Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved–The Life of the Apostle John (Part 1)

Like his brother James, John was a son of Zebedee and a first-cousin of Jesus Christ.1  It is perhaps because of a close family relationship that John identifies himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”2 in his account of the gospel.

John as a Disciple

There is no clear, definitive evidence showing when John first began to follow the Lord.  But it is very possible that we see it in John 1:

The next day after, John [the immerser] stood, and two of his disciples; and looking on Jesus as He walked, he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.  Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and says to them, “What are you seeking?”  They say to Him, “Rabbi,” (which is to say, being interpreted, “Master”) “where are you staying?”  He says to them, “Come and see.”  They came and saw where He was staying, and stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two which heard John [the immerser] and followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.3

Apparently out of humility, the apostle John never once mentions himself by name in his gospel account.  With one exception, he always refers to himself in this book as a “disciple.”4  So it should come as no surprise if this nameless disciple, who was among the very first to follow Jesus, was in fact the apostle John.5

Assuming this to be the case, it is possible that John then went and found his brother James and brought him to Jesus as well.6  Then, John would have been present with his cousin Jesus and his aunt Mary at the marriage in Cana,7 and would have traveled with his cousins to Capernaum afterwards,8  then to Jerusalem where Jesus cast out the money-changers,9 and into Judea where John would have helped in baptizing people.10  Upon returning to Galilee, John apparently went back to his fishing business along with his brother James and their friends Peter and Andrew.

It was back in Capernaum some time later that John and his brother saw Jesus in the synagogue, teaching with authority and casting out a demon.  Afterwards, he accompanied Jesus to Andrew and Peter’s house, where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick.  After Jesus healed her, John almost certainly engaged in religious discussion with Jesus (as would Peter, Andrew, and James as well).  Some time later, John was with James, working on their fishing nets, when Jesus began to teach by the Lake of Gennesaret.11  Jesus got in Simon’s ship and after teaching, told Peter to let down his net; the net became so full of fish that Peter called for John and James to come help bring in the catch.  It is after this that Jesus called both John and James to follow Him, which they did, leaving their father Zebedee with the hired servants in the ship.12

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 This fact would also mean that he was the first cousin of James (the Lord’s brother) and Jude.  See the previous chapter for how this relationship is taught in the Scriptures.

2 This statement is found in John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20.

3 John 1:35-40.

4 The only time where John uses a different descriptive term to identify himself is found in John 21:2, where he refers to himself and his brother by the term “the sons of Zebedee.”  And even in there, he refers to himself as one of the “disciples” (see the previous verse).

5 Hovey says: “But who was the unnamed companion of Andrew? Probably the Evangelist himself. For: (1) the narrative in this place is very particular and graphic, making it probable that the writer was an eye-witness. (2) The writer of such a narrative would have been sure to mention the name of the other disciple, unless there had been some reason for withholding it. (3) The writer of this Gospel never refers to himself by name, and the same feeling which led him to withhold his name elsewhere accounts for his withholding it here.” (Alvah Hovey, Commentary on John, p. 78).  It is the details, even down to the exact time (the tenth hour, aka 4pm) that makes this even more likely.  Such is also the suggestion of Barclay, Albert Barnes, B.W. Johnson, Clarke, Coke, Dummelow, Dake, Gill, Rhoderick Ice, Lange, McGarvey, Robertson, and Vincent (among others).

6 Some have argued that John 1:41, which says that Andrew first went to find his brother Simon, indicates that the other disciple (likely John) also went to find his brother.

7 John 2:1-2.

8 John 2:11-12.

9 John 2:13-23.

10 John 3:22, compare with 4:1-2.

11 This is another name for the Sea of Galilee, which John himself calls the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1).  See James Hasting’s Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels, “Galilee, Sea of.”

 

Keeble, DeHoff, Turner, Baird, Lightfoot, Gatewood and More!!!

There is a wealth of material from great preachers of the past that sit on bookshelves — unused and unread.  Like many of the others, this one deserves your attention!

1957Harding_Cover

 

The whole theme of this lectureship, back when it was still Harding College, was “The New Life in Christ.  And as you’ll see from the speakers and the topics, it was a good one!

We won’t say anything else about it, as we believe the contents speak for themselves.  The link to read it online or to download it to your electronic device of choice is at the bottom.

Special thanks to Ivy Cobb for her proofreading skills.

Contents

  1. THE MEANING OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
    (Cleon Lyles)
  2. GOD — THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE
    (Pat Hardeman)
  3. CHRIST HAS MADE POSSIBLE THE NEW LIFE IN HIM
    (Joe Sanders)
  4. FAITH IN CHRIST
    (Royal H. Bowers)
  5. REPENTANCE FROM PAST SINS
    (Rex A. Turner)
  6. CONFESSING CHRIST
    (Wilburn C. Hill)
  7. BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST
    (Charles Hodge)
  8. PUTTING OFF THE OLD MAN
    (Stephen Eckstein)
  9. PUTTING ON THE NEW MAN
    (Gaston Cogdell)
  10. ALL THINGS BECOME NEW: Continual Growth in The New Life
    (J. Roy Vaughan)
  11. “THE BIBLE—THE PRESENTATION OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST”
    (George W. Bailey)
  12. THE MIND OF CHRIST
    (James O. Baird)
  13. COMPLETE DEDICATION TO CHRIST
    (F. W. Mattox)
  14. “ADD TO YOUR FAITH VIRTUE”
    (Robert D. Bankes)
  15. “ADD TO YOUR VIRTUE KNOWLEDGE”
    (Morris M. Womack)
  16. TEMPERANCE
    (L.L Gieger)
  17. IN YOUR FAITH SUPPLY PATIENCE
    (R.B. Sweet)
  18. TO YOUR PATIENCE GODLINESS
    (Neil R. Lightfoot)
  19. TO YOUR BROTHERLY KINDNESS
    (Olan L. Hicks)
  20. TO YOUR BROTHERLY KINDNESS LOVE
    (James G. Moffett)
  21. THE CHURCH, THE CORPORATE EXPRESSION OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
    (Ruel Lemmons)
  22. EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP AS A MEANS OF SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
    (Paul W. Rotenberry)
  23. FURTHER EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST—LORD’S SUPPER AND GIVING
    (Joseph W. White)
  24. SOME FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: Joy and Peace
    (Gussie Lambert)
  25. LONGSUFFERING, GOODNESS, KINDNESS
    (Jimmy Allen)
  26. FAITHFULNESS, MEEKNESS, AND SELF-CONTROL
    (Emmett Smith)
  27. THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST AND THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE WORLD
    (Otis Gatewood)
  28. POLAND AND RUSSIA
    (R. J. Smith, Jr.)
  29. OUR MISSION WORK IN NORTHERN RHODESIA
    (J. D. Merritt)
  30. OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGERIA
    (Wendell Broom)
  31. THE CAUSE OF CHRIST IN JAPAN
    (Colis Campbell)
  32. THE CHALLENGE OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
    (George W. DeHoff)
  33. THE HOPE OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
    (Marshall Keeble)

We hope you enjoy this great book!

Harding College Lectures (1957)

An Angry Jesus Doing Good

The Text: Mark 3:1-12 – And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.  And they watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day; so that they might accuse Him.  And He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”  And He says to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or to do evil?  To save a life, or to kill?”  But they held their peace.

And having looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for their hardness of hearts, He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.”  And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

And the Pharisees went forth, and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.  But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan, and a great multitude of those around Tyre and Sidon, when they had heard what great things He did, came to Him.

And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him.  Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him in order to touch Him, as many as had plagues.  And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying “You are the Son of God.”  And He strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.

Introduction

The King who has been announcing His coming Kingdom has already conquered some of the knights of the Kingdom of Darkness.  But lately, as He’s trying to prepare people for His impending rule, a group of religious leaders—spokesmen for the way things are—have been growing bolder and bolder in opposing Him.  The King has been relatively patient with them, all things considered, but that ends today.

The Text, part 1 – Getting Jesus Angry (Mark 3:1-5).

When we consider Jesus and His personality, most often we think of His caring, kindness, and compassion.  We think of His helping the helpless, lifting the fallen, caring for the heartbroken.  We don’t usually think of Him staring down a group of people with anger in His eyes—but that is what Mark paints for us in this passage.

He entered again into the synagogue

We mentioned this several lessons ago, but Jesus made it a point to meet in the synagogue each Sabbath Day.  This serves as an example for us: make the time to meet together each week for worship to God.

There was a man there who had a withered hand.

Luke tells us that it was the man’s right hand that was withered (Luke 6:6).  The Greek indicates that he was not born this way, but that it was withered as the result of something else, either a disease or an injury (Vincent’s Word Studies, and Robertson’s Word Pictures).  The word “withered” means that his hand had shriveled up due to a lack of moisture and nutrients, and became completely unusable.

Think about the horrible situation this man must have been in.  In a time when most people did manual labor to support their family, this man couldn’t.  He couldn’t hold the plow, couldn’t hoe the ground, couldn’t hammer nails (you need a hand to hold the nail in place)—he couldn’t even sweep the floor.  Perhaps he had sons who could help with the work to support the family, but we don’t know that for certain.  It’s just as likely that this man was in dire straits, feeling like a failure because he wasn’t able to do what a man is expected to do—provide for his own.

They [the Pharisees] watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day, so that they might accuse Him.

The Pharisees, the ones who have been stirring up trouble, trying to call Jesus into question on seemingly everything He does, sat in the synagogue—not to hear the word of God proclaimed, but because they were trying to find something that they could use against the preacher.  What a horrible attitude to have!

It seems that as irritated with Jesus as the Pharisees were, they knew that they had been beaten in trying to find things to use against Him earlier.  Otherwise, they would have already been satisfied with the evidence they had to accuse Him.  But this, they believed, was the prime opportunity—healing a man must be considered working; therefore it cannot be done on the Sabbath!

Now a quick question: why are you here?  What is it that you are focused on?  Is it on trying to criticize people: the prayer leaders, the song leader, or the preacher?  Or is your focus on worshiping God and trying to be right with Him?  Because the man leading the prayer is going to occasionally mis-speak or stumble over words.  The song leader will sometimes get the song too high or too low or get mixed up on the verses or words.  The preacher, too, will sometimes say the wrong book, chapter, or verse, or will get his words mixed up.  If being critical is what you’re here for, you will find something, because we aren’t perfect.  But by the same token, if you are here to worship God, and have your focus on Him, His will, and on how you can be a better Christian, then you will be blessed by the songs, prayers, and sermons on the Lord’s Day.

He says to the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”

Jesus didn’t do this miracle in a corner, hidden away from everyone else.  He wanted the crowd to see what was about to happen.  Some people might say that this is a contradiction of Jesus’ command to do your alms in secret (Matthew 6:1-4).  But the purpose of Jesus doing this miracle was to cause people to believe in Him and listen to His message.  Whereas, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed His disciples to help people for the sake of helping them, not because it made you look more spiritual, drawing praise from men.

So, He commands the man to stand up.

And He says to them

He’s now turned His attention, for a moment, from the man to the Pharisees, whom He knows are trying to be critical of Him and find something to accuse Him of.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day to do good, or to do evil?”

Jesus isn’t asking them if it’s permissible to do anything on the Sabbath, but presenting to them two options.  All the Pharisees would agree that not everything is forbidden on the Sabbath Day, so that means some things are allowed.  The question to them is: What does the Law allow on the Sabbath—good deeds or evil deeds?  There was nothing they could do to get around this question.  Obviously, the Law never permitted evil to be done, so that wasn’t the answer.

At the same time, as Jesus asks this question, He’s laying some groundwork for what He’s about to do.  He could not perform a miracle, healing this man of his withered hand, except through the power of God.  And if Jesus heals the man, it shows that God approves of doing good on the Sabbath—in other words, it would prove Jesus right and undermine the foundation of the Pharisees’ thinking.

“Is it lawful on the Sabbath Day…to save a life or to kill?”

It was obvious to all that were there, especially when Jesus told the man to stand up, that He planned on healing this poor man.  Jesus began His question to the Pharisees with just a general “is it lawful to do good or to do evil?”  But now He takes His question to the extreme, “Is it lawful to save a life or to kill?”  Most rational people (even among the Pharisees) would admit that it was permissible to save a life (regardless of how much work it would take) on the Sabbath.  The man with the withered hand was a case that certainly fell between simply “doing good” and “saving a life.”  Thus, Jesus proved His point.

But it is also interesting that Jesus proposed to do good on the Sabbath, while the Pharisees were thinking evil, trying to take mental notes so that they could make accusations against Him later.  And after this incident, as we will see momentarily, they started making plans to kill Jesus that very Sabbath.

But they held their peace.

The answer to the question was so clear, so obvious, but they refused to answer because it would incriminate them, their motives, and their teachings.  Just like when Jesus asked them later about the baptism of John, they refused to give an answer because they would look bad either way.

Matthew records Jesus asking another question: “What man will there be among you, that will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath Day, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than sheep?  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath Days” (Matthew 12:11-12).  The Pharisees would absolutely save their sheep on the Sabbath, but they wanted to hold Jesus to a different standard than they were willing to hold themselves.

How often do we see this happen in families, in our jobs, and even in the church?  Look, let’s make this abundantly clear—we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and held to the STANDARD, and that is the Word of God.  If we are faithful to God’s word, then we will be saved, regardless of whether we match up with someone else’s standard or not.  It’s like the preacher who was told by a member, “I don’t have to visit, but you’ll be fired if you don’t.”  And Jesus has some words for people who are like that: “Do not judge [condemn], so that you will not be judged [condemned], for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2).  When you start making demands of others, yet don’t follow them yourself, you are a hypocrite; and at the judgment, you will be judged by God in the same way that you have judged others.

And having looked around at them…

The word here is a form of periblepo, which means not just looking at them, but looking around at them, making sure he looked at every one of them.  And this word doesn’t just express the fact that He looked at them all, but that He looked at each one of them for Himself.  He looked at their faces, confirming what He already knew.  Some probably stubbornly looked at him without a word, while others probably glanced away or looked down so they didn’t have to meet His eyes.

…with anger

Picture the face of Jesus with the scowl, the angry fire in His eyes as He looks at each of these men who had their own disciples, but weren’t willing to answer a relatively simple and obvious question.  Mark tells us exactly what it was that made Jesus angry.

Being grieved because of their hardness of heart

People who were sincere and honestly wrong, Jesus and the apostles had patience with; but the Pharisees weren’t sincere, nor were they honestly wrong (as in simply mistaken).  They were intentionally stubborn, recognizing the truth of what Jesus said, but unwilling to admit it or live by it.  They were more interested in their position as leaders than they were in doing what was right.  They liked the power and weren’t about to give any of it up, even though they were about as ungodly as one can be.

This attitude of stubbornness angered our Lord and Savior then, and brethren, it still angers Him today.  There are members who have the attitude of criticism toward others.  There are members who stubbornly reject commands of Jesus because they simply don’t feel like following them (mostly attitude ones).  And if anyone dares point that out to them, watch out!  My friends, that is the hardness of heart that made Jesus angry—and you do not want the Judge of the world to be angry with you!

He says to the man, “Stretch forth your hand.”  And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other.

After making His point to the Pharisees (and the other people in the room certainly caught it as well), Jesus went ahead and healed the man.  If, as many believe, this man’s hand was withered to the point that his arm was also affected, then Jesus asked him to do something that he hadn’t been able to do in some time, but the man, in faith, tried, and discovered that his hand had been completely healed!  What joy was on that man’s face and in his heart!  What amazement there was among the honest people in that synagogue!  But not everyone was happy…

The Text, part 2 – Getting Angry at Jesus (Mark 3:6)

Jesus got angry with the Pharisees because they were hard-hearted.  The Pharisees, in return, got angry with Jesus.  Why?  Because they couldn’t control His every move.  Because He dared to point out their traditions weren’t Scripture.  Because he wouldn’t cater to their self-centered whims.  And because people were happy with Jesus’ life and work—the Pharisees were losing some of their power over people.

And the Pharisees went forth and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Just how angry were the Pharisees?  They were so angry that they immediately contemplated murder.  They were so angry that Luke describes them as “filled with madness” (Luke 6:11), or perhaps more literally, “filled with insanity.”  They were so angry that they went to their political enemies, seeking to work together to destroy Jesus.  The Herodians were a sect of the Jews who were very enthusiastic supporters of the Roman government, specifically of the Herods who had ruled over them (for Rome) for the previous several decades.

But when you dislike someone and you’re trying to get rid of him, it doesn’t really matter to you how you do it, so long as you can actually get it done.

The Text, part 3 – Continuing to Work (Mark 3:7-12)

Even though Jesus knew what was on the minds of the Pharisees, He didn’t let that stop Him from doing the good that He came to do.  Even when we might be persecuted by Satan and his minions (yes, sometimes that even includes members of the church), we can’t let that stop us from doing the work of God—that’s what Satan wants!

But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him

The Pharisees went out, discussing how to get rid of Jesus.  Meanwhile, Jesus went out, continuing to work for God.  His fame had spread throughout all of Galilee (most of the events in Mark up to this point took place there), and so it’s no surprise that huge numbers came out to see Him and hear Him and ask for healing from Him.

And from Judea

This is the southern portion of the Promised Land, where Jesus had spent some time baptizing people (through His disciples) back in John 3-4.

And from Jerusalem

The people following Jesus were not just the smaller towns and villages of Judea, but some were from the capital city of Jerusalem itself!

And from Idumaea

Idumaea is the land of Edom, descendants of Esau.  About 150-200 years prior to this event, a Jew named John Hyrcanus took over and reigned as king over the Jews.  One of the things he did was force the Edomites to either submit to circumcision and become Jews or die.  So, while these weren’t pure-blooded Jews, they were related, and had been proselytized to Judaism.

And from beyond Jordan

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh took up residence on the eastern side of the Jordan River when they came to the Promised Land.  Even hundreds of years later, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, there were still Israelites that lived there.

And those around Tyre and Sidon

These cities were to the north-west of the Sea of Galilee.  Tyre was destroyed in part by Nebuchadnezzar, and then the job was finished by Alexander the Great.  But there were still Jews that lived in that general area.

A great multitude

There was a great multitude from Galilee, and a great multitude from these other areas, which covers practically the entire area that God had promised to the Israelites in the Old Testament.  This was an enormous group of people coming to Jesus.

When they heard what great things He did, came to Him

They heard about the great works Jesus was doing, and they wanted to come to Him and see for themselves, and to receive some of the same healings.  To an extent, we can look to this as an evangelistic outreach—when we do things for other people, word spreads.

And He spoke to His disciples, so that a small ship should wait on Him, because of the multitude, lest they should thong Him.

There were so many people coming and crowding around Jesus that He needed a way of escape to keep from being thronged—Thayer says the word means pressed like a grape.  It wasn’t Jesus’ time to die, and being crushed to death by His followers didn’t exactly fit with the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Sometimes, we need to get away for a little while.  Sometimes we’ve got so much going on, so many people wanting part of our time, that we need to have a way to get away from it all, our own “small ship,” so to speak.  Because it we don’t, we could find ourselves crushed, and lose our ability to bear fruit for the Lord.

Because He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed on Him to touch Him, as many as had plagues.

Literally, they were rushing on Him, crowding Him, shoving at each other in an effort to get to Him and touch Him, in the hopes that by doing so, their sicknesses would be removed.  They had seen/heard others that were healed, and they wanted it too!

And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him

Matthew 12:15 says that Jesus healed everyone that came to Him, so Mark is probably talking about the demon-possessed people falling down before Jesus because of the demons inside them recognizing Him.  As James tells us, “the demons also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

And they cried, saying, “You are the Son of God.”

These demons must have known that they were about to be cast out, and so they tried to do what they could to hamper Jesus’ work.  If the crowd was close to crushing Jesus to begin with, how much more so do you think it would get if they caught wind that Jesus was not just a man sent by God, but was in fact very the Son of God?

And Jesus strictly charged them that they should not make Him known.

The way it is written in Mark makes it seem like He’s telling the demons not to make Jesus known, but He’s actually talking to the people, the great multitudes that came to Him, whom He healed.  We know this because of Matthew’s account—Jesus healed them all, which would include the demon-possessed people.  Therefore, those demons would have been cast into the abyss (Luke 8:31), and not had the opportunity to make Him known.  Also, in Matthew’s account, the demons aren’t mentioned, and Jesus “charged them [the people who were healed] that they should not make Him known.” (Matthew 12:15-16).

Jesus didn’t want the talk of the miracles to spread even further, because there was already a dangerously-sized crowd mobbing Him.  It was already to the point where everyone was primarily interested in the miracles—not in the message that Jesus had to speak.  Jesus didn’t want that trend to continue and perhaps grow even worse.

It would be, I would think, incredibly difficult to keep it to yourself if you’d been healed, though.  But like some other commands, Jesus still expects us to follow them, even if they are difficult.  That’s why He said the words “Be thou faithful unto death—[even if it means dying]—and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Application

Helping Others Get Back to Work

Jesus had compassion on a man whose physical ailment kept him from being able to work.  It was in His power to fix the problem, to help the man, and so He did.  If we have it within our power to help someone to be able to work, to support themselves and their family, then we ought to also have compassion on them enough to offer that help.  It could be something as simple as giving someone a ride to fill out an application, or making a phone call to a friend who might be looking to hire someone.  But take compassion on those who can’t work.

It’s Okay to be Angry

Jesus was angry, yet He didn’t sin.  His anger stemmed from the sinful attitude of the Pharisees—the religious leaders of the day.  They were continually looking for things to throw at Him—even though those things weren’t sinful.  It made Him angry when their hard-heartedness kept them from admitting the truth.  It made Him angry when they were looking for reasons to criticize Him instead of seeing that God approved of His actions and teachings through the miracles.

As a side note, Jesus also shows that there’s never a wrong time to do good for others.

Invitation

Jesus did a good deed in healing that man, but the greatest thing He ever did was dying on the cross, taking with Him the sins of all of God’s faithful followers.  That sacrifice is meant for me and for you, but only if we come to Jesus in faithful obedience, believing in Him, repenting of our sins, and being baptized.  Then we must continue to grow, staying true to Him, even during the difficult times.  When we mess up as one of God’s children, we come to Him in prayer, seeking forgiveness.  Won’t you come take hold of that precious gift of salvation today?

-Bradley Cobb

Jesus’ Inner Circle: James (Part 4)

The Death of James

James is specifically mentioned just three times after the resurrection of Jesus.  He’s among the apostles who spent all night fishing, catching nothing until Jesus (the next morning) told them to let the net down on the right side of the ship.  Then they caught so many fish, they couldn’t bring the net into the boat.  James was one of the apostles who helped bring the boat to shore, dragging this massive catch with them.  Then Jesus invited James and the others to “come and dine,” which they did.1

Just a matter of days later, James watched as Jesus ascended into heaven after telling all the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit.  He went into an upper room with his fellow-apostles and other disciples where a replacement was chosen for Judas.  Then, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon James and the other apostles, and they all began to preach the word of God in different languages.  No doubt, James spent a large part of that day happily baptizing some of the 3,000 who gladly received the word of God.2

But things didn’t continue on their positive streak.  Saul of Tarsus and the Jewish leaders stirred up the people in antagonism against the church.  Herod the king, who wanted the Jews to like him, began to persecute the church.3  Some of them he arrested,4 and James was among them.  Since James was a leader of the church, Herod had him killed with the sword.5

So ends the life of a man who was Jesus’ cousin, Jesus’ disciple, and Jesus’ friend.

Traditions About James

Since his life ended in AD 42-44, and the Bible records it, there’s not much in the line of traditions about this member of the “inner circle.”  One writing says that “Zebedee was of the house of Levi, and his wife of the house of Judah.  Now, because the father of James loved him greatly, he counted him among the family of his father Levi, and similarly, because the mother of John loved him greatly, she counted him among the family of her father Judah.  And they were surnamed ‘Children of Thunder,’ for they were of both the priestly house and the royal house.”6

A writing that claims to be written by Clement (the man mentioned in Philippians 4:3) records this incident:

But a certain Samaritan, speaking against the people and against God, and asserting that neither are the dead to rise, nor is that worship of God to be maintained which is in Jerusalem, but that Mount Gerizim is to be reverenced, added also this in opposition to us, that our Jesus was not He whom Moses foretold as a Prophet to come into the world. Against him, and another who supported him in what he said, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, strove vigorously; and although they had a command not to enter into their cities, nor to bring the word of preaching to them, yet, lest their discourse, unless it were confined, should hurt the faith of others, they replied so prudently and so powerfully, that they put them to perpetual silence. For James made an oration concerning the resurrection of the dead, with the approbation of all the people; while John showed that if they would abandon the error of Mount Gerizim, they should consequently acknowledge that Jesus was indeed He who, according to the prophecy of Moses, was expected to come; since, indeed, as Moses wrought signs and miracles, so also did Jesus. And there is no doubt but that the likeness of the signs proves Him to be that prophet of whom he said that He should come, ‘like himself.’ Having declared these things, and more to the same effect, they ceased.7

The Acts of James in India says that James and Peter went to preach to the Jews in India, where they healed a blind man, were imprisoned, were released, and converted the people.8

The Martyrdom of James says that the son of Zebedee preached to the diaspora, the twelve tribes who lived outside the Promised Land, convincing them to give their “first-fruits” to the church as opposed to Herod, which then led to the murder of James by Herod.9

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 This incident is recorded in John 21:1-14.

2 These events are recorded in Acts 1 and 2.

3 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18-19, says that this Herod (Herod Agrippa I) was zealous for the Jewish law.  He, like his grandfather, Herod the Great, wanted the Jews to like him.  This is why he persecuted the church, and why he continued when he saw that killing James please the Jews.  See Chuck Northrop’s comments on Acts 12:1-2 in Preaching School Notes (Bible Institute of Missouri) for e-Sword.  Available at TheCobbSix.com.

4 See The NET Bible footnotes on Acts 12:1.

5 Most likely, this means that he was beheaded.

6 See The Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 49.

7 The Recognitions of Clement, Book 1, chapter 57.  This writing is classed among the pseudo-Clementine literature, because its authenticity is rejected by almost all scholars.  It can be found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 92.

8 See The Acts of James in India, in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 295-303.  This work, among other things, seeks to elevate the status of Peter, having James call him “my father” multiple times.

9 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 304-308.  This writing is shown to be a forgery because it is historically inaccurate.  James was killed between AD 42-44, yet The Martyrdom of James claims that James was teaching people not to serve Nero—who was at that point no more than seven years old, and who wouldn’t become emperor for at least another ten years.  See also International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “James.”

Jesus’ Inner Circle: James (Part 3)

James of the “Inner Circle”

The idea of an “inner circle,” a group closer to Jesus than the rest of the apostles, first appears the next time James shows up in the biblical record.  There are three times where Jesus specifically separated James, Peter, and John from the rest of the apostles and had them join Him for an important event.

Jairus’ Daughter Raised

Jesus returned to Galilee where a crowd of people had been waiting for Him,1 and a man named Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, fell to Jesus’ feet and begged Him, “My little daughter lies at the point of death; come and lay your hands on her so that she might be healed; and she will live.”2  Jesus, along with His disciples and a mob of people, followed Jairus towards his house; but then Jesus stopped, turned around, and said, “Who touched me?”3  James looked around at the massive crowd that was “thronging” Jesus, and in effect said, “What do you mean?  Everyone’s touching you!”4  But Jesus saw the woman who had touched the hem of His garment, and told her “Daughter, your faith has made you whole; go in peace, and be whole of your plague.”5

Then someone from Jairus’ house came and said, “Your daughter is dead, why trouble the Teacher anymore?”  Jesus responded by telling Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”6 It is at that point that Jesus hand-picks James, his brother John, and Peter to be the only ones who are permitted to follow Him to the house.  And when they got to the house, finding people weeping and mourning, Jesus told them “Why are you making this noise and weeping?  The damsel didn’t die, but is sleeping.”  When the people mockingly laughed at Jesus, He sent them all out, only allowing James, Peter, John, and the girl’s parents to come into the room and see what He would do.  Then He took the girl by the hand and said, “Maid, arise.”  And she came back to life.  This was followed by a command not to tell anyone what happened.7

The Transfiguration

Some time later, Jesus took James (along with Peter and John) up to a mountain where He prayed.  Then something happened.  Jesus’ face began to shine like the sun,8 and His clothing was white as the light.9  But James, John, and Peter were extremely tired and had fallen asleep while Jesus was praying.  When they woke up, they “saw His glory” and they saw Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus, talking to Him.10  James was silent, but he watched as Peter said to Jesus, “It’s good for us to be here.  If you want, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”11

Then a [bright] cloud overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.  And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, [in whom I am well-pleased]. Listen to Him.”12

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were very afraid.  And Jesus came and touched them, and said, “Arise, and don’t be afraid.”  And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man except Jesus only.13

And as they came down from the mountain, He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen until the Son of man was risen from the dead.  And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.14

On the way down the mountain, James and the other two asked Jesus about the scribes’ contention that Elijah must come first.  After hearing the Lord explain that the scribes were right, but that Elijah had already come, understanding washed over the “inner circle” and they understood that Jesus had reference to John the Immerser.15

Inquiring About the Temple

After Jesus tells His disciples that “There shall not be one stone left upon another that shall not be thrown down,” James (along with Peter, Andrew, and John) ask Him privately, “Tell us, when shall these things be?  And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”16  Jesus proceeds to give them, in some detail, information about the destruction of Jerusalem, including the events leading up to it.17

The Garden of Gethsemane

After the Last Supper, Jesus took the apostles with Him to Gethsemane, and instructed eight of them to “Sit here, while I go and pray [over] there.”  But He took with Him Peter, James, and John, and told just these three men, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.  You wait here and watch with me.”  After going a bit further and praying, Jesus returned to find the inner circle sleeping, and woke them up, saying (primarily to Peter, but also to James and John),18 “What?  Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour?  Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”19

Jesus again went off to pray, and when He returned, they had fallen asleep again.  He said something to them, but then He went back to pray some more.20  After this third time, He told them (perhaps sarcastically), “Sleep on now, and take rest.  Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let’s be going.  Look, He who betrays me is at hand.”21

The Inner Circle

Each time Jesus specifically called Peter, James, and John to come with Him, He had something important in mind.  First was to show His power to raise the dead.  Second was to His transfiguration where His superiority to Moses and Elijah was spoken from heaven.  Third was to watch with Him (apparently to keep an eye out for Judas and the soldiers) while He was deep in prayer. But just moments after this last event, the entire inner circle ran in fear as Jesus was taken prisoner by the band of soldiers led by Judas.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 8:40.

2 Mark 5:21-23.

3 Mark 5:30 shows Jesus turning around and asking this question, but there the quotation is “Who touched my clothes?”  Luke 8:45 gives the quotation as “Who touched me?”  There is no contradiction here, for it is very possible that Jesus said, “Who touched me?  Who touched my clothes?”  Or it could also be that Luke records the exact quote while Mark gives the more exact meaning—since the woman didn’t actually touch Jesus, but touched His clothing.  In both accounts, the disciples asked why Jesus said “Who touched me?”

4 Mark 5:31.  This statement was made by all the disciples, and as is seen a little further in the narrative, James was indeed there.

5 Mark 5:32-34.

6 Mark 5:35-36.  Most translations render it “only believe,” which is a legitimate rendering, but “just believe” carries with it the same meaning and is more in keeping with modern speech.

7 This paragraph is an amalgamation of the accounts given by Luke (8:49-56) and Mark (5:35-43).  Matthew adds that Jesus’ fame spread because of this event (Matthew 9:23-26), probably from the people who had mocked Him just minutes before.

8 Matthew 17:2 is the only account where this description is given.  Luke simply says “His countenance was changed,” which is quite the understatement!

9 Mark 9:3 adds “like as no laundryman on earth can bleach them.”

10 Luke 9:32 is the only place where this information is given to us.  We aren’t told how exactly the three apostles knew that the two additional figures were Moses and Elijah.  Most likely it was due to overhearing part of the conversation that they were having with Jesus.  Perhaps they called each other by name as they talked.

11 It is interesting that with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, God Himself was responsible for their deaths.  God killed Moses on Mt. Nebo, and buried him in Moab (Deuteronomy 34:5-7); God took Elijah in the whirlwind, ending his physical existence (2 Kings 2:11); and God was the one who caused the death of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-23).  Moses was buried, Elijah ascended, and Jesus Christ did both.

12 Luke 9:34-36.  The bracketed material is found in Matthew’s account, Matthew 17:5.

13 Matthew 17-6-8.  Matthew is the only writer to include this information.

14 Mark 9:9-10.  The other writers do not give us the information about Peter, James, and John’s conversation.

15 Mark’s account reveals for us that it was Peter, James, and John who asked this question (see Mark 9:2-13, and put with Matthew 17:9-13), and it wasn’t until after Jesus answered that they came to the other disciples (Mark 9:14, Matthew 17:14).

16 Mark 13:1-4.  That Andrew was part of this company is not surprising, since he was (1) Peter’s brother, and (2) is always joined with the other three in the listings of the apostles.

17 See Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13.

18 Matthew 26:40 shows that Jesus spoke to Peter, but he uses the plural “you” (“ye” in KJV) to show He is referencing the three of them.  It appears that even at this point, Peter was viewed somewhat as a leader among the apostles, for Jesus said this to Him.

19 Matthew 26:36-41.

20 When Mark records this incident, He says that the three men “did not know what to answer Him” the second time He came back (Mark 14:40).

21 Matthew 26:42-46.  That this is possibly sarcasm is seen in that Jesus tells them to “sleep on,” and almost immediately says “rise up.”