Flashback Episode — Loved, Healed, and Forgiven: Mark 8:22-26

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While moving through Mark’s gospel and comparing what Mark included in his gospel versus what the other gospel writers include, not much of Mark’s gospel is truly unique. However, the miracle that we will be focusing on for this episode is one of the few events that made it only into Mark’s gospel. I wonder if this is because this event was kept relatively secret, or if something within the event prompted the other gospel writers to exclude this event from their own respective gospels.

Whatever the reason for only Mark including this miracle, I am glad that he did. Of all the miracles Jesus did, this one may be the most fascinating one in my mind. So without any further delay, let’s read it.

Our miracle and passage are found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will be reading from the New International Version. Starting in verse 22, Mark tells us that:

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

This miracle is fascinating in my mind. This is the only miracle that I can recall where it takes Jesus a second try to get it right. While other miracles are attributed to faith, and at least one of the gospel writers suggested that the lack of faith in a situation could cause a miracle to not happen, this is the only miracle where the man is healed, but only after a second attempt by Jesus.

However, was this really a second attempt, or was there something happening behind the scenes that made the second try of this miracle distinctly different?

Looking at the details in this miracle, one set of details is easily overlooked. These details form the foundation for this situation. First, the man is brought to Jesus when Jesus has entered Bethsaida. Jesus then leads the man outside of Bethsaida. Finally, Jesus tells the man to go home and to not return through Bethsaida. Putting together these details points us to the high likelihood that the blind man was not from Bethsaida. It is possible this man lived close by, but it is also possible that those in this village searched out someone they knew Jesus could help, and then convinced this man to come to Jesus.

Another detail worth paying attention to is that this blind man was brought to Jesus. This detail is important because it shows more initiative coming from this group of people than from the blind man himself. Related to this detail is the detail that the group of people were the ones begging Jesus for the miracle, not the blind man.

With all these details put together, we can conclude that this group of people were more interested in seeing a miracle than on giving God the glory, or even on helping this man who was blind. Instead of seeing an opportunity for God to help someone in their presence, this group wanted to see Jesus perform for them. Oddly enough, knowing that faith is needed for a miracle to take place, I believe that if Jesus had attempted the miracle in the presence of this group of people, not only would Jesus have let the spotlight shine on Him, but also this miracle likely would have worked the first time. This would have been because those bringing this man to Jesus had the faith necessary to see him be healed.

However, Jesus wanted to heal more than this man’s eyes and He wanted to help this man without stealing the focus off of God. Jesus wasn’t interested in getting an audience or on gaining popularity. Instead, Jesus wanted to help people on an individual level as much as possible.

Up to Jesus asking the blind man a direct question after they are away from those who brought him to Jesus, we do not see or hear anything specific about this blind man. From the details leading up to this miracle, we don’t get the picture this man had faith or hope that he would ever be able to see. We are left to wonder if this man was born blind, or if he was blinded because of something that had happened earlier in his life.

However, when Jesus asks the man if he can see anything while they are alone, we start to get answers for some of our questions. This man responds to Jesus’ first attempt by telling Jesus that he can see people, but they look like trees walking around. If this man had never seen anything, I don’t believe he would know what a tree looked like. Instead, this detail makes me think something happened earlier in this man’s life that caused him to lose his eyesight.

This then leads us to another interesting conclusion. In this culture, people believed that sickness and disability happened because God was punishing people directly, or perhaps indirectly in the case of parents sinning and children being punished. If this man had eyesight then lost it, it is quite likely that he believed God was punishing him for something in his life that had happened.

If you believe God is punishing you, you don’t believe God would want to heal you. In the case of this man, I bet he was doubtful, skeptical, and probably reluctant to even be brought to Jesus. It is likely that this man told those people when they found him that God wouldn’t be interested in healing him because God was too busy punishing him instead.

This makes Jesus’ first attempt a successful attempt at healing this man. However, with the first attempt, while Jesus only partially heals this man’s eyes, Jesus healed this man’s hope, and I believe this man went away believing He had been forgiven. With a restored hope, this man had enough faith necessary for Jesus’ second attempt to fully heal his eyesight.

In our own lives, when bad things happen, it might be easy to let doubt tell us that God is mad at us and that He is causing the challenges we are facing. However, if we believe God is mad at us, then there is no reason to have any hope that our lives could be better. If God is truly mad at us, there is no hope, and if God was very mad at us, we wouldn’t be alive. If God had rejected humanity, Jesus wouldn’t have come to this planet.

However, Jesus did come. Jesus did heal someone who likely believed God was directly punishing him. Jesus gave His life as a substitute for our lives, and through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have the promise of a new life with God.

Jesus came to show us what God is really like. Jesus came to show us God’s love for us. And Jesus came to demonstrate for us that even if we are in open rebellion towards God, He still loves us and He wants to forgive us when we repent and return to Him.

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 in your life and choose to have faith and hope that God loves you and that He wants the best for you. When bad things happen, choose to see these things as a wakeup call from a God who loves each of us and not as a divine punishment from a cruel spiritual dictator. God loves us and He wants the best for our lives.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and Bible study, we can open our hearts to God and let Him into our lives. When God is in our lives, we will know how much He loves us and we will be fully equipped to show His love to a world that needs to see God’s love more than ever!

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 in Mark – Episode 21: In a miracle that only Mark included, discover some things we can learn from a miracle that didn’t work entirely the first time around. Or maybe it did and what Jesus healed first is something a little less visible on the surface.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Gathering Fruit for Eternal Life: John 4:1-45

Focus Passage: John 4:1-45 (HCSB)

When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria, so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

“Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food.

“How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

11 “Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.”

13 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. 14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

15 “Sir,” the woman said to Him, “give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and come here to draw water.”

16 “Go call your husband,” He told her, “and come back here.”

17 “I don’t have a husband,” she answered.

“You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus said. 18 “For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”

26 “I am He,” Jesus told her, “the One speaking to you.”

27 Just then His disciples arrived, and they were amazed that He was talking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do You want?” or “Why are You talking with her?”

28 Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They left the town and made their way to Him.

31 In the meantime the disciples kept urging Him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But He said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

33 The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought Him something to eat?”

34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them. 35 “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.”

39 Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of what He said. 42 And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”

43 After two days He left there for Galilee. 44 Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 When they entered Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him because they had seen everything He did in Jerusalem during the festival. For they also had gone to the festival.

Read John 4:1-45 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During a brief transition within John’s gospel, we can find a perplexing concept and a profound idea that Jesus shares with His disciples. While the disciples are in a Samaritan town buying food, Jesus strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman. But even though Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman is interesting itself, what I find perplexing and profound in Jesus’ words happens during a brief conversation after the woman leaves and before she returns with those from the town.

It is in this transition where we find the disciples urging Jesus to eat something. They were probably really hungry when they went into the town, and I can only imagine how hungry they felt Jesus would have been since they probably had eaten and snacked all the way back to the well.

But Jesus responds, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” (v. 32)

This confuses the disciples. Did Jesus find food while they were gone? Did someone else come by the well and offer Him something to eat?

Sensing their confusion, Jesus responds to the questions they are asking amongst themselves. Jesus tells them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” (v. 34)

It is in this statement that we see Jesus pointing us towards a pretty important concept. What we focus our attention on grows. If we focus on our hunger, we will only become hungrier. But if we focus on our mission, then only that will matter. It will not matter if we are tired, hungry, or stressed out. Those things are minimized in our minds as long as our focus stays on the mission.

And Jesus continues by pointing us to a truth about the only mission with eternal significance: “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.” (v. 35-38)

The big truth I see in Jesus’ message is that when our eyes are open to what God is doing in the world, we will see opportunities everywhere to help others and to bring people to Him. God has been working in people’s lives long before we were invited to be involved, and we are able to benefit from what they started.

When we partner with Jesus, we are able to gather fruit destined for eternal life. That’s the only mission with results that will last forever!

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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Our Redeemer-Judge: John 8:12-30

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As we continue moving through John’s gospel, we come to another place where Jesus challenges the crowds, and from the context of this event, this crowd included a number of Pharisees. It is fascinating in my mind when reading this event to discover that the challenge the religious leaders bring to Jesus looks like a valid challenge on the surface. However, for these religious leaders’ challenge to be valid, they would have to reject much more than they would like to admit.

With that said, let’s read about what happened and about the challenge these religious leaders give Jesus.

Our passage for this event is found in John’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will read it from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 12, John tells us that:

12 Later, Jesus talked to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness but will have the light that gives life.”

13 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “When you talk about yourself, you are the only one to say these things are true. We cannot accept what you say.”

14 Jesus answered, “Yes, I am saying these things about myself, but they are true. I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I came from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards. I am not judging anyone. 16 But when I do judge, I judge truthfully, because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 17 Your own law says that when two witnesses say the same thing, you must accept what they say. 18 I am one of the witnesses who speaks about myself, and the Father who sent me is the other witness.”

19 They asked, “Where is your father?”

Jesus answered, “You don’t know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father, too.” 20 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the Temple, near where the money is kept. But no one arrested him, because the right time for him had not yet come.

21 Again, Jesus said to the people, “I will leave you, and you will look for me, but you will die in your sins. You cannot come where I am going.”

22 So the Jews asked, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he said, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?”

23 Jesus said, “You people are from here below, but I am from above. You belong to this world, but I don’t belong to this world. 24 So I told you that you would die in your sins. Yes, you will die in your sins if you don’t believe that I am he.”

25 They asked, “Then who are you?”

Jesus answered, “I am what I have told you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and decide about you. But I tell people only the things I have heard from the One who sent me, and he speaks the truth.”

27 The people did not understand that he was talking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I am he. You will know that these things I do are not by my own authority but that I say only what the Father has taught me. 29 The One who sent me is with me. I always do what is pleasing to him, so he has not left me alone.” 30 While Jesus was saying these things, many people believed in him.

In this passage, Jesus makes some very bold claims. And the religious leaders present were quick to challenge Jesus’ claims based on the detail that they did not see anyone else validating these claims.

This challenge is one of the better challenges the religious leaders could think of, because any secondary witness validating Jesus’ claims could immediately be challenged, judged, and likely discredited. Because of this, I suspect this is why Jesus didn’t remind them of John the Baptist, who made the same claim about Jesus. I also suspect this is why Jesus didn’t pull out the secondary witness of the scripture, because it would cut to the heart of their belief, and this wasn’t likely the right time for that.

Instead, Jesus counter-challenged the religious leaders on the detail that His secondary witness is God the Father, and that only those who knew Him would also be able to recognize the Father. Jesus subtly dismisses the religious leaders’ challenge by giving them a secondary witness but also telling them that they are unlikely to ever know Him.

Jesus emphasizes that without faith in Him, specifically faith in Jesus, everyone present, and we could also say everyone at any point in history, will die in their sins. Only through Jesus is a made way for us to trade our sins away. Jesus offers to take the punishment for our sins and in return, He offers us the life that He deserved – a life that can begin today and extend into eternity.

However, in this event, and in what Jesus shares, He makes a powerful set of claims that are easy to miss. In verses 15 and the first part of 16, Jesus tells those present that: “You judge by human standards. I am not judging anyone. But when I do judge, I judge truthfully, because I am not alone.

This truth is powerful, because it tells us that Jesus did not come as a judge when He came to earth in the first century. Instead, while Jesus doesn’t claim the role of judge at that point, He does foreshadow that He will judge in the future. This verse brings out the powerful truth that: Our redeemer is also Our Judge.

If you have ever been worried or uneasy about God the Father judging you and that somewhere in your past is an unconfessed sin that could forever separate you from God forever, you should take that worry to Jesus, and understand that Jesus is not only your Redeemer, He is also the Judge. We don’t have a Judge who is unfamiliar with what life is like as a human living in a sinful world. Our Judge understands our lives better than we might be willing to accept, and our Judge gave His life to redeem us.

God loves us so much that Jesus came to take our place. Jesus not only became our Redeemer on the cross, Jesus also happens to be our Judge. This means that Satan’s accusations against us can simply be brushed aside by our Judge when we accept the gift of His sacrifice on our behalf, and let His perfect life cover our sins.

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 in your life and choose today to accept Jesus’ gift in your life. Choose to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in what Jesus accomplished for humanity on the cross, and ask Him to take your sin-filled past and give you His life in exchange. This prayer is one that Jesus is more than happy to answer!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God and Jesus each and every day. Choose to pray and study personally in order to make your relationship with God personal, and don’t let anyone get in the way of your 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 run from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in John – Episode 20: When some religious leaders challenge Jesus about some of His claims, discover in Jesus’ response a powerful truth about who ultimately will judge, and why this truth is one of the biggest promises in the entire Bible!

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Celebration of the Found: Luke 15:1-10

Focus Passage: Luke 15:1-10 (NASB)

One way I have learned to read parables Jesus gave is to look at what prompted the parable to be shared in the first place. In this passage, Jesus shares two parables (and a third one immediately following in verse 11), and they are all prompted by one thing, which we read in verses 1 and 2:

“Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” (verses 1-2)

These two simple truths prompt Jesus to share three of the most amazing parables to illustrate God’s love for sinners – all because the “religious” people of the time were distorting God’s character with their attitudes and actions.

So Jesus shares these two parables, and while they don’t specifically state that they are representative of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, the closing lines of these two reference what happens in heaven when a sinner repents and turns to God: “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (v. 7) and “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (v. 10)

From Jesus’ response to these “grumblings” from the Pharisees and the scribes, He points out a truth about God that was counter to what they taught/believed: God rejoices when sinners repent. The opposite approach is that God reluctantly accepts those who repent, or that when they repent, they then have to prove themselves worthy by doing something extra to show their repentance was genuine.

Neither alternate is even implied by Jesus’ set of parables here. The coin and sheep are not scolded for getting lost, nor are they required to prove themselves worthy of trust again by doing something or facing some sort of punishment. Instead, like an excited shepherd or an excited housekeeper, excitement is expressed when finding something that we thought had been lost – something we may have been losing hope of ever finding.

It is the same way with God. There will be a point when He ends history, but until that point, He hasn’t lost hope that sinners will be found by Him. The coin and sheep cannot find themselves – it is God who is actively seeking them.

Will you let God “find” you?

God promises a celebration in heaven at the very moment you are found, and when we arrive in heaven, we get to take part in the “Celebration of the Found”. Jesus is an equal opportunity “includer” – anyone and everyone who lets Him find them will be present.

Will you let Jesus find you?

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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