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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.

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

WELCOME BACK!  We’re been working hard, getting things ready for you to read and enjoy and use.  I’ve received emails from several people who have told me that they are using the apostles lessons as sermons and/or class material.  Thanks for letting me know!  We are so happy that you are finding it useful!  Now, enough of the chit-chatting; on to the story of Peter!!!!!

The most prominent of all the apostles, Peter has been both exalted far beyond his rightful place, and cast down to near-Judas depths by religious people over the past two thousand years.  In their rush to deny Peter’s place as the first Pope, many Christians unfortunately negate Peter’s divinely-given prominence among the apostles, and by extension, the early church.  Neither extreme is correct.

Simon Peter’s Family

Jesus refers to him as the “son of John” or “son of Jonah.”1  We know nothing about this man except that he had two very religious sons: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew.  From this, we can infer that he was probably a devout Jew as well.

It is thanks to his brother Andrew that Simon first gets to meet Jesus.  Andrew, a disciple of John the Immerser, was pointed to Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” and went to find Simon, telling him, “We have found the Messiah!”2  It is quite possible that Simon was also a disciple of John, which would explain how Andrew was able to find him and bring him to Jesus that same day.3

Possibly as much as a year later, Jesus comes into Simon’s house in Capernaum, and heals Simon’s mother-in-law. She immediately got up and began to serve them, which shows that she was most likely a kind, hospitable woman.  Simon Peter was married,4 though we know very little about his wife except that she (1) was still living some 25 years after Pentecost, (2) apparently accompanied her husband on some of his ministry trips, and (3) was a Christian.5  As a side note, this is evidence against Peter being the “first Pope,” as Popes aren’t allowed to be married.6

Simon Peter’s Names

When he was born, this man who would later become one of the greatest Christians to ever live was given the name Simon, or Simeon.7  This was an ancient name, common among the Israelites8 because it was the name of the second-born of the twelve sons of Jacob.9

When Simon met Jesus for the first time, the Lord said to him, “You are Simon, the son of John: you shall be called Cephas.”10  The name Cephas means “stone” in Hebrew.11  After this, however, Paul is the only one who uses this Hebrew form of the name.12

The name “Peter” is simply the Greek form of the Hebrew “Cephas.”  So when Jesus told him that he would be called “Cephas,” He could just as accurately said, “You will be called Peter,” because they mean the same thing.  After this, Simon is almost always referred to as either “Peter” or “Simon Peter.”13

The name “Peter” was divinely-given,14 perhaps to emphasize the kind of person Jesus needed Simon to become—a steady source of strength.15  It is also possible that Jesus gave Him this name, in part, because of the illustration He would use in Matthew 16:16-18:

Simon Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “You are blessed, Simon, son of John: because flesh and blood hasn’t revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I say to you, that you are Peter [Greek, Petros], and upon this rock [Greek, Petra] I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

The difference in the two words, Petros and Petra, are striking.  Petros [Peter] is masculine in Greek, and means a small rock; Petra is feminine in Greek, and means a large slab of rock, bedrock, or a solid mountain of rock.  It was the inspired statement that Peter made (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) that was the rock upon which the church would be built—not Peter himself.16

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 John 1:42; 21:15-17.  The King James’ Version of Matthew 16:17 gives a transliteration of the Greek (which was a transliteration of the Aramaic), “Barjona.”  But this simply means “son of Jonah,” or “son of John.”  The two names are very similar in the original language.  See David Smith’s article, “Peter,” in James Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible.

2 John 1:40-41.

3 John the Immerser was baptizing in Bethabara (John 1:28), which was near Jericho, around 60 miles from Capernaum, where Peter and Andrew lived (Mark 1:19-21).  Thus, Peter must have been nearby.  This has led many to the natural conclusion that Peter was a disciple of John, which is a very reasonable guess (see W. Patrick’s article, “Peter,” in Hasting’s Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels).

4 In addition to the fact that Peter had a mother-in-law (an impossibility for an unmarried man), he also identifies himself as “an elder” (1 Peter 5:1), thus he was a “husband of one wife,” or more literally, a “one-woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2).  If he was not married, then he would have no right to hold the office of an elder.  In addition, 1 Corinthians 9:5 appeals to Peter as an example of a married apostle (see next footnote).

5 1 Corinthians 9:5, written approximately AD 56, states “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles and the brethren of our Lord, and Cephas [Peter]?”  From this passage, (1) it seems that it was common knowledge that the other apostles were married at that time; (2) the phrase “lead about” means to take someone around with them, showing the apostles’ wives accompanied them; and (3) Paul specifically states that each wife was “a sister,” that is, a sister in Christ (see this verse in ASV, MLV, ESV, NKJV, etc.)

6 The Catholic Church claims Peter was the first Pope, the first bishop of Rome.  There are several lines of biblical evidence which refute this false doctrine, such as: (1) Peter was married, though the Catholic Church teaches that priests (from which the Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and Popes come) cannot be married; (2) Paul desired to come to Rome to work with the church (Romans 1:10-11); but also said that he would not build on another man’s foundation (Romans 15:20); and Peter’s name is conspicuously absent from the list of greetings that Paul gives to the Christians in Rome (Romans 16); there is no biblical evidence that Peter was ever in Rome; Peter’s mission was to the Jews (Galatians 2:9), and all the Jews had been expelled from Rome (Acts 18:2), giving Peter no reason to go there.  There is much more that could be added, but as it is outside the scope of this work, this will suffice.

7 He is called “Simon” in the gospel accounts, but in Acts 15:14, James (the brother of the Lord) refers to him as “Simeon.” Though it is not translated as such in most English Bibles, in 2 Peter 1:1, he identifies himself as “Simeon Peter” (the ESV, NRSV, NET, NAB, Disciples Literal New Testament, and the Living Oracles all translate this properly).

8 There is a Simeon in Luke 2:25-35; another one mentioned in Luke 3:30; a prophet with that name in Acts 13:1.  Jesus had a brother named Simon (Matthew 13:55); two apostles had that name (Matthew 10:1-4); Jesus ate at the house of a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36-44); Jesus stayed in the house of Simon the leper near the end of His ministry (Matthew 26:6); a man named Simon carried Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32); Judas Iscariot’s father was named Simon (John 12:4); the infamous magician-turned-Christian (and according to tradition, turned enemy of Christianity) was named Simon (Acts 8:9, 13); Peter stayed in the house of Simon the tanner while in Joppa (Acts 9:43, 10:5-6).

9 Genesis 35:23.

10 John 1:42.

11 The Hebrew root, Keph (כּף) is used in Job 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:29.

12 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5; and Galatians 2:9.

13 Twice in Matthew, Jesus refers to Peter simply as “Simon” (Matthew 16:17; 17:25); In Mark, after noting that Jesus gave Simon the name “Peter,” the apostle is only identified called “Simon” one time (though in the same verse (14:37), Mark also calls him as Peter); Luke’s gospel account uses “Simon” multiple times after noting that he was also called Peter (7:40-44; 22:31; 24:34); John records Jesus calling him “Simon” on only one occasion (21:15-17).  After Pentecost, the only time the name “Peter” or “Cephas” is absent in identifying him is Acts 15:14, where he is called “Simeon.”

14 Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14.

15 Simon would eventually be the one who used the “keys of the kingdom” to welcome both Jew and Gentile into the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 16:16-18; Acts 2; Acts 10-11).  He was also one who was given a specific commission to strengthen the rest of the apostles (Luke 22:31-32); and was entrusted with the shepherding care of Jesus’ sheep (John 21:15-17).

16 The Catholic Church ignores the differences in the original words to make the claim that Jesus was going to build the church on Peter himself (yet again, their argument to elevate Peter to Popehood fails based on biblical evidence).  The only way that petra could be a reference to Peter is if he somehow got a sex change halfway through Jesus’ sentence—an absolute absurdity.

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved–The Life of the Apostle John (Part 4)

John after the Ascension

After listening to Jesus teach about the “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” and seeing the Lord ascended into heaven, John stayed in Jerusalem with the rest of the apostles.1  On the day of Pentecost, John heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and he started preaching the gospel in another language.  People gathered around to listen, and were amazed by what was happening.2  After Peter spoke up and proved that Jesus is the Messiah that had been prophesied in the Old Testament, John spent several hours baptizing people into Christ,3 and rejoicing at the salvation received by them.

Some days later, John accompanied Peter to the temple during the hour of prayer, 3:00 PM.4  They came upon a man who had never walked before, a man who was physically impaired from the time of his birth to prevent him from ever being able to walk.  Men carried him each day to the temple gate so that he could beg for money to survive.  As John walked towards the temple, the man asked him and Peter for money.  Instead of money, the man was given something even greater—healing.  John and Peter walked into the temple area with this man clinging to them, leaping for joy, as the people began to stare and follow them because they recognized this as the lame man who had been unable to ever walk.5  Peter took the opportunity to preach a sermon to the people, resulting in thousands believing in Jesus.  But the priests and Sadducees were extremely upset,6 and they arrested John and Peter, leaving them in jail overnight.7

The next morning, John, as well as Peter, was called to stand before the Sanhedrin, and questioned about how they were able to accomplish this great miracle.  The council wanted to know where John and Peter got the miraculous power, and also by whose authority it was done.8  They already knew that the miraculous ability had to have come from God (see John 3:2), but they wanted to know who gave them the authority to go into the temple complex and heal this man.  The book of Acts only records Peter speaking, but it is obvious that John wasn’t silent during this time, because after they were done answering, condemning the Jewish leaders for murdering Jesus Christ, the Bible says: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlettered and common men, they marveled, and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”9

The council couldn’t speak against John or Peter, because the proof of their claim was standing right next to them in the form of the formerly crippled man.  Instead, they threatened them not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus, to which John and Peter both replied, “You judge whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God; for we are not able not to speak the things which we have seen and heard.”10  Even though threatening John and Peter was completely ineffective, they threatened them again before finally letting them go, because they were too afraid to punish the two apostles.11

John and Peter, after being released, went to the other apostles,12 and reported what had happened.13  The whole group prayed together, asking for continued boldness, and as a result, God filled them with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke again with boldness, and were able to exercise “great power.”14

Sometime later, after Stephen was murdered and Saul of Tarsus began to viciously persecute the church, John and the other apostles received word that Philip had gone into Samaria and converted many of them to Jesus Christ.  They were excited about this new information, certainly remembering the words of Jesus before He ascended that the gospel would be spread from Jerusalem, to Judea, and to Samaria as well.15 The apostles chose John and Peter to go to the Samaritans,16 with the purpose of facilitating their reception of the miracles which were given by the Holy Spirit.17  It is interesting that John was sent, since at one time he asked for power to call down fire on a village of Samaria18—what a difference now!  Some have suggested that John and Peter were sent in order to confirm to the Jews in Jerusalem that the addition of the Samaritans was approved by God, and not just something cooked up in the mind of Philip.19

After arriving, John and Peter went to God in prayer on behalf of the Samaritan Christians, asking that they might also receive the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit.  They were then guided by God to lay hands on certain individuals for this purpose. 20 When Simon, a magician-turned-Christian with a significant desire for prominence, saw this, he offered the two apostles money if they would give him the power to pass on the miraculous gifts.  Peter and John both replied, condemning his actions and him as well if he did not repent, after which Simon asked them to pray to God on his behalf so that the things which they had said wouldn’t happen to him.21

After this incident, John and Peter gave their testimony about Jesus, and proclaimed the word of the Lord to them.  Then they left that city, returning to Jerusalem, but stopping to preach in many Samaritan villages along the way, converting more souls to Jesus Christ.22  Upon returning to Jerusalem, they no doubt gave a first-hand report of the things which occurred in Samaria to the other apostles who had sent them, and joined with them in rejoicing about the new souls that had joined in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

The joy in the growth of the church continued, but John also experienced some sadness.  The Gentiles had just begun to be added to the church, which upset many of the Jews greatly.  Herod, who continually sought for the approval of the Jews, arrested and killed John’s brother, James.23  Such a thing pleased the Jews, and certainly John was happy that his brother had passed into Paradise, but there was no doubt a great sadness that he would no longer see his brother in this life.

Within a few years, a great controversy erupted in the church over whether Gentile converts to Christianity must first be circumcised.  Paul, Barnabas, and Peter were the star witnesses for God during a large gathering in Jerusalem to deal with this issue.  After the matter was decided, John, Peter, and James (the brother of our Lord)24 gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, showing that they endorsed the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles.25

Thus we see John being connected with the gospel in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Acts 1.

2 These events are recorded in the second chapter of Acts, specifically verses 1-12.

3 If we assume that the apostles were not hurrying people along, we can estimate that each apostle baptized one person per minute (it can be done much quicker than that, but we’ll go with longer period here for the sake of argument).  That means that each apostle could baptize 60 people per hour.  There’s 12 apostles, so that makes 720 baptisms per hour.  At that rate, the apostles themselves could have easily baptized the 3,000 souls into Christ in just over four hours.  And since the sermon took place around nine in the morning (Acts 2:15), that would make the baptisms completed by around 1:30-2:00 in the afternoon.  Even if they went twice as slow, they’d still have gotten everyone baptized while there was still daylight.

4 It should be noted that this was not a time which was commanded by God, but was something that the Jews had gradually turned into a tradition.  There was nothing wrong with it, and the two apostles did not sin by observing the religious traditions of the Jews.  They would have sinned if they had attempted to bind it on others, or if they had condemned others for taking that time to pray.  Religious traditions, so long as they do not violate the Law of God, are fine—understanding that they are traditions and not something to be bound upon others, nor something to condemn others for observing.

5 This incident is recorded in Acts 3.

6 The priests were upset because if what Peter and John were preaching was true, their service in offering sacrifices was no longer valid.  Additionally, as the priests were teachers in the temple area, they would have had quite a fit of jealousy when the people flocked to hear John and Peter.  The Sadducees were extremely upset because Peter’s sermon was promoting the resurrection—something which they vehemently denied.  In essence, Peter’s sermon identified the Sadducees as false teachers, and they didn’t like it one bit.

7 The response of the people is seen in Acts 4:1-4.

8 Acts 4:7.  Campbell makes the following observation on the question of the council: “Ποια δυναμει, not ποια εξουσια—physical strength.  In what strength—in what name?  There was strength and authority also in the name of the Lord.  But as to the spectators—in this case of physical infirmity—their attention was absorbed in the strength put forth.” (Alexander Campbell, Acts of the Apostles, Translated from the Greek, on the Basis of the Common English Version.  With Notes.  New York: American Bible Union, 1858, page 25).

9 Acts 4:13.  KJV says “unlearned and ignorant,” but this isn’t accurate according to the present use of those terms.  Robertson says, “Unlearned…Unlettered men without technical training in the professional rabbinical schools of Hillel or Shammai. …ignorant…a layman, a man not in office (a privatae person), a common soldier and not an officer, a man not skilled in the schools.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures, on Acts 4:13).  The Greek word translated “ignorant” is idiotai, from where we get our word idiot.

10 Acts 4:19-20.  Note the two negatives in the last part, “we are not able not to speak.”  In other words, “It is impossible for us to remain silent.”

11 Acts 4:21-22.

12 Acts 4:23.  The word “company” (KJV) certainly includes the apostles, though some believe it includes other Christians as well.  Campbell says “…to their own friends, not especially to the Apostles.” (Acts of the Apostles, page 28).  This is unlikely.  The Greek word, idios, means “one’s own,” and is used in the Bible to refer to one’s own countrymen (John 1:11), one’s own family (1 Timothy 5:8), one’s own disciples (John 13:1), and one’s own friends (Acts 24:23).  The group under consideration all prayed together, asking for continued boldness, and the result was a miraculous filling with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31), and “great [miraculous] power” was exercised by the apostles, not by the Christians in general (Acts 4:33).  The context, and what we learn from Acts 8 relative to the way miraculous gifts were passed on (including the inspiration mentioned in Acts 4:31), leads us to conclude that John and Peter went to their own company, that is, they went to the other ten apostles.

13 The other Apostles (and other Christians too), would have been worried about John and Peter, since they no doubt would have heard of their arrest and heard that there was going to be a trial of sorts.  Most likely, the apostles were gathered for a time of prayer on behalf of John and Peter.  Christians did this same thing in Acts 12 when Peter was in jail (see especially verse 12).

14 Acts 4:31, 33.  See also the author’s notes on this passage in The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts.

15 Acts 1:4.

16 Literally, the apostles apostled John and Peter (Acts 8:14).  The word “sent” (KJV) is the verb form of apostle.

17 Acts 8:14-16.  This passage is treated extensively in The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts by this author.  See there for a much fuller explanation and proof that the reception of the Holy Spirit is equivalent to being able to perform miracles.

18 Luke 9:54.

19 See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Acts 4:14.

20 It was not a universal promise that all Christians would receive the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38-39 limits it to a single generation, and then only to those whom God selected for that purpose.  It is obvious that Simon had become a Christian (Acts 8:12-13), but he only knew that the Holy Spirit was given by what he saw take place when the apostles laid hands on others—he did not know it from person experience, but only from seeing it.  Thus we have an example of a Christian who never “received the Holy Spirit.”

21 Acts 8:18-24.  Simon’s response in verse 24 proves that John wasn’t a silent partner in the condemnation.  Simon said, “You [plural] pray to the Lord for me so that none of these things which you [plural] have spoken happen to me.”  Whether Simon ever truly repented is difficult to say.  We would like to think that he did, especially based on his belief of the condemnation that was pronounced on him, but that is inferring something that might not be a necessary inference.  It is the almost universal declaration of early Christian writers that Simon remained apostate and worked to lead people away from Jesus.  See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Simon Magus.”   Ignatius calls him “the firstborn of Satan” (James Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, “Simon Magus”).

22 Acts 8:25.

23 Acts 12:1-2.  It is generally assumed (and quite probably right) that James was beheaded (see Johnson’s The People’s New Testament with Notes, on Acts 12:2), though the words used by Luke don’t demand that interpretation. “The Jews considered beheading a shameful death” (Robertson’s Word Pictures, on Acts 12:2), which explains why it please them to see it happen to one of the leaders of the Christian movement.

24 See chapter dealing with this James for more information on his role during this incident.

25 Compare Acts 15 with Galatians 2:1-10.

Teaching About the Sower

The Text: Mark 4:1-20 – He began again to teach by the seaside; and a great multitude was gathered together with Him, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.  And He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow [seed].  And it came to pass, while He sowed, [that] some fell by the roadside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up.  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much soil; and immediately it sprang up, because it didn’t have deep soil.  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other [seed] fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased.  And [they] brought forth [fruit], some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred.”

And He said to them, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when He was alone, those who were around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable.  And He said to them, “To you it’s given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all [these] things are coming in parables.  So that ‘Seeing, they may see and not perceive; and hearing, they might hear and not understand; lest at any time they might be converted, and their sins might be forgiven them.’”

And He said to them, “Do you not perceive this parable?  And how, then, will you know all [these other] parables?

“The sower sows the word.  And these by the roadside are they where the seed is sown, but when they have heard, Satan comes in immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.  And likewise, these which are sown on stony ground are they who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so [they] endure only for a time.  Afterwards, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are caused to stumble.  And these which are sown among the thorns are they such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches and lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And these which are sown on good ground are they such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

Introduction

The parable of the sower is one of the best-known of Jesus’ parables.  I don’t have any idea how many times I’ve heard some part of it referenced (often the “cares of this world” line), but it’s a lot.  It’s mentioned by Matthew (chapter 13), Mark (chapter 4), and Luke (chapter 8).  And though many people refer to it as the “parable of the soils,” Jesus called it “the parable of the sower” (Matthew 13:18).  Therefore, while Jesus spends a lot of time dealing with the different kinds of soils, His main emphasis is on the sower.

The Text, part 1 – The Setting (Mark 4:1-2)

[Jesus] began again to teach by the seaside.  And a great multitude gathered [together around] Him, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

Matthew 13:1 tells us that at first, Jesus sat to teach by the seaside (most likely next to the sea of Galilee).  But the crowds gathered, and Jesus stood up, walking to a ship that He could board so that He could teach the crowds without being mobbed.  Then, He sat down on the ship and began to teach the multitude that was on the shore.  This wouldn’t have been like a rowboat, but probably one of the fishing boats.  Jesus must have had a very strong voice to be able to teach this great crowd of people while sitting on this boat.

And He taught them many things by parables.

The word “parable” comes from the Greek parabole, which literally means “to throw beside.”  It’s the idea of putting two things side-by-side for comparison’s sake.  A parable is often described as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning,” and quite often that is true.  I’d be more specific, and say that a parable is a story dealing with things that are known and understood in order to explain something that is not necessarily known or understood. Every parable that Jesus gave dealt with things that the listeners could identify with and understand, things like planting and harvesting, or losing something valuable and rejoicing when it is found (Luke 15).  And behind all these parables were deeper truths.  Some parables foretold the rejection of the Jews (Matthew 21:33-45), while others taught Godly attributes (like the Good Samaritan).

And in His teaching to them, He said “Listen.”

Jesus didn’t speak to waste His breath.  He expected those people who gathered around to pay attention to the things He was trying to teach them.  As followers of Jesus Christ today, we should respect the Lord enough to listen to Him and listen to His word being proclaimed.

The Text, part 2 – The Parable Given (Mark 4:3-8)

“Behold”

This word means not just to look, but to perceive, to comprehend.  So, as Jesus began to speak, He opens with the words, “Listen.  Perceive.”  In other words, Jesus is telling them that in order to understand His teaching, they would have to pay attention, and do some thinking.  He explains why a little later on.

“A sower went out to sow”

Literally, “the scattering one went to scatter.”  This kind of sowing is done by a person with a large bag, like a large purse, with the handle over his shoulder and neck.  He reaches inside the bag, grabs a handful of seeds, and then scatters them all across the field as he walks.  He knows ahead of time that not all the seeds will take root, but given the sheer number of seeds that he throws out there, he knows that some of them will produce the desired plant.

“Some [seed] fell by the road, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up.”

The road, whether it be rock or dirt, was packed down so hard that no seed could penetrate—so it just sat there, and was free food for the birds who gladly take advantage of it.

“Some [seed] fell on stony ground, where there was not much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”

You might imagine soil with lots of gravel or little rocks mixed in with it, but that’s not what Jesus is describing.  He’s describing ground where there is a very small layer of soil, and underneath that is just rock.  That’s why He says “it has no depth of soil [or earth].”  Anyone who has ever tried to plant a garden in this kind of soil knows that it is almost impossible to get much to grow and produce, because there’s simply not enough soil to support the plant.

“But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.”

When Luke records this statement, he says that the plant withered away because it “lacked moisture.”  The thin layer of dirt couldn’t hold on to the necessary moisture to sustain these plants, and the plants died as a result.

“Some [seed] fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.”

These are weeds among which the seed fell.  These weeds, with thorns, stole moisture and nutrients from the soil, and worked to overtake the plant, keeping it from being able to produce any fruit.  This is why anyone who has much experience with gardening knows you’ve got to “weed” (or de-weed) your garden so that your crops can grow and produce.

“Other [seed] fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred.”

This here is the reason why the sower goes out and scatters the seed: because there is good soil out there, and if he scatters enough seed, some of it will land in that soil.  That seed will then sprout, take root, and produce a good harvest.

The person sowing the seed during those days wasn’t usually the land owner—at least not on the bigger fields.  It was someone working for the person who owned the field.  Usually, there were several working the fields at once, and they would scatter the seed all over the place, covering every possible area.  Some of it would land in bad soil, but some of it would land in good soil.  These workers oftentimes had no way of knowing what kinds of soil were all around them.  Their job was merely to scatter the seed.

The Text, part 3 – Hearing and Understanding (Mark 4:9-13)

He said to them, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This is something that Jesus said on more than one occasion.  He said it after telling His disciples that John the Immerser was the fulfillment of the prophecies about Elijah (Matthew 11:7-15); after asking them whether a candle should be hid under a bushel (Mark 4:21-23); after chastising the Pharisees for elevating their traditions over God’s word (Mark 7:1-16); after explaining the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:36-43); after instructing the multitude on the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35); and at the conclusion of each of the letters to the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 2-3).

The phrase means that everyone (because they all have ears) is supposed to listen.  In fact, the phrase “let him hear” is the same as the word translated “Hearken” (KJV) or “Listen” that Jesus used back in verse 3.  It is a command to hear the message that is being presented.

But not everyone understood the message…

When He was alone, they that were around Him, with the twelve, asked Him about the parable.

Mark is the only one who gives us this piece of information, that is, that they waited until Jesus was alone to ask this question.  They apparently didn’t want to ask the question in front of the multitude, and they also didn’t want to interrupt Jesus’ teaching.  So, they waited until later.

Mark is also the only one who tells us that it was more than just the apostles asking this question.  Matthew and Luke simply say “the disciples,” which sometimes is a reference to just the twelve.  But this was the entire group of Jesus’ disciples, all the ones who were faithfully following Him—including the apostles.

It appears that none of them understood the deeper meaning behind Jesus’ parable of the sower.

He said to them, “To you, it’s given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all these things are coming in parables.”

The disciples, including the apostles, were being taught about the Kingdom of God by Jesus.  He told them that it was “at hand,” and showed its power to them by casting out demons and healing the sick.  But there was more to it than just power.  The Kingdom of God included enduring rejection by the very people Jesus came to save.  The disciples needed to understand that the key to understanding Jesus’ parables was knowing about the Kingdom.  The Kingdom would be spread by sowing the word of God (as He will allude to momentarily) in the hearts of people.

But to those who don’t understand, who haven’t opened their eyes to the reality of Jesus spiritual kingdom, these parables would have no meaning—for they didn’t have the key.

The KJV says these things are “done” in parable, but literally, He says they are “coming” in parables.  That is, He’s presenting those things in parables to the masses.

“So that ‘Seeing, they might see, and not perceive; and hearing, they might hear, and not understand”

Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9, and applies it to His own teaching in parables—a definite claim that He is the Messiah.

The parables are spoken, according to Jesus, so that they would have the opportunity to see and perceive, to hear and understand—if they had the right heart and desire.  It isn’t made clear in English, but the verbs are in the subjunctive mood, showing possibility.  So, literally, Jesus is saying “Seeing, they might see, and might not perceive; and hearing, they might hear, and might not understand.  Some people have accused Jesus of intentionally hiding the truth from people so that they couldn’t understand it—but that’s not the case at all.  He’s teaching in a way that helps those who sincerely want to understand to put everything together.  In fact, the word translated “understand” is a compound word in Greek which means “bringing together.”

“‘Lest at any time they might be converted, and their sins might be forgiven them.’”

Again, these are conditional statements.  Some of the people did listen to Jesus, and some of them were converted, and did have their sins forgiven.  But the majority did not.  In Isaiah 6, where this statement came from, the Lord sent Isaiah to proclaim the truth that the people really didn’t want to hear—that their cities were going to be utterly wasted.  And the more they heard that they didn’t like, they more they ignored the prophet.

The same thing happened with Jesus (see John 6:66).  There were hard-hearted people who didn’t want the message of a spiritual kingdom that required godly living and evangelism and obedience.  So, Jesus spoke it to them in parables, keeping the true meaning just under the surface—those who were spiritually-minded would dig and find it, while those who weren’t interested would just think it was a story and shrug it off.

And He said to them, “Do you not perceive this parable?  How then will you perceive all [the other] parables?”

Jesus was kind (because He explains the parable to them), but at the same time, this statement expresses a disappointment in the disciples.  They, the ones who should be best equipped to understand the meaning, didn’t see it.  And you have to know that it stung a bit when Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9, and then immediately afterwards asked them if they were among the ones who fit the description of “not perceiving.”

This parable is a fairly straight-forward one, and when we understand that it is about the kingdom of God, the rest of the pieces fall into place pretty easily.  And Jesus asks them how they could hope to understand His other parables if they didn’t understand this parable.  So many people want to jump headfirst into the deeper matters of the Bible without first having an understanding of some of the simpler parts.  If you can’t grasp the simple parts, you have no hope of understanding the more difficult ones!

The Text, part 4 – The Explanation (Mark 4:13-20)

“The sower sows the word.”

That statement is the key to the entire parable.  Luke records it as “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).  Without this knowledge, the parable is hidden in a mist of confusion.  But when you know that “the seed is the word of God,” everything else makes sense.

“These by the road are they where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.”

The word of God makes no lasting penetration into these hearts.  Just like the birds eating seed off the hard ground, Satan has no trouble removing the word of God from the hearts and minds of this kind of people.  They aren’t really spiritually-minded to begin with, and so they don’t take in the word of God, they don’t treasure it.  It’s just there, ready to be forgotten at the first opportunity.

“Likewise, these which are sown on stony ground are they who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so they endure but for a time.  Afterwards, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately, they are caused to stumble.”

These are what you might call “shallow” Christians.  They want the salvation that comes through Christ, but they don’t have any roots, no depth to their faith, and so when things get tough, they simply fall away.

It’s interesting that in the parable, Jesus described the sun as part of the reason the plant died, and then he describes affliction and persecution as what causes a believer to die (spiritually).  But the sun has a very positive effect on plants which are properly planted; and persecution and affliction has a very positive effect on Christians who are properly planted in God (see James 1:2-4, Acts 5:40-41).

The word “offended” (KJV) or “stumble” (NKJV) is the Greek word scandalizo.  It’s where we get the word “scandal.”

“These which are sown among thorns are those, such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

In contrast to the previous people, these aren’t “shallow” Christians.  These are people who know the truth, believe the truth, and may have even at one time been very fruitful in the truth.  But they are the ones who have gotten caught up with cares of the world (friends, family, work, politics, fun, pleasure) and as a result, they’ve relegated God’s word to second place (or third or fourth or fifth…) in their lives.  These are the ones who have allowed the material things to become the focus of their lives (money, wealth, things).  Jesus adds that it’s also “the lusts of other things.”  It’s basically Jesus saying, “and other things like these.”

When those things become the focus, it chokes out the word of God in your life, and you become unfruitful.  Even if you were at one point in time an active, evangelistic, fruitful Christian, you can still fall—you can still get so tangled up in the cares of this world that you end up forgetting that this world isn’t our home, and we’ve got a better world awaiting us.

“These which are sown on good ground are those, such as hear the word and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

These are active, faithful, working Christians.  These are those who are productive for the Lord.  There’s two different ways we can look at what this “fruit” is:

First, we could use the word “fruit” as John the Immerser did in Matthew 3:8, “Therefore, bring forth fruits suitable for repentance.”  By this, the “fruit” would have a reference to works (in our context, it would be good works).  Paul uses the phrase in a similar way in Romans 7:5-6.

Second, we could look at something God says about “fruit” in the creation account in Genesis 1:11: “And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”  Since the fruit has the seed inside it, and the seed is the word of God, then to “bring forth fruit” would be converting people to Christ.  Each person you convert to the Lord now has the word of God (the seed) inside them.

Ultimately, the two options are really two parts of the same thing.

Application

Preparing the Sower

Since Jesus called it the “parable of the sower,” He wanted His disciples to view it from that direction first.  In telling them this parable, He was preparing them for the different kinds of reactions that they would receive when they went about preaching the word.  We need to take the same lesson from it as well, and know ahead of time that there will be people who are so hard-hearted that the word of God won’t take hold in their heart.  We need to realize ahead of time that some people will accept it, but they will be shallow and fall away.  Some will accept it, and stick with it, but they won’t bear fruit because they’re too busy with the things of this life.  These things aren’t our fault—that is on them.  But we also need to know that there are people out there who will gladly receive the word of God and who will bear fruit.  That is the reason we need to keep trying to bring others to Christ, because these kind of people are out there!

Preparing the Soil

The secondary purpose of this parable is from the standpoint of the soils, or the heart.  What kind of heart do you have?  Is it a hard heart?  A shallow heart?  A rocky heart?  Or a good and pure heart?  As most of you are certainly aware, bad soil doesn’t have to stay bad soil.  It can be broken up, tilled, cared for, rocks removed, weeds removed, and it can become productive.  The same thing is true of your heart.  If you honestly look at your heart and discover that you are one of the first three, then you can do something about it!  You can cultivate your heart, be more conscious of where your focus is, on what is most important, and then you can start being fruitful for the Lord!

Invitation

Just possessing he seed isn’t enough.  Just tossing it on the ground isn’t enough.  In order for that seed to produce a plant, there’s something else that has to be present, and that’s water.  The same thing is true with the word of God.  Just having it isn’t enough to save you.  Just believing it isn’t enough to save you (for the demons believe and tremble, James 2:19).  It’s when you make the decision to repent of your rebellion to God, and add water—being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins—that you become a Christian.

Won’t you please become a fruitful follower of the Lord today?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Identifying the True Family

The Text: Mark 3:31-35 – His brothers and His mother then came there, and standing outside, they sent to Him, calling Him.  And the multitude sat around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers outside are looking for you.” 

And He answered them, saying, “Who is my mother or my brothers?”  And He looked around at those who were sitting around Him, and said, “Behold, my mother and my brethren!  For whoever will do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.”

Introduction

Jesus gave some difficult commands in His life, but they were always ones that He Himself was ready to follow as well.  He has been preaching and teaching, proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the face of opposition from His associates (who thought He was crazy) and the scribes (who claimed He was possessed by Satan), but He didn’t stop.  And now, Jesus’ family shows up, wanting Him to stop teaching so He can come talk to them.

The Text, part 1 – Earthly Family Calling (Mark 3:31-32).

Satan uses peer pressure and false accusations to try to disrupt God’s work.  That’s what he did against Jesus earlier in this chapter.  Now, he uses another—very potent—device to try to stop Jesus: His own family.

Then, there came His brothers and His mother

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start.  These aren’t Jesus’ cousins.  These are the children of Mary and Joseph, all younger than Jesus, who arrived with their mother, Mary.  Matthew 13:55-56 shows that Jesus was known by the people in His own area as “the carpenter’s son” whose mother was named “Mary,” and “His brethren, James and Joses and Simon and Judas” and who had “sisters.”  It is ridiculous to claim, as the Catholics do, that the people who knew Jesus had to identify Him by His earthly father and mother, and then rattle off the names of four of His cousins, and then add that He’s got female cousins (“sisters”) too.  These are the actual brothers (half-brothers, to be specific) of Jesus who have come with Mary.

Some Greek manuscripts also include “sisters” with this group that was trying to get to Jesus.

This is the family that Jesus has known His whole earthly life.  He certainly had a spot in His heart for them.  Even though John 7 portrays them as non-believers, He visited James after the resurrection, which led to all of the brothers being present in Jerusalem, gathered with the disciples (Acts 1:13-14), and later becoming well-known Christian examples (1 Corinthians 9:5).  So these brothers of Jesus were not beyond reaching with the gospel, and Jesus knew that.  This fact would have made it very tempting for Jesus to go talk to them and try to convince them to believe in Him.

Standing outside, sent to Him, calling Him

Luke tells us that they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the massive crowd of people (Luke 8:19) who were sitting around Jesus, so instead of going to Him, they began calling to Him.  The Greek word is “phoneo,” which means they were using their voices.  So, they were telling people at the edge of the crowd, “Tell Jesus that we’re out here, and that we are looking for Him.”  So, from the edge of the crowd, this message was sent (the Greek word is “apostello”) until it reached Jesus.

The multitude sat around Him

This is something that only Mark mentions. Remember that earlier in the chapter, those close to Jesus thought He was crazy because He was allowing these massive crowds of people to crowd around Him.  But Jesus is in no danger of being crushed.  The multitude is sitting around Him.

They said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”

The message had made its way through who knows how many people to finally get to Jesus.  He’s told that they are “seeking” Him.  The same word is used in Matthew’s account, where it is translated “desiring” to speak to Jesus (Matthew 12:46-47).  In other words, they wanted Jesus to stop what He was doing and come outside to talk to His physical family.

The Text, part 2 – True Family Identified (Mark 3:33-35)

As Jesus’ family stood outside, the crowd looked at Him, probably wondering what He would do.  Would He stop preaching and teaching to go talk to them?  Would He send them a message back through the multitude?  Would He ignore them?

He answered them, saying “Who is my mother or my brothers?”

As literally-minded as some of Jesus’ disciples were, you have to think that some of them were quite confused by this statement.  What?  Jesus, you know…your mother?  Mary?  Don’t you remember her?  And your brothers, the ones you lived with for years?  What do you mean, “Who is my mother or brothers?”  Maybe this statement, for a moment, reinforced the idea that some of them had that Jesus had lost His mind.

But Jesus wasn’t pleading ignorance, nor was He crazy.  He was asking a question to get the people to start thinking.  He wanted them to start thinking about which relationships are most important.  He wanted them to change their focus from the physical to the spiritual.

He looked around at those who sat around Him

This is Jesus pausing for effect, looking at the people who were listening, making sure they are paying attention.  Then Jesus lifts up His hand, and points it towards His disciples (Matthew 12:46-47).

And [He] said, “Behold my mother and brethren!”

The crowd had said “Behold, your mother and brother are outside,” and Jesus’ response is “Behold, my mother and brother” are right here!  Jesus explains what He means by this in the next verse, but I want you to put yourself in the shoes of Mary, or of James, Jude, Simon, or Joses.  The message certainly got back to them, and it probably didn’t make the brothers too happy.  But what about Mary?  Do you think another incident popped into her head?  Perhaps an incident that the Bible says “she kept…in her heart”?

Now His [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.  When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother did not know it.  But they, supposing He was with the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought them among their relatives and acquaintances.  And when they did not find Him, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him [this is the same word as in Mark 3:32].  And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions.  And all that heard were astonished at His understanding and answers.  And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you dealt this way with us?  Behold, your father and I have sought you, sorrowing.”  And He said to them, “How is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.  And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51).

Even from the time Jesus was 12 years old, He knew the difference between His earthly family and His true family.  The incident from Jesus’ boyhood, along with the incident in Mark 3, shows us without a doubt that Jesus knew which family was most important.

For whoever shall do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.

Now, just to make things crystal clear, Jesus isn’t saying that His disciples were somehow His spiritual mother (or sisters).  He is saying that His true family is the spiritual family.  His true family are the people who obey the Father’s will.  Here’s something that you might want to contemplate: your earthly family is only temporary.  Your spiritual family is forever.  But praise God when your earthly family is counted as part of your spiritual family too!

The Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed You.  And Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30).

The ones who have put Jesus ahead of their earthly family will receive a much greater family—brothers and sisters of untold numbers—here, in this life.  A person who obeys the gospel immediately gains a family of brothers and sisters in Christ—and new family members are made every day!

Jesus warned about placing your physical family ahead of Him—being a disciple of Jesus must come first in your life!

[Jesus] said to them, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).

Jesus isn’t saying that you have to despise your family, but He is saying that you have to put Him first.  Earthly ties are to be secondary to your ties to Jesus Christ.

Application

Put Your Family First—Your TRUE Family.

I don’t need to tell you that people have fallen away from God, left the family of God (the church, 1 Timothy 3:15), because of their physical family.  Maybe it’s a domineering husband who berates his wife for going to worship with the saints.  Maybe it’s a wife whose religious ties are to a denomination, and she’s nagged or guilted her husband into joining her.  Maybe it’s someone who has children who are living in wickedness, but they can’t bring themselves to admit that they are lost, so they stop worshiping with the saints, lest someone ask about them, or lest they hear a lesson that deals with the sins that their children happen to be guilty of.  I know a man who left the church and tried to split it on his way out because someone dared to tell him that it was wrong for his daughter to be cheating on her husband.

We must be like Jesus, and realize that regardless of our earthly ties, it is our Father’s family, our true family that matters the most.

How Do I Become Part of God’s Family?

We become part of a physical family by being born into it.  Similarly, in order to become part of God’s family, Jesus’ family, the spiritual family, the family that Jesus claimed as His own, we must be born into it as well.  But this birth isn’t something done when you come out of your mother’s womb.  Since this is a spiritual family, it requires a spiritual birth.

“Truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to [Jesus], “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).

James 1:18 says “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  The word “begat,” when describing a father’s actions, means that he has provided the seed so that a new creature can be born. In the genealogical lists, it is said “Adam begat Seth” or “Abraham begat Isaac” and so on. The fathers didn’t give birth to them, but they provided the seed so that a birth could follow. When God begat us, He provided the seed so that a birth could follow. But what was that seed?

James tells us that it is “the word of truth”

The seed that God provided so that our new birth could take place is the word of God. The word of God is described as the seed from which Christians come (Luke 8:11). In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus described the seed (the word of God) as going to people’s hearts. When it took hold of good and honest hearts, Christians came forth.

There is NO CHANCE of being born again without the Scriptures—the word of truth. Some people claim they had some religious “experience” and they could tell by their “feelings” that they were saved. James says quite plainly that the new birth comes by the word of truth. Being born again doesn’t come from feelings, from experiences, or from a direct action of God upon the person. It comes from following the word of God.

Peter reiterates the same idea in saying “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and remains forever” (1 Peter 1:23).  You read the Scriptures (the seed) and plant it in your heart. The birth which follows comes when you obey the commands to believe (John 3:16), repent (Acts 2:38) and be baptized (Acts 22:16).

For you are all children of God by the faith, in Christ Jesus, Because as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27).

Come be a part of God’s family today!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Questioning Jesus’ Sanity and Source (The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit)

The Text: Mark 3:20-30 – The multitude came together again, so that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.  And when those close to Him heard, they went out to restrain Him, for they said, “He is crazy!”

And the scribes which acme down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of demons He cats out demons.”  And He called them, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

“And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

“No man can enter into a strong man’s house and take his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.”

Truly I say to you, ‘All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies as many as they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

[Jesus said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Introduction

In the last half of Mark chapter three, the writer deals with what people thought about Jesus’ mental state and His allegiance; and that’s followed by Jesus’ words regarding who His true family was.  While Mark records actual, 100% true events, they might not be recorded in chronological order.  Luke, who claimed to write his gospel “in consecutive order” (1:3, NASB), records some of these events in chapter 11, and then the last part seen in Mark 3 is recorded in Luke 8.  This doesn’t affect the inspiration of the Scriptures at all, for Mark never made the claim that he was writing chronologically.  Instead, there’s a logical progression to Mark’s unfolding of events.

The Text, part 1 – The View of His Associates (Mark 3:20-21).

In verses 20-21, the focus is on how certain people close to Jesus viewed His mental state because of His actions here.

And the multitude comes together again

This is the great crowd of people who just about crushed Jesus earlier in the chapter.  Jesus requested a small ship be prepared so that He wouldn’t be “thronged” or crushed like a grape.  But now, the same scenario arises again—except that this time there’s no ship, because Jesus is at a house (see verse 19).

So that they couldn’t so much as eat bread.

Whoever the “they” is (whether it’s Jesus and the apostles, or the crowd), the point is that there was so many of them that having the space and taking the time to eat was an impossibility (literally, they did not have the power even to eat).  The crowd wanted Jesus’ time and attention—it’s all they cared about.  It seems as though this is the same kind of thing that happened when Jesus ended up feeding the 4,000:

Jesus called His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 16:32).

Have you ever been so focused on Jesus and wanting to be close to Him that you forget to eat—or don’t think eating is important enough to stop reading His word and going to the Father in prayer?  Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6); and He told His disciples, “My [food] is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34).  When our hunger for spiritual things becomes greater than our hunger for physical things, we have grown greatly in Jesus Christ.

Many of those who followed Jesus (including, certainly, many in this multitude) were not interested in His teachings, but in seeing a miracle or being the recipient of His healing power (Mark 3:10).

And when those near Him heard of it…

There’s debate as to who these people are.  The KJV and ASV say “friends,” the NKJV and NASB say “His people,” while the ESV (and many commentators) says “His family.”  Literally, the text says “the ones beside Him.”  Regardless of who it was (I tend to think it is His newly-appointed apostles whom He said would be “with Him”—Mark 3:14), these were people who cared about His well-being.

They went out to grab hold of Him

They wanted to rescue Him, to save Him from the crowds that put His life in danger before by mobbing Him.  Given the size of the crowd, it took some courage for these people to work their way to Jesus and try to take Him away from the mob.

For they said, “He is beside Himself!”

Literally, they said “He is crazy!”  It’s as though they were questioning Jesus’ sanity in going back out to the mob that all wanted to touch Him and crowd Him.  If indeed it is the apostles under consideration, imagine what they’re thinking.  They were selected that morning, and now, to them, it looks like Jesus is trying to commit suicide by letting the mobs come rush Him again.

But Jesus wasn’t crazy.  What His associates didn’t understand is that Jesus had the power to stop the mob in their tracks if He wanted.  He could have simply walked through the crowd like He did in Luke 4:28-30:

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, so that they might cast Him down headlong.  But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way.

Mark doesn’t tell us what happened next.  He doesn’t say that the associates of Jesus pulled Him into the house, and doesn’t say they Jesus told them not to worry.  It’s simply left with their thought that Jesus was crazy.

The Text, part 2 – The View of the Scribes (Mark 3:22)

And that leads directly into verse 22, which tells us that the scribes held a somewhat similar view—but with a completely different motive.

The scribes which came down from Jerusalem…

These were some of the religious teachers who were supposed to be well-acquainted with the Law of Moses, having copied much of it by hand.  The fact that they were the scribes in Jerusalem meant that they were the most prestigious scribes in the nation.  Their words held a lot of weight with the people.

They came “down” from Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is situated on a mountain.  They weren’t using “down” to mean “south” like we do when looking at a map.  They walked, and so anywhere out of Jerusalem was “down” to them.

[They] said, “He has Beelzebub”

Beelzebub is a name the Jews used for Satan.  Literally, it means “Lord of the flies,” but it’s also been said that this originated with the idea that the flies buzz around piles of poop.  Thus, according to some who have studied the issue, the name Beelzebub is a derogatory name to describe Satan as “poop lord” or “the poo-poo god.” (and yes, that is a direct quote).

So when the scribes from Jerusalem made this accusation, it wasn’t just that they were questioning Jesus’ power and authority (which, if we are really lenient, we might say they did in ignorance), they were also degrading Jesus.  It wasn’t a scared, fearful, “He serves Satan,” but instead a sneering and mocking, “He has the poo-poo god.”

In the Old Testament (1 Kings 16), the Philistines worshiped “Baalzebub,” which is almost definitely the same name.  Ahaziah, one of the kings of Israel, was sick and injured, and instead of enquiring of God as to whether he would recover, he sent messengers to go enquire of Baalzebub.  Elijah stopped them and sent them back with a message: because the king would rather enquire of Baalzebub than of the God of Israel, he was going to die.  Over a hundred men were killed with fire from heaven in the course of the chapter, all going back to the actions of the king.

“By the prince of demons, He casts out demons.”

There’s not a single good motive behind what these scribes said of Jesus.  They said that He has Beelzebub, as though He’s possessed, not just by any demon, but by Satan himself, the ruler of demons!  He who was casting out demons, they claim, is the most possessed man there is!

Now don’t miss what they’re saying.  They are admitting, without a doubt, that Jesus was casting out demons.  Thus, they are admitting that Jesus possesses supernatural power—miracle-working power.  And they are so opposed to Jesus that they take the ridiculous position that He’s actually working for and with Satan!

Now, for the sake of the argument, we should recognize that in casting out demons, there were only two possibilities—either the power of God was behind it, or the power of Satan (the ruler over demons) was behind it.  The scribes tried to convince the people that Jesus was controlled by Satan, or working with him, in an effort to trick people into following Satan, by casting out the demons.  In effect, their accusation was that Satan was trying to pretend to be an angel of light to draw away followers after himself.

His associates thought He was crazy, but His enemies claimed He was Satan-possessed!

The Text, part 3 – A House Divided (Mark 3:23-27).

Jesus’ response is to show the ludicrousness of their accusation.  Mark doesn’t give us everything Jesus used in response, but he gives us enough to make the point pretty clear.

He called them, and said to them in parables, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”

Mark wants to make sure that his readers don’t miss the point of these parabolic statements from Jesus.  They each are given as ways of asking the same question, “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”  The word translated as “can” in the KJV is the word dunamai, the noun form of which is very frequently used to describe miracle-working power.  When it appears here, the question is “How does Satan have the ability [or power] to cast himself out?”

Jesus, who knew what the scribes were thinking and saying, called them and presented a series of arguments to them.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Imagine a king who tries to undermine the very laws that he uses to govern people.  Or a ruler who bombs his own army.  If Satan is casting out Satan, it’s the same as though a king was banishing himself from his own kingdom, or perhaps banishing all his subjects (since Satan is the ruler of the demons).  Once there are no more subjects, there’s no kingdom.

Jesus’ point is that no one with any sense at all would actively seek to destroy his own kingdom, and Satan isn’t stupid—he isn’t going to actively try to destroy his own power, and therefore himself.

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Jesus goes from the large (the kingdom) to the small (the family) to show that this principle applies all the way around.  A family which does nothing but fight isn’t really a family at all any more, except perhaps in name only, because the people in that family have destroyed it.

“If Satan rises up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

Jesus makes it clear that the demons that have been cast out are loyal to Satan; by casting out the demons, it is an attack on Satan himself.  Thus, if this is being done by Satan’s power, then Satan is attacking himself.  And if Satan is attacking himself, neither he nor his kingdom can stand.  If Satan is attacking himself, he has an end—he is committing suicide.

However, Satan isn’t stupid.  Satan isn’t attacking himself.  Satan isn’t committing suicide.

But something is going on… Satan is being attacked… His soldiers are being defeated…  His kingdom is shaking.

No one can enter into a strong man’s house and steal his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then he can rob his house.

The scribes’ accusation was that Jesus was possessed by Satan.  Jesus’ response is to say, in essence, Are you kidding me?  Satan’s kingdom is falling, and he’s not doing it himself.  I’m the one who is doing it, for Satan—as strong as he is—is no match for me.  I’m taking his kingdom.

It is a statement of Jesus’ amazing power.  He, as God in the flesh, has come and beaten Satan at his own game.  Satan went after Him hard and heavy, tempting Him during those forty days (Mark 1:13), but Jesus came out victorious, and began to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  Satan continues to fight back, but his kingdom is losing power every day that Jesus works.  Satan is the “strong man,” but Jesus is even stronger!

The Text, part 4 – The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30).

Understanding the context is key to understanding what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit actually is.  Jesus didn’t just spit out these words are a random moment; He thoughtfully said them in response to an actual event.  And it’s rather important that we notice the progression of what’s happened here in His interaction with the scribes.

  1. They make the accusation that He’s doing miracles by the power of Satan.
  2. He shows the ridiculous nature of their accusation.
  3. He declares His superiority in power over Satan (which is actually a claim to be Deity).

And now, Jesus warns them that eternal damnation (which He has in His power to administer) awaits those who make such accusations.

“Truly I say to you, All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men”

Murder, robbery, hatred, etc., all of the things we think of as sin will be forgiven by God if we repent.  Of course, this is not saying that God will forgive every sin period.  There is no grace for those who sin willfully (Hebrews 10:26), or for those who don’t know God or who reject the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  But Jesus is saying that forgiveness is available for all sins…except for one.

“Even blasphemies, as many as they shall blaspheme”

Blasphemies are speaking evil of someone, speaking against them.  Even blasphemies will be forgiven by God.  Saul of Tarsus blasphemed (1 Timothy 1:13), but was forgiven.  Blasphemy itself does not guarantee eternal damnation.  But one kind does…

“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

Jesus brought this up for a reason, which Mark gives in verse 30.  The scribes had seen first-hand the power of Jesus to cast out demons (see Luke 11:14-15), but were so hard-hearted that they’d rather give the glory for this wonderful miracle to Satan than to Jesus, who did it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They, the teachers of the law, the supposed experts, were calling good “evil.”

Woe to them who call evil “good,” and good “evil”; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to them who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! … Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against His people…(Isaiah 5:20-21, 24-25).

Miracles, which came from the Holy Spirit, were given as absolute confirmation from God Himself that the things spoken were divinely approved, and that the messenger was from God (Mark 16:20, Mark 2:10).  If someone saw the evidence given by God, and still rejected it, and even worse, claimed that it was Satan that was doing it?  That is a full-on attack on God Himself, His nature, His goodness, His power, and His deity.  The person who is that hard-hearted has destroyed his chance at forgiveness.

Some Greek manuscripts read “guilty of eternal sin,” which gets the same basic idea across.  It is a sin that never dies, that never goes away.

People often wonder (and worry) about possibly committing this same sin today.  First, you need to remember what it is: accepting the miracles of the Holy Spirit, but rejecting the message, the messenger, and attributing those miracles to Satan.  So, the only way you could commit this unpardonable, eternal sin today is if you admitted the miracles of Jesus and the apostles took place, but agreed with the scribes that it was done through the power of Jesus.  Or perhaps if you said that the Bible itself (given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was a product of Satan, and not of God.

The point to remember is that if you’re trying to be right with God, there is ZERO chance that you could commit this sin.  It isn’t a sin that is committed on accident.  The scribes intentionally spoke against the miracles of Jesus.  It wasn’t that they questioned them, or just weren’t certain; they did it on purpose.  That is what made it unforgiveable.  They knew it was a miracle, and they intentionally gave credit to Satan for it instead of God (via the Holy Spirit).

[He said this] because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus has completely turned the tables on them.  They came with what they probably thought was an ingenious argument, and they left exposed and condemned.  Their condemnation came because they had said Jesus Himself had an unclean spirit—specifically Satan—guiding His movements.  How hard-headed and close-minded do you have to be to claim in one breath to believe in God and His word, and in the next denying God’s power, and by implication praising Satan???

Is it any wonder that they left condemned?

Application

You Might Not Know the Whole Story…

The associates of Jesus (regardless of who they were) wanted to help Him, to essentially save Him from Himself.  But they didn’t understand the whole story.  They didn’t fully grasp what was going on, who Jesus was, and what power He had.  There are times in our lives where we make assumptions about other people, and sometimes those assumptions turn out to be completely wrong.  The ones who went to grab Jesus were acting out of concern for His well-being, and that is absolutely commendable.  It’s an example we should follow.  But at the same time, they were acting on an assumption.

When you start to question the motives of others, stop and ask yourself if you’re assuming they have bad motives, or if you know for certain that such is the case.  It might be that you have misunderstood what is happening.  It might be that their motives are pure and they simply made a mistake.  It might be that they just plain don’t have the same level of understanding that you do in some matters.  In all things, instead of making assumptions, we should go to the person and help them, make sure we know the truth about any given situation so that we can be able to act based on facts and not assumptions.

The Other Unforgiveable Sin

Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was not forgivable; but there is another sin that is unforgiveable.  That sin is the one that you know you’ve done, but don’t repent of.  Hebrews 10:26 says “if we sin willfully, after having received a knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins…”  To sin willfully is to know you’re sinning, to do it on purpose.  1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins” (and the idea is not just saying “yep, I did this,” but confessing it to God with a repentant heart), “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  That word “if” means that when you don’t repentantly confess your sins to God, you won’t be forgiven.

Brethren, when you know you’ve sinned, repent and ask God for forgiveness for it, and He will forgive you.

Invitation

Those verses were written to Christians who had already taken hold of the blood of Jesus Christ through humble obedience to His word.  The very first sermon delivered after the resurrection of Jesus is found in Acts 2.  In that sermon, Peter’s goal was to help people be saved.  After getting their attention, Peter said, “hear these words,” and proceeded to tell them about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He appealed to both Scripture and miracles to prove it to them, so that they would believe it.  When the people realized he was telling them the truth, they were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?”  Peter’s response to these people who were not yet Christians, and who wanted to be forgiven, was this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins.”

If you have not obeyed the gospel commands, please delay no longer.  Follow those simple God-given directives and enjoy a new life with your old sins all erased!

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved–The Life of the Apostle John (Part 3)

John after the Resurrection

John stayed at the cross until after Jesus had died, and witnessed first-hand the soldier shoving a spear into the side of Jesus.  He watched as the blood and water came flowing from the wound, and it made an indelible impression on him.  Years later, when he wrote his account of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he made sure to include this information, and even stressed that he was there to see it firsthand.1

After the death of Jesus, John was quite sad and upset. He still didn’t understand the Scriptures, that Jesus would rise from the dead.2 But the next morning, Mary Magdalene, along with Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James,3 came running to him and the other apostles, most likely with tears and confusion, saying, “They’ve taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we don’t know where they’ve laid him.”  They also said that they had seen men in shining clothes who told them that Jesus had risen.  But the apostles thought they were making things up and didn’t believe them.4

However, John and Peter took off running immediately for the tomb where Jesus had been laid.  John was the faster of the two men, and beat Peter there.  Then, while waiting for Peter to get there, John bent down and looked inside.  There he saw the linen burial clothes laying inside the rock tomb, but he didn’t enter.  Then, Peter finally arrived and went straight in the place where Jesus’ body had been placed a few days earlier.  John followed Peter in, and saw again the burial clothes laying there, and also noticed that the face cloth was laying by itself, “rolled up” (ASV) together.  Seeing this was enough to make John believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even though he didn’t understand yet that it was what the Scriptures had foretold.5  Coffman has some interesting comments at this point:

Commentators who refer this to some mere tidying up of the grave, or the folding of the garments (there were no garments; but medical bandages), miss the point. Since when has it ever been supposed that a folded garment, or cloth, proved that the dead had arisen? The certain implication of this astounding narration is that Jesus had risen through the winding shroud of bandages, napkin and all, leaving behind the positive and undeniable evidence of his supernatural triumph over death. Remember, this evidence convinced John. The very amount of space accorded this phenomenon in this Gospel is far more than enough to indicate the extraordinary implications of “the linen cloths lying.” Matthew has a remarkable corroboration of this account in the words of the angel, “Come see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 26:6), thus emphatically implying all that John here related.

…The napkin around the head would not have connected with the winding shroud; and that independent placement was preserved in the manner of the linen cloths lying.6

Barclay agrees:

Then something else struck him–the grave-clothes were not disheveled and disarranged. They were lying there still in their folds—that is what the Greek means—the clothes for the body where the body had been; the napkin where the head had lain. The whole point of the description is that the grave-clothes did not look as if they had been put off or taken off; they were lying there in their regular folds as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them. The sight suddenly penetrated to John’s mind; he realized what had happened—and he believed. It was not what he had read in scripture which convinced him that Jesus had risen; it was what he saw with his own eyes.7

That evening, word had spread that Peter had seen the Lord,8 and John gathered together with all the apostles (except for Thomas, who was absent).9  They kept the doors shut, in fear that the Jewish leaders might come after them—especially now that whispers were spreading that the tomb was found empty, and people were claiming to have seen Jesus very much alive.10  While they were gathered together, Jesus appeared in their midst, and said “Peace to you,” and showed them His hands and His side, proving that it was Him.  Joy cannot begin to describe the feeling that John was experiencing.  But at the same time, Jesus upbraided them because they hadn’t believed the ones who had told them that He had been raised.11

Some time afterwards, John accompanied Peter and some of the other apostles onto a boat where they went fishing all night, but caught nothing.  The next morning, John saw a man on the shore, who called out to them, “Children, do you have any food?”  After they replied in the negative, John heard the man say, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you’ll find [fish].”  When they did this, there were so many fish that they couldn’t draw the net in.

The other apostles apparently didn’t realize who it was on the shore, but John did.  He said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!”  John was left with the boat as he watched Peter jump into the water and swim to shore.  John and the other apostles brought the ship to shore, dragging the net behind them, and then sat down with Jesus and ate.

After they finished eating, Jesus began to walk with Peter, and John followed them.  It is probable that John heard at least part of the conversation, including Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s death, and Peter asking Jesus, “What about this man?” (referring to John).  Then John heard Jesus’ reply of, “If I desire that he remains until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me.”  Decades later, this conversation about John was still remembered, so that when John wrote his account of the good news of Jesus, he had to make it clear that Jesus wasn’t saying John would never die—just that John’s fate was unimportant to the command of Jesus to “follow me.”12

That is a lesson that we would all do well to remember—it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, our command is to follow Jesus.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 John 19:30-35.  John does not emphasize his status as an eyewitness for any other specific event his gospel account.  This shows that the blood and water coming from Christ has a major significance.  See Romans 6:3-5; Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5, 7:14.

2 John 20:9.

3 Luke 24:10.  Most likely, this is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.  Since they had not yet seen Jesus Himself raised, she would have been called by the name of her oldest known living son, which was James.  Luke has a general habit of not mentioning someone by name unless he expected the reader to already know who that person was, or unless that person showed up elsewhere in his writings.  Joanna was mentioned in Luke 8:3, Mary Magdalene in 8:2.  Other than Mary Magdalene, Luke mentions two women named Mary: Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (and his brothers, including James).  Since it was already common knowledge (thanks to Matthew’s gospel which was published and distributed around 20 years earlier) that James was the brother of Jesus and the son of Mary, Luke could identify the mother of Jesus as “Mary, the mother of James,” and the readers would have known exactly what he meant by it.

4 John 20:1-2 only mentions Mary Magdalene speaking to John and Peter, but she says “we don’t know where they’ve laid Him.”  Luke 24:10-11 mentions two other women by name, and includes “others.”  It is possible that the women split up in order to get the news spread to the apostles quickly.

5 John 20:1-9.

6 James Burton Coffman, comments on John 20:6-7.

7 The Daily Study Bible Commentary on John, notes on John 20:1-10.

8 Luke 24:33-34.  The actual appearance to Peter isn’t described in the Scriptures, but it is referenced in this passage, as well as 1 Corinthians 15:5.

9 John 20:24-25.  For why Thomas may have been absent during this meeting, see the chapter dealing with him.

10 Even the Jewish leaders knew the tomb was empty, for they paid the soldiers who were guarding it to lie and say that the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15).

11 Mark 16:9-15.

12 This whole incident is found in the last chapter of John, especially

As Touching Those Who Were Once Enlightened…

Two men, once prominent in the Lord’s church, announced that they were leaving and joining a denomination.  On their way out, they tried to verbally attack the bride of Christ, throwing many accusations (with no evidence), and in effect condemning (and denying the intelligence and honesty of) the very people with whom they had labored for a quart of a century!

Not only did they say these things, they also put it in print for people all over the country to read.  This was in 1946.

Today’s addition to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary is a book that was written in answer to their accusations, insinuations, and outright misrepresentations.

The full title of this work is:

As Touching Those Who Were Once Enlightened

Being a Review of the Reasons Given by Two Former Friends and Co-Laborers When they “Went Back and Walked No More With Him.”

A brief history is given, including the full text of the letters written by the two men in question (brothers Reedy and Etter), and then Brewer answers their charges, and shows the flaws in their excuses so that other Christians wouldn’t be led astray by them.

This might not be every person’s cup of tea, but the book is still very relevant, for there are preachers in the Lord’s church who are making the same statements as Reedy and Etter made 70 years ago.

As usual, this book has been completely reformatted, corrected, and made pretty to give you a more pleasant reading experience.

Click the link below to download!

As Touching Those Who Were Once Enlightened (GC Brewer)

Choosing Twelve Men

The Text: Mark 3:13-19 – He goes up into a mountain, and calls [those] whom He wanted; and they came to Him.  And He ordained twelve, so that they should be with Him, and so that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons:  And Simon He surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, He even surnamed them Boanerges, which is “The Sons of Thunder”; and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him.  And they [all] went into a house.

Introduction

One of the most important decisions Jesus had to make while on earth was in choosing His apostles.  These were the men that would be His representatives, the men who would prepare people for entrance into Heaven’s Empire—the Kingdom of God.  People would look on these twelve men as examples, as spokesmen for Jesus Himself.  And if the wrong men were chosen, then that would reflect badly on Jesus, and people might reject the message—in other words, there were literally souls at stake: that’s how important this choice actually was.

The Text, part 1 – Jesus and the Mountain (Mark 3:13)

Some time after the events recorded earlier in the chapter, Jesus has gotten away from the mob of people and takes some time to be alone.

He goes up into a mountain

Mark, writing to the Roman audience, didn’t deem it necessary to include information supplied by Luke: that Jesus went to the mountain and spent all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12).  Don’t miss this point: Jesus, even though He is God in the flesh, felt it necessary to get away from people and spend time alone talking to the Father.  The next day, He knew, would be when He chose twelve men to represent Him to others.  This was an extremely important decision to make, and one that He wouldn’t think of doing without prayer first.  Then there is the fact that He prayed all night.  Have you ever been that dedicated in your petitions to God that you prayed for hours straight?  Now, spending hours straight in talking to God is not a requirement for an acceptable prayer, but maybe this example of Jesus will encourage us to spend more time in prayer than we normally do.  Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from this is take time to pray.  Don’t let the pressures of the world take you away from your time alone with God.

He calls [to Himself] those who He wanted

Instead of the massive crowds that were running towards Him earlier in the chapter, Jesus calls a specific group of people.  Luke’s account says that these people were Jesus’ disciples.  He didn’t call everyone, but only a specific group of people.  The word translated “calls” is the same word used in Acts 2:39, and refers to calling for a specific purpose.  There it was a calling for the purpose of miraculous gifts, here is it a calling to select apostles (who would also be given miraculous gifts).

The phrase “whom He would” (KJV) means “who He wanted.”  He would only choose the apostles from among those who were His disciples already.  Thus, those are the only ones He called.

They came to Him

Going back to Mark’s portrayal of Jesus as the King who is announcing His impending reign and overthrow of the Kingdom of Darkness, His authority is displayed here.  Jesus has had men following Him for some time—Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi have all been named—and they obey when He calls them.  Jesus has a call for His people today, to go into the human fields and work, bringing in souls to Him.  Do we answer that call?

The Text, part 2 – Jesus Chooses Missionaries (Mark 3:14-15)

He ordained twelve

Literally, Jesus made twelve.  This was His choice to make a new group from among His disciples; a special group with a special role, with special gifts to go along with it.

Why twelve?  Some have asked what the significance of this number twelve is.  One of the first answers that springs to mind is that the Old Testament was given by God to the twelve tribes of Israel, and so the number twelve had a special significance to the Jews.  Also, there’s this answer that goes along with it: In Jewish thought, numbers had certain significances, certain meanings beyond their literal count.  For instance, the number three was representative of God (we can think of this as the three persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); the number four, it is said by those who have studied numerology, is representative of mankind (perhaps because our four limbs?).  Thus, when you multiply the two together, you have the number 12, which represents the interaction between God and man (the Law given to the twelve tribes, and the gospel given by the twelve apostles).

We could even go into the book of Revelation and see the number of saved as 144,000, which is 12 x 12 x 1,000.  Or, in other words, the saved of the Old Testament, and the saved of the New Testament, a huge number (1,000 means an innumerable amount).

Jesus chose twelve men, because this was to be representative of a new interaction between God and mankind.

That they should be with Him

These twelve men, who would come to be known as “apostles” (a word which, surprisingly, Matthew and Mark only use once, and John doesn’t use at all except in Revelation), were men that were basically giving up their normal lives to be with Jesus.  Their jobs had to be left behind, their families, their friends, their homes.  These men followed Jesus wherever He went, except when…

He might send them forth to preach

These men were going to follow Jesus, but they would also be getting some on-the-job training.  They were expected to preach the same thing that Jesus preached: that the Kingdom of Heaven was “at hand.”  This is a wise move on Jesus’ part for a few reasons:

First, it prepares the ones who would carry on the message after His death on the cross.

Second, it helps spread the load of proclaiming the message; Jesus wouldn’t have to do it all by Himself anymore.

Third, it also may have helped with crowd control.  Mark made it clear that the people came from all over the place to Jesus because of the miracles He had done.  Now, with the addition of twelve more miracle-working men, people wouldn’t always be flocking to Jesus—they might have someone closer to home that they could go to, seeking healing.

But don’t miss that the primary reason given for choosing these men is so that they could preach.

And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons

The miracles that drew people to Jesus, the powers that amazed the crowds (and the disciples as well) were passed on to these twelve men.  The miracles were not for show, but as a confirmation of their preaching message, showing that the prophesied Kingdom was truly near.  This is what the Jewish people had been looking forward to, longing for, for generations.  And these miracles would confirm that their hopes were about to be realized in Jesus.

The Text, part 3 – Jesus and the Men (Mark 3:16-19)

Knowing that his readers would naturally want to know who these twelve men were, Mark gives their names, along with a few descriptive phrases.

Simon He surnamed Peter

The readers see the first name, and think, Simon, okay, I remember him.  He’s one of those fishermen, whose mother-in-law was healed by Jesus.  This Simon was one of the first disciples of Jesus (actually the very first one mentioned by Mark), and so his inclusion here is not really surprising.  His name appears first in every list of the apostles, and there is no denying his special place in Jesus’ plan.

Jesus gave Simon a new name, which in Hebrew is Cephas, but which in Greek is Petros, or Peter.  Both Cephas and Peter mean the same thing: a stone or a rock.  This name stuck, because with very few exceptions, he is known by the names “Peter,” “Cephas,” or “Simon Peter” from this point forward.

It is said by many of the ancient writers that Mark’s gospel was written using the information given to him by Peter (with whom he was working, according to 1 Peter 5:13).  But this isn’t the reason why Peter is first-named among the apostles (for he appears there in all the other lists as well).

Peter was told that he specifically would be given the keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19).  Jesus also gave Peter a specific commission that applied only to him: When you have returned (from denying Jesus), strengthen the brethren [the rest of the apostles] (Luke 22:31-32).

Though he abandoned the Lord in His hour of trial, and denied Him with an oath, Peter repented; and he went on to stand up with the other apostles on the Day of Pentecost and preach the first gospel sermon.  He is the first person recorded who told a wayward Christian what to do for forgiveness of sins (Acts 8:22).  He was the first to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11, 15).  And he is one of only a handful of men whose writings were included in the New Testament.  Certainly, Peter’s spot at the top of the list is appropriate.

James, the son of Zebedee

The readers would have recognized this name too.  When James and his brother John are mentioned together, James always comes first (except for in Luke 9:28).  It’s interesting to note that James is always mentioned second in the list of the apostles, before his brother, John; but his brother is more well-known and figures more prominently in the book of Acts than James does.

James was one of the three apostles who was permitted to witness the transfiguration.  He preached and baptized on Pentecost.  But sadly, the most well-known event in his life may well have been his murder by Herod in Acts 12.  This was in fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus gave to James and John that they would both be baptized with the baptism that He was about to be baptized with—that is, the baptism of suffering and martyrdom.

Since he’s almost always mentioned before John, and since John is quite frequently called “the brother of James,” it is logical to conclude that James is the older of the two.

John, the brother of James

Like Peter and James, John was one of the three who were permitted to witness the transfiguration.  Most scholars believe that John is the disciple spoken of in John 18:15 who entered into the high priest’s palace with Jesus for His trial.  He is also the only one of the apostles who was mentioned as being at the cross (John 19:25-27).  John was a prominent member of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2), and wrote a large section of the New Testament (John, the three letters, and Revelation).

Whom he called Boanarges, which is, “The Sons of Thunder”

Perhaps this is due to their fiery attitude, which was displayed in Luke 9:54, where they both wanted to call down fire on the Samaritan villages which rejected Jesus.  It’s a nickname that Jesus gave them that is only mentioned by Mark—none of the other writers ever use it.  But it is worth noting that Jesus gave nicknames to each of these three, Simon, James, and John, who would also form His “inner circle” of the apostles.

Andrew

Mark is the only one of the writers to place Andrew after James and John in the list of the apostles.  But while Andrew didn’t have the prominence of Peter in the biblical writings, he does hold the distinction of bringing Peter to the Lord in the first place (John 1).  Andrew taught, preached, baptized, and performed miracles prior to his death as a faithful saint of Jesus Christ.

Philip

Like Andrew, Philip was anxious to bring others to Jesus.  It is he that brought Nathanael (Bartholomew) to the Lord (John 1).  He (along with Andrew) brought some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12:21-22).  Philip died as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.

Bartholomew

This man was also known by the name “Nathanael,” and was among the very first disciples of Jesus (John 1).  He was from Cana in Galilee, and was the first of the disciples to confess that Jesus was “the King of Israel” and “the Son of God” (John 1).

Matthew

Elsewhere called “Levi,” Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum who left the toll booth by the sea in order to become a disciple of Jesus.  He held a great feast in Jesus’ honor, with a great multitude of tax collectors in attendance (Mark 2, Luke 5).  After preaching on Pentecost, and staying behind in Jerusalem when the persecution broke out under Saul of Tarsus, Matthew took the opportunity to write the gospel account which bears his name in an effort to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Thomas

First mentioned as a disciple who was willing to die with Jesus (John 11), Thomas was the last of the apostles to accept that the Savior had risen from the dead.  But after seeing it for himself, Thomas made the great declaration that Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20).  Like most of the other apostles, Thomas died as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

James, the son of Alphaeus

Other than his father’s name, not much is known about this apostle.  He is the brother of Matthew (who Mark said is the “son of Alphaeus” in 2:14), and he might be the same person described in Mark 15:40 as “James the less,” or literally, “little James.”  He was a preacher, a teacher, a baptizer, and a miracle-worker who died in faith.

Thaddaeus

Matthew tells us that this man’s name was Lebbaeus, and that his surname was Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3).  In Luke’s lists, he is called “Judas, [the brother/son] of James” (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13).  The best way to understand it is that his father was named James (because the phrase “of James” is identical in form to “of Zebedee” and “of Alphaeus,” and in both of those instances it is translated “son of…”).  It is possible, then, that Thaddeaus was the son of James the Less (who was mentioned immediately before him).  In order to make sure that he was distinguished from the Judas who betrayed Jesus, John called him “Judas…not Iscariot” (John 14:22).

Simon the Canaanite

This man was a political revolutionary, described by Luke as “Simon Zelotes,” or “Simon the Zealot” (Acts 1:13, Luke 6:15).  The Zealots were very much opposed to the removal of Jewish customs, and to the taxation from the Roman government, and desired to overthrow them—oftentimes by murder.  Simon changed his allegiance from Jewish nationalism to the real Kingdom of God, headed by Jesus the Messiah.  And this disciple stayed faithful unto death, and was a partaker of the promised “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him

Mark doesn’t give any misdirection or mystery when it comes to Judas: he introduces him to his readers as the betrayer, the one not to be trusted.  At the time he was chosen, he was a willing and faithful disciple of Jesus, but he was still human, and gave in to the doubts, temptations, and greed that led to his betrayal of the Lord.  This is why Luke 6:16 says that Judas “became a traitor” (ASV) or “turned traitor.”  The name “Iscariot” is generally thought to mean “of Karioth,” a city in Judah, though some have suggested it means “man of Issachar,” or that it is from a Greek word meaning “Dagger carrier,” describing some of the murderous assassins that whose work eventually brought the Roman army in to destroy Jerusalem.

The Bible tells us plainly that Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas was the one who would betray Him.  John 6:64 says “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that did not believe, and who should betray Him.”  And just a few verses later, Jesus said, “Have I not chosen you twelve? And out of you, one is a devil!” (John 6:70).

And they went into a house

From the mountain to the house, these newly-chosen men go.  This was a most momentous day for all thirteen men (the twelve chosen, plus Jesus).  It was a day of joy, of satisfaction, of nervousness, and for some who weren’t chosen, it might have been a day of disappointment.  But whether they all realized it or not, Jesus had done something that day that still has effects nearly 2,000 years later!

Application

How Will You be Remembered?

To mankind as a whole, and even to Christians specifically, some of the apostles are nothing more than names.  They are remembered for being apostles, disciples of Jesus, but that’s it.  James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot are all men whose works for God are mostly unknown to us today.  Meanwhile, you’ve got Matthew, who is known more for his writing than anything else he did.  Then there’s John, who is known for both his writings and some of his works as an apostle.  And of course, none of us can forget Peter, who is well-remembered for his actions (both pre- and post-resurrection) in addition to his writings.  But, there’s also Judas Iscariot.  No one remembers him at all as the dedicated disciple he once was—but the traitor who he became.

Of course, how man remembers us isn’t as important as how God remembers us.  For example, the twelve apostles (that includes Matthias as the replacement for Judas) all died in faith, and their names are inscribed on the foundation of the heavenly city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-14).  Simon and Thaddaeus are just as important in God’s eyes as Peter and John.  But Judas, by transgression, fell and went to his own place (Acts 1:25).

If we were to ask your friends to describe you, how long—if ever—would it take for the word “Christian” to come up?  Is that what you’re known for?  At all?  If very few (if any) would describe you as a Christian, what does that say about your influence and your example for Jesus Christ?

Now, if God materialized in front of us right now, and began to describe each one of us as HE sees us, would He use the word “saved” or “lost”?

Invitation

On the great day of judgment, there will only be two groups of people: (1) those who are told “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord,” and (2) those who are told, “You wicked and lazy slave!” and who hear the words “cast the unprofitable slave into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Lord remembers what you do here on this earth, whether you obey Him or decide to do your own thing.  He will bring that up at the judgment.  You will have to give an answer.

If your answer is “I believed in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sins; I confessed His name; I was baptized; and I tried to always live for Him,” then you will hear the words “Well done.”  But if your answer leaves any of those out; if your answer is “I believed in Jesus Christ, but that was it”; or if your answer is “I believed in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sins’ I made that confession; and I was even baptized; but I didn’t really live for Him,” then you will hear the words “depart from me.”

The judgment of God is completely up to you—how you live your life here determines what you will hear from the Lord up there.  Why not make certain of your salvation today?

-Bradley Cobb