebrew upon hearing of the death of a Jewish person, “Baruch dayan ha-emet” Blessed is the judge of the truth. It’s a reference to the fact that God is the ultimate judge. Some of the Pharisees are essentially saying, “Stop lying and admit you weren’t blind in the first place and that this Yeshua is a fraud,” or “Admit that this Yeshua is a false prophet!” They (that is the group among them that didn’t accept the miracle) had already decided that Yeshua was a Sabbath breaking sinner despite the lack of real evidence.
It’s here that the once blind man begins to truly find his vision and shine the light he has been given by Yeshua, and not without a good dose of Jewish chutzpah to boot.
“One thing I do know, I was blind and now I see.” In other words, “When you guys are able to exhibit the kind of power and authority that Yeshua does, I might pay more attention to you!” The Pharisees are looking for ammunition so (having just called him a liar to his face) they ask again how it all took place. The once blind man responds, “I told you already, weren’t you listening? Why do you want to know more? Do you want to become his Talmidiym (disciples)?” It’s safe to say that this enraged them. They react by saying, “You are this man’s disciple, we are Moses disciples.” I don’t think the man would have been at all offended by being called a disciple of Yeshua at this stage (though he was not, not quite). What is unusual is the claim by the Pharisees that they were Moses’ disciples. This designation was not common at the time and denotes a desperate scratching at straws on their part. It’s one of those, “No! you are!” type arguments usually used by people who have no idea what to say next.
“Whether He is devoted to sin, I do not see, perceive; one thing I do see, perceive, that though I was blind, now I see with my own eyes.” The use of Greek here is important. Those English translations that translate “eido” as “know” do so without considering the writer’s obvious allusion to perception based on sight. In fact, the more accurate translation of “eido” is “see, perceive”. The context better supports my translation.
“How did He open your eyes?” The Hebrew “Ayin” meaning “eye” is also used to refer to the opening in the earth where a spring of water comes forth. This is interesting given Yeshua’s offer of living water (during the water drawing ceremony of Sukkot) in chapter 7 and the use of water in the healing process of the once blind man. Siloam is feed by the Gihon (Great Bursting Forth) spring.
29 We see, perceive (eido[G]) that the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) has spoken to Moses (Moshe[H]), but as for this man, we do not see, perceive (eido[G]) where He is from.”
“We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where He comes from.” What they mean by this is that the Messiah is prophesied to come from Bethlehem and as far as they knew Yeshua was from Nazareth. Of course the truth is that they knew where He came from (the Galilee) they had very little respect for the am ha-aretz (common people of the land, that is, uneducated farmers and fishermen). As I’ve stated previously they probably considered Yeshua to be somewhat of a hillbilly.
30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing, wonderful, marvellous (thaumastos[G]) thing, that you do not see, perceive (eido[G]) where He is from, and yet He opened (anoigo[G]) my eyes (ophthalmos[G], eiynayi[H]). 31 We perceive (eido[G]) that the God (ho Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) does not hear those devoted to sin (hamartolos[G]); but if anyone is a worshipper (theosebes[G]) of God and does His will (thelema[G]), He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened (anoigo[G]) the eyes (ophthalmos[G], eiyneiy[H]) of a person fathered (gennao[G]) blind (tuphlos[G]) . 33 If this man were not from God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]), He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were fathered (gennao[G]) entirely in sins (hamartia[G]), and do you presume to teach us?” So they cast (ekballo[G]) him out.
The sardonic rebuke of the man is a delight to read, perhaps being born blind and suffering all his life had birthed in him an immunity to the fears and obligations of Israel concerning her hypocritical religious leaders. On the other hand, maybe he was just a sarcastic guy? If so, he probably had some kiwi (New Zealand) blood in him from the diaspora.
The healed man draws their attention to the catalyst for understanding the Messianic significance of this miracle, he says, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not from HaShem He could do nothing.” This is a pointed observation that reveals the sign of God regarding the opening of the eyes of the blind, something that would alert Israel to the Messiah’s presence (as prophesied by Yeshayahu/Isaiah: see verse 1 and note). This is also the third step in the man’s journey into relationship with Yeshua. Here, he says Yeshua is, “from God.”
The disbelieving group among the Pharisees, who are not used to being disagreed with by commoners, are more than insulted by the man and resort to name calling, “You were born from sin and are soaked in it, how dare you lecture us!” Actually the man had been following proper halakhic protocol with his well-argued rebuttal, they were just sore because his argument was more convincing than theirs. Had this been recorded in the Talmud, the man’s argument would have been sighted by future rabbis as the dominant view. Seeing that they were not going to win this argument the Pharisees cast him out (probably out of the synagogue, the threat under which all religious Jews of the first century lived in order for the false shepherds to keep people in line). I’m not sure that this would have worried him too much, he had been spending a lot of time on the streets begging for food up till now and may not have found much solace in the synagogue at any rate.
35 Yeshua heard that they had cast (ekballo[G]) him (the once blind man) out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe, trust, are you persuaded, confident (pisteuo[G], hata’amiyn[H]) in the Son of Man (B’ven-haAdam[H])?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Adoniy[H] (Lord: kurios[G]), that I may believe, trust, be persuaded, confident (pisteuo[G], ve’a’amiyn[H]) in Him?”
After hearing that the man had been thrown out Yeshua found him (this means Yeshua had sought him out, an intimate and thoughtful gesture). The man’s father and mother had forsaken him and he had been kicked out of the local synagogue, this is a pivotal occasion in his journey into God’s light. Yeshua asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (a Messianic title).” The man responds, “Who is he Lord, tell me so that I may believe in him.” This is the fourth stage in the journey of relationship, the man calls Yeshua (Whom he is seeing for the first time) Adoniy, My Lord, Master, a term of respect and ownership. The Greek Kyrios is used and can be translated lord or L-RD, there is no Greek equivalent for YHVH—L-RD, so the same Greek word is sometimes used to denote the Holy Name. Here however, “Adoniy, Lord, Master” is the correct translation, given the context.
37 Yeshua said to him, “You have both seen (horao[G]) Him with your own eyes, and He is the One Who is speaking with you.” 38 And he (the once blind man) said, “Adoniy[H] (Lord: kurios[G]), I believe, trust, am persuaded, confident (pisteuo[G], ma’amiyn[H]).” And he worshiped, prostrated himself before (proskuneo[G]) Him (Yeshua).
“Yeshua said, ‘You have now seen Him, in fact, He is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘L-RD I believe.’ And he worshipped Him.” Remember, the man is seeing Yeshua for the first time, both physically and spiritually. This is the final stage of the man’s journey into saving relationship. He has been blind, he has been washed in the life-giving water of the Sent One, he has known of Yeshua, he has identified Him as a prophet, he has realized that Yeshua was sent from God, he has respectfully called Him Lord and now he sees Him for who He really is, “L-RD”. The Greek word kyrios is used here by John (a Jew) to represent YHVH. We must not put more weight on the Greek language than we do upon the cultural religious psyche of the writers of the gospels. The fact that the Greek language is unable to convey the nuances of the Hebrew designations for God does not mean the deeper meaning was not intended by the writer (inspired by God). A beautiful picture of what has just occurred between Yeshua and the healed man appears in the words of the Psalmist:
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the L-RD will receive me.” Tehillim/Psalm 28:10
39 And Yeshua said, “For a decree, judgment (krima[G]) I came into this world (kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]), so that those who do not see with their eyes (blepo[G]) may see with their eyes (blepo[G]), and that those who see with their eyes (blepo[G]) may become blind (tuphlos[H]).”
Yeshua sums up this living parable of healing by clarifying for those present that He has come to fulfil the words of Yeshayahu/Isaiah (Isaiah 6:10, 42:19). This is an opportunity for those studied in the Tanakh (Old Testament) to recognize His claim to Messianic authority and repent, but He knows that they will remain blind, while those who realize their blindness will receive their sight through Messiah just as God had prophesied through the prophet.
40 Those of the P’rushiym (Pharisees: chased ones) who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind (tuphlos[H]) too, are we?” 41 Yeshua said to them, “If you were blind (tuphlos[H]), you would have no sin (hamartia[G]); but since you say, ‘We see with our eyes (blepo[G]),’ your sin (hamartia[G]) remains (meno[G]).
It continues to be made clear by the gospel of John that some Pharisees were following Yeshua (not necessarily the same ones that interrogated the healed man). They realized He was warning them of spiritual blindness and in pride wanted to show themselves spiritually insightful, so they asked, “Are we blind to?” Yeshua’s response is a harsh rebuke, “If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin; but because you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” Yeshua is saying that only those who admit their blindness/sin can be freed from it and given spiritual sight. Those, who in pride, claim that they can see are in fact still blind and are unable to receive sight from Yeshua. Without humility no one can come to God.
We live in a world that Messiah Himself has called night. While He was here physically He was the light, now He is here metaphysically by the power of Gods Holy Spirit, living in every believer. The Sent One has filled those of us who believe, in order that we might be sent ones who shine His light in this dark world. If we claim we have not been blind, then we, like the Pharisees are unable to see. However, when we admit our blindness the Sent One will restore our sight by coming to us and then sending us out to be the softly flowing waters of Shiloach to a parched and hopeless world. May He bare light in us, that we might be light to others, shining our light in order to reveal the path that leads to Him.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Either Yeshua is both God with us and the promised King Messiah of Israel, or He is a liar and a heretic. You choose. The truth will not be changed by your decision, but you could be.
John 8:31-59 is thematically similar to Galatians 4, where Rav Shaul illuminates and differentiates between Isaac the son of promise born of faith and Ishmael the illegitimate son born of disbelief. Note that both sons are sons of Avraham. Yeshua is not asserting that Jews are illegitimate sons but that human beings who choose to reject God’s redemptive plan are sons and daughters of Satan until such a time as they repent and receive the King Messiah and His vicarious sacrifice and resurrected life.
Keep in mind that many of those listening were Jewish believers in Yeshua (v.30) and that those who later violently oppose Him are specifically qualified as a group who “want to kill” Yeshua, by definition, a subset of the whole. Note that they do not succeed in stoning Yeshua because He was able to slip away in the crowd. Meaning that a large portion of the crowd of Jewish worshippers gathered in the court of the women were in favor of Yeshua and helped Him elude capture.
31 Therefore, Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua, Jesus) said (yomer[H], lego[G]) to those Judeans, Jews, (Ha-Yehudiym[H]) who had believed, were persuaded by, put their trust (hama’amiyniym[H], pisteuo[G]) in Him, “If you continue, remain, abide (meno[G]) in the word, essence, substance (vid’variy[H], ho logos[G]) of Me, truly, in truth (be’emet[H], alethos[G]) you are disciples (mathetes[G]) of Mine (talmiydiym atem liy[H]); 32 and you will know intimately (viyda’tem[H], ginosko[G]) the truth (et ha-emet[H], ho aletheia[G]), and the truth (ha-emet[H], ho aletheia[G]) will make, engrave, imprint you with freedom, [alt. let you go, set you free] (totziyachem l’cheirut[H], eleutheroo[G]).”
“Therefore” refers to the woman caught in adultery, the proclamation of Yeshua concerning His being the light of the world, and the belief of those mentioned in verse 30.
“Those Jews who believed” were made up of Jews from every tribe and every religious sect of first century Jewry, who had come up to Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot. Therefore, what Yeshua says next is spoken to thousands of observant Jews, including believing Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Priests, and common Israelis.
We note that Yeshua was not content with their belief. He had come to set them free from slavery to sin and to give them the tools of discipleship, that is, the means to live an ongoing life of freedom in Him. Seeing their belief and approval of Him and His words, Yeshua did not push His advantage by blowing smoke up their skirts, rather He sought their advantage by challenging the depth of their belief and offering them the means by which they might continue to believe and be truly and eternally set free from sin.
"The truth will set you free" is perhaps the most decontextualized, misapplied, and philosophically misappropriated part verse of the entire New Testament. Those who use this phrase today as a type of all in one "Truth Coach" are in fact proliferating a lie. In order for this phrase to have any true meaning one must first define the truth it’s speaking of. Most modern speakers understand the truth as a collection of facts, or the subjective centre of some religion or philosophy, truth being defined by the individual rather than having its origin outside of the sphere of human intellect and spirituality. In fact the verses in question (John 8:31-32) identify truth as a person, that is, as an attribute of a person, and not just any person, but the King Messiah Yeshua, God with us (Imanu El).
Therefore, in order to understand what is meant by “The Truth” we must read the phrase in context:
“If you continue to remain in My word, essence, substance in truth you are My disciples, followers, students; and you will intimately know the truth, and the truth will imprint you with freedom, set you free.”
Note that there is a prerequisite for the freedom that truth makes possible: “If you continue to remain in My word, essence, substance”. In short, unless one remains in the message and person of Yeshua (the Speaker), one cannot know the truth or the freedom that knowing the truth affords a person.
Note that the second requirement for being set free is to “Intimately know the truth”. In fact, as I’ve said, the Truth is not an it but a Person, and that Person defines truth. Elsewhere Yeshua says, “Aniy Ha-Derekh, v’Ha-Emet, v’Ha-Chayiym, I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Living, no one can come to the Father (God) except through, Me.”(John 14:6). Therefore, truth, like direction (way), and living, is an attribute of the Messiah, Who is God with us (Imanu El) [prophesied by Isaiah (7:10-16) 700 years before the birth of Yeshua].
Do you want to intimately know the Truth and be truly set free from all that keeps you in bondage? Then remain in the Word and Substance of Yeshua (Jesus), becoming His devout follower, and you will come to know the Truth Himself, and He will set you free.
Notice that this second half of chapter 8 begins with the theme of freedom from bondage. A theme that is ingrained in the Jewish soul from Egypt and up to the Roman occupation and beyond. Yeshua speaks of a freedom that transcends temporal life, to a people who are at the time tacitly enslaved by the Roman Empire.
Yeshua’s challenge to those listening, both believers and unbelievers, is intended to thresh the wheat and sift out the chaff. By the end of this dialogue the belief of some will be strengthened, while the belief of others will grow cold. Yeshua came to make disciples, not converts. We should be careful to emulate Him.
33 They answered Him, “We are Avraham’s (Father of many tribes) descendants and no one has enslaved us (douleuo[G]) at any time (popote[G]); how is it that You say, ‘You will become freeborn (eleutheros[G])’?”
“They answered Him” The nearest subjects are the thousands of observant Jews, including believing Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Priests, and common Israelis, who were in the court of woman in the Temple complex. A mixed crowd of those who now believed in Him and those who did not.
בני חורין, (noblemen), that are fallen from their substance, because they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;'' -Mishnah. Bava Kama, c. 8. sect. 6. & Talmud Bavliy Bava Kama, fol. 86. 1. & 91. 1.
“We are Avraham’s descendants (Gen.12; Deut.14:1) and no one has enslaved us at any time…” They did not mean that the Jewish people had never been physically enslaved. After all, freedom from slavery in Egypt is part of our journey as a people, not to mention our time in Babylon and subsequent freedom. What they meant was that those Jewish people who were true worshippers of God had never been made spiritual slaves to other gods (Jer.2:10-14), nor were they, the generation to whom Yeshua spoke, slaves to the Romans.
The Jews of the land of Israel in the first century were under occupation but were not living lives of slavery as they had done in Egypt. The Roman Empire had a history of gleaning slaves from its conquests, thus the reality of one being born into slavery was a concern to all of those living in the Empire. However, those debating with Yeshua were freeborn people, meaning that they were not born into households already bound to indentured servitude or slavery. This is why they are incredulous and ask Yeshua, “How is it that You say, ‘You will become freeborn?”
“Freeborn” (eleutheros[G]) Is an important distinction. Ultimately Yeshua is saying that even the freeborn (eleutheros[G]) of the Roman Empire need to be set free (eleutheroo[G]), and become spiritually freeborn (eleutheros[G]).
34 Yeshua[H] answered them, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, everyone who commits sin (misses the mark set by God) is the slave (doulos[G]) of sin (hamartia[G]).
“Everyone who commits sin (misses the mark set by God) is the slave of sin.” Yeshua makes it clear that He is talking about spiritual bondage, slavery to sin.
Rav Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle), writes an exposition on this idea:
“14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that to whatever you yield yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to what you obey—whether to sin resulting in death, or to obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching under which you were placed; 18 and after you were set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you yielded your body parts as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness, leading to more lawlessness, so now yield your body parts as slaves to righteousness, resulting in holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. 21 So then, what outcome did you have that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, having been set free from sin and having become enslaved to God, you have your fruit resulting in holiness. And the outcome is eternal life. 23 For sin’s payment[a] is death, but God’s gracious gift is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.” -Romans 6:14-23 TLV
35 Moreover, the slave, bondservant (doulos[G]) does not remain in the house (babayit[H], ho oikia[G]) forever; the son (ha-bein[H], uihos[G]) does remain forever.
This phrasing is qualified by the proceeding verse. Those listening were born into the slavery of sin affected humanity and therefore, in their present state, cannot remain in the house of life. Whereas, the Last Adam (Yeshua) [1 Cor. 15:22-45], the Son of God and therefore Son of the house of creation, being the perfect sinless example of humanity (God with us), is able to set free those who have been enslaved and offer them life everlasting as heirs with Him, sons and daughters of the renewed house of creation ordered by the Creator (YHVH).
With regard to Torah the exception to this idea applies to the slave who willing chooses to become a member of the family and an indentured servant for life (Exodus 21:6). This does not however negate the right of the son of the household to set that slave free. Although, in this case the slave is usually treated as a member of the family.
Our rabbis agree that irrespective of the “forever” clause in Exodus 21:6, that freedom is eventually mandatory according to the Torah law of Jubilee (Lev.25:10).
"one that is bored (through the ear) is obtained by boring (through the ear), and he possesses himself (becomes free) by the year of jubilee, and by the death of his master.''- Yarchi, Iben Ezra, & ben Gershom in Exod. xxi. 6.
"he that has served six years, and will not go out, lo, this is bored, and he serves until the year of jubilee, or until his master dies; and although he leaves a son, he that is bored does not serve the son; which may be learned from the letter of the words, "he shall serve him", not his son, "for ever", until the jubilee: from whence it appears, that he that is bored does not possess himself (or is free) but by the jubilee, and by the death of his master.'' – Maimonides Hilchot Abadim, c. 3. sect. 6, 7.
36 Therefore, if the Son (ha-bein[H], ho uihos[G]) makes you free (eleutheroo[G]), you will in reality, as a point of fact, be truly (be’emet[H], ontos[G]) freeborn (eleutheros[G]).
The Son of God, Yeshua, sets those enslaved to sin free (eleutheroo[G]) by causing them to be born from above (John 3:3-7). Thus, through Him they are freeborn (eleutheros[G]). Not freeborn in the Roman Empire, or at any point in human history within the sin affected world, but transcendently freeborn of God and children of God’s Kingdom, no longer subject to the temporal kingdoms of the sin affected world.
The use of Greek language as it pertains to the idea of freedom is exceptional. The writer of this Gospel shows in the language used that Yeshua is placing the concept of being freeborn (eleutheros) as superior to simply being freed from indentured servitude (doulos). If one is freed (eleuthero) by Yeshua, that one will be truly freeborn (eleutheros).
37 I know (yadatiy[H]) that you are Avraham’s (Father of many tribes) descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word, essence, substance (devariy[H], logos[G]) has not been given space, room, place, occupation, yield (choreo[G]) in you (each individually).
NB: From here on to the end of the chapter Yeshua is specifically speaking to those who “seek to kill” Him, and not to those who have believed (v.30).
Keep in mind that Yeshua is also a descendant of Avraham and the substance of the Creator Who placed faith within Avraham. Therefore, as is the case with His saying “Your Torah”(John 8:17), He is not distancing Himself from Avraham, rather He is exposing the misuse of Avraham’s identity by those who claim connection to Avraham through pride of bloodline rather than through adherence to true faith. This does not discount the value of ethnic bloodline, which remains, given Yeshua’s zeal for the ethnic, religious, chosen people of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Rather, Yeshua is seeking to cleanse and sanctify the people, so that both their bloodline and spirituality might be unified in the freedom of Messiah.
“Yet you seek to kill Me” Cannot refer to those who have believed in Him (v.30), nor to the crowd in general, many of whom were undecided on the Person of Yeshua. Therefore, it is clear that He is now speaking directly to a subgroup of those who do not believe in Him and are seeking a way to put Him to death.
“because My word, essence, substance has not been given space, room, place, occupation, yield in you…” There are those in the crowd who have not believed and therefore have not allowed room within themselves for the Word essence of Yeshua to reside in them. In short, they seek to kill Him because they have refused to listen to Him. It is in our nature as human beings to ignore the contrary opinions of others while devising a rebuttal to their words. Our opponent may be speaking but we are not listening. Thus, we fail to hear another person in the throes of debate making us unable to properly entertain their point of view and measure it to determine its value.
Notice that one of the meanings of the Greek choreo is “yield”. Belief that is born of true faith will yield fruit but disbelief or false belief, even surface approval, does not allow sufficient depth of spiritual soil for the fruit of practical faith to be produced. Another meaning of the Greek choreo is “occupation”. Meaning in this context, “You have not allowed belief to perpetually occupy your life”. Therefore, belief of this sort alone is not sufficient for salvation.
“You believe that God is One. Excellent! Even the false deities, demons, evil spirits believe that—and are terrified.” -Yaakov (James) 2:19 Author’s translation
38 I speak the things which I have seen (horao[G]) from, beside, with, near (para[G]) The (My) Father (Aviy[H], ho Pater[G]); and you also do the things which you heard (akouo[G]) from, beside, with, near (para[G]) the father (ho Pater[G]) you acquired (poieo[G]) [Alt. Heb. Aviychem your (plural) father].”
NB: It’s important to remember that this is not being spoken to all present but specifically to those who are seeking to kill Him (v.37).
Yeshua explains that both He and His opponents are directed by their respective father’s. Yeshua “speaks” of what He has “seen” from being in, with and near the Father God. Whereas His opponents “do” the things which they have “heard” from the father they have acquired. That is to say, they have chosen a father other than God. In this context “speak” refers to the truth of God’s word made manifest based on literal “sight”, an actual true experience of the Person of God, and “do” is a reference to human effort based on hearsay “hearing” from a second-hand source (Satan).
39 They answered and said to Him, “Avraham is our father.” Yeshua[H] replied to them, “If you are Avraham’s children, accomplish the occupation (ho ergon Abraam poieo[G]) of Avraham. [Alt. in the business of Abraham work, make, fashion etc.]
“They” Those who are seeking to kill Yeshua (v.37) while claiming a connection to Avraham as their qualification, are in fact contradicting the faith practice of Avraham. Thus, Yeshua calls them on it. If you’re going to claim the tzadik (righteous) one Avraham as your father, then act righteously as he did. Believe God (accept His Messiah), and it will be credited to you as righteousness.
The rabbis of the Talmud agree with Yeshua’s assertion:
“whoever is merciful to the creature (man), it is evident that he is of the seed of Abraham, our father; but whoever has not mercy on the creature, it is a clear case that he is not of the seed of Abraham our father.'' - Talmud Bavliy Betza, fol. 82. 2.
40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the objective truth of the matter (ha-emet[H], aletheia[G]), which I heard from the God (ha Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]); a thing Avraham could not do.
Yeshua heard the truth in the unveiled presence of God the Father as one with the Father and has imparted that same truth to His hearers, fellow descendants of Avraham. Though Avraham heard from God, he was not one with God, nor did he see and hear from God in the fullness of God’s glory. Therefore, Avraham could not reveal the fullness of God’s redemptive plan to his descendants in the way that Yeshua has. Avraham has relationship with God through Yeshua, as one who has had the truth revealed to him, whereas Yeshua being one with the Father, reveals the truth.
“which I heard from the God” Yeshua’s hearing, unlike that of His opponents, is unaffected by disbelief.
41 You are doing, fashioning, accomplishing (poieo[G]) the business, occupation (ergon[G]) of your father (av[H], pater[G]).” They said to Him, “We were not born of illicit sexual intercourse (fig. we are not idolaters); we have one Father (Av[H], Pater[G]): the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]).”
Yeshua’s opponents (not all present but those who are specifically seeking to kill Him), understand that by making a distinction between God as father, Avraham as a father and yet another father, the father they are obeying, Yeshua is inferring that their claim on Avraham and his faith is a false one and that they are acting on the faith of a false father. Therefore, as one might expect, they take offense and proclaim, “We are not the children of whores (idolaters), we have one Father, Elohiym!” In short, “You’re no better than us, we are sons and daughters of God!” Some may even have been inferring that Yeshua was of illegitimate origin, while they were not.
42 Yeshua[H] said to them, “If the God (ha Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]) were your Father (Av[H], Pater[G]), you would love (ahavtem[H], agapao[G]) Me dearly, for I come out of the God (ha Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]) and go forth, not for the purpose of separating (apo[G]) Myself, but that of He Who sent Me (shelachaniy[H], apostello[G]).
Yeshua’s message is simple, “If you were truly sons and daughters of God you would recognise the present manifestation of God standing in front of you and would love Him.”
Note the progression. First they claim Avraham, and Yeshua refutes their claim. Then they claim God, and Yeshua exposes their inadequacy.
“I come out of the God and go forth, not for the purpose of separating Myself, but that of He Who sent Me.” Note the familiar use of the counter separation phrasing. Yeshua is very clear in saying “Neither I nor my purpose is in any way separate from God Who sent Me.” This becomes the pre-emptive counterpoint to the separation of the accuser Satan, who is separated from the beginning (v.44).
43 Why do you not understand (ginosko[G]) what I am saying? Because you are unable (dunamai[G]) to hear, perceive, comprehend (lishmo[H]) My word, essence, substance (et devariy[H], logos[G]).
They neither properly hear nor do they understand because they have wilfully resisted Yeshua and His message and are therefore incapable of comprehending His word, substance, essence. Again, “they” are specifically those who were “seeking to kill Him” (v.37, 40), and not all present (v.30)
44 You are of your father (aviychem[H], ho pater[G]) the Devil (ha-Satan[H], ho Diabolos[G]), and you have in mind (ethelo[G]) to do the lusts (epithumia[G]) of your father (aviychem[H], pater[G]). He was a murderer, human slayer (anthropoktonos[G]) separated (apo[G]) from the beginning (arche[G]), and in the absolute truth (emet[H], aletheia[G]) he does not stand because there is no truth (emet[G]) in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father (ha-av[H], ho pater[G]) of lies.
Note that while Yeshua speaks often of the fact that He has not come as one separate from the will of the Father, here, Satan is described as one who has been separate from the truth of God from the beginning of creation. Therefore, the battle between truth and lie is one of great imbalance. The Creator from Whom Truth comes, created a being that decided to reject the love of God, and His absolute Truth and seek to poison creation. Therefore, the liar is subject to the Truth, in fact his very existence relies on the truth.
We note that lying and murder are intrinsically linked. The enemy of our souls is by nature a liar and a murderer, the father of lies.
The Genesis account explains that Satan deceived Adam and Eve with a lie (Gen. 3:4; 2:17) and that as a result sin and death entered the world. Subsequently the first murder followed when Abel was murdered by Cain. Therefore, the father of lies is also the father of sin, and those that are bound by sin serve him.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” -Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
Thus, Yeshua’s opponents prove themselves children of Satan by their accusations aimed at Yeshua and their denial of the Truth in Him. A liar will always call the truth a lie.
45 But because I speak (dab’riy[H]) absolute truth (ha-emet[H], aletheia[G]), you do not believe, trust (ta’amiynu[H], pisteuo[G]) Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak with absolute truth (emet[H], aletheia[G]), why do you not believe, trust (pisteuo[G]) Me?
Yeshua’s opponents had been trying and failing to trap Him in a sin from the moment they first began to hate Him. The phrase “why do you not believe Me…” further emphasises the fact that He is speaking specifically to that subgroup who have not believed, and want to kill Him.
47 He who is of the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]) hears that which is spoken of the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]); for this reason you do not hear, because you are not of the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]).”
Here, He is clearly speaking to those who do not believe, and not to all present, many of whom have already believed.
48 The Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]]) answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Shomroniy[H] (Samaritan) and have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity (sheid[H], daimonion[G])?” 49 Yeshua answered, “I do not have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity (sheid[H], daimonion[G]); but I honour, esteem, revere (kabeid[H], timao[G]) My Father (Aviy[H]), and you dishonour, insult (atimazo[G]) Me.
I have translated Ioudaios as Judean Religious leaders here because the context shows clearly that only those who opposed Yeshua are speaking.
“Do we not say rightly that You are a Shomroniy[H] (Samaritan) and have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity?” This accusation explicitly vocalizes the tacit accusation of illegitimacy inferred in verse 41.
“Yeshua answered, “I do not have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity; but I honour, esteem, revere My Father, and you dishonour, insult Me.” Put simply, “By dishonouring Me you dishonour the God Whom you claim as your Father.”
Elsewhere when accused of having an evil spirit Yeshua warns His accusers that if they determine to continue to believe this of Yeshua that they will have no hope of salvation (Mark 3:23; Luke 12:10).
50 But I do not seek (zeteo[G]) My glory, judgement, view, opinion (kevodiy[H], doxa[G]); there is One who seeks and separates, selects, chooses (krino[G]).
We note that again a correlation can be made between glory and judgement. Yeshua submits His glory and judgement to the One to Whom it belongs, God the Father.
51 “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, speech, essence, substance (devariy[H], logos[G]) that one will never see, attend to, remain in (tereo[G]) the death of the body (mavet[H], thanatos[G]).”
Further illuminating the practical outworking of the freedom He has previously spoken of, Yeshua explains that through intimacy with God in Him a person can be free from slavery to sin and death and instead will not remain or abide in death. Elsewhere Yeshua explains this in another way saying:
“‘I am the resurrection and the living. The one who believes in Me will live, even though that one dies;” -Yochanan (John) 11:25
“And as it is appointed unto human beings once to die, and then the judgment:” -Hebrews 9:27
The key here is that the one who keeps the message of Messiah Yeshua will not “remain” in the death that results from temporal life in the sin affected world.
52 The Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]) said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity (sheid[H], daimonion[G]). Avraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, speech, essence, substance (logos[G]), that one will not taste (geuomai[G]) of the death of the body (meit[H], thanatos[G]) into the unbroken age (aion[G]).’
This is the ancient equivalent of “You’re a total psycho, Abraham and the prophets died years ago, which proves that what you’re saying about your words having the ability to give a person life over death is a lot of garbage!”
53 Not in the least are You greater (ha’gadol[H]) than our father Avraham, who died? The prophets (han’viyiym[H]) died too; who are You making Yourself out to be?”
Yeshua’s opponents accuse Him of delusions of grandeur. The height of irony. Added to this is the interesting fact that the Samaritan woman asked something similar when she challenged Yeshua’s authority with the rhetorical question “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (John 4:12).
It’s clear to we Messiah following Jews that those who challenged Him with these words did not represent the whole. One of our ancient commentators writes:
""Behold my servant shall deal prudently", this is the King Messiah; "he shall be exalted" above Abraham, as it is written, (Gen.14:22) "and extolled" above Moses, as it is written, (Num.11:12) and he shall be higher than the ministering angels, as it is written, (Eze.1:26) for he shall be גדול מן אבות, "greater than the fathers".'' - Tachuma apud Huls. p. 321
54 Yeshua answered, “If I glorify, extol, honour, prefer (chabeid[H], doxazo) Myself, My glory, judgement, view, opinion (k’vodiy[H], doxa[G]) is nothing; it is My Father (Aviy[H], Pater[G]) Who glorifies, extols, honours, prefers (chabeid[H], doxazo[G]) Me, of Whom you say, ‘He is our God (Eloheiynu[H], Theos[G])’;
Yeshua responds, “I’m not making Myself out to be anything, to the contrary, it’s My Father, Who honours Me, the same Father Whom you claim as your God.”
“For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” -2 Corinthians 10:18 (ESV)
55 and you have not come to know (y’datem[H], ginosko[G]) Him, but I see, perceive (eido[G]) Him; and if I say that I do not see, perceive (eido[G]) Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do see, perceive (eido[G]) Him and keep, guard, carefully attend to (tereo[G]) His word (d’varo[H], logos[G]).
The Greek text here is important. Yeshua explains that His opponents have not come to know (ginsoko) Him, and that Yeshua sees (eido) God. Note the present continuous tense of the text, not that Yeshua has seen God but that He continues to exist in and see God. Therefore, even if He wanted to acquiesce to the incredulity of His opponents He could not because being the very definition of Truth He is unable to lie and say that He is someone else.
Notice that Yeshua “guards carefully and attends to God’s word (davar[H], logos[G]). Yeshua is the Word (John 1). Therefore, He is instructing those who believe to follow His example (v. 31-32).
56 Your father Avraham rejoiced exceedingly (sas[H], agalliao[G]) to see perceive (eido[G]) My day (yomiy[H]), and he saw (eido[G]) it and was glad, hailed it, thrived in it (yis’mach[H], chairo[G]).”
In the order (Seder) of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah) it is written:
“Abraham rejoiced with the rejoicing of the law, he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law; Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, rejoiced with the joy of the law; he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law.'' -Seder Tephillot, fol. 309. 1. Ed. Basil.
Yeshua is quite literally saying that Avraham saw Yeshua and His day (time) [past tense]. Moses also knew the Messiah, which is the reason for his giving up life in Pharaoh’s palace in order to live among his Jewish people (Heb. 11:26).
NB: First century Jewish tradition (Testament of Abraham) records a story of Avraham being taken by the Arch Angel Michael on a tour of the heavens and the inhabited world, the idea being that on this tour he saw the coming judgement and the mercy and grace of God made manifest. However, it does not specify the revelation of the Messiah and is therefore unlikely to apply to the present text in any meaningful way.
57 Therefore, the Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]) said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Avraham?”
They focused on the wrong subject. They were still fixated on how Yeshua measured up against Avraham when they should have considered how Yeshua might have been revealed in the faith of Avraham. It was not that Yeshua had seen Avraham that was important, rather it was that Avraham had seen Yeshua. God is the focus of our prayer, not the vehicle for our desires. Clear sight begets right conclusions and right conclusions beget clear sight.
The reference to the age of fifty years has significance in ancient Judaism. Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 21. Says that at the age of fifty a Jewish man becomes fit to give counsel (as an elder of the community). This is said to be why the Levites were dismissed from service at that age.
A Jewish man could not be chosen as a Meturgeman (interpreter) in a kehilah (congregation), until he reached fifty years of age. (Talmud Bavliy Chagigah, fol. 14. 1. Yuchasin, fol. 44. 2.)
If a Jewish man died before fifty years of age it was considered a death of “cutting off”, inferring a curse for a sinful life of disobedience to the Torah. (T. Hieros. Biccurim, fol. 64. 3. Talmud Bavliy Moed Katon, fol. 28. 1. Macsecheth Semachot, c. 3. sect. 9.)
58 Yeshua[H] said to them, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, before Avraham was born, I am, exist (Aniy[H], ego eimi[G]).”
Any fool who says that Yeshua never claimed to be God (with us) need look no further than this verse to see that Yeshua claimed to pre-exist Abraham as the great I AM. This is quite literally the meaning of verse 58.
“And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.” -Exodus 3:14 KJV
59 Therefore they picked up stones to drop on Him, but Yeshua[H] hid Himself and went out of the temple (hieron[G], hamikdash[H]).
Believing Yeshua to have committed the gravest of blasphemies his opponents (not the majority of the crowd but the few who were already seeking a reason to kill Him) picked up heavy stones to drop on Him. They did this contrary to the sanctity of the Temple precinct in the court of the women, and contrary to the Torah instruction concerning the Sabbaths of God (although one commentator claims that the Torah allows for stoning on the Sabbath under exceptional circumstances. T. Hieros. Yom Tob, fol. 63. 2. ). But, Yeshua’s time had not come and Yeshua hid Himself in the crowd and made His way safely out of the Temple complex. It is highly likely that the crowd aided His escape, given that many believed and that those who were unsure did not consider Him worthy of stoning.
At this juncture the reader of the New Testament is faced once more with a major decision. Is Yeshua Who He says He is, that being God with us, or is He a blasphemer and heretic to be completely rejected? These are the only two choices. You may not call Him both a good teacher and a heretic, that is a contradiction. You may not call Him a devout Jew and a blasphemer, that would be a contradiction. According to the prophet Isaiah you may not call Him the Messiah and at the same time say that He is not God with us (Imanu El), that would be a contradiction. Either Yeshua is both God with us and the promised King Messiah of Israel, or He is a liar and a heretic. You choose. The truth will not be changed by your decision, but you could be.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
“Aniy Or Ha-Olam, I am, I exist, am present as the uncreated Light of the world:” -Yeshua
With regard to the debate over whether the portion of John’s Gospel from 7:53 to 8:11 is valid Scripture or not: while it’s true that no early manuscripts include this account, it is equally true to say that it’s more than likely a legitimate oral or written tradition passed on by the first century Ecclesia (Body of believers), Church, and included by later scribes. Any believer who has met Yeshua and been filled with His Spirit will testify that the Spirit of God in us witnesses to the inspiration of this portion of the text.
Therefore, in keeping with the teaching of Messiah, I trust myself to the unity of Scripture and Power (Born of the Spirit), and consider this account to be Scripture, inspired by God and passed on to us for good purpose.
It seems to me that the Yeshua of this story is the Yeshua of the wider body of New Testament writing. He is here, unmistakable, the Teacher of Israel, full of compassion, mercy, tenacity and holy chutzpah. His feet firmly planted on the ground and His Spirit drawing wisdom from the heavens.
I invite you to put away the conjecture of scholarship and instead to embrace the incomparable Messiah of Israel. The story of the young woman caught in adultery is one of His most powerfully intimate public moments.
1But Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua, Jesus) walked (halakh[H]) to the Mount of Olives (har-hazeiytiym[H]).
Yeshua had clearly walked to the Mount of Olives (Har Ha-zeiytiym) the night before, probably with His disciples in tow. It appears He had spent the night there, or alternatively He may have stayed in the village of Bethany on the lower eastern slope of the mount with His friends Miriyam (Mary), Marta (Martha) and El’azar (Lazarus)[John 11:1-2].
Keep in mind that the walk from the Temple precinct the night before down the hill into the Kidron valley would have taken Yeshua and His disciples past Gat Sh’maniym (Gethsemane) and then up the other side to the summit. The journey to and from the mount of Olives is approximately 1.5km, taking in terrain and the navigating of a clear path. If Yeshua had stayed overnight in Bethany, He would likely have taken a path along the Kidron ravine on the road to Bethany, an estimated further 2 kilometres could be added to each trip if this was His route. Of course, it would have meant that He climbed to the summit of the Mt of Olives from the opposite side the following morning before sunrise and thus ascended from the Mount as described in the text.
2 In the morning, at daybreak (orthos[G], ba-boker[H]) He came again into the temple (hieron[G], ha-mikdash[H]), and all the tribes (ho laos[G], ha-am[H]) were coming to Him (Yeshua); and He sat down (yeishev[H]) and taught, held discourse with them (didasko[G], vay’lam’teim[H]).
This event took place early, probably prior to Sacharit (Morning Prayer). Yeshua sat down to teach in the court of women as was the custom of other rabbis of the time. This is unlikely to refer to the court of the Gentiles as some suggest. Those coming to Him were of the “tribes” of Israel, the collected Jewish pilgrims who had made aliyah for the festival of Sukkot, only Jews were allowed in the court of women. As confirmation of this location verse 20 has Yeshua near the treasury which is situated in the court of the women.
The Greek “didasko” perfectly conveys the rabbinical method of teaching which involved discourse rather than a Greco-Roman style lecture and rhetoric format.
Keep in mind that the Jewish day had begun after the previous sundown and it would continue to be the seventh day of Sukkot until after sundown that evening. Therefore, Sh’mini Atzeret (the eighth day Sabbath following Sukkot was yet to occur).
It is important to note that the great lamps of the court of women had been put out for the final time at the conclusion of the last full night of Sukkot (The previous night). This gives context to Yeshua’s “I am the light of the world” statement later in the text.
3 Some of Ha-Soph’riym The Scribes (of Torah & commentary; often Sadducees) and the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees) brought a woman caught in adultery, and had her stand (histemi[G]) in the centre of the court (of women), 4 they said to Him (Yeshua[H]), “Rabbi [H] (didaskalos[G]), this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Torah[H] (Instruction) Moshe[H] (Moses, drawn out) commands us to stone such women; what then do You say?”
“Scribes and Pharisees” is used only here in John’s Gospel, leading some to believe that the textual addition of verses 7:53 to 8:11 is more likely to be connected to Luke’s Gospel account, due to similar language being employed more often by Luke. However, it is equally possible that the author of John’s Gospel simply used a different turn of phrase. The result is the same, it shows the unified front of the two groups who held little theological common ground between them, the Scribes generally being associated with the Sadducees rather than the Pharisees.
The first question many ask is, “If the woman was caught in the act of adultery as the text explains, where is the man who had been involved?” Of course, this can be answered by conjecture in many different ways: perhaps the Scribes and Pharisees in question were Patriarchal chauvinists’, happy to let a fellow male go free? It is possible, based on Mishnaic assertions regarding the proliferation of adulterous acts in the first century (ref. note on v.7-6), that several of them might have been guilty of such sin themselves? It is even possible that the man involved in the sinful act was complicit in the plan to trap the girl or that he was simply able to escape while she was being caught? There is no way of knowing for certain. There must however, be two witnesses to this crime according to Torah (Deut. 19:15).
What we do know is that the Torah requires that both the man and the woman caught in this type of sexual sin are to be punished (Lev.20:10; Deut.22:22-24 ref. Num. 5:11-31). Therefore, the question that was being posed by the Scribes and Pharisees was already outside the specific guidelines of the Torah, meaning that the response must come in the form of an interpretive halakhic ruling from the rabbi being questioned, in this case, Yeshua.
We also know (because the Torah Scribes and Pharisees, specify stoning as the punishment) that the woman was a virgin pledged in marriage prior to the act of adultery. We know this because that is the only situation in which the Torah specifies stoning as the method of punishment for adultery (Deut. 22:23-24). Elsewhere in cases of adultery strangling is the commanded punishment (Lev. 20:10).
The fact that this was done publicly was unusual, given that it was illegal for Jews to carry out the death penalty under Roman governance (Though this was not always successfully policed Acts 7:58-59). This was the counter balance to the fact that the Torah required stoning for such an offense, leaving Yeshua in what some of the Torah Scribes (teachers) and Pharisees might have hoped to be an impossible position.
It’s important to note that Yeshua’s mother Miriyam (Mary) might just as easily have found herself in this situation if not for the righteous action of Yeshua’s earthly (adoptive) father Yosef (Joseph). The key difference of course being that Miriyam was not guilty of adultery. This correlation may well have made this an especially emotional event for Yeshua. It’s also important to note that throughout His earthly ministry Yeshua sought to honour women and restore their rightful place in God’s creative order. Therefore, the intentional humiliation of this young woman could only have served to anger Yeshua. In light of this, His measured response under the circumstances is without comparison.
6 They were saying this, to try Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Yeshua[H] stooped down and with His finger (daktulos[G]) wrote, (grapho[G], letters as opposed to drawing) on the ground (stone floor of the court of the women).
In the midst of this tumultuous scene, Yeshua, calmly bends down and starts to write in the dust on the stone floor of the temple court of the women of Israel. One of our Yeshivah students noted that it reminded her of a child at play. Another student suggested that in doing this He took control of the situation, drawing everyone’s attention to Himself and requiring the Torah Scribes (teachers) and Pharisees to work to His time table, unwilling to be bullied into playing their silly game. Those of us who are old enough to remember might also liken it to a teacher writing on a black board. All eyes and ears are now on Yeshua and what He is writing.
We know that He wrote rather than drew. The Greek “grapho” refers to the writing of letters.
So, what did He write? We can’t possibly know for certain though there are many suggestions. The only one I have found value in outside of what I will propose is the idea that He may have written the words of Jeremiah 17:13:
“Lord, you are the hope of Israel;
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the Lord,
the spring of living water.”
Perhaps Yeshua began His list of their names here and completed them when He stooped down to write the second time. However, while I like this idea, It seems highly unlikely. I would like to propose another option.
I have asked myself, “Did God the Father ever write on stone with His finger?” The answer is “yes”, in fact He did it three times (Exodus 31:18; 34:1; Dan. 5:25). I suggest that the first thing Yeshua wrote in the dust of the stone floor was the Ten commandments. Perhaps He did this, emulating His Father (Exodus 31:18; 34:1). It’s worth noting that the second to last commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.” Thus, He reminded His audience of the many commandments each one of them had broken, and that they might just as well find themselves standing where the woman was now put on display.
7 But when they stayed to question Him (Yeshua), He rose up, and said to them, “The sinless one (ho-anamartetos[G]) of you, let him be the first (protos[G]) to drop (ballo[G]) a building stone (lithos[G]) on her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote (grapho[G], letters as opposed to drawing) on the ground (stone floor of the court of the women). 9 When they heard (akouo[G]) it, they began to leave one by one, beginning with the elderly ones, and He (Yeshua) was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the centre of the court of women.
Clearly there were none present who were without sin. Therefore, Yeshua’s statement was intended to bring a right judgment to this situation (Deut.17:7).
We note that elsewhere Yeshua calls that generation an adulterous one (Matt. 12:39). If there’s one thing we know about Yeshua it is that He detests hypocrisy.
In reference to the time of Roman occupation, during the lifetime of Rabban Yochanan ben Zaccai, the Mishnah records the following:
"when adulterers increased, the bitter waters ceased; and Rabban Yochanan ben Zaccai (who was now living) caused them to cease.'' -Mishnah. Sotah, c. 9. sect. 9.
In other words, adultery had become so prolific among the people of that generation that the practice of the Torah concession regarding trying a suspected adulteress with “bitter waters” (Num. 5:11-31) was stopped due to the fact that many of the husbands in question were already guilty of adultery themselves.
By responding as He did Yeshua was not breaking the Torah, as some suggest, to the contrary, He was upholding its finer requirements. Both offenders were not present, nor was this being done in a court of Jewish rulers. Yeshua therefore, was making a halakhic ruling based on the fact that the Torah could not possibly be honoured by this illegitimate trial.
After speaking He then stooped down to write for the second time. The result being that one by one the woman’s accusers walked away in defeat.
I suggest that this time He wrote the words that the finger of God wrote on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace in Babylonian:
“Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Uparsin (Peres): Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
In other words, to these particular Scribes of the Torah and the Pharisees He was saying, “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to your oppressors (not the Medes and Persians but the Romans).”
Therefore, in all of Scripture God has written directly on stone three times plus one (Yeshua in the present account).
Whatever Yeshua wrote, it seems that it was what He said that moved them to leave. After all, the scripture says, “When they heard it, they began to go out one by one.” This likely refers to His challenge “Let the one among you who is without sin drop the first building stone…” Although, given that the chronology places the second writing before the description of their leaving, it may be that Yeshua spoke while He wrote, or even spoke out loud what He wrote.
Now Yeshua is left standing with the young woman, an intimate moment emphasized by the tender words that follow.
10 Rising up, Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua, Jesus) said to her, “Dear woman (gune[G]), where are they? Is there no one to give judgement (katakrino[G]) against you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord (Adonay[H], kurios[G]).” And Yeshua[H] said, “Neither do I pass judgement on you. Separate (apo[G]) yourself now and miss the mark (sin) no more hereafter.”
Yeshua looks upon this humiliated and broken woman and with great mercy and compassion He shows her that social justice is but a tear in the vast ocean of God’s eternal justice. “Does anyone condemn you?” He says, to which she responds in a somewhat shaky but surprised voice, “No one, Adonay.” And in keeping with what John’s Gospel says about Him Yeshua says, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” I hear it this way, “Your sin has been covered, you’re free to start again child, don’t go back to that self-destructive lifestyle.”
And, just maybe, He was also thinking, We need to get my mum to set you up with a nice Jewish boy with the character of my adoptive dad Yosef (Joseph), someone who will honour you and treat you the way a woman should be treated.
It’s important to note that Yeshua did not validate the woman’s sin, rather He showed her that she had great worth in God’s sight in spite of her sin. Therefore, “Continue to live, and turn away from your sinful practices…” Yeshua upheld the Torah and the redemptive grace of God.
12 Again (palin[G]) therefore (oun[G]) Yeshua[H] spoke to them, saying, “Aniy Or Ha Olam[H] I am, I exist, am present as (eimi[G]) the uncreated Light of the world (kosmos[G]); the one who follows, joins, accompanies (akoloutheo[G]) Me will not, not in the smallest way (ou me[G]) continue to walk (haholeikh[H], peripateo[G]) in the darkness (bachosheikhah[H], skotia[G]), but will have the Light of the life (phos ho zoe[G]).”
This must have taken place sometime later given that “they” had all walked away prior to Yeshua’s closing words with the woman caught in adultery. Therefore, verse 12 begins a separate discussion held later that day (still Hoshanah Rabah) in the court of women near the treasury or treasury receptacles that surrounded that place. This was not heard by non-Jews.
Yeshua’s claim to being the light of the world is made with the backdrop of the Sukkot lamp stands in mind. Further, it is made in the court where those same lamp stands had stood shining light into all Jerusalem for the seven days of Sukkot.
There were great Menorah-like four branched candle stands in the Temple precinct. At sundown on the first day of the feast, they went down to the court of the women where golden candlesticks had been erected, and at the head of them four golden basins, and four ladders to every candlestick, and four young priests had four pitchers of oil, that held a hundred and twenty logs (an ancient measure of oil), which they put into each basin. Wicks were made from the old breeches and girdles of the priests, and it was these oil soaked wicks that the priests would light. There was not a court in Jerusalem which was not lit up with that light, and religious men, and men of good works, danced before them, with lighted torches in their hands, singing songs and hymns of praise, which continued for the following six nights (Mishnah. Succah, c. 5. sect 2, 3, 4; Maimon. ib. c. 8. sect. 12.).
“Aniy Or Ha-Olam” I am, I exist, am present as the uncreated Light of the world:” This is a statement of Deity and an allusion to the light through Whom God spoke all things into existence. It’s interesting to note that unlike other occasions the Pharisees did not immediately seek to take hold of Yeshua for what they may well have understood to be a blasphemous statement. It may have been because they were still smarting from the theological defeat they had experienced earlier that day.
“…the one who follows Me will not, not in the smallest way continue to walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of the life.” A flood of Scripture comes to mind:
“The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.” -Isaiah 9:1  NASB
““But for you who [b]fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” -Malachi 4:2 (3:20) NASB
“He says, “It is too [a]small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light [b]of the nations
So that My salvation may [c]reach to the end of the earth.” -Isaiah 49:6 NASB
Each of these Scriptures and many more throughout the New Testament testify to Yeshua being the light of the world. This is revealed first and always first to the Jews and also always to the nations.
We note that it is the one “who follows” who will not walk in darkness. Following is the fruit of true belief, trust, faith. By nature following Messiah proves faith because it is an act of faithfulness.
13 So some of the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees) said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true, valid, faithful (ne’emanah[H], alethes[G]).”
If they consider Yeshua’s statement to be blasphemy they may also consider Him on trial and therefore cite Torah in relation to the need for witnesses to establish a matter (Deut.17:6; 19:15). However, it’s not clear why they say this, they may simply be invoking a sense of accountability (Prov.27:2). Regardless, it is not true to say that simply because a person speaks of themselves that the person is lying or that their testimony is unfaithful/invalid. If it were, the complaint of the Pharisees would be equally inadmissible.
14 Yeshua[H] answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, valid (emet[H], alethes[G]), for I see, perceive (eido[G]) My place of origin (pothen[G]) and where I am going; but you do not see, perceive (eido[G]) My place of origin (pothen[G]) or where I am going.
This re-establishes the former conversation regarding false judgement by sight as opposed right judgement by the relational knowledge of God (John 7:24).
Yeshua being God with us, has every right to testify on His own behalf because He has come from God, is in God, is One with God. God Who is faithful and cannot lie is the origin and the present person of Yeshua.
15 You all according to the flesh (ha-basar[H], sarx[G]) separate, choose, discern, esteem, prefer, judge (tishpotu[H], krino[G]); I am not separating, choosing, discerning, esteeming, preferring, passing judgement (eshpot[H], krino[G]) on anyone.
“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” -John 7:24
“I am not separating, choosing, discerning, esteeming, preferring, passing judgement on anyone.” Yeshua was not at that time acting as Judge, however, He will in the future judge everyone (5:22, 27-30).
16 But even if I do separate, choose, discern, esteem, prefer, judge (eshpot[H], krino[G]), My judgment (mishpatiy[H]) is true, valid (emet[H], alethes[G]); for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father (Aniy ve’ha-Av[H]) Who sent Me (shelachaniy[H]).
The unity of God as unique manifestations of Himself, Father and Son, is self-evident here. Yeshua is qualified to judge because the Judge (the Father) is with Him and His judgement is truth.
17 Even in your Torah (be’torat’chem[H]) it is written (katuv) that the testimony of two men is true, valid, faithful (ne’emanah[H], alethes[G]). 18 I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father (ve’ha-Av[H]) Who sent Me (shelachaniy[H]) testifies about Me.”
Some say Yeshua is distancing Himself from the Torah by saying “Your Torah”. This is utter nonsense. He is the Author and goal of the Torah, why would He distance Himself from it? In fact, saying “Your Torah” is intended as an admonition to accountability. “If you cite the Torah, then be prepared to abide by it.”
When a Prime Minister speaks to the nation and says “Your country needs you”, that same Prime Minister is not saying “It’s your nation, not mine” rather the statement is a call or challenge that is being made with the intention of uniting the nation. Something similar is happening here.
Yeshua offers two witnesses according to the Torah as a concession to their disbelief, Himself and God the Father.
19 So they were saying to Him (Yeshua), “Where is Your Father (Aviykha[H])?” Yeshua[H] answered, “You see, perceive (eido[G]) neither Me nor My Father; if you see, perceive (eido[G]) Me, you would see, perceive (eido[G]) My Father also.” 20 These words He spoke in the treasury (nishkah[H], gazophulakion[G]), as He taught (didasko[G]) in the temple precinct (hieron[G]); and no one seized Him, because the certain, definite, time, hour (hora[G]) for Him had not yet come (lo bai to[H]).
As is the case elsewhere, they had obviously misunderstood Yeshua and had concluded that He was speaking of His adoptive earthly father. Yosef is not mentioned in the Gospels following Yeshua’s youth and it is likely that he had passed away. So when Yeshua, referring to God, says “You see neither Me nor My Father; if you see Me, you would see My Father also.” They presume He is speaking of an earthly father whom they have not seen. In fact, Yeshua is clearly alluding of their spiritual blindness.
NB: The Septuagint text of Neh. 13:7 uses the same gazophulakion[G] to translate the Hebrew nishkah[H], meaning “storeroom”.
The Temple treasury may be a reference to a storeroom in the court of the women or to the treasury receptacles for financial offerings which were positioned in the colonnade which surrounded the court. Either way, these things were being said in a place where only Jews could enter.
We note the now familiar refrain:
“…and no one seized Him, because the certain, definite, time, hour for Him had not yet come.”
21 Therefore, He (Yeshua) said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek (zeteo[G]) Me, and will die in your sin (missing the mark);
For the first time in the Gospel of John dying in sin without a vicarious means of redemption is alluded to. This is not an idea foreign to Torah but it is an idea that is beyond the scope of the first century Jewish understanding of atonement as it pertains to a transcendent application.
where I am going, you’re not able, nor do you have the power (dunamai[G]) to come.” 22 So the Religious Judean leaders (Yehudiym[H]) were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you’re not able, nor do you have the power (dunamai[G]) to come.’”?”
Once again they understand Yeshua literally and ironically conclude at least part of the whole. See my commentary of John 7:34 for further clarification of what Yeshua is alluding to.
23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below (kato[G]), I am from above (ano[G]); you are of this world (ha-olam[H], kosmos[G]), I am not of this world (ha-olam[H], kosmos[G]).
“You are from below, I am from above” Not, “you are from under the earth” but, “Your origin is of the earth”. Whereas, “My origin is above in the heavens, of God Himself”. Yeshua was born into time and space from an eternal existence outside of time and space, being a manifestation of the person of God seeded in a human womb and thus fully God and fully man.
“you are of this world, I am not of this world” Once again this concerns origin. Yeshua is quite clearly in the world but He originates from within God whereas those who are hearing His words originate from within the sin affected creation.
24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins (missing the mark); for unless you believe, are persuaded (pisteuo[G]) that I Am (ego eimi[G]), you will die in your sins (missing the mark).”
Therefore, as alluded to previously, without a saving knowledge of Yeshua they will die in their sin. In fact, the Greek text essentially says “Unless you believe that I AM (God with you), you will die in your sins.”
25 So they were saying to Him (Yeshua[H]), “Who are You?” Yeshua said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?
It’s possible that those questioning Him were wondering who could have devised this strange new teaching and therefore, asked “Who are You?” Alternatively, some of them had begun to feel a pricking of awe and were seeking an explicit revelation in order to decide whether or not to accept Yeshua and His teaching. Finally, those who hated him were challenging His claims by saying “Who are You?”
26 I have many things to speak and to judge (lishpot[H]) concerning you all, but He who sent Me (sholchiy[H]) is true, faithful (ne’eman[H], alethes[H]); and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world (ha-olam[H], kosmos[G]).”
Yeshua is essentially saying, “You don’t get to know all the details now, I will say only what the Father has given Me to say, the rest will be revealed at the proper time.”
27 They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father (Ha-Av[H]). 28 So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man (Ben Ha-Adam[H]), then you all will know (yoda’tem[H], ginosko[G]) that I Am (ego eimi[G]), and of separation (apo[G]) I Myself make, fashion, produce (poieo[G]) nothing, but according (kathos[G]) to that taught (didasko[G]) to Me of the Father (Ha-Av[H]), these things I speak.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you all will know that I Am…” Yeshua is referring to the means of His death and inferring that His death will come about as a result of their actions. He is also clearly saying that those listening will come to understand that He is the King Messiah and God with us, upon seeing Him crucified. Therefore, lifting up in the sense of glory is intrinsically connected to His suffering on the cross.
Once again Yeshua points to the Father God as the origin of His actions and speech.
29 And He who sent Me is with, after, behind, in the midst of (meta[G]) Me; He is not leaving Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Yeshua is saying that He is inseparable from God. The Father Who sent Him is with Him before, after, and in the midst of Him, eternally present and One. Therefore, the foolish popular evangelical notion that the Father turned His face away from Messiah on the cross (Not recorded in Scripture), is untenable and diminishes both the nature and the redemptive work of God in its presumption that the Father did not suffer with the Son. It is tantamount to blasphemy.
30 As He spoke these things, many had come to believe, were persuaded by, put their trust (ya’amiynu[H], pisteuo[G]) in Him (Yeshua).
Once again “many”, including some of them Pharisees and Scribes, Sadducees and rulers, had come to believe in Yeshua as they listened to His words. These same ones would later come to have a fulness of understanding regarding His redemptive work following His death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). They had begun a genuine journey of faith. This does not, as some Christian scholars presumptively conclude, describe a shallow intellectual assent to faith in Yeshua. It saddens me to hear even some Messianic Jews proliferate this nonsensical idea. The text gives no such indication.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.