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  • # 64 The "I-Know Mind"

    When people think they know you, it can prevent really knowing you.

    Jesus had grown up among the people of Nazareth, they had watched him develop from childhood, so they were resistant to seeing him as anything but "the carpenter's son." They'd heard about his miracles, and were hoping for some.

    But there was another problem: when the Spirit moves on hearts, as He does when Jesus speaks, the effect either softens them or hardens them, depending on the response of the heart-owner.

    And so it is when he comes again to Nazareth.

    He goes with his mother, brothers and sisters to the synagogue on Sabbath, and is asked to read from Isaiah.

    He chooses the first few lines of the passage, "The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to preach the graciousness of God to the poor...deliverance to captives...to heal broken hearts...recovery of sight to the blind...liberty to the oppressed...and the year of the Lord's favor."*

    Their hearts open to his graciousness and authority, and they respond with praises under the influence of God's Spirit.

    Then he announces, "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your presence..."

    He continues, "but surely you want proof...so take Elijah and the widow or Elisha and Naaman."

    Suddenly they realize, He is talking about himself! He's the Messiah? We need deliverance? sight? healing?...

    Satan is determined; feeding resistance.

    Comparing us with Gentiles! Who does he think he is? Claiming the glory of the Messiah for himself! We know him! He is no more than a carpenter's son!

    Their hearts, momentarily softened and opened by Spirit's graciousness, are now slammed shut harder by doubt.

    Luke 4:16-23

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  • # 63 Change and Pain

    Jesus’ heart aches when he hears about John.

    He knows their disciples will not understand John's call to martyrdom for the sake of thousands who will die for their faith. Spirit shows him that some, in dungeons for years, will be greatly comforted by the memory of John's imprisonment and death.

    Jesus takes John's disciples to the desert to grieve.

    Satan had schemed against John to discourage Jesus, but Jesus knows John is free from chains and pain—beyond Satan's reach.

    God knows that we wouldn't choose to rewrite our stories, if we could see the end from the beginning as He does, and comprehend our glorious calling to help vindicate His character.

    Now Jesus goes to the people in Galilee who are generally more receptive than the scholars and religious zealots. Jesus comes saying, “The kingdom of God is here now; turn, see and believe the graciousness of your God.”

    Ironically, those who studied the prophecies, mapping a timeline to Messiah, were the most closed. Jesus so loves the Jews and wants them to fulfill their privileged purpose.

    They have studied Daniel's prophecy,* but they haven't understood Gabriel's explanation:

    “Four-hundred and ninety years are given to your people to accept their destiny... Understand that from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, (457 BC)** until Messiah, shall be 483 years (27 AD—Jesus baptism). In the middle of the remaining seven, Messiah will be killed, not for himself...”***

    God's call to Jewish leaders included honoring them as first to recognize God's graciousness in Jesus, and offering them the privilege of presenting their Messiah to the world.

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    Matthew 14:12-13, Mark 1:14-15, *Daniel 9:21-27, **Artaxerxes Longimanus gave the last decree to rebuild in 457 BC, Ezra 6:14, *** 69 prophetic weeks is the same as 483 years, one week is seven years (see one day = one year in prophecy, Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:6)

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  • # 62 Revenge was Not so Sweet

    Herod's wife, Herodias, wants revenge. John has raised Herod's conscience to a new level and ruined her life.

    She had been successful in getting Herod to put John in the dungeon, but she knew Herod wanted to release him, and now her husband often goes and talks with him--downstairs. She begins scheming to rid herself of John's influence. It becomes a passion.

    Herod's birthday is coming, and she plans a huge event inviting all his dignitaries, even asking her beautiful daughter to dance.

    The day comes, the guests feast, the wine flows, Herodias waits. When she is sure Herod has drunk enough to affect his judgment, her daughter dances. It's a huge compliment to Herod; he is pleased and vows to give her whatever she asks.

    Overwhelmed, the girl goes to her mother, who is ready with her ghastly request--and the girl is shocked. But her mother is queen, and so, stunned, she asks for the baptist's head.

    Herod is horrified, but too drunk to think. He waits for someone to object, to release him from his oath made to impress his guests, but silence reigns. They are stupified by alcohol as well, and Herod gives the order that ends John's life.

    His disciples come, take John's body, and bury it in a tomb. In pain they go tell Jesus. Satan is happy to bring pain to Jesus; risking his own involvement getting clearer to the watching universe.

    Herodias gets her revenge, but it's not sweet. Herod is more tormented by guilt after John's death, than he ever was in his life.

    Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:16-27

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  • # 61 The Long Answer of Experience

    John's disciples come to Jesus and ask, "Are you the One? Or should we look for another?"

    Jesus doesn't answer immediately. He understands, but it's still disappointing that the one man who recognized him, announced him as the Messiah, should now question, so he lets them watch and experience His ministry.

    They wonder why he doesn't answer.

    They see blind ones receive sight and look lovingly at Jesus. They experience the rejoicing of deaf ones hearing him, the leaping of the crippled, the restoring of the dying, and the clearing of insanity from demon-possessed eyes.

    At the end of the day, he calls John's disciples, saying, "Go tell John what you have seen; the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised, Satan's captives are freed, and happy is he who is not offended in Me."

    They leave to take John their message. Jesus turns to the people and gives John the ultimate compliment on his integrity, "...There is none greater than he."

    John hears Jesus' word for him, and it is enough.

    Angels open his mind to understand Isaiah and Elijah: as God was not in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the still small voice, so Jesus' work is not the overthrowing of armies, but speaking God's character to hearts, letting mercy and self-giving love transform.*

    Now John can rest, accepting either life or death for the cause he loves, realizing that Jesus will not be accepted and can win only the hatred of the rulers because they are wanting a different kind of Messiah.

    Luke 7:24-30, Matthew 11:7-15 *Isaiah 61:1-2, 1 Kings 9:11-12

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  • # 60 How to Handle Doubt

    John the Baptist was first to present Jesus to the people as their Messiah. He is also first (outside of Mary and Joseph) to share the honor of His suffering.

    Herod respects John as a holy man and likes listening to him, and John is honest with him about taking his brother's wife. Herod's wife, Herodius, is angry and rages until he puts John in prison.

    After his active, outdoor life, the dungeon feels oppressive. And as week after week passes, John's disciples, allowed to visit him, begin asking questions that make this time even harder. "Why Jesus doesn't do something?" they ask, adding to John's own questions.

    John doesn't understand Messiah's work or kingdom, either. He knows his role is the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy, and therefore expects Jesus to overthrow the oppressive power of Rome.

    In the long, lonely hours, demons whisper that Jesus isn't the Messiah, that John's life work has been for nothing. Had he been unfaithful that he was put aside? Where is this Messiah who would reveal the God that answers by fire?

    As time passes, with Jesus doing nothing to free him, doubt and despondency creep in. But wisely, John doesn't discuss his fears with his followers. He remembers the baptism, the voice from heaven, and the visible Spirit.

    So he sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a question, hoping to dismiss doubt and strengthen their faith. Secretly, he hopes, no, longs, that Jesus will send a word directly to him as well.

    Luke 7:19-23, Matthew 11:1-6, Mark 6:17-20

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  • # 59 Taking Control

    Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin for healing the cripple; he begins by saying, "Sabbath healing is consistent with God who maintains the universe--even on Sabbath. And I work with Him."

    The priests are shocked, "He claims equality with God! This is blasphemy!"

    They get it. He is not claiming to be God's son as they do. He is claiming to be One with God in will and in nature.

    Jesus refuses their charges telling them he doesn't make his own plans, but depends on his Father to show him his work day by day. He teaches dependence on God--that we may have it, too, and see ourselves as always under His care. As long as we give ourselves to God, He will guide us.

    He tells them his authority is doing the work he came into the world to do--the very thing he's arraigned for--adding, "God has committed all judgment to the Son, and those who believe in him don't come into judgment." (v. 24) God's Spirit inside is resurrection power working in you now!* He even tells them he will raise the dead!

    He charges them with unbelief, "Moses will accuse you...for Moses wrote about me, but if you don't believe Moses, how will you recognize me?"

    They are incensed! They know Moses words! But Jesus' authority is unquestionable... and they are spellbound and speechless.

    However, they recover and send warnings of him, "the imposter Messiah", throughout the country.

    He has violated their traditions, and they will not be taught. As they close their hearts to God, Satan takes control of them.

    John 5:17-47 *Ephesians 1:19, 3:20

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  • # 58 Irony of Satan using Religion

    In the temple, Jesus sees the healed man and says, "Now that you're well, see you don't go back to your old ways or something worse could happen."

    The man is overjoyed at seeing Jesus again. Ignorant of the hatred or the plots of the priests against him, he eagerly gives him credit and directs the church leaders to him.

    The Pharisees want to publicly discredit Jesus and break his popularity because the people crave his picture of God as a loving Father; it heals their wounded hearts and oppressed spirits. If the leaders hadn't opposed him, he would have worked an incredible transformation of their whole religious system.

    Far from being a delight, Sabbath had become heavy with rules. The penalty for Sabbath breaking would have been enough to put Jesus to death had the Sanhedrin been independent of Rome. But because they were subject to Roman rule, and this charge wouldn't stand in their courts, they couldn't execute him.

    So they arraigned him, instigated and fueled by another council: the dark side. Since Satan's wilderness defeat, all of his forces were concentrated on opposing Jesus' influence.

    How ironic that religious leaders were used to accomplish the schemes of the powers of darkness, becoming weapons in the war on the side against God.

    Jesus chose to heal on the Sabbath saying, "pick up your bed..." to bring up the question of Sabbath keeping, and free it from the restrictions that had cursed it. God does not desire suffering, and relieving it on any day is in harmony with God's law.

    John 5:14-16

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  • # 57 Cooperation and Opposition

    The healed man might have sabotaged his chance for healing. He might have recited all the reasons why he believed he was doomed. Jesus hadn't offered help. He just told him to get up and walk.

    But the man sets his will to do what Jesus says, and new life surges as he acts on Jesus' words.

    Take this in if you're longing for healing. Don't wait to feel it, act on Jesus' words to you--claiming His promises in scripture. Set your will to follow His instructions and His power will flow through you. He longs to heal you every bit as much as any at Bethesda, but you might have to cooperate.

    The healed man bent to pick up his bed (a rug and a blanket) and straightens up in delight, only to see that Jesus is lost in the crowd. He's afraid that he won't recognize his healer again, but he leaves, elated.

    Soon he meets some Pharisees, and shares his joy with them. He can't understand their cold attitude. They even interrupt him,

    "It's against the law to carry your bed on the Sabbath." (Two-hundred-plus rules controlled Sabbath activity.)

    Healed on the Sabbath? That's strange, I forgot it was Sabbath, he thinks. But he hadn't asked for healing, and feels no condemnation at doing what Jesus had commanded. "The man who healed me told me to."

    "Who healed you?" They know, but want evidence to accuse Jesus.

    He doesn't know. "I don't know who he is, but he had the kindest face!"

    John 5:9-13

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  • # 56 Disappointment Meets Compassion

    Jesus has come to Jerusalem for a special Sabbath. Walking alone in meditation, he comes to Bethesda. Five porches were built around a pool for protection of the sick who flocked here because of superstition: It was believed an angel agitated the water in certain seasons--and the first person to enter was healed. (It must have been an evil angel mocking them and God? Many were trampled and made worse as everyone waiting rushed to get in--it was surely not God's idea.)

    Looking around him, Jesus longs to heal every person in the place, but he knows doing that on the Sabbath would cause such hatred that his life and ministry would be shortened.

    One man however, captures his heart. His suffering is the result of his own bad choices and is considered God's judgment. He has no friends or family and for 38 years has been a cripple. A kind-hearted person leaves him at the pool each day, but someone stronger always enters before him. Disappointment is stealing his remaining strength.

    He is lying on a rug at the edge of the water, when a kind face bends over him.

    "Would you like to be well?" Jesus asks.

    Hope springs up and then quickly dies, "Sir, I have no one to help me, so someone always reaches the water before I can."

    "Get up, pick up your bed and walk," says Jesus.

    Can I do this? he wonders. Something in Jesus' face makes him try. And he does!

    John 5:1-8

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  • # 55 Relax and Believe

    Jesus can't turn away from anyone who clings to him in need. He sees the officer's horror in confronting himself, and with tenderness says, "Go home. Your son lives."

    Relief floods the father with a peace and joy he has never felt. He could have reached home that night, but so great is his confidence in Jesus now, that he spends the night along the way and goes home the next morning.

    At home, those with the child saw a sudden turn in his condition. At the hottest part of the day, the fever left, and he began sleeping peacefully. The family sent messengers to meet the father the next morning, knowing his anxiety when he left.

    But everything has changed for the gentleman. The sunshine and birdsongs that seemed cruel the day before, now share God's praise. When the messengers meet him, they tell him excitedly, "Your boy lives! He is going to be ok!"

    "When did he get better?" asks the father, already knowing.

    "Yesterday after mid-day the fever left."

    The father remembers and smiles.

    Sometimes Jesus delays answers until we see our true motives.

    God longs to give us His best gifts, but he wants us to believe He hears us because He loves us. Every prayer of faith enters the Father's heart, and He will answer our requests in the best way at the right time.

    So relax and believe He has heard you. Know you are loved, and will have His best answer bringing no regret.

    John 4:50-54

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