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BI 1073 Story of Jesus / Lipscomb University

Unit 2B

Signs of the Messiah

 

 Read Luke 7:1-10

  • See the parallel text in Matthew 8:5-13. Luke adds the detail of the centurion building the synagogue for the Jews and earning their gratitude.
  • Every Jewish town which had at least 10 men had a synagogue which served as a place of biblical study.
  • Capernaum at the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee was the site of a garrison of Roman troops.
  • Visitors to Israel today can tour the ancient ruins of Capernaum.

 Read Luke 7:11-17

  • In this chapter (compare Matthew 11:2-19) Luke illustrates Jesus’ claim to John (18-23) with proof that he is the One to come: healing the sick, raising the dead, accepting and forgiving the sinful.
  • The widow of Nain story is unique to Luke. Luke has special sympathy for widows, mentioning them six times in his gospel and in Acts.

 Read Luke 7:18-23

  • Sitting in prison awaiting death (3:20), John the Baptist becomes discouraged and wonders, “Did I back the wrong man?” Jesus tells him to have faith and see the signs of the kingdom, even when they seem far away. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 42 and 61 about the fulfillment of prophecies, but omits the phrases “he will bring the prisoner out of the dungeon” (42:7) and “he will proclaim liberty to the captives” (61:1). Jesus was encouraging John that yes, all of these things were being fulfilled, but John himself would not be freed before his execution by Herod.
  • Sometimes we may not see God working in our lives, but it is then that we must believe all the more. Faith means believing in things unseen (Heb. 11:1). John did not see great blessings in his life resulting from his preaching about Jesus. Notice that Jesus doesn’t rebuke John for doubting but encourages him not to stumble. Don’t be ashamed if you have genuine questions about God. That too is a part of faith. Just don’t allow them to trip you up.
  • Faith will always include an element of doubt. If the existence of God could be scientifically proven, there would be no room for doubt or faith. We don’t ever doubt that the sun will rise in the morning or that the sky is blue; these are simple facts. But things that we cannot prove take faith and so there will always be room for some doubt.
  • It’s easy to praise God when we feel very blessed and things are going well. However, some believers trying hard to live obedient lives don’t always feel the presence of God surrounding them like a warm glow. At times the world appears cold, dark, and lonely. Suffering makes God seem very far away. Like the Psalmist we may think, “I say to God, why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?” (Ps. 42) It’s reassuring that God included in the Bible stories of people like John, the psalmist, or Job who felt abandoned by God. It lets us know that we are not alone when we feel this way, and God did not condemn them for their doubts. Also see Psalms 13, 22, 42, 77, 88. These psalms ask “Where are you, God?” and God saw fit to record these doubts in holy scripture.
  • Mother Teresa, who spent her life serving the poor in Calcutta, India, surprised her admirers when some of her spiritual doubts were revealed in letters after her death. She spoke of the struggle of experiencing God in her life: “As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear; the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak.” In letters to her confessor, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” of her life. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God; yet she continued to serve Him (from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light 2007).
  • The Christian writer C. S. Lewis got married late in life, only to lose his wife to cancer four years later. In his book A Grief Observed, he wrote about the pain he felt: “Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.” Lewis expressed his doubts and despair honestly, but he didn’t lose faith in God.
  • There was no last minute rescue for a happy ending to John’s life. Matthew 14 and Mark 6 record more detailed accounts of John’s beheading. John openly condemned Herod Antipas (Herod the Great’s son) for marrying his brother’s wife. Offended, she contrived his death. Her daughter (unnamed but known by tradition as Salome) danced before the king and pleased him. When he offered to grant her request, her mother told her to ask for the head of John on a platter.
  • The Jewish historian Josephus confirms the gospel description of John’s death (Ant. 18.5.2), saying that Herod feared an uprising because of John. Josephus identifies the location as Herod’s palace at Machaerus, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea (in modern day Jordan). Archaeologists have recently (2019) uncovered the throne room where Herod would have condemned John; see the photo below.
  • The lame walking was an eschatological sign of the promised age to come: “Then the lame will leap like a deer” (Isaiah 35:6). See also Acts 3:8.

Machaerus

 

 Read Luke 7:24-35

  • A reed in the wind would be something quite ordinary, nothing special. The answer to Jesus’ rhetorical question is – no, they went to John to see something extraordinary, and Jesus confirms he was indeed. No true prophets had spoken in Judea for hundreds of years.
  • Jesus applies Malachi 3:1 to John’s prophetic ministry.
  • Jesus describes children’s games, play-acting a marriage and a funeral, but the others won’t play either game. His point: there’s no pleasing some people. The Pharisees criticize John for depriving himself, and Jesus for feasting.

 Read Luke 7:36-50

  • Only Luke shows Jesus accepting the hospitality of Pharisees (see also ch. 11 and 14).
  • Unlike the famous painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, in Jesus’ time people did not sit in chairs at a waist-high table, but reclined on the floor around a low table. Their feet would be stretched out away from the table, making it easy for this woman to wash Jesus’ feet.
  • Whereas the Pharisee saw the woman’s offense, Jesus saw her need. Do we focus more on other’s sins, or how we might help them?
  • This parable of God’s mercy for sinners, along with the lost sheep/coin/son (Luke 15), and the Pharisee and Publican (Luke 18), are addressed ironically not to “sinners” but to Pharisees who oppose Jesus’ association with sinners and their inclusion among God’s elect. Jesus attempts to teach them that they must love sinners just as their Father does.

Hearing Jesus

 Read Luke 8:1-3

  • The Greek verb “to journey about” is imperfect tense, meaning a continual, wandering ministry, not a journey from point A to B. Jesus doesn’t settle down but goes from place to place.
  • Female disciples are mentioned here possibly because this passage follows two stories of Jesus and women in the last chapter. Luke focuses more attention on women disciples; Mark doesn’t speak of them until 15:11. These women did not become “official” leaders such as the apostles, but they played an important role in supporting Jesus’ ministry from their financial resources.
  • The word “ministered” comes from the Greek word diakonos, meaning one who serves. In English we get the word “deacon” from this Greek term.
  • Luke records many unique stories about women found only in his gospel: Elizabeth (1:5-61), Mary (1:26-56), Anna (2:36-8), widow (7:11-17), Mary and Martha (10:38-42), crippled woman (13:10-17), woman who lost coin (15:8-10), widow and judge (21:1-4).
  • In popular opinion Mary Magdalene has the reputation of being a prostitute, but the Bible never says this, only that she had been cured of demons (also Mark 16:9). The heretical Gnostic gospels from the 2nd century claim that Jesus and Mary were lovers, but there is no basis for this claim.

 Read Luke 8:4-15

  • The sower parable is the first major kingdom parable in all three synoptic gospels.
  • The early kingdom parables (see also the mustard seed and the leaven, Luke 13) focus on spreading the message. Later the focus of the parables will be on the messenger, as in Luke 20, the parable of the wicked tenants who kill the messenger (Christ).
  • Judea had very rocky soil. A Jewish folktale (not from the Bible) says that after creation God gave two angels the task of spreading rocks throughout the world. One distributed the contents of his sack widely, but the other dumped all of his rocks beside the Jordan river.
  • (6) Luke says the plant died because of “no moisture” whereas Mark 4 says “no roots,” but they make the same point which is clear in the explanation (13). Jesus probably told this parable many times, changing the details for variety.
  • To those whose hearts aren’t open (poor soil) to the mysteries of God, what Jesus says sounds like riddles. Matthew 13 quotes all of Isaiah 6:9-10, which makes it clear that it is the people’s fault that they do not understand, because of their hard hearts, not the obscurity of the teaching.
  • (10) “So that” in Greek can mean either the purpose of something or the result. In this verse we should understand it as result. Jesus didn’t speak in parables in order to confuse his hearers, but that was the result of their stubbornness. Jesus’ purpose is to reveal, not conceal, the truth, but it is up to the hearer to properly receive and act on it (see v. 21).
  • The metaphor of the sower as a teacher with his hearers as soil was also used by Plato, Plutarch, Seneca, and Quintilian (see DG for sources).
  • Personal note: every time this class is offered, I pray that God’s word will fall on good soil, on hearts open to receiving it and earnestly trying to live out his will for us. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

More on Parables

  • We can distinguish between Jesus’ use of simple, brief metaphors (a city set on a hill, the blind leading the blind, 6:39), picture parables with more details (splinter/beam in one’s eye, children playing), and story parables (sower, prodigal son, rich man and Lazarus). Picture parables describe typical, everyday situations, whereas story parables are more particular to the situation Jesus is addressing. Most of the details in parables are there for color and interest and should not be pressed into meaning something Jesus didn’t intend.
  • Jesus’ parables have the “stamp of a highly individual mind … their appeal to the imagination fixes them in the memory.” (Dodd)
  • Four types of parables in Luke according to content:
    • Kingdom parables describe the nature of God’s reign: sower (8:4-15), watchful servants (12:35-8), mustard seed, leaven (13:18-21), great banquet (14:16-24), talents/minas (19:11-27). (Matthew has more kingdom parables: the tares, treasure, pearl, net, unforgiving servant, laborer in vineyard, two sons, sheep/goats.)
    • Ethical/proverbial parables (how we should live): patches / wineskin (5:36-8), speck/beam 6:41-2, wise and foolish builders (6:47-9), two debtors (7:41-43), good Samaritan (10:25-37), haunted house (11:24-6), rich fool (12:16-21), barren fig tree (13:6-9), tower and king’s army (14:28-33), crafty steward (16:1-9), rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31), persistent widow (18:1-8), Pharisee and publican (18:9-14).
    • Theological parables (what God is like): friend at midnight (11:5-10), lost sheep, coin, son (15:3-32).
    • Christological parables (about Jesus himself): joy in groom’s presence (5:33-5), children’s games (7:31-32), wicked tenants (20:9-19).

 Read Luke 8:16-18

  • These three verses are found again in other contexts: 16=11:33, 17=12:2, 18=19:26.
  • (16) In the parallel passage in Matthew 5:14, Jesus says to his followers, “You are the light of the world,” a high compliment indeed as Jesus calls himself the light of the world in John 9:5. We are to reflect the light which comes from Christ. Some people today say that religious faith should be only a private matter, not having a public dimension. But Jesus says that our faith should be seen in the world, for how else will the world ever see the light? This does not mean that we try to show off in public as the Pharisees did, who wanted to impress others with how religious they were. Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Every expression of our faith should point people toward God, not ourselves.
  • (18) is not about money, but how one listens: those who listen carefully to understand a little will perceive more, while those who listen carelessly will lose what little understanding they have. A little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing, especially when it concerns biblical study. Too often people pick a verse or two out of context and twist the intended meaning to whatever they want to prove.

 Read Luke 8:19-21

  • Luke has moved this section (recorded earlier in Mark 3:31-5) to serve as a conclusion to this discussion on hearing God’s word. Note his rewording of Mark 3:35 from “doing” to “hearing and doing,” a clear sign that he is arranging material thematically.
  • Mark 3:21 adds that his family tried to restrain Jesus, thinking he was insane.
  • Roman Catholic tradition teaches that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth, and thus explains these “brothers” as Joseph’s sons by a previous marriage. However, the Bible never teaches this idea. Luke 2:7 describes Jesus as Mary’s “firstborn son” which implies she had other children. According to several scriptures, Mary is depicted with Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matt 12:46-50,13:55; Mark 3:31-35, 6:3; John 2:12, 7:3-5). His brother James eventually became a believer and a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, 15:13; Galatians 1:18-19).
  • The idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin (“ever-virgin”) arose in the mid-2nd century because of the mistaken assumption that virginity is a more holy state. The theologian Augustine (5th century) taught that sex, even in marriage, was at best a necessary evil only for the purpose of procreation. However, this is not a biblical doctrine. Mary’s having other children in no way diminishes her honor of being the mother of Christ.

Who is this Jesus?

 Read Luke 8:22-25

  • In this chapter Luke records five mighty works by Jesus, then skips a long section in Mark 6:45-8:26 to move directly to Peter’s confession.
  • In Mark, Jesus has been teaching close off-shore from the boat because of the large crowds.
  • Luke omits Jesus’ famous saying “Peace, be still” found in Mark 4.
  • Note the contrast: one of such divine power was still subject to human fatigue.
  • The remains of a typical fishing boat from the first century were discovered in the Sea of Galilee when the shoreline receded due to a drought in 1986. The boat is about 27 feet long. When first discovered, it had the consistency of wet cardboard, and underwent extensive preservation before it could be displayed publicly.

boat

 Read Luke 8:26-39

  • The only known Gerasa was a prosperous town midway between Galilee and the Dead Sea (too far away to be the one mentioned here). Matthew 8 gives a different name, Gadara, six miles from the shore, but their territory reached the lake. It’s possible that the names were confused in the earliest manuscripts which sometimes happened when copied by hand.
  • Jesus and the disciples have crossed into Gentile territory where pigs were kept. Jews considered pigs to be unclean spiritually (not because they wallowed in mud).
  • Matthew 8:29 has the demons say, “Will you torture us before the appointed time?” acknowledging their ultimate defeat at the judgment day (but not yet giving up). Matthew mentions two demoniacs in this story.
  • (31) the abyss = Sheol, the Hebrew word for the realm of the dead (Ps 107:26, Rom 10:7). Sheol is not the same as Hell, as everyone goes to Sheol (death/the grave).

 Read Luke 8:40-56

  • (43) Luke omits Mark’s comment “she had suffered under many physicians” (Mark 5:26), perhaps sensitive to the criticism of doctors who hadn’t helped her.
  • Luke omits Mark’s Aramaic phrase talitha koum “child, arise” (Mark 5:41), because of his Gentile readers.
  • (55) Luke says that “her spirit returned” probably meaning her breath, as the word is the same in Greek (pneuma from which we get the word pneumonia). She began to breathe again.
  • Sometimes Jesus tells a healed person to tell others (as in the case of the demoniac, 38-9) but other times he cautions them not to tell what has happened. The text does not explain this difference, but some suggest that it might be Jesus’ reluctance to be considered merely a miracle worker, whereas his mission on earth was for more important matters, the salvation from sin.

 Read Luke 9:1-9

  • Jesus wants his disciples to depend on God for everything, relying on others’ hospitality. Luke forbids taking a staff, Mark 6:8 makes an exception for it.
  • We have a responsibility to tell the good news, but hearers have a responsibility to respond. We cannot win over everyone to Christ. Even his apostles were rejected by many (see the parable of the sower).
  • Herod Antipas was ruler of Galilee after his father’s death, 4 BC – 39 AD. He will see Jesus during his trial. Herod the “tetrarch” is more precise than Mark’s “king.” Tetrarch means ruler of a fourth part of Palestine. Luke omits the full account of John’s beheading (recorded in Matt. 14 and Mark 6).

 Read Luke 9:10-17

  • Feeding the 5000 is the only miracle story recorded in all four gospels (other than Jesus’ resurrection).
  • Mark 6 explains Jesus wanted to get away from the crowd for some needed rest. However, when the people followed them, Jesus “had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
  • John 6 gives further details: a boy in the crowd had brought the five loaves and two fish. The disciples say that it would take eight months of wages to feed all the people.
  • John also mentions that this event occurred around the time of Passover. Jewish tradition (recorded in the Talmud in the 5th century AD) taught that the Messiah would come at Passover and bring manna, the food the Israelites ate in the desert. The people may have understood Jesus’ miracle in this context (John 6:31).
  • Jesus fed both body and soul, supplying both physical and spiritual needs. Too often the church has preached to hungry people without the will to feed them. We cannot separate evangelism from benevolence. We might be surprised to find that our deeds speak more persuasively of Christ than our words.
  • In John 6 the story ends with Jesus leaving the crowd because they wanted to make him king by force. Jesus had to fight the people’s misconception that he was a political messiah with the intention of overthrowing the Romans.
  • The other three gospels follow this story with Jesus walking on the water to meet the disciples in the boat. Only Matthew includes Peter’s attempt to walk on water.
  • In John the people come to Jesus the next day. He tells them that they should be asking him for more than a free meal. “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. … I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
  • Only John’s gospel records Jesus saying, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day,” a difficult teaching which the people did not understand, and many turned away and no longer followed him.

The Great Confession

 Read Luke 9:18-22 and Mark 8:22-33

  • To focus on his theme for this section (see next note), Luke skips over some material in Mark at this point (Jesus’ walking on water, conflicts with Pharisees, feeding 4000 and some healings) picking up at Mark 8:27.
  • Notice how many people have asked, “Who is this Jesus?” – John the Baptist (Luke 7:19), disciples (Luke 8:25), Herod (Luke 9:9).
  • Luke moves directly from questions of Jesus’ identity to Jesus himself asking Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” to which Peter responds (often called the Great Confession): “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.” Matthew 16:16 gives the fullest rendition of his answer. Mark records, “You are the Christ.” Luke records him saying, “The Christ of God.” All of them have the same essential meaning. But the real question is, what did Peter understand the role of the Christ to be?
  • Before Peter’s confession, Mark 8 records a unique story about Jesus healing a blind man. At first Jesus asks him, “What do you see?” to which he replies, “I see people, but they look like trees walking,” meaning that his eyesight was still imperfect. Jesus lays his hands on him again, and this time his sight is clear. Mark may have placed this passage in his gospel to make a point about Peter’s confession. Peter thought that he “saw clearly” when he said that Jesus was the Christ, but in fact he did not, as he almost immediately protests against the idea of Jesus’ death and receives Jesus’ strong rebuke “Get behind me, Satan.” Jesus knew that his mission on earth entailed his death, but his disciples did not see clearly enough at this time. Probably they thought that he would be an earthly king, like most of their fellow Jews were anticipating.
  • How many of us, especially those who grew up going to church, believe that we see Jesus clearly when in truth we do not? In some ways the blind man who knew he could not see was better off than Peter who thought he saw clearly but didn’t.
  • Because so many Jews at that time misunderstood what true messiahship was, Jesus warns his disciples not to use the term loosely. Jesus immediately begins redefining their concept of messiah, linking the necessity of suffering with the Son of Man. He did not come to reign on a throne, but to die for the sins of the world.
  • (22) “Must” (Greek word dei, “it is necessary”) expresses a sense of divine purpose, and later references (18:31, 24:46) make the connection to the fulfillment of scripture, specifically Isaiah 53 which describes the suffering servant of God “by whose stripes we are healed.” Jesus quotes directly from Isaiah 53 in Luke 22:37. “Must suffer” indicates a moral necessity to obey God’s will, not the inevitability of fate. Jesus’ death was not an accident, but his purpose in life.
  • This is the first of three times that Jesus will warn the disciples about his death; later 9:43-45, 18:31-34. In all three synoptic gospels these new teachings of Jesus’ true mission come after Peter’s confession.
  • (22) “on the third day” is more precise than Mark’s “after three days” as Jesus was in the tomb from Friday night to early Sunday morning, not three full days.
  • From 9:51 on, Luke says that Jesus sets out for Jerusalem where he knew he must die. In all three synoptic gospels, Peter’s confession, redefined by Jesus, serves not so much as a climax but a turning point in the disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ mission.

 Read Luke 9:23-27

  • Mark says that Jesus now spoke to the crowd, not privately to the apostles. These conditions for following him are for all believers, but only the apostles would see the connection to Jesus’ predicted suffering as he had begun to reveal to them.
  • Luke emphasizes the theme of self-denial (also Luke 14:26-7), not a major theme elsewhere in the NT.
  • Jesus uses the image of the cross, common in Roman times, as a figure of speech, not a call to martyrdom, as he says we must carry the cross “daily.” Someone who carried his own cross was already condemned, so our attitude should be daily that of one whose life in this world is over. (This does not refer to bearing the ordinary burdens of life, which even nonbelievers have to do.)
  • (26) First reference in Mark and Luke to the Son of Man as a figure of judgment coming with “glory and angels” (allusion to Dan 7:13). For the disciples these words must have been confusing; one moment Jesus refers to his death, the next to his exaltation.
  • In the other gospels Peter wants to prohibit Jesus’ death, but Jesus rebukes him harshly, saying “Get behind me, Satan.” Luke omits Peter’s protest but the point remains clear: Jesus will allow nothing to interfere with his mission of dying on the cross, even the misguided loyalty of his disciples.
  • Jesus refers to those alive in that day seeing the kingdom. This obviously does not refer to the Judgment Day, but to the beginning of the new age brought about by Christ’s death and resurrection. Peter in Acts 2 says that we are now “in the last days” (also Heb 1:2, 1 Peter 1:20). The kingdom has already become a reality with Christ, and awaits its consummation at his second coming.

 Read Luke 9:28-36

  • Now the Son of Man’s glory, spoken of in v. 26, is revealed beforehand in Jesus’ transfiguration. Luke gives more details than Mark (8 days instead of 6, at prayer, Jesus’ face changing, his glory, conversation about his departure, sleeping disciples), but omits the epilogue of Jesus’ warning them not to speak of this until after the resurrection and the discussion about Elijah.
  • Transfiguration serves as a corrective of a corrective: Jesus first told them that he must die, but then reassured them that ultimately he will be victorious, giving a preview of his final glory (only Luke uses this term).
  • The imagery here is from the OT: both Moses and Elijah had encounters with God on mountains (Ex 24, 1 Kings 19). Jesus’ glowing face resembles Moses’ coming down from the mountain after experiencing the glory of God (Ex 34:29-35). OT prophecies said that one like Moses was to come (Deut 18:15-18) and also Elijah (Mal 3:23, 4:5); this scene shows that the Messiah is not merely like them but is greater than either.

 Read Luke 9:37-45

  • After his mountaintop experience, Jesus is especially frustrated at their lack of faith. What will it take for them to believe?
  • After his transfiguration, Jesus is careful to re-emphasize that he must suffer first.
  • “The path to the mountaintop of glory is through the valley of suffering and shame.” [MB]
  • Some read this as a divine concealment (cf. 18:34), but this would be contrary to Jesus’ and God’s purpose of revealing truth specifically to the apostles (8:10). The disciples simply did not have enough faith to understand at this time.

 Read Luke 9:46-50

  • Notice the contrast: Whereas Jesus accepts the humble role of suffering servant, his disciples argue over who’s the greatest, perhaps because of the special privileges shown to Peter, James, and John going with Jesus up the mountain.
  • Jesus may call us to work in some small way, out of the spotlight, serving a simple cup of water to one in need. Are we willing to give up our prestige and be a little child in the service of the kingdom?
  • (49) The disciples are still worried about status: this outsider is doing things that they weren’t able to do. Jesus says it’s not important who “gets the credit” as long as the work of the kingdom gets done. Too often we try to do good deeds for our own glory, not the glory of God.

Key Themes in Unit Two

  • Jesus touched the untouchable: 5:12-14
  • Reversal of worldly values: 6:20-26
  • The divine necessity of Christ’s suffering: 9:22
  • Self-denial: 9:23-25
  • Willingness to serve without receiving honor or credit: 9:46-50

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