“Follow me”

Jesus never intended that his mission to the world be one of solitude. If he had been independent and worked by himself, what would have happened when he was executed? The intention was to always have others working with him. To that end we find him gathering a group of men to train after returning to Galilee from the time spent in the Judean wilderness after being tempted for forty days by the devil following his baptism. Continue reading ““Follow me””

Satan’s Catspaw

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23, ESV)

Peter is the only disciple who was called “Satan” by Jesus. It was the strongest rebuke ever uttered by the Lord to any of the twelve – Judas included.

Moments after Peter was commended for his confession of Jesus as the Christ of God, he was being rebuked for insisting that Jesus need not die in Jerusalem. It was an echo of the temptations Jesus endured from Satan himself (Matthew 4:1-4).

Like Peter, Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God. Like Satan, Peter encouraged Jesus to avoid the cross. Peter had become “Satan’s catspaw” (Robertson).

Continue reading “Satan’s Catspaw”

All people are acceptable to God

For around ten years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the first Christians were active in telling others about Jesus, but only to Jews. On the Day of Pentecost Peter had stated quite plainly that the good news of Jesus was “for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself” (Acts 2:39 NET). It was for the Jews (you and your children) and for the Gentiles (all who are far away). (In the Jewish way of thinking, they were near to God and everyone else, who were Gentiles, were far away from God.)

Although Samaritans had also been taught and had accepted the message of Jesus (see Acts 8), they were still partly of a Jewish background. Those who had no Jewish connection had yet to hear about forgiveness through Jesus. Continue reading “All people are acceptable to God”

Why Peter failed, and Jesus didn’t

Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38, NASB)

Jesus’ ordeal on the cross was not only extremely painful, it was humiliating. It was not only a punishment for the offender, it also served as a warning to onlookers. It was a calculated, gruesome spectacle.

But there was more than the physical agony and shame (Heb. 12:2) of the cross. Jesus’ succumbed to the physical torture of the cross, but the anticipation in the Garden brought him to the brink.

I was reminded recently that it was here, in the Gethsemane Garden, that Jesus’ victory was practically won. How?

With no risk of oversimplifying: it was prayer.

Jesus poured out his soul to his Father, proclaiming his utter inability to carry out this mission without God’s help (Luke 22:39-46). It seems to me that, without this bold and immeasurably humble concession, undoubtedly, the humanity of Jesus would have failed this hour.

In striking contrast, we have no such prayers recorded from Peter that night. Jesus even warned Peter of Satan’s intention to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31-32). Perhaps Peter did not take this seriously.

Jesus called upon God for Peter’s strength; Peter called upon himself for strength (Luke 22:33).

While Jesus prayed with heavy heart, Peter slept with heavy eyes (Matthew 26:42).

Jesus confessed his weakness to God in the Garden; Peter denied his Lord in the courtyard (Luke 22:54-62).

Jesus: regular prayer, and continual reliance on God (Matthew 26:52-54).

Peter: no known prayer, and perpetual reliance on self (Matthew 26:51).

The outcomes should not be surprising.

Will we fare differently?

Finally, think on this: the Lord attained our salvation largely because of the value he placed on prayer.

May we all learn this lesson well.

Unworthy, but worth it

If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me (John 13:8)

I was adopted when I was about 18 months old. Was I worthy of that? How could I be? How could I have earned such an act?

Peter felt unworthy to have Jesus wash his feet. It was completely out of order for Jesus to stoop down and wash Peter’s feet. Peter was unworthy.

Jesus did it anyway. He even warned Peter not to refuse him. Continue reading “Unworthy, but worth it”

Listen to him!

The sight of the three greatest men of God on a mountaintop must have been awe inspiring at least.

Simon Peter was so overcome with the sight that he wanted to build a shelter or shrine for Moses, Elijah and Jesus and asked the Lord’s permission. Before the disciple could utter another word he was interrupted. A “bright cloud overshadowed them,” and a voice was heard from the cloud. The voice said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5 NASB). The sound of the voice was so alarming Peter, James and John fell to the ground afraid. Continue reading “Listen to him!”

Speak a good word for Jesus

One day John was standing with two of his disciples. They saw Jesus walk past, and John said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35-36 NET). This incident took place after John immersed Jesus and after Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness. The previous day John had seen Jesus and identified him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and “the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29, 34). If these two disciples had not been with John the previous day it seems that they had at least heard what he had said.

“When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus” (John 1:37). These were disciples of John. They had been travelling around with John as John preached and baptised. They would have been aware that John had identified himself as “the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’” (John 1:23). He was the one to prepare the way for the Messiah. And now he had identified to them who the Messiah was. No wonder they were willing to leave John and begin to follow Jesus. Continue reading “Speak a good word for Jesus”

Who was Jesus?

It is hard for us, living in the age of technology, to relate to those in the past who did not have access to the instant information that we have. What would it have been like if it had taken weeks or even months to learn about 9/11? What if presidential results weren’t known for weeks and as far as listening to and analyzing the candidates debates, that would only be possible if you happened to be in town for the debate. Continue reading “Who was Jesus?”

More of the rest of Paul’s story

As I was growing up in the United States, I loved listening to Paul Harvey on the radio, and in particular his telling you “the rest of the story.” It was always good to hear what else happened that usually you had never realized.

When you read through the book of Acts, you quickly discover that there are sections of the early history of the Christians that are left out. Even in the life of the apostle Paul, we discover some gaps, in particular at the beginning (after he became a Christian) and at the end (after we presume he was released from house arrest in Acts 28). Isn’t it nice that Paul himself filled in some of this gap by recording some incidents from his life and work as he defended himself against unjust criticism from the Galatians. Here is some of “the rest of the story” of the apostle Paul.

When we read the end of Acts 9, we get the impression that very soon after he became a Christian Paul returned to Jerusalem. Luke simply said that he stayed “for several days…with the disciples in Damascus” (Acts 9:19 NET). When we are reading Galatians 1 we discover that it was three years before he went back to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). He wrote, “nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus” (Galatians 1:17).

Paul’s point in Galatians 1 was that he was not taught the gospel from anyone, but that he received it directly from Jesus. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). It would seem that it was while he was in Arabia for three years that he was taught by Jesus.

His visit to Jerusalem three years later would coincide with the visit that Luke recorded at the end of Acts 9, when he escaped Damascus in a basket. “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:18-19). This would be the visit where the Christians were afraid of him until Barnabas introduced him to the apostles, apparently specifically to Peter.

While in Jerusalem Paul spent time debating with the Greek-speaking Jews. When they decided to kill him, Paul was sent by the Christians to Caesarea and then to Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30). This would coincide with what Paul recorded at the end of Galatians 1:21-24.

The visit to Jerusalem fourteen years later, at the beginning of Galatians 2, would coincide with the visit recorded in Acts 15. The subject matter and the timeframe fit perfectly.

The last incident recorded in Galatians is when Peter arrived in Antioch and Paul “opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong” (Galatians 2:11) in refusing to eat with Gentile Christians. This would have taken place at the end of Acts 15. This seems to be the correct time as Paul and Barnabas had not yet split up and they were both together in Antioch, making this about the only time this could have occurred. It would seem that Peter came down to Antioch from Jerusalem to see how the letter had been received.

And this is at least some of the rest of Paul’s story, as supplied in Galatians 1-2. We can piece together more of the end of his life when we read 2 Timothy and Titus.

Readings for next week:
4 April – Mark 1
5 April – Mark 2
6 April – Mark 3
7 April – Mark 4
8 April – Mark 5