One of the most familiar Bible stories is that of Yeshua (Jesus) feeding the five thousand. This amazing and encouraging story is the only one of Messiah’s miracles recorded in all four gospels. Since all four gospel writers deemed this event significant, there must be some deeper meaning to it than is apparent in a casual reading. Yeshua demonstrated His compassion and ability to meet human needs, but He also taught His disciples a valuable lesson in faith and in doing the will of God. By satisfying the hunger of 5,000 men and the women and children with them, Yeshua brought the Kingdom of God into their midst in ways none of them had experienced before, and He did so in a demonstration of Holy Spirit power. What more could there be to the feeding of the five thousand than this? Much indeed. In this one miracle, Yeshua provided a sign of His Messiahship, a teaching on the seven thousand year plan of God, and a prophecy about the end of this age.
This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.
Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue. Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it. Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.
My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries. The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This journey is beset with many openings for offense. Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended. I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.
Why should Christians care that this Sunday, April 27, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day? Isn’t that something we have been over enough since 1945? It is a Jewish thing, after all. It was a huge tragedy, but we can’t do anything more about it now. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So just leave it at that. Let the Jews and the Israelis have their memorial, and we’ll get on with our lives.
Except I can’t leave it at that. This is not just a Jewish thing. It is a human thing.
It is a perilous thing to start taking God at His word. He tends to change one’s paradigms in most uncomfortable ways. When once we begin studying the Bible with the same amount of devotion with which we study our bank accounts, or the record of our favorite sports team, or the latest offerings from Hollywood, we find that what we have held to be true all our lives is often not quite so. Take, for example, the message of one of the world’s most cherished Christmas carols, Away in a Manger. For the most part this pleasant song is a wonderful hymn to our Savior Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) Who humbled Himself to become one of us. But then we come to the last lyric:
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care;
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there.
I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12 NKJV)
It would seem that God’s words through the prophet have direct application to us modern followers of Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach). Even though our God has recorded many great things both in His Law (Torah) given through Moses and in the Prophets, Christians tend to avoid those books of the Bible. Whether it is fear of “the Law” and potential legalism associated with observing it, or a perception that the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures, or Tanakh) does not carry the same weight as the New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures), there is a definite lack of understanding of the first two thirds of the Bible. This is a great tragedy, chiefly because it robs us of much blessing, including understanding of our identity as the seed of Abraham, spiritual depth, and fruitfulness in our walk of faith in Messiah.
There is in the middle of Paul’s letter to Rome a window into the apostle’s heart. Listen to the passion and urgency of a man who grieves that his own people, blessed in every way, have yet to recognize their Messiah:
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5 NKJV)
A Jewish friend once told me that in some Jewish circles the way to celebrate Purim is to drink so much at the party that it becomes difficult to distinguish Esther from Haman. I have not been to such a Purim party, but I do understand (thanks to certain indiscretions in my misspent youth) what it means to forget what happened at a party. It seems to me that God wanted His people to observe the events of Purim, but probably not in that particular way.
And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: “Arise, devour much flesh!” (Daniel 7:5 NKJV)
The stirring rendition of Russia’s national anthem during the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi continues to echo through my mind. And yet the image of eager, innocent Russian children singing the praises of their Motherland, carries with it a haunting question: why must the best national hymns belong to the world’s most aggressive empires?
As if the world needed more proof of this, the Olympic athletes had hardly left Sochi before Russia was pressing its weight on neighboring Ukraine in support of a popularly-elected, but corrupt, president. As events of the past week have shown, the issue now is not whether Russia will intervene in Ukraine, but when or if Russia will leave Ukraine to work out its own problems. Speaking as a historian and student of such things, it seems that there are only a few key questions facing the international community: Please click here to continue reading
This is the second in a two-part series offering a Hebraic view of the miracle of feeding the five thousand.
But what is the connection of fish with Yeshua? To understand that, we must delve into jots and tittles. Yeshua brings these things to our attention:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading
For the first 45 years of my life I was a Southern Baptist, a Presbyterian, or a Pentecostal, moving easily and comfortably among those denominations. At the age of 9 I accepted Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth as my Savior, publicly professing my faith in Him as Messiah (Christ) and submitting to water baptism. Today I am Messianic, meaning that I profess faith in Yeshua as Messiah and keep the commandments of the Lord as taught through Moses. Perhaps I could be described as a First Century Believer, or even a Revelation 12:17 believer. That verse says,
And the dragon was enraged with the woman [Israel], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17 NKJV, emphasis added; see also Revelation 14:12-13) Please click here to continue reading