Balancing Backstage Living with Onstage Living: Luke 5:12-16

Focus Passage: Luke 5:12-16 (NCV)

12 When Jesus was in one of the towns, there was a man covered with a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he bowed before him and begged him, “Lord, you can heal me if you will.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man and said, “I will. Be healed!” Immediately the disease disappeared. 14 Then Jesus said, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest and offer a gift for your healing, as Moses commanded. This will show the people what I have done.”

15 But the news about Jesus spread even more. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their sicknesses, 16 but Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray.

Read Luke 5:12-16 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Early on in Luke’s gospel, following Jesus healing a man with a skin disease, we learn a secret Jesus used to strengthen His private life. In this secret, we discover a principle Jesus used to guide the “hidden” area of His life, and it is one that we can use in our own lives as well.

After healing a man who had been suffering from a skin disease, Luke tells us that “the news about Jesus spread even more. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their sicknesses, but Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray.” (v. 15-16)

Jesus had requested that the healing remain more subtle and hidden, but that seemed to accelerate the news spreading. However, Luke tells us that as the crowds got bigger, Jesus became more intentional about slipping away to places where He could be alone to pray.

Prayer away from the crowds was Jesus’ secret to remaining connected with God. While Jesus walked with the Holy Spirit throughout His ministry and while Jesus let God lead and direct His life, He knew that a living only in the spotlight is not healthy. He also knew that it was just as unwise to live entirely out of the spotlight as well.

Luke’s gospel helps us catch a glimpse of how Jesus balanced living on the stage of life with how He balanced life backstage. In many ways, Jesus’ “backstage” prayers strengthened His connection with the Father so that His “onstage” life could better glorify the Father.

Jesus’ secret for His personal life was prayer, and through prayer, Jesus remained connected with heaven. Prayer helps us be connected to God as well, and if we neglect prayer when we are alone, our lives will soon drift away from God – both backstage and onstage. Prayer helps keep our connection with God alive, strong, and healthy.

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Focus on the Father: John 15:18-16:4

Focus Passage: John 15:18-16:4 (NASB)

Whenever I read this passage, I am struck by the words that Jesus says right at the beginning, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (v. 18)

Jesus then goes on to share the truth that servants are not greater than their masters, and that the person who hates Jesus also hates the Father as well.

In the New Testament time period, religious people were the ones that seemed the most opposed to Jesus. The world outside Judea largely ignored what was going on in that region. With that said, was Jesus just talking about church people hating His true followers or is there more to this teaching?

As is often the case, I believe there is more to this teaching – a subtle hidden layer beneath the surface. We can find a clue to one of these subtle truths in John 15:21 and it is restated a second time in a different way in John 16:3.  This subtle truth is that the world does not know the Father.

We could expand this truth to say that the world might include everyone – both sacred “Christians” as well as secular atheists – who do not know the Father. Those who do not know the Father will never understand who Jesus was and why He came. These people will minimize Jesus’ role and His significance to being someone who had some good things to say but who probably should have kept better company since one of those in His inner circle of twelve betrayed Him.

This leads me into a big theme/idea that I see in this passage: I should be more focused on growing closer to Jesus and the Father than on caring what others think about me. My focus should not be on getting others to like me, but on modeling the Father’s love for humanity as demonstrated in Jesus’ life and ministry.

I will never be greater than Jesus, but I can be an example of who He is to today’s world – specifically to the little corner of the world that I live in!

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The Intermission: John 6:22-59

Focus Passage: John 6:22-59 (NCV)

22 The next day the people who had stayed on the other side of the lake knew that Jesus had not gone in the boat with his followers but that they had left without him. And they knew that only one boat had been there. 23 But then some boats came from Tiberias and landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the people saw that Jesus and his followers were not there now, they got into boats and went to Capernaum to find Jesus.

25 When the people found Jesus on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Teacher, when did you come here?”

26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you aren’t looking for me because you saw me do miracles. You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied. 27 Don’t work for the food that spoils. Work for the food that stays good always and gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give you this food, because on him God the Father has put his power.”

28 The people asked Jesus, “What are the things God wants us to do?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent.”

30 So the people asked, “What miracle will you do? If we see a miracle, we will believe you. What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert. This is written in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; it is my Father who is giving you the true bread from heaven. 33 God’s bread is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 The people said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you before, you have seen me and still don’t believe. 37 The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them. 38 I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do. 39 Here is what the One who sent me wants me to do: I must not lose even one whom God gave me, but I must raise them all on the last day. 40 Those who see the Son and believe in him have eternal life, and I will raise them on the last day. This is what my Father wants.”

41 Some people began to complain about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven.” 42 They said, “This is Jesus, the son of Joseph. We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 But Jesus answered, “Stop complaining to each other. 44 The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me, and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread that gives life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but still they died. 50 Here is the bread that comes down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give up so that the world may have life.”

52 Then the evil people began to argue among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood. Otherwise, you won’t have real life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. 55 My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. 57 The living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father. So whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 I am not like the bread your ancestors ate. They ate that bread and still died. I am the bread that came down from heaven, and whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said all these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Read John 6:22-59 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the more unique conversations that Jesus has with a group of people in Capernaum, He shares what God commissioned Him to do. In some ways, we could describe this as God the Father’s job description for Jesus – and we could measure the effectiveness of Jesus’ ministry through His words during this conversation.

The big statement Jesus shared is this: “The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them. I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do. Here is what the One who sent me wants me to do: I must not lose even one whom God gave me, but I must raise them all on the last day. Those who see the Son and believe in him have eternal life, and I will raise them on the last day. This is what my Father wants.” (v. 37- 40)

A few verses later, Jesus summarizes this idea again by saying, “The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me, and I will raise that person up on the last day.” (v. 44)

Jesus’ job description is simple: (1) Don’t lose any of the people who God has given Him, and (2) raise these people on the last day.

The significance of this statement is amazing and challenging to what many of us have as a preconceived notion regarding how God interacts with His people following Jesus’ resurrection. The first part of this description is easy for us to grasp, because for those of us who believe Jesus is God, there is absolutely nothing that anyone (Satan included) could do to steal from Jesus.

But with that said, Satan has done a masterful job of blurring the significance of this second part of Jesus’ job description. Jesus has been called to resurrect God’s followers on the last day. The only way for this to happen is through the sacrifice He gave on the cross. It is through this sacrifice that we are able to accept the gift of eternal life.

However, most people today among Christianity believe that death is not in their future. This idea runs counter to what Jesus shares here because if they never face death, how could Jesus “raise them up” on the last day?

As Christians, we have the assurance that we will be saved and brought to heaven, and we know through Jesus’ sacrifice that death is not the end of our story, but for all but a few of God’s followers who live during the final days of earth’s sinful history, death counts as an intermission to our lives, stories, and relationships with God.

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Calling the Sick: Mark 2:13-17

Focus Passage: Mark 2:13-17 (NCV)

13 Jesus went to the lake again. The whole crowd followed him there, and he taught them. 14 While he was walking along, he saw a man named Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me,” and he stood up and followed Jesus.

15 Later, as Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating there with Jesus and his followers. Many people like this followed Jesus. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the tax collectors and “sinners,” they asked his followers, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 Jesus heard this and said to them, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.”

Read Mark 2:13-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the meals Jesus ate with people that society had rejected, we find a fascinating and profound statement. After Jesus has invited Levi (Matthew) to be one of His disciples, Levi invites the group over to his home for supper.

It is during this meal that some Pharisees notice what is happening and they are quick to challenge the situation. The Pharisees call some of Jesus’ followers over and ask them, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 16b)

In some ways, this was meant to be a trap for the followers, but Jesus was too aware of what was happening to avoid jumping into the challenge. Overhearing what was being asked and implied, Jesus replied to the Pharisees saying, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.” (v. 17)

This statement could easily be seen as an insult to Matthew, all of Matthew’s tax collector friends, and even all Jesus’ current followers. By making the comparison that He does, Jesus is identifying those who He is choosing to associate with as sick and sinners.

Not only that, but in a subtle way, Jesus actually gives the Pharisees a compliment, implying that they are healthy and good. This might be the only “compliment” Jesus ever gave to them, but it wasn’t because they truly were healthy or good. The Pharisees only believed they were healthy and good, and while they tried to put on a good show, hidden sins and hypocrisy were decaying their characters on the inside.

In this statement, Jesus actually makes a key distinction that is worth us paying attention to. Jesus separates the two groups of people present throughout time in His simple analogy, and it is these two groups that will be present at the judgment.

Jesus came to be our Healer, but the only way He can heal us is when we acknowledge our need. People who claim to be healthy don’t go to the doctor because they don’t feel they have a need. In the same way, someone who is living a “good” life won’t believe they need any help being better.

But the reverse case is true as well. People who realize they are sick will go to a doctor they believe can heal them, and those who are sinners realize that they don’t measure up to God’s standards. These people then are open to receiving outside help. Jesus came to invite those who are open to receiving outside help and it is this simple distinction that separates people throughout history.

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