Monday, August 31, 2015

Mr. Wonderful

36 Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more He told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything He does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” Mark 7:36-37 (NLT)

After Jesus healed a little girl of unclean spirits, He left from Tyre and went into Sidon. Then, Jesus went back to the Sea of Galilee by way of Decapolis — the ten Gentile communities east of the Jordan River (Mark 7:31; see also Matthew 4:25). Once again, Jesus was in Gentile territory. Everywhere Jesus went in the first century, people were amazed by Him (e.g. see Mark 1:22; Mark 2:12; Mark 5:20, 42; Mark 6:2, 51; Mark 7:37; Mark 12:17; Mark 15:5).

As Jesus ministered during His public ministry on earth, vast crowds brought Him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who could not speak, and many others, and laid them before Jesus, and He healed them all (Matthew 15:30; see also Matthew 4:23-24). Jesus never turned away the needy and disabled, but He blessed them according to their needs (e.g. Matthew 9:35-36; Matthew 14:14; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:34; Mark 1:41; Mark 6:34; Mark 8:2). Then, a deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to Jesus, and everyone begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man and heal him (Mark 7:32). Jesus led the deaf man away from the crowd (Mark 7:33). Then, Jesus placed His fingers into the deaf man’s ears, spat and touched the man’s tongue with the spittle (Mark 7:33). Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed and commanded, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”) (Mark 7:34). Instantly, the deaf man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly! (Mark 7:35). Everyone was amazed with excitement when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing (Matthew 15:31). The Gentile crowds praised and glorified the God of Israel because such extraordinary power comes only from God. (Matthew 15:31; see also 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Jesus told the crowd not to spread the news, but the more He forbade them, the more people made Jesus known to others (Mark 7:36; see also Mark 1:44-45). The people were overcome with utter amazement because of Jesus (Mark 7:37). Again and again the people said, “Everything He (Jesus) does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak” (Mark 7:37, NLT). Jesus was doing what God had promised through the prophet Isaiah (e.g., see Isaiah 29:18-21; Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1). The prophet Isaiah predicted that spiritual and physical healing and restoration would be linked to Jesus the Messiah (e.g., see Matthew 11:4-6; Matthew 15:31; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:18-19; Luke 4:40-41; Luke 7:22-23). The true and living God brought glory to His Son and Servant Jesus – the Author of Life (Acts 3:13, 15). “Jesus is the only One who can save people. His Name is the only power in the world that has been given to save people. We must be saved through Him” (Acts 4:12 (NCV). Through faith in the Name of Jesus, everyone can receive their healing and restoration (Acts 3:16). Salvation comes from no other name!

29 Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. 30 A vast crowd brought to Him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who could not speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and He healed them all. 31 The crowd was amazed! Those who had not been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel. Matthew 15:29-31 (NLT)

Even today, Jesus continues His ministry of salvation – healing and restoration – to everyone who trusts and believes in Him. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Book of Acts tells of Jesus’ ministry continuing through His disciples with the help of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). On the day of Pentecost, Jesus generously made available the Holy Spirit to continue His earthly mission to the world to all who believe (Acts 2:1-4, 17-21). With the Holy Spirit, the Book of Acts revealed Jesus’ disciples healing, teaching, preaching, and casting out demons through Jesus’ Name (e.g., Acts 3:1-11). With the help of the Holy Spirit, Jesus built His church as He had promised at Matthew 16:18). The first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts revealed the Apostle Peter building the church as Jesus promised (Acts 1:1—12:25) and the rest of the Book of Acts revealed Apostle Paul continuing Jesus’ ministry of teaching, preaching, healing, and casting out demons (Acts 13:1—28:31).

Apostle Peter:  22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through Him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and His prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed Him to a cross and killed Him. 24 But God released Him from the horrors of death and raised Him back to life, for death could not keep Him in its grip. . . . 32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now He is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as He had promised, gave Him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. . . .  36 So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”. . .  38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles — all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:22-24, 32-33, 36, 38-39 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Praying Woman!

24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He did not want anyone to know which house He was staying in, but He could not keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about Him came and fell at His feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil (unclean) spirit, 26 and she begged Him to cast out the demon from her daughter. Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, 27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children — My own family, the Jews. It is not right to take food from the children (Jews) and throw it to the dogs.” 28 She replied, “That is true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.” 29 “Good answer!” He said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone. Mark 7:24-30 (NLT)

At Mark 7:24-30, Mark contrasts the faith of the Syrophoenician woman as a total contrast of the religious leaders discussed in Mark 7:1-23 (see parallel references at Matthew 15:1-20 and Matthew 15:21-28). Jesus left Galilee and went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24; see also Matthew 15:21). These cities were port cities on the Mediterranean Sea north of Israel in Gentile (non-Jewish) territories. Many Jews would not affiliate with the Tyre and Sidon regions because they were Israel’s enemies. However, Jesus’ ministry was for all people — first to Jews but also to Gentiles (see Matthew 10:6; Romans 1:16-17). Jesus extended His mission of grace and mercy beyond Israel to show God's love towards all people (see also Genesis 12:1-3). There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. All people are sinners (Romans 3:23), and all people need Jesus as Savior (Matthew 1:21, 23; Matthew 12:17-21; Luke 2:10-11). Jesus came to be the Savior of the world – regardless of race, color, or creed (faith) (e.g., see Romans 3:22; Romans 10:12-13; Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 2:11–22; Colossians 3:11).

21 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to Him (Jesus), pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” 23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then His disciples urged Him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” 24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep — the people of Israel.” 25 But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!26 Jesus responded, “It is not right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s table.” 28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. Matthew 15:21-28 (NLT)

While in Tyre and Sidon, Jesus tried to keep it a secret that He was there, but He could not (Mark 7:24). For as usual, the news of Jesus’ arrival spread fast throughout Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24; see also Matthew 4:24). Right away, a Gentile woman came to Jesus (Matthew 15:22). This woman’s little girl was possessed by an evil (unclean, demon) spirit and she sought out Jesus’ salvation and healing by faith (Mark 7:25). She had heard about Jesus. The concerned mother came and fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Jesus to release her child from the evil’s control (Mark 7:25-26; see also Matthew 15:22-23). This Gentile woman mother cried out to Jesus by faith and pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely” (Matthew 15:22, NLT). This concerned mother was persistent because she needed a miraculous healing from Jesus (see also Luke 18:1-8). Jesus marvels at this woman’s faith. In contrast with the Jewish religious leaders in Mark 7:1-23, the woman was a Gentile – an outsider. Yet, this woman believed in Jesus and her faith in Jesus was rewarded!

The Gospel writer Mark describes the woman as Syrophoenician — a “despised Gentile!” (Mark 7:26). However, Matthew’s Gospel refers to the woman as a Canaanite or Greek. In other words, this woman was a Gentile, outside the Jewish race and a Syrian Phoenician woman. Jesus told the Syrophoenician woman, “First I should help My own family — the Jews. It is not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27, TLB). Jesus was also Jewish. However, the concerned mother continued to worship and pleaded with Jesus again saying, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15:25, NLT). We cannot but admire the patience and persistence of this concerned mother. She came to Jesus seeking salvation and restoration for her daughter. The woman’s behavior indicates both reverence and desperation (Mark 7:25).

Jesus’ response to the Gentile woman has given rise to all kinds of interpretation (Mark 7:27; see also Matthew 15:26). Some commentaries have argued that Jesus was insensitive to the Gentile woman when Jesus called the woman a “dog.” Other commentaries argue that Jesus was saying that His first priority was to provide food for the children (the Jewish people) and not to allow little dogs or house pets to interrupt the family meal. In reality, Jesus was being cynical (mocking) against the Jewish views of Gentiles. The children are obviously the Jews. The Gospel writers are contrasting the Jewish religious leaders and the faith of a Gentile woman. Jesus is not a heartless, insensitive, and racist Jew! The critical point is the use of the word “dogs.” Many dogs in the first century were not domesticated animals or pets but outdoor scavengers or unclean animals like wild hogs. In Judaism, dogs were considered the most unclean animal of all because they survived by eating corpses and the garbage. It was very common for Jews to call Gentiles “dogs.”

Then, the Syrophoenician woman replied to Jesus, “That is true, Sir, but even the puppies under the table are given some scraps from the children’s plates” (Mark 7:28, TLB). The woman did not try to argue with Jesus and deny the special place of the Jewish people (John 4:22; see also Exodus 4:22). “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Using Jesus’ choice of imagery, the Syrophoenician woman pointed out that she was willing to be considered an interruption as long as she received healing for her daughter. Ironically, many Jews lost God's physical and spiritual healing because they rejected God’s Son, Jesus. Yet, many Gentiles, whom the Jews rejected, would find God's blessing and salvation because they believed and trusted in Jesus.

Jesus commended the woman’s faith and said, “Good . . . .  You have answered well — so well that I have healed your little girl. Go on home, for the demon has left her!” (Mark 7:29). And when the woman returned home, her little girl was lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone (Mark 7:30). The Syrophoenician woman was rewarded and triumphed for her persistence, determination, and faith in Jesus! This woman’s faith was great because she persisted in asking and trusting God.

Jesus:  7Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 You parents — if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT)

The Gospel writers used the Gentile woman's persistent faith as an object lesson for the world. Because of the woman’s persistent faith, Jesus praised her and healed her daughter (Mark 7:29-30; see also Matthew 15:28). Prayer is not a onetime test of God but an ongoing communication with our loving Heavenly Father and faith in Jesus (e.g. see Genesis 32:26, 29; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 5:13-18). Jesus urged boldness and persistence in prayer (Luke 18:1-8; see also Hebrews 4:14-16). “One day Jesus told His disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1, NLT). Always praying means keeping your requests constantly before God as we seek and trust Him day by day, believing He will answer. God may delay answering, but God will “never, never fail you nor forsake. That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, ‘The Lord is my Helper, and I am not afraid . . . ’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, TLB). God honors persistent prayer with pure motives and purposes (James 4:2-3). Even more, faith in Jesus makes miracles possible! Our lack of faith in Jesus is the only thing that robs us of God’s power in our lives.

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
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 – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Friday, August 21, 2015

True Spirituality

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” He said, “and try to understand. It is not what goes into your body that defiles (pollutes) you; you are defiled (polluted, unholy) by what comes from your heart.” Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and His disciples asked Him what He meant by the parable He had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” He asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile (pollute) you? Food does not go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, He declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then He added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles (pollutes) you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander (insult), pride, and foolishness. All these vile (evil) things come from within; they are what defile (pollute) you.” Mark 7:14-23 (NLT)

Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Mark emphasized Jesus’ active public ministry. However in Mark 7:1-8:26, Mark records some of Jesus’ most important teachings and His ministry amongst the Gentiles (non-Jews).

First, Mark 7:1-23 records Jesus’ teaching on inner purity (see also Matthew 15:1-20). Mark 7 begins with Jesus’ confrontation with religious leaders. During Jesus’ public ministry, many religious leaders from Jerusalem investigated and tested Him to authenticate His ministry (Mark 7:1; see also Matthew 15:1). These religious leaders included Pharisees, scribes and other experts of the Law. These leaders have been Jesus’ principal enemies from the beginning phase of His public ministry (e.g., see Mark 2:6-7, 16; Mark 3:6, 22).

During Jesus’ investigation, the religious leaders noted that Jesus’ disciples failed to obey the many Jewish religious rituals before eating (Mark 7:2; see also Matthew 15:2). For the Jews, especially the Pharisees, did eat until they had sprinkled their arms to the elbows, as required by their ancient traditions (Mark 7:3; see also Matthew 15:2; Luke 11:38; John 2:6). These ritual washings had nothing to do with personal hygiene or cleanliness, nor were these rituals commanded in the Law of Moses. These traditional cleansing rituals were a part of the many traditions that the scribes and Pharisees had given to the people to add to their burdens (Matthew 23:4; see also Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 11:46). Jesus had previously violated many of the religious leaders’ Sabbath traditions and regulations (e.g. see Mark 2:23-3:5).

These Jewish rituals did not come from the Law of Moses but from many ancient rules and rituals created by men, also called “traditions of the elders” (Mark 7:3, 5, 8; see also Matthew 15:2; Galatians 1:14; Colossians 2:8). These man-made rituals and traditions were also called “the fence of the Law.” After the Babylonian exile, the Jewish rabbis began to make meticulous rules and regulations governing the daily life of the people. These traditions were interpretations and applications of the Law of Moses, handed down from generation to generation. The Pharisees and teachers of the law considered these traditions equally important as the Mosaic Law. These traditions of the elders were not the Law, but their intentions were to protect the Law of Moses. These traditions were originally the “oral law” that (according to Jewish rabbis) Moses gave to the elders, and these passed down to the nation. This oral law was finally written down and became the Mishnah. Sadly, these traditions became more important and more authoritative than the original Law of Moses. Even worse, many of these traditions had become empty rituals that resulted in pride and religious isolation. These traditions focused on outwardly holiness but ignored the important inwardly holiness – mercy, justice, faithfulness, humility, and the love of God (Mark 7:4; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 23:23, 25; Luke 11:39-42).

So the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?” (Mark 7:5, NKJV). Jesus replied, “You bunch of hypocrites (pretenders)! Isaiah the prophet described you very well when he said, ‘These people speak very beautifully about the Lord but they have no love for Him at all. Their worship is a farce (nothing), for they claim that God commands the people to obey their petty rules’” (Mark 7:6-7, TLB, quoting Isaiah 29:13; see also Matthew 15:7-9). Remarkably, the religious leaders were disobeying the living Word of God and substituting God’s Law for their man-made traditions (Mark 7:8; see also Hebrews 4:12). In other words, the religious leaders were rejecting and breaking the spirit of God’s Law for the sake of practicing their traditions (Mark 7:9; see also Matthew 15:3; Luke 21:33; Colossians 2:20-22).

Jesus gave the religious leaders an illustration of their disobedience to God’s specific Law with their practice of “Corban” (Mark 7:10-13; see also Matthew 15:4-7). Moses gave the people this Law from God: “Honor your father and mother and . . . Anyone who speaks against his father or mother must die” (Mark 7:10, TLB; quoting Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9; see also Ephesians 6:1-2). The man-made traditions not from God’s written Word said, “it is perfectly all right for a man to disregard his needy parents, telling them, ‘Sorry, I cannot help you! For I have given to God what I could have given to you’” (Mark 7:11, TLB). Instead of using their wealth to support their needy parents, these irresponsible religious people would dedicate that wealth to God. The Hebrew word Corban means “a gift.” If a Jew wanted to escape some financial responsibilities, he would declare his goods or wealthy to be “Corban — a gift to God.” Thus, these people would no longer use that particular wealth for their needy parents (Mark 7:12; see also Matthew 15:5-6). These people continued to get the benefit of that wealth, even though that gift technically belonged to God. This meant a Jew was free from other obligations, such as caring for their parents. But in so doing, these Jews were losing the power of God’s living Word by were ignoring God's clear commandment to honor their families (Mark 7:12; see also Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; 1 Timothy 5:8) and to care for those in need (Leviticus 25:35-43). Jesus scolded the religious leaders for keeping their religious rituals and traditions in order to look holy but inside they were filled with greed and selfishness (Matthew 23:25; see also Mark 7:4; Luke 11:39). Jesus said “Corban” was just one example of many other man-made traditions that specifically contradicted and violated God’s living and powerful Word (Mark 7:13; see also Matthew 5:18; Luke 21:33; Hebrews 4:12).

Then Jesus called to the crowds and said, “Listen to what I say and try to understand: You are not made unholy by eating non-kosher food! It is what you say and think that makes you unclean.” Then the disciples came and told Him, “You offended the Pharisees by that remark.” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by My Father shall be rooted up, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and both will fall into a ditch.” Then Peter asked Jesus to explain what He meant when He said that people are not defiled by non-kosher food. “Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked him. “Don’t you see that anything you eat passes through the digestive tract and out again? But evil words come from an evil heart and defile (pollute) the man who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication (sexual immorality), theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile (pollute); but there is no spiritual defilement from eating without first going through the ritual of ceremonial hand washing!” Matthew 15:10-20 (TLB)

Then, Jesus called to the crowds to come together and taught the people with a parable (Mark 7:14). Jesus said, “Your souls are not harmed by what you eat, but by what you think and say!” (Mark 7:15, TLB). Sin is a matter of the heart where motivation and attitudes are formed. Evil actions are rooted in an evil heart. Afterwards, Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowds, and His disciples asked Him what He meant by the parable He had just made (Mark 7:17; see also Matthew 15:15). Jesus explained to His disciples that what we eat will not harm and defile our souls (Mark 7:18). Jesus declared boldly to the crowds that sin comes from the heart (Matthew 15:18). According to Jesus, food does not come in contact with our hearts, but only passes through our digestive system (Mark 7:19; see also Matthew 15:17). With this statement, Jesus showed that every kind of food is kosher (purified or clean) and declared null and void the entire Levitical system of “clean and unclean” (Mark 7:19; see also Acts 10:15; 1 Timothy 4:3-6).

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. . . . For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” Matthew 12:33-37 (NLT)

Jesus goes on to say, “It is the thought-life that pollutes” (Mark 7:20, TLB). Jesus declared we are not made unholy by eating non-kosher food! Instead, Jesus explained that our evil thoughts and actions that come from the heart make one unclean and unholy before God (Matthew 15:18; see also Matthew 12:33-37). The word “heart” in the Holy Scriptures refers to our mental and moral center, not the organ that pumps blood through our veins. The Holy Scriptures reminds us to “guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course (issues) of your life” (Proverbs 4:23; see also Luke 6:45). From within and out of our human hearts, come evil thoughts of lust, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy (evil eye), slander (abusive language and evil speaking), pride, and all other foolishness (Mark 7:21-22; see also Romans 1:28-32). All these evil things come from within our hearts and makes one unholy and unfit before God (Mark 7:23). If we store up goods things in our hearts, our words and actions will be good. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; see also Mark 7:21).

Jesus: "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the Law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things." Matthew 23:23 (NLT)

During Jesus’ public ministry and even today, many people do many religious works, such as rituals and regulations, to try to please God. However, the Holy Scriptures has explained clearly what God desires. God has always wanted our wholehearted love, faithfulness, and obedience towards Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; see also Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). In other words, God wants our total devotion to Him from our hearts and not our lip service (Matthew 6:33). In addition, God wants our unfailing love, mercy, truth, kindness, compassion, patience, forgiveness and faithfulness towards others (Luke 10:25-37; see also Leviticus 19:18; Micah 6:6-8; John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:19-21). These good fruit (works) reflect God’s very character and nature (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12-15). God is more concerned about hearts (Matthew 15:16-20). God sees our hearts – the way we are deep down (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Matthew 21:27; 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Love – love for God and love for others – is the essences of God’s entire Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:34-40; see also Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-37; John 13:34-35; John 15:12; Romans 12:9-21; James 2:1-4, 14-17; 1 John 2:7-11; 1 John 4:721-11; see also Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Starting with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 – 7:29), Jesus taught that true worship and holiness is not outward religious ritual, rules, and regulations but inward love for God and love for others as the Old Testament prophets previously stated (e.g., see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 1:10-20; Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Jeremiah 22:3, 16; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6-8).

The Holy Scriptures have always demanded our genuine and wholehearted love, alliance, and devotion to God along with justice, mercy, and compassion towards others (e.g. see Matthew 22:34-40). In every period of history, true holiness has always been a matter of the heart with a right relationship with God by faith and loving-kindness towards others (e.g. see Leviticus 26:3; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Deuteronomy 30:6, 20; Psalm 51:6, 10, 16-17). Truth, justice, mercy, kindness and faith not legalism forms the center of true spirituality (Micah 6:6-8; also Luke 11:42; Luke 18:9-14; James 1:26-27). God desires our genuine wholehearted love and devotion to Him and not just religious rituals to appear holy.

Jesus further explained to avoid evil and wicked actions, we must allow God’s Holy Spirit to penetrate our hearts with His truth – God’s Word (John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13). Through our faith in Jesus as God’s Son, God the Father and Jesus send the Holy Spirit to empower and strengthen believers to be good and obey God from within the heart (see John 14 – 16). The people of God are to be loving and merciful in all of their relationships to others. In this way, others will recognize the people of God (see e.g. John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:17-18).

If you claim to be religious but do not control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:26-27 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Jesus Calms Our Storms

45 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that His disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while He sent the people home. 46 After telling everyone goodbye, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. Mark 6:45-46 (NLT)

After Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 14:21), Jesus dismissed the crowd. Then, Jesus instructed His disciples to get into the boat (Mark 6:45; see also Matthew 14:22). John’s Gospel indicated that the crowds were ready to take Jesus by force and make Him King after the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes (John 6:14-15). However, Jesus was already King but His Kingdom was not of this world (e.g., see Matthew 27:11, 37; John 18:33, 36-37; Revelation 19:16). Therefore, Jesus compelled His disciples get into a boat as He dismissed the crowd (Mark 6:45; see also Matthew 14:22).

Then, Jesus went up into the hills alone to pray (Mark 6:46; see also Matthew 14:23; John 6:16-17). Jesus always made room in His busy schedule to be alone with God the Father in prayer and fellowship (e.g., see Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Mark 14:32-36; Luke 11:1). The New Testament reveals Jesus in continual fellowship with God the Father in prayer (e.g., see Luke 9:28-29; Luke 22:32; Luke 23:34, 46). Jesus prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21), before He chose the Twelve (Luke 6:12), when the crowds increased (Luke 5:16), before He asked the Twelve for their confession of faith (Luke 9:18), at His Transfiguration (Luke 9:29) and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41). If Jesus depended on prayer during His public ministry on earth (Hebrews 5:7), then we too must continually stay in prayer with God the Father (see Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He (Jesus) saw that they (His disciples) were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw Him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking He was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw Him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Do not be afraid,” He said. “Take courage! I am here! Mark 6:47-50 (NLT)

During the night, Jesus’ disciples were in their boat out in the middle of the lake when a storm suddenly arose (John 6:18). Jesus saw that His disciples were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the strong winds and waves (Mark 6:47-48; see also Matthew 14:24; John 6:18). Then, Jesus walked on the water to come save His struggling disciples (Mark 6:48; see also Matthew 14:25; John 6:19). Jesus’ walking on the water was a special display of Jesus’ majestic power, divine nature and transcendence as God Incarnate (see Job 9:8; Psalm 89:9; Isaiah 51:10, 15; Jeremiah 31:35; John 1:1-5, 15). When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water beside them they screamed in terror, thinking He was a ghost (Mark 6:49-50; see also Matthew 14:26; John 6:19). Then, Jesus calmed His frightened disciples and said, “Do not be afraid . . . . Take courage. I AM here!” (Matthew 14:27; see also Mark 6:50; John 6:20). “I AM here” was intended by Jesus to reveal His divine disclosure as God Incarnate (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:10, 13; see also Matthew 1:21, 23; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:15, 19; Hebrews 1:1-3).

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. . . . 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:1, 4-5 (NLT)

Interestingly in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus started to walk past His disciples (Mark 6:48). Some commentaries argue Jesus wanted to let His disciples fend for themselves for them to recognize and deal with their deep needs (Mark 6:48). Other commentaries argue this scene also recalls God's self-revelation to Moses at Exodus 33:17–34:8 and the prophet Elijah at 1 Kings 19:11-13. Regardless of which view you accept, the disciples should have realized that Jesus would always help them when they were in trouble (see Matthew 28:20; John 14:26). Though the disciples had lost sight of Jesus, Jesus had not lost sight of them. Jesus’ love and concern for God’s people overcame their lack of faith during their struggles (Psalm 23:1, 4). Jesus is truly our Lord, Savior, Healer, Provider, and Protector (John 16:33; see also Hebrews 4:14-16).

28 Then Peter called to Him, “Lord, if it is really You, tell me to come to You, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt Me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped Him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. Matthew 14:28-33 (NLT)

In Matthew’s Gospel, the Gospel writer reveals Peter calling to Jesus saying, “Lord, if it is really You, tell me to come to You, walking on the water” (Matthew 14:28, NLT). Jesus told Peter to “come” (Matthew 14:29). So, Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus (Matthew 14:29). However, when Peter looked around at the high waves, he became afraid and terrified and began to sink (Matthew 14:30). Peter was the only disciple in the boat to experience a rather unusual demonstration of God's power. However, Peter started to sink when took his eyes off Jesus in faith and focused on the high waves and storm. Doubt made Peter fail! Fear and faith cannot live in the same heart, for fear always blinds the eyes to the presence of Jesus. We must keep our eyes on Jesus! Faith is a mindset that expects God to act. When we set our expectation on Jesus, we can overcome our fears (see Hebrews 12:2)! “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12). In spite of terrifying circumstances, if we trust our lives to Jesus for His safekeeping, Jesus will give us peace in any storm.

Then, Peter cried out to Jesus, “Save me, Lord!” (Matthew 14:30). Jesus immediately reached out His hand and rescued Peter (Matthew 14:31). Jesus said “You have so little faith . . . . Why did you doubt Me?” (Matthew 14:31; see also James 1:5-8). Then, Jesus climbed into the boat with His disciples and the storming winds immediately stopped (Mark 6:51; see also Matthew 14:32; John 6:21). Jesus’ disciples were completely amazed (Mark 6:51; see also Mark 1:22). When Jesus calmed the first storm (Matthew 8:23-27), the disciples said, “Who is this Man? . . . Even the winds and waves obey Him!” (Matthew 8:27, NLT). But now, the disciples worshiped Jesus and declared, “You really are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33, NLT). This miracle revealed Jesus’ divine nature and authority over the natural world.

53 After they (Jesus and His disciples) had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore 54 and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once, 55 and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard He was. 56 Wherever He went — in villages, cities, or the countryside — they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged Him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of His robe (garment), and all who touched Him were healed. Mark 6:53-56 (NLT)

When Jesus and His disciples crossed to the other side of the lake, they landed at Gennesaret (Mark 6:53; see also Matthew 14:34). When the people recognized Jesus, news about Him rapidly spread amongst the people (Mark 6:54; see also Matthew 14:35). Then, the people began bring Jesus their sick and lame for healing (Mark 6:55; see also Matthew 14:35). Wherever Jesus went — in villages and cities, and out on the farms — people placed their sick and lame in front of Him and begged Jesus to let them at least touch the hem of His garment (Mark 6:56; see also Matthew 14:36). Everyone who touched Jesus was made well and healed (Mark 6:56; see also Matthew 14:36; Mark 2:3-4; Mark 5:28). As our Healer – physically and spiritually, Jesus continues to heal and help everyone who places their hope and faith in Him.

1 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge. . . . 10Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” 11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Psalms 46:1-3, 10-11 (NLT)

Faithlife Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Cabel, Ted. The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Jesus Provides!

41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, He kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves! Mark 6:41-44 (NLT)

The miraculous feeding of five thousand men along with women and children with five loaves and two fish is the only miracle (except Jesus’ miraculous resurrection) repeated in all four Gospels (see Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15). The feeding was definitely a miracle (John 6:14). This miraculous feeding also gives some of the best insights into Jesus’ character and identity as God Incarnate (in human flesh) and Savior (Matthew 1:21, 23; John 1:1-5, 14 see also Colossians 1:15, 19). With this miracle, Jesus reveals His compassion, patience, goodness, grace, and mercy (Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34; see also Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 15:32; Matthew 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13).

Jesus:  10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep. . . . 14 I am the Good Shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 just as My Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice My life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11, 14-15 (NLT)

The miraculous feeding begins after Jesus and His disciples had returned from their evangelistic mission of preaching, teaching, and healing tour as they proclaimed the Kingdom of God (Matthew 10:9-15; Mark 6:8-13, 30; Luke 9:1-6, 10). Jesus and His disciples were very tired and weary, and they desperately needed rest (Mark 6:30-31). Jesus took His disciples to a secluded place so that they might rest after their labors (Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10). However, the crowds saw Jesus and His disciples and ran to them (Matthew 14:13-14; Mark 6:33; Luke 9:11). Huge crowds kept following Jesus wherever He went because they saw His miraculous signs as He healed the sick (John 6:2). In spite of His tiredness and weariness, Jesus welcomed the people. Jesus showed the crowd compassion and tender care instead of showing impatience at the interruption of His quiet time (Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34; Luke 9:11). Jesus taught the people about the Kingdom of God (God's righteous rule in human hearts) and healed those who needed healing (Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34; Luke 9:11). To Jesus, the crowds were as sheep without a Good Shepherd (Mark 6:34; see also Psalm 23:1; Ezekiel 34:4-5, 11-16; Isaiah 40:11; John 10:10-11, 14-15). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who provides all our needs so that we lack nothing!

35 Late in the afternoon Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “This is a remote place, and it is already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.” 37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We would have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” 38 “How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.” They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” Mark 6:35-38 (NLT)

After Jesus’ preaching and healing, Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place” (Luke 9:12, NLT). However, Jesus said to His disciples, “You feed them” (Matthew 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13). Jesus was not the kind of person who could teach the Word and then say to hungry and needy people, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed” (James 2:16, NIV). Essentially, Jesus put the needs of others ahead of His own needs by caring for the people physically and spiritually. Then, the disciples told Jesus, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish” (Matthew 14:17; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:13). Andrew had found the boy with five loaves and two fishes (John 6:8-9). In John’s Gospel, Jesus turned to Philip and asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (John 6:5, NLT). Jesus was testing Philip for He already knew what He was going to provide (John 6:6).

41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and, looking up to heaven, He thanked God for the food. He divided the bread and gave it to His followers (disciples) for them to give to the people. Then He divided the two fish among them all. Mark 6:41 (NCV)

Next, Jesus instructed the hungry crowd to sit. Then, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up towards heaven, and thanked God for the food (Matthew 14:19; Mark 41; Luke 9:16). Blessing the food with thanksgiving was characteristic of Jesus (John 6:11, 23) and Jesus often looked up to heaven when He prayed (e.g. see also John 11:41-42; John 17:1). Note the prayer of thanksgiving to God occurred before the miracle. Jesus knew that the true and living God (His Father) is the Source of our daily bread (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3; see also Exodus 16:4) as well as all good and needful gifts (Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13; James 1:17-18). After giving thanks to God for the five loaves and two fishes, Jesus broke the loaves into pieces and He kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people (Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16). The people numbered 5,000 men addition to women and children (Matthew 14:21; see also John 6:10). All the people ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:42; Luke 9:17; John 6:12-13). These pieces were carefully collected so that nothing was wasted (Mark 6:43; John 6:12).

5 Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.” 6 That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, “The Lord is my Helper, and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me.” Hebrews 13:5-6 (TLB)

In a situation that looked impossible with human resources, Jesus revealed that nothing is possible when we look to God first with faith and thanksgiving for our help and our needs (Matthew 14:19; see also Matthew 6:33). Nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37) and everything is possible for him who believes (Mark 9:23; Mark 10:27). This miraculous feeding reveal we must never allow our lack of resources blind us to seeing God’s miraculous power of providing all our needs (see 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 3:20-21; Hebrews 13:5-6). We must do what you can with our time, talent and resources but we must always look to God with thanksgiving first for our help!  The miracle of multiplication is always in God’s hands! Instead of complaining about what we do not have, we must seek God first in prayer and thanksgiving for what we do have, and God will make our time, talent and treasure go farther. If we do all we can, God will step in and do the rest. Nothing is impossible for our all-powerful God! God can do the impossible. Faith in God is the key to miracles!

35 Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. 36 But you have not believed in Me even though you have seen Me. 37 However, those the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent Me, not to do My own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is My Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. . . 47 I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the Bread of Life . . . 51 I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever . . .” John 6:35-40, 47-48, 51 (NLT)

Also, this miraculous feeding revealed Jesus’ tender care and compassion for those who are spiritually and physically in need (Mark 6:30-34; see also Matthew 14:14; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:34; Mark 8:2). Jesus cares about the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who faithfully trust and obey God (Hebrews 7:25). He does not ignore needs as Jesus is concerned with every aspect of our lives — the physical as well as the spiritual (see 1 Peter 5:7). Even more, Jesus calls His church as His shepherds to similar compassion for the needy – body, soul, and spirit. The hungry and needy do not need our pity; they need our compassion and our commitment to act to meet their needs. A needy world continues to wait the church to show unselfish compassion and faith to meet their needs. Jesus still says to His church: “You feed them” (Matthew 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13; see also John 21:15–17). A hungry and desperate world is still feeding on empty substitutes while the church deprives them of the Bread of Life – Jesus! Jesus is the true living Bread of Life from heaven that satisfies all our physical and spiritual needs (John 6:33-40, 47-48, 51; see also Isaiah 55:1-7). Too often, we think that money is the real answer to our needs but the real answer is faith in God found in His Son, Jesus! Through faith in God found in His Son – Jesus, God, sends the Holy Spirit to help God’s people (John 14:16-17, 26). Whenever there is a need, give all that you have to Jesus and let Jesus do the rest. Jesus is a caring and loving King, who abundantly provides for God’s people.

The miraculous multiplication of food is reminiscent of the miracle of God supplying manna for Israel in the wilderness (see Exodus 16), and especially of Elisha multiplying food (2 Kings 4:42–44). Interestingly, the miraculous feeding is repeated at Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-10 with similar details. The difference between the stories of the 5,000 is that the feeding of the 5,000 occurs with the Jews while the feeding of the 4,000 occurs in Gentile territory. These miracles give another vivid expression of the compassion and the miraculous power of Jesus. Most importantly, the miraculous feeding provides a foretaste of the Messianic feast of the banquet at the end of the age (see Matthew 8:11–12). The Messianic Kingdom with Jesus as King will be a place of lavish food because the earth will be blessed with fertility, and there will be limitless food and wine and a symbol of unbridled joy. These miracles were not just responding to people that were hurry and destitute but a foretaste of the Messianic Kingdom to come.

19 My God will use His wonderful riches in Christ Jesus to give you everything you need. 20 Glory to our God and Father forever and ever! Amen. Philippians 4:19-20 (NCV)

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