Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears.
Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, "Master, if you want to, you can heal my body."
Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, "I want to. Be clean." Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone.
Jesus said, "Don't talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done."
As Jesus entered the village of Capernaum, a Roman captain came up in a panic and said,
"Master, my servant is sick. He can't walk. He's in terrible pain."
Jesus said, "I'll come and heal him."
"Oh, no," said the captain. "I don't want to put you to all that trouble. Just give the order and my servant will be fine.
I'm a man who takes orders and gives orders. I tell one soldier, 'Go,' and he goes; to another, 'Come,' and he comes; to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
Taken aback, Jesus said, "I've yet to come across this kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works.
This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions - streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God's kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Then those who grew up 'in the faith' but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened."
Then Jesus turned to the captain and said, "Go. What you believed could happen has happened." At that moment his servant became well.
By this time they were in front of Peter's house. On entering, Jesus found Peter's mother-in-law sick in bed, burning up with fever.
He touched her hand and the fever was gone. No sooner was she up on her feet than she was fixing dinner for him.
That evening a lot of demon-afflicted people were brought to him. He relieved the inwardly tormented. He cured the bodily ill.
He fulfilled Isaiah's well-known sermon: He took our illnesses, He carried our diseases.
When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake.
As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.
Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."
Another follower said, "Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father's funeral to take care of."
Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life."
Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him.
The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat - and he was sound asleep!
They roused him, pleading, "Master, save us! We're going down!"
Jesus reprimanded them. "Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?" Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: "Silence!" The sea became smooth as glass.
The men rubbed their eyes, astonished. "What's going on here? Wind and sea come to heel at his command!"
They landed in the country of the Gadarenes and were met by two madmen, victims of demons, coming out of the cemetery. The men had terrorized the region for so long that no one considered it safe to walk down that stretch of road anymore.
Seeing Jesus, the madmen screamed out, "What business do you have giving us a hard time? You're the Son of God! You weren't supposed to show up here yet!"
Off in the distance a herd of pigs was browsing and rooting.
The evil spirits begged Jesus, "If you kick us out of these men, let us live in the pigs."
Jesus said, "Go ahead, but get out of here!" Crazed, the pigs stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned.
Scared to death, the swineherds bolted. They told everyone back in town what had happened to the madmen and the pigs.
Those who heard about it were angry about the drowned pigs. A mob formed and demanded that Jesus get out and not come back.
Back in the boat, Jesus and the disciples recrossed the sea to Jesus' hometown.
They were hardly out of the boat when some men carried a paraplegic on a stretcher and set him down in front of them. Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, "Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins."
Some religion scholars whispered, "Why, that's blasphemy!"
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why this gossipy whispering?
Which do you think is simpler: to say, 'I forgive your sins,' or, 'Get up and walk'?
Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . ." At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, "Get up. Take your bed and go home."
And the man did it.
The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.
Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, "Come along with me." Matthew stood up and followed him.
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them.
When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?"
Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick?
Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
A little later John's followers approached, asking, "Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don't?"
Jesus told them, "When you're celebrating a wedding, you don't skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!"
He went on, "No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match.
And you don't put your wine in cracked bottles."
As he finished saying this, a local official appeared, bowed politely, and said, "My daughter has just now died. If you come and touch her, she will live."
Jesus got up and went with him, his disciples following along.
Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe.
She was thinking to herself, "If I can just put a finger on his robe, I'll get well." Jesus turned - caught her at it. Then he reassured her: "Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you're well."
The woman was well from then on.
By now they had arrived at the house of the town official, and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and the neighbors bringing in casseroles.
Jesus was abrupt: "Clear out! This girl isn't dead. She's sleeping." They told him he didn't know what he was talking about.
But when Jesus had gotten rid of the crowd, he went in, took the girl's hand, and pulled her to her feet - alive.
The news was soon out, and traveled throughout the region.
As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, "Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!"
When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, "Do you really believe I can do this?" They said, "Why, yes, Master!"
He touched their eyes and said, "Become what you believe."
It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. "Don't let a soul know how this happened."
But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.
Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus.
As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he'd been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: "There's never been anything like this in Israel!"
The Pharisees were left sputtering, "Hocus pocus. It's nothing but hocus pocus. He's probably made a pact with the Devil."
Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives.
When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.
"What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers!
On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)