Calling the Despised

Tax collectors were reviled by the Jewish people. They were often guilty of extortion (Luke 3:12, 13) and classed with sinners and harlots (Matthew 9:10, 11; 21:31, 32).

On the flip side, they were often conscientious (Luke 19:2, 8); often hospitable (Luke 5:29); when John preached, they believed him (Matthew 21:32); they listened to Jesus (Luke 15:1); they were conscious of their sins (Luke 18:13, 14) and many sat with Jesus (Mark 2:15). Jesus was a friend of tax collectors (Luke 7:34).

Matthew or Levi as he was known was sitting in the tax office when Jesus saw him and said to him, “Follow Me.” Matthew left all, got up and followed Him. Matthew celebrated by throwing a big feast for Jesus at his home and invited all his friends so they could meet Jesus. Sinners and others were present and the religious leaders had a problem with this.

They complained to the disciples, demanding, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Jesus made it clear that He came into this world to invite tax collectors, sinners and others to turn to God. These people whom the Pharisees and teachers of the law looked down on came to Christ who opened His heart to them, showing them that God loved them too. He was sent here for people like them–the lost who needed a Shepherd to care for them.

Jesus chose Matthew, a tax collector to be one of His disciples. When Jesus looked at him he saw a “gift from Yahweh”. Matthew was so humbled and thankful that Jesus wanted him of all people to be one of His followers that he had to entertain Him with a nice feast–an act of gratitude and thanksgiving. He had witnessed firsthand the unconditional love of God.

How many Christians are like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who feel that there are certain people Jesus should not associate with? How many of us look down on homeless people or those we consider “lowlifes” believing that they could never change? We underestimate the love of God.

In his Gospel, Matthew recorded these words of Jesus to His critics, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’“(Matthew 9:13). “In other words, I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.” They considered themselves well versed in the Scriptures but yet here was Jesus telling them to go and learn what the words God really meant as prophesied through Hosea.

Many Christians feel that they know their Bibles very well or that they are an authority of who deserved God’s love and grace but God is telling us to show the unsaved and the lost love instead of offering sacrifices that in His eyes are worthless or meaningless. We tend to forget that we were once in their shoes–we were once lost but for the goodness of the Lord, we are where we are now.

Matthew wrote the first Gospel, sharing the the Good News with the Jews, showing them that Jesus Christ was indeed the long awaited Messiah. Matthew’s immediate response to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him is an indication that he had heard and was moved by Jesus’ public preaching. Today, Jesus is calling the lonely, the despised, the heartbroken, the lost, the poor and the unsaved to follow Him. Will they respond like Matthew did?



Leprosy was a terrible disease. Those who had it were declared ceremonially unclean and were ostracized from society. “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45, 46). Beside God, the Father and Jesus, the prophet Elisha was the only person whom God used to healed someone of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14).

When Jesus was in a certain city where a man full of leprosy lived. He saw Jesus and fell on his face and begged, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched the man, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Jesus is always willing to heal and cleanse those who seek Him. Jesus made this unclean man clean again. The leprosy immediately left him.

Jesus gave him these instructions: “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest. Offer a gift to the priest, just as Moses commanded, and everyone will know that you have been healed” (Luke 5:14, CEV).

However word got around and many people came to Jesus to hear what He had to say and to be healed of their infirmities. Often, Jesus would slip away to spend time with His Father, His Source of strength. There are times in our lives when we are so busy with family, work, church activities and other things that like Jesus, we need to slip away somewhere quiet to pray.

Why did the leper say, “Lord, if You are willing”? Why did he not just say, “Lord, make me well”? The answer may lie in something the apostle said about God. For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then [it is] not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens (Romans 9:15-18).

Jesus showed mercy and compassion for this leper and He willingly healed him. Sometimes God chooses to heal someone and at other times He chooses not to. The leper recognized that. He was asking for a favor, taking nothing for granted. It was up to the One he asked to heal him or not.

The Sabbath

The word “Sabbath” means rest. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. This day was set apart from the other days and made holy by God after He finished creating the world in six days. Genesis 2:2, 3 state: And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

The Sabbath existed since the Garden of Eden and long before Moses and the Jews were given the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

In Exodus 20:10, the Lord explains what the Sabbath rest is for: “In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” The six days are for labor but the seventh day is for rest.

The Pharisees were upset when they saw Jesus’ disciples picked some wheat, rub the husks off with their hands and eat the grain. “Why are you picking grain on the Sabbath? You’re not supposed to do that!”

Jesus reminded them of what David did when he and his men were hungry. “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” This account of David and the holy bread can be found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6

The religious leaders had turned the Sabbath, which was supposed to be a delight into a burden with man-made restrictions–dos and don’t s. Jesus had to remind them that the Sabbath was made for man not the other way around. The Sabbath was intended to be more than a day of rest–it was for the benefit of mankind. It was for spiritual, mental and physical restoration. This is why Jesus healed on the Sabbath on more than one occasion. Jesus also made it clear that He was Lord of the Sabbath which gave Him the authority to overrule any man-made rules and regulations concerning the Sabbath.

It (the Sabbath) was designed to be a blessing to man, a day of physical rest, but also a day devoted to spiritual exercises. The Pharisees treated the day as though man were created to serve the Sabbath, rather than the Sabbath meeting the needs of man (Walter F. Specht, “The Sabbath in the New Testament,” in Kenneth A. Strand, ed., The Sabbath in Scripture and History (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, p. 1982), p. 96).

On another Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching. There was a man present whose hand was withered. The religious leaders watched Jesus carefully to see if He would heal the man so that they could have reason to accuse Him of wrongdoing. Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking. He told the man to stand up and then He asked the Pharisees this pointed question: “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”

After He looked at all of them, He told the man to stretch out his hand. The man obeyed and his hand was restored. It was as good as the other one. Jesus was trying to show the religious leaders that the Sabbath was for doing good, for saving lives and for healing people. It was not a day of rest from doing God’s work but they were hardhearted. They were not filled with compassion for the man whose hand had been withered. They did not glorify God for healing Him. Instead they were filled with rage and discussed what they would do to Jesus.

How many Christians treat the Sabbath as a day of restrictions and useless inactivity as the Pharisees did? God meant it to be a day of rest from secular work but not from doing good works. The Sabbath is for reflecting on God’s work of creation, redemption and restoration. Just as it was not good for man to be alone, it was not good for him not to enjoy rest from his labor. The Sabbath is a gift from God and if approached with the right mindset and attitude, it can be a source of physical and spiritual rest and a time of great joy. The Sabbath is a sign between God and men so that they know that He is the One who sanctifies them (Ezekiel 20:12).

We honor God when we keep the Sabbath properly. We must not do our own thing, find our own pleasure or speak whatever we want. When we do what is right and proper on the Sabbath, it allows us to take delight in the Lord (Isaiah 58:12-14).

God does not mean for us to go hungry on the Sabbath. Jesus’ disciples were hungry so He allowed them to pick the heads of the grain. Jesus healed on the Sabbath teaching that it is lawful to do good and to save lives.

“The Sabbath is a powerful testimony to the sovereignty of God. Only He can create, and only He can make something holy. This is why Adventists object so strongly to the change from Sabbath to Sunday as the Christian day of worship. Without a clear divine mandate, such a development is nothing less than an affront to God.” – Richard Rice, The Reign of God (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1997), p. 403.

It makes no sense that God would change the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first. He set the example that after six days of work, we rest on the last day of the week. It makes no sense that we would work for six days straight after we rest on the first day. Why would God have us rest at the beginning of the week instead of at the end?

What is also strange is that if the Sabbath was changed that not one of the authors of the New Testament mentioned this. If the Lord was going to change the Sabbath, why didn’t Jesus say anything to the disciples during one of the many times He appeared to them? Surely something as important as the change of the weekly Sabbath was worth mentioning in the Gospels.

The Sabbath was never meant to commemorate our Lord’s resurrection. It was instituted before sin came into the world. The Lord’s resurrection is the sign of His victory over death which is the wages of sin–it was His victory over death, our last enemy. In death Jesus rested on the Sabbath. He rested from His work of redemption just as He rested from His work of creation.

Jesus was very active on the first day of the week–the day of His resurrection. He appeared to many people. The two men on their way to Emmaus were traveling a distance of seven miles, more than a Sabbath day’s journey. They encountered Jesus before evening. Sabbath is from evening to evening.

In Matthew 24:20, Jesus said to the disciples, “And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. ” He was referring to the tribulation that was to come. He was talking about the future and clearly keeping the seventh day Sabbath was still in effect.

There are two things which the Lord instituted and requires us to do for Him:

  1. The Sabbath–“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 5:12-14).
  2. The Lord’s Supper–“This is My body which is given for you; do this in rememberance of Me” (luke 22:19). The cup is the new covenant in His blood which was shed for us (verse 20).

So we keep the Sabbath to commemorate God’s creation of the world and we observe the Lord’s Supper to commemorate His sacrifice for us. One is commemorative of the life created by Him and through Him and the other is commemorative of His death.

Jesus kept the Sabbath. It was His custom to do good, heal and attend the synagogue where He taught. We ought to follow His example. Jesus did not keep the Jewish Sabbath, He kept the Sabbath of the Lord. The Sabbath is not for the Jews only but it is for the Gentiles as well. It is not called the Sabbath of the Jews but the Sabbath of the Lord. In Isaiah 58:13 God calls the Sabbath, “My holy day” and “the holy day of the Lord.”

We keep the Sabbath because it gives us the opportunity to enter God’s rest and to delight ourselves in our Creator.


Why do people fast? There are several reasons–public disasters (1 Samuel 31:11-13); private emotions (1 Samuel 1:7); grief (2 Samuel 12:16); anxiety (Daniel 6:18-20); approaching danger (Esther 4:16); national repentance (1 Samuel 7:5, 6); sad news (Nehemiah 1:4); sacred ordination (Acts 13:3). Fasting is usually accompanied by prayer, confession, mourning and humiliation. It is the results of divine guidance (Judges 20:26-28) and victory over temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).

Fasting is not to be used for display as the Pharisees were guilty of. Jesus said: “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:16).

God pointed out to the people of Israel what true fasting is all about. It should not done to impress Him. The people were saying: “‘ Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ ” (Isaiah 58:3). The fasting that pleases Him is: “ Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6, 7).

The Pharisees fasted twice a week but Jesus did not support their type of fasting which was legalistic and for public display. They wanted to impress others while Jesus Himself fasted privately (Matthew 4:2) He taught people what was the proper way to fast: “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:17, 18).

In the book of Zechariah we read that obedience is better than fasting. “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?’” (Zechariah 7:5-7).

David fasted for the following reasons: grief (2 Samuel 12:16); to humble himself (Psalm 35:13); to chasten his soul (Psalm 69:10). Others who fasted for various reasons were Moses, Samuel, Elijah, the Ninevites, Nehemiah, Anna the prophetess, early Christians, the apostles and Paul.

Jesus’ disciples were criticized because they did not fast and pray religiously like the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees. It is possible that John’s disciples were fasting because he was in prison or it was a practice among them as an expression of repentance. We know that two of John’s disciples joined Jesus’ group of followers–Andrew was one of them (John1:35-40). So they were now among those disciples who were eating and drinking.

Jesus’ response to the criticism was: “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:34, 35). Jesus used the analogy of a wedding where He was the Bridegroom and the disciples were the friends of the Bridegroom. A Jewish wedding was a joyous occasion and the celebration often lasted a week. It did not make sense that the guests would fast during the festivities and fasting was usually associated with sorrow. As long as Jesus was with them, the disciples had no reason to fast. When He left them first by His death on the cross and then His ascension to heaven, they would then be inclined to fast.

Jesus then told a parable. “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better’” (Luke 5:37-39). Jesus used this parable to point out the unwillingness of some people to change from their traditional religious ways and try something new–like the Gospel. The Pharisees were set in their ways. They were rigid. They felt that their way was the only way and anything else was wrong.

There are some churches who worship God in the traditional way–singing hymns as they sit in the pews while there are other churches where the members stand on their feet, arms waving as they raise their voices to songs of praise. Both are acceptable forms of worship but I have seen the Christians from the old school look down on the other churches who have a more modern approach of worship. To God as long as we worship Him in truth and in Spirit that is all that matters.

No everyone fasts but those who fast ought to do it with the right spirit–not to impress others or God. I know of people who fast and it is always for spiritual benefit. They do it because they want to have a deeper connection to God and to learn His will about something that they need answers for. Fasting is a time for self-denial, humility and repentance for sin. It is not a time for hypocrisy, pride or condemning others. This kind of fasting is a hindrance to a person’s prayer life. God does not respond to this kind of fasting.

As Paul said, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Dealing With Others

Jesus teaches that we must love our enemies. This is what would set us apart from the rest of the world.  How can we do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who spitefully use us? “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.” This teaching must have been hard for those who heard it. How could the people of Israel love the Romans who were oppressing them? Why would any one let him/herself be struck in the face?


Yet this is what Jesus was calling those who wanted to be a part of God’s family to do. This brings to mind what Paul wrote in the book of Romans. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10). Even when we were His enemies God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins.
When Jesus was in front of the soldiers, they mocked Him, spat on Him, pulled His beat and struck Him yet He did not resist. “I gave My back to those who struck [Me], And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:6, 7).


When He was on the cross He asked the Father to forgive those who mocked and insulted Him. He died on the cross for everyone–including His enemies.

Jesus wants us to be different from the unbelievers. “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back” (Luke 6:33, 34). When we treat our enemies well instead of the way they would expect, they would be astounded and who knows they might become curious, providing us with the opportunity to share our faith with them.


Paul urges us to behave like Christians. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “ If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).


What does it mean to heap coals of fire on a person’s head? It means that if as a Christian you do good to your enemy instead of taking revenge this may bring about his/her repentance. Strong’s Concordance gives this definition: A proverbial expression signifying to call up, by favours you confer on your enemy, the memory in him of the wrong he has done you (which shall pain him as if live coals were heaped on his head), that he may the more readily repent. The Arabians call things that cause very acute mental pain “burning coals of the heart” and “fire of the liver”.

The Christian conduct must be above reproach at all times so as not to incite unbelievers into ridiculing our faith which would tarnish the Gospel. “…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Basically we are to behave like our heavenly Father who is merciful and kind to everyone, including those who are ungrateful and wicked.
It is easy for us to judge people. We are quick to point out their faults yet how would we feel if the tables were turned? Jesus spoke this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:39-42).

A speck is smaller than a plank. Jesus is saying we look at the little flaw or fault our brother or sister has yet we do not acknowledge our own flaws which are staring us in the face. How we are able to see past our faults and zero in on those of others is incredible. We need to deal with our own issues before we should even think about dealing with someone else’s.


Jesus is right. How can a person with a plank in his eye lead someone with a speck in his? How can a person who is sinning expect the other person to listen to them? How could one person say to another “Stop stealing from your workplace” when that person is committing adultery or lied on an application? There will come a time God’s people will judge the world and the fallen angels (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3). However, while we are still here on earth, only God has the right to judge anyone.

Faith and Forgiveness

Four friends brought their friend who was a paralytic to the house where Jesus was teaching. They could not bring him in because of the crowd. So, they went up on the housetop and they let him down on his bed through the tiling. He ended up right in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw how deep their faith was, He said to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” It is interesting to note that Jesus did not say “Get up and walk, their faith has made you well.” Instead, He forgave the man. He knew that forgiveness was what the man really needed.

Of course, Jesus’ words caused a commotion among the religious leaders who felt He had committed blasphemy for only God alone could forgive sins. There are Christians who go to confessionals where they confess their sins to the priests. The priests absolve them and instruct them to say the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary”prayers. We see here that no one but God alone can absolve people of their sins. David confessed his sins directly to God. “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

The apostle John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The religious leaders accused Jesus of doing something only God should do–forgive sins but Jesus’ response to them was “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” Then He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately the man got up, took up his bed and left the house, glorifying God.

Jesus showed the scribes and the Pharisees that not only did He have to power say, “I forgive you” but He showed that the man was indeed forgiven. The man was not paralyzed with sin any more. He left there walking and with the assurance of God’s forgiveness.

The Centurion’s Faith

The Bible gives us a definition of what faith is. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This describes the kind of faith the centurion had.

Jesus was in Capernaum when news of His presence there reached a centurion whose beloved servant was sick to the point of dying. At first the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Jesus, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. The centurion was well liked and respected among the Jewish community because he for he loved their nation and built a synagogue for them. He was deserving of this favor.

Jesus went with them but He was not far from the house when the centurion sent his friends to Jesus with this message: “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

His faith was such that he hoped that Jesus would heal his servant so he sent word to Him but then he believed that Jesus did not have to be physically there to heal. All He had to do was say the word and the servant was healed. His faith was so strong that Jesus Himself was impressed. In fact He marveled at the man’s faith and He turned to the crowd and said to them, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

Those who were sent to speak to Jesus returned to the house and found the sick servant well. Perhaps they believed in Jesus from that moment.

Not only was the centurion’s faith remarkable but he was a model in humility. He said “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.”He did not think he was good enough to go in person to see Jesus or have Jesus come to him. He is like John the Baptist who did not feel that he was worthy to even loose the straps on Jesus’ sandals. He is like the tax collector who could not lift his head as he prayed to God because he did not feel worthy.

What is remarkable about this story is that the centurion who was a part of the group who oppressed the Jewish people sparking their hatred. The centurion was a Gentile whom the Jews considered to be unclean yet he displayed the kind of faith that they should have had in the One who came as “a light to [bring] revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

The centurion’s genuine faith put the religious leaders to shame. Their faith was dead because it was stagnant–dead, did not prove itself by works, did produce humility and dependence on God. They were proud, self-righteous, unbelieving and rigorous in their observance of the law yet they failed to see God’s acts of mercy in the miraculous healings of His Son. The centurion heard about Jesus and believed whereas the religious leaders saw the blind healed, the lame walk and the mute speak and other signs yet they did not believe.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus said to the crowd, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12). The Jews felt that their heritage guaranteed them entry into heaven but Jesus said that they are the ones who will be thrown out into the dark.

We must not make the same mistake as the Jews and assume that because we are Christians we are saved. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:23-29).

Like the centurion we must “seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). And our faith should be such that we trust in the word of Jesus which has the power to heal and change lives.

Jesus Raises A Widow’s Son

Jesus and many of His disciples went to the city of Nain. Nain was a village in Galilee located at the north base of Little Hermon. It was a few kilometers of Nazareth. The name means beauty.

It was in this village that a widow was about to bury her only son. Lately it seems that all we hear about in the news is children losing their lives leaving grieving parents behind. This woman had lost her husband and now she had lost her son. She was followed by a large crowd as the funeral procession went through the gate, carrying the body of her son.

Jesus looked at the grieving mother and compassion filled Him. He said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother (Luke 7:14, 15). Joy filled the heart of a mother who only moments ago was almost doubled over in her grief. Jesus had turned tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

The resurrection of the young man in Nain is a foretaste of what we can expect when Jesus returns. He will call out and our dead loved ones will rise from their graves and come out.

When the people saw what Jesus had done fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”

Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Those who die in Christ or die believing in Him will be a part of the first resurrection. They will be raised to everlasting life and reunited with their loved ones.

Jesus touched the open coffin. He did not just say to the young man, “I say to you, young man, rise.” Apparently touching the coffin, having physical contact with death made a person unclean according to the law. Jesus risked ritual uncleanness. But Jesus put compassion and mercy above the law and its rituals. He saw a mother grieving, was filled with compassion and He restored her son to her. This was the first of the three instances where Jesus raised someone from the dead–Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus.

Jesus the Giver of life, restored life to the dead. What a shock it must have been for the widow. One moment she was looking at the lifeless body of her son as it lay in the coffin and the next he was sitting up.

This story is an illustration of salvation. Just as Jesus looked upon the widow and had compassion for her so He restored her son’s life, God looked upon this world dead in its sins and had compassion on us so He sent His Son Jesus to save us–to restore us to back to life. The young man did not earn this second chance at life any more than we earn a new life in Christ. Both are given by the grace of God.

Jesus raised the widow’s son for another reason. Without any one to support her she would have become penniless and have to beg for food. In the Bible God was always protective of the widows. Here we see Jesus making sure that this woman would not have to struggle to survive. The Lord is our Savior and our Provider.

John Has Questions About Jesus

Although John the Baptist was in prison, he received updates from his disciples about Jesus. While he languished in prison doubts began to assail John so he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Jesus did not seem in any way put out by this question. He knew that John was feeling a little discouraged because of his situation. It says that at that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

Then He said to John’s messengers, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Jesus did not just send message to John that He was doing these things. He did them so the messengers were witnesses. When they returned to John they would say, “We saw Him make the blind see, the lame walk, cleanse the lepers and give hearing to the deaf” as opposed to “He said to tell you that He made the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean, the deaf hear.”

Jesus told the messengers to let John know that God blesses those who do not turn away because of Him. He did not want doubt and discouragement to ensnare John. After the messengers left to report back to John, Jesus spoke to the crowd about the baptist.

“What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you.’

“I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!”

When they heard this, all the people—even the tax collectors—agreed that God’s way was right, for they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God’s plan for them, for they had refused John’s baptism.

John was a true prophet who was not a weak man, swayed by the opinions of people. He was a unique messenger who existed on locusts and honey and wore camel’s hair. He was eccentric. But God sent him instead of a person who wore fancy clothes and live in luxury. The tax collectors showed that they were willing to repent when they accepted John’s baptism but the pharisees showed their rejection of God’s message by refusing to be baptized. They rejected both the messenger whom God sent to prepare the way of the Messiah and the Messiah for different reasons. That is what Jesus meant when He compared them with children. ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’

They would not associate with John even though he followed the strictest of rules or with Jesus when He associated with tax collectors and sinners. They accused John of having a demon and they called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus ate and talked with all sorts of people–religious and sinners to show that God loves everyone.

God wants us to be friends to the outcasts. He wants us to communicate His love to them. There are Christians who, like the Pharisees and the scribes who might criticize us for reaching out to the drug addict, the alcoholic, the homeless, the unwed mother but we must remember these words of Jesus ” ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:39).  The love of God can transform the lives of many.   It is up to us to spread that love through the Gospel.  These people need to know that they have a Savior valued them so greatly that He died for them.

God’s grace is for everyone.  It does not discriminate.

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