Matthew 4; Luke 4; Luke 5; John 1:15-51

1 Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. 2 Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, 3 which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread." 4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth." 5 For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, 6 "Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone." 7 Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God." 8 For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were. 9 Then he said, "They're yours - lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours." 10 Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness." 11 The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus' needs. Teaching and Healing 12 When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee. 13 He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills. 14 This move completed Isaiah's sermon: 15 Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, crossroads for the nations. 16 People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up. 17 This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here." 18 Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. 19 Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." 20 They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed. 21 A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee's sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, 22 and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father. 23 From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God's kingdom was his theme - that beginning right now they were under God's government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives. 24 Word got around the entire Roman province of Syria. People brought anybody with an ailment, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them, one and all. 25 More and more people came, the momentum gathering. Besides those from Galilee, crowds came from the "Ten Towns" across the lake, others up from Jerusalem and Judea, still others from across the Jordan.
1 Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. 2 For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry. 3 The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: "Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread." 4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to really live." 5 For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. 6 Then the Devil said, "They're yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I'm in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. 7 Worship me and they're yours, the whole works." 8 Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness." 9 For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, "If you are God's Son, jump. 10 It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; 11 they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?" 12 "Yes," said Jesus, "and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.'" 13 That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. 14 Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. 15 He taught in their meeting places to everyone's acclaim and pleasure. 16 He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, 17 he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, 18 God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, 19 to announce, "This is God's year to act!" 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. 21 Then he started in, "You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place." 22 All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, "Isn't this Joseph's son, the one we've known since he was a youngster?" 23 He answered, "I suppose you're going to quote the proverb, 'Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.' 24 Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. 25 Isn't it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, 26 but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? 27 And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian." 28 That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. 29 They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, 30 but he gave them the slip and was on his way. 31 He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath. 32 They were surprised and impressed - his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to. 33 In the meeting place that day there was a man demonically disturbed. He screamed, 34 "Ho! What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you're up to. You're the Holy One of God and you've come to destroy us!" 35 Jesus shut him up: "Quiet! Get out of him!" The demonic spirit threw the man down in front of them all and left. The demon didn't hurt him. 36 That set everyone back on their heels, whispering and wondering, "What's going on here? Someone whose words make things happen? Someone who orders demonic spirits to get out and they go?" 37 Jesus was the talk of the town. 38 He left the meeting place and went to Simon's house. Simon's mother-in-law was running a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. 39 He stood over her, told the fever to leave - and it left. Before they knew it, she was up getting dinner for them. 40 When the sun went down, everyone who had anyone sick with some ailment or other brought them to him. One by one he placed his hands on them and healed them. 41 Demons left in droves, screaming, "Son of God! You're the Son of God!" But he shut them up, refusing to let them speak because they knew too much, knew him to be the Messiah. 42 He left the next day for open country. But the crowds went looking and, when they found him, clung to him so he couldn't go on. 43 He told them, "Don't you realize that there are yet other villages where I have to tell the Message of God's kingdom, that this is the work God sent me to do?" 44 Meanwhile he continued preaching in the meeting places of Galilee.
1 Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. 2 He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. 3 He climbed into the boat that was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd. 4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch." 5 Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." 6 It was no sooner said than done - a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. 7 They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. "Master, leave. I'm a sinner and can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself." 9 When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. 10 It was the same with James and John, Zebedee's sons, coworkers with Simon. 11 They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him. 12 One day in one of the villages there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus he fell down before him in prayer and said, "If you want to, you can cleanse me." 13 Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, "I want to. Be clean." Then and there his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone. 14 Jesus instructed him, "Don't talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed self to the priest, along with the offering ordered by Moses. Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done." 15 But the man couldn't keep it to himself, and the word got out. Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. 16 As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. 17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and religion teachers were sitting around. They had come from nearly every village in Galilee and Judea, even as far away as Jerusalem, to be there. The healing power of God was on him. 18 Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. 19 When they couldn't find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. 20 Impressed by their bold belief, he said, "Friend, I forgive your sins." 21 That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. "Who does he think he is? That's blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins." 22 Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, "Why all this gossipy whispering? 23 Which is simpler: to say 'I forgive your sins,' or to say 'Get up and start walking'? 24 Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . ." He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: "Get up. Take your bedroll and go home." 25 Without a moment's hesitation, he did it - got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. 26 The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous - and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, "We've never seen anything like that!" 27 After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, "Come along with me." 28 And he did - walked away from everything and went with him. 29 Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. 30 The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. "What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and 'sinners'?" 31 Jesus heard about it and spoke up, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 32 I'm here inviting outsiders, not insiders - an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out." 33 They asked him, "John's disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?" 34 Jesus said, "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 this isn't the time. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. 35 When the groom is gone, the fasting can begin. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come! 36 "No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. 37 And you don't put wine in old, cracked bottles; 38 you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. 39 And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine."
15 John pointed him out and called, "This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word." 16 We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. 17 We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding - all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. 18 No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day. Thunder in the Desert 19 When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. 20 He didn't evade the question. He told the plain truth: "I am not the Messiah." 21 They pressed him, "Who, then? Elijah?" "I am not." "The Prophet?" "No." 22 Exasperated, they said, "Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something - anything! - about yourself." 23 "I'm thunder in the desert: 'Make the road straight for God!' I'm doing what the prophet Isaiah preached." 24 Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party. 25 Now they had a question of their own: "If you're neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?" 26 John answered, "I only baptize using water. A person you don't recognize has taken his stand in your midst. 27 He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I'm not even worthy to hold his coat for him." 28 These conversations took place in Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing at the time. 29 The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, 30 "Here he is, God's Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I've been talking about, 'the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.' 31 I knew nothing about who he was - only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God." 32 John clinched his witness with this: "I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making himself at home in him. 33 I repeat, I know nothing about him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, 'The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 That's exactly what I saw happen, and I'm telling you, there's no question about it: This is the Son of God." 35 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. 36 He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, "Here he is, God's Passover Lamb." 37 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. 38 Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, "What are you after?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?" 39 He replied, "Come along and see for yourself." They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard John's witness and followed Jesus. 41 The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, "We've found the Messiah" (that is, "Christ"). 42 He immediately led him to Jesus. Jesus took one look up and said, "You're John's son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas" (or Peter, which means "Rock"). 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, "Come, follow me." 44 (Philip's hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) 45 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, "We've found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It's Jesus, Joseph's son, the one from Nazareth!" 46 Nathanael said, "Nazareth? You've got to be kidding." But Philip said, "Come, see for yourself." 47 When Jesus saw him coming he said, "There's a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body." 48 Nathanael said, "Where did you get that idea? You don't know me." Jesus answered, "One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree." 49 Nathanael exclaimed, "Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!" 50 Jesus said, "You've become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven't seen anything yet! 51 Before this is over you're going to see heaven open and God's angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again."