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Good News

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:21–26)

The Pharisees had thought long and hard about who deserved to go to Hell. They had come up with an obvious list of crimes: for instance, murder.

But Jesus indicated that it wasn’t a question of who deserved judgment. The question was, is there anyone who doesn’t deserve judgment? Jesus explained that even the best people of all still deserved God’s condemnation. Everyone has been angry with someone. We’ve all called people “fools” or worse. The word rendered “fool” simply means, “empty headed.” Calling someone “stupid” or “idiot” is not okay just because we didn’t call them “fool.” You’re just being worldly–that is, legalistic, you know, like a lawyer or a politician. Jesus’ point was that it was wrong to insult people at all. Doesn’t fit in with the whole loving people which is the whole point of the Bible (Matthew 22:37-40, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8, Matthew 7:12, Colossians 3:12-14).

Then Jesus turned up the heat. Even if we’re not angry with someone, there might be someone who is angry with us, so we’re still in trouble with God. We’re simply never free of guilt.

Jesus wants us to understand that we all deserve God’s judgment. No matter how well behaved we are, we still fall short of perfection and there is nothing we can do about it. But God has a solution. He came up with a way for us to avoid his judgment: by punishing someone else in our place: Jesus Christ, his Son. Thanks to Jesus dying on the cross, God forgives us of all our bad deeds and even our bad thoughts, which are legion. He knows we’re bad. So he took care of the issue:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

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Giving Up to Gain All

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he went to Galilee. But instead of staying in Nazareth, Jesus moved to Capernaum. This town was beside Lake Galilee in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. So God’s promise came true, just as the prophet Isaiah had said,

“Listen, lands of Zebulun and Naphtali,
lands along the road to the sea
and east of the Jordan!
Listen Galilee, land of the Gentiles!
Although your people live in darkness,
they will see a bright light.
Although they live in the shadow of death,
a light will shine on them.”

Then Jesus started preaching, “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”

While Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers. One was Simon, also known as Peter, and the other was Andrew. They were fishermen, and they were casting their net into the lake. Jesus said to them, “Come with me! I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish.” Right then the two brothers dropped their nets and went with him.
Jesus walked on until he saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in a boat with their father, mending their nets. Jesus asked them to come with him too. Right away they left the boat and their father and went with Jesus. (Matthew 4:12–22)

When Jesus asked his disciples to “come with him” they dropped everything and followed. The disciples had already spent time with Jesus, talked to him, perhaps even witnessed a miracle before Jesus asked them to follow. They were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. They thought that meant he was going to re-establish the monarchy, become king, defeat the Romans and rule the world. So the chance to join the Messiah’s team was an opportunity not to be missed.

Over time, they discovered that they had misunderstood just what he was offering them. What he offered them was infinitely better than a petty earthly kingdom with physical prosperity and power. He in fact, offered them the chance to become the brothers of the creator of the universe, to join in God’s eternal kingdom forever.

When we understand clearly what it is we have been given in our relationship with Jesus, the problems and trials of life become vanishingly small. It doesn’t seem odd at all that Peter, Andrew, James and John would leave behind all their physical belongings, their businesses, every last thing they had, in order to join with Jesus. In Christ, we get not just the opportunity of a lifetime, but the opportunity of all of eternity.

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To Mars

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Alpha Omega

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:12–20)

Jesus will come back soon. He is coming with a reward for everyone, “according to what he has done.” But Moses, David and Paul took part in murder. The thief on the cross never performed any good deeds. And what about the woman caught in adultery, or the prostitute who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears? Will they all be locked out of the city?

Jesus’ words allude to those of the prophet Isaiah, who announced that God would come to his people Israel with his reward (Isaiah 40:10 and 62:11). That “reward” was not based on anything that Israel deserved. The “reward” referred to God’s work of bestowing the blessings of salvation on his faithful people. That “work” is actually God’s work of forgiveness (Isaiah 40:2).

Only the Lamb was “worthy” to be accepted by God (Revelation 5:22), while “those who washed their robes and made them white by the blood of the lamb” (Revelation 7:14) are those to be saved. We will be rewarded by Jesus when he returns for us and we are saved not just from our sins, but from their effects. Our reward is the inheritance we have in God’s Kingdom as his forgiven and adopted children.

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Learning Trust

His mother and brothers showed up but couldn’t get through to him because of the crowd. He was given the message, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to see you.”

He replied, “My mother and brothers are the ones who hear and do God’s Word. Obedience is thicker than blood.”

One day he and his disciples got in a boat. “Let’s cross the lake,” he said. And off they went. It was smooth sailing, and he fell asleep. A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

Getting to his feet, he told the wind, “Silence!” and the waves, “Quiet down!” They did it. The lake became smooth as glass.

Then he said to his disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?”

They were in absolute awe, staggered and stammering, “Who is this, anyway? He calls out to the winds and sea, and they do what he tells them!” (Luke 8:19-25)

Without trust, there can be no obedience. Jesus’ mother and brothers didn’t believe him to be the Messiah. They looked at how Jesus lifestyle and all they could see was a problem. They believed that Jesus was behaving in an irrational way. They were concerned for his health and welfare. Jesus used their concern for him to point out that belief involved hearing and then doing God’s word.

But his disciples were not any better than his family at the doing of God’s word. Although they were obedient when it came to getting in the boat and heading across the lake, when a problem came up, they were as quick as his family was to doubt him. Neither Jesus’ family nor his disciples trusted him. Hearing God’s words and doing them depends upon trusting them.

There was no thought in the disciples’ minds, when they awakened Jesus about any hope, any way out. Instead, they merely informed him that they were doomed to drown. Their situation overwhelmed their ability to see who Jesus was. Of course, their inability to see past their situation did not prevent Jesus from doing what had to be done. The disciples had no faith, no expectation, no hope. Jesus acted anyway, because Jesus’ ability to save is not dependent upon our ability to believe that he can do it. Jesus does what is necessary regardless of our panic.

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When [Jesus] had concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. A centurion’s slave, who was highly valued by him, was sick and about to die. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Him, requesting Him to come and save the life of his slave. When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with Him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this, because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.” Jesus went with them, and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Him, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found so great a faith even in Israel!” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. (Luke 7:1-10)

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Centurion didn’t feel deserving, but he asked anyway. In Luke’s presentation of the story of the Centurion with the sick slave, some elders encouraged Jesus to come to the Centurion based on what a good man he was.

Did Jesus go to heal the Centurion because he was a good man? No. Jesus didn’t heal people based on their goodness. It was only after he healed them that he told them to “sin no more.”
The Centurion told Jesus that a word from Jesus would be enough; Jesus didn’t even have to come to him. In Luke’s telling of the tale, Jesus doesn’t even announce the healing. Instead, we only get Jesus’ reaction to the Centurion’s great faith, followed by the news that the slave was, in fact, healed.

The Centurion didn’t believe himself worthy of Jesus’ presence. But Jesus marveled at his faith. The Centurion, though the builder of a synagogue, remained a Gentile. He had not converted to Judaism. The Centurion’s faith, and Jesus’ healing of his slave, demonstrated that the grace of God was available to the entire human race. The Messiah that was supposed to destroy the Romans healed the slave of a leader in their armed forces.

Jesus is far more than we think. Jesus reaches beyond where we think he would go. Or could go. Or should go. He is not bound by what binds us.

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Dark Matter

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Jesus and his disciples went to Jericho. And as they were leaving, they were followed by a large crowd. A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting beside the road. When he heard that it was Jesus from Nazareth, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Many people told the man to stop, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”

They called out to the blind man and said, “Don’t be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you.” The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man answered, “Master, I want to see!”

Jesus told him, “You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”

Right away the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus. (Mark 10:46-52)

It’s easier to heal a blind man than to transform a heart. But Jesus did both. Jericho served as a gateway to Jerusalem. On its outskirts, was a blind man known as Bartimaeus. When he learned that Jesus was coming by, he started doing what he always did with everyone who came by: he lifted his voice and begged, mouthing the words that such a beggar would always mouth: “have pity on me.”

By addressing Jesus as “son of David,” the blind man was acknowledging that Jesus was the Messiah and the rightful king of Israel. When Jesus asked the beggar what he wanted, Jesus already knew what it was. But he wanted him to say out loud what was hidden in his heart.

Bartimeaus knew that Jesus could give him something more than mere coins. So he asked Jesus for what he knew he could spare. What was Bartimeaus’ reaction to gaining his sight? He “went down the road” with Jesus. The Greek word implies more than simply walking a ways with Jesus. The word is used of those who become disciples. It meant that from that moment on, Bartimaeus became one of Jesus’ followers. Bartimaeus was with Jesus for the rest of his life. So today, we who claim Jesus as our Savior go “down the road” with him. We are rightfully amazed when a blind man can see. But we should be even more amazed when a man decides to become a follower of Jesus.

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