by miriam berg
Chapter VII

Yeshua returned into Kephar-Nahum after his speaking about standards of righteousness by the Sea of Chinnereth. By now his fame had spread even among the Roman troops, for when he returned, he was approached by some of the elders of the Jews, asking that he come and heal the servant of a Roman officer, a centurion, so called because he was set over ten squads of ten men each. This seems surprising in the light of the hostility of the religious leaders in his previous stay in Kephar-Nahum; Matthew tells us that it was the centurion himself who came to Yeshua. But whether or no, Yeshua agrees to come to the centurion's house.

But before Yeshua arrived, the centurion sent friends to him, pleading unworthiness to have Yeshua enter his house. He tells Yeshua, "Speak the word only, and my servant will be healed. For I am a soldier, having men under me, and being under authority myself; and I understand the use of power." Yeshua is astonished at these words, and turns to his followers and says, "Such faith this is! I have not found such faith anywhere among the Jews!" And we are told that when the centurion's friends returned to the house, they found the servant healed.

It is not my intent to rationalize or explain the healings attributed to Yeshua; there is at least one occasion when Yeshua was not able to heal the persons who came to him. This story became exaggerated with time, so that John tells us that it was the son of a nobleman, rather than the servant of a centurion, and omits the expression of faith in Yeshua, and reports that the cure was effected as soon as Yeshua pronounced the words, "Thy son liveth." But the Jews did not have a class of nobility; did John mean a member of the royal family? or one of the chief priests and elders? John's version is clearly a later, more embroidered report.

And it is a little surprising that Yeshua should describe this faith as greater than any he had yet found, since we have repeatedly been told that he was followed by great multitudes. Mark has told us that "all the city was gathered at the door"; "they said to him, all are seeking you"; "they came at him from every quarter". Luke and Matthew have told us that he healed all who came to him. Possibly Yeshua said only, "This is as great faith as I have ever found, even among the Jews!" The exaggeration came later, when the worship of Yeshua had spread among the Gentile world.

Luke tells us that following this Yeshua went on a tour of Galilee, visiting cities and villages, accompanied by the twelve disciples, and many women, including Mary Magdalene. Luke tells us, and Mark echoes it later, that Yeshua had cast out seven devils from Mary Magdalene, but there is no report of this exorcism anywhere in the gospels.

Yeshua is reported to made a visit to the town of Nain, which lies about twelve miles to the west of the Sea of Chinnereth. While he was there he revived the son of a widow who thought he was dead. This became exaggerated with time, so that Luke tells us that the man was really dead, and the story is told in almost the same words as the same miracle attributed to Elisha, the successor of Elijah. But we note that the people acclaim Yeshua, saying, A great prophet has arisen among us. Thus we see that, whatever later ages and later followers came to believe, the people who saw Yeshua considered him to be a prophet, and not a god.

On one occasion Yeshua visited his home town. Luke tells us that it was the first episode in his career, but that certainly is a mistake, because even in that report Yeshua refers to his earlier activities:

Whatsoever we have heard done in Kephar-Nahum, do also here in your own country.
Mark and Matthew place it somewhat later, after a second tour of Gailiee. But it seems logical that this visit must have preceded his friends and family coming out to find him. which Mark and Matthew tell before his hometown visit.

Mark and Matthew tell the story in almost the same words. Yeshua came into his own country, and entered into the synagogue, as he had done in Kephar-Nahum, and began to teach there. His hometown folks were astonished, and asked,

Where did this man get his wisdom, and what is the meaning of all his healings and exorcisms? Is not this the son of the carpenter, and is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers called Yakub, and Yosef, and Judah, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?
And we are told that they were all offended by his teaching in the synagogue, an ordinary person like themselves. Yeshua says sadly:

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
From which conclusion we can also see that Yeshua's own perception of himself was as a prophet, another speaker for Yahweh, in the footsteps of Yohanan and all the great prophets.

And we are told that it was on this occasion and in his hometown that "he could do there no mighty work", and further that he was astonished in his turn at their unbelief. Matthew modifies this statement to make it appear that he did at least some mighty works there, based on Mark's proviso that Yeshua did lay his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them. So we can see in Yeshua's own explanation that it was a person's faith which healed him and his lack of faith which kept him from being healed.

Luke's version of the visit is more vivid, and gives us more content as to what his teaching was that both amazed them at his wisdom and angered them at him. He begins by reading from the book of Isaiah, chapter 61:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me to preach the good news
unto the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
To proclaim liberty unto the captives,
And the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
And to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
Luke does not quote this passage from Isaiah correctly; but Yeshua could not have found a passage which more clearly expressed his concept of his mission: a prophet, to preach the good news to the poor, and the coming of the reign of God. He gave the scroll back to the attendant, and said to the congregation:

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.
That alone might have been enough to enrage his townsfolk: for him to claim to be a fulfillment of scripture! Luke says that all wondered at his words of grace, which he does not report however. But we can imagine what he might have said, based on all his words and experiences we have already seen:

For I was baptized at the hands of Yohanan, whom you all have heard of. And afterward, it seemed to me that the heavens opened, and a dove of peace descended upon me, and i heard a voice speaking the seventh verse of the second psalm: You are a son of God; today you have come alive.
      And after this, I felt driven by the spirit of God into the wilderness, where I was alone for many days, with the wild beasts, sorely troubled by this vision. It was as if Satan himself came to me and said, If you are the son of God, command that these stones become bread. But I told him, Man does not live by bread alone.
      Then again, I felt as if Satan came before me and said, All the kingdoms of the earth I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me. Again, I told him, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, and keep his commandments.
      And finally, I felt as if Satan came to me one more time and said, If you are the son of God, jump off the top of the temple, for the angels of the Lord will surely bear you up. But I told him also, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
      So I realized that the reign of God did not consist of wealth and possessions, but of keeping his commandments; nor did it consist of power over kingdoms and armies, but in following in all his ways; nor can it be evidenced by signs and wonders, even by miracles, but by living by the Torah and the prophets.
      But what are God's commandments? and what are his ways? They are, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to open your hand to the poor, and to loose the bands of oppression, and to undo heavy burdens. And they are more, they are to love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, and to love your enemies, for they are your neighbors. They are to deal your bread to the hungry, and bring the homeless under your roof. The children of Ethiopia, and the Samaritans, and the Jews are alike in God's eyes; and the amme ha'eretz are worth as much to God as a rich publican or Pharisee.
      Therefore I say unto you, let God reign in your hearts, and do not trouble yourself over who wears a metal crown. Do not burden yourself with wealth and possessions, for if you let anyone starve you are letting God starve. This is the meaning of the law and the prophets.
These are words of grace indeed! and we cannot wonder that the townspeople wondered at them, although how they must have inflamed the complacent and self-righteous, those who had more than the other people around them! But still, he has said nothing that cannot be found in the Hebrew scriptures.

But Luke also tells us, as do Mark and Matthew, that they scoff at him, Who do you think you are? Aren't you just the son of Yosef, the son of the carpenter? and that Yeshua replies, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. Luke tells us further that Yeshua compared himself to Elijah and to Elisha, the great prophet who succeeded Elijah; Elijah had helped a widow in Sidon, where he had fled from the Israelites; Elisha had cured a Syrian named Naaman of leprosy, even though there were many lepers in his own country. Then the townsfolk were filled with wrath indeed, and tried to push him over a cliff; but he passed through them and went away from there. And Mark ends the story: He went round about the villages teaching.

So despite the fact that it must have been embarrassing that Yeshua was rejected by his hometown, it was remembered as an important event in his ministry, and his epigram that a prophet is without honor in his own country is one of the only two sayings of Yeshua which can be found in all four gospels.

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