The Messengers from John the Baptist
11 1 When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages. 2 John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples 3 to ask, "Are you the One we've been expecting, or are we still waiting?" 4 Jesus told them, "Go back and tell John what's going on: 5 The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. 6 "Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!"
7 When John's disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. "What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? 8 Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. 9 What then? A prophet? That's right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you'll ever hear. 10 He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, 'I'm sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.' 11 "Let me tell you what's going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. 12 For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God's kingdom. 13 But if you read the books of the Prophets and God's Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. 14 Looked at in this way, John is the 'Elijah' you've all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah. 15 "Are you listening to me? Really listening?
16 "How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, 17 'We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.' 18 John came fasting and they called him crazy. 19 I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riff-raff. Opinion polls don't count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating."
Woes to Unrepentant Cities
20 Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way. 21 "Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. 22 At Judgment Day they'll get off easy compared to you. 23 And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around. 24 At Judgment Day they'll get off easy compared to you."
Come unto Me and Rest
25 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. 26 Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work." 27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen. 28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
The Disciples Pluck Grain on the Sabbath
12 1 One Sabbath, Jesus was strolling with his disciples through a field of ripe grain. Hungry, the disciples were pulling off the heads of grain and munching on them. 2 Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: "Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!" 3 Jesus said, "Really? Didn't you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry, 4 how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat? 5 And didn't you ever read in God's Law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it's not held against them? 6 "There is far more at stake here than religion. 7 If you had any idea what this Scripture meant - 'I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual' - you wouldn't be nitpicking like this. 8 The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he's in charge."
The Man with a Withered Hand
9 When Jesus left the field, he entered their meeting place. 10 There was a man there with a crippled hand. They said to Jesus, "Is it legal to heal on the Sabbath?" They were baiting him. 11 He replied, "Is there a person here who, finding one of your lambs fallen into a ravine, wouldn't, even though it was a Sabbath, pull it out? 12 Surely kindness to people is as legal as kindness to animals!" 13 Then he said to the man, "Hold out your hand." He held it out and it was healed.
14 The Pharisees walked out furious, sputtering about how they were going to ruin Jesus.
The Chosen Servant
15 Jesus, knowing they were out to get him, moved on. A lot of people followed him, and he healed them all 16 . He also cautioned them to keep it quiet, 17 following guidelines set down by Isaiah: 18 Look well at my handpicked servant; I love him so much, take such delight in him. I've placed my Spirit on him; he'll decree justice to the nations. 19 But he won't yell, won't raise his voice; there'll be no commotion in the streets. 20 He won't walk over anyone's feelings, won't push you into a corner. Before you know it, his justice will triumph; 21 the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.
A Divided House Cannot Stand
22 Next a poor demon-afflicted wretch, both blind and deaf, was set down before him. Jesus healed him, gave him his sight and hearing. 23 The people who saw it were impressed - "This has to be the Son of David!" 24 But the Pharisees, when they heard the report, were cynical. "Black magic," they said. "Some devil trick he's pulled from his sleeve." 25 Jesus confronted their slander. "A judge who gives opposite verdicts on the same person cancels himself out; a family that's in a constant squabble disintegrates; 26 if Satan banishes Satan, is there any Satan left? 27 If you're slinging devil mud at me, calling me a devil kicking out devils, doesn't the same mud stick to your own exorcists? 28 "But if it's by God's power that I am sending the evil spirits packing, then God's kingdom is here for sure. 29 How in the world do you think it's possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out. 30 "This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you're not on my side, you're the enemy; if you're not helping, you're making things worse. 31 "There's nothing done or said that can't be forgiven. But if you deliberately persist in your slanders against God's Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives. 32 If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can forgive you, but when you reject the Holy Spirit, you're sawing off the branch on which you're sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives. 33 "If you grow a healthy tree, you'll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you'll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. 34 "You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It's your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. 35 A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. 36 Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. 37 Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation."
An Evil Generation Seeks a Sign
38 Later a few religion scholars and Pharisees got on him. "Teacher, we want to see your credentials. Give us some hard evidence that God is in this. How about a miracle?" 39 Jesus said, "You're looking for proof, but you're looking for the wrong kind. All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. The only proof you're going to get is what looks like the absence of proof: Jonah-evidence. 40 Like Jonah, three days and nights in the fish's belly, the Son of Man will be gone three days and nights in a deep grave. 41 "On Judgment Day, the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about 'proofs.' 42 On Judgment Day, the Queen of Sheba will come forward and bring evidence that will condemn this generation, because she traveled from a far corner of the earth to listen to wise Solomon. Wisdom far greater than Solomon's is right in front of you, and you quibble over 'evidence.'
The Return of the Unclean Spirit
43 "When a defiling evil spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn't find anyone, 44 it says, 'I'll go back to my old haunt.' On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant. 45 It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse off than if he'd never gotten cleaned up in the first place. "That's what this generation is like: You may think you have cleaned out the junk from your lives and gotten ready for God, but you weren't hospitable to my kingdom message, and now all the devils are moving back in."
Jesus' Mother and Brethren
46 While he was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers showed up. They were outside trying to get a message to him. 47 Someone told Jesus, "Your mother and brothers are out here, wanting to speak with you." 48 Jesus didn't respond directly, but said, "Who do you think my mother and brothers are?" 49 He then stretched out his hand toward his disciples. "Look closely. These are my mother and brothers. 50 Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father's will is my brother and sister and mother."