An Evening of Miracles: Luke 4:40-41

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After Jesus had finished healing Peter’s mother-in-law, which we looked at in our last episode, Luke’s gospel finishes out this day of miracles by describing what happened after sunset. While Jesus was healing Peter’s mother-in-law and resting that afternoon, something was happening throughout the region because of what Jesus had done that morning. Looking back two episodes ago, Jesus had cast a demon out of a man at a synagogue that morning, and that passage ended by telling us that word spread about Jesus throughout the region. The results of this news spreading all afternoon prompts the miracles found in our passage for this episode.

Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4, and we will read it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 40, Luke tells us that:

40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 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.

This two-verse passage includes plenty of things for us to pay attention to, and in some ways, this passage is a great summary and extension of the previous two miracles. The first of these two miracles was Jesus casting out a demon in the synagogue that morning, and the second was Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. In this passage, we see Jesus healing more people of all sorts of diseases and Jesus casting out many more demons.

It is interesting in my mind that the same thing that happened in the morning miracle, when Jesus casts out the demon happens again when Jesus is casting the demons out that night. The man who was freed that morning had a demon who declares Jesus to be God’s Son and the demons who are cast out that night make a similar claim. In all these cases, Jesus commanded the demons to be quiet, and as we saw in the event two episodes ago, any claim a demon makes cannot be trusted.

Satan and his evil angels are not required to lie, but they are more than willing to. Hearing Satan declare someone as God’s Son should be enough to get us to take notice, but it shouldn’t be a claim we trust without further investigation.

Also, it is interesting that this is the first recorded mention of Jesus’ miracle-working where more people than the gospels can include came to be healed. If the only miracles prior to this point were the handful we have already looked at then this evening of helping, healing, and casting out demons greatly increased Jesus’ miracle count.

But Jesus didn’t perform miracles to get people to take notice. Instead, Jesus performed miracles that helped people, that gave glory to God, and that advanced God’s kingdom. On the surface, hearing a claim, even it is an untrustworthy claim, that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah seems to help press this mentality forward. However, as we saw two episodes ago, not only did Satan want to get people to distrust Jesus because of the source of the claim, if that didn’t work, Satan wanted the opposite extreme to happen. The opposite extreme in this case was for the people to forcibly make Jesus into a king and into the messiah they hoped would deliver them from the Romans.

While Jesus came to reveal God’s love towards us as a sinful race of beings, and while Jesus came to give His life in place of ours, Jesus’ mission was much bigger than the first-century Jewish culture recognized. Jesus came for humankind and not just for one race of people.

Our passage marks the beginning of Jesus’ miracle working popularity, and at the heart of these verses, we see God’s love for a sinful race of beings. Nothing in these verses speak to Jesus wanting to build Himself up, and nothing in these verses suggest that Jesus desired fame or popularity. Jesus actively pushed against these things, and we can see this the clearest when He repeatedly silences the demons declaring Him as God’s Son.

In our own lives, we are called to follow Jesus, to believe in Jesus, and to model Jesus. While we won’t have demons declare us to be God’s children, we should intentionally move through each day with the goal of showing a Christ-like love to the world around us. Jesus wasn’t afraid to confront sin, but He also never condemned the sinner.

This passage doesn’t describe Jesus looking down on anyone who was sick or demon-possessed. In place of looking down, Jesus reached down and helped each person that night experience healing and freedom from the chains of their past.

In the same way, we are called to reach down rather than look down. We are called to help where we can and to encourage others that God loves them, that Jesus died for them, and that together we are looking forward to eternal life in a new heaven and new earth – specifically a new heaven and new earth that doesn’t include the stain of sin!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place Him first in your life. Learn to trust, depend, and lean on Him for help facing this life, and keep the hope alive in your hearts that He is preparing a home for us in heaven with Him. Choose to model your lives after Jesus lived, and choose to reach down to help others.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn firsthand what God is like through what He has preserved for us through history. The Bible is the record of God’s story in history, and He has kept it safe for thousands of years. If we can trust that God can keep us safe for eternity, we can trust that He is capable of keeping the Bible safe for a few thousand years. Use the Bible to filter what the world wants to claim as truth, and use the Bible as your final word!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 8: After word spreads that Jesus can heal people and cast out demons, Jesus faces a crowd of people asking for His help. Discover how Jesus responds, and how His response is an example for how we should respond when people ask us for help.

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Your Lamp and the True Light: Luke 11:33-36

Focus Passage: Luke 11:33-36 (NIrV)

33 “No one lights a lamp and hides it. No one puts it under a bowl. Instead, they put a lamp on its stand. Then those who come in can see the light. 34 Your eye is like a lamp for your body. Suppose your eyes are healthy. Then your whole body also is full of light. But suppose your eyes can’t see well. Then your body also is full of darkness. 35 So make sure that the light inside you is not darkness. 36 Suppose your whole body is full of light. And suppose no part of it is dark. Then your body will be full of light. It will be just as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Read Luke 11:33-36 in context and/or in other translations on!

For a long time, I believed this entry’s passage to be only about God, about Jesus, and about witnessing.

However, while I still believe these things to be important in the theme for this passage, there is something else – a deeper theme – that is also true in this passage. I saw the theme one morning while studying, and it has shifted my thinking on my own walk with God.

The theme is a little easier to see if we take the two primary phrases that emphasize the theme and put them next to each other:

  • Your eye is like a lamp for your body.” (v. 34a)

  • So make sure that the light inside you is not darkness.” (v. 35)

Placing these two sentences next to each other reveals another way we can see this passage.

First, if we take Jesus’ words seriously, we see what we choose to look at affects our life. It is just like saying that the things we pay attention to will shape our thinking moving forward. The media we consume will change us. The books we read, the games we play, and the movies, videos, and television we watch will all shape our lives moving into the future. Jesus is sharing this with us as a big truth that we should pay attention to.

This first sentence sets the stage for the teaching between and leads to a key idea Jesus wants to emphasize in the second phrase, “Make sure that the light inside you is not darkness.” (v. 35)

On the surface, this second phrase doesn’t make sense: Light and darkness are opposites. Darkness only exists where light is not present, but as soon as light enters, the darkness leaves.

But this is where Jesus weaves a profound truth into His teaching: If we think the darkness inside of our lives is really light, we won’t seek out true light.

It also hints at the truth that everyone is sharing what they believe to be “light”, but not everything that is shared is true light. If we are living with darkness in our lives that we believe to be light, then we will work to spread that darkness as far as we can – counteracting the real light that God wants to share.

I don’t think anyone is immune to this temptation. There is always a temptation to stop short of growing closer to Jesus. He is the source of true light, and this means that we have a way to judge ideas that come our way. It is a simple test really: Does this idea lead me closer to Jesus, lead others in my life closer to Jesus, or build relationships/connections with others in a way that helps them see God living in me?

If the answer to the above question is yes, then the idea in question is most likely light.

If the answer is no, then the idea is darkness or irrelevant.

This brings us back to the first phrase: “Your eye is like a lamp for your body.

Jesus cautions us to be extra careful about what we let into our lives, because the more darkness we let in, the less clear we will be able to see Him. By focusing on Jesus, we let light shine into our lives, and the darkness we have held onto will fade. Focusing on Jesus will help reprioritize the direction of our lives, and it is the only way we can truly move closer to Him.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Staying Focused: John 12:20-36

Focus Passage: John 12:20-36 (NIrV)

20 There were some Greeks among the people who went up to worship during the feast. 21 They came to ask Philip for a favor. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew. Then Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to receive glory. 24 What I’m about to tell you is true. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only one seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it. But anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it and have eternal life. 26 Anyone who serves me must follow me. And where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “My soul is troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, keep me from having to go through with this’? No. This is the very reason I have come to this point in my life. 28 Father, bring glory to your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven. It said, “I have brought glory to my name. I will bring glory to it again.” 29 The crowd there heard the voice. Some said it was thunder. Others said an angel had spoken to Jesus.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now it is time for the world to be judged. Now the prince of this world will be thrown out. 32 And I am going to be lifted up from the earth. When I am, I will bring all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show them how he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up. “The Law tells us that the Messiah will remain forever,” they said. “So how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light. Do this before darkness catches up with you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in it. Then you can become children of light.” When Jesus had finished speaking, he left and hid from them.

Read John 12:20-36 in context and/or in other translations on!

At the start of the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we find an interesting event that only John chose to include in his gospel. This event happens immediately following Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, and His arrival at the temple.

John then tells us that “there were some Greeks among the people who went up to worship during the feast. They came to ask Philip for a favor. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew. Then Andrew and Philip told Jesus.” (v. 20-22)

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t stand out in my mind, except that what follows doesn’t match what is said here. It would appear that right when Philip told Jesus that some visiting Greeks were looking to see Him, Jesus replied by saying, “the time has come for the Son of Man to receive glory.” (v. 23)

This statement is the start of Jesus’ next big message to the people, and nothing more is really said or implied about the Greeks in John’s earlier statements. While later on, we can see some of the gospels writers include details about the religious leaders wondering if Jesus would leave them and go witness to the Greeks in their own land; this speculation is about the only other time Greek people are mentioned in the gospels.

It is as though Jesus completely ignores the Greeks who wanted to see Him. While the gospels don’t directly tell us that Jesus went and saw these visiting Greeks or if He went out and shared the next verses in the part of the temple the Greeks were in (a.k.a. the outermost courtyard), we can learn a powerful truth in what John intentionally chose to include and exclude.

There was a reason John included these verses in His gospel, and I believe the reason is this: While these Greeks did not come with the goal of distracting Jesus from His mission, their presence and request was seen as a distraction in Jesus’ eyes. The cross was Jesus’ goal, and meeting with some Greeks did not in any way help Jesus accomplish what He came to this world to accomplish.

In John’s decision to include these verses, we see a Jesus who is intentional about where He placed His focus, and a Jesus who was very aware of the trap of distraction. While it isn’t nice to think about a Jesus who would appear to ignore people, this may have been what happened.

Jesus’ choice to not see these Greeks was for the ultimate good. Jesus’ death on the cross paid for not only the sins of the Jews, but also the sins of gentiles (including these Greeks), and the sins of you and I. If Jesus feels distant or if it feels like He is ignoring you or me, it may be because He has something bigger in mind that we cannot see from our limited perspective. It’s up to us to trust that He knows what is best in the big, eternal picture.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Speaking Out When Asked to Stay Silent: Mark 1:40-45

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At the start of Jesus’ public ministry, the gospel of Mark describes Jesus doing something that is very counterintuitive for someone just starting a ministry. While this isn’t the first miracle Jesus performed, something He tells the person He healed following the healing doesn’t make much sense from our perspective, especially if we were advising Jesus launching a ministry in today’s world.

Let’s read what happened, and discover what Jesus did following this healing. Our passage is from the gospel of Mark, chapter 1, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 40, Mark tells us that:

40 A man with a skin disease came to Jesus. He fell to his knees and begged Jesus, “You can heal me if you will.”

41 Jesus felt sorry for the man, so he reached out his hand and touched him and said, “I will. Be healed!” 42 Immediately the disease left the man, and he was healed.

Let’s pause briefly here because a detail about this healing is worth paying attention to. We see a man coming to Jesus who had a skin disease, and chances are this disease was incurable. However, the man states his request in an interesting way. By saying “you can heal me if you will”, the man displays a faith in Jesus’ ability to perform the miracle, but he acknowledges that he might not be worthy of receiving such a life-changing gift.

I wonder if this man had a particularly sinful past, and the skin disease was something he believed was a punishment for the things he did wrong earlier in his life. If so, the way this request is phrased also hints at a request for forgiveness.

This event in itself is amazing to think about, because this was before Jesus had gotten the reputation of being a miracle-healer. Somehow, this man had learned about Jesus before Jesus was well known, and this man knew in his heart that Jesus could heal him. However, I wonder if this man questioned whether Jesus would want to heal him.

We see Jesus’ response first feeling sorry for the man, and then touching him, which was a big deal in that era. Touch is how skin diseases like this were spread, and getting a skin disease meant that a person was not touched in any meaningful way again.

Jesus’ response was as loving as His touch. Jesus tells the man, “I will. Be healed!” This is powerful because any doubt in this man’s mind about God’s love for him was erased in this moment. If the man’s past made him doubtful about whether God loved Him, Jesus’ actions and words emphasized God’s love and forgiveness towards this man.

The man did not doubt Jesus could heal him. This man had faith. This man also needed encouragement and a reassuring message of God’s love towards him.

But what comes next is fascinating. Immediately after the man is healed, verse 43 continues by telling us:

43 Jesus told the man to go away at once, but he warned him strongly, 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. But go and show yourself to the priest. And offer the gift Moses commanded for people who are made well. This will show the people what I have done.” 45 The man left there, but he began to tell everyone that Jesus had healed him, and so he spread the news about Jesus. As a result, Jesus could not enter a town if people saw him. He stayed in places where nobody lived, but people came to him from everywhere.

When reading about this miracle, we can understand the healed man’s enthusiasm about what Jesus did for him. He tells everyone he can about Jesus.

But Jesus’ request to keep quiet about this healing does not make sense, especially when framed in today’s attention-starved world. In the 21st century, new products and ideas have a huge uphill climb in order to be known. The methods for sharing products and ideas have become endless, and the barriers for bringing a product or idea into reality are almost none. However, this has resulted in a flood of ideas into the market, and overwhelming people living today into ignoring 99% or more of what they see. In our minds, it makes no sense that Jesus would want to silence one of His best brand ambassadors.

This would be like visiting a church, having a physical miracle take place, and those present telling you to keep quiet about what happened. This makes no sense for the person who is excited to have been healed, and it makes no sense if this church wants to grow, get donations, and/or have enough to pay their bills.

I’ve heard some people say that Jesus told this man to keep quiet as a way to inspire him to share more, as though Jesus was challenging this man’s rebellious side to do more than he would have normally done. However, this doesn’t make sense in my mind with how the passage concluded. This man’s excessive sharing made Jesus so popular that He could not enter a town if someone recognized Him, and He had to stay in secluded places away from the cities and towns.

Jesus loved people, and I wonder if He told this man to keep quiet because He wanted the freedom of anonymity to be able to go to more people who needed help and who were not physically able to come to Him. This makes sense on one level. Jesus knew word would eventually spread about Him whether He liked it or not, but He wanted to slow the spread so that He could help as many people where they were at in the cities, towns, and villages.

Jesus also told the man to go to the priest, present an offering, and get the official bill of clean health. I think this also has a hint towards why Jesus wanted the man to stay quiet. Jesus says that going and showing himself to the priest “will show the people what I have done”. Who are the people Jesus is referring to? When we think about this, the first people who would learn about this would be all the priests and religious leaders, and it would spread out from there.

I wonder if Jesus had intended this miracle to be a witness and a challenge for the religious leaders. While there were some religious leaders who were already against Jesus, such as those who lived in the Nazareth synagogue we discussed in a previous episode, I wonder if this miracle was Jesus subtly reaching out with a message to the religious leaders about God stepping into history and that He was the Messiah who was prophesied about.

Regardless of what the reasons were, or even if that was all the reasons, this man chose to disobey Jesus and tell everyone about what Jesus had done for him. This is worth paying attention to as well because when God has done something for us, it is natural for us to tell someone else about it. It is actually unnatural to try to keep it a secret.

So with that in mind, has God done something in your life recently? If so, did you tell others about it?

Jesus had His reasons for asking the man He healed to keep quiet about this healing, but that doesn’t mean that this is Jesus’ message for us today. One of His last messages to His followers was to tell everyone about Him, and that means that we are called and challenged to tell others about what Jesus has done for us. While not everyone is willing to listen, we are all called to share. When we share, we should not put other people down in order to lift Jesus up. We should instead simply lift Jesus up for what He has done for us, and invite those we are sharing with to celebrate with us.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always be sure to seek God first and pay attention to the things He blesses us with. When God does something for us, let’s celebrate it and invite others into our celebration. Our joy is a powerful witness in a world where joy is fading.

Also, be sure to study the Bible for yourself and discover what God wants to tell you though the pages of His word. A pastor or podcaster can give you ideas, but discovering truth straight from the Bible has no comparison, and humbly studying the Bible helps each of us grow closer to God in a personal way.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 7: What happens when Jesus asked a man He healed to stay quiet? Discover several things we can learn about Jesus and God from this event and about what happened.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.