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From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Eleven)

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Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (part one)

The Conflict over John Mark

Paul, always concerned about the spiritual welfare of his brethren in Christ, approaches Barnabas one day with a great idea—Let’s go back and check on all the brethren in the cities we stopped at during our mission trip!  Barnabas was ready to go, and decided they should take John Mark.  Paul was incredulous.  Are you serious?  I’m not going to ask the church to help support someone untrustworthy like him. I know he’s your cousin, but we’re not taking him along!1 Paul was so adamant about not taking Mark along that he and Barnabas—who had been partners in the work for perhaps five years or more—stopped working together at all.2

After Barnabas left with Mark to Cyprus to strengthen the churches he and Paul had planted there, Paul chose Silas, a brother from Jerusalem who had accompanied him to Antioch with the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  Together, with the aid and blessing of the church in Antioch, they went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the congregations.3

Circumcision

Traveling over land, Paul returned to Derbe and Lystra—the latter being the place where an angry mob stoned him nearly to death.  In Lystra, Paul found a young disciple named Timothy who was already well-known and well-respected in both Lystra and Iconium (both places where Paul was heavily persecuted).4  This young man would end up being one of Paul’s closest companions and friends for the rest of his life.

In a completely PR5 move, Paul took Timothy (a half-Jew) and circumcised him.  He did this so that Timothy could have more influence with the Jews, access to speaking in their synagogues, and to show Timothy’s respect for the Law of Moses.  But at the same time, Paul shared the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, saying that Gentiles had no obligation to submit to any part of the Law of Moses.  Because of the clear instructions and expectations for the Gentiles, and the show of respect to the Law for the Jews, Paul became all things to all men, and the church grew daily.6

The Macedonian Call

Paul, along with Silas, Timothy, and perhaps some others, traveled and preached through Phrygia7 and Galatia.8  He really wanted to go to the province of Asia (which included the massive city of Ephesus), but the Holy Spirit had other plans for him and told him not to go at that time.9 So instead, Paul heads north through the area of Mysia,10 and planned to enter the province of Bithynia, but again the Holy Spirit had other plans, and told him not to go there.11  So, instead, Paul and company went down toward the seaport city of Troas, where he met a doctor named Luke.12

While in Troas, Paul received a vision from the Lord: he saw a man from Macedonia begging him to “Come over into Macedonia and help us.”  Immediately, he described the vision to Silas, Timothy, and Luke, and they all agreed that this was what God wanted, so they made plans to sail to Macedonia to preach the gospel.13

Bradley S. Cobb

1 Colossians 4:10, NKJV.  The KJV says that Mark is “sister’s son,” or nephew to Barnabas, but the Greek work means “cousin,” and is so translated in every major translation of the past 150 years (ASV, NKJV, RSV, ESV, NASB, MLV, etc.).  The word eventually took on the sense of “nephew,” but not until many years after the New Testament was completed, according to Robertson, Vincent, B.W. Johnson, and others.

2 Acts 15:36-39.  They worked together for a year in Antioch before making the trip to Jerusalem with aid for the churches in Judea; upon returning (no length of time is given for this mission), they worked again in Antioch until they were sent on their missionary journey, which took at least a year (most estimate it as 1½ to 2 years); they came back to Antioch and remained there a “long time” before the circumcision controversy raised its ugly head; they went to Jerusalem, preaching along the way; they returned from Jerusalem, and “continued in Antioch”; and it was “some days” later that Paul made the suggestion of leaving.

3 On the first missionary journey, Paul had sailed to Cyprus, and then after crossing the island, sailed to Asia Minor.  On the second journey, since Barnabas had gone to Cyprus, Paul took the land route to Asia Minor, visiting congregations that he apparently planted, but which are not mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts.  Luke’s purpose in writing did not include giving Paul’s every movement, but to give the history of the establishment of the church and the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, and perhaps also as an aid for Paul’s legal defense before Caesar, showing his innocence in the matters of which he was accused.  So it shouldn’t be a concern that no mention was made of Paul and Barnabas visiting cities in Cilicia and Syria and planting the church there.

4 Acts 16:1-2.  This indicates that Timothy had been working with the churches in both cities, probably preaching.

5 Public relations.

6 Acts 16:3-5.

7 Acts 16:6.  Phrygia is in Central Asia Minor.

8 Acts 16:6.  “Galatia” was used two ways in the first century.  One referred to the Roman province, and the other to a larger area describing the people who lived in that area, including the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  Luke is using “Galatia” to describe the Roman province, which was to the north.  This is certain because it was after leaving Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (ethnic Galatia) that Luke records them visiting Galatia.

9 Acts 16:6.  It is important to note that Paul wasn’t forbidden to ever enter Asia—he did go there later on during this very missionary journey, and stayed there for three years.  For a more detailed discussion of this forbidding, see this author’s book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, comments on this passage.

10 Acts 16:7.  Mysia is a Roman colony, never becoming an official province, that was at the north end of the province of Asia, along the Mediterranean Sea, and bordered the province of Bithynia.  Troas was the chief city in this region.  See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Acts 16:8.

11 Acts 16:7.  Bithynia was a Roman province in the northwestern corner of Asia Minor.  The Holy Spirit (some Greek manuscripts have “the Spirit of Jesus”) forbade Paul to go evangelize there, but it wasn’t because God didn’t want the gospel spread there.  1 Peter 1:1-2 shows that someone had gone to Bithynia and evangelized, and that many were converted.  In AD 110-115, Pliny became governor of Bithynia, and in a letter to the emperor Trajan, wrote that there were many Christians in the area, to the point where most of the heathen temples had been abandoned.  See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Bithynia.”

12 The pronouns “they” and “them” are used until Paul arrives at Troas.  Once Paul is in Troas, Luke starts using the pronouns “we” and “us” (see Acts 16:10), showing that he is now part of their company.  The details of their first meeting and Luke’s conversion (most likely by Paul), we are not permitted to know, for this historian kept himself out of his writings as much as possible.  Luke is called “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14.  See the section in chapter one on the “Companions of Titus” for a fuller discussion of Luke.

13 Acts 16:10.  The phrase “assuredly gathering” (KJV) means they all came to the same conclusion.  Luke uses the pronoun “we,” showing that it was the group that came to the conclusion, and the group that made plans to leave for Macedonia.  Obviously, it was at Paul’s urging, but they were all in agreement.

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Three)

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Saul Sees the Light

Enthusiastically, Saul was tormenting the church.  He had been threatening and murdering Christians in Judea, and decided it was time to expand his area of destruction to the north.  So he went to the high priest and asked for official letters so that he could go to the synagogues of Damascus and arrest anyone he found there—man or woman—who followed Jesus.1

So Paul took a group of men with him, a posse if you will, to help with his operations.  These would have been men like Paul, men who were viciously opposed to Christianity, and men who took pride in destroying the doctrine and followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  These men are all traveling together on the road to Damascus, and it is almost noon,2 when the sun is at its brightest, when all of a sudden…

A light from heaven shined all around him, and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”3

His mission forgotten for the moment, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”  Saul knew that this light was supernatural, for it was much brighter than even the noonday sun.  Therefore, he knew that this was a voice from heaven—a voice that spoke with the authority of God.  But Saul didn’t understand; he was confused—he had lived in all good conscience before God,4 and was dedicating his life to the extermination of a blasphemous religion.  Surely Saul wasn’t persecuting God Himself!  No, he was serving God…wasn’t he?

The voice from heaven replied in Hebrew, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”5

Saul was terrified at what he had just heard, and remained on the ground, trembling in fear.  If Jesus was speaking from heaven, then Saul had been fighting against God—had been murdering people who were righteous and obedient.  If Jesus was speaking from heaven, then Saul deserved the worst possible punishment that Deity could possibly conceive.  But Saul, trembling, said, “Lord, what do you wish for me to do?”  Certainly fearful of the worst, Saul had to have some measure of hope and relief when he heard the words, “Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”6

His companions—who were speechless and afraid after the incident, seeing the light and hearing a voice7—took Saul, who was unable to see, by the hand and led him into Damascus, where he stayed at the house of a man named Judas.8  We aren’t told what happened to Saul’s companions, but it is hard to believe that they were unaffected by this incident.  It is almost certain that Saul, shaking as they walked, would have told them what the voice said; and they would have had a hard time disbelieving it.

For the next three days, the worried persecutor abandoned all food and drink, fasting and dedicating himself to praying to God, whom he had unknowingly been fighting against.9  There is no doubt that he pleaded with God for forgiveness, for understanding of the Scriptures which he had misunderstood, and for mercy on him, whose entire world had just been turned upside-down, and who now viewed himself, not as the hero of Judaism and destroyer of heresy, but as the worst sinner in history.10  Yet through three days of praying, Saul was still not relieved of his sin nor his guilt.

While he is agonizing over his sins, the Lord appears in a vision to a Christian in Damascus—one of the very people who Paul was coming to brutally arrest and perhaps even kill.  This disciple of Jesus, a man named Ananias, heard Jesus say:

Get up, and travel on11 the avenue12 which is called “Straight,” and at the house of Judas, ask for the one called “Saul of Tarsus,” because behold, he is praying.  And he has seen, in a vision, a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hands on him so that he might see.13

Ananias puts up an argument, showing just how far Saul’s reputation had spread.  Ananias hadn’t just heard one person talk about Saul’s actions.  He said, “Lord, I’ve heard from many about this man, how much evil he’s done against your saints in Jerusalem, and he possesses authority from the ruling priests to tie up all that call on your name here.”14  Saul was greatly feared because of the wide swath of destruction that he had enacted against the church, and it was common knowledge in Damascus that he was on his way there to do the same thing.

But Jesus reiterates the message in such a way that it calms some of Ananias’ fears (though it isn’t a stretch to think that Ananias was still incredibly nervous):

Travel [Ananias], because he is a chosen tool for me, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for the sake of my name.15

So Ananias traveled on Straight Street, found the house, and went inside to where Saul was.  Saul, unable to see who entered into the room, felt hands being put on him, and heard the words “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me so that you might receive your sight, and [that you] might be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Receive your sight.”16 And immediately, it was as though something like scales had fallen from his eyes, and he looked up at Ananias, who was standing in the room by him.17  Then Ananias gave him a message—the most important message that Saul had ever heard, the answer to his prayers: what he needed to do to receive forgiveness.

The God of our fathers has chosen you so that you should know His will, and see the Righteous One, and should hear the voice of His mouth.  Because you shall be His witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.  And now, why are you waiting?  Get up and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.18

Then Saul arose, no doubt overjoyed by the message of forgiveness that was given to him by Ananias, and he obeyed the gospel.19

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Acts 9:1-2.

2 Acts 22:6.

3 Acts 9:4.

4 Acts 23:1

5 Acts 9:5, 26:14-15.  The goads are sharp, pointed sticks (sometimes metal) that are used to push goats or oxen in a certain direction.  There are different views as to what Jesus means by the “goads.”  Some say it is speaking of Saul’s conscience, which would make him a liar in Acts 23:1, where he says that he had lived in all good conscience before God.  Some have suggested that perhaps he was fighting against Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5.  Others have suggested, based on Romans 16:7, that Paul was fighting against family.  While these may have some level of validity, it seems more likely that the “goads” that Saul was kicking against are the Law and the Prophets—the inspired Scriptures which pointed the way to Christ.  Some translations omit “it is hard for you to kick against the goads” in 9:5, but the words are present in 26:14 in those same versions.

6 Acts 9:6.

7 Acts 9:7-8, 22:9-11.  The men heard the sound of the voice, but they did not comprehend the words spoken.  There is little doubt that Saul relayed to them what was said.

8 Acts 9:11.

9 Acts 9:9-11.

10 1 Timothy 1:12-16

11 The KJV says “go into,” but both words are not as accurately translated as they could be.  The word “go” is actually a word that means “travel,” “transfer,” or “journey (somewhere).”  It is used again in verse 15.  The word “into” (KJV) is the word epi which means “on” or “upon.”

12 The word translated “avenue” (“street” in most translations) is only used here in the New Testament, and refers to a very busy avenue, crowded with people, and lined on either side with buildings.

13 Acts 9:11-12.  The KJV says “that he might receive his sight.”  However, the Greek is literally “look up,” and is in the active voice, not the passive as the KJV and most other modern translations render it.  By implication, the idea is regaining one’s sight, but since it is spoken in the active voice—as something done by Saul, it is best rendered as we have it (and so agrees Hugo McCord’s translation), “he might see.”  Verse 17 shows that it was Jesus speaking to Ananias.

14 Acts 9:13-14. “Tie up” (“bind” in many translations) can refer to being bound in chains, or tied with ropes.  One can imagine Saul’s posse traveling towards Damascus with ropes or chains in their hands.

15 Acts 9:15-16.  The word “tool” (“vessel,” KJV) is translated as “instrument” in the ESV.  The Greek word was often used to describe the sails and tackle equipment on a fishing boat.

16 Acts 9:17; 22:13.

17 Acts 9:18; 22:13.

18 Acts 22:14-16.  On the translation “Righteous One,” see MLV, ESV, ASV.

19 Acts 9:18.

Did Jesus Really Exist?

 

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Introduction:

  1. One of the many attacks against Christianity and the validity of the Bible is that Jesus Christ never even existed.
    1. Albert Schweitzer said “Jesus never had an existence.”
    2. One of the founders of our nation, Thomas Paine, said Jesus was not a real person.
  2. This accusation truly cuts to the core of belief in the Bible.
  3. If Jesus did not exist, then there is no justification for Christians or Christianity.
  4. If Jesus did not exist, the entire NT is useless!
  5. If Jesus did not exist, we have wasted our lives in studying about Him.
  6. The purpose of today’s lesson is to examine the evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel records show the existence of Jesus Christ.

Intellectual honesty demands that all ancient documents be treated as historically accurate until proven otherwise.

  1. This is the standard used for all other historical records.
  2. It is this standard that gives us an enormous part of our knowledge of history.
  3. We know of wars and dates from history because of documents and inscriptions.
  4. The Bible should be given the same assumption of authenticity.
    1. It is an ancient document.
    2. It claims to be a reliable historical account.
    3. It has NEVER been proven false by archaeology or other historical documents.

The gospel records all attest to the existence of Jesus.

    1. His birth is recorded (Matthew 2:1).
    2. His earthly parents are described (Luke 2:48).
    3. His friends are mentioned (Matthew 10:1-4).
    4. Many of His teachings are recorded (Matthew 5-7).
    5. He was hungry (Matthew 4:2).
    6. His hometown is mentioned (Luke 2:52).
    7. His trials are recorded (John 18-19).
    8. His death is described (Mark 15:24-37).
    9. His burial is recorded (Mark 15:42-46).

The gospel records were written by reliable historians.

  1. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus Christ.
    1. Matthew wrote, giving his occupation: a tax collector (Matthew 10:3).
      1. If Matthew was not a reliable historian, he would have left that bit of information out.
        1. Tax collectors were seen as traitors to the Jewish people because they took money from Jews and paid it to Rome.
        2. Matthew’s primary purpose in writing was to show the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
        3. If Matthew was willing to lie about anything in his writing, he would have lied about his occupation.
        4. Lying about his occupation would have taken away some animosity towards his writing by the Jews.
    2. Being a disciple (one of the 12 apostles) of Jesus Christ, Matthew had first-hand knowledge of the things he wrote.
    3. He was an eye-witness to the life and teachings of Jesus.
  2. Mark was a companion to two different apostles.
    1. Mark was a nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10); Barnabas was a close associate of the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36) as well as a close friend of Paul (Acts 9:26-28).
    2. Mark was with Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 12:25), though not on the second (Acts 15:37-39).
    3. Mark was requested to come to Paul while he was in prison (II Timothy 4:11).
    4. Mark was also a companion of Peter (I Peter 5:13).
    5. The church in Jerusalem gathered at his mother’s house, indicating that he was possibly familiar with all the apostles (Acts 12:12).
    6. Some believe Mark mentions himself in Mark 12:51-52, which—if true—would have Mark following Jesus while he was on earth.
    7. The evidence shows that Mark would have been a person who could easily ascertain the facts from multiple eyewitnesses, and may have even been an eyewitness to many of the events himself.
  3. Luke was a dedicated historian and a companion of an apostle.
    1. Luke declares that his gospel account came from eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:2).
    2. He declares that he writes because he has “perfect understanding” of the events
      • ASV says “have traced the course of all things.”
      • This is to say that Luke claimed to have done extensive research to make sure his account was true.
    3. He states that his account is trustworthy (Luke 1:4).
    4. He was a travelling companion of the apostle Paul (Colossians 4:14, II Timothy 4:11).
    5. His second book (Acts) has been said to be written by a “historian of the first-degree” by a man who was an atheist intent on proving Acts false (Sir William Ramsay).
    6. Because of his historical reliability (especially seen in the people and places mentioned in Acts), Luke gains instant credibility as a historian.
    7. Though Paul was not an apostle during the lifetime of Jesus, he was likely in Jerusalem during much of Jesus’ ministry, and would have been able to pass on eyewitness accounts as well.
  4. John was one of Jesus’ most trusted and beloved apostles.
    1. He is called “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20-24).
    2. He was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus after His baptism (Mark 1:16-20, possibly John 1:35-41).
    3. He was one of only three (the others being James and Peter) who were chosen to see Jesus transfigured (Luke 9:28-36).
    4. He was one of the three taken to keep watch while Jesus prayed (26:36-38).
    5. He was possibly at the trial of Jesus (John 18:15).
    6. He was at the cross while Jesus was dying (John 19:25-27).
    7. He claimed to teach only what he heard, saw, examined, and touched (I John 1:1-4).
    8. John was an eyewitness, a companion with Jesus during his entire ministry, and would be in a perfect position to write about the life of Jesus.

Early Christian writers attest to the truth of the existence of Jesus.

  1. The epistles of the apostles state that Jesus truly existed.
    1. Paul spends an entire chapter dealing with the resurrection of Jesus (I Corinthians 15).
      1. In order for one to be raised from the dead, he had to have died.
      2. In order for one to have died, he would have to have been alive.
      3. Paul, therefore, asserts that Jesus lived.
    2. Paul states that Jesus came to earth as a man and died on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
    3. John states that he was an eyewitness to Jesus (I John 1:1-4).
    4. Peter describes being on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus (II Peter 1:16-18).
    5. Jude condemned those who denied Jesus as Master (showing He existed – Jude 4).
      1. He spoke of the apostles of Jesus Christ (showing he believed in the truth of the gospel accounts – Jude 17).
      2. He called himself the brother of James (likely James, the brother of Jesus – Matthew 13:55).
    6. James calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ (James 1:1), and was likely the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19).
  2. The post-Biblical writings of Christians show that Jesus actually existed.
    1. Christianity had spread across the Roman Empire, and it was being fought tooth and nail by the leaders of Rome.
    2. Still, Christians wrote in order to convince the heathen (Jews and Gentiles) that Jesus was indeed the Christ.
    3. Justin Martyr wrote trying to convince Trypho (a Jew) that Jesus was the Christ prophesied about in the OT, and that he was resurrected (indicating He had actually lived).
    4. Papias claimed to get some of his information from those who were disciples of Jesus Himself, as well as from those who studied under the 12 apostles.
    5. Quadratus spoke of knowing some of those who were healed or raised from the dead by Jesus and His disciples, showing a historical belief that Jesus existed.

Non-Christian writings prove that Jesus existed.

  1. Josephus mentions Jesus Christ as a real person.
    1. In Antiquities of the Jews, he states, “About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease to follow him, for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvellous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.
      1. Some textual critics say that part of that quote was added or embellished by later Christian scribes in order to make their case for Jesus.
      2. Other manuscripts have been found which read differently, but still they mention Jesus: “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders.
    2. In another passage of the book (one which is not disputed), he mentions James, the brother of Jesus.
      1. “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”
      2. Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ, but fully acknowledged that there was a man named Jesus who was crucified (as in the earlier passage) that was called by many “Christ.”
    3. This report is from a Jew, who was opposed to Christianity; yet, he still admits that Jesus was a real person.
  2. Pliny the Younger mentions followers of Christ.
    1. Pliny was a governor of sorts in Bithynia shortly after the first century.
    2. He wrote to the emperor asking what to do with the Christians, and stating what he had been doing up to that point.
    3. In a letter to the emperor Trajan, he stated, “Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ — none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do — these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.”
    4. For some to be a follower of Christ, even at a time in the past, they must have believed He was a real person.
  3. The Talmud says that according to early rabbis, Jesus was a transgressor in Israel which led the people astray, claiming not to destroy the Law, but to add to it.
    1. This is a Jewish source, which was very hostile to Christianity.
    2. They still admitted Jesus was an actual person.
  4. Tacitus, a Roman historian (wrote in 116), admits Jesus existed.
    1. He said: “Nero fastened the guilt of starting the blaze and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” (Annals)
    2. The Roman Empire persecuted the Christians, but they also were very aware that Jesus was an actual person.
  5. Suetonius (Lives of the 12 Caesars) describes an event involving Christians.
    1. As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [ Claudius ] expelled them [the Jews] from Rome“.
    2. This event has its Biblical parallel in Acts 18:2 – “And found a certain Jew named Aquilla, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome), and come unto them.”
    3. At this point in time (AD 49), Christianity was viewed by many as a sect of Judaism.
    4. Because of the riots which came about from the Jews persecuting the Christians, all Jews were forced to leave Rome.
    5. That there were Christians 19 years after Jesus died is confirmed by historical record.
    6. This shows that less than two decades after His death, people believed Jesus was a real person, and that belief had spread all the way to Rome from Jerusalem.
  6. Lucian, a satirist (AD 125-180), acknowledges the belief that Jesus was a real person around 100 years after His death.
    1. “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”
    2. He shows that he is not in agreement with the actions of the Christians, but he does acknowledge that Jesus lived and was crucified.
  7. Mara bon Sarpion alludes to Jesus.
    1. This man was in prison, and wrote a letter to his son asking him to pursue wisdom (approximately 73 AD).
    2. What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”
    3. The only person who fits the description of the “wise king” is Jesus.
      1. This would fit in perfectly with the time period in which this letter was written.
      2. Jesus was well-known as “the King of the Jews,” for Pilate even had heard of it before meeting Jesus.
    4. This is a non-Jewish, non-Christian reference to the existence of Jesus, written in the first century!

Conclusion:

  1. Did Jesus really exist?
  2. The consensus of historical writings says that He did.
  3. Both friends and foes of Christianity speak in favor of His existence, all within 100 years (some even earlier) of His death.
  4. One admitted unbeliever in the Jesus of the Bible admits that “It was a group of French philosophers during the French Revolution in the late 18th century who first suggested that Jesus was a mythical character” and “The vast majority of historians and theologians have always believed in the reality of Jesus’ life.”
  5. We can have confidence that Jesus Christ did indeed exist!
  6. We do not follow cunningly devised fables!
  7. What are you doing with Jesus?
    1. Are you with Him or against Him?
    2. You cannot be neutral!
    3. Come to Jesus today!

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Ten)

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The Denials at the Trials1

Peter couldn’t stay away.  Both he and John had a change of heart, and turned back to follow the mob.  Peter followed at a distance, while John went ahead and rejoined Jesus.2  Peter couldn’t get into the palace of the high priest on his own, so John came back out and talked to the girl who served as a doorkeeper, and convinced her to let Peter in.3  But soon afterwards, she said, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples, are you?”  And Peter said, “I’m not.”4

After a little while had passed, another girl saw Peter, and told the men around him that “This man is one of them.”5  One of those men (the others being in agreement) then made the accusation at Peter, who replied, “Man, I’m not.”6

About an hour later, a servant of the high priest who was also a relative of Malchus (whose ear Peter had cut off) confidently said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Him?  Truly you were also with Him: for you are a Galilean, and your speech betrays you!”7  After this eyewitness accuses him, Peter denies loudly and vehemently, “Man, I don’t know what you’re saying! I don’t know the man you’re speaking of,”8 and he cursed and swore to emphasize the point9—as he lied to them.

This is all happening as Jesus is being questioned, mocked, and abused by the Sanhedrin.  False witnesses all came to speak against Him10—what was Peter thinking during this time?  Did he ever have to fight the urge to stand up and scream, “They’re lying!”?  Peter saw Jesus being beaten, slapped, and spat upon,11 but didn’t stand up for the Lord—instead, he hurt Him further by denying Him.  As Peter made his final denial, Jesus turned, momentarily ignoring the questioning and accusations He was enduring, and looked at Peter.  Then the weight of what Peter had done came crashing down on him, and he remembered how bold he had been, proclaiming how he would never deny Jesus; and remembering how Jesus had foretold that he would deny Him three times—then Peter went out of the palace and wept bitterly.12

It is possible that this was the last time Peter saw Jesus alive—until after the resurrection, that is.13

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 John’s account (chapter 18) shows that Peter’s first denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Annas, while his final denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Caiaphas.

2 Luke 22:54 shows Peter followed from a distance.  This is no surprise, considering he had just sliced off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest—he was curious, but also fearful for his own safety.  Meanwhile, John 18:15 shows that by the time Jesus entered the palace of the high priest, John accompanied Him.

3 John 18:16.

4 John 18:17.  Robertson and Vincent both point out that the question is phrased in such a way that the girl expected a negative answer.  Vincent gives it as “thou art not, art thou?”  Luke’s account (Luke 22:55-57) shows that Peter had already sat down by the fire inside before the girl came and asked him this question.

5 Mark 14:69.

6 Luke 22:58 shows one man making the accusation, while John 18:25 shows that there was a group of men who asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples.

7 The first part of this quotation comes from John 18:26, while the second can be found in the other three gospel accounts: Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:70; Luke 22:59.

8 The quotation given here is an amalgamation of Luke 22:60 and Mark 14:71.

9 Matthew and Mark both mention Peter’s cursing and swearing.  Some confusion exists regarding what exactly this is.  Some have said that it is basically cussing—as no one who was truly a follower of Jesus would be seen publicly cussing.  Others have said that these were oaths: that Peter was calling down curses on himself if he was lying, vowing to God that he was telling the truth.  Either explanation shows the great lengths that Peter went to in order to convince people that he wasn’t associated with Jesus—which was far worse than Judas’ betrayal.

10 Mark 14:56-59.

11 Mark 14:65.

12 Luke 22:60-62.  Luke is the only one who mentions that Jesus actually looked at Peter after the third denial.  Their eyes must have met, and Jesus almost assuredly showed a look of disappointment.

13 This is the last time Peter is mentioned until after the resurrection.  It is possible that he came and watched Jesus on the cross from afar, but if he did, none of the gospel writers saw fit to mention it.  It’s possible that he couldn’t bear to let Jesus see him again, out of shame, and that he found the rest of the apostles and stayed with them (except for John, who was at the cross).

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Nine)

ApostlesLogoThe Garden of Gethsemane

After the apostles all pledged their allegiance to Jesus, they walked to a place where Jesus instructed them to sit while He took Peter, James, and John a bit further.  The lord was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” and told the three to wait there and watch on His behalf.1  He went further on and prayed, but instead of watching, Peter and the two brothers fell asleep.

When Jesus returned to find His three closest followers sleeping, His words were directed at Peter, whom the Lord apparently expected to show some leadership: “Simon, you’re sleeping?  You couldn’t watch for even an hour?”2  By this point, the other two apostles apparently had awakened, because Jesus said, “You all watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”3  But after the Lord went away to pray again, Peter’s weakness took over and he again went to sleep with the other disciples.

Jesus didn’t wake them the second time He returned, but when He came back the third time, He sarcastically said, “You sleep now, take your rest.  Enough!  The hour is come!  Look, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up; let’s go!  Look, he that betrays me is at hand.”4  Then Peter and the rest of the apostles stood and took their place by Jesus’ side as Judas and a band of Roman soldiers, as well as many Jewish officials came to arrest Jesus.5

Peter watched as Judas came forward and gave Jesus a kiss, and then saw the armed men make their move to grab Jesus.  It’s at this point that Peter, standing beside Jesus, unsheathes his sword, and with amazing accuracy (or perhaps just lucky dodging on the part of his target) slices the right ear off of a man named Malchus, a servant of the high priest.6  While Jesus probably appreciated the show of loyalty, He told Peter to “Put up your sword,”7 and “Allow this to take place.”8  Then Jesus touched Malchus’ ear and healed him, effectively counteracting Peter’s actions.9  It was soon after this, all the disciples realizing that Jesus wasn’t going to fight—nor let them—that they all ran away and left Him alone with His captors.10

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 26:38.  Jesus told these three men to “watch,” but He didn’t mean “watch me while I pray.”  He meant to watch for anything that might happen (specifically the arrival of Judas and the soldiers he would bring with him).

2 Mark 14:37.  It is worthy of note that Jesus calls him “Simon” once again, which appears to indicate disappointment in him; or at the very least, showing that Peter was not living up to his divinely-given name of “Rock.”  The fact that all three were sleeping, but that only Peter was chastised, shows that Jesus expected more of him than the others.

3 Mark 14:37-38.  Verse 37 has singular pronouns, showing that Peter was being chastised; while verse 38 has plural pronouns, showing Jesus speaking to the three disciples.

4 Mark 14:41-42.  The NET Bible says, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!”

5 The word “band” in John 18:3 refers to a cohort, a collection of 600 Roman soldiers, though it is occasionally used to refer to as many as a thousand, or as few as 200 (see NET Bible notes, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible notes on the passage).  Matthew and Mark call this group it a “great multitude” of armed men (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43), which may have included some of the Jewish temple guard.

6 Matthew and Mark tell us that the attacked man was a servant of the high priest.  Mark is the one who informs us that the disciple with the sword was standing by Jesus.  Luke tells us that it was the right ear that was cut off.  John is the one that gives us the identity of both the attacker and the attacked: Peter and Malchus.  John 18:10.

7 John 18:11.

8 Luke 22:51.  The word “suffer” (KJV) means “allow.”  Jesus spoke this to the disciples—primarily Peter—telling them to let it happen.  After all, Jesus had told them several times previous that He was going to be betrayed, taken, and killed.  If the apostles fought, they were fighting against God’s plan.

9 Luke 22:51.

10 Matthew 26:56.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Eight)

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The Denial of Denial

While they were in this upper room, Jesus said that one of them would betray Him, causing all the apostles to begin to question which one it would be.1  Peter, wanting to know the answer, but apparently not willing to ask Jesus himself, told John to ask for him—and when Jesus gave the answer, Peter apparently still didn’t get it.2 But soon thereafter, having left the upper room and gone to Mt. Olivet,3 Jesus told the apostles that He was going away.  Peter didn’t understand, and said, “Lord, where are you going?”  To this, the Lord replied “Where I go, you [Peter] can’t follow me now; but you will follow me later.”4  Jesus was about to be murdered, and this could be seen as a prophecy that Peter will also be murdered for his faith.5

Still not quite understanding what Jesus meant, Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for your sake!”6  Jesus looked at Peter and spoke directly to him:

“Simon, Simon;7 Look, Satan has demanded you [apostles], so that he might sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you [Peter], so that your [Peter’s] faith doesn’t fail.  And when you [Peter] have returned, strengthen your brethren.”8

It is in this statement that Peter is given a special commission unique to him—he is commissioned to strengthen, to encourage, to uplift the other apostles after the death of Jesus.  Jesus knew that they would all forsake Him (and He will say as much momentarily), but He had been praying for Peter so that Peter would have the strength to not completely lose his faith, and so that he would be able to build up the other apostles—the apostles who would have been very depressed and in need of encouragement.

But also in this statement is a prophecy that Peter would have a need to return.  That is, Peter was going to go astray.  This pronouncement is what caused Peter to say, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both into prison and to death.”9

The Lord replied by saying that not just Peter, but all the apostles (Judas had already left) would “stumble because of [Him] this night.”10  But Peter spoke up again, “Although all of them shall stumble, yet not I!”11  Peter’s self-exaltation was about to be deflated, because Jesus replied with perhaps the most memorable words spoken to Peter in the entire Bible:

“Truly I say to you [Peter], that this day—even in this [very] night—before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me—deny that you [even] know me—three times!”12

Then Peter replied again, this time vehemently,13 “Even though I might die with you, yet I won’t deny you!”  And the rest of the apostles said the same thing.14  But it wasn’t too long after this that they all abandoned their Lord.15

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 22:21-23.

2 John 13:21-30.  The apostles thought that Jesus had sent Judas on an errand; even at this late hour, they didn’t understand that Judas was the one who would betray the Lord.  See the chapter on Judas Iscariot for more details.

3 See Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; and compare them with Luke 22:31-34.

4 John 13:33, 36.  The pronouns in this verse are singular, showing that Jesus is speaking directly to Peter, not to the other apostles.

5 Regardless of whether this is a prophecy of how Peter would die, it is a prophecy that Peter would die as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ—otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to follow Jesus where He was going: heaven.

6 John 13:37.

7 Jesus calls him “Simon,” probably to emphasize that Peter isn’t going to be much of a “rock” during the events which were about to happen.  But then Jesus says, “When you return, strengthen your brethren,” or in other words, “be a rock for your brethren.”

8 Luke 22:31-32.  The pronouns in the Greek show that Satan asked for all the apostles, but that Jesus prayed for Peter specifically.

9 Luke 22:33.

10 Mark 14:27.  The word “stumble” is the Greek word skandalizo, where we get “scandalize.”  They would act as though it was a scandal to follow Jesus.

11 Mark 14:29.  Peter elevates himself over the rest of the apostles by saying this, Even if they are scandalized by you, I won’t ever be!  This makes Jesus’ next statement even more powerful, for it shows the truth of Jesus’ statement that “Whoever exalts himself shall be brought low” (Luke 14:11).

12 Mark 14:30.  The phrase “deny that you [even] know me” comes directly from Luke 22:34.  Mark’s account says “before the cock crows twice.”  The other biblical writers just say “before the cock crows.”  This supposed contradiction has been sufficiently explained and harmonized in many places.  See Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pages 339-341, and Eric Lyon’s The Anvil Rings: Answers to Alleged Bible Discrepancies, Volume 1, pages 74-78.

13 Mark 14:31 mentions that Peter got vehement in this response.

14 Matthew 26:35

15 Matthew 26:56.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Seven)

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Simon Peter’s Experiences During the Passion Week

The Cursing of the Fig Tree

On Monday of Jesus’ final week, Peter walked with Jesus and the rest of the apostles from Bethany towards Jerusalem.  Jesus saw a fig tree, but it had no figs on it, so Jesus cursed it.1  The next morning, as they walked by the same spot, Peter saw the tree completely dried up, and in his amazement said to Jesus, “Master, look!  The fig tree that you cursed has withered away!”  Jesus responded by telling the apostles, “Have faith in God.”2

The Prophecy about Jerusalem

Later that same day, when Jesus finished teaching in the temple, one of the disciples (some have suggested that it was Peter himself)3 said to Him, “Master, look at the quality of these beautiful stones and the quality of the buildings!”4  But Jesus replied that these beautiful buildings of the temple complex would all be destroyed.  After they went outside Jerusalem to Mt. Olivet, Jesus sat down and Peter came to him with Andrew, James, and John, and specifically asked him, “Tell us, when shall these things happen?  What shall be the sign (of your coming and the end of the age) when all of these things are fulfilled? ”5  In response, Peter and the other three apostles are informed about the overthrow of the Jewish people, the great tribulation that would come on that nation, and the destruction of their city and temple—which Jesus called “the coming of the Son of man.”6

The Passover and the Foot-washing

Wednesday,7 the disciples asked Jesus what He wanted them to do so they could celebrate the Passover.8  Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem, telling them that they would meet a man with a pitcher of water, and that they were to follow him into his house, and ask him where the guest room was so that they could eat the Passover.  Then Peter and John prepared the Passover meal for Jesus and the rest of the apostles.9

While the Passover was being observed,10 Jesus stood up and wrapped Himself with a towel and began to wash the feet of the apostles, and to dry them with the towel.  When He came to Peter, the apostle tried to stop Him, saying, “Lord, you wash my feet?”11  Jesus kindly answered, “You don’t know what I’m doing now, but you will know after this.”  Peter still wasn’t having any of it and said, “No!  Never shall you wash my feet!”12  But Jesus silenced this protest with a warning: “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”13  In other words, if Peter refused, he would be giving up his apostleship and all of the promises that were made to him.  So, Peter responds, “Lord, not only my feet, but [also wash] my hands and my head!”14  The Lord said washing Peter’s feet would be enough, and took the opportunity to again foretell that one of them wasn’t faithful.  Afterwards, He explained to them that they needed to be servants, and not try to be masters over others.15

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Mark 11:12-14.  The chronology of the Passion Week is best served by Mark, who gave specific time markers, such as “on the morrow” (11:12) and “in the morning” (11:20), and “after two days” (14:1).

2 Mark 11:20-22.  Jesus gave more in response, emphasizing the strength and power of faith, in verses 23-24, but it is all summarized in the phrase “Have faith in God.”

3 See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Mark 13:1.  The reasoning behind this suggestion is because Mark gives the exact quote of what was said, and many believe that Mark’s main source of information was Peter himself.

4 Mark 13:1, mixed with the information (beautiful stones) given in Luke 21:5.  The word translated “what manner” (KJV) is a description of the quality of something, hence our translation above.

5 Mark 13:2-4.  The section given in parentheses above come from Matthew’s account of their questions (Matthew 24:3).  For the Jew, the destruction of the temple symbolized the “end of all things” (1 Peter 4:7), so it is no wonder that they would associate this with “the end of the world” (KJV) or “the end of the age” (NKJV).  See McGarvey’s comments in The Fourfold Gospel, pages 619-620, and his Commentary on Matthew and Mark, page 204.

6 Matthew 24:27, 30.  Among faithful brethren, there is a disagreement over whether Jesus’ discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem continues past verse 34.  Many (both conservative and liberal) believe it continues through the end of chapter 25; while many (both conservative and liberal) believe that beginning in 24:35, Jesus speaks of the end of the universe.  Part of this disagreement is based on the translation of verse 3, “the end of the world” (KJV) vs. “the end of the age” (NKJV).  If it is “the end of the world,” then it would make sense that Jesus addresses that topic.  But if it is “the end of the age,” then it could be a reference to the Jewish age—which in practice ended AD 70.  It’s validity ended no later than the day of Pentecost, AD 30 (Acts 2).

7 See the notes dealing with the final Passover meal in the chapters on Andrew and John for more specifics.  To the Jew, what we consider to be Wednesday evening would have been the beginning of Thursday (their new day started at 6pm).

8 Mark 14:12; Matthew 26:17.

9 This information is found in Luke 22:7-13.

10 The KJV of John 13:2 says “supper being ended,” but this cannot be the correct translation.  Jesus sat back down at the table (verse 12), and was still eating (verse 26) after this.  Almost every other translation (except the NKJV) renders this as “during supper” (ASV, ESV, McCord) or “while they were at the supper” (Living Oracles).

11 John 13:6.  The Greek order of this phrase put emphasis on the pronouns, and is most literally translated: “You of me wash feet?”

12 John 13:8.  Literally, Peter says, “No, not … into the ages!”  It’s a very strong statement, saying that even into eternity, he will not let Jesus wash his feet.

13 John 13:8.

14 John 13:9.  Peter didn’t just want a part with Jesus; he wanted as big a part as possible!

15 John 13:10-20.  The apostles had several times argued over who was the greatest among them; and they would do it again this same night—after Jesus gave them this lesson.  The principle of being a servant is something that they didn’t quite understand until after the resurrection.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Four)

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Simon Peter’s Confession

In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked a question that men have been arguing for nearly 2,000 years: “Who do you say that I am?”  The apostles had told Him what others said about Him: that He was John the immerser, or Elijah, or one of the prophets.  But He was most interested in what they said about Him.  It must be remembered that they had all already confessed that Jesus was the Son of God after He walked on the water and then stopped the wind.1  And the next day Peter himself had confessed, “We know that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”2  Both of those events, though, had extenuating circumstances—the first one was right after a very impressive miracle; the second was right after they saw many disciples abandon Him, and they were asked point-blank if they were going to abandon Him too.  Here at Caesarea, there aren’t any of those stressful outside circumstances—it’s just Jesus asking them a simple question.3

Peter is the one who speaks up: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”4  The response of Jesus is a confirmation of (1) what Peter said, and (2) that Peter truly believed it:

“You are blessed, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood hasn’t revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”5

This is high praise for Peter, quite the contrast to “Oh ye of little faith,” and it improves beyond that:

“You are Peter, and upon this rock [the fact which you just confessed] I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give to you [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be [that which] has been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be [that which] has been loosed in heaven.6

So not only did Jesus pronounce a blessing on Peter, He also gave him a promise that he would be the one to open the door to the kingdom (which he did, both for the Jews and the Gentiles),7 to publicly unlock the mystery of the gospel as revealed in Jesus Christ,8 and to proclaim the laws of the kingdom (that which is bound) and forgiveness of sins (that which is loosed) in the kingdom.9  The other apostles also exercised this authority, but it was Peter who did it first in Acts 2.

After Jesus gave this great blessing to Peter, something interesting took place—Jesus commanded all of them not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah, instead telling them that He must go to Jerusalem, be mistreated by the Jewish leaders, and then be executed; but that He would be resurrected on the third day.  Peter didn’t like what Jesus had to say, so he pulled Jesus aside,10 away from the other apostles, and started to rebuke Him!11  He said, “Mercy to you, Lord!  This thing shall not ever happen to you!”12  But Jesus turned to face him13 and said sternly:

“Get yourself behind me, Satan.  You are an offense to me, because you don’t think about the things that are of God, but those that are of men!”14

Jesus called Peter an “offense,” or a “stumbling-block,” something that was trying to keep Him from fulfilling His mission to save mankind through His death and resurrection.  The Greek word Jesus uses is skandalon—which is where we get the word scandal.

Within just a short amount of time, Jesus goes from praising Peter, blessing him, and foretelling some of the amazing work that he would be doing in the Kingdom, to calling him “Satan,” and accusing him of trying to derail God’s plan.  Peter’s ups and downs in faith and understanding certainly continue.15

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 14:32-33

2 John 6:68-69.

3 Matthew 16:13-15.  Some might contend that Jesus is putting them on the spot, and thus adding some extenuating circumstances, but if that’s true, then He was also putting them on the spot by asking them who others said that He was just two verses earlier.

4 Matthew 16:16.

5 Matthew 16:17.

6 Matthew 16:18-19.  This entire statement of Jesus is spoken to Peter, and Peter alone—the pronouns are all in the singular case.  In chapter 18, much of this is repeated to the rest of the apostles as a group.  The argument of the Catholics, that Peter had exclusive binding and loosing power, falls apart in the light of Matthew 18:18.  Additionally, the verb tenses also destroy their doctrine that Peter had the ability to make laws for the church.  The verse literally says that whatever Peter would bind on earth [future tense] would be that which was already bound in heaven [perfect tense—something which started in the past and continued to the present].  So, far from Jesus saying that Peter would be able to create church doctrine and practice, He is actually saying that Peter (and later He would include the rest of the apostles) would be an official proclaimer of the commands of God—it is a prophecy of their inspiration and place of leadership in the church.

7 See Acts 2 and Acts 10-11.  Though this promise was given to Peter, he was not the exclusive one to open the door for people to enter.  Every time the gospel is proclaimed to someone who hasn’t heard it before, the one proclaiming it is using the keys to the kingdom.  Philip, for example, is the one who opened the door to the kingdom in order to let the Samaritans into it (Acts 8).

8 As is evidenced by the opposition of the religious leaders, the abandonment of some of His disciples after hearing some “hard sayings,” and even the lack of understanding among Jesus’ closest followers, none of the Jews understood the spiritual purpose behind the coming of the Messiah, His death, and that He would be resurrected and ascend into heaven—that is, until the gospel began to be proclaimed starting at Pentecost.  Peter, on that day, unlocked a mystery about a prophecy of David which pointed toward the Christ—which he proved applied to Jesus.  On that day, he unlocked the mystery of when and what Joel 2:28-32 was specifically talking about.  Many Old Testament passages began to be unlocked to the minds of those who were willing to listen to Peter’s sermons. This promise of inspiration was also given to the other apostles (John 16:12-13), and they, too, unlocked the mysteries of many Old Testament prophecies for their hearers/readers.

9 See the footnote at John 20:23 in the NET Bible.  See also Coffman’s Commentary on Matthew 16:19.

10 Lange says: “Then Peter took Him;—προσλαβόμενος.—He laid his hand upon Him, or seized Him from behind, as if he would have moved Him by main force to alter His purpose. He stopped the Master in this manner for the purpose of remonstrating with Him” (Lange’s Commentary on Matthew 18:22, emphasis mine).

11 McGarvey says of this exchange: “Evidently Peter regarded Jesus as overcome by a fit of despondency, and felt that such talk would utterly dishearten the disciples if it were persisted in. His love, therefore, prompted him to lead Jesus to one side and deal plainly with him. In so doing, Peter overstepped the laws of discipleship and assumed that he knew better than the Master what course to pursue.” (Fourfold Gospel, page 414).

12 Matthew 16:22.  The modern Literal Version (2016 beta edition) says “God will be lenient to you…” (the words in italics being supplied by the translators).  Strong’s definition says that it is a Hebrew idiom, meaning “God be gracious!” in averting a catastrophe.  Miles Coverdale’s translation (1535) says, “LORD, favor thyself, let not this happen unto thee” (note: I have taken the liberty of updating the spelling.  Originally, it said “LORDE, fauour thy self, let not this happen vnto thee.”)  The New American Standard Bible says “God forbid it, Lord!”

13 Mark’s account includes Jesus turning to face the disciples (Mark 8:33).  So it appears that Jesus was facing Peter initially, then turned to look at the other apostles, and turned back to face Peter to issue the stinging rebuke.

14 Matthew 16:23.  The pronouns in this stinging rebuke are in the singular—this is directed solely at Peter.

15 This whole incident from Matthew 16:13-23 puts an interesting spin on the Catholic doctrine of the church being built on Peter—because ultimately, they’d have to admit that it is built on Satan, based on what Jesus actually said.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Three)

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Simon Peter’s Faith

One day, Simon was called, along with Jesus’ other disciples, up to a mountain, where the Lord had been praying all night.  After the disciples arrived, Jesus selected twelve of them, and gave them the name “apostles.”1  Simon, whom Jesus called “Peter,”2 appears to be the first one chosen (his name appears first in every list of the apostles in the Bible).

It was some time after this that Jesus said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.”  So they all got into a ship and went across the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus went to the lower part of the ship and went to sleep, and then the storm came.  This storm was so fierce that the apostles—including experienced fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John—thought they were going to die.  The boat was being tossed around by the waves, and water was filling the boat.  Some of the apostles ran down to where Jesus was, waking Him, and saying, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?”  Jesus gets up, probably goes up to the main deck, and says, “Peace.  Be still,” and the storm immediately stopped.  Peter had never seen anything like it in his life.  Then he hears Jesus’ words, “Why are you so afraid?  How is it that you have no faith?”3  Those words made quite an impression on him.

After they all came back to Capernaum,4 the ruler of the synagogue, named Jairus, came begging for Jesus to heal his only daughter.  Jesus began to follow him, but as He did, a woman desperately seeking to be healed touched the hem of His garment; and Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched me?”  Peter, somewhat incredulously, looked at Jesus and said, “Master, the multitude is crowding and pressing [against] you; and you say, ‘Who touched me’?”  Jesus reemphasized that He had felt power leave Him, and then Peter saw the woman come before Jesus, trembling, and falling down at His feet, and explaining what she touched Him.  Jesus almost certainly smiled as He looked at her and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: your faith has made you whole.”5  Peter probably couldn’t help but notice how different Jesus’ words were to this woman, compared to what He had earlier said to Peter and the other apostles.

After the woman was healed, Peter followed Jesus to Jairus’ house, where they were met with the terrible news: Jairus’ daughter had died before they could get there.  But Jesus looked at Jairus and told him, “Don’t be afraid: Just believe [show faith],6 and she will be healed.”7  Then Jesus goes inside with Mr. and Mrs. Jairus, and only permits Peter, James, and John to accompany them.  Peter watched as Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and said, “Little girl, arise.”8  She immediately rose up, and Peter again saw the power of faith.

Soon after this miracle of restoring the little girl’s life, Jesus called the apostles to Him and gave them miracle-working abilities, and sent them out on a mission to the Jews.  Peter was sent with his brother Andrew, and “went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.”9  Upon returning, Peter and the others told Jesus about the things they had done, and they got on a ship with Him and sailed to a deserted area where they could rest.10  However, the people who had been following Jesus saw what they were doing, and ran ahead to the area of Bethsaida, where the ship was headed.11

After landing, Jesus took compassion on the multitude, and told the apostles to feed them.  Peter and the rest were shocked.  Philip said, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread isn’t sufficient for each of them to even have a little!”12  Peter was most likely in agreement with this assessment, though he was probably also telling himself to “have faith.”  He was amazed when five loaves and two fishes fed the entire crowd of 5,000, and also left twelve baskets of leftovers.  The evidence was right in front of him to strengthen his faith.

This miracle was enough for many of the men among the 5,000 to declare that Jesus was truly “that prophet which should come into the world!”13  Then they sought to take Jesus by force and make Him the king.  When Jesus realized what their intentions were, He sent them away14 and went to a mountain by Himself.15

Jesus told Peter and the others to go get into the ship and sail to the other side.  Evening came, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and Jesus was still on the mountain.16  Jesus looked across the sea and saw them struggling to row because the wind was fighting against them, and the waves were tossing them around.17  Around 3 AM, Jesus came to them, walking on the water.18  They had been rowing all night for a journey that would normally have been rather short.  Peter would have been struggling along with the other apostles when all of a sudden there was screaming—there was a ghost on the waves!  Or, so they thought.  Jesus hadn’t intended to stop and join them,19 but when they saw Him, thinking He was a ghost, they were scared; so Jesus called out to them, “Have courage; it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”20

The impetuous and brave Peter, peering through the darkness and the mist kicked up by the wind and waves, called back to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus’ replied to Peter by commanding him, “Come.”  So Peter climbed out of the rocking ship and stepped out onto the boisterous waves, and he started to walk towards Jesus on top of the water.  He was doing fine until he started looking at the waves and thinking about the wind, and down into the water he went, sinking, screaming, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus caught hold of him, kept him from drowning, and said to him, “O you of little faith.  What caused you to doubt?”21

Peter must have been heartbroken as Jesus brought him over the water and into the rocking ship.  But as soon as they both climbed aboard, the wind stopped.  The disciples were all amazed at the suddenness with which the wind stopped; and they started worshiping Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”22  Peter must have felt awful, seeing Jesus completely eliminate the wind and waves which had caused him to doubt.  But he didn’t have much time to dwell on it while he was in the boat, because as soon as Jesus climbed in, they were instantly at their destination.23

The next day, when the crowds discovered where Jesus had gone, they came to Capernaum and found Him, and asked Him, “When did you come here?”  Instead of answering their question, Jesus replied with something that showed their lack of focus (the same lack of focus that the apostles were also guilty of to an extent): “You seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the bread and were filled.  Don’t labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures into everlasting life, which the Son of man will give to you: for Him has God the father attested.”24

After speaking about the necessity to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which was a “hard saying,” difficult to understand, “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”25  Jesus looked at the apostles, and asked them, “Do you wish to go away too?”  Peter, just a day removed from his embarrassing incident on the sea, spoke up, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are certain that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”26

Though he strongly confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and acknowledged that He had the words of eternal life, Peter had a hard time grasping the importance of some of Jesus’ teaching.  The scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem had come, and criticized the disciples for not washing their hands when they eat bread.  Jesus condemned these accusers, calling them hypocrites who were “blind leaders of the blind” who would “fall into the ditch.”  He told them that it isn’t what goes into a person that defiles him, but what comes out of him.  After Jesus said this, they went into a house, away from the people,27 and Peter boldly commanded Him, “Explain this parable to us.”  Jesus then looks at the apostles, and asks, “Are you still without understanding?  Don’t you understand yet?”28  After those words, Peter might have felt like he should have kept his mouth shut; for though he loved the Lord, he was still not the “Rock” that he knew he needed to become.  His faith was still in a state of growth.

Traveling with Jesus to the area of Tyre and Sidon, Peter saw a Canaanite woman approaching the Lord, begging, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.  My daughter is badly tormented by a demon.”  Though Jesus didn’t answer her, Peter and the other apostles were getting aggravated by her, and asked Jesus to “Send her away, because she’s crying after us.”  Jesus then told the woman that He was sent only to the Israelites; but still she persisted in humility.  Then Jesus said to her, “Great is your faith, O woman.  It is for you even as you desire,” and her daughter was healed.29  Once again, Peter must have thought back to the times when his faith was put to the test and found lacking—yet this Canaanite woman was lauded by Jesus as having “great … faith.”

After miraculously feeding 4,000 people, Peter and the apostles accompanied Jesus in a ship across the Sea of Galilee.30  Then the Lord spoke to them and said, “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”  But the apostles all assumed that He was saying this because they forgot to bring bread.  The scathing rebuke again came from Jesus, “O ye of little faith! … Do you still not understand, nor remember the five loaves [that fed] the five thousand, and how many baskets [of leftovers] you took up?  Neither the seven loaves [that fed] the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?  How is it that you don’t understand that I didn’t speak to you about bread, [but] that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?”31 They finally understood what Jesus was getting at, but Peter especially must have stung at the rebuke.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 As discussed in the introductory chapter, the word “apostle” means “one sent with a mission.”  By the time of the first century, it had taken on the idea of someone acting as an official representative of the one who sent him.  So Peter and the other eleven were chosen to be Jesus’ representatives, His ambassadors, His delegates to the Jews, and later to the Gentiles as well.

2 As stated earlier, “Peter” and “Cephas” have the same meaning.  From the time of his selection as an apostle, Simon is primarily known by this new name, or else as “Simon Peter.”  There are some exceptions to this, and it is possible that the exceptions (usually where Jesus is speaking) are intentional to get Simon Peter to notice something about himself and his actions.

3 The calming of the storm is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:34-41; and Luke 8:22-25.

4 Matthew and Mark both place these events in connection with the city of Capernaum.  See Matthew 9:1 (“His own city”), 9:9-17 (the call of Matthew, followed by the feast at Matthew’s house), after which Matthew says “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a certain ruler [Jairus] came to Him…”  Mark places these events in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-22).

5 Luke 9:41-48.

6 The word “believe” is the verb form of the word “faith” in the Greek.  In other words, “faith” and “believe” (pistis and pisteuo) are the same basic word in the original.  This statement of Jesus was made just as much for the benefit of Peter, James, and John as it was for Jairus.

7 The King James Version says “she shall be made whole.”  This is one word in Greek, and it is the same word that is translated “healed” or “saved” throughout the New Testament.

8 Luke 8:54, NKJV.  The Modern Literal Version has “Child, arise” (see also ESV).

9 Luke 9:1-6.  Jesus’ commands and instructions are given in more detail in Matthew 10.  Matthew also groups the apostles in pairs, which matches up with Mark’s account, that Jesus sent them out “two by two” (Mark 6:7).

10 Mark 6:30-32.

11 Luke 9:10; Mark 6:32-33

12 John 6:7.  Two hundred pennyworth is 200 days’ wages.

13 John 6:14.  This is a reference to Deuteronomy 18, when Jehovah said that He would raise up a prophet like unto Moses, that everyone must listen to or be held accountable by God.

14 Mark 6:46.  John’s account says that He “departed,” but Mark adds the detail of dispersing the crowd first.

15 John 6:15.  This passage is a deathblow to Premillennialism.  That false doctrine teaches that Jesus came to earth to set up an earthly kingdom, but was surprisingly rejected by the Jews.  This one verse shows that (1) He had the opportunity to be made king, and (2) He was anything but rejected by the Jews at this point. Additionally, Mark 6:46 states that Jesus sent away the crowds—that is, He rejected their overtures at making Him king.  The truth is, Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), and it was established in the first century (see Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).  The idea of an earthly reign of Jesus from a literal throne in Jerusalem is foreign to the Scriptures (compare also, Jeremiah 22:28-30 and Matthew 1:11-16).

16 Apparently, the Disciples assumed Jesus was going to walk to their location and that they’d just meet Him there.

17 Matthew 14:23-24; Mark 6:48.

18 Mark 6:48 calls it “about the fourth watch of the night.”  The night began at 6 PM, ended at 6 AM, and was divided into four “watches,” each lasting three hours.  The first would be 6 to 9 PM, the second was 9 PM to midnight, the third was midnight to 3 AM, and the fourth was 3 AM to 6 AM.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Watch”) says, “The fourfold division was according to the Roman system, each of which was a fourth part of the night.”

19 See Mark 6:48, MLV, NET, ESV, Living Oracles.  The KJV and NKJV both say that Jesus “would have passed them by.”  But the Greek word translated “would,” means to wish, or to desire.  Jesus “intended” to pass them by.

20 The account of Jesus’ walking on the water is recorded by Matthew (14:22-33), Mark (6:445-51), and John (6:15-21).  All three mention the wind, the reaction of the disciples, and Jesus’ words.

21 Though Jesus’ walking on the water is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts (only Luke doesn’t mention it), it is only Matthew that mentions Peter’s adventure on the perilous sea.  Why the others omit this part is a matter of speculation.

22 Matthew 14:32-33.  Mark 6:51-52 adds a detail, saying that they were greatly astonished because they hadn’t considered the miracle of the loaves (the feeding of the 5,000), because their heart was hardened.  That is, they were still putting physical things first and not considering the power Jesus had already shown.

23 John 6:21.

24 John 6:22-27.  Verse 27, King James Version, says “sealed,” but the idea is of authorizing something by means of a seal.  Thus, God the Father was attesting to, showing His approval of, Jesus Christ.

25 John 6:51-66.

26 John 6:67-69.

27 Mark 7:17.

28 Matthew 15:16-17.  Though Peter is the one who spoke up, Jesus addresses His rebuke to the whole group.  The word “you” (“ye” in the King James Version) is plural in the original.

29 Matthew 15:21-28.  Though Jesus’ mission was primarily to the Israelites, He still showed compassion on the Gentiles and worked among them somewhat as well.  For example, soon after healing this woman’s daughter, Jesus went to Decapolis (Mark 7:31), which was a federation of ten free Greek cities, primarily made up of Gentiles.  He did many miracles among them, causing them to “glorif[y] the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:30-31).  And then Jesus had compassion on them, and fed them—all 4,000+ of them (Matthew 15:32-38).

30 Mark 8:13.

31 Matthew 16:5-11.  When Jesus says, “ye of little faith,” He is addressing the entire group of the apostles.  The word “ye” is plural.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Two)

FAIR WARNING…. Today’s post is short.  I admit it.  But it must be done, because the next post in this series is one section, and it is LONG.  I hope that you’ll be okay with getting a short post–at least this once.  🙂

Simon Peter’s Call

Though Peter was first introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew, and spent several months following Jesus through Galilee, Jerusalem, and Judea before returning to Galilee (seeing several miracles, and baptizing many people while he was at it),1 Peter’s official call didn’t happen until perhaps a year or more after meeting the Lord.

It was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, near his boat, that Simon was washing his nets,2 when Jesus climbs into the boat and asks him to “thrust out a little from the land.”  Simon complies, climbing into the ship with Jesus and moving the boat a little ways from the shore.  Simon looks at the shoreline and sees a huge mass of people, all in rapt attention to what Jesus has to say to them.  Having followed Jesus for some time, hearing Him teach, seeing Him work wonders, Simon knew exactly how the people felt.

After Jesus finishes speaking to the crowds, He spoke to Peter, telling him to “launch out into the deep,” and then he says to both Simon and Andrew, “let down your nets for a catch.”3  They obey, and the amount of fish that in the net is so incredibly massive that they can’t pull it into their boat.  In fact, they have to call another ship (belonging to Zebedee) over to help them take in the catch—and even then, both boats are so overloaded with fish that they begin to sink!

Peter, seeing what is happening, falls down at Jesus’ knees, proclaiming his unworthiness: “Depart from me, for I’m a sinful man, o Lord.”4  But Jesus tells him, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will catch men [be fishers of men].”5  And from that point, Peter leaves everything and follows Jesus.6

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 All of these events can be found in the first four chapters of John.

2 Vincent says that this washing was of the “sand and pebbles accumulated during the night’s work.”  (see note on Luke 5:2).

3 Luke 5:4.  The command to “launch out” is singular, given to Peter.  The command to “let down your nets” is plural, thus Jesus speaks to the whole crew—primarily, this would be Simon and Andrew.

4 Luke 5:8.

5 Luke 5:10; Mark 1:17.

6 Luke 5:11; see also Luke 18:28.  Peter still apparently owned his fishing boat, for after the resurrection, he said, “I’m going fishing” and several disciples joined him in the boat (John 21:1-ff).  It’s probable, then, that Peter allowed his father (if his father was still alive) or perhaps Zebedee to use his boat to continue in the fishing business.