Tag Archives: Messiah

27. Jesus the Servant

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So the last time we left Jesus, the Pharisees were plotting to kill him because he had healed, once again, on the Sabbath. Because of this Jesus was quick to get out of Dodge. Not because he didn’t want to die, but because it wasn’t time for him to die yet. After he left he was followed by a large crowd and Jesus healed everyone who was ill. Not just some, the text actually says all. This account is also found in Mark but we will be reading the account found in Matthew because it includes a bit of Messianic prophesy that is worth checking out:

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”

(Matthew 12:15-21)

I specifically want to look at the bit of prophesy that is given to us. It comes from Isaiah 42:1-4. This particular passage is about someone God calls, “my servant”. This title, “my servant” is a special title of honor that was used to describe the likes of Moses, Joshua and David. It was also used in Isaiah 42:1-9, 49:1-7;50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12. Now Israelites always assumed that they were the servant described but because of their wayward actions and blatant refusal to follow God and instead turn towards idols, they lost this honor of being God’s servants. Instead, these verses describe one person in whom God would find no fault- a perfect prototype of what a follower of God should look like. They are describing the Messiah, himself! The reason that Matthew, whose readership was mostly Jewish, often includes prophesy about the Messiah is to show them how Jesus is the 100% fulfillment of these prophesies. In other words, they didn’t have to keep looking for the promised Messiah because he was here as evidenced by their own Scriptures.

There are three times when Jesus is described by God as, “the one I love, in whom I delight.” The two other times occurred at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17) and at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5).

Here’s a little rabbit trail for us to go down. No where in the Bible does it explicitly say that God is triune, or 3-in-1. This is a concept that was presented by early church fathers. One of the verses they use to support this idea (which for the record, I believe in) is verse 18 from our passage today, ” I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.” Here we see the Father conferring the Holy Spirit on the Son. 3-in-1. Three persons of God, in one deity; somehow each unique, yet joined together.

Verse 18, and also 21, is interesting because God is clearly concerned about “the nations”. He is concerned about all peoples, not just the nation of Israel. He came to them first because he wanted them to be his people of promise but because they rejected him time and time again, he opened salvation to the world. This was a foreign idea to the Jews even though it was right there in Scripture. It’s like they picked and chose which descriptions of the Messiah they liked and conveniently forgot about the parts they didn’t. God clearly cares for Gentiles, or non-Jews… which is very good news for me!

The next part, “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets,” refers to his silence during his trial before the crucifixion. Jesus remained silent despite his accusers and their false accusations, despite the fact that he could have said one word and thousands of angels would have been there in an instant to rescue him. He was silent except for a few answers to questions.

Verse 20 is one of great mercy and grace,

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

One of the things the Pharisees never got was Jesus’ unending grace toward sinners. We can learn a lot from Jesus here. His job until he returns is to be gentle and love the sinner. I think here of the Westboro Baptist church. These people are not doing God’s work. God’s work, until Jesus returns, is to love on people. That doesn’t mean we overlook the sin. What Jesus did was look beyond the sin and saw the hurting person underneath. Hurting people are like a reed that is already bent from life’s windstorms or a candle struggling to stay lit. In mercy Jesus sat with these people, took the time to hear and really understand these people. And when I say “these people” what I really mean is you and me. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It doesn’t matter if we’ve wrongly gotten angry or if we’ve killed someone. We deserve a traitor’s death. We are no better or worse than anyone else and to assume otherwise is to fall into the trap of self-righteousness. Thank God, for his mercy and love! Thank God, for his patience with us! This is how he deals with us and this is how we are to deal with each other. Now there is a time when Jesus will come again and reign victorious over Satan and Evil. At that point it will be Jesus’ job to dole out justice to non-belivers and believers alike. It is never our job. It is never our responsibility to judge others. Period.

I’ll step down off my soap box for now. Until next time when we look at the commissioning of the the twelve apostles…

The End.

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26. Stretch out your hand

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Sorry there was a break between postings. My laptop power cord was fried in a thunderstorm and we were without a computer for a few days. Fortunately it was just the power supply and not the whole laptop. Praise God! As a reminder, last time we found the disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Those pesky Pharisees were there to give them a hard time about “working” on the Sabbath and Jesus promptly rebukes them. This time we will learn about another healing on the Sabbath. I have to tell you that I knew Jesus did this stuff on the Sabbath but I didn’t realize how often he did it before this study. I think almost every time we read about Jesus healing, he is doing so on the Sabbath. Think maybe he is trying to drive home a point with the Pharisees? Too bad they never get it! This time we find Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Matthew makes it sound like it is later the same day as they were in the grain fields while Mark and Luke both say it occurred on a different day. To me it’s one of those details that don’t really matter if they all agree or not; it’s the story that follows that is important. Let’s read:

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. (Matthew 12:9-14)

Last time we saw the focus was on the disciples breaking the law. This time we see Jesus as the “law-breaker”. They are in the synagogue and there is a man there with a bad hand. If you read the Gospel of Hebrews, an apocryphal book, the man is described as being a mason and it being his right hand that was injured. Whether that is true or not is up in the air although the way the original language is written it implies that the man’s hand was not an injury from birth. Being a mason it is quite possible that he hurt himself on the job.

Regardless, the guy had a bum hand. And the Pharisees saw this as a perfect trap for Jesus. They ask him a loaded question intended to trip up Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Their laws said that healing was only allowed in life or death situations, otherwise the patient needed to wait until Sunday for help (Jewish Sabbath was Saturday). Instead of answering their question. Jesus asks his own question about their own laws, “If any of you has a sheep that falls in a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?” His question is just as loaded as the Pharisees. Even though the sheep was in no danger in the pit, just stuck, they all would have rescued the sheep. Jesus’ point is this: If God would overlook you breaking the Sabbath to save a sheep, how much more so is would he accept healing a person, a child of God, on the Sabbath? Jesus uses their own laws against them.

I’m not sure if we’ve covered this before or not so I’ll take a minute to explain something here. You may be wondering what was the big deal about the Sabbath? Exodus 31:13-17 says,

“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

“‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

Anyone who doesn’t keep the Sabbath was worthy of death. The big problem is what does “keeping the Sabbath holy” mean. God clearly says not to do any work on the Sabbath but he doesn’t make stipulations as to what that includes. The Pharisees had comprised an oral tradition called The Talmud that had a bunch of things that they considered work. Things like healing on the Sabbath except under life or death situations was against the law. The Pharisees considered that breaking the Sabbath law, but God never said that. He just says not to do work. Right before our Matthew passage from today we see Jesus quoting Hosea 6:6 which says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” This clearly captures the heart of God. Yes, he wants the Sabbath kept holy but if there is a chance for a man to be restored to health then, for the love of mercy, heal him!

So for the love of mercy, Jesus heals him. He tells the man to stretch out his hand and when he did it was completely restored. This was pretty much the last straw for the Pharisees. If you notice it says they went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. From now on Jesus is a marked man.

Legalism is more than just keeping the law, although that is a big part of it. Legalism occurs when the keeping of the law causes an attitude of self-righteousness. If you think that keeping God’s laws or even just being a good person is enough to get you into heaven you are going to be in for a rude awakening at judgement day. It’s not that law keeping is bad. It’s actually a good thing but when you depend on that as a means of salvation then you are missing the boat! Salvation comes through faith alone.  Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” There is no other way to God than through faith in Jesus Christ. We keep the laws because we love him, not because it is a requirement for salvation.

The End.

24. The Healing of the Man at Bethesda- part 3

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And so we reach the last part of this passage. If you remember the first part focused on the healing of the man, himself. The second part had to do with the Pharisees wanting to kill Jesus because he said he was God. And now this final installment reads like a courtroom transcript; Jesus is giving defense testimony as to why people should believe he is who he says he is. Let’s read together:

 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:31-47)

Back in Jesus’ day the testimony of two people were needed to corroborate a story in a court of law. Jesus starts off by saying, “Look, I get it if you don’t want to take my own word that I’m the Son of God, but let’s look at 5 other sources of testimony that testifies to the fact.”

  1. His Father. I’ll admit that when Jesus says, “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true,” (verse 32) I thought he was talking about John the Baptizer. However, the word “another” in Greek is the word allos which means “another of the same kind” so we can assume that Jesus is talking about God, the Father. If he were talking about a human the word would probably be heteros which means “another of a different kind.” He says more about the Father’s testimony in verses 37 and 38, “And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” I’m not sure but he could be referring to the time he was baptized and the Spirit descended and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:17). He is also probably referring to all the prophesy that had been written about him.
  2. John the Baptizer. If they wanted a human’s word, then they had to look no farther than John the Baptizer. He was born to prepare the hearts of the people for the Son of God (Luke 1:16-17). And this was to fulfill prophesy about one who would come before the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3). For a while they didn’t have a problem with John. In fact, the Bible says, “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light,” (verse 35). My guess is because John followed the Pharisaical laws and was preaching a coming Messiah like any good Jew should. As long as he was preaching about a Messiah that fit their mold and not Jesus, they were fine with him.
  3. Jesus’ own works. So I get that they won’t take his own testimony but what about all the good stuff he was doing? He was healing the sick, the blind, the deaf and the dumb. He was casting out demons and teaching the Word of God. He wasn’t just talking the talk, he was walking the walk. His life was exemplary and without sin. He says in verse 36, ” For the works that the Father has given me to finish- the very works that I am doing- testify that the Father has sent me.”
  4. Scripture. One of the most convincing pieces of evidence for me that Jesus is who he says he is is all the prophesies he fulfilled. Scripture, time and time again, points toward Jesus- who he was to be, the things that he would do, where he was to be from, how he was to die… Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Look, you say you know the Scriptures so well, if this is true then why don’t you get what it is saying about me?”
  5. Moses. I love how he wraps up his defense. The Pharisees held Moses in very high regard. He was their acting Savior from Egypt, he talked directly with God, he was the recipient of the ten commandments, etc. etc. etc. They were so concerned with Moses and the law, they were so wrapped up in the rules and regulations that they missed the Messiah. Moses himself prophesied about the Jesus in Deuteronomy 18:15-22. You would think that since they were so wrapped up in Moses that they would’ve known about this passage. They were too busy maintaining the rules that they missed the Ruler. If they want to trust in the law, then the law will be their judge. He will allow the Pharisees to condemn themselves by the law because the law points to Jesus. If they miss that part of the law, then by that part they will be judged.

All the testimony boils down to this: You can know about Jesus. You can know a lot about Jesus, actually. You can even be an expert- but if you don’t know Jesus personally you don’t know squat. Jesus tells the Pharisees in verse 38, “nor does his word dwell in you.” The word “dwell” has an underlying meaning of abiding or implying an intimate relationship with. Think about it: Satan knows a lot about Jesus but will never have a loving relationship with him. What is the status of your knowledge about God today? Do you know Jesus as the Lord of your life? or Do you rest in the facts that you know about him? Back when I was younger, I loved New Kids on the Block. I knew their birthdays, where they were from, what color their eyes were, and what was their favorite things to do. With as much as I learned about them I never knew them and they never knew me. Knowing all those facts made me feel closer to them, but the fact of the matter is that I never once hung out with them or talked to them on the phone. I was even a president of their fan club and that status didn’t get me anywhere either. So I ask you again, Do you know Jesus as the Lord of your life? or Do you rest in the the facts that you know about him?

The End.

24. The Healing of the Man at Bethesda- part 2

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Let’s refresh a little from last time. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Not only did he break the Pharisaical Sabbath laws, he told the man to break them when Jesus instructed him to carry his mat. The Pharisees didn’t like this one bit. Now we see that “because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him,” (verse 16). The verb “was doing” indicates that this is not the first time that Jesus has healed on the Sabbath. Perhaps the Pharisees could have overlooked one infraction but the verb shows that this was something that had happened before and had been happening on a regular basis. This is why the Pharisees are incensed- he continually shows disregard for their laws. Let’s read:

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:16-30)

So because Jesus was breaking the law, the leaders began to persecute him. Now we don’t know exactly what that entailed but they were trying to kill him. Instead of rejoicing over the healing power of God, they would rather pout and complain that their laws were being broken… their laws! We aren’t talking about laws of God, we are talking about laws of man. These were part of the oral traditions, or Talmud, that had been handed down throughout the ages. They are not found in the Torah, or the written Jewish law.

There is coming a time, during his trial, when Jesus will remain silent before his accusers but for right now we see Jesus defending himself. The ironic thing is that his defense infuriates the leaders all the more. Jesus starts by saying, “My father.” Jews had long accepted that God was the Father of all things. But Jesus here shows an intimacy with God that had not been previously known. In fact, by saying that God is his father, he is implying that he is the Son of God, not just a son of God like a regular person. That would make Jesus God himself. “Blasphemy!” cry the leaders. They can’t see that Jesus’ miraculous powers come from God. They don’t understand that Jesus can heal only because he gets his power from the father. They can’t get that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and therefore has the right to do whatever he pleases on it. Instead they have blinders on. They can only see what they have chosen to put right in front of their faces. They were so mad it says they not only wanted to kill him… they tried to kill him!

Jesus says that because God is always working, he, too, must always work. Can you imagine if God took a day off? Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? With all of the craziness going on in the world, it would be a bazillion times worse if God took a vaca. Even the Jews acknowledged that God was always at work. So if God is always at work and Jesus is God then Jesus is always at work, too. It is a natural progression of thought, if you accept Jesus as God. If you don’t accept that premise then the conclusion is invalid. The Pharisees did not see Jesus as God so in their mind Jesus’ argument was fallacy.

Jesus tries to help them understand that if he wasn’t God’s own Son, then he wouldn’t be able to do the things he does. Jesus says, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does,” (verse 19). Jesus can’t act on his own accord because he would have to act outside of God, and since he is God that is impossible. Jesus can’t separate himself from himself- it’s just impossible. He is God whether they accept it or not. So often in today’s culture we face this: “It may be true for you but it’s not true for me.” Some things are accepted universally as true such as “murder is wrong” though their may be certain instances when people disagree over what murder verses killing is. But other things enter more of a gray area. Because people can not see a physical entity of God, many reject him as real. That doesn’t mean that he’s not real, it just means that they don’t accept him as real. That doesn’t make God any less real though. To put this another way, someone could have discovered a purple people eater in Malaysia. I may not believe them but that doesn’t change the fact that the purple people eater exists. The purple people eater’s existence is not dependent on whether or not I believe in it. Neither is God’s realness dependent upon whether his people accept him as real. God’s realness depends upon himself; he exists because he exists.

Let’s move onto another reason the Pharisees were ticked… this whole idea that Jesus will be their judge. Boy did that cause problems! Let’s reread that section:

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

If people get nothing else out of this post, I hope they understand this: It doesn’t matter whether or not you accept Jesus as God, the Father as God, or the Holy Spirit as God… what matters is that Jesus will be your judge whether you want him to be or not. I have a friend who doesn’t accept God as God or at the very least accepts that there is a God but that God doesn’t apply to him. The sad fact of the matter is this- Jesus will be his judge and he will be judged according to whether or not he believes that Jesus is God. This man, as of right now, is judging himself straight to hell. You see, it doesn’t matter if he thinks truth is a lie. Truth is still truth. You don’t have to like how God does business, as in the case of the Pharisees, you still need to accept the truth because it is by the Truth you will be judged. Nothing you believe will change that fact.

Now Jews believed that God, the Father, alone would be the judge. So this idea that Jesus was to be the judge was heretical or wrong to them. They knew God was the judge and up to that point all they knew was God as Father. Therefore they assumed that the Father would be the judge. Here comes Jesus, who the most Pharisees don’t accept as God coming to say that he will be their judge. It was all too much for them to handle. I just imagine their heads getting bright red and starting to spin with steam coming out of their ears when Jesus says this, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him,” (verse 23). That statement right there is enough to judge the Pharisees on. They certainly did not honor the Son, so they were definitely not honoring the Father, in other words, by not honoring Jesus, they were not honoring God and that is sin.

There is good news though in all this: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” Amen! Amen! Amen! This is the Good News of the Bible! “A time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” This is the joy that is set before us regardless of our struggles now- that we will hear the sweet voice of Jesus and live with him forever and ever! What ecstacy! What euphoria! This is what it is all about! Does this mean we won’t be judged? No. We will be judged and sentenced to die but Jesus has already fulfilled our death penalty. In this way we will be found righteous despite our sin, “God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification,” (Romans 4:24-25). In other words, in the final courtroom of God when we sit in the defendants chair and see all of the evidence presented before us… When we sit in utter disgust because there is no denying the charges or the evidence presented against us… When we are called to stand to hear the verdict… When the judge reads, “GUILTY, ON ALL COUNTS!” When we hang our head knowing that the death penalty is mandatory for anyone found guilty… THEN! then Jesus, the mighty and righteous judge… then he will slowly stand… then he will show his nail pierced hands and feet… then he will come out of the judge’s seat and come over and lift our heads and say, “This one’s debt to God is paid. This one is mine.” The prosecution will squeal with torment as the demons protest, “That’s not fair! That’s a sinner! That one is ours!” Then Jesus will turn and say, “You’re right. It’s not fair. This person is a sinner but grace is not fair.” Grace is an undeserved stay of execution. It is something we can’t earn or buy. It’s not something we can steal or gain illegitimately. It’s something that has to be freely given to us despite our unworthiness of the gift. This is what Christ has done for us. This is why he died on the cross.

The End.

23. Jesus Casts Out a Demon

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So Jesus has just healed two blind guys and now we see him confront a demon who is possessing a man. The event is recorded in Matthew:

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matthew 9:32-34)

This time it’s just three little verses but there is a lot going on here. Once again, we have a text that is fairly straightforward. There was a guy who was possessed by a demon and the demon wouldn’t allow him to speak. The man was brought to Jesus, he drove out the demon, and then the man could speak. The crowd was amazed but the Pharisees were angry. See? Straightforward… or is it? I think we need to discuss something here that few Americans are comfortable with- demon possession. Yes, my friends, it is real and I believe that it still occurs today, though we (especially the Western culture that we embrace) tend to ignore or deny it’s reality. I don’t claim to be an expert on demonology but I can tell you what I do know.

Satan and his demons are real. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to feel comfortable discussing it, but you do need to recognize their existence. As surely as God and angels exist, Satan and demons exist. We know from reading in the Bible that there is some kind of hierarchy involved- there are demons that are in charge of other demons. There is even a chief demon, his name is Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24). We know that at least some have names, like Legion (Mark 5:9). We know that somehow they can possess a body. I don’t understand how this can happen or why it happens, I just know that it happens. And without going into too many details, I would venture to say that while I was working in the church, I met one or two people who were at the very least heavily influenced by demons if not possessed. They weren’t physically impaired like the mute from our story, but spiritually there was a darkness surrounding them. There was just something not quite right and they would go out of their way to stir up trouble and dissension- almost as if driven by some force.

I know all this probably makes most of you uncomfortable. It made the Pharisees uncomfortable too. They could no longer ignore the power of Jesus but instead of ascribing that power to God, they said that his power comes from Satan. There’s a big, BIG problem with that. You know that God forgives sins but did you know there is one sin that is unforgivable? “Whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin,” (Mark 3:23-29). Now what exactly does that mean and what does that have to do with the Pharisees? Let’s look at the context in which the verse is written:

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:22-29)

We see that the situation is the same. The teachers of the law were accusing Jesus of getting his power from Satan. Jesus refutes the Pharisees with sound reasoning and then we see the line about the unforgivable sin. So what does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? It means giving Satan credit for that which the Holy Spirit does. That is bad news for the Pharisees. Very. Bad. News. For those that are guilty of this sin, we are lead to believe there is no hope for repentance. That may make some of you very uncomfortable- the idea that God won’t forgive this sin. But if you think about it, if you are to the point that you are denying the work of God and saying that Satan is doing good and casting out demons and healing the sick and raising the dead, then you are probably beyond help.

It may be a few days before I get the next post up. After two shorter passages, we are coming into a long one, 47 verses actually. It’s going to take a lot of prep work so don’t think I’ve forgotten about y’all. I’m just studying and reading up for our next journey together.

The End.

22. Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

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Today we will read a short passage. At first it may not seem very important but I think there is much we can learn. This passage is only found in Matthew-

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied.

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. (Matthew 9:27-31)

First, let’s look at the text itself and then later we will discuss the implications of this section. Ok, the first major thing I want to look at is what the blind men call Jesus. They say, “Have mercy on us, Son of David,” (verse 27). That is a Messianic title. To understand it we have to go back to King David. He was promised long ago that 1. someone from his line would always sit as king over Israel and 2. the Messiah would come from his descendants. Every king of Israel was therefore a son of David, but only the Messiah would be the Son of David. He would be the greatest and final king to sit on David’s throne and he will rule not just for as long as he lived, but for eternity. His rule is perfect and just. That the two physically blind men used this title to refer to Jesus shows that they could spiritually see clearer than most people of their day.

So these two blind guys are following Jesus, crying out for mercy (which, like grace is an undeserved gift) and what does Jesus do? He goes inside. Now at first that seems harsh. But I think Jesus has two reasons for doing this. The first is because he wants to see the perseverance of the men and second I think is because they are identifying him as the Son of David, he doesn’t anyone to hear them. Jesus knows that if the general public got word of his Messiahship now, they would try to make him king of Israel by force. That wasn’t the plan though. The plan was for Jesus to die on the cross and even though that would be difficult, to say the least, Jesus was committed to doing God’s will. This is why in verse 30 he warns them not to tell anyone about what happened; he didn’t want the word that he was the Messiah to get out… yet.

That’s about it for the actual text. Short passage, short entry. But lets spend some time talking about how though the men’s eyes were blind, spiritually they could see perfectly. I can’t help but to think of a friend of mine. He is not a Christian. In fact, I would go so far as to say he is almost anti-Christian. His life is a mess and he knows it. He spends time seeking advice from Buddhism, Hinduism and just about any other -ism out there but he is still unhappy. I would even venture to say he is miserable most of the time. His marriage is falling apart, he drinks… a lot. He is lonely even in a crowd. Now, I don’t mean to beat up on the guy but I want you to understand the situation… Here is a guy that is running from the very thing that can save his very soul and is seeking for answers every where else. He is spiritually blind. The Bible has something to say about this, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Here is a man who has good physical eyesight but is spiritually blind. He is seeking but never finding. If only he would start to seek the one who could open his eyes! Yet, like I said he is anti-Christian and is angry at God, if there even is one (in his opinion).

He is just one of many people that are seeking but never finding because they are blind. I believe we are poised on a point of revival if only God would open the eyes of the masses. People are seeking. People want to know peace. They just need God to open their eyes and soften their hearts. Will you join me in praying for our nation? Will you join me in praying for the scales to fall from the eyes of America? Will you join me in praying for revival, for a movement of God’s Spirit?

Lord, we pray for another Great Awakening of our country. Please, please start opening eyes and softening hearts. Use us to start this change. Give us courage to speak and the right words to move people. Call us to repentance, to healing and to a closer relationship with you. In your great and powerful name, Amen!

20. Jesus & Jairus

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In this Bible Study we will read about the first recorded time that Jesus raised anyone from the dead. This time it happens to be a twelve year old daughter of a synagogue ruler. It’s a longer passage because there is a story within a story. Don’t worry though, I will break these stories into two studies so don’t get overwhelmed:

Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands onher so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:22-43)

Alright lets back up a moment. Jesus is still at Matthew’s house having dinner. John the Baptizer’s disciples have just asked Jesus why he doesn’t fast. You can read about it here. While he was finishing his discussion with John’s disciples, a man named Jairus comes in. Jairus was synagogue leader or literally synagogue “ruler”. He is a man with a problem- his daughter is sick. In fact, she is dying. This brings me to my first observation- In general synagogue rulers, Pharisees, etc didn’t care for Jesus. It makes me wonder what Jairus’ opinion of Jesus was before his daughter became sick. Was he a hard nosed, anti-Jesus critic or was he more like our friend, Nicodemus- genuinely curious about this God-man? We don’t know but it makes me wonder none the less. Either way, we see a desperate Jairus coming to Jesus… falling at his feet, begging him to come and heal his daughter. If Jairus was your typical religious ruler, imagine what it meant for him to fall at Jesus’ feet. How bad must his situation have been for him to humiliate himself like that? He was a very prominent man, after all, and now we see him at the feet of someone who was controversial to say the least. It easily could’ve been a first century scandal.

So to recap the story… Jairus has a dying daughter (about twelve years old), he asks Jesus to, “come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live,” (Mark 5:23). Jesus goes with Jairus. On the way, Jesus has an encounter with another sick female. I don’t want to spend too much time on her right now because I plan on studying her next time with more detail. But it is important to mention that while Jesus was still talking to her, word comes that Jairus’ daughter had died. If only Jesus had been faster in getting to her! If only he hadn’t stopped to speak with the other woman! Didn’t Jesus know how seriously ill she was? Can you imagine Jairus? He just completely humiliated himself in front of an audience of his peers (remember the Pharisees were at Matthew’s house) for nothing. His daughter is dead. His reputation is potentially ruined. But then… (You gotta watch out for the big buts in the Bible, lol). But then Jesus leans over to Jairus and tells him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” I love this line and I have clung to it often throughout the years when I have faced trouble and and strife. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” It seems so simple doesn’t it? Yet when you have nothing left… when all else gone… all you have is faith and if you don’t have faith in anything then you have nothing. It’s sad really. And how many people have nothing? I think that’s why we see people who don’t normally believe in God and/or Jesus asking for prayer or talking to God directly. They realize they have nothing else so they fall on God.

Jesus takes only Peter, James, John and Jairus with him as they get closer to the house. As they approach, “Jesus saw a commotion.” Jewish mourning customs back then were different then our current American customs. Professional mourners were hired to “grieve” the departed. Even the poorest family was required to hire at least “one wailing woman and two flute players”. Jairus being of a respectable profession could have afforded more than the bare minimum. I love Jesus and his ways. I imagine Jesus just looking around with a slight smile on his face when he asks, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep,” (verse 39). He knows the child is dead, he knows everyone else knows the child is dead. What they don’t know is that Jesus isn’t just a healer… he is life itself. It’s as if the little girl is merely sleeping because Jesus is about to “wake her up”. Jesus is going to completely restore her. Of course the people thought Jesus was nuts and even laughed at him. Even if they knew about his healing powers, it didn’t matter to them because to them the girl was beyond healing. But nothing is impossible with God!

Jesus kicks everyone out except for Jairus and his wife, Peter, James, and John. Once again, you’ve got to love Jesus’ style- he takes the girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (verse 41). He is so gentle and caring!  Oh, to be that little girl- to have held Jesus’ hand and be brought to life! The text says she immediately got up and started walking. Then Jesus tells them to feed her. I guess it’s hungry work being dead, lol! To say everyone present was amazed would be an understatement. Can you imagine? I’ve been to several funerals where I have thought about this passage and how crazy it would be to have the dead person just stand up and start talking and walking as if nothing had happened. Freaky right? Yet this is exactly what happens here. Jesus, with just a touch and a command, conquers death.

All this made me think about a couple of life application points:

  1. How often do people approach God like Jairus? They go through life as if they have it all together on their own and then something terrible happens… then all of a sudden, when there is no where else to turn, they come begging to Jesus. Now there is nothing wrong with coming to Jesus this way if you leave a different person. What I find interesting about Jairus is that we never know how this healing of his daughter affects him. Does he go back to his typical synagogue ruler ways or does he allow the miracle to change his life? I hurts my heart to see people in desperate situations cry out to God for a miracle, get the miracle and then continue to live their life as if nothing ever happened. Like I said, we don’t know whatever happened to Jairus, it just makes me go hmmmm. The next time you ask God for anything- healing, finding lost keys, new job… whatever it is, and he pulls through 1. Don’t forget to thank God for the miracle. 2. Come out on the other side of the miracle a different person! Allow it to change your life and then tell others so it can change their lives, too! We don’t know what happened to Jairus, but we can write our own endings to our stories. How will yours end? Will you go back to your regular life or will you live a life changed by God?
  2. Sometimes bad things happen so that God can get greater glory. It’s not an accident that the girl died. Whether it was because Jesus was waylaid by the bleeding woman or whether something else would’ve happened, the girl was going to die anyway so that Jesus could be glorified greater than ever before. If she hadn’t died then Jesus would have just been a healer. Now people knew a deeper facet of his glory… his power over death itself! The next time life doesn’t go your way, instead of pouting about it, ask God to use the situation to bring himself the greatest glory and watch what happens! For example, my step-mom was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. While I pray that God would heal her with a miracle, I also pray, earnestly, that whatever he chooses to do, that his glory will be made known. Do I have to like what he does? Nope. But I pray it anyway. Already I have seen family members hearts soften towards God and that, my friends, is a miracle.
  3. Only Jesus has the power over death! This is why believing in him is necessary if you want to live eternally. What does it matter if we live eternally or just die? I’m glad you asked 😀 Life after death and death isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. When you die you don’t just cease to exist. You will either live eternally or die eternally. It’s not a once and done thing. Eternal death is the process of being eternally separated from God. The absence of God is Satan or Evil. So eternal separation from God means an eternal presence of Evil and Satan. Sadly, this is what awaits those who don’t choose God. Fortunately, Jesus overcame death by overcoming Hell so that we don’t have to go there. This is the Good News of the Bible! Jesus has overcome sin by overcoming death itself and we who believe in him have also overcome death through Christ. This is why we can have hope when things are going bad. Jesus has overcome and we are going to spend eternity in heaven with him. It doesn’t get any better than that even if we have to muddle through the muck of this world to get there.

The End.