A modern English blending of the New Testament

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Jesus - A blending of the New Testament - Ch. 8 - Apostles are chosen
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The healing at Bethesda pool  - Jesus defends healing on a Sabbath -  disciples are criticized for gathering grain on a Sabbath man with a withered hand is healed  -  the apostles are chosen.


Jesus went to Jerusalem to observe one of the Jewish festivals. In the city, near the Sheep Gate, there was a pool called Bethesda. It was encircled by five colonnades and in the alcoves there were a great many invalids - some blind, some lame, some paralyzed. (They waited for what was known as "The stirring of the water," believing that at certain intervals an angel would disturb the water of the pool and that the first person who stepped in would be healed no matter what his illness.)

One of the crowd lying near the pool was a man who had suffered from a lingering illness for some thirty-eight years. Jesus, realizing that he has been there a long time, spoke to him.

"Do you want to get well?" he asked.

"Sir," the man said, "when the water is stirred I don't have anybody to put me in. While I'm trying to climb down, somebody always beats me to it".

"Stand up," Jesus said. "Take your mat with you and go home."

Immediately the man was healed. He picked up his mat and left.

It happened to be a sabbath, and when the temple officials saw the man carrying his bed, they said to him, "What are you doing, man? It's the sabbath. It's illegal to carry your sleeping mat on the sabbath."

"But the man who healed me told me to."

"Who told you to?"

The man didn't know who had healed him because Jesus, not wanting to be recognized by the crowd, had slipped away. He did, however, seek the man out later in the temple.

"You're well now," he told him, "but you if don't change your way of life, something worse may happen to you."

The man went off and told those who had been questioning him that it was Jesus who healed him. It was because of this that the authorities began to persecute Jesus as a sabbath-breaker. When they charged him with it, his response was blunt.

"Look," he said, "my Father doesn't work on a part-time basis, nor do I."

This kind of comment only deepened the officials' determination to have him executed, not simply because he broke the sabbath Law but because he spoke of God as his own father, making himself God's equal.

He faced them on the question.

"The truth is," he said, "that I, my Father's son, don't do anything by my own choice: I simply follow my father's example. He loves me and has disclosed his purposes to me. He's going to reveal even more astonishing things to me so you had better be ready for it. It is the Father, as you know, who raises the dead; so also the son gives life to whomever he pleases. God no longer judges men: he has put that entirely in my hands so that I may be honored equally with him. If you fail to honor the son, you fail to honor the Father who sent him.

"Pay attention now: anyone who heeds what I say and believes in the God who sent me has eternal life. And, because he will have passed from death to life, he won't have to face the judgment. The time is coming- actually, it's here now- when the dead will hear my voice and, hearing, will live, The Father is the essence of life. He has endowed me with that same life, and with it has given me the authority, as the son of man, to be the judge of all mankind. Don't be surprised at that, because the time is coming, as I said, when the dead will hear my voice and come out of the grave. Those who have done well will live forever and those who have done evil will be condemned. The authority I exercise is not my own; I judge as God tells me. As a consequence, my judgments are fair because I'm not expressing my own will but the Father's.

"Now, if I were to make these claims with no authentication other than my say-so, what validity would they have? But I'm backed by someone else, a man who speaks nothing but the truth. Who? John the Baptist. Didn't you yourselves ask him about me, and didn't he support me? It's not that I need the recommendation of any man, I simply make the point that you may be saved. John was a bright and a steady light; for a while you were happy to bask in that light. But there is an affirmation far greater than anything John may have offered: namely, the things God has empowered me to do, the things I am now doing. They're the proof that I've been sent here by the Father. He is my witness. None of you has ever seen him, nor have you heard his voice, nor do you accept what he says. The proof of that is that you refuse to believe his messenger. You pore over the scriptures in the belief that they will lead you into an endless life. Those very scriptures speak of me, yet you refuse to come to me to get that life.

"I am not seeking praise from you or any man. But I know you and know that you don't have a love for God in your hearts. I have come to you on the authority of my Father and you have spurned me, but let someone come on no authority other than his own and you welcome him with open arms.

"How can you possibly be believers? You're content with the honors others can give and don't pursue the honor that comes from the one and only God. But don't worry; I'm not going to be your accuser before the Father. Moses will be that, the very one of whom you've built your hopes! If you really believed Moses you'd trust me because Moses wrote about me. But then, if you don't believe what he has written, what chance is there that you'll believe what I say?"

On a sabbath day, Jesus and the disciples were walking through a wheat field on their way to synagogue. As they went, the disciples plucked some of the grain, rubbed it between their palms to get rid of the chaff, and ate the kernels. Some pharisees saw them.

"Look at your disciples," they said to him. "It's the sabbath and there they are, breaking the sabbath Law. Why?"

"Haven't you read in history what king David and his men did when they were famished?" he asked. "It was at the time Abiathar was the high priest, remember? David went right into the temple and ate the Presentation Loaves-and no one but a priest is permitted to do that. Not only that; he shared the loaves with his men. And haven't you read in the Law that priests are permitted to work on the sabbath without breaking the Law? Listen to me: What we're talking about here is far more important than the temple. If you had any understanding of what is meant by the scripture, I prefer acts of mercy over the offering of sacrifices in the temple, you wouldn't have been so quick to point a finger at the innocent. The sabbath was established to benefit mankind and not the reverse. More than that. I am in command of the sabbath." He left them and walked on to the synagogue.

It so happened that in the congregation that day there was a man with a withered right hand. The Pharisees -who were trying to find grounds on which they could charge Jesus - watched closely to see whether he would heal on a sabbath.

Jesus spoke to the man with the withered hand. "Come stand here in the center," he said.

One of the pharisees called out. "Just a moment. Does the Law allow healing to be done on a sabbath?

He knew what was in their minds so he put a question to them. "Which one of you, if you owned a sheep and it fell into a hole on a sabbath day, wouldn't take hold of it and pull it out? And can one compare the value of a sheep and a man? The question really is: does the Law permit good to be done on a sabbath? I put it to you: which is right on the sabbath - the doing of good or the doing of harm, to save a life or to destroy it? Which?"

There was no reply. Jesus, angry at their callousness, turned slowly in a circle looking into their faces. Then he spoke to the man with the withered hand. "Stretch out your hand!" he said. The man did and it became normal again.

The Pharisees stormed out of the synagogue in a rage and began to discuss among themselves and with the Herodians how they could arrange Jesus' execution. Knowing their intentions, Jesus withdrew to Galilee.

In Galilee he was followed everywhere by enormous crowds. Word of what he had been doing had spread quickly, and people came to see him from as far as Tyre and Sidon to the north, Jerusalem, Judea, and Idumea to the south, and from beyond Jordan to the east. People suffering from a variety of contagious diseases jostled him, and whenever he encountered men and women possessed by devils, the devils would hurl them to the ground in front of him screaming, "You're God's son!" Repeatedly he ordered the devils not to reveal his identity so that the prophet Isaiah's prediction might come true:

There! - there is my chosen servant,
The one I love, the one in whom I delight,
I shall endow him with my spirit
To herald justice for the Gentiles.
He will not wrangle, nor will he shout,
Nor will his voice be loud in the streets.
The weakened reed will not be broken
Nor will he quench the smoldering wick.
'Til justice shall give birth to victory
And the Gentiles find their hope in him.

One evening Jesus slipped away from the crowd and climbed a mountain alone to pray. He prayed all night. In the morning he called the disciples and chose twelve from among them. He called them apostles and set them apart to be his closest companions and to be sent out as preachers with the authority to drive out devils.

The apostles included three sets of brothers:

Simon (whom he had named Peter) and Andrew;
James and John, Zebcdee's sons;
James and Thaddeus, Alphaeus' sons.

The other six were:

Bartholemew (otherwise known as Nathaniel),
Matthew (otherwise known as Levi),
Thomas (sometimes called The Twin),
Simon the Cananaean (sometimes called The Zealot),
and Judas Iscariot, the traitor.

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