March 4, Wednesday
One evening Jesus went alone to a mountain and He spent the whole night in prayer. The next morning He called His followers together and chose twelve from among them to be His apostles. Their names were Simon (whom he named Peter), James and John (the sons of Zebedee, whom Jesus affectionately called the “Sons of Thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (Alphaeus’ son), Thaddaeus, Simon (the political activist), and Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).
In commissioning them He endowed them with the power to heal and cast out demons just like He had.
The next day as they came into the town of Nain, they encountered a funeral procession. A large crowd accompanied the grieving widow who had just lost her only son. They were carrying his body to the cemetery. Jesus approached the woman with deep compassion and encouraged her to stop the weeping. As He said this, He touched the open coffin and the crowd came to a standstill. “Young man,” Jesus said, “get up.”
Instantly the boy sat up and began talking. Jesus reunited him with his mother, and a wave of fear and awe swept through the crowd. One and then another exclaimed, “God has come to help us! What a prophet He has sent us! Glory to God!” This amazing miracle got reported far and wide, as you can imagine.
All this time John the Baptist had been languishing in prison. When he heard reports of the great miracles Jesus was doing, he sent some of his disciples to ask Him whether, in fact, He was the promised Messiah or if they should still be looking for someone else to come and deliver them.
They brought the question to Jesus even as He was healing many who were sick, blind, and oppressed with demons. Jesus told them to reassure John that He was doing the work of the Messiah (even though it hadn’t resulted in deliverance for John the Baptist): there were blind who could see, lame who could walk, dead who were alive, and masses of poor who’d heard the good news. “And tell John,” He went on to say, “blessed are those who don’t get offended when My actions don’t fit with their expectations.”
After John’s disciples left, Jesus used the occasion to talk with the crowd about John and his ministry.
“Speaking of expectations, what did you think you’d find when you first went to meet John? A wimpy hermit? Or maybe a flashy grandstander? Those of you who expected a prophet found what you were looking for — and much more! In the honorable trail of God’s spokespersons, John had the prime assignment as the messenger predicted by Isaiah who would “prepare the way before Me.”
“However, as great as John was, being the last of the old order, those who now respond to the Kingdom message are in a greater position than he was. Yes, tax-collectors accepted God’s message by submitting to John’s baptism; while the Pharisees and experts in the Law refused his baptism, rejecting God’s plan for them. From the beginning of John’s preaching till now, the Kingdom has been making progress in spite of the violent attacks against it. And before John came, all the prophets of old and even the Law of Moses pointed forward to this time. For those willing to hear My message, John is obviously the promised forerunner, the one coming ‘in the spirit of Elijah’ to herald the new Kingdom as Malachi foretold.
“But how can I describe this fickle generation? It reminds Me of the children’s rhyme you hear in the market, ‘We play happy songs and you won’t dance; so we play sad songs and you don’t want that either.’ What I mean is, John showed up with an austere, restrictive diet, and folks said he was possessed; while I come feasting and partying, and they reject me as a glutton and drunkard, a low-life. Well, time will tell. In the end all will see what’s right.
Jesus then turned the focus on the cities of Galilee where He had done most of His miracles.
“What a golden opportunity this generation is missing! Why, if Tyre and Sidon had seen and heard the things you have, they’d have repented long ago. And as for you, Capernaum, who think you’re so great, Sodom and Gomorrah will get off easier on Judgment Day than you will; because if I’d have shown up and done there the miracles you’ve seen, those cities would still be around today.”
As He often did, Jesus looked up right in the middle of talking to the people and began talking to God: “Thank You, Father, Supreme Lord of heaven and earth. I love how You work, You’ve hidden these things from all who think they’re so smart, while revealing them to any who receive it with childlike simplicity.”
Turning again to the crowd, He explained, “Everything I say and do comes from the Father. No one knows Me as He does and no one knows Him as I do, unless I choose to reveal Him to them. Come, all of you who are worn out with trying to get it right; experience My rest. “Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
 As paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in The Message.