Jesus knows that the Pharisees are now trying to find a way to kill Him because of what He is teaching the people and because He told them He is God’s Son. Undeterred, He tells His disciples, “Let’s go to the lake and help some people.” Rumors about Jesus are spreading everywhere, and by the time they get to the lake, a huge crowd of people has gathered. “How did they know we would be here?” Andrew asks in amazement as he looks over the sea of people. “Someone must have heard Jesus,” Peter replies. Jesus is ready to get to work. He walks over to the edge of the crowd and begins to talk to the people, one by one, healing all who are sick. Some have come who are possessed by evil spirits. As Jesus comes nearer to them, all of them cry out, “We know who You are, Jesus of Nazareth! You are the Son of God!” Some of the people are thrown to the ground, in a last attempt by the evil spirits to wreak their havoc before they are driven out of their hosts. “Be quiet and come out!” Jesus commands them all. “Do not talk about who I AM!”
Matthew 12:15-21, Mark 3:7-12, Luke 6:17-19, Isaiah 42:1-4
After they pass through the field of grain, they come to a synagogue. Jesus and His disciples go in and observe for a few moments. The service is almost over, and they do not want to interrupt. As it comes to a close and people start to get up and head for the door, Jesus sees a man there with a deformed hand. The man sees Jesus at the same time. There is hope in his eyes as he recognizes the Healer, but he stays where he is, not daring to come any closer. Jesus goes to him and says, “Hello, my friend. Do you mind coming with me for a minute?” The man nods, afraid to speak, and follows Jesus over to where that same group of Pharisees is standing and watching them. “What are You planning to do with this man?” they ask Jesus. “Are You going to break the law again?” “Is it lawful to do good, or to do evil on the Sabbath?” Jesus asks them. “What would you do if you had an animal that fell into a pit on the Sabbath? Would you leave it there, or do everything you could to pull it out and make sure it was ok?” The Pharisees, knowing that Jesus is trying to trap them, say nothing. “How much more important is a person than an animal? It is always lawful to do what is right, what is merciful, on the Sabbath.”
Jesus turns to the man with the deformed hand, who has been standing quietly, watching the conversation apprehensively. He wants to be healed, but what if Jesus can’t persuade the Pharisees that it is ok for him to be healed today? He might be thrown out of the synagogue. “Hold out your hand,” Jesus says to him, and he obeys. He can’t look, maybe it will hurt! He closes his eyes. After a few seconds, he begins to feel a strange sensation, a relaxing of tense muscles. He opens one eye cautiously, then both eyes wide. His hand is perfect, just like the other hand! It is a miracle! “Oh, thank You so much, Rabbi!” he whispers, with tears in his eyes. The Pharisees turn on their heels and storm out of the synagogue, whispering to each other about calling a meeting of their brother Pharisees to discuss what to do with this troublemaker in their midst.
Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11
Jesus leaves the temple and rejoins His disciples. They start to walk towards the place where they will spend the night. On their way, they pass through a field where the grains have just been harvested. The disciples know the law, that harvesters must leave crops along the edges of their fields and anything dropped during the harvest so that people who are poor and hungry might find food to eat. And so when they find some heads of grain left from the harvest, they pick them, rub them between their hands, and eat them. This is the first meal they’ve had today, and they are hungry. But the Pharisees have followed them and see what they are doing. “So it is not enough for You to break the Sabbath, but You teach your followers to do it as well?” they growl at the group. No work of any kind is supposed to be done on the Sabbath, according to the law of Moses, but Jesus has begun to teach His disciples what the true meaning of that law is supposed to be.
Once again, Jesus answers the charge of the Pharisees: “You have read the Scriptures. You know that David, when he was running from King Saul, ate the holy bread from the temple that only the priests are allowed to touch. He broke the letter of the law, but not the true purpose of it. The Sabbath day is for rest, so that people can have a respite from their labors. Priests on duty at the temple on the Sabbath are not breaking the law by working that day. If you knew the Holy Scriptures that you read, you would understand the words of My Father, spoken through the Prophet Hosea, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifices, and acknowledgement of God instead of burnt offerings.’ If there is work done for the Lord, work of mercy and love, it is lawful work any time it is needed. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5, Hosea 6:6
“You know the law, that the testimony of 2 or more witnesses is required for the testimony to be valid. And so both My Father and I testify for Me. You yourselves sent people to hear John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, to see what he was all about, and he also testified about Me. And My teaching and healing ministry testifies on My behalf. That is an even more important witness than John. My Father sent Me to do these things, to show that I AM who I AM, and to be a light brighter than John’s. John’s light has shone brightly, but only for a little while. My light has been burning since before time began, and will continue to burn after time has come to an end. You, who believe you know the Holy Word of God, do not see that everything – everything in His Word points to Me! If you really read the scriptures with open hearts, you would see that. But your hearts are closed, as are your eyes, and so you do not see what is right in front of you. You think you know God and what His will is, but who among you has ever seen His face or heard Him speak aloud? You reject Me, God’s Son, the only One who can give you eternal life in Heaven, because I come in My Father’s Name. Even as you look to His Word for eternal life, you are not willing to believe what it tells you. When your peers come to you, they come in their own names, and you honor them. But you have no honor for Me or for My Father. Even so, I will not be your judge. You will be judged by Moses, based on how well you keep the laws he laid out for you when he received them from My Father. And if you truly believe what Moses has said, you will believe in Me also, because he spoke of me. If you don’t believe him, you won’t believe Me, and you remain lost in your sins.”
The Pharisees look over and see Jesus standing in the Temple, talking with someone. With a sweep of their majestic robes, they furiously march over to Him. “What do You mean by healing on the Sabbath? Don’t You know it is against the law?” Jesus replies, “I AM here to do the work My Father sent Me to do. He does not refrain from doing what is right just because it is the Sabbath, nor can I.” Now, the Pharisees are really incensed! “You are claiming to be the Messiah, then, and equal to God? This is blasphemy!” And they start to think of how to trap Him so they can kill Him. Jesus says to them, “Nothing that I do is against God. How can it be, when God, My Father, gives me the power and the authority and the command to do His will? He shows Me what needs to be done and how to do it, and I do it for Him. Because My Father loves Me, His Son, just as I love Him. Soon you will see greater things than the healing of this man.”
“You need to consider carefully what you see and what the implications are. For this will decide your eternal destiny. I have come to bring life and forgiveness of sin for all who believe in Me as the Son of God. Whoever believes in Me will be judged based on My actions, because My Father will look at him and see Me standing in his place. But whoever does not believe that I am the Son of God has no one to stand for him, and so he will be judged based on his own actions. In this way, just like My Father raises the dead to eternal life, either in heaven or in hell, I also have been given the power and authority to give life. My Father has given me the authority to judge in His place. And so if You believe in Me you honor not only Me but My Father as well, and instead of receiving death for your sins you will receive life. Ultimately, everyone who ever has or ever will live will hear My voice. If they honor Me as God’s Son they will live forever with Me, and with My Father, in heaven. But those who hear My voice and turn away from Me will be judged. Who has ever lived a life free from sin? No one. And so they will be condemned to eternal judgment. You are wondering how my judgment can be fair. But I don’t judge anyone by myself, only as God directs me. And so justice is done, because I do His will.”
The man, still hardly believing that he is restored and healthy and walking, goes immediately to the Temple. He knows the law of Moses, that he needs to present a thank offering for his healing. On his way, he passes by some Pharisees. They see him coming, carrying his mat with him, and call out to him, “Hey, you! You can’t carry your mat like that, not today! It’s the Sabbath, don’t you know that?” “I’m sorry, sirs,” the man replies, “I wasn’t thinking straight. You see, a Man just healed me after 38 years of being sick, and He told me to pick up my mat and walk.” “Who has done this thing?” they ask him indignantly. “I don’t know who He is,” the man replies. “I have never seen Him before, and He didn’t tell me His name. In fact, by the time I recovered from the shock of my healing and tried to thank Him, He was already gone.” When the man gets to the temple, he offers a sacrifice of thankfulness to the Lord. Then, as he is turning to go, he sees Jesus! “You! It’s You! Oh, thank You so much!” Jesus smiles at the man and says, “You are quite welcome, my friend. But I must warn you, now that you are healed, stay away from sin and temptation so nothing worse happens to you.” “I will, Lord, thank You!” the man replies. As the man leaves the temple, he sees the Pharisees who had spoken to him earlier. “There He is, the Man who healed me,” he says to them, pointing to Jesus.
Jesus and His disciples decide to go to Jerusalem for one of the Holy feasts. When they arrive in the city, it is the Sabbath day. On their way to the temple they pass by the Pool of Bethesda, by the Sheep Gate. They see several people sitting and laying around the pool. They are all sick in some way, and hoping that the angel of the pool will soon go down into it and stir up the water. The legend says that when the water is stirred up, the first to go into the pool will be healed. Every day many people wait on the 5 porches of the pool for a chance to be the first to go in and be healed in the moving water. Jesus sees all the people and His heart is moved with love for them. But He goes to one man, a man who has been sick for 38 years and unable to walk. “Would you like to be healed?” He asks the man. “Of course, sir!” the man says, “But I don’t have anyone to help me into the pool when the water is stirred, and I am too slow to get there on my own before someone else goes in.” “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Jesus commands him, in such a voice that the man immediately obeys. The other sick people around them watch in amazement – they have known this man for quite a long time, and they know that this is no fraud. They want to be healed, too, but where is Jesus? He is gone already, slipped away while the crowd watched the sick man stand up and walk.
Among the crowd are some disciples of John the Baptist. They have come out of curiosity, wanting to see for themselves who this Jesus is that their master is supposed to be subordinate to. One asks, “Why don’t You and Your disciples fast like we do and like the Pharisees do?” Jesus, knowing that these people are sincere seekers and not hypocrites like many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, replies in a gentler manner, “Remember what John said to you about Me – that he is the best man but I am the Bridegroom. Do the wedding guests fast at the wedding reception? No, they rejoice, eating and drinking with the Bridegroom and His Bride. But when the Bridegroom is gone, then they will have many days of fasting and prayer for the long road ahead of them.”
“Think about it another way. I Am here to bring a change from the old ways of doing things. Moses gave you the law, and that is all you know. I come to bring a new way, a way that is greater than the law, and you find it hard to change. Nobody, after tearing a hole in their old clothing, will take a patch from a brand new garment and sew it onto the old one. The patch will shrink and tear a new hole, and the new garment will be ruined as well. Likewise, nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. The leather of the wineskins will fall apart and the wine will be spilled. People who are used to drinking the old wine are not likely to start drinking new, because they say, ‘Why change now? The old wine is just as good, if not better, than the new wine.’ Change is not easy for anyone, especially for people who revere the old ways. And so in order to do it right, without hurting people, it must be a gradual change.” John’s disciples look perplexed, as if they need time to process the information that has just been given to them, but satisfied. Slowly, the crowd disperses, even the grumbling Pharisees and Sadducees.
Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39
The following day, after Jesus concludes His teaching for the day, He and His disciples start to walk home. On their way, they pass a tax collector sitting in his booth. The man’s name is Levi (soon to be Matthew). Jesus walks up to him and, without any preamble, says, “Come and follow Me.” Levi doesn’t ask questions, he does as he is told. He has heard all the stories and knows who this man is. He simply rises from his chair and goes with Jesus. They walk for a while, and suddenly they are at Levi’s house. He is surprised, but excited. “Come in, everyone, and welcome! I would like to ask some friends to join us as well, if you don’t mind,” he says. They all look to Jesus, who says, “Of course! Invite whomever you like! It’s your house.” Levi asks his wife to prepare a meal for everyone. The disciples all quickly volunteer to help, while Levi runs out to invite some friends. And so by the time dinner is ready, everyone knows what’s happening.
The buzz starts, “Jesus is eating with a bunch of tax collectors!” “Sinners! Every one of them!” “Doesn’t He know who they are and what they do?” Many of those whispers come from Pharisees and Sadducees, bent on turning the people against Jesus. Jesus, as always, knows exactly what the people are saying, and what they aren’t saying. He goes out to speak with them. “Friends! Do you need a doctor when you are healthy? You who believe you are righteous, do you need forgiveness for your sins? You do, even though you don’t believe it. But these people know they are sinners, they admit it readily. And so I Am here to help them, to forgive them, to show them how to live righteously. Remember what the Lord said through the prophet Hosea: ‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.’ You know those words, but do you understand what they mean? Go home and consider them.” But the crowd is not satisfied. They still grumble to themselves, waiting for a more satisfactory reply.
Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32, Hosea 6:6
Soon, they return to Capernaum, to Peter and Andrew’s home. All the townspeople hear that they have returned, and that evening the house and surrounding area are packed with people trying to get in to see Jesus. He teaches inside the house, but leaves the door and windows open so that those standing outside can also hear. One man, hearing that the miracle worker has returned, hurries to the home of his friend, who is paralyzed. “The Rabbi is back! He can heal you!” he exclaims to his friend. The man hurries to find 3 other friends who can help carry the man. But by the time they get to Peter and Andrew’s house, it is so crowded they can’t even see the door. “Don’t worry, I will find a way,” the man says to his friend. “Stay here, I will be back as soon as I can.” He goes around the house until he sees the ladder to the roof. Nobody is there, because it is not a good place to see or hear anything. He runs back and says, “We must get him up the ladder to the roof. We can take out some of the roof tiles and lower him down on his mat from there.” So the 4 men struggle to carry their friend up the ladder and onto the roof, and the plan works perfectly.
Stunned to see a hole opening up over them and a man being lowered on a mat right into their midst, the people inside the house look to Jesus to see what He will do. He smiles at the man and says, “You and your friends have great faith! Don’t be afraid, your sins are forgiven.” Among the crowd are some Pharisees and Sadducees, watching the exchange with scowling faces. Jesus, hearing their hearts, says to them, “I know what you are thinking, that I am blaspheming God. So I ask you, what is easier, for me to say this man’s sins are forgiven, or to tell him to get up and walk? The 2 are connected, but you cannot see the outward sign of forgiven sins as easily as physical healing. But so that you can see I am the Son of Man and God has given me power to forgive sins, I will show you.” Turning to the paralyzed man, He says, “Take your mat and walk home.” The man, with a look of joy on his face, does as he is told. And all who were present are amazed. Not only have they heard great teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven and witnessed miracles of healing this evening, but here is further evidence that Jesus could be the Messiah! Who else could have the power to forgive sins and demonstrate it so clearly? But the Pharisees and Sadducees still do not believe. They just grow angrier and more determined to take this charlatan down.
Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26