Tag: Truth

Story 135: Unbreakable: The Son, His Love, and His Word

John 10:19-39

Fire fist

As Jesus told a story about a Good Shepherd (see lessons 133 and 134), His listeners understood that He was talking about Himself. They also knew He was claiming to be the Messiah. He was claiming that He was able to give eternal life to His sheep, and His sheep were those who listened and believed.

The religious leaders probably understood that their accusations and rebellion against Him made them the thieves and robbers in the story…and that when Jesus called God His Father, He was claiming to be God Himself.

These were radical things to say in any time of history to any people. If they were true, then it was the most important Truth every spoken. If they were not true, then Jesus was either a horrific liar, or He was completely insane. Many in the crowds, the true sheep of God, did believe. They trusted that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. But others muttered and grumbled in sullen frustration. “‘He has a demon…He’s insane,’” they declared, “‘Why do you listen to Him?’”

Then others would argue, “‘These are not the sayings of someone who is demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?’”

And so the national debate continued, dividing the people into camps. What were the people of God going to decide? Would they finally accept the magnificent gift that they had in the Son of God? Would they put an end to their sin of rebellion and doubt?

It was winter in Jerusalem, and it was the time of the Feast of Dedication. It was a huge festival that brought Jews from all over the nation to the Temple. Jesus was there, too, walking in the courtyard of the Temple named after the great King Solomon.

Imagine the massive Temple walls, thousands upon thousands of people arriving with their sacrifices and offerings, music playing, and all the high energy that comes with an important celebration. Imagine how the people stopped to listen to Jesus…watching to see what He would do next, waiting to see what the religious leaders would do in response.

Some of the Jewish leaders came up to Him with questions. “‘How long will you keep us in suspense’” they asked. “‘If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”

Jesus looked at them and said, “‘I did tell you, but you did not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.’”

Well, now, that right there was a very clear answer for them, wasn’t it? But they did not have ears to hear. Jesus went on: “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.’”

Wow. Isn’t that wonderful? If you know the love of Jesus, it is permanent and everlasting. He knows you. His love for you will last longer than the earth or the stars! No one can take you out of His hand! Not even death!

The true reason the religious leaders hated Jesus was not because they thought He was spreading lies. They were jealous…it was simply and petty as that. They were afraid He would gain more and more power and take over the Temple worship. They knew that if He was in control of the Jewish religion, He would fire them! They were doing everything they could to protect themselves, and one way to do that was to try to stop the rest of the Jewish nation from following Him.

The Lord made it clear that they had no power to stop true believers from coming after Him. There was nothing they could do to take them away. Jesus went on, “‘My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.’”

When the Jews heard this, they knew that Jesus was claiming to be God. That was a blasphemy…and it was punishable by death. Finally, they had something they could charge Him with in court! Finally, they could put this brazen troublemaker to death. They began to pick up stones from the ground, ready to throw them at Jesus, right in the middle of the Temple courts. They were going to try to kill the Son of God in God’s own house!

Imagine the tension in the air. Imagine how you would feel if you were His disciple. Imagine what it would be like if you were one of the people He had healed. What if He had healed your child?

Jesus stood there, facing a crowd of raging men with all of His fierce righteousness and self-possession. Against this mob Jesus asked, “‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?’”

“‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’”

It was true that in the high, pure, holy Law of God, claiming to be God was a terrible crime, punishable by death. And for any regular human, that was a righteous decree. It is a repulsive and ghastly thing for a person who had been given the priceless, amazing gift of life by God to turn around and claim to be God…the holy, mighty Lord of all. To claim to be God was not just about saying a name that is not your own. It was a claim of power and a right to be worshipped. Instead of pointing to the God who truly is worthy, who truly can help, it is selfishly demanding what is not your own and getting in the way of the good that God can do.

Imagine how normal, sinful men could use the claim of being God to abuse people and force their own selfish desires in the most wicked ways. How despicable to lie about something as sacred and wonderful as God Himself! How repulsive to use something as precious as a people’s trust and hope in God to use them and manipulate them! No wonder it was punishable by death!

But you see, it was only wrong to claim to be God if it was, in fact, a lie. For God to claim to be God was the truth! Jesus had given overwhelming proof that the power of God worked through Him. He had performed miracles that could only be done by God. And you’ll notice, when He pointed them out to the religious leaders, they didn’t deny them. That should have been enough proof. If He claimed to be God, then He was! But Jesus knew that these men were not interested in Truth. They were playing a game. So He gave them an answer worthy of their game:

“‘Is it not written in your Law, “I have said you are gods? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the words of God came-and the Scripture cannot be broken-what about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe Me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.’”

John 10:34-39

Once again, in the face of their murderous threats, Jesus tried to appeal to them…He tried to persuade. But it did not good. The only thing the infuriated leaders could hear was that Jesus had once again made Himself equal with God, and that was all they needed.

They surged forward, seething with rage, and tried to seize Jesus. They were going to arrest Him, but He escaped their grasp. John doesn’t tell us how or why. It just tells us that He did.

It had become clear that Jerusalem was no longer safe for Jesus. His enemies were sure to hunt Him down. Instead of giving Him a way to preach God’s Good News to the people of their nation, they drove Him away. Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and trekked down from the hill country. They journeyed down through the Valley of the Jordan and crossed the river to the other side.

Story 127: The Great Warnings: Part 2

Luke 12:42-47

 Dramatic Gavel Silhouette on Reflective Wood Surface.

We find ourselves at an interesting place in the life of Jesus when He walked the earth. He had just explained to His disciples the hope of eternal life…and what that means for those who are still bound up in the things of this life…the distractions of this fallen world.

The King of Heaven longs for His faithful ones on earth to put their trust fully and absolutely in Him. Our earthly possessions are meant to be held onto  lightly and used to advance God’s purposes on earth. Jesus promised that the Lord will take care of those who rely on Him.

A Christ follower is never meant to get settled into this world. We are always meant to be waiting for our King, looking forward to His return with great expectation. Jesus explained that when He returns at the Second Coming, He will bring His faithful ones home to Heaven with Him, and there will be a great feast prepared for them. On that Day, Jesus, the Son of the Living God, will serve His disciples as they recline at the banquet table. Give yourself a minute to imagine that.  Wow.

At this point as Jesus was teaching, Peter stopped Him to ask a question. “‘Lord, are You telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’”

Jesus answered Peter’s question by telling a new parable. This one explained how His servants must handle the tremendous privilege they received when Jesus revealed Himself to them. The call of Christ on a life is the greatest blessing of all, and it comes with tremendous responsibility. His faithful ones are called to the high and holy work of serving all of God’s children! It was the sacred task Peter would bear for the rest of His life. Here is what Jesus said:

“‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servants says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.’”

Luke 12:42-47

 Wow. Do you see the wrath of Jesus against anyone who uses their position of religious power to hurt others? Can you sense His utter hatred for that sin? Do you see how protective He is of His servants, especially if someone claiming to be His servant is oppressing them? This is a grave, terrifying passage. It makes very clear that the righteous, wrathful judgment of Jesus is against anyone who would abuse their spiritual authority. Every leader in Christ’s Church should gulp when they read it.  It should provoke reverent fear and awe at the sacred role entrusted to them by Jesus. And it should give all believers a stringent, powerful motivation to honor the protective love that Christ has for each of His own.

It is interesting that the reason the bad servant in this story felt free to abuse his servants was because he wasn’t expecting his master to come home. He didn’t think he would get in trouble for his bad behavior. When spiritual believers abuse their people, it is not simply a sin against other humans, it is a sign of deep unbelief in the goodness and justice of God. They are acting as if they don’t really believe He is there, watching over them, or that they will be held to account by Him.

Jesus makes it clear that they will.

The abuse of leadership will receive the severest of punishments. What a warning this was for Peter, the rock of the Church! But the Lord had two more warnings:

“‘That servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving of punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’”

Luke 12:47-48

This passage is another one that should send a stream of reverent fear down the spine of every true believer in Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Jesus, it shows that He has already done a remarkable work of transformation in our hearts.  In goodness upon goodness, He has given us eyes to see Him, He has forgiven us of all our sins. and He has given us His Spirit to purify us and strengthen us and transform our lives. We have been given the best of anything that can possibly be given…the love and the Person of God Himself in the very depths of who we are. Wow.

So when Jesus says, “To whom much is given, much is required,” we know that, first and foremost, He is talking to those whose eyes have been given sight to see that Jesus is the Savior. What we do with that information is the most important thing about us.

In the midst of this, we can also see Christ’s mercy. There is lesser punishment for those who had lesser knowledge and opportunity. It is those who know God’s will and ignore it who will receive the most serious punishment. It is not just for those who do wrong. It is for those who refuse to do right!

It is interesting that wicked men who don’t know anything about the will of God will receive punishment, but not as much as the ones who know the will of God and reject it! Can you see why the religious leadership and the Jewish people were in so much trouble? They had been given the very Word of God, and the Son of God walked among them, and they refused to receive Him!  They were in a dangerous position indeed.

Story 120: Watching Our Enemy Fall

Luke 10:17-20

meteorito cayendo en el mar

The seventy disciples journeyed out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the towns and villages of Judea. Can you picture them? What would happen? Would they be accepted and welcomed? Would they be silenced? Would they be driven out? What miracles would God empower them to do?

Imagine how they wondered as they obeyed! Jesus followed along behind His disciples and began preaching in the towns they had prepared with the message. When each disciple finished their assignment, they would find their way back to where Jesus was on His journey. As the men returned, each was filled with excitement over the stories they had to tell their Master. They said, “‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name!’” Jesus had come to set the captives free, and now His power was flowing out through His faithful followers!

How different these men were from the ones who fought and badgered Jesus in the Temple courts of Jerusalem. As the religious leaders plotted murder, these common men responded with faith. And so Jesus added and strengthened their faith by drawing them into the liberating, glorious work of the Kingdom! They were endowed with magnificent power from Heaven itself.

Jesus told them:

“‘I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy: nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.’”

 Wow. Something remarkable had just happened. A powerful moment in the epic battle against evil came when the disciples of Jesus…these common, ordinary men…went out and preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jesus had come to earth on a divine rescue mission to conquer sin and death. These were the two things Satan brought into the world after he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden. As the followers of Christ proclaimed the Good News of Jesus’ coming victory, it struck a major blow towards Satan’s defeat. The Kingdom of Light was breaking into the Kingdom of Darkness!

As Jesus spoke of snakes and scorpions, He was using the names of creatures that most of us are afraid of to describe something far more dangerous and hateful. He was talking about demonic spirits. The stories in the Gospels show us how demons were responsible for making people sick and holding them to terrible bondage, such as insanity. Jesus had given His disciples authority over them.

As amazing as that power is for setting captives free, Jesus said there was something far more valuable that these faithful men should rejoice about. In the Bible, we are told that there is a special book in Heaven where the names of all God’s children are written. It’s called the Book of Life. Anyone whose name is in that book will have everlasting life. They will spend eternity with Christ in a place of total joy and peace.

If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, your name is written there, too. Have you ever had a moment or a day where you were so happy, so full of bright, light, wondrous bliss that you might split apart with exhilaration? That is how Heaven is going to be, only we will all be feeling it together, and it will never, ever end. That is the promise. That is what we are waiting for. That is the true reason for all of His disciples to rejoice, no matter when in time they have lived! It is the greatest, most remarkable, unimaginably wonderful hope in all of history.

The idea filled Jesus with such overwhelming, happy delight that He began to rejoice right then and there! He declared, “‘I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.’”

He went on, “‘All things have been committed to me by my Father.’” Wow. Now we know why Satan fell from Heaven. When Adam and Eve sinned, they plunged the world into a terrible curse. They handed tremendous power over to the Evil One. But the coming of Jesus was going to reverse all of that, and this was the beginning of that reversal. Satan’s reign of evil will come to an end someday. While he still has power, his doom is certain. God the Father committed to put all powers and dominions under the full authority of Jesus!

Then Jesus went on: “’No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.’” Wow. The disciples of Jesus understand who He is because He has shown them. What a high and holy privilege it is to know Jesus as the Son of God!

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said to them privately, “‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’”

What was it that the kings and prophets longed to see? What wonderful things did God reveal to Jesus’ disciples that He kept hidden from His faithful servants in the past?

For centuries the saints of God had wondered how God was going to fix the terrible problem of the curse. They knew the Law, and they offered up sacrifices for their sin. They told about the coming of a Messiah and of a great King who would sit on David’s throne. They prophesied about a Son of Man who would come in total victory over God’s enemy. They spoke of a Suffering Servant who would bear terrible wounds, and that by His wounds, He would heal many. Yet they did not know how it all was going to tie together to bring about God’s magnificent plan, and they longed and yearned to know this Great Mystery! Now these rag-tag disciples were not only witnessing the One Man who was all of these things, they were taking part in His epic work defeating God’s mightiest enemy! Wow. The amazing thing is that if we so choose, you and I get to be a part of it, too!

Story 114: Choosing Sides

John 7:1-36

stained glass

Jesus and His disciples made their way in secret to Jerusalem. The Jews at the Feast were all looking out for Him, awaiting His arrival. The people debated whether He was sent by God or was a deceiver bent on leading the people far from the Lord. They couldn’t talk about it openly because they were afraid of their religious leaders. These leaders had already decided that Jesus was a false teacher, and they were making plans to silence Him. Did they understand that they were separating the people from their own Messiah? Did they care?

The people knew that their leadership would be enraged to hear them debating about the man they had so decisively denounced. They would consider it abject rebellion, and it would not go unpunished. But the crowds could not get past the wonderful healings and the powerful teaching of Christ, and so they murmured on.

In the midst of all the rumors and plotting, just as the Feast was getting to it’s high point, when the greatest amount of people would be there, Jesus made His way up to the Temple. Try to imagine the scene. The vast building stood like shimmering gold over the temple courts. Thousands upon thousands of people would be coming in and out, carrying sacks of grain with their families, to offer to God in thanksgiving. They would be milling around, talking in groups, and listening to the strands of music played by the Temple musicians.

Imagine the sound of the crowd as word spread that Jesus had come. Some of the people had probably been healed by Him, many more had heard His teaching. Others probably flocked to see what would happen to the radical young preacher.

The Lord began teaching and preaching. Consider His boldness in light of His powerful opposition! How enraged His enemies must have been at His nerve! Yet this Temple was His own Father’s house, and He had a much greater right to be there than they did, whether they knew it or not!

As the multitudes listened to Jesus, they were astonished at the excellence of His teaching. They questioned how He could know so much because He had never received formal training like the Pharisees and scribes.

Jesus told them, “‘My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own.’”

This is something that is important to understand. It is the kind of thing we often think we know too quickly, but to understand it truly, we must ponder and consider the deeper meanings. Jesus did not teach from His own ideas as a human walking the earth. Jesus taught as the perfect messenger from God on High. He spoke the exact Words that God the Father desired the world to hear from His royal Throne in Heaven at the exact time He wanted them said. The Holy Spirit was working through the perfect obedience of Jesus and giving Him power and strength to fully express God’s will.

The Jewish people in the crowds and their religious leaders were showing who had their true allegiance by how they responded to Jesus. Those whose hearts were truly desiring the will of God would know in the depths of their hearts that out of all the opinions that were going around Israel, Jesus was the One who presented God’s side of the story.

Jesus went on:

“‘He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but He who works for the honor of the One who sent Him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about Him. Has not Moses given you the Law? Yet none of you keeps the Law. Why are you trying to kill me?’”

Gulp. Wow. Talk about bold truth! In the middle of the Temple courts, Jesus proclaimed the heart of the problem for the religious leaders. They were seeking honor only for themselves. They spoke of keeping the Law of Moses, but it was all for selfish motives. Jesus had just met with Moses himself on the Mount of Transfiguration., and He was the One who had the right to explain it to the nation. Everyone else should have bowed their knees to Him and repented of the difference between His Word and their own. Instead, they were plotting to kill Him, and He called them out for it in front of everyone.

The people in the crowd started to yell out, “‘You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?’”

Jesus said:

“‘I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses but the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.’”

The crowd heard the Lord and began to think through everything else they had heard and said about Jesus and the coming Messiah. This was the man that everyone knew the religious leaders wanted dead. But now He was here, right on the steps of the Temple, and the religious leaders did nothing. If He was leading the people astray, why didn’t they act? Many had also been taught that nobody would know where the Messiah came from. Yet everyone knew that Jesus was from Nazareth.

Jesus knew that this was the chatter and cried out in the courts of the Temple, “‘Yes, you know Me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on My own, but He who sent Me is true. You do not know Him, but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent Me.’”

Can you hear the anguish in His voice…the people’s own Messiah was calling out to them, crying out for their faith and belief in His very own Temple, and many refused. Instead, they tried to seize Him! He had just claimed to come from God Himself, and that was a step too far for their doubt and unbelief. None of them could get their hands on Him to harm Him, because it wasn’t God’s timing for His sacrifice yet. They would have no power over Him until God the Father gave it to them.

Many others heard Jesus cry out and put their faith in Him. They said to each other, “‘When the Christ comes, will He do more miraculous signs than this Man?’” They knew of the incredible outpouring of wonders that flowed through Jesus, and they knew that it was ridiculous to keep demanding more and more. The signs God had already worked through Christ were enough evidence of His power.

The Pharisees were carefully watching the scene and listening to the whispers of the crowd. They did not like what they heard, so they sent the guards of the Temple to go arrest the Lord. Jesus began to declare, “‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the One who sent Me. You will look for Me, but you will not find Me, and where I am You cannot come.’”

Jesus had turned the conversation away from His miracles and the truth that He was sent from God and toward the fact that He was going to die. Yet He said it in a way that was hard to understand. He gave clues that led to an even greater mystery. The crowd began to ask, “‘Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find Him? Will He go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean…?’”

Jesus did not always give people the answers they wanted to hear. He gave them a taste of the truth to get them asking more questions. He was provoking them with opportunities to think and consider what was clear about God’s work. Would the crowds choose to turn to Jesus…or would they side with the Pharisees that were planning His death?

Story 93: Commissioning the Disciples: Hope Beyond the Bars

Matthew 9:35-10:42; Mark 6:6b-11; Luke 9:1-5

Looking at a Soaring Bird Out of a Prison Window

Jesus said that His followers would face persecution and imprisonment in this world if they remained faithful to Him. But even in the darkest dungeon, a follower of Christ knows what is true. Beyond the bars of any prison made by the hands of men, God exists. He sees the faithfulness of His beloved and He will reward it lavishly. There is always hope beyond the bars.

The time had come for the Lord to prepare His disciples for when it would be their job to tell the world what God had done through the work of His Son. Jesus was going to offer His life to pay for the sins of humanity. Through His sacrifice He was going to utterly defeat sin and death. It was the best news in the history of the world, and it was His disciple’s tremendous honor to declare it. But Jesus wouldn’t be walking among them when they did it, and He needed to get them ready.

It wasn’t going to be easy. Not everyone would be happy to embrace this new work of God in the world. Many wouldn’t understand. Religious leaders and rulers would feel their power threatened. As Jesus prepared the disciples for their calling, He warned them:

“‘Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On My account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what you say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’”

Wow. There is a lot going on here. Becoming a disciple of Jesus wasn’t going to bring them the wealth and status of the world. They would be brought before powerful rulers, but often, it would bring them the shame and suffering of beatings and imprisonment. From an earthly perspective, they would have to give up having the kind of lives most people hope for. But think about what they would gain. The Spirit of God the Father, who rules and reigns in His heavenly power with unspeakable holiness and might, would fill them with His message to the lost. They would bring the words from the Throne Room of God into the throne rooms and courts of this world. And within a few decades, the suffering and challenges of being a disciple would be over.  They would leave the shackles of this corrupt world.  They would enter into everlasting life where they would forever be honored in the Throne Room of God for the obedience they offered Him when they were here on earth. Taking all things into a consideration, it is brilliant trade.

Jesus went on to explain the kind of troubles that the message of the Gospel would bring:

“‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’”

When we read Scripture there can often be several meanings, some are short-term and some are long-term. Scholars have different ways of understanding what Jesus means here. Clearly, the disciples and those who responded to Christ’s message were going to face painful conflict…the kind that can lead to death. It would be so extreme they would have to literally flee for their lives. Their challenge would be to stand in their faith in the midst of it all.

But what did Jesus mean when He said they wouldn’t finish preaching to all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes? Was He talking about the epic, final Day of the Lord? Some scholars believe He was.  According to this view, Jesus was saying that throughout the ages, His disciples would have to continue to preach the Gospel to the Jews right alongside their proclamation to the rest of the world. This makes sense because it seems like Jesus’ message to the disciples is also a message for all of His disciples of all time, including us.

Other scholars believe that Jesus is talking about when He returned through rising from the dead. Still more believe it is about Pentecost, when Christ would send His Spirit to enliven His disciples with power after He ascended into Heaven.

There are several different ways to interpret this verse (Matt. 10:23), but they all carry the same hope. Whatever we go through here on earth, the suffering is limited.  Jesus is coming back.  In fact, it is kind of wonderful to realize there have been many ways the Savior has returned to us and will return to us still. He is the Lover of our souls, indeed.

Jesus went on:

“‘A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant to be like his master. If the Head of the House has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of His household!’”

When the most powerful religious leaders in Jerusalem sent their messengers to Jesus in Galilee, they did not come to accept Him. They wanted to silence Him.  But they had to do something about all of His powerful, amazing miracles…if His power didn’t come from God, where did it come from?   Imagine how many people who had been lame or sick or demonized were walking around as evidence that Jesus was no ordinary man.  The religious leaders couldn’t argue that it wasn’t happening, so they had to come up with a reason for His power that took God’s anointing out of the picture. You may remember what they decided to do. They accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan. That was the ultimate rejection. It proved the hardness of their hearts…and with that they lost their right to hear more. For well over a year of His preaching they had received many, many opportunities to recognize God’s work through His Son.  Again and again they refused to accept their Messiah.  Finally, God the Father accepted that rejection.  From that point on, Jesus began to speak in parables so that only those with ears to hear could understand. Jesus knew that He wouldn’t be the only one accused of operating in Satan’s power.  His disciples would hear that, too.  Jesus went on:

“‘Do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.’”

Wow. If we take the words of Jesus seriously, this is both terribly difficult and remarkably wonderful.  It forces us to consider the grip we have on this life and all the things we want to do to garner and preserve our own happiness here.  It also gives breathtaking assurances for what is possible for those who take hold of it.  Jesus was penetratingly clear: there is a level and grandeur of faith available to us that is so powerful that we will no longer be afraid of persecution and death. And we are meant to pursue it.   The key is to look at the bigger picture. When you align with loyal devotion to Christ, you side with the One who has the most important power. In the end, that is going to be the only thing that matters.  In the beginning it might feel like an epic loss.  Ultimately, it becomes a wildly great freedom.

Jesus understood that it wouldn’t be easy:

“‘Are not two sparrow sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’”

Isn’t it amazing? In the midst of the epic calling of a disciple, there is also a tender mercy and nearness to God. He knows how many hairs are on our heads. He attends to every falling sparrow, and we have a far greater worth.

These are the words of a deeply loving Lord. They are worth sitting with in our hearts and minds, meditating on and praying through them until we understand them in the deepest places of our hearts. They have the power to help us overcome all the fears that would stop us from being the courageous disciples that Christ is calling us to be in this passage.

Jesus was still walking around with His disciples when He spoke these words, but He understood the challenges they would face…that millions of His followers would face over the thousands of years that would follow His death and resurrection.

As I prepare this lesson, I can hardly keep from weeping. We live in an amazing time. A girl like me in California can post stories about Jesus, and they can be read in countries all over the world within seconds of their posting. It is breathtaking. Yet we also live in a terrible time. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted all over the globe. The last century has seen more martyrs than any other time in history.

When I look at the stats for this blog, there are readers from the very countries where persecution is most intense, and I wonder who might be reading this. Are you okay? What have you endured? What will be your call? How can we pray? It shows how important this particular story in the Bible is, and how clearly Jesus understood the opposition that the Gospel would have in every age. He gives His chosen ones the dignifying role of taking up His cross. And He is worth it. May the family of Christ across the globe be faithful to our brothers and sisters who have the honored role of standing for Jesus in the darkest places. Their reward is going to be unspeakably great. And may their faithfulness cast a vision for greater faithfulness in us.

For wisdom about how to pray and support our brothers and sisters undergoing persecution of the globe go here www.persecution.com or here www.spiritofmartyrdom.com

 

Story 92: The Commissioning of the Disciples: On Becoming Harvesters

Matthew 9:35-10:42; Mark 6:6b-11; Luke 9:1-5

Wheat field against a blue sky

You may have noticed on these blogs about the life of Jesus that the stories from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John get a little mixed up. For example, when in the book of Matthew we read from chapter eight before we read chapters 5 through 7, which are the Sermon on the Mount. That is because we are reading all four of the Gospel books together at once. The writer of each Gospel had His own way of telling the story of Christ’s life. Each of them had an audience they were trying to reach with the Gospel, and so each told Jesus’ story in a way that would help that group of people understand Him and why He came.  Some of them wrote the order of the stories in a way that highlighted certain ideas.  If we want to see the clearest explanation for how the story unfolded across the three years of Jesus’ ministry, the best book to read is John.

Some people are bothered when they learn that each book doesn’t go exactly in the order and timing that it actually happened in Jesus’ life.  But if you think about it we tell stories in different ways all the time.  If you became very sick, you might tell the story of your illness differently to your doctor than you would to a child that you didn’t want to scare with the details.  For the doctor, you might select all of the different ways you have been sick in the last year.  For the child you would might tell a funny story or emphasize how you have gotten better in the past.   Each time you told your story, you would be telling the truth, but you would be choosing the details that were most important for the person you were describing the story to. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John choose different details of the same stories about Jesus in order to help their audience understand His amazing message.

We believe that Matthew wrote these stories down in a way that could be used to teach the disciples how to live for Jesus. It was a little bit like a textbook.

Matthew organized what He wrote in a special way to make it easy to teach others. Part of that organizing was to take the five main themes that Jesus taught about and write them down in five sections. The first section was the Sermon on the Mount, which teaches about how members of God’s Kingdom are supposed to live. The next section is the one we are about to read. Jesus taught how His disciples are to live as they preached the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

As Jesus continued to go out and preach through the cities and villages around the Sea of Galilee, He felt tremendous compassion for the crowds that came to Him. They were in distress, with all the pressures and suffering of life under the misery of the Curse. They were like sheep without a shepherd, fragile animals that were hunted and wounded and torn by vicious enemies. As Jesus looked around at the multitudes, He said to His disciples, “‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’”

What a sorrowful statement.  On a farm there comes a time when the fruit or grain is ready to be picked. It can be a time of great labor and celebration as the riches of plenty are brought in. Everyone has to get to work because it is important to get everything in from the fields on time.  If the harvest is taken too soon, it won’t be ripe.  If it is taken too late, it will go bad.  When Jesus looked out on the crowds that followed Him, He saw that there were many whose hearts were ready to be harvested for the Kingdom, just as wheat becomes ready to be harvested. Yet the harvesters were few.  The leadership of Israel had risen to join the Savior.  Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “‘Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send out workers into His harvest field.’”

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus saw the tremendous need, the first thing He did was call on His disciples to pray? This was no idle request. Jesus knew that it was the truly effective, important action they could take to meet the great needs of the people. Prayers to the Living God are not simply sounds aiming at Heaven. They are heard by the Mighty Lord who created the entire universe by speaking it into existence. He has somehow linked His salvation work in the world to the prayers of His people. Our prayers are acts of power, and He wants to answer them. When we have a truly eternal vision for what it means to pray, we realize it is insane not to. Jesus made it clear that the first job of the disciples was to pray for workers who would partner with God in His great harvesting work of bringing salvation to the lost.

In the very next story we see how God answered those prayers. Jesus was going to send His disciples out into the harvest. And He had a strategy for how He was going to do it.

First, the Lord Jesus brought His twelve disciples together and put them into pairs. Simon Peter was put with His brother Andrew. James and John were next, then Philip and Bartholomew. The Lord put Thomas and Matthew together, and then James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaues. Finally, Simon the Zealot was put with Judas Iscariot. Judas was the man that would one day betray the Lord. These pairs were to go out and spread the Good News of the Kingdom, just as their Master had.  Jesus gave them authority over evil spirits. He empowered them to be able to heal every kind of illness and disease as well.

Can you imagine what that was like for the disciples? After travelling all that time with Jesus and watching Him do His wondrous deeds, they had been invited to share the same message and the same power! Their new authority was so far reaching that even the demonic beings…the fallen angels… were subject to them! This was a new commissioning. They had moved from being mere disciples to apostles. They were being sent out on a radical mission. It was an important part of God’s preparation for their lifetime ahead.

Let’s take a second to consider how brave these men were. Consider the faith that had been growing in them. Jesus was the most controversial man in Israel. He was either sent from God or He was God’s enemy. The disciples were not men of great education, power, or status. Most of them were either common workers or had been rejected as sinners or zealots. They were not well traveled. If this didn’t work out, there was nowhere to go. Everyone in the nation was associating them with Christ. Yet the disciples had watched the most powerful men in the cities and villages of Galilee condemn Jesus.  By following Jesus, they had taken on the condemnation. And now they were going to go traveling around the countryside exposing themselves even more. Except now they would be doing it without the presence of their fearless Leader.

Instead of growing weaker in faith as Jesus met with opposition, their faith had grown stronger.  Imagine what must have been developing in their hearts.

Before they left, Jesus gave them a set of instructions about what to do and what not to do. He said:

“‘Do no go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.’”

Wow. These commands of Jesus required radical trust. Put yourself in the disciples shoes. Imagine what the week ahead was going to look like. The power of God was going to flow through you to bring major healing from illness, death, and demonic oppression. The glorious power of God moving to break the destruction of the Curse through His Son was now going to work through you.

Would you be excited? Scared? Would you feel nervous about not taking extra money to feed yourself? God was going to show His disciples just how well He could use them and take care of them, but it was going to take courageous, surrendered faith to step out into His plan!

It is interesting that Jesus was sending His disciples to cities and villages of Israel. He was giving those people yet another chance to respond to the message of their Messiah.  Jesus went on:

“‘Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you to listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’”

Jesus understood the situation in Israel. There were many who wanted Jesus dead. But He also seemed to understand that there were many in the nation that would welcome His men. There were special, powerful blessings in store for them as they received Christ’s messengers. Consider the gift someone gave to his neighbors if he welcomed in the disciples. Jesus’ men would bring healing, freedom from death…and some kind of special anointing of peace. They brought the Good News of the Kingdom that the nation had been waiting on for thousands of years! It seems crazy that anyone would reject it. But that is the nature of sin and the rejection of the things of God. It doesn’t make sense. It is irrational. And those who chose it would pay a great price. From the perspective of the world, the disciples were simple men making their way along the road with a dubious message. From a heavenly perspective, they were the honored bearers of the Greatest Treasure, the golden truth that was going to change the world.

 

Story 91: Back to Nazareth

Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6a

Icon of Jesus in orthodox church of Annunciation in Nazareth

This picture (or icon) of Jesus is in the orthodox Church of Annunciation in the city of Nazareth in Israel. Jesus wasn’t welcomed as the Messiah in His hometown during His lifetime, but His disciples went out and proclaimed the Good News all over the world. Christians eventually came back to Nazareth and His message was finally embraced.

After healing the blind men and the mute in Capernaum, Jesus made His way back to His hometown of Nazareth. That was a pretty bold thing to do. The last time we read about Christ visiting there, the townspeople tried to throw Him off a cliff! (See Luke 4:16-31a, or Story 34). That story probably happened about a year or a year and a half before this story takes place. It was in the spring, and Jesus had gone on to spend most of the next twelve to eighteen months in Galilee. We aren’t sure of the exact dates, but we can look at all the information we have about His ministry and make a very strong guess.

when Jesus returned to Nazareth His disciples were with Him. He went into the synagogue once again to preach. What a beautiful grace that He would offer Himself to them again after they tried to kill Him! Had the great outpouring of miracles all over Galilee softened their hearts?

As the people listened to Jesus, they showed the hardness of their hearts. They did not repent or bow down in worship.   Even as they made comments on His brilliant teaching and breathtaking miracles, they were full of suspicion and doubt. “‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’” they said. They knew that His words held a brilliance far beyond what any normal villager would be able to speak.

“‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?’” they asked. “‘Aren’t all of His sisters with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’” And instead of beholding the wonder of God’s work among them, they took offense against Him. They wanted to cut this pretender down to size.

Jesus simply said to them, “‘A prophet is not without honor except in His own town and in His own home.’” A prophet is not someone who teaches about words and wisdom that have been spoken in the past. A prophet is in direct communication with the Most High God Himself. They speak directly for God. The people of Christ’s village could not bear that One of their own had been given such a mighty role. Jesus was claiming to be a very great man in their midst. Except for John the Baptist, there had been no prophet in Israel for hundreds of years.

Now the greatest prophet of all had come, and the people of Nazareth did not have faith to see. And because they had no faith, the Lord did not do very many miracles there. He laid hands on a few of their sick, and they were healed. Only the broken and needy of Nazareth were blessed enough to see the miracle of who Jesus truly was. And Jesus wondered at the unbelief of the rest of His neighbors.

Story 90: The Healing in His Hands

Matthew 9:27-34

Wonder of Jesus: healing the blind in stained glass

In this story, Jesus was continuing to give His faithful witness of the Gospel in the region Galilee in spite of the hard-heartedness of the people. Where was the repentance that should have marked the children of God when their Savior came?   The hostility of the Jewish leadership against the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ pressed their hearts into new levels of hardness and rebellion.  It provoked God’s judgment and sealed their eternal fate. Now the proclamation of the Gospel would not be given to the nation. It would be given in the quiet places, to individuals, cloaked in parables. The miracles would be done in private for those who showed true faith against the powerful voices of the religious leaders.

As Jesus left the tender healing of the ruler’s daughter and headed to Peter’s house where He was staying, two blind men began to follow him from behind. They cried out, “‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’”

When they called Jesus the Son of David they were declaring that they believed Jesus was the Man who fulfilled God’s divine promise to King David. They believed He was the Anointed One of Isaiah, the mighty warrior who would restore the nation of Israel to her golden years when King David reigned in power! These men did not understand that their Messiah had not come to bring a war. They didn’t understand the remarkable, heartbreaking way Jesus would bring in the New Covenant. But they did believe He was sent by God.

The Lord went into Peter’s home and the blind men followed Him right in. Jesus had a lot of choices at that moment.  He could have been annoyed.  He could have said He was tired.  He could have asked them to show some manners.  He could have kicked them out or treated them as unworthy, just as the rest of their society likely did.

Instead, Jesus said, “‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’” Interesting.   He asked if they believed He was able.  They both said, “‘Yes, Lord.’” So He touched their eyes and said, “‘According to your faith it will be done to you.’”  Again, interesting.  He empowered their healing according to the degree of their faith in a sort of two way interaction between His abundant capacity and their belief.

Right then and there, the sight of both men was given back to them. Imagine their awe as they stood in Peter’s house and looked around. Imagine how that moment had changed their lives! They had probably gone through great personal anguish grieving the fact that they would never see again.  How would you feel if it happened to you? No more sunsets, no more independence, no more gazing on the face of your beloved.  The whole visual world was restored to them in an instant.  It is hard to imagine a greater gift apart from salvation.  Before they left, Jesus warned them, “‘See that no one knows about this.’”

Why in the world not?

Well, the Jewish world was already hostile against Him. The leaders had already offended the Spirit of the Living God. Their had hardened their hearts over and over again against the amazing teachings and miracles of Christ.  When they used their power to accuse Christ of being from Satan instead of acknowledging Him to the nation as the Messiah, they turned a corner.  God confirmed the hardness of their hearts with judgment.  The miracles would not serve to soften their hearts…it would only harden them.  The Lord Jesus would not give them one more way to sin against His Father.  As Christ’s compassion continued to compel Him to set the broken of Israel free from their bondage, it was no longer a part of the proclamation of the coming Messiah.

You would think that these men would be so grateful that they would do whatever Jesus asked. You would think that they would obey the one they had called “Lord.” But they didn’t. After they left, they went all around the region of Galilee telling everyone what Jesus had done for them.  Whatever tiny amount of faith it required for them to access Christ’s healing power, it wasn’t significant enough to draw their loyal obedience.  What a merciful Lord.

Even as these men were leaving the house, another man was brought to Jesus. This man was under the oppressive power of a demon. He wasn’t able to speak at all. Jesus drove out the demon, and the man was able to talk. The crowds that were always surrounding Jesus were amazed. “‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’” But the Pharisees were saying, “‘It is by the prince of demons that He drives out demons.’”

It is breathtaking how these religious leaders continued to blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit!  Let’s review the big picture here for a minute. If it seems like we are doing that a lot in these stories, know that it is not an accident.  It helps us be mindful of the ongoing context that Christ was constantly bearing.  That is important for the way we read the situation.  It will also help us grasp anew the magnitude of the terrible and devastating error these religious rulers were making.

Everywhere Jesus went, He displayed magnificent power to undo the horrible effects of the curse. This curse had come on humanity at its very earliest age. The sin of Adam and Eve, the parents of every human, rebelled against God, and so they invited sin and death into the world and into the lives of all their descendants. For thousands of years the human race proved how wicked the heart of man is by their constant decisions to sin against the Most High God.

To look at human history, it would seem that all was lost. The most vicious rulers paved their road to victory on the backs of the weak. The glorious peace and perfection of the Garden was no more than a sweet fantasy in the memory of the human race as they toiled under the sun to grow enough food to eat. It was all they could do to survive the storms and drought and famine that the curse brought into the world. Sin distorted the depths of the heart of humanity as well. The wonder of marriage between one man and one woman was constantly violated through the sin of men and their perverse, distorted rejection of God’s intention for true love. Nation warred against nation and neighbor warred against neighbor in a never-ending cycle of selfishness. Sin was a weight that pulled humanity into filth and shame that Adam and Eve could never have imagined when they sought the knowledge of good and evil from that tree.

The Most High God was not going to leave His creation to the dark tragedy that Satan was working so hard to mastermind. He chose a nation to exhibit the right way to live for the whole world to see. He chose the descendants of Abraham to be His holy and treasured people. They would not destroy sin and death through their law, but they would show how to pursue the Most High God in a world tainted by sin and death.

From the midst of His holy nation, God sent His own Son into the world to be the Savior. He would walk the earth and live a perfect life, absolutely free from sin. He would live His life as the human race was meant to live in the Garden, in perfect communion with God and in total obedience to Him. Through Him, the goodness of God would flow, and the terrible pain and suffering that the curse brought would be turned back into health and wholeness.

This was the Old Testament promise of the Messiah. This is what the Jews should have seen when they watched the miracles of Jesus. Everywhere the Lord went, glorious miracles happened and captives were set free from the power of demonic forces. The lame could walk, shriveled hands stretched out to perfection, the dead were raised, and long-time diseases fled weary bodies. As Jesus journeyed through Galilee month after month, the people had time to think about these wondrous things that were happening among them. They could have search the Word and seen how Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets. They could have bowed at His feet in reverent awe, just as Peter had in the boat when he saw his first miracle.  They could repented of their prior sin and false ways of leading the people. They could have seen the work of Christ and announced to all the world, “THIS IS THE ONE! Come to Him!” like the woman at the well or the man who was set free from a Legion of demons.  Except when they did it, the religious leaders would have done it on behalf of a nation…of the nation that God had set apart for the task.  This was the amazing, epic, glorious role that the Lord had given these religious leaders. When they failed it was a failure on epic, historical and spiritual proportions.

Many did not fail.  We know the story of quiet Nicodemus as He snuck to meet with Jesus in the dead of night. The Spirit of the Lord was working among the quietly faithful. But the established position by those who wielded power was set. Their proclamation was that Jesus was operating out of the power of Satan, and they would use their power from the Temple and the synagogues to turn God’s people away from Him with all their might.

As the households and villages and cities of regular Jewish families discussed this Jesus and all the amazing stories that came flowing out of Galilee, they were beginning to form their opinions about Him. It was becoming more and more established that they were going to have to either side with the national religious leadership or side with Christ.  The middle ground was shrinking.  And God the Father, who searches every heart, understood the exact measure of faith in the people He called His own. As He offered His magnificent grace and compassion through His Son, the Lord God was offering them the finest gift He could bestow. The people of Israel would have to decide which way to go. Would they follow their leadership at the Temple in Jerusalem and the synagogues in their rejection of the Messiah? Or would they allow the Spirit of God to speak and reveal the greatness of Jesus Christ? What would you decide?

Story 89: The Tender Love of the Lord

Matt. 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56

stained glass window

Imagine what it was like to be a disciple of Jesus. They saw Him heal with a power nobody had ever seen before. They stood by Him as He confronted the most influential men of His day. They watched Him silence the storm with a word. They saw Him restore a wildly dangerous man to sanity, calming the storms in his heart and mind.

Such utter victory seemed to flow through this magnetic Teacher. He looked so different from the Messiah they had been taught to look for all their lives, but as they were given glimpses of His majesty, the disciples of the Lord were growing in their faith. Here was a Man that they would follow even if the religious leaders of the nation were against Him. Here was Someone that they would be loyal to even when His family and the great multitudes rejected Him. Even if it happened over and over again.

The people of Garasenes were so terrified by the transformation of the demonized man that they sent Jesus away. As Jesus climbed back into the boat to leave the region, His disciples went with Him.

Did they wonder how it was possible that so many rejected Him? Were they angry at the Garasene townspeople who had missed the glory of the miracle? How could these people ask Jesus to leave? Were they amazed that out of all these people, they were the ones who had been given the treasure of believing faith?

The Lord Jesus and His followers sailed back to the region of Galilee. The great crowds of people were there waiting for Him before His boat landed. Jesus stayed with the crowd along the shore.

As He was teaching, a man came up to Him and fell at His feet. It was Jairus, one of the officials who ran the local synagogue. What could possibly bring him to Jesus, the Man that the rabbi’s and religious leaders of Jerusalem were seeking to put to death?

Jairus had only one daughter, and she was twelve years old. At that very moment, she was lying in her bed close to death. In desperation, this loving father had come to search out the only hope he had left for his girl. His crisis moved him past the social pressures that might have otherwise kept him away.  He begged the Lord from the deep anguish that was in his heart, “‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put Your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’”

Jesus immediately rose up and went with Jairus. The crowds followed Him as well, pressing in all around Him and crushing Him as He moved forward. Can you imagine the scene as they walked to Jairus’ home?

As they went, a woman crept up behind Jesus in the crowd. She had been suffering for twelve years from bleeding. She had gone to many doctors and been through many difficult treatments as they tried to help her. The woman had spent all the money she had in search of healing, but nothing had worked. She had only gotten worse. Imagine how it would feel to constantly bleed. The constant washing, the smell, the way her Jewish family and friends would have to distance themselves because her blood made her ritually unclean. What a painful, lonely life! And it had been a long loneliness. Twelve years in isolation and shame is very, very long. But she had heard about Jesus, and word of His remarkable healings had given her hope.

She inched her way up to Jesus through the dense crowd, thinking that if she only touched His cloak, she would be made well. She didn’t want His attention, she was ritually unclean, and anyone who touched her would become unclean. And she didn’t want to bother Him. Perhaps if she only touched the hem of His garment, He wouldn’t even notice! She reached out for Him, and when her hand fell upon the fabric of His clothes, she felt the flow of her blood dry up. She knew, after so many years of living with her condition, that her dreadful affliction was gone. She was healed.

Jesus felt the power go out from Him, and He turned around. “‘Who touched Me?’” He asked. Everyone around Jesus denied that they had purposely touched him. Peter said, “‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’”

But Jesus knew that in the midst of all the movement of the crowd, someone had reached out and touched Him with their need and with faith. “‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from Me,’” He explained. Whoever it was mattered enough to the Lord to stop in the middle of the surging crowd on His way towards another urgent need.

The woman was terribly afraid. She knew she could not get away without being noticed, and she understood the majesty of the Man who was asking for her. She trembled and fell to the ground at His feet. She told Him the whole truth in front of the entire crowd.

Jesus looked down and said to her, “‘Daughter, take courage. Your faith has made you well: go in peace and be healed of your affliction.’” I’m not sure how you hear the voice of Christ in your mind as you read this, but try reading it with the extreme tenderness and gentleness that words seem to imply. What an incredible moment for that precious woman.  What a remarkable thing for the crowd to witness…this broken that they had likely shunned for years treated with such love by the man they were all enthralled with.  Jesus had a way of walking into the sinful dynamics of humanity’s failure to love and bring incredible goodness and truth.

What a beautiful Savior! What a powerful Lord! What an amazing effect the woman’s faith had on that power! But the greatest blessing of all was that Jesus called her “daughter.” She had become a member of the Lord’s family of faith.

Even as Jesus was saying these words, someone came from Jairus’ home. They said, “‘Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any longer?’”

Jesus ignored the discouraging message. He turned to Jairus and said, “‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’” Imagine what the rest of the road felt like for Jairus as they made their way to his house! As they went inside, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone come with Him except Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents.

The house was already full of people and was in noisy disorder. Professional mourners had come to weep and wail over the death of the girl. There were flute players and loud laments. The Lord said, “‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’”

Jesus had not seen the girl yet.  How did He know whether she was dead or not? Well, the fact is that she had died, but Jesus had come to raise her back to life. He had full confidence in front of all those mourners to declare that He was about to make His own words true! Death had no real power in the presence of the Lord of all Creation.

The people who had come to show their grief over the girl broke out into cynical laughter at the words of Christ. Who did He think He was? They were certain she was dead! These people who were paid to come and mourn the death of the girl could easily sneer at the hope of her healing. Very false people, indeed

The Lord said, “‘Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’” The crowd was put out of the house, and the three disciples and the parents went with Jesus to see the girl. The Lord took the child by the hand and said, “‘Talitha, kum!’” That means “‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’” The spirit of the girl returned to her, and she got up immediately and began to walk around. He had not only raised her from the dead, He had restored her full strength and health! The parents and the disciples were utterly amazed.

Jesus had not done this miracle to impress the crowds or send a message to the world. The Lord acted out of compassion for a desperate father and a little child whose lives had been marred by the Curse. He didn’t want the message of this wonderful miracle to spread. He gave them orders not to tell anyone. Just as Jesus had changed from open proclamation of the Kingdom to teaching through the veil of parables, the miracles were now acts of secret, quiet compassion. These treasures belonged only to those who believed. Those who scorned the works of God lost the privilege to see His wonder. The spiritual leaders of Israel had committed an extreme sin, showing that their hearts were utterly hardened. From this point on, the Lord Jesus would be very selective about who He revealed His Gospel to.

After the little girl was up and healthy, Jesus reminded them to feed her. In the midst of all that was going on around Him, the Lord was mindful of the simple needs of the child. He loved her with the same attentive care that He had loved the bleeding woman. They both had great value in His sight.

Somehow, rumors of the miracle ended up spreading throughout the land of the Jews. Imagine the Pharisees of Galilee who already wanted Jesus dead. What did they do when they learned He had raised the daughter of Jairus to life? Imagine the gasp through the crowds as rumors of yet another miracle spread. Imagine how the talk went as travelers walked the road to Jerusalem, sharing the latest remarkable news about this Jesus who roamed the hills of Galilee. What did the religious leaders in Jerusalem do when they found out that just days after they had declared that Jesus was empowered by Satan, He had raised the daughter of a synagogue leader from the dead?!

Story 87: Jesus Calms the Storm

Matt. 13:53; 8:18, 23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25

Jesus Calms a Storm on the Sea

Evening had come, and the Lord was tired. Jesus was fully God, but He willingly laid aside the privileges of His divine powers and took on the form of a man when He came to save us (Phil. 2:5-11).   That included taking on our human frailties.  He leaned on the will of His Father with perfection and the Holy Spirit for His empowerment, just as we are called to do. Jesus truly became one of us and is our example, and on this particular day, He was exhausted.

The massive crowds continued to press around Jesus. There was no escaping them in Capernaum. So the Lord told His disciples, “‘Let’s go to the other side of the lake.’” The disciples left the crowds and they all got into a boat. There were other boats that came along, too, full of His faithful band of friends.

Jesus went to the stern of the boat and laid His head down on a cushion. But then a wind started to blow. It rose and rose into a fierce wind, and soon, a tremendous storm was upon them. Large waves hit the boat and shook it, filling it with water. It was getting dangerous.

When the disciples looked to see what Jesus was doing, they saw that He was fast asleep! Why wasn’t He trying to help them? So they woke Him and said, “‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’”

Jesus woke up to the terrified faces of His disciples, the wild screaming of the wind, and the waves battering and rocking the boat. He rose to His feet, looked out upon the waters, and rebuked the wind and the waves saying, “‘Hush, be still.’” Instantly, the wind slowed to a calm and the rushing waves laid back down in the deep waters. The thundering storm came to perfect rest.

Can you imagine the magnificence of that moment? Can you imagine the surging power and authority behind the strong and confident command of Christ? He was completely certain of His mastery as the Son of the Living God.

For a moment, the Man that the disciples walked with every day was revealed for the mighty Lord that He is, far above the powers of this world, and perfectly able to wield complete control with a simple command.

He turned to His disciples and said, “‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”

The disciples were in awe. What would you do if your teacher stood up in front of you and showed mastery over the forces of nature? The disciples looked at each other in wonder, and a kind of deep, reverent fear. There was power in this Man that they had not imagined. “‘What kind of Man is this?’” they asked each other, “‘Even the winds and the wave obey Him!’”

The disciples had shown faith in the Lord already. They had chosen to get in the boat with Christ just as it was becoming certain that the most powerful religious leaders of their nation were going to come against Him with a vengeance. But He had called His disciples family. He said they were His brothers and sisters. They belonged to Him, and they had chosen to follow Him all the way.

As a result, much had been given to the disciples. The Spirit gave them eyes to see and ears to hear the glory of what was happening in Jesus. And because they followed that leading, they witnessed something nobody else got to see. They got to watch Christ wield power over nature.

It is interesting to think about what other choices the disciples could have made. They could have walked away from Jesus when the powerful religious leaders from Jerusalem came against Him. They could have been offended that Jesus didn’t go with His family. They could have questioned Jesus about why He was leaving the crowd when there were still people in need. Instead, they obeyed. They got into the boat and headed for the other side of the Galilean Sea.

Jesus had traveled all over Galilee, but this time He was headed for the region of the Gerasenes. It was an area where a lot of Gentiles lived. These people were not a part of the nation of Israel, and the Jews considered them unclean. They wouldn’t even sit down with them to eat.

In the Old Testament, the Lord had commanded the nation of Israel to keep separate from the surrounding nations. God wanted His people to be pure from the idolatry and wickedness that polluted the daily lives of others. But He also spoke to His people about how they should treat foreigners in their own country. Foreigners are usually vulnerable in a land where a different language is spoken and where prejudice and bigotry can be oppressively cruel. But according to the Old Testament, foreigners in Israel had the protection of God.

From the very beginning of the first covenant that God made with Abraham, Israel was supposed to be a blessing to all the nations of the world. They were to act as the priests of the earth, teaching and training the cursed and burdened human race about the ways of the Most High God through their own holy lives. Throughout their long history, they had often stumbled and failed, but now they had met their ultimate failure. They had rejected their Messiah. Now the Lord was going to begin to take salvation to the Gentiles Himself. The nation of Israel had rejected their opportunity to honor the Messiah, but God would not allow that to stop His plans to bring redemption to humanity.

As Jesus and His disciples got in the boat, they sailed away from the Jewish shore and moved towards the region of the Gentiles. Christ was taking his message out to the lost, crossing out from God’s covenant with the nation of Israel through Moses and into a new era…a new covenant. As they went, a fierce and raging storm came against them, but it held no real power. All He had to do was speak, and by His absolute authority, the storm was over.

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