Tag Archives: Satan

29. Problems with The Sermon on the Mount

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Before we start addressing the text itself, I want to spend some time on the Sermon as a whole. It’s Jesus’ longest recorded sermon and, in my humble opinion, chock full o’ good stuff. However some people disagree with the validity of this portion of Scripture. There are several arguments but two of the biggest are:

  1. Jesus seems to be changing the Old Testament law.
  2. This seems to be a list of things to do to find life.

Let’s take the first statement: Jesus seems to be changing the Old Testament law. Jesus uses the phrase formula, “You have heard x but I tell you y,” six times (Matthew 5:21-48). The x being something that was considered law in the old testament and the y being Jesus’ new commandment. And if you take this section out of the Bible and read it alone and not in context with anything else, I could see where some people could be critical. It does appear that Jesus is changing the law BUT this is not what Jesus is doing here. In fact, right before this passage of Scripture he says,

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, NIV)

In light that Jesus introduces that section with this disclaimer, if you will, I believe that we are to see him not as changing the law but instead expounding on it. Some Jews, the Pharisees and teachers of the law especially, had made it so important that people keep the law exactly the way it was written that they forgot the spirit with which it was given. I’ll unpack this more when we get to this section of the Sermon but suffice it to say that following the letter of the law without being mindful of the intent behind it is not honoring to God. Here we see Jesus taking the laws and not changing them, but revealing that intent.

The other “problem” some people criticize the Sermon for is that it is a list of works that must be done to gain eternal life. This is problematic because Paul teaches against a works-based faith. Just read the third chapter of Romans and you will quickly learn that works are not a means to eternal life. But I suggest that Jesus isn’t listing a bunch of stuff to do to be saved, rather a person who has been saved does these things out of love for God.  No, Jesus does not intend to provide a list of things to perform to get into heaven, rather he describes what a person who has eternal life looks like. So things like praying, fasting, and not worrying aren’t things to do to receive eternal life. It’s what you do because you have eternal life. It would be like me volunteering in a homeless shelter. Doing that isn’t going to get me into the Kingdom of God, but because I am already a citizen of the Kingdom, I want to love on those who are important to God.

So what does all of this mean to me? There will always be someone who disagrees with the validity of Scripture or challenge you on what it says. That is why it is important to educate yourself about these things. Even Satan knows the Bible and what it says. And, btw, God did not give us  brains and the capability to reason and think just to throw it aside and accept whatever people tell you. Read the Bible, and study for yourself! Don’t accept the lie that we have to have faith or reason and not both! One of the reasons I love writing this blog is because it forces me to read, research, reread, and think about what I believe!  Not everyone needs to write a blog but you should be studying some stuff on your own, just saying’.

Next time we will focus in on the first part of the Sermon itself, the section known as The Beatitudes. I am looking forward to sharing with you what I have learned, which was a lot. Until next time this is…

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.

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.

15. Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-law

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Today, let’s look at the time Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Once again, I am combining three separate books to get a more comprehensive reading:

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. (Mark 1:29-31)

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one,he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah. (Luke 4:40-41)

 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17)

Remember from our last study, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching when a demon possessed man interrupted his teaching. You can read about it here. Now the service is over and Jesus and his disciples head to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law for a traditional Sabbath meal. You can insert your jokes about going from a demon possessed man to your mother-in-law here if you’d like, lol. But for Peter this was no laughing matter because his mother-in-law was sick. Really sick. It says she, “was in bed with a fever.” It is important to note several things here. First, Luke (who was a physician and would know about such things) says in his version of events that she had a “high fever.” Second, the verb “was” in bed indicates that this was an ongoing thing, that she had been sick for some time. Keep in mind a high fever is dangerous, especially without the use of modern medicine to control it. As soon as Peter learns that his mother-in-law is sick, he told Jesus about her. I love how Mark captures the healing. he simply says, “So [Jesus] went to her, took her hand and helped her up.” We see that Jesus’ touch is enough to heal. It doesn’t say he prayed, it doesn’t say he needed to anoint with oil, He simply touched her. I’m not saying these things are bad, I’m just observing how Jesus did it. I find something else interesting about how he healed her. He didn’t say, “Your sins are forgiven,” meaning that sometimes sin makes people ill. When this happens the sin must be forgiven before healing can happen. This is the case in the story of the paralyzed man found in Luke 5:17-26. But we see in the case of Peter’s mother-in-law that sometimes people get sick for reasons other than sin and demon-possession. I believe that all pain and suffering, that is not the result of demon-posession and sin itself, is caused by the effect of sin in the world. Once sin entered the world there was a huge rift in the normal order of things and both the physical world and the spiritual world suffered from it. That’s a whole separate Bible study though. Anyway, back to Peter’s mother-in-law… after Jesus heals her she isn’t just better, she is fully restored to her former strength. We see this in that she gets up and begins to get dinner ready.

We are going to continue by looking at the passage that immediately follows the one we just discussed. Jesus and his disciples have eaten their Sabbath meal and the sun has set. This is an important detail that Mark mentions. Sabbath ran from sundown Friday night to sun down Saturday night. When Luke says, “At sunset” he is telling us that the Sabbath is over and the people begin coming to Jesus. Why is this important? Because healing on the Sabbath was breaking Pharisaical laws. No one, no matter how sick, wanted to break the laws. All that ceremonial washing and stuff you had to go through to be considered righteous was a pain in the butt. Most of the healed were already going to have to undergo purification by the priests as it was.

Let’s see how Jesus heals the people. Once again we see Jesus laying his hands on the sick and once again it is important to notice what he doesn’t do. It’s also worth noting that not everyone who is sick is sick because of demons. It says, “demons came out of many people,” not all people, yet all were healed. And once again it doesn’t say anything about Jesus forgiving sins. So we learned earlier that not all illness is a direct effect of a person’s sin and we learn here that not all illness is a result of demon-possession. We also see that once again the demons tried to speak and we can assume they tried to call his name because it says Jesus “would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Just like the last study we did, Jesus Drives Out a Demon, the demons are not trying to tell people who Jesus is to evangelize. They are instead trying to stir the people into a frenzy so that they would make Jesus their physical king by force. The demons know that is not part of the plan.

Let’s jump to Matthew’s Gospel. Often Matthew will show how Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy because the audience he was writing to was primarily Jewish. They were looking for someone to fulfill prophesy and Matthew wants to show that Jesus is that person. This prophesy is from Isaiah 53:4 and it says that Messiah would be able to heal people. I feel it is important for us Gentiles to know about these prophesies as well as understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of them. It’s not fortune telling. It’s not hocus pocus magic. It is God given prophesy about our Savior. I think it’s important to know it because it is cold hard fact. It’s not something we have to take on faith. Someone uttered these prophesies hundreds of years before Christ and he is the answer to every single on of them and we can see it with our own eyes.

Father, thank you for your power over Satan. We pray that you would not lead us into temptation but would deliver us from the evil one.  Give us the strength to act or run or whatever it is that you might tell us to do when faced with Satan.Help us to recognize the difference between illness and demon-posession. I pray that you protect us. I also pray for those of us with illness, Lord. We ask that you would heal us but even if you choose not to, we ask that you be glorified in the situation. Amen.

The End.

14. Jesus Drives Out a Demon

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Now that the title has your attention, let’s get started. Up to this point we have only mentioned Satan in one study, The Temptation of Christ and The Temptation of Christ, Part 2. Now we see Jesus’ encounter with a demon. Let’s read:

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

It’s a short passage that holds a lot of good stuff for us to learn so let’s get started. Notice Jesus is still in Capernaum. “They” most likely refers to Jesus and his disciples. Notice that Jesus is once again in the synagogue teaching. It is the Sabbath so it’s Saturday. The fact that it is the Sabbath will become important later in other stories about Jesus as the Pharisees couldn’t stand that Jesus was doing miracles on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day set aside for resting and meditation on God. No work was to be done and the Pharisees were so concerned about keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest they made laws such as you couldn’t even touch a tool that could be used for work or you would be breaking the Sabbath laws. This is referred to as putting “a fence around the Torah.” That Jesus was performing miracles on the Sabbath sent the Pharisees into a tizzy. Forget that Jesus was doing God’s work! But it shows that with Jesus there is a new order that is established. The old way of doing things, like making and keeping ridiculous laws, is over but this would’ve put the Pharisees out of a job. They were in charge of enforcing religious laws after all. This is one reason they despised Jesus.

Anyway, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching and, once again, all the people are amazed at his authority. Up to this point when people taught they always quoted other Rabbis. The most notable schools of thought were the liberal teachings of Rabbi Hillel and the conservative school of Rabbi Shammai. Jesus didn’t need to quote what other great teachers thought about the Scripture; he taught on his own authority and spoke it in such a way that there was power in his words. Jesus had a deeper understanding of the Scriptures than any other teacher because he was the one Scriptures were written about. The entirety of Scripture points to our need of a Savior and the Savior itself. Jesus is that Savior! This is why he is able to preach in a way that “amazed” the people.  Both times it is used in this passage, the word amazed here literally means, “struck to attention.” Note, it doesn’t say how the people were amazed- where they amazed in a good way, in a bad way, afraid way… Just something to keep in the back of your mind as we read this passage.

It says,

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are- the Holy One of God!” (verses 23-24)

Let’s not split hairs over the words “impure spirit” the same story in Luke 4:33 flat out calls this entity a demon. In the New Testament we see demons as being able to cause mental disorders (John 10:20), involuntary violent action (Luke 8:26-29), bodily disease or impairment (Matthew 9:32-33), and rebellion against God (Revelation 16:14). Demons are not just some cute little guy on your shoulder trying to get you to do bad things. They are real. They have power. And they can have a stronghold over your spiritual and physical life.

The texts says the man cried out, but it was actually the demon using the voice of the man to speak. So here’s something else we can learn about demons, once they take possession of the body, they can use it for their purposes. Scary stuff, huh. The next line of the text says, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are- the Holy One of God!” (verse 24). I have several observations here, I would say when the demon uses the word “us” it is referring to itself and to the man who is possessed. There is another story of demon possession in which there are many demons in the body but the text makes a point to tell you that is the case (Luke 8:26-39). Here it clearly says “demon” and not “demons”.  The second observation I would like to make is that the demon recognizes Jesus and it recognizes him as the promised Messiah at that. We know this because it says, “Have you come to destroy us?” The demon recognizes Jesus as the promised judge and destroyer of Satan- the only one who is able to defeat him. The other reason we know that the demon recognizes the Messiah is because it calls Jesus, “the Holy One of God!” This is a Messianic title used in the Old Testament. In short the demon knows exactly who it’s talking to. It just goes to show that even evil can recognize God when it sees him. It makes for a sad commentary for those who don’t believe that Jesus is God if even Satan knows it.

Jesus is “stern” in his reply to the demon. He doesn’t ask nicely if the demon would kindly leave the man. He is firm and speaks with power. There is nothing nice about dealing with the Devil. What I find interesting is that he doesn’t pray or lay hands on the man. His word is enough.Then if you notice, the demon “shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” The demon doesn’t leave quietly we can assume that from the violent shaking and shrieking that the demon didn’t want to leave the man but it was obligated to obey Jesus. After the demon comes out of the man, everyone is amazed again and they are amazed at his authority- his authority of teaching and over evil.

I want to point out one important observation before I go- Where did this demon manifest itself? The synagogue. The synagogue equates to our church of today. It shows that no where is safe from the wiles of Satan. Yes, Satan can even enter our church doors, and in possession of a person no less. It is foolish to think otherwise. Where God’s work is being done you can bet your bottom dollar Satan will be there trying to thwart the plan. I’m not trying to scare you, I am just apprising you of the situation. The more informed you are of the enemy and how he works, the more you can be diligent in stopping him or at least avoiding him.

Father, You alone are all powerful and you alone are worthy to be praised! Thank you for your power over Satan and for your ability to cast him out. Your word alone is enough to send Satan trembling. We praise you and worship you, Almighty God, forever and ever, Amen!

The End.

The Temptation of Christ, part 2

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Last time we looked at some background about this passage and the first temptation. To read it click here. As a refresher, let’s reread the passage from Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The second temptation

While the first temptation was about Jesus’ physical being, the second is focused on his authority as the Son of God. Satan takes him to a high place and instantly shows him in some kind of a vision all of the the kingdoms of the world. Then he says something that may come as a shock to us. Satan says, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” This is a brazen thing to say to the Son of God! Hold on a minute… You mean to tell me that Satan has authority over something that Jesus doesn’t? In a way, yes. Jesus eventually is given authority over the earth but right now it belongs to Satan. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan is called the “god of this age.” And if you notice Jesus doesn’t refute Satan’s claims. I think he knows that God, the Father had given this world to Satan to rule… for a while. In short, Satan is tempting Jesus’s with his authority, or apparent lack thereof.

Again, Jesus comes back at him with Scripture; with what will later become known as the Great Commandment, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,” (Deuteronomy 6:13-14). He rests firm in the knowledge that yes, he doesn’t rule the earth… yet but his time is coming and that worshiping the one true God is more important than temporal glory. Jesus also knows that eventually he will be given all authority in heaven AND on earth (Matthew 28:28). When he comes back to rule them, it will be a perfect Kingdom, not the broken kingdoms that Satan has control over and it will be a Kingdom that has no end (Daniel 7:27).

The third temptation

Satan isn’t dumb. In fact he’s very smart. This time when he tempts he does it by quoting Scripture to Jesus as a reason for sinning. Since Jesus keeps throwing Scripture in Satan’s face to rebut his temptations, Satan is going to throw it right back at him. This time he tells Jesus to jump off the temple so that God can perform a miracle and send angels to save him before he hits the ground. He uses a passage from Psalm 91:11-12 to back up his claims. He quotes it correctly, but he quotes it out of context. The Psalm is about God protecting his people, not about Jesus. In other words Psalm 91:11-12 was not prophesy about Jesus that needed to be fulfilled. It was a general statement about the Israelites.

There is something else about this third temptation that I would like to point out. Satan has no qualms about taking Jesus to the holiest place on earth at the time. Satan took Jesus to the house of God so what makes us think that Satan isn’t able to enter our church doors? Scary to think about it, but it happens. Dissension, judgmentalism and complacency are just a few examples of how Satan has entered our churches. Think I’m wrong? Look around and I’m sure you will find the pharisees of your church who think that rule keeping makes them better than everyone else. Look further and you will see the petty arguments that divide congregations, sometimes to the point of collapse. And then there are those who are fine with the status quo. They are satisfied with their own salvation but don’t really care about a dying world bound for hell. These are all symptoms of sin. Sin is the result of temptation. Temptation is from Satan. See how it works? We are allowing Satan in our lives and therefore into our church bodies. He is trying to tear apart Christ’s mission at HQ and he’s succeeding more than we would like to admit. It is time we started using the power that we have to combat him. And how do we do this? By putting on the full armor of Christ! No, it’s not literal body armor, it’s more like soul armor:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

We have the strength and mighty power of God! We just don’t know it or use it! If we do the things found in this passage we will access a power that we have never known before. So what is this formula for battling Satan?

  • belt of truth
  • breastplate of righteousness
  • feet clad with readiness
  • shield of faith
  • helmet of salvation
  • sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Notice that all of these things are defensive items, except for the word of God. It is our method of offense! We have no idea how important the word of God is until we start to use it and see it in action! This is the reason that I have started these studies. I don’t know about you but I am tired of being impotent in the battle against Satan when I have the tools for victory right at hand. How about you? Are you sick of losing battles to Satan? These studies are meant to equip the average person with knowledge about God and his word so that you can not only know about God but use this knowledge to empower yourself in the name of Christ!

There is so much more I could say about this passage but I don’t want to bore you to tears. If you want to read a fascinating article on the Matthew version of this passage, visit Bible.org. I hope you are enjoying these as much as I enjoy writing them.

The end.