(Modern-Day Reporter Series)

 

THE VOICE ON THE MOUNT!

            Nazarene Rabbi preaches to thousands on

            Mount; calls for  mercy , compassion &

           forgiveness ; chooses 12 followers!

 

Matthew: 4:15-16: “ In the land of Zabulon, and the land of  Nepthalim (near Capernaum) by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles ; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light…” 

Capernaum, Judea (31 a.d.) – Reporter:  Bill Byrnes

                                                          

          Controversial young Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth,  added to his already burgeoning reputation yesterday, when he preached to thousands atop a small Mount, on the Northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.

Some calling themselves  his friends said this was  the first official act of his ministry, this native of Nazareth has already established quite a reputation among Judeans – many of whom already refer to him as the “Messiah” – the savior –  whose  coming has been foretold for many centuries in  Jewish religious scriptures.  Interestingly enough, Jesus has never referred to himself as the messiah, but, in the past several months, he has been credited with healings that have been nothing short of miraculous, and all of them having several witnesses! These healings include all manner of diverse diseases including Leprosy; great fevers, afflictions from birth, and the expulsion of evil spirits from many.

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All manner of diverse diseases have been healed.

Just a few days ago, Jesus chose twelve men to be his “Apostles”–or Followers. These men , reportedly , have forsaken all their worldly possessions to be among the chosen. I’m  awaiting verification of all their  identities before mentioning any of them.

It was  an  incredible scene. He stood on a small rise, above the people, who were stretched out on three sides of the surrounding terrain, almost as far as the eye could see. They came from all over : Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, and many other areas of Judea, and  beyond Jordan. There was no limit  to age or gender. There were many families , and  even young children, normally rambunctious , seemed to pay attention  when he spoke– it was the most incredible presentation ever witnessed by this reporter!  His voice was not the powerful, booming instrument shown by great orators of the past; but it was steady and unwavering–soothing and penetrating when he wanted to emphasize key points.

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Blessed are the poor in spirit  , for their’s is the Kingdom of Heaven . Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek,-  for they shall inherit the Earth!”

But the most amazing thing about his presentation was his eyes — — at any given time, he looked directly into everyone’s  eyes — AT THE SAME TIME!  I discovered this by circulating among the crowd, talking with them during his pauses. One young mother, choking – up, almost sobbing, said, “The way he looks into my eyes– — comforts me and my children greatly.” Her gaze never left him while she answered.  A man 20-30 ft.  down from her  said, ”The way his eyes look into mine when he speaks;  I’ve never felt so content.  And my children, usually very playful, are quite still, as if they have just finished eating and are ready for sleep. But the way they’re staring at Jesus , they must understand him too!  As I moved among the masses, the responses were the same. And when I sat  and listened, I was affected as much as anyone!

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:  for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

          When I first started hearing stories of the child prodigy from Nazareth — I just mentally filed them away for future reference. But, now….now I knew  there had to be some truth to  them. Suddenly, I could form a mental picture of the 12-year old boy sitting in the temple in Jerusalem, asking questions and discussing issues of faith with the most educated of clerics, who were spellbound with the lad’s answers to their questions. All of this happened while his parents (not knowing their son’s whereabouts) frantically searched for him  for 3 days!

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They were spellbound with the boy’s answers!

The most impact occurred during the last three of his “blessings”,  “Blessed are the pure in heart – for they shall see God! Blessed are the peacemakers–for they shall be called the children of God ! Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’s sake, for their’s is the kingdom of Heaven! “  With the last few words, it was if a very short episode of collective , brief sobbing was heard  throughout the entire crowd! I must admit, I was not immune to being a little choked-up!

After this, he spoke at great length regarding a new purpose for the laws governing his people. No one in the crowd, myself included, had any doubts that this man was, indeed, the long awaited messiah! But, he still never referred to himself by that name. He came pretty close to it when answering criticisms from some skeptics in the crowd who accused him of trying to destroy the laws of their ancestors. Matthew: 5;17: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I have not come to destroy them, but to FULFILL them.”   So, at the least, Jesus  gave himself a very special “raison  d’etre ”.

Certainly, everyone leaving the event realized  that they were at a very special happening. The blessings bestowed by Jesus were termed “Beatitudes”. Considering that the word comes from the Latin  “beatus” , meaning “blissful” or “fortunate”  This reporter can honestly say that I was very “fortunate” for having drawn this assignment.

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* See Note Below*

(One year later –   32 a.d.)    Reporter’s Post-script 

          After  posting the above article my editor  gave me a royal chewing-out for losing objectivity, and removed me from any assignments covering Jesus. This morning, I was exonerated! No sooner had I gone to my desk, than he came over saying:  “Hey, Byrnes – don’t hang up your coat! You’re back on with your messiah.”  I stammered, “Great–but what happened?” Then, I added facetiously,  ”I thought I wasn’t objective enough?”

“ Yeah,  but now, we’ve got a whole new ball-game– AND I want you on it– — Now!”

As  I started gathering all my necessities  he added: “During last night’s storm out on the lake– — several witnesses saw your messiah  rescue his followers —  BY  WALKING  ON THE WATER!”

“No complaints from me, boss”.  I was all smiles and as I exited the office, my smiles turned into almost giddy chuckling when I confronted this question: have I gained much more than the greatest story ever—have I found GOD—alive, well, and walking around Judea? In my gut—I knew the answer!

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GOD OR SATAN–RECOGNIZING THE THIRD PLAYER!

by Bill Byrnes

“Seek good and not evil, that you may live.” Amos: 5:14 

Have you ever wondered, “Does God talk to me–or anyone?” My answer: YES–he definitely tries to COMMUNICATE with us. Hope you caught the distinction between “talking” and “communicating”. The reason is that it might be easy to overlook His attempted communications with us if our attitude is to wait for that super, deep, “heavy” Ten Commandments type of voice. Instead  we should just settle back and observe events and realize that  certain things might not have occurred without His intervention. At the least, if we ask Him for something, or if we have a question,  we should be ready to receive his answer. Of course, we know he works from his timetable on ALL things. But, I’m sure, sometimes, he can take our timetable into account. For instance, I’ve known several people who have asked God if they should marry that certain someone. I’ve also known people who ask His advice on making major purchases. Even though these questions might require immediate “assistance”–you never know. Answers might take a lot longer than we can imagine. Rest assured, if you talk to God–HE DOES LISTEN. So understand that even a “non-answer” has meaning!

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He does listen…”

We could think of examples all day long. But I must also assert that there’s another “player” lurking in the shadows– you guessed it–Satan.

We know that Satan is a great deceiver. It’s not difficult to infer that Satan would love nothing more than to trick us into thinking that the communication we’re getting is from God — when in reality–it’s from him!

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He wants nothing more than to trick us.

The next question, then, is –how do we tell the difference? How do we know if it’s God or Satan? The answer is pretty easy to find. And, where do we go for that answer? It’s the same place we go for any and all answers–the Bible!

There’s no guessing as to the meaning of this passage from Mark: 9:7: “And there was cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud saying, ‘This is my beloved son–LISTEN TO HIM!”.  During this transfigurationGod, himself, proclaimed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and that his word constituted the new law. We were to LISTEN TO JESUS from that moment on!

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“LISTEN TO HIM”!

That was easy to establish. However, not all answers come to us is one concise sentence. We’ve established that Jesus is our source for any knowledge–next question how do we use knowledge from Jesus to decide if any “communications” we receive are from God or Satan? This, also, is not difficult, but it’ll need a little more explanation.

It would be easy for me to say, “Just read the parables”. But that isn’t the answer. True, Jesus’ parables give tremendous depth to his philosophy, however, there has got to be a simpler, all-inclusive way to apply his teachings–and there is!

Matthew:22:36-40: “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all they mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is LIKE UNTO IT.  Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets!”.

           I don’t think it can get any simpler than this! This was an incredible, very God-like”, achievement. Jesus actually took the voluminous contents of Mosaic law and converted them into  two simple rules that could be remembered by the uneducated, illiterate, minds of the common folks of that epoch.

What I find very interesting about these two laws( laws = commandments) is that laws usually govern ACTIONS. But these dictate the way people must think– BEFORE they act! It’s as if Jesus knew that he was giving us a way out of our predicament of deciding our titular question–God or Satan?

I could put volumes of examples together–I won’t. Instead, every time, and anytime, you think it’s God who’s talking to you–subject it to the test of Jesus’ two great commandments: does your action show, or demonstrate, your love of God–the actual feeling of LOVE–not just obedience? Next–is your action something that you would approve your neighbor doing to you–or to your family?

You can “take it from here” regarding any more examples. If your comparison isn’t clear–then PRAY before committing any action. Don’t forget what I said earlier about “non-answers”. If that’s where your path leads–be cautious. If God needs time to give you your answer–who are you to rush him? Above all, don’t forget the “third player”-Satan! He always has quick answers–quick and very costly. It’ll take all eternity for you to pay his price!

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“What is the greatest commandment?