Flashback Episode — Risking His Healing: Luke 17:11-19

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As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem and towards the crucifixion weekend, one of the miracles we read about stand out in my mind in a powerful way. This particular miracle stands out in my mind when we look closely at what one of those who was healed risks when he deviates from what he was instructed to do.

We can find this miracle in Luke’s gospel, chapter 17, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 11, we read that:

11 While He [speaking of Jesus] was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

This passage is amazing in my mind, and it stands out to me because of what is said, and what is truly risked. The implication I often hear when this passage is shared is that the other nine cleansed lepers were not thankful to be healed because they didn’t return.

However, this makes no sense. All ten men had been outcasts of society and the fact that they ask for Jesus to be merciful to them tells us that they all wanted to be included back into society.

Instead, what we find is that all ten men believe Jesus’ promise to go show themselves to the priests, and all ten men set out towards Jerusalem and the temple. On the way, probably not very far into their journey, they realize that they have been healed.

It is at this point that each man faces a dilemma.

Each man was healed because he was obeying Jesus’ command to go show himself to the priests, but the trip to Jerusalem will take several days and there would be no telling where Jesus would be after they had seen the priests and have been declared clean or healed.

With the exception of the one man who returned, the other nine, who I am sure were incredibly grateful towards Jesus and God for their healing, resolved even harder to make it to the priests to confirm what they believed had already happened. Nothing would stop these nine from finishing their mission because a completed visit with a priest would solidify their status back into the community. The challenge comes with finding Jesus after their trip, which I doubt would be possible since Jesus was headed for the cross.

The exception to the group was the one former leper who decided to return to thank Jesus. By choosing to delay going to see the priest, this Samaritan actually risks losing out on being healed because he stopped the task Jesus asked him to do. Jesus applauds this foreigner’s faith in God and the risk he took to return to give thanks and tells him that his faith has made him well.

We can easily assume that the Samaritan who came back was able to catch up to his friends on their way to visit the priest to be declared clean, or that his trip was successful following returning to say thanks.

From this event, we can see several big themes that are worth applying into our lives.

The first theme is that while the Samaritan is singled out because he returned, the implication is that some in this group were Samaritans while others were Jews. With this miracle, Jesus demonstrates that God is willing to help and heal regardless of any racial tension. God doesn’t show racial favoritism with who He decides to help. This is important because most of us living today are neither Samaritan nor Jew, but we can trust that God still loves each of us and that Jesus was willing to die in our place as sinners.

The second big theme I see is that there is never a wrong time to stop and be grateful towards God for what He has done in our lives. While the Samaritan who came back risked losing his healing, the truth of the matter is that God honors our gratefulness, and He is happy to help us when we are grateful and willing to give Him the glory.

The third big theme in this passage is that sometimes we have to obey before we see God’s hand working in our lives. The leprous men had to start their journey to the priest before they received their healing, and in our own lives, we may need to step out in faith and obedience before seeing Jesus show up in our own lives.

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

Be sure to give God praise and thanks for everything He has blessed you with in your life. Intentionally choose to live a life of gratefulness towards God and those He has brought into your life.

Also, choose to grow closer to Him by praying and studying the Bible for yourself each and every day. Regular prayer and Bible study are the best ways to grow a personal relationship with God and to discover how to be obedient to His voice.

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 outright reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 32: When ten men are healed of leprosy, one man risks losing this healing to return to give thanks to God and Jesus. Discover what we can learn about God from this event and some things we can apply in our own lives 2,000+ years later.

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A Similar but Different Miracle: Matthew 15:32-39

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In two of the gospels, specifically Matthew and Mark, we discover a miracle that seems similar to one that we have already focused in on, but one that is quite profound when we look at how it is different from the other miracle. The other miracle is the only miracle that all four gospel writers included, and when I say that, you may remember that the miracle I’m referring to is the feeding of the crowd of more than 5,000 that we spent two episodes focusing in on.

However, lesser known is another miracle, where Jesus feeds a crowd larger than 4,000. While some people might think that these two miracles were the same, there is enough evidence and uniqueness in what happens in this episode’s miracle to clearly point to this being a separate event. And as a separate event, this miracle has some profound themes we can learn from.

Our passage for this episode comes from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 15, and we will read it from the New Living Translation of the Bible. Starting in verse 32, Matthew tells us:

32 Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

33 The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”

Let’s pause here for a moment because I want to draw out a couple things that we can already see in the verses leading up to the miracle. First off, this miracle is prompted by Jesus’ compassion and the necessity of the situation. Three days with Jesus away from towns in the wilderness is a long time, and from what Jesus describes, many of those who came did not plan for a trip of this length. This detail is powerful, because this means that many in the crowd following Jesus wanted to be near Jesus even more than they wanted to eat. As I say this, I am doubtful of how many self-professed Christians could be described in this way living in the world today.

The other big idea I see in this passage’s introduction is the initial response the disciples give, which is asking where they could get enough food for such a big crowd. All gospel chronology suggests this happened after the previous miracle of food multiplication, so this means that the disciples forgot what Jesus had done in the past, or they doubted His present circumstances for being able to do it again. This detail is also powerful, because it tells us that our present problems will always appear larger than our past victories. Only when we intentionally focus on what Jesus has done for us in the past will we have faith that He wants to help in our current situation.

Now that we remember and have a clear picture in our mind about what Jesus had done in the past, we can continue reading to discover what Jesus does to solve this problem in their present. Continuing in verse 34, Matthew tells us that:

34 Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”

35 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.

37 They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 38 There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. 39 Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.

In this passage and the miracle, we see some fascinating unique details that frame God’s blessings and God’s answers to prayer. In the previous miracle where 5,000 plus were fed, the gift of food came from an outside source, specifically a boy offering his lunch to Jesus. That miracle had the prayer being answered from an outside source.

To contrast this, our current miracle describes the food coming from the disciples’ own reserve. This means that sometimes, it is up to us to supply what God needs to bless others. Sometimes God will bring us outside help to help us when blessing others and when answering our prayers, while other times, God will expect us to use what He has already given to us to bless others.

When we pray, we should be open and willing to accept help from wherever God sends it, and we shouldn’t shy away from using our own resources if no outside help comes.

Also, we learn from both miracles that no gift is too small. I believe that Jesus could have multiplied one loaf just as easily as He multiplied seven. When we bring our gifts to Jesus, we should never consider the gifts as too small or too insignificant for Him to use them. Instead, we should bring our gifts and readily offer them to Him. As we easily see in both miracles, Jesus is more than able to multiply a small gift into a large one when we are willing to give Him what we have. We might think that what we have to offer God is insignificant, but no heartfelt gift given to God is insignificant in His eyes.

When comparing these two miracles, we discover that the source of each miracle was total, complete gifts. While both sources of bread and fish likely were larger days, or even hours before, when the gifts are presented to Jesus, we don’t see any hint of food being held back. This means that when we offer God a gift, we should offer God the full, best, complete gift that we have. I doubt either of these miracles would have been as effective if the supplier of the food had held part of the supply back.

In this pair of similar miracles, we discover that God is more than willing to bless us when we pray, when we need help, and/or when He knows we will be better off with the gift than without. God is also more than willing to multiply the small, seemingly insignificant gifts into blessings for a greater number of people than we could even imagine. And God is interested in heartfelt gifts over gifts given with reservation.

All this leads us to the big truth that the greatest gift that we can give God is our hearts. Jesus came to love us and to redeem us from sin, and the least we can return to Him for this amazing gift is our hearts, our minds, and our lives.

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. Praise God and thank Him for everything that He has done for us and be willing to let Him use you for His grand purposes. Step into God’s plan and give Him the greatest gift you can give, which is the gift of your heart!

Also, as always, pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Seek to grow closer to Him through the pages of His Word and study the scriptures faithfully and prayerfully to let the Holy Spirit into your heart and mind.

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 drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 32: When Jesus feeds a crowd of 4,000+ people, we discover a great compliment to the earlier miracle where 5,000+ people were fed, and we discover some amazing themes regarding how God chooses to answer our prayers.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Learning from a Dead Man: Luke 16:19-31

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While I didn’t plan for it to be this way, this year of podcasting through the gospels has reserved a whole block of challenging passages. The next one on the list happens to be an illustration Jesus shares where people are divided over how much truth it teaches. This illustration is called the Rich Man and Lazarus.

This passage has challenged Christians throughout the centuries over exactly how much truth Jesus is trying to teach. Some people say this illustration is not a true parable because it doesn’t start like one and because none of Jesus’ other parables includes a named individual, while others say that the contents of the teaching sound more parable-like than not, even with a named character.

Some people say this teaching proves there is consciousness after death, while others say that Jesus simply used a common illustration of the day but flipped the ending. This idea suggests that there was a common story told by the religious leaders that ends with the rich man being brought into Abraham’s presence, while the poor beggar ends up in the place of torment.

Personally, I don’t know if any of these angles is accurate. I am doubtful of some of them, but I also believe that most of these angles likely include some aspects of truth.

In my own mind, I see this illustration as a parable Jesus shared, similar perhaps to the illustration of the Good Samaritan. The parable of the Good Samaritan is shared following Jesus being asked a question, and it has a very non-parable-like beginning, similar to this parable.

However, what does Jesus want us to learn from this teaching? Is Jesus making a statement about the nature of death, or is He using an illustration that causes us to simply think about life from the point in time when our lives are over?

To uncover an answer to this, let’s look at the themes we can learn from this event, and while reading this passage, think about some big truths we can learn from what Jesus shares.

Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 16, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 16, Jesus continued by saying:

19 “Once there was a rich man. He was dressed in purple cloth and fine linen. He lived an easy life every day. 20 A man named Lazarus was placed at his gate. Lazarus was a beggar. His body was covered with sores. 21 Even dogs came and licked his sores. All he wanted was to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.

22 “The time came when the beggar died. The angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In the place of the dead, the rich man was suffering terribly. He looked up and saw Abraham far away. Lazarus was by his side. 24 So the rich man called out, ‘Father Abraham! Have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water. Then he can cool my tongue with it. I am in terrible pain in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember what happened in your lifetime. You received your good things. Lazarus received bad things. Now he is comforted here, and you are in terrible pain. 26 Besides, a wide space has been placed between us and you. So those who want to go from here to you can’t go. And no one can cross over from there to us.’

27 “The rich man answered, ‘Then I beg you, father Abraham. Send Lazarus to my family. 28 I have five brothers. Let Lazarus warn them. Then they will not come to this place of terrible suffering.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have the teachings of Moses and the Prophets. Let your brothers listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will turn away from their sins.’

31 “Abraham said to him, ‘They do not listen to Moses and the Prophets. So they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

In this parable, as I read it just now, I can see a number of big themes we can learn. Perhaps the biggest one is that after someone has died, they cannot change their decisions from this life.

This theme is in many ways intuitive, because while we are alive, we cannot change our past. We can change our decisions in the present and plan for different decisions in the future, but once the future is the present and the present turns to past, our decisions are locked in history. This makes each moment of each day significant and this theme challenges us to be conscious of the decisions we are making every moment of each day.

Also while reading this passage, we see the theme that those who are convinced of something, who are unwilling to change their beliefs, are not going to be convinced to change by anyone – even someone who returns from the grave.

While this illustration oddly enough foreshadows the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, not too long after this, we see Lazarus’ resurrection being enough to convince plenty of Jews to put their faith, belief, and trust in Jesus. However, the religious leaders who were set in their ways make plans to not only kill Jesus after this event, but Lazarus as well.

A third theme that I see in this illustration is that those who have had it hard in this life will find rest in the life to come, while those who have had it easy in this life may experience struggles. I don’t know if the time one spends following death is filled with torment or unpleasantness. But I do know that the next conscious thought one has following death will be one of regret when they realize they didn’t choose correctly.

All these themes are important to us. This illustration pushes us to look past our lives and then back at the decisions we chose while we were still alive. Does Jesus teach more about the state of the dead here? That I will leave for you to decide.

However, as we close out this podcast episode, along with the challenges, I will leave you with a question: Since Jesus loved teaching with visual illustrations, and we have many examples of this in His various parables, would it be possible to share the themes we just finished looking at in a visual way without implying consciousness after death? If so, perhaps we can uncover more themes from this illustration. However if the way Jesus shared this parable is the only “visual” way to challenge us to think with the end in mind, similar to what we talked about in the last episode, then perhaps consciousness after death is not a theme we should put much weight on.

To challenge you as we end this podcast episode, be sure to always seek God first in your life. When difficult questions come trying to shake your faith, lean into trusting God, because when our lives are over, only one thing will truly matter, and that is whether we placed our hope, faith, trust, and belief in Jesus Christ to save us for eternity.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow your personal relationship with God. Coming to the end of your life and missing out on a personal relationship with God is the worst place to be. Don’t fall into the trap that many people will realize only after it is too late. Focus on growing your personal relationship with God today, and every day moving forward into eternity!

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 31: Discover some big themes we can learn from one of Jesus’ most misunderstood illustrations, and discover that this truth might be one of the biggest themes we should apply into our own lives over 2,000 years later.

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Stay Silent or Share Jesus: Mark 7:31-37

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After traveling to the region of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, and both ignoring and insulting a woman needing help, Jesus then leaves the area and travels to about the opposite corner of the area where He focused His ministry – an area called the Decapolis. This trip is fascinating on several levels.

Looking at how the gospel writers focus on many of these events, and how they transition between the places Jesus went, it is almost as though Jesus traveled to specific areas just to help one person who needed help. In our last episode, we focused in on a trip Jesus made to Tyre and Sidon and specifically how it may have been a trip to help just one person. In this episode, we look at another miracle that appears to help another single person.

Let’s read what happened before discussing several things we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 31, Mark tells us:

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

Pausing briefly, to give you a little context of the geography, Tyre and Sidon were far Northwest of Galilee, and the Decapolis region was south east of Galilee. Picking back up in verse 31, we read:

32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

In our passage, I wonder if you noticed something. In the gospel record, the region of the Decapolis is mentioned only three times. The first time we see this location mentioned, it is part of a transition statement in Matthew’s gospel describing the crowds that followed Jesus. Matthew 4:25 tell us that, “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Other than this passing statement, Matthew doesn’t mention this region again, and the context for this verse doesn’t place Jesus in the Decapolis. Instead, the context describes Jesus traveling through Galilee instead.

The next time the Decapolis is mentioned, we learned that this was where the demoniac went following Jesus healing him. If you remember earlier in our year of miracles, we learned about a special trip Jesus made across the lake to visit this man. On the trip across the lake, a storm freaked the disciples out while Jesus slept. When they arrived on the far side, they met a man who was possessed by a legion of demons, and Jesus cast the demons out into a herd of pigs.

This would likely have happened on the Decapolis side of the lake. Those who were present from the area urged Jesus to leave there, and when the man Jesus healed wanted to go with Jesus, Jesus instead commissioned him to tell others what Jesus had done for him. Mark’s gospel tells us in chapter 5, verse 20 that “the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him”.

The last time we read about Jesus visiting the region of the Decapolis is for this single miracle. Word had spread about Jesus’ miracle working abilities, and those living in the Decapolis wanted to see a miracle. The healed demoniac had spread the news about Jesus throughout the region, and it is likely that many of those present bringing this deaf, mute man wanted to see a miracle because of what they heard from the former demoniac.

However, Jesus knew that this crowd wasn’t keen on praising God. They wanted simply to praise Jesus, give Him glory instead of God, and have bragging rights to their friends that they had seen a Jesus-miracle. Jesus pushes back against the selfish current of this miracle while also desiring to help this man. Because of this, we read that Jesus takes the man aside and away from the crowd before healing him.

After healing the man, Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what happened, but the more He wanted people to stay silent, the more people would talk about it. In a way, I find this funny, because this brings out an interesting aspect of human nature – specifically the part of our nature called rebellion. What better way to rebel against Jesus’ wishes than to tell others about what Jesus had done for them when Jesus wanted them to stay silent.

Was this some elaborate scheme Jesus used to get people talking? Probably not, but it’s hard to say.

If Jesus wanted people to talk about what He was doing, He could have simply said so, but if He did this too often, it might appear like He wanted the people to praise Him rather than pointing the praise to God. However, there were times when Jesus did ask people to share what God had done for them, like what Jesus had told the demoniac to do.

However, it is more likely that Jesus simply didn’t want to draw the attention of crowds because He wanted to be free to travel to see those who God wanted to help. When the crowds were present, it made it difficult for those who really needed help to come to Jesus, and it made it more difficult for Jesus to travel to the places where He could help others. Jesus also knew that His time was limited, and that teaching His disciples was also important.

But those in the crowd who rebelled to share what Jesus was doing in their midst share another key idea regarding our human nature. This other idea is that we are wired to share what we find amazing or noteworthy. Every miracle Jesus did was significant, special, and it was not something that had happened before, and because of this, sharing what Jesus was doing was the most natural thing for people to do.

However, what about your life and mine? Is it easy to share what Jesus has done for you today? Is it easier to stay quiet about Jesus when you are not with friends?

While I don’t know what Jesus has done for you, I know that depending on the social circles you are in, some of them welcome stories about what Jesus has done for you while others do not. Many of us on this podcast right now likely have family or friends who they can share with and family or friends that dislike hearing about Jesus.

I don’t know if God has called you to tell everyone your story or if He has called you to be a silent witness? Whichever way God has called you is between Him and you. However, if you are a silent witness today, know that tomorrow God may call you to speak up. Silent witnesses aren’t silent forever, and the more God has done for you the more He will call you to speak up.

Don’t be afraid of sharing the good news. Be ready and willing to share it with everyone who will listen, because when this life is over, and when history is finished, the only news that will matter is news that centers on Jesus and what He has done for all of His people!

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

Always seek God first and be ready to share your faith with anyone and everyone God opens the door for you to share with. Let God lead and guide you to share with others and let God and Jesus be the center of your story.

Also, always keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to Jesus each and every day. A strong relationship with God is built on regular prayer and study, and with this foundation, you will have a strong, solid faith that can weather the storms of this life.

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 fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 31: In the last miracle the gospels record that took place in the Decapolis region, we discover something significant through what Jesus asks the crowd to not do. Discover if this is something relevant for our lives today or if it was only something for that certain place and time.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.