Friday, May 29, 2015

Jesus’ Favorite Way of Teaching

Once again, Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around Him, so He got into a boat. Then He sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables . . . . Mark 4:1-2 (NLT)

Jesus not only healed people, performed exorcisms, and worked miracles, but He also taught the people about God and God’s Kingdom. Jesus’ favorite way of teaching people about God was using parables (e.g., see Matthew 13:2-3; Luke 8:4; Mark 3:23; Mark 4:2, 10-11, 13, 33-34). Parables were the core of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ parables are among the best-known stories and illustrations in the world. Jesus explained God’s truths and God’s Kingdom, not by giving a lecture on theology, but by telling vivid stories using comparisons and illustrations that painted pictures that captured the crowd’s attention. Jesus turned people’s ears into eyes, sometimes with a still picture and then again with a moving picture (e.g.  Matthew 5:13; Matthew 7:6). Jesus’ parables ranged from brief sayings (e.g. Mark 3:22-27) to extended narratives (e.g. Mark 4:1-9, 13-20). In general, a parable is a comparison of two objects for the purpose of teaching, usually in the form of a story. Parables are found commonly in the Synoptic (“look-alike”) Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John’s Gospel excludes Jesus’ parables but uses other figures of speech. Mark has the fewest parables while Matthew and Luke’s Gospels are filled with stories and illustrations.

Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in His public ministry He never taught without using parables, but afterward, when He was alone with His disciples, He explained everything to them. Mark 4:33-34 (NLT)

In His public ministry, Jesus never taught the people without using parables (e.g. see, Matthew 13:34; Mark 4:33-34; John 16:25; also see John 16:29). Parables were particularly effective and easy to remember. Jesus used familiar and everyday experiences from nature and human life to help the people understand God and God’s Kingdom. In other words, Jesus’ parable compared something familiar to something unfamiliar with illustrations or stories to help the people understand God and God’s Kingdom. Many people call a parable an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Parables are much more than “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Though Jesus’ parables were stories about everyday experiences, these parables pierced to the very heart of God’s truths. The Greek word for “parable” is a broad term and may refer to a simile (e.g., Matthew 10:16; Matthew 13:33), a metaphor (e.g., Mark 4:21), a proverb (e.g., Luke 4:23), a story (e.g., Luke 15:1-32), an allegory (e.g., John 10), etc. Because of the varied definitions of a parable, biblical scholars have counted 79, 71, 59, 39, 37, and 33 parables in the New Testament.

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, He never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” Matthew 13:33-35 (NLT)

Why did Jesus teach in parables? Jesus’ disciples asked Him that very question (Matthew 13:10; Luke 8:9). Jesus’ practice of teaching in parables fulfilled prophecy (Matthew13:33-35; see also Psalm 78:2). Parables were Jesus’ method to illustrate God’s truths, reveal God’s Kingdom, and awaken spiritual perception to those who accepted Him as God’s Son and Messiah. However at the same time, Jesus’ parables concealed God’s truths from others who rejected Him and were not willing to receive His message (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Mark 13:11). The careless listeners who were stubborn, hardhearted and rebellious would hear only a story without spiritual meaning (Matthew 11:25-30; see also Isaiah 6:9-10). However, the sincere listener with a desire to know God and God’s Kingdom would ponder the parable, submit God, and then begin to understand the spiritual lessons taught by Jesus.

Jesus is the only One who used parables in the New Testament. However, parables are not unique to Jesus as Jesus did not invent the parable. Parables are also located in the Old Testament (e.g., see 2 Samuel 12:1-4; Isaiah 5:1-7). Also, parables were recognized as a literary type before the time of Jesus in the writings of the Greeks concerning rhetoric. The famous writer Homer included 189 parables in The Illiad and 39 more in The Odyssey. Plato’s poetic speech was rich in parables interwoven into his speech. Furthermore, some of the illustrations of Socrates were parabolic. Aristotle recognized the place of parables in his writings.

Furthermore, Jewish rabbis used parables in their teaching. In fact, there are many rabbinic parables found in the Jewish Mishnah and the Talmud. Remarkably, most rabbinic parables are dated after Jesus’ life and death. Many biblical scholars believe Jesus’ use of parables influenced many later rabbinic parables. Prior to Jesus’ public ministry in the first century, there were not many rabbinic parables. Thus, many biblical scholars believe that that Jesus did not invent the parables, but His use of parables increased the use of parables with the Jewish rabbis.

Nonetheless, Jewish rabbinic parables differed from Jesus’ parables. Jewish rabbis typically used parables to illustrate or clarify some point of the Law or Torah. In essence, rabbinic parables were like sermon illustrations. The rabbis would make a point and illustrate with a parable. However, Jesus used parables, unlike rabbinic parables. Jesus’ parables were new revelations about God and God’s Kingdom. Jesus’ parables did not discuss issues of the Law. Parables were told by Jesus usually to make God’s truth more engaging and clear to those who were willing to hear (Luke 15:3).

Later, when Jesus was alone with the Twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked Him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to Me and be forgiven.’” Mark 4:10-12 (NLT)

One of the most confusing passages in the Gospels comes at Mark 4:10-12 with Mark’s quotation of Isaiah 6:9-10.  Isaiah 6:9-10 is so important that this passage is quoted six times in the New Testament (see Matthew 13:13-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:25-28; Romans 11:8). A careful study of Jesus’ reply reveal that He used parables both to hide God’s truth and to reveal God’s truth (Matthew 13:11-17; Mark 4:11-12; Luke 8:10; see also Isaiah 6:9-10). Jesus spoke in parables because of the spiritual dullness of some people that rejected Him as God’s only begotten Son and the Messiah (see Matthew 13:13-14; Luke 8:4). Sadly, Jesus’ gracious works and teachings as God’s begotten Son and Messiah were intentionally rejected by many in unbelief (John 12:39-40). The Apostle Paul also faced hardened unbelief when preaching Jesus as Christ to others (e.g., see Acts 28:25-27). Continued rebellion and stubbornness toward God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit bring alienation and separation from God and God’s Kingdom (see Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Romans 11:7-10, 25). God does not deliberately make sinners blind, deaf, and hardhearted. However, the more that people resist God's truths spoken through His Son Jesus, the less able they are to receive God's truth. Jesus came not to obscure God but to reveal God and God’s Kingdom to the world (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus’ teaching makes God and God’s Kingdom known to those with responsive and open hearts towards Him. Acceptances of Jesus’ parables depended on the conditions of the hearer’s heart (Mark 4:13-20, 25). Everyone with obedient and loving hearts towards God responded positively to Jesus’ parables through the inward working of God’s Holy Spirit revealing God’s truths (John 14:15-17; John 15:26-27; see also James 1:22-25). To those with open hearts towards God and His Son Jesus received ears to hear and God’s truths by God’s Holy Spirit awakening and enlightening the hearer (see John 14:26; John 15:26-27; John 16:13). God’s Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us of Jesus' words (John 14:26; John 15:26).  When we commit ourselves to God found in Jesus Christ by faith, God enters into our heart in the Person of the Holy Spirit and reveals God’s truths – revelatory activity  (John 3:5-8; John 14:15-18; Acts 11:15-18; Galatians 4:4-7).

Jesus:  “If you love Me, obey My commandments. And I will ask (God) the Father, and He will give you another Advocate (Counselor, Helper), who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. . . . But when the Father sends the Advocate as My Representative — that is, the Holy Spirit — He will teach you everything . . . .” John 14:15-17, 26 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).
Cabel, Ted. The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
Douglas, JD. NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1989).
Green, Joel B. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downer Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2013).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Doing Good Deeds and God’s Will

One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon He and His disciples could not even find time to eat. When His (Jesus) family heard what was happening, they tried to take Him away. “He is out of His mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan (Beelzebub), the prince of demons. That is where He gets the power to cast out demons.” Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” He asked. “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. Let Me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger — someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.” Mark 3:20-27 (NLT)

Mark 3:20 and following contains two harsh complaints against Jesus. Members of Jesus’ family said He was “out of His mind” (Mark 3:21), while the religious leaders accused Jesus of being demon-possessed and being filled with an evil (unclean) spirit (Mark 3:21-22). This Scripture section begins once again with crowds of people gathering around Jesus. Jesus was so busy ministering to the needs of the people that He and His disciples could not even find time to eat (Mark 3:20). The Gospel writers noted Jesus was a very popular because He cared and provided for the people (e.g. see Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 3:7; Mark 6:34). Because of Jesus’ popularity with the crowds, Jesus would take time away from the crowds to rest and pray (see Mark 1:35; Mark 6:31; Luke 4:42). Doing God's work is very important, but Jesus recognized rest and prayer were essential to ministering (serving) the people.

When Jesus’ family heard about Jesus not eating and His busyness, they came to take Jesus away with them that He might eat and rest. Jesus’ family thought He was insane, out of His mind, or having a mental breakdown (Mark 3:21). Even more, Jesus’ family wanted to protect Jesus from the large crowds and the opposition from religious authorities (Mark 3:21-22). The Holy Scriptures teaches that Jesus had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). At first, Jesus’ brothers and sisters did not believe in Him or know His true identity as the Messiah (Christ) and God’s unique Son (John 7:1–5; Mark 1:1). At this point in the Gospels, Jesus’ family simply wanted to protect Him from the growing crowds and increasing religious opposition.

The religious authorities came from Jerusalem because they believed Jesus was possessed with an evil (unclean) spirit (see Matthew 12:24; Luke 11:15). In this Scripture, the religious leaders attributed Jesus’ healing, miracles, and casting out evil spirits to evil (unclean) spirits rather than to God’s Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22; see also Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24). Refusing to believe that Jesus came from God, the religious authorities said Jesus was in league with Satan. The religious authorities accused Jesus of receiving His powers to cast out evil spirits not from God’s Holy Spirit but from evil (unclean) spirits (Mark 3:22). The Holy Scripture makes reference to “Beelzebub” or “Beelzebul.” The terms literally mean “lord of the flies.” In some sources, Beelzebub is like Satan or one of Satan’s leaders. Jesus responded to the religious leaders’ ridiculous accusations with a parable. A parable compares one thing to another. Jesus said: “How can Satan cast out Satan. . . . A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive” (Mark 3:23-26 NLT). In essence, Jesus said the religious leaders’ accusation against Him were illogical. Divided kingdoms fall (Mark 3:24); divided houses fall (Mark 3:25); therefore, Satan fighting against himself would lead to self-destruction (Mark 3:26; see also Matthew 12:25-26; Luke 11:17-18).

“Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only Someone even stronger — Someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.” Mark 3:27 (NLT)

With this statement at Mark 3:27, Jesus described His ministry. Jesus is stronger than all evil as He is the STRONGER MAN. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to defeat evil and release people from the burden and power of sin (Luke 11:21-22; see also Luke 4:18). Jesus’ ministry is not only teaching, preaching, and healing but also casting out evil from people’s lives (Matthew 4:23-25). Jesus is the Prince of Peace but He is also the Stronger Man by removing evil from people’s lives. Jesus has complete power and authority over evil and evil forces.  The only way for Jesus to establish God’s Kingdom on earth is to remove the kingdom of evil. Jesus’ ministry removes evil and sin from the world (Luke 11:20).

As mentioned at Mark 1:14-15, the Kingdom of God is the rule or reign of God. Jesus is the embodiment of God (see e.g., John 1:1-5, 14, 18; Romans 9:5; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 2:9-10; Hebrews 1:3-4) and embodies the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). In other words, Jesus bears God’s Kingdom in His very Person. Jesus’ most visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God was His casting out of evil (unclean) spirits from people’s lives. So when Jesus casted out evil (unclean) spirits from a person, Jesus was bringing the Kingdom of God or the rule of God into a person’s life. In the Gospels, these evil (unclean) spirits being removed by Jesus often resisted (e.g., see Mark 1:26; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:20) but the rule of God eventually entered through Jesus’ authoritative command. Also, when the Kingdom of God dawns in the presence, the Kingdom always causes conflict by exposing and removing evil. Practically speaking, anytime the Kingdom of God appears in the present there will always be conflict because the rule of God comes with resistance.

Ultimately, Jesus bound the strongman and defeated all evil through His sacrificial death on the Cross at Calvary (e.g., see Romans 5:6; 1 Peter 2:24). When Jesus died for our sins, He destroyed evil (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus’ public ministry removed and continues to remove people from the power of the strongman by healing, preaching and casting out demons (e.g., see Matthew 1:21; Galatians 1:4). Finally, Jesus bound the strongman by giving His life on the Cross as a ransom to save the world from sin (Matthew 20:28; John 1:29; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Jesus is the ending of old history by beginning God’s visible rule to earth (2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s Kingdom is here and now but God’s Kingdom appears unexpected forms and in the normal ordinary life. Eventually all evil will be constrained forever and evil will no longer roam the earth (Revelation 20:10).

“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 (NLT)

Then, Jesus gives a statement about the Holy Spirit and the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:28-30). Jesus said all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes (curses) the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven (Mark 3:29). In Mark 3:28-30, Jesus defines the unpardonable sin as crediting to Satan (Beelzebub) Jesus’ authenticating miracles, teaching, and healing done in the power of God’s Holy Spirit (see also Matthew 12:24, 28, 31-32; Luke 12:10). According Jewish scribes, blasphemy involved direct and explicit abuse and misuse of God’s Name (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11). As Jesus taught, all sin can and will be forgiven when there is repentance (Mark 3:28; see also Luke 13:3, 5). Even blasphemy, or profaning God’s Name in some way, can be forgiven when God’s forgiveness is sincerely sought (1 John 1:9; see also Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:38). However, blaspheming the Holy Spirit has eternal consequences (Luke 12:10). For the religious authorities to allege that Jesus was possessed by evil spirit was the worst kind of blasphemy (Mark 3:22). Anytime a person attributes a work of God through His Holy Spirit to evil or evil spirits, they are blaspheming or cursing the Holy Spirit. Thus, the unpardonable sin is the deliberate refusal to believe that Jesus came from the true and living God and God’s Holy Spirit dwelt in Jesus (see Hebrews 10:26-31).

The Holy Spirit brings God’s salvation and new life through faith and obedience in Jesus, God’s unique Son (see e.g., John 3:5-8; John 14:15-18; Acts 11:15-18; Galatians 4:4-7; Galatians 5:22-26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Jesus is the “Way, the Truth and the Life and no way can come to the true and living God without faith and obedience in Jesus (John 14:6; see also Acts 4:8-12; Hebrews 10:19-20). Anyone who rejects Jesus and His good works through the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, then that person is also rejecting God. Rejecting Jesus – God’s only solution for our sin sickness and eternal life – is the ultimate unpardonable sin. Jesus is the only way to forgiveness, peace and reconciliation with the true and living God (Acts 10:43; Romans 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). To refuse to follow Jesus is to choose to follow evil and eternal damnation (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers (and sisters) came to see Him. They stood outside and sent word for Him to come out and talk with them. There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.” Jesus replied, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He looked at those around Him and said, “Look, these are My mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35 (NLT)

Jesus’ mother, brothers and sisters came to Jesus to take Him home (Mark 3:31; see also Matthew 12:46-50). This is a replay of Mark 3:20-21. Again, Jesus’ family is concerned for Jesus’ safety and well-being. The crowds are forcing their way to Jesus and the religious authorities are plotting for ways to kill Him (see e.g., Mark 3:6; Luke 8:19-21). Despite all the commotion of the crowds and the religious leaders, Jesus made a radical statement about this real family. According to Jesus, His real family is “anyone who does God’s will” (Mark 3:35; see also Matthew 12:50; Luke 8:21; John 15:10, 14). Essentially, Jesus changed the relationship of our earthly family and reinterprets family as not human bloodline but according to those who accept Jesus as Savior and does God’s will (see also Matthew 7:21). When we trust Jesus as our Savior, God graciously provides us a new birth by His Holy Spirit and we enter into God's family (John 1:11-13; see also Romans 8:12-16; Ephesians 2:8-9). Through our faith and obedience in Jesus, we obtain God’s holy nature.

Some have mistakenly taken Jesus’ statement at Mark 3:31-35 as permission to neglect their families and family obligations. However, Jesus’ statement heightened our responsibility to care for our families and loved ones. Jesus did not abolish the Fifth Commandment to honor, respect, and care for one’s father and mother (see Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). Instead, Jesus’ makes the Law a matter of motives and the heart. As faithful followers of Jesus, Jesus’ love compels us to love and care for our families and others in need (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; see also Proverbs 30:17; Ephesian 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:8). Through faith in Jesus, God sends the Holy Spirit to fill genuine believers with a new heart, new attitude, and new motive to continue Jesus’ good works and produce good fruit and good deeds (Acts 11:17; Galatians 5:22-23). Since the Day of Pentecost, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is given to all believers who faithfully trust and obey Jesus to continue Jesus’ good deeds and work (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:45; Romans 8:9-11). If anyone wants the Holy Spirit, just ask God and God freely gives His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). However, even the closest human relationship must not stand between or supersede an individual’s primary loyalty to the Lord (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 16:24; Luke 11:23). Membership into God’s spiritual family, evidenced by trust and obedience to Jesus (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-16), is always more important than membership in our human families (Mark 10:30). We must all love God first with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; see also Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Yet membership in God’s family always leads to good deeds and loving others (e.g., see Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35; John 15:12; Galatians 6:7-10; James 2:14-21).

Believer’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Woman’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jesus' Great Popularity

Jesus went out to the lake with His disciples and a large crowd followed Him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about His miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see Him. Jesus instructed His disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush Him. He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch Him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of Him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of Him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who He was. Mark 3:7-12 (NLT)

During His public ministry, Jesus took the world by storm. Jesus was very popular with the people (Luke 7:17). Everyone was talking about Jesus – this Man from Galilee (Matthew 9:26; Mark 1:28, 45; Luke 4:14-15, 37). Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) were coming long distances to see and hear Jesus (Matthew 4:23-25). Some people were simply curious (e.g., Luke 23:8-12), some sought their healing (e.g., Mark 8:22-26), some enjoyed His teaching (Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:21-22), some wanted evidence to use against Him (e.g., Mark 11:27-33), and others wanted to know if Jesus truly was the Messiah (Christ) and the unique Son of God (e.g., Mark 14:61-62). Not everyone applauded Jesus’ fame and popularity (e.g., e.g., Mark 2:6-7, 16-17, 24; Mark 12:13). Many religious leaders rejected Jesus and plotted to kill Him (Mark 3:2, 5-6, 22). Yet, the news about Jesus’ miraculous healing of the sick (Mark 1:29-31), feedings of thousands (Mark 6:32-44; Mark 8:1-9), His great compassion and mercy (Mark 1:40-44), wised teaching (Matthew 5 – 7), and deliverance (Mark 5:1-20) spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see Him (Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12). Jesus’ fame spread from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon (Mark 3:7-8). He was not only popular among the clean orthodox Jews from Judea and Jerusalem but Jesus was also popular among Gentiles (non-Jews) from Tyrea, Sidon, and Decapolis (Matthew 4:23-25). Thus, Jesus’ appeal was universal as He sought to unite and reconcile Jews and Gentiles and create the church (see Ephesians 2:11-22). Jesus did good deeds for others and lived a self-sacrificing life for the good of others (Acts 10:38; see also Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 6:9-10). Most important, Jesus loved and cared for all people, even to the point of giving His life to save all them (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Galatians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 3:16).

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. 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. Large crowds followed Him wherever He went — people from Galilee, the Ten Towns (also called “Decapolis,” a league of ten Gentile cities east of the Sea of Galilee), Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River. Matthew 4:23-25 (NLT)

Jesus became popular with people as He went healing, teaching, preaching and casting out demons – four basic characteristics of Jesus’ public ministry (Matthew 4:23-25). All of these characteristics were prepared in the summary statement of Mark 1:14-15. Mark 1:14-15 is basically a summary of Jesus’ ministry. The central message of Jesus is the Kingdom of God. The basic understanding of Kingdom of God is the rule of God. God was establishing His rule in human history through Jesus’ healing, teaching, preaching and casting out demons among the people. In Jesus dwelt the fullness of God and He was Good News to everyone (Acts 10:36, 38; Colossians 2:9-10).

This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel — that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:36-38 (NLT)

Jesus cared and did good for ALL PEOPLE – men, women, children, Jew, Gentile, poor, and wealthy, even the outcasts of society (Luke 2:30-32). Jesus loved and cared for lepers (people with skin disease) (Mark 1:40-44), notorious sinners, cheats, and the rejects (Mark 2:15-17).  Jesus accepted invitations to meals (Luke 19:1-10), blessed the children (Luke 18:15-17), and enjoyed social gatherings with a variety of people (e.g. Luke 14:1). Essentially, Jesus opened His life to ALL PEOPLE as the Savior of the world (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). The people were desperate and they needed the presence of God dwelling fully within Jesus (Matthew 28:18; Colossian 1:19; Colossians 2:9-10). The true and living God was with the people with Jesus’ public ministry on earth (Matthew 1:21-23). As God incarnate (in the flesh), Jesus came revealing to the world just how much God loves and cares for people (e.g., see John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-9). Jesus was uniting the clean and unclean worlds and transforming lives (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23).

When Jesus heard . . ., He told them, “Sick people need the doctor, not healthy ones! I have not come to tell good people to repent, but the bad ones.” Mark 2:17 (TLB)

Jesus came into the world to call sinners to repentance (Luke 19:10; see also 1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus does not consider sinner “rejects,” even though they had been excluded by the religious leaders. Instead, Jesus “came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10 NLT). Jesus sees sinners as patients who needs a merciful Physician (Mark 2:17). Sin may be compared to sickness and Jesus provides the final and complete cure for our sin – the sinful heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus graciously heals our sin sickness through the power of God’s Holy Spirit when we (1) acknowledge and confess our sins to God; (2) believe (trust) in Jesus as God’s unique Son and final sacrifice for sin; and (3) continual walk in obedience to God from the heart (John 15:9-17). Jesus freely saves all sinners (Luke 19:10) because He heals not just our physical sickness, but of spiritual sickness as well. There is no sin or problem too great or too small for Jesus to save.

Sadly, the crowds of people that followed Jesus did not truly give their lives in wholehearted obedience and faith in Him. Salvation from sin sickness involves much more than knowing about Jesus, or even having “good feelings” toward Jesus. Salvation is not a partial patching up of one's life but a whole new robe of righteousness graciously given by God through faith in His Son, Jesus (Isaiah 61:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Salvation means faith and obedience in Jesus. The closer one genuinely and wholeheartedly trust and obeys Jesus (James 2:14-17), the more the magnitude of one’s sins and the need for repentance (e.g., see Isaiah 6:5). Even more with our trust and obedience in Jesus, God graciously sends the power of His Holy Spirit to live within a believers’ heart (Ephesians 1:13-14; Titus 3:4-7). When you trust Jesus, you become part of a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Apostle Paul:  “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).