Helping the Individual: Mark 7:31-37

Focus Passage: Mark 7:31-37 (NIV)

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.”

Read Mark 7:31-37 in context and/or in other translations on!

One of the things in our passage that amazes me is how Jesus responds to crowds who bring people for Him to heal. It seems as though Mark draws our attention to something that Matthew, Luke, and John don’t pay much attention to.

In Mark, we see an interesting setup for this healing. In verse 32, we learn that “Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

Having read the gospels a number of times, groups of people bringing individuals with disabilities to Jesus was nothing new. It was probably what Jesus was most famous for.

But the next thing Jesus does is fascinating. In verse 33 we read that Jesus “took him aside, away from the crowd…” This seems like an odd thing for Jesus to do, except for when we read about how the crowd actually brought the man to Jesus. Verse 32 ends with the phrase: “they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

When someone begs another person to do something, it is because they want something for themselves. It is as though the crowd is saying, “Jesus, we found this person who has some disabilities, and we want to see you perform a miracle, so we brought him to You.” The crowd is not as interested in the wellbeing of this person as much as simply wanting just one more reason to elevate Jesus in their minds.

But Jesus wants to help the person, and fame is not one of His goals, so He takes the man away from the crowd. This way Jesus can help the individual without encouraging the crowd’s behavior and self-centered desire to see a miracle.

We can learn a lesson from what Jesus did: Jesus was not interested in gaining fame or popularity from His actions. Instead, He simply wanted to help where He could.

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A Higher Standard: Matthew 5:21-37

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As Jesus continues His famous Sermon on the Mount that we find in Matthew’s gospel, He comes to one of the most challenging parts of His message. In our passage for this episode, Jesus elevates what we might believe the standard of the law is to be significantly higher.

In essence, Jesus takes God’s law and Moses’ law and reframes these two laws to be a much higher standard than what we might believe, and if someone believes they have fulfilled the law as written, it would be a great stretch to believe they have fulfilled the law as Jesus describes it in this passage.

Let’s read what Jesus describes, and unpack the big truth it teaches. The portion of Jesus’ sermon we will focus on is found in Matthew, chapter 5, and we will read it from the New International Version. Starting in verse 21, Jesus continued preaching, saying:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

In this passage, Jesus takes what we might consider to be the standard of the law, and He elevates it. Where we might think of committing murder or cursing someone as being subject to being judged, Jesus tells us that being angry with someone, or calling someone a fool is actually much closer to the line of breaking the law.

Jesus challenges us that we should be right with others first before we will be right with God. He challenges us in this way when He tells those present to leave their gift at the altar and go reconcile a relationship before offering our gifts to God. In this way, our relationships with one another become a reflection of our relationship with God.

We are also challenged to get along with others and to live uprightly. If we have a disagreement with someone, we should work to make things right, and we should do this before the issue becomes an issue in the court system. When a matter comes before a court, we give up control to a third party, and this third party might find us guilty when we believe we are innocent.

Jesus tells us that the standard for adultery isn’t the act of adultery, but the thoughts and the lust that precedes the action. Jesus doesn’t minimize the sin in the act of adultery; He challenges us with the truth that lustful thoughts are equally bad.

In one of the more challenging parts of Jesus’ message, He challenges us with the idea that it is better to physically cut a part of our body away than to let that part of our body sin and cost us our salvation. While some people don’t think Jesus meant what He says here, I wonder if we truly took this teaching to heart whether we would be so lenient towards sin. Jesus challenges us to purge sin from our lives, because sin in our lives has the power to cause us to lose our salvation!

Also in this passage, Jesus elevates the status of marriage to being a life-long, through-thick-and-thin commitment. Jesus describes in this message that adultery is the only spiritually valid reason for divorce. While I don’t know if Jesus would exclude other abuses for being valid reasons for divorce, I know at least in my own mind, I would consider any form of abuse as grounds for divorce. I also know and recommend that avoiding marriage is better if there is any doubt about a potential spouse in a person’s mind. Another place in the gospels describes Jesus telling His followers that it is better that they don’t marry if they cannot accept Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

The last challenge in this portion of Jesus’ sermon elevates the significance of our word vs. making oaths. In an interesting comparison, Jesus challenges us to keep our word, regardless of how it was said. When we live to the standard we speak, then there is no reason to swear oaths, or to make vows. We should live to the standard of our words and our agreements, and not distinguish between promises that can be broken vs. promises that must be kept.

This entire section of teaching is very challenging because it elevates the law to a much higher standard than simply the letter of the law, and this makes God’s law virtually impossible to keep 100%. However, if you remember in our last episode, where we focused on a statement Jesus makes right before this, you’ll remember that Jesus tells those present that He came to fulfill the law. We break the law Jesus describes in this passage, but He came so that we can have salvation when we turn away from our sin.

Breaking the law condemns us to death, and Jesus offers to take the death we deserve and give us the life He deserved. We shouldn’t continue to sin, but we should resolve to turn away from our sins as a way to say Thank You to Jesus for the gift He purchased for us on the cross!

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. Accept Jesus and the gift He offers to us and resolve to thank Jesus for His gift by turning away from sin.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself. While pastors, speakers, authors, or even podcasters can give you things to think about, take what you learn and filter it through what God teaches you through His Word. God is interested in a personal relationship with you and personal prayer and study is how to grow a personal relationship with God.

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 Matthew – Episode 8: Part way through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus elevates the standard of the law to be much broader than what we might realize, but this is only after He has offered us a solution to this impossible dilemma.

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Everyone’s Messiah: Luke 1:39-56

Focus Passage: Luke 1:39-56 (GW)

39 Soon afterward, Mary hurried to a city in the mountain region of Judah. 40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

41 When Elizabeth heard the greeting, she felt the baby kick. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child that you will have. 43 I feel blessed that the mother of my Lord is visiting me. 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, I felt the baby jump for joy. 45 You are blessed for believing that the Lord would keep his promise to you.”

46 Mary said,

“My soul praises the Lord’s greatness!
47 My spirit finds its joy in God, my Savior,
48     because he has looked favorably on me, his humble servant.

“From now on, all people will call me blessed
49     because the Almighty has done great things to me.
        His name is holy.
50             For those who fear him,
                his mercy lasts throughout every generation.

51 “He displayed his mighty power.
    He scattered those who think too highly of themselves.
52         He pulled strong rulers from their thrones.
            He honored humble people.
53                 He fed hungry people with good food.
                    He sent rich people away with nothing.

54 “He remembered to help his servant Israel forever.
55     This is the promise he made to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and his descendants.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

Read Luke 1:39-56 in context and/or in other translations on!

Often the details surrounding an event are just as interesting as what actually happened.

While reading the passage in Luke that we often call “Mary’s Song”, a phrase near the end of it stood out to me as being interesting. As Mary concludes this song, she finishes off by singing, “He remembered to help his servant Israel forever. This is the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants.” (v. 54-55)

This stands out to me because Mary sees Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise God gave to Abraham, and to the Jewish nation. This is very true. God had promised Abraham that the Messiah would be one of his descendants.

What is fascinating though is not what it said, but what is implied by what is not said. The promise God gave to Abraham was not the first promise God gave regarding sending a Messiah. Immediately following God kicking Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He promises them a Messiah would come to restore the connection they broke when they sinned.

I wonder if many of the Jews had minimized this reference or dismissed it in their minds. The Messiah God promised to Adam and Eve was a Messiah for all of humanity, but the one they liked focusing in on was one that built up the Jewish nation exclusively. The messiah the Jews were waiting for was one who would come and overthrow the Romans and make their nation independent again.

With this in mind, I also wonder if Mary had this idea in her mind during Jesus’ growing up years – and if so, I wonder what she might have thought as He was arrested, tried, and ultimately crucified.

Mary’s song was a high point in her life as Jesus’ mother, and while there would be many more high points coming, she was ultimately going to face the event no parent wants to face – and that event is watching your child die.

But Jesus’ death wasn’t just for the Jewish nation; Jesus died for all humanity, and He made a way for not only Jews to have a restored connection with Jesus, but gentiles as well!

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Choosing Who to Associate With: Luke 7:36-50

Focus Passage: Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Read Luke 7:36-50 in context and/or in other translations on!

All throughout the Bible, we find examples of people revealing their character through their words and actions – though rarely does it show humanity in a positive light. Sure there are moments of triumph, but many more moments of failure.

In the event we are focusing in on, a woman of questionable reputation comes and anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume. Simon, the Pharisee who was hosting this meal, says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” (v. 39)

It is unclear in my mind if Simon invited Jesus because he was simply being hospitable, or if he wanted to invite the latest celebrity to help build his own reputation, or if there was another reason behind this meal. Perhaps Simon wanted to see for himself if Jesus was special and everything the rumors about Him claimed to be.

However, in the statement Simon says to himself, we see a glimpse into his character.

Firstly, this response shows us that status mattered to Simon. Those you touched are special to you, and those who you let touch you are even more special. It would seem in that culture that touch played a role in closeness and associating with someone, and Simon’s response tells us that he chose carefully who he associated with.

Next, this tells us that Simon knew about the woman, or at least enough rumors about her had circulated that he had a pretty safe idea the type of lifestyle that she lived. The rumors about her were not simply occasional sin, but a life that was actively lived in sin. Perhaps, Simon had a past with this woman, but there is not anything in this passage that really indicates this. We simply can see that Simon at least knew who this person was – and that he had made up his mind about her.

But most importantly, Simon’s statement tries to discredit Jesus in his mind. In Simon’s response in verse 39, he says, “If this man were a prophet…” Simon had questions about Jesus’ status as a prophet, but surely a prophet, or really anyone sent from God, would not openly associate with those who live their lives far away from God. Therefore, in Simon’s eyes, Jesus must not have been a prophet.

However, Simon – like many of us – don’t fully realize what Jesus’ mission was. Jesus came for sinners, to open a way for salvation, and His mission was to those who were looking for a Savior – and we can only truly realize our need for Jesus when we realize we cannot do life on our own. In this regard the sinful woman was not only forgiven for a greater amount of sin in her past, she was also further ahead on the path to seeing Jesus as God’s Messiah and as her personal Savior.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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