THE STORY OF YESHUA
by miriam berg
Samaria was the name of the northern part of Judea, which
embraced the tribal region of Manasseh, the first son of
Joseph, after the conquest of Palestine by the descendants
of Abraham. It was also the name of the capital city, built by
Omri, the third king of Israel after the breakup of the empire
of David and Solomon. The name comes from the Hebrew shomeron,
which means "watch-mountain", since it was upon a hill, ideally
suited for defense. However, Archelaus had renamed it Sebastije,
which was Greek for Augustus, in honor of Augustus Caesar.
The Samaritans in the days of Yeshua were monotheists and
accepted the Torah of Moshe but in a different form from the
Jews. They believed that the center of worship was supposed
to be on Mount Gerizim, where Moshe had commanded the Israelites
to pronounce blessings over the land, rather than at Jerusalem,
which became the center of the Yahwist religion only under
David and Solomon. The city of Shechem, which was the holy
city of the Samaritans, lies between the mountains of Gerizim
and Ebal, both about 3,000 feet high. The Samaritans were
considered by the Jews to be heretics, and they considered the
Jews to be schismatics. The gospel of John understates the
matter: For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
After crossing the border into Samaria, Yeshua sent some of
his followers ahead to a village to arrange accommodations
for the night. But the Samaritans would not receive them,
because they were Jews. Yakub and Yohan were enraged; they
exclaimed to Yeshua, "Let us call down fire from heaven, and
consume them!" Yeshua had to reprimand them for such a
You have not yet learned what my mission is all
about; did I not instruct you that if a village
does not receive you, you are to bless them also,
and continue on your way? For I did not come to
destroy cities, but to try to save the Jews.
Luke ends the incident by saying merely, And they went to another
In whatever village they finally stayed, his reputation was
there also, and the inhabitants gathered in the marketplace
to see this man who had created such a stir in Galilee. He
probably repeated many of his teachings to them also, since it
is doubtful that he rejected the Samaritans like the rest of the
Jews did. And we are told that a lawyer asked him what he should
do to gain eternal life. Yeshua asked him in turn what he found
written in the Torah, and the man answered with the two Great
Commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with everything
you've got; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Then
Yeshua nodded and said succinctly:
Very good; just do this, and you shall find life.
However, the lawyer was not entirely satisfied with this,
perhaps because he did not really wish to love his neighbor
as himself. So he asked Yeshua, "But who is my neighbor?"
A telling question: perhaps the most important question in the
world, reminding us of Cain's question to God in the book of
Genesis: Am I my brother's keeper? Yeshua responded with what
is perhaps the best-known and best-loved religious story in the
world, the parable of the good Samaritan:
A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho;
and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and
beat him, and left him lying half dead.
By chance there was a priest who was going
down the same way; and when he saw the man lying
there, he passed by on the other side. And in
like manner a Levite also, when he came to the
place, and saw the unfortunate man, passed by on
the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came
to where the man lay; and when he saw him, he was
moved with compassion, and picked him up, and
bound up his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine;
and he set him on his own beast, and brought him
to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day
he took some money out of his own purse, and gave
it to the innkeeper, and said, Take care of him,
and if you spend more, I, when I return this way,
will reimburse you.
Thus Yeshua epitomizes all of his teachings so far. So strong
has this story been, in fact, that the very term "Samaritan"
has come to mean any humane, compassionate, selfless person.
But it reveals Yeshua's own universality as well; despite being
rejected earlier by the Samaritan village, he makes the hero of
the parable a Samaritan, and emphasizes his point by making the
victim a Jew, who were the enemies of the Samaritans. He
finishes by asking the lawyer which of the three were a neighbor
unto the beaten man; the lawyer replies, perhaps a little
unwillingly, "He that showed kindness to him." Yeshua nods
again and says:
Now you go, and do the same.
If one had to select the crown jewel in all of Yeshua's teachings,
this would be it. Your enemies are your neighbors, just
as much as the people who go to the same religious services
Luke says that Yeshua was staying in "a certain village"
with two sisters named Martha and Mary. John tells us
that the village where the sisters lived was Bethany, which
is only two or three miles east of Jerusalem. Martha's sister
Mary is often thought to be Mary Magdalene, which would mean
that the village was Magdala, back in Galilee. Because of this
confusion, we are leaving the story where Luke tells it:
following the encounter with the lawyer regarding who a neighbor
is, on the way through Samaria.
They were all gathered together then, in Martha's house,
and Yeshua was asked to say a prayer before they broke
bread. Yeshua, his heart still struggling over his coming
fate and the temptation to forgo it and return to his carpentering,
spoke only a few words, but they have lived on as the Pater
Noster, or the "Our Father"; it is also known as the "Lord's
Prayer", where the word "Lord" refers to Jesus rather than
Jehovah; but I prefer to call it "Jesus' public prayer":
Father, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us each day our bread for that day.
And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves
also forgive all those who sin against us.
And bring us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the tempter.
This is the prayer as it is given by Luke. Matthew includes
it as part of the Great Sermon, but it is out of place there
because Yeshua has just instructed his hearers to pray in secret,
so he cannot have immediately prescribed to them a public prayer,
saying, Give "us", and Forgive "us". If Yeshua didn't offer
these words as the evening prayer in the house of Martha and Mary,
he must have on some other occasion, and they were remembered and
remembered and became a ritual recitation instead of the
spontaneous prayer which Yeshua uttered from his heart.
After the meal they gathered around while Yeshua spoke to
them. And we are told that Mary sat at his feet, and
heard him gladly. But Martha fretted because of all the
cleaning up after the meal she had to do, and she came to
Yeshua and complained, "Master, don't you care that my sister
has left me to do all the work alone? tell her to come and help
me then." But Yeshua answered her:
Martha, Martha, you are anxious, and trouble
yourself with everything; only one thing is
required; and Mary has chosen well, and it
should not be taken from her.
Yeshua does not say what the one thing is. Nor have we been
told what he spoke about on this occasion either, but it may
have been his teachings on anxiety, which would be relevant
to Martha's fretting:
Be not anxious for your life, what you shall eat;
nor for your body, what clothes you shall wear.
For the life is more than the food, and the body
than the raiment.
Look at the ravens! they do not sow, nor do
they reap; they have neither a storehouse nor a
barn; yet God feeds them! How much more valuable
are you than the birds!
And which of you by being anxious can add even
a quarter of an inch to your height? If then you
are not able to do this one little thing, why be
anxious concerning the rest?
And look at the anemones, how they grow; they do
do not toil, nor do they spin; yet I say unto you,
that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed
like them. And if God so clothes the grass in the
field, which is green today, and tomorrow is mowed
down and dried for hay, how much more shall he clothe
you, you anxious persons!
So do not worry about what there is to eat, or
what there is to drink; your Father knows that you
need all these things. But seek first the reign of
God in your hearts, and you will find that you have
everything you need.
Do not be so anxious after tomorrow; it will come,
let it be anxious for itself. Sufficient for today
is what is happening today.
This sounds idealistic to us, of course; if you don't worry
about food for tomorrow, how will you get it? But it is easy
to see how Mary could have been captivated by the peace and
tranquillity shining in these words. And it may be that we
will find that it is practical advice after all; being anxious
and worried is probably not the best way to get what we need.
Think on this too: five sparrows are sold for two
farthings, but not one of them is overlooked by
God. And the very hairs of your head are all
numbered. So do not worry; you are of more value
than many sparrows.
God watches over every sparrow; God counts each hair on your
head. With these similes Yeshua tries to teach his concept of
God as a caring Parent.
I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be
opened to you.
For everyone that asks will
receive; and he that seeks will find; and to him
that knocks it will be opened.
And which of you that is a parent shall your
child ask for bread, and you give him a stone?
or a fish, and you give him a serpent? Or, if
he ask for an egg, will you give him a scorpion?
If you then, being human, know how to give
good things to your children, how much more shall
God your Father give you those things which you
He also told two parables which seem to be about knocking and
Which of you has a friend, and should go to
him at midnight, saying, Friend, please lend
me some bread; for I have a friend coming
from a long distance, and I have nothing to
set before him; and your friend would answer
from inside and say, Don't bother me; the door
is closed, and the children are all asleep; I
can't get up to give you anything?
I tell you, Though he will not
get up and help because of being your friend,
yet if you keep knocking,
then because of your importunity he will arise
and give you as much as you need.
This seems to qualify the teaching, Knock, and it shall be
opened to you, into, Keep knocking, and eventually
it will be opened to you. The second parable was:
There was in a city a judge, who feared not
God, nor saw any value in any person; and
there was a widow in that city; and she came
often to him, saying, Give me justice in
this court against this man who has cheated me.
And the judge would not at first; but
finally he said to himself, Though I fear
not God, nor esteem any man, yet because this
woman irritates me repeatedly, I will decide
in her favor, otherwise she will wear me out
with her continual pestering.
This also would seem to qualify the teaching, Ask, and you shall
receive. Sometimes, he says, you have to keep asking, so that
you will eventually receive, just because you are an annoyance.
Luke appends some homiletic remarks which must have come from
the later followers of Yeshua, because they are referred to
as the "elect", and there is a promise of speedy deliverance,
which is not the point of the parable. Yeshua apparently made
an analogy between the eye and a lamp, or the spirit and light:
Your eye is the lamp of your body; and when
the reign of God is within you, it shows in
your eyes; but when it is absent, your eyes
are dark and gloomy.
Therefore let your eyes show forth the light
of God, rather than darkness.
And if your eyes are glowing, then will your
entire body be glowing, just as that lamp shines
forth and lights the entire room.
This is not an exact translation from the Greek text, but the
literal translation doesn't make any sense. A literal translation
of the last sentence would read, "If your body is full
of light, having no dark part, then your body is full of light,
just as that lamp with its bright light shines brightly."
Then there was an occasion in the marketplace when a man in
the crowd called out to Yeshua, "Master, make my brother
divide our inheritance with me." Yeshua frowned at him
Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
After this abrupt exclamation, he went on to give his comments
on concern about wealth:
Take heed, and don't be addicted to possessions;
for a man's life doesn't consist in the abundance
of the things he possesses.
No servant can serve two masters; for either
he will hate the one, and love the other; or
else he will hold to one, and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and Mammon.
"Mammon" is from the Aramaic word mamona, which means riches;
it was also the name of a Syrian god of riches, avariciously
pursued. So Yeshua seems to be saying that God and wealth
are incompatible. He told a parable to make this clear,
which is known as the parable of the rich man and his barns:
The farmland of a certain rich man brought forth
plentifully; and he said to himself, What shall
I do, because I don't have enough space to store
all my produce?
Then he said, This is what I will do; I will
pull down all my barns, and build larger ones;
and there I can store all my corn and vegetables.
And I will rejoice, and say to myself, Soul, you
have much produce laid up for many years; so
take it easy, eat, drink, be merry.
But God said to him, Fool, tonight is your
soul required of you; and all the things in your
barns, whose shall they be?
This is Yeshua's lesson not to hoard, and more, it is an
injunction for a person not to have more than the people
around him, for then he has more than he is entitled to,
and more than he can use. He also is reported as saying:
Sell all that you have, and give to the poor;
make for yourselves purses which do not wear out,
treasure in God's eyes which cannot be used up,
nor can it be stolen, nor destroyed by moths. For
where your treasure is, there your heart will be
Then Yeshua was told about some Galileans who had been killed
while they were in Jerusalem making sacrifices in the temple.
The crowd were also talking about an accident in Jerusalem,
where a tower had fallen and killed several men. No explanation
is given, and the events are not described by Josephus or any other
contemporary writer; but Yeshua uses them as the basis for his
gloomiest forecast yet:
Do you think that those Galileans were neglectful
of the law more than any other Galileans, because
they suffered that fate? I tell you, not at all;
but unless you change your actions, you shall all
Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam
fell, and killed them, do you think that they were
offenders above all the men that live in Jerusalem?
Again I tell you, not at all; but unless you also
change your actions, you shall likewise perish.
In other words, those accident victims had not even done anything
particularly wrong, yet they lost their lives; and if his
hearers didn't begin to seek a new way of life, or the reign of
God as Yeshua called it, they were surely heading for destruction
themselves. None of his earlier teachings have approached
this bleakness of outlook, this prediction of disaster and
tragedy. So what is he asking them to do? we can only refer to
his Great Sermon, and the parable of the good Samaritan: they
must learn to love their enemies, or the greatest destruction
in Jewish history will be upon them. He has not said they must
follow him, or attend services, or tithe, or bow before priests;
he has said that they must do the will of God, and he has
equated that will with love of enemies as well as love of
neighbors, and also with opening their hands to the poor and
needy and not hoarding wealth and possessions for themselves.
Finally, he tells a parable about a fig tree that was given one
A certain man had a fig tree planted in his
vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it,
and found none. So he said to his vinekeeper,
For three years now I have looked for fruit
on this fig tree, and haven't found any; cut
it down; why does it cumber the ground?
But the vinekeeper said, Sir,
let it alone this year also, till I shall dig
all around it, and fertilize it; and if it bear
fruit afterward, that will be well; but if not,
then you can cut it down.
Must not Yeshua see himself as the vinekeeper, breaking up
their fallow ground, so that they can sow righteousness,
and reap mercy, as Hosea says? If they bring forth fruit
worthy of God, then there is hope; otherwise there is none,
and they will be cut down, just as Yohanan predicted.
One of Yeshua's most famous aphorisms, reported by Luke
on the journey to Jerusalem but included by Matthew as part
of the Great Sermon, is the injunction about the narrow way
and the wide road:
You should strive to enter in by the narrow gate;
for the road to destruction is wide and broad,
and many are those who find it; but the door to
life is narrow and constricted, and only a few
people find it.
Luke does not mention the wide road to destruction, but only
the inability of the many to enter into the narrow door. In
the Great Sermon he contrasts the ways of universal love with
the ways of the world; in this parable he is speaking of the
difficulty of the way of universal love. But certainly Yeshua
does not need to tell them how hard it is to love everyone!
Socrates, too, who taught that we are not to retaliate or
return evil for evil, said: "This opinion never has been held,
and never will be held, by any great number of persons." He
also said, "The difficulty, my friends, is not to avoid death,
but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death."
Luke quotes Yeshua here in response to a question about
how many will be saved. This question is clearly Luke's
editorial hand, since it addresses Yeshua as "Lord",
which term did not begin to be used until long after Yeshua's
death. But then Luke reports another parable, amplifying on
the difficulty of finding the narrow way, and how the mere
fact of being around him is not enough:
When once the master of the house has arisen,
and closed the door, so that everyone else is
left standing outside, and they begin to knock
on the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and he
shall answer them and say, I do not know you;
Then they shall plead, and say, We ate and
drank with you, and you taught in our streets;
And he shall say again, I tell you, I know
not from where you come; get away from here,
all you wicked people.
In the same way, you shall see Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, having
entered the reign of God, and yourselves cast
And they shall come from everywhere, from the
the east and west, and from the north and south,
not just from Judea, and shall enter into the
reign of God.
This is a distressing prospect: shut outside, and no apparent
reason given for why they are not allowed to enter. It must be
because, though they have eaten and drunk together, and taught
in the streets together, they still have not brought forth fruit
worthy of repentance, which may be why he asks in the Great Sermon:
And why do you call me lord and master, and do
not follow the advice I give you?
Somewhere along the way there was another time when the Pharisees
came and asked Yeshua for a sign, which he again refused to give,
but this time he compared himself to Jonah, the prophet who had
preached doom to Nineveh:
This generation is an doomed generation; it seeks
a sign; but no sign shall be given to it, save
for the sign of Jonah.
For even as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites,
warning them of the coming destruction of the city,
so shall my teaching be unto this generation.
The book of Jonah said that Jonah had preached that God would
destroy the city in forty days. On this occasion Yeshua is
comparing his own message to that of Jonah, and certainly his
remarks about the Galileans and the deaths at Siloam constitute
a warning that disaster was coming and that it was time for men
to change their ways if they hoped to prevent that destruction,
just as the people of Nineveh are said to have repented and
saved their city. Thus this sounds like another way of opposing
the beliefs of the Zealots who wanted an military conflict with
the Romans. Yeshua continues his parable:
The men of Nineveh shall stand up in judgment
of this generation, and shall condemn it; for
they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and I
am another Jonah.
The queen of the south shall rise up in the
judgment with the men of this generation, and
shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of
the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and I
teach you how to enter the kingdom of God, which
is even greater wisdom.
So he tries to make it clear that if they persist in their path
they are running against the wisdom of the ages. Then the
narrative says that he went on his way through cities and
villages, teaching, and journeying on to Jerusalem.