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Now displaying: July, 2015
Jul 24, 2015

Northwest Community Evangelical Free Church

Dave Smith 

THIS Jesus - Jesus, King Over Nature                                                          Study #3 (John 6:1-21)

Introduction: Chronological snobbery…

               You may have heard your friends dismiss the stories of miracles recorded in the Bible. If you have, they may have done so on the basis of the supposed gullibility of ancient peoples.

 

               Your friends may say, “People who lived a long time ago were so gullible they’d believe anything.”

 

               Thanks to C. S. Lewis, we have a term to describe this reason for disbelief. Lewis called it “chronological snobbery.”

 

               The term actually refers to the temptation to believe that all new ideas are better than all old ideas. But the term can easily be applied to a consideration of the miracles we find recorded in the Bible.

 

               Of the miracles, someone might say, “Well, ancient peoples thought that thunderstorms were the result of battles between the gods. We know the science behind storms. Ancient peoples were stupid.”

 

               Or, “Show someone from the first century what a smart phone can do and he’d say, ‘IT’S A MIRACLE!’ because he doesn’t know about cell tower technology and microchips. We know it’s not a miracle because we know that there is science behind it (even if we, personally, don’t understand the science behind it).”

 

               But the argument against belief in the Bible’s miracles on the basis of ancient people’s lack of scientific sophistication breaks down when we note the miracles that are actually recorded.

 

               Among the miracles recorded in the Old Testament, we read of:

·        people with leprosy who suddenly don’t have leprosy anymore;

·        a body of water parting for the Jews to pass through and closing over the Egyptian army;

·        fire falling from heaven and consuming sacrifices on an altar.

 

               Stuff like that. And stuff like that isn’t just incredible for ancient people. It would be incredible for us, too, if we saw it.

 

               The miracles of Jesus are just as miraculous.

 

               If we watched water become wine today, we’d call it a miracle. If a man who had been lame for thirty eight years jumped up and walked after nothing more than a word from Jesus, we’d call that a miracle, too.[1]

 

               This morning we are going to explore a couple more of Jesus’ miracles (what John calls “signs”).

 

               While exploring, we’re going to avoid the mental crime of chronological snobbery. We’ll read these signs carefully to see what they tell us about Jesus and His ways.

 

               First, though, an IOU. I owe you a pastoral apology for a sermon error last week.

               You may recall that last Sunday we explored two of Jesus’ miracles. First, He healed a nobleman’s son in Capernaum (a long-distance healing from Cana) and then He healed a lame man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem.

               If you remember that you may also remember that I said that this was the only example of two miracles appearing back-to-back in the Gospel of John.

               And that is true - except for the two we’ll see today (and any others I have may have forgotten about). Oh well…

By way of review…

               So far in our look at THIS Jesus, we’ve seen three of His “signs.” These signs have all told us something about His power and His mission that we wouldn’t have known without them.

               Turning common water to wine says that He intends to turn you and me into stunning trophies of grace.

               Healing a nobleman’s son AND a lame beggar tells us that He loves the spiritually alert and the superstitious, the morally upright and the not so much, the socially connected and the poor.

               Today’s two signs will tell us something else profound about Jesus’ mission.

               Now, so far in John’s Gospel, Jesus has moved back and forth between the regions of Galilee in the north and Judea in the south, with one brief stopover in the in-between land of Samaria.

               John starts off by telling us the where and the when of Jesus’ next actions.

 

Galilee at Passover: The Where and the When (John 6:1-4)

 

               Geography and chronology (vv. 1, 4)

 

               [1] After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee (or Tiberias)…[4] Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.

 

               The Sea of Galilee[2] was (and is) the predominant geographical feature of that region. For thousands of years, it has been the area’s center for commerce and population.

 

               Most of His disciples were familiar with that region, and with the sea, as well, as several of them were fishermen. Galilee was Jesus’ own boyhood stomping grounds.

 

               Mountains rise from the Sea of Galilee to the east and west, while the Sea itself is much longer, north to south. It is, from all reports, beautiful.

 

               And, John tells us that it was Passover season, not far from the season in which we find ourselves this morning. It is springtime. The weather is warming. Everything is in bloom.

 

               Jesus is right smack in the middle of all of this natural beauty and He is about to be surrounded by large crowds of people.

 

               The company He keeps (vv. 2, 3)

 

               [2] A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. [3] Then Jesus went up on the mountain[3], and there He sat down with His disciples.

 

               His decision to climb a mountain looks a little bit like an evasive maneuver, like He’s trying to get away from the crowds. That is possible, but if that was the case, it was a very unsuccessful attempt, because up the mountain the people came.

 

               Philip was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, and Philip hailed from the village of Bethsaida, a fishing village close to the mountain on the east side of the Sea where they were.

               Jesus turned to Philip and asked a question that pointed out a problem caused by this approaching crowd.

 

The Feeding of the Five Thousand (vv. 5-15)

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (vv. 5-9)

 

               Jesus and Philip (vv. 5-7)

 

               [5] Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”

 

               If anybody knew where was the closest HEB or Taco Cabana to find some good food, quick, for the hungry crowd, it would be Philip.

 

               Now I believe that Jesus asked this question of Philip early in the day, while the crowd was just arriving. He is planting in Philip’s mind the fact that the growing crowds represent a growing crisis.

 

               The people will be with them all day long. There will be hours of teaching and healing before any action is taken to address the lack of food.

 

               Philip hears Jesus loud and clear with an assessment of the resources it would take to feed a crowd this large.

 

               [7] Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”

 

               That’s a lot of money - and they didn’t have anywhere near that much money. Philip knew that no matter how they sliced it, they didn’t have the resources to feed this many people.[4]

 

               Then, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, contributes to the conversation, but his comment is a throwaway. Even as the words leave his lips he knows he’s not being helpful.

 

               Andrew’s report (vv. 8-9)

 

               [8] One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, [9] “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”[5]

 

               And just so that we’re clear about the amount of food that Andrew is talking about, the “barley loaves” he mentions are like undersized tortillas and the word “fish” describes a sardine-sized tidbit.

 

               Andrew’s point is NOT to suggest that he has a solution to the problem. It is to say that there is NO SOLUTION to this problem.

 

               John has already told us[6] that Jesus knew full well what He was intending to do and that His question to Philip was to “test him.”

 

               We wonder if Philip and Andrew passed the test. We don’t know. We are not told. We never get to see their report cards.

 

               But, it is at least clear that they believed this big crowd was in big trouble and that there is no solution. It never dawned on them that Jesus was the Solution.

 

A Miracle of Multiplication! (vv. 10-13)

               Seated (as if) for a meal (v. 10)

               [10] Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

               That’s five thousand, only counting the men. Add in the women and children and there are easily fifteen to twenty thousand people present.[7]

               This whole scene reminds us of a giant, spring picnic. The weather is perfect. The grass is green AND there are no fire ants.

 

               But this would have been a really tough assignment for the disciples to carry out because they were seating people as if for a meal - and there is no food.

               Hold on. Food’s coming.

               The miracle-working hands of Jesus (v. 11)

               [11] Jesus then took the loaves and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.

               The miracle is recorded very matter-of-factly. Nothing dramatic. No thunder in the background. No rising crescendo of music as the scene unfolds.

               Jesus simply offered a simple prayer of thanks to the Father for what has been provided, and then passed out the multiplying fish and loaves, until everybody had their fill.[8]

 

               Now, despite the fact that the Bible records this event as a Class A miracle, some, in reading it, have concluded otherwise.

 

               Alternative understandings…

 

               I have read that what we have here is a miracle of sharing.

 

               That is, when the grown-ups saw the generosity of the little boy who was willing to share his lunch, they all got out their hidden stashes of food, so that everyone had enough to eat. (This is actually the version I was taught in the church of my youth.).

 

               I have also read what is called the “sacramental” interpretation.

 

               According to this view, what happened was that the boys’ fish and chips meal was enough to give everyone a taste in this, the world’s first communion service. (So, how was everyone “satisfied”?)

 

               Neither of these two alternative explanations work. Why would all four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - record such a routine event?[9]

 

               Clearly, John wants us to understand that what happened here was a miracle. It was also, just as clearly, a watershed moment for the apostles.

 

               What Jesus has done here was imprinted in their minds for the rest of their lives and it impacted them for the rest of their lives.

 

               Jesus actually multiplied the two fish and five loaves of a boy’s lunch so that thousands and thousands of people had all they wanted to eat.

 

               There were even leftovers, which Jesus saw as important enough that they should not be wasted.

 

               Leftovers! (vv. 12-13)

 

               [12] When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the left-over fragments so that nothing will be lost.” [13] So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.

               John doesn’t tell us when the disciples got to eat these leftovers, nor if they complained when they were later served the leftovers, nor if they eventually got all moldy at the back of the refrigerator.

 

               But, the fact that there were leftovers is not minor and the note about twelve baskets is not coincidental. That’s one basket of leftovers for each of the twelve apostles.

 

               By this sign Jesus gave them an edible picture of His ability to provide all the resources they would ever need to provide for the needs of people who would come to Him.

 

               In the years to come, Simon Peter, John, Andrew, Philip, and the rest will face enormous difficulties. They will face huge spiritual and human need.

 

               But, they will always have the memory of their own, personal basket of leftovers to remind them that Jesus will provide what they need to do all that He told them to do.

 

               And, of course, multiplying two sardines and five tortillas to feed thousands of people proves what all of the signs prove. They prove Jesus’ power, here His power over nature.

 

               Nor was such a display of power lost on the multitudes. After all, they had been hungry and now they weren’t. With bellies full and tight, they shout out their praise.

 

King Jesus, Indeed… (vv. 14-15)

 

               The crowd presses in, thinking “crown” (v. 14)

 

               [14] Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet[10] who is to come into the world.”

 

               I don’t know what you make of their immediate, gushing praise of Jesus, but I’m not terribly impressed. The praises of crowds are fickle.

 

               The people now know that Jesus is something very special. Maybe He’s the long foretold Prophet, the Messiah.

               Whatever - He’s certainly the kind of Man they are willing to follow, at least for as long as He keeps filling their stomachs.

 

               So what does Jesus do now, at the moment of His greatest popularity 

 

               Well, every ruler who has ever ruled knows exactly what to do in a situation like this. You keep climbing to the top of the heap. You milk the moment for all it’s worth.

 

               Everybody knew that - except Jesus. Jesus left.

 

               That’s right. With the crowds praising Him for His provision, as they were ripe to eat right out of His hand, Jesus got up and left.

 

               Jesus leaves, thinking “cross” (v. 15)

 

               [15] So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

 

               Jesus was a King, but it wasn’t time for Him to be crowned King, so He left. It is getting real close to the time for Him to go to a cross, but He’s not currently in the market for a crown.

 

               This whole scene has taken place somewhere on a mountain that rises up from the Sea of Galilee, perhaps at a flat spot midway up a peak.

 

               Jesus has turned on His heel to walk farther up the mountain, away from the crowd and its praise. Within minutes of the feeding, Jesus was long gone.

 

               As well, the thousands of people who had just witnessed and taken part in a miracle were fat and happy, too, making their way down the mountain, heading home.

 

               And the disciples? They were each staring at their own personal basket of leftovers, full of food and full of confusion.

 

               Confusion because moments earlier, they had just been witness to - and a part of! - the most thrilling event of their lives. They had seen a miracle on a grand scale. It was a God sighting to end all God sightings!

 

               In response to the miracle, they had heard a huge crowd chant the name of the Man they had each decided to follow.

 

               The crowd wanted to make Him King. They’ve come so close to seeing the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth that they could nearly touch it. The next moment, it’s all over. Their Rabbi has just let the throne slip from His grasp.

 

               Name any emotion you might wish to - disappointment, frustration, confusion, anger. I’m pretty confident these feelings were all living uncomfortably in the disciples’ hearts.

 

               So, it’s small wonder that they, too, got up and left. Without Jesus. By themselves. In their boat.

 

Walking On Water (vv. 16-21)

 

A Parting of the Ways (vv. 16-18)

 

               Leaving Jesus behind (vv. 16-17)

 

               [16] Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, [17] and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.[11]

               Now, when Matthew and Mark tell of this incident, they record that Jesus sent the disciples away.

 

               John, who was actually there on that day, doesn’t. He only tells us  that they left without Jesus, almost as if they got tired of waiting for Him.

 

               Jesus certainly did tell them to leave. But I’ve wondered if John’s telling of the story reveals that they weren’t all that unhappy about leaving Jesus behind, given the offering He had just squandered.

 

               It is almost as if they were about as eager to get away from Him as He had been to get away from the crowd. If so, they are about to learn that Jesus is a Pursuer. Jesus is not so easily left behind...

 

               Off they go, into the boat, onto the sea, for a crossing from east to west, near the north end of the Sea of Galilee.

 

               They are mostly experienced fishermen and are very comfortable on the water, even at night, since that is when much of their fishing was done.

 

               Not long after they launched, though, trouble strikes.[12]

 

               Troubled waters (v. 18)

 

               [18] The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.

 

               These men would not have been surprised at a sudden squall forming on the Sea of Galilee. They were well acquainted with its weather patterns and knew that violent storms could form quickly.

 

               The Sea of Galilee sits at seven hundred feet below sea level, but the mountains on the east and west create a wind tunnel effect, and the ferocious storms that kick up are legendary.

               This night crossing got dicey. If they weren’t facing one of these legendary storms, they were at least fighting contrary winds.

 

               It was a long, hard row of several miles. So, with their backs bent to the oars, they were facing the direction from which they had just come.

 

               And after having rowed for hours, when they looked up from their rowing, what met their gaze but Jesus, coming right toward them -  not rowing, not swimming. Walking.

 

Jesus on the Water, Prompting Fear (v. 19)

 

               [19] Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.

 

               At the point of this crossing, the Sea of Galilee is several miles distance and the disciples had already rowed over halfway to the seaside village of Capernaum.

 

               That’s when they saw Jesus coming toward them and John wants us to know that this is a miracle over nature. This is another sign.

 

               However, as with the feeding of the five thousand, there have been those who suggest that this was not a miracle at all.

 

               For those who resist the idea that this was a miracle, the main alternative is that Jesus wasn’t walking on water. The disciples only thought He was walking on water. He was walking on a sand bar.

 

               Right.

 

               And the disciples who made their living on the sea rowed their boat right up to a sandbar without knowing it.

 

               And, what is even more troubling, Jesus allowed them to believe that He had walked on water when in fact He had not.

 

               I think it is much more reasonable to simply believe the miracle than to try and concoct another explanation.[13] The disciples’ fear is best explained by the fact that Jesus was walking on water.

 

               John tells us that the disciples were afraid - and so much for chronological snobbery! Who wouldn’t be afraid!?

 

               These days, anybody can walk across Medina Lake. Medina Lake is empty! (actually 3.2% full) But back when it actually had water in it, YOU would have freaked out if someone had come walking ON Medina Lake toward you!

 

               The disciples weren’t at all afraid of a strong wind on the lake in the middle of the night (something that would terrify me!). They were terrified of the raw power of Jesus, displayed in His sovereignty over nature.

 

               So, while standing on the waves, Jesus spoke to His disciples.

 

Jesus at the Boat, Building Faith (vv. 20-21)

 

               The presence of Jesus casts out fear (v. 20)

 

               [20] But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

 

               Consider those words.

 

               The disciples saw Jesus and were frightened. They weren’t frightened before they saw Jesus. It was the appearance of Jesus that frightened them. Why?

 

               It is possible that they perceived Him as a ghost. In which case, Jesus is saying, “I’m not a ghost. It is Me, Jesus. Don’t be frightened.”[14]

 

               That is a reasonable explanation, but I don’t think it is the whole of it. John doesn’t mention that they thought they were seeing a ghost. He says, “they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.”

 

               Maybe an amplified understanding would read something like this:

 

               “Guys, it’s Me. You aren’t seeing a vision or a ghost. It’s really Me, so there’s no reason to be afraid. I am the same Jesus who, just yesterday, multiplied fish and bread to feed thousands. I am THAT Jesus, the King of creation.

 

               “Remember how the crowds wanted to put  crown on Me. Well, I am a King - but I don’t need a crown. You can see now, again, that I am the King. The Sea of Galilee works as well for me as a sidewalk. Follow Me and don’t fear. Don’t ever fear.”

 

               In a couple of other watery scenes in the Gospels, Jesus stilled the storm on the sea. Here, by these words, Jesus calmed the storm in the disciples’ hearts.

 

               The disciples’ faith-full response (v. 21)

 

               [21] They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat; and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

 

               The signs we have seen today say something profound about Jesus and His ways. First, they speak of His power.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Power!

 

               Only God-in-the-flesh could do what Jesus does here.

 

 

               By the alchemy of turning water into wine, He changed the essential nature, the quality, of something common into something rich and noble and by the feeding of the five thousand He multiplied the quantity of something very small into something enormous.

 

               By the healings of the nobleman’s son and the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, He showed His power to restore to wholeness things that are broken and by walking on water He show His ability to not even break the surface tension of the Sea of Galilee and to transcend all physical barriers.

 

               These signs shout that Jesus’ claim to deity is legit.

 

               But then, for those of us who are following Jesus and for those of you who are considering following Jesus, these signs signal something else, something more.

 

Remember the leftovers!

               Taking today’s miracles in reverse order, the miracle of Jesus walking on water established Him as wholly other. Nobody walks on water.

               The disciples had seen Him in lots of different scenarios and settings, but they had seen nothing like this view of Him walking toward them on the open water of the Sea of Galilee.

               That’s transcendence, personified, and that’s why they were frightened.

               “THIS Jesus is not who we thought He was when we answered His call to follow. A great teacher - yes. A wise leader - yes. A miracle worker - yes. Sovereign over nature - no, we never saw that one coming.”

               But that understanding of Jesus - as unsettling as it was[15]  - was a critical follow-up to the message embedded in the previous miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.

 

               Let’s call that embedded message, “The Lesson of the Leftovers.”

 

               Remember that Jesus spoke to Philip as the crowds were approaching and asked, [5]... “Where are we (“WE” - not “Where am I...”)  to buy bread, so that these may eat?”

 

               Jesus didn’t take on the sole responsibility for feeding the crowds. This was intended all along to be a “Jesus and” mission. Jesus and the disciples.

 

               He gave thanks; they seated the crowd. He multiplied the fish and loaves; they handed out the food. He was supply; they were distribution.

 

               The twelve were an integral part of His plan to meet the needs of the thousands of people who had climbed the mountain to be with Him.

 

               And the enduring lesson of the leftovers is that His work of bringing spiritual and material help to the people He loves continues to be a Jesus and mission. Now it is Jesus and you. His strategy has never changed.

 

               The sign of the feeding of the five thousand (and the subplot of the leftovers) says that we are able to do more than we are capable of because He who walks on water enables us to do what He commands.

 

               No, He won’t always multiply fish and loaves. But He will faithfully empower us to love and to serve and to give to help needy people in His Name.

 

               God has all the resources necessary. He is looking for available vessels to fill with His strength. He supplies and leaves us to deliver.

 

               If it is resources of strength and stamina, love and generosity, encouragement and hope that you are in need of to meet the needs of those around you, take heart.

 

               If your personal resources seem to be as inadequate as two sardines and five tortillas, relax. Jesus will provide the resources you need to respond with grace to meet the need of the hour.

 



[1] Wand, Jesus’ miracles are recorded in Gospel records between twenty (Matthew and Mark) and fifty (John) years after they occurred. If they hadn’t actually occurred, witnesses would have certainly spoken up and said, “Nope. That’s not what happened.”

[2] The Sea of Galilee was also called “The Sea of Tiberias” and in Old Testament times, The Sea of Chinneroth.

[3] The reference to “The” mountain may indicate that Jesus and His disciples were familiar with this place, possibly as the site of the Sermon on the Mount. So Deffenbaugh, Murray.

[4] Philip, a faithful disciple who has been with Jesus for some time now and has seen several miracles already, doesn’t even consider the possibility of a miraculous provision for the needs of the crowd. The people in the crowd, though, had come to the wilderness setting on the mountaintop precisely to see a miracle.

[5] Barley cakes were the food of the poor. This was not intended to be a lavish banquet. Jesus is simply concerned to meet the needs of hungry people.

[6] [6] This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.

[7] There would have been nothing sexist about only numbering the men. It was simply easier to number the heads of households.

[8] There is a story of a similar miracle of increasing provision of oil for the widow of Zarephath in the Old Testament. (1 Kings 17:8-16)

[9] The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle (except for the resurrection) that is recorded in all four Gospels.

[10] This great Prophet is spoken of in Deuteronomy 18.

[11] Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus sent them away. John doesn’t include this detail.

[12] As a friend suggested recently, Jesus, looking down from the mountain said, “Storm, you did a great job when I hurled you against Jonah. I’ve got another job for you here.”

[13] To suggest that it was not a miracle assumes a certain dishonesty in Jesus, as He never dispelled the disciples’ perception that He was performing a miracle.

[14] This view is validated by the explicit account of Matthew and Mark (Luke doesn’t record this incident), who mention that they thought they were seeing a ghost - albeit a ghost who looked like Jesus.

[15] A good friend and member of the church from a few years ago used to use the word “disequilibration” to describe what these disciples were feeling at this moment. Good word.

Jul 16, 2015

Real Talk with Roderick

The Consequences of Keeping Company with Christ (Acts 4:13-22)

 

Introduction

Every sequence has a consequence. If we eat bad food, smoke, drink excessively, fail to get enough rest, and expose ourselves to lots of drama, we age faster and live less time. This has been proven by numerous studies. 

Conversely, if we eat healthy, exercise regularly, drink in moderation (1 Timothy 5:23), and avoid stressful people and situations we tend to be healthier and live longer.  Generally speaking, the quantity and quality of our life on earth is predicted by the nature of the things we put in it. Every sequence has a consequence.

There are consequences to spending time with people. We are influenced by the people we interact with. In the interactions of work, leisure, and love they rub off on us. The company we keep eventually and invariably contributes something to our conduct, to our conversation, to our contemplations, and to the essence of who we are - our character  (1 Corinthians 5:6, 9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 2:22). Consider the words of the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. He says, "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" And the converse is also true. That is, there are tremendous benefits to spending time with a good person.

People who consistently keep company with Christ are radically changed for the better. In His fellowship they receive His uncanny manners, His determination to win, His commitment to the Father's will, and His love for the lost.  Such people eventually become chief change agents in Heaven's charge against the gates of hell.

Today's message will be show us what happens to fallen people who follow Jesus. They become courageous, more capable, and the cause of change.

 

(Acts 4:13-17)

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

The confidence of the apostles could not be missed. However, it looked nothing like the confidence of the council (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:3-6; Acts 22:3). They were proud of their great learning, their positions as spiritual leaders, and their associations. These fishermen had none of those things and yet stood before them without fear. Although they lacked formal education they were not afraid to go into the temple and teach and could use logic and Scripture to defeat an opponent (Acts 2:16-22; 2:25-35; 4:11). Although they were not schooled in the work of leading the congregation they had no problem calling for people to repent and follow Christ.

As the council marveled at the boldness of the Galileans they suddenly became aware of the cause of the confidence, the basis of the boldness, and the source of their abilities: they had been with Jesus.

  • Jesus Exhibited Learning Beyond Explanation (Luke 2:41-47; John 7:15)
  • Jesus Easily Defeated His Enemies in Arguments (Matthew 22:15-22 - Jesus uses Scripture and logic to defeat the Pharisees and Herodians; Matthew 22:23-33 - Jesus uses only the Pentateuch to prove resurrection and defeat the false doctrine of the Sadducees; Matthew 22:41-46 - Jesus proves that his enemies' have a model of messiah that is too limited and that it cannot be reconciled with Scripture.)
  • Jesus Used Miracles to Prove His Message (Matthew 9:1-8 - the raising of the paralytic proves His claim to having the power to forgive sins; John 8:56-9:11 - the healing of the man born blind proved his claim to deity; John 11:1-44 - the raising of Lazarus proved His claim to be the resurrection).

The rabble rousing rabbi from Nazareth had left a painful impression on the religious leaders of His day. His disciples' were leaving the same impression. F.F. Bruce says it this way:

None could match him in his sure handling of the scriptures, his unerring ability to go back to first principles for the confirming of his own teaching and the discomfiture of his opponents. And plainly he had imparted something of that same gift to his disciples. Not only so, but he had supported his teaching with the mighty works which he performed; now Peter and John were doing the same.

Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 95). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Jesus pattern of life, poise under fire, and power to effect change for good was not forgotten. The memory is fresh in the minds of the men who murdered Him. And now they are confronted by a motley crew of men that are just like Him.

The consequence of keeping company with Christ has caused the disciples to have His character. They look like their Leader.

The apostles, men who once fled in the face of fierce opposition, now stand toe-to-toe with their enemies. They are confident, they are capable, and they are causing a change for good. Why? Even their enemies cannot deny the effects of spending time with Jesus. Robert Coleman, author of the classic Master Plan of Evangelism puts it this way

Jesus chose from the larger group about him the Twelve “that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14; see Luke 6:13). He added, of course, that he was going to send them forth “to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils,” but often we fail to realize what came first. Jesus made it clear that before these men were “to preach” or “to cast out devils” they were to be “with him.” In fact, this personal appointment to be in constant association with him was as much a part of their ordination commission as the authority to evangelize. Indeed, it was for the moment even more important, for it was the necessary preparation for the other.

Coleman, R. E. (2006). The master plan of evangelism (p. 35). Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

The point is summarized in Mark 3:14

14 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach

Much time alone with Jesus is the secret to becoming like Jesus.

Conclusion

What are we to do in the light of the truths advanced and affirmed by this passage? Going beyond mere intellectual ascent to these facts how should we then live? We must wholly reject the idea that we are condemned to the the criminal behaviors of our past. The notion that we can never have the skill and courage to explain the truth, defend the faith, or help do great and lasting good must be regarded as lies from the pit of hell. We have the mind of Christ and are destined to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). The key to better character is Christ. That is, if we are to escape in practice the gravity of our depravity we must spend time with the Lord Jesus Christ. How?

  • Request His Presence - Pray for His leading. Speak to the Spirit of Christ and ask for Him to be at work in your times of reading, meditation, and worship to show you the truth and guide you in worship.
  • Read His Word - Spend time in the Scriptures (1 Peter 2:2). But do not do it as a mere academic activity. It has to be more than muddling through the morass of words in commentaries, dictionaries, and the endless lectures of seminaries. Reading His word means coming to Him in prayer and staying in dialogue with the Lord as you read.
  • Write It Down - Write your observations down. Write down your questions, consternation, and concerns. In the writing of your questions you formalize your thinking and prepare yourself for better praying. God wants you to come to Him with your questions.

In His grip by His grace,

Roderick L. Barnes, Sr.

Jul 8, 2015

Real Talk with Roderick
Feeling Inadequate?

More important than the capabilities of the person called is the Caller Himself and the content of the person's calling. Your talent, or lack thereof, becomes irrelevant when you are summoned to serve; where we lack His grace is sufficient.

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