Family Matters

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Then Jesus started home to Capernaum (84). Very large crowds followed, so that Jesus and his students could not even take time to eat.

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Jesus’ family members heard how his ministry was exploding.  People had begun spreading wild rumors about him; some people in the crowds were even saying, “Jesus has gone mad!” His family members were concerned & they wanted to get Jesus under control .

Certain teachers of the law, who had come from Jerusalem, tried discrediting Jesus by saying, “He has Satan in him! It is by Satan’s power that Jesus expels evil spirits from people!” Jesus gave them this reply:

“You know the evil spirits that torment people are sent from Satan. And now you say that I expel those evil spirits by Satan’s power? But how can Satan drive out Satan?

“If a country divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that country will fall apart. If a family divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that family will fall apart. It is the same with Satan; if his forces are divided & fight each other, they will fall apart and Satan’s power will not last.”

Then Jesus concluded with this telling comment: “In order for anyone to expel evil spirits which have been sent from Satan, it is first necessary to restrain Satan.”

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Still, some of the people in the crowd kept saying, “Jesus has an evil spirit in him.” Jesus replied to them this way: “People can be forgiven all the evil things they may say or do. But whoever blasphemes — by repeatedly refusing to recognize & revere the Holy Spirit of God — cannot be forgiven & will be condemned by God.”

Then Jesus’ mother & other family members arrived. They sent a message through the crowd, asking for him. Someone in the crowd told Jesus, “Your mother & brothers are outside, and they want to see you.”

Jesus answered with a question, “Who are my real family members?” He looked at the people sitting around him and said, “My real family members are right here. Those of you who follow the Holy Spirit & do what God wants are the real members of my family & God’s family.”

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LORD, please help us to love all the varied members of Your family.

(84) Mark 3:20-35, Luke 8:19-21

Compassion In Action

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When Jesus left that place, two blind men started following him (82). “Have mercy on us, son of David!” they shouted. When they were alone, Jesus asked the two blind men, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes,” they both answered.

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So Jesus touched their eyes, saying, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe.” And immediately their sight was restored!

Jesus said to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone else.” But they left & spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country.

Then some people brought to Jesus a man who couldn’t talk because he had an evil spirit. But as soon as Jesus expelled the evil spirit, the man started talking!

Everyone was amazed. “We have never seen anything like this in Israel!” they exclaimed.  But some of the Pharisees claimed: “It is Satan who gives him the power to drive out evil spirits.”

Jesus went around visiting many towns and villages. He taught in the synagogues, preached the good news about the kingdom of God, and healed people of every kind of disease and sickness.

As Jesus saw the crowds which flocked to him, his heart was filled with compassion for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

So Jesus planted this idea in the minds & hearts of his students: “A great harvest of people is ready, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray that God will send out workers to gather in this harvest.”

LORD, please help us to love working to connect people with You.

(82) Matthew 9:27-38, Mark 3:7-12

Four Witnesses

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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.  Please, consider these witnesses — not for my benefit but for yours, so you can believe & draw closer to God.

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John the Baptizer has testified about me. John was like a bright lamp, burning & shining, and for a while you were willing 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 & show that the Father has sent me.

“What’s more, God himself also testifies on my behalf, through the words of the 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.”

LORD, please help us to love believing everything You say.

(81) John 5:31-47

Jesus And God Are One

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Some Jewish religious leaders began to challenge Jesus, because he had healed the lame 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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These 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 being done by God my father. 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 Godwill have new life that will continue in heaven forever.
  • But 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!”

LORD, please help us to love living according to Your perfect will.

(80) John 5:16-30

Jesus Heals Paralysis In Jerusalem

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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.”

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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.

LORD, please help us to love being healed by You.

(79) John 5:1-15

Out With The Old, In With The New

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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.”

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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.”

LORD, please help us 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

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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.”  Then Matthew got up & followed him!

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

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Some Pharisees saw this & 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, think they don’t need a doctor.  People who know they’re sick, know they 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.”

LORD, please help us to love Your mercy.

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