Roy B. Blizzard, Jr., PhD
A number of years ago, David Bivin in Jerusalem and I wrote the book that many of you have seen and read, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, and actually the little book was just designed to answer a question that we had been frequently asked, How do you know that all of this material is Hebrew? It wasn't meant to be any kind of a scholarly work. It was written basically for lay people and just to answer that one question. How do you know that the words of Jesus were Hebrew? How do you know that the language of the common person in Judea in Jesus' day was Hebrew and not Aramaic?
Just yesterday, somebody gave me an article out of the U.S. News and World Report on the Dead Sea Scrolls and all of this whoop-de-la that's going on over the Dead Sea Scrolls right now and the photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls that are being released unauthorized by one of the libraries some place, I can't remember where, and all of this whoop-de-la going on is, again, as Shakespeare said, "Harbe la'asot al shum davar." "Much ado about nothing." But it was interesting that in the article in U.S. News and World Report they were talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most of them were in Hebrew, a few in Greek and Aramaic, "the language Jesus spoke." You see how deeply ingrained this whole idea is in the consciousness. But the purpose of the book was to establish that the language of the common people in Judea in the first century in Jesus' day was Hebrew and not Aramaic, that Aramaic was on the descendency and not on ascendency, that Jesus spoke Hebrew. Not only that, but he was a rabbi, he taught in Hebrew, he used certain rabbinic methods in his teaching, and only when we know those things can we really look at the words of Jesus and begin to ask ourselves the question, what do these words really mean? And because it is Hebrew and not Greek and not Aramaic, it's frequently difficult for us to understand some of the things that he says. We've been saying that for quite a number of years now.
The other day, I decided that I was going to go back and look at some of this material anew and afresh, that I was going to try to take kind of a step backward and try forgetting things that we've already said and passages on which we have already spoken or written. Try to look at the whole total message of Jesus. Why did he come? What was the purpose in his coming? What was it that he was trying to say to those who were going to make up this new movement that he called the Kingdom (malchut -מַלְכוּת - H4438)? What was to be their mission or their commission? And how does all of this apply practically to us today? So I just started from the very beginning. I went back to Matthew chapter 1 and started reading in Hebrew all through the book of Matthew. It's a funny thing. It's really difficult to explain, if you don't know Hebrew, the impact that the words of Jesus have on you when you read them in Hebrew. It takes on a whole different flavor and a whole different meaning. I noticed some startling things, that there were things of import for us relative to the whole reason and purpose that Jesus came that were said, not by Jesus, but were actually said by John before Jesus. So I want to start there with, not a reevaluation of some of the material that we've already covered, but trying to bring to you some new material, new information from a slightly different perspective than what it may have been presented to you before for your consideration.
Now, probably some if it might be a little much in review, but I think that as we progress, you'll see that we're going to be talking about material that you probably haven't examined before.
In Matthew 3, we're introduced to a gentleman by the name of Yochanan Ha-Matbil (H3110, H2881 - יוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל). We translate that into English as John the Baptist, but it really doesn't mean Baptist. He wasn't a Baptist, and he also wasn't the founder of the First Baptist Church. Not only that, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that he never baptized anybody. Now, if you knew Hebrew, that would become rather obvious to you just by looking at the appellation by which he is known. Yochanan HaMatbil. It means John, basically the one who, by virtue of what he's saying, is causing people to go under. Now this guy, the world's first hippie (can't you see the picture - camel's hair garment, leather girdle around his loins, jumping up and down out in the wilderness - Repent! Repent!) when he saw the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the spiritual leaders of the Jews, coming to him for baptism (whatever that is), he said to them, "O, generation of vipers." You bunch of snakes! "Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" Now he says something interesting. "Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance." Why would he say something like that to them? In other words, let your actions manifest the fact that you have repented of your sins.
Now again, the emphasis here is upon one's actions. I never cease to be amazed when I come to these conferences, Dwight and Brad and I will talk on the telephone and back and forth about a general theme and about basic topics, but we never know what the other one's going to say. When I got here last night and I heard Dwight, I thought, man, that's fantastic, and then Marvin, how that one is simply building on and amplifying and complementing the other. It's as if God has been saying the same thing to each one of us in just a slightly different way just as he did to the writers of our synoptic gospels, as they're all used as a channel for the communication of his message, but in each their own personality and character comes across. Here we see from the very beginning John saying, "Let your actions demonstrate your repentance." And then he continues, and this is where we begin to pick it up that's perplexing, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy (Spirit) and with fire." Now, when we read that, we stop right there usually, and we think, O, Glory! He's talking about the Holy Spirit—Holy Spirit baptism. He's going to come and baptize you in the Holy Spirit. However, this has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit or baptism in the Holy Spirit. John says this Jesus is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. What's he talking about?
Turn to Luke 12:49. We read again a very difficult, disturbing passage. Jesus says, "I am come to send fire on the earth." You see that? He's going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Now he himself says, "I am come to send fire upon the earth." And then he says, "And what will I, if it be already kindled. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I ..." What does your translation say? Straitened. What does it mean? He was crooked before and now they've straightened him out? In Hebrew, it's [from] the word yatzar, which means trouble. That is, troubled in spirit or anguish. "How I'm anguished until it's all over with. You think that I have come to bring peace on the earth? I tell you nay, but rather division, and from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three, and the father against the son and the son against the father, the mother against the daughter and the daughter against the mother, and the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law." But notice, he says I didn't come to bring peace but division. What's he talking about? Fire!
In verse 12 of Matthew 3, "whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. He shall baptize you with the Holy (Spirit) and with fire." It states that his fan is in his hand and he's going to gather the wheat into the storehouse and he's going to separate the kernels from the chaff, and he's going to burn the chaff with an unquenchable fire. In other words, he's talking about judgment! And the fire with which he is going to baptize the world is going to be the fire of judgment. Fire means judgment, and people are going to be judged as kernels or as chaff by virtue of how they respond to his teachings. Father against son. Mother against daughter. The house is going to be divided because of him. Some will heed and accept. Others will reject. And he says I'm sorry about that, but I didn't come to bring peace, but by the very nature of what I have to say, it's going to set brother against brother, and people are going to be judged by the way that they respond to my teachings. Now, if that's true, then it would appear to me to be very important to know just exactly what it is that he says in order that I might know how to correctly respond.
Do you know something that's interesting? This may come as a surprise to you. Some of you many not even like to hear it, but he says almost nothing that the other rabbis of his day were not saying. The pious of his day were all saying essentially the same thing. The pious of his day were working and performing miracles. The pious of his day were known as and were called sons of God. What was the purpose in his coming? What is at the very heart of his message?
In verse 13, we see Jesus coming from Galilee to Jordan to John for baptism, and when he comes, it's interesting to note that John tries to prevent him, saying, "I have need to be baptized of thee." Why did John say that? Why does he say I have need to be baptized of you?
Now, remember, neither one of them is going to baptize the other one. In Judaism, baptism is always self-administered. Nobody ever baptized somebody else! The person entered into the ritual immersion bath (mikveh). We know exactly how much water it had to have—120 gallons. If it was 120 gallons minus one spoonful, it wasn't kosher. They entered into the ritual immersion bath and they simply immersed themselves. Now, there was always a witness necessary to ensure that they were completely under, because if just one strand of the hair was not under the water, then it wasn't kosher and they had to go do the whole thing over again, so the witness would be there to ensure that they were completely under if necessary.
John says I have need to be baptized of thee. What's he talking about, especially in view of the fact that we know that Jesus isn't going to baptize him? And then Jesus says something very peculiar. I've read this a thousand times, and I guess this is the first time that it really ever struck me, when I went back and started this study.
You know, I'm really careful not to say something that I haven't checked out, because I know that there are always guys like Loren who are sitting out there just ready to try to catch me saying something that I can't support, and he'd love nothing better. So I immediately called Brad, because I figured that now if I'm wrong, I can blame it all off on him. I ran it past Brad, and he said, you know, that's interesting. He's real noncommittal. He said I never really looked at it that way before, but I believe you're on to something, or words to that effect. Notice, and this is really something here, because I think that right here we see the establishment of the foundation, not only of Jesus' teaching and the whole thrust of his ministry, but the foundation stone of biblical faith. Jesus answered John and said, "Suffer it to be so," or permit it, "for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness." Now in English when we read that, it doesn't really mean much, does it? To fulfill all righteousness. What does that mean? But when you see it in Hebrew, it says, "Vaya'an Yeshua vayomer elav, hanicha li, ki chen na'avah lanu l'maleh kol hatz'dakah." Do you hear that? Tz'dakah. That's a word that most of you have heard from one or more of us many times before. "Thus it behooves us to l'maleh," to fill or to complete, "kol hatz'dakah."
Now why is this perplexing? Well, because Jesus always refers to himself as "bar enash," the Son of man. And who is this bar enash? The most supernatural figure in the biblical text. Daniel 7:13-14. And when we look at this bar enash in the person of Yeshua m'natzeret, we see that Jesus, as he teaches and as he performs his mighty miracles or his mighty acts, he does so in such a way as to declare himself to be God! And we can demonstrate that on quite a number of occasions. For example the occasion that Jesus comes to the paralytic man. It's an example that Dr. Robert Lindsay, the mentor of most all of us here, frequently has used, when Jesus comes and says to the man, "thy sins be forgiven thee," and all of the people are astonished and they say he blasphemes! Now why would they do something like that? Why, number one, would they be astonished? Why, number two, would they think that he blasphemed? They say, this man declares himself to be God, or he assumes a position that belongs only to God. Why? In just those simple words, your sins be forgiven thee. But in Hebrew, Jesus uses a word, salach (סָלַח - H5545), that's used, I think, 42 times, if I'm not mistaken, in the Old Testament. It's always used of God. Only God can soleach sins. And when Jesus says to this man, "nis-l-chu l'cha chatotecha," "your sins be salached," they understand him as assuming a position that belongs only to God, that of forgiveness of sins. We can demonstrate that over and over again. That's just one example. But if that's true, then what does that say to us ___(tape interrupted)___ Yeshua m'natzeret. We've all said it over and over again. "He that knew no sin became sin in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him." So if he knew no sin, that means he wasn't a sinner. And what's baptism for?
Now I hate to tell you this, because most Christians are really confused when it comes to this subject of baptism. What is baptism? Well, it depends on your denomination. It can be anywhere from dunking somebody completely under to sticking your finger in a little finger bowl and marking a cross on somebody's forehead. But in Hebrew it was just one thing and just one way, and we know exactly how. All of this material has been extant for us from the earliest of times down to the present day. In a tractate in Mishnah called Mikva'ot, it tells us all about ritual immersion. Everything you'd ever want to know about ritual immersion but were afraid to ask is in tractate Mikva'ot. We know exactly what they did, how they did it, why they did it. Again, I hate to tell you this, but they didn't do it in order to get into the church. And they didn't do it as the outward expression of an inward act that had already taken place. They did it in order to wash away their sins, in order to be spiritually clean. It wasn't, as Paul said, the putting off of body filth, but it was the act or the response of the man toward God that he might be in right relationships with God! So baptism was for what? Right relationships, that the old man (and Paul so beautifully paints this picture for us in the book of Romans) dies and is buried and the new man rises from the watery grave into a newness of life, a new kind of life, the term now being that he is born anew. He's born from above. And in Judaism, Jews still, on a regular basis, continue this practice of ritual cleansing.
But, here's the problem. If Jesus was who he said who he was, if he was indeed without sin, then why does he come to be baptized if baptism is for the forgiveness of sins?! Or shall we say for right relationships with God?
Well, what does he say? "Suffer it to be so, for thus it behooves us to l'maleh kol hatz'dakah." "For thus it behooves us..." I don't know how you would translate that as powerfully in English. It becomes us, it's necessary for us to do this in order that all tz'dakah might be completed! The word tz'dakah, as you know, is translated into English as righteousness, but it means so much more. This is a word that actually beggars translation into the English language. It's like in Spanish. How do you translate, for example, "El hombre is muy simpatico." How do you translate simpatico? Well, try. You can't. Simpatico is simpatico.
Tzedek, tz'dakah (H6664, H6666). It means so much more than righteousness, and because we've never really understood the meaning of this word, we've never really understood the whole mission of the church. We've been out here playing some kind of little silly game, and we call it church, but most of us really haven't got the foggiest idea about what ought to be going on out there. And I think one reason is that we've never understood this little word which, I believe, serves as the fundamental principal upon which biblical faith is based! Tzedek. (צֶדֶק). The masculine noun means "what is right, what is just, what is normal." It means rightness. It means justness. It means rightness as in government. It means rightness as in undertaking justice or as in performing justice, or as in carry out justice. It means rightness insofar as what is ethically right. It also means justification in the sense of controversy with one's enemy.
Now remember shortly after his baptism, what happens? Jesus is carried by whom where? By the Spirit. The devil didn't lead him out to the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy. And what does tz'dakah mean? It means justification insofar as a controversy with one's enemy is concerned. It means delivering one from trouble. It means victory. It means redemption. The whole idea of redemption is tied up in the meaning of this word tz'dakah. Righteousness in government. Righteousness of a judge or a ruler or a king. It's equal to mishpat (H4941) in Hebrew, which means judgment of the law. God is a righteous judge. It has to do with a sovereign or a king. It has to do with God's attribute in administering justice or in administering punishment. And remember what Jesus said. I didn't come to bring peace on the earth. John says he's going to baptize with fire. Jesus said I have a baptism to be baptized with. And what was the baptism? Judgment. People were going to be judged according to the way they responded to his teachings. It means salvation of God, as in Malachi 3:20: "The Son of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings." Remember in 4:2 it says, "But unto you who revere and worshipfully fear my name shall the Son of righteousness arise with healing in his wings."
Now there's something here that's fantastic. The word wing in Hebrew is kanaf (כָּנָף - H3671). Numbers 15:37 says, "And then the LORD says to Moses, speak to the children of Israel and say to them that they shall make tzitzit (צִיצִת - fringes - H6734) in the corners (kanaf) of their garments." And here kanaf doesn't mean a wing, but it means a corner. Or we could say it really doesn't mean a corner, but it means a wing of the garment. And you've seen a Hebrew prayer shawl, a tallit. On the corner of the garment, the fringes. And the corners here are called wings. And when it's worn around, it looks like, when it's held out, the guy has wings.
Now what am I getting at? Remember what God told the people, that this tzitzit, or fringe, is going to be a tzitzit that they shall look upon and remember all the commandments of the LORD to what? To do them. "That you may remember them, all the commandments of the LORD, and be holy unto the LORD." Now I've used this illustration many times before, but I'm going to go back and do this in way of review to refresh your minds again.
In Matthew 9:20, we read of the little woman who had the issue of blood. She came up from behind him and touched the tzitzit of his beged. Now, let's stop here for just a moment and think about the whole scope of what's going on here. Remember, they said you're going to call his name Yeshua. Luke said, "B'chol basar yir'u et yeshuat Elohim." And all flesh is going to see the yeshuah of Elohim. It doesn't mean "the salvation of God." That's a terrible translation. The reason is because in Hebrew it's a construct form, but the way that it actually appears is that it's used as an appellation for God. It's just another name by which God is known. Yeshuat Elohim. And all flesh will see God redeeming, or the redeeming God. And it wasn't just Luke who picked up that phrase or coined the phrase. He's actually quoting again from the biblical text. We find it in Chronicles. We find it in Isaiah. We find it many different passages. Yeshuat Elohim, or yeshuat Elohenu, or yeshuat Adonai.
But yeshuah. What is yeshuah. Well, again, here's another word that beggars translation into English. But the angel of the LORD said unto Joseph, you're going to call his name Yeshua because he's going to yoshia his people from their sins, whatever that is. Yeshua – yoshia. Just keep it in your ears. That's what Jesus says. Put these sayings in your ears. "V'tigah b'tzitzit bigdo." She touched the tzitzit of his beged. "Ki amrah b'libah ach im e'na b'vig'do, ivashea." If I can just touch the tzitzit of his beged, I'm going to be yeshua'd. Ivashea. You hear it? Yeshua. Yoshia. Ivashea. "Va'yifen Yeshua" (and Jesus turned) "vayar otah" (and saw her) "vayomar chizki" (and said my power [Lk. 8:46]). And then he turns to her and says, "Biti." My daughter [Lk. 8:48].
Now what does that imply? My daughter. Did he say that to the Syro-Phoenician woman when she came to him? It means that she was already a part of the family.
Was this woman going to have her part in the world to come? She was. The problem was that she was lost in this world in a way in which we can't understand. The issue of blood for 12 years meant what? She was a sociological outcast. No one could come near her. No one could touch her without becoming unclean. An outcast in society. And when this woman came to Jesus, I have no doubt in my mind but what she didn't have one single thought in her head about what heaven was going to be like, about if she was going to get to go to heaven, about streets of gold or pearly gates. She was lost in this world, and she said within her heart, "Im ega b'tzitzit bigdo, ivashea." And Jesus turned to her and said, "My daughter, imunateach hoshia lach." Your faith has yeshua'd you. "V'tivasha ha'isha min hasha'ah hahi." And the woman was yeshua'd from that hour.
Now that's all interesting. Why? Because when the woman gets yeshua'd, what happens to her? She's made whole. It's not that she just gets to go to heaven. She's made whole for the now. Remember on one occasion, Jesus says, "The son of man is come to seek and to save those that are lost." And I'm not so sure but what that's one of the most dramatic things that Jesus has to say about himself. THE most dramatic. Daniel 7:13-14: The son of man IS come to what? Seek and to save those that are lost. But in Ezekiel 34, who is it that comes to seek and to save those that are lost? Notice in verse 16, God says, "I will seek that which was lost. I will bring back that which was strayed. I will bandage the hurt and the crippled. I will strengthen the weak and the sick." But then he goes ahead and says, I'm going to destroy the fat and the strong. I'm going to feed them with judgment and punishment. Now who says he's going to do that? God says He's going to do that. Jesus says, the son of man is come to seek and to save those that are lost. I will seek that which was lost. What does that mean—I will bring back that which was strayed. What does that mean? I will bandage the hurt and the crippled. What does that mean? I will strengthen the weak and the sick. You see, all of these are synonymous parallelisms in Hebrew. The one phrase is synonymous with the other. I'm going to seek that which was lost means I'm going to bring back that which was strayed. I'm going to bandage the hurt and the crippled. I'm going to strengthen the weak and the sick.
Now that leads us to the question, if that's true, then what does it mean to be saved? What does tzedakah mean? And the Son of tzedakah will arise with what? Healing. Where? In his wings. The one who delivers, who heals, who exalts — that's what tzedakah is. And notice here when the little woman hears Jesus speak and recognizes him for who he is, the Son of tzedakah, she reaches out and touches the tzitzit of his beged, the wings of his garment, and when she reaches out and touches, what does she get? She gets yeshua'd. She gets made whole. What does lost mean? Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that the individual is separated from God. It doesn't necessarily mean, as in this context, that this little woman wasn't going to have her place in the world to come. It meant that she was a sociological outcast in the now. With an issue of blood, no one could touch her without becoming unclean. And again, you talk about lost, you and I can't even understand that kind of a condition. We can't relate to it. She wasn't interested in whether she was going to get to go to heaven or not. She wanted to be whole here in this world, in the now, and Jesus turned to her and said, "Biti, emunateach hoshia lach." And then the woman, it says, was tivasha. She was whatever that means from that hour. And when she got whatever it was that she got, what happened? Don't think just in terms of healing. It's too narrow. It's too limited. Think in terms of restoration. That which was lost was found. That which had strayed had been brought back. That which was unclean was now clean. That which was only in part was now made whole, and what caused that to happen? The Son of tzedakah! This is the reason that Jesus says this: "Permit this to be so, because it is absolutely necessary for the purpose, for my purpose of filling all tz'dakah in order that I might be the Son of tz'dakah, that I might be the anointed to save, to bring yeshuah in the fullest sense of the meaning of the word.
What does messiah (mashiach) (מָשִׁיח - H4899) mean? It means the anointed one, just the same as the Greek word Christ (χριστος - christos - G5547). See, we've lost the meaning because we've separated ourselves so far from our Hebrew roots that whenever we say Jesus Christ, we think that was his last name. But here's an interesting question. When did Jesus become the Christ? When did he become the Messiah, HaMashiach, the anointed one? After his baptism. Only after his baptism, when he fulfills all tzedakah. How do we know that? Because it goes on to say, when he was baptized,
"he went up straightway out of the water, and lo, the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit descending like a dove upon him, and lo, a voice from heaven saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear him.'" Or pay attention to him. Listen to what he says. And now God presents Son to the world. God presents Son of righteousness to the world and says, Here is my Son. Hear him. You see, it happens only after he fills kol hatz'dakah, all righteousness. Was it necessary for Jesus to be baptized? Yes. In order that he might be in right relationship with God? Yes. Because had he not, he would not have fulfilled all tz'dakah and would not have been the Son of tz'dakah, and as such would not have had the anointing to fulfill his mission of yeshuah. Therefore, you see the necessity and importance of Jesus' baptism.
When I looked at that anew and afresh, I knew that there was something here that by and large we've overlooked. We've never understood that this principle, tzedakah, is going to serve as the foundation principle upon which biblical faith is built. And that caused me to look at something else and to reflect on something, and that was the totality of the words and the message of Jesus. And as I began to read them again afresh, something struck me just like somebody had hit me up to the side of the head with a ball bat. Jesus has almost nothing to say about God, about worshipping God, how we're to worship God, about going to church, about praising God, about singing Bible songs 45 minutes while standing. He has almost nothing to say about how man is to relate to God or how man is to worship God. He doesn't even have very much to say about prayer. Even less about fasting. And yet these are the things upon which we, the church, have largely focused our attention. Here's where we play our game. We call it church, and we haven't the foggiest. When the disciples come to Jesus and ask him, how should we pray, he said, go read Brad's book. But basically he says, "In this manner pray you. Avinu shebashamayim. Our Father which inhabits the heavenlies, Holy be Your Name. Let your kingdom be spread over all the earth in such a way that your will may be being done here on this earth just as it is in heaven, and just give us enough to sustain us from day to day, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the one that would ensnare us." And that's about it.
Let your kingdom be spread over all the earth in such a way that your will may be being done on the earth as it is in heaven. Now the question is, what does that mean? What, number one, is kingdom? Well, we've already seen that on numerous occasions. Those are the people over whom God is ruling. But further, those who are demonstrating his rule in their lives in action. But what is His will? What is the action that He wills His people to do? What does kingdom do? How does kingdom be kingdom? That's what we're going to talk about whenever I'm supposed to speak again, and I can't remember when. You'll have to look at your program.
Yavo Prayer Partner tape, January, 1996
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Last update 11 February 2020