Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mark 2

We are back to the book of Mark, where Jesus ministers with his divine power, but is rejected by those religious leaders. We look at Jesus healing the paralytic, eating with the Levi, Jesus answering about fasting, and finally Jesus' view on Sabbath.

While Jesus was at Capernaum, large number of people flocked to see and meet him. There was no room either inside or outside the door. The initiative and faith of a group of four friends led them to open the roof above Jesus and lowered the man on his mat. Jesus was impressed by their bold belief and said to the paralytic man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Jewish teachers who were present there thought in their hearts, "Who other than God can forgive sins?" Jesus knew their skeptical mind and asked them whether it was easier to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk" or "Your sins are forgiven?" Of course, both are difficult - but relatively, it is easier to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk." Jesus then said so. The paralytic took up his mat and walked in the full view of everyone. Everyone who witnessed this healing were amazed.

Tax collectors were seen as corrupt people who worked for Herod Antipas and the Roman Empire, who cheated their own people regularly. It was considered a disgrace to deal with such dishonest men. When Jesus saw Levi, a tax collector sitting at the booth, he said, "Follow me." The tax collector got up and followed him. Levi knew he was "burning the bridge" with Roman officials by following Jesus, but he was willing to risk it. While having dinner at Levi's house, there were other tax collectors and sinners who followed him. When the teachers of the law saw Jesus mingle with such sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Upon hearing this, Jesus answered, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting those who are sick with sin, and not those who are spiritually fit.”

The Levi who followed Jesus was later known as disciple Matthew, meaning the gift of God.

Jesus responded to a question why his disciples were not fasting, while that of John the Baptist were. He said that timing is everything. While the Bridegroom is with them, they will feast, and while he is gone, they will fast. He used the parables of new and old cloth, and new wine in old wineskins to respond.

Jesus had reached a crisis in his ministry as several people were following him. Their interest was in witnessing miracles and not spiritual. While walking through a grain field on a Sabbath, the disciples happened to pick some grain and eat them. Pharisees who used to follow Jesus questioned this. He quoted an incident from David.
Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath..."
Jesus then linked himself to the God saying, "The son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

My Thoughts
I used to walk through a grain field while I was young. It is a wonderful experience that comes to my mind. Plucking grains is quite common while walking - especially when they are tall enough to reach our hands.

Getting our priorities right is quite important. Mark 2:27 is a powerful and thought provoking statement. We often tend to forget this in our community. In the eyes of God, human beings are most valuable. Our loving God is concerned with meeting the needs of the people than protecting religious traditions. 

John 4

The pharisees were maintaining score of baptisms conducted by Jesus and John the Baptist. They tried to incite competition, between Jesus and John the Baptist. In an attempt to avoid competition, Jesus went to Galilee.

There were three ways to Galilee
(a) across Jordan and up through Perea,
(b) along the coast,
(c) through Samaria.

There was a long standing hatred between Jews and Samaritans. Any normal Jew would avoid that route. However, since Jesus was on a divine mission, he decided to take that path. Around noon, Jesus was thirsty and decided to sit by the Jacob's well. His disciples went into the town to buy some food.

Shunned and rejected by other women of the area for her immorality, a Samaritan woman came to draw water at the same well, during the hottest time of the day. Jesus asked her some water to drink. The woman was puzzled as Jesus already broke three Jewish customs.
(a) spoke to a strange woman,
(b) spoke to a Samaritan,
(c) asked water to drink, which would defile him.

The Samaritan woman was indeed confused whether this lonely Jewish man was really seeking water or her. The conversation continued and Jesus pointed out that she was ignorant about three things:
(a) whom she was talking to,
(b) what he had to offer,
(c) how she could receive them.

Jesus was referring to eternal water, while the woman thought about literal water. The lengthy conversation aroused her interest and she wanted to learn more about the 'living water'. When Jesus inquired about her family, the woman who so far was talking at length, now gave the shortest answer, "I have no husband." Notice that she immediately tired to change the subject from her own life to religion. Then she tried to prolong everything into the future until the arrival of Messiah. To this, Jesus replied that she need not wait any longer, or look any further, as He is the one!

When the disciples returned and found Jesus talking to this woman, they were shocked. Their faces showed their dismay, but nobody spoke a word. The woman was so excited, she ran back to her village forgetting her water jar behind.

Then the disciples gave Jesus food to eat, but he said he had food that they knew nothing about.
John 4:34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work..."
Again, Jesus was not speaking about the literal food. Jesus meant that he was satisfied and nourished when he did his Father's will of leading this Samaritan woman to salvation. Doing the will of the Lord was a nourishment to his soul.

Using a familiar Jewish proverb, Jesus said that the time is now, to spread the word of God. God had been doing the work, and the disciples got to reap the benefit. Though his disciples went into the village to get some food, they just got the food and returned - without an attempt to evangelize. It was the Samaritan woman who did the evangelizing and proclaimed the word about the Messiah she just met.

The Samaritans of the town believed the woman's testimony. They invited him over and asked him to stay with them for two days. Many turned believers as well. They identified him as the "Savior of the World."

After two days, Jesus and his disciples left for Galilee, and visited Cana. He knew very well that a prophet is not well received in his own town where he grew up. At Cana, a certain royal official approached Jesus to come heal his son in Capernaum, who was deathly sick. Jesus made a general rebuke for those who seek signs and wonders rather than believing in the Lord. Then Jesus compassionately told the royal official, "Go, your son will live."

We should give full credit to this man, who had full faith in Jesus' words and departed home. On the way, he met his servants who conveyed the message of the boy's healing. It turned out that the exact hour when Jesus told the man his son will live, he was healed. The whole household believed and confirmed their faith in Jesus.

Note that this is one of the three 'long distance miracles' Jesus performed.

Additional Info:
Samaritans were a mixed race - part Jew and part gentiles, born during the time of Assyrian captivity. Since they could not establish their genealogy, they were considered and treated as "third class citizens." Religious and racial prejudice separated Jews and Samaritans for over 700 years. The animosity between Jews and Samaritans were so severe that the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan be raised on the day of resurrection. In John 8:48, the enemies of Jesus called him a "Samaritan" to insult him.

Jacob's well is where Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Genesis 33:18-20 states that when Jacob returned to Shechem from Paddan Aram, he bought the land on which he pitched his tent. The site is owned by Greek Orthodox Church consecrated to St. Photini, the Samaritan. Here is how the location of the well appeared in 2013.

Jacob's Well in 2013

My Thoughts
The disciples were the ones doing the actual baptism on behalf of Jesus. To avoid any sort of competition, Jesus went to Galilee.

We meet certain special people in our lives due to that divine plan. The ones who make a huge difference in our lives did not just show up accidentally. Lord is at work, and he is the one behind it. When their role in our life is over, He takes us to the next level.

Few years ago, I happened to do some research on this Samaritan woman. What I learned was that this Samaritan woman's name was Photina, and she went on to become a firm believer of Jesus Christ. She was the first evangelist of Jesus Christ. She later took up a missionary role in converting her entire village to Christianity.

Notice Jesus using the proverb, "It is still four months until harvest" to drive a statement. It was unclear what this proverb meant. However, the way I interpret is that "there is sufficient time for harvest" is what most people say - in other words, "no hurry, there is ample time."

In Cana, the miracle of turning water into wine was done on the request of a mother. Again in Cana, the miracle of healing a sick boy was done at the request of a father.

Thinking about the miracle of turning water into wine, Lord does that miracle all the time, all over the world. Most of us, we fail to notice it. The only difference is that Lord takes few months to perform the miracle, and uses vine and grape as intermediate stages. Jesus, here accelerated the process and skipped two steps and showed us his control over "time dimension."

While healing the royal official's son, Jesus showed his control over the "space dimension."

Image Credit: Wahooart, Wiki. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

John 3

After witnessing the miracles performed by Jesus, Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish council (Sanhedrin), came to Jesus unobserved by others, at night. He himself was "the teacher of the Jews." Deeply sincere in his quest for truth, Nicodemus approached Jesus with an honest desire to learn those doctrines that Jesus taught.

Jesus told him to be born again, but Nicodemus takes it in the literal sense and is confused. The word "again" also means "from above." Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth, and Nicodemus was thinking about a physical birth. Further, Jesus clarified that one should be born of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus, born as a Jew, who considered himself to be part of God's people, was surprised to hear all these and Jesus responded:
John 3:7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
It is possible that an evening wind was blowing while the two were holding this conversation, and Jesus referred to it.

When Jesus tried to explain things to Nicodemus, he was unable to comprehend them. Hence, Jesus did not try explaining heavenly things which would have further complicated Nicodemus. Also, Jesus claims here that he came down from heaven. Next, he reminded them of the bronze snake Moses erected.
John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Next, John notes the heart of the Gospel message, and the need to believe. Let us read this part together:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
We then read John the Baptist testifying about Jesus Christ. John repeatedly says he is not he Messiah. For a while, the ministry of Jesus and John overlap and Jesus draws larger crowds. John's disciples are bit disturbed and they approach their master. John displays no trace of bitterness or jealousy. He neither views it as a competition, but expresses his joy and says that a person can receive only what is given from heaven.

John thought his mission was complete, and is willing to let Jesus take the limelight and he slowly fade into the background.

Final comments of this chapter testifies about the one who comes from heaven. It also speaks about the gifts he will lavishly distribute, to all those who trust in him.

Additional Info:
Speaking about being born again, the same is true today. When people speak about being born again, they rattle their religious heritage, membership in superior church, religious sacrifices etc.

Just as one has two parents during physical birth, one should have two parents to be born again spiritually too - the Word of God and Holy Spirit. We will read more about this when we get to James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23-25 etc. A a child inherits the qualities of his/her parents, during birth. In this case, the born again child will display those qualities of Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.

Wind, fire and water are three of nature's strongest forces.

Numbers 21:4-9 tells us the story of the bronze snake. In John 3:14-15, Jesus speaks that the Son of Man must be lifted up like that bronze serpent so that everyone who believes in him will be saved. In the wilderness, when people were whining and complaining about their uncomfortable situation, Lord sent desert snakes to bite them and they started dying. When they cried out for help, Lord asked Moses to erect a  bronze snake upon a pole and whoever looked at it was saved.

Note - God asked Moses to lift up an image of the the very thing that killed them, and by looking at that very image that killed them, they were saved.

Take a look at this picture below. See the original sin where Adam and Eve were tempted and sinned by the serpent.

Jesus was lifted upon the cross. By looking at the cross, we should be able to see the very thing that kills us today - our sins. When we look at the cross, it should remind us of our own sin there. Jesus, took the form of the sin-filled serpent, symbolizing our sin on the cross. In John 3:14, Jesus compared himself to the serpent.

Carry on with your reading

I am not feeling quite well - my head is feeling bit heavy. Please carry on with you reading. Do not slow down or halt because of me. 

Here is the plan. 

13-Jan-14 Mon   Luke 3; Matthew 4; 
14-Jan-14 Tues  Luke 4-5; John 1:15-51
15-Jan-14 Wed   John 2-4; Mark 2
16-Jan-14 Thur  John 5; Matthew 12:1-21; 
17-Jan-14 Fri     Mark 3; Luke 6; Matthew 5-7
18-Jan-14 Sat     Matthew 8:1-13; Luke 7; Matthew 11

Today, I do not have any other plans other than to read and study the word of God. When I feel bit ok, I will come post the next chapter. 

However, carry on with your reading, without waiting for me - I am right behind you.  

John 2

Next we move on to the wedding of Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his six disciples were invited for the wedding. Those six disciples had started their life-long walk with Jesus. Mary realized that they were almost out of wine. She went to Jesus and said, "They have no more wine."

When Mary approached Jesus to let him know about the depleted situation, Jesus asked his mother whether it was his or her problem. He hoped his mother would not push him. Either the bride or the bridegroom must have been an extremely close relative to Mary that she wanted to ensure the success of the wedding banquet. Joseph was not even mentioned in the story, and it is possible he was dead by then. The language Jesus used, "Woman" does not indicate disrespect, but was an acceptable and polite phrase. Jesus spoke about "his hour," indicating his heavenly timetable.

Mary did not push Jesus to do something miraculous. As her loving son, she knew of his helping nature. Next, she asked those servants to follow his instructions - whatever he pleased. She trusted Jesus would do what was right. Jesus asked them to fill six ceremonial stone water jars up to their brim. He must have looked heavenward and blessed it while converting it into (very good) wine.

He then asked the servants to take it to the master of the ceremony - who had no clue where the wine came from; neither did others. It appears that only those close to Jesus got to witness this miracle.

Next, Jesus went to Capernaum with his mother, brothers and disciples. They then went to Jerusalem temple in the Holy City to celebrate Passover. When he noticed people using the Temple as a shopping mall, he made a whip out of cords and drove all of them out. He revealed his zeal for the Lord by cleansing the Temple. Apparently, the priests at the temple had made a lucrative business for themselves by exchanging currency and selling goods for worship, in the name of "convenience."

Those religious Jews asked about his authority over all these.
John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
Jesus was probably pointing at himself while speaking this. He certainly meant his own body being resurrected after three days.

There are numerous miracles that Jesus did, which are not recorded in the Bible. After seeing those miracles, many believed in him. Jesus would not entrust himself to them - he could see straight through their hearts. He knew how each person was .

Additional Info:
Jewish people highly regarded marriage and childbearing. Majority of them practiced monogamy, while polygamy was legal for those who could afford it. Virtually all religious Jews morally confined sexual intercourse to marriage.

Jewish girls were much younger when they were married - mostly by the age of puberty, while in their teens. Men often married by the time they were twenty. Betrothal was an economic agreement between families, and was regarded binding than modern engagements. Weddings usually took place after one year of betrothal. Virgins were traditionally married on Wednesdays, while widows were married on Thursdays.

Wedding festivities lasted for a week in Jewish circles. Guests from inside and outside family circles would take part - some may attend only few days. The first night was regarded as most important as the newly wed couple would attempt their first intercourse then.

Wedding banquets tends to be an expensive affair since much food and wine was provided to all those guests. Often times, the entire village would take part in the festivities.

Once married, women customarily would cover their hair in public. The hair was reserved only for their husband's view. Furthermore, the wives would submit to, and obey their husbands.

The chapter starts with, "On the third day." This refers to three days after the call of Nathaniel.

The wine referred in the scripture was not an alcoholic beverage. It was the normal drink of those days. They also diluted three parts water to one part wine.

My Thoughts
The wedding must have been one of Mary's close relatives'. She was there, and the fact that all of Jesus' disciples were invited, and Mary learning what's going on inside leads to believe me that it must have been one of Mary's relatives. That must be the same reason she approached Jesus to help them out of embarrassment.

The spiritual condition at the Temple must have been so broken and glory departed, that made Jesus so angry. His anger is termed 'righteous anger.' The leaders of the Temple were so worldly minded in exercising authority and getting rich. By cleansing the temple, Jesus had declared war on those hypocritical religious leaders - those who would ultimately kill him.

It is one thing to believe in somebody and is quite something else to commit to that person. That is the message John gives in his gospel - we need more than 'belief in miracles' to be saved by God.

Another interesting aspect to note is that, two persons could be looking at an event and their responses may be quite opposite. Those good at heart saw the miracles of Jesus and accepted him. Others, who had evil thoughts were challenged and thought about destroying him. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

John 1:15-51

We are back to the book of John. Remember that John's Gospel is different from the rest of the three. In the first part, John is attempting to reveal the identity of Jesus. Further, John's Gospel is all about love.

John the Baptist testified about Jesus and cried out, "He is the one I told you about, who was coming after me, but in reality is God, and was always ahead of me."

Standing in Bethany, on the other side of river Jordan, John (the Baptist) confessed that he was not the Messiah, and was merely the person to make way for the Messiah. He gave his testimony about Lord revealing him the true identity of Jesus Christ - God's Chosen One.

When John saw Jesus coming toward him he said to his followers, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the man I've been speaking about. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Hearing this, two of his followers - Andres (and possibly John) followed Jesus to his place. They spent the day with Jesus. Andrew was so excited to learn where Jesus, the Messiah lived, he went and shared this news with his brother Simon (Peter) and brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

Next, Jesus called Philip, a friend of Andrew and Simon Peter.
John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus met Nathanael, he said that he saw him sitting under the fig tree before Philip called him. Nathanael was shocked to hear that Jesus already knew his whereabouts, and acknowledged him as the Son of God.

Jesus said he had seen or heard anything yet.
John 1:50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

My Thoughts
Scrubbing the sins of the world is a mighty task, done out of pure love. Suppose one of our friends has a cancer. Imagine, how much love should we have to say, "Let me take that cancer away from you, so that you stay healed."

Image Credits: Truthbook

Luke 5

While Jesus was standing at the shore of lake Gennasaret, crowd came to him to hear the word of God. Spotting two empty boats, Jesus got into one that belonged to Simon Peter's, and asked him to push it out a little from the shore. Using the boat as a pulpit, he taught the people, who were gathered on the shore.

Once he was done, he asked Peter to push out the boat into deep waters and to cast his nets for a catch.
Luke 5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 
Following the words of Jesus,  they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Their boats were so full with fish, it almost began to sink. Simon Peter, could not handle this awesome holiness. He and his partners James, and John were so astonished and overwhelmed.
Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 
Jesus responded that from now on, they will be fishing for men and women. Notice that it was after these miracles - healing his mother in law, and the great catch of fish, Jesus called Simon Peter and his partners to follow him as his disciples.
Luke 5:11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Next Jesus cleansed a man with leprosy. He fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

"I am willing, and be clean," was the response Jesus gave. Immediately, he became healed. However, Jesus told him to go show himself to the priests, per the Mosaic law. The man could not contain his excitement, and went all over the town sharing his happiness.

Even in the midst of busy schedules, Jesus withdrew to lonely places to conduct his prayers.

Jewish leaders - Pharisees and teachers of law from almost every village of Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem assembled to hear Jesus. The power of the Lord to heal the sick, was with Jesus. Jesus went one step further - he healed the sick and also forgave their sins. With this, a person could start a new life.

When some men brought a paralytic man to Jesus, they could not get to him.
Luke 5:19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus healing the sick by performing miracles was something the Jewish leaders could not deny. However, forgiving sins was a different game. They could not digest the fact that Jesus, was doing so - only God could forgive sins.

Next, Jesus met a tax collector by name Levi and asked him to follow him. Levi dropped everything and followed him. Then the Levi provided a large dinner for Jesus at his home. Many tax collectors and disrespectful characters, were present as guests. The pharisees and religious scholars who followed Jesus were surprised to see this crowd and were offended.

They asked, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Luke 5:31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
They then criticized Jesus for partying with sinners. They pointed out that John the Baptist and his followers were often fasting, instead of partying.

Jesus answered by speaking about:
(a) The Bridegroom - Jewish weddings last for a week. Jesus was here to make everyone's life colorful, filled with joy, and make it look like a wedding feast, and not like a funeral.
(b) The Garment - A garment is used in the Holy Scripture to picture character and conduct. Jesus came to give a new message. He was pointing out how the old Jewish religion was following foolish approach. He did not want to patch up the old by taking a piece out of the new - thus ruining both.
(c) The Wineskins - When un-fermented wine is stored into brittle old wineskins, the gas that forms will burst the wineskins - both the wine and wineskin will be lost. Most Jews preferred the old, and did not welcome new teachings.

Additional Info:
"Pharisee" comes from a Jewish word that means 'to divide, to separate." Their role was to obey Mosaic law and be separate from the heathen nation around them.

My Thoughts
If you are a fisherman, you'll know the frustration of not being able to catch even a minnow. It depends on numerous factors such as water temperature, time of the day, lunar calendar, etc. Some days are just like that - we've to let go of those days.

When Lord reveals His magnanimous blessings (to us) and asks to follow him, who won't? The wise would drop everything then and there and follow. The fools will be hesitant continue on their old path and stay back. Lord never applies any of His divine force upon humans to follow Him. If we are willful and ready, he will receive us.

Jesus, being the son of God, depended on God for the power to heal the sick and perform healing. I wonder, how much more should we depend on the Lord for us to be able to heal others.

You'll notice the favorite name by which Jesus liked to be called was, "Son of Man," though the title "Son of God" is a best fit - which he used occasionally.

Luke 4

Image: Jesus reading Isaiah - Greg Olson

Now let's examine the temptation of Jesus documented by Luke.

Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit was led into the wilderness was tempted by Satan for forty days.

At the end of forty days when Jesus was so hungry, Satan came to him, used hunger as an opportunity, and asked him to turn those stones into bread. Jesus refused to do so by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 and said it takes more than bread to lead a life.

Next, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth. He offered all of it to Jesus if he would worship Satan. Jesus refused the offer and again quoted Deuteronomy 6:13, and said one should only worship the Lord and serve only Him with absolute single heart.

Then the Satan took Jesus to the top of Jerusalem Temple and asked him to jump down. Satan challenged Jesus to jump down if he was the son of God. He also misquoted Psalm 91 that Lord will command His angels to protect him. To this, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 and said not to tempt the Lord.

Satan temporarily left Jesus and awaited for another opportunity.
Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
This means, the enemy is prowling and could be hiding at the next turn, or in any corner. Jesus has to be vigilant.

After defeating Satan, Jesus returned to Nazareth, and on one Sabbath, he went to the synagogue. When the scroll of Prophet Isaiah was handed over to him. He read the part by standing up:
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Handing over the scroll to an attendant, he sat down. All eyes were fixed on him.
Luke 4:21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Everyone was amazed at these words. This passage referred to the Messiah, and Jesus had just claimed to be the Messiah that everyone was waiting for centuries. His listeners saw him only as a son of Joseph and Mary. They expected Jesus to perform the same miracles he had performed in Capernaum, which Jesus refused. ‘Physician, heal yourself' was the proverb they expected to see.

When Jesus preached the message of grace, admiration of the leaders soon turned into antagonism. Those leaders did not want to hear the truth which accused them. His hometown congregation became so angry that they decided to kill Jesus.
Luke 4:29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 
Jesus slipped through the crowd and escaped. From Nazareth, Jesus moved to Capernaum, the hometown of Peter, and taught there with authority. In the synagogue, he displayed his authority even over spirits by driving out an impure spirit from a possessed man.

When Peter's mother in law was sick, Jesus went to her, rebuked the sickness and healed her. At sunset, all those who has some sort of sickness or ailment approached Jesus. He healed several who were possessed by demons. The demons said, "You are the son of God!" He shut them up, because the demons knew too much about him - even that he was the Messiah.

At daybreak, they found Jesus at a solitary place. They tried to keep him with them. However, he wanted to leave to other places to spread the word of God's Kingdom at other places in Judea.

My Thoughts
Matthew and Luke document the three temptations of Jesus in a slightly different order. The first one is same by both authors, however, #2 and #3 are not.

Jesus was all alone when he was in the wilderness. By sharing these temptations with us, he is letting us know about his weak side - that he is just like one of us. Further, for the wise person, Jesus is sharing the tactics of Satan, and demonstrating how Satan can be won.

Satan tempted Jesus even while he was standing at the highest point of the Holy Temple. This means that Satan can enter every place with the intention of tempting.

When we are tempted, we ought to look into our toolbox those tools we have at our disposal. Remember - we have the same tool set that Jesus carried in the wilderness.
1. The Power of Prayer,
2. Love of God the Father,
3. Blessings of the Holy Spirit,
4. The Word of God in the Holy Bible,
As a bonus, we have one additional factor which Jesus did not have at that time.
5. A role model - Jesus, who defeated Satan's temptation.

When the scroll of Isaiah was handed over to Jesus, he did not flip through it. He knew his Bible pretty well, and went straight to the part where Isaiah's prophecy was written, and read it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Matthew 4

The Temptation of Christ - Ary Scheffer (1854)

After receiving his father's approval, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, to be tempted by Satan. Jesus has the power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, raise the dead, etc. The question is, will Jesus use this power to satisfy his own legitimate needs.

Temptation is an invitation to sin. It is the process of coaxing or inducing a person by means of manipulation or arousing curiosity, to perform a sinful act, which he/she will regret in the future.

Forty days and nights, Jesus fasted and this made him extremely hungry. Satan took advantage of this situation, and his target was Jesus' relationship with his Father.

Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Here, Jesus faced the temptation as a man - notice that in his response he uses the word man. Jesus did not deploy any of his divine powers and that was exactly what Satan was tempting Jesus to do. Jesus quoted God's words - that from Deuteronomy 8:3.
Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
For the second temptation, Satan took Jesus to the Holy City and made him stand on the highest point of the Temple, and asked Jesus to jump down, if he was the Son of God. Then, Satan quoted Psalms 91, "He will command his angels concerning you,and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Jesus countered Satan by quoting another citation from Deuteronomy 6:16.
Matthew 4:7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
In the third temptation, Satan offered a shortcut to his kingdom. Satan, the prince of the world took Jesus to a very high mountain top and displayed all the world's splendor - name, fame, riches, power, etc., He asked Jesus to worship him by falling down on his knees and he would grant all these to Jesus.

Lord's reputation was at stake when Jesus was undergoing these temptations. Jesus refused Satan's kingly offer and backed his rebuke by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13. While doing so, Jesus made the mission of God more important that his own suffering.

Satan completed his test and left Jesus. Angels, who were watching this entire drama by holding their breath, came and ministered Jesus - he was so tired and weak.

Upon learning the fate of John the Baptist, Jesus left his hometown of Nazareth and moved towards Galilee and started to preach there. There he called Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him. Knowing the capabilities of Jesus, they followed him - we will see more about this in Luke 5.

The team traveled all over Galilee teaching the good news about Lord's kingdom. As part of his ministry, Jesus healed all those who came to him for physical, mental or emotional ailment. People from far off towns came to meet Jesus.
Matthew 4:25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Interestingly, Jesus found time during his 24 hour schedule to attend and spend time with all who came to meet him.

My Thoughts
When Adam was tempted by Satan, he was surrounded by everything in the Garden of Eden. Jesus, on the other hand, during his temptation was in the wilderness, and hungry. Adam lost the battle, but Jesus won the test of temptation.

During the first temptation, Satan asked Jesus to do the right thing of eating, at the wrong time of fasting. Timing is an important aspect of obedience. Notice that in warding off Satan's first temptation, Jesus quoted those verses from Bible - our Old Testament.

During the second temptation, Satan wanted to check if Jesus lived by obeying the Holy Scripture. For this, Satan misquotes Psalm 91. We tempt God when we force Him or pray to him to work miracles on our behalf. Another way of looking at it is, whether Jesus is following God, or will Jesus manipulate God in an attempt to make God follow Jesus.

Satan loves to be worshiped. We server what we worship. Jesus was already promised the heavenly kingdom and knew of his father's promise. Satan's promise cannot be counted as he is the prince of deception - any moment, he could back off from his "promise."

Isn't it beautiful that we have a wonderful story of Jesus' victory to tell everyone. Think for a moment - if for some reason, Jesus had failed the test of Satan's temptation, how shameful that would have been? Is that what we desire? If we were assisting Jesus, how would we have performed? Are we upto the challenge everyday in our lives, when temptations come towards us?

Note that Jesus never used any of the divine powers to satisfy his own personal needs.

Luke 3

Wiki Image: South dome of inner narthex at Chora Church, Istanbul, depicting the ancestors of Christ from Adam onwards. 

Luke, in his book, elaborates more about the baptism of Jesus Christ. Around 27 - 29 AD, John the Baptist went all around the Jordan river and preached the need for repentance. Crowds of people came out to get baptized - it was a popular thing to do at that time. To them, John exploded saying, "A little water on your snakeskin will not change God' mind, and don't please explain your religious heritage consisting of Abraham's lineage." John instead stressed that a genuine, fruit-bearing repentance will result in concrete ethical actions.

To the crowd he taught the value of sharing food and clothing. Tax collectors were told to collect just what was required; soldiers were told not to blackmail or exhort money inappropriately. When people wondered if John was the Messiah, he clarified that he was not and pointed towards Jesus.

John baptized Jesus and at that time, the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit ascended upon in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven spoke, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

John could not bear many of those wicked deeds which Herod had done, including he taking his brothers wife. John rebuked Herod for his actions and was ultimately imprisoned - this put a full stop to John's preaching.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is listed by Luke. The average reader usually skips the long list of names. If you pay attention, you'll notice that Matthew and Luke differ slightly when it comes to the lineage. One speaks about King Solomon, and the other talks about Nathan, the son of David & Bathsheba, the younger brother of King Solomon. Apparently, this has been a topic of debate since early age. The most common explanation is that Matthew narrates the lineage of Joesph, while Luke provides that of Mary. Either way, Jesus was the son of God.