Thanking the Source: Luke 5:17-26

Focus Passage: Luke 5:17-26 (CEV)

17 One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, 18 and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.

20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking that? 23 Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? 24 But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.”

25 At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. 26 Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, “We have seen a great miracle today!”

Read Luke 5:17-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Perhaps it is just a matter of semantics, or simply looking too closely at the details of this passage, but in this passage is a subtle shift of wording that I find very interesting. As our passage opens, Jesus is teaching in a crowded home, and it is much too crowded to bring someone in to be healed by Him on a stretcher or mat. But this does not discourage this crippled man’s friends because they realize that the roof is not as crowded, and that there is ample “airspace” to lower their friend right in front of the One they know can heal him.

And this is what they do. What I find interesting is not found in the persistence of this man’s friends, but in Jesus’ words surrounding this healing and in the crowd’s response.

We are unsure what Jesus was teaching on immediately before being interrupted by the man and his friends, but Jesus’ first words don’t relate to healing but to forgiveness of sins. This causes a significant stir amongst the leaders present, because forgiveness of sins is an ability reserved only for God, and Jesus seems to be claiming He is capable of it as well.

The phrase Jesus says that stands in contrast to what the crowd reacted to is this: “Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” (v. 23-24a)

This stands in contrast to what happens after the man is healed: “He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. Everyone was amazed and praised God.” (v. 25b-26a)

It seems as though Jesus was pushing the religious leaders about who He was, and subtly drawing the focus to His role and mission on earth. However, the crowd, and even the man who was healed, seemed to be more focused on praising the God behind the miracle instead of getting caught up in the tension present over Jesus’ forgiveness comments.

While the Pharisees and experts debated over Jesus, the crowd was praising God – and this is exactly what Jesus planned to happen. Jesus stumps the Pharisees while inspiring praise to God.

In my own life, when I see blessings come my way, it is less about thanking the specific source of the blessing and more about praising the God who is the ultimate source of this blessing. That is one lesson I see Jesus teaching us here.

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When Jesus Won the Debate: John 8:31-59

Focus Passage: John 8:31-59 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Read John 8:31-59 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While visiting Jerusalem part way through Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders in the temple get into a debate with Jesus. John’s gospel records this debate as well as what we can learn about the opposition Jesus faced.

As the leaders were getting more and more agitated at Jesus’ claims, we come to an interesting part of the conversation. After calling these Jews out for being children of the devil, Jesus says, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (v. 45-47)

It is important for us to pay attention to Jesus’ challenge here. If these leaders – or anyone – could prove that Jesus had sinned against God’s law, then they would have the right to judge Him. However, without proof, then they have no case. If there is no case that can be made against Jesus, then what He is telling them must be classified as true.

However, these people don’t hear/understand Jesus, and Jesus comes out and cleanly says this by telling them that they don’t belong to God.

The leaders respond by trying to change the subject: “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (v. 48)

Before this point, the idea that Jesus was a Samaritan was not even in the discussion, and this attempted maneuver is a sign that these leaders have lost ground in their debate. They are now trying to grab whatever insults they can in order to save their reputation and worldview that said Jesus could not be from God.

Seeing what is happening, Jesus simply answers the question that they appear to have asked each other: “I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.” (v. 49)

In every conversation Jesus had, in every healing Jesus did, and in every word Jesus taught, He gave honor to God the Father. Jesus received dishonor from those living in that century and that culture, and He receives dishonor from culture today.

As Jesus’ followers, we should not be surprised when the world discriminates against followers of Jesus. In some ways, we should expect to find plenty of examples of it. However, we should also remember that when the world throws everything at us to try and derail our focus from Jesus, we can know that when time and history have ended, those of us who have stood with Jesus will be standing with Him in a newly recreated earth.

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Blessed Through Obedience: John 13:1-17

Focus Passage: John 13:1-17 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Read John 13:1-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

At the conclusion of His teaching the disciples about washing each other’s feet, Jesus shares a powerful statement that applies to not only what they just experienced and heard, but this statement also applies to basically everything else Jesus taught them over the previous 3+ years of ministry. John ends this portion of his gospel by telling us Jesus concluded by saying, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (v. 17)

The context of this verse is Jesus sharing about humbly following His example and washing the feet of other believers. In our discussion on this verse and promise, we must keep this context in our minds. At the most basic level, Jesus promises us that we will be blessed if we follow His example in our own lives.

Another teaching that is shared in this context is the one Jesus shares in the verse right before this one. In verse 16, Jesus tells His followers, “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” When we move through life with the idea in our minds that we are humbly following Jesus who is greater than we are, it frees us up when we face rejection or hostility because we can lean on the truth that we have something better waiting in our future.

But also, when we look at some other details and truth shared in this event, we can see even more context for this promise Jesus shares. Further down in the chapter, Jesus tells His followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

We can take Jesus’ promise about blessing us for obeying His words and apply it to this new command as well. In some ways, this promise in verse 17 becomes a key for gaining blessing from every teaching Jesus shared.

However, with this promise, we must not begin thinking that obedience will always immediately translate into the blessing that we desire. God has many ways of blessing us and it would be foolish of us to limit what we are willing to call blessings. Also, we should not obey simply to get a blessing. While we can start here, we must not stay here because this path leads to legalism.

Instead, the frame we must use when looking at this promise is obeying Jesus because we are amazed at what He has done for us. Our obedience is a “Thank You” for having already blessed us. Any future blessing God wants to bring into our lives as a result of our obedience is simply extra toppings on the big way He has already blessed everyone who follows Jesus and believes in Him: The biggest blessing is the assurance and gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. There is nothing God can bless us with that surpasses this, and nothing we can truly give Jesus that equals what He has already given to us.

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When Jesus Caused Blindness: Luke 24:13-34

Focus Passage: Luke 24:13-34 (NASB)

The passage we will be looking at in this post is one that fascinates me. While walking along the road to Emmaus, two disciples, and these would be people who had followed Jesus for a year or more, walk with Jesus along the road and completely miss realizing who He was: “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” (v. 15-16)

These disciples longed to be with Jesus again, and they completely miss the fact that they were with Jesus again!

This tells me something interesting about ourselves as humans: We can blind ourselves to what is happening around us if we don’t believe the truth to be possible. These disciples did not believe that Jesus had rose from the grave, so recognizing Him as a traveler on the road would be impossible. It is only after they begin to understand what this “Traveler” was explaining from the scriptures that these disciples began to see how what happened to Jesus was what the Old Testament described.

However, this passage says that “their eyes were prevented”, which is another way of saying that God/Jesus hid Himself from them for the time it would take to explain the truth. Perhaps, if Jesus had simply revealed who He was, the disciples would have been too distracted by Jesus’ presence that they would have missed understanding what Jesus wanted to teach them from the Old Testament. This also means that sometimes God will hide Himself from us when He wants to teach us something.

Sometimes it feels as though the times when God is distant is when we want Him the most, and perhaps it is not that God is really distant, but that we are blind to His presence, and maybe it is because He wants to teach us something.

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