AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE

LIFE CHANGING STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF CHRIST is a historical and expositional study of Jesus’ earthly life from a Judeo-Christian point of view. The study is based on a harmony of the four Gospel accounts of The Holy Bible. It attempts to follow the life of Christ along chronological lines. Since chronology and timing were not the foremost concern of the Gospel writers it is not always possible to write with absolute certainty on the timing or placement of any given event within the chronology provided. Emphasis is placed not so much on the timing of those events, but rather, on the lessons we can learn from them. The Harmony and Chronology of the Life of Christ provided herein is a personal adaptation of William Scroggie’s A Guide to the Gospels (New Jersey: Fleming H. Revel Company) and Thomas and Gundry’s The NIV Harmony of the Gospels (California: HarperSanFrancisco) which, in turn, is a revision of A.T. Robertson’s renown work, A Harmony of the Gospels. The dates cited are my adaptation of Frank Klassen's The Chronology Of The Bible (Tennessee: Regal Publishers). 

Every attempt has been made to be faithful to the letter, as well as the spirit, of the Word. The text of Scripture is examined first in its immediate context, then in the larger context of the Scriptures as a whole. It is then expounded and presented in a manner befitting the righteous character of our Lord. I am unapologetically a Spirit filled, tongue-talking Christian. With the blessed baptism of the Holy Spirit experience comes enlightenment of many truths that are marginalized or contradicted by mainstream Christianity, including the truths of Divine healing and demonic oppression. Thankfully, the Gospel accounts are replete with both of these truths that they cannot be, in all sincerity, denied. Other than my Spirit-filled background, I am not affiliated with any denomination, so I have no denominational viewpoint to espouse or adhere to. I cannot describe to you how exhilirating and liberating it feels to be true to the Scriptures and not twist the Scriptures into the framework of a church's, or a denomination's, creed. Now that you know a little bit about my approach to the Gospel texts, it will come as no surprise to you that I make no attempt to be politically correct. God bless you and I do love you, as our Lord does too. But sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. Truth is truth. And I will not be coerced into supporting a lifestyle or belief that is plainly unbiblical and ungodly. My goal is to be true to the Scriptures and the Lord. In nothing do I mean to offend or drive away those whom the Lord seeks. For this cause, every attempt has been made to present the truth as compassionately and considerately as is humanly possible.

When the Lord commissioned this study of His life He began by graciously giving me a vision. In this vision I was in an operating room, surrounded by a multitude of masked doctors and nurses who were preparing for surgery. The patient, Jesus Himself, lay still on the operating table. The head surgeon, the Father Himself, looked at me as He prepared to cut open Jesus' chest and said to me, "I'm going to show you Jesus' heart." In the years that followed, as I studied the life of Christ, God showed me Jesus' heart as I've never seen it before. Needless to say, it's been a life-changing study for me. I pray it will be for you too as together we sit at Jesus' feet, with Bibles opened, and let the Lord speak to us afresh from the Gospel texts. It’s my prayer that you will be instructed, encouraged, and transformed as you read these studies. It is to this end that the Lord so graciously provided it as a manifestation of the great love and care that He has for you.

SCRIPTURE VERSIONS USED

I grew up with the King James Version of the Bible. Consequently, it's the version that I use in the commentary portion of my studies. Admittedly, it's not the easiest translation to understand. So, to help you get the most out of the Scriptures and the studies that follow, I also use various modern translations that accurately translate the message originally intended by the Biblical writers. I am indebted to the following people, organizations and publishers who have made God's Word easier to understand and more readily available to the world.

*Wherever quoted and indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), Lockman Foundation;

*Wherever quoted and indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV), Biblica;

*Wherever quoted and indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV), Crossway Bibles, a ministry of the Good News Publishers of Wheaton, Illinois, USA.

*Wherever quoted and indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from The Message (MSG), by Eugene Peterson. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

*Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

*Wherever quoted and indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV), American Bible Society.

*Wherever quoted and indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Bible in Basic Engligh (BBE), by S.H. Hooke (ed), published by Cambridge University Press.

GETTING STARTED

Are you ready to get started? You can continue scrolling down this COMMENTARY frame if you'd like to systematically study the life of Christ from beginning to end. The HARMONY, located at the bottom left corner of this page, serves as a chronological table of contents of Jesus' life. Scroll through the harmony and when you find an entry that you'd like to study click on that entry or its associated Scripture reference and you'll be taken directly to the appropriate commentary in this frame. Additional information may be found by clicking on the footnotes (FN) in the commentary. The information will show up in the FOOTNOTE frame that's located at the bottom right corner of this page. Clicking on a Scripture reference in the commentary and footnote frames will take you directly to the Scripture text in the Harmony frame. If a certain subject arouses your curiosity, click on the INDEX link in the HARMONY frame. There's a good chance you'll find your subject there. Clicking on the index's entries will take you directly to that subject in the COMMENTARY and FOOTNOTE frames.

The website is under construction. You'll notice huge portions of the studies are missing. Unfortunately, my life's duties prevent me from working full time on the website. Lord willing, and with His blessings, I hope to publish more of the studies to the website on a weekly basis. So come back periodically and, together, let's learn the many things God wants to teach us through His Word and the life of Christ. God bless you richly as you embark on this journey of blessed enlightenment.

 

LITERARY SOURCES OF THE LIFE OF CHRIST

Christ is found everywhere in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. But, in the main, what we know about His earthly life is found in the Gospels. God chose four men who were associates and friends of Jesus and He inspired them to write the story of Christ. Here in the table below is a bird's eye view of these men's view of Christ and the goal they had in mind when they wrote their Gospel account.

 

 
MATTHEW
MARK
LUKE
JOHN
CHARACTER SKETCH
A tax collector by profession before Jesus called him to be one of His 12 apostles.
Also called John Mark, he was a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10). Later on in life he became a valued co-worker with Paul. He, along with Luke, was not an apostle.
The beloved physician (Col. 4:14) and co-worker with Paul. Probably a Greek national. He is the only Gentile writer of Scripture.
The disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23). He & his brother James were apostles & Jesus' earliest followers. One of three disciples who were the closest to Jesus.
AUDIENCE & PORTRAYAL OF JESUS

JEWS

JESUS THE MESSIAH

ROMANS

JESUS THE SERVANT

GREEKS

JESUS THE MAN

ALL MEN

JESUS THE SON OF GOD

PURPOSE
To how the Jews that Jesus is indeed the prophesied Messiah.
The Romans were very interested in power & might. Jesus is the All-Mighty Miracle-Worker, yet a Servant of men.
The Greeks looked for a perfect or ideal man. Luke presents Jesus in His humanity as being the perfect Man.
To show that Jesus is the Divine Son of God & Savior of the world. To give all who believe in Jesus the promise of eternal life.
GOSPEL FEATURES
Quotes or alludes to the OT repeatedly: "That it might be fulfilled." Lots of teaching, especially on the Kingdom of Heaven.
Fast-paced narrative of Jesus' works. "Straightway" and "immediately" used many times. The shortest of the Gospel accounts.
Emphasizes Jesus' humanity and redemptive activity toward ALL people. The longest Gospel account.
Very spiritual, lots of discourse. Half of this Gospel deals with the last week of Jesus' life.

 

I love charts because they give me a comprehensive, panoramic view of things. Check out my charts of the four Gospel accounts below and you'll get a bird's eye view of the whole books.

 

THE BOOK OF MATTHEW AT A GLANCE

THEME: Jesus is the Old Testament's Prophesied Messiah & King. KEY WORDS: That it might be fulfilled.

KEY VERSE: Matthew 1:22, That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophets.

THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
CHAPTER
CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS
THE KING'S BIRTH
1
Jesus' Genealogy. Angelic Annunciation to Joseph.
2
Jesus' Birth. Homage of the Wise Men. Escape to Egypt. Infants slaughtered. Return to Nazareth.
THE KING'S TRIUMPH
3
Jesus' Baptism.
4
Jesus' Temptation.
THE KING'S TEACHINGS
5
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
6
7
THE KING'S WORKS
8
Healing of the Leper & Centurion's Servant. Storm at Sea. Gergesene/Gadarene Demoniac.
9
Healing of the Man with Palsy, Jairus' Daughter, & Woman with the Issue of Blood. The Call of Matthew to Follow Jesus.
10
Call and Commission of the Twelve Apostles.
11
A Delegation from John the Baptizer. Jesus Upbraids Three Unrepentant Cities.
12
Healings on the Sabbath. Conflicts with the Religious Leaders. The Unpardonable Sin.
13
Parables of the Kingdom. Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth.
14
Death of John the Baptizer. Five Thousand Fed. Second Storm at Sea.
15
Man's Traditions. The Syro-Phoenician Woman. Four Thousand Fed.
THE KING'S CONFLICTS
16
Leaven of the Pharisees. Peter's Great Confession. Christ foretells His Death. Conditions of Discipleship.
17
Transfiguration of Jesus. Lunatick Boy Delivered. Question About Taxes & Money in the Fish's Mouth.
18
Lessons on Humility and Forgiveness.
19
Question about Divorce. Jesus Blesses the Children. The Rich Young Ruler.
20
Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Ambition of James & John. Healing of Two Blind Men.
21
Triumphal Entry. Temple Cleansed. Fig Tree Cursed. Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen.
22
Parable of the King's Son's Marriage. Conflict with the Pharisees & Sadducees.
23
Woes upon the Scribes and Pharisees.
24
Signs of the End Time.
25
Parable of the Talents & Virgins. Separation of the Sheep & Goats.
THE KING'S SUFFERINGS
26
Passover Meal. Jesus' Feet Anointed. Jesus' Betrayal, Arrest, & Trial. Peter's denial.
27
Jesus' Crucifixion and Burial.
THE KING'S TRIUMPH
28
Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven. The Great Commission

 

THE BOOK OF MARK AT A GLANCE

THEME: The power and works of the Servant Jesus. KEY WORDS: Straightway, Immediately

KEY VERSE: Mark 2:10a, But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth.

THE BOOK OF MARK
 
CHAPTER
CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS
THE SERVANT AT WORK
1
Jesus' Baptism & Temptation. Call of the Fishermen. Demoniac in the Synagogue. A Leper Cleansed.
2
A Palsied Man Healed. Call of Matthew. Feasting with Publicans.
3
Healing in the Synagogue. Call of the Twelve Apostles. The Unpardonable Sin.
4
Parables of the Kingdom. Storm at Sea.
5
The Gadarene Demoniac. Healing of Jairus' Daughter & the Woman with the Issue of Blood.
THE SERVANT REJECTED
6
Rejected at Nazareth. The Twelve Sent On a Mission. Death of John the Baptizer. Five Thousand Fed. Storm at Sea.
7
Man's Traditions. The Syro-Phoenician Woman. A Deaf & Dumb Man Healed.
8
Four Thousand Fed. Leaven of the Pharisees. A Blind Man Healed. Peter's Confession.
9
Jesus' Transfiguration. The Deaf & Dumb Demoniac Healed. A Question About Greatness.
10
Question About Divorce. Rich Young Ruler. James' & John's Request. Blind Bartimaeus.
11
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Cursing a Fig Tree. Question of Jesus' Authority.
12
The Wicked Husbandmen. Leaders Question Jesus on Several Issues. The Widow's Mite.
13
Signs of the End Time.
14
The Passover Meal. Jesus' Betrayal & Trial. Peter's Denial of Christ.
15
Jesus' Crucifixion & Burial.
THE SERVANT GLORIFIED
16
Jesus' Resurrection & Ascension. His Last Commission to His Disciples.

 

THE BOOK OF LUKE AT A GLANCE

THEME: Jesus' Humanity and His Compassion for All People. KEY WORDS: The Son of Man

KEY VERSE: Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

THE BOOK OF LUKE
 
CHAPTER
CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS
THE MAN'S HUMBLE BIRTH
1
Angelic Annunciations To Zacharias & Mary. Birth of John the Baptizer.
2
Birth of Jesus. Visit of the Shepherds. Circumcision & Presentation in the Temple. Simeon & Anna. Jesus as a Young Boy in the Temple.
THE MAN'S MESSAGE AND MINISTRY
3
Ministry of John the Baptizer. The Genealogy of Jesus.
4
Jesus' Temptation. Jesus Preaches in Nazareth. A Demoniac in the Synagogue. Healing in Capernaum.
5
Call of the Fishermen. A Leper Cleansed & a Palsied Man Healed. Call of Levi. Feasting with Publicans.
6
Sabbath Controversies. Call of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
7
A Centurion's Servant Healed. Raising of a Widow's Son. Jesus' Tribute to John. Anointing of Jesus' Feet.
8
Parable of the Sower. Storm at Sea. The Gadarene Demoniac. Healing of Jairus' Daughter & the Woman with the Issue of Blood.
9
The Twelve Sent on a Mission. Jesus' Conditions of Discipleship. Lunatick Boy Healed. Jesus Rejected by the Samaritans. James' & John's Indignance.
10
Seventy Others Sent on a Mission. Parable of the Good Samaritan. Mary & Martha.
11
Lessons on Prayer. Jesus Accused of Beelzebub. Sign-Seekers. Jesus Rebukes Some Pharisees & a Lawyer.
12
Warnings Against Blasphemy & Covetousness. Parables of the Rich Fool & Wise Steward.
13
The Barren Fig Tree. Healing in the Synagogue. Striving to Enter. Jesus' Message to Herod.
14
A Sabbath Healing. Lesson in Humility. Parable of the Great Supper. Conditions of Discipleship.
15
Parables of the Lost Sheep, Coin, & the Prodigal Son.
16
Parables of the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man & Lazarus.
17
Ten Lepers Cleansed. End Time Admonitions.
18
Parable of the Unjust Judge. The Pharisee & The Publican Praying. The Rich Young Ruler. A Blind Man Healed.
19
Zacchaeus & Jesus. Parable of the Pounds. Triumphal Entry & Cleansing of the Temple.
20
Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. Entrapping Questions of the Religious Leaders.
21
Signs of the End Time.
THE MAN'S DEATH AND DEPARTURE
22
The Passover Meal. Jesus' Arrest. Peter's Denial. Jesus' Trial Before Caiaphas.
23
Jesus' Trial Before Pilate. The Crucifixion & Burial of Jesus.
24
Jesus' Resurrection. On The Road to Emmaus. Jesus' Commission & Ascension.

 

THE BOOK OF JOHN AT A GLANCE

THEME: Jesus is the Divine Son of God. KEY WORDS: I AM

KEY VERSE: John 20:31 But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

THE BOOK OF JOHN
 
CHAPTER
CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS
CONFLICT
1
The Pre-Existence of Jesus. Identity & Ministry of John the Baptizer. Jesus' First Disciples.
2
The Marriage Feast in Cana & Turning Water into Wine. Temple Cleansing.
3
Nicodemus Visits Jesus at Night. The New Birth. John's Testimony of Jesus.
4
The Woman at the Well. Jesus' Ministry in Samaria. Healing of a Nobleman's Son.
5
The Infirmed Man at the Pool of Bethesda. Trouble with the Jews over Jesus' Claims About Himself & His Identity.
6
Feeding of the Five Thousand. Jesus' Discourse on the Bread of Life. Defection of Many of Jesus' Disciples.
7
The Feast of Tabernacles. Conflict with the Religious Leaders. An Attempt to Arrest Jesus.
8
A Woman Caught in Adultery. Abraham's Seed. Jesus the I AM.
9
Healing of the Man Born Blind.
10
Jesus' Discourse on the Good Shepherd and the Door.
11
Raising of Lazarus.
12
Anointing of Jesus' Feet. Triumphal Entry. The Voice From Heaven. Unbelief in spite of Jesus' Miracles.
COMFORT
13
The Last Supper. Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet.
14
Revelation of Jesus' Pending Departure. Promise of the Comforter. Love and Obedience.
15
Jesus the Vine. Prediction of the Persecution of Believers.
16
The Ministry of the Comforter. Jesus Comforts His Disciples.
17
Jesus' Prayer in the Garden.
CRUCIFIXION
18
Jesus' Garden Arrest. Trial Before Caiaphas and Pilate. Peter's Denial.
19
Pilate's Vain Attempt to Free Jesus. Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus.
20
Jesus' Resurrection. Christ Appears to Mary Magdalene, the Disciples, & Doubting Thomas.
COMMISSION
21
Jesus' Appearance to His Disciples Fishing. Peter, feed My sheep.

 

THE LIFE OF CHRIST AT A GLANCE

 

AN OUTLINE OF THE LIFE OF CHRIST

 

 

BIRTH

 

MINISTRY
DEATH
 
BIRTH & CHILDHOOD
BAPTISM & TEMPTATION
EARLY JUDEAN & SAMARITAN MINISTRY
GALILEAN MINISTRY
LATER JUDEAN MINISTRY
CRUCIFIXION
RESURRECTION
ASCENSION
1ST TOUR
2ND TOUR
3RD TOUR

 

MATT

 

1:1-2:23
3:1-4:11
4:12-12:14
12:15-15:20
15:21-18:35
19:1-20:34
21:1-27:66
28:1-15
28:16-20

 

MARK

 

1:1-13
1:14-3:6
3:7-7:23
7:24-9:50
10:1-52
11:1-15:47
16:1-14
16:15-20

 

LUKE

 

1:1-2:52
3:1-4:13
4:14-6:11
6:12-9:17
9:18-50
9:51-19:28
19:29-23:56
24:1-49
24:50-53

 

JOHN

 

1:1-18
1:19-2:12
2:13-4:42
4:43-5:47
6:1-71
7:1-9
7:10-12:11
12:12-19:42
20:1-21:25

 

 

INTRODUCTION

THE DIVINITY OF JESUS

 

John 1:1-18, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.FN(2) The same was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (5) And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

(6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (7) The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. (8) He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (9) That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (10) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (11) He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (15) John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. (16) And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. (17) For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (18) No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 1:1-18 (NIV),  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2)  He was with God in the beginning.  (3)  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  (4)  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  (5)  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (6)  There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  (7)  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  (8)  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  (9)  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  (10)  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  (11)  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  (12)  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  (13)  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.  (14)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (15)  (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, "This is the one I spoke about when I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'")  (16)  Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  (17)  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  (18)  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 

John begins his narrative of the life of Christ by making what would normally be considered an ostentatious statement concerning the true identity of Jesus: Jesus is the Divine, pre-existent Son of God, the Word, Creator, Light, and Life of the world, incarnated in human flesh as the Savior of men and as the promised Messiah of the Jews. In the sensitive, politically-correct environment in which we live today, saying stuff like this at the beginning of a book or conversation is a good way to start fights and lose people. In people's eyes, you're bigoted, intolerant, and definitely off your rocker! John is none of these things. He's spent over three years with Jesus and he knows Him in ways we can't simply because we weren't there. So John knows what he's talking about. While making these claims might make it hard for some people to believe what he has to say, John nevertheless makes it clear right from the beginning that the Jesus of history is no mere man; He is no ordinary man. Jesus is God in the flesh, reaching out to men with the invitation and hope of becoming sons of God.

 

THE HUMANITY OF JESUS

Matthew 1:1-17, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (2) Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; (3) And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;FN and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; (4) And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; (5) And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; (6) And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; (7) And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; (8) And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; (9) And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; (10) And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; (11) And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: (12) And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; (13) And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; (14) And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; (15) And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; (16) And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (17) So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.FN Luke 3:23-38, And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,FN (24) Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, (25) Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, (26) Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, (27) Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, (28) Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, (29) Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, (30) Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, (31) Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, (32) Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, (33) Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, (34) Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, (35) Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, (36) Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, (37) Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, (38) Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. Luke 3:23-38  (NIV), Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,  (24)  the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,  (25)  the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,  (26)  the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josek, the son of Joda,  (27)  the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,  (28)  the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,  (29)  the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,  (30)  the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,  (31)  the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,  (32)  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,  (33)  the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,  (34)  the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,  (35)  the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,  (36)  the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,  (37)  the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan,  (38)  the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

 

Though Jesus is the Divine Son of God, Matthew and Luke labor to show His humanity as well—though from a different standpoint and for a different purpose. Writing to the Jews, Matthew endeavors to show that Jesus is indeed the prophesied and long-awaited Messiah. He does this by tracing Jesus’ royal lineage from King David and ultimately, His descent from Abraham, the progenitor of the covenant nation. As every Jew would know, Messiah had to come from the house of David. Furthermore, any claim of Messiahship would be accepted as valid only if the claimant could prove, or show, his royal lineage from the house of David. In this way, genealogy becomes an all-important part of substantiating or confirming any claim of Messiahship.FN

Just as John starts his Gospel account with a clear statement of Jesus’ Divinity, so Matthew starts his with a clear statement of Jesus’ royal humanity: Jesus is the promised Messiah and King of the Jews.

Luke, on the other hand, has no such preoccupation with Jesus’ royal lineage. His purpose is to show the humble humanity of Jesus. He therefore traces Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to Adam.

Matthew records Jesus’ ancestry through the line of Joseph, Jesus’ legal father, who himself was a descendant of the royal family through the line of Solomon, one of David’s sons.

Luke, on the other hand, records Jesus’ ancestry through the line of Mary, who, incidentally, was also of royal descent through the line of Nathan, another of David’s sons. Joseph and Mary, then, were near relations in the sense that both of them were descendants of David.

The wisdom of God in having both Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogical accounts, as well as Joseph’s marriage to Mary, in seen in the fact that although Jesus was legally the son of Joseph, He still could not, on that basis, claim the Messianic throne of David. This was because of a curse that God pronounced upon a member of the royal line, King Jeconiah by name. According to Matthew 1:11, Jesus was a descendant of Jeconiah. The curse upon Jeconiah was that none of his sons or descendants would rule on the throne of David: Thus saith the Lord, write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah (Jeremiah 22:30). Jesus’ claim to Messiahship, then, rests on His Davidic lineage through the line of Mary His mother.

 

THE HISTORICITY OF JESUS

 

Luke 1:1-4, Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (2) Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; (3) It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,FN (4) That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. Luke 1:1-4 (NIV),  Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,  (2)  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  (3)  With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  (4)  so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.


It's customary in our day to delete, ignore, or deny unpleasant, undesirable, or shameful events of one's past. Some people try to do that with Jesus. To hear them talk, Jesus wasn't real. God knew the machinations of unbelieving men and their attempts to deny or discredit the historicity of Jesus. That's why He had Luke write this paragraph. Jesus is neither myth nor fiction. He was a real and actual human being who lived on this earth. Many people saw Him, heard Him, and were with Him. They all testify to the fact that Jesus was real.

 

 

THIRTY YEARS OF PREPARATION

THE ANGELIC ANNUNCIATIONS

ZACHARIAS GETS SOME REALLY GOOD NEWS

 

Luke 1:5-25, There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia:FN and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. (6) And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (7) And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

(8) And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, (9) According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. (10) And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. (11) And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (12) And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

(13) But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. (14) And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. (15) For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. (16) And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. (17) And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

(18) And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. (19) And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. (20) And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

(21) And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. (22) And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

(23) And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

(24) And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, (25) Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Luke 1:5-25  (NIV), In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.  (6)  Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly.  (7)  But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.  

(8)  Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,  (9)  he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  (10)  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.  (11)  Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  (12)  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  

(13)  But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  (14)  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,  (15)  for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  (16)  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  (17)  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

 (18)  Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."  (19)  The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  (20)  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time."

 (21)  Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  (22)  When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.  

(23)  When his time of service was completed, he returned home.  

(24)  After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  (25)  "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

 

The ancient lot was the means used to assign each priest his specific duty. Among the priests in the course of Abijah, Zacharias was chosen by lot to burn incense. This was the most solemn part of the daily Temple worship.FN At the altar, he was met by Gabriel, an angelic messenger, with the news that he was going to be a daddy! For their entire married lives they tried to have a baby, but to avail. Elizabeth was barren. Now that she was old, she was definitely beyond her child-bearing years! So for an old man who's wanted children all his life, this news from an angel was really, really, good news!

More than that, his son would be the forerunner of the coming Lord (Malachi 4:5-6). His job would be to prepare the hearts of the people and turn them to the Lord.

If Messiah's forerunner was on his way, then that could only mean one thing: Messiah himself was soon to appear! The Jewish Hope of the Ages was finally coming! And in their lifetime! This was really, really good news for the Jews who longed to see Messiah come.

Unfortunately, Zacharias didn't believe a word of what the angel said. Granted, the news of Messiah coming and his son being the Messiah's forerunner must have gone over the priest's aged head. He was mired in the incredible news that he was going to be a daddy. He just couldn't see how that could possibly happen! Like so many in our day, some news are just too good to be true. Like Zacharias, we find ourselves unable, or unwilling, to believe some really incredible, fantastic, news.

Struck with speechlessness for his unbelief, Zacharias emerged from the Holy Place, unable to pronounce the customary blessing and benediction upon the people.FN The unusual length of time in the Holy Place, coupled with Zacharias’ speechlessness, told the people that something unusual happened to him in the Holy Place. More than that, something more unusual was about to happen. What could it be?

 

MARY GETS SOME REALLY AWESOME NEWS

 

Luke 1:26-38, And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,FN (27) To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. (28) And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

(29) And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. (30) And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. (31) And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.FN (32) He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (33) And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

(34) Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (35) And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (36) And, behold, thy cousinFN Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. (37) For with God nothing shall be impossible.

(38) And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV), In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,  (27)  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  (28)  The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."  

(29)  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  (30)  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  (31)  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  (32)  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  (33)  and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

 (34)  "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"  (35)  The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  (36)  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  (37)  For no word from God will ever fail."  

(38)  "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." Then the angel left her.

 

Five months after the annunciation to Zacharias, Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named Mary. She was sovereignly and uniquely chosen by God to be the mother of Messiah, the Son of God, and King of the Jews. How was this possible, seeing that Mary and Joseph had not yet physically consummated their marriage? The Holy Spirit would come upon her and in some unexplained, miraculous way, a Baby would be conceived—fully human, yet fully Divine. In theology, this is known as the virgin birth. Though Joseph is not Jesus’ real father, no man is! His Father is God, He was conceived in the womb by the Holy Ghost, and it is for this cause that He is called the Son of God.

Little is known of Mary. She was of royal descent from the line of David. Judging from her hymn of praise, found in Luke 1:46-55, she did not come from a well-to-do or prominent family, but was a commoner of humble origins.

 

MARY PAYS ELIZABETH A VISIT

 

Luke 1:39-56, And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;FN (40) And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

(41) And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: (42) And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (43) And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (44) For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. (45) And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

(46) And Mary said,FN My soul doth magnify the Lord, (47) And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (48) For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (49) For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. (50) And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. (51) He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. (52) He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. (53) He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. (54) He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; (55) As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

(56) And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

Luke 1:39-56 (NIV), At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  (40)  where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth.

 (41)  When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  (42)  In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  (43)  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  (44)  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  (45)  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"  

(46)  And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord  (47)  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,  (48)  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,  (49)  for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.  (50)  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.  (51)  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  (52)  He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  (53)  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.  (54)  He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful  (55)  to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors."

(56)  Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

 

Shortly after the angelic visitation and annunciation, Mary hurriedly made a trip to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. At this point in time, all Elizabeth knew was that she was to be the mother of the Messiah’s forerunner. But when is Messiah going to come? As soon as she saw Mary, both the baby in her womb and the witness of the Spirit told her that Mary was the mother of Messiah: the Messiah is here! He’s come to us! And behold, they were privileged women for, by Divine design, these two cousins were to be mothers of two very special Men who would forever change the nation and the course of history.

Mary extols the God who had chosen her in her humble and lowly state to be the mother of Messiah. She draws attention to God’s power, holiness, and mercy. Truly, there is a reward for those who fear Him. God remembers what He promised to His people, He doesn’t forget, He is about to bring many of these promises to fulfillment.

 

JOSEPH LEARNS THE TRUTH ABOUT MARY'S PREGNANCY

 

Matthew 1:18-25, Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. (19) Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

(20) But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

(22) Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.FN

(24) Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: (25) And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV), This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  (19)  Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 (20)  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  (21)  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  (22)  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  (23)  "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

 (24)  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  (25)  But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Mary was espoused or betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal was when a man and a woman legally committed themselves to each other in the presence of witnesses. This betrothal was essentially a marriage, indeed, the Jews saw it as that. The only difference between betrothal and marriage as we know it is, in a betrothal, the man and woman did not live together in the same house, hence, there was no physical consummation. It was only when the marriage was ceremonially performed at a later date that the man and woman would then live together. Betrothal was every bit as binding as the actual marriage itself. In the text above, Joseph is called Mary’s husband (verse 19) and Mary is called Joseph’s wife (verse 20).

If an espoused woman was found expectant, she was seen as unfaithful. In Old Testament times, this was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). However, the custom of the day allowed the betrothal to be broken by divorce. Now the divorce could have been carried out publicly in court, or it could be done semi-privately in the presence of two witnesses. Because Joseph was a righteous man who wanted to do what the Law required, he intended to divorce Mary—though in a private way so as to avoid making her a public spectacle.

The angelic annunciation, then, is made to assure Joseph that Mary has not been unfaithful, her pregnancy is of the Lord, hence, he should continue with his plans to marry her. By detailing the conception of Jesus from Joseph’s point of view, Matthew lays to rest any doubts or allegations that Jesus was an illegitimate and a son of adultery.

Furthermore, by detailing this annunciation to Joseph, Matthew shows his Jewish audience that the Messiah is no mere man! He is Son of God by Divine conception! How can you be so sure? Ask His parents. They would know, more than any other—more than you and me—how Jesus was conceived.

 

JOHN THE BAPTIST IS BORN

 

Luke 1:57-66, Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. (58) And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

(59) And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child;FN and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. (60) And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. (61) And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. (62) And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. (63) And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.

(64) And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

(65) And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. (66) And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:57-66 (NIV),  When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.  (58)  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

 (59)  On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,  (60)  but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."  (61)  They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."  (62)  Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.  (63)  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John."  (64)  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.  

(65)  All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.  (66)  Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.

 

As the angel had foretold, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. In accordance with Old Testament law, the boy was circumcised on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12-14, Leviticus 12:3).

Also at this time, it was customary to name the child. Being the first and eldest son, the boy was expected to be named after his father. Departing from custom, however, the boy is named John (Hebrew, Jochanan, meaning ‘the Lord is gracious’), for it is the name given to him by the Lord (Luke 1:13).

As soon as Zacharias confirms the name, his tongue is loosed and, after nine months of not being able to talk, he is able to talk once again. To all those round about, these signs were a portent or omen that the hand of the Lord was upon this family, and more specifically, upon the child. Truly, this was a very special child! What would he amount to? And what would he become?

 

ZACHARIAS' SONG OF PRAISE

 

Luke 1:67-80, And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,FN (68) Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, (69) And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;FN (70) As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: (71) That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; (72) To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; (73) The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, (74) That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, (75) In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

(76) And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; (77) To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, (78) Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, (79) To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

(80) And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.

Luke 1:67-80 (NIV), His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:  (68)  "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.  (69)  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David  (70)  (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),  (71)  salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—  (72)  to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant,  (73)  the oath he swore to our father Abraham:  (74)  to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear  (75)  in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

 (76)  And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,  (77)  to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,  (78)  because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven  (79)  to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."  

(80)  And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

 

Zacharias last spoke to the angel in unbelief. But when his tongue is loosed, he bursts forth in song and praise to God.FN

The song consists of two parts: the first extols the Lord for His mercy in remembering His people and His promises (verses 68-75). It centers around the Messianic expectancy whereby Messiah would come and deliver the Jews from the hands of the Romans. Only by this deliverance could the Jews serve God acceptably all the days of their lives.

The second part of the song focuses on the true identity and mission of the child: he is the prophet of the Lord and forerunner of Messiah (verses 76-79), and Zacharias is not afraid or ashamed to say it! Now the people know! It had been almost four hundred years since a prophet walked in their midst. And now, after these many years of silence, God was once again going to speak to His people!

But more than that, the coming of the prophet could only mean the Messiah was soon to come. From the start, the Lord through Zacharias makes it clear that God was making provision for the people’s salvation and deliverance from sin. As in the previous annunciations to Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph, the mission of Messiah is both political and spiritual.

 

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

 

Luke 2:1-7 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus,FN that all the world should be taxed. (2) (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) (3) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

(4) And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem;FN (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) (5) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

(6) And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (7) And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,FN and laid him in a manger;FN because there was no room for them in the inn.FN

Luke 2:1-7 (NIV), In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (2)  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  (3)  And everyone went to their own town to register.  

(4)  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  (5)  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  

(6)  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  (7)  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 

By decree of the Emperor, all subjects of the Roman Empire were to be enrolled or registered for taxation purposes. This enrollment was basically a census and it was to take place in the city of one’s ancestors. Because Joseph was a descendant of David, he went to the city of David, that being Bethlehem.

Here we see the wisdom of God at work. The prophet Micah foretold the Messiah’s birth would be in Bethlehem: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).

Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth. Because Mary was due to give birth soon, you would think that Joseph would not be eager about taking her on such a long trip. But because God had spoken a word by His prophet, that word had to come to pass! Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem! So by an imperial decree of a heathen Emperor, Joseph was more or less put in a position where he had no choice. Whether he liked it or not, both he and Mary would have to make the trip. They had to obey the imperial law.

BRETHREN, WHEN YOU DON’T RELISH THE THOUGHT OF DOING SOMETHING YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO DO, REMEMBER JOSEPH AND MARY. GOD WILL GIVE YOU GRACE. YOU CAN DO IT!

 

THE SHEPHERDS' NIGHT TO REMEMBER

 

Luke 2:8-14, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (9) And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (10) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,FN which is Christ the Lord.FN (12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

(13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (14) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14 (NIV),  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  (9)  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  (10)  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  (11)  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  (12)  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  

(13)  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  (14)  "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

 

Shepherds were a despised group of people in Jewish society. They were looked down upon. Why is that? Well, because of the nature of their work, they were dirty and smelly. They spent a lot of time out in the fields. They could not keep the many man-made regulations related to ceremonial cleanness imposed upon them by the Pharisees. Hence, they were not considered religious or devout.

But it is precisely to this group of people that the angels of the Lord came and announced the Gospel (KJV good tidings) of the birth of the Savior. The Gospel is for all people—including social outcasts and non-Jews. In the final analysis, WHAT MAKES THE GOOD NEWS SO GOOD IS THE FACT THAT IT’S FOR EVERYBODY. NO ONE IS LEFT OUT! HALLELUJAH!

Notice that God does not keep Good News to Himself. He gets the News out. It was up to the angels to do that at the first. But now we are left with that task. Brethren, let’s tell the world the Good News about Jesus!

 

THE SHEPHERDS VISIT BABY JESUS

 

Luke 2:15-20, And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (16) And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

(17) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (19) But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (20) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:15-20 (NIV), When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."  (16)  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  

(17)  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  (18)  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  (19)  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  (20)  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

 

When the shepherds went to Bethlehem to look for the Savior they didn’t know exactly where they would find Him. So naturally, they had to ask and look around. And as they asked, they told the townsfolk what they had seen and heard. Bethlehem was abuzz!

When the shepherds finally found the stable they found everything just as the angels had said. The angelic visitation, the bright light of God’s glory, and what they saw in Bethlehem that night, made them firm believers in the fact that the Messiah, Savior, and Lord, had come to men!

The shepherds didn’t keep the Good News to themselves. Aside from Joseph and Mary, they were the first people to see the Savior and they were the first people to proclaim Messiah’s coming. That night, and for many years after, these shepherds became heralds of the Gospel.FN

 

CHRISTMAS AND THE DATE OF JESUS' BIRTH

In our Western world, December 25 is popularly celebrated as the day Christ was born. While the Bible does not state a specific date of birth, the weight of Biblical evidence points to His birth as having taken place sometime in the Fall and not in the Winter.

(A) Luke tells us that at the time of Jesus' birth, there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8). Shepherds do not leave their flocks out on the mountain slopes or fields during the winter season--first of all, because of the cold (see Genesis 31:40) and second of all, because of the rains. Now winter rains began anywhere from mid-October to early November. Hence, shepherds always brought their flocks in no later than October 15.

(B) Luke also tells us that the tax decree of Caesar Augustus brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, just before Jesus was born. Since traveling was involved, it is highly unlikely that Rome would compel its subjects to travel in the middle of Winter (see Matthew 24:20). Furthermore, the logical time to collect taxes would be in the Fall, after the summer harvest.

(C) Jesus was born six months after John the Baptist (Luke 1:36). When was John then born? Luke tells us that his father Zacharias was of the course of Abijah (Luke 1:5), the eighth of twenty four courses in the priesthood (1 Chron. 24:1-19). Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, tells us that the first course began serving in the first Jewish month, that being Nisan, which corresponds to March-April, and each course served for one week (Antiquities of the Jews, Vol. 7, p. 14,7). The eighth course of Abijah would then serve from Iyar 27 to Sivan 5, that being June 1 to June 8. Since the next week was Pentecost, all priests were expected to serve in Jerusalem at that time. So by the time Zacharias got home, it was mid-June. Assuming conception took place shortly thereafter, John the Baptist was born nine months later, sometime in the month of March. Since Jesus was born six months after John, His birth would have been sometime in the month of September, October at the very latest.

(D) When Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7). Bethlehem was filled to overflow. Now it is unlikely that Caesar’s imperial decree alone accounted for the crowd. A likely explanation is that the crowd in Bethlehem was part of the overflow crowd that came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. This was one of three different Feasts which required every male in the nation to be in attendance, hence the overflow crowd. The Feast took place in September-October.

(E) Lastly, Jesus died at the time of Passover, which is in the Spring. He ministered for three and a half years. If we subtract three and a half years from the time He died, we see that Jesus began His earthly ministry in Fall. Now Luke tells us that Jesus was about thirty years old when He began His public ministry (Luke 3:23). If Jesus began ministering in the Fall, thirty years before then would place His birth in the Fall.

In view of these Biblical considerations, Jesus was born in Fall, not Winter. He was not born on December 25.FN

 

THE CIRCUMCISION AND NAMING OF JESUS

 

Luke 2:21, And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:21 (NIV), On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

 

Because Jesus was a Jew, born to Jewish parents, he was required by Law to be circumcised on the eighth day after His birth (Genesis 17:12-14, Leviticus 12:3). Like John the Baptizer and every Jewish male, Jesus was named on the day of His circumcision according to Jewish custom. The name Jesus means Savior.

 

JESUS' PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE

 

Luke 2:22-24 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (23) (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) (24) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. Luke 2:22-24 (NIV),  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."

 

When a woman gave birth, the discharge of blood and other bodily fluids—both before and after the birth—rendered her ceremonially unclean. In this state of uncleanness, she was not permitted to enter into the Temple, hence, she was separated from the worshipping community of Israelites. The Levitical law stipulated that if a woman gave birth to a boy, she had to wait forty days before she could be ceremonially purified once again. After the fortieth day, she was to bring a burnt and a sin offering unto the priest, who would offer it unto the Lord as an atonement for her uncleanness (read Leviticus 12). The fact that she offered a sacrifice of turtledoves or pigeons, and not a lamb, gives indication that Joseph and Mary, at least at this time, didn't have a whole lot of money.

In close relation to purification, Joseph and Mary brought Baby Jesus to the Temple to present him unto the Lord. According to law, every firstborn male belonged to the Lord (Exodus 13:2). Later, when God chose the entire tribe of Levi to serve Him in the Tabernacle service (Numbers 3:11-13), the firstborn male was redeemed and exempted from this service through the payment of five shekels of silver (Numbers 3:47-51, 18:16), which is about $3.25 today.

 

SIMEON AND GOD'S PROMISE KEPT

 

Luke 2:25-35, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. (26) And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

(27) And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, (28) Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, (29) Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: (30) For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, (31) Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; (32) A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (33) And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

(34) And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (35) (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 2:25-35 (NIV),  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."

 

Nothing much is known of Simeon. We see him here for the first time and it is also the last time that we see him. He was a devout man who looked for Israel’s consolation, that being the Messiah. The Lord promised him he would not die until he saw what he was looking for. For these many years, then, Simeon knew that Messiah was soon to come. As soon as he saw Joseph, Mary, and the Baby in the Temple, he did not need to be told who this Baby was. He knew right away that this was the Messiah, and he openly confessed it. For the very first time in the Temple, where religious leaders and worshippers were gathered, Simeon makes public that the Messiah of Israel has come.

The Messiah, however, is not what everyone thinks He is. True, He is the hope and salvation of Israel—but also of the Gentiles. In the Messiah, Gentiles would also have access to the salvation and blessings of the Lord, just like the Jews. For the first time since Jesus’ birth, Simeon also declares that everything in Israel will not be rosy, Messianic, or Heavenly. The Messiah will not receive total acceptance by the Jews. By Him, many in Israel will fall and He will be spoken against.

 

ANNA'S TESTIMONY OF JESUS

 

Luke 2:36-38, And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser:FN she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; (37) And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. (38) And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38 (NIV),  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.

Like Simeon, Anna was a recognized fixture around the Temple. She was a very devout woman who looked for the same redemption that Simeon looked for. In Bethlehem, despised shepherds bore testimony of Messiah. In Jerusalem, two very credible people—both aged, venerable, and devout—bore the same testimony. Coming from Simeon and Anna, the testimony could not easily be cast off.

 

THE WISE MEN PAY HOMAGE TO JESUS

 

Matthew 2:1-2, Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, (2) Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?FN for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV),  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  (2)  and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

 

After Jesus’ presentation in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary made their way back to Bethlehem. Over a month had passed since Jesus was born. Why didn’t Joseph and Mary return to Nazareth at this time? Well, I believe that in the wisdom of God, He kept them in Bethlehem because there was another important prophecy that needed to be fulfilled.

Before we get to that prophecy, we need to look at the wise men. Who were these wise men? Judging from the text, there is good reason to believe they were astrologers from either Persia or Babylon. As astrologers, they paid close attention to the stars because they believed the movement of the stars affected human events and destiny.

When they saw a particular star in the sky, they had no problem figuring things out: the King of the Jews had been born! How did they know these things? And what interest did they have in the Jews and their Messiah? To our dismay, Matthew leaves these questions unanswered.

Apparently, his purpose in relaying this incident is to show his Jewish audience that even wise men from heathen nations acknowledged the birth of a Jewish King and worshipped Him. As far as the wise men were concerned, there was no question that a King had been born.

The only question that remained was, where is the King? For these wise men, the logical place to go was to Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews.

 

Matthew 2:3, When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:3 (NIV),  When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

 

There are several Herods mentioned in Scripture. The Herod mentioned here is Herod the Great, the father and progenitor of the Herods. Herod first came to power when his father, Antipater, Governor of Idumea (or Edom), was made Procurator of Judea by the Romans. At that time, Herod was appointed Tetrarch of Galilee. When Palestine was invaded by the Parthians, civil war broke out and Herod fled to Rome, whereupon he was nominated by the Roman senate to be King over Judea. The Romans gave him an army and in 37 BC he brought all Judea under his firm control. Under Caesar Augustus, Herod became sole King over all Palestine.

Now Herod was not a Jew. He was an Idumean by birth. Years earlier, when the Jewish Maccabees conquered Idumea, the Jewish religion was forced upon the Idumeans, and so, there is a certain extent to which Herod practiced the Jewish religion. In reality, though, Herod was a pagan at heart.

Now Herod was universally hated by the Jews. (a) They despised the fact that a non-Jew, an Idumean, would rule over them. (b) They saw him as a Roman puppet who helped Rome keep Palestine and the Jews under the yoke of foreign domination. (c) And to top it all off, Herod was a very cunning, cruel, and ruthless man.

In order to win Jewish favor, he did a couple of things. One, he married Mariamne I, a Hasmonean Jewess.FN And two, he began the rebuilding and enlargement of Zerubbabel’s temple, the second after that of Solomon. He began this project about 19 BC and it was completed over eighty years later, long after he died. Hence, the Temple of Jesus’ day was known as "Herod’s Temple."

Now there was one thing about Herod that most concerned and consumed him, and that was, his lust for power and control. He did not hesitate to kill anyone whom he perceived was a threat to his reign. Among those whom he killed (though not in the order here given) were his wife Mariamne I; his mother-in-law Alexandra, Mariamne’s mother; Antigonus, Miramne’s uncle; Hyrcanus II, Mariamne’s grandfather; Mariamne’s brother Aristobulus, the High Priest; and Joseph, the husband of Herod’s sister Salome. Herod had two sons by Mariamne I, named Alexander and Aristobulus, but Herod did not hesitate to kill even them. Just days before his death in 4 BC, he ordered his son Antipater executed. All in all, Herod spared no one and no expense to insure and maintain his rule.

Thus, when he heard this talk of a King of the Jews, he was rightly shook up, agitated, and afraid. The Jews who hated him would rally around a true, Jewish King to overthrow him. Herod’s rule was threatened and, as always, in every instance, the threat brought the worst out of him. It sent him on a murderous rampage as we will later on see in verses 16-18. Thus, when the text of Scripture tells us that all Jerusalem was troubled with him, they had every right and reason to be troubled. Who among them would be the next to die under Herod’s jealousy, wrath, and suspicions?

 

Matthew 2:4-6, And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. (5) And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, (6) And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Matthew 2:4-6 (NIV),  When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  (5)  "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:  (6)  "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

 

Because he was not a Jew, Herod consulted the people who would know the answer to the question of the Magi. The religious leaders and Scripture experts were all unanimous in their reply. The Messiah of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem, as the prophet Micah had foretold (Micah 5:2).

 

Matthew 2:7-8, Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. (8) And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. Matthew 2:7-8 (NIV),  Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  (8)  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

 

Having gotten his answer, Herod secretly called for the wise men. Why secretly? Because he wanted to know something that he didn’t want anyone else to know, namely, the age of the new-born King. Herod already knew where the King would be found—somewhere in Bethlehem. But in case the wise men do not return with the exact directions to the Infant’s house, he still would have sufficient information to lead him to the Child. By knowing the age of the Child, Herod would have a pretty good idea of what age-range of infants he would kill. As with the members of the Hasmonean and Herodian family, any prospective rival to the throne would meet with death. As long as he lived, Herod would allow no one but himself to sit on his throne. In his duplicity, Herod did not come right out and ask the wise men for the age of the child. Instead, he pretended to be interested in the very thing that interested them, namely, the King’s star. By feigning an interest in the star and the worship of the Babe, Herod sought to hide the evil he had devised in his heart.

 

Matthew 2:9-12, When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

(11) And when they were come into the house,FN they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:FN and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.FN

(12) And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.FN

Matthew 2:9-12 (NIV),  After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  (10)  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  

(11)  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

 (12)  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

The star that brought them on this journey continued to guide them until it brought them to the exact house where Joseph and Mary were. The Lord’s guidance sure is precise and exact! When the Lord’s guiding you, and when you’re following, you just can’t go wrong. You won’t get lost.

Evidently, God wanted these heathen wise men to find Baby Jesus! First, humble and lowly shepherd Jews paid homage to Jesus. Then came the pious Simeon and Anna in the Temple. And now, these Gentile heathens.

The only ones who didn’t rejoice at His birth and worship Him were the civil and religious leaders. Neither Herod nor the priests were found worshipping Jesus!

The wise men intended to return to Herod, but God gave them directions otherwise. Herod tried to hide the evil in his heart. But alas, God knows the heart.

Learn a lesson here. WHILE MEN MAY HIDE EVIL IN THEIR HEART, GOD REVEALS IT SUPERNATURALLY TO OTHERS. MY FRIENDS, WHEN YOU’RE TEMPTED TO LIE AND KEEP THE TRUTH FROM OTHERS, REMEMBER THAT GOD HAS A BIG MOUTH. YOU WILL BE FOUND OUT AND DISCOVERED!

In His speaking to the wise men, we see that God was in perfect control of the situation. He who sent Jesus into the world to be the Savior of the world was not going to allow a mean and murderous king to kill Him and stop Him from doing what God sent Him into the world to do.

Brethren, God has His hands on you. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. And He’s preserving you, every minute of every hour of every day, so that you could do what He brought you into the world to do. Praise God for Divine preservation! Hallelujah!

 

JOSEPH FLEES TO EGYPT WITH MARY AND JESUS

 

Matthew 2:13-15, And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.FN

(14) When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:FN (15) And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Matthew 2:13-15 (NIV),  When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."  

(14)  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,  (15)  where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

 

After the presentation in the Temple, the Lord did not lead Joseph and Mary to return to their home town of Nazareth, but instead directed them to return to Bethlehem. Why? Because there were two more prophecies that needed to be fulfilled. God was concerned about the human predicament of sin and so, He sent Jesus into the world as His Divine provision for man’s salvation from sin. But God was also concerned with prophecy. He spoke a word hundreds of years earlier by the mouths of His prophets and God wanted to make sure that His words of prophecy came to pass. Brethren, GOD KEEPS HIS WORD!

The first of these prophecies was the prophecy of the prophet Hosea: When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). God was using Herod’s hatred to bring about the fulfillment of this prophecy. Hosea saw his prophecy as applying to the Israelite nation as a whole, whom God had called and delivered out of Egypt by the hand of Moses. Matthew applied the prophecy to a single person in that nation, Jesus. Thus, we see here that prophecy has different degrees of application and different degrees of fulfillment.

 

HEROD SLAUGHTERS THE BABY BOYS IN, AND AROUND, BETHLEHEM

 

Matthew 2:16-18, Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men,FN was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof,FN from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.FN

(17) Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, (18) In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Matthew 2:16-18 (NIV),  When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  

(17)  Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  (18)  "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

 

Not many days after the wise men departed from Jerusalem, it became obvious to Herod that the wise men weren’t coming back. Any threat to his throne had to be nipped in the bud. And so, judging from the time that the star first appeared to the wise men, plus a large margin of time for added precaution, Herod ordered all male infants that were two years old and younger killed—not only in Bethlehem, but also in the surrounding towns close to it. Herod was not taking any chances! He wanted to make sure the King of the Jews would be killed. In years past he succeeded in eliminating all rivals to the throne and he was every bit confident of succeeding when it came to this new Jewish King. Wrong! YOU DON’T FIGHT AGAINST GOD AND WIN!

A second prophecy that needed to be fulfilled was the prophecy of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:15. Sadly, it is at this point where we see in Scripture the utter cruelty of the king who ruled over the Jews in Palestine at this time. Herod simply had no conscience about killing anybody—babies included.

Now the town of Ramah was about five miles north of Jerusalem, close to the border between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 15:17). Apparently, the defeated Jews of Judah were gathered to this town and from here they were deported to various places in the Babylonian Empire. Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob who was barren, but who wanted so much to have children (Genesis 30:1), is figuratively portrayed as weeping in Ramah because many of her children, the Jews, have been killed and those that remained are carried away captive to foreign lands. Clearly, Matthew saw the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem as another fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Rachel, the mother of the Jewish nation, is once again deprived of her children.

 

JOSEPH RETURNS TO ISRAEL WITH HIS FAMILY

 

Matthew 2:19-22a, But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, (20) Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.

(21) And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. (22a) But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither.

Matthew 2:19-22a (NIV),  After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt  (20)  and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."  

(21)  So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.  (22a)  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.

 

According to Josephus, in the final months of his life Herod the Great was diseased, doctors could not help, and on April 4 in the year 4 BC, he died.FN Now in his last will, Herod named his oldest son Antipater to be heir of the throne. But five days before Herod’s death, Antipater was accused of plotting to poison his father, so as to speed up his ascendancy to the throne. Herod commanded his immediate execution and days later, when Herod himself died, his other son, Archaelaus, inherited the throne.FN

Now the text of Scripture says that Joseph was afraid to go back into Judea because of Archelaus. Why was he afraid? Well, from the beginning, Archelaus demonstrated the same cruelty that his infamous father was known for. While Herod the Great was still alive, he ordered the image of a golden eagle to be erected over one of the Temple gates. The Jews considered this an abomination (Exodus 20:4). Now two very prominent teachers named Judas and Matthias, encouraged their students to destroy this eagle, which some of them succeeded in doing, whereupon they were promptly arrested. The young men were mildly punished, but the two teachers were executed. Soon after, Herod the Great died.

At Passover time, not long after Herod’s death, rebellion broke out in Jerusalem over the executions of these respected teachers. In quelling the rebellion, Archelaus authorized the use of force and about three thousand Jews were slain within the sacred precincts of the Temple. It was no wonder, then, that Joseph was hesitant to return to Bethlehem.

 

Matthew 2:22b-23, Notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: (23) And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Luke 2:39, And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. Matthew 2:22b-23 (NIV),  Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,  (23)  and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

 

Joseph and Mary ended up where they started their journey months before—in Nazareth. Matthew cites this as a fulfillment of a prophecy made by several prophets, but the prophecy is nowhere found in the Old Testament. Perhaps the most credible explanation is the fact that Nazareth and its townsfolk were despised and looked down upon (John 1:45-46), hence adding to the rejection that Jesus suffered. This rejection is spoken of—not by one prophet, but rather, by the prophets. See Psalms 22, Isaiah 53, and Daniel 9:26.

 

JESUS' EARLY CHILDHOOD

 

Luke 2:40 , And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:40 (NIV),  And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

 

Of all the Gospel writers, Luke alone mentions the early childhood of Jesus and he does so in one brief statement. Now there are many stories regarding Jesus’ childhood that Luke could have included—stories he could have gotten from Mary or from Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Obviously, it was neither his, nor the other Gospel writers’, intention to detail this period of Jesus’ life.

For Luke, the thing most worthy of note is the fact that God continued to play an active and vital role in Jesus’ life: God’s hand was upon Him and even in these early, formative years, Jesus was religiously or spiritually inclined.

What I would like you to understand is this. Jesus grew in wisdom and spirit the same way anyone else grows in wisdom and spirit. It would be nice if spiritual growth was a magical, mystical thing that happens to us automatically without us having to do anything spiritual. But this isn’t how it works. Spiritual growth comes by engaging ourselves in spiritual pursuits. While Jesus was every bit a child like the other children in Nazareth, His life wasn’t centered around the things children do, that is, play. He devoted Himself to a study of the Scriptures, constant communion with God in prayer, faithful attendance in the synagogue meetings, and diligent obedience or observance of religious duty.

*We know that Jesus prayed often to the Father during His three and a half years of ministry, and in many instances, He did so for several hours at a time (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12). Brethren, Jesus didn’t start praying like this when He began His public ministry. It was a habit that He cultivated as a child.

*Jesus knew the Scriptures well and reasoned with teachers who spent their whole lives in study of the Word (Luke 2:46-47, Matthew 12:3-5, 19:3-8, 22:23-34). Brethren, this kind of knowledge wasn’t a gift of the word of knowledge: it was knowledge gained through diligent study of the Scriptures.

Brethren, Jesus grew in wisdom and spirit because He gave Himself, even as a child, to the things of the Spirit of God.FN

Now by way of application, not every child—saved or yet to be saved—has this kind of religious, spiritual inclination. Whether the inclination is present or not, it remains our duty as parents to bring our children up in the nurture, fear, and admonition of the Lord. When such an inclination is present, there is good reason to believe that God has given this to the child for a very special purpose. Hence, extra effort should be made to foster and feed the child’s spiritual interests.

 

JESUS' PASSOVER TRIP TO THE TEMPLE

 

Luke 2:41-50, Now his parentsFN went to JerusalemFN every year at the feast of the passover.FN

(42) And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.FN (43) And when they had fulfilled the days,FN as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. (44) But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.FN (45) And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

(46) And it came to pass, that after three daysFN they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. (47) And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. (48) And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. (49) And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?FN

(50) And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

Luke 2:41-50 (NIV),  Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  

(42)  When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.  (43)  After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  (44)  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.  (45)  When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  

(46)  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  (47)  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  (48)  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."  (49)  "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"  

(50)  But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 

Luke alone records this incident in Jesus’ early life.

Now there are three Feasts which required all adult males in the nation to be in attendance: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:22-23, Deuteronomy 16:16).

As was their custom, Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to observe the Passover which commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from the destruction of the firstborn males in Egypt and their subsequent exodus from that land of bondage. Joseph and Mary then made their way back home, assuming that Jesus was in the caravan company.

Jesus, however, engrossed in his conversations with the religious teachers, stayed behind at the Temple. Even at this early age, Jesus demonstrated a knowledge of the Scriptures that even these respected teachers of the law were impressed.

What’s more, by this time, Jesus was already conscious of His relationship to His Heavenly Father—He knew who He was, namely, the Son of God; He already had some idea of God’s will for His life; and though not in proud defiance or rebellion to His Earthly parents, He felt the pressing need to be involved in those things that concerned His Father.

His parents, however, failed to understand the things that He said.

 

EIGHTEEN SILENT YEARS

 

Luke 2:51-52, And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (52) And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Luke 2:51-52 (NIV),  Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.  (52)  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

The Father’s will included Jesus’ obedience to His parents.FN Like any other child, Jesus was under God’s command to obey His parents and do what they told Him to do. And do you know what? Jesus obeyed them! Even though He was God and had a Divine mission to accomplish, Jesus didn’t disobey His parents, He didn’t rush out and get an early start on what He knew was His future mission.

Everything, including God’s will, has a time. There’s a time for everything to be done. For now, it was time to prepare. And preparation included obeying His parents.

Children, if Jesus was exactly like you and me, I supposed He would have loved to stay forever in the Temple and talk about the things of God, Jesus really enjoyed it, and there wasn’t anything wrong with it, in and of itself. But doing something good or Scriptural--like studying the Bible all the time, or going to church all the time, or practicing music all the time--is not a reason or excuse for you to disobey your parents if they want you to do something else like your chores or your school work. There are other things for you to do and it’s important for you to get these other things done too.

I love studying. And because I study the Bible, you would think God would let me do that all the time. He doesn’t! You see, as a husband and father, God wants me to do other things too—like work for a living and spend time with my wife and children.

I’ve found out that when I balance my spiritual interests and pursuits with my practical responsibilities and work, God blesses me the most because I’m doing both of the things that He wants me to do.

Children, if you want God to bless you, you have to obey your parents! Ephesians 6:1-3 says, Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. (2) "Honor your father and mother." This is the first commandment with a promise: (3) If you honor your father and mother, "things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth." (NLT)

 

JOHN THE BAPTIST'S PUBLIC MINISTRY

 

Mark 1:1-3, The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; (2) As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (3) The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Mark 1:1-3 (NIV),  The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,  (2)  as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"—  (3)  "a voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"

 

Mark begins his Gospel account of Jesus Christ with a brief statement of Jesus’ messenger, John the Baptist. In early Roman times, whenever a person of distinction was approaching, a herald would go before him to announce his coming and presence. The herald’s job, in effect, would be to inform the people and call their attention to the fact that somebody important was coming their way; it was time to stop what they were doing, pay their respect, and listen to whatever this person of distinction might have to say. John the Baptist was Jesus’ herald. He announced Jesus’ coming and prepared the people to meet their prophesied Messiah.

 

Luke 3:1-2, Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, (2) Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-2 (NIV),  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—  (2)  during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

 

Luke dates the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign. [ see CHART OF ROMAN EMPERORS.] Now Augustus Caesar died in AD 14, but two years prior to that, the Roman Senate let his stepson, Tiberius, rule conjointly with Augustus. This would place the beginning of the Baptist’s ministry no later than AD 27. Many conservative scholars, however, place the beginning of his ministry in the autumn of AD 26.

Now when Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided among his sons. Antipas ruled in Galilee and Perea. Archelaus was given Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. But he was such a terrible leader that the Jews and Samaritans took their complaints to Rome. As a result, Archelaus was deposed in AD 6. His territories were made a part of the province of Syria and Procurators or Governors were appointed to rule over these regions. Pontius Pilate was the fifth of these Procurators to rule in Judea and his rule lasted from AD 26 to 36. [ see CHART OF ROMAN PROCURATORS.]

There was only one High Priest at any given time and at this time, Joseph Caiaphas was High Priest in Jerusalem. [see CHART OF HIGH PRIESTS.] Luke’s inclusion of Annas’ name indicates that Annas, who formerly was High Priest for nine years, continued to wield great power or influence upon that office. In fact, Caiaphas was his son-in-law, and five of his sons, as well as a grandson, held the High Priestly office!

We don’t know much of anything about John the Baptist’s thirty-year period of preparation. According to Luke 1:80, he spent a lot of time alone with the Lord in the desert, hidden and tucked away from the eyes of the public. While I’m sure the Lord spoke and revealed a lot of things to John, it’s nevertheless instructive to note that John didn’t rush out in the flesh to tell others what the Lord had told him. John waited on the Lord and he didn’t minister until the word of the Lord came to him. Like a true prophet, the word of the Lord eventually came (Genesis 15:1, 1 Samuel 15:10, 2 Samuel 7:4, I Kings 17:2, Jeremiah 1:1-2).

Brethren, don’t be disheartened by the fact that preparation is taking a long time. It might seem like an inordinate length of time. When the Lord’s preparing you, He’s more interested in you being prepared than in you ministering. Like John, get the word or the message from the Lord first. Brethren, the message isn’t gained primarily from seminaries and church, as important as they may be. But like John and Moses and Paul, the message is gained at the backside of the desert or in the wilderness. It comes when you get alone with God and commune with Him. Spend time alone with the Lord and the Word. Cultivate a prayer life and a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. In due time, God will give you the message and He will send you forth to proclaim it.

 

Mark 1:6, And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey.FN Mark 1:6 (NIV),  John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

 

John’s attire was rather simple. He didn’t wear fine clothing (Matthew 11:8), but what he had was suitable for life in the wilderness. Like the prophet Elijah before him, John wore a leather belt around his waist, which in all probability identified him as a prophet, 2 Kings 1:8. No doubt, when people saw him, they had to wonder if John indeed was the prophet Elijah (Malachi 4:5 with John 1:21).

 

Luke 3:3-6, And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; (4) As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (5) Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; (6) And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:3-6 (NIV),  He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  (4)  As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.  (5)  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.  (6)  And all people will see God's salvation.'"


As foretold by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3-5, the ministry of John the Baptist was largely a ministry of preparing the people for the coming of the Lord. What did this preparation consist of? Many sought for a political deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Romans, but the Messiah’s primary interest was in the people’s spiritual deliverance from the bondage of sin. While the people looked for liberty and independence, God looked for repentance and righteousness. In a very real way, THE PEOPLE WEREN’T CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT GOD WAS CONCERNED ABOUT. John’s ministry of preparation, then, was to shift people’s attention to the real need of the hour—and that was, salvation from sin.

Now water baptism was not anything new in John’s day.FN For many years, the Jews baptized all Gentile converts to Judaism.FN What was new with John, however, was the fact that even Jews themselves needed to be baptized! Like the Gentiles, the Jews were sinners too! They needed salvation too! They needed their sins forgiven too! The baptism of John, then, was an outward sign that the baptized individual was saved and was giving up a life of sin and dedicating himself to a life of righteousness.

 

Matthew 3:5-6, Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, (6) And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:5-6 (NIV),  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  (6)  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

 

The scope of John the Baptist’s ministry was in the wilderness of Judea, along the banks of the Jordan River where he baptized.

If you stop and think about it for a moment, in the natural, John’s ministry should have been a flop.

*First, he was a loner, living alone in the desert. His must have been an eccentric lifestyle!

*Second, he didn’t travel into villages and cities where people were. He let the people come to him. He stayed right by the River and waited for people to come to his meetings!

*Third, he wasn’t dressed like everyone else.

*Fourth, he didn’t preach the political deliverance that people wanted to hear.

*Fifth, he preached about sin. And whenever you preach about sin, you get personal, you expose the sins of the people, and you rebuke them. That’s a pretty good way to hurt feelings and lose people!

*Sixth, John required the repentant to make a public confession of repentance by submitting themselves to baptism. Pretty humbling to confess your sins and get all wet in front of people.

*And seventh, only Gentiles get baptized! What’s a Jew like you doing in the River?

Brethren, there are a thousand and one reasons why your ministry, in the natural, cannot and will not succeed. But when you stay with God and do it the way God wants you to do it, God will bless, people will come, they’ll listen, and the sheep will respond to the message.

Note that with the appearing of Messiah close at hand John confronts the people with their sins. Nobody likes that. We're too easily offended and angered whenever anyone, and I mean anyone, says something to us about our sins. It's like we live in a time when no one is supposed to say anything bad or negative about our lifestyle actions and choices. That's really unfortunate and we are worse off for it.

John knows that Messiah is coming and he prepares the people to meet Him. Preparing for the Lord’s coming involves us confessing, repenting, and putting sin away from our lives. Jesus is coming, dear friends. And no one and nothing can stop that from happening. Sin in our life must be dealt with before Jesus shows up.

A part of a minister’s duty is to deal with people & their sins. If your minister or pastor doesn’t deal with sin in your life he’s not worth following! He's not preparing you to meet the Lord! Stay with the preacher who lovingly confronts you with your sin.

 

Matthew 3:7-10, But when he saw many of the Pharisees and SadduceesFN come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (9) And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (10) And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matthew 3:7-10 (NIV)  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  (8)  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  (9)  And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  (10)  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

 

John’s reputation got around so that even the religious leaders in Jerusalem heard about him and came out to see him.

John had no fear of man or respect of persons. He even called them names! Poor John! How can he ever win these souls by getting them all riled up?

How offended these leaders must have felt to be likened unto the Devil himself! What further offended them was John’s insistence that even these religious leaders of Judaism had to repent of their sins! The Pharisees were fastidiously devoted to obeying the Law and keeping themselves pure and separate from defilement. Yet, according to John, they were sinners bound for Hell’s fires! They, too, were under God’s wrath and judgment! Can you imagine a child of Abraham under God’s wrath? Unthinkable!

And yet, this is precisely one of those pillars of Judaism that John was tearing down—namely, the thinking that as long as you were a descendant of Abraham you were alright with God, there was nothing wrong with you!FN Wrong!

Bad fruit exposes you to God’s wrath. Call yourself a Jew or a Christian: the name alone doesn’t spare you from judgment. The only thing that can do that for you is repentance and good fruit.FN

 

Luke 3:10-11, And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? (11) He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.FN Luke 3:10-11 (NIV),  "What should we do then?" the crowd asked.  (11)  John answered, "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

 

Besides the religious leaders that came to John’s baptisms, Luke mentions three other groups of people. The first of these was the ordinary citizenry of Judea.

Now the repentance and good fruit sought by the Lord was very, very practical: share what you have with your less-fortunate neighbors. John mentions food and clothing in particular. Assisting the poor or needy is not primarily the responsibility of the Government. Social welfare is not a Christian Missions or para-church organization. It is first and foremost a sharing and helping on a very personal level. The needs of people within society can be met when neighbors reach out and give.

 

Luke 3:12-13, Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? (13) And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. Luke 3:12-13 (NIV)  Even tax collectors came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"  (13)  "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.

 

Every Government exacts tolls and taxes. The Jews of Jesus’ day were not exempt from giving a portion of their earnings to Rome. Persons called ‘tax buyers’ or ‘tax farmers’ would pay Rome a certain amount of money for the privilege of collecting these taxes. The tax collection system, in this way, was a private and not a governmental system.

Now these farmers would hire chief publicans to do the collecting for them, and the chief publicans would hire ordinary publicans to assist them in this work.

In Palestine, the main tax offices were in Caesarea, Capernaum, and Jericho.

All imports and exports, goods and merchandise, that traveled by land or sea were taxed.

Now all these publicans made their money and livelihood by exacting more tax than what Rome actually required. Greed, not law, dictated how much tax was collected. In all too many instances, publicans were extortionists. That’s why they were shunned and despised by the Jews. In fact, any Jew who became a publican was regarded as a traitor. What’s more, a publican was forbidden from paying tithes to the Temple! No, the priests didn’t want any publican money!

John didn’t advocate the abolition of the tax system. He recognized it as a necessary part of government and life. His counsel was not even that they should renounce their profession. What did he tell them to do? Be fair in what you charge and don’t try to get rich off of taxes.

 

Luke 3:14, And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Luke 3:14 (NIV),  Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

 

Roman soldiers came to hear the Baptist’s preaching and they, too, quaked with fear over the prospects of suffering God’s wrath. As with the publicans, John didn’t tell them to get out of the military. He recognized the need for every government to have its military force for the protection of the nation. What were these soldiers supposed to do by way of repentant, righteous conduct? They weren’t supposed to hurt people or make false accusations against them; and they were supposed to be content with their wages.

 

JESUS IS BAPTIZED IN JORDAN RIVER

 

Matthew 3:13, Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. Matthew 3:13 (NIV),  Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.

 

Before Jesus began His public ministry two things happened to Him that, more or less, served to inaugurate Him into the ministry. First, He was baptized. And second, He was tempted. Let’s look at Jesus’ baptism.

The thirty years of Jesus’ relative obscurity came to an end when He appeared at the banks of Jordan River to be baptized by John. What Matthew doesn’t say with respect to this baptism, the others say. Mark, for example, tells us that Jesus came directly from His hometown in Nazareth: And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan (Mark 1:9). Luke goes on to say that Jesus’ baptism occurred after everyone else present at the time was baptized: Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened (Luke 3:21).

 

Matthew 3:14-15, But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? (15) And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. Matthew 3:14-15 (NIV),  But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"  (15)  Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.

 

Of all the Gospel writers, Matthew alone records John’s hesitance to baptize Jesus. Now this is the first-recorded instance where John and Jesus meet. Whether they met previously on other occasions, or never met at all, is a matter of conjecture. But when Jesus showed up at the Jordan River, John immediately recognized Jesus for who He really was. In his humility and self-unworthiness, John hesitated to baptize Jesus. He felt Jesus needed to baptize him. Indeed, while John baptized many, he himself was never baptized. Jesus, however, insisted and John eventually relented.

Now the question is raised, Why did Jesus need to be baptized? If John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, and if Jesus was sinless, there was nothing for Jesus to repent of, hence, there was no need for Him to be baptized. Because of this reasoning, some have even denied that this event ever took place!

While it is true that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, Jesus nevertheless saw it as the fulfilling of all righteousness. In other words, His baptism was His submission to the Father’s will: He was doing what the Father wanted Him to do. Jesus’ baptism, then, is not to be seen as an act of repentance, but rather, as an act of His submission to God’s will.FN

Ultimately, in being baptized, Jesus was dedicating Himself to the ministry God sent Him to do. Before He could minister, He had to be baptized! Evidently, John agreed and proceeded to baptize Him.FN

 

Matthew 3:16-17, And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: (17) And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.FN Matthew 3:16-17 (NIV),  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  (17)  And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

 

Luke alone records the fact that Jesus came out of the water praying: Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened (Luke 3:21).

Three things happened when Jesus was baptized: (1) the heavens were opened, though in what manner we are not told; (2) the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus like a dove; and (3) a voice was heard from Heaven. Whether or not the people who were present at the time saw and heard these things, we are not told. In my opinion, there is no reason to believe they didn’t.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke stress the fact that Jesus saw the heavens opened, the Spirit descending, and heard the voice from Heaven.

John, on the other hand, stresses the fact that the Baptist likewise saw and heard these Divine phenomena: And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. (33) And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. (34) And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God (John 1:32-34).

While the Baptist knew some things about Jesus, he didn’t know everything. His revelation was, as yet, incomplete. Therefore, God gave John a sign: he would recognize the Messiah and Son of God by the Spirit of God descending and abiding on Him. For John the Beloved, the Gospel writer, it was important to include the Baptist’s witness of the descended Spirit because by that witness, the Baptist confirmed the true testimony of Jesus: Jesus is indeed the Son of God!

 

THE TEMPTATION OF JESUSFN

 

Matthew 4:1, Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.FN Matthew 4:1 (NIV), Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

 

The Spirit who descended upon Jesus at His baptism brought or conducted Him into the barren wilderness desert so that He could be tempted by the Devil. Jesus’ thirty-year preparation culminated with a test. His public ministry was preceded by a test. And it ended in a test. In every case, Jesus prevailed! Hallelujah!

Why Jesus had to be tested before He ministered is, of course, a matter of speculation to us. Suffice it to say, it was the Father’s will: that’s the way He wanted it to be.

Now the question is raised, how could Jesus be tempted if He was sinless and incapable of sinning? You and I are tempted by the same Devil, and to a large degree, there is something within us that is temptible or subject to temptation—namely, the lusts of our flesh. It’s the lusts of our flesh that makes Satan’s temptation so tempting and appealing to us: it’s what makes temptation a temptation.

But Jesus didn’t have these fleshly lusts. He didn’t battle the temptation or struggle to obey or not obey; to give in or not give in. In a word, Jesus was sinless. He had absolutely no desire to sin. So how could Satan’s temptation be a real temptation?

The answer, quite simply, is Jesus’ temptation is not exactly like our temptation. He was assailed and challenged by the same Devil that tempts us. He was tempted in all points like as we are (Hebrews 4:15). But the crucial difference is, He was Son of God. Jesus was fully Man, but He was also fully God. As Man, He knew what it was like to be hungry, thirsty, weary, or sleepy. But as God, He knew how to be absolutely faithful, true, obedient, and sinless. So, while Jesus’ temptation is not exactly like ours because He was sinless and had no sinful lusts to contend with, it was nonetheless a real temptation in the sense that Satan came to Him as a Man, in an hour of weakness or hunger, and tried to get Him to sin.

 

Matthew 4:2-4, And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. (3) And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. (4) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:2-4 (NIV), And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (4) But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"

 

The object of Satan’s temptation centered around Jesus’ identity as Son of God: If thou be the Son of God. If you will remember, when Jesus was baptized, a voice was heard from Heaven, declaring Jesus to be the Son of God. Satan here contests Jesus’ Divine Sonship—not in the sense that he didn’t think Jesus was really the Son of God. Satan knew full well who Jesus was.FN Rather, he was tempting Jesus to act like a true Son of God and perform a miracle to satisfy His present need relating to hunger: Get in the flesh, Jesus, and satisfy the flesh!FN

Unlike Eve at the start of human history, Jesus did not carry on a conversation with the Devil. He simply quoted him the Word from Deuteronomy 8:3, Yes, He humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (NLT)

Man’s life isn’t dependent solely upon food. For man to live, man needs God’s Word too! Satan wants us to forget that and instead, he wants us to think about nothing else than satisfying the needs and lusts of the body.FN

While Satan wants us to forget the Word, Jesus shows us here that that’s the time to give Satan the Word! Friends, when you’re weak and weary, and Satan’s fighting you, that’s not the time to sit still and take everything Satan’s giving you. No matter how weak or weary you may be, that’s the time to fight back. Like James puts it, NO FIGHT, NO FLIGHT. IF YOU DON’T RESIST, THE DEVIL WON’T RUN (James 4:7).

 

Matthew 4:5-7, Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, (6) And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (7) Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Matthew 4:5-7 (NIV), Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  (6)  "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'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.'"  (7)  Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

 

Having failed in his first try, Satan tries again to get Jesus to sin—this time, he uses another tactic. Brethren, Satan keeps trying. JUST BECAUSE YOU WON THE FIRST ROUND DOESN’T MEAN SATAN IS DONE TEMPTING YOU. SATAN’S GOT MORE THAN ONE TACTIC OR WEAPON TO TRY AND BEAT YOU!

Satan takes Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem and from a high part in the wing of the Temple wall, he urges Jesus to jump off.FN Jesus quoted the Word in the first temptation. Now Satan quotes the Word too!FN If you jump off, remember what God promised you—the angels will catch you so you won’t get hurt (Psalm 91:11-12). You’ve got a promise, so go ahead and jump off.

What did Jesus say in response? Like the first response, Jesus simply quoted him the Word, this time from Deuteronomy 6:16, Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.FN Jesus reminds the Devil that He is not about to jump off, for that would be tempting the Lord. Jumping off would not have been an act of faith, nor would it have been a confirmation of His Divine Sonship. To the contrary, it would have been an act of sin or disobedience to the Lord’s command in Deuteronomy 6.FN

 

Matthew 4:8-10, Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.FN (10) Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Matthew 4:8-10 (NIV),  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  (9)  "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."  (10)  Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"FN

 

Having failed thus far in all his attempts, Satan tempts Jesus with what must have been his prized possession or reward. He would give Jesus his entire kingdom and glory if Jesus would bow before him and worship him.

Jesus left a far greater, more glorious kingdom in Heaven. The kingdoms of this Earth were really no comparison. If Jesus was concerned about a kingdom and glory, He would have stayed in Heaven.

Furthermore, Jesus didn’t come to seek a kingdom and a glory for Himself. He came to proclaim and establish the kingdom of God on the Earth. But the means by which that would be done was His atoning death on the cross. Jesus came to die. Perhaps Satan understood this well and tried to steer Him off this path to the cross by tempting Him with glory and power and honor. In due time, Jesus would have all that. All the Earth would one day be under His control. Jesus simply wasn’t worried and He wasn’t in a hurry to have all that. For now, what mattered most to Jesus was man’s redemption. Jesus was perfectly content to abide by God’s timing and God’s will.FN

What was Jesus’ response to the Devil? He quoted him the Word again, this time from Deuteronomy 6:13.FN No matter what Satan had to offer Him, Jesus was not going to serve anyone but God alone!

 

Matthew 4:11, Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. Matthew 4:11 (NLT) Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

 

When you’re under attack and feeling weary to begin with, just remember that the testing doesn’t last forever. It’ll eventually come to an end, you’ll eventually walk out of that barren desert wilderness. God will not allow Satan to tempt you beyond your ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). While God gives you the grace to fight and resist the Devil during the temptation, He also ministers to you after the temptation. He gets you back up on your feet, as it were. Brethren, WHENEVER YOU NEED HELP, JUST REMEMBER—HELP IS ALWAYS THERE. IT’S ONLY A PRAYER AWAY. If you need help, ask! You will surely get it!

 

WHO JOHN IS

 

Luke 3:15, And {as} the people were in expectation, and all men musedFN in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not. Luke 3:15 (NIV), The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.

 

Everything about John—the way he lived, the things he preached—made the people wonder whether John really was the Messiah indeed. This phrase were in expectation conveys the idea of an excited expectation or anticipation. Being on the edge of your seat would be a modern-day equivalent of the kind of excitement that these people had concerning the Baptist. The people were really excited and the debate was on. Who, exactly, is John the Baptist?

 

John 1:19-21, And this is the record of John, when the JewsFN sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? (20) And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. (21) And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. John 1:19-21 (MSG), When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest.  (20)  He didn't evade the question. He told the plain truth: "I am not the Messiah."  (21)  They pressed him, "Who, then? Elijah?" "I am not." "The Prophet?" "No."

 

John was getting to be a controversial figure. He spoke sternly to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism. He spoke of the Jews’ vulnerability to God’s wrath and their need to repent. The repent-or-perish message that heretofore applied only to the Gentiles was now being applied to the descendants of Abraham. And added to all these, rumor and debate were raging amongst the people as to whether or not John really was the Messiah.

 

Naturally, as you would expect, the religious leadership in Jerusalem would eventually want to investigate any person who claimed to be, or who was purported to be, the Messiah. And so, while Jesus was in the wilderness desert being tempted by the Devil, towards the end of His forty-day fast, a delegation of priests came from Jerusalem to question the Baptist.

Two things concerned them the most. (A) The first of these was the identity of John the Baptist. Now the leaders of the people looked for three important persons whose appearing was prophesied many years ago by the prophets.

1. The first of these was the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (MSG), GOD, your God, is going to raise up a prophet for you. GOD will raise him up from among your kinsmen, a prophet like me. Listen obediently to him.  (16)  This is what you asked GOD, your God, for at Horeb on the day you were all gathered at the mountain and said, "We can't hear any more from GOD, our God; we can't stand seeing any more fire. We'll die!"  (17)  And GOD said to me, "They're right; they've spoken the truth.  (18)  I'll raise up for them a prophet like you from their kinsmen. I'll tell him what to say and he will pass on to them everything I command him."

Some Jews regarded this Prophet as being the same person as Messiah; others regarded him venerably as another Moses who would be a spiritual guide of the nation. It’s clear from Acts 3:20-26 and 7:37 that Jesus’ followers identified Jesus as being both the Messiah and the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18.

2. A second person the Jews looked for was Elijah. According to Scripture, Elijah would return once again at the end of the age to precede the coming of Messiah: "Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. (6) His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6 NLT).

3. And the third person the Jews longed for was the Messiah Himself. In answer to the question of his identity, John plainly told this delegation of priests from Jerusalem that he was not any of these personages.FN

 

John 1:22-23, Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? (23) He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. John 1:22-23 (NIV),  Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"  (23)  John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"

 

John was not ashamed to say who he was, nor was he ashamed to apply the Scriptures to himself. He was, as Isaiah prophesied, the herald come to prepare the people for the coming of Messiah (Isaiah 40:3). By thus citing himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, John lends authoritative, scriptural support for his message and ministry.

 

John 1:24-28, And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. (25) And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? (26) John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; (27) He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. (28) These things were done in BethabaraFN beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:24-28 (ESV) (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) (25) They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" (26) John answered them, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, (27) even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." (28) These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

(B) Now a second question that concerned the leadership in Jerusalem was John’s baptism itself. If John wasn’t Elijah, Christ, or the Prophet, then why was he baptizing? In their estimation, John wasn’t supposed to be baptizing!

In answer, John doesn’t defend his baptism, He doesn’t pay attention to the charges or complaints of his critics. Instead, he continues to do what God sent him to do. He points this delegation of leaders to the coming of One who was greater than himself. While people may have thought John was really something—he’s the Messiah!; in John’s own estimation, he was really nothing. Compared to Christ, he wasn’t even worthy to stoop down and untie Jesus’ sandals!FN

At this point, John says something prophetic that will remain true for the duration of Jesus’ life and to this day. The religious leaders did not, and would not, know Him—¬there standeth one among you, whom ye know not (John 1:26, see also John 8:19, Acts 13:27, 1 Corinthians 2:8). Those who you think know the most—these who knew the Scriptures the most—would not be able to see or recognize that this Man Jesus who walked in their midst was, in very truth and fact, the Messiah Himself. These who looked for the Messiah would not be able to see Him, or accept Him, as Messiah!

 


JESUS' EARLY JUDEAN MINISTRY

Jesus ministered for a short while in Judea on two occasions: (1) at the very beginning of His public ministry; and (2) towards the end before He was killed in Jerusalem. The beginning of Jesus' ministry in Judea is known as His Early Judean Ministry.

 

JESUS RETURNS TO JORDAN RIVER

 

John 1:29-34, The next dayFN John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (30) This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.FN (31) And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

(32) And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. (33) And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. (34) And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

John 1:29-34 (NASB), The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (30) "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' (31) "I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water."

(32) John testified saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. (33) "I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' (34) "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

 

The day following his questioning by the Jerusalem deputation of priests, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and he immediately pointed the people’s attention to Him: Look! The Lamb of God who is taking away the sin of the world.FN The Gospel writer’s perspective of Jesus is in full view here. He is not so much interested in presenting Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, but rather, as the Savior of the world.

Now when the Baptist referred to Jesus as the Lamb, he was speaking to a Jewish audience that understood full well the ramifications of what John said. As lambs were used in sacrifice for the atonement, expiation, and forgiveness of sin; so Jesus is God’s provision of a human sacrifice—not an animal one—who would bear in Himself, and take away, the sins of all humanity.FN

 

JESUS GATHERS HIS FIRST DISCIPLES

 

John 1:35-37, Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; (36) And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! (37) And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. John 1:35-37 (NLT), The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. (36) As Jesus walked by, John looked at Him and declared, "Look! There is the Lamb of God!" (37) When John's two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.

 

John the Baptist had disciples (Matthew 9:14, John 3:25). We are never told how many he had. As popular as John was, I think it's safe to assume that he had hundreds of followers. In this particular incident, two of his disciples left their master to follow Jesus. Not all of John’s disciples, however, left him. Judging from Matthew 11:2 and Luke 7:18-19, many of John’s disciples continued to follow him and it was they who took his body from Herod and buried it (Matthew 14:12).

Because a master and his disciples spent a lot of time together, talking; it is only natural to assume that John told them in detail the many things God had told him about Jesus. In other words, John’s disciples were not ignorant about who Jesus was and what He had come to do.

The two disciples mentioned in verse 37 were Andrew (verse 40) and John himself, the Gospel writer. Jesus’ first two disciples, then, were first disciples of John the Baptist.

Interestingly, the Baptist did not urge them to follow Jesus, nor did Jesus issue an invitation for them to follow Him. Of their own initiative, as if drawn by the Spirit, they followed Jesus.

 

John 1:38-39, Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi,FN (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? (39) He saith unto them, Come and see.FN They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.FN John 1:38-39 (NIV),  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?"  (39)  "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

 

While Jesus was walking along the way, Andrew and John followed after Him. Apparently, they did not call out to Jesus or ask Him if they could follow Him. They just started walking behind Him, wanting to see where He lived.

Where did Jesus live? We are not told. Having come from Nazareth, it is certain that Jesus did not have a house close by where He lived. It is likely, then, that Jesus slept in the great outdoors (see Luke 9:57-58).

 

John 1:40-42, One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. (41) He first findethFN his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. (42) And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona:FN thou shalt be called Cephas,FN which is by interpretation, A stone. John 1:40-42 (MSG),  Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard John's witness and followed Jesus.  (41)  The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, "We've found the Messiah" (that is, "Christ").  (42)  He immediately led him to Jesus. Jesus took one look up and said, "You're John's son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas" (or Peter, which means "Rock").

 

After spending a day with Jesus, Andrew went and looked for his brother, Simon. He wanted to tell him the good news. He had found the Messiah!

Brethren, WHEN YOU SPEND TIME TALKING TO JESUS (READING HIS WORD AND PRAYING) IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH TO CONVINCE YOU OF THE TRUTH. Just a few hours with Him is enlightening and convincing. It fills you with godly enthusiasm and motivation to share the truth with others. TO EFFECTIVELY BRING OTHERS TO CHRIST YOU NEED TO HAVE A CLOSE COMMUNION WITH CHRIST.

 

John 1:43-44, The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip,FN and saith unto him, Follow me. (44) Now Philip was of Bethsaida,FN the city of Andrew and Peter. John 1:43-44 (NLT), The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Come, follow Me." (44) Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter's hometown.

 

After spending a couple of days in the vicinity of Bethabara by the Jordan, Jesus began to make His way back to Galilee where He came from.

Along the way, He found Philip and called him to discipleship. Presumably, Philip was in the company of those who had come to Jordan River to hear John the Baptist preach.

 

John 1:45-46, Philip findeth Nathanael,FN and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. (46) And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. John 1:45-46 (NIV),  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.

 

Like Andrew and John before him, Philip spent some time talking with Jesus and it wasn’t long before Philip, too, was convinced of Jesus’ identity. Like Andrew, he found his friend, Nathanael, and told him the good news. Nathanael, however, was skeptical. He didn’t think any thing good could come out of Nazareth.FN From Philip’s point of view, the best way for Nathanael to overcome his skepticism was for him to come and meet the Master.

The thing I would like for you to see is, Nathanael took Philip up on his invitation and he followed Philip to meet the Master. In other words, Nathanael was willing to give Philip and Jesus a fair hearing or chance. He wasn’t obstinate in his skepticism. In our terminology today, he was open.

Friends, YOUR SKEPTICISMS CONCERNING JESUS—WHO HE IS OR WHAT HE TAUGHT—AREN’T OVERCOME BY REMAINING OBSTINATE IN THEM. YOUR DOUBTS ARE OVERCOME WHEN YOU’RE WILLING TO COME TO JESUS, MEET HIM, AND HEAR WHAT HE HAS TO SAY TO YOU. BELIEVERS ARE MADE IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS. AS LONG AS YOU STAY PUT AND REFUSE TO COME AND MEET HIM, YOU WON’T BE WON TO THE TRUTH.

 

John 1:47-51, Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! (48) Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. (49) Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. (50) Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. (51) And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open,FN and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.FN John 1:47-51 (NASB), Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" (48) Nathanael *said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." (49) Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." (50) Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these." (51) And He *said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

 

Like the others before him, it didn’t take Nathanael long to become convinced of the truth. What did it for him? The fact that Jesus knew some things about him that He couldn’t have known otherwise, namely, He knew that Nathanael was an entirely honest man without any guile or deceit; and He knew where Nathanael was before Philip came to him. From Nathanael’s response and confession in verse 49, it is fair to say that from Nathanael’s point of view, there was no way Jesus could have seen where he was unless Jesus had some kind of supernatural power. This display of power made a believer out of Nathanael. For him, the supernatural knowledge (what we call the word of knowledge, 1 Corinthians 12:8) was confirmation that Jesus was truly the Son of God and Israel’s King.

 

A WEDDING IN CANA

 

John 2:1-2, And the third day there was a marriageFN in CanaFN of Galilee; and the mother of JesusFN was there: (2) And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. John 2:1-2 (NASB), On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; (2) and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

 

Jesus’ public ministry began in the little town of Cana in Galilee.

Three days after departing from Bethabara, Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding.

At this time, there were six disciples altogether: Andrew, John, Simon Peter, James, Philip, and Nathanael. All of them, including Jesus, were from Galilee.

The fact that Jesus’ mother had some command over the household servants (2:5) gives indication that she was involved in some way with coordinating the feast.

 

John 2:3-5, And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.FN (4) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.FN (5) His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.FN John 2:3-5 (ESV), When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (4) And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." (5) His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

 

In the course of the celebration, the wine ran out, thus providing for a very embarrassing situation for the new bridegroom and his bride. The feast was incomplete without wine.

Mother to the rescue! Jesus can do something! Now it is fair to say that Jesus did not do any miracles during His thirty years of preparation, at least, there is no record of Him having done so. So at this point in time, Mary had never seen Jesus do a miracle. But knowing who He was, knowing that He had embarked upon His ministry and even now had gathered disciples unto Himself, Mary must have known the Divine power that resided in Jesus. Instead of sending the servants out to buy more wine, she expected Jesus to do a miracle.

While no disrespect was intended on Jesus’ part, He questioned whether her motherly relationship was sufficient basis or right for her to dictate His work in terms of what He could do or should do. As if she didn’t hear Him, Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus commanded them to do. As far as Mary was concerned, Jesus will do something!

 

John 2:6-8, And there were set there six waterpots of stone,FN after the manner of the purifying of the Jews,FN containing two or three firkins apiece.FN (7) Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. (8) And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. John 2:6-8 (NLT), Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. (7) Jesus told the servants, "Fill the jars with water." When the jars had been filled, (8) He said, "Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies." So the servants followed His instructions.

 

What did Jesus do? He instructed the waiters or servants to fill the waterpots with water. What came out of the waterpots was wine! Scientifically, how can water be turned into wine in an instant of time?

Friends, a miracle is a supernatural event. It is God making something happen in the physical or natural realm that doesn’t normally happen. It has no credible, natural, scientific explanations because it’s not a natural, scientific occurrence. It’s a supernatural work of God. What I just said doesn't cater to our desire to know or understand how these things work or happen. God doesn't explain it: He just does it and leaves us in awe of His power. Miracles are meant to be believed, not explained.

 

John 2:9-10, When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, (10) And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. John 2:9-10 (NLT), When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. (10) "A host always serves the best wine first," he said. "Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!"

 

The miracle of water turning into wine was no illusion. When the governor of the feast tasted the wine, it was wine indeed—good wine, not water. And he commended the bridegroom for saving the best for last. Apparently, it was customary to serve the best wine first. It was a good way to start a feast—by giving a good impression. Then when people had their fill, their taste buds were dulled enough so that they couldn’t tell that a lesser-quality wine was being served. Neither the governor of the feast, nor the bridegroom himself, knew that a miracle had been performed. I’m sure the bridegroom didn’t know what the governor was talking about, but he wasn’t about to argue with him. The important thing was the bridegroom was being commended.

Friends, when Jesus does something He does it better than any man can! And because the fermentation of wine is a natural process, we can then say in the same breath, that Jesus can do it better than nature can! That’s why we go to God when we have a need—because God can fill that need and He’ll fill it better than man or nature can!

 

John 2:11, This beginning of miraclesFN did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory;FN and his disciples believed on him. John 2:11 (NIV),  What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 

This was the first miracle that Jesus did.FN And while Mary and the servants knew that Jesus had performed a miracle, the Gospel writer emphasized the effect this miracle had upon the disciples: they believed on Him.FN It wasn’t that they didn’t already believed on Him. Rather, the miracle added all the more to their faith that the Man they were now following was more than just a Man: He was Messiah and Son of God. And His supernatural power to work miracles was a confirmation of His true identity.

 

JESUS VISITS CAPERNAUM

 

John 2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum,FN he, and his mother, and his brethren,FN and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. John 2:12 (NASB), After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

 

After the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus—along with His mother, brothers, and disciples—went northward to Capernaum, though for what reason we are not told. We know that Jesus later on moved to Capernaum and conducted His Galilean ministry from there, Matthew 4:13-17. So it’s possible that the apostolic company was house-hunting in Capernaum. This, however, is a matter of conjecture. Since Nazareth lay between Cana and Capernaum, it is quite likely they passed through or stopped there briefly, before continuing the journey northward.

 

JESUS DRIVES THE MERCHANTS OUT OF THE TEMPLEFN

 

John 2:13-17, And the Jews’ passoverFN was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, (14) And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: (15) And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; (16) And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s houseFN an house of merchandise.FN (17) And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.FN John 2:13-17 (NIV),  When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  (14)  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  (15)  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  (16)  To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!"  (17)  His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

 

When Jesus arrived at the Temple, the Temple looked like anything but a place of worship. The Outer Court, or Court of the Gentiles, was more like a marketplace or bazaar, filled with the noise and stench of animals which were being sold to the Temple worshippers for use in sacrifice.FN

Now all Jews and proselytes—with the exception of women, slaves, and those under the age of nineteen—were required by law to pay an annual Temple tax of half a shekel (Exodus 30:13). Only a special Temple half-shekel, or ordinary Galilean shekels, could be used. Since there were many worshippers coming from all over the region, possessing many different kinds of coinage, they had to exchange their coins for the Temple half-shekel, hence, the presence of coin exchangers in the Temple. Naturally, a fee was charged for each financial transaction. Considering the volume of people present during the Feast, these coin exchangers made a handsome profit.

Without reservation or fear, Jesus, moved with zeal, made a whip and drove all the animals, the men who sold them, and the coin exchangers, out of the Temple. As God’s Son, Jesus was concerned about what went on in the House dedicated to the worship of His Father. The first order of business, then, was to restore that House to its proper usage and sanctity. The Temple was to be seen and used as a House of worship, not as a marketplace.

 

John 2:18-22, Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?FN (19) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple,FN and in three days I will raise it up.FN (20) Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building,FN and wilt thou rear it up in three days? (21) But he spake of the temple of his body. (22) When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. John 2:18-22 (NLT), But the Jewish leaders demanded, "What are You doing? If God gave You authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it." (19) "All right," Jesus replied. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (20) "What!" they exclaimed. "It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and You can rebuild it in three days?" (21) But when Jesus said "this temple," He meant His own body. (22) After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered He had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

 

Surprisingly enough, no one stood up to Jesus and stopped Him from creating a ruckus in the Temple. Certainly, no worshipper would. They knew all too well the greed and extortion of the Temple vendors. The amazing thing was, not even the religious leaders—who had a Temple police force at their command—stood in Jesus’ way! Perhaps they were convicted by their greed.

Instead of admitting to any wrong on their part, they focused attention on Jesus and asked Him for a sign: "What sign do you do that would validate what you have just done?"

The sign Jesus gave them was completely misunderstood by them. They could destroy His body in death, but in three days He would rise again. He was speaking of His crucifixion and resurrection. The authorities wanted to see a sign on the spot, but the sign that Jesus gave them wouldn’t be seen for another three years—and even then, they still would not comprehend it! The disciples also didn’t understand Jesus’ words at the time, but when the sign came to pass, they then understood that He was talking about the temple of His body, not the literal Temple itself.FN

 

John 2:23-25, Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover,FN in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.FN (24) But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,FN (25) And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. John 2:23-25 (ESV), Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. (24) But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people (25) and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 

By far, the Temple cleansing was the single, most-important event in Jesus’ early Judean ministry, and this for the following reasons. (a) His first encounter with the religious authorities in Jerusalem was the beginning of an unending conflict that would eventually culminate in His death at their hands. And (b) Jesus began to publicly perform miracles, resulting in many people hearing about Him and believing on Him.

In His new-found popularity and acceptance with the people, however, Jesus did not commit Himself to them. He wasn’t about ready to let popularity with the people distract Him from fulfilling the mission that He had come to Earth to fulfill.

 

NICODEMUS SECRETLY PAYS JESUS A VISIT

 

John 3:1-2a, There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus,FN a ruler of the Jews:FN (2) The same came to Jesus by night. John 3:1-2a (NLT), There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. (2a) After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus.

 

While Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover, He received a visitor by night whose name was Nicodemus. Why did Nicodemus visit Jesus at night? His identity probably had a lot to do with it. He was a ruler of the Jews, meaning he was a member of the Great Sanhedrin. He was also a Pharisee who was quite learned in the Law, as well as in rabbinic teaching and tradition. Judging from his question concerning age in verse 4, and knowing somewhat about membership in the Sanhedrin, we have every reason to believe that Nicodemus was an old man—certainly, much older than Jesus. Nicodemus, then, was a respected and distinguished member of society.

Now put yourself in Nicodemus’ shoes. Jesus has just cleansed the Temple. The High Priest and the rest of the ruling body of Sanhedrin are upset. They’ve been humiliated by this act. They don’t like Jesus. Who is Jesus anyway? Where did He come from? What are His religious or educational credentials? In their eyes, Jesus is a nobody. He’s not a priest, not a Pharisee or a Sadducee or a Scribe. He’s not a member of the ruling class. He’s an unknown in Jerusalem. And He’s not been to Jerusalem’s distinguished schools of higher learning. The Feast of Passover is still in progress, which means the city is still crowded with visiting worshippers. What would people think—worse yet, what would his colleagues think—if they saw Nicodemus conversing with Jesus? What if they knew Nicodemus was amiable toward a Man who incurred their wrath? As a man under the pressure of his peers, Nicodemus did not want to be caught talking with Jesus by day because, in all likelihood, getting caught would only involve getting flack.FN

 

John 3:2b, And Nicodemus said unto him, Rabbi, weFN know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. John 3:2b (ESV), "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."

 

It took a lot of humility for Nicodemus to come and talk to Jesus, as well as a lot of humility to say the things Nicodemus said. Note how Nicodemus addressed our Lord: he called Him Rabbi. Now the term and title of Rabbi was reserved for Masters or Teachers. So what we have here is Nicodemus’ acknowledgement that Jesus was his equal. Jesus was younger, He was unknown, and He was not a part of the established ruling or religious party. Despite being outside the circle of the elite, Nicodemus saw Jesus as being what he himself was—a Master or Teacher.FN

What brought Nicodemus to this conclusion? It wasn’t so much the fact that Jesus did miracles. Miracles alone didn’t prove to Nicodemus that Jesus was a Man of God or a Man from God. What did it for Nicodemus was the kinds of miracles Jesus did. In Nicodemus’ sight, no man can do these miracles except God be with him.FN What Jesus was doing by way of miracles, then, was incontestable proof to Nicodemus that the Man whom many of his colleagues was opposed to was really a Man of God. Nicodemus was won by the miracles Jesus did. He couldn’t argue with the results Jesus produced in the lives of those He ministered to.

 

John 3:3, Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3 (CEV), Jesus replied, "I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God's kingdom!"

 

Why did Nicodemus want to talk to Jesus? Judging from what Jesus said for the rest of conversation, Nicodemus wanted to know what Jesus had to say about the kingdom of God.

Now in the first four chapters of John, John illustrates our Lord’s supernatural wisdom. (1) In chapter one, Jesus knows Nathaniel to be an Israelite without guile (1:47-48). (2) In chapter two, He knows what’s in the heart of man (2:24-25). (3) In chapter three, Jesus completely ignores Nicodemus’ introductory compliments or remarks and gets right to the matter of the new birth. And (4) in chapter four, Jesus knows about the woman of Samaria (4:16-18).

In short, Nicodemus wanted to know more about God’s Kingdom from the perspective of a Teacher come from God who knows all things.FN

Jesus’ reply: to enter into God’s kingdom you have to be born again.FN Now this wasn’t the kind of teaching that Nicodemus was used to hearing. Certainly, Jesus was teaching something new; he was not teaching what the Pharisees taught, His message didn’t line up or agree with that of the Pharisees. As a Pharisee, you entered the kingdom by being a Jew and by strictly observing the commandments of Moses and the traditions of the Rabbis. Entrance into the kingdom, then, was synonymous with national identity (being a Jew) and Law, or works. Jesus, however, reduced kingdom entrance to one thing: a new birth.

 

John 3:4-8, Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

(5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.FN (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (8) The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

John 3:4-8 (NLT), "What do You mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"

(5) Jesus replied, "I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. (6) Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. (7) So don't be surprised when I say, 'You must be born again.' (8) The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit."

 

Surprisingly, Nicodemus did not argue from the Pharisaic standpoint of works. The concept of a new birth was entirely new to him and he tried to understand it in a literal sort of way. From his unenlightened point of view, what Jesus was saying was an impossibility! Physically speaking, there was no way for someone who had already been born to be born again!FN

Jesus, however, was not speaking of a physical birth, but rather, of a supernatural, spiritual birth. Both physical life and spiritual life begin with a birth, and ultimately, with conception! Just as a mother gives birth to a baby that has been conceived in her womb, so the Spirit of God gives birth to a child of God who has been conceived or given life by the Father.FN In this way, the new birth is not a product of our works or even our initiative: the new birth is the sovereign initiative and work of God!

 

John 3:9-21, Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

(10) Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? (11) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. (12) If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (13) And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.FN

(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (18) He that believeth on him is not condemned:

but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.FN (19) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:9-21 (ESV), Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?"

(10) Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? (11) Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. (12) If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (13) No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (16) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned,

but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (19) And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (20) For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (21) But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

 

For a person to enter the kingdom of God, he or she must be born again. But how is a person born again? Now there are many facets of the new birth. The whole counsel of Scripture tells us about the need to believe (John 3:16), repent (Luke 13:3), and confess Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). It wasn’t Jesus’ intention to give Nicodemus an entire sermon in the theology of the new birth.FN His purpose in this discourse was to call Nicodemus’ attention to the need to believe on Jesus. And what does it mean to believe on Jesus? It means to believe that Jesus is God’s Son, sent by God to save us from sin and perdition. The new birth, then, as it is presented here, centers around faith in who Jesus is and what He came to earth to do.

When you believe in Jesus, at that instant, you are made and birthed as a child of God. You’e no longer a child of Satan destined for everlasting condemnation in hell. The Spirit takes you, changes you in the inside, He gives you a new nature, a new heart, a new life. He makes you a new person.

Friends, you don’t go to Heaven because you’re born into a Christian family. You aren’t saved because you live a good life or do good works. A good life and good works are a part of the Christian life, but it’s not what gets you born again. LIFE BEGINS WITH BIRTH. BIRTH BEGINS WITH FAITH. AND FAITH BEGINS WHEN YOU, LIKE NICODEMUS, COME FACE TO FACE WITH JESUS, ACCEPT THE FACT THAT WITHOUT JESUS IN YOUR LIFE, YOU’RE GOING TO HELL; YOU BELIEVE ON JESUS AND ASK HIM TO SAVE YOU FROM YOUR SINS AND MAKE YOU A CHILD OF GOD. This, my friends, is God’s promise to you and it’s His invitation for you to spend eternity with Him in glory.FN

 

BAPTIZING IN JUDEA

 

John 3:22-24, After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.FN (23) And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim,FN because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. (24) For John was not yet cast into prison. John 3:22-24 (NLT), Then Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people. (23) At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism. (24) (This was before John was thrown into prison.)

 

After Passover, Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem and went to the countryside of Judea. Exactly how long they stayed here is not specifically mentioned, although within the context of the three-year ministry of Jesus, some scholars believe Jesus stayed in Judea for at least half-a-year, from April through November or December, AD 27.

Already at this early stage in Jesus’ ministry, crowds were beginning to gather around Jesus—so much so that His popularity was a matter of envy both to the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees (see John 3:26 and 4:1).FN

Now for a very brief period of a few months, the ministry of Jesus and the Baptist overlapped. While Jesus’ and His disciples were baptizing somewhere in the Judean vicinity of River Jordan, the Baptist was baptizing in Aenon, on the western banks of the River. Even with the appearance of Christ, people continued to come to John to be baptized by him.

 

JOHN'S UNFLINCHING TESTIMONY OF JESUS

 

John 3:25-30, Then there arose a questionFN between some of John’s disciples and the JewsFN about purifying. (26) And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

(27) John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (28) Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. (29) He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. (30) He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:25-30 (NLT), A debate broke out between John's disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing. (26) So John's disciples came to him and said, "Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the One you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to Him instead of coming to us."

(27) John replied, "No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. (28) You yourselves know how plainly I told you, 'I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for Him.' (29) It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at His success. (30) He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

 

The overlapping of Jesus’ and the Baptizer’s ministry, coupled with Jesus’ growing popularity with the people, was a cause for envy and complaint amongst the disciples of the Baptizer. Evidently, they didn’t like the fact that Jesus was now attracting more people than their master. The multitudes that once flocked to the Baptizer were now "forsaking" him and following after the Newcomer from Nazareth. For these disciples, Jesus’ presence and ministry were a cause for concern or consternation because that presence and ministry only meant a loss of popularity for their master.FN

What upset the disciples, however, did not upset their master. John knew all along that this was the way it would eventually turn out to be. He was just a forerunner, a friend of the bridegroom. As long as the Christ or Bridegroom had not come, John would proclaim His coming and people would flock to him and listen to him. But now that Christ and the Bridegroom had come, it was time for the people to flock to Jesus and listen to Him. In this respect, then, John’s ministry as forerunner was, for all practical purposes, over. He had done his job. Christ had come. People were following after the long-awaited Messiah. And this, in John’s eyes, was not something to be angry or jealous about. It was a matter of rejoicing.FN

 

John 3:31-36, He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. (32) And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. (33) He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.FN (34) For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. (35) The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. (36) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:31-36 )NLT), "He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. (32) He testifies about what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them! (33) Anyone who accepts His testimony can affirm that God is true. (34) For He is sent by God. He speaks God's words, for God gives Him the Spirit without limit. (35) The Father loves His Son and has put everything into His hands. (36) And anyone who believes in God's Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn't obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God's angry judgment."

 

The disciples of John wanted their master to continue to assume the place of prominence he had before Jesus came along. But this just wasn’t a part of God’s plan. Jesus is preeminent over all—including John himself—for the precise reason that He was from God, He was sent from Heaven to declare a message or a testimony from God. Despite their loyal affection and devotion to John, these disciples needed to believe on Jesus and accept Him for who He really was—the Christ of Israel, the Son of God. Failure to believe Him and His testimony would only result in damnation.FN

 

JESUS' SAMARITAN MINISTRY

A STOPOVER IN SAMARIA

John 4:1-4, When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (2) (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) (3) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. (4) And he must needs go through Samaria.FN John 4:1-4 (NIV), Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—  (2)  although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.  (3)  So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.  (4)  Now he had to go through Samaria.

 

Jesus’ growing popularity did not sit well with the religious leaders, especially with the Pharisees who were quite knowledgeable in the Law and in matters that pertained to Messiah. They kept a watchful eye on every person of religious significance. They were intent on preserving Judaism from every zealot, false prophet or messiah who taught contrary to the Law and the traditions of Israel’s most cherished and respected rabbis. Anyone who commanded so much of the people’s attention, admiration, and following, was automatically subjected to intense investigation.FN

When the Pharisees questioned the Baptist John told them he was not Christ, but that Christ was already in their midst (John 1:26)! The prophesied Christ was no longer just a prophecy for the future: Christ was already here! He was among them! Hearing what they did, the religious leaders were thus on the alert, watching for whoever may be the Christ.

What was one sure sign of the Christ? The people would flock to Him and follow Him! Now Jesus had come to Jerusalem for Passover and in their first public encounter with Him, the religious leaders did not like Him. It was this same Jesus who was making and baptizing more disciples than the Baptist. Could this Jesus be Messiah? "Surely not! We don’t like Him!" With Jesus’ growing popularity, then, the enmity that began with the Temple cleansing was now gathering momentum. The problem? Numbers! The religious leaders were out to put an end to His popularity and following.

Wishing to avoid unnecessary run-ins with the Pharisees at this time, Jesus led His disciples out of Judea and headed back to Galilee.FN

Now there were three possible routes to Galilee: (1) The least practical one was a road that led from Jerusalem to Joppa on the Mediterranean Coast and northward through the Plain of Sharon; or (2) The road most traveled by Judeans ran from Jerusalem to Jericho, then through the TransJordan; or (3) The road most Galileans used was, by far, the shortest and most direct route. It went right through Samaria. And this was the road that Jesus took.FN

 

THE RACISM BETWEEN JEWS AND SAMARITANS

During Jesus’ time, and for centuries before that time, the Jews and Samaritans lived in animosity and hostility toward each other. They didn’t get along very good. Before continuing with our commentary, and in order to understand and appreciate the Biblical text, it’s instructive for us to know somewhat of the history and roots of this animosity.

Long before Samaria was called Samaria, the land which constituted that province was given to Ephraim and Manasseh following the conquest of the Promised Land. Now Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons, born to him in Egypt, and even though they were Jacob’s grandsons, they were nevertheless treated as two of the twelve tribes that made up the nation of Israel. (These tribes were the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons. Two of these sons, Joseph and Levi, were not given an inheritance of land following the conquest of Canaan. Instead, their portion was given to Ephraim and Manasseh.) The inhabitants of ancient Samaria, then, were Israelites in every way, just like the Jews! (The Jews were descendants of Judah, whereas the Israelites of ancient Samaria were descendents of Joseph by Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph and Judah were brothers, both were sons of Jacob or Israel, hence, both Jews and inhabitants of ancient Samaria were Israelites.)

Following the death of King Solomon, the heretofore united monarchy was divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Now when the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C., the Israelites were taken captive to Assyria and the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 17:3-6). Sargon’s records (a.k.a. Shalmaneser) reveal that 27,290 Israelites were deported from Samaria. Only a remnant of poor Israelites were left behind. Sargon then rebuilt Samaria and filled it with foreigners from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24). Because these new inhabitants of the land did not fear the Lord, God sent lions among them to kill them. Whereupon, the foreigners requested the King of Assyria to give them an Israelite priest who would teach them the religion and God of the land. This done, the people nonetheless continued to worship their false gods. Hence, the religion of Israel was mixed and blended with the idolatries of the heathen (2 Kings 17:25-33). Judging from the Lord’s rebuke in verses 34-41, the remnant Israelites intermarried with the foreigners, learned their abominations, and gave birth to a people of mixed race and religion, known thereafter as Samaritans.

Meanwhile, their brethren the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon and proceeded to rebuild the Temple and city walls in Jerusalem. The Samaritans wanted to help in the rebuilding, but Zerubbabel declined their offer (Ezra 4). Clearly, the Jews did not regard the Samaritans as their brethren. Thus began the animosity between Samaritans and Jews.

Now according to Josephus (Antiquities, XI. viii. 2,4), Manasseh, a son of the High Priest in Jerusalem, married a foreigner, the daughter of Sanballat, who was an official in Samaria. Manasseh was ordered to divorce his heathen wife (see Nehemiah 13:28), whereupon Sanballat coaxed his son-in-law, to build a rival temple for him on Gerizim. This done, Manasseh became the first High Priest of the Samaritan temple.

Henceforth, Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was proclaimed as being the rightful place of worship (see Deuteronomy 27:12, they even had Scripture for it! This insistence on Gerizim as the proper place of worship involved a twisting or corrupting of the Pentateuch. As expected, the Samaritan Pentateuch differs from that of the Jews.) With the building of the rival temple, the animosity between Jews and Samaritans was sealed and perpetrated for centuries to come.

The temple was subsequently destroyed by the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus around 107 B.C. and was never rebuilt. Thus, at the time of this encounter with the Samaritan woman, all that was left on Mount Gerizim was the ruins of the Samaritans’ first, and only, temple.

Though their beliefs were taken from the Jews, many of these beliefs were nonetheless corrupted and perverted. (THE LACK OF BIBLE TEACHERS AND TEACHING IS CORRUPTIVE!) Some of the tenets of their faith included a strong belief in the unity of God and the coming Messiah. They believed in angels, devils, and the final judgment. Like the Sadducees, they denied the resurrection of the dead and the Pharisaic insistence on observing the traditions of the rabbis or elders. The Samaritan canon of Scripture, like the Sadducees, was limited to the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses. They rejected the rest of the Hebrew canon, probably because of the prominence given to Jerusalem in those books. Accepting the Mosaic Law, then, the Samaritans, like the Jews, believed in circumcision, Sabbath, and laws relating to purification. All in all, the hostility of Jews towards Samaritans can be summed up in three points: (1) mixed blood, (2) mixed religion, and (3) the Samaritans’ insistence on Gerizim as the one and only, rightful place of worship.

 

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL

John 4:5-8, Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar,FN near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.FN (6) Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.FN (7) There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (8) (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)FN John 4:5-8 (NIV),  So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  (6)  Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.  (7)  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"  (8)  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

 

Sychar was the first town going northward along the road through Samaria. It became a natural resting spot for weary travelers for it was here that Jacob’s well would quench the thirst of both men and beast. Jesus sat alone at the well while His disciples went into town, a half-mile away, to buy some food. Our Lord was tired and thirsty. In this we see His humanity. Having nothing with which to draw water, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink.

 

John 4:9, Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew,FN askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. John 4:9 (ESV), The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

 

The woman was surprised that Jesus would ask her for a drink.FN Here was a Jew asking a favor of a Samaritan. Unthinkable! Jesus wasn’t treating her the way she expected to be treated by a Jew!


Her surprise was grounded not only in the fact that Jews weren’t supposed to manifest friendly dispositions toward Samaritans, but also in the fact that Jews don’t drink out of the same cups or vessels as Samaritans. Now the word 'dealings' that’s used in verse 9 (sugchraomai) literally means ‘to use jointly’, hence, ‘to have in common’. In other words, the woman sees that Jesus has nothing with which to draw water or drink. The woman has the vessel. Jews don’t drink out of the same vessels as Samaritans. Such an act, according to the teachings of the Pharisees, would render any Jew unclean! Jesus’ question or request, in short, was unthinkable. He was breaking company with tradition!

 

John 4:10-15, Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (11) The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? (12) Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? (13) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: (14) But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (15) The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.FN John 4:10-15 (ESV), Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (11) The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? (12) Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." (13) Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, (14) but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (15) The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water."

 

Jesus asked the woman for water and, in exchange, He offered her the water of everlasting life. Like Nicodemus and the religious leaders in the Temple, the woman didn’t understand Jesus. She took His words literally. She didn’t want to have to come to the well anymore! Jesus, however, was speaking figuratively and spiritually of salvation. The woman failed to perceive that Jesus was not offering her an escape from responsibility, but rather, an escape from perdition.

 

John 4:16-19, Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. (17) The woman answered and said, I have no husband.FN Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: (18) For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. (19) The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. John 4:16-19 (NLT), "Go and get your husband," Jesus told her. (17) "I don't have a husband," the woman replied. Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband— (18) for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!" (19) "Sir," the woman said, "You must be a prophet.

 

FOR ANY SINNER, THE OFFER OF LIFE HAS MEANING ONLY IN THE CONTEXT OF A PERSONAL CONVICTION OF SIN. That is, as long as a sinner has no conviction of sin, as long as he thinks he’s alright, he sees himself immune from the threat of perdition. Salvation, for him, has lost its relevance.

In bringing the Samaritan woman to a point where she recognizes her need, Jesus speaks on a matter which convicts her. She knows the Law, she knows what Moses said about adultery. She has persisted in sin. But she’s honest with herself and with this total Stranger. Friends, FORGIVENESS AND LIFE AREN’T OBTAINED WITHOUT HONESTY AND THE RECOGNITION OF ONE’S GUILT. You’ve got to be honest!


The fact that a total Stranger would know the most intimate details of her life led this woman to acknowledge that Jesus must be a prophet! Not a bad confession or admission for a Samaritan, considering the fact that she was calling this Jew a prophet. Despite racial-religious barriers and unfamiliarity ("I’ve never met Jesus before, He’s never seen me"), this Man knows! Whether Jesus is a Friend or a Stranger to you, my friends, Jesus knows! He knows you! You aren’t hiding anything from Him! And the fact that He knows ought to give you a conviction of sin.

 

John 4:20-24, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. (21) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) Ye worship ye know not what:FN we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (23) But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (24) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:20-24 (NIV),  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."  (21)  "Woman," Jesus replied, "believe me, a time 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, for salvation is from the Jews.  (23)  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  (24)  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

 

At first glance, it appears that the adulteress-now-found-out tried to change the subject. She wanted to discuss religion, not her personal, private life! But this view, in my opinion, is not totally accurate. She has just concluded that Jesus is a prophet. "But He’s a Jew! How can He be a prophet? But I can’t deny He’s a prophet. He knows things about me that He’s not supposed to know!" The woman was in a predicament and the only way she knew to resolve the problem of race and prophet was to discuss the one explosive issue that divided Jew and Samaritan: the rightful place of worship. For Jews and Samaritans, this was really a big deal, it was a heated debate, and both peoples had strong feelings about the matter.

But what was so important to Jew and Samaritan wasn’t as important to Jesus: both were missing it by a mile! WHAT’S IMPORTANT IS NOT WHERE YOU WORSHIP GOD, BUT HOW YOU WORSHIP HIM. In the passion of debate, both Jew and Samaritan completely missed what was truly important in God’s sight.

Brethren, hold fast to the truth and contend earnestly for it. But in all your contending, don’t be a Jew or Samaritan. Make sure you’re not missing the point! Don’t just look at the externals. Look at the heart!

 

John 4:25-26, The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. (26) Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. John 4:25-26 (NIV),  The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."  (26)  Then Jesus declared, "I, the one speaking to you—I am he."

 

The Jews looked primarily for Messiah to be King; a political ruler. In contrast, if the woman’s statement reflects the messianic expectation of her people, it seems the Samaritans looked primarily for Messiah to be a Prophet or Teacher (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). He will tell us all things. In other words, He’ll clear up the matter concerning who’s right about the true worship of God.

Speaking to a despised Samaritan and adulteress, Jesus gives the clearest revelation of Himself as the promised Messiah. What He did not say explicitly to the Jews, He said to a woman who wanted instruction and teaching, and who knew Messiah would give it to her.

 

THE ASTONISHMENT OF THE DISCIPLES

 

John 4:27-38, And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?FN

(28) The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, (29) Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did:FN is not this the Christ?FN (30) Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

(31) In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. (32) But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. (33) Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? (34) Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.FN (35) Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?FN behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (36) And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. (37) And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. (38) I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

John 4:27-28  (NIV), Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?"  

(28)  Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  (29)  "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?"  (30)  They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

 
(31)  Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."  (32)  But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."  (33)  Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"  (34)  "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  (35)  Don't you have a saying, 'It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.  (36)  Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.  (37)  Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true.  (38)  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."

 

The disciples returned with food and urged their Master to eat. But there was something more pressing than food at the moment and that was the work of evangelizing the Samaritans of Sychar. His food was to do and finish the work His Father gave Him to do. Though perhaps the disciples may not have understood the full ramifications of what Jesus said, we find in Jesus’ words here that the Father’s work included the salvation of a people who were hated and despised by the Jews. The Father’s love and offer of life was not limited to Jews: it was for everybody—including those people who are most hated and despised, even by us.

 

A HARVEST OF SOULS IN SAMARIA

 

John 4:39-42, And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. (40) So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.FN (41) And many more believed because of his own word; (42) And said unto the woman, Now we believe,FN not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. John 4:39-42 (NIV),  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."  (40)  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  (41)  And because of his words many more became believers.  (42)  They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

 

The result of Jesus’ labors in Sychar resulted in an abundant harvest of souls. Though it is not at all improbable, it is enlightening to note that no record is mentioned of Jesus doing any miracles in Sychar. For a people long destitute of teachers or teaching concerning the truth, Jesus gave them what they needed the most: teaching. He taught them. And because of His words, the Samaritans believed and came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Salvation is a really simple thing: you repent of your sins, ask God to forgive you, and you dedicate your life to believing, following, and obeying Him. That’s all it takes to get saved. It only takes a moment of time to go from being a sinner to being a child of God. Salvation, I’m saying, is simple. It isn’t rocket science. And it isn’t hard.

But underlying the simplicity of salvation is the truth that we see ever so subtly in Jesus’ ministry among the Samaritans. The truth is, you need to know—you need to be told—some things in order to be saved: you need to know you’re a sinner, you need to know God loves you and wants to forgive you of your sin, you need to know how to be saved, namely, you need to pray and ask for God’s forgiveness. Salvation is simple. But you need to know some things.

Brethren, YOU NEED GOOD TEACHING TO BE SAVED! YOU’RE NOT SAVED APART FROM THE TRUTH. AND MORE SPECIFICALLY, YOU’RE NOT SAVED APART FROM YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. YOU NEED TO LEARN OR KNOW SOME THINGS! As Jesus later said, Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).

Because knowledge is an integral and important element in salvation, it is ever so important for God’s people—that’s you and me—to tell the unsaved the truth. We who know the truth must proclaim it and let the truth be known so that sinners and Samaritans can hear it, know it, and by God’s grace, accept God’s free offer of salvation. THE UNSAVED NEED THE TRUTH TO BE SAVED. THEY NEED US TO TELL THEM HOW TO BE SAVED. In this way, THE UNSAVED NEED US TO BE SAVED: THEY NEED US TO BRING THEM TO JESUS. Brethren, there’s a dying world out there and the world’s getting bigger and ever more so sinful. The need for God’s people to proclaim the Gospel of Christ is truly great. We’ve got a job to do! So let’s do it!

 

JESUS' EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY

Jesus spent most of His time ministering in the province of Galilee. Commentators and scholars divide this phase of Jesus' ministry into three time periods: the start of His ministry in this northern province is called the early Galilean ministry; the latter phase of His ministry there before He headed to Jerusalem to die is known as Jesus' later Galilean ministry. Sandwiched between these two time periods is Jesus' greater Galilean ministry.


In the early Galilean ministry, Jesus teaches and works miracles as usual. He is still recruiting followers at this time. He takes His small band of disciples on an evangelistic crusade throughout the the entire province. Naturally, with all these activities, Jesus' popularity grows sky-high. Enough of the summary. Let's delve into the Gospels and see Jesus at work.

 

THE IMPRISONMENT OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Matthew 4:12, Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee. Mark 1:14-15 (NIV), After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  (15)  "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"
Mark 1:14-15, Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, (15) And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

 

As we saw earlier, Jesus’ public ministry began in Judea after His baptism and wilderness temptation.

Now Jesus’ departure from Judea and the beginning of His Galilean ministry was, in part, motivated by the Pharisees’ knowledge of His growing popularity with the people (John 4:1-3); and it was also motivated by the imprisonment of John the Baptist.FN

Now the question is raised: Why would John’s imprisonment have this kind of effect on Jesus? In the text of Scripture, we are not told why. But it is interesting to note that when Jesus got to Galilee He began to preach the same message that John himself preached: From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17, compare with 3:1,2). It’s quite possible that Jesus came to Galilee to pick up where John left off. Now that John was cut off from the public and "silenced," his message of repentance would nonetheless continue to be heard. Jesus Himself would preach the message.

Turning our attention back to John, why was John the Baptist imprisoned?

 

Mark 6:17-18, For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. (18) For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Luke 3:19-20, But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, (20) Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
Mark 6:17-18 (NLT), For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip's wife, but Herod had married her. (18) John had been telling Herod, "It is against God's law for you to marry your brother's wife."

 

There are several Herods in Scripture and history. The Herod mentioned here and everywhere else in the Gospel accounts, with the exception of Matthew 2:1-19 and Luke 1:5, is Herod Antipas. Now Antipas was the son of Herod the Great by one of his wives named Malthace the Samaritan. Upon his father’s death, Antipas was made Tetrarch over Galilee and Perea. It was under Antipas’ rule that Jesus conducted His ministry in Galilee.

Now Antipas had several half-brothers, one of whom was Herod Philip I, son of Herod the Great by another one of his wives named Mariamne II.FN Philip I had a wife by the name of Herodias.FN In the meantime, Antipas himself was married to the daughter of Aretas, King of the Nabatean Arabs. On a visit to his half-brother, Antipas and Herodias became infatuated with each other. They agreed to repudiate their present marriages and marry each other, which they eventually did.FN John the Baptist denounced this marriage and it was this denunciation that led to his arrest, imprisonment, and eventually, his death.FN

Now the Baptist’s denunciation was based on the fact that the Old Testament forbad a man from marrying his brother’s wife as long as his brother was still alive.FN The prohibition is found in Leviticus 18:6 (MSG), "Don't have sex with a close relative. I am GOD."

Verse 16 (MSG) goes on to make specific application of the prohibition to one’s brother: Don't have sex with your brother's wife; that would violate your brother (see also Leviticus 20:21). Since Herodias was the wife of his brother, Antipas could not legally marry her. In a word, the marriage was unlawful.FN

When we get to our study of Matthew 14 and the death of John the Baptist we will take a closer look at Herod Antipas. For now, we want to look at John the Baptist’s denunciation of Antipas’ sin. How we need to be like the Baptist!

 

A. REPROVING SIN IN SPITE OF WHO THE SINNER IS.

Herod Antipas was wrong for marrying his brother’s wife. He was guilty of violating the Law of God. John stood up to him, he exposed the sin and called it sin, and he publicly rebuked it.

Like John, you and I are called upon by God to expose and rebuke sin: Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11 NIV).

Now I ask you the question, Would you reprove sin and the sinner regardless of what the sin is and who the sinner is? Or does familiarity, friendship, and fear silence your rebuke of sin? Herod was ruler in the land. But his status as ruler did not mean he could do anything he wanted to do, nor did it mean the man of God could not rebuke him for sin. In spite of who Antipas was, John the Baptist went on ahead and rebuked him.

Brethren, do you find yourself being silent about sin because the sinner happens to be your friend, your family, your leader, your brother or sister in the church? Do you find yourself being silent because you don’t want to hurt feelings? My friends, TWO THINGS PREVENT US FROM FAITHFULLY FULFILLING OUR GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY TO EXPOSE AND REBUKE SIN: THE RESPECT OF PERSONS AND THE FEAR OF MAN. To be like John the Baptist in this dark and evil world we must get beyond partiality and fear, we must speak up, declare what’s wrong, and take a stand for what’s right.

 

B. THE BIBLE APPLIES TO SINNERS TOO!

As a sinner or an unsaved individual, there’s something you need to understand when Christians come to you and tell you you’re wrong or you’re in sin, and it’s this: THE BIBLE DOESN’T APPLY ONLY TO CHRISTIANS—IT APPLIES TO SINNERS TOO! THAT IS, JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A CHRISTIAN DOESN’T MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE TO OBEY THE LORD OR THE BIBLE.

Look at Herod Antipas. His father, Herod the Great, was an Idumean. His mother, Malthace, was a Samaritan. Even though Antipas was ruling on the Jewish soil of Galilee and Perea, he nevertheless was not a Jew. The Jews themselves did not consider him a Jew. He was every bit unsaved and unregenerate. But even though he wasn’t a Jew, John the Baptist nonetheless preached to him a Jewish Law that was commanded by the God of the Jews. Even though Antipas wasn’t a Jew, the Jewish Law applied to him!

Do you know why? Because the Jewish Law applied to everybody. The Law was not only for the Jews. It was God’s one, universal standard for all men. If God didn’t hold all men responsible to His Law, there would have been no need for the Baptist to address the sin of a non-Jew; the Law would not have applied to him. But the point of the Baptist’s denunciation of Antipas is the fact that God expected Antipas to obey and live by the same rule or law that Jews had to obey and live by. If a Jew married his brother’s wife—and that brother was still alive—that was sin. If a Gentile or a non-Jew did the same thing, that was sin too. Just because he wasn’t a Jew didn’t mean it wasn’t a sin: it didn’t mean he could go ahead and do what Jews couldn’t do. What’s wrong for a Jew was also wrong for a Gentile. What a Jew wasn’t supposed to do, a Gentile also wasn’t supposed to do. Sin is sin. The Law is the Law. And God expects all everybody, but everybody, without exception, to obey His Law. In spite of the fact that Antipas wasn’t a Jew, God still held him accountable to the Law.

So how does all this relate to you? My friend, JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A CHRISTIAN DOESN’T MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE TO OBEY THE LORD; it doesn’t mean you’re free to do whatever you want to do or live any ole way you please. You say the Bible is only for Christians and you think you don’t have to obey the Bible because you’re not a Christian. Wrong! Like Antipas, God holds you to His Word. You’re required to obey the Word too! You can get mad and tell Christians to mind their own business. But Christians will still intrude in the private lives, affairs, and sins of people who aren’t Christians because the Bible applies to non-Christians too.

 

C. REPROVING SIN IN SPITE OF PERSONAL CONSEQUENCES.

John the Baptist was not ignorant or naive about what he was doing. He knew full well what could happen to him if he took a stance and remained vocal and insistent in his rebuke of Herod. Herod was ruler in the land. The way the Herods and the justice system worked back then, if you got into trouble with any of the Herods your life was as good as ended and done. Even though John knew his words could well spell the ruin and end of his ministry, even though he knew his words could get him killed, John went on ahead and took a stand for what was Scriptural, holy, and right. Predictably, in the end, he lost his ministry and his life.

Do you know what this says? It says that obeying God isn’t always easy. There are times when obedience brings pain, suffering, and unpleasant, undesirable consequences. My friends, would you reprove sin and the sinner if you knew that doing so would likely result in your arrest, imprisonment, and death? If you knew you could get hurt or killed if you say something, would you still say it? Does the fact that you have so much to lose cause you to keep quiet and not say anything?

My friends, THE MARK OF A TRUE MAN OR WOMAN OF GOD IS, NO MATTER WHAT YOU HAVE TO LOSE AND NO MATTER WHAT YOU END UP LOSING, NOTHING MATTERS MORE TO YOU THAN BEING FAITHFUL, OBEYING GOD, SAYING WHAT HE’S GIVEN YOU TO SAY, AND DOING WHAT HE’S GIVEN YOU TO DO.

In Revelation 2:10 (NASB) our Lord tells us, 'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

As overcomers, God wants to bring us to a point where what might happen to us doesn’t stop us from doing what the Lord wants us to do. We obey the Lord in spite of what happens to us. Losses are seldom, if ever, cheap. They hurt. You’re not the only one who suffers. People who are close to you suffer too! The disciples of John lost their master. The many people who thought a lot about John found themselves deprived of a man they thought was Messiah and prophet. I’m saying losses are seldom, if ever, cheap.

People in the world will say you’ve lost your mind, you’re suicidal for taking a stance. People in the church will say you’re foolish for speaking up, you’re divisive, intolerant, insensitive. But what does God say about you? God’s opinion of you is what counts the most. You’ve got to mind what He says, not what other people say.

Jesus said, "If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26 NLT).

Friends, don’t be afraid of people. Don’t let fear for your life or well-being silence you and stop you from saying the things that need to be said. I don’t say this lightly. I know what people are capable of doing and, yes, some people can do really frightful, dreadful things. It’s natural to fear them. But it’s God you’ve got to fear the most. He said in Matthew 10:28 (ESV), And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. We all want to save our skin. But it’s saving our soul that we’ve really got to keep foremost in our mind.

If you’re not into fearing God, then love Him and obey Him because you love Him: “If you love Me, obey My commandments (John 14:15 NLT).

 

D. THE REAL OR LIKELY FAILURE OF A REBUKE IS NO REASON NOT TO REBUKE.

John the Baptist’s rebuke of Antipas’ sin was a very costly one in terms of his ministry and his life. John put his life on the line. And do you know what? His rebuke of Antipas’ sin did not bring Antipas to repentance! From all outward appearances, the rebuke was useless. It didn’t work. Antipas never did renounce or repudiate his marriage to Herodias. Even when Antipas was banished by the Romans and sent to Lyons in Gaul to live out the remainder of his life, Herodias stuck by him and followed him. So I ask you the question, What good was John’s rebuke if the rebuke didn’t bring Antipas to repentance? Did John rebuke for nothing and did he die in vain? If taking a stance and rebuking sin isn’t going to accomplish the good that we would like to see accomplished—that is, if people aren’t repenting of their sins and getting saved; does it make sense to stand up and speak out? After all, what good are you to God dead? You can accomplish more outside prison than you can in prison. So why speak up? When you look at the value of a human life and measure death in terms of the failure to accomplish something good (e.g. bring a sinner to repentance), it just doesn’t make sense to die for nothing.

But do you know what, brethren? FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW, THE REAL OR LIKELY FAILURE OF A REBUKE IS NO REASON NOT TO REBUKE. JUST BECAUSE A REBUKE DOESN’T HAVE MUCH CHANCE OF CHANGING A SINNER’S MIND AND TURNING HIM FROM HIS WAYS DOESN’T MEAN WE OUGHT NOT REBUKE. Like John the Baptist, God wants us to go ahead and rebuke. And keep on rebuking.

Why? Ezekiel 2:3-5 (NLT) gives the answer: "Son of man," He said, "I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against Me to this very day. (4) They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says!' (5) And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.”

In other words, obstinate, unrepentant people are going to know that a man of God has been in their midst; they’re going to know that the Lord has spoken to them through this man. When unrepentant sinners stand before the judgment seat of God they can’t plead ignorance as an excuse. They will have your incessant rebukes as their witness of a knowledgeable and deliberate rejection of the truth or the law.

You say your rebukes of sin aren’t doing any good? God says, I do send thee to them and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord.FN Therefore, rebuke and continue to rebuke. Nothing will happen to you that the Lord hasn’t allowed. And what He does allow, He gives plenty of grace to face the consequences.

 

JESUS ARRIVES IN GALILEE

Luke 4:14-15, And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. (15) And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. John 4:43-45, Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. (44) For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. (45) Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
Luke 4:14-15 (NLT), Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit's power. Reports about Him spread quickly through the whole region. (15) He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

 

After a two-day stay in Samaria (John 4:40), Jesus resumed His journey to Galilee where He was received and praised by the Galileans.

 

A NOBLEMAN PRESSES JESUS TO HEAL HIS SONFN

John 4:46-54, So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman,FN whose son was sick at Capernaum. (47) When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

(48) Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. (49) The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. (50) Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

(51) And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. (52) Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.FN (53) So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. (54) This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.FN

John 4:46-54 (NIV),  Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.  (47)  When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.  

(48)  "Unless you people see signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe."  (49)  The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies."  (50)  "Go," Jesus replied, "your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed.  

(51)  While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.  (52)  When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him."  (53)  Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and his whole household believed.  (54)  This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

 

Jesus’ Galilean ministry began in Cana where He performed His first miracle and where Nathanael, one of His earliest followers, lived. Now the healing of the nobleman’s son is a real encouragement to our faith and I would like to look at it in detail with you.

The man’s son had fallen gravely ill and had come to the point of death. Apart from a miracle, death was just a matter of time. Now the distraught nobleman had heard of Jesus and the miracles that He did in Judea. When he heard that Jesus was in Cana, he traveled from his home in Capernaum to petition Jesus for the healing of his son. There’s an element of faith and hopeful anticipation here: the man believed that Jesus could make a difference and succeed where all other remedies and physicians had failed.FN

Jesus’ response was perhaps an unexpected or humiliating one: Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe!FN At first, it’s hard to understand why Jesus would mildly reprove the nobleman. The man had a legitimate need and the request for help should not have elicited this kind of response from Jesus. It is, however, a mistake for us to assume that the entire conversation between Jesus and the nobleman is recorded in this brief narrative. There was more that was said that was not recorded and we can be sure that the reproof was a valid one.

There are two things that I want you to see here. First, even though the nobleman must have been taken aback and embarrassed or humiliated by what Jesus said, the man didn’t get bitter or angry. He didn’t turn his back on Jesus and walk away critical of Jesus’ seeming lack of compassion. The nobleman was determined. He persisted and held fast to his original request. If you were this nobleman, would you have been turned off by Jesus’ response? Would you have been offended and walked away critical of Jesus? BRETHREN, IF YOU WANT SOMETHING BAD ENOUGH, YOU NEED TO PERSIST AND HOLD FAST EVEN IN THE MIDST OF DISCOURAGING CIRCUMSTANCES. Faith persists. Without perseverance you go away empty handed (Hebrews 6:11-12).

And the other thing that I want you to see is, even though Jesus found some fault in the nobleman, He nevertheless granted him his request: Jesus spoke the word and healed the nobleman’s son.FN This is where the tremendous encouragement to our faith comes in. Since the nobleman’s son was seriously ill and threatened with death, then I will say this much. IN A CASE OF SHEER OR UTMOST DESPERATION, JESUS WILL HONOR WHATEVER FAITH YOU HAVE—THOUGH THAT FAITH MAY BE ENCUMBERED AND PLAGUED WITH FEAR, DOUBT, AND UNBELIEF. Like the nobleman, you believe that Jesus could make a difference. But there are problems with your faith. You’re still battling fear, doubt, and unbelief. You’re not totally sure because your faith is not totally pure. Brethren, JUST BECAUSE YOUR FAITH ISN’T TOTALLY PURE OR FREE FROM DOUBT, THAT’S NO REASON TO TURN AWAY FROM JESUS AND NOT ASK. LIKE THE NOBLEMAN, COME TO JESUS AND ASK. JESUS WILL HONOR WHAT LITTLE FAITH YOU HAVE.

Now the point of all this is not that it’s alright for you to hold on to your fears or doubts. Jesus rebukes that and He wants you to get rid of those fears and doubts. You should also know that this story of the nobleman’s son is not an encouragement for you to remain in unbelief and pray to God anyway because God will still answer your prayer. No! Prayers are answered on the basis of faith. Faith is still a requirement for answered prayer (Mark 11:24). Unbelief still keeps Jesus from doing any mighty works or miracles for you (see Matthew 13:58).

The point is, IF YOU HAVE A SPARK OF FAITH, BUT THAT FAITH IS HAMPERED BY LINGERING FEARS, DOUBTS, AND UNBELIEF, DON’T LET THAT STOP YOU FROM COMING TO GOD FOR HELP. COME AND ASK. Put aside your doubts and fears. Quit listening to what the Devil’s telling you. Hold fast to what you really want or need. Read your Bible. Listen to, and believe, what Jesus has told you in His Word. Friends, you don’t get answers if you stay at home in Capernaum. Jesus has the answers. Even though you know your faith isn’t what it ought to be ideally, come to Cana and ask.FN

Now when Jesus told the nobleman to go your way, your son’s going to live, all the nobleman had at that point in time was a word from Jesus—an assuring word that his son will recover and live. Jesus didn’t do anything else for him. He didn’t follow the nobleman to Capernaum. He didn’t lay hands on the child. He didn’t bow His head and say a prayer for the boy. The only thing Jesus did was speak a word. And at that particular point in time and place, the nobleman didn’t have any real way of finding out if Jesus’ words really worked; he had no way of knowing for sure if his son was really on the mend.

The point I’m getting to is, FAITH IS A CHOICE. You either choose to believe what Jesus said, or you don’t. The man chose to believe and he acted on that faith by doing two things. First, he quit asking. And second, he went home. Friends, when it’s faith and you’re truly believing, you’ll know right after the Amen to your prayer that God has heard and answered you (Mark 11:24 with 1 John 5:14-15). And since He’s already heard and answered you, there’s no more need to ask.

There’s additional comfort for us in the question that the nobleman asked his servants: What time did my son begin to amend? The son’s healing wasn’t instantaneous. It was a gradual one. The fever lifted at about the seventh hour, and from that single turning point in time, the boy began to get better.

Brethren, DON’T BE DISHEARTENED OR DISCOURAGED IF YOUR HEALING ISN’T MANIFESTED INSTANTLY. Some people in the Bible were instantly healed. Others, like the nobleman’s son, were healed over a gradual period of time. Do you think the nobleman was disappointed that his son wasn’t instantly healed like the others Jesus instantly healed? Do you think he was critical of Jesus? Of course not! The nobleman was glad his son was alive and on the road to full recovery. Brethren, BE THANKFUL FOR WHATEVER IMPROVEMENTS YOU’VE EXPERIENCED IN THE ROAD TO FULL RECOVERY. THANK GOD YOU’RE NOT ANY WORSE OFF. FROM HERE ON OUT, YOUR HEALTH CAN ONLY GET BETTER! HALLELUJAH!

Speaking now from the boy’s standpoint, there are times when it looks like death is certain. There’s nothing imaginary about it. It’s only a matter of time when the inevitable and inescapable will happen. As a final comfort to our faith, brethren, NO MATTER HOW CLOSE YOU ARE TO THAT FINAL BREATH, DON’T GIVE UP FAITH AND HOPE IN GOD. The nobleman’s son traveled down the road to death. Every minute of every hour brought him closer to that final good-bye. But do you know what? In one instant of time, the Lord intervened, turned back the spirit of death, and set the boy back on the road to recovery and life! WHAT WAS CERTAIN AND INEVITABLE DIDN’T HAPPEN. DO YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE WHEN GOD AND FAITH ARE INVOLVED, THE INEVITABLE ISN’T INEVITABLE! Brethren, don’t resign yourself to what the Devil is trying to do to you. Sure, things don’t look good and things aren’t going in your favor. But God’s given you a promise of healing and life. God doesn’t lie and He doesn’t fail. Keep on believing. Hold fast to your confession of faith without wavering. God is faithful! All it takes is one instant of time. That time is coming, dear friends. Hold fast! Wait! And believe!

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SYNAGOGUE

HISTORY


To fully appreciate the next incident in the life of our Lord, that being His teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, it would be helpful to know a few things about the synagogue.

The word comes from the Greek word sunagoge, which denotes the gathering or assembling of people for any kind of purpose. As a place of worship and religious instruction, synagogues are not found in the Old Testament. By the time of Jesus, however, they were everywhere prevalent. Though their origin is difficult to trace exactly, scholars unanimously agree that they arose sometime during the Babylonian exile when the captive Jews were deprived of their Temple. Because their worship of God centered around the Temple with its sacrifices and rituals, the captive Jews could no longer worship God in the manner to which they were accustomed. Brought to repentance through the ministries of the prophets Daniel, Ezekiel, and other holy men of God; and living in a foreign, heathen nation; the Jews found it needful to preserve the Torah, the five Books of Moses. In gathering themselves together for this purpose, they not only preserved the Torah, but also preserved their national identity, language, custom, and religion. By the time of the Maccabees, synagogues became so well established in Palestine. In fact, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., it is said that there was no fewer than four hundred and eighty synagogues in the Holy City itself!

Since the vast majority of Jews did not live in Jerusalem, the synagogue became the all-important religious institution of Jewish daily life. Unlike the Temple, however, the synagogue did not have or maintain a priesthood, neither were Temple rituals or sacrifices conducted therein.

Two major requirements of the Talmud had to be met in order for a synagogue to be erected. First, there had to be at least ten Jewish men of leisure in the community. That is, there had to be at least ten men who could devote their time to the maintenance and administration of the synagogue. And second, the synagogue had to be constructed in such a way that the congregation would face Jerusalem. Women sat separately from men in a gallery enclosed with lattices and constructed in such a way that they could see and hear everything without actually being seen by the men.

 

SERVICE


Synagogue services consisted of three parts: prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, and the preaching or exposition of the Scriptures.

(A) The prayer portion of the service began with two opening prayers, followed by the recitation of the Shema, the creed of Judaism,FN and closed with the Eighteen Prayers or Benedictions.FN All Jews who were of age were required to say these Eighteen Prayers three times a day, everyday.

(B) The Scripture reading consisted of two parts: the Law and the Prophets. The Law, that being the five Books of Moses, were divided into fifty-three or fifty-four sections called Paraschioth. One section was read every Sabbath so that in the space of a year the entire Law would be read.FN When Antiochus Epiphanes conquered the Jews in 163 B.C., the Jews were forbidden to read the Law publicly. Because the Books of the Prophets were not a part of the Law, strictly speaking, the Jews took these prophetical writings, divided them into fifty-four sections or Haphtarah, and recited these in place of the Law. With the triumph of the Jewish Maccabees, the reading of the Law was restored. The Haphtarah continued to be read, however, and it was read after the Paraschioth. Out of reverence to the Word of God, the man chosen to read the Scriptures would do so standing up.

(C) After the Scriptures were read, the man chosen to read the Scriptures would sit down and expound them, preaching a sermon to the people. Readers and speakers were not confined to members of the synagogue. At the discretion of the ruler of the synagogue, a visiting Rabbi or distinguished guest would be asked to speak. This explains how Jesus could teach in so many synagogues throughout the land (Luke 4:15). The apostles themselves were accorded this privilege as evidenced in Acts 13:14-15.

 

OFFICERS


The chief ruler of the synagogue (Hebrew rosh ha-keneset, Greek archisunagogos) was responsible for all aspects of the synagogue worship. He decided who would read and expound on the Scriptures. He also served as judge in petty offences and had the power to inflict punishment where punishment was due (see Matthew 10:17). The New Testament mentions three chief rulers by name: Jairus (Mark 5:22), Crispus (Acts 18:8), and Sosthenes (Acts 18:17).

The Sheliach Zibbor, the angel or messenger of the congregation, was the individual chosen to represent the congregation in offering up prayers to God. As the people’s representative, he responded to the liturgical prayers in their place.

The Hazzan ha-Keneset, the servant or minister of the synagogue, was responsible for keeping the synagogue clean. He was also in charge of the scrolls. In Luke 4:20, after Jesus read from the Prophets, He handed the scroll to the minister of the synagogue.

The Methurgeman, the interpreter or translator, translated the text of Scripture from Hebrew into Aramaic, which was the lingua franca of the Jews during New Testament times.

 

JESUS IS REJECTED IN NAZARETHFN

Luke 4:16-22, And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. (17) And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

(18) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (19) To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.FN

(20) And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (21) And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Luke 4:16-21 (NLT), When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. (17) The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

(18) "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, (19) and that the time of the LORD's favor has come. "

(20) He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at Him intently. (21) Then He began to speak to them. "The Scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!"

 

As far as we know, this is the first time that Jesus got to preach in His hometown synagogue. He was asked to read and expound on the Haphtarah for that particular Sabbath service, that being a selection from Isaiah 61. Perhaps no better selection could have been made for that Sabbath because the Scripture text was a perfect description of Jesus’ ministry.

Now Isaiah 61 is just one of many, many Scripture passages that the Jews themselves interpreted Messianically; it was a Messianic text that told of what Messiah would do in their midst. Moreover, according to rabbinic teaching, Isaiah 61:1 is one of only two passages in Isaiah where the Spirit of God is mentioned in close relation to the Messianic age, the other passage being Isaiah 32:14-15. In other words, the Messiah would not only have the Lord’s commission: He would also have the Lord’s anointing and Spirit whereby that commission could be fulfilled through Him.

Perhaps as clearly as Jesus would ever say to His fellow Jews, He was proclaiming Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy. Without actually saying it, Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be the Messiah.FN

 

Luke 4:22-30, And all bare him witness,FN and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? (23) And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. (24) And he said, Verily, I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.FN

(25) But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months,FN when great famine was throughout all the land; (26) But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. (27) And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.FN

(28) And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, (29) And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built,FN that they might cast him down headlong. (30) But he passing through the midst of them went his way.FN

Luke 4:22-30 (NLT), Everyone spoke well of Him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from His lips. "How can this be?" they asked. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" (23) Then He said, "You will undoubtedly quote Me this proverb: 'Physician, heal yourself'—meaning, 'Do miracles here in Your hometown like those You did in Capernaum.' (24) But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in His own hometown.

(25) "Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. (26) Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. (27) And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian."

(28) When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. (29) Jumping up, they mobbed Him and forced Him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push Him over the cliff, (30) but He passed right through the crowd and went on His way.

 

The Nazarenes’ initial reaction to Jesus’ sermon was one of favor and amazement. They were amazed that a carpenter’s son and a carpenter Himself could preach so well! They liked what they were hearing and they spoke well of Jesus. He had their backing and support!

But as sermons sometimes go, favor turned to fury and amazement turned to anger. The same people who hailed Him just moments ago laid hold on Him and took Him out to the brow of the hill. They were intent on killing Him! Can you imagine killing a man on the Sabbath? These Jews must have really been riled up! "Forget what the Law says about killing (Exodus 20:13)! Forget about the sanctity of the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8)! Let’s kill Jesus!"FN The incident, my friends, is a perfect illustration of how, in an instant of time, one sermon—and just one part of that sermon—can turn friends into foes and a message become an occasion for murder.

So what happened? What went wrong? Jesus knew what was in the hearts of the people and He exposed it. The people wanted to see miracles. They heard about Jesus’ miracles and fame. And now that He was in town, they wanted Him to show them what He could do. They weren’t interested in being recipients of a miracle as much as they were interested in seeing their carpenter-townsman perform a miracle. They had to see it for themselves! You see, there was doubt in the people’s minds concerning Jesus’ real identity. Jesus was a carpenter’s Son, He was a carpenter, and that’s how they saw Him. That’s all Jesus was to them—a carpenter. They had a hard time accepting the fact that He could be anything more than a carpenter. They knew Him too well!FN By seeing Him do a miracle, the miracle would, in effect, cause them to change their view of Him. The miracle would validate or confirm what they had a hard time believing, namely, that the carpenter’s Son had a call of God upon His life, that God’s power was upon Him, and that God worked through Him. In a word, the problem was one of unbelief due to familiarity. And it was this unbelief and familiarity that kept the Nazarenes from honoring their hometown Prophet and Messiah.

How did Jesus respond to this desire of the people? He didn’t do what the people wanted Him to do. He didn’t work a miracle.FN Why not? If a miracle would have changed the people’s view of Him, shouldn’t He have performed a miracle? My friends, Jesus didn’t perform a miracle for the Nazarenes because He knew it wouldn’t have done any good. Contrary to what we think, a miracle wouldn’t have changed their minds.

Look at Matthew 13:54-58, And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? (55) Is not this the carpenter’s son?...Whence then hath this man all these things? (57) And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. (58) And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

The Nazarenes eventually saw some of Jesus’ miracles (KJV, mighty works). But they still didn’t believe! Miracles didn’t help, or cure, their unbelief! The Nazarenes were stuck in the notion that Jesus wasn’t anyone more than a carpenter’s son. They didn’t need a miracle as much as they needed to get rid of their unbelief and contempt!

Instead of performing a miracle, Jesus cited two events of history. At a time of great famine and need in Israel, Elijah was not sent to Israel, but rather, to a Gentile widow in Sidon and God provided for her need. Likewise, there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, but only one got healed and that was a Syrian by nationality. In both instances, a genuine prophet of Israel was involved and in both instances, Gentiles were recipients of God’s goodness.

The message was quite clear. Like the prophets Elijah and Elisha, Jesus was a Prophet. But because of the Nazarenes’ contempt and rejection of Him, the Prophet would go elsewhere—yea, even unto the Gentiles—and others would be benefited by His ministry. Like Israel in history, the Nazarenes would not partake of the miracles and ministries of the Prophet. They stood reproved and rebuked for their contempt and rejection of Jesus. The Nazarenes got the point and they got mad.FN

In closing, learn four lessons from our text. First, if a preacher preached a message that got the whole congregation riled up, would your first thought be that the preacher was wrong? What we see here is IT’S POSSIBLE FOR A MINISTER TO SPEAK A MESSAGE FROM THE LORD THAT WILL OFFEND OR UPSET THE CONGREGATION. GOD WILL, AT TIMES, LEAD HIS MINISTERS TO SAY THINGS THAT WILL RILE THE PEOPLE UP. It's a tough thing to accept because, like the Nazarenes, you don't see God in the message. All you see is the preacher's wrong for saying what he said. Brethren, the next time you get riled up by a preacher or a sermon, before you mouth off at the preacher you’d better ask yourself—ask God—who’s right and who’s wrong. It just might surprise you to find out you’re the one who’s wrong!

Second, don’t be too quick to denounce a minister just because of the troubles that follow him. Obviously, I’m not talking about sin, but I’m talking about fruit. You see, if you judge good fruit strictly by good results, you would have to say that Jesus was a dismal failure in Nazareth. He failed to win the Nazarenes’ hearts or faith. They rejected Him. He got cast out of the synagogue. And He almost got Himself killed! The results aren’t too impressive!

Friends, JUST BECAUSE BAD THINGS HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF YOUR WITNESSING OR PREACHING DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU WERE WRONG AND THE LORD WASN’T IN IT. Sure, if you speak in the flesh, trouble will follow. But when you know God led you to say something, He even gave you the words to say, and bad things happened as a result; don’t doubt yourself and think you were wrong to say anything at all. EVEN WHEN YOU SAY WHAT GOD GIVES YOU TO SAY, BAD THINGS CAN, AND SOMETIMES DO, STILL HAPPEN. IT’S CALLED PERSECUTION. PEOPLE WHO REJECT THE TRUTH WILL PERSECUTE YOU.

Third, if you’re moving with the Spirit and God’s leading you to say something to someone, then DON’T LET THE CONSEQUENCES SILENCE YOU OR STOP YOU FROM SPEAKING. Your decision to speak or not to speak must be based solely on the Lord’s will—not on the consequences or the people’s reactions. Look at what Jesus did. Jesus addressed the Nazarenes’ contempt and He almost got killed for it.

Brethren, THERE ARE PERSONAL RISKS INVOLVED WHEN YOU GET PERSONAL AND START EXPOSING WHAT’S SINFUL OR WRONG. REBUKING PEOPLE CAN GET YOU INTO TROUBLE! Even though Jesus knew what would happen if He preached His sermon, He nonetheless preached it because the people’s contempt needed to be exposed and dealt with. People were offended, feelings were hurt, the message produced nothing but trouble. Jesus knew all this would happen before He ever said a word. But He went ahead and said what He said—not because He was trying to be offensive or divisive, but rather, because He was trying to help the people by showing them the wrong that was in their hearts.

Brethren, YOU MAY BE ACCUSED OF BEING OFFENSIVE AND DIVISIVE. DON’T LET THE PEOPLE’S ACCUSATIONS MOVE YOU OR SHAKE YOU. Instead of being torn by the troubles that happened, take comfort in the fact that you were faithful. Learn to leave the consequences in God’s hands. And, like Jesus, walk through the angry mob and be on your way. In other words, keep going on!

And fourth, when the minister steps on your toes and his message strikes a raw nerve, causing you to react in an ungodly manner; then, chances are, it’s you who has the problem, not the minister or the message. When the message has your name and address on it, then before you go and make trouble for the preacher, listen to what the preacher is saying, be honest enough to look into your heart, see the trouble that’s there, and deal with it. Beloved, THE TROUBLE IN YOUR HEART WON’T EVER GET TAKEN CARE OF AS LONG AS YOUR RESPONSE TO THE MESSAGE IS TO MAKE TROUBLE FOR THE MINISTER.

For the rest of their entire lives, the Nazarenes missed out on everything God said and did through Jesus—all because they were unwilling to get rid of their contempt and receive Jesus for who He really was.

Brethren, God has so much to offer you and do for you. You need God’s help and blessings so much! You need His healing, His deliverance, His guidance, His wisdom, His grace. And more. Don’t miss out on God’s blessings by making the same mistake the Nazarenes made. Humble yourself, admit you’re wrong, receive and heed the Lord’s rebuke. He that refuseth reproof erreth (Proverbs 10:17b ESV), and whoever heeds reproof is honored (Proverbs 13:18 ESV).

 

JESUS MOVES TO CAPERNAUM

Matthew 4:13-17, And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: (14) That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, (15) The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; (16) The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

(17) From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:13-17 (NLT), He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. (14) This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: (15) "In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, (16) the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined."

(17) From then on Jesus began to preach, "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near."

Luke 4:31-32, And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. (32) And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.

 

Having been rejected in Nazareth, Jesus moved to Capernaum where He resided for the duration of His Galilean ministry.FN You see, Jesus didn’t allow His rejection by the hometown crowd, who, by the way, were His neighbors, friends, and relatives; to shut down His ministry. Jesus kept right on doing what God sent Him to do.FN

Now Capernaum was located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee in what was the ancient territory allotted to the tribe of Napthali following the conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua. Nazareth was the ancient allotment of the tribe of Zebulon.

In keeping with his desire to show Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, Matthew cites this move of Jesus to Capernaum as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—  (2)  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:1-2 NIV).

 

JESUS INVITES THE FISHERMEN TO BECOME HIS DISCIPLES

Matthew 4:18-22 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. (19) And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (20) And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

(21) And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. (22) And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Mark 1:16-20, Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. (17) And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. (18) And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

(19) And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. (20) And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

Mark 1:16-20 (NLT), One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. (17) Jesus called out to them, "Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" (18) And they left their nets at once and followed Him.

 

If you will remember our studies in John 1:35-42, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John were disciples of John the Baptist. When Jesus emerged from His wilderness temptation and returned to the vicinity of the Jordan where He had been baptized, these four followers of the Baptist became Jesus’ first followers. Together, they stayed in Judea for several months, making and baptizing disciples.

On His return trip to Galilee, Jesus and His fishermen-disciples passed through Samaria and it is here where they apparently parted company: the disciples journeyed on to Capernaum while Jesus stayed behind in Sychar where, for two days, He ministered and reaped a harvest of souls among the Samaritans (John 4:1-43).

Meeting up with these disciples once again, the Lord called them to join Him a second time and become disciples in ministry.FN The fishermen heeded the call immediately and followed Him.FN The apostolic company, then, at this time numbered four: Peter, his brother Andrew, James, and his brother John, the writer of the fourth Gospel account.

 

JESUS DELIVERS A DEMONIAC IN SYNAGOGUE

Mark 1:21-28, And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. (22) And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

(23) And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, (24) Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. (25) And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. (26) And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

(27) And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. (28) And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Mark 1:21-28 (NIV),  They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  (22)  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  

(23)  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,  (24)  "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"  (25)  "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!"  (26)  The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  

(27)  The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him."  (28)  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Luke 4:33-37 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, (34) Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. (35) And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

(36) And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. (37) And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.

 

Followed by His disciples, Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and taught. What ensued with regards to the demoniac is quite enlightening.

(1) Notice first of all that the demoniac was in synagogue on the Sabbath, doing what the Law required every Jew to do, that is, honor the Lord and the Sabbath. My friends, church-going people can be demon-possessed! Professing believers of God can be oppressed by demons! I'm a Spirit-filled, Charismatic believer and I've seen these sorts of things, so I know what I'm talking about. But even without my Charismatic background, this demoniac in synagogue--and similar incidents throughout the Gospels--ought to tell us that God-worshipping believers can be demon-possessed. If it was true back in Jesus' day, then it certainly can be true in our day. Do we naively believe that, just because Jesus is gone and the first-century church is dead, demons quit possessing and oppressing God's people? No matter your denominational background or belief, the Devil is still alive in our day and very very active! Some demoniacs go to church and exhibit a sense of Christian piety!

(2) The demoniac was possessed by an unclean spirit. The word 'unclean' means what it means: unclean, impure, lewd, or immoral. If you’re oppressed and controlled by a demon, then you are what the devil within you is. If you’ve got an unclean spirit, you’re unclean and you live an unclean life. This doesn’t mean you can’t act morally in some instances. But as a general rule, you live the kind of life that the devil within you tells you to live. You are what the devil within you is. You can’t have an unclean spirit and not be unclean!

So what’s the point? YOU CAN LIVE AN UNGODLY, UNCHRISTIAN, IMMORAL KIND OF LIFE AND NOT HAVE ANY QUALMS ABOUT GOING TO CHURCH AND WORSHIPPING THE VERY LORD YOU’RE LIVING IN DISOBEDIENCE TO! Whatever happened to conscience? No matter how much it pains me to say it, there are hypocrites and sinners in church! And they masquerade as Christians!

(3) Notice when the demon manifested or showed itself. It manifested while Jesus was teaching. Demons don’t like the Word! They don’t like having to listen to it. One of the best times for demons to manifest is during church when the preacher is preaching. As a preacher, I’ve seen demons manifest in people who I probably would never have known were oppressed by demons. They looked like perfectly good Christians—until the Word got too strong or personal! My friends, if you’re oppressed by a demon, don’t try to hide that fact. It won’t work. You know why? Because NO MATTER HOW GOOD OR PIOUS YOU MAY APPEAR, YOU CAN’T HIDE YOUR TRUE CONDITION FOREVER. SOONER OR LATER, THE DEMON WILL MANIFEST!FN

(4) During Jesus’ day, a lot of people had a hard time with Jesus’ identity. They just couldn’t accept the fact that He was the Son of God or Messiah of Israel. Demons didn’t have that problem (Mark 1:34)! They knew who Jesus was and they openly confessed it: Thou art the Holy One of God! I find it sadly comical that, unlike many skeptics today, demons know and openly proclaim the truth about Jesus. I guess there really is a sense in which some people are just plain dumber than devils!

Do you want to know more? Brethren, demons know who you are; they know who you represent or work for. We read in Acts 16:16-17 (NLT), One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. (17) She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved."

From a demon’s point of view, one of the things that gives you away is your activity. Demons know you’re a Christian when they see you evangelizing and preaching.

(5) When the demon manifested in the synagogue Jesus commanded it and said, Be quiet and come out of him!FN My friends, THE ONLY THING WORTH DOING WITH A DEMON IS TO GET RID OF IT! Notice what it takes to get rid of a demon: it only takes the spoken word! You tell the Devil what to do and the Devil has to obey you! Why? Because our Lord has given you the authority over the Devil! The Devil must obey you!

Luke 10:17 tells us, And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Jesus said unto them in verse 19, Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Jesus gave us power. The word literally means authority. In the Greek text, the word power and the word authority that’s used with respect to Jesus in Mark 1:27 are one and the same word. Jesus has given us His authority! Demons obey us because the authority we wield over them is Jesus’ own. It’s as if Jesus Himself is present and is telling them what to do. Brethren, don’t reason with the Devil. Don’t make deals with demons. Tell them what to do in Jesus’ Name and stick with that simple command. No matter how much they may resist you at first, they eventually have to obey you!

 

JESUS HEALS PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW

Matthew 8:14-17, And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. (15) And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them. Mark 1:29-31, And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.FN (30) But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. (31) And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. Luke 4:38-41 And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. (39) And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
Luke 4:38-39 (MSG),  He left the meeting place and went to Simon's house. Simon's mother-in-law was running a high fever and they asked him to do something for her.  (39)  He stood over her, told the fever to leave—and it left. Before they knew it, she was up getting dinner for them.

 

After synagogue service, Jesus and His small company of disciples went to Peter’s house. Luke tells us that Peter’s mother-in-law had a high fever and he alone records the fact that Jesus rebuked the fever.FN Instantly, the fever left her and she got out of bed and took care of the company.

Now the thing about a fever is, it isn’t life-threatening or terminal. It isn’t something you’ll have or live with for the rest of your life. Generally speaking, a fever—with proper care—will pass in a few hours or a couple of days. You’ll eventually, and rather soon, be back to normal and well again. Jesus could have left Peter’s mother-in-law alone and let nature take her course: she’d be fine in a day or two! Nature didn’t need a miracle or Jesus’ help to get this woman feeling good again! But instead of letting the woman lie there sick and miserable, Jesus healed her.

Learn a lesson here, my friends. The promise of healing doesn’t apply just to the major illnesses of life: it applies to the minor sicknesses and pains too! In healing a simple fever our Lord shows us that IT’S NOT GOD’S WILL FOR US TO BE SICK, OR STAY SICK—EVEN IF IT’S SOMETHING THAT WILL SOON PASS. NO SICKNESS IS TOO SMALL OR INSIGNIFICANT FOR THE LORD TO HEAL. So can you pray and trust the Lord for healing of a cough or colds? Fever or flu? You certainly can! God doesn't want you sick no matter how small that sickness may be! He wants you healed!

 

JESUS HEALS A BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN CAPERNAUM

Mark 1:32-34, And at even, when the sun did set,FN they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. (33) And all the city was gathered together at the door. (34) And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. Luke 4:40-41 ,Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. (41) And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak:FN for they knew that he was Christ.FN
Luke 4:40-41 (ESV), Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. (41) And demons also came out of many, crying, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

 

What a Sabbath this was! First the demoniac in the synagogue was delivered. Then Peter’s mother-in-law was healed. And finally, the whole city showed up to partake of these Heavenly blessings!FN Undoubtedly, while Jesus lunched with His disciples in Peter’s house, word passed around town about what happened in the synagogue that morning. If Jesus had this power to heal, it made no sense to stay home! "Let’s go see Jesus!" Towards evening, then, the citizens of Capernaum started to arrive, bringing their sick and oppressed.

Do you know what happened? Everyone of them got healed or delivered! No one went home sick or oppressed! My friends, THERE IS NO SICKNESS TOO HARD FOR GOD TO HEAL! NO DISEASE IS TOO FAR GONE THAT JESUS CAN’T HEAL IT! NO ONE, BUT NO ONE, IS BEYOND GOD’S ABILITY TO HEAL! BRETHREN, WITH GOD AS OUR HEALER WE ARE NEVER WITHOUT HOPE OR HEALING! Hallelujah!

And do you know what else? What works for sickness also works for oppression! The demonic oppression that we call psychological problems or mental illnesses go when the oppressed are brought to Jesus! No one is so demonically possessed or oppressed that Jesus cannot possibly set them free! No matter what the oppression is, no matter how long a person’s been oppressed, no demon can remain in a person when Jesus commands the demon to leave. In accordance with His Messianic mission (Isaiah 61:1-2), the captives are set free! Hallelujah!FN

I know that a lot of people will read this passage of Scripture, then move on without being fazed, touched, or affected by these testaments of God’s healing and deliverance. Let’s slow it down. Put yourself in these people’s sandals. If you were sick, diseased, or oppressed by powers that are beyond your control, how can you possibly read this Biblical narrative and not be convinced that the same thing can happen to you? I know what it’s like to not be hopeful of healing. I’ve been there. But hopelessness doesn’t get anyone healed. As sick as I’ve been, I definitely want to be healed! I’m so sick of being sick! And the Devil does a pretty good job of convincing me that I ain’t gonna ever get healed.

But Scriptures such as these that we’ve just read force me to stop and take a good hard look at the facts and truth. Namely, Jesus is the same. Yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Do you know what this verse means? It means that, after all these years of time, Jesus hasn’t changed! He’s just as powerful to heal and deliver today as when He walked the earth. He’s just as willing! And just because it’s the twenty-first century, just because it’s you, doesn’t mean that the same thing can’t happen to you. Brethren, JESUS IS HEALER. HE HASN’T QUIT HEALING! HE’S STILL HEALING TODAY! We really are, as it were, reliving what happened that one memorable day in Capernaum: lots of people in our day are being healed and set free by our wonderful Lord! Friends, don’t make yourself an exception to God’s healing! Like the Capernaumites, come to Jesus—all you who are sick, diseased, and oppressed. Believe for healing and you’ll be healed (Matthew 7:7, 21:22, James 5:14-15).

 

JESUS' FIRST EVANGELISTIC TOUR OF GALILEE

Mark 1:35-39, And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. (36) And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. (37) And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. (38) And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. (39) And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. Mark 1:35-39 (NLT), Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. (36) Later Simon and the others went out to find Him. (37) When they found Him, they said, "Everyone is looking for You." (38) But Jesus replied, "We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came." (39) So He traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.
Luke 4:42-44 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. (43) And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. (44) And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

 

It was a long Sabbath day for Jesus. With the city crowds coming at dusk, Jesus probably ministered long into the night. But He was up early the next morning, long before daylight. With His ministry in full swing, Jesus found it needful to pray. He didn’t overlook it.

Jesus isn't setting any laws here, but He's giving us an example that we would do well to follow. As busy as we may be, even in ministry, we need to take time to pray. A lot of times we're too busy to pray. But, friends, that’s the exact time we need to pray! Prayer slows us down, as it were, and gives us a Heavenly perspective of God's will and what's really important. At such a time, the spirit is refreshed, Divine guidance is given for the activities of the day, and precious grace is given to enable and empower us to do everything that needs to be done today.

When daylight broke, the people of Capernaum flocked to Jesus again. Instead of staying in town and ministering to them, Jesus thought it best to go throughout the Galilean province and minister in other towns as well. After all, that was what He came to do: for therefore came I forth. No doubt, when the need or demand for ministry is great and people from all sides need help, it can be a difficult choice to make as to who we should minister to next.

Luke tells us that the people of Capernaum came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them (Luke 4:42). The word stayed means to hinder or prevent; to hold or restrain. That's how bad the Capernaumites wanted Jesus to stay . They were intent on hanging on to Jesus and keeping Him for themselves! Obviously, there was pressure to stay and minister to their needs.

Success and popularity bring pressures and the demand upon us brings disappointments in the sense that some people will be disappointed by the decisions we make.FN The decisions aren’t easy. In the example set for us by our Lord, the decision we make with regards to ministry isn’t determined by people, nor is it determined by the need or the greatness of the need. It isn't even determined by the success we’re presently enjoying in ministering where we’re at at the moment. DECISIONS RELATING TO OUR MINISTRY ARE MADE BY GOD, NOT US. And we mustn't let anyone or anything hinder or stop us from doing what God wants us to do.

 

Matthew 4:23-25, And Jesus went about all Galilee,FN teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (24) And his fame went throughout all Syria:FN and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.FN (25) And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis,FN and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.FN 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.

 

Details of our Lord’s first ministry tour of Galilee are not given by any of the Gospel writers. The Synoptics, however, give us a summary of what happened in every town and synagogue that Jesus visited. The story was the same everywhere He went. Multitudes were healed and delivered. It didn’t matter what they had. Their sickness or oppression didn’t keep them from coming. They came anyway! And Jesus didn’t turn anyone away. No sickness or oppression was too great for Him to cure! Demoniacs, lunatics (some versions say epileptics), even paralytics—He cured them all! What an encouragement to our faith!

Brethren, we are no exception! It doesn’t matter what our problem or ailment may be—THERE’S NOTHING THAT THE LORD CAN’T CURE! Hallelujah! That just makes me want to come to Jesus all the more! It doesn’t matter that multitudes are crowding all around Him. There’s always room for me!

Naturally, as you would expect, Jesus' fame soon spread throughout the entire region so that great multitudes of people followed after Him. It was, for Him, a time of immense popularity. My friends, popularity comes with power. Whenever you work miracles, multitudes of people will flock to you! Be prepared to handle the crowds!

 

JESUS HEALS A LEPERFN

Of all the diseases known to Israel, leprosy was by far the most dreaded. There was no known cure for it. Apart from Divine intervention and healing, lepers lived with the sentence of death. It took anywhere from ten to twenty years before death would finally come, but the most agonizing and dreaded part of the disease was the years of suffering inflicted as the leprosy slowly made its way to other parts of the body, causing appendages such as the fingers to rot right off the body.FN

Lepers did not only live with years of suffering and humiliation: worse yet, they were social outcasts. The Old Testament Law branded them as unclean. Consequently, they were separated from the rest of the Israelite community. They could not live in town, hold jobs, or mingle with family or the general populace (Leviticus 13:45-46). The only people they could mingle with were other lepers like themselves. They couldn’t even fellowship with people who had other types of skin diseases! Wherever they went, they had to cover their lips and cry out Unclean! Unclean! to warn people that they were lepers and thus, to stay away.

According to Rabbinic law, lepers couldn’t enter into any walled city, which included Jerusalem. Hence, they could not worship at the Temple. Any house they entered was automatically rendered unclean. It was forbidden to touch them. A touch automatically rendered a person unclean.

People weren’t even allowed to greet or salute them. The Rabbis taught that a person had to keep at least six feet (four cubits) away from a leper. If the wind was blowing in the same direction that a leper was coming, that distance was upped to at least a hundred and fifty feet! One Rabbi even went as far as throwing stones to drive a leper away. Realistically speaking, lepers weren’t welcome wherever they went. People didn’t want them around!

 

Mark 1:40-42, And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (41) And Jesus, moved with compassion,FN put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. (42) And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. Mark 1:40-42 (NLT), A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. "If You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean," he said. (41) Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. "I am willing," He said. "Be healed!" (42) Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.
Matthew 8:1-3 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. (2) And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (3) And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Luke 5:12-13 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (13) And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.

 

1. BELIEVE!

Two things impress me the most about this man. First, I’m impressed with his faith. He had an incurable, terminal disease. There was no known cure. All who contracted it died from it. The leper knew the facts. But he didn’t resign himself to the inevitable. He didn’t adopt a do-nothing approach or mentality. He refused to live with what he had. He heard about Jesus. Perhaps he even saw some of the miracles Jesus did. In the leper’s eyes, Jesus held the hope of healing. And so, with hope in hand, the leper came to Jesus.

Brethren, IF YOU WANT TO BE HEALED YOU’VE GOT TO GET PAST THIS NOTION THAT THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF TO GET HEALED. YOU’VE GOT TO GET PAST THE NOTION THAT THERE’S NOTHING THAT ANYONE CAN DO FOR YOU; YOURS IS A HOPELESS CASE. Anybody can be fatalistic and resigned to what they’ve got. That doesn’t take any work. But there’s no hope, no help, no healing, in that. The do-nothing approach or mentality doesn’t do you any good!

Now without doubt, the medical and scientific facts are, it’s an incurable, terminal disease. Brethren, DON’T STAY WITH THE MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC FACTS!

THERE ARE SCRIPTURAL FACTS THAT YOU’VE GOT TO REMEMBER AND HOLD ON TO--that as a Christian, God is your Healer, He’s promised to heal you (Exodus 15:26), and there isn’t a disease that’s impossible for Him to heal (Jeremiah 32:17, Luke 1:37). The facts are, with faith, all things are possible (Mark 9:23). Nothing is impossible to him that believeth (Matthew 17:20). The promise that God’s given us—the diagnosis and prognosis of our disease that Dr. God has given us is—we can be healed and restored to health and life. Mark 16:18b inspires us with the hope that they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. James 5:15 goes on to assure us that the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Friends, if you’re going to stay with the facts, STAY WITH THE SCRIPTURAL FACTS BECAUSE THOSE ARE THE FACTS THAT WILL GET YOU HEALED. Learn this much from the leper: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A TERMINAL, INCURABLE DISEASE TO GOD. GOD CAN HEAL WHAT THE DOCTORS CAN’T. MEDICAL HEALING ISN’T MY ONLY OPTION: I HAVE DIVINE, SUPERNATURAL HEALING AVAILABLE TO ME. Like the leper, get some hope in your bones. Hope will bring you to Jesus. And hope comes before healing.FN

 

2. COME!

A second thing that impresses me about this leper is his willingness to overcome his fears and inhibitions. His doubts and discouragement. Do you seriously think the devil wasn't talking to him, telling him Jesus didn't want to heal him? The leper had leprous friends. Do you think they encouraged him to go to Jesus for healing? If they did, it's a funny thing that they didn't go along with him. It's a lot likelier they discouraged him and called him crazy for even thinking about the hope of healing. The leper had a whole lot of things going against him. He was a rejected man. Nobody wanted him. He could not get close to anybody. But he wanted to be healed. He believed Jesus could heal him.

Now the leper was faced with one obstacle and one question. The question was whether or not Jesus would heal him. Sure, Jesus was healing a lot of people. But will He heal something that’s unclean and that consigns its sufferers to a life of rejection and separation? Is leprosy an exception to what Jesus would heal? Are there some things that Jesus won’t heal? And are there some persons that Jesus won’t heal? My friends, there’s only one way to find out. You’ve got to come to Jesus and ask!

This brings me to the obstacle, which was one of access. Jesus was constantly surrounded by a crowd. Would the multitude even let him come close? Wouldn’t they drive him away? Even if Jesus were alone, the leper must have wondered if a Rabbi would even allow him to come close enough to ask. Certainly, a Rabbi under Rabbinic law would not have allowed it. But the leper overcame his fears and inhibitions, he did a very chancy, risky thing and that is, He came to Jesus and asked! He didn’t have any guarantees that he wouldn’t be rejected and driven away. But the leper came anyway and asked!

My friends, IF YOU WANT SOMETHING BAD ENOUGH FROM JESUS, YOU’VE GOT TO OVERCOME YOUR INHIBITIONS, SET ASIDE YOUR FEARS OR PRIDE, AND COME TO JESUS AND ASK. Sure, there are some things lepers don’t do: they don’t venture too close to people; people expect them to stay away. My friends, to get what you want from Jesus you’re going to have to do something that people in your shoes don’t do, something that people don’t expect you to do, and that is, you’ve got to come to Jesus and ask. One thing is clear to me, and that is, if this leper didn’t do what he did that day, he would have remained a leper. But as it was, he was healed because he came. Brethren, to get results lepers don’t get (healing), you’re going to have to do things lepers don’t do (come).

What was Jesus’ response to this leper? He stretched forth His hand, touched him, and healed him.FN Hallelujah, the leper got what he came for!

But before Jesus did these things, I’d like for you to notice what Jesus did first. He spoke a word to the leper and said I am willing; be cleansed (Mark 1:41 NASB)). The leper came unsure of Jesus’ will: If You are willling, You can make me clean (Mark 1:40 NASB). He knew Jesus could heal, but the question was, would Jesus heal? In other words, he didn’t know what Jesus’ will was. He didn’t know what Jesus’ answer would be. He left it up entirely to Jesus. He was willing to let Jesus do whatever He wanted to do. That’s a commendable thing, brethren, to resign yourself to whatever God wants to do with you. But what I’d like for you to see is, before Jesus healed the leper, He first made known His will: I will, be thou clean.

In this incident with the leper, Jesus puts to rest any doubt one might have about God’s willingness to heal: I will, be thou healed.FN HEALING IS GOD’S WILL! IT’S HIS WILL TO HEAL! BRETHREN, IT’S NOT PRESUMPTUOUS OR WRONG FOR YOU TO ASK GOD TO HEAL YOU! In fact, when you ask God in faith to heal you, you are praying in accordance with God’s will: yours is a prayer God will answer! GOD’S I WILL, MY FRIENDS, MEANS THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO WHAT GOD WILL HEAL AND THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO WHO GOD WILL HEAL. Like the leper, you might be wondering if God wants to heal you. You might see yourself or your affliction as an exception. Wonder no more! God’s I will is the promise and guarantee you have that God will indeed heal you.FN

 

Mark 1:43-45, And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; (44) And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (45) But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. Mark 1:43-45 (NLT), Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: (44) "Don't tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed." (45) But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and He couldn't publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to Him.
Matthew 8:4, And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. Luke 5:14-16 And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (15) But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. (16) And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

 

Jesus charged the leper-now-healed to do two things. First, He commanded him to do what the Law required everyone who had been cleansed or healed of leprosy to do (Leviticus 14). He was to present himself to the priest (in Jerusalem) and the priest, in turn, would take him outside the camp or city, inspect him and certify him to be cleansed or healed.

He would then present two birds to the priest: one was killed and its blood drained into a pitcher of water; the other was dipped in the blood, the blood sprinkled upon the cleansed individual seven times, after which the living bird was freed.

The individual would then bathe himself, wash his clothes, and shave off all the hair on his body.

The cleansed individual would then be allowed to enter the city, but he still couldn’t live in a house, at least, not right away. For a period of seven days, he had to live outside his house. On the seventh day, he was to bathe again and completely shave off all his hair. On the eighth day, he was to sacrifice a trespass, sin, burnt, and meal offering unto the Lord. Then, and only then, was the cleansed leper admitted into full, unqualified fellowship with the Lord and the nation.

The whole process, then, involved eight days. If the person didn’t live in Jerusalem, he would have had to make at least two trips to the Holy City: once for the initial inspection outside the city and the other for the presentation of the sacrifices.

The leper-now-cleansed, however, did not do what Jesus and the Law commanded him to do—at least, not right away. In his exuberance and joy, he went out and did the very thing that Jesus commanded him not to do. His conduct is quite contemporary. Some people just don’t listen or obey once God has answered their prayer!

The second thing Jesus told this man to do was to keep quiet and not say anything about his healing to anybody.FN At first sight, the command is hard to understand because we’re supposed to testify of God’s wondrous works. Why, then, didn’t Jesus want the man to testify about something so glorious and miraculous as the instantaneous healing of a vile, terminal disease?

Two reasons seem foremost to me. One, Jesus wanted the man to make an immediate appearance before the priest. That is, precedence must be given to obeying the dictates of the Law.FN Depending on where this incident took place in Galilee, Jerusalem was anywhere from sixty to a hundred miles away. As it was, the trip to Jerusalem was already a good three to five days’ journey.

Brethren, there’s a time and place to testify, but when there’s something the Lord wants you to do at the moment, you should concentrate on doing that first. Testifying to everyone who wants to know what happened to you can prevent, or delay, your obedience to the Lord.

And two, the fame and following that’s generated by a sensational healing and testimony of this sort can only serve to hinder or hamper our Lord’s work.FN We think we’re helping the Lord by testifying and bringing more men to Him. But that’s just the point: numbers can become a hindrance. Your time can be used up in ministry to such a point that you neglect your personal time with the Lord.

Luke’s account of this incident is instructive. When great multitudes gathered themselves around Jesus, what did Jesus do? He withdrew into the desert, got alone with God, and prayed (Luke 5:15-16). In two incidences thus far—the multitudes in Capernaum (Mark 1:35) and the multitudes here—Jesus got away from the crowd, He entered His "prayer closet," and prayed!

There’s a time to minister and a time to pray. A time to be public and a time to be private. A time to be with the multitudes and a time to be alone with God.FN

The over-all effect of this man’s disobedience, then, was that Jesus could no longer enter a city without being swamped by people. As a consequence, for the duration of His missionary tour, Jesus confined Himself to remote, desert places.

 

JESUS RETURNS TO CAPERNAUM

Matthew 9:1, And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.FN Mark 2:1 (MSG),  After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home.
Mark 2:1, And again he entered into Capernaum after {some} days; and it was noised that he was in the house.

 

Exactly how long Jesus’ first missionary tour of Galilee lasted is not specifically stated. The phrase after days denotes an interval of time that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. When the people of Capernaum heard that Jesus was back in town, they once again flocked to Him (x-ref. Mark 1:32-37). Apparently, they did not follow Jesus on His tour throughout Galilee, but were content to wait for Him to come back home.

 

JESUS HEALS A PARALYTIC

Mark 2:2-12, And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.

(3) And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy,FN which was borne of four. (4) And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press,FN they uncovered the roof where he was:FN and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.FN

(5) When Jesus saw their faith,FN he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son,FN thy sins be forgiven thee.FN

(6) But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, (7) Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

(8) And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? (9) Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?FN (10) But that ye may know that the Son of manFN hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) (11) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

(12) And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

Mark 2:2-12 (ESV), And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.

(3) And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. (4) And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

(5) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

(6) Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, (7) "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

(8) And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? (9) Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? (10) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— (11) "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home."

(12) And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

Luke 5:17-26, And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

(18) And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. (19) And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

(20) And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

(21) And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

(22) But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? (23) Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? (24) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. (25) And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

(26) And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

Matthew 9:1-8, And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.

(2) And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

(3) And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

(4) And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? (5) For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? (6) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. (7) And he arose, and departed to his house.

(8) But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

 

The cumulative effect of Jesus’ early Galilean ministry, and in particular, His first missionary tour of Galilee, was an immense popularity that went far beyond the boundaries of the Galilean province. Multitudes of people followed Him. They came from all over Palestine—from the cities and villages of Syria, Galilee, Judea, Decapolis, and Perea (Matthew 4:23-25).

In this incident with the forgiving and healing of the paralytic we have the beginning of the religious leaders’ opposition to Jesus in Galilee. They opposed Him in Jerusalem where He first cleansed the Temple (John 2). And now that Jesus was attracting a vast following, opposition from the religious leaders would follow Him wherever He went. WITH POPULARITY, MY FRIENDS, COMES PERSECUTION.

 

1. THE SCRIBES

There are three principal figures in this incident that we want to look at briefly: the scribes, Jesus, and the paralytic with his four friends. Let’s look first at the scribes.FN

Now it is almost certain that these scribes did not come to hear and learn from Jesus. Rather, they came to monitor Jesus’ teachings and miracles and, where possible, to find fault with Him.FN

My friends, IF YOU’RE INTENT ON FINDING FAULT WITH SOMEBODY, YOU’LL ALWAYS FIND IT! IF PEOPLE CAN FIND FAULT WITH SOMEONE WHO WAS PERFECTLY FAULTLESS AND SINLESS LIKE JESUS, THEN IT IS CERTAIN THEY WILL FIND FAULT WITH ANYONE AND EVERYONE ELSE—YOU AND ME INCLUDED. Brethren, each and every one of us will always have our critics! Criticism is inevitable! Quit trying to live a life free of criticism because it ain’t happening! Once you accept the indelible fact that criticism is inevitable and inescapable you'll eventually come to a point where you aren't stressed or freaked out by it. I've gone down this road and, believe it, it's a real joy and peace to be at a point where criticism just doesn't bother me.

Notice who the critics were. They were the foremost teachers and authorities of Scripture. As scribes, these men knew everything about the Word. But they were critical!

Brethren, knowledge of the Word is a wonderful and commendable thing to have. But knowledge has its dangers. Knowledge inflates our ego (1 Corinthians 8:1, my translation). THE PRIDE THAT OFTEN COMES WITH KNOWLEDGE MAKES ONE UNTEACHABLE AND CRITICAL OF OTHERS. THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE MORE YOU HAVE TO WATCH THOSE ATTITUDES!

Now the scribes’ bone of contention concerning forgiveness was true! Only God can forgive sins. Only He can wipe them away (see Isaiah 43:25). The scribes had the Word and according to the Word, they were right!

But even though they had the Word and thus believed the right thing (that only God can forgive sin), they were dead wrong! The charge of blasphemy doesn’t apply to Jesus because Jesus is God! This was a fact and truth that the scribes failed to understand. They refused to believe it. So even though the scribes had the Word of their side, they still erred in their charge of blasphemy because they didn’t have all of the Word, namely, Matthew 3:17 the voice of God from Heaven declaring to all those at Jesus’ baptism, This is my beloved Son.FN According to Jewish understanding, to be the Son of God is the same as being God Himself (John 10:31-33). Jesus is God! God Himself said so! The scribes didn’t believe this Divine declaration and that’s why they were wrong in charging Jesus with blasphemy.

Brethren, IGNORANCE OR UNBELIEF PREVENTS YOU FROM MAKING RIGHT JUDGMENTS. THE LIGHT YOU HAVE MAY WELL BE TRUE AND RIGHT (only God can forgive sin), BUT IT’S THE LIGHT YOU DON’T HAVE THAT MAKES YOU WRONG! (Jesus is God! He can forgive sin)!

 

2. JESUS

We’re looking at the three principal players in this drama. We’ve looked at the scribes. Now let’s look at the Lord.

 

A. HEALING IS GOD’S WILL. I’d like to make five observations concerning our Lord. First, Jesus was concerned for the whole man. He was not only interested in saving the soul, but also in healing the body. My friends, WE HAVE A BIBLICAL BASIS AND PRECEDENT TO BELIEVE, ASK, AND EXPECT JESUS TO HEAL US OF OUR SICKNESSES AND DISEASES. Away with this notion that God’s interested only in saving us and no more!

 

B. GOD USES HIS WORD TO HEAL YOU. Second, all Jesus did, or used, to heal the paralytic was speak a word: I say unto you, Arise. My friends, it is a mistake to think that God needs doctors, pills, and surgeries to heal; that God doesn't heal except through medical science.

I'm not knocking medical science. I'm thankful for the work they do in trying to relieve people of their sicknesses and pains. But don't place your faith in, or limit it to, medical science because God can do what medical science can't.

When God heals He speaks a Word and, somehow, in ways we don't understand, that Word goes forth and heals. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions (Psalm 107:20 see also Isaiah 55:11). God's Word is God's version of doctors, pills, and surgeries. It's soooo powerful and effective that even incurable diseases are cured (x-reference Hebrews 4:12).

Don't try to understand it because you can't. How are paralyzed muscles freed from the chains of paralysis by the means of just a spoken word? How can a spoken word kill cancer cells? We know radiation and chemo can kill these cells. But a spoken word? What can a word do? In our medically-minded way of thinking, it takes medical means to effect medical healing. That’s true. It takes pills and surgeries to heal medically.

But that’s just the point. We’re not talking about medical healing, but rather, Divine, supernatural healing—that’s the kind of healing that Jesus does. And the means that Jesus uses to heal supernaturally is the Word. Brethren, God doesn't need doctors, pills, and surgeries to heal you. I'm thankful these are available to those who have no faith or who are weak in faith. God heals through His Word. All He does to heal you is speak a Word. And somehow, unknown to us, that Word works. It does what it’s supposed to do. It heals. We don’t understand how God’s Word works. God doesn’t ask us to understand. All He asks us to do is believe.

 

C. HEALING IS ONE PROOF OF JESUS’ DIVINE AUTHORITY. Third, as far as the scribes were concerned, the forgiveness of sin was a matter of identity. That prerogative belonged only to God. For Jesus, the forgiveness of sin was a matter of authority. As the Son of man, He had the authority to forgive sin.FN But how do you prove you’ve got the authority to do it? Jesus could have chosen any number of ways to prove His authority, but He chose to do it by healing the paralytic. The healing confirmed or authenticated Jesus’ authority and, in the final analysis, it also confirmed or authenticated His identity—Jesus was God indeed! It was a stunning revelation! The people glorified God for giving this authority to men (Matthew 9:8). But the scribes never subscribed to the idea that this mere Man had Divine power and was Divine Himself.

 

D. JESUS HAS THE POWER TO FORGIVE YOU OF ALL YOUR SINS. Fourth, Jesus did what was wholly within His power and right to do—that is, forgive a sinner’s sins. He had the authority from the Father to forgive, and so, Jesus didn’t do anything wrong when He forgave the paralytic’s sins.

Brethren, EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE THE POWER OR RIGHT TO DO SOMETHING, DON’T BE SURPRISED WHEN YOUR CRITICS OPPOSE OR CRITICIZE YOU FOR DOING IT.FN Critics don’t like you doing some things. And one reason why they don’t like it is because, like the scribes, they don’t believe you have the right or authority to do it. Their unbelief and opposition, however, ought not stop you from doing what God has given you the authority to do.

 

E. JESUS WASN’T AFRAID OF CONFRONTATION OR CRITICISM. And fifth, with respect to Jesus, we all have our ideas of what Jesus was like. No matter what our ideas are, in the forgiving and healing of the paralytic we see a Jesus who was confrontational, provocative, and controversial when it came to the religious leaders.

Let me tell you what I mean. Jesus knew what was going on in the hearts and minds of the Pharisees and scribes who were watching Him (Mark 2:8). He knew they would oppose Him if He said out loud, Your sins are forgiven. He knew there would be trouble, alienation, criticism, or division. People would say He’s a trouble maker. Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot nicer, friendlier, and more peaceable, if Jesus just kept quiet and said it in His heart? Why make enemies? Why do something controversial—especially when there are people who don’t really believe you or believe who you really are? Confrontations and controversies tend to provoke and alienate, but patient and reasoned dialogue holds the hope of winning skeptics. So what did Jesus do? Knowing that criticism and alienation would inevitably result, He went on ahead and forgave the paralytic, saying it out loud for everyone to hear. And in the process, He lost peace with the Pharisees and scribes. Why did Jesus do it?

He did it because there was something that Jesus wanted more than peace, and that was, He wanted to show them His authority. He felt it important for them to know He had the authority: but that you may know (Mark 2:10). In the end, His authority would confirm or validate His identity. As long as the Pharisees and scribes failed or refused to recognize His authority, there would never be peace. Peace comes only when Jesus’ authority and identity are first recognized. Sure, the confrontation didn’t do Jesus any good as far as making peace with the Pharisees and scribes were concerned. But then, what was confrontational to them was forgiveness and healing to the paralytic; it was a revelation to the people of Jesus’ authority; and lastly, it was an opportunity for people to glorify God for Jesus’ wondrous works.

My friends, there’s something to be said for being peaceable (Romans 12:18). God commands us to follow peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). We ought not be reckless with the truth and be controversial for the sake of being controversial.

THE COMMAND TO BE PEACEABLE, HOWEVER, DOES NOT MEAN THAT THERE WILL NEVER BE A TIME WHEN YOU HAVE TO SAY OR DO SOMETHING THAT’S RIGHT AND TRUE, BUT NEVERTHELESS, IS CONFRONTATIONAL, PROVOCATIVE, AND CONTROVERSIAL. You must discern the voice of the Lord and if the Lord wants you to say something, it’s because He wants it said—in spite of the trouble it might cause. Follow the Lord’s leading, brethren, and don’t be scared of being confrontational. DON’T LET THE FEAR OF CONTROVERSY SILENCE THE WORD THAT GOD WANTS TO SPEAK TO HIS PEOPLE THROUGH YOU.

 

3. THE PARALYTIC AND HIS FRIENDS

The third and final group of people that we want to consider in this healing incident is the paralytic and his four friends. We see their faith for healing manifested in their desire and attempt to get to Jesus. They believed Jesus could heal the paralytic, but they first had to get him to Jesus. As it sometimes goes, however, they ran into a problem. There were so many people gathered around Jesus, listening to His sermon, that they didn’t even pay attention to the paralytic and his friends. They didn’t let them through. In this way, then, the people weren’t cooperative or considerate!FN

My friends, there are many hindrances to believing and getting through to Jesus—not the least of which are people: the more people there are, the harder it is to get through or around them!

 

TWO GROUPS OF PEOPLE TO WATCH OUT FOR

1. UNCARING, UNSYMPATHETIC PEOPLE. Now there are two groups of people that will, if you let them, discourage you from believing and getting through to Jesus. In the incident at hand, we see one group—namely, those who aren’t sympathetic to you. They aren’t interested in your own needs or trials. They’ve got their own interests and desires—they’ve got other things on their minds—that they don’t pay attention to you or care about what you’re going through. They aren’t helping you at all! Brethren, are we a part of this crowd that doesn’t care? Are we too busy to notice the needs of others? Too busy to minister and pray? My friends, WE DON’T YET KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A PART OF THE LOCAL CHURCH IF WE DON’T CARE, HELP, AND PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

2. FEARFUL, UNBELIEVING PEOPLE. And the second group of people that are an obstacle or hindrance to your faith are the fearful and unbelieving. (a) Some will cite medical statistics and scientific facts to show you the serious or hopeless nature of your situation. (b) Others will recount the trials and experiences they went through in the past when they "trusted" the Lord but didn’t get the answer they were expecting. (c) People will vigorously defend their personal views and denominational teachings that miracles don’t happen today; God works today through men’s means and helps and not through men’s faith. (d) The authorities in our land will kidnap and deprogram, or else arrest and imprison, those who insist on trusting God alone. In all these, it can be a real test of faith and courage to continue trusting the Lord because of the fears, unbelief, and reprisals of men.

 

HOW TO GET PAST HINDERING PEOPLE AND GET TO JESUS

My friends, IF YOU WANT TO GET THROUGH TO JESUS AND GET THE ANSWER TO YOUR PRAYERS, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO OVERCOME THE HINDRANCE THAT OTHER PEOPLE OFTEN ARE. Let me give you a few suggestions on how to do just that.

 

1. STAY CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU, WILL HELP YOU, AND BELIEVE GOD WITH YOU. First, have a few close friends—friends who care enough about you to go through the trouble of helping you and making a few personal sacrifices of their own on your behalf.

I would like to think these four friends of the paralytic would have liked to have been in the house, seeing and listening to Jesus preach. Perhaps they had others things they needed to get done that day. But they each made a choice to help their paralytic friend!

Brethren, YOU NEED TO HAVE FRIENDS WHO CARE. AND NOT ONLY THAT, YOU NEED TO HAVE FRIENDS WHO BELIEVE LIKE YOU AND WHO WILL ENCOURAGE YOU TO KEEP ON BELIEVING NO MATTER WHAT OBSTACLES COME YOUR WAY. When the paralytic saw the crowds around the house—when he saw they’ll have to get to the roof and go through all that bother and fuss; I can almost hear these friends say to him, "Don’t give up believing, we’re not quitting!"

Brethren, SURROUND YOURSELF WITH FRIENDS WHO DON’T GIVE UP EASILY. FRIENDS WHO AREN’T QUITTERS, BUT PERSEVERERS. QUITTERS DON’T GET ANYTHING FROM THE LORD! Hebrews 6:12 (NIV), We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. You need friends like these.

Don't be a loner. Don't cut yourself off from people who love you and want to help you. Don’t go through the trial and the battle by yourself. There really is strength in numbers. The Bible says, Two people are better than one. They can help each other in everything they do. (10) Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn't have anyone to help him up. Then feel sorry for him (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). I know it’s humbling to ask, and depend on people for, help. But we all need humility. Undoubtedly, one of God’s purpose in allowing us to be tried is to humble us. Swallow your pride. Ask for help. Let your buddies and spiritual warriors help you!

2.SEE THE HINDRANCES AS A TIME TO PERSEVERE, NOT GIVE UP. Second, realize that the obstacles and hindrances that stand in your way aren’t meant by God to discourage you or send you back home. They weren’t meant to vanquish your faith and give up believing. Rather, see these hindrances as the Devil’s attempt to stop you from believing and getting through to Jesus. See them as an opportunity to keep on believing.

 

3. PERSEVERE AND PERSIST UNTIL YOU GET YOUR MIRACLE. And third, be persistent.FN Don’t quit so easily. Brethren, YOU DON’T GET ANSWERS TO PRAYER BY QUITTING. YOU DON’T GET MIRACLES BY GIVING UP. Because believing is the condition for receiving (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24), then WHEN YOU GIVE UP BELIEVING YOU’RE GIVING UP THE ANSWER TO YOUR PRAYER! WHEN YOU GIVE UP FAITH, YOU’RE GIVING UP THE MIRACLE! Brethren, if you stand in need of a miracle and want it bad enough, you won’t let the crowds stop you. You’ll find ways to get through, or around, them.FN Brethren, don’t just sit there and look at what’s stopping you from getting through. Get to the roof!FN

 

TEACHING BY THE SEASIDE

Mark 2:13, And he went forth again by the sea side;FN and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.
Luke 5:1-3 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,FN (2) And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. (3) And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Luke 5:1-3 (NIV),  One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.  (2)  He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.  (3)  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

 

To their credit, the people of Capernaum had a deep hunger to hear the Word of the Lord. Wherever Jesus went, they crowded around Him to hear what He had to say. This stands in stark contrast to the entertainment mentality that so many Christians have today: they want to be entertained and amused, not taught or educated in the Word.

Brethren, this is a terribly sad spiritual state to be in. Just as our body must eat good food to be nourished and healthy, so our soul needs the Word of God to be spiritually healthy and strong. When we neglect the Word, our soul suffers. We become ignorant of God's truths and we end up believing the wrong things. Spoiled food or poisoned/toxic food can kill us. We should not be surprised and incredulous when we're told that wrong doctrine or beliefs can damn us (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:2-4).

God has so much that He wants to say to us and teach us. I'm not talking just about intellectual stuff, but stuff that inspires hope and faith; words that give comfort and direction. We all need these. Sadly, a big part of the reason why we don't have them is because we've rejected and neglected God's Word. It's like we've left Jesus standing by Himself at the seaside. Do you have a hunger for learning? When was the last time you read your Bible? When was the last time you learned anything from the Bible?

The importance of Biblical learning or knowledge is also seen in the fact that, at some time in our life, people will come to us for advice, wisdom, and counsel. Our children. Our friends. Our neighbors. Our coworkers. Our spouse. Other Christians. And we won’t know how to lead them in the right direction if we ourselves are ignorant of God’s ways, will, and wisdom. YOU CAN’T HELP PEOPLE A WHOLE LOT IF YOU’RE IGNORANT. Worse yet, if you’re ignorant of God’s Word and will, you can give out wrong information or advice that will lead other people astray.

Stop and think about this for a minute. Why do you suppose Jesus spent so much time teaching? If Jesus was here today would He do things differently? Would He be more flashy and entertaining? Or would He be the same Jesus of old and spend a lot of His time teaching? Here’s the clincher. If Jesus was here today, doing a whole lot of teaching, would you come to hear Him teach? Would you bother showing up the seaside to hear what He had to say? Friends, when you lose, or lack, interest in Jesus and the things He taught you’re losing a lot more than you know. Despite what you think, YOU DON'T KNOW THE TRUTH WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THE LORD. Jesus is Truth. And when you turn a deaf ear to Him you’re losing the very thing you’re looking for—the Truth. Brethren, we’ve got to get our spiritual hunger back. Like the Capernaumites, we need to come back to Jesus, crowd in around Him, and hear His life-giving words. Jesus spends so much time talking and teaching because He knows that's exactly what we need. We may not know it. But we need God and His Word to guide, help, and bless us through life.

 

AN AWESOME CATCH OF FISHES AND ANOTHER

CALL OF THE FISHERMENFN

Luke 5:4-11, Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. (5) And Simon answering said unto him, Master,FN we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (6) And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. (7) And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them.FN And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

(8) When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. (9) For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: (10) And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.

(11) And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.FN

Luke 5:4-11, When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish." (5) "Master," Simon replied, "we worked hard all last night and didn't catch a thing. But if You say so, I'll let the nets down again." (6) And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! (7) A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

(8) When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, "Oh, Lord, please leave me—I'm too much of a sinner to be around You." (9) For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. (10) His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!"

(11) And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

 

After Jesus was done teaching, He told Simon Peter to bring the boat to deep waters and lower the nets. Here was a carpenter-Rabbi telling an experienced fisherman how to fish! In His omniscient power, Jesus knew exactly where the fish were and what the resulting catch would be.FN

But from Peter’s point of view, the directive to fish must have been an illogical one. He had already been fishing all the previous night without success. By the time this incident took place, it was already mid-morning or noon—a time when fishermen don’t normally fish. In fact, that was the time fishermen would market the night’s catch of fish and set the nets and boat in order for the next trip out to sea (see Luke 5:2). Even though Jesus’ directive didn’t make sense, Peter nonetheless chose to obey. No matter what logic told him and no matter his recent lack of fishing success, THE WORD OF JESUS WAS SOMETHING TO BELIEVE AND OBEY—THAT’S WHAT A PERSON’S SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THE WORD JESUS SPEAKS.

Sure enough, his faith and obedience paid off! There were so many fishes in the nets that the nets began to tear! Added to this wonder, the fishes filled both Peter’s and his partners’ boats that the boats barely kept afloat!FN

Jesus did so many miracles for other people, He even healed Peter’s mother-in-law. But when Peter himself became a recipient of one of these miracles, a sense of Jesus’ knowledge and power overwhelmed him. He felt so unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus.FN Peter asked Jesus to leave him, but wonder of wonders to his surprise, Jesus stayed put and enlisted Peter in the work of the Lord.FN Whereas the fishermen followed Jesus intermittently, dividing their time between the Master and their fishing vocation, Jesus now laid upon them a change of vocation and enlisted them in the evangelistic work of the Kingdom: from now on you’ll be fishing for people.FN They were literally changing jobs and going into a new line of work. They were now to become fishers of men, that is, evangelists.FN

 

JESUS CALLS A PUBLICAN TO BE HIS DISCIPLEFN

Mark 2:13-14, And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. (14) And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. Mark 2:13-14 (NLT), Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to Him. (14) As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector's booth. "Follow Me and be My disciple," Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed Him.
Matthew 9:9, And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew,FN sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. Luke 5:27-28, And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. (28) And he left all, rose up, and followed him.

 

Jesus has just called the fishermen to catch men and one of the first things He does is He shows these fishermen evangelists how to do it. He walks by Levi’s customs booth and more or less says the same thing to him that He said earlier to these fishermen, Follow me.

Now Levi was a Jew who also went by another name, Matthew. He was a tax collector by profession. He worked in Capernaum, the same city where Jesus lived. This same Matthew is the writer of the Gospel that bears his name. In all likelihood, Matthew had on previous occasions seen the Master’s miracles and heard Him preach. When Jesus came to him personally and issued this call, Matthew did what was in his heart—he followed the Lord. Like the fishermen, he didn’t let his job or money stop him from following Jesus. He left everything behind.

Stop and think about it. If you had a good-paying job would you leave it to follow the Lord? Some of us have a hard time tithing. Or giving to missions. Or the building fund. We're not too eager to give our money to causes that we're not passionate about. I find it so difficult to believe that we who give so little would readily give it all up if the Lord demanded it of us. I guess Matthew really shows us up. My friends, YOU’LL KNOW HOW MUCH JESUS REALLY MEANS TO YOU BY WHAT YOU’RE WILLING TO GIVE UP AND LEAVE BEHIND JUST FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF FOLLOWING HIM.

Now publicans made their wealth and livelihood by making people pay more taxes than what they actually owed. This was a perfectly legal thing to do back in those days and Rome sanctioned it. A portion of each tax levied and collected went straight into the publican’s pockets. Thus, as a general rule, publicans were despised and distrusted by the populace because, on the whole, they tended to be a greedy, avaricious lot.

Worse yet, because publicans collected taxes for the Roman Empire, they were seen as traitors who were helping Rome keep the Jews under subjection.

Knowing all this, we see to his credit that Matthew didn’t let his reputation as a publican stop him from following the Lord. Think about it for a moment. Here was a well-known, popular Rabbi enlisting a publican as His disciple.FN Wouldn’t Matthew be a scourge on Jesus’ reputation? Wouldn’t people say he was following the Lord with a selfish motive—following Jesus only because he wanted to be treated a little more decently? Brethren, you may be a modern-day Matthew, despised by the world. NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF YOU, IF JESUS WANTS YOU, YOU CAN’T LET YOUR REPUTATION OR PEOPLE’S OPINIONS STOP YOU FROM FOLLOWING THE LORD!FN Get up and follow Him!

 

MATTHEW THROWS A BIG PARTY FOR JESUS

A RUN-IN WITH THE PHARISEES

Matthew 9:10-17, And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

(11) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

(12) But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. (13) But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

(14) Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?

(15) And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.

(16) No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

(17) Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

Luke 5:29-35, And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

(30) But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

(31) And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. (32) I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

(33) And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

(34) And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? (35) But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

Mark 2:15-22, And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house,FN many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

(16) And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples,FN How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

(17) When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

(18) And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?

(19) And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. (20) But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

(21) No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.

(22) And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.FN

Mark 2:15-22 (NLT), Later, Levi invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus' followers.)

(16) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked His disciples, "Why does He eat with such scum? "

(17) When Jesus heard this, He told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

(18) Once when John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, "Why don't Your disciples fast like John's disciples and the Pharisees do?"

(19) Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can't fast while the groom is with them. (20) But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

(21) "Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.

(22) "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins."

 

1. MATTHEW

Having identified himself with the Master and now keeping company with Him, Matthew made a feast for Jesus and the disciples, and he invited his friends to the feast.FN

There are two things here that you should note. First, notice who his friends were. They were other publicans like himself and sinners.

Now this word sinners is used to refer to people who live a life of sin, such as adulterers and thieves. But it’s also used to refer to common people who weren’t very devout, pious or religious. They weren’t what the Pharisees would call a practicing Jew, that is, one who observed and obeyed the law, whether Mosaic or Rabbinic. In our day, we would probably call them backsliders, worldly, carnal, or lukewarm Christians—you know, Christians who aren’t very religious. The fact that the publicans and sinners referred to in verse 15 were followers of Jesus corroborates the fact that the sinners mentioned here weren’t sinful: they were simply commoners who didn’t pay much attention to Pharisaic-Rabbinic law and tradition.FN

And second, notice the great company of publicans and sinners in attendance at this feast. Jesus was quite a popular Man that even despised publicans and "sinners" followed Him. Jesus had a broad appeal among the people: He didn’t exclude Himself from people of ill-repute, but gave Himself to them as well.

 

2. THE PHARISEES

Now come the Pharisees, and with them, trouble and criticism. As I said earlier, because of His intense popularity, Jesus aroused the attention of the religious leaders. They kept a close eye on Him. They monitored His footsteps, His miracles, and His teachings. Jesus was under constant surveillance.

When they saw Jesus feasting with publicans and sinners, these Pharisees launched a two-pronged attack against Him: (1) they criticized the fact that He ate with people of such low-repute; (2) when Jesus answered their complaint, the religious leaders then focused their attention on His disciples and criticized them for their lack of fasting.

In other words, the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ practice and piety. He couldn’t be a pious Jew, much less an acclaimed Messiah, because He was eating with sinners and teaching His disciples to do the same. Certainly, no pious Jew or Pharisee would be caught in the house or company of such loathsome people!FN

 

THE PHARISEES’ GRIPE: PIETY VS COMPASSION

Let’s look at these two complaints of the Pharisees. First, they complained because Jesus ate with sinners. Rabbis did not do this sort of thing. As far as they were concerned, eating with sinners made one defiled and unclean.FN

While the Pharisees saw this type of fellowship in terms of how it affected them personally—it made them unclean; Jesus saw it in terms of how it affected sinners themselves. As a Physician, Jesus was making the sick whole. He was bringing sinners to repentance.FN

Contrary, then, to the Pharisees’ way of thinking, fellowshipping with sinners and ministering to them did not defile oneself. You see, all the Pharisees thought about was the bad things that other people could do to them (i.e. defile them), but they never thought about the good things that they themselves could do for other people (i.e. bring them to repentance). They were caught up in being clean that they forgot about being compassionate. In the final analysis, IT WAS COMPASSION THAT SINNERS NEEDED MOST—someone compassionate enough to reach out to them, be their friend, and help them back to God.

Brethren, GOD IS LOOKING FOR COMPASSION. Compassionate followers who care about the needy and lost, who will venture into their midst, make a difference in people’s lives, and make a difference in this world. Here’s what Jesus said: Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices’ (Matthew 9:13, NLT).FN Are we the people God is looking for?

 

THE PHARISEES’ GRIPE: OLD SCHOOL PIETY VS NEW SCHOOL

The second thing that the Pharisees complained about was the disciples’ lack of fasting. Now next to the offering of sacrifices, fasting was one of three cardinal virtues of Judaism—the other two being prayer and the giving of alms. If you didn’t fast regularly you weren’t pious! The Pharisees’ criticism of the disciples, then, was an attack upon their piety. They weren’t fasting, therefore, they weren’t pious. Indirectly, the Pharisees’ criticism of the disciples was an attack upon Jesus’ impiety. He wasn’t pious because He wasn’t fasting like the Pharisees or like the disciples of John the Baptist.

 

1. THE PARABLE OF THE BRIDEGROOM’S ATTENDANTS. Jesus spoke three parables in response to their criticism. First, the attendants of the bridegroom do not fast while the bridegroom is with them. The reference is to a wedding feast. The attendants were close friends of the bridegroom and they were given charge of all aspects of the wedding feast. Certainly, no one expects them to fast at a time of feasting.FN

2. THE PARABLE OF A TORN GARMENT’S PATCH. A second parable had to do with cloth. No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old garment. When the garment is washed, the new cloth starts to shrink, tearing away from the garment.

3. THE PARABLE OF THE WINESKINS. The third parable is similar to the one before. New wine is put in new wineskins to ferment because the new skins are able to expand or stretch with the fermenting process.FN If new wine is put in old skins, the fermentation will tear the skins, ruining both the skins and the wine.

 

In both the case of the garment and the skins, the analogy is quite clear. The new is placed with the new and the old is placed with the old. You can’t mix the old and the new because doing so will only lead to ruin or loss. The old garments and skins of Pharisaic Judaism cannot contain the new wine of Jesus’ teaching.FN New wine requires new skins. A new life requires a new heart. The Pharisees were perfectly content with their old wineskins and wine. They had no desire for new. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better’ (Luke 5:39 NIV). When you’re used to the old and like the old, you have no desire for the new. This was the problem with Pharisaism and it was the reason why there was always trouble between Jesus and the Pharisees.

 

JESUS GOES TO A FEAST IN JERUSALEM

AN UNNAMED FEAST

John 5:1, After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. John 5:1 (NIV),  Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.

 

Jesus took time out during His early Galilean ministry to come to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now a feast is not a big party, but rather, a festival or holiday. There were many such feasts in Israel: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Purim, and Day of Atonement, to name a few.

Since John did not specify which feast this was, its identification has been a matter of debate throughout the centuries. Knowing which feast it was plays a role in determining the length of Jesus’ public ministry.

*Now the synoptic Gospel writers mention only one Passover during Jesus’ earthly ministry—the Passover after His crucifixion.

*John, however, mentions three: the first in John 2:13 where Jesus cleanses the Temple, the second in John 6:4, and the third in John 12:1 after the crucifixion.

Based on this explicit mention of the Passovers, Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted about two and a half years.FN Many scholars, however, believe that this is too short a time for all of the recorded events in the four Gospel accounts to have taken place—especially when you consider the distances involved and the time it took to travel on foot from one place to another.

The prevalent view that His ministry lasted three and a half years is based in part on the assumption that this unnamed feast in John 5:1 was one of the pilgrim feasts, either Passover or Tabernacles, and that it took place between the Passovers of John 2:13 and John 6:4. See Table below.

 

YEAR
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
OCTOBER
DECEMBER
A.D. 26
       
DEDICATION
A.D. 27
PURIM

PASSOVER

JOHN 2:13,23

PENTECOST
TABERNACLES

DEDICATION

JOHN 4:35

A.D. 28
PURIM

PASSOVER

JOHN 5:1?

PENTECOST

TABERNACLES

JOHN 5:1?

DEDICATION
A.D.29
PURIM

PASSOVER

JOHN 6:4

PENTECOST

TABERNACLES

JOHN 7:2,37

DEDICATION

JOHN 10:22

A.D. 30FN
PURIM

PASSOVER

JOHN 12:1, 19:14

PENTECOST

ACTS 2:1

TABERNACLES
DEDICATION

 

A MIRACULOUS HEALING AT THE POOL OF BETHESDA

John 5:2-4, Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market (literally, sheep gate) a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda,FN having five porches. {3} In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk,FN of blind, halt,FN withered,FN waiting for the moving of the water.FN {4} For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. John 5:2-4 (my paraphrase), Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool which, in the Aramaic language, is called Bethesda. This part of the Temple had five porticoes, or five rows of huge marble columns with a roof over them. (3) A lot of disabled people were here--those who were blind, crippled, or paralyzed. They were waiting for the waters to start moving or stirring. (4) That's because an angel would come to the pool at certain times and stir the water around. When this happened, then whoever got into the water first was healed of whatever disease he had.

 

If you lived in Jerusalem and had an incurable disease, you would probably spend a lot of time by the Pool of Bethesda. For the hopelessly infirmed, Bethesda remained the one hope of healing left. You see, at various times an angel would trouble or stir up the waters of the Pool. Whoever got into the Pool first was healed of his or her disease. We aren’t told how many times this phenomenon took place, but one thing is certain. It worked! Whenever the waters were troubled, the first person that got in was healed. And it was this hope of healing that brought and attracted all these hopelessly infirmed people to the Pool: “What happened to those who stepped in first could happen to me!”FN

 

John 5:5-7, And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. {6} When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?FN {7} The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. John 5:5-7 (CEV), Beside the pool was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw the man and realized that he had been crippled for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to be healed?" (7) The man answered, "Lord, I don't have anyone to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up. I try to get in, but someone else always gets there first."

 

A certain man was at the Pool who was infirmed for thirty-eight years. In view of the fact that Jesus told him to get up and walk, it appears that this man was paralyzed or crippled in his legs. He couldn’t move very fast. This explains why he could never get into the Pool first. He tried, but he just couldn’t drag himself fast enough.

What’s more, unlike the paralytic with his four friends, this impotent man didn’t have anyone who could help him into the Pool. Since you never knew when the waters would be troubled, you really couldn’t expect family or friends to stay with you all the time. And so, as far as the diseased who waited by the Pool were concerned, it was everyone for himself.

Like the others who came daily to this Pool, the hope of healing was what kept this man by the Pool. He wanted to be healed! But there was no where else to go, no other remedies to be found. He hadn’t heard about Jesus. Even if he had, Jesus wasn’t around. He didn’t live in Jerusalem. For this man, the Pool was his one and only hope of healing.

1. HOPING EVEN WHEN THERE’S LITTLE HOPE.

There are three things about this hope that I’d like to point out. First, it wasn’t a very big hope. The impotent man didn’t have that much of a chance of making it to the Pool first. You see, to make it to the Pool first, you’ve got to have eyes and legs: eyes to see the stirring of the water and legs to run into the Pool. If you didn’t have either of these, your chances of getting into the Pool first weren’t that great. Sure enough, the opportunities to be healed came, but someone would always beat this impotent man to the Pool because he didn’t have the legs to win.


2. KEEP ON HOPING EVEN WHEN THERE’S LITTLE HOPE.

Second, his hope wasn’t getting any bigger as time went by. His chances of making it to the Pool first weren’t improving. His legs were still useless. What slowed him down in making it to the Pool first in times past would continue to slow him down today. But do you know what? In spite of what little hope he had, he remained by the Pool and kept on trying. Friends, DON’T GIVE UP HOPE JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T GOT THAT MUCH OF IT. NO MATTER HOW SLIGHT YOUR CHANCES ARE, OR HOW GREAT THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU, KEEP ON HOPING AND BELIEVING. DON’T GIVE UP! REMEMBER, A MIRACLE IS NOT A MATTER OF HOW MUCH FAITH YOU NEED TO HAVE. RATHER, IT’S A MATTER OF USING WHAT LITTLE FAITH YOU HAVE. Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 (NASB), For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. The least amount of faith, my friends, will work the biggest of miracles. The point is, don’t underestimate what little faith you’ve got. Use it! A little works a lot.


3. KEEP ON TRYING IN SPITE OF PAST FAILURES OR DISAPPOINTMENTS.

The third thing about this man’s hope was, it had to overcome a lot of obstacles. By that, I mean he probably battled frustration, discouragement, and envy whenever someone else was healed. Sure, he was happy for those who were healed, but he was sorry it didn’t happen to him. After several attempts, with each one ending in failure, the man could have given up and quit trying: “What’s the use? I give up!” But do you know what? He stayed by the Pool and kept on trying. Why? Because of the hope of healing. What happened to others could happen to him. Somehow, sometime, he would make it to the Pool first and come out a totally-healed man. My friends, HOPE IN THE HEART IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUITTING AND PERSEVERING, IT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HURTING AND HEALING, BETWEEN LIVING WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT AND GETTING RID OF WHAT YOU’VE GOT. Miracles happen to others. Brethren, don’t rule yourself out and think it could never happen to you. Miracles await those who hope and believe and persevere without giving up.

Note with me the man's perseverance. Every time the guy tried to make it to the water first, he failed. Somebody always beat him. But do you know what? The guy didn’t give up! It didn’t work this time. It didn’t work again. It’s never worked. I’ve tried that many times before and it’s never worked…But he kept on trying! He never gave up! He never quit hoping and believing! Even after years and years of trying, hoping, and believing; he never gave up. Because of his perseverance, he put himself in a position where Jesus could help him. He got his healing—not in the way he expected. But the point is, he got healed because he was at the pool, because hope, faith, and perseverance, kept him there. If he gave up, if he quit showing up the pool, he wouldn’t have been healed that day!

GOD REWARDS YOU FOR YOUR HOPE, FAITH, YOUR PERSEVERANCE. You see, friends, JUST BECAUSE WHAT YOU’RE HOPING FOR HASN’T HAPPENED YET DOESN’T MEAN IT’LL NEVER HAPPEN. You can let years and years of repeated prayers and attempts disillusion and kill your faith. But the thing that I like so much about this man is, he didn’t let anything—all his past years, attempts, and failures—kill his hope or endurance. HOPE KEEPS YOU GOING. IT KEEPS YOU ENDURING. IF YOU WANT TO ENDURE, HOPE. WITHOUT HOPE YOU WON’T ENDURE.

 

John 5:8-9, Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed,FN and walk. {9} And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. John 5:8-9 (NLT), Jesus told him, "Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!" (9) Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath.

 

Nothing is said about faith here, but faith is everywhere apparent in this man. While some construe the man’s words in verse 7 to be words of bitterness. “I’ve tried and have never succeeded”), I prefer to see them as words of hope (“I’ve tried and though I’ve failed, I’m still here trying. I haven’t given up.”

In response, Jesus told him to do something that he hitherto couldn’t do, and that was, get up and walk.FN The thing that I’d like to show you here is the kind of ailments that Jesus heals.

*We saw in the case of the leper that JESUS HEALS TERMINAL, DEGENERATIVE, LIFE-THREATENING DISEASES. GOD, MY FRIENDS, HEALS THINGS THAT WOULD NORMALLY KILL A PERSON. Nothing is too hard for God to cure!

*In the passage before us, we see Jesus healing incurable, life-long afflictions. They may not be terminal, like cancer. But the point is, they’re incurable, they’re something you live with for the rest of your life. Blindness, paralysis, poor vision or infertility, are good examples. They won’t kill you, but there’s not much of anything that medical science can do for you.

Most are content with live with what they’ve got. Brethren, that isn’t the promise that God made you! He said if you would obey Him, He would be your Healer (Exodus 15:26). Friends, a Healer heals! He doesn’t leave you afflicted. Jesus bore away all your pains and sicknesses (Isaiah 53:4) so that you could be healed. God said He would take all sicknesses away from you (Deuteronomy 7:15). No plague or disease, contagious or otherwise, would come nigh your dwelling (Psalm 91:10). If for some reason they did, God said He would deliver you from the bad, or noisome, pestilence (Psalm 91:3). He said the prayer of faith would heal the sick and He would raise you up (James 5:14-15).

So does God want you to live the rest of your life sick and afflicted? Most certainly not! He said His will for you was that you be healthy in body (3 John 2). Brethren, God doesn’t want you lying at the Pool of Bethesda forever. You’ve got a life to live. You’ve got a purpose and a mission to fulfill. Seek the Lord in faith for your healing and you will see that WITH GOD AS YOUR HEALER, THERE ISN’T ANY SUCH THING AS A LIFE-LONG, INCURABLE DISEASE! Hallelujah! Nothing is incurable to God! God heals! Men may not be able to cure you or help you. But God can!

I know that the healing of blindness, paralysis, or the like, isn’t something we see everyday. But THE FACT THAT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN THE MEDICAL, NATURAL WORLD DOESN’T MEAN IT CAN’T OR WON’T HAPPEN IN THE CHURCH! MY FRIENDS, IT’S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN IN THE CHURCH! Jesus told us to go lay hands on the sick and the promise is, they shall recover (Mark 16:18). Jesus makes things happen that don’t normally happen! It may not happen to anyone else, but it can happen to you if you believe. Friends, DON’T LET THE INCURABILITY OF A DISEASE OR CONDITION STOP YOU FROM BELIEVING OR PRAYING! NOTHING STANDS OUTSIDE GOD’S ABILITY OR WILLINGNESS TO HEAL. JESUS PROVED IT AT BETHESDA BACK THEN AND HE’S WILLING TO PROVE IT AGAIN TODAY.

 

JESUS GETS IN TROUBLE FOR HEALING ON THE SABBATH

Here's a list of Jesus' Sabbath day work and miracles that got Him in trouble with the religious leaders.

 

SCRIPTURE TEXT

SABBATH WORK

Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5 Plucking grain with the disciples as they walked in the fields.
Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:33-37 Casting a demon out of a demoniac in a synagogue.
Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39 Healing Peter's mother-in-law. [ No trouble as the miracle was performed in private out of sight of the public.]
Luke 6:6-11, Mark 3:1-6 Healing a man with a crippled hand.
Luke 13:10-17 Healing a woman with a spirit of infirmity.
Luke 14:1-6 Healing a man with dropsy.
John 5:1-9 Healing a semi-paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda.
John 9:1-14 Healing a man blind from birth.

 

John 5:10-16, The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. {11} He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. {12} Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? {13} And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

{14} Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him,FN Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.FN

{15} The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. {16} And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

John 5:10-16 (CEV), When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat, they said to him, "This is the Sabbath! No one is allowed to carry a mat on the Sabbath." (11) But he replied, "The man who healed me told me to pick up my mat and walk." (12) They asked him, "Who is this man that told you to pick up your mat and walk?" (13) But he did not know who Jesus was, and Jesus had left because of the crowd.

(14) Later, Jesus met the man in the temple and told him, "You are now well. But don't sin anymore or something worse might happen to you."

(15) The man left and told the leaders that Jesus was the one who had healed him. (16) They started making a lot of trouble for Jesus because he did things like this on the Sabbath.

 

If you will remember, when Jesus was in Jerusalem the last time He got into trouble with the priests because He cleansed the Temple and chased the vendors, their livestock, and the money changers out of the Temple precincts.

When Jesus returns to Jerusalem this second time in the course of His public ministry, He gets into trouble again—this time because He healed on the Sabbath. The story goes like this. When the Jews, or more appropriately in the Gospel of John, the Jewish religious leaders and priests, saw the crippled man now healed carrying his bed, he got into trouble with them because he was doing something on the Sabbath that he wasn’t supposed to be doing. By rabbinic law, it was unlawful to carry a load on the Sabbath.FN Naturally, Jesus ended up getting into trouble too because it was He who healed the crippled man on the Sabbath and healing was regarded as a form of work.FN Not only did Jesus violate the Sabbath law of the rabbis, but it was also He who, in effect, commanded the man to do something in violation of Sabbath law (that is, carry his bed).

Now more than anything else, Jesus’ works or activities on the Sabbath ired the religious leaders the most. They held the Sabbath in high regard and were quite diligent in observing it.FN So when they saw Jesus breaking the law and teaching someone else to do the same, they got hopping mad. So mad, in fact, that they wanted to kill Him!FN It seemed to them that Jesus just didn’t have any respect for the Sabbath. He stood in bold disregard for the law. It was this disregard for Sabbath law that contributed to the priests’ rejection of Jesus as a holy man or prophet. Certainly, no one holy or religious would break such a fundamental law of Judaism. “Jesus can’t be a true man of God!”FN

 

John 5:17, But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.FN John 5:17 (NLT), But Jesus replied, "My Father is always working, and so am I."

 

What was Jesus’ response to this contention of the religious leaders? He cited His relationship to the Father as a basis or rationale for doing what He did—even if He did it on the Sabbath. His Father was working—He was healing, yes, even on the Sabbath—and Jesus was doing the same thing. He was simply doing what God in Heaven was doing.

 

1. IT’S OKAY TO DO SOME THINGS ON THE SABBATH!

Now Jesus’ statement in John 5:17 was a dramatic and astounding revelation of two things. First, it was a new revelation concerning God and His Sabbath rest. God’s rest on the Sabbath doesn’t mean His complete cessation of activity. In His rest from creative activity, God still nonetheless does something on the Sabbath—in this instance, He’s healing. God heals on the Sabbath! And it’s on this basis that Jesus Himself heals. He’s doing on the Sabbath only that which the Father Himself is doing. From Jesus’ perspective, then, what amounted to a violation of Sabbath law in men’s sight was not a violation of the fourth commandment of God’s Law (Exodus 20:8-11).FN In other words, there are some things that could be done on the Sabbath!

2. JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!

The second thing about Jesus’ statement in John 5:17 and in the verses that follow is, it was a revelation of Jesus about Himself and His true identity. He does what He does (heals on the Sabbath) because of who He is (the Son of God). At this point in time, Jesus’ statements here are the fullest revelation of Himself to His people, the Jews. He revealed Himself as Messiah to the woman of Samaria (John 4:25-26). To a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus He revealed Himself as the Son of Man and Son of God come down from Heaven (John 3:13-17). What He reveals to one man in private He now reveals publicly to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He tells them exactly who He is: He is the Son of God! What did the Jews think of this self-revelation of Jesus?

 

JESUS GETS IN TROUBLE FOR TELLING THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS

WHO HE REALLY IS

John 5:18, Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18 (ESV), This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

 

Jesus’ revelation of Himself did not go over too good with the priests. They thought He was making a blasphemous statement when He called God His Father. By calling Himself God’s Son, He was, in effect, making Himself equal with God. The word equal means to be very much alike, the same as. In other words, as the priests understood it, Jesus was making Himself just like God. To the priests, this statement of a mortal Man must have been preposterous and blasphemous indeed!FN

 

John 5:19-30, Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. {20} For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. {21} For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. {22} For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: {23} That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

{24} Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. {25} Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. {26} For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; {27} And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

{28} Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

{30} I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

John 5:19-30 (NIV),  Jesus gave them this answer: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  (20)  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.  (21)  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  (22)  Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,  (23)  that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.  

(24)  "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.  (25)  Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  (26)  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  (27)  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.  

(28)  "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice  (29)  and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.  

(30)  By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

 

Jesus does what He does because of who He is. Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God whom the Father loves. Like the Father, He has life in Himself (He is not a created being like man). He is the Judge of all men. He resurrects and quickens, or gives life to, the dead. He does the works and will of the Father—which only means He is just, right, and unimpeachable in everything He does and judges. Because of all these, it is God’s will that all men honour, revere, or worship Jesus. Those who do not honor Jesus do not honor God.FN

 

John 5:31-40, If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. {32} There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. {33} Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. {34} But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. {35} He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

{36} But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. {37} And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. {38} And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. {39} Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. {40} And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

John 5:31-40 (CEV), If I speak for myself, there is no way to prove I am telling the truth. (32) But there is someone else who speaks for me, and I know what he says is true. (33) You sent messengers to John, and he told them the truth. (34) I don't depend on what people say about me, but I tell you these things so that you may be saved. (35) John was a lamp that gave a lot of light, and you were glad to enjoy his light for a while.

(36) But something more important than John speaks for me. I mean the things that the Father has given me to do! All of these speak for me and prove that the Father sent me. (37) The Father who sent me also speaks for me, but you have never heard his voice or seen him face to face. (38) You have not believed his message, because you refused to have faith in the one he sent. (39) You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me, (40) but you refuse to come to me for eternal life.

 

In defense of His Divine identity and authority Jesus cites a four-fold witness:

(1) the witness of John the Baptist, a prophet of Israel who testified that Jesus was the Son of God (John 1:34);

(2) His miracles and works evidence the hand and power of God upon His life;

(3) God Himself spoke audibly and revealed Jesus as His Son (Matthew 3:17); and

(4) Moses and the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied of His coming and His work.

But in spite of these witnesses, the priests and religious leaders of the Jews still didn’t believe or honor Jesus. Why?

Note Jesus' fearlessness here. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to the religious leaders and tell them the truth, nor was He afraid to reprove or rebuke them when they were wrong. JESUS DIDN'T LET THE POSSIBILITY OR INEVITABILITY OF CRITICISM, OPPOSITION, AND TROUBLE STOP HIM FROM TELLING THE TRUTH. He just keeps on talking. And the more the talks, the more He gets in trouble! The more the religious folks get madder at Him.

A TRUE MINISTER OF GOD WILL NOT BE AFRAID OF TROUBLE. HE’D RATHER TELL THE TRUTH, OPPOSE THE WRONG, AND HAVE PEOPLE GET MAD AT HIM, THEN DISOBEY GOD AND BE QUIET.

Fear will keep you silent. It’ll keep you from telling the truth. YOUR SILENCE EMPOWERS THE WRONG! Wrong people will continue to be wrong if no one has the guts to stand up to them and tell them, prove to them, they’re wrong! If your pastor or minister doesn’t deal with what’s wrong, or with who’s wrong, then you need to pray for—or else change—your pastor and minister. Wrong can't be righted or corrected when the right is silenced.

 

John 5:41-44, I receive not honour from men. {42} But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. {43} I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. {44} How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? John 5:41-44 (NASB), "I do not receive glory from men; (42) but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. (43) "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. (44) "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

 

What was the priests’ and leaders’ problem? They had their eyes on themselves, on one another. They honored the rabbis who knew a lot. If you read their Mishnah you will constantly run across the names of their esteemed rabbis and what they taught: Hillel, Shammai, Akiba, Gamaliel, Judah, Meir, Jose, Eliezer, Simeon, Ishmael, and a host of others.

My friends, WHEN YOU GET YOUR EYES ON MEN YOU’LL END UP GETTING YOUR EYES OFF OF JESUS. NO MATTER HOW GOOD A MAN MAY BE IN YOUR ESTIMATION, YOU’VE GOT TO KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE LORD. WHEN YOU GET YOUR EYES OFF OF JESUS, YOU’LL QUIT HONORING AND BELIEVING HIM.FN

 

John 5:45-47, Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. {46} For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. {47} But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? John 5:45-47 (NASB), "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. (46) "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (47) "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"

 

The religious leaders thought they were following every jot and tittle of Moses’ Law. The problem was, they weren’t! From Jesus’ perspective, they didn’t even believe Moses! They didn’t believe what Moses wrote about Jesus, hence, they didn’t believe Moses. Wow! How these words must have stung these scribes and priests!FN As far as Jesus saw it, if someone didn’t believe what Moses said, he didn’t believe Moses. A person and his word go together. If you don’t believe a person’s word, you don’t believe the person.

Now instead of talking about Moses, let’s talk about Jesus. My friends, no matter how much you say you believe Jesus, YOU DON’T BELIEVE JESUS WHEN YOU DON’T BELIEVE WHAT JESUS SAID. And again, as we saw in verses 41-44, the reason why you don’t believe what Jesus said is because, like the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, you’re too busy believing what “good men” have said. You’ve got your Mishnah filled with the names of the rabbis you listen to and follow.

Brethren, no matter how much you like a man’s teaching, you’ve got to subject everything he teaches to the absolute standard of God’s Word. WHEN YOU PUSH GOD’S WORD ASIDE AND PAY SOLE ATTENTION TO A MAN’S TEACHING, YOU’LL EVENTUALLY END UP IN UNBELIEF just like these religious leaders.

Without God’s Word to judge the truth of a man’s message you lose your discernment: you don’t know what the truth really is. Subsequently, you don’t believe the truth. Take what men today say about faith, Divine healing, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, holiness, the overcomers, rapture, greater works, divorce and remarriage, and a host of other doctrines for an example. Why is it that many of God’s people don’t believe these doctrines of Scripture? It’s because they’re all tied up in what a man has taught them. Like the famous rabbis of Judaism, the man is a good and learned man, but he’s gone beyond the Scriptures and teaches what Scriptures do not teach. And when you honor this man and what he teaches, you end up disbelieving the Bible just like the religious leaders.

Make no mistake, friends, you’re supposed to doubly honour a man who labors in the Word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17). But make sure that the man you honor is one who has his heart and mouth in the Word. IF THE MAN’S TOO BUSY FILLING UP PAGES IN A MODERN-DAY MISHNAH (THAT IS, THE TEACHINGS OF MAN), HE’S NOT WORTH HONORING AND FOLLOWING. Brethren, keep your eyes on Jesus and what Jesus says—that’s how you stay a believer and that’s how you stay in faith when it comes to everything the Word of God says.

 

ANOTHER CONFLICT WITH THE PHARISEES

PICKING GRAIN ON THE SABBATH

Matthew 12:1-2, At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn;FN and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. {2} But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. Matthew 12:1-2 (NLT), At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. (2) But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, "Look, Your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath."
Mark 2:23-24, And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. (24) And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? Luke 6:1-2, And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. (2) And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

Having attended an unnamed feast in Jerusalem, Jesus returned to Galilee and was involved in another Sabbath controversy with the Pharisees. As He and His disciples walked through a field of grain, His disciples began to pick and eat the grain.

Now this act was not unlawful in itself because the Law allowed an individual to pick and eat someone else’s produce. Deuteronomy 23:24-25 (CEV) reads, If you go into a vineyard that belongs to someone else, you are allowed to eat as many grapes as you want while you are there. But don't take any with you when you leave. (25) In the same way, if you are in a grain field that belongs to someone else, you can pick heads of grain and eat the kernels. But don't cut down the stalks of grain and take them with you.

The problem, then, was not that Jesus’ disciples were eating something that didn’t belong to them, but rather, the fact that they were doing this on the Sabbath. You see, rabbinical law forbade a person from harvesting and threshing grain on the Sabbath.FN The way these Pharisees saw it, picking grain was the same thing as harvesting it. And rubbing it in one’s hands (Luke 6:1) was the same as threshing it. Thus, you couldn’t pick grain on the Sabbath because that would be working; you’d be breaking the law.

Now even though Jesus Himself wasn’t picking grain, the Pharisees nevertheless found fault with Him for what He allowed His disciples to do. They were His disciples, therefore, He was accountable for their actions. As far as these religious leaders were concerned, Jesus was wrong for allowing His disciples to pick grain. He should have stopped them from doing it.FN

 

Matthew 12:3-6, But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; {4} How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

{5} Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profaneFN the sabbath, and are blameless?

{6} But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

Matthew 12:3-6 (NLT), Jesus said to them, "Haven't you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? (4) He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.

(5) And haven't you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?

(6) I tell you, there is One here who is even greater than the Temple!

Mark 2:25-26, And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? (26) How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? Luke 6:3-4, And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; (4) How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?

 

In response to the criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus cited two examples of Scripture.

*DAVID AND THE SACRED BREAD. The first one had to do with David. One day while David was on the run, he came to the little village of Nob where the priests and the Tabernacle were. He and his men were hungry and the only food available to them at the time was showbread. Now this showbread consisted of twelve loaves of bread laid in two rows on the Table of Showbread which was in the Tabernacle. The loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel and they symbolized the communion or fellowship that Israel had with God. It was replaced every Sabbath day with twelve fresh loaves and the old loaves were eaten by the priests (Exodus 25:30, Leviticus 24:5-9). In other words, this bread was sacred and could not be eaten by anyone except the priests. Yet, in his compassion and loyalty to David, Ahimelech the priest gave David the bread and David and his small band of followers took it and ate it. You can read the story for yourself in 1 Samuel 21.

*THE PRIESTLY DUTIES ON THE SABBATH. The second example was that of the priests. Every Sabbath the priests in the Temple did a lot of God-commanded things that were a part of Sabbath worship and observance: they offered a meal, drink, and burnt sacrifice unto the Lord (this was in addition to the burnt sacrifice they offered each and every day, Numbers 28:9), they prepared the showbread (Leviticus 24:5-9, 1 Chronicles 9:32). Now all these activities could be construed as work if one was to hold to a rigid interpretation of the fourth commandment. They would be guilty of profaning the Sabbath. But the thing of it was, not even the rabbis saw this as work. They didn’t see anything wrong with the priests doing all these things on the Sabbath. Thus, in their eyes, the priests weren’t guilty of breaking the Sabbath.

 

So what’s the point behind these two examples? Two things, I believe.

1. BE CONSISTENT. The first has to do with consistency. If you’re going to accuse My disciples of breaking your Sabbath laws, you’ve got to be consistent and treat everyone else the same way—that includes David and the priests. But if you’re not going to indict David and the priests for wrongdoing, then you shouldn’t be indicting My disciples.FN

2. WATCH HOW YOU INTERPRET OR APPLY THE SCRIPTURES. And second, you can’t be too rigid in your interpretation or understanding of the Word. You can’t go overboard or to an extreme with one verse. Instead, you’ve got to take everything else the Word says and put it together in a delicate balance. When you look at everything the priests do on the Sabbath and judge that by the fourth commandment, naturally they would be wrong. But when you look at them in light of all the things God commanded them to do on the Sabbath, then they’re not wrong. In fact, they’re obedient! Do you see what I mean? Don’t base your religion, morality, belief, or conviction on one verse of Scripture. Base it on everything else the Scripture says about that one particular thing.

 

Matthew 12:7, But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. Matthew 12:7 (NIV),   If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.

 

The harsh, finger-pointing, stone-throwing attitude of the Pharisees stands in dark contrast to the kind of people God wants His followers to be. He wants them to be merciful. Jesus quotes a passage of Scripture from Hosea 6:6 to show that the will of God for His people has always been one of mercy, not one solely of worship.

You see, sacrifice was directed towards God. It was an expression of one’s worship of God. It was commanded by God. Thus every Jew was required and expected to offer sacrifices and worship unto God.

But God commanded something else that evidently was more important to Him, something that mattered more than sacrifice. What was it? Mercy. In the Hebrew, mercy means kindness or goodness. It means pitying someone and doing something good for him or her.FN Now unlike sacrifice, mercy is not directed towards God. It’s directed towards people.

The point is this: WHILE SACRIFICE IS COMMANDED BY GOD AND IS AN IMPORTANT THING FOR US TO DO, THERE’S SOMETHING THAT MATTERS MORE TO GOD—SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT FOR US TO DO—AND THAT IS, WE’VE GOT TO WATCH OUR ATTITUDES TOWARD PEOPLE AND WATCH HOW WE TREAT THEM. God wants us to be merciful to others and to one another.FN

The Pharisees knew a lot about sacrifice. They knew a lot about the Word. But they lacked one thing—the more important thing—and that was mercy. They didn’t know how to treat people right.

Friends, do we know how to treat people right? Do we treat them right? Do we practice what we know?

Evidently, the Pharisees didn’t think mercy was that important. They didn’t pay much attention to it. But the one thing that they neglected and thought unimportant turned out to be what they really needed the most!

Brethren, are there things in the Word that you don’t pay much attention to? Are there things in the Word that you think aren’t that important?FN Take heed, my friends, the things you lack or reject may well be the things you need the most.

Lest we forget, the disciples of Jesus picked grain on the Sabbath. The Pharisees found fault with them. And Jesus, in turn, found fault with the Pharisees. Instead of the disciples being wrong, it was the Pharisees themselves who were wrong!

THE MORE GUNG HO YOU ARE WITH GOD, THE MORE YOU’RE LIKELY TO MISS IT. I’d like to delve into this Sabbath controversy a little more because I believe Jesus is speaking to us at this point. You see, generally speaking, THOSE WHO ARE THE MOST DEVOTED TO GOD STAND THE GREATER CHANCE OF MISSING IT BIG TIME. Thankfully, not everyone who’s devout is deceived or wrong! But the truth of the matter remains the same: the more devout you are, the more you’ve got to be careful because the chances of missing it big time are greater.

*Look at the Pharisees. They were the most pious, religious, devout Jews on the Earth during Jesus’ time. But they missed it and missed it big time! In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 23:13 that they weren’t even going to be in the Kingdom!

*Saul of Tarsus is another example. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He was the best around (Philippians 3:5). But he was totally wrong!

Do you see what I mean? It’s good to be pious and devout. We ought to be. Some of us have made it our number one goal in life to live in obedience to God. But there are dangers inherent in being devout that we’ve got to be aware of and steer away from.

 

THE DANGERS OF PHARISAISM THAT WE’VE GOT TO AVOID

In this present controversy over the Sabbath I see some dangers of Pharisaism that we cannot allow ourselves to duplicate. There are three ingredients of a Pharisaical religion: (1) interpretation; (2) legislation; and (3) condemnation. Let’s look briefly at each of these.

 

1. INTERPRETATION. All of us interpret the Scripture. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when we don’t interpret the Scriptures correctly. This is the kind of interpretation that I’m talking about when I talk about a Pharisaical religion. You see, the Pharisees read the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8-10 and interpreted the Lord’s prohibition against working on the Sabbath as meaning no one could pick grain on the Sabbath because that would be reaping and reaping is working (Shabbath 7.2). Understandably, the way I see it, reaping is working! But picking a few grains of wheat or barley to eat as you walk along is really stretching the meaning of “work.”FN

Brethren, we’ve got to watch how we interpret the Scripture and watch what kind of laws we come up with. When the truth of God is stretched too far, or beyond reasonable limits, we end up with man-made rabbinical laws.

 

2. LEGISLATION. After interpretation comes legislation. This is another area where the Pharisees missed it. They came up with a law based on their understanding of the Scripture—you cannot pick grain on the Sabbath—and then they took that law and applied it to everybody. They legislated it. What began as a personal interpretation or conviction of Scripture now became a universal law that everyone else had to obey. As more laws were added by the rabbis, the Torah was more and more swept aside and in its place, rabbinical law was what a devout Jew was supposed to pay attention to and observe. All the attention was focused on what the rabbis said or taught.

So how does that relate to us? We all know that everybody has to obey God’s law, the Holy Bible. But WHEN WE START ADDING OUR LAWS AND CONVICTIONS AND MAKE THEM UNIVERSALLY BINDING OR OBLIGATORY ON EVERYONE ELSE, WHAT WE’VE DONE IS MADE OUR INTERPRETATIONS AND CONVICTIONS EQUAL TO, OR ON PAR WITH, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES: “Everyone has to obey our laws just like they have to obey God’s laws. In fact, our laws are really God’s laws.” The distinction between our laws and God’s laws become blurred.

 

3. CONDEMNATION. Finally, with legislation comes condemnation. The Pharisees condemned everyone who didn’t live by their laws. They criticized, judged, condemned, cursed, and alienated everyone who disobeyed their laws. Religion, or the walk with God, ceased to minister life. It now ministered death.

 

A VALUABLE LESSON WE ALL CAN LEARN

With these three ingredients of a Pharisaical religion in mind, let’s go back to the Scriptures and the Sabbath controversy. By rabbinical law, the disciples of Jesus were wrong for picking grain on the Sabbath, they were guilty of violating the Sabbath—that’s why the Pharisees condemned them and passed judgment against them.

But what we see here, brethren, is that IT’S POSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE WHO’S GUILTY IN OUR SIGHT TO BE GUILTLESS IN GOD’S SIGHT! We can make or pass wrong judgment on people. And the thing of it is, by our standards, opinions, or beliefs, these people are very much wrong. But God doesn’t pass judgment on them!

How, then, can they be guiltless before God? Brethren, THEY’RE GUILTLESS BEFORE GOD IF THEY HAVEN’T BROKEN GOD’S LAW. You see, rabbinical law isn’t the same thing as God’s law. It was an interpretation of God’s law by many of Israel’s distinguished rabbis. But it wasn’t the law itself. It wasn’t “thus saith the Lord.” And because it wasn’t “thus saith the Lord,” God therefore didn’t obligate or bind them to the keeping of rabbinical law. If the rabbis wanted to keep their laws, they could. But they couldn’t bind others with it because there is only one law that all men must obey and that is the law of God. In this instance, the law of God didn’t prohibit people from picking grain on the Sabbath, hence, what the disciples did wasn’t wrong.

Brethren, like these Pharisees, you’ve got to be careful what laws you live by and what laws you expect other people to live by. Are your laws, opinions, beliefs, or convictions a “thus saith the Lord?” Or are they your own rabbinical interpretation of God’s Word? Live by your God-based laws. But before you criticize or condemn someone for breaking the law, make sure that the law they’ve broken is God’s law—not your own. As with rabbinical law, A VIOLATION OF YOUR LAW MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE A VIOLATION OF GOD’S LAW. As good or well-meaning as your laws may be, NEVER FORGET THAT YOUR LAWS ARE JUST THAT: YOUR LAWS, NOT GOD'S LAWS. Just as Jesus reproved the Pharisees for passing judgment on His innocent disciples, so Jesus reproves those who pass judgment against people who haven’t done anything wrong in God’s sight.

 

Mark 2:27-28, And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: (28) Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:27-28 (NIV),  Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  (28)  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
Matthew 12:8, For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. Luke 6:5, And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

 

The controversy here closes with a revelation of Jesus. He is Son of Man. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He, not the Pharisees, determines what’s lawful on the Sabbath and what isn’t.

In closing, note with me that this controversy with the Pharisees ended with Jesus’ words given in verse 8.

*When Jesus healed the disabled man at Bethesda, a Sabbath controversy ensued. It ended with Jesus’ words in John 5:47.

*When another conflict over the Sabbath broke out in the synagogue, it ended with Jesus doing the talking (Matthew 12:13).

So what’s the point? Simply this, my friends. JESUS HAS THE LAST WORD WHENEVER A CONTROVERSY, PROBLEM, DISPUTE, OR DEBATE ARISES. Whenever you have trouble with something Jesus said or did (that is, you don’t like it) and you engage Him in an argument, debate, or reasoned discussion, the conversation always ends with Jesus having the last word. You can speak your mind—just as the Pharisees spoke theirs. But when Jesus answers back, WHAT HE SAYS SETTLES THE ARGUMENT. BRETHREN, YOU CAN ARGUE WITH THE LORD YOUR WHOLE LIFE LONG: YOU’LL CONTINUE TO ARGUE AS LONG AS YOU DON’T LET JESUS HAVE THE LAST WORD. ARGUMENTS, MY FRIENDS, ARE SETTLED WHEN WE LET JESUS HAVE THE FINAL WORD.

 

JESUS GETS IN TROUBLE AGAIN: HEALING A MAN

WITH A CRIPPLED HAND ON THE SABBATHFN

 

Luke 6:6-11, And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. {7} And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

{8} But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. {9} Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? {10} And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

{11} And they were filled with madness;FN and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

Luke 6:6-11 (NIV),  On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled.  (7)  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.  

(8)  But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there.  (9)  Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"  (10)  He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored.  

(11)  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Matthew 12:9-14, And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: (10) And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered.FN And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. (11) And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? (12) How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. (13) Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand.FN And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. (14) Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. Mark 3:1-6, And he entered into the synagogue: and there was a man there which had a withered hand. {2} And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day: that they might accuse him. {3} And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. {4} And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. {5} And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts,FN he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. {6} And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the HerodiansFN against him, how they might destroy him.

 

The conflict between Christ and the religious leaders intensified as the Sabbath controversy moved out of the grain field and into the synagogue. Another Sabbath had come and Jesus was once again asked to teach in the synagogue, presumably in Capernaum where He resided during the course of His ministry in Galilee. The Pharisees were present, as you would expect. They were still miffed by the grain-picking incident of the previous week. You see, they didn’t like Him, they were against Him, because, among other things, He broke their Sabbath laws.FN

Now the Sabbath was no minor issue to the Pharisees. They had strong feelings and convictions about it. They were meticulous and scrupulous in observing it. When they saw Jesus in flagrant disregard for this holy day it turned out to be their number one complaint against Him! How could a man claim to be a religious figure if he didn’t keep the Sabbath? Jesus not only broke the Sabbath: He also justified working on the Sabbath (as the Pharisees understood the term, Mark 2:23-28)! In their eyes, Jesus was definitely not the Man He claimed Himself to be!FN He wasn’t who the people thought He was! The Pharisees found Jesus to be a law-breaker in the relative privacy of a grain field. But how could they openly demonstrate this fact to the people? How could they make the people see that Jesus wasn’t who everyone made Him out to be?

This, my friends, was what the atmosphere was like in the synagogue that Sabbath morning. The religious leaders were begging to find something wrong with Jesus. The word accuse or accusation that’s used in the text of Scripture means to find fault or charge with wrongdoing. In this public setting in the synagogue where many of the townsfolk were gathered, the religious leaders wanted to portray Jesus as a wrong-doer or a bad man. Now it just so happened that a man was there whose right hand was withered. This presented the Pharisees with a golden opportunity to show the people what was wrong with Jesus. Here, in the public setting of the synagogue, was the Pharisees’ chance to discredit Jesus as a religious figure.FN By doing so, they would counter His immense popularity and dissuade people from following Him.

Now the question that the Pharisees asked Jesus was a trick question.FN As far as they were concerned, no matter how Jesus answered the question He couldn’t win. If He said it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath the Pharisees would pronounce Him a law-breaker since healing would be a form of work; if He said it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath the Pharisees would catch Him in the contradiction of breaking the law when He healed the impotent man at Bethesda on the Sabbath. Either way, Jesus couldn’t win.

But do you know what, brethren? THERE ARE NO WINNABLE ARGUMENTS AGAINST JESUS! NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS YOU COME UP WITH, NO MATTER HOW CONVINCING YOUR ARGUMENTS MAY BE, NO ONE WINS AN ARGUMENT WITH JESUS! Like the Pharisees, your logic may be perfectly good and you don’t see how Jesus could get Himself out of the predicament you’ve put Him in. But the Lord knows all things—He knows the thoughts you’re thinking (Luke 6:8)—and when the Lord answers, His wisdom will come back and, just like the Pharisees, it’ll stump and silence you (1 Corinthians 1:19,25). Brethren, YOU DON’T WIN ARGUMENTS AGAINST JESUS!

So how did Jesus answer the Pharisees’ question? He asked them a question in return and then He cited a common practice to conclude the lawfulness or permissibility of healing on the Sabbath.

 

1. THE LAW PERMITS THE DOING OF GOOD ON THE SABBATH. First, let’s look at the question. Instead of dealing with the question of healing Jesus dealt with the bigger question of working on the Sabbath: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil? Is it alright or permissible to save a life on the Sabbath or to destroy it?

The question presupposes three things: (1) that everybody is going to be doing something on the Sabbath, no one is completely inactive that day; (2) that not everything a person does on the Sabbath is to be considered work; and (3) that it isn’t a violation of God’s Sabbath law to do something good on the Sabbath.

The question was a question of law. Does the law say it’s alright to do something good for somebody on the Sabbath? By dealing with healing in the context of doing good Jesus trapped the Pharisees and destroyed their objections to healing on the Sabbath. You see, the rabbis had a lot of laws as to what could, or could not be, done on the Sabbath. But they also taught that all these laws could be superceded if the life of another Jew was at stake. That is, actions that would normally be considered work, and therefore forbidden, could legally be performed on the Sabbath if they were done with the purpose of saving a fellow Jew. Reading from the Mishnah,Yoma 8:6-7 states, If a man has a pain in his throat they may drop medicine into his mouth on the Sabbath, since there is doubt whether life is in danger, and whenever there is doubt whether life is in danger this overrides the Sabbath. (7) If a building fell down upon a man and there is doubt whether he is there or not, or whether he is alive or dead, or whether he is a gentile or an Israelite, they may clear away the ruin from above him. If they find him alive they may clear it away from above him; but if dead, they leave him.FN

In principle, then, healing or saving a life was permissible on the Sabbath. True, the man with the withered hand’s life was not in danger. There was no peril or threat to his life. But the point is, from rabbinic law, some things that would ordinarily be considered work are nonetheless permissible to do on the Sabbath. In this way, Jesus took their law and used it against them! We see here, then, that the Pharisees were not wholly consistent with their own teaching. While they objected to Jesus healing on the Sabbath, their own law nevertheless made room for it.

 

2. COMMON PRACTICE PERMITS THE DOING OF GOOD ON THE SABBATH. Jesus then cited what people commonly did on the Sabbath. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days (Matthew 12:11-12).

People didn’t have any problem with pulling or lifting their animals out of a pit on the Sabbath. The Pharisees themselves did this sort of thing! In a similar incident in Luke 14, Jesus was invited to eat in the house of a Pharisee and Jesus said the same thing to the Pharisees there: Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day (Luke 14:5)? In other words, the religious leaders themselves had no qualms about pulling an animal out of a pit on a Sabbath. They made an allowance or an exception for this sort of thing. It wasn’t unlawful to save or rescue their animals on a Sabbath. It wasn’t work (at least, not of the forbidden kind)!

What the Pharisees allowed on a Sabbath for the sake of an animal, Jesus allowed for the sake of a human life: if it was alright to save or help an animal on a Sabbath, how much more a human being! In the vernacular, THESE PHARISEES NEEDED TO START TREATING PEOPLE WITH THE SAME KINDNESS OR COMPASSION THAT THEY SHOWED THEIR ANIMALS! PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANIMALS!

Jesus then proceeded to heal the man’s withered hand. Even though He knew the Pharisees wouldn’t like it, He practiced what He preached. He did what was lawful to do on the Sabbath. In the tense atmosphere of critics and enemies, Jesus spoke a Word and the man’s hand was miraculously, instantly made whole. Behold the power of God’s Word!

 

CHRISTIANS, CRITICS, AND CRITICISM

In this incident with the Pharisees we see that IT’S POSSIBLE FOR US TO COUNTER THE ARGUMENTS OF OUR ENEMIES AND CRITICS AND BE RIGHT FOR ANSWERING BACK! AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT’S POSSIBLE FOR US TO ANSWER OUR CRITICS AND WIN! I’m not talking about getting in the flesh, but rather, staying in the Spirit and trusting God to give us wisdom in responding to the arguments and questions of our critics. My friends, we don’t have to let the statements of critics pass by without comment. We don’t have to be stumped and silenced by the logic of our adversaries! I’m not suggesting we launch an offensive against the enemies of truth, nor am I suggesting we get ugly and mean-spirited. But remember, Jesus didn’t start the argument! He was asked a question and He simply responded to it. If you read through the Gospel accounts, you will see that controversial conversations between Jesus and the religious leaders were almost always started by the religious leaders themselves. They started it!

So IN SPITE OF HOWEVER WE CHOOSE TO UNDERSTAND JESUS’ ADMONITION IN MATTHEW 7:6 TO NOT CAST YE YOUR PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, WE SEE BY JESUS’ CONDUCT HERE AND ELSEWHERE THAT THERE IS INDEED A TIME AND A PLACE TO ANSWER THE STATEMENTS, ARGUMENTS, AND ACCUSATIONS OF OUR CRITICS. Brethren, WHEN CRITICS ENGAGE YOU IN A CONVERSATION IT IS NOT UNCHRISTLIKE TO COUNTER THEM WITH THE TRUTH; NOR IS IT UNCHRISTIAN TO SAY SOMETHING BACK. BEING PEACEABLE OR NON-RESISTANT DOES NOT RELIEVE US OF THE RESPONSIBILITY TO CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH (Jude 3).

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) goes on to exhort us, But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

Titus confirms this testimony and speaks about the need for God’s people to stop the mouths of those who speak contrary to the truth: He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (10) For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. (11) They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach (Titus 1:9-11 ESV).

As this incident in the synagogue shows, there were times when Jesus answered His critics. Brethren, there will be times when you too must answer your critics. God will give you wisdom and the words to say, but you’ve first got to get over the notion that Christians don’t ever respond to the questions or criticisms of critics. In everything, be led by the Spirit.

(A) Some get in the flesh and argue with a wrong spirit. In that case, brethren, IT’S BETTER TO SAY NOTHING AT ALL THAN TO DECLARE THE TRUTH AND DO SO IN A MANNER THAT WOULD GRIEVE, SHAME AND DISGRACE OUR LORD.

(B) Others say nothing at all. To these I say, brethren, be open to the possibility of being used by the Spirit to declare truth to the people. THERE’S A TIME TO RESPOND TO OUR ADVERSARIES AND WHEN THAT TIME COMES IT’S GOD’S WILL FOR YOU TO SPEAK UP AND LET THE TRUTH BE KNOWN AND HEARD! You can't be a light if you let your critics and enemies make you fearful and hide your light. The truth will not be known if you do not make it known.

 

In closing, notice with me in the text at hand, as well as in the controversies which both precede and follow this Sabbath healing, that Jesus by His choices and actions is making it very, very difficult for the religious leaders to take Him seriously or credibly as a religious figure. He did things that they themselves wouldn’t do or approve of.

*For example, He claimed to be able to forgive sins, making them call Him a blasphemer (Mark 2:7).

*He fellowshipped with publicans and sinners and even called one of them to be His follower (Mark 2:14-16).

*He worked on the Sabbath (John 5) and justified it by saying He was Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).

*Finally, He took it upon Himself to chase the merchants out of the Temple precinct (John 2:13-17).

*Added to all these, He was not hesitant to tell them He was the Son of God (John 5:19).

*Adding insult to injury, He openly accused them of not believing Moses or the law (John 5:46-47). Imagine the audacity!

In this incident in the synagogue, Jesus’ arguments for healing on the Sabbath so inflamed the Pharisees that they left the synagogue looking for ways to kill Him or get rid of Him. He offended them, humiliated them, and He sure got them mad. And the thing of it was, He wasn’t afraid to do it! Do you see what I’m saying? Jesus made it so hard for the religious leaders to get along with Him and accept Him. You might say He provoked them and was rather offensive.

So what’s the point? I have two things in mind.

1. One, getting along with His critics wasn’t Jesus’ primary concern. It wasn’t His goal to win them or to make them accept Him. In His wisdom, Jesus knew that the vast majority of His critics among the religious leaders would never accept Him. In fact, He knew they would eventually kill Him. Be amiable and Christlike. But brethren, trying to win your critics is a losing cause.

2 And two, Jesus wasn’t afraid of His critics. He didn’t let them stop Him from speaking the truth or doing the will of His Father. Brethren, WE CAN BE SO AFRAID OF OUR ADVERSARIES AND CRITICS THAT THEY EFFECTIVELY STOP US FROM SAYING, TEACHING, OR DOING SOME THINGS. WE’LL BE SILENT AND STILL BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT THE CRITICISM OR BAD REPUTATION.

Friends, from the time that Jesus made His very first public appearance as a Minister in Jerusalem during the Passover He became controversial and was the object of criticism and resistance. He had a bad reputation with the Pharisees from day one. And do you know what? He wasn’t concerned about it! The knowledge of being criticized or having a bad reputation didn’t stop Jesus from doing what He knew He had to do.

Brethren, WHEN IT COMES TO OUR ADVERSARIES AND CRITICS, WE CAN’T LET THE PROSPECTS OF CRITICISM OR HAVING A BAD REPUTATION STOP US FROM DOING THE RIGHT THING. When you’re obedient to God, especially when you’re a faithful minister of the Lord, criticism and a bad reputation come with the territory. Instead of spending your time thinking how you can get out of being criticized or misrepresented, spend it doing what God’s called you to do. You’ll likely be criticized for it. But God will honor and reward you for speaking up for Him.

 

JESUS LEAVES HIS CRITICS AND HIS FAME GROWS EVEN MORE

MULTITUDES AND MIRACLES BY THE SEASIDE

Matthew 12:15-21, But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; {16} And charged them that they should not make him known: {17} That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet,FN saying, {18} Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. {19} He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. {20} A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. {21} And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.FN Matthew 12:15-21 (ESV), Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all (16) and ordered them not to make him known. (17) This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: (18) "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. (19) He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; (20) a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; (21) and in his name the Gentiles will hope."
Mark 3:7-12, But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, {8} And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.FN {9} And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. {10} For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. {11} And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. {12} And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.FN

 

After His first confrontation with the Pharisees in Galilee, Jesus went to the seaside and ministered to people from Galilee’s shores (Mark 2:1-13). Interestingly enough, this latest confrontation with the Pharisees in the synagogue ended up with Jesus doing the same thing: He went seaside and ministered to the people who sought and wanted Him. This may well be a precedent for us in time of conflict to get away for a while and let the heated emotions and passions of our critics cool off.

When demon-oppressed people saw Jesus, they would bow to the ground before Him and proclaim Him as the Son of God. Jesus didn’t want the demons to tell people who He really was. He wasn’t afraid to reveal His true identity to the religious leaders, but He was hesitant to do so to the masses of people—perhaps because of the adverse effects that kind of popularity could have had on His ministry.FN Instead, the Gospel writer wanted the people to see Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the humble Servant. The prophecy that Matthew cites is from Isaiah 42:1-4. It stresses the gentle nature of Christ ministering justice and life to those who are helpless and weak—not just among His people the Jews, but also among the Gentiles. In His life Jesus was what Isaiah prophesied God’s servant would be—a servant to the people.

People from all over the Palestinian provinces came to Jesus. Multitudes and multitudes of people! Even with all the trouble He was getting Himself into with the religious leaders, Jesus’ popularity remained intact. People were so eager to get their hands on Jesus for a healing touch that they were on the verge of thronging Him. The word in the Greek means to crowd around. The idea is one of pressing upon a person in such a way that it results in trouble or harm to the person. There were so many people around Jesus, falling upon Him, trying to touch Him, that they posed a threat of bodily harm to Jesus. The scene, then, by the seaside was one filled with multitudes of people. Many clamored around Him to be healed. And many walked away rejoicing in their healing.