Twelve Witnesses

Jesus and his students returned from Jerusalem to the area around Lake Galilee (82).

Word had spread about his miracles & his message, so crowds of people came to Jesus from all over Israel & Judea. Because Jesus had already healed many people, these crowds included many other sick people who were coming to be healed, too. As the number of people kept increasing, Jesus decided to have his students get a boat ready to use in preaching God’s message.

Stich, Abbildung, engraving, gravure : 1863.

Sometimes when people who were tormented by evil spirits came to Jesus, the evil spirits would make those people fall down before him and scream, “You are God’s son!” Sternly & consistently, Jesus ordered the evil spirits to stop telling people who he was.

Then, in the midst of all the commotion, Jesus knew that it was time to involve his students in his ministry. So, instead of going down to the boat, Jesus first went up the hill — taking twelve of his students.

“I have chosen you to stay with me,” Jesus told them. “But I also intend to send you out as my witnesses — to preach God’s message to people, and to expel evil spirits from people!”

Twelve

These are the twelve he chose:

  • Peter (originally named Simon),
  • Andrew (Peter’s brother),
  • James (a son of Zebedee),
  • John (James’ brother, another son of Zebedee),
  • Philip,
  • Bartholomew (also called Nathanael),
  • Matthew (the tax collector, also called Levi),
  • Thomas,
  • James (son of Alphaeus),
  • Thaddaeus (also known sometimes as Lebbaeus & sometimes as Judas),
  • Simon (the Patriot from Canaan), and
  • Judas Iscariot (who would eventually betray Jesus).

Over the next three years, Jesus would spend the largest portion of his time & energy in training these twelve witnesses.

Then, when Jesus came down the hill with the twelve, they were again surrounded by a large crowd of people from all over Judea & Israel & the surrounding areas. Some people had come to hear Jesus teach. Other people had come to be healed of their diseases, including people who had evil spirits in them.

Jesus healed them all! Some were healed as Jesus spoke to them; others were healed simply by touching Jesus.

Sovereign God, please help me to love going wherever You send me.

(82) Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:7-21, Luke 6:12-19

Four Witnesses

Jesus continued trying to persuade the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem that he had come to do God’s will (81).

“I understand that you won’t believe me just because of my personal testimony. But there are other witnesses who have confirmed my testimony. I want you to consider these witnesses, not for my benefit but for yours, so you can believe & be saved.

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John the Baptizer has testified about me. John was like a bright lamp, burning and shining, and you were willing for a while to enjoy his light.

“But there is also another witness for me, even greater than the witness of John the Baptizer. Consider the miracles that God has given me to do. These deeds testify on my behalf and show that the Father has sent me.

“What’s more, God himself also testifies on my behalf, through the words of inspired scriptures. You have never heard God’s voice or seen his face. But you study God’s words — because you believe they have the key to new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death.

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“Yet, although God’s words speak about me, you’re not willing to trust in me — in order to have that new life.

“I’m not looking for human praise. Besides, I know what kind of people you are, and I know that you haven’t really surrendered your hearts to God.

  • For example, I have come with God’s authority, but you haven’t received me.  Yet you receive other people, speaking on their own authority.
  • Here’s another example: You like to receive praise from one another, but you don’t try to receive praise from God.

“Just as you resist God in these fundamental ways, so you resist believing in me.

“But don’t think I’m the one who will accuse you before God.  Moses is the one who will accuse you, even though you say Moses is someone you actually do trust & believe. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because God inspired Moses to write about me.

“The bottom line is that  you choose not to believe all that Moses wrote, and you choose not to believe all that I say.”

Ever-speaking God please help me choose to believe everything You speak.

(81) John 5:31-47

Jesus & God Are One

The Jewish religious leaders began to challenge Jesus, because he had healed a man on the Sabbath (80). Jesus answered them, “God my father works every day, so I must work every day.”

The religious leaders understood that when Jesus claimed to be God’s son, he was claiming to have power equal to God!

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The religious leaders were determined to resist any connection between Jesus & God. They saw right away that, as God’s Son, Jesus would have more power than they did!

But Jesus insisted that his power & authority were really from God: “I can’t do anything on my own,” he said.  “I can only do what I see God my father doing. What God does, I must also do. God loves me & shows me everything that he is doing.

“Soon, God will give me even greater things to do than this healing miracle, and you will all be even more amazed. Just as God raises the dead and gives them life, so I will give life to whomever I choose!

“God has also given me the right to judge all people. God wants all people to honor me, just as they honor him.  Anyone — who doesn’t honor me — doesn’t honor God who sent me.  But anyone — who receives me as God’s son — has already received new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death. That person will not be judged; that person will have already passed from death to life.

“From now on, when spiritually dead people hear my voice, they will begin to experience spiritual life. Just as God inspires all life, so I inspire all spiritual life.

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“God has given me the right to judge all people, because I am his son.  Don’t be surprised about all this. One day even physically dead people will hear my voice & rise from their graves to be judged:

  • People — who lived their natural lives in obedience to God — will have new life that will continue in heaven forever.
  • People — who lived their natural lives in disobedience to God — will be condemned to a horrible existence that will continue in hell forever.

“I can do nothing apart from God’s authority. I judge only as God tells me. So my judgment is right, because I judge only in accordance with God’s perfect will!”

Sovereign Lord, please help me to love living according to Your perfect will.

(80) John 5:16-30

Jesus Heals Paralysis In Jerusalem

After this, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a religious festival (79).

Near the Sheep Gate that went into the city, there was a pool called Bethesda with five decks around it. Many sick people lay on the decks — people who were blind, lame and paralyzed. Some people believed that, after an angel had periodically stirred the water, the next person into the pool would be healed.

One man lying there had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years.

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When Jesus saw him there, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“But I don’t have anyone here to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up,” the sick man complained. “Whenever I try to get in by myself, somebody else always gets there first.”

Jesus simply said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.”

bethesda

Immediately the man was healed, picked up his mat and started walking!

Because this happened on a Sabbath day, some Jewish religious leaders told the man who had been healed, “It is against our religious law for you to carry your mat today!” The healed man answered, “The man who made me well told me to pick up my mat & walk.” The religious leaders asked him, “Who’s the man who told you to do this?” But the healed man didn’t know who Jesus was, and he couldn’t find him because Jesus had disappeared into the crowd.

A short time later in the temple, Jesus found the healed man and said, “God healed you for a purpose. God wants you to stop sinning, so that something worse than paralysis won’t happen to you!”

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We are not told what impact this had on the healed man.  But we do know that he went & told the Jewish religious leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

 

(79) John 5:1-15

Out With The Old, In With The New

Then some students of John the Baptizer came to Jesus (78). They asked, “Why is it that we & the Pharisees fast frequently, but your students don’t fast at all?”

Jesus answered, “Do you expect the guests at a wedding party to be sad as long as the bridegroom is with them? Of course not! But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will have reason to fast.”

ascension

Jesus came to offer people new life in a new relationship with God.  He used some illustrations to emphasize that new fasting helps us draw closer to God, while old fasting does not.

“No one patches up an old coat with a piece of new cloth, for the new patch will shrink and make an even bigger hole in the coat!

“And no one pours new wine into old, used wineskins; if they do, the old wineskins will burst, the wine will pour out, and those old wineskins will be ruined!

“Instead, new wine must always be poured into new wineskins; that way, both the wine and the wineskins are preserved.

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“But if you keep on drinking the old wine, you’ll never want the new.”

Renewing God, please help me to love being made new by You.

(78) Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39 (and Isaiah 58:6-8)

Mercy For Matthew

Jesus left Capernaum, and as he walked along, he saw a tax collector, named Matthew (also called Levi), sitting at his office (77).

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Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him!

Later, while Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and other disreputable folks came and joined Jesus and his students at the table.

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Some Pharisees saw this and asked the students of Jesus, “Why does your teacher eat with such losers?”

Jesus, overhearing them, gave this reply:

“People who think they’re well don’t need a doctor; people who know they’re sick need a doctor!

“You need to consider what is meant by the verse from the inspired scriptures that says: ‘It is mercy that God wants, not religious ritual.’

“I have come to call  so-called ‘losers’ like these into relationship with God.  I have not come for people who are self-reliant & judgmental.”

Merciful God, please help me to love Your mercy for me.

(77) Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32

Jesus Heals Paralysis In Galilee

A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum; the news spread that he was at his home there.  People came from all over Galilee & Judea to hear Jesus teach; even some Pharisees & teachers of the law of Moses came to check out Jesus. In fact, crowds of people flocked to the house where Jesus was staying, until there was no room left, not even outside in front of the door (76).

Jesus was also healing the sick that day, by the power of God. Some men came carrying a paralyzed friend on a bed; they wanted to carry him into the house & put him in front of Jesus. But because of the crowd, they could find no way to get their friend inside. So they improvised: they carried him up on the roof, made an opening in the roof tiles, and let him down on his bed, right into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus!

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When Jesus saw how much faith he & his friends had, he said to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees immediately thought to themselves, “Who is this man who speaks such blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”

But Jesus knew their thoughts and he said to them, “Why do you think such things? I will prove to you that I have God’s authority to forgive sins on earth.”

Then Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home.”

Healing of the Paralytic Man Mark 2:1-5

At once the man stood up in front of them all! He picked up the bed he had been lying on, and he went home, praising God.

The people there were all completely amazed! Full of respect for the authority & power Jesus had displayed, they also praised God, saying, “What marvelous things we have seen today!”

Lord Jesus, please help me to love honoring Your authority over my life.

(76) Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26