God’s Hand of Healing Day 4

“Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.

Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means, ‘Be opened!’ Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!

Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, ‘Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.'” Mark 7:31-37, NLT

Notes from the Illustrated Study Bible

This miracle is very similar in order and vocabulary to the healing of the blind man in 8:22-26. Healing miracles in the Gospels follow a similar pattern—the constant telling and retelling of similar stories probably standardized their form and wording.

This healing miracle includes a change of scene. Although some interpret the next miracle as occurring in the Gentile world (Sidon or Decapolis), it probably took place after Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee. The next incident takes place there (8:10) without a change of scene.

Jesus also used saliva in a healing at Mark 8:23, where he spit on a man’s eyes in curing his blindness. The medicinal use of saliva in ancient times is well documented.

Since Jesus was looking up to heaven when he sighed, his sigh is probably best understood as a prayerful gesture. Ephphatha is an Aramaic term that Mark translates for his readers (see also 3:17; 5:41; 14:36; 15:34). These are not magical formulas or incantations; Mark is simply recounting some of the original words Jesus spoke. Matthew and Luke do not seem to have attributed any special significance to the Aramaic words of Jesus, since they did not include them in their Gospels.

Despite his desire to avoid attention, Jesus’ greatness shone too brightly—his person, his teaching, and his ability to heal inspired awe, and he could not be hidden.

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Holy Reading Reading Plan Day 7: The Resurrection of Jesus

“The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.’” Matthew 28:8-10, NLT

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Scripture unanimously depicts the personal and bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead by the power of God, but numerous other attempts to explain it have emerged:

(1) Jesus never really died—instead, he lost consciousness and regained it after being laid in a cool tomb (the swoon theory); (2) the disciples of Jesus stole his body and then lied about a resurrection (28:12‑15); (3) the disciples had hallucinations and dreams that they mistakenly confused with a physical resurrection; and (4) the resurrection is a personal experience in the heart of faith, not an event in history.

Behind such suggestions lies a deep-seated skepticism toward the supernatural, or at least toward whether a miraculous event could have happened. Such suggestions fail to take into account the fact that for NT authors and their audiences, the term “resurrection” could only have meant the literal reanimation of a dead corpse (see 1 Cor 15).

The historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and the historical reliability of the biblical accounts are supported by (1) the evidence of an empty tomb; (2) the presence of women as witnesses (no one would have made up a story with women as witnesses, since the testimony of a woman was considered to be less reliable than that of a man); (3) the varied but basically unified accounts of Jesus’ postresurrection appearances; (4) the transformation of the disciples from a fearful band into fearless followers; and (5) the disciples’ ability to overcome the scandal of following a crucified man (Deut 21:23 indicates that one who dies such a death has fallen under God’s curse).

Judaism had no concept of a dying and rising Messiah that could conveniently be applied to Jesus. Inventing something no one would find conceivable would have made little sense. The most reasonable conclusion is just what the NT announces: that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.

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Holy Week Reading Plan Day 2: The Cross and Passover

“One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe) These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and ‘They will look on the one they pierced.’” John 19:34-37, NLT

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At the beginning of John’s Gospel, John the Baptist introduced Jesus by calling him the “Lamb of God” (1:29, 36). This odd phrase might refer to the sacrificial lamb that was killed daily in the Temple (Exod 29:38‑46) or to the sacrificial lamb of Isa 53:7 (cp. Acts 8:32‑35; Rev 5:5‑14). Both of these sacrifices spoke of rescue and forgiveness from sin.

However, this was not all that John had in mind. John presented Jesus as the Passover lamb whose death marks the central event of the Passover season (see Exod 12:46; Luke 22:7; 1 Cor 5:7). In the first century, Jews made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem each spring to celebrate the Passover and to reread the story of the Exodus (see Exod 12–15). When Israel was being rescued from Egypt, the blood of a lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts of each Jewish home in Egypt and saved those inside from death (Exod 12). Jews who came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover needed to supply a perfect young lamb for sacrifice. The animal could not be diseased or have broken bones.

Jesus used his final Passover meal to show that his sacrificial death would give new meaning to the festival (Mark 14:17‑31). In John, the cross became an altar where Christ, the Passover lamb, was slain. Jesus’ legs were not broken (John 19:33), fulfilling a Passover rule (19:36; Exod 12:46). Blood ran freely from his wound (John 19:34), showing that his life was being exchanged for others. Just as a lamb died to save the lives of Jewish families at the Passover in Egypt, so, too, the death of the Son of God on the cross serves to bring salvation to the world.

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Jesus Calms the Storm Reading Day 4: Matthew 8

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’ Matthew 8:23-17, NLT

Notes from the Illustrated Study Bible

Sudden squalls are common on the Sea of Galilee, which is among mountains. The episode at sea extends the theme of what true discipleship involves. The storm challenged the disciples to entrust their very lives to Jesus for protection and deliverance. Jesus even has authority over dangerous weather and the sea (see Job 38:8-11; Pss 29; 65:1-13;
89:9; 107:23-32).

Who is this man? Salvation requires a proper answer to this question and active faith in him. Jesus’ disciples had still failed to understand.

Laziness and Hard work

Taken from the Illustrated Study Bible

“I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds and its walls were broken down. Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Proverbs 24:30-34, NLT

 Proverbs pokes fun at lazy people. They are sarcastically compared to a door that swings back and forth (26:14), and lampooned for their empty excuses (e.g., 22:13). Proverbs equates lazy people with the foolish; their lack of productivity leads to poverty and death (6:6‑10; 10:26; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 24; 20:4; 21:25; 22:13; 24:30‑34; 26:13‑16). By contrast, diligent people are seen as wise; their activities lead to wealth and life (10:4‑6; 12:11; 13:4; 14:4; 20:13; 31:10‑27).

The theme of laziness arises in the contrast between the two women, Wisdom and Folly (ch 9). The virtuous woman of ch 31 reflects the industriousness of Wisdom (31:16‑18).

While it is true that ultimate meaning and fulfillment do not come from hard work (Eccl 2:17‑26), the lazy are still condemned (Eccl 4:5‑6). God created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden to tend it, not just to sit back and enjoy it (Gen 2:15). Proverbs and the whole of Scripture support the truth that work is not a result of the Fall but rather is a dignified and important part of creation.

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Samuel, Israel’s Last Judge and First Prophet

Taken from the Illustrated Study Bible

Samuel lived at the end of the period of the judges and ushered in the period of kingship. He was Israel’s last judge (1 Sam 7:6, 15‑17) and first prophet (3:20; Acts 3:24; 13:20). He functioned as a priest (1 Sam 2:18) and was a great man of faith (Heb 11:32).

Samuel was born in response to his mother Hannah’s prayers. Samuel’s parents traveled annually from Ramah to the Shiloh sanctuary (1 Sam 1:3). While at the sanctuary, Hannah, who was infertile, prayed for a son and promised him to God for full-time service (1:9‑11). God answered the prayer, and Samuel was born (1:19‑20). When Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him to serve in the sanctuary with Eli, the high priest (1:24‑28).

Eli’s sons were wicked and pagan, but Samuel served the Lord. Soon it became clear that God spoke more intimately with Samuel than with Eli. God spoke to Samuel (3:1‑18) to warn Eli of the coming disaster when the Philistines defeated Israel, killed Eli’s sons, and took the Ark of the Covenant (chs 4–6). Later, under Samuel’s leadership, the people repented of their sin of idolatry and succeeded in winning an important battle against the Philistines (7:3‑17).

But as Samuel grew older, it became obvious that he suffered from the same weakness as Eli before him. Samuel’s sons were evil (8:1‑3), and the people did not want them to assume leadership over the nation. So the people saw the need for a king who could lead them in battle against their enemies (8:4‑5).

The transition from the era of the judges to kingship was turbulent. As priest, Samuel prayed for the people; as prophet, he reproved Saul for impatience and disobedience (13:5‑14; 15:20‑23). When God rejected Saul as king, Samuel anointed David as God’s chosen one (16:1‑13) and protected David from Saul (19:18‑24).

Through prayer and perseverance, Samuel was a faithful leader (Jer 15:1; Acts 13:20; Heb 11:32) who cherished his people’s well-being and courageously rebuked kings and elders. He led Israel from tribal disunity to national solidarity and established the monarchy. He wrote The Record of Samuel the Seer (1 Chr 29:29) and defined ideal kingship (1 Sam 10:25).

When he died, he was mourned by all Israel. He was buried in Ramah, his hometown (25:1).

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