5/31/15 “Apostle” Means “Sent”

Jesus tells His apostles, “I AM sending you out again, and this time to do greater things than you did before.  I AM giving you My order, to go in pairs to the villages and towns of Israel, to teach the people about the Kingdom of Heaven, to heal all who are sick or injured, to free those who are imprisoned by demon possession, to make the lepers clean.  When you teach about the Kingdom of Heaven, you must show people that this very minute is the time to come to Me so that I may change their hearts.  To wait is to gamble with the precious gift that God is giving – His free gift of life to all sinful people, whose just sentence should be death.  No one knows when he will face death.  It could be right now, or in 50 years.  But if people are prepared to enter the Kingdom of Heaven at their death, their lives in this evil world will be much fuller, more joyful, more peaceful.  This world is not the true home of any of God’s children, and they must see it for what it is in order to live their earthly lives in preparation for eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Now, when you see someone who is in need, give freely of whatever is in your power to give, and do not withhold healing simply because that person seems skeptical.  In this way, you may win that person over.  And do not worry that you will not have the power to do what I send you now to do.  I tell you, I AM giving you this power so that what you ask in My Name will be done, if it is the will of My Father that it be done.  But pray, always, in My Name, that you seek to do the will of My Father in everything.”

Matthew 10:5a, 7-8; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1-2; John 14:13-14

5/30/15 Compassion and Prayer

As they travel, Jesus teaches both the villagers and His apostles.  He tells His apostles, “People are like sheep.  If they are left on their own, they tend to wander away from safety.  They end up getting into trouble and getting hurt.  But if they stay with the shepherd, He can take care of them and show them the right way to walk the road of life.  That’s why I have so much love in My heart for all people, even those who hate Me.  Because I know that they are like sheep who have no shepherd.  They have wandered off the path, and Satan, the false shepherd, has deceived them into believing that the path of Life is really the path of Death, and vice versa.  But if they will open the eyes of their hearts and listen to the truth, many can still be saved.  I would like to ask you all to pray with Me for the people to turn to Me and be saved.  And pray also for more people to proclaim My Good News.  There are many people who are like grain ready for harvest – all they need is someone to tell them My Truth.  But there are very few people to do this work.  Please, pray to God, the Lord of the Harvest, to send us more people to work in His fields, harvesting people for the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Matthew 9:35-38

5/29/15 Grace

Nazareth hill Nazareth

Jesus walks to the home of the elderly couple where He and His apostles spent the night.  He gathers His few possessions and prepares for the journey ahead of Him.  Soon, He hears a commotion outside.  He opens the door and sees a small group of people who are obviously hurting.  He has compassion on them, and goes out to help them.  He takes His time, speaking with each person individually and healing bodies and hearts.  As He finishes, He embraces each one and sees a sparkle of hope and belief their eyes.  Then He looks up and sees a larger crowd coming toward them, with angry faces.  His apostles are also hurrying their way, looking gravely concerned.  They arrive first and quickly go into the house to prepare to leave.  The crowd arrives and the man who has been chosen to speak for them says to Jesus, “You are no longer welcome here.  You are blaspheming the Name of the Lord!  Leave, now, and don’t return!”  One of the men Jesus has just healed looks as if he wants to speak up in His defense, but seeing the angry faces surrounding them, he sadly lowers his eyes to the ground and remains silent.  Jesus’ apostles look into the sorrowful eyes of their beloved Rabbi as He tells them, “I will honor your request, though it makes Me sad, because I know that the only place where a prophet does not command respect is in his own hometown.”  But His words only serve to infuriate the crowd even more.  They surround Him and His apostles and sweep them along with them to the top of the hill (The town of Nazareth is built on the top of that hill) intending to throw Him off of it.  When they arrive at the “drop off” area, Jesus is gone.  Somehow, He melted into the crowd and escaped as they stormed along.  His apostles are waiting for Him on the other side of the hill, and they start their descent in silence.  They travel to the surrounding towns then, healing many people in each town, and receiving a much more favorable welcome.  Jesus is able to teach in each town’s synagogue, spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven.  But Jesus is still troubled by the events in Nazareth.

Matthew 13:57-58, Mark 6:4-6, Luke 4:28-30, http://housewifeclass.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/20130223-110501.jpg, http://truthbook.com/images/site_images/US_Historical_Archive_From_the_east_Nazareth_525.jpg

5/28/15 A Prophet Can’t Go Home

He once more addresses the congregation, this time having to shout to be heard.  “My friends!  You would probably like to quote Me the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ – do here in Your own hometown what we have heard You have done in other villages.  Prove Yourself to us.  But I tell you, no matter what I do, you will not believe Me.  No prophet is ever accepted in his hometown.  And Our Lord God knows this well!  Think of the prophets Elijah and Elisha!  Elijah, during the 3 ½ years during which there was no rain and famine was widespread throughout the land, was sent not to the poor widows of his hometown, nor even to any poor widows anywhere in Israel.  He was sent to a widow of the town of Zarephath in Sidon.  And Elisha?  Was he sent to heal the lepers of Israel?  No, he healed only Naaman, leper of Syria.”  The noise in the synagogue has been building in intensity as Jesus has spoken these words, and now it is impossible to pick out any thread of conversation.  Jesus turns and walks outside, away from the anger of the congregation.

Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4, Luke 4:23-28

5/27/15 You Think You Know A Guy…

“Who does He think He is?”  “This is Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s son, he grew up here with us.  He is a carpenter.  Nothing more.  What is He doing, trying to make Himself more than He is?”  “But all the stories we have heard – is it possible?  Could it be true?”  “No, don’t be ridiculous!  If He were the Son of God, the Messiah, we would know about it!  We’ve known Him and the whole family His whole life!  How could they hide something like that?  And why would they?  It doesn’t make sense.”  The synagogue is in an uproar.  A few congregants have room in their hearts to wonder if it could be possible.  But most are just plain angry.  Jesus can pass Himself off as whatever He wants in places where nobody knows him.  But to try that trickery here, among His own people, who have known Him since He was a child?  “He was such a good boy, too,” one woman remarks sadly, trying to imagine what went wrong to make Jesus behave this way.  “His brothers and sisters are all good people.  Look!  There are His sisters with their husbands.  See how ashamed they look?  And His brothers – James, Joseph, Simon, & Judas – I hear they only accompany Him to watch after their poor mother.”  Jesus hears the comments flying around, knowing that this was the outcome He expected.  But He had to try – He still has to try.

Matthew 13:54b-56, Mark 6:2b-3, Luke 4:22

5/26/15 A Special Message For Nazareth

Jesus arises early the next morning and quietly goes outside to pray.  When His apostles awaken, He comes in to join them and tells them, “We will travel to Nazareth today.  I must teach the people in the synagogue, and tomorrow is the Sabbath.”  They gather their belongings and set out.  Because the Sabbath begins tonight at sundown, they must be settled in for the night before then.  They walk quickly, arriving in Nazareth about an hour before sundown, and Jesus sends His apostles to find a place to shelter for the night.  An elderly couple who had been good friends of Jesus’ family when they lived in Nazareth agrees to put them up for a few nights, and the group accepts gratefully.  The next day, after a time of early morning prayer, they go to the synagogue for worship.  Jesus speaks with the Cantor, and is granted the honor of reading from the Scriptures and addressing the congregation.  He calls the people to order and stands to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  He rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the Cantor, and sits down in front of the people, who are looking at Him quizzically.  A few whispers carry across the synagogue, people commenting on this reading.  They are wondering why He has stopped reading there, because He should have read much more of the scroll.  Jesus looks at every face present, then speaks again:  “You have just heard the fulfillment of Holy Scripture.  I AM He of whom Isaiah was writing.”  Now the quizzical looks turn to shock, and in some cases, outrage, as the people realize that He is making Himself out to be the Messiah, the Son of God.

Matthew 13:54a, Mark 6:1-2a, Luke 4:16-21, Isaiah 61:1-2a

5/25/15 The True Meaning Of Blind Faith

They arrive at the house just as Jesus is departing with His apostles.  The men hear them speaking to each other, and figure out who these people are.  “Let’s follow them!” one says.  “Maybe He can help us!”  Finding the street again, they hurry to catch up to the apostles and their Rabbi.  One man calls out, “Son of David, please, help us!”  But Jesus does not turn around.  He keeps walking.  “Messiah!  Forgive us!” his friend cries.  But still Jesus walks on.  The men are worried now.  Did they follow the wrong man?  Is this not Jesus, the one everyone has told them is the Messiah?  Neither is willing to say what he is thinking, and so they press on.  Soon, Jesus comes to the house where He and His apostles will spend the night.  There, He stops and knocks on the door.  Everyone is welcomed in and the door begins to close.  At the last second, one of the blind men rushes over and grabs the door, pleading, “Lord, please, grant us Your grace and mercy!”  Jesus turns then, and walks back to the door.  He opens it, smiling, and reaches to take the men’s hands.  He pulls them into the house with Him and shuts the door.  Then He asks them both, “Do you really believe that I can make you whole?”  “Yes, Lord!” they both reply emphatically.  “If you truly believe, your faith will heal you,” Jesus tells them.  He touches the eyes of both men, and instantly their eyes regain their sight.  Jesus looks deep into all 4 of those newly-healed eyes and says to their owners, “I must ask you not to tell people how you received your sight.  You will be in danger from those in power if they discover you.  Now go, and do your best to live in faith, without sinning.”  The two men, overjoyed, kiss Jesus’ hands.  They shout their thanks to Him, then turn and run out the door, leaping and dancing as they go.  But they do not follow Jesus’ command, and the story of their healing spreads throughout the land.

Matthew 9:27b-31

5/24/15 He Who Has Ears To Hear, Let Him Hear!

Two men have been listening to the events at the home of Jairus and his family.  They are blind beggars and have been living nearby, outside the home of a rich man and his family.  There, they have been able to beg for bread on a daily basis for the past several years.  Their lives since discovering this crude haven, though not glamorous, have been without too much trouble.  You might even say they are comfortable with their living arrangement.  “What’s that they’re saying?  Something about a girl being dead and now alive?  This doesn’t make any sense.  They must be drunk,” one comments.  Listening more intently now, his companion starts to get excited.  “I heard them say Jesus!  He’s the one everyone has been talking about, saying He might be the Messiah.  Listen close!”  After another half hour or so of trying to figure out what’s happening over there, they decide it’s worth the risk to get closer to the action.  Linking arms, they begin the treacherous (for a blind man) journey down the street, mostly using their ears and noses to guide them.  On their way, one of the men trips over a long stick.  His friend helps him to his feet, and he picks up the stick.  “We can use this to help us find our way,” he says.

Matthew 9:27a

5/23/15 Why?

As they leave the party, Peter asks, “Rabbi, why were You willing to defile Yourself with the woman with the bleeding disease and then defy the law and enter the home of a fellow Jew?”  Jesus replies, “People look at the uncleanness of the body and pronounce that person unfit to join in with normal society.  And that law does come from God, with the intention that sicknesses among you would not spread to the entire community.  But what is more important is the uncleanness of the heart – sin.  Remember, the greatest of the commandments is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  That commandment should be followed above all others.  God created everyone, and loves His creation.  And so if anyone is hurting, you must follow the greatest commandment – to love God by loving this hurting person that He created – even if that means breaking other commandments in order to do it.”  The apostles consider this explanation, and it begins to sink into their hearts.  They want to ask about the little girl – how did He bring her back to life, where was her spirit while she was dead, why did He command them not to say anything even though everyone was going to find out anyway – but they weren’t sure they were brave enough to ask those questions, at least not yet.  So instead they walk together in a companionable silence through the night.

Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36-38, 23:25-28, Leviticus 15:19, 31

5/22/15 A Celebration of Life

“Don’t tell anyone about this,” Jesus warns Jairus and his wife.  Otherwise you’ll be in trouble with the Sanhedrin, and you’ll never get any peace.”  Jairus looks at Him in disbelief.  Not tell anyone?  Everyone is going to know anyway – they came for a funeral, and now she’s alive again.  But he nods in agreement.  “She will be hungry.  Get her something to eat,” Jesus tells her mother.  They walk down the stairs and rejoin the crowd, with the little girl in tow.  Gasps of astonishment fill the air.  “Friends, please join us for a celebration, for this is no longer a funeral party!” Jairus announces to the crowd, attempting to abide by his agreement not to tell anyone how it happened but to acknowledge the miracle all the same.  A feast is quickly put together from funeral dishes brought by the townspeople, and the celebration begins.  But even though no explanation was offered, the people looked at Jesus and knew how the little girl was healed.  News of this great miracle quickly spread to neighboring towns and villages, and of course, back to the Sanhedrin through the spies sent from Jerusalem to keep an eye on Jesus.

Matthew 9:26, Mark 5:43, Luke 8:55b-56