Daily Reading & Meditation

 Sunday (January 31):  Jesus' power to heal and cleanse

Gospel Reading:  Luke 4:21-30

21 And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.  22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?" 23 And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'" 24 And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away.

Meditation: Do you believe that God wants to act with power in your life today? Power to set you free from sin and hurtful desires, fear and oppression. Throughout the Scriptures we see God performing mighty acts to save his people from death and destruction - from Noah's ark that spared his family from the flood of wickedness that had spread across the land to Moses and the Israelites who crossed through the parting waters of the Red Sea as they fled the armies of Pharoah their slave Master and oppressor.

Throughout the Gospel accounts Jesus praised individuals who put their faith in God as they remembered the great and wonderful deeds he had performed time and again. Jesus even praised outsiders - non-Jews and pagans from other lands who had heard about the mighty deeds of the God of Israel. One example Jesus mentioned was Naaman the pagan army commander from Syria who was afflicted with leprosy - a debilitating skin disease that slowly ate away the flesh (2 Kings 5:1-15). Naaman's slave-girl was a young Jewish woman who had faith in God and compassion for Naaman her master. She urged him to seek healing from Elisha, the great prophet of Israel.When Naaman went to the land of Israel to seek a cure for his leprosy, the prophet Elisha instructed him to bathe seven times in the Jordan river. Namaan was indignant at first, but then repented and followed the prophet's instructions. In doing so he was immediately restored in body and spirit.

Healing the leprosy of soul and body
What is the significance of Naaman's healing for us? Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD), an early Christian teacher from Edessa, tells us that Naaman's miraculous healing at the River Jordan, prefigures the mystery of the healing which is freely granted to all nations of the earth by our Lord Jesus through the regenerating waters of baptism and renewal in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

"Therefore Naaman was sent to the Jordan as to the remedy capable to heal a human being. Indeed, sin is the leprosy of the soul, which is not perceived by the senses, but intelligence has the proof of it, and human nature must be delivered from this disease by Christ's power which is hidden in baptism. It was necessary that Naaman, in order to be purified from two diseases, that of the soul and that of the body, might represent in his own person the purification of all the nations through the bath of regeneration, whose beginning was in the river Jordan, the mother and originator of baptism." (commentary ON THE SECOND BOOK OF KINGS 5.10-1)
 Jesus told Nicodemus, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). The Lord Jesus wants to renew in each one of us the gift of faith and the regenerating power of baptism and the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) which cleanses us of the leprosy of sin and makes us "newborn" sons and daughters of God.

Confronting the sin of indifference and unbelief
When Jesus first proclaimed the good news of God's kingdom to his own townspeople at Nazareth (Luke 4:23-27), he did not hesitate to confront them with their sin of indifference and unbelief. He startled his listeners in the synagogue at Nazareth with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God could receive honor among his own people. He then angered them when he complimented Gentiles (non-Jews) who had shown more faith in God than the "chosen ones" of Israel. Some who despised the Gentiles (non-Jews) even spoke of them as "fuel for the fires of hell." Jesus' praise for "outsiders" offended the ears of his own people because they were blind-sighted to God's merciful plan of redemption for all the nations. The word of rebuke spoken by Jesus was met with indignation and hostility. The Nazarenes forcibly threw him out of their town and would have done him physical harm had he not stopped them.

We all stand in need of God's grace and merciful help every day and every moment of our lives. Scripture tells us that "the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:22-23). God gives grace to the humble who seek him with expectant faith and with a repentant heart that wants to be made whole and clean again.

The Lord Jesus will set us free from every sinful habit and every harmful way of relating to our neighbor, if we allow him to cleanse and heal us. If we want to walk in freedom and grow in love and holiness, then we must humbly renounce our sinful ways and submit to Christ's instruction and healing discipline in our lives. Scripture tells us that the Lord disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Do you want the Lord Jesus to set you free and make you whole again? Ask him to show you the way to walk in his healing love and truth.

"Lord Jesus, teach me to love your ways that I may be quick to renounce sin and wilfulness in my life. Make me whole and clean again that I may delight to do your will."

Psalm 71:1-6,15,17

1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb.  My praise is continually of you.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

A Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Could anyone refuse to love our God?, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"These words having been read to the assembled people, all eyes focused on Jesus, wondering perhaps how he could read without having been taught. The Israelites used to say that the prophecies concerning Christ were fulfilled, either in the persons of some of their more glorious kings or at least in the holy prophets. They did not correctly understand what was written about him, so they missed the true direction and traveled down another path. He carefully guards against error by saying, 'This day is this prophecy fulfilled in your ears,' that they might not again misinterpret the present prophecy. He expressly set himself before them in these words, as the person spoken of in the prophecy. It was he who preached the kingdom of heaven to the heathen. They were poor, having nothing - not God, not law, not prophets. Rather, he preached it to all who were without spiritual riches. He set the captives free; having overthrown the apostate tyrant Satan, he shed the divine and spiritual light on those whose heart was darkened. This is why he said, 'I come as a light in this world ' (John 12:46).' It was he who took the chains of sin off of those whose heart was crushed by them. He clearly showed that there is a life to come, and sinners denounced in just judgment. Finally, it was he who preached the acceptable year of the Lord, the year in which the Saviorís proclamation was made. By the acceptable year I think is meant his first coming, and by the day of restitution the day of judgment. (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 12)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: 
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.

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