THE STORY OF YESHUA
by miriam berg
One of the cities about three miles to the northwest of
the sea of Chinnereth is Chorazin. It has a population today
of about 2,500. Here, we may suppose, is where Yeshua was
invited to dinner during his tour by a Pharisee, whose name is
given as Simon. This shows us that not all of the Pharisees
were hostile to Yeshua, although it appears that Simon was
anxious to find fault with him.
Thus, when a woman called a "sinner" enters the room where
they are eating, and begins to wash Yeshua's feet with her
tears, and wipe them with her hair, and anoint them with
lotion she brought with her, Simon thinks to himself with a
sneer, This man can't be a prophet, for if he was, he would
have known that this woman was a sinner and he wouldn't have
let her touch him. As we have seen, "sinner" meant simply one
who didn't keep all the Jewish practices, but in her case she
was probably considered also an adulteress or a prostitute.
But Yeshua once again knows what thoughts are passing
through Simon's mind, and proceeds to undercut Simon and
his self-righteousness with a Socratic dialogue:
A certain lender had two debtors;
One owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
When neither could pay, he forgave both their debts.
Which do you think will love him most?
Simon answered warily, The one to whom he forgave the most.
Yeshua nodded and said, Of course, and went on, cuttingly:
Simon, do you see this woman?
You did not give me water to wash my feet,
but she has washed them with her tears.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not stopped kissing my feet.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she has anointed my feet with fragrant
Can we not see Simon blush, as Yeshua so bluntly reminds him of
his neglect of his duties as a host towards his guest? Yeshua
So, my friend, I say unto you, her many sins are forgiven,
for she has given much,
But little is forgiven you,
for you have given little.
Hear the muffled exclamations run through the others present,
as Yeshua thus pronounced his opinion of the Pharisee! "Who
is this who forgives sins?" they ask each other. But again,
Yeshua has not said, "I forgive your sins"; he has only said
on two occasions now, "Your sins are forgiven", meaning,
"God has forgiven you." He then tells the woman to
depart in peace.
Mark then tells us that Yeshua "came into a house", without
saying where or whose, but we are supposing it to be still
in Chorazin. The crowds again push inside and crowd him,
so they couldn't even move their arms to break bread. And then
some "friends", presumably from his hometown, came there too,
trying to grab Yeshua and make him go home, because they thought
he was not in his right mind! Matthew and Luke both omit this
little incident. But how Yeshua has aroused everyone! The people
follow him everywhere; the Pharisees and Herodians want him killed;
he has evoked the hero-worship of a Roman centurion; and now his
friends and neighbors have decided that he is insane and come to
get him, as we might say today, with a strait-jacket.
The scribes and Pharisees pick up on this and exclaim, "This
man is mad, he is touched by the devil, by Beelzebub! That
is why he has an effect on other mad people." Beelzebub, or
Baalzebul, means "Lord of the Flies", and was the name of an
ancient god of the Philistine village of Ekron. The name had
come to refer to Satan in rabbinical tradition by the time
Yeshua lived, although later the two were considered to be
separate evil angels. Yeshua scoffs back at them for thinking
How can Satan cast out Satan? It's absurd.
If a kingdom be divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house be divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen against himself, and is divided,
he cannot stand, but will come to an end.
Yeshua does not deny Satan, but confounds the religious
leaders with their own illogic. He goes on with a statement
showing that some of his followers had already shown similar
ability to cure mental disturbances:
Then if I cure possessed persons through
the aid of Beelzebub, by whom do your sons
Yeshua goes on to explain how it is that the supposed devils
can be overcome:
But if a strong man is guarding a house,
how can it be entered? You must first bind
the strong man, and then you can enter his house.
That is what we are doing to the evil spirits
possessing the people; we are stronger than they.
But he cautions the people that they must continue to pay
attention or they will become repossessed:
The unclean spirit after leaving a man
wanders around, seeking a new home, and when
he finds none, he decides to return to his
previous home. But when he arrives, and finds
it clean and orderly, he gets seven other
spirits worse than himself, and enters into
his old home again; and the last state of the
man will be worse than the first.
Is Yeshua saying that a madman will inevitably relapse after a
cure? Perhaps not; but he is warning that unless you continue
to try to practice the ways of righteousness, it is like
building your house upon the sand.
After saying all these things, Yeshua tells the scribes and
Pharisees that it is inexcusable for them to insinuate
that he was himself possessed, since it was a denial of
the divinity in man:
All their sins can be forgiven unto the sons of men
and all the evil that they speak whatsoever it may be;
But whosoever speaks evil of the divine spirit
which dwells in each man, calling it a demon,
That cannot be forgiven, since it is a slander.
Matthew and Luke both distort this passage from Mark,
changing the phrase "the sons of men" into "the son of man",
which term we have heard Yeshua use several times before to
refer to some innate quality. Matthew also alters Mark's
phrasing by adding a reference to a future life: "neither in
this world, nor in that which is to come." So far, though,
Yeshua has not spoken about any future life, but only about
living this life.
This is also the first time Yeshua has used the phrase which
is translated as "Holy Spirit". Not in any of the parables,
nor in the Great Sermon, nor in any other of his sayings so
far, has he referred to such an entity. Nor, we can also notice,
did Yohanan. Whence, then, comes this term? The Greek word used
is pneuma, which literally means "breath". In the first verse
of Genesis, too, the Hebrew word ruach, also meaning "breath",
is used to refer to the spirit of God creating all things:
And the spirit of God breathed upon the waters...
But this is a poetic use of the phrase "spirit of God",
and does not mean or imply a second being equal to God, moving
independently of God. There had never been such a concept in
Jewish religion, even from its earliest days. Neither need we
think that Yeshua meant any such proto-God when he uses the
phrase pneuma to hagion, which does mean "spirit which is holy".
Yeshua meant "the divine spirit which inhabits every man..."
While they are still there, we are told that his mother
and his brothers arrive outside the house, and ask to come
in and see him, because they too want to make him come
home, and stop this foolish itinerant preaching, which they are
sure will just eventually get him in trouble with the religious
leaders and the Romans. Someone says to Yeshua, "Your mother
and your brothers are outside, asking for you." He replies,
Who are my mother and my brothers? See these
that are around me? These are my mother and my brothers.
For whosoever shall do the will of God,
and walk in the ways of justice and mercy,
that person is my brother, and my sister,
and my mother.
Disowning his family? No; he knows that he is following
in the footsteps of Yohanan, and teaching the people the good
news, and also that part of that news is the fact that all people
are brothers and sisters, and he has no intention of returning
home, so he takes the opportunity to dramatically announce this
fact, with his mother and brothers outside, and to compare all of
them present to the family of God.
There is no mention of his father Yosef in this incident,
nor, in fact, at any time during the career of Yeshua. From
this we can conclude that his father must have passed away
by this time. One question which will always remain, therefore,
is what part Yosef played in the formation of Yeshua's ideas.
Was Yosef a devout Jew, and did he live long enough to know of
and favor Yohanan? Was he anti-Roman? We can never know; but
the fact that Yeshua chose the word "father" to refer to God
suggests that he was a good man indeed.
Then a woman called out to him from the assembled crowd,
Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which
you have sucked. But Yeshua responded:
No, no, say rather, blessed are they which
hear the commandments of God, and do them.
So once more Yeshua places primary emphasis upon doing the will
of God instead of on his own person.
Soon after this, another stunning blow strikes Yeshua. Two
of Yohanan's disciples come to him, sent by Yohanan from
his prison at Machaerus bringing a message: What are you
doing? Are you the leader following after me? Or should we
look for someone else?
Yeshua has borne the rudeness of Simon, and the criticism
of the Pharisees, and the rejection by his friends and
family, but this is the bitterest yet: his teacher, whose
word he savors, whose teachings he loves, doubting him, and not
seeing how he is promoting the reign of God. Yeshua shakes his
head sadly, and tells them:
Go back to Yohanan;
Tell him what you have seen:
The sick are healed,
The mentally disturbed have the demons cast out of them,
And the poor have the good news told to them.
And blessed is that person who understands my teaching.
Yeshua does not answer Yohanan's question directly; he says
neither Yes, I am the one who is coming, nor No, I am not the
one who is coming. He merely points to his actions.
Yohanan's doubts however call forth Yeshua's ebullient
unvarnished praise of Yohanan. After the messengers have
departed, he turns to the crowd and says, no doubt choking
back his grief at Yohanan's doubts:
What did you go out into the desert to see?
Was it a frail reed, shaken by the wind?
Of course not.
But what did you go out to see?
A man clothed in soft clothing? I tell you,
those who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury,
they live in palaces, not in the desert.
But then, what did you go out to see?
A prophet? I tell you, yes, a prophet, and much
more than a prophet. Listen to me, all of you:
I say that among them that have been born of
woman there is none greater than Yohanan. There
is no other prophet who has been imprisoned for
speaking moral truth to power. Even Jeremiah
was not imprisoned for moral teachings, but for
political reasons; the nation foolishly wanted
to resist the power of Assyria. And if Yohanan
should be killed at the hands of Herod, for
telling him the word of God, it will make him
the greatest martyr who ever lived.
So Yeshua considers Yohanan to be the greatest
of all the prophets. He continues:
The Torah and prophets were our moral guide
until Yohanan came; but now the good news of
the nearness of the reign of God has been
told, first by Yohanan, then by myself and my
followers. But you must not try to force your
way into it, but must learn to do the will of
God your Father, and then it will come to you.
Thus Yeshua praised Yohanan, even after Yohanan has
expressed his doubts about him. He then tells a little joke
on himself and Yohanan:
Yohanan came, eating no bread and drinking
no wine; and the Pharisees said, This man
hath a demon. The son of man, myself, comes
both eating and drinking, and they say,
Look at him! he is a gluttonous man, and a
winebibber, a friend of tax-gatherers and
You can't please them! he says about the Pharisees.
The crowd must have laughed at this, and afterward,
he continued to spoof them and poke fun at them:
So what are they like, these Pharisees
who rejected Yohanan, and reject the reign
of God within? They are like children
playing in the marketplace, and complaining,
We played music for you, but you didn't dance;
we cried out to you, and you didn't weep
along with us.
The Pharisaic rules are childish, he is saying.
He concludes with a Solomonic proverb:
And wisdom is justified in all her children.