Saturday, February 8, 2014

Luke 9:1-17

The twelve who had been ordained few months ago were now given the power and authority to deal with demons and heal the sick, so that they could preach about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus told them to keep it simple. Not to lead a luxurious lifestyle. He also reminded them that they were the equipment. The disciples left and traveled from town to town, proclaiming the message of God.

When Herod heard about Jesus, he wondered what was going on. Many told him that John the Baptist had returned in the form of Jesus.
Luke 9:9 But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see him.
When Jesus withdrew to a place to pray, the crowd followed him. Jesus graciously welcomed them and told them about the Kingdom of Heaven. He also made time to heal those who were sick.

After filling them spiritually, Jesus wanted to fill their stomachs too. He told his disciples to feed them. When all they could find was five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus multiplied it to feed over five thousand. Twelve baskets of leftovers were collected later on.

Additional Info
Andrew was the one who found the boy who offered this two fish and five loaves. We read it in John 6:8-9, which is coming up next. His mother had packed this boy's lunch, which was a starting point for the miracle.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mark 6

Moving on to Mark, we read the following in chapter 6:
  1. A Prophet Without Honor
  2. Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
  3. John the Baptist Beheaded
  4. Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
  5. Jesus Walks on the Water
A Prophet Without Honor
Listening to Jesus teach at the synagogues, people were impressed and asked, "Where did he gain all these wisdom? How is he performing all these miracles?" 

In their next breath, they shot him down asking, "Isn't he the carpenter's son?" Seeing their reaction, Jesus did not perform much miracles there apart from healing some. Jesus mentioned that a prophet will not get any honor in one's hometown. 

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
Jesus send out the twelve disciples in pairs -ie six teams. He gave them instructions such as not to carry anything other than a staff. The idea was to be modest and not put on any fundraising campaign. According to Jesus, they were the equipment, and if they were not welcome at a place, they should leave without making a scene. 

The disciples went out preaching and healing the sick. They also drove out many demons. 

John the Baptist Beheaded
Mark records the death of John with almost same details as that of Matthew. 
The name of Jesus was on everyone's lips. Many, including Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the dead. 

John had been accusing Herod for marrying his brother's wife, Herodias. She kept nagging Herod and he put John in the prison. Herodias smoldered with hate and did everything in her capacity to kill John. However, Herod was miserable with guilt and knew John was a holy and righteous man.  Herod liked to listen to John. 

On Herod's birthday, he threw a birthday party for all those blue-bloods. Herodias' daughter came in and performed a seductive dance and dazzled the guests. Herod promised her with an oath that he would give her anything, upto half his kingdom. Herodias told her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Distressed at his oath and the presence of those guests, Herod ordered execution of John and his head was presented on a platter. The executioner presented it to the girl, who gave it over to her mother Herodias. 

John's body was buried by his disciples in a tomb. 

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
Jesus went to a solitary place on a boat. But the crowd saw him and ran on foot to get there. Seeing a large crowd, Jesus had compassion on them since they had no shepherd. The disciples suggested he send them away, but Jesus asked them to feed the people. When he found out that all they had was two fish and five loaves of bread, he made them sit in groups of fifties and hundreds. He then blessed the bread and fish and told them to distribute. More than five thousand were at the supper who ate till they were full. Twelve baskets of leftovers were collected as well. 

Jesus Walks on the Water
Jesus insisted the disciples to leave, and dismissed the crowd. That night, he went up a mountain to pray, while the disciples were on the boat. Shortly before dawn, Jesus decided to get towards the disciples by walking on the water. He was about to pass them, and they were alarmed to see someone walking on water. They were still thinking about the bread loaves and now seeing Jesus walk on water further frightened them. 

He then joined them and went on to Gennesaret. People brought sick people on mats to be healed. Several touched the edge of his cloak and were healed. 

Matthew 14

The beheading of St. John the Baptist Michelangelo Caravaggio, 1608

Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis) and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. John the Baptist used to say, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

Herod was however afraid to kill John because he was considered a prophet by the people.

On the day of Herod Antipas' birthday, Herodias' daughter, Salome performed a seductive dance before the king and his guests. Salomi's lascivious moves aroused Herod Antipas so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When Salomi asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.

John's disciples claimed the body and buried him.

They then told Jesus about what happened. Hearing this, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. The people followed him and he healed them. They were at a remote place and Jesus being compassionate, asked his disciples to feed them. All they had was five loaves of bread and two fish. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. About five thousand men, besides women and children were fed. They also collected twelve baskets of leftovers.

Then Jesus dismissed the crowd immediately and got into the boat to go to the other side of the mountain all by himself. That night he spent it all by himself. During the wee hours, Jesus came walking on the water. Seeing this, disciples were terrified and Jesus calmed them down. Peter wanted to try that himself. He walked a bit, and when he saw the wind, he became afraid and began to sink. Jesus helped Peter and the team went to Gennasaret.

People brought several sick people to Jesus in large numbers and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Additional Info:
Salome's dance of the 7 veils - performed by the step-daughter of Herod, on his birthday. Herod's manipulative wife used her beautiful daughter's dance skills to trap her husband into agreeing to execute John the Baptist.

We read about the Herod family in our four gospels, and in the Book of Acts. The Herods were Edomites - descendants of Easu, and were filled with hatred towards the Jews. There are four Herod's we read in the Holy Bible. 

1. Herod the Great - we read about him during the birth of Jesus. He had about 9 wives and killed some of them and was the same one who ordered the infant slaying. 

2. Herod Antipas - the son of Herod the Great, who was deceptive and selfish. He divorced his own wife and sent her to her father's house in order to elope with Herodias, the wife of his half brother, Philip I. He was the one who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, and was the one in power during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

3. Herod Agrippa - the grandson of Herod the great, who imprisoned Peter and killed James. 

4. Herod Agrippa II - the son of Herod Agrippa, the one who tried Paul. 

My Thoughts:
Herodias was tired of John the Baptist openly criticizing the union of Herod Antipas and Herodias. She therefore manipulated Herod Antipas using the seductive charm of her daughter. It tells us more about the weakness of Herod and the corruption that existed at that time. Further, note that Herod was in a state of drunkenness. 

After seeing the miracle and being fed, those 5,000 men and children wanted to make Jesus the king. Jesus immediately dismissed the crowd. We will read this in John 6:14 -15. 

Touching the edge of the cloak and getting healed was a lesson people learned from the bleeding woman's story. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Matthew 10

With the authority to heal diseases and drive out evil spirits, Jesus sent out his twelve disciples and gave them a set of instructions in the form of a short speech.

He begins by explaining the boundaries to operate within, which happens to be the Jewish community. He said, "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."

Further, he instructed them not to put up any sort of fundraising campaign to get started. They did not need any equipment either - they were the equipment. To keep going, all they needed was three square meals a day - which the Lord would provide.

A word of caution to them was that he was sending them as a sheep among wolves. They were to think like a snake and behave like an innocent dove. They had a the blessings from above, and the Holy Spirit would be speaking on their behalf.

They were told not to be naive - especially of those who would smear them of their reputation. When people understand the fact that they were presenting the True God, and not any idols, even those in their own family would turn against them. The irony is that those who proclaim the message of love will be hated by other.

The Great teacher taught his students that a student does not get any better than his/her teacher. He shared that suffering is to be expected.

On the bright side, he told not to fear anyone except God - the one who can destroy both the body and soul. Lord is in charge and He knows everything that goes on in the world.
Matthew 10:30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
That is the amount of care and attention our God gives us.
Agnus Day appears with the permission of

God cares for His own children. In the words of Jesus:
Matthew 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven."
We are supposed to love Jesus more than anyone in this world - more than our father, mother, son or daughter.

Once we have been identified with Jesus Christ, we are part of a war - the spiritual war, which started in the Garden of Eden and is currently going on between God and Satan.

In this war, we are given two choices:
(1) spare our life
(2) sacrifice our life

This is complicated stuff - there is no middle ground. Living for our own self will bring us death. Living for God and willing to die for Him will bring us life. We, as good citizens should do everything in our capacity to let Jesus Christ win the battle on our behalf. Those two options in front of us are:

(1) selfishness
(2) sacrifice

Jesus concluded that we are indeed a blessing to others. It is not like everyone will reject God's word. There will be few good people in the world who will welcome God's ambassadors. Those blessings will depend upon the attitude with which the host treats the ambassadors.

This concludes the part where Matthew speaks about the 'Revelation of the King.'

My Thoughts
If anyone told me that I was going to be a sheep among wolves, I would have felt extremely demotivated. Here in this case, it is the Master of the Universe, who is guaranteeing safety - so why fear, or doubt.

Jesus packs in so much philosophy into this chapter.
One example is Matthew 10:36 A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
Another one is Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

When we look at this chapter as a speech or instructions to disciples, notice how Jesus gradually builds up the subject. He first gave them the authority, then defined the target audience. Next he mentioned what to carry and what not to take. Then he spoke about the dangers to expect, by narrating examples. He then moves into a positive note saying, "Not be afraid because of the Father's care." He then told them about his mission and what they are supposed to do. In conclusion, he said how they will be a blessing to many.

The numbering of our hair is something we ourselves have no clue about - but God knows the exact count of them. He keeps track of every single hair, and whatever happens to them!

God's Ambassador - I love that title. Essentially it means representative of the God the King. I should think about growing up to become one.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Matthew 9

Jesus healed a paralyzed man who was brought to him by four friends. Interestingly, Jesus tells him, "Take heart son, your sins are forgiven."

A question that remains unanswered is whether we can conclude that a man's sickness is caused by sin.

We then read the calling of Matthew - he was a tax collector, hated by everyone. While having dinner at Matthew's house, Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

The response Jesus gave was, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Speaking about fasting, the message Jesus gave was that it was not yet time for doing so. He gave examples such as that of the bridegroom, patching of clothes and new wine in old wineskin.

A synagogue leader came running to him and informed him that his daughter had just died. He requested Jesus to come put his hand over her.

A woman who was bleeding for twelve years came and touched the edge of Jesus' cloak with faith that by the touch she would be healed. Jesus told her, "Your faith has healed you." The woman was healed instantly.

Jesus went to the synagogue leader's house and told the noisy crowd playing pipes to stay away. He then went inside and raised the dead girl.

Two blind men followed Jesus with the request to be healed. Jesus asked them whether they had faith in Jesus and they said, "Yes." Based on their faith, he restored their sight. Another man possessed with demon was brought near Jesus and he was healed. The pharisees who witnessed all these commented that Jesus was doing all these with the help of Satan.

Jesus traveled extensively through those towns and villages, teaching at their synagogues, healing people of every disease and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. He was compassionate towards them and his heart broke - because they were confused and aimless. Nobody was there to guide them in the proper direction.

Looking at the crowd, Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

My Thoughts
The coming of Jesus into this world is a good news for sinners like myself. He holds the keys to the 'Kingdom of Heaven,' knows how to get there, and is willing to take those who are ready to follow him. Yes, Jesus is trustworthy and it is worth following him.

How differently Matthew documents the story of Jairus and his daughter.

We have a similar situation with vast numbers of confused and aimless people today. The shepherds wearing the clothes of Jesus Christ instead of leading, are misleading the crowd. How pitiful, and how heart-broken would Jesus be, witnessing these events. He won't keep quiet for long.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mark 5

We saw in the last chapter how Jesus gained victory over nature.

In this chapter, we read Jesus continuing his:
- Victory over demons,
- Victory over sickness, and
- Victory over death.

This is Mark's narrative of the pitiful sight of the madman who lived in those burial caves. Incapable of leading a normal life, he was chained up several times, but he broke loose and snapped the ropes. Day and night he roamed around inflicting wounds on himself with sharp stones.

Upon seeing Jesus, he ran and bowed down before him. The evil spirits within him were speaking and they requested not to be driven into sea. Jesus performed an exorcism wherein the spirits were led into the pigs, who eventually drowned into the sea. A large number of pigs, around two thousand, were drowned in the sea.

After witnessing this, the people in the region pleaded Jesus to leave.

When the man who was demon possessed showed interest in following Jesus, he told him, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Mark records that he did exactly what Jesus asked him to.

We then read the story of Jairus, the synagogue leader, approaching Jesus with the request to heal his daughter who is about to die.

Along with the crowd was a woman who was bleeding for twelve years. She had been to many physicians who took all her money, and her condition had worsened. Her bleeding made her ceremonially unclean, which restricted her religiously and socially. When she heard about Jesus, she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

Agnus Day appears with the permission of"

Jesus felt the touch and asked who had touched him. His disciples failed to answer it, but the woman turned herself in. Jesus blessed her and told her to go in peace.

While this conversation was taking place, news arrived that the daughter of Jairus has passed away. Jesus took Peter, James and John to Jairus' house. When he noticed the commotion there, he calmed everyone and took the child's parents and those disciples along with him into the room.
Mark 5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).
Hearing this, the twelve year girl woke up and started to walk around. Jesus told her parents to give her something to eat, and not to tell this incident to anyone.

My Thoughts
Every time I read the story or this woman who was bleeding, I am amazed at her faith. When I was much younger, I used to have that sort of faith, which gradually faded. I try and put myself into her shoes and can imagine she thinking like a child. Perhaps, she must have thought, "I am not that important as Jairus to go ask Jesus for help, and let me not bother him. She must have struggled a lot go get near Jesus through all that crowd around him.

Jesus knew about the touch - we all do. If someone touches us accidentally, that is different. However, when someone touches us intentionally, we can feel it very much, and our body sends a signal to the brain immediately. For that matter, our bodies are capable to even sensing a look.

I learned something new. Early mornings, now I can say, "Talitha koum."

Mark 4

Sitting in a boat, while people were on the shore, Jesus spoke about growth in the parable of the sower. He was referring to the Kingdom of Heaven.

When the twelve disciples were alone with him, he told them that they have been given the insight regarding the Kingdom of Heaven, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you."

Speaking about parables, Jesus told them that all his stories work in this fashion. There are essentially four kinds of hearts

(1) the hard heart, which resists the word of God, and is snatched away by the devil,
(2) the shallow heart, who emotionally hears everything and carries the enthusiasm for several days or weeks, then fades off with difficulties, as the flesh overcomes those spiritual feelings,
(3) the crowded heart, who has a desire for worldly affairs and has no room for Godly affairs,
(4) the fruitful heart, which portrays a true believer who shows evidence of salvation by bearing true spiritual fruit.

Speaking about how a lit lamp is put on a stand, he said there were no secrets. He said that giving is the way (not getting). His teaching was to be generous, and not stingy.

It take a great deal of patience and faith to be a farmer. Those seed which he sows grow mysteriously, and such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Further he spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven being analogous to the mustard seed - a tiny seed, when allowed to grow becomes a large plant in the garden.

Agnus Day appears with the permission of"

We then read about the fierce storm in the sea of Galilee, when Jesus told them, “Let us go over to the other side.”

While crossing the sea, Jesus is sleeping so peacefully.

His promise was not an empty one, though those climatic conditions were entirely favorable. He rebuked the winds and calmed them down. As a master of every situation, Jesus delivered them to the other side.

Once upon a time, a ship was sinking. Left on that sinking ship were the captain and three sailors.

The captain spoke first. "Men, this business about a captain going down with his ship is nonsense. There’s a three-man life raft on board and I’m going to be on it. To see who will come with me, I will ask you each one question. The one who can’t answer will stay behind. Here’s the first question: What unsinkable ship went down when it hit an iceberg?"

The first sailor answered, "The Titanic, sir."

"On to the next question: How many people perished?"

The second sailor said, "One thousand five hundred and seventeen, sir."

"Now for the third question," and the captain turned to sailor number three. "What were their names?"

My Thoughts
Jesus was never impressed by the large crowd that followed him. He knew only few would make note of his teachings, and ultimately produce fruits.

Numerous parables were told to the disciples related to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is all they spoke about.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Superbowl Sunday

Ever wondered what Superbowl is all about?

A large number of faithful followers look forward to this event. To them, today is a religious day. On the other hand, football means nothing to many. However, to be considered 'American', they have to be part of 'Super Sunday gathering' with friends and families, drinking beer, eating buffalo wings, pizza, chili, potato chips, and dipping sauce.

Majority of those who gather around the TV, especially the women, have no clue how the game works, but still they 'have to' participate to be part of the group which is glued to the couch. They somehow die out of boredom, but will barely reveal it. It is no surprise that the real relief for them arrives in the form of advertisements. That one person who knows little about the game, apart from the commentator will 'steal the show' talking about Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.

That is the story with those watching the game at home. Then there is this other side of the story that takes place behind the scenes - the reality of sex trade with an astonishing amount of people flocking towards the venue to have sex with women, men or children, with Super Bowl acting as a huge sex magnet. Hotels in the tri-state area have started filling up with customers as early as last week. Entertainment precede and follow the main event.

The relationship between sex and sport is not new - it dates back to early days of Olympics and is prevalent with every testosterone driven sporting event. Tap here to check out the article, "You will never see this side of the Superbowl on TV." Please take time to educate your children about these happenings behind the scenes - let them be aware of the reality.

 Now, take a moment to **think** what this is all about.

Before you leave, check out this video clip:

Food for thought: 
Jesus told us that only few will make it to the Kingdom in Heaven. Today we have two feasts - one to remember the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and the other related to Super Bowl. Which one of them will we and our friends be interested in celebrating, discussing, and be part of?

Video Credits: The Skit Guys

Jesus presented in the temple

This painting  depicts the Presentation of Jesus as a child at the Temple in Jerusalem - by Simon Vouet (1641).

Today we celebrate baby Jesus presented in the temple.

Jesus Presented in the Temple
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”),
24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.
26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2: 22-40