Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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

The Denials at the Trials1

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

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

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

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

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

-Bradley S. Cobb

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

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

3 John 18:16.

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

5 Mark 14:69.

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

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

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

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

10 Mark 14:56-59.

11 Mark 14:65.

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

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

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

ApostlesLogoThe Garden of Gethsemane

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

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

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

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

-Bradley S. Cobb

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 John 18:11.

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

9 Luke 22:51.

10 Matthew 26:56.

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

The Denial of Denial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 22:21-23.

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

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

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

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

6 John 13:37.

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

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

9 Luke 22:33.

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

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

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

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

14 Matthew 26:35

15 Matthew 26:56.

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


Simon Peter’s Experiences During the Passion Week

The Cursing of the Fig Tree

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

The Prophecy about Jerusalem

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

The Passover and the Foot-washing

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

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

-Bradley S. Cobb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Mark 14:12; Matthew 26:17.

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

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

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

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

13 John 13:8.

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

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

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


Simon Peter’s Confession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 14:32-33

2 John 6:68-69.

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

4 Matthew 16:16.

5 Matthew 16:17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.”


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)


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.


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!


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