Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday, June 13 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Kings 11-12; Psalm 118; Romans 1
Today's scripture focus is Luke 6:14.

Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and [a]James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew;

Mainly I'm going to dive into the John MacArthur sermons on this one, because he knows the historical background and I have no intelligent thoughts of my own about this verse. There are 7, yes 7, MacArthur sermons about this ONE VERSE.  3 about Peter, one about Andrew and James, one about John, one about Philip and one about Nathanael, also called Bartholomew.  Whew!  I confess freely, I did not read through them all.

Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Peter, Part 1
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Peter, Part 2
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Peter, Part 3
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Andrew and James
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: John
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Philip
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Nathanael (Bartholomew)

They had varied backgrounds, as I said, in terms of their employment, or their collector, fishermen, etc. They also had varied temperaments. know Peter, we call him the Apostle with the foot-shaped mouth...eager, bold, aggressive, impulsive, very verbal. John on the other hand spoke very little. The first twelve chapters of Acts he and Peter are companions...John never says a thing.
There is Nathanael/Bartholomew, a true believer, openly confessing his faith in Christ. And he's sort of matched up with Thomas who is a skeptic and a doubter and has to have proof for everything.
Simon and Andrew ... were fishermen and they were originally from a small village called Bethsaida, but later moved to Capernaum. Capernaum was the major town on the north tip of the Sea of Galilee. 

We also know about Simon that he had a wife. He was married. We know that because in Luke 4:38 Jesus healed his mother-in-law. We also know it because the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:5 says that Peter on his apostolic mission took his wife, which is a nice thing to do. It may indicate that they didn't have any children. Don't ask me how many children Peter had, the Bible doesn't tell us. We have absolutely no idea whether he had any children or whether he had some, whether they're...they were grown by the time he took his wife along.  That's really all we know about his domestic life.
We also know that his name was Simon Bar-jona.  So his original name was Simon, as typically, Bar--meaning "son of." When someone gets a Barmitzvah they become a son of the law. "Bar" means son of. So his father's name was John or Jonas or Jonah. That's really all we know.
His father probably starting in the fishing business when he was young and that's the way it was for life for him, he thought till he met the Lord. 
So then the sermon goes on for a while about how Simon was also called Peter, a name given him by Jesus, and how it was sort of an indicator of who Jesus wanted Simon to become.  Simon was impulsive, outspoken,  and had a tendency to jump back and forth ("I will never deny you!"  and then he does.  For example.)  So Jesus called Simon "Peter" because Peter means "rock" and Jesus wanted him to learn to become steadfast, be the rock and the foundation of his group of apostles and disciples.   Then it talks about the qualities that Simon Peter had that made him a good choice for a leader:

...the raw material that was in Peter, that kind of inquisitiveness, that kind of initiative, that kind of involvement. He asked all the questions. He was the first guy who tried to charge ahead for whatever responsibility needed to be done and he wanted to be in the middle of everything. That's the stuff that leaders are made of. And so the Lord knew that and He wove it all in the fabric of who he was in his mother's womb. And now when he reaches adulthood, it's time for the Lord to shape it. Frankly, if it's not shaped by the Lord, it could be disastrous. So, two other things have to happen...the right raw material, point two, the Lord has to drag him through the right experiences to shape that raw material...three, the Lord has to give him the right virtues so that that great leadership potential is controlled by virtue. 

From the 3rd sermon on this verse:

These are the character components that were necessary to make Peter the man God wanted him to be, to turn him from Simon into Rock. Peter learned submission, restraint, humility, love, compassion, and courage from the Lord Himself and from the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. And he did become a great leader. He was the one who made the move to replace Judas with Matthias in Acts 1. He was the spokesman of the church at Pentecost, as I told you last time. He along with John healed a lame man. He along with John, as I said, defied the Sanhedrin. He dealt with the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira in the church. He dealt with the problem of Simon the magician, healed Aeneas, raised Dorcas from the dead, took the gospel to the Jews, took the gospel to the Gentiles, wrote the two marvelous epistles, 1 and 2 Peter, in which he repeated, as we've seen, the lessons that he had learned from the Lord about character.

Is that impressive or what?  Jesus took an ordinary guy, a fisherman, an outspoken, opinionated, insert-foot-in-mouth kinda guy and turned him into the leader, the rock of the early Christian church.  Doesn't that make you feel better?  Did Peter become perfect?  No.  He still messed up, just like we do.  But man, what a transformation!  If God through the power of the Holy Spirit could do all that good work in Peter, can he not do the same in us?

So what we know about Andrew initially is that he was a follower of John the Baptist. That tells us that he was listening to John the Baptist preach. 
John was out at the Jordan, you'll remember, preaching as the forerunner of the Messiah. And here we find that Andrew is a follower of John the Baptist, initially. He is one of those among the Israelites who was looking for the consolation of Israel, looking for the coming of Messiah. 
The text goes on to say that Andrew spent some time with Jesus (following Jesus being identified by John the Baptist in the wilderness), spent the rest of that day with Jesus, probably along with Peter, of course, because Jesus identifies Peter for the first time here as Peter. He says, "You are Simon but you're going to be Peter," so here's the very first meeting. 
So, Andrew and Peter meet Jesus. This is Andrew's first encounter. And we learn a little bit about him, a fisherman from Capernaum in Galilee who traveled all the way down the Jordan to hear John preach because he was living in the hope of the coming of Messiah.
After this initial meeting, Peter and Andrew went back to Galilee, went back to Capernaum and continued their fishing career. It is at a later time, months and months later, that Jesus comes to Galilee and He comes to Galilee after a ministry in the south around Jerusalem, Judea where He cleansed the temple and did some other things. He comes, it's probably a year later, to Galilee and He comes across these two brothers again. At the same time, He comes across two other brothers, James and John. All four of them are fishermen in the Sea of Galilee. And the record of that meeting is found in Matthew chapter 4. And in Matthew chapter 4 we read in verse 18, "And walking by the Sea of Galilee Jesus saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter," he was called Peter from the very beginning the first time Jesus had met him, "and Andrew his brother and they were casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen." Which indicates that after the original understanding that Jesus is the Messiah and following Him and spending a day with Him, and I don't know what it was like, you know, they went to where He was staying and spent a day and I'm sure that's the day when they really believed in Him that sealed their eternal destiny...they went back to fishing and that's what they were doing.
But now Jesus finds them again, verse 19, says, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed Him and going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets and He called them and they immediately left the boat and their father and followed Him."
There is a bunch more information there, but in the interests of trying to keep this from becoming a book, I'll just pull one more paragraph:
And yet Andrew did become a preacher. That's what an Apostle did. And he was given power later on to heal diseases and cast out demons because God can make much out of little. Andrew suffered, by the way, for his love to Christ. He suffered for his loyalty to the gospel. Tradition said that Andrew did a very dangerous thing, he led the wife of a provincial governor, a provincial Roman governor to Christ and this infuriated her husband. He demanded that his wife recant her devotion to Jesus Christ and she refused. And so that governor had Andrew crucified. He had him crucified on an X-shaped cross. And whenever you see an X-shaped cross in church tradition, that's a St. Andrew's cross. It subsequently has been linked to him throughout church lore. He is said by the tradition to have been suspended on the cross in agony, excruciating agony for two days, constantly preaching the gospel of salvation to all who passed by for as long as he could speak...always bringing people to Christ.
 James, we know, was a son of a man named Zebedee. Zebedee had a fishing business and James and John were fishermen in that business.
James is more significant, I think, than we at first would consider because we know so very little about him. In two of the lists his name comes after Peter. Some reason to maybe assume from that that he was a very, very strong leader. Also, when the two names of the brothers are together, James and John, James is first...which could indicate that he was older and could indicate that he was the more dominant of the two. James never appears at any time in the gospels apart from John. We don't have any information about James without's James and John, James and John.
James and John, of course, like Peter and Andrew, were privileged to be called in that first calling, along the shore of Galilee that day when Jesus came and pulled them in to that inner circle.
And unlike Andrew, James was in the intimate three. He was there on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was there in the special place in the garden with the Lord praying. He was with that triumvirate that were intimate with Jesus, and yet we know so little about him.
The best way to get a look at James is probably to note that Jesus gave them a name, He called them Boanerges, it means "Sons of thunder." Now when you call somebody a son of thunder, you are defining their personality in very vivid terms. This fits James, zealous, thunderous, passionate, fervent.  
Most of us will remember that James' and John's mother asked Jesus that her sons be on his right and left hand in the coming Kingdom.  Jesus' response?   "You don't know what you're asking for. Being on My right hand and My left, that's having the most prominent place in the Kingdom, is the idea, you don't know what you're asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I'm about to drink?"  
James wanted a crown, Jesus gave him a cup. He wanted power, Jesus gave him servanthood. He wanted to rule, Jesus gave him a sword not to wield, but to be the instrument of his own execution. Fourteen years later, after this, heaven was found by James beneath the shadow of the sword.
Turn to the twelfth chapter of Acts for the end of the story. Here outside the gospels we see him alone, even though he's identified as the brother of John. Now this is very interesting. Chapter 12, "Now about that time, Herod the king," now Herod is very, very furious, irate against the church, the spread of the church, the spread of the gospel. It is starting to effect the pagan world. And Herod laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. He starts to persecute.
And look at verse 2, "He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also." How interesting, there is the triumvirate, Peter, James and John. When Herod wants to stop the growth of the church, who does he kill? Peter? No. John? No. James. By this time James is a force for God. By this time James is spiritual power personified. He killed James, not Peter, the great preacher of the first twelve chapters of Acts, nor John, the companion of Peter who traveled with him. He killed James.
I'm so sorry, this is getting ridiculously long, but I just want to do one more, okay?  Just John.  Philip and Bartholomew, while deserving each of their own sermon, you will have to look into on your own, should you so desire.  I'm thinking I may have to buy MacArthur's book 12 Ordinary Men.  Or listen to the whole sermon series.  This is very interesting stuff.  Anyway, sorry; on to John.


John is familiar to us because of the gospel of John, because of the three epistles of John and because he is the recipient of the apocalypse, the Revelation that ends the New Testament. So we have a lot of information that John has provided for us, revelation would be a better way to term it. He has given us the story of Jesus in his gospel. He has given us three epistles in which the Holy Spirit inspired him to write important matters to the church. And he has given us the visions of Christ that dominate the apocalypse.

Now John, we know, is the brother of James. It doesn't say that here, it just says in verse 14, "James and John," but Luke doesn't need to repeat that because back in chapter 5 he made it very clear in verse 10 that James and John were sons of Zebedee, which makes them brothers. And they were partners with Simon. What you have with these four, Peter, James, John and Andrew, are two sets of brother, Peter and Andrew, and James and John who were in the fishing business together.

Because of John's treatment of himself, because of the way he refers to himself in his gospel, we tend to think of John, and rightly so, as humble. And he became humble. He was eventually humble. He didn't start out that way. But because he's so self-effacing in his gospel, it is assumed by most people that he was always that way, sort of a meek, mild, wimpy, pale-skinned, ashen, effeminate guy...that's the way he shows up in Medieval art. You know, he appears frequently leaning on Jesus' shoulder looking up with a blank dove-eyed stare into space, sort of the passive type. Not even close, folks, not even close.
John did become to some degree humble. John did respond to the shaping ministry of Jesus in his life and learn to love. But he didn't start out that way. He started out, along with his brother James, as a son of thunder. In Mark 3:17 it was Jesus who called them both Boanerges, sons of thunder. John was volatile. John was brash. John was aggressive. John was passionate. John was zealous. John was personally ambitious.
When James was calling down fire from heaven to burn up the Samaritans, John was echoing. It was James and John, there was Andrew, you know, who was quietly bringing people to Jesus and it was James and John who was telling God to burn up all the unbelievers. And when the mother, the wife of Zebedee came to Jesus and said, "I want my boys on the right and the left hand," it wasn't just James there, it was John. John was driven. John was ambitious. John wanted prominence. Believe me, John was in the middle of all the arguments among the Apostles about who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. So don't assume that when it says "James and John," even though James is named first and may have been the stronger of the two and may have been the older of the two, still John was Boanerges just as well.
John, of all the writers of the New Testament, in fact all the writers in the Bible really, is the most black and white. He is the most absolute. He is the one who speaks in certainties. There doesn't seem to be any gray area in John. I like to think that John is black and white without exceptions and Paul is the minister to the exceptions so when you're reading John, you're reading through the gospel of John, you're reading through the epistles of John, you have to go to Paul every once in a while just to find some breathing space...because everything is so cut and dried with John. You read his gospel and you're either in the light or the darkness. It's either life or death, Kingdom of God, kingdom of the devil, children of God, children of Satan.

He was the black and white, absolute, certain man, he spoke the truth unwavering without exceptions. But I have to say, he did so with a warm personal pastoral tone. The Lord had taken that tendency toward conviction and narrowness and an uncompromising attitude and He had tied it to the truth so that John relentlessly adheres to the absolute truth of God.
Somewhere along the line, his ambition that makes a man courageous and confident and bold and zealous and passionate was mellowed. And you never find in any of his writings the slightest hint of pride, the slightest hint of self-aggrandizement, self-exaltation, or ambition. And the best, I think the best insight into that is that in his entire gospel, 21 chapters, John's gospel, he never once uses his name, never. He would have every reason to do so had he chosen, he never does.
Since John was going to be so critical in articulating the truth, the truth of the gospel of John, the life of Christ, the truth of the epistles of John, life in the church, the truth of the book of Revelation, the consummation of the ages, since John was so critical to the truth, it was essential that it be balanced with love. And so the Lord, I think, took on John as a special project and taught him how to love. How do you teach a man how to love? By loving him the way You want him to love. You learn to love by being loved. And so John got it, he gripped it, he was not the man whom Jesus had called, that would have been nice...not the man whom Jesus had chosen, not the man whom Jesus had taught, but the man whom Jesus had loved. And I think Jesus was doing through the whole of His years with John was loving him and loving him and loving him and he got it.
He uses the word "love" over 80 times in his writings, over 80 times. That's why he's become known as the Apostle of love. He learned to love because the Lord loved him and he got that message. He learned to love the way the Lord loved him. Love was a critical part of John's teaching. It's one of the dominant themes. And his love never slid into tolerant sentimentality, masquerading as love. To the very end of his life he was still a son of thunder. To the very end of his life he lost none of his intolerance for lies. It was near the end of his life in the nineties, from ninety to ninety-five of the first century, he died in 98 or so, he wrote the Revelation in 96, it was in the 90's when he was writing his epistles that he was still thundering out the truth...thundering out the truth. Thundered against errant Christologies, he thundered against lies and deceptions and he thundered against sin and he thundered against immorality. He was a son of thunder to the end.
Many tributes have been made to John's teaching, as to its truth and love. And they are justified. In the first chapters of Acts, John added his love and his proclamation of the truth to Peter in the founding of the church. Many, many years later, the end of the first century, when all the other Apostles were dead, he was still building Gentile churches on truth and love. He was the fiery lover of the truth and lover of God and lover of men. He hated what the Lord hated, but he loved whom the Lord loved.
Seventy years of this, he had become the patriarch of the churches in Asia Minor, modern Turkey. He was banished. Revelation 1:9 says, "For the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus is speaking the truth in love was more than the culture could bear, and so they banished him to a small island five miles by ten miles called Patmos."
It's in the Aegean Sea off the west coast of Turkey, I've been there. And he was on that rock in exile because he wouldn't give up the truth and he preached it out of love for God and love for men. Two years after he received the Revelation, around 96 A.D., in the year 98 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Trajan, he died tradition says. And some traditions say he was most remembered because of a constant phrase on his lips, "My little children, love one another." And those who knew him remembered him by greeting one another, "My little children, love one another."
Oh man, I cut SO much out... but this is still super, super long.  Sorry!  But darned if I don't have a tear in my eye right now over John.  
Happy Thursday!
Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 6:15a
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  2 Kings 13-14; Psalm 119; Romans 2.


tammi said...

Haha, it doesn't surprise me in the LEAST that MacArthur has this many sermons on one verse. And this is just a bunch of names ~ I imagine there are probably a few more verses he's gone into even MORE detail with!! I love how he gives life to so many passages where the Bible passage itself really doesn't give us much (if any) of the historical or cultural context. I used to be really annoyed that I had to listen to a full hour just to hear him explain the one verse or phrase I was interested in, but I have grown to really love all the extras!!

I would love to get that "Twelve Ordinary Men" book, too. I have his "Twelve Extraordinary Women" and really liked it.

Tammy said...

i am LOVING this little series on the apostles. I definitely feel like I'm getting to know them, and I can't wait to meet them in heaven!

MacArthur had a nice summary of the first four in his Philip sermon....

Peter was that dynamic, bold, eager, take-charge guy, initiating, confronting, talking a better life than he ever could live, having undo confidence in himself. He acted too hastily, talked too much, failed miserably, was impulsive. He was always the leader, though, always in charge, always the first one, always the representative of the group. And eventually the Lord shaped him into a powerful, powerful forgiven, restored preacher who literally preaches his way through the first twelve chapters of Acts in the establishment of the church among the Jews, and even the first Gentile converts.

And then there was Andrew who lived his whole life in the shadow of his brother, Peter. Andrew, not boisterous like Peter, so different, humble, quiet, gentle, inconspicuous, never seeking prominence, a man who saw not crowds but individuals and every time we see him he's bringing somebody to Jesus.

Then there was James, passionate, zealous, ambitious, judgmental, narrow, sectarian, explosive, competitive whose ambition had to be redirected to the glory of Christ and whose passion had to be rechanneled to the building of the church, not tearing people down. And James eventually became such a stalwart that when Herod wanted to stop the growth of the church, he didn't kill Peter, he killed James.

And then there was the brother of James, John, also a son of thunder, boisterous, explosive, narrow, sectarian. But became known as the Apostle of love because Jesus took on the project of teaching John how to love by loving John till John so much understood that that he always referred to himself the same way, "The Apostle whom Jesus loved." And John is the great example in the New Testament of the balance between truth and love.

I love Andrew. He was the people person, he was the one who was always looking to bring people to Jesus. And so humble. I'm the oldest so I can't really relate, but I can imagine that Andrew was just always in Peter's shadow. And I'm sure, even if that was his personality, that it still got tiring, always playing 2nd fiddle. And Andrew found out about Jesus first. I wonder if he was tempted to keep Peter out of it and enjoy the experience without being in his brother's shadow for once. But he doesn't. He doesn't. He brings Peter to Jesus. Because that's his heart. Love it.

Miriam said...

I am loving learning about the apostles as well. They've always seemed kind of like those flannel-board characters from Sunday School -- two-dimensional. It's nice to learn more about what kind of personalities they had, even if much of it is inferred.

Tammy said...

Philip - interesting to know that he was from the same town as Peter and Andrew, likely also knew James and John. And he may have also been a fisherman - when Peter gets discouraged after the resurrection and he takes the disciples back to fishing, Philip goes too.

He was the first disciple Jesus sought out and chose. And Philip accepted Him as Messiah immediately, and went to get Nathanael/Bartholomew right away. From the feeding of the five thousand MacArthur infers...
We found Philip to be skeptical, kind of the group bean counter. He wasn't too strong in faith with regard to the supernatural, tended to deal with material things, had to see it, wanted it in his hands. He was the one who was analytical, pessimistic, reluctant, unsure, slow to believe and trust. His faith tended to be limited by circumstances, money, rules and proof. But in the end, God by His grace overcame all of that in him and he became a great Apostle, ultimately dying, as we saw, as a martyr.

When Philip told Nathanael about Jesus of Nazareth, we see by Nathanael's reaction ("Can anything good come from Nazareth?!") that he was, at least to some extent, prejudiced. That's not a rational reaction, it's an emotional one. And Philip just said "Come see". And he did. And when Jesus saw him coming he said "Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile". A true, genuine Israelite of the heart, in whom is no deceit. To hear that at the end of your life when you go meet Jesus - that will be amazing. But to hear it at the beginning, from Jesus himself? Wow! Jesus knew Nathanael was a man who worshiped the true and living God, who was waiting for the Messiah and who would follow Him.

And when Nathanael sees Jesus' omniscience, he knows exactly who Jesus is - the Son of God, the King of Israel, and he believes. Hook, line and sinker. Everything that comes after just strengthens his faith. But he's in. Love it!