Brit Hadashah Reflections 13
Torah portion Exodus 1 : 1 – 6 : 1
Haftarah portion Isaiah 27 : 6 – 28 :13 and 29 : 22, 23
Brit Hadashah Mark 1:1 - 2 : 28
Hebraic understanding of the Gospel of Yeshua
The gospel of Mark is the shortest, and probably the first written, account we have of life in Israel when Yeshua walked this earth. Mark does not ‘beat about the bush’! He starts with “.. the gospel of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God”. No qualification, no apology, no ambivalence, no ambiguity, ‘because I met Him, walked with Him, learned from Him and I was there when He left this earth and ascended to His Father in Heaven’, he might be saying.
Then he began his story, it’s like a ‘once upon a time’ opening. Having established that Messiah Yeshua is the subject, he takes a step back to tell us that John, Yeshua’s cousin, was the personal fulfilment of prophecies that indicate that the way would be prepared for Messiah. Look at Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. (references which are made very convenient for us today, but at the time of Mark’s writings there were no chapter and verse divisions in the parchment scrolls of Scripture).
And what was the message of John as he ‘prepared the way’? Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. We may be tempted today to think of water baptism as a relatively modern invention of the church. But it is a practice which was instituted when God gave Torah, His instruction for righteous living, to Moses. It was a preparatory ritual of cleansing for those who were to appear before a holy God. And to understand the Hebraic tones of the gospels, we need to know what the sin is from which repentance is required. In our churches we are usually taught that ‘that sin’ is some personal misdeed or attitude. Well, that could be right, BUT, ‘the sin’ (‘chata’ a Hebrew word which means ‘to miss the mark’) which our Bibles teach, is the blatant neglect of “Torah”, God’s instructions. Yeshua taught that He was sent ‘only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. (see Matthew 10 and Matthew 15). They were following what He called the ‘traditions of men’ rather than the Torah of God which was given to Moses. Hence they were ‘lost’.
Additionally, we are informed that as He was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum (now a well preserved and excavated tourist site in the Galilee), that those present were astonished at His teaching, because He taught with a freshness of insight, and with an authority of His own, not, as was commonly taught by other teachers, in the name of some previous Rabbi.
When Yeshua was confronted by the paralysed man let down through the roof of Peter’s house, obviously knowing why he was brought there by his friends, He chose to say “Son, your sins are forgiven you”. Now the religious men there, familiar with the Scriptures, knew that this was an act of God alone (see Isaiah 43:25 and Jeremiah 50:20). So, to them, this appeared as a blasphemous statement. Then Yeshua, discerning their thoughts, addressed the paralytic man, “.. arise, take up your bed and go to your (own) house”. Clearly illustrating His credentials as both healer and forgiver of sins. God Himself in a human body.
Then follows the calling, as a disciple, the hated tax gatherer Matthew, called Levi in Mark’s gospel, and had a meal with him and other tax collectors. Bringing from Yeshua His famous remark “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. Tax gatherers were a hated clan, their very occupation requiring them to be official thieves and robbers. And as servants of the Roman rulers, even more despised. Yeshua’s words in Mark 2: 21,22 give us an insight into His motivation for selecting as his disciples men who had no ‘religious’ baggage. The ‘new wine’ is the revelation of Himself, His person, His identity, His calling, His mission. The Scriptures are full of clues and references to His coming, both then, and on a future occasion. Many of them, and many of us, are blinded by the ‘religious’ teaching we have received, so that we cannot recognize Him as He is, and what His requirement is of us. I have said in previous ‘reflections’ that we worship God in what we do, not in what we say. It is how we live our lives, not in what we say we believe. Yeshua called these fishermen and tax collectors to Himself and they were immediately transformed from a previous lifestyle to a new lifestyle, it showed. It is quite “Hebraic” in its outworking. It’s a doing thing.
Our reading concludes with an unequivocal reference to the Sabbath Day. The fourth commandment says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (set apart)”. Yeshua says He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and that the Sabbath was made for man, for man’s benefit and delight, for man’s rest and pleasure. Enjoy it in His company.