This post is a continuation of the previous post in the series . To summarize the contents of this post, they consist of the biblical record of interactions between Jesus Christ and outsiders (those not His disciples) along with a discussion of the nature of the interaction as well as Jesus’ response.
“While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.””
“Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.””
“Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.””
Type of Interaction: Inviting.
Jesus’ Response: Challenging.
On the face of it, this interaction is immensely puzzling. As Jesus was speaking to a complicated group of people including some hostile Pharisees, Jesus’ family asks to see him, presuming that the blood relationship will lead to some sort of favoritism. Instead, though, Jesus told the people asking him that those who believed and followed Jesus and were His disciples (unlike his family) would count as His family. Although it must have been shocking to hear in a culture that cared deeply about family ties, his brothers in particular appear to have gotten the point. When his half-brothers James and Jude later wrote books of the Bible, neither of them tried to play on their family link as a way of securing power and influence within Christianity. Rather, both of them considered themselves to be servants of Christ (James 1:1, Jude :1). Likewise, John the beloved apostle ended up being tasked with taking care of Jesus’ mother (John 19:26-27).
“When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.”
“Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea. So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”
“Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned. When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned. Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”
Type of Interaction: Challenging.
Jesus’ Response: Gracious.
This interaction is one of the more puzzling examples of Jesus’ grace to demons and to Gentiles. In a Greek-speeking area to the Southeast of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples met up with a dreadfully tormented man filled with a large number of demons. In casting them out, Jesus refuses to torment the demons as they expected, and allows them to depart into a herd of pigs which commit suicide in a lake. One would think that in an area struggling with demonic oppression that the people of the region would want to have things cleaned up, but no, they wanted Jesus to get out and stop destroying their unclean animals that they weren’t supposed to be eating anyway. At least one part of the interaction went well, and that is that after having compassion on the demon-possessed man, he was sent home to live a decent life and tell others what Jesus Christ had done, and so he did.
“While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.”
“Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.”
“So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.”
Type of Interaction: Complicated, but mostly welcoming.
Jesus’ Response: Healing.
This is a complex interaction because of the fact that it demonstrates healing that was done at the will of God that was not by foreknowledge to Jesus Christ. While on the way to heal a young girl, the daughter of a leader of the synagogue who was near death, Jesus felt His spirit diminish in order to heal a woman who had suffered from a blood flow for many years, a disease that made her unclean in the eyes of other Jews. Although Jesus did not intend to heal her, she was healed anyway, and graciously told to depart in peace and not to be ashamed for seeking healing in her faith. The delay leads the young girl, Jarius’ daughter to die, but Jesus wakes her up from her “sleep” despite the mocking of some of the people inside the house. In a complicated interaction, two people are healed and Jesus deals graciously even with the mocking, putting their mocking to silence with His works.
“When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country. As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.””
Type of Interaction: Mixed, both challenging and welcoming.
Jesus’ Response: Healing, silence.
Here we see two examples of Jesus healing, one healing two blind men who confess in Jesus’ power to heal them, being healed through the faith that they have in Jesus. As He did at times, He asked the men to be quiet, but of course they could not keep quiet, perhaps because of growing opposition with the Jewish leadership, which can be seen in the Pharisees claiming that Jesus cast out demons by Satan after He healed a mute man. Here again we see Jesus’ silence in the face of His opposition, and His asking of people what they are unable to do, because they do not understand His reasons, and his desire not to provoke others into committing the unpardonable sin, as was done here by the Pharisees.
“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
“Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”
Type of Interaction: Challenging
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
We might expect that people would be more respected in their hometown than anywhere else, but that was not the case with Jesus Christ. In giving His hometown one more chance to honor Him after His disastrous previous visit in Luke 4, His neighbors still viewed Him as just a carpenter’s son, whose family they knew well, and did not see Him as the Son of God, or even as a prophet powerfully blessed by God. As a result, He gives His hometown a good riddance and leaves it to pursue greener pastures and more fertile and receptive ground elsewhere, and He is never recorded as having visited His hometown every again.
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.”
“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.”
Type of Interaction: Receptive
Jesus’ Response: Withdrawal
The context of this interaction is a bit unclear in Matthew and Mark, but in John 6:14-17 it is a bit more clear: after the feeding of the 5000, those who were fed wanted to make Jesus Christ their king. Yet Jesus Christ did not wish to be king on those terms, and so He withdrew by Himself, His act of generosity being misconstrued as a leftist political programme, as it has been misunderstood by many people who are adherents of the Social Gospel ever since then.
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.””
“Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’(that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Type of Interaction: Challenging
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
This is one of the clearest cases of conflict that can be found in the Gospels. The Pharisees seek to judge the disciples for not following their self-imposed washings, and Jesus responds by pointing out that the Pharisees sought to nullify the law of God and replace with manmade laws and traditions, such as later filled the Talmud. Yet this interaction is one of the most consistently misapplied passages in the Bible because its context is neglected. At its heart, this passage is about two different ways of viewing law and authority. Jesus represented His authority as the Lawgiver who had given the Pharisees the Ten Commandments (and a lot of other laws) and supported the legitimacy of God’s laws, as opposed to the corrupt and self-ordained authority of the Pharisees, who sought to enshrine their own traditions of the elders as having the force of God’s laws. It is that defense of the legitimacy of God’s laws, and its condemnation of the sorts of behaviors exhibited by the Pharisees in their attitudes, and gives this interaction an especially pointed focus, a focus that is lost when this passage is falsely viewed as speaking about clean and unclean meats rather than the necessity for rigorous ceremonial washings before meals.
“Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
“From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.”
Type of Interaction: Welcoming.
Jesus’ Response: Challenging, but ultimately positive.
This interaction is a complicated one because Jesus Christ appears to have been playing a larger game that must be read between the lines. On the face of it, the woman’s persistent pleas for Jesus to heal her afflicted daughter in the face of His parroting of the official Jewish line about ethnic separation seems particularly cruel. Yet the woman’s response about the little dogs eating from the children’s table is immensely witty, and one imagines Jesus said this hurtful and common phrase about the way that Jews viewed Gentiles with a twinkle in His eyes so that she knew He was saying it facetiously. As a result, what on the surface seems to be an example of racism in reality serves as a challenge to the racism of the disciples, which they would be slow to overcome.
“Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”
“Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.””
Type of Interaction: Receptive
Jesus’ Response: Healing
Here we see another example of healing, and anther case where Jesus told the people who he healed to keep things quiet where they simply could not refrain from talking about what Jesus Christ had done for them. Here is a case where Jesus sought to be compassionate by healing others, but also sought to be wise by avoiding the provocation of the Jewish elites who were incensed at hearing any of His deeds, yet others could not understand why He did not want to provoke a hostile response before it was His time to give Himself as a sacrifice. The strategic aspects of Jesus’ work completely passed over the heads of many members of His audience, who could only think about rejoicing in what God had done for them.
“And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala. Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.”
“[He] immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha. Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.””
Type of Interaction: Challenging
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
Here we see the Pharisees and Sadduccees, the elites who were so upset by Jesus’ ministry, asking for a miraculous sign, as if the healings and other miracles that Jesus Christ did were not enough. Recognizing their spirit, Jesus Christ chastised them for their ability to discern the signs of the sky but not the spiritual signs of the times or their own lives. The one sign He gave to them was significant in several ways–for one, it was a warning that His message was designed, like Jonah’s, to warn them of destruction unless they repented. Unlike Nineveh, they did not repent. Additionally, just like Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, so too Jesus spent three days and three nights asleep in the grave before being the firstborn through resurrection into eternal life.
“Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.””
Type of Interaction: Receptive
Jesus’ Response: Healing
As in many other cases, Jesus told the man He healed not to proclaim it in town, lest it cause problems, including large crowds and the potential of official civil and religious repercussions. However, aside from that common thread, this short passage is noteworthy in providing an example of a staged healing. Rather than being healed all the way all at once, the blindness of the man was healed in multiple stages, with a bit of folk medicine to serve as a placebo for the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
“And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.””
And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.””
“Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him. Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.”
Type of Interaction: Complex.
Jesus’ Response: Complex.
This interaction is a complicated one because there is a lot going on and at least four different parties in this interaction. Before the interaction begins, Jesus’ disciples had unsuccessfully tried to rid the epileptic boy of a powerful demon. It should be noted at the outset that not all epilepsy would be demon-induced, but this particular case was. At any rate, after having been unable to heal the boy, the disciples get into an argument with the scribes, and Jesus begins the interaction by questioning the scribes. At this point the interaction then turns to a discussion between Jesus and the father of the stricken boy. Jesus asks about the man’s belief that He could heal the boy, listens compassionately to the tale of how the boy has suffered at the hands of the demon, and the boy is healed. Yet in addition to that there is more. There is a rebuke for the lack of faith of the generation–which includes the disciples at this point, whose lack of prayer and fasting meant that they could not cast out the demon. In addition, Jesus here compares the domination of demons to mountains, which gives one of the clues of interpreting at least a few passages of scripture relating to removing or moving mountains, which are often taken literally. Ultimately, the boy is healed and glory is given to God, but this passage has all kind of troubling implications about the influence of demons on the suffering of people.
“When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.””
Type of Interaction: Questioning
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
Here we see another example of Jesus Christ avoiding an opportunity to be provocative and offensive. Although, as the Son of God, He was exempt from the Temple tax, He was willing to pay for himself (and Peter), albeit miraculously, in order to avoid causing offense. This particular interaction is a good reminder that it is wise to live in such a way that we are willing to go the extra mile and pay extra cost to avoid offending others where possible, and not to use our liberty as a club to make others upset at us. That is a lesson we could all stand to learn a bit better.
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “ ‘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.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.””
Type of Interaction: Questioning
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
This passage is one of the most famous passages in the Bible, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and it is easy to forget how demanding the standard Jesus asks of believers here is . Upon confidently answering that to love one’s neighbor as oneself is one of the key aspects of one’s behavior that will lead to eternal life, something confirmed often in scripture (see, for example, Matthew 5:48, Romans 12, or Matthew 23), the expert in the law seeks to exempt others from being considered neighbors and thus receiving this sort of love. Jesus, though, provides no such wiggle room, requiring a believer to show love even for enemies, with whom there is no social intercourse nor any friendly relations whatsoever. Such people are to be treated kindly and compassionately, with their wounds treated and with care taken for them, not with any expectation of repayment, but as the response of a kind and loving heart in a world full of broken people who have been left for dead on the side of the road while others pass by. This is an immensely difficult standard to achieve, and it requires the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit, and a great deal of difficult practice, to love others this well.
“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.””
Type of Interaction: Questioning
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
Although this passage has been written about at length elsewhere , it is worth mentioning here in describing how interactions of Jesus with others have been misinterpreted. In this particular passage, Jesus is making it clear that paying close attention to Jesus’ teaching is more important than being consumed by the cares of this world. All too often Mary has been viewed as being lazy and callous for not helping Martha out with the chores, but Jesus is saying that spending time with Him and learning His ways is more important than filling one’s life with that which can be done anytime, especially since Jesus does not appear to have been fussy about matters of no great importance. The question here is one of priorities, not one of being hardworking or lazy, and Martha appears to have gotten the point, even with her anxious nature and desire to do good. It is also noteworthy that here, as is the case elsewhere, Jesus is reluctant to enter into the disputes that others have, a wise pattern of restraint (see also Luke 12:13-15).
“And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.
In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.””
Type of Interaction: Challenging
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
This is one of the more contentious discussions that Jesus Christ was being a part of, a dinner party that turned ugly. After being invited to the house of one of the Pharisees, which seldom went well, Jesus was rebuked for not washing his hands in the manner of the Pharisees, with their elaborate pre-meal ritual washings. Jesus then turned and commented on how washing the insides, by being pure of sin and wickedness within, was more important, and commented that the Pharisees tended to celebrate small matters of ritual law while forgetting mercy and justice, the weightier matters of the law. When other Pharisees were angered at the implications of what Jesus Christ was saying, and their own dark hearts were exposed, Jesus Christ then continued to point out how many of the Pharisees lived double lives, appearing righteous on the outside but full of wickedness within, and pointing to the seriousness of judgment for those who deny the authority of Jesus Christ and ascribe His deeds to the workings of Satan, which brings us again to the matter of the unpardonable sin, which comes up occasionally when dealing with the pride of the Pharisees, while Jesus warns his listeners of the realities of earthly judgment for believers, and eternal judgment for unrepentant enemies of the faith.
“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”
Type of Interaction: Challenging
Jesus’ Response: Challenging
When a member of a crowd challenged Jesus Christ about whether the fate of people in tragedies was a sign of their spiritual state, Jesus Christ here points to the reality that when God’s judgment comes upon a society through natural or man-made disaster, those who die are not many more wicked, but the tribulations suffered are designed to provoke the fruit of repentance so that the fig tree, symbolic of the nation of Judah itself, is not totally cut down and rejected, as happened when the people refused to repent with a whole heart and faced Roman judgment for their rebellion against God and man within 40 years of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let this be a lesson to us as well, that those who perish in the difficulties of this life are not more wicked than the rest of society, but that the minor disasters are there to provoke repentance so that we do not face greater ones, unless we are so hard of heart that we refuse to repent short of total national calamity.
“Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him. Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.””
Type of Interaction: Complex
Jesus’ Response: Complex
This interaction starts with Jesus teaching in a synagogue, at which point the presence of a woman who has suffered for almost two decades provides an instructive teaching moment as a way of demonstrating the power of healing. This miracle of healing, though, is challenged by the ruler of the synagogue, who does not see the freedom promised by the Sabbath as being pictured by Jesus’ frequent and conspicuous healings on the Sabbath, which demonstrate its importance as a sign of total freedom from oppression, whether that is from sin, from slavery, or from illness, in all areas of life. Jesus contrasts His own mercy towards the woman with the exceptions to Sabbath work that the Pharisees made to have compassion on their animals, pointing out the double standard they held and their lack of compassion for suffering brethren. Jesus then finishes the interaction by continuing his teaching in parables that the audience did not understand the meaning of, but that hold important meanings concerning the importance of little deeds and the massive impact that the Kingdom of God has in this world, even if that effect is not immediate.
To be continued…
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