In the last chapter we began to consider how the people of 1st century Palestine could know whether Jesus the son of Mary was a prophet and the messiah, and we found that there was one difference between the coming of Jesus and the coming of other prophets. The Jewish nation already believed that God was going to send a special anointed one - ``a messiah''. We examined prophecies from the Torah-Old Testament stating that this ``messiah'' would be from the descendants of King David; that he would be born in Bethlehem; that he would have mighty miraculous powers; and that he would be called righteous and holy in an exceptional way.

Further information was revealed to the Prophet Isaiah who described this special child from the house and family of David with these words,

``For to us a child is born...And he will be called `Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne ...establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Isaiah 9:6-7.

And, as we saw in the last chapter, they believed the description written by Jeremiah in 600 BC that this special ``messiah'' would rule with justice so correct that it would be like a divine righteousness. He prophesied,

`` `The days are coming', declares the LORD, `when I will raise up to David a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. in his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.

This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD, our righteousness.' ''

Jeremiah 23:5-6.

Now let us imagine that you the readers and myself, along with a neighbor Elias, are serious believing Jews living in first century Palestine under Roman occupation. We are fed up with these idolatrous Romans who carry images around and worship more than one God. We long for the Messiah to come, hoping and expecting that with his great and miraculous power he will deliver us from these uncircumcised pagans.

But we have a problem. When a man comes along and claims to be the Messiah, how can we know whether his claim is true? How can we know that he really is the Messiah promised by God?

Over the last 100 years several men have come claiming to be the ``messiah''. They all tried to restore the kingdom to Israel by their own force, and they all failed and were killed along with their followers.[1] Therefore, we want to be very sure that someone who claims to be the promised ``messiah'', really is ``THE MESSIAH'', before we risk our necks following him. The following story shows how our friend Elias solved this problem.

Jesus' Teaching and his Miracles as a Second Witness

The Beginning of his Ministry

My name is Elias (Elijah) and my wife and I live in the city of Nain. Nain is eight or nine kilometers from Nazareth, and three or four years ago we began to hear stories that a rabbi was doing miracles over in Capernaum. Our neighbor, a poor widow woman with one son, has a cousin who lives over there and this is what she told us.

She said, ``My cousin, named Obediah, lives in Capernaum, and one Saturday at the Synagogue service there was a visiting Rabbi from Nazareth who was very different. First of all they {were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority,}[2] as though he knew God personally. Secondly, just as he finished speaking, {a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out,

``What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!''}

Everybody turned around to see what was going on and all of a sudden this Rabbi, called Jesus, stood up and said sternly,

{``Be quiet! Come out of him!''

The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.}

My cousin says that the Synagogue was like a mad-house. There were more than 200 people present and everyone was talking at once. Some were crying and embracing the man who was healed. A few were upset because the evil spirit called this rabbi ``the Holy One of God'', but most of them were just amazed saying, {``What is this? A new teaching - and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits, and they obey him.''} Mark 1:22-27.

My cousin, Obediah, says there's even more. He has a good friend who's a fisherman. The man's name is Simon Peter. Simon and his brother Andrew had been fishing all night and they didn't get even one fish. Then this same Rabbi, Jesus, came along with a crowd of about 100 people and asked to sit in Simon's boat while he spoke. {When he finished speaking he said to Simon,

``Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.''}

Well, according to Obediah, Simon got sort of upset. He's one of the best fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and hadn't caught anything. For this Rabbi to start telling him when to go fishing was too much. But he didn't want to offend a religious teacher so he said,

{``because you say so, I will let down the nets.''

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.} They had to call their partners in the other boat and they filled both boats so full of fish that they almost sank. Luke 5:3-6 .

With all those fish, my cousin decided to help Simon Peter and Andrew carry their fish home. When they got there they found {Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever.} Peter had invited the Rabbi home for a meal, therefore {they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand, and helped her up. The fever left her} just like that, {and she began to wait on them.} Mark 1:30-31 That made two miracles that my cousin had seen in one day, in addition to the one in the synagogue, but you haven't heard anything yet.

{That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. he also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.} Mark 1:32-34.

I've never been to Capernaum, but Obediah says that it's about the same size as Nain - about 4000 people. He says that there must have been about 500 people around that door. Nearly every family in town had brought a sick person, and he figures that Jesus healed 50 people that night. He says that the people in Capernaum are saying, {``Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel''} Matthew 9:33 .

Death and Then Life

Well our neighbor lady is nice enough, but she talks quite a bit, so my wife and I, we took this with a grain of salt. But we kept hearing stories like this from all over the region of Galilee, and then we had the shock of our lives. The Neighbor lady's son died. He had been coughing for years, but this one night it got very bad, and in spite of all the medicines and herbs she gave him, that was the end. She was grief-stricken, of course, and since it was her only son it was worse.

We felt really sorry for her, but there wasn't anything we could do except go to the funeral. So after they read over the body we started out toward the cemetery. She was just a poor woman and there weren't very many of us - about fifty maybe - so even though I'm not as strong as I used to be, I was taking a turn carrying the coffin.

When we came out of the city gate there was a large crowd coming down the road. Usually people get out of the way when a funeral comes and they started to move over, but this time a lane opened up in the center of the crowd and a man came right toward us. I didn't pay much attention until he reached up {and touched the coffin}. Then, with the way he looked at us, we just stopped and {stood still (and) he said,

``Young man, I say to you, get up!''}

Well! you won't believe it, but {the dead man sat up and began to talk!} We just gasped and people started whispering ``it's Jesus of Nazareth''. We put the young man down and took off the grave clothes; {and Jesus gave him back to his mother.} Luke 7:14-15.

After that first silence, people started shouting and praising God. You've never seen anything like it. I was jumping and shouting and waving my arms. I congratulated the mother three times and the son five. And I wanted to say something to Jesus or slap him on the back for thanks, but I didn't dare. How can you slap a rabbi on the back?

Then all of a sudden he said something to his disciples and they turned off on a side road and were gone.

A Few Months Later

Sometime later my wife and I decided that we were really going to look into this situation. We had two reasons. The first was that her mother was all stiff with arthritis. It was so painful that she could only walk a few steps; so we figured that we might as well see whether the healing power of this Jesus wouldn't work for her too.

But for me, the real reason was that I wanted to hear what he had to say with my own ears. Some people said that he was going to be king. Others said that he talked about a ``kingdom of God'' but then said that it was inside of you. After all, if he is really ``THE MESSIAH'', then I want to know.

Therefore when the weather turned good and warm, I got my brother to milk my two cows and my goats, and we hired a cart to carry my mother-in-law and started out. The first night we stayed with the neighbor lady's cousin, Obediah, in Capernaum. He's the one that knows Simon Peter and Andrew, two of Jesus' disciples.

It took us another day to get to a place northeast of the Sea of Galilee called Bethsaida. It was hard on the mother-in-law and we had to stop pretty often so she could rest. But without those Roman roads it would have been even harder. I hate their guts, but I have to admit that they build good roads.

The Rabbi was way out in the country on the other side of the Jordan river, but lots of people were traveling in the same direction, so we knew we weren't lost. About mid-morning of the third day we arrived and there were crowds of people. We sat on the side of a hill while Jesus spoke.

*** His Message (My Third Sura) ***[3]

The first thing which I heard was when he talked about fasting and said,

{``When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.''}

Then he spoke about what should be the most important thing saying,

{``Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...

``No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.''} Matthew 6:16-24.

Then he stopped and walked around through the crowd for fifteen or twenty minutes healing people who were ill and ordering the demons to come out, and some of those demons recognized him and called him strange things. One of them even called him {``the son of the Most High God''}. Mark 5:7.

When he started speaking again he said,

{``Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

``Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.''} Matthew 7:1-5.

Jesus did this over and over again through the whole day[4] and about three o'clock in the afternoon he came in our direction. He had that same stern but compassionate look in his eyes that I saw when he wakened the neighbor boy from the dead. He passed from one ill person to another until he came to my mother-in-law. Then he reached down and took her hand and said,

``Come, my mother, stand up!''[5]

She stood up immediately, straight as an 18 year old. For about a minute she just stood there moving her legs and arms and fingers and praising the Lord. Then jumping and shouting she went running after him to thank him. When she got there he turned to her and said as he did to almost all of the people, {``Your faith has healed you''}. Mark 5:34.

But sometimes he would say to someone,

{``See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you''}, John 5:14.

just as though he knew about the person's past and that the illness was a result of sin.

He said many things that day. I've already told you some of them, and here are some others. He talked about prayer and said,

{``Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

``Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

``If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!''}

He told us that if something wasn't covered in the law then the rule is,

{``In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.}

He warned us that it takes a real effort to follow in the way of God. He called it entering the narrow gate.

{``Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.}

He warned us about false prophets saying,

{``Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

``Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.}

Next he spoke some hard words. He said,

{``Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'}

Finally he ended this group of sayings with a parable about two men. One built his house on the sand and the other on a rock foundation. When a storm came the house on the sand was soon washed away, but the house built on the rock stood firm. When Jesus finished the story he said,

{``Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like (the) wise man who built his house on the rock...

``But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like (the) foolish man who built his house on sand.''} Matthew 7:7-26.

All day he taught with great authority - not like the usual religious teachers who just quote what was said by Rabbi this and Rabbi that.

The Sacred Restaurant

Finally late in the afternoon people began to get a bit restless, with the children crying and running around. Our food was all gone and we were starting to talk about going back home when Jesus turned to one of his disciples called Philip and said,

{``Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?...''

Philip answered him,

``Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.''

Another of his disciples, Andrew...spoke up,

``Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish...''

Jesus said,

``Have the people sit down.''} John 6:5-9.

There was plenty of grass in that place, and they had us {sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties} Mark 6:40 and you know I counted them and there were at least 100 groups of 50. That makes 5000 people!

{Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish} until we were full.

I've never experienced anything like it before. I was part of a miracle! I ate a whole loaf of bread and six fish myself, and there were only two fish and five loaves of bread to start with! It was absolutely incredible!!

When we finished {they gathered (the left over pieces) and filled twelve baskets.} Every one of his twelve closest disciples was carrying a full basket of extra bread.

{After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say,

``Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world,''}[6]

and they started to talk about crowning him king right there on the spot, but he refused!! John 6:11,13-15.

Then Jesus preached to us with really strange words. He said,

{``I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty ... For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me.

``For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.''} John 6:35,38,40.

We had to leave after that in order to get back. But now that the mother-in-law was well we could go home as fast as the cart would go and it only took us a day and a half. What an experience!

The Questions

There are still some questions about all this, though. They really are big questions and I don't know what to do with them. Jesus calls God his Father? What can he mean?

Of course, David said in Psalm 68 that God is, ``A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows''; and God calls Abraham ``my friend'' (Isaiah 41:8). Maybe it's a relationship like that?

The trouble is that Jesus doesn't talk in that distant kind of way. He keeps referring to God as his father and not only that, but he said to us that day, ``How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him''. And he told us to pray saying, ``Our Father in heaven''. I have to admit that it would be comforting to think that God was interested in us like a ``father'' but what if it's blasphemy?

Then he said, ``I came down from heaven''. Does he mean to say that he was in heaven with God before? Who can believe that? And he said, ``Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord '... then I will say `I never knew you.' '' That sounds like he is claiming that he will have some sort of power at the day of final judgement.

Another problem concerns the information I heard from the neighbor lady's cousin when we stayed overnight in Capernaum. He said that one day Jesus was in a house speaking to a whole crowd of people. Some were religious leaders who had come all the way from Jerusalem. All of a sudden there was a lot of noise and four men started taking the tiles off the roof. They had this friend who was paralyzed and no one would back away and let them in so they made a hole in the roof and let their friend down right in front of Jesus.

People were getting sort of used to seeing miracles by this time and they thought that Jesus would just heal him and start preaching again, but it didn't happen like that at all.

{...When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ``Son, your sins are forgiven.''}

Obediah, the neighbor lady's cousin said that you could have heard a pin drop. He can read and he knows the Torah real well, so he and the other scribes sitting there were {thinking to themselves,

``Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?''}

Then Jesus looked at them just as though he knew what they were thinking and said to them,

{``Which is easier?

To say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven?'

Or to say, `Get up. `Take your mat and walk?'}

The neighbor lady's cousin said, ``I started to answer him and say that it was easier to heal the man. When suddenly I realized that he might turn around to me and tell me to heal him myself if it's so easy. So I was very quiet.''

When no one answered him Jesus said to them,

{``But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins''

- he said to the paralytic -

``I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.''

He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.} Mark 2:5-12.

Now what can you say about a thing like that? He claimed to have power to forgive sins!?! In case you are wondering who the ``son of man'' is, Obediah says that that's another name which he calls himself. It doesn't change the problem at all. How can he forgive sins?

It was just as though he was saying to them, ``If I am lying, then God won't give me the power to heal this man. But if he gets up when I tell him to get up - a thing which you can see - then you know that I have power on earth to forgive sins - a thing which you can't see.''

So now you can see our problem. My wife and I have talked about it many times. Jesus says that he came down from heaven, that he's going to have power at the day of judgement, and that he can forgive sins. The demons call him ``the Holy One of God'' and ``the son of the Most High God''.

We could say that it is all lies and blasphemy, but what about the neighbor lady's son? He's just as alive as you and I, and without even one cough! And my mother-in-law has been doing a full days work ever since we came back! And what about me?

I ate those fish! I saw those fish which that boy brought over to Jesus with my own eyes! There were only two to start with and I ate six myself!

I would say that he has to be ``The Promised Messiah'', yet he refused with great insistence when they wanted to make him king? It just won't fit in my head.

  1. According to the Bible (Acts 5:34-38), and according to secular historians such as Josephus, many men had come claiming to be the "Messiah" in the years before Jesus was born.
  2. All the words included between the { } braces are quoted exactly from the text of the New Testament.
  3. All the readings are from Matthew Chapters five through seven, called "The Sermon on the Mountain", which I propose as my third reading for a Sura like the Qur'an, which I promised on page 214.
  4. I believe that Jesus gave the same teachings over and over in each village where he spoke. Therefore I have felt free to include here teachings and healings which are recorded for other times and places in the Gospel on the basis of Luke, who in his account of the feeding of the 5000 wrote "But the crowds ... followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who needed healing." Luke 9:11.
  5. This miracle is exactly similar to the one recorded in Luke 13:11,13.
  6. They are referring to God's promise that he would send a prophet like Moses. See page 12 for a full quotation and discussion of this prophecy.

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