Flashback Episode — The Unpopular Miracle: Luke 13:10-17

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One thing I am amazed by when I read the gospels is how Jesus loved and helped people in need regardless of what cultural or society wanted to pressure Him into doing or not doing. It would seem that in Jesus’ eyes, any interpretation of the Law that wasn’t framed in a loving way could be laid aside in favor of doing some type of loving action.

In our walk through the gospels this year, we come to a great example of Jesus doing exactly this: Jesus appeared to set the Law aside in favor of loving someone who needed help. This event can be found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 13, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 10:

10 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the day of rest—a holy day. [A quick side-note I’ll insert here is that most translations simply say Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath in this verse.] 11 A woman who was possessed by a spirit was there. The spirit had disabled her for 18 years. She was hunched over and couldn’t stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her to come to him and said, “Woman, you are free from your disability.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and she immediately stood up straight and praised God.

14 The synagogue leader was irritated with Jesus for healing on the day of worship. The leader told the crowd, “There are six days when work can be done. So come on one of those days to be healed. Don’t come on the day of rest—a holy day.”

15 The Lord said, “You hypocrites! Don’t each of you free your ox or donkey on the day of rest—a holy day? Don’t you then take it out of its stall to give it some water to drink? 16 Now, here is a descendant of Abraham. Satan has kept her in this condition for 18 years. Isn’t it right to free her on the day of rest—a holy day?”

17 As he said this, everyone who opposed him felt ashamed. But the entire crowd was happy about the miraculous things he was doing.

When reading this event, I am amazed at the mindset of the synagogue leader. From what happens, we can conclude the synagogue leader believed Jesus to be a doctor by trade who also happened to have a great grasp of the scriptures and public speaking. If the synagogue leader didn’t like Jesus, he would not have permitted Jesus to teach at the synagogue that day, but he also didn’t believe Jesus’ occupation to be more than a physician, because when someone appears who needs healing, he classifies this as Jesus’ “work”.

This framing is interesting, because it is about the lowest bar one could have for accepting Jesus. By this point in Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders could not deny the fact that Jesus could heal virtually any disease. Those in the temple likely were getting tired of unclean people asking to be cleared for entrance back into society – and it probably irritated some of them knowing that Jesus was behind each healing. The religious leaders could not disprove Jesus was a miracle worker – especially with regard to healing others.

However, these religious leaders did not want to take any further steps towards Jesus. They wall themselves off from the truth by simply framing Jesus as a very skilled doctor. Doctors “work” like other professionals do, and that meant that they needed to take the Sabbath off like other professional laborers did.

But when we look at Jesus’ ministry, healing was more like a hobby than a profession. While Jesus healed countless people, and exponentially more people than the Bible had room to include, Jesus seemed to focus equally on teaching the crowds about God’s kingdom, and helping give people opportunities to praise God.

Jesus came to challenge those who thought they had their lives spirituality figured out, and to love those who needed love and help. In the case of this passage, Jesus’ response to those who were upset at His healing frames God’s love perfectly. Jesus frames this healing by saying in verses 15 and 16: “Don’t each of you free your ox or donkey on the day of rest—a holy day? Don’t you then take it out of its stall to give it some water to drink? Now, here is a descendant of Abraham. Satan has kept her in this condition for 18 years. Isn’t it right to free her on the day of rest—a holy day?

This simple challenge elevated this formerly crippled woman’s status not just to the status of healed, but Jesus points out that she is a descendant of Abraham, just like they are, and elevates her status to one of an equal member of society. In contrast, the livestock that the Jews owned probably didn’t carry the same designation. There wouldn’t be any way to truly know or track whether that synagogue leader’s ox or donkey had descended from Abraham’s ox or donkey – and it was hypocritical for the leaders to be kind to their livestock when they were not willing to be kind to one of their own.

But challenging these religious leaders was not the reason Jesus healed this woman. When we look at the context of the story, Jesus only speaks out after they show dissatisfaction for what He did. Unlike some other times we read about in the gospels, there is nothing in this passage to indicate that this miracle was a setup.

Instead, when I read this event and this miracle, I see the reason Jesus performed it hinging on the healed woman’s response to the healing. Verses 12 and 13 frame this miracle and the woman’s response perfectly: “When Jesus saw her, he called her to come to him and said, ‘Woman, you are free from your disability.’ He placed his hands on her, and she immediately stood up straight and praised God.

We discover that the first thing the woman does following being healed is that she praises God. What better reason for healing her could there be? Jesus healed this woman because He knew she would praise God. This woman had the right focus. Jesus didn’t heal her to get credit or to get people looking at Him; He healed her so that those who were present could praise God with her!

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

As you move through life, look for opportunities where you can praise God. While you might not witness a firsthand miracle on a Sabbath day, there are plenty of other things we can be grateful and thankful to God for. When a blessing from God comes to mind, let’s give God the credit and the glory that He deserves.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God each day. Regular prayer and Bible study are two of the best ways to grow your relationship with God on a strong foundation, and we make it a personal relationship when we personally study. Pastors or podcasters can give us things to think about, but never let me or anyone else get between you and Jesus.

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 28: Discover what happens when Jesus heals a woman in a synagogue one Sabbath. Is this miracle met with praise and thanks or does Jesus receive criticism for working on the Sabbath? Learn how we can apply what Jesus says and does in our own lives 2,000+ years later.

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

Experiencing Peace Today: Luke 19:41-44

Focus Passage: Luke 19:41-44 (GNT)

 41 He [Jesus] came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, 42 saying,
         If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! 43 The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. 44 They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!

Read Luke 19:41-44 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the final time before being crucified, Luke’s gospel describes how as He approached the city, Jesus wept for it. Part of the reason Jesus cried at this point in His ministry was because He knew what would happen to it in several decades when it would be surrounded and destroyed – with many people still hiding inside.

However, Jesus also cried because of another phrase Luke includes in His gospel record of this event. Luke tells us Jesus began His message to Jerusalem by saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it!” (v. 42)

It is interesting in my mind that Jesus would use the word peace in His message to this city. At that time, even while there was political unrest, when compared to other points in history, Jerusalem was experiencing peace because those living there were not trying to rebel against Rome.

However, while the people had one type of peace, I believe Jesus is speaking here on multiple levels. While those living in Jerusalem had peace from military aggression, most people living in the city likely were missing peace in their hearts and lives.

Many of us miss out on this peace as well. Living busy lives 2,000 years later, most of us live in areas that are more peaceful than other parts of the world, but we take this type of peace for granted and instead focus on other things that are less peaceful. For many of us, we unknowingly focus on things that rob us of peace. Think with me for a moment what portions of a typical day include time we could call peaceful. If you have not incorporated times of peace in your schedule, then I’m positive that your life doesn’t have any times where you can stop and experience peace. Peaceful moments don’t demand our attention, and when we focus on the things demanding our time, we miss out on experiencing peace.

When Jesus opened His message for Jerusalem by talking about peace, I believe this is because Jesus is the only one who can bring true peace into a city, a culture, a community, or even into an individual’s life. By focusing on Jesus, we can experience peace because Jesus has done everything for us that is important from an eternal perspective, and all we have left to do is be thankful and help others like God has helped us.

Culture tries to rob our peace by distracting us from spending time with Jesus, but when we push culture’s demands back in order to spend time with God each day, we will experience a peace that few in this world truly understand.

Jesus knows what we need to experience peace, and He offers it to those who follow Him each day.

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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Faith vs. Fear: Matthew 14:22-33

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Immediately after the miracle where Jesus fed the crowd of over 5,000 people, we discover that He sends the disciples away. At the very end of last week’s passage, John told us that Jesus perceived that the people wanted to crown Him King and it is likely that the disciples would have not objected to this in any way. However, Jesus knew that being crowned an earthly king, while flattering, was not within God’s plan for glorifying Him before the people. Jesus also knew that being crowned King would ultimately not give honor to the Father.

This information sets the stage for our focus passage in this episode, and it leads into another miracle that is our focus for this week. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 22, Matthew tells us that:

22 Jesus quickly made his disciples get into a boat and cross to the other side ahead of him while he sent the people away. 23 After sending the people away, he went up a mountain to pray by himself. When evening came, he was there alone.

Pausing briefly, if you remember, two episodes ago, Mark’s gospel had set the stage for the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 with Jesus wanting to go and rest with His disciples. However, because of what had happened, we see in Matthew’s gospel that that night, Jesus rested and prayed alone while the disciples were crossing the lake without Him.

However, that night without Jesus was not peaceful for the disciples. Continuing reading in verse 24, Matthew shares that:

24 The boat, now hundreds of yards from shore, was being thrown around by the waves because it was going against the wind.

25 Between three and six o’clock in the morning, he came to them. He was walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. They said, “It’s a ghost!” and began to scream because they were afraid.

27 Immediately, Jesus said, “Calm down! It’s me. Don’t be afraid!”

28 Peter answered, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 Jesus said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed how strong the wind was, he became afraid and started to sink. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately, Jesus reached out, caught hold of him, and said, “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?”

32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped blowing. 33 The men in the boat bowed down in front of Jesus and said, “You are truly the Son of God.”

In this miracle, we see some amazing themes and truths we can relate to in our own lives. After a whole night of rowing without making any progress, Jesus sees that the disciples need help. While I don’t know if any of them tried to command the wind and waves to be calm like Jesus had done earlier in His time with them, the disciples are trying in vain to cross the lake when it seems as though everything is working against them.

In this detail, we can see the idea that when we are not with Jesus, everything we try to do for Jesus is in vain. Without Jesus’ help, we are at the mercy of the waves of this life and at the mercy of the winds of culture. While we might be able to make progress on our own, any progress we do make would be nowhere near the progress that could be made if we were with Jesus. Without Jesus, the boat only reached a few hundred yards from the shore, which is not much progress when you are trying to cross the lake. But after Jesus entered the boat, reaching their destination was easy.

Also in this miracle is the powerful example we see in Peter. When all the disciples are fearful at the appearance of Jesus walking towards them on the water, only Peter has the courage to challenge Jesus on His claim, and in my imagination, before Peter even realizes it, he is jumping over the side of the boat and walking towards Jesus.

From what I’ve heard preachers and others say when describing this event is that Peter took His eyes off of Jesus, and this is what prompted him to start sinking. Some people have said that Peter’s downfall was when he looked back to see if the rest of the disciples were watching, which implies a prideful attitude that would lead to his sinking.

However, I don’t see anything in this event that hints at Peter looking back. Instead, all we see included in this event leading up to Peter’s sinking is two things. Verse 30 tells us that when Peter “noticed how strong the wind was, he became afraid and started to sink.” This statement is probably one of the most powerful statements in the entire Bible that relates to losing faith.

Note that there is nothing wrong with noticing how strong the wind was, but when we let the supposed strength of the wind exceed the faith in the power of God, we sink. In Peter’s noticing how strong the wind was, we could conclude that he took his eyes off of Jesus, but all it might have taken is a wave to break his concentration, or a splash of water.

Peter didn’t need to take his eyes off of Jesus to know that the wind and waves were strong. He had spent the entire previous part of the night rowing against the wind and waves. The critical phrase for us to pay attention to is Peter becoming afraid when walking towards Jesus. When Peter’s fear became greater than his faith, the only thing left was gravity, which pulled him down into the water. When our faith takes a second place seat to our fear, nothing we do will be successful. Faith is powerful, and faith plus Jesus is unstoppable.

As we move through the coming days, weeks, and months this year, remember to keep your faith stronger than your fear, and step forward with your faith into the life God has called you to live!

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

Always seek God and place Him first in your life. Intentionally move forward in life with a strong focus on growing your faith. Live intentionally with a faith that is stronger than your fear and when you mix this faith with Jesus, nothing Satan does can stop you from living the life God has called you to live.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and mature your faith in Him. God wants a personal relationship with you, and a personal relationship starts when you personally spend time with God praying, reading, studying, and listening to what He wants to share with you. A personal relationship with God is way more powerful than simply leaning on others for your spiritual knowledge.

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 be scared out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 28: When Jesus comes to the disciples after a long night of trying to cross a windy lake, we discover through this event and miracle that faith, when placed in Jesus, is unstoppable. In contrast, fear erodes our faith, and faith that is weaker than our fear ends up being worthless.

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Why Focus On the Future: Matthew 24:26-35

Focus Passage: Matthew 24:26-35 (NIV)

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Read Matthew 24:26-35 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In this journal entry’s look at this passage, a verse or phrase didn’t really stand out to me like we focus on with other passages in other journal entries. But what did stand out is a big theme that spans the broad teaching that this passage concludes.

Probably more single space is given to Jesus teaching us about what will happen in the end time than most any other teaching Jesus gave in the gospels. Three of the gospel writers include it, and most give it a very prominent place right before crucifixion week.

It is as though, knowing that the time He can spend with His disciples is growing to a close, Jesus begins to shift the topics that He talks about onto teaching about what to pay attention to after He is gone.

I believe Jesus knew that there would be thousands of years of history after His return to heaven, but instead of saying that directly, He described the condition of the world as it would be during those years. In the conclusion, our passage for this journal entry, He describes how He will return again, and what that would be like.

Using grand language and earth shattering imagery, Jesus wants us to know that His return will be nothing like His first appearance, and He does not want us to be deceived. He wants us to be ready, to see the world events that are happening around us, and to know that God’s kingdom is near. (Luke 21:31)

The big theme that I see listed here is this: God does not want us to be scared or surprised when we see bad things happen in the world. Instead, He wants us to focus on His character, on the truth that He is in control, and on the promise that Jesus is returning.

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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