March 8, Sunday
Leaving there, he heard two blind men in the crowd who kept shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” After they had entered a house, Jesus asked if they really believed He could help them. “Yes, Lord,” they replied.
He touched their eyes and said, “Receive what you believed!” And their eyes were opened. Again, Jesus warned them not to talk about this, but they spread the good news everywhere they went.
A little later they brought to Him a man who could not speak. A demon had entered him, causing this condition. Jesus cast out the demon. The man spoke. And the people marveled, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” But the Pharisees kept spreading the idea that Jesus got His supernatural powers from the devil.
When Jesus and the disciples went to His hometown of Nazareth, it was a different story. The people heard Him teach in the synagogue and were impressed, but then they reasoned that He couldn’t be anything special because they all knew His parents and siblings. Rather than taking Him seriously, they were offended at His audacity. Jesus reminded them of the old saying, “Prophets get respect from everyone except the home folk.”
Because of this, very few miracles were done in Nazareth. He did lay hands on one or two, but He was amazed at the general unbelief.
Such was not the case throughout the rest of the region, however. Crowds gathered, the good news was proclaimed, sick were healed, and He taught freely in their synagogues. Jesus looked with compassion on the masses; they were like flocks of sheep, lost and wandering without a shepherd. He told His disciples, “There’s so much to be done, so many needs, and so few to do the work. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will call in more workers!”
It was at this point that Jesus began to send out the disciples in pairs to proclaim the good news, heal the sick, and cast out demons. This was His commissioning speech: “Your message is simply, ‘The Kingdom you’ve been longing for, the Kingdom of God, has come.’ Take this Message exclusively to the lost sheep of Israel. They must be the first to hear it and have opportunity to respond. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out the demons. As generously as you have received, give.
“And don’t worry about provisions. Don’t bother taking extra food or clothing because as people hear your message, they’ll provide what you need. When you enter a town, look for someone sympathetic to what we’re doing. If they are hospitable, bless them and don’t feel bad about staying in their homes.
“Whenever folks reject you and refuse to hear the Message, then as you leave town, shake the dust off your sandals as a sign of judgment. I tell you, they will suffer worse things than Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment!
“I realize that I’m sending you out like sheep into an environment filled with wolves. You’ll need to be sharp and discerning, like serpents, while remaining as gentle and harmless as doves. The time will come when they will take you before tribunals, whip you, and mistreat you because of Me. When that happens, don’t be worried about how to respond: the Spirit of your Father will speak through you in those situations.
“It won’t be easy. Families will be divided, with brother turning against brother, fathers against their own children, and children turning in their parents to be executed. Even if everyone hates you because of Me, don’t turn back, don’t give up! If they harass you in one city, go on to the next. Before long, I’ll come and rescue you.
“You know, don’t you, that students grow up to be like their teachers? If they think I, your Teacher, am Beelzebub, you can be sure they’ll treat you the same way or worse!
“Don’t be afraid of them. They won’t get away with it forever. Be bold; expose their wicked schemes. The worst they can do is kill your body; they can’t touch your soul. Your Father, who happens to know every time a little sparrow gets hurt, cares so much more for you than for those birds. Trust Him.
“Don’t be ashamed of Me or of the stigma that may be associated with being My follower, and I will honor you openly before My Father in heaven. It’s those who turn on Me, denying what they’ve seen and heard, whom I must deny before My Father.
“I think you’re beginning to realize that following Me and living in the Kingdom of God will mean realigning your priorities. Earthly relationships, even close family ties, may have to be severed; but unless having Kingdom life means everything to you, it means nothing. Ironically, to have My life, you will have to lose yours.
“So as you go, be encouraged. Nothing you do for me will go unnoticed or unrewarded. Even those who assist you will be rewarded as though they were doing your work — even when they do as simple a thing as giving you a cup of cold water.”
With that, Jesus sent them on their way, and they took the Message everywhere.