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Jesus is Tempted and Then Chooses his Disciples
Following his baptism, Jesus went through a temptation experience in the wilderness. This had to happen because when Jesus was baptized, he became aware of his powers given by God.
The story of Jesus’ temptations is told in a dramatic way in the Bible. But it was not an easy adventure. Read Matthew 4:1-11. The first temptation, to turn stones into bread, was far more than a momentary temptation to ease his own hunger; it was a temptation to misuse his power for material purposes instead of spiritual purposes.
The second temptation was to throw himself off the highest point of the temple and let God’s angels save him. This was the temptation to attract people to him by doing spectacular things. Again, Jesus refused – if he could not draw people to God and salvation by sharing God’s love in word and deed, he was not going to turn to miracles and magic to attract them to him.
The third temptation was to set aside his mission and to conform to the world. Jesus felt that if the people were to be committed to God, they must be committed 100% of the way.
So Jesus overcame his period of testing and returned to Galilee to begin his ministry and to call his disciples.
We are not told a lot about all twelve of the disciples. Some of them we actually know very little about. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fisherman, of course. According to the Gospel of John, Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist when he met Jesus and it was Andrew who introduced his brother Simon to Jesus.
Simon was a born leader, at first he was impatient and spoke too quickly – people today would say he had a big mouth. But, as time went on, he found favor with Jesus and we now know him as Peter.
James and John were fisherman and brothers, sons of Zebedee. Both became part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples and went with him when he performed many of the healings.
Thomas, who we always call a doubter, was really a brave man. He was also very honest and courageous. Many people feel that it was his deep love for Jesus which caused him to be labeled a doubter because he just could not believe that his friend had come back to life.
Matthew was a tax collector for the Roman government. As a tax collector, he was probably despised and cursed by all Jews.
Judas was a good disciple gone bad. He must have been good at one time because Jesus made him the treasurer of the group.
We really don’t know anything about Philip, Simon, Bartholomew, Thaddaeus, and James, the son of Alphaeus, other than they were good and loyal.
The Message of Jesus
The message with which Jesus began his ministry was simple and to the point, “turn away from your sins, because the kingdom of heaven is near“. Jesus told the people that they couldn’t continue to live the way they were, they had to change and live as God had called them to live.
Perhaps the most specific passage describing the mission and message of Jesus is in Luke 4:18-19 at the beginning of his ministry and while Jesus is in the synagogue.
When he finished, the passage had come true as they had heard it read. Jesus came to reveal God’s will (John 14:9).
When speaking to the disciples, Jesus called God “Father” or “Abba“, which provided an insight into the nature of God that had never been heard of before.
There are a number of reasons why Jesus referred to God as Father. He wanted to teach us that God, as our heavenly Father, is vitally interested in our lives and knows and loves each of us. He taught us that God is our Father in order to remind us that because God knows us so well, we can relate to God honestly and naturally.
By the word “Father”, Jesus also attempted to get across to us the truth that God is ready and anxious to forgive our sins and to give us a new chance in our lives. Jesus hoped that if each of could call God “Father” we would also see ourselves as brothers and sisters of the same human family.
In addition to teaching us about God, Jesus came to teach us about God’s kingdom. In Matthew 13, we read many parables about God’s kingdom – the Parable of the Sower; of the Weeds and the Wheat, of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven, as well as many others.
That Jesus spoke about sin and its remedy is important to know, for he came to earth as Savior. Remember how Joseph was told in a dream, “you will name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)
Simply put, sin is disobeying God (such as whenever people are faithless to God and reject Him). Sins may be committed in thoughts and desires as well as in words and deeds. Jesus never treated sin lightly.
While Jesus hated sin, he did not hate the sinner. On the contrary, he cared very much for us. In Luke, he said, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost“. The Lost in this passage refers to the sinners.
When we sin we break relationship with God. Yet, it is God who, in the form of Jesus, forgives our sin and restores us to the right relationship. Human efforts to achieve and earn forgiveness are impossible. In Jesus’ parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, we see the point made that in forgiveness, there is no question of merit, since all forgiveness is a matter of God’s grace (Matthew 20:1-16)
How is our forgiveness achieved? Through the cross.
Jesus died on the cross to offer himself as an atonement or payment for our sins. He suffered for our sakes in order that we might be restored to a right relationship with God. Paul said, “he (Jesus) died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but only for him who died and was raised to life for their sake” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Finally, Jesus taught about Love, which takes priority over everything else. To his disciples he said, “now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
When asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus answered, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39)
When Jesus talked about love, he was talking about an act of the will, not an emotion. To love someone means to look out for their greatest good. It does not mean that we must have warm and tender feelings toward them. As Christians, we are called to love all kinds of people, even those we may find it difficult to feel love towards.
One of the best passages about love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, where Paul says:
“The love which Christ taught is not an easy love. One test of love is the length to which it is prepared to go. Christ’s love went all the way to Calvary. Our love must also be prepared to go to whatever length is required for the sake of Christ”
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is referred to as one who was “powerful in everything he said and did“. Jesus was not only an influential and highly skilled teacher and preacher; he was a person of action as well. Today, we will begin to look at some of the deeds of Jesus and how people responded to him.
Let us look at Luke 19:10. Jesus referred to the people who had wandered away from God and into a life of sin as “The Lost”
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke, there are three familiar parables which illustrate what Jesus taught. They are the parables of the “Lost Sheep”, the “Lost Coin” and the “Prodigal Son”. These have been called the “Gospel within the Gospel“.
Read the parables and see if you can find similarities these stories share with each other.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught that God never gives up on the so- called sinner. To demonstrate that truth, Jesus constantly went about sharing the Good News of God’s love and mercy to the lost:
- He shared it with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
- He shared it with the Samaritan woman who had five husbands (John 4:7-17)
- He shared it with an adulteress who had been caught in the act and to whom the Pharisees were ready to stone to death (John 8:1-11)
- He shared it with Simon the Leper (Luke 7:36-50).
There were many more to whom Jesus showed his love and mercy, but in these we can see the power of redemption and forgiveness in the love of God.
A second important area in the ministry of Jesus was the healing he did among the people. From casting out demons, to healing the blind and the deaf, to raising the dead, Jesus valued life and all that we are able to contribute in our journey to become disciples of Jesus.
There is a short healing story in Luke 5:18-26. Read this story and see if you can find out why Jesus, when he met the paralytic said, “my son, your sins are forgiven”.
To the Jews, a sick person was one with whom God was angry. It is very important to understand that Jesus carried out his healing work to help people, not to draw attention to himself. Again and again, Jesus instructs people not to tell anyone.
The Arrest and Crucifixion of Jesus
Luke sets the stage for the closing period of Jesus’ ministry when he writes, “as the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem”.
On Friday evening, six days before the Jewish Passover, Jesus reached Bethany. He spent the following day, the Sabbath resting. The next morning he prepared to enter Jerusalem, and that day would be remembered forever as Palm Sunday.
This morning we will begin with the account of Palm Sunday as we read Matthew 21:8-11.
Palm Sunday literally began the week that changed history. On Monday, Jesus entered the temple and found people selling animals for sacrifices and money changers to convert all the money to that used in Jerusalem. It is here that we have heard the story that Jesus chased all the people out of the temple. (John 2:15-16).
On Tuesday, Jesus was at the temple in Jerusalem, answering the questions of the scribes and Pharisees.
On Wednesday he was a guest at the house of Simon of Bethany.
On Thursday Jesus sat in the upper room with his disciples. It was here that the institution of the Lord’s Supper originated (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). With this simple sacrament, Christian faith has been nourished down through the centuries.
After Jesus had shared this meal with his disciples, it was midnight. They left the room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane where he would soon be arrested, having been betrayed by Judas of Iscariot who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
The story of the trial and crucifixion is a rather gruesome tale. Jesus is brought before Pilate, who, in order to appease the people, had Jesus whipped. The thirty-nine times Jesus was whipped was one short of the maximum number a person could be whipped who had committed a capital crime.
Crucifixion was a horrible punishment and was usually reserved for serious criminals and slaves. The person was nailed to the cross, then their hands and feet were tied to the beams so that they were held in place. The person then hung there until death. Since this was the eve of the Passover, no one could remain on the cross so the soldiers broke the knees of the criminals which forced their bodies to drop. But for Jesus, to fulfill the prophecy that no bones would be broken, his side was pierced with a spear and the writers tell us his blood ran clear.
From the cross, Jesus said, “It Is Finished”. What he meant was, “I have paid your debt in full, your sins are forgiven”.
Thus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross completed the mission for which he came to earth – to save sinners.
Jesus had been crucified on Friday. When he had been declared dead, his body was taken and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a follower of Jesus. The next day was the Sabbath, which we know very little about. Being that it was the Passover, it was the day where families gathered together and observed the tradition of the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage.
Then came Sunday.
It was early when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to perform the ritual of anointing the body. When she got there the stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was no longer there. The account of this story is found in Luke 24:4-9
But what does this resurrection mean for Christians today?
First, Easter affirms that death is not the end of our lives, but rather the beginning of our eternal life. Resurrection fulfills creation. Resurrection says that if God can create, God can also re-create. If God can give life, God can give life again.
And that is the good news of the Christian faith.
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