by miriam berg
Chapter XIV.

After a stay of several months in Phoenicia, Yeshua decided to return to Galilee. The gospels do not tell us precisely how long he stayed there, but we can deduce that because the event of the loaves and fishes occurred in the spring, and the journey to Jerusalem began late in the fall, that he left Phoenicia in the month of Tishri, about the beginning of fall.

Nor are the gospels very clear on his route when he came back; he seems to be flitting from one city to another rapidly. Perhaps he is still worried about getting arrested by Herod. Mark reports that he actually crossed over the Anti- Lebanon range north of Galilee and came way around through the Decapolis back into the tetrarchy of Philip. This would have been quite a hike.

Then Mark tells the story of the healing of a deaf and dumb man, without saying where exactly. Such a story might have been invented, but the details are very specific and do not lend themselves to doubt. On this occasion Yeshua took the man aside, and probed in his ears with his fingers, and rubbed saliva upon the man's tongue. Mark tells us that he sighed, probably again because even as he tried to cure the man's disability, he felt diverted from his main mission. Then he told the man not to tell anyone how he had been cured; but the man and his friends went off telling everyone they met. Neither Matthew nor Luke relate this incident.

Now Mark and Matthew repeat the tale of the preaching to the multitude in the desert and the miraculous sharing of food that took place when evening came. Did it happen twice? It might have; the second telling says that there were seven loaves of bread instead of five, and there were four thousand persons instead of five thousand, and there were seven baskets of leftovers instead of twelve. Perhaps the numbers have some secret significance which is now lost. In any case, after the event, Yeshua gets into the boat again with the disciples and sails for another place.

Mark says that it was a place called Dalmanutha, but no such place existed. Matthew says that it was Magadan, but there was no place with that name either. Perhaps it was the village called Magdala, which is situated at the southern edge of the plain of Gennesaret, also known as the village of Tarichaea. It may have been here that Yeshua cast out the demons from Mary Magdalene, but as we have said there is no report of that incident, unless Mary was the adulteress who visited the house of Simon, but that event is not reported as an exorcism, nor is the woman called Mary, nor is the place called Magdala.

Anyway, while he was in this village, the Pharisees came to him, and challenged him to perform a sign from heaven to prove himself. He has told them his principle more than once: God should not be tempted. Now he sighs to himself, Mark says he sighed deeply in his spirit, and told them:
Why do you keep asking for a sign? Once and for all, there shall no sign be given to this generation.
Thus the man acclaimed by his later followers as some kind of superhuman magician refuses absolutely to perform any magic. This could not have been remembered if it had not been said. So Yeshua makes it clear in yet another way that his message is not to focus attention on his own person or abilities, but to get men to think and be ethical. Then the narrative says that they all got back in the boat and returned to the other side, which must have been back to Beth-Saida.

On the way across the sea, it was discovered that they had brought no bread with them. Mark says they had not more than one loaf. Yeshua took this opportunity to speak another parable to them, saying:
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
The disciples were nonplussed, thinking that he said this because they had no bread with them. He then catechizes them, repeating all the number symbolism of the two bread-sharing events:
Why do you think that I was talking about bread? Do you still not understand my message? Having eyes, don't you see? and having ears, don't you hear?
   And don't you remember how we took up twelve baskets of leftovers when we broke five loaves with the five thousand? and how we took up seven baskets of leftovers when we broke seven loaves with the four thousand?
This is obscure; it is difficult to interpret the meaning of all these sevens and twelves and fives. Perhaps this was repeated among his later followers as a sort of password for identifying each other amidst persecution. But Matthew tells us that the disciples finally understood that he was speaking of the teaching of the Pharisees when he spoke of their leaven.

On another occasion, Yeshua became very specific as to the teachings of the Pharisees of which they were to beware. That time he told them further:
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in place of Moshe, the giver of the Torah; therefore whatsoever they command you, you should do that, since it is the commandment of God; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
   All their works they do to be seen by the crowds: they enlarge the borders of their robes, and the tassels on their garments; they love the chief places at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues; they love to be recognized and saluted in the marketplace, and to be addressed as Rabbi.
   But you should not be called Rabbi, for God alone is your teacher. Nor should you call any man father on the earth; for God is your father, and all of you are brothers. And do not let yourself be called Master, for God is your master, and we are all equal before God.
   So learn this: the greatest among you is the one who serves. For anyone that seeks to be exalted shall in fact be humbled; but anyone that seeks to humble himself shall be exalted.

Finally, Mark (but only Mark) tells us that they arrived back in
Beth-Saida, where he performed another healing by the use of his hands and saliva. This time it was a blind man, and again he took him outside the village. After spitting on his eyes, and rubbing them with his hands, the man said he could see again. This may be a simple case of some kind of film developing over the man's cornea, which Yeshua knew could be removed by the method he used. In any case, Yeshua then instructed the man to return to his home, and not to even enter the village; Yeshua did not want him telling everyone he met on the street. Of course when his friends saw him the next day, able to see after having been visually impaired, they would know that Yeshua had cured him. And he would find out that he had to go to work!

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