Jesus goes to Judea (Mt 19:1-19:1)

“When Jesus had finished

Saying these things,

He left Galilee.

He went

To the region of Judea,

Beyond the Jordan.”

 

Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς λόγους τούτους, μετῆρεν ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδαίας πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

 

This move from Galilee to Judea and Jerusalem can also be found in Mark, chapter 10:1, and Luke, chapter 9:51, with Matthew closer to Mark, with some minor changes.  Matthew used the transition words “Καὶ ἐγένετο,” it happened or came to pass.  When Jesus had finished or completed saying these things (Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς λόγους τούτους), he left or departed from Galilee (μετῆρεν ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας) and went to the region of Judea (καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδαίας), beyond the Jordan (πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου).  Thus, Jesus moved south towards Jerusalem.  However, he traveled on the other side of the Jordan River, on the east side of Jordan, so that he did not have to go into Samaria.  He definitely was leaving Galilee.

The voice from the cloud (Mt 17:5-17:5)

“While Peter

Was still speaking,

Suddenly,

A bright cloud

Overshadowed them.

A voice from the cloud said.

‘This is my beloved Son.

I am well pleased

With him.

Listen to him!’

 

ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος, ἰδοὺ νεφέλη φωτεινὴ ἐπεσκίασεν αὐτούς, καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα· ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ.

 

The voice from the cloud can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:7, Luke, chapter 9:34-35, and here in Matthew, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  The wording of the voice from the clouds sounds almost exactly like the voice from heaven in chapter 3:17, after the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  Instead of heaven there, it is a bright cloud here.  This voice did not address Jesus personally.  However, the idea of a heavenly voice had a very strong tradition in the Jewish writings of the Hebrew Bible, especially among the prophets.  The Baptism of Jesus, like the transfiguration here, has become the starting point for any theological reflection about early Christian Christology.  While Peter was still speaking (ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος), suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them (ἰδοὺ νεφέλη φωτεινὴ ἐπεσκίασεν αὐτούς).  This voice from the cloud (καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης) said that Jesus was his most beloved Son (λέγουσα Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός), in whom he was well pleased (ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα).  However, here there is the further admonition to listen to him (ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ).  Matthew has a clear connection between the Baptism of Jesus and his transfiguration.  Both times, the Father as the voice from heaven or the clouds pronounced that Jesus was his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased

Jesus meets the two possessed demoniacs (Mt 8:28-8:28)

“When he came

To the other side,

To the country

Of the Gadarenes,

Two demoniacs met him.

They were coming out

Of the tombs.

They were so extremely violent

That no one could pass

That way.”

 

Καὶ ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ πέραν εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γαδαρηνῶν ὑπήντησαν αὐτῷ δύο δαιμονιζόμενοι ἐκ τῶν μνημείων ἐξερχόμενοι, χαλεποὶ λίαν ὥστε μὴ ἰσχύειν τινὰ παρελθεῖν διὰ τῆς ὁδοῦ ἐκείνης.

 

All three synoptic gospels. Mark, chapter 5:1-3 and Luke, chapter 8:26-27, have Jesus go the country or region of the Gadarenes (εἰς τὸ πέραν εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γαδαρηνῶν).  Jesus had traveled over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to its southern tip (Καὶ ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ).  Gadara was about 6 miles away from the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee, near where the Sea of Galilee ran into the Jordan River, one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis territory.  Today, it is in the country of Jordan, known as Umm Qais.  There, Jesus met 2 people possessed by the devil (ὑπήντησαν αὐτῷ δύο δαιμονιζόμενοι), who were coming out of the tombs (ἐκ τῶν μνημείων ἐξερχόμενοι).  These two demonic people were so extremely violent or fierce (χαλεποὶ λίαν), that no one could pass by them on their way (χαλεποὶ λίαν).

John baptized people (Mt 3:6-3:6)

“They were baptized

By him

In the Jordan River,

Confessing their sins.”

 

καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν.

 

Once again, Matthew followed Mark, chapter 1:5. All these people were baptized by John in the Jordan River (καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ), which would have been north of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Jewish baptisms were not that uncommon. Washing was a physical and spiritual cleansing for sins, as people were unclean or dirty. Thus, in the process of this spiritual cleansing, they would confess their sins (ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν). John’s baptism had a few unique qualities since it was a moral statement with an expectation of a coming Messiah or savior.

People went to John at the Jordan River (Mt 3:5-3:5)

“Then the people

Of Jerusalem,

The people

Of all Judea,

Were going out to him.

All the region

Along the Jordan

Were going out to him.”

 

Τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία καὶ πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου,

 

Once again, Matthew followed Mark, chapter 1:5. Matthew, like Mark, mentioned all the people from Jerusalem (Ἱεροσόλυμα) and the Judean area (πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία) that were going out to see John the Baptist (Τότε ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν). However, Matthew also added that the people from along the Jordan River (πᾶσα ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου), a little further north, were also coming out to see him.

The ruin of the powerful trees (Zech 11:1-11:3)

“Open your doors!

O Lebanon!

Thus,

The fire may devour

Your cedars!

Wail!

O cypress!

The cedar has fallen.

The glorious trees

Are ruined!

Wail!

Oaks of Bashan!

The thick forest

Has been felled!

Listen!

To the wail of the shepherds!

Their glory is despoiled!

Listen!

To the roar of the lions!

The tickets of the Jordan

Are destroyed!”

This oracle shows various strong trees as symbols of power.  Lebanon with its great cedar trees would be devoured by fire.  The glorious cypress trees would be ruined.  The oak tree forests of Bashan would be cut down.  The glory of the shepherds would be gone.  The roaring lions in the brush tickets of the Jordan River would be destroyed.  The powerful people better look out or they would become like these trees.

The great return (Zech 10:8-10:11)

“I will signal for them.

I will gather them in.

I have redeemed them.

They shall be

As numerous

As they were before.

Though I scattered them

Among the nations,

Yet in far countries

They shall remember me.

They shall rear their children.

They shall return.

I will bring them home

From the land of Egypt.

I will gather them

From Assyria.

I will bring them

To the land of Gilead.

I will bring them

To Lebanon,

Until there is no room for them.

They shall pass through

The sea of distress.

The waves of the sea

Shall be struck down.

The depths of the Nile

Shall dry up.

The pride of Assyria

Shall be laid low.

The scepter of Egypt

Shall depart.”

Yahweh was going to give a signal for the Israelites to gather, since he had redeemed them from their captivity.  They would be as numerous as they were before.  Even though they were scattered among many distant countries, they raised their children there before they returned.  Yahweh was going to bring them home from Egypt and Assyria.  He was going to put them in Gilead, the east side of the Jordan River, or in Lebanon, on the seacoast, until there was no more room for them there.  They would have no problems, since Yahweh was going to lead them through distressed seas, mild waves, and the deep dry Nile River.  The pride of Assyria would be brought down, while the control of the Egyptian rule or scepter would leave.