March 23, Monday
It 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.’”