Brutal Roman occupation has divided the Jews but Jesus is drawing in crowds in rural Galilee with his miraculous powers and his inspirational words.  He was going around forgiving sins and healing people, even on the Sabbath.  Something that I have found interesting was that in the episode as well as in the Scriptures, Jesus would declare an individual forgiven before the healing.  It seems that reconciliation precedes restoration.  He taught the people what the Kingdom of God was like using various parables.  Jesus Christ has become a Savior to some but a great threat to the Roman Empire as well as the religious leaders.  Pharisees like Simon believe the Jews will survive only by staying close to God through the traditions of Moses.  When Jesus continues to break the rules of Judaism, Simon takes his anger to the top and speaks with the High Priest, Caiaphas, in Jerusalem. 

The Pharisees are well known to be strict on keeping the Law of Moses and paying more attention to the written letter rather than the living flesh.  Jesus was demonstrating to everyone that we were not made for the Law; rather the Law was made for us.  I loved how Bishop T.D. Jakes described the purpose of the Scriptures:  “I have not kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept me.  I am not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath is made for me.  I am not serving the laws of God; the laws of God are serving me, protecting me, helping me, advising me, teaching me how to live.  I am not serving the text, the text is serving me.  I was not made for restricted living but made for protected living.”

The words from John 3:16-21 come to mind while watching the scenes mentioned in the first paragraph.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (ESV)

Crowds continue to flock to Jesus and when he miraculously feeds them all after teaching them the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, they call for him to be their King.  Jesus retreats from their aggressive demand and the disciples are thrown in to confusion about their master and their mission.  The reason was because everybody following Jesus expected him to defeat the Romans by physical force and become the new king of Israel.  Since Jesus continued to be obedient to his Father’s Will, he knew that he had to leave the area and continue with his ministry.

While Peter is sure of Jesus’ divinity, he is less certain about his own faith, he plunges into stormy water when he tries to walk out to Jesus as he walks on the water.  What I found interesting in the movie was that Jesus called out to Peter by name and Peter followed the calling.  From my understanding, that particular event was not recorded in the Bible, we only read of Peter calling out to Jesus to confirm the identity and steps out of the boat to challenge himself.  The context of this scene and the Scriptures is that Peter grew weak in the stormy water and Jesus needed to save him from drowning and rebuked him for doubting and not having strong enough faith.  We also need to remember in both the good times and the bad times that we have a personal God who loves us, cares for us, and listens to us.  We have a Savior who died for us to live a life overflowing with love, joy, and hope.  Back to Peter, he was the first follower to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  When Jesus heard what Peter declared, he blessed him by proclaiming him as the rock where the Church stands.   With that said, if that same Peter had the ability to doubt Jesus in the flesh, we too will naturally have doubts, and when we begin to doubt that is where the praying needs to go in full force because there is nothing we can say or do to have God love us more or less.

The faith of all the disciples is fully confirmed when Jesus shows that he has power even over life itself by bringing a dead man, Lazarus, back to life.  I loved how the movie demonstrated this event by having Jesus requesting to see the tomb.  Once he arrives with other people, Jesus begins to talk while a bright light surrounds the area and Jesus declares:  “I am the Resurrection and Life.  Believe in me and live.  Believe in me and see the glory of God.”  What amazes me in the part of the Bible is that Jesus could have just said the word and Lazarus would have been raised from the dead.  Jesus decided to go to the tomb personally and give a miniature sermon to the people surrounding him while performing a huge miracle.  Talk about having actions speak loader than words, this was just one of many of those examples. 

The disciples will need the greatest reserves of strength and faith as they move ever closer toward the point of their mission, to Jerusalem, and into direct conflict with the religious and political authorities there.  In the week before Passover, Jerusalem is full of pilgrims celebrating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.  The desire for freedom from their oppressors, the Romans, burns strong.  Now, Jesus makes his entrance riding on a donkey, a declaration that he is the Messiah by fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah.  Jesus perplexes all in a protest against hypocrisy by turning on the money changers in the Temple.  The selling of animal sacrifices and money exchanging had become a common practice within the Temple.  Jesus flips the tables declaring that God’s house must be kept holy and that it should be used for prayer.  We cannot serve God and money.  We must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. 

Enraged Caiaphas finds a way to get to Jesus, through disciple Judas who is persuaded into betrayal.  The disciples are thrown into turmoil by Jesus’ announcement that their shared supper together will be their last.  Not only will Jesus be killed, but one of their own will betray him.  Judas runs from the scene and Peter receives his own devastating prediction, he too will fall away.  Jesus and the disciples withdraw in prayer to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asks his most trusted disciples to stay up and pray for the time has come and that the Father’s Will must be done.  Unfortunately, the disciples fall asleep while their savior is suffering through prayer alone in the garden.  Judas and the arresting Temple guards rush in.  Jesus allows himself to be led away and the disciples scatter.  He is tied up and faces trial by the Jewish elders accusing him of blasphemy.  The punishment declared is death.  Caiaphas finds Jesus guilty and the crowd outside is told the verdict where all of the followers felt betrayed.

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