John the Baptist, from prison, sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You He that should come? Or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19-20). They wanted to know whether He was the Messiah foretold to come.
Jesus replied, “Go your way, and tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (vs. 22). Christ also “cured many…of evil spirits”—He cast out demons (vs. 21).
But why? How did healing the infirm, resurrecting the dead, freeing the demon-possessed, and other miracles, along with preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to the poor, define Jesus’ ministry?
The four gospel accounts record that Christ performed astounding miracles. Many of His most dramatic were healings. Jesus made the lame walk, gave sight to the blind, healed lepers and other diseased people, and “healed all that were sick” (Matt. 8:16).
The record demonstrates that Jesus healed large numbers of people and captured the attention of constantly growing masses. Yet when Lazarus, a dear friend, was seriously ill, and then died before Christ came to visit him, family and friends grieved. They did not understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
They understood there would come a time when God would resurrect all human beings back to physical life. But they did not grasp that Jesus Christ not only had the power to heal, He possessed the authority to resurrect—not just at His Second Coming, but right then and there while He was in the flesh! (Read verses 38-45.) Jesus is God. His power to heal and resurrect came from His Father, who also is God. Together, they are one God, one divine Family that is adding to its membership begotten children who will one day be born into that Family.
The ability to raise people back to physical life is a type of the ultimate healing to come: the resurrection. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This was not some emotional religious “high” millions have been deceived into accepting. Christ was talking about being born again literally! But not from physical to physical—rather from physical to spirit: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (vs. 6). God’s Word declares, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).
While Jesus’ miraculous power to heal drew crowds, it also drew the ire of the scribes and Pharisees, who felt their status and influence over the people threatened. These spiritually blind religious leaders were much more concerned with elevating their “righteousness” in the eyes of the people than in sincerely serving their needs. Their focus was entirely wrong! They emphasized the importance of meticulously observing the “exactness” of the Law, which they made into a terrible burden with their unscriptural codes of “do’s and don’ts.”
For example, when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were so focused on observing this weekly holy day their way that they failed to see the Law’s spiritual intent: Love, first toward God, then neighbor.
God’s Law is not a burden—it is “spiritual” (Rom. 7:14) and “the commandment [is] holy, and just, and good” (vs. 12). Keeping the Ten Commandments expresses selfless, outgoing concern toward God and neighbor, “therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10).
Remember Adam and Eve. They had two trees set before them—symbolically, two polar opposite ways of life—and the decision of colossal magnitude. Eating of the Tree of Life meant choosing a lifetime of faithful obedience to God, trusting in the Creator for His divine guidance, direction, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. But eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil meant rejecting God for guidance, and relying on oneself for judging how to live.
Man ate the fruit of the wrong tree—and for the past 6,000 years humanity has decided for itself what religious practices to embrace, what kinds of food to eat and how often, what types of governments and laws to administer, his own forms of education, whether men would look to God for healing or rely on complex medicines to overcome health issues, etc.
Today, similar to Christ’s time, people are sickly, diseased, overworked, overstressed, overweight and physically inactive. Usually people get sick because they have broken God’s laws and principles governing good health.
Laws and principles governing…
Communicable diseases: Lev. 5:2-3; 7:19, 21; 11:24-28, 31-40; 13:2-59; 14:2-3, 8-9, 34-48, 54-57; 15:2-13, 16-28, 32-33; 22:4-8; Num. 5:2-4; 9:6, 10; 19:11-16, 22; 31:19-20; Deut. 23:10-11; 24:8
Venereal diseases: Lev. 15:2-13, 16-28, 31-33; 22:4, 6
Quarantining the sick and diseased: Lev. 13:2-5, 31-33, 45-46; 14:2-3, 8, 34-38; 15:19; Num. 5:2-3; 31:11-20; Deut. 23:10-11
Disinfections: Lev. 2:13; 7:19; 11:24-40; 13:6, 34, 47-59; 14:8-9, 34-48, 54-57; 15:2-13, 16-28; Num. 31:19-20, 22-24
Sanitation: Ex. 29:14, 34; Lev. 4:11-12, 21; 6:30; 7:17, 19; 8:17, 32; 9:11; 16:27-28; 19:6; Deut. 23:12-13; Heb. 13:11
Food: Lev. 3:17; 7:15-19, 23-27; 11:2-23, 26-27, 29-43, 46-47; 17:10-15; 19:5-8, 26; 22:8; Deut. 12:16, 20-25; 14:3-21, 26; 15:22-23
Uncleanness: Lev. 20:2-6, 10-21; Deut. 27:20-23
Alcohol consumption: Isa. 5:11, 22; Prov. 23:19-20, 29-35
Disease resulting from gluttony: Num. 11:18-20, 31-33
Overcrowded living conditions: Isa. 5:8
Sometimes people inherit diseases, or the propensity to acquire them, from ancestors who brought on the effects of transgressing against the biblical principles of healthy living.
And in some cases, no one is at fault: “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
“Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest [revealed, made obvious] in him” (John 9:1-3).
When Christ healed, it drew attention. It caused great numbers to stop and consider the power of God, and to listen to His message. Jesus, as the Lord of the Old Testament, was the One who led ancient Israel through the wilderness into the Promised Land—and therefore the One who announced, “I am the Lord that heals you” (Ex. 15:26).
Why Casting Out Demons?
The religious leaders of the day avoided talking about the spirit world, the true nature of angelic beings and evil spirits. Consequently, in ignorance, people involved themselves in the dangerous world of the supernatural, resulting in demonic influences—even demonic possession.
Addressing such cases, Jesus performed healings of the mind, casting out demons from people who were possessed. These evil spirits were former angels who joined Lucifer (now Satan) in rebelling against their Creator.
Amazingly, when the Pharisees saw Christ miraculously release someone from the bonds of demonic possession, they actually attributed the power He wielded to the devil (Matt. 12:22-24)!
But Jesus answered, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (vs. 25-26).
Satan is the author of this world’s confusion and self-deception among man’s governments, religions, institutions, businesses and societies. Yet the devil’s kingdom is not divided—it is actively working against the Plan of God, which is to ultimately bring salvation to mankind.
Though Jesus qualified to rule God’s kingdom, this world—its governments, systems and ways of living—still belong to Satan, who “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).
Throughout man’s history, demons have entered many of the minds of those who have delved into witchcraft, magic and the supernatural; people who opened their thoughts to malicious powers that can drive one to commit unspeakable violence and mayhem. This curiosity with the paranormal is so ingrained within man’s nature, the Bible lists witchcraft as one of “the works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-20).
God’s Word also warns “that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (vs. 21).
The scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders were powerless to help the demon-possessed. But Jesus Christ, backed by God the Father, held real power and authority. He could command even the most rebellious fallen spirit being to obey His orders.
Another way demons enter the unguarded mind is through wild, unrestrained emotions and attitudes. Notice:
“He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls”—spiritually defenseless (Prov. 25:28).
“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city” (Prov. 16:32).
Man was created spiritually incomplete. While animals live without “brainpower” and are “programmed” by instinct, man has power of mind, via the “spirit of man” (I Cor. 2:11), which provides human beings with creative thinking and analysis. Yet the “spirit of man” is limited to comprehending only the physical. Thus, man cannot comprehend spiritual matters, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (vs. 14).
The Holy Spirit must be actively at work in the mind, converting carnal thoughts, attitudes and desires into spiritual ones. Only then can human beings successfully wage the same lifelong spiritual battles that Christ overcame in the flesh: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds [castles in the mind];) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:3-5).
Those who guard their minds with God’s Spirit are able to withstand demonic influences.
Does Satan Have the Power to Heal?
Speaking of ministers who falsely speak in Jesus’ name, Paul wrote this: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 11:13-15).
One of the ways Satan makes his ministers appear as true ministers of God is through demonstrating certain “miracles,” including acts of apparent healings. (Also notice Rev. 13:11-14.)
Exodus 5 records that Pharaoh’s court magicians were able to perform certain acts similar to the miracles God performed through His servant Moses. These were things that God allowed Satan to do, through Satan’s servants, as part of the process of hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4), so that Pharaoh would be witness to God’s power in delivering Israel from Egypt.
The dramatic public “healings” promoted by many of this world’s ministers are the same kind of displays, in which individuals who suffer from various crippling diseases are really bound by a demon. An example of this condition is found in Luke 13:11-13: “And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity. And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.”
This is an example of an individual who did not have a physical handicap or disease, but whose body was in the grip of a demon. Christ cast the demon from her, and she was restored to a normal condition.
Forward or Backward
Also consider that often, at the climax of many supposed “healings,” the individuals involved will seemingly lose self-control and fall backward, usually with people anticipating this and already in place to catch them. But notice the following scriptures:
“And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him…Then Abraham fell upon his face…” (Gen. 17:3, 17).
“And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord” (II Chron. 20:18).
“And He [Christ] went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed…” (Matt. 26:39).
“…and so falling down on his face he will worship God…” (I Cor. 14:25).
The above scriptures demonstrate that those who come before God’s presence to worship Him bow forward. Yet other scriptures show that those acting under the influence of a demon tend to fall backward. Notice: “As soon then as He [Christ] had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground” (John 18:6).
Why? “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with You, You Jesus of Nazareth? Are You come to destroy us? I know who You are, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:23-24). Rather than yielding to Jesus, those with demons draw back from His power and authority.
Also note that nowhere in Scripture are people struck on the forehead and knocked backward! God’s ministers anoint—never strike—the sick. They lay hands on them. Think for a moment of the images of today’s so-called “faith healers,” who are actually performers, swaggering arrogantly before audiences who do not understand what they are witnessing.
Violent, noisy reactions are typical of those who are plagued by demons. Now notice verse 26: “And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.” The Greek word translated “torn” is sparasso, meaning a spasmodic contraction. Compare this to the often wild outbursts of “Hallelujah!”, “Amen!” and “Thank You Jesus” exclamations, usually accompanied by gyrations or other displays of seemingly uncontrolled behavior, which are standard fare at organized “healing revivals.”
Also notice Acts 19:15-16, which records the tragic result of individuals carelessly—or recklessly—invoking Jesus’ name to cast out demons. They presumptuously took action, without Jesus Christ’s authority.
While Scripture makes clear that Satan does not cast out his demons (Mark 3:23-26), it would certainly work to his advantage (as “the god of this world” – II Cor. 4:4) to make his ministers appear to have healing power. Keep in mind that Satan can do whatever God allows him to do. (See Job 1:12; 2:6.) And, as Matthew 12:43-45 shows, if a person possessed by a demon is freed from it, and the person’s mind is not receptive to the truth from God’s Word, then that demon can return and bring with him “seven [spirits]…more wicked than himself.”
Also consider that Satan does not have our best interests at heart (I Pet. 5:8). “He knows that he has but a short time” (Rev. 12:12) before Christ returns. He knows that our ultimate potential, as those made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), is to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God. Not only does the devil have no desire to physically heal anyone of anything (even if he had such power), he also seeks to deceive all people and blind them to God’s Purpose: to spiritually heal the entire world.
Most importantly, understand that healing involves—and requires—the forgiveness of sin. Satan has no such power!
Faith, Authority and Power
In addition to healings, Jesus performed countless other miracles: turning water into wine, walking on water, calming a raging sea, etc. These awe-inspiring events were not “parlor tricks” designed to “wow” the masses. They had meaning—purpose—intent. They revealed the awesome, unlimited power of the almighty God! The same power by which all nations will one day submit to Jesus Christ’s authority when He establishes God’s kingdom on Earth! The very same power that will convert the stubborn, rebellious hearts of men, starting with Israel, then the rest of the world! He also wanted individuals to know they could access such power.
Consider the account of feeding 5,000 men with only a handful of fish and bread. A great multitude of tens of thousands came to hear Jesus teach after they witnessed Him heal the diseased. When His message was finished, Jesus did not send them away hungry; He had His disciples gather all of the food that was available: “five barley loaves, and two small fishes” (John 6:9). The Bible states that there were “about five thousand” men among the multitude (vs. 10), but this does not take into account the women and children who undoubtedly would have accompanied them. Thus, there most likely would have been at least 20,000 people in the crowd that was fed.
Through a miracle, Jesus multiplied the meager amount of food to feed everyone. “When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten” (John 6:12-13).
The people were so amazed by the miracle that Jesus had to remove Himself from their presence, lest “they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king” (vs. 15)—contrary to God’s Plan. Note that the account reveals the common thinking of the masses.
But the crowd followed after Christ to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. To the disciples, the throngs of people may have seemed zealous, willing to be taught God’s Way. But Christ perceived their true motives: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, You seek Me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (vs. 26).
Their carnal minds focused on the physical. The words of Jesus Christ offered something far greater: “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him has God the Father sealed” (vs. 27).
These tens of thousands sought after Christ, pretending (perhaps even convincing themselves) that they were prepared to receive His teachings. But what Jesus taught was spiritual; the minds of His listeners were carnal. They could not drink in the words that led to eternal life. Most of Jesus’ miracles were conducted to draw attention to God and His kingdom, and to teach that true faith is tied to authority and power.
Take, for example, the account of the Roman centurion whose servant was deathly ill. This Gentile military commander had a good reputation among the Jewish leaders, who petitioned Christ on his behalf. The centurion met Jesus on His way to the man’s home, and said, “Lord, trouble not Yourself: for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto You: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it” (Luke 7:6-8).
“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matt. 8:10).
“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go your way; and as you have believed, so be it done unto you. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (vs. 13).
The centurion understood authority and power. As a commander, he gave orders and expected soldiers under him to obey. Likewise, he responded to the orders of those in authority above him. He believed that Jesus carried authority from God the Father, who empowered His Son to perform miracles. Therefore, the centurion did not need to see Christ actually lay hands on the sickly servant. In the centurion’s mind, all he needed to know is whether Christ would exercise His authority to heal—“but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.” Real faith understands the connection from authority over miracles to recognition—simple belief—faith—that they will occur.
What Peter Forgot
Let’s look at another example: Peter walking on water. As Jesus’ disciples were aboard a ship being tossed about in a raging storm at sea, they saw their Master coming toward them, walking on water. They were so amazed they assumed He was a ghost, and cried out in fear.
Jesus tried to calm them down, saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27).
But Peter was not quite sure. He answered, “Lord, if it be You, bid me come unto You on the water” (vs. 28). He knew that if this was Christ, then He would have the authority to empower Peter to do the humanly impossible.
When Christ said, “Come,” Peter stepped out of the ship and locked his eyes on the One who represented the supreme authority of the God who created the universe and the physical laws that sustain it. Because he had the right focus, Peter’s belief in Christ’s authority—his faith that Jesus would keep His word to allow him to defy the physical laws of nature—gave him the power to walk on the sea!
But something went wrong. Peter’s focus shifted. He allowed the sounds of the howling wind and the splash of ocean spray to distract him. He gradually lost his full attention on the One who represented the government of God…and started to sink into the water.
Peter cried out to Christ to rescue him. “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?”
“From Faith to Faith”
Jesus Christ’s miracles were designed to boost people’s faith. But Peter, who was unconverted at the time, proved that temporary human faith is not enough. Those who follow and obey Christ—Christian soldiers who (II Tim. 2:3-4) wage spiritual warfare against the wiles of the devil, the pulls of the flesh and the cares of Satan’s seductive world—must have the faith of Jesus in them.
Paul wrote, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). There is a kind of human faith that all people have at certain times in their lives—but this must eventually be replaced by the permanent faith that comes only by the Spirit of God in converted minds (Gal. 5:22-23; 2:16).
Christ healed many people, and praised their faith—yet none had the Holy Spirit. However, they did have human faith! It takes human faith to believe you will be forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice—that God has called you to live His way of life—that you will receive His Spirit—belief that is necessary prior to baptism.
Yet after conversion, a Christian must live by the faith of Jesus Christ in him. He must go “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:16). And God’s servants must grow in Christ’s faith, a lifelong process.
What Christ Gave the Poor
A common assumption exists today that Jesus both gave money to the poor and taught His followers that they should do the same—that this was the very essence of Christianity. This is simply not true, because the Bible nowhere says either of these things. However, Christ did give something to the poor, and it had infinitely greater worth than money.
Do you know what it was? Are you aware of what almost no one else knows?
Why do so few understand what the Father commissioned—directed—Christ to do? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).
On another occasion, and this was briefly referenced earlier, when John the Baptist was questioning His works, Jesus cited the fulfillment of this commission—preaching [giving] the gospel to the poor—as proof He was the Messiah: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:5).
On yet another occasion, when the disciples thought that precious spices could have been sold for monies that could have gone to the poor, Jesus actually discouraged this action, and corrected their thinking—saying “the poor you have with you always.” Again, why are so few aware of this central feature in the thinking of the true Jesus Christ of the Bible?
Why Preach to the Poor?
Did you know that in a sense there are four versions of you? (1) The way you see yourself; (2) the way others see you; (3) the way God sees you; and (4) the person that God sees you can become IF you submit to His will and allow Him to develop within you His perfect, holy, righteous character.
The vast majority of people see themselves as being “basically good”—but that is not how God sees humanity: “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Surely every man walks in a vain show” (Psa. 39:5-6).
We saw that God makes clear that “ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No matter how noble, no matter how humble or sincere people may seem, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one” (vs. 10-12).
But those who are “poor in spirit” will inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3). They do not look in the proverbial mirror and give themselves a passing grade—they allow God to help them see themselves as HE sees them: as they truly are! Those who are poor—that is, “poor in spirit,” not always necessarily monetarily poor—see that no matter their collection of material possessions, social prominence and influence, they are in real need.
Instead of living the attitude of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” they need to know why they exist—whether there is something more to this temporary existence than “dying with the most toys”—if and how they fit in the overall Plan of God. They recognize things in their flesh that must be rooted out, but are powerless to do so without help from above.
They yearn to understand why so many billions have indiscriminately and often brutally suffered down through history, while others—time and again, the most callous, immoral and cruel—seemed to prosper.
Called from the “Bottom”
God uses the gospel—the good news of the kingdom of God—to call what would also be the “poor in spirit” to come out of this world and its ways (Rev. 18:4), and onto the path toward inheriting eternal life in His kingdom.
Those who respond eventually come to recognize that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised…things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (I Cor. 1:26-28).
Verse 29 tells why: “That no flesh should glory in His presence.” No one is called because of their “greatness” or “righteousness.” Christ preached the gospel to the poor to give them hope for a better world, a better future—to call those whom God can train to become kings, judges and priests in His kingdom. The “poor in spirit” are ever aware that they need God, His laws and His kingdom—not vice-versa.
Of the masses who heard Jesus preaching the gospel, God the Father was only calling a handful. Almost all churches today campaign to “save souls” or to “turn hearts to Jesus,” believing Jesus spoke in parables in order for the majority of people to better understand what He was saying.
But Jesus’ own words refute this claim: “And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable” (Mark 4:10). Christ was talking to His disciples and a few others around Him. The multitudes mentioned in verse 1 were already away from Jesus.
Then He said, “Unto you [His disciples] it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without [those unconverted, those He was not calling to understand], all these things are done in parables” (vs. 11).
Understand. Jesus used parables to conceal—to hide—the true meaning of His teaching so those God was not calling would not understand. Continue in verse 12: “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”
Christ taught through parables to make it more difficult to understand—not easier, as most assume!
Christ preached the gospel to the masses as a witness (Matt. 24:14), not to convert them. It is this same commission that His Church has today: “Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (28:19-20).
Knowing the vast majority were not yet ready to accept God’s treasure-trove of truth, explaining these in great detail would have been a waste of time, giving “that which is holy unto the dogs” and casting “pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6)—that is, giving priceless spiritual understanding to those who would trample rather than appreciate it.
Even worse, they then would have been accountable for not acting on that precious knowledge. James 4:17 states, “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin”; and we saw “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
To those whom God was calling, Christ always explained such parables to His disciples privately. But there were times when Jesus used parables directly aimed at the scribes and Pharisees, who did know the spiritual intent of the messages.
During His early ministry, Jesus told the people of the region what might be called the “Galilean Parables”: the Parable of the Sower and Soil; the Wheat and Tares; the Lamp Under the Bushel; the Grain of Mustard Seed; the Kingdom Like Leaven; the Seed Cast into the Ground.
But most of the parables He presented were not for the people at large, but to His disciples: the Hidden Treasure; the Merchant Seeking Pearls; the Net Cast into the Sea; the Householder and His Treasure.
Whether meant to the world or to His followers, the parable messages Jesus Christ related carried one common theme: the kingdom of God.
Does God Show Favoritism?
When a Gentile woman pleaded with Christ to heal her demon-possessed daughter (Matt. 15:22), He was presented with a perfect opportunity to preach the gospel to her.
Instead, Jesus “answered her not a word” (vs. 23).
But the woman was persistent. As she continued to cry after Christ for help, the disciples urged Him to send her away. Finally, Jesus said to her, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (vs. 24).
Christ and the original apostles preached the good news of God’s kingdom first to the Jews and to others who descended from Israel. It was not until sometime later when God made it clear to Peter through a vision—Acts 10—that the gospel was also to be taken to the Gentiles.
Does God show favoritism?
No. Peter, in verse 34, declared, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”
Then why did the Jews receive the gospel—and an opportunity to be called unto salvation—first, then the Gentiles?
Recall that the Jews in Jesus’ time constituted the house of Judah, which was largely comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Levi and remnants of Simeon. After the death of King Solomon, ancient Israel divided into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. The house of Israel rebelled against God from the very start, exchanging God’s laws and statutes for pagan customs and traditions. We saw that the house of Judah, on the other hand, had an “on again, off again” relationship with God: righteous kings stirred Judah into faithful obedience, and wicked kings led God’s people astray. Judah fell into a repeating cycle of worshipping the true God, falling into idolatry and rebellion, receiving punishment from God, crying out for mercy and relief, receiving deliverance, then back to worshipping the true God, etc.
God sent Israel into captivity, during which they largely lost their ancient identity. This was the result of Israel refusing to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” the Fourth Commandment.
During the years of wandering through the wilderness, the Israelites entered into a special covenant with God: “Verily My Sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the Lord that does sanctify [set apart] you…Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever” (Ex. 31:13, 16-17).
The seventh-day Sabbath is a special sign that identifies the true God and His people. By not observing the day God set apart for holy observance, the Israelites (and their countless descendants over the course of history) no longer remembered who they were. Today, approximately 600 million Israelites believe they are Gentiles, and have no idea that they have been recipients of the material national blessings God promised to Abraham’s descendants.
The Jews were sent into Babylonian captivity, but returned to their former homeland 70 years later. But since they kept the Sabbath (though far from faithfully), the Jews have retained their ancient identity.
But did God pick Israel to be His chosen people, “holy” and “special…above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut. 7:6), because they were inherently more powerful or superior to everyone else?
Notice: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (vs. 7-8).
Just as He calls the “foolish,” “base,” “weak” and “the things which are despised” into His Way of Life, to confound “the wise, mighty and noble” of this world, God called Israel—a slave nation within Egypt—to achieve greatness by His power. From one man, Abraham, roughly 600 million Israelites now exist, consisting of the majority of the world’s richest nations.
During Christ’s earthly ministry, the gospel of the kingdom of God was preached to Galilee and Judea. Today, that good news is being proclaimed to every nation and territory on Earth. And from a tiny flock that He is calling out from the world, God will use trained, tried and proven teachers, judges and rulers in the world tomorrow to lead, guide and direct untold billions onto the path that leads to eternal life.
Matthew 19:30 states, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” You may also read Matthew 20:16, Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30. All three verses contain a statement similar to “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” These verses have dual meanings.
One meaning is that people who are first—“important”—in this life, will not necessarily have such status in the kingdom of God. Those who are of lesser standing—“the weak of the world”—are normally those God calls (I Cor. 1:27). It is, then, these individuals who will have top—FIRST—positions in God’s kingdom.
Another meaning of this verse can be found by reading verses 24-30 of Luke 13. During the life of Christ, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel of God’s kingdom. However, most did not accept Him or believe His message.
But when Jesus opened the gospel to the Gentiles, many accepted it. They believed and followed God. In this example, even though the Gentiles were LAST to receive the gospel and the chance to be in the kingdom, they will be among the FIRST to enter it!
God does not show favoritism. All people will be called to salvation: a handful during mankind’s 6,000 years of self-rule; later, the rest of humanity during the Millennium and Last Great Day. Likewise, God will build the future physical Israelite tribes—with the assistance of spiritual Israelites, those called into the Church and born into God’s kingdom at Christ’s Return—into a model nation that will lead all other nations in attaining universal success, prosperity, peace and joy!
But this time of worldwide happiness and prosperity is also available now.
The Abundant Life!
No chapter on the teachings of Jesus could be considered complete without the inclusion of one of His truly greatest teachings, one also largely unknown to those who profess to follow Him.
Many think the correct Christian view of this life is that it is burdensome, sort of going without and enduring a life of hardship in anticipation that “God makes up for this when we go to heaven.” Millions view Christianity as little more than a series of “Thou shalt nots,” rather than as the path to enjoying a wonderful, abundant life. These same millions often think of sin as the fun that will end if they obey God. They think that “accepting Jesus” also means accepting a life of almost morbid gloom and doom.
This view could not be more wrong.
Jesus declared, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Have you ever seen—or even heard of—this verse before? Probably not. Christ came bringing the abundant life—and He said so plainly!
Why then do so many believe that Christianity is supposed to be endured instead of enjoyed. Why do they not understand that the radiant, abundant life can be theirs—if they will follow God’s formula to achieve it?
God never instructs or commands His people to avoid anything unless it is for their own good. Many things seem like fun, but carry a delayed penalty, and terrible price, for having done them. God instructs us on what to avoid so that we will not get hit later by an unexpected “boomerang”!
Knowledge of the abundant life is available to those who know the true Jesus Christ.