Easter – the Angony Intensifies

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we thought about the spiritual, internal agony Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. This week, the physical agony begins.

Most of the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other religious leaders agree that Jesus must be put down. As one said,

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him,and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:48

They have lost sight of looking for the Messiah and have succumbed to protecting their own selfish positions. These Jewish leaders have eyes but do not see, as Jesus might say. So they arrest Jesus at night, take him to the previous high priest, and then the present high priest, Caiaphas.

On a trip to Israel, we visited the location of the house of Caiaphas. The only thing that is original are the steps leading up to his house. A building has been erected in this spot with remembrances of what took place there. On a lower level they have devised a prison cell like the one where Jesus might have been held. They surmise that a hallowed out cell was below the floor with a hole above it. A rope would be placed around the prisoner’s waist and he would be lowered into the holding place. 

When the members of the Sanhedrin finally gather, they bring Jesus up and begin their “court.” They defy their own Sanhedrin laws by judging him at night with a slew of conflicting witnesses. Jesus refuses to answer their questions, but then the high priest says to him,

“I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God.” Matt. 26:63

At this point, Jesus is required by law to respond. He says,

“Yes, it is as you say. But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matt. 26:64

This is more than the leaders can take. They dramatically tear their clothes, shout “Blasphemy!” and declare him worthy of death. Matthew tells that at this point:

They spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” Matt. 26:67-68

These are his own fellow Jews, the very ones who of all people should have known the prophesies and recognized him. I have written in my Bible, “A very sad verse.”

Jesus is eventually taken to Pilate, then to Herod, and back to Pilate—all in the course of the night and into the wee hours of the morning. 

It is believed that Jesus is held in another dungeon-type holding place when he is taken to the Antonia Tower where Pilate will conduct a trial of sorts. We visited the remains of this dungeon as well. It has stairs down to a dark, dank place with drops of water dripping here and there—very eerie and depressing.

After Pilate finally gives in to the Jewish leaders and the crowd pressure, Jesus is flogged. We could stop right there considering the unbearable pain and suffering, but the taunts of the Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns, the whips on the road to the cross all compound the agony Jesus suffers. I remember watching the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” I was absolutely exhausted by this time in the movie and desperately hoping for him to make it to the cross, horrific as that would be, but wanting his suffering to finally be finished.

As he hung on the cross, his accusers continued to taunt him. “Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him.” He could have done that very thing, but he took our punishment to the very end. Oh, what a Savior!

Next week, the good news!

~ Joyce ~

Commitment Indeed

Today we turn to the third and final mention of Nicodemus in John’s Gospel. We are at the tomb of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea has come to bury his body. Like Nicodemus, Joseph is also a member of the high court. It will not set well with the Jewish leaders if they find out that one of their own has anything to do with Jesus. Therefore, it is a bold move on Joseph’s part to seek Pilate’s approval to bury the body.

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. John 19:38

 Matthew, Mark, and Luke also tell about Joseph of Arimathea. Only John reveals that Joseph had an accomplice—Nicodemus.

39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. John 19:39

Wow—75 pounds! That would be the amount of spices used for a king. Hmm, yes, a king. Joseph and Nicodemus tenderly go about their task of preparing the body for burial.

40 Taking Jesus body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:40

This scene, as well as the crucifixion, were two very difficult scenes for me to write in A Heart for truth. I tried to get into the scene and look around to see the setting, the blood, the people, the conversations or lack thereof, the emotions, the whipped flesh, the crown of thorns, the lifeless body—it was all very heart wrenching.

Nicodemus and Joseph faced a very dangerous task. Their positions in the high court, their reputations, their very lives were at risk. If the first two scenes (Nicodemus’ night visit and his statement before the Sanhedrin) were not quite full commitment, this act of love was total commitment indeed.

I recently received an email from a dear missionary friend in a another country. She spoke of a terrifying incident as she and a friend were walking in a slightly wooded area. Suddenly a pack of wild dogs encircled the two of them, barking and lunging at them with evil-looking eyes. They managed by God’s grace to escape, but she reflected on how of late, evil seemed to be all around them. A fellow worker had fallen into depression. New believers were weeping over the way their families were treating them. Satan seemed to be haunting them at every turn.

I think of the easiness of my own life. I have challenges, but nothing like this, nor the great risks that men like Nicodemus and Joseph faced to stand in their faith. I think of today’s martyrs who sit in prisons because they profess belief in Jesus. How do they endure? As I study God’s word, try to understand, and seek to believe with greater depth, I wonder how strong and faithful I would be in the face of life-threatening danger. Would I have the boldness, the full trust, the commitment to stand firm in my faith? Help us, oh Lord. Help us to grow in our commitment to you.

~ Joyce ~

 

Standing Up in Challenging Circumstances

We have explored Nicodemus’ night time visit with Jesus in John 3. Today John gives us second scene in the life of Nicodemus. Jesus has come to the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem. He has been teaching at the Temple courts. We hear whispers in the crowd.

25Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?”  26 “Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? ”  John 7:25-26

31 Many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?  John 7:31

The religious leaders had about had their fill of Jesus. His ways were not their ways. They had had their trick questions for him, but he always seemed to get the best of them. His popularity with the people in Galilee was one thing, but now here he was in Jerusalem stirring things up.

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.   John 7:32

Rome had Roman soldiers to take care of disturbances, but they allowed the religious leaders to have their own Temple guards to take care of religious concerns. The Temple guards have been called on to arrest Jesus. The Sanhedrin (high Jewish court) waits in their gathering chamber for the guards to bring him in. I can imagine, as they wait, they discuss again all the things they find distasteful about Jesus. At last they hear the  Temple guards coming, but they discover the guards are empty handed.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.   John 7:45-46

I imagine the decibel level goes up a few notches as the hot-tempered Pharisees respond to these milk-toast soldiers.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Has any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”   John 7:47-49

Now what are they to do? Nicodemus has been sitting quietly taking all this in. He probably understands exactly what the soldiers were saying—”no one ever spoke the way this man does.” Nicodemus rises to his feet and patiently addresses the high court members.

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”   John 7:50-51

Well, there it is. One short question. One obscure verse you may not have read before. Nicodemus is reminding them of their own laws. Does this slow them in their tracks? Hardly. Instead, they lash out at Nicodemus.

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”   John 7:52

Actually, Jonah was from Galilee and other prophets could have been, but that’s beside the point. Nicodemus tried to diffuse their angry tempers. He stood up, not exactly to defend Jesus, but at least to bring the leaders back to who they purport to be.

We look at challenges we may face—the temptation to remain silent when we need to speak up or the challenge to diffuse angry, unhealthy talk. Can we stand up to be used by God? Can we speak up to bring calm, love, and reason to problem discussions?

This is still not a full commitment for Nicodemus, but we can see yet another step of development on his part. Unfortunately, it will only grow more difficult.

Next week, we will look at the final picture John gives us of Nicodemus.

~ Joyce ~

God So Loved

Today we conclude Nicodemus’ night time discussion with Jesus. Jesus has been discussing the Spirit and now he turns to the subject of belief, namely belief in Jesus as, not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God. Jesus refers to an Old Testament event where the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and were bitten by poisonous snakes. To save the people’s lives, Moses lifted up a bronze serpent. If they looked at the serpent they lived. Jesus uses this as an illustration of how he will be lifted up (on a cross) not just for life here, but also for eternal life through him.

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  15 that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.    John 3:14-15

Nicodemus probably doesn’t equate the idea of being “lifted up” with crucifixion at this point, but Jesus goes on to say one of the most memorable verses in the Bible. Connect verse 15 to verse 16 and you will understand the word, “For”.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.   John 3:16-17

My pastor summarizes that powerful verse like this, “God loved. God gave. If we believe, we receive.” It is a picture of God’s mercy to us—we who are undeserving. By contrast, the next verse demonstrates God’s justice.

18 Whoever belives in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.   John 3:18

It is not complicated. Believe, receive eternal life. Don’t believe, receive condemnation (eternal death.) Nicodemus must still have a blank look or a frown on his face because Jesus once again illustrates with one of his favorites—light and darkness. Why does a child go off in the darkness to do his bad deeds? Because he doesn’t want anyone to see what he’s doing, of course. Jesus compares himself to the light and evil to the dark.

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.   John 3:19-20

Jesus is the essence of light—truth, God’s righteousness, wholeness, deep abiding joy. If we follow that light and walk in that light, our good deeds will not be of ourselves. Instead, it will be His light shining through us. It is as if Jesus is telling Nicodemus, “You have come to seek the truth about me. Trust me, Nicodemus. Believe in me, Nicodemus.”

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:21

This is a key, culminating, convicting thought for Nicodemus. Much of what he does is driven by the desire to be seen upright in the eyes of men. It is a defect that Jesus often criticized in the Pharisees. Jesus knows that Nicodemus needs a change inside of him. Only the Spirit can make that change, but Jesus must also see that Nicodemus desires to know the truth. Look how many times he mentions it.

3 In reply Jesus declared, I tell you the truth…

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth… “

11 “I tell you the truth… “

21 “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…”

Jesus must have seen a man who was struggling deep in his soul and a man who wanted to know the truth. Thus the title of my book—A Heart for Truth. At this point, we have no indication that Nicodemus has made any commitment yet, but his mind has been stretched. Jesus has planted seeds of truth in his heart. Next week, we move to another incident with Nicodemus.

Joyce

Interruptions

Perhaps you’ve read the humorous tales of the housewife who sits down to write a few bills when the phone rings. She goes to another room to look up an address for the caller. On her way back, she remembers that she forgot to take her medicine that morning. She goes to the kitchen, takes the medicine, and sees the breakfast dishes in the sink.

“Might as well put these in the dish washer while I’m here,” she says to herself, but the dryer buzzer goes off. “Oh, I need to get the clothes out before they wrinkle.” Off to the laundry room. And so it goes. The bills don’t get paid and the dishes are still in the sink, etc. etc.

Ever have days like that? Well, Jesus did too, except he got everything accomplished in spite of the interruptions. Think back on the events we have covered. He teaches in the synagogue amazing the people with his teaching. A man with unclean spirits interrupts the service and Jesus heals the man.

Jesus goes to Simon and Andrew’s house to eat lunch, but they are interrupted when they find Simon’s mother-in-law ill. Jesus heals her. News spreads about the morning healing and at sundown, Jesus rest is interrupted by a constant stream of people at the door to be healed.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, 33 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. – Mark 1:32-33

Notice that they brought all the sick. Capernaum would not be as large as Jerusalem or as small as Nazareth. It had a synagogue and was on a trade route so it would be of moderate size. We don’t know how many “all” is, but likely it took him well into the night to finish this extensive healing ministry.

While he was drained physically, he was also drained spiritually. The next morning, very early, he felt the need of a private time of prayer.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

I am always amazed by the fact that, though he was divine, Jesus was also human and had the need to pray, to draw strength from the Father, to seek direction, and to clarify the calling. I am convicted that, if he needed these times of solitude, then certainly I need them as well to overcome the distractions and interruptions in my life. I, too, need to draw strength, to seek direction, and clarify my calling.

Well, here comes the next interruption––even his prayer time is interrupted! Simon and the crew can’t believe he isn’t right there and available the next morning.

36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed; “Everyone is looking for you!” – Mark 1:36-37

Undaunted, patient as can be, Jesus has had enough prayer time to be re-energized and ready to move on with his calling.

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else––to the nearby villages––so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. – Mark 1:38-39

Even in the midst of his interruptions, the calling was clear––stay the course. Preach! Our callings may take a different form, but we can take lessons from our Master. Overcome interruptions, stay the course, and pray for clarity and stick-to-it-tive-ism.

~ Joyce ~

The Word Was Out

The word was out for sure. After Jesus amazed the Capernaum worshippers in the synagogue with His amazing teaching and the healing of the man with evil spirits, the word spread like wildfire.

28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. – Mark 1:28

Not to be abrupt, but it was lunch time; time for the Sabbath meal. Since Simon and Andrew lived in Capernaum, Jesus and the disciples went to Simon’s house. But there was a problem.

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the house of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. – Mark 1:29-31

Hmm. Far be it from me to make light of the fact that they couldn’t wait on themselves. To their credit, we will assume that their care of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was greater than their empty stomachs. Once Jesus healed her, she went immediately to her duties.

As a side note, I find it interesting that this happened frequently after Jesus healed someone. He would tell them to do something, usually something that they were accustomed to doing, something rather ordinary. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. But I digress…

The rest of the afternoon would have been set aside for rest. Remember, it was the Sabbath.

Meanwhile, those who were at synagogue that morning were walking (as far as one was allowed to walk on Sabbath) to spread the word of what happened that morning. Many began making plans on how they would get their sick loved ones to Jesus as soon as Sabbath was officially over at sundown.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. – Mark 1:32-34

No more rest for Jesus. He patiently cared for each one who came. And again he drove out demons, but note that He “would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Perhaps Jesus wanted to show the people by word and deed the kind of Messiah he was because they had a distorted view of what the Messiah would be. He was not ready yet to totally reveal himself.

We have no idea how many people came to Simon Peter’s door that evening to be healed. Possibly this went on into the late night.

I can only imagine that after all the spiritual energy needed for continual healing, Jesus earthly body was most likely spent. He closed his eyes after an exhausting day.

We’ve had those days––doing good things all day but completely spent by day’s end. How wonderful to lay your body down and welcome sweet rest.

Next week, we’ll think about “interruptions.”

~ Joyce ~

What About Demons?

Last week Jesus was amazing the worshippers with his teaching when a man with evil spirits interrupted the service. Before we leave that dramatic scene in Mark 1:23-27, let’s explore this rather curious subject of demons or evil spirits or unclean spirits.

When I was a child, I had a child-mind picture of this passage and other passages about demon possession. I could see the victim writhing on the ground and when Jesus gave the word, little red creatures with pointed ears and long tails would come running out of the man’s mouth.

I have come to realize that though they are invisible and do not take on earthly form, demons or evil spirits have great strength to bring a man down and inhabit him, to bind him with physical defects, insanity, and self-destruction. Demons have knowledge and speak through the voice of the one they inhabit.

Scripture is replete with examples of evil spirits just as we have examples of God’s Holy Spirit overcoming evil. If we are to believe that God has a host of heavenly angels to bring protection and messages of hope, we must also realize that Satan has his host of fallen angels to perpetuate evil.

This plays out today when a husband beats or abuses his wife out of fits of anger or a teenager succumbs to the habit of drugs in a desperate effort to numb the pain of depression. Or we see it when Satan persuades men that they are following the commands of their “god” to do away with all infidels. Thus we witness mass slayings, beheadings and the like.

Paul reminds us to;

10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark word and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:10-12

Paul goes on to urge us to “put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand.” The armor includes truth not lies, righteousness not evil, the gospel of peace not hatred, salvation not destruction, and the word of God not the word of the world.

In the midst of the armor parts is one more – “the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

Faith. Our faith comes out of our belief in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. One time Jesus was asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” No doubt the people thought he would say something like, “Do good deeds, be nice to people, pay your bills, etc.” but;

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent.” – John 6:29

It doesn’t start with doing, but believing. Jesus told Nicodemus;

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

We are not to just know about him, as the evil spirits did, but believe in Him, trust Him with our hearts, our minds, and our will. Heavy stuff today, but good stuff, everlasting stuff.

Well, those synagogue-goers had quite a lot to digest that Sabbath morning–– great teaching and a living example of God’s power through his Son.

Next week we will see that Jesus’ day was far from over. He was just beginning.

~ Joyce ~

Where Did That Come From?

Last week, we left Jesus in the synagogue amazing the crowd with his teaching. Right in the middle of this wonderful teaching session, we hear a loud outburst. Every eye darts to the intruder, the one who has interrupted their amazing worship. “Oh, it’s that man, the one who is so evil. What’s he doing in here?” one says to his neighbor.

23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–– the Holy One of God.” – Mark 1:23-24

A collective gasp fills the room. Mothers clutch their young children in an effort to protect them from the sense of evil. Men duck their heads to shun the man. Others glare at the intruder with furrowed brows.

Everyone knows about Encoptos (my name for him.) He is drunk most of the time, lying beside the road. Other times he roams through the marketplace, grabbing an apple or a handful of figs, and then running into a clump of trees to hide. Mothers warn their children, “Never go near Encoptos; he is dangerous.”

“Did you hear what he said?” one worshipper whispers to another. “He said, ‘What do you want with us? Have you come to destroy us?’ Are there many evil spirits in him?”

Another says, “How does he know Jesus? Encoptos calls Jesus the Holy One of God. This is all so strange.”

The noise level increases as the people mutter and their whispers become audible. Encoptos moans and wails. What will Jesus do?

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. – Mark 1:25-26

For a moment the worshippers stand speechless, stunned. It was so surreal. They watch breathlessly as Encoptos sits up and gazes at the floor. Gradually he surveys his surroundings as though he is unsure of where he is or what has happened. His eyes search for Jesus.

Jesus reaches out to help the man stand to his feet. Encoptos rises and then bows his forehead to their clutched hands. He raises his eyes to Jesus as gratitude fills his face. Slowly, he walks backward with his eyes fixed on Jesus. As he reaches the door of the synagogue, he turns and walks away.

The people turn to each other in spontaneous whispers.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching––and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:27

And so, Jesus’ ministry has begun.

28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. – Mark 1:28

How do we process this scene? I’d say, much like the people did. How many times do those of us who are believers stand amazed with the deep truths we glean in the Word? Perhaps He has taught you or someone you know, through a challenging life experience. He is still the great teacher. He is still transforming lives as he takes sinful men and brings them out of the torment of the evil one and draws them into the power of His grace. Amen and amen.

~ Joyce ~

He Taught With Authority

Last week, we saw Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. The people came to check out this new teacher and found him to be amazing!

21 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught  them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21

What does it mean that “he taught them as one who had authority, not as one of the teachers of the law?”

When guest teachers came, especially “teachers of the law,” they usually spouted off several rules and emphasized how the people could and should observe and obey them. These rules were not necessarily commandments of God, but man-made additions to the commandments.

Let’s look at this scene through the eyes of one of those in the crowd – a fisherman, for instance. We’ll call him Ezra.

Ezra typically fishes all night in the Sea of Galilee. The next morning, he comes ashore to count the fish and sort them––putting clean fish in one pile and unclean fish in the other pile. He mends his nets and sets them out to dry. After sleeping a good part of the day, he once again goes out to fish that night. Some days he may take his fish down the shore to particular markets. Life is pretty much all-things-fish.

But on Sabbath, even fishermen refrain from their work. On this Sabbath, Ezra makes his way to the synagogue along with others. He lingers toward the back of the synagogue knowing that he and his fishy-smelling cloak are not always welcome.

The Scripture has been read and the local rabbi says the prayers. Now Jesus begins his teaching. The new teacher doesn’t drone on and on like the other rabbis do. Ezra leans in to hear more. This teaching engages his mind. It penetrates his heart. He understands the illustrations about fishing.

Jesus doesn’t quote other rabbis in long drawn out verbiage that puts one to sleep, nor does he impose heavy burdens on his listeners. No, this teaching comes through with clarity and authority as though it is coming from God Himself.

For us, it is akin to those times when the Lord uses a great speaker to draw us in and touch a needy spot in our lives that yearns for clarification or healing. It is like those moments when we have quiet meditative prayer and the Lord brings amazing thoughts or leads us to just the right Scripture for the day.

As for Ezra, he feels a sense of comfort and security in this teaching, an assurance that this teacher knows what he is saying, and a hope that he can be trusted. It makes it worth coming to the synagogue that day.

But wait until next week when we find out what happens next in this highly-charged Sabbath meeting.

~ Joyce ~

Walking Through the Word

Exploring the rest of the story.

Welcome to our walk. In the next months, we will explore what might be the rest of the story for various Bible characters as we “Seek the Word and Search His Heart.”

We won’t drive through or even cycle through; we will walk through the Scriptures pausing to look not just at the main characters, but also the characters with bit parts. We’ll ask questions, like, “What is your back story? What have you suffered? What brought you into this moment?”

We may see ourselves as we shuffle along––see our pride, our impatience, our victories, or our pain. Let’s decide now to see with new eyes, to catch unheard words, to feel the angst or the mounting anticipation of these characters who were real people, not just fictional characters in a fairytale.

We will take a look at many people including Jesus himself. In fact, let’s start with the early ministry of Jesus in Mark 1:21.

21 They [Jesus and his first few disciples] went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. – Mark 1:22

The synagogues in Jesus’ day were used for worship and Torah readings, but mainly for teaching. Synagogue leaders often invited guest teachers to participate in the services. Teaching was Jesus’ specialty. But He was not just your run-of-the-mill teacher.

22 The people were amazed at his teaching. – Mark 1:22

Oh, don’t you wish people would say that about you?  “He’s an amazing preacher.” “She’s an amazing Sunday School teacher.” “What amazing parents. Look how they find teaching opportunities in every day things.”

What captivated the people so? Was it his parables, his stories, his illustrations? Indeed, he often used appropriate illustrations that they would understand––fishing stories by the seashore, shepherd illustrations on the hillside, and farming parables in small towns. Perhaps he used one of these stories in his lesson that day.

As he taught, no doubt He demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit––love, joy, peace, kindness, etc. All these attributes would have been endearing, but why were they amazed at his teaching?

because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:22b

Next week, we’ll explore one who was in the synagogue that day.

~Joyce ~