←Books ←Chapters ←Previous Next→

Tension Builds

A Dispute about divorce

Jesus went about in Galilee instead of Judea, since the Jews intended to kill him. But then he left Galilee and entered the area of Judea on the other side of the Jordan. A large crowd followed him, and he healed them there. Then the religious leaders came to test him: “Is ‘No-Fault Divorce’ legal?”

“Haven’t you read,” replied Jesus, “that God made them male and female from the very beginning, and that ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So then, what God has joined together, people must not separate.”

“Then why did Moses command that she be given a certificate of divorce and released?” they asked.

“Moses permitted it because of your stubbornness,” Jesus answered.“ But it was not originally that way. So it follows that if any man divorces his wife when she hasn’t been unfaithful, and he marries someone else, he is committing adultery.”

Then his disciples remarked, “If that’s how it is between a husband and wife, it would be better not to marry!”

“Not everyone can accept this,” Jesus replied.“ But only those to whom it has been given. Some men were born eunuchs, others were castrated, and still others have chosen to be celibate for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens. Those to whom this applies can accept it.”

Jesus blesses the children

Next some people brought their little ones to present to Jesus so he could pray for them, but the disciples rebuked them. So Jesus said, “Leave them alone! Don’t forbid them to come to me, because the kingdom of the heavens is composed of such people.” Then he blessed them and went on from there.

The rich ruler seeks eternal life

Suddenly someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good things must I do in order to have eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “Only God is truly good. But if you want to enter into eternal life, hold tight to the commandments.”

“Which ones?” asked the young person.

“Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus answered.

“I’ve kept all those since my youth,” the person replied. “What am I missing?”

“If you want to be complete,” replied Jesus, “go and sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the destitute, and you will have treasure in the heavens. Then come and follow me.”

Now when the young person heard this, he went away dejected, because he was very wealthy. So Jesus remarked to his disciples, “It is truly difficult for the rich to enter into the kingdom of the heavens! I tell you, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This shocked the disciples, so they asked, “Then who can possibly be saved?”

Then Jesus looked at them and said, “This is impossible for people, but God can do anything!”

Then Peter spoke up: “See, we’ve given up everything to follow you. So what will happen to us?”

And Jesus answered, “I can assure you who have followed me, that when everything is made new again and the Human sits on his majestic throne, you Twelve will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who has given up houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or land on my account, will be given back a hundred times as much, along with inheriting eternal life. And the prominent will be least important, while the least important will be prominent.”

Challenges on the way to Jerusalem

As the time drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he was determined to go to Jerusalem. It was near time for the Jews’ Festival of Tents, so his siblings said to him, “If you want to be famous, you’ll have to go into Judea so your disciples can see what you’re doing. After all, people don’t stay hidden if they want publicity. If you’re going to do these things, show the world!” (His own siblings didn’t believe him.)

But Jesus responded, “My time has not yet come, but for you, any time will do. The world can’t hate you, but it hates me because I am testifying that it does evil. So you go on up to the festival; I’m not going to this one because it isn’t my time.” After he said this, he remained in Galilee. But after his siblings left he decided to go after all, but secretly so no one would know.

Jesus sent messengers ahead to go into a Samaritan village, to prepare for his arrival. But they rejected him because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Master, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to consume them?” But Jesus turned around and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.

As they went along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go,” and he replied, “Foxes have burrows and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Human has no place to lay his head.”

To another person Jesus said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Master, first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you should publicize the kingdom of God.”

Yet another person said to Jesus, “Master, first let me say goodbye to the people in my household.” But he replied, “No one who puts their hand to the plow while looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Now it happened that as he continued toward Jerusalem, he passed through the middle of Samaria and Galilee. And when he entered a certain village, he was met by ten men with leprosy. They stood at a distance and called out to Jesus, “Oh exalted one, have pity on us!”

Then he looked at them and said, “Off you go! Show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went on their way, they were suddenly healed.

When one of them realized he was healed, he went back and loudly gave honor to God, even though he was a Samaritan. When he fell to his face next to Jesus to thank him, Jesus remarked, “Weren’t there ten who were healed? So where are the other nine? Did no one come back to give honor to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up! Your faith has healed you.”

Tension at the feast

Now the Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying “Where is he?” And there was disagreement about him in the crowd, with some saying “He is good” and others saying “No, he is misleading people.” Yet no one talked about him openly for fear of the Jews.

It was already midway through the festival when Jesus went up into the temple compound and began to teach. But the Jews were amazed and said, “How did he learn so much without an education?”

Jesus answered, “This teaching is not mine but is from the one who sent me. Whoever chooses to do what he says will know whether my teaching is from God or only from me. Those who only want to honor themselves speak on their own behalf, but those who want to honor the one who sent them are true; there is no injustice in them. Hasn’t Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you obeys it! Why do you intend to kill me?”

But the crowd retorted, “You’re possessed! Who wants to kill you?”

Jesus said, “I do one miracle on a Sabbath and you all lose your minds! Now Moses gave you the rite of circumcision (though it wasn’t actually from Moses but the ancestors), yet you will even circumcise someone on a Sabbath. But though you’ll do this to avoid violating the law of Moses, you’re enraged at me for healing someone on a Sabbath! Don’t judge by appearances; instead, reach the proper verdict.”

Then some of the residents of Jerusalem said, “Isn’t this the one they intend to kill? Yet here he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Have the authorities realized that this really is the Anointed One? On the other hand, we know where this one is from, but when the Anointed One comes, no one knows for sure where he comes from.”

So Jesus, who was teaching in the temple compound, shouted out, “Yes, you know me and where I’m from, yet I haven’t come of my own accord. But the one sending me is true. You don’t know him, but I do, because he sent me and so I came. I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will in no way walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Then the religious leaders said, “You’re testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is invalid!”

And Jesus responded, “Even if I am testifying on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, because I know where I came from and where I’m going, even though you don’t. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. But even if I judge, my judgment is right, for I am not alone; I’m with the Father who sent me. Now this law of yours says that the testimony of two people is valid. I testify on my own behalf, but the Father who sent me is also testifying about me.”

“So where is your father?” they demanded.

Jesus replied, “You have understood neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you’d know my Father as well.” At this they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him because his time had not yet come.

Many in the crowd put their trust in him and said, “When the Anointed One comes, he will do no more miracles than this one!” But when the religious leaders heard what the crowd was saying about him, they sent deputies to arrest him. Then Jesus said, “I’ll only be with you for a short time now, and then I must return to the one who sent me. You will all look for me but won’t find me, because you cannot follow where I’m going.”

Then the Jews said to themselves, “Where does he intend to go, that we cannot follow him? Surely he doesn’t mean to go out to our people scattered among the Greeks and teach the Greeks! And what does he mean by saying ’You will all look for me but won’t find me, because you cannot follow where I’m going’?”

Now on the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and shouted, “Let whoever is thirsty come to me and drink! The one who puts their trust in me will have, as scripture says, ‘living waters flowing out of them’.” (He was talking about those who would eventually received the Spirit by putting their trust in him, but that hadn’t happened yet because Jesus had not yet been exalted.)

Some in the crowd heard these things and said, “Truly, this is the Prophet!” Others said, “This is the Anointed One!” But some said, “The Anointed One doesn’t come from Galilee. Don’t the scriptures say that the Anointed One would be of the line of David, and from his city of Bethlehem?” So the crowd was divided because of him. Some even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Then the deputies returned to the religious leaders, who demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him here?”

“No one ever spoke like this person!” they answered.

“Don’t tell us you’re deceived too!” retorted the religious leaders. “None of us trusts in him, but this ignorant crowd is under a curse!”

Nicodemus, the one who had come to Jesus earlier and was one of the religious leaders, said, “No law of ours judges someone before hearing their testimony and examining the evidence.”

“Don’t tell us you’re from Galilee too!” they retorted. “Do your own investigation and you’ll see that no prophet is called out of Galilee.” Everyone went home after that, but Jesus went up into the Mount of Olives.

An attempt at entrapment

At dawn the next day he returned to the temple compound. All the people came toward him, so he sat down to teach them. But the religious leaders brough a woman caught in the act of adultery and stood her there. Then they asked Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now the law of Moses orders that such people be put to death by stoning. What do you say?”

Of course they only said this to test him, so they would have something to charge him with. So Jesus stooped down and wrote something in the dirt with his finger. Since they kept on demanding an answer, he stood up and replied, “Let the sinless one among you throw the first stone!”

He stooped down again to write on the ground. But those listening went away one by one, beginning with the elders, until Jesus was left alone with the woman. So he stood up again and asked her, “Dear woman, where are they? Is no one condemning you?”

“Not one, sir,” she replied.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go your way, but from now on you must stop sinning.”

More tension

Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away and you will look for me. Yet you will die in your sin because you cannot come where I’m going.”

So the Jews asked each other, “He won’t kill himself, will he? Is that what he means by ‘You can’t come where I’m going’?”

“You are from below, but I am from above,” Jesus told them. “You are from the world but I am not. That’s what I meant by saying you will die in your sins; if you never trust that I am, you will certainly die in your sins.”

They finally asked him, “Who are you?”

“Exactly what I’ve been saying all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say to you and by which to judge you. But the one sending me is true, and what he tells me I pass along to the world.”

They didn’t know that he was talking about the Father. So Jesus said to them again, “When you have lifted up the Human, then you will know who I am. I do nothing of my own accord but only speak as the Father instructs me. And the one who sends me is with me. He does not leave me alone, because I’m always doing what pleases him.”

Many put their trust in him as he spoke. So Jesus said to the Jews who believed, “If you stick to what I say, then you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“We are the progeny of Abraham,” they responded. “Not once were we ever slaves. How can you say we will be set free?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you very truly, that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. It’s not the slave who has permanent status as family, but only the child. So if the Son liberates you, you will truly be free. I know you’re the progeny of Abraham. But you want to kill me because you can’t stand what I’m saying, which is what I learned from my Father. And you, too, do what you hear from your father.”

“Our father is Abraham!” they objected.

“If you were children of Abraham, you would act like Abraham!”, Jesus retorted. “I have told you the truth that I heard from God. Yet you want to kill me, and that’s something Abraham wouldn’t do. But you act like your father!”

“We’re not illegitimate children! We have one father, God!” they shot back.

Then Jesus countered, “If God were your father, you would have loved me. I came here from God, not of my own accord but of the one who sent me. The reason you reject what I’m saying is because you’re children of your father the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and rejects the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks lies he speaks his native language, for he is the father of all liars. Yet though I speak the truth, you don’t believe me. So who among you can call me out for sinning? If I’m telling the truth, on what grounds do you not believe me? The one from God hears what God says. So it follows that since you don’t hear, you don’t belong to God.”

The Jews retorted, “Weren’t we right to call you a half-breed? You’re possessed!”

“I am not possessed,” Jesus replied, “but I am honoring my Father though you dishonor me. Not that I seek my own honor; he is the one who seeks it and judges. Very truly I tell you, that if anyone does what I say, under no circumstances will they ever face death.”

Then the Jews said, “Now we’re sure you’re possessed! Abraham and all the prophets have died, yet you say, ‘If anyone does what I say, under no circumstances will they ever face death.’ You’re not greater than our father Abraham or the prophets who have all died. Who do you think you are?”

Jesus answered, “If I were to honor myself, my honor would be nothing. It is my Father who honors me, the one you say is your God. Yet you don’t know him, but I do. And if I were to say that I didn’t know him I’d be a liar like you! Yet I do know him and do what he says. Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day coming; he saw it and was happy.”

“You haven’t yet reached the age of fifty, and you’ve seen Abraham!” scoffed the Jews.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” At this they picked up stones to kill him, but Jesus hid and escaped from the temple compound.

Mary and Martha

After they left, Jesus entered into a village where a certain woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Master’s feet and listened to what he was saying (as any rabbinical student would do). But Martha was distracted by all the meal preparations, so she said, “Master, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve all alone? Tell her to get busy and help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Master replied, “You’re stressed out about many things, but only one thing really matters. Mary has chosen the good part, and it will not be taken from her.”

The brave blind man

As he walked along he noticed someone who had been blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, was it his own or his parents’ fault that this person was born blind?”

“Neither,” answered Jesus. “It was so the actions of God can be revealed in him. We must keep performing the actions of the one sending me while it is daytime; the night is coming, when no one can work. But as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Having said this, he spat on the ground and made mud out of the saliva. He smeared the mud on the person’s eyes and said to him, “Go and wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Commissioned”). He went and washed, and came back seeing.

Then the neighbors and those who had seen him before asked, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “Yes, that’s him,” while others said, “It can’t be! It’s only someone who looks like him.” But he said, “It’s me.”

Then they asked, “How did you received your sight?”

He answered, “The one called Jesus made mud and smeared it on my eyes, then told me to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, and when I did I received my sight.”

So they asked, “Where is he?” but he didn’t know, so they took him to see the religious leaders. Now it was on a Sabbath day that Jesus made the mud and opened up his eyes, and when they asked him how he received his sight, he said, “He smeared mud on my eyes, I washed, and I see.”

Then some of the religious leaders said, “This person is not from God since he dishonors the Sabbath.” Yet others said, “How can a sinner do such miracles?” So a rift developed among them.

Once again they asked the blind one, “What do you have to say about him, since he restored your sight?”

“He is a prophet,” the man replied. Yet the Jews still didn’t believe he was blind and then received sight till they summoned his parents. And they asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? So how is it that he can see now?”

“We know this is our son and that he was born blind,” his parents answered. “But we don’t know how he can see now, or who opened up his eyes. Ask him yourself, since he is of age and can speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, who had already agreed that anyone confirming Jesus as the Anointed One would be put out of the synagogue. That’s why they said, “He is of age, ask him.”) So they summoned the person born blind a second time and demanded, “Swear to tell the truth! We know that this person is a scoundrel.”

“If he’s a scoundrel, I certainly don’t know,” he replied. “But one thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

But again they asked, “What did he do to you? How did he give you sight?”

He answered, “I already told you but you don’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”

Then they verbally assaulted him and said, “You’re a disciple of his, but we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but this one— we don’t know where he comes from.”

“How shocking,” the person answered, “that you don’t know where he comes from even though he gave me sight! We know that God does’t listen to scoundrels; but only to those who honor him and do as he wills. No one has ever heard of anyone giving sight to the blind, so unless this one was from God he couldn’t do anything.”

“You were born steeped in sin, and you dare to lecture us!” they retorted. And they threw him out.

Jesus heard that they threw him out, so he found him and asked, “Do you trust in the Human?”

“Who is he, sir, so I can put my trust in him?” the man asked.

“You’re looking at him; he’s talking to you!” Jesus replied.

Then the man declared, “I believe, sir!” And he worshiped him.

Then Jesus said, “I have come into the world in judgment, so that those who cannot see may see, and those who see may become blind.” The religious leaders who were with him heard this, and they demanded, “Are you calling us blind?”

“If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you couldn’t be charged with sin. But now, since you claim to see, your guilt remains.”

The Good Shepherd

“Very truly I tell you, that anyone who does not come into the sheep pen through the gate but by some other means is a thief and a robber. But the one entering through the gate is the shepherd. The gatekeeper opens the gate for this one and the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice. Whenever the shepherd leads them out, the sheep follow because they know their own shepherd’s voice. An outsider, on the other hand, they would not follow under any circumstances; they will run away from anyone whose voice they don’t recognize.”

Jesus gave them this illustration, but they still didn’t know what he was talking about. So he told them again, “I tell you very truly that I am the gateway for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gateway; if anyone enters through me they will be saved; they will come and go freely and find pasture. The thief only comes to steal and execute and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it to the fullest.

“I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. But the hired hand, who isn’t the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, abandons them and runs away, leaving the wolf to snatch them up and scatter them. The hired hand runs away because it’s only a job so they have no concern for the sheep. But I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know him. So I lay down my life for the sheep.

“Also, I have other sheep that are not of this pen. I must lead them as well, and they will recognize my voice. Then there will be one flock with one shepherd. So the Father loves me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own accord. I have the right to lay it down and the right to take it back. This is the ruling I got from my Father.”

Once again a rift developed among the Judeans because of these sayings. Now many of them said, “He’s possessed and out of his mind! Why do you listen to him?” But others said, “What he says isn’t what we’d expect from the demon-possessed. No demon can give sight the blind.”

Sin and disaster

Now there were some in attendance at that time who told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed and whose blood he mingled with their own sacrifices. And Jesus asked, “Do you think that this happened to those Galileans because they were worse sinners than everyone else? Not at all, I tell you! But unless you turn to God, you too will be destroyed. Or how about the eighteen who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them; do you think they were more guilty than everyone else in Jerusalem? Not at all, I tell you! But unless you turn to God, you too will be destroyed.”

Then he gave them this parable: “Someone had a fig tree planted in their vineyard, but when he went to check on its fruit there was none. So he said to the gardener, ‘Enough! I waited three years for this tree to produce figs and found nothing. Chop it down, because it’s wasting good soil.’ But the gardener replied, ‘Master, give it one more year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize it, and if there’s still no fruit, then cut it down’ .”

Compassion on the Sabbath

One Sabbath when Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, there was a woman who had suffered from a crippling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not stand up straight at all. When Jesus saw her he said to her, “Dear woman, you are fully released from your infirmities!” He put his hands on her and instantly she straightened up and gave honor to God.

But the synagogue ruler reacted with indignation to Jesus healing on the Sabbath. So he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which people can work, so come for healing on those days rather than the Sabbath Day.” Yet the Master responded, “Hypocrites! Any of you would, on the Sabbath, untie your ox or donkey from the feeding trough and lead it away to get a drink of water. Yet this daughter of Abraham, who was imprisoned by Satan for eighteen years, was not to be set free from her prison on the Sabbath Day?!” These words shamed all who were opposing him. The whole crowd, though, was delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

A question of divinity

In winter it was time for the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. As Jesus walked in Solomon’s Portico inside the temple compound, the Jews surrounded him and demanded, “How long will you keep us guessing? If you are the Anointed One, say so boldly in public!”

“I told you but you don’t believe me,” Jesus replied. “The things I do on behalf of my Father serve as my witnesses. But you don’t believe me because you’re not my sheep— just as I told you. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never die; no one will be able to snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is the greatest of all, and no one can snatch them out of his hand. I and the Father are one!”

Once again the Jews picked up stones with which to kill him, but Jesus asked, “I have shown you many good deeds from my Father. For which one of them are you threatening to kill me?”

“We’re not killing you for any good deed,” they answered, “but for maligning the name of God, because you, a mere human, equate yourself with God!”

But Jesus countered [with an ingenious legal loophole]. “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said you are gods’? If he told those to whom the word of God came that they are gods— and the scripture cannot be undone— then how can you say to the one the Father set apart on a mission, ‘You are maligning the name of God’, just because I said ‘I am the God-Man’? If I’m not doing what my Father told me to do, then don’t believe me. Yet if I am doing so and you still don’t believe me, then at least believe what I do, so that you will know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

Then once again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped.

↑ Page Top