Jesus’ Story – Day 39

Today’s reading launches the start of what I call “The Longest Week of History.” In consolidating the records of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, I have endeavored to match the events and conversations with their place in the itinerary of Jesus and His disciples as they move together toward the Passover events.  You will note that some days (like today) are relatively short readings.  Other days may take a bit more time but, considering the subject matter, will be well worth the effort.

 March 28, Saturday

Mary_Anointing_Jesus__feetSix days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany. Many Jews also came from far and wide. Although they came partly to see Jesus, they were even more curious to see with their own eyes this man Lazarus who had been raised from the dead not too many weeks earlier. Realizing that this recent miracle had caused even more Jews to believe in Jesus, the chief priests conspired to kill Lazarus as well.

Jesus attended a supper at the home of Simon the leper. Lazarus was there with them, and Martha helped serve the meal.

Mary came in with a flask of fragrant oil of nard. She broke open the container, poured some on Jesus’ head and feet, and then wiped His feet with her hair in an act of humble devotion. The whole house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

When His disciples saw this, some of them were indignant and rebuked her. Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, said, “What a waste! We could have sold that for thousands of dollars and given it to the poor!” At that point no one knew that Judas’ motives weren’t out of concern for the poor but as treasurer for the group he’d been siphoning funds for his own use.

Hearing the commotion, Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Leave her alone! She’s done the right thing. There will always be poor to take care of, but you won’t always have Me around. She unknowingly has pre-anointed my body for burial, and this sacrificial act of devotion will be included in the telling of the Message as it goes around the world.”

Jesus’ Story – Day 38

March 27, Friday

ZaccheusTheir journey toward Jerusalem took them through the old city of Jericho. Two blind men were sitting along the road and heard the crowd approaching. One of them, named Bartimaeus, asked what all the commotion was about.  Someone told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing through town. Immediately, the men began to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Over and over they repeated this until some tried to silence them. This only made the blind men more desperate and they cried out even louder, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David! Have mercy on us!”

Jesus heard them and instructed that they be brought to Him. So some in the crowd hurried to the two men and said, “C’mon, hurry, the Master is asking for you!” They threw off their blankets and made their way through the crowd to where Jesus was.

He asked them, “What would you like Me to do for you?”

“Teacher, I want to see!” said one of them. “Lord, open our eyes!” replied the other.

Filled with compassion for them, Jesus reached out and touched their eyes, saying, “Receive your sight! Go on your way now. Your faith has made you well.”

They couldn’t believe their eyes! They were seeing! They praised God — as did the whole crowd— and began following Jesus.

Just a little further down the road, Jesus came to a place where a large sycamore tree stood. Looking up, He saw a grown man sitting on one of the branches. A local tax-collector, in fact the head of tax-collecting in Jericho, had heard that Jesus was coming; and he was anxious to see for himself the man everyone was talking about.

This man, Zaccheus was his name, had a disadvantage; he was rather short in stature and couldn’t see much when crowds were around. That’s why he had climbed up the tree, to get a better view. To his surprise, as Jesus approached the tree, He stopped, looked up, and spoke to him by name, “Zaccheus, come down here, I’d like to get to know you!” Zaccheus dropped down out of the tree and invited Him to his home.

Now tax-collectors were despised by everyone because it was common practice for them to overcharge citizens, keeping the surplus and enjoying a life of luxury themselves. Needless to say, they didn’t have a lot of friends. When the crowd saw Jesus heading home with him, they were appalled that He would keep company with sinners like this.

Zaccheus, however, was deeply touched by Jesus’ genuine interest in him.  Suddenly, as if he had been blind, he saw what was of real value. “Lord, I’m going to see to it that half of my estate gets sold and the proceeds distributed to the needy in this town,” Zaccheus declared.  “And besides that, if I’ve overcharged anyone, I commit to repay them four times the amount I took.”

Blessed by this change of heart, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house. Zaccheus has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham by this decision. The whole reason I came was to seek out lost ones like him and rescue them.”


Because His followers were assuming that He was getting ready to set up His Kingdom on earth, Jesus told this story as they continued toward Jerusalem.

“A certain prince was called away to conduct kingdom business, so he commissioned ten of his servants to oversee some of his investments. He gave each of them a pound of silver to manage.

“It so happened, while the prince was away, that the citizens, who hated him, sent a delegation to let him know that they didn’t want him ruling over them any longer.

“In time, the prince returned and called in the ten servants to account for their business dealings. The first to show up had multiplied the value ten times what he’d been given. ‘Great job,’ the prince remarked, ‘you’ve proven yourself faithful; I’m putting you in charge of ten whole cities!’

“The second servant had been able to increase the investment by five pounds of silver, and the prince rewarded him with control over five cities.

“The next servant appeared carrying a small handkerchief and explained, “Sir, here is the pound of silver you left with me. I was too afraid of what you would do if I lost it, and I didn’t want to take any risks.”

“‘Why, you worthless fool!” the prince exclaimed.  ‘If you knew I was a shrewd investor so you could have at least put it in the bank to get a little interest!’ Then, turning to the others, he said, ‘Take this man’s silver and give it to the first one who earned ten pounds with his.’ They wondered why he would give it to the one who had so much already.

“‘Let me assure you,’ the prince concluded, ‘that everyone who has used what I have given them will be given more, and any who have nothing to show for their lives will lose everything. And as for those citizens who sent word that they didn’t want me ruling over them, bring them here and kill every one of them.’”

When He had finished the story, Jesus continued up to Jerusalem.


Passover was approaching. Days in advance many Jews from outlying areas converged on Jerusalem to complete the purification rituals. Everyone was talking about Jesus, wondering whether He would have the nerve to make a public appearance.

The chief priests and Pharisees had issued an edict requiring anyone who knew of Jesus’ whereabouts to report to them so they could arrest Him.

Jesus’ Story – Day 37

March 26, Thursday

thronesJesus continued teaching and healing the multitudes as He journeyed in Galilee and in the region across the Jordan River.

Some Pharisees came again with another test question to see if Jesus upheld their Law. “Teacher,” they inquired, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

Jesus, in turn, asked them a question, “What did Moses say about this?”

They said, “He permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and let her go.”

Jesus, knowing that once again they were twisting the clear intent of God’s Law to make it fit their lifestyle, said, “Yes, that provision was made but only because of your hard hearts. You do know, don’t you, that divorce was not God’s desire from the beginning when He ‘made them male and female?’ He made it quite clear right from the start that ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ What has once been joined into oneness by God, man should never attempt to tear apart.”

“If that’s the case,” the Pharisees replied, “then why did Moses give this instruction about a certificate of divorce?”

Jesus answered, “As I said, Moses did this because of the hardness of your hearts even though it was not as God originally intended. I can assure you that anyone who does divorce his wife for any reason other than her unfaithfulness and then marries another is guilty of adultery. Likewise, anyone who marries the divorced woman is committing adultery.”

Later, when they were away from the crowds, Jesus’ disciples asked Him about this issue. So He reiterated, saying, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

His disciples were amazed at these stringent demands and said, “In that case it would be better not to marry at all.”

Jesus responded to them, saying, “Not marrying isn’t necessarily the answer. The celibate life is an exception to the rule. Yes, there are a few born with the capacity to remain single, others have celibacy imposed on them, while some may be called to give up marriage in their service to the Kingdom. If you’re among that select group, then, yes, it is better not to marry.”

Once, when they were out and about, the people were bringing their little ones to Jesus and asking Him to lay hands on them and bless them. Jesus’ disciples saw what was happening and were upset with this seeming waste of Jesus’ time.

Jesus, on the other hand, was displeased with the disciples for their attitude and said, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t prevent them because the Kingdom of God is open to them. In fact, no one can receive the Kingdom unless they come into it with childlike trust.” He loved holding the youngsters and blessing them.


They continued on their way and a local official came running up to Jesus.  Kneeling in front of Him, he asked, “Good Teacher, what exactly do I need to do to get this special God-kind of life You’re describing?”

“What do you mean by calling me good?” Jesus asked. “God alone is good.  Are you approaching Me on those terms?  You know the commandments, all you have to do is keep them.”

“Which ones in particular?” the man asked.

Jesus said, “You shall not commit adultery, you must not murder, steal, lie or cheat. Honor your father and your mother and love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man, feeling relieved, said, “Teacher, I have kept all of those since I was a child. Is that all I need to do?”

Jesus looked at the man with compassion and said, “Just one more thing. Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.  Then your treasure will be in heaven. Once you’ve done that and are willing to stop living for yourself, come, follow Me.”

The man’s countenance fell. He was heart-sick at this last instruction because he was very wealthy and couldn’t bring himself to let go of his possessions.

As Jesus saw the man walk away, He, too, became heavy-hearted. With sadness in His voice, He said to His disciples, “It is so hard for wealthy people to enter the Kingdom of God.”

The disciples were stunned, having assumed that prosperity was a sure sign of God’s approval.

Jesus addressed them, saying, “Do you want to know how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom? It would be easier to put a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

This blew the disciples away. They looked at each other in astonishment and wondered aloud, “Then how can anyone ever be saved?”

Jesus heard them and replied, “With men this is impossible, but not with God. With God all things are possible.”

Peter, trying to grasp this concept, asked, “So if that’s the way it works and we’ve left everything to follow You, what will be our reward?”

Smiling, Jesus told him, “I promise you that in the new creation when I am on the throne in glory, you who have followed Me will sit on twelve thrones ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel. In fact,” Jesus went on to explain, “Anyone who has sacrificed the comforts and conveniences of this life in order to serve Me and advance the Kingdom of God can be confident that they will be rewarded a hundred-fold in this life and enjoy God’s life with Him forever! Things are not always as they appear.  Those who seem to be missing out, always in last place, will one day have it all and find themselves in first place, while those who are enjoying ‘the good life’ now may find themselves in a world of hurt in the long run.

“Let me explain rewards in the Kingdom of Heaven. A landowner needed to hire some laborers to work his vineyard.  First thing in the morning he went to the labor pool and employed a handful of men. A few hours later he decided that he needed additional workers and went back to hire some more. This happened twice more during the day with the last group getting hired with just an hour’s worth of work left in the day.

“At closing time the men came through the line to receive their pay, the last hired being paid first. To their surprise, they received a full-day’s wage even though they had only worked for an hour. By the time the first crew came through, they were certain that they would get a bonus for having worked all day; but to their chagrin they, too, received a day’s wage.

“These workers complained to the landowner that he’d been unfair since they weren’t given more than the latecomers. He dismissed them with the comment, ‘Friends, I have not wronged you. Didn’t you agree to work for the amount you were paid? Take it and be satisfied. If I, with my own money, choose to be generous with these others, have I broken some law? Perhaps my kindness exposes some evil in your hearts.’”

Jesus concluded by reminding His disciples again that in the Kingdom, the last will be first and the first last.  Then He added, “For many are called but few are chosen.”

After this, Jesus led His disciples toward Jerusalem, but they were growing anxious about the trouble that may be awaiting them. Along the way He took them aside and told them plainly, “Yes, we are on our way up to Jerusalem, and everything the prophets wrote about the Messiah will be fulfilled. I am going to be betrayed to the chief priests and scribes; they will condemn Me and hand Me over to the Gentile magistrates who will, in turn, mock Me, insult and whip Me, and finally, crucify Me. But on the third day I will rise again.”

This was such a foreign idea for the disciples that they couldn’t process it, and they dismissed it from their minds.


Further along, James and John, along with their mother, came to Jesus and knelt down with a request, “Teacher, will You promise to do what we ask?”

Not ready to make any promises, Jesus asked them, “What is it that you want Me to do for you?”

Their mother answered for them, “I’d like my boys to have positions of honor on either side of You when You reign over Your Kingdom.” Apparently her sons had put her up to this.

Turning to James and John, Jesus said, “I don’t think you realize what you’re asking. Are you prepared to go through the kind of trouble I’m facing?”

In blissful ignorance, they replied, “Oh, yes, we can do that!”

Jesus said, “Yes, you will experience much the same abuse and difficulty; but when it comes to awarding thrones, that is My Father’s business.  We’ll have to leave that with Him.”

As you might imagine, once the other disciples caught wind of this, they were really upset with James and John. But Jesus used the situation to further explain the nature of His Kingdom. “You are used to thinking of authority and leadership the way this world exercises it, where the one in charge makes everyone serve him. That is not My idea of authority nor will it be yours. As I see it, if you want to be considered great in My Kingdom, you must be the lowest servant. I am your example of how this is done. I did not come to be served but to serve and to let My life pay the price so others can go free.”

Jesus’ Story – Day 35

March 24, Tuesday

rich man LazarusOne Sabbath day Jesus was invited to break bread in the home of a Pharisee. While they were dining, in came a man who had a disease that made his arms and legs extremely swollen. Everyone watched Jesus closely to see what He would do.

Jesus posed a question to the lawyers and Pharisees who were there. “Is it against the law for a person to heal on the Sabbath?” He asked.

They wouldn’t answer Him. So Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way. Then Jesus said to His host and to the religious experts, “Which one of you, if your donkey or ox falls into a hole on the Sabbath, wouldn’t rush right out to help it?”

Again, they were silent.

Meanwhile, Jesus had noticed how the guests had all come in jockeying for the best seats, so He gave them something else to think about. “Next time you’re invited to a wedding feast, don’t rush to the best seat in the house because someone may come in who deserves the honor more than you do.  Then you will be humiliated as everyone watches as you get moved down to the end. Instead, pick a back row so that when the host sees you, he says, ‘My good friend, please, come sit by me.’ Folks will be impressed with that. My point is that everyone who is motivated by pride will be humbled, and everyone who is genuinely humble will be honored.”

Turning to the host, Jesus said, “Next time you put on a special event, don’t invite your peers who can reciprocate by inviting you to their homes.  Instead invite those who truly need special care: the poor, handicapped, and sick. Then you’ll be in for real blessing — not because any of them could possibly do something for you but because of the reward waiting for you at the resurrection of the upright.

Someone sitting nearby picked up on this and remarked what a blessing it would be to eat bread in the Kingdom of God.

So Jesus responded with this story: “Once upon a time a man planned a great feast and sent out dozens of invitations. On the day of the affair he sent out his staff to notify everyone that the meal was prepared.

“Well, much to the chagrin of the host, they all came up with excuses for missing the meal. One had to go check out some property he’d purchased, another had to try out his new yoke of oxen, and still another said he’d just gotten married and couldn’t make it.

“When the staff returned with this report, the man was furious. ‘Fine, then,’ he said, ‘go out in the streets and invite everyone you can find, even if they’re poor and handicapped!’

“After they realized there was still room for more guests, he told them to go further and find the homeless to fill up the empty seats.  There was no way he was going to welcome those he had first invited if they changed their mind.”

By this time Jesus was used to the crowds of people who accompanied Him everywhere. He decided to explain what it took to be a true disciple. “Do you want to be My disciples?” He asked. “Are you prepared to pay the price? Will you follow Me even if it costs you everything you now hold dear — family, friends, yes, even your own life? If you aren’t willing to take up your cross, you can’t go on with Me.

“I’m saying this to save you the embarrassment of starting something you can’t finish.  That would be like starting to build a house but not having enough money to ever finish it, or like a king recklessly going to war with another king before evaluating the odds of his success.

“In other words, following Me can’t be done without forsaking everything and everyone else. Those who hold on to their agenda while claiming to endorse mine are like salt that has no flavor, good for nothing but to be thrown out. I hope you are hearing and understanding all this.”

The Pharisees and scribes noticed that there were a lot of tax collectors and sinners in Jesus’ crowds. Jesus heard about their murmuring and decided to tell some stories to help them understand what was happening.

“A number of you own sheep, don’t you?” Jesus asked. “Suppose you have one hundred sheep and one wanders off on its own and gets lost. You think nothing of leaving the ninety-nine and searching high and low until you find it, right? Once you’ve rescued the wayward sheep, you call together all your friends to celebrate the good news. Don’t you know that there’s more celebrating in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine others who don’t need to repent?

“Ladies,” He went on to say, “when was the last time you lost a valuable coin? I’m sure you turned on all the lights and swept out every last corner until you found it.You, too, couldn’t wait to tell your friends your good news. I’m telling you that every time a sinner repents that’s how the angels in heaven rejoice!”

“Or think about it this way. A certain man had two sons. The younger one decided he didn’t want to wait for his dad to die before benefitting from the inheritance, so he asked for his portion ahead of time. The father complied and divided his estate.

“With all this money in hand, the young man left the confines of the ranch and headed for the big city. There he found plenty of ways to squander the wealth on pleasure. But the money was soon gone and the region where he was living went through a severe famine. The son ended up being so hungry he was willing to take a job feeding pigs out in the country just so he could eat something, even if it was pig food. No one gave him anything.

“One day as he thought over his life, he came to his senses and said to himself, ‘What am I doing here? I’m so much worse off than any of my dad’s hired hands; I should just go home and see if he’d hire me on as a servant.’ He made up his mind to go home, and he prepared just what he would say to his father.

“As the young man was nearing the home place but still quite a ways off, his father saw him. Overwhelmed with love, the father ran to meet his son and hugged and kissed and hugged some more.

“The son began his prepared speech, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you with what I’ve done. I’m no longer worthy to be treated as a son . . .’ But before he could explain about wanting simply to be a hired worker, the father called out to the servants, ‘Run, get my best robe to put on him, my signet ring for his hand, and new sandals for his feet. Go prepare a prime veal feast and call the neighbors! We’ve got reason to celebrate now that my son who was lost has been found. It’s like he was dead and has been raised to life again!’

“Did I mention that there were two sons? Well, the older brother was out in the fields when all this happened.  When he came in that evening and saw the festivities, he asked what all the noise was about. A servant let him know that his brother had finally returned home and that his dad had killed the fatted calf in celebration.

“This made the older brother so jealous and angry that he refused to join the party. His father came out and pleaded with him to join them. Fuming, the older son replied, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this for him! Here I’ve been slaving away while he’s been wasting your money on prostitutes. I’ve kept all your rules religiously all this time, and you’ve never so much as given me a goat to eat with my friends. But for him you’ve killed our best calf.’

“The father tried to reason with him, saying, ‘Son, yes, you’ve been faithful. Everything I have is yours, but don’t you see that we must celebrate this miracle? He was dead and is now alive. Your brother was lost, but now he’s found.’”

Later, when He was with His disciples, He told another story to warn them against being careless or passive in their responsibilities. “Once there was a wealthy banker who hired a manager to handle all his accounts. Someone had accused the manager of being irresponsible, so the banker called him in to get a full accounting of his activities.

“It ended up that the banker fired the manager. This put the manager in a tough dilemma. He knew he didn’t have skills to get another kind of job and he was too proud to beg for a living. So he came up with a scheme to get all his clients indebted to him.

“He called each of the clients who owed money to the banker and one-by-one authorized a significant reduction in the amount owed. One, who owed a hundred measures of oil, had it lowered to fifty; another owing a hundred bushels of wheat, he reduced to eighty; and so on.

“The banker had to admit the fellow had been creative in providing for his future, and he commended his ingenuity.”

Jesus concluded that story by observing that the pagans, in many cases, were more shrewd about these things than were the “sons of light.”

Jesus went on to explain the proper use of material goods. “Be shrewd in your use of money. Use it in ways that will benefit you and others for eternity and don’t be careless. Only when you are faithful in the little things, can you be entrusted with great ones. If you’re careless with money, how can you be trusted with true eternal riches? Be faithful with what others entrust to you and you will truly prosper.

“Having said that, I am not suggesting that you set your hearts on financial prosperity. If you do, you will end up becoming disloyal to God. You can’t serve both God and money; these are two different masters.”

There were Pharisees in the audience; and since in their hearts they loved money, they scoffed at Jesus’ warnings. Jesus put them in their place by stating, “You’re all about image and getting honor from men, but God knows what’s going on in your hearts. You can be sure that whatever men value is probably an abomination to God.”

Jesus continued, “The Law and the Prophets were your guides until John came preaching the Kingdom of God; now crowds are rushing to get in. That doesn’t mean the Law is null and void. For instance, ‘whoever divorces his wife and marries another is committing adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman likewise is committing adultery’ is a law that hasn’t changed and won’t until heaven and earth disappear.”

“Once there was a very wealthy man who lived a life of luxury. Outside his gates sat a poor beggar named Lazarus whose body was covered in sores which the dogs came and licked. He survived off of scraps gleaned under the rich man’s table.

“Eventually, both Lazarus and the rich man died. Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom, but the rich man found himself in the torments of Hades. Across the bottomless chasm he could see Lazarus being held in Abraham’s arms; so he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Could you send Lazarus here with a drip of water to cool my tongue? I’m burning up in these flames!’

“Abraham answered, saying, ‘Son, do you recall the luxury and abundance you enjoyed back on earth while Lazarus had nothing? Well, the tables are turned and he’s getting the blessing now. Besides, as you can see, there’s an impassable gulf between us; no one can get from one side to the other.’

“The rich man then begged Abraham to send someone to warn his five brothers who were still living so that they could avoid ending up in the torment he was suffering.

“Abraham again answered, saying, ‘They have the Scriptures which are adequate for their instruction if they will just listen to them.’

“The rich man countered with, ‘No, Father Abraham, it would be far more effective if someone would come back from the dead and speak with them.’

“But Abraham said, ‘If they’re not willing to listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even though one were to rise from the dead.’”

Speaking to His disciples (although the Pharisees may have been within earshot), Jesus said, “Everyone is bound to encounter temptations and stumbling-blocks along the way, but woe to those who cause them! They’ll wish someone had thrown them overboard at sea with a millstone tied around their neck to keep them from stumbling others. Let this be a warning to you.”

Then Jesus reiterated His instructions about forgiveness. “If someone wrongs you in some way, confront them about it. If he responds humbly, forgive him. Do this even if seven times in a single day he repents and asks you to forgive him. Forgive liberally!”

The disciples were flabbergasted. “Lord, you’re going to have to increase our faith if we have to treat others like that.”

Jesus said, “It’s not a matter of greater faith. Why, the tiniest amount of faith, rightly directed, could tell this mulberry tree to ‘go jump in the lake’ and it would do so.”

To help His disciples see that it wasn’t a matter of flexing some random faith muscle but that true faith was a matter of acting on what you’ve been told to do (just as Jesus trusted His Father’s wisdom and always did what He instructed), Jesus illustrated His point with this little word picture:

“When a wealthy landowner sees his servant coming in from a long day in the fields, he doesn’t say, ‘You must be ready for a good meal. Come, relax, eat with me.’ No, because he’s a servant, he’s expected to get right in the kitchen, fix the meal, serve it, and only when everything is cleaned up can he sit down to eat. And is the boss expected to come find the servant to thank him for all his work? Of course not.  The servant has just done what was expected of him. You are servants. At the end of the day, however long it has been, your attitude should be, ‘I’m blessed to be a servant, just doing my job.’”

Jesus’ Story – Day 34

March 23, Monday

crippled womanIt just so happened while Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, a woman showed up who had suffered a crippling illness for eighteen years. Jesus noticed her and called her to come to Him. When she came, He laid His hands on her and said, “Ma’am, I remove this infirmity from your body.” Immediately, she stood up straight and praised God for the miracle.

The man in charge of the services in the synagogue, however, was upset and addressed the crowd, “Now, listen to me. There are six days in the week for doing work. If you need to be healed, come on those days, not on the Sabbath!”

Jesus didn’t miss a beat. He answered the man with these words, “Why, you hypocrite! Every one of you, whether it’s the Sabbath or not, unties his donkey from the stall and leads it over to the water tank for a drink. So why shouldn’t I release this woman, who is a daughter of Abraham, from the sickness in which Satan has held her bound these eighteen years?”

The crowd was thrilled by Jesus’ miracles and forthright exposure of the religious leaders. His adversaries, on the other hand, were embarrassed and agitated.

“I’ve said it before and will say it again,” Jesus declared, “God’s Kingdom may not look like much in seed form; but once it takes root and begins to grow, it will be like the mustard tree, large enough for birds to nest in.

“Or you could liken it to yeast: just a pinch will affect a large loaf.”


One day, during the winter Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), Jesus was in Jerusalem walking in the section of the Temple known as Solomon’s Portico. A crowd surrounded Him.  Some prodded Him with this question, “Why are You keeping us in suspense? If You are the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, just say so.”

“I have made it quite clear,” Jesus answered, “but you won’t believe Me. I’ve done plenty of miracles as My Father instructed Me. That should be sufficient evidence for you, but you can’t believe Me because you aren’t My sheep. As I said before, My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they willingly follow Me. I give them God’s life and they are forever secure under My care. Besides, My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all and He, too, holds them securely in His hand! The Father and I are one.”

At this statement, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him.

“My Father has blessed you with many good works through Me. For which of those works are you now ready to stone Me?” Jesus inquired.

The Jews answered curtly, “We’re not stoning You for what You’ve done but for what You’ve claimed. You, being just a man, are claiming to be God.  That is blasphemy!”

Jesus responded, “Concerning some of your ancestors, your own Law quotes God as saying, ‘I said, “You are gods.”’ So if He spoke of them in that way, why do you call it blasphemy when I, whom the Father sent into the world, say that I am the Son of God?

“If I’m not living up to the claim and doing works which are obviously of God, then don’t believe Me. If, however, you will accept My works as being from God, then you’ll be able to know and believe that the Father is in Me and I am in Him.”

Again, this was too much for the Jews.  They tried to grab Him but He slipped away.


After this, Jesus went across the Jordan to where John the Baptist’s ministry had started. The people remarked that even though John hadn’t done miracles, everything he had said about Jesus proved true. And many believed in Him.

As Jesus went from town to town, He continued teaching as He made His way back toward Jerusalem for the last time. Once, someone approached Him and asked whether everyone would eventually be saved or just a few.

Jesus answered him, “You must be serious now about entering the narrow gate to life.  There will come a time when many will try to get in but will discover that they missed their chance. It will be like the situation where many get invited to a party but show up late, after the doors are bolted shut. They may knock as hard as they want, but the master will tell them he doesn’t know them. They’ll try to explain that they knew him and were part of the crowd when he was in their town, but he will counter with the final word declaring that he, in fact, did not know them and that they were not qualified to enter. The host will tell them, ‘Go away, all of you who persisted in doing evil.’

“I tell you,” Jesus went on to explain, “that they will be filled with regrets and unbearable grief when they see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets sitting down in God’s Kingdom while they themselves are on the outside looking in. To make it even worse, they’ll watch as folks come from every corner of the earth to enter in while they are excluded.

“Indeed, many who think they’re at the head of the line will be at the end, and many who barely expect to get in will be welcomed first.

While Jesus was explaining these things, some Pharisees came to warn Him that Herod was out to kill Him.

Jesus said, “You can tell that fox that I’ve got a few more day’s work here — casting out demons and healing the sick, but then I’m on my way to Jerusalem because it wouldn’t do for a prophet to die anywhere but there.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” He lamented, “you who kill the prophets and stone to death everyone sent to help you! You won’t believe how often I’ve wanted to gather you safely under my wings like a hen gathering her brood, but you wouldn’t come to Me. Now your grand ‘house’ will stand desolate and empty; and you won’t see Me again until the day you declare, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus’ Story – Day 33

March 22, Sunday

lilies of the fieldThen Jesus went out to speak to the crowds of people who had gathered. Directing His comments to the disciples, He said, “Be careful that the teachings of the Pharisees don’t contaminate your minds. They think they can hide their private lives, but I’m telling you that everything will one day be out in the open — excruciatingly public!

“Don’t be manipulated by their threats. Even if they kill your body, they can’t destroy your soul. Live your life before God who has power over body and soul! Know that He cares deeply about you, keeping track of the littlest details like the number of hairs on your head. Why, He’s aware of every sparrow, and you’re worth far more to Him than they are.

“Don’t be ashamed to identify with Me here on earth, and I’ll be proud to introduce you to the angels of God in heaven. But if you turn your back on Me, I’ll have to do the same.

“Know, too, that if someone misjudges or speaks against Me, they can be forgiven.  But if they assign the work of the Spirit to Beelzebub, they cannot be forgiven.

“You shouldn’t concern yourselves about how to respond when the authorities interrogate you.  The Holy Spirit will put the words in your mouth at just the right moment.”

While Jesus was giving these profound warnings and instructions, someone in the crowd thought they might get Him to help arbitrate a family feud they were having over inheritance monies. “Teacher, would you tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me?” the man asked.

Jesus answered him by saying, “Excuse Me, but since when have I been assigned to handle your case?”

That ended the conversation, but Jesus used the opportunity to talk about the dangers inherent in possessions. “Guard yourselves against the tyranny of covetousness,” He said, “because you know that a good life isn’t defined by the number of things you own.

“Have you heard the story about the wealthy businessman who prided himself in how successful his investments had become? ‘Why, I think I’ll just tear down these little warehouses and built some huge ones that can handle all that I’m accruing!’ he boasted. Then he said to himself, ‘Buddy, you’re in great shape! Take it easy now; you’re set for life! Let’s party!’

“What he failed to consider in all this was what God might have in mind. ‘You’re a fool,’ God said, ‘tonight you will die and then what good will all this do you? Who will benefit from all your stuff?’

“This is the situation for everyone who bases their entire life on what they can get here and now but doesn’t value what God considers riches,” Jesus explained.

“So that’s why I urge you not to stress out about the everyday things of food and clothing. Life is much more than food, and there’s more to the body than what you put on it. Besides, just look at the ravens.  They don’t spend their lives stockpiling food; God provides for them what they need every day.  You’re a lot more precious to Him than those birds.

“Who has ever been able to extend his life one minute by worrying over it? If you can’t do something as simple as that, how do you expect to control the bigger issues?

“Discouraged about your limited wardrobe? Why? Look at the lilies in that field.  They are so stunning that not even Solomon in all his finery was as beautiful as they are, but those plants are going to be dead and gone in a few days. How much more do you think your Heavenly Father is concerned about addressing your needs than He is about those flowers?

“No, you don’t need to fret over all those details. The pagan world doesn’t know any better, but you do. You have a Father who knows just what you need. So concern yourself with the things that matter to Him and He’ll take care of the rest.

“Do you realize what I’m saying, little flock? Your wonderful Father is excited about giving you His kingdom! Don’t sell yourselves short. Sell your surplus, give away as much as you can to the poor, and start depositing real assets in your heavenly account where it is safe and sound. Once you put your treasure in what has eternal value, you’ll find that your heart’s desires will be more and more centered around things that really matter.

“But don’t let this Kingdom-of-Heaven-centered living make you complacent about life on earth. You have a job to do here. Serve faithfully in the little things, always aware that your Master will be returning. You never know when it will be; but let Him catch you doing the right thing, always ready for Him to show up.”

Peter, wondering whether Jesus meant this instruction exclusively for His faithful disciples or for the crowd, asked, “Lord, this story You’re telling, is it for us or for everyone?”

Jesus explained how the Day of Reckoning will work: “Suppose a master appoints one of his stewards to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the household. If, upon returning to his estate, that master finds that his steward has faithfully fulfilled his duties, he will be rewarded with even greater responsibilities and privileges.  But if the servant, instead of caring for the workers as the master would have, mistreats them and spends his days in drunken parties, what do you think will happen when the master suddenly shows up? It won’t be a pretty sight.

“Now, as to your question about the crowds. If this servant didn’t know what his master expected from him, then his punishment would be less severe than if he knew the master and was well-aware of what his job assignment was. In other words, if you’ve been given much, you’ll be accountable for much.

“Mind you, I am going to light a fire someday that will purify this earth. But first I must go through a fiery trial Myself, which I wish was over with. I’m not here to smooth things over but to expose and distinguish right from wrong even though it may break up families and cause division.”

Turning to the crowd, Jesus said, “You’re so good at predicting tomorrow’s weather by reading the signs, but you’re blind to the signs of the times in which you’re living. If you realized what was coming, you’d get busy making things right. Instead you’re carelessly going on with life like a wrongdoer who, instead of confessing and working things out quickly with his adversary, waits to show up in court and ends up ‘getting the book thrown at him.’”

Jesus used a couple of recent tragedies to emphasize His point. “You’ve heard about the Galileans who were murdered by Pilate while bringing their offerings to the Temple the other day. Do you suppose this happened to them instead of someone else because they were worse sinners? Of course not. Things like that happen suddenly and randomly whether or not we expect them. That’s why I’m telling you to repent and make things right while you still have a chance.  Tomorrow something like this could happen to you and it would be too late to change.

“The same goes for the eighteen unfortunate souls lost when the tower in Siloam collapsed recently. They had no idea their lives would be cut short.  Likewise you have no control over when it could happen to you. Repent, get serious about what matters most!

“A certain man had a fig tree planted. Year after year came, hoping for a harvest. Finally, he instructed the workers to cut it down, saying, ‘Look, for the last three years I’ve been expecting some fruit to show up on this tree and it produces nothing. It’s a waste of valuable space. Cut it down so we can plant something in its place.’

“The worker asked if he might not give it one more year, saying, ‘Sir, let me work the soil and fertilize it just one more year.  If there’s still nothing, then we’ll cut it down.’”

Jesus’ Story – Day 32

March 21, Saturday

Jesus TeachingOne day after Jesus had been praying, His disciples asked if He would teach them how to pray. He was more than willing and reiterated what He had taught at the beginning of His public ministry before many of them had joined Him.  Here is how you should pray:

“Our Heavenly Father, may Your Name be honored in my life,
may You be in charge of my life and may Your heart’s desire be accomplished here on earth the way it is in heaven.
We recognize You as our Source and ask only for what we need for this day.
We know we need Your forgiveness and we extend that forgiveness to all who wrong us.
Finally, protect us from the evil one and his temptations.”

Jesus went on to describe His Father’s heart and how they should ask Him for what they need.

“Suppose you are in a situation where someone drops in on you unexpectedly when you have no food in the house and the stores are closed. Even though it is quite late, you have a neighbor who you know would help you.  So you go to his house and arouse him. At first he calls down to explain that everyone is in bed and he can’t help you. You stand there and keep appealing to his kindness. Eventually, if not because you’re a friend, he’ll get you what you need just so he can get back to bed.

“When you pray, ask and keep asking until you receive. Seek for what you need and don’t stop until you find it. Knock and keep knocking until doors are opened.

“You, even though you’re sinful humans, don’t ignore the requests of your friends or children nor do you give them things they don’t need. If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more willingly do you think your heavenly Father will give His Holy Spirit to all who ask Him?”


In Judea He encountered many of the same situations He’d seen in Galilee. Once for instance, He cast a demon out of a man who had been made mute by the evil spirit. Immediately the man was able to speak.  The crowd was in awe. But as usual, there were skeptics in the group who explained that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub, prince of demons, who enabled Him to cast them out.

“I know what you’re thinking, but really, think about this: if a kingdom is divided against itself, how can it keep going? What good would it do for Satan to cast out those doing his dirty work?

“And another thing, if the only way I’m able to cast out these spirits is by the power of Beelzebub, how is it that your own sons perform exorcisms? What would they say about this accusation?

“If, however, I’m empowered by God’s hand to cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you here and now.

“If a well-armed man guards his estate, everything is safe until an even stronger man overpowers him. In that case the stronger man can strip him of his weapons and take everything he owns.

“Whoever is not actively on My side is working against Me; and if you’re not helping you’re making things worse.

“And one more thing, it’s not enough just to get rid of a demon; because if nothing better replaces it and the person’s soul remains empty, it will to return with even more wicked spirits to take possession. In that case, the man’s condition is far worse than it was originally with just one demon.”

About this time a woman in the crowd, overcome with all that Jesus was doing and saying, shouted out, “How blessed and proud must Your mother be!”

Jesus heard her and said, “An even greater blessing rests upon all who hear what God is saying and live by it!”

Crowds of people pressed around Jesus, demanding that He give them more miraculous proofs of His identity.

“Evil is reigning over your lives; you keep looking for yet another sign. Do you remember Jonah? He was sent to Nineveh to rebuke them for their wicked lives. I am to this generation what Jonah was to that city.

“Do you know about the Queen of Sheba? She went to great lengths just to hear Solomon’s wisdom. I am greater than Solomon yet you won’t listen to Me. The Queen will be a witness against you on Judgment Day, as will the people of Nineveh. At least they repented when they heard what Jonah had to say.

“I’m talking about the difference between living in darkness and living in the light. I’m speaking about how you view life. If you have good vision, seeing things as they really are, life is good. If your vision is blurred or blocked, everything gets complicated.  Stumbling around affects you and those around you. That’s why you must stay in the light!”

As if to give Jesus a chance to elaborate on these things, a Pharisee invited Him to dinner. The first thing the man observed (and was critical of) was Jesus’ failure to go through the thorough cleansing ritual before sitting down. Jesus knew He had raised some eyebrows so He explained, “Talk about the wrong way of looking at life! You Pharisees are obsessed with how things appear on the outside, oblivious to what’s wrong on the inside. It would be like taking this cup and washing the outside but leaving the inside full of scum and filth. Surely you don’t think the One who made you only focuses on external rituals and performance, do you?

“You’re meticulous about measuring out one-tenth of every tiny spice and herb to show how serious you are about tithing when all the while you completely miss the justice and love of God. I’m not saying you should be careless about your giving, but put first things first.

“The problem with you Pharisees is that you’re addicted to the recognition you get everywhere you go.

“Do you want to know what you are, you scribes and Pharisees? You’re just like unmarked graves covered with grass so that those who walk over the area have no idea what’s dead and rotting underneath.”

One of the religious experts said, “You’re being pretty hard on those guys and getting close to incriminating us as well.”

Jesus continued His diatribe:

“Woe to you, too, you lawyers! You make up so many rules, which you yourselves don’t follow, that the

people live under unbearable burdens.

“Sure, you’re all about building fancy tombs for the prophets of old, but your own fathers were the ones who murdered them in the first place. That makes you accomplices in their wickedness. Do you want to know what God says? ‘I will send them prophets and apostles and some of them they will kill and persecute. Therefore I am going to hold this present generation accountable for all the innocent blood shed from Abel to Zecharaiah who was slain between the altar and the temple.’

“Yes, it’s you experts in the Law who have the key to truth, and you not only don’t use it for your own benefit but hide it so that no one else can enter in.”

As you might imagine, these comments ignited a firestorm of reaction among the scribes and Pharisees. They lit into Jesus with all kinds of questions and accusations, looking for some way to catch Him incriminating Himself.

Jesus’ Story – Day 31

March 20, Friday

Good SamJesus ended the day talking about sheep and shepherds since He saw the masses of people as helpless, wandering sheep.

“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.”

Jesus’ Story – Day 30

March 19, Thursday

blind man healedAlong the way they saw a blind man sitting beside the road. He had been there many times, having been born blind. The disciples, assuming that all handicaps were the direct result of some sin, asked Jesus, “Teacher, was it this man’s sins or his parents’ that caused him to be born blind?”

Jesus surprised them with His answer, “His blindness has nothing to do with sin, neither his own nor his parents’. This is an opportunity for Me to demonstrate how God works. A time is coming when it will be too late for miracles. While I am here, I bring light to this darkened world.”

Upon saying that, Jesus spat on the ground and made a clay compress with the saliva and dirt. After putting the mixture on the man’s eyes, Jesus sent him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam (a play on words since Siloam means “sent”). So the man went, washed, and came away seeing everything for the first time.

Everyone in town knew the man and couldn’t believe their eyes. “Is this really the same guy who’s been begging all these years?” they asked. Some decided it must be someone who just looked like the man.

“No,” the once-blind man said, “I am the very one!”

“No way!” the people replied. “How did you get your eyes healed?”

“Quite simply,” the happy man explained. “A man named Jesus made some clay and put it over my eyes. Then He sent me to Siloam to wash it off. I did and here I am —seeing you!”

“Where is He?” the people inquired.

“I couldn’t tell you,” he answered.

It wasn’t long before the man was taken to the Pharisees because this happened to be the Sabbath . . . again. They also asked the man for details, “How, exactly, did you get your sight?”

So the man said it again, “He put clay on my eyes, I washed it off, and now I can see.”

Some of the Pharisees were adamant, “Obviously this Man can’t be from God because He keeps on doing work on the Sabbath which is against God’s law.”

Others, though, queried, “How could a mere man who is a sinner do miracles like this?” They couldn’t agree on what to do so they asked the blind man his opinion. “What do you think about this Man who opened your eyes?”

“Seems to me He must be a prophet of some kind,” answered the man.

The “blinded” Pharisees decided this must be a hoax and that this fellow hadn’t really been blind and then healed. They asked someone to bring his parents to them for questioning. “Tell us,” they demanded, “is this your son and was he born blind? And if so, how do you account for the fact that his eyes are working just fine?”

The parents didn’t hesitate but said, “Yes, he is our son and he definitely has been blind since birth. As far as the healing goes, you’ll have to ask him. We weren’t there and he’s old enough to speak for himself.” You see, they knew that the Jewish leaders had threatened to excommunicate from the synagogue anyone who publicly aligned themselves with Jesus. That’s why they deferred to their son when it came to commenting on his healing.

Back to the son they went, saying, “Listen, fellow, give the credit to God, not this sinner whom you claimed healed you.”

The formerly blind man, the object of everyone’s attention, said, “I couldn’t tell you whether or not He’s a sinner. All I can say is once I was blind and now I can see!”

Trying to get him to change his story, they asked again how the healing had occurred. The man, a little put out at their interrogation, said, “I’ve been through this once and you wouldn’t listen. Why are you asking again? Are you thinking that maybe you’ll become His disciples now?”

“Humph,” they stormed, “you’re the one who is obviously His disciple. We’re Moses’ disciples because we know he heard directly from God. As for this man, we don’t know anything about Him.”

“Isn’t this amazing?” the man replied. “You don’t know where He is from but He has opened my eyes. Everyone knows that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if someone serves God and wants to do His will, then God uses him. Never in the history of mankind have we heard of someone who was born blind being healed — until me. What I’m saying is that if this man weren’t from God there would be no way He could have done this miracle.”

The Pharisees had had enough. “You good-for-nothing low-life. What do you mean trying to teach us? We’re the teachers around here!” they barked. “Now, get out of here!” And they threw him out.

Jesus heard about this and went to find the man. “Do you believe in the Son of God?” Jesus asked.

“Who is He, Lord? I’d love to believe in Him.”

Jesus said, “You’re looking at Him. It’s Me.” The man believed and worshiped then and there.

Jesus said to those who were standing around, “Yes, I came to shake things up. I’m doing what I’m doing to help the blind see and to declare as blind those who think they see.”

Some Pharisees heard this comment and asked, “Are you calling us blind?”

To this Jesus replied, “If you realized how blind you are, I wouldn’t condemn you; but since you think you’re fine, I leave you in your sins.”

Jesus’ Story – Day 29

March 18, Wednesday

light of the worldTurning to the crowd, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you come with Me, you won’t stumble in darkness but will enjoy living in the light.”

The Pharisees in the crowd interrupted Him, charging, “You make all these claims for Yourself but all we have is Your word on it. We need more than that.”

So Jesus answered them, saying, “They may be My words but that doesn’t mean they are unreliable. I know I speak the truth because I know where I am from and where I’m going. You see things from your limited perspective, but I have the Father as My witness.”

“And where is this Father You speak of?” they asked.

Jesus answered them, saying, “It’s obvious that you don’t really know Me, otherwise you would automatically know who My Father is. One of these days I’ll be gone; you’ll look for me in vain and die in your sins. You can’t join Me where I’m going.”

Some said, “Is this guy going to kill Himself? Is that why He says we can’t follow Him or won’t be able to find Him?”

Jesus went on, saying, “You are from down here; I am from up above. You are part of this world system; I am not. That’s why I said that you will die in your sins: you refuse to believe in Me.

So they asked, “Who are You, anyway?”

He answered them, saying, “I am what I’ve been saying from the beginning. I could say a lot more, but I only say what the One who sent Me tells Me to say.” They still didn’t realize that He was talking about God, His Father. “Once you’ve nailed Me to a cross, you’ll find out Who I am. Then you’ll finally realize that I’ve been speaking for My Father and always do what He wants Me to do.”

There were some who believed in Him at this point.  To them He said, “Just keep holding on to what I have said; live by it and you will know that you’ve found truth for you will be truly free on the inside.”

Some others overheard Him and retorted, “What do You mean truly free? We’re Abraham’s descendants and we’ve never been enslaved to anyone.”

Jesus replied, “There are all kinds of slavery.  Everyone who sins becomes a slave to sinning.  A slave doesn’t have a permanent place in the family but the son does. So if the Son makes you free, you are truly free. I hear you claiming to be Abraham’s descendants yet you want to kill Me. You won’t listen to what I’m saying. I listen to My Father and you’re listening to your father.”

“Abraham is our father!” they shot back at Him.

“Come now,” Jesus said, “if you were really children of Abraham, you’d be more like him. Here I come telling you the truth about yourselves which I heard from God, and you’re ready to kill Me.  Abraham wouldn’t do anything like that. You’re behaving just like your father.”

“At least we weren’t born out of fornication,” they snapped, implying that He had been since there were rumors about His mother’s unplanned pregnancy and all. “We have one Father — God.”

“Well, that’s strange,” Jesus said. “If God were your father, you would love Me since I came directly from Him. But as it is, you can’t hear a word I’m saying because you are just like your father the devil; and you do everything he tells you to do. He was a murderer from the start and can’t stand truth. He is the father of lies and that’s his native tongue. Now, when I speak truth, you won’t listen and believe because these are God’s words; and you’re not of God at all.”

The Jews came back at Him again, saying, “We were right when we said You were a Samaritan and had a demon, weren’t we?” (For the rumor suggested that Mary got pregnant on her way through Samaria to visit her aunt Elizabeth in Judea.)

Jesus didn’t mince words. “I do not have a demon. I say that I am honoring My Father; you say I am not. There is One Who knows and we’ll let Him be the judge. I can promise you this, that anyone who takes Me at My word and lives by it will live and never die.”

“Well,” they responded, “there’s the proof that You’re out of Your mind. Abraham and the prophets are all dead, yet You’re promising that if people follow You they won’t die? That would make You greater than them. You’re not trying to tell us You’re greater than Abraham, are You? Or greater than the prophets?”

Jesus answered them, “It wouldn’t matter to you what I say about Myself. The only thing that does matter is what My Father says, the One you call your God. Well, I’m telling you that you don’t know God, but I know Him personally. I am committed to doing whatever He says. And speaking of Abraham, he was thrilled when he saw Me coming.”

“Right,” they said sarcastically. “You’re not even fifty years old and You want us to believe You’ve seen Abraham?”

Jesus answered, “The fact is, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Hearing that phrase from Jesus’ mouth threw them into a frenzy.  They looked for stones to kill Him on the spot. Jesus was able to walk right past them and out of the temple area.