Year A – Lent 5 – Ezekiel 37:1–14

Ezekiel 37:1–14 – The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Summary – This important passage in Ezekiel is well known. God promises a renewal of Israel. This is set in the time of the exile. Key leaders (like Ezekiel and Daniel) have been deported to Babylon. Israel has been displaced, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (586 BC). Now Israel’s future is questionable. They are like dried out bones, dead in the grave yard. Their hope is lost and they seem to be cut off from God’s purpose. So, God asks the prophet, Can these bones live? The prophet takes the simple way out: “O Lord GOD, you know.” By this vivid illustration God shows the prophet that He is not done with Israel. So Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones. As a result of the Spirit, these dead bones become a vast army before the eyes of Ezekiel. This passage joins together resurrection and return from exile. God then promises that He will bring them back to the Land of Israel and put His spirit in them, so that they know the Lord has acted.

Insight – People can’t live without hope. Despair is no place to lay your head. While God justly chastised Israel in the exile, He also will fulfill His promises. God gives His people hope through His Word here through Ezekiel. Israel’s hoped-for future of resurrection in the Land was in jeopardy. How would God fulfill these promises (originally made to Abraham)? As it turns out God literally brought Israel back to the land (in Nehemiah’s day) and had the city and temple rebuilt. Then (as we open the pages of the NT) we find that God in Christ comes to Israel. Jesus comes as the True Israel (Matt. 2). He did what Israel was to do by being obedient (Is. 53) and God did what He promised to Israel (Ez. 37, Dan. 12) (in Jesus): raise True Israel from the dead. “In Jesus” is resurrection, now (John 11). This is how God gives His people hope. What was to happen on the Last Day was brought forward in the middle of history. The apostles taught it this way. They were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Jesus will baptize with the Spirit, just as the prophets promised. This culminates in Pentecost. Now all those who trust in Jesus are the new Israel who are united in baptism-faith to the resurrected Jesus (Rom. 6:3). We have Life in Him. Therefore, we, individually and collectively, have resurrection Life through faith in Jesus.

Child’s Catechism – How did God fulfill His promises to Israel? By sending Jesus to be true Israel.

Discussion – What are some ways we can bring gospel life to a dead world?

Prayer – God of the living, through baptism we pass from the shadow of death  to the light of the resurrection. Remain with us and give us hope that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit who gives life to our mortal flesh, we may be clothed with the garment of immortality,  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Year A – Lent 3 – John 4:5-42

John 4:5–42 – So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Summary – 1) The Well Source – The “woman at the well” passage in John 4 is well known for several key teachings: Jesus gives living water; worship in spirit and truth; fields are white for harvest; and one sows and another reaps. All of these new covenant teachings demonstrate the main theme of John: see Jesus in these signs and actions and believe. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (1:12).  2) The Well Example – John 4 gives unlikely model of faith: a serial adulterer, Samaritan woman, then her townsfolk. The Samaritans were despised mongrels (1Kgs. 17:25ff) who engaged in worship on Mt. Gerizim until the destruction of their temple in 128 BC (by Jewish Hasmonians) and again in 52 AD. Samaritans were despised by Jews. “Good Samaritan” was an oxymoron. This is another proof that John shows glory unveiled in Jesus, speaking louder than impressive powers and worldly testimony. This sinful woman was thoroughly unqualified to be a witness on Law and Order. Yet, she is more effective in sharing her faith than anyone else in this Gospel.

Insight – Are you like this woman? Or are you like the Pharisees that Jesus left? Jesus gives living water to those who trust in Him. This water quenches the thirst of the soul for an actual Savior of the world (v42); while leaving dry-mouthed those who seek a Pharisaic legalistic “messiah.” Before a person receives this water, whether Pharisee or Prostitute, they must come to actually see with their sin. They acknowledge: “I have no husband.” Jesus must say, “this you have said truly.” Therefore: We must deal with a person’s deepest need before the lesser magistrates of sin. You can’t clean yourself up and come to Jesus. Come just as you are, honestly, and letting go of all pride. Do you have this water from Jesus?

Discussion – Have you gone to the well? Would you let her represent you?

Prayer – Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent: Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Proper 7 – Matthew 10:24-39

Matthew 10:24–39 – “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Summary – The context is the Two-by-Two sending of the disciples to the “Lost Sheep of Israel.” This the “pep talk” He gives to orient the disciples for their mission: expect to be treated the way they have treated me; do not fear man; God is sovereign over more than just birds; do not be ashamed of Me; do not expect the gospel to immediately be received with peace, it will divide; but those who give up their lives in Me will find themselves. Jesus empowered them to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (10:8). I especially love the spirit of their empowerment: “Freely you received, freely give” (v8). This “Proto-Great Commission” was aimed at harvesting the elect from that unique generation. As we know most of Israel was lost (perhaps a million died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). But there was a remnant on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Insight – The lesson we must learn is that we should not try to “force” people to believe or to accept our message or our church or our views, etc. God has prepared those who will believe and may still be working on those who don’t or they may suffer from their own hardness of heart. Either way we are just messengers who witness to the Gospel which is Jesus is Lord! Do not fear! After all when people don’t accept that message and its fullest implications, then is it our business to worry and freak out? No. We are just the messengers, we have no power to bring about faith in the hearts of others (or even ourselves for that matter). We must as Bill Bright (Campus Crusade) wisely said, “Leave the results with God.” We can preach and teach and argue and leave tracts and jump up and down on soap boxes all we want, but when it is all done. “The flesh profits nothing, but the Spirit gives life” (John 6). The Holy Spirit is sovereign; our abilities are not.

Discussion – Do you have confidence in the Message or the messenger in your life?

Prayer – O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Third Sunday of Easter – Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36-41: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Summary – The first Lesson for this week is once again from Acts 2. This is the first sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. This portion is the climax of the sermon. Peter’s conclusion is that since Christ was raised and has ascended, you should know certainly that God is made Him both Lord and Messiah. This left his hearers asking what they could do to be saved? And the answer was to repent and be baptized in Jesus name, with the explanation from Joel 2 still resonant:  “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” He exhorted them to separate themselves from “this corrupt generation” who crucified Jesus.

Insight – This is one of the most glorious passages in the entire New Testament.  It is a section of the very first sermon preached in the Church.  What a testimony to the power of the promised Holy Spirit to change human hearts only minutes after He descended from Heaven!  We see His power in Peter’s restored courage: whereas before he shrank in retreat before a single servant girl, he now boldly proclaims the gospel into the faces of thousands of the men of Israel – the same men who [as he loudly points out] crucified Christ.  He was right.  Whereas before they preferred to see a murderer returned to their midst and the innocent Christ tortured to death on a cross, now their hearts were “smitten” and they cried out in desperate repentance.  We are also given a gloriously vivid summary of the gospel: God has made Christ Lord; the only response to this is repentance and baptism in His name; that goes for you, your children, and everyone in the far-away world who will believe.

Child’s Catechism – Are children included in the new covenant promises? Yes, for the “promise is to you and your children and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Discussion – Do you sense the power of God’s Spirit in your life – in courage to speak for Christ and in conviction for and repentance from sin?  How did Peter set a good example of Spirit-empowered action?

Prayer – Our Father, we praise You for the gift of Christ and His Spirit.  We praise You for the birth of Your Church and the glory of Your gospel, Your power.  Cause us to understand and love Your gospel more deeply.  Cause us to despise our sin and walk in repentant lives, worthy of a baptism in the name of the Shepherd Who has laid down His life for us, His sheep.  Cause Your Church to continue to grow, glorious and unstoppable, as she has since her Pentecostal birthday.  And make us greatly useful for Your service to that end every day of our lives. Amen.

Contributed by Ben Rossell

Year C – Sixth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 67

Psalm 67 (NRSV)

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

A  1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.

B  3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

C  4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah

B  5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

A  6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

 

Summary – It is believed that this Psalm was meant to be sung during the Harvest Feast, also known as the Feast of Weeks, or, as we know it today, The Feast of Pentecost. Verse 6 gives God the praise for “the earth yielding its increase”, so it seems appropriate that the context would be the Harvest Feast. This Psalm is written as a chiasm, as you can see the text arranged to fit an A B C B A structure. This means that the center point is the main focus of the Psalm, which is verse 4. The Psalm is a praise and a prayer that focuses on God blessing “us”, so that the nations and the peoples of the earth would also receive blessing from God (1-2, 6-7). The very middle verse, verse 4, gives us the center of the Psalm and helps us to focus on the main point. Because God blesses his people, all the nations of the earth will also be blessed (a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen. 12:1-3). As a result of that blessing on the nations will be glad and will sing for joy, because God will judge with righteousness, and he will guide the nations of the earth. For nations that have been walking in the darkness of their own sins, the righteous judgments and laws of God and the Spirit to obey such laws are indeed a blessing that is worthy of singing for joy and with gladness.

Insight – The Blessing of Abraham that came upon the whole world is the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives people faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:14). The Holy Spirit was given to the world on the Feast of Pentecost, when this Psalm was most likely to be sung. Jesus tells his disciples that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few. Pray earnestly to the Lord of Harvest that he would send laborers into the harvest” (Luke 10:2). The harvest is the gathering up of all the believers throughout the whole world. This Psalm is a prophecy about the future salvation of the world, of people from every nation, who will be blessed by God with the gift of the Holy Spirit. God first blessed Abraham, and then has blessed Israel, and then blessed Jesus, and then blessed the disciples, and then blessed the nations with the Holy Spirit. And He has blessed you too. Will you sing this song as you go into the harvest of people and gather them up for the Lord, so that they too might be blessed?

Catechism – Who has God blessed? Us.

Discussion – Discuss the Abrahamic Covenant and what that means for the world (Gal. 3:14). Discuss what it means to go into the harvest. Discuss the responsibility we have being blessed by God to share that blessing with others.

Prayer – O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sirts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal, that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of peace, and in righteousness of life. And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year B – Lent 1 – Create in Me A Clean Heart (Psalm 51)

This week, we enter Lent—the liturgical bad news without which Easter, the liturgical good news, makes no sense.  Lent anticipates Easter: it calls us to reflect upon the problem (sin resulting in death) so that we may better rejoice in the solution (salvation resulting in resurrection).

But how will we reflect upon and confess our sinfulness?  We are not without divine direction. God placed within the Psalter—His prescribed hymnbook—King David’s own confession. We will make his words our own with Harold W. Gilbert’s beautiful setting of Psalm 51:10-12. Gilbert was the headmaster at St. Peter’s Choir School until 1960 connected with St Peters Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  The tune that Gilbert used was from Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670-1739) who served as a Lutheran pastor at St. Ul­rich Church in Halle, Germany. It has a refreshing sound, like receiving forgiveness and being clean.

As a Psalm (to the choirmaster, for corporate use), these are words specially intended to inform and shape our thinking and feeling about confession.  We need such direction, and not only during Lent: Jesus, in the words He taught us to pray, assumes daily confession: “give us this day our daily bx`read, and forgive us trespasses…”

In Ps. 51, David hopes in God’s covenant love (v.1).  He seeks not only forgiveness, but change (v.2).  He acknowledges that, no matter who else is hurt, sin is sin because it’s against God Himself (v.4).  He asks to be purged with hyssop (v.7), the plant with which priests sprinkled blood on formerly-diseased houses to declare them clean (so, he’s asking God to be his Great High Priest in sprinkling blood to declare him clean).  He fears that he might be among those who share in the Holy Spirit but fall away (v.11, cr. Heb. 6:4-6).  He desires the restoration of his joy in God (v.12).  And he wants all this mercy to overflow in evangelism (v.13) and praise (v.14).

During Lent and every day, let us confess our sins—not as though the confession itself, or the zeal with which we offer it, or the duration of time for which we do not accept God’s forgiveness, merit anything with God: to feel such things is to self-righteously disobey the gospel.  Let us confess in faith that we have the forgiveness for which we ask: let us confess in faith that Jesus always lives to make intercession for us, so that even as we sin, we already have an advocate with the Father.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Epiphany 6 – Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Summary—Jesus was proclaiming His message throughout Galilee when confronted by a potential hindrance to this ministry: a leper came to Him for healing.  Well, the leper himself wasn’t the hindrance—Jesus delighted to heal him—but, Jesus wasn’t so shortsighted: He knew full well that the man would talk…and that his talking would draw the same crowds who endure timeshare presentations for cruise tickets.  That’s why Jesus, when He healed this leper, sternly warned him not to spread the news—Jesus wanted to get His message to those who were ready for it, and it’s tough to find those who want condos in Ft. Lauderdale while being mobbed by those who want boat rides to Nassau.  Each town’s attention needed to be on Jesus’ gospel, and this fellow directing every spiritually-disinterested hospital patient to Jesus, MD, wasn’t going to help that.  And it didn’t.  The now-healed man disobediently spread the word, with the result that “Jesus could no longer go into a town openly.”

Insight—If and when God blesses you physically or materially, give thanks (!); but, be careful about “spreading the word” to those who haven’t yet come to Christ.  If God heals you of cancer, praise Him, and spread the word among the faithful; but, don’t tell your story in a cancer ward as a segue to the gospel!  If you went from Gas Attendant to CEO the day after coming to Christ, thank God; but, don’t tell your story while evangelizing a homeless shelter!  Jesus’ “stern warning” to the leper is His stern warning to you: don’t mention His physical or material blessings if doing so will interest people in professing faith for the wrong reasons.

Child Catechism—Does Jesus promise immediate health and wealth in the gospel?  No, Jesus calls us to forsake everything and follow Him.

Discussion—Have you seen any Christian films which suggest that submitting to Christ entails immediate, material prosperity?

Prayer—Father, having given us Christ, our greatest Treasure, You withhold no good thing from us.  But, not all things that will be good for us, in Your presence, are best for us, now.  Indeed, he who would seek Your City must pass through many trials and deep water to attain the weight of glory across it.  Keep us Your faithful witnesses, calling all men to lose their lives in order to find them, and displaying a faith in future grace which persuades those around us that Christ, through whom we pray, is the hope of glory.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Epiphany 5 – Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.And the whole city was gathered around the door.And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.And Simon and his companions hunted for him.When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”He answered, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Summary—Simon, Andrew, James, and John, all followed Jesus out of the synagogue. Since they had been with Him only one day, it had been their first opportunity to see Him in action. And boy had they: He had just cast out a demon…in synagogue! What they had yet to experience, though, was Christ’s preaching the gospel of His kingdom (exorcisms have a way of interrupting that). Two of the new recruits—Simon and Andrew—lived nearby, so the group set out for their place. What Jesus found upon arriving was that Simon’s mother-in-law was terribly ill; He healed her. Well, maybe the neighbors heard about it, or maybe those who’d been in synagogue that morning were telling exorcism stories, or maybe both—in any case, the whole city gathered outside the door that evening to have Jesus heal them. And Jesus did just that, all evening. But early next morning, when the crowd regathered, Jesus was already gone: He had gone outside the city to pray. The disciples tried everywhere to find Him, and when they finally did, Simon scolded, “Rabbi, everybody’s looking for You!” To which Jesus said (and catch this, because it’s the point of the passage), “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” See, the previous morning, in synagogue, Jesus had begun to do what He came to do: preach the gospel of His kingdom. But He had been sidetracked by an exorcism, and then again by a healing, and then again by a bunch more exorcisms and healings. The trend was escalating. And it wasn’t a bad trend—just a peripheral one: He had come to seek and to save the lost. Now, don’t get Jesus wrong: He loved to heal! He is Compassion incarnate. But that’s precisely why He had to prioritize evangelism: “A warm body and full belly can go to hell,” as somebody has said; or, in Jesus’ own words, elsewhere, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”

Insight—Some of us may disdain the role of tangible compassion as though evangelism excludes it (and if that’s you, well, you have only to look to Jesus’ example for correction); but, I bet that most of us have the opposite problem: we tend to help elderly ladies across the street, or take cookies to neighbors, in order to feel better about not evangelizing. Helping elderly ladies across the street is good—you should do it; taking cookies to neighbors is good—you should do it. But it’s very possible to do those things without evangelizing, and that’s not so good. Those acts of kindness may lead to evangelism—in fact, they’re especially good opportunities for evangelism—but, by themselves, they aren’t evangelism. Do them, yes, and also speak the good news about Jesus.

Child Catechism—What did Jesus come to do? Jesus came to “proclaim the message.”

Discussion—Do you ever feel that you should talk with somebody about the gospel, but find yourself reaching out in ways that leave him or her clueless about reconciliation with God? For how many weeks have you been building that relationship without mentioning Jesus?  What are some ways that you can bring up the gospel, next time?

Prayer—O God, all the world is of no profit to the man who forfeits his soul, yet by our actions we deny this, helping people in this life whom we do not prepare for the next. Grant that we may boldly proclaim Your gospel, to the end that all people might worthily worship You through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline