March 20, Friday
“At night the sheep are safely contained inside the walls of their fold and the night watchman protects the doorway. Some will try to get to the sheep by climbing over the wall. They are up to no good.
“The shepherd, known to the night watchman and to the sheep, comes to the door and leads out the sheep, calling them each by name. The sheep don’t mind following him because they know and trust the shepherd, but they shy away from strangers or anyone who’s voice they don’t recognize.
“I am the door. Those who come through Me will have real life, safety, and all they need. Anyone else who claims to be the way to life is actually a thief. The sheep won’t listen to him.
“I am also the good shepherd. You can tell the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling by how they respond to trouble. If a wolf comes, the good shepherd will lay down his life if he has to in order to protect the vulnerable sheep. The hireling only cares about his own safety and runs for his life. I am that good shepherd. My sheep know Me and My Father knows Me as well as I know Him. I will lay down My life for My sheep.
“The reason the Father loves Me is because I’m willing to lay down My life so that I can take it up again. No one can take My life from Me; I choose when and where I will lay it down. I have the authority and the ability not only to do this but also to raise it up again just as My Father told Me.
“I’ll be gathering in other sheep, too. All of you will become one big happy flock under one Shepherd.”
Hearing this, the crowd was again divided. Some deciding Jesus was deranged and possessed, wondering why anyone in their right mind would listen to Him. Others exclaimed, “Since when does a demon or someone possessed by a demon go around opening blind eyes?”
Sometime later, Jesus commissioned seventy of His followers to go two-by-two throughout the region of Judea as preparation teams for His ministry. He instructed them in much the way as He had His twelve disciples when they went out previously in Galilee.
“There’s a great harvest out there and not enough workers. Pray that the One in charge of the harvest will call out more workers. You’re going into difficult places, like lambs going to the wolves. Go with confidence and determination, and don’t let anyone distract you. Don’t make a big production of it either; just go from city to city telling the people that the Kingdom of God is here. If a city opens its gates to you, great! Don’t feel bad about taking up their offer of hospitality: a laborer deserves his wages.
“If a city rejects you, then tell them that the Kingdom of God is upon them, but not for blessing. They will be in for the same harsh rebuke I gave the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, in Galilee. Anyone who rejects your message is rejecting Me. Sodom and Gomorrah will get off easier on Judgment Day than these cities will.”
They went out and did everything Jesus had said. When they returned, they were ecstatic, saying, “Lord, even the demons had to obey us when we rebuked them using Your Name.”
Jesus’ response to their enthusiasm was, “You haven’t seen anything yet! I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You’ll have My authority to trample scorpions and serpents and anything else the enemy throws at you without being hurt. But that’s not the thing that should excite you most. The best thing of all should be knowing that your names are among those written in heaven.”
Jesus, overcome with joy in His spirit, lifted His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, I love the way You work! I love how You hide these things from the know-it-alls and reveal them to those who are childlike. I love knowing that You know Me and that I know You. And I love revealing what You’re like to these I have chosen.”
Then He looked at the disciples and said, “I hope you realize what a privilege you have. A whole lot of prophets and kings longed to see the things you’re seeing and to hear what you’re hearing!”
One day a lawyer came up to Jesus and tested Him with a question, “Teacher, what do I need to do to inherit this eternal life You speak of?”
Jesus, as He often did, responded to the question with a question, “What’s your understanding about how the law answers that question?”
The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself!”
Jesus commended the man, saying, “That’s it! Do that much and you’ll have the life you’re asking about.”
The man, wanting to justify himself, asked Jesus whom he should think of as a neighbor. So Jesus proceeded to tell this story:
“There was a man making the trek from Jerusalem down to Jericho when some thieves overpowered him, beat him, and left him half-naked beside the road. Shortly a priest came along and noticed the man but went out of his way to avoid getting too close. Then a Levite passed the same spot and quickly went on his way as though he hadn’t noticed the man lying there.
“A while later a despised Samaritan was making the same journey and happened upon the scene. Filled with compassion, he cleaned the wounds, put a blend of oil and wine on them, and bandaged him carefully. He put the man on his pack-horse and led him to the nearest inn, providing food and shelter for him. In the morning he left extra funds with the innkeeper and told him to take care of the fellow, adding, if it cost more he’d pay up when he came through again.
“Which of these three,” Jesus asked the lawyer, “was the true neighbor of the man who had been viciously attacked?”
The lawyer responded, saying, “Obviously it was the one who extended himself to care for the man.”
Jesus answered, “That’s right! Now you follow suit.”
Once, when Jesus was near Jerusalem, He spent some time at the home of Martha and Mary. While Martha busied herself with all the meal preparations, Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet drinking in every word He spoke. After a while Martha was pretty frustrated about having to do all the work while her sister sat and enjoyed their guest. She said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t You care about me? Couldn’t You at least send Mary in to help me?”
Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you’re going to too much trouble. We don’t need much really, just one thing. Mary is getting in on what’s most important, and I don’t want her to miss out on it.”