Bartimaeus healed & Jesus visits Zacchaeus (Journey 47)

Jesus continues to do His ministerial work, as He journeys from Perea to Jericho. We are reading this time in Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-19:28.

Matthew mentions two blind men, while Mark and Luke describe one, probably the more conspicuous one (Bartimaeus). Jesus heals them. There seems to be a discrepancy as to the place of healing (“As He went out from Jericho,” and “as He drew nigh unto Jericho”). This is best explained by the recent suggestion that the healing occurred after He left the old Jericho, and as He was approaching the new Jericho, which Herod the Great had built at some distance away.

Jesus has healed several blind beggars while passing through Jericho, and the men were determined to attract the attention of Jesus, so they called out loud to Him by His title, “Son of David.” Jesus called the men to Him, and clearly saw their need, so He asked them what they wanted. He wanted them to decide their own faith boldly to strengthen it. In response to their faith, Jesus healed them.

Visiting Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of Jericho and he was a wealthy man. He wanted to see Jesus and Jesus wanted to talk to him; therefore, Jesus went to his house, even though the locals didn’t like it. The outcome of His visit with Zacchaeus was that he repented and believed on Christ Jesus.

To show his repentance as sincere, Zacchaeus repaid those he had cheated and gave freely to those he had not cheated. Because he was so despised by fellow Jews, he was not worthy to be called a “son of Abraham.” However, that was not a reason for him to be excluded from Salvation, as sinners such as this were just the people that Jesus came to save. Once he was saved, he was a true “son of Abraham.”

What can we learn from this?

Those who sincerely desire Christ will break through opposition, including persecutions, to see Him in His Glory and accept His Grace! Christ comes to us and opens our heart so that we may receive Him more! Let’s always receive Him joyfully and help others do the same!

Jesus teaches about family and then foretells His Own Death & Resurrection (Journey 46)

Jesus is beginning a round of teachings associated with family life, and then we will see Him instruct the Disciples about His Death & Resurrection. This is a multi-account story-line, and can be read in the few Synoptic Gospels. We are reading in Mark 10:1-45; Matthew 19-20:28; Luke 18:15-34. You will only find the teachings about Divorce and Marriage in the Matthew and Mark Scriptures just noted; just in case you decide to read one or all of the accounts for this blog post.

Jesus left Galilee at the beginning of this journey, crossed the Jordan into Perea, probably in the company of many Jews from Galilee (who regularly went this way to Jerusalem), and will now soon cross the river and reach Jericho.

Jesus teaches on Divorce and Marriage

The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in more errors, and asked Him about divorce. There are different viewpoints among the Jews that caused arguments. Jesus referred them back to His original standard, which was that a man and woman live together, independent of their parents, in a permanent union.

Moses placed out laws to limit divorce, and introduce order to the disorderly community; therefore, he permitted divorce not because of approving it, but because people created problems through their disobedience. Under usual circumstances, divorce is to be highly avoided; however, in the case of adultery, an exception can be made.

The Disciples thought that if a man was bound to his wife in that way, it would be better not to marry; however, Jesus replied that marriage was normal for adult life, but not a necessity for everyone. Some people may choose not to marry, probably because of troubles in their life or that they would like to serve God without hindrances caused by family responsibilities.

Jesus shortly speaks about the little children

Many people had thought that they could gain entrance into the Kingdom of God by their own efforts; however, Jesus referred to the children gathered around Him to illustrate that this was not so (that they could be let in by their own efforts). People had to realize that they were to be as helpless and dependent as children were, and that there is no room for those who are haughty of themselves, or those who think they could gain Eternal Life through good works and wisdom.

“The Perils of Riches” and “The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard”

A wealthy young man came to Jesus and asked what special things could grant him eternal life, such as good deeds. Jesus replied that there was no need to ask Him, because God told him in the Ten Commandments what he should do. The man boasted he kept most of the commandments; however, Jesus said that he failed in the last of them that says “Do not covet.”

While people around him were suffering, and were in hunger or poverty, he was busy building wealth. His desire for comfort and prosperity kept him from giving himself unto God, which prevented his receiving Eternal Life. If he truly wanted Eternal Life, he would have to get rid of things in the way.

Wealth causes people to become independent of others, which is why the rich find it difficult to acknowledge that they are not independent of God. Such people’s wealth makes them no better than  anyone else in God’s Sight, and because of this, few rich people enter the Kingdom of God. No one at all could enter His Kingdom without His Help. By grace, He accepts those who humble themselves before Him.

Those that sacrifice for Jesus will find that they receive a great reward in eternity that is so much greater than anything lost in the present world. They might have to sacrifice wealth, status, family, friends, or other things; however, in the Age coming, they will reign with Christ.

Jesus then told of the story of workers in the vineyard. He was not setting rules for wages or employment, but He was illustrating God’s Grace, as He takes pity on the needy world and generously gives Salvation to all who accept His offer. For example, at the beginning of the day, a landowner hired people to work at his vineyard for agreed wages, to which at several times during the day he hired additional workers, and then paid them at the end of the day.

Those that had worked all day found that the landowner paid the same amount to latecomers as he paid to the ones that began early, to which they complained. The landowner reminded them that he paid them the amount they agreed to, and if he paid the others the same, that was his concern, not theirs. The issue was not injustice in the landowner, but because of jealousy of the other workers.

He notes the blessings of the Kingdom are the same for all who enter, whether Jews who worshiped God for many years, or Gentiles who just were saved from heathenism, or Scribes that studied God’s Law for many years, or tax collectors who just repented, or those who served God for a lifetime, or those converted in old age, etc. Those that didn’t think they were worthy would be included, but those who think they should be included because they thought they were so righteous will be excluded.

What does Jesus want you to know? Those that are wealthy have a harder time recognizing the value of the Kingdom of God, but if they humble themselves before God and be helpful to others, they will be included.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

As Jesus went toward Jerusalem, He foretold His death and Resurrection again, but His Disciples misunderstood again. They were still thinking of the Earthly Kingdom. James and John came to Jesus to request high positions in His Kingdom. Instead of answering them, He uses the words, “cup” and “baptism” to show them symbols of His suffering and death. He showed them that He had to suffer and died before He could enjoy the Triumph and Glory of His Kingdom.

Still misunderstanding Him, they stated they were prepared to suffer with Him, but Jesus said they would suffer for His Sake indeed (just not with Him necessarily physically). He said their position in the Kingdom was dependent on the Father alone, for He showed no favoritism. James and John probably thought of Peter, but all the other Disciples were angry when they discovered what they were asking.

Nonetheless, people in the world compete with one another for power, but in the Kingdom of God, true greatness comes from humble, willing service, to which the perfect example is Jesus Himself who was about to lay down His Life so that people in bondage to sin could be freed.

Jesus raised Lazarus & Healed 10 Lepers (Journeys 44-45)

Now that Jesus has had some “fame”, He is about to gain much more fame, which means that the Sanhedrin is watching Him closely. Whenever one becomes a celebrity, many eyes are on them — some good & some bad. Don’t be mistaken, Jesus may have had fame, but His primary concern was still compassion for His People.

We are reading in John 11 and Luke 17:11-18:14, as Jesus journeys from Perea to Bethany and then to Ephraim. Bethany was near Jerusalem and Ephraim was near Judea. Jesus was apparently at a distance of two or three days’ journey from Bethany (verse 6, 17). He was probably in Perea. The visit to Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, may be that to which Luke pointed in 13:22. It was here that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. This was a long travel for Jesus; however, He needed to evade the authorities of the Sanhedrin to avoid being taken in too soon, as the time had not drawn near just yet for His Redemptive Work.

Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead

Jesus was still in the region around Jerusalem, when He heard about His friend, Lazarus, had been seriously ill. Lazarus lived in Bethany (with Mary and Martha). Jesus knew that Lazarus was dead, so He did not hurry over there. He planned to raise Lazarus to life, to give evidence of His Divinity.

Jesus went out after two days for Bethany, to which, the Disciples tried to stop Him in fear that the Jews of that area would try to kill Him. However, Jesus assured them the time was not ready yet.

He travels over safely walking normally; however, as He walked in God’s Light, the powers of darkness could not harm Him. His raising of Lazarus would give people proof of His Power over death and strengthen the Disciples’ faith. He gave the Disciples the courage to go with Him, even though the dangers.

Along the way, the distressed Martha talks to Jesus and believed that it was too late to do anything, because He is dead. Jesus is sure that He can call on God’s Power to bring Lazarus back to life!

Martha already knew that Lazarus would be resurrected at the end times; however, Jesus comforted her by saying He is the Resurrection and the Life. Those that are spiritually dead may have Life in Him and will have Eternal Life, even if the physical body dies. Martha fully believed this, and confessed Him as the Messiah, Son of God, and Savior of the world. She hurried home and brought Mary so they could all meet.

When Jesus talked about Eternal Life to Martha, He did not want her to think He negated his physical death as no concern, but rather, He fully intended to bring Lazarus back. Death is an enemy of satan and it was to be destroyed. When He saw how satan used such weapon to fill His friends with grief, He was filled with sorrow and also anger (good, righteous/Godly anger).

To win the victory over satan in this case, Jesus went to the tomb, and before raising him from the dead, He first thanked God for always hearing His Prayers. Soon, Jesus called with a loud voice unto Lazarus, and He was miraculously resurrected.

After Jesus raised Lazarus, He became more famous, which brought attention from the Sanhedrin that He might cause an uprising against Rome. The outcome could be the loss of the Jews’ religious privilege, and could cause the destruction of the Temple. High priest Caiaphas, also the president of the Sanhedrin, suggested to dispose of Jesus quickly before Rome gets involved, so that if He dies, the nation would be saved.

Of course, Caiaphas did not know what his words meant per the Prophecy of Jesus Christ, for His death would save the masses. People of every nation would eventually believe in Him. While the Jewish leaders plotted to dispose of Jesus, He took His Disciples and went away to a quiet place from the crowd.

What can we learn from this situation?

Let us not toil and strain over death of the physical body, if we know eternal security for Eternal Life is grasped. We must be so sure that He is the Resurrection and the Life that we have the ability to fearlessly walk each day in the Light of His Presence knowing that His Hand is upon us. Death of the physical body is but sleep, for we are retiring from worldly cares and proceeding into the Heavenly realm to serve the Lord Jesus!

Ten Lepers Healed and the Nature of the Kingdom of God Explained

Many people have become so used to receiving His Blessings that they forget to thank Him. Others who have not known God previously might display true gratitude the first time when they are aware of His Goodness unto them. This was demonstrated when He healed the ten lepers and then sent them to the Priest as the Jewish Law required. However, none of the Jews in that group returned to thank Him. The only one thanking Jesus was a foreigner.

The Pharisees were still looking for visible signs of the Messiah’s Kingdom, so they could work properly. Jesus told them that He was the Messiah living among them. The Messiah’s Kingdom has begun. Jesus then talks to His Disciples, and said that He would be taken from them soon. In their longing for His Return, they should not pay ear to false prophets and false teachings, because His Coming will be unmistakably visible.

Just as the days of Noah and Lot, people will carry out their everyday duties when His Judgment will suddenly fall on them. At that time, it would be too late for people to save themselves, and therefore, there will be a separation between those who lived selfishly and those that put God first. God will intervene in our affairs on Earth worldwide, and wherever there is sin, divine judgment will fall.

Parables about Prayer

Because of the apparent delay before His Return, Jesus told a parable to encourage His Disciples, to which, they may suffer injustice and other persecutions who despise the Gospel. Therefore, they should persevere in prayer, and be confident that God will hear their prayers. If an ungodly judge gives a just judgment to a helpless widow just to rid her of the pleading, how much more would God answer the cries of His persecuted people. The world might be unbelieving in its ways; however, the Disciples of Jesus Christ must persevere in faith!

In the second story, Jesus rebuked the law-abiding people who thought themselves righteous in their prayers with God. The Pharisees would recount their good deeds, and expect God’s reward. Pharisees despised tax collectors and were all sure that God did as well; however, the tax collectors would not try to impress God. Tax collectors knew they were sinners and felt that no one could help them but God, so they would ask Him for mercy. God accepted those who humbly repented and rejected those who just boasted of good virtue.

Jesus Teaches Salvation, Stewardship, & Discipleship (Journey 43)

As Jesus rounds out much of His Teaching, He continues the process of Salvation, stewardship, and discipleship to prepare His Followers for ministry. Jesus was intended on having the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to overspread the world, and He prepared the right people at the right time to carry out the Great Commission – but we’ll get to more of that at a later time.

Jesus is journeying in and from parts of Perea before He is to head off in His next journey to Bethany. We are reading in Luke 13:22-17:10 in today’s journey.

Teaching in Perea

Jesus is moving through several towns around the Jordan Valley, to which, He stresses to people that they should believe in Him immediately, because they would not have the opportunity to hear from Him again. Many were concerned with the discussions and other questions about Salvation; however, Jesus explained that people should be sure of their own Salvation individually, because on Judgment Day, many who thought they were in God’s Kingdom will find themselves outside.

Some Jews boasted of their ability to enter the Kingdom of God since they were descendants of Abraham, while others had eaten with Jesus and heard Him preaching in different places. All of them would find themselves condemned, however, if they did not repent of their sins. Their places in the Kingdom would be taken by Gentiles (whom they despised).

Soon, certain Pharisees tried to scare Jesus with a threat by Herod, to which Jesus was traveling through his territory. However, Jesus knew already that Herod did not want Him around; therefore, He replied He would continue His Work until it was finished in Jerusalem.

The city that Jesus loved is now rejecting Him, which would guarantee punishment for the city. The nation had become spiritually desolate now, and once the Romans were finished with it (later; 70 AD destruction prophecy probably), it would be physically desolate as well. There is no blessing for any Jew who fails to repent and acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah!

Jesus heals again on the Sabbath while dining with Chief Pharisee

Jesus visited a prominent Pharisee’s house on the Sabbath, to which, His critics were awaiting to see if He would heal the sick man that was there. When Jesus asked them if healing on the Sabbath was okay in the Law, they did not answer. Jesus told them they were hypocrites for those that took care of animals on the Sabbath but not people.

As soon as it was time to eat, Jesus noticed some guests choosing their place of honor at the table. He warned those that sought status or prestige were in danger of humiliation, because God exalts those who willingly take the lower place. Jesus warned the host similarly, because his reason for doing good things should not be to win favor from people who cannot help him, but rather, he should do good things out of a sincere love that does not expect anything back.

One of the party’s guests heard Jesus’ illustrations about feasting, and therefore tried to impress Him with a comment about the coming great feast in the Kingdom of God. Jesus told a Parable in reply that was appropriated to make the man and the other guests recognize that many who thought themselves assured of a place in the Kingdom would miss out, because the Kingdom is like a feast to which many are invited, but for many reasons they all refused.

Of course, such refusal is just as the Jews are treating for Jesus, is that He is inviting them, but they ignore His invitation or despise it. The Jews were haughtily self-righteous, and decided that they have no need of repentance, to which, they were left out of the Kingdom. However, outcasts such as beggars, tax collectors, prostitutes, etc. were included in the Kingdom. Gentiles in far off places even accepted the invitation that the Jews had refused.

Counting the Cost of Discipleship

Crowds that followed Jesus though He was on His Way to a Throne; however, He was actually headed to a cross, and if they wanted to follow Him, they needed to understand what His Kingdom was like and what they can expect, because they had to love Him and be prepared for self-sacrifice or even death. Just as a farmer that builds a tower or a king that goes to war, the person wanting to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ must first count the cost and what it involves. If people were not prepared to give everything for Jesus, their lives are useless to Him, just as useless salt is that has no taste.

The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son

Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes three stories to answer their complaining questions, because He was mingling with tax collectors and other low class people. More respectable Jews sneered low class people as being unworthy of God’s Blessings. They were angered with Jesus, because He showed interest in them and many responded.

The story of the lost sheep and the lost coin had shown that God not only welcomes sinners, but also goes looking for them. When they repent, He rejoices. The Pharisees, however, did not consider themselves sinners, and therefore, they had “no need to repent.” This did not pleasure God.

In the story of the lost son, there is a difference shown between those who considered they were right in everything they did that they needed no repentance (older brother). Those that were obvious sinners knew what they were (younger brother). There is a difference shown between the pardoning love of God (symbolized by the father welcoming the rebel home) and the cold but merciless attitude of the Pharisees (the older brother that was angry because of the welcome of the rebel was received).

The Pharisees knew God’s Law, but they had no advantage over the tax collectors, because they were self-righteous and never saw themselves lost or dead. They would not come to God in repentance, because they feel they are already good enough. They, then, would be left out of the Kingdom; however, sinners entered in.

Parables on Stewardship

A story was told to the Disciples of Jesus that concerned a clever businessman whom the owner of the business chose as a manager. In this business, deals were made by an exchange of goods rather than a payment with money, to which, allowed the manager to cheat the owner. When the owner found out, the manager was dismissed.

Soon, the manager thought of a plan to ensure he didn’t become poor by seeking help from his friends of the business to reduce the amounts owed so they could pay debts quicker. They would feel obliged then to return a favor to the manager after he had lost his job. The owner was a scoundrel as well and appreciated the manager’s cunning.

Jesus said this is how the world works. If His People had the diligence and foresight in spiritual matters that others have in their worldly operations, they would be a better people and enjoy a more lasting reward. Therefore, if they used their material possessions to help others, they would gain true friends now and a lasting prosperity in the life to come.

His People answer to Him how they use their goods and money, because, in God’s Sight, they are not the true owners of such things—He is. If they are generous in using what God has trusted them with, God will reward them permanently. If they are selfish, however, they will have no reward, but have become slaves to money. This brings disloyalty to God.

The Pharisees considered wealth as a reward for keeping the Law, and sneered at Jesus’ Teachings here. However, He replies that God is not impressed with their “righteousness,” for He saw their prideful hearts. They did not realize that the old era of the Law has passed now, and the Kingdom announced by John’s preparation has arrived now. The only ones that truly understood the Law are those who are in the Kingdom. The godly are the ones zealous on entry into His Kingdom.

Whether it is money or any other matter that could cause temptation, Jesus’ followers must not cause younger ones to sin. They must actually try to correct those who have done wrong to them, and at the same time forgive them—no matter how many times one is offended. Concerning faith, they should remember that God is not as concerned with how much they have, but more so with whether they have placed it in Him sincerely.

Lastly, there is the reminder that those who serve Jesus should not feel proud of themselves, as if their master has any obligation to give them some reward or something. Their good works are their duty, and no matter how much hard work they may do for anyone, they do still owe God more!

What can we learn from Jesus’ teachings as noted above?

  1. Those that determine in their heart not to follow Jesus, they only condemn themselves. This is why much of the world around us will be condemned, is because they have not either heard of Jesus, or they have heard of Him but have failed to repent. Many will decide to turn and repent; however, others will not.
  2. This is true: We must be willing to give up everything for His Sake, because He is the most important and we need to be of use to Him all our days. This is not a part time job… it is full time to be a Disciple. We will battle things daily, and have to deal with trouble wherever we go, but this is only preparing us for the Kingdom of God that we are about to partake in.
  3. We should never consider ourselves too good for God’s Grace, or too righteous. This is because we must be able to humble ourselves to accept His Grace. We should take care to know He is willing to help us, and He wants to have a relationship with us. This shall be based upon our trust in Him. When we have repented, we have acknowledged that we have sinned and that we need a Savior, therefore, He is willing to help us!
  4. We must be good stewards of what He gives unto us, be generous as needed and as He leads, and do not become prideful over what we have, or who we are in Christ, because people need much help in this world! We must not deal falsely with people, but be true and generous sincerely.