THE STORY OF YESHUA
by miriam berg
(THE TOUR BY THE DISCIPLES)
Now that he was back in Kephar-Nahum after his unsuccessful
attempt to tour the Transjordan, Yeshua began organizing
his disciples for another tour of Galilee. This time he
sent them out in pairs, and by now he felt that they should be
able to handle any mentally disturbed persons they encountered.
He also must have imparted to them some idea about how he was
able to evoke faith in sick persons, because the narrative says
that he expected them to "cure diseases, and heal the sick."
Perhaps this was added later; no healings by the disciples are
recorded in the gospels. Nor are any other experiences of the
disciples told; the narrative says simply, "they went out, and
preached that men should repent."
There are two versions of his instructions to them for this
tour, one in Mark, and another in Luke. Matthew reports
some additional instructions not found in the other two
gospels. Luke reports that he sent out seventy disciples, but
his version may just be a fuller report of the same tour. As
Luke tells it, Yeshua told them:
The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few;
let us pray to the Father, the lord of the harvest,
that he send forth laborers to the harvest.
From this image we can conclude that Yeshua was not discouraged,
despite the rejections on his earlier tour, or the unfavorable
reception he received in Gergesa. We can also see that he did
not consider the twelve to be enough, but that he hoped to
recruit others on this second tour. He went on:
Take nothing for your journey: no staff, nor bread,
nor wallet, nor shoes, no money in your purse;
and wear one coat only.
So the disciples on their tour were to be as poor as possible.
These directions were to become the source of great controversies
among the later professed followers of Yeshua, as to whether
they were to be poor, and as to whether everyone was to be poor,
or only certain special followers.
And salute no man upon the way.
This direction, which is told only by Luke, probably means
that they were not to be distracted by anyone they meet,
be they woman or man, priest or Levite, traveler or foreign,
since their mission was to visit all the cities in the Galilean
region; or else that they were to render to no one a "salute",
that is, a recognition of higher status such as bowing or
And when you enter into a house, say, Peace be unto this house.
And if a son of peace be there, this is your greeting;
but if there be none, then your peace shall stay with you.
And remain in that house while you are
in that village, eating and drinking whatever they serve,
for he who labors deserves his wages.
Go not from house to house.
So they are to greet everyone with peace, whether or not it is
returned; and they are to follow whatever customs are observed
there, especially with regard to eating. Yeshua repeats this
direction again, making it clear that they are not to be
concerned with whether their hosts are practicing the Kosher
laws, or any of the other Jewish dietary laws:
And into whatsoever city you enter,
and you are received therein,
eat such things as are set before you;
and say unto them, The reign of God is near.
Perhaps this emphasis is the logical consequence of "man
does not live by bread alone." Then he tells them that they
are not to take it ill if they are not received, but simply
to go on their way:
But if you enter into a city,
and they do not receive you favorably,
go out into the streets, and shake off
the dust of your feet,
but tell them too that the reign of God
is on its way.
Matthew says that Yeshua told them to remember that they would
be speaking in his name, and consequently in Yohanan's name:
He that receives you is receiving me,
and he that receives me is receiving him that sent me.
He that receives a prophet in the name
of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward;
and he that receives a righteous man in the name of
a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward.
By "him that sent me," Yeshua must mean Yohanan,
as is also indicated by the references to "a prophet" and
"a righteous man". Finally, he sends them on their way with
a colorful image of how they are to comport themselves:
Notice, I am sending you forth as sheep in the midst
of wolves; you will therefore need to be as wise as serpents,
and as harmless as doves.
He has experienced being rejected on the previous tour; he warns
them that they may find a similar reception, but that they must
still exercise the virtues of wisdom and harmlessness.
Matthew attributes some sayings to Yeshua which imply that
he was primarily trying to reach the Jews, despite earlier
expressions of approval for others who were interested in
Go not into the ways of the Gentiles,
and do not enter into any city of the Samaritans;
but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
When they persecute you in this city,
go on to the next; for I tell you,
you shall not have visited all the cities of Israel,
before the son of man join you.
Israel was the northern kingdom, which separated from
Judah after the death of Solomon. The "lost sheep" referred
to the northern tribes who were transplanted to Assyria by
Sargon II; it does not seem relevant to his teaching so far
to use this imagery for his mission. Whether the last
phrase meant himself, or some spirit of God descending upon
them, we cannot tell. He may have been saying merely that
he would catch up with them on the tour.
About this time Herod Antipas, who ruled over both the
region of Galilee and the region east of the Jordan
known as Perea, became concerned about this preacher
and these pilgrims who were roaming over the countryside.
What were they up to? he must have wondered. He had put
Yohanan in prison, and had executed him after prodding by
his wife, but now what was happening?
Herod was actually a clever politician, straddling the
fences by remaining on good terms with the Romans who
supported his kingship which lasted from 4 B.C.E. when
his father Herod the Great died until he was banished in 39
A.S.D., and also staying on good terms with the Jewish
religious leaders and not offending them. He had built his
capital city on the western shore of the sea of Galilee and
named it Tiberias after the Roman emperor; it was a large, bustling,
prosperous Gentile city. But he must have had some fear of his
action in killing Yohanan, because when he was told that Yeshua
was a prophet, like unto Elijah, he replied, "No, this is Yohanan,
who has risen from the dead."
It must have been also about this time that Yeshua received
the dismal news that Yohanan had been executed. Mark tells
us that after the disciples returned from their tour, Yeshua
said to them:
Come out with me into the desert away from everyone,
and let us rest and pray.
So even though Yeshua had seen it coming, the death of Yohanan
must have been a terrible blow.
He couldn't get away from the multitudes, however; they all
ran after them, Yeshua and his disciples. Mark says they
ran "on foot from all the cities, and outwent them." And
even in the midst of his grief over Yohanan's death Yeshua was
moved with compassion when he saw the great crowds; they seemed
to him at that moment to be like sheep without a shepherd. So
again he preached to them; and as sundown came, his disciples
wanted to send them all away to get food. But Yeshua told them
that it was all right, they would share whatever food they had
with them. It was springtime in Palestine, and the grass was
green after the latter rain (no rain falls in Palestine during
the summer); and Yeshua said, "Please tell them all to sit down
on the grass."
Then as he began to break the loaves which they had, and to
divide the few fishes which they had also, and pass them
around among the crowd, so that they all could be refreshed
with a bite to eat, others in the crowd began to bring out the
food that they had with them, and to share it with those around
them also. And suddenly, after it had seemed at first that
there was only a little food, and most of them would go hungry,
there was an abundance, of bread, and fish, and fruit. And Mark
and the others say that they took up twelve baskets of leftovers.
But Yeshua still wanted solitude, to grieve and pray over
the death of Yohanan. So he sent the multitude away, and
told his disciples to get in their boat and sail along the
shore to Beth-Saida, a village on the north shore of the sea of
Galilee but on the other side of the river Jordan. Having sent
them all off, he went by himself into the hills and the darkness
to be alone.