People continue to search for answers instead of believing and following The Answer!
DAY ONE – Matthew 4:23-25, 8:14-17, Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:31-44
The pattern was set; Jesus revealed why He was here. Matthew 4:23-25 (NLT) Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon-possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River. Luke 4:42-44 (NLT) Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. 43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea. I call it a pattern, for it demonstrates the manner in which Jesus introduced the Kingdom of Heaven to His followers and the world. He preached, He taught, He healed the sick and cast out demons, and He went into people’s homes to refresh and bless them. He did this everywhere; He did it repeatedly; He did it with authority; and He did it successfully! For months we have been reading in the Old Testament of the Bible about Almighty God’s works: the creation, the connection with Abram and his descendants, Israel; His sovereignty over the nations; and His plans to redeem and save a fallen world. Four thousand years of human history… and then Jesus appeared on the scene. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love and salvation. He immediately set out to reveal heaven… to reveal that there is a place where everyone is free, well, and joy-filled. He did it by healing the sick and casting out demons; by preaching and teaching Good News that works in anybody’s life. And He did it with an air of righteousness about Him not seen before! Surely Jesus is God’s answer for our world. Everything you ever wanted to know about God is seen in Jesus. Why suffering? Why so much evil in our world? Why do children get sick and die? Instead of using human reasoning to find answers, look to Jesus. Jesus came from heaven and God to reveal goodness, to demonstrate love and salvation. He came to show us how the Holy Spirit works in the world to fulfill all of God’s plans and expectations. By faith vow to follow Jesus, all the way to heaven!
DAY TWO – John 3-5
It was bound to happen. Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus was the first incident. Then the woman at the well in Samaria brought it up again. But it was the Jewish leaders who escalated the conflict to a life or death contest. It is, of course, the oldest struggle between heaven and earth–religion versus true faith in and love for God. When the Lord through Moses gave Abraham’s descendants their religion at Sinai, it was, as you remember, accomplished in external rituals and animal sacrifices–all of which could be fulfilled without true faith or love, even though Yahweh God had exhorted them to love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul. Ever thereafter, humankind seek to justify themselves through the accomplishments of religion without true faith in the Only Creator God. So here comes Jesus claiming to be sent from heaven and confronting the religiosity of Jews and Samaritans. And John the Baptist, who is joyfully aware that Jesus is baptizing and saving people through faith in His words, confirms that Messiah’s gifts are from heaven. No longer will religion or religious practices be acceptable to God as a sign of faith, for He has sent His Only Son from heaven to release salvation through faith in a Person. For claiming to be sent to earth by His Father in heaven; and for claiming that He is doing only what He sees His Father doing, Jesus now has a target on His back; and the Jews are already plotting to kill Him. It is no wonder that the world, looking at two thousand years of church history, are so bold as to convict religion and accuse christians (note little c) of creating all the problems in the world. We are called Christians because of faith in and love for our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is also a ‘christian’ religion, associated with various ‘churches,’ which has a form of godliness but denies the power of the Holy Spirit and therefore brings reproach upon the wonderful Name of Jesus. At the risk of being totally misunderstood, I assert that there is no ‘christian’ church. There are only Christians–faithful followers of Jesus Christ–who together make up THE CHURCH, the body of Christ around the world. Yes, true Christians do come together, and they assemble in a place, and it becomes known as a church. But then it divides into a thousand different ‘christian’ organizations and is still called a church, even though the world looking on is now totally confused. Perhaps it is time that Jesus’ followers leave off so many names and identities and come together in faith to truly represent our Lord through our good works and godly living. Wouldn’t THAT be a miracle!
DAY THREE – Matthew 8:1-4, 9:1-17, 12:1-21, Mark 1:40-3:21, Luke 5:12-6:19
I want to know Jesus, more and more; I want you to know Jesus as well. How do we get to know Him? By reading the Bible? Yes, but in reality it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us as we read. John said that Jesus is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, so don’t overlook that dimension as we make our journey. We read today from three different gospels, all containing similar accounts of the same events. While minor details may vary from author to author, the stories themselves consistently reveal the power and authority in Jesus’ earthly ministry to humankind. So how do we get the most from Jesus’ life–the healings, teachings and examples? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you read each account:
- Why did Jesus say what He said? (His words in some Bibles are in red.)
- What do you think it meant to those who heard it?
- What does it mean to you?
- What did He explain in His teachings?
- What instructions did He give?
- After reading, what do you think you should do about what He said? (Hopefully you are taking notes!)
Obviously, not all those who witnessed the healing miracles praised God and believed in Jesus. Why not? If Jesus was explaining and demonstrating that the Kingdom of God had come to earth, wouldn’t that be a wonderful blessing? Wouldn’t that change our outlook of how we live here? Wouldn’t that raise a ‘thank you’ to the Lord from our heart? As you see, we have only begun our readings about Jesus. By the time we are finished, hopefully God’s eternal flame will burn in your heart to see His Kingdom lived out in our world today. And hopefully you will be filled with new awe and wonder about the wonderful blessings of getting to know Jesus at a deeper level in your spirit. That is, after all, why He came.
DAY FOUR – Matthew 5-7, Luke 6:20-49, 11:1-13
Jesus was clear when He spoke to the crowd. He said, in effect, “You haven’t been at all able to keep God’s laws, and look at the mess your world is in today. Because of that, I have come, not to destroy or do away with the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them completely.” In order for redemption and salvation to come to planet earth from heaven, it was necessary that a Person keep God’s whole law. No one had ever done that, even the most righteous of those who lived in faith toward God. So our wonderful Father in heaven, Yahweh God, sent His own and only Son, Jesus, to finally live out His plan and bring salvation to the world. This great sermon taught by Jesus draws out the full implication of what it means to live the right way and to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. He summed it up like this: Do to others what you wish they would do to you. That has become known as the Golden Rule. It covers all our relationships and affects all our interactions with other people… and God.
The second little time bomb Jesus planted in His message is this: The God you don’t really know is actually your Father in heaven. Father. Think about it. We all know that when we were born we had an earthly father; some children grow up without ever knowing their father. Others grow up with a father whom they maybe wish they didn’t know, for obvious reasons. And then there are earthly fathers who, though they are not perfect, nonetheless love and care for their children. But there is ONLY ONE Heavenly Father; no other carries the light and love for His children as does our Father in Heaven. Throughout His message, Jesus continued to refer to “your Father,” as if His listeners would fully understand His meaning. But do we? How many of us can make that stretch, can look up toward heaven and feel the full weight and affection of a heavenly Father? Jesus was here to fix that. As we continue our reading, it will become abundantly clear that to know the Father, we must follow the Son! Jesus said, “You are my followers.” He called one and then another to FOLLOW HIM. He called the masses, the crowds, to become His followers. And He is still calling, to everyone who will listen, “Follow me.” It seems clear to me that anyone who follows Jesus here and now will one day be where Jesus has been, with the Father, all this time!
DAY FIVE – Matthew 8:5-13, 11:1-30, Luke 7
How is it that an officer of the hated Roman occupiers received a commendation from Jesus? He wasn’t a Jew, yet in his time of need He turned to Jesus for relief. In the course of the interview, Jesus expressed amazement at the centurion’s faith, which was resident in his understanding of authority. Having healed the centurion’s servant, Jesus exclaimed that many Gentiles would come from all over the world to sit down with the Jewish patriarchs at the great feast in the kingdom of heaven, while many Jews would be excluded in outer darkness. In this story, Jesus began to demonstrate response and responsibility. He followed this by talking about the cities where He had done so many wonderful miracles, exclaiming again that had Sidon and Tyre seen these miracles, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes–response and responsibility. Finally, after John the Baptist, full of questions, sent from prison two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really the waited-for Messiah, Jesus lovingly performed miracles all day and then sent the two disciples back to John to describe what they had seen and heard. The evidence spoke for itself. Turning to the crowds, he commended those who believed John and were baptized for repentance of sins, but condemned those who refused to believe John and were not baptized–response and responsibility.
Response is the way we act when we are privileged to witness acts of God’s grace in our lifetime of experience. The witness of Jesus and the acts of God’s kindness abound in our material world. Heaven’s kisses are lavished on humankind in so many ways, and yet the world goes on its way with little or no response. They literally act as if God is not there or, if He is, He has yet to do anything for them!.. while others respond with thanksgiving, offering a sacrifice of praise to the Lord for His daily blessings. Our response is bound up in responsibility; that is, since God is good and His goodness is clearly experienced in our world, we are responsible for all of that, and we will be held accountable for the way we responded. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, and then out of love lays down His life in place of ours, we are immediately responsible. How do you respond? A “thank you” is certainly appropriate.