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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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.

Healed to Serve: Luke 4:38-39

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After Jesus finished healing at the synagogue, Luke’s gospel then tells us about someone else who needs healing. We also discover something we don’t often think of when we think of Jesus’ disciples, and we see the best response we can have when God has healed us. And this is all shared in just two short verses.

Let’s read this short, two-verse passage and discover some amazing truths about God’s character, Jesus’ love for us, and our response. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 38, Luke tells us that::

38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

In these two verses, we discover many things. In the first verse, we read that Jesus headed home with Simon after the synagogue service was finished, and when we compare this passage to Matthew and Mark, this Simon is Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus. While Jesus and the disciples are at Simon’s home, we learn that Simon has a mother-in-law who has a fever.

It isn’t common to think of the disciples as being married and/or having families, but it is possible that some of them did. In this case, Simon Peter has a mother-in-law and the only way you have a mother-in-law is if you have a wife. Since this was Simon Peter’s home, it is likely that Simon’s wife was taking care of her mother even though she isn’t mentioned in this event.

When Jesus arrived, He is asked to help, and while help could mean a lot of things in this context, I believe Simon is asking for a miracle. Up to this point, Jesus has turned water into wine, He has cast out a demon, and He has promised a father that his son would be healed. While the gospels were written after the events had happened, it is unclear if word had returned to Jesus and the disciples that the long-distant miraculous healing had worked. All this is to say that Simon’s request for help might refer to a miracle, but it’s possible that he hasn’t seen any healing miracles at this point to base his faith on.

In the context of where this miracle is placed in the gospels, Peter simply places His faith in Jesus, specifically in who Jesus is, and not on a track record of seeing Jesus heal others. Having faith in Jesus because of who Jesus is and not what He can do is the way God wants us to have faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus shouldn’t be self-serving even if we occasionally ask for help in a personal way.

In the second verse of our passage, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and she “got up at once and began to wait on them”. (v. 39)

This event ends with one of the most appropriate responses we can see when God has touched someone’s life. Immediately following being healed, Peter’s mother-in-law gets up and says “thank you” by serving Jesus and the group of disciples. One of the most appropriate ways of saying “thank you” to Jesus and to God for everything He has done for you and I is through serving Him.

While the other primary way we can give God thanks is by praising Him and giving Him the credit for this miracle, those things are immediate responses, and responses of a temporary nature. Serving lasts longer and actions speak louder than words. In the case of us living over 2,000 years later, we serve God through serving others, and when we serve those who cannot repay us with more than a “thank you”, we are serving as God has called us to serve.

It is also interesting that this miracle would have happened on a Sabbath afternoon. That morning, Jesus and the early disciples were worshiping at the synagogue, and this happened immediately following this. This detail is interesting for two reasons. First, this detail is interesting because this was still the day set apart for rest, and on this day, Jesus should be resting. Healing people didn’t exert the same level of sweat as plowing a field or lifting a hammer, but it was one thing Jesus was known for, and while Jesus had been a carpenter before starting His public ministry, healing people became what He was known for leading up to His death.

This first detail teaches us that: Jesus helps others because He can and because they need help. Jesus wasn’t interested in making people wait because He needed rest and Jesus was more than willing to use the time set aside for resting to help those who needed help. We don’t have any indication that Peter’s mother-in-law would have died if Jesus had waited, but waiting to heal someone isn’t the impression Jesus wants us to have about God’s love for us. God wants us to know that He is ready and willing to help us when we need help, and He never waits when there isn’t a good reason.

The second detail is that when Peter’s mother-in-law is healed, she gets up and serves Jesus and the disciples. This serving is also not resting, but we don’t see any hint of judgment or correction given from Jesus regarding this response. Perhaps this service didn’t draw negative light because it was a normal level of service for someone who was a host or hostess, and perhaps because there were no Pharisees around to look down on this healing miracle and the response it prompted.

In these two short verses, we discover how God is more than willing to help us when we need help, and that serving God is an appropriate way to say “thank you” for what He has done for us. And all of this help, service, and response is more than acceptable on the day God set aside for worship and rest.

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

Always continue to seek God first and place Him first in your life. Don’t be afraid of asking God for help and don’t be afraid of saying “thank you” to God through serving Him and helping others.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to personally grow closer to God each and every day. While other people can give you things to think about, always filter what you learn through the lens of the Bible – especially for the subject matters the Bible speaks most clearly about.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 7: When Jesus is invited home after worshiping in the synagogue, He learns that someone close to Simon Peter needs help. But it is still the Sabbath, which is the day set apart for resting. What will Jesus do?

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Flashback Episode — Loving Gentiles: Luke 4:16-30

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As Jesus began His public ministry, we discover that one of the places He begins is right in His hometown of Nazareth. While Nazareth was not the first place Jesus had performed a miracle or done something significant, before stepping onto the public scene in a big way, we learn that He went back home to Nazareth, and when the Sabbath arrived, He headed to the synagogue to worship.

This event is significant because it is one of the first places where Jesus clashes with the religious leaders in His ministry. All this happens because of a powerful message Jesus shares about His ministry to His hometown synagogue.

Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 4, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 16, we learn that:

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as he usually did. He stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. Jesus unrolled it and found the right place. There it is written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.
    He has anointed me
    to announce the good news to poor people.
He has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners.
    He has sent me so that the blind will see again.
He wants me to set free those who are treated badly.
19     And he has sent me to announce the year when he will set his people free.”

20 Then Jesus rolled up the scroll. He gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were staring at him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this passage of Scripture is coming true as you listen.”

22 Everyone said good things about him. They were amazed at the gracious words they heard from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

If we were to stop reading this passage right here, we might assume Jesus was welcomed back into His hometown spiritual community with open arms. However, I believe that Jesus could tell that at this point, the “praise” of those in the Nazareth synagogue and the good things they said about Him were shallow compliments. I believe Jesus knew the hearts of those present and that there was an unspoken sense of jealousy for what Jesus had done in a neighboring town.

I also believe Jesus knew that these Jews living in Nazareth, which happened to be one of the most secular towns in the nation of Israel, were among the guiltiest of racial arrogance. This meant that these Jews looked down on the gentiles that lived all around them, and this also meant that they didn’t love their neighbors like God had instructed His people to do through Moses’ writings.

So while Jesus heard their compliments, He knew their hearts, and He knew what message they really needed to hear.

Picking back up in verse 23:

23 Jesus said, “Here is a saying you will certainly apply to me. ‘Doctor, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me this. ‘Do the things here in your hometown that we heard you did in Capernaum.’ ”

24 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” he continued. “A prophet is not accepted in his hometown. 25 I tell you for sure that there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah. And there had been no rain for three and a half years. There wasn’t enough food to eat anywhere in the land. 26 But Elijah was not sent to any of those widows. Instead, he was sent to a widow in Zarephath near Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel who had skin diseases in the days of Elisha the prophet. But not one of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Pausing our reading again, Jesus challenged all those present with very strong words that cut straight to the core of their racial arrogance. First, Jesus tells them clearly that while they may have said nice things about Him, they weren’t the least bit likely to accept Him for the prophet He was – not to mention the Messiah that God sent.

Next, Jesus pulls two of the most widely respected prophets in Israel’s history, and He draws the illustration that these prophets, under God’s direction, helped gentiles while appearing to ignore the Jews.

It is in this message where we find a powerful truth about God and about Jesus: Jesus came to help those people who are most in need who are also seeking and accepting of Him. In Elijah’s case, God directed the prophet’s steps to that secular, gentile town, but the widow placed God first by first helping Elijah and then she welcomed him into her home.

In Elisha’s case, I wonder if any of those living in Israel actually came to Elisha to be healed? If none came because they believed their situation hopeless or a punishment, then God would have been unlikely to have reached down to heal them. However, a gentile was willing to try the God of the Hebrews out and because of this, he was healed – even if he was doubtful at first about the instructions he received.

The undercurrent of this message is clear: God loves gentiles as well as Jews. This truth was challenging to those present in this synagogue because they lived in a religious culture that looked down on those who were not on the inside. The last portion of this passage tells us how they responded. Starting back up in verse 28, we learn that:

28 All the people in the synagogue were very angry when they heard that. 29 They got up and ran Jesus out of town. They took him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They planned to throw him off the cliff. 30 But Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Those present were unwilling to accept Jesus’ message, and they would rather kill Jesus and face the consequences of murder than accept the reality that God loves gentiles too.

This is powerful to think about because this means that any “Christian” who does not love someone from another worldview, another political party, or even another denomination, is not acting as Christ instructed us to.

This also means that regardless of how someone identifies themselves as, as Christ’s ambassadors to the world, we are to love them for who they truly are. Everyone living and breathing today is a descendant of Adam who is a descendant of God, which makes everyone, regardless of what they say or think about themselves, a child of God. Even if we dislike someone else, we are called to love them because Jesus loved them and because Jesus died for them too.

Jesus came to fulfill a bigger mission than the Jews believed God would send His Messiah to do. The Jews believed the Messiah would come to build them up as an independent nation like they were centuries before. Instead, God’s Messiah came to make the way for everyone who accepts Jesus to be adopted into God’s family and God’s kingdom in the new heaven and new earth.

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

Intentionally take time to seek God first in your life and choose to look at those in your life as people who God loves. Regardless of what they do, know that God loves them because of who He is and not because of who we are or who they are. God loves you, me, and them enough to let Jesus come and die for us, and this is because God really wants all of us to be with Him in heaven!

Also, always be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. A pastor or podcaster can definitely give you things to think about, but never let your personal relationship with God slide to the sidelines while feeling spiritual because of a church service or audio recording. God wants a personal relationship with you, and one aspect of this relationship is time with you spent in prayer and in the Bible. If you need help with this, I’m happy to help you get started, or restarted, on your walk with Him.

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 tricked into leaving where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 6: When Jesus returns home to Nazareth, discover how those in the Nazareth synagogue first welcome Jesus, before wanting to throw Him off a cliff. Discover why they did this, and why this is important for us living over 2,000 years later.

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