Jesus’ Story – Day 22

March 11, Wednesday

ephphathaJesus went from there back to the land of Gennesaret. The people recognized Him right away. They ran throughout the region gathering all who were sick so that wherever He went many awaited His touch or begged to touch the hem of His garment. All who did so were made perfectly well.

He continued ministering in the northern region. He stayed away from Judea because He knew that the Jews there were looking for an opportunity to kill Him. So the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to where He was teaching.

Looking for proofs that He couldn’t be Who He claimed to be, they challenged Jesus about the disciples’ disregard for orthodox rituals of cleansing. The Jewish religious leaders had complicated rules about washing just about everything — even how they were to run the water over their hands. “Why don’t Your disciples follow the long-standing Jewish traditions?” they asked.

Jesus had one word for them, “Hypocrites!” He went on, “Isaiah nailed it when he described you with these words, ‘This people draws near to Me with their words, honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. What they call worship is meaningless. They’ve turned their man-made rules into divine oracles.’ Yes, you Pharisees aren’t nearly as concerned about what God says as what your traditions tell you. In fact,” Jesus added, “your traditions actually cause you to break God’s laws. You know the clear command to ‘honor your father and mother,’ but you overrule that with this gimmick called ‘Corban’ (meaning devoted to God) so that people will give to you what ought to be used for supporting their elderly parents. You’ve basically rewritten God’s commands to suit yourselves, which you do with a lot of other things as well.”

Jesus turned to the listening crowd and said, “Listen up! You’ve been given a long list of things to avoid eating or touching, but I’m telling you that none of that matters! The problem isn’t what you put into your mouths but what is in your hearts and comes out of your mouths. If you have ears, I hope you’re hearing this!”

Later when He was alone with His disciples, they said, “Did You realize that the Pharisees were offended by what You said?”

Jesus replied, “Don’t mind them. Any plant which My Father hasn’t planted will be uprooted soon enough. They are blind leading the blind; the whole bunch will end up in the ditch together.”

Then Peter asked, “What did you mean about things we eat or things we say?”

Jesus answered, “You still don’t get it, do you? My message is all about what’s inside, not the externals that religion tends to focus on. The food you eat doesn’t go into your heart but through the stomach, digestive system, and eventually down the drain. In that sense, no food is clean or unclean when it comes to your spiritual well-being. How thoroughly you wash your hands before eating isn’t of great significance to God either. What He does care about is the filth that exists deep in the core of your beings: the evil thoughts, murders, adulteries and sexual fantasies, stealing, coveting, lying, deceiving, conniving, blasphemies, and pride.”

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Some days later Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon where He wouldn’t be recognized. Even there a local Gentile woman came to the house where He was staying. “Won’t You have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David?” she begged. Over and over she cried out, “My daughter is severely oppressed by demons. I know You can help her!”

The disciples were irritated and urged Him to send her away. So Jesus rebuffed her by saying, “I’ve been sent to help the lost sheep of Israel, not Gentiles.”

She didn’t let that stop her but came and threw herself at His feet, begging Him to help her. Appearing to be unmoved, Jesus responded, “As the saying goes, don’t give the dogs what is meant for the children to eat.”

To which she replied, “Yes, Master, but even the little dogs under the table get to eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s plates.”

Jesus was touched by her determination and said, “Woman, you are persistent and I’m blessed by your faith. Your wish is granted; your daughter is healed.” The woman returned home and found it just as Jesus had said; the demon was gone and her daughter rested comfortably on her bed.

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From there Jesus went around the Sea of Galilee into the region of Decapolis. The people of the region brought to Him a man who was deaf and had difficulty speaking. Jesus took him away from the crowd to heal him. He spit on His finger, touched the man’s tongue, and then put His fingers in his ears. With a deep sigh Jesus looked up to heaven and said “Ephphatha,” which means “be opened.”

Immediately the man could hear and speak plainly. Jesus told the crowd not to tell what had happened, but that didn’t stop them from spreading the word. More and more came to Him and He healed them all. When the multitude saw all these miracles, they gave the credit to God and said about Jesus, “Everything He does is amazing!”

Once again they found themselves with a crowd on hand and nothing to eat. In fact, they had been with Him for three days solid. “I can’t send them away like this or they may faint,” Jesus told His disciples.

“And where in this wilderness do You expect us to come up with bread?” the disciples questioned.

“Well, what do we have to work with?” He asked them.

“Seven pieces of bread and a handful of small fish is all we’ve come up with,” they replied.

“Good,” Jesus answered, “have the crowd get seated for dinner.”

Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke the pieces. Handing them to the disciples, they then distributed the bread among the people. He did the same with the fish. Everyone ate till they were full. When they gathered up the leftovers, there were seven large baskets full. This time He had fed over four thousand people. After sending the crowd on its way, Jesus and the disciples got into a boat and headed across the Sea of Galilee toward Dalmanutha (also called Magdala).

Again, the Pharisees and Sadducees where there to hound Him. They kept telling Him they just wanted one more supernatural sign to prove His credentials. Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit and rebuked them, saying, “In the evening, if the sky is red, you predict a nice day ahead; but if the sky is red in the morning, you predict bad weather. What hypocrites you are! You can read the signs in the sky but can’t figure out the signs of the times we’re in. This adulterous generation, wanting anything but God, keeps looking for signs. The only sign I can leave with you is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” With that, Jesus left them.

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