Giving Ourselves to God: Mark 8:1-9


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Continuing our journey through the gospel of Mark, we come to a miracle where it appears Jesus helps those with Him simply because He can and because He knows that there are people who need His help even if they haven’t asked. Jesus also appears to help because He feels somewhat responsible for the less than ideal situation those who are with them are in.

Let’s read this event from Mark’s gospel, and discover what we can learn about Jesus and God through this situation. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will read it from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. 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. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

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

“Seven loaves,” they replied.

So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 

In this short miracle, I am amazed that this crowd of over 4,000 people stayed with Jesus in the wilderness for 3 days, and everyone in this group stayed a significant amount of time past the food running out. Jesus states at the opening of our passage that He was concerned that some of those present might faint from hunger on their trip home because they had not eaten that recently. Either Jesus knew of some elderly people in the crowd, or most of those present had not planned for an extended trip, while those that did plan were generous and shared.

From the way Mark describes this miracle, I can see a big truth in this event which tells us that God will help us when we have aligned ourselves with Him. While this doesn’t mean that God will give us fame, fortune, or a long healthy life when we are living within His plan, I believe that when we are living fully within God’s will, God will not allow us to die before we have accomplished what He has called us to do in this world.

While death seems to strike indiscriminately, and while good people seem to die early while evil people seem to live a long time, no one on this planet is outside of God’s frame of view. God values every individual on this planet, and while tragedy happens, I trust that God is keeping those He needs alive as alive, and those who have fulfilled what God has called them to accomplish on this planet are given the opportunity to rest.

However, in this miracle in the wilderness, I am drawn to another detail. This detail is where the source of the bread for the miracle came from. While the more famous miracle where Jesus fed 5,000 has the small lunch being donated by someone outside the group of disciples, every indication in this event suggests that the disciples found these last loaves of bread to give to Jesus from their own reserve supply of food. This tells me that God will sometimes call me to give something of value that is part of what I own in order for Him to work a miracle in the world around me. While every situation is truly different, I should be willing to let God use my skills, my talents, and especially the things He has trusted me with for His glory and His will.

Also, while reading this miracle, it is interesting to see what characteristic is not present in the disciples’ response. In the earlier feeding the crowd of over 5,000 miracle, at least one of the gospels record a statement of disbelief at the overwhelming need when compared with the small lunch that was donated by the small child. In contrast, we don’t see any doubt or disbelief in the disciples response following Jesus asking for the small amount of bread. The disciples understood Jesus could multiply this food and they know that is what He intended to do.

The last big idea I see in this miracle event is focused on who Jesus decided to help. While this miracle is prompted by Jesus knowing that some people might faint before arriving somewhere where they could get food to eat, Jesus doesn’t help only those who needed it the most. This miracle was for everyone present, regardless of their level of hunger, and everyone benefitted. This tells me that if we want to see miracles in our lives, we must be spending time with Jesus.

While I’m sure it is possible to see a miracle without Jesus present in our lives, without Jesus, the tendency for people would be to discount the miracle, ignore it, or give it some scientific explanation. However, just because something has an explanation for how it happened does not invalidate a miracle taking place.

Without Jesus in our lives, the world is full of coincidences and things that we might consider lucky. However, with Jesus in our lives, we see divine providence everywhere. With Jesus, there are no coincidences. Instead, we choose to see God’s hand at work in the world today. While things are getting more polarized, God has not given up on this world or on His people. Instead, Jesus came to redeem this world, and while there are people left in this world who God knows He can redeem, He gives the world more time.

Those who were with Jesus, and who stayed with Jesus even after their food ran out experienced a miracle. Even when our lives get tough or challenging, we are called to stay with Jesus, because when we are allied and aligned to Jesus in this life, we can be certain we will share in Jesus’ future life to come.

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

As I always challenge you to do, seek God first in your life and choose to ally and align your life to Jesus and God’s will. Choose to live your life for God and trust that even if things don’t always make sense, God has a plan, and His plan is for you and as many people as possible to be saved from sin. When we don’t have answers, this isn’t an excuse to doubt. When we don’t have answers, this is an opportunity to trust.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself, and while studying, pay attention to the situations in the Bible where there weren’t clear answers given to prayers and determine if God had a plan. While doubt is easy to do, doubt sabotages our trust and our faith. When given the opportunity to doubt, choose faith instead, regardless of what others try to tell you.

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 in Mark – Episode 20: In a less famous miracle, discover some big truths in Jesus feeding a smaller crowd of over 4,000 people, and how this miracle challenges us living today.

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Flashback Episode — Interrupted By Faith: Mark 5:24-34


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As we continue forward through the gospels looking at the miracles Jesus did to help people, we come to a set of miracles that are both completely unrelated, but also connected. During this episode and the next one, we will look at these two miracles. About the only reason these two miracles are connected is because of their proximity to one another. Other than this, these miracles are about as opposite of each other as we could find. About the only thing that connects these two miracles is the simple detail that Jesus does one miracle while on the way to do the other.

For this reason, I debated which miracle to focus on first. While the event and verses surrounding the miracle that happened second begin first, I ultimately decided to focus on the miracle that happened first. The first miracle to happen would otherwise be unknown if it weren’t for Jesus treating this miracle as a necessary interruption while on His way to help with the other situation in need.

Let’s read what happened. Our passage is found in the gospel of Mark, chapter 5, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Jumping into this event in the second part of verse 24, Mark tells us that:

24b A large crowd followed Jesus and pushed very close around him. 25 Among them was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered very much from many doctors and had spent all the money she had, but instead of improving, she was getting worse. 27 When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his coat. 28 She thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Instantly her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed from her disease.

30 At once Jesus felt power go out from him. So he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His followers said, “Look at how many people are pushing against you! And you ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus continued looking around to see who had touched him. 33 The woman, knowing that she was healed, came and fell at Jesus’ feet. Shaking with fear, she told him the whole truth. 34 Jesus said to her, “Dear woman, you are made well because you believed. Go in peace; be healed of your disease.”

In this miracle, we discover something amazing as we see what Jesus does here. While almost everyone present in this event is clueless to the thought that a miracle has actually occurred, and while this woman would rather remain anonymous, Jesus insists on shining the spotlight on this situation. If Jesus had ignored the sense that power had gone from Him, or if He had simply honored the woman’s desire to remain secret, we would never have this amazing example of faith.

When reading this passage, we discover that Jesus knew very well what was happening around Him, and we discover through the story of this woman that she had tried everything else she could think of before placing her hope, faith, and belief in Jesus. When the medicine of that era had failed her, this woman knew that Jesus could help.

In an interesting way, this woman’s desire to remain anonymous actually puts more emphasis on this miracle than if she had looked for a more normal opportunity to ask for healing. If this woman had come for help along with a crowd of others during one of the events when Jesus was teaching, preaching, and healing, we might also never know her story. If this woman had looked for a miracle in any other way, we might never know she was healed.

Through this woman’s healing, we discover that faith in Jesus doesn’t need to be extraordinary for it to result in a miracle. Instead, this woman’s faith in Jesus could be described as a persistent, determined faith. Granted, maybe in today’s culture and world, a persistent, determined faith actually is extraordinary when we look out at the culture of the Christian church. Unfortunately, we don’t see extraordinary levels of faith from people sitting in pews, or even from most of those standing up front, like we might have in previous years. When the church faced struggles and trials, faith was clearly present, but when the church gains status and comfort, the faith of Christian believers suffers.

This woman’s faith was so persistent and determined that she pushed through the crowd of people who were pushing to be near Jesus while Jesus was hurrying as best He could to help someone else who needed help. She had determined that all she needed to do to know whether Jesus could help her is for her to simply touch the edge of His robe. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the crowds likely were well aware that any illness, defect, deformity, or even death could not diminish Jesus’ power from God for healing and helping others. The woman, knowing all of this, knew Jesus was well able to heal people of significantly worse diseases than she faced, and because of this, she knew that simply touching Jesus in the least significant way would be just enough to significantly improve her situation.

It is this faith that Jesus wanted to showcase, and the only way He can do this is if He stops everything and everyone to bring this miracle into the open. While the clock is ticking and the situation Jesus was on His way to help was growing more bleak by the minute, Jesus is more interested in focusing on the example that this woman can give all of us regarding faith in Jesus.

When seeing how persistent Jesus was on bringing this woman’s story to the spotlight, we discover that Jesus was just as persistent as this woman was at pushing her way through the crowd. Jesus focused on bringing this woman’s story to the spotlight because in this story, we discover a faith that God wants us to model in our own lives. While it is easy for us to live as lukewarm Christians with little to no faith in today’s world, God warns us that living without faith is significantly worse than we might realize.

Like the first disciples and the early church learned through this miracle, God is looking for a people who are determined, persistent, and won’t back down when their faith is challenged. God is looking for His people, living today, to be persistent, passionate, and determined to live our lives with a faith that will not be shaken by anything that comes our way. We are called to live with a faith that leads us into eternity.

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

Always seek God first and intentionally place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him. Choose to follow and obey God regardless of what the world, or even tradition, teaches. Choose to place your faith in Jesus and in what the Bible has revealed to us from His word.

To learn and know what this is, always pray and study the Bible for yourself and filter everything you learn through the truth the Bible teaches. While a speaker, pastor, author, blogger, or podcaster can give you ideas you can think about, only trust it if it aligns with the truth the Bible teaches. God plans to keep us safe through eternity, and this means that He is more than capable of keeping His truth alive in the Bible through a few thousand years.

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!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 20: While going to help someone, Jesus is interrupted by the sense that power had gone out from Him. If you do not know what happened, or even if you do, discover how this almost unknown event shapes how God wants His people to live their lives of faith in Him.

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Looking for Faith: Mark 7:31-37


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As we continue our journey through Mark’s gospel, we come to a miracle that only Mark includes in his gospel. For one reason or another, Matthew, Luke, and John don’t include this miracle, but when we look a little closer at what happened, we discover some fascinating details within this event.

With that said, let’s dive into the passage and discover what we can learn. Our event and passage for this episode is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will be reading from the New International Version. 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. 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.”

Within this miracle and event, I find it fascinating that Jesus takes this man aside, and away from the crowd. On the surface, this detail and decision doesn’t seem that practical or very relevant. After all, who cared if Jesus healed the man with a crowd around or not. What mattered more than anything else is that Jesus could and did heal people like this man.

However, if we write Jesus’ actions off as being unnecessary, especially since the crowd does learn of this healing at the end of the passage, then we will likely miss some key details that lead us to the most likely reason in my mind for Jesus to take this man away from the crowd.

Actually, there are two reasons that I can think of for pulling the man away from the crowd.

The first reason is that nothing in this passage suggests that this man came on his own. Instead, the opposite is described. The passage opens very clearly saying that a group of people brought this man to Jesus. While this man likely had trouble communicating from his set of disabilities, the impression I see when reading this is that this group of people wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle even more than this man wanted to be healed.

Don’t misunderstand this idea. I believe this man did want to be healed, and he likely wanted to be healed really badly, but everything in how Mark describes this event when setting the stage for it focuses us on the detail that other people initiated this event rather than the disabled man himself. Because of this, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the group of people who brought this man to Jesus were more interested in seeing a miracle than on seeing this particular individual be healed.

When this group found Jesus, Jesus ultimately has a dilemma. Jesus sees the disabled man and He wants to help this man be restored. However, Jesus also knows that a simple healing miracle will satisfy selfish-desires on the part of the crowd, and this miracle could be held up as an example of Jesus seeking His own glory for this healing.

The path Jesus takes is a brilliant one. Instead of healing this man directly, with the crowd present, which would have been the simplest and easiest option, Jesus decides to help this man, but do it away from those who are selfishly wanting to see a miracle. This decision results in the man being healed and shown God’s love while those who brought the man to Jesus only get the satisfaction of knowing they helped the man receive Jesus’ help.

I believe this group of people wanted to glorify Jesus apart from glorifying God, and Jesus wanted to avoid this as much as He could. This may be one reason He repeatedly asked certain people to stay quiet after healing them. If Jesus knew that people would spread the word about what He had done, He didn’t want this to happen if God wasn’t going to receive the glory.

Instead, Jesus wanted God to receive the glory for this miracle, and even while He tried to help those present see and understand this was God working through Him, those in the crowd don’t seem to give God the credit that God is due for this miracle. Those in the group who brought this man to Jesus appear to be more focused on what Jesus, as a human individual, was accomplishing.

The other big reason I see in this passage for Jesus to pull the man aside and away from the crowd is to highlight the presence or lack of presence with regards to faith. When we look at this miracle, can we see faith displayed?

On the surface, I don’t see any faith clearly being displayed. However, just below the surface, there are plenty of examples of faith. First, we have the group of people bringing the man to Jesus. While they don’t appear to be interested in giving God the glory for this miracle, they easily have faith that Jesus can heal this person, otherwise they wouldn’t have brought this man to Jesus. Even with selfish-motives, those who brought this man to Jesus display faith that Jesus could heal this man’s deafness and muteness.

Another place faith is subtly displayed in this passage is with this man who was healed. While this passage doesn’t draw our attention onto his faith, there would have needed to be enough faith in this man’s life to at the very least not say no to the group’s offer to take him to Jesus. The implication in this passage is that this man had a tiny bit of faith, but not enough that prompted him to seek out Jesus earlier or on his own.

A third place faith is seen in this passage is with Jesus. Jesus did not hesitate when stepping in to heal this man. Jesus did not timidly comment to try to heal this man while also giving no guarantee that He would be successful. Instead, Jesus pulls the man aside with full confidence that with God’s help, this man would be made well – which tells us that Jesus had faith too.

This passage demonstrates faith on several levels. While the passage doesn’t say whether or not Jesus left both the crowd and His disciples to be alone with this man, or whether Jesus and His disciples together separated this man from those who brought him, we can assume that whichever way this was, the faith that was present in this event was not exclusive to the one being healed.

Part of me pictures Jesus and the man stepping away from the crowd and around the corner where they could be alone. Jesus perhaps shared the details of this event with one or two of His disciples following this event.

If this is what happened, it would mean that Jesus used His own faith to demonstrate God’s love for this man, and when we lean on Jesus’ faith, we see not just one disability being healed at once, but two. In one event, the man could both hear again and talk again easily.

In our own lives, when we lean on Jesus’ faith, we discover that we will have more than enough faith to experience and see miracles in our own lives, and we will also fully know that through Jesus, His faith, and His sacrifice on the cross, we have been saved for eternity! Our faith is limited; Jesus’ faith is limitless!

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

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and place Him first in your life. Also, be sure to always give God the glory and the credit He is due. In case you are uncertain, we give God the credit when we do well, and we take the blame onto ourselves when things go poorly. This is how we are called to be humble, and it helps remind us that we need God’s help and Jesus’ life to replace our own.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each day. God wants a personal relationship with you, and the only way your relationship with Him can be personal is if you are personally spending time with Him. Don’t fall into the temptation of letting your spirituality be dependent on anyone else. God loves you and I so much that Jesus came to repair what sin broke, and this repair allows us to approach God with our requests, our thanks, and our praises. God loves us so much that nothing would stop Him from repairing the gap that sin caused.

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

Year in Mark – Episode 19: When a disabled man is brought to Jesus, discover why Jesus might have taken the man away from the crowd to heal him, and why this is important for us living over 2,000 years later.

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Flashback Episode — Facing Disappointment with Courage: Luke 8:26-39


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In our last episode, we ran out of time before covering all I wanted to cover, so this episode will pick back up where the last one left off. We were looking at the miracle where Jesus heals the man who had a “legion” of demons in him, and who was living outside of society on the far side of a lake.

Let’s read the whole event and miracle first to give us context, then focus in on what we didn’t have time for in our previous episode. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 26, Luke tells us that:

26 [Jesus and His disciples] sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

In our previous episode, we focused on how Jesus made this trip for one particular person. He arrived on shore in a place where only one person lived, and here at the end of the passage, the people from that region ask Jesus to leave, so Jesus leaves. On the surface, this trip might look like a failure, since only one person was healed – and Jesus doesn’t even let that person join the ranks of followers before being asked to leave. This was at least partially because Jesus allowed the demons to kill the pigs. However, Jesus simply allowed the demons to enter the pigs, Jesus didn’t tell the demons to run the pigs off the cliff.

We then might ask the question, why let the demons enter and kill the pigs. Jesus could have cast them out without letting them possess anything else. While I don’t know all of God’s reasons, one likely reason in my mind was to alert those in town to Jesus’ presence. A miracle like this would definitely turn heads, and it would cause those present to discover the crazy guy they feared was now sane and healed – and that Jesus was the source of that healing. A miracle like this could have prompted those in the area to have faith in Jesus’ God-given miraculous ability and bring all the sick and hurting people to get help. Instead, those who owned the pigs only saw Jesus as someone who was to be feared more than the formerly-demon-possessed man and they ask Jesus to leave.

This event appears to be a failure on many levels. Jesus was only able to heal one person before being asked to leave. Those in the region lost a herd of pigs. Those in the region also missed out on the opportunity of receiving more of God’s help through Jesus. And the man Jesus healed wasn’t allowed to follow Jesus.

However, while we might consider this entire event a failure, Jesus had something else in mind, and this other thing was not what those who were fearful expected. Jesus had just healed and commissioned one of His greatest evangelists. While Luke concludes this passage by saying that “the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him,” Mark’s gospel shares a little more detail.

In Mark, chapter 5, verse 20, Mark concludes this miracle and event by saying, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” The name Decapolis means the Ten Cities, so while those in Gerasenes did not accept Jesus because of this miracle, the man was from a very populated area. In one of the next places the gospel writers mentions the Decapolis, we discover a unique miracle that takes place – which is the focus of one of our future episodes.

The miracle of the healed demoniac is an amazing miracle. While those who owned the pigs felt that their loss was greater than the healing of an outcast, in the big picture, the healing of this man represented so much more in the eyes of God.

In this miracle, and in all the disappointment that happened, we discover that in our own lives, things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes, we don’t get what we want or ask for. However, just because we experience failure, disappointment, or a “no” answer to prayer doesn’t mean that God dislikes us. All it means is that God’s plan is bigger than we realize, and that He is working in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine.

While the man experiences disappointment because Jesus didn’t let him join the group of disciples, we discover that this man became a much better evangelist sharing what Jesus had already done for him. In our own lives, when we receive disappointment, we can trust that God has something bigger in mind, and that when we look back on our lives, while some things might not make sense, and while we will have experienced plenty of disappointments, we will likely agree that God’s plan was better than ours.

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

Always seek God first and trust Him with the path He wants you to walk through life. If we experience disappointment because God has closed a door, trust that the time isn’t right, that there is a better door further down the path, or that we have something more we need to do, learn, or help with where we are at right now. Let’s trust God with our disappointments, and trust that His big picture plans are better than our limited perspective.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow personally towards God. Let God teach you through the Bible and use the Bible as your filter for life. While other people can give you ideas to think about, always filter what you learn through what the Bible teaches to know whether it aligns with God’s truth.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 19: After healing a man who was possessed by a legion of demons, Jesus does not let him join the group of disciples. Instead, Jesus has a different task for this man. Discover how this man pushes past his disappointment and into the plan God had for his restored life.

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