From his royal throne in Persia's capital city of Susa, King Xerxes ruled 127 provinces, all the way from India to Ethiopia.
In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his officials and administrators. The armies of Persia and Media were present, as well as the governors and noblemen of the provinces.
For six whole months he made a show of the riches of the imperial court with all its splendor and majesty.
After that, the king gave a banquet for all the people in the capital city of Susa, rich and poor alike. It lasted a whole week and was held in the gardens of the royal palace.
The courtyard there was decorated with blue and white cotton curtains, tied by cords of fine purple linen to silver rings on marble columns. Couches made of gold and silver had been placed in the courtyard, which was paved with white marble, red feldspar, shining mother-of-pearl, and blue turquoise.
Drinks were served in gold cups, no two of them alike, and the king was generous with the royal wine.
There were no limits on the drinks; the king had given orders to the palace servants that everyone could have as much as they wanted.
Meanwhile, inside the royal palace Queen Vashti was giving a banquet for the women.
On the seventh day of his banquet the king was drinking and feeling happy, so he called in the seven eunuchs who were his personal servants, Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas.
He ordered them to bring in Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown. The queen was a beautiful woman, and the king wanted to show off her beauty to the officials and all his guests.
But when the servants told Queen Vashti of the king's command, she refused to come. This made the king furious.
Now it was the king's custom to ask for expert opinion on questions of law and order, so he called for his advisers, who would know what should be done.
Those he most often turned to for advice were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan---seven officials of Persia and Media who held the highest offices in the kingdom.
He said to these men, "I, King Xerxes, sent my servants to Queen Vashti with a command, and she refused to obey it! What does the law say that we should do with her?"
Then Memucan declared to the king and his officials: "Queen Vashti has insulted not only the king but also his officials---in fact, every man in the empire!
Every woman in the empire will start looking down on her husband as soon as she hears what the queen has done. They'll say, 'King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to come to him, and she refused.'
When the wives of the royal officials of Persia and Media hear about the queen's behavior, they will be telling their husbands about it before the day is out. Wives everywhere will have no respect for their husbands, and husbands will be angry with their wives.
If it please Your Majesty, issue a royal proclamation that Vashti may never again appear before the king. Have it written into the laws of Persia and Media, so that it can never be changed. Then give her place as queen to some better woman.
When your proclamation is made known all over this huge empire, every woman will treat her husband with proper respect, whether he's rich or poor."
The king and his officials liked this idea, and the king did what Memucan suggested.
To each of the royal provinces he sent a message in the language and the system of writing of that province, saying that every husband should be the master of his home and speak with final authority.
Later, even after the king's anger had cooled down, he kept thinking about what Vashti had done and about his proclamation against her.
So some of the king's advisers who were close to him suggested, "Why don't you make a search to find some beautiful young virgins?
You can appoint officials in every province of the empire and have them bring all these beautiful young women to your harem here in Susa, the capital city. Put them in the care of Hegai, the eunuch who is in charge of your women, and let them be given a beauty treatment.
Then take the young woman you like best and make her queen in Vashti's place." The king thought this was good advice, so he followed it.
There in Susa lived a Jew named Mordecai son of Jair; he was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei.
When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jehoiachin of Judah into exile from Jerusalem, along with a group of captives, Mordecai was among them.
He had a cousin, Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah; she was a beautiful young woman, and had a good figure. At the death of her parents, Mordecai had adopted her and brought her up as his own daughter.
When the king had issued his new proclamation and many young women were being brought to Susa, Esther was among them. She too was put in the royal palace in the care of Hegai, who had charge of the harem.
Hegai liked Esther, and she won his favor. He lost no time in beginning her beauty treatment of massage and special diet. He gave her the best place in the harem and assigned seven young women specially chosen from the royal palace to serve her.
Now, on the advice of Mordecai, Esther had kept it secret that she was Jewish.
Every day Mordecai would walk back and forth in front of the courtyard of the harem, in order to find out how she was getting along and what was going to happen to her.
The regular beauty treatment for the women lasted a year---massages with oil of myrrh for six months and with oil of balsam for six more. After that, each woman would be taken in turn to King Xerxes.
When she went from the harem to the palace, she could wear whatever she wanted.
She would go there in the evening, and the next morning she would be taken to another harem and put in the care of Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the king's concubines. She would not go to the king again unless he liked her enough to ask for her by name.
The time came for Esther to go to the king. Esther---the daughter of Abihail and the cousin of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his daughter; Esther---admired by everyone who saw her. When her turn came, she wore just what Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem, advised her to wear.
So in Xerxes' seventh year as king, in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, Esther was brought to King Xerxes in the royal palace.
The king liked her more than any of the other women, and more than any of the others she won his favor and affection. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti.
Then the king gave a great banquet in Esther's honor and invited all his officials and administrators. He proclaimed a holiday for the whole empire and distributed gifts worthy of a king.
Meanwhile Mordecai had been appointed by the king to an administrative position.
As for Esther, she had still not let it be known that she was Jewish. Mordecai had told her not to tell anyone, and she obeyed him in this, just as she had obeyed him when she was a little girl under his care.
During the time that Mordecai held office in the palace, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the palace eunuchs who guarded the entrance to the king's rooms, became hostile to King Xerxes and plotted to assassinate him.
Mordecai learned about it and told Queen Esther, who then told the king what Mordecai had found out.
There was an investigation, and it was discovered that the report was true, so both men were hanged on the gallows. The king ordered an account of this to be written down in the official records of the empire.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Things that make people fall into sin are bound to happen, but how terrible for the one who makes them happen!
It would be better for him if a large millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
So watch what you do! "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."
The apostles said to the Lord, "Make our faith greater."
The Lord answered, "If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!' and it would obey you.
"Suppose one of you has a servant who is plowing or looking after the sheep. When he comes in from the field, do you tell him to hurry along and eat his meal?
Of course not! Instead, you say to him, 'Get my supper ready, then put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may have your meal.'
The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he?
It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, 'We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.' "
As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, he went along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
He was going into a village when he was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin disease. They stood at a distance
and shouted, "Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!"
Jesus saw them and said to them, "Go and let the priests examine you." On the way they were made clean.
When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice.
He threw himself to the ground at Jesus' feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan.
Jesus spoke up, "There were ten who were healed; where are the other nine?
Why is this foreigner the only one who came back to give thanks to God?"
And Jesus said to him, "Get up and go; your faith has made you well."
Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, "The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen.
No one will say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!'; because the Kingdom of God is within you."
Then he said to the disciples, "The time will come when you will wish you could see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you, 'Look, over there!' or, 'Look, over here!' But don't go out looking for it.
As the lightning flashes across the sky and lights it up from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer much and be rejected by the people of this day.
As it was in the time of Noah so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man.
Everybody kept on eating and drinking, and men and women married, up to the very day Noah went into the boat and the flood came and killed them all.
It will be as it was in the time of Lot. Everybody kept on eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.
On the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and killed them all.
That is how it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
"On that day someone who is on the roof of a house must not go down into the house to get any belongings; in the same way anyone who is out in the field must not go back to the house.
Those who try to save their own life will lose it; those who lose their life will save it.
On that night, I tell you, there will be two people sleeping in the same bed: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind.
Two women will be grinding meal together: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind."
The disciples asked him, "Where, Lord?" Jesus answered, "Wherever there is a dead body, the vultures will gather."