Jewish Leadership – Recognition of the Messiah?

Jewish leadership acknowledged the supernatural abilities and authority of Jesus of Nazareth…some even recognized him as the Messiah. It began at the time of his birth.

Magi saw signs that a special King of the Jews was to be born and began a quest traveling hundreds of miles not knowing exactly where to find him. None other than King Herod gave the Magi the birth location of the Messiah as it was provided to him by the Jewish religious experts.

Herod’s question to the chief priests and scribes was simple – where is the Christ (Greek for Messiah) to be born?  His question was based not on “if,” rather an assumption of fact asking “where” the Messiah was to be born? Their answer:  “In Bethlehem of Judea.”[1] Accordingly, Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem where they did indeed find the child, Jesus.

Eight days after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary took him to the Temple in Jerusalem a few miles away to comply with the Jewish laws to formally name him, to be circumcised, offer a sacrifice and for his father to bless him.[2] Simeon met them in the Temple, took the babe in his arms and blessed Jesus, too, saying:

LK 2:30-32 “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (NIV)

Previously Simeon had received a vision that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  Upon seeing the baby Jesus, Simeon acknowledged to God that His promise had been fulfilled and he was now ready to die. Before the new family left, Simeon foretold what to expect for the life of their child, Jesus:

LK 2:34-35 “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (NIV)

Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the Asher tribe. Her husband had died after only seven years of marriage leaving her a widow for the next 84 years. Living a reclusive life, she never left the Temple fasting and praying day and night.[3]

Seeing Joseph, Mary and Jesus, Anna came up to them and began giving thanks to God. The prophetess then spoke of Jesus to all who came into the Temple interested in the “redemption of Jerusalem.”

Several groups of Jewish religious leaders are referenced in the Gospels, usually in opposition to Jesus – the rulers of the Sanhedrin, the High Priest, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the chief priests, the legal experts and the elders. While opposing him as a threat to fundamental Judaism, they acknowledged the supernatural abilities and powers of Jesus inadvertently corroborating that he possessed the characteristics of the prophesied Messiah.[4]

Sanhedrin was the ruling political body of the Jewish theocracy.[5] The High Priest was the head of the Sanhedrin and political leader of all the Jewish people.[6] Pharisees were one of three predominate religious factions in Jerusalem and most noticeable throughout Judea.[7]

Scribes were the legal experts of Jewish law, the lawyers of the day.[8] Chief priests were religious leaders from the Temple and members of the Sanhedrin.[9] Elders were valued in Jewish society for their wisdom in consultations.[10] Herodians were a minor religious faction although they shared a common enemy of Jesus.[11]

Chief priests, legal experts and elders acknowledged Jesus had the supernatural power and authority to cast out demons and to perform “signs” often translated as “miracles.” [12] Asking Jesus to identify the authority of his power “to do these things,” they could not answer a legal riddle posed to them and, in return, Jesus neither answered their question.[13]

Pharisees were the primary nemesis of Jesus in the Gospels. Inexplicably, they viewed Jesus as being on their level calling him “teacher” who taught “the way of God in truth” and took offense when Jesus dared to eat with the “sinners.”[14] Admitting Jesus performed “signs” so amazing that “the whole world has gone after him,” they sought to kill him.[15]

Arresting Jesus, the Jewish leadership put him on trial when he admitted under oath to being the “Son of God.” The High Priest in charge of the trial, Caiaphas, reacted to the admission by tearing his clothes in a customary display of grief for hearing blasphemy exclaiming, “Why do we still need witnesses?”[16]

Not all the Jewish leadership shared the same disdainful views of Jesus. In one instance, Jesus was invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon.[17] While dining, an uninvited guest – a local woman “sinner” – washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and hair. Jesus forgave her many sins causing Simon and his guests to wonder who is Jesus to be able to forgive sins?[18]

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were identified as Jewish rulers who followed Jesus.[19] Nicodemus had met secretly with Jesus and once pushed back on unfair accusations of his ruling peers.[20] Joseph asked Pilate for the crucified body of Jesus and both Jewish rulers together buried him in Joseph’s unused tomb.[21]

King Herod believed as a result of the Magi’s visit and his royal Jewish council that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. At the Temple, a Jewish prophetess and a priest recognized baby Jesus as the Messiah. Later, archenemies of Jesus acknowledged his supernatural abilities to heal, perform other miracles, and his authority of power over evil. Was Jesus the prophesied Messiah?


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[1] Matthew 2:5.
[2] Luke 2:21-33.
[3] Luke 2:36-38.
[4] Matthew 12:9; Mark 11:18; Luke 6:6-11; John 11:46-48. Sanhedrin 49b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. 1935-1948. < “Chief Priests.” 2019. <>
[5] “Sanhedrin.” 2011. <>
[6] “High Priest.” 2011. <>
[7] “Pharisees.” 2011. < s/12050-perushim>
[8] “Scribes.” 2011. <>
[9] “Chief Priests.” 2019. <>
[10]“Elder.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2021. <>
[11] “Herodians.” 2011.  <>
[12] Mark 2:6; 3:22; Luke 6:7; John 11:47.
[13] Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:28.
[14] Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:13-16. Luke 5:30, 7:39, 15:2: John 8:3.
[15] Matthew 12:9, 22:15; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 5:21, 6:2, 11, 11:53; John 7:31-32, 11:47-50; 12:19.=
[16] Mark 14:61-63. NET, NRSV. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Luke 22:70-71. O’Neal, Sam. Learn Religions. 2019. <>
[17] Luke 7:44.
[18] Luke 7:36-35.
[19] John 3:1, 7:50-51, 19:38-39
[20] John 7:50-51.
[21] Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42.

Jordan River – Its Significance

Mentioned almost 200 times in the Bible from Genesis to the Gospels, the Jordan River plays an important role throughout.[1] The River has served as a boundary, a landmark, the place of several miracles, John the Baptist ministry and where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized.

Lowest elevation of all the rivers of the world, the head waters of the Jordan feed into the Sea of Galilee (aka Chinnereth, Lake Tiberius, Lake Kinneret) on the north end, exiting on the south end of the Sea.[2] From there, the River covers a mere 65 land miles to the Dead Sea where it ends.[1]

Normal width of the Jordan River ranges between 30 to 100 feet and its depth only 10 to 17 feet. Not exactly a big river, it is the rapid current that makes it treacherous.[4] Dropping 600 feet in the short distance between the two seas, it is characteristic of its Hebrew name Yarden meaning “descender.” [5]

Either side of the River forms the Jordan River Valley expanding up to 15 miles wide.[6] The northern valley contains fertile land, but by the time it reaches the southern end at the Dead Sea near Jericho, the terrain is hot and arid.[7]

First reference to the Jordan River is implied in Genesis 13 when Abram gave his nephew, Lot, a choice where to live with his family and livestock. Seeing the fertile “plain of the Jordan,” it became Lot’s choice.[8] By default, Abram took the land west of the Jordan – Canaan. God promised Abram the land he could see in all four directions would belong to him and his descendants forever.[9]

Centuries later, escaping Egypt through the parted the Red Sea, the fledgling Hebrew nation population was as “numerous as the stars of heaven.”[10] It was time, though delayed by 40 years, to return to the land of Abraham referred to by God as the place.[11]

Between the two lands of Canaan and the Arabah, the Jordan River marked the boundary. God set the eastern boundary of Israel by the Jordan from the Sea of Chinnereth to the Salt Sea (Dead Sea).[12]

Crossing the Jordan River by the Hebrew nation into the land of Abraham sets the stage for the first miracle involving the River.[13] Aside from the rugged adults, there were mothers with babies, children, handicapped and old people. The heavy sacred Ark of the Covenant hefted on poles by priests and all the contents for the Tabernacle had to be carried across, too.[14] There was no bridge.

Traversing the swift currents of the Jordan in normal circumstance would alone would be a feat, but this time, the Jordan was flooding.[15] Typically from January through March, flood waters can expand the river several times to over a mile wide.[16] A picture can speak a thousand words:

Jordan River flooding at the Allenby Bridge near Jericho.  (Photo: Life In The Holy Land)[17]

Priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant touched the water commencing the miracle. The Jordan River stopped flowing – no water flowed into the Dead Sea and the water rose up in a heap back to the city of Adam, halfway to the Sea of Galilee.[18] All Hebrews crossed the Jordan on dry ground.[19]

Joshua, the Hebrew leader successor to Moses, remarked that the miracle on the Jordan was tantamount to the miracle of parting of the Red Sea.[20] Enemies of the Hebrews hearing of the miracle were struck with great fear and it took away their courage.[21]

Hundreds of years had passed when the prophet Elijah was called by God to Jericho and then to the Jordan River.[22] At the River’s edge, accompanied by his protégé Elisha and witnessed by 50 members of the prophet society from Jericho, Elijah took off his cloak and hit the water, the waters parted, and they both walked across on dry ground. There is no mention of flooding waters on this occasion.

Elisha watched as Elijah was taken away by a chariot of fire in a windstorm causing his cloak to fall off.[23] Elisha took the cloak, hit the waters of the Jordan and the River again parted for Elisha who walked across to Jericho.[24] The 50 religious witnesses bowed down in awe to Elisha.

Naaman, captain of the Syrian (Aram) army, had contracted the dreaded Leprosy. Syria was an enemy of Israel evidenced by the servant for his wife being a young slave girl captured from a conquest in Israel.[25]

Wistfully the Jewish slave girl commented to her mistress that if only the commander could see the prophet of Samaria, he could cure her master’s disease.[26] Naaman’s wife mentioned the comment to her husband who, in turn, told his King who said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the King of Israel.”[27]

Misunderstanding the nature of the King of Syria’s introduction letter, the King of Israel thought it was directed to him. He tore his clothes saying, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”[28]

Elisha heard of the situation and asked that Naaman be sent to him. Naaman and his military escort with horses and chariots arrived at Elisha’s door. Instead of coming out to greet the commander, Elisha sent out his servant telling Naaman to go wash seven times in the Jordan River.

Taking offense to the rude behavior, Naaman caustically asked why was it necessary to travel this far when there were other closer rivers which would have been better? Servants advised Naaman it was a simple action, considering what it could have been, so why not try it?

Naaman reconsidered Elisha’s instructions, washed in the Jordan seven times and was miraculously healed resulting in skin as smooth as a young child.[29] Returning to stand before Elisha, the grateful enemy commander renounced the Syrian god Rimmon and acknowledged the power of Jehovah.[30]

Several hundred more years later, people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and the region around the Jordan came to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.[31] John prophesied that someone more powerful than him was coming, one whom he was not worthy to even tie his sandal laces.[32]

Luke referenced seven secular historical figures to mark that specific time in history – the 15th year of Tiberius; Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod [Antipas] was tetrarch of Galilee; Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene; and the priesthoods of Annas and Caiaphas.[33] All are accurately consistent with secular history.

Jesus of Nazareth himself came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River.[34] He did it just before entering the wilderness to fast, then face the temptation of Satan.

Appearing in all four Gospels, the accounts of the baptism of Jesus describe a voice that came from Heaven, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”[35] John the Baptist is later quoted in John’s Gospel testifying to seeing a dove descending from Heaven when God spoke of Jesus, “this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”[36]

Beginning with Abram until the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jordan River served as the preeminent River recognized by God. Was it merely a coincidence the Jordan River is where Jesus was baptized and recognized by God?


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[1] “Jordan.” Search criteria. 2021. <
[2] “Geography of Israel: The Jordan Valley.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2021. <> Deuteronomy 3:17. Footnote 2. <
[3] “Jordan River.” 2020. < “THE LAND: Geography and Climate.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2013. <> “Jordan – Geography and Environment.” The Royal Hashemite Court. 2001. <
[4] “Jordan River.” 2020. <> “Jordan River.” 2021. <
[5] “Jordan River.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021. <>  “Jordan River.” n.d. <>
“Jordan River.” n.d. <>  “Jordan River.” n.d. <> “H3383.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <
[6] “Jordan River Valley.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021. <
[7] “THE LAND: Geography and Climate.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2013. <> “Jordan – Geography and Environment.” The Royal Hashemite Court. 2001. <>  “Jordan Valley.” Geography. n.d. <
[8] Genesis 13:10. NIV, NRSV, NKJV. CR Genesis 13:12.
[9] Genesis 13:14-17.
[10] Exodus 12:40; Deuteronomy 10:22. CR Genesis 15:13; 22:17; 26:4; Deuteronomy 1:10.
[11] Deuteronomy 11:8-15; 27:2-10.
[12] Number 34:11-12; Deuteronomy 3:17-18; Joshua 16:1. CR Deuteronomy 12:10; Joshua 23:4.
[13] Deuteronomy 10:22. NASB.
[14] Exodus 25:10-40; 37:1-29; 40:17-33.
[15] Joshua 3:15; 4:18.
[16] “The Jordan River and the Baptism Site of Yardenit.” Israel Tourism Consultants. 2017. <>  “Jordan River.” SeeTheHolyland. 2021. <>  CR Rodriquez, Seth. “Picture of the Week: Jordan River Flooding in 1935.” 2013. <
[17] “Southern Palestine.” LifeInTheHolyLand. n.d. <>
[18] “Joshua 3:16-17. “Map of Old Testament Israel – The City of Adam. Bible History. 2020. <>  “Map of Old Testament Israel. Bible History. 2020. <
[19] Joshua 3:17; 4:22-23.
[20] Joshua 4:23. CR Psalms 114:3.
[21] Joshua 5:1.
[22] 2 Kings 2:4, 6-7, 15.
[23] 2 Kings 2:11-14.
[24] 2 Kings 2:15.
[25] 2 Kings 5:1-2; 6:8.
[26] 2 Kings 5:1-3.
[27] 2 Kings 5:5. NASB, NKJV.
[28] 2 Kings 5:7. NASB.
[29] 2 Kings 5:14.
[30] 2 Kings 5:15-19. Hebrew text.
[31] Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:23; John 1:28. CR John 3:26; 10:40.
[32] Luke 3:15-16; John 1:26-28.
[33] Luke 3:1-3.
[34] Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-13; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34.
[35] Luke 3:22. NASB, NKJV.  CR Matthew 3:16-17; 17:5; Mark 3:17; John 3:22.
[36] John 1:32, 34.

Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem – Palm Sunday

An unusual encounter happened one day while Jesus was working his way through villages and towns heading toward Jerusalem for the final time. Some Pharisees forewarned him that Tetrarch Herod was looking to have him killed.[1]

No fan of the Pharisees nor Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist, the response was blunt: “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’” [2]Jesus finished by quoting from Psalms 118:26.[3]

LK 13:35 “…I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

PS .118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” (NKJV)

Lazarus had been raised from the dead in Bethany by Jesus who had then slipped away to Ephraim to escape the constant turmoil. After a short period of time, he returned to Bethany for a Saturday night dinner at the home of Simon the leper, presumably one of the many lepers previously healed by Jesus.

Martha was serving the meal, her sister Mary and brother Lazarus were also in attendance along with all 12 Disciples.[4] Outside, a crowd of onlookers gathered to see Jesus and Lazarus, the novelty man who had been raised from the dead.[5]

Sunday the next morning, Jesus sent Disciples, Peter and John into Jerusalem a couple of miles away to fetch a donkey and find a place to observe the Passover.[6] The entire episode was a mysterious mission – a gift of a donkey with its young colt by an unidentified person who would also provide a place to observe the Passover meal.[7]

Not knowing any specific details, only clues, the sign for the Disciples would be to find a man carrying a jar of water, a tied-up mother donkey and its colt.[8] They were to untie the donkey and if he asked about it, they were to say, “The Lord needs it.”[9] From there, they were to follow the man to a house, then say to house owner, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is near. I will observe the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”[10] It was not a request.

Exactly as Jesus had said, it happened. Peter and John found the donkey with a colt, the person with the donkey asked what they were doing and after responding as instructed, the man then led them to a house. The owner showed them an upstairs room, fully furnished and prepared for the Passover. [11] The two Disciples then took the donkeys to Jesus.[12]

Matthew and John Gospels point out that this upcoming event was a fulfillment of the Zachariah messiah prophecy that foretold the King of Israel would arrive riding on a donkey. Specifically, the foal colt of a donkey – at that age, it had never been ridden.[13]

Zech 9:9:  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (NRSV)

All four Gospel authors write about that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on a donkey colt when people, many of whom had seen Lazarus raised from the dead, began chanting, laying down their outer garments and placing palm branches in his path. Seeing and hearing all the commotion, others asked, “Who is this?” Christianity refers to this triumphal entry as “Palm Sunday.”[14]

JN 12:12-13  “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:  “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”” (NKJV)

“Hosanna” is a shortened version of the Hebrew saying “Anna Adonai hoshi-‘ah-nna” from Psalms 118:25.[15] A customary cry of joyful celebration, “hosanna” traces to ancient Jewish times when a marching procession would wave branches of palm, myrtle and willow each day of the Sukkot festival (aka the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles). [16]

Jewish Encyclopedia:  “According to John xii. 13…which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm — and then called him “the King of Israel.” … The Psalm verses recited have been interpreted by the Rabbis also as referring to the advent of the Messiah…”[17]

Sukkot begins five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which is one of the three annual pilgrim festivals required by the Law given to Moses, usually falling in the month of September.[18] Often referred to as the “season of our Rejoicing,” the holiday serves a dual purpose to both celebrate the harvest as well as the Hebrews emerging from the 40 years of wondering in the Sinai desert wilderness where they lived in temporary shelters called “tabernacles.”

Seventh and final day of the Sukkot festival is called “Hoshanna Rabbah” meaning “Great Salvation.” It is the day when the Jewish nation is judged by God whether or not to be worthy of the seasonal rains.[19]

Psalms 118 is regarded in Judaism as the concept of salvation pointing to the arrival of the Messiah.[20] In Rabbi Rashi’s commentary of the Micah 5:2(1) Bethlehem prophecy, he quoted from Psalms 118:22 saying “the stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone” saying it refers to “the Messiah, son of David.”[21] Interestingly in reverse, the Rabbi sage did not provide this same commentary for the actual verse of Psalms 118:22.[22]

Quoting the hosanna praise to the Pharisees from the salvation Psalms 118 pointing to the foretold Messiah, was Jesus referencing a Messiah prophecy about himself? One that was fulfilled a short time later when the throng actually shouted the exact hosanna praise during the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem that Palm Sunday?


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[1] Luke 13:31.
[2] Luke 13:32. NJKV.
[3] Luke 13:35.
[4] Matthew 26:6; John 11:43-44, 54; 12:1-2.
[5] John 12:9.
[6] Luke 22:8.
[7] Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 19:28-36. John 11:18; 12:12.
[8] Mark 14:13. Luke 19:30-34.
[9] Matthew 21:3; Luke 19:31-35.
[10] Mark 14:14.
[11] Mark 14:15.
[12] Matthew 21:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:14.
[13] Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.
[14] Matthew 21:2-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16.
[15] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <> Psalms 118:25. BibleHub. Lexicon. 2021.<> “3467. yasha.” BibleHub. 2021. <>
[16] “What is Sukkot.” 2014. <>  Rich, Tracey R.  “Sukkot.” n.d.  <>
[17] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia.
[18] Deuteronomy 16:9-17.
[19] Lawrence, Natan. “Origin of “Hoshana Rabbash.”” 11/15/2019. <> Rich. “Sukkot.”
[20] “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <> “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Psalms 118:15. BibleHub. Lexicon. 2021. <>  “3444. yeshuah.” BibleHub. 2021. <>  Psalms 118:15. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2021. <>  Psalms 118:25. BibleHub. Interlinear. 2021. <>  “3467. yasha.” BibleHub. 2021. <>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.
[22] Micah 5. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. <> Psalms 118. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.