Saturday, February 22, 2020

200223 Building the Fellowship

We saw in last week’s message Jesus leading his disciples to Capernaum and demonstrating his authority over unclean spirits. Also, he demonstrated his willingness to minister to people on the Sabbath.
He left the synagogue that day and went to Bethsaida. I believe that to be correct because they entered the house of Simon and Andrew which, according to John, was located in that village.
When they entered the house they found that Peter’s mother-in-law was very sick. Jesus rebuked the fever and she was so perfectly healed that she began immediately to take care of her guests. (Luke 4:38-39).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the account of choosing the fellowship of twelve who are called “Apostles”! In fact, these three Gospels contain many of the same stories. However, they are not always in the same order. So, today I will try to harmonize the three accounts enough for us to understand something about God’s purpose. Luke’s account tells us that Jesus spent the entire night in prayer before he chose the twelve. I have no doubt that he might have spent many nights alone with the Father. But the Bible doesn’t say exactly that. In fact, Luke tells us there were times when Jesus prayed alone even though he had disciples with him. (Luke 9:18) Jesus’ prayer life was certainly much higher than that of his disciples (or ours) because of his unique relationship to the Father. I can’t imagine Jesus calling on Peter (or me) to pray. Luke tells us that the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray! (Luke 11:1) They must’ve recognized that all of Jesus’ other powers grew out of his prayer life. I believe we too must recognize the power of prayer and exercise it carefully and regularly. Now let’s look at Mark’s account.
Mark 3:13-20 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
It seems that going alone in the evening to some high ground might have been Jesus’ choice of the time and place to pray. It could be as simple as the crowd was not surrounding him in the evening allowing him time to be alone with the Father.
This time, Luke tells us that Jesus went to the mountain to pray. After this all-night prayer meeting, he called a group of disciples to come to him. We don’t know how many there were. We do know that from that group he chose the fellowship that would be called “Apostles”.
After having prayed all night he appointed twelve as Apostles. Today, we would be more inclined to appoint people all night after praying for a few minutes.
Jesus prayed all night and after spending the night with the Father he could appoint twelve to fill the new role of Apostle. After training, these men would be used by God to speak and write words some of which became the “words of God”. These men would exercise authority that is unknown today. Among the dozen men Matthew, John, and Peter would write material that would be included in the Bible.
Let’s look back at Mark’s words. The book does not name an author. Tradition tells us that Mark, who’s other name was John, was the author and that he may have based his gospel on Peter’s preaching. Mark tells us that Jesus chose the ones he desired. And having chosen them his purpose for them was threefold. First, that they might be with him. Second, that he might send them out to preach. Third, they would have the authority to cast out demons!
Oh to be in a group that Jesus desired. Wait! if we are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ he desired us enough to die for us. I find that hard to comprehend. That he would choose to die for our sins. Certainly not for my sin! Yet it is true if we put our faith in Jesus Christ it is because he desired us to be part of his fellowship. But not the Fellowship of the Twelve!
There are four lists of the names of Apostles in the Bible. They are contained in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts.
There is one thing that is common to all four accounts. The lists all begin with Peter and John and James and Andrew. It is believed that John, the brother of James was the youngest of the Fellowship. We have no way of knowing who the oldest might have been. We do know that these four were present at most of the important events in Jesus’ ministry.
We know that there were two sets of brothers Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John. There may have been a third pair. James the son of Alphaeus and Levi the son of Alphaeus who was also named Matthew. (Mark 2:14; 3:18). Half the Fellowship was related by blood! When someone meets the Messiah, for example, Andrew and John were introduced by John the Baptist to Jesus. As quickly as they possibly could they hurried to find Simon Peter, Andrew’s brother, and James who was John’s brother. This demonstrates to me that very often the first persons we are spiritually concerned about are family members. Or consider the case of Nathaniel who was the first person Philip spoke to after coming to faith in Jesus. Philip had been a neighbor to Andrew and Simon Peter in Bethsaida.
Why are we not encouraged to be eagerly telling family and friends we have found the Messiah? That certainly was the pattern of the first church. Only after witnessing to family and friends did the early followers of Jesus turn to the larger circle of neighbors!
Now Peter was not the first to be chosen but he was often the first in line and the first to speak up even if it was inappropriate. He was introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew. Apparently, Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, returned to their fishing jobs immediately after meeting Jesus. True, they were not yet appointed as apostles. They would be part of a larger group usually referred to as disciples. As he walked along the shore Jesus called them to follow him. Note, not a single one of the twelve was called from Bible school. (Luke 5:1-11)
Luke points out the fishermen had been drawing their nets all night and they took nothing! Remember, these were professional fishermen. I doubt very seriously that they ever fished all night and took nothing until this night. Jesus told Peter to move out into the deep water and let down his net. When he did the net filled with fish. Of course, it filled with fish they had been moved away from the net all night. Possibly (I’m guessing now) angels had been busy setting the scene so that the boats would be filled at Jesus’ command. Looking at the catch that day Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” When they brought their catch to land those fishermen left everything and followed him!
All three synoptic Gospels record this event and include similar wording. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” His goal for them is not to be net-filled fishermen but to be fishers of men! Let me be clear — there’s nothing wrong with being a fisherman unless you’ve been told to be a fisher of men. In that case, all resources should be directed at bringing men and women to faith in Jesus. After all, fishing might be included in witnessing.  
Let’s look at Simon Peter and his relationship with Jesus over the next three years.
After he appointed the twelve Jesus gave them instruction and sent them to teach, preach, and heal (Matthew 11:1; Mark 6:12-13; Luke 9:1-6). Peter would have, of course, been part of that group.
While John the Baptist was being imprisoned and executed Jesus carried on his ministry followed by large crowds and his apostles. One of the first events they saw after they came back from their preaching assignment was a great crowd gathered around Jesus. This was a crowd that had no catering trucks or hotdog vendors. When it was brought to Jesus’ attention that they were hungry he said, “You give them something to eat”. They were amazed! It would take an amount of money equal to a year’s wages for a laborer to feed that crowd! Jesus’ question was “How many loaves do you have?” They came back and said, “Five, and two fish.” When John recalled the event (John 6:8-9) he remembered that a boy had come with his lunch to offer to help feed the crowd. That boy went first to Andrew who then took this lunch to Jesus knowing it was impossible to feed the crowds. That lunch was five barley loaves and two fish. Barley was the cheapest kind of bread available.
After feeding a crowd of 5,000 men -- plus women and children. There were 12 baskets full of leftover bread. The crowd immediately identified him as the Messiah. They would make him king. If he remained with them. In order to get away, he withdrew to the mountain alone.
(Matthew 14:22-32) He first sent his disciples across the lake to Bethsaida. Jesus went up on the mountain to pray since he was alone there was no one with him to record what he prayed. I believe I know. He was praying up a storm. Peter and his crew, in the meantime, were struggling against a storm and were about to lose the ship.
Jesus came to them walking on the water. When he spoke to them they knew who he was. Peter hears his voice and said, “command me to come to you on the water”. So, Jesus said, “Come”. And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. Suddenly, Peter knew what he was doing was impossible and he began to sink. Jesus took him by the hand and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt? We are usually pretty critical of Peter because he failed the test. I say to you he did not fail because he walked back to the boat on the water. When they reached the boat the wind immediately stopped and they were at their destination. Time will not allow us to tell all that the Bible records about Peter. Let me take you to one more story.
Matthew 16 beginning with verse 12 is one of the places where Peter really shines. Jesus asked, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” They said one thing and then the other and then Peter spoke: “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God”. “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
This passage is often used by the Roman Catholics to claim that Jesus said that the church would be built on Peter! Actually, this does not say that. The Greek word for “Peter” is “petros” meaning a rock. The word used when Jesus said, “and on this rock” is the Greek word “petras” meaning a massive ledge of rock. The two words sound similar but do not mean the same thing. I believe Peter’s confession “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God” is the rock on which the church is built!
Then Jesus began to explain that he would be crucified and raised again on the third day! And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.
The man who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah was also the man who, just afterward, said “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Three times Jesus said that he would die and be raised again. Luke tells us that they did not understand.
Often we find ourselves in the same situation. We are so wrapped up in this world that we do not understand when God reveals to us His will for our lives.
We have all sinned and are separated from God. The pay for our sin is spiritual death! But, the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. So, if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved!
 All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

200216 Establishing His Authority

Jesus began to gather his disciples. He was introduced to Andrew and John beside the Jordan River where John the Baptist was preaching. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). When Jesus saw Simon he gave him a new name “Peter” in Greek, or “Cephas” in Aramaic! The new name means “rock”. Throughout the New Testament, these names are interchangeable. After finding Peter and calling him to the fellowship they went on to find Philip who found Nathaniel and brought him into the fellowship. Traveling north from the Jordan riverbank they paused in Cana, attended a wedding, and produced the best wine to be served that day.
They returned to Jerusalem where Jesus cleansed His Father’s house the first time. This appears to have happened at the first Passover Jesus observed with his disciples. So far as we can tell he observed four Passovers with his disciples.
At the same time, Jesus met with Nicodemus and set him on the right path to salvation. John, the disciple, who wrote the gospel, recorded these events. John recalled and recorded perhaps the most famous Scripture quotation, (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
After the meeting with Nicodemus Jesus and his disciples again traveled north. Along the way, Jesus had to pass through Samaria. There he had an encounter with a woman at a well. He asked her for a drink of water and led her through a conversation causing her to be convinced that he was the Messiah. She took the message back into her village and Jesus remained there two more days. He had many followers in Samaria when he left.
Continuing north Jesus returned to Cana where he turned the water into wine and there he healed the son of a government official. Apparently, at the same time, he stopped by Nazareth and was rejected by the people there. Now we find him again moving north.
We will look at Mark’s description of the next events. Luke also records the same material almost word for word. For some reason, Matthew and John do not tell this story. Let’s read it all and then come back and look at these verses one at a time.
Mark 1:21-28 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
They went into Capernaum. It’s located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and it became Jesus’ home and headquarters. Later Mark will refer to Capernaum as Jesus being “at home” there! Why did he choose Capernaum? He could have used Jerusalem as his base but it was controlled by the Romans in an uneasy alliance with the scribes and Pharisees. He could have used Nazareth, his hometown, but the people there refused him. Capernaum was perfect for Jesus because it was a crossroads of business and travel. His first disciples Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John apparently had homes there so he had a place to rest and teach.
Immediately, on the Sabbath, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. We should remember Luke’s account of his rejection in Nazareth. If you want to get into the details of that look at Luke 4:16-30! In Nazareth he entered the synagogue “as was his custom”, read the Scripture, and assured the crowd that the reading taken from Isaiah was fulfilled in him! That resulted in the crowd attempting to kill him!
They were astonished at his teaching. They were accustomed to being taught by people who simply quoted the writings of past teachers. Jesus spoke as one who had authority! Remember when he did the same in Nazareth the crowd tried to kill him! They did not believe that the carpenter’s son, now the carpenter, could have this ability since he had not been trained to teach.
Just as they began to question his right to teach a perfect example appeared on the scene. “Immediately” Mark tells us there was a man with an unclean spirit. There were individuals who dealt with exorcism in the days of Jesus just as there are today. These people had never seen the direct confrontation Jesus was about to carry out in front of them. The scribes and teachers that the people were accustomed to had mastered the Torah and the traditional interpretations. According to Mark, the scribes were Jesus’ fiercest opponents who cried out for him to be crucified. Human opposition to Jesus was based on politics and power. If Jesus continued to gather the crowds he would be able to put them out of office. The scribes and Pharisees were forced into an alliance with the Herodians and the Sadducees. This combination then had to work with the Romans.
Not too long before this, Jesus had a direct confrontation with Satan in the
wilderness. Of course, Jesus was not going to give in to Satan. It appears that Satan never fully understood that Jesus was in charge! When we read the accounts of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness Satan must have believed that he could win. After hundreds of years during which demonic forces seemed to rule, Jesus came into their world teaching, healing and casting out demons. The people were amazed. Scripture is very clear that Satan seemed to have free reign over the world before Jesus came. One of the charges brought against Jesus was that he cast out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus carefully explained the situation to the Pharisees. No kingdom can stand that is divided against itself. Jesus asked the question, “How can someone enter a strong man’s house unless he disables the owner first?”
In this case, the strong man was Satan and Jesus had disabled him in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11; 12:25-29).
When Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum he was immediately confronted by a man with an unclean spirit. Even though the people were not aware of who Jesus was, the demons understood immediately. We understand that from the fact that the unclean spirit screamed: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Note that the pronoun is plural “us” rather than singular “me”. Though the man had the vocal cords the demon had control of what was said. The demon, and his host, felt threatened. And he had every right to be threatened. Jesus had authority over Satan and his crowd. He still does! Nothing can be done without God’s permission.
A clear example of Satan’s subservience to God is found in the first two chapters of the book of Job. Satan could only observe Job. He could not take action against him until God allowed it. And then Satan could only do what God allowed.
Later James, our Lord’s brother in the flesh, would write that the demons believe — and shudder! (James 2:19) and that demons can be resisted by Christians. James 4:7 tells us “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The demons tremor before the authority of God. After all, they had been present at the creation of the universe. In the beginning, they were angels and they rebelled along with Satan.
As we saw before, Satan tried to get Jesus to sin and fail in his mission as Messiah. Satan and his demons use lies, he is the father of liars. Our spiritual enemy will use deception and any destructive activity to cause people to turn away from God and destroy themselves. According to Jesus’ description. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
That day in Capernaum the demon knew who Jesus was. The demon’s knowledge was greater than any human could have been. They had no doubt of his ability to destroy them. Jesus’ response was “Be silent, and come out of him!”
Except for the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness we have no record of Jesus ever entering into a debate with Satan or any of his demons. There is no record anywhere in the Bible instructing us to enter into such a debate. Let’s stick with James’s plan of operation. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8).
Sometimes, Christian teachers will quote the center of this passage. “Resist the devil”! Without explaining that instruction is surrounded by “Submit… To God” and “Draw near to God.” Having entered into a faith relationship with God we have the power to overcome our enemy. Both Peter and James encourage all Christians to “resist” the devil. Paul encourages believers to put on spiritual armor and prepare for spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20).
The crowd in the synagogue that Sabbath probably personally knew the man with the unclean spirit since he was “immediately” in the synagogue. The unclean spirit was in “attack mode” and demanded what Jesus intended to do. Obviously, Jesus did not want this confrontation to appear to be on equal grounds between him and the demon. Rather than debate the demon Jesus ordered him to shut up!
Immediately, the unclean spirit came out of the man causing him to have convulsions. The evil spirit shouted with a loud voice and came out of him. The people were amazed! They had never seen that kind of authority in any man. At once the story spread house to house and village to village throughout Galilee. They believed that what they had seen was of God. We see the follow-up of people putting their trust in Jesus. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Have you believed in him? This could be your day!
 All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.