The next morning Jesus and many followers leave for Nain, a mountain village about 20 miles from Capernaum. All along the way people join them, wanting to be in Jesus’ presence, bringing their sick for healing.
This joy-filled crowd nears the gate of Nain and sees a funeral procession coming out on the way to the cemetery. In front is the body, followed by a weeping mother, accompanied by the whole town and their wailing. She is a widow, and this was her only son, her comfort and only means of support.
Even though Jesus knows he has been guided here to raise her son, and that he is about to turn her pain into joy, he can’t resist comforting her. “Don’t cry,” he says tenderly, as he touches the coffin. (Nobody touches coffins for fear of defilement! But Jesus isn’t afraid.) The pall bearers stop. And in a clear voice of authority Jesus says, “Young man, wake up!”
The son opens his eyes!
Jesus takes his hand and he sits up and sees his mother’s tear-stained face beside him. “Mother!” he cries as Jesus unites them in a long embrace. A hush falls on both crowds, awed, as if they know they are standing in the presence of God.
Soon the silence turns into expressions of joy, as in triumph they turn back to Nain, saying, “God has visited us!”
Satan can’t hold you in spiritual or physical death if Jesus says, “Wake up!”* His word is just as powerful today if you will receive it.
Luke 7:11-16 *2Thessalonians 4:15-17, Hebrews 2:14-15, Ephesians 5:14
The Centurion is special, but not because he’s decked out in plumed helmet and Roman regalia, not because he’s an officer–a commander of Roman troops. Jesus celebrates his faith! He is one of the pure-in-heart, the genuine, Jesus had just talked about.
Educated in Rome, and trained as a soldier, he knows little of the true God. But his heart recognizes God in the love of Jesus, and he is drawn to his kindness.
He doesn’t wait to see if the Jews will accept Jesus as the Messiah. When his need presents itself, he asks, even though he sees himself as an outsider, and not worthy of special gifts. He has confidence in the goodness of God which he sees in Jesus, and he acts.
Jesus is overjoyed and can’t help stopping to remark to the crowd. Not only does he commend his faith, but adds that the Centurion is a symbol of those from all other countries, all other religions, that will recognize God in Him and come take their places in his kingdom with Abraham and Isaac. This is exactly how everyone comes to God through Jesus.
Our helplessness is our greatest claim to the power of God. Our need makes His power a necessity, touching His heart of compassion.*
When Satan’s agents make you feel unworthy of God’s care or intervention, tell them that Jesus came into the world to save sinners–you don’t have to be perfect. You require no other recommendation to God than your great need, now or ever.**
*James 1:5 **1John 2:1-2
A Roman Centurion approaches the Jewish elders. His servant has palsy and is dying. (Today’s Parkinson’s?) The officer loves his servant and begs the elders to ask Jesus to heal him, feeling unworthy to ask himself, he thinks they will know best how to approach their Messiah.
Typically, Roman servants were property and treated cruelly. But this Roman has character and has been impressed that the Jews’ religion is superior to his own. He’s heard of Jesus’ words and healings and the need in his heart responds.
A delegation meets Jesus as he enters Capernaum after his sermon on happiness. They urge him to fill the Centurion’s request because “He is worthy–he loves our nation.” Jesus sets out for the Centurion’s home, but moves slowly because of the crowd.
The Centurion sends another message, “Don’t trouble yourself to come to my home,” and shortly goes to Jesus himself to finish the message. He presses through the people to reach Jesus, saying,
“I am not worthy to come to you, but I am a man under authority and I understand power. Just give the command and my servant will be well. For I myself give commands and they happen.” He perceives in Jesus the divinity and power of the universe.
Jesus turns to those following and with wonder says, ” I haven’t seen faith like this in all of Israel!” Turning back to the Centurion, he says, “As you have believed, so it will be.”
And so it was.
Matthew 8:5-13 , Luke 7:1-10
Pretending to be God’s is worthless. Unless you love truth, it becomes a curse, twisting and strangling love, and making you judgmental.
Jesus shows how far God’s principles reach. If you indulge pornography, you violate women and yourself–you will soon be addicted. If you hold on to hate and anger, you are starting down the path of murder.
There is righteous anger at seeing innocents hurt or oppressed. But feeling free to “go off” over any slight, opens the mind to Satan’s way. Retaliation hurts us–programming us into hurtful people. Even agreeing with the thoughts demons suggest (negative ones you think are your own) allows them to take control.
Jesus pushes it further. If you come to God and remember someone has something against you, go and do what you can to restore harmony. Then let go.
Those who walk with God are surrounded with the atmosphere of heaven. Jesus knows this because he is. It’s a choice. Jesus shows that the source of joy is God’s mind and heart! “He enjoys being kind even to the unthankful and the evil.”
“Don’t be anxious for tomorrow,” says Jesus. “You have a loving Father, believe His love, rest in His care.” We are never absent from his mind, and He loves to give us everything we need, one day at a time. As sunlight reveals the color in the world, so God’s presence reveals the beauty in us.
“Everyone who hears my words and does them,” ends Jesus, “is a wise man…building on a strong foundation.”
The religious leaders are mistaken; to them it sounds like Jesus is destroying their law.
They hear him say, “I haven’t come to destroy law but to fulfill it…” but they don’t get that they have muddied obedience. He’s merely clearing away the trash they’ve piled on top of the law’s principles.
God gave his law to shield humans from the results of living what comes naturally–broken relationships, broken health, broken dreams, and finally death.
God wants us to be happy! Obeying Him brings happiness naturally. The song of the angels at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God, and good will toward men…”* proclaimed the two principles of God’s law: love God, love yourself and others.
His law is His thoughts of love, and when embraced become our desires, keeping us from ruining our lives.
They were explained at Sinai to protect the people from themselves, each other, and separating from God. No one who hates God’s way can live with Him. Broken humans are only right if they maintain a connection with God, otherwise fear or entitlement contaminates their obedience.
So after sharing God’s love for them, Jesus says, “Be careful how you see… your thoughts fill you with light or darkness.”
Your perception creates your interpretation of law. Your thoughts create your reality. They turn into your beliefs affecting your choices and actions.**
God’s law is love, it protects your life, your future, your happiness, and your choices.
The law of sin and death–entropy–is the law Jesus died to destroy, not God’s. His law ordered a perfect universe.***
Matthew 5: 17-6:24, *Luke 2:14 **Matthew 6:21-24, ***Romans 7:21-8:4, Hebrews 2:14
As Jesus explains the paradox of true happiness, the people are amazed because they believe honor and possessions are the highest happiness. His words are certain, strong, Spirit-activated. But they sound opposite of what they know, what they’ve been taught–at least counter-intuitive.
Now Jesus looks directly at his disciples, knowing the discouragement they will feel from opposition and rejection because of him.
“Happy are those who are persecuted for doing right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men hate you, persecute you, and lie about you because of me. Such men persecuted the prophets. Be joyful because a great reward awaits you in heaven.”
In this huge cosmic war between good and evil, relationship with God brings hatred from those who reject Him. But this path was walked by God’s finest. Knowing this, you can choose joy because you can, certain that God will use every disappointment for good. Focus your desire on God’s approval. Jesus’ love draws you unless you resist.
Resisting God’s love makes for disturbed religion. You either go to war with yourself or you war against truth. Either way you are at war.
“You are the salt of the earth”: the blessings and protection given God’s people flavor, preserve and protect the world.
“You are the light of the world”: your true self helps others see God. Not your perfection–your reality. Let them see God’s perfection–that His saving graciousness is like sunshine and rain, not just for some, but for the whole world.
“Happy are the meek,” Jesus continues. Meekness is being teachable. It is not poor self-image. It is being open to God, asking and accepting His guidance. It requires believing God loves you, which with its companion self-control, are the highest sign of nobility in God’s kingdom.
Even knowing he was the Messiah, and having the felt guidance of God, Jesus had nothing to prove, no false self to defend. He knew who he was.* This attitude proves our connection to heaven. If we trust God when we are hurt, instead of reacting naturally, God gets the chance to show His character through us.
“Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness–they shall be filled.” Those longing to know God, to have His character, are promised to be satisfied. Keeping your eyes fixed on God’s goodness, not the problems, lets Spirit work continuously. His love expands your mind and heart.
“Happy are the merciful for they shall have mercy.” If you are kind to others, kindness comes back to you from God; He teaches you mercifully.
“Happy are the genuine for they shall see God.” If you are pretending to be good–to get God’s approval–be careful. Falseness destroys our mind’s software–our sensitivity–keeping us from truly experiencing or understanding God.
“Happy are those who work for peace, “Jesus continued. Only God can plant true peace inside your mind and heart and keep it there. It is His gift for the asking. It erases conflict, anger, and worry. Make it a habit to ask.
Matthew 5: 5-9 *John 13:3
Jesus loved teaching the people out under the trees, on a green hillside, or by the lake, anywhere outside. This morning after choosing his core group of committed followers, he leads them and the people already coming, to a wide, level place on the mountain.
The disciples gather close expecting something special. They and the others long for national greatness, but He gives them something better than conquering Roman armies; he gives them the basic principles of his kingdom. He doesn’t attack their errors or outline their wretchedness.
“Happy are those who recognize their spiritual poverty and feel their need,” he begins.
God can’t do anything for your recovery until you want it–see your weakness and yield your will to Him. That’s the way freedom works. But when you admit your need, nothing is withheld–you have open access to His fullness.*
“Happy are those who mourn,” he continues, “for they shall be comforted.”
What? Sadness is good? Really?
Jesus is talking of the personal recognition Spirit brings up in us–the sadness at seeing our own ingratitude and our hardness of heart. When this brings mourning, it is not weakness, but strength that links us to God. Only when we accurately see ourselves can we choose healing and God can heal us. These tears are raindrops growing new graces, melting stony hearts.
And when you suffer from what this life gives you, don’t rebel or run away. He often works fastest and shows clearest in darkness. “Only admit your brokenness and run to Him…”**
Matthew 5:1-4 *Isaiah 57:15 **Jeremiah 3:13, Isaiah 61:3
All of the disciples had negative traits, each of them different. But God takes us, broken as we are, and makes us channels of Their love and goodness to others.
Before our creation, the Godhead had decided that if somehow man was overcome by Their enemy, man must be the channel to show God’s love to man. One of them would become a man, show that man could live connected to God, even here, and repair the separation. Then the work would pass to us.
As receivers of God’s mercy and grace, we cooperate with angels, who watch and wait for our choice with an eagerness we cannot imagine. They wait for our surrender to God so they can speak God’s love through our voices.
But even though angels are God’s messengers, they were not given the work of reaching us for Them. Humans, weak and fallible with all of our brokenness, are the instruments of choice.
Even John, whose heart was the most open, was naturally revengeful, critical, combative, proud and ambitious for the first place in Messiah’s kingdom. But as he watched Jesus, he was more and more impressed by his tenderness and gentle dignity, his patience under attack, the love that flowed from him to the most despicable and rejected.
God is delighted to show His transforming power through us by healing our brokenness, so that those broken like us can hope to heal also. Then it is obvious to us and the on-looking universe that the power producing the transformation is God’s love.
2 Corinthians 4:7, Hebrews 2:14-18, 5:2
Judas, son of Simon the Pharisee, presents himself among Jesus’ followers wanting to be in the inner circle, saying he will follow Jesus wherever he goes.
Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but Messiah has no home of his own.”*
The disciples are surprised at Jesus’ indifference towards Judas, and urge Jesus to accept him because he will be good for their cause. They are impressed with him, a scribe, and his connections.
Judas is educated and has great ability. He is good-looking and his bearing commands respect, but Jesus knows his heart and character. Yet, as long as their is the smallest desire for light, He will not discourage him, and He accepts his offer, knowing he will betray Him.
Often Judas feels his motives and heart are an open book to Jesus, he feels the teaching hit its mark, but he hardens himself against it. He believes he knows better than Jesus.
Pride, greed, and revenge keep him stuck in old habits and thoughts. He doesn’t surrender to Jesus’ transforming love, and the opportunity he is given–immersed in God’s presence for two years–becomes his undoing.
Jesus’ acceptance of him shows God’s fairness, giving Judas the chance to be changed by Jesus’ love and influence. Denying Judas a place, would have made the disciples question their teacher’s wisdom. His story will teach them that appearances and abilities don’t necessarily promote God’s work.
God takes men as they are and grows them if they are willing to be changed.